Notstalgia vs Hindsight?
March 29, 2008 3:13 PM   Subscribe

With revolutionary graphics, a classic score, and creative platforming gameplay, the Donkey Kong Country series was one of the most popular games for the SNES, outsold only by the packaged Super Mario World. After another decade, however, the games are considered among the most overrated of all time.
posted by Navelgazer (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The password? Diddy? YEAHHH!"

What. The fuck.
posted by griphus at 3:21 PM on March 29, 2008


Never played Donkey Kong Country. But #8 on the list of the last link:

Banjo-Kazooie - Developer Rare had a real knack for looking at Nintendo's own games and making similar ones, replacing Mario and Co. with goofy talking animals and calling it a day.

I watched and helped my daughter play Banjo-Kazooie a lot. It was tons of fun. I mean... get this: a bear, with a bird in his backpack! C'mon! By using teamwork, they have strength, speed, and the ability to (kinda) fly. What can be better than that? I'll tell you what: turning into another animal, that's what! My daughter would yell with delight "I'm a buuug!!!!!! I'm cuuuuute!!!!"

(Cue sentimental music)

Maybe the game was overrated. But memories are not.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: "I'm a buuug!!!!!! I'm cuuuuute!!!!"
posted by dismas at 3:36 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kid: Mortal Kombat, on Sega Genesis, is the best video game ever.
Billy Madison: I disagree, it's a very good game, but I think Donkey Kong is the best game ever.
Kid: Donkey Kong sucks.
Billy Madison: You know something? YOU SUCK!
posted by pwally at 3:37 PM on March 29, 2008


I appreciate that the 1UP link includes a "But is it actually good?" disclaimer after each blurb -- "overrated" is not the same as "bad."

Top ten lists are generally pretty silly, but I thought that offered a much-needed bit of balance.
posted by danb at 3:43 PM on March 29, 2008


Daikatana should not count as overrated, as the word assumes that - at some point in the past - the game was actually highly acclaimed.
posted by absalom at 3:46 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Looks good, plays bad--a pretty common combo in the videogame world. 'Revolutionary graphics' very seldom age well.

Also very popular at the time but clearly overrated? Diddy Kong Racing. I am embarrassed to admit that, at one point, I thought it was better than Mario Kart 64.
posted by box at 3:46 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


*screw* those bramble levels. All of them. Curse you for posting a link to one and making me watch it.

Otherwise, I think the games were amazing for their time. You can't look at ratings in retrospect, you have to view them within the context they were given in.
posted by leffler at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2008


Re: the list in the final link--

I can't see how Donkey Kong 64 is overrated, since I don't know anyone who defends it as a great game to begin with. I even bothered to beat it to get my $60 worth, and Rare didn't even try to make a challenging game that time out--the hardest part was beating the original Donkey Kong game you discovered within it.

Perfect Dark's habit of turning into a slideshow in the final levels of single-player mode was not cool at all.

Also, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time pretty much makes Ico redundant.
posted by Prospero at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2008


I've scanned in the boxes and instructions for all three of these games, if you're interested (self link, obviously)

Also, I really enjoyed Donkey Kong Country 1, but the other two were much worse, and basically just complete retreads of the first one.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 4:04 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I actually owned that game (and still do, as far as I know, although my SNES died). The graphics did really seem amazing at the time, but after a while they got old. But they really did look nothing like anything that had come before it.

Yoshi's Island and Super Metroid were better games though.

Man, looking at those Wikipedia pages, those games were two and three megabytes respectively. Friggin' tiny.
posted by delmoi at 4:06 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Compared to other games for the SNES, it was beautiful. And the music was really good, too. I don't think it played badly, either- it was an average platformer with high production values and executed very well on a technical level.

