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Beware! Beeewwarrreeee!

Out of no'er, they came! A'galoppin' and a marchin' like the'as no tomorra! A 'uge flock of letters, neigh more'n a 'andfull containin' any questions! I feaa for m'very life! An--<cough><hack>, excuse me.

Anyway, yesterday turned out to be even more evil than Monday. Not only did just about every single letter spawned twelve or so responses. Whee. While there's nothing wrong with long letters, they're more than a bit dangerous--in flocks as large as these, they tend to eat the tourists.

A question, nearly extinct these days.

Dear Thor, i Was wondering if you knew anything about Star Ocean 2 coming to the US? Iheard that there were companies biding for the rights to it but there has been no futher word about it.

-- Brian

Good news: SCEA will release Star Ocean 2 in America sometime after April. Well, that went nicely.

International House of Fantasy

how come the u.s. and jap versions of final fantasy 7 have 3 discs, and the international version has 4 discs? did we get gipped out of stuff, or what? also, what language is the international version in? id have to go out and get a copy if its in english... thanx

-- testtubebaby

When Square took seven or so months to port Final Fantasy 7 to America, they didn't just write a really poor translation; they added more than a few features, as well as tweaked some elements of the gameplay. (This is old, old news, I won't get into it.) Anyway, since only Japanese can get better games than Americans, and never vise versa, Square re-released Final Fantasy 7 in Japan, with all the tweaks and a bonus CD filled with fluff. (In other words, it added nothing to the game, but was fun to mess around with--pictures, info, that kind of stuff.)

Hey, a serious answer! Is that three drinks, or two?

Hi, how "are" you?

You want short questions? Well, take this medium length one instead.

What's the deal with RPGs using excessive quotation marks lately? FFT and Xenogears both use them ALOT, for no good reason. You know what I'm talking about. In FFT, it's like "What is this 'freedom' you're 'talking' about? Don't 'you' know I'm just 'using' 'you'?" And in Xenogears (Have you played the game yet? You said you havent, but then you've been displaying some knowledge of it...) the Gazel ministry uses quotes 'up to the Wazoo', and for no particular reason either. Why? Why I ask you? WHYYYY?!?

Remember those funny symbols in Wild ARMs? Those were sort of the Japanese equivilant of quotation marks. They don't quite work the same, though. It seems to be emphasis and quoted words get the magic symbols. I figure that in the rush to translate, some translators just search/replace instead of actually reading the script and adding/removing quote marks/symbols where appropriate. So whether a character is quoting Nietzche, or just asking for extra cheese on his pizza, the end result looks the [same].

And speaking of that, why do games nowadays use normal quotation marks around dialog, like in XG and BOF3? I mean, if you're seeing the guy's portrait and it says "FEI" over the dialog, you probably know it's dialog and not narrative, right? So why mess up the frame by putting "quotations" around all the text? I must know the truth.

-- Shinyhat

There's just no getting inside the mind of a translator. They're strange, inhuman creatures. They drink dangerous ammounts of mountain dew, they spellcheck incessantly but always choose "Skip", and they even use proper grammar now and then! You're right, though, those particular quote marks are redundant. (Now, watch people write in and defend Square's use of "proper grammar". Proper grammar... Square... that'd be a first. :D)

A jolly good letter. Bit o' a spot o' tea?

Salutations O Regular Weekday Columnist:

In response to shinyhat's accusations that square has been over-Americanizing their games when porting them to America, I say "Pshah!" Did he think that they all miraculously speak ENGLISH? Hmmm... do I see England anywhere on the Map? No... And unless we're prepared to read "Midgarian" or whatnot, we'll have to deal with our own metaphors spewing forth from a people who couldn't possibly know what "Swiss Cheese" is. Square added the metaphors, analogies, etc, to make the game come alive... for the most part the way we speak is based on shared assumptions. We already know what swiss cheese is and don't need it explained to us. And if we removed these from all games we'd end out with generalized games, that don't use the full arsenal that is, the English language.

-- TomServo

Good point. I'm sure there are tons of Japanese referances/analogies/etc. which didn't make it to the American versions. Or, sadly, in the case of FFT... did. Don't get me wrong, I love the game to death. I just wish I could understand more of the storyline than, "Oh, that little guy's stabbing that other little guy." Someone should play the game through and write "Final Fantasy Tactic's Plot For Dummies".

He doesn't mean "PlayStatation". It took me a minute, too.

Hello Thor-Dawg....

