I just started playing Transistor two nights ago.
I love this game. I LOVE THIS GAME.
I never played Bastion (Supergiant Games’s debut title) because even the word “isometric” gives me flashbacks to terrible PlayStation games like Vagrant Story and Breath of Fire 4 (don’t try to tell me that either of these games aren’t terrible, because I will cut you). Transistor has an isometric perspective as well, but I decided to give it a try for two reasons. First, the soundtrack is amazing, and I’ve been listening to it on heavy rotation for about six months now. Second, one of my friends in the Final Fantasy VI fandom recently became obsessed with it, and she has excellent taste.
Unlike my experience with Ni no Kuni, my first half hour with Transistor was amazing. The game throws you into the middle of things with no explanation of the story or the battle system, and all you can do is move forward. Since nothing is too overly complicated at first, it’s easy to learn by doing, and around the first hour things start to become much clearer.
I’m about two hours in, and I am hooked.
So far Transistor reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy VII in its presentation. The art deco cyberpunk aesthetic is definitely part of it, as are the two big boyfriend swords, but I also love the way both games allow you to jump right into the action.
People remember the intro to Final Fantasy VII as being this huge cinematic masterpiece – and it totally was! – but it was also only about 45 seconds long. After the camera zooms into the city of Midgar, a train pulls into a station, Cloud jumps off, and the player immediately starts running around, solving puzzles, and fighting SHINRA guards. Cloud’s objective isn’t entirely clear, and there are plenty of unexplained plot points, but what the player needs to do is never in doubt.
In contrast, the opening scene of Final Fantasy VIII is more than three minutes of confusing cinematic sequences followed by Squall waking up in an infirmary bed, having a weird vision, falling asleep again, waking up again, and being told to go change into his school uniform. Although this seems like a simple objective, it can only be accomplished if the player doesn’t start wandering around the Garden building, which is huge and full of useless space.
Over the weekend it was just announced that the PS4 remake of Final Fantasy VII will be released in episodes, a bit of information that made me much less excited about it.
Although I’ve been able to maintain my interest in Final Fantasy because of all the amazing fanwork people have been putting out, I sometimes wonder if I can still consider myself a fan of the franchise. I have absolutely no interest in the sequels to Final Fantasy XIII, or in Final Fantasy XIV. Now that I’ve learned Final Fantasy VII will be staged across multiple releases, I’m not sure I’m interested in it either.
I’m not necessarily opposed to the renewal of IP; there is literally no one on this planet who loves the Wind Waker HD release than I do. Still, I think what Nintendo understands that Square Enix doesn’t is that what both veteran and rookie players are looking for is a more streamlined experience. Older players want to remember what an RPG felt like when you didn’t have to manage something like Fallout 4’s complicated menu interface (when what they actually remember is being younger and having more free time). Meanwhile, new players want to understand what the game did right without struggling through all the garbage that ended up being left by the wayside as the franchise progressed.
And honestly? Why would I want to play Final Fantasy VII for the umpteenth time when I could be playing games like Transistor? Transistor’s graphics and storytelling and battle system are familiar – as I wrote earlier, there are definite parallels to FFVII – but the game also feels new and fresh and gorgeous.
Transistor is only supposed to take about six to eight hours to finish. Total gameplay time is very important to me. When I was in elementary middle school, I had a seemingly infinite amount of time to get every single character in my party all the way up to level 99 in any given game, but since then the amount of time I can afford to spend on games has been gradually declining. Yes, I suppose that makes me a shitty casual gamer, but I prefer to think of myself as someone who prefers a more carefully curated gaming experience. If I only have 45 minutes to devote to a game every day, I want at least some of those minutes to be quality gaming time and not mindless grinding or exposition.
Transistor is an RPG that flawlessly integrates exploration, exposition, battles, and leveling, and I love it. I can only hope the FFVII remake will manage to do the same.
If nothing else, I do have to admit that HD Cloud is gorgeous…
( The above animated GIF is from cloudstrifes on Tumblr )
( Header image from the Supergiant Games official website )