Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Knights of Xentar: Won! (with Final Rating)

There's no single "won" screen, so we'll go with this.
      
Knights of Xentar
Japan, with United States update
Elf (developer); MegaTech (U.S. publisher)
Released in 1991 for PC-98, 1992 for FM Towns, Sharp X68000 as Dragon Knight III; released in 1994 for DOS under this title
Date Started: 22 November 2017
Date Ended: 3 December 2017
Total Hours: 27
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)

I ended up disliking Knights of Xentar before the end, but not because of the sex. Rather, it was because of the extremely long periods of time, particularly towards the end, when I wasn't so much "playing" the game as "watching" it. I gather this is a frequent criticism of JRPGs, but I confess that Xentar is the first game in which I personally experienced it.

Desmond had a lot more sex and attempted sex throughout the game. I didn't keep count, but a walkthrough I consulted lists 33 different NPCs depicted nude in a total of over 50 separate nude (or at least suggestive) images. Desmond has or attempts sex with about 25 of them. (Towards the end of the game, there's a recurring joke where he gets interrupted repeatedly by his fellow party members.) I should mention for those not familiar with Japanese erotica that in keeping with custom, the women's genitals are always hidden or covered and there is no depiction of male nudity, not even in sex "scenes." Then again, I'm still not 100% sure whether I have the "censored" or "patched" version of the game.
       
Desmond never loses his charm.
     
Although the game started with a pattern in which Desmond saved his partners from sexual assault, this did not continue after the last entry, meaning that the particular trope was only used three times, all towards the beginning of the game. On the whole, then, I'd have to say that the depiction of sex and nudity in the title is mostly harmless. What bothered me more was that the dialogue in some of the scenes just wouldn't end. I'd keep hitting ENTER over and over and over, knowing that the laws of physics prevented insipid new dialogue lines from being generated eternally, but still starting to question it. There were times that I thought maybe the dialogue had looped back on itself, and I was stuck in an endless cycle of banal dirty talk. I cannot imagine making it through this game with the CD-ROM version with voiced dialogue.

There were bawdy episodes aplenty. In one town, a brothel offered a choice of women. No matter which one Desmond chose, he didn't get any satisfaction, either because the prostitute was so terrifying that she scared him away or because she delayed long enough that his time ran out.
    
I don't like the look of those tools.
       
In a forest episode, Desmond stumbled upon a woman having sex with a tree. Mortified at being caught, she forced Desmond to also have sex with the tree so that they would have equal blackmail material on each other. His companions showed up while this was happening and hilarity ensued.

Aside from the sexual hijinks, the master plot wasn't bad. There were some interesting twists, including even some explanations for Desmond's "luck" with ladies, and the ending was damned near wholesome.
     
Desmond's companions never let up.
      
The overall game world ended up consisting of two separate "lands." The first had 9 towns, 4 dungeons, and 5 other small interior locations. The second land had 4 towns and 2 dungeons. Many plot points required returning to places or NPCs already visited, and since the clues to do this were interspersed with a lot of nonsense dialogue, it was tough to figure them out. Each town has a lot of items and treasures--some plot-significant--hidden in jars, barrels, bushes, wells, and similar locations, and it was tough to search them all since you might have to approach them from multiple sides. Because of both of these issues, I ended up relying on Shay Addams's QuestBusters: Keys to the Kingdoms 2 (1995) for assistance. The book easily shaved a dozen hours off the game.

The game manual explains a lot more about the characters' backstories, though I don't know how much is taken from the Japanese editions and how much was made up by the American publisher. It relates that Desmond was abandoned as a baby and raised in an impoverished village where he was passed from house to house. Eventually, Rolf took him under his wing, taught him to fight, and started to notice Desmond's effect on women. (Which is repeatedly given as mysterious, as Desmond is poorly endowed and has incurable body odor.) Their adventures in the first two Dragon Knight games are recounted. "Xentar" is, I guess, the name of the game world. The Dragon Knights were creation of the "light"--good gods--who went native, turned venal, and sacked Strawberry Fields. After Desmond saved the city, the women re-named it Arcadia, and the sorceress Luna erected an energy field to keep men out. Desmond's Genji Armor and Falcon Sword were crafted by Rolf and Pietro in Phoenix based on some ancient diagrams.

