Sunday, October 28, 2018

Final Fantasy 9's Fratley: My Hypocrisy in Disliking Him

My disliking a character that a game’s writers didn’t intend me to is not exactly a new thing. Usually, though, my unanticipated distaste is not something irrationally subjective, but based well enough on hard evidence and reasoning that I can defend my dislike to my satisfaction, as shown by my rants on such characters. That’s not to say that my opinions are entirely objective--I daresay I have yet to encounter a person so lacking emotion and personality that their opinions are not even a little bit subjective--but they’re well-supported enough that I feel I have at least met my own standards for rationale.

Nonetheless, we all have our failings, and playing The Witcher 3 has recently exposed 1 of mine to me: namely, my long-held disdain for Fratley.

In The Witcher 3, Yennefer of Vengerburg, a major figure in the Witcher novels, makes her entrance to the game trilogy, and she’s somewhat displeased with Geralt’s romantic actions in the past couple titles. See, Geralt has had a longstanding romance with Yennefer in the novels, ever since some business with a djinn bound them together in fate. While I have my own opinions on Geralt’s relationship with Yennefer, it is a fact that as of the opening of The Witcher 1, Geralt and Yennefer are together. As The Witcher 1 begins, however, Geralt has lost more or less all of his memories, including those of Yennefer...and over the course of the game, Yen’s best friend Triss takes distinct and repugnant advantage of that fact, and gets the horny dope to start a romantic relationship with her, which continues through the majority of the second game, until circumstances and Geralt’s returning memories draw the affair to a close.

Yennefer is understandably vexed by this.

She does not solely blame Triss, either. Upon their first real chance to converse, Yennefer makes a snide comment about Geralt’s lack of fidelity, and she brings this up a couple more times later on in the game, as well. You can decide what response Geralt has to this, but what seems the most typical response from players, and the defense that they themselves hang their hats on, is that Geralt doesn’t need to feel guilty for his episode with Triss, because he had no knowledge that he was being unfaithful due to his amnesia.

I myself take this stance. Triss may be a duplicitous fucking snake, because she knew damn well the nature of Geralt and Yen’s relationship and decided to take advantage of the oversexed sod anyway, but Geralt did not remember it, and because he did not, you really can’t say that he was capable of giving consent to the sex and relationship he entered into with Triss. The most basic, important aspect to the concept of giving consent is that you are informed enough and intelligent enough to do so. A child may very well agree with no coercion to have sex with an adult, and a dolphin may initiate a sexual advance on a human being, but even though each is voluntarily agreeing to or even asking for it, they are not capable of giving consent. The reason for this is that neither one is emotionally advanced enough to understand what they are getting into or asking for. They are not well-informed enough about the concepts of sex and love for their consent to count.* Likewise, in not remembering any detail of his personal relationships with others, Geralt is incapable of giving informed consent, so the fact that he willingly entered into a relationship with Triss while his mind was in such a state cannot, I think, be held against him, and while I sympathize with Yen’s hurt and frustration, she is not right to hold it against Geralt.

So, being that I am capable of this reasoning, why have I always held a grudge against Final Fantasy 9’s Fratley for breaking Freya’s heart by forgetting her? Why, indeed, am I still unable to relinquish my scorn for him?

Why can I forgive Geralt infidelity to the woman he loves during amnesia, and yet hold fast to my disdain for Fratley for having hurt Freya by forgetting about her during his travels? Fratley has not even unwittingly cheated on Freya the way Geralt has Yen, at least not that we know of. If anything, Fratley’s sin should be even easier to absolve in my mind than Geralt’s was. And yet I still blame him. I can accept Yen’s forgiving Geralt and the two of them being together once again, if that is the direction the player takes Geralt in romantically (even if, as I have said, it is not the choice I believe in), and yet Freya’s portion of Final Fantasy 9’s ending, in which she and Fratley are together once again even though he still doesn’t remember their history, is perhaps the 1 and only aspect of the brilliant game that slightly repulses me.

Seems hypocritical of me.

