Editorial: Would that the glass were half empty …

With the release of Suda 51’s heavily contested masterpiece Killer 7 came the debate; was its highly unorthodox control scheme a glaring design flaw, or an implicit commentary on the rigidity of gamer’s genre expectations, or some such. The verdict is still out on that one, though sadly there can be no such discussion regarding his Wii follow-up No More Heroes. It is an unambiguously poorly designed game down to its most fundamental essence, and loads up on bullet-point gimmickry with little thought to its implementation.

At long last a developer uses the Wiimote as the manufacturer intended!

Combat in NMH is a thoroughly average affair, or rather it would be were it not for its obtrusive waggle inputs. Gamers simply lock-on to opponents by holding the (Z) button and attack by hammering (A), with high and low battle stances governed by holding one’s Piimote in either erect or flaccid positions. In order to finish off every enemy in the game (and there are many) the game will invite players to whip their Piimote in one of four directions, and should one’s “power” begin to droop then they must jack it vigorously. At least the absurdity of Nintendo’s control scheme is not lost on Suda.

Developer protip: it is almost never a good idea to saddle your combat system with unnecessary flailing. I realize that it must be dizzyingly empowering to be able to compel gamers to flail about like retards in a birdman contest, but it serves no purpose other than making combat fundamentally unpleasant, and just makes you look like a gormless twat.

Sadly, the features of the combat system mentioned thus far do not even account for the lion’s share of NMH’s combat interface problems, rather it is the broken implementation of the waggle controls. When performing finishing moves one does not simply jerk the Piimote in the required direction, they must instead wait half a second after the onscreen direction prompt appears and then jerk it, any sooner than that and the game will fail to register one’s exertion, any longer than that and the prompt will disappear leaving one with their proverbial dick in their hand. This might actually seem a challenging time-based input mechanic, were it not so obviously a glaring mistake.

Euro-pussies get the extra absorbent sanitary version.

Then just to add insult to wrist injury, 51 took it upon himself to remove all blood from the European versions of the game, seeing as culturally tailoring a game’s content towards specific markets has heretofore worked a treat for Japanese developers … I could hardly be more offended if 51 elected to redub all the characters with obnoxious faux Australian accents (unless they hired Lusi for the dubbing). There was a reason that the Genesis version of Mortal Combat outsold its SNES counterpart, and it was not due to gamer’s innate love for grainy, downsized graphics and depleted colour palettes (which incidentally NMH has in spades).

Santa Destroy is based on RL location Murfreesboro.

Now, what is worse than a broken gimmick or laughable cultural stereotyping in one’s game design? How about a vile mixture of the two? To top off this epic trifecta of fail, 51 elected to ride on the coattails of the Western sandbox craze, though being Japanese he of course missed the point entirely. NMH’s Santa Destroy takes the form of an extensive overworld with almost nothing to do in it, well I say nothing but it certainly does allow one to needlessly waste time and patience in transit between the assassination agency and your current job every single time you fail one of its arbitrary parameters. Thus if I were to guess at the utility of NMH’s sandbox, I could only surmise that It was implemented to punish failure, forcing players to return all the way to the assassination agency to reinitiate the job, before travelling all the way back to the location of the job. This point is a particularly glaring oversight by 51, as earning currency from performing jobs (none of which pay well) is key to unlocking the main story missions, so there is no way for players to avoid the frustration of this redundancy. Suda 51 simultaneously fails to justify the inclusion of a Western style sandbox due to a lack of content, while also detracting from NMH’s core strengths through its cumbersome implementation.

Suda 51 extensively tests all of his products!

If NMH’s design was intended to deliver any sort of meta commentary on the gaming genre, then it could only be that “games are a waste of time, stop jacking it, move out of your parents basement and do something productive with your lives”. I can only think that 51 didn’t take the QA process seriously, there is much to like about NMH’s narrative and aesthetic style, but its glaring shortfalls mean that it is a treasure trove of sunk potential.

