Monday, September 29, 2008

Blasphemy, Heresy, and Apostacy

Killing God (or the applicable god-like being) has been a staple of the JRPG genre since the 16-bit days, if not earlier. A couple of my favorite instances are (spoiler alert?) Xenogears and Final Fantasy Tactics. Chains of Promathia was pretty awesome, too.

I find the more deicide-centered JPRG plots to be some of the more interesting ones out there. On a related note, I read the book of Revelation as a pre-teen, more for the horror than anything, and I thought it was awesome as an apocalyptic fantasy. Thus, I became interested in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne when I heard the plot's conceit: Tokyo is rent from the rest of the world and rolled up as the the inside of a sphere, it's own little "Vortex World" in a new dimension, with its physical and spritual natural laws still undetermined.

Demons of various types, along with a handful of human survivors, and many souls of the newly-dead, roam the new landscape, and the main character is young man chosen by a mysteriously Luciferian young boy become a half-demon steward of this new world, helping by his actions to determine its future. It appears to go from here toward a multi-partisan conflict between 3 main ethos that the main character can act in concert with, or ignore altogether, and reshape the world accordingly. I read there are six possible endings to the game, and Devil May Cry's Dante guest stars.

The central gameplay device seems to consist of recruiting wandering demons (mostly those encountered in random battles) into the main character's party, leveling them up, fusing them, and using their affinities to exploit enemies' weaknesses. It's close to your typical turn-based RPG gameplay, with a little bit Pokemon flavor in the demon recruitment and management.

It's pretty decent so far, but I do have to knock the environments; the overworld is a total classic RPG throw-back, which isn't terrible, but it has a laughably bad blue peg-looking thing as the party icon that you slide around to go places. The towns and dungeons and such are better, explorable in full 3-D, but they're sparsely populated and can be very bland (when they're not twisted and cool), reminiscent of Crisis Core on PSP and games like Shinobi and Maken X (another Atlus game), among other Japanese PS2/Dreamcast games. However, the demons and other creatures around, the character designs by Kaneko Kazuma, are extremely inventive and cool.

I wonder, though, if even an RPG as promising as this one is really worth the time investment. Would a better way of exploring the three themes in the title of this post just be to read a book? I'm sure there are plenty of philosophy books out there raising these questions, and even some good fiction based around them. Maybe my friends reading this could even recommend some?

Narrative in games has always been a major attraction for me, but these days I have a lot less time to devote, and a lot broader tastes in gaming. I find myself more concerned with a game's central play mechanic in addition to the narrative as a means to satisfy that itch that sends me to my consoles in the first place. Hence the reason I have jumped back into Halo multiplayer some this week, and have played a lot of action-y (especially 2-D) titles and Diablo lately.


Necovia said...

The Wire rules!

Count Elmdor said...

fuck yeah.

lol, did you meet Cheapy D at some kind of book release party? He said he met some guy from Success on the latest CAGcast.

Necovia said...

LOL. Yeah, I met him and his wife. They were cool. Did he have bad stuff to say about me? Met Bashcraft and family too.

Count Elmdor said...

nah, he just joked it was funny they're called Success because all their games get owned in reviews... when I met him at PAX I told him I had a friend at Success who was working on localizing Stranglehold, since he talked about liking the game on several shows.

That's pretty cool. I heard "the gaming Jesus," Mark MacDonald was there, too. Did you ever look into 8-4, or whatever it's called, the localization company over there? I think they did some Atlus stuff?

Necovia said..., I didn't look into it. I'll check it out. Yeah, I listened to the podcast. Glad he thinks I'm a nice guy. We've made loose plans for a beer sometime.

And he's more or less right about Success. We should change the name.

Oh, and yeah, Mark was there, but I didn't meet him. One of only a few people I didn't talk to.

Necovia said...

Speaking of funny word ironies, The Suffering is now available as a free download, sponsored by the US Air Force.
Not that I think it would be THAT bad to be in the AF, but not the best image to suggest, right?

Count Elmdor said...

Wonder why they don't sponsor something like an Ace Combat or Tom Clancy's HAWX (lol) instead.