The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2022)

  • Response to @Brannox regarding replay value and total playtime.

    The game actually has more than 9 endings, 9 are just tied to specific characters. However, going on another route in Virtue’s Last Reward isn’t a replay, it’s a continuation of playing. On your path to see every possible outcome you never have to do the same puzzle room twice, because story paths never connects after branching and each puzzle appear only once on entire flowchart. Also, repeated dialog barely present after your second choice, so you need to fast-forward almost only through three alternatives of an early section, where world’s rules are explained to you. Imagine multiple questlines in an RPG - you can do them in any order, and each has its own conclusion, but they all shape continuous gameplay experience. This isn’t the best analogy but going into specifics will be a spoiler (as I said, this game’s structure is essential for its story) and figuring out why certain things are different in different timelines is one of the reasons why you want to keep exploring narrative alternatives.

    Doing and seeing absolutely everything, including “bad” endings and optional puzzle challenges, will not take that long – 30-35 hours give or take. Replaying entire game may be worth it just to see how many late revelations are referenced early on without giving anything away. It’s not an entirely new read, but I’ve enjoyed my second run and I’ve marveled writers’ ability to make characters act natural and believable both when you know everything they know and when you have no idea that they might know something you still don’t.

  • Question for @Shoulderguy about Super Mario World.

    I’m a person who look at the Mario series from the outside. I mean, after buying a Switch I’ve completed Super Mario Odyssey, but I’ve realized that I have a problem with controlling a platformer’s character that has as much inertia as a car in a racing sim (not a critique of the game, just a reason why this series isn’t for me). And when I look at this series from the outside, it feels like it constantly releases something new (either a new title or remaster of some old game). Therefore, I find it very hard to believe that this series achieved its peak in 1990 and everything else weren’t as good as the game you’ve nominated.

    So, why we should recognize Super Mario World and not any follow-up that took its formula and improved it?

  • Question for @Brannox about Final Fantasy X.

    You’ve said that unlimited turn time and showing full turn order as the strongest aspect of this game. You also mentioned that combat gives you a lot of tools to work with. And you pointed out that some game versions require significant grinding to beat certain bosses. I find it hard to understand how strategy-like combat system and necessity to grind can coexist: either combat system has a clever “solution” that you need to find, or it’s a game of raw numbers and you have no chance before reaching certain level.

    Can you please elaborate on this aspect of the game?

  • Question for @JDINCINERATOR about Bully.

    I played GTA 4 & 5 and RDR 1 & 2 and even in RDR 2, which has much slower pacing, I definitely felt that I’m playing a Rockstar game. I’m not trying to say that those games were bland, but I would not name any of them “a one-of-a-kind experience”. I’m not familiar with Bully, so can you please elaborate on what makes this game so unique not just compared to other Rockstar’s titles, but to all other games?

  • Question for @Oscillator about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

    I adored Oblivion back then and completed it multiple times on two different platforms. However, when I look at it now, I see numerous shortcomings of this game. One voice actor is responsible for all characters of multiple races, and you hear the same audio over and over (it’s especially bad when several characters speak simultaneously). AI and quest progression is laughable (I still remember Dark Brotherhood’s quest Whodunit? in which you have to kill 5 people in a house without being seen – they all set at a table, then one stood up and went upstairs, I followed him, killed him, went back down and one of remaining four (they all were still sitting at the table) said something like “one of us was killed, I wonder who did it”). Once you’ve leveled up your chosen combat style, nothing will ever pose you a threat making all those progression systems pointless. Main quest is worse than most guild’s questlines…

    Do you think that someone can enjoy playing Oblivion today for the first time, especially after playing games like Skyrim or Witcher 3?

  • Question for @brunojoey about Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver.

    I’m someone who not only never touched any Pokémon property, but don’t understand it’s appeal or why this series is more popular than other similar franchises. And from this completely outside perspective Pokémon seems a series that, firstly, both critics and players have huge problems with, and, secondly, has entries so similar, that if you played one, you’ve played all of them. Of course, games that sell so many copies must be doing at least something right, and of course such broad appeal deserves recognition even if it’s not particularly innovative. But then I think about other cultural-phenomenon-games (Call of Duty, Fortnite, GTA V) and they all seem like a better, more innovative & polished products. This isn’t an argument “why you have brought game X instead of Y”, but I’m struggling to understand what raises your nominee above the rest of the gaming field.

