We’re going to be posting a bit differently, here at Lost to the Aether, for at least the near future. Your main man was wounded recently, and while it’s not anything you should be worrying about, the effects of this do mean that I’m having a harder time focusing and putting the kind of thought I usually do into these posts. I should be able to make a full recovery with time, but until then, well, the content’s just going to be a little different around here, more in line with my presently diminished capacity. So, you know, fair warning. I hope you’re into it. I hope I’m into it, too.
Today I’m going to go back to an old standby and talk about myself. I’m good at that. Specifically, my little gaming quest. I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, once upon a time, I got the odd idea in my head that I was going to beat all of my games. All of them. I’ve been collecting games since I was a cub, I’ve got a lot of them. I give myself a bit of a break when the game is too glitchy to progress, or in the very, extremely, infinitesimally rare case I’m not skilled enough to beat a game, but overall, if I own it, I will beat it. I’m going through my entire collection, with games grouped by the console generation they released in, and by hook or by crook beating every single game I own.
This little quest has been an interesting one. Some games I never would have given the chance I did, some games I found that I enjoyed in a different way, and some games, playing them this way has actually given to my perspective of them. This quest has certainly changed the way I value games and the experiences contained therein.
But have I mentioned that I have a lot of games? Because I have a lot of games. The NES era took me a few weeks to play through. SNES took me several months. The N64/PS generation took me about a year to clean out. The PlayBoxCube era? I have been at this for years. Many years. Too many years. Longer than I’d care to admit. Children have been born into my family since I started, and have now grown old enough that I can have a sensible conversation with them. It’s been a long time. Part of which is that this was the generation I started making an income in, then one that I filled in later when I started picking up the other consoles for cheap, so my collection is perhaps the largest in this area. Part of it is that there are just so many JRPGs on these consoles bloody hell and they all take like 40 hours minimum to beat.
But for all the causes, I’m most of the way through. I estimate that I’ll be through the rest of this console generation and on to the next, hopefully not so long one, in about a year. That might be a bit optimistic of me, but still, pretty close. I’m excited.
I thought I’d take a look at all the rest of the games ahead of me. What do I have coming up, what shall soon be moving through the life of Aether, what more must I conquer before the next milestone. Because sometimes, it’s just fun to get organized.
Tales of the Abyss
So of all the games I haven’t beaten yet on this quest, this one is one of my favorites. The Tales series has, overall, been pretty solid ever since Tales of Symphonia, and Tales of the Abyss shows the developers in rare form. The Tales series has spent the past decade and a half really strong in terms of characterization, oddly charming technobabble, and in pointedly subverting common storytelling tropes, and Tales of the Abyss showcases some of the best the series has to offer. Mixing the typical JRPG wayfaring and dungeon diving with a fast-paced Smash Bros-esque combat engine keeps the experience feeling really varied and fresh. They don’t really add much new to the mechanics here over previous installments, and the new features they do add seem largely circumstantial, but the mechanics are very solid. I’m having a good time with it.
Also, I get to play as a left hander in this game. How often do I get to do that?
Summoner: A Goddess Reborn
The other game I’m currently playing is one of the best games I have left on my list. This one is one of the worst.
Which I suppose if this is the bottom of the barrel, the barrel’s not really that bad. Summoner: A Goddess Reborn is no Fur Fighters, or Turok: Evolution, or Fallout Tactics. It’s not the type of game that actively offends me for its existence. It’s just… kind of bad.
You remember when THQ made RPGs? Yeah, those were always kind of quirky titles, none of them actually very good. This is along those lines. I’m actually really interested in the lore and the world. It’s obvious the developers put a lot of time and thought into those. I just wish they put as much into their engine and presentation. Gameplay is as slow and clunky as my uncle’s pinto. When it goes bad, it gets about as explosively horrible, too. Graphics and sound are poor, and the art design is all over the place. It’s world is interesting, but it’d take a better game to keep me around if I wasn’t forcing myself to.
