July TVGB Q&A / Another game in paradise

OK, here’s the deal — don’t sweat the details. Somehow you magically have a TV, a console, a portable gaming device with infinite batter life, electricity — you get the picture. The only thing you don’t have is an Internet connection, because that would be cheating. Anyway, the point isn’t how you’re able to game on the island, but rather what you’d choose to play. Got it? Good. Now let me get out of the way so you can get to the discussion — and don’t forget to leave your picks in the comment section below.

If you were alone and stranded on a deserted island, which game would you want to keep you company?

Marcus Wintzer: So since we’ve got the power to run this stuff, I guess I’m gonna have to assume we’re on the island and in one of the Dharma Initiative bases. So I guess when I’m not running for my life from a smoke monster or trying to find enough food to survive, I would likely want Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The series is probably my most favorite fighting franchise and even in my normal, non-stranded-on-an-island daily life, I still play it pretty frequently.

Go deeper into the rabbit hole with Marcus and friends after the break…

It would be nice to have computer players to fight against and have some semblance of interaction if I was alone, or, if there are other people there with me, we could have tournaments and whatnot to see who would get the last Apollo Bar. Finally, once I went completely insane, there would be a character for each distinct split in my personality — my gruff, no-nonsense side would be Snake, my inner child could be Ness, and my religious side would have Pit and so on.

Michael Healy: Marcus is noble to pick a game that the rest of us stranded islanders can enjoy, but I’ll level with you — if I’m stuck on an island with four fellow TVGBers and we can’t find any food, I’m just going to kill my comrades and eat them. I’m not going to like it, but I’ll do it all the same. So, by nutritional necessity, my pick has to be a single-player game, and that game is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

This game is brimming with care, detail, and polish. From the opening scene in a cramped jail cell to the final battle against Mehrunes Dagon, Oblivion creates a convincing, immersive world. When you’re not locked in visceral combat or completing a mission for one of Cyrodiil’s many guilds, you’ll find yourself staring at a sunset or watching as two moons pass each other in a starry night sky. And I doubt I could ever care for a horse in real life as much as I cared for my noble steed in Oblivion. Moreover, I dare say the game has some of the best music this side of Final Fantasy VII.

Finally, there’s huge replay value — after you spend the 100 hours or so to complete the main story and all side quests, you can start over as a new character class for a wholly new and varied experience. As long as I had Oblivion, shelter, and food (coconuts would of course be my first choice, but…), my stay on a deserted island wouldn’t be too awful.

Evan Kutsko: Before anything, I have to commend Marcus and Michael on their picks. Even as a single-player experience, Smash Bros. presents potentially limitless gameplay opportunities because of the large cast of characters, incredible range of difficulty, and insanely varied permutations allowed by the fighting mechanics themselves. It could take years upon years for a seasoned brawler to work his way up to defeating three level-nine opponents in a three-on-one matchup. With no items. And a +300% health handicap. Oblivion is also the kind of game you can always come back to long after you’ve defeated the main quest, and as Michael mentioned, you could restart with a different persona over and over again, and each new iteration of your virtual self would be it’s own unique experience.

Great picks, gents. I hate you both for choosing before me.

As alluded to in my shameless praising above, I believe the real kicker in the “deserted island” question is the argument of quality vs. replayability. Even if a single-player campaign is unequaled in its storytelling and gameplay mechanics, how many times can you soldier through the same 15, 30, or even 100 hours of play? How many times can you topple the same 16 colossi, collect the same 120 stars, or net the same 300 escaped apes?

