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Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Oh yes, it does. It also appears to be the only thing I'm watching next week on TV, as the rest is in reruns. Such is life. Anyway, today we've got ten letters, the first of which has an amusing side to it that you might not know. But don't worry, all will become clear. Since we're back to what I like to call a 'normal'-sized update today, I'll keep my intro short.

Yes, that's all. Go read.

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The letter without a letter

Hey chrono.. i was reading your latest mailbag, Eternal Recurrence, and i have a question..

(blah blah FFXI blah etc etc)

~Shuten

Chronologist:
So, interestingly enough, someone informed me this letter also got sent to them for some reason, due to my being 'an asshole' who wouldn't respond. Let's quote something from the FAQ, shall we? The second question clearly states the following:

Keep in mind we get many letters, and sometimes it may be a few days before you see your submission in the column. Rest assured, you're not being overlooked, and except in rare cases, your (most) letters will be put up eventually.

See, I tend to put up letters in the order I get them. It's very possible, as it happened here, that I had enough letters for an update before I got to your letter, and it was set to go in THIS update, as it has. Unfortunately, your method of going around to other board members/Mailbag submitters and complaining about how I seemingly singled you out doesn't sit well with me, especially when, again, this is explained perfectly in the FAQ, if you cared to read it. I got the letter 2 days ago, and there's only been ONE Mailbag since then, and you're whining that it wasn't instantly put up? I think ~someone~ thinks the world revolves around them here. And it ain't me.

But hey, if I've been branded an asshole, let's make it so. You wrote in something about FFXI... something that's been mentioned in RPGFan and other site's news, which is how I knew it. So hey, I found out the information, you can too. Good luck answering your question.

 
Take two with a glass of water

Hi Chrono,

The Dezo quite enjoys the topics. And this one about name changes is another one that resonates with me.

As I'm sure everyone around the 'Fan knows, my favorite RPG series is Megami Tensei, in particular the Persona trilogy. The name changes in Persona 1 irked me to no end. Not only name changes, but the character design changes in Persona 1 did NOT sit well with me at all. (Some spoilers to follow). You'd better take your valium, 'cuz thar be some ranting ahead.

The US version of Persona gave all the characters American names like Nate, Alana, and Mark. And nobody had a last name. Everyone's hair color, save for a couple, were also changed. They changed the name of the city from Mikage, Japan to Lunarvale, USA. And Mark (Masao Inaba in the Japanese version) did a reverse Michael Jackson and became black in the US version.

Another thing I didn't like was that a lot of the Personas were given new names. Like Nate's starter persona was named Voodoo, when it should be Aizen Myouou- who is a deity in Buddhism. Mythology features prominently in MegaTen, and for many of the Personas to be renamed like that was just...wrong. Persona 2 kept the persona names true to their mythological origins, although the Stuparideth thing still irks me- it's Stymphalides, dammit! At least get the Greek mythological names right, since those are most well known.

This made for some awkwardness in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, which kept the setting and character names true to Japan. The recurring characters had to keep their US names. So we'd have a few Japanese natives with names like Ellen Kirishima running around. Definitely awkward. It's a good thing Mark wasn't in Persona 2. Hair color changes can be explained easier than a skin color change. And how can one explain the major character shift from Lunarvale, USA to Sumaru, Japan?

So I'm sure you know my stand on this topic. The US version of the game should stay true to the Japanese original as far as names are concerned. This should apply doubly so for games like Persona where the original setting IS Japan. I'm just glad the godawful translation team for Persona weren't around for Persona 2: Eternal Punishment...although changing the name of the CD store in EP from Giga Macho to Seedy CD- ick!

Bottom line: When releasing a Japanese RPG in the US- keep it true to the original.

-Blademaster Dezo

Chronologist:
Wow, I never knew most of that. I've heard of changes in names before, but that's just taken to an extreme there. Changing deity names is also kind of... well, odd. I think Japanese-ish games really should also stay true to their Japanese version, without being Americanized. It would take away too much of the culture and [insert country] feel.
 
Rampant confusion

Dear Chronologist,

For the most part, I think when a publisher has changed the name of a game upon its domestic (US) release, there has been a justified reason.

In the examples you listed, FF IV and FFVI were renamed FFII and FFIII in the US to avoid confusion (and the bitterness of the early fans who would've wanted to know what happened to the missing titles). RPGs had not yet mainstreamed enough to warrant the release of the intervening titles. FF IV and FFVI were masterpieces of their time, and their value even in a developing market for RPGs was easy to recognize.

