Capcom weren't the first to
come up with the concept of a revolving-door game, wherein
players had to play through two or three times to unlock
everything. Not at all. For those of you who aren't familiar
with the history of RPG gaming, the concept of a "New Game+"
mode was first given to us by the folks at Squaresoft when
the SNES gem Chrono Trigger was first shipped out, and it
The idea of a New Game+,
from a game design standpoint, makes a heck of a lot of
sense. RPG's especially take advantage of this, because
there's usually (especially in a Square-style RPG) a ton of
equipment and abilities that are only available after
hundreds of hours of gameplay and power leveling. Most
gamers that I know of don't want to waste the time on that;
for every person who maxed out their characters to the
ultimate level on Final Fantasy VII's first disc and
actually saw Aeris's level 4 limit break, there are
thousands who never bothered because it was a waste of time.
A New Game+ mode for Final Fantasy VII would have saved them
much unnecessary grief.
Additionally, the New Game+
mode offers RPG designers a chance to throw in "extras",
provided the game itself isn't ridiculously long. The Chrono
Trigger and Chrono Cross titles did a very good job of
offering multiple endings, for instance. On the other side,
if the game's long enough (80+ hours, such as Final Fantasy
X-2) a New Game+ will feel like a tease; why should gamers
put that kind of effort into finishing, only to be told "Now
do it all again to get the GOOD ending, mwa ha ha"?
Indeed, for RPG's, the New
Game+ turns out to be a balancing act. If your RPG is a
once-through affair like Arx Fatalis, stay away from it. If
your RPG is a "collect all the items and get 100%
exploration" RPG, sure. If your RPG is only about 50 hours,
and you want to put in extra endings, go for it - but
please, for the love of all that is playable, make the first
ending something that will satisfy players!
Action games are where the
New Game+ mode gets even wierder. The first title I can
think of to try this, originally, would be Konami's classic
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which had faux-RPG
elements and an exploration aspect. Still, it was good and
fun to go back through the game hunting down items and
getting the Walk Armor up to 200% power.
Capcom's done fairly well
with it too, mostly in the Devil May Cry series. We'll
ignore DMC 2 for the moment; Devil May Cry, the original
(and still the best), presents tons of special options to
unlock, and 2-3 playthroughs is where it gets fun as new
modes unlock and Dante's abilities remain the same. Yes, it
makes some of the plot points rather silly, but Dante never
turns out to be overpowered even with all his nifty
abilities, so the game remains fun and challenging.
This weekend, I started in
on Megaman X-8, and for the first time, it appeared Capcom
had done something truly nifty that way with a Megaman
title. Unlike X-7, which was just horrid, they've gone back
to using 2D stage layout and just exploiting 3D graphics.
The difficulty (even on "normal" mode) is significantly
higher; in fact, I can safely say that the last time I was
as frustrated with a Megaman title's difficulty would be
playing the original NES Megaman.
But they didn't stop there.
No, they added in the "rpg" elements in the form of upgrades
to X, Axl, and Zero. And then they gave us "New Game+" mode.
As it turns out, X-8 has three "super" armors (one for each
protagonist) that become available for the entire game, as
well as three hidden characters, but only after the game's
beaten the first time. It's a nice touch and a good way to
extend the replay value.
Again, New Game+ isn't for
every game. Some games, it would be worthless. Some games,
it would just destroy. But for a game with a shorter
storyline like a Megaman title, it's a good way to extend
the gameplay and make it more worth picking up.
Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
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