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ASK WHEELS
This Week,  Let The Flamewars Begin!
December 22nd, 2010

12/22 - 12:00PM EST

  The holidays are nearly upon us! Which means I'll be off next week and you guys will get ... well you'll see. Anyway, lot's of great questions this week so I'm going to skip the usual babbling intro and get right into things.





The Letters
The Throwing of Flames

Wheels,
I'll just address some of the sidebar topics:
 

Wheels

Certainly. This is exactly what they are there for! Comment and discuss to your heart's content, my dear sir!

Hot Topics:
1. Will Z.H.P. convert more people to liking roguelikes?
No, people will always hate roguelikes.  The simple reason is that hardcore gamers (the only people with potential for liking them) are few and far between.  The generic "people" (plebians if you prefer) don't stand a chance.


Wheels

  I mostly agree. I say mostly because there's a whole sub-series of games that essentially springs directly from the tradition of Rogue. This would be Diablo and all similar games. The difference is of course, that third-person-looters such as Diablo advance the formula, whereas roguelikes stick to the original gameplay concepts, and then add ideas from there, or even just change the setting. The adherence to old gameplay ideas (as a base, games like Z.H.P. I wouldn't call old fashioned) is likely what keeps away only the hardcore, despite the popularity of RPGs in the west that are direct decedents of Rogue.

2. The FF series can go fly a kite as far as I'm concerned.


Wheels

Wow, alright. That's not really commenting on one of the hot topics. You don't like the series? Sorry, but many do. Chances are in a few games you will like something in the series again as well. That's one of the reasons I love the series. It changes so much while managing at the same time to feel familiar. I can't think of another series that does that. Just be patient and there will be another game you like.

3. tri-Ace can go fly a kite too.  With Tri-Ace, you're never surprised but always disappointed when they release bad games.


Wheels

That's not useful commentary, either. Yes, they just made the tepid Star Ocean: Last Hope not too long ago, but also released the very good Resonance of Fate more recently. There's a reason they have fans.

4. JRPGs currently are more creative than WRPGs. Discuss.
Yes, they are.  Excellent point.  Every JRPG is: Teenagers save the world.  It's not hard to name an RPG where a teenager doesn't save the world but let's face it: There are far too many where teenagers do save the world.  It's comparatively less common for teens to save the world in Western RPGs.


Wheels

Right, JRPGs use too many clichés in their stories. We all know this. I meant this topic to be about gameplay though, specifically the strict adherence of many Western RPGs to classic PC RPG style gameplay (Baldur's Gate). Frankly though, despite how much I love Dragon Age, I'll take any JRPG setting over its generic fantasy setting though. Bioware can do better, such as with the well crafted Mass Effect universe.

This is the rule but there are exceptions.  My favorite 2010 game is Half Minute Hero which I thought was original and well executed.  Everyone should play this game, even though a teen saves the world in it (multiple times even, a capital offense).


Wheels

Well, that's not surprising, Half Minute Hero is very much a parody of many of the worst things about JRPGs. It does a great job of poking fun at them while at the same time being a great game itself.

I didn't play Dragon Age, Four Heroes of Light, or Mass Effect so I won't answer those questions.
*insert comment about commenting on games you haven't played*

-Flamethrower


Wheels

You know, you don't have to put something for each hot topic, you can just write in about the ones you actually have commentary one! Anyway, good to hear from you. Please write in again!



Of Pokémon and Romantic Subplots

Dear Wheels!
 
It's been a little while since my last letter. How have you been? This time I've got two largely unrelated topics I want to write about, with one or two questions thrown in since this is Q&A and all. In other words, not much different than usual.

Wheels

I've been well! Let's see what's on your mind...


Anyway, as I am writing this, I am ever so close to obtaining the last Pokémon to complete my Pokémon for the fourth generation. I just have to get Deoxys, that freaky space virus/alien Psychic-Type. You know what I had to do to get this thing? Buy Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs brand new so I'd be able to download the necessary quest needed to capture said Pokémon before it gets taken off of WiFi. After finishing the game and getting my character and partner Pokémon to the appropriate levels, I had to seek someone else out who did the same, as the quest can only be done over local wireless muliplayer. My luck being what it is, none of my friends have the game or plan to get it anytime soon. This meant I had to rent another copy of the game, play it up to the point where I can do multiplayer, then also do the necessary leveling. The last leg of the trip is to get my sister or a friend to practice playing the game, then do the quest with me. All this for ONE Pokémon. Only Pokémon can inspire this sort of mania in an RPG fan. That or (the more likely scenario), I am the world's biggest loser.