I'll grant that it is unfortunate that DKC overshadowed Yoshi's Island.
posted by Jpfed at 4:12 PM on March 29, 2008


Oh wow, someone discovered a New Password for the original Metroid game.
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2008


Man, I'm happy to see Final Fantasy VII on that list. Fucking kids on my lawn acting like they never played FF VI, blowing their wads over Sephiroth when HELLO for white-haired mysterious FF guys Setzer OBVIOUSLY is hotter.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:18 PM on March 29, 2008


My kids still love Donkey Kong Country, the little freaks.

My video game-playing peaked in 1985 with Konami Track And Field.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:40 PM on March 29, 2008


My video game-playing peaked in 1985

According to Wikipedia there have been at least seven generations of video games, 1985 was the end of the second generation. I think I peaked by the third generation. Has anyone actually lived through all seven levels, is there a boss generation at the end?
posted by stbalbach at 5:10 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna have to agree with delmoi, it was a fun game, but for my platformer money, Yoshi's Island was the better game.
posted by demiurge at 5:28 PM on March 29, 2008


Also, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time pretty much makes Ico redundant.

I have to disagree. The Prince's fluid movement, and the beautiful, soft focus rendered architecture of the Persian castle were both exceptional, and Sands Of Time was a joy to play, but Ico, for me, wasn't about the boy's acrobatics - there's a bone deep sense of loss, isolation and myth which permeates every second of that game, giving it an emotional resonance which Sands' serviceable storyline didn't come close to.

Is Ico overrated? Yes, sure, a little. In terms of what it does, there are games which do all the individual elements slightly better - but there are still very, very few games which rarely put a foot wrong, and Ico's one of them.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:32 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, it has the best save-game music of all time...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:36 PM on March 29, 2008


Wow, I pretty much played straight through generations 3-6. I'm missing out on 7.

Did anybody notice on the last link, 4 of the top 10 overrated were Rare games?

And yeah, Perfect Dark sucked.
posted by crazy finger at 5:36 PM on March 29, 2008


I knew Black & White would be high on the list. That game made zero sense. But it seems like, for a list of overrated games, this spends way too much time talking about how good the games were.
posted by obvious at 5:39 PM on March 29, 2008


How well I remember the controversy that Gamespy article caused when it originally got Slashdotted in 2003.
posted by nanojath at 5:48 PM on March 29, 2008


Lists of overrated video games are completely overrated.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:28 PM on March 29, 2008


a classic score

Oh no you didn't. Dude, I went looking for this music not that long ago. That's awesome. Thanks!

Decent game, accompanied by the most hemped out hippy underwater music ever put in a vid.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:56 PM on March 29, 2008


Awesome post! More KongFilter on the blue, please!

I bought DK Country on the Wii virtual console when it was released, having many fond memories of playing it on a SNES emulator in the late 1990s, and I didn't have nearly as much fun as I'd hoped - doubt that I've played it more than a few times.

I still dig the DK Country mining cart level, but as far as my favorite SNES titles go, Super Mario World cannot be beat.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:59 PM on March 29, 2008


Greg Nog -

That was Final Fantasy 9 on that list, not 7.

7 still rocks. :)
posted by MythMaker at 7:25 PM on March 29, 2008


I don't know what the hell is wrong with you people.

Penny Arcade said it best.
posted by Caduceus at 7:32 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time pretty much makes Ico redundant.

...

I have to disagree.

I'll do more than disagree. I'll call that statement out as being utterly clueless. They're two completely different genres, fer heaven's sake, two completely different approaches to gaming. One is fast-paced action, the other is more casually paced adventure. Unless you connect the two by focusing on the way the characters scale and manipulate the environment, in which case, that's a pretty thin case for "redundant."

