Negative Review: The Worst Game Ever, Chrono Cross!

Chrono Cross is a sequel to the fabled game Chrono Trigger. This game attempted a different approach from most sequels by changing the focus of the story and characters completely. Like all Squaresoft games of the PS1 era, the battle system attempts to be unique and original to stand out from the rest of the games during their time.

Plot: The story is horrendously executed. I’m sorry to say that there is just no way around it. Chrono Cross fails to hold the players attention or even explain what the hell is going on. Normally in role-playing games created by Square it becomes captivating almost immediately. At least with other PS1 Squaresoft titles, it keeps hold of the player’s interest with mystery and character growth but unfortunately this game utterly fell flat in that regard.

Often times you’re told to keep moving with no understanding of where, how, or what you’re suppose to be doing in the story. Characters will randomly tell you vague hints on what to do sometimes but half the time you have to look through just about everywhere to find out what you’re suppose to be doing at all. There simply isn’t a rhyme or reason to any of the story events that make any of it sensible. It’s tedious and just plain annoying to go through. The game simply fails at giving direction half the time and the times it does are basically tantamount to: “Oh hey! You know, we should go to X location! We might find something their at X location! Let’s go to X location! Come on!“. Two obvious problems follow: It simply isn’t given enough explanation on why and the game gets the name of the location wrong at times. That is absolutely infuriating as it worsens the entire issue.

Issues that the game tries to focus on such as racism just degenerate to discourse that simply states: “All humans are at fault for everything!”. There is just nothing more to it at all. No explanation of why, how, or what humans did to warrant such hostility. The only explanation you will ever get is: “Everything in the entire world is the entire human races fault!” as if it were a given. We’re expected to take this statement at face value when your group, including your human hero, stops an ethnic cleansing of the the fairy population committed by fire-breathing mechanical dwarves (No, seriously . . . fire-breathing mechanical dwarves) and are blamed for causing the entire mess. Both the dwarves and fairies blame your group because you’re human with the only explanation being “Humans are at fault for everything!”. I’m left to honestly wonder if one of the themes of this game was misanthropy.

Gameplay: The turn based battle system is just a horrendously executed waste. It attempted to be “unique” and forgot common sense during the decision-making process of the gameplay. Random encounters are rendered useless with no level-ups allowed outside of boss battles. Any items or usable magic spells you may obtain are pointless because boss battles give you enough money to simply buy these items or magic spells in town shops. Participating in more than one or two of these random battles per dungeon will yield a wholesome supply of raw materials for forging items such as armor. But overall, it’s a grand waste to even implement this armor forging system because none of these items are really all that difficult to obtain. It makes the entire forging system feel tedious.

To explain more in-depth: The magic system gives you a tree of customizable options to put magic spells you want in a particular section of this tree so that the more physical attacks you use, the more open this tree becomes in battle, and the more magic points you get to unleash stronger magic attacks. It sounds interesting but the execution is dreadful. You must wait at times to attack if you’ve run out of stamina which makes the gameplay feel slower. It has a “magic field” system that makes using the same “magic element” stronger in battle. The field can go up to 4 dimensions but this only creates a system where spamming the same magic elements will make you win the battle quickly. There really isn’t much thinking required despite the so-called deepness of this game.

This magic system, which attempts to be unique like everything else in the game, is just a downgrade from the standard turn-based rpg battle system. How many normal attacks you accurately hit on an opponent determine the level of spells you can cast and there is no restraint to stop you from using your strongest spells all the time in this framework. In fact, the more of the same spell type you use, the stronger it becomes on the field making use of different spells rather useless for normal battles. Even then, you won’t need any of this because the random battles are laughably easy and, as mentioned before, don’t give you any experience points and are thus feel like a waste of time.

The physical combat in battle is just painful to play. It’s the three-point system. Weak, medium, and strong physical attacks. The weaker hits are more accurate and for every hit all of your attacks will become more accurate by small incremental percentages. Unfortunately, it’s poorly executed. It really just means you have to click the attack button three times instead of just once for normal enemies to go down. Accuracy against weaker enemies never does increase so you’ll have the same accuracy against enemies no matter what because there is no leveling outside of boss battles.

