In Games(medium: distilled tedium)
Writing broad generalizations about gaming trends is way harder than singling one out and calling it stupid.
Which is why I think I'm going to run up to campus and scream Advent Children spoilers at the nearest group of people who look like they'd care. And I know I can spot them. You probably could too.
"HAY AERITH RE-DIES"
Tomomi Oda in the doujin game Idinaloq is a prime example of a character who totally isn't worth it. Why, I'd love to fight an evil mechanical empire with a vaguely heart-shaped spaceship with pathetic main guns.
"I THOUGHT THAT YOU, THE MASTER OF UNLOCKING, SHOULD HAVE THIS."
One thing that's pretty much always been a part of gaming has been earning bragging rights. It's one thing to say, beat Metroid- and something even better to clear it with all of the power-ups. In under three hours. A lot of childhood legends popped up, usually tied to outright lies in prowess of the INFINITE WONDERS awaiting you if you could beat Ninja Turtles in one life then played through it again as Splinter for the top secret nude scene with April O'Neil. Or the secret SFII Turbo fatalities. Well, those outright lies seemed to filter their way through the ranks and met the ears of actual developers who began planting more and more little extras in games. Some of them were useful or interesting to find, but many, many more were stupid. And fake. Like the Aeris ressurection techniques and the moon landing.
I'm not sure when exactly game quality started being measured in hours. Let alone game time being something worth pointing out on the back of a game's box. It sort of ruins the experience when you're playing something, go to save your game and subconsciously guesstimate where you are in the plot. Yes, it's good if a game is good for hours of entertainment, so long as it's more entertaining than scraping the last bit ice cream out of the carton and coming up with bits of paper in your mouth.
Take Evil Zone for instance- in many ways, it's a flawed game. In particular, the features added for extras just aren't enough to make someone sit through the unpolished battle engine for too long, without being some kind of a masochist. Like me. In order to unlock all the extra costumes, voice bites, alternate narrator tracks, encyclopedia entries and the final 'congratulation' screen, you need to basically beat the game about a hundred times. And if you've played one round against DANZAIVER! THE HERO you realize that you'll be listening to that "I'M NOT EASY!" he lets out whenever he blocks an attack for a couple hours- to unlock to chance to listen to him say I'M NOT EASY! on command.
I'M NOT EASY!!
I'm all for rewarding skill in games beyond a simple half assed translation of a thank-you speech. But some of the worst choices I've seen in a game are ones that basically cheat you out of something at the beginning then make you earn it back through rigorous play, most notably fighting games. You don't want the players to get their mitts on the overpowered final boss out of the starting gate? I can respect your desire to keep your blouse on. But it's okay to show a little ankle and give us our Sophitias and Kyo Kusanagi's up front. On the other hand, no, it is NOT okay to make us go through hell to unlock gag characters. (Looking mainly in the direction of Dan's first appearance in the Alpha line.)
New Game+ is a nice way to add replay value to a game, by letting players retain their old abilities to blaze through story mode easier and leave them free to explore at leisure. Unfortunately there are ways to screw this up- like Sigma Star Saga. Not to pick on it any more than I have already, but it has one of the weakest second quests I've seen lately... you get to keep your shot types, but lose your actual level. So the random encounters stay tedious as ever as you play through again- but that's not the bad part. See, I actually kind of LIKE the enemies standing a chance, however miniscule. But the bad part comes from the unlocked Sigma Ship. Now, as alluded to before, SSS's most grievous problem is the random ship part of the random encounters. Many times, you could get stuck with one of the nearly-immobile toaster ships which is too large a safely pass through some of the shooter level tunnels. Each hit to the walls does a significant chunk off your life. It's all too possible to get stuck in an unwinnable random encounter. That's plain wrong, especially for the type of game it is. So the end credits state the Sigma starship is yours. I think, "Alright, this'll be cool."
Then I start a new game+ and play to the first batch of random encounters.
The Sigma Ship isn't there. Instead of letting me fly it as I'd expected, it just adds another goddamn ship to the random rotation. Oh well, at least on the second playthrough I'll have the chance to save Scarlet. And or kill Psyme. I did mainly beat it the first time through tugged along by the storyline though, so who knows when I'll beat it the second time through anyway. One thing that's bugging me a lot on the second playthrough about keeping the Gun Data is that I keep walking into out-of-the-way tunnels and caves and coming up empty handed because it's something I already had.
So what's with unlockable easy modes, anyway? Isn't it a little bit of a slap in the face to beat a game on normal, hard, or super-hard only to be given a watered-down quest, usually with whole sections of the world or arsenal given the snip-snip? You already know what's coming the second time through, why not give the player all the weapons in the world then up the difficulty to keep 'em on their toes? The easy mode pretty much killed the experience for me in Megaman Legends 2- bosses would croak before entering their second forms in the early game, there were no digger ranks to unlock, everything was pretty much just there for the taking. Which is fun in a Rambo-y kind of way, but kills the tension in the base defense level, and frankly anything cutting into the Tron&voice synthesizer battle is tragic.
