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Title: New review
Posted: March 13, 2006 (04:11 PM)
Look, I wrote a review! F-Zero GX, for those that care. Probably not my best review, but whatever. I'm just glad it's done. Who knows when I'll write another one...
Title: Memories of Zelda
Posted: March 05, 2006 (08:35 PM)
I'm sure you all have wonderful memories of playing games. I'm sure you've all got a few special moments that really stand out, and make all the hours wasted playing these games worth it. We all do. For me, the majority of them come from one series. And so I thought I'd share just a few of them, if only to hide the fact that I meant to have a review done weeks ago and it's still not finished. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I tried to pick some not-so-obvious moments that really connected with me.
The Legend of Zelda
It's dangerous to go alone. Take this. - What can I say? Imagine being a 5 year old kid playing this hyped up game for the very first time. All you can do is move around... you don't even have a weapon. But go to the cave and a kindly old man jump starts your adventure. You sit in the cave swinging it around a few times, seeing the sword shoot out in front of you. You're suddenly more confident, more able to take on the world. Is that not super cool? In the grand scheme of things, it's a very minor thing, but I think the impact of it is rather large. The idea of spending the first few seconds getting your sword was and is actually a big deal for me, and I think the immediate reward and sense of accomplishment, however minor it may be, is part of the absolute genius of this game. And it has become a staple of the series, and rightly so. I cannot think of a better way to start the greatest videogame series of all time.
Finding the whistle in the second quest - You had the map, you saw the obvious blank space in the middle of the "A" in the second labyrinth. You've been everywhere else, you know an item has to be hidden there. The layout of the room above seems to confirm your suspicion, but still you can't find a way in. Is it a glitch, an error? In frustration, you just try to run through the solid wall - and then do just that. I can't tell you how mindblowing that was, an entirely new method of hiding rooms. It was completely unexpected, yet still doable. And when it happens for the first time, you just can't believe it. Despite the fact that puzzles have practically taken over the Zelda series (sigh...), none of them have given me the same satisfaction as this one.
The Adventure of Link
The Downward Thrust - Despite having played this game dozens of times, I still have to control myself not to go crazy downward thrusting anything and everything in sight as soon as I get it. It's just such a cool little move, and I love taking people out with it, or, for that matter, simply playing with it while running down a hallway. Getting this powerup is the turning point in the game, suddenly it goes from merely great to super awesome.
The Shadow Fight - This is it folks, the best fight in the Zelda series. Dark Link and every single instance of Ganon simply pales to the greatness of this encounter. I've played through this game dozens of times, can fly through the rest of the battles with ease... yet the outcome of this battle still remains questionable. None of my strategies and styles seem to work on him, and fighting him requires my entire concentration and all the patience I can muster. Besides, he looks so cool while fighting, from the way he deftly slides backwards to his reaction when hit to the way he merely crouches, motionless, merely staring at you as if daring you to make the next move. The idea of conquering yourself may be an overused cliche, but this is one instance where it is done with absolute perfection.
Ocarina of Time
The Forest Temple - Such a supremely designed temple (best level in a game ever? I think so) deserves all the praise it can get. From the multiple paths that lay in front of you from the moment you enter the temple proper, not to mention seeing ledges and doorways you can't quite reach in the courtyards, you knew this would be a blast to explore. Practically all the puzzles were completely and utterly unique, not to mention the numerous unique enemies. Seeing the twisted hallway for the first time blew my mind, figuring out what to do with the paintings was cool, running through the sewers was a cool reminder of the original Zelda's secret passageways, not finding a key for so long because I forgot about the temple's front yard and not being smart enough to look up was enjoyably frustrating. And the creepy music and vines growing everywhere and the ancient architecture and the constant shift from inside to outside made this temple come alive, feeling completely whole- something to experience rather than simply a level to play through.
The Final Six Hours - Holy crap. First thing's first- if I ever learn the world will end within a few hours, I'm listening to that music. It is so depressing yet mysterious at the same time, as if the world was resigned to its fate and now anxiously waiting for the end to come and discovering what would come next. And with the clock quickly running down, the earthquakes increasing in frequency, the moon so freaking huge, and everywhere you look you see people worried about the end. The different reactions from everyone really feels natural, and your heart starts to go out for these people. Before getting the game I thought seeing the end of the world would be the coolest experience, only to find it being somewhat anticlimactic after such a touching and intense six hours.
The Music Box House in Ikana - I don't know what you want to call it, but it's the one with the little girl who's frightened of Link. Everyone talks about Anju/Kafei, but this was the event that touched me the most. First, there was the confusion of what was going on, who this girl is and why she's so scared yet independent. Then, after entering the house, the appearance of her father freaked me out, being so sudden and, well, weird. After playing the song of healing (a very beautiful song), and seeing the reunion between the daughter and the father was almost too much. An extremely well scripted scene, one of the most emotional parts of the game for me.