My inconsistency has bothered me greatly for a couple months now, as I should hope hypocrisy might plague the conscience of anyone, even on so small and unimportant a detail as a video game hobby. On thinking about it many times over a decent period of time, all I can say is that the situation with Fratley seems different to me, and in that difference my capacity for hatred makes its home. Fratley’s situation stands apart of Geralt’s, to me, for 3 reasons:

First, we actually do learn why Geralt lost his memories, and it’s a pretty legitimate reason, having to do with being kidnapped and brainwashed for a time by the Wild Hunt, whose dread magical powers are so terrifyingly advanced that most regard the Hunt as a supernatural, godlike force beyond mortal means to resist. Eredin, king of the Wild Hunt, put a hell of a whammy on ol’ Geralt, and his doing so is something we can easily accept the legitimacy of after the subtle but significant hype the trilogy has given to the Wild Hunt.

On the other hand, with Fratley, we never do find out what, exactly, it was on his journey that just up and caused his lifelong sweetheart to slip from his mind as though she were a loaf of bread he’d forgotten to write down on his grocery list. I mean, it is entirely possible that Fratley’s reason might be every bit as reasonable as Geralt’s, or even more so, but we never find it out! And when you get right down to it, in a circumstance like this, in which Fratley is the individual doing horrible emotional harm to Freya (even if inadvertently), the natural response for the audience is to blame him if sufficient context isn’t given.

It’s like, say, if I told you that some guy’s feelings were deeply hurt because his girlfriend cheated on him with another man. Your instinct, at knowing these very vague overall details, is to think that the woman is unarguably in the wrong. Yet it might very well be the case that the boyfriend is, in fact, a physically and emotionally abusive partner, who has destroyed the woman’s concept of self-worth and who uses the threat and occasional application of physical harm to repress her, while the man she cheats with sincerely cares for her, values her as a person, and makes her feel like a real human being again. With that context, suddenly our first instinct to think the adulterer is in the wrong melts away into sympathy (at least, I certainly hope it does). But, as a general rule, those who cheat are in the wrong, so although there are (sadly) many cases in which the circumstances more or less exonerate them, we comfortably retain our natural assumption that a cheater is in the wrong, unless better knowledge of the details proves otherwise.

That is, I think, part of why I don’t find myself able to extend the same forgiveness to Fratley that I do to Geralt for their similar crimes of emotionally hurting their lovers: because I know how it came about in Geralt’s case, and I can reason out that it’s not his fault. But without any knowledge of how Fratley came to forget Freya, all the context I have is a miserable, forlorn woman who deserves better, and the man who’s put her in this unhappy state. Is the truth of Fratley’s condition as understandable and forgivable as Geralt’s? It might very well be. He might even have a better explanation! But we’re never made privy to it, so my knee-jerk reaction of dislike has no concrete rationality to combat it.

Secondly, I think that there’s something to be said about the differences in how exactly Yennefer relates to Geralt, opposed to how Freya relates to Fratley. Yes, in each case the forgotten woman is the lover of the amnesiac, but the roles each plays in the lifestyle of each man are different. Geralt loses all memory of Yen and nearly all memory of everything else, but he does have, if I recall correctly, a vague understanding of his life as a witcher, even if all details and specifics of it are temporarily lost to him. Similarly, even though Fratley has lost almost all of his memories of his life, his sense of duty and his devotion to his country and its ruler nonetheless lead him back to Burmecia and Cleyra--he may not remember the how or why of it, but his need to protect his liege and his people is too ingrained in him to be forgotten, even when all else is. Both Geralt and Fratley have too much of themselves intrinsically tied with their life’s work to fully forget it.

The thing is, though...well, this doesn’t affect my forgiveness of Geralt for not remembering Yennefer, because although she has joined him many times in the course of his adventures as a killer of monsters, she’s not an intrinsic part of his profession and duties, the only part of him that he still seems to recall any vague concept of during The Witcher 1. But with Fratley...Freya’s not just his sweetheart, she’s also his fellow warrior and knight in service to the land and crown of Burmecia. And as such, it just sort of feels to me like there’s more reason to expect him to remember her, anything about her, even something just so small as the inkling that he had love by his side in his duty, or a feeling of missing something important even as he stands as the protector of Burmecia that he instinctively knows he is. I dunno, I can’t help but resent the fact that he could remember enough about his devotion to take up arms for his country as a knight once more, but his love wasn’t strong enough to piggyback on his sense of duty even when the woman he loved was directly tied to it.

