Let's talk about sex.

In this day and age of video game rating boards and the Mature Subject Matter label, I think it's high time that the gloves came off about sex. If game companies are going to get serious about making RPGs in particular a more cinematic, viable storytelling medium, I think it's reasonable to start taking big strides away from the innuendo and implications we generally are stuck with in the romance department. I'm not asking for full frontal nudity, here. What I'd like to see is serious depictions of sexual material and issues - does the Epic Hero believe in pre-marital sex with the Damsel in Distress? What about pregnancy risks? Do any of your party members of lovers that they miss? Do they go trawling for dates? The social lives of all RPG characters totally disappear the moment they join their quests to save the world, and that's an utter crock. Human beings have sex drives, and I'd be interested to see that addressed.

Yeah. Okay. Enough 'o that, I think. I'll just get down to the letters now...

This is why you should all love Joseph Campbell

Dear Double Agent,

I got a tremendous kick out of reading GIA's thing on RPG clichesyesterday. I was almost crying from laughing so hard. Having recentlywatched all three Star Wars movies, however, I can't help but to seesome huge parallels between the plot cliches in RPG's and the "cliched"plot in Star Wars. Now, I'm not a guy who's well read enough to knowabout archetypes and mythic elements and the whole notion that there arefour (three? five?) basic plots ever created, but there are more thanenough things here to make you go hmmm. In many cases the alternativesto using these plot elements would most likely result in an ever moreboring plot line.

-Ari Rosenbach

I snipped a case-by-case comparison of the RPG Cliches list we posted, and how they correspond to Star Wars. In any case, since you offer up that you haven't read enough to discuss the notion of mythic elements, I think it's high time we lived up to the ideals of this site, namely the "intelligence" part, and got some facts in play.

Throughout all of human civilization and culture, there are some basic ideas, characters, and stories. These go beyond the basic idea of ripping off ideas, or taking a concept and running with it. Many basic sorts of characters, icons or archetypes, as Carl Jung called them, cross barriers of time, language, culture and even sheer physical distance. They are universal, common ideas and themes from humanity as a whole.

Jung conceived of the archetype idea, but it was Joseph Campbell, a mythologist and (in my view) an outright genius who gave it its application to modern day. He took the idea of archetypes, and found instances and patterns in their manifestation the world over. He made it all fit together, unifying the idea of myth, and by extension, stories as a whole. In his most famous book, The Hero of a Thousand Faces (which any decent library should own a copy of), Campbell takes the common threads, and explains the primal form of the basic story of a hero's journey and ultimate triumph. The Hero and who he is, the Wise Old Advisor, the Underworld he must overcome, the whole bit. The hero myth archetype applies to everything from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Ys Book I and II.

Archetypes are universal themes, characters, and stories. They're part of us, as a species, and that's why films and books that exploit them can be so enduring and affecting: Star Wars did so expertly, even having Campbell himself on-set in an advisory role. But do RPGs do this, generally? Well, sort of. It's unavoidable that any storytelling medium will totally avoid archetypes, since their nature is omnipresent by definition. On the other hand, I doubt the developers of Lufia 4 will be sweating over how to follow Campbell's hero myth properly, and many artists and creators of all stripes go out of their way to avoid cliches.

What it all boils down to is that Star Wars is just the latest in a string of heroic myths that have been told for millenia, and to do a point-by-point comparison of how book or game or story XXX is ripping it off is senseless. It's all drawing from the same well. FF3 is not ripping off Star Wars. RPGs are not ripping off Star Wars. Star Wars does not hold the secrets of the universe. It's just an old story told very skillfully. If you want to really understand and find the links between everything, read Joseph Campbell's books. It's that simple.

Square sequels

I was looking at some of the sequels square has planned, first of allthey made Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2, and Bushido Blade 2. Neithergame was really good, then they announce Saga Frontier 2, and Brave FencerMusashiden 2. Where the hell is the Chrono Trigger 2, or the Xenogears 2,or the Secret of Mana 4? AHHH!

Also, when are the US releases of FFIV and FFV slated for? And how longare these intros and endings, considering the 649MB left on the CD afterthe game?

- MistaSopz

Rumors persist that Chrono Trigger 2 is in development. Seiken Densetsu sequels are purely the realm of wishful thinking, given the massive gap since the past one was released, and the total lack of even rumors surrounding it. Furthermore, developing Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2 was a matter of printing money for Square - the engine is virtually unchanged, and it sold well the first time, so why not? Square develops what they want to develop, and I guess they want to do a variety of styles and games. Hell, most of their games sell well on name recognition alone, so why give any thought to pandering to fans of a particular title or series in particular?

