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ASK WHEELS
This Week,  Shiny Tales of Haikus  
August 18th, 2010

08/18 - 12:00PM EST

  Hello and welcome to Ask Wheels. This week we've got some great letters, including one in which said reader blabs as much as I do, plus haikus! Also the very first Twitter question! Just as a note, I now have an honest backlog of questions, so if your question is not in this week, fear not! Anyway let's jump straight into the Letters this week...





The Letters
Wherein Someone Else Talks As Much As Me

Dear Wheels,

Great to see Q&A is back. I think I'll start getting back into writing to the column again by addressing the hot topic that interests me the most.


Wheels

  I know where this is going and I thought I was through with said topic...

Are Tales fans being screwed? Mmm, concerning the lack of ToG localization, I would say yes, but maybe NOT. Here's how I see it: It's no secret that Tales games sell best on Sony consoles, as that's where a lot of their fans are, in Japan especially. When Namco made ToS and ToV, they announced the localizations of those games right away, before seeing how they would sell. When those games failed to sell well, that's when their Sony versions were made to pull a profit. As you said, the Tales series isn't all that popular in NA and Europe, so spending the time and money to localize TWO versions of the same Tales game in our regions would seem like a waste, profit-wise. I think that's the reason why, with the exception of ToL and TotA, every single localized Tales game has multiples versions, yet only one version of each game has been localized here. Combine these two phenomena, and the result is that we got the inferior versions of ToS and ToV and ONLY those versions, which displeases fans.

Wheels

A lot of what you're saying here makes sense. The Sony consoles are generally more popular in Japan for sure, and if you compare sales of the non-Sony Tales to their Sony counterparts, the Sony ones generally sell more. However in the US, the two Tales of Symphonia games have sold quite well on Nintendo platforms. Perhaps this is due to the lack of RPGs on these platforms?

Let's not try to read too much into this though, as the Gamecube and Xbox 360 (referring to Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia) are obviously less popular in Japan, so naturally the releases on the more popular systems would be expected to sell more, especially with bonus features.  Regardless of fan complaints and the disappointment of not getting extras, I think both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia were released on the correct platforms here. A lack of RPGs on the Gamecube gave Tales of Symphonia a great opportunity , and, in my opinion, Tales of Vesperia on the 360 gave the game the largest audience available at the time (Also I've heard rumors Microsoft may have been involved in some way to get it as a timed exclusive, similar to Star Ocean 4). I can understand fans being annoyed at not getting the "improved" edition of these games, but this isn't something new, as we often miss out on re-releases like Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System.

Now, Tales of Graces is an odd one. By series standards it sold poorly and was very buggy. These two factors could easily prevent the thing from coming over here. However, the Wii lacks RPGs, and I really think it would have found a good audience here.

Just a note though, let's not use the word screwed! It implies that Namco specifically wants Tales fans not to get the latest goodness in the series, which is not the case. We may not agree with the reasons for not bringing over Tales of Graces were we to find them out, but I'm certain they have good reasons.

So I think that with Graces, they decided to do things differently. They COULD have localized the game here right away, but if it failed to sell well and warrant a PS3 version, then we would be left with only the inferior version (which I personally wouldn't have a problem with, but many other Tales fans would) and nothing else. So instead of potentially repeating history, I think Namco decided to bide their time and wait and see how well ToG sells on the Wii to see if a PS3 version would be warranted. That way, if they end up with two versions of the game, as they indeed ended up making, they can THEN localize the superior Sony version for NA and Europe. They couldn't do this for ToS and ToV because they jumped the localization gun. So if they must localize one and only one version, then by biding their time this way, they can localize the eventual superior version for us, which may the reason why they held off on a ToG localization for all this time. If they localize the better version, then it would have a better chance of getting good review scores and attracting an audience, so it helps them as well as us. Of course, until the PS3 version is officially announced for localization, this is all just speculation and wishful thinking on my part.


Wheels

  Despite the success of Tales of Symphonia 2 on the Wii, The PS3 obviously has a larger hardcore audience. Perhaps they did want to take a wait and see approach on a PS3 version. However, they did state they have no plans to bring it over, though these kinds of things can change quickly if it sells well in Japan.

So maybe the moral of the story is, whenever Namco makes a Tales game for a non-Sony console, just wait for the inevitable Sony version to arrive with added features. Just look at ToP (twice it happened for this game), ToS, ToV, and now ToG. Maybe with the new PS3 Tales game, Namco just decided to skip the first step in the whole "attempt-to-gain-an-audience-on-a-non-Sony-console-but-fail-and-make-a-Sony-port-to-fans'-disgruntlement" process and jump straight to the PS3 step.



Wheels

  I think it has more to do with the continued increase in sales of the PS3 in Japan. After Graces failed to sell well on the Wii, perhaps they decided to give the PS3 a full shot. Then again, perhaps they've just been working on it for awhile, and without Microsoft money lining their pockets, decided to just use the PS3 for the next Tales. More importantly, I just hope the thing is good!

Also, about DQVI, how well do you think it would be received here now? Now that DQIX is released here with all its series refinement, how well would a game that goes back to an older and more archaic moment in the series fare now that fans are used to DQIX's style?

Talk to you next week,

FirstAid
(wow, I haven't used that name in ages ::gets nostalgic::)


Wheels

  I'm not sure how well Dragon Quest VI will be received by fans, but I think it will be received better by Dragon Quest IX fans new to the series than the other DS titles given that it features a job system as well. Obviously the more archaic graphics will be a turn off, but hopefully new Dragon Quest fans will be interested in looking back on the series.