    Can you please explain what makes this particular entry in Pokémon franchise stand out?

  • Question for @Capnbobamous about The Sims.

    I have a friend who is obsessed with The Sims series. And one of the stories that I’ve heard is that you absolutely need to install huge amounts of mods to make these games pretty, fun, user-friendly, etc. I’m not sure if this is applicable only to newer entries or to original as well, but quick googling suggests that The Sims 1 modding is still a huge deal.

    Do you think it’s a detriment of the game that community has to add and fix things that aren’t available in release version?

  • @ffff0 Bully is set in a school, not just a school that you turn up to for the narrative's convenience, but a school you as the character a fully a part of. This isn't like Persona where you travel to get to school either, the school is the centerpiece. What other game gets you to attend a variety of classes that don't simply require you to answer quiz-like questions?

    The cliques are very well integrated into Bully's social ecology too. Jocks, Nerds, Preppies, Greasers and Townies feel fully distinguished from each other and when you compare these gang aspects to say GTA: San Andreas and the Grove Street, Ballas, Vagos and Los Aztecas gangs, Bully's cliques are characterized meticulously and have different traits. Preppies are rich and speak with posh accents. Greasers are leather-jacketed ruffians. Jocks are the more brawn than brains types who excel at sports. The Nerds are goofy, science-obsessed and creepy creatures of education. Finally The Townies are thuggish outcasts. There's a real sense of a pecking order within Bullworth's grounds and enriches the game tenfold.

    Bullworth Academy most crucially feels like a school with rules. Teachers are presented with a diversity as broad as the cliques and they aren't straight up do-gooders like in most games. Heck one of the teachers is a hopeless alcoholic and romantic, while another is a slimy pervert.

    Yes Bully has traits of a Rockstar production as related to comedy and mature and vulgar characters, but every ounce of it is bled into a fully compelling one-of-a-kind school-based videogame experience. Rockstar has pulled no punches with Bully and has made a game somehow more interesting than any GTA game without guns and with a pronounced sense of youth gone wild.

  • @ffff0 Answering about clarifying the combat system between tactical depth and massive amounts of grinding.

    Certainly, and I'll do so in two ways, on a micro, then macro level, and in so doing, I apologize for how long this is going to be. However, before I really get into it, I want to reiterate: The massive amount of grinding for endgame content like superbosses and certain things like specific fights in the Monster Arena are increased immensely in the HD Remasters (or the International version if you prefer) and that is why I was nominating the original PS2, North American version, because you don't have to worry about being jumped by a near impossible boss the first time you try to return to areas like Besaid, The Thunder Plains, Mt. Gagazet, and so on. But onto your question:

    Micro: To best explain on a micro level, I'll provide a random battle setup, order, etc. So let's say you're running down a path known as Mi'ihen (pronounced me-hen) Highroad and your current party of three has Tidus, a speed character, Wakka, who uses his blitzball for airborne enemies, and Kimahri, who is a jack-of all trades and the character you can mold how you wish. As you progress, a random battle will trigger and then you see a wolf, a floating elemental (Ice I think in this area), and a squat, hard-shelled enemy. The turn order pops on screen and you see Tidus has the first turn, the wolf is next (let's designate him as Enemy A), you see Wakka is next then Kimahri, the the Elemental (Enemy B), then the hard-shell (Enemy C). So to summarize, the turn order is: T, A, W, K, B, C

    So in this mock-up you realize as Tidus, since taking down wolf like creatures is his specialty, it would be wise to immediately attack, and if you're strong enough, instantly kill him and remove him from the turn order, thus allowing you a follow up turn as Wakka. Granted, you don't have to do this if you don't want to, you could switch out for a different character (more on this in just a second), use an item, or use an ability. But back to the hypothetical. You attack, kill the wolf and now Wakka is up. Here, the remaining enemies are not Wakka's forte, so it's wise to switch. By pressing the top bumper button, the other party members will appear. Since you see the elemental will be the next enemy to have a turn once you're characters have had theirs, you would switch in for Lulu, the Black Mage. Switching characters NEVER costs you a turn, so you can immediately cast Fire for another quick kill.

