A couple years ago I got a stack of free PS2 games, including some very well-regarded RPGs. I never got around to trying them, but since I got the PS2 out to mess around with on my new HD component monitor, I decided to give them a go.
The first up was Xenosaga - I don't have the first game(*), so I tried Xenosaga II. This looked great - sci-fi setting, mechs, Namco, cool box art, huge world. I slit the original seal on the top of the DVD case 😜 and popped it in.
I was immediately dropped into a ten-minute-long unskippable cutscene with some of the most monotonous, agonizingly slow voice "acting" I've ever seen. What the hell is wrong with that delivery? The characters are getting attacked by aliens and they sound like they're on morphine. Absolutely no attempt was made to make the models lip sync, making it look like a 1960's Godzilla movie. Yes, I know I'm playing the English version and the original dialog was Japanese, but even Soul Calibur II got this right and it's a freaking beat-em-up.
After slogging through that, I finally got some gameplay! Well, sort-of gameplay. You walk your mech down a straight road and every three seconds it rips the control away to give you a heavy-handed tutorial on gameplay elements or fighting mechanics, or whatever. Okay, fine, I need to know that stuff. Get through that tiny morsel of actual player control, and suddenly BAM! Another 10 minutes of cutscenes, three in a row back-to-back this time. Nope.
I really wanted to like this, it has some really cool looking graphics for the PS2 and awesome synth music (I did notice the big Korg logo on startup!) but it just wouldn't let me in to play any of it.
(* Ironically, what looks like Xenosaga 1 up there is actually a promo DVD movie comprised of only the cutscenes. It's still in the shrink wrap and I think I understand why. Why couldn't they have made a version the other way around, with only the gameplay & a single page of text now and then to advance the story?)
So after wasting half an hour of my life, out came Xenosaga II and in went Grandia III. Again, I don't have the first two so I hoped this would stand alone. Looks like a cutesier presentation & steampunky atmosphere rather than a sci-fi epic. I can live with that, and besides, it's Square Enix. If you leave the intro screen sitting for a minute, it goes into a goddamn rock music video that's honestly kind of awesome. Yeah, I can get into this.
I knew what to expect by now, so I started a new game and yep, 10-minute ride through cutscene town. This one had at least some attempt at expressive voice acting (although by no means is any of it good) but seemingly went out of its way to establish the characters as utterly unlikeable stereotypes and didn't give me any good reasons to want to spend tens of hours in their shoes.
I finally got into the gameplay, and hey, you can free-roam around and look at things, so props for that, but your first "quest" is to go find where your wife hid some crucial part of your airplane so you can sneak out of your shitty marriage like a little snot. Facepalm.
Not sure I'm going to bother with the Final Fantasy games just yet, I actually have fond memories of having fun with X-2 at a friend's place back when it was new, but she'd already done the beginning-game grinding & cutscene gauntlet and I was jumping into her game when I was over.
I know some of these are beloved and have huge followings, but this was just painful and left me wondering why anyone would want to play these. Did you guys have the same experience or am I nuts?
What happened to just dropping the players into the gameworld and letting them figure out what the hell was going on for themselves??
Anyway, after all that I ended firing up Soul Calibur on the Xbox instead, and stabbed people with swords for like ten minutes. Then I had to quit & get some stuff done. Thanks for wasting my limited gaming time, RPGs.
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