Retrograding MAILBAG 04.20.04

Right. More countdown emails. I stopped with Bard’s Tale right? Right. Let’s get to it. And YES I know I’m two months behind on mailbags. Deal with it!


At least it beat f*cking Bard’s Tale

-Chuck Platt

Heh. Chuck sure loves his Disgaea. Little known fact. I gave Chuck the copy Atlus sent me. And it was a good decision as Chuck found true love in the Otakukin clan with it. ;-)

Phantasy Star 2

My biggest nitpick with PSII is that some of the mazes were designed to be nearly impossible without the cheat guide … like the “falling through shafts” one. Yuck.


You know, that’s what I love about the game! Give me more uberhard nigh impossible to beat RPGs, even if you do run around for hours leveling up your guys. That’s what I wanna see! I miss games being challenging, but beatable. Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox is a great example of challenging but FUN. Except for trying to get NG3. Grrrr.

Having spent most of last week on Jet Grind Radio, I decided I needed a break.
Thanks to your review I decided to try out this Phantasy Star deal on my Dreamcast’s sega classics disk.
It has devoured my life.
Damn you Xander Dracula!

I bought that disk to waste time with Sonic and GoldenAxe and Virtua Cop.
Now I feel a sense of duty to level up.

After I finish this game, I will try desperately to avoid Shining Force, but will most likely fail.

— Michael Kennedy

I hate jokes about my name. But I am glad to know, someone enjoyed both PS2 and the Dreamcast at the same time. God bless the Smash Pack. And one can not avoid the glory of Shining Force. All will submit to it. Eventually. Muhahahahahaha!

Thousand Arms

Thousand Arms on the top 25 RP{G’s of all time? You must be joking right? Although the dating sim part of it was quite a bit of fun and the story was quirky with quite a cast of well voiced characters the gameplay flat out SUCKED. Now this pretty detrimental already to any game but add in the fact that the game was non-stop random battles and the entire thing was quite unbearable.The Dating sim part of the game was such a welcome change becuase the actual fighting just blew.I played through the game without a lot of effort and there was not a heck of a lot of strategy needed.Ive played through many RPG’s and while this one ranks pretty high on the story list its gameplay is the bottom of the barrel.


You know, special mention goes out to Sunhawk for being the only guy who didn’t read my preamble. The thing where I talk about this being MY countdown, not a sweeping generalization of the best games. Just the ones I love the most for any and all reasons. He names all the things I did in my review. Which means he didn’t read it or didn’t get that in an RPG, Story and Originality ALWAYS > gameplay. But at least that is how it is for me. But truth be told, this is the only game on the list that got negative feedback so far. Poor Thousand Arms. Well I still love it.

Thousand Arms = Gross yucky typical repetitive Atlus crap.

And the women are virtually treated like animals at times.

All there is to be said.


Ouch. Just ouch. Neisha’s a casual friend of mine and we got into a big convo that ended with this

*sighs* I have to go to work, but this is gonna be fun. :D You have NO idea how long I’ve wanted to pick your brain. :o Someone who’s in love with vgames versus someone who’s been disenchanted by vgames in general. :) I wanted to make sure we were cool with each other before going out and setting you off, though. ^.- And, like, it helped a lot that you gave rave reviews to a game that I tried very *hard* to love but in the end drove me nuts. :3

So see? Friends can disagree. Both of us have a decent history and rep in the industry. She from a programmer point of view. Me from a SiskelEbert fella point of view.

“No Mr. Jammes, Siskel and Ebert are two different People”

“Dave, just because the man is fat doesn’t mean you should make fun of him.”

I miss Newsradio.


You know that Rhapsody game that was in your list (at least, I think it was, but I can’t find it due to downed servers or something)? Well, they just had something on it on that gaming show X-Play. Granted, it was winner of worst music ever, but still, at least it is getting attention, right?


And this shows you why no one takes that damn gaming channel seriously. But in honesty, I can see how the average mysoginistic gamer would hate the music for Rhapsody. It’s cute, girlie, sweet, and silly. It’s meant to be cheesy, and some people can’t appreciate that. Like people that hate Adam West as Batman.

