Saturday, May 17, 2008

Found Odyssey

115 hours is a long time to be playing one video game. I'm not sure I even spent that long playing Final Fantasy: Tactics. But it was no great difficulty putting this amount of time into Lost Odyssey. I'm not going to write a whole review here. (I have to start playing my next game, which I actually do have to review!)

But I need to at least take the time to commemorate two momentous events.

Number one is that I actually got 1000 Achievement Points in this game. My first thousand ever. This is a pretty big deal. In case you don't know, I have two of the most inconveniently contradictory personality traits for gaming... I'm a completionist and I have gaming attention deficit disorder. So, I like to explore every nook and cranny of every dungeon, but if another new game comes out, I leap all over it and the other game gets left to gather dust. This isn't to say I don't sometimes return to uncompleted games. When I'm in a gaming drought or an odd mood comes over me, sometimes I'll throw in some old, half-finished game and give it a go. But I can say with some certainty that I own vastly more incomplete games than complete ones. So... yes. 1000 points is a very big deal.

In Lost Odyssey, these 1000 points are not easy to come by. Several of them require an absurd level of detail. ("Treasure Trove," for instance, means finding every treasure in the game, including combing the bottom of the ocean, doing every side quest, revisiting areas to get previously invisible chests, etc.) And then there's the traditional "max out your characters" achievements—one for each character. Fortunately, this requires each character to learn all possible skills, rather than reach level 99 or something. And I've always loved any game with an SP system. I know plenty of people think I'm silly for spending so much time doing this... but I'm happy as can be.

Momentous event number two is the completion of the story. I call this a momentous event not because it's a game that spans four discs, but because it easily goes down as one of the greatest video game stories I have ever experienced. Perhaps even the greatest. The combination of in-game events, cut scenes, and the 1000 years of dreams side stories make these characters some of the richest, most empathetic protagonists I've had the pleasure to follow. It's true that the villain could have been given a deeper treatment, but the player characters are so fascinating that you can hardly even care about who they're fighting.

And when the final (hour long?) series of cut scenes was over, I had shed more than a couple tears and was filled with such peace and joy.

There is something special that a video game—appropriately called interactive entertainment—can achieve that other media cannot. The inherent participation that's required of the player brings so much more investment to the story, the characters, and their lives. Especially when the game is done well. To feel that you're not just participating, but driving the events of the story... this is something that no movie or book can create. And in the best games of this generation, it's something that is not only created, but nurtured.


At 11:53 PM, Blogger david_costanzo said...

I found your blog while searching for a walkthrough for Lost Odyssey. I'm 95 hours in and have 900 points. Even though your blog doesn't list where all 99 seed are located, it was nice to see that someone else spent more time than I did running around and kicking every urn three or four times (just to make sure).

Unlike you, I thought there were only about 10 hours of redeeming gameplay (most of which were in the unexpectedly moving cut-scenes and dreams), but as much as I want to stop playing, I'm not able to. When I finally do stop, I won't feel the joy that you felt (or the satisfaction that I felt when I finished Oblivion), I'll feel the emptiness that I felt when I finished Blue Dragon, Enchanted Arms, and Two Worlds.

Since you seem like the gamer-philosopher type, let me ask you a question. What do you think exhaustively searching a fictitious world stimulates within gamers? I like to think that I play video games for fun, but this has nothing to do with "fun". It must be stimulating on a primal level, because if it were purely rational, I'd have quit playing long ago (there are other things that I want to do). I can understand the evolutionary advantage to enjoying interactive media, but that only accounts for 10 hours and I'm already past all of that. I can't understand how there's a primal urge to run along every wall in a huge world while pressing A. So what gives?

My theory is that there's a genetic defective that all people who play JRPGs have. And before there were JRPGs, our forefathers who carried this gene collected stamps or something equally compulsive and non-fun. And maybe before there were stamps or coins, our genetic ancestors collated pebbles, or something. I just find it surprising that these people survived to reproduce.


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