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Crazy Games are Crazy Fun: Why I Love Bizarre Videogames
As I get older and the amount of time I can spend exclusively on videogames diminishes, I find myself having to prioritize certain games over others. Something I’ve noticed about the games that I tend to pick lately is that they’re all, in a word, strange. Whether the plot of the game is completely bananas, the gameplay itself is over-the-top or weird, or the total package is some combination of the two, my playtime tends to gravitate towards decidedly weirder products. This year, for example, I spent a good chunk of my free time playing stuff like Asura’s Wrath, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Dragon’s Dogma. You may have noticed that two of those games were published by Capcom, purveyors of fine insanity like the venerable Resident Evil series; while we’re on the subject, Resident Evil 5’s absolutely ludicrous ending was one of the only things about that game that I actually enjoyed.
The idea that weird games are enjoyable isn’t that farfetched, especially if the games themselves are well-made and don’t have any serious flaws to complain about. Metal Gear Rising, for example, would still play well and rely on solid mechanics even if the story was a little less ridiculous. That’s not to say that some of the game’s core mechanics aren’t a little crazy in and of themselves. Zandatsu, the game’s main health-replenishing system, involves slowing down time and chopping your cyborg enemies into teeny-tiny pieces, enabling you to reach into the fine red mist that used to be their torsos and tear out their cybernetic innards. The fact that the backdrop to all of this robo-evisceration happens to be a world run by absurd conspiracies and futuristic technology and populated largely by verbose lunatics (Monsoon, I’m looking at you . . .) only serves to enhance the weird fun of the gameplay.
On the other hand, having an especially weird story or visual style can turn games that were either uninteresting or just not made as well as their competitors into something worth playing. My favorite example of this is Asura’s Wrath, a stylish action game published by Capcom and developed by CyberConnect2. Most of the gameplay in Asura’s Wrath is a combination of simple brawler-style fighting, shooter portions resembling a dull version of Panzer Dragoon, and extended quick time events. None of these sequences is particularly inspiring, and some of the actual fighting feels a bit clunk, but; if that was all there is to know about Asura’s Wrath I would never have enjoyed it as much as I did. The game’s story and visuals are what really make Asura’s Wrath worth your time, along with some interesting design choices implemented in the particularly crazy boss fights. The development team behind Asura’s Wrath clearly gained some inspiration from anime when it comes to the game’s sense of drama and scale; practically everything that happens to Asura is so ridiculous that it’s hard not to get amped up while watching the story unfold.
Take, for example, the conclusion to one of the game’s boss fights in which Asura fights his former mentor on the moon (Note: this fight was featured in the demo for the game, so If you’d like to see this for yourself, it should still be available for download). After being impaled by his opponent’s apparently infinitely long sword, Asura is driven straight off of the moon’s surface and starts to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, at which point all but one of his arms (did I mention he has six?) are ripped off by the tremendous amount of force being exerted upon them. Then, when Asura finally makes his landing, he leaves a crater the size of a small town and the sword (still being held by his enemy) keeps going, only to emerge on the other side of the goddamn planet. Oh, and Asura survives this whole ordeal; he doesn’t even really seem that shaken by it. Yeah, this game is a little crazy. Something about games that present you with and allow you to participate in scenes like the one I described is really refreshing in an industry where lots of developers are shooting for something resembling realism. Why would I want to play a realistic FPS when I could, instead, make a six-armed demigod punch a flying, gold-plated battleship so hard that it explodes? Not that I don’t enjoy those realistic games, too. Sometimes I just want to do something that is completely impossible in the real world, and crazy games like Asura’s Wrath make that doable.