By Video_Game_King 14 Comments
Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo ( Well, that was certainly a neat way to blow five hours.) OK, so it wasn't five straight hours (it was more like a couple of days), but still, that's not a lot of time by any standards. I could've spent it watching the uncut version of Caligula twice, or by drinking an energy drink that the creators admit is full of shit. Instead, I chose to play an obscure Japanese adventure game that sounds like the Hardy Boys. Oh, how wrong that simile is.
Granted, there actually is a group of kids who spend their time solving mysteries in the game, but instead of solving crimes via the magical power of their own boners (my only experience with the Hardy Boys is South Park), the head of the Tantei Club stumbles her way into death. This is where you, a runaway teen (funny how this element of the plot never comes up after the intro) apprenticing under a real detective, come in. It's up to you to find out who murdered her, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that her murder relates to the death of a very-similar looking girl (it's a plot point, presumably because everybody in Japan thinks the stereotypes about them are true) 15 years prior. Don't worry, though, it's not like there's some complex space-alien conspiracy linking the two together or something stupid like that; it's just that the girl tried to figure out the case for herself and ended up dead...spoiler alert.
That's the thing I like about the story: every piece of the tale fits in place logically. You have proper build-up, character development that relates directly to the story, enough plot twists to have you puking up Kafka quotes, and trannies. I know that this all sounds par for the course, but in practice, it actually comes off as pretty satisfying, interactive, immersive (if you're in the right mood), and a bunch of other words that begin with the letter I. Good thing, too, since this game absolutely lives by its story, gameplay only a device to move it forward. Before I move forward, let me say that I don't mean that the game is like Final Fantasy XII, a game which invited you into the back room for "a fun time", only to take off its pants, jerk off right in front of you, and bitch its head off when you tried anything that looked like any form of interaction; instead, it's more like an adventure game, where the plot moves forward as a result of you playing the game. Fitting, given that it's an adventure game.
This is the part of the blog where the game unravels, which, coincidentally, is also the part of the blog where I talk about the gameplay. You walk around town, interviewing people and checking things out. The first thing I noticed in all of this was that everybody's mouths moved like they were trying to one-up the Micro Machines guy. Just look at them; I've tried moving my mouth that fast, and it's not possible. I know that this sounds like a minor complaint, but between the slow text and all the talking you'll do in this game, it comes up constantly. Part of the problem is that the game is stingy with the hints, leading to you clicking all present options until you get a reaction (or, more often, find out which ones are completely useless). That's the only way you can logically complete the game, since conversations often bounce back and forth between random subjects, as if nobody knows how a conversation is supposed to work. I know that I'm supposed to feel like a detective, and again, in the right mood, it can work wonders. *transforms into Duke Nukem* Too bad I'm not in the right mood. Wait, that didn't sound as manly as I thought it would. Fuck.
Um...what else.....OH! Being an adventure game, Famicom Tantei Club Part II also has some pointy-clicky portions. However, joining Ogre Battle and Shadowrun in their battle against common sense, you can't use the SNES Mouse with this game. I'm not even sure if there are any fan hacks for any of those games, forcing them to use the SNES Mouse. Other than that, not much to say, since the pointy-clicky portions are the same as the talking ones, only with more assumed necrophilia. Let me explain: early in the game, your job is to find out how this high school girl died. Sounds reasonable, but with all my options exhausted (I checked her pocket, mostly), I clicked all about until my hand landed on her crotch, at which point the coroner scolded me for wanting to fuck her corpse. Wait, she was in high school, so would it be pedophilia or necrophilia?....Anyway, excuse me for being a thorough detective, doctor! Maybe she died of a combination of super herpes and mega herpes; how would I know unless I looked? Explain that with your science! Also, use your science to explain to me the personality test near the end, and why Ayumi rejected me for meeting her requirements. That's why I give this game the Girls are Confusing Award. Maybe there are video games out there that will help me understand women. Hmmm......no, that's a horrible idea.
- A well-told story with an OK translation.
- About as trial-and-error as any other adventure game.
- This game taught me one thing: girls don't like when you have sex with corpses.
You know, Japan gets a lot of crap for being really weird, but look at how fucked up Russia is. How weird are they? The more you understand, the less it makes sense; THIS IS HOW SCREWED UP RUSSIA IS.
