It was a long day in the letters department.

You see, as Double Agent, I get a lot of letters. Short letters, long letters, really long letters, and insanely long letters that Ernest Hemingway would read five pages of and explode in a puff of reddish mist. Today, I received a few short letters, two really long letters, and three insanely long letters.

I try and balance letter size as much as I can, despite my long-standing penchant for not editing down letters if I can possibly avoid it, which I just think is good manners: if you wrote a long, detailed rant, who the hell am I to cut it down to what I think you were trying to say?

Some people have suggested that we run an editorials section at GIA, to handle these king-sized rants and letters. I, at least for the nonce, prefer to mix and match, with a mix of silly, short answer, and long rant style letters, with my answer lengths varying as well. I think variety gives a column spice, and I like spice. :)

So, if you read today's column, and say "man, that's a lot of serious debate", then send me a short letter. A quick question, a silly comment, whatever. Think we need a bigger debate, or need to crank things up a notch (there's a console vs. computer RPG debate lurking in today's letters)? Send it in. I'll try and keep things fresh and interesting, but if you really want something in this column, send it in. It's that simple.

At midnight, all the agents...

Hey hEy heY!Wudup Allan? I gots me some Q's, k?

1.) IS there an official release date for L:SSS? I saw some people saying 1/11/99 unless its delayed again, but all I've seen officially is "1st Q 99". Whats the deal?

2.) Why were you in a pissy mood?

3.) What the hell ever happened to 64DD (not that I'm even gonna think about buying it now)?

4. When do you think Playstation will die (as in, the industry switching entirely to the next generation)?

5. Are aware that the GIA kicks ass?

And dats about it. Keep up the good, if slightly twisted, work!

A fairly loyal reader (Zelda has been keeping me off the net for awhile now, sorry), Adamentium

1. The official release date for Lunar: SSS is 1st Quarter 1999. When that is, exactly, is up to debate. 1/11 is pretty damned unlikely, since it hasn't even been sent for final approval by Sony yet. My guess is that it'll arrive late January, but I'm an optimist. :)

2. I can't say. Kinda private.

3. It's been postponed yet again, to the point that it no longer appears on official release lists from the big N. Conclusion? I think it's pretty well canned for good, myself.

4. I think the PSX has at least one more year of life in it (it'll be top dog at least until FF8 has come and gone). The strength of the Dreamcast's launch will determined what comes next. If it's brought into the US nice and strong, the PSX will slink away relatively quickly, and be replaced by the PSX2 (or whatever) in short order. Otherwise, it may spend another year, slowly losing ground to DC and N64, until its replacement comes into play. So, I give it a solid 1999, a decline in 2000, and gone by the end of 2001.

5. I am indeed.

The wisdom of Caine

Caine here. I'm reading the letters in the column one at atime....I read somewhere that when HIDEO flashes on the screen, it'sactually a reference to japanese TV sets that just go black and put Hideoon the TV when the TV goes out. It's supposed to be a joke that PsychoMantis' powers are so strong that they are interfering with the gamereception.

I'd like to say that I believe that regarding the question on Abe's*Exoddus*(not "Exodus")if he saved(and I'm guessing that it was a memorycard save)under a meat saw/drill....if he pauses the game quickly and thenchooses "Restart Path", it'll only take him back to the beginning of thesection he's on.

And also, you guys should have covered the release of this game. Morepuzzler then platformer, and a sheer delight. And, one last thing:


Everybody who thinks Crono is mute missed a very important aspect of were seeing it from Crono's point of view. The story wasCrono's story, and you as the gamer were Crono. Everytime you said somesort of nasty-wasty word to Lavos, that was Crono speaking. When adecision had to be made on what to say, you were choosing Crono's words.It's very hard to describe what happened at the fair during the trialscene using nods and guestures. Just because he doesn't have a box thathas his name at the top, followed by dialogue, doesn't mean he's mute. Nocharacter ever refers to Crono being mute, deaf, or otherwise vocallyimpaired. During the Meat Market ending, when Crono does speak with a textbox, Lucca and Marle aren't surprised that he's talking. They're surprisedthat he's caught them comparing and making somewhat suggestive remarksabout the men in the game.

My point is that Crono could talk and did so quite frequently, but to putthe experience more in the hands of the player, did not give him grandspeeches, and problems to work out. He was the everyman, one that could berelated to every gamer, with no more reason to be on the adventure thenthe gamer had. The player IS Crono speaking as him, and that's the pointthe vast number of people miss.

Anyhow, keep up the good work.

Etiam, delenda est Carthago,


Good catch on the significance of the HIDEO thing. I figured it was something sort of like that (disrupting reception, with HIDEO being like the VIDEO message blinking on my TV when it's screwed up), but didn't put two and two together.

Secondly, I hope your correction on Abe's Exoddus reached our pal on time. As penance, I will now go to the game store and buy a copy of the game...