Any word on if there's gonna be any new PS games for the Dreamcast?

-- Psycho Mike Hasko

No plans as of yet. The Dreamcast looks pretty RPG-heavy so far, though, so keep looking. Since Final Fantasy 7, people are starting to realize the way to stay afloat in Japan is RPGs. And dating sims. And monster sims. And, uh, horse racing. Allrighty then.

Sex!
(Got your attention, didn't I? Xenogears spoiler alert, by the way.)

I'd like to make a comment on your comment concerning that other guy's comment (yay for me). Frankly, the reason why sex is censored is pretty obvious. For whatever the reason, many individuals, especially parents, think naked indivudals engaging in a very natural action is worse than exploding cars or lots of guts (I think it stems from the old practices of women revealing nothing more than their face and hands and any "where do babies come from?" questions being answered with the existance of a stork). Dang, that was a long setence. My grammar instructor would be thrilled if he ever saw this. Anyway, it also has to do with the newness of mature themes in games. I mean, if you just take a look back, it wasn't long ago that 90% of games involved "Happy Fruit Trees" and any adult who openly admitted playing a game was pelted with dried banana chips (mmmm...banana chips). Most game companies are not willing to cross that perverbial 'line' of what's OK and what's not until another one does first. And that first company won't come around until the whole industry has been given time to mature, to become a more accepted from of entertainment and to get the balls to try some daring things that some might not 'approve' of.

Then again, I'm not sure if I'd completely enjoy a more loose approach toward sex. I mean, just look at FFVII. To think what some of that stuff would have been like if the designers were let loose. Beastility would be the least of your worries, my friend.

Gaah! FMV of the Honeybee Inn scene! Gaah!

Gaah!

I'm never playing Final Fantasy 7 again. You're mean.

***

Dear Thor,

You mentioned in yesterday's column that the ending to Xenogears had been edited. Is this really true? At what time-stage was the editing made? Is the Japanese ending somehow different? Do you have any information on this? Inquiring minds want to know :)

Lets just say you see a lot more of Elly. It wasn't pornographic, it was more of "art" nudity. Natural, and unprovocative. The scene was cut because Square wanted a teen rating instead of a mature rating. So, because of ESRB, America received a censored Xenogears. Are you starting to realize why I hate them so?

As for my two cents on the whole sex issue, I think Xenogears was about as far in the right direction as I want. We now have bare-chested male characters (Fei and Ramsus) getting out of beds in which (presumably also unclothed to some extent) women are still sleeping, which in all honesty is about explicit as I need to see, yet still tasteful. I mean, after all, if I don't want to see my male or female friends do anything, why should I want to watch it in games I play? I tend to think of the main character as "him" rather than as "me," and I figure that, as the great William "Princess Bride" Goldman says, there's times when we're all entitled to a bit of privacy, even video game characters :) Besides, I suspect it takes a skilled and sensitive writer to do a tasteful sex scene that isn't bawdy (for want of a better term) at the same time. Perhaps no RPG author has considered themsleves up to the task yet.

-- Ari

No, you're right, that's a fine limit for the average RPG. I wasn't asking for hardcore porn, just for some variety. We'd have "kiddy" games where kissing is the most it'd ever get, the current flock of FF7/Xenogears calibur scenes where it's hinted at but never really talked about, and then maybe a mature RPG or two, where sex is handled as openly as death, violence, drugs and all the other stuff Square was bold enough to "discuss".

A little side note: As a writer, I've done one love scene. (I think sex tossed about haphazardly ruins a story faster than stale dialog.) I handled the subject by keeping the reader around for the kissy-stuff, and then sliding attention away once the characters, ahem, wanted to be alone. The best way to deal with sex in literature is to make clear the events leading up to, and after, just not during. See Stephen King's Salem's Lot for a wonderful example of how to deal with sex between the lead characters in a mature, frank and tasteful way. King's the man.

"Take that! Now you've got a cold! Eat that, foul dra"
-- The last words of Dreklar, Grey Mage

Hey Thor,

I was just wondering, when you play roleplaying games such as Final Fantasy (any of them really) do you ever find yourself using the effect spells more than twice during the whole game? I really love the idea of being able to make your enemies fall into a deep slumber, or blind them, or paralyze them, etc etc...but I never seem to find a use for them when I play the game (expcetions are the mage master in FF3 where berzerking him is helpful) Spells such as sleep just seem really useless to me. I mean, c'mmon, you cast sleep and the thing doesn't attack for maybe 2 or 3 rounds (max) and once you hit it, it wakes up...big deal. I've never cast an effect spell to save my butt...ever. If I cast Fire 3 they all die and I'm happy. The same goes for spells like Confuse...if and when you can manage to get the damn thing to actually affect the target, it turns on it's comrades it does...oh wow....4 damage or something. (Again, getting hit ends the spell) It seems like a waste of MP (not to mention code) and I yearn for more games like Dragon Warrior 1, where putting an enemy to sleep was often the best way to keep from getting skewered. What do you think Thor? I think it's about time for some new debates and opinions.

