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ASK WHEELS
Q&A Rebooted
July 29th, 2010

07/25 - 5:33PM EST

 Hello, and welcome to the first edition of Ask Wheels, where I will endeavor to answer all of your questions, give you my opinion when asked, and generally talk about the great works of the maestro himself, Kawazu. Feel free to write in and say my taste in games is awful. I can take it! I'll be updating weekly on Wednesdays, with occasional bonus days. Anyway, enough of this, let us begin....









The Letters
Fastball right down the middle

Hello Wheels,

Four questions for you!
1. If Akitoshi Kawazu made a tactical RPG, what do you think it would be like?

Wheels
Well Hito that is an absolutely brilliant question. I mean the maestro really needs to get working on another game, instead of whatever cell phone nonsense he's been involved with. My answer would have to be the obvious choice, that being a SaGa Tactics game, in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics, only with classes and such more along the lines of the original two SaGa games(which some of you may still only know of as Final Fantasy Legend 1&2).  Perhaps they could even put in the monster meat eating system, though preferably in a less random fashion. They could take a look at the fusion system in many Shin Megami Tensei games and do something along those lines. Of course with Kawazu involved it couldn't be a by the numbers Final Fantasy Tactics clone, so there'd have to be some other gameplay systems involved, perhaps something as simple as breakable weapons to keep it inline with the original games? The only problem with all this of course, is that it likely would not be played by a whole lot of people, and based on the fact that they didn't bring over a port of one of the few SaGa games that is well liked of here (SaGa 2 DS) tells me its unlikely we would get this theoretical game, but hey, its fun to dream.

2. Let's talk about Gust games. They don't seem to change much from one entry to another, save Ar Tonelico which seems to be getting better. Do you think Gust will ever expand beyond their familiar art and gameplay styles?

Wheels
My gut tells me no at least in terms of gameplay, but hey the Ar Tonelico series was somewhat of a departure from what they usually do. I can't see them changing the  Atelier series very much, as I think one of the reasons it continues to have success is because the gameplay is so traditional. A move to the PS3 for the series certainly seems to be improving the art style. From what I've seen of the PS3 Atelier games they look quite nice, though again from what I've seen of the gameplay it does look very traditional. I don't know if they'd gain that much from changing to be honest, as they've carved a nice little niche for themselves, but if they ever want to be more than they are.

I think the way Atlus has expanded the Shin Megami Tensei series is a good model by which to expand a series and a company repertoire. There are a number of different gameplay types in there, but the series is still closely tied using similar naming conventions and fusion systems in the like. An Action-RPG Atelier game with all the alchemy systems in place would be pretty cool for example. I've rambled on though. Basically no, as long as the Atelier games continue to sell I don't think Gust will start to get any more creative. Maybe with the Ar Tonelico series finished they'll do something creative in its place, but I doubt it.

3. This generation has seen a lot of RPGs left unlocalized. Aside from 7th Dragon and Soma Bringer, what else should have come over? Why do you think it didn't?

Wheels
You're 3 for 3 so far in question quality, Hito. Another good one, but sadly there are not a lot of good answers to this one. Some of the potential reasons include the high price of the higher capacity DS carts, which making it much harder to make a profit on a game when they can only sell for around $34.99 tops. Many people may not know this, but in Japan DS games can go for a lot more. The import version of 7th Dragon I bought was right around $30, but that was the cheap version of the game! Of course this doesn't fully answer it because some of the games that haven't come over seem, at least from my point, like they'd be shoe-ins to sell enough to make a good profit.

7th Dragon in particular has Phantasy Star creator Rieko Kodama attached to it, along with the creator of Etrian Odyssey Kazuya Niinou as well (though fewer people will know him) so that right there seems like a good start. Sega never seemed to have any intention to localize it though, instead giving us games like Sands of Destruction and Infinite Space (no offense intended for those who like those games, bitterness is intended though). I've heard many of the potential 3rd parties who may have ported it over thought it was too hard (which it is not from my experience with the game so far), and that reason seems silly in general given the recent success of such difficult games as Demon's Souls and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Perhaps Sega wanted to overcharge for someone to license it as well.

7th Dragon may be a unique case in this regard, or it could be an average case, it's hard to tell. As far as some games such as SaGa 2 and the DS Chocobo's Dungeon game, I have a feeling the high capacity cart issue is involved. This seems silly for the SaGa 2 case though, the Final Fantasy Legend games were popular back in the day, and it'd be easy enough to re-brand it using the old name. I'd be remiss not to also mention piracy, which probably doesn't help the already small sales of niche titles. Certainly many games like 7th Dragon deserved a shot overhear, and it's a real shame that we shall go without. 

4. Persona 3 Portable is the best example of taking something that wasn't broken in the first place and somehow making it better. What other games should be refined in this way?