Dark Alliance 2

I picked this game up recently and I must say that I love it. I mean, some of the reviews I read made it seem like it was way below its predecessor for various reasons. And then I read your review and as usual it was much more coherent and thought out than other reviews I’d read. DA2 absolutely surpasses the original game in every way. It’s just too bad mainstream outlets think they can judge a game after playing an incomplete version and not even finishing that.

-Chad Dupree

Yay Chad! I still am in love with DA2 months later. That and the Suffering and Dead Man’s Hand own my Xbox. It’s still Action RPG of the year for me with PokeCol the Turn Based choice.


I agree with your thoughts on Grandia 2 (only Grandia I’ve played, on PC),
but the defining moment had to be hearing Millenia say (voice-acting) ‘Save
the drama for your mama.’ I wanted to slit my wrists with the game CD for
making me hear that, and don’t get me started on the annoying kid. I’ll
definitely try to check out Grandia if I’m able (which I doubt since I don’t
own any consoles).

I tried out the Knight of Lodis, and like Onimusha Tactics, I wasn’t very
impressed with the gameplay. I admittedly didn’t give KoL a lot of time,
something I plan to remedy if free time ever drops by, but I’m curious to
hear your opinions about Fire Emblem (the one recently brought to the GBA,
not the older Japanese ones), and how you feel it compared to KoL. I
personally enjoyed FE a great deal (with the exception of the
character-death-equals-gone-forever thing), and it brought me back to the
good old days of Shining Force. Not to mention the excellent interface,
such as the move/attack ranges very clean and clear.

I’m still keeping tabs on this countdown to give me insight on good games
that I missed out on (like Phantasy Star), so keep it comin’.

– Parhaum Toofanian

I will never understand why Grandia 2 got such praise for the voice acting. Ooh. The guy who cast Metal Gear Solid did it, so it MUST be good. Sigh. And then people bitch about the kid voices in Grandia 1 when they ARE kids. And people either love or hate Onimusha Tactics. Oddly it seems to be an even split down the middle. I convinced Mr. Toofanian to give KoL another try. Let’s hope he did! Because I can’t think of a better game on the GBA. Oh wait. Yes I can. It’s called River City Ransom. And it’s coming out next month. BUY IT!

Grandia: Superb Character Development + Incredible Engine = Why the bloody hell do you not own this game???

Because Grandia sucks ass Lucard! ASS! Hey, what’s that in my cabinet? Oh, hey Grandia. I’m trying to make Alex think I hate you. Trust me, it’ll be funny.


Don’t cause Grandia mental scarring! Those wounds never heal! Poor Poor Grandia.

And now another shill of Neisha because her comments her made me laugh really hard when I read them.

“First, to get into combat you have to touch a monster on the map screen. If you touch it from behind, you get first attack. If it touches you from behind, they get first attack. If both come head on, it’s anything goes.”



And yes I’d say touching a polite, innocent, unsuspecting monster (especially from behind!) would get you into a fight with it. And if they touch you then OBVOIUSLY they had “first attack” because they touched you first and duh it’s ‘first attack’.

*giggles* And yeah, I’ve had that experience when we both came at the same time. ^.- “Gyaah, my eyes!” XD XD XD;

(Sorry. Writing this RIGHT after my journal post about having experienced a rather violent night etcetera.)

Parallel Trippers.. *snicker*

And hey. Much clappies for pointing out the flaws in G2. Which I *did* stick with till the end, but only cause it was a Dreamcast game and I was busy humping Dreamcast-anything at the time (I had saved up what was a lot of money (for me) to buy the dream DC setup, and I planned to use it.. as it was I got addicted to Densha De Go and Tokyo Bus Guide and that was the end of it, but I slept around for a little while, at least.)

And yey for Saturn!! SATURNNNNNNNNNN!!!! XD

And in retrospect re the Thousand Arms thingy (hurl), I had just started playing Kanon so it probably wasn’t a fair time to start playing it.

And I think the way your reviews are always over-optimistic and game-review-ish in the most stereotypical of ways makes me want to vomit and try to pick your words apart even if you’re totally right in them.

That is all. :>


Ahem. ” And I think the way your reviews are always over-optimistic and game-review-ish in the most stereotypical of ways makes me want to vomit and try to pick your words apart even if you’re totally right in them.”

Best comment ever. Although I get told by the average reader I’m too mean with my reviews. Beyond Good an Evil for example. Or FFTA. And wait until you see my Ninja Gaiden review feedback. “WTF 7.5! Game should be the TENN!”

