Ben's Week In Review: February 28
I've realized I love cold weather but I hate snow and ice. ...too bad they all seem to go together.
Progress is a tricky business
I'm always torn when I read about how a developer wants to take an established franchise in a new direction; a potentially drastic departure. There are two sides of me that instantly go to war: the first side is mostly irrational yet loaded with sentiment and emotion due to an overriding sense of nostalgia. The other side, more realistic and rational, scoffs at the aging gamer within and says, "to achieve true progress, we must eventually leave the old behind." On the one hand, more and more people are embracing video games for the first time every year; on the other, the average age of the avid gamer rises with every passing year, meaning there's always an increasing number of veterans. So what to do with Final Fantasy? How do you satisfy the newcomers, who couldn't care less about the classics, while still satisfying people like me, who keep past entries in the series close to their hearts? I can't imagine that if FF turned into an open-ended psuedo-RPG/FPS like Fallout 3, it'd a be a good move. I sure as hell wouldn't buy it.
All I'd ask is for Square-Enix to continue to search for new ways to play an epic RPG. I still think they need to give turn-based - or a version of it - another try. Look at something like Shadow Hearts with the Judgment Ring. That's only one example of how unique and engaging a turn-based mechanic could be. Or, if that's entirely out of the question, build on the real-time system we've already seen in stuff like Dragon Age: Origins, White Knight Chronicles, and of course, Final Fantasy XII. That would be both new for the uninitiated and recognizable for the vets. Right?
What if David Jaffe has a touch of nostalgic flu?
So Jaffe says he doesn't really connect with critics anymore, which sort of got me to thinking. I don't regularly visit his blog but I do see some of his video updates every now and then, and I have interviewed him in the past. I certainly don't know him very well so I could be wrong about this, but it almost appears as if his current view of the industry is that of an aging comic book reader (no idea if Jaffe is into comics; it's just an analogy). You know, someone who really insists on the "simple purity" of the original concepts behind their favorite entertainment medium. I know for a fact he'd appreciate and respect a team like Quantic Dream for what they've done with Heavy Rain, but his comment about reviewers focusing too much on the "artistic" angles also reminded me of something else. He's not so into complex storytelling in games; I think he believes it takes away from the base entertainment factor, and we're still a long ways from truly great fiction in the industry.
For the latter part, I somewhat agree, although Heavy Rain proves we can produce something very special in terms of plot. But you know, if you look at the games Jaffe has made, they're all about unadulterated, uncluttered fun. They're polished beyond belief (usually) and they'll put a smile on your face, but I think he believes that smile can only come about when the game is "uncluttered" and isn't "trying" to be a movie or a book. I could be wrong but if he does believe this, he and I will have to respectfully disagree with one another.
Personal gaming update
So I beat Bioshock 2, which is certainly one of my favorite games of the year so far. The second half was a lot better than the first, and I really started to get into the story after playing for a while. I was a big fan of that Spear Gun and you just gotta love the Winter Blast Plasmid for never allowing tough enemies like the Big Daddies and Big Sisters to move. LOL That means I'm all caught up now...just a week before Final Fantasy XIII comes out. So I won't be looking for anything new to play before that, and of course, GoWIII comes out the week after FFXIII. So that's my March, right there. I'll be interested to see how Yakuza 3 and Just Cause 2 turn out, though, and I'm sure Battlefield: Bad Company 2 will be excellent. Beyond that, the only other game on the horizon for me is Red Dead Redemption, which comes out at the end of April.
I'll probably go back and finish another play-through of Heavy Rain this week. Every time I play it, I'm amazed. I think that's it for now.
2/27/2010 Ben Dutka