Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Why I Don't Care about Amiibo's

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ee/Amiibo_Group.jpg




Nintendo are a smart bunch aren't they? A bit slow sometimes though...especially when it comes to change that's forced on them, rather than change they can control like the smart phone situation. Amiibos are a result of Nintendo looking at Skylanders and saying, hey...we can do that! Amazing that it's taken them this long to come up with it, though it's not like they haven't dabbled in this sort of idea before with their Card Reader attempts. Clearly though, people like tiny statues more than a pack of cards that unlocks otherwise useless game additions as not to alienate people like me that don't want a tiny statue so I can re-skin Kirby in his game or whatever. I don't buy skin packs in games for 99 cents, why would I spend $13 dollars to do it?

That's the short of why I couldn't care less about Amiibos. The long of it is a bit more nuanced, and much more personal than practical than my short reason. I'm not writing this to convince anyone, by all means please go out and enjoy your tiny statues, it doesn't affect me in the slightest. Frankly, I'd prefer people did buy them so Nintendo can keep making my favorite games. 
 So...wait why am I writing this? I guess I hate fads, especially bad ones. I also consider myself a gamer who sees the funds he has in increments of "games." For instance, 5 Amiibos is the value of 1 AAA game. 3 of them is worth more than half of a game. Putting myself in my own shoes standing in front of a store shelf littered with tiny statues of Mario, and Super Mario 3D World and not wanting to leave the store spending more than $60 the choice is clear as day to me, and any other choice is baffling to borderline offensive to my senses. Clearly, I am choosing to get the Mario game. In the game Mario can do so many more things than take up desk space, that alone trumps the uses a tiny statue can provide me.

Obviously, taking the game centric view that I have about it that I do, the conclusion to buy a game is always the choice and the only choice and not everyone is like that, which again is why I am perfectly fine with people buying Amiibos if they want them. Though, the other layer to this is the fad craze that rubs me completely the wrong way. Nintendo is doing what Nintendo does and making the Amiibos in limited quantities to drive up demand. I can't blame them for this successful tactic, and I won't, but they have been...well...way too successful at it this time. These Amiibos have become another Beanie Babies as many have noted. The thing that irks me most though, is this time we KNOW what they're doing and people are still buying into it like moths to the flame. When the Beanie Baby craze happened there wasn't the internet telling us we're all stupid, we just had Fox News bringing that revelation and after they did that, the Beanie Baby madness stopped. Instead, these Amiibos were PREDICTED to do this to people, and it's still being written about on other gaming websites as it happens. People are being straight up informed their stupid lizard brains are being manipulated into buying these silly things and yet, they're still all the rage. I'm not sure whether I should be annoyed by the very effective marketing that's taken place here, or the collective masses who are most likely going to have buyers remorse years later much like the Beanie Baby collectors did.  

But, I don't really care about them and I'm pretty sure they don't want me to care about them while they enjoy their tiny statues, I'll use my money on things I want. That's how the market works after all, but I can't help notice the sheer amount of manipulation going on here to get people to think they want something they otherwise wouldn't want. It's the pet rock scenario shaped like a cute little Pikachu or Mario...god dammit they are cute aren't they...NO no...must regain control, yes...ahem where was I? Yes, so the point of all this blather I guess is to serve as a bit of a warning. As someone with a marketing degree, who's seen this all before, really ask yourself if what you want are tiny statues, or if you are being told you want tiny statues. If you don't really care either way, that's fine too, ignorance can indeed be blissful as they say, there's no actual harm here after all. Unless of course these things are a massive terrorist brainwashing plot conceived by Nintendo to rule us all! Think about it...follow the money...etc etc

*Nintendo: Allah Akbar!*











Final Fantasy Type 0 Review - Do You Hear the People Sing?

