Contact (DS) review
"Here’s what Contact’s box guarantees you won’t find in the game: A dull moment; normalcy; a guy with “spikey” hair and/or amnesia; dramatic monologues; the same battles you’ve been fighting since the 16-bit era. "
Here’s what Contact’s box guarantees you won’t find in the game: A dull moment; normalcy; a guy with “spikey” hair and/or amnesia; dramatic monologues; the same battles you’ve been fighting since the 16-bit era.
Hmm. Funny, because “dull moments,” “normalcy,” and “the same battles I’ve been fighting since the 16-bit era” are all phrases that came to my mind when playing Contact.
Atlus has produced one of the boldest back-of-the-box descriptions I’ve ever seen, not just because it’s wrong, but because it makes a statement: “Hey, potential customers! This game is different. Do not pass it off as some run-of-the-mill RPG, for it is unlike anything you have ever played!” If you have predicted that Contact actually is a run-of-the-mill RPG that is in no way different from anything you’ve played before, I suspect this is not the first review you have ever read!
Let us examine Contact.
We are introduced to a professor named The Professor, and told that he NEEDS YOUR HELP! Not the main character, but you, the player. He’s contacting you through your DS system, you see, and if you shut the game off, you might jeopardize this mission! He’s traveling through space in his flying laboratory and needs aid in recovering a few valuable items that have been stolen from him, and has even picked up an innocent bystander – a silent protagonist type named Terry – to do his bidding. But you aren’t Terry. You’re yourself. Though you do control Terry, so I guess you kind of are Terry. Huh.
It is worth noting that while most of the game is painted with a more traditional visual style along the lines of Golden Sun, the Professor and his lab are drawn with a more cartoonish, superdeformed sensibility in mind, not unlike that of EarthBound. Why does the Professor look like he’s from EarthBound? Because why not. If you have to ask “why” too much in Contact, you’re clearly playing the wrong game.
Anyway. I’m sure you’ll agree that Contact’s connection with its player is unconventional, as is its setup, its characters, and its general attitude. The dialog is snappy, the locations are fittingly varied, and the plot is so preposterous that you can’t help but admire Atlus for being so bold. It’s all so kooky! Why, surely we’re on the verge of an exciting adventure unlike anything we’ve ever seen!
Let’s see if I’m right.
I’m dropped into the first level, a sunny island crawling with crabs and other critters. The game tells me that I can enter combat mode by approaching an enemy and pressing the B button. I do so, with great excitement. I love fighting! I can’t wait to–
Hold on. What’s Terry doing? I’m not pushing any buttons, yet Terry, miraculously, is fighting! It seems he is acting on his own, without the consent of his gaming master! Stop that!
This is Contact. This is the newness, the freshness that the back of the box promised us. A game running on autopilot. Nothing interesting about it – get close to an enemy, switch to battle mode, and watch as two boring sprites exchange blows with no player input. Exhilirating. Remember the old days of turn-based RPG battles, where you kept selecting “attack” over and over again to get through anything? This is basically what you’ve got here, except that this time, the computer selects “attack” for you. But hey, have fun watching! Indeed, playing Contact is the equivalent of watching someone else play a videogame.
The only time battles are ever fun is during the few boss fights; it is in these moments that Atlus figures it might be a good idea to actually have the player interacting with the game. How about that!
So I defeat my first enemy – or, rather, Terry defeats him; I didn’t do a damn thing. The enemy drops a weapon, and I pick it up with glee. I do believe I shall equip my new weapon immediately! Later, I found another weapon, and sure enough, there are dozens of battle arms to be found in Contact, ranging from strong weapons to, uh, weak weapons. I guess we’ll go with the strong weapons.
I explore some more, and I discover in agony that this beautiful island I’m on is designed like a big maze, with branching paths going every which way, but with no clear destination or objective. I’m interacting at last, but it is player interaction at its most minimal – wherever you need to go, there’s nothing standing in your way, aside from more enemies. The game is a labyrinth, with most of the actual challenge – the battles – being completely out of the player’s hands.
And I see more failed attempts to convince us that this is not an ordinary RPG, like the ability to cook food, or a large selection of costumes that Terry can wear for muddied purposes, or the occasional interlude in which the player gets to interact with the Professor’s dog/cat/thing, Mochi. Because the game is that quirky! Ah, Contact. What a deceitfully ordinary game you really are.
Here’s what you really won’t find in Contact: A compelling plot; exciting battles; a single new or innovative idea; enjoyable level design; memorable characters; entertainment; a good reason to play the game.
But I suppose no one would want to buy a game with that on its box.
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