Wheels

No way! Pokémon probably does this to a lot of people. I'll let you in a little something that might make you feel better. I was one of the crazy folk back in the day who took the time to get every single Pokémon in the original Red release. It took a lot of effort, finding other people to trade with, grinding random encounters until the right Pokémon showed up, etc. You aren't alone at all! This is why the series has so many fans (I haven't been able to get into one since the original) and there's nothing wrong with going to crazy lengths to get some Pokémon. As long as you're having fun, it's all good.

And finally, as I am more than half-way through Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World for the Tales of 2010 marathon. I am again reminded of why this game has the best romance sub-plot I've seen in any game. Of course, since the first time I've played it, I've also realized that in some ways, that's not saying much.  If romance in an RPG goes beyond silly hints that lead to nowhere, it is usually rushed, or done in some illogical manner. While I wouldn't go as far as to say that ToS:DotNW is almost a love story, it plays a large role in the game because it plays a large role in the character development of the main protagonists, Emil and Marta. One thing that I especially love is how the romance at first seems like it isn't going to lead anywhere, and just become one big dumb running gag. Marta is infatuated with Emil, or rather some crazy fantasy version of him, and the boy doesn't do much other than sigh and (nervous) laugh it off. Then he's had enough, snaps at Marta, and she realizes that she's been treating him unfairly. The two make up and start to fall for each other in earnest. Yes, there's the whole Emil and Ricter Hoy Yay/Foe Yay, but I think of that as the developers simultaneously throwing Yaoi fangirls a bone and poking fun at them, seeing as which relationship actually gets somewhere. That and. . . it provides hints to something REALLY spoilerific I won't mention here. (If I recall correctly, you haven't even finished the first Symphonia, let along started Dawn of the New World.) And Arceus, do I love that scene in Altamira! I know this game gets a lot of flack, but it really knows how to tug at your heartstrings (well, maybe it knows how to tug at mine).


Wheels

You are correct, I'm still playing through Tales of Symphonia! This makes me excited for the sequel. I wish more games would come up with some mature romantic sub-plots. Even Bioware's games, where romance is a big feature, they do a pretty bad overall, with the payoff being, well, visual and not anything significant story-wise for the most part. I mean, it can't be that hard, right? I think it just shines light on the fact that game writers simply aren't as good as their brethren in other media. Which is a shame.

Oh dear me, it seems I rambled a bit there. Well, the gist of what I'm trying to say is that DotNW is the first RPG I've played with a very good, believable, and well-paced romantic subplot. You'd think a genre with a strong emphasis on story would have better romances, but maybe not. Or maybe by sheer coincidence, I have mostly come across the games with vague at best, poor at worst romance subplots. This may be a tad odd to ask a guy, I suppose, but do you feel the same way, Wheels? What is the best romantic-subplot you've seen in an RPG, or any video game so far?
 
Okay. I've got that out of my system. If it seems to weird, blame my cold combined with a lack of sleep.
 
Happy Holidays!
 
-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

You're rambling about something you're dead right about! A genre often very focused on story needs to be able to properly cover more story elements such as romance. Hopefully we'll see better attempts that this in the future!

The best romantic-subplot I've seen in an RPG? Final Fantasy IX. Yeah I'm terrible...

Happy Holidays to you as well!


Tales of Crushed Hopes

Wheels,

You don't like me, and I don't like you.

Wheels

I don't dislike you. You gave Nier and Final Fantasy XIII fair reviews when I think many were unfair to both games. Here, I'll try and mend the fences: You are correct, Tales of Symphonia is the best Tales.

But as the two resident Tales fanboys at RPGamer, it is our shared duty to mercilessly crush the hopes and dreams of Tales fans now that Namco Bandai has announced another game.  You saw what they did when that Graces PS3 port was announced!  Someone needs to stop them, and we may be the only two fans cruel enough to do it.

