Double Agent
Keep it simple - September 2, 2000 - Andrew Kaufmann

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. A one-two. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Today, my school (Southern Methodist University) unveiled its multi-zillion dollar stadium, and it is an awesome sight. It's a great stadium, and it brought out the entire school. First time since I've been here that there's been some genuine sports excitement. It was great. What's my point with this? I'm not sure.

Magus shmagus


Chris didn't print this, but it desperately needs to be said, sending it to you. This is in reference to a letter from one Kate Sith, a couple days ago. I was reading the column, and found something incredibly disturbing. I quote "Frog made sacrificing Magus worth the trouble (helllooooo, Glenn!)..." Yet, Chris didn't comment on it. Worth sacrificing Magus, so that Frog can regain his human form for five seconds in the ending? How screwed up is that!? Here we have probably the only RPG where the badass villain joins you, and it's worth losing him? For Frog to become human again, and lose the coolness inherent to a gallant, knightly frog? Speaking as a villain myself, that hurts. A lot.

-The Neocount of Merentha, Lynx and loving it.

Just as much as Magus is one of the cooler villains, many consider Frog to be one of the coolest heroes. And for him to turn back into Glenn is a great moment. To each his own. The beauty of Chrono Trigger is you can replay it, still have fun, and get that alternate ending.

Debate is fun

everyone who debates , in the USA, whether DQ7 or FFIX is better , is lame. none of you have played it. wait til you play both games. going over sales figures means next to nothing. so to all of you dorks out there debating these 2 games... wait til it comes out and get lives. hah!


Dude, without these extended arguments, this column would be reduced to me yakking endlessly about guitars and giving relationship advice (the surefire way to slow overpopulation: listen to AK's advice on girls). So, I think it's in everyone's best interests that we keep debating. Besides, we can have a nice fun debate and still have lives. I think. I'd like to believe I have one. But maybe it's just a fantasy.


Hey AK,

someone brought up Chrono Cross' graphics on Thursday, claiming they stink. Someone wrote back on Friday, saying that no CC's graphics are the best he's ever seen on the PSX (who cares about their sorry names; details, schmitails!). Well, CC's realtime graphics aren't the worst graphics I've ever seen on the PSX. However, they are certainly not the best: that honor goes to Vagrant Story. Don't get me wrong, I throughly enjoyed Chrono Cross, but I didn't go in looking for great graphics, anyway; I was busier figuring out the story, enjoying the gameplay and the gorgeous music. BTW (opens a can of worms), what is your overall take on the exposition of the plot? I figured you'd have finished it by now....

Princess Jemmy

I think the two are on par graphically. Vagrant Story and Chrono Cross are far different art styles, and thus focus graphical processing power on different aspects of graphics. For example, Vagrant Story's backgrounds bored me to tears. But I think Chrono Cross's are absolutely wonderful. Of course, that's also a reflection of my preference for vibrant scenes, as opposed to more moody earthen shades.

I have actually not yet finished Chrono Cross (how sad, neither of two letters dudes are keeping a very good pace on new games). You know how it goes, you get busy with stuff, you have to write papers for school, you spend your time sliding down carpeted stairways on your stomach (don't try this at home unless you have a firm stomach and chest and don't mind rug burns, and promise not to hold me responsible for any injuries), and before you know it, it's column time again. Oops.

I haven't finished Vagrant Story and don't plan to. Don't get me started on that game's battle system.

Make your own RPGs

I want RPGMaker, and i want it now.

"A person who wants RPGMaker" Kramer

Well, if you really can't wait, you can teach yourself C coding, become a graphics, coding, and music whiz, find a lot of spare time that probably doesn't exist, and make your own RPG on your very own PC! It shouldn't take you more than a few years, at most, assuming you move at a brisk pace.

Someone that doesn't like Chrono Trigger

Yes, that old game again - Chrono Trigger.

It has a pretty good battle system. It has very nice graphics. Cool effects sometimes (like that bike race...). The gameplay is also simple and comfortable. The music is simply superb (for lack of a better superlative). So, why do I think it's the worst RPG I've ever played? Because of the story. I'm not talking about the whole time travel deal. I never even thought about it, actually.

There's a stupid, silly story. Childish characters with hardly any character development, bad plot twists (Look! He's dead! He's alive! Now he's evil, now he joins your party!) and a worse storyline. Admitadly, FFIV managed to create even worse plot twists and find a stupider final boss to fight, but that doesn't mean to say that Chrono Trigger didn't have those idiotic problems as well.

It's an enjoyable RPG, if you can't read. Unfortunally, most of can and we are forced to read the mindless drivel that the game designers thought of as a story.

Zohar Gilboa, who's sure this won't get printed,if not for Chrono Trigger than for FFIV.

