This week's question is a bit of an odd one, but what we want to know is - what game or series do you really respect, but don't play? Why is that so? What is it about the series you like, and why won't you actually play it?
While you think of an answer, here's the USgamer team on which games they like the look of, but don't touch.
Is there any question? Dark Souls, Demon's Souls, Bloodborne: The Hidetaka Miyazaki subgenre, basically.
I've been intrigued by the Souls games since back when they were Demon's rather than simply Dark — before anyone was willing to take a risk on localizing that first title in the series. Can you imagine a Souls game being considered too much of a risk to bring to America? The idea seems preposterous now that Miyazaki's projects are tentpoles for not one but two major publishers. And yet, for a while Demon's Souls was strictly a pastime for importers.
I remember watching former Retronaut Ray Barnholt slugging his way through a Japanese copy of Demon's Souls at the 1UP.com offices and being absolutely fascinated by what I saw. Clearly, From Soft had come a long way since the days of King's Field and Armored Core. Demon's Souls demonstrated the same overall sensibilities as those games, but it looked a lot prettier and seemed far more accessible. Not easy, mind you, but far less opaque than the studio's older works.
I picked up a copy of the game once Atlus imported it for Americans and tore into it with gusto. Right away, I realized that it was not a game that lent itself to casual play… which was fine. I can get into that. Unfortunately, after a couple hours of play, my flaky Internet connection died, which somehow caused me to lose all of my hard-fought progress due to the game's reliance on remote servers. I shelved Demon's Souls temporarily, intending to get back to it when I had a some free time to devote to it… yet, somehow, I never quite managed to find that free time.
Now, it's six years later, and there's an entire pile of Souls-spawned games that's accrued in my backlog. Everything about Dark Souls and Bloodborne appeals to me, from the precise mechanics to the subtle narrative to the expansive open worlds... but I also know they're games I'd have to sit down and commit to. (Well, I guess it would be more accurate to say everything appeals to be except the grim, joyless visual style — I would probably be more inclined to pick up one of the games if it looked more like The Wind Waker or something. But I guess that wouldn't be hardcore enough.) I just don't have that kind of free time, I'm afraid. Maybe I'll have a chance to play them in some other life… one where I'm single and debt-free.
Since Jeremy's already covered the series I was going to talk about (I too really admire the Souls games, but have yet to take the plunge), I'll instead move on to a franchise that I really like the sound of for a whole variety of reasons, but have never played - and that's the Final Fantasy RPGs. Well, I tell a lie. I did try to play one once - it was Final Fantasy X on PlayStation 2 - but I had a really tough time with it. I didn't really understand quite what was going on and who these characters were, and the backstory to the game and the combat just confused the hell out of me. And much to my embarrassment, Final Fantasy X is supposed to be one of the best and easiest ways of getting into the series.
Yeah, I'm not much of a JRPG player in general, so the way the game works and how combat functions just weren't intuitive to me, and I gave up, thinking that if I was going to start playing the series, I should probably try a much earlier game so I could get up to speed on how its mechanics work. Maybe Final Fantasy IV - which apparently ushered in a lot of the series' basic combat functions. At least, that's the way I understand it - and I could be horribly wrong here, because I'm clearly no expert.
However, at this point, I think I've pretty much missed the boat. The series has run for decades, and there's so much history and backstory to catch up on - plus none of these games are short. I'd have to invest a huge amount of effort playing through them, and I just don't have the time these days. At least, not unless I gave up all the latest games that are currently occupying my spare moments.
No, for now and probably forever, I'll view the series as an interested third party, admiring it from afar, but not jumping in.
When Animal Crossing: New Leaf came out in 2013, I was at a bit of a loss. Almost everyone I knew was playing it; but because its particular brand of community building didn't really appeal to me, I had little to say about it. Thus, while my friends sat around playing Animal Crossing or talking about it, I found myself rather quickly cut from the conversation.
It's not like I hate Animal Crossing or anything. Actually, I have a lot of respect for its early embrace of sharing and social multiplayer, its gentle atmosphere, and its charming characters. Tom Nook is a scheming little bastard of a raccoon, but you have to respect him. He knows how to play the game.
So why haven't I gotten into Animal Crossing myself? I suppose I'm not all that interested in optimizing the collection of bells in my spare time. I had my fill of that in Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, when I realized how much I was sweating to harvest crops, offer a gift to the pretty girl in town, hit the mine, and get in some fishing - all activities that were pretty much a repetitive stress injury waiting to happen for all the grinding they required.
Still, I've had one magical Animal Crossing moment. On New Years 2007, I stood at the Meiji Shrine and prepared to ring in the new year with a host of Japanese. In front of me, someone had broken out their Nintendo DS, and I watched as their characters enjoyed the fireworks. One way or another, Nintendo has always been really good at making their worlds feel tangible, particularly Animal Crossing. I don't think I'm going to dive into that world myself, but I can respect what Nintendo has accomplished with it all the same.
Those moments when your self-perception switches from "young" to "old" can be painful. (Even if it's all relative.) One of these came during PAX Prime, when a prominent statue caught my eye, and I wondered aloud who this unknown figure could possibly be. Thankfully, I didn't have to wonder for long: "He's from League of Legends!" said a passerby significantly younger than me.
"Oh right, League of Legends," I thought. "That insanely popular thing I can't connect with in any conceivable way." It was then I immediately aged into your average Gaming Grandpa.
Honestly, I understand the appeal: I had my first MOBA experience previewing a now-dead one for USgamer, and just why people like these things totally clicked in my head. And, as someone who enjoys digging into the complex mechanics of games like Monster Hunter and Dark Souls, it's possible I might even enjoy League on some level. But who knows the source of my mental block? Maybe I'm intimidated by just how much I'd have to learn to get into something like League of Legends—basically the reason why I haven't played many fighting games since the '90s. Or maybe it's the whole eSports connection that turns me off: After all, I got into video games to get away from sports.
Whatever the case, League of Legends and similar games aren't really for me, so I can only pray for their imminent destruction in order to stay relevant as a member of the games press. It's the only mature and reasonable thing to do in this situation.