Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, and Heavy Rain after the cut!
May 2010 Archives
Everyone knows it: Nintendo has that special something that inspires people of all walks to pick up a game controller and just have fun. My mom's playing video games for the first time since The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. My mother and father-in-law compete in Mario Kart nightly. I know more people with multiple Nintendo DSes than I do people that own none. This makes the release of Osamu Inoue's Nintendo Magic, translated and distributed by Vertical, Inc. seem especially well timed.
Nintendo Magic starts with Nintendo's resurgence at the top of the charts, detailing the origins and successes of the DS and Wii, along with in-depth profiles of the Nintendo executives that made it possible. Too bad the book reads more like an amalgam of edited-together company brochures instead of a disciplined, thoughtful overview of one of Japan's most secretive and transformative companies.
One question that comes up over and over in the world of gaming enthusiast press and game review/critique is “how much of a game must you play before you can fairly review it?”
There are a few schools of thought.
The first goes something like my method of judging anime. That is to say, I know before the end of the theme song whether I’m going to like the show or not. Some people will give a show 30 episodes to “pick up.” Similarly, some people are done reviewing games as soon as they find some game-breaking mechanic or it’s too, you know, “Japanese.” Or whatever.
On the opposite side, some people—gamers and reviewers both—feel that a game review must, similar to a DVD review, encompass all the content. The same way a DVD review includes not just the movie, but the extras, menus, box art and everything else in between, some reviewers and gamers expect a review to encompass not only the main game and primary mechanics but also every little minigame or sidequest, collectible, and every line of dialogue.
Me, I’m somewhere in between.
The review has to fit the game, obviously. But game reviewing is, if nothing else, time consuming. As the reviewer, you want to be sure that nothing is missed because gamers are mean, and will tear apart every little mistake you make. But there’s a line. It’s thin, faint, and fuzzy.
I have never felt the need, for example, to beat all the challenge levels in Peggle to review it. That’s not something most players are going to bother with, and you don’t learn anything more about the game by doing it.
With longform RPGs like Fallout, Final Fantasy and such, playing them to completion is often a lot of fun but again, not necessary for a proper review. Certainly, the main quest must be seen through to completion, and other aspects of the game should be played to the point of having a good idea what’s there for gamers to enjoy (or not). But will playing another 20 hours of the same minigame to get that last unlockable tell you anything more about the game? No, it won’t. And if it does, then that’s great but the designers had a responsibility to make the game a little more welcoming. If someone under Miyamoto tried to put a feature into a game that took 20 hours to become fun, he’d go Super Saiyan and unleash some Dragon Ball Z shit upon them.
But then again, what about a game that’s so broken that playing through the main quest puts you at the border of insanity? Should people really expect the reviewer to dump 30 hours of their life into something so painfully bad? The pay-versus-play ratio is so poor most of the time that it’s not only unreasonable but laughable as well. Unless, of course, you’re a salaried worker and you make your living playing games.
In playing Deadly Premonition, I played through the main quest and did a few side quests. 20 hours with a game is plenty of time to figure out whether you like it, though with a good game it’s a shame to miss the sidequests, admittedly.
Does it matter, in the end, how someone reviews a game? I suppose it probably doesn’t in the grand scheme. Reviews are a timely thing though, and letting a game languish to drill down into every minigame just isn’t worth it.