When An Ending Ruins Everything!

[This is a dumb article filled to the brim with fan word-vomit…you’ve been warned!]

[All the spoilers! Everywhere! Run!]

Final Fantasy X’s ending made me angry, why? Well before the credits, I was satisfied. Tidus is a dream, he basically dies and returns to his father. Ambiguous, makes no sense, but it’s a Japanese game, I expect weird (if you don’t believe me, watch the Space Adventure Cobra movie opening, it’s worth it, promise). Then he just swims to the surface of the water for no reason. So what? Is he dead? Alive? Does him high-fiving his dad mean nothing?

Then there is Nier: Automata, it’s a cool game. I didn’t play it myself, but I watched a friend through most of their playthrough. The story had me enthralled…until the epilogue. It made no sense! Also why did A2 climb the stairs near (ha ha) the end…just like Video Girls Ai’s ending? At least in the one I saw. Then A2 dies, everything falls apart, and we had everything ‘explained’ away. In a monologue, which is weirdly weak given the games top form beforehand.

I mean, when we got the reason for why that Boss wanted to be ‘more beautiful’. It was tragic, unexpected, and moving. It made sense, given everyone’s affection for that man, it drove her mad. That had set up, this speech came out of the blue.

Then I watched a variation of that ending where they live…is this supposed to be Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow…Madoka Magica? It makes no sense! Video Girl Ai makes way more sense…and is more enjoyable, and has closure…for the most part.

Also did Spike Spiegel die or not? The director likes to tease that fact…ambiguity!!!

Here’s the thing, I don’t even mind if an ending is unclear, but it has to earned. Final Fantasy X seems to be baiting the audience, undoing a perfectly good conclusion. Nier: Automata pulled the dumb philosophy card that Pycho-Pass wears proudly. Quoting random philosophy to an audience doesn’t make you smart, it just makes you look like a bit of a try hard. Kind of like Evangelion, a series that’s been milked for decades because of it’s ‘deep’ ending (people to this day seek depth from it’s puddle).

But Rent, surely you jest? Name something with ‘true depth’? What’s something you don’t consider pretentious? (Yes, I used that word!)

Angel’s Egg. It’s thought provoking, deliberate, absorbing. It possibly has no meaning, yet it’s Christian imagery can’t be denied. It’s an experience of a film, and is just beautiful. If you like Final Fantasy’s art, research it, you’ll find a very interesting connection to the two. In some ways it’s the best representative of that art style you’ll ever find in motion. It’s a work of art.

Now everything mentioned here is art (expect Phyco-Pass…); but Nier: Automata, Final Fantasy X, they seem to falter at the finishing line.

Nier: Automata has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve seen in a video game. It’s translation and voice acting is wonderful. It’s not afraid to diverge from a more literal translation, an issue that plagues some anime, and I think it’s better for it. Lupin’s The Mystery of Mamo, the Frontier Enterprises’ dub, is another good example of how to make something feel natural in English.

The Apartment is another film that’s just filled with meaning.

The mirror…it’s broken.”

Yes, I know. I like it that way. Makes me look the way I feel”

That scene just captures every poignant thing in that film. It says so much, without slamming it in your face, and I love it for that.

Nier: Automata kind of just goes off the deep end, like Evangelion. It makes no sense, it doesn’t feel earned. It just felt like it fell apart, adding ‘revelations’ out of nowhere.

Then again, maybe that’s the point? Or, there may have not been no point.

Kind of like this article. At the end of the day, this is all subjective, but to me, this ending wasn’t worth three playthroughs. My friend was left unsatisfied, so was I. It was Final Fantasy X all over again for me, a good game just fumbling at the last moment.

It almost did it…almost.

Tales of Phantasia

[This article contains spoliers]

This game may be my favourite game of all time, and I even love the bad version. The dreaded Gameboy Advance copy. I’ve heard it being described as a bad port of a good game.

The SNES version has better sounding music. The GBA version slows when fighting enemies, which unintentionally adds a little bit more challenge to the combat.

This game, this version of the game, has problems. And you know what? I really don’t care. I adore this game. I have’t played it in a little while, but every time I play that song ‘Be Absentminded’ (do yourself a favour and listen to the SNES version) I fall in love with it all over again. I still really like the GBA version of the music, though the SNES version grew on me over time (with good reason).

You play Cress, a young man that loses his family and village. It sounds cliche, and it is, but I think it’s a hell of a way to start a story. Your friend, Chester, mourns his sister.

Cress is your good guy. Chester rushes into things. Mint is calm, warm and gentle. Claus is a man who strives for more, in a world where humans have no magic, he learn to summon spirits, so that he is able to do things that he shouldn’t be able to. I honestly love that little bit of lore; and I think it truly speaks to his character that he overcomes the very nature of his world. Archie is bubbly, and just fun, with the ability of magic due to her half-eleven nature. Suzu wasn’t originally playable, but I think she’s a great addition to the cast.

