You will never play a game quite like Deadly Premonition. You just might even come to appreciate it for reasons you weren't expecting.
While I was playing, occasionally something my mother always said would come to mind. That people will always think more highly of the D/C/B students, rather than endlessly praise the straight-A students. Because, often enough, those D/C/B students worked hard for the grades they got. They stayed up late and, perhaps, sometimes got zero hours of sleep. Social get-together's were cancelled out of the blue. God forbid, they had to stay after class. Always one of the last ones to finish that test.
They worried far too much. But, they, most certainly, cared.
Similarly, SWERY's idea for a video game was grand and exciting, but they hardly had all the resources they needed for it to be as perfect as they likely had hoped. However, they fucking damn well tried their hardest with what they had. That much is obvious. And, for that, I appreciate Deadly Premonition.
No. I love it.
The game stars you. Your name is Zach.
But that's not the protagonist you control. That guy is named Francis York Morgan. An FBI investigator with a heavy interest in finding out just what the heck's been up with the small, not so quiet at the moment town of Greenvale.
Unfortunately, it seems some idiot is out doing idiot things. Killing people, no less. And, as far as I know (or at least as far as how much I want to know), that's all he's been doing thus far. However, York (just York; everyone calls him that) isn't an idiot. And he talks to his coffee. He's the perfect man for the job.
It is in these first couple scenes you view, once you start up a new game, that we get a pretty good feel for how Francis is as a character. He speaks in a generally flat tone, but has a sense of humor and personality. Thanks in part to the game's less than stellar graphics engine, his expressions are often priceless, but appropriate. Expressive in the way that a classic Tex Avery cartoon character is, although not quite as nutty.
When he's puzzled, his right eyebrow just about rockets off his forehead. When he's happy, you're just a little bit frightened, but you're happy that he's happy. He's infectious.
His character design is also not without it's charm.
It is also here where I am pleasantly surprised by how solid the voice acting is.
They knew to spend whatever budget they had on stuff like decent actors rather than on an outstanding polygon count. Because they're not that naive. And this game is UGLY. Had the game been made any uglier, they'd be plastering and stretching dev photographs onto the character models ala Max Payne.
Accompanying the voice acting are some equally as solid lines of dialogue. Along with some genuine moments of horror, humor and some great music.
All that taken into account, I'll forgive the occasionally ever so awkward presentation. Long stalls of silence between two gracelessly animated avatars, an explosion of cheesy cop thriller horn sections as Francis' name flashes on the screen for the first time, and I'm barely an hour into the game. There's likely plenty more of that to go around.
And I'm looking forward to it.
"Shutup and tell me about the gameplay, you schlock."
As lighthearted as the game can be, there is a pleasant amount of survivor horror to be experienced. Not in the vein of Dead Space or even RE4. No no no. I'm talking classic, kick you in the pants, smart, tense (but fair) survival horror gameplay.
Although the gameplay does borrow quite a handful from RE4, it is not RE4 by any means. Imagine RE4 released between 1997-2002 or so. That's what this game feels like. You still stop to shoot and reload, you still have those wondrous tank controls, you have the over-the-shoulder view, there's even been a couple quicktime events (bare with me, nerds), but what ultimately makes this game so similar yet so different from RE4 is that it's actually properly tense and somewhat tactical.
For as many bullets as you have, sometimes melee combat is simply better. Run of the mill fodder can shock and nail you down if you're caught off-guard. Some weapons degrade over time. Even your default combat knife will break pretty early on, provided you use it from time to time.
RE4's combat knife is made from hardened, electric, diamond magma. This one is 99 cent store plastic.
Best part is, despite the game being on the low-end of low budget, it is very playable.
To call this game anywhere near unplayable is, quite frankly, a bit of a stretch. Just a bit. Have you played Sonic Adventure lately? Or the console version of GTA: Vice City? Pah-lease. This game feels solid enough for it to retain at least a hint of fun throughout. Although, most of the time, it's actually pretty exciting.
From the slippery enemy movements and their hilarious concepts, having to balance your limited stock of items, the surprising amount of variety (that's not to say there's a real buttload of it, though), to that need to find out what happens next. In the first hour, I've been fisted by a female Heath Ledger, attacked by the game's main antagonist, casually walked several hundred yards down the road to Greenvale (it's more awesome than it sounds, given the proper mood), "stuffed my face" with a lollipop, even the little things like that are strangely alluring.