You'll recall that Knights of Xentar started with Desmond being robbed of both sword and armor. His quest to recover them is basically the entire driving force of the game. During the quest, he starts to get hints that the theft may not have been entirely random, but otherwise most of his wandering is aimless and I suppose many of the city encounters and quests are optional.
      
Desmond starts to question the official narrative.
      
Rolf had re-joined my party as I wrapped up last time and together we visited the nudist resort called Nero's Retreat, oddly one of the few places where Desmond didn't find anyone to have sex with. From there, we moved on to a city called Carnage Corners, which was having some kind of tournament that involved going into the dungeon in the cemetery and clearing out the undead.
       
Navigating one of the game's dungeons.
      
The undead foes were tougher than anything I'd experienced in the game so far, and Rolf started fairly weak. Some of them were capable of swatting away half his hit points in one blow, and I soon exhausted my healing potions. I had to settle in for a long period of grinding to both level-up the characters and purchase them the best equipment available. Generally, I found that equipment upgrades did more than simple leveling.
       
Grinding against "Fire Birds."
      
There were several other periods in the game where I had to stop for grinding. I noticed that as the character levels increased, the experience won from enemies decreased--to the point where some early-game enemies only provided 1 experience point. However, there were still some benefits to returning to the early game areas and grinding against slimes, as these areas were highly likely to produce items like healing potions and smoke bombs at the end of combat.

Eventually, we cleared what we could of the cemetery but there was an area that we couldn't complete. We returned to Carnage Corners with a "sexy drawing" that an old man had lost there, and in return for it he gave us some "transsexual nuts" that temporarily turned us into females. These allowed us to walk through Luna's magic barrier to the city of Arcadia, where Luna joined us.
       
The game otherwise didn't have as much fun with this scenario as you might expect.
      
Getting Luna, the third and final member, into the party had several repercussions. First, it marked the beginning of continuous inane dialogue. I really enjoyed the party "banter" of the Infinity Engine games, but the writing has to be good. Here, it just wasn't. And yet every time we entered a building, walked up a staircase, encountered an NPC--and especially when Desmond was about to get jiggy with some townswoman--Rolf and Luna had to commence and endless series of jokes, puns, and insults about Desmond, his body odor, and his small penis.

On the positive side, Luna came with spells, including an extremely useful "Warp" spell that took us to any city we'd previously visited, and an equally useful healing spell that kept us from wasting potions until her spell points were used up. Since it took a while to exhaust her spell points, and they recharge with every stay at an inn, it allowed us to grind for far longer periods before having to stop and rest, and we stopped wasting healing potions during this process.
        
Having Luna in the party made large battles go much faster.
      
Luna also came with a fire magic spell. Eventually--and with the help of Mr. Addams--we started finding gems that gave Luna "Blizzard" and "Thunder" powers and then enhanced all three. The first gem let her acquire the power in the first place, the second gem extended the power from one enemy at a time to all enemies, and the third increased the damage (I never found more than three). These spells were extremely effective in most combats, to the point that towards the end of the game a single casting of "Thunder" might eliminate all six enemies at once.
      
Luna's "Blizzard" spell is going to hit all of these killer dogs.
      
With Luna in the party, combat became less a series of watching and using the occasional healing potion and more a process of casting the right spells at the right times. (Note: if any character dies, the game immediately ends. There is no resurrection mechanic.) It still wasn't very tactical, but it was a little more interesting.

While I'm on combat, I should mention that the game also offers a variety of interesting magical items that you can purchase or find on enemies' bodies post-combat. In addition to healing items, some of which affect the entire group, they include "skunk oil," which keeps enemies from attacking for a while in the wilderness, "smoke grenades" which enable instant escape from combat, and magic nuts and magic potions to restore spell points. The smoke grenades were particularly useful in dungeons when I wanted to conserve my healing potions for the final combat.
      
A store with some of the optional equipment items.
       
There are also a lot of items like "speed drinks" and "vitamin mixes" that provide permanent boosts to attributes. Finally, something called an "eraser pen" allows you to change the characters' names. I only found one, though, and I didn't use it.

Luna's magic allowed us to finish clearing Carnage Corners' cemetery and get the reward. Then we took on the Castle of Kalist, which we had to enter using an iron medal that turned to gold when a virgin held it. Luna completed this transformation, revealing her secret, which of course Desmond handled maturely. Dialogue during this point conveyed that Luna and Desmond were secretly in love, with Luna a bit pained every time Desmond wandered off to a bedroom with some floozy, which of course was near-constantly.

