By DevourerOfTime 1 Comments
Thanks for reading! This is the fourth part looking at those 25 games that has me excited for the rest of 2013. Sorry for the short wait, if anyone was waiting, it's been a busy couple of days. Also, I would like to thank Community Spotlight.for featuring the first three parts of in the always awesome weekly
I think I’m going to hate this game.
I mean, watch the trailer and see how long you can last. Seconds? Maybe even a minute? It’s hard to stomach it.
It’s almost everything I hate about anime and Japanese video games in one trailer: Voice acting that causes a steady stream of blood to drip from my ears, maid outfits, annoying J-Pop music with a grating vocalist, a female cast that all follow stereotypical anime personality tropes with character designs that are degradingly oversexualized, etc. etc.
Actually, it’s mostly that last one. I mean, just looking at some artwork and screenshots for the game is enough to depress the hell out of me. It’s the worst kind of pandering to the worst kind nerds in Japan, a market that unfortunately has an affinity to these types of games and, somehow, the money to consistently buy any merchandise surrounding them. It’s shit like this that makes me want to give up on Japanese games altogether.
But on the other hand…
The God & Fate Revolution Paradox is a spiritual sequel to the PSP game Zettai Hero Project, an excellently goofy spin on the roguelike genre that featured all of the insanely deep mechanics and customization that you’d expect from Nippon Ichi. And that’s pretty much all I needed to know about God & Fate to be excited. ZHP was one of the best games I played on my PSP and one of the reasons why I’m excited to see Nippon Ichi break out from the Strategy RPG genre with games like The Witch & The Hundred Knights.
So God & Fate is basically ZHP again, but improved upon and made more insane. A more Disgaea-like roguelike, if you will. One of the biggest changes is that you now have party members that follow you around (which you can also customize to an insane degree) much like in other roguelikes like Shiren. This adds a ton of elements and strategy of positioning, picking up allies, and throwing them across the map, all elements Disgaea fans should be familiar with. Lots of special moves have been added that will affect the positioning of your characters, allowing you to string special moves one after another to progress across the floor, decimating everything in your path. Heck, it even has the vibrant graphics and art are on par with Disgaea 4.
At the end of the day, I don’t really enjoy or approve of adding even more anime influence when Nippon Ichi loves to saturate their games with them anyway, but if it gets me an improved spiritual sequel to ZHP, I’ll play it regardless of how the aesthetic looks or how the story plays out.
I think I’m going to love this game.
Well, this is awkward.
When I made this list, THQ was in dire straits, but was looking to come out of it whole and in one piece. Now, it’s in the middle of being chopped up and sold for parts, so who knows where Volition and the Saints Row franchise itself will end up.
So let’s look at the best case scenario here: Saints Row and Volition end up in the same place and their new owner sits down with the heads of Volition and just says “keep doing what you’re doing.” Yeah, I know. It’s a longshot to the point of fantasy, but due to how fucked this situation has become since I started writing this, I have no choice but to deal with ideals.
In that case, hallelujah, we’ve got the king of open world games back from near-death. The Third was such a big leap in quality for the series that it took a couple of boring, tired, and old Grand Theft Auto clones and made a unique and hilarious take on a genre I pretty much hate. It was the first time in an open world game where the first and last thing on my to-do list wasn’t “fuck around” and I actually stuck around to play it longer than your average movie. It had an interesting story filled with insanity, it improved upon the base gameplay mechanics of the genre to the point of actually being fun (an unfortunate rarity), and a sheer variety of ingenious mission and level design that had me gobbling up all 30 hours of perfectly paced content.
So Volition did the impossible and made an open world game I could actually like (love?). Props to them. Now comes the hard part: making a sequel to that game without losing any of the magic. Oh, and they have to do it by adapting a failed piece of The Third’s DLC into a full game.
That all sounds like a recipe for disaster, but at this point, I’d accept a Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood-esque sequel: a sequel that hits all the right notes of the original experience, even if it feels more like an expansion pack than a sequel. And that’s why this is so high on my list. If Volition is able to make a sequel that doesn’t flop, proving that The Third wasn’t just lightning in a bottle, then I’ll be impressed.
I might be asking too little from this sequel or setting the bar a bit too low, but remember that this is after the spectacular destruction of THQ and the improbable case where this game is shipped. So maybe just asking for this game to be made at all is asking too much.
