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Little Shop of Horrors
  December 6th, 2013

12/06- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Q&A! I hope Thanksgiving treated all you American readers well. I've been busy with A Link Between Worlds (which has distracted me from Ys) along with Guided Fate Paradox which is taking much longer than I like. I've been able to power through a few Disgaea games in quick fashion to get some timely reviews out, so to not be able to do that with this game is frustrating. That's not to say the game is bad at all. I'll explain in detail in the eventual review.

Anyway, on to your questions!





The Letters
The Horrors of Idea Factory

Mr. Walker?  No, it's Mr. Wheeler!
It's been awhile since I submitted a good dollop of content, hasn't it?  So let's start off with some recent news I'm sure you're cognizant of!

Such as Ys: Memories of Celceta.  I admit my own experience with Ys IV was the Super Famicom version, which I enjoyed at the time but didn't think was particularly great.  It played pretty much like the first two games only with a quest slightly longer than that of the second.  Plus the developer thought it was a good idea to add poison to the mix - fortunately not many enemies had it.  The final boss was some angel guy (in looks, not in temperament) who was naturally a handful.  It also had no character portraits anywhere, sad when they add so much personality to the games.  That's all I remember right now.


Wheels

It has been way too long!

I never played the Super Famicom version of Ys IV, but the PC Engine version is a rocking good time, so perhaps you can give that a try at some point. As for the re-imagining, it's fantastic and nice to finally have in English. With a recent translation patch made available for Ys V, the whole series is finally available to enjoy in English!

Apparently this Persona announcement is big news.  I respect that, but remain lukewarm to it.  My experiences with the overall SMT series are not so overwhelmingly positive that I react with jubilation.


Wheels

I forget which SMT games you have played, but it sounds like you need more Persona 3 and 4 in your life. These games are fantastic and the news of getting more related to them is news we should all be excited for. Go play Persona 4! It will not mirror your Devil Survivor 2 experience.

Hm.  Lightning Returns means nothing to me, so I have no feelings there.


Wheels

Well, it's probably best to ignore the BACON-storm that is anything related to Final Fantasy XIII. All I can say is that I hope it isn't as deeply dissappointing as Final Fantasy XIII-2 was for me.

You have no experience with One Piece, correct?  So in spite of the fact that I expect to have a good time with the 3DS game coming soon, you probably have no feelings whatsoever.


Wheels

Yeah I really know nothing about One Piece other than the fact it is an anime and somehow involves pirates. I have heard good things but I've never watched. If the game is good I'll probably give it a try regardless.

Okay. Time to get to the meat of this. 69 hours of my life have been expended, with at least another 40 to go before it's done at the current rate. Agarest: Generations of War is educating me in all the ways Idea Factory sucks. I don't want to count them, but I can give my inner demons voice to let the pain ebb away a bit. Here we go. The core idea of a lineage going through multiple generations is a good one. Phantasy Star III did it, and we can excuse a lot of the miniscule story in that game because it was an early Genesis title. Agarest is harder to excuse. Sure, there's some plot. Most of it is fluff that could be excised without hurting anything. Particularly after the first generation, characters just join for vague reasons and then somehow stick around inexplicably through the years. Aging is ridiculously inconstant - a young elf girl aged between the first two generations, but no one else has gotten any older, even though they don't time travel the twenty years or so between the protagonists. What were they doing during all those years? Who knows! Idea Factory doesn't think that's worth spending any time elucidating!


Wheels

Oh the horrors of Idea Factory! Given this is the whole idea behind the game, I'm not sure how they could not get something as simple as aging correct. Is the whole idea nothing but a gimmick for the seadier part of the whole gimmick?

The scenario is ripe with possibilities, which are promptly ignored by Idea Factory.  The protagonist at the beginning, somebody named Leonhardt with few discernible personality traits except being a just guy in an unjust world, is revived by some monotone-voiced woman named Dyshana.  He agrees to bequeath his existence and that of his descendants to stamping out the forces of darkness around the world, and thereafter he doesn't really talk about it again.  His son doesn't talk about it much either, nor his grandson.  I haven't seen the great-grandson or the great-great-grandson yet, but something tells me they'll just accept the family lineage without much of a problem either.  I mean, wouldn't you?  If your grandfather made a deal before you were born and you're expected to fulfill it, wouldn't you do that without much more than minor annoyance?


Wheels

Absolutely not? Strange that it never comes up again. Shouldn't that be what everything revolves around? The struggle of the decendants to deal with the task that has passed down to them? What a marvelous idea that wasn't used at all.

Ah yes, and there's the wooing of women aspect.  Well, that takes up something like 0.2% of your playing time.  There are a few questions in each generation that affect the hero's relationship, but don't you worry, all three of the candidates will show up near the end of a generation and pelt him with enough questions that he can salvage pretty much anything right then and there!  Actions in battle or elsewhere?  Pshaw, those have no effect on how women view a man!  What nonsense!
Then we come to battle.  Hoo boy.


