Double Agent
Welcome back to the stage of history - August 31, 2000 - Chris Jones

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. The Behemoth has landed. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Gonna be a strange column today. I made a few mistakes people corrected me on, there's the usual random chatter that fills this place up when I don't specify a topic, and a mighty battle over DQ is brewing like a cold front on the horizon. But it ain't quite here yet.

Meantime, my stuff has in fact finally shown up, so let there be much rejoicing. There was some minor damage (mostly due to the driver insisting he could bring an 8 foot couch up a flight of stairs himself without any problems) but fortunately I got full insurance, so the moving company should cover it. I don't know if I'll play any Chrono Cross tonight, but tomorrow afternoon after my shift a marathon play session will begin, and hopefully by the time Labor Day is over I'll have beaten the game and CC discussion can commence. In the meantime, talk quietly amongst yourselves.


Classing gaming, in the palm of your hand
Wow, Chris!

That single shot of FF1 on the Color WonderSwan makes me want it as much as the Game Boy Advance right now! Unfortunately the chances of WS and FF1 coming out Stateside (or in any English version) being sketchy, I guess I'll finally have to hunt down Japanese language classes! Plus, Seiken Densetsu & SaGa in the pipeline? Can a scaled down Chrono Trigger or FFIV be that far away? Handheld gaming just got a LOT more interesting!


It's nice that after a long absence, Square has finally returned to handheld gaming. Importers should be happy, and with CC's recent sales Square may even be tempted to push some more product Stateside. But still, I gotta wonder why Square isn't putting out any new handheld content. The Wonderswan, color or not, probably doesn't have the user base to make development profitable, but the GBA should be an entirely different story. If Square really has been nosing around Dolphin then the rift with Nintendo shows signs of healing, so why not put something out for the GBA?

Definitely not "..."

Just to let you know, if you're quoting Crono, he says, "....", not "...".

Just a little correction, thats all.

SLS, who probably has too much time on her hands to correct things like that.

Once upon a time I considered myself a pretty obsessed gamer, but stuff likes this makes me wonder how I can possibly host this column when I don't even know how many spikes Crono has on his head?

A Sound of Thunder

I disagree a bit with your comment that Chrono Trigger's treatment of time travel is "hardly the best treatment of the subject." I think it's by far the simplest, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think the game creators intentionally avoided delving into the countless inherent paradoxes that emerge when you mess with the fabric of time, to use a phrase that Doc Brown coined so eloquently.

On the one hand, they could have created a game that reminds us of Back to the Future, with dozens of long, complex analyses of time travel that give you a headache. On the other hand, you could have created a game that doesn't analyze time travel very much, like 12 Monkeys, but pops you with a statement on it very suddenly and opens itself up to debate (for the record, I disagree with 12 Monkeys' treatment of time travel... I once had a 3 hour debate with someone about the ending of 12 Monkeys). I think both of those treatments of time travel are great, and entertaining, but not really something that fits in a game, unless you want to confound a lot of young people. Chrono Trigger gives a very simple look at time travel, one that works as a plot device but in itself isn't a distracting focus of controvery. Chrono Trigger didn't worry about the details. And I, for one, hate details sometimes. They give me a headache.

Speaking of details, you called Chrono Trigger "Crono Trigger" in the intro. Tsk, tsk.

-AK, who just opened himself up to chastisement for his mistakes, which are numerous

Yep, I screwed up. I remembered that Chrono got turned into Crono for the US release, but forgot that this was only true of the character, not the title. My bad.

I gotta disagree with your disagreement, Mr. Kaufmann, sir. What's the point of having time travel in a game if you're not gonna use it to its fullest potential? If you only use time travel as an excuse to go from one place to another, why invoke it at all? Why not just have different continents or cities? Time travel has a whole host of possibilities that a good story can get into, only one of which is the paradox head trip that you mention. Chrono Trigger does get into the "second chance" theme, and does it quite well, but when you consider what else they could have done, how much more could have been accomplished, I think you've got to find the game comes up short. I mean, imagine being able to go back in time all you wanted in a game - revisiting the same events (and your former and future selves interacting with those events) over and over again. That would simply kick ass.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a lighthearted time travel adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously: I did mention Time Bandits, after all. But CT doesn't even begin to plumb the depths of its home territory, and I think that's worth pointing out.