All of these events are nice, but the truly wonderful thing about this series is how anything can turn into a memory. The Zelda games are so finely crafted, so infinitely variable, so filled with details and magic and art, that any part of playing can become meaningful and memorable. If you were to ask people what their favorite moments are in, say, Final Fantasy, chances are you'll get are Aeris' death or the Opera or whatever. In other words, the only moments that seem memorable are those that are specifically designed to be memorable. Square wants you to feel a certain way and directs you towards it. That's obviously not bad in any way (And indeed, Zelda has many such moments as well), but Zelda can also create such great moments out of anything.
Your freedom of movement and of experimentation allow you to create your own moments rather than merely watch them. I played horseback archery for hours. A friend of mine immediately started jammin on his guitar after becoming a Zora in MM. Setting off tons of bomb flowers at once made me grin. Fooling around while fighting Stalfos and Ironknuckles and Dark Link. Fishing. Riding around on Epona. Killing minor enemies until a giant one appears. Rolling around as a Goron. Jumping off cliffs while holding a chicken. Creating bomb arrows in LA. Taking out your frustrations on the old man in the labyrinths in the original Zelda. Being a pirate ship in WW. Anything and everything can be fun, can be exciting, can be a brand new experience. People praise GTA3 for its freedom so much, never seeming to realize that Zelda beat them to the punch and then some. This, to me, is more important to the Zelda legacy than actions and puzzles. Zelda represents the unknown possibilities of gaming, and one of the major reasons I value it much more than any other series in existence.
Title: Zelda and Revolution
Posted: February 19, 2006 (07:12 PM)
Am I the only one upset about these ever increasing rumors of Twilight Princess being adapted to have bonus features on the Revolution?
Nintendo has stated that they want this game to surpass Ocarina of Time, an admirable goal. And their willingness to delay it a year is testament to that goal. However, Wind Waker had vast, systematic flaws in the game. Some of these are obvious (and Nintendo has acknowledged some of them), others are more subtle. These problems are also rather prevalent in the Oracle games, and even hidden within the mighty N64 giants. I haven't played Minish Cap, but I'm willing to bet they're there, too. Suffice to say, the problems are endemic to the series. Zelda has become formulaic and stale, relying solely on gimmicks and a few new features to hide the rest of it. Ocarina of Time was new, and so the gimmick of time travel was overshadowed by the wonderful design and attention to detail. MM's gimmick was so completely ingrained in the game that it felt sufficiently different. But Wind Waker? Oracles? They were cheap copies of OoT and LA, failing to provide enough to feel worthy of being a new Zelda game. They couldn't stand on their own merits, like all 6 games before them. They didn't feel like unique additions, like a reinventing of Zelda. They felt more like an update, no different than Capcom cranking out new Mega Man games each year.
In order for TP to beat OoT, it needs to feel different. Not just different graphics or turning into a wolf or whatever. Nintendo needs to be able to recapture that moment of stepping out of Kokiri forest for the first time and seeing Hyrule spread out in front of you, or going into a cave and seeing "It's dangerous to go alone, take this." It means we can't have dungeons where you go to a room, kill everyone, solve a basic puzzle, move on, repeat, repeat, repeat, get new item, use new item for the rest of the puzzles and the boss. We've done that three times in 3D already, time for something new. It means we can't go linearly from island of interest to island of interest (and no, islands don't necessarily have to be in water), solving one or two scenarios to unlock the next temple. It means pieces of heart can't be hidden in obvious places. It means we have to explore for the fun of it, not out of some obligation. We need to examine every nook and cranny because we're excited about what might be there, like a boy exploring the woods in his backyard. This is Zelda. This is why the first game and Ocarina of Time are the two best games I have ever played, with nothing else coming close. And if Nintendo is serious about TP being able to stand on a pedestal next to OoT, they need to capture this feeling again.
Yes, I'm only one person, and I'm well aware of the fact that there are some strange people out there that think WW was as good as OoT. But those people would be pleased with anything. Some people are happy with adequate games. Wind Waker was adequate. A nice facsimile of OoT's gameplay. And if you like that, whatever. But OoT was special, and that's what TP ought to strive for. Think about why you play Zelda. Think about what the series means for you. If it does hold a special meaning for you, if your memories of playing are fond, think hard about WW and OoT. Are you happy with Nintendo going down that direction? Are you happy with the same core gameplay with new gimmicks to hide it? Do you want Zelda with Boats, Zelda with Minish Caps, Zelda with Weather Changing Ability, Zelda with Wolves, or do you want a game that needs no subtitle? Would you be happy if Zelda became Nintendo's Mega Man, or would you rather each game be unique and special?