Finally, and most importantly for myself, I dislike Fratley for why he was put into the position, whatever those circumstances may have been, to lose his memory in the first place. You can’t really fault Geralt for how he wound up in the Wild Hunt’s clutches--their king, Eredin, kidnapped Yennefer, and Geralt gave himself to Eredin in exchange for Yennefer’s life and freedom. Geralt may have inadvertently wronged his lover when he fell for Triss’s manipulations and began a relationship with her, but the only reason he had been cursed with the amnesia that allowed that to happen was because he had been trying to rescue Yen to begin with. The hurt he caused the woman he loved is, ultimately, the eventual result of a failed but nonetheless spectacularly courageous act of love on his part for her.

Sir Forgetley loses his memories of Freya because he decided to leave her behind while he tried to beat someone up who was minding their own business.

I mean, honestly. The guy went on a quest to challenge the famed knight Beatrix, not because he was ordered to, not because it was for the good of his nation, not because she was known to be a villain in need of vanquishing, but because he just wanted to see whether he was better at stabbing stuff than she was. For this purpose, Fratley left his kingdom without its (arguably) greatest defender. And more relevantly to this rant, for this purpose, Fratley left behind the woman who loved him so desperately that she outright told him that she feared she did not know how she would live without him while he was gone.

We don’t know what happened to cause Fratley to lose his memory, but we know how he got put in the position to do so, and exactly how understanding can we be, really, given the circumstances? Fratley’s leaving his woman behind without showing the slightest remorse for it nor regard for her feelings, and taking a deliberate risk that puts his home and everyone he knows in danger, all because he’s a single-minded boob for whom beating other people up takes precedence over the happiness and well-being of his loved ones. Good fucking God do I hate the Goku/Vegeta/Bakugo/etc. anime archetype, the dumbass characters with such tiny micro-dicks and/or undeveloped micro-brains that they can't find any security in their manhood unless they can violently prove to themselves that they're stronger than anyone else, regardless of the cost to those around them. What the hell is up with Japan's obsession with them?

So the basic breakdown of this is, Geralt lost his memory because he threw himself at impossible odds against a foe regarded more like a force of nature than something that could be fought, for the sake of his beloved’s safety...while Fratley, on the other hand, lost his memory because he was busy LARPing as his favorite Dragon Ball Z character. Maybe he was jealous of Zidane’s origin story and felt the need to prove that he was the number 1 Goku fanboy around.

And that’s pretty much all I have to defend myself with on this subject. Those are, as far as I can tell, the 3 reasons I can forgive a character like Geralt for inadvertently causing his lover pain through his amnesia, but cannot forgive Fratley for essentially doing the same. Are they good reasons? No. I know they aren’t. One’s better than the others, but I know that they’re more emotional than rational, and I know that in the end, unless I’ve been a hell of a lot more convincing than I think I have and unless you’re a hell of a lot more lenient than expected, I am a hypocrite for holding a grudge against Fratley. The reasons I’ve listed mitigate my hypocrisy a little; they do not absolve it. Final Fantasy 9’s Fratley is simply a pitfall for me, a failing of mine as The RPGenius. Just how it is.

* This statement, of course, is highly generalized and thus potentially somewhat faulty, and then there’s the whole highly arbitrary nature of exactly what the age of consent is from 1 country to another, but as that’s not the subject of today’s exploration into ethics, we’re just gonna use the perfectly serviceable blanket statements and scenarios for now.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Radiant Historia's Remake's New Content and Add-Ons

Radiant Historia, 1 of the best Nintendo DS RPGs made and a personal favorite of mine, was recently rereleased for the 3DS, updated with a lot of new content. And I bought it. Which is something I really never do, honestly, because I’m opposed to the idea of having to pay multiple times for the same game, and I am morally outraged by the scenario of a developer coming up to me 10+ years after I helped support them with my patronage and telling me, “PSYCH! You think you played our game? That was just an incomplete first draft; THIS is how it was made to be played! Fuckin’ rube!” You wanna rerelease your game, fine, but could you maybe not go and add a bunch of new story content to it and make me feel like a fucking fool for having paid full price for what was apparently an incomplete product?

