Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exceeding Expectations

[Written in February 2010]

If there's one thing I've learned through all my years playing videogames, it's that I have no idea what I want in a great game. Like everyone out there, I have my expectations for videogames before I play them, but I've found that it's wrong to have these expectations. Because, due to my expectations, games simply become less impressive.

For example, I've played every Legend of Zelda game out there, so before I played Twilight Princess, I had expecations of what I was about to play. All of these expectations were met in a great game, but none of those expectations were exceeded. As a result, I was disappointed with Twilight Princess. I've found that, while it is good to meet expectations, it's crucial to exceed all expectations to go from being a great game to an incredible experience.

And with that said, let's fast foward to 2009 when Nintendo released another Zelda game: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Spirit Tracks was a game that I had expectations for, both as a Zelda game and a DS Zelda game; since it was preceded by Phantom Hourglass, the stylus controls couldn't provide much of a surprise. It looked as if Spirit Tracks was destined to be "more of the same", but leave it to Nintendo to prove me wrong. Spirit Tracks blew away all my expectations. Whether it was the incredible graphics, the surprisingly fantastic soundtrack (which was incredible and original given Nintendo's great track record for awesome soundtracks), very clever dungeons, puzzles, and boss battles, or the surprisingly fantastic storyline. Spirit Tracks was both innovative and brimming with quality. These are all components that are always tied to Nintendo's Zelda series, but not since The Wind Waker has such quality been executed with such passion. One need only look at the very clever Fire Temple, or better yet, the incredible climax to the adventure. Spirit Tracks really blew me away with it's execution.

Then there are games that exceed expectations by doing the unexpected and break traditional ideals held by certain genres or games in general. For example, Persona 3 and 4 are some of teh best RPGs in recent years, this helped in large part by their incredible execution. Nearly every song is a vocal song, the atmosphere is very modern, and there is an emphasis on the people of the game, as oppossed to focusing on some world-endangering crisis. There really aren't any other RPGs like the Persona games, which both exceeded my expectations, or, to put it a better way, changed what my expectations were. The World Ends With You is also a great example of a game like the Personas, where the presentation and execution are something never seen before; though in TWEWY's case, gameplay was also a defineing factor of it's excellence.

I love when games completely change what I come to expect from videogames as a whole. These games are rare, but it's fantastic to experience these games. Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Metroid Prime, SoulCalibur, Viewitful Joe, and Bayonetta. Games that exceed expectations to the point where just what those games accomplished becomes what I come to expect from their respective genres, and if other games don't measure up, then I am simply disappointed.

The great thing is that with these games, their creative ideas and superb executions all are things I could never come up with. So when there are surveys that ask "What do you want in this videogame?", it really feels like a pointless question, because I while I do have high hopes for videogames to be creative and innovative, my ideas aren't something that can influence them. The developers are game developers for a reason, they're the ones with the talent. So if you ask me what innovation I want to see out of videogames, I'll provide my input, but really all I'm saying is "surprise me." Afterall, there's no way I could come up with awesome game ideas such as the Kirby series, the WarioWare series, or Super Mario Galaxy.

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