Desmond found his sword and armor in the castle, but they turned out to be fake versions. There was a bit where Luna disappeared from the party and was later found, nude of course, in the custody of a demonness named, in either the best or worst naming in history, Haggis. She hinted something about Desmond's parentage, calling him "lightspawn."
     
Luna, being a PC, gets a measure of modesty that NPCs do not.
     
Desmond and Rolf defeated her in a long combat. This was one of two major "boss" combats in the game. Luna is absent for both of them, meaning that all you can do is watch Desmond and Rolf hack away and heal them when necessary with potions. Success or failure comes down entirely to how many potions you brought.
     
      
Luna rejoined the party after Haggis's defeat, the castle collapsed, and the trio found themselves transported to a new land, although Luna's "Warp" spell could take them back to the first land quite easily. The new land had a town of cat women who had the trio retrieve their cat food from a dungeon of dog monsters. I'm serious.
     
Oh, yes, this is exactly what the game needed.
       
There were several towns, lots of grinding, numerous equipment upgrades, and so forth, but I'm getting bored with this narrative, so let's skip to the end. Everything culminated at the Temple of Xentar, to which some NPCs had seen Desmond's sword and armor taken.
      
We approach the final area.
      
As they arrived, they encountered the Black Knight, named Arstein, which sounds like a Jewish pirate. Desmond had been incidentally encountering Arstein the entire game. He brushed past Desmond in one of the early cities, and in a lot of other places we visited, he had just been there or something. He wandered out of the Temple of Xentar, battered and bloody, having been trounced by the monsters there. He expressed admiration for Desmond and the two became friends.

In the Temple, we recovered the real Genji Armor and Falcon Sword, the best items in the game.
       
       
At the apex of the Temple, we came face-to-face with the goddess Althea (note that Might and Magic III had used that name for an NPC the same year), who began a series of screens and dialogue lines that took me about half an hour to get through, even speed-reading. She started by revealing herself as Desmond's mother. She had given Desmond a blessing that he would "never have to seek a bed to lie in," which "had some unexpected side effects." Desmond's lack of endowment and body odor are explained as a disguise; if he had been too perfect, everyone would have known his heritage.
      
       
As an aside, she mentioned that Rolf is a descendant of the Dragon Knights. She also complimented Luna and acknowledged her inexplicable love for Desmond.

Althea said that the Temple of Xentar was a nexus between the mortal world, the realm of light, and the dark realm of demons, ruled by the demon lord Deimos. She related how the forces of light and darkness had been vying for control of the mortal world, and the hearts of humans, for eons. Eventually, they reached a pact: Althea and Deimos would both sire children, and after 20 years, the children would fight a duel to determine control of the world.
     
The otherwise-serious narrative is occasionally interrupted by a joke.
    
When the damned speech was finally done, Althea transported Desmond to the cave that would serve as the arena. There was another interminable conversation between the three characters. Then, Desmond entered the arena to find that his foe--Deimos's son--was none other than Arstein.
     
     
Arstein expressed consternation that Desmond was his opponent and said that he didn't want to kill him. The two engaged in a seemingly hours-long discussion of the relative philosophies of good and evil punctuated by idiotic jokes. Finally, Arstein attacked and Desmond counter-attacked, but Arstein turned out to be bluffing. He didn't defend himself and he let Desmond kill him, explaining "I couldn't drive the friendship out of myself no matter how hard I tried." Aww. That's an NPC who deserves to be in a better game.
       
Of course, the game manages to ruin the solemnity of the moment.
     
Deimos showed up and has is own protracted, long-winded speech that boiled down to reneging on the agreement. He wounded Althea and then attacked Desmond himself.
     
      
What followed was the most absurd, pointless combat in the history of RPG combats. It took about 25 minutes, and it consisted of nothing but Desmond hacking away at Deimos and Deimos healing himself every time his hit points got low. (With Luna and Rolf not participating, there were absolutely no tactics.) Meanwhile, I had to stop and give Desmond a healing potion every 20 seconds or so. At the advice of the walkthrough, I had brought hundreds of them with me. By the time that Deimos finally ran out of spell points and died, I was down to only a couple dozen potions.
      
