Double Agent: the letters column that thinks it's an editorials section.

I really seem to draw out the long-winded aspect of my readers. The letters getting sent to this column are getting longer and longer with each passing day. I feel like I'm the choreographer for the ending sequence of An American in Paris, without the benefit of Gene Kelly's good looks, charm, and talent.

On a somewhat related note, I was unfortunate enough to see a number from the Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, today. If I didn't have a column to write, I'd very likely have slashed out my eyes with a rusty fishhook right then and there. I'd like to play a Lord of the Dance game simply so I could take control of Michael Flatley and kill him over and over again in various horrible ways. I'd like to draw razor wire through his urinary tract. I'd like to atttach a rabid, hungry wolverine to his groin with some duct tape. I'd like to stuff a live blowfish down his throat, then inflate it with a bicycle pump once it's caught in his gullet.

Maybe I should answer some letters first.


Hi, folks! Great site! But anywayz, will Grandia on the PSX be dubbed orsubtitled? When you DO find out, can you people post something about it?I'm a FURIOUSLY against English dubbing. Great titles like Shining Force3 and Brave Fencer Mushinden were soured to the point of no return! Iknow I'm exaggerating a bit, but I'd love to play my games without my earplugs shoved right into my brain. Games should stick to their true form!Panzer Dragoon Saga was a top-notch, even with the subtitles. Is Americatoo scared to read? I don't even want to start commenting on dubbing onanime and Hong Kong movies....I played the imported Grandia (better thanthat crap Final Fantasy 7!) and it was the best! I'd hate for it to fallvictim to horrible English dubbing. Sorry, but America is decades behindJapan in the voice acting department. Also, what's up with the censoring?

- Jademist17

Ah... no letter is complete without a random snipe at FF7. I've really got to stop encouraging this sort of thing.

Anyhow, we don't know whether Grandia will be dubbed or subbed. But really, the fact of the matter is that it will almost certainly be dubbed. Companies prefer to have product on the market that doesn't constantly slap people in the face with the fact that it was made in another country. Moreover, the number of people who actually care whether a game sticks close to the original is hilariously small, so why would any company risk alienating those that don't like subtitles (and they do exist - I dated one), when they can reach a broader audience with dubs? Good dubs sell. Crap dubs sell. Xenogears' sales didn't suffer because of the crap dubbing. Neither did Brave Fencer Mushashi's. So why would any company do subbing, having to pay for the substantial royalties Japanese seiyuu (voice actors) require? Just slap the paperboy into a studio, have them belt out the lines, dub them within three seconds of the lip movements, and you're done.

Some companies work hard at getting good dubs - Konami did a bang-up job on Metal Gear Solid, to my mind. But most couldn't care less, and they've got no reason to start. So, odds are, I'm afraid you're going to be using those ear plugs. Sorry. That's the sound of money talking...

The RPG market speaketh

Hello again Agent,

I just recently (really recently) sent you a micro rant about StarOcean: Second Story not being noticed by the gaming market. Now thatI've had time to cool down and really look at what I said somethingcomes to mind: I've said this before. But, it's more than that, LOTS ofgamers have said it before. Am I not right in thinking that one of thekey arguments for American gamers is our 2nd market treatment when itcomes to RPG?

Looking back it seems that America has been the "me-too" kid. We seethe development and progress of the video game industry and wonder whyit never took off here as it did in Japan. It's a terrible feelingknowing that sometimes wonderful and in-depth works don't every get athought for localization. I cheer for Crave Entertainment in they'reattempt to develop a good American console RPG. Heck, recently therehave been a number of interesting titles in the works from the westernmarket. But it still feels like hand me downs.

I honestly believe that the American market can be more dynamic forsome the larger games producers, if they did try to mainstream the gamesmore. Take Square's Secret of Evermore: A decent title, a bit award butnot bad for a first time development. But they canned it, pulled backsupport and denied anymore growth because it didn't do as well as FinalFantasy 6. (Admittedly there was more going on between Nintendo andSquare at the time, but still...)