Of course, Neisha is talking about the Countdown, not my normal reviews where I am a cast iron bitch. She merely gets to see the happy flopsy dopsy Pikachu hugging side of me when I talk about those games that I have passion for.

Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis

It does truly blow that SquarEnix now holds the rights to the Ogre Battle Saga franchise and Quest was gobbled up.


Yeah. Like I needed YET another reason to hate Square, right? Prepare for Ogre Series to suck big time. I am sad now…

Sakura Wars 3
Though I can’t read Japanese, the games are quite fun.

Especially since I have no clue what the character is saying when I make one of those wacky choices.

Eventually an english version will come out… eventually.
-Obscurity Knocks

It’s very true. One can easily appreciate Sakura Wars without knowing Japanese. They just won’t get as much out of it as they could.
And we ALWAYS here of an English Sakura Wars on the horizon. But Sega continually proves themselves to be idiots. First they decide to let ATLUS bring over Shining Soul and Shining Force, instead of making money doing it themselves. So what makes us think they’ll actually finish SW in English. It’s been talked about and promised since 2000. And it’s 2004 now. Grrrr.

Panzer Dragoon Saga
Well…no emails from people that haven’t already commented. Odd. Isn’t it? A game with a total cult following. And no one commented. Go figure?

I remember those late night IM conversations about trying to track down a full copy of SEGAGAGA and getting outbid several times on auction websites.

I only have the second printing release though… and a shitty burn a friend in law school made for me of the original release.

The other game released for the DC in a DVD case was Cosmic Smash, which rocked.
-Dave Olvera

Those were some fun early morning/late nights with Dave. Just thought I’d put this is here for nostalgia reasons.

I think I’d rather pay the $30 than face your wraith. ;) Seriously, if I knew Japanese I’d be all over this. Maybe there’s a translation FAQ out there somewhere.

I love Sega more than words can say and I hate that they’re now only a 3rd-party developer even if it is for their own good. You know that though.

I’ve really enjoyed your countdown so far. Hard to believe I used to hate RPGs and now I find myself wanting to play them all the time. :)
-Chad Dupree

The last sentence is what matters most. And I love Sega too Chad, but they’ve really been dropping the ball the past 5 years. Makes me very sad. SGGG though…God, I love that game. I really REALLY love that game.

Just read your review for SegaGaGa. I just wanted to say Thank you. Ever since the DC finished its short time with us, I’ve been trying to properly mourn Sega’s passing to the role of multi-console development. To see that other people knew, respected, and loved Sega games in a way that I did restores hope for me that maybe, just maybe, casual gamers today will realize what it was that got them into games in the first place. Maybe further down the road, developers will also realize that sometimes it isn’t about profit sharing and dividends. Instead at the end of the day they’ll think that they really do love what they’re doing and start letting their imaginations run absolutely wild. Until then, I’ll still be busting out my Saturn and import copies of Capcom goodness and Christmas NiGHTS. Thanks again.

Tom Baerg

I love letters like this. Not because they milk my ego. But because I know what I’ve written has affected someone on a deeper level then just “Gonna go buy this game.” Gaming used to be about love and entertainment. Now it’s kinda creepy with the new breed of fanboy fanatics. Back in the 16 bit game, choosing between the SNES and Genesis was fun. It was a game with no real venom or hate. Now it’s a three way dance between some people who take gaming way too seriously and freak if you have an opinion other than there own. Sad sad sad.


Hey FF-hater, nice job on this one. I need to learn Japanese so I can play these games K


Ah Nash, I kept telling you when we were doing the Kliq thing with Scott and Sean to brush up on the Kanji. But noooooo. You didn’t listen. Now I’m still main eventing PPV’s and you’re in the Punisher movie. See what playing Segagaga and Sakura Wars does for you?

Right. And that’s a little taste of specific game related emails I have gotten for the first half of the countdown. And shit the bed, 2 mailbags at only the halfway point. And I could have pulled another 1-2 with the extra letters. Well, unless I wanted to focus on PDS. Then I’d be f*cked.

Now I’m gonna end the bag with some non specific emails about the countdown.

I know your not an FF fan but you should know the answer to this question my gaming guru. Which one was the ff that had 3 different storylines that converged into one mid game. For the life of me i cant remember. Is it 3?
john derry nh

Any help for John?

