Sunday, May 8, 2011

Unlimited Frustration.

Before I begin by saying anything else, I want you to watch the following clip:

Did you take a good look?  Seriously?  What you just witnessed was an absolutely gorgeous opening to a PS2 game.  From the opening, I hope you realized the quality of art, the diverse characters, the lush and breathtaking scenery, and frightful foes to overcome.  When you first place Unlimited SaGa for the PS2 into your system, this video is the first thing that greets you.  Based on the video alone, one is promised an adventure of epic proportions and intrigue (Seven Destinies!  Seven Wonders!  Unraveling the mysteries of the world!).   My experience with Unlimited SaGa certainly gave me many of those things.  The graphics push the limits of the PS2.  The musical score, like many SaGa games previous, is diverse and memorable.  The quests certainly are diverse and intriguing.

However, Unlimited SaGa also gave me a few other things:  Anger, sleepless nights, and pleas from dear friends to just put the game down and walk away.  At more than a few points, the trio of friends who had to suffer through listening to me play through the game (Nick, the Enabler, and David) came very close to staging an intervention.  Fortunately, I finished the game before it finished me.

Let me state this clearly:  Unlimited Saga is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating experiences on the PS2 you will ever come across.  A convoluted game system, obscure mechanics, an over-reliance on chance, and a disjointed, abrupt narrative prevent the game from being realized as a shining gem in the PS2's library.  Although it is a rewarding game for those who can figure it out, attempting to figure out the game is the challenge in itself.

Read on if you dare:  After all, misery loves company

Friday, May 6, 2011

Odyssey in the Truest Sense: Etrian Odyssey

A funny thing happened on the way to the Nocturne.

I haven't forgotten about the reader poll which voted Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne the next game for me to remove from my Backlog. It's just that since that poll went up, several things have happened which stymied my progress. A few were legitimate - planning out my second anniversary, preparing for an upcoming move - a few others - replaying Tales of the Abyss, watching every episode of House starting from Season One - maybe less so.

But I have to find out if it's lupus.

However, just because I wasn't playing the games I wanted to play doesn't mean there wasn't some backlogging going on. Following Ayn's post on the concept of Bridge Games it felt only appropriate to bring up this little-title-that-could which has been kicking around in my DS for the past few months.

Like most of my handheld games, this one alternated between sitting idle on my shelf or idle in the DS itself. Unlike the others, there was a little more story to how I obtained it than "saw it on the shelf, bought it on a whim." Late last year, a member of the  BlueGartr community with a veritable warehouse of video games to choose from decided he wanted a little extra spending money. So from his great throne, he deigned to let a few of us mere collectors bid on items from the vast trove in his personal arcade.

An arcade which actually exists and has this painting in it.
I ended up getting about a dozen games from him, but when I ordered the first two Etrian Odyssey games, he told me that his assistant - because he owns so many games he needs an assistant to keep track of them - had already sold off one of them. No big deal, I figured, since my local GameStop had the one he had sold. I told him to just switch my order for another game on his list, only to find out he'd made a mistake - the one I'd just bought was the one he still had available, the other was the one he'd just shipped out. Well, now I was determined. Three GameStops later and one 18-mile walk later, I'd gotten my hands on the original Etrian Odyssey.

I went through a lot worse to get Luminous Arc.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bridge Games

 David and I have been on a bit of a hiatus, we realize.  It's the time of year where things become incredibly busy at work for both of us.  Of course, between that, we've actually been playing (and remarkably, finishing) games so that we have something to write about here, instead of relying solely on our sharp wit and use of images to wow and distract you.

In this post, however, I'd like to talk about the concept of bridge games.  Unlike the introductory picture, I don't mean the type of bridge played by your grandmother (mine, personally, is partial to gambling and other games of chance), but those games that you play between games.

I know, the concept sounds a little absurd at first.  Here at the backlog, however, where much of what we have to complete consists of long RPGs, or involved platformers, we've come to appreciate them.  You see, bridge games are those which you aren't under any pressure to finish.  They are the games where it's more about the journey, rather than the destination.

Sadly, few games are actually about Journey.

Again, I realize that sounds ridiculous as well, since that idea is what should encompass gaming in general.  However, in an oversaturated market where adult gamers often have more games than time to enjoy them, picking a title which to put your focus on can be a bit of a task.  Looking at your entire backlog can be a bit overwhelming, if your task is to finish everything on that list, particularly if you have an RPG-heavy library like me and David.

Bridge games also serve as a nice distraction if you get stuck with a particular game, or need something to break the monotony of a title.  It's a nice, mindless distraction through which you can give your brain sometime to relax after being unable to finish a particularly hard battle, or are frustrated with a particular puzzle.  Fighting games are usually a nice choice for this, although some people may prefer an RPG that they already finished, and choose to go through at a slower pace the second time around.  While expressing my love-hate relationship of Disgaea to the Enabler once, she acknowledged it as a bridge game of sorts.  For her, it's fun in small spurts:  Pop the game in, do a little grinding here and there, then set it aside for awhile.  When approached from that angle, Disgaea is a good choice.

I, however, need a little more than exploding penguins on some days.  Thus my bridge game of choice has been Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.

Because watching Itachi curb stomp Sasuke never gets old.

When I'm not by a console and look to my portable offerings, the new Dissidia (a post about the first one will be forthcoming) is my bridge game of choice.

Because watching Jecht be a family man never gets old.

Both of these games do have their respective quest and story modes which are chock full of unlockables.  Certainly, it's possible to finish these games.  The sheer amount of content ensures me that there will be plenty to do.  The lightness of the quest mode does not make it intimidating to pick them back up should I choose to continue.  The presence of other gameplay modes (which is admittedly where Dissidia Duodecim wins) provide a welcome distraction.  Really, there's no rush with completing everything in these games.  It's simply nice to pop in the game for a bit, do a few fights to have some feeling of progression, then go back to the game that's my current focus for completion.

Perhaps as my backlog whittles down (hey, I can dream), I'll have less of a need for bridge games and will instead be able to immerse myself more in the gameplay experience of the remaining contenders. 
But for now, games like these provide a nice venue for me to continue using my leisure time as it's intended, rather than setting aside a game and making myself go back to working more than I already do.

To our readers:  We're curious -- what are your bridge games of choice, if any?