MOSAIC: Let’s Survive!

Monday, January 20th, 2014

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I apologize for the long hiatus. I know Jeff’s Musings, which launched at the same time as my MOSAIC series, have been numerous and far more consistent. Consider this my promise to make these a more regular thing. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Check out this archive

For the longest time, my gaming habits were pretty vanilla. I only owned Nintendo platforms, and I pretty much stuck with first/second-party titles. At the time, I felt it was slightly advantageous of me to do so—I had much more respect for franchises like Fire Emblem than a lot of my peers, because truly complex games were difficult to find within my gaming regiment. And when Kirby games stepped outside of traditional gameplay to offer experiences like Kirby’s Canvas Curse, Mass Attack, Epic Yarn and so on…it was truly refreshing to see. I would always speak in Nintendo’s defense, because…there were good games out there.

When the Nintendo 3DS was first released in 2011, the months that followed were truly indicative of a drought on Nintendo platforms.  They had very little to offer on Wii (many of you who supported the Operation Rainfall campaign from the beginning know this very well), and the 3DS only had Ocarina of Time 3D, a small library of digital games, and the system’s launch line-up going for it. I scarcely remember a time where I felt legitimately starved as a Nintendo fan. My backlog was empty; there wasn’t much left. After completing Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, for the first time ever—I appealed to my friends. I’ve known my friend Kevin for a very long time; I’d come to trust his tastes despite them being very different from mine. I asked if he could recommend any “niche” games on Nintendo platforms, because I wasn’t ready to make the plunge to PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 just yet. Among the many he recommended, one stood out to me the most.

Devil Survivor Overclocked - Characters | oprainfall

When I was looking for a deal on Devil Survivor for the DS, I saw that an enhanced port was coming to 3DS in August 2011. I immediately pre-ordered the game. It would be my first true ATLUS experience outside of Radiant Historia, a rare fluke in my “Jonathan is obsessed with first-party Nintendo games” pattern. I figured Kevin likes it, and they published Radiant Historia, so…how can this go wrong? I had no idea how much this game would impact me at the time—but almost two and a half years later, now that I’ve put two hundred twenty-five hours and fifteen minutes (and growing) into the game…suffice to say, I owe my friend a great deal.

Jeez, Jonathan! TWO HUNDRED hours or more?! Believe it. Devil Survivor Overclocked blended a lot of gameplay styles I was familiar with—the SRPG style of something like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, a battle system reminiscent of Dragon Quest games, an aspect of collecting not entirely different from Pokémon games—it truly did have a lot going for it. It was easy to get addicted to its gameplay because I was extremely comfortable with it right from the start. And good gravy, folks, to a guy who mostly gamed in first-party Nintendo territory, Devil Survivor Overclocked was tough as nails. I truly felt like a “hardcore gamer” after I’d completed the game. I couldn’t speak highly enough about it, because until the winter when games like Super Mario 3D Land came out—it was all the 3DS had in terms of truly immersive experiences.

Devil Survivor Overclocked - The Dark Side of Tokyo | oprainfall

Even more than the gameplay, though—that game’s story is what’s stuck with me all this time. Never before had I experienced a game that took place in modern times, felt so realistic, and at times…got downright spiritual. There’s a ton going for the game philosophically (I plan on writing up an analysis article, similar to this one or this one, in the next few weeks)…but without going into too much detail: I felt like I knew some of these characters. Devil Survivor Overclocked is a perfect example of what most Shin Megami Tensei games bring to the table. After playing entries in the SMT series like Strange Journey or SMTIV—I can honestly come from an angle where I’d recommend DSO to first-time players. It has every bit of the complex story (with ties to order, chaos and neutrality, as well as spirituality and religion), but its gameplay (while still very difficult at times) boils down to a few simple formulas that most gamers would feel very comfortable embracing, like me.

But…my point in writing all of this isn’t necessarily to speak highly of Devil Survivor Overclocked (again). I got reflective just now, reflective enough to write all this down, because I realized that DSO marked the first time I stepped outside of my “gaming comfort zone” and…survived. It wasn’t long after Overclocked that I saw the great number of SMT/Persona games available to me on PlayStation Portable/PlayStation 3…and shortly after buying my first non-Nintendo console(s) since 2006, I found my way to the oprainfall Staff. This is a website that covers niche games and RPGs. Beyond the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower all came out on Nintendo platforms, I knew this was a place I could go to learn a great deal from people whose tastes were probably very similar to my friend’s, and very different from my own.

Ni no Kuni - Oliver and Drippy | oprainfall Black Knight Sword - A Stage Show | oprainfall Tales of Xillia - Explosive | oprainfall

I’ve purchased games I never would have considered before—games I’ve ended up adoring. Senran Kagura: Burst? Ys: The Oath in Felghana? If you’d have asked me about those games or franchises before joining oprainfall, I would have offered a blank stare in return. I haven’t always liked the games recommended to me by readers and my fellow staff—but they’ve all been worth trying, at the very least. Thanks to oprainfall, I’ve done things I never would have considered before—even imported Soma Bringer and SaGa 3: Jikuu no Hasha despite not knowing a word of Japanese, because I knew there were readers out there who were as curious as I was about those games (and more).

Sure—at the end of the day, I still feel most comfortable on Nintendo platforms. The Nintendo 3DS, DS, Wii U and Wii—the experiences offered there (especially in the case of the Virtual Console(s); you can learn more about that here) are the ones I grew up with, the ones I spent almost six years with, exclusively. But the point I’m trying to drive home with this reflection is that, thanks to covering what I have via oprainfall, I often step outside of my comfort zone, and I’ve treated this website and the franchises my friends/peers enjoy, like a learning experience. I felt it was advantageous to stick to one platform or company, because it allows you to get more in touch with the experiences offered from it/them than the average bear, but…there are experiences on other platforms—new, refreshing ones like Tearaway (my most recent example) that are completely lost on you if you (for instance) “don’t pick up a Vita because there are no games on the thing”.

Now that the next-next generation is upon us, I imagine the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 run fairly cheap. I realize that our readership tends to align with Nintendo games and products the most. But if you are the type that only owns the Wii (U) and (3)DS like I did—I can now speak from a lot of experience and a background exactly the same as yours when I encourage you to break down your barricades…step outside of your comfort zone. Go beyond. You’ll survive.