Wheels

I agree completely, even though I boldly predicted this game will be localized. Even so, Tales fans need a wake-up call. The reaction by the Tales fanbase here has just been horrible. Let's put them in their place.

So let's go over the reasons why Tales of Xillia will never see the light of day in North America!

Wheels

Hold on, let me get a bottle of Haterade and my dream crushing crowbar....

1) Mutsumi Inomata's character designs are a curse to the localization process.  We all know it to be true; since Eternia, none of the Tales games featuring his designs have made it to the west.

Wheels

Evil plot, or random coincidence? Destiny 2 and Rebirth I think had something to do with Sony America's aversion to 2D, so I see a reason for those not coming. However missing all three DS games, as well as the PSP re-release of the game of his we did get (though it came out in Europe)? Very strange. I lean towards random coincidence, but luck is not on our side with his name being involved.

2) We haven't received a North American announcement yet.  The last major Tales title to be released in the west, Vesperia, was announced for localization at the same time as the game was announced in Japan, and the release was mere weeks after the Japanese release.  With no announcement, it's clear that this game is not being designed with western audiences in mind.

Wheels

Are any of them ever released with Western audiences in mind? Vesperia was a strange beast to begin with, seeing as how it was developed for a system that is very much an underdog in Japan. Granted, it sold fine on 360 in Japan, but perhaps a western release would seem to ensure it was a profitable title? I don't think there's a history of localizations being announced right on release, so this doesn't seem like the greatest evidence.

3) Namco Bandai is broke and has no idea how to project sales.  Since their management is clearly incompetent, and they somehow expect all their games, even their crappy ones, to go platinum in the west, the company is running on fumes and can't afford risks.  Since the Tales series has continuously failed to live up to their ridiculous expectations of it, there's no reason to expect them to release them.

Wheels

Oh this is absolutely accurate, even if I think they're often right in not bringing over every Tales games. Namco is clearly not managed well, and I'd worry about the future of the company based on continued stumbling. The middle of a recession is not a good time to be mismanaged. The debacle that was the Wii release of Graces is not a good sign for the health of a company. If you can't delay a major franchise game and get it working correctly, then something is seriously wrong. I don't wish them ill or anything though. A healthy Namco is the best track to more localized Tales games, and I hope Xillia and Graces F sell great. We have no chance of getting any Tales games that bomb in Japan. If Namco would just take a modest approach to the series here, maybe even just not even do a dub (since that's what you crazy whiners want, right), perhaps they'd find a profitable base for the series in the West.

Hopefully this will dash any optimism that this announcement has sparked, and prevent ridiculous forum outrages on the Tales website.  Abandon hope, Tales fans, and if the game is released, it'll be a pleasant surprise.  Holding onto that hope is just torturing yourself.

Adriaan "Robomega" den Ouden

Wheels

I agree completely. Modest expectations, and preparation for using translation guides is the best thing to do with this series. Be thankful that there are so many great fans out there that make it so series in a language other than your own.

Adriaan, keep it real.


Tales of a Wide Assortment of Topics

Wheels.  Hot Wheels. 
Eh, doesn't have quite the same feel.  Ignore that name if it displeases. It has come to my attention that you've never played Skies of Arcadia.  Any particular reason?

Wheels

Hot Wheels? Please no.

I don't have a good reason, other than I'm saving it for a rainy day. I've got the gamecube version in my collection, and will play it once the time is right. I think I might take a look at it once completing Valkyria Chronicles since they're from the same team.

With all these Ys remakes, will Ys IV and Ys V ever make it across the ocean?

Wheels

I think so, just not in their original forms. Both of them are in dire need of complete remakes, most notably Ys V given its poor reputation. It'll happen though, and I'm sure we'll get some version of them. Falcom is very good at leveraging their old properties. It's only a matter of time.

Terranigma somehow was released in English for PAL audiences, but not in North America.  It's also stayed away from the Virtual Console so far.  Will the spiritual successor to Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia forever remain unreleased north of the Rio Grande?

