This editorial is the second in a series on the scourge of mobile gaming, which is a subject that could occupy my thoughts for months (but do not fear, loyal reader, it will not). Cell phone games have transformed from flip-phone novelty to the dominant portable platform in recent years, with some truly abominable titles at the top of the download charts, as we learned last week. But what about the classic games that have been exploited by greedy license-holders for sale on these mobile platforms? It is this practice which
will incur my wrath we will explore this week.
Touch controls for games designed specifically for a controller make as much sense as, say, smearing your hands around on your living room TV screen; and that sort of insanity is precisely what is asked of players in these terrible ports. While it might be “immersive” to stand inches from your TV, and “tactile” to wipe your hands against the LCD panel (think of the 3D scratches you could create!), miniaturizing this “experience” will only cause headaches (sentence buzzword count: 3). However good a control scheme might be on a proper controller, with its particular tactile characteristics, the controls from a touchscreen are always the same crap. Not only is the charm of a classic controller lost, but much of the actual control is lost as well, as oily hands tap and smear over smudged glass. When a game has not be expressly designed to be controlled using finger gestures on a glass panel, the forced adoption of such a scheme is an artless concession in the interest of squeezing money from smartphone-obsessed twits.
The first mobile excrescence I will mention is Tetris, a game I wrote about at greater length a few weeks ago. The official EA version of the game for iOS looks like Tetris, all right, but does it play like Tetris? On a related note, does plastic model fruit taste as good as the real thing? Are body pillows an acceptable substitute for another person in those intimate moments? If you answered yes to both questions, you are likely a robot and should go back to debugging code or assembling high-quality American automobiles, instead of reading cheeky articles condemning mobile games. Of course, if you are NOT a robot, and do NOT enjoy fake food and pathetic body pillow-involved simulated sex, you will very likely not enjoy EA’s mobile Tetris, either. The game requires very quick thinking and responsive controls, and as the blocks begin to fall faster, the oily, glassy smear before your tired eyes renders control impossible. If you love to lose, and let us be real, no casual can accept failure, by all means waste your life on this shit. Otherwise, go waving your oily fingers at colored candy or something.
Another mobile port I have regrettably purchased is the original Final Fantasy for Android. Square Enix charges very little for this game compared to some of their shockingly expensive Final Fantasy ports ($20.99 for FF IX? Really?), but that does not excuse this game. Yes, it looks fine, as it is based on the legendary (and officially Lusipurr.com-approved) PSP version as far as I can determine; but the game suffers from the sort of loose, jumpy controls that are the hallmark of simulated on-screen buttons. The d-pad is a disaster, with unplayable, overly-aggressive acceleration that makes traveling the map a comical and frustrating experience. But I will stop bashing this game (prematurely, I admit), as this article is not meant to specifically dwell on the poor controls of such touch screen garbage, as there is much more to complain about than simply the technical shortcomings of smartphone hardware and its unsuitability in controlling console games. More concerning is the alteration of the content itself, which in certain games has been ridiculously dumbed down. There is no better example than the game which has won the prestigious Lusipurr.com Greatest Game Ever Made, Ever award: I am talking (of course) about SE’s own Final Fantasy VII.
The problems with mobile Final Fantasy VII begin with poor control, but things really get embarrassing when some of the “added functionality” of the “game” is explored. Unhappy with the classic JRPG gameplay mechanic of random battles, required to appropriately level your characters and, in the case of Final Fantasy VII, Materia? Have no fear! SE has enabled the mobile hive-mind of “players” who think RPG means Western-style open world exploration and walking-simulation by allowing random encounters to be switched off completely. But how might one expect to beat this game without ever leveling up? A little something called the Max Stats button, of course! Yes, even Final Fantasy VII is not immune to the juvenile cheats of the candy-crushing masses. It does beg the question, however: why are you even playing the game at that point? Is is that satisfying to “win” when the conditions are – oh, wait, what am I saying? Of course winning is satisfying. Always. Regardless of infantile “difficulty” level.
Regardless of the heinous liberties taken with the core gameplay, the game still plays well, on some hardware, with only some very minor exceptions – beginning with this official warning from SE (and I quote directly):
“Depending on the terrain and timing of the action, the buggy, submarines, airships, and other modes of transportation may cease to move when the player embarks or disembarks. Currently, the only fix is to restart the game from a data file saved before the bug occurred. We recommend saving frequently and/or utilizing multiple save files. This bug occurs most often when players embark or disembark while extremely close to the terrain, as well as during time-sensitive activities for events.”
Perfection. Interestingly, I placed an original FF VII game disc in my PlayStation 3 the other day, fully expecting this ancient, old-fashioned, turn-based (gasp) game to fall flat on its face, and stared at the console in disbelief as I was able to dismount the vehicle without freezing the game. When I recovered my senses and entered the menu to enable the Max Stats™ I crave – I realized with a shudder that decades ago these laughable console versions did not offer these modern necessities. To make matters worse, I could not disable random encounters! It goes without saying that the moment I found myself in a battle that I did not expressly ask to enter, I immediately shut off the game. I am no longer accustomed to this forced conflict, which triggered me immediately (violence is senseless and wrong!) and caused me to instantly hate the JRPG genre. All I want to do is explore and enjoy the pretty graphics! Why do they insist on making this experience a “game”?
I must end this editorial immediately and begin the healing process. Mobile games have
conditioned taught me to appreciate my own inner-greatness, and my self-worth has taken a hit from a reprehensible violence-simulation disc that I must now bluster about on social media for the next few days.