If there is going to be any development of the RPG genre thecompanies need to take more risks, keep trying, and talk to the Americanbuyers. Feedback sometimes can be very productive, heck look at whatWorking Designs does with it's fans. For all the gripes, the fans stayloyal! (Even me, who would like to hurt some the people working onLunar. But, that is another story.) It's a wonder how little theyactually talk to us. Yet in Japan there are Cons, gameshows, and evencontest to determine super villains. (Remember Rockman?)

All I can say is we can't give up. Keep trying to get theirattention. Petitions, e-mails, snail mail, or whatever. Just don't stopis my motto. If we just sit quietly and buy whatever they give us theprocess will continue. I believe what little progress that's out therenow is because the diehard fans kept trying. RPGs need support andreview. It makes you wonder if the producers read all the fan web pages,I'll bet you they do. Maybe they learn something from us. I can onlyhope.

Joe "I'll get off my Soap Box now" Meyer

See, I'm a bit of a cynic in this respect, and I firmly believe in the unstoppable, overwhelming power of the Bottom Line. Emails and petitions are all well and good, but it doesn't speak as loud as sales records. There's a slew of people who really hated FF7, but it still sold extremely well, so FF8 is going to follow its example. The last few times Enix marketed a game in America, they got thrashed, so they're antsy about releasing games here in the future. There's a point where companies can and will ignore the portion of the gaming populace that cares enough to tell them what to do, and will just do whatever works. Whatever sells is the best indication of what the gaming public wants.

On the other hand, some companies can and do respond well to public response, and it really doesn't hurt anything to give it a whirl. But it's a gamble, I'm afraid, and until RPGs begin to sell like sports games or Nintendo titles, I'm not sure how much clout the fanbase can really muster.

As for Star Ocean 2 not being noticed by the US market, well, if you read news stories about it, you'll notice that there's no official confirmation of its release. Consequently, gaming news sites have no screenshots, information, or alpha versions to work with. It's hard to entice the gaming public with a title alone, and that's all Star Ocean 2 is at the moment.


Hey, Allan. A few questions and comments.

1. When you have a 29 character e-mail address for a person who answersletters for a gaming webpage memorized, is it a sign you need a life?

2. In FF7, Cloud occassionally hears a voice in his head early in the game("Watch out, this isn't just a reactor", "Back then, you could get by justwith scraped knees", etc...) This voice appears one last time in Junon, thentotally vanishes from the game. I've always interpreted this voice to be Zack(although that doesn't make too much sense, the things sort of sound like whatthe SOLDIER would have said). What do you interpret the voice as?

3. When the major innovation in an RPG being released for the N64 is money,is that a bad sign for Nintendo's ability to have good RPG developers?

4. Here's my opinion on people who feel that RPGs have been ruined by FF7'swide audience: Many people DID buy FF7 simply because they saw the cool FMVfilled commercials. However, about 80% of those people decided that RPGs suckbecause they don't have enough action and have too much reading, and didn'tbuy other RPGs. The other 20% discovered RPGs through FF7, and are just likethe majority of RPG players now. Do you agree?

5. Which of the Chocobo musics in any of the FF games is your personalfavorite? FF7's Electric De Chocobo was pretty good, but my fave is stillFF5's Mambo De Chocobo.

6. Am I the only one in the world who pronounces Chocobos "Koh-koh-bohs"?

Well, that's about it for now..

Owner of the Berserkins,

The Elephantine Gutless Wonder,

The Person Who Gets Really Pissed When Allan Messes Up The Carriage Returns InThese Titles,

Daniel Seltzer

1. Nah. Now, reading all the mail that comes into said address, that's a sad state of affairs...

2. I interpret it as being one of his split personalities making themselves heard, sometimes in a self-preservation style, sometimes reminiscing, other times... just weird.

3. Nintendo has totally screwed up its RPG development support for the N64. The games are few and far between, and the most prominent one (Quest 64) is utter crap.

