Now Playing: The Return

It feels like time for another one of these. Life’s crashing down, but it’s still good to keep in mind how much I’m moving forward. So for those of you who are new here, or aren’t given to remember random minutia about internet stranger’s lives, I’m on a quest. An embarrassingly long time ago, I made the decision to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of, all the games I own, progressing through them grouped roughly by their console generation. Because this was the generation I started being able to make my own purchasing decisions, and the console generation I most filled out in the years following when more powerful consoles came along, I have been stuck in the PS2/GameCube/Xbox on…uh… Original for ages. Like, family members have been born and grown to the point that they can now have weird rambling conversations about cookies with me since I started this era. I have been stuck for far longer than I expected on this console generation. But I am in sight of the end. In fact, it’s my New Year’s Resolution to have this generation conquered by the end of this year. So, let’s take a look at how far I’ve come since our last update.

The Recently Conquered

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

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Last time I covered this, I had positive things to say about it. I’m going to have to walk that back now. Urrrrrrrrrrrrgh did this game outlast my patience for it. Multiple times, I tried to convince myself to quit this game. Maybe I should have. That was a good 50 hours of my life I wasn’t really enjoying. I wouldn’t have bothered, if I hadn’t made it my quest to beat all my games. But can you put a price on overcoming a challenge? Is there any value worth it to you to be less than you actually are? No, I dominated this game like I dominate all things. And I feel good about that.

This is one of the worst games I’ve played as part of this quest. And given that that’s a list that includes Fur Fighters, you know that’s saying something. I appreciate creativity, I appreciate going outside the box, I appreciate the unusual. But there needs to be some direction to it. The combat system in Star Ocean is a bunch of bad ideas thrown at a wall that don’t really mesh together. The plot devolves until it’s the same thing. Everything about Star Ocean is bad, and the plot is handled so badly that it’s twist, which could be something really interesting handled by someone more competent, ends up making the whole series less worthwhile. I didn’t like it.

Looking at opinion bits online, you run into a lot of people who love this game, and you run into a lot of people like me who thought it was absolute dreck. You don’t run into many people in the middle. And you know, it occurs to me that there’s some things that are designed like that. They appeal to the niche. I don’t know who the niche for this is, people who like complicated combat systems full of features but with simple controls and don’t mind a random happenings plot that has troubles paying off? In any case, the more something is designed for a narrow niche, in general, the less it’s going to appeal to people outside of that. This one doesn’t just target the JRPG fans, it targets JRPG fans with a specific itch. I didn’t have that, but the people who do seem to appreciate it.

Simpsons Hit and Run

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This is a game that should be bad, designed in a way that it could be good, but ends up falling somewhere in between. It’s a lot better than you’d expect a random licensed game to be. Still not great. The engine is solid. Could be great. Definitely competent designers behind it. But they didn’t manage a lot of flaws that really dragged the experience down. Limited load zones, bad pathfindings, reuse of linear designs, artificial difficulty, and really poor final challenges were about the worst of it.

I didn’t actually see the ending on this one. I got to the final mission and struggled through all it’s stupid bullhonky over and over again until the game froze up. I didn’t overpower it, but I did endure longer than it did. That’s a victory on its own.

Devil May Cry

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I deliberately did poorly enough to unlock the easy mode, and played it on that. The internet says that means I was playing it wrong. The internet takes that very personally. Because if I play the game wrong that completely invalidates everyone else’s experience. Well, screw everyone else, I had a much better time playing it on easy than I ever did on normal difficulty. Look. I play my fair share of hard games. I’ve beat Dark Souls, Zelda 2, classic Shin Megami Tensei, the original run of Trauma Center, all sorts of things. Sometimes I play games on hard. Sometimes I play them on easy. It really depends on the game. Some games, I just have a better time going up against something on a lower level, and that ended up being Devil May Cry. Sure, maybe my experience was less ‘pure’ but I had a better time with the easier control scheme and weaker enemies. Some games I like to push me to the edge. Some games, I appreciate being the big man.

I was inspired to pick this up at the time I did by a discussion I came across, referring to this game specifically and questioning how much of your enjoyment of a game comes from playing it in its prime. That had me thinking. Because of this quest, I think I’m almost as immersed in games of this era as it’s possible to be, but even so, I don’t get the full context of this being so different from everything else available at the time. It’s like John Carter of Mars, a lot of what it developed was absorbed into the rest of the medium to the point that what was once original about it became kind of standard, so by the time it comes around again the audience just yawns. It always has felt a bit less than spectacular to me, but I’ve been playing this after I’ve already played games like Bayonetta that take the formula so much farther. Players who played it back in it’s prime enjoy it because they’ve got those good memories of it. But is a game that relies on those memories still a good game? Is it impossible to enjoy some games without those memories?

Evolution Worlds

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This is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played in recent memory. I used to really enjoy it! When I was however old I was when this was new, I played it through several times. This is one of the few games I’ve had where I’ve started a new run as soon as I was done with my first. This time around, though, it just became a clear picture of why people turned against JRPGs so hard at the end of this generation. It felt like I basically just pressed ‘A’ for twenty hours, then called it done. Turn-based combat, without much complexity to it, and a plot I had a hard time caring about, just wasn’t good times.

Bonus Round: Super Mario World 2-Yoshi’s Island

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I love how you can re-buy virtual copies of old games now. I stupidly sold my SNES and games when I left for college, and hadn’t been able to get a new version of this one until I got my Wii U and could access a virtual console it was actually on.