    Now, by this point, if you somehow have a weapon for Kimahri with an ability that has the "Piercing" effect (This allows ANY weapon to bypass an enemy's "Armored" status), you could go ahead and attack the last enemy. OR you can switch in Auron, where his specialties are this kind of hard-shelled creature. OR you can bring in Yuna, your summoner, on your very first move as Tidus, bring in Valefor or Ifrit, and practically one-shot all the enemies. The choice is up to you.

    This entire outline I've provided means you would have killed all enemies without them having a single turn, and this example is also somewhat early in the game, so there really isn't any challenge at this point. But the flexibility you're given allows you to maximize your strategies, especially in late game areas when you're having to juggle status effects, high attack power from foes, trying to build your characters' Overdrive gauges, and other situations.

    On a Macro level, FFX is one of, if not THE, most approachable and easiest of the franchise as it isn't intimidating with manageable combat even as you reach the last few areas. However, if you want to delve into much of the optional endgame content before the final location, then you'll need to grind to get more experience, skills, abilities, weapons, etc., to do so. For example, say you want to explore the secret Omega Dungeon (of which you need to find on the Airship's map first) and encounter some truly difficult challenges (like a specific Malboro enemy that ALWAYS has the First Turn and ALWAYS uses Bad Breath, which inflicts your entire party with Poison, Confusion, Curse, Darkness, Silence, and Slow, potentially wiping out your team if you don't have the necessary abilities or protections in place.). To do so, it would be wise to go search for all the ultimate weapons, which include their own challenges as well, all the while giving battles to get stronger, finding materials to customize your equipment for said protections and so on. By no means do you have to do any of the things I stated in my presentation, but it's encouraged to make everything more manageable in the long run.

  • Everyone had great presentations so it was difficult to think of good questions to ask. I have a few questions here but I'll mostly be using all of your questions to help with deciding my votes.

    Question: I've heard of Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward but I've never seen the game in action. I'm curious if it's 2D or 3D and how are the animations? I've been playing some of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles recently and that game has great visuals and animations for a visual novel style game.

    Question: I tried playing the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster but the low frame rate, jerky camera movements and blur effects made me feel very sick after about three hours of play. And the game lacks options to fix those issues. I've never played the PS2 version, so how is the performance of the PS2 version of Final Fantasy X?

    Question: I know some people don't like the Oblivion Gates. The Planes of Oblivion are all very similar looking and your objective is always to climb the central tower to retrieve a Sigil Stone. There are many of these gates in the game but most are optional. Do you feel like the Oblivion Gates hold the game back at all?

    Question: The 2nd generation has some great Pokémon but it also has some duds. I never found a use for these non-evolving Pokemon (Dunsparce, Shuckle, Delibird, Smeargle, Qwilfish), and I don't care for all the baby Pokémon they added (Pichu, Cleffa, Igglybuff, Togepi, Smoochum, Elekid, Magby). What do you think of these Pokémon and did this generation add enough new quality Pokémon?

    I'll wait a few days for the questions intended for me to build up, and answer them as best I can in one post.

  • @shoulderguy Answering regarding PS2 version's performance.

    Forgive me as this answer will be one of ignorance in two ways:

    1.) Because I've never noticed the performances issues you list, it's never something that I considered, so most importantly, thank you for pointing those out. But to the point, for me, the performance is the exact same because...

    2.) Every time I've played the PS2 version, it's was on CRT TVs, so nothing anywhere near where modern TVs are at. The only difference (again, to me) is the textures on environments, clothing, character models, etc. To that end, I actually would think there would be blur more pronounced in the PS2 version the more I think on it BECAUSE of the CRTs, but that could be faulty memory. As such, I never felt camera movement jerky (if anything, it would be the character movement) because I had control of wherever I was heading, but again, if a game makes a person ill, and the game doesn't provide adequate options to help ease it, then that's certainly a knock. And no, I am NOT saying the following is an excuse: I also am reminded this is a 2001 game, and accessibility options were nowhere as prevalent like they are today.

