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3DS Stress

After six years, the circle pad finally broke off my 3DS XL. It happened while I was playing Tri Force Heroes with two friends and quickly put an end to our game (though I suspect most of the damage had actually been done playing Smash over previous years).

If this had happened a couple of years earlier, I would have taken it as an excuse to upgrade to a New 3DS model. But now - this Tri Force Heroes session was the first action my 3DS had seen since I bought a Switch (and the first non-Picross action it had seen in longer). Could I justify the expense of a new device (Nintendo no longer offers repairs for 3DS models as old as mine) that I didn’t have any expectation I’d actually use?

Yesterday I saw a good deal on a refurbished New 2DS XL and was tempted, but decided to pass. And apparently I felt so bad about this that last night I had a dream that I was back in school and my teacher was yelling at me for not having a 3DS because we were studying Tri Force Heroes in class and I needed to follow along.

#gaming #video games #nintendo #3ds

Tags: Thought

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Capsule Review: Archlion Saga

A short and approachable RPG designed to be completed in two to four hours. The story is kept short, the mechanics are kept simple, and guide features keep the player from getting lost. The result is an enjoyable bite-sized RPG experience, though there is still room for improved approachability. The aesthetic resembles SNES-era JRPGs, but several tweaks have been made to the UI.

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Black Hole Stunt

So. Like. I’ve never played Fortnite. I’m not really their target market. And if I had any doubt of that, the events of the past few days confirmed it.

Because if I did play Fortnite
If it was how I blew off steam and connected with my friends…
If I’d spent money on in-game currency and gear…
If I were a streamer who relied on the game to make content, and in turn provided free marketing for it…

I would be pissed that they took the game down for multiple days as a marketing stunt.

And it would not exactly instill me with confidence that this was an ecosystem in which I should invest time, money, or effort, and certainly not one I should rely on being around and available.

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Look How Far You’ve Come

One of my favorite game tropes is what I call the “Look How Far You’ve Come” sequence that shows up shortly before the ending.

It can be done a variety of ways, but in some manner it reintroduces areas, characters, enemies, or other story elements that you haven’t seen in a while, emphasizing what’s changed and what hasn’t, reminding you where your journey began and how far it’s taken you. It’s a great way for games to add weight, consequence, and meaning to your adventure and actions while making the ending that much more climactic.

One of my favorite examples actually comes from Dragon Quest Heroes II. (Minor spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph.) In the lead-in to the final battle, you essentially go through a nostalgia gauntlet - fighting groups of monsters from each area of the game, in the order you explored them. The fights are easy and clearly more of a reminder than a skill test, and over the course of them every single one of your accumulated party members speaks up about your travels together.

It’s more common for this sort of reflection to be presented in cinematics after beating the game. But I find it more impactful when you can actually play through it. Which of course is why EarthBound has the best ending of any video game, ever.

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Capsule Review: Sayonara Wild Hearts

A rhythm-game-like playable pop album. The mood and aesthetic are strong, but the game is more cinematic than playable which causes problems with its flow-breaking difficulty spikes. Taken strictly as an audiovisual experience, the game is sublime. The mostly-abstract story of finding harmony after heartbreak complements the sad-pop soundtrack and blue/purple color palette, coming together to create a beautiful, dreamlike atmosphere.

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Sayonara Wild Brains

I just wrote about how personal variation can result in wildly different experiences of the same game, and now I find I have to force myself to remember this when reading reviews for Sayonara Wild Hearts.

This is a well-received game, with Metascores ranging from 81 on iOS (where the game is part of Apple Arcade) to 82 on Switch and 85 on PS4. I haven’t read every review, but the only substantive complaint in most of the ones I’ve seen is that the game is over too quickly. Whereas I would sum the game up as “beautiful, but only barely playable.”

It has readability problems that make Runner3 look like CliffsNotes. The rules, physics, controls, and camera angles are constantly changing in ways that look great but make it impossible for the player to find a rhythm until they have all the unpredictability memorized. Missing score pickups just costs you points, but hitting obstacles rewinds the song a couple of seconds for you to try again, and if you have to try too many times you can just skip that part of the song - both of which damage the “interactive album” experience.

