Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Land Cursed by Nostalgia.

Much like Hollywood, the gaming industry has realized that profitability does not rest in creating new, innovative games that try something original, but instead constantly rebooting a franchise, or remaking a beloved entry of a certain title.  Sometimes, this works out beautifully.  Other times, it is met with disastrous results.

For you, it was the day your childhood was ruined.  For Universal studios, it was Tuesday.
Despite these mixed results, the gaming industry continues to pump out remake after remake, because let's face it, nostalgia sells:

Over, and over, and over again.
However, when it was announced some years ago that Lufia II would be remade for the Nintendo DS, I was  ecstatic.  The Lufia series (or Estpolis, for you purists) remains one of my all-time favorite RPG franchises (excluding the ill-fated Ruins of Lore, which fortunately, I barely played), with many people ranking Lufia II as one of the all-time best SNES RPGs out there.

For many fans, however, enthusiasm turned to caution, then outright alarm as the details of the game emerged.  This would not be a "remake" so much as a "retelling" of the game.

Strike 1 - They're messing with the story!

Furthermore, this would not be a turn-based RPG:  Instead, it's an action RPG.

Strike 2 - Lufia as an action RPG?  Blasphemy!

As screenshots became available, fans saw most of the cast had undergone..significant changes.

Strike 3 - You've ruined the timeless qualities of beloved characters!

Yes, fans had ample reason to have misgivings about Lufia:  Curse of the Sinistrals.  Reactions about the game have been mixed, with some people enjoying the change, and others loathing the bastardization of one of the greatest SNES RPGs released and the desecration of their childhood memories.  As an avid fan, I was quite pleased with the game.

I'm writing this, however, not to tout the merits of the action game or pick apart the changes in the story -- we'll save that for a later post.  Instead, I'm making the argument that the character changes are actually a good thing, and in many cases, are more in line with each character's overall personality.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kingdom Hearts: Death by Spin-offs

You know, I think I'm done with Kingdom Hearts.

No, not the first game in the series -- I'm not so horribly backlogged as not to have finished that game.  I did that in a fairly timely manner.  I actually enjoyed the game.  I mean the series.  I just can't take it anymore.

What did me in?  Was it the horrible camera that still hasn't been fixed so many games later?  The Disney characters?  The metrosexuals in black leather?  The countless spin-offs?  The fact that the main character looks like a refugee from one of the worst SE releases on the PS2?

I can't be the only one who sees the resemblance Sora has to this guy.
A little of each, honestly, but the game which finally put the nail in the coffin was the latest entry on the PSP:  Kingdom Hearts - Birth By Sleep.  Before I incur the ire of the countless Kingdom Hearts fans out there, allow me to clarify some things:  Birth By Sleep is not a bad game.  In fact, it is one of the more respectable entries in the series (particularly after dealing with 358/2 days).  Combat is smooth and fun, it provides a unique variety in characters, giving an incentive for multiple playthroughs.  It is rife with enough minigames to pass the time.  Most importantly, it fills in some important blanks in the Kingdom Hearts mythos, thus providing some explanation for what happened in the previous installments.  Any avid and invested Kingdom Hearts fan should be able to find something to take away from this.

Unfortunately, the only thing I was able to take away from the end was a headache, and a nervous tick that activates whenever someone mentions the words "heart" and "friendship".

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Almost Got 'Em

In the dank and smoke-filled Stacked Deck Club in the grimiest neighborhood in Gotham City, a special table is set in the back. Though the establishment's usual patronage is almost exclusively men of shady backgrounds and ill-repute, not even the toughest, most hardened of them venture near. At the sound of cards shuffling, tapping against the table, and being doled out for a poker game of questionable legality, the patrons try to avert their eyes and pretend they're not paying any attention. Truth be told, they could not be more terrified. For at that table, five of the world's deadliest criminals have gathered to tell each other a tale.

Poison Ivy. Two-Face. Killer Croc. The Penguin. The Joker. As the cards fly and the night grows thick, thicker than the cigar smoke heavy in the air, one-by-one they tell a story. A story about how once, they came close to taking home the biggest prize of them all. Victory was so close, their fingers practically closing around it, the taste of it on their lips, before it was maddeningly pulled away. This is the night they tell each other the story of how they came so close, so tantalizingly close, to finally killing Batman before he grasped triumph from the jaws of defeat. This is the night they talk about how they almost got 'im.

As the other three watch Poison Ivy enter, the Joker stares through the television and into your soul.

Almost Got 'Im was one of the most highly critically acclaimed episodes of the even more critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series. One of the few episodes to feature almost every major character (Catwoman, Detective Bullock, Commissioner Gordon, and Harley Quinn also guest-star), it shows the story of being beaten by Batman from the viewpoint of the villains, and throws in a few good twists involving the Dark Knight himself.

So what does this have to do with video games?

It's the inspiration for the series I'm going to be posting here. As I mentioned in my last post about Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, there is a plethora of games I've played and given up on. Some of them, however, I came so close to the end of that it makes almost no sense as to why I stopped without beating them. I reached a point where the final boss was arm's reach away and then . . . nothing. And I'd never play the game again.

That's why, in the weeks and months to come, I will dig up every single one of these abandoned titles and play them again, from scratch in most cases, and get through them all the way. I've already done one, which I'll talk about now, and then give you the list of the rest of the cases where I left a game right on the verge of finishing.

Replace the girl with a copy of Xenogears and you get the idea.

This is the story of the games that got away.

This is how I almost got 'em.