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Thad
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Sat Aug 15, 2015 4:50 pm

Picked up Persona 4 since I keep seeing articles on USGamer about how great it is. They included it in their 15 Best Games Since 2000 list (and while obviously any Best Of list is inherently subjective and has to make controversial omissions, this means it beat out Mega Man Legends 2, Metroid Prime, KotOR, Mass Effect 2, Witcher 2, Skyrim, and Arkham Asylum, and that has my attention), and Kat and Steve praised it as the ideal version of turn-based combat in a recent Axe of the Blood God. And while the staffers at USG tend toward the "reviewer I frequently agree with" category, Steve's in the rather more rarified category of "guy who loaned me his copies of FF2 and SoM when I was 13". (I mean, I'd actually already played them before then, at a friend's house and as a rental, respectively, but still.)

First thing: okay, I get Valkyria Chronicles 2 now; I'd never played a Persona game before so I didn't realize VC2 is pretty much a Persona story set in the VC universe.

Second: Man, I haven't played a game that started out this slowly since Dragon Quest 7. I'm not sure if I prefer P4's approach of an engaging but mostly uninteractive story for the first 3 hours, or DQ7's of letting you wander around a monster-free island for awhile and then making you solve a bunch of puzzles before you see your first Slime. But neither one seems like an ideal way to start a game.

And not only have I never played a Persona game before, the only SMT game I've ever played is SMT4. And that one has a slow start for an entirely different reason: it plunks you right down in a dungeon crawl and then repeatedly murders you. It makes you work for every early battle you win -- better save constantly and be ready to make a mad dash for the exit every time your MP starts to run too low. Which is often, because it doesn't give you much.

While I'm still early on in P4 (where "early on" means "3 hours in and I finally completed my first trip into a dungeon"), it feels like it's easing me into combat a lot more than SMT4: you start off with two people in your party (as opposed to SMT4's "here, kid, go recruit some monsters" approach), and while combat's still immediately more complex than attack/fire/heal and you need to keep a closer eye on your HP and MP than in the opening segment of a DQ or FF game, you've also got all you need to get through that first dungeon without seeing a Game Over screen.

On the other hand, there's the damn handholding. Every single plot point and game mechanic is explained three times. Sometimes more. There is a sequence where you overhear two classmates gossiping about a rumor, followed by one of your party members walking up and repeating the same rumor you just heard, followed by a narration box explaining the thing you just heard, followed by another party member showing up and having the same thing explained to her. Sometimes there are flashbacks to conversations you just had five minutes ago.

There are reasons to repeatedly explain the same plot point -- say, if it's been an hour since the last time it was brought up and maybe the player hasn't fired the game up in awhile and forgot, or maybe the mechanics are really deep and complicated, or maybe you're Shakespeare and you're writing for a noisy outdoor theater with drunk groundlings sitting up front -- but I haven't seen any good ones in this game yet. Mostly it just feels like it's needlessly damn slow and verbose.

I still like it. But there IS a pretty constant sense of "GET ON WITH IT!"

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mothra » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:01 pm

Yeah, I dunno. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I could never finish P3 because of all the grinding, and I really had to push myself to finish Persona 4 by the fifth dungeon for the same reason. My issue with SMT games in general is that the dungeons are just really dull - tons of long corridors, spotted with dead-end rooms - and the combat just becomes a JRPG slog once the novelty wears off.

I really like everything they did to add energy to the JRPG battle system, and I love the bits of character they pushed in in the form of one-hit kills, and I like the music quite a bit. The battle backgrounds are awesome as well.

I'd say, overall, I wish P4 was half as long as it was, given the amount of fucking around you have to do to get anything cool in that game. The story also oscillates between this great supernatural murder mystery (I adore the TV world), and just soul-crushingly generic anime high school BS. There's this whole sequence where you go on a class trip, in particular, where every single scene falls flat and almost made he stop then and there.