This screen didn't change for an entire episode of Cheers.
      
Deimos died. Some god named Altair appeared (or his voice did) and lifted the wounded Althea back into the heavens. Altair--yes, this was yet another long dialogue--revealed that he was Desmond's father, and he explained his plan for Desmond to come up and take his place in the court of gods. But Desmond doesn't want to leave Rolf and Luna so he elects to stay behind.
     
Desmond reveals his true motivations.
     
Demond, Rolf, and Luna had yet another endless conversation about the implications of the plot. Desmond and Luna confessed their love.
    
I'm not sure Desmond has exactly "earned" this.
      
At this point, the game let me keep playing from outside the Temple of Xentar. I wasn't sure what to do. As I visited the various towns, I noted that nearly all the NPCs had some line of dialogue acknowledging Desmond's victory, which may be an RPG "first."
      
      
I had to look at the walkthrough to realize that to really "end" the game, I needed to return to Arcadia and visit the queen, Diana. Previously in the game, Desmond had sex with her, but I forgot to relate that. Anyway, Diana had another interminable speech praising the three heroes, and then she married Desmond and Luna.
     
Rolf gets no respect.
      
Some fourth-wall breaking words from the developers culminated in a series of screens telling how various NPCs fared post-game. Rolf married Alice, the granddaughter of the mayor of "Moronvia," and became a senator.
       
      
The game ends with a scene of domestic tranquility in a little house where Luna is making breakfast for Desmond.
      
It's hard to judge just from the kitchen, but I'm not sure this is the "palace" that Diana promised.
     
Desmond announces his plans to go adventuring again, and Luna chases him outside and around the house while the credits roll.
       
Ultimate irony: Desmond and Luna sleep in separate beds.
       
Between all the dialogues and cut scenes and that long battle with Deimos, the only "playing" I did for the last 90 minutes of the game was to feed Desmond healing potions. 

I guess I was supposed to find a magic mirror at some point that would let me revisit all of the nude scenes in the game. I'll just have to live without that.

I was reminded of Keef the Thief (1990) in that the plot and its resolution were pretty good, which made them all the more unwelcome. No game this goofy deserves to have NPCs who die tragic deaths or a plot that engages you with its twists. Oh, there are good writers who could have balanced them both. Shakespeare could have done it. Whoever wrote Galaxy Quest could have done it. But Xentar was far too overwhelming in its self-parody to pull off any real drama. It makes me wonder if the Japanese version did it better.

This is already one of my longest postings in history--I'm guilty of the very vice I levy against the game--but I'm still going to wrap it up with a GIMLET:

  • 5 points for the game world. It had an interesting plot, told a consistent set of lore, and actually responded to the player's actions and plot developments.
  • 4 points for character creation and development. There's no creation process, but development is relatively fast and rewarding and makes a notable difference in combat. I just wish it offered some choices.
      
Character stats at game's end.
      
  • 6 points for NPC interaction, perhaps the strongest element in the game. There are dozens of NPCs and boy does Desmond "interact" with them. He finds out key elements of lore and plot from the NPCs, develops friendships, and even gets married in the end. But the game offers no choices or role-playing; all the interactions are scripted.
  • 3 points for encounters and foes. Xentar offers an original set of monsters, I'll give it that, but although some of them have special attacks, there's no real way to defend against them. Aside from the copious NPC dialogues (already rewarded), there are no encounters that offer any role-playing opportunities. There aren't even any decent puzzles.
       
The "Mad Hand" is unique in that it jumps over the warriors to choke the mage.
     
  • 3 points for magic and combat. The "knowledge" system is interesting, and the various presets are worth exploring, but ultimately the combat process is too devoid of any real tactics, strategy, or even action on the part of the player.
  • 4 points for equipment. There are several equipment slots, regular upgrades, and a nice selection of magic items to use.
      
Statistics make it easy to see which items are best.
      
  • 6 points for the economy. Another strength. You always need money for equipment upgrades and healing potions. There were some high-value items that I never got a chance to buy because I didn't want to grind that long.
  • 3 points for quests. There is a main quest with no options. I think there may have been one or two side quests, but because progression in the game depends on hitting the right set of plot points and finding certain items, I'm not 100% sure.
  • 5 points for graphics, sound, and interface. I don't care for the Japanese cartoon style, but I can't say the graphics were bad. Some of the backgrounds were particularly well done. Sound effects were minimal but realistic. The redundant mouse/keyboard controls were welcome, but lacking in a few areas where I never found an easy keyboard approach, like administering healing potions in combat. There were a lot of times in combat, particularly when casting spells, that the game simply didn't acknowledge the input.
      