This makes the gameplay an aggravating chore. It should be called many things but fun definitely isn’t one of them.

The Characters: Out of 44 characters only 3 or so of them get any real development as characters. Even then, I’m being lenient in this regard. Most of them are just given funny accents to appear unique. The problem is that when all of them try to look unique they all result in becoming bland and forgettable. The characters outfits and accents don’t really fit well with the story or the setting they are in. Characters are defined by personality and none of these characters really have any.

An example, what is a Mexican wrestler doing in a circus and why does he suddenly want to join you just because some child died in an accident? I wish I was joking about this. It really makes no sense. The stupidest part about all of this is that you can only have three characters in battle at a time so you won’t even be using over half these characters. So what was the point in having a roster of over 40 characters?

Many of these characters have the same one-liner dialogue throughout the story. They all seem to be in favor of the mary-sue heroine at all times despite when said heroine wants to kill you and a group of sick and dying innocent people. The morality of the game seems to just be agreeing with anything and everything the heroine’s horribly broken ideology says is right. This really gave me a negative opinion on this game. The story felt like a childish melodrama without any thought or consideration on tone, settings, or differences in opinion. The player is simply expected to believe that one person has all the right answers and ignore the implications of human rights crimes. No, I’m not exaggerating. She tries to bomb refugees hiding in a secluded island at a certain point in the story and the refugees include two innocent children. We’re expected to believe that she’s just being innocently deceived into doing these actions by a villain in the story but that ignores a very fine detail: she tries to bomb refugees fleeing from a war. The “morality” of this game is significantly flawed.

As you play the story, you’ll start to realize that common sense and intelligence just doesn’t exist with any of these characters. Most of them are just RPG archetypes and have no interesting qualities to speak of. If you find one or two interesting then it might just be because you like the archetype that’s being represented like the terminator-styled robot with super saiyan hair but you can’t expect deep characterization from any of the characters here . . . or sanity.

The main character is one of the worst aspects of the game. He’s a silent protagonist and just doesn’t mesh with his environment or the story. The player is given questions and concerns but all the main protagonist can really say is “…” as an answer. It just shows how no critical thinking was involved in this game’s development. This is particularly bad for a company like Squaresoft of the PS1 era. The simple fact is that games such as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy IX managed to make picking a variation of choices in a well organized manner. The characters had some similar qualities to the silent protagonist type of style and were well portrayed in the game. In fact, Chrono Trigger was one of the most remarkable with this on the Super Nintendo. The plot didn’t focus too much on Crono’s characterization so you weren’t met with expectations such as those required for characters like Cloud, Squall, Zidane, and the main protagonist of this game, Serge. It’s easy to see that this game was not developed by the original game makers of Chrono Trigger because of it’s downright shoddy handling of this story’s silent protagonist. Sorry Masato Kato, but Hironbu Sakaguchi, Akira Toriyama, and Yuji Horii have all proven to be more capable at creating a good plot and interesting characters.

Side notes:

– The equipment system, as mentioned prior, is rather poorly implemented. To create armor and weaponry you must find raw materials to forge them. These materials, however, are very easy to find. You may wonder, as I did, why such requirements even exist instead of the standard and more efficient “buy and wear” in standard RPGs. It just reinforces the fact that this game tried to be different and edgy without any concern for common sense. It’s just plain befuddling.

– The story itself, or rather whatever bits and pieces you are given, didn’t seem too bad in the beginning. It appeared to be interesting enough but the actual story segments are far too apart from each other. The story drags it’s feet around. After you’ve finished your convoluted and confusing jumble of a journey the plot tries to resolve itself by large boxes of text at the very end of the game that tries to make sense of it. You just aren’t given any understanding at all on what the events mean, why they’re important, why you even need to be their, or what your actions have caused for 99% of the game. This completely ruins the tone, setting, and overall interest of the player. The worst factor of this is that because the game lacks any character depth in the villains, their motives and actions don’t make any sense either. So, you’re left with a confusing mess of a so-called story by the end of it. The entire experience is a trainwreck.

