On Telling Games...

The remastered version of Ducktales is a great game. It feels just the same with its gameplay, it doesn't talk down to the player or make things a walk in the park -- and I'm playing on Easy. The notable thing though is that it doesn't feel like a remake, or a port, or what have you. It feels like as if the game was a new entry made to current standards.

I've only played Transylvania so far, but I already like what it does. While I was stumbling around trying to remember the shortcut straight to the boss, that I had memorised during the times of playing the GB version (I haven't played the NES one), I discovered that in-fact I wasn't meant to be going straight on to the boss. Now this is a little disappointing, but only because of my nostalgia. Nostalgia that could be remedied by looking around the house for that cartridge and returning to the old ways.

Tangent aside, what Ducktales did was give a refreshed narrative. Instead of straight porting the levels, a story gets told through beautiful, personality-filled cutscenes at several points. The gameplay otherwise feels just the same, it doesn't feel painfully easy as seems to be a complaint about modern games. (Although I am playing with Easy Pogo off...) I love it for it.

Perhaps this can only be explained with a comparison. Consider Persona 1 on the PSP. This game is so much a port I swear some sprites are distorted to fit in the resolution. (Which is baffling, since the PSP's is bigger.) The story, the cutscenes, interactions with the characters and little cues to the game's world all function and are carried out in the same way, and the game suffers for it.

I love P1's story. I can really empathise with one important character. However because the game relies on a dialogue-text heavy delivery with singular expression character busts, the narrative is already hampered by old practices. The delivery makes it hard to connect with certain characters or even feel like plot points are related. NPCs are so out of reach and seemingly unimportant that hints or foreshadowing can be entirely missed. The world is out of the way due to being constrained to NPC natter and kept away from the repeating textures of the dungeons.

I gained more appreciation for P1's story by reading supplementary material, like the Megaten Wiki or (what is translated of) the manga. Both gave answers to plotholes caused by limiting the way the story was told to match the original, instead of retelling it.

An example that might be more familiar to others is Final Fantasy 1. ... just pick a version. They all ultimately stick to the same narrative, even though the game is vastly easier and has improved mechanics or fixed bugs. If you pick up your file and don't know what you were up to and wonder why you're stuck in this dungeon, you'll be lost. If you're in the middle of the world map, things could be even worse.

Obviously there though, the party is meant to be entirely silent, which creates an interest predicament if a remastering/reimagining wanted to be achieved without losing this trait. This means creating characters that do more than appear in a town and you only ever interact with them once. Recurring characters that provide a means to tell the story, guiding/taunting the player on their quest.

In fact, lets go back to the original/GB Ducktales. I don't know how the obtaining of the game (my brother got it for Christmas) aligned with watching the cartoon, but I don't remember terribly caring for the characters. I knew what were allies, what were enemies, and what was "me" -- the player instance. As a kid, I didn't care for the story, I just wanted to play the game. Yet at the same time, the game didn't do much to tell a story.

What I'm trying to say is, we don't need to tell our games' stories in simple ways any more, I don't think we do. Later installments of Persona make it much easier to understand and care for NPCs, and the world, never mind what it does for the party. The new Ducktales turned statues that simply pointed out clues into people you care about and have a breadth of emotion.

And somehow, Scrooge swimming in his money vault is adorable.

PostedThursday, 15 August 02013 Tagsblog, conceptualisation, games.