Eventually, I've heard the game becomes what is basically an open world game. With sidequests and having to worry about hunger, tiredness and even your basic hygiene. Why does that interest me? I don't fucking know, but I can't wait. Perhaps it's those tantalizing contrasts between hardcore survival horror, open world simulation and a lighthearted/dark/bonkers story.
The game is everywhere, but so tightly focused. No game, with a budget so small, has seemingly accomplished so much.
As I type this, I'm wondering how I could love such a stupid game. And there's no getting around that. The game is beyond stupid.
"I didn't actually enjoy that, did I?", I would ask myself.
But then I follow up with "Well, what was so bad about it?".
Infinite has been the most talked about game since Journey, with 9's and 10's across the board. Even our most especially hard to impress Jim Sterling gave us quite the surprise with his super duper high rating. Personally, it could've used more of that really fucking awesome skyline/vigor/weapon combat and Elizabeth's character is a tad overrated (a couple hammy performances and a good load of underwhelming facial animations hold her back), but I definitely do think it's of "excellent" quality and one of the best games of the generation.
There's no doubt in my mind that Bioshock Infinite will make 2K/Irrational a profit and then some. Being the successor to the original Bioshock probably helped a good deal, but maybe all the lovely people that made this lovely game possible just simply knew what to do with the hand they were dealt. They knew their market, they knew their legacy, they knew what they wanted to do, and they prepared.
In Layman's terms: They were smart. Their game has been successful on just about every front thus far.
1.) No artistic comprises forced upon the team from 2K (which is especially surprising)
2.) MP was cut because they simply felt it wasn't right
3.) No retailer-exclusive pre-order bonuses (a free game was even offered upon pre-orders, with pre-purchasers on Steam being so lucky as to get Bioshock and even the semi-recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown for free) (EDIT: Apparently, I was wrong about this. However, they're just reskins rather than new weapons so no loss for me)
4.) Single player felt very meaty with a decent amount of replay value
5.) Story was self-contained, no sequel or "real ending" DLC bait
6.) High risks were taken with the story's various subject matters
7.) No highly questionable remarks from the developers/publishers (that I can remember)
8.) No Day-1 DLC/microtransactions/etc.
Seems all that they really did was provide a season pass, and well before launch. But how could one really complain considering all they accomplished with the vanilla game? I'm fully confident that any DLC content we eventually see was made with the utmost class.
Bioshock Infinite is just that. Bioshock Infinite. No bullshit.
And, honestly, why does this have to be such a rarity?
Developers and, much more often, publishers are too scared stiff of their own customers. They don't trust us. And as understandable as it is to be afraid of the people that can, in the end, make your product a success or a failure, for one thing.. you shouldn't be afraid. We can smell fear. And two, looking at what the AAA industry is slowly devolving into, this isn't the way to go about combating said fear. Perhaps some simple therapy would be better?
I don't mean to further pretend to be the businessman that I am most certainly not, but I don't need to be one to know that what the market is pulling just isn't flying. And if it is flying, it's scraping it's feathers across the tarmac. You probably know, more than I do, that we're even long past due for total annihilation!
Companies, you need to stop trying to overcompensate for your potential losses with suspicious DLC/microtransactions (because it certainly didn't save THQ), and if you're going to have those Hollywood+ budgets and teams, then make damn good use of them.
What did that humongous budget/team that resulted in Resident Evil 6 accomplish? Not much apparently. And the game itself was only average/solid at best, a fucking mess at worst. And what's this? AHHHHHHHHH!
You think because you have those big numbers backing your development that your teams will just magically poop out a good game? Magical poop is best left to the Easter Bunny. This quantity over quality mindset has to end.
You know what would do wonders? A modest budget and a decent-sized team, used to make a well-polished, interesting/awesome title, well-marketed and demand met. No squandering content for DLC, no more pansy-catering, no rush to finish, just the game and maybe some honest-to-goodness extra content a fair bit after launch to have people come back for a little longer. Hell, release an extra skin for my character and I may just play the entire game all over again just to witness that awesome new skin in action. That's how much I am my games' stupid, skanky bitch.
