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Wheels in Chinatown
  September 13th, 2013

09/13- 7:00PM EST

Q&A returns! During the challenge someone sent in last time about creating your dream party of RPG characters I casually mentioned that others should send in their dream parties, and two people have already done so! I think it's cool little exercise. Anyway, let's get this show on the road, but first a WARNING, there are spoilers for Persona 3 in the first letter in case you have not yet played the game.

Let's get to it!





The Letters
River City 2: The Ransoming

@AskWheels Is River City Ransom a RPG? Is it the best RPG? How many of your readers will give money to its sequel's KS?


Wheels

I wouldn't be opposed to calling River City Ransom an RPG. Didn't it have level ups or something along those lines? I haven't played it in a long time. I'm not sure how many of the readers will be contributing, but given the ongoing hardcore love for River City Ransom, I'd be shocked if this sequel doesn't get funded. I probably won't back it (I'm very picky) but I'd be happy to buy such a game when it comes out. Dragon's Crown has me in the mood for more RPG brawlers so this River City Ransom sequel should do nicely.

@AskWheels I just finished P3P where in the end the protag dies. How cliché an ending is this in RPGs?

@falselogic


Wheels

I actually don't think it's cliché at all. More often you get the fake character death, or the uncertain end for a character which likely results in them still being alive. The actual death of a main character, especially one who you name and make all their choices is not something that happens often and is actually quite jarring. I was shocked by the ending of the game. Now, I don't think it was done all that well in this case, but the shock value was still there. Maybe its not necessarily shocking for a Shin Megami Tensei game given how bleak other games int he series can be, but I don't think its something that should be considered cliché even in that case.

The Party

You asked for it, so here it is.

First, Citan from Xenogears (with his sword of course) for sheer slicing joy.  Second, Rose from Legend of Dragoon for dark magic and elegance.  Third, Lenneth Valkyrie from Valkyrie Profile, for the sheer awesomeness of Nibelung Valesti.  Fourth, Millenia/Elena from Grandia II for a combination of destruction and healing.  Fifth, Terra from FFVI as a healer/magic attacker.  Sixth, Misha from Ar Tonelico as a backup magic-user for Terra and a power in her own right.  Seventh and last, Slayn from Growlanser III for being an all-powerful character (can fulfill all roles).


Wheels

A good group, even if I'm not familiar with a few of them. Particularly, Lenneth is a fantastic choice, and reminds me that I need to just sit down and play Valkyrie Profile (this is true of many games). I also give you a lot of credit for thinking of Ar Tonelico. The song magic in those games is incredibly powerful and I'm a bit mad I didn't think of it when putting together my team. Going to have to get to Growlanser III as well to figure out what Slayn is all about.  Finally, love the combo of characters from Grandia II as they can kick some serious butt.

In addition, a question I've been ruminating on for years... why is it so hard to balance the realism of the west with the surrealism of Japanese games?  When American games try to insert surrealism into their games, it inevitably seems absurd or ruins the balance of the game.  When Japanese companies try to make their games more realistic, they inevitably seem to fall flat.  Rare exceptions - such as the original Suikoden series (especially 1, 2, and 5) - serve to illustrate that it is possible to balance realism (in Suikoden's case, political realism) in a story with the deeper character portrayals and the emotional storytelling that is the hallmark of a good jrpg.  Of course, series like Mass Effect manage this to a greater or lesser extent as well... but in the process of improving the gameplay in later installments, there is this tendency to weaken the storytelling or create strange inconsistencies (Mass Effect 3's  ending as an example). 


Wheels

It's a good question. When you look at RPGs from both the East and West it's easy to see common patterns and weaknesses as you've described. I've always (including here on Q&A) wished we could see a collaboration between prominent RPG developers, like an Atlus/BioWare collaboration on a Persona title for example. It may just be a matter of a culture, as the trends of realism vs. surrealism seem to apply to other genres as well. I think if we took a look at indie RPGs we'd find some examples were these trends don't necessarily apply, suggesting that pressures to appeal to a market are at play as well. Given the unfamiliar nature to those designing these games, they probably just don't know how to handle realism/surrealism correctly. Hopefully this will change over time.

I'd have to disagree with the assertion that Mass Effect's story is hurt by efforts of improving the gameplay. No doubt the overarching plot of the series has some issues, but the character interactions and more personal stories, which are more integral to the actual gameplay, stay great throughout the series and I would argue actually improve. I think issues with the mythos at large probably have more to do with writers changing and other factors than anything related to actual gameplay changes.

I'm also going to repeat one of my favorite topics here again... the death of 'music as a tool of enhancing the experience' in jrpgs.  It saddens me that the genre has yet to pull out of the trend toward sidelining the use of music as a tool to enhance and guide the mood of the players, as voice-acting and graphics have improved.  No matter how good the soundtrack is technically - and with series like FF you see really good soundtracks from a technical perspective - the tendency toward associating that music with moods and certain incredible scenes fades more with every year.  Rather than using all the tools at hand to make their games' storytelling more powerful, a tendency to purchase an expensive soundtrack and assume that the results will be good is becoming ever more prevalent (ok, it has been prevalent for over a decade, but it has gotten downright offensive in the last few years, with some of the more pathetic efforts of games like Star Ocean 4).  It doesn't matter how good a tool you have if you don't use it effectively...

-Travis


Wheels

I don't know, I've still seen some recent games that do this very well. No doubt there are more generic and less interesting in games these days though. Its easy to forget how amazing a tool this can be when used correctly. I hope its a trend that somehow reverses at some point. I've seen some indy games recently like Runner 2 that use music in incredible ways so I don't think all hope is yet lost!

One-Off

What's your f8vorite one off RPG, no sequels no prequels?

