Double Agent
Short and to the point - September 1, 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. Yes, the short letter thing was a way to get through the column quicker. But can you blame me? Don't say we didn't warn you.

At least, short and to the point was the idea before I started going through my mail - then I figured out that I've got far more letters that deserve printing than usual. I'll see how much I can get done before CC's event horizon sucks me in, but for now, let's get to it.


Nothin' but ones and zeroes
Gaming, at it's deepest essence:

I don't know how that collection of microchips, programming language, plastic casing and electricity can make me stay awake for hours to see how nonexistant characters overcome nonexistant problems in a nonexistant world, or how they can create people I can laugh at, or feel sad with, or feel excited about, or feel anticipation for, or enjoy spending time with...but they do.

Enjoy Chrono Cross, Chris.


Probably the same way a nation can be created with the stroke of a pen, or value can be exchanged in bits of paper: we live in a world powered by ideas, and ideas are like icebergs, extending only a small way into the physical world. Ones and zeroes become heroes and villains, mere electrons show uncharted worlds. Pretty damn cool, I think.

Pihrana are a very tricky species

Games are like your Grandma's goldfish...they're fun to play with for a while, but eventually you get tired of it.

-Agent X "but then grandma gets a baracuda and it's back to playing again!"

Uh... ok. Sure, whatever, don't have time to argue about it.

"All you zombies..."


I must strongly agree with AK (and very strongly disagree with you) on your opinion of Chrono Trigger's treatement of time travel. I'm a "hard" sci-fi buff and have read just about everything canonical on the topic. I'm also a big fan of time travel movies, be it the wacky Back to the Future series or the headache inducing paradoxes of 12 Monkeys. Chrono Trigger, however, more closely apes in style another underrated time travel classic: Bill and Ted' Excellent Adventure. Laugh if you must, but Bill and Ted had a very simple modus operandi: time travel should be possible, and time travel should be fun. FUN. I'm going to quote here from my History of Console RPGs for

"Chrono Trigger's big gimmick is time travel - but not the highly serious, parallel-universe, butterfly-effect time travel that makes most nontheoretical physicists break out into hives. Chrono Trigger serves up the sort of lighthearted, temporal fun found in finer Saturday morning cartoons everywhere. This carefree atmosphere leaves you free to enjoy the various time periods and the small touches placed by the designers at every turn."

Chrono Trigger was consciously designed to be, above all things, enjoyable. Chrono Cross has the same "don't sweat the details" attitude towards interdimensional travel, and is all the stronger for it. You say, "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 say, Hell no it would not. It would be a confusing, unfun, headache-inducing mess. Chrono Trigger is not just travelling through time -- it's out-and-out *romping*.

You say, "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." Not at all. Chrono Trigger set out to be enjoyable, fun, and, oh yeah, involve time travel. As such it succeeded admirably. Saying that all time-travel stories have to 'fully exploit' the conceit is as close-minded as demanding all RPGs have medieval, fantasy settings.

- Andrew Vestal

Now the question is, should I be pleased that AV and AK find my columns worth reading and writing in to, or should I be concerned that at least two of this site's illustrious founders disagree strongly with me?

It's worth pointing out that I only meant Chrono Trigger came up short in regards to being a time travel story: in all other aspects the game is superb. I'd no more completely condemn CT for not having enough paradoxes than I'd condemn Final Fantasy Tactics for not having enough full frontal nudity. It's a great game, I'm not disputing that.

But looking at the game as a time travel story I do think it comes up short. I think Bill and Ted comes up short as a time travel story too, although it's a great movie. I think The Simpsons as animation hasn't been that great, for the most part, although I'll fight any man alive who says it's not the greatest comedy in the history of the world. For me, time travel is about paradox, it's about breaking the laws of causality, it's about trying to cheat time and fate and destiny itself and rewrite the universe as you want it to be. Chrono Trigger does have some of that, and does it exceedingly well for a video game, but it doesn't mine the territory as deep as other stories traditionally have. So what? Big deal! I'd like to see a "confusing, unfun, head-ache inducing mess" tried out as a game, but then, I used to program Windows for a living. I stand by my statement that the game isn't the best time travel game possible, but I also stand by my statement that CT's a great game. The one shouldn't affect the other, regardless.

