Now Playing: One Small Step for Man

Yeah, let’s come round back on this.

For the summary, years, years ago, I set myself on a quest to beat, or come as close as I’m capable of doing, all my games. Every single games that’s part of my collection. Group them by console generation, tackle them sequentially, don’t stop until either they’re beat or I am.

At first it went smoothly. Although I still have some older games either I forgot about at the time (basically my whole Game Boy library) or picked up after the fact, the first several console generations fell quickly. Then I’ve been stuck in the seventh console generation for what feels like ages. But I am near the end of it. In an attempt to keep myself honest moving forward, I’m making it public. Potentially opening up myself to shame but not really because I am magnificent and so don’t have to worry about that.

Last time, I moaned about not making nearly as much progress as I thought. Since then, I’ve changed the way I play games. Got more of a solid schedule to it, less just playing whatever I feel like. Also, I don’t have as much games going at once, and for the time being at least, I’m not working classic games outside of the project series I’m picking up into the rotation. I think it’s had success in moving me forwards. I’ve knocked off several titles in the short month-plus since the last time we’ve done this. Makes me hopeful I might actually get through this generation of the quest in less time than even I predicted this year. Yep, quite a turnaround from the last time we checked in. Let’s get into that.

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Now Playing: Status Update

You know, I think it’s about time for another check in on this one.  Making this all public as a way of motivating myself.  Accountability an all that.

For those of you who weren’t around last time, or aren’t in the habit of of remembering random minutia from incredibly sexy internet stranger’s lives, I’m on a quest.  A long, long time ago, I decided that I was going to beat, or come as close to it as I was able to, every single game I owned, grouped together by console generation.  Seriously, I want to emphasize that.  A long time.  I’ve been playing games for a long time, and have amassed a huge collection.  Doesn’t help that I usually have some side game I’m working on outside of this quest, or that new games do get added into it.  It took me a few months each to cross the NES and SNES generations.  PS/64 took me about a year.  I’ve been working my way through the PlayCubeBox era for an embarrassingly large amount of years.  But I’m nearing the end.  I was hoping to have finished up that generation by the end of this year.

But I’m probably going to have to pick up the pace.  It’s been months since we checked on this last, and I’m disappointed that my list has not changed as much as I thought.  But let’s get into that.

The Recently Conquered

Planescape: Torment

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My thoughts on that are up here.  This is a game I went through a roller coaster with.  I started out really hating it.  Then I enjoyed it.  Then I progressed to a point where I couldn’t do all the stuff I was enjoying anymore, and I started hating it again.  Then that stopped, and I enjoyed that more, then the end game started, and, well, you get the idea.  ‘Twas unfortunate.  When it’s good it’s really good, but when it’s bad it’s awful.

King of Fighters 2002

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Yeah, this wasn’t part of the original list.  But GOG had it for free, so I had to pick it up.  I’ve been treating PC games like how I have this one a little bit differently, on this quest.  I do have to get them done, and I usually work with at least one classic game alongside whatever I’m doing for this mission at any given time, but I’m not going to hold myself back from moving on to the next console generation for these.

In any case, I suck at fighting games, but I really have a lot of fun with them.  And I love crossovers.  So King of Fighters is in the top of the field at a lot of things I really appreciate in games.  2002 is a Neo Geo port, and doesn’t have a lot of the features we take for granted in modern fighting games, so took me on a bit of a learning curve getting into it, but once I got there,  well, there aren’t many 2d fighting games better than most entries in the King of Fighters series, and 2002 really does deliver the quality.

I’m really not a fan of the ol’ SNK boss syndrome this that is so constant in fighting games and that King of Fighters exemplifies, where the final boss is so much more crazy hard than any of the other fights leading up to it.  I play games one player, so the deliberately broken final bosses are always going to be my cap of any given fighting game experience.  It always leads to me having to make a choice of whether to choose to play at a difficulty level where I’m appropriately challenged by all the normal fights, but I’ll be blown up by the final boss, or to choose a difficulty level where I won’t have as good a time leading up to it, but I’ll at least be able to draw some satisfaction from the conclusion.  It’s not a good choice to be making.  2002 does mitigate it somewhat by presenting you some additional options when you lose, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Soul Calibur II

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King of Fighters did instill a fighting game mood in me, and Soul Calibur II was what I picked up next.  It came out at a bit of a strange age for fighters, when most every big name in the genre wasn’t prepared to brave the market as it was then, and the ones that did didn’t get the attention they would in years before or after.  I usually credit the Mortal Kombat series with keeping fighting games alive in this generation, even if their games somehow had that really weird inconsistency in quality even though they were all using the same engine, but Soul Calibur II did its part in that, too.  A legitimately great game that had some very solid sales numbers, this was another sound leg for the genre to stand on.

