Retrograding MAILBAG 04.02.04

Yes, It’s been a few weeks since you’ve heard from me outside of doing reviews. Three weeks ago I took off after writing 50+ pages about video games in 5 weeks. Two weeks ago was my grandmother’s 90th B-Day and I had to be in North Dakota for that. Last week net was down at my house while we upgraded our net connection to the as fast as it gets right now. And this week the countdown is on hold yet again and I’ll be in Philadelphia speaking to thousands of people at the ACPA. And trust me that takes precedence over my countdown which I PROMISE will be back next week to finish the thing off. I didn’t realize march was the month from Hades for me.

So to make up for the absence, I’m going to actually empty my inbox and let you see the deluge of letters I have received from my countdown so far. As well, There was a nice thread in the forums about the countdown which died when we had the massive server crash, but also Eric S had some nice words to say in our secret Freemansons like section where only 411 staff writers can hang out. Not as elite as the Kliq boards, but still, they’re hidden from all of YOU. :-P

But do give you a refresher on what’s come to pass so far…

Preamble

#30-28

#27-25

#24-22

#21-19

#18-16

That’s a lot of countdown! But now, for the real reason you read the mailbag: The umm…well, the mail.

PREAMBLE COMMENTARY

Boy, I sure do hope Destiny of an Emporer is in there, man. You don’t even have to be a three kingdoms fan to know that was a hella fun game.

How come you are putting in non-us games?

What, no 7th saga? hahahhaha. (jokes only good if you beat it)

-Dan

Well I love the Koei games. I really do. I consider them Sims, not RPG’s ala Harvest Moon, Populus and Theme Park and the like. But those are incredible games I recommend to everyone.

And Non US games are on the list because I speak and read Japanese (Not fluently, but enough) and because there are some games I really love that only come in Japanese that I wish people could play over here in the US without have to go “WTF is going on” every five minutes.

And to be honest, I left out some games I do love, but the massive amount of text keeps me from playing them very often. Games like Devil Summoner for example. Wonderful beautiful game. But I don’t pick it up that often because of all the Japanese and just because I CAN understand the language doesn’t mean I won’t say “Hmmm. Megaten game in Japanese or PERSONA IN ENGLISH?” It’s not really a choice to me. If I can play the game in English, of course I’ll go that route first and foremost.

I’m NEVER talking to you again if Y’s Book I and II doesn’t make the list.

411’s own Ken Anderson

Well it hasn’t and it won’t, but Ken still talks to me. If only because we share a deep dark secret from our carefree youth when we killed a hooker because of underage drinking and driving.

Slayers Royal

i didnt even kno there were slayers games ^^;;

-Mana Malice

Now you know! And knowing is half the battle!

First up, about Slayers Royal–you didn’t go too into depth about gameplay,
but wanted to know how fast it was, if/how often there are random battles,
and the pace/action. I despise most newer RPGs (mostly the Square stuff,
and Xenosaga makes me want to find whoever is in charge of Monolith soft and
kick him in the groin) are so damn slow, boring, uneventful and cinematic,
and mostly stick with Action RPGs these days. Was wondering how this one
stacks up.

Also, I’m trying to find a certain Neo Geo Pocket Color game: Big Bang Pro
Wrestling. I never even heard of if until checking out a few sites for the
system. Sounds good, but the usual avenues (Ebay, half.com, therage) don’t
have it. There was a site you linked that specialize in Neo Geo games…I
don’t know if it was neostore.com or another, but Neo Store doesn’t have it
either. Would you know anywhere I could get the game?

Thanks in advance,

Andrew

P.S. After checking out a lousy, half-assed review in the recent Game
Informer and sending out some e-mails, I just found out Game Informer hates
2D fighters. Hmph, assholes.

It’s a turn based strat game. So it plays out closely to games like Shining Force, Ogre Tactics and Disgaea. There are no random battles, and the pace is quite quick as it feels like you are playing a cartoon. It’s slower than an action RPG, but if you can live with the language difference, pick it up ASAP. It’s cheap and easy to find.

I have never seen Big Bang Pro Wrestling before. Or heard of it until Andrew wrote me. Any ideas to help him out?

