A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Disgaea

Discussion – Games that feel like work

In all the time I’ve been playing games I’ve come across a few that feel more like work than play. It’s a dawning realization, the moment you recognize that you’re doing something that feels way more laborious than is fun. We each have our own thresholds here, so your mileage may vary.

One such game for me is Disgaea and all Disgaea-style games by Nippon Ichi/Atlus/whatever. The game is sound, the mechanics are good, the story is fun and interesting, but it’s not enough to keep me playing against the feeling that I’m spending a lot of time grinding. Maybe it’s just me being a silly completionist, but I like the concept behind leveling items… unfortunately it’s a ton of work… too much work for me.

I suppose I feel like I should take advantage of such a thing and that’s why I’ve stalled out in playing the game. I’m not entirely sure. After a fashion though, some games just stop being fun.

A classic example of this from my own experience: I used to play Ragnarok Online (on one of the many free servers out there). RO is a massive experience grinding game with little to no quests available, further, loot drops and experience gain in the pay-to-play game is extremely low (let’s just say that the reason I played on a free server aside from the free-ness is that the experience gains were typically 10x the original and the loot dropping was typically 5x higher). It was through RO that I realized I have a lack of patience for long experience grinds. That’s not really the point of this example… there’s an item called the Fin Helm. It’s a lower face item slot that adds to your defense and typically only Knights and Crusaders can wear it (Swordsmen too I think, but don’t quote me on that). So, I set out to find one for myself (because there was no way I could afford the 10 million zeny it would have cost me to buy it off another player). Well, there’s only ONE monster that drops this Fin Helm. That monster spawns reliably in ONE location. I spent an entire month (I think it was June several years ago) doing pretty much nothing but killing this one creature in this one location. I maxed out my level in Crusader while there and nearly maxed out my base level. I never found the item. The BASE drop chance of the Fin Helm is .01%. On a 5x drop server that value increases to .05%. In a MONTH of hunting I NEVER found it. I was therefore forbidden (by friends) from searching for things that were so rare and since then my stress levels during games have been rather manageable.

Taking this lesson to heart, I stopped my search for the Jedi Holocrons that grant the Jedi Waistpack in Star Wars Galaxies and even changed my profession from Jedi to Commando. I don’t bother hunting for exceptionally rare loot (and sometimes even just rare loot) that drops from monsters in games any more. I don’t really see the point in stressing myself out over a random chance drop and I’d rather do other more productive things in the game. Essentially, if I can’t find it easily enough, I’ll move on with only slight regrets that eventually go away.

More or less, I’m not concerned with getting rich or having the best equipment or the highest level any more. I just want to play the game, to experience the story and the mechanics and to come away with satisfaction. If a game feels like work, I’m robbed of that satisfaction and I’m left just feeling tired. I suppose this is why I take a break from Final Fantasy games after playing them regularly for a while. The game isn’t going anywhere and I can always pick it up later.

One more supposition and I’ll end this: I suppose I’m just not a fan of needless effort. Don’t get me wrong, if I can get to the highest level and rack up the most cash and get my hands on the best gear for my characters, I will, but if I have to go millions of miles out of my way to do so and if I get frustrated and flustered while doing so, is that worth it? Isn’t the point of a game to have fun? To have a good time and enjoy myself? So, that’s what I do now. If I seem to always take the easy way out in games, well, that’s because I believe the stress just isn’t worth it. It’s part of knowing myself and looking deeper into why certain things make me happy or unhappy. No sense in stressing myself out over just a game, right?

Until next time, keep cool.

– Elorfin

P.S. “We shall never be at peace with ourselves until we yield with glad supremacy to our higher faculties.” – Joseph Cook

Discussion: Video Game Remakes and Re-releases

I was listening to some video game music on YouTube this morning and I happened to glance down at the comments. There were a couple of people saying how awesome it would be if there was to be a remake of the game to which the music belonged. A few commented that any remake would not be as faithful as we would hope. Mind, that’s just my interpretation of YouTube comments… they’re typically not so verbose or well worded (not to mention improper spelling and grammar).

I’ve been around almost as long as the video game industry. I’ve been playing games for most of my life. Some of the games I grew up on have built up a rather impressive catalog (Civilization just hit its fifth iteration, X-COM is seeing a reboot as a first person shooter without the hyphen, Sim City spawned the incredibly successful Sims series, etc). For the purposes of this discussion, sequels aren’t remakes or reboots, they’re just the logical (sometimes illogical) evolution of a game.

There has been a clamor for remakes and re-releases these days by my generation. We want to see our old games brought back to the fore and given the attention they deserve now in this age of the internet where we can discuss them openly instead of getting a bunch of blank stares from gamers half our age. I’ll get into the age issue later, but for now, let’s take a look at some remakes and re-releases.

In my opinion (and since this is my little site, everything here is my opinion), one of the best remakes/ports has to be the continuing of Lunar: The Silver Star since 1992. I wrote about it earlier here, so I won’t go into too much detail. The original game came out in 1992 on Sega CD (well, the Japanese version; the North American version was 1993), the first remake was Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the Sega Saturn in 1996-7, and later released on the Playstation in 1998-9. Further, there was a Game Boy Advance remake in 2002 called Lunar Legend and lastly the Playstation Portable remake in 2009-10 named Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. Each of these remakes showed improvements in the graphics and/or voice acting (especially in the PSP release) and introduced new or different gameplay elements (or in one case, changing the main character’s hobby from playing a harp to playing an ocarina and rewriting the game to reflect that).