-- Penance

"Effect" spells are some of the most useless bits of fluff I've ever seen. In earlier RPGs and AD&D (no coincidence, Final Fantasy was heavily influenced by AD&D) sleep/confusion/charm/etc. were widely powerful. In the old days--I refuse to call them "good", they're no better than the present, they just had different problems--you could count on spells like Sleep or Charm to kick some serious monster butt.

Today, RPGs are much easier, so you don't have to worry about your characters dying in two hits. This means that just blasting the hell out of the monster is a lot better than bothering to put it to sleep. Who needs defense when you can off the sucker with a single blast of Fire 2?

Only one game in recent memory has made good use of "Grey" magic: Final Fantasy Tactics. Nothing beats the primal surge you get when you talk an opposing Ninja into joining your side--perminantly.

"Dude, sick!"

Yo! Thor!

A friend of mine has an even more twisted belief on the vague plot of FFVII. Before you put this E-mail in the recycle bin, just read it once.

Fine, fine...

A. Aeris. Does anything seem strange to you? She "walks around" in the streets, and she seems to be the only source of income for her and her mother . . . do you think she makes a nice yearly profit selling a few flowers for 1 gil each? Come on! I think that "sweet innocent girl" look is just a, well . . . you know. She "Walks on the streets" for crying out loud! In a city as liberal as anything you'd find in Europe!

And people called Tifa a "slut"? Don't judge a book by its cover, I guess, heh heh.

B. Tifa. She's -ahem- well endowed -ahem- and she works in a bar . . . in a very skimpy skirt. Now, we're supposing there are no "Hooters" restaurants in the world of FFVII, so as soon as Cloud and co. go out the door . . . well, let's just say that was why when Barret chased the people out of the bar they were all guys . . . and the name of the bar is "7th heaven" . . .

First Aerith, now Tifa? Is there nothing you hold dear?

C. The game can be made to think Cloud is gay. You heard it. You dis Aeris and Tifa, choose the right room in the "Honeybee Inn", have only guys in your party, try to go "all the way" with Don Corneo (Oh, man . . .) and the game rewards you with (taa daa!) a date with Barret! So the computer must think, "Well, he's rejecting all heterosexual stimuli . . . he must be gay!" Demented stuff.

I hate to break it to you, but your PlayStation doesn't "think" anything. If you dissed Aeris and Tifa, choose the right room in the Honeybee Inn, had only guys in your party, tried to make mad-whoopie with Don Corneo and went on a date with Barret... maybe it's time you, ahem, had a talk with your parents.

Well, this letter wasn't meant for posting, so I just thought I'd bring your attention to this (WARPED!) point of view. Later, yo.

-- Locke

True story: I skimmed the letter, put it in "Good Questions", marked it "Red" so I'd remember to print it, converted it to HTML, gave my responses and then saw that last paragraph. You know, I think I'm starting to miss Monday.

ESRB. No sir, I don't like 'em.
(Final Fantasy 7/Xenogears spoilers)

Howdy.

About the ESRB rating of Final Fantasy VII, I think it is omewhat defensible. I don't know about the games you have mentioned that are Mature and should be rated Teen, but FFVII could be rated Teen according to the ESRB standards. First of all, the ESRB says that it includes, "Comic Mischief, Mild Animated Violence, and Mild Language." I checked their site. According to their description of Comic Mischief, it can mean gross or vulgar joking. This could easily include some of the humor, including Tifa and Aeris's threats to Don Corneo.

A threat isn't a "joke", dude. Trust me. I've got the restraining order to prove it.

As for the Honey Bee Inn, it is not required to vivit it, nor do you gain any benefit from it. Getting picked by the Don only gets you out of a fight with his cronies, and doesn't get you an item or anything. Therefore, I think the ESRB rating is fair.

