And lo, the flames died down with great expediency.

Things are a bit calmer in the letters today. One last letter wrapping up the whole level-building debate, and a pretty calm one at that. Good thing that this little Agent was trained in bomb defusing, eh?

Some of you may also have noticed that GIA hasn't been responding properly for you. Taking forever to load up, when it loads up at all, and the works. We apologize for that. Sadly, there was some difficulties with the server, which appear to have been mopped up now, so everything is keen-o now. Hopefully. Feel free to pull a Dooley Wilson and knock on wood, though. Couldn't hurt.

Lastly, those who check the main page before treating themselves to this column, he said with the utmost modesty, will have noticed that SCEA will be bringing the PSX version of Grandia to the US. In response to this, I say YEEEEEEE-HAW! I think, for one, that the game looks fantastic, and has received superb reviews, so I'm very pleased to see it coming stateside.

Looking him dead in the eye

Alright, Vestal! Fess up! How the heck did you get Steve Gray to comeand sit in your living room and conduct a psuedo-interview with you? Andis all that stuff you guys were saying at the beginning true, or did youjust put that in as comic relief (like you need it)?

Just curious,


The interview with Steve Gray was conducted via the Internet. We used the roundtable format rather than a straight log to make it more easily readable and interesting. And everything sent there was actually said/sent. Nothing was fabricated. Well, with the possible exception of the parts where AK discusses his sex life. That's fictional...


Reis is an incredible character, despite the seeming insignificance of herabilities. Her regular attack WITHOUT weapons, a double punch, does littledamage, but it has a good (40-50%) chance of inviting any monster (not justdragons) it's used on. This not only saves you a lot of time getting trickymonsters like Uribos or Hydras, it can save your life in that last battlewith all the Tiamats and Hyudras. Give her a useful second ability (Item?)and she's a very helpful party member out in the wild.

Well, here's a conversation thread I thought had died out quite a while ago. Nothing much to add, except to remind everyone that, in future, if you want to address something addressed in an archived column, *please* cite the date of the column, so I (and the readers, if the letter is printed) can catch up. Thanks.


Hey Allan, it's good that your back, because I have more important questions for you. (and an offer for another of the GIA staff members to read)

1. Hey, I was playing Terranigma the other day, and there was a character supposed to represent the games designer. He made a comment about another game Enix was working on, Illusion of Gaia 2. Do you know if this game ever actually came out, or if it was some kind of weird inside joke for the Enix guys? Because if it was released even if only in Japan, I would be very interested. IOG 1 was a fantastic game, after all.

2. Hey, tell AK I will pay $3000 for Stalin's ashes in his sock. Communism rules, baby!

3. Why does everyone argue so much about level-building? I think you should just level up if you need to, and don't if you don't. I mean, what's the big deal? You spend an hour fighting bad guys. I mean, isn't that the purpose of having battles in games in the first place? It's not really a very important subject, and I think our energies could be devoted to other more constructive projects, such as parading around outside the Square building with signs that say "US Gamers want the FF Collection now!"

4. Have your mad secret agent skillz always been devoted to legal pursuits like gaming? It would be a shame if your talents werenever used properly in the Mafia. You could make a good bodyguard, y'know. Or maybe an assassin.

5. Hey, Konami should make a Metal Gear Solid 2, but the enemy wouldn't be Liquid Snake anymore, It would be Gas snake. He and his friend Plasma lizard would get together with all their trippy friends from all the forms of matter and then take over the world. That would rule!


1. Illusion of Gaia 2, to my knowledge, never manifested in any form, and is unlikely to. Enix seems intent on diversifying their games line-up (within reason; Dragon Quest is being milked as always), and a sequel doesn't exactly speak of diversity.

2. AK says no, he wants to have the iron man of Russia down near his corns for ever and ever.

3. Well, some of us consider level-building to be something very important and worth discussing, whether in favour of it, or against it. Moreover, even if you could get enough people to fly down to picket Square's offices, do you honestly think they'd change their policy on the basis of a few people with signs?

4. I don't do the killing and maiming thing. I traffick in... goods... on the side, though. Just ask for the D-Man...

5. Groovy, man. Maybe you could have a lava lamp item that's make the whole screen go rainbow-colored and trippy. That'd be stylin', daddy-o.

