I've never quite grasped why developers think it’s a good idea to have multiple endings to 10 hour games especially when there is only one “true” ending. The fact of the matter is that if there is only one “true” ending, it would make the other endings redundant and pretty much useless. I've been playing Cave Story + on steam for the last two weeks and was loving the metroidvania gameplay, cute characters and interesting story but I got to a point where it was impossible for me to obtain the true ending as I did not fulfil certain criteria.
It really bugs the hell out of me when I invest so much time into a game only to ultimately receive the bad ending because I did not fulfil certain arbitrary criteria throughout my play through. Without a walkthrough, I would be replaying the game and searching every nook and cranny to ensure I get the best ending.
Does this mean it has replay value? Yes to an extent but it doesn't necessarily mean I will have fun playing through it again. With Cave Story +, the story was my driving motivation in completing the game as the gameplay, whilst serviceable could still be tedious with the micro-management of weapon levelling. I did not want to replay the game just to get the “true” ending.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night pulled the same thing with a wide expansive world that takes hours to complete but requires a certain area to be found before obtaining the real ending and the second castle. This is possibly the most famous example and has been praised for implementing it. It follows the Metroidvania Doctrine; Exploration is rewarded but there is a tipping point of exploration and endless backtracking. The problem I find with exploration is that I keep thinking that I could be wasting time looking for clues that might not even be there instead of progressing with the actual game.
Games with clear branching points that cannot be avoided such as the Persona games, Metal Gear Solid and Star Fox do true endings correctly. The choices cannot be missed and are given to you on a platter. Despite it being very binary, it does also mean that you are not wasting time not progressing in the game. I feel short games like Star Fox do the multiple endings better than longer games especially longer games with that binary choice. It is one of the worst feelings having to go through the entire game to reach up to that one dialogue box to decide whether you would like to have the happy or sad ending.
With the advent of moral choices in games; these have been the deciding factor of the games ending. inFamous, Prototype and Black and White are examples of how the player through their gameplay style can dictate the way the game ends. I would consider this also to be a good method of having the multiple endings in a game but almost 100 % of games state that the good ending is the true ending making the evil or neutral ending redundant. The “true” ending syndrome cuts even deeper if there is a sequel and only one ending is chosen. At least if it was a stand alone game, the universe in the player’s mind can end with the ending they obtain.
NB I don't think I've found a game appealing enough to replay through twice to get different endings apart from Wario Land 4 on GBA and that solely depended on how quickly you defeated the final boss.
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