I have an item hoarding problem. It’s getting a little better, but no matter how much trouble I’m having, I often just can’t get myself to use anything that I can’t easily replace. This problem is entirely my own fault, and it usually leads to generally imbalanced difficulty and an anticlimactic endgame. No matter how well adjusted to provide the perfect challenge a final boss might be, they tend to go down like chumps when faced with parties lugging around comically large inventories of untouched rare goods. And it’s for this very reason that I love the limited inventory systems in games like the first Suikoden and Odin Sphere.
[[image:cg_odinsphere.png:I like beat ’em ups more when gardening is involved.:center:0]]
This may sound crazy, but I always thought that managing inventory in Suikoden was one of the most fun aspects of the game. There is so much equipment scattered throughout Suikoden that, even if you constantly switch between all 108 of the game’s characters, it’s easy to keep a well-maintained party without ever visiting an armor shop. If anything, buying extra defensive goods is a hassle, since the amount of items any one character can carry is so limited that you will constantly be throwing things out to free up space even if you limit yourself to what can be found in treasure chests and occasional random drops. Since the difficulty in the actual battles in Suikoden is fairly low, the biggest challenge in it for me is struggling with the dated inventory system. I hear that this should irritate me, but for some sick reason I enjoy organizing imaginary equipment. Suikoden is so relaxing and player friendly that dealing with this design flaw is the time I feel most like I’m actively playing the game.
Odin Sphere is even better, in that it seems to be a game designed entirely around forcing the player to make the best of an awkward inventory system. While the combat system is enjoyable, it’s far too awkward to build an entire game around, and Odin Sphere makes no pretentious otherwise. The heart of Odin Sphere is not a sub-par beat ‘em up, but rather an intricately designed game of resource management. The loot rewards for even moderate success in battle tend to fill your inventory quickly, and any item you toss out is a missed opportunity. Any seed you throw away instead of plant is both a missed curative food item and wasted HP experience; any alchemical material you pass over instead of immediately mixing with whatever ingredients are on hand deprives you of both a new potion to use in battle and also experience to strengthen your weapon. In essence, Odin Sphere is a game where you grind levels not by trudging through endless random encounters, but by fighting to get the maximum efficiency out of the inventory system.
In a strange way, my tendency to hoard actually leads me to enjoy games that actively prevent me from doing so. My item hoarding problem largely comes down to a love of being over-prepared. When there are no limits placed on my inventory, I often end up ruining the game for myself by collecting items instead of using them. In a misguided attempt to prepare for what might come later, I often ruin the game balance by limiting my use of an integral gameplay system. On the other hand, when I am limited, either by an archaic inventory system in a game like Suikoden or a conscious design choice to force the player to use items constantly like in Odin Sphere, my tendency to constantly perfect my inventory helps me to make the best out of those limitations. Not only that, my experiences in games like these has helped me to get more enjoyment out of games without inventory limitations, teaching me to focus less on the obsessive accumulation of imaginary goods and more on, you know, actually enjoying the game.