So, in order to keep them associated with FF I and minimize confusion, they were released with the numbering they were given. Re-releasing the titles under their original (Japanese) name/numbering on the PS didn't seem all that deceptive to me. I believe it says on the back of the box what the games were originally domestically released as. Besides, so many current RPG fans never even cared about the FF series until they played FF VII because of all the hype associated with it.

Tales of Eternia was released as Tales of Destiny II purely for marketing reasons. Namco wanted to maximize the sales of the game, and having a very direct association to the original title couldn't hurt (even if there was no direct connection to the story).

Now that there is a ToD II different from the US title of the same name in Japan, things get a little more complicated. I think when and if the game is published in the US, giving it the title ToD III won't be questioned by most (we'll just be grateful they decided to localize it).

FF Tactics and the FF Adventure games are the final example that I can think of where the title would be misleading (I realize I'm probably ignorant of many others). Again, this was purely for the sake of marketing. The FF series had created such a fan base, that attaching the FF trademark to any game could greatly contribute to that title's success (even in the early days).

Finally, I think most informed gamers are aware of a game's original title and its connection (or lack thereof) to its series/trademark. Personally, I think the quality of the game itself matters much more than the name they decide to give it. Publishers have only their reputations to lose by attempting to attach a successful trademark to too many bad games.

I think you're going to get a lot of similar responses to this week's theme. Hopefully I said something worthwhile so my contribution doesn't get lost in the clutter. Anyway, take care and keep up the good work!

Regards, Vi

Chronologist:
So, in order to keep them associated with FF I and minimize confusion, they were released with the numbering they were given.
I think, in the long run, the best way to reduce confusion would have been to just keep all the names the same. If they had, yes, people would say, 'What happened to 2 and 3?'. Instead, once FFVII came around, people were forced to ask, 'What happened to 4, 5 and 6?' Either way, it was the same problem, so they might as well just released 4 and 6 as 4 and 6. So I think anyway.

Namco wanted to maximize the sales of the game, and having a very direct association to the original title couldn't hurt
Actually, from my understanding, ToD didn't sell well at all in the US, so their reasoning for wanting to build off the 'success' of the first makes no sense at all.

FF Tactics and the FF Adventure games are the final example that I can think of where the title would be misleading
Well, those are both different stories. Tactics did use many things from the FF universe, from item names, to Chocobos, to the job classes introduced back in FF1, 3, and 5. In that regard, I think using the name worked well. Adventure and the Legends games were actually Seiken Densetsu and SaGa games, so in that case, you're right - the FF name was added in the US to maximize sales. I'm not fond of it, since I didn't know the story behind them back then, and had no idea 'Secret of Mana' was actually second in a series. Pretty confusing for a 13 year old not heavily into industry news and all.

 
I wonder if we should get some Clearasil...

Hey Chrono!

Obviously everyone knows about Square reuniting with Nintendo. Personally, I have no problem with it as long as neither system gets exclusive titles. To tell you the truth, I have a GC and a PS2. But I'd rather play the games on my PS2 only because I prefer Sony's controller over all the rest.
Is it true that the PS2 will still be Square's leading platform?

What would be really cool is to see Nintendo and Sony team up and pop this zit on my ass I call Microsoft.

- Audrey Kalchik

Chronologist:
Just curious... if you'd rather play games on solely the PS2 since you like the controller more, why did you even buy the Cube?

As for exclusives, that's a bad thing now? It only makes sense for Sony and Nintendo to want exclusives on their own systems, to give players a reason to purchase their console. If all games came out on all systems, there'd be no point to multiple ones. Exclusive or not, as long as games come, it's a good thing. Since you own both, I don't think there's a reason to worry.

 
Five dolla, s...er... yeah.

Chrono,
I keep forgetting that you're the guy that does the _graphics_ for RPGFan. No wonder you wouldn't like MUDding. Ya graphics whore.

Topic 1: Game Change/Removal

I really don't care if a game is changed or has portions removed. I'm never going to play the original japanese release and understand it. Unless you told me that something was missing, i'm not going to miss it.

Topic 2: Square/Nintendo getting back together.

I really don't care here, either. This was like seeing your hot ex-girlfriend making up with her hot boyfriend before you. It was destined to happen. I am happy to be seeing handheld Square games, however.

Topic 3: MUDs.

MUDs rule.

Topic 4: Shipping Online

Why is shipping so damned expensive? I just bought a 13.99 shirt off of cafepress.com, and it cost me 13.50 to ship the thing with 2-day delivery!

Topic 5: LucasArts Adventure Games

Where'd they go? All of a sudden LucasArts stops making their EXCELLENT adventure games to devote more resources to cash crops. The bitches. I want an adventure game where a character voiced by Gary Coleman asks his mother to install cannons on the main character's ship which happens to be crewed by a man named "Haggis McMutton". Phew.

