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ASK WHEELS
Shining Force Edition
July 8th, 2011

07/8- 12:00PM EST

  With Dungeon Siege III finished and reviewed, I'm finally getting back to some JRPGs! Thankfully, this also coincides with me going on vacation, so it's a good thing all of the RPGs I'm looking to play are portable. Worry not though, Q&A will be handled by Fanboymaster while I'm away.

With more than half this year already past, what's everyone's top three games so far? Mine would have to be Radiant Historia, Dungeon Siege III, and of course Trails in the Sky. Hoping to see some letters on this subject upon my return. 

 Enough about that, on to your letters!






The Letters
C is for Crazy Content

Mr. Wheeler & Dealer, I understand you're cuckoo for content, so let me give some!
Any Depeche Mode on that 80's playlist?  Actually, the Cars just put out a new album for the first time since 1985, so the band lives on.


Wheels

There is some Depeche Mode in there. I listen to the 80s and 90s stations on satellite radio all the time, so they pop up pretty often as you'd imagine. I had no idea the Cars put out a new album, I need to check that out.

If you looked at my recent review, you might've noticed that it features a hexagonal grid. Albert Odyssey 2 also has this, though it gets so many other things wrong that I refuse to acknowledge its presence.  Sadly, the early Albert Odyssey games just aren't worth investigating.  I know this won't be contradicted because no translations exist for them, and the denizens of the internet have thus not latched onto these games as "Greatest - Games - EVER."  It happens with just about everything made available for the undiscriminating internet hordes.


Wheels

This is very true. I've played a few games that have received fan translations, such as the non-Saturn Magic Knight Rayearth games, that have been quite terrible. I don't get why people even bothered translating some of them. Maybe just to see if they could? Anyway, glad that the one translated Albert Odyssey game appears to be the only good one of the three. I always thought we may have missed out on more classic SNES games!

Other worthwhile games on the Sega CD... well, there's Snatcher, which commands very high prices on eBay due to Hideo Kojima's involvement and the Sega CD being the only legitimate English release of the game.  There's Shining Force CD, which you can't play except on this system.  There's the only English version of Popful Mail, which may have been made pretty tough by Working Designs but is nevertheless a Falcom title which hasn't seen much interest since the mid-90s.  Neist would be overjoyed if I found the Sega CD version of Dungeon Explorer.  I say Vay is lousy, but not all agree with that statement.  There are some others too, like Heimdall and Revengers of Vengeance, but I can't remember any more top-of-the-line items.


Wheels

It's funny you mention Snatcher, as Kojima just announced some kind of radio drama project related to that. Shining Force CD of course was the big game I was always interested in playing on the Sega CD. When I actually did get a chance to play it, I was somewhat disappointed to find out it was just a port of two Game Gear games. Seems like a missed opportunity on Camelot's part that I find a bit surprising. Was it an early release or something, perhaps that Sega wanted out quickly? Popful Mail I'm sure is brilliant, given the developer, and another Sega CD game I'd really like to play. Dungeon Explorer showed up on Sega CD? That's not much more than a gauntlet type game right? We've got another version of that on virtual console for those interested in it at least. As for Vay, did you know its available for the iPhone? I've picked it up but haven't really played it yet. I've never heard of the other two games, but all in all, why the heck hasn't Sega done many re-releases of Sega CD games? Its not like emulation is any harder than the Genesis.

Connection game time!  Link The Day of the Beast (El Dia de la Bestia) (1995) to Magical Vacation!


Wheels

The Day of the Beast was distributed in the US on DVD by 20th Century Fox (2006) -> 20th Century Fox collaborated with Walden Media on several movies -> Walden Media's Prince Caspian was distributed by Disney -> Disney home video released the Mario Bros. film on DVD -> Nintendo owns the Super Mario Bros. franchise obviously -> Nintendo published Magical Vacation.