I don't get to play games anywhere near as often in my old age and rarely get to finish them, yet I have actually finished those two games. SoT had superbly innovative platform design while Ico was a masterpiece of storytelling, character design and artistic vision. Was Ico overrated? Maybe, but those the very qualities it that make it more memorable. Ditto for Bioshock in 5 years or so.
posted by dgbellak at 7:46 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


MythMaker: go back and read the "most overrated" link for a much better list that does in fact include VII. It's right there near the end of the article, just past my lawn.
posted by thedaniel at 7:55 PM on March 29, 2008


*end of the post i mean
posted by thedaniel at 7:55 PM on March 29, 2008


DKC was a great game and a tough game at times. My cousin had it while I was growing up and I enjoyed it; I downloaded it and DKC2 from Virtual Console the last time I went through the catalogue. It holds up (mostly) to what I thought of it. Then again, I'm not a reviewer.

Though, I will concede that the graphics are a bit tacky and Yoshi's Island is a better game. And the minecart levels can go off and die, too.
posted by flatluigi at 9:32 PM on March 29, 2008


This is so hindsight=20/20 for blogging graphics nerds. I'm sure they all loved it at the time, before they knew what was to come.
A few years ago I put my old NES and SNES up in the attic when I made a play area for my kids, and DKC was one they kept going back to again and again, without knowing it was a "bridge" game between Nintendo systems or whatever.
On preview, I see the title of your post, so there ya go.
posted by chococat at 9:44 PM on March 29, 2008


I'll go ahead and enter the thread now to say that for me personally, the DOnkey Kong Country games are about as good as it gets in 2D platforming. Mario and Mega Man are the only other things that can compete (sadly, I've almost no experience with Metroid, so don't think too much of the omission.) In the tradition of Star Wars and The Godfather, DKC2 is the best of the lot, with greatly improved gameplay and a fully immersive, surprisingly dark world, which at points reached levels of beauty which seemed surreal coming from a platform game about monkeys jumping on lizards and collecting bananas.

For me, this was the briar levels, specifically Bramble Blast, linked in the FPP. This was as close as a game has ever felt like heaven, and likely as close as any ever will. The gorgeous visuals, the stunning, soothing music, the lack of a time-limit letting you know that you can just work it all out at your own pace, finding your way through a maze of blast barrels.

As a teenager, when I got truly fustrated by something, I would retreat to that level, not to speed-run it, but just to get lost in it, shooting myself around.

I recently repurchased these games in the last couple weeks. They've lost nothing with time.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:44 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


also stop mentioning megaman I know I said I was going to play it stop making me feel bad for not getting around to it jeez
posted by flatluigi at 10:20 PM on March 29, 2008


Also also. Banjo-Tooie was my favorite game of its genre on the N64. (Majora's Mask was my favorite.) That also held up very well, in my opinion.
posted by flatluigi at 10:23 PM on March 29, 2008


I played DK & DK2 for the first time recently. I thought the graphics were cute and fun but not a reason to play the game. I had lots of fun with both games.

I also played Yoshi's Island for the first time. The graphics and character designs alone make the game worth playing - beautiful, charming, a joy to look at. And the game is lots and lots and lots of fun.

Banjo-Kazooie is a great game too. Overrated? Only if you compare it to Rocket: Robot on Wheels, which was the best 3D platformer from that generation (after Mario64, of course). Not until Psychonauts was there anything better.

And Ico? Underrated. (And I second dgbellak - Prince of Persia SOT is a gem that owes a lot to Ico, but it's a different genre. I love the way combat in Ico feels so desperate. The kid is absolutely not an action hero.)
posted by straight at 11:04 PM on March 29, 2008


Man, I'm happy to see Final Fantasy VII on that list. Fucking kids on my lawn acting like they never played FF VI, blowing their wads over Sephiroth when HELLO for white-haired mysterious FF guys Setzer OBVIOUSLY is hotter.