    In summary/conclusion, I've always experienced it the exact same, so if you ever tried the PS2 version (for whatever reason), I actually think you would dislike it more than the remaster because (again, potentially faulty memory) it would have more pronounced blur.

  • Response to @Shoulderguy regarding visual style and animation.

    Virtue's Last Reward is 3D, but outside of rare and very short cut-scenes camera doesn’t move, so it looks like a 2D game. During puzzle sections you can look around and zoom on certain objects, but you move around the room on rails. Animations aren’t very complex – it mostly a library of reactions and emotional expressions. It’s clear that this game didn’t have a huge budget and developers were limited in what they can do. However, I say that chosen visual style works and the game doesn’t look cheap or lacking from artistic standpoint. Here’s a random screenshot:

  • Response to @Brannox's first question:

    Great question. Toward the bottom of the screen you can see the pictures of every Sim in your household. You decide which Sim you want to control by clicking on one of those pictures, and from there you click on whatever object you want them to interact with. For instance, you can see at 0:49 in the video that I click on the stage and a circular menu pops up giving me all the options my Sim has to interact with it. The stage only has one option, to sing, so I click that and then my Sim will go over and sing. That's how the system works for every interaction, including movement (as you can see in the clip immediately after, where I click on the floor and the option pops up to have my dog move there) and talking to other Sims.

    As for building, the controls are remarkably intuitive. It's really just clicking and dragging. For instance, if you have walls equipped, you just have to click and drag in a straight line to build a wall, as can be seen at 1:55. Painting walls and floors operate in the same way.

    And I prefer it to its sequels for a multitude of reasons. The first major factor is the visuals. The Sims 1 is not fully 3D like the others are, instead employing a 2D aesthetic in its environments. The 2D aesthetic is just really cozy to me. It's clear that much more detail goes into the textures because they don't have to be fully modeled, and there is just a crispness to it that I really appreciate. There's also something more expressive about it that gives the game more oomph.

    The second major factor is the music. The Sims 1 has one of the greatest soundtracks of all-time, full stop. The Build Mode tracks (the music that plays when you build your house) in particular are excellent, and are basically freeform jazz piano tracks that are so good at setting a tone. Later Sim games have good soundtracks, but there is something fabricated about how upbeat they constantly are. The first Sims game allows for melancholy in its music, creating beautiful soundscapes that can convey so many different emotions.

    And then finally, The Sims just has more personality than its successors. Sims piss themselves all the time if their bladder isn't well-managed, they frequently fall asleep on the floor because they didn't make it to the bed in time, and there is something more chaotic about their AI. The sims in this game are kind of dumb, but that's a good thing. They do more interesting stuff because they don't know any better. I also think the game is funnier than the others, and the random events are more interesting. In the course of getting capture for the video, a skunk randomly decided to make our house its home, and all attempts to get rid of it resulted in some very stinky sims. There are also things like burglars, sad clowns that come by if your sim is too sad, genies and more. Other Sims games have stuff like that, but it doesn't feel as fun or as special.

    Response to @Brannox's second question:

    The Sims is not a game for completionists by its very nature. The variety in what you can see or do is dependent on so many factors, that there is really no way to see everything because every household you have is different. The game is naturally very social. A huge part of the game is seeing how your sims interact with each other and with others, and while you can obviously tell your sim how to interact, you can't determine how the other sim will respond, so the point I'm making is that the social AI is complex enough that seeing everything isn't really a thing, because they can interact in near infinite ways. I think a great example of this is in a very early trailer for the game. It made waves because it featured two women sims kissing. This was not a planned thing by Wright or Maxis, it was just how the relationship between the two sims ended up going. It wasn't intended, but it wasn't a bug either, it was just the AI doing its thing.

    Beyond the social aspects, the simulation of the Sims makes things unique every time too. Full disclosure, I had to alter my script for the video after doing game capture because I literally could not recreate what had actually happened. In real life, it wasn't my aunt's character who perished in the fire, but the neighbor. I literally could not get it to happen for the capture because by design the game does not allow for recreation. The game is built to create unique experiences. You can make a hundred households and have a fresh experience every time. The game only ends when you say it does (or all your sims die), as the simulation will go on forever, making new things happen with or without your input.