While the tale thus far has been decidedly dour, it is not without a happy ending of sorts. Astonishingly for a Japanese developer, 51 seems to have taken players myriad plaints on board in designing NMH2. Players of the sequel now have the option to play using a classic control pad while navigating a stripped down menu-based Santa Destroy (a la P3 & 4), more to the point PAL gamers are now able to shed just as much Claret as their as their NTSC counterparts. While justifiably hesitant, I must also admit to being somewhat curious to see whether the recently released sequel can make good on NMH1’s squandered potential, so it should be no occasion for surprise to see a companion editorial anon.

Just out of interest I would be curious to know whether Lusi-readers have ever come across a game so overwrought in unnecessary content or gimmickry that it has spoiled its core strengths? Additionally, can you name any titles with particularly insulting censorship or cultural differences? Enquiring minds would like to know.

0 comments

  1. Magna Carta: Tears of Blood. there’s a mechanic in it where when you attack you have to do this little reflex minigame that makes you press X and O at the right time. every. fucking. time. you have to press a button three times. if you miss one then the attack fails and you wasted your turn. this is in attack mode. in counter mode you have to guess the enemies input ( they never fuck up, of course. only you can miss ). you still have to time it right except now you don’t know whether to press X or O. when, not if, you mess up you take a hit and take more damage than you would have if you’d been in attack mode. in combo mode you have press ten buttons. miss one and your turn is wasted and if you get hit while in this mode you take more damage than in attack mode. the manner in which you attack and defend is ONE of its issues. I’d go into more detail but I’m stuck typing on my PS3, which puts a cap on how much you type, and I’d run out of space before I finished.

  2. In terms of censorship or cultural differences, this is not exactly what you had in mind, but it made me think about FF4 and how much they dumbed it down for the stupid round-eye Engrish market.

    In terms of gimmicky nonsense spoiling a game … hrm. Breaka’s post makes me think about Vagrant Story’s combat system, because I frigging suck at pressing the goddamn buttons at the right goddamn time.

    Or I could be petty and single out FF8 and how the constant Drawing ruins the experience, and you never want to use your magic spells because dear God, you need to keep that crap junctioned.

  3. Persona 1 for the PS1 was really bad with it. Changing one of the main characters black for the NA version, and the Main Character to make them look more Caucasian/Vampiric.

    As for a game mechanic that ruined the game for me? Lets see… While not really “Mechanics” quite a few things prevented me from enjoying Eternal Poison. I never played a SRPG that didn’t allow you to replay battles or fight none story battles. You couldn’t grind so you really could never use any other characters other than the ones you started with because they would be to weak to do any good.

  4. The Legend of Zelda, any of the 3D games, increasingly over time, up to the present.

    Seriously, I do not want to play a fishing minigame, I do not want to take pictures of bugs, I do not want to go searching for sunken treasure, I do not want to take a bunch of pictures of things, I do not want to collect virtual plastic statues . . .

  5. @Oyashiro Most of the SRPGs I played were like that. Shining Force I and II didn’t let you play extra battle, all the Fire Emblem titles that I’ve played did the same.

    For me, the timing-based attack wheel thing from Shadow Hearts gets pretty tiresome pretty quickly. I want to enjoy the games and play through them for the rest of what they have to offer, but I really don’t like having to time my attacks for every character every turn.

  6. As Breaka and DanChiSao said, timing-based attacks are awful.

    When does occasionally, they aren’t that bad. Take for instance Auron’s Overdrive in FFX, he’s the only character that requires you hurriedly fumble with the controller to input the commands correctly. All the others have their own Overdrive, no frantic mashing required.

    However, Resident Evils 4 and 5 were mocked endlessly for their massive overuse of quick-time events, and Sega took the cake for unleashing Bayonetta on anyone that didn’t have superior hand-eye coordination. Why? Because what else do you remember about those games? You remember a seething desire for Ashley and Leon to bleed to death. You remember wanting to decapitate Bayonetta so you could stuff her gymnastic ass into the closet for later.

    Quick-time events are like salt; a little is nice and adds flavor, too much leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, and serious excess will leave you with a severe case of high-blood pressure induced from rage.

  7. @Breaka: I still have nightmares about Magna Carta’s battle system.

    @Ginia: FFIV Is a great example in that they chose to bring over the children’s version of the game, rather than the adult one. I don’t know if they could have been any more patronising.

