All of the drafts you will find here are the result of my efforts to better document my thoughts on the video games I have been playing recently. A few months ago, I had the idea to better formulate a critical perspective (or even just a personal history) of the media I like while reading the website of miela583. The intention was to better structure my thoughts to write them in a longer format, but I haven't really been able to get anywhere close to that, and in any case I already have a cemetary of un-published articles for this site, why add more? Thus, here are a few impressions of the games that have captured my attention this year.
During the last seven years of my live, I have periodically taken breaks between my hobbies. Typically as a result of some motivation to do something more serious, as with university studies or learning a language. If I have a hobby where I put significant time, it's only one. I never seem to be able to maintain multiple pages of my life open at once, generally it jumbles my mind too much. This was especially the case during my graduate studies. I was attracted moreso by arcade style games in the absence of free time. This last year, I have been playing Radiant Silvergun, a game that I have begun to consider as an exceptional work of its genre. I was never very much good with shooter games: I always found the gameplay a bit difficult to break into with the enormous amount of time neccesary to learn even the basics in order to truly progress in many games, and even at my age, I think I may have missed out on the opportunity to develop a skill with the fine motor skills necessary to accurately navigate a small spaceship between thousands of bullets. Even so, for certain games that have impressed me enough with their art direction or stype, I dedicated myself to truly learn how to play them (the first Panzer Dragoon for example).
The thing that impresses me most about Radiant Silvergun is the sense of progression that is constructs. The feeling of learning while playing is an intoxicating feeling, but often not well executed. The standary system of doing so in JRPGs is to simulate this feeling via a combination of changes in statistics or integers which does the work of making the player think they are making progress. On the other hand, at least for me, in most cases I get the feeling that something isn't quite as it portrays itself. To truly learn a game is almost a project in itelf, and I imagine that this is the principal motivating feeling experienced by the players of first person shooting games, or fighting games. How does this game do things differently? To me, the game distinguises itself in a combination of it's art direction and it's particularly effective way of convincing you that you are improving, without the more steep learning curve of other games in it's genre. In the beginning, it's simply a classic shooter: difficult in the beginning, less with progression and player learning. But the difference lies in the Saturn mode of the game, while allows to save after each session. The game allows for the payer to maintain the upgraded level of one's weapons, and eventually gives you supplementary credits. I was talking with someone online a few months ago who suggested that in this sense, the game is similar to a Rougelike, and I completely agree. Without noticing that the game systems are making each succesive session a bit easier, the player starts to think that they are really getting a grasp on eac level. It also promotes an engagement with the chaining colour sub-system present in the game.
Globally, I believe that the game really succeeds in creating a experience that even those who are not avid fants of this style of game will want to finish. The graphical style is restrained: there are not flashing graphics everywhere. The aesthetic of the game evoques a real sense of royalty, gold, the idea of flying in the sky. Each scene in the game communicates a real intention in its conception; there isn't a lot of wasted time or superfluous elements. No waves of bullets that render the background art impossible to see, and this is all integrated with a non linear and interesting story. It's an exceptional example of this type of game from the 5th generation in general, with it's lovely mix of 2D and 3D graphics.
ときめきメモリアル： Forever with you
I have to admit, I never had thought of playing this game before seeing the video done by Action Button. Even if I consider myself fairly familiar with interesting non-translated games, the idea of going back to playing a classic in the visual novel genre never has come to mind, given my lack of interest for the style, or perhaps more accurately its concentration on romance. It's not really my thing, but nothing against the idea globally (There are certainly a bunch of games in this style which are more concentrated on a specific story that interest me such as the Silver case or Phoenix Wright).
Despite this, there is a certain quality, or visual style to this game, undeniably charming, which pushed me to give it a try... There are already many hours dedicated to describing this game, and its triumphs in transforming a mechanical weekly planning interface into human interactions that communicate a real sense of emotion, so I'm not going to try and add much. Still, it has to be repeated to what extent this game was ahead of its time. The tactile experience of the game is better calibrated than many modern games, and the sound effects produce an atmosphere similar to that of a slot machine. I romanced 片桐彩子, and I was a bit shocked to what extent I had real moments of attachment to the characters. I'm not immune I suppose, the trick worked on me too! I would even say that the game opened my mind a bit to playing others in it's genre such as サクラ大戦. I was pleasantly surprised.