I got my original copy of this game as a gift a couple of days after a major turning point in my life. I played this so much as a kid. As a child, it never reminded me of that point, but coming back to it now reminds me so much of that singular moment. Memory’s a weird thing.

Now Playing

Final Fantasy XII

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Here’s a counterpoint to the Devil May Cry question. I played this when it was new, and didn’t like it. I’ve never gotten far into it before, just really didn’t like the mechanics. It’s a 3d system, but to fight I just select an option and wait? Wasn’t for me.

Now though, years after its original release, now that I’ve played more games that use a similar battle system like Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, etc., I’m enjoying this game a lot more. I’m enjoying it a lot more out of its original context than I did within it.

Planescape: Torment – Still

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I’ve progressed on this since our last check-in, but still don’t think I’m close to beating it. It’s not grabbing me yet. It’s getting close, but I think I’m still just barely out of the rough beginning, so I only find myself playing it every once in a while. I hate everything about the Baldur’s Gate engine. It’s a pain to move around and it’s a pain to fight. I think I’m coming to the end of the rough parts. It’s been a while since the game’s forced me into combat, and I no longer have to walk through every single area to get to where I’m going. The plot and well-written sidequests are moving at a faster pace, and you know, I’m seeing signs of the brilliance everyone else says is there. I still need it to sell me on it, but I’m finding I’m looking forward to when it does.

The Soon to Fall

Valkyrie Profile 2

Shadow of the Colossus

Psychonauts

Beyond Good and Evil

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaake Eaterrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Mortal Kombat Armageddon

Soul Calibur II

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

X-Men Legends

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

9 responses to “Now Playing: The Return

  1. It’s a shame that Star Ocean got off to a good start only to have no follow through whatsoever. It wasn’t developed by Square, but I find it interesting how it shares the same weakness a lot of Square games have in that they don’t seem to know what to do in the second half.

    Evolution Worlds is a game I heard of as a kid, yet never actually got around to playing. I heard it’s quite repetitive. Sounds like you ran into the same thing I did with Pac-Man 2 in that we liked the games as kids only to wonder what we were thinking now.

    One of the factors against Yoshi’s Story was that its predecessor, Yoshi’s Island, ranks among the best platforming games out there. I haven’t played it in some time, though; maybe I should revisit it at some point.

    I think you’re at the part of Planescape: Torment when it really starts getting good. Like Undertale, it’s very much like a work in a non-interactive medium in that you really need to stick with it to the end to properly gauge its true value; abandoning it halfway through would be like walking out of the theater before the film ends.

    • The second half of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is pretty spoilerriffic, although the main one is pretty infamous, more known than much else about the game itself, so I can’t discuss it in too much detail. That said, I don’t think they ran out of ideas in the second half. They had a lot there, and its not like some of the ideas were bad. They were just executed really, really poorly. The big twist just isn’t the type of thing you drop 3/4s of the way through the third game in a series, and even though it dropped a bomb on the whole world, they really didn’t do anything with it except using it to replace the big conflict the story was built on without actually resolving it. A more competent writer could have handled it a lot better, it just wasn’t really given the room to thrive. And the final dungeons are a bit of a pain, and they oddly lock you out of the most interesting places in there, and urgh, it’s just a cavalcade of bad ideas.

      One thing I will give the game credit for, in retrospect, if you know what you’re doing, it’s really easy to use the game’s crafting system and grinding their skill system to make oddly overpowered characters. Makes up for the wild difficulty spikes a bit. Probably what the fans of the game really enjoy.

      I think I hit the point where Planescape got really good last night. Didn’t have a big plot moment, but was running across a lot of new and creative places and people, and I was really enjoying it! Actually had a hard time putting the game down. Thanks for the tip over at your place to go back and pick up the Fart Egg after Pharod got mobbed. I wouldn’t have thought to do that.

      • Uh-oh, it’s one of those twists? I’m sure I’ve played at least one game with a twist like that even if I can’t think of one offhand. Twists often get mocked, but I feel they’re really difficult to pull off effectively.

        Ah, I’m glad you’re starting to warm up to the game! I wasn’t sure what to think of the game at first myself, but once I got into it, I too had a difficult time putting it down. I would say reaching the Lower Ward is when the game officially gets good.

  2. Simpsons: Hut & Run is one of the few Simpsons games that I have liked. I gave up on Star Ocean after a few hours and after reading how it ends am glad that I did. Your Evolution Worlds experience is one of the reasons why I seldom play older games. It can tarnish my happy memories when I discover the gameplay hasn’t aged well.

    • Honestly, most games have aged better than Evolution Worlds. It’s actually pretty rare, finding a game that I just don’t enjoy anymore. But man, Evolution Worlds was slow going. Like Red Metal mentioned above, quite repetitive. It’s easy to do turnbased battles poorly, just takes having them too basic, and Evolution Worlds has that in spades.

  3. I like your discussion of DMC here. I didn’t deliberately decide to play it on easy but I wouldn’t have been able to finish it on hard. I still found the fighting interesting and rewarding though. I’ve previously played DMC4 as well which I loved, but am really struggling with the 3rd one, I find it interesting that the difficulty levels vary quite a lot throughout the series.

    • DMC 3 in particular, I heard that the original Playstation 2 release is particularly brutal, but the special edition re-release is one of the easier ones in the series. Yeah, difficulty is an odd one in DMC. Given that later games in the series come a bit closer tot he character action I’m a bit more used to, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to handle them a bit better.

  4. “But can you put a price on overcoming a challenge? Is there any value worth it to you to be less than you actually are? No, I dominated this game like I dominate all things. And I feel good about that.”

    I feel like hanging this quote over my desk for maximum inspiration.

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