The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Xenosaga: Episode One: Episode Three: The Menacing Phantoms

In this week’s edition of "Darien plays bullshit games," Darien actually had the opportunity to engage in some gameplay! That’s right, fans, toward the end of this installment, I actually get the opportunity to do something other than walk around and watch yet more cutscenes. Though I suppose what I mean is "in addition to" rather than "other than," since you better believe I’m still spending a hefty amount of time on it.

5:56 AM — Time to head back to my room. Oh, starting off the day right — with a cutscene! This time I have Commander Evil talking to his evil boss, which is probably supposed to be a surprise to stupid people. Hey, now I’m on the phone with my brother, and… apparently I’m threatening to put him in the home because he reads books? That’s odd. Oh, now I’m whinging about how he doesn’t think about my feelings. That’s wonderful.

6:02 AM — Before my nap, I figure I’ll wander back to the lab and see if there’s anything interesting going on there. Short answer: no. Long answer: no, but all the triggered events along the path from the lab appear to happen again when I go back to the lab. And then a third time when I leave.

6:06 AM — Okay, time for my nap. Apparently also time for my official nap cutscene. Did I just say goodnight to my necklace? That’s not even weird, game; it’s just lame. Well, I’m asleep, and here I am in the black-and-white graveyard with the necklace chick again. Somebody with crazy hair is coming toward me, but I can’t make it out; with my luck, it’s probably Cloud. Now that’s over and I’m back in the real world, and there’s the ghost of that chick staring at me some more. Then an ominous space shot. What could be the terrible secret? So now the camera’s floating around the ship and there are heartbeat noises. And then… we’re in the lab, listening to the science team fail to pronounce Commander Evil’s name consistently. Now we’re on the bridge, and — oh no! A warning signal! "I don’t think an external source is causing this warning signal," opines Ensign Extra. "Then what’s causing it?" asks the Captain. "It’s inside the ship!" I love that shit. Oh, hey, apparently whenever there’s a warning signal, all the monitors turn bright red and flash "warning." That doesn’t seem like a well-thought-out design. All of a sudden the music’s louder than the dialogue again, and it seems like someone has initiated the killer robot wake-up sequence! Who could that be? And where is Commander Evil? They are both a deep mystery. But, hey, at least the killer robot wake-up sequence is displayed on a red digital readout. Oh, here we go — now the giant evil space bugs are attacking the ship, and, wouldn’t you know it, those confounded blast doors in between my room and the rest of the ship are just getting in the way. Who would have guessed? Meanwhile, the science team, which is fortunate enough not to be getting eaten by aliens, is trying to halt the killer robot wake-up. But there’s a problem — "It’s being hacked! Impossible! That defies the laws of physics!" Damn, this cutscene just keeps on going. Now the space bugs are shooting big glowy balls at the dudes in the giant robot suits, and the dudes can’t shoot the bugs back because they’re all wavy and see-through. Apparently they’re "not in our world," so they can pass through walls and we can’t shoot them, even though the giant robots were designed specifically to fight these bugs. You’d think "weapons that can damage them" would be high on the priority list for designers of robots like that, wouldn’t you? On the bright side, I guess they’re sufficiently in our world that when they punch somebody it works, even though punching them back is a no-go. Okay, now the music is so loud I can’t hear the dialogue over it at all, but there’s Lieutenant Evil cackling maniacally and showing off his evil credentials by using the Realians as a meat shield. Oh, the bugs can pick people up and turn them into glass? And then they explode into zillions of pieces? That’s badass!

6:20 AM — Well that’s finally over. Now I’m trying to get to the lab, but the gnosis (which is, hilariously, what the bugs are called) are in the way! So I have to fight them. Only I can’t hit them either, so the battle ends as soon as I take an action, and then we go to a cutscene — which is nice, since I was starting to jones (interjection: what the fuck?) for one during that thirty or forty seconds since the last one — where I run past them and press a big red button that makes stuff fall down and get in their way. Thank god there was a cutscene for that so I didn’t have to do it myself. I’m not playing this game because I wanted a job!

6:21 AM — Oh good. A whole gauntlet of sneaking past mobs. And not even Metal Gear sneaking; no no, this is the kind of sneaking where you need to figure out the gimmick. And here’s a sneak preview: the gimmick almost every single time is "run to the flashing red button and press it." It’s a good thing the space bugs are so stupid that when the red button closes a door they forget they can walk through walls. Or when the red button turns on the TV? They forget all about me and go attack the TV instead. Pretty handy.

6:25 AM — So after three or four minutes of almost-gameplay, the game gets tired and needs to take a cutscene break. Now I’m watching the science team get all worked up about the killer robot and its waking up and all that. They decide maybe they should call me, since I guess I’m an expert at what to do when your killer robot is waking up and you don’t want it to. Dude calls up my number, and then the whole science team stands there, not saying anything or doing anything, listening to the phone ring. And then what happens? My cell phone starts to ring — it’s sitting on the chair right next to them. I’ll be fair here; this is actually a pretty funny scene, and I laughed at it, and I’m even pretty sure it was supposed to get a laugh. The phone rings a few too many times, though, and then the crew’s reactions are all wrong, so the ending kind of flops. But we don’t have time to worry about that, because all of a sudden the lights go out, which is another effective moment. And then… and then… annnnd thennn… IT’S ALIIIIIIIVE! The killer robot’s pod slowly opens, and it slowly sits up, and then slowly stands up, and we’re given enough time while all this is slowly happening to wonder why the science team built its killer robot quite so well-endowed. I guess, hey, you may as well! She starts stalking toward the team, and then we fade out.