That’s not to say, I guess, that I’ve never purchased remakes before, in the technical sense. I did so for Skies of Arcadia, Romancing Saga 1, and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, after all. But the difference there is that I had never played those games’ original versions, so for me, I was, indeed, getting a new game for the price of a new game. With Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, however, I decided, on something of a whim, to purchase the new release, even though I had already bought and played it before. I really did love RH the first time around, so I figured, what the hell, I’d play the role of the non-thinking consumer just this once, as a thank-you to Atlus for it and the SMT series in general.

And so I bought it, and I played it, and I finished it. I’d planned to do a DLC rant on it anyway, as I do for pretty much any RPG I play which has add-ons, so why not also talk about the new content added to the main game, too? These add-on rants are meant to be kind of a review/warning for prospective buyers, anyway, so in addition to determining whether you should consider buying the DLCs for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, let’s also take a look at the remake’s new content as a whole, and figure out whether any of it’s worth it.

Spoiler Alert, here. I’m gonna speak about this game with the understanding that you already know the original release of Radiant Historia. I’ll try to keep spoilers for the new content to a minimum, but if you don’t know the game at all, this is not the rant to read for it--or at least, you should skip to the end, to determine whether you should play this port or the original.

New Content: First of all, I’ll credit Atlus with this: they ain’t SquareEnix. Although I would rather a developer not add/change anything when rereleasing a game, if they’re gonna do it, they should at least go all in. When SquareEnix, lazy pack of greedy asswipes as they are, rerelease a game, they basically just slap on a new optional dungeon, maybe a couple extra lines of dialogue to a super boss or two, and call it a day. I mean, Jesus, look at the Chrono Trigger DS rerelease. In SquareEnix’s eyes, 2 dungeons and some incredibly half hearted foreshadowing for a game that already came out over 10 years before is more than worth hitting your bank account for 40 HP. And let’s not even get into the debacle of CT’s recent release on Steam--if you somehow, after the past 25 years, still needed evidence that SquareEnix does not and never will give half a shit about its greatest creation, you sure as hell got it in February of this year.

Atlus, on the other hand? When Atlus decides to rerelease their time-travel classic, they add a bonus dungeon and a new super boss...and also voice acting, new character art, several pieces of art of important moments in the game, over 2 dozen new sidequest scenarios, a huge expansion of the known lore of the world, a new look at several of the preexisting villains as well as a perspective on a vital lore character never seen in the original game, a new hugely important character, and an entire new dimension to the plot that involves a post-game quest which leads to a new, final ending.

See, SquareEnix? This is what “effort” looks like. If you’re still confused, try consulting with your Silicon Studio team or your PlatinumGames group; apparently they’re the only people who have passed through your offices in the last 2 decades who have any familiarity with that term. And while you’re at it, maybe consult with them about the definition of “quality” and “dignity”, too.

So yeah. Atlus at least gave a shit about Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, and I can appreciate that. And I do have to say, a decent amount of Perfect Chronology’s new content is pretty good. Getting to see alternate worlds and explore snapshots of RH’s characters and events in the different scenarios than the main timeline allows for, histories with variations outside of Stocke’s control, is kind of neat at times. And I appreciate the fact that these little sidequests often require you to traverse back to the main timelines to complete them, because it helps keep your time spent with these possible histories connected to the main game--it would be all too easy to make these sidequests feel alien and divorced from the main narrative, given their nature as new content, so having you do the usual back-and-forth hopping through history for them, like you do normally in the game’s main story, is good for keeping them grounded.

I also think it’s very cool that the rerelease finally allows you to see and engage with the Prophet Noah in these possible histories. Noah’s lack of appearance in the original game wasn’t a flaw or anything, mind you (it’s a pretty vitally important plot point, in fact), but it’s nonetheless very cool to have the opportunity to actually see and hear this individual whose influence is so hugely important to the game’s lore. And while we’re talking about new characters being introduced, I do quite like Nemesia--she feels pretty superfluous at first, I’ll grant you, and a little bit out of place, but her personality and her character history wound up being a definite positive to Radiant Historia. Finally, it’s cool that the new content actually allows you to see the post-apocalypse world of Radiant Historia. I never realized that getting to actually experience the world’s ruin firsthand was something missing from Radiant Historia’s original iteration, but in retrospect, it really was. There’s only so much you can really get from having 2 time guardian elf kids tell you over and over about the world’s desertification--far better to actually allow the audience to see it, feel its desolation. This new addition to RH isn’t a masterful narrative stroke like Chrono Trigger’s revelation of 2300 AD was, but it’s certainly a plus.