Final Fantasy Type 0 is not an ordinary Final Fantasy game of recent years, because this game is actually good, a big departure from the last 10 years of FF games. It still has some flaws, some kinks it needs to work out, but overall it is pretty good fun. You also have to tone down your expectations a bit as this was originally a PSP game, so graphically it's not the best. But let's go over this one a bit. Also, you should be checking out my stream as I played the whole thing on Twitch =) twitch.tv/acefondu


Graphics:

As mentioned the graphics aren't great, it's a PSP game blown up and retextured quite a bit to make it even remotely viewable. This isn't your ordinary HD release though, you can tell they put a lot of work into making the game workable for the big screen. There's only so much you can do though, and its hardware origins shine through with jaggies abound. It's perfectly tolerable though, and the frame rate never dips unlike the FF15 demo that came with the game which runs at a consistent 15FPS...Still, there's nothing here to impress graphically speaking except of course, some of the jaw dropping cutscenes that are done in CG.

Story (spoilers): 

There's not much to say on this game's story unfortunately, and mostly I have a negative opinion of it, however the game does contain some of the best scenes I've seen in recent Final Fantasy memory. There are three scenes in particular that bring a bevy of emotions in the beginning, middle, and end of the game. They are so powerful, and so moving that they make the otherwise completely boring plot tolerable. The ending of this game is probably my second favorite FF ending ever just behind FF9. Again, that's not to say the story was good though sadly.

It mainly revolves around Class Zero a group of students who have been tasked with stopping one of the three kingdoms from gathering all 4 Crystals to take over the world. It's told very dryly, with some very basic politics, and weirdly your own commander hiring one of your group to spy on the person that gave your team power.

No one's actions besides the evil empire kingdom makes any sense at all. Namely, the two characters you meet at the start of the game Rem and Machina who are essentially the main characters of the game. They join Class Zero to fight the good fight. Machina is tasked with spying on Class Zero (even though he's told this later as some kind of "revelation" to him (how the hell did he forget?). Machina never really seems to care about this, and this plot NEVER goes anywhere meaningful either. His main concern is to protect Rem at all costs who is dying from what appears to be a minor cough...., and he gets...well decidedly evil while trying to do so. Think Anakin Skywalker going Dark Side to learn how to be powerful enough to stop people from dying. Anyway, so Machina is hateful toward Class Zero even though they try to help him, he's just VERY mean overall and later becomes a l'Ce in hopes of gaining enough power to save Rem. This, again, never really goes anywhere. He ends up FIGHTING against Rem and stabbing and killing her at the end...which he then cries about....after HIS mask comes off....so I guess his mask made it so he couldn't see who he was stabbing? It's very unclear and another point against characters performing actions that don't fall in line with their character or just don't make any sense at all.

Anyway, he turns Crystal as l'Ce sometimes are want to do and that ends up saving Rem after they come out of Crystal stasis like...a few hours later. That's when the ending starts, and I'm not going to give it away, the game does that for you leading up to the final battle anyway, but I cannot recommend seeing it enough. It's very well done and the whole thing reminds me of Les Miserables if you've ever seen that play. Class Zero are the Students, they just are, 100% the same feeling. It's quite good.

I will point out one other aspect to the story I thought was a missed opportunity. Machina was clearly made out to be a villain, yet Class Zero never confronts him, you never fight him. Yet we really should have, it was a huge missed opportunity.

Gameplay: 

This was the most solid aspect of the game. The gameplay is very basic yet very deep. All 12 characters from Class Zero have a special way to play, they are ALL very different and fun. Everyone gets skills that suit their class type, Trey can rain arrows with his bow, Cinque can use her mace to cause an Earthquake, King shoots stuff with guns...etc. You'll find use for each of their unique move-sets throughout the game. Or you could play the way I did and discover Ace is good for every situation and wrecks everything in his path. The game is decidedly too easy if you over level any of the characters. Also, don't worry about over leveling for the final area all the enemies are level 16 for some reason...and you'll likely be in the high 30's by the end.

