Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Japan Sucks

This past holiday season was spent playing - and beating - Infinite Undiscovery, a cookie-cutter JRPG that was fun, if you still like that sort of game. Since I've been playing them so long, I can still enjoy the clich├ęd and boring characters, random battles, tedious grinding, and stale plot. The Xbox 360 has received some choice selections over the past year or so, but lately I've found myself wondering just how much longer I can stand the genre.

Dragon Quest VIII
was a great game, filled with awesome visuals and a huge and interesting world. With that in mind, I dove head-first into Blue Dragon, and I still haven't been able to wash the taste from my mouth. The game itself wasn't that bad, but the achievement distribution was simply horrible. Now, I'm something of an achievement whore (check my gamercard on the right!), and I find them to be neat little ways to entice me to get as much out of a game as possible. That is, when they're done right. Some games, like the recently-beaten Assassin's Creed, had them well distributed, in ways that didn't force players too hard to find them but that weren't obtuse either. Blue Dragon threw all that completely out the window and offered achievements that were downright stupid. For example, you beat the game with your characters at around level 62, but the game has achievements for leveling up each character to level 99. Why? Why on Earth would I spend hours grinding over 30 more levels for a 15 point achievement, especially when it has no bearing on the game itself?

Eternal Sonata, another JRPG and one with perhaps the most obnoxious character designs I've ever seen (I hate you Beat, HATE YOU!), is just as guilty. There are music sheets to be collected, and some don't appear until your second playthrough. WTF? I have to play the whole game from scratch a second time just to get some dumb papers? Why?

Most recently, Infinite Undiscovery hit the stupid ball out of the park. An awesomee game with some bland character designs, it too has a multiple playthrough achievement, but even Eternal Sonata has to stand back and say "DAMN!" at just how stupid it is. Check this out: you have to play through the whole game THREE times to get a special boss in a dungeon that's half a dozen levels long with no save. And the achievement for beating her?

Worth a single point. Yep, 1 measly point.

There are other moronic grinding achievements as well, but this one just takes the cake. I beat the game and did maybe one or two more before quitting, and I'll never go back to finish up the achievements in any of these games. With Lost Odyssey sitting on my shelf, waiting for some playtime, I'm loathe to check its achievement list for fear of being assaulted with yet more stupidity.

It's now well known that Japan is about a decade behind the West in game design. Must it lag in achievement distribution too?

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