The Substitute Substitutes
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Ahoy, Mark here, filling in for Liz. The topic this week seems to be "what would you have me buy?", and I'm sure you'll all benefit from my immense vault of gaming knowledge. Yeah, right. Well, let's get to it.
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Hey there,

I just picked up a copy of Xenosaga: Episode 1. So far my impressions are pretty good and I'm looking forward to getting further into the game. But.....

It's my understanding that the end of the 1st game (understandably) creates more questions than it answers. This is all well and good for a multi-part game series but....

Are we ever going to see all six episodes? I mean, realistically, will they ever finish Xenosaga? And if they they somehow do, do you really think we in North America will get all 6 episodes?

Let's say it takes about a year to make each game. It probably takes longer. That means we can expect the next one sometime next year. Which means we won't see all 6 games done until 2008 or so. The way I see it, there's a lot of reasons why we WON'T get all 6 episodes.

1;) Platform change. The PS2 probably has about another year or two of life left in it. After that we'll see the PS3 and eventually the PS4. Which means that Xenosaga will have to continue on the PS3 instead. This means Monolith purchasing new computers, development kits, and training programmers for a new system. This is VERY expensive.

2.) Interest in the series will die down. Only hard core fans will keep the Xenosaga torch and that be enough to get Namco to keep making the games. So they'll just say screw it and stop at episode 3 or so. Just like Shenmue.

3.) They may finish them in Japan but decide it's not worth the dough to localize it for North America.

I wanted to get your take on all of this. What do you think is going to happen? Do you really think we'll see all 6 episodes of Xenosaga? It seems like this is a way too ambitious plan and one that maybe should have been two games instead of six. Thanks.


While it's true a platform change can hurt a series, I see Xenosaga's future as a parallel to Phantasy Star's. Phantasy Star jumped from the Master System to the Genesis without a hitch, and in fact, PSII is one of the most beloved games of that series. True, PS was only four parts, not six (discounting Online since it doesn't actually relate), but the process will probably be similar.

Keeping interest in a series is up to marketing. Will it only becoming the hardcore fans who remember the series as it goes along? Probably not. If Monolith Soft and Namco are successful in marketing, and can improve the Xenosaga formula over time, they'll keep it in the spotlight. As to how realistic it is that they'll actually finish the saga (haha, I r make funny pun), well... We'll have to wait and see.

I'm not a Xenosaga fan myself. I honestly and truly dislike the game, and the story doesn't hold my interest much, but I can understand its appeal. Trading out Shion for Jin seems like a good move, provided Jin isn't anywhere near as absent-minded as his airhead of a sister. The art direction seems like a good change too. I always felt Xenosaga should look more "grown up" and less "anime". Now if they can refine the battle system and put forth a story with actual emotional depth, well, let's just say I'll be a fan again.

What the girls call Murder.

U shuld upd8 mor, Lizzz. But anyway, I haven't written in for like...a year, so I thought I'd grace you with correspondence from your favorite Todd.

I've been playing a lot of my old RPGs over the past couple months since we're in a slight RPG drought (yeah there have been some here and there, but nothing spectacular) as of late. Most noteworthy are my SRPGs that have been collecting dust since the Y2k fiasco. I booted up Final Fantasy Tactics to find that it worked! Holy God, Squaresoft made it Y2k compatable! Yay for them!!! But after blazing through that, and pulling out Hoshigami (I still tell you that you should play it. It's almost as hard as that Fire Emblem you're playin right now) and my GameShark, I gave this game another romp. Most. Underrated. Game. Ever. It's really not that bad if you can survive the difficulty.

Then I demoleshed Shining Force III and Arc the Lad 2 and low and behold....Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits appears, seemingly from nowhere. Well, I must say it's pretty good. The combat is a little simplistic compared to those that I just finished, but overal...I give it a thumb up my nose. I'm thinking I should give Front Mission 3 a go, since I did buy it a couple months ago for like eight bucks. What do you think? Since I'm kinda strapped for cash, which means I won't be importing, what SRPG should I play next? HELP ME LIZZzzzzzzzzzzzz *snore*

Anyway, Strat RPGs are where it's at right for me right now. Oh and go see Pirates of the Carribean, good flick. Now update and fetch me an ale, bar wench!

Todd/Dade/Stappy McStapperson

Video games have Y2K problems? Right...

