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Tag: Video Game Club

Seven Things That Have Blown Me Away In The Second 10 Hours Of “Chrono Trigger”

I was very concerned as I crossed the 10-hour mark in Chrono Trigger. Those first ten hours were amazingly good on so many different levels. The game had actually managed to deliver everything I wanted and anticipated. I loved the characters, the story, and all of the artistic elements that brought the package together. I commented that after sequences like the raiding of the Fiendlord’s Keep, I was afraid it had blown its proverbial load already, and while the rest of the game would probably be “good”… it would whimper on to the end like many RPGs of the day, hindered by an ever-growing cast of characters, poor pacing, and extraneous side-quests.

Thankfully, my fears were completely unjustified.

(OK, minus this “Inner Sanctum” area which was apparently new for the DS version. That’s pretty awful.)

To be fair, the second ten hours are not as good as the first ten. The game introduces so many of its iconic styles and mannerisms that even when variations on them are introduced with perfect execution later on, they do not have the same impact as the first go ’round. Do not misunderstand — like I said, the game has been amazing, and a “Not Jaw-Droppingly Amazing Chrono Trigger Sequence” is still leaps and bounds above most of the other garbage I have tried before.

It is with this game that I continue to question my gaming habits and supposed preferences. I have dabbled into so many different genres and play styles in the last two years that I no longer feel like I have any particular allegiance to a type of game, or even specific franchises. I joke to the wife how there was a monkey bridge in Link’s Awakening… lo and behold, monkeys come to the rescue as I watch her replay Twilight Princess. I look around in shock, wondering if I’m the crazy one that does not love the play style of New Super Mario Bros. with its floaty-controls. I compare the two above examples, coming down harshly on one series for recycling an old trope, while simultaneously criticizing another for not being familiar enough, and wonder how I can be so hypocritical.

That may be the subject matter for another article in the future, though. For now, Chrono Trigger is the sole subject of my attention.  I sit wide-eyed on the train, during lunch, and on the couch at home as I clutch my DS. A game from 15 years ago — a game that I should have played and yet continuously overlooked — is one of the reasons I have been questioning my supposed gaming affiliations. With 20 hours now sunk into the game, here is a list of things that have blown me away in those second 10 hours. Spoilers are in full effect.

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Seven Things That Have Blown Me Away In The First 10 Hours Of “Chrono Trigger”

Longtime Akira Toriyama fan. Playing Chrono Trigger fifteen years late. Check. In theory, I like Japanese role-playing games, but ultimately do not finish the vast majority of ones that I actually start. Gotcha. All caught up? Let’s talk about the game, now!

The following discussion will be filed under “Video Game Club” and placed behind a cut to prevent inadvertently spoiling the game for those who have not yet played it. You would think there would have to be a statute of limitations for games this old and discussions like this, but since someone like me is only just now getting to the game, I will be kind to the others who also hold their heads in shame!

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Video Game Club – “Halo” (Level 3… Not “Halo 3”)

Perhaps contrary to popular belief, I am indeed slowly making my way through some games. They may be the same ol’ games, but I’m making progress, none-the-less! I got in a little more playtime with the first Halo last night, and ran into some additional frustration… though it’s completely unrelated to platforming, this time around!

(No real spoilers here, so don’t worry if you haven’t played the game… then again, I think I’m the only person who hasn’t played the game…)

There have been two instances so far where I have been almost unable to continue playing the game simply because I can’t tell what I am supposed to do (or more correctly, where I am supposed to go to do the thing that I was just told I have to do).

The first came about during level two (“Halo”) where I needed to activate a light bridge to pass across the giant gap in the roadway (shortly after getting control of the Warthog). After clearing the bridge area of baddies, I was told there was a switch to go hit to activate the bridge… but I found myself walking back and forth around the entire area completely unable to find said switch. I checked what I thought was every single nook and cranny and box and dead bad guy looking for this miraculous switch that would allow me to continue my gameplay. I took a break after something like 15 minutes to go talk to Jeff about something, and when I came back I resumed my search. Even after consulting FAQs which told me there was a ramp up on the right, I still couldn’t find the darn thing. I lost track of how much time I spent doing this, but I eventually found this fabeled narrow ramp. What prevented me from finding this? It seemed to obvious and in the open, yet I had been walking around for a ridiculous amount of time. Was it the color scheme of the stage? Was it because the ramp was so narrow? I don’t think I know the answer to this question.

