Please allow me to take Mr. Nicolai’s post below a step beyond: I have given up on gaming.
Well, in a certain sense. What I mean to say is that I’ve given up on keeping up with gaming — that is to say, I’m not buying any new releases this fall. Except a couple of Atlus games, of course, because if I skip Persona 4 and Poison Pink now I’ll have to pay twice their actual value in a year. Besides those two exceptions, though — nothing! I picked up Order of Ecclesia last week and played about 10 minutes of it before shrugging and going to back to tending shop with Torneko. I’ve made a few forays into the world of Mana, too. (Via a 14-year-old Mana adventure.) But for some reason, everything else leaves me cold — and the games that actually do interest me aren’t so compelling I feel like paying money for them right now.
I suspect that all of this can be traced back to my random encounter with poverty a little while ago. Scrambling desperately to pay for rent and food for half a year forced me to stop and say, “Is it really necessary to keep up with every single release that comes down the pipeline?” Sure, I work in the gaming press, but it’s not like we have a shortage of people happy to write about Dead Space and Resistance 2 on our staff. Why should I feel obligated to keep up simply for appearances’ sake? This revelation resulted in a round of serious preorder culling; and after further thought, I looked at interesting titles like Fallout 3 and Valkyria Chronicle and realized that I don’t really need them, either…at least not until next year, when they’ve had a price cut. Mind you, I’ve taken great pleasure in dredging up stuff to use on my new Twin Famicom; it’s just the shiny new things that I have little interest in, probably because they all demand a lot more time to complete than something like Kabuki Quantum Fighter.
Not coincidentally, I’ve also quietly bowed out of reviews duty as well, because I can’t seem to drum up enough give-a-crap to bother completing anything these days, and finishing stuff for review got to be painful. Besides, my main interest in game writing has always been researching and writing about the medium’s history, and I enjoy that part of it more than ever. Sooner or later, Fable II will enter the purview of Retronauts. I’ll probably get around to playing it then. (Assuming there are any working Xbox 360s left in the world in ten years.)
That’s not to say I’m completely apathetic about upcoming releases — and at the moment, nothing interests me quite so much as this little gem:
I saw some new screens for Dragon Quest IX over on that one corrupt and evil forum this morning, and it filled my shriveled little heart with happiness. Just look at it! Level-5 always manages to squeeze much more out of the systems it works on than should really be possible, and that seems to go double for the DS. DQIX looks like it’s going to make Matrix’s Final Fantasy remakes feel like amateur hour.
But what interests me most about this Dragon Quest is its multiplayer dynamic. I’m not normally one for gaming with others, but the concept of a traditional turn-based RPG with multiple players taking turns making input and working together to take down foes seems really intriguing and could make the toughest battles even more exciting than usual. Plus, DQ’s tradition of no battle truly lost means you’re less likely to genuinely hate a fellow party member for screwing up; you’ll lose some cash if you team up with some weaksauce mage who wants to attack feebly rather than cast spells, but you won’t lose the game.
The lower image shows the battle system playing out exactly as I imagined, and exactly as it should: each player chooses which foe to attack, moving down the player list in sequence with all commands and targets clearly marked. Player one is attacking; the second player, is casting “Mera” (which I think is “Sizzle”); and player three is trying to decide whether to go after a Slime or a Bodkin Archer. Meanwhile, player four is wishing the others would hurry the heck up.
I was disappointed when the action RPG system Square Enix initially showed off for the system disappeared, but in retrospect it was probably smart move. The Japanese portable market is more or less clogged with Monster Hunter play-alikes at this point, and had DQIX stayed on its original course it would have simply been another in a long line of me-too trend-jumpers. Hardly a description befitting its legacy. Besides, this turn-based approach seems more in keeping with the spirit of the series, not just the mechanics; DQ is about accessibility and playability, and a system that plays out at the party’s speed should be a lot friendlier to the wide demographic spread that comprises the Dragon Quest userbase.
After all, as Nicolai astutely pointed out, “hardcore” and “casual” are just descriptions of gamers, not games. And Dragon Quest is a series for everyone — even curmudgeons like me, it seems.