Monday, August 23, 2010

Simulation Games - They suck me in...

I believe it all started when I was in middle school and stumbled upon a game called Harvest Moon in the video store. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but as soon as I popped it in - I couldn't put it down. I could choose a significant other? And to top it off, I had to not only woo them, but also win over? AWESOME. I had to run my own farm and be productive, so I could get cool upgrades? I'll confess watching my farm grow was one of my favorite things to do. I beat the game multiple times just to see how different scenarios and potential romantic interests played out.

Then Theme Park took over my life. I just don't know what the pull is, but managing my own park was as delicious as chocolate to me. It's quite hilarious because in the real world, I'd dread doing all this work. And yet, when you put it into a game where not everything is on the line it becomes fun.

There's no denying the Sims has probably played an ultimate part in my simulation addiction. Let's have a family and see how the babies look - heck, I could marry whoever I wanted. And I'll confess, I usually made myself marry Colin Farrell - this was pre-boyfriend, I love you, John! But being able to pick my career out of the newspaper and get the job and then climb the corporate ladder was fun. I liked putting the effort in to getting my sim the knowledge she needed to succeed. And do you know what I think the pull is? We can have the life we want with a click of a button. If only in the real world it was as simple - instead you can work your butt off and still not advance in your career. And sometimes, you're not even working in the career path you desire. Maybe you are ready for kids in your life, but financial obligations always get in the way. Somehow, in the Sims, having children just seems so much simpler and cheaper. I think this is what keeps me playing: I can create the ultimate "me" in the Sims. I can have the money, the family, I can be a hot selling writer in the Sim world. If only the real world was as simple.

I think this is the draw of simulation games, whether you're farming, managing a theme park, or creating the ultimate you via a sim, you get to experience a different life for awhile or maybe get a peek into the one you always wanted. Sure, reality always creeps in and you have to face the harsh fact that none of what you are doing is real. And of course, people will say you're investing your time in nothing really - working hard at a life that isn't yours - wasting your life when you could be doing something productive. Hey, maybe we all need a break from reality - a look into a different life, something to give us a look into what could be. Maybe it takes away from the boredom of the nonstop robotic work schedule most of us have. And maybe it gives me hope that one day I can have everything that I've made my sim have. Maybe it won't be as easy, but it shows what could be. And maybe that's enough of a reason for me to keep playing - it helps me keep my zest for life and dreams alive and kicking. And perhaps having a break, by being a farmer for a day, isn't bad for the mind. I must say, it keeps me sane on many days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm getting tired of sequels and remakes....

Everything lately feels like it has been a sequel or remake. I understand both reasons for making them - if something catches on you don't want to abandon it, thus a sequel is born, and as for remakes, it gives those with nostalgia or those who haven't played the games a chance to experience them. However, lately, we just haven't seen much outside of these two areas. And I don't blame developers - creating games are expensive these days, especially for consoles. They don't want to waste their time and money making something that could potentially flop. But I miss the days of creativity, of trying something unique and new, and finding a new unexpected gem. It seems instead of trying anything new - developers just want to give us more of the same. They're afraid to break the mold and go against the grain...they're afraid to fail in this market.

I think the most difficult part of making a game these days is having it catch on. In this economy, gamers fear even more spending their hard earned dollars on the unknown. Like developers, I think we are afraid to take the chance. It can also be argued that whenever we do get something different, sales still tend to be down, despite how great the game is, and it makes developers feel like they wasted the effort. Well, I'd just like to say if I have to hear one more 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th in a series, I may need to scream. After a while, it all begins to feel the same - doesn't it? No matter how epic the first few games in a series seems to be, it does lose its appeal after awhile. And unless developers are able to spice things up, and even then you can only try to use so much spice to the same recipe, because sooner or later the flavor will be unappealing.

