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ASK WHEELS
This Week, No Cloud, Nor Squall Can Stop Me Now!
September 8th, 2010

09/08 - 12:00PM EST

  What's this? You're interrupting my Valkyria Chronicles II playtime you fools! Welcome to yet another week of Ask Wheels. This week we ask if Zelda is an RPG, talk more Japanese RPGs and even more! I'm sure you guys have heard by now, but Duke Nukem Forever is actually going to come out. I guess this means the end of days will be here soon? Seriously though, this game was announced about 14 years ago. It's going to have to sell a few copies to make back all that wasted money! Alright, enough of that, on to your letters!





The Letters
From Column to Column, These are the Paragraphs of our Lives

Hey Wheels!  I know I'm a little late to the party, but I just now finished reading through the last few columns, and I cherry-picked a few topics I'd like to keep discussing.


Wheels

Excellent, let's see what has interested you, hopefully it's Kawazu related!

First, I know you hate to see this word used in this context, but I have to ask: Do you think Square Enix is screwing over US fans by not releasing SaGa II in English?  One would think that they would be more inclined to bring it over, seeing as something like 70% of the game's text (i.e. everything that was a part of the original game) was translated almost two decades ago, and I'm sure that would cut down on the localization costs a bit.


Wheels

I'm really lost on the lack of a localization for SaGa 2 DS. I thought that the original Game Boy games were popular enough that they could just give it the Final Fantasy Legend name again and get it to sell just fine. I guess Square-Enix thinks otherwise though. Certainly based on the past few SaGa games released here I can't really blame them, but it's still a missed opportunity in my opinion. Using the phrase "screwing over the fans" is probably way too harsh though, it's just a business decision that is quite understandable.

Next, I'd like to talk tactics.  In your very first column you talked about this.  I think you picked the wrong SaGa titles to use for a TRPG base, though.  I actually gave this some thought back in college, and I think SaGa Frontier 2 would work better.  Think about it: many tactical titles these days use an action bar of some sort to determine how far a character can move as well as how many or what sorts of attacks can be used after moving.  Combine that with SF2's Duel Mode battle system, and things could get interesting.  Also, the Anima system of magic would work well in this kind of game.  Since magic users in SF2 could draw elemental anima from both their equipment and their surroundings, positioning characters on a tactical grid would gain a whole new importance if a hex's elemental attributes directly contributed to spell power or even one's ability to cast a specific spell (in case of equipment failure). The only thing I would worry about with a Kawazu TRPG is story.  The industry seems to have made plot-heavy political storylines a genre characteristic, and while Kawazu has proven himself able to make some incredibly detailed worlds to play in, he's always been a bit hit-or-miss in terms of the actual story in my opinion.


Wheels

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't yet played SaGa Frontier 2. I'm kind of saving it for a rainy day I suppose. Your ideas sound really good though, especially the anima system. I'll have to play some SF2 so I have a better idea of what it would be like as a tactics game. I still think a tactics game based on the original SaGa games would be great though. I mean Kawazu did work on Tactics Advance 2 so he's certainly got the experience!

Finally, are there any upcoming Japanese titles that have caught your fancy?

Your fellow columnist,

Gaijinmonogatari


Wheels

I'm really interested in the upcoming Legend of Heroes title from Falcom, though as it appears related to the upcoming Legend of Heroes titles XSEED is localizing, I should probably wait and play those first. Also the recently released Ys/Legend of Heroes fighting game looks pretty cool, and import friendly of course, but given its recent release, its still a little pricey to import. Other than that, the PS3 version of Tales of Graces looks really good, and of course the remake of SaGa 3. Other than that, I'm hoping to hear about some new games when Tokyo Game Show rolls around. I'd really like to see a 7th Dragon sequel and in general some more JRPGs for PS3. Regardless I'm sure my list will be longer after TGS!

Anyway thanks for writing in fellow columnist, do so again!


More SaGa Talk Makes for Happy Wheels


Hey Wheels,

It's awesome to see Q&A again! I've been reading the site on and off for a long time and this is the part of the site I always come back to. It's also great to hear you are a fan of Final Fantasy Legend. In fact the announcement of the Saga 3 remake seems to have brought all the Legend fans out of the woodwork. I wonder if Square Enix realizes there is an entire generation of grown-ups who grew up playing those games on their Game Boys? I know for me they were the only RPGs I had to play for a long time. If they marketed them properly I think they could do OK over here.


Wheels

Good to see all the old Q&A fans coming back out!