I wish that was the last time I had that problem, but I ran into the exact same issue last night.

The first half of level three (“The Truth and Reconciliation”) seemed to be intended as a halfway-stealthy mission, but I have too severe a case of Gaming A.D.D.™ to be able to do that (nevermind the fact that I didn’t seem to have the sniper rifle I was apparently supposed to have). I am playing on easy, though, so that combined with the hilariously-effective stationary turrets allowed me to clear through pretty easily once I got reacquainted with the controls (it had been about two weeks since I last played). I eventually reached a comparatively wide open area that circled around a pit (for those that have played, you probably know which area I mean… it’s the second-to-last area in the first half of the level before you get beamed up). I once again had an instance where after I had cleaned out the entire area of baddies… I absolutely could not figure out where the heck I was supposed to go. I even backtracked all the way to the beginning of the level (and then back again) just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important like a side cavern or something like that. I easily spent half an hour wandering around the level, and while I managed to grab a whole bunch of extra ammo for myself, no progress was being made. I once again consulted the plethora of poorly-written FAQs on the interwebz, all of which paid no mind to the situation and told me to just continue on up the mountain as if there was not an issue here at all. If I’m spending all this time trying to figure out where to go, isn’t there some kind of issue, though? Once again, after spending this ridiculous amount of time wandering around, I found (gasp!) the narrow pathway that led me up the mountain, right in plain view the entire time.

What’s going on here? Am I just being careless? Am I not paying attention to my surroundings? Like I asked myself earlier, does it have to do with the color scheme of the game? Is it just another example of my unfamiliarity with the genre, and perhaps its non-maturation at that point in time? Am I just making excuses for my own incompetence?

How about you all? Have you had similar experiences? I’d especially like to hear about similar experiences in different genres. The closest example I can remember that’s non-FPS-related was my attempt to re-find Narsche in Final Fantasy VI which I had written about previously.

Video Game Club: “Half-Life” and “Halo”

This is a little bit of a follow-up to a post I made back on November 30th, but I have a lot more to add with a lot more detail. I originally called this post “Platforming In FPS Games” but I ended up talking about a significant amount more than just that subject, so I think it fits in with the “Video Game Club” idea much better. There aren’t any significant “spoilers” in what I’ve discussed here (especially since I’m still so early in the games), so there is no “behind-the-cut” to hit and read the rest of the entry.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I’m not the biggest fan of FPS games. After the obligatory Doom II and Duke Nuken 3D back in high school, I didn’t progress with the genre at all. Sure, I played a little Goldeneye 007 on Nintendo 64 like anyone else who owned the console, but not gaming on the PC at all (in arguably one of its “golden” eras), I simply never really had the chance to play them, and they never really entered my mind as something to even bother with.

I think it was the combination of seeing Bioshock, Team Fortress 2, and Portal in 2007 that swayed me a little bit. The first was all about an incredible atmosphere, the second was all about a hilarious aesthetic and class-based teamwork, and the third was all about humor and ingenuity. More than weapons, more than speed, more than the number of polygons, and more than anything else, those aspects made me take a second look at the genre.

I played through the demo of Bioshock (once on the 360, and even then again on the PC) and really enjoyed what I played. I picked it up on 360 sometime last year (and even just a couple weeks back for $5 on Steam… just to have it around) but haven’t gotten around to playing any more of it. I’ve dabbled here and there in Team Fortress 2, but the game is essentially unapproachable for general multiplayer action for anyone who isn’t already an FPS master. I’m sitting on my save at the last level in Portal, and loved every minute I have played in it (I’ll get around to beating it, I promise!).

