Archive for the ‘Finishing’ Category

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Finishing Metroid II: Replay Incentives

March 13, 2013

This is my last Metroid II post, I promise. It’s spoileriffic, so most of it’s hidden behind a jump. Sorry.

Metroid II Ship

Even in 1991, game developers wanted their games to be lasting experiences, things that their target audience would be playing ten, 20, even 40 hours after they were done. I finished Metroid II in a little over seven hours. I’m satisfied — seven hours is no small amount of time to be entertained by a black and gray Game Boy experience — but what if I wanted to get more out of it? What incentive do I have beyond the personal satisfaction of pure mastery of the game to try to get through it again?

Well, by this point, the answer to that question was simple, because it was answered by the original Metroid: offer an incentive for mastery by changing the ending.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Finishing Chrono Trigger: The Re-up

December 16, 2010

This post contains a pretty massive Chrono Trigger spoiler, if of course one can possibly spoil a 15-year-old game on the internet anymore. In any case, you’ve been warned.

Time: 16 hours and 33 minutes
Setting: Antiquity; The emergence of the Black Omen

God bless the internet.

Way back when, I used to play the occasional RPG on the old consoles…a little Final Fantasy here, a little Phantasy Star there, a little Lunar to change things up a bit, and it was good. Things would happen, though, and I’d get distracted for a while. Like, say, a month or more. And eventually, I’d go back to whichever game I was playing, forget what the hell was going on, and start over. Or quit. No, usually, I quit. Who wants to spend 15 hours doing something you’ve already done?

I hadn’t played Chrono Trigger in probably a month and a half before this week, and the thought of picking it up again was bringing back all of the “why bother?” sorts of memories. The story, to be frank, simply wasn’t memorable enough for me to have any clue what was going on at that point, and I had no real desire to wander around five different time periods and eight distinct fast-travel landing spots just to figure out where Point B was.

And then, a bright idea: Wikipedia. Go to Wikipedia, read the plot summary until it stops sounding familiar, and then get back to it. One plot summary and an assist from the old man at the end of time later, and I was back in business, tracking down the ill-intentioned queen in the age of antiquity.

If you watch very closely, you can sometimes see the soul escaping.

I’m sure this seems painfully obvious to most of those who would be reading this, but consider: for a player who did his most “hardcore” RPG gaming as a high school student more than 12 or 13 years ago, the use of Wikipedia isn’t so obvious. Certain feelings are associated with certain responses to those feelings, and there was always a feeling of futility that accompanied the return to an RPG that had been abandoned for an extended period. If I didn’t own the strategy guide or something (or if it didn’t come with the game, à la Phantasy Star II), there was really no other option to add to “wander around until you get the hang of it again”. Giving up was just what I did in that situation.

Now, I don’t have to give up. I can get back to it with just a little bit of effort. And I can watch Crono, my main character, die the horrible death that he was destined to die from the time I picked up the game.

So yes, thank goodness for the internet. If it weren’t for Wikipedia, I may have waited another 15 years before I got to experience one of the biggest reasons Chrono Trigger is held up as a paragon of 16-bit storytelling. Now if only I could figure out why the queen’s pet beastie keeps killing me so, so easily…

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Finishing Chrono Trigger: Misfires

September 15, 2010

Before I start delving back in to more important matters, I just wanted to leave an update on Chrono Trigger, seeing as I not so long ago pledged that I would finish it (hence the title of this series). As suspected, it has been, let’s say, difficult.

It's a metaphor, see.

It’s now about a month since I started the game, and yet there has been no progress on it in the last three weeks. The last few times I’ve turned it on, I’ve played for half an hour, treaded water without much idea of what to do next, and turned it off. I don’t want to turn to GameFAQs to finish it out, but I fear that my first attempt at “Finishing” is dwindling fast.

It’s a holding pattern. Not exciting, not revelatory, just…static. Dragon Quest and Halo are blocking its path.

Hopefully I can get back into the groove by the end of the month. Otherwise, I fear I’ll be done for good.

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Finishing Chrono Trigger DS: Lost and Found

August 20, 2010

Timestamp: 11 hours, 46 minutes
Location: The towns in the sky, 12000 B.C.

Why is this a good week to begin “Finishing”? Because I know what happens when I go home.

Let me explain: I’ve been away on business, pretty much all week. I miss my family, I miss my bed, and I miss my house (work-in-progress though it may be), but never do I get the sort of quote-unquote “me time” like I do on a business trip. I have to do something with the evenings, after all, and rather than exhausting myself (and my bank account) by scoping out the nightlife or finding fancy restaurants, I spend most of my evenings with hours to kill in a hotel room. It’s not glamorous, but it is what it is: me, my computer, my music, and whatever games I brought along for the ride.