To get off anecdotes and back on topic, I think MK: Deadly Alliance's Krypt is about the pinnacle of completely gratuitous, mind-numbing stocking stuffing. A craptillion of ambiguously-labeled gravestones, each requiring you to kough up Koins. It's one thing to take a dubiously useless thing like a 'kontent purchasing' system to cram a player's Memory Kard block to bloating, and another to present them with a craptillion vague choices. DARE YOU CHOOSE "F.U."?? WILL THE NEXT GRAVESTONE UNLOCK USELESS BIOS? 'KOSTUMES?'
Cooking with Scorpion could be a fun game on its own, though. Chopping and all.
One thing I seem to notice more of happening is the EVERY DAMN THING IS PLAYABLE school of thought. It's a lot cheaper now to do it, since you can just make a polygonal figure act like a player character without having to draw more poses and such. Since we all dream of playing as a cannon-fodder grunt against other cannon-fodder grunts with your 'special attack' commands taken up by the 'Wet Yourself in Horror' animation. I was playing Brute Force or some shit with some friends one night and ended up choosing a pale skinny sorcerer.. thing that pranced around like a ninny and shot unimpressive mind bullets at things it hoped would die. I don't recall if it ever worked. But damn if the way he ran wasn't worth the time we spent unlocking it! He made Gollum look like FloJo. But so what if he's a shitty character! 12+ UNLOCKABLE CHARACTERS! HOURS OF GAMEPLAY! HOT HORNY CO-EDS!*
*Don't you wish?
Nintendo especially now seems to be embracing retrogamers by hiding old games inside of new ones. Like classic Metroid being stashed away inside Prime. Or the hidden minigame in many N64 releases, Hammer Time. Which is less 'hidden inside' than has the player using outside objects to 'interact' with the cartridge in new ways. There are worse ways to kill a few empty bytes on a game disk/pak. Though I know in at least one case for me, nostalgia ended up winning over the game proper, I probably put twice as long into Dr. Wario as I did with the rest of Wario Ware. Well, except maybe the levels with J-Pop in them.
I propose we have a poster with a checklist of sorts that any game company should have to have displayed in a clear area (perhaps over top of those annoying OSHA guidelines or a map of fire exits.) Things like, "For every six hours that it takes to unlock this, GameCoInc promises one orgasm." Or a "Thank you, and sorry for purchasing Evil Zone" screen, unlocked when you pay for the game.
Of course, this seems like my one excuse to address the already-old news of the Hot Coffee GTA mod, since I haven't played any of them except Vice City (NEVER FORGET 80'S SPIRITS) for the chance to ramp a pink car through the air while the radio blares "Here in my car, I feel safest of all!" I think it was more than likely just a mod, considering it's a half-assed, pretty much fully clothed scene that more than likely cycles random hit/pain sfx from the rest of the game.
"(shriek of terror read as wave of passion)"
"(Cop voice: 'You're under arrest!')"
Blaming Rockstar for what its fans do is basically the same as the fizzled Marvel v. City of Heroes suit. GameGirl Advance gives an amusing take here. And kind of makes me want to rip off the Homer Simpson ripoff they made. I'll just settle for storming the streets with Yuri Sakazaki and Starscream. Oh yeah, can't forget my more recent one, DIVASTATOR, the pop singing combiner robot.
The biggest blessing, really for all of this is the fact every system's at least got a mandatory save function since there's less and less coming out new that can be beaten in one sitting. It helps save the rainforest, since gamers no longer need a half dozen cheat sheets for all the character codes in MK. Now it's just one or two, with directions to the remotest part of the game map to grab those last few magic doodads. But once you've done your time, it's unlocked for good to play with as if it was always there. And time-released content is at least recorded with every auto save. I'm just saying that playing as Justice in GGXX isn't quite worth playing arcade/endurance/mission mode for fifty hours- a trick which is easily offset just by turning the game on and letting it sit for a couple days. (No- time locking doesn't work.) I understand the whole idea, again! I know you all want to add more value to the game for its buck, to make it seem more worth that 30-50 bucks new than the one next to it. I'm all for good extras- more examples would be games that reward you with 'more game', like Wario Ware. Extra modes in fighting games are good, especially if they can do something beyond unlocking survival and time attack. Disgaea, there's one! Every ITEM has hidden levels inside it. There's hours of shit to do, and if you're not up to it, you can blaze a bloody path through the plot without suffering for no having the Hidden Item of Nigh Omnipotence.
But nothing I say can change the future- alas, it's too late. I'm afraid that one day, they'll make a game that you have to unlock the title screen for, by buying and finishing all of their other games. And I fear that the only company so deranged would probably be EA. IT'S TOO LATE FOR ME-
RUN AND TELL THE OTHERS