Another cold-hearted reminiscence of the fifth Fire Emblem title.  The dismounting aspect of the third game was lousy, but now it's back!  How does dismounting work, you ask?  Well, any character on a mount (cavalry, troubadour, pegasus knight, dragon knight) cannot ride it indoors, forcing you to dismount the character in order to go inside.  This drops movement and forces the characters to use swords, when most of them are using lances while on their mounts, thus negating all the weapon experience they've accumulated for their usual armament.  Better yet, for the fifth game in particular, anybody who is mounted can attempt to capture unmounted enemies - but when dismounted, it's back to relying on their normal constitution, which often isn't adequate for the job!  Isn't that great? This is still an improvement over the third Fire Emblem game, which originated the dismounting system, and which has yet to be seen again outside of these two installments.  In the third game, characters actually lost statistics upon dismounting, because the stats were apparently part of the steed and not the character. 


Wheels

Considering how much I respect the developers of Fire Emblem, it surprises me to hear how many things they screwed up on in some of the games. I can understand forcing the characters to dismount, but pretty much making those characters useless when they do dismount? I kind of get what they were going for, but it sounds like the result is pretty horrible.

Still speculating about Saturn games seeing ports, eh?  Well, here's an easy link between Radiant Silvergun and Guardian Heroes: both were made by Treasure.  Treasure was a big Sega supporter, but what other Saturn games did the company make?  Silhouette Mirage saw a PlayStation port (although reputedly the Saturn original was superior in some ways, such as not being made artificially harder by Working Designs).   I can't think of any other Treasure titles on the system, and until something not made by Treasure sees a port elsewhere, I'm considering it a localized phenomenon.


Wheels

I'd have to agree. Treasure has the kind of following that will likely get people to buy these ports regardless of their system of origin, whereas many other Saturn games are quite unknown to the general gaming populace. The best hope would be for emulated releases akin to that of PS1 games. I'd imagine the difficulties of Saturn emulation have so far prevented this from happening.

There are a lot of series I'd like to see again (as anybody who can remember all the way back to last fall will recall), but I'll just say Grandia for now.  Combat matters to me the most, and those games consistently delivered.


Wheels

I've only played Grandia II, but given how fantastic combat is in that I'd love to see more from the series. More specifically I'd just like to see new things from Game Arts, with their two big recent releases being a port of Lunar and a licensed TMNT game. Are they in poor shape financially or something?

More Shining Force III stories.  Well, how about the boat battle with Medion?  After getting Gracia from the holy temple of Elbesem, he's attacked by General Crewart's ship.  Aside from Zero (who can fly), most of the characters can't do anything except try to fight his own birdmen as they fly over to attack.  Instead, two characters get to man the cannons and trade fire with Crewart's cannons.  There's a certain pattern at play, since the enemy cannons will fire at a certain point every time you play, but finding that pattern is something I'll let you determine.  After this battle ends, Crewart tries to board your ship, so it's time to fight it out with his troops and throw them back, then take down their boss.


Wheels

I always had fun with the many battles on ships in the Shining Force series, so fights that sound like actual ship to ship combat could be amazing!

Actually, the battle immediately preceding this is quite memorable too.  Upon entering the Elbesem temple, Medion and his team find Basanda and Dessheren waiting for them.  Those two are promptly assaulted by the six Rainblood, though.  The Rainblood rip the two strongest Bulzome priests apart, and if you haven't taken advantage of the ability to freeze a pond on the battlefield in order to enter a doorway, they'll go after you next - and they cannot be beaten here.  Inside that doorway is the rest of the enemy force, protecting Fiale as he tries to make Gracia remove the only known weapon that can hurt Bulzome. 


Wheels

Yikes, so is that an auto loss if you haven't done that? Very interesting battle. Urge to play through Shining Force III completely rising...

Speaking of Dessheren, you remember her from the introduction to the four High Priests of Bulzome that Synbios received, right?  Well, there's a reason Synbios never sees her again, and it's because she's making Medion's life miserable.  She's the strongest of the High Priests (though Basanda is a close second) and a worthy foe with her Hell Dragon summon.
Medion's is also the only Scenario in which you'll meet Garvin, the governor of Saraband.  He looks quite Dickensian, and fighting him is rather tense, since it requires your smaller team to enter his giant tank that is enroute to smash down the wall protecting the Aspinian capital, right after Synbios killed Prince Arrawnt and reoccupied the place (you remember that, right?)


