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ASK WHEELS
Tales of Zelda
December 2nd, 2011

11/23- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A! I continue to be busy playing Skyward Sword and War in the North and hope to have a review of the latter for you next week, and perhaps a second opinion review of the former at some point.

Anyway, let's get right to it...





The Letters
Forgetful Wheels

Hey Wheels, been a while!

I really should write more often.  Then again, so should you!  I'm still waiting for an East-West crossover idea for Japandemonium.


Wheels

Yes I really need to get that in for you. I've been a bit busy of late, but that is no excuse! I'll send you my East-West crossover idea as soon as possible.

To change the subject, what's your opinion of pop culture references in RPGs? The longer I stay in this country, the more I "get" the little things that pop up in games. I can play Tengai Makyo games and recognize at least a few of the Showa-period samurai dramas they mock. I can spot the antecedents of all sorts of odd Pokémon, even the one that's based in part on an old Japanese comedian. The Sgt. Frog RPG had so many references to other popular manga series that I'm sure some apologies were in order. I'm playing through Ni no Kuni now, and one of the new areas in the PS3 version is a massive parody of Osaka culture.


Wheels

Pop culture references can be fun, but I think you need to be very careful about how you use them. Direct references to persons/movies etc. are dangerous as they can easily go over the head of many people and just seem out of place. The best use of pop culture would be to fit in subtle references, so that those who get the reference will understand, and for those that don't, it won't matter. A good example of that would be the Pokémon you mentioned. People that see the reference will get it, and those that don't will just see another cool Pokémon. An example of the opposite would be the use of the word tsundere I saw in Disgaea 4. Those familiar with anime culture probably enjoyed it, but I had no idea what the word was, and there was no explanation of it whatsoever. Subtlety is the name of the game. 

But what about Western pop culture? I know that the Working Designs translation of Lunar has been both praised and blasted for its creative rewrites in the form of inserted cultural references. I know that the localization team for Dragon Quest VIII had to get a pass for every little name game or punny moment worked into that game's script. What's your take on this?


Wheels

Same rules apply here. The problem with some of the Working Designs translations if I recall correctly, were some made very direct cultural references to things of that time which obviously don't hold up as well now. I mean, there was a joke about President Clinton in one of the Sega CD Lunar games, which would just seem horribly out of date now. People playing it now might even mistake it as some kind of joke about his wife's Presidential aspirations. Dragon Quest VIII on the other hand hits the subtlety button nicely with lots of fun and corny puns. I don't recall anything bad in there, though it has been awhile.

Finally, what Western pop culture bits would you like to include? I'd probably opt for the Seventy-Seven Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries, as that would be a good core upon which to build a Han Solo type character. Things like "Pillage, then burn," "Everything can be airdropped, once," and "There is no overkill, only open fire and reload" would make for good attacks, too.

Well, talk at you later. I need to get going now.

Your fellow columnist,
Gaijinmonogatari


Wheels

I'd include lots of subtle Seinfeld jokes, that would still be funny even if the person playing was one of the very few who have never seen the show. I'd also throw in Futurama references as much as possible, because I love me some Futurama. I'll end the answer to this by pointing out one of the best examples of pop culture reference in my opinion. In Chrono Trigger, there are three characters named Ozzie, Flea, and Slash, obvious references to famous rock stars (they had food names in Japan, what's with that?). However, without knowledge of those stars, the names still work as fittingly silly names for those characters. That's how it should be done!

Oh No He's Back

Dear Wheels.

Sorry I haven't written you in so long.  It's probably because RPGs are dumb and bad and the ones that aren't dumb and bad probably aren't really RPGs to begin with.*


Wheels

Well see, I would take that as a valid excuse except that you didn't even usually write in about RPGs, except to say that they are bad and dumb. Besides, we determined columns ago that you are a closet RPG fan. Anyway, moving on!

Anyways it's Christmas time and people are all like "BEAT, what game do you want?"  The answer is BEAT already rules the world, so he desires nothing, but if I have four family members and three friends giving me Sonic Generations 3DS, that could be a little awkward**.


Wheels

That could be a little awkward, especially considering there are better games for 3DS, including a few RPGs! I don't think everyone would give you Sonic Generations 3DS Beat, I'm sure you've got to have some clueless family member who would give you one of the HD versions for a console you don't own!

Therefore based on your extensive knowledge of me, and my furiously awesome insanity, what is the ONE rpg that I should give a shot, that's currently available in stores and isn't Radiant Historia because I already played that.***


Wheels

Well, I would go with a game that may or may not be an RPG, but is close enough, in Skyward Sword. So far it's the best Zelda game I've played since Ocarina of Time. This is significant as that happens to be my favorite game in the series. There's also always Ocarina of Time 3DS, if you prefer your "possibly an RPG" to be portable. If you want a game that is absolutely an RPG, go with Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. I don't believe you have a PSP though, so I'll then just say to go with Dragon Quest VI, as I think it would appeal to your old school sensibilities.

Also, I tweeted you a question about Zelda.  You should probably
answer it already.

With as much sincerity as always,

BEAT


Wheels

I did answer it! See the above response or last week's column. Come on now Beat, you need to anticipate these things!

*This is sort of like how I'll claim that all country music sucks, but
Johnny Cash isn't really country, no way man, he's totally "folk".
**Sonic Games aren't really simple, no way man, they're totally "streamlined".
***Radiant Historia isn't really RPG, no way man, it's totally a
"Strategic turn-based interactive visual novel".


