Notice: The following S-Rank was a platinum trophy obtained on the Playstation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII. It is not associated to my official S-Rank list on GiantBomb. Here's hoping that Sony will figure out that people like sharing their trophy information, outside of their own official site. Like every other achievement system in existence.
AlohaI've recently returned from this years Sasquatch Music Festival out in the most beautiful place on the planet, the gorge. Whenever I see the venue each year, I always get this funny visualization of God getting bored after making the most amazing thing ever, and then making this awesome venue even more...err..."awesome-er".
I'll be doing a write-up about it soon.
Sadly this year, I somehow got a nasty version of bronchitis from the music festival. One of the small short-comings from the festival is that it's out in the desert, and you're camping. From afternoon to evening it felt like a 30 degree difference, usually happening instantaneously. One second it's in the 90's and the next you're bundling up within layers of jackets.
Let's just say I'm pretty convinced that I caught this thing while sleeping. I was using a sleeping bag and a liner inside the sleeping bad, and still felt chilled. That's how bad it was.
But enough about that, it's time to get back and talk about something we all love: Achievements and trophies!
Back into the Fold...
Last year a game was released that caught my attention. I've been always a passing fan of the Yakuza series, but Yakuza 3 really grabbed my attention. So much so that I took the time to write a very comprehensive review on it, (Note to self: Find time-machine and get more time to write more reviews) and when I was writing a recap of last year, I gave it my own "personal" GOTY. Mass Effect 2, I love you, but there is really one game that will stand-out for me when I reflect on the year of 2010.
For better or worse, the concept for this blog series began to materialize after I decided to go after this game's Platinum trophy. I walked away a bit bewildered, in deep thought after getting the Platinum, and how getting that trophy changed my perspective of that game. It's no surprise that I've been getting requests to talk about Yakuza 3 after starting this strange attempt at a blog series.
A lot of my final conclusions regarding how trophies were handled in this game, were not positive in regards to Yakuza 3. Especially regarding what defines a proper "challenge" regarding achievements and trophies. I know I'm supposed to end these introductory paragraphs with a hook that's supposed to keep you guessing, whether or not this game handles achievements well.
Yakuza 3 doesn't get that luxury, it's a bad trophy list plain and simple.
That being said, the reasoning behind why Yakuza 3's trophies fail isn't just because of a few bad apples, Yakuza 3's trophy set is almost analogous in showcasing in general terms how Japanese developers are still even at this time, this long into the current generation, still figuring out the pro's and cons regarding achievements and trophies.
Volunteer // Master Environmentalist // Key Collector
The closest thing that Yakuza 3 has to a "collectible", are the many key-lockers strewn about both area's of the game. Collecting all of these is not a difficult task, plus, you are not required to do so. Another collectible trophy involves collecting trash off your beach, this is easily obtainable through reloading the same area multiple times. Picking up trash is still quite monotonous, and you are given the impression that you were supposed to be picking up trash causally during your multiple play-throughs, but instead you're bound to go after this in one big run by reloading this area.
I'm combining two categories (One stupid achievement, Grinding) into one because it's impossible to talk about these two concepts separately with this one trophy.
If you have ever skimmed over, or have done a passing research on Yakuza 3's trophy set, you probably have heard of a little Gold Trophy entitled: "Mini-Game Master."
How bad is Mini-Game Master? Last year at PAX I approached the individual running the Yakuza 4 display. I had to ask him what they were thinking when they made this specific trophy.
Yes, your attempt at questioning my logic are sound: Specifically, how this random individual who worked this demo kiosk was in any position to say anything regarding the subject matter is a correct assumption.
I didn't care.
The back-and-forth was awkward, but he did theorize that the development team didn't know what they were doing. I felt like the victim of a crime, obtaining a thread of closure. Is that analogy too severe? Guess what?! It's actually the most representational thing I could think of! That's how bad it is!
Mini-Game master requires you to "Complete" every Mini-Game in Yakuza 3, and it will be the bulk of your time as you attempt to obtain Platinum. The problem is that "Completing" some mini-game's requires you to beat "difficulty" challenges, or a certain goal. We will be discussing how the difficulty in this game is broken in just a bit, but never is it more apparent while attempting Mini-Games. Certain levels of difficulty has the computer out-right cheating most of the time. Pool is almost laughable, as you must play a near perfect game, because if the computer get's one try it's almost destined to win.
Other mini-games are just crap-shoots, mindless attempts at luck. Golf is a full-blown game by it-self, so there's no real way to bull-shit through it.
Perhaps the most interesting mini-games are the very Japanese-centric games that somehow didn't get the axe when Sega's localization budget got squeezed. Mahjong might be out, but the game contains multiple card games with the Japanese playing cards known as Hanafuda.
