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Relaxation: Starting Fresh


So about a month ago I was desperately trying to finish up Shin Megami Tensei - Digital Devil Saga - Episode 1 (say that three times fast) and I was rapidly getting bored. "No," I thought, "I must finish this! I want to hurry up so I can sell it and play something else! I always do this...I always just start over and play something else!" And then...that's exactly what happened.

I look back at my backloggery now and it's grayed out and at the bottom of the "Now Playing" section. And yet...I don't care. The only few games I've beaten in the past few months have been Ys 6, Deus Ex 3, and a few emulated titles here and there. Should I beat SMT-DDS-1? Oh, absolutely. But it's one of those games where I know exactly where I'm at and I did the same thing I'm doing now with it: I started over.

I don't know what it is about starting over RPGs, but it's therapeutic. You get to see what the developer was originally going for, the whole setup. You start to recognize different things you didn't before, like maybe how "innocent" certain characters or situations seemed, but clearly there was underlying symbolism or possibly a hint toward where their desires truly lied.


It's not just a very interesting thing to do; it's a very fun thing to do as well. Over the past two years, I've been starting or restarting games at least four times as much as actually beating them. And I'm cool with that. It usually happens much like it did with SMT-DDS-1. I was getting frustrated and while I still really want to beat it, I backshelf'd it because I wanted to start over a few other titles I hadn't played it forever.

So I started over three titles: Ar Tonelico, Atelier Iris, and Wild ARMs 3. All three can be considered middle tier titles, but there are varying reasons. With AT, I had been going strong on it for a while, then I started missing conversations. It wasn't just the completionist in me, but the worrier in me that took over. What if I can't progress in the cosmospheres now? What if that locked me out from getting to the most advanced forms?

I decided to stop playing until I was able to "scholar it" (play with one eye on an FAQ and one eye on the screen), which can get to be annoying with some games to the point I rarely buy strategy guides anymore. With AI...I don't know. It was one of those games I hadn't even played 10 hours into and I wanted something "grindy." I recalled the skill point system and it being somewhat similar to that of Growlanser Generations, only the game wasn't as fucking hard, and decided that's exactly what I needed.

"Feel the wrath of my staff!"...wat

With Wild ARMs 3, well, I just wasn't sure what to play while my wife was on the computer, preventing access to the FAQ. Often I'll simply sit and look at my games for 15 minutes at a time trying to figure out what to play, so instead of doing that, I just went "ahhhhh, this one." Yup. Pretty much it. But on the subject of starting fresh, I think there are three basic reasons I like doing it.

One, as mentioned before, you get to see what the developer was originally striving for. What I honestly believe is all stories start with a beginning, an end, and a few things the writer wants to have happen in between, then tries to tie them all together in a way that works. The problem is with an RPG, especially a JRPG, this can lead to plot holes, nonsensical mandatory sidequesting, mindless detours that aren't fun, and incredibly slow or just plain not fun parts.

Mind you, this isn't always the case, but it is often enough that it can bog down even the greatest RPGs. Two, sometimes you forget what you were doing, where you were going, if you missed anything, how to play the game, who the people in your party even are, etc. Sure, if you're playing the game EVERY DAY, then none of these should be true, but if you aren't...well, yeah.

You guys look familiar somehow...

But the big one is number three: starting fresh is exhilirating. There are no obligations. The game is easy again. The enemies don't stand a chance, in fact, because while the game may not have a new game+ feature, YOU remember as a seasoned gamer. You're not going into it blind anymore, even if you forget half the stuff you can do. The game is simple, laidback, fun, and exciting again.

There are very few cases where this is incorrect and while it does hurt your backlog, I strongly suggest that, from time to time, when you're having difficulty with something else or are just annoyed with something in life, that you start fresh. Allow me to give you an example. High school was a rocky time for me. I was a smart kid, but I hated studying and I hated homework even more because it got in between me and game time.

Sure, I would get my homework done in study hall 90% of the time, but that was irrelevant. The bullying situation didn't help, I started not caring about extracurriculars, and began to get depressed. Videogames and my bike were the only things I really had to turn to in those times. I would often ride my bike until the sun started to go down, then go home.

Woo!! Magitek! Magitek!

We had probably 30 SNES titles by the time I graduated, meaning I was replaying a lot of games for mere amusement. I can't begin to tell you how many times I'd fire up FF7 just so I could play through Midgar again or how many times I would play FF6 all the way to the World of Ruin, just to set it down and play something else (not in one sitting of course).

Would things have been different had I had access to any games I wanted at any time? Actually, no. I discovered emulation fairly early in high school and even though I could mostly only emulate NES titles correctly, it didn't matter. Sure, it was a resource I used to play a wide variety of games, but I still thoroughly enjoyed starting several games over just to play through the beginning again.

An RPG truly strives through its story, gameplay mechanics, sometimes its viscerals, and every so often its quirkiness. Often you will have a good idea what the developer was going for within the first 10 hours of a massive RPG. This isn't always the case, but it is for at least 80% of the RPGs you run across. What better way to highlight and pay tribute to their efforts than starting fresh?
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About gunsageone of us since 2:58 PM on 04.11.2008

I've been gaming since 1987. I used to be a big Nintendo fanboy, then Square jumped the shark, so I followed. Eventually I realized neither Square nor Nintendo were the only companies out there worth following and my collection more or less speaks for itself now. I love to meet up with people on XBL, though I haven't done much online with the Wii. I've also been writing game review articles since 2004 on the old Project Wonderboy, then Morphine Nation, and now back to the new Project Wonderboy and various other sites.

I also help out in writing for a local videogame store website (VGMX). Not much else to say, really, when it comes to gaming. I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I would say I'm experienced.

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I write stuff, podcast, and makes vids here also...
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