VI/III is indeed awesome and underrated, but for a good reason: not many people played it. It was apparently only produced for about a week and all the copies were shipped to a small town in Alaska. Even now, original cartridges go for over a hundred bucks. Many people never played it until emulators came around, which was after VII. If you didn't play VII when it came out, you'll never understand. Nothing like that had ever been done before in a video game. For one thing, Aeris. Killing off a major character that the player had been built up to love with no way to prevent it or bring her back Just Wasn't Done, and it was a big step in taking games beyond a kiddie medium. Even now, pushing 30 years old and after playing VII for the first time 10-11 years ago, I was emotionally stirred when *SPOILER*

she shows up in Crisis Core

*SPOILER*. Also, Sephiroth. He wasn't just another cartoon bad guy, he had complex motivations, and once you find out what those are you even sympathize with him. Another thing that wasn't done in video games, even FFVI's Kefka was just a cartoon pure evil baddie, as great as he was.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:03 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It took this post for me to finally get how great the music was in the old Nintendo games.
posted by unmake at 3:06 AM on March 30, 2008


That list was pretty good. Donkey Kong Country really was overrated... not bad, but overrated. I always thought FF7 was another "not bad, but WAY overrated" game too. I liked playing it but it wasn't as good as previous FF games. It ended up being a lot of people's first real RPG and it had such good graphics for the time it came out, so I think that contributed to the hype.
posted by Nattie at 3:17 AM on March 30, 2008


As an avid DKC fan (I loved the three SNES games), I always feel a little pained when someone calls them overrated. They really were a big deal when they were released, and anyone who disagrees clearly has neither eyes nor ears to appreciate the graphics and music that were truly groundbreaking for their time -- and appeared on a cartridge console, no less!

But then I think of how Rare reacted to the overwhelming success of a game that was clearly in its element on the SNES, and I have to agree that DKC as a whole is overrated. The two SNES sequels were unnecessary, but were fun and not at all worthless. But I tried Donkey Kong Land on GameBoy, and it was terrible. The graphics did not translate well, the controls weren't as sensitive...it was a shadow of the original game, which was not designed for handhelds. Ever since, I've been skeptical of anything beyond the originals. The franchise simply isn't special enough to merit all the spinoffs and ported rereleases that are obvious attempts to cash in. I'd say it's too much of a good thing, except it's good only on the SNES and is severely mediocre elsewhere.

So...everyone who ranks DKC high on an "overrated games" list, you have a point. But it still stings. Not because you ranked is as such, but because the entire franchise's undeservedly long lifespan is killing it.
posted by phatkitten at 7:00 AM on March 30, 2008


thedaniel - ah, I didn't bother to see that if I clicked around a whole bunch that somewhere on that site included the words Final Fantasy 7.

The other link had Final Fantasy 9 right out in the open, not subtly hiding somewhere else entirely.

But, frankly, I'll be the first one to admit that I hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns lists on websites that require me to click each and every entry individually. I know that they are trying to maximize advertising dollars, but they do so in a way that I find obnoxious. I'd rather have the whole list on one page and be done with it. So, it didn't occur to me to want to click around the "most overrated" site - I saw that "all time" had a list that was clear for me to read, I didn't really need any more.

But now, yes, I see that someone didn't like FF7.

They are wrong. FF7 is one of the greatest games ever.
posted by MythMaker at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2008


ooh. hot fanboy on fanboy action in this thread.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2008


Everything we loved in the past is overrated. Really. Frampton Comes Alive! What a kickass awesome double album! (For those of a certain age.) With a vertical gatefold portrait inside. Time passes. Frampton who?

We are all a little embarrassed about how much we enjoyed certain things, including video games. Obviously, some games were overhyped, but that's not the same thing as overrated.

If you had fun playing it, then who's to say it was overrated? Now, obviously some overhyped games could get you sucked into buying them, only to be disappointed after a few hours of playing. It sounds like some of the reviews were initially written after only a few hours of euphoric playing, before the problems became evident. That's just bad reporting. Motor Trend would never write a car review after a few laps around the track. But there must be some pressure in the gamegeek press to be the first to review a hyped game, the same way so many of us want to be among the first to get the hot new game.