It's also great to see more fans of the SaGa games on gameboy. Though I ended up not liking SaGa 3 as much as the other two gameboy games (it was more of a generic JRPG), it was still a lot of fun. Obviously they were popular in Japan as well if they're bringing this game back along with the already released SaGa 2 DS. I agree with you that there is a fanbase here that could  be reached if marketed properly (i.e. rename them back to Final Fantasy Legend), but the lack of a localization for SaGa 2 doesn't give me a lot of hope that this one is going to come over. Which is a shame, because if Kawazu is leading the project, they could remake the game into something real special. Who knows, maybe SaGa 3 DS will get the chance the previous title did not.


I have been playing through Valkyria Chronicles (I just got a PS3 this summer). What a fantastic game! I think what I like about it the most is how flexible the game is in allowing you to use different tactics and strategies. Definitely the hallmark of a great strategy game for me (go figure eh). Its amazing how many of them get that wrong. I did find it a little frustrating how the game seems designed so you need to re-try missions once you knew how they pan out, but I'm starting to figure out how to really use reinforcements, which helps. I am really looking forward to playing the sequel (my copy should be here soon:). Though I am not that keen on the setting, the changes they've made to the gameplay and the fact that it is now portable makes it a no brainer in my mind. As for which platform VC3 should go to, I think wherever they can sell it. 3DS seems like a good choice, but they'd risk leaving behind their current fans on the PS3 and psp.


Wheels

Valkyria Chronicles is honestly the best thing Sega has done in a long time. Though the game has one big flaw (bad AI), instead of it being an issue, Sega essentially made it a complete non-issue by being very creative with mission design so that even if the enemies are stupid, the odds are so stacked in their favor that it's OK for them to be stupid, and I often hoped for random bits of stupid to help me get through some harder levels. I understand your point about having to re-try missions, but I kind of like this trial and error approach for a strategy game. It forces you to really think about using all the unit types instead of just using a brute force strategy. Granted sometimes brute force does the job just fine, but as you get further and further into the game you really have to change things up as the missions get harder.  I really can't say enough about how finely crafted the missions are.

So far I've found the gameplay changes in Valkyria Chronicles II to be just fine. The multi-front battlefields make for some interesting battles, and the addition of more specialized classes leads to a larger variety of strategies to employ, especially given the smaller number of units you can bring into battle. The setting so far is fine. The story isn't anywhere near as good as in the first game, and obviously the setting reeks of awful anime, but so far it's been pretty good. I can't say there aren't your usual anime clichés, but at least they don't distract too much from the awesome missions. Though I'm still early, to me the structure looks like it's headed towards being more mission heavy than story heavy, but we shall see.

So onto my question. How serious a problem is piracy on handhelds, especially in regards to niche titles like SaGa 2 and VC2? Do you think these games would sell a lot better (and, in the case of Saga, get localized) if piracy weren't so rampant? Or are these titles inherently limited to a niche audience, and destined to sell what they sell no matter what?

Anyways keep up the great job!

-Alan


Wheels

I've heard that piracy is pretty bad on both platforms. I mean, the Nintendo DSi was an unnecessary revision, it almost seems like it was released just to get a system out there less susceptible to piracy. Granted, despite the issues there's still plenty of DS games at least that have sold quite well.

Piracy is a hard thing to substantiate, because it's impossible to tell whether each game illegally downloaded would have been an actual sale or not. Would Mario Kart DS have sold several million more copies if it weren't for piracy? Certainly the bigger titles can survive this, but I have a feeling that piracy could be contributing to companies like Square-Enix not taking a chance on less-established games such as for DS, or Sega with 7th Dragon. There's obviously other issues involved as well, which I've discussed in the past, but piracy certainly doesn't help.

On the PSP side it's hard to tell how much it's hurt sales. The PSP is a lot harder to crack for piracy than the DS is, so I doubt there's as many people doing it as there are on the DS. PSP game sales certainly are doing very well in the US though. It's not a good sign when something like Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker can't even sell great, but at the same time, we keep getting tons of niche titles from Atlus and NIS America, so obviously enough people are buying PSP games. That is, at least enough people are buying niche PSP games to make it worthwhile for the publishers. I will say though, that piracy certainly isn't helping the already limited popularity of the PSP outside of Japan.

Piracy is always a tough thing to quantify, because companies want to call every download a lost sale, which isn't always accurate. It's clear that piracy has had a huge effect on this generation of portables though. Anyway thanks for the letter, write in again!


Six Degrees of Separation Returns

Dear Wheels,

Connect Gun Smoke to Vandal Hearts


- KLitke
Wheels

I thought you were going to challenge me? This is easy. Capcom published Gun Smoke in arcades->Capcom worked with Konami to add Monster Hunter content to Metal Gear Solid : Peacewalker->Konami published Vandal Hearts. Come on, challenge me!

saga2


Two Questions United

(This is a bit out of the ordinary, but these two questions fit together so here we go:)

Dear Wheels, is Zelda an RPG?

