Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Critique of Turn-Based Member Slapping

I have never really been one for RPGs in the classical sense – the inane ‘grinding’ to produce a team that can take on the next big-bad, of whom should really have taken into account that the player would generally be at a lower level by this point in the long-winded, over-drawn dross of what the developers profess to be a story. Or perhaps the inclusion of rooms measuring barely sufficient in diameter to hammer-throw the proverbial distressed cat, that yet take aeons to traverse thanks to a metaphorical roll of a dice after every footstep designed to drag you kicking and screaming into a circular room barely resembling where you were walking, in which good and evil both take turns to stand there while the opposition slaps them round the face with their dicks. By this time of course, I would have moved a grand total of 2 feet in half an hour and long since died in the real world from old age and contempt for my fellow man.

It is needless for me to say at this point that I have never garnered the will to play much more than an hour of all the Final Fantasy games combined, and the mere notion of forcing myself to trudge through the series’ myriad of numbers leaves me cold like an Eskimo’s genitals as he squats in the freezer section of Farm Foods subsequent to being dumped by his girlfriend*. Puzzling as that concept may be for a lot of you JRPG fans (the Final Fantasy bit, not the Eskimo remark), the notion is made even more the enigma as I explain my deep-seeded love for the Golden Sun games created for Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance.

All the hallmarks are there (much like a good card shop) that point to a pretty standard JRPG fare - from the levelling systems based on experience, the ‘random’ turn-based battles or the collection of equipment and items to aid you in your quest. What the developers, Camelot, have managed to do however is wrap it up in a tight package that doesn’t make me want to push my fist through my throat and poke my eyes out from behind with my bloody fingers. I’m not even entirely sure how they did it to be honest, even after all these years. It could be the sublime presentation – from the inspired musical score to arguably the system’s most impressive graphical flourishes. Or it could be the engaging story that gets to the point and actually keeps you on your toes like the fabled midget at a urinal, rather than throwing walls of pointless dialogue at the player for half an hour that simply explains through use of an elaborate arrangement of ‘ums’ and ‘ahhs’ that the princess is in another castle.

In order to set itself apart from the other mounds of mud in the sludge that is the JRPG swamp, Golden Sun brought to the already finely-furnished table the collection of Djinn. These elemental sprite-like characters are quickly comparable to Pokémon (a series of games of which I have purposely left out of the discussion as they goose-step in the no-man’s land between RPG and easily definable genres), but bare little resemblance with regards to function and gameplay. Not content with merely attaching themselves to party members in order to increase stats and change classes to your will, Djinn can be used in battle to attack, defend, make tea and summon fearsome deities to unleash a metric fuckton of pain down on the unsuspecting enemy team with their members out, expecting the regular ‘you slap me, I slap you’ affair.

Even after completing the first game and being subjected to the metaphorical kick in the scrote that was the finale’s cliff-hanger, the player is able to transfer their entire party and items over to the sequel by way of a password function – albeit featuring a biblical amount of gibberish text and numbers to commit to a notepad before attempting to type it in exactly. Regardless, it is still a kind of warm and fuzzy addition that is purely there for the fans, and a function that I personally hadn’t seen since the Sonic & Knuckles ‘lock-on’ cart for the Sega Megadrive.

I still can't figure out if this is a dude or a chick.
Either way, that's one poncy bastard.

I think what shines through the most with these games, what makes them seem so wondrous to me, is the blatant labour and love that went into their creation. These are the developers responsible for Mario Golf and Mario Tennis, dressed up in a gimp suit for Papa Nintendo and asked to dance around so that the giant can get its jollies off. Golden Sun is Camelot’s baby, and it shows. Roll on Golden Sun DS – maybe it will give me a reason to stop using the console’s touch screen as a coaster.
For my hot mugs.
Full of turds.
That frequently overspill.

* I also don’t care for Resident Evil or Metal Gear Solid. That’s right internet, come and get me.

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Leon Kennedy said...

What the fuck's wrong with Resident Evil?

Ronan The Librarian said...

For a start, it's like trying to maneuver a pair of roller skates laden with a barrel of potatoes round the Monaco circuit. And then have that barrel attempt to shoot at zombies.