So what does this have to do with the Revolution? It's my fear that Nintendo is doing precisely the opposite of what I suggest. The revmote has the ability to fundamentally change how we play games, yes, but it's not a magical panacea. A game built from the ground up on the Revolution could easily be fantastic. But TP's a GC game. It was built with the standard interface in mind. Like it or not, that's the way the game is going to be played.
So what's the point of adding Rev features? If they refit the game to be completely playable with the Revmote, it's going to lose something. Either the Rev control will be limiting, or the GC control will, or both. If the game is still primarily a GC game, than the way the game is played will change with the Rev. Since it wasn't built for this control, it will most likely be inferior. Unless Nintendo tries to shoehorn situations where the Revmote is useful, in which case the GC game will suffer. The first situation is simply a waste of time, the second is disastrous. After all, OoT's niftyness comes not from any single element, but all of them combining together to give us something bigger than the sum of its parts. If one of those links (such as control) is broken, the whole will suffer.
More likely though is a minigame or two that uses the Revmote. Once again, this is a waste of time. It wasn't fishing or horseback archery that made OoT great, it was ALL of those things. This separates one segment of the game, making it feel different from the rest. Once again, a link is broken. Once again, the illusion of a complete, new experience is broken. Once again, it'll look like a gimmick: Zelda with Revmote Action.
And that's why I'm so worried about this. If it's something like a minigame, it's not going to completely destroy the entire game. But it speaks about Nintendo's attitude, and it makes it look like TP will be more of the same. They're trying to treat the symptoms rather than the disease, or rather simply trying to hide the symptoms. It's like WW: hide the fact that it's a carbon copy of OoT by putting in different graphics. Pretending that a boat and islands and some stealth parts and conducting make the game fundamentally different. This idea to use the Revmote makes one think that they aren't approaching this by reinvisioning Zelda from the ground up, but rather trying to slap on new ideas to justify making a new game. Needless to say, that's not going to satisfy me.
Now obviously, we don't know if that's what they're doing. Some of Nintendo's statements and released screenshots show that they're on the right track. Others show otherwise. We won't know until November or whenever this thing launches. But personally, I plan on playing this thing on my Gamecube, whether I have a Revolution or not. I like the GC's controller, and besides Metroid Prime I haven't had the experience of playing a great Zelda game with it yet. And if my experience is going to be limited because of that, I'm going to be upset. If I feel like I'm missing out on something, it's going to ruin the magical feeling of Zelda for me. And even it turns out better than Wind Waker (can't get much worse though...), I'll still wonder how much better it could have been if they had spent this extra year making the GC game even better rather than wondering how to add another diversion into the game.
Title: Editorial Listing
Posted: February 06, 2006 (05:33 PM)
I better do this before I forget. Since editorials are no longer a part of this site, I have to keep track of them myself. So this post will periodically be updated whenever I add a new editorial. This post will be permanently linked on the side bar here, so you can easily find a list of all my rantings. So, without further ado...
The Anti-RPG Manifesto - Why do you play RPGs? Are they really worth your time? In fact, are the stories and gameplay any good at all?
SNES: The Gilded Age of Gaming - The SNES may have been a great console, but that doesn't mean it didn't have problems associated with it. An exploration of the various genres popular on the console and some of the problems endemic with their development.
Title: F-Zero GX
Posted: February 06, 2006 (05:24 PM)
Why is it I was able to conquer the Master difficulty in F-Zero X, but am struggling with Expert mode here? This is freaking insane Sega!
And it's odd, but I still can't tell whether or not I like this game more than its N64 counterpart. There are some parts where it's obviously superior, such as the fact that the racers are more dynamic, the tracks more complex, and the graphics giving it a greater sense of speed. There are also parts where it's clearly worse, like the length of the tracks or lack of X Cup and Death Race. And I think the analog stick is a bit too sensitive now, although that may just be me. So which parts are more important? Which is better? I don't know. You'd think I should know this stuff before trying to review the game. But enh, I'll just wing it.
And on a completely unrelated note that nobody else will care about, President Bush talked about cellulosic ethanol in his SOTU speech! Woohoo! He even specifically said switchgrass! Yeah, yeah, nobody else cares. But I thought it was cool. It's about time a president took notice. And I'll shut up now.
