Monday, June 7, 2010

Pointless Achievement Unlocked!

There's been some Big Life Stuff in the works for me recently, and I feel as though there's a tear in the receptacle that holds my free time, and I know it's only a matter of weeks before the whole container is toppled to the side. I'll be able to patch it up and set it upright again and let the free time refill, but for the near future, I can only assume I'll be calculating an ever-increasing loss.

To keep my sanity in check, it's necessary to relax--I've finally returned to reading comics, and I've gotten back into the habit of playing video games strictly for pleasure instead of for GameCola articles and YouTube videos. The only problem is that with my dwindling free time, I'm loath to dig through my impressive Backloggery for a new game--the last thing I need is to become distracted by wanting to keep playing to see what happens next. There's also the issue of taking a risk on an untested game; the last thing I need is to squander my precious little free time on another Mighty Bomb Jack.

Instead of making real progress and playing something I've been waiting to play, I've decided to pursue the achievements and unlockable extras in games I've already played, such as Mario Party 5, Final Fantasy II, and Mega Man 10. Now, Mario Party is a worthwhile endeavor, because Mario Party is the old standby when company comes over, and it's always good to have unlocked a bonus map to play on. As for the other two games... well, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.

I don't think I need to say anything further about Mega Man 10 after my implausibly long review, but Final Fantasy II is further proof that the Final Fantasy series is overhyped / not worth my time. Oh, I bet I made some fans angry with that statement. I'm willing to give the series a few more sequels to change my mind, but so far the enjoyment I've gotten out of most Final Fantasy games is nowhere near equal to the amount of time I've spent getting killed by demonic Imps because every single party member attacks dead last and the "Run Away" command is utterly useless against any foe stronger than a gentle breeze.

Yes, moving us back on topic a bit. So I've been playing Final Fantasy II from Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, the Game Boy Advance remake, and after suffering through the main game and a "bonus" dungeon, it turns out there are still a few monsters I've never encountered, which means my Bestiary list isn't quite 100% complete.

I find it ironic that the games with the most replay value are the ones I'm least interested in replaying these days.

Frankly, 95% was more than good enough for me, until I concluded that I would play no new games until the Big Life Stuff settled down. I am a completionist, after all--100% was certainly within my reach, though it would take a little time. Hence why I've been wandering through the same floor of a dungeon for hours on end hoping for the one random encounter that will finally check Monster #124 off my stupid, stupid list.

It's not worth it. There are no bragging rights. The little medal of accomplishment on my Backloggery is not worth it.

So I've diversified and started going after more of the challenges in Mega Man 10. Once I was informed that you can get away with using special weapons as long as you don't damage the boss with them, "Defeat a dozen impossible-to-dodge bosses without getting hit and using the weakest weapon in the game" didn't sound so hard. I've made progress--I'm up to 82.5% completion at the time of this post--but I've already identified several challenges that I am physically incapable of surmounting, and even if there's so much as a tiny shred of hope that I might get 100%, no amount of Big Life Stuff could ever make it worth the time I'd need to practice to get it right.

So I diversified to Mega Man 9 as well, with its pointless filler challenges such as, "beat the game without collecing more than 8 energy powerups" and, "beat every boss with just one bar of energy left." This was automatically better than getting my butt handed to me by Hard Sheep Man: I like MM9 way more than MM10, so even piddling around with dorky "challenges" was more fun because I was at least playing a game I genuinely enjoyed.

This whole process is satisfying the completionist in me, but it's been 7 parts drudgery, 2 parts actual fun, and 1 part massive stupidity. How many better ways could I be using my time? And couldn't I at least choose better games to thoroughly finish off?

I look at it this way: Completing MM10's challenges earns me street cred with my YouTube fans. It is highly unlikely that I will ever go back and replay Final Fantasy II, so I might as well lay it to rest as thoroughly as possible if I'm so close to full completion. Having completed barely 50% of the achievements in MM9 makes it look like I just wasn't trying (which I wasn't, but that's beside the point).

Plus, it's not like I'm preventing myself from playing games I want to be playing--that's a separate matter entirely. Even so... I can't help but wonder whether it might be a better use of my time to get more screenshots for Mega Man 10.


A Philosophical Nerd said...

I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, but no worries. I'm not going to get all mad and fanboyish just because you don't like them. I actually know a lot of people who don't like Final Fantasy or RPG's in general.

I own and have beaten both games on the Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls cartridge and I did enjoy it (especially since there were a couple new areas to explore). However, I recently picked up the original Final Fantasy game on the Wii's Virtual Console because I had never actually played it before. When I was a kid, I was into RPG's but I was never exposed to Final Fantasy. The games I played were The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, as well as various other RPG's. But my very favorite RPG from the classic NES, and one I'm still hoping and praying will be released on Virtual Console, is Crystalis. I loved that game growing up.