  • Response to @ffff0's question

    I have never used a mod for the first Sims. I use them all the time for the later games, but I've never felt like the first game needed them. I think it's really cool that the option is there, and I certainly have nothing against modding it, but I think it's an incorrect assertion to say that the first game needs mods to fix anything.

  • I'll try and come up with questions and answers as the week comes along on my end!

  • @ffff0 said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2022):

    Question for @Oscillator about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

    I adored Oblivion back then and completed it multiple times on two different platforms. However, when I look at it now, I see numerous shortcomings of this game. One voice actor is responsible for all characters of multiple races, and you hear the same audio over and over (it’s especially bad when several characters speak simultaneously). AI and quest progression is laughable (I still remember Dark Brotherhood’s quest Whodunit? in which you have to kill 5 people in a house without being seen – they all set at a table, then one stood up and went upstairs, I followed him, killed him, went back down and one of remaining four (they all were still sitting at the table) said something like “one of us was killed, I wonder who did it”). Once you’ve leveled up your chosen combat style, nothing will ever pose you a threat making all those progression systems pointless. Main quest is worse than most guild’s questlines…

    Do you think that someone can enjoy playing Oblivion today for the first time, especially after playing games like Skyrim or Witcher 3?

    Thanks to the rest of the game's production values - world size, voiced dialogue quantity, visual fidelity, flexibility, variety, soundtrack, menu artwork - it took a long time for things like the overlapping voice actors and weird AI to affect the immersion for me. And when it did, the rest of the game still took the edge off. So much is going on in the game, no one (or two) things really exert enough influence to ruin it, except maybe the leveling system, which is the most divisive part of Oblivion.

    As I mentioned previously, your major skills are locked in at the end of the opening area, meaning if you want to level up quickly, you have to focus almost exclusively on raising 7 out of the overall 21 skills. The more controversial part of leveling, though, is level scaling, meaning that all the enemies increase their levels in unison with yours. This was done to prevent the game from being too hard at the start, and from getting too easy as you progress. I personally think that this turned out ok, though giving the player a small advantage each level would've been nice. Many people hate the idea that you can't eventually skunk every enemy. You can buff yourself with weapons, armour, spells, and potions, but it takes time and effort to put together and run a jacked loadout. You can move the difficulty slider up/down at any time, though that may feel like a cop-out.

    Skyrim ditched level scaling, and improved combat overall. However, the whole of Skyrim is more streamlined and arcadey, with fewer skills and far fewer attributes, and more linear dungeons. This design, combined with the repetitive dragon battles and the bleak colour palette, made me get tired of Skyrim before the 200 hour mark.

  • @shoulderguy said in The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (January 2022):

    Question: I know some people don't like the Oblivion Gates. The Planes of Oblivion are all very similar looking and your objective is always to climb the central tower to retrieve a Sigil Stone. There are many of these gates in the game but most are optional. Do you feel like the Oblivion Gates hold the game back at all?

    I wouldn't say they hold the game back. Yeah, they are samey, but the aesthetic is awesome, they offer a solid challenge, and they often have great loot. Externally, the visual effect of the gate looming over the area it's in is also awesome.

    Some other individual areas of the game also have sameyness - all dungeons of a type are quite similar, the towns don't have huge differences, one forest looks like the next. The three elements I feel break this up, however, are quest variety, loot variety, and ingredient variety. If you get tired of one way of playing, it feels like there will always be enough freshness in another way to last until you feel like doing the one that you got tired of again.

  • @ffff0
    1.You say Virtue’s Last Reward is great as a standalone experience. What makes this particular entry stand above the other games in the franchise?
    2.You mention the characters start quite simple and boring-do you think this might turn some gamers off, especially those who are new to this kind of experience?

    1.Why would you say I should pick up and play Super Mario World over every other Super Mario game out there?
    2.Simplicity is a hallmark of the Super Mario series-why id the simplicity in Super Mario World any different?

