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by Ethos

Sunday Soapbox: Tradition

Monday, July 19th, 2010

No matter the context, tradition is a very interesting concept. On one end, the idea appears to be lunacy. People will make decisions that impact their (and others’) entire lives based on the fact that other people did the same acts and have been doing them for quite some time. On the other end, tradition can be a comfort. Something you expect and even look forward to. Maybe a family dinner or even just a morning coffee. But these are sprinkled pleasures and not a way of life. Even the stubborn Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof realized that the world was changing and so he must change with it. So why can’t Dragon Quest do the same?

Yes, Dragon Quest IX has some new features. The multiplayer in a large-scale JRPG is the first of its kind. Such a grand adventure has probably never been developed for a portable system, and it also takes a few steps from within the series to progress it.

But despite these evolutions, the series also has misguided inspiration about where it should keep its traditional roots. I understand the desire to keep some things the same, I really do. I don’t want every JRPG series to slowly turn into Modern Warfare. However, Dragon Quest IX’s ability to do away with random battles, but inability to change its excruciatingly slow method of displaying text or its horribly ugly and unintuitive menu screen baffles me.

The battle system, I'm okay with.

There are plenty of ways to honour traditions that make sense and move on from ones that simply don’t anymore. The turn-based battle system is a great example of a tradition to stick with. It is a system that is simple to operate, but has a lot of depth in the way it upgrades, and even the way it controls during more difficult battles. A perfect balance of stat building and strategic challenge. A great tradition of JRPGs worth keeping.

Not being able to open the main menu without vomiting? Not so much a tradition in need of keeping.

Churchs for non-quicksave save points? Being able to climb down wells? Reoccurring musical themes? Slimes, metal slimes, Toriyama’s artwork? Sure! Those are all examples of traditions that encourage nostalgia, keep Dragon Quest unique, and do not murder the experience.

Drawn out and repetitive text explanations coupled with poor item management and requiring a spell or visit to town to check experience needed to level? Those are not positive gameplay elements and serve no purpose in the series and are not at all justified by the explanation of “that’s the way Dragon Quest is”.

Tradition does not innately make a mechanic nor a design choice better. It can instill nostalgia into elements that are clever or fun to begin with, but it cannot fix anything that is broken. Perhaps most of my complaints are about the menus, but in a menu-based JRPG, it is something that should not be slow, unattractive, and unintuitive.

So how long before Dragon Quest, the traditional RPG with the most tradition, will finally realize that the world of intuitive interfaces is changing and that it – too – must change along with it?

Dragon Quest IX: The First 20 Hours

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Yes, I said the first 20 hours.

Because that’s how Dragon Quest games roll.

Looks nice.

Dragon Quest and I have a very strange relationship. I played DQVIII on the PS2 close to when it came out and I spent the entire time waiting for it to get good. I suppose I was expecting something completely different. I decided to play the DQIV remake for review when I worked at RPGamer. I was surprised that the game was actually progressive in many of its story-telling choices, but incredibly archaic with other design choices. In either case, I enjoyed it well enough to give DQV a try on the DS as well and I actually had a great time with it despite many of the same interface issues.

Armed with a better knowledge of how the series operated, I started a new playthrough of VIII during the Christmas break and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I did the first time. This time I found the simplicity of the game charming, and the world to be a lot more engaging. Still, after playing the hell out of it, I never missed it once I stopped.

Dragon Quest IX seems to be having a similar effect. I’ve already played over 20 hours in about half a week, and sometimes I’ll be really excited to play while other times I feel like I could put it down and never pick it up again.

The strange thing about Dragon Quest IX is that it finally introduces some new features that are quite engaging while managing to continue to refuse to progress in other ways. Being able to see enemies on screen and making them largely avoidable is massive. I can now choose when and to what degree I want to grind, and generally which monsters I prefer to fight. If I’m in need of cash, I make note of which monsters give out more coin and stick to going after those guys. The game sticks with the ability point system from VIII and adds the ability to switch vocations (see: jobs). Not a new mechanic to RPGs, perhaps, but a welcome one. Alchemy is way more accessible this time around, and equipping your characters is fun, easy, and changes the character models which actually plays into my decisions. I don’t want to equip an ugly helmet if it’s only a bit more powerful on my carefully created characters.