Wheels

* You're doing this all wrong, the real way to argue it would be "he's so amazing he transcends the crumminess of that genre". I guess you could use that with your RPG argument as well. You'd be wrong because RPGs are amazing, but that's OK.
** Beat, simple doesn't mean bad, stop that. They are simple though. Deal with it!
*** Beat search your feelings, you know it to be true. Radiant Historia is an RPG!

OH SNAP

Wheels,

I never at all "forgot" the "Action-RPG" genre. Neither am I under the delusion that, in some way, are ARPG's "simply" because of the leveling mechanics. They are a genre blend, wheels, yet they bear distinct hallmarks that set them in a different category from a Zelda title. For example, you talk about Secret of Mana, Ys and Xanadu. You can note that, despite the superficial resemblance to the Zelda mechanics, you have the origins laid bare- the specifically Dungeons and Dragons style inventory system, the extensive MP and magic system (also derived from dungeons and dragons), plus the leveling system (again, from the roots of the genre, the pen and paper RPG), and you have a massive, extensive storyline. No, sir, at no point have I ignored the genre blend games, but YOU, on the other hand, have ignored their underpinnings, the things that make them what they are to this very day.


Wheels

Well sir, the Ys games don't have extensive D&D style inventory, nor did the early games have extensive story-lines. In fact, with no magic, the only thing setting Ys apart from Zelda is a leveling system. Just a minor point, you are correct on the other points.

And no, I'm not looking at simply "the original" Zelda. I'm looking across the entire span of the game series, at a game that has undergone in all reality barely any mechanical change in the last decade, wheels. When you pop in Twilight Princess, you're getting a game that is easily and understandably "Zelda".


Wheels

Barely any mechanical change? Really? That's completely untrue. The base ideas are there, but you can't tell me that Windwaker and Spirit Tracks for example have "barely any" mechanical changes from previous games. I'm not saying the Zelda series couldn't use some more fresh ideas (Skyward Sword has some good ones), but you make it sound like these are Call of Duty style iterations, which simply isn't true. Granted this is a whole different argument, so moving on.

And again, you list genre blends like Crystal Chronicles, yet ignore the very things that make them RPGs. It's not about just "leveling", it's about the ROOTS of the thing, wheels, the roots! You ignored Crystal Chronicles extensive item system, for instance, complex MP system, plus the leveling system and the plot. In fact, by the time you've barely started the game in Echoes of time you're carrying more items on your characters than the most end-game incarnation of Link in OOT.


Wheels

I was specifically talking about the original Crystal Chronicles, which doesn't have a leveling system or a complex MP system (or MP at all). If I had meant the series as a whole, I would have specifically stated the series.

Quite simply, you ARE a journalist, Wheels. Your site is followed by thousands of fans, all of whom rely on you for the best coverage of RPGs out there. Seriously, who the heck are we going to go to if not you? IGN?
You really want us to start relying on IGN?
Really?

Please don't make me do that.

-Shademask


Wheels

Please for the love of all that casts Holy don't go to IGN. Anyway, I don't understand what the issue is. We cover the Zelda series on this site, so why wouldn't I mention I'm going to be playing Skyward Sword when someone asks what RPGs I'm playing over the holidays. I wasn't making an argument that the series (outside of Zelda 2) fits into the RPG genre, nor will I. I was just giving you some counter arguments and pointing out the previous argument that I've made: that it doesn't matter.


Chrono Crazy

Hi!

What strange and/or useless characters are you using for your Chrono Cross replay? Do you find yourself obligated to recruit them all even though the majority are completely forgettable? I like using the "main" characters that fit the story better, but sometimes I like playing with Draggy and Pip just to make things crazy.

Jarrod


Wheels

That is a fantastic question! Right now I'm using the mermaid girl and Fargo, though I just had him in the party for a sidequest. I've made regular use of Nikki, Harle, Radius (yes he's cool, but he's an old man!), alternate Leena (not in this playthrough but in the past) whom I think is a strange party member,  and of course the fairy Razzly. There's always Sneff as well, who is bit strange. I don't find myself obligated to recruit them all, but I think it's a nice feature to the game. They may not all be as well developed as the huge casts of Suikoden games often are, but its a nice way for players to pick the characters they like best. I used to stick to story type characters in the past, but I decided to change it up this time, and it has been fun! Really, though it certainly isn't as good a game as Chrono Trigger, I think people are sometimes too hard on Chrono Cross. It's a fun game! I think I may even playthrough again after this and use a new set of strange characters, I mean I don't even have Draggy and Pip! Who else do you recommend?
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week! In the spirit of the holiday season, I think it is time for a new contest, which I'm dubbing "Wheels' Non-RPG RPG of the Year Contest". The premise is simple, you have to guess my top five favorite Zelda games, in order. The first one to do so will win. You've already got one given away in this column itself! The prize? Your choice of one of the games that wins one of RPGamer's year end awards, or one of the runner ups. Now there are a few guidelines here:

-One guess per week, don't try putting all the Zelda games into some program and sending me every possible arrangement of top five games
-You have to include some kind of question, comment, etc. for the column
-No Kawazu haters (I kid)
-Skyward Sword isn't in the list because I haven't finished it yet

That's it! To add a little fairness, if multiple people send the correct list on the same day I will have some kind of sudden death contest to decide a winner.

See you all next week!

-Wheels


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