It’s important to note that everyone of these characters experience tragedy one way or the other. This isn’t a perfect story, and when it ends, there is a ‘more to do’ feeling for the characters. They’ve got to pick up the pieces from their broken lives. And that’s nice. Life never ends, and that’s realistic. That doesn’t mean the story isn’t resolved, it is, but the ending makes the characters feel alive. They’ve got a life they have to recover and that’s what’s important.

This game has time travel, it has futuristic technology, it has a unicorn. It even has a villain, Dhaos, though he is suitably intimidating, he isn’t the best villain you’ll ever meet. It’s a story with twists and turns, high and low moments. I think it’s a blast.

This game also has voice acting. It’s laughable, hard to understand, and doesn’t really play all that much oustide battles. But it’s there.

You’ll also be hard pressed to find a better looking game on the SNES or GBA. It looks that good.

It also has one of my favourite quotes from gaming by Edward D. Morrison: ‘If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of men.’ I love Edward D.Morrison, and that you meet his descendants throughout the game. It’s that sort of attention to detail that really sets this game apart for me.

I honestly don’t understand why Final Fantasy IV and VI are so well remember and this game isn’t. Chrono Trigger is known as being a great game, but this one is forgotten.

Now I have played Final Fantasy IV, and not the other two mentioned (well I have played them, but I only finished FFIV). I think that FFIV is a great game, but so is Phantasia, yet it’s basically unknown.

It’s probably because the game never came to America until the GBA version in 2006. Fate has been unfair to this game, because it’s just as beautiful as the other games mentioned. And the story is just as compelling. At least to me it is. I think it’s worth another look, if you enjoy that classic experience and adore beautiful pixel art. This game shouldn’t disappoint you.

 

You’re not a ‘Hardcore’ Gamer!

Now to be fair, I’m not sure that I’d call myself one, but I have been playing them for a very long time now. Probably too long.

What I don’t understand is the obsession in gaming fandom to be super ‘HARDCORE!’ It feels almost hyperbolic. You need to be the best, you need the best gear, and beat the game on the hardest difficulty. Otherwise, you can’t possibly be on ‘their level’.

Now I’m not talking about skill, which is different altogether. Competitive play is a natural thing in games, I’m talking about the people that are elitist. When they troll you because of how you play and what you play on. The PC vs Console debate is a good example of how some gamers can be on this subject.

That’s what I see when scrolling through Reddit and other such forums. Hell. Youtube comments seem to be the most guilty of this.

I saw a great video once on this subject about ‘easy’ difficulties being fun, because they’re about empowerment. I agree with this sentiment. I like feeling I’m ‘the boss’. That I’m the hero. I’m saving the day.

It’s both gratifying and silly. I like playing that way, because to me; that’s what video games are about, having fun.

Yet some people think you must be a ‘casual’ for doing that. It’s either Dark Souls, or nothing.

I tried Bloodborne, I also tried Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I found them both to be too hard, frustrating and pointless. I don’t like to feel like I’m working when I’m meant to be playing. It also doesn’t help, in the case of Metal Gear, that I’m not the biggest stealth fan.

Normally the difficulty I play is either Easy or Normal. I personally found the easiest difficulty of The Last Of Us hard. I still like that game, and I finished it. It still wasn’t easy for me.

And that’s okay. That’s really all I’m getting at. You don’t have to be the best to still be a gamer.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This game is beautiful. I feel the need to emphasise that after the old console vs. pc war rages on. It’s an exclusive for the PS4, and that makes it an easy suggestion for any owner of that console. It’s a good game.

However I, in some ways, felt disappointed by it. Not because it isn’t great, but because I was expecting a fantasy, or fantasy-like game, to be more specific. When this game came out, many outlets sang it’s praises. It was compared very favourably to Witcher 3. To me, that’s misleading. It’s a Sci-Fi game, and a great one at that. The story has twists and turns. It has some sequel bait, which is fine by me, I’d like to play one.

The villain feels generic, taking a sort-of ‘skynet’ approach. However the main character, Aloy, despite a funny name, is a great character. It’s refreshing to me to have a great female character in a leading role in a AAA game.

I’m not sure if that’s controversial or not to say. But after playing The Last of Us and Witcher 3; both games where a playable female character get only a brief appearance, it’s nice to have it consistent throughout a game. A game that doesn’t have a ‘pick your adventure’ vibe like Mass Effect or Skyrim.

I should make it clear that I am aware of Tomb Raider, I’ve yet to play it, but that is another good example of a female-lead franchise.

I liked the overall story. I like the mystery that surrounded everything, it drew you in. I even found myself reading notes left behind by the dead civilisation, listening to audio logs. I was also surprised by the inclusion of a lesbian couple earlier in the game; when listening to the last words of a dead woman. It was sad, and poignant. I felt for that couple, just based on one audio log. That’s difficult to do, but I found the inclusions of that, by interacting with the world and coming with your own conclusions, to be one of the strongest aspects of this games storytelling.