Title: Most overrated game ever
Posted: January 29, 2006 (07:22 PM)
Secret of Mana
Honestly, this is probably the only really popular game that's actually bad. Sure, I criticize Chrono Trigger or Wind Waker, but that's because they're average. They're still pretty decent games after all. And the original Metroid's gotten enough criticism over the years that it's difficult to call that a highly popular game anymore. Secret of Mana though... ugh. That is one poorly designed game, from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, listing everything wrong with it means this is one of my longest reviews. But since my opinion is in a tiny minority, I had to make myself perfectly clear. And this is probably the only time I'll actually use this site's html for something other than bold or italics. I never liked the way it looked at GameFAQs much, but the bullet points make this one look better.
Oh, and I resubmitted my Soul Blazer and Skyblazer reviews last week. But I forgot to mention it. Oh well.
Title: Metroid Zero Mission
Posted: January 19, 2006 (05:45 PM)
I just finished Metroid Zero Mission not too long ago. Took me nearly two weeks, and yet the timer only said I played 4 hours; shows how much I play games these days... Anywho, it was pretty cool I thought. Sure, I don't think it's as good as Super Metroid, but it's certainly leagues ahead of the original. It was just a good game, not great. Considering I expected to either be blown away or bitterly disappointed, it was a pleasant surprise to find that it was just, well, pleasant. Quite fun. I'll have to review it at some point, but first I need to figure out exactly why it's not as good as Super Metroid or Prime (well, besides one or two obvious points). I have my suspicions, but I'll need to go back and play both Super Metroid and this game again to be sure. And heck, better play Prime and Castlevania: SotN too just to make sure. OK, so maybe that's just an excuse to play those two games again...
However, I do know what's NOT the problem. Practically every negative review I read of this game complains that it's too short and too easy. Huh? Have these people EVER played Super Metroid? Can you seriously say this game's easier than that which all Metroid games are compared to? And while I MIGHT be willing too see how the shortness is a problem, did they ever play the original? Seriously people, Super Metroid was short and easy. Metroid Prime (by current standards at least) was short and easy. CV:SOTN was short and easy. It's a defining point of the genre. Deal with it.
And now that I've finally played a GBA game with this thing, I can officially say that
is the most awesomely awesome idea ever. Oh sure, I already knew that from playing Sonic Mega Collection and Soul Calibur II, but this just confirms it yet again. If Nintendo doesn't let me use this controller for NES and SNES games on the Revolution, I'm going to be pissed.
Title: Batting for the other team.
Posted: January 15, 2006 (06:22 PM)
New review up, this time for Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, I wrote a review for a Genesis title. Gasp! Yeah, well, a platformer's a platformer, regardless of what, uh, platform it's on. It's not like I ever cared about the whole Nintendo vs Sega rivalry anyway; I didn't even know there was a rivalry back then.
But anywho, yeah, review. Read it. Sure, it's a bit longer than I initially expected (just under 10KB), but I had an idea of how to write it and I had to go with it. Unfortunately, I was afraid that the message would get lost (an all too common occurence when you try to praise and bash a game at the same time), so I tossed in an extra paragraph to add a little emphasis to how much my opinions varied across the game. Hopefully it's clear.
And don't forget to check out my editorial (see below) too! 'Tis a rant against the ridiculous pedestal Nintendo fans seem to place the SNES on. Oh sure, you could find plenty of prolific folk on this site who would be happy to bash the SNES. But you should still read mine, since A) I don't care about the Genesis, or Sega in general for that matter, B) I still like the system, and (perhaps most importantly) C) I don't use words like "snerd". So read it, comment, ignore it, whatever.
Title: Editorial #2 - SNES: The Gilded Age of Gaming
Posted: January 15, 2006 (06:05 PM)
Mark Twain referred to the industrial era as "The Gilded Age." Hidden behind the booming economy and brand new inventions and processes was a world with poverty, unrest, and rather unscrupulous business dealings. The era was gilded - made to look wonderful but in reality wasn't. Perhaps the same can be said of gaming's supposed golden age - the 16 bit era. We hear about the wonders of the SNES and Genesis so much that it is taken for granted this generation was the pinnacle of gaming. But was it really? My experiences with the Genesis are limited (the types of games that are popular on it don't appeal to me at all), but I've played my fair share of SNES games. And from what I've seen, this generation wasn't all that special.
I'm not saying it's not good, of course. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the excellent games I played on the system, or the wonderful improvements over the NES. Games like Super Metroid are legendary; others like Tetris Attack or Sky Blazer are relatively unknown but still excellent. The widespread use of saves allowed developers to expand their games even more, creating vast adventures and larger quests. The improved processing power led to better graphics, faster movement, and more immersion in the game world. The added buttons improved functionality tremendously, spelling the end to bizarre button configurations. Could you imagine playing Street Fighter or Mario Kart or Final Fantasy III on an NES? It's just not possible. The 16 bit era brought many wonders to the gaming world and offered a broad range of new experiences; I would be a fool to deny that.
