Love the Things You Hate
28 Jun, 2012
Let’s be honest. In the years and years that many of us have been playing games the medium has only had a handful of masterful changes. Everything can’t be Super Mario 64 and Portal. So when something new or unique does come around we often find developers in love with the very idea of using it. That’s when the horse dies and we get to witness the slow beating of his quick time eventing, waggle controling, brown and blooming corpse.
But have hope–even the most trite and overdone games have their day. Even the tropes you hate have their silver lining. Sometimes developers take a steaming pile of Great and Mighty Poo and turn it into gold; if not, these trite occurrences would never have become so prevalent. So in celebration of our hatred, it’s about time we all sat down and took a chance on loving something we hate.
When the Nintendo DS was first released, I was one of the many gamers to scoff at its lunacy. The very idea of stylus based gaming is absurd, I thought. Hell, Nintendo practically invented the analog format, and to see them throw it away for the advent of pen-based control is like celebrating 25 years of Link and forgetting about Samus. We even got to see the acidic control scheme eat away at great franchises like Metroid and Star Fox.
I don’t care what you say, if you liked Metroid Prime: Hunters it was because you were starving.
For me, it wasn’t until the Nintendo 3DS that I found a game the made touch controls fluid, intuitive, and somehow natural. That game was Kid Icarus: Uprising.
Even going as far as to include a special plastic stand for people with arms made of spaghetti, KI:U succesfully implements stylus controls in three different formats: flying through the air, battling on the ground, and fixed strafing around impressive bosses. In all these instances the action never feels canned or half-hearted. Sure it took almost 8 years to get the formula right, but when the did get it, they got it perfect.
Not everything can be as exciting as horse armor, and why wouldn’t you want to shell out five bucks for day one DLC? The industry has decided that we are veritably leaking money and they have the add-on content to keep the world from flooding. Rockstar, however, has managed to not be a jerk about it. At no point in the GTA4 DLC do they give you a main story character that has such an immense gravity on the plot that it can ruin the contintinuty of the entire game if you are without him, let’s call this hypothetical game Blast Defect 3… ahem.
Instead, Rockstar gives you a indipendant story that sits OUTSIDE of the main plot and furthers the story of the world. Most notable in their escapades is Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare. This DLC not only furthers the world and the characters, it does it in a completely unique way and actually offers new and inventive playing modes, multiplayer, and story. The best part? You don’t even need the game to enjoy this perfect piece of DLC. Many developers have tried to jump on the zombie DLC bandwagon since Undead Nightmare, but none have emerged with a still-beating heart.
I wanted to give this prize to Mirror’s Edge, a game that hinges entirely on it’s ability to make first-person jumping smart, but even Hope had several hiccups that made in-game sequences blisteringly aggravating. No, there was a lady who did FPS Platforming correctly long before that, and that was Metroid Prime.
Say what you will, the first Metroid Prime was beautiful. Not only did it reinvision the way first person games could live with lock-on and lonelyness, it also created a stunning environment that could be explored ad nauseum. With classic Metroid back tracking elements and sequences where high ground could mean life or death, Samus did it first and did it best.
Not to mention it was doing “audio diaries” long before Bioshock made it a household name.
At some point we decided that the true definition of skill in video games was to hit a sequence of buttons as they randomly popped up on-screen. We can all sit back and say how awesome it is that Kratos can rip a goats head off, but if I have to jam the triangle button 40 times, every time, than the action loses it’s fluidity. Too often does running away from a boulder become a trial and error task that we dread on each mashed button. Crash Bandicoot was doing it freestyle way before Leon Kennedy.
The trick behind quick time events is context and action. Heavy Rain almost had it. Make actions intuitive. Make them responsive. Make them something we couldn’t do with a simple combo or directional hold. That’s where Asura’s Wrath comes in.
Azura’s Wrath manages to make every QTE count. They make it insane. They make it so that every time you follow that on-screen prompt you are rewarded with something so ridiculous it could never happen any other way. Yes, I do feel like I needed to jam triangle to cut that moon in half, and yes, I did want to hit square to stop that character’s dialoge short with an inturrptive punch to the face. That’s right — there’s a face punch button to stop monologing. What else do you want?
The game makes QTE so face meltingly awesome that I found myself literally standing up and yelling for my chance to press square on cue.
So what video game tropes do you hate and what video games make you love them?