As a kid growing up in the early to mid-90s, videogames were a huge part of my childhood. Like many kids from that time, I had a Game Boy and played it most often while away from home. However, there was one game I owned for the Game Boy that kept me playing whether I was at home or on the go: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Link's Awakening was an important game for me growing up, taking the formula of A Link to the Past, one of my all-time favorite games, and condensing it to Game Boy form meant it was an automatic hit in my book. It also helped that a good friend of mine at that time was also playing the game, so we would often compare notes and help each other along throughout the game.
But wait! This isn't an article about Link's Awakening, so why am I spending so much time talking about it? Well, it has come to my attention recently that the topic of this article, a game by the name of For the Frog the Bell Tolls, and Link's Awakening have a lot in common. Specifically, both games share the same engine, so the aesthetic as well as certain gameplay mechanics are nearly identical between these two games. With Link's Awakening being a game that is so near and dear to me, I knew I had to check out For the Frog the Bell Tolls, so I bought an original Japanese Game Boy cartridge of the game and popped it into my Retron 5 complete with an English language translation patch so I could enjoy this adventure firsthand!
I love FMV (Full Motion Video) games, even though I understand that most of them are not really good games, as much as interesting relics of gaming's past. However, there are exceptions and Under a Killing Moon is one of them. You play Tex Murphy, a PI modeled after Spade and Marlowe that lives and works in a future vision of San Francisco. In this adventure, you take on a dangerous cult striving for genetic purification. For me, the Tex Murphy games are the pinnacle of FMV adventure with a combination of good writing, decent acting and a good dose of (intentional) humour.
Recently, there has been a flood of games touting to be "Roguelikes" in both the Indie and AAA design spaces over the past few years. Even more perplexing, the titles claiming to be Roguelikes seemingly spanned all genres. With the new update of one of my favorite Roguelikes (more later), it seemed only fitting to really examine what a makes a game a Roguelike, and more importantly, what a "rogue" is.
For the full version, you could always Wikipedia it, but in brief, Rogue is a PC dungeon crawler with ASCII graphics. The premise is pretty simple: go from the top floor of a dungeon, get an item, and then escape. The game features turn based combat and movement; for every action you take, all the enemies get a turn, similar to a game of chess. Each level of the dungeon is semi-randomly generated, and populated with a myriad of enemies, items, and interactable objects to make each delve unique. Being simple in the graphics department, Rogue could also go much deeper in item interaction than most games, as not having to animate things saves considerable time. Other things that make Rogue different from most games is that items do not come identified, and the user usually needs to figure out what they have via trial and error. This generally leads to some hilarious situations, like drinking a potion of fire when you badly needed healing instead.
Broken Age is a beautiful game. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a piece of art. I'm not going to open up the "Are Games Art?" can of worms argument, but I can say without a doubt that THIS GAME is a brilliant work of art.
Everyone knows the story of this game, but here's a quick recap if you aren't a part of "everyone": Tim Schafer and Doublefine started a Kickstarter asking for $300,000 to make an adventure game. The project exploded and they received over $3.3 Million. The game took a lot longer to make than anticipated, partially because they decided to make a much bigger game than they had originally planned now that they had way more funds than they thought they would. Instead of a delivery date of October 2012, the first half of Broken Age was available for backers to play in January of 2014, with the second half arriving in April of the same year. Along with the game, backers were given access to an episodic documentary of the making of the project. Now that that's all out of the way, let's talk about the game.
Beyond Oasis is an action/adventure game developed by Ancient for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It was released quite late in the system's lifecycle, late 1994 for Japan and 1995 everywhere else. Since Ancient was founded by Yuzo Koshiro, it also includes a soundtrack composed by him. This is most likely Sega's answer to The Legend of Zelda mixed with some Mana series, since there are many similarities in gameplay design, puzzle solving, and progression.
In Part 1 of my critique on video game categorization I posed the question "Can the Zelda games be considered RPGs?" My stance is that these games cannot be labeled as Role Playing games on the basis that they do not depict the character growth, statistic building, and depth of narrative required of games of the genre.
The Zelda series no doubt presents many enthralling story lines, but the characters are subject to the direction of the narrative. Consider these games to be akin to a Greek myth in which the hero is a victim of the fate determined by the gods. Like Odysseus, Link must take up arms, embark upon a journey of epic proportions and cope with an unalterable destiny. The characters of Adventure games are driven by the story. RPGs display the opposite. The characters push the narrative forward.
Despite this critical fact that separates Adventure and Role Playing games one cannot argue that both involve playing the role of a hero on an adventure. This is why I am not comfortable with the term "RPG." Modern video games, and even many retro titles, cannot be pigeon holed into just one genre category. A game such as Secret of Mana is rooted in the RPG basics and incorporates gameplay elements from the Adventure genre. Titles that merge these two genres are too conveniently labeled as Action RPG. This does provide insight on the game's play style, but does not accurately identify the game as a whole. My solution to this is to look at the adventure itself, the context in which it takes place, and whether characters grow as the game progresses.
This is the typical RPG whether it is turn based or played out in real time. These games depict stories which are driven by the protagonist and his or her companions. Character development is illustrated via statistics, but more so in the dialogue or cut scenes. As the characters grow the story becomes deeper much like a film or novel. These games tend to be longer as more time is spent allowing the player to experience the characters and setting. The structure of the narrative often follows Joseph Campbell's Monomyth.
Fantasy Adventure/Action Adventure
The story is set in a fantastical world which has power over the hero. The protagonist's shortcomings do not impact the story; in this case the story predetermines his or her weaknesses. The focus of these games is directed more to the player having to adapt to and overcome challenges presenting by in game obstacles. These games also follow the Monomyth structure, but take the shortened path which is shown in the upper portion of the diagram.