SRPGs seem to be a hot ticket recently and I personally recommend both Tactics Ogre: the Knight of Lodis, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. If you want some lighter gaming though, Onimusha Tactics seems like the way to go.

I've heard good things and bad things about Front Mission 3. Unfortunately the majority have been bad. I really wouldn't know what to tell you, but it sounds like a "rent first" deal. As to Hoshigami... You're a crazy, crazy man. Oh and Liz hates Thracia, as this picture proves. She insists she only mildly detests it, but we all know the truth.

Surprisingly, I still haven't seen Pirates of the Carribean. Pirates just don't do it for me. Meh, I'll grab it on video or something. Click here for Todd's L337 version of his letter.

"We don't know if girls play our games, and quite frankly, we don't care."

Hello Liz,

This is your Nintendo fanboy once again. I have been plowing over several different video games as of late and have gone a little crazy with some of them. I have already put orders down for Half-Life 2, Fable, and B.C. I have done plenty of research on all three games, and I have to believe that games have gone through such huge changes over the years.

You see, me and my family have had video games ever since I was born. We spent our time playing Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros., and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was definitely a lot of fun, and even hunting for birds was wild fun with the "gun" that came packaged with it (surely not over the years something tragic has happened due to a kid who learned to shoot so well with a video game gun?). But all of a sudden, out of nowhere, games have climbed to such a high level, my ears just can't believe the new ideas people are coming out with. Sure, some of them happen to sound just like games I played in the past, but there is such a wicked twist on them that where others have failed, they have succeeded. I can’t really name them right now, but I'm sure you can.

The reason why I'm typing right now is to ask you guys a question. You see, I have been looking at Fable for some time, doing my basic research so I know the game I am getting will be worth my money, and so far, so really great! There have been news on how you can get into duals with other guild fighters in the game, and there is even a possibility you can participate in co-op with your friend by hooking up two XBOXs and traveling around side-by-side. You can even have a team of both Good and Evil. What would the town villagers say? Anyway, let me get back to my point. What I am trying to ask you is, have you guys ever considered having a page where you would create your ideal RPG character? That is basically what Fable is offering to the public, a way to shape your own character from the ground up the way you want him to be. It's also very realistic, when you do certain things like lift equipment for other people for strength, or run in the fields for agility. There is also that basic principle of when you become cheerful and have tanned skin when you spend your time walking around during the day, and when you walk during the night, you start to turn dark around the eyes and pale in the face. What would your ideal RPG character be? As a matter of fact, it might be hard for women to choose since there are no playable female characters in the game, but maybe Big Blue Box will fix this in the sequel and allow both genders to be ventured.

So far, I am very impressed by the line-up all 4 systems have, even if the PC looks a lot better. We'll just have to wait and see if games like Xenosaga: Episode 2, Shadow Hearts 2, and Final Fantasy X-2 and XI will live up the fame they have portrayed both in other countries and, for the first two, on paper.

Zack, your guinea

P.S. Will the real guinea pig please stand up? Please stand up? Please stand up? Yes, I'm the real guinea pig, all you other guinea pigs are just imitating, so won't the real guinea pig please stand up? Yes, I am the one who started calling myself the guinea pig of RPG Fan Mail, but all of a sudden I've seen about 4 or 5 other people don the name and I must say, no one steals my own original name! So, I don't want to see any more people use it, or else it's curtains! Too bad all I have is Carioca and Limoges.

Ahh nostalgia. Quite honestly I have a sincere dislike for the thing, because it always makes our old toys seem better than they really were. I'm not saying Super Mario Bros. and the like weren't great for their time, but I honestly can't go back and play them without feeling their age. Still, it was fun to play them as a kid, so I guess that counts for something.

I agree, Fable looks fantastic, but I'm wary. Anything that looks so good can't be true, and I'm sure all the holes will appear once it comes out. The problem with overhyped games is that they're expected to be so much more than they actually present. Shinobi for instance, was a fantastic game, yet it disappointed many players because it wasn't "perfect" to them. I'm not about to expect Fable to everything Big Blue Box says it will be, nor am I going to take the word of its premature fanbase. My advice is to approach Fable with caution. Black and White was supposed to be revolutionary, but it was really just "good".