Decent customization

That’s the other risk DQIX has taken. There are no more set party members that you gather over time who reveal their own back stories. There is a single point near the beginning in which you are literally given the choice to go multiplayer or create up to 3 party members; gender, look, vocation, and all. I have no interest or means to play the multiplayer, so I’ve been playing with created characters. This was my largest hesitation and it’s actually been really nice so far. I never understood the appeal of a “silent hero” before, but when all four heroes silent, I’m actually warming up to the idea. It’s no longer confusing to have my party members talk while I sit in silence, because nobody says anything. I’m left alone to level up, choose which abilities and vocations to master, and how quickly to progress the story.

And the story has been interesting so far. I mean, it’s nothing incredibly engrossing, but it’s not a negative bullet-point which can actually be the case for some RPGs. There have been some intriguing moments and some cool missions, and I’ve been thankful to be an observer without the game trying to make it personal somehow.

Still, for all these positive changes, the main menu is still ugly as shit, it’s still way too difficult to check experience needed to go up a level, and lots of grinding will be required if you want to keep up with the best equipment and abilities. Also, even though it’s apparent that the game is impressively massive for a handheld title, it’s weird for zero voice acting to be present even during the rare cut scenes. Suikoden Tierkreis had lots of it, and that was also a huge game.

Ultimately, I’m not going to review this game because I doubt I’ll finish it in time, and I also won’t be able to check out the multiplayer, which is a very big part of the game. Dragon Quest IX confirms that I’m a fan of the series now, proving that the series gets better as it ages with you. However, the game also proves that despite its initial addicting nature, the series will never be anything transcendent nor make a big impact in storytelling or gameplay. Jeremy Parish may claim that the game is actually quite progressive, but despite new ideas and an impressive handheld design, the fact is that these new – and welcome – things are still crammed into the archaic Dragon Quest design that desperately needs more change than just multiplayer, a job system, and lots of costumes.

Hazy Evenings of the Olicaust

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Hrm, yes, hello, it is I. Riddles. I’m back. Remember? I figured since I just recently returned, I should pop back in a bit early to remind you fuckers. I know what a forgetful lot you are, believe me. No Riddles for 17 hours? Ah, well, he must have gone off and started another cover band or something.

First off, that’s ridiculous. Secondly, there’d be no need to form “another” cover band. Green Daze, to my knowledge, is still going strong. Thank you very much.

So anyway, yeah. I’m here. And I’m here to stay.

While I’m here, should I say something about games? I feel like I should. This is a videogame website. Right?

I mean, seriously it is still a videogame website, right? Ethan didn’t turn it into like a homosexual singles match site or anything drastic like that, right?

Okay, good.

I mean, I’m totally cool with homosexuals finding eachother and going and dates and stuff, I just… ah…

Ah. Before I completely crash and burn this joyride, I’m gonna take a quick left onto MODERN WARFARE 2

Ah. Anyway. Modern Warfare 2. I played some of it today. I’ve been playing it quite a bit, recently; more so than any other game. I enjoy it, a lot. And I wish more people would play with me. That is all.

Oh, yeah, remember Red Dead Redemption? Yeah, still haven’t finished that shit. It’s a great game, but it gets repetitive over time. I’ve only played 16 hours or so, and I’m ready for it to end.

The fact of the matter – and I give a certain Glenn Wilson full credit for telling me this a month ago – everything you do in Red Dead essentially boils down to two very basic things: Riding and Combat. Sure, there’s a hell of a lot to do – in fact, it’s a little overwhelming at first. But aside from a handful of mini-games and gimmicks, the missions of Red Dead involve you riding horses and shooting bandits. Which is a lot of fun – for ten hours or so. It begins to wear thin quickly afterward.

But more on that later. I’m in no shape to write a full impression. In fact, it’d be pretty redundant at this point. The game’s been on stores for a good while.

So. Instead, I leave you with this song. Enjoy some fine music while browsing Riddlethos.

No, seriously, this stuff is the shit man. It’s been playing in the background for me all night. Take that as you will.

