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Chipping at the Backlog

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In looking at my backlog, I'm somewhat less inclined to dip into it than to examine why it exists and in what form. In a general way, it can be used to observe how my taste in games, methods of purchasing them and the platforms I play them on has changed over the past decade. Looking back now, some major attitude shifts have occurred without me even really noticing. Analyzing how these changes came about makes me question whether I actually have it in me anymore to tackle much of my backlog.

 

I actually did pick something out to play, 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3), but perhaps predictably, I ended up not feeling particularly engaged by it. I'd picked up Dot Heroes upon its release in 2010, played through the first couple dungeons in the game, put it down to try something else and utterly forgot it existed. I'd bought it on the strength of reviews and podcast recommendations and to be fair, everything good I'd heard about the game was true, but I hadn't taken into account my aforementioned changing tastes. Rather than write a dedicated review, I'd prefer to simply highlight a few of its notable mechanics.

 

Not Exactly Legendary

 

Dot Heroes boasts a genuinely charming concept, especially for RPG players fond of the Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy games on the NES. As with those games, the story is more or less arbitrary. A silent hero defeats a power hungry bad guy by gathering magic trinkets strong enough to fight the bad guy's trinket. Given the ability to alternate characters when reloading, I played as a wolf in a sheep suit and a cartoony dust cloud brawl, both of whom were designed by players. Story and characters aside, the game's real draws are the gameplay, which borrows its key elements from A Link to the Past (SNES), and the bizarre graphics, which attempt to translate 8-bit 2D sprites into modern but blocky 3D.

 

The game has at least one sword-as-giant-dick joke. Yeah, they went there.

 

The basic gameplay is a mixed bag. Dot Heroes' full health sword, rather than shooting a projectile, thrusts out a gigantic blade. With upgrades, it can be swung in an arc that hits almost everything on the screen. Wielding such a ridiculously deadly weapon is great fun, but lose a sliver of life and your sword becomes tiny and insufferably underpowered. The game's fixed perspective often makes it hard to see where you're standing in relation to your surroundings. It's much too easy to miss tiny-sword attacks on monsters because you aren't lined up quite right, and you constantly get caught up on corners of things while walking.

 

Of all the Zelda games, I've only really enjoyed two: Legend of Zelda (NES) and its superior extrapolation, A Link to the Past. I'd hoped Dot Heroes could channel my love for those games, but it wasn't to be. I think it's fair to say when you primarily play current gen games, it can be difficult to go back to older gen stuff without the warmth of nostalgia urging you on. In this case, similar gameplay just wasn't enough for me to stay very interested. In addition to a nasty amount of needless backtracking, my enthusiasm was greatly dampened by a couple of infuriating bugs, one of which caused me to lose several hours of progress.

 

Fancy Feast

 

The funny thing about evolving tastes is they creep up on you; sometimes you don't know your palate has changed until you attempt to indulge it. I suspect there are quite a few games in my backlog that I bought out of habit, despite no longer really finding them that palatable. I don't buy new games nearly as frequently now, so a large number of them are for the PS2, which makes them even less appealing. It's like switching back to hot dogs after eating a bunch of steak. Hot dogs were tasty back in the day, but steak is almost always better.

 

Atari games would be… I dunno, Spam, or maybe dog food.

 

Looking over my backlog I can see how online gaming came to distract me from single-player games. I see PC gaming taking precedence over consoles, digital copies starting to rival physical copies. There's my waning interest in series I'd previously loved, like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Grand Theft Auto. I see my shift from playing mainly Japanese games to mainly Western. The considerable size of the backlog speaks to how I budget my time extremely differently now. So much change… so many alterations in attitudes formerly thought rock-solid.

 

Despite my hesitation with a few of them, I'd still very much like to dust off more of these forgotten games, as well as finish 3D Dot Game Heroes. When I had to replay a few hours of the game after crashing, I listened to a few podcasts while playing to mitigate the tedium of redoing everything, and it was a damn fine way to pass some time. It's true that I find the game's design a little dry, but not every game has to be the pinnacle of craftsmanship and innovation. It's far too often that we gamers forget that.


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