The Comic Commish: The Previous Generation (Jan-Jun 2007)

Welcome all to the fairly delayed relaunch of The Comic Commish: a monthly feature in which I pay for my Gold Membership with MS Paint doodles in the least equitable deal since the purchase of Manhattan. When I'm not biting the hand that feeds with ill-advised Native American jokes, I occasionally like to reflect on the roads less traveled. Like, the virtual roads. From video games. That I haven't played. Hence the "less tr-

I occasionally like to reflect on video games of former console generations that I never played, often taking advantage of value depreciation and what little time I have left until Quetzlcoatl remembers to check his calendar and gets on with that tardy apocalypse of his to sweep a few of them up while everyone's busy playing the brand new Assassin's Creed VII: I Read Somewhere That We Evolved From Marmosets, Sorta, So Now the Assassin's a Monkey. Well, turns out I've actually played quite a few more than I realized, so I figure I'm a position to help my good buddy @omghisam (who apparently only did worthwhile things during this time) and hopefully the readers at home with some suggestions from the past six or so years of game releases.

What this entails, then, is a monthly spate of comics on games that were released in a certain release window in the US during the currently-current-but-soon-to-be-previous generation of consoles. I'm covering January to June of 2007 for the month of October 2013 (this one) and hope to finish with the latter half of 2012 by September 2014. We'll all be knee deep in PS4 and XB1 releases (or, more realistically, still buying everything in Steam sales), but it's worth remembering the vast libraries of modern day classics we leave behind as our industry inexorably marches forward like one of the sixteen Colossi. (Shadow of the Colossus wasn't this generation by the way, so that's a red herring.)

The "Previous Generation" Subtitle Was a Star Trek Thing. Hope You All Got That.

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (CING, DS, Jan '07)

Hotel Dusk's one of those visual novel adventure games with a few curious trademarks to call its own. The first is the striking rotoscoping work on all the characters, who animate and emote like the creepy 1950s mannequins of LA Noire only wish they could (oh, she was lying? I thought that expression meant she was discomfited by the giant dentist chair you locked her face in to mocap it). The second is its protagonist: Kyle Hyde, a down and out salesman who has been secretly chasing his disgraced partner ever since that one fateful night when Kyle was forced to shoot him and leave him for dead. Already, the game is steeped in noir tropes and dramatic pathos, but layers in a Phoenix Wright style absurd sense of humor that only manifests itself enough times as to not disrupt the game's carefully maintained somber edge. It's a classic whodunnit with twists and turns and red herrings and bourbon and well worth the time of anyone looking for a well-manufactured video game story.

Rogue Galaxy (Level-5, PS2, Feb '07)

Yes, I realise I'm already breaking a cardinal rule by covering a PS2 game, technically not part of the previous generation, but decent current gen games were still light on the ground around this time. We'll get to them, I promise. Rogue Galaxy had the unenviable position of following up Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII: two of the greatest and most expansive PS2 RPGs ever made. While it would fair to say that it doesn't quite meet the expectations set forward by its predecessors, it does at least have the benefit of having a novel setting (well, since there aren't many space JRPGs outside of Phantasy Star and Star Ocean) and Level-5's development team at their peak. While the story has you bouncing from planet to planet, making new friends and bringing down bounties that are causing the local populace trouble (which isn't a particularly original story progression path, I'll grant you), Level-5 is busy at work in the background establishing the numerous extra-curricular activities its games became known for after Dark Cloud, giving players a wide range of side-stuff to do should they ever grow weary of whichever dungeon they're in. It's also a game that features Deego, the buff mercenary boxer dog, so I can't in good conscience not recommend it.

Crackdown (Realtime Worlds, 360, Feb '07)

I figure I should probably put one of those current gen console games in this current gen console remembrance feature somewhere, so here's Crackdown, one of the best early 360 games. Crackdown begat what might be known as "the superhero sandbox": a game that slowly weens you off the driving and gunplay you're used to towards superhuman leaping and explosive ground pounds. It felt like expanding the sandbox format in a whole new direction, rather than basic, unfulfilling incremental rewards like a little more world to explore or putting more weapons in your arsenal. Franchises that skirt the line, like the last two Saints Row games, have found that the payoff in building up the main character from a human to a demi-god is considerably more thrilling than a human who becomes a slightly richer human with a penthouse apartment. I've never seen the point of a good story in a sandbox game, since you spend so much time outside the main objectives and simply farting around the big playground seeing how it ticks, so despite all the gentle mockery about Crackdown being a glorified orb hunting game, it really set one of the most important precedents in open world games today. Just don't play the sequel.

The Other Ones!

Well, I have the list, but the site won't let me embed it. Whoop-de-doo. Writing blogs on GB is so much fun, you guys. You have no idea. Well, it's here. I suppose this post was long enough already.

10 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by MarkWahlberg

'Kyle Hyde' is one video game-assed video game name.