4. I think this is very likely. There's going to be some drop-off between the audiences reached by a big-name, well-publicized game like FF7 and the average game in the same genre, and those that keep buying the product are very likely going to like *some* aspects, at least, that all RPGers prize.

5. Is Electric de Chocobo the one where it sounds like beach music? Whichever one that is, that's the one I love the most. God, that makes me laugh.

6. I dunno.


There's been a lot of discussion of changes in the RPG genre lately. But as far as I can tell, it all comes down to two basic theories.

1) "Old Skewl" and "newbies" alike should be dancing with joy that somany companies are working around the clock to make RPGs. Instead ofgetting maybe 1 or 2 RPGs a year, there are so many that no saneperson could ever play them all. We'll never be without a good RPGagain!

2) RPG veterans should curse the day Final Fantasy VII came out. Since then, all sorts of gamers have been demanding RPGs start lookingmore like action games with FMV and no plot. RPGs, as we knew themfrom the days of Dragon Quest, will become extinct.

These are both rather extreme examples of the two opinions out there. But I should bring up two points that, for some reason, not manypeople have considered yet.

First, we are making a mistake associating modern RPGs with FF7. Many, I'd say most in fact, RPGs that have come since FF7 are moregameplay-oriented and challenging. Take a look at FF Tactics, Kartia,Breath of Fire III, and Tales of Destiny, for example. These gamesshould prove that RPGs in general have not changed as much as someveterans believe. All these games are not offshoots of FF7, butrather games have been popular and abundant in Japan for years. Theonly difference is that more companies are willing to release them inthe US.

The second point is that the two arguments I listed above rest on oneassumption: that RPGs will remain popular as they are now. I simplyfind that hard to swallow. Remember how popular fighting games becamein about 1994-95? That certainly didn't last very long, but many RPGfans feared their favorite games would become extinct in favor ofaction and fighting games. Now that FF7 has put the spotlight onRPGs, why should we expect that the industry will stay like that?

So the big question is what will happen to RPGs if/when they losetheir spotlight? Will they go back to rare, challenging, games thatmore closely resemble Dragon Quest? Or will they go the way of FF7 intheir movie-like appearance? Not to speak for any other veteranRPGers, but I like both styles and would be sad to lose either of them.

I think you're overstating how big a boom the RPG industry has seen in the US. They're a bigger industry now than they ever were before, but they're still a far cry from going toe-to-toe with moneymaker genres like sports, much less fighting games circa 1994. What we've seen recently is market expansion, not inflation, so I doubt we'll be seeing a radical change within the next while, thankfully.

More directly, RPGs have always been king in the Japanese gaming industry, which is where the games are produced, so I don't see development being impacted if RPGs somehow lose their spotlight in the US market. Things will continue on as always, with some games being ported over, and dozens more being left in Nippon. Some will be old-style games with lots of random encounters and super deformed characters, while others will follow into the cimeatic, FMV-using style that Square uses. Things will change and stay the same, as always.

Making of Lunar

Okay. Yesterday while I was purchase my copy of CastleVania64 at EB, I saw that I could pre-order Lunar. Since I am a great lover of the Sega series, I decide "What the bloody hell, why not?"

So, I preorder the game. The man behind the counter told me that it will be $54.99. "$54.99!!!" I said surpisely. "Why?" Well.. he explain to me that it will have a making of lunar CD plus a leather map and the soundtrack. Well, I can tell what the map and the soundtrack will be but what is the making of Lunar CD? Is it like behind the scences shots of programmers typing away?

- Ben Mo

The Making Of CD in Lunar's package is a collection of interviews, probably a mix of video and audio-only, with those involved in the development and translation of the game. The producer, the director, probably a WD writer or two, voice actors, and so forth.


A few thoughts, just quickly and in no particular order: Um, Illusion of Gaia 2, to the best of my knowledge, IS Terranigma. Thetimeline of games in the series goes something like thus: SoulBlazer,SoulBlazer 2 (Stateside as Illusion of Gaia), SoulBlazer 3/IoG 2 (orTerranigma, which never made it here).