I love video games, and have numerous systems in my apartment (2 Xboxes, an Xbox 360, Dreamcast, SNES, N64, Wii) which my teenage daughter and I enjoy. Due to my nature, and now probably due to being middle aged, I have no desire to buy a game as soon as it hits. I usually wait until it's half the price that the first buyers paid, and by that time there's enough info to decide if it's worth buying at all. And if I do buy it, it's just as new to me as if I got it on release day. There have been a few exceptions. Halo 2 for my daughter (no regrets) and Enter the Matrix (ugh) come to mind.

I like the linked lists and articles, not because I agree with the overrated list, but because of the nostalgia, and it reminds me of some games I probably should buy for $5 on ebay. They will be brand new to me!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:21 AM on March 30, 2008


I think that some people react badly to the word 'overrated' because they don't realize that something can be both great and overrated. Hell, look at Shakespeare or The Beatles. Both great, both among the best in the history of their medium, both overrated.

And, with that in mind, I think that very, very few first-party Nintendo games are rated accurately. There's just too much nostalgia and sentiment and strong feeling in all directions. Most accurately-rated Nintendo platformer? Luigi's Mansion. People mostly think it's cute, a pretty good launch title and way too short. And they're right.
posted by box at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2008


box, I totally agree. Marlowe's Tamburlaine had a much more intuitive and realistic rise through his "job" system than Henry V did. The whole having to wait until level 4.3 before you unleash the Crispin Crispian ability? Lame.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:12 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll do more than disagree. I'll call that statement out as being utterly clueless. They're two completely different genres, fer heaven's sake, two completely different approaches to gaming. One is fast-paced action, the other is more casually paced adventure. Unless you connect the two by focusing on the way the characters scale and manipulate the environment, in which case, that's a pretty thin case for "redundant."

Strong words! And a callout, even!

I think people who are claiming that PoP: SoT and Ico are in different genres are confusing things that are related to art style with things that are related to genre. Ico and World of Warcraft, for example--definitely different genres. But PoP: SoT wouldn't exist in its current form without Ico as a predecessor--subjective elements like pacing and art style aside, it's far closer to Ico than it is to anything else Jordan Mechner worked on (including the 2-D PoP), and it takes a number of gameplay elements directly from it.

With respect to the sense of helplessness and isolation in Ico (which I think is the best part of the game's art style)--that always struck me as a good example of art working well to distract the player from the limitations of a game's mechanics. The female companion in Ico has AI that's about as good as Natalya's AI in Goldeneye, but while Natalya's pretty much regarded as one of the most annoying companions in the history of videogames, the female companion in Ico works better because the art style and storytelling lead us to expect her to be helpless. Natalya looks like an intelligent adult woman, so we get annoyed when she walks directly into enemy gunfire; the woman of Ico doesn't, so when she has to be repeatedly instructed to climb a ladder, and to stand exactly here or there instead of moving there on her own, we forgive her instead of cursing her. When she's kidnapped, we blame ourselves for our failure to protect her, instead of blaming the game.

That said, one of the major improvements I think PoP:SoT makes on Ico is due in part to the smarter AI that the female assistant has. Primarily, it allowed the designers to create a female companion who comes off as self-confident and independent--not just in the cutscenes, but in the actual gameplay itself. Ico's nice, and I enjoyed playing it, but I've saved so many helpless women in so many videogames over so many years that PoP:SoT's rejection of that trope came as a nice surprise to me.
posted by Prospero at 10:44 AM on March 30, 2008


Yeah, and the Dave Clark Five were much more balanced than The Beatles. Noobs can beat even experienced players by simply picking Paul and mashing the Schmaltz button.
posted by box at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I just see far, far too many differences in gameplay and style between Ico and PoP: SoT to see any direct influence or anything more than a light spiritual connection. I played SoT after I finished and fell in love with Ico, and I gotta say I was never directly reminded of the more abstract Ico. Those stark differences in companions, for one thing - if you just want to point to the fact that they both have companions you must protect, I too was reminded of a slew of older games with that element.

