Nintendo gamer for life, begrudging owner of a PS3, aching for games for both of my consoles. Sigh.
I'm all about the RPG's, starting with Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, all the way through Final Fantasy 6-12 (skipping 11) and ending up with Persona 3 and Ar Tenelico. Square is where its at, as long as its premerger. My opinion thereafter is low at best.
I'm also a HUGE anime fan, getting my cherry popped by a set of Dragonballs and a transexual boy/girl named Ranma. In the intervening years I've discovered the greatness of 'School Rumble', 'Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien', 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya', 'Elfen Lied', and basking in the glory that is 'Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo' and 'Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann'. I try to empty my wallet as quickly as possible collecting inglorious amounts of PVC statues and figures.
Speaking of statues and figures, I write features on Tomopop.com. I make your taste buds dance and sing. I also occasionally review stuff for Japanator.
Like a lot of college students, I'm broke. I've got a couple movies and figures (for sister site Tomopop) on preorder, but I don't have any games coming up any time soon. I figure this is a good time to go revisit my back catalog and do some of the things I wanted to do the first time around that I never got to. You know, get some trophies I didn't get the first time around, play different modes, higher difficulty levels, that sort of thing. I'm thinking of it as a way to get the most out of each game that I spent my cash on.
While Mirror's Edge is the first game I'm writing about, I technically did this with The Orange Box last summer. I don't count that since I never touched any version of Half Life 2 and since that is the meat of the package I consider that session me finishing the damn thing. Anyway, Mirror's Edge. The hype for this game was pretty big when it came out November 2008. People praised its unique look and the different take on what a first person experience could present to an audience. Unfortunately, the hype that had built for Mirror's Edge became much bigger than the game itself and it wasn't the success that many thought that it should've been. It didn't sell to expectation, people were annoyed by many of the things that they initially praised and it became the punchline to many a joke for months afterward.
I was one of the people trumpeting the innovations that were presented in many a preview. I loved the aesthetic, finally seeing a current gen game with bright colors and sunlight as opposed to dark browns and greens with a ton of grit. I liked that it wasn't a typical FPS, it having more in common with something like Metroid Prime instead of Call of Duty or Halo. It also included a nifty looking bag as pre-order swag, which certainly didn't hurt. I dropped my 60 bones at Game Stop and eagerly waited the whole day to go home and pop it into my PS3. I decided to play the game on medium and attempt the "No Guns Fired" trophy. A couple weeks and about 9-10 game-play hours later I finished Faith's story...and was pretty disappointed.
Aside from my issues with the controls and the structure of the game (that I'll get into in a bit), the story was a pretty standard 1984/Big Brother affair that didn't really do anything for me. I wasn't expecting anything amazing (despite Rhianna Pratchett's involvement), but it had just enough potential to disappoint me when it didn't deliver. The animated cutscenes were jarring, taking me out of the experience of "being" Faith when the rest of the game did a great job keeping me in her eyes. I felt that the whole game should've stayed from Faith's perspective, ala Half Life 2 and when it did stay in her eyes the cutscenes resonated better. The graphics were just as pretty as I wanted, but I was surprised at how stark the whole game was. There was nary an NPC to be found, with the occasional pedestrian that could be spotted if you looked over the edge of the building. The music had sufficient ambiance and peaked at the right moments for dramatic tension, so no complaints there.
So with all of the non-tactile bits out of the way, I'll get to my issues with the game mechanics and structure. Since the PS2 Prince of Persias are some of my favorite games, I loved the platforming in Mirror's Edge. Putting me in direct control of a Runner's movement and actually executing the wallruns and leaps was incredibly thrilling and the vertigo-inducing heights added to that. It helped that the controls were responsive and did what I wanted most of the time, besides the occasional wallrun that didn't activate due to improper timing. Unfortunately, Mirror's Edge also shares PoP's penchant for annoyingly combat, only worse.
