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Podcast update, Dante's trials, and Nier's fishing

Brad Gallaway's picture

The last GameCritics podcast recorded live was ridiculously epic in length. With three meaty topics to cover, we just couldn't fit it all in one show. The answer? Cut the damn thing in half. The first segment of the most recent episode is now available. It can also be be found in the iTunes and Zune marketplaces.

My good friend, witty snarker and all-around brilliant dude Matthew Kaplan did me the great honor of choosing me as the first guest for his podcast, Game In Mind. It's a one-on-one piece that will probably tell you more about me than you ever wanted to know.

In addition, I chat about some of my more controversial reviews. If you've got time and the interest, check it out. If you like what you hear and you're also on Twitter, you can give Matt a follow at @MattGKaplan. He will entertain you, I guarantee.

Dante's Inferno Screenshot

I polished off Dante’s Inferno a few days ago, and liked it so much that I went back and completed the Gates of Hell survival mode, and I never do that kind of stuff. In fact, I was almost tempted to play through it again in order to max out the Evil side of the skills tree, but common sense got the better of me and I figured that my time should probably go towards something else in my to-play pile.

I dashed out a review the other night that will go up sometime in the near future, but I have to say that in a rather unusual turn of events, I think my piece will be much more positive than the norm. You can certainly read it for yourself and let me know what you think, but one thing I find quite puzzling is that I've heard from tons of people that the game ran out of imagination, or took a nosedive at the end. I didn't really feel that way, and when asked for specifics, it's usually the series of arena trials that they point to.

I can understand not liking them since they do stick out from the rest of the levels (and trying to stay airborne for 8 seconds is complete garbage) but to be perfectly frank, I whipped through those so quickly that the segment seemed like a complete non-event compared to how much people were trash-talking it. I'm not trying to say that I'm some kind of super player with better-than-you skills at all, it was just that the entire piece was something like ten minutes long. When compared to the five hours and fifty minutes of pretty damned entertaining gameplay, the reaction to that brief part seems a little overblown to me.

Speaking of overblown reactions (how's THAT segue?) I started playing Nier the other day. Although it was the victim of a pretty intense word-of-mouth smear campaign thanks to the infamous fishing segment, nearly every intelligent person that I respect had nothing but good things to say about it. After seeing this consensus, I felt compelled to bump it up to the top of my playlist, and I'm really glad that I did. I'm only about six hours in, but so far it's been a very measured, mature and intriguing game that's a massive step up compared to the kind of work that developer Cavia has previously turned out.

So, about that fishing.

Nier Screenshot

If you were anywhere near the IntArwebz when Nier was released, it was impossible to avoid hearing about how stupidly terrible, atrociously bad, and game-ruining the fishing segment was. I seem to recall at least two reviews where the writer claims to have stopped playing thanks to that particular bit, and there was even a video review making the rounds where the person on camera was having an emotional meltdown while showing the viewer "evidence" of what a nightmare the fishing was.

At this point, I'd like to call bullshit on all of that.

Look, the fact is that the fishing minigame comes off as broken. I certainly admit that. It's not fun and it could use a little tweaking in terms of playability. If nothing else, the developers absolutely should have explained how the mechanics work in much greater detail than they do. However, all that said, the game only requires a player to fish once. Once that's done, it never needs to be revisited.

Reading over some of the complaints again, it seems as though a big problem is that most of the people trying to get through this segment are fishing in the wrong place. If a player has a map of the area (which I bought immediately upon entering the town) then the game displays A BIG GODDAMN RED X where you're supposed to go fishing.

Furthermore, if the player has set the difficulty level to Easy, the game GIVES YOU THE FISH after failing the attempt three or four times. It literally gives you the fish. I got through this section in about four or five minutes—total—and once that was done, I never looked back.

I absolutely understand that this particular minigame was not as polished as it could've been, but no reviewer with a shred of professionalism or self respect should have overreacted to such a wild degree and dismissed the game as a whole because of it. At worst, a few minutes at GameFAQs could have resolved the issue and then those covering the game would have seen how much more Nier has to offer. If you ask me, this is easily one of the best games I've played this year, and I find it shameful the way it was treated. With all the complaints of inspiration-free sequels and formulaic cash-ins, why were people so quick to give something bucking the trend such a cold shoulder?

If you're the kind of open-minded player who's interested in games that defy convention, offer genre-bending experiences, and explore alternatives in characterization and narrative, you owe it to yourself to at least try Nier. There's really nothing else quite like it.

... Just promise me that you'll get past the fishing before passing judgment on it.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3  
Developer(s): Visceral Games  
Series: Dante's Inferno   Nier  
Genre(s): Super Powers  

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My Confession

I'm going to start out honest, Brad...when I first discovered this website, I was NOT your biggest fan. I disagreed with many of your reviews, and found they we were two very different people, who would most likely rarely agree on much of anything.

Over time, something changed. Perhaps it was my open mindedness. I really started to recognize that even though I often didn't agree with you, I really respected your opinion on things. In particular, your review of "Risen" (which I have not played) really impressed me. If nothing else, you always seem to be honest to yourself, and consistent in your beliefs.

Then recently, I signed up here, because I now really enjoy this website and your reviews, even when I totally disagree with what you have to say.

