dot dot dot - two: A Conflict of Specialness

Oh hey, a second post. THE SERIES LIVES ON. Here's hoping I can find it in me to keep this going throughout the year. This will probably be when the posts actually appear, since I tend to be not-so-busy on the weekends. I'm sure homework will change that in a couple weeks time, but it should be easy enough to spare the half-hour it takes for me to write a blog post.

There's not that much in the way for me to talk about except for something that came up when talking with . We had an extended discussion over Steam about Dark Souls/Demon's Souls and the strengths of the two games the other day. I came away from it with the realisation that while Dark Souls is an improvement over Demon's Souls in nearly every way, DS still holds a relatively special place in my heart. It stuck with me because, in a lot of ways, I feel the same about Persona 4 versus Persona 3. P4 is a better game than P3 in every facet, yet Persona 3 is the first one to come to mind when I am prompted to think of my favorite JRPGs.

Oh, Mitsuru. I miss you. ;-;

Why is that so, though? I actually enjoyed my time with Dark Souls far more than I did with Demon's Souls, and the same applies for Persona 4 versus Persona 3. (and FES) Would it not be logical for me to unquestioningly prefer the better sequels to the originals? The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me because I think that, ultimately, it comes down to novelty. What P3 and Demon's Souls did on their respective releases felt like a landmark moment. With P3, I was finally able to enjoy JRPGs again. An actual mature story with well-realised characters, an incredible soundtrack, and some of the most fun gameplay intertwined with addictive dating sim-like aspects. I couldn't have fathomed such a game would exist, let alone have it be so enjoyable.

With Demon's Souls, I got to play the revival of classic game design. Punishing difficulty that forces you to learn and better yourself as a player. Combat scenarios and level designs that, while difficult, are fair and done in a way to teach you mechanics and strategies to use later on. To channel Egoraptor for a bit, it reminds me of Mega Man X, where the first stage of the game is designed in a manner to teach you everything you need to know as a player without explicitly telling you so. Sure, Demon's Souls has a tutorial level but I'm more specifically talking about Boletarian Palace 1-1. Playing through it again, it reminded me just how strong of a level it is. Every enemy placement, object placement, and architectural decision is there to teach you something. The doors, the bridges, the ledges, the enemies hiding behind walls-- everything. When you finish 1-1, you have, through repeated play from dying so much, learned the core of what you need to make your way through the game. You'll learn better tactics later on but they'll just be an improvement over what you've already learned.

Pictured above: one of the most amazing environments in modern gaming.

There's a bunch of other shit in Demon's Souls that makes it great (like the art direction, soundtrack, and mechanics) and all of those are (I feel) improved upon in Dark Souls. The art direction is stronger, the soundtrack is better, and the mechanics are extended and improved upon. There's so much I could elaborate regarding why I feel Dark Souls is a superior game but that would be unwrapping the entire game by so much that it's just simpler for me to sum it up that way. Maybe I'll save it for another time. So, if it's better, than why does Demon's Souls still feel so... special? The same applies to Persona 4. Why does Persona 3 hold such a special place to me if Persona 4 is, obviously, such a better game?

JOLLY CO-OPER... oh wait, wrong game.

Because it was the first time I saw it happen in front of me. Dark Souls and Persona 4, while obviously better than their previous iterations, are still improvements over an original brilliant foundation. It doesn't feel as special to me because I have, unfortunately, seen it before. I'm playing through a better version of what I've already seen and it's letting me enjoy it on its own merits, but it is still the same core idea. If anything, it made me wish there was a way to experience those games for the first time again. Heck, it makes me curious to know what it was like for players who have never played Persona 3 or Demon's Souls before playing either Dark Souls or Persona 4. Was it this revolutionary thing to them? Could they even go back and enjoy P3 or Demon's Souls for what they are, or would they see those games as some kind of shadow behind much better games?

So yeah, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, especially if you've played either Dark Souls or Persona 4 (or both) and then went on to play the original games after. (I'll say Persona 3 for P4, considering Persona and Persona 2 are kind of really different from the PS2 games.) Until next week, or something, toodles~

... also, I wish I could experience NiER for the first time again, and I only say that because I'm listening to the brilliant OST again.