Posted by Pepsiman

If it's any consoltion, Last Window, the sequel to Hotel Dusk, is much less liberal when it comes to game over screens. I only encountered one or two in my entire run because I made some profoundly dumb mistakes, but the game is really good about letting you pick up from the point right before that stuff goes down. I'll admit that it still distinctly gave me traumatic flashbacks to Hotel Dusk, but it's otherwise not nearly as bad in my experience.

Posted by Hailinel

Hoooooo-teeeeeeel Duuuuuuuuuuusk! Duuuuuuuuuuusk Hoooooooo-teellllllllll!

OK, so the Take On Me jokes don't work as well in text. Still, Hotel Dusk is a really fun game. I've heard some mixed things about Last Window, but I'm still disappointed that NOA never released it here.

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Posted by Mento

@hailinel: @pepsiman: I do have Last Window as well. I've been saving it for a rainy day, since it was the last thing ever made by CING, but I've been tempted to jump into it before the year ends. I'll guess I'll see how it measures up to the original. For now, though, Saints Row IV and Rayman Legends beckon.

For everyone else: 2007 Jul-Dec is where we start seeing way more notable 360/Wii/PS3 shit. Whether I'll stick to games actually worth recommending or go on a detour to talk about all the really average JRPGs that came out around then (Blue Dragon anyone?) is something I'll need to decide on at some point. I think the latter would be more interesting.

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Edited by ArbitraryWater
@mento said:

For everyone else: 2007 Jul-Dec is where we start seeing way more notable 360/Wii/PS3 shit. Whether I'll stick to games actually worth recommending or go on a detour to talk about all the really average JRPGs that came out around then (Blue Dragon anyone?) is something I'll need to decide on at some point. I think the latter would be more interesting.

For the record, I would love any blog about mediocre JRPGs as long as it involves tearing them to pieces.

Posted by Pepsiman

@hailinel: I would personally argue that between the two that Last Window is even better than Hotel Dusk. Some people might be understandably a little disgruntled that the core gameplay basically isn't changed at all, but I think the writing, characterization, and visual design are just as fantastic as they were in the first game. Not that most people would have this sort of quandary, but I wavered for the longest time on whether to import the Japanese version or pick up the English one because I knew Alan Averill, the writer and editor responsible for a lot of the first game's localized flavorings, wasn't on board for Last Window. Play-Asia managed to get some European copies on sale for $15 earlier this year, though, so I ultimately I went with that and completely fell in love with that writing again. It remains stylistically consistent with the original game down to the use of period-appropriate Americanisms, which I wasn't entirely expecting considering it was an NOE effort. I also feel like the story it tells is a more grounded one than the previous game, even if it's not without its fair share of intrigue. There's also a novella that retells the events of the game that you can read as you play, unlocking book chapters as you beat game ones, and the writing in that is also really well-done. All around, it occupies a very rare place in my mind of the localization being so superior to the original Japanese that I could never imagine playing it in anything other than English.

So yeah, I'd personally say it's worth going out of your way to import at this point. The gameplay is what it is, but it's otherwise definitely one of the cheaper Europe/Japan-exclusive Nintendo games to buy. I've never seen it hit as low as that $15 I paid again, but from what I see it generally doesn't hover too much higher above it. As Cing's last game, I found it to be nice to be able to go back and learn a little bit more about Kyle Hyde, even if the first game doesn't really end on a cliffhanger or anything.

Edited by Brackynews

That is exactly my recollection of Hotel Dusk.

Also I've played the first 5 minutes of Last Window. It usually comes with me on long trips instead of books, but I'm often too sleepy to bother playing anything that involves reading. Not at all difficult to import.

Posted by Hailinel

@pepsiman: That's good to know. I'll need to track down a copy when I don't feel like my backlog is going to throttle me into submission.

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Edited by omghisam

It's not that I did only worthwhile things, I am just hopelessly a console generation (now two) behind. I've been whittling away at the same PS2 backlog for 10 years. How you people finish more than a few games a year I will never know. Question for you: I just bought a used PS3 on ebay and it came with 30 games (a lot of Call of Duty bullshit mixed with jrpgs), what are some hidden gems I should track down to sit on my shelf until I get to them in another 10 years?

This is what I have so far.

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Edited by Mento

@omghisam: Off the top of my head: Folklore (which I'll cover next month), Eternal Sonata (the PS3 enhanced port is the definitive version), at least two Tales games (Graces F and Xillia, though I've yet to play either), Resonance of Fate (a hard nut to crack, but worth it from what I've heard) and 3D Dot Game Heroes (From Software's bizarre attempt at an Indie Zelda clone). Oh, and the most recent Disgaeas - Sparky seems to swear by them.

Honestly, you've got plenty there to be getting on with. Try some Dark Souls while everyone's got the fever again thanks to Vinny and co. (and VinnCo.) - I'm on my second run myself (just beat a certain pair of nasty bosses again). Nier's a lot of fun if you can bear its sort of average gameplay: its true strengths lie elsewhere. Valkyria Chronicles is amazing, though like Resonance of Fate it takes a little while to get a grip on its mechanics. You'll either love or hate XIII/XIII-2, tough for me to say for sure (but given your tolerance with JRPG cliches, you'll probably be fine).

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