Luna casting a fire spell on some skeletons is accompanied by appropriate graphics and sound. I just wish I could hit the "F" key instead of clicking on "Fire."
     
  • 3 points for gameplay. It's almost nonlinear, almost the right length, and almost the right difficulty, but it falls a little short on all of these areas. The pacing completely goes off the rails at the end, but this category alone isn't big enough to account for that.

This gives us a subtotal of 42, a reasonably high score, from which I am going to subtract another 2 points for the horrendous pacing at the end. Forcing the player to sit through that much dialogue, one line at a time, plus such a meaningless final combat, is essentially unforgivable. But even the final score of 40 puts it in the top 25% of ranked games so far. If it had offered any serious role-playing, it could have cracked the top 10%.
      
I didn't think the game's humor was great, but this one made me laugh.
      
Add or subtract whatever points to that total you want depending on how you feel about the erotic content. It occurred to me while playing that while most RPGs reward the character for development, few of them have any mechanism for rewarding the player. Those of us who love RPGs play them for the characters' rewards and that's enough because we identify with the character, but it's inescapable that having your character's strength increase to 18 is a far cry from getting stronger yourself. Games that offer nude content, on the other hand--as long as the player likes that content--have a mechanism for directly rewarding the player. Solve a puzzle, see a pair of breasts (if unrealistic ones). In the pre-Internet era, I guess I can understand some of the appeal.

Because of the content, most mainstream reviewers didn't touch it. I haven't been able to find any contemporary reviews (although I know from experience that having said that, commenters will somehow produce ten). It's surprising to find it in QuestBusters, even, where it's discussed in a completely straightforward manner.
      
Indeed.
     
Elf would go on to make Dragon Knight 4 in 1994, which involves Desmond and Luna's son, Kakeru, and then to remake the original Dragon Knight in 1995. They offered a number of other adult titles throughout the 1990s, none of them enjoying an English release.

As for MegaTech, their brief experiment bringing eroge to the west was over quickly; they went out of business a year after Xentar was published. But we'll have one more of their titles--Cobra Mission (1992), another Japanese adaptation--next year. Finishing Xentar in a single entry brings us incrementally closer to reaching that year; only two more titles are waiting to appear on my "upcoming" list. Let's start the countdown with Quick Majik Adventure.

54 comments:

  1. FWIW, the thing with being able to explore the gameworld after defeating the final boss and have NPCs comment on it had been done previously in the first Dragon Quest game (1986). So not a first, but maybe the first time it showed up in a non-console title.

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  2. If you'd been playing console RPGs more you'd already have encountered the trope of game design that is specifically intended to sell you an official walkthrough. Satisfying completions of many JRPGs involve elements and sequences that no player could be expected to discover themselves. Xentar's obviously not in that category - I don't think there *is* an official walkthrough - but I think you've set the precedent that you're not going to put up with that nonsense and try and tough it out yourself when you were never really intended to.

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    1. Resident evil 2 for example has "open drawer 50 times in a row" to get a secret which you would never figure out on your own unless there is something seriously wrong in your head.

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    2. That was just for an easter egg reference to the first game. What GregT is referring to is games that are intentionally all but impossible to complete without a walkthrough - which, however, is not a vice I've ever encountered in a jRPG. There's been a few cases where the game was accidentally made very hard to figure out due to poor translation or cultural differences, but I don't recall a single "obviously you need the strategy guide or the hint line to figure THAT out" moment.

      Adventure games or action-adventure titles? Maybe. But never RPGs.

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    3. That's one of the differences between RPGs and adventure games, in my experience. The RPG usually rewards patience and persistence, eventually, while adventure games (particularly from that era) are often intentionally, wickedly devious or cruel.

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    4. Ultima 9 had the drawer thing as well, just with a refridgerator, in the starting area.

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    5. To be clear, I think this game would have been winnable without the walkthrough, but I certainly wouldn't have found all of the treasures.

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  3. Kultboy lists two German reviews from the 1995 CD release (https://tinyurl.com/y74yalry).