If you're looking for advanced sophistication in a plot, then no, Chrono Trigger is probably not for you. Above all else, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV have an intangible element we will refer to from here on as "charm." The stories had original elements but weren't brilliant treatises on humanity; the characters were neither examples of the human condition and the inherent struggles therein or complex Freudian subjects intended to demonstrate the weakness of the id. They're video game characters. They had enough to draw me in, keep me interested in them, and let me have a good ole time with the game. They were charming in their simplicity and stereotypicality (is that a word?).

Insist on complexity and mental stimulation? Try your local library. Video games like Chrono Trigger are designed to appeal to many ages, and not necessarily intellectionally stimulate the haughtier members of its audience.

Let's overlook the fact I'm an English Literature and Creative Writing major and assume I am able to read because I am replying to your letter. I think Chrono Trigger is a good, fun game. Sorry to be the one to disprove your hypothesis by providing a counterexample. Perhaps you should try shuffleboard.

Where's the DQ7 reviews?

Yo AK,

What's up with this DQVII debate? Chris already said it, the fact that this game was on preorder for three years or whatever means that anyone who was even remotely interested would have had plenty of time to preorder it and get the money. It's kind of like when you see an accident on the other side of the road. Even if you don't care, everyone else has slowed down to look at it, so you do too. The fact that so many people bought it before there were any reviews out for it mean that people bought it just to have it, not because it was a great game. When Famitsu gave Vagrant Story a 40, people bought it because it was supposed to be a great game. The thing to do here is wait to see what the reviews say. Any why the hell aren't there any yet, isn't that a little telling?

--The Steve

I believe reviews are slowly starting to come in. I believe, though I could be mistaken, that we haven't seen reviews yet because Enix didn't provide advance copies to press. Thus, the magazines had to go out and buy a copy like everyone else and are still playing through the game, writing the reviews, and getting them published.

As a side note, here in America, when a movie doesn't have an advance press screening, it's generally an indication that the movie stinks and the makers don't want the bad press to leak until after opening weekend.

Defining the RPG

Hello! A while back, there was much fuss going on about how to actually define what makes an 'RPG' an RPG. I have taken some time to think about this matter, in part because I have been writing an article to post on the site which is following the development of my own anime computer RPG, Kokoro Wish. (It's at, in case anyone is interested.) Making a game forces some thought about what games are, or at least it should do such. Doing that article made me revisit this common G.I.A. topic. I have something to say about the issue now.

Sometimes it seems that most folks concentrate on the obvious characteristics of an RPG....the battle system, the degree of item manupulation and management, the type, style, and quality of graphical pizazz, and, well the battle system. Always the battle system. Kicking ass and grabbing loot. Raising those stats. That's another one, all the fuss about raising statistics. I remember reading in the column the claim that 'changing stats' define the RPG as a genre. Poo, I say.

I reason that the truly, definitively important activity, the core element that makes an RPG what it is, is to communicate with everyone and everything. I claim this is the most important, defining portion of any RPG, because the one thing that truly sets an RPG apart from any other game genre is not -- as some folk have proclaimed -- the ability to change stats or to shuffle items, or to kick monster the one thing that puts the 'ROLE' in a Role Playing Game is story. Dialogue. If you really examine the RPG, the role playing game is a form of theatre. It is a story, and the only way the player knows what role they are playing is by what is said, who says it, and why. An action game has plenty of fighting and collecting, and a simulation game has changing statistics aplenty, but only the RPG makes storytelling the focus, the heart, the reason for playing the game. An RPG is a work of theatre, a play, a novel, with some game mechanics wrapped around it.

In point of fact, that is what I believe to be the definitive definition of the RPG, which I present to you:

"An RPG is a work of theater combined with some form of game mechanics."

I think this also should put paid to the debate about whether RPGs are 'art' or not...of course they are! An RPG is a stage play, a television show, a film, a book, put to dice or computational algorithm, and it shares in whatever art is accorded those less interactive media. Perhaps the current state of the RPG is still at the level of travelling 15th century fool shows, but I truly feel that the Shakespear of Games is waiting in the wings. It will happen. It certainly won't be me, and I do not think it is even the folks at Square, yet. But Shakespear would not have existed if not for the fool shows. Gaming is in it's infancy, RPGs are very simple still, but primitive art is still art, and it can move a soul, or change a life. That's good enough for me.

Jennifer Diane Reitz

Oooooh... very well said! I'm duly impressed. Except you mispelled Shakespeare, which bums me out a little. I have to deduct cool points for that. But besides that, those are some very well thought out points. I award you with some major props.

Closing Comments:

You know the drill. Send letters!

-Andrew Kaufmann

Recent Columns  
Double Agent Archives
I want email!
DA FAQ is here. It really is Chris' thing, and doesn't really apply to days that AK hosts, but is great reading nonetheless. And this link really looks cool, so I don't want to delete it just because I don't use the same rules.