Wheels
Is it really "better" though? Persona 3 Portable is my first stab at Persona 3, but I feel like I'd probably enjoy the fully animated cut scenes more, not to mention the immersion of being able to actually walk around the areas of the city. I think I heard it was missing some of the anime cut scenes as well. Not that P3P is anything close to a bad game of course, and Atlus really should be commended for adapting it to the PSP platform though. I don't know if it's better or not, but it is certainly a brilliant RPG any way you shake it.

As for what games should be refined? There are many potential games that could go through a transition like this (Persona 4 Portable, please!), but personally I'd love to see a game refined the opposite way, that is take a brilliant portable RPG and adapt it to a console experience. The obvious choice for me, while we're on the subject of Shin Megami Tensei, would have to be Strange Journey. I think an HD version, with the core gameplay in tact but with vastly more detail in the dungeons and more animation in battle would be quite glorious.

In terms of a console to portable refinement, I'd love to see a portable version of 3D Dot Game Heroes, preferably with more editing options (i.e. make your own monsters and weapons and such!) would be quite good. I'd also love to have Final Fantasy XIII's battle system in some kind of portable form!

That's all for today!
-Hito

Wheels
Brilliant questions Hito, keep 'em coming!


Why So Serious?

Hey Wheels,

I know you are huge Red Sox fan but...

Wheels

Oh boy, here we go....

Please tell me you are not excited for 38 Studios first game. "Dream Team" type games don't exactly have a long history of success, outside of Chrono Trigger, and it just seems like this whole thing will crash and burn. Shilling, McFarlane, and RA Salvitore are great at what they do, but they have no idea how to make games! I think I'll be skipping the first Kingdom of Amalur effort.

-ArcRise

Wheels
Yikes! Its way too early for this kind of talk don't you think? We haven't even seen any gameplay yet!

For your larger point though, let's kind of slow things down here. I know the obvious reaction is to compare this effort to some of the "dream team" games, but really if you look at the team, only one of them (the one you didn't mention) will likely be involved in actual gamplay elements, that being Ken Rolston of Elder Scrolls fame. I doubt Curt Shilling has too much involvement (as in none) in actual game development. He still does things on ESPN and other baseball related things, so he clearly isn't involved in the company 24/7.

As far as R.A. Salvitore goes, he should just be involved in the world building and story and character aspects of the game. The brief trailer for the game showed doesn't make the world seem like anything more than your typical high fantasy type world, but that is what Salvitore does best and I don't get the feeling they want to do something completely original with the world, which is fine. Personally, I still enjoy me some high fantasy, but I can understand if this makes others less interesting. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself though, we really haven't seen much of the setting yet! Overall point though is Salvitore isn't there for gameplay.

McFarlane will of course be in charge of the visual style only, we would assume anyway. I'm not a big fan of his, and I hope he's not involved in any of the story or gameplay elements. The trailer looks good enough, but I'm still in wait and see mode as far as my opinion on the art style.

So yeah, really that's just a "dream team" of talent just to create the story and style of this game series, and not even create the dam games themselves. I don't know if you're a fan of the Elder Scrolls series, but its hard to say that the two games he was involved with were bad. There's a lot of quality there.  I don't know if he can do a "combination of God of War and Oblivion" like they're saying the game is, but him being the lead designer is not something that really makes me worry.

So yes, let's wait and see! Also please write in again once we know more about the game.


More puns are in your future

Hello Wheels,

Some questions for you!

I just got Dragon Quest IX for the DS.  I played IV and V, but I haven't seen VI.  What is VI like?

Wheels
Well VI hasn't been released in the US at all yet, but from what I've heard it's got a job system and storyline similar to that of Dragon Quest VII. Which sounds good by me, as I found both the story and job system in VII to be great. Let's just hope its better paced than VII! In case you haven't played it, Dragon Quest VII is just way too long and moves along at a snails pace, which is a shame, because much of the other elements of the game are great. This of course, isn't really answering your question. If you enjoyed the IV and V DS remakes I'll bet you'll find the VI remake enjoyable as well, especially since you'll already have dealt with a job system in IX. So give it a try! I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Plus it's always fun to play the first localized release of a classic game!

Do I need to play Ys 1-6 before I play 7?  What is the story like?

Wheels

Oh boy, the Ys series. Falcom is an odd game company, I will warn you of that. You do not need to play any of the previous Ys games.  While there may be characters from previous games, or occasional references to previous games, the story in Ys games are generally self contained. Plus we've never seen an official release of Ys 4 or 5, so that would make playing through them somewhat difficult. Also, there's actual two completely different Ys IV games, and I've heard the worse of the two is actually the one which is cannon story wise. If you'd like to get a feel for the setting of Ys, you can always play Ys I&II on the Wii's Virtual Console, or on the DS. I'm not exactly an Ys expert, and being a much more action based RPG series, you wont be finding the most complicated or deep story in the world. However that's just fine, as the Ys games have great action and fantastic music and are well worth checking out.