This brings me to the biggest complaint I have about the game. The end boss is effectively a QTE battle. It's not...really QTE....but you can't die, yet at the same time you're supposed to die. It makes sense for the story but as a gameplay element it makes no sense why you don't have a real fight at the end. If you play it you'll understand. There's literally no reason they couldn't have made this a legitimate battle. So yeah, this game falls prey to horrible boss sequences newer games seem to be doing these days for no reason at all. From Dying Light, to Far Cry 4, and Shadow of Mordor, developers have no interest in making final bosses anymore, even if they've made perfectly serviceable bosses earlier in the game. So it's not like they're incapable of making good boss fights, it's just that...they don't want to? Lazyness, budget concerns, I dunno why this trend continues but it's getting on my last nerve.

Music: 

Amazing, get this soundtrack, one of the best FF has produced in years. It's that good.

Final Thoughts:

Type-0 is in unorthodox game with its mission structure, strange time limit system between missions where each thing you choose chops off a certain number of hours leading you to "mission day," and paradoxically a terrible cast of characters surrounded by absurdly well directed scenes that make you want to care about them ever so slightly. This is the closest we've moved forward in the FF series since the dark ages of 12 and the 13 series to having something feel 'epic' again and filled with emotional value where the characters are invested as much as the player again. Kudos to them on this game overall. It's steps in the right direction, not leaps and bounds, but, certainly, it's good enough.

*FF Type-0....it's good enough*


Friday, February 20, 2015

What's Wrong With Destiny

A while back I wrote an article about how much I was enjoying Destiny and having a blast with it. Well, rose tinted glasses aside jump to...what 4 months later, and I couldn't hate the game more now...There's several reasons for this, but most of them have to do with how much Destiny has changed and what it's "evolved" into and in some cases what it's refusing to do.

Every so often Bungie will release a new update to the game, something that gets me excited and interested in the game again. Then they'll shit all over it by changing something else that I did like about it. To really understand where I'm at with this game we'll have to look over the history of it briefly.

Destiny has done some things right and some things wrong from the get go. The gun-play has always been good, and the multi-player competitive modes have always been pretty fun too. You could play the game solo, in a group, or do the competitive modes and have a blast and get the gear you needed, though it is arguably slower in multi-player to find the gear you needed. You could even farm a cave of infinitely respawning enemies for gear too. This wasn't just some random gear either, you were going for the legendaries, to have the best stuff available like in any game of this type. It was rewarding and fun, though super grindy but not unexpectedly so. You would also level up your gear by getting items found in the world, and you'd break down other items for those components too. It was simple, and easy and wasn't too ridiculous to do.

Jump to today....and it's a fucking mess. Philosophically speaking, the game gave players a choice initially like I outlined, letting you choose to play with a team or solo doing competitive modes, etc. However, the way that gear is obtained now the best items must be acquired through the Raids, which wasn't the case when the game first came out. This means grinding anything other than the Raids is pointless. Which, isn't a terrible thing, except that this game doesn't have match making. Bungie has stated many times they'll never add match making to the Raids because they feel you have to coordinate too closely with people and doing this with strangers wouldn't be any fun. They are, entirely full of shit however. Who just has 5 other friends lying around with nothing better to do than to romp around some online game for 4 hours on a Tuesday night? Maybe it's because I'm nearly 30 years old and most of my friends have moved to new States, or have kids now that this bugs me. It would be impossible for me to find 5 friends with the same schedule as me to get these raids done. That's why EVERY other game you can think of has match making. And Bungie is either arrogant or entirely stupid to think that people aren't just gathering random ass people on Gamefaqs or their own forums for teams. So instead of providing a sensible service like match making, they're making players do all the work for them. I find this to be either incredibly lazy, or incredibly ignorant, and in both cases it's not amusing to me.

I've been playing Diablo 3 for the past week and, honestly, it has only highlighted even more why Destiny is such a fucking failure. First of all, to find the items I need in Diablo 3 to make my character build work I don't have to have a team at all. I can play all the content Diablo 3 offers solo if I choose to. But it's built as a party game right? Of course it is, just like Destiny is supposed to be, except the major difference is I can join any game I want in Diablo 3 without signing into the Diablo 3 forums and begging to be on someone's team to fucking do it. You know what you have to do in Diablo 3? You click "join," and then you start playing.

