Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Musings - 7th Nov, 2011

It's once again Monday, it's once again time to muse. Let it begin.

Persona 4 (PS2)

And the game is complete! I finally polished off the game on Friday. Well kind of. Let me explain. On Thursday night after work, i defeated the final boss. Then the game fast forwards to the next spring when your character leaves the town. You get some time to go out and talk to everyone you've maxed S links with (kind of having an ending for all those characters). Through certain choices, you uncover a secret dungeon that is the result of not every thread of the mystery being solved (I tell ya, the way they wove the story of this one deserves a lot of appreciation. This is an amazing example of narrative and gameplay being planned out in tandem). So i saved before opening this final dungeon and decided that i would continue playing to get the true ending.

The next day i felt the urge to just load up my save and see what the normal ending is like. It played through (along with a refreshingly short credits sequence), and i saved my completed game. The normal ending satisfied me. I made the decision then that i had completed Persona 4, and when i get the urge to return to the game, not only do i have a new game plus waiting for me, but i can achieve the true ending as well.

I wont talk too much more about the game (those who regularly read my column are probably sick of hearing about it), but sometime this week i will post a review. I'm experimenting with a bite-sized review format for the internet viewer too busy or lazy to read paragraphs of text, but in a way that still imparts some useful information about the game's qualities to potential players (Still debating whether or not to do it in an audio format). Keep a look out this week for that.

Finally, after completing the game, my curiosity got the better of me and i youtubed the bad ending of the game. In the words of the Professor... "Oh, i made myself sad". Yeah, i wouldn't have liked to have experienced that in game. Not at all.

L.A. Noire (PS3)

Now it's time to start putting a dent in all the games i've wanted to play this year but haven't (funnily enough, i've spent more of the year catching up on games from last year). The first on this list is L.A. Noire. As an adventure game fan, i am having a ball!

I'm in the middle of the homicide section of the game. Most missions my interviewing skills are right on the money, and my investigation skills are always high, but the game does have its quirks during the questioning. Some of the times what they're saying is true, but because you need more info, doubt was the correct response. Other times you get more info by picking truth. I've come across a section where i had evidence to prove the person was lying, but the game didn't give me that one (i guess i needed to use the other piece of evidence... but both proved the person had a connection to the scene of the crime).

It's the same issue i had with some of the court sections of the Phoenix Wright games. I love those to death, but often an obvious answer (at least to me as the player) would be incorrect, either because you've jumped the gun on evidence or even though what you picked is correct, the game wanted you to pick another piece of evidence that was also correct.

And actually i'm kind of not happy that no matter how you do in a case, the game continues. I mean that's a neat accessibility feature to keep the narrative going, but you miss the good parts of the cases if you're constantly getting the wrong answers in interviews. Personally i'd actually prefer it to be like the chase sections. If you fail those, the game resets to the start of that area and you try again. Well ok, seeing as they've cleverly framed a lot of the cases to play out differently depending on how you do, that would detract from the experience they've set up for the player. I guess as an adventure game fan, i'm used to mainly engaging linear stories. L.A. Noire is engaging, no doubt about it, but getting a low star rating on a mission just makes you feel like you've missed out.

Oh and the clunky controls in the car chase sections. My god! I'll be talking about the controls a little more in the final thoughts this week...

Minotaur in a China Shop (Indie)

This is an interesting one. On the surface it seems like one of those shop simulator games with a bit of comedy thrown behind it. "You know that old saying about a bull in a china shop? What if one ran a china shop? Hilarious! Let's make it a Minotaur too!" It probably went something like that. The thing is though that like the QI board game, you actually can win by failing. Yup, if you want to succumb to your Minotaur ways and trash the place, go right ahead. See how much destruction you can wreck before security are called and tranq you to the ground. Depending on your rage insurance, this can actually end up being more lucrative than playing the game properly.

Plus all the upgrades you can buy in-between days are basically coaxing you to seek and destroy.

Final Thoughts

I'm talking about control schemes today. Well, one aspect of controls. The reverse axis debate! Before i learned the ways of playing an FPS with a mouse (one day on the internet in 96/97 i came across a revolutionary control scheme for Duke 3d), the only games i played that combined the two peripherals in an action setting were space shooters such as Wing Commander and the X-wing and Tie-Fighter games. These used the reverse Y axis with the mouse (as did plane shooters like Red Baron). It simulated the actual control stick after all. When i discovered using a mouse for FPS', i naturally used the same control scheme. It kinda makes sense. You crane your neck back to look up and vice versa. Even back LAN gaming in the late 90s / early 2000s, there was some contention among PC gamers about reverse Y axis. Funnily enough, playing reverse was in the minority back then. Not everyone played space shooters or plane simulators after all, and i can see how moving up to look makes sense to those players.

Fast forward to FPS game becoming popular on consoles and my first foray into playing them. This is where things get kind of funny, at least to me. I found that on a console, reverse Y axis was a handicap. My brain couldn't register it. It's like not reversing it on a PC. It's the gamer equivalent of trying to write with your non-proficient hand (ambidextrous people win this round!). Yup, even though i swear by reverse Y axis on PC, i have to use normal axis on a console. I think it's that an analogue stick feels fundamentally different to a mouse, and so in that context, moving up to look up works.

Now let's pile on the humour a little more. Before console games, the X axis never entered into it. I mean why should it? You want to look left, you move left. Makes sense, case closed. What about third person games though? Well... on a console, it seems that i have to have the X axis reversed. It doesn't feel natural the other way. Believe me, i find this very odd.

And that's where this whole discussion came from. L.A. Noire does not have an option to reverse its X axis for camera control. When i'm chasing down a suspect, i have to keep mentally reminding myself, "Ok, he's heading left. Turn the camera left. Good, good... now right." This must be how people who've never played games feel when they try and use a controller for the first time (especially if it's a game with camera controls). This is one of the reasons i stopped playing Enslaved last year (the half second delay on button presses didn't help). For all its faults, at least FFXIII let me change both axis' (axi?) to my heart's content!

So... how do other people feel about the axis controls when they play games? Do you reverse one or both? Do you change your preference between consoles and PC? Am i alone with this crazy problem? I'd love to hear all your thoughts.

Till next week, happy gaming all!

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