That's not even connected!
As I sit here, letting the melodic plucking of Tales of Zestiria's shop music make my play clock go where I don't want it to, there's a beast gnawing at my insides. Do I like this game? Well, yes. I intend to finish it and many others during my long stay in the states before venturing into the world of Nihon for six months. I'm also a huge Tales fan!
But do I love it? Well... no.
Alright see ya
In many cases, this would make me stop playing the game outright. If the game doesn't make me head-over-heels, I shouldn't play it, right? This is a $60 game--I could be spending my time and money elsewhere, on something that really sets my heart aflutter. The thing is, I've learned to pick the good from a game (especial-fucking-ly JRPGs) and simple play by its rules. It's all thanks to the grotesquely beautiful beast that we know as: Kingdom Hearts.
You see, Kingdom Hearts was always *that* game to me. I've started and stopped it so often for various reasons that I could recite the beginning verbatim, yet I've never in all of the eleven years that its been out made it past the Alice in Wonderland segment. After beating it in the wonderful HD collection, I kind of see why. My young self was less patient, more "shooty-shooty bang-bang" and tight controls and visceral cinematics and collecting shit, so a slow-burning, convoluted JRPG with a complicated battle system just wasn't for me. When I popped my JRPG cherry as a sophomore in college (Tales of Graces F is so underrated), it felt good. The character arcs, the boss battles, the raging--oh the raging--I wanted more! So I sought them out. Of course, I went straight for the more famous ones, and the Kingdom Hearts HD collection came out at a great time.
And of course, history repeated itself--I kinda hated it. I wanted to beat it so fucking badly, to start collecting JRPG stories like lightsaber hilts, that I just trudged through it. Every world was amazing, and Sora is a fun characters, and hanging with Donald and Goofy and, uh, the story was something. The presentation and aesthetic were all there, but... I mean the worlds felt empty, the stupid 2D face transitions were laughable, and just let me fucking block! For every high point there was a low point, and it those low points were almost solely rooted in the mechanics of the damn thing.
No seriously, fuck you Xehafart
Then, something just snapped. I took a step back, reflected on why this (pretty good) game was so goddamn frustrating, and realized that while, yes, some things could've been better, it was all me. I was the one ruining it for myself. I simply wasn't playing by Kingdom Heart's rules. I was creating this arbitrary rules for myself, comparing it (admittedly fairly) to other games with similar mechanics--why can't Sora just grab that ledge? Why do I have to pause after every combo? Why is my block only a second? WHY IS ANSEM SO INFURIATING?!--that I forgot that I'm living in the world of heartless and Final Fantasy meets Disney. I forgot that this was, indeed, not my game, nor Bungie's game, nor Level 5's game, nor Irrational's game; this was Square Enix's game, and they had in mind designs and limitations and "balance" (always arbitrary and relative, remember kids!) that I just sort of let go and remembered the caveats of the game. It was basically a DnD game, that while, yes, there's a lot of freedom of what I can do as a player, there's also not. I chose to play this game, so like every other game I've played before, I simply have to learn the limitations and, basically, just play by the rules.
It's really helped me a lot, too. I still judge games, yes, as we all should--every one of us should be critical and help push developers farther than ever before. But we also still need to understand the game. Not every jump will be as fluid as Bayonetta's, nor every hit box as precise as Bloodborne, nor every ledge jumpable. (Okay, fuck that last one, invisible walls are a sin.) Games like Tales of Zestiria on the PS4, a very lackluster port of the PS3 version, are far more enjoyable when I can focus on the characters and combat and kind of sweep the bland environments under the rug while I play. Games like the infallible Bloodborne and its reliance on other players on STUPID NG+ BOSSES and frustrating loss of blood echoes because of a slip up are easy to swallow if you learn to play by its rules, not ones we came up with for comparisons in our head.
I'm feeling pretty glad, too, 2D
It's pretty hard at first, trying to clear your mind of how "other games do it," but trust me, it's worth it if you wanna get your money's worth. I'm not saying don't be critical--do be critical! Developers need that to make a better game. But sometimes, the way a game works is intentionally, and often allows the game to be challenging or "fair" within its own mechanically barrier.