Making My Own Finish
Last night I finished Undertale… and what I mean by that is that I reached a point where I am just finished caring about the game. I have so many conflicted feelings about this title. On one hand I really do enjoy the story that is being told, and I made my best attempt to go pacifist. The problem I have however is that there is a whole lot about the “game” that I simply hate. For me it feels like I am very much playing two vastly different games. One of which is this awesome console RPG where I wander around and talk to interesting people and do the occasional puzzle. Then there is a completely different game that is the often times bullet hell shooter that is the combat system. The combat system is the game that I hate, and the loner I had to play it the more I loathed its existence. The strange part about it is that I love JRPGs and I love Bullet Hell shooters… they are awesome separate genres but there is something about the hybridization of this game that offends my sensibilities.
When I play a bullet hell shooter, it feels like there is nothing on the line. Sure I might lose a ship or I might have to start back at the beginning of the game, but there is nothing that I deeply care about on the game. When it comes to an RPG… adding that bullet hell aspect feels too punishing for me. If I fucked and forgot to save, a single screw-up might cost me hours of retracing my steps to try and reach the point where I have to try that fight all over again. In a bullet hell title you often get some avenue for rapid trial and error as you figure things out on the fly. I am very much a learn by doing person, and no amount of prep work ahead of time is going to get me through a fight until I reach my own internal click moment where I grok the mechanics at a purely muscle memory level.
If I somehow could have turned off the combat system and wound up with a game where I just walk around and talk to interesting people I would unabashedly sing this games praises. Tonight we are recording the AggroChat Game Club show where we talk about Undertale and right now I feel like I am probably going to be the lone voice that did not really enjoy this game. From the moment I first encountered the combat system I felt like I was “taking my medicine” and forcing myself through an experience that I simply was not enjoying. So in many ways it felt like doing homework, and I found myself trying to rush through as fast as I could so I had something to talk about. I don’t want to give too many spoilers in my blog post, and will likely save those for the podcast. However I managed to get to the bullet hell-iest of all bullet hell glitch endings, which apparently means that I did not make enough friends along the way? I did a bunch of research and watched several of the other ending options on YouTube and I have to say… the ending I was heading for feels like a massive slap in the face.
I realize it is a central conceit in a lot of Japanese games that you get a shitty ending the first time… and that is supposed to drive you to play the game again to get a better ending. I’ve always kinda thought this practice was bullshit, and instead of lighting a fire under me to get the better ending… I just tend to chuck that game in the dustbin as a thoroughly disappointing experience. The primary problem with me and this game is that I don’t enjoy the central game mechanics… which are avoid stuff on screen as a a replacement for standard menu driven RPG combat. I can absolutely play a game indefinitely that has a shitty story, but has mechanics that I really enjoy. This is why I mesh so well with skinner box and grindy games… because I am enjoying that core loop enough to keep playing for the promise of something cool in the future. That said I have never been able to struggle through a sub par mechanical experience just because I know there is a good story there somewhere. When I reach a point when I think I would much rather watch a YouTube video of someone else playing… then it is time for me to hang up my controller and cut my losses.