– Defenders of the game will tell you that it does make sense but you’ll find their just as horribly confused as you are. In the end, they’ll probably direct you to a website filled with fan theories of information that contradict the game. The problem with that is the game’s plot is self-contradictory. First issue is, the game’s plot contradicts Chrono Trigger since Lucca was clearly homeschooled by her genius father, the Time Guru was Gasper and not Balthasar (rather damning contradiction since Gasper was very significant in Chrono Trigger), and the Dreamstone was never part of Lavos. In fact, Chrono Trigger explicitly shows that the rocks existed as a natural resource before Lavos even crash landed into the world. More importantly, if the time pendant was lost in the “Darkness Beyond Time” with a certain character, then Marle could never have inherited the pendant from her family line and thus both games could never have happened.

– Some of them you have to do extra sidequests to obtain extra story explanation. However, these in-depth events aren’t delved upon enough and don’t give much to go on either. Overall, a very pathetic way to rid itself of story gaps. The fact they had to rely on gigantic boxes of text at the end cements this issue. Chrono Cross forums may point you to fan theory websites that make-up their own stories based off poor analogies and not any honest attempt at thematic analysis. Most fans are left arguing over fanon, fan-made theories about the game, than any genuine criticism about the contents of the game itself . . . to the extent that they’ll contradict events in the game because they like their fanon theories.

– Important information: There are bad batches of this game that will crash on you during the first dungeon. I had the unfortunate experience of purchasing one of these unplayable batches. I was able to continue on by using my PS3 to play Chrono Cross instead of my PS1 but this created the unfortunate glitch that locked my spells so that I couldn’t use them during the entire first dungeon or boss battles. After the first dungeon, I went back to playing on my Playstation 1 and the problem appeared to stop. But, this is another nail in the proverbial coffin. This game is unplayable by normal standards. If I didn’t have a PS3, I wouldn’t have been able to resolve this issue at all and even then I encountered glitches because of it. So yes, this game does deserve this score because it is unplayable for some people who were unfortunate enough to get the bad batch like I was.

Final Score: 1 out of 10. 1/10.

Negative Review: Persona 4

First, I’d like to state that the Shin Megami Tensei series is my favorite RPG series and that I really enjoyed playing most of them. Persona 4 (for the PS2) was my introduction to the series.

Persona 4 is a game I had heard remarkable things about before purchasing it. It had great trailers and I really did enjoy the beginning of the game’s presentation since it was very well done. You learn of a murder mystery, obtain a Persona, and are set out on a quest to rescue people thrown into another world by the mysterious murderer. An interesting setting that sadly went downhill as I continued along with the game itself. The characters went from interestingly dynamic to static, the plot from mysterious to obvious, and the gameplay from novel to uninteresting.

I’m afraid I cannot lie about that. However, this is all just my opinion. If you think my views are short-sided or foolish then that’s that.

Music: 4/10

The music was decent. It wasn’t anything superb like most Shin Megami Tensei games. I usually have one or two tracks that I enjoy because of how ingeniously they are composed.

They’re by no means bad at all. They’re just not my taste in gaming music. I did like the music of a certain secret boss but that was all.

Gameplay: 5/10

It’s good to see that Persona stepped-up its gameplay and allowed more than one character to be controlled at a time. The gameplay itself doesn’t have much to offer in comparison to it’s predecessors though. Press-turns are back from SMT Nocturne and you use some Japanese slapstick comedy attack as a bonus in certain instances but otherwise its basic turn-based gameplay. There’s a few weaker bonus attacks that individual party members can do but that’s really all the game offers to differentiate from other Shin Megami Tensei turn-based games.

The skill growth system in this game is a real disappointment compared to other games in the series. To be frank, there is no thinking involved to challenge the player in their choices. An example: Of course one would pick a stronger lightning spell to replace a weaker version of the same spell. There is just no strategy or thought put into this game. It may as well have been done for the player by having these skills evolve over time. There seems to be little to no strategic element in the gameplay.

