Save Point

Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

Thank You For The Music December 30, 2008

Filed under: Hacks,Metagaming,Specific games,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:43 pm
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In the past week, I’ve been playing a ROM of Mother 3/EarthBound 2, with a translation patch by the dedicated people at fobby.net who gave their time to rework this game for the sake of the fandom. As someone who liked EarthBound, but not enough to try to play the sequel with a walkthrough/script or read up on it or anything, I am one of those who would never have experienced the game without their translation. These people have worked hard in their free time without being paid to translate and patch an entire game, just because they cared about it that much, and because of that they’ve been able to bring it to more people who can appreciate it. Such an admirable, dedicated group of fans deserves praise, and I intend to deliver them some, as soon as I dare set foot on the interactive part of their site where spoilers are everywhere.

I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the translation so far; as I would expect from a group of such dedicated, enthusiastic fans, they’ve done a great job bringing back the feeling of the Mother 2/EarthBound 1 translation. I can’t speak for how close they are to the original, but I trust them to be faithful. Even things like enemy names and English-language puns ring true. These translators deserve a giant helping of applause, and possibly jobs in the industry translating more of our RPGs.

As far as that industry goes, I’m in chapter seven at present, and discovering one major potential reason why Nintendo said they had no plans to bring it over to America: censorship and political concerns. The Magypsies are a group of magic-wielding, millenia-old, flamboyant lipsticked men with five o’clock shadow, and they’re turning out to be a huge part of the plot. They’re sturdily-built limp-wristed men who sit in giant pink heart-shaped glittery chairs. You can’t pretend they aren’t transvestites, and you also can’t pretend they’re really women, no matter what you make the dialogue say. They’re an extremely noticeable, important part of the game, and they are definitely the Good Guys. In Japan, people probably just laugh, but in America’s political climate, I don’t know how Nintendo would bring this game over without a lot of conservative Americans having a fit at the idea that their kids might play a game containing some transvestite characters (and ones who are good people, at that).

Gameplay is a little frustrating because the ROM– and its sound– aren’t perfectly synched with my button-pressing, which makes the rhythm-game aspect of the battles disappointingly chancy. I can actually hear the lag between the sound of my pushing a button and the sound of an enemy getting hit; emulation lag has never been this severe of an issue for me because my timing is often linked to also-lagging cues, but now it’s getting all up in my gameplay by interrupting rhythms that aren’t lagging in my head. Of course, the rhythm isn’t always meant to be smooth, either– the composers have made a great soundtrack full of battle themes that change tempo all the time. Some of these songs are going to take a lot of memorising to begin with. At least I have something to do during the random encounters.

At any rate, I’m enjoying this game (I did mention heaps of appreciation, right?) Due to life circumstances, I might have to put it on hold for a while in January, but part of me wants to just keep on playing.

 

The Price Of Keeping Up October 22, 2008

Filed under: Consoles,Metagaming,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:47 am
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Comments on my prior blog entry about the price of games have me thinking. There are at least two upcoming PS3 games that I would love to purchase (The Last Remnant and Heavy Rain), and various others that I’d love to give a spin. It’s gotten to the point where, if the PS3 were the price of the average console, I would say it’s time to buy one. But– ouch. The price difference takes it from a range where I’d easily choose to purchase it, into a range where it’s not as easy of a decision for me. If Sony didn’t charge an exorbitant price for their console, I would shell out for it right now. Would they rather risk that I not do so? This is the direct impact of their decision, which they may have thought wouldn’t matter that much. Right here, right now, it is mattering: I definitely want one, but I won’t just run out and buy one now.

I suspect that because the Playstation caters more towards the older sector of the gaming crowd than the kids, Sony thought they could set a high price since it is a “mature” console. A high price for a working adult is more than a high price for a child, it’s true– but what they may have overlooked is that the price is simply a lot. Even without the downturn in today’s economy, the average American would have to be serious about gaming to buy a PS3.

