Justin: One of my greatest frustrations within the Pack is that my self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboyism means that my recommendations of that company’s games are usually dismissed. It doesn’t matter if I say that Donkey Kong Country Returns features amazing platforming set pieces or that Super Mario 3D Land looks to be doing some neat tricks with perspective because Justin has his StreetPass hat pulled over his eyes. Given that insurmountable hurdle, I don’t even know how I’d get my fellow podcasters to check out 2006′s Chibi Robo, a late cult classic for the GameCube that gets one major thing wrong at the outset of the game before getting so many things right.
The game is something of an open-world exploration game, in which you play as a tiny robot programmed to make a family of three happier. Later in the game, that means exploring the expanses of the house, interacting with other toys and uncovering secrets throughout. It’s like playing “Toy Story” through a bizarre Japanese lens. However, before you can get there, you’ll have to deal with stupidly menial tasks in order to level up. It’s been a couple years since I’ve played it, but I think this meant scraping dog crap off the kitchen tile with a toothbrush, if memory served correctly. (You’ll also spend a lot of time just picking up trash.) Of course, there are no physical boundaries keeping you from the more desirable content of the game, but without leveling up your battery – via dirt scrubbin’ – your Chibi Robo is basically stuck in one spot, clinging to electrical sockets for dear life until the game’s brutal time limit sends you back to the living room. As you slowly upgrade, you’ll find that the game has tons to offer, but it certainly takes its time getting there.
Though this is a particularly egregious example, there have been a handful of other Nintendo games that also adopted the “crawl before you can walk” policy. Few others have derailed gamers as much as the first village in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Those who made it out of this excruciating tutorial discovered an expansive, engrossing update to tried-and-true 3D Zelda. Twilight Princess features an incredibly dense overworld, great artwork and inventive dungeons, such as a yeti’s mansion and the Zelda equivalent of a Tony Hawk skate park, that would have detractors letting up on their “more of the same” outcries.
The problem is that it’s buried under a couple hours of tedious goat wrangling and weak supporting characters that just never shut up. It’s simultaneously incredibly obtuse and patronizing, and it’s the only reason I haven’t replayed Twilight Princess since. If you look back at Ocarina, you can get to the first dungeon, the Deku Tree, in about 15 minutes. In Twilight Princess, it truly felt like an eternity. This Nintendo fanboy can only hope that Skyward Sword doesn’t dwell to much on the setup before giving you the classic sword and shield combo that we all know is on the way.
Kaz: I have a strange but particularly extreme “bad first impression” story.
To set the scene: it’s sophomore year of college. I’m visiting a friend’s apartment. I walk in to a completely silent living room.
I was invited here. I was told that there were a bunch of people in here waiting to hang out.
Walking further into the apartment I see the faint glow of monitors. Every single person in this apartment is glued to his monitor. Looking over their shoulders, I’m pretty sure I’m looking at Warcraft 3, but things are very odd about this particular game of Warcraft. There don’t seem to be bases or armies at all. What is this?
“DooOOoTaAaAaAaa,” one of the zombies affixed to their screens groans.
I tried to understand this Defense of the Ancients (DotA) game they had apparently spent hours playing doing but it was all lost on me. “You play for 30 minutes as one character in Warcraft? There aren’t any armies? Where do you get resources?” A string of decidedly unenthused questions streamed out of my mouth. Surely this just wasn’t a game for me. Anything that can turn my friends into mindless drones is not the game for me.
Flash forward: hanging out online, I’m sent a link by my friends to join a beta for a strange unheard of game called: League of Legends. Not realizing that I was about to get sucked into the brain melting world I was so dismissive of a couple years prior.
The first matches were rough, I had no clue what the basic strategies were and the game was filled with experts. I was persistent, though, and over 500 games later (250+ hours) I kick myself for not getting on the bandwagon sooner.
Come to think of it, Counter Strike: Source was the same way, so everybody get ready for Global Offensive…