The compendium and the fusion system is more interesting but they don’t have the same charm as the fusions in other games. The fusions are essentially laid out for you and you simply need to find the ingredients of weaker monsters. A certain social link tried to make this more engaging but I found it to be uninteresting.

Story: 1/10

As I mentioned, I loved the beginning of the game. However, the poor execution and ridiculousness passed off as character development seemed to really weaken the entertainment value of the story for me.

You’re part of a high school investigative team that is trying to find some killer who is supposedly kidnapping people and throwing them into a harsh alternate world inside televisions but the game makes it completely obvious who the culprit is from the very beginning. The serial killer was just too obvious for the “mystery” element of the game. It weakened the story severely.

They honestly didn’t even try to make a decent mystery in this game. I was very disappointed. Anyone with common sense will eventually recognize who it is because the game just doesn’t try hiding it at any length. Because of this, the main plot feels more like a nuisance than something of interest. The story isn’t engaging because you will immediately recognize the forced plot stupidity to keep the story going. In a murder mystery, that is damning.

I’d go on and on about why it was so obvious but that would be spoiling the game, I’d rather not ruin it for people if they haven’t already seen the nonsense that’s passed off as a mystery.

Worst of all, the reasoning behind these murders was, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. It was little more than “I’m bored” to “I’m crazy because the plot needs me to be some random crazy person now”. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the killer’s actions. This isn’t to show a sociopath, it’s done so horribly that I could only conclude that the writers simply got lazy. Providing some explanation would have sufficed instead of just unimaginative drivel.

Characters: 1/10

ALL social links, the character development that the characters express in the game, all end the same.
They talk to the main character about a particular problem, they exaggerate how bad this problem is, some sob story is given in a one-sided depiction of the specified problem, a certain mary-sue brat will come in to give forcefully mundane advice, and then by the end of the social link the specific character will go on having the problem and say their complaints before were exaggerated and that there is no real issue.

Nothing really changes for the characters. They don’t try to deal with problems but just stop complaining about them. All of them just admit to being a bunch of emo-drama queens. This is completely unsatisfactory and the redundancy of this annoying set-up simply bored me.

An example? Yukiko Amagi, she shows great strides in trying to get a job and live on her own to support herself so that she doesn’t have to follow in her family’s footsteps of running a historic family inn. The direction forcefully changes from growing into your own independent person  to some lunacy about some camera crew from some random tabloid magazine wanting to make a mockery of her parents historical inn. The intriguing story quickly diverges from “Yukiko doesn’t wish to be forced with these expectations of inheriting her family’s historical inn” to some sappy soap opera consisting of random workers for the family speaking about how they adored Yukiko as a kid. This is constantly reinforced by her mother’s so-called poor health, which is never really elaborated upon, and her mother crying in tears whenever the journalists come into the inn because apparently, no one saw it fit to simply ban them from the establishment for harassment. By the end of this melodramatic horror show, Yukiko defends her crying mother against these terrible people from this random tabloid company with you, the main character’s, help as moral support. If you pick the “friend” option, as I did, you will know why I say this is hypocritical.

Sadly, Yukiko is just the most overt example of this melodrama. All the other characters have this set-up in different degrees and virtually all follow the same transition periods. For me, it just became too annoying.

It was uninspiring, far too forced to be realistic in any sort of way, and honestly had no meaningfulness behind it. The characters shifted from interesting dynamic people with realistic thoughts and feelings to card-board character archetypes that simply admitted to whining too much about life.

To conclude: If you like Japanese RPGs full of high school drama or liked previous Persona games then this is definitely for you. If you like good RPGs then try to find another JRPG for you.

Final score: 4/10

The results of my Survey regarding Feminism and Gaming

Full disclosure, I made the survey for a college term project. These were my results. Overall, it was a pretty enlightening experience and I’m quite happy that I did it. There really is an overwhelming majority of gamers who hate GamerGate and support Feminism in gaming. Shocking, right?

Notable Facts:

Most of the survey participants claim to be Caucasian and Male. Approximately 25% of the survey takers were female.

Most of the participants hold a College degree or seem to currently be attending College.