    1.Seeing as Final Fantasy VII is an official EZA community great, why should Final Fantasy X stand alongside it?
    2.Do you think the endgame grinding is worth persevering with-how damaging is it to the overall experience?

    1.Feeling overloaded in a game you’re starting is quite intimidating. How does Oblivion soothe you into its world and make players relaxed?
    2.Is Oblivion a case of quantity over quality?

    1.I haven’t paid much attention to Pokemon outside gen 2 and I am familiar with Pokemon Gold and Silver from back in the day. Does Heart Gold and Soul Silver do enough to make them definitive versions?
    2.I understand there is a gadget called the Pokewalker which was bundled with Heart Gold and Soul Silver-did you ever use it and if so what did you think it added to the game?

    1.I’ve always found The Sims equal parts fascinating and frustrating. How accessible do you think The Sims is to new players and those who’d prefer to shy away from the genre?
    2.You mention that you can sit back and watch The Sims play out-how does that often pan out?

  • @jdincinerator Answering regarding both should FF X stand alongside FF VII in our HoG and if the endgame is worth it.

    1.) FFX should stand alongside FFVII because, despite both being in the same franchise, are completely different games, with different stories, characters, world, systems, etc. Take combat for example. As I've mentioned above, the true based nature of the combat gives FFX more time into your actions, providing a more laid back and casual pace. Whereas with FF VII, the materia system allows you the freedom to mix and match builds on your characters, so you customize how you want your team. This is just one example, but both have a plethora of unique ingredients and identities for both to co-exist.

    2.) It's entirely dependent on what each individual wants to get out of it. For me, I think it is worth it for the following activities:

    • Capture all monsters in 10 areas
    • Revisit locations for several useful items, new dialogue, and different scenes.
    • Find the three secret Aeons
    • Chase all the Blue Butterflies
    • Catch all 10 Cactuars
    • Explore the Omega Dungeon
    • Train and subsequently race the Chocobos
    • Play Blitzball

    If you do all of that, you're pretty much set for the final dungeon. The only thing I can't recommend is Dodging Lighting as I mentioned in the presentation. The reason being is if you can succeed, you get the Venus Sigil, which unlock's Lulu's Ultimate Weapon's potential. But because of the high degree of difficulty, it's better just to farm materials from certain fights so you can customize a weapon from scratch that has Break Damage Limit, One MP Cost, and MP Turbo.

    But as I've said, ALL of the above bullet points are optional. If it's too daunting, you're never required to do any of it. Just follow through with the story (though it may be more difficult if you choose to.).

  • Response to @JDINCINERATOR regarding differences from the rest of the series and possible turn-offs for genre’s outsiders.

    I put Virtue’s Last Reward above two other Zero Escape games, because it’s the most streamlined (in a good way) and it has the most captivating story (personal opinion, of course). Original release of the first entry (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors) doesn’t have flowchart, so to reach other endings you have to restart from the beginning and redo the same puzzles. Remasters fixed that, but they had to scrap the most impactful scene, because it relied on DS’s two screens nature. Besides that, different story paths in 999 feel much more disconnected than in Virtue’s Last Reward, so you feel like a completionist while playing it. As for the third game, Zero Time Dilemma, it feels more artificial than previous two games, almost like certain new aspects were added just for the sake of having something new. Also, it changed visual style to fully animated 3D-cutscenes, but this style doesn’t look good and detracts from overall experience. Don’t get me wrong, both first and third entries are good games, and if Zero Escape series hooked you, you should play them, but only Virtue’s Last Reward is the game I can’t say anything bad about.

    As for pushing some players away at the start, I don’t think that this would be an issue. As I said, I had no intention to play this game and launched it only because I briefly try everything I get for free. And at that time, I didn’t really know about visual novels, so I initially thought that it’s a puzzle game. I other words, I’ve started playing this game without paying much attention to the story or expecting it to be worth paying attention to. And it still hooked me! Yes, most characters seem uninteresting at first, but there’s aren’t the only draw. The world feels mysterious, you have no idea why you or other people are trapped here, or why some folks are paired while others are not – the list of bread crumbs to follow goes on and on. Not everything will raise your interest immediately, but something for sure will. It can even be one of the characters if their initial appearance is something you like.