I didn’t keep up with the series much after this, but if they’ve been able to keep building on top of what they did here, they’ve got something worthwhile indeed.

Also, again, I love crossovers, and being able to play as Link in a game like this hits a very warm and fuzzy spot.  I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense.

Now Playing

Final Fantasy XII

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I mentioned last time that I had been surprising myself with how much I’ve been enjoying this game.  Well, the honeymoon period is over.  And now I’m starting to see it for the shrewd partner it is.

Final Fantasy XII famously had a lot of production difficulties behind it.  Lots of games do.  Some of them rise above that, and still deliver a great time even with all the behind the scenes drama.  Others never quite overcome the challenges presented by the difficult environments they’re birthed from.  Final Fantasy XII seems to have been largely defined by the compensations they’ve had to make for what was going on with the development team.  The production difficulties feel like they’ve been woven into the game’s very DNA.

I’ve hit a point in the game where it feels like everything has been built to stretch, to offer as much playtime with as little development effort as possible with no regard to the quality therein.  Everything feels like a grind with no payoff.  I get through one area after another, and nothing seems to actually be happening because of it.  It’s been so long between cutscenes that I’ve forgotten what half of my characters sound like, and story is so sparse that I’ve got very little idea of most of my teams’ motivations and personalities.  And there’s a huge amount of grind in a literal sense.  Nearly everything, from weapons to abilities to magic, you have to unlock the ability to use it by grinding points and you have to buy the thing itself with money.  And there’s not enough money going around, unless you go back and scour areas over and over again, to keep all six members of your party up to date.

I’m over 50 hours into the game, and it’s currently what I’m pouring most of my playtime into.  I’m hoping the end is within sight and that things will pick up then, but with how little substance the game has behind it, it’s difficult to get a sense of where the momentum is leading.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

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Yeah, I’ve just been in a Final Fantasy mood.

This is an odd game for me.  It feels like it’s on the verge of being a great game, and in multiplayer, I bet it’s a blast.  But the whole game is built around multiplayer, yet multiplayer requires extra peripherals and hand-helds, and for someone like me who doesn’t have friends in the first place, much less friends with the right combat simulator equipment, that is absolutely never going to happen.

And that causes some pains to the single player.  The inventory management, the bosses, many enemies, there so much in this game that was obviously intended to be handled with a group, and there’s no analogue to be had in single player.  Even basic combat suffers from this, as it’s obvious various combat techniques are meant to fit into roles and leave gaps that can’t be covered when you’re all by yourself.

All in all, I’m still having fun with it.  But as the challenges get steeper the gaps between how I’m able to play and how the game is meant to be played are showing more and more.

In any case, it shouldn’t be long before this game joins the conquered list.  I’m near the end, and at the point where I could start getting what I need to make it to the final level, but I’m wanting to revisit some locations and get my character as strong as possible first.

The Soon to Fall

Valkyrie Profile 2

Shadow of the Colossus

Psychonauts

Beyond Good and Evil

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaake Eateeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrr

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Mortal Kombat Armageddon

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

X-Men Legends

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

Only two more JRPGs on that list.  That’s been one of the biggest things taking up so much time.  There’s a few other ones there that are also going to take a commitment to get through, but I don’t think many other than the JRPGs are going to be crossing the 40 hour mark.  Definitely possible to have it all done before the end of the year, I think, but it might be tighter than I’m hoping.  Especially as I’ve always got other projects going.  It will take some focus.  Eyes on the prize.

Play Bad Games

I squirrel away creative works like nuts for the coming winter. I have an odd compulsion, once I own something that’s art to me, whether books, films, or yes, video games, we’re pretty much married. No matter its quality, I will own that work for life. Really, that means I possess works at all levels of quality, from the absolute worst to the “OMG how has this guy not gotten all the awards”.