Would Super Mario Bros. 3 alone be worth $100? I believe so, given what it delivers– but perhaps not to someone, even a serious gamer, who hasn’t played it. When buying a new console, gamers take the risk that there might not be any games on the console that captivate them enough to make it worth the price; perhaps they’ll neglect it and play mostly on some other console. It’s a lot of money down, betting that the reward will be worth the price. Even though there’s a good chance that the bet will pay off, how much money does the average gamer want to stake on that risk? There’s a certain price that gamers are used to staking; when that abruptly rises with no more guarantee of payoff than their usual price, it asks them to put more down for the same quality difference as they always get.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m so used to handheld games right now, so I’ve been buying less expensive games, but I feel like I’m getting just as much bang for fewer bucks that way. On the other hand, I’m going through DS games so much because it’s my only current-generation console, and it’s getting more releases than my old systems right now. The galling thing is that I don’t care a whit about graphical superiority– I just want to be able to play lots of fun new games, and it won’t be long before my TV consoles are obsolete.

 

MillionHeir: I See What You Did There September 30, 2008

After some poking around, I think I understand better what’s wrong with Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir. This article and its comments clued me in: it’s made, of course, by a PC games company that’s already released similar games for the PC. I should have expected that given its American origins. Of course.

The problem is, PC games of this type don’t, and probably never will, port well to consoles. I can think of two reasons: expectations and demographics.

On the expectations side, we get reactions like mine and those of the review I linked: the idea that DS games are generally more full and rich and varied than MillionHeir, which presents mostly one set of identical puzzles to wade through, a very scanty framework as an excuse for playing, and (insofar as there is a plot) no attempt at making anything endearing. This is fairly normal for PC puzzle games, the market that brought you Minesweeper, free MSN download games, the addictive but basically ugly Snood, and games where the goal is to swat flies and make them splat. Generally, when I think of pretty PC games, I think of MMORPGs, not puzzle games. Japanese puzzle games often have a nice aesthetic or at least simple cuteness, but American puzzle games often don’t try to be endearing; they’re more often humour-centric rather than focusing on genuine appeal. And the console gaming market is used to getting a full story replete with mini-games, serious variety in the challenges, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion even for the simplest of stories. Compared to the average console game, most PC puzzle games fall flat on their face for an audience that expects all of that to round out a decent game as a matter of course.

As a further barrier to sales of these games, as a commentor pointed out, the demographic for this type of game is basically your mom. I can think of no demographic less likely to own a console, unless they’ve been hooked by either curiosity or younger family members. While there are obviously plenty of exceptions, the demographic on the whole tends to think of computer games as an occasional way to pass time rather than a serious hobby, so not only are they less likely to own a console, they’re less likely to buy new games on a regular basis. I don’t think there are enough middle-aged-or-older women who buy console games to justify a port of this type of game, whereas many of them do own PCs and understand how to put in a game disc to start up a game. Even people who do take gaming seriously and know their stuff but gravitate towards this type of game are less likely to even think of looking for their type of game on a console, since they mostly find these games in the PC aisle.

As a result, most PC games aren’t going to get rave reviews from the console gaming audience, who are by and large used to routinely paying high prices for excellent games and tend to feel gypped on purchasing an inexpensive game that doesn’t have much to it. I have to wonder how PC gamers feel when faced with ports of especially complex console games, such as Final Fantasy VII. Do they react with delight at the smorgasbord of features, or is it too complex for their tastes?

 

Treasure Troves July 20, 2008

Filed under: Metagaming,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 1:13 am

My copy of Final Fantasy III for the DS had been missing for an entire year, so last night I finally broke down and bought a new one. Guess what I found today.

At least I bought some other interesting things that I didn’t already own copies of– I have been on quite the game-acquiring spree lately. For some reason, a lot of PS2 titles and a relative lot of Gamecube titles have been showing up used lately; perhaps this is a big year for people to sell their consoles. The proliferation of good DS titles has contributed to my acquisition as well. Suddenly, there’s a lot that I want. It’s been a good year, but at the same time I’m not feeling any more positive about the gaming industry than I have since the Wii era began; good games are released not in a steady flood but in fits and starts. I might as well pick up what I want while I can, to tide me over through darker times.

Perhaps the most unusual find was actually purchased not by me but by a friend; I spotted a box set of Ar tonelico, which is going for around $70 on eBay, being sold for $40. For my part, I was amused by the font on the side of the box; it was reminiscent of old Atari games. Imagine a game whose plot revolves around music, with a soundtrack of Atari 2600 chiptunes and a harem of girls with 25-pixel faces.