Ranting ‘Bout Rogue Galaxy

If a game is bad, people will make fun of it forever.  If a game is good, there will be someone out there who just will never shut up about it.  And it’s probably you.  Give it a rest sometime, jeez.  So what happens to the games that fall somewhere in between?  Are they just doomed to be lost to history, nobody who cares enough one way or the other to talk about them?

rogue-galaxy-08-20-14-1.jpg No, that doesn’t happen.  Thanks to the subjective nature of opinions and the endless possibilities of people and experiences, everything is loved by at least someone.  But it’s pretty easy for something to just disappear outside your personal sphere of experience in this world.  For me, Rogue Galaxy is just such a game.  I only knew it from some vague memories of some friends of mine renting it once.  I only bought it because I came across it while I was nostalgic for that friendship after it ended.  I hadn’t played it past the first act for years, finally beating it just now.  And man, that was an experience.  I’ve seen it largely described as an ‘average’ quality game, hence why you don’t see many people raving about it one way or the other.  Yet, it’s not average in the same way most other games are, in being good, but not good enough.  No, Rogue Galaxy mixes good game and bad game like oil and water, and somehow that balances out to average.  Which, as it turns out, gives me way more to think about.  I was planning on writing a post about the game, because if I have to spend all that time in a game that is ‘average’ and therefore clearly beneath me, I don’t want to be the only one to suffer.  But I just could not decide on what subject.  So I just decided screw it, I’ll just mash all the possible posts into one big dumb chimera post.  This is that post.  And now you’re reading it.  Your life has never been better.  Let’s go stream of consciousness on this sucker.

  • So, if you take yourself some sci-fi and start softening it up, at some point it starts to become pretty indistinguishable from fantasy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Star Wars rode that line beautifully.  Dune did as well, at least until it came to Sting in his underpants.  Then it was all fantasy.  Rogue Galaxy takes the line about as far as it goes, to the point that you wouldn’t be amiss calling it a ‘Fantasy Game with Sci-Fi Elements’.  You should try that sometime.  You will gain friends.  Anyways, if you took away all the space stuff, you would have yourself the exact same game in a slightly different genre.  You have your elves, Scottish dwarves, kings and queens, swashbuckling, pirates, magic, animal people, all that.  The separate planets are all monoclimate, and only have one city each, so they’re all largely indistinguishable from standard videogame countries.  The atmosphere is such that it all works, though.  You take your story seriously, and that leads to questions like “how do I keep running into the same people with a whole galaxy to play with” and “how do you get a worldwide government in place that can all agree with each other” and “why don’t I get to see more of this entire stupid planet than just this postcard-sized space of real estate?”  You get a bit lighter with it, you get to get away with it.
  • Just one thing I want to share, here’s an excerpt from a walkthrough for the game, put together by one “Shinji” Chow: “All in all, an average RPG that all RPG gamers should try and give a shot at.”  It’s a bit of a jump from “Oh meh” to “Everyone has to play this!” but I remember being the exact same way about RPGs at the time this came out.  That is largely the reason why the PS2 era is taking so blasted long for me to get through in my “Beat Everything” endeavor.

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  • The back of the game advertises “Over 100 hours of gameplay!” The game actually took me 47 hours to beat, so a bit longer than most games that make that claim.  Thing is this game gets harder to want to play the farther along you get yourself into it.  When I got to the end, I had stopped enjoying it a long while ago and was going by sheer force of will.  The developers here seem to have forgotten that your hours don’t count if they suck.  So much in this game seems designed to just take more time without adding to the experience.  Most of the worst of it’s optional, so, you know, fine.  All that stupid pokemon bugquest, all the worthless encounter grinding for more points, all the trial and error item crafting, I ignored it all, and never missed it.  But there was one thing they forced you through that absolutely killed my interest in the game.  Cut-and-paste dungeon design is never forgivable, but this game takes it to the extreme.  It got to the point where I was dreading any indoor dungeon, because I knew it’d just be the same few rooms over and over and over.  I just don’t understand why they did it.  This game obviously had money behind it.  They shouldn’t have had to resort to such lazy, lazy design.  But maybe they blew it all on that big ol’ dolphin pimping sidequest.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that the ctrl+c dungeons took what could have been a solid game and dragged it down into the mud.  This was singlehandedly the reason I am so glad to be done with it.  I would have loved the game so much more if it’s dungeons had just left you the first instance of any given hall or room, but then they would have all been like five minutes long.
  • One thing that did kind of irritate me was discovering or opening up some big lost area that nobody’s been to for centuries, and finding it full of people. Like, somehow everyone else got there before I did.  What even was the point of that?  Aside from a few shops that I don’t need because you can teleport at save points, they added nothing to the area.  Fallout 4 does something similar, dropping drugs that were only developed post-war and motley pipe weapons to areas that supposedly haven’t been touched in the past 200 years.  If you’re the first person to get somewhere, that’s supposed to mean something.  That’s a place that’s different from all these other locations you explore.  Both games just spew it all away.