I came away from that game feeling like it was a great direction for the series and a huge improvement for SMT, but not exactly a fun or engaging game. I can't see myself ever replaying it, but I'm optimistic about P5.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:27 pm

Right! Every time they go to school I'm like "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN SCHOOL, YOU JUST SAW ONE OF YOUR CLASSMATES IN MORTAL PERIL IN THE TV!" There's a definite "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?" feeling.

The school stuff isn't as tedious as in VC2, yet, but it's definitely got the potential to be. As annoying as Avan is as a main character, there's nothing quite so bland, tedious, and generic as a JRPG Silent Protagonist.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mothra » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:36 pm

Yup... my best friend is trapped in a torturous netherhell and I'm just pounding back bowls of beef noodles and going to bed.

It did really start to grate on me that every day, you'd run around the school and talk to every character in the school, since sometimes, some days, they'll do or say something special. It felt like trying to find the right guy to talk to in a JRPG town, only you never left the town. A ton of that game is just seeing people saying the same goddamn thing in the hopes that they won't.

I guess it reminded me why I had trouble getting into most JRPGs after a certain point. If you're not moving forward with the promise of new places and new people, you really feel the time a-wastin'.

That said, if you can look beyond the tedium, it has some enjoyable developments and good characters going forward.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mongrel » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:42 pm

This is me nodding furiously in agreement with everything Mothra said.

I really liked P3 for a while, but it turned into such an unbelievable chore.

I think I could have made it to the end of the game, only I got to like November or whatever it was, realized I'd missed the one and only chance to trigger the entire Ryoji storyline and would have to rewind a month of game time to go back to a save that would let me do it and that was really the last straw.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Smiler » Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:48 pm

The game is laid out in such a way that you can just blitz through each dungeon the first day you get access to it. The game flows way better when you play it that way.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mongrel » Sat Aug 15, 2015 7:34 pm

Smiler wrote:The game is laid out in such a way that you can just blitz through each dungeon the first day you get access to it. The game flows way better when you play it that way.

I dunno about Kabbage, but I did that and yeah it was loads better to just do it all in one go so you can spend several uninterrupted days socializing or whatever - that was the reason I even got as far as I did.

The problem was that those were still multiple-hour grind sessions. In the grand scheme of things that's not so bad, but I just never bothered to go back to the game because I didn't want to badly enough to re-do about 10-15 hours of grind.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:00 pm

I'll keep that in mind; I've had "go back and use the Inn" drilled into me for the past 25 years and it's a hard habit to break, but I'll keep an eye out for chances to stock up on healing/MP replenishing items.

Also it sounds like I should probably grab a walkthrough, just to make sure I don't miss the missable shit.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mongrel » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:02 pm

Also, I played the P3P version, with the female protagonist specifically because she's a little more fun then the horrible paper-thin nonentity male hero.

I mean, I get that they do that out of some misguided notion that the player is supposed to identify with their character in an RPG, but ugh, no.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Smiler » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:18 pm

The male protagonist of P3 is boring and paper-thin for gameplay reasons though and its really funny.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Friday » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:59 pm

Persona 4 is awful. Seriously, it's a terrible game.

Everything else about it is really good, though. The characters (outside of Mr. Mary Sue the Silent Protagonist Harem King Orders are Absolute! and even he has some good dialog options [of which the best ones are locked until you do a second playthrough, because this game fucking hates you]) are great. They actually develop, they take on problems and themes that you hardly ever see in a videogame, much less anything japan has ever made (sexuality, body image issues, the nature of jealousy between friends, the happiness of ignorance versus the burden of truth and why truth is worth it in the end, and steak)

Just watch the anime. I'm not kidding. It's 100000000000 times better than the game. I mean, if you are allergic to anime or something and have no other way to experience P4 than playing the game, then do it, because it's worth it despite the enormous (I'm going to repeat that, in bold and italics, five fucking times, and I'm going to be underselling it) ENORMOUS ENORMOUS ENORMOUS ENORMOUS ENORMOUS god damn fucking slog of the grind that is the bullshit dungeon and battle design.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:28 pm

Also I forgot to mention the opening minigame, where I had to drive to the store, buy baking soda, come home, grab some plastic bags, Q-tips, and rubber gloves, and clean the fucking battery acid out of my wireless PS2 controller because I hadn't actually played the thing in years and forgot to take the damn batteries out.