I like the voice acting, for the most part. I think Raynie should have a slight accent to fit her dialogue, I guess, but overall, everyone pretty much sounds the way they should, and does a competent job. The game’s better for it.

That’s the good stuff. The meh stuff would be the new bonus dungeon (it’s boring), the new artwork (you get used to it, and in a couple cases I even prefer it, but overall, the original RH’s character art was a perfect signature to the game’s atmosphere), and several of the ways that the new post-game content interacts with the story. It’s like...I’m okay with the idea of redeeming Queen Protea, but it feels pretty spontaneous and tacked-on. Redeeming Dias and Selvan seems even more unnatural, and stretches the already difficult-to-swallow concept of Stocke’s actions in different histories having echoes in other timelines a little too far.

And come ON, Atlus, are you for real? Redeem Protea, okay, her flaws weren’t beyond overcoming. Redeem Dias and Selvan, well, I don't like it, it’s not realistic for their characters, but at least Dias and Selvan were always interesting in the fact that, duplicitous snakes though they always were, they had moments of depth through which you could see a greater regard for their nation than you would expect from an otherwise 1-dimensional villain. But Hugo? Hugo as redeemable? Hugo as redeemable because he actually was devoted to the Prophet Noah? Are you shitting me? If ever the human race creates a Virtual Olympics, then Japan would do well to send the RH rerelease writers as their representatives, because to look at Hugo’s actions and words throughout Radiant Historia and say he was doing it all for his misguided belief in Noah instead of just using Noah’s name and image as an excuse for his own ambitions requires some gold-medal-level mental gymnastics.

And that’s my transition into the negative parts of this rerelease’s additional content. I like a lot of the new content, I like the new characters associated with it, and I think most of the new lore it introduces is alright. But the problem is that it all is tied to the purpose of the new, post-original-game quest and “true” ending. And honestly, it’s just not right. Radiant Historia’s original true ending was excellent, a perfect blend of happy conclusions with bittersweet moments of longing, culminating in a redeeming sacrifice that fully embodied the idea that while it’s not right to be forced to give your life for something as immaterial as a cause or a concept, willing sacrifice for the people and places we know and love is a beautiful and noble thing. Radiant Historia’s original true ending was an excellent conclusion, and more than that, it was exactly the right conclusion for the game, invoking feelings both joyous and melancholic perfectly in tune to the game’s atmosphere, and embodying its themes and purpose. It was a happy ending, but not a homogeneously happy ending, and that was what was really right for the game.

The new ending to Radiant Historia is just positive, no mixture of the bittersweet to it. And, I mean...I like it, I do. I like happy endings! I almost always want everyone to come out of a story well off. But more than my subjective desire for positivity from my RPGs’ conclusions, I prefer an ending which is right to the game, that concludes the game in a way that is true to its tone, direction, heart and soul, and one which underlines the purpose of the story. And while this new True Ending honestly is a pretty decent finale, and is more purely happy...ultimately, it’s just nowhere near the original True Ending, and replacing the latter with the former is a serious negative to Radiant Historia. The original simply had more substance.

Also, of less importance, there are a few aspects of this new ending that don’t add up for me. Like, first of all, there’s not even a mention of Kiel in it. Stocke’s achieving the impossible in the original ending by managing to save Kiel and the rest of Rosch’s troop was a linchpin of the game’s conclusion, a final example of just how great and impressive a man and wielder of time Stocke truly was. I guess we can assume that Stocke does the same thing this time around, but still, it’s really weird that the new True Ending wouldn’t even acknowledge Kiel’s fate when it was such a huge turning point in the story and conclusion.

Also: seriously, Stocke and pals? You didn’t tell Viola that [name redacted]’s alive? Fucking HUGO gets to know, but Viola doesn’t? You complete assholes.