I really like the direction Double Fine has gone in the past few years. As much as I love Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, the smaller, unique downloadable titles allow them to explore an expansive and insane list of settings, themes, audiences, and genres.
But there is something about those old LucasArts adventure games that never really transferred over to Double Fine. Yeah, there is a completely different group of people working on these games and Tim Schafer wasn’t the one wholly responsible for games like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle becoming masterpieces of the genre, but you can tell that Tim Schafer and co. have been trying desperately to recapture that balance of uniqueness and quality that LucasArts once symbolized. Unfortunately, Double Fine’s aforementioned diverse spectrum of titles hasn’t really let them specialize in any one genre. This jack-of-all-trades approach is probably why their quirky, unique titles are usually heavily flawed as well.
This is why it is so exciting to see Double Fine go back to the genre that started it all, 15 years after the critical darling, and commercial failure, Grim Fandango. There are plenty of old hands left at the studio who get to return to the genre they once loved. And that is not an insignificant event. It’s one of those things that people have been wishing, wondering, and whining about on message boards, podcasts, and blogs for years. It’s a game that, as a developer, you have to wait until the stars align and just the right opportunity comes along in order to make it.
This is also why Double Fine Adventure has a lot of weight on its shoulders. It’s the return to form for old masters of the craft, the resuscitation of a genre long thought dead, and the poster child for that whole 2012 Kickstarter phenomenon. There is no way this game won’t disappoint those who shovel this mountain of expectations upon Reds. But for me, I’m hoping that I can just be content with what it is, even if it fails to live up to those greats that came before it and continues the Double Fine tradition of making great, but flawed, games.
#7 - Pikmin 3
Okay, these write ups have gotten way out of hand. Time to reel it back in and just basically say this: Pikmin kicks ass. It is cute, it is challenging, it is stressful, and it is everything that an RTS on a console should strive for. The sequel made significant changes to the pacing and core strategy of the game and while it lost just as much as it gained, it was an entirely different experience that was just as enjoyable.
Pikmin 3 is making a lot of changes to the formula that has me shaking my head, but I look back at the jump from Pikmin to Pikmin 2 and I can’t help but have faith in Nintendo. Yeah, they haven’t been batting 1.000 as of late, but I’m hoping that during the game’s long development cycle, they were able to innovate with the title just enough to create an enjoyable new take on an old favourite.
Etrian Odyssey is the opposite of approachable and modern game design. There is little in the way of checkpoints and there is no auto-save. Game overs are frequent and can leave you with hours of lost progress. There is only rough indication on where you need to go to progress or to complete quests. You frequently are backtracking and revisiting old content. Character progression can easily be botched without a plan, leaving you with a near useless teammate. To top it all off, the game is punishingly difficult, with a steep difficulty curve that forces you to be prepared for anything and adapt.
All of the above is deliberate and why the series works so well. Etrian Odyssey does not hold your hand or talk down to you. It asks you to be an adult, figure it out yourself, and roll a new healer because you fucked up the last one. If anything goes wrong in Etrian Odyssey, it is your own damn fault. Trapped in a dungeon with a healer with 0 MP? Shouldn’t have progressed onwards without an item to warp out. Can’t take down this boss because your front line keeps dying? Shouldn’t have specced that warrior in pure offense now, eh? Can’t find the exit? Well, you would be able to if you mapped the goddamn route out correctly.
All of this sounds semi-abusive, but its actually, somehow, quite the relaxing title. Progressing onwards into the unknown, working hard to get that new piece of armor or finish that quest, exploring the nooks and crannies of each floor, and slowly, steadily becoming stronger and more confident in your team as you progress is one of the most rewarding feelings you can find in gaming. And due to the nature of portable games, it’s always there for you. You can set it down at any time and just as easily flip it open to continue your quest. There’s no huge commitment to it, there is no huge reward for finishing it, as merely progressing through it, bit by bit, is reward enough.
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This blog is a crosspost of a series of posts on my personal blog: Yeti Sized Games. It's a blog about my thoughts on gaming, whether it be reviews, opinions, podcasts, game design, and, sometimes, my time with indie game development while working towards getting my degree. Check it out if you want.