Whew. Late night, tonight.

Today's mostly fallout day from the assortment of rants and bitching I did in last night's column. I don't know why, but I just felt like spreading around a lot of ranting. Most of the responses were about Phantasy Star, one was a rather harsh rebuttal to the Sega of America rant of two days ago and the responses thereof, and others about my proposal for a weekly GIA chat session.

I've still got stuff to do, and may do a two-part col tomorrow to cover all that material more fully (not all of it's in this one, due to space constraints), but keep those letters coming, or I'll send a badger to chew off your eyelids, capice? In the meantime, here's what other people thought of what was said yesterday...

State of the RPG Union

Oye agente doble, (lil' bit o' Spanish there)

I don't know if you've ever listened to a State of the Union Adress (unlessthose things get broadcasted out of the US which seems a bit odd, and evenmore odd, or would it be odder?, for someone to watch), but I swear it lookedlike you were changing everything to RPG issues and making your last columninto a State of the RPG Union address. And it cracked me up. Or maybe I'm justimagining things...

By the way, the Double Agent/GIA chats sound great, but if you could inform apoor, ignorant AOL user, what is IRC?

Also you mentioned there were two basic truths to being a WD fan, and yet youonly named one...

And thank God you aren't going on with the llama thing. It was still amusing,but it had the potential to go the way of the crabbits.

- Jonathan S.

Actually, I ended up missing Clinton's State of the Union address, in light of the fact that I was busy writing up that night's column. Still, I guess I feel inspired to bitch about something every once in a while, and since I'm now plunging into exam period, and that makes me bitchy like nothing else. :) Still, glad it made you laugh.

IRC is Internet Relay Chat, a way of having realtime chats over the Internet. It is accessible through AOL, I might add, though I seem to recall that it was a bit of a nuisance to do so. Then again, that was four years ago, and I assume AOL has made things easier since then. For better, and more complete information of how to use IRC, check out this site. If you still have questions after that, contact me again, and I'll see about getting you running on IRC, okay?

The second truth of being a WD fan is coming later. As for the cutting off of running jokes, well, dragging out of issues and/or jokes is a major pet peeve of mine, as a columnist, a reader, and a person. I like closure to things, and in this forum, I get to enforce that.

GIA chat stuff

I think it would be great for there to be a GIA IRC chat. But there's noway in hell I would go unless its on Dalnet. Please take this letterinto consideration.

Public opinion generally seems to support the idea of having a weekly GIA chat session, and I'm up for it, so it may just happen. Channel and network choice need to be picked. The above letter is the only one that's stated a preference. I've got no problem with Dal (I generally hang out on EsperNet, but I can always open a second connection).

So, I'm thinking we can give this a go, say, this Saturday on DalNet, channel #gia, from 8 PM EST until whenever. I'll be there, I'll drag some fellow sitemates down, and we'll see what happens. Hope to see y'all there, and email me with suggestions/questions, which I'll answer privately, unless plans are changed radically. Sound groovy with everyone?

Phantastic market shares

I thought the Phantasy Star series for the Master System and Genesiswere cool games. But there were two problems in the gaming industrythat hurt the PS series.

1) A general lack of acceptance of RPGs. Many of my friends asked mewhy I played RPGs instead of "real games". Now I hear people askingwhy they don't play real games like FF7.

2) The belief that RPGs should be medieval-based. PS should haveproved that a sci-fi RPG is a good idea. Fortunately, the gamingindustry is a lot more receptive these days to ideas that break theclassic stereotypes.

There have been rumors of a Phantasy Star V for Dreamcast, which mightchange my mind about the Cinnabon. (Friendly nickname). Personallythough, I fear we won't see another Phantasy Star simply because it'sbeen so long since PS IV. If Sega wants the Dreamcast to succeed, andI assume they do, they will put out some more RPG support. Look howthe lack of RPGs has hurt the N64, especially in Japan.

That's my $0.02 anyhow.

- Michael Goff

Point taken on both your points, Michael. There's more PS stuff later on, but it's sometimes easy to forget that RPGs haven't been even remotely mainstream until very recently, and conceptions of what they can and cannot be are held with feverish intensity in some circles.