-fbm


Wheels

Sadly such a thing is a rarity in our sequelized world. I think the reason there aren't more of these is because great RPGs generally leave people wanting more, so the urge to make sequels is hard to deny. The most obvious answer for me would have to be Resonance of Fate considering it is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. That game works great as an independent story and gameplay experience, so as much as I pine for a sequel I think its best left on its own. There's also Radiant Historia but that game was so good that I'd love to see a sequel or spiritual successor to it doing the whole time travel and parallel timelines. A great question!

World of Fantasycraft

Hey! It's been a while since I last sent you some of my ramblings (I promise a question is going to be in here somewhere), but you asked your readers to send in their own ideas for a seven person team, and I couldn't resist the offer. Ask and you shall receive!


Wheels

Excellent! I'm glad people are jumping on this. I'm looking forward to seeing what other teams people come up with.

I had most of this team all planned out, but then I noticed that the person who originally asked the question said "no main characters," which is going to make this a lot harder. So, I'm going to cheat and add exactly one main character. It's not like you obeyed that rule when you made your list, after all.


Wheels

I'm okay with that! I mean it's hard to find a leader for the group without at least one main character right?

Team Leader: Stocke, from Radiant Historia. I need to put him in simply because he is far and away the most competent hero to ever take the lead in an RPG. Master spy, skilled assassin, effective commander, skilled negotiator, able to learn techniques with an efficiency that makes Blue Mages envious... He does it all, and he does it well, and that is even ignoring his ability to change history for the better.


Wheels

I love this pick. It just works on almost every conceivable level. Plus Stocke could even help out your team on multiple different timelines. He really is almost the perfect leader for this kind of setup.

Main Tank: Biorr of the Twin Fangs, from Demon's Souls. I played a tank in that game and he out-tanked me. I couldn't have beaten that one boss without him, so I owe him a spot here.


Wheels

I forget exactly who that is, and didn't expect anyone from one of the Souls games anyway! Does he help you with one of the bosses near the end of the game? I'm going to have to go back and look now.

Support/Elemental Attack: Melia, from Xenoblade. She is my favorite character to control from that game. Her abilities are very effective and a lot of fun to use, and she always has the right ability for any problem.


Wheels

Haven't played a ton of Xenoblade so can't comment on this one

Tank/Decoy/Buffing/Emergency Healer: Alisa, from Gods Eater Burst. As her role description shows, she is really good at doing a lot of useful things. That game deserves a shout-out for its great AI ally characters, and she's the best.


Wheels

I've only played the demo for the most part, but the AI characters do seem great. Something that should be add to all Monster Hunter clones, and Monster Hunter itself for that matter.  Come on developers!

Main Attacker: Lenna, from Final Fantasy V. In my most recent run through FFV, this princess was using a nice Sword Magic/Dance combo that could do nearly max damage to one of that game's optional superbosses (who I swear is pretty much impervious to almost all forms of attack). You can't beat a full-powered FFV character when it comes to game-breaking offensive ability combos.


Wheels

Any of the characters from Final Fantasy V work for this, because you can make them be almost anything you want.

Main Healer/Buffer: A Prince or Princess from Etrian Odyssey III. I used a Prince as the centerpiece of my EO3 team, and he was really great. Healing and buffing at the same time, with passive healing, heavy armor, and some helpful support abilities. Thanks to sub-classing, I had three people with this class in my final party... A touch excessive, maybe, but it worked.


Wheels

A great buffer class, though I like the similar class from 7th Dragon even more. Buffs are something that are often underused by RPGs so its cool to see RPGs that can make a whole class around them. I hope this class comes back in future Etrian Odyssey games.

Anything Else: Aigis, from Persona 3 FES. She's a solid character in the main game, and her support skills might even be a little redundant in this team. She really excels in The Answer, though, and I always liked her Orgia Mode, so she gets a spot in this team.


Wheels

Well its a big party, so it would hard not to have any redundancy! There's always a place for powerful androids on any team in my book.

Some alternate choices I almost picked: Galahad from Romancing SaGa, Ryu from Breath of Fire, almost any main character from SaGa Frontier, Raquel from Wild ARMS 4, Yukari from Persona 3, Rise from Persona 4, and Citan Uzuki from Xenogears. That's... actually another team of seven. Huh. A pretty good one, too.


Wheels

OK I like your second party even more! I think I'm going to have to make you do a whole writeup for them now. I mean you've got two SaGa characters in there! That's custom build for me.

So, yeah, time for an actual question. I've had Final Fantasy XIV on the brain FAR too much lately, so I might as well ask for some advice. How on earth do I deal with the problem of MMO addiction? I've never actually been so obsessed with an MMO before. I just played Everquest pretty normally way back when,and it was hard to really stick with that one, and I only played World of Warcraft for about two months. This one though... I may be in for the long haul. It doesn't help that I've spent more time wanting to play the game than actually playing it, thanks to periods between betas and Amazon taking its sweet time delivering the game. It's been disrupting my ability to play other games in the meantime. Any suggestions? Should I stop worrying and just enjoy the game (when I can)?


Wheels

I'm not sure how to deal with the problem of an MMO addiction. So long as its not an actual addiction destroying your personal life I think the best thing to do is to just stop worrying and enjoy the game. There's plenty of good reasons to be hopelessly addicted to the game. Enjoy, while it lasts! I'm sure at some point you'll run out of content and move onto something else, or some other game will distract you so just enjoy it while you can.

Also... When are you going to join us? We need more RPGamer people to fill out our Free Company!

-Nathan


Wheels

I finally got a character on Leviathan, so keep an eye out for Wheels Askian!
IN CLOSING

See you all next week!

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