Years ago, I had decided, during what must have been the truest moment of boredom-induced insanity in history, to play and, as much as possible, complete all of my games. My collection of video games is truly large, numbering in the hundreds, ranging from games produced long before I was born to the present day and beyond, thanks to some weird time shenanigans we won’t get into here. I’m still keeping this quest up today, and I’m still a long way from finishing. I’d like to say I’m a man of class and taste, and that most of the games I own range towards the high-quality end of the scale, but those would be blatant lies. That means that, over the past several years, I’ve played a lot of dreck. I have played games that made me doubt the existence of a kind and loving god, games that I’m sure I put more time into than the developers, games that had me questioning whether boiling my own head would be sufficient to remove the memories of them forevermore.

And you know what? Looking back on them now, it was actually quite a valuable experience.

Most of the people I’ve known will actively stay away from bad games. They might play something that’s kind of meh if the mood strikes them, but something that’s truly bad? Why would they? It makes sense. After the initial purchase, the thing video games really costs you is time, and why would you put so much time into something you dislike? Well, one thing that I’ve found by forcing myself to go through everything on my shelf is that the bad games have value, too. They can help you appreciate both the good games and the medium of video games as a whole more. And not just in a ‘this is so bad that everything’s better in comparison’ way, either.

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For the most part, there’s two types of bad games you deal with. There are those that tried for something and failed, and those that didn’t really try at all. Those that never tried, well, no matter how much I may attempt to rationalize them, there’s often not much in the way of redeeming qualities there. Those that tried and sucked are where the real magic happens. Those are the ones that, while they may not be traditionally enjoyable, might have something that’s worth your time. Maybe they’ve got a good story, even if the team’s not the greatest at putting the gameplay portion together. Or maybe they’ve got some really creative ideas that were just really poorly implemented. Or maybe the way the game was produced on a meta level makes it worth exploring. For example, I’m just now finishing up the Xenosaga… saga. There’s a game series I have every reason to hate. A three game series covering half the size and a third of the plot that was originally intended for it, a story that hits on so many of my pet peeves, a level of meddling from the non-creatives that absolutely crippled the development team, and a gameplay that makes it obvious that the developers were more interested in telling their space opera story than they were actually building a game out of it. And yet, now that I’m reaching the end of it, I find the experience so fascinating. The fact that they were actually able to improve in quality in the final game, in spite of being forced to cut out a lot of what made the engine unique? The way they were able to kind of pull off a game that’s mostly an anime? Having me forget like half of what’s going on, and still making some sort of sense out of it? I may not have been excited about playing it, at least until it gets better in the final edition, but man, it’s really fascinating to me.

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And the fact remains that sometimes the important games, the ones that move the medium forward, are not always the greatest one. If you want to deepen your understanding of a craft, it’s important to analyze and consume not only the best examples, but the bad ones as well. This not only helps you understand where things can go wrong, but sometimes even poorly-made models can lead you places. Final Fantasy II is a great example of this. That game is probably the worst in the mainline Final Fantasy series, with so many gameplay features that seem designed to make the game a chore to play. I also consider it one of the most important innovators in the medium. As far as I can tell, Final Fantasy II is the earliest game to implement the plot alongside the gameplay. Sure, games before this may have had bits of plot to set up the next level, but for the most part, gameplay and plot had a pretty one-sided relationship. The plot would lead to gameplay happening, then you’d reach the end, then more plot would lead to more gameplay, and so on. Final Fantasy II was the one to add in the other half of the relationship, where you, the player characters, were not just being pushed along by the plot, but active participants in it. Things didn’t just happen at a rate coincident with your progress through the game, you made things happen, with plot events coming through as a result of your actions in gameplay. Final Fantasy II laid the groundwork that would be expounded on in Final Fantasies IV, VI, and finally VII, which built those same plot features into something that revolutionized the entire medium. The games very important, and an almost vital trip if you’re looking at playing through the history of games. Even though it sucks.

And, of course, there are times when what’s traditionally viewed as a bad game just clicks with you. Even though it’s reviewed low, it has a combination of features you just really enjoy, and you find it a lot more fun than anyone else. I’m sure everybody has at least a few games like that.

Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably played your fair share of bad video games.  But maybe, even if the game was bad, the time you spent with it wasn’t so bad after all.  And maybe you should give that one game you’ve refused to pick up for the past decade another chance.  What do you say?