Then the fanboys defend Bungie by repeating their rhetoric, "oh, it would be really annoying to play the Raids if a few people in the team suck and can't beat it." You know how Diablo 3 solves that very problem? A vote system to kick the player out. It works EVERY time without fail. If someone isn't pulling their weight, you kick them, it's done, and a new guy joins within seconds.

Why I'm SO incredibly pissed about this is because the game has "evolved" into forcing players to play the Raids if they want the best gear, or even SERVICEABLE gear now, or EVEN to get to the MAX LEVEL mind you. Which is utterly retarded. You know how I get to the max level in ANY game not named Destiny? I kill shit until I'm there. Done. I wouldn't be this incredibly upset if they kept Destiny's philosophy the way they intended. I would have no trouble playing their competitive multi-player and just saying screw off to the Raids and Weekly's. But no, you can't do that now. The competitive multi-player component nets you complete SHIT in terms of gear now. It's incredibly useless outside of just being fun. But for character progression? No, fuck that you have to do the Raids.

Outside of flat out hating the Raids in general for being butt-fuckingly horribly designed and boring, you can only do them ONCE a week anyway. What kind of grinding is this? If I want gear and I'm willing to play for it why am I being forced to pause the game every week? WHY? What kind of grind game is this? Diablo 3 doesn't make me pause the game for a week, I play it whenever I want to like any sensible game.

Defenders of the Raids saying how great they are need to seriously wake the fuck up too. Just because the Raids are different than the dreadfully repetitive shit you've been doing for 200 hours previous, does not automatically make the Raids well designed. Well...they suck, they honestly suck. Take the first Raid as an example. The first part is a mindless section where your team has to hold the area to make a door open. To be fair, this is the least offensive moment the Raid has to offer in terms of being horribly designed. The next section has us fighting off a bunch of singing...robot things...and if they sing too much your team gets cursed and obliterated if you don't walk into a circle of cleansing...that the enemy has provided for you in their home base apparently. This isn't such a bad concept but it goes on...and on...for like an hour. Then you fight a boss where 1 guy has to break his shield with a special weapon that once again the enemies provided for you (nice guys they are). This is a pretty fun fight actually, I have no complaints here. Then the game forces you into a stealth segment...the worst designed stealth segment in gaming history. Forget that this game isn't even designed to have stealth in it, and games that are designed with stealth in mind are usually pretty bad at it too, and you have yourself a shitty slow walk down a few hallways that makes me want to sniff used baby diapers for a half hour than EVER have to do this again. Next we have a large plat forming section which again is embarrassingly badly designed. Destiny is not a Mario game and it shouldn't pretend to try either, it just embarrass itself. Then there's the final boss...which when I played it was so fucking bugged you could push him off the ledge. Or you could have done it the fun way and encountered more lovely bugs like the portals not fucking working and causing your whole team to wipe because everyone got through but you and now you're blind and stuck on the other side....

YEAH...this is what Destiny fans call "fun." I call this a big fucking headache and I want nothing to do with it. Even if I did, I don't have the will power it takes to post on Gamefaqs for a squad to start one of these damn things. This is one of those commitments that would have to be started in a drunken stupor where I forget my own moral code and accidentally click a "join" button in the game....THANKFULLY Destiny doesn't have one of those! Far be it for a "social experience" to have a button labeled "join" right?

I hadn't intended focusing so much of this diatribe on the Raids, but honestly, that's Destiny now. You either Raid or you don't play the game because there's no other reason to play it. I'm just so pissed today because Bungie announced match making for the Weekly, and I got all excited and then they reiterated they're not adding match making for the Nightfall or Raids still. So like, wtf? That's like giving a starving man an apple seed while you walk away with a bag full of fully edible apples. Fuck off Bungie, seriously...