Scatter Storming. Issue #034

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

It hasn’t been a month, but it has been half of one, so it’s time to bring back this sucker. I’m writing this while listening to Eminem’s Recovery, so let’s see if that has an effect.

First up, I played a butt-load of FFIX -
It went up on the PSN and it instantly went on my PSP. I’m so glad to have it on a portable device because I feel like I can finally beat it again. Whenever I attempt to beat it on my PS2, I always end up wanting to play consoles titles that I haven’t beat yet. My PSP lets me play it bit by bit in the control room at work, or on the subway, or even the bathroom. Yes, I toilet-game. Any true gamer does. Anyway, the game is amazing still. Incredibly human characters and reactions. I love how many scenes are just dedicated to getting to know characters and how they interact. I’m surprised with how often I’m genuinely smiling and giggling at the script.

I recently read over Riddlethos.com’s The Final Fantasy Week and I don’t think I did a good job explaining and defending the title. I think because I thought people were sick of my praise of the game, but fuck that shit, this replay is just confirming my praise! And believe it or not, I would be the first to criticize if things didn’t live up to my memory.

Like Kuja’s script. It’s hit or miss. He’s got some fantastic lines, but also the biggest duds. So let me leave you with a non-Kuja quote.

The woman she thought was her mother became someone else. And her real mother was already dead. Dagger has lost two mothers…

Poignant stuff, Zidane!

Damn, Recovery ended -
It’s not as varied as Relapse, but the rhymes are undeniably stronger. Too bad that no other track lives up to Not Afraid, the first single.

Dragon Quest IX -
I’ve played 20 hours already. How the Olicaust did that happen? I don’t want to go into full detail here because I’ll write full impressions later, but let’s just say that I’m greatly appreciating the lack of random battles, the – albeit not intuitive – ability to check experience needed to level up without going to a church, and improved equipment screen. Also, the fact that my party members have no back stories nor personalities doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Because let’s be honest, the only two party members people cared about from Dragon Quest VIII were Jessica’s left breast and Jessica’s right breast.

I played the Deathspank demo -
I want to buy it. But I don’t even have the $15. Anybody here tried it? The demo was fun.

I would weigh in on the changes to Dragon Age and – more importantly – to Pokémon, but my apathy toward the subjects just barely outweighs my desire to spark controversy. So that’s that.

How are you guys enjoying the return to content? I knows I am!

Spam Comment Roundup #003

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Spam Comment Roundup is back, bitches!

Okay, I admit that I was jealous that Riddles has been able to say that so much. But it is true. SCR is back.

…bitches.

Keep in mind that I do not alter these in any way except for taking out the spam links.

1 – Goldvish’s Children -
Tried to post to “The Dust Has Settled: Day 3 – Ethos

Goldvish is a family robot who knows how to delegate…

Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you present! I am going to bookmark your weblog and have my children investigate up here generally. Thumbs up!

Goldvish doesn’t have the TIME, people! It needs its little robot children to investigate its favourite new sites!

2 – A Good Point… -
Tried to post to “E3, Mother Fuckers!

The not-so-subtly-named “trade show videos” proves that robots sometimes know their shit.

Isn’t “E3 Expo” redundant? That’s literally Electronic Entertainment Expo Expo

Well met, tsv! It even posted this observation in an appropriate thread. You’d think my respect for the bots would grow…

3 – attract love Is Lost -
Tried to post to “Sunday Soapbox: Where does Final Fantasy XIII fit now?

…but then “attract love” spews this nonsense in an irrelevant thread…

Gotta admit, I have been sort of interested in the female pheramone market. It’s rather entertaining, since we really are creatures underneath all the levels of logic and deduction. I could definitely regard it directions, since the raw attraction principles work surprisingly effectively to draw in the opposite sex.

What is this asshole even talking about? Not even close to close, buddy.

4 – Yer Toelke’s Favourite Game -
Tried to post to “Guest Sunday Soapbox: Matti’s Bad Breakup with Nintendo

my favorite game is Captain Blood ,I would like some suggestions for similar games thanks. I own a Xbox 360 Consolas.

I just wanted to post this because apparently Captain Blood does exist! And Yer Toelke, if you have a Xbox 360 Consolas, you might want to keep an eye on the new Captain Blood game!

