Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adventures in Reviewing: Episode 1

I hit a wall with my last review: Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow. I actually quite enjoyed the game for the most part, but I don't feel like that shined through in my review, because while the game was more than adequate - it just wasn't gushworthy. The hardest reviews to write are those where you don't have a strong opinion either way. If I'm not shouting my love from the mountain tops or ripping a games' shortcomings to shreds, it's hard to make my review pop. That's exactly what happened with Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow. Here I went into the game not expecting much - the Blue Dragon games have been mostly average at best and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. When you go and change up a battle system for the third time in a series, it's hard to say how it will pan out. Here it did quite well. Also, to create a dungeon crawler JRPG in a dominate WRPG market for them and succeed, bravo! And while, I'll still stand here and defend that the game was a fun experience, it just didn't grab me to the extent where I had a strong opinion or huge entertaining antidote to share about my experience playing it. This is a shame because I feel like I should have had something great to say, but the words - they just weren't there.

For those who haven't read my work, I work really hard on writing catchy intros, I want to grab you from the start of my review, urge you to keep reading, and ignore the score for a second and focus on the content I've worked so hard to write. Anyway, I should have known when I couldn't for the life of me think of how to start my Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow review that I was in trouble. Usually, I can think up an intro as I'm playing the game. Heck, sometimes I'll have it in my mind or written down a good amount of time before I'm even set to write the review. I was grasping at straws with this one and kept putting the review on hold, because for some reason, I can't write until that intro is locked in. Not wanting to delay the review further, I went in and did a very standard intro. It got me going and once it did the rest came naturally to me. But perhaps it was the lack of that highly opinionated voice that didn't make this one of my strongest reviews. I went back and reread the review a countless times and the content is just fine in my eyes, but I can see where my voice just feels absent or like it toned itself down ten notches for this one. I'll always be my toughest critic and I always put a 100% into my reviews, so when others pointed out that it wasn't my strongest work to date - I did feel like I somehow failed.

Once again, I went back and kept rereading it. I thought of reconstructing it, maybe reworking the intro - and yet I couldn't. Because while the game was good - it didn't leave a strong enough impression on me to write anything better than what I did and if I sat here and tried to reconstruct something it just wouldn't represent how I feel. This is how the game left me: liking it, knowing it's one of the better dungeon crawlers on the DS, fully confident that this was one of the better Blue Dragon entries, but the question remains: is there any thing gushworthy about Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow? Alas, no, and that is what made this review one of my biggest struggles. But, I do get those three points across in my review and I should be happy that I succeeded in getting those words down, and maybe, for my readers, it says something when I can't fully get excited to write about a game. Hands down, the games that just make the cut and are alright, average or slightly above, are the most difficult to write about. So, maybe not every review can be my strongest or best, but as long as I get my points across and offer a commentary that exemplifies my experience with the game, I should feel OK. And maybe one day I will, but the perfectionist in me will still go back and reread and try to think where I went wrong, so it doesn't happen again. I don't think the perfectionist in me will ever let it go. I'm quoting a Felicity episode here: "The hardest part about moving forward is not looking back." I have to put this one behind me.

But I'll do one last thing for Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow, do it some justice if you will: does every game you play leave a strong impression on you? If it doesn't, does that make it a bad game? My answer to all those questions is: No (here's to hoping yours is too, otherwise my point is lost). Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow was addicting - just ask my boyfriend I stayed up many nights into the wee hours of the morning unable to put it down. I just had to beat these gosh darn hard bosses just to be able to prove to myself I could surpass the challenge. Maybe there's no strong overbearing impressions for you to take away from my review, but at the end of the day, I think many of you will like what you find in this game. A lot of us play games for various reasons - some for the challenge, some to pass the time, some to escape reality - whatever it may be, this game is worthy of that free time. Not every game has to be this earth shattering "game" altering experience - sometimes just being decent and slightly breaking the mold is enough. Most of us play for entertainment, Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow will entertain you enough and I don't think there's anything wrong with making a "decent" impression on a reviewer. It may not make the review the most entertaining one, but I don't think that's entirely a bad thing.

Look, I'm supporting this choice because I kinda feel connected now to Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow. We're alike in the sense that we don't always try to make waves, go for the spotlight, or try the whole bad press is good press angle, at the end of the day - we just try to make a decent impression, we just want to be liked. We don't want to overshadow others, and we also don't want to simply stand out because we've done something so poorly people can't help but talk. Oh, gosh, Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow is like my experience in high school all over again. Naturally, I think this is where this blog entry should end.

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