*Social Game Destiny....minus all those terrible social things in games like a decent chat system or match making. Enjoy!*

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Opinions Can Be Stupid

I learned something interesting today about the modern gamer, or at the very least one person in particular I had a debate with online. I have always held the belief that all opinions are valid as they are opinions but I'm struggling to find validation in one I heard earlier today. Someone had posted a comment that Sonic has been bad since Sonic Adventure because of the story, strictly because of the story mind you. For anyone who has been a gamer for more than a year of their life I would believe could point out how hilariously ridiculous this opinion is. Sonic has never been about story, he's been about game play and it's pretty clear. Sonic, like Mario became famous on well tuned game play and defined himself by being the faster edgier version of Mario. That's all we knew about Sonic really. He fought a guy who builds robots who...I guess was taking over the world? I dunno, it wasn't very clear but there in lies the entire point. We played those games because they were fun, not to learn some deeper meaning about golden rings or deformed flying foxes.

I don't need to beat this point into submission, it's fairly self evident if you're a gamer. If you aren't I'll set you aside and explain it to you better, lol. But the purpose of this blog is to ascertain whether this opinion is objectively stupid or not. The argument against it is simple enough. He could be a fairly young gamer who started out playing Sonic Adventure which had...some semblance of a plot I guess and he played it strictly for that reason. This is somewhat understandable given how terribly Adventure played (though still better than some of his more recent games), and yet I still can't help but call this opinion completely stupid.

If we just look at gaming in general we can see that it's a medium where the interaction between player and software is paramount. From the get go game play is king regardless of opinion, the very medium itself is about this. Games have indeed become more complex as we've grown and there are some that are more about the story than the game play such as Final Fantasy. But is Sonic one such game? Is the narrative so deep and compelling we can argue that's the reason we should play them? I've never met an individual that would argue this point until today. Frankly, if the story was so compelling why did it take nearly a decade to learn what the lead villain's real name was, Eggman or Robotnick?

Can we still argue that this person really does want to play Sonic for the plot? I mean, that is his opinion after all. But then we have to ask obvious questions. Should I be playing Devil May Cry for the platforming, should I be playing Tetris for its amazing AI, should I be playing Far Cry to improve my map reading skills? I think there can be a "wrong" reason for playing a game, and this would be one of those cases. If I were playing Devil May Cry for its platforming I would be ROUTINELY disappointed, but who's fault would that be? Would it be my fault for expecting great Mario-like platforming, or the game's fault for me not recognizing the game is about slashing demons? I think it's pretty clear, again. But maybe I have my blinders on? Let me know if I'm just crazy on this issue.

*Sonic=Shakespear*

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why I Don't Like Free to Play


I try not to have biases when picking games to play. Sure, I tend to avoid stealth games because I've never understood how avoiding things in a game was "interactive" entertainment, and that's one bias that will likely always stick with me. I had none going into the idea of these "free to play" games however. They come in all shapes and sizes, all types and genres, and all manner of quality and quantity. But they all have something in common, something that just bugs the crap out of me and immediately turns me off. It's not the micro-transactions either. I know full well developers need to eat too, so I don't begrudge this practice. Though, some handle it better than others to be sure. My issue is simply, what am I supposed to be doing here?
This isn't a question of how to play a game either. This is a question of, what did the designers intend for me to do, or rather what am I supposed to have to beat this game? In game development, designers give you things to beat the game. In Mario you are given Mushrooms at specific points in the game to make you bigger, and give you a chance to overcome harder challenges to come. The Mushroom is there for a VERY specific reason and was tested and intended to be there for you.

Imagine though if you will, a Mario game with no Mushroom. That you are handed the game where you must play through it with no Mushroom, no Fire Flower, no Starman. It would still be do-able to be sure, but it would surely be much harder, and definitely not as fun. Frustration would overcome the enjoyment of the game. Now imagine the game where you had to buy the Mushroom, or buy a Fire Flower or Starman. Imagine 100 other items on top of that, which are meant to assist in some way. Having never played it before, would you know whether you needed a Mushroom to complete the game, or would you think you needed something else? How would you know for sure? Are you willing to pay for something you're not sure was intended by the designers to advance in the game?

