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ASK WHEELS
A Grandiose Episode
August 5th, 2011

08/95- 12:00PM EST

   It's been a sad week for JRPGs fans, as the news that the creator of Grandia, Takeshi Miyaji, had passed away spread around the internet. This week we've got a few letters remembering the series. If anyone would like to send in similar letters for next week, please do!





The Letters
Oracle of Bacon

Hey Wheels, long time no write!  Sorry I've been so quiet lately.  I had a nice long letter written up and ready to type, but I procrastinated, and the longer I waited, the longer the whole thing looked to be an annoying, self-congratulatory listing of all the nerdy name games I put into my write-up of Kaijuu RamPaGe.


Wheels

No worries sir! I would like to see that long listing of nerdy games, so you should type that up regardless.

I was reading that letter from FriendOfAgnes in last week's column, and a
thought occurred to me. We've already had an evolution based RPG of sorts. His idea sounded like an interesting take on the leveling mechanic though.


Wheels

Certainly, though E.V.O. is getting a bit old by this point. I wonder why no developers have really tried the evolution RPG again? Seems like something worth revisiting.

What really made me decide to write in this time, though, was when CIMA: The Enemy was mentioned in that same letter. I'm not 100% sure, but I might be the only member on staff who's actually played and finished that game (though I knew it as Frontier Stories at the time). I agree that the game practically screamed "SEQUEL!!" in every respect, and it's too bad Natsume never followed up on it. It did have its issues, however. Directing party members along the necessary paths could be a pain in the neck, especially with GBA real-time strategy controls. It would certainly have worked better on the DS. Also, the player eventually had three squads worth of characters, and each squad could be directed independently, but only within the space of a single room on any given floor of a dungeon. It just wasn't possible to split the group between two rooms and have them act independently of one another. Finally, while the character interaction was really good, the writers missed the boat when it came to designing dungeons of personal significance to the trapped character within (each dungeon usually only had one new character in it). The level designs ended up being kind of generic, when they could have been more like Persona 4 in terms of psychedelic symbolism.


Wheels

Was it you that first mentioned CIMA in Q&A then? I can't seem to recall. Anyone, it was a very interesting sequel idea for sure, one that made me want to go and check out the original game. That and Natsume should do more original games outside of the usual Harvest Moon games. I think I should challenge you to come up with your own sequel to CIMA!

Oh well, that's just my two cents on the matter. To wrap up... Connect the Wild ARMs series to Kevin Bacon in as few steps as possible.

I believe I can do it with just one item between the two. Can you?

Your fellow columnist,
Gaijinmonogatari


Wheels

  I don't think I can do it in that few. Wild Arms V had Yuri Lowenthal as a voice actor-> Yuri Lowenthal was in the film Silver Case with Vincent De Paul-> Vincent De Paul was in He Said, She Said with Kevin Bacon.


Some A for your Q

Sir Wheels,

How is your day going good sir? I am a big fan of your lovely Q&A column.
 
Wheels

Thank you sir, I'm glad you enjoy it.

The Grandia series. I only own the first two games, and have only played the first. I found the first one to be pretty enjoyable; I have only had the chance to play it recently with the PSN release. I was wondering which titles from series you have played; also, which is game from the series is your favorite and why; and what your thoughts are on the series as a whole?

Wheels

I have only played the second game sadly, though I have the first title ready and waiting on both my PS3 and PSP. Based on my enjoyment of Grandia II's fantastic battle system (I thought the story stunk), I'd have to say that must be the defining characteristic of the series. I t was good enough to make me greatly enjoy the game despite a mediocre story and characters.

I was also curious about your experience and thoughts with the Lunar series. I have had slightly more experience with this series than the Grandia. I completed Lunar Legend for the GBA a few years ago. I have also picked up, but have yet to play, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony for the PSP. I heard it was a remake of the first Lunar title like Lunar Legend was. Have you played either of the two portable versions of Silver Star?

Wheels

I have played a small amount of the GBA game, but primarily I've played the fantastic PSP version. It has brilliant 2D visuals that finally make the animated scenes from the original PlayStation/saturn versions feel more in tune with the actual game graphics. As for the gameplay itself, the story and characters are classic, but the battle system is a bit too simple. I still had a lot of fun with Silver Star Harmony though.

I have also played through, but have yet to complete, Lunar: Dragon Song – which was also my first DS game. I have heard a lot of people say that Dragon Song is a horrible title and not worth a look. What do you think? Personally, I have had a good time playing through it so far; although, right now I am stuck at a segment where I will have to grind for a while before I can continue which is why I stopped playing it.

Wheels

I think Ubisoft's apparently horrible localization probably turned off a lot of people right off the bat. Since the charm of the originals was such a big draw, I think it was just harder for people to overlook the flaws that Dragon Song had. I have a feeling its not quite as bad as people say, but I'm afraid to actual spend money on the game to find out. Hopefully it hasn't killed any hopes of new Lunar games.

If you were wondering what prompted me to write in about this topic, recently Takeshi Miyaji passed away.

Wheels

Yes, it is such terrible news, especially given he was only 45. We will always have his games to remember him by, and what a great set of games they are!