Sword of Vermillion

Only 3 RPG’s down… and already I’m reliving my youth. I still have Sword
of Vermillion, with both the instruction and walkthrough book… if only I
had the case. I picked it up about 10 years ago from my local video store
for about $25… and have no intention of ever letting it go. I’m hoping for
a couple more good memories down the road… keep playing man.

Kerry B.

I love first person RPG’s. Yet I hate First Person Shooters. Why?

I enjoyed SoV and its US cover art is not as bad as some, especially considering the botch job done on PS IV’s cover.

As I told you before, I was nigh broke when I lost every item I had. So the joke was on… me.

-Dave

I’ve got a copy of that. Bought it for $10, played it for a night, never went back. I remember feeling rather un-enthralled. I’ll try it again someday though, I’m sure

-Frankie23

Play it NOW! Why aren’t you playing it now?

I never liked Vermillion that much. The combat was very poorly done, and it bogged down the gameplay. The easiest way to beat most critters was rapid fire the sword, and zig zag around to get the best angle.

As an aside, the first NES games were all $20. Then Zelda came out and cost $35. I barely talked my aunt into getting me THAT EXPENSIVE GAME for Christmas.

-Daedalus Rising

And you can’t please ’em all… ;-)

Dragon Warrior

*le sigh*
I loved dragon warrior
good times, good times
without it I never would have discovered what an rpg was

Frigid Damsel

Agreed. NO ONE would really know what an electronic RPG was without this game.

Super Hydlide

Hydlide is one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned series, in my opinion. The series is almost uniformly bashed here, but if you ask any MSX/PC-88 computer owner in Japan about Hydlide, you’ll likely get the same sort of nostalgic response that people here have for Ultima, Wizardry, etc.

Super Hydlide was the Mega Drive port of Hydlide III for MSX/PC-88, which was one of the most popular action-RPGs of the time (up there with the Ys series and Xak). The Mega Drive version is considered to be vastly inferior to the original version (most PC to console ports in that era sucked anyway).

-Shisochou

I never super Super Hydlide was a port. See? Even I can learn something new!

I chose the monk to use and I believe my karma was below 50 at the end of the game, I will boot it up and see what is going on.

Sometime I should fix my C-64 to replay Phantasie, Questron, The Bard’s Tale Trilogy, and Wasteland.

-Obscurity Knocks

I was amazed how many people came out and praised this game. And how many more shuddered at remembering the first one.

Yeah, that was a fun game. It took a while to grow on me though.

I’ll admit I had some trouble with it, until I developed a time-saving cheat. If you stand in just the right spot in the dark cave after defating the boss, and wipe out all the critters in the room, you can shoot at the door and kill them as they spawn/enter. Hold down rapid fire, tape down the button, set the game on ‘fast’, and come back a few hours later when your food runs out.

-Daedaleus Rising again

Bard’s Tale

I loved that you had to be found worthy to level up.

In the third one once you enter the second to last alternate universe you can no longer level up.

Dopplegangers are evil bastards who caused me many a cursing session. Who knows, maybe a developer will attempt to reestablish the first person prespective, create-a-party dungeon crawler soon.

Other computer RPGs I enjoyed:

Questron
Phantasie
Wasteland
Superhero League of Hoboken
Buck Roger’s
Times of Lore

There also needs to be more shopkeeper killing.

Dave Olivera

We ended up having a long talk about the evils of Bard’s Quest Dopplegangers.

I hope to hell that the Pc version of The bards tale was better than the Nes version because it was the WORST video game i have ever played. It was so bad i remember bringing it out to my father’s workshop and taking a hammer to the cartridge. It was boring and so ridiculously difficult i coulnt even make it to the town of hillsfar. I dont even remember having anything but one class and not much of a selection of spells.

If its the same game just on the pc, then may god have mercy on your soul, cause im going to have to beat you to a bloody pulp.

;) Keep em comin, love your columns.

John Derry

I like to pretend the NES version does not exist. It’s a horribly butchered version of the game.


Yes !! Great choices, Alex ! Great, great, great. Although, I wish Disgaea would have been a little higher on the list, it’s still a wonderful RPG. I did it all in that game, besides beat the uber prinny (sigh). I just couldn’t exp that much, it reminded me of my old everquest days (which was bad).