    -There’s nothing petty about mentioning FFVIII. Drawing and enemy level scaling ruined the game for me.

    @Oyashiro: P1 was notorious!

    @Lusi: Best steer clear of Zelda 2010!

    @Dan: Damn, I enjoyed the judgement ring.

  8. @Oyashiro: Personally, I’m still miffed that Imageepoch decided to desecrate the UNDERBOOB in ARF! :(

  9. Oh God, Drawing Magic.

    I had completely blocked that out of my memory. It’s AWFUL. FF8 ruined by that one mechanic, otherwise it might have been tolerable.

  10. @SN: Its unforgivable! They need to be punished for there crimes against UNDERBOOB! Preferably with fire, and lots of it!

  11. FF8’s batshit stupid story, gimmicky (and unexplained gimmicky at that) boss battles, ending that rendered it entirely utterly pointless (“Congratulations! You created a Stable Time Loop where the villainess wins!”), and generally annoying characters…drawing magic was only a minor flaw, really.

  12. @SN Thanks, I couldn’t remember the name for the life of me. I know a lot of people who love the Judgment Ring, it’s just not my thing for whatever reason. If it were to add bonuses to the attack instead of determining whether it hit, I’d probably finish the games and just ignore it.

  13. @Jenifer Oh Jesus, I was so sick of QTEs by the end of Bayonetta. I don’t play the genre much, so I’d see what I thought was a cutscene, relax, put down the controller and suddenly. BAM! I’m dead. The worst was the fact that you could still lose after you thought you beat the game.

  14. The judgement ring took a little time for me to get used to, but once I got my timing down it made the turn-based combat more involved.

  15. @Oyashiro – jesus heathen slappin christ, I’d forgotten about P1. what the fuck were they thinking!?

    @SiliconNoob – the most criminal thing about the battle system is that apparently the Magna Carta before it, Phantom of the Avalanche, had a decent system: turn-based with grids.

    @Jenifer – I think you may be giving QTE’s a bit too much credit. QTE’s are like a jew that eats pork. like a kick grazing a nutsack. like a child screaming in a restaurant. like being pepper sprayed. like that moment of dawning comprehension when you realize the bitch you met last night stole all your money. like the second moment of dawning comprehension when you go to take a piss and you feel a burning sensation. basically, fuck ’em.

    @Lusipurrs first post – Amen

    the drawing in FFVIII didn’t bug me that much. it was more Squall himself…

  16. @Breaka: Like Oliver finding out that the transvestite was really just a masculine woman?

  17. @Lusipurr – I actually agree about the Zelda stuff. I never cared about Fishing or bug collecting.
    Although I’d say VIII was more ruined by enemy level scaling than drawing magic.

  18. @Ethos: Enemy level scaling is an abomination, and has no places in ANY video game outside of a special ‘challenge dungeon’ or something like that.

    WHAT IS THE POINT OF LEVELLING UP IF THE ENEMY LEVELS UP TOO!?!? WHY HAVE LEVELS AT ALL!?

  19. Breaka: How so? I mean, once in a while and when you expect it, that’s all fine and good. Like I said, Auron’s Overdrive…yeah, it got a bit annoying that my butter-fingers could never get it right, but in my opinion, it was fair. Whereas in Dan’s example, Bayonetta liked to just spring them on you like a beautiful woman whipping out her gigantic cock. Or, to torment you with your own example some more, Tifa’s gigantic balls.

    You’re welcome.

  20. @jenifer –
    1) fuck you.
    2) I just really don’t like QTEs. its rare to see one implemented well in play and I never like them in cutscenes.
    3) fuck you. with Tifa’s cock.

    @Lusipurr – I know! it’s just making more work for the programmers. if balance is such an issue then they should stop making characters artificially stronger by showing big numbers.

  21. The absolutely worst implementation of QTE’s was in Uncharted, because they happened so infrequently that you forgot they were even there, so when one cropped up it was a virtual death sentence.

  22. and regarding censorship, the worst I’ve seen is Xenosaga III. the seen where Shion is catching blood still keeps me up at night sometimes…