Since I have a lot of trouble putting down a story once I start reading it, I watched all of .hack//dusk (or uden, or legend of twilight’s bracelet or whatever the hell you wanna call it) yesterday. Review with tiny spoilers follows.
GOOD: The story is MUCH more lively and fast paced than the lethargic, nihilistic //sign. It’s only 12 episodes but they’re well planned.
BAD: There are a few ‘getting to know you’ throwaways with stereotypical scenes like cherry blossom festivals and excuses to stuff the girls into yukatas at the start. There’s a bit of a rush to explain the ending one episode away from it, and just as we’re really starting to get into it, it’s over.
GOOD: Characters have more life and spark than //sign’s. Plenty of comic relief, but there are serious characters too, including a return of one of my faves from the games.
BAD: Male and female lead are brother and sister and have tons of sexual tension. Yes, sexual tension. It’s played for laughs but tends to get creepy. Plus, if I have to hear Rena yell “Oniichaaaaan!” again my ears will explode, since that’s just about all she does in the last few eps. VERY ANNOYING. Other characters tend to fade into the background with 0.0% explored character depth after they’re introduced. Really feels like a kid’s anime as a result, and well, it probably is intended to be…
GOOD: Treats a MMORPG with a lot more realism than the others did; players actually go fight monsters, level up, collect items, ponder the nature of game vs. reality in a way unlike other VR based animes. Unlike //sign it doesn’t ignore the fact that the game is largely built on combat. Final philosophic struggle relates to that in an interesting manner.
BAD: Maybe it’s just the fan translation but the philosophy surrounding the conflict gets very murky sometimes. Also, there’s a couple of weird plot holes (who’s been Data Drained in the past becomes an issue at one point, but the series contradicts who did) (why do they feel cold when it’s snowing when it’s established in //sign that you can’t FEEL anything through the game unless you’re stuck there like Tsukasa was?). Ending started out with a “Only by working together as friends we can defeat the evil”, moves to “Our attacks aren’t working” and then “By the way, lead hero, only you can defeat the evil using this method I just pulled out of my ass which had no foreshadowing whatsoever”. Woo, contradict yourself!
FINAL GRADE: B-. It strives, and it achieves more of the .hack “promise” than //sign did since it pays more attention to the fact that they’re all playing a game, but in the end it lacks depth and resorts to deus ex machina too many times.
And for kicks, here’s an FoD WIP.
I took yesterday off work in order to sleep in after Josh’s party, and work on the game. True, I watched all of .hack, and at night I had to DM a game of NWN online but I had time to develop around those things.
Core game systems are now complete — cutscene, spawning, treasure, menus, encounter clearing. Other than feeping the programs with new features I may want down the road, the code is basically done. Now it’s all level design.
Balancing is my primary worry. There’s a lot of luck involved in playing this game; luck that your attacks land and do damage, luck that monsters drop healing items when you need them, etc.. Plus there’s the three difficulty levels (wimpy, normal, and hard/multiplayer) which all have their own balance levels. Ugh. I may have to lower my unlocking performance rating from A to C or something in case things go screwy and a player has to respawn a lot; unlike Final Fight you do not have enough control to play through the game without ever getting damaged if you’re good enough.
Still, I’m pressing on, and I have half of stage 1 designed and working. I hope in the end this is going to be a fun game and not just ‘Click a monster, wait to see if you survive, repeat.’
Casting note: I need more coverage for the roles of Pao-Pao, Jake, Hideo and Shaido. If anybody’s on the fence about who to audition for, those four are the most needed.