Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rethinking the rules

One problem with a chronogaming blog of this kind is that a good number of the games will be bad. I'm in this slog right now of 5 terrible games in a row -- as far as I can tell there are no other stretches like this in the library, thankfully. But it has gotten me thinking again about how to approach bad or average/tedious games. This blog is primarily about fun for me. I do gain satisfaction from completing even bad games if it's in a structured approach like this, but that only goes so far.

Of course it would be nice to play every game on a real system with no walkthroughs, but I don't want the blog to stagnate because the game I'm playing is so tedious/boring/bad that I can barely bring myself to play it. On the other hand, if you do have walkthroughs and emulator speedup keys/etc, it's easy to dip into that well far too quickly.

It raises the question of whether it's better to play the game honestly and quit if it sucks, or if it's better to use save states, emulator speedup, walkthroughs, etc to at least get some of the experience and document the game.

So I think this is how I'm going to do things from here on out.

For the first week I play any game, I will play it on the nSide emulator (a fork of higan) and without using the speedup key or any other emulator features. I also will not use walkthroughs with the exception of basic explanations (what the buttons do, what the effect of spells and items are), or if I am seriously stuck and cannot progress. If this means I make slow progress because the game sucks, so be it. [My reason for using bsnes is the accuracy; I already ran into a bug in snes9x where Light Fantasy wouldn't save games at all.]

After the first week, if the game is bad or tedious enough that I would normally stop playing, I will begin to make use of the speedup key and limited walkthrough use, and possibly using snes9x to get even faster speedup (this is what I'm doing with Fist of the North Star right now). In extreme cases I may even use cheat codes or save state abuse.

My justification for doing this instead of just quitting a game is this: judging from comments I've seen on CRPG Addict (and a few on my blog), one of the purposes of a project like this is documenting games that have very little information on them in English. A good example of this is Fist of the North Star 5 -- the only information that I know of on this game is the walkthrough on gamefaqs which gives very little detail, but given that Fist of the North Star is a well known series even in the West, I figure it's worth it to struggle through the game using as many emulator tricks as I can just to have the experience documented somewhere in English.

This also explains why I was willing to abandon Dragon Ball Z after one post. The game wasn't all that good (to me), especially not being a DBZ fan. I was going to have to start the game from the beginning. Since there's already a full fan translation patch for the game and multiple walkthroughs on GameFAQs, interested people can experience the game themselves. 

Any thoughts?

PS: My controller is a PS2 controller hooked up through an annoying conversion cable to USB. Any suggestions for a better one? It has to have a good D-pad and have two R and L buttons (so that I can map one to screenshot and the other to speedup).

PPS: The computer I'm using is an Acer Spin 3, which can easily run nSide at 60 fps and can get between 100-120 fps on speedup.


  1. Seems all very reasonable to me. I think it's important to find a good balance between giving each game an honest try and preventing it from becoming a chore to suffer through.

    I personally love Sony controllers for retro and modern games, and you can use both a PS3 or PS4 controller on PC using a custom driver package (search for ScpToolkit). Another recommendation (and what I'm currently using) is a WiiU Pro controller with the Mayflash adapter. Very solid controller with good d-pad, plug-and-play installation and cheaper than the Dualshocks.

    1. OK, I do have a PS3 so maybe I should just try to get that controller working.

    2. This post is probably going to be filtered, but here's a link to the driver I mentioned:

      Worked just fine for me, until my DS3 broke ;(

    3. Pokken Controller

      I borrowed one from a friend for a few PC games when my PS2 adapter stopped working and nearly didn't give it back. The d-pad is excellent and having extra large L and R buttons is kind of nice. It's also relatively cheap, and if you have a Switch, it works on those thanks to a recent update, so that's a cool bonus.

  2. Either DualShock 4 (needs a BT dongle if you want to play wirelessly) with free DS4Windows tool or Wii U Pro Controller with €15 Mayflash Adapter.

  3. Smaller dev teams (ie not Square) almost always had to substantiate grinding over making new areas and worthwhile gameplay. I hugely commend you not choosing to resort to speedups and walkthroughs as a ground rule, and I totally agree with your reasoning about consulting them if the game does really deserve it.

    Anyway, some of my favorite rpgs on the system have glaring gameplay flaws (Shiki Eiyuuden says hello), especially as combat annoyances or slow pacing is concerned, and it would be instinctual for me to use the speed toggle. But I've come to appreciate the "slower pace" of enjoying these games as they are.

    1. I think if you're considering playing older RPGs you have to be ready for some amount of slow pacing and grinding. I'm less worried about good games that have slow pacing than I am about crappy games. Sometimes dealing with the slow system is part of the game -- using holy water or whatever item reduces encounters, running from battles, deciding whether you really want to get all the chests or just go for the goal, etc.