I’m a little worried that I may not actually be capable of taking this game the whole way through. Most of the time, strategy or skill makes at least a bit of a difference to how well combat goes, but when the game hits its bad points, that goes out the window and there’s not a whole lot to do except button-mash and hope it works out for you. I haven’t been completely stopped yet, but I’m worried that I’ll run into one of those bottle-necks where skill or preparation doesn’t matter and the odds are too stacked against me to make any headway, and that’ll be a really unsatisfying end to this run.
Devil May Cry
I feel like I should like this game more than I do. Lots of people do, and it has a lot of things going on that I really enjoy in games in a similar vein, like, say, pretty much anything made by Platinum Games. I’m actually hoping to give myself a good time with it the next time I pick it up.
It’s the camera angles that really do it for me. Onimusha was able to make the fixed camera mostly functional in a similar type of engine to Devil May Cry, but its combat was paced more slowly and less position dependent. In Devil May Cry, I remember a lot of having to manage enemies that I couldn’t actually see, or getting swooped by bosses from off screen. It was built off of one of the RE4 experiments, so I can see where the fixed camera came in, but it really should have been eschewed before the final product.
The plan this time around is to deliberately unlock easy mode early on. Would make the straight combat less engage, but hopefully it’d lead to the screen issues in combat being less of an obstacle to me.
Ah, man. I know I’m pretty much the only person who feels this way, but I really love this game. Square really stretched outside their comfort zone to make this, and it shows, but I’ve always found this 3d beat-em-up rather fun. It helps that I’ve got a lot of nostalgia to this; I used to play it with some really good friends of mine, and it brings back the memories really well. The story makes no sense, but I really like the leads. The combat may not be the best out there, but it’s good enough, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
I could beat this game in a couple of afternoons at most, as long as I don’t try to beat it with all three characters. The final boss that unlocks on the third playthrough is absolutely brutal.
Valkyrie Profile 2
Honestly, I don’t remember much about my impressions of the game the last time I played it. I remember it having really neat mechanics and being a lot of fun until all of a sudden it wasn’t anymore. I played the first Valkyrie Profile as part of this quest and it was exactly the same way. Maybe that’s a series tradition.
Final Fantasy XII
I want to like this game. I want to like it a lot. It has a lot of things I enjoy, such as an open world structure, a complex and nontraditional plot, Ivalice, and sexy bunny girls. I’m really not into the mock MMORPG combat engine, though. This game seems to be the herald of a lot more picking up similar engines, and I gotta say, it’s never really grabbed me.
Also, the development challenges this game went through are legendary. I don’t think I’ve played enough to run into them, but it’s hard not to keep an eye out for every bit of jank out there.
Then again, this game has unlockables as a pretty strong mechanic. And, you know, you can tell me about all the Skinner Boxes you want, but I love my unlockables.
Shadow of the Colossus
So here’s the flagship game everyone seems to bring up when talking about the artistry of games.
And you know, it’s earned it. Strength in subtlety is really what Shadow of the Colossus finds success in.
This would have been beaten already, but my last playthrough fell victim to a corrupted save. When a glitch or something prevents my progress through a game, I do give myself the option of calling the game finished right there. I didn’t want to in this case, but I wasn’t in the mood to play the game over from the beginning, so back in the pile it went.
This is another game that’s really well-regarded, but I just don’t feel it. I like the character you can just feel oozing from the game, and I like the variety and creativity of level design, just, I don’t know, the mechanics don’t really grab me. It’s fun to experience, but not fun to play. I think I might actually enjoy it more watching as a good Let’s Play. Hmm…
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Half-Life. Gonna be awesome. Aether, I am so jealous of you and for more than the usual reasons this time.