-Hito

Wheels

Thanks Hito. This is a very interesting question and one which I often see come up. To answer this question we kind of have to ask what makes an Action-RPG an RPG. Opinions may differ, but my opinion would basically boil down to stats of some kind having some effect on how much damage you deal, meaning that success or failure in combat doesn't boil down to skill, but also what your stats are. So does Zelda fit into this definition? Not really. Granted that's a pretty narrow definition, but I think most people would find that as the splitting point between Action-RPGs and Action-Adventure games.

Despite this, I think the Zelda games are close enough to being RPGs that they are certainly worth talking about on an RPG site. Lots of Action-RPGs certainly draw a log of inspiration from Zelda, especially games like Alundra, so it would seem odd not to talk about Zelda. In general really, Zelda is worth talking about, so there you go.

Dear Wheels, what is the Zelda timeline?
-Nodal

Wheels

Oh the Zelda timeline. Nintendo has confirmed that there is some kind of official timeline but of course refuses to tell us what it is, which leads to all kinds of crazy theories. My personal favorite is the split timeline theory. This theory has Minish Cap as the first game, then obviously Ocarina of Time, and this is where the split occurs. One timeline is where Link saves the future and then vanishes (back to the past). The other timeline is young Link warning the king about Ganandorf (after Link returns from the future). So this would place Windwaker in the timeline where Link vanishes after defeating Ganon (since the story in that one discusses the Hero of Time disappearing). The other timeline would obviously then have all the other Zelda games not related to Wind Waker. Whether or not any of these are the same Link from Ocarina of Time is unclear (except Majora's Mask). It's certainly a fun theory, but it's nothing more than that as I'm sure there are a lot of holes in it (such as: which timeline would Twilight Princess fit into?). Hopefully they'll release some kind of wacky timeline with some Zelda game in the future. I'd also love some kind of reality bending game where Link has to unite the timelines somehow. Time travel is always fun to play with in fiction.

Anyway, thanks Nodal, brief as this timeline discussion was it's always fun.


Twitter Question About Dream Teams

@AskWheels in the vein of Kingdoms of Amalur what is your author+designer+character designer dream team?

-FowlSorcerous

Wheels

Such an excellent question, thank you! We'll start with the author. The author of my imaginary dream team would absolutely have to be George R.R. Martin. I'm a huge fan of the Song of Ice and Fire books, and I think the world he's created there is quite fantastic. I wouldn't want them to make a game in that universe, but his creativity would make any fantasy type project better I think. Granted this would distract him from finishing the book series, but this is all theoretical anyway.

For character designer I would have to go with Toriyama. A typical choice, I know, but playing Dragon Quest IX just makes me want that classical kind of look for this dream game. I know his stuff can look pretty similar sometimes, but I have no doubt that he could apply a unique and interesting look to a world created by Martin. Plus the man made Poo Slimes look interesting, so obviously he knows what he's doing.

Finally I'd have to top off the dream team with the Maestro himself, Kawazu leading the creation of actual gameplay. Say what you want about the man, but he certainly knows how to be experimental and try new things. I mean, if you're going to assemble a dream team of people the last thing you would want to do is make something typical, right? I'm thinking some kind of SaGa based character progression wrapped in a nice Action-RPG shell. I have no idea if this would turn out well, but damn it these three working on one project together would have to create something interesting!

Thanks for the great question!
IN CLOSING

Another week in the books. As always thanks for the letters and keep them coming in. Not getting a lot of twitter questions, come on guys! It's the perfect place to send me some quick questions.

Anyway, we've still got some great RPGs coming up this year, so plenty to talk about. I've been playing a lot of Ys: Oath In Felghana on PC though, and I can tell you that its release on PSP is not something you should ignore. It's just one of the most well put together games I've played in quite some time. More on that another time, I'll have more info on the next contest coming near the end of the month, so stay tuned!

-Wheels



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What I can't wait for:

1. Ys: Oath in Felghana for PSP

2. Etrian Odyssey 3

3. Fallout: New Vegas

4. Halo: Reach

5. Last Dragon Age Origins Add-On


On my Playlist:

1. JDK Band

2. Chopin

3. The Who



Hot Topics:

1. Duke Nukem Forever is actually going to come out, does this mean we still have a chance at getting Mother 3? and 7th Dragon? and Secret of Mana 2?

2. SaGa 3 remake, will it be handled by Kawazu, so he can Kawazu it up?

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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