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  • I’m glad it turned out Kisala was adopted. That way I don’t have to think about Dorgengoa having sex.
  • There’s no getting around it. Rogue Galaxy’s plot is as simple and clichéd as it’s possible for a JRPG to be.  You can see any given plot twist coming for miles, and nothing gets any real mileage.  The game’s really comfortable there, though.  It’s not a story that ended up as such due to a lack of creativity; it feels like it was deliberately written to be as rote and familiar as it could be.  It’s not a good story, per se, and never gets engaging or draws you in, but it’s not really trying to.  It’s kind of an admirable thing, seeing so much design, time, and effort go into making something so deliberately standard.  It’s the plot equivalent of junk food.  Not everyone wants it, and too much of it is definitely a bad thing, but a bit once in a while is not such a bad thing.

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  • I have a huge amount of trouble keeping the names of Rogue Galaxy and Rogue Legacy straight.  Same with Radiant Historia and Radiata Story.  Feels like somebody could make a small little change in order to make life just a little bit easier for a certain sexy informed game connoisseur.
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The Count of Dark Souls

Little known cultural fact.  Ever since the darksign started blighting people in Lordran, and death stopped being a thing, we’ve developed a fun little game.  Basically what you do is you get a partner, and you see who can be more dead.  I lose.  All the time.  For example, I played it with Nito last time on Dooty Doot Dark Souls, and I lost hardcore.  Nito ended up so much deader than me.

But now we’ve got all the Lord Souls!  So we can do the Best Chosen One thing and save the world, right?  Man, I bet you can’t wait!  We’ve been running this series like two years now, and finally, we’re ready to go and bring it!  The end is in sight!

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut I’ve got some business to take care of first.  See, we had picked up the Darkmoon Séance Ring in the Catacombs.  You recall what I mentioned from the ring’s description?  That it claimed the Dark Sun Gwyndolin was the last remaining deity in Anor Londo?  And how we got set on this whole crazy kill everybody for their souls deal by the supposed Goddess Gwynevere, right there?

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Somebody’s lying to me.

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AND I DON’T LIKE THAT!

I speak with her.  She just repeats her tired spiel.  Urging me to go and be the Best Chosen One I already am, and just listen to Big Snake Dungmouth.  I’m not having it.  The ring says you’re not here, yet here you are.  I want to get to the bottom of this.  By force.

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I swing.  My blade doesn’t reach her.  No reaction.

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I hurl a fireball into her gut.  It explodes against her.  No reaction.

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I draw my bow, and send an arrow up her nose.  No…

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Well. Continue reading

The Responsibility for Spoilers

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I’ve been playing/reading my way through the re-release of Higurashi: When They Cry, one of the big names in the visual novel field, for the first time.  Now, here’s something that’s a total experience.  It’s deep, layered, and twisty enough that even just the very act of knowing what genre it actually is changes the experience you have with the story.  If you know anything about the novel other than “It’s good and you should try it,” you’re experience is already impure.  The story is that complicated.

So, I got to the end of what’s currently available in English on the re-release.  The first two entries in the Higurashi series.  And they took me through a trip.  Such a trip, that I was wanting to go online and explore them further.  Figure out what other people have going on.  And that led me to a problem.

See, the re-release, the one with the actual good translation, better art (and don’t you even), and overall improved presentation is being doled out bit by oh-too-small bit as the translation is finished, while the overall series has been out in other releases and mediums for a decade now.  And I was far from the first person to feel the need to go online and talk about things.