But that doesn't mean everything became better. Take platformers, for instance. Time after time I started playing a new game, hoping that it would provide a quality platforming experience. And yet, time after time I found a cute looking animal slowly moving through a barren and boring world, collecting nonsensical objects and firing nonsensical weapons through generic worlds. The joys of Mario and Kirby's Adventure and Duck Tales and Rainbow Island gave way to an endless stream of generic "platformers" that do not hold true to the basic elements of the genre. Lion King, Mickey Mouse, Addams Family, Mr Nutz, James Pond, and others were simply stale, derivative pieces. Even Kirby's Dreamland and Donkey Kong Country were boring, slow moving games with far too much empty space. Mario World is the one shining exception to this, but even that game pales in comparison to Mario 3.
Why is this? I think part of the reason is that developers just got too enamored with the spiffy new technology that they ignored the fundamentals. Saving is nice, but it destroys the concept of constant repetition and creating one's own challenge. You don't end up memorizing the levels; gameplay never becomes unconscious; you don't have a chance to experiment and start seeing challenges within challenges. DKC was a huge graphical showcase, but still ended up to be a relatively standard experience. Enemies were your typical fluff and there was too much empty space. Kirby had animal partners and sub quests and new powerups and all sorts of ridiculous things when all I wanted to do was get to the end of the level.
Or look at Yoshi's Island, probably the worst offender and my biggest disappointment. There were tons of enhancements and cool ideas, but they were all just crammed in there. Some ideas were ignored for worlds at a time, some were never used to their full potential, and others were so weak that they were no fun at all. It's sort of a "too many chefs spoil the broth" thing; there's too much stuff in there that these 10 minute long levels end up losing something. Mario 3 also added a ton of stuff, but all of them were focused on enhancing and improving the classic Mario formula. Yoshi pretends to have the same formula, but instead is pulled in so many directions that it ends up far weaker as a result.
And this isn't merely constrained to the platformers either. Capcom knew that the Mega Man series had become stale, but their reinvention with X contained so many new ideas that the simple fun of the NES games weren't present. Super Castlevania is so overblown with stylishness that it becomes almost a mockery of the pure challenge that the original games stood for. With so many new moves and actions, whole sections of the game become pathetically easy. Nintendo realized they needed to change the style of Zelda gameplay, but their additions ended up creating a pathetic illusion of exploration. Pieces of heart were thrown at you with no effort required on your part, items had giant signs pointing out their location, and the hilariously obvious cracks in the walls insured that nothing was really a secret to anybody. Game after game contains so many new elements and new ideas that the original reason for playing becomes lost. Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Mega Man, Ninja Turtles, Punch Out, Castlevania, Tecmo Bowl. All of them lost something when they went to the SNES, something special and important.
It doesn't have to be this way. Look how Super Metroid took a bad game and turned it into something amazing. It fixed all of Metroid's flaws, revamped everything thanks to better technology, and added in new aspects that molded well with the series. Or look at Metroid Prime, which took SM as a basis and built an entirely new game out of it. It is possible to make sequels that top the originals, but it just didn't happen all that often on the SNES. I think developers just got sidetracked by saving and sprite scaling and extra buttons and pretty colors and extra storage. They didn't focus on what they wanted; they didn't spend their time making sure the final product was more than the sum of its parts. Since it was easier to insure a game didn't turn out to be awful, nobody wanted to spend the time to make a game that became spectacular.
On the other hand, I will admit racing games improved with the advent of easy sprite scaling. Of course, they improved even more with 3D, making the whole thing a moot point nowadays. Can you really name one racing game on the SNES that is superior to any other similar game? Some still claim the original Mario Kart is the best, but that's certainly debatable. F-Zero X and GX are both far superior to the original, and any realistic racing game has long been left in the dust. Admittedly, there are some racers unique to the system. But besides the incredible Uniracers, I can't think of any good ones (and yes, I played the "underrated" Biker Mice from Mars and Rock and Roll Racing).
The same could be said of fighting games. Once again, it's hard for me to get excited about Street Fighter II when there's newer versions out there. These versions have extremely similar gameplay while moving faster and smoother than the SNES can handle, to say nothing of all the new fighting game franchises like Soul Calibur. Sure, I suppose some fighting game purists might say I'm nuts, but whatever. For most people, there's no fighting games on the SNES that can't be found elsewhere.