This is my dilemma with the Free to Play model. You're thrown in with rags and a pea shooter in most and the pause menu is littered with items for you to buy. What do they do? Am I overbuying, or underbuying? Did I just waste my money? What are other people buying to win? It's these questions and complications that pulls me away from these games. I couldn't care less if a game was "pay to win" that's how gaming has been forever. I paid $60 for Bayonetta 2, it came with ALL the items the developer intended to include, the good ones and the crappy ones. It was up to me to mess around with them all to figure out best practices and best combinations to win, and I eventually did and really that's part of the fun. It was $60 though, did I pay to win? I guess so, but so what? The developers weren't trying to trick me with this transaction. They gave me what was intended, a completed product built with purpose which Free to Play never is. They constantly evolve, update with new items and classes, and patches can even come around nerfing something you were winning with before.

On top of that, you have the issue of pacing. A lot of free to play games with a "pay to win" structure are dismissed by me on the notion of pacing more often than not. X person who paid $200 will get to the endgame and best gear faster than you will who paid nothing. Again, I don't care about this. As a gamer I just want to beat the game, see those lovely end credits so I really don't care if I'm the tortes or the hare. But many free to play games have a pacing issue so ridiculous that even playing 300 hours won't get you to the end, or to a point of some satisfactory completion because of hefty limitations imposed on the player because they didn't buy stuff. Once again, I don't mind that the developers need the money, but what am I supposed to get? Do I get the $30 plan, the $60 one, or is the $200 plan the "intended" or ideal increment to enjoy the game properly. Usually I have no way of knowing this, and if I'm expected to pay upwards of $100 for a single game then I will say no thank you. Would a game release at $100 and justify the kind of content free to play delivers? I highly doubt it. Many of these lack what $30 games can offer, or even $15 indie games like Binding of Isaac which has over 400 items in it (just think of the pay to win structure that game could have had).

The way free to play is structured makes it hard for me to understand the developer's intentions, and hard for me to understand what the ideal experience is. More often than not, that "ideal" experience is met with more than I'd like to afford in their game and often feels like a bait and switch. I don't think these developers understand that gamers don't mind buying your game if it's good, they just want to know what they should buy and don't want to feel cheated. It's a hard balancing act to be sure, and maybe it will never be a model that I can ever understand being such an old school gamer going back to the age of Atari.

So, I guess I have a bias against Free to Play games and it's not that I'm against paying for good content, I'm just not understanding what the "good" content is supposed to be.

*"You've reached the allotted number of quests for the day. Pay $10 for more quests or fuck off"*

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bayonetta 2 - Review

It's hard to review a game that's perfect in every conceivable way....

So I won't....

It's perfect, go buy it.


*Did you buy it yet? Get on that!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nintendo vs Mobile Gaming

I'm getting pretty tired of seeing articles about how Nintendo should get into the mobile gaming space. What is amusing about these articles is you really never see one of them on a dedicated gaming website, but instead on some analyst site, or news site. What sparked the debate was mainly from Nintendo's own stockholder's meetings last year when the Wii U was struggling even more than predicted. A transcript of that meeting was released where some at the meeting (who also do not understand the gaming market well at all ((seriously read the transcript they ask some honestly dumb questions)).

One of the things they bring up is mobile gaming and why Nintendo hasn't sought any revenue from that area of the market. What really bothers me about these suggestions isn't just that Iwata or Miyamoto doesn't feel there's profit to be had there or that they fear it will hurt sales of the 3DS, both logical assumptions, but that none of these analysts understands Nindendo's business model and how they've functioned all these years.

Nintendo is probably the most paranoid company in the world. They hold everything close to the chest and nothing more-so than their in house properties such as Mario, Zelda, etc. Their company model is entirely built on their hardware, and they need Mario to sell that hardware. They have stated in the past that if they ever leave the hardware business they would be done making games too. They won't become what Sega has become, a game publisher. They don't even VIEW themselves as game publishers for the most part. They view themselves as a company that makes hardware. They are not interested in making games for consoles they can't sell.