So, I was spoiled.  I was actively trying to avoid spoilers, and I was spoiled nonetheless.  I know big reveals that already change the way I looked at what’s been going on in the story, and are going to keep me from arriving at the conclusions the authors are hoping to lead me to before throwing the table down the stairs.  I know some space where things are more than what they appear, and how.  And I knew of some surprise characters well before they actually arrived.

I was angry, at first.  Most places have spoiler policies for just this sort of thing, and for very good reason, and yet I so easily wandered into spoilers, completely by accident.  I was looking to settle and enhance my experience, yet I ended up ruining parts of it.  And if this were not the kind of story it was, that’d be totally valid.

In most instances, it’s just the basic level of respect to mark your spoilers, to help people avoid them and make sure they get the experience they want.  Here, though, well, this has been out for a long while, and accessible in a variety of formats.  And although that’s not an excuse on its own, as people are picking up new works all the times, I didn’t start looking until after I already knew what kind of story this was, how complex, twisty, and easily spoiled, and that I only had part of the same picture as everyone else.  And it wasn’t like these were being posted on Twitter, Facebook, or another uncontrolled forum like that.  I was actively going out and looking for material.  It is one thing to be throwing unmarked spoilers out there when they’re completely unavoidable, but Higurashi is the type of work that it’s really impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about without spoilers.  Really, that was all on me.  It was my responsibility to avoid the spoilers.  Marking and hiding spoilers is a lofty goal, and one should always be respectful enough to do that when possible, but when it’s not, the discussion can’t make way for it.

People need to be able to talk about the works they go through, to help themselves elevate and better appreciate them, getting something more out of it than just their first watch.  Conversations need to happen.  And when it’s impossible to talk about something without bringing up spoilers, well, it still needs to happen.  As long as those who come first are doing what they can to protect the experiences of those who find a story later, the due diligence really falls to the spoilees to ensure their experience.  The conversation needs to happen regardless, and it can’t wait for everyone to reach the same level.

Too Much for Dark Souls

Last time, on Dead Dudes and Dark Souls, we’re not saying who, but somebody messed with the wrong chosen one.  Luckily, I’m pretty quick to forgive and forget.  So what do you say we just forget about him right where he is, and take this show onwards.

So, to the left of the pit I dropped what’s-his-name down, I spy a fog gate in the distance.  I head a little bit towards it, at least until I spy some eyes gleaming in the darkness.  I come a bit closer, and the figure behind the eyes comes into view.

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Looks like a man.  Moves like a beast.  Was this the form he took in life, or did whatever necromancy that brought him back to live force him into this?  Whatever the case, he’s faster than the garden variety giant skeletons.  He hammers his skull against my shield, then darts off to the side.  I follow after him, and cut him one.  First blood is mine.  Well, it would be, but, you know…

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The skeleton rains a few blows against my shield in rapid succession.  This seems to tire it out, and when it stops, I’m ready with my answer.  The battle is mine.

But I don’t progress.  Rather, I remember where I was when I came out of the pit below me.  There was a path leading the other way from there.  And there was someone shooting arrows at me from that path.  Maybe it’s something worth checking out.  I head back that way.  Progress be damned.

Two people were shooting at me, in fact.  Giant arrows come out of the darkness, right towards my skull, as I round that corner.  I move out of the way of them.  They’re flying oddly slowly, here.

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I follow the path along, and up, and scale a ladder.  I catch the first archer at a landing at the top of it.  His ally tries to divert me.  Too bad.

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Climbing up the ladder leaves me pretty helpless, though.  I take an arrow to the back in the process.

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There’s a giant skeleton waiting in the hallway at the top.  Yeah, whatever.

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Another one waits on my way down the hallway.  I didn’t bother remembering how I beat these guys.  I just did.

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At the end of that hallway, I take the ladder down and pick up a few eyes of death off a corpse there.  Again, that’s multiplayer stuff, not very useful to me.  Further on, I find a dead end with a few souls for the taking.  Get a nice view of the arena I fought the Pinwheel in, for what it’s worth.  On the way back, I find a place to drop off the cliff and get some more souls.  Continue reading