Finally, while I do overall like the new information about RH’s setting provided with this port, all the stuff about the empire that caused the desertification...I have to say, the history of the Red Chronicle and the truth of the desertification’s cause is a bit out of place. It’s okay, I guess, it just feels like it was designed for a different RPG. And the fact that it also allows us to boil down the problem of solving the desertification to “kill a big monster” feels pretty damn cheap. That’s like the oldest RPG cliche in the book.

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about the new content to the game. Let’s move on to DLCs.

Bathing in Mana: Oh for fuck’s sake, Atlus. A bathing spring fanservice DLC? Are you fucking kidding me? Jesus fucking CHRIST. It’s bad enough when this shit shows up in SMT Persona, or Fire Emblem, or Tales of games, but as much as I hate them there, those are RPGs that make it a point to include sexuality into their nature, in at least some tiny part. Radiant Historia just doesn’t DO that. It’s not what it’s ever had the slightest interest or focus on! Why not just make a DLC with a fucking car chase? Throw some ninjas, spaceships, and bright cartoon ponies in while you’re at it! It’d be just as in character to Radiant Historia as a fucking fanservice bathing DLC!

(╬ ಠ益ಠ)

Do you SEE what you made me do, Atlus!? 12 years of self-control, 12 years of suffering the slings and arrows of EA, SquareEnix, Bioware, Kemco, whoever the inhuman monsters were who created Lunar: Dragon Song...and YOU, Atlus, YOU are the one to reduce me to the helpless fury of EMOTICONS.

Ugh. Alright, so, surprise surfuckingprise, this DLC is worthless garbage! Who could have possibly guessed? The conversations you can have with each of the characters mostly just retread old ground; there’s nothing there that actually develops them at all. In fact, here, I’ll just tell you them all so you don’t have to buy this garbage: Marco thinks about the fact that he’s the team healer and decides to drink pool water, Aht says she’s gonna be a shaman and demands that Stocke wash her as the FBI breaks your door down, Rosch hammers home the fact that he and Stocke are war buddies and is concerned about how to treat Sonja right, Eruca confirms those awkward suspicions we’ve always had that she’s not quite 100% romantically disinterested in her brother, Gafka is a damn dirty ape, Nemesia is an exposition machine, and Raynie wants Senpai to notice her.

Also, I’m reeeeeeeaaaaaaally not comfortable with seeing a full-on shot of 9-year-old Aht’s bare satyr butt and topless back. Keepin’ it classy there, Atlus.

Credit where it’s due, I guess: Eruca actually does converse about her personal maid and their history together, which is something new for her character, and not unwelcome, although also pretty unnecessary. And I guess it’s at least refreshing that this is an equal-opportunity fanservice event--most of the time, these things are obviously geared entirely towards showing off the female cast members, but Bathing in Mana doesn’t hold back with the shirtless, wet beefcakes, containing scenes for Rosch, Stocke, Marco, and Gafka that, if anything, are more fanservice-y than most of the women’s scenes.*

But yeah. This DLC? Garbage. Don’t buy.

Rage of the Fallen: This little DLC costs $2.50. That’s not much, but it’s still more than this thing’s worth. Rage of the Fallen isn’t bad, exactly, but there’s just absolutely nothing to it--you go through a small dungeon, you rescue Aht and Marco, and Aht fixes a problem with a lost soul. There’s no real character development for Aht or Marco, or at least, nothing that isn’t already covered much more comprehensively during the main game, and the adventure itself doesn’t have any sort of message or interesting angle to it. You simply gain absolutely nothing from playing Rage of the Fallen, plain and simple. It wouldn’t be a waste to play if you got it for free, but there’s nothing here worth even a dime of your money.

Under the Moonlight: Also $2.50, this package is a little better than Rage of the Fallen. I guess. Basically, you get to see Stocke have an intimate conversation with either Raynie or Eruca while on a mission, and then you complete that mission by beating some guys up. The conversation with Raynie is a complete waste of time--she basically just asks Stocke about whether he’s given thought to his future after the conflict, and then brings up the possibility that they could be together at that time, and Stocke agrees. It’s nice and romantic, yes, but it’s also essentially just a copy of the same interaction they have in the main game, on the same topic. Were the writers really just that out of ideas for how Stocke and Raynie could interact? Eruca, at least, has a conversation that develops her character to a small degree, as well as her former relationship with her brother, and it’s pretty sweet. I don’t think that’s really worth 2 and a half bucks, but I could at least see this as being worth it if it ever went on sale, at least for Eruca’s side of the DLC.