Squall's necklace

Do you know anyway I could get my hands on a Squall necklace... no matter whatthe cost?

Well, I don't think it'll be officially produced any time soon, so my suggestion to you is that if you really want it, you'll have to get it custom-made. Some small-time jewellers and craft stores will, if given proper source material to work from, make custom jewelry. I did this once as a Valentine's Day gift, and while it was a less intricate design than Squall's necklace, it might be doable. Shop around, and see if anyone in your area will be willing to craft one. Of course, it'll cost you a pretty penny, but hey, if that doesn't matter, it's worth asking.

Conspiracy theories

Dear Double Agent,

I have an interesting theory regarding Square's impending sequel announcement. I'd like to point out that my theory has absolutely no basis whatsoever; it's pure, unbridled speculation. The formal introduction of a sequel to any of Square's franchises would rock the fans, but it really wouldn't "rock the industry." What would? Think laterally for a moment. Square's upcoming announcement may not be information about a new sequel, but about a lack thereof. The announcement of the end of the Final Fantasy series would easily "rock the industry" as purported, and the timing is perfect. If Square announces the end of Final Fantasy now, it will coincide with the release of Final Fantasy VIII, which would be the last in the series. It's possible. Just a thought. But I hope I'm wrong.

- John Dvorak

Oy vey. That'd... suck. I don't think it'd happen, as Square wouldn't be suicidal to kill a very profitable series just before the movie would be coming out, but it certainly would rock the gaming industry. I hope you're wrong, but it's an interesting idea.

As assortment of nuts and bolts

Hey There Allan,This letter was two whole days in the making...

1) What do you and the staff think of the whole Thrill Kill thing? EAbroughtout Road Rash and Sketchin' did it not? They're also part of theIDSA...Why can't they produce it, let alone sell it to someone else? (I'm hopingthis isan applicable kind of question since TK might not be considered a 'smartgame'but the issue is one that effects every game.)

2) I heard somewhere (Reliable?) that FFIX was going to be based on the Final Fantasy Movie...?

3) What kind of PSX Memory card do you and the staff use? How many doyou have?

4) I was going to make this a question about how Square was once said to 'Have the potential to be the biggest 3rd party developer in the world'but then I read your Steve Gray interview and suffice it to say I thinkthey're pretty much already there...Wouldn't you agree?

Sucking on peanut shells in the dark,

~Ian P.

1. Having briefly played a bootleg copy of Thrill Kill, I'm ambivalent about its cancellation/suppression. On one hand, I'm very, very anti-censorshop, and am outright appalled at how the ratings system for games has proven to be next to useless. What's the sense of having a Mature rating if companies will cancel a game rather than endure it? On the other hand, there's the issue that I think TK is a pretty lame excuse for a game. Gameplay-wise, it's on par with Fantastic Four, so I'm not shedding too many tears over its cancellation. Basically, I'm glad it was canned, but don't agree with why it was canned.

2. No confirmation on that from any official sources.

3. Most of us use the official Sony-issue memory cards. I think most of us have one or two. I've got one. I was going to pick up a second, but figured I'd save my money to pick up a PocketStation when it comes out instead.

4. Well, I'm not sure if they're the biggest, but they're coming damned closed. I have to wonder how their sales volume measures up, on average, to the big boys like Namco, Konami and Capcom. Those three rake in a lot of sales worldwide, whereas most of Square's cash comes from Japanese sales. Square may be the biggest third party developer in Japan, but I think either Konami or Capcom takes the world prize.

Long questions with short answers

Bonjour Allan *cheesey French accent not included*. I have a few pointsto make and I'd just like to here your views on them. Ok here goes:

1. Being parodied is a sign of the utmost respect. Whether with qualityor not (GIA has quality BTW) it shows extreme popularity. Wierd Al hasmade a career of changing popular songs. Just look at a whose beenparodied in the past: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saturday Night Live, andnow the GIA (OK its a very incomplete list). Feel the pride. Absord therespect. And keep writing the best pro-communist letter column on the net.

2. About the term hardcore. Its just that a term. Nothing more sincemost people define it differently than the guy next door. Some insist youneed to be over 15 to be hardcore, some say you need to have been playingRPGs out of the womb (for younger gamers) to even be considered, and somejust say you have to agree with them. People ASS-U-ME their OPINIONS areright and we all know what those are good for.

