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Double Standards for Video Games

By: Zanpakutou posted at Jul 17, 2011 5:29 pm

Category: Other, Game: Default, 4825 Views

Tags: double   standards   video   games   flame   rant  

This is just going to be a long rant. If you are reading this, this is what you are going to get. My main inspiration from this is the IGN and Gamespot reviews, which tend to be heavily biased in their reviews of games. Big name franchises get a pass as great games while smaller ones get called out for repetition. The point of this? Games need to be judged individually on their own OR taking other similar games including their own series into account. They should not be choosing just one or the other.

 

One of things that I have noticed over the years is that the big name titles draw much more attention and are much more accepted into the gaming world as something great and awe inspiring. The problem is that not much changes between the games and they have become franchise games where they just release a game each year with a little reskinning or change of location. When another game tries to do this, they get called out for being a copycat game and just repackaging their old game and trying to sell it as something new. However, the big name titles don't really get penalized for it.

 

The following will be pretty much a case study that I made using some more well known games. The main focus of this will be Dynasty Warriors being known for a button masher full of nothing but repetitive hack and slash. It also gets accused for constantly repacking the same game over and over again and selling it as something new. For this reason, the game seems to be hated by everyone but the fans of the game. However, we need to take a closer look at it. The thing is, they seem to be the only ones who get called out on it for being a button masher and being repackaged. Ironically, they also tend to forget that the first Dynasty Warriors game was a fighting game and just label it as the nth game in the series and has been doing the same thing. Dynasty Warriors actually retains many elements of a fighting game if you just took the time to stop and pay attention to it. This is something that many other games today fail to notice. For example, we have grab (don't think it is in the newer ones), block, dodge (dodge roll), super moves (musou), combos, and special moves (charge attacks and specials). Name another beat em up game that has these qualities. I can tell you, most don't.

 

Lets see some of the changes that the Dynasty Warriors system has tried to make over the years. The first is the bodyguard system. You had the opportunity to bring in some AI who followed you around and helped fight along side you. This opened up new game mechanics such as the Double Musou, which was normally restricted to 2 players. This might not seem like much, but this was the base for something much more important. In my opinion, this is the start of the entire Empires series of Dynasty Warriors. For the first time in an action based army game, you had the ability to develop and customize your squad/army to a degree. In the Empire games, you had the option of choosing how to develop your army whether you wanted more soldiers, better weaponry, or better officers. In Dynasty Warriors 6, there were also branching paths for powering up your character. You could eventually learn and max everything though.

 

This leads to the second point, customizeable weaponry. We know in a lot of shooters, you can use various guns. In some games, you can modify and upgrade your weapons with better ammunition and modifications such as larger magazines. Well what if I told you Dynasty Warriors sort of does the same thing? The older games aren't as interesting as weapons were randomized and the stats you got on them were fixed. However, lets take a look at the Warriors Orochi series, which in my opinion has the best customization in the series. The reason for this? Warriors Orochi X had a grand spanking total of 96 or so characters with different movesets, weapons, and customization. The only downside was the fact that you couldn't make your own. There were 3 character types, Power, Speed, and Technical which each featured unique bonus abilities and  traits. Each weapon could be upgraded to have 8 additional skill slots in addition the ones equipped on your team, 20 more attack power, and 3 bonus traits if you had the materials for them. Considering that you had 2 dozen or so bonus traits to choose from and a bunch of skills on your team, you could customize everything to suit your style. I found it ironic that these features were heavily ignored. Dynasty Warriors 7 took this one step further by allowing any character to use any weapon. However, characters had unique skills they could only use with their preferred weapon. Had they given one unique weapon to each character, it would have been awesome.