Or maybe a free update with a new mode or something to build up even more good faith for your next release? Stuff like that pays off.
When I say "Why can't every AAA title be like Bioshock Infinite?", I don't necessarily mean in it's size and quality, I mean in it's genuineness.
Infinite is the most refreshing AAA release in a long long time not just for it's interesting gameplay and story, but for it's lack of fucking nonsense trailing behind it. You don't see Valve or ATLUS doing too bad out there, now do you? Do their thing more.
I feel as if I should be yelling this from EA's proverbial pedestal, down at the higher-ups I would have kicked down a level or two with their blue-collar employees now standing alongside them, but... look at games like Legend of Grimrock. 600,000 sales a huge success?! Oh my god, dude! I kid you not, this is actually 100% true blue in a bin of play-dew. We must be in some weird alter-verse.
Smaller, but also awesome, games like Anodyne or Lone Survivor probably won't see quite that kind of attention, but who wants to bet the developers are happy campers? They probably bought a big, beautiful slab of steak or two from their local market, launch week, with enough leftover to buy their friends a drink.
And if you're looking to make sure you sustain your happy life for a longer term, then make a Dead Space 3. Make a Tomb Raider. Make a Bioshock Infinite (like seriously). Just, please, know what the hell you're doing.
Throughout my childhood, it was the 90's. What an age. But, the 80's were better.
A time when adventure games (and the occasional session of Mario Kart or LEGO Racers) were, by far, the best kind of games. 2D platforming king Donkey Kong Country 2, 3D adventure king Ocarina of Time, RPG king Final Fantasy VI (no, I didn't "skip" on that last Roman numeral, you snarky bastard), and the many others I either haven't played, can't remember or don't wanna bother listing because you may already know what most of this list would contain.
Mmm. The era of adventure. And Evoland knows it was great. It's premise is aptly described as "a short story of adventure video games evolution", and doesn't that sound just as great? Genius, really! I hadn't been this excited for an indie/arcade title since Twisted Pixel's Comic Jumper.
A game of this type, though, is always at great risk of relying too much on it's inspirations and references to hold it together, to keep the player going. Unfortunately, Evoland falls not too far from that sad little tree. While it may occasionally provide an engaging section of gameplay/story or worthwhile piece of satire, half the time it ends up shooting itself in the foot.
Evoland tries very hard to be this snappy, clever commentary on adventure/RPG titles, and, as I've said, sometimes it succeeds. But, how often it gets even a chuckle out of me is just not often enough.
It's lack of humor mostly rears it's head via these achievement-esque pop-up's. They are cute at first, but eventually they lose their charm from how often they appear and by the end they feel like nothing more than annoying distractions. As if some seasoned nerd was backseat gaming alongside you, forcibly chiming in about how much this or that reminds him/her of this other game or how hilariously tropish one of the game's features is.
Almost all of the game's genuinely good humor comes from stuff like the Diablo section, where all the loot names and descriptions are stuff like "+.01 to ear defense." or "Allows the player to turn into a dragon! 12 months cooldown time.". Or when the various, good people of Aogai (everytime I try to pronounce that, I feel really bad) keep you running throughout the town to find out just who has those bombs you're after.
Speaking of which, even a good handful of the NPC dialogue is worth a laugh and a half. Similar to the achievement dialogue, but at least it legitimately felt apart of the game. Connected, if you will.
Simply put: After a while, I started to feel as if these "achievements" would be better suited as another section of gameplay or they be reworked as NPC dialogue. It's all in the presentation. Funny achievements don't exactly read to me as top of the line comedy. Just like I've probably already had my fill of DLC prompts from Going Loud Studios' DLC Quest, the novel idea of sarcastic/quirky achievements has lost it's appeal.
However, even the non-achievement/unlock prompt humor doesn't always strike my funny bone. It's really all over the place.
When it comes to how the game plays and, more importantly, how it feels, it fairs a little bit better. Throughout the 2 or so hours it'll take to finish, you'll jump between many different classic types of adventure/RPG gameplay. From Zelda, to Final Fantasy, to Diablo, and to even what feels a bit like something taken straight out of a PS2 platformer.