30 Comments
31 Comments
Posted by aurahack

Oh hey, a second post. THE SERIES LIVES ON. Here's hoping I can find it in me to keep this going throughout the year. This will probably be when the posts actually appear, since I tend to be not-so-busy on the weekends. I'm sure homework will change that in a couple weeks time, but it should be easy enough to spare the half-hour it takes for me to write a blog post.

There's not that much in the way for me to talk about except for something that came up when talking with . We had an extended discussion over Steam about Dark Souls/Demon's Souls and the strengths of the two games the other day. I came away from it with the realisation that while Dark Souls is an improvement over Demon's Souls in nearly every way, DS still holds a relatively special place in my heart. It stuck with me because, in a lot of ways, I feel the same about Persona 4 versus Persona 3. P4 is a better game than P3 in every facet, yet Persona 3 is the first one to come to mind when I am prompted to think of my favorite JRPGs.

Oh, Mitsuru. I miss you. ;-;

Why is that so, though? I actually enjoyed my time with Dark Souls far more than I did with Demon's Souls, and the same applies for Persona 4 versus Persona 3. (and FES) Would it not be logical for me to unquestioningly prefer the better sequels to the originals? The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me because I think that, ultimately, it comes down to novelty. What P3 and Demon's Souls did on their respective releases felt like a landmark moment. With P3, I was finally able to enjoy JRPGs again. An actual mature story with well-realised characters, an incredible soundtrack, and some of the most fun gameplay intertwined with addictive dating sim-like aspects. I couldn't have fathomed such a game would exist, let alone have it be so enjoyable.

With Demon's Souls, I got to play the revival of classic game design. Punishing difficulty that forces you to learn and better yourself as a player. Combat scenarios and level designs that, while difficult, are fair and done in a way to teach you mechanics and strategies to use later on. To channel Egoraptor for a bit, it reminds me of Mega Man X, where the first stage of the game is designed in a manner to teach you everything you need to know as a player without explicitly telling you so. Sure, Demon's Souls has a tutorial level but I'm more specifically talking about Boletarian Palace 1-1. Playing through it again, it reminded me just how strong of a level it is. Every enemy placement, object placement, and architectural decision is there to teach you something. The doors, the bridges, the ledges, the enemies hiding behind walls-- everything. When you finish 1-1, you have, through repeated play from dying so much, learned the core of what you need to make your way through the game. You'll learn better tactics later on but they'll just be an improvement over what you've already learned.

Pictured above: one of the most amazing environments in modern gaming.

There's a bunch of other shit in Demon's Souls that makes it great (like the art direction, soundtrack, and mechanics) and all of those are (I feel) improved upon in Dark Souls. The art direction is stronger, the soundtrack is better, and the mechanics are extended and improved upon. There's so much I could elaborate regarding why I feel Dark Souls is a superior game but that would be unwrapping the entire game by so much that it's just simpler for me to sum it up that way. Maybe I'll save it for another time. So, if it's better, than why does Demon's Souls still feel so... special? The same applies to Persona 4. Why does Persona 3 hold such a special place to me if Persona 4 is, obviously, such a better game?

JOLLY CO-OPER... oh wait, wrong game.

Because it was the first time I saw it happen in front of me. Dark Souls and Persona 4, while obviously better than their previous iterations, are still improvements over an original brilliant foundation. It doesn't feel as special to me because I have, unfortunately, seen it before. I'm playing through a better version of what I've already seen and it's letting me enjoy it on its own merits, but it is still the same core idea. If anything, it made me wish there was a way to experience those games for the first time again. Heck, it makes me curious to know what it was like for players who have never played Persona 3 or Demon's Souls before playing either Dark Souls or Persona 4. Was it this revolutionary thing to them? Could they even go back and enjoy P3 or Demon's Souls for what they are, or would they see those games as some kind of shadow behind much better games?

So yeah, that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, especially if you've played either Dark Souls or Persona 4 (or both) and then went on to play the original games after. (I'll say Persona 3 for P4, considering Persona and Persona 2 are kind of really different from the PS2 games.) Until next week, or something, toodles~

... also, I wish I could experience NiER for the first time again, and I only say that because I'm listening to the brilliant OST again.