Your point about the Dreamcast needing RPGs is interesting, though. It's quite true that RPGs are top of the genre pile in Japan, and that difference probably had a major impact on how poorly the N64 has fared there. As a later letter points out, however, Phantasy Star does appear to have a pretty strong following in Japan. It's not at FF or DQ levels, mind you, but I'd put it on par with the Tengai Makyou games at the very least, and probably closer to the success of the Lunar or Shining Force games, which is quite respectable. The Dreamcast's RPG line-up is pretty good, with Grandia 2, Evolution, and Climax Landers springing to mind immediately. Lunar 3 is almost a foregone conclusion, as is an inevitable addition to the Shining series. I do wonder what happened to the much-rumored Phantasy Star V for Saturn of long ago. Was it totally scrapped, or simply delayed until technology upgraded? In Japan, certainly, it would probably sell quite well, so what happened there?

Rockin' the industry

Dear Double Agent,

I have gotten everything in ff7, except I havent figured out what thelast elixirs do. Can you help?

Also what do you think the "rock the industry" announcement from Squarewill be?

- MistaSopz

Last Elixirs, when used in battle, restore all the HP and MP of all your party members. Nifty, no? As for Square's announcement, I suspect that it may involve the announcement of a significant sequel (FFT2, CT2, FFIX or somesuch), and stating that it will be for the PSX2. This would be the double-whammy of announcing a major new game, and also having the first title for Sony's inevitable next system announced formally. That'd be big news, for sure.

Battle of the cute

Phantasy star rocks. Myau could kick a Moogles ass any day o' the week.

- Nate Moffat

Am I the only one who'd kill to see a sort of Cute Sidekick Deathmatch for video games? Chu-Chu vs. Myau vs. Mog vs. Hanpan vs. Nall! Battle to the death, or until all their fur is fluffed up so still that they can't move anymore. Whichever comes first. Granted, Nall would be at a rather huge advantage, being a White Dragon and all, but it'd be cute as hell and veyr funny for a while, at least.

All the Phantasy Star info you ever wanted

Finally, an RPG site seriously discussing Phantasy Star. The series has been very heavily glossed over by most sites, despite being arguably the second most important in RPGdom (second to DW/DQ).

The first console RPG in the world was Dragon Quest (or warrior... can't remember which) on the Famicom. But the first console RPG in the US and the UK was Phantasy Star 1 for the Sega Master System in 1987/88. It was revolutionary.

The game was huge, spread across 3 planets. The graphics were beatiful. The music was superb. The battle system was superb and the plot engrossing. The translation was awful, but that's Sega USA's trademark. To think that this game was released before FF1, you'd wonder why Square carried on developing and didn't just give up. I'm sure just about anyone who played this game first time around has fond memories of it, I know I do. It's still my all time favorite RPG.

Phantasy Star was important to the RPG industry. In Japan it was positively *huge*, spawning almost as much merchandise as FF does these days. There were OST CDs, Compendiums of art, books showing the development sheets (settei) of all the characters, 7 games for the Megadrive Telemodem (and a puzzler with Ehrgeiz style guest appearances), 1 master system title, 2 gamegear titles and 3 megadrive titles. There was also early development on an anime series of PSIV that got shelved (you can find some of the art on the web). Also, just last year a collectors CD was released for the saturn with all the PS titles on. When PSIV was released in 1994, it was popular enough to sell well despite a price of $99. The US/UK got 1,2,3 and 4. We sadly didn't get the Gamegear games, although private translations continue.

The key thing about the series is it never stopped improving on itself. FF1,2j and 3j may as well have been whacked out of the same jelly mould, but the PS games constantly improved. With each title the graphics got better, the music somehow managed to improve on the last game, the battle engine became more refined. The linked story is also a definite plus. There's more allure to playing a sequel if you see references to the past games (although not to the point where the game is nonsensical without having played the previous titles). The FF games, for all intents and purposes, could have had completely different names rather than being FF(blah). Chocobos, Espers and Imps are the only constant thing. In PS, the actions of one game directly affected the next. In PS2 one of the three planets in the system was destroyed. In PS3 you play some of the survivors on a giant world-like escape ship, and in PS4 you see the system recovering from the enviromental collapse caused by the loss of a planet.