-Arpad Korossy

That's got to be the goofiest argument I've ever heard. The Honeybee Inn may be optional, but it's there. Getting picked by Don may not hapen that often, but it happens. If a hidden track on a music CD contains profanity, you can bet your bonnet there will be a Parental Advisory sticker on the cover. According to ESRB:

COMIC MISCHIEF: Scenes depicting activities that have been characterized as slapstick or gross vulgar humor.

SUGGESTIVE THEMES: Mild provocative references or material.

Go back and read my little Final Fantasy 7 Maturity List. When Hojo tried to force Aeris and Red XIII to mate, it was most certainly not an attempt at humor on Square's part. It was, undenyably (at least I hope...) "provocative material".

End rant.

***

Hey Thor,

With the recent influx of letters concerning the ratings given to Squaresoft games I'm quite surprised that no one has pointed out the industry double standard. Why is it that fighting games get a Mature rating when there isn't all that much blood, and Xenogears could show Timothy being shot and a blood soaked Fei, and get off with a Teen rating? Is it because fighting games actually show the punch? I think that there is an unspoken and outdated expectation that RPG's be "clean".

I was absolutely shocked when Fei and Elly had (dare I say it? ^ _~ ) sex. Not because I was appalled or anything, I thought that within the context it was a good plot development. I was shocked because usually RPG's treat mature themes like 3th graders who have just found out where babies come from! To me it is only an obscenity when games (as well as other forms of media) treat it as such. Fei and Elly are in love, but they wouldn't dream of being physically affectionate, right boys and girls?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Cloud and Tifa should've snuck a quickie in the Highwind's meeting room [Note: Actually, they waited until after they left the airship -- Thor], but would Xenogears have been as emotionally powerful if Fei had faced losing a friend instead of a lover? With all the plot- based RPG's out, you'd hope that people could simply rate these as they would a movie. FF7 would've gotten an R for language and that itty-bitty sword protruding from Aeris' stomach. Xenogears would probably have barely made it under the PG-13 line because no actual violence or sex was shown. Sounds simple enough to me, so what's the problem. . other than Sony's lawyers ^_~

-Casey (Who mentions that she is an RPgirl only because the name could go either way ^_~)

Believe it or not, the only person who fully agreed with me on the ESRB and sex rants was this here painfully cool female.

Ask Thor: Knocking down stereotypes since January, 1999.

Quickies that satisfy

kupek made a Xenogears FMV transcript. He rocks, hardcore. // An Unidentified Writing Person has just flown past my window, screaming the following: "Faye Wong is a singer from Hong Kong and Fei Fong Wong is a play on a Chinese Military Hero of some sort who killed lots of people with his barehands, or something to that effect. So there." Well. Neiner neiner. // Andrew Dausman said the following: "As you are the moral compass for many who play RPGs I have a question. Is it OK to play RPGs yet at the same time crave a game entitled, 'Mog's Funky Hip-Hop Spazztania?'" No. It's wrong. Very, very wrong. Wash your brain out with soap, and just you wait 'till your father gets home! // Well, Kira Cyana, it seems most people think your quote came from the classic cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. If you have never seen the show, the fanfic/videogame you saw it in was probably making a referance. // And finally, Kain sez: " Just a side note to Tad Ghostal about his ranting about no one using guns. He seems to forget that Vincent uses a variety of guns, too. So it isn't just Barret that is using guns. Geez, Thor, I can see if a petty reader would make such an oversight, but how did you miss that :-) ?" Technical difficulties. See below.

Thor Stuff

A few of--nod to Kain--might have noticed yesterdays column was a bit... unstable. This was because my ISP up and decided to suck, making my connection to RPGamer.com slower than your average Beyond the Beyond fan. After blowing my usual lengthy but strangely ineffective proofreading time doing battle with the server, I gave in and handed my .html files over to a co-worker.

I didn't get to play any videogames today. Not an ounce, a drop or even a smidgen. Tomorrow, I will own the Fire Temple. ROAR!

Since I kinda sorta forgot to print it, here is the link to Mark Yohalem's infamous editorial I was refering to two or three days back. Happy reading.

Oh, yeah, I just wanted to say this 'cause I think it needs to be said:

Thanks, guys. I dig your letters, I dig your comments, I even dig the stuff in Unfit for Print. Keep sending 'em in, and I'll keep printing 'em. I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.

...being nice always makes me feel dirty, so I'm off for a shower. Night, guys! (I'm nocturnal, remember? Sheesh.)

- Thor "Scrubbing his way down to original sin" Antrim
I just couldn't stand being as rude and unthankful as Tony Schivani anymore...

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