Spellcaster( What was I saying about Russia?) That they're screwed up out of their minds? Yea, they're still pretty screwed up, and this game only serves to highlight that weirdness, somehow. It's Japanese, but unlike what the little video description implies, there is almost nothing weird about this game. OK, fine, it's illogical in certain areas, but you know what else is highly illogical? Human behavior. For example, how have none of you asked me what any of this has to do with the game? It's all irrelevant, and yet you lap it up like I'm spewing insightful opinions or something! What's wrong with you?
Or, to be more accurate, what's wrong with me? After all, I played Spellcaster, a game with a kinda schizophrenic story. First, your goal is to prevent a group of bad guys from resurrecting their serpent god, but after something happens (I say that because I still have a hard time figuring out how the transition worked), your job is to resurrect the very serpent god you wanted dead, simply because there's a bigger/badder dark god waiting to make everything dead. Also, how come the game has a brief sci-fi stint? It's a fantasy game set in feudal Japan. I know a little Japanese history, and mechs didn't start populating the area until after the unification of Japan. The weirdest part, though, is that the story's actually kinda decent, at least for the time. There's this certain degree of organization and detail in the story that you never really saw in games back then (RPGs excluded, even though I love the hell out of them). It's like Spellcaster's trying to be Phantasy Star, but completely forgot just what the hell it's supposed to be.
Remember how in Phantasy Star, you had a first person perspective throughout the entire game? Remember how much it sucked, and how the game only kept it in dungeons, for the most part? Now imagine if the last part of the sentence wasn't around, and you have Spellcaster. Every town and major location takes the form of an adventure game, like Famicom Tantei Club Part II, only not as good. You can talk to people, look around, make the CD-i proud, and generally do things you'd do in adventure games. Hell, you can even click on certain shit, but it's not always clear as to what you can click and when. You'd think that pointing to a boat would mean that I want to get on the boat, but apparently, our hero thinks that boats have no use unless you get permission from characters unseen. I know that I experienced the same problem back when I was feeling up high school corpses, but at least the results made sense; compare this to Spellcaster, where you have to bust open a lute and shake around some beads to quell a raging whirlpool.
"Pfft, whatever!", you say to yourself in the most unlikeable manner possible, "I'll just stick my fingers in my ears and yell loudly during the adventure portions and save my time for the super-cool platforming sections." You don't realize it, but you've given me more reason to hate you. The platforming sections consist of shooting things and, from time to time, moving. Dear god, you'll spend more time killing things in this game than you will pressing buttons. Part of the problem is that enemies regenerate constantly, another part being that some enemies split into smaller enemies upon death, yet another part being that some enemies just don't die, and ANOTHER part of it is just the fact that Spellcaster is a dick. See, while you'd think that shooting would be streamlined as hell, the reality is as opposite as you can get. You can't shoot while ducking, which leads to a lot of health loss when you realize that half the enemies are from the set of Pit Boss. Assuming that you're facing off against an enemy that's about your height, you're still not guaranteed to hit them, given that the collision detection hates you as much as the game does. To be fair, I only noticed this during boss battles, but that's kinda where you need it most, isn't it? Hell, there's one boss battle where the guy just leaves if you take too damn long.
Already, I find myself questioning why the game is called Spellcaster, and already, you probably know where I'm going with this: the magic system. I'd say that it's put to good use, but it isn't. Using spells is a bit of a mess, since it requires selecting from the menu (pause and press another button (this is actually bad, for several reasons)), charging up your shot for a few very vulnerable seconds, and then ducking. Oh, nice to see where the CD-i Zelda games got their inspiration. What else can I say? It's clumsy, messes up (theoretically) better parts of the game, and a lot of it is useless. Despite having enough spells to fill a sticky note, you'll only use three or four throughout the entire game, either because they're all you'll need or because the spell names are all derived from Middle Gibberish. How does any of that qualify me to be a Spellcaster? Hell, how does any of this qualify as an RPG (look at the box)? It's half the length of Famicom Tantei Club Part II with barely any growth or customization. The only thing connecting it to RPGs is the shooter final boss, which Magic Knight Rayearth pulled off slightly more efficiently. But even that game sucks, so imagine how mediocre this game is.
- The story was OK for the time, but damn, it hasn't aged well AT ALL.
- Adventuring consists of a few clicks. That's it. Barely enough to earn it the Phantasy Star Knew When to Stop Award.
- Platforming's boring, spells are broken as hell.