Review – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King of the Jews

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a simulation game. When I first saw the name, I thought it would be another delightfully (?) simple RPG. Instead, here we have a delightfully simple sim; in fact, MLAK is hands-off nearly to the point of annoyance.

In MLAK, you build your city structure by structure and converse with your citizens (when they are willing to talk to you, that is). That is just about it. The city is composed of empty green glowing spaces that mark where you can place buildings when you have the resources needed for their construction.… Read the rest

Review – Etrian Odyssey

There is nothing more depressing than wasted potential, and, somewhat ironically, nothing more pleasurable than wasting potential. As I lay on my couch playing Etrian Odyssey instead of washing the dishes, helping the homeless or learning to read, my mind struggled to cope with conflicting emotions. I was enjoying that I was wasting my time, but not enjoying the time wasted. Is it hypocritical to be upset that Atlus squandered this game’s potential?

F.O.E.s are rendered in stunningly accurate orange blobs.

Etrian Odyssey starts off nice and difficult. I died on the first level and there’s a good chance you will, too.… Read the rest

Ruining A Beautiful and Complicated World: Simcity Societies and How It Will Take a Dump on a Perfectly Good Franchise

When I was twelve, my life changed. I was a chubby little kid who was obsessed with the Super Nintendo and for my birthday party my parents let me rent a few games to keep all of my little friends occupied and from ruining their house. One of the games I picked that day was something of a strange choice. Instead of running around killing things, you built a city and watched it grow. That’s it.

No mass multiplying mushrooms to eat, no princess to save, no Triforce to assemble. You simply sat down, plopped some buildings in, some roads to connect them, and then watched the whole thing grow.… Read the rest

Fillet Mignon with a side of Pork Rinds: Awesome games and their stupid minigames

The average gamer supposedly plays 7.8 hours a week. That’s an ESA study so I think they rounded down to make gamers seem less crazy. Other studies show more like 20-30 hours a week, which makes more sense to me. For us hardcore gamers, I’m sure the number would be even higher.

So while we waste our life away playing video games, it has become painfully apparent to me that, like most products in our corner cutting capitalist society, video games have a lot of filler. A video game, especially an RPG or MMO, is graded on how much of your time it takes to beat.… Read the rest

Mindlessness in games

I read a good article recently on the heavy use of the word “gameplay” in games journalism. Agree with it or not, the author makes a good point; there is no equivalent word in any other industry jargon. Most sentences that use the word gameplay can be rewritten in some form to create something more descriptive and authoritative. It got me thinking about another mainstay of the lingo that has been bothering me as of late – “mindless”.

The word is used all too often, so much so that I can’t even generalize about whether it is usually in a pejorative or positive sense.… Read the rest

A sense of accomplishment in video games

What is it that makes a game particularly memorable?

When you finish a game, you want to feel as if you’ve accomplished something. By the time you beat some games, you want to really feel you’ve made the game world a better place through your actions (or, perhaps, you have intentionally left a horrifying wake of devastation). You’ve solved all major problems, and probably a lot of minor ones as well. Maybe you’ve beaten a particularly tough platformer or shooter and you feel like you’ve done a superhuman feat or twelve. The important part is you feel like you’ve done something significant or participated in a memorable story.… Read the rest

Review – Metropolismania

Some games are hard to put down. Often this is because a game is great fun, but entertainment isn’t always the force that drives us to keep playing. Sometimes we continue gaming because of a lack of clearly defined beginnings and endings; we don’t know when or where to stop so we just keep on going. Oddly enough, games that break play into nearly infinite tiny rounds deliver the same psychological effect as games that have no levels nor turns.

Will Wright and Sid Meier are experts at creating addictive gameplay through this method. Both Pirates! and Sims lack any clear level progression, while Civilization cuts up play time into such minute turns that each feel too short to be considered optimal stopping points.… Read the rest

Ten years without a new genre

A decade is a long time.

A few days ago in the comments to “Houston, Wii have a success story“, I made a rather old-fogey remark about re-hashes of games that I’d essentially been playing since 1992 or thereabouts. This got me thinking…when I complain about developers making the same game over and over, what I’m really complaining about is the fact that they’re making games in the same genres. Do you remember the sense of anticipation when you first played Wolf3D or Dune II? It didn’t just come from what you could do within that game – it was a realization of what that particular game meant for the future…because its underlying gameplay mechanics were simple enough and yet deep enough that they moved from being differently quirky games to inspiring an entire genre of development and expansion.… Read the rest

The Madden Cycle

Guess what the best selling game of 2006 was (or probably was)? Why am I even giving you guys a guess; its Madden 07 of course!

Like a lot of gamers, I guess you could say that Madden is wearing a little thin on me. I understand why it sells so well; the NFL has such a huge fanbase that even if a few disgruntled gamers decide to stop buying it, there’s an army’s worth to fill in the gap. I also understand the desire to play a good simulation of America’s most popular sport (I’m a diehard football fan myself).… Read the rest

Lament of a lost developer

Once upon a time, there was an innovative game design company. Though they tended to use mainly the historical as backdrops for their titles, they came out with a wide range of interesting games and managed to release them for several platforms despite fairly intense console rivalry. It was clear there were individual designers in the company with a passion and talent for game creation. Now, several years later, this company has grown stagnant. The only games that it seems to spend any money on are rehashes of the same genre. The innovation that still exists comes primarily from the company publishing the efforts of various subdivisions or studios.… Read the rest