Posted by Dolphin_Butter

You think Persona 3 is better. I will continue to acknowledge your existence. :3

Posted by aurahack

@DolphinButter said:

You think Persona 3 is better. I will continue to acknowledge your existence. :3

See that's the thing. I don't. :< Persona 4 is, easily, the better game. I like a lot more about Persona 4 than I do 3. It's just... Persona 3, man. No matter how amazing the story, characters, soundtrack, or gameplay is in 4, there was something about playing through Persona 3 that I just didn't get in 4.

Posted by Dolphin_Butter

@aurahack said:

@DolphinButter said:

You think Persona 3 is better. I will continue to acknowledge your existence. :3

See that's the thing. I don't. :< Persona 4 is, easily, the better game. I like a lot more about Persona 4 than I do 3. It's just... Persona 3, man. No matter how amazing the story, characters, soundtrack, or gameplay is in 4, there was something about playing through Persona 3 that I just didn't get in 4.

Well I meant "better" in that you seem to have a preference for P3 (I was hoping I'd get an edit in before you responded :P). I agree that P4 is better in almost every regard--though I like the characters and story slightly more--but P3 is a game that I feel like I can go back to more despite P4 now existing in a more complete, (preferably) portable form.

Posted by aurahack

@DolphinButter said:

@aurahack said:

@DolphinButter said:

You think Persona 3 is better. I will continue to acknowledge your existence. :3

See that's the thing. I don't. :< Persona 4 is, easily, the better game. I like a lot more about Persona 4 than I do 3. It's just... Persona 3, man. No matter how amazing the story, characters, soundtrack, or gameplay is in 4, there was something about playing through Persona 3 that I just didn't get in 4.

Well I meant "better" in that you seem to have a preference for P3 (I was hoping I'd get an edit in before you responded :P). I agree that P4 is better in almost every regard--though I like the characters and story slightly more--but P3 is a game that I feel like I can go back to more despite P4 now existing in a more complete, (preferably) portable form.

Oh, then yeah, if that's what you mean--totally. I'm excited to play through Golden at some point but I don't know if I'll even be able to finish it. Revisiting P4 sounds really... odd to me, whereas I feel I could do it with P3 a lot easier. I don't know. I want to say it's simply because it was there at the right time, but maybe I've overlooking some factor I just can't see yet. Either way... man. Baby baby, dun dun dun dundun, dun dun dun dundun, baby baby~

Edited by granderojo

I think what you are talking about is much like what Giantbomb talked about with SNES games a few weeks ago in that many SNES games felt like sequels, in the original game. Most games come out and are missing some of the vision of the original but end up selling well enough to justify a sequel. By the time the sequels come out the developers get to make the game they originally wanted and it shows being a better product, but by that time the user either built an affinity for the original or is burnt out on the concept.

I actually prefer Persona 4 and 2 too 3 but I'm not into Anime so that may be why, they were just better games and stories to me. Especially Persona 4, that game really acted as a antithesis for why Japan can still make awesome games. Around the time that game came out was the start of the decline with Japan. It was a huge revelation playing that and thinking, "Man Japan's still got it...also is the Asian market still open downtown, I want some fucking C.C. Lemon now."

Posted by mwng

I prefer P3 to P4 too, P4 is an utterly fantastic game, but I think I enjoyed the characters/story in P3 more (that's not to say I'm not totally enamored with both of these things in P4 too).
 
I think it boils down to the fact that P3 has a better group dynamic, everyone in P4 gets along with each other a little too well for my liking, whereas the cast of P3 aren't all that trusting of each other, there's still a bit of mystery behind their motivations. P3 is like the X-Files to P4's Scooby Doo, or something...
 
Feel free to call me out on any of this though.