Bards tale ! Hopefully pools of radiance ( the commordore, not the horrible new one) and wizardry will be on too :P Dunno if those were good as bards, though.

Never got to play Hydlide :/

-Dan the Man

Disgaea is great, but it needs time. Pools of Radiance MIGHT make it on the list. We’ll have to see… ;-)

Hey, Alex,

This is GDG from ITSC (been a LONG time since I’ve visited there with any
regularity). Anyway, about your BT question, though you’ve undoubtedly
heard it already. All 3 BT and the construction set are available on “The
Ultimate RPG Archives” set released by Interplay a few years back (actually,
it was more like 7 years ago — holy crap, has it been that long?).

Anyway, I can send you a less than legitimate copy, or you can buy the set
from Amazon for like $50 (it was like $20 when I bought it, but it’s a lot
less available now). It has the following games:

Disc 1: Stonekeep

Disc 2: Bard’s Tale 1-3 + Construction Set, Ultima Underworld 1 & 2, Dragon
Wars, Wasteland

Disc 3 & 4: Might & Magic World of Xeen (which is MM 4 & 5 + the cool extra
world you got if you installed both games simultaneously)

Disc 5: Wizardry Gold

Nice set for any price — the M&M set is still one of my favorite games
(yeah, they’re cliched, but I have fun). Let me know either way what you
decide.

A more recent PC game that has the “build your own full party” theme is
Wizardy 8, if you’re interested. Other than that, maybe M&M 9 (which blew
— I don’t recommend it — try 6-8 instead, even though the graphics are
only “OK”).

-Chris

Chris is an old casual friend, so I put this letter in. Oddly, I received about half a dozen offers like this. I appreciate them all, and am a happy owner of legal discs. Of course I still own my original floppies, so I could have the shareware versions and not feel dirty. But hey, I got Wizardy Gold out of the deal to boot! YEAH!

oops, I forgot that Bard’s Tale was 1985…full agreement from this end. I beat all three of them, so I can say this with a clear conscience:

The best of them was BT2. Brilliant world design, more non-linearity than either 1 or 3. Wonderful, wonderful game.

BT is probably the main reason why I fell in love with the Might and Magic series. It’s one of the few RPGs out there with both additional slots for NPCs to join the party and fully-configurable parties. After the Baldur’s Gate series, I came to appreciate that even more, since BT and M&M didn’t force me to drag along that cunt Imoen or that sniveling little bitch Aerie.

The most tense moment in the series was the final battle of 3. For a game that put the secret of beating the boss villain in its subtitle, there was sure a lot of mystery to that ending in regard to whether or not you could survive until such time as you could set the key character up to deliver the coup de grace. It took me longer to come up with a strategy for that one than it did for any other RPG ending I’ve ever played except for BGII: Throne of Bhaal, and there was a lot more luck coming into play in that game than in BT3. Ironically, ToB and BT3 have one thing in common in that regard: near-invulnerable final bosses.

Never has five-by graph paper and colored pencils come in so handy. I color-coded shops, temples, guilds, etc., and life became very easy in 2 and 3. 1 was a different story since you were only in Skara Brae.

I owned a copy of BTCS for the C64. Unfortunately, I got rid of it when I got rid of my C64 stuff six years ago. Now look what you’ve done, Alex; you’re making me go over to The Underdogs to see if they have it with the rest of the abandonware. But the damn database is down right now. Shit.

BT was one of the few very games that was better on the C64 than on the Amiga. I played both, and I preferred the 64 version.

Too bad you never owned a C64 back in the day, Alex. One year after BT1 came out, Datasoft released a game for the 64 (and for DOS) that had the potential to blow BT away in almost every aspect except party configurability. Alternate Reality was designed to be a series of six stand-alone but interlocking games. Only two came out for the 64 and one for the PC. To make up for lack of party configurability, it utilized skill guilds, and you could join as many guilds as you wanted if you had the qualifications, even diametrically-opposed guilds. It was really fun getting a number of levels in Good, then turn around, start being evil, and get a few levels in Evil, then turn back again, lather, rinse, repeat. Plus it had some damn good music on the 64 version. Alex, do me a favor, get a good C64 emulator and download AR: The City from here and AR: The Dungeon from The Underdogs if its database ever comes back up (the games are abandonware, so it’s a clear-conscience type of deal). Too bad the project by the original creators to update it never came to fruition.

