Two more games purchased from the Steam Summer Sale that I didn’t get a chance to play until now: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and The Last Remnant. Today’s theme is “doing it right” and “trying to do it right.”
As I only had an hour with each of them, let’s just compare introductions. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet knocks it out of the park. Gorgeously animated but crucially wordless, we watch a short video that sets the scene. An evil planet launches an evil projectile at a star. It turns the star evil, and its evilness rains down on another, neutral planet. You’re some alien guy in a flying saucer on that neutral planet. You notice what looks like a ray of hope land on your planet. Go find it and get out of here!
I have only a few knocks against the game mechanics: the camera is far too sensitive up close, and aiming weapons is too loose. But oh, this is a game to be seen as much as played. Your ship only tilts left and right, but it animates like a character in a Pixar movie. I used a little segmented arm to lift a boulder onto a log and I could almost hear a chipper trumpet in the background playing along with my struggle. I’m not really a fan of Metroidvania games, but this one compels me to see what lovely monstrosity is around the next bend.
The Last Remnant is a JRPG from 2008 I couldn’t be bothered to pick up at the time. While its introduction isn’t as sublime as Shadow Planet, at least they were making an effort. You’re some spikey-haired loser JRPG protagonist named Rush Sykes (ugh) and you’re looking for your kidnapped sister. Her name is Arena. No, shut up, it is. The settings don’t default to subtitles, if I didn’t go to Wikipedia just now I could have finished the entire game without realizing they spell it “Irina.”
The best thing I can say about this game is they get the introduction over with quickly and do a good job of establishing the boundless stupidity of Rush Sykes. He’s frantically looking for his sister in a spooky forest but he has time to dawdle in a bunch of flowers. He sees a giant battle raging on a plain below him and rushes into the middle of it because he sees a woman who he mistakes for his sister. (Let me remind you that he’s been screaming “Arena” for about a minute now, so for all I know he’s a suicidal gladiator.) Then a huge gun called the Gae Bolg goes off, trapping Rush and not-Arena in a cave, which Rush needs explained to him.
Not-Arena: “The Gae Bolg blew a hole in the ground, and now we’re in this cave.”
Finally the combat tutorial explains what you’ll need to know to keep Rush alive (wild guess: padded helmets and dull scissors).
Whatever technical issues were present on the Xbox 360 are gone. The framerate is smooth and texture pop-in is less egregious than Mass Effect, but you get to see how poor the geometry is. The masons in Athlum must be the best in the world, as their city street is utterly flat for hundreds of meters. Character models are nice, but the environments stand out. NPCs also have that wonderful tendency of speaking to you as though you’re the most important person in the world and giving you perfectly relevant information. Groan.
Sara’s Flare can’t come fast enough. Someone should whip the developer so he works harder.