I play games to impress girls, why else?

sorry, it might not happen. You might need another weekend.

I think it can be finished in about 30 hours if you don't stop and do any sidequests the first time through...or something. I wouldn't know, as it took me about 45 hours. Hey, if you really do finish it in 3 days, then I'll consider you a hero... (though my attention span these days is really you're looking at most at 2 days of hero worship) Not so fast though: you'd have to prove that you did finish it ;)

Princess Jemmy, tired, cranky, needs some sleep... at least it got you short and sweet; now go and finish that game, mister!

Yet another incentive to finish the game this weekend - I can use the accomplishment as a pickup line. "Hey baby, I finished Chrono Cross in 72 hours. Wanna come back to my place and see my... save file?" Between that and my completely authentic gold-plated Brent Spiner-autographed Star Trek communicator pin, if I don't impress the chicks, nothing will.

I fancy myself a "BSEE"
If you didn't like Chrono Trigger's treatment of time travel, you're not going to like Chrono Cross.

You seem to be (scratch that, you ARE) the type of person who is exceptionally hard to please, which seems to be true of most (read: all) vid-game columnists who fancy themselves "software engineers." It just reeks of jealousy, as if to say "if I were on that development team, I SURELY would have done a better job with the material." I've seen it time and time again, including the now-infamous Daily Radar review of CC. After reading through that guy's totally unfounded opinions of the game, I come to find out that--surprise--he worked in game development as part of some crappy Star Wars title that no one liked. It truly does seem like those who know a little coding have a deep-seeded resentment towards others who excel at the craft and produce some of the best games we play. Now it's carrying over into the DQ7 debate. Like the guy in today's letter, I prefer FF over DQ as well, but you seem to be blasting the game simply because it's more traditional, and you find that insulting as a "distinguished programmer" who, if given the chance, would blaze all kinds of new territory with the DQ franchise, I'm sure.

Forgive the harshness, but by nature I write with the same sort of sarcasm as you. It can't be helped.

I honestly hope you enjoy Chrono Cross. It's a fantastic RPG, and I'm sure you will appreciate its innovation in a number of areas. I just hope your perfectionist time-travel hang ups do not prevent you from relishing the total experience.

--Brad G.

Um, case in point, I am a "software engineer". Got the framed degree from an accredited institution of higher learning, the resume, and the pale skin tone to prove it. But I'd never say that I could program a game better than a game developer - I know people who make games for a living, and they work insane hours for pay that makes a grad student look wealthy.

What I will disagree with developers about is the literary and thematic direction a game takes, and yes, the development speed and quality, but all those are judged from the standpoint of a long-term dedicated gamer with a decent understanding of how things work, nothing more. The day I begin talking about insufficient requirements modeling with regards to FFXI is the day I bring my engineering education into play, and that's also the day you have permission to shoot me.

Not enough polar bears, either
Emigrate to *your* country? Bah. We Canadians have noticed the alarming lack of good beer and rabid hockey fans in the States. And you guys never have enough good canoe chases on TV!

Anyway, I have a consumer announcement. That thing about the PS2 being $550 in the Sears book is crazy; it has to be wrong. I work in a game store and we just got the info about the PS2 last week. We're selling it for $450 Canadian. Sears is ripping you guys off.

- Kate

Good to know. Thank you for your Canadian insights, ma'am, and enjoy your temperate summers.

Funny, I know that the GIA team has a documented bias against Dragon Quest VII (Ed McGlothin's "defense" of the GIA's lack of DQ7 coverage is prominently displayed on some DQ fan website that is raising awareness of the game, it's not my webpage so don't complain to me), but I wondered what this fuss was about, so I read JT Kaufmann's letter printed yesterday. Apparently he's making the judgement that because FF9 was ranked higher than DQ7 for a while on Famitsu's most wanted list, that FF9 is more popular than DQ7. Now JT may know a lot more about Japanese gaming than most, and I am certainly envious that he lives in Japan and I don't (although I am going to be taking trips to Japan starting next year), but I am afraid that his statement might have a little problem with it.