Within the last month, I decided that before playing any more of these games (including the Half-Life 2 series of games, which I obtained via The Orange Box), I was going to dip a little back into the past and play a couple older games to see how the genre has evolved at least over the last ten years (if not longer). I had asked for the first Halo as a Christmas present last year, and it’s been sitting in my collection ever since. I picked up the first Half-Life on Steam a couple months back when they were running the special $1 sale on it to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. With these two in tow, the golden standards of PC- and console-based FPSing, I figured I would have a great and educated jumping ground.

The first thing I confirmed for myself (which I’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating) was how much of snob I’ve become for mouse-and-keyboard FPSing, despite hardly caring about the genre at all. I played through a little bit of the demo for Portal: Still Alive on 360, and was immediately thrown off with the (by-comparison) clunkiness and slow response time. Andrew mentioned on the podcast recently how he played through the 360 version with absolutely no problem, but had never actually played (at least seriously) an FPS on the PC to really compare the controls. To come in with a total “n00b” perspective with absolutely zero pre-conceptions and honestly give all types of control schemes a chance, I can honestly say that given the opportunity, I would always pick mouse-and-keyboard over dual-sticks, and I have a hard time understanding why anyone would ever choose differently.

Let’s talk about the actual games, though.

Being so unfamiliar with and terrible at FPS games, and therefore multiplayer sessions being nothing more than an endless and frustrating cycle of spawn-kill, I really enjoyed being able to dive into the single-player campaign of Half-Life. I love stories, narrative, flow, etc., and so far it’s delivered on all fronts (note that I just finished “Office Complex”, the third “level”, last night). I understand that it’s a game from 10 years ago, so I’ve been able to forgive the quirky mannerisms of some of the NPCs (which actually makes them more endearing than I think they otherwise would be). I haven’t gotten too much of the “story” yet, but the flow it’s riding along with has been near-perfect so far. I’ve only seen one hint of the “G-man” (I know I’ve missed some), but it was wonderfully creepy and enthralling. I’d love to tell you more about it, but I really need to get further along in the game before I can say a lot more.

There is one part of the gameplay I’d like to slightly rant about, though, and it happens to be the original title of this column (before I ended up writing so much more than I anticipated): platforming in FPS games. I neglected to mention earlier that I played through a bit of the first Turok game on Nintendo 64, and this may have been one of the moments in FPS gaming that turned me off for a while. I personally have an incredibly difficult time “platforming” in first-person. By that I mostly mean precise jumping. Whether it was from little circular cliff to little circular cliff in Turok, or hanging box to hanging box in Half-Life, I have a horrible time doing it right. My sense of depth is completely thrown off, and I have almost zero “sense of self” with regards to my surroundings. I know a lot of readers/listeners wrote in to say that it’s something you get used to with time (which I can completely see happening), but as-of-yet, I am still suffering from the same plague.

Let me showcase two examples that drove me absolutely insane just within the “Office Complex” level. In this first example (the second-to-last area within “Office Complex”), you need to get up into that little vent/corridor, which will lead the way to hopping atop the moving conveyor, and ultimately across to the next section. I can’t describe or count the number of ways and times that I tried to get in there. I even pushed a giant box from one end of the level back to this room (all Zelda puzzle-solving style) just in case I need to jump from the ledge across from the vent up to the box and then up into the vent (needless to say, I didn’t need to do that). Despite the fact that I had been doing several running crouch-jumps towards that area, it never worked. Well, that’s not true. Eventually it worked. I have no idea what I did differently, but somehow I managed to squeeze myself up in there. I had actually not played the game in maybe a week or so because I was “stuck” in trying to get myself up in there, so it was quite a relief to not have to drop the game simply because I couldn’t control myself properly in level three.

That wasn’t the end of my frustration, though. Anyone who knows the game much better than I ever hope to will know exactly what came next.