Yeah, but this is the PS2 port of Half-Life. That changes the formula a bit. See, once upon a time, I didn’t own a PC that could play anything released in the most recent decade, so if I wanted to catch up on anything, had to be on console. And in this case, I shouldn’t have bothered. The developers porting it did a great job with most everything that matters, aside from the controls. As far as I’m aware, it looks, sounds, and largely runs like the PC experience, with a few noticeable downgrades, but overall a solid effort. It’s just wasn’t possible at the time to take a mouse and keyboard shooter and turn it into a controller shooter without making some large changes to the engine, and the team here didn’t. As a result, both combat and platforming are more an exercise in frustrating than anything else. Aiming is the worst of it. You can set your stick sensitivity, but your only choices are between a minor flick of the stick sweeping your reticule completely to the other side of the target or your aim moving so slow they have to be pretty much standing still for you to connect.
Plan this time around is to play with cheats. Experience the game, the atmosphere, the integrated storytelling that moved the industry forward. Avoid the frustration.
Beyond Good and Evil
It’s a Zelda-like. In the future. With Rasta-Rhinos. What more can you ask for?
It’s another one that I’ve played before, had my progress stopped due to a glitch, but still had a good enough time with it to give it another go through.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
This is a game that’s really well-regarded. I’ve played through it once before, but really don’t remember all that much about it. I liked the platforming. And I don’t usually like the platforming, so that’s saying something. Except for you, Mario. You know I’ll always love you.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
I’ve gotten most of the bad JRPGs out of the way by this point in the quest. Except for this one, apparently. I just… apparently it had enough of a market for a re-release recently, but it’s never resonated with me. Everything it does that I like, plenty of other games do better. This one ends up being a drag to me.
Mortal Kombat Armageddon
The PSKube Mortal Kombat games are an interesting beast to me. As far as fighting games go, they’re not “great”. Deadly Alliance was aktually fairly solid, but it still lakks that something special that separate good games from great games. It’s missing a certain level of polish that the other two games in the run only fell further and further behind on.
Still, for it’s era, well, it’s pretty much this three-part run of Mortal Kombat and Soul Kalibur II that kept fighting games alive. As lakking as the Mortal Kombat games were, they were the best of a generation that seemed to see nothing but bad fighting games otherwise.
And, you know, I kan take a poor game that tries something new a lot better than I kan a poor game that runs in the same mold. And the three Mortal Kombat games of this generation bring new ideas in spades. Deadly Alliance leads the way by legit killing off the main kharakter of the series right in the beginning, who stayed dead until the timeline was reset by the way, redeveloping each kharakter from the ground up using real world martial arts styles, introducing a new kombat system wherein each kharakter can swap between fighting styles in the middle of a match, and laying bare a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that went into the game. Deception built off of the Deadly Alliance engine, this time around kreating a roster that was largely filled with under-utilized kharakters from previous games, making the levels a lot more interaktive, and introducing a story mode, a new feature for fighting games at the time and a move that would lead the way to the very well-regarded story of MK9.
I think Armageddon stretched the experimentation too far, however. The big selling point here is that every single kharakter who’s ever been a Mortal Kombat fighter is on the roster in this game. Even if they’re just a zombie by this point. Even the ones from the dumb games you never played. This leads to a massive roster that takes what the developers were kapable of at the time beyond their limits and leaves a lot of stretch marks. There just wasn’t enough room for all the fighters to have three separate fighting styles any longer, so the kombat was made a lot more shallow than when Deadly Alliance paved the way. The unique fatalities were gone, too, and when you’re sakrificing one of the things that has come to define your series, well, you’re usually heading for problems. The experience ends up feeling a lot more bland than it should be, and it’s really disappointing the franchise klosed out the generation this way.
Soul Calibur II
Hey, look at that! We were just talking about you! A lot of the things that I said about Mortal Kombat applies to Soul Calibur, but Soul Calibur’s a lot more polished. I’m expecting a better experience overall, although the game’s quest mode really overstays its welcome.