And then there's RPGs, the genre SNES purists seem most enamored with. And for good reason, as there's tons of them everywhere. But once you start going through the stack of RPGs, you may end up noticing that they're all the same, and they're all rather boring. In every game, you play the part of some lonesome hero up against total evil and bound to end up getting the girl as well. In every game, you have a simplistic levelling up system, only a few attacks worth mentioning, stale dungeons, pathetically simple puzzles and tactics, and excruciatingly lame dialogue. You'll find yourself playing, say, Breath of Fire, and wondering why you're bored with the game when you know there's nothing wrong with it. You'll play a game like 7th Saga and wonder just why you're spending all this time levelling up. You'll go through game after game and discover that the minor differences aren't enough to make it worth another 25 hours of your time. You'll find much heralded games like Lufia or Tales of Phantasia have some serious gameplay flaws in them, and you'll find more unknown games that are simply terrible. Even the legendary Chrono Trigger finds itself succumbing to the "haven't I done this all before?" phenomenon, as nothing really sticks out as inventive, unique, or completely refined. Thankfully there are a few exceptions, such as Lufia II's puzzle-based dungeons or FF3's decision to ignore what would undoubtedly be a stupid story in its second half and focus instead on a theme. Its sad, but the most popular genre on the system is also one of the lamest.
Combining these lame RPGs with action didn't help much either. The most famous, Secret of Mana, had so many flaws in the design that any quality the game had was washed away. It's a perfect example of developers cramming stuff in there expecting it to fit; as so many ideas were executed poorly or were simply superfluous. Remember what I said about focusing? Square certainly doesn't, as the game changes drastically as you play through it, moving from a moderately interesting adventure to some sort of haphazard action game. Enix didn't do much better, offering so many of these hybrids that never lived up to their potential. Actraiser's gameplay was so simplistic that it became boring and EVO's control was horrid, while Gaia and Brain Lord were simply too derivative. Yeah, I enjoyed Soul Blazer, but even I'd have to admit that the game was extremely bland. And that's pretty much the best of them!
I suppose I could go through genre after genre and game after game, but this has gone far enough. I look at any list of must have SNES games and simply see an endless stream of games that I have absolutely no desire to play. All those Donkey Kongs and Mortal Kombats and Final Fantasies and other generic Japanese RPGs and Mega Man Xs simply aren't worth the time. I see sequel after sequel fail to live up to the past, as well as games like F-Zero and Street Fighter that are superior in later versions. Of course, I also see quite a few great games, games I love playing. The extra advances and technologies that the system offered were occasionally used for improving games rather than simply complicating them. But just because there are a few shining examples, a few more great games, and a rather large library of "pretty good" games doesn't mean the generation is the best ever. There is no golden era for me, as I simply cannot ignore the serious problems this console created.
Title: A link, no, TWO links to the past
Posted: January 08, 2006 (03:09 PM)
Whee, I'm back! And with it, adding two old items relating to a certain Zelda game...
First up is my review for A Link to the Past. Feast your eyes on what could quite possibly be the most negative 9/10 review ever. How can one make a 9/10 review negative? There's only one way to find out. So go read it!
And for all zero of you who read fanfics, go read A Different Perspective, also for LttP. I think it's the second one I ever wrote, and I kinda like it. It's probably not the greatest, but at least it's short! Like, shorter than most of my reviews. So now you have no excuse not to read it. Or something.
And in case anyone actually looks at this blog (unlikely, I know), chances are I'll be updating a lot more now. Like, once a week, at least. Or at least that's what I hope.
Title: New (sorta) review: Lufia and the Fortress of Doom (SNES)
Posted: October 26, 2005 (07:12 PM)
New review. And by new, I mean transferred from GameFAQs. But by claiming it's new, it masks the fact that my productivity has dropped like a rock this past year. Yay! Anywho, go read it.
Title: Editorial #1: Mariner's Anti-RPG Manifesto
Posted: October 23, 2005 (10:13 AM)
The Anti-RPG Manifesto, or why console RPGs are rotten to the core
Everyone loves RPGs, right? Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Warrior, the list goes on and on. It's one of the most well loved genres there is, especially among the hardcore gamers. But why? I've noticed something simple while playing Chrono Trigger and Breath of Fire, popular games I did not enjoy in the least. Three words: RPGs are stupid.
Before I begin, I figure I might as well defend myself against the two obvious objections people might make.
''They're not stupid, you just don't like RPGs.''
- Not entirely true. Or, more to the point, I can think of plenty of counterexamples. I don't like fighting games, I don't like FPSs, I don't like shoot-em-ups, heck, I don't like most genres. Yet I won't claim any of those are stupid, because there it is my personal preference against certain elements of those genres. Here, the elements of the RPG genre are inherently bad.
''They're not stupid. Why, [insert RPG here] is the coolest game ever!''
- Final Fantasy VI is the only game, IMO, that can rank up there with the Zelda games, and I adore it completely. I'll sing the praises of Lufia II as well as anyone. Counterexamples are possible, and I'll explain why later. But the average RPG is stupid and a bad game, unlike the average fighter or platformer or whatever.