Your point about Crono not being mute is fair enough. However, I found that Square seemed to play up the fact that he wasn't actually having text boxes shown more than most games with mute main characters, of which there are many. By comparison to Adol in Ys III, for example, Crono had a wide range of gestures and movements, which seemed to take the place of dialogue entirely. To me, that's what made him so endearing. Despite his position as the traditional RPG hero Everyman figure, he still had a lot of personality, to the point where his physical gestures alone seemed to override his Generic Hero status entirely. He became sort of a video game version of Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character: the silent everyman that everyone seems to love. In my mind, Crono is mute, and I like him that way.

Stephen Keller returns! Zelda stuff! Hoo-hah!

In Zelda V, you can buy 10 beans and there are 10 soft soil spots inwhich to plant said beans. However, if you didn't purchase all 10 asa kid (a likely scenario, as they get expensive and you can't hold allthe money needed as a kid) you *can* go back and buy the remainingones after you become an adult. If you don't have the foggiest cluehow to Time Travel yet, check out the Temple of Time.

Stephen Keller and the evil gnomes that live in his head

Stephen! Where have you been? I missed your letters! Welcome home! :)

(Stephen Keller, and all those evil gnomes, are longtime readers and writers to me and my letters column, hence my excitement. He's a good guy. Love him. :)

Okay, my lack of Zelda expertise has tripped me up yet again. Sheesh. Someday, folks, I hope to answer a question correctly in this column...


Hey I have a question for your column. It's about something that pisses me off in a lot of games these days, not just RPGs.

Why is it every new game (especially RPGS) made has pre-age-twenty characters? Look at Xenogears, Fei's 18, Elly's 18, Bart's 18, Billy's 16, Maria's 13, Emeralda...well, N/A. What's with this? Personally, I cant see people who haven't even graduated high school saving the world. Hell, when I was 18, I um....errr....hmmm....well, needless to say, no one 18 could ever save the world. They simply don't have the experience and the knowledge needed for something like that. If I made an RPG, the main character would be around 55, with a supporting cast of characters in their forties and late thirties. (But of course, the women get to be mid twenties. heh heh heh heh.)

I mean, just think about it. Who could you see saving the world. Some high school senior who probably hasn't had the time, much less the deviotion to study any kind of martial arts, or a mid forties guy with three decades of hard fought experience behind him.

And another question: why do women in RPG's suck? Maybe it's just me, but in all my RPG's it seems they just are simply weaker than other characters. Like in FF7, have you ever seen a mire useless character than Aeris. I was glad she die'd becuase she wouldnt get forced into my party anymore! And Xenogears too. To me, Elly seemed like she was very weak physically, and her spells just sucked. And Maria needs no explanation. Emeralda was good, but she's not really a female, she's a robot.

- Kalahari

It's a long-standing heroic ideal for the young punk to change the system and change the world. With youth comes ambition and lack of settlement in the status quo. Older characters, at least dramatically, are less likely to feel the need to change the world about them, since they've been around it longer, and have adapted themselves to living in it. By contrast, the young, radical hero will have fresh and bold ideas of how things should be that they'll be more willing to work at, and fight for.

Also, there's the issue of audience identification with the character. The average age of video game players is lower than that of an average professional, and in order to maximize player identification with the character, most companies will opt to have a younger hero in play. The more they are like you, the more easily you'll be able to associate yourself with them and their struggles, and thereby get involve emotionally in the plot.

As for women in games, well, it's sort of the nature of the gaming industry. Video gaming is primarily a male-dominated industry, both in player and developer base, and some distinctly sexist attitudes and practices have resulted from this. Like you say, women and girls in RPGs tend to be weak, excelling in magical power in best-case scenarios. There are some exceptions, but the trend is there, and quite unfair at best, apalling at worst, and only perpetuates the situation of gaming being a sexist, male-centric activity, which needn't be.

A hell of a lot of ranting

Heh. I think I just found someone that rivals ME in long complaints. =P

About Seltzer's view on Chrono Trigger:

I understand the age problem but I don't know how many other gamers outthere really dwell on the fact that the characters they are controlling areyoung in age. Is maturity the problem? To me, ADULTS in RPGs can behavelike children as well. Take Final Fantasy VI for instance, the one linethat I REALLY stands out in my head -- even till this day -- is Tina/Terra'swhine about wanting to know what love is NOW. I don't know about you buthow mature is THAT attitude? It sounds like a little child throwing atantrum of some sort. Granted, it could be the translation but I don'tthink the age of playable characters should be a determinant indiscriminating against a game. Afterall, if dialogue is written well, whocares how old or young our heroes or heroines are? I certainly didn'tdetect a horrid sense of immaturity from any of the characters in ChronoTrigger (well, Marle's a bit borderline on that one =P).

"Second of all, there's the plot. It's extremely cliched, which wouldn'tbe much of a problem, except that it's also incredibly predictable."Um ... most, not all, clichÚd stories are incredibly predictable. In fact,that's what MAKES them clichÚd. =P Besides, predictable for you might notbe predictable for others. One must understand that originality is veryhard to come by -- always has and always will be.