I guess, I want to be excited about a new game - one that isn't a sequel or a remake. I want something entirely novel. You know what game is looking pretty cool? Ghost Trick. I'm down with changing people's fates and having a presence even if I am ghost. Heavy Rain was also one of the most unique and intense experiences I've had with a game this year. My point is - these games are so far and few compared to the world of sequels and remakes. Honestly, I blame the economy. Developers and gamers just aren't able to shell out the cash like they used to on something isn't a "sure thing." Until things improve, I still see the future of gaming filled with a bunch of sequels and remakes. I'll yawn, but I'll play on secretly hoping I find more games that have the guts to do something new. I bet in another post, I could address how many pointless sequels and remakes, we've seen. I'll leave that for another post, but I bet you would all like that. Sorry this is a shorter post, I've been very busy lately reviewing (I'm not spoiling anything!), but wanted you to all know I did have some stuff that I needed to blog off of my mind. :-)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Namco Bandai - Bring Us the Tales Games We Deserve

I've always been a fan of the Tales series. Call it a guilty pleasure of mine, but there is just something oh-so-addicting about the series. I've had games I literally couldn't put down come from the Tales series. Heck, I had to have a friend of mine hide Abyss from me during finals week of college. Now, on to my point, since the PS2/Gamecube era (and even then that's when the trouble was starting), what have we seen from the Tales series? Poor choices.

I guess many will argue it started with Legendia. Now, I didn't find Legendia as horrid as most people (if you got past the whole Shirley crap, there were interesting characters that had a lot of charm), but it definitely wasn't the best Tales game. The whole Senel in love with his *annoying* "sister", probably wasn't the best plot point to release into the American market. Needless to say, Tales of Rebirth would have been the better choice over Legendia. We're all pretty bitter about missing out on Rebirth. There's no doubt in my mind, that almost any Tales fan who had the choice would gladly have taken Rebirth over Legendia if given the choice. Between this and not getting Symphonia on the PS2, the trouble started brewing.

Now since then we've seen Tales of Vesperia, which is a decent game, but by no means my favorite Tales game. It didn't have the ability to captivate me and the charm that comes with most Tales games was absent. And don't get me started on Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which was more than cringe-worthy. Symphonia is such a loved Tales game and that's the follow up we get? And while, Radiant Mythology had its fun moments, it won't win any awards.

So, what the heck happened? Sigh...More poor choices.

Let's talk more about Vesperia. It was at least decent and while Japan saw a PS3 release of it, it was absent from other regions on the PS3. Why don't you just stake the Tales series in the heart and not give PS3 owners a chance to play it? I know there are other games that never made it past Japan (mainly all of the DS releases - grrr), I'd really like to play Tales of Hearts. Namco Bandai, seriously? In this market, especially for RPGs, handhelds are where it's at. What missed opportunities. Fans want to play Tales games, but how can we stand by when we are constantly getting the worst of the Tales games or getting nothing at all?

Recently, three new Tales games were announced: Tales of Graces PS3, an untitled new Tales game for PS3, and Radiant Mythology 3 for PSP. And while part of me was happy to hear the series was still releasing new games, I can't get excited. Why? I'm not sure we'll see any of these games outside of Japan. Radiant Mythology 3 is a definite no - we never saw two and I also agree that this isn't quite the series that needs to be brought over. The two games I most want from this list is the two PS3 games. If I don't see either one, I will be pissed. I want both, but I know how this works: we all get excited at new games being announced and then we never see them. Namco Bandai, do your fans a favor and mend the wounds of your past mistakes and give us the games we deserve. It's so sad that I can't get my hopes up about this announcement. It's sad that your fans just know not to put any faith or stock into you bringing over these games. You can either revive the Tales series or just continue to let it flounder until fans finally just accept that it's sunk and move on to a new series.

For those Tales fans needing something to play in the mean time - I suggest Arc Rise Fantasia. It may not be a Tales game, but it feels like one, a fun addictive JRPG, that will begin to remind you that we need to hold the Tales series to a higher standard.