Was There A Lesson? Metal Saga Part 2

The Story

The entire point of Metal Saga is the entire lack of story.  It’s the kind of game that people had wet dreams about during the PS1 era when everyone was salivating to the idea of no-linear video games.  The experiences ends up being half Dungeon and Dragons and half original Final Fantasy, and on paper the game somehow managed to take the worst part of both of those games and combine it into something that almost worked.

So early in the game the player is introduced to this odd group of outlaws that are exploring the wasteland looking for remains of the past civilization, which is super common for all of these post apocalyptic worlds.  The effort is even made to have them show up several times through a couple of the dungeons, throwing in an hint that they may be import later in the game.  Then, out of directly no-where, they decide to rob a train and the player kills them.  No explanation, no closing statements about why they went from Lara Croft style ruin exploring for ancient bio-tech goods to robbing a freakin’ train.  It just happens and the player chases them to the top of the train, of course, and fights them to the death.  No reasoning given.

Although it is entirely possible that the game has a deep reasoning for this happening and I just managed to miss it.  Most of the plot to half of the stories takes place by taking to people inside of the town, which the game manages to discourage by having rather long load times and many characters in the same area say the same exact boring crap over and over again– so after the fifth time loading a room and having someone in a train car telling me that they better eat their lunch before it goes bad I simply stopped talking to people entirely.

Most of the direction of the game is given in the way of a wanted enemy hit list given at the hunter’s guild counters, basically boss creatures that are out in the world somewhere.  With very few exceptions almost none of these monsters have any back story or reason to take them out, they are simply creatures floating around the world with bounties on their head to be killed.  Although when there is an exception it is so odd and borderline insanely terrible that it almost breaks the flow of the entire game.

In one of the corners of the map there is a small, very clearly Japanese style, town.  The way that it is set up is so that all of the stores are at the very front of the town, including the hunter’s guild.  At the very back of the town, four screen away (which means four load screens), is the mayor of the town that explains that the Orchi monster has been eating all of the young women of the town.  There is some minor story given before he mentions that his daughter might be next and that a hunter has already attempted to kill it and is being nursed back to health in the other room.  The only problem is that his daughter never mentions anything about being eaten and the other hunter is nowhere to be found.

Basically this ends up being the main feel of any of the plot in the game, when plot is given it is half super vague with not nearly enough information and the other half is just that person giving information that makes no sense.  The vague parts for this is filled in with my expert knowledge of Japan gained through watching anime, as I know who Orchi is.

Turns out he is a god that shows up every couple of hundred years and starts to mess with the world until a hero comes and basically destroys the crap out of him.  As the story seems to go every time Orchi appears people think the world is about to end, but it never does cause I guess Orchi doesn’t have any follow through.  Also he is never killed, as he is a Japanese god and simply immortal, and just takes a beating and goes back to sleep. Although none of this is ever explained in the game, and all of my knowledge is gained from other sources.  I really don’t think this is an example of bad localization as much as that team being truthful to the programmers that where clearly institutionalized after the creation of this game.

At one point in the game I saved an entire town of orphans, which seems to be a recurring theme in Japanese games when the plot slows or dies and they need to drive home the point the player really is a hero, and was told after that I could send gifts to the town.  This wasn’t the first time that I was told I could send gifts somewhere, as a matter of fact I am pretty sure it was around the tenth time I had been told such a thing.  The only problem is that the game never actually states how that is done.  Interesting that after almost 20 hours of play I am still not sure I can do half the stuff the game told me I could.

Although after all of this time in the game I have sort of figured out one key feature that seems to be true (although the fact I have since reverted to using guides to help me figure out what the hell is going on sped this discovery along too), the game pretty much always wants the player to continue moving westward.  I don’t know if this is an analogy for America’s expansion, or if it just happened to fit into the open-ended-ness of the game.

Was There a Lesson: Metal Saga Part 1

New page layout, new attempt at pushing the articles out to the few remaining fans that might still be reading this page after the long pause between the updates.  For the first attempt at this serialized fun I am going to write about the most non-linear and directionless game that has ever come out, Metal Saga.

Unlike most of the utter crap no directive games that Square pushes out under the “Saga” title, this game has several key differences:

1.    It is entirely playable and doesn’t make the user want to stab people with broken Playstation discs.

2.    It isn’t published by Square so most of the “this could have been better if they weren’t under such insane deadline constraints” complaints don’t appear.  The game just goes right out there and fails on its own right.

3.    The need for a guide to play the game isn’t due to the characters being terrible humans and the plot being directionless and vague, it is because “progress” in the story needs to be made by talking to random same looking NPCs who may or may not talk depending on who knows.  And seeing as how there was never an official guide published for the game most people only have a vague idea of what is going on at any given time.

Within the first minute of the game starting it asks the player if they want to give up on the dream of becoming a hunter and roaming the world looking for adventure.  Most first time players will naturally say yes, because if years of training from video games have taught us anything it is that you always say yes to your mother at the start of a game.

That is right; most first time players will manage to beat the experience in roughly a minute flat.  The only real “challenge” encountered up to this point is spelling the main characters name correctly and holding the controller, so it might be difficult for fans of NASCAR.

After the game basically calls you a moron for saying yes and the player starts the game over again, this time saying no, the mother offers the chance to come back at any point and take over the shop.  So basically at any point in the game the player can end the game simply by saying, “yeah, I guess that is good enough.”

The first quest is for the player to find himself a vehicle to drive around the wasteland Mad Max style in, although the only way that this is ever found out is by talking to people in the hunter’s guild– something that isn’t ever really mentioned or pointed out.  Metal Saga kind of takes a lesson from old school video games in that it expects the player to talk to everyone in every town that they come across and explore every corner of every dungeon that they enter, mapping the entire experience so they don’t get lost at any point, which to be honest doesn’t even sound like fun to me.  I also played this game for fun.

After this point in the story, though, there is no direction given to the player ever again.  The closest thing that is ever presented are side quests in the local hunter’s guild, most of which consist of the player hunting down and killing random and clearly Japanese designed tanks– giant Volkswagen Beetles or school buses that have for some reason become a dinosaur.  The game is a girl crawling out of a well and being attacked by a giant penis with an eye in its butt away from it needing a sticker on the front saying, “What did you expect?”

Recruiting other characters to the party is one of the most difficult/easiest things ever.  It is painfully easy in such a way that most of them simply need to be spoken to for recruitment, sort of like they are wandering around the world looking for a plot as well as the main character.  The difficult part comes from trying to find them.  Most of the sprites in the game are blurry and not that different from one another, meaning that noticing that someone might be important to talk to is a dream that will never be realized.  Most of this pretty much means that the only reliable way to find new party members is to talk to everyone in the game, possibly over and over again.

Tanks are about twice as much of a nightmare to come across.  They are almost always found laying around in a dungeon somewhere, completely unguarded and with the keys in the ignition– as if they are waiting for someone to come up and say, “hey, I could probably use this to drive through that entire village built entirely out of tents that I say a mile back.”  Even once a tank is acquired it is still kind of a mystery on how it works anyway.  It has “tiles” which pretty much act like hit points; but even when these are entirely gone the tank can still take damage, to a seemingly infinite amount.  To confuse things further there are enemies that can damage the vehicles directly without doing any damage to the “tiles”.  Confused?  Try playing any of the boss battles that literally litter the landscape.