Anyways, thanks for writing in FirstAid! Please do so again, and welcome back :)


Tweeting about Shiny Things


The first AskWheels twitter question!

7threst @AskWheels Hey Wheels, nice to see Q&A return! Short question: ever played the Saturn Shining Force-games? And are they worth hunting down?


Wheels

I have played them, and they are absolutely worth tracking down! I'll even throw in some info on the other Saturn based Shining games.

Shining Force 3 was released in three parts for the Saturn, and it is absolutely the finest stretch of games Camelot Software Planning has ever produced. Though I've only completed the first part of Shining Force 3 (the only one ever released officially in English), I've heard the other parts are even better. It has classic tactical RPG gameplay, but with tons of different scenarios that really challenge you in a lot of different ways. Graphically the games look nice and have aged well, which, given how awful a lot of 3D was on the Saturn, is quite impressive. The story is interesting and thanks to the hard work of some kind folk who translated the script you can easily play parts two and three. They are worth checking out, though they will not be cheap. The price however, is justified because you will be getting some of the finest Tactical RPG gameplay ever fashioned.

There are two other Shining Games which you may be interested in. The first is Shining the Holy Ark which is a very difficult First-Person RPG. Though it's not a single dungeon like many games of this type, it is not any less difficult than your typical dungeon crawler. There are so many mind-bending puzzles, and difficult bosses all over the place. It's a great game, but the 3D graphics haven't exactly aged well. The story to the game is somewhat tied to Shining Force 3, though you probably won't be able to figure it out easily, as I played both and never realized it. It's an incredibly long game too, so don't go into this one unless you have a lot of free time.

Finally, there's Shining Wisdom which is the first Action-RPG in the Shining series. It's more of a Zelda type game than it is an Action-RPG to be honest. I haven't played much of it, but due to the localization by Working Designs it's worth checking out. I hear it has some characters from Shining Force 2, however these names are changed in the English version so it's not immediately apparent.

Anyway, long story short, the Shining Force games for Saturn are worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of the games on the Genesis.


JRPGs going the way of the Dodo?

Dear Wheels,

Show me some recently released JRPGs that prove that the genre is not a dead branch on the evolutionary tree of video games, recycling boring mechanics and leveraging childish, maudlin writing and blatant fanservice to seperate unwitting manchildren from their cash. I need to know what hope there is for the future.

Love,

Phat
Wheels

There's plenty of hope my good man, and I don't think you need to look much further than Dragon Quest IX, The Monster Hunter series, Final Fantasy XIII, Ys Seven, Demon's Souls, and of course, as always, the Shin Megami Tensei series. These games cover a variety of different gameplay experiences, and they've all done interesting things with the JRPG formula. Each brought some interesting multi-player and more open-world styled gameplay to the classic Dragon Quest series. Monster Hunter gets rid of all the fat by completely removing story element and focusing completely on multi-player grinding style gameplay similar to Phantasy Star Online. Final Fantasy XIII, while a lot of people had issues with it, really did a lot to advance JRPGs with its super fast-paced take on classic turned based combat. Ys Seven continues to do what Ys does best, focusing mainly on quick gameplay, and not delving too much into clichéd stories. Demon's Souls barely seems like a JRPG at all, focusing on dungeon crawling, atmosphere, and purely challenging difficulty instead of story. The Shin Megami Tensei series has spent the past generation giving us a huge variety of different gameplay types with mature stories, something which the clichéd games do not do.

So these games/series do a lot of things to advance JRPGs, and they're all (mostly) very popular. Yes, there are a lot of games out there doing the complete opposite. Games like Arc Rise Fantasia and Disgaea are rooted firmly in all the things you listed as major issues with JRPGs. There are also JRPGs that are taking clichés in a, let's say, disturbing direction, but if the most popular JRPGs in Japan are the ones that aren't full of clichés and often do new and fresh (or in the case of Dragon Quest at least do old things really well), then I'd say there's plenty of hope for JRPGs. Sure, there's a ton of garbage, but the same is true for Western RPGs. Two Worlds, anyone?
Rocket Slime


Tales of Haikus

Dear Wheels,
As you can see from my official RPGamer review, I thought Crystal Bearers was a horrible mess.
In haiku, please explain why I am wrong.
Love,
Macstorm


Wheels

OK I'll accept that challenge, and here you go, the reasons why Crystal Bearers is fantastic, in Haiku form!

Crystal Bearers is
A wacky game full of fun
mini-games here

The music is fun
The graphics are amazing
At least for the Wii

Controls can be bad
However story is good
It is just good fun

IN CLOSING

Well that's all for this week. I'd like to know what you all think of Valkyria Chronicles II based on the demo (I loved it). I just got Ys Seven so that will probably be knocking Persona 3 Portable out of my PSP for awhile. I'm still determined to finish it by the end of the year though. This really is a great year for PSP gamers, and RPGs in general, and we've still got many games to go!

Okay, now onto the first ever AskWheels contest. The prize? Your choice of Ys I&II for virtual console (US residents only), or one of the following from Steam: Fallout, Fallout 2, or Knights of the Old Republic. Obviously you'll need to send me your Wii number or Steam name if you win, so if you aren't comfortable doing so please do not enter.

Anyway, now that we have that out of the way, the contest is simple:

Send me a letter for use in the column (about anything you want, doesn't have to be about the prize games) and at the end of said letter name who published the first version of Ys to come out in the US. Everyone who answers this correctly I will put into a hat and I will draw a winner at the end of the month. That's it!  (You can also tweet this to me)

Till next week....

-Wheels



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