Topic 6: Arcades

Why is it that they disappeared? I live in Las Vegas, NV, and the only arcades are in casinos and the Gameworks. I want to find a nice, cozy place to play pinball and Tekken Tag.

Topic 7: Why i write so many topics at 1:30 in the morning.

Who the hell knows.

There's my rant for the day. And remember: I'm not crazy, i'm eccentric.

-KeeperX

Chronologist:
1) Ignorance is bliss, eh?
2) Should I ask why you find both the fictitious girlfriend AND the guy hot? Or is that something I should pretend I never heard?
3) Whatever you say, sire.
4) Hey, if you want it quick and at your beckoned call, you gotta pay for it. (that doesn't sound right...)
5) Yeah, those bitches. Let's bring 'em down!
6) I guess people just got lazy and tired of going out to play games. Maybe consoles advanced so much, many people chose to stay home and play those instead. I know arcade stuff advanced too, but it was during the decline of arcades I think, so it didn't help much. But hey, you have GameWorks, that's not bad. Good thing I have one here too, though I don't play much arcade games.
7) I know why! Unfortunately, we're out of time.

And for the record, I'm not a graphics whore, I'm just a very visual person.

 
Breath of Fire, anyone?

Good-Day Chrono,

I'm not a big fan of name changes between Japanese and North American games, but neither do I freak every time a company decides to change a name when it gets translated, although I still find myself saying Eternal Arcadia instead of Skies of Arcadia on occasion. The Final Fantasies are starting to be called by their actual numbers due to the re-releases of 4,5, & 6 thankfully.

What bother me are actual gameplay changes. I could be wrong but I believe that FF 4 was altered in order to make it easier for the less intellectual North American audience, also there was a large amount of censoring, with everything from language to love scenes (the infamous hug scene comes to mind, as well as Cids death speech). This in my mind was folly, the assumption that the gamers overseas could not understand parts of the story or that we couldnt handle such natural things such as a simple kiss is stupidity in its highest form. At least Square released the original hard version in Chronicles.

Some things being removed though are an evil that has to be facilitated, not everyone is a Japanese culture hound so the North American gaming audience may not even understand some things that make it into Japanese games. Also are the differences between the two languages (Japanese and English) make for some judgement calls on how things are translated. Also is the fact the Japan is a little more Liberal minded than use in NA, or at least the religious groups. One also has to take into account that the Church still holds an amazing amount of power over the people and government in our fair land, and if something rubs them the wrong way youll never hear the end of it, and eventually the government may try to step in to try and shut them up (but they wont actually say that, they'll use fancier words). Id say it is better to constantly nudge the envelope wait until people say I dont think thats right but they dont actually do anything, then the next release can go a little further until we can have completely unaltered and uncensored versions of every type of Japanese game coming in.
GeoAbraxas

Chronologist:
Yep, you're right on FFIV. Playing the PSX one after growing up with the original 'easy type' SNES one has been a trip, to say the least. Backstory about Kain's life was something entirely removed before. With it was Cecil's Dark Wave ability, and a TON of items. I had no idea we were so ripped off before. I'm wondering what else there is to experience that I never knew. Hopefully I can get back to it soon.

Ah, controversy. I remember... Xenogears almost didn't see the light of day in North America because of strong religious content. To this day, I always remember Breath of Fire 1, and especially 2. The enemy in BoF2 was the church. In the end, you find out religion was bad, essentially, and are forced to fight a high priest, who happened to be a pretty ugly demon, with far less-than-pure intentions. So... releasing that over here as all fine and dandy, and Xenogears almost didn't make it? That's almost funny. Almost.

 
Uh oh.

FFVI versus the PSX FFs.

-Warning spoilers throughout-

FFVI versus FFVII.
Basically, FFVII is a total rehash of many of the themes from FFVI. The comparison is fairly uncanny. In FFVI, an Evil Empire tries to take over the world, in FFVII, an Evil Corporation called Shinra attempts to do the same thing. In FFVI, a group called Returners opposes them, and in FFVII, Avalanche opposes them. In FFVI, a magitek knight gone awry (Kefka) attempts to do a coup d'etat and destroy the world. In FFVII, a Mako Warrior named Sephiroth, goes awry and attempts to destroy the world. Both villains are a result of man abusing the power of magic (and maybe genetic engineering too...). In FFVI, the Evil Empire revived the dread force of magic costing all the lives of those of the esper world, and decimating the population of their world. In FFVII, the evil Shinra drain the planet of its spiritual magic called Mako, killing the spirits of the dead that have 'returned to the planet'. (An indirect way of reducing population). In both FFVI and FFVII, a supersoldier program commenced, with magic being engrained into soldiers. Both Celes and Cloud are end results of the process. There are many other examples, but you get the picture by now. The basic issue in FFVII is an environmental catastrophe caused by Shinra using the magic of the planet to power its weapons and magical supersoldiers, without regard to the cost to the planet. This ecological tale is the center of the story. It is a story about a greedy corporation abusing its powers, without regard for the common people.

