Yeah, after a long hiatus I’m posting again. I’ve found blogging to be a lot harder than I thought, but I’m going to try and work things out.
Now, ask anyone about a video game and they’ll probably tell you that gameplay is more important than story. Ask many people about a video game and they’ll probably tell you that story doesn’t matter at all.
For me, it does matter.
As this is an article about storylines, this WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Granted, I’m often a lot more lenient about stories in video games. Well, perhaps in general, really. I don’t know, either I think a story is underrated, or I think a story seen to be confusing has a much deeper meaning that other people think and I piece together my interpretation of it. This has also caused a huge dilemma for me, because then I get the urge to promote my ideas, which often results in my wanting to write fanfiction.
Good Story, Bad Gameplay
My first dilemma comes from a good story I like and gameplay I’m not too fond of. Believe it or not… I REALLY don’t like the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts 2 is MUCH better in that respect, but even then, I’m not that much of a fan of purely action-based RPG’s like Kingdom Hearts.
Another game I kinda like from a series I LOVE, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, is the same way. I love traditional turn-based RPG’s with a traditional battle and leveling system. Even if its action-based with a traditional battle and leveling system, such as Star Ocean and Tales, I still do enjoy it somewhat, though often not as much as turn-based RPG’s which are more about strategy than hitting buttons fast enough. Even Final Fantasy XIII; I prefer XIII’s battle system any day (other than the inability to control partners and especially inability to change leader during battle) to an action-based RPG game.
Despite my dislike of Kingdom Hearts’ battle system, I love the story in the games. Ironic, because I think most people say the opposite. I really, really like piecing together the storyline and imagining what’s going to happen next. Even when most of it does not come to fruition, I’m deeply into the storyline. Naturally, if the story sucks I probably wouldn’t play an action-based RPG game. Typically RPG’s in general have good stories, though, so it doesn’t bother me much.
Kingdom Hearts is fantasy, and tons of unexpected things always happen in fantasy games. That’s why when Nomura throws a curveball I just deal with it instead of screaming at him like a baby. I like plot twists, and I like it when strange things happen. As long as its not an out of the blue sort of thing, but usually Nomura leaves things open in the story so he can expand on it.
The ending to Dream Drop Distance (which I have not played but I have read up on the story for it) is one such example. Yes, SPOILER ALERT!
The main antagonist ends up being Young Master Xehanort from the past, whom has been collecting various versions of Xehanort to fill in the missing members of Organization XIII. Other nobodies reborn such as Isa (Saix) and Braig (Xigbar) also return. Braig is obvious, since he’s been hinted at quite a bit, but all the other versions of Xehanort? And a new version we haven’t seen before?
Well, actually, Young Master Xehanort is shown in Birth By Sleep during a flashback. Plus, its been confirmed that the mysterious figure that appears to be Xemnas unlockable as a secret super boss is actually Young Master Xehanort traveling through time. They changed Organization XIII around as well, but honestly, something seemed rather fishy about their goals to begin with in Kingdom Hearts 2. I kinda like how they went back and reworked the story behind them.
In any case, in Kingdom Hearts I really do like the story. The gameplay isn’t my favorite, but its good enough to not make me absolutely hate it to rage quit. Really, though, if it wasn’t for the story I wouldn’t have finished Kingdom Hearts. Chain of Memories was incredibly annoying, as well.
Sonic ’06 is another HUGE example of this. Its storyline is heavily loathed, but I actually like it… to an extent. They put in a lot of good backstories and the overall plot and scheme is good. I just think there’s a lot missing from the story because of its trashy development. Many early leaked plot details (leaked along with the gameplay) indicated several things missing from the final.
One of the first things is the notion that Mephiles is actually a demon as opposed to the other half of Solaris. This is a much more interesting development that what most people believe. There’s also the statement that this takes place before Sonic Rush, and that Blaze never actually met Sonic during the game. Plus, Gerald was indicated to be involved in the backstory and had worked with the Duke of Soleanna in the past, one huge part that was missing.
In my honest opinion I believe this game was primarily exploring Blaze’s past. She doesn’t play a huge role in the story, but she was included because it was critical to her backstory. She even seems to remember Crisis City in Sonic Generations. One major factor I keep seeing is that Elise is the only one capable of sealing Iblis, then in the future Blaze is the only one. Only a royal soul can house Iblis, apparently only one directly connected to the house of Soleanna.
All of this depth makes me really admire Sonic ’06 on the story front, despite its lousy execution. Numerous things happened in the story that probably weren’t supposed to, such as Blaze meeting Sonic for example. Either that or when she sent herself to an alternate dimension at the end she was split off and gained her own memories from this new dimension instead of the one she was truly from. The game was a train wreck, and Sonic’s story kinda sucked, but I still found it to have a much deeper backstory built around it, it just wasn’t executed very well.
Good Gameplay, Lousy Storyline
I’ve seen this happen sometimes. Some games have pretty good gameplay, but I just hate the story so much I give up and stop playing. Honestly I’m tired of seeing plotlines where some religious organization that’s predominant in the world is actually evil and trying to take over, or they themselves aren’t specifically evil but their God actually is.
Luminous Arc is the first example I can come up with. I liked the gameplay in Luminous Arc, but honestly it just kept pushing so much into this crappy overused plot device that I really didn’t like it. Even with the crappy plot device the plot just overall sucked from the start and the dialogue was horrible. Luminous Arc 2 I found to be a lot better in that respect, and I enjoyed the story much more since it went in a different direction.