I've enjoyed looking at what constitutes an "RPG" and like that there is no definitive answer. My solution for the categorization problem uses the characters and storyline of the games, as I feel they are integral to a great gaming experience. What are your thoughts on these labels? How do you identify what is and isn't a Role Playing game?
I am very glad I stumbled upon this wonderful website - I found out about it while searching for a book called Video Game Bible. Not only the site features one of the biggest game databases on the web along with built-in collection tracking software, it doesn't even have any ads! How often do you see that on the web nowadays? I thought that this website deserved a donation, and if you can spare even a dollar, you should too (the link is here).
I am sure every one of us has some pretty old games in the collection (this is why you are here, right?). Well, I thought we may as well acknowledge memorable games by celebrating their birthdays! And this is why I have this feature. To narrow the scope, I will only post about games that were released after the crash, but are at least 10 years old (I think ten years is enough to realize whether a game has left any influence in the world of video games). I will also explain why this game is important enough to mention. ===================================================
September 24, 1993 (15 years ago): Myst is released.
Console: Macintosh initially, many more soon after.
While hailed by some as a "fancy collection of really obscure puzzles" or "interactive slide-show" (they may be right!), the popularity of the game could not be questioned. Myst eventually sold over 6 million copies, a record it held for almost 9 years, until the arrival of The Sims. The release of Myst also largely helped adopt the CD-ROM format on personal computers, since the game fully took advantage of the format with tons of images and music. Myst spawned four well-selling sequels, as well a couple of remakes, some spin-offs, and many imitators.
In my personal opinion, I would attribute the popularity of Myst to first-person view combined with realistic graphics (something first-person games of the era could not yet pull off), making the game very immersive, while the puzzles and lack of violence made it appealing to people who would not normally play games (even "moms" played it in the early 90's).
See also: If you liked Myst, then I would recommend horror adventures AMBER: Journeys Beyond (1996), or the much later Scratches (2006), as well as many other mystery games spawned by this style.
Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US) is a 2005 game released by Quantic Dream. With the studio's second release they wanted to create a truly cinematic game and let me tell you: they succeeded.
The game starts in a cold, snow-covered New York City where we find protagonist of the game, Lucas Kane, sitting on a toilet of a diner with a knife in his hands. Something's not right with Lucas because he used the knive to kill an innocent man and carved strange markings in his forearms. Seconds later, he regains control over himself and is stunned to find the man on the bathroom floor, realising he's a murderer.
From there on the player gets to control Lucas and has to make quick decisions in his place to get him away from the crimescene in one piece. I won't go into further detail about the story because that would spoil too much of the experience. All I'll add is that you also get to play as Carla Valenti and Tyler Miles, two detectives working the case of Lucas' murder. This makes for some interesting moments because you're playing as two sides who are literally working against each other. I'd like to stress how important the story in this game is, which is of a far superior level and suspense normally found in games. While advancing through the game you'll really start to care about alot of characters, which aren't stereotypical good or bad guys but rather undergo an evolution as the game progresses.
What makes Fahrenheit different from most games is not only its deep story but also the way you can influence that story. Depending on what decisions you make, the story changes. When talking to another character, different dialog options are shown. (Like in Mass Effect) A timer runs out so you have to make quick decisions as to what you want your character to say. Although the story isn't completely changeable (some decisions simply end up with Lucas in prison, forcing you to do things differently) there are entire scenes that can be unlocked when making the right decisions. (including two sex scenes cut from the US version)
All actions in the game are performed via the analog sticks. The left one controls Lucas' movement while the right one is context-sensitive. Depending where you are or what object you're facing, a small icon on the screen shows what movement you should make with the stick. (Much like Skate's way of performing tricks) During the more intense action sequences you'll have to perform a sort of rhythm mini game with the analog sticks. Two 4-button icons will show up in the middle of the screen (like the memory game Simon) and depending on which color lights up, you'll have to press the corresponding analog stick in that direction. Although this seems stupid on paper it works rather well in this game and I never got the feeling I'm simply pressing random buttons because the rhythm game is made so it matches the actions on screen.
Another fun feature of Fahrenheit is you'll also do some everyday life actions like drink some water, play some guitar or take a shower. This supports the bond you have with the characters and shows they're no superheroes but regular people like you and me. They also have a mental health bar that goes up or down depending on your actions in the game. At maximum this shows as "Neutral" but will say things like "Stressed" or "Depressed" when worse.
What's most irritating about Fahrenheit are character and camera movement. Character movement is slow and feels stiff. Maybe this has been done to add to the realistic feel of the game, I'm not really sure. Although the camera does a decent job, it tends to get stuck behind objects in small rooms making it hard to regain a good perspective. Graphics aren't fantastic either (comparable to those of GTA: Vice City and San Andreas) with some animations looking a bit unnatural, despite the use of motion capture. This never bothered me though, because it's easy to forgive a game for its lesser graphics when it has such an intense storyline.
Much better than the visuals is the audio and a place where Fahrenheit really shines. Luckily for its storyline, voice acting is performed excellent for all characters. The way you can hear them think in their heads is especially convincing, together with the voice of main character Lucas. Musically, Fahrenheit uses both licensed songs and an original score. Licensed songs are usually found when a radio is playing in-game while the original score accompanies alot of dialog and action scenes. I think both are used very well and give Fahrenheit that memorable feel that you'll remember even after finishing the game.
Although only an 8-hour game, Fahrenheit is the kind of of game you'll still think about weeks after completing it. It gets under your skin like few other games do and has a story even fewer can compare with. Definately worth your attention despite the flaws I've mentioned. 8.3/10