P.S. I am doing it for the kitty. :P

Thank you for your time, and keep up the good work

- Rival

Wheels

Worry not, the kitty is safe...FOR NOW!


Remembering the Creator of Grandia

Hey Wheels,

Long time listener, first time caller here.

As a huge Lunar fan and someone who's played Grandia II and III, how easy would it be to go back and play the original Grandia? I loved Grandia II's story and characters and found Grandia III's battle system to be its only selling point, so I'm just wondering what issues I might find going back to the first game on PSN now.

Thoughts?

- Macstorm

PS: Don't just say it's great. I want to know what is going to drive me crazy. Long load times? Few save points? Unbalanced difficulty?

Wheels

Not wanting to dishonor the memory of the creator of Grandia, I brought in an expert on this subject, David "FBM" McBurney, since I've only played the second game.
FBM

Special correspondent FBM here. Grandia 1 probably isn't going to kill you with its archaicism, on PSP the load times are pretty much part and parcel of what you'd expect for a PS1 game but not too irritating overall. Difficulty curve is fairly manageable and in the exploits to get the best healing spells early are pretty obvious to the trained eye. That said there are a few things that might rub you the wrong way.

Grandia 1 introduced the Mana Egg system that would be repeatedly tinkered with in Grandia's 2, Xtreme and, 3. As such, it works very differently here. Mana Eggs themselves don't do a danged thing. The player merely exchanges them with the magic shop to give a character 1 of 4 different types of magic (Water, Air, Fire, Dirt, magnets not included). This is good in that missing one doesn't lock you out of certain spells, but bad in that missing one makes it harder to get all the magic for certain characters. It's a somewhat frustrating system when paired with the game's tendency to give the player a revolving 4th (and later 3rd) party slot that means that certain characters will leave and take the magic they gained with them. There are precisely enough Mana Eggs in the game to give every single character every type of magic but that's a tough tightrope to walk and I'd advise new players give all their eggs to Justin and Feena before worrying about anyone else. As a side note, skills and magic are obtained by using certain weapon and magic types, all of which have individual levels, so overpowered characters require you to deliberately mix it up in combat.

Aside from the odd magic acquiring and advancement systems, you shouldn't be faced with too much trouble gameplay wise, particularly given that the game started the Grandia tradition of all save points being recovery points and thus good grinding spots should the need really arise. Story is... another matter. I like Grandia 1 for its sense of adventure, but a lot of people I've talked to loathe its main character. It's not too hard to see why, he spends at least the first 10 hours (of a game that's probably a good 70 or so but whatever) acting like an immature idiot. It especially doesn't work well because he's contrasting sharply with the female lead who's generally quite mature. Don't go in expecting Ryudo and give him a chance to mature and you might come out of it liking him well enough. Grandia 1 sort of focuses more on its sense of adventure so the main character is molded to fit that.

The only other hangup I can think of is the wretched translation, it's never difficult to understand what's going on, but it's really badly written just the same. Still, I'd imagine anyone who played a lot of PS1 RPGs kind of expects that sort of thing by now and as with most such bad translations, there's some unintentional humor to be mined from it. It's especially great when they try to pass off a bar as a coffee shop... that only opens at night... that is surrounded by people lying between mountains of "coffee" bottles.

Maybe I should just write up a review of this. I dunno. Special correspondent FBM singing off

The Licensed Game Paradox

What do you think makes up a good licensed RPG?


Wheels

In my opinion there are two possible ways to make a good licensed RPG. The first way I would call the "exploring a licensed world" RPG. In such a game you get to make your own characters, or use otherwise unknown characters to follow some story secondary to that told in the licensed property (for example, Lord of the Rings the Third Age). The other type of course would be the "licensed story told as an RPG". This type of game is simply a straight forward telling of a licensed story through the mechanics of an RPG. An example of this is the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban game for GBA. Now this doesn't exactly explain how to make a "good" game, but from either base developers simply need to make a good game like any other, just using licensed material instead of original material.

Any particular standout excellent licensed games, any standout stinkers?


Wheels

The standout excellent licensed game for me would have to be Magic Knight Rayearth for Sega Saturn. On the simple side, similar in a way to games like Ys and Zelda, it was a very fun action RPG, and told the story well enough that you didn't even need to be a fan of the anime series. On the opposite side I'd point to the Magic Knight Rayearth game for Super Nintendo. For some reason it actually got a fan translation, and was quite horrible and boring in comparison to the Saturn game. That or it may have been a Game Gear fan translation, it's been so long I can't' recall. All I recall is that is was horrible.

What properties do you consider to ripe for an rpg adaptation?

-FowlSorcerous


Wheels

I think the Wheel of Time and Game of Throne series are both ripe for RPGs. Wheel of Time of course got a first person shooter for some reason, but that world needs an RPG. With open world RPGs being so popular right now, it seems like the perfect time for such games to be made, allowing players to explore these very popular worlds. I'd also love some kind of crazy Dark Tower rpg where you travel through many different versions of Earth fighting the minions of the Crimson King.
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week! Next week the king of content returns, and I'll discuss the selecting of the winner of the contest, and I'll give everyone another week to get entries in.

See you next week!

-Wheels


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