So anyways, lets get started. Many people believe the story is the heart of an RPG. But think about it, do you really spend 40 hours in front of the television to watch a story unfold? Especially with the types of stories found in videogames? Virtually all RPGs are yet another variation of ''unseeming hero finds that he must save the world from total evil, generally getting the girl in the process.'' Let's face it, they're simple, illogical, and rarely contain much of any significant deeposity. A great movie will provide a better story, more realistic and interesting characters, better dialogue, and a more complete experience - and at 1/20 the time! Or just read any one of hundreds of books with more interesting stories than anything videogames ever produced. VG plots are still in their infancy, generally no better than sophomoric shallow fantasies, and provide, at best, a simple escapism. There's nothing wrong with that, certainly, but to spend 40 hours in such a simplistic fantasy world? If I want mindless entertainment, I'll read a 5 minute comic book, thank you very much.
And the interactive part doesn't help matters either. Mainly because the stories aren't interactive. The potential for multiple choices, for you actually affecting the outcome, has been eliminated in favor of extremely linear games. Ooh, but Chrono Trigger has multiple endings! Yes, that's true, but such minor differences can't make up for the fact that I can think of a half dozen books or movies regarding time travel that I'd rather read or watch than see that pathetic excuse for a plot. Besides, does anyone really make the choices based on what they think is best for the story, or what is best for the game (ie, which route will give you the best exp, items, less time consuming, etc). But you can decide whether or not to save Shadow in FF6! Yes, but that merely subtracts from characterization elements later in the game, rather than fundamentally change the plot. Besides, these are the exceptions, not the rule. Your average RPG just doesn't have a very good story and you can't do anything about it.
So, that kills the plot aspect. And do we really play RPGs for the *snicker* gameplay? A good 90% of RPGs are nothing more than move,get in battle, press ''A'', win battle, repeat process. I think we can all agree that the typical RPG setup is by far the most boring gameplay out there, and can't compare to Mario or Zelda or Contra or Street Fighter or Tetris or Goldeneye or whatever other genres I forgot. Battles are random, requiring minimal input, and require at best a little bit of knowledge and at worst pressing one button over and over. ''Exploration'' is limited to finding your next destination or an equippable item, nothing like the neato environments and rewards of Zelda and Metroid. And Square's fascination with minigames are ridiculously boring (tap a button at the right time to do CPR! Tap a button at the right time to do jumping jacks! Alternately tap two different buttons to race a hippo! Yay!).
But, you say, there's strategy involved. You have to know what equipment to equip, what attacks to use, when to cure, etc! Except, no. You equip the latest weapons and armor, you use your strongest attacks over and over, you cure when that little HP bar gets too low for comfort. And if you're still having problems, just go outside and level up a couple times. Nine times out of 10, this is good enough, even for the games I consider to have strategy in them. Where's the strategy in that? And knowing what the best moves are against certain bosses (such as elemental weaknesses) isn't strategy; it's just reading GameFAQs or scanning beforehand or finding some other clue. Most RPGs require little to no brains, and little to no action. And this is supposed to be a respectable videogame genre?
Keep in mind this is all for the ''average'' RPG - one that does nothing really wrong, but doesn't do anything significantly special. Thus, the average RPG setup is bad. Perhaps the ''average'' in every genre is bad? I don't think so. Take the fighting genre, for example. You can still have a lot of fun, at least for a few moments, with basic, average games. Button mash and watch your characters react. As long as controls are responsive enough and nothing horridly done, the game can still be fun for a little while. Yes, once you start trying to learn some depth and everything, you may want to find a more refined game like Street Fighter. But that's only after a few fun starts. Think about any basic game you've played over the years, any game that seemed to merely go through the motions. It may not have been a wonderful awe-inspiring experience, but you still managed to get some enjoyment out of it, right?
Perhaps a part of the problem lies in the length of the game. Going back to fighting games, your gameplay experience is divied up into nice neat sections of a couple minutes each - each round. There's an immediacy to your enjoyment, good play is rewarded by a quick victory while poor play means a defeat. Same with racing games. In more action oriented games, you feel elation as you pass every single tricky point, thus gaining satisfaction multiple times throughout a level. Even in longer running games like Zelda and Metroid you can find immediate satisfaction. Every time you get a new item, you can try it out and have some fun. But in an RPG, these moments are few and far between. Sure, reaching a new town or beating a boss might be cool, but it's still just the same old, same old. Beating regular enemies and finding items do NOT hold the same satisfaction as in action or adventure games. Either enemies are boring and easy, or provide a challenge. Obviously there's no satisfaction in the former, and any in the latter decreases as your stock of curative items or magic depletes after every battle. Likewise, new items often simply mean the numbers go up when you hit something, nothing compared to the experimentation and fun that comes from finding the boomerang or morph ball. In order to get any significant satisfaction out of RPGs, you pretty much have to play the entire game (especially when you consider story progression as satisfaction!). And waiting 40 hours for it means the ride had better be worth it. Every other type of game is, in some way, a pick up and play game. Sure, you're not going to get a complete picture of Zelda in 20 minutes of play time, but you can still get something out of the game from that. In RPGs though, you're left feeling nothing.