Just read the latest part of your Top 30 RPGs… and… well.. I’m… almost salivating.

EVERY GAME on this list I have either beaten, or watched/helped a friend beat (cept for a couple). SoV… awesome awesome AWESOME game.

AND.. I have noticed that you’ve mentioned the word “Ultima” thrice thus far in this epic (series of) column(s). All I got to say is… Ultima better have a place in there somewhere. Ultima IV and V, in my opinion, are the absolute best computer RPGs *EVER*. And since you’ve already selected The Bard’s Tale (which I just completed about 2 weeks ago on my C128 for the first time), another *computer* RPG, I’m praying that you include something from the Ultima series as well.

Ultima IV, V, Underworld… there’s over 20 to chose from. Yes, some are better than other.. just pick one. PLEASE.

-Chad Smith

Well Chad, I’m gonna make you cry, but in fact not a single Ultima game makes the list. But Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar nearly made it. Eric S was ticked about that game not making it too. I did console Chad with my Segagaga commentary. I think that was the most popular piece in the first half of the countdown AND in the DC feature we did. Which makes me glow with pride.

Hiya Alex!

You probably don’t remember me, but I’m the “female Call of Cthulhu fan” you
responded to in a mailbag at some point early last year, and I just wanted
to drop you a line to let you know how much I’m continuing to enjoy your
work at 411. The mailbags are always a fun read, but I’m also enjoying the
top RPG countdown. I don’t think I’ve actually played ANY of the ones on the
list, and I’m hoping that one of the ones there will end up being a lot of
fun. It seems like your tastes resemble mine quite a bit in RPGs (I want
more control over who my character is than “you are this particular
spiky-haired guy with a ridiculous weapon), so I’ve got high hopes.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak Japanese and my console options are limited
(NES, PSX, and Game Cube as of recently), so any Dreamcast or Genesis fun is
out of my reach for now. Hopefully your reviews won’t drive eBay prices
through the roof!

Couple of other things- I’d love to check out your blog, even if it’s just
the public version. I’ve got a distinctly voyeuristic side, and if yours
resembles your normal column writing in any way, I’m sure I’d enjoy it.
Also, way back when, you mentioned setting up an immersive, real-life
roleplaying game with people actually contacting each other via phone,
email, IM, whatever. Is that still going on? How’s it working out? If it’s
still going, can people still join? I’ve got a bit more free time these
days, and I think I might enjoy something like that.

Anyway, although it seems a little trite to console you for your recent loss
without knowing exactly what it is, I’ll send some warm thoughts your way
anyway. Keep up the good work, and I hope to hear from you soon!


I’m probably gonna regret posting that in here, but hey, I’ve already got the most read LJ on LJ (hit count wise, not friends list wise) according to, so a few more hits can’t hurt. :-P Just know comments like “WHY DID U SCREW BRET?” get deleted instantly by my screener.

The RPG died with me leaving England and never got off the ground. Bad bad time in my life last year. However, thanks to so many people hooking me up with Bard’s Tale Construction Kit emails, I’m going to be making an Old School Bard’s Tale game for RG readers. Stay tuned on that as it will occur after the countdown ends.

Hi there,

I’ve only been reading your stuff on 411 for a month or two now (and enjoying probably 95% of it), so apologies if my question was something you covered a while back in Retrograding…I looked through the archives quickly and didn’t see anything, but I certainly could have missed something. It’s a question in regards to the Final Fantasy series.

I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on why you dislike most of them, and I agree with a lot of your points to a certain extent (they sure are a lot prettier than they are story smart), although I do like the series as a whole. At any rate, in your intro to the Top 30 countdown, you mentioned the only ones you didn’t hate as being I, II, IX, and FFT, and I was just curious why those ones make the cut, particularly IX.

Apologies again if that’s something you already covered, if it was, just tell me to go back hunting in the archives and I’ll take a closer look next time.

thanks a lot,

If you’ve got the time to respond, I’d like to hear further thoughts about
II and IX. I’ve had Origins for a few months now, but didn’t get around to
playing the Final Fantasy II portion of it yet, and I’ve heard both good and
bad things about the way characters level up/advance. And IX kinda holds an
odd place in my heart, as I remember liking it more than 7 and 8 (far more),
but I don’t seem to recall anything about it specifically.

thanks for the response,

Two letters from the same guy on the same topic! I HAVE to answer them!