Ico and World of Warcraft, for example--definitely different genres.

Oh, I don't know. I found your companion argument to come up quite a bit in WoW. A great deal of the game is built on that concept, in fact. It's just not AI-driven.

But PoP: SoT wouldn't exist in its current form without Ico as a predecessor

I still strongly disagree. Too much of SoT is obviously inspired by 3-D platforming in general and especially elements of its own franchise. A stronger argument can probably be made that SoT made Tomb Raider redundant. (In fact, that argument may have been already.) At most, Ico made it okay to try a 3-D PoP again, after that previous debacle. When critics pointed to Ico as a direct influence, it was probably just a way of putting it in great company. There's little redundancy between Ico and SoT, certainly too little to render either title obsolete or forgettable. They coexist in the gaming world just fine. Or perhaps I'm reading too much into the original "redundant" claim and hate to see anything negative possibly being said about Ico. We gamers are a pretty defensive bunch.

subjective elements like pacing and art style aside...

We're talking about videogames here; those are HUGE elements to set aside. Pacing and art style are what make admittedly uninspired games like DKC seem so fun and amazing.
posted by dgbellak at 12:03 PM on March 30, 2008


Hell, look at Shakespeare or The Beatles. Both great, both among the best in the history of their medium, both overrated.

...the hell?
posted by dgbellak at 12:07 PM on March 30, 2008


that always struck me as a good example of art working well to distract the player from the limitations of a game's mechanics

That's definitely a big part of what makes Ico so special - the limited mechanics - and they are limited, I can only assume deliberately - are in pitch perfect accordance with the art style and the understated, but incredibly effective storyline. It essentially uses its mechanics as a completely integrated part of the narrative.

Which SoT does, too, to an extent. I don't think they are different genres, really, just different takes on a similar idea - SoT obviously owes a huge debt to Ico in both art style and mechanics.

As for Yorda being the helpless videogame/fairytale princess - well, yes, she is. That just makes the moments where *she* saves you as surprising and moving as they are.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:14 PM on March 30, 2008


I played SoT after I finished and fell in love with Ico, and I gotta say I was never directly reminded of the more abstract Ico.

Interesting--for me it's the reverse. After I played SoT straight through in a weekend, I was told by a couple of people if I liked that, then I'd love Ico. That may have prejudiced me toward viewing Ico as a less technically advanced version of PoP. (Also, Ico's diehard fans are wont to say things like, "If you like [insert game here, or perhaps even a thing that isn't a game, such as a chicken parmesan sandwich] then you'll love Ico.")

Beyond that, I suspect that if we talked further we'd find we have different positions on the whole "games as art" question and the importance of aesthetic elements in games--not necessarily opposed, but quite different. That is a conversation that I've gone through too many times on gaming boards to want to go through again right now, though.

Re: whether PoP was influenced by Ico, rather than type out a lengthy response I'll point to this reviewer who discuss the similarities between the two games in some detail, and even claims that Ico is an update of the original Prince of Persia.

See also: "The dominant inspiration for the game is Sony's Ico, and even players that have not enjoyed the original Prince of Persia games will find the tasks, level design and co-operative interplay between the prince and princess entirely familiar."

And, interestingly, given what I said above: "If you play Ico before Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, you probably think Sands ripped Ico off. If you play Ico after Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, you probably think that Sands really improved on what Ico accomplished."

So you can disagree with it (this is all opinion, anyway), but at any rate I'm not the only person to think it.

Or perhaps I'm reading too much into the original "redundant" claim and hate to see anything negative possibly being said about Ico.

Yeah, that was in my gaming forum voice, not my MeFi voice.
posted by Prospero at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2008


Pop me onto the "thought DKC was an amazing game" list.
It's one of the few games I could be bothered to finish, and for me that says something.
posted by seanyboy at 1:12 PM on March 30, 2008


I always thought FF7 was another "not bad, but WAY overrated" game too. I liked playing it but it wasn't as good as previous FF games. It ended up being a lot of people's first real RPG and it had such good graphics for the time it came out, so I think that contributed to the hype.