Wheels

I vaguely remember it yes. It's been a long time, and given the length of the game it's hard to remember everything. So this battle involves not only fighting enemies but actually having to attack and get into a tank as well? Sounds quite interesting.

As for the conclusion of both Scenario 1 and 2, it arises from Domaric's ambition.  Medion's final fight is against Synbios's backup team, the people who went to the dam.  After beating them, general Tybalt and Yasha must be put down.  Then Domaric reveals that he will force Medion to fight Synbios by putting his mother's life on the line - he sent a note to the Empire that will keep Medion's mother Melinda under guard, answerable should his wishes not be met.  Well, Medion is very close to his mother, and all the members of his Shining Force will follow his lead in this matter.  Before he and Synbios can throw down, though, word arrives from Yasha that Julian is on the way....


Wheels

Well that is certainly an exciting way to the end game. I have feeling I know why you keep throwing these stories my way, you want me to finally play through parts two and three! Well good sir, it's working! I need to get on this...

More connection game time!  Link The Godless Girl to Rondo of Swords!


Wheels

The Godless Girl was distributed by Pathé Exchange -> Pathé Exchange was originally owned by Pathé -> Some of Pathe's current films are distributed by 20th Century Fox -> Fox distributed Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in Japan -> The Final Fantasy franchise is owned by Square-Enix -> Square-Enix currently owns the Ogre Battle franchise -> The PS1 version of Ogre Battle was localized in the US by Atlus -> Atlus published Rondo of Swords

You've never seen a full Godzilla movie, huh?  Well, your assignment is to go watch the 1954 original.  RIGHT NOW.  Preferably avoid the 1956 American reedit Godzilla: King of the Monsters, since it cuts a ton of the content away.  The original movie isn't representative of the many many sequels since it actually takes thing seriously and is an obvious allegory for the nuclear experience Japan had recently suffered, but you can acquaint yourself with something like Godzilla vs. Gigan whenever you're ready to watch goofy aliens sending their pet monsters to try conquering Earth.  In other words, they're not quite as serious.
JuMeSyn


Wheels

I shall have to track down the original! I'll be signing up for netflix soon, any idea if they have a lot of older movies in their streaming service? If not, I'm sure it is readily available in some form or another. I will let you know what I think!


So Very Many Hex Based Games

Wheels,

Enjoying Q&A as always. For some reason, the people with whom I work don't want to sit around discussing RPGs all day, so it's nice to read your thoughts and those of the readers.

Wheels

That's disappointing! I could certainly sit around talking about RPGs all day, and really that's how I ended up writing this column! Anyway, let's see what's on your mind!

I am beginning to suspect you were holding back when you said you "can think of only one tactical rpg...that uses a hex grid" in the June 10 Ask Wheels. As someone who connects way random movies from 70 years ago to video games created in the last 20 years, I can't imagine you truly haven't played some of the games readers have already written to tell you about the past two weeks. I'm going to assume that your comment was an intentional plant to fire us up to write in and not true ignorance. Don't correct me if I assume wrong. Keep that image!

Wheels

Well the thing is that I...err yes you are correct! This was a diabolic plot to get you readers to write in and talk about the many hex based games I "forgot" about. For staying quiet about my laziness in researching...err I mean for figuring out my genius plot, you've won yourself a copy of Cthulhu Save the World once it's released on Steam!

Anyway, I am writing to submit two more hex-based tactical RPGs for discussion. The first is Brigandine, one of my all-time favorite PSX games. See the hexes in this pic. Brigandine placed players in the typical war-torn land that we often see in SRPGs, but the stories behind the characters were compelling, and the ability to choose a starting country was nice for replay value. I loved replaying the game and trying to level up different creatures to see all of the upgrades. The second PSX game I wanted to mention that featured tactical movement on hex grids was The Unholy War. See its jaggy hexes here. It was some kind of weird fighter/tactical hybrid where you moved around on the hexes and tried to match up your tactical advantage of your creature vs. the opponent (some kind of rock/paper/scissors thing) before entering combat. I don't remember it being awesome, but I recall having a few fun nights with it in the college dorms.