The game's best quality is how seamless this all feels. Rather than dropping you straight into a totally different game, it dripfeeds you gameplay/aesthetic changes to a point where how the game eventually ends up from time to time feels like a natural shift. It's surprising how much the game itself doesn't suffer from some sort of identity crisis despite what it's premise might be.
In it's structure, Evoland is just Evoland.
But, where the game falls a bit short of "pretty good" is in how the game feels. At some point, I got to feeling the 3D combat was a little bit imprecise, and it's imperfections are made even more apparent during the last section of the final boss battle. Not always quite swinging where I want to be swinging.
Maybe... just maybe it wouldn't feel all that underwhelming if there was at least controller support. And you read that correctly. No need to wipe your eyes or slap your cheeks. A game heavily inspired by games like Final Fantasy and Zeldadoesn't have controller support. What the hell?
The turn-based combat is also thoroughly unimpressive. It does have it's moments (taking down a "Choboko" with my summoning spell was definitely the highlight of the entire game), but it usually boils down to spamming your partner's healing spell (since you don't have a mana bar to deal with) while you, the far more powerful one, attacks. Towards the end of the game, your partner does obtain a pretty nifty attack spell, but that only lends more to the game's lack of challenge.
For a few sections during the later half, though, Evoland does present itself with some interesting time traveling puzzles that are actually handled pretty damn well, but these along with a few other sparse moments are the only times when this game starts to feel at all really good.
Game Development 101: If you're half-hearted parody slash rip-off (for lack of a better way of putting it) of some game(s) feels that much worse than said game(s), then I'm not going to feel as if I should waste my time with it. I'd... rather be playing Zelda, Final Fantasy or Diablo.
I mean, if Darksiders didn't feel as good as it did, it's blatant Zelda/Devil May Cry/God of War-likeliness would've felt like a crutch. Like "Hey! Remember those great games? .... yeah! Don't you wish you were just playing those instead?". It didn't rely on those inspirations, it used them to help it become it's own thing.
Other problems include misspellings (whether they're very subtle references to choppy western localization or legitimate misspellings, I don't know), a laughably (not "haha" funny) abrupt and sudden ending, and some awful framerate drops during the Diablo section. While these are definitely nitpicks, it didn't seem like there was much to get right with Evoland. You make it funny and then you take a bunch of things from other games and structure them all into a very modest graphics engine.. and yet it still didn't feel all that polished.
It's all still, very much, more like a quick experiment as Evoland Classic was.
I really do honestly hate how cynical I've been with this game, because I wanted it to be awesome and it seems as if it easily could've been awesome.
I kinda wanna give it a second go around, just to be sure. Perhaps I took the game too seriously. Alas, though, this is how I feel for the time being. Evoland is a decent/solid game, but an incredibly mixed bag of loving but satirical humor.
I'm gonna move on to Anodyne and hope that fairs a good deal better. Fingers crossed, and goodnight!
I didn't wanna overhype myself at the site of an update from Saints Row's Facebook page showcasing the Saints Row IV logo. I came this close to losing my proverbial shit. However, I continued to scroll down and would happily ponder the possibilities at a later time. Afterall, I'm just waking up and I can see that I've also missed some other recent gaming updates.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is coming May 24th? Cool!
Then I came across the trailer not too long after and I couldn't hold it in. While THQ had been, personally, pretty deceptive in it's marketing for The Third, I still believed that it was one awesome trailer and one, thankfully, full of delicious gameplay rather than full of naughty CG vaguely resembling what the game was actually going to be like.
Like any other open world game, the potential here is nearly unfathomable. Especially with a franchise as care-free as Saints Row. At least nowadays, something being considered "offensive" or "off-limits" are the kinds of things that Volition just plain doesn't understand. A quick gander at their handiwork and that should be as clear as day.
Many fans want more of Saints Row: The Third. Yet, on the other hand, there is a very vocal and dedicated conglomerate of fans who want more of the OG Saints Row (which is who I fall more in line with). Can both be pleased? Yes. Completely satisfied? I'd wager a hardy "No.", sadly. At this point, the drastic change from Saints Row 2 to Saints Row: The Third is etched into the franchise's immediate and foreseeable future and those wanting a total revert to the gangster-wacky stylings of the older iterations are gonna have to officially deal with this new direction of tone and content or go home limp.