Of course, if you know all about Alternate Reality, sorry. My bad.

Again, another great installment.

-411’s own Eric S

Oddly enough, there were no specific towards #25, which was DISGAEA. But after it winning GOTY from the Kliq, and also the reviews and praise we’ve been giving Disgaea for MONTHS, you probably had nothing left to say about it, right?

And that’s it for the first FIVE games. 8 pages of letters, and those are only the ones I put in. I’ll close this out with general non specific commentary about the countdown now.


Since I’m days away from an official pimp (which he’ll get as the series goes on), I’ll have to suffice with a mention here. If Alex’s next nine contributions in this set match the first, he’s going to have one helluva series on his hands. He’s done a marvelous job at communicating the love that he has for these games in his material, all while maintaining a great pace and keeping people who don’t know about the source material informed (in other words, people like me).

Everyone knows my feelings about console RPGs, and I think that getting and maintaining the attention and proceeding to entertain someone who’s downright hostile to the entire genre is an accomplishment that’s noteworthy. Bravo, Alex.

-Eric S (again)

This is from our own message boars. But it was such a nice comment I wanted to include it. :-D And not to be outdone, our own departing Lee Baxley added his own 2 cents

I agree, but then again, that’s really Lucard’s forte, is truly portraying his love for games, along with all the research stuff he does at times.

Speaking of research Lucard, I couldn’t find anything on a new Slayers series. It seems unlikely considering the originals are almost 10 years old, but it’s not impossible. There are several Slayers movies set to be released in the states in the next few months though.

Oh, and a few things regarding DQ1. I played it less than a year ago, and I had completely forgotten the psycho bitch that you save. She’s nuts. Oh, and DB lovers aren’t the only ones who know Akira. You can add DB HATERS to that also. I hate his art and hate his character designs, which is one of the reasons I wasn’t fond of DQVII (along with it being too long and taking too long to get to the job shit).

Oh and I’m thinking about getting a sub to Nintendo Power also, only to get the Zelda disc, if they still have the offer. Mmmm, as Matt Hardin said, that’s some really glossy toilet paper.

-Lee

I want new Slayers cartoons!

Hi! I like your columns, even if I don’t entirely
agree with everything you say.

Is Rhapsody still available? I remember seeing it in
stores back when it was new, and knowing that I’d
probably like it, but passing it up because I culdn’t
afford it at the time. I feel kinda bad about that.

If you included information on how to acquire some of
these games (obviously, games that were never
translated into English will probably be beyond the
grasp of many) I think your series would be even
better.

As for Xenogears, I have a feeling that it might find
its way on to your list. And I really really hate it.
The very drawn out dialouge, the overblown religious
symbolism, the entire second disc of the game, and the
annoyingly irrelevant yet compulsory sequences (such
as the prison camp and battle tournament) hide what
could have been a much better game.

Also, I’m a big fan of the Final Fantasy games. While
I admit their flaws (of which there are several), one
of the things that annoys me is that they aren’t all
based in the same world (Final Fantasy Ten Two
notwithstanding). Aside from Phantasy Star, and Dragon
Warrior/Quest, are there any other decent RPG series
that occur in the same locales?

Speaking of Dragon Warrior 7, I agree with you
completely about the length. Although some of the
scenarios were really creative, the lack of a strong
main plot made the game difficult to finish.

This e-mail has gotten longer than I expected it to
be, so I’ll end it here. Have a good day!

~Alex Hampton

Be happy, Xenogears did not make it. I find the game overly pretentious and lame. Death to all things Xeno. Except Xenomorphs. Those rule.

Other games set in the same world as their previous ones: Persona, Breath of Fire, Dark Alliance, Evolution, most SSI Forgotten Realms games, and there are more. These are just the series that come off the top of my head.

The best way to acquire these games are Ebay, pawn shops, or stores that sell used video games. Rhapsody can be found over at Atlus’ web page.

There we go. Ten pages of letters. And I still have an inbox of a hundred or so to go. Yeesh. So expect to see more Mailbags soon. And the countdown continues next week. I SWEAR!