Considering my extended play time with Fallout 3, a triple-A with seemingly infinite things to do and see, the amazing atmosphere and character interactions slowly lose their flair over time. You begin to see all the rough edges and all the blemishes, all the A.I. quirks and invisible boundaries. The ultimate reason why I stopped playing Fallout was because of a single instance in which I committed genocide on a town full of NPCs and felt…nothing. By pushing the in-game society to its limits, I objectified my fellow Wastelanders and consequently desensitized my reaction to the game itself. Sometimes I wonder, as game worlds increase in depth and size, maybe it’s the stuff we don’t do that really defines and personalizes our experiences. But that’s another Q&A altogether…

So now I’ve officially disqualified a vast majority of games today. But maybe that’s the answer we need. Maybe we need an old game, a classic game, back when titles were simpler in their execution. I’m totally leaving my comfort zone with this choice, and I’m not even sure I like this game all that much, but I’ve decided the game would have to be the original Donkey Kong.

When you watch The King of Kong, and you see Steve Wiebe’s intense focus and analysis on each and every pixel, I think it’s apparent that conquering this game is unlike anything that’s come this generation. Beyond the consistent personal challenge of improving your own high score, Billy Mitchell’s ridiculous benchmark will always be there to provide a virtually impossible goal. Worst-case scenario, I become so frustrated with my inability to break one million points that I quit altogether and spend more time fishing and gathering coconuts…which in the end is probably better than having a debilitating MMORPG addiction when not on a deserted island.

Jason Son: If TVGB writers were stranded together on a deserted island, I think we can all agree that things would probably devolve into Lord of the Flies-esque depravity after the first few minutes. But if I found myself as the lone castaway on a tropical island that just so happens to have an electrical outlet and a functioning television, I’d be packing my dusty old PS2 and a copy of Final Fantasy X. My own survival instincts — or lack thereof — may be suspect, but I do trust my gut when it comes to games. And my gut tells me to go with one of the best RPGs ever made.

Final Fantasy X offers the much sought out balance between replayability and quality. Players can easily log a hundred hours of gameplay with the addition of side-quests and the Blitzball minigame. And for a PS2 game, the graphics surprisingly still hold up to the test of time. The easy-on-the-eyes graphics and masterful art direction go hand in hand with Uematsu-san’s musical score to flesh out the diverse and expansive universe of Spira. Throw in epic boss battles and an engaging storyline, and the result is a delicious stew of aural and visual entertainment.

Now of course, FFX isn’t perfect, but no game is. Taking it for what it is, Final Fantasy X gives me everything I expect from a big production Square Enix title. Detractors can boil it down and say FFX is nothing but lots of big anime hair and funky costumes on androgynous characters who fight larger-than-life monsters with magic and swords as J-pop pumps in the background for one giant spectacle of a game. And I’ll say, “YES. Two plz,” because I love that stuff. And I wouldn’t want it any other way, especially if I’m on a lonely island.

Jonathan Redaja: On a deserted island stuck with TVGB writers, I got survival covered.  My specialized sand castle defense will sand and defend from anyone attempting to turn me into their next meal. Assuming I have an infinite battery supply, I’ll also make armor out of batteries! Hah! No one can touch me! I just hope no one throws me into the water. Survival worries aside, I’m amazed that the titles chosen came from varying genres and platforms. It surprised me only one chose a current-gen title, but maybe that will change next time.

There are a lot of great games out there with quality, care, and polish. For me though, being stranded on a deserted island is enough to make a great game grow old quickly if it doesn’t provide something more after finishing it the first time. Using that reasoning, I’m going to choose Panel de Pon, or as its better known over, Planet Puzzle League for the DS.

Puzzle League is both simple and complex, a characteristic standard for puzzle games of its type. Generally a match-three type game, but by restricting the player to moving tiles side to side it requires some thought and planning for their next move. Through its several modes, a player can try to get that high score, beat the CPU, solve puzzles, or practice their own skills. It’s a game encouraging player skill development. On a deserted island the only person the player is competing against is him or herself, which encourages improvement further.

A quick and simple interface allows for smooth gaming at any location on the island. The options and play times will vary, but the game will last a long time. It’s a simple but fantastic game, playable any time, anywhere. And as a bonus, the DS can be used as a substitute flashlight and I get Pictochat! Not much, but on a deserted island, I’ll take what I can get.