Regardless of JT's japanese market knowledge, the Famitsu charts are not representative of the entire gaming industry in Japan. The majority of Famitsu's readers are more active active gamers (shall we even say, hardcore?) who play video games often. These people are also typically older teenagers to adults as well. Therefore whoever's sending in votes for the most wanted lists, the votes are only representing this demographic, and not the entire market.

What am I trying to say? The games simply cater to different crowds, and Final Fantasy IX happened to appeal to more Famitsu readers than Dragon Quest VII did. This despite the fact that FF9 sold mainly to hardcore gamers due to the nature of the title's advertising and content.

But the fact is, sales prove popularity. Pokemon is the most popular franchise in Japan currently. Final Fantasy is up there when it comes to a single traditional RPG series. And now Dragon Quest VII has proven that it still outsells the current Final Fantasy game it's competing with (in this case, FF9).

What i'd like to know is why you keep insisting on coming up with reasons for why Dragon Quest outperforms Final Fantasy. You predicted the game would sell like crap, then when you learned of the preorder numbers (DQ7's 3 million vs FF9's 1 million), when we saw FF9 do poorly (in comparison to FF7 and FF8), you quickly changed your vote, saying you meant that FF10 will kill DQ7. Now that the GIA has seen Dragon Quest VII sell 3 million copies in only a week of release (which may or may not have been better than FF8's performance, I don't recall how fast FF8 sold) and has to eat their shoes because of their predictions of the market rejecting the game because of its graphics (pssh), I guess you guys will start saying that it doesn't deserve to be mentioned next to the FF series on account of the traditional gameplay or some other kind of excuse.

By the way, you have said that a lot of people living in Japan have not been impressed with Dragon Quest VII. How much of that correspondence is actually Japanese, and not just a foreigner imported to the country for work reasons? Better yet, how many of them can actually read Japanese and are not just playing the game blindly? If you can't answer these questions honestly (and have to resort to lying <- Drew Cosner's speciality), then don't bother posting my letter and replying to it.

My Playstation died so I've placed an order for a new one (a Japanese PSX). I'm going to have to find time to go over to my friend's place to try out Dragon Quest VII. I'll send in impressions to this column then.

Normally I'd feel compelled to stand up for all my friends and colleages impugned by Des... er, I mean, Mr. Gab... um, this guy's letter. But then it struck me that by and large the facts speak for themselves - you, the gaming public, know the kind of show we run here, and how we run it, and that's why we get the kind of numbers we do and the kind of respect we do. Drew's legacy is more than secure, he doesn't have to worry about any after-the-fact mudslinging, ditto the rest of staffers mentioned. And yet JT Kaufmann sent me an excellent letter, (totally unaware of this one, by the way) one which refutes a lot of the complaints here quite well, so I'll let him spell it out and move on.

...and response
Hey -

With all of the DQ7 talk that's been going on, I thought I'd throw in my two cents/yen worth, however clueless they may be. Word on the Japanese message boards is that DQ7 is very traditional, has decent music, and has a very good (and very, very long) story. Those are the good comments. The bad continually point to the lack of innovation and the horrendous, outdated graphics (which were apparently optimized for the PS2, leaving the game looking like dogmeat on the normal PSX), including disappearing polygons. Word on the street is that people are very pleased with the game, and don't really have any problems with it. What does this say? It says that we're obviously dealing with two different audiences here.

A while back I pointed out that FFIX had topped DQ7 in Famitsu's Most Wanted chart. Now, think about who sends in the reply cards with their most wanted games - it sure isn't Mr. Average on the street, but the "hardcore" gamer (notice the quotation marks there). Likewise, little Miyuki-chan who owns a PSX and three games for it isn't going to go onto the Japanese boards to rant and rave about how much the graphics pale in comparison to [enter Squaresoft game here]. Instead, she's going to play the game, like it, and remember how much she liked DQ1. Basically, something to take into consideration is that Dragon Quest is part of Japanese culture and society at this point - a lot of people will buy it simply because it is DQ, and not because Famitsu gave it XX score. Simply put, DQ attracts many people that aren't normally gamers. Granted, Final Fantasy has become a part of Japanese society as well and attracts some of the same audience, but you simply don't have the history behind the FF series that DQ commands.