As much as I hate to say it, the general audience of gamers, whether role-players or other, lower-level thinkers (no, that's not to insult anyone on anylevel. It's just more than likely true...) have been recently introduced togames that try to say that reading is not exactly the greatest thing, thatit's better to actually play the game than read anything. Now, most peoplehave a limited attention span (once again, not putting anyone down here), andthat would include mostly males. Those people who have such aproblem/disease/anything you wish to label it, normally like those games thatgive them more of an in-your-face-fast-as-lightning type of ride. I would loveto say right now that the newer RPGs/any other genre are trying to solve thisproblem, but there are only a small handful of games doing such a thing. Icite Metal Gear Solid and Xenogears. Metal Gear played out very well, greatstory, etc. The problem is, if you've heard all the dialogue before, it's likea kick-in-the-mouth. There's nothing important, nothing new, nothing worthwasting your time over. Most people will just skip that text and get on withthe game. I suffered from "Heard this, it's boring" syndrome as well, and Ihave what I consider a high attention span. Xenogears was another game thatsuffered from the same thing, although it isn't because I've already read thetext before. It's because it doesn't seem to affect me in any way. After thehalfway point (in other words, the second CD), the programmers seemed to havedecided that there wasn't any point to giving the player a chance to level up,running around dungeons/battlefields/etc. They just had Fei (and the otherunmentioned character for those who haven't played it yet) explainingeverything from their viewpoints, hoping that it'll all sink in. When thathappened, I still read the text, but it didn't matter quite as much as it hadbefore the second CD, seeing as I had no control over where and when I went,no chance to level up, no chance to really live as the characters (for lack ofa better word). I read it and, although some I can remember, most of it waslost in an oblivion of stupor.

Too much ranting, must stop before my head/fingers/eyes/other miscellaneousbody parts either blow up or become crippled.

- EllipsisKnight

Well, the original letter-writer clearly stated that the message about Illusion of Gaia 2 was found in Terranigma, so clearly Terranigma isn't IoG2. You don't talk about The Neverending Story II that's "coming soon" in the middle of the movie itself. So, whatever Terranigma was supposed to be, it apparently wasn't Illusion of Gaia 2, according to the original letter-writer, at the very least.

As for the overlong cutscenes and dialogue... I agree, to a point. I appreciate that we're getting plots that require that amount of dialogue to explain nowadays, but on the other hand, it does get sort of tedious to read through the nineteenth text box in a row. All things in moderation, says I.

I goofed

Oh I just wanted to tellyou that Square produced squalls necklace and soldit at the Tokyo game show. I'm not sure if it was in fall or spring butits in one of my PSMs somewhere...

- Josh Justice

This is correct. My apologies to the original writer. The necklace originally cost roughly $150, though, so don't expect it to be cheap. There's a possibility that Square may release it to the public once the game is out (they've got the molds set already), so I'd hold off on searching eBay and the like for a month for one.

American RPGs are everywhere

I just want to ask you to clarify something for me. When you say you thinkFIX may be a direct sequel to FVIII I was wondering if by that you meant youthought it would be like Um... what was that game... Was it Shining Force 3?You know the one that had three screnarios each one staring a differentcharacter, but still evolving around the same story. That was hard tounderstand ,eh?

Basically do you think that FVIII and FFIX will be the same story just fromthe viewpoints of a different main character?

The Loveable Snot,

Evil Gokuh

I believe the speculation that was posted here a few days ago said that FFVIII and FFIX would be, in essence, like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, yes. One game would be played out through Squall's perspective, the other through Laguna's. Of course, this is all speculation, so don't hang your hat on it or anything.

Closing comments

And that just about does it for today. My apologies for another late night update. I ended up doing some on-the-spot RPG trivia answering, and it postponed my intended column posting time. I'm aiming for a 7-8 PM EST update tomorrow, though. Assuming, of course, that I get good letters. He said hintingly.

- The Double Agent

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