While PoP's combat is simple and repetitive, at least the Prince can take a couple of hits before going down. In most situations, Faith will drop faster than a one-legged hooker. The game gives her limited direct combat options and the vital disarm ability can be difficult to trigger if you're up in a cops face and can't see the tell. The ability to slow down time for a few seconds is helpful, but doesn't help when you get swarmed in a room and are playing a no-guns game. It does make it feel more realistic (since a waif of a girl like Faith should have a lot of trouble dealing with armed police men), but it really made the game a huge pain in the ass. I had to repeat several sections literally dozens of times because the AI wouldn't let me get close enough for a disarm and there wasn't enough room to use my mobility against them. It is good that there are frequent checkpoints so you don't have to repeat a lot of gameplay when you invariably go down, but man, after 10 or 12 times I'm tired of spending several minutes working my way around the room only to get shot in the face after my disarm misses. The busted hand-to-hand combat must have added a good two to three hours to the game.
Despite these flaws, I enjoyed playing the game and intended to go back on hard for the Pro Runner trophy. However, in the spanning months I fell down the hole of Fallout 3 and Persona 4, so that second go never came. I considered trading in Mirror's Edge several times, but held on to it because I knew that I would get to it eventually. With my budget making anything new impossible to reach for now and Ghost Trick being several monthss away, I decided to finally go and do that second playthrough. This time I was going to use guns, because I was NOT going to go through that again. I was also not going to play it for extended periods of time so that I wouldn't get sick of it. I figured one chapter every time I play would mean nine sessions with minimal aggravation. So with the rules set I popped in the disk yet again and found myself liking the experience even more the second time.
When you play on hard, not a lot of things change. You can still hit O to get a general idea of where you're supposed to go in the level. Faith does the same amount of melee damage. The enemies guns will still light up when they can be disarmed. One of the things that did change was the removal of "Runner's Vision." In easier modes objects that you can interact with will light up red when you look at them, making level traversal pretty easy. I thought that this would make my life harder, but it actually made the game better. It made the platforming more of a puzzle in that it wasn't obvious what you had to do. You had to experiment and really think out your movements before you did them. It felt more rewarding when I made it across a level because I figured it out on my own instead of having a series of lights go off and me follow them.
Another major difference is that Faith's stamina has taken another dip. While she was pretty weak before, now two shots at medium distance will always lay her out. It makes combat quite a bit more tense than before. However, since I'm using the guns that enemies drop I'm not tearing my hair out disarming people. I can take out one guy and work my way around shooting people. On the other hand, this also highlights the crappy gun handling in Mirror's Edge. You can't run, you can barely jump or slide and forget about doing anything involving a wall. Faith's mobility is severely lessened and to add insult to injury she's pretty inaccurate with guns. Now, the purpose of this first person game isn't to shoot people and I completely dig that. You can argue that since she's supposed to be a Runner, not a gunner so her proficiency with firearms is low at best. I'll even give that she can't do any of her parkour when she has a weapon. It doesn't excuse the fact that combat is difficult all around and not difficult in a "clever AI fighting back against me" kind of way. It's way more in the "game wants me to stubbornly die many times until I find the perfect path of destruction" kind of way.
After completing the game I will be officially done with Mirror's Edge. While I do love the parkour aspect of the game, I'm not very good with it. Looking through the various races and "playgrounds" that I can run around doesn't instill desire in me. This lack of enthusiasm is made worse when I look at the qualifying times and the world record times, neither of which I can make. It'll require even more of my time and I have more games that I'd rather go back to, like Bioshock and its Impossible difficulty (hint hint nudge nudge.)
All in all, I think that Mirror's Edge is a good game with high ambitions that aren't completely met. I believe its positive aspects outweigh the negative and it should be played (especially now that you can get it for sub-$15 at most places.) With the eventual sequel, I hope that DICE makes the platforming a bigger focus and either completely revamps the combat or find a way to lessen it's role in the game. I wouldn't be against them pulling a Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and removing combat entirely. The chase sequences in Mirror's Edge were enjoyably tense and having more of those type of sequences as opposed to dreary kicky-punch sections would be fantastic.