I also find it interesting that Aloy had no interest in romance, something that’s normally a staple of games like this. When you can make choices in a game, normally it also leads to ‘love’.

The choices that are in this game are limited, but when they’re there, they feel important. It should also be noted that all your actions, for the most part, feel significant. Especially for the main plot. I felt like I was making a difference, that I was saving the world as we knew it. That I had something to prove and everything to lose.

The story does however have some faults, some key characters introduced at the beginning were wasted potential, they died too early. They could’ve made a larger impact later on, like Rost for example.

I also found the side missions to have a repetitive structure ‘track something down, kill a robot dinosaur, return thing back to person’. This felt weaker overall and like ‘busy work’. However the main plot lines, as stated before, are strong and avoided these issues.

Another problem I had, was that there were impressive cities, yet unlike games like Skyrim, I couldn’t just randomly walk into people’s houses. That felt immersion breaking to me.

The game play is fun, but I found the ‘stealth’ parts to be the weakest part. Especially with the over emphasis on the red bushes, this is something Shadow of Mordor did far better. The attacks via bow and arrow are, however, fun and satisfying. The spear feels closer to a last ditch effort weapon, but is competent enough to be a main weapon for those that prefer it.

The health system, I thought, was unique and easy to use, far better than Shadow of Mordor in that regard. It actually allows you to keep your herbs on hand.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a fine game, that I think, is mainstream enough for mass appeal. It’s good, with a strong story, I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

 

[This review contains spoilers]

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that. It certainly isn’t perfect, it can have pacing issues (depending on your style of play…however it’s also a bit of a design flaw); and the character animation can be clunky.

But the story has heart.

I love Jaal. In some ways he should’ve been the main character, because really, it’s more his story than the ‘Pathfinders’. He grows from distrusting you, your people (the ‘aliens’), to seeing the great things you accomplish. The things you do for peace. You change his mind with your actions, and by being his friend. He begins standoffish, but if you play far enough, he considers you family.

This is huge, considering the Angaran trusted the Kett and were betrayed. You’re the alien. You have to be better, otherwise you’re no better than the villains of the game.

This is where the game could’ve capitalised on it’s choice mechanic. Do you gain their trust, make Andromeda better for everyone, or do you fuck up? Do you become worse than the Kett?

The game never goes there and it’s a waste of potential. That’s my biggest criticism of the game. It’s good, but it could’ve been better. It should have been better. Your choices should shape the future for Andromeda. Yet it barely did, your choices, for the most part, were superficial.

Except for a few, like breaking up a romantic relationship or gaining an alliance with the Krogan. I’ll admit when I chose the Salarian Pathfinder over Drack’s scouts, he called me out on it. And it hurt, because in someway, I had betrayed him. It was a small thing, but it made me feel like he’d never truly trust me again. By putting the mission before him, I had made a sacrifice, and no apology was going to fix it.

It’s a shame that this doesn’t happen more often. That’s it’s the only choice I regret, but would make again. It’s the sort of thing that separates a good and great game.

The characters, for the most part are good. Drack is an old man that could kick anyone’s arse. Peebee is insecure, but with a confident bravado. Kallo is great, and will always weigh in on Salarian issues.

Then there is Reyes Vidal. He’s cocky, a crook, and the perfect lover. I mean he’s just the perfect flirt, irresistible. Though I love that you can punch him if you take the friend route.

The loyalty missions are fun. The main mission has a good story, the Salarian ark being a highlight. Again though, the game suffers inconsistent pacing. There are times where the main quest can be forgotten in favour for side missions, or when other quests are put on ‘Hold’. You’re not sure when you can ‘get back’ to them. This makes the missions lose momentum, and when doing other tasks, important details can be forgotten by the player. This makes the story just that much more disengaging.

The game design can also lead to this, with it’s long drives to locations, to only have a cutscene before needing to fly to another planet. This can become tedious, another disengaging aspect.

The ‘alien’ Sudoku should be noted as a take it or leave it feature.

The gameplay was good, but to me, was played best as a cover shooter. Though watching other players, and listened to other people’s comments, it seems to be a highlight for most players. Especially with the addition of the jetpack. I enjoyed it, but I thought games like Titanfall 2 had better combat.

The art design is where this game really shines. Each Remnant vault was a treat to explore, and a feast for the eyes. They felt epic, both in scale and meaning. The gravity well only adding to that experience, as if you had truly entered the unknown.

As I stated above, this is a good game. Yes the character’s glitch, yes it can be annoying. But, for the most part, the voice acting is good. The characters grow as people, and you grow with them. There is a true sense of discovery in this game. Of being on the frontier of space. The writing, though inconsistent, shines where it really counts.

I may play this game again, and that to me, is compliment enough.