Platformer games aren’t known well for good storylines, but Sonic games often have decent stories. Even Unleashed’s story was pretty decent. Sonic Colors on the other hand is just laughable. Even Sonic Generations has a decent storyline with a pretty cool plot twist, but Sonic Generations more lives off of nostalgia. Sonic Colors? I quickly got bored of it. The gameplay is great, though, I really DID like the gameplay. But I rented the game for one weekend and almost beat it over the weekend. The plot wasn’t all that interested, and I never picked it up again. At this point I have no plans to buy the game, either (unless I get a Wii/Wii U and find it in a bargain bin).
Mario is another pretty good example of a series without particularly grand stories. Most Mario stories suck. That’s a given, assuming they even HAVE a story of course. This is the kind of game where a good story may have kept me more interested in playing the game. Despite what it may seem I really did like the stories in Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario. Super Mario Galaxy? It was fun, but it wasn’t super awesome like everyone has stated, and the lack of a good story didn’t help much.
Many classic games had almost no story at all, either. Sonic the Hedgehog? Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Super Mario Brothers? The Legend of Zelda? Games without any real storyline have to be VERY fun and enjoyable to really get my attention. I’m starting to finally go back and actually finish The Legend of Zelda, but its kinda boring without the narrative to keep me going.
I’ve never beat Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, or Legend of Zelda. Donkey Kong Country is an exception in that case; I liked the gameplay enough and it wasn’t so insanely hard that I quit long before reaching the end. Of course, the ability to save also helps.
Well, perhaps platformers aren’t a good example, then, hmm? Let’s take a look at some RPG’s. Final Fantasy III. The REAL Final Fantasy III, not Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy VI has an awesome storyline). FFIII really doesn’t have much of a good story, honestly. I got a little ways but not much further than that. I just got bored of it too quickly.
Lufia: The Legend Returns is a questionable example, but most people seemed to enjoy this one and hated Lufia: Ruins of Lore from what I had read. So, playing through it, the gameplay isn’t that bad. I kinda liked it. I’d have liked it a lot better if they didn’t make all of the dungeons identical (e.g. exactly like the Ancient Cave). And I did beat this game. But why did I beat this game?
Because I thought the story was going to get better! I feel like I wasted the whole game waiting on a good ending and it was incredibly anticlimactic. I loved Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, I loved Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. For the former it was moreso the story; the gameplay pales in comparison after you start playing Lufia II, but the gameplay isn’t bad persay. But The Legend Returns really just failed.
Another game I really liked, but hated the story on, was The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. This game would’ve been far better if you had been playing as the REAL fellowship rather than some crappy fancharacters that sucked. They could’ve made the story decent, and Lord of the Rings is epic. What’s worst of all, though, is the final boss.
Okay, seriously, how the HELL did they get all the way into Bara-dur and attack the Eye of Sauron head-on? Yeah, it was a cool boss battle, but… guys? What the hell? The real characters don’t even do that! Oh, and to top it all off, we DON’T EVEN SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CHARACTERS WE’VE BEEN PLAYING AS THE WHOLE GAME! Yeah, as much as I like this game, the story SERIOUSLY pissed me off. It IS a good, traditional RPG game experience, but its got a lousy story on top of it.
On the other hand, there’s another extreme I have seen in regards to story versus gameplay. Sometimes, a story sucks so bad that people not only say it ruins the whole game but the entire franchise. I’m… really not sure how that works, with few exceptions.
The main aspect I keep thinking about here is Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Getting down to it, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is epic. Probably the one thing that annoys me is the ability to die by losing all MP, and even then I didn’t think this was really all that bad. I actually thought it was a clever change from the norm, it wasn’t really that much of a nuisance, and furthermore, its incredibly helpful against a number of otherwise incredibly difficult battles.
In any case, that’s not why Star Ocean: Till the End of Time gets so much hate. No, somehow it apparently kills the entire franchise because of its plot twist. Its rather quite infamous, really; apparently the entire universe is one giant MMORPG created by creatures known as fourth-dimensional beings whom are now trying to kill everyone because they realized that the characters in the game have evolved souls of their own.
Now, I both dislike and love this plot twist. I really think its a cool twist to happen in this kind of game, and I don’t see what’s wrong with it all in the context of the series. I don’t see how it ruins what happened in any past games at all. Even anything, this plot twist explains them even BETTER, also hinting that these fourth-dimension beings were heavily involved in many of the plots of the main antagonists of prior games.
How, exactly, does this plot twist kill the franchise? I think the plot twist is epic. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the whole thing essentially amounts to killing God. Even then, why does it destroy the events of the prior games? I have a hard time understanding this. Its well established in this game that the characters have long-since “evolved” thoughts and feelings of their own, they’re not bound to the creators of the universe whatsoever. This really boggles the mind.
Then the developers make it even worse by claiming that Star Ocean: The Last Hope does not take place in the eternal sphere. Lolwut? Its WELL established that The Last Hope is a direct (LITERALLY DIRECT) prequel to Star Ocean, with the events of the game taking place only a couple years before the main events of Star Ocean (the main events take place 300 years in the past) and directly mentions several characters. Honestly, this is worse; they could’ve at least hinted and acknowledged the fact that SO3 established the universe as being a creation. There is ONE theory I have about this glaring plothole, but I’m not going to get into that yet.
On the other hand, I have heard about a storyline that essentially did kill the franchise; namely Mass Effect 3. I don’t play Mass Effect, but this topic has been discussed lately and brought up several times on a topic in the General Video games forum over there, so I kinda know what happened. Essentially, because of the ending, everything you have physically done is pointless by the end.
This is a HUGE, HUGE different from SO3. In Star Ocean 3, nothing that you did in prior games is rendered pointless. I really don’t get the complaints here. You can change some aspects of the game endings, but it doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot, and it certainly doesn’t change anything that happened in prior titles. In fact, by the end of the game the universe IS SAVED. Unlike in Mass Effect 3 (though they did try to fix it after the fact).
In any case, that’s all for this discussion right now. I’ll try posting another article soon…