Strangely that seems to fit right in with the game's design.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Friday » Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:45 am

Actually, the best way to experience P4 is probably just watching a longplay or LP (with someone whose voice/commentary you can stand) with all the non-boss battles and grindy shit cut out.

The anime is great and frankly should be applauded for so skillfully adapting a video game, but it does leave out a lot of fun details, as well as all the romantic stuff.

Of course, again, if you can tolerate the terrible sloggy sloggfest, the game is pretty good except when it's being a game and not an interactive visual novel.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Mongrel » Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:51 am

Seems like those games are actually an argument for a bit of hackery to cut that shit. Wonder if there's anything out there.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Sun Aug 16, 2015 2:17 am

Friday wrote:Actually, the best way to experience P4 is probably just watching a longplay or LP (with someone whose voice/commentary you can stand) with all the non-boss battles and grindy shit cut out.


I'll keep it in mind, but I've never really been much for watching somebody else play a video game, unless we're hanging out in my living room.

Friday wrote:Of course, again, if you can tolerate the terrible sloggy sloggfest, the game is pretty good except when it's being a game and not an interactive visual novel.


If I feel like it's starting to drag, I'll probably put it down and find something more fun to do, but that hasn't happened yet. (It bears noting that, according to Steam, I just sunk 50 hours into Arkham Knight, a game which pretty much becomes unbearable every time it tries something that the first two games in the series didn't already do. It may not have actually been 50 hours since I know there were times I paused it and had long phone conversations, but even if it was 30 hours I think the point stands; I seem to have a high tolerance for bullshit if there's something interesting buried underneath it.)

I haven't done much in the way of dungeons or combat yet; I see your point on the former already but not as much on the latter yet. So far I like the combat system.

What game I'm playing at any given time is largely determined by where I want to play it; I can only play Witcher 3 on the desktop in my office (won't stream because it's GOG, not Steam), whereas I can play most anything else in the living room, while sitting on the couch and petting the dog. (She doesn't like hanging out in my office for some reason, which is probably just as well because I don't need her coming in here and chewing on my shit when I'm not looking.) Also there's the question of whether I'm dealing with wrist pain at the moment and whether I'd be more comfortable rocking keyboard/mouse or controller.

And if I get bored with this thing I've got plenty of other stuff to play; I finally got around to starting Bionic Commando: Rearmed, I just ordered Majora's Mask 3D, I haven't finished Valkyria Chronicles 2 or Game of Thrones...

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Esperath » Sun Aug 16, 2015 5:00 am

If you end up watching the P4 anime, for god's sake, don't watch the P4 Golden anime. Well, maybe watch the first episode after watching the original anime, and then stop.
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Grath » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:28 pm

Thad wrote:What game I'm playing at any given time is largely determined by where I want to play it; I can only play Witcher 3 on the desktop in my office (won't stream because it's GOG, not Steam), whereas I can play most anything else in the living room, while sitting on the couch and petting the dog. (She doesn't like hanging out in my office for some reason, which is probably just as well because I don't need her coming in here and chewing on my santorum when I'm not looking.) Also there's the question of whether I'm dealing with wrist pain at the moment and whether I'd be more comfortable rocking keyboard/mouse or controller.

I haven't tried Steam streaming yet, but can't you "add non-steam game" and then stream that? Or does Steam streaming only work with native Steam apps?

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Thad
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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:35 pm

Haven't tried it. Guess I could give it a shot.

