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ASK WHEELS
This Week, I Fail to Think of a Creative Title
August 25th, 2010

08/25 - 12:00PM EST

  It's that time of week again. You've got questions, and I've got long drawn out answers. This week, I avoid talking about Tales for once (just kidding), we talk about a Tales like game (Arc Rise Fantasia) and discuss the ins and outs of including Japanese voice overs. Halo: Reach is nearly upon us, so I've been getting a lot of Halo 3 in lately. I think the Halo games are the only non-RPG games I've played that I've sunk huge chunks of time into. Anyone else have a non-RPG game love? Also just a reminder, I officially have a backlog now, so I'll get to all your letters (and tweets).

Alright, show time....





The Letters
I hope this letter doesn't....sting you?

Dear Wheels,
 
I do believe this is my first letter to you. It's great to see Q&A back up and running again! I missed this column, even if I never sent in as many letters as I would have liked.


Wheels

Well now is your chance to rectify this! Now onto your letter....

Anyway, first off, if Phat is looking for an original JRPG, I'd suggest The World Ends With You for the DS, as well as the Dept. Heaven games from Sting (well, mostly Yggra Union and Knights in the Nightmare).  All three have unique, very different battle systems (though both TWEWY and KitN rely on a lot of stylus controls). Heck, TWEWY has two battle systems at once! The story and setting in TWEWY is quite original, especially for a JRPG (though maybe one or more Megaten game have similar setting, ha ha ha). True, the character designs are perhaps too similar to those who are tired or don't like Nomura's designs, but it does rather fit the game and its setting.  Apparently, all the Dept. Heaven games (the main ones, anyway) are going to be pretty original. How true that is we'll have to see since episode IX has only recently been revealed, and details are very sketchy. True, the Dept. Heaven games are very niche, but TWEWY was fairly successful on both sides of the Pacific and I imagine (read: hope) we'll be seeing a sequel in the near future.


Wheels

I actually haven't played The World Ends With You, despite buying tons of Square-Enix products, but from everything I've seen it certainly looks to be a fine example of JRPGs can do right. Other than the Shin Megami Tensei games and Alpha Protocol, I can't really think of any other good examples of RPGs set in a modern setting. Granted both TWEWY and the Shin Megami Tensei games (usually) both take place in Japan, but it's still a great change of pace. The idea of two battles systems at once is interesting as well, and a great use of the DS' capabilities.

I can't comment on the the Sting games, as I've only played a little Riviera, but I can certainly tell that unique is a great way to describe these games. Honestly, it's kind of sad that JRPGs are getting a bad rap, as there are many unique games coming from the genre. Those who say JRPGs aren't unique are the same folk who don't buy games like Valkyria Chronicles I'll bet!

Now if I may ask; I know a bit about your opinions on Arc Rise Fantasia, but what do you think about the music so far? Are you a fan of RPG music, or is it just something that plays that you pay little attention to. I absolutely adore the soundtrack to ARF.  I know Yasunori Mitsuda is the "star" of this game's OST, but my favorites actually come from two other composer of Mitsuda's Procyon Studio, Yuki Harada and Shusuke Tsuchiya. Tsuchiya is especially surprising since a lot of the music he composed for Luminous Arc 2 was forgettable (most of the good music in that game came from Yoko Shimomura). Well, okay, maybe there's about three or four tracks that really stands out, but that's better than LA2. :P


Wheels

Oh I love the music in Arc Rise Fantasia so far, and I have a ton of RPG music on my iPod! Lately I find myself mostly listening to a lot of Ys tracks, but I've got some Tales, Lost Odyssey, and Final Fantasy music on there as well. Arc Rise certainly has its issues, but music is not one of them! I really hope the game finds some kind of audience though, as there's a lot of things to like about it, if you can get beyond the awful voice acting of course.

As for Tsuchiya, maybe he just has more of a chance to shine given the expanded musical capability of the Wii? I know the DS isn't exactly awful sound wise, but still. Sounds like portable games aren't his thing. Overall though, I don't think I've heard a bad bit of music in Arc Rise!

Well, that all I'll say for now. Until next time, Wheels!
-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

Thanks for writing in! Write a few more and maybe you wont feel bad about not writing to previous hosts!


I Destroy Your Hopes And Dreams Again


Time for some highly subjective questions.  Such as: what is the game you're most shocked, flabbergasted, amazed, stupefied, and/or befuddled that got a localization?
The flip side of that question: what's the game you're most despondent, mournful, saddened, and/or dizzied at the lack of its localization?