Wheels

It would appear so. Square-Enix hasn't even found the time to release these titles on Virtual Console, so it just doesn't feel like they have any interest in them at all. A shame for sure, but you can't expect them to re-release every obscure game in their back catalog. Who knows what licensing issues there could be with Quintet as well. I think fans of this game are sadly out of luck.

You don't need to impel my playing Shining the Holy Ark, I've done so more than once.  That was why I inquired about Shining in the Darkness, as something else along the same lines.

Wheels

My bad. I should have figured. Anyway, Shining in the Darkness isn't really that great, especially if you're going to it after the fantastic Shining the Holy Ark. It's worth play as a historical curiosity and nothing more.

Did I just come across Beyond Oasis and Legend of Oasis at a bad time, or were they are unremarkable as I recall?

Wheels

I think you came across them at a bad time. They're the best non-Nintendo Zelda type games out there in my opinion. I always loved solving puzzles with the various spirits you can summon, and find the right material to summon each spirit worked well. I found it impressive that little bits of dripping water could be used to summon the water spirit, for example. Perhaps they haven't aged as well as I thought, but the only real problem I had with them is that Legend of Oasis was just too hard.  Give them another try!

I need to preface this by saying I haven't (yet) played Final Fantasy Tactics.  Don't bother telling me to do so, it's on the list.  With that said, why do the Tactics Advance games get such abuse?  I don't play games that infuriate me for over 80 hours, which is a roundabout way of saying I find them quite addictive.

Wheels

This is a simple, and really kind of stupid, answer. The complaint stems completely and utterly from the story of the Tactics Advance games. They are light fare for sure, and not anywhere near as dark and as complex as the great story from Tactics. However, that's not why you're playing this game, or even the original for that matter. These games are about the combat, and the job system, and all through do a brilliant job with their mechanics. The great story made the original game even better than it already was, but a lesser story in the sequels does not hurt them in the slightest.

Having played Mother 3, I can say that Nintendo did indeed a disservice by not localizing it.  Few are the RPGs in which you get to play as a monkey, but there are many other things the game does very very right.

Wheels

Play as a monkey you say? Sounds amazing. I don't think many will argue that not getting a localization of Mother 3 wasn't a big deal. The original was an amazing and unique game, and it looks like the sequel is as well. I mean I'm sure they had some good reasons, but who cares? Why not repackage it as a downloadable game on Dsiware or Wiiware? I know it never would have flown off the shelves no matter what form it came in, but a world where we finally get one of Nintendo's Heracles RPGs, but not Mother 3 is a very cold world. Come on Nintendo, you have lots of extra cash lying around. Throw us a bone!

The Samurai Showdown RPG actually came out on PS1 and Saturn in addition to the Neo Geo, with each version being a little different.  Naturally, none of them came out in English.  The elaborate and extensive backstory of that series seems to have produced a rather deep RPG, though.

Wheels

Very interesting. I wonder if they'd localize it as a downloadable release or something? I'm not sure how many fans Samurai Showdown has. What kind of combat system did it have?

Link Dark Wizard to William Wyler!  Can you do it?

Wheels

Of course I can.

Dark Wizard was published by Sega->Sega made the Sega CD->MGM's Interactive's first game, Wirehead was released for Sega CD->MGM Interactive is owned by MGM->MGM distributed Ben Hur->Ben Hur was directed by William Wyler.

You haven't played Breath of Fire IV.  Neither have I.  I haven't played III or Dragon Quarter either, but I did play I and II.  I already know about Dragon Quarter needing to be played, so discuss the merit of III compared to the first two and convince me to partake of it.

Wheels

I don't think I should. I think you should spend the time to play Dragon Quarter instead!

Seriously though, like the SNES games are somewhat generic, but very well executed SNES-style JRPGs, so is Breath of Fire III a somewhat generic PS1-style JRPG executed very well. It's worth a look if you liked the first two games, and you can get it on PSP in English if you import it from Europe. Give it a go!

Even in games that are otherwise awesome (FFTA 2 comes to mind), isometric view annoys and irritates me.  Comment upon this presentation aspect, if you would.

Wheels

I don't mind this presentation as long as you can properly rotate and adjust the view to your liking. It's a testamate to the Tactics Advance games that I love them despite a lack of this. Most of the better games with this kind of view allow for adjusting though, so it's not a huge deal for me. Would you prefer a more top-down view for SRPGs? I have a feeling that may be what you're getting at.

