Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Game that Surprised Me

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 23 and the topic is “Guilty Pleasure Game”.
            What does that even mean?  That is stupid.  I don’t know who feels guilty about liking something but if they are maybe they should rethink their lives.  If they are doing something illegal and feeling guilty fine, listen to that feeling and move past doing the illegal thing, but a video game… That is just stupid.
Cloaking your interests and passions in a veil of irony so that you don’t have to feel the shame of other people knowing that you like things is stupid.  The idea of someone being ashamed of having personality that isn’t defined by group think is a concept that permeates too much of both online culture and real life culture.  Stop feeling you have to explain away what you enjoy to idiots who think that pretending to not like things makes them somehow superior.
Whatever.  The guy writing 30 prompts was probably getting low in the barrel at this point.  I have the benefit of only having to shave off the one’s I think are stupid and replacing them with things I like more.
            So fuck that prompt, and the stupid culture that made someone think it was a good idea.

            Today is day 26 and the topic is “Guilty Pleasure Game” “A Game that Surprised You”.
            This might also be a move of laziness on my part, because I have already talked about this game, the moment that surprised me, and have already heartily endorsed why it should be played.  “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” is a game that by no rights I should have enjoyed and yet it totally delivered, pulled me in, and made me feel like a big damn hero.  A feeling that would later be demonized and excised by “Spec Ops: The Line” so I owe my enjoyment of that game (previously discussed) to the foundation laid by “Call of Duty”.

            Umm… This is too short an entry even with me railing against “guilty pleasure” as a concept.  The whole point of me doing this 30-day challenge is to get me to write more and I have already been slacking.
So, what was another game that surprised me?
Ooh!  I know.  The only Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) I have ever given a shit about, “Tales of Symphonia”.  This game was introduced to me by two friends of mine that I studied abroad with in China and continued to hang out with in spite of me annoying them far more than I should have (because I was a loser in my early 20’s… Most of my 20’s… and now going into my 30’s).
This is actually a less cartoon version of the originals art.  I just thought it looked cool.
            “Tales of Symphonia” is a story game, basically an entire anime series played out in cut scenes both in and out of the game engine, sometimes text, sometimes video, and all the action is done by the player.  There were multiple endings which made it somewhat repayable different love interests and side missions allowed for a fun little twist on things.  While the narrative was a bit baffling at times “Tales” made up for it with a cool real time combat system that allows for multiplayer input with a variety of moves and visuals spread among an eclectic group of characters.
            The story is derivative when it isn’t baffling, but for whatever reason I liked it, especially the main character of Lloyd, a sword fighting adventurer who lives with his adopted father (who is a dwarf in the fantasy sense) and while skilled in his areas of expertise he is not a golden boy, he can be flaky, selfish, shallow, or just pissed.  Lloyd and the other characters are characters with layers, interests, histories, and their own goals. 
This is fan art.
I would like to point out some basic color theory at work here.  Lloyd's clothing utilizes red for passion and drive, but is stabilized by black which shows his mysterious past (his parents), and a shock of white emphasizing his naiveté and pure intentions setting out on the adventure.  All of the game’s characters make good use of color theory and I think that sets their character designs ahead of most other games (I would also point to Nintendo for other examples of great use of color in character design, and I have already talked about what else I like about them).
The narrative of “Tales” hit all the right notes for me and the combat system was fun enough that it kept me invested even when the story felt a little flat or silly.
            Wow, I spent more time complaining about this game than complimenting it.  Let me give it a few more positive words.  I liked the art style, it is cartoony and bright without being too detailed and chaotic (something I lay at the feat of the “Final Fantasy” franchise).  The setting has a good blend of classic rural fantasy with tiny villages and remote fortresses, but a big helping of Magi-tech, with towers that look like they come off the cover of a 1970’s science fiction novel (if you like classic sci-fi art, here is a tumblr you can follow).  The bad guys have a variety of interesting motivations, ranging from greed, to lust for power, bigotry, and grief that I found myself understanding.
"So, anyone else wondering about the old time European aesthetic... and the 7,000 meter tall towers full of robots?"
"Look, if Marvel's 'Thor' can have magic space vikings and still feels like it makes sense, we can believe this."  
More positive, as I mentioned before the story does have a few instances in which you can change things and have the characters behave how you think they should in certain key instances, rather than just acting out the script handed down by the creators.  The Story train is mostly on rails, but you can switch tracks at certain points to make things more interesting to you.  This minor narrative choice sets “Tales” apart from what I consider to be the biggest sin of JRPG’s: that there is no roleplaying, just playing a role (another thing I ascribe to “Final Fantasy” but that might be a misplaced strike, I have never played long enough into an FF game to see if there are opportunities to split the narrative down an unexpected path).
You could say that I have nostalgia for this game as I sought out a used copy and played it for 25 hours last year.  My interest did peter out, but I still saw all the things I recalled liking and messaged one of the friends who introduced me to “Tales” about how I had gotten it.  Apparently, it is out on Steam, and I think it is worth playing, but they have been catching shit for how the graphics were not optimized for PC, so if you intend to play it on there do look into getting some mods (there is an online fandom that is big on this) to clean up the graphics.

            Do you disagree with me about the idea of a Guilty Pleasure?  If so, please give me some kind of example in the comments because I just do not understand it.  On the other end, maybe you want to talk about being surprised by a game, in which game do share an instance in which a game beat your expectations.  Or do what most people do and write nothing.


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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