Gaming Doldrums

I had a post ready to go last week, but I scrapped it because I didn’t like the tone. It was whiny and petulant examination of my increasing disillusionment with video games. I still believe much of what I wrote that video games and the community around them no longer seem to be for me. Maybe I’m growing up (God forbid) or maybe the games really are changing. Either way, I didn’t like the way I complained about my malaise, especially now that I’ve determined the actual cause for it: the games I’ve been playing lately.

Those games are Donkey Kong Country 2 and Viewtiful Joe Double Trouble. They are not necessarily terrible games, but they seemed perfectly suited for ticking me off and disappointing me. Just piles of tedium and bullshit; enough to make me want to quit playing video games entirely.

DKC2, which I’ve already wrote about somewhat, has two big problems. The first is its reliance on Diddy’s animal friends. Rambi the rhinoceros and his cohorts should be analogous to Mario’s various power-ups; useful and needed to reach some secrets, but not necessary to complete the stage. Instead of being supplemental tools, they become the very purpose of more than half the stages. And that’s not counting the three or so mine cart levels. The sheer amount of gimmick levels is disappointing because the “normal” levels are so good.

The animal problem is largely a personal preference, but the other problem is just pure bullshit. That other problem is DKC2’s save system. DKC2 tries to move beyond the earlier game continuation model derived from arcades. There are no continues or passwords, but a more modern hard save. Unfortunately, Rare seemed to think that simply being able to save was too easy, so they clogged the system up with tons of bullshit.

First, saving requires banana coins, which are scattered about the stages. Resident Evil uses a similar system, but that game is based on the idea of scarcity. The fear of not having enough drives the game. Even Resident Evil, though, was kind enough to let keep your typewriter ribbon through after you save. Not in DKC2, all your banana coins disappear when you load your save.

The bullshit doesn’t end there. You can only save at the “Kong Kollege” in each area. But the “Kollege” is not immediately available. No, you have to beat 2 or 3 stages before it usually opens up. So you had better hope you have enough lives to do that left after you beat a boss, because you’ll probably have to fight it again. Alternatively, you could go to a previous area to save, but then you also have to pay Funky Kong a couple of you banana coins to fly to the proper area. If you don’t have enough coins, or if you die, then you have to replay a few early levels to earn the coins needed to leave the area. It is an unending cycle of tedium and bullshit.

Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble, on the other hand, is simply a disappointment. Clover Studios/ Platinum Games has a pretty much flawless track record, with games ranging from merely very good, like MadWorld and Viewtiful Joe 2, to true classics such as Okami. But Viewtiful Joe DS is not very good at all. Instead of being a handheld game, it desperately tries to recreate the home experience. It also tries to make use of all of the DS’s functions. These toe goals work against each other to make a mess of a game. The two changes from the console games are the screen size and the controls. The controls had me trying to use the touch screen, hit the shoulder buttons and use the d-pad all at the same time. Which had my hands cramping within 20 minutes. The screen size severely limits the series’ trademark stylish action. Together it makes the game a slow, dull, physically painful experience.

Amazingly, once I beat DKC2 — yeah, I beat it, it was not going to beat me — and quit playing Viewtiful Joe, I starting liking video games a whole lot more again. Sure I’m still not too thrilled about where they seem to be headed, as there is less and less of the stuff I like, but now I’m rediscovering the joy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, possibly the most underrated Zelda game. Also, I’m finally starting to come around to Dragon Quest VI. The job system is dumped on me halfway through is starting to be interesting, even if the story is still lackluster.

But video games, yeah I love those. I’m going to go replay Suikoden now, because nothing can restore your faith in video games like the first 2 Suikoden games, except of the holy trinities of the SNES: either the trio of Super Metroid, Super Mario World and Link to the Past, or the trio of Earthbound, Final Fantasy III (VI) and Chrono Trigger.