The FF4 opening FMV is 45 seconds, the ending is 2 minutes long, the FF5 intro is 1 minute, 53 seconds, and the FF5 ending is 2 minutes, 40 seconds. There is, needless to say, free space on the CD.

Lastly, as reported on the News page today, Square's apparently planning to announce a big-name sequel. So maybe my comments about not pandering will be made moot very soon. We'll have to see.

This sort of scares me

A little clarification on the DW3 item-It's a suit of armor that the twocat enemies (Vampire Cat and Catula) drop. It's equippable by (I think)Priests, Fighters, and Wizards.The item isn't all that good, but it does change the character sprite tothat of a cat. (oh boy...) The cats can be found in the overworld aroundAssaram, Isis, and in the cave north of Baharata, the one where Kandarshows up the second time. I hope this clears the Dragon Quest confusionup.

- Greg (Now waiting for DQ7)

Wow. A letter yesterday asks about flying cats in Dragon Warrior III, and Greg instantly knew a) what the names of the monsters were, and b) what item they drop. Wow. I knew, like, a quarter of that information. That is really impressive, and a bit scary, to boot. Well done, Greg. You get a cookie.

How to launch the Dreamcast

Hey Allan,

I gotta say I agree on the Sega thing. Not only does Sega have to contendwith getting a successfull launch, a high-power system will notneccisarrily be enough to get them the market share they want, and after 3years of financial failure, NEED. Let's not forget Nintendo's battle withSega. When the Nintendo and Sega Master Systems first came out, the NESeasily defeated the Master System. So next, Sega gets the new, bettersystem out first, but the NES suprisingly held it's own against the Genesisuntil Nintendo finally released the SNES. By then, Nintento's SNES went onto beat the Genesis, althouhg not by to much. Then, the genesis died(greatly helped by Sega CD and 32x) and SNES kept on going. It seems to methat Sony is know in the same situation. PSX beats Saturn, and Sega getsthe new System out. But Sony still has many big games coming out. And froman RPger's point of view, there are PLENTY new, good games coming out forthe playstation, that we need not worry about a lack of good games untilthe PS2.

On another note, I am not to impressed with the dreamcast so far. Rightnow, while good, it's graphics arent TOO supurb. It's a slightly buffed upN64 right now (thats IMHO). Yeah, the characters bodies are a bit moredetailed, but I'll be impressed when I see individual fingers. Not like inShen Meu , and games like, where they draw lines on. Also, it didnt helpthat the first 3 games released to recieve to good of reviews. Godzillaand....uh...the other one (I forget now, sorry) were said to have badgameplay, and be quiite boring. Virtua Fighter 3, while said to have greatgraphics, delivered the same gameplay as every other fighter, with nothingnew.

Sega really needs to set up an impressive American launch to gain themarket share they need. They, if not advertised properly, at least need toensure a minimum of 5 GOOD games. Their biggest enemy now is no longerSony, but the lack of trust they have installed in their customers and theindustry they compete in.

Buying a PS2,


The other response to the Dreamcast launch question and rant echoed the last paragraph of Locke's letter: namely, where the hell are the games? Grandia 2 was cited a few times, in particular. Granted, as an RPG/strategy/puzzle-centric site, demands will be skewed, but there's a general feeling that the DC's launch software, and what's come since, simply hasn't been up to par. It hasn't excited anyone, and that's a big problem. It needs to represent a quantum leap in quality, a gaming experience you can't see on any other system. What we've had so far, in Japan, have been good to average games, but nothing we haven't already seen done.

With Sega in America, I don't think being solid cuts it any longer. They need to earn our faith back, a piece at a time. For more thoughts, some other letters on the topic at hand.

And the thing SoA needs to do to make the DC a success... gee ... how aboutreleasing some good games? Grandia 2 is the first one that comes to mind, butthere are plenty of others that should be released that I can't come up with.If they release all the good games, they'll be back on top. But that's notgonna happen, if what they did to the Saturn is any indication.

