Over the last month or so, I’ve had the “joys” of playing two disappointing games back to back. The first was Shin Megami Tensei Digital Devil Saga 2 for PS2. I quite enjoyed playing the first game of this duology, so I presumed I would enjoy the second one as well. In terms of graphics and sound, the game is a direct sequel to the first, and it shows. There is a fairly smooth transition from one game to the next, the controls are the same and it pretty much picks up right where the first left off.
Storywise, the game feels weaker than the first. In 2, the Embryon have escaped into the “real world” and find themselves allying with a rebelling group against the Karma Society to find and free Sara. It should have been an interesting story, but I found myself fairly bored with the way it is delivered. There is little information at first and then a HUGE info dump scene that just sort of explains a whole lot at once while still coming across as confusing.
Still, I was able to continue enjoying the game, until it got to the part where you must get past The Jailer multiple times so you can then poison and kill him. Now I don’t mind some challenge to my games, and I’ve played more than one where I’ve had to repeat something multiple times in order to get through. But the third round of getting past the Jailer was the most frustrating experience I’d had in a video game in a while.
You can’t improve your chances by leveling up, you can’t do much of anything to make it easier. And the set up is beyond frustrating, with the path you can take limited to a single route and one that only the most precise of running around sequences can manage. And unlike, say, the hideous 200 lightening dodges challenge from FF X, it isn’t optional. You can’t continue the game until you can get through that one damned sequence. And every time you fail, you have to repeat all three tries again.
It was frustrating enough that by my tenth or eleventh time of trying it, I found it had killed what enjoyment I had been getting from the game to the point that I finally just dropped it.
With that one now DNF’d, I decided to start Star Ocean: The Last Hope International on PS3. Having quite enjoyed Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on the PS2, I figured I would enjoy the next entry in the franchise, which is apparently a prequel to the first Star Ocean game. In it, Edge Maverick and his young crew are exploring the galaxy in search of a new habitable planet to replace the devastated Earth. But their very first mission goes awry due to mysterious enemies known as the Grigori.
Star Ocean is a conflict for me. I have enjoyed most of the game, though it has some exceedingly frustrating bit, including one area where you fight EIGHT freaking battles back to back for no apparent reason other than to be frustrating. Seriously, it’s like they put it in there just to make you feel the characters sense of “there is no end to them”, when either way they were getting rescued so what was the point?
I’m now on a second bit that is also frustrating, perhaps more so because it is a boss battle with a boss with a very specific weakness. This wouldn’t be so bad if the AI controlling the rest of your party had a clue on how to take advantage of this weakness, but they don’t. So I ended up battling this damn thing for TWO hours and still hadn’t even lowered its health bar by any visible amount because even with the damage I could see being done, it apparently wasn’t enough. The AI controlled characters were not attacking “correctly”, and I had to keep control of the healer, otherwise the whole party died rapidly.
I don’t find that kind of thing fun, I find it immensely frustrating. I don’t like boss battles that take two hours to begin with, but ones where that long doesn’t even have any visible effect? Yeah, no. And while I will try leveling up and then try again, I can’t help wondering if there is much point.
I mean obviously people have gotten past the boss before as they have finished the game, but when it seems to only work with a specific attack, the blindside, which I have found tricky to pull off in general, but much less when I’m also having to focus on trying to keep my party alive? And none of the AI controlled characters seeming to be able to do blindsides at all? That’s like a boss fight with basically three healers and only one fighter! And a high HP boss at that.
Story wise, I’m a bit more torn. There are some interesting elements to the story, like the interactions between Faize and Lymle, and I thought a particular story point with Edge was very well done and added some grounded realism to the situation. That said, though, the overarching story of the Grigori feels a bit weak, and like a rip off of the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It hasn’t made for as engrossing a story as I would have hoped, and certainly not one of the level needed to get past the frustrations of the eight in a row boss fight and then this 2 hour monstrosity fight. I can’t help but worry that if I get past this one, the next one will be just as bad or even worse. Still, I haven’t DNF’d Star Ocean yet, I’ll try leveling up some more and see if that will be enough to get me past this thing and on to some more, because I want to know what is happening to a certain character and how it will be resolved.
But yeah, I must admit, I’ve been disappointed by both games. Looking forward to when my preordered copy of Spyro Reignited arrives in another week.