I feel like if Sayonara Wild Hearts wanted to be a rhythm game, it should have been more readable. And if it wanted to be a playable pop album, it shouldn’t have had failure modes. The compromise we got results in an unfair rhythm game and an album that keeps interrupting itself.

This also feels really obvious to me. Like, when I look at this game, I don’t see how anyone could have come to a different conclusion about it. But while it’s certainly tempting to conclude that all of those reviewers were just wowed by the game’s superficial aspects, I have to admit it’s more likely that my brain is different from theirs, even if I don’t know exactly how.

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Capsule Review: Dragon Quest Builders 2

A Minecraft-like game of gathering, crafting, and building wrapped in an action RPG. Set after the end of Dragon Quest II and loaded with callbacks to that game’s characters and events, the story casts you as an apprentice Builder who teams up with the amnesiac Malroth in human form (who does not remember that he is actually the demonic Master of Destruction) to stand against the Children of Hargon, a monster-led church that has outlawed building.

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Different Games for Different Brains

I’m starting to think that most of the heated debates that happen around game design choices are due to poorly-understood differences in how our brains are actually wired.

Like, I’ve written before about how some people hate punishment in games and others don’t and how this seems to be related to how we process tension, and how it’s easy to think someone else is a wimp or a masochist for the type of gameplay they like when it actually feels different to them than it does to you. But I realized there are other factors here too - punishment is worse for players who have trouble focusing on things that aren’t novel, which, like… that’s straight-up an ADHD symptom, right? I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but I’ve got a couple of symptoms including that one. Allie has more symptoms, and she’s even more bothered by punishment and repetition in games than I am.

I’ve also talked about how I don’t like games that make you work to find the quality content in exchange for a sense of discovery that rings false for me. But when I saw the following mailbag question in a Shamus Young diecast post, I realized there was something else going on:

Dear Diecast.

The modern Persona games are lauded for their fusion of turn-based combat and social sim gameplay, but I’ve always been bothered by the social sim aspect. It’s less about roleplaying and more about puzzling out the spreadsheet nightmare the designers have conceived so you don’t miss out on story content and have to replay it in new game plus to see it. As such, I always play them with my head in a guide to negate the issue so I can instead focus on enjoying the combat and story.

What’s your thoughts on games that are hard to play properly without using a guide and have you ever found them enjoyable in spite of needing to look things up constantly?

-Victor

My immediate thought was that yeah, I feel the same way about Persona and that this kind of design is stupid in general as just another way to make you work to find the quality content - but I made myself take a step back. It’s not very likely that the designers of several incredibly-popular games are all just making the same obvious mistake over and over and the fans somehow don’t understand the resulting flaws. It’s much more likely that this is another case where players have different but legitimate preferences.

Victor’s question has assumptions baked in - that if you “miss out on story content” you then “have to replay it in new game plus to see it” and that seeing all the story content is the only way to “play properly”. I didn’t notice at first that these were assumptions, because I’m a completionist so to me (and I imagine Victor) they just feel true. Like Victor, I find it hard to enjoy a game if I’m constantly worried that I’ll miss content - particularly story content - particularly if it’s a story I’m enjoying. Like Victor, I often deal with this by using a guide and then lament that the game “requires” a guide.

But like… that seems like something in the area of anxiety or OCD, maybe? I’m not sure exactly what the divide is here, but roughly speaking I suspect some people prefer certainty and control (the completionists) and others prefer exploration and surprise. For the latter group of players, the fact that it’s possible to miss some story content based on your choices is a bonus - it means that you can actually be surprised by what you see, even if you return to play the game again. To me, this is a baffling way of looking at things - but some quick internet research shows plenty of evidence that some people like surprises, some people hate them, and many people in each group do not at all understand the people in the other.

A lot of us have trouble explaining what happens in our own heads, and it’s difficult to realize when something you thought was universal is only true for people with brains like yours. And it’s really hard to see where someone else is coming from if your disagreement stems from one of those things. A lot of the time we’re arguing about things like game design decisions, we’re being much more subjective than we realize, and that leads to heated and unproductive discussions that say more about ourselves than the thing we’re trying to talk about.