…is a taunt & win quote from Remy in Street Fighter III Third Strike. It means literally: “What are you trying to do/Why are you doing this?”. And the same thought went through my mind very late last night after spending a huge amount of time gaming. One game in particular I’d played stood out that spurred this thought: Ninja Gaiden 2. It’s a game I’d been put off even getting due to the reviews, in particular the Eurogamer review, written as it was so clearly by someone with a near-identical viewpoint to my own on the first Ninja Gaiden game. But I’d been lent the game by a friend.. so.. why not give it a try?
But last night, during the evening I had stopped playing the game in frustration and switched to playing other games instead. This has been a frequent occurance with NG2. Usually I start playing it full of enthusiasm, but I’ve invariably ended up turning it off with a huge feeling of annoyance, and either stopping play or moving onto something different. Last night when stopped, I put the game back in its case and back onto the shelf and thought to myself “I won’t play this again. I’ll give it back to my friend next week”. However, instead, I woke up today after thinking about it wanting to play it again.
According to one model, International Hobo’s DGD1 model I came out as a majority “Conqueror” type player. Now whilst I have other types of gamer in me, I recognise that ‘hard fun’, agon, is certainly my #1 driving force, as you can probably guess from the name of this blog ;). It’s definitely a large part of it. I simply want to beat this game. But is it just the drive of fiero calling me?
Is it perhaps the lure of those XBox Achievements? I don’t believe so. Such carrots tend not to affect me, as I seem to able to simply choose not to let them. For example a game like World of Warcraft that is fiendishly addictive for those who enjoy that “level up” feeling simply does not addict me. I got frustrated playing that too, and there were certainly some potential fiero-inducing challenges, but even so I did just walk away from playing it easily.
There is another possible strong factor that is “outside the game” as such and so isn’t ever really mentioned in most player models, and that’s the investment of time and money. Simple really, but so often overlooked – once you’ve spent a large amount of time, money and effort on something, you often want to believe it is good and ‘fun’ and you actually start to find more ‘fun’ out of it because of your investment. Talk to anyone with an especially blinkered “fanboy” attitude to any piece of software or hardware and its really obvious this is the case. Again, its part of the factor in a game like WoW, also part of the reason I believe many people ‘happily’ play agon-based challenge games even though they aren’t really predisposed to this kind of play and would be much happier playing something else – although I think there’s a lot more at work there I could go into at another post. I don’t think its possible to be un-affected by this really, I’m likely been as “guilty” as this as anyone, but also personally I’ve found this is as actually likely to swing both ways. Many of the games that I find particulary annoying and I generally consider the “worst games ever made” (such as Final Fantasy 7, Metal Gear Solid, and a number of FPS shooters), I am aware that a huge part of my loathing for them comes from the fact I wasted so much money, but far moreso I wasted my precious free time on playing them, yet gained little or no enjoyment ‘reward’. But in any case, in this particular situation it really does not apply, since I have not spent a really large amount of time or effort (yet) on NG2, and I have only borrowed the game anyway.
So if it’s not just the fiero (or lack thereof), it’s not just the investment factor… so what’s the difference with Ninja “Where’s Me” Gaiden 2 where I seem to keep wanting to go back to it, to something like WoW which I was able to drop on a whim and never ever felt like playing again? I feel that is down to what I consider the core gameplay in the game – at least for me; I understand different people will even get different ‘core’ experiences from a game. With NG2, I can see that the basics of the game really do appeal to me. A fighting game engine where I pit my skills against a good AI with beautiful fluid controls, feedback and graphics all heightening the excitement and engagement feeling (more on this in a future post) – sign me up now! It is exactly like my kind of thing.
But of course the tradeoff with NG2 is how this underlying gameplay that I would really enjoy is so obsfuscated by the game. The “levels”, the story, the “non melee”/puzzle-like boss fights, the logistic play of the items and save points.. almost all of this stuff actually serves to hide the part I really like about the game. The first Ninja Gaiden also did this to a great extent which was why I was so surprised I really enjoyed it, possibly because it straddled a line for me, yet never crossed it. But NG2 does seem to cross it at times. Especially, as reviews have said with way it challenges you. Its not so much that it’s hard to beat, its how & why it is hard. It’s hard in a way that feels to be almost random and .. well, you can read all about this in a good review like the EG one linked earlier. What is especially frustrating me is how this spoils the logistical play for me, because I could really enjoy that, but it feels especially annoying to me to ensure a full stock of health items, or to not “waste” a full-heal save point, only to lose all my items, or worse my life only due to what feels like bad luck or an unforeseeable event. I also keep wanting to believe their is a higher level of play possible where you are not affected by these things, but I suspect more and more that is only the case once you have experienced the game multiple times through. But that’s not a challenge that usually interests me with this style of game. Even at all the sections that I became “stuck at” so far in NG2, I knew I could have made them all “easy” simply by spending all of cash on healing items. But if I get to the point where I am just bludgeoning my way through the game with health items, thats when I’ll know I really ought to stop playing it. Then again, the fiero and investment factors may just make me pigheadedly fight to finish it anyway, I’ll have to wait and see how I react.
So. Ninja Gaiden 2, an exceedingly flawed game it appears to me; although part of my judgement is always reserved when I feel I haven’t yet played a game enough as is the case here. I am perhaps guilty of wanting to see the good in it too much – a charge that could be levelled at me in other walks of life incidently, so it is perhaps a personality trait of mine. But I think I know why I will persist with it to a point, even though I don’t for other games, although it is perilously close to the line for me still. I know I’d probably be far better off playing a more ‘pure’ experience of what I enjoy, something like Street Fighter perhaps, which is exactly what I ended up doing last night. 😀