Yet more games

After FFXV and Hollow Knight, I kind of don’t want to delve into any more lengthy games so Horizon, Mass Effect, Nier, Zelda and Persona 5 will have to wait – I do think they’ll be great, but I’m not really liking the trend where games take at least forty hours to get to some meaningful conclusion. Still, a couple of games I finished recently;

Legend of Heroes – Trails in the Sky

Trails in the Sky is a passable JRPG that feels uninspired on so many levels. All of the characters and story events are anime tropes without unique qualities, the battle system borrows ideas from better games but does not have the depth to make fighting interesting and the presentation is polished but forgettable – even the achievements feel lazily tacked on. It’s not a horrible game by any means, it just feels like a me-too product for fans starved of traditional JRPGs.

The obvious influence is Grandia – both in the perspective and battle system – but Trails in the sky makes the mistake of trying to tell a political story with the same tone as a slice-of-life highschool anime. It does not have the sense of adventure that Grandia had to make the exploration itself enticing, and it does not have the gravitas of games like Suikoden that would be needed to tell a dramatic story. The irony, of course, is that Grandia turned its story about a child’s longing for adventure into a bigger world-spanning event and all of its characters had real development as the story progressed, whereas Trails in the Sky is content rehashing ideas from your average cheap 90s anime.

Many of the mistakes Legend of Heroes makes are common for JRPGs and there’s a ring of familiarity to it that makes it hard to pass off since we are kind of starved for JRPGs, it’s just sad that with such high production values they went with something so safe. Final Fantasy might not always have all good ideas, but at least it always feels fresh.

Night in the Woods

I mostly backed Night in the Woods because of Alec Holowka’s involvement, and it is both a natural progression and much more personal work than his earlier games and kind of unexpected. It is very good, but it is difficult to say why. It also deals with some very dark themes in a very suggestive way, so your mileage may vary.

It is somewhere between a modern-era adventure game and a walking simulator – you have some control over how Mae responds to situations she encounters, but you ultimately can’t change things a lot. The interactive part of the game comes from choosing where to explore and what to see, as well as who to spend your time with – this is actually a morally ambiguous but tough choice most of the time as you have to pick between the old friend who really wants to hang out, the friend who is angry with you but who could really use some support and the kid who reaches out to you but you don’t really know.

Night in the Woods is a quirky game with its cartoony animals and dripping sarcasm, but the inviting facade slowly reveals something very real and very absorbing. There are plenty of games that tackle the tougher parts of growing up, but I don’t know of any other that does it with quite this much finesse.

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Posted on Apr 04/17 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »