Can’t You Just Be Fun For Once!

March 1st, 2009

zelda-midna

Sitting just above the top brim of my laptop’s monitor is a list of unfinished games blutacked to the wall with little dashes put next to the games that I’ve played but haven’t completed to my personal 100% satisfaction. What I’ve discovered recently is how resistant some of these buggers are to complete. Having done some backlogging in the past 2 years, I have quite a bounty of games now, so it’s easy to switch over to a different game every time another one throws up a roadblock. The problem is getting back to the previous game, getting unstuck or just brushing aside the last few challenges holding me from a 100% completion rate. I love playing games, but some of these games have become intolerably frustrating at forfeiting progression, whether it be compulsory or not. Here’s a few examples of some negative criticism, something that you don’t hear too often from me:

Zelda: Twilight Princess

I haven’t even reached the water dungeon* yet and I’ve already encountered more moments of dumbfounded frustration and cluelessness than I have in any previous Zelda game. This is a Zelda game, I am an N-fan and as those things would have it; I hold my chops when it comes to Zelda adventuring. Furthermore – just like any game – I want to enjoy Twilight Princess, I want to be caught in its charms and whimsy but despite these things I’m still stalling my adventure.

Some examples, please?

I’d been semi-stuck in Twilight Princess a few times near the start of the game, particularly with some of the more menial tasks like fishing (which wasn’t really explained) but I guess you can chalk those up to a long leave of absence from elfish adventuring.

Unfreezing Zora’s Domain had me stumped, big time. Wolf Link and his annoying-but-supposively-I-will-fall-in-love-with-this-sidekick Midna reached the frozen thrown room and mouth of Lake Hylia in Zora’s Domain. Being the hero you must snuff out some way to unfreeze the area, allowing the water to flow again. After randomly fussing about in that area for a few hours, I consulted a FAQ which told me that I had to warp to some previously visited area, on arrival Midna would see a giant molten stone which it would then warp back to the thrown room. Excuse me, but how is one meant to guess that for themselves? Did Nintendo just assume that people would automatically warp to this place for some unforeseen reason?

zelda-wolf-link

The same applies shortly after when killing all of the bugs in the Twilight Realm to free the area of twilight**. The game does little to inform you of where to go to meet the area’s overseer who will grant you the item which you can use to kill the bugs and hence restore the area. I wandered around a bit, found a few bugs, sang a song on some context sensitive area which yielded another wolf to appear on the map in a completely different place, on a mounting too high for me to reach. I eventually stumbled upon where I was suppose to go and began tearing through the various nasties as outlined on the game’s map. My container was filled with the exception of two light sources that I needed from the bugs. This time the map didn’t display where they were located, which seemed rather cruel at the time. So I again spent hours hopelessly running around the area, before consulted my FAQ to discover that one of the eight or so bugs was located away from Lake Hylia, residing in an interior area of Hyrule Castle Town. No wonder I couldn’t find him, he was in a completely different area! And so I killed him, the final one magically appeared back in the lake – Midna’s psychic abilities somehow sensed it.

I honestly cannot understand how a player’s meant to draw these long winded connections.

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

You’ll know that recently I’ve been playing Syphon Filter Dark Mirror. I’m a big fan of this series and therefore put a lot of effort into the way I played the game. When I play I try to take advantage of everything provided in my toolset. Now despite having thoroughly played the game in both normal and hard difficulties, collecting all of the secret evidence and simply playing in a pretty effective manner, I’m still a long way from unlocking all of the additional missions. The badge system the game employs is great, but the requirements of killing every possible agent in every possible way to the highest degree possible is a downright strenuous way of holding content from a player. You’d have to play through each level at least half a dozen times to get close to filling in the series of micro-stats. You’ve already given so much to me, why do you have to hold me at ransom for the final push?

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

Like the others, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams did this to me recently which is why I switched over to Yakuza 2. I’ve reached a point, relatively early on, where the game simply won’t provide me with enough information to progress. I’ve spent ages walking around this underground cavern, through 3-4 rooms and the game still refuses to throw me a hint. I mean, there are less than four rooms, how difficult can it be?

*I haven’t reached it, so I don’t know what it’s called yet!**How ridiculous is it that a bunch of bugs have such authority over the respective landmarks of Hyrule?

  • I kept getting stuck and sidetracked on Twilight Princess. Of course, part of the problem was I played the Japanese version, which I barely understood at the best of times. Keep chugging along on that one. Although it’s not revolutionary, there are some fun bosses/sections later in the game. It’s just so long that I found it hard to keep playing through it. Plus I needed to set aside a decent amount of time to feel like I was making any progress with it.

  • I find that your last point really resonates with me. If I’m not playing this game on a regular basis, I lose track of my progress, and it’s difficult to conquer that when I want to jump back in. I think that part of what I touched on in the article relates to the Zelda formula wearing down from old age. The series needs a reboot.

    On the otherhand, Twilight Princess takes a lot of good assets from the previous installments and does them very well. The relationship with animals and the environment as I wrote up previously is a good example, I want to write a few more articles about those relationships once I’ve played enough to substantiate it into a single post.

  • To be honest I can’t recall having problems with “Twilight Princess”. That’s not to say they don’t exist, it’s more a reflection of my poor memory and the perpetual wearing of my rose tinted spectacles. 🙂 I do however relate with what you’re saying, it drives me mad when there are illogical puzzles with little to no information provided on how to solve them. There’s really no need to make a player wander around aimlessly for hours on end hoping to stumble upon the answer.

  • I also had issues with figuring out how to unfreeze Zora’s Domain and agree completely that it isn’t obvious at all. I also consulted a guide and felt bad for it afterwards as I prefer figuring things out for myself. It was just one of the many areas that I got stuck in throughout the game and while I did eventually finish it and enjoy it, I think these hurdles definitely influenced my overall thoughts on the game. I definitely did not enjoy it as much as I have previous installments in the franchise, which I find disappointing being a long-time fan of the series. I’m okay with it though as the game was still good enough to justify completion, it just wasn’t as well designed nor compelling as the other games have been.

    Perhaps I’ve (we’ve?) been spoiled by the previous installments or even other games like Okami?

  • Actually, now that you mention Okami, Steve, I think the two games would make a fantastic comparison. I have Okami on my shelf, waiting to be played, so once I finish Zelda TP I will start on that. Should be interesting.

    The core problem with Zelda TP seems to be that the formula has aged, while other -most notably western games- have developed, in terms of assisting the player on their journey. Going back to Zelda is like being hit the face with this difference.

  • Agreed. Even taking out the cultural comparisons, I believe the Twilight Princess is prime example of why Nintendo need to reinvent the franchise. It was good, great even, but just showed that it has been done too many times and wasn’t as satisfying as it arguably should have been for those who would have appreciated it most. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo approach the next one, especially since it can’t be too far away from announcement now – we know it’s being made so it’s only a matter of time.

    As for Okami, I agree that it would be interesting to play them alongside one another and compare, though I feel it’d be quite hard to articulate due to both games providing two similar yet different experiences across two consoles. You would almost have to play the ‘original’ versions and then play them again on Wii, to see whether controls affected the overall experience (and quality) of both. I can’t comment on it too well as I have only played the ‘last-gen’ versions of each.