But that doesn't mean we can't bring back some much-loved features, structures and morals of the original two. In fact, the way I see it, a Saints Row game with the overly-eccentric nature of Saints Row: The Third and the replayability of Saints Row 1/2 would be my perfect videogame!
Thankfully, I've got just the right amount of insanity to take on such a task, as to explain how such an amalgamation could work. Let's push through the bleh and get to the BWAH. How Saints Row IV can be superpowerfully amazing.
Of the new activities introduced into Saints Row: The Third, only Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax left a lasting impression on me. And, even then, it just felt like a poor answer to the canning of the very best side attraction of any open world videogame: FUZZ.
No, I'm not just excited, those caps are actually there.
As the one true American hero so aptly put long ago, knowing is only half the battle. Once you've actually played the thing, then you'll see what I mean. You just took down a steroid ring by cautiously shooting/exploding/flamethrowering a bunch of muscle men literally able to launch you half a mile high with a mere tap from their wrists, you just settled a score between pirates and ninjas, you pummeled a group of rowdy skate punks, you've really done just about everything.
And it was all for the sake of great TV. COPS-parody FUZZ has you doing what you see above (and much more) with you in the role of the cop, followed closely by other cops (should you choose to recruit them during gameplay) and a cameraman capturing your every moment.
What made this activity so gosh-darned excellent was it's crazy sense of variety. It was an activity you could literally play dozens of times over in one sitting and never get bored of for a second. At any point, you could be asked to accomplish your next randomly-generated goal using satchel charges or maybe a chainsaw for better footage. Not to mention, of course, the goals themselves were really fun.
Why was this taken out? For the sake time/budget? Blasphemy. Something this special needs to be championed and built upon for all time.
And what of Crowd Control? The other best activity from Saints Row 2? Where you kept celebrities safe from crazed fans and paparazzi by tossing them into a shredder, an oncoming train, or even off atop the largest building in town. What happened to that? Were you not satisfied with THAT?!
With the addition of superpowers into the core mix of gameplay and the idea of crazy, randomized events, I can't help but be reminded of the excellent Spider-Man 2 videogame adaption. FUZZ in Saints Row IV (SUPA?) could be very much akin to that, only with even more bizarre goals. Perhaps a bunch of Red Hulk wannabes are causing all kinds of destruction/mayhem or a giant robot shark is chomping off the tops of the city skyline. Holy shit! That's some potential right there.
Unless Volition has nothing but pure gold awaiting us as far as new activities, I want them to flesh out some of the older ones by putting a fresh, crazy, Saints Row IV spin on them. Maybe the new Crowd Control could be you as your presidential self doing said crowd control on your own? Juggling between posing for pictures and bruising up the ones meddling all up in your face.
Yep. I'm once again setting myself up for total disappointment, aren't I?
If we're going to have superpowers in Saints Row IV, we're going to need some fucking awesome superpowers. We're going to need heat vision.
Super strength, super speed and the ability to fly are all great, though a bit overdone, don't ya think? I didn't see a single ounce of heat vision in that teaser trailer. I saw strength, speed and flight, but no heat?! What is this?! Or what about the ability to spontaneously combust ala the Human Torch? Or the ability to spontaneously combust others? A taunt that does exactly that is what this iteration needs.
I.. I just want something pyro-related. Gimme gimme.
One of the, admittedly, few things that set Saints Row 1/2 apart from Grand Theft Auto was your second in command Johnny Gat. He was a one of a kind in that he was not only an all-around boss dude, but one that was played believably and wasn't just there for the sake of having that guy that delivers those super awesome one-liners and does all the cool stunts.
He was your homeboy, occasionally down-to-Earth, and even got pretty serious at one or two points in the series. He had clear morals and weaknesses. Even though he was a complete psychopath, I'd chug a 40 with him anyday. He's what you would call a three-dimensional character.
Yet, in Saints Row: The Third, he was treated as if he was no more important than Gangbanger #2.
Personally, I think it's worth knowing beforehand that Johnny Gat dies near the beginning of Saints Row: The Third. Spoiler territory, yes, but if you didn't already know... it's for the best. Trust me. Please don't whack me! But, still, the same man that brushed off a shotgun blast to the leg and a sword to the chest like it was just another day is gunned down by a few rifle shots, off-screen? The level of pure bullshit there is quite astonishing.