I conducted this survey via sharing on web forums Gamefaqs, Reddit, IGN, Woodus Dragon Quest Forums, Extra-credits forum, and Dayonepatch gaming forum. An overwhelming amount of the survey participants were from Reddit’s gaming forums and survey forums.

White male College educated gamers want more female inclusion and they’re supportive of feminism in gaming.

Feminism in Gaming Survey

A Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV

Warning: This topic contains immense spoilers for the video game, Shin Megami Tensei IV and other Shin Megami Tensei games. The main focus will be upon SMTIV but the topic may verge into comparisons with other SMT games.

For the Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse: Part 1 and Part 2

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Merkabah: is self-explanatory, God’s chariot that assists to bring forth one’s full light and it is representative of an ascended believer who has connected with the “higher realms.” We pretty much see this in the three routes, as either a dungeon or observing the transformation. Jonathan gives-up his freedom and willpower to follow the path of God and sacrifices himself to merge with the angels. There are symbolic implications to religious self-sacrifice.

Merkabah, Oneness with God

The Great Spirit of Hope: is an interesting one. It seems to have ties in Greek and Roman mythology. An interesting fact that I learned was that the ancient Greeks were divided on the meaning of the spirit of Hope’s story. Hope, in the context of ancient Greece’s story “Expectations in life”, was seen by some as the only positive personification to come out of Pandora’s box and by others it was seen as subjecting humanity to the worst suffering through self-deception. The negative perspective gives us a pernicious meaning to hope’s existence. Yet, this Ancient Greek divide fits so well with theme of the Neutral Path in Shin Megami Tensei IV.

This divisive perspective coincides with the White’s message in the Neutral path: “Your will which rejects our salvation is the cause of your suffering.”

The argument, in both the game and in ancient greek literature, comes down to the question: “Is hope a salvation or is it a self-deception?”

Spes/Elpis, the Great Spirit of Hope

Ancient Roman Goddess, Spes

I haven’t found much on the Great Spirit of Goodwill or the Great Spirit of Spite. I’m guessing it’s derived from Judeo-Christian lore and not Greek mythology. Merkabah itself seems to fit the concept of “Goodwill” based on it’s mythology but I’m unsure if Lucifer fits “spite” or if that’s more derivative from Greek mythology.

The White: seem to be a reference to the Jewish ritual of passover, but in a morbid and bizarre manner, they’re an inversion of the custom of passover. Passover is suppose to be representative of Jewish people freeing themselves from Egyptian slavery under the glory of God. In the context of Shin Megami Tensei IV, this inverse is represented to the player by obliterating the entire multiverse to escape being a prisoner of God’s expectations.

The four – despite Isabeau – seem to represent the four sons of the Passover Seder through how they’re organized from left to right.

The Four Sons

The first son is the wise son who knows most about the religious tradition, the first White uses Abbot Hugo’s form.

The second son is wicked and somewhat deviant but still toes the line of following the traditional ways when it comes time. Perhaps it’s a stretch to call K this but it actually does fit. If you speak with him at his tavern in the Chaos ending, he says that he isn’t surprised by the destruction of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and even finds it fitting that a citizen of Mikado was the one to bring about it’s destruction. He implies that he really doesn’t care that everybody is doomed.

The third son, Issachar, is the simple one. He follows along with no real animus towards the other sons. He finds the tradition exciting. He learns about what the passover is truly about through life experience.

The fourth son is where this becomes rather odd. The fourth son either represents one that’s too bashful to speak during passover, understands everything but is afraid of looking like a fool, or is represented as a quiet observer with no emotional connection to the Seder. It might be the reason why the fourth White was chosen to be female. A female representative isn’t customary and is defiant of expectations by virtue of not being a man.

(Note: I am not attempting to say anything negative about the Jewish ritual of passover. I’m just listing possibilities of what it could mean for the game itself. This is not, in any way, a criticism of Jewish traditions or the Jewish people.)

Apart from being female, Isabeau’s characteristics follow the fourth son’s description accurately, specifically in her inability to make a choice and either joining you or being forced to react to your choice in the game. Her quiet and reserved nature fit the fourth son’s characteristics.