Overall FFVII is a downgrade from FFVI. There are only 9 characters, 8 by game's end, and only 3 slots for characters. Materia is a decent magic system, and is at least connected to the game's plot, as concentrated mako forms materia giving the wielder magical powers. An unlimited number of commands are also possible in the game, giving player's incentive to find all the materia in the game and actually be able to use it is cool. Sephiroth is nowhere near Kefka in terms of true evil. Sephiroth manages to kill one woman, and fails to destroy the world because of her. Pretty sorry excuse for losing if you ask me. Kefka destroys a world, perhaps two with the death of all those espers, and torment the real world for a year with his light of judgement. Sephiroth may look cool, but Kefka had the last laugh really. My real disappointment in FFVII stems from the fact that it could have been so much cooler. Midgar was a world of a city and should have taken up a lot more of the game time IMO. It was not until Vagrant Story's Lea Monde that I seen another town with as good an atmosphere and mood. Showing us more of Shinra's crimes and innerworkings would have deepened an overall ShadowRun feel to the game in the early goings. That leading us to leaving Midgar and discovering the blackened charred polluted world that Shinra had caused would have driven in Square's environmental holocaust theme.

Unfortunately, upon leaving Midgar you see an overly lush green world map. Very disappointing. Square failed in FFVII to push their tale to the extreme they did in FFVI. This lack of boldness in their convictions, from the main villain to the overall mood of the game is what sinks FFVII. FFVII is a very fun, if average game, but no where near FFVI.

FFVIII
FFVIII is a mess. Square forgets everything about the previous two epics that made them great or at least decent. The first thing they forget is a unified plot theme. There is none in FFVIII. FFVIII shifts constantly between Squall and Laguna's tale, the parade of villains and shifting alliances, and many other plot considerations. FFVIII is without a clear focus or vision. FFVII may have been flawed, but at least it had a vision of what the game world should be like. FFVIII is lacking. The second thing, is a magic system which is at least somewhat connected to the plot. The gf junction system is explained thoroughly in how it works, but it is never explained why it does like in the previous two games. The fact that GFs's binding to the PCs is what makes them forget their past experiences makes this point even harder to swallow. This would have helped explained why the PCs lost their memory. I would have preferred to experience Laguna's quest instead of Squall's. In Laguna, we find a PC with quirks, an irrepressible humor and personality, and two friends willing to stick with him no matter what in Kiros and Ward. Plus there is Laguna's overall wanderlust and quest for his ideals and dreams. He's a character that you can appreciate. The main team in this game has no character development and square shrugs and says the GFs made them forget. The only two who get any development are Rinoa and Squall who fall in love despite their early fighting and seeming hatred between them. I guess the GFs ate that too. This built in apology from Square of the 'dog at my homework' variety is all the more infuriating when combined with the lack of explanation on why the GFs cause forgetfulness. Square could have at least explained why it happens and allowed some quests to try and regain our PCs past memories, and maybe get some character development for Zell, Irvine, Quistis, and Selphie. Combined with a extremely flawed magic system that gives customization, but limits it with little command or ability slot space, as well as the boredom of the draw magic system, and the annoyance of constantly switching around parties and GFs, and it is hard to find anything to like in this game.

FFIX
FFIX borrows all the elements of FFVI. Buried deep in FFVI is the esperlike items that teach you magic, like Imp Halberds teach you Imp and flame shields teach you flame spells (Fire 2 or 3). This system is borrowed completely in FFIX, in the way abilities are learned. This would be fine, as long as the abilities learned make sense like in FFVI. Unfortunately, leather armlets, broadswords, and leather hats and other mundane items are teaching abilities both magical and special. This makes little sense. FFIX has some good elements, but they are all rehashed. The magic soldier theme is back, with the mass produced black mage golems and Vivi. An evil empire bent on world domination is back in Alexandria's war on other cities. Like other evil empires they produce the magic soldiers. Kuja is another messed up villain with a lust for power and destruction. FFIX also has the magic soldiers regret their actions, but they need to gain sentience first. Sadly, FFIX doesn't explain how this happens. Using the summons for evil and destruction was a new abuse of power by the bad guys and the FMVs are the best I've seen on PSX, surpassing even previous FFs and the Legend of Dragoon. Unfortunately, FFIX just feels like a rehash of FFVI to me for PSX.