They not only see making a Mario game on the iPhone as an affront to sales of the 3DS, they see it even worse than that. Not only do they feel that would hurt the sales of their system by offering a Mario alternative, they see Mario as something that will SELL their 3DS. It's not so much that they mind you are buying an iPhone, but they want you to buy a 3DS too, and they're not going to do that by wasting energy and time making a Mario game on the iPhone. The software they make is strictly there to sell their systems, period. That's how they view this game business. Sell the console first and the rest falls into place, that's their business model. Once they sell you the console then everything else begins, sales of controllers, accessories, and yes, more games. But they always care about the consumer that doesn't own their systems yet.

Whether they are right or not about this stance, that IS their stance and their business model from ground up. They are very slow to change and very nervous about being in competition with their own hardware which is perfectly understandable. It's why Microsoft didn't want to put Halo on PC, they wanted to sell Xboxes. They reluctantly did eventually, but we haven't seen another Halo game on PC since Halo 2, methinks they took a page from Nintendo. If you want to sell consoles you limit the choices consumers have about getting the software they want. That's why first party games are so important to Nintendo and why they don't give a rats ass about third party games. They want to sell the consoles, period. Get with the program "analysts."

This is why you rarely see these articles on actual gaming sites because they KNOW Nintendo like I do, and they know it's absurd to suggest it.

*I am picturing Mario as an Angry Bird flying at a pile of Goombas....that could be fun...*

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time Heals All Games?

I have recently been running a test on a theory I had about 'bad games' or games when I played them I was disappointed in. The theory I had was that over time, my opinion of a game will change for the better. I've found that as I've aged I get more forgiving of a game's flaws, or notice them less, or even compare it to the current state of games and things I hate about them and have the old saying, "in my day" fond reflection on them.

Now I haven't taken this theory too far back yet, but my inclinations began by playing the PC re-release of Final Fantasy 8. I loathed this game when it came out. Firstly, it was a love story, a romantic drama and it didn't do it very well at all. It's not my cup of tea. I much preferred a fantasy or sci-fi setting for a game in which the story centers around a great protagonist and a great villain like what FF6 or FF7 gave me. I played it through again though recently, and, well it's still a god awful love story to be sure, but I noticed I was enjoying the battle system a lot more. Having been my third play-through of the game I was very familiar with it by now and knew what I had to do so I wasn't fumbling around a 200 page Brady Games strategy guide for my 40 hour trek. It made the game more enjoyable, and thus my opinion of it has softened from vile hatred to it's not so bad.

Similarly, I recently played through Bioshock 2 again and while my initial opinion of Bioshock 2 was basically, "it's not as good as the first," it was a much harsher opinion of it than I have now. I actually believe 2 is better than 1 now (though Infinite is the best still). At first I argued 1 was the best because it actually has a boss fight and your activities around Rapture a much more varied than Bioshock 2. But, I was ignoring how many great improvements 2 had.

Firstly, the characters of 2 are much more interesting. Sure, we all love Andrew Ryan from the first game, but the protagonist wasn't as involved as 2's was. In 2, you are the first Big Daddy, and you have a direct relationship with Elanor which gives the game tension and suspense throughout as you uncover their history. It's not nearly as detached as the first game. Also, the combat in Bioshock 2 is better as well as you get to wield a gun and magic at the same time. The music I also found to be much better also.

Bioshock 2 is really only mired in how you collect Adam as it's very repetitious...and also makes no sense. In 1 you kill a Big Daddy and choose to save or suck dry a little sister. In 2 you kill a Big Daddy and then you have to make her collect more Adam before you choose to save her or suck her dry? Why? It's very clearly tedious filler.

