Thursday, September 13, 2018

Skies of Arcadia: a difficult start

I bought Skies of Arcadia for the Dreamcast (for £5 when HMV was clearing its stock).  I bought Skies of Arcadia Legends for the Gamecube (for about the same when Game was clearing its stock).  I have never played either.

But now, with the release of ReDream, a clean and simple Dreamcast emulator, and a few spare hours with my laptop in a Taiwan hotel, I have at least started it.  There are a few graphical effects on the screen which wouldn't be there if I were playing on my Dreamcast, but at the same time I wouldn't have such a clean picture ... and in fact I wouldn't be playing it at all.

The game isn't exactly the quickest to start, with cutscene after cutscene introducing the cast and situation.  The characters are well designed, if not immediately likeable, and there's a good world that feels ready to be explored.

But when the game starts properly, it's just all a bit slow.  You have to traverse long distances (across admittedly beautiful scenery) to find the next checkpoint, and it feels very linear and scripted.  I'm sure that the game will eventually open out, but after an hour I had only just landed the ship, after a few easy battles, and had managed to get stuck in a cupboard.

This is a problem I have with most JRPGs, to be fair, and as I get older and I have less free time it becomes ever more noticeable.  While this is a game I'd like to play more of, I suspect that realistically I can expect to forget about it now and have to replay the first part again in the future.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: completed!

It has been a long time since I have written on this blog, and that is largely down to one game - Breath of the Wild.

I completed this last November, after around 160 hours of playing.  I would frequently turn the game on with every intention of heading for the next waypoint, but then get distracted by a side quest as I passed some stables.  I'd notice something odd from the top of a mountain; I'd see an opportunity to fight a few enemies to collect some loot; I'd notice a shooting star in the sky and chase it.

The freedom that game gives you - even allowing you to jump straight to the end boss once you're out of the initial area - is a great strength but also a possible weakness.  I didn't want the game to end, knowing there was so much left to see (I had found 112 of the 120 shrines by the end), and it was only with a significant mental push that I finally went to meet with Ganon.

And even that went wrong.  I hadn't appreciated that journeying to Ganon would involve a long trek through the grounds of Hyrule Castle, and my route took me into a library where I found some recipes that someone in Riverside Stable had asked me for.  So, of course, I had to return there before going back in to the castle.

The interior was a masterpiece of artistic design.  What would a castle look like after being neglected for a hundred years, used as a home for monsters? 

Dark, dingy and claustrophobic.  Even getting outside didn't help, since the drifting ashes in the air and hiding guardians meant the atmosphere remained tense.  I used my gale powers to drift ever higher, and entered the tower from a top window, leading to a nervous descent inside.  I needn't have worried; Ganon had become complacent.

So, if I completed this back in November, why have I not written about it until now?  Partially because I have been playing other things on my commute, but partially because I couldn't find the words to do this game justice.  It has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and I cannot argue with that.  Many people have written far more eloquently than I would be able to, and yet no article has fully captured just how amazing it is.

It's daft to give up a blog like this because of a perception of language inadequacy, though.  So instead I'll sum Breath of the Wild up in a single word, before moving on.