So what about those exceptions, like FF6 or Lufia 2? It's simple - they do something above and beyond the typical basic RPGs. They simply employ new concepts or take interesting approaches, which catapults them from ''average'' to ''extraordinary.'' This can be done in both story and gameplay, and both of these games do it in both (I'll focus on these two since they're my favorite).
Storywise, FF6 has practically no plot for the second half of the game. Since all RPG plots are various shades of lame, this is definitely a good thing. Instead, Square focused on bringing out the theme of the game (quothe Terra: ''It's not the end result that matters, but the day to day concerns, and the celebration of life... and love.'') We see people attempting to plant flowers, Terra caring for the kids in Mobliz, Relm cheering up Strago, etc. This simple yet fresh approach made the entire latter half much more interesting. Also, Square provided some excellent characterization as well, foregoing the usual sledgehammer style of making darn sure even the dimmest of lightbulbs can understand the 2-D characters of most RPGs. So many events are done which subtly shape the characters into who they are. There's never a defining moment when Celes went from the cold-as-ice general to the full fledged Returner, yet it happened somewhere along the line. Lufia II is different. For one, there is the promise of a deeper story. Iris, Dual Blade, Arek, and the people's reactions to the Sinistrals hint that the game could delve quite deeply into religious issues and the abilities of Man. Unfortunately, these ideas were never fleshed out, and the day to day plot was pretty lame, but at least the potential is there. Furthermore, the light-hearted attitude is a definite plus, and the characters bantering and insulting each other is a mainstay of the Lufia series (''My love is my sword!'' ''If I were you, I'd stay away from thoughts like that.'')
Gameplay-wise, there's even more improvements. Every FF game since 5 has provided almost infinite levels of customization, providing some depth for those who want it. With relics, skills, and espers, there's plenty to do here. In fact, this is probably the only RPG in existence where it is possible to beat the game with levels of 7-9 or so, thanks to smart management (well, and a design error, but that's besides the point) Also, due to the plotless second half of the game, you have almost limitless freedom to do what you want and in any order. That's a refreshing change from most RPGs. Lufia II's battle system isn't quite as in-depth as FF6 (but, thanks to IP and Capsule monsters, it's better than most), and it's linear to the extreme, but it has other advantages. A puzzle based dungeon system is its highest prize, as solving each individual puzzle (some of which are quite ingenious) provides some instantaneous satisfaction. Also of note is the Ancient Cave, a massive 8-10 hour long minigame that at least starts out exciting (but does, unfortunately, become monotonous after awhile). Besides, the ability to see enemies beforehand (and thus potentially avoid conflicts), massively reduces the frustration factor.
So, besides the wonderful exceptions, what's the point of these games? They are so basic, having simple boring plots and simple boring gameplay, and they tend to drag on forever. The only good games are the ones that don't follow the basic formula, the ones that actually do something different. So why is this the darling of the ''hardcore'' gamer, a group professing to play games because they're fun? Because, quite frankly, there's nothing fun about them.
Title: New review - Pokemon Red
Posted: October 23, 2005 (10:10 AM)
A new review's up: Pokemon Red/Blue. My first handheld review, how nice. It's a bit longer than I expected it to be (what else is new?), mostly due to the difficulties of making it both a positive and negative review. I think the negative stuff is clear, but it's hard to explain why I like the game. Hopefully it makes sense.
Random quote: "Obviously your options will be limited early on, but I wish they could have spread out the pokemon more. It seems that many of the elementals are like these two: barely present early in the game and then inundated with them later on. In the end, it means that out of the 150 pokemon available, only a small fraction of them are worth anything."
Title: I'm a blogger!
Posted: October 22, 2005 (05:27 PM)
Well, if this is going to be here, I might as well make use of it. I'll be resubmitting my editorials soon enough, and I think I'll make a new post everytime I write a new review or fiction or something. I'm just vain like that. Plus I'm sure I'll put up other random commentary on stuff if I have the time. Yeah, being a gaming blogger sounds rather pathetic, but it could be fun.
Is this green text easy to see? It looks fine to me, but then again, I like green. As if you couldn't tell.