6:29 AM — I’m back to sneaking past invincible wavy space bugs now. I just opened that emergency bulkhead I mentioned before, and wouldn’t you know they designed the thing so that it stays open just long enough to suck the evil bugs out into space before automatically closing. Also, I reckon they designed my shoes pretty well, since they have enough grip to prevent me from moving at all, even when I’m about fifteen feet from an open door leading out into the vacuum of space.

6:33 AM — Hey, now I have the magic destructo-ray! That means I can break crates. Thank god. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that even 40XX years in the future, that’s still where we’ll be keeping our ammo and health.

6:37 AM — Remember me bitching about the tag minigame? Well, I would have bitched about it even more had I realised that it would be one short playsession until I have to play the exact same stupid, insulting minigame against invincible mobs. And, by the way, don’t think you can open the emergency hatch and suck those mobs out into space also, because I tried that, and it doesn’t work. Apparently the emergency hatch has a "safety mode" that prevents it from being opened. Which means that, yes, instead of putting the fucking thing in safety mode in the first place, they had been leaving it in danger mode and paying a dude to stand there and yell at people if they tried to press the button.

6:42 AM — Cutscene. Took a while for this one; I’ve been doing non-cutscene-related things for a whole thirteen minutes now. This one starts with Lieutenant Evil’s whole squad of giant robots opening fire on me with machine guns from about fifteen yards and spraying for a full five seconds without ever actually hitting me. Oh, and I was standing still, too. Frankly, if they suck that badly, I’m not going to feel bad for them when they get eaten by the space bugs, since it’s really their own fault for skipping all their range time. Oh, hey, apparently I’m offended by the insensitivity of giant robots shooting at me while I’m obviously in a hurry, so here I am giving them a piece of my mind. And, hey, here come the monsters, once again walking right through walls whenever the dude they’re trying to attack isn’t me. Now I’m standing there in the middle of a firefight, and I’m having some type of emotional crisis, and I’m trying to get one of the Realians to abandon ship with me. Apparently I’ve forgotten all about that whole "get to the lab and see what’s up with the robot" thing.

6:48 AM — Back to running away. This time I run for a little while and open a door, and then it’s back to cutscenes, and also I’m apparently right back where I was when the last cutscene ended. What happened to all that running and door-going-through I did? Well, turns out the alien mothership is a big whale, and we can’t attack it, because we’re too close to fire the cannons. Whatever that means. But we fire the cannons anyhow. Then apparently we sustain damage to our logic drive, causing me to wonder first if the writers have any idea what a logic drive actually is and why it’s not related to spaceship propulsion, and, second, if we also have an Infinite Improbability Drive. Commander Evil and X-face are apparently in league with the Evil Boss (incidentally, both X-face and the Evil Boss also appear to have the "commander" rank, which makes me wonder about the hierarchy of the Evil Organisation), and they’re trying to do… something with Dr. Deadmeat’s Monolith. Commander Evil is going to sacrifice himself to save X-face, which is the only smart thing anybody’s done in this whole game. Meanwhile, back at the bugs-n-robots, Lieutenant Evil and I are the only ones who survive the "FAE." I have no idea what an FAE is either, but something exploded. That’s really the best I can do here. Then I have another emotional crisis because Lieutenant Evil uses that override code to make the Realians suicide-bomb the space bugs. He brushes me off by declaring that civil rights are for peacetime, which is a pretty stock evil-military-dude thing to say, but then he actually quotes the section in the law that pretty clearly spells out that civil rights are in fact only for peacetime. So the government of 40XX years from now will make it much simpler for certain people to push their agendas. Then Lawful Good me and Lawful Evil that guy have a big argument about law while the space bugs kindly just stay put and wait for us to be ready for them. He blows up the Realians, but that doesn’t actually stop the bugs anyhow, and they kick his giant robot’s ass until it falls over and he falls out of it. His uniform’s all swirly and weird here, but nothing ever comes of it, so I think it’s just texture swim. One of the bugs grabs me and starts turning me into glass, and I see my life flashing before my eyes. Though in this case, actually, what I see flashing before my eyes is all the cutscenes that have happened so far, in case I didn’t get quite enough of them the first time around. Then Science Bitch and the Killer Robot bust through the wall and save the day. Turns out Killer Robot has an attack that makes all the bugs fully "real" so we can fight them. And I don’t mean all the bugs nearby — there’s a distinct shot of all the bug fleet outside the ship turning solid. Why the fuck doesn’t this ship, which is designed to combat these exact monsters, have a device like that? Clearly we knew about it and how to make one, since otherwise Killer Robot wouldn’t have it. And yet. Anyhow, she kicks all the bugs to death and we leave.

7:08 AM — But before we leave, we get attacked by a really weak boss! Then we get a short (thankfully) cutscene of Killer Robot shattering the spaceship’s window so all the bugs will get sucked out into space. But apparently she’s much too tough to get sucked out, since it just makes her hair wave a little. Though, given what happened earlier when I opened the hatch, I think this game just has selective vacuum that has no effect on good guys.

7:11 AM — From this point forward, I’m wandering around the ship hunting for treasure before I leave, since I get the feeling I’m not coming back. Lieutenant Evil is in my party, but, in the time-honoured tradition of NPCs in your party in video games, I can’t change his skills or equipment. Which is okay, since he’s obviously a bad guy anyhow, and I wouldn’t want to train him up too much, or he might be hard to beat later on!

And that’s the end of that. This day’s play ended with some rudimentary gameplay; I’m hopeful that next time will continue the trend. Hopeful, but not actually stupid enough to be convinced.

February 10th, 2009 Posted by | Masochism | no comments

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