 

Now comes what I think the series lacks and that is presentation. The thing that makes a great game is how others perceive it. The best way to make your game look good is to have a high budget team make high quality cutscenes that are fast and with lots of explosions like a typical action movie. Bonus points if it is not prerendered. This is what Dynasty Warriors lacks. Good cutscenes would greatly increase the presentation of the game. Who wouldn't want to see Lu Bu on Red Hare jump down from the top of Hu Lao Gate, double jump off Red Hare and make a straight charge for your commander destroying everything in his path? Dynasty Warriors has attempted to present everything in larger scale with more soldiers and combat against multiple enemies to compensate. They can't do the same sort of crazy suicide charges primarily because they are using melee weapons rather than guns. A suicide charge with a melee weapon is pretty much suicide. However, if we look at other games, this doesn't seem to be a problem. Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce was the only one to get a good review despite being Dynasty Warriors 6 repackaged with the new "Super Mode" for each character and the addition of giant monsters. It has the missing glamor and over the top action that other big name games have.

 

One major complaint about the series is that the characters don't look quite right. People forget that the game is Japanese, which means the characters kind of look more Japanese. This means that what is perceived in the west as skinny, effeminate, and flamboyant is present in normal Japanese society. If you watch dramas, you might notice that the male leads often look like this and so do models. The only thing different tends to be their attitudes. The Western equivalent is the male musclehead suffering from testosterone poisoning (look it up if you don't know what it is) with guns half their size. This is the Western normal and as much as people try to deny it, culture has affected our preferences. Dynasty Warriors is a big hit in Japan because it suits their tastes, while Call of Duty doesn't and as a result performs fairly horribly by comparison. Just take a look at console games. Xbox 360 in Japan = poor, PS3 in Japan = win. Xbox 360 in America and Europe = win. PS3 in America and Europe = poor. The main difference? Their games. Japan likes their RPGs, Adventures, and Graphic Novels. America and Europe likes their FPS and Action games.

 

Thus comes Devil Kings. You may ask, what is Devil Kings? In the simplest terms, it is the Dynasty Warriors "clone". It plays much like any Dynasty Warriors game where you play one character pitted against an army of many. Each character has unique moves and combos. You go around killing officers and stuff. Sounds familiar yet? If you haven't realized it, it is very similar to Dynasty Warriors, but around a millenium and a half later chronologically resulting in guns and such. The AI is absolutely useless in this game. You do everything yourself and if you kill the enemy general, their entire squad gets "stunned" and sit on the floor waiting for you to kill them for quite a long time. Somehow this game got a higher score than Dynasty Warriors simply because it looked better. The point of this is that the presentation of the game seems to be more important than the game itself. Just compare videos of the games and you will see what I mean. There's a reason why Sengoku Basara/Devil King games aren't being continously made like Dynasty Warriors games.

 

Now lets take a game that exploits repacking to the maximum possible, sports games. These are games like NBA 2011 and Madden 2012 and things like that. The only significant thing that changes between these games is the player roster. Much of the game plays exactly the same. Character models become more realistic and detailed. However, is that really something that different? You could just download new character skins and updated rosters. There is no need to release a new game. I can tell you playing NBA Courtside on the N64 is very similar to playing NBA 2k11 on the PS3 overall if you don't consider the new game modes. The main thing that changes is the roster. Graphics and animations have improved dramatically though. For some reason they don't get called out on this. Take into consideration that new players and rosters could easily be introduced through DLC. There is nothing to change but a few character skins. You could technically do this for each console generation at this point. There is no need to release a new game every year, but they do. Why don't they get called out on this like Dynasty Warriors?

 

This next part will be a second set of comparisons that focus on RPG games. In Japan, we have Final Fantasy (online versions will not be discussed here because they are MMORPGs). In America, we have the Elder Scrolls series. I will also discuss Fable for a bit simply because of a few things in the game. These games were chosen because they are big names with fairly big budgets. I think lot of the flaws of the games have to do with cultural preferences rather than actual quality issues. In my opinion, America likes the 360 more due to Action, Sports, and FPS. Japan likes PS3 more due to RPGs, Adventure, and Graphic Novels.

