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Something Completely Different! Blazblue! Meandering!

July 19, 2011

As usual, I didn’t play Xenogears (distractions ahoy!), but I did do some Blazblue practice.

One of the things I find interesting about modern games is that they don’t require much effort on the part of the player. The “game”, if you can call it that, is merely a means to an end, namely the story. I’m not sure when game developers became world-class novelists or masters of the literary and visual arts, but it happened somewhere along the way (I’d peg FFVII with starting the trend). So now we have a bunch of pretentious people who think they’re making world-class “art” when they’re really just making a bad video game. Heavy Rain is the best example I can think of, off the top of my head, of this new trend. If I wanted that experience (and I surely don’t!), then I’d rent a movie (and maybe a 3D one!).

Given this background, I’m glad games like Blazblue still exist in this world. This game DEMANDS time. It demands perseverance. It demands patience, perfect execution, and knowing the game and its systems through and through. It doesn’t take kindly to those who aren’t willing to dedicate themselves to the task of learning the game.

On the other hand, we have Street Fighter4. Granted, it’s Street Fighter, but it’s basically the same game as SF2 from 1991 with the addition of Focus Attacks, just to add a bit of flavor.

Blazblue makes fighting games more interesting and complex – SF4 gives you what you already had. Certainly, the mindgames are there, but there’s a limited amount of options. Blazblue gives you a great number of ways to attack your opponent – from the air, from the ground, air-dash, high-low mixups (that are very fast), Gatling Chains so that your blockstrings can be infinitely varied in most cases, various attack systems specific to your character such as Tsubaki’s charge system, throws (and possible throw reversals), counter-hit setups that lead to different, more damaging combo attacks, chicken guarding by guarding in the air to avoid mixups on the ground, ambiguous cross-ups, and to top it all off the game runs MUCH faster than most fighters (barring the new-types like Arcana Heart).

There’s so much to worry about, and so much to learn (I didn’t even bother with Roman Cancels, or what Blazblue calls them, Barrier Guard, the workings of the Heat Gauge, etc.), that the game remains interesting. I am terrible, admittedly, but learning the combos so I can do them on command (hit-confirming into combos is sweet, of course) as a threat is mighty satisfying.

Or, in other words, the more complex the game, the better the game it is. The more complex systems, and number of systems, that a game forces you to learn, the more interesting and engaging the game itself will be. That is why fighting games tend to be the most complex games around – the human competitive element ensures each player uses their character and the systems differently, thus creating infinite variety. Surely, it’s not obvious at first glance, but anyone who’s watched match videos of two pro players knows the subtle differences in playstyle add to a lot. You can know the character your opponent plays infinitely well, but you can’t predict what he/she will do unless you fight them.

That’s why the retro/indie game movement simply misses the point, as well as games becoming artsy “experiences” – they make games too simple, or try to mold them to the trappings of an entirely different form of entertainment. Games are games, pure and simple – it’s not like anyone is making a movie out of a board-game, for example (Wait…). A good “movie”, doesn’t make a good game, if the mass of licensed tie-ins have anything to say. Retro games, as well, go too far – they replicate aesthetics, but they miss the systems at work in those earlier games.

If games are to be understood, they need to be seen as the creation of a microcosm of our own perceptions. What I mean is that we perceive a system is at work in the universe – think scientific inquiry – and games happen to fit into that same mold. A game without a system of mechanics underlying it is not a game at all. A game without rules doesn’t present the player with constraints, but merely coddles them. In other words, the best games mirror the game of life itself.

But that exploration is best for another day…

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From → Movies, Video Games

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