I have a cycle of sleep, dear LusiDreamers, and it proceeds thusly: I do not sleep for many days in a row and then one day I sleep.
Last night I slept. Let us proceed.
Bravely Default is a long game, folks. I bought the game early, and while I am happily busier than I have been in months, I still dedicate a lot of my time to the game and am realizing that it is not the sort of game that should be rushed. It is built to be explored, at least in the mechanical sense. The world itself, while largely beautiful, is not really one of exploration, but the interaction of the job classes and the abilities is astonishingly deep. It is obvious that the key to playing on the harder difficulty levels has far less to do with leveling up characters and far more to do with an intimacy with the battle system, and that is the most refreshing part of the game.
Bravely Default has found that magical balance between making a deep, interesting, and rewarding turn-based battle system without forcing every minor battle to last 45 minutes. A battle on the overworld might be nothing more than letting the auto-battle do its thing while I collect the rewards, but then a boss battle might still be a lengthy, desperate affair, requiring me to be thoughtful and inventive with every turn. I have grown accustomed to sitting back during turn-based JRPGs recently as I go through the motions and so it is refreshing and exciting to be genuinely challenged. The story has also revealed itself to be deeper than I expected, but I am – as always – let down by the writing. The characters are not one dimensional, but the writing often relies on cliches for character building moments and it grows tiresome. It also appears transparent with its themes, but I suppose I cannot fully judge that until I complete the game. In either case, I am largely impressed and pleased with the title.
More Like Thousand Year FLOORED!
In the interest of talking about the games I am playing in counter-intuitive order to the one implied by this article’s title, let me next gush about Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. I recently visited my brother in London (the shitty Ontario version, not the good one) and gifted him a virtual console version of the original Paper Mario and watched him play a fair bit of it, and I realized that a lot of my memories that I thought were from Thousand Year Door were actually from the original, so I decided to bust out the Gamecube sequel when I got home.
Thankfully, I found my Gamecube memory card so I could pick up my save from where I was before my Wii broke down (it is still broken, but luckily my girlfriend has one) which was essentially after the bloated introduction section – a Nintendo specialty. It turns out that Thousand Year Door is a hidden gem, that we all seem to remember with generally positive ambivalence when in truth it is an inventive, exciting, funny, and well-crafted RPG. As is the company’s wont, it errs on the all-ages side and occasionally suffers for it, particularly in the otherwise fantastic colosseum section when it builds a multi-faceted mystery to add a creative and progressive take on the RPG staple. Most of the time, however, it knows how to manipulate the writing to hint at more adult themes while keeping children oblivious, and it does not fall victim to making everything cutesy. It has a light-hearted tone, but its various worlds still have personality and awe, taking a page from Final Fantasy IX‘s excellent book of tonal expression in gaming.
I have also noticed how effective some of the series’ staples are that I used to take for granted. The action buttons in combat significantly impact the outcome of the battle, and the idea that upgrades to weapons add notable improvements to both combat and the overworld ties together the gameplay in a really effective way. The more I study game design, the more I recognize that through all their business madness, Nintendo often makes very, very strong design choices either on their own or when letting one of their first party developers take the reins.
More Like Dream Team!
Okay, so that is actually the name of the game, but I re-downloaded Mario & Luigi: Dream Team to my 3DS for two reasons. The first is so that I have something to play when I do not feel up to the task of Bravely Default, because I do not want to force myself to play that game. And the second is so I can play something similar to Thousand Year Door while I go to sleep, and Dream Team satisfies that demand. Moreso than Sticker Star from what I can tell by everybody’s review. It is strange to say, but Mario & Luigi is actually the more advanced of the two Mario RPG series, providing optional collectibles and optional expert challenges in addition to a lengthy quest. The world itself is less magical and imaginative than that found in Thousand Year Door and thus it is an easier game to grow tired of, but it is still a worthy entry.
Lots of great RPGs this week, LusiStomps. I feel like I have been in a warm embrace of leveling-up and strategy. What RPG hidden gems have you all recently discovered?