Friday, 23 July 2010

Straight from the Tart(arus)

The past few months have been a blur of Hit Points, levels and Mabufu. Mostly due to playing and reviewing two huge Shin Megami Tensei games - Persona 3 Portable and Strange Journey - while also giving the same treatment to Dragon Quest IX and Knights in the Nightmare. So yeah, RPGs from wall to wall. Far from being a laborious process I've found it oddly liberating and now, after 250 hours of battle music I'm still stoked to go back to Persona 4. I'm unsure whether this is clinical madness or not at this time. 

The reviews for GamePeople are all here:

Dragon Quest IX

What I wanted to mention with regard to Persona 3 is how it worked into my subconscious so much. I don't usually play games for such a long period of time and in reality it's highly impractical to devote over 80 hours to one game in order to write a review. Enjoying the experience so much goes a long way to making those hours seem like minutes and I found myself dreaming about the game, having random thoughts about characters popping into my head while at work and then realising the most criminal of things... deliberately going to the loo just so I could steal five minutes of grinding when looking after my kids. Oh the horror.

In all seriousness I found this large amount of play-time doing something to my experience with gaming I hadn't previously realised. Namely that I was developing a relationship with the game rather than just consuming what it had to offer. I'd have days when all I could do was work on my social links because I was fixated on romancing a certain girl or firming up a friendship to the max - all to the detriment of my combat level. Then I'd happily devote hours to the grind through Tartarus and surprise myself by actually enjoying the repetitive combat until I passed out in bed. 

I'd have days when I thought P3P was boring, annoying and dull down to its predictable elements always doing the same thing with little variation. Then, a single character would say something meaningful or I'd have a particularly gripping boss battle and all would be forgiven. I'd fall back in love with the experience and I pushed on towards the top of the tower and the end of the game. 

Only after I'd seen the end credits and witnessed the bittersweet ending did I realise how much of a gap P3P had left. 86 hours isn't that long by most people's JRPG standards but for me its a megalithic anomaly. It'd grown into a friend, an acquaintance I'd conversed with on a daily basis and got to know intimately inside and out only to have that relationship suddenly end when 'Fin' appeared on the screen.

Yeah, I guess I'm being melodramatic but the following few days felt really odd to me. Nothing else videogame-based stuck with me except for firing on the PS2 and going back to a Persona game. It seems there's some secret formula hidden within P3P that my body's become used to and just like that time I tried to give up caffeine I've been rejecting every kind of substitute or watered-down replacement on the market.

Since I'm review-free for Gamepeople at the moment I guess I have the luxury of going back to Persona 4 and making some decent progress. Hey, maybe I'll actually resurrect those old diary things I started 80 years ago. Maybe I'll just be found 30 days later by my family unable to move from my own filth as I try to max out my S Link with Chie Satonaka and have to deal with divorce proceedings. Or maybe I'll write something about Dragon Quest IX in a couple days instead. Damn, so many choices for infamy.