July 18, 2006

A Few Old Games

by psu

For the last couple of weeks, my attention deficit disorder led me to play some games which I had collected but not yet finished. When this happens, I typically pick up Zelda: Wind Waker, spend half an hour scanning a walkthrough to figure out where I left off, and then spend another hour re-learning all the game's little control quirks.

At this point, I sail around a bit, make some progress in the game, sail around some more, and then eventually get stuck in a dungeon. After a few more hours of running around and watching that little semi-retarded boy jump at the wrong time and in the wrong direction over and over again, I give it up and go and play Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando.

Ratchet is different from Zelda. It's easy to pick up again. I don't need to read the walkthrough to figure out where I am. I don't need to sail around for hours to find the next task to perform. You pretty much just pick up the game, run around and blow stuff up. The only controls that don't really work well are the flying and gliding. Everything else is tight and responsive. No retarded jumps into the lava. No tedious first person targeting with the grapping hook swingy thing.

I had slowly worked my way to the later stages of the game, when it got harder and more frustrating. Luckily I was always able to bail myself out by buying more stuff. This is an important lesson. You should always be able to win a game by using money.

The final Boss was even cute, and not that hard. Just how I like it.

With Ratchet finished, I looked around for more stuff to beat up. On the DS, I had started Castlevania and it is sort of fun, but full of tedious backtracking and stupid save rooms. Since that's not enough punishment for me, decided to pick up Viewtiful Joe again.

Viewtiful Joe is the embodiment of frustration. It has a flashy visual look that you either like or hate. I sort of like it. It is an interesting twist on the 2-d beat-em-up game since the game's space is 2-d but it is rendered using a 3-d engine. Once you get all the special powers, the combat flows with a pleasing rhythm. You enter an area and methodically pulverize your enemies into little piles of money.

Unfortunately, the game combines these virtues with a pair of crippling flaws. First, the puzzles make no sense. You can read the walkthrough and do what the instructions say, but they still make no sense. Most often, they depend on you randomly stabbing at the controls until the button that is normally used to (say) make the world slow down suddenly becomes the secret trigger to make you fly through the air on a jet-powered bus. Other times it just seems impossible to get from point A to point B. You jump and jump and jump and fail and fail and fail until suddenly one of the jumps makes it for no apparent reason. The game's world is hatefully inconsistent.

My solution is to read the walkthrough so I can concentrate on beating shit up. The puzzles are stupid anyway.

The second glaring problem with the game is the save system. There really isn't one. You get four lives to get through each area. Die four times, and you do the whole thing again. This by itself is actually enough to put the game down. It's further proof that deep down, CAPCOM hates you. That said, the game is fun in one hour increments. After that, my fingers start to hurt.

I guess I can put it next to Zelda on my shelf, while I work my way through Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal.

Posted by psu at July 18, 2006 10:04 PM | Bookmark This

Comments on the comments:

Zelda: Wind Waker
Yeah, I worked up a dislike for the grappling hook by the end too. However, I would suggest pressing through, as the final sequence is, I would say, the best of any Zelda game.

Walkthroughs: I've never understood why one would use a walkthrough on a game like Zelda, which is really not that hard when it comes down to it. Well, I take that back, I've seen people struggle with it, it's just a type of struggling I don't seem to need to do. Maybe it dates back to my experiences on the NES, most of which I worked through without aid.

Castlevanias (in this case, "Metroidvanias"): I've played a good deal of Castlevania in both the old (level-based) and new (freeform) styles. I actually prefer the old type by a small margin, but I do like the new style, backtracking required or not. Those giant-map games work best when you allow yourself to forget their construction. If your enjoyment of the gam derives from exploring a large space, figuring out the locations of secret passages by sheer cunning, discovering the layout as you go, then it's quite a bit more enjoyable. In that case, using a walkthrough is probably harmful to the enjoyment of the game, since the action segments of those games are typically not the equal of the level-based designs.

Viewtiful Joe: I actually enjoyed this quite a bit, probably partly for the reasons you disliked it. On the jet bus section, actually the solution is to get on the bus when it's on the ground, then when it's on the ramp to go into slow mode. (The clue is that the fire builds up during that time and the camera zooms in on it.) Then release it and (I think) go into fast mode to get extra distance out of the bus. It's not extremely intuitive, but I did manage to figure it out by myself.