Wheels

What, surely the developer of Mugen Souls is a master of creating compelling gameplay?

I suppose this is technically a tactical game, in that your characters are on a grid and so are the enemies.  Fine.  Except boss fights, you're always on the same grid (which you can select, but all it does is change the dimensions of the grid - it's always flat and lifeless).  So to win, you do this: move your characters around so that their zones of effect overlap.  Wait as long as you can, because characters get bonuses when standing in the zones of effect generated by others.  Then dump a combo on the enemies - standing in another character's zone of effect also means you can summon those who aren't in range to hop over the grid and hit the enemy anyway.  Then do it again for whatever's left standing at the next turn start, because your characters just hop around without any control by you, and so that careful formation you set up will be disrupted and must be put together again. 

Also, there is no way to run from anything, and the world is littered with battles you must fight in order to reach the next plot point.  Can you say 'monotonous' with me?  I knew you could!


Wheels

Well that sounds like an abomination.

Ah, but Idea Factory had another idea, one that is executed so ineptly I wonder if any quality assurance took place.  An occasional Exploration Point lets you just wander around some big areas, and if you're in the same room for too many steps it's time for a random battle on the same grid as usual.  Exploration Points also feature JUMPING, executed so choppily that I can't believe anyone said it was done tolerably.  The terrain is frequently so hard to see that points where you're getting stuck because it's impassable and parts where it simply requires you to stop and jump are indistinguishable except the hard way, and the choppiness is just inexcusable on a game that wouldn't challenge the Dreamcast to run.

Then there's the menus.  They can go straight to hell.  Idea Factory is under the impression that I want to overkill everything I fight in order to obtain the key items without which fresh weapons and sundries cannot be made.  Oh, and the blacksmith sometimes screws up and gives you an item you weren't expecting - too bad if that means you're fresh out of the required parts now!  There isn't just an item shop, but also the blacksmith and some title-granting place that use different forms of currency obtained from battles.  Navigating between all three is an everyday occurrence, and it just gets more tedious and irritating with each repetition.


Wheels

No stop, please stop you're giving me flashbacks to Cross Edge.

Plus this thing has the unmitigated gall to CRASH on me, and it's a pattern too.  In the second and third generations something just goes wrong when entering a town, and a crash can result.  Too bad I have to go there for plot points, isn't it?  Even worse that some of the points at which it crashed were right after a fight in the town location, so I had to redo that until it finally let me proceed, isn't it?

This thing is so.  Damn.  Bloated.  Each generation takes in the neighborhood of 20 hours to complete (sometimes more, seems like) and that would be excusable if the game warranted it.  As is, you're fighting the same rubbish enemies most of the time and listening to inadequately set up dialogue what little time there isn't spent doing that, plus the menu getting in your way at every step.  Why five generations?  Why?  And now the idea of a class change is apparently somewhere to be found, but the game gives me no idea what the hell to do with it so back to the FAQ that has been my friend most of the way through.  Arrgh.


Wheels

Well that certainly sounds like Idea Factory. With so many technical issues in 2D games it's a marvel they were even able to make Mugen Souls. Since this developer is apparently around to stay I can only hope that someday they make better games. Actually better wouldn't even cut it, then we'd just be at mediocre wouldn't we?

I like the music.  It's rockin'.  There, I said something nice.


Wheels

I wonder if the game has just injured your brain because what little I've heard of its soundtrack made me want to destroy whatever speakers happened to be playing it.

Hoshigami is kind of fun by comparison.  Though I was playing it on DS with an easy difficulty, which apparently the PS1 version didn't have.  Got pretty monotonous though. 
I think that's enough for now. 

JuMeSyn


Wheels

I think you now can truly understand my post Mugen Souls state of mind. Thankfully that game was a bit shorter. I recommend deleting promptly and playing... well anything else. Perhaps ponder a world where Neverland goes under but Idea Factory remains. Perhaps someday they'll hire better dev teams and we'll be spared further horror. The upcoming roguelike from them almost looks to be from a different developer.

So, can we sign you up to review Mugen Souls Z?

Nevermore Land

What's your take on Neverland's sudden death?  I've heard various things about it, from genre shifts to a shift towards mobile phone gaming.

And I know this isn't what you do in this column, but I think Gaijin's and/or Nyx's thoughts on the matter would be interesting to hear.

AnonMan


Wheels

For the most part, shock. I couldn't even make any joke about their involvement with Shining Force Neo. I've only just finally gotten into a Rune Factory (I've previously had fun with them but never got too deep in any of the games), so to see this news was incredibly disheartening. I hope all the developers land on their feet, hopefully developing more Rune Factory games for Marvelous somehow. The series still has too much potential for it to end now! I'll see if I can get Gaijin and Nyx's thoughts into the column next week.

Thinking Smart

how often do PS1 classics get sales on the PSN?