    PC Games gave it 62% and PC Player gave it 61% (which is ok for the German magazine rating of the time).

    Both saying the sound is poor, the graphics is ok and the story is surprisingly interesting and the game is not for everyone but rather for the fans of the genre.

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  4. I do remember Spanish magazine micro mania giving an extensive coverage of cobra mission, the other megatech game.

    From my experience is a much inferior and infuriating experience compared to Knights of xentar, though.

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    1. PCMania in Spain did a review for Knights of Xentar in it's number 35. It's available in archive.org

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  5. I think you've hit on one of the major differences between JRPGs and Western computer RPGs -- JRPG gamers expect long story sequences and many consider that an essential part of the experience. I've played games with story sequences that were over an hour long. I always used them as opportunities to practice Japanese, so I never minded.

    I watched the scene with Althea above. She's called Messiah in the Japanese version, which may explain the name change. The scene was completely serious and of course nothing about body odor, small dick, or "insensitive prick" was in there. I couldn't find a script or video of this scene in the English so I don't know what they cut out to make room for that -- everything you listed was there.

    This does make me wonder if what another commentor mentioned last time is true -- that the script writers for the English version found the original game creepy or perverted and used their English script as a way to criticize the game and the fans who played it. But that would be an odd thing for a company to do if they hope to sell the game. The only other motive I can think of is that the more comedy there is the game, the less creepy it feels to play it? I don't know.

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    1. Might be a "local ordinances" issue. In the early 90's we aren't too far away from the major pushes to ban certain things from sales or areas. They might have been going for the bad r-rated 80's comedy to try to get the game through the patchwork quilt at the time.

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    2. Mistranslating Japanese games for fun and profit has a long history. I'm not sure if Vic Ireland ever explained *why* that was Working Designs' whole thing, but it was what a major localizer of JRPGs tended towards for years and years.

      Most Japanese RPGs are either porn (and thus rarely localized) or on console, though, so this might be one of Chet's few encounters with this style - for instance, the aforementioned Working Designs released zero PC games.

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    3. There are a fair number of non-eroge PC RPGs. Falcom released a lot of them well into the mid-2000s, for instance. A good number of the early RPG titles on NES, SNES, and PC Engine are ports of games that first appeared on the PC-88 or PC-98.

      Of course most of them were never localized because the PC-98 and such were Japanese computers.

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    4. I'm not sure if Vic Ireland ever explained *why* that was Working Designs' whole thing

      Really? For a long time, he was banging on about nothing else. It's because, allegedly, the games they localized had dry stories that benefited from added joking around. I mean, I guess that's pretty self-evident, but the company certainly never made a secret of it.

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    5. Having worked as a translator, I can testify that the customer frequently has no way of checking what you've said is correct. Sometimes I fudge the translation when the concepts are too difficult. However, inserting whole parts that didn't exist...yeah that's over the line.

      "You have a small dick and you smell bad" sounds like frustration. Honestly, I'd chalk it up to psychological projection, because when you have the chance to say anything, you're going to say what you're thinking about all the time. Putting in endless lame jokes that ruin dramatic moments gives us a great insight into what was going on inside the translator's head and lets us know what kind of person he really is. Honestly the whole hack job says more about him than anything else.

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    6. I once wrote subtitles for Shaolin Soccer and made up a whole different plot (e.g. main character "Benny" was an aspiring Hip-Hop artist that had contracted HIV). But it's not like it was my job.

      It's kind of weird that they licenced these games to completely redo the script.

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    7. I'm sure the Japanese company didn't really care as long as they got paid their license fee. If there were any questions, they were taken care of with "we are localizing the game for an English-speaking market, they like more jokes."

      Dang, you have a small penis and you smell bad. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more these sound like the kinds of words a bully would use to torment his victims.

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    8. That sort of abuse/humor aimed at the player character was common in a few adventure game series which were running at around this time. For an example, the protagonist of Space Quest, Roger Wilco, is pretty routinely portrayed as a loser and made fun of by the game.

      (Obviously it's usually not quite as sexualized, but A) Xentar is a sex game and Space Quest wasn't and B) Roger's romantic interest was named, um, Beatrice Creakworm Wankmeister.)