The undeniable best character of the entire franchise (hell, one of the best characters out there in general) is killed off as if the game's story was handled by a company completely unaware of Saints Row 1/2. Only to be brought back as a mindless zombie much later on in the vanilla game and as a hulking beast in some stupid DLC.
I am legitimately pissed at how they've handled Gat's death. It's one of the many reasons why I may consider Saints Row: The Third a good game on it's own, although a downright awful Saints Row title.
I can take the new, outlandishly crazy direction of the series (really, I honestly like it), I can take the lack of worthwhile side content, but don't you shallowly exploit Gat as a way to get the player anxious to take down Loren.
How they handled Carlos (text size decreased for any potential, accidental spoilers!) in Saints Row 2 was perfect. He was the new guy and he was weak. You eventually grow to have a bit of sympathy for him and then he's taken away from you in a gruesome fashion. There was some tense build up, my hopes were crushed and I was properly angry at the person who did this. Even if it had been a single gunshot that did him in, it would've been fitting for his character.
*END SR2 SPOILER*
A few bullet wounds off-screen is not the way they should've handled Gat's demise.
As Saints Row: The Third's campaign progressed, the less and less contextual weight it held. STAG taking over Steelport wasn't my idea of a great story. A great story would've been spending the entire game leading up to finally getting rid of the man that had put your best friend to death and had inconvenienced you throughout.
Indeed. Phillip Loren was a missed opportunity.
Basically, what I want is for Gat to return for real. For the entire game. We gotta make up for lost time, afterall. Whether he's in the form of a talking vehicle ala Night Rider or it turns out he just simply wasn't dead, I don't care. I want his personality intact.
I know it might be too much to ask of this franchise, these days, to have a respectful set of plot points, but please don't further piss on what good story you have built up to this point. Because that story is good. I liked that story because it was good, ya know? Go crazy all you want, just don't make me hate you for it.
Pausing the Saints Row IV teaser trailer at a constant rate, I tried to pick out potential features and environmental kinks. I asked myself "Was this still Steelport? Seems like it... only with a couple more eye-catching structures.". Those eye-catching structures were a step in the right direction. Though they were only baby steps, I'm happy for the time being. Like Stilwater from Saints Row 1 to Saints Row 2, perhaps they can make Steelport somewhat interesting this time around.
For obvious reasons, the open world is arguably the most important aspect of an open world game and while Saints Row 2's rather generic art style may've not complimented Stilwater too well, boy was it still far more exciting and colorful in it's design.
It had a fully explorable mall, airport, college campus and underground, a cool shopping strip downtown, a Rome-inspired area with huge columns and wide open space and so so much more.
In comparison... what did Steelport have?
A zombie island annnnd..... I'm sort of at a loss here already. I do thoroughly appreciate a good zombie island, but once that novel experience's charm had worn off, I looked for other places to spend my time. Since there wasn't much else, rather than take in the sights, I found myself just mindlessly mowing over pedestrians... sort of bored out of my mind. The activities were too easy and the cool toys lost their appeal pretty early on as well (I'll get to all that in the section below) so what I was left with was a bare as hell open world experience when, ironically, Saints Row: The Third was seemingly trying to be anything but.
So yes. You might be surprised to know that I found Saints Row: The Third pretty unexciting for the most part, and this could've been easily avoided if they had actually put some effort into developing a fun open world. I'm going to be spending most of my time leisurely exploring, snatching up small change and making my character act like a total doucher and if my surroundings don't compliment that then nuts to it.
Steelport isn't anywhere near as awesome as any of the above early concepts. What the city boiled down to was a bunch of brown, purple, yellow and flat design. Outside an enjoyable back alley or two, it sorely lacked detail or really anything interesting to look at. Seriously, there was so much freaking brown! Entire sections of the city were nothing but hot brown!
I would pop in the much-appalled GTAIV over Saints Row: The Third anyday. Why? Because while it may not be the beginning to end thrill ride that was GTA: Vice City or San Andreas, the city was brilliantly designed.
Every inch of GTAIV's take on Liberty City OOZED detail and artistic passion. Even the most mundane of structures I would gawk at and attempt to further explore. There are still so many nooks and crannies I've yet to come across. I discover new ones almost each time I boot the game up! Every street, every car, every alley, every section a total joy to wonder about through.
