I just recently downloaded the demo for Valkyria Chronicles and I really, really enjoy it. As I played it, however, I wondered: "Why hadn't I heard of this game before? Why did it take a particularly enthusiastic community blog to interest me in even downloading the demo?"
Then I realized -- it's the title. I read jkh13's blog because it didn't include the title of the game. I didn't even read Destructoid's own review because upon seeing the game's title, some part of my brain just shut down and told me it wasn't worth pursuing. Now that I've played and enjoyed the demo so much, I can't imagine how crappy my life as a gamer would have been had I not found it. I could remember feeling that way about a game only one other time.
That game, of course, was Steambot Chronicles.
Given that neither Steambot Chronicles nor Valkyria Chronicles have sold particularly well in the US, and given that I was completely unaware of them until someone else virtually grabbed me by my neck and screamed praises at the top of their lungs, I was forced to come to a single conclusion:
Putting the word "Chronicles" in your game's title -- especially if the game is Japanese, and especially if the other word is something confusingly specific like "Valkyria" or "Steambot" -- is a really, really, really bad idea.
Hit the jump, and I'll try to explain.
"Chronicles" is one of those words that gets bandied about far too often in bad science fiction novels, and worse videogames. While trying to figure out why the word "Chronicles" subconsciously stirs up such unbridled indifference, I found this article on GamesRadar, which helped clear some things up.
Tomb Raider Chronicles.
Sonic Chronicles: Dark Brotherhood.
With very few exceptions (Chronicles of Riddick, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles), it's almost as if "Chronicles" functions like a big, red neon sign, warning consumers that the game will be either a crap spinoff of an established series on its way down, or just a crap game in general. "Chronicles" is so goddamn overused that, at least in my case, I just tune it out completely when reading it or hearing it.
Not to mention, it doesn't really tell the consumer anything about the game. Game titles in general are still pretty abysmal, but they at least attempt to convey information from time to time.
"Left 4 Dead" sounds absolutely stupid, but it at least hints at four-player cooperation, and some sort of situation where dead things are involved.
"Mirror's Edge" sounds like the new razor from Schick, but its individual words have unique connotations that conjure up the image of something sleek, yet dangerous.
"Valkyria Chronicles" sounds like absolutely nothing at all. It sounds like cheap, irrelevant JRPG trash. It tells me absolutely nothing about what the game will be like. This is frankly moronic, considering the story of a goddamn WWII-esque war being fought with steampunk machines and technology, all visualized with beautiful pseudo-hand-drawn graphics is something that would very easily entice consumers if only the title were more descriptive in that direction.
However confused I might be by a game called "Awesomely Beautiful Animated Steam Tanks Fight Each Other In An Anime World War II Setting," I would, at the very least, have a hard time ignoring it. Instead, consumers are faced with a proper noun they have absolutely no reason to care about, followed by a completely empty and overused word.
And even though "Steambot Chronicles" is technically more descriptive than "Valkyria Chronicles" -- looking at the title, I at least understand that steam will be somehow involved -- it's not much better. I imagine big, stupid, epic situations involving giant robots and overdramatic protagonists when I hear "Steambot Chronicles." I think of a multi-part saga that lasts at least five games longer than it really has to. I don't think of a charming, incredibly nonlinear RPG where you can spend the majority of your time learning a musical instrument rather than fighting bandits in a bipedal robot.
Now, perhaps the vague and meaningless title was an intentional decision by the localization team (I can understand why you wouldn't want a title that made people think of charmingly unfocused gameplay where nobody ever dies and everyone is friendly), but it certainly didn't help sales all that much.
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but it's a real struggle for me to have any interest whatsoever in a game I've never heard of if something about it doesn't stand out. Usually, screenshots or trailers will do the trick, but if your game looks like a generic JRPG when shown in static photos (as is the case with most Valkyria and Steambot screenshots), then your title is going to have to do something more to get me interested.
I would have literally never even contemplated picking up Valkyria Chronicles had it not been for jkh13's community blog, and that's a goddamned shame. I'm happily winning an eBay auction for it as I type this, but I can't help but feel a little apprehensive and saddened by the fact that a single, poorly chosen word in a title almost kept me from experiencing something new and interesting.
So cut it out with the "Chronicles" shit already.
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7:00 PM on 07.16.2014