My real problem with the FF series on PSX is that Square keeps rehashing the plot elements of FFVI over and over, instead of actually trying to create a totally new game world through fresh ideas. Of the three, only FFVII had any vision at all, and it was poorly executed. The thing about the FF series is that each game is a self-contained game world. There are no sequels, so each game needs to have its own vision, and its own world. Each game of the FF series should strive for a completeness in every installment. Every angle should be covered, for any flaws can never be fixed, since there will be no sequel to cover loose ends or dangling plot threads. Only in FFVI did Square manage to pull this off. The entire story is there, everything you could have wanted to know about the game world is there. FFVI is a very satisfying experience. The PSX FFs have me think too much to myself "What if?" too many times. Square is haunted by the spectre of this masterpiece, as FFVI showed how good an RPG could be. Gamers from the SNES era expect this kind of goodness, the same could be said of Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger too. Square's follow ups to them on PSX, Legend of Mana and Chrono Cross were also disappointing. Especially when compared to the SNES games. Square's increased game quantity has lead to an overall drop in game quality. Of the multiple games they released for PSX, only Vagrant Story and FFT truly brought originality, completeness, and plot to US gamers IMO. This leads me more and more to obscure RPG developers like Atlus, Koei, Working Designs, and others, who actually still consider a decent plot and characters as well as game world vision to be integral to a game's overall enjoyment. I'd rather play something unique like Persona, Lunar, Saiyuki, or Kartia than an FF game these days.

-Steven the Old School Gamer

Chronologist:
Okay, I have two main things to say here. One, comparing plots is a bit of a waste of time. If you try hard enough, you can easily draw comparisons to other plots in many other games as well. FFVI wasn't the first game to have a big controlling empire, or a villain as it did. Look around, you might be surprised.

Point two: Writing as much on subjects as you do, I HIGHLY recommend putting your effort into the Editorials section. It could use more content, and stuff like this is just right for it.

 
There's a new one.

Hey Chrono,

Looks like the flow of letters has somehow dried up. Seeing as how the last topic I sent in (I finally read it yesterday) got some kind of response, I may as well try my luck, one more time.

How about if everyone writes in about videogames slogans? The worst/best and some original creations for whatever game might need or deserve one.

Example:

Mister Mosquito
Blood sucking, it's not just for vampires anymore.

Maybe not inspired or Rpg related, but I'm sure someone could come up with something that is.

Rpgfan Fan (It's all in how you "say" it....)

Chronologist:
Interesting concept... I've seen some ads for games (not that I can think of specifics at the moment - it's late) that could have used better catchphrases and slogans, for sure. I'll keep it in mind.
 
Ding ding ding ding

Chrono,

Barring me not having a topic to write on, i decided to go looking for your movie quotes.

Here are my results:

'It's a jump to conclusions mat' - Tom Smykowski, Office Space. Excellent Movie

'Hey blimpo! Too many twinkies' - Flight of the Navigator; David

-Keeper

Chronologist:
That was rather fast. Good work! Johnny, tell him what he's won!

Johnny:
Well Mike, he's won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii! Need to get around? Don't worry, you're getting a free rental at Executive Images. Plus, $5,000 in spending cash!

Oh, you thought I was serious? oooh...too bad. You actually win this image: Congrats.

 
And that will always be the dream...

"In the meantime, keep on writing, and I'll keep hoping one of the GameCube games from Square is Chrono Break, however unlikely is may be." -- March 11th mailbag excerpt

Contrary to your thoughts, I think Chrono Break has an excellent chance of making it onto Gamecube. CB and Unlimited SaGa were reported to be developed for a "unknown handheld," no? It's got to be GBA, as SquareSoft would have no qualms about revealing that WonderSwan is the target platform. Additionally, Game Designers Studio was set up to emphasize "GBA/GCN connection." A Chrono game for both platforms isn't unforeseeable at all.

- wraith328

Chronologist:
Well, I guess it's POSSIBLE at least. I'm just a pessimist. :P Though you're a bit off in the 'handheld' thing. It was at first thought the names were to be used for cell phone games, but it seemed unlikely. Who knows. I hope they show something soon about CB, be it on GBA, GCN, PS2, or something. I'm getting antsy. *waits for E3*
 
Closing Thoughts

Wow, longer than I've been used to. It sure was a varied update. Tune in next time for more crazy antics and other random... things. Same bat time, same... *is dragged away by DC Comic's lawyers*

~ Chronologist (chronologist@rpgfan.com)



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