I can't possibly imagine all that awaits me in the upcoming GTAV. I'm so giddy!
I want this new Steelport to take some lessons from it's predecessors and competition. I'm not necessarily asking for a Saints Row game with the level of detail as GTAIV, I'm merely asking for a much less copy/paste, dull vibe. I don't want sections of the city blending into eachother and I don't want it's lone place of interest being a radiating alien crash site.
Finally, what was probably my biggest gripe with Saints Row: The Third was that, in the end, it simply felt like it relied far too heavily on stuff like the dildo bat or the VTOL to keep players interested.
The best activities were taken out and what was there was hardly a challenge, the city was now a total snore, the campaign, while boasting some memorable moments, was too short, my favorite character had been disrespectfully killed off for fucking nothing, and the DLC was underwhelming despite how much of it there was. Not to mention the complete lack of pad interior customization, the dumbing down of clothing customization and so on and so on.
In spite of all that, Saints Row: The Third is, by no means, a bad game. It's actually really fun in short doses. But that's all it is. Outside the campaign, there is just nothing that interests me for the long haul. The reason why I played hours upon hours of both Saints Row 1 and 2 was that they offered not only fun toys like the scoped pistols, the chainsaw or the screen-altering drugs, but also plenty of splendid side activities and a fun city to explore.
The activities were not just there, they had a great sense of pacing in their difficulty. Eventually they were sometimes so relentlessly challenging that I'll probably never be able to finish them all. But, that's ok! I'll just kill some time by causing a riot from atop the downtown bridge entrance. Or mosey on down to the mall and see how everyone feels about a speeding ATV ruining their cheerful consumerism. Or deck my character out with some new layers.
I don't want what was, at some point, my favorite franchise of this generation to be, once and for all, morphed into a shallow being of it's former, glorious self.
The franchise can go far with it's new direction as no game embraces it's crazy quite like Saints Row: The Third. There was a lot of potential. What this industry can never have enough of is unique IP's. However, what I'm tired of seeing is developers just not trying hard enough, only out to please the lowest common denominator.
Saints Row deserves more than that. If they don't get it right with Saints Row IV, then at least Rockstar still knows what I want. Sorry that I put so much faith in you, Volition. At least you will have made some money, something about as simple these days, in this industry, as buttering toast.
At this point, I've spent about an equal amount of time with games Persona 4 and Ni No Kuni. Both Japanese, both RPG's, both with extraordinarily long build-ups to something (presumably) greater, but only one has truly impressed me thus far.
If you recognize my mustachioed avatar and/or uninspired username and were recently interested in Ni No Kuni at all, you might remember that I did a blog on my first impressions of it. With deep sadness, I thoroughly felt like it wasted my time with an initially drab story on top of incredibly mixed voice acting, uninteresting dialogue and constant interruption. Adding to that were a number of other smaller gripes, although it still managed to hold my interest.
However, it barely held my interest. A most fashionably late rescue it was. Had it not been for the awesome combat coming in when it did, I would have given up and written the game off as total wasted potential. The visuals and the lovable Drippy aside, there just wasn't enough outside the actual playing of it that made me stay and the actual playing of it was still far too infrequent even once the game started to open up with more interesting characters, sidequests and a now semi-explorable open world.
With me nearing the 1 hour: 30 minute mark and only just scratching the surface of the game's numerous mechanics and exciting battles, I realized this was going to be a long haul.
So, I decided to put Ni No Kuni down for a while.
Now, a little over a month later, I've realized how wrong I was to not have already played a Persona game. Now, Ni No Kuni's issues are all the more glaring as Persona 4: Golden does almost exactly what it does, only astronomically better.
As much as you cynical types probably still like to think that I am only out looking for instant gratification, Bay/Bruckheimer-styled action, that couldn't be further from the truth. While I am no JRPG veteran, I'm also no stranger to non-conventional, non-super actiony gameplay. I fucking love Flower, for one thing. Same goes for Journey, The Walking Dead and Dear Esther, with a lesser extent towards games like Proteus, Thirty Flights of Loving and Home.