People who like Japanese-style RPGs seem to fall into two camps: they either like the game mechanic itself with the powering-up and the maxing-out and the grinding, or they like discovering new parts of the story and exploring the locations. I think the story/exploration group, which I belong to, is larger, and for that group FFVII is probably the apex. I mean, there was one major character and huge parts of the story that were completely optional and hidden. FFX is another example, the game-mechanic group hated it because it was basically on-rails and combat was way easy, and the other group love it because the story and characters (Auron is easily the greatest JRPG character ever) were excellent. The game-mechanic people hail Dragon Quest VIII as the greatest ever, which I see as a boring, mind-numbing exercise in time-wasting grinding. It's all a matter of opinion, it's just their opinion happens to be wrong. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play some Crisis Core.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2008


DecemberBoy, right on with that dissection, although I think I have a foot planted firmly in both camps, which is why I can't finish most RPG's either through boredom with the simplistic and predictable storyline or frustration with the repetitive, limited game mechanics. So for instance, the mechanics in Disgaea were fun, but the storyline was so insipid (to me) that I just couldn't get down with it. On the other end of the spectrum, I plateaued about halfway through FFVII, fascinated by the story, but bored by the gameplay, which - get this - I felt I had to just keep grinding through in order to get to more story.

I think that's because the first (and so far only) RPGs I've played all the way through were Final Fantasy Tactics and Oblivion, which both got it so right on both sides that everything else has seemed like a let-down. My girlfriend has been playing Persona 3 recently, and what I've seen of that makes it seem like a "long-hauler" but that's a hell of a long haul - about 80 hours worth of game time, at least.

What made the old-school platformers work so well is that they had only the most skeletal stories - only what was necessary to make the game-play and goals make some sense, and were short enough, and the challenges varied enough, to make the game-play purely visceral. This was in the days when games truly were, as Roger Ebert might frustratingly put it, not art but craft. I believe DKC went a long way towards making them art, if only in the music and visuals, while keeping the game-play top-notch.

Once we got into the 5th and 6th generation systems, with all of their capacity, games really had to be bigger, and aside from Mario, the platformers truly required much more storyline. Here's where one of my very favorite series comes in: Sly Cooper. It was light and fun, with great mechanics, fun challenges, and a Saturday-Morning-Cartoon feel (right down to some of the very first uses of cel-chaded graphics) but also designed a valuable story-line running through all three games. If you've played them all, you know what I'm talking about. If not, know that at one point, two of your three controllable characters are imprisoned, and suddenly you're left with the weakest character having to handle their breakout all on his own, double crosses, love-interests, enemies becoming allies, one character getting maimed and paralyzed, leading another on a Spirit-Quest, and in the end, characters breaking out of their previous roles to prove their worth. All of this, again, in a light, friendly, fun package.

Ico did the same sort of thing, and earlier, and will always be more celebrated for the subtlety of the connections between the characters, but for me it's always gonna be Sly. And now, after the amazement that is Okami (I cried during the climactic battle - that's how good it is) platformers will really have to bring it in the future.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:30 PM on March 30, 2008


i remember a whole, whole lot of my friends declaring "look! they're rendered! like, on an SGI machine! it's so much better than hand drawn art!".

no amount of "yeah, but then they were converted to 6 shade black and white and then colorized, poorly, at a resolution so low as to obscure any of the detail that that 'rendering' could have given it... and it looks much, much worse than hand drawn art as a result, no?" would change any minds.
posted by radiosilents at 9:44 PM on March 30, 2008


I think people who are claiming that PoP: SoT and Ico are in different genres are confusing things that are related to art style with things that are related to genre.