Posted by Phatmac

I think P4 does a better job about making a better relationship with your group. P3 has some good characters but I didn't really grow any strong attachments to any of them(I do love Aigis though so never mind). I just had a better connection with the characters in P4 and feel that I had a more personal relationship with each of them. Also, the combat is better due to P4 letting you directly control your party during combat unlike P3. I still think both games are great, yet I still love P4 more. Solid blog nevertheless Aura. :)

Posted by aurahack

@thabigred: I feel like the vision for 3 and 4 are different, though. You could certainly make the argument 4 was the game they intended to do all along (I'd probably buy into the argument myself) but 3 and 4 tone/story-wise feel like they are worlds apart to me. I don't know. The more I think about it, the more confusing it is because while it does seem to just boil down to X game did it first over Y, so X holds a special place in my heart over the superior Y, it still feels like there's something there I'm missing.

@mwng: Oh no, for sure. I like the cast of 4 a lot more because I think they are, ultimately, more interesting characters, but the group dynamic in 3 was a lot stronger. There was a lot more tension to the group and it made the interactions between them a lot more believable in some respect.

Posted by CommodoreGroovy

Oh man. Back around 2007, I was really feeling let down by the JRPG genre as a whole. I remember actually searching google with a phrase something like, "JRPGs that don't suck," and I came across an article that was touting Persona 3. I eventually picked up a copy off a retail store and the rest is history, but Hot Damn, that first experience with Persona 3 was incredible. I can relate with you, personally, in saying that Persona 3 captivated me way before Persona 4 was even a thought, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for Persona 3, no matter how refined and better the sequels become.

Posted by TheHT
Posted by Mendelson9

How did you feel about only being able to control one member of your party in Persona 3? I got so used to Persona 4 and being able to control your whole party and when I tried P3, I put it down when I found out you can only control the protagonist in battle. Is this ever a problem later on in the game?

Posted by MetalGearSunny

Persona 3 is a great game, and I think it would've been a lot better in the first place if they just let you control all your characters, because a lot of the time the AI in that game is extremely dumb. It's a much different game from four mostly due to it's tone. And the social links system could be better, which makes P3P so interesting to me because as the female character you get access to social links from every person on SEES. Man I wanna play that.

Posted by pyromagnestir

I played Persona 4 first and went back to P3 FES afterwards. I still enjoyed 3 a lot, but I could see a lot of places where it seemed like the developers realized they could do better and then did so in 4. Like all the special events during vacations in 4, when in 3 vacations were kinda empty, I remember 3 had a bit more "OK we're going to force you to study for the next week because there's nothing else to do." There was that movie festival in 3 but that's it, really.

Or being able to social link with your whole party and not just the girls. Also being able to social link with classmates on non school days, which 3 didn't let you do, if I recall. Or taking the time to explain the game a bit more at the beginning, as 4 holds your hand a lot for a very long time, whereas 3 gives you a brief battle tutorial and then kind of dumps you off on your own to figure everything out. Or giving you the option to have full control over all party characters. So I kept thinking "Oh I get why they changed this!" when I played 3. But I enjoyed it overall.

Online
Posted by Ravenlight

It's alive!

Eventually I plan to dig into the Persona games but that hasn't really happened yet so no real comment on that.

I just beat Dark Souls for the first time today and have been riding that high since this afternoon. I really, really, really like Dark Souls, mang. Just seeing that screenshot of Anor Londo brings back some powerful feelings: Awe at how distinct that area looks. The thrill of victory over Sen's Fortress, an area I had almost completely quit the game over. And trepidation/dread. If the previous area kicked my ass so hard, what's in store here? You touched on it in the blog: these awesome moments, when experienced for the first time, are hella neat. Makes me sort of wonder if that moment was dulled at all for someone who had played though Demon's Souls already.

After hearing it talked up in the blog, I'm really curious about Demon's Souls. Sadly, I don't think I'll end up playing it since I'm unlikely to own a PS3 any time soon.

Posted by aurahack

@TheHT: Oh dude, don't get me wrong, the soundtrack in Demon's Souls is amazing but the Dark Souls OST compliments the game SO well. The OST in Demon's Souls were great character pieces that accompanied the bosses (and Nexus) incredibly well, but the OST in Dark Souls feels like so much more than that. The tracks feel like a part of that world. The atmosphere they evoke is just... brilliant. I love it. Though, mind you, this is merely my opinion. I'll totes understand anyone who prefers the OST of the first game.

