Sunday, March 01, 2009

I Never Promised Good Content

My PS2 gets a considerable amount of use. I only got it about three years ago, pretty much near the end of the last generation of consoles, but catching up on the library of quality games for it is considerably cheaper than chasing the next gen hits obsessively.

Whatever, I’m a firm believer in gameplay and concept taking precedence over cutting edge graphics. It’s all part of a simple philosophy I have. I don’t tolerate shoddy writing in novels I like to read, or bad everything in movies I want to watch, so I suppose I’m also of the camp that “games=art” just as much as anything else can be. Ocarina of Time is possibly my favorite game in history. The old Lucasarts Adventure Games (Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Grim Fandango, etc) and any spiritual successors to them are also uber high on the list of quality rides.

And then there’s one game that has continued to see heavy rotation on my PS2 for longer than I can logically explain. Warriors Orochi 2 is a mindless beat-em-up that is a crossover game of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors, two OTHER mindless beat-em-ups. The premise, such as it is, is that a scythe wielding anthropomorphic snake god named Orochi from Japanese Mythology got bored one day, created an alternate world and sucked the characters from the Chinese Three Kingdoms Era and the Japanese Warring States Period through space-time so that they could fight for his amusement. That’s pretty much it. This, being the sequel, continues the story of these Asian warriors in this alternate dimension as they try to come to grips with leaving behind everything they’ve ever known- No, I’m kidding. They continue to fight with inexhaustible numbers endlessly like its Valhalla. Sure, there’s some other gods showing up to put Orochi back in his place and hinting at some character depth about being a fugitive from divine justice with a death wish, but its not developed more than that. Ultimately, Cartoony Asian Valhalla is pretty much all that this game is all about.

So the story is ridiculously bad, the voice acting is goofy in both bad and good ways, and the combat couldn’t be simpler. Actually, yes, there is a way to make the combat simpler than combo system. There’s a weapon upgrade called “almighty” that you can collect parts for and then apply to a weapon that turns any basic attack into a win button. Hitting X at that point is guaranteed to kill something in your radius, and even joke characters like Yoshimoto Imagawa can own former monsters like Lu Bu.

And I just. Can’t. Stop. Playing. The reason for that is because unlocking the last Character, Orochi X, takes in inordinate amount of level grinding. There’s 92 playable characters with their own move sets (which means something until you slap almighty on them) with a level cap of 99 and a proficiency cap of 50. The end result is a hell of a lot of level grinding. I still don’t have Orochi X and I am rapidly approaching at least level 30 proficiency for each character. Every single character HAS almighty on their weapon. This is no longer a stress relief activity after a long day. This isn’t even a single character genocide simulator that features the deaths of thousands of ninjas and snakemen. This is a quest motivated by pride. Arrogant pride that is keeping me from playing other, better games, like Okami or Shadow of the Colossus.

I… I’m so ashamed of myself.

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