The fifth son is the most interesting of all. He’s somewhat of an unknown except for the more in-depth Jewish theologians. He represents an ignorance towards the tradition. He doesn’t know nor acknowledge the history, the culture, and ultimately doesn’t care about it. He’s the most deviant and scornful by virtue of his ignorance to the significance of the Seder and Jewish tradition.

The Fifth Son

The religious significance of the Fifth Son

That is your main character should you choose Law, Chaos, or Neutral. You recognize the problem, but you decide that you don’t give a damn about what the White’s perspective is. As the battle with Sanat seems to imply, the main character doesn’t care and hasn’t concerned himself with the problems of different dimensions even after seeing them. What’s more, choosing neutrality – believing in hope – will mean the inevitable return of future struggles but the main character seems to accept that.

The deceiver: I want to add that the “son”  representative of the deceiver who then admits to certain negative aspects about the ritual might actually be White Isabeau. I thought it was White Issachar but he furiously holds to his beliefs in the meaninglessness of struggle and actually tries to make you feel guilty for not choosing his side: the real Issachar asked you to kill him, White Issachar – who admits to using Issachar’s form – says he wanted to be saved.

White Isabeau, by contrast to the other three, admits that God is just a convenience created by humankind and thus disagrees with the presumption that God is an inescapable omnipresent being. Despite that, she argues that humans are too weak to continue the tightrope choice of neutrality. She isn’t wrong either, because she – rightfully – thinks it’ll eventually fall away to Chaos or Law. It’s still an interesting implication because she admits there can be a temporary reprieve. She just doesn’t consider that option to be good enough.

Interesting information to consider: the passover means “The Telling“, The White are telling you the facts of the multiverse so that you become the Messiah – or in a Buddhist sense, you attain the “ultimate realization” – and bring about the long-awaited end of days that the White see as the only salvation of humankind.

Although, in this case, it’s not revival of the dead for the glory of the Abrahamic God to be acknowledged as the one true God. Instead, it seems to reference turning everything into nothing. It’s a pernicious perspective on the Buddhist meaning of “Emptiness” combined with the Seder as a metaphor.

The White take a nihilistic perspective on the concept of “Nirvana” in comparison to the majority of real life Buddhism.

I wasn’t entirely sure why Atlus Japan decided to take this route regarding the concept of Emptiness. As it turns out, I have Friedrich Nietzsche to blame for that. Nietzsche argued in his book, the Genealogy of Morals:

“We simply cannot conceal from ourselves what’s really expressed by that total will which received its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hate against what is human, and even more against animality, even more against material things—this abhorrence of the senses, even of reason, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing for the beyond away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, even longing itself—all this means, let’s have the courage to understand this, a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a revolt against the most fundamental preconditions of life—but it is and remains a will! . . . And to repeat at the conclusion what I said at the start: man will sooner will nothingness than not will . . .”

The Ascetic Ideal, in this context, is the ideals of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in renouncing oneself, renouncing our possessions, and renouncing our sexual desire for the sake of following a “morally good” path for “Oneness with God” as the highest purpose for ourselves as human beings. Nietzsche argued in many of his books that such a path is self-contempt disguised as moral purity. Nietzsche specifically argued in Genealogy of Morals that ancient human civilizations did this because they needed a “meaning” behind their suffering.

Religion is the guidepost for understanding the “meaning of life” for the majority of people. Shin Megami Tensei IV seemed to borrow this analysis and expressed this perspective through the arguments by The White. They couldn’t find the meaning to the suffering in the multiverse so they just gave-up on everything. The protagonist becomes the Messiah of Nothingness, should you choose to agree with them and you end the world. Most religious prophecies argue that the Savior of God will come at the end of the world and thus critics could argue that many believers would yearn for the end of the world.

Overall, it’s a fascinating outlook on religious morals and their utility in life. Shin Megami Tensei IV manages to really ask deep questions about people’s personal beliefs; providing subtle and insightful criticism on religion without the player realizing it. That is why it is one of my favorite games of all-time.