A sad reality of the hobby of video game playing is that sooner or later you’re going to get burned by a bad purchase. Hopefully it was some piece of crap you got in an Indie Bundle, but sometimes it was a legit, full price purchase that you were stoked about, only to dump a few hours into it and come to the realization: “this game just isn’t for me.” Words we’ve all said at one time or another.
My foray into the overwhelming world of the Nintendo 3DS (and earlier DS releases I hadn’t yet experienced) since last August has proved to be a major success, resulting in a very low number of letdowns, which is probably due to the sheer volume of research I do before purchasing a title. Really, it’s not even about the money, but it’s about wasted time, and the fact that a game will sit on my shelf, unbeaten. Can’t have that.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
The World Ends With You
I bought The World Ends With You in the same Amazon order with Chrono Trigger, never having finished the latter, never having played nor heard of the former. I played through Chrono Trigger first (which was obviously amazing), and then went straight on to TWEWY, which had been extremely hyped up from my time spent hanging out on /r/3ds. I really had no doubt in my mind that I would be all about this game, and although I didn’t quite understand the gameplay as per the 10-12 Let’s Plays I checked out, I figured it just had to be experienced.
Instead, I was greeted with the most insane, complicated combat system I’ve ever seen in my life. I could not get a handle on it whatsoever. Also, the entire game depends on the touch screen, which is another thing I should have researched.
I hate the touch screen. Not as much as the Wii Remote, which I oftentimes have nightmares about after my annual attempt at Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but having exclusive touch screen controls just drives me bonkers.
Second, I’m the kinda guy who plays games in spurts of 30 minutes or so, barring odd exceptions. And I found myself on a 30 minute bus ride, skipping through dialog and not actually accomplishing anything. I need the feeling of satisfaction, but this just didn’t do it for me.
And the battle system – look, I realize most people enjoyed it for what it was, but to me it felt clumsy and it didn’t feel satisfying. Battle systems can be a finicky thing. It’s a matter of milliseconds that can make action-combat feel smooth or awful, and not enjoying the 5 minute break from conversation was not spelling out a good future for me and this game.
- Time spent: 2 hours
- Odds of a do-over: absolutely no chance
Tales of the Abyss
This one was a real bummer for me. It was the second big title that I bought for the 3DS, and I was really stoked to dive into a ‘Tales Of’ game, of which I had never delved into before. What I was met with was the most confusing dialog and storyline I have ever witnessed. As I mentioned earlier, my playtime is generally around a half an hour at a time, and this game is just not playable with that amount of time.
There were actual conversations and plot points and cutscenes that took about 30 minutes to get through, which would have been fine, but it was impossible to follow at small blocks of time. Just couldn’t follow. And don’t get me wrong, I spent a huge amount of time researching the story as I progressed in the game to try to get back on track and understand what the hell had just happened, but it seemed at every turn, some major new event happened that added another layer of complexity.
With The World Ends With You, I complained about the battle system. Well here, the battle system was what I really did enjoy, as was the case with the exploring and running around (when I was given the freedom to do so). However, I got my ass handed to me many times. I “read the fucking manual” dozens of times, trying to figure out the optimal way to control my characters and come out of battles with some dignity, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get thrashed at every boss fight at least 3-4 times before I prevailed.
One of my “victory moments” if you could call it that, was a particularly validating moment (one of many “oh god please help me” moments) when I Googled some combination of phrases, probably something like “tales of the abyss what the hell am I doing oh god please help me.” I found this Gamefaqs discussion, with this awesome quote that basically described exactly how I felt up to that point:
I’m about 5 hours into the game and I feel like I don’t have a clue what’s going on. FoF circles? Cores? I have no idea how to play this game.
It was simply poetry. Someone else in the world who hit the same realization I did.
- Time Spent: 15 hours
- Odds of a do-over: very low
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
I wanted to love this game more than anything. And as a matter of fact, I did at first! It is EXTREMELY punishing if you don’t know what you’re doing. This seemed to be the general consensus, but I picked it up digitally as a $10 eShop sale.
First off, I had read about the mapping/cartography system, which sounded cool. Turns out, I fucking love making maps. So that was good. Finding shortcuts around the floors was even cooler! Man, this game is great.
And then it happened – the giant Cutter FoE, and I was absolutely destroyed. Lost some items, some money, etc. This happened several times, when it hit me that this game was definitely the “no bullshit” type. I kept at it though, determined to get better. But then it dawned on me – did I make a shitty team?
Endless discussions later, there were folks talking about optimal team matchups, changing classes half-way through the game, some insane dungeon in end-game, etc. And that’s when I realized I would have to do a huge bit of grinding.
See, in EOIV (presumably in all Etrian Odyssey games altogether), leveling up takes a good deal of time. There are plenty of instructables out there on the best way to grind up fast, but that sort of thing turns me off to a game immediately. “Necessary grinding,” to me, is a symptom of a poorly designed game. There should never be a time in your game where the designers would tell you “so now you’re going to just get killed over and over so keep doing some monotonous task until you don’t die all the time.”
I made it through the first “world,” if that’s what you even call it. It was pretty great going from loser goon who could barely handle a common random encounter to being able to trash baboons over and over again, but as I stumbled carelessly into the next dungeon, I got smacked down. Hard. And then it hit me – do I need to seriously fail 100 more times just to get through this world? And then the one after that? Does my team just suck?
And that’s when I stopped playing, and bought Pokemon X.
X was awesome.
- Time spent: 16 hours
- Odds of a do-over: medium
My selections so far have been terrific, with only 3 let downs out of 17 or so games. Stay tuned for next time, where I’ll probably focus on something more positive!