Wheels

Oh good, some fun questions! Your first question is an interesting one, as usually we're talking about what games aren't being localized instead of being surprised by ones that are. I would have to say the game that truly surprised me at being localized is Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology. A side-story in the Tales series, it's completely a fan service game, allowing you to create your own character and then going on boring fetch quests in ugly random dungeons. The whole draw of the game is of course getting to use characters from across the series, and see them interact in various story scenes. While it's certainly got the usual great Tales series combat, for the most part it's a really bad game, and not something I can see really selling well here. That's not even going into the fact that some of the featured characters are from games that didn't even come out here. A very strange choice by Namco, and I doubt they were rewarded for bringing it over. The lack of a Radiant Mythology 2 localization is not surprising.

The game that I am most saddened and angry by not making its way over here would have to be 7th Dragon, but since that's been discussed to death, I'll instead talk about the next game on my list of games I'm angry haven't been localized. This of course would be the DS version of SaGa 2. Now I know the SaGa series doesn't exactly have a great history here, but when it was originally released here for the Gameboy as Final Fantasy Legend 2, it got a pretty good following, so much so that Sunsoft re-released all the Final Fantasy Legend labeled games later in the life of the Gameboy (I'm not sure why then Squaresoft didn't do it themselves). So it would seem that a simple renaming, coupled with the fact that it's a good looking 3D game for the DS, made me think it was a shoe-in to be localized. This of course, didn't happen, and I'm still befuddled as to why. Now I know DS games are no longer huge money makers for them over here, thanks to increased cartridge cost and of course piracy, but they could take most of the text from the original release of Final Fantasy Legend 2 here and just work from that. Perhaps the Japanese office doesn't let them re-brand games anymore, I'm not sure, but I really think the game would have found an audience here. C'est la vie I suppose.


More fun with predicting what games will cross the Pacific, since you got a lot of mileage out of the last one!
Shining Force Feather
Growlanser PSP
7th Dragon
Any portable Tales game, or all of them

Wheels

Yay! Time to crush your hopes and dreams!

Shining Force Feather-This is an old release so I really think the ship has sailed on this one. The Shining series is completely different from what it used to be, and I doubt it has a big enough audience anymore. I think this game would be lost in a sea of Tactical RPGs on the DS, and it seems Sega knows this.

Growlanser PSP- This is a tough one, and I can't really jump right out and crush people's dreams with this one. We seem to get most Atlus Japan published/developed games localized these days, so it would seem like it has a good shot, but Atlus did seem to pass over a localization of Growlanser VI, so that leaves an uncertain question of whether or not Atlus wants to try again with the series. They've already given the PSP plenty of love this year with Persona 3 Portable and the upcoming Knights in the Nightmare though, so maybe they'll continue that trend.

7th Dragon- I'm not going to go into this one again as I already discussed it in a recent column. It really sucks, and I think the reasons are stupid, but it's not coming. Let's move on with our lives.

Any portable Tales game, or all of them- I find it very odd that Namco never tried with one of these, especially since Tales of Innocence at least came out at the height of the DS' popularity. Tales of the Tempest makes sense though. The game is garbage. It's not coming and this is a good thing. Tales of Innocence already has a fan translation out, so I think Namco would have released it by now if they were going to, so that's out. As for Tales of Hearts, it has been almost two years since it came out, so my gut feeling tells me we will be missing out on all three of the DS Tales games.

The 3DS: will it go the way of Virtual Boy, will it be a success on par with the current DS, or will it be a disappointment without breaking Nintendo's financial report?
Why did we get Secret of Evermore instead of Seiken Densetsu 3, anyway?


Wheels

I would be shocked if the 3DS goes the way of the Virtual Boy. It's continuing the past of Nintendo's most successful system, and instead of the 3D being a stupid gimmick, it's just visual flair that you can even simply just turn off. To me that tells me Nintendo is focused on making a really good platform for games, and the 3D effect of the visuals is just a really nice selling point. I expect the 3DS to continue what the DS started.

Man, what? Though that is the common story used to hate on the undeserving classic Secret of Evermore, I don't think there's any truth to that. Besides, Seiken Densetsu 3 is really good, but not as fun to play as the brilliant classic Secret of Mana, so it wasn't the biggest loss in the world. Be angry at Square-Enix for not having brought it over, not Secret of Evermore!

That should be plenty of material.
JuMeSyn


Wheels

Great material as always, keep it coming!