That’s right. Climbing up ladders, jumping to other landings, jumping to more ladders, and getting to the top of an elevator was my next task. I amazingly only died once before I got to the last ladder (and that was my own fault for not paying full attention to the game). The last jump looks so incredibly easy, and should have been a piece of cake. However, this is probably the one spot where I died in the game more so than any other spot thus-far. Despite it being directly in front of me, I absolutely could not get myself to jump straight across and grab onto the ladder. I always seemed to end up too low, ladder completely within my sight but not my grasp, and then found myself plummeting to my death below. I stopped counting how many times I died, but I eventually grabbed onto it and finished the level.

This means that my experience with Half-Life so far has been complete enjoyment of the story/narrative, the characters, and even the enemies… with the major “fault” being one tiny element of the gameplay! Unfortunately, that one “fault” has been enough to frustrate me into not playing the game for at least one week’s period of time, and intimidate me from playing as much as I otherwise would probably want to.

Let’s leave behind Half-Life (except to make comparisons) and turn over to Halo, a game that came out three years later. Almost immediately upon starting the game, I could see just how much of a new groundwork Half-Life had laid for the genre with its scripted events and mostly-obvious level design choices to lead you in the right direction. While not as memorable as the monorail sequence that begins Half-Life, the beginning of Halo does many of the same things by introducing you to the game’s world, the basic control schemes, the important sub-characters, the enemies, and more. I especially liked the back-and-forth choice you are offered with regards to inverted or standard control with the right control stick; it crossed the fourth wall just barely enough to still make sense in-universe, but make you smile at the same time.

I have definitely played much less in Halo than I have in Half-Life (only about an hour or so, completing level two, “Halo”), so I do not yet have as much in-depth insight into my own gameplay as I will upon finishing a few more sessions with the game. To tangentially relate the discussion back to the original topic (being platforming in FPS games), the only “platforming” problem I have had so far was more in the vehicle usage than controlling Master Chief, himself. I had a very difficult time controlling the Warthog, especially when I would need to change directions. I felt as if it were almost driving too fast, giving me little in the way of response time. Yes, I flipped myself over countless times. Yes, I had to get out and punch the Warthog out of a corner so I could hop back in it (once accidentally exploding myself in the process). I think I will have an easier time controlling the vehicles in Halo than I will jumping around from box to box to ladder to ladder in Half-Life, but I suppose that remains to be seen.

It would be impossible to talk about the two games without mentioning the vast difference between each main character (Gordon Freeman and Master Chief, respectively). The “silent protagonist” shtick certainly isn’t something unfamiliar to me (having played plenty a Legend of Zelda title), and I have to admit I was pretty surprised when Master Chief actually spoke (albeit during cut-scenes), as opposed to Gordon who remains completely silent at all times. I don’t have much more to add to this part of the discussion just yet, as I feel I’m far too early in each game to do a fair comparison in that respect.

Those of you still waiting to hear about my experiences with Final Fantasy VI, fret not. I have continued into the game some more, and I will absolutely be delving into more thoughts and ponderings with it. Until then, let me know what you think about this particular topic, and what your experiences have been. I feel like I’m in a totally new world, and I look forward to (hopefully) finishing these two games and maybe even moving on to their sequels (eventually… remember, it’s taken me ten years to get to Half-Life).

Video Game Club: “Final Fantasy VI” Thoughts #2

I just got a chance to play another ~45 minutes or so in Final Fantasy VI, and wanted to give everyone an update on my thoughts. Judging from the comments when I last talked about the game, a lot of you are interested in (and currently are!) playing along with the game, too, and want to discuss what’s going on. Awesome!

So here are the ground rules when we here on vgconvos talk about a game we are playing and want to hear feedback from you all while still going into spoilers (which I guess we’ll just call “Video Game Club”). Note that these rules are subject to change, and probably will change as we figure out what the heck we’re doing.

(1) All in-depth talk / spoilers will be put behind a “read more” cut.
(2) The age of the game is irrelevant; we will respect spoilers in all games.
(3) Before the cut, we will describe the general area of where we are in the game, and where appropriate, the current play-time.
(4) You can’t hold us responsible for ruining games for you!

With that out of the way… I’m about 11 hours into Final Fantasy VI. If the town of “Vector” and a research facility don’t sound familiar to you yet, do not…

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