Every move you make, I'll be watching you
You're truly a sad individual. Before DQ7 came out you were telling readers it wouldn't touch the mighty FF9 in sales, that it would flop, that it couldn't survive post-FF7. And now that it's crushed FFIX in sales and is on track to become the top PSX game of all time (in Japan at least), you're saying things like "The real proof of the game isn't going to be how many copies it sells (which at this point represent the accumulated good will the game had in the past, not how it's currently seen) but what the reviews look like, and how the next DQ and FF sell comparatively." That's sad. If the reviews are good, you'll just think of another excuse, like "the Japanese have no taste (as you've already said many times before)" or "DQ7 is just rolling along on momentum" or something equally stupid. I've assembled a few of your previous quotes for your viewing pleasure:

"The fake RPG idea is really quite bright, kinda like Enix using DQ7 to make people still think they're still an actual game company", "I would call Final Fantasy superior saleswise to DQ", "Things change or die, and I don't think that Dragon Quest is gonna be an exception to that", "Imad seems to think Chrono Cross has bad graphics compared to Dragon Quest 7. I just don't think it's cool to argue with the mentally unstable" (okay, that one's not exactly DQ7 related, but I had to bring it up, especially after I bought CC and found that the graphics do stink), "Dragon Quest may be an enjoyable game, but it hasn't had the time to develop that it should probably have by this point", "Is it just me, or is it possible the traditionalist argument is an attempt to cover up a badly botched development cycle?", "...I wouldn't give a damn about DQ7...", " I foresee many screams of outrage that the game did not live up to years of hype", "DQ7 looks to be something that would have been passable back in 1997, and that's not just graphics, that's the whole package.", "But why should that translate to something that'll make up for DQ7's apparent technical faults?", "I don't think even the great Dragon Quest can stand against the evolutionary changes Square has introduced to the genre", " does make me wonder how strong DQ7 really is, if it continues this constant tactical withdrawal. The software coder in me smells a botched development cycle that someone's desperately trying to patch, ala Daikatana. Marketing departments would generally eat their own livers rather than miss a publicized ship date and this is at least DQ's 3rd, which makes me think that things were Not Good on the technical side at one point.", and "FF9 looks to be the far superior game".

Why don't you just take your FF games and stick... uh... I mean, why can't you just let DQ7 have the respect it rightfully deserves? Remember this? "I'm going to be very interested in seeing what happens when DQ7 hits Japan." It's as if you've dedicated the letters page to bashing DQ7.

Wishing he didn't waste so much time looking through old columns,

--Imad "(e)magius" Hussain

This has to be the single greatest compliment I've been paid since I've started this column, if not in my entire life. Love my work or hate it, the fact that I've made something that people makes people care enough to go digging through five months worth of old columns means more to me than any amount of "you're doing a great job" ever could. (Not that it's not great to get those too.) Sad individual or not, Imad, you've completely reinvigorated me and assured that I'll be doing this column for many months to come.

As to the actual content of your letter, looking back at the treasure trove of old DQ quotes you've come up with, I'm pleased to say that I still stand behind every single one of those statements. It's worth pointing out a few details: "I would call Final Fantasy superior saleswise to DQ" referred to both series as a whole, which is true, especially in the PSX era. I'm pretty sure I never said FF9 would outsell DQ7 in Japan, but if I did, obviously I was wrong. Some of those were said somewhat sarcastically, and should be taken with a grain of salt, but they are reflective of my attitude toward the game. I never said the Japanese have no taste, and I find the implication a little insulting. It's true that at one point I did question how much DQ7 would sell, which was foolish on my part given how many presales the game had. But we still haven't heard how much people actually like the game, Andy Church's single incomplete datapoint aside. Seeing me talk about presales not meaning anything might look like backpedaling to some of you, but I'm still not satisfied with the data we have on this one. And until we do, I'm not gonna state anything for sure one way or another about DQ7. (It's true that I've been skeptical about the game, but I don't believe I've ever out and out called it bad. Why? Because I don't know.) If the majority of reviews are good (say, 90% or higher) I promise I will admit I was wrong, but we're not there yet and I don't think we're gonna be.

What's it really worth?
(picks up new Sears Wishbook)

Eddie: Hey, the new Wishbook! Alright! Game section, here I come!