Wheels

Brigandine certainly fits the bill of tactical RPGs using hexes. It sounds like an excellent game. I always enjoy strategy games that let you play on different sides like that, this almost sounds similar to Dragon Force, only with turn based combat. Sadly, being an Atlus release it's expensive and I've never been able to give it a try. I'll keep an eye out for an inexpensive copy based on your recommendation though!

As for Unholy War, it sounds like a pretty odd fighting game. It's always nice to have a bit of depth like that though, as fighting games can often be pretty shallow as far as single player goes. Fun fact: the original developer of Unholy War is now an Activision owned developer that appears to be stuck doing licensed games, and also the new Spyro. They're also the developers of the classic game Pandemonium!

So there you go--two more hex-based tactical games at your disposal. It still doesn't answer the original question FowlSorcerous asked: "Why do so few tactical RPGs use hex grids?" I have enjoyed the ones I have played and could use some more myself.

Until next time, take care.

--
Danny Gourley

Wheels

Other than the bad Albert Odyssey games, that seems to be the theme with these hex-based tactical games. They're all quite good! I have no idea why there aren't more of them, but hopefully we'll see more in the near future.

Look forward to hearing from you again sir!

Hot Topics Time!

1. What game do you have a burning desire to see a sequel of? Shining Force...the spin offs don't count in my book


Wheels

I couldn't agree more, Shining Force needs a true sequel, and not the many games with the "Shining" name that have little to nothing to do with the original series. I know the original developers will never work on the series again, but I'm sure they could find a way to do a proper sequel in the original game world. Would probably have to be a portable game though, I doubt Sega will do another Tactical game for a console after Valkyria Chronicles failed to light up the sales charts.

2. Which system will replace the PSP as the go-to JRPG platform? Meh...not much of a on the go gamer


Wheels

This is something that you need to fix! If you're a fan of Tactical games in the vein of Shining Force then you'll find plenty to enjoy on portable systems. You can get a Nintendo DS for cheap right now, so it could be the perfect time to jump in.

3. What long dormant RPG series do you want to see make a return? Shining Force!!!!!!


Wheels

I'm there with you, though I'd also settle for a similar game from the folks at Camelot, perhaps as an off-shoot of the Golden Sun series.

4. Guardian Heroes is finally seeing a re-release, will more Saturn games follow? Hopefully. And hopefully localization of Shining Force III - Chapters 2 & 3


Wheels

Hope is about all we've got right now, as it's already been pointed out that so far we've only seen games from Treasure. Perhaps at some point we'll see games released via emulation like we often do for their Genesis games, on some future "virtual console". As for Chapters two and three of Shining Force III, a kind and awesome group of people has translations of those covered over at Shining Force Central.

5. What makes Falcom's games so different than other Japanese games, and why have they been able to have success on odd platforms for so long? They just have that certain charm


Wheels

They do have that certain charm, but having fantastic music certainly helps! I've played a lot of Falcom games now, and I don't think I've played a single one that had bad music. There were a few were it wasn't amazing, but certainly never bad. They are quite a unique developer and I hope we see their games make it over here on a regular basis from now on.

PS
I'm not a Shining Force fan boy or anything :)
 
Chris


Wheels

Well sir, you certainly have come to the right place to discuss things with other Shining Force fans! Keep hoping for a new game in the series, there is nothing wronging with keeping a positive outlook!

IN CLOSING

And with that, I'm off! Keep those contest entries coming!

See you all in two weeks!

-Wheels


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What I can't wait for:

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On my Playlist:

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3. Men Without Hats



Hot Topics:

1. What game do you have a burning desire to see a sequel of?

2. Which system will replace the PSP as the go-to JRPG platform?

3. What long dormant RPG series do you want to see make a return?

4. Guardian Heroes is finally seeing a re-release, will more Saturn games follow?

5. What makes Falcom's games so different than other Japanese games, and why have they been able to have success on odd platforms for so long?

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