Bonus Letter: Six Degrees of Seperation


Hey Wheels,

Connect Duck Hunt to Persona 3,

Thanks,
KLitke


Wheels

Man and here I thought you were going to give me a challenge! Okay, Duck Hunt was released here on the Nintendo Entertainment System -> The NES was the American version of the Famicom -> Megami Tensei was a Japanese only Famicom game -> Megami Tensei led to the Shin Megami Tensei games on Super Nintendo -> Persona 3 is a member of the Shin Megami Tensei series. There you are, it only took 4 steps!

Megaten


Who Will Save Us From Awful Dubs?

Dear Wheels,

It sure was fun writing in to Q&A again, so I think I'll do it again this week too!

I played Blazblue for the first time the other day when a friend was over. While watching the game's intro, I was reminded of some other recent games such as Blade Dancer, Okami, Muramasa, Atelier Annie, Dragonball Raging Blast, Cho Aniki 0, and Recettear that either kept their original J-Pop theme songs intact (some even w/o subtitles to translate), or kept a good deal of Japanese spoken dialogue or voice clips when they were localized here. I remember the days (which actually weren't that long ago) when a localization team would never dream of doing such things, still thinking that gamers here were xenophobic towards Japanese songs and voices like this.

Wheels

I wonder how xenophobic many of us really would have been back in those days, but the choice of dubbing games was the smart choice, and as we'll get into I think is still the correct choice. Japanese songs are a different issue I think, as listening to a song in a different language is far different from listening to dialogue in a different language. I wonder though, if perhaps licensing fees for these J-Pop songs are too prohibitive at times to put them in the English version. Sometimes this is even to our benefit. Look at a game like Valkyria Chronicles where there's a great somber orchestral piece with the opening movie, which fits a heck of a lot better than the J-Pop song in the Japanese version, which I found to be incredibly out of place. We are certainly seeing more J-Pop in games here though, and I haven't seen people complaining about them, so I guess people dig them.

My, how times have changed, now that we actually a large enough amount of people to create a DEMAND for this style of localization (I admit that I'm one of them), or even criticize a localization effort when they DON'T do this (see the localized Tales games besides ToV). A lot of them seem to be RPG fans too, and several of the games that I just mentioned are RPGs. I think this was bound to occur alongside the rising popularization of undubbed anime in recent years, and if there's anything else that a Japanophile likes, it's RPGs. I was wondering what's your take on this trend.

FirstAid

Wheels

My take on this trend is that the amount of people that want this kind of thing is probably smaller than you think, though they are very vocal for sure. The general public is not going to respond well to not having an English dub, and I'd imagine retailers would complain about selling that kind of thing as well. For your anime example, just look at popular anime on popular TV stations. Despite the popularity of undubbed anime, I doubt a major station would ever show an anime show without a dub, and I think they'd get a lot of complaints if they did try it. It seems to happen with the occasional game though (Yakuza 3 but that takes place in Japan so I think it works better than most other games, also Izuna, but that doesn't have a lot of voice work anyway), but if some of the small niche publishers could release something like Arc Rise Fantasia without doing a costly English dub, I think they certainly would. The fact that they do not is very telling to me. Yakuza 3 again is a very odd case, but perhaps Sega has a bigger clout with retailers than others do (and again, since it takes place in Japan it kind of makes sense for it anyway). Look at Sakura Wars, NIS went the extra mile and included two different versions of the game in one package, and they were certainly not rewarded for doing so with good sales.

Now, if we take from this that an English dub is sort of "required," there's always the option of Japanese voices as an option, that seems to be showing up in more games. However, often this can simply be a case of lack of space. While it's easy to do for PS3 games given the massive amounts of space on Blu-Ray discs, other media forms just can't hack it. A lot of 360 games, PS2 games, and Wii games even just take up the majority of the disc space, and it's simply not possible to fit two voice overs on there. It's a nice option to have on there, but I'm sure you can appreciate most game just being restricted from doing this based on the media they're on, especially PSP games for example. I can appreciate Japanophiles wanted the original voices, especially when a game has a horrible dub, but it's just not realistic most of the time. Fear not though, as game media moves to more spacious formats, I think we will see it more often.

Great question!


A Streamlined Response

Dear Wheels, the current trend in RPGs seems to altogether be one towards streamlining the experience so as to make it suitable for mass consumption. How much further do you think this process can go before it starts to dilute out the aspects that make RPGs fun and unique?