If you really want to gain some perspective on the series, I'd recommend playing Ys I&II on the virtual console and then giving Ys VI a go on either PSP or PS2 (just be aware that the PSP version has really bad load times). I&II has archaic gameplay, as it involves pretty much walking into enemies to damage them, but its got some great boss encounters, classic music, and is worth checking out if for nothing else than to get some perspective on the series origins. VI on the other hand has more modern Action-RPG gameplay and will give you an idea of how VII will play. VII was also developed from the ground up for the PSP, so it should not see any of the issues which plagued VI on the PSP. (The Ys games actually often released on the PC first). Falcom has an interesting history which I encourage you to check out.

If I still haven't convinced you, then you can always wait for the other Ys games XSEED is bringing over and play those first. They'll be bringing over a very nice looking version of Ys I&II for the PSP, along with Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which is actually a complete re-imagining of Ys III. Ys VII looks really good though, so I really encourage you to just give it a go and then take a look at the older games if you enjoy it. I'd really like to see it do well, and hopefully see more Falcom games brought over in the future! The Ys series is great Action-RPG fun, and I don't think we have enough series like it.

I hear you're a Halo fan, how excited are you for Halo reach?

-Nodal
Wheels
Very, very excited! I've been following Bungie for a long time (I'm a Mac user) so the last Bungie made Halo game is both exciting and sad at the same time. Its sounds like they're really putting their all into it though and I think it will end up being played online well into the life of the next Xbox.  I don't know what lies in the future of Bungie, but I'm glad that they'll end their involvement in the Halo series with a bang. Anyway thanks for the letter and please write in again!


Blue Dragon: Awakened Poo?


After seeing the Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow review on the site, I don't exactly have any interest to go back and play the original Blue Dragon games Am I wrong in this?

-KawazuFan


Wheels
Well it's important to note that all three Blue Dragon games have had different developers involved. Mistwalker seems to farm out most of the work. Not to mention all three games are completely different types of RPGs. Certainly good reason to avoid Awakened Shadow though! I mean I got some enjoyment out of it, but certainly all the issues you mentioned are issue. The biggest probably I had though, is the game is just way too talky, and a pretty bad localization doesn't really help that fact at all. There's just way too much down time between the action, which should just not happen in this kind of game. Now I have had a lot of fun playing multi-player, but obviously playing single player is required still, so that's not going to help you at all.

However you should take a look at the other Blue Dragon games as they don't suffer from these same issues. The original game is more of a traditional RPG with turn based battles, and although the story isn't that great, the dungeons are nice and long, and you be playing long stretches of gameplay between lengthy story segments. If this sounds interesting to you, go for it. It's very cheap right now, and the battle and class systems are a lot of fun. In addition, there are a number of different difficulty settings, so you can tailor the difficulty right around where you want it. Despite what you may have seen in some reviews for the original Blue Dragon game, it's no push-over on the harder difficulties.

As for the other DS game, Blue Dragon Plus, that one is a real time strategy RPG along the lines of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, (it really plays almost exactly like Revenant Wings) and it's pretty good. I haven't played too much of that one, but I have enjoyed what I've played, more so than Revenant Wings. Your millage may vary of course, but its translation is much better at least (It's bad when a translation by Ignition is better than something, no?).

So yeah, don't completely ignore the other two games just because this one isn't that great. I'd say at least give the original a try. I mean, at the cheap prices I've seen it for you probably won't be disappointed. Unless you'd have to buy a 360 just to play it that is....
IN CLOSING

I've been trying to finish up Final Fantasy XIII lately, but keep running into tough bosses I can't tackle. This is what I get for sneaking my way past too many encounters! So to take a break I've gone back to...Demon's Souls. Yes I know, that doesn't make any sense :)

Anyways, this year continues to be a great one for RPGs! I'll be getting Arc Rise Fantasia on release day (despite the obvious voice actor issues) so hopefully that will be another good one. What RPGs are you all waiting for this year? Write in and let me know! See you all next time.

-Wheels



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What I can't wait for:

1. Valkyria Chronicles 2

2. Etrian Odyssey 3

3. Birth By Sleep

4. Halo Reach

5. Halo Reach multiplayer



On my Playlist:

1. Green Day

2. Persona 3 soundtrack

3. Persona 4 Soundtrack



Hot Topics:

1. Persona 3 portable-as good as the original?

2. Kawazu-Man of Myth or Man of ULTRAMyth?

3. You all better be buying Valkyria Chronicles 2

4. It's safe to say now that we wont be getting 7th Dragon, what are your thoughts?

5. After the success of Dragon Quest IX, will Dragon Quest X be moved to 3DS?



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