Sadly though I'm woried about the state of the RPG crowd. Whether theywere playing Adventure or started with FF7 thye people reading this columncan probably all respect what an RPG has and should continue to be IMHO. I, however, overheard a discussion in computer class between two people Ireally didn't know about FF7. To make a long story short they said theyloved it because of the "action" in it (I thought that was a bit strange) then they went on to talk about how there was too much story and they hadto read text for 10 minutes (that did it for me, it was a semi-major sceneon the train *not sure which*). I'm just worried that Square and othercompanies will start to make RPGs based on the views of people like thisleaving from its roots and forming games of blitz dungeons, 1 paragraphtexts for major events, and plenty of FMV smothered on top.

3. Ok I'll try to make this short. As characters loose individuality inmost mainstream titles (luckily ToD had plenty) the party size getssmaller. Since now you can build up super characters will one characterRPGs like PE become more common? I think the original size of the partymay have been to allow a broader range of skills to your party but withpeople that do everything where does that come in? Where do you stand?

- Josh Justice and his holy legion of imbeciles

1. I think the GSA (Gaming Stupidity Agency) is one of the funniest things I've seen in quite a while, and am deeply flattered to be mocked with that much style and panache. Bravo. All they need is a letter column where the author constantly discusses his sex life, cocaine, and promises to update daily, then disappears for eons, and you've it's a full-blown mockery.

2. See the new Deep Thought. It, too, goes into the land of hardcore and old-school gaming, and I broadly agree with the sentiment expressed there. However, I wouldn't worry overmuch about major companies molding their games to fit a more action-oriented style. FMV proliferation is inevitable, but companies will do what has proven to be financially successful, and in the RPG industry, that's the FF7/FF8 model, pretty much. Love it or hate it, it's the new standard and commercially successful style, and it can and will be copycatted.

3. I think there's places for single-character RPGs (Parasite Eve, Ys, Zelda if that counts). It tends to work especially well in action-RPGs, since it again places the emphasis of gameplay, not just plot, upon the skill of the player, not a computer-controlled party member. On the other hand, a traditional RPG just isn't traditional without a larger party. I tend to prefer a larger, more transient cast of seven to ten characters or so. Any more, and the characterization tends to suffer. Less can be fine, but too few and I find that the action tends to get tedious, with the same balance and tactics used time and time again. Games with good-sized cast include the Lunar games and Dragon Quest VI. The best handled large cast I've seen was Xenogears, where all the characters got a pretty substantial amount of time and were at least somewhat useful, with the exception of poor old Rico.

American RPGs are everywhere


I thought I would write in a do a little talking about American RPGs. The fact of the matter is, there are dozens of really good American RPGs out's just that no one acknowledges them. Oh, yeah...did I mention they were free...?

The simple fact of the matter is that many American RPG fans literally go out and make their own games on their computer and release it over the net. Sure, we all have visions of the perfect RPG bouncing around in our heads, and we all would like to see them a reality, and some of them eventually do become reality. With programming tools a plenty out there (i.e. Verge or The Wandering Hampster) it's not really a big surprise to me that people are finally realizing their gaming dreams. These programs are mostly designed for the non-programmer, with each offering different levels of "point and click" interface for making games, depending on your skills.

True, while some of these games are just thrown together in a day or two just to have a presence in the market, a good lot of them are actually quite thought out, due to the fact that this is someone's OWN RPG and they want it to be quality. So, before anyone begins bashing the American market, perhaps they should look at the whole market, non-profit and all. Maybe they'll find something they like.

-Aaron Littleton

Fightin' the good fight......occasionally

Point taken, Aaron. However, I would suggest that most readers of this site would probably be discussing console games only by default. And, by and large, American-made console RPGs are quite rare. Still, if someone is reading this, they obvious have some sort of computer, so I'd encourage them to check out some of the smaller game development groups that are scattered around. As you say, odds are that they'll find something to like.

Closing comments

As an aside, there's a new Deep Thought today, courtesy of Red XIV, discussing old-school gamers and level-building. I thought it an appropriate cap for all the debates running through this column for the past week or so. Hope you enjoy it.

- The Double Agent

Deep Thoughts
Red XIV discusses old school gamers
Return to the Archives
Everything you ever wanted to know about games (and asked)
Tell me you want me