Never the less, my opinion of the game overall changed for the positive as years passed. I'm down to my last example though as I don't normally force myself to play a game that I remembered hating. Final Fantasy 12 is a game I absolutely hated when I played it. My opinion of it went like this:

"It's a game that starts off strong and then devolves into a 40 hour treasure hunt for Nethicite ignoring all the characters and their plights to basically retrieve what amounts to a nuclear bomb to win a war. The only two decent characters are Dr. Cid and Balthier. There's no airship or overworld despite having a pirate as one of the main characters who you are introduced as someone owning an airship. Characters actions makes no sense either. The battle system is an utter travesty as you have to rest your faith in the AI far too much. The License board should burn to the ground with how incredibly stupid it is."

I had a list of other complaints too at the time, but a lot of them have phased away. Sure, some of these have remained. Characters do make really dumb decisions like right after Vaan and Basche escape the prison they return immediately back to Rabinastre. They also move freely in Rabinastre afterwards, despite being wanted. Or why is Old Arcadia guarded by 2 guards that you must do a ridiculous 20 minute side quest to pass rather than just take them down. Or when Fran sends you ahead in her village to find Mjirn she comes to you later saying the wood told her Mjirn isn't here. The very next set of lines she's accused of not being able to hear the wood now, and in shame Fran agrees that she can no longer hear it. But...the wood just accurately told you Mjirn isn't here!  Of course, I need not remind you of the "I'm Captain Basche" incident. Still, overall the writing is damn good. There's a compelling story in here about an ongoing war, corruption and takeover, political intrigue, assassinations, and of course a band of rebels who take back what is theirs against all odds.

The basic structure of the game's plot is Star Wars when you boil it down. I can't tell you how many times I see Balthier as Han Solo and Fran as Chewbacca. But at a deeper level the writing is really well done. There's actually character development going on here unlike FF13 had. Vayne was a really good soft spoken villain as well and we got to learn about his history with his brothers and how he had been shaped into the man he is by those experiences. Larsa is a nice complementary addition to the drama too. Balthier is actually funnier and better than I remembered him. Ashe is much less dull than I remember too, but she's still pretty dull sadly. She's mostly stressed out by the loss of her kingdom and husband in such a short time. I also like how they don't shoehorn in a love story where it didn't belong. Ashe remains loyal to her deceased husband, not that she needs to, but there's a war on and it doesn't make sense for her to adjust her focus on a new relationship so the story doesn't go that way. The absence of this speaks volumes where most games would shoehorn that in because it's easy mode drama. You can tell the writers really stuck to their guns on the story, and made sure to have the characters act in as much a natural way as they could. Sadly, Vaan and Penello are still pretty useless and not focused on at all. They are as Vaan puts it "just along for the ride."

Still, my impression of the story had improved greatly after playing it again. My negative thoughts on the battle system are also washed away. The gambit system, though reliant on AI is programmable down to such minute details that it rarely screws up. It does a much better job than FF13 did. The license board is also no longer a complaint of mine. Actually, it's one of the games strongest points. Many complained about not being able to equip certain items and that it's dumb to not be able to wear a hat you buy at the store because you don't have the license for it. Logically speaking I agree, but focusing on character growth and progression options the license board does a far better job than FF10 or FF13 did, let me explain why.

RPG's often try to have systems that makes the player feel like they are having an input into how the character is customized and how they are formed, FF12 actually succeeds at this with the license board. In FF10 or FF13 you are following a designated path for each character, there's really no reason for you to be there. You could just level up and have it say +5 for str, there would be no difference, but instead you have to pause the game and select +5 on the sphere grid or crystarium. It's senseless. But in FF12 you get to branch your characters out with what armor they wear, what weapons they should use, what magics they can learn etc. You've chosen their path through the game, you feel as though you've had a direct input in their growth and it makes the game more personal this way. Sure, it's not the BEST idea in the world, but it feels nice, it works within the system and it's interesting.

My major complaints of FF12 have softened quite a bit and the game looks much brighter in my eyes. Will time have the same effect on other games for me? Should I go back and try Grand Theft Auto 4 again, or Metal Gear Solid 2? I cringe at the thought, but the at the same time wonder if maybe it's not such a bad idea.

*Superman 64 still sucks by the way*