(Flips to page 830)

Eddie: Hey, the PSX2, available October 26th, alright, this is-- 550 DOLLARS??????????

- Eddie, who thinks that Cube is looking a whooooooole lot sweeter right about now.

I dunno what's going on here, except that Sears may be rather cleverly netting a bit more profit for itself. Think about it: the PS2 looks to be a very hot item for this coming holiday season, this year's Tickle Me Elmo except cooler. We already know that preorders made right now may not get you a system until next Spring, but demand for the system as a Christmas present isn't gonna decrease because of that. With the economy as good as it is, I'm sure there are tons of people who'd gladly pay $550 to get a PS2 before the end of the year, both parents and grown-up kids. Even a few PS2s that weren't presold could mean major profits for Sears.

Now, I haven't seen the Sears Wishbook, and I don't know how it works. It could be a misprint, I could be wrong, there could even be legal issues involved with what I'm suggesting. But it makes sense to me.

O Canada, the expensive
I scoff at your price quotes. When Chrono Trigger came out, the going price on Vancouver Island was an astounding $135 dollars (plus 13% tax). The only thing more worthy of my money at the time was the somewhat more reasonably priced Final Fantasy 3 ($120). Final Fantasy 2 also clocked in at that figure.

And the SNES was a scant $300 at release.

This was during a time where the Canadian dollar was worth closer to 80 cents vs. the American dollar, although remember that both countries get more or less (now, extremely less for Canada) the same wages, just in the different formats.

Richard "KZ" Knight

Ok, I admit it, you paid more for CT than I did. As I go on with this column, I become more and more aware and sympathetic towards the plight of our Canadian brethren, from expensive games to bilingual instructions to rabid moose. Two thoughts, my northern neighbors: persevere, and emigrate when you get the chance.

What is it with me and DQ7, anyway?
First I thought you were trying to prove DQ was less popular than the FF series of late... then the sales history comes along and disproves that notion. Then I thought you were trying to prove that DQ wasn't popular "any longer" and wouldn't dramatically outsell FF9... the sales figures for DQ7 show up and disprove that theory. Now you're saying "wait for the reviews."

Are you trying to prove now that DQ7 is a worse game? What will citing reviews prove, other than reviewers disliked the game? All the terrible reviews in the world won't change the number of copies DQ7's already sold. And where will it all end? If the next pressing of DQ7 CD's sells out to the last copy just like the first, will you then insist that a comprehensive poll of a representative subset of the Japanese public be conducted? Because other than sales figures that's the only objective way to know the market's opinion of a product.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining just to be a fanboy. I prefer FF more than DQ, too, and probably for the same reasons: Enix is too traditional for me and they completely dropped the ball on US presence and their latest release date. But this perpetual backpedeling and amending of statements is becoming a bit silly.

DQ is a more pervasive game in Japanese culture. It came first. It sells more copies. It always has. The lastest installment suggests this still holds true. Whether it's because of style or loyalty or anything else is irrelevant to the discussion. Why not just accept it?


Even to me, it's become clear this debate's gone on long enough. At this point I'm looking to get some definitive info on the game one way or another just to back up my original hypothesis: that the game is antiquated, and the venerable DQ developers screwed up on this one. However, I can't deny that as a series, in Japan, DQ is number one and likely always will be, if only from a historical standpoint. I'm not arguing otherwise.

Like I've said, if the reviews are great I'll admit I'm wrong. If DQ sells two million more copies in Japan, I'll admit the game is at least striking a chord among the Japanese, and admit I'm wrong. And if DQ7 outsells FF9 worldwide, once the US sales of both games are taken into account, I'll at least admit I was overzealous. But the data isn't in yet, and until it is, my advice is to clip and save this column so you can throw my words back in my face if I'm wrong. That's all for now.

Closing Comments:

Still unpacking, and it took me most of tonight to write this column. But as soon as the column's out of the way tomorrow night then 72 free hours come up, most of which will be filled with Square, Square, and more Square. So my topic for tomorrow is this: short. I'm not looking for one sentence letters here, or even one hundred word letters. But I want to see what you can say about gaming when you try to boil away all but the deepest essence. Make it profound, funny, whatever, just make it good. Later.

-Chris Jones, his soul strengthened by this victory

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