Which brings me to your current discussion. Nier was the best game I have played all year. If you get me started on the characters, story and soundtrack, I'll likely label it the best game in many years. Obvious flaws aside, Nier was an amazing gem that was completely put down by reviewers at large, which is needless to say VERY disappointing, as you said, in a world where innovation and new intellectual properties are so strongly desired by gamers.

But the whole "to do" about the fishing mini-game just added salt to the wounds. At best, it felt like people didn't understand Nier, and at worst, it felt like they WANTED to hate it.

Anyway, everything you said in your above discussion hit the nail on the head, and reminded me why I've come to the point of looking forward to whatever you write about video games. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

And Nier was truly an amazing experience. It's on my short list of best games, because what it does right truly blows what it does wrong out of the universe.

What is it with most game reviewers nowadays?

I would say Nier and Deadly Premonition are two of my favorite games over the past few years. And yet most game reviewers have panned them. It seems that there's a certain lack of... maturity among a lot of people reviewing games. If it doesn't have good graphics and shooting and multiplayer then that game faces an uphill battle in getting good reviews.

I was willing to overlook the bad graphics as well as a few questionable game design decisions to find that at their core those two games really have a lot of interesting things to offer.

Gamecritics.com is one of the few sites left that I pay attention to, because you guys put considerably more thought and effort into composing your reviews than most other game journalists do. Also, this site and Zero Punctuation seem to be two of remaining sites left that aren't terrified of actually being critical of a game, which I thought was the whole point of, ya know, being an actual game *critic*. ;)

As you guys have discussed before, some of the problems facing gaming "journalism" today are partly due to the fear a lot of reviewers have of a backlash from angry publishers/developers as well as fanboys who only read reviews to validate their purchase decisions. But I believe some of it simply due to a herd mentality that many journalists suffer from.

Mass Effect 2 was a great example of this. I thought it was a solid game in many respects. But almost all reviews were little more than stroke jobs. GC and ZP were I think about the only two sites willing to point out that BioWare made some rather dubious decisions in how it "fixed" some of the Mass Effect 1's problems. That is, it didn't really fix many of those problems... it just eliminated those components of the game entirely. BW didn't fix the Mako... it just replaced planet landings with planet scanning--probably the most mind-numbingly tedious mini-game I've encountered in a game. It didn't fix the inventory system... it just got rid of weapons customization altogether. It didn't fix the hassles of getting around the bigger cities... it just made them significantly smaller and cramped. The end result was a game that felt, at least to me, much smaller than the original game despite the fact that I spent probably twice as long on playing my character on ME2!!!

Anyway, I believe most game reviewers have gone too far in dumbing themselves down to the lowest common denominator among todays gamer, in other words... kids and immature adults who constantly look for validation and reassurance. Making matters worse, by submitting to pressures from game publishers, they've wandered dangerously far into the realm of advertorial. I'm definitely not alone. I've noticed growing numbers of gamers who simply ignore most reviewers because most reviews don't seem to be giving us what we're looking for--information that helps us decide whether to purchase the damn game!

Just posting to say I'm

Just posting to say I'm happy to see other people - like the two comments above - are appreciating sites like this, and specifically Brad's views. Like you guys I find myself disagreeing with Brad on many of his reviews, but I respect that - like Yahtzee from ZP and Jim Sterling of Destructoid - he is consistent with his opinions.

The kind of gaming journalism seen on this website is where gaming media should be heading if it wishes to be on-par with the film industry.

Destructoid

I was happy to see Destructoid give such a glowing, albeit semi-ironic, review of Deadly Premonition. I'm not saying that I look for reviews to validate my purchase decision. I mean, seriously, do I really need to validate the purchase of a $20 game? ;)

What I liked was the enthusiasm for a game developer that is willing to be truly wacky and inventive in crafting a story, although it did borrow rather heavily from Twin Peaks. DP has terrible controls, dreadful combat and PS2-lvel graphics. And yet many people who play it just can't tear themselves away from it once they get into it.

On the Twin Peaks angle... David Lynch has a pretty big and enthusiastic following in Japan. When I was in Tokyo in 1993 I was taken aback to see Agent Cooper in a vending machine ad holding up a can of iced coffee! Japanese critics even liked Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a film that many Twin Peaks fans back here didn't care for. And for Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Japanese theater operators, concerned that audiences were baffled by the film, allowed moviegoers to use their ticket stubs to view the film a second time for free! That's some pretty impressive and innovative thinking on their part.

Sakilla> Thanks very much

Sakilla> Thanks very much for your honest comments. It especially means a lot since we apparently disagree on so many games. I do my best to explain why I think what I do, so even if someone (like yourself) disagrees, then at least they know where I stand. = )

That said, I am glad that we agree on Nier at least… The way it's been treated in the press is a travesty, and although I am coming to the game late, I will certainly do what I can to help change the general impression that people have of it.

Chris> I also thank you for your comments.

Crofto> Same goes for you, sir. Many thanks, and I certainly appreciate the feedback.

And to all three of you, I can't really think of any higher praise than to have someone say that they respect your writing even though they disagree with your opinions. I am honored that you all to the time to leave a message, and I thank you for taking the time to read my reviews. It's comments like these that make all of the time and effort I put into the site worthwhile.

= )

I actually just passed the

I actually just passed the fishing segment yesterday. I thought I was doing something wrong, it took a solid hour to actually succeed. I am very happy to hear that I never have to fish again, as the rest of the game has been great so far.

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