@Phatmac: The characters in 4 are infinitely more likeable, yeah. They felt like true friends to me. Like said though, P3 just had a stronger group dynamic. The SEES group really felt like something special. Though there's absolutely nothing wrong with the "Yo we're all friends and we need to do something about this shit" mentality of the P4 group!

@CommodoreGroovy: That was pretty much my reason for going in, too. I was reading an issue of EGM I had just bought and they had a review of P3 in it that praised it for being a JRPG that wasn't total trash for a change. I promptly went out to buy it and instantly fell in love.

@Mendelson9: It is weird going back to it now, but it felt fine at the time. It was all about knowing the strength and weaknesses of each party member, and tailoring your battle strategy to that.

@MetalGearSunny: P3P is definitely the best version of the game, yeah. I don't know. Direct control would have been dope but I never remembered it being an issue for me. Knowing who to set as heal and who to set as offense or defense always worked out.

@pyromagnestir: The vacations in P4 were really neat but yo, the vacations in P3 were also pretty amazing. Mitsuru's beach island thing and the Kyoto trip are both just... aksjfhlaskfhdla so great.

@Ravenlight: Sen's Fortress is the fucking worst, holy shit. Believe me, the sense of accomplishment is far from dulled after having played Demon's Souls. It just doesn't... it feels like an AMAZING accomplishment, but not all that novel, you know?

Posted by Phatmac

@aurahack: how dare you think that the SEES group is better than the investigation team. HOW DARE YOU.

Posted by pyromagnestir

@aurahack:

Oh you're right! I forgot about those ones. Duh. They were amazing. But I was more referring to how in P3 during summer vacation it seemed like the game didn't have a whole lot of options for what you could do, so they had 2 or 3 weeks where it just hey you're studying this week! Or hey you're in a sports tournament this week! P4 fleshed all that out more. I know P4 had one week like that where you could work at Junes, but wasn't that optional?

Online
Posted by onimonkii

I just got to Anor Londo last night and took pretty much that same screenshot. It's so pretty.

I think part of what makes Boletarian Palace such a lasting impression is really just how long you spend there, or maybe just how long I spent there. You're right that it's an amazing introduction and a primer for what's to come, I honestly felt greater accomplishment from finishing that the first time than when I actually beat the last boss of the game for the first time. I had spent about 3 days on that level on and off, before I finally made it to the boss. And the best part (about both Souls games really) is even after you know the layout and can pretty much do it in your sleep, it's not like other games where you blow in the direction of the enemies and they all pile into a corner. You have to be just as careful your 50th time through as you do your first.

While I don't think Dark Souls starts as strong, it seemed to me like it sort of assumed knowledge of Demon's Souls, and instead of being about the mechanics (past the tutorial of course), it was more of an introduction to how the flow of the game worked and how you're going to experience the world. Demon's Souls was very straightforward in this regard, I came from this door, I can go back in and go deeper or try another door. Dark Souls being more open, it's hard to nail down something that could serve as Boletarian Palace, I guess Undead Burg would be the closest, but even getting there seems like part of it. Where in Boletarian Palace you're learning about ambushes and traps and enemy placements, in Firelink Shrine and leading up to Undead Burg, you're learning your limits in terms of where you can go, as well as how you need to explore to get the most out of the game, and also a dash of traps and ambushes and enemy placement thrown in.

Coming into Dark Souls having finished Demon's Souls, I should have just been able to steamroll it's 1-1 equivalent, but I learned and re-learned some harsh lessons there as well, and it stayed just as fresh, to me. I guess that is almost more impressive, that you can provide similar concepts for new players, and still keep things fresh for veterans. In a way that sums up most of my experience with Dark Souls so far. And for every place there is a clear parallel in Dark Souls but I feel Demon's Souls may have done it better aesthetically or something, Dark Souls has it's own unique and amazing experiences to keep things interesting and exciting.

That's where the magic comes in for me at least. I totally get what you're saying about the first experience with something being the most meaningful and important, but there is a lot of stuff to appreciate and discover beyond the new and improved mechanics in the updated versions or sequels. Though it wasn't mentioned in this blog, this is also the case for me with Borderlands 2, where most saw "more of the same but slightly better" as a bad thing, and cited that you can't experience the original again for the first time, I found a lot to love and some nice new things to keep me coming back to it, and pushing the old game out of the spotlight to the point where it's at the forefront when I think of Borderlands. I'd probably go back to 2 forever, but I'm not so keen on going back to 1 again now that I've experienced the sequel.