It sure does look pretty with maxed-out settings at 2560x1440. On the other hand, if I got used to playing Skyrim with a controller, I could probably get used to it in Witcher.

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Thad » Tue Aug 18, 2015 2:19 am

(Admins: might be a good idea to threadsplit the Persona 4 talk.)

I thought for a minute the dungeons were procedurally-generated, which would go partway toward explaining why they're so simple and predictable. (Partway. Diablo was doing better procedurally-generated dungeons in 1996.) But no, they seem to be completely-designed dungeons that just wipe the automap (and re-randomize the chests) every day.

And I got to thinking, you know, they're really pretty similar to the maps from Final Fantasy 10, which are like Phantasy Star 1-level simple. And then I got to thinking about modern, 3D, over-the-shoulder RPG's, and the ones with complex maps with a lot of branches mostly seem to have realtime combat (your BioWare and Bethesda games, Witcher 2 and 3, etc.).

And I got to wondering, is there something about turn-based, menu-based combat that just doesn't quite lend itself to a complex 3D map?

I sure remember that the places where Suikoden 3 gave you a really complex dungeon to work with were the most unpleasant in the game (that damnable True Water Rune dungeon near the end...!).

Course, Suikoden 3 had the oldschool-style unavoidable random encounters, whereas Persona 4's are, hypothetically, avoidable -- though if you're running away from a shadow it sure distracts you from poking around the edges of the map.

I do think it's probably something about the pacing. And could probably be mitigated by (1) faster combat and (2) the elimination of fucking save points. (SMT4 seems to bear the latter part out, at least; while its maps are hardly the most interesting I've ever seen, they're not just a series of corridors with tiny rooms off them, either.)

As far as combat, Chrono Trigger's got the fastest menu-based combat of any game I've ever played, due in large part to its lack of transition time between exploration and combat. I haven't sat down with a stopwatch or anything, but I imagine CT's start-to-end-of-combat times would compare favorably with real-time games like Skyrim or Witcher 3.

(I've said it before, but it's really amazing how, for all the reverence Chrono Trigger receives, fucking nobody seems interested in trying to imitate all the shit it did right.)

Obviously it's not entirely fair to point to a disc-based game for a console that was released 15 years ago and say "They should have gotten rid of the load times." But even in newer games on newer hardware (which frequently allows installation to a hard drive or memory card), Japan still seems really hung up on this business of having lengthy transitions from exploration to combat and back again.

I'm the guy who turned off the combat animations in Fire Emblem: Awakening because why the fuck do I want to watch a cutscene every time somebody attacks seriously you guys that like doubles the amount of time it takes to play the game and not in a good way. I don't need an establishing shot that sets up where all my guys and all the bad guys are on the screen; Final Fantasy covered that shit back in 1987.

Anyway. All that to say, I think the pace of Persona 4's combat goes a long way toward explaining the simplicity of its maps.

For all that, I'm still enjoying the game. Yosuke's shadow kicked my ass around the block maybe half-a-dozen times, but I'm actually mostly okay with that. (The part I'm not okay with: the Xenogears-style save-point-followed-by-unskippable-cutscene-followed-by-difficult-boss pattern. Fuck that shit.)

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Re: Hey [%target] Whatcha Playin'?

Postby Sharkey » Tue Aug 18, 2015 3:35 pm

Thad wrote:I don't need an establishing shot that sets up where all my guys and all the bad guys are on the screen; Final Fantasy covered that shit back in 1987.


Thad wrote:(The part I'm not okay with: the Xenogears-style save-point-followed-by-unskippable-cutscene-followed-by-difficult-boss pattern. Fuck that shit.)


It wouldn't be a Japanese RPG if they didn't take form, ritual and tradition to a bloody-minded extreme. The things are like fucking Noh. You're just not having a good time unless the players spend two days shuffling into position. Maybe an old guy hits a drum at 0.01 BPM.
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