Meeting in the Chasm: Ah, now, see, this one’s actually kind of good. It gives you a more personal perspective on the events in Nemesia’s past that led to the whole desertification thing and her quest with the Red Chronicle, which is good, and although it’s a quick and simplistic quest (basically just beat up a couple bad guys and watch the cutscenes), it feels like this event actually means something, since it’s the event that ties Stocke and Nemesia’s destinies together. At 15 to 30 minutes long, Meeting in the Chasm is criminally short for $2.50, honestly, but...I reckon the content is just decent enough that it wouldn’t be a mistake to purchase it. Certainly the best of these add-ons thus far.

Settling the Score: You show up to help Rosch and Gafka, and beat up a bunch of enemies who became time ghosts because they’re annoyed that Stocke killed them. If that only sounds a little boring, then I’ve definitely oversold this last DLC. Don’t bother with it.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, as far as the main new content of Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology goes, it’s neither good overall nor bad overall. The new conclusion is just a huge black mark against this port of a game that ended perfectly in its original form, and there are some other problems with the newer content, such as an insistence on redeeming villains who frankly just don’t seem like they would ever want that redemption. And honestly, there are times when Nemesia’s story of saving the world almost seems to be trying to turn Radiant Historia into a kind of RPG that it wasn’t meant to be.

On the other hand, though, expanding the history of the game’s world, adding in all these other snippets of possible histories, and the addition of Noah and Nemesia are all positive qualities. So in the end, I guess I would say that anyone who hasn’t ever played Radiant Historia before might want to play this version...but anyone who has played the original, or is considering playing the original instead because they have less expensive access to it, should not worry that they’re missing anything vital. All that really matters, honestly, is that you do play Radiant Historia, in 1 form or the other.

The downloadable content situation, I am less positive about. It’s not the worst pack of add-ons Atlus has come up with, but there’s really only a single DLC in this bunch that’s really worthwhile--and strangely, that’s the 1 that focuses entirely on the new character Nemesia. That’s the major problem with the rest of these packages--they don’t have any idea what to do with the major characters of Radiant Historia, the ones you know and like best. Either the DLCs just don’t do a damn thing with the characters they’re supposed to be focused on (Marco, Gafka, Rosch), or they just repeat characterization moments that you’ve already seen in the main game (Aht and Raynie). They’re clearly just a lazy cash-grab, as is so frustratingly often the case with downloadable content. You get a D- on Radiant Historia’s add-ons, Atlus.

I miss The Witcher 3.

* “Most” being an unfortunate key word here. To my resigned annoyance, Aht is by far the most exposed of the cast in these things.

1 of these days, the entire nation of Japan is gonna get invited to sit down and have a cookie with Chris Hansen.

Monday, October 8, 2018

General RPG Minigames 12: Golden Ring Rotation

Every time I write 1 of these Minigame rants, I hope, I pray, I plead with merciful and holy Palutena herself, that this will be the last. That I’ll never again encounter an RPG minigame so detestable and frustrating that I must document my uncompromising loathing for it. That game developers will finally learn to stop shoving these inexplicable, time-wasting obstacles into their creations that interrupt what might otherwise be a successful narrative flow. That it’s all Gwent, Triple Triad, and Tales of Dragon Buster from here on out. Alas, it is a sad fact that while she is good and wonderful, Palutena is also highly whimsical and mischievous, not to mention fictional, and so, here we are once more.

Among certain other traits ineptly copied from Kingdom Hearts, Sweet Lily Dreams is infested with puzzles and minigames which range from the slightly tolerable (mixing potions with Dr. Jekyll) to the infuriatingly tedious (swamp island hopping). By far the biggest pain in the ass, however, is the very first puzzle in the game, in which you must rotate several golden rings to correctly form an image out of a series of angled symbols.

And it is fucking bullshit.