Outside of the experience itself, it was a real pleasure to be able to experience this game and understand it. I dedicated about a year and a half to amass enough vocabulary in Japanese to meaningfully engage with the story, and the moment where I was able to read and understand many of the dialogues of the characters without the need to take multiple minuates to translate all the elements of a phrase was extremely gratifying. This isn't to say that I understood 100% of what was going on, I'd say I was closer to 70% comprehension, with a need to search a lot of words with their radicals to have a sense of what was going on. In this sens, it's probably not the ideal game for a beginner, as there is no script availible, and no way to re-listen to the dialogues. If you miss something, you really need to take the time to search each character, and as with many games in this generation, the kanji are often approximative and sometimes remove strokes as a results of the reduced screen resolution. Nonetheless, I would suggest the game to anyone who want to improve their comprehension of Japanese. The language is extremely commonplace, and it's extremely approachable with voiced dialogue for most interactions. It's really a special game, not to be missed even for those who consider themselves to be unlikely to enjoy a visual novel.
Shin Megami Tensei II
As for most people, sometimes I get completely wrapped up with the allure of a story, it's aesthetic, or the world of a piece of fiction from the moment I see it. In these situations, I suddenly have a intense desire to experience the media these elements come from, and in the last three years, it's the Shin Megami Tensei series which has captivated me. My first experience with the series was with the fourth entry, after having noticed the lind between Persona and the デビルサマナー series on Saturn. There was a very specific intrigue with the rustic and traditional aesthetic of that game mixed with the occult that strongly attracted me to it, and I was entirely captivated my it for a summer that I could have used to more productive ends.
In the years following my experience with IV, I have tried II and V to rediscover the initial intrigue I had that summer, but I never really found it. Shin Megami Tensei III has a certain masculine and desolate atomosphere that is quite simply a bit too rugged for my tastes. The game made me feel a real sense of anxiety, and not in an interesting and introspective way as in a game such as OMORI. The fifth game was unfornately made with the same fabric (although I must admit that the atmosphere was really well done! Honestly it's more the style that reminded me too much of Shin Megami Tensei III, that didn't please me much). I'm interesting in giving it another go, but not anytime soon.
This is where Shin Megami Tensei II comes in. Of course, I'll be the first to admit fact that these games all turn around what is essentially the same story repeated hundreds of times, there is nothing particularly new here, but again I once again felt an intense attraction to the style in this game! The idea of the universe is a bit like that of IV, a bit more imaginative than that of simply Tokyo after the apocalypse. It seems to me that IV borrows a lot more elements from this entry than III; the two games just seem to have the same DNA. I love the idea of Tokyo Millenium, it's similar to Mikado with it's speration with other worlds in the game, and with it's class system. Outside of that, there is a genuinely good story here, with characters that don't simply mirror the classic alignments in these games.
I don't have any definitive conclusions on the game as I haven't finished it, but I admire the extent to which it is obstinate, spartian, and obtuse. Not much is well described, the game is essentially five rooms copy-pasted everywhere to attempt to create a living world. The number of empty rooms is stupefying, the soundtrack is almost entirely composed of 5 second loops: I absolutely love it. The lack of detail forces you a bit to fill the space with your imagination. It's the same feeling that I felt with IV, and that I haven't felt in a game for quite a bit of time. Modern games are often too well done, my adult brain in too adjusted to entering autopilot, so when I am forced to think a bit more, it's declectable. Even with the repetition of the game, the experience creates a strking atmosphere.
The other factor that contributes so much to my appreciation of the game is of course the fact of having played it in Japanese. After ときめきメモリアル I apparentelly thought to myself that a difficulty spike was neccesary. I am using a game script which you can find here which helps a lot with looking up words in a dicionary (Yomichan is ideal!). I am playing on Playstation, and thus although I'm not profiting of the ability to play something that hasn't been translated already (the Super Famicom version got a fan translation), the Playstation version is still exclusive in Japanese. Of course, I don't understand a lot of the dialogue, but that's part of the experience. And in any case I'm definitely running into a lot of situations with i+1 sentences. The only problem is that the "language density" is rather low: in this style of game, a lot of time is dedicated to navigating labyrinths and battling demons. There is a limited utility to reading 「みんな一生懸命闘っている」a thousand times. Still, it's captivating to experience. I have the feeling of rediscovering games as in my adolescent years. Outside of these particular reasons why I like this game, I think there really is something to appreciate here for those who are a bit indulgent with more rudimentary experiences. Or maybe it's just a form of Stockholm Syndrome.