So what is the end result here? Well, as it stands, DQ7 is selling like crazy, and while the people who play a lot of games are walking away slightly disappointed, little Miyuki-chan and the rest of the "general public" is thrilled. Print reviews of the game, which should have started three weeks ago, have yet to appear, which isn't a good sign, but then, these same magazines turn around and give the game a 30 page feature. The game is taking a decent beating on the Japanese message boards, moreso than the Final Fantasy titles have taken (face it: no one is ever totally happy with any game, and will always find problems), but not so much so that people should skip over it. DQ fans will find all of the things that they have always loved in the game, and people who never played any of the titles will find a solid RPG.

Enix set out to make a Dragon Quest game that the average Japanese (and not necessarily the hardcore gaming otaku) would enjoy, and the way I see it, they succeeded.


The ironic thing is, this letter, which should have been supporting "my side", ended up kinda faulting me on a lot of the things I've been saying for the past few months. I still want to see more information on the game, but to get things started:

I may have been mistaken about Dragon Quest 7.

" 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 "

*blinks* Uh...what? I think our friend Imad has a little explaining to do...such as how could he find CC's graphics anything but mind dazzling? They stink compared to what other game's graphics? Why are the graphics bad at all? I mean, I can understand if he doesn't agree with the character designs, or the whole image of the game, but the graphics themselves are simply beautiful. Quite frankly I don't think that any other game on the PSX compares to it. I mean, just look at the white dragon, in real-time. You could almost swear that it's FMV material.

*ahem* Anyways, I find it slightly unsettling that our friend here simply threw that comment in his letter without even explaining his opinion.


Still haven't played CC, so I couldn't make comment on that statement yesterday. But AK has, so I have no problem sparking a debate on this and forwarding it on to him. Enjoy, amigo!

Once more, call...
Dear Agentman:

I recently saw a huge article on DQ7 in Famicom magazine.

I recently bought "RPG School 3" for the PSX.

I recently realized I could -make- DQ7 on RPG School 3.


Jere, Lord of Pendragon

I liked this, but felt that yet again I had to put up a counter-opinion as the next letter.

...and response
Praise for DQ:

I like DQ. Yummy, froody sundaes and banana splits.

Of course, it's not my fault if the counter-opinion letter makes no sense at all.

Mr. Freeman's opinions postponed

Here I was, ready to reveal my thoughts on DQVII, and DQ as a franchise in general. Here I was, ready to type out an idea I had for a Chrono Trigger sequel years ago that would delve into time travel much more than its predecessor. But, playing the game myself, I must respect your desire to be alone with Chrono Cross for a good long while, so my thoughts will have to wait. In the meantime, check out this insultingly lame revelation!

I find it extremely satisfying to mop the floor with all challengers in a good fighter.

I find the story events and character development of an good RPG well worth any tedious dungeons that may need to be suffered through.

With these two statements in mind, I've just realized that any game that incorporated emotion and character into a game in which I could whip someone's ass man to man would rock my world. And no, the mystical journey in the story mode of Shaq-Fu sure as hell doesn't count, you masochist.

Whoops, this was a bit longer than I had hoped. Back to Chrono Cross, then!

Justin Freeman

Sounds like someone's looking forward to The Bouncer as much as I am - a strange sentiment, coming from someone who's supposedly my Arch-Nemesis. But I agree - the badass quotient and feel of a fighting game combined with the systematics and plot of an RPG would be very damn cool. I always wanted to give the Samurai Shodown RPG a try, and hopefully Square's first major PS2 game will give me a taste of something similar.

Four truths, no waiting
Boil down gaming to its deepest essence? Okay, here it goes.

Final Fantasy is overated in America.
Dragon Quest is overated in Japan.
Chrono Cross kicks ass where ever you go.
And Vagrant Story didn't sell nearly as well as it should have.

What more do you need to know?

~Dr. Uzuki

Man, there you go again, cutting to the heart of the conflict and resolving all our enjoyable little skirmishes. See if I invite you to the next console war we have.


Hey, what the hell do you think your doing? Shouldn't you be playing Chrono Cross? Well, don't just sit there. Go on..........go......come on......and don't give those puppy dog eyes not going to work this time.

Someone Who Cares

*hangs head sheepishly*

Yes, Mom. Sorry, Mom.

Closing Comments:


-Chris Jones, too busy to write a tag line

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