A good number of those games have a very high focus on story and to successfully focus a game on it's story at any point, it has to be, if nothing else, told well enough. An otherwise generic story can be saved by great or even decent presentation. My favorite example of this for a while has been the motion picture Avatar. While essentially a sci-fi Pocahontas, it was presented with great camerawork, action, dialogue, etc. that made it seem more interesting than it actually was.
And that's really all I ask for.
In the case of Ni No Kuni, starting out, what you have is a by-the-books story about a goody two-shoes being convinced to rebel against his usual morals for the sake of some quick fun. Naturally, it leads to trouble and he learns a lesson. YAWN!
But, as I've said, this YAWN can easily be rectified with a solid presentation. A solid presentation which Ni No Kuni does not have. Instead, you have dialogue no more intricate than casual conversation outside one or two chuckles, voice acting so inconsistent that it's hard to keep track of which character you dislike the least, artificial deliverance of anime scenes on top of a variety of in-game cutscenes which are also delivered with little sense of regularity, and, most offensively, an annoyingly constant interruption for said boring dialogue and numerous tutorials.
Granted, I do sometimes lack a certain amount of patience, but that can only be blamed to such a small degree. This game just plain starts out horribly.
In stark contrast to all that nonsense, Persona 4's story is far from uninteresting. Beginning with a dream-like sequence headed by one Igor, a G-Man sort of character, who speaks of an upcoming "contract" you shall take on and a non-specific danger that awaits you somewhere in the future.
In the beginning of Ni No Kuni, the protagonist's future is even more vaguely hinted at by an entity we arguably know even less about. But, in Persona 4 the idea of an impending series of events more effectively sticks with you as not only is this Igor always keeping eye contact with the player, but is always in plain sight and speaking directly towards the player. Topping it all off is some excellent and infectious voice acting from this multidimensional Mr. Burns.
After this is an anime scene setting up the start of your journey with all the following means of story presentation coming up at a generally predictable rate. Non-spoken dialogue during class participation segments, spoken dialogue everywhere else and anime scenes used sparingly and highlighting story climaxes.
It's almost as if... some actual thought went into presenting the game's story. WEIRD.
More than a few laughs have been had as well at the expense of the clumsy Yosuke or the young, playful, sharp humor of Chie. Even the adorable Nanako, convincingly a young child rather than often obviously an adult with a bad idea of what a child should sound like, makes me chuckle at her innocent love for the Junes slogan during even the darkest of moments.
The best part is, I feel that Persona 4 actually somewhat respects my intelligence.
Instead of repeating information and drip-feeding me tutorials to make it seem as if the developers think I'm about as smart as a rock, there have hardly been much of any tutorials at all. While Persona 4 is a considerably less complicated game than Ni No Kuni, there were more than several opportunities to shove an overly long-winded tutorial into my face.
Example: Your first combat scenario. I wasn't given a no-shit "PRESS X ON THE ATTACK SELECTION TO START YOUR ATTACK!" prompt. Rather, the developers assumed that I had played a videogame before and could quickly wrap my head around a task as "daunting" as selecting my attack.
Whenever repeated information and tutorials do come up, I'm already flipping through story dialogue so it doesn't feel anywhere near as intrusive whereas Ni No Kuni doesn't care about your enjoyment. They let you play about with your avatar for about 3-25 seconds and then suddenly pull you put of the experience.
These sort of games aren't exactly the most casual. Your audience is mainly going to be gamers of at least average intelligence and above average experience with games. So WHY IN THE HELL does there need to be so many tutorials?! WHY?! What logic went into Ni No Kuni's design? The "because we can" logic that results in such things as always-online single player and multiple retailer-exclusive pre-order incentives?
Persona 4 gets it. It shows the world how a good JRPG is done and the fact that it's caught on like it has makes me happy.
If you're going to start me off with little to no actual "gameplay", then have the common decency to not waste my time with a generic story, uninteresting characters and sloppy presentation. Don't you dare think that just because your game is longer means that it's not padded out, not a victim of quantity over quality.
You may be able to ignore the fluff and see those greener pastures over the horizon, but I can't. In it's first 10 minutes, Persona 4 manages to enthrall me way more than Ni No Kuni did in it's first hour. I have other games to play, so if you don't have a good story to tell from the get-go, either get to the fucking point or get out of my way.