"... the usual answer is that the computer RPG has the plot set outside thegame, while the console game intertwines around it. If this is so, why are theUltima games considered standard computer RPGs?"

I gave the line I quoted above to around 6 of my friends -- ALL of them havea different interpretation of it. Maybe if someone can elaborate or re-wordit ...? ^^;;; And, uh, just a little aside here (since this almost brings back the wholeargument of whether console games are better than PC games or not ^^): Mostconsoles RPGs we play are from Japan. Their writing style is different,their approach to this genre is different, and their mentality is different.Also keep in mind that they're made FOR the Japanese audience and not usWestern fans. Computer RPGs, on the other hand, are largely Western. As afriend noted, we are more "stats driven". To me, CRPGs aim to keep thestats emphasis of traditional pen & paper RPGs while Japanese RPGs give moreattention to plot and character development. In this sense, it's almostlike comparing apples and oranges. (I guess this is why you have theextremists on both ends. ^^) Now back to the rest of the letter. =P

As our Agent has pointed out, Ultima is probably the definitive RPG seriesin PCdom. Every-so-often, you will read a review of an RPG stating thatit's similiar to Ultima in gameplay or in other aspects. If it's not atrendsetter in stories or combat engine, it is in interface. =P So manygames by various companies -- large and small -- have borrowed The FalseProphet's (U6) overhead view (this was a revolutionary change for the Ultimaseries then, but the interface was short-lived. Well, it DID live on withthe Ultima counterpart series, Worlds of Adventure. Yay.), then thefull-screen map, large character sprites, and mouse-driven world of UltimaVII: The Black Gate, and even Pagan (U8)'s dreaded interface was adopted(and I commend Blizzard for re-tuning it for use in Diablo. ^_^). Heck,even the Ultima Underworld series was a landmark in terms of design. Pointis, labelling Ultima as a typical computer role-playing series comes fromthe fact that Origin makes this series a leader in its genre. ^-^ Now let'sjust see what's going to happen with Ascension; will it be the Tomb Raiderof the RPG world? Lord, I hope not ...

[Re: Ultima I - IV]

You know, sometimes entering the keywords got VERY tedius. For example,typing Name, Job, Blackthorn, Lord British, rumor, and shrine 100 times eachor so is not the most appealing way of getting answers from NPCs. In thissense, I prefer the method used in Ultima 7 onwards. =P

"... (well, in U7+, they just provided the words for you). People who had nobearing on the game whatsoever could be talked to for a long period of time,each one having a fairly distinct personality ..."

I have to disagree with the distinct personality and long conversation time.Most of the dialogue consisted of 1 - 5 sentences -- and not very long onesat that. In fact, the scripting made the characters seem like automatons.It doesn't help that most NPCs react in an indentical fashion. Ultima VIwas a bit better where you get people responding to keywords in a morerealistic manner -- i.e. their dialogue doesn't consist simply of: My nameis Iolo. I am a Bard. My wife is Gwenno. I like crossbows. etc. To go astep further, Ultima VII broke this monotonous droning by providing eloquentand elaborate responses for almost every NPC. However, to be frank, I doubtI can go back and play Ultima VII Part I or II nowadays after experiencingconsole RPGs (^^). Afterall, the sheer bulk of hours spent in this game isfrom conversing with characters that spew out answers that rivalShakespeare's soliloquies. å_å And like most in this generation, I'mimpatient. =P But other than that, Ultima VII: The Black Gate (and evenSerpent Isle) is a fantastic game, IMHO. ^_^; I simply adored how everytown and city had its own mini-quest for the Avatar and his or her party toundertake.

Sorry, for this longwinded mail but "Ranting like there's no tomorrow"happened to touch upon my favourite RPGs (CT and Ultima VII ^^) as well asthe fact that there were a few topics that needed another point of view. ^_~

-= Kouryuu »E ôg›· =-

Oookay. Quite a lot to digest here, some of it only faintly on-topic for GIA (Ultima games past VI, being PC-only, aren't really on our focus list), but what the hell. Good to hear an opposing view, even if it does completely dominate the day's letter batch. ;)

I'd ask anyone sending responses to this to only respond to the Chrono Trigger and console vs. computer RPG sections, please. I left Kouryuu's letter uncut, since I don't cut letters unless I absolutely must, but I'd appreciate keeping computer RPG-centric discussion to a more appropriate forum in the future. Thanks.

The Baron's estate

You lying sack of maggot-infested flesh! How dare you usurp my name? How dare you belitte my line, my pride, my family? I am a Zemo! I am a master of the world! A master of evil! Quote me again at your peril, Double Agent. I am watching you, and I will remember your name well...

- Baron Helmut Zemo

... right.

Four days and counting, my friends. Wisdom like you've never seen it will soon be shared with you. Wisdom... and naked iguanas. Wait for it. Four more days.

- The Double Agent

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