5 – nude fat girls’ Advice -
Tried to post to “The Dust Has Settled: Day 2 – Ethos

No typo on that user name there.

3. Turn all the white “time squares” to blue in order to deactivate the Internet for those times.

Who knew? nude fat girl robots have the secret to deactivating the internet!

6 – Take Us Home, Shad Finona! -
Tried to post to “A Life Without Video Games

Read these wise words carefully.

You must be logged in to save your lolz to your account

There’s nothing more I can say.

Except for:

You must be logged in…

…to save your lolz to your account.

Hey! Look! Listen! #57

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

“When I find myself in times of trouble, mother mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: let it be.”

Fifty years later, those guys are still smarter than I’ll ever be.

Welcome to the much-belated fifty-seventh edition of Hey! Look! Listen!, good citizens of Riddlethos. I can only imagine the anticipation with which you’ve looked forward to this day.

I can only imagine it because I’m sure it doesn’t actually exist anywhere outside of my imagination. But, I’m not going to let that hurtful little fact bring me down today. As the previous post made clear, I’m back. Bitches. And now it’s time for you to HeyLookListen to whatever I want you to HeyLookListen to!

Heavy Rain Devs Working on Two New Projects

Did you enjoy Heavy Rain? I certainly hope so, it was an amazing title – as should be evidenced by the glowing review I wrote for it. (My opinion, after all, is definitive.)

Anyway, even if you didn’t like Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream is apparently gonna keep on keepin’ on. Speaking to the Examiner, the company’s main man David Cage confirmed that his studio was working on not one, but two “very different projects.”

“After Heavy Rain, we have some credibility in experimenting with new IPs and new concepts,” Cage said. “We are not going to play it safe from now, we are going to use this credibility to continue to take risks, give ourselves exciting challenges and try to invent new ways of playing.”

Sweet. I mean, obviously, that means nothing when it comes down to it, but I’m just glad to know that they’re working on something. Hopefully we’ll see the results in less than five years? (VG247)

LOLocaust: This is How Much the ESRB Cares About Online Privacy

Is LOLocaust in bad taste? I’ve been using it as a phrase for a long time now, but I don’t think I’ve ever used it in a Riddlethos post. Ah well, it’s my first day back, and I feel like doing something controversial. Like combining genocide with an internet meme. Doesn’t get much more controversial than that, right?

Well, as controversial as that might be, I guarantee you that far more people care about Blizzard’s recent (failed) attempt to introduce a new policy that required people to display their full names in online forums. The idea, I suppose, was to cultivate a greater sense of online tact and responsibility; when you don’t have a clever internet nick to hide behind, people tend to act more civil.

But people don’t get on the internet to act civil, which is why everyone proceeded to throw a goddamn stink. In fact, a thousand people went so far as to email the ESRB, crying out for a redress of online grievances. Why the ESRB? Probably because they’ve been a proponent of online privacy in the past, with initiatives such as the aptly-named Privacy Online program.

Well. In a move that positively oozes irony of the most delicious variety, the ESRB responded to said emails.

No, that’s not the ironic part. The ironic part is that when they sent said response, they CC’d all 1000 people.

What that means is that everyone who received said response also received the email addresses of 1000 people.

Kotaku seems to think that whoever sent the email simply hit “reply all,” which would make this an honest mistake. However, Kotaku commenter MechaPumpkin aptly notes that there’s something distinctly wrong with that explanation:

Okay I’m a little confused by this.

It couldn’t have been a “reply to all” unless all of these people were originally in the email NOT in the BCC to the ESRB. They all had to be in the “to” field or “CC” field, right? Like the email to the ESRB was a single email with one source? You can’t “reply to all” otherwise. Or was it an actual petition where everyone signed their email addresses? So it was exposed anyway (I mean you can’t “sign” a petition without giving a name or maybe in this case an email address).

So what this means is the ESRB took the email addresses of all the individual complaint letters and put them in the “to” field right?

Just doesn’t make sense as described in the article. Or am I missing something?