I didn't have nearly as much trouble with that one as I did in the room before Hulk Davidson in level two. I must have spend a couple of hours in that damnable chamber, with "Hulk DAAAAVIDSON is in the house!" blaring all during, trying to get the bomb high enough up the shaft to blow open that door. Eventually, it actually turned out the thing I was doing wrong was not having the game in slow-mo when the bomb was high enough; when not in slow, the size of the explosion wasn't enough to open the door.

Posted by John H. at July 19, 2006 01:10 AM

I'm actually close to the Hulk room... and had a lot of trouble getting up through this hole in the ceiling that you are supposed to "just double jump" into. Of course, only one of my fifty attempts made it.

Anyway, Zelda is not hard, I just can't keep track of what I am supposed to be doing.

Posted by psu at July 19, 2006 06:45 AM

I love the Ratchet & Clank games, they have just the right mix of fun, difficulty, and constantly-getting-new-toys that I like.

It's a shame the last two games seem to have neglected the single player aspect, and Deadlocked removed pretty much all the fun gadgets, exploration, and Clank missions that make the series great.

Posted by Adam Rixey at July 19, 2006 07:34 AM

Yes I got half way through Wind Waker and got stuck. Now I dread picking it up again because of the learning curve. No I didn't finish Ocarina of Time either. Same with Metroid Prime 2. Well, that's because of the difficult, tedious boss I'm stuck on. They did not make these games for the likes of me. Here's another vote for Ratchet and Clank!

Posted by Al at July 19, 2006 11:16 AM

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is pretty fun all the way through, except for those annoying hang gliding levels. One of them took me over 30 times to get through (some cave near a snowy area). Luckily Ratchet 3 & 4 didn't seem to have any of those frustrations for me.

I agree with the frustation of Viewtiful Joe though, although I didn't have to consult a walkthrough more than a few times for it. Only played the first one for a few levels, but I got to the end boss on the second and just gave up. Basic lesson for me is that if a game relies on reflexes don't even try it unless there's an easy mode.

Posted by garyh at July 19, 2006 12:22 PM

I wonder about your Viewtiful Joe woes. I only have a problem with the fighting as try as I must, the controls don't just connect with me. They're simple, they're just how I'd put them on the controller, and I still don't get a connection with Joe. Very weird.

As for the puzzles, I never really had a problem at all with the puzzles. Almost every single puzzle is solved through using a VFX power. That's the rule. As for the jumping, I never had a problem with the jumping. In fact, I jump too much and I've had problems where I would double jump when I didn't need to and end up staying the air too long. I just love jumping in that game.

I must read your blog more to decipher your playstyle.

As for Wind Waker, I'm completely in tune with that game for some reason. The only thing I have to relearn anytime I pick it up is the proper timing for the counter attacks. I usually end up solving puzzles on my first try, even jump puzzles (there has been only one jump puzzle I've ever had a problem with in a dungeon, just one, and it had to do with a time limit, a moving platform, and flying enemies). Considering all of this, we seem like complete gaming opposites. Which doesn't really do you much since you don't know me.

As for getting lost, I ended up getting the game with the strategy guide for free (something to do with Nintendo Power when I still had a subscription), and so I ended up playing through the entire game with the strategy guide and the Tingle Tuner GBA thing both being looked over by my brother. Fun experience with no problems whatsoever. Perhaps I have too many good memories associated with that game now.

Posted by Prolink at July 19, 2006 09:30 PM

Apparently, the jumping problem had to do with me not quite understanding the controls. If you press A and hold it down, you hang in the air, and then you can double jump higher.

Posted by psu at July 19, 2006 10:37 PM

You know, I came across this blog by chance some months ago, and found I really liked the entries. Sometimes I'd skim them, sometimes I'd read them thoroughly, and usually I'd save them to read about a month's worth at a time. I've enjoyed your comments, on games, food, books, cities, whatever, and they've usually given me something to think about.

I was one of the designers on the PS2 Ratchet series. Still am, on the upcoming PSP version. I was happy to hear your comments on the games. You guys have provided me with some entertainment in my day - I'm glad we could provide the same.

Posted by Lesley at September 5, 2006 11:46 PM

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