Thursday, November 7, 2013

Silent Protagonists and the Great Snore

I love playing RPGs, they are my favorite genre to play in all of video games genres.  But when I play an RPG(Or other genre of games games for that matter) I get sick of controlling a character who doesn't talk.  It never makes any sense to play as a character who doesn't talk in a game where everyone else spews their life story at you.  Note I'm not talking about games where you build your group of heroes from scratch since part of the idea of those games is that it's your story (Etrian Odyssey is a good example of this), I'm talking about games where you have established characters to experience the story.  It feels like game designers want to make the main hero to be the proxy for the player to be immersed in the story that is heavy in atmosphere already, and it's something I've been questioning as of late.

A great example is the MCs from Persona 3 and 4, they are suppose to be our proxy's to the story being told around them yet they feel flat.  They are both in wonderful worlds where the supernatural is around them destroying their perception of what they thought was normal, yet they are dead pan the entire time only making slight remarks when they are asked something.  What annoyed me the most with this is when the MC from Persona 3 sacrificed himself, and I really didn't feel anything about his death.  And this is why the proxy idea falls flat for me, if you don't have a personal point of reference how do you know what to feel?

Which is weird because a character death can be emotional to me, Nanako from Persona 4 had a really powerful death scene because you had a point of reference that they provided.  The scene was powerful because how everyone around her was sadden by her death.  We have a group of people who fought countless demons but the death of a friend they couldn't save broke them all down.  Yet the MC was pretty much "...", I would love to know what he was thinking at that moment.  Yeah he would have been sad but what would he have said?  Would he curse the person who put her in the TV, or would he have been mad at himself for not saving her in time.  We only have our own imagination to fill in for this, which would be ok if the game didn't give us a bad ending for thinking he would get revenge.

Another example would be Issac Clark from Dead Space, before the sequels we played as an engineer who slips on the action shooter helmet and we never hear him speak (A problem with most games of its ilk).  And part of the plot of this game was based around finding your wife who may or may not be dead, and it is lame because Issac never speaks and the game just tells us we should feel bad for him.  Why can't Issac speak so we know what he is thinking instead of being bold faced told?  This is a huge contrast to Solid Snake, who's "death scene" still haunts me.  Even if he didn't kill himself seeing him trying to build the courage to do it, and with the fear he was facing to pull that trigger was powerful image.

I have other examples like how Golden Sun has the "hero" be a mute and the "anti hero" talks, however in the sequel the "hero" finds the ability to talk and the "anti hero" loses the ability to talk for some reason or another.  Problem is I love the worlds these games can build, and the supporting cast that lives in it.  But when the person who is suppose to be the driving force has dialog that pretty much consists of motions and snippets of dialog choices it's not interesting.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pokemon Has Evolved to the Third-Dimension

Ever since the beginning I've been a fan of Pokemon.  I still remember eavesdropping on a classmates conversation about the game and going to K-Mart that same day to get a copy of Pokemon Blue.  The game had entranced me and ever since then I've had become a fan and played each generation ever since.  Now that Pokemon X and Y is out it not only introduced a new generation of kids to the series, but introduced the main series to the third dimension.  The question now is did this series now evolve into a Dragonite or a Bibarel.

Pokemon has never been known for it's stories.  With just a basic framework of get 8 badges, beat Team [Insert Name Here], then beat the Elite Four.  It's served Game Freaks for years and there is nothing wrong with it, but there is no good glue to hold the bits together.  As always you are a ten year old trainer tasked to solve a mystery more suited for a scientist then a child but child labor is cheaper though.  Eventually you run into more story related people, first is Lysandre who's outfit screams "I am leader of Team Not Rocket" and the other is Diantha who foreshadows that she is the champion.  After getting a few badges from the everyone is a winner league, you run into Team Flare who is the evil group of this region.  Which opens a few interesting themes the creators could inject into the story.  Going from how Team Flare talks they want to kill off most people to conserve resources in a very crazy population control scheme.  There is a subtle theme of classism in the story given how only Team Flare would survive while everyone will die with an absurd entry fee to join.  But the story trips over itself snapping its legs though with plot holes and bringing up plot points but barely touching it.  Why is it I had to fight for the right to use Mega Evolutions, yet three other people also some how have the ability.  Which is compounded even more when Lysandre himself uses it as reason for his plan, saying "There was only one and you had to fight for the resource".
I like how no one in game seems to think he isn't evil.
What is the point of the legendary outside of a power source for a weapon that looks like a nuke.  What was with the tall guy who only shows up three times, we know he was the king who launched a nuke yet almost nothing else.  All this screams "we will expand upon these points when we make Pokemon Z".  The reason why I harp on the story is that in a RPG people normally play for the story.  And it feels like they want to touch on a lot of interesting concepts, but they want to leave holes open to fill in for the "third version" of this set of games.  And I know this is gear towards kids, but kids are not that stupid.

The three big things Gamefreaks gave us is the new Fairy type, Mega Evolution, and the game is now in 3D.  Fairy types changes the type match up and allows some pokemon who was not as good to have some worth.  Bringing in Fairy type curb has stomped Dragon types, and it makes me giggle knowing if I could take a fairy type to fight lance in Red and Blue he would be crushed.  Being only weak to Steel and Poison types and strong against Fighting, Dark, and Bug (while immune to Dragon) it seems that Fairy types will be "hard" to kill in the metagame.  I just like it because I can make my joke about having a male Gardevoir named Bridget even funnier.  Mega Evolution sounds interesting but how it is now it's just a gimmick, my key issue is that not enough pokemon can use it.  It feels they just picked pokemon they could make look "cooler" and ran with it.  It mostly feels like a situational tactic to use, and with so many pokemon that can't use it versus that can use it I wonder how useful it really is in the online battles.   But what most people who played pokemon might notice is after so many years pokemon is now in 3D.  Which I'm glad because I'm honestly sick of the whining from fans for it seeing how the DS could not render 3D without ugly textures, yet fans wanted it for that system.  No one seems to sit back and think about how many DS games that use 3D didn't look that great.  But for me the big changes was EXP Share, the changes in breeding, EV training, and I can customize my character.  Being able to train a bunch of pokemon quickly is a massive plus for me and knowing their EV and being able to directly train them makes playing the meta much more approachable.  Having better control over the stats via breeding shows Game Freaks wants to get rid of any need to hack pokemon.  The last feature is character creation and I just love how I can now make a trainer closer to my look giving it a more personal journey through the game.  Not much with it besides you can change how you look so like most games with the feature it's just there.  Even with these changes pokemon is still pokemon, so if you hated pokemon before this won't change you.

After finishing the story I couldn't really find an excuse to want to start over outside of playing through it again with a challenge imposed on myself seeing how boring the story is.  Even post game feels a bit boring seeing how I can only hunt for mega evolution stones only between a certain hour.  And it feels very sparse for what you can do after you beat the story.  After all is said and done it's not a bad game doing what it is trying to do just fine, but if your bored of pokemon or never liked it I would honestly skip it.