When you think about classic Square franchises, what comes to mind? Final Fantasy would be your immediate reaction, but there’s also Mana, Kingdom Hearts, the Chrono games and even Front Mission. One I feel is rarely discussed is SaGa, a series I consider one of Square’s best (or at least its boldest). Let’s talk about what makes the series so groundbreaking despite how little attention it is paid by those fondly remembering the days of Square’s past, focusing on my favorite of the bunch, SaGa Frontier.
As I mention in my review of the new indie title Hohokum, I prefer games with structure versus those that tend to let you roam free, learning as you go. Hohokum’s aimless approach was both its greatest strength and weakness, yet it made me realize I appreciate similar titles and their approach to that design. It’s not the best example of this approach to game design, but it had me thinking about those design philosophies and how important they are to gaming as a whole.
Spoilers for Transistor ahead! Don’t read on if you haven’t finished the game and want to keep those last moments a complete surprise.
Let’s talk about Transistor. It’s a game I love, but not entirely for the reasons I expected to. At first, I found myself put off by its combat and story that seemed to constantly keep you far enough away to learn anything. Slowly but surely the pieces began to fall into place, revealing a late game section that began to change things dramatically. But this isn’t about those moments. This is about two characters and most importantly how Supergiant managed to turn an unorthodox relationship into the game’s greatest strength.
As with Bastion before it, there are plenty of worthwhile moments prior to its ultimate conclusion, but its conclusion is, ultimately, what matters most. READ MORE
Snackbar Games’ column carousel wraps up with Graham Russell taking a break from Multitap and Gaijin Guide to pen this edition of New Game+.
When faced with taking the baton from Andrew for a week and delving into the deeper sorts of topics in game design, I knew I had to write something about menus, because the topic is a very crucial one to everything I love. Set aside for a moment my graphic design day job, too: menu systems and general interface design can make or break local multiplayer experiences, as new players need to be able to dive in immediately, and they’re also crucial to playing import games, as if it’s done right, you know what each button and item does without having to understand any of the language. But even outside of those contexts, it’s a crucial thing, because the easiest way to keep people from enjoying a fundamentally good game is to frustrate them before they can learn the ropes. READ MORE
When attempting to recreate historical events in video game form, few actually succeed, often relying on a base understanding of history in order to provide a well-rounded experience appealing to a broader audience. These games seemingly sacrifice accuracy for entertainment and potentially lose something in the process. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts is a title that surprised me for a multitude of reasons, but its focus on utilizing historical facts in an otherwise-fictional representation of World War I is what stood out to me the most, creating an experience that felt authentic despite its cartoonish exterior.
The rise in popularity of games like Dark Souls and indie titles such as 1001 Spikes seems to indicate people love challenging games. Yeah, I know, I’m stating the obvious here. To me, these games represent a challenge that requires more patience than I will ever have, but there’s more to it than that; I do like Spelunky a ton, after all. It’s more about coming to realize that challenge doesn’t matter to me. A game’s difficulty, specifically if it is considered “too easy,” might appeal to me more than your average Dark Souls player, for example.
It’s not that I seek out “easy” games or even actively avoid any titles celebrated for their high difficulty. Simply put, I find more value in titles for what they try to accomplish, not how difficult it is to accomplish it.
Remember E3 2012? Okay, yeah, you probably don’t. It was the year before the announcement of the now-current generation of consoles, leaving us with another slew of games for our old machines and ultimately turning the show into a bit of a slog as a result. One game stood out and surprised just about everyone though, and that game was Watch Dogs. It was a brand new, original title from Ubisoft, and the reveal trailer was something to behold.
Not only did it seem like the first “next generation” title technically, it was conceptually brilliant as well. Sure, some groaned when Aiden, the main character, inevitably pulled out a gun to deal with some adversaries, but the potential for something different was there.
I often hear from some people that a game’s visuals are less important in the grand scheme of things. They don’t matter as long as the game is engaging or enjoyable in some regard. I once believed this, falling behind the same lazy credence when discussing certain titles. Nowadays, I find this belief silly. A game’s visual style can draw you into its world immediately almost as quickly as it can keep you away. It’s the most obvious thing, and yet it seems rarely discussed.
Games are praised for their visuals, sure, but an amazing, well-established art style can go a long way. Sometimes we tend to forget that.
Despite how many games I find myself burning through, I rarely complete absolutely everything in them, especially those featuring open worlds. This is why I was in shock when I stared at my completion percentage for inFamous: Second Son. “100 percent,” it said. I actually did everything the game had to offer. It was something I was momentarily proud of, but that pride quickly dissolved when I realized just how little the world of Second Son had to offer. Even if you do everything available, it shouldn’t take you more than 15 hours. I certainly enjoyed my time with Delsin Rowe and virtual Seattle, but it offered me little of what I expect from sandbox-style adventures.
Nintendo’s extensive history and seemingly never-ending list of franchises has always been impressive, yet the company is often accused of playing it safe. While I don’t always agree with these allegations, sometimes the Big N seems to prefer the relative safety of familiarity over the risky unknown of something new. However, it occasionally tinkers with an established formula, creating something entirely unlike what you expect from a familiar series.
None of Nintendo’s signature franchises fit that notion more than Kirby. The series definitely has an established set of mechanics and ideas you associate with the character, but every now and again we see something new. Sometimes we get a mix of the signature Kirby charm and mechanical differences or new ideas that feel like they belong in another game altogether.