This is a pretty visual thing, so here’s a video of someone else doing the puzzle, to show you how it basically works--you needen't watch the whole thing being done if you somehow aren't utterly enthralled by the action and excitement of a rotating puzzle ring, but you can at least get the idea:

The idea is that you’re trying to get it to look like this:

This sounds simple enough, but one quickly finds that it’s incredibly frustrating, for a number of reasons. First of all, the degrees of articulation that these rings have is way, way too fine. This isn’t like some puzzle where you get a limited number of directions that each piece can face in. If that were the case, if each piece could only face in, say, a dozen directions, then this wouldn’t be so bad. But because you can rotate these things to such a degree of detail, that means that actually locking aring into the exact right position is a long, tiresome ordeal of trial and error. You can have everything lined up in a way that really does look right, but because the minigame requires such an exact position for every ring, you could be off just a few tiny degrees, which is enough to keep you from passing. You need to get it pretty damn close to pixel-perfect with the positioning in this minigame, and when you combine that with such a complete control of each ring’s tiniest movement, you’ve got the potential for huge frustration.

Second, look at that damn image, and watch the video. The image you’re trying to form is intricate, complex, and overly confusing. It’s all a bunch of interlocking Starfleet triangles and lines that have barely any distinguishing differences from 1 area of the image to the next. It’s hard to distinguish a useful point of reference in the correct image to start your reconstruction from, and because it’s all the same color and a bunch of similar shapes and angles, it’s a constant struggle to figure out whether you’ve actually formed the right lines and shapes, or whether you’ve just made a bunch of triangles that are similar to what you’re supposed to have made, but not quite it. You know you’ve got something about this wrong, because the game hasn’t ended, but since everything needs to be so damn exact, as I stated above, you’re never entirely sure whether you’re just a tiny bit off because it has to be exactly right, or whether you’re completely off and just can’t tell because all the goddamn yellow triangles look the fucking same!

Third, and most damning, this is all assuming you even know what the fuck this Telly Monster wet dream is supposed to look like in the first place. The game itself sure as hell doesn’t let you know! Seriously! You’re thrown into this damn minigame blind, clearly expected to form this pixel-perfect picture from nothing more than being able to determine which lines connect perfectly where--except that everything looks the fucking same! Not to mention there are pieces of the correct image that stick out without connecting to anything, so if you’re working with the perfectly rational assumption that everything should connect together, you’re never going to get it right. I haven’t found any image in the room with the puzzle of what it’s supposed to look like, there’s no written clue anywhere (not that you could really describe this image through text anyway), there’s no locking sound or chiming or anything when you’ve slid 1 of the rings into the right’re just going in totally blind on this. Did Roseportal Games actually intend for players to experience the rest of the game? I nearly put a fist through my monitor just trying to win at this damn minigame, and I was working with the solution image provided in the Sweet Lily Dreams walkthrough! I can’t imagine how someone was actually supposed to get past this point of the game organically!

The placement of this minigame is utterly idiotic, I’d like to add. I mean, come on, Sweet Lily Dreams has almost a dozen different minigames/puzzles in it. Why pick this obstacle in particular to be the introduction to the idea that this is a minigame-heavy RPG? I may not have participated in nearly enough football games to suffer the brain damage necessary for me to say that any of SLD’s minigames are enjoyable experiences, but any of them would have been a better choice as an opener than this fucking golden ring bullshit. By the time you hit upon this thing, you’ve been playing, what, an hour? Maybe not even that. You’re not invested enough in the game that you have any reason to persevere over a minigame this intensely frustrating. I mean, okay, clearly I did, but you have to remember, I played Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood from start to finish: I’m clearly an idiot. At the very least, Roseportal Games should’ve made this ring turning nonsense one of the last minigames, hit you with it only after you’d committed too much time to this subpar RPG to turn back. Anyone with a healthy possession of common sense and without an RPG obsession will seriously consider quitting on an RPG where this kind of crap is dumped on them right from the start.

At least you only have to do this stupid shit once in the game, unlike Spheda or most fishing games. Nonetheless, Sweet Lily Dreams’s golden ring rotation is easily 1 of the absolute worst mandatory minigames I’ve come across in over 350 RPGs. I knew this game was supposed to involve themes of abuse, but I thought that just meant, like, as part of the plot and stuff. I didn’t realize that Sweet Lily Dreams was going to have the players experiencing it firsthand!