Chrono Trigger DS was one of the games that got packed, and for this week, it’s been the game. I started it on Monday, and I’m now ten hours in as I prepare to go home. The first ten hours happened in four days. The next ten could take a month.

Not only is there a major priority shift when I go home (I have walls to build and children to spoil, after all), but there’s another complicating factor waiting there for me: Dragon Quest IX.

Turns out, I’ll be reviewing it for PopMatters.


This is where the balancing act begins — never in my entire life have I been able to juggle two RPGs, much less two RPGs on a portable platform. On one hand, it’s at least good that both are on the DS — that’s a system I can bring to bed, a system I can play while the rest of the house is trying to watch TV. Still, once I start Dragon Quest, am I going to remember at all what I was doing in Chrono Trigger? What if I don’t play Chrono Trigger again for two weeks? What then? Will I remember the story, the characters, the goals? Will there be an hour of ramp-up before I’m sufficiently briefed enough to continue on my merry way?

I wouldn’t have such anxiety about all of this if the game hadn’t already pulled out one of the oldest tricks in the JRPG book of challenges: “what do I do now” syndrome.

On Tuesday, I picked up a legendary sword called the Masamune. An old man told me I needed to find some dreamstone so he could put it together again. And nobody would tell me where to find it.

The search was on.

At this point in the game, our hero Crono and his party have been granted the ability to flit from time period to time period. Not knowing where to find the Dreamstone, I first searched the entire continent as it existed in the game’s version of 1000 A.D. I then searched the entire continent as it existed in the game’s version of 600 A.D. I then went back to 1000 A.D. to try and find something I missed, looking in the nooks and crannies of the castle, exploring simplistic dungeons with more vigor than they were ever designed for. I repeated the pattern for 600 A.D., and nothing.

Here I am - now what?

I remember this feeling — I spent many days playing The Legend of Zelda not knowing exactly what I was supposed to do next — the feeling of having unlimited directions in which to travel and not knowing which one to pick. Back when I was playing Zelda, the idea of such exploration was still such a novelty that we embraced it; in 2010, it feels like a nuisance. There is very little to do at this point in Chrono Trigger if you’re not following the linear story path, and I was stumped.

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to finally use the passageway to prehistoric times that had been sitting at the End of Time. Maybe it’s because I missed whatever subtle hint was supposed to lead me there (maybe somebody said that it “hasn’t been seen in a long time”, or something similarly ambiguous), or maybe I just didn’t realize that I was supposed to talk to the keeper of the End of Time. Whatever happened, finally figuring it out was a great feeling, but one that made me dread the next time I had to deal with such uncertainty.

It’s one thing to have that sort of experience when you’re sitting in a hotel room with nothing to do. It’s a completely different thing when you have a half-hour to fit some gaming in and you effectively get nothing accomplished.

Still — Chrono Trigger is a blast. If you haven’t yet, check out the various threads over at the Vintage Game Club for some great discussion on the various points of interest in the game. Hopefully, this won’t be the last I write about it.

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Finishing: Intro

August 18, 2010

I finish a fair number of games. As someone who reviews them — not for a living, mind you, but as a hobby — there’s something of a responsibility that comes with picking up a game that I’m going to be writing about. I should put in some requisite number of hours, and if I don’t finish the game, I darn well better have put in enough time to have a pretty clear idea of what it’s all about. So yes, I finish them, and I finish plenty.

What I don’t do is finish them for fun. Especially the big ones.

I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the last time I’ve taken on a game that carries with it a long-term time commitment and just put in the hours necessary to beat it, not because I felt like I should, but just because I wanted to. Any time someone asks me what my favorite genre of game is, I’ll say…well, I’ll say shmups (and I have theories as to the reason for that that I’ll go into another time), but running a close second is RPGs. Which is stupid, because I can’t remember the last time I picked up an RPG — even one that I’m supposed to be reviewing — and just straight-up finished it. Well, maybe Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, but that little 10-hour adventure-RPG thing barely counts.

Most of the reasons for this are listed in this site’s previous post, which could be summarized as “life happens”. Inevitably, things get busy, I put game X down for a while, and Lord knows it’s tough to pick up an RPG that’s been lying dormant for two weeks when there’s, say, a new Halo sitting unopened on the kitchen counter. This is where I fight the urge. This is where I will myself to pull in enough experience to be something like an authority in a genre I purport to love.

Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to pick up a game, and I’m going to document the playthrough in a series on this site. It will be called “Finishing”, and it will be a running log of my attempts to finally keep some of the long-term commitments I try to make when I pick up these games.

Game #1: Chrono Trigger DS. Stay tuned.