Other things mark out the PS series. Strong female characters, for example. PS1 had a heroine rather than a hero, and there are strong women in all the PS titles. They aren't relegated to weedy magic-user/healer classes (the magic users in PS are usually male Espers). In PS1, 1987, one of your party members was non-human, 7 years before everyone went crazy over Mog. I love little Myau, a talking muskcat with lethal claws. Cutest RPG character ever, full stop. Espers are a PS invention too. In PS1 the order of magicians were known as Espers... sound familiar? The order return in PS2 and 4.

The series has been hugely plagarised. PS3 featured an innovative generations system... depending on how you played the game you could choose who your characters married, and you would take their offspring on the next generation. I noticed RPG pages touting this idea as "Brand new and innovative" when Square announced they would be using it in one of their new titles recently. PS2 featured a system where you had a group of characters waiting at an HQ, and you could choose which ones you wanted to take with you.

Also there's a Japan/US/UK poll at this address for a new PS game. Post this and get everyone to sign it! PS5 is just what the dreamcast needs... I know it would ensure at least one more sale(me).

I don't want to fill the whole page with my gibberish... just go and play the games! They're superb! BTW, are you going to add PS1 to the vault? Are you going to add *any* non-nintendo games to the vault? I noticed the influence of PS on your RPG clichÚ game... 1000 years evil, floating castles etc.

- Hahn's Clone

A looooong letter, but considering how much I bitched yesterday, I figured I'd balance things out a bit. Thanks for the info, Hahn. All of it. :) Anyhow, while I didn't grow up with the PS games like some people did (I was a Dragon Warrior fanatic in my youth), I cannot deny its importance, especially the first one, which was quite revolutionary for the time. A few details/responses, though. First off, the generational system, as seen in PS3, was also in Dragon Quest V, which I believe was a contemporary of PS3. Secondly, it really isn't all it's cracked up to be. PS3 is widely charged as being a black mark in the series, and rightfully so. You choose who your descendent will be, but the differences between them, even the endings, aren't especially dramatic. Neat idea, but on a very basic level, what are the odds that no matter who you marry, you will *always* have an adventurous son? Third, I'd question the idea that the FF6 Espers are a rip-off of the PS versions. The concepts aren't terrible similar, aside from the magical connection, and I'm quite certain that the term has been used in fantasy novels for years now.

Lastly, the point you make that PSIV sold well despite its $99 price tag is not actually true. Sega, especially in America, reported serious sales slumps as a result of the price, and I'm not surprised, quite frankly. It was easily the best of the series, and a fine game, but that price was sheer insanity, and sales did suffer. That's reportedly why Sega didn't feel any inclination to release the PS Collection for Saturn in the US - PS sales in North America simply wouldn't support it.

Phantasy Star, to me, is the quintessential Classic RPG Series. Classics are things that everyone wants to have read/watched/played, but never actually do. The PS series suffered terribly from the hardline Nintendo vs. Sega mentality of the late 80s/early 90s video gaming market. It was a poster child Sega Game, one that no one owning a Nintendo system would ever play, or even know about, in many cases. The lines of system loyalty have blurred a lot since then, but since there hasn't been a new PS game in years, it's relegated to the memories of RPG fanatics and old-time Sega junkies, for the most part. It's a damned shame, especially in the case of PSIV, but from what I can see, that's the way the cookie has crumbled.

Closing comments

Matt Elder notes that the cat-thing that gives 99 Elixirs doesn't actually exist, and that he was just yanking my chain. Gee, thanks. Make me feel stupid, why dontcha? :0

The second basic law that all Working Designs fans need to accept, for those that wondered, is that WD is a localization company. They change things in the games to make them superior to the original versions - added jokes, added secrets, added difficulty, and so forth. If you cannot abide changes being made to the original Japanese games, don't buy a WD game, because it will just drive you insane. Appreciate WD games for what they are, and you're fine. Well, okay, unless it's Shining Wisdom.

- The Double Agent

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