You’d think that with all that games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter had done to build up 3D fighters, you’d be seeing more quality from them this generation, but nope. Sophomore slump I guess. Tekken Tag Tournament was solid, but didn’t really set the world on fire. As far as I can tell, it was Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat that kept the fighting genre alive in the general market until Street Fighter IV came along and gave the genre a much needed shot.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Again, another game that not very many people like, but I do. Crystal Chronicles is really charming to me. I like the design, I like the concepts running throughout, I like the world. It’s kind of like Summoner, I’m into the world and lore and presentation stuff, but I really wish they had something more going on with the gameplay. Crystal Chronicles is at least more mechanically sound than Summoner is. This game does get to be a real drag partway through, but until it reaches that point, I really enjoy it. I’m sure part of this is nostalgia. I didn’t have a Playstation of any variety until I was a man grown, so back in the day, this was the first new Final Fantasy I owned in quite some time after having grown up with the classics.
It’s built for multiplayer. I get the feeling it’s a lot more fun with multiple players, but I’ve never had the chance. I can hand guests a controller, but requiring a separate GBA and link cable for each player has always proven too high a barrier for entry.
The Simpsons Hit and Run
It’s a licensed game. For the Simpsons, which doesn’t exactly translate naturally into video games. It has no business being any good. And yet surprisingly, it is.
I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with the Simpsons, thanks to my parents who were convinced it was sin incarnate because they sometimes said naughty words. Why they were so picky with my TV habits but didn’t care what games I played so long as they weren’t M rated is beyond me. But yeah, I wasn’t allowed to watch the show, but they didn’t bat an eye at me playing the game.
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Mmm… here’s another one I’m really looking forward to. Alongside Persona 4, Final Fantasy X, and Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss, this is one of my favorite JRPGs released this generation. So much about the game just works. It clicks for me. The card-based combat system, if you’re willing to but in the time and mental energy to construct your decks exactly as you need, turns battles into an exercise of satisfaction. The setting is interesting, if a little underexplored, and I love the way the plot twists and turns something that’s initially very rote into the last thing you expect. And the presentation! Except for the voice acting, oh hell, except for the voice acting. But the music, the gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds, and the Arabian-inspired character design. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of finding myself wrapped up in this.
So yeah. I’m looking forward to it.
Again, a game that’s built around multiplayer, and I’m sure it’s a blast with some friends, but I’ve never had the chance to play multiplayer. By the time I picked this up, I just happened to not have friends anymore. A shame.
Otherwise, I’ve tried a couple of times to get into it, but they’ve all ended up a little disappointing. The mechanics are fun, I think the level design just kills it for me. It’s not easy or fun to get to where I want to be going, and things just don’t flow smoothly.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
‘Twas just chatting about this one over at Red Metal’s place. Another game a lot of people have said a lot of good things about. I haven’t liked it. I love the other two games in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, but this one, I’ve had a hard time with.
It’s my own fault. When I gave it a try, I played it wrong. See, part of the game takes place in an area with a bunch of light bubbles around. Being outside of them damages you, being inside of them slowly, slowly restores your health. I would wait inside the light bubbles until my health was completely full. It drags the progress through those sections to an absolute crawl, and brings on stretches of several minutes at a time in which literally nothing is going on. So yeah, I shouldn’t have been playing that way. The developers also shouldn’t have incentivized the most boring play possible, so I don’t put all the blame on myself.
This time around, going to try not doing that. Hopefully I’ll get the experience that everyone else raves about.
Another game I don’t remember much about. I remember it was an absolute blast the one time I played it, to the point that I started up a new game as soon as I beat it the first time. Eventually, I put it down though, and since then, I’ve never even touched it. From the outside, I guess it just doesn’t stand out compared to all the other experiences I’ve got on my shelf. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy it just as much as I used to once I do give it another go here.
So yeah. That is my quest. All of those games beaten. That’s what I’ll be up to the next year or so. Here’s hoping this doesn’t all crash and burn.