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More minor Transistor spoilers

Butch:

I’m at the bit of Transistor where the sword starts feeling bad (“I’m starting to lose you”). I just ate pizza. Am I near the end?

Feminina:

Not quite yet. There’s a fair bit more wandering around to do. Messages to leave, powers to pick up, etc.

Butch:

Hmm. Felt endy.

Feminina:

Yeah, there was an endy feeling midway through when the Transistor got all faint, but unless you’ve run into the Spine of the World again and then confronted somebody in some sort of official place (not even being intentionally vague, that’s honestly about as clear as it was to me at the time), you’re not really getting to the end.

Butch:

Ah. Yes, I’m at the faint bit. And on that….

So in my previous email I talked on how this story might not fit this game, and I hold to that…sorta….but amend.

Had this story been an abstract one about love and loss and death, it would have been great. It’s rather emotional, the whole “I’m losing you….” The scene when you’re eating pizza, with the sword in the jacket no less, was slightly reminiscent of the giraffe scene in TLOU, in that you know it’s probably the last lighthearted moment these two have together, and you don’t really want it to end. (I didn’t press circle to finish eating. Nice gamey touch there.) Going to the hideout and having the sword get better, then get sick again when you go back to cloudbank was effective. If it had stayed that abstractly emotional, it would’ve worked very well, as there are good emotional punches and themes.

But it suffers from something so much sci fi in every genre, from short stories to movies to games, suffers from: the incredible temptation to over explain shit. Not enough to have a weird, but effective, little story about love and loss. Nope. We’ve got to explain in painful, confusing detail all the whos, whys and hows. So much sci fi gets bogged down in the whos whys and hows that really don’t matter to the overall narrative and theme, and we can add Transistor to that list.

Especially the whos. Having each power derive from a person is a cool idea, but it doesn’t work in terms of this particular narrative. They don’t connect to each other at all, at least in any seamless narrative way. Sybil is the only one that connects to Red so far. It would have been cool to have them exist as little short stories, but it’s hard to have things that fragmented complement a huge overarching narrative. Yet another reason not to have one in this game.

Feminina:

It was definitely true with Transistor that while I liked the general IDEA of the powers being associated with specific personalities, in practice it didn’t really mean anything and was just confusing in a “wait, so does that actually mean anything? am I supposed to be doing something with that knowledge?” kind of way.

An unrelated note: it was interesting the way the game made you adjust your expectations, in a way…in most games you get used to certain things always being mapped to certain buttons, and here it was constantly shifting depending on what powers you had available and where you put them. In practice this meant I was often kind of bad at combat because I’d forget what ability I’d put where, but it was an intriguing idea.

Butch:

Yes! The “Do I do something?” I think that was made worse because early on, with the “wake up dead, no knowledge” + “private eye vibe” I was ready for this to be more of a murder mystery than it turned out to be, not in a “you the player must solve it” way, like you’re playing some messed up version of clue, but….more than it was. It was SO ready to be a mystery. That info could have been more like finding clues……but it wasn’t. Or, if it was supposed to be, that was lost on me.

I did the same in combat. “Why aren’t I crashing??? Oh, that’s square now….”

On that, I liked the way the time/performace etc. trials were handled. I mean, let’s face it: they’re trophy bait. But if you’re going to have trophy bait (and everything does), it’s cool to do it in a way that may alter how the player plays the main game.

“Wait, I have to use bounce for this? I’ve never used bounce. Well, ok. Hey, bounce is kinda cool. I’ll try that the next time.”

Feminina:

I agree, I usually don’t care for these sorts of things, but I kind of liked the trials. As you say, it got you using things you might not have realized were actually kind of cool. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that this is also what got me actually USING the preview screen to consider my moves, instead of just wading through everything by whacking away.

Butch:

What? That thing kinda made the whole game. I usually do that, then just pull right trigger until it lets me do it again. Though having crash with jaunt is key, so you can whack while it’s recharging.

Did you ever get the instant kill bit? KILL!

Feminina:

I know, I know, it was awesome. But the first time it came up I was like “whatever, I’ll just whack stuff, stop bothering me with all this strategizing” and it worked OK. Except in the Trials, which are very precise and need you to take the time to think.

As you might guess, I’m not great at chess. “So…when do we get to stop carefully considering our moves and start hitting each other?”

Butch:

You never got “kill.” Kill just wipes out anything instantly. Getting it is like the happy surprise of being able to do mark of the inquisitor. And when you get kill when there’s one really annoying fetch or young lady left, it’s like Christmas.

Calling baddies Jerks and Creeps is a nice touch.

Games got your back, man:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archon:_The_Light_and_the_Dark

Like chess, only when you try to take a piece, you gotta fight. Each piece has different abilities, what color the square is gives a side an advantage, etc. It was the first game we got you could play head to head (two joysticks!) and it was totally awesome. Holds up, too. I got it on a C64 emulator, played it with my brother (again) and it’s still great. And now I know what I didn’t know at age 9: get’s better with booze.

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