Editorial: Games are Too Long

Two nights ago I finally finished Tales of Vesperia. And while I’ve only had a 360 for about 6 months, I had ToV before any other game for the system. In fact, I bought the special edition a few months before I even owned the console. Anyway, I had some fun with the game, and was pleasantly surprised with the main character in comparison to the only other Tales game I’ve played. But even with an addicting battle system and pleasing graphics, there is one conclusion that sticks out more than any other ones.

The game is 20 hours too long.

But hey, I'll never complain about boobs

But hey, I'll never complain about boobs

It was incredible how many times after the 30 hour mark I would say to myself, “I must be on the final few dungeons”. I think developers are confusing “good story” with “long plot”. Sure, Tales of Vesperia is full of twists and turns and overlaying complications, but who cares? If there aren’t powerful, well-explored themes threading the whole thing together, then the whole game begins to feel like a board meeting full of people saying “well it would be cool if THIS happened” without exploring WHY things should happen, and what would make sense for the characters. And while the characters were amusing, they were more often gimmicky than deep. Which is unfortunately the case with the two Tales games I’ve played. There might be an interesting moment or two, but these intriguing and human elements are replaced with one-liner gags and unbelievable “save the world” and “help one another” blabber more often than not. The good moments end up being more of a tease than anything else.

But I digress. The point is that the best two games I’ve played in the past eight years can be completed in 3-7 hours (Flower and Shadow of the Colossus respectively). They both contain powerful stories and neither are complicated. They both focus on gameplay and moods that compliment the story and themes. Everything is tied together into a concise package and neither game feels too short because the stories were exactly as long as they needed to be.

The title of this editorial is perhaps a bit misleading however, because I also think Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy IX are both excellent games with well-thought out stories (not plots, there is a difference), and both are longer than 10 hours, provided a speed run is not taking place. In fact, I usually sink at least 50 hours into FF9 every time I play through it, and that’s the same number of hours it took me to beat Tales of Vesperia. So rather you should pretend the title reads “Editorial: Games are Too Long for the Sake of Being Long Too Often”.

See why I didn’t choose that title? It would be in contradiction with itself. 
But what do you think? Have you played Tales of Vesperia? Do you disagree with me? Do you disagree with the four titles I listed as examples of concise, powerful stories? Am I missing other examples even if you agree with me? Click the comments and pour your heart out! I’ll catch you all next Friday.

0 comments on “Editorial: Games are Too Long”

  1. You took the words from my pen. I have finished five games this year already. I think this is because I picked the shorter games and enjoy them more. I find it very hard for a game to keep my attention for more then 20 hours.

    Of course some games such as Persona 4 are worth the time investment.

  2. I think “RPGs Are Too Long” would be a better title. Every time this discussion is brought up, there’s an RPG being talked about. I know I haven’t felt that way about an action/adventure/sports title in a LONG time (Well, there was Wind Waker, but that was due to the tedious sailing more than anything else). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I prefer 10-hour games that are tight over 50-100 hour messes like Vesperia or Disgaea.

  3. Hrm, true.
    Or JRPGs are too long. Campaigns like the ones in Mass Effect and Fallout 3 are far more manageable. There is also Twilight Princess which just tries to be “bigger” and it just makes it feel vapid and uninteresting. That’s in the same vein.

  4. Yeah, it does seem to be more of a JRPG problem than anything else…

  5. I think it is a sign that many western gamers have become jaded by the JRPG market. Fallout 3 is an example of a great RPG that is around the 15 hour mark for the main “quest”.

  6. Ah, poor JRPGs. I fear that they, and those who love them (like me) will be consigned to the dustbin of Video Game history.

    Where’s the love!?

  7. I adore JRPGs, I just really hope that my mentioned confusion of “long” and “good” gets sorted out. The two can mix, but they often aren’t. FFXII is a good mention, though. The great storytelling made that long game with a boring plot so much more interesting. I didn’t feel like it was too long at all.

  8. Any moment now, Olivia will show up and tell us all how wrong you are for daring to insult the sainted Tales Of series.

  9. And I imagine he will do a very poor job of it.

    I don’t think a great game can be too long. If on the other hand a game is only slightly amusing or if its quality declines because its play time is being padded out, then yes a game can be too long. Take FFXII for instance, it should have been a 15-20 hour game. There isn’t enough narrative content to sustain a 60 hour game, the end result being a game which feels threadbare. My game collection is littered with titles which I’ve stopped playing after about the fifteen hour mark, not because they’re too long but because they stopped being fun. On the other hand there are games like FFVII, FFX, MGS3 and RE4 which I wised would never end. I think games should be as long as they need to be, without being truncated or padded out unnecesarily.

  10. Noob – Well, that’s the case with any game. Pacing is critical. I loved the world and characters in Dragon Quest 8, but the pacing was horrible. I quit after 40 hours because there were huge stretches where literally NOTHING happened.

  11. I don’t think it’s really a problem of length, more a question of tedium. If a JRPG is interesting storywise and fun in its battle system, it can be 50-60 hours and be enjoyable.

    If it has a mechanic that doesn’t make much sense, like the “Internet” in Front Mission 3, and goes on and on and on, like Front Mission 3, then it becomes unenjoyable. Here’s a new mech, now do 5 more missions with them.

    I think Dragon Quest 8 would probably be the poster child for far too long JRPG. It has taken me ~80 hours to get to the last dungeon.

    I think it would be unfair to say it should be “RPGs are too long.” Many first person shooters suffer from “they should have ended this game at half whatever my current playtime is already” too. Who could say the original Half-life wouldn’t have been better if it was shorter and without that Zen nonsense towards the end?

    The reason I don’t particularly care for Zelda games is that they tend to drag on forever. (I wouldn’t call Zelda games RPGs really either.)

  12. I want to say that I just finished Eternal Sonata and I believe that is one of the best RPGs I have played in a long time. I say this because the fact that it had a great storyline, interesting characters, and it ended at 30 hours. Had the game went longer than 30 hours I think it would not have been as great as it was.

  13. I just finished replaying FF7 for the first time in forever. I ignored most of the optional content (no Chocobo Raising or Knights of the Round nonsense for me, sir!) and finished at about 31 hours at level ~62. It made Disc 3 very short.

    Still a fantastic game!

  14. FF7 was okay. I don’t find it to be the masterpiece everyone else seems to.

  15. Why does everyone always hate on Eternal Sonata? Reetin you are brave on this site to say anything bad about FF7, Lusipurr will strike you from the site.

  16. Right, right, let’s remember that opinions are opinions. I think there are enough passionate opinions on each side to deem the matter subjective.

  17. Only that what was left to uncoil aroung what was seflt to coil around, bloody leave meeee. argh.

  18. I’m going to have to be entirely confused with that comment, Silicon.