This is backwards. The art style and level design of PoP are clearly inspired (in the very best sense) by Ico. It's the gameplay that makes them different genres. Ico is an adventure game. The focus is on "What should I do next?" PoP is an action game. The focus is on "Can I do it?" Yes, there's some overlap, but the difference makes them feel like different genres to me. There's no need for a "rewind" feature in Ico.

In the Prince of Persia games, combat is supposed to be fun (they improved it a lot in the second two games). In Ico, combat really has more to do with pacing and atmosphere (Bad Things are coming, and all you can do is desperately beat them back with a stick.)

A stronger argument can probably be made that SoT made Tomb Raider redundant.

An even stronger argument can be made that SoT saved Tomb Raider. I enjoyed the first Tomb Raider when it came out, but the gameplay and controls for third-person 3D games have improved so much since then that to go back to the original TR is incredibly tedious. Angel of Darkness, the first "next-gen" Tomb Raider game (the first to use a completely new engine from the first game) made the mistake of keeping the classic Tomb Raider controls and gameplay. It flopped so hard it about killed the franchise.

But then the next two Tomb Raider games (Legend and Anniversary) completely revamped the controls/gameplay, borrowing shamelessly from Sands of Time, and turned out to be a lot of fun (buried under thick layers of fan service, of course).
posted by straight at 11:31 AM on March 31, 2008


Ico is an adventure game. The focus is on "What should I do next?" PoP is an action game. The focus is on "Can I do it?" Yes, there's some overlap, but the difference makes them feel like different genres to me.

I see what you're saying here. And perhaps genre is ultimately a matter of feeling, not definition. However, while it's true that the rewind function lets you experiment without penalty (which was the biggest problem with original PoP--hey, look, I fell on spikes again, awesome) I'd be more convinced by the distinction between "What should I do next?" and "Can I do it?" if Ico were more nonlinear. The difference between the design of Ico's labyrinth and PoP's series of connected rooms is that Ico's labyrinth seems all of a piece; however, there's really only one non-trivial way (that I know of) to go through Ico, so the nonlinearity is a convincing illusion. When you say "What should I do next?", the first thing I think of is Grand Theft Auto, or some other sandbox game. But this is heading into the territory of discussing whether The Legend of Zelda is really an RPG or not--a matter of semantics in the end.

Re: the more elaborate combat of PoP--again, here's a case where I might be prejudiced by having played PoP before Ico. I remember mainly being struck by how mellow it was--the combat seemed like it was thrown in as a sop to gamers who think every game should have finishing moves and such. I've never played the two sequels, though (because reviews of the "second" PoP game implied that there was a stronger emphasis on combat: lots of fights, and fewer puzzle rooms). I think I might have preferred Ico's combat, come to think of it, as it didn't require any learning, and was quick to hurry through.

Incidentally, I liked Ico's final boss fight precisely because

*spoiler, but if you're reading at this point, you probably already know it*

it's so fast. Once you've figured out how to beat the boss, it's beaten, without having to execute the same series of tedious moves several times in a row. PoP:SoT tries the same thing, but for whatever reason its final boss fight (one of a few small blots on the game for me) comes off as anticlimactic, rather than satisfying.

If anything, this thread has made me want to go back and play both those games again.
posted by Prospero at 2:58 PM on March 31, 2008


"What should I do next?", the first thing I think of is Grand Theft Auto, or some other sandbox game.

I guess I wasn't clear. The distinction I meant to make was that in Ico, the hard/fun part is figuring out how to navigate the next section of the castle. PoP has some of that too, but really the hard/fun part in PoP is actually executing the moves.

A reflex-challenged person could get 95% of the fun out of Ico by sitting next to a more-skilled friend who is willing to work the controller and telling him what to do next. PoP, not so much.
posted by straight at 7:37 PM on March 31, 2008


It took this post for me to finally get how great the music was in the old Nintendo games.
posted by unmake at 3:06 AM on March 30 [+] [!]


You'll love this then.
posted by Reth_Eldirood at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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