But I was actually shocked by the original Final Fantasy, and quite frankly I'm surprised it spawned such a huge franchise of games. Now, granted, on hind-sight it was well worth it, and most of the games in the Final Fantasy franchise are wonderful games. But the problem is the original Final Fantasy game was buggy as all get-out. A number of the powerful spells were buggy and didn't work right (usually having the opposite effect of what the spell said it does). Plus, it was quite common to be attacked by nine or ten enemies which got real annoying, especially since it didn't give you enough XP to justify spending so much time in one battle. But the story was good and despite the negatives is still pretty enjoyable for nostalgia's sake (or in my case, for discovering the game that started it all).

Scott said...

I think it's important to distinguish between jRPGs and RPGs in general... Final Fantasy is pretty much the archetype for jRPGs and I know plenty of people who detest it but love RPGs.

That having been said, I can't stand most Final Fantasy games; they're just not that interesting. I like the first one, largely for its simplicity and nostalgia, and the tenth one, for its story and graphics. It's actually easy to forget, but back when Final Fantasy first came out, the idea of a team of elemental warriors coming together to fight a hierarchy of bad guys was actually pretty novel to the west where anime largely hadn't hit yet... so the story was pretty interesting (then) too. But Final Fantasy now is almost more like a visual novel than anything; you just have to grind to make the story go on and to feel like you're "playing a game."

I'm definitely not a completist either. All I want to do is find out what happens next... which is why most games have 0 replay value for me.

Crystalis was an amazing game, way before its time. The music was great, the graphics were great, the gameplay was amazingly fun... I'm surprised it's "only" a cult hit right now.

Scott said...

Oh, I have to add... back on the NES, music often made or broke a game for me more than the gameplay. If you're going to be listening to that stuff for hours on end, it has to be catchy... (Mute? What's that?)

zharth said...

Final Fantasy IV was a really great game, but though the prospect of arming my warriors with Adamant Armor was really tempting, it didn't take me long to make the decision that having a 1 in 255 chance of obtaining a special item from an enemy that I had a 1 in 255 chance of even encountering, only in one particular room in the final dungeon - and that's if I actually killed the enemy, which is prone to running away unscathed - just simply wasn't worth it. But I still love the game, even without the Adamant Armor.

Anyway, yeah, Final Fantasy II is a flawed game, but I'm a Final Fan-boy, so I still liked it.

Flashman85 said...

Whoa. Gotta write a whole post just to respond to all y'all. :) Let's work backwards:

zharth: Actually, II/IV is one of the few I actively like; True II is absolutely flawed, though I'm not sure how different the remake is.

Scott: I agree about the music, and I'm finding more and more that GBA games, as a collective, have some of the most uninteresting "filler" soundtracks in my entire game library. I like a few of the songs in the remake of FFI, but most don't even come close to the quality of the original.

I haven't played FFX save for that one boss battle you threw me into without warning that one time, but I completely agree with you otherwise. And any mention of Crystalis makes me very, very happy. :D

A Philosphical Nerd: Mondo bonus points for bringing up Crystalis. :D I think Scott's right about the novelty aspect of the original Final Fantasy, and I'd say that extends to FFII--leveling up individual abilities and seeing party members come and go are RPG features that I hadn't even heard of until at least the SNES.

FFI definitely has its quirks, but Lock was the only spell I remember not doing what it was supposed to--I never bothered with status-inducing spells and instant death spells. Battles against numerous enemies never bugged me except at mid-low levels, because I had a White Mage with Harm and a Black and Red Mage with Fir2.

Ah, four-letter spell names.

A Philosophical Nerd said...

Yeah, gotta love the four letters. If I recall correctly, in the original when you named your characters they could only be four letters, too. And since the number "four" is a theme that runs through my life (not superstitious, just obsessive-compulsive) I really didn't mind. :D

Now, I can't name all the buggy spells off-hand, and truth be told it really wasn't a lot, just enough to make me sit back and wonder about that because it seems like pretty big aspects of the game not to correct before the game was released. I had already beaten Final Fantasy I on the GBA, so when I played through the original on Virtual Console I went through with a walkthrough (which I never do on the first playthrough of an RPG). There were, I think, two or three spells which were listed as buggy and either didn't work or had the opposite effect of what they were supposed to do. So yeah, it really wasn't a lot at all.

Additionally, I've heard the term "JRPG" banded about a lot, but truth be told I was never aware there was a different between JRPG and RPG. After all, the Legend of Zelda series focuses on one individual that you play, and it was made by Nintendo, a Japanese company. Maybe I'm just uncertain on the difference and I may research it in my spare time.

Finally, Crystalis will always remain near and dear to my heart. The very first RPG I ever played was the first Legend of Zelda, but when I played Crystalis for the first time I instantly fell in love with it and have never felt quite the same way about any other RPG franchise. It's a shame no sequel was ever made, just a Game Boy Color "port" that was really more of a remake than a port and even though I've never played it, I've read a lot about it and I don't think I'd like it as much as the original.

Scott said...

A jRPG is typically just an RPG that's not really an RPG. Japanese RPGs tend to be more linear games that focus on telling a story while you're "along for the ride" just fighting things and leveling up. In that sense, it's more like, say, a Disney ride. A lot of people would say that Zelda isn't even an RPG -- it's an action game. I mean, if Zelda can be called an RPG, then so can Mario in the sense that you're "playing" the "role" of Mario or Luigi... yeah.

Western RPGs (see, for example, Morrowind, Dragon Age, Bioshock, KOTOR) tend to be more open-ended. They allow you to explore the world rather than following a set path and you can generally customize things a lot more. The Final Fantasy series has expanded a bit in that sense to please Western markets, but their major, major market is still Japan... which is why you can still see another major Japanese theme: character archetypes.

Japanese media in general favor character archetypes -- the haunted, brooding fighter; the big, strong man; the woman (or woman-like) magic user... not to mention the men that look like skinny, pretty women. You don't really see those types of characters as much in Western games. There's actually a game (I forget which) that was recently shown as having two versions -- one with a typically skinny, feminine main male lead and the other for the West, with a large, masculine, muscular male lead.

Japanese media is so pervasive nowadays that it's hard to forget that it's NOT the default for the west -- especially for our generation, which grew up with it -- but it's not.

And that, in a long comment, is the difference between a jRPG and a Western RPG.

A Philosophical Nerd said...

Thank you very much, Scott. That was very informative. I must confess that I do enjoy JRPGs for the sense that they tell a story that unfolds as you play. Kind of like watching a movie but you control the characters and do the work.

I also greatly enjoy games that you can explore. That's kind of why Final Fantasies VII, VIII, and IX are my favorites because they all tell an epic story, but there are many non-linear elements to it that you can do and explore, or you can forsake them in favor of just following the story.

And also, the true definition of RPG has always been kind of a fuzzy one for me, and the main reason is because in the loosest possible sense, every game is an RPG. You take on the role of whichever character you're playing.

Flashman85 said...

A Philosophical Nerd: I picked up Crystalis for the GBC at PAX East this year, and I'll be giving it a go on The END DAY this year in lieu of the NES version. I'll be sure to give a full report.

I was more surprised at how buggy FFIII/VI was--one or two entire stats did absolutely nothing (Evade and, I think, whatever the equivalent of Magic Defense was), and a few of the item descriptions were so inaccurate that I actually killed one of my own party members because the Relic Ring, which "makes your body cold," does not have anything to do with fire/ice resistance and vulnerability; rather, it made Celes into a zombie who was killed by my healing magic.

Zelda qualifies as an RPG in that there are swords, conversations with people, and that Link "levels up" by gaining heart containers. A loose definition, to be sure.

Scott: Thanks for the explanation!

A Philosophical Nerd said...

Excellent. I look forward to reading your Crystalis (GBC) review. I was actually inspired the other day to go on YouTube and watch a playthrough of Crystalis (someone did a 100% speedrun in about an hour and a half). That only made me want the game even more. Maybe I'll start an on-line petition to give to Nintendo to get it on their virtual console. :D

Scott said...

Nathaniel: Mega Man X counts as a RPG in that there are weapons and powerups, and Mega Man learns new skills, and he talks to people...

For me, Zelda is really in the same class as Mega Man rather than, say, Dragon Warrior. Especially something like Zelda 2 where so much of it is dependent on actual skill at playing the game more than anything else.

A Philosophical Nerd: I used to do Crystalis speedruns on the NES with the warp jump trick; it made it easier to get a lot of skills and spells early in the game, which in turn made it easier to do crap. Plus you could leap ahead instead of walking.

zharth said...

Woah, 11 comments. O.O

If you ask me, life itself is an RPG. =)

Flashman85 said...

APN: I hope Crystalis comes to the VC; that'd be neat.

Scott: You're right; I always thought MMX had a bit of an RPG feel to it, and the Zero series is *definitely* an action/RPG.

This is probably gonna make some people angry, but with the exception of Zelda I and II, I never really felt like the Zelda games required too much gaming skill, except in the boss battles and sidequests/minigames. Puzzle-solving skill, yes, but when you're not figuring out what to do, it's largely a matter of getting from A to B without getting roughed up too much.

With Mega Man, getting hit is a bigger deal, and there's plenty of opportunities for instant death. Much faster pace than most of the Zelda games, and a "kill or be killed" mentality more than "overcome this obstacle, which may or may not be harmful"; I don't really see them in the same category together.

zharth: Then where are the save points?!