dot dot dot - two: A Conflict of Specialness

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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. ;-;
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.
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.
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.

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