Hanafuda is a very specific card set that really has no real direct comparison out-side of Japan. Many of the game's mechanics might mimic certain western card games, but only remotely. The game really doesn't provide a comprehensive tutorial, so you're going to be figuring out different concepts and what card goes with which set by yourself for the most part.
Before you ask, yes, the higher difficulty for these cards games also cheat.
Mini-game master would have worked as a personal diversion, but instead it's a required gold trophy. You will experience every mini-game Yakuza 3 has to offer, and you will subsequently grow to hate a good potion of them. A trophy or achievement that in effect, works against a game's over-all design in a poor manner, is something that shouldn't be celebrated. The monotonous nature and the overall repetition of grinding through half of these games award Yakuza 3 with one of the worst achievements of last year, and an influx of grinding that seems completely out-of-place.
I think a large majority of these headaches could have been avoided through some intense play-testing. It's a bit infuriating to see something that isn't being properly exploited.
Nothing makes sense. A bronze trophy for completing all Ultimate Skill challenges? A silver one for picking up trash?!
With five trophies just for completing sub-stories, doing the side-quests will also eat a lot of your time. Unless you miss one.
While these screwed up quests can be redone in Premium Adventure mode and other play-throughs, the sheer amount make it a hassle. Toss in a convoluted manner in which these sub-quests are "activated" and these normal completionist trophies can quickly become a nightmare. From what I've read online, you can actually miss certain side-quests even in the game's robust premium adventure mode. Be on your guard, get a guide early and save often.
(Notice that there's four bronz trophies for substories, and then it skips ahead to a Gold trophy for completing them all?)
Yakuza 3's difficulty can be measured with housing materials spewed about from a hurricane.
It's all-over-the-place, never consistent, and is hampered by a design that dives in directions at random. Mini-games are are either ludicrously easy (Bowling) or give the impression you are rolling dice. (Batting cages)
To make matters worse, the actual difficulty for the game is spasmodic in nature too. The game has difficulty trophies that can be easily cheated. Does beating the game on EX-Hard sound difficult? Well it's not when you break the game's difficulty thanks to items you get by completing objects and multiple playthroughs. This concept would be a positive if it wasn't for the absurd contrast in difficulty in Yakuza 3's extra-curricular activities. While playing through Yakuza's main campaign is fun, it can get a bit boring the third time-around.
- DLC: None!
- Glitches: None!
Estimated Time: 60-90+ Hours / Multiple Play-through's. 2+
Yakuza 3's saving grace are a few scattered mini-game trophies that implore you to try out what the game has to offer, and a few fun random ones that show a hint of originality. It is hampered by too many campaign centric trophies, poor trophy value, horribly inconsistent difficulty, missions that are side-missions that are convoluted by design, and what's possibly the one of the worst incentives and challenges to playing mini-games ever. At least the experience is wrapped in a NewGame+ mode that's accommodating enough to be functional.
Achievements are incentives, crazy unnecessary incentives that fuel a strange version of OCD that exists within all of us.
I come from the mentality that achievements should reflect the best parts of your game, and push you into directions in order to experience parts that you wouldn't normally experience.
At the same time, they should offer a challenge for the few brave of us, and it's here where things begin to get a bit more confused for developers. Mini-Game master is a challenge on it's own right, but it's a type of "challenge" that shouldn't exist in any achievement set. You are not a better gamer, or have experienced something that others didn't take the time to experience. It's not a proper challenge, and gives an impression of a game tester being bored. Instead the achievement makes you dislike the mini-games Yakuza 3 has to offer, which offends the purpose of achievements.
If Yakuza 3 had actual difficulty balancing with it's mini-games, then if would make sense. Sadly this isn't the case, and it makes the reasoning for such a challenge even more confusing.
I find myself a bit perplexed as I complain about what Yakuza 3 does wrong concerning it's handling of trophies, seeing how between the Japanese and English releases so much content, many tied to trophies, were cut. While I'm upset that content was cut from Yakuza 3, from a sheer achievement standpoint it tosses my opinion a bit into a gray muddled territory.
Getting an S-Rank in Yakuza 3 isn't necessarily worth it. Mini-game master and the multiple difficulty trophies give a strange sense of unnecessary padding, and while it's always fun to get a Platinum trophy, you can file this one under confused reflection versus something to be proud of. It's not for the faint-of heart, and Mini-Game Master will make you want to harm random individuals.
It should be noted that using guides are a necessity. There's a user on GameFaqs called ThePatrick, who in my opinion is some-type of walking Yakuza gaming god.
Use his guides, because there are tips and tricks in some of them that dwarf your own personal logic and reasoning. I can't stress this enough: Use his guides. The only reason why I was able to pull this off was because of his guides.
ThePatrick's comprehensive guide can be found here.
Check ps3trophies for even more information.
Everyone have an awesome E3. Really excited about several titles already.