No, Mr. Pumpkin, I don’t think you are. And I’m willing to guess that whoever took the time to CC 1000 people knew exactly what they were doing. Having a laugh at the expense of a bunch of whiny overreactors, perhaps? Hell, I would. (Kotaku)

Here, Have Some Metroid: Other M Videos

I’m still maintaining a fairly palpable level anticipation for Tecmo/Nintendo’s relaunching of the Metroid franchise. I really dig the unconventional mixture of 2D and 3D gameplay styles, I’m tentatively excited for a more plot-driven approach (as long as it’s done *well*), and it seems as if they might be keeping the Metroid atmosphere intact this time around. (Something that Prime 3 did not accomplish.) Anyway, a few new videos were just released. The first one is really gimmicky and promotional, but the second one shows off some meaty chunks of awesome-looking gameplay. Check them out.

For whatever reason I can’t embed the damn things, so head over to this Kotaku page if you’re interested. Apologies, the internet is stupid sometimes.

Dragon Age 2 is Going All Mass Effect On Us

And hey, you certainly don’t hear me complaining. As strong a game as Dragon Age may have been, Mass Effect 2 was undoubtedly the stronger, more polished product on nearly every level.

So, in just what ways is Dragon Age 2 becoming more like its sci-fi brother, Mass Effect? First and foremost, you can say goodbye to the silent protagonist of the original game. Like Mass Effect, the protagonist of Dragon Age 2 will have a voice, a name (Hawke), and a personality. A decision that I’m sure will piss off more than a few, but it’s welcome news to me. Silent protagonists are dumb, especially in an experience as rich as Dragon Age.

Second, rather than keeping the traditional dialogue “tree,” where your exact dialog choices are displayed on-screen, Dragon Age 2 will be implementing Mass Effect’s (much more entertaining and intuitive) “dialog wheel.” Y’know, the one where you choose what’s going through your head, and your character then responds appropriately. I have no idea why the first Dragon Age didn’t do this, and I couldn’t be happier that they’re implementing the feature for the sequel.

Finally – and this change will prove to be the most controversial, I’m sure – the console versions of Dragon Age will feature combat “more tailored to the strengths of the PS3 and 360.” In other words, if you want the same strategic combat style of the original Dragon Age, you’ll have to go with the PC version. Once again, I’m fine with this. PC strategy action is meant for PC games.

So yeah, point being, you’ve got some major Mass Effect in your Dragon Age. This is more or less what I anticipated. Head over to GameInformer’s website for a few more odds and ends (you’ll be able to carry over save data, there’s a new graphical style, et cet).

My word count is now at 1194. No, wait. 1200. Not bad for the first day back on the job, I gotta say. Look forward to more of this in the near future, and until then, I leave you with this question: who else doesn’t really care about Dragon Quest IX?

I’m Back. Bitches.

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Yeah. That’s right. You thought, hoped, even prayed that you were rid of me. But whatever deity you place your faith in wasn’t listening, you poor unfortunate fucks; here I am,

And I can see that this place has gone to all-hell while I’ve been away. Ethos really is useless without me, it seems. Kinda pathetic. At least he had the sense to worship me in his most recent Soapbox. Otherwise I might have taken this opportunity to simply blast him; as it stands now, I must begrudgingly give him some thanks for holding things down for the last month or so.

At this point, you’re probably all wondering why I left you for a solid month. And, while I’d almost like to sit down and tell you exactly why, I’m afraid there are a few too many layers and complexities behind my decision. Let’s just say, I needed some time, and I’ve had my time. I’m ready to jump back into things.

Later today, you can expect to see a big, beautiful new edition of Hey! Look! Listen! for the first time in god-knows how long. Right now, you can look below to see a picture that, no doubt, describes your feelings towards my return.

Yeah, I have no idea what this is. I found it on the internet.

Welcome to Dragon Quest IX Week!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I was going to quickly make this banner and then throw up the long awaited new Spam Comment Roundup, but that banner took an embarrassingly long time for me to make. I suppose effort has to go into these things to make them look good.

Or in my case, make them look not completely shitty.

Anyway, I’ve been playing the fuck out of Dragon Quest IX and I have the week off, so I’ll be reporting back to you kids soon.

Speaking of, do you guys have it yet?