Nyx's favorite game is Valkyrie Profile.  Can you support her views?

JuMeSyn

Wheels

Based on my 35+ hours with Resonance of Fate, and despite my limited play time with Valkyrie Profile, I can completely believe that tri-Ace can produce a a game that would elicit that kind of passion.

Thanks for the questions, as always, you provide!


I Finally Get to Gush About Resonance of Fate!

Hi Wheels,

With Resonance of Fate as one of my favorite games all year I'd be delighted to shamelessly give you an opening to talk about it - just how great is this game? On a more serious note, how much more exposed or popular do you think RoF could've been if not for the highly ill-advised release date of right at the same time as Final Fantasy XIII? Plus with their publication of this, Alpha Protocol and Valkyria Chronciles, can you see SEGA as a publisher becoming a bigger part of the RPG scene in future or were we just a bit lucky this year?

All the best,
Severin Mira


Wheels

For starters, thank you very much for giving me the chance to talk briefly about this game I can't stop playing. Secondly, let's clear things up quickly. Though originally slated to come out the same day as Final Fantasy XIII, it actually ended up being delayed a week. Thought that doesn't make things that much better, it's far less stupid than their original plan. I can appreciate perhaps the pure courage to release on the same day as a title with a far larger marketing budget, it's just not smart business. Finally, before getting into the game itself, Sega seems like they could be a bigger player in the RPG market, but do we want them to? Remember this is the same company that destroyed the Shining series, and apparently won't try another single player Phantasy Star title even with the success of the multi-player games. That's not even getting into the lack of  a domestic release for 7th Dragon. If I can be assured we'd actually get the titles over here, I'd be more excited about Sega doing more RPGs. Remember that none of these games were blockbuster sellers.

Alright, on to the topic at hand. Resonance of Fate is an amazing game if for no other reason than for who produced it. Remember, tri-Ace seemingly has become notorious from the Star Ocean games far too much talking in them. Resonance of Fate essentially goes completely against everything you'd expect. The story takes a backseat to the game mechanics, which has always been the biggest strength of tri-Ace. They can make battle systems. Everything in Resonance of Fate revolves around the battle system. Side-quests involve battles. Dungeons take place through the battle system. Unlocking hexes on the world map often nets you battle items. It is all very well crafted, and feels almost like an SRPG more than the standard design of an RPG.

The battle system is just plain amazing. It seems simple, but requires a lot of planning and forward thinking, and effective use of all the tools at your disposal. It's been a long time since I've played a game that essentially encourages you to learn the system by experimentation. I just can not recommend this game enough to people, even if you hate tri-Ace games! What they've done here, is shed off much of the excess in modern day JRPGs, and get the most important part right: gameplay! The story, while not the focus, even succeeds at being interesting, and at times funny. This is my surprise game of the year. I did not expect to like it this much.

Send me your thoughts on the game!

IN CLOSING

That's it for this. ... well year for me! Next week I've got a fantastic guest column, contributed to by a bunch of volunteer readers, who heeded the call back in November. Hope you all have a good holiday season (if applicable) and I'll see you all in January!

-Wheels

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What I can't wait for:

1. Ys: I&II PSP

2. Cthulhu Saves the World

3. SaGa 3 DS

4. Disgaea 4

5. Radiant Historia


On my Playlist:

1. Resonance of Fate Soundtrack

2. Crystal Bearers Soundtrack

3. Golden Sun soundtrack



Hot Topics:

1. Will Mass Effect 3 return some of the complex elements, or keep things simple like Mass Effect 2?

2. Dragon Age 2 on PC looks to provide a system to switch between classic Baldur's Gate Style combat, and Action RPG combat, can this work?

3. JRPGs currently are more creative than WRPGs. Discuss. Update: This topic isn't about story. We know JRPGs have issues with clichés. We're talking gameplay here.

4. You could almost call the last Theif game an RPG, but not quite. Should Square-Enix and the Eidos Montreal do a full out RPG game for Thief 4?

5. Should Camelot do a new SRPG franchise, since it's unlikely they'd work with Sega again?


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