Thursday, December 6, 2007

General RPGs' Minigames 6: Fishing

Thanks to Queelez for helping me with some of this rant's content.

There are a lot of minigames (mostly bad ones) that you see recur in a number of RPGs. You can find some races, be they on horseback, snowboard, or crazy future car down a mutant-infested highway against a man that is also a motorcycle (Dear Online Gaming Community: FF13's Shiva design is not a new idea. This is something Square already came up with over a decade ago). At other times with other games, you may come across DDR-ripoffs, minigames that have you, for no particular reason, enter in certain combinations of buttons to a certain rhythm (you know, I bet DDR players would kick a lot of ass at those midway boss fights that do this in Dark Cloud 1). And of course, there's always RPG Casino minigames. Those sad, simplistic little time-wasting yawn-fests just keep getting recycled from one game to another over and over again, with each new version having even fewer significant differences from the old than a SquareEnix Final Fantasy rerelease.

But no minigame theme out there is as old, overused, and totally boring as Fishing. Goddamn fishing. It's everywhere--new RPGs, old RPGs, regular RPGs, action RPGs, good RPGs, bad RPGs. I suppose that I shouldn't find it all that surprising, considering that most RPGs come out of Japan, and like half their diet consists of (mostly tasteless) seafood dishes. But really, come on, game developers. You're putting in a minigame based on a pastime where you sit around waiting, possibly for hours, for something to happen. Maybe game developers originally came up with the idea as a way of making the rest of the game's repetitive, turn-based boredom gameplay seem entertaining by comparison. But that still doesn't account for its presence in games like Dark Cloud and The Legend of Zelda, which, as action RPGs, are relatively fun to play normally anyways.

Idiotic premise aside, I admit that the idea's execution wasn't so bad in some of its earlier incarnations. I mean, in Breath of Fire 1, it wasn't even really a minigame at all--you basically just equipped a rod and bait, went to a place with fish, pressed the A button, and got a free, sometimes fairly useful, curing item fish. In Breath of Fire 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, you threw your line out, positioned it near a fish, and then just reeled it in. Simple, straightforward, a little challenging but not frustrating.

But ever since the jump to 32 Bit and beyond, it's gotten long, stupid, and frustrating. Nowadays, when you have a fishing game, it's loaded with dozens of pointless, annoying variables, over-complicated, gimmicky, and mandatory at least once in the game. You have to pick out the right lures, go to the right spot (and most of the time, you won't be able to tell what kind of fish are in each place until you catch them, which is stupid because you won't know what lures to use to get them), cast out the line, and wait for the fish to randomly go for the lure (and this can take a fair amount of time). You just sit there, waiting. Who are these game companies making the fishing minigames for, at this point? Who goes and puts in a video game so that they can sit back and not play it? Then, if and when a fish DOES bite, you either have to pull and jiggle the rod all over the place in patterns which have no rhyme or reason, and seem like they don't work at least as often as they do.* Or, even worse, there's some random meter with a Safe Zone and a Not Safe Zone on it, and rather than simulating any sort of struggle for landing the fish, you instead reel him back by keeping your cursor inside the Safe Zone and preventing it from going into the Not Safe Zone on the meter. All this crap, and you may still also have to deal with needing to pick the right fishing rod for the job as well, or, even more annoyingly, actually level-grinding for your rod's stats.

Ugh. As is the case with RPG battle systems, the more time goes on and technology improves to the point of giving programmers the freedom to engineer whatever game rules they want, the more this minigame gets tediously complex and ridiculous. It's a simple pastime, it SHOULD be a simple game activity. The game industry needs to recognize that sometimes simplicity is best--minigame fishing still wasn't exactly fun back in the days of BoF2 and TLoZ:LA, but it wasn't infuriating and loathsome like it is now, either.

*I realize this sounds extremely gay. Shut up.

1 comment:

  1. Funny how Gannondwarf falls to the fishing rod in twilight princess