-FanboyMaster

Wheels
A great question, and one that's not that easy to answer. I'm not completely convinced that the intent of the streamlining is to make these games more suitable for mass consumption. It would seem that way, but let's take a look at some examples.

Mass Effect 2 would seem to be the prime example, as it stripped out many of the heavy RPG elements even going so far as to remove inventory entirely. The main change though, is that Mass Effect 2 plays more like a shooter than the first game did. Largely, it worked. There was no inventory mess to worry about, combat was great fun, and there were still level gains and points to assign, though to a much lesser degree. The important things to the experience, dialog, story and combat, all worked and that's what matters. I still hope they put some of the RPG stuff in there, but it'd be a hard argument to make that Mass Effect 1 was better.

Now was the streamlining of Mass Effect 2 an attempt to bring it to a wider audience? I'm not too sure. Mass Effect 1 had already gained a good audience, despite the fact there were a lot of things broken with the game. Bioware seemed to want to totally refine the combat for the sequel, and what we got ending up being very streamlined, and, also much better. I think Mass Effect 2 succeeded simply because it was a much improved game, not because it made its combat simpler. I actually think we'll see a lot of that complexity come back in Mass Effect 3 now that they have a solid foundation for combat. Even if they don't, I haven't really gotten the feeling that RPG fans didn't like what they did with the game.

Now the other big example would have to be Final Fantasy XIII. I'm sure most readers have heard about how linear Final Fantasy XIII is. This is mostly true. Final Fantasy XIII to me seemed like the pure essence of the Final Fantasy series stripped to its simplest form. Save points became the "towns" as well, with shops, since often this was all you care about in a town. There was no illusion that you had a lot of freedom to explore the game world, You're always moving forward in the story (though there is a nice non-linear section to help break things up) and there's always a clear indicator as to were you need to go. So yes, the experience is streamlined to the extreme. However was this really done to appeal to a mass audience? I'm not so sure about that. Given the long development time, and the troubled state of JRPGs on current gen systems, it seems like Japanese developers just haven't adapted to new hardware very well. Granted the final product of Final Fantasy XIII is quite polished, but the "cutting of the fat" could have just been a conscious decisions to make the transition to new systems a little easier.

The end result isn't exactly something that appears to have appealed to a mass audience. It sold well enough, for sure, but there's been a lot of negativity to it. It has fans, like myself, however despite the streamlining of systems, the shear difficulty present in the battle system seems to be the exact opposite of appealing to a mass audience.

Let's look at it this way though, some of the biggest RPGs that appeal to mass audiences come from Bethesda (Fallout 3, and Oblivion), and those games aren't exactly what I would define as streamlined. So, long story short, I don't think RPG developers are trending that way, I think it's just a few isolated examples. After-all, a few months prior to releasing Mass Effect 2 Bioware released Dragon Age, a pretty hardcore experience.

Anyway thanks for a great question, please write in again!
IN CLOSING

Well, that's all for this week, no crazy spreadsheets or haikus this week, sorry (or you're welcome?). It seems like every week there's something about Tales in need of answering which is alright I suppose, anyone else going to import Tales of Graces F? I've just recently started to play a proper playthrough of  Tales of Vesperia which is quite enjoyable so far. The game looks great, sounds great, and plays great, and it greatly polishes the Tales formula. What other games in long running series do you guys think did nothing new, but polished the formula to a great degree? Let me know!

Queued up for next week: Disgaea 4 talk, Ys Seven in depth talk, and more!

Just a reminder on the contest, check out last week's column for the exact details, but I'll be taking submissions until 12:00 A.M. on Semptember 1st.

P.S. Valkyria Chronicles 2 comes out next week! Who's pumped?

-Wheels



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What I can't wait for:

1. Valkyria Chronicles 2

2. Etrian Odyssey 3

3. Fallout: New Vegas

4. Halo: Reach

5. Civilization V


On my Playlist:

1. Chopin

2. Crystal Bearers Soundtrack

3. Oath in Felghana Soundtrack



Hot Topics:

1. Alpha Protocol got hammered by bad reviews, but has gained a lot of fans, were reviewers too harsh?

2. Crystal Bearers- Wheels wants a sequel! Discuss.

3. If Sega makes a Valkyria Chronicles 3, what platform should it be on?

4. Demon's Souls was a big success for From Software, what should be in a potential sequel?

5. Eternal Sonata was certainly a unique idea for a game, if you were to make a game with the same concept, what musical artist would you choose and what would the game be like?


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