Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Backlog Begins: Nocturne

Since this is The Backlog, where we discuss playing the games we never had the time or inclination to before, it seems only appropriate that every now and then those problems resurface and bear discussing. After all, this blog is nothing if not a venue for the pursuit of discovery and intellectualism, where you'll find only the tip-top of class and sophistication.

Man, when are they gonna get to Sephiroth's theme?

Several weeks ago, I sat down to play Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, the first offering of the SMT series for the PS2. In the time since then, I've made it somewhere around, and this is just estimating, a fifth of the way through. I've had more than enough time to make it further, I just . . . haven't.

But that's how this whole thing gets started. That's why I've got more than a dozen games I've played, some of them extensively, but still have no idea how they end. You get into a game, you even like the game, but when it comes down to it the distractions which pile up and take you away from it just prove too great to overcome. No matter how fun something is, if you find yourself having to put it down and then try to get back into it again a few days later, over and over again, sooner or later you're going to stop trying.

This isn't the fault of the game. Nocturne is actually very engaging as JRPGs go. It's challenging, like all of the SMT games I've played so far, and with much more freedom to roam than the Persona series allows. The characters have been developed enough thus far that I'm genuinely curious to see where everyone ends up. It's got me wanting more, but things keep coming up, and each setback seems to put me further and further away from the finish line.

It's just . . . it's so FAR.

So what this post is really about, though I will discuss the game, is how a backlog begins.

The thing to understand about breaking an addiction is every now and then, you're going to backslide.

It's even worse when you're addicted to sledding.

Video games aren't my addiction, per say. I spend a lot of time playing them, but really, dollar for dollar, I get a lot more for my entertainment investment than people who spend an equal amount on individual movies or downloading mp3s, since everybody does such things legally. When you get 100 hours of entertainment for $30 versus 2 hours of entertainment for $25, you're doing a much better job of covering that aspect of your needs in life. No, playing them isn't my problem, it's buying them.

There's a picture up of my PS2 collection in my very first post. That was almost a year ago now, and in that time, my collection has nearly doubled. The picture in there? There's a fourth shelf that I cropped out because there wasn't anything on it. Today? It's almost full. That's not even taking into account the number of games I've picked up for other systems.

This seems like a solid investment.

My addiction isn't to the games itself, it's to the collection. The purpose of the Backlog, primarily, was to help myself and others like me actually put some time into these games so we'd be getting our money's worth, instead of buying for the sake of having. And for the most part, I've been quite successful so far.

Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits, Final Fantasy XII, the Devil May Cry trilogy, two Ratchet & Clank games, Stella Deus, Tales of the Abyss, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Etrian Odyssey . . . almost a dozen titles which would still likely be collecting dust on my shelf if not for this blog. I was bound to stumble at some point. I'm just sorry it had to be here.

Nocturne is a very entertaining game. It starts at the end - an apocalyptic event wipes out humanity and leaves Earth a ravaged landscape populated only by demons. The event is called "the Conception," which you might recognize as the term for when a woman becomes impregnated. I like to believe this was Atlus not-so-subtle way of saying "the world was fucked."

Look at this slut, I bet she doesn't even know who the father is.

Also, you survive in this world because moments after everything literally goes to hell, a creepy old man drops a giant fanged centipede in your eye and it turns you into a demon. So, I mean, we're really off to a great start here.

From there you descend into the most nightmarish game of Pokemon ever. In order to build a party, you have to convince the demons you fight to join you. As they level up, they learn new skills, though they can only keep a certain number of them so you'll have to make them forget a few to get the better ones. You can combine demons to form new ones, and sometimes if you level up a demon enough it will evolve into a brand new, often much more powerful version of itself.

Congratulations! Your Jigglypuff evolved into Surtur, Bringer of Ragnarok.

It's dark, it's brooding, it's long and in-depth, it has engaging gameplay and an intriguing story replete with plenty of optional content to explore. All the elements are there for this to dig its hooks into me and not let go, just like what happened in Tales of the Abyss. Unfortunately, life frequently has other plans.

For whatever reason, I took a few days off from playing after making it past the first boss. I picked it back up and felt kind of awkward getting back into it, but eventually I was able to make it back to a good spot . . . and then I took another break. I'd get home from work with nothing else to do in the evening except sit in front of my TV, and I'd use it to do anything but. Typically, I'd just surf the internet, finding all manner of distraction. Other times, I would find myself spending time with my girlfriend and deciding that I didn't want to play a game with her over. I played other games. I took a trip to California. I started dedicating a substantial amount of time to looking for old friends online.

I started hunting men for sport.

Anything can happen to make you gradually drift away from a game. That's the kicker, too - it's not being torn away. Being torn away from it would make the urge to get back to it stronger. When you just kind of slowly gravitate in a different direction. Man, I could totally go for some Nocturne right now, but I think first I'll use Sporcle to learn the names and locations of every country in the world. That was useful, at least, in figuring out where the creators of the game decided the planet's vagina was in following with their whole "Conception" idea.

No surprises here.

So will I get back to it? Of course. I made a commitment to play and beat this game when I held that reader poll. The whole point of this blog is to go back and give these games a chance, which,, in all fairness to Nocturne, I have not given it. I need to sit down and make myself focus on this with the same kind of attention I dedicated to the other games I've posted about. This is clearly a great game. It just caught me at a bad time.

I've made a commitment, however, not just to the blog, but to myself. I'm going to break this vicious cycle and actually learn to temper my attention span and finish the things I start. My eyes may wander, but my hands will remain firmly on the control pad.

Which, I guess depending on how broadly you want to define "control pad," is a lot how most relationships work. 

Until next time, ignore the distractions, and keep playing.

1 comment:

Ayn said...

Particularly with a game like Nocturne, leaving it alone for too long becomes dangerous. You'll eventually get to the point I'm at if you're not careful: You pick the game back up and ask "..Where the hell am I?"