Wheels

Not very often, if at all. PS2 classics have gone on sale but at the moment I can't think of a PS1 classic on sale. There were several PS Plus freebies and/or sales but that could be it. With compatability on three platforms it'd be cool if those could show up on sale more often.

What's an alternate name that you can come up with for Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds? I came up with Legend of Zelda: Paper Link.


Wheels

How about The Legend of Zelda: Ravio the Squatter?

Which brings me to my next question, actually. Why does Link never get facial hair?


Wheels

I guess because he's supposed to be relatively young in all the games? Could just be a genetic trait where they don't get facial hair until late. I believe most of the Links are supposed to be from the same bloodline or something right? Of course we've also had a few kid Links. Sounds like we're overdue for grizzled old bearded Link in a future Zelda game.

What video game characters would you like to have as collectable bobble heads?


Wheels

The casts of Final Fantasy VI, Persona 4, Disgaea 3, and Shining Force 2.

What system have you purchased the most games for?


Wheels

I'm not going to go count at the moment but I believe that would be the DS. There were so many decent to great RPGs and other games on the system that I quickly aquired a large collection, including several imports. I think second place would actually be the PS3. With the PS2 game collections replacing some of my old games, a ton of RPGs, several action games, and some cool platformers there's a ton to get on the system. I actually probably have too many and may give away a few on Q&A. Add in free games from PS Plus and there is a ton for me to play on that system. As for third place? Probably the PS2, almost all RPGs.

What's your go-to Christmas greeting when filling out cards for friends and family? I'm not really religious myself, so usually it's something funny.


Wheels

I really just go for funny cards if I get cards at all. I'm terrible at writing stuff in cards. It's not that I'm not sentamental or anything, I can just never think of anything that sounds right. So I usually go for a short "Merry Christmas" and let the funny card do all the work.

If you had to choose a video game character to make an energy drink based off of them who would it be, what would the can look like, and what flavour would it be?


Wheels

I don't think I could choose anyone other than Sonic the Hedgehog. The can would be blue. The flavor would somehow give a hint of chili dogs! The can would just have the classic style sonic doing his finger wag.

Mullets: yay or nay?

-lolwhoops


Wheels

As long as I don't have to sport one, I say live and let mullet.

Answer Me These Questions 3

Couldn't pass up registering and asking a question for a chance to win a game. So here are some questions, sorry if any are recent repeats.

1) Lately on podcasts I listen to, more and more people are saying they'd rather have their games be in the 8-10 hour range. I know time is precious, but I really don't want to pay $60 for say a 8 hour Zelda game, or an 10-hour Dragon Quest. How do you feel about that?
 


Wheels

For me, what I want is games that feel the right length. I don't mind a 8-10 hour Zelda game if it fits that particular Zelda game well just like I'm fine with a Dragon Quest that goes 100 hours if it fits the story and gameplay. I've played way too many games that are either way too stretched out or way too compressed. Pacing is insanely important!

That said, I think wanting all your games to fit a certain range is very misguided. For starters, if you have less time to play wouldn't a longer game just mean you have to stretch it out for a longer period of time instead of switching games, and thus would save some money buy not having to buy something else for a while? Developers need some creative freedom and should never have to worry about some magic 8-10 hour range.

On the flip side, I think it is also silly to dismiss a shorter entry in a series you generally want a longer experience with. Dragon Quest has some varying length games and in most cases the length fits each game pretty well. Just worry about pace not length developers dang it!

2) EA is hoping to be voted the best company in the US after two years of being voted the worst. Yet they continue to offend gamers with their microtransactions and yearly installments with minor tweaks (Madden, Fifa, etc). Do you see them making any real effort to change for the good?


Wheels

Not really? Thought they ditched their unpopular online pass program (which other companies do and people seem to ignore), they've still done some annoying stuff of late, like literally repackaging last year's version of Fifa on some platforms and putting it out there as something new. Still, they're often hardly the worst offender out there (Hi yearly Assassin's Creed and the rotting corpse of Call of Duty), so I'm not sure how they can ever dig their way out of the bad image. They have to try, especially if it's hurting sales.

3) It seems pretty clear that the casual market is mostly using tablets/phones now. Do you think 3 consoles can survive this environment, given the escalating prices of games ($60 + limited edition + day 1 DLC that should have been on the disk for free in the first place, etc etc).

Hope that helps!

-XCWarrior


Wheels

I think they can, but the question may be at what cost? There seems to be a lot less new in the realm of AAA games, and much more playing it safe. I can't see how that won't continue with new consoles that I can't see selling as well as the 360/PS3/Wii. Sure there will be more Indy titles for more variety, but that's not enough. Perhaps the fact that everything except the Wii U will be on Intel based hardware may help. We shall see! There's clearly still a large market for video game systems at least, so if this generation have issues hopefully companies will learn form it, because enough gamers are there clearly to keep a healthy market.
IN CLOSING

See you all next week!

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