As to hosting a page using that concept; No, not really. It's certainly something interesting, and yet at the same time we have forums for that sort of thing. I've never personally been a fan of "character creation" systems using numerical statistics. I prefer it when roleplayers actually craft a story that studies the character's strengths and weaknesses over time, rather that presenting them immediately. This is, in fact, why Fable worries me. It may be too "mathematical" for its own good.

I'll say this about Final Fantasy XI: It's gorgeous and enjoyable. Perhaps not as deep or complex as some other MMORPGs, but I've enjoyed my time with the Japanese import.

Cool rhymin' Slim, but Dr. Dre says it's time to get outta my mailroom. *boot*

"Teikoku Kagekidan, sanjou!"

Hi. I have recently discovered this site and must say... I love it. Anyways, to my memory Sega hasn't released a Sakura Wars game in the US. I was wondering if they were going to release one here. I heard it somewhere and it was for PS2.

And reading a older mailbag someone asked the same question. You responded by saying that it would take quite an amount of money to localize it (or something like that) so why don’t they make it for GBA it might be hard but they wouldn’t need people acting. They could copy the Sakura Wars games from GameBoy Color. I was just wondering really.


Whoo, someone writes in about Sakura Wars! Yeah, I'm an ST fanboy. Well, I'm glad you like our site. Heaven knows we try... Most of the time. To answer your question; No, Sega hasn't brought a Sakura Wars game here yet, but apparently number 5 will see a North American release with a New York cast on the PS2. While I'm personally sad to see the Hanagumi (Japanese team) absent, I trust that Sega and RED Co. will produce a masterpiece. You might also want to look into the recent remake of Sakura Wars 1 for the PS2. It's an import, but if you have a Japanese system and can stand to read from a translation, I'd recommend it.

The problem with converting a Sakura Wars game to GBA form is that so much of it deals with singing, acting, drama, and vocals that you'd lose 90% of what makes Sakura Wars special in the process. The voice acting in Sakura Wars has been a mark of excellence since its initial release, and to take that away would hurt the game immensely. A translation is one thing, but even then it's not even the vocals that hinder it. In fact, it would be easier if the game was completely vocal and didn't deal with written gags.

The most famous written gag deals with the title "Teikoku Kagekidan", which when written one way in Japanese, means "Imperial Defense Force". However, if you write it using different kanji (Chinese characters used in Japan for certain meanings), it comes out as "Imperial Acting Troupe". This pun is used to play a practical joke on the main character, Ohgami, throughout the early stages of the first game. It's also what keeps the Teikoku Kagekidan safe from their enemies and the public eye.

Essentially, the early Sakura Wars would be nearly impossible to translate without fouling up many of the gags. It's more effective that they start the series from part 5, and avoid the matter entirely.

The wheel is turning, but the hamster's six years behind.

Oh, man!!

FFVII is WAY better than FF10, dudes!! It's totally sweet storywise, and the dang music has been stuck in my head for days! Have you guys ever tried it out? It's too cool for it's copywrite,man-awesome.I write this knowing that I'm not even close to done with disc numbero uno, and Sephiroth's already slain Aeris for some twisted an' wrong reason...I'm only glad that Cloud told him to shut up.He was startin' to say another one of his speeches that make you hate him all the more (cuz they really drive me nuts---he finally gets to the point by saying he is appointed to being ULTIMATE RULER OF THE UNIVERSE! BWAHAHAHA!!!). Sephiroth is the ultimate villain, and he slays all that breaths with the Masamune, a killer sword ten feet long.

Well, looks like bad news for you, John.Sorry, man...ya know that one letter I sent with all the damn E's on it? I don't know how the hell those got there in the first place!They just started poppin'up!! It woulda been a hoot of a joke if it weren't for the blankin' E's!!Gaaa!!!You probably think I escaped from the crazy asyllum because of that. Is everythin' good starting to become available to every game system besides Sony now? PS is goin' down da tubes!! Whaddya think of FF8? I've heard the story and character development is sucky, and the graphics rocketed.


Must... resist... using... flamethrower...

*goes into a hacking cough*

Wolph, Final Fantasy VII was six years ago. Sephiroth got his ass whupped by an amnesiac, delusional punk with spikey hair. It's fanboys like you, in fact, that make Sephiroth whirl about in his grave.

The Rumour Mill needs new material...

Hey all, I am a current employee of a gaming store and am currently telling all about rpgfan.com. Finally a site for nerds like me. Well, down to business, I have three questions...