I think I'm going to end up feeling the same way about Dark Souls vs Demon's Souls, not just because I no longer have a PS3, but while I appreciate the original and enjoyed the time I spent with it, the better game wins out to me when it comes to replaying them. It's true that not much can really beat that first experience, even when it's replaying that same experience, but that the sequels can come close, or surpass it in their own ways, is impressive enough to me on it's own.

There's room in my heart for more than one game per series, I guess is what all that rambling is saying.

And I do still need to play Persona 3 someday...

Posted by TheHT

@aurahack said:

The OST in Demon's Souls were great character pieces that accompanied the bosses (and Nexus) incredibly well, but the OST in Dark Souls feels like so much more than that. The tracks feel like a part of that world.

Alright, I can get down with that.

Posted by Levius

Hey guys, Persona 2:IS is totally the best persona game, P3 or P4 doesn't have anything on where P2's story goes.

Posted by EarlessShrimp

Dear, ,

I think you ignore my musical talkings at you. this makes me sad.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@TheHT: Your opinion is invalid, Justin McElroy only ever wrote a song about Dark Souls.

Posted by aurahack

@AmatureIdiot: I most certainly didn't mean to imply P2 is a bad game. I love it a whole bunch, but P3 and P4 feel like such different games compared to 1 & 2.

@onimonkii: I think you elaborate a lot more on what I tried to explain which is really good. What DaS does, it does exceptionally well and it does so in a way that is much more worth revisiting. What was new felt new and what was refined felt SO much more refined. It just... I don't know, man. The spark I got from Demon's Souls didn't repeat in Dark Souls. Though I'll admit that, overall, I most certainly prefer Dark Souls to Demon's Souls.

@EarlessShrimp: I don't! I actually meant to get back at you regarding what you suggested last blog. I gave Pelican and shot and it didn't jive that much with me, but I really liked what I heard of Cougar. They sound like 65dos' older stuff which is really cool. I have their Patriot album in my log of stuff to listen to for this week, amongst a bunch of other stuff. Thank you. :'D

Posted by Levius

@aurahack: Don't worry I didn't think you was calling P2 a bad game. I guess I will just take any opportunity to eulogise about P2 because I really love that game and I think more people should experience that story.

Posted by ZombiePie

I have played none of the games detailed on this blog, but found this a great read nonetheless.

Moderator
Posted by EarlessShrimp

@aurahack: Yeah, I can understand that. Pelican definitely has a niche audience, what did you try if you don't mind me asking? Personally, I've majorly enjoyed their song City of Echoes. I think it's probably their best song.

As for Cougar, Patriot is an excellent album. I only wish they had made Thundersnow longer, for some reason it's my favorite song off the album

Posted by TobbRobb

I played Dark Souls and Persona 4 first, and love them both to death. They are amazing games, and they felt fantastic and unique.

I tried going back to both Demon's Souls and P3. But it's... hard. While I think both of those games are good, they just can't stand up to playing games that are both better and provided my entry point into the franchises. It's hard to not be a little disappointed playing them in this order.

Posted by henry1989929

Sounds reasonable, I will have a try.

Posted by buft

@mwng said:

I prefer P3 to P4 too, P4 is an utterly fantastic game, but I think I enjoyed the characters/story in P3 more (that's not to say I'm not totally enamored with both of these things in P4 too). I think it boils down to the fact that P3 has a better group dynamic, everyone in P4 gets along with each other a little too well for my liking, whereas the cast of P3 aren't all that trusting of each other, there's still a bit of mystery behind their motivations. P3 is like the X-Files to P4's Scooby Doo, or something... Feel free to call me out on any of this though.

I love your analogy, playing through 3 there's one scene in the back alley behind the train station that always sticks out to me, its the first time you are introduced to one of the characters and there's a level of menace that persona 4 doesnt try to approach, the same scene also throws doubts on his affinity with the good guys.

Posted by Spoonman671

I don't care what anybody says, Dark Souls is no Demon's Souls.