In the case of other games (this whole paragraph is now off the top of my head), I own a copy of Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS which is a graphical update from the original. I’m not sure about the gameplay or anything else (except to reflect the touch screen and dual screen nature of the console, which I consider an assumed update). Also, there was a release of Final Fantasy I and II for the PSP, Final Fantasy VI for the GBA, Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI on the Playstation, Chrono Trigger for the Playstation (that added animated cutscenes) and later the Nintendo DS (that has additional gameplay). Even more modern games like Disgaea has been rereleased on the PSP and the DS with appropriate gameplay adjustments and the whole Ace Attorney series originally came out on the GBA and was re-released on the DS. Final Fantasy Tactics got an amazing revisit when it was remade for the PSP 10 years after its original Playstation release and it added cell-shaded cutscenes, voice acting, a rewrite of the script to eliminate some of the mistranslated speech, and multiplayer gameplay.

Also, there has been a resurgence of re-releases courtesy of digital download services like Steam and Impulse. I’ve got full access to X-COM UFO Defense on Steam (which experienced a re-release or two) and Master of Orion II on Impulse. These are both mid-1990’s games that I spent a lot of time playing (and if you look at my Steam profile for X-COM, I still do). With access to old games, I’ve noticed something about myself… I’m BETTER at them now than I used to be. Not just through repetition of gameplay (because I stopped playing them when Windows decided to not let me run them ordinarily), but through the fact that I’m a much more experienced gamer today. I was playing Master of Orion II recently and discovered that the easy difficulty setting was too easy, which was odd because it used to be fine for me. I cranked up the difficulty to average and it was STILL too easy. I think I’m going to kick it up to hard next and see what happens.

For someone like me who grew up with these older games, a remake is a mixed bag. Part of the experience of these older games was dealing with the copy protection and the low resolution, DOS command lines and the early generations of sound cards that could only generate 8-bit music (eventually better). However, I would love to see my old games revisited and updated… better graphics, better music, glitches fixed, gameplay streamlined, but I don’t want any significant changes. Often when there’s a remake, the fear is that the developer will change the fundamental aspects of the game. This is partly unfounded as I’ve never seen a remake that drastically changed the way the game played, but I have seen sequels that are nothing like the original (Master of Orion 3 was a disaster).

This leads me to my perspective: I want to see faithful remakes of the games I grew up playing. I want to see graphical, musical, effects upgrades across the board, but I want the gameplay to essentially remain the same. Sure, some of the fan-made projects for X-COM has made playing the game more interesting and convenient (like a map randomizer to mix things up a bit or a mechanism for the game to remember what equipment was on which team members). I feel that these re-releases on Steam and Impulse could be the beginning of something incredible if companies would tackle such things. Admittedly, most companies are more interested in making new or derivative games instead of revisiting older ones for overhauls. Plus, in the case of some games like X-COM Interceptor, the source code has apparently vanished and any fixes or remakes are just not in the cards. Honestly, remakes/re-releases of games like Lunar, Final Fantasy, and Chrono Trigger are thrilling for me and I jump on them when I can. I love having a portable copy of Chrono Trigger and Lunar and Final Fantasy Tactics. I’d love to see a PSP version of X-COM UFO Defense one day, but seeing as they’ve already started pulling away from the UMD hardware (from what I’ve noticed), I doubt I’m going to get my wish.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. There’s something in it that makes us look upon the things we treasured way back when through our rose colored lenses and value the old over the new. Remakes are a kind of compromise and even today, remakes are often derided as worse than the original. A prime example of this is a forum thread I was reading last night regarding Lunar: Silver Star Harmony on the PSP. In it, some posters commented that it was easier than the original, that it was somehow less than the original. This kind of thinking is dangerous for those of us who would love to see our old favorites revisited in the future. I wonder if these people ever considered that because they played the original, they were somehow better at later versions of the same game. I’ve played Lunar in nearly every iteration and to me, it’s the same game every time. Of course, I don’t have the luxury of being able to play the original Sega CD version next to the newer PSP version. This issue occurs with movies too (anyone notice the whole “I hate the new Star Wars trilogy” thing mostly coming from those people who grew up with the original?). The older we get and the more advanced we become with regards to education and technology, the more critical and demanding we become of our forms of entertainment. Why can’t it be like the good old days? Because those days are long gone, but if you open your mind just a bit, you might find that your favorite story has inspired a slew of others just like it… Master of Orion was the original game that inspired the coining of the term 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) with regards to video game genres and has since inspired games like Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civilizations and many more. Wolfenstein 3D inspired every first person shooter we have today, from Unreal Tournament to Medal of Honor. It’s good to go back to the beginning to see where it all started and awesome if you experienced it as it happened, but take a look outside every now and again and try something new. I promise, you won’t be disappointed (unless you want to be, in which case, that’s your problem).

I suppose my new point is this: don’t rely on the remakes and re-releases, but if they do come along, vote with your money and let the companies know that their effort in revisiting their older games is a welcome diversion. In the mean time, let developers pay tribute to older games by making new ones and vote with your money on those too. Feel free to compare the old and the new, but understand that if that old game were made today, it would be completely different due to the reduced limitations on technology. Apparently Silent Hill was much scarier back when there was a ton of fog (which was implemented since the hardware was limited in what it could show) and now today you can see all the way to the horizon and things aren’t so scary any more. Be understanding.

Until next time, keep on playing the classics you love and give the descendants a chance to become new classics!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Nostalgia, as always, had wiped away bad memories and magnified the good ones.” from Living to Tell the Tale, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

P.P.S. Yes, I want a remake/re-release of Terranigma. I think out of the three Quintet/Enix titles (Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma) the last one is the best and deserves a DS release at the very least.