1. One of the best games I've ever played, and the reason I got a Sega Saturn was Dragon Force. Is there any possibility of a Dragon Force game of some sort coming to a next gen console? If not, do you have any recommendations on similar games.

2. After playing the greatness that is Suikoden 1 and 2, I was VERY dissapointed in 3. Not that it was a bad game; it was just far from what I had hoped for. Is there any info at all on a sequal? One that can actually live up to the great Suikoden name that is.

3. There is an ongoing debate at my store, and I'm hoping you and your infinite knowledge can quell the madness. Some are claiming that there is a Japanese version of Final Fantasy VII in which Aeris can be revived, there are alternate endings and Sephiroth can be a team member. They also claim that the reason America didn't recieve this is because it is a heavily glitched version of the game. I think this is a big, fat, and very stinky pile of you-know-what, but I decided to ask the experts to settle things.

Well, I hope you can give me the ansewers I hope for, and I will continue to support your god-like site with oodles of recomendations to my customers.


Nerds? We're geeks, thank you very much. Some of us have even spoken to girls! Heck, some of us are girls. But ah, in response:

1. No word on this. Dragon Force II was released in Japan for the Saturn, so you may want to look into that as an import, but otherwise there's no sign of anything like it for the current systems. If you like more traditional RPGs, Suikoden and Suikoden II should fit the bill. They deal with castle-building and troop management, although they're more RPG and less RTS than Dragon Force was.

2. *smacks forehead* Right, so you've played Suikoden... Well, I never played 3, although I plan on it. Still, I've heard it's not exactly a "Suikoden" game. I imagine this stems from the fact you're not overthrowing an evil empire this time around. Still, maybe you should look at it as a new approach, rather than more of the same? Expectation can often cloud one's judgement of an otherwise fine product. As to a sequel, keep an eye out for Suikoden 4. It's been announced and there's quite a bit of media floating around our site on it.

3. There's not such thing. Aeris could be revived using a GameShark, or so I've heard, but she has no bearing on the story, and it wasn't supposed to happen that way. There were no plans to bring her back, period. As to Sephiroth being a playable character, again, no. I'm not sure about GameShark codes for that, but I've never heard of any such thing. These are rumours started by hopeful, obsessive fanboys and fangirls who can't deal with the facts.

It should also be pointed out that most games released over here are, in fact, less glitch-ridden than their Japanese counterparts. That's because things are treaked, revised, and cleaned up when they get to translating the game. so yes, it's a very big, stinky pile of you-know-what, and it's been clogging the internet for years.

I'd say you should recommend your customers not believe any rumours, especially such obvious fanbabbling.


Hi everyone,

Long time no email. Missed you guys, seriously. Best damn RPG sight there is. Lack of internet will do that to you. Anyway, I have 3 questions:

Is Shining Soul for the GBA worth buying if it's only going to be played single player?

Think Fable will be worth buying an XBox for?

Should I buy Everquest for the Mac (which is incompatible with the PC version's servers) or wait for World of Warcraft (which given Blizzard's reputation, will likely be cross platform)?


Well, uh, glad to have you back. We always like hearing from long-time visitors, so long as they aren't ranting to us how great FFVII is and how Sephiroth can kick everyone's ass. *coughs*see above*coughs*

Shining Soul? Well, I'd say the popular opinion is no. I'd recommend getting a couple of friends into it before purchasing, then you can take advantage of the real attraction; Multiplayer.

With Fable, wait and see. I'd consider playing it at a friend's house or perhaps renting the system and game from your local video shop. Titles like Fable often fall short of their hype, which may disappoint many fans, even though the game itself is solid.

Finally, let me say this: No. Avoid everything and anything Everquest. It's Sony's cash cow, and unless Everquest 2 proves to be something special, I'd say you should forget the EQ license ever existed. World of Warcraft is very likely to be cross-platform, and knowing Blizzard, far more bang for your buck than Everquest will ever be. I'm a Mac user myself and I love Apple dearly, but I won't lie to you: EQ is obsolete, for Mac or otherwise.

Closing Thoughts

Whew, sans one slobbering fanboy, this has been a pretty good round of letters. Liz is off doing stuff for awhile, but we'll be tossing around the mailbag left and right between editors. Next week's topic should be "How much you love RPGFan and Mark". No, not really, but it should be that way, I tell ya!

~ Mark P. Tjan (letters@rpgfan.com)


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