 

First comes Final Fantasy because it has been around longer. This makes it easier to call out on repetitiveness. First off, Final Fantasy as we know it didn't really start until the 4th game in my opinion. The first 3 was pretty much make your own party and go. FF4 felt like the first true coherent game with a full story to me. The class system was also around then before being dropped. It was reintroduced later on before settling for fixed classes once more. The importance of this is to show that while Final Fantasy has been around for a long time, it has tried new ideas and has attempted to try different things or combinations. I will discuss the concept of "Fridge Brilliance" ideas later on as well as they are a big part of Final Fantasy in my opinion.

 

Funny thing about Final Fantasy is, it doesn't get blamed for repackaging and reusing the same ideas. People call it stale and nothing great, but it consistently receives good scores and is generally accepted as a great game. The most noticeable is the job system. It was a big deal in 1, 2, 3, 5, 10-2, and 12 of the main series. Lets not forget about the Tactics or Tactics Advance games. Despite being reused a dozen times, no one really calls them out on it. They are similar most of the time as well. You learn skills by using the class and advanced skills eventually unlock this way. In some cases, you can give the skills of one class to another class if you wish. 1, 2, 3, and 5 are very similar. 6, 9, and 12 are quite similar as well. 10 and 13 are similar. The problem is none of this is called out on. The first set used the job system, 5 only introduced the ability to change between them between battles. The second set used fixed character classes, but 12 allowed you to unlock access to everything at some point. 10 and 13 utilized the same sphere grid system, just a different way of presenting it. Somehow, this wasn't labelled repetitive by most reviewers and they keep calling it something new despite being done already. The one thing they do very well though is creating the world and its atmosphere, something that Western games seem to lack due to the open ended options.

 

Something that contributes to the atmosphere of the game very well is the concept of Fridge Brilliance. Fridge Brilliance refers to something that you don't  really notice at first, but it makes perfect sense in context. It includes subtle hints of foreshadowing or an event later in the game that pays credence to something that happened previously in the game. It gives the game a better flow and a more satisfying conclusion of story events because what happened before matters. Unfortunately, open ended games kind of miss out on it because the concept of open ended games makes Fridge Brilliance extremely hard to do. Quests are rarely tied together with the exception of a follow up quest. The main story events are far and wide apart and paying credence to prior accomplishments is difficult because nothing is really in order. Open ended games just makes this really hard to accomplish due to many parts of the game not being in any specific order. Witcher 2 allows you to make it up as you go along with fixes this problem.

 

For this concept, play Final Fantasy X and then Final Fantasy X-2 in order. This is probably the best way it was done. You have to pay close attention though because you might miss out on it. Here are a few, just in case you don't see them. In FFX, Yuna is a summoner who has several jobs. One is to defeat Sin to bring the calm and one is to put the souls of the dead to rest. In FFX-2, Yuna might have changed classes, but her duties as a summoner still remained. Tidus' soul was never put to proper rest. His spirit was pretty much "sent" and he vanished against his will, which meant that he could return. He also wasn't there when Yuna tries to call to him in the Farplane. Tidus went with the rest of the Fayth at first, but returned because he had unfulfilled promises (like the Guado guy) in the world of the living. Shuyin and Lenne were still roaming around the world as spirits and were from Zanarkand. That means after the Fayth disappeared, those from Zanarkand were still somehow tied to the world of Spira 1000 years later and thus Tidus was also tied to the world 1000 years later. 

 

Big name games also get away with game breaking bugs. Morrowind and Oblivion had game breaking bugs early on that had to be fixed with patches to make it playable and not crash every 30 minutes. Had it been any publisher, they would have been called out on it. However, they tended to let the Elder Scroll series and Fallout 3 slide. Somehow, with all those problems, they earned themselves Game of the Year despite being unplayable for a decent number of people for the first month after the release. Other games wouldn't have been able to get away with this.

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