Developer: Climax Studios
Release Date: July 20, 2004
Time Played: About 3 ½ hours
Dubiosity: 3 out of 5
Crimes this game is responsible for: Getting me to talk about Fate/Stay Night and other pervert anime on stream.
Would I play more? This game is too weird for me to say no
I know the premise of this entire feature is predicated on me playing weird, obscure, and qualitatively questionable RPGs, but even by those standards Sudeki is a weird one. It’s a pretty sterling example of a brief trend during the late 90s and early 00s, when Western developers were making Japanese-style RPGs in order to catch the wave of both the 90s anime boom and the massive popularity of Final Fantasy VII. As a late-model original Xbox game (published by Microsoft, no less) Sudeki feels like it comes right at the tail end of that period, but that doesn’t make it any less, uh, charming? Endearing? Listen, take one look at that art style and those character designs and tell me they don’t resemble those old “How to Draw Manga” books they sold at Scholastic Book Fairs (albeit way hornier.) You’re not going to confuse it with the actual anime-ass bullshit that was coming out on the PS2 around the same time, but there’s an earnest, almost innocent, attempt at evoking that Japanese inspiration without directly trying to copy it. It’s colorful and bright and I honestly am into it for as much as the game is also a bizarre mess.
For the longest time, the only things I knew about Sudeki were those aforementioned horny-as-hell female character designs and that Jeff Gerstmann has mentioned his wife being a fan. So imagine my surprise when I found out it was an action RPG with two styles of play, rather than having any sort of turn-based or ATB-inspired system. It feels like a preview of what to expect from a more console focused Wheel of Dubious RPGs vol 2 (which might actually happen) and a reminder of where video games were at in 2004. Do you like big, ugly UI elements meant for standard definition televisions? Boy, I sure do. Having spent the past few weeks with fairly broad, open-world games, being funneled back down to smaller, more linear corridors of simple polygons was also a refreshing change of pace, even if I'm not sure my experience was an entirely positive one. Memorable? Yes.
Main Shounen Swordtagonist Tal and Scantily Clad Claw Lady Buki operate like a fairly simplistic, slightly janky brawler, where you can rhythmically input different combinations of X and A to put out different basic attacks. Butt Princess Alish and Jetpack Scientist Elco, on the other hand are gun wizards and literally operate like first-person shooters. If you wanna live your life by awkwardly circle-strafing mobs of enemies and occasionally pressing Y to slow down time and unleash a special attack (it’s still an RPG, and it seems like you have some amount of options when speccing the four characters) it’s something you can do, which I recommend. By the end of my play-time I had only just assembled the full party, so I can’t speak to how Sudeki’s combat moves beyond the early hours. However, as a noted fan of Gun Wizards and a noted fan of Janky Nonsense, it had my attention. Not for being great, obviously not. 2004 is also the year that Devil May Cry 3 and Halo 2 came out, so I think I’m covered if I want actual good action games and shooters from that period.
Now, the other part of this game being weird as shit has a lot to do with everything else? The voice acting in Sudeki follows the Chrono Cross school of accents, with a lot of different vaguely-European voices coming out of various anime-looking dudes and ladies with no rhyme or reason to it. Consistent worldbuilding? PFFFFFT. I guess Elco’s accent is supposed to be Dutch? Anyway, I sure as hell couldn’t tell you what was happening in Sudeki’s story based on those first three and a half hours, other than “Something something invasion, something something crystals” and a vague summation of each character’s personality. (Shounen boy with daddy issues, spoiled princess, eccentric playboy scientist (?), and noble tribal warrior lady.) There’s just something about how slightly… off about the way it’s executed which makes me want to see more. There’s a certain level of pantomime going on here with the way Sudeki tries to deliberately replicate JRPG plot points that I find fascinating, especially in hard contrast to something like Dragon Quest XI, which I’ve been going through in a fairly staggered, meandering fashion.
Not that the writing itself is great or anything, but the rest of Sudeki is odd enough that it falls into the much vaunted “I’d consider doing something more with this” category alongside high quality games like Two Worlds and Rise of the Argonauts. This is NOT an endorsement of quality, before any of you jump out and purchase this for $5 on the next steam sale (once again, would like to genuinely apologize to the multiple people who played Rise of the Argonauts in the Year of Our Lord 2020 because of me.) It's more that I want to see more of this game because it’s weird and I’m a fundamentally broken person. Sudeki! Catch it again! Eventually!
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Time Played: About 4 hours
Dubiosity: 2 out of 5
Tricone Hats: 5 out of 5
Would I play more? Given the broken curve I’m grading on here, the answer is “yes, I’m seriously considering giving this a full playthrough”
GreedFall seems… totally alright? Coming from the studio responsible for Dubious RPG Hall of Fame candidate and unintentional comedy masterpiece Bound by Flame, this is the highest of compliments I can manage. This is the first game from French RPG studio Spiders that seems like it has a genuine budget behind it, as opposed to a handful of euros and some earnest intentions. It made me realize they might actually be capable of making something too good to show up on a randomizer wheel of cursed RPGs created entirely to stave off Quarantine Madness, which is something I don’t think I would’ve ever said before this. It reminds me of The Surge being the follow-up to Lords of the Fallen, actually. Just pretend that The Surge 2 wasn’t apparently a pretty straight sidegrade, because I still have faith that Deck 13 will eventually make a solid souls-like, be it fantasy or sci-fi.
As the newest game on The Wheel of Dubious RPGs at slightly less than a year old, GreedFall benefits from mostly resembling a modern video game. The voice acting is acceptable-to-good most of the time and it looks pretty good for a game of its budget even if you can sometimes see the limitations peeking through the cracks. As De Sardet, a fantasy ambassador/cop tasked with accompanying his/her dipshit cousin on a voyage to the new world, it cannot be faulted for lack of ambition. Oh, the combat seems awkward, (especially if you didn’t accidentally spec into the most overpowered “Gunquistador” path like I did) the skill tree seems limited, and I’m not entirely convinced the game’s slightly-too-wordy, on-the-nose writing will be able to handle the historically fraught, extremely messy subject of colonialism. It’s a game that has a lot to prove, and given the decidedly “mixed” critical reception it’s gotten as well as the pedigree of its developer, I question whether it'll manage to nail everything it sets out to do. Hey, it's still EuroJank, right? What's the point of games like this, if to not always mildly disappoint such grand ambitions?
However, I had a pretty alright time, mostly bereft of irony, and my handful of hours with the game made me want to see more. There’s definitely a place for these sorts of “AA” budget games out there, and in another very real sense Greedfall is filling that medium-complexity RPG void that Bioware has left vacant for the last six years. I can’t speak to how De Sardet and his/her ramshackle party of miscreants will navigate the terrifying turns and twists of “Colonial Government Bureaucracy” (side note: a surprising number of quests I’ve undertaken thus far have been the video game equivalent of filing paperwork, which I appreciate for their audacity if nothing else) in the long run, but for the moment I think GreedFall is on my radar.
|Risen and Betrayal in Antara||The Bard's Tale (2004) and Stonekeep|