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Set Your Controls
November 10, 2005

Good day, folks. I hope life is treating you well.

I tell you, even though there are so many good games out and about these days, I keep coming back to Neverwinter Nights. It amazes me that some of these amateur game designers can craft something more fun than a multi-year, multimillion dollar professional project. One NWN module in particular has really impressed me: The Spires of Ravenloft. One of my earliest PC gaming experiences was an old SSI game by the name of Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession, which shares the same setting as the aforementioned NWN module. It's good to revisit some old territory.

So yeah, go download it...but only after you finish reading this. :P

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E-mail Daniel, unless you're a scammer from Nigeria.
 
 
Kiss, kiss, bang, bang.

Hi Daniel!

I was wondering if Chulip is still going to be released in America? I am really looking forward to it because I love unusual and bizzare games. (I mean, what's more bizzare than a kissing simulation, right?) But, it's been a long time since I've heard any new news about Chulip, and no definite date has been set for it's release. So, if you could help to clear up my confusion I'd be very grateful :)

You know, I don't think I've heard anything on Chulip since our preview went up. I took a look at Natsume's website and couldn't find anything on it. The only thing I can tell you is to watch the front page for news. We're bound to get some info eventually.

 
SO3 needed more barrel lust. Seriously.

I was playing Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time the other day, and I finally got the hardest battle trophies in the game. I can tell you, defeating Freya on 4D difficulty without taking damage was very hard and defeating Freya on 4D within 60 Minutes was also very hard. I was able to get both of those battle trophies in the same battle. It took me 54 Minutes to beat Freya on 4D Difficulty. It was one of the hardest boss battles I've ever fought in a video game. I also have all 300 battle trophies. I loved Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time, it was one of the greatest video games of all-time. My favorite character from Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time is Nel Zelpher. I liked how Square-Enix made her the best character in the game. Anyway, I hope the other Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time fans manage to read my letter and like it.

Thanks,

Michael Maguire

I swear, I just don't understand why so many people liked Nel that much. I mean, she was one of the more interesting characters in the game, but she pales to Maria as far as combat goes. Everyone on the message boards here was all "OMG FLYING GUILLOTINE =^.^=", but I found many of Maria's techniques to be far more useful. I'm sure most of the Nel love comes from her outfit, though....

Anyway, congrats. I'm jealous of people who have the free time to do something as complicated as that trophy collecting could be. :P

Nature take the life She gave. Or something.

I've been playing some of the same games, and it brought up yet another one of my highly contrived thoughts;

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a good example of why writing does not make the story category, as a whole, good -- what's there is well-written, but it's paced poorly and spaced apart by absurd amounts of (addictive) gameplay, and as far as storylines go, I'd rather have one with a better execution that was less well-written than a well-written one with a baaaad execution.

While I admit that I find Nocturne to be the 'superior game', Digital Devil Saga, even with its own set of flaws, does fare better with a story that may not be as initially fascinating -- though very much so in its own right -- paced a bit better. Yes, some inane dungeons will impede your progress, but it never blows as far out of proportion as Nocturne.

In the gameplay department, I honestly don't see 'use such and such elemental against this, but not that' to be really all that strategic anymore. Ten years ago, a well-constructed system of this was perfectly fine, but it's been done to death. Can it still be there? Yes... but, basing a lot of the gameplay on it can be infuriating at times.

Don't get me wrong, though -- I think Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga are great games, and I adore them both, but when used in such a fashion, difficulty is almost always one of two things; Absurdly hard, or pitifully easy, depending on your demons or your mantra. Yes, there were a few situations where I found Nocturne easy, only to be blown through the floor in the next area.

Even saying this, though, it would be cool to note down some thoughts about what makes battles strategic without resulting to the old 'elemental weaknesses and strengths' deal. I can't claim I'm a genius, and I certainly can't think of a whole lot off-hand... Grandia Xtreme was mildly strategic without delving too far into that territory(leaving out that the rest of the game was terrible, for now), but it could've been improved upon.

What do you think?

(Oh, yes... by the way; let's pray Castlevania doesn't wholly succumb to 'innovation for the sake of innovation syndrome'(Or; IFSI Syndrome), as there just might be worse things than lack of innovation... like ridiculous innovation)

~Aion Dormitoire

You know, I don't think I'd call Digital Devil Saga all that strategic. Like you said, it's just old-school elemental weaknesses for the most part. I think it SEEMS strategic because you pretty much need to exploit these weaknesses. Failure to do so can result in a severe beatdown, if not death outright. Pretty different from, say, a Final Fantasy game, where instances where you MUST exploit enemy weaknesses are fewer and further between.

I haven't made it far enough along in Nocturne to say this with full authority, but it seems to me that you always have access to the proper monsters when you need them, so that takes a bit out of the strategy. But like I say, I'm not even ten hours into it yet, so take that statement with a grain of salt.

Being one of the few PC gamers on staff here, I have a far different opinion of how a strategic RPG battle works. Like having your rogue charge the enemy cleric while your sorcerer takes care of his magical protection and your meat shields keep his summoned skeletons occupied. I don't forsee any standard console RPG ever reaching the level of strategy found in any Bioware or Black Isle game. I suppose Knights of the Old Republic comes closest to PC-level strategy, but even that is a stretch. It's still more about overpowering the enemy than any real bit of strategy.

Eh, I'm sure that what you're looking for is in that mess somewhere. :P

 
Closing Thoughts

And there you have it. Another notch in the Mailbag belt. I'm going to get back to fighting off vampires with my NWN cleric, all the while contemplating my inability to beat the last boss in DDS2. Send me a letter sometime and get your fifteen minutes of internet fame. :P

~ Daniel Stringer (mailbag@rpgfan.com)



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