Taura, the nanomachine man

I think Sega of America should stick to arcade games. All systems theylaunched in America bombed. Sega Master System, Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD,32X, Nomad (that was Sega? no wonder it sucked...), and the Saturn. I thinkSega would make more money if they focused on arcades. When was the last timeyou heard someone yelling out House of the Dead sucked? That's my opinion,and I'm stickin to it.

--Matt Elder

Turning the tables

So, you want a hard game question. Well, here it goes:

In what game is there a cat-like creature that you have to fight? Thecreature uses fire and wind attacks. If you beat it, you get 99 phoenixdowns. What is the name of the creature, and what is the name of the game? Iwill reveal the answer on Wednesday. Let's see if you can guess. Bue I thinkyou will never figure out the answer.... WA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

--Matt Elder

You know, this letter brings to mind two thoughts, neither of which answer the question at hand. But I'll say them anyway.

First of all, sad to say, I am not omniscient, nor do I have a photographic memory, and I'll be damned if I can remember every single monster and treasure from every single RPG I've ever played. I've played 40+ of the blasted things, and it blurs together after a while, you know? So I'm going to open a Trivia Corner in Double Agent, where I'll put those questions that I simply don't have the recall to remember. Hopefully, another reader, having seen the question in Trivia Corner, will write in with the answer, which I'll forward to the original question-asker. That way, all questions are answered, regardless of whether or not I have instant recall of a specific item, monster, event, or maze. So, as the first entry into this, I ask the readers out there to identify Matt's monster! Go team go!

Second, I've been thinking that it might be fun to hold weekly Double Agent/GIA chats on IRC. We don't have message boards, but maybe just a general chat/jam/trivia jamboree, where we can discuss the topics du jour, you can meet and greet the staff, et al. Anyone up for that in reader-land?

Controversy and old FF games

Hey Allan, I have some questions and comments for you.

1. Hey, you know what's awesome? I live in Honolulu, and I drive by the building Square is in everyday on my way to work. I feel really priveleged.

2. Why does WD keep delaying Lunar? Have they offered a real explantation yet?

3. Hey, if Square were to release the FF compilation here, would you buy it for the bloated price, although you probably already have the censored American FF4 and FF6 on SNES? If Square does release it here, I just really hope they don't use the same old translations they used for the SNES.

4. Who at the GIA is the most popular with all the girls? Don't say you, because I know that would be a lie.

- Kalahari

1. Neat-o.

2. I don't think there's a formal explanation/press release yet. You have to understand, though, that there are two basic truths that you must accept about Working Designs, if you intend to be one of their fans. Truth number one is that they delay games. They're perfectionists of the highest order - after typoes were reported to them in the first run of Dragon Force for Saturn, they went back and changed the game for future printings, making sure the spelling errors were corrected. By contrast, some companies don't seem to bother to change obvious typoes if noticed during playtesting. WD is tempermental and weird and slow as hell, and that's the way they are. They take huge pride in their games, every one of 'em, and that causes delays. Take it in stride is all I can offer. Lunar will be worth the wait.

3. Being a terrible FF junkie, I'd probably pick it up. A *lot* was lost in the translation of FF4, and since it'd be next to impossible to port over the existing translation due to technical problems, if they even have it these days, we'd be likely to see a new, and hopefully superior translation.

4. Brian "The All Night Pony" Glick.

Gathering the troops

Hello, good agent! I, Tedman, shall aid you and kevin in your quest torid this world of the evil that is the Llama! With my holy swordLlamabane in hand, I shall storm through his infernal armies with themight of a thousand storms! I shall personally lead the way to hisfortress of darkness, and, should kevin fall in battle, I will avengehis death with the blood of the Llama himself!!

Thank U Drive Thru,


Well, I've lost contact with Kevin, so you and Llamabane may be needed before too long, I fear. It's a dark time to be alive, I tell you. If things get much worse, I may be forced to go far afield, and assemble 108 brave warriors and agents to battle the evil llama. May the Camel be with us all.

Note: the llama jokes are now officially Done. This letter marks the dividing line between cute running gag and annoying, column-disrupting literary masturbation. The topic if dead. So don't bother sending further llama letters, okay? :)

Closing comments

One running joke dead, one long rant, and a question so hard, I'm crossing my fingers about the answer. Yeesh. Not an easy one. In any case, I may be making a smallish announcement later this week, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, feel free to send me your thoughts on the following subject: Phantasy Star. What do you think, how important is it to the gaming industry, why does it rule, why does it suck, and so on. Let's talk about PS. Go. Do.

- The Double Agent

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