It has been a long time since I did a Minigames Rant, folks. And I was okay with that. I was okay with that, because it meant that I had not encountered or remembered any particularly terrible minigame in an RPG since that latest Minigame Rant. And the fewer notable minigames in my life, the happier I am. But alas, all good things must end.
So I was playing Dragon Quest 4, finally. I've kinda had it on the back-burner for a year or two now, but other games just kept distracting me, as each of them had the attention-grabbing virtue known as not-being-a-Dragon-Quest-game. But I finally did get around to it.
So. Chapter 3 of Dragon Quest 4. You're in control of an aspiring merchant, Torneko, who works in a local weapon store, with the hopes of opening his own and becoming a legend in the business. Well hey, that's fairly different, right? There's some creative potential there. You find yourself, against all odds, becoming ever so slightly interested in a Dragon Quest game. So you send Torneko over to his job, and get ready to make some cash.
And that's basically where the fun stops, clutches its heart, and collapses, never to rise again. For the next 5 or 10 minutes, however long the working day is in the game, you stand behind a desk, and when a customer comes in, you either sell them a weapon they ask for, or you buy a weapon they're selling. Then they leave, and you sit there until the next one comes in and does the same thing. Occasionally the customer will realize they don't have the money or inventory space for the item they want, and leave without making a purchase. If this process does not sound very interesting to you, then congratulations, you have more game development sense than DQ4's makers.
And even though the very concept of this minigame is boring and annoying, it isn't even as interesting as it should have been. Customers will make a note that they can't use the item they're about the buy if they're not the right job class or something, but as far as I can tell, that actually makes absolutely no difference--as far as I can tell, you don't get penalized if you're pushy and sell it to them anyway, nor do you get rewarded if you don't try to sell them the item, so there's really no thought or skill involved with this beyond hitting the "Yes" option over and over. And you can try to haggle the price, sort of, but the process for doing so usually involves you refusing to sell the item for its marked price, the customer assuming you're joking, and then the customer attempting to buy it again for that price. You have to repeat the cycle for half a dozen times before the customer offers to pay a tiny, tiny bit more for it, making it a waste of time--not to mention that you run the risk of having the customer just leave after all. So what tiny variations are available to you just make this game a greater waste of time than ever.
So after turning all sense of self-awareness off for 10 minutes so you can properly appreciate "Wait for People and then Hit the A Button: The Minigame," the day ends and Torneko's boss comes up to pay him his commission on what's been sold. And how much is that reward? For a full day, it's usually around 100 Gold. Now, there are a few RPGs out there in which 100 (insert appropriate currency here) is a significant chunk of change. Dragon Age Origins, for example--100 Gold Sovereigns would be a tremendous reward for a minigame, or really anything else. But in most RPGs, 100 Gold is more or less nothing. And Dragon Quest 4 is in this majority.
Reeling at the fact that Torneko makes the worst commission in the history of mankind, I hopped online to see whether there was something I was missing to all this, whether there was some secret reward beyond the pocket change required to buy a small handful of bottom-tier healing items. And hey, turns out there is--the customers seeking to sell a weapon will, on rare occasions, have a Cautery sword for sale, which is massively more powerful than every other weapon available to Torneko for the rest of the chapter. You can apparently have the store buy the Cautery Sword, then leave and come back to buy it yourself--as long as you can manage to get the hell out of the place before another customer walks in, wants it, and you get stuck telling them No three dozen times before they finally get the hint and leave. So hey, there's SOME reason to keep doing this, at least, so I figured I'd stick it out and get that sword.
Here's an idea of the time this will take to do.
First of all, of any given customer that walks in, I'm gonna say there's only a 1/4 chance that he/she will want to sell instead of buy. Once you've got a seller, there are 6 possible weapons they can choose from to sell, 3 that are in the store and 3 that the store doesn't normally carry, of which the Cautery Sword is one. But the chances of them selling any of the 3 that the store doesn't carry is only about...1/3, I'd say. Rough guess. And of those 3, based on how often I saw each come up as an option, I'd say there's only a 1/4 chance, at best, that it'll be the Cautery Sword they've got. Again, rough estimate.
So. 1/4 x 1/3 x 1/4 = roughly 0.02083, with the 3 repeating after that. So at any given time, the chances that the next customer to walk into the shop will sell the Cautery sword is about 2%. I don't know the actual values in the game, so maybe the odds are actually better, but based on how long I was sitting there bored out of my mind, I'd say this is a fairly accurate number. So chances are that you're going to be bored by this nonsense for a good, long time if you're playing it for the only reason there is to play it at all.
I really don't know what the hell they were thinking when they made this thing. I mean, minigames are stupid wastes of time in general, but this is just incredible in how terrible it is. I mean, just plain wow. This minigame is so mind-numbingly dull...I don't know if I can even properly describe it. It's like Enix wanted to give you a break from the normal boredom that comes of playing Dragon Quest so that you could do something MORE boring. "They might not be bored enough after 2 chapters of no character development, a vague plot, bland music, and endless, boring random encounters--let's give them a REAL treat and crank up the monotony!" the developers said. This minigame is so terrible and dull that it makes me actually wish I were back at my REAL retail job. The act of brushing your teeth is a more exciting venture than playing this minigame. It's so boring, I'm surprised it didn't come from Suikoden 4--and THAT game is so dull that it feels like someone took enough Novocaine to numb an elephant and injected it straight into your brain's pleasure center. Ugh.