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    9. 1. I'm not sure if I hated the sequences so much because a) they were long; b) I had to keep hitting ENTER to advance them; or c) the dialogue was so inane. It's possible I won't mind long cut-scenes if they don't require me to acknowledge every sentence and they have actual meaningful dialogue.

      2. Given the nature of the images, it's hard for me to believe that the original game was 100% serious. However, I can believe that, to the extent that it contained humor, the Japanese version was less outright silly.

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  6. Rangerous the SecondDecember 5, 2017 at 5:05 PM

    I was browsing your latest post when my LMNtree age kid wandered by and shouted, "Dad's looking at porn!"

    Naturally my wife took an immediate interest, and frankly, there was very little charitable argument that I could offer.

    Apparently the event was memorable, because now the kid has repeated the "I caught Dad surfing porn!" story in other social circumstances.

    Your work is inspired, and always a fun read, but today's fare was hardly worth this expanding -2 hit to my already low charisma.

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    1. If people are still looking at it 25 years later, clearly it's erotica now. Probably.

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    2. I was reading this post at lunch in a restaurant. When the Lillith picture came up, I actually looked over my shoulder and sped up a bit to get that off screen, because it felt a little weird to be looking at in public. I was just waiting for one of the waitresses to ask me what I was doing.

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    3. Good thing I'm not currently sharing my office with anyone... :-D

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    4. Rangerous the Second,
      The article's already pretty funny with Chet's exasperation but your comment really put it over the top: I burst out laughing at the last sentence

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    5. My censoring still left a little too much explicit, did it?

      I played a lot of the latter part of the game in an airport, constantly looking behind me like a paranoid lunatic.

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  7. >Desmond's Genji Armor and Falcon Sword

    A Final Fantasy reference and a Dragon Quest reference? Sheesh.

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    1. "Genji" is a reference to a famous Samurai clan. I'm not aware of "Falcon" being a specific reference to anything, but it is an extremely popular sword name in Japanese media.

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    2. Every FF game since FF2 that has traditional armor at all has Genji Armor, and almost every DQ game since DQ2 has a Falcon Sword. They're iconic items of the respective series. Googling 源氏の鎧 or はやぶさの剣 yields up nothing but FF or DQ-related sites. Even in 1991 (when there were 4 DQ games and 3 FF games out) it seems very likely to be an intentional reference/parody, especially in a game like this that's "every contemporary JRPG cliche, plus sex".

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    3. Okay, this is interesting. In the original Japanese version, the sword and armor are just called "legendary sword" and "legendary armor":

      http://hiro-game.sakura.ne.jp/?p=59789
      >神殿内で「伝説の剣」と「伝説の鎧」を入手。今度は本物のようだ。

      So the Genji/Falcon references were apparently added in localization. I guess the translator was a fan?

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    4. Looking into the credits, the translation is attributed to Shigeru Mabuchi, and the DOS port wasn't released until '94/'95. Given the extended timeline it's possible, but the Tale of Genji was well known and swords named after birds was common. Assuming references irks me, especially when equally viable options exist.

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    5. Of course the Tale of Genji doesn't have any warriors or battles in it at all, and only a couple of mentions of (apparently ceremonial) swords.

      They might have known Genji as warriors from the Tale of Heike or something like that but at least for that reference, FF seems a more likely source.

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  8. In 1992 there'll be at least two erotic JRPGs. "Cobra Mission" and "Mad Paradox". You may want to schedule them far apart from each other.

    Mad Paradox seems to be translated literately and don't have such an amount of parody and humor (if any), but I'm not 100% sure.

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  9. A question. Was Dragon Knight 4 adult themed? Because afaik it was made for SNES (only for Japan market). Or it was different game called Dragon Knight 4? Hmm.

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    1. The SNES and PSX versions of Dragon Knight 4 were all-ages, as was the PC-Engine (TurboGrafx-16) version of Dragon Knight 2, but all four games had R-18 versions.

      (According to VNDB, Dragon Knight 2's PCE port was highly controversial because 1992 was the first time an erotic game received an official all-ages console port. News to me!)

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    2. It's not terribly uncommon for (popular) eroge to get console ports that get rid of the instances of nudity/sex. At least the ones where you've still have a game left after doing so.

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  10. This adds to my theory that Chet would actually like some JRPGs if he played some good ones. By this point, Final Fantasy IV was out. That's like.. a really really good version of this, haha.

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    1. I'd rather he remain focused, but I agree. He couldn't hate the whole genre, right?