FF1 let you create a funky team of whatever you wanted. Excellent plot for an 8 bit game, in fact one of the better plots out there. FF1 also introduced some nifty characters and concepts for an RPG. It was Phantasy Star, but it was damn close to making the top 30. FF2 (Japanese #2, not US) was another great game, but basically more of the same in #1.

FFIX is good to me by default after 7 and 8 sucking in everyway possible save graphics. Okay seriously now. It was a great throwback to the original 2 games. I loved it a lot. Plot was weak compared to other RPGS, but for Square it was a great game.

And FFT? It’s an Ogre Tactics game at the heart of it all, with some FF tweaks. Because Ogre Team was paid to make a decent FF game instead of Square relying on their third rate writers and gameplay guys.

That’s just a quick version of it. Maybe if there is demented morbid interest in me suffering, I’ll cover all the FF games, HBK Style.

There has to be some mention of the old classic Landstalker, now that was a brilliant game!


Nope. Sorry Mark.


Since you’re halfway through the list and you want the e-mails coming and I’m sitting here at home waiting for the Wrestlemania match results I’ll chime in on what has been a great list so far.

First of all, thanks for this. Reading your columns is refreshing in that I get to read about games that I do not hear about in the other video game web sites. I also love to read about older games.

I started this e-mail by commenting on some of the games. Once I realized about how crappy it was because you have said enough about the games and everyone else in the mailbag(s) will comment on the games, here are some general comments:

– I think you did this list because you will never have to do a column for 6 months because of all of the “where is Chrono Trigger, Suikoden and Star Ocean?” e-mails you will be getting.

– Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting Dragon Warrior on the list. I like Final Fantasy but it has never been as good as Dragon Warrior. I beat FFX in 40 hours or so. I didn’t play a lot of the side quests because I don’t buy a game for side quests. I’m not going to dodge 200 lightning bolts for an item. I beat DW7 in 105 hours and every hour was fun. I can’t wait for DW8! I’m hoping they don’t screw up the gameplay because the game needs to look pretty.

– I love Disgaea. I was surprised to see it on the list because I know how many older games you have (and still) play. It was good to see. It is such a deep game. We need more games like this in North America.

– I hope you’re not getting TOO many e-mails from people complaining about where games are ranked. I hope your readers understand that a game they like even BEING on the list is quite an accomplishment. Especially considering you have a good number of imports on the list so far and I have a feeling hardly any of your readers play imports. I don’t because I can’t read or understand the language. This is why Shining Force 3 and Sakura Taisen should be translated into English! What is the difference between #60 and #30 on your list Alex? I’m guessing it’s not that much.

Again, thanks for the list. I will be reading each upcoming weekend to see the final 15 or so.

Jeff Lingard

Well, we’re into #’s 9-7 on the list this week! A PSX game, a Saturn Game, and a Genesis game. In that order!

1. Everyone loves Retrograding. Okay, not really. Some gamers really hate me. But MOST people like Retrograding.

2. Chrono Trigger Bleck. Suikoden Bleck. Star Ocean Bleck. Okay. Not really. I just felt like saying that. Decent games all. They just don’t make the top 30. And thanks to my preamble, I got no questions about it.

3. DW1 = Hulkastalgia baby! And I agree. Dragon Quest games are ALWAYS superior to FF games.

4. Agreed about Disgaea. As it and Dark Alliance 2 show, a game can be new AND excellent.

5. Jeff’s last paragraph should be read and digested by everyone. And do I have that many imports? SGGG, Sakura Wars, Slayers Royal. And I think that’s it, right?

Oy. 12 pages of your letters. And I’m just BARELY out of triple digits in my inbox. I’ll try and get another one out this week that ISN’T countdown related in someway.

As always, THANK you for your letters. I do try to read and respond to everyone. I’m sorry only a smattering of the emails over the first 15 games in the countdown got put in here. I just don’t have room for them all, and so have to pick and choose. I do read everyone and whether it is praise or hate mail, I do take them all into consideration. Thanks again to all of you for your massive inbox clogging. Means a lot and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except for you Beyond Good and Evil fans. You stop writing me! You stop RIGHT NOW.