Nier is not a good game. It tries to be too many different types of games at once, but that’s also what makes it so incessantly interesting. It’s clearly an experimental game and wears that label like a badge of honor. Based on its core mechanics you might describe it as an “action RPG,” but its role-playing elements are so poorly thought out that it’s obvious the developers were bored of RPGs and just wanted to get to the bizarre shoot-‘em-up-puzzle-survival-horror-text-adventuring. Sadly, for as interesting as this genre-bending is, it doesn’t add anything to the overall experience. Save for a couple examples, Nier is just being weird for the sake of weird.
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After writing about how my lack of preconceived opinions impacted my response to Lugaru HD, I’ve spent some more time thinking about expectations and how they impact players’ experiences and games’ receptions. All of it leads me to conclude that while the hype cycle keeps the medium’s business side running, it is usually bad for the artistic side. Realistically, no one can be expected to keep themselves hermetically sealed off from a game, but hasty comparisons and preconceived notions can easily hurt both players and developers.
I noticed that the Grasshopper Manufacture logo that appears in the opening screens of Suda51 and Shinji Mikami’s new game, Shadows of the Damned, is not the version that includes the motto, “Punk’s Not Dead.” While I don’t feel like Suda51 has fully intended to step away from his infamous “punk rock aesthetic,” this latest game does leave me wondering a bit about the viability of that approach in the climate of contemporary gaming culture.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their decision on Brown v. EMA (formerly Schwarzenegger v. EMA), a case arguing the strict regulation of mature-rated game titles in California. The 7-2 decision to overturn the California law in favor of the game industry was hardly an upset to perhaps anyone but Senator Yee, but I would ask a larger question: what, if anything, has changed?
The tower defense game is not a genre that is often given much attention in the critical discussion of video games. Usually light on the narrative qualities that game critics enjoy focusing on and often assumed to be a slightly more casual genre, there’s still a lot to be considered in this type of game’s appeal and in its most successful examples.
Our discussion, of course, touches on Plants Vs. Zombies, but we also look at a few other fresher titles like Anomaly: Warzone Earth and Defense Grid: the Awakening.