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    2. I'm not so sure -- FF4 hasn't aged particularly well (I remember I was captivated by the story as a kid but it's not quite as effective now). Given Chet's comments about the story sequences in this game, I'm not sure he would like some of the story-intensive JRPGs. He does have some more on his playlist, though.

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    3. He'll probably hate FF7 when it gets to it in 2030.

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    4. One of the reasons I've been advocating playing the PC version of FF5 in 1992 when the original SFC version was released is that not doing so will limit the Addict's jRPG exposure to thoroughly mediocre games such as this one.

      Given that FFV is in many ways a perfect "bridge" game between jRPGs and wRPGs, that would at least ground his perceptions of jRPGs in reality without being too far out of what he's accustomed to.

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    5. I think he would love the job system in ff5

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    6. Definitely. Despite being a dense motherfucker, I enjoy any game whose primary strategic component is about figuring out the best way to completely cheese it.

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    7. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think Chet ever said he hates jrpgs, just that he doesn't like the anime style, and he's not really familiar with them. How could he be if he's never played FF7? I don't see why he would dislike it- the stat changes with level ups are out of your control, but just like with 5 and all the others, there's a different system they use for character development. It's been forever since I played 7, but I remember really enjoying the magic system (similar to 6, and evolved from 5) where you could swap powers between characters, kind of like building your own classes. I love all the FF games, personally...

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    8. I don't hate entire genres of anything. I think my blog's history shows that I judge each game individually.

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    9. You're quite right. My concern is not that you've already formed conclusions, but that very few of the PC-released jRPGs until much later in the 90s (before the recent rush of proper ports of older FF games) are of good quality.

      Given the quality (and questionable subject matter, in some cases) of the small number of Japanese games you've played so far, it is almost inevitable that you're going to form some reservations by the time you get to the well made ones.

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  11. I don't mind sex in RPGs, but the extreme linearity and non-interactivity of NPC interactions is what puts me off from most JRPGs. The only JRPG I fully played through is Chrono Trigger on the SNES, it's generally considered to be one of the best JRPGs ever made, and while it was certainly an enjoyable game, it didn't feel much like an RPG to me. When characters advance a level, the stat increases they receive are pre-determined, you can't decide yourself how to develop them. And all conversations in the game are non-interactive, you just decide to talk to an NPC and then click "next" and that's it. The game overall felt more like I was following a pre-determined movie script rather than carving my own path.

    That's my main gripe with the JRPG genre and the reason I'll probably never get into it. Even fake choices that don't change anything are better than not being able to choose what to say during dialogues, it always makes me feel like I'm not actually playing my character. I merely follow him along.

    There are a few exceptions, like Tactics Ogre where you can occasionally make a choice that actually matters, but as far as I know that's a completely different subgenre to the usual JRPG.

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    1. I've always felt fake choices are the worst. It reminds me of the end of Dragon Warrior (I think that was the game), where the princess asks you to take her with you. You get a yes/no prompt, but if you say "no", the game just says "but you must!", and takes you back to the same yes/no prompt. Why ask for my input, if it doesn't matter?

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    2. There is the option to not save the princess and avoid that prompt, but the non-choice has become a cliche for the genre. So much so that one such "choice" I recall posed a question, but only allowed the player the yes choice.

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    3. The Persona series, from 3 onwards, generally allows you a lot in the way of role-playing choices, although they basically amount to "Do I be a jerk, or say what this person wants/needs to hear?", and "Which of these girls do I try to woo?"

      Still, it's something, and there's multiple endings, where getting the good one basically amounts to not being a dumbass and missing the game's message entirely.

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    4. @Jarl:

      Are dialogue options really that important when most cycle through all the paths to learn everything, or reload a save to find out the result of other choices (and usually boil down to 'good', 'evil', or 'neutral')? Stat allocation, heck, stat increases at all, is more of a mid-late 90s development. Take D&D and AD&D based games, all levels are predetermined.

      There are better games than Chrono Trigger for dialogue; I think it's hailed as one of the greats for its multiple endings and deep (for the time) side quests. It's not devoid of choice though, the first portion of the game has a lot of things you can choose to do or not that has consequences later on. Does being outside dialogue lessen the impact?

      If you like Tactics Ogre, then you might like Ogre Battle, an earlier game by the same team.

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