Sunday, November 8, 2015

With Liberty and Justice for All

If there is one thing to be learned by reading my blog, it’s that they probably shouldn’t just give a blog to anyone who asks. I didn’t have to get a license to do this or pass any kind of test. I just asked Google and they let me put my words on the internet forever. So much for “Don’t be evil”. But if there’s anything else to be learned from reading my blog, it is that I’m a pretty big fan of Skullgirls.

It's probably the one thing I've referenced on this blog more often than this image.

But Skullgirls is done; the last of the DLC characters has been created, and everything’s been fine-tuned to the satisfaction of the creators and the fans. Skullgirls is in the past, and I intend to discuss the future. And the future is Indivisible, Lab Zero’s next project. Before you read on, I recommend that you click that link and give the game a try yourself. There is nothing that I can say about the game, or really anything in general, that is as compelling as actually playing it. Now, you might think it a bit suspicious that Lab Zero managed to create a game in the year or so since they finished Skullgirls. Well, the truth is that they didn’t; the game isn’t technically “made” yet. What you can play currently is just a prototype, albeit a damn fun game in its own right. The game proper won't be made unless the Indiegogo campaign meets its goal. Rather than desperately plead that you help fund this project so that I can have any hope for video games as an art, I will have some modicum of chill, and just normally plead you to do that.

C'mon man, just check it out.

So what is Indivisible, actually? It’s an RPG. But it’s also a lot more than that. It’s an RPG with combos. You play as Ajna, a young woman who, for story reasons, must do martial arts at Bad Guys. Along the way, she discovers that she has the power to absorb certain people, called Incarnations, into herself, and have them fight at her side. So they're kind of like Personas, except you have to absorb their powers by eating them, like Kirby, and also it's probably nothing like that at all. Your party consists of Ajna and 3 of these incarnations. Each of your 4 party members corresponds to a face button on the controller, which is used to execute attacks. Each party member has 3 attacks, which you can use to chain together combos. There are no turns; you have to wait between attacks, but combat takes place in real time. When enemies attack, you can order an Incarnation to guard by holding down their corresponding face button. This uses up Iddhi (your super meter, essentially), which is built whenever you attack or successfully block. By taking risks and only blocking at the last second before an enemy attacks, you can minimize Iddhi consumption, and use it to perform special moves. In a lot of ways, the combat is the most interesting part of the game, and trying to describe it with words is only doing it a disservice. I really recommend you try playing it for yourself.

In addition to being an RPG, Indivisible is also a platformer, drawing inspiration from Super Metroid, according to creator MikeZ. I know the platformer-RPG pairing isn’t a common one these days, or really any days that I know of, but the platforming is damn smooth, especially for an unfinished prototype. Though I don’t particularly care for the word “Game-feel”, (It has a terrible “mouth-feel”) I can’t think of a better one to describe what I’m trying to get across. I don’t think I’ve played a platformer with a “game-feel” this satisfying (OK using that word was a mistake) since Super Meat Boy. It even pulls off SMB’s sadistic challenge, if you elect to find and defeat the prototype’s secret boss. It might seem like any platforming challenge would be trivial after you get the axe, which allows you to scale vertical walls with ease, but only until you learn what it truly means for a wall to be more than vertical.

Like any RPG, Indivisible is going to have story, characters, ect. Since it’s just a prototype, the current version of the game offers little insight into these matters. But, as someone who’s played Skullgirls, I can 100% vouch for Lab Zero Games on this. Skullgirls’ story isn’t just good “for a fighting game”. It’s good for any game, period. Each character’s story mode works as its own standalone narrative, while also contributing a unique perspective to the central plot of Marie’s rise and fall as The Skullgirl. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind about anything as radically as my opinion on the ending (Double’s story). And that’s pretty impressive, since everything I do, I do radically. I don’t want to spoil it, but if you do play it, be sure to keep an eye ever on The Shadows. Actually, this advice works pretty well for real life, too.


Skullgirls has some of my favorite worldbuilding in all of video games; it knows that sometimes less is more, and each detail is intriguing enough to compel you to want to learn more. Indivisible could be Lab Zero Games’ chance to show that, sometimes, more is more (actually, all the time, according to how words work). Basically, imagine a world that’s as interesting as Skullgirls’, but you’re actually in it. It’s happening, all around you, and you can explore it. Plus, it has more esoteric mythology than any game this side of the Shin Megami Tensei series, so if you’re a nerd who likes modern fiction based on mythology, then it should be right up your alley.

OK, this paragraph is probably going to make some people (white males) roll their eyes. You know, the ones who just rolled their eyes at me singling them out. The ones who will construe what I’m about to say as pushing “The SJW agenda” and accuse me of somehow sleeping with Zoë Quinn (I think this blog itself is evidence enough against any claims of anyone sleeping with me). Indivisible is a game that promotes diversity, and in my opinion, that’s good. I think it’s kind of sad how notable it is when a video game stars any human other than a white male, particularly a woman of color. Like, I am a person who plays a lot of video games, but I’ve played very few as a woman of color. The only ones I can think of are To The Moon, The Walking Dead (Season 2), and Splatoon (while the ability to customize your character to be any race or gender is nice, this hardly counts). I almost feel bad for liking Indivisible that much more just because its protagonist looks like this:

But one character isn’t enough to promote diversity. That’s not what the word means. But Ajna isn’t the only character in the game. (At least, as far as we know. This may change depending on how my predictions regarding the title “Indivisible” pan out.) There are set to be more than 25 Incarnations in the game, representing all kinds of different cultures and mythologies. Basically, imagine if Street Fighter weren’t overtly racist. Here are some of my favorites that have been shown so far.

If that last one looks familiar, it’s probably because he’s Juan, the main character of Guacamelee!, a somewhat similar but also completely different platformer Metroidvania game with fighting-game elements and interesting, uncommon mythology that I really love and you should totally check out also. And he’s not the only guest character. Shovel Knight (from Shovel Knight) and Annie (The best Skullgirls character who isn’t a character in Skullgirls) are also confirmed, as well as other characters from games I haven’t heard of.

I’m really sorry if this reads like some kind of sales pitch, like I’m desperately trying to part you from your money. I didn’t want it to sound like that at all. But I did make it sound like that, because that’s exactly how it is. In truth, I have not even a modicum of chill; it was all a facade. If the campaign had already secured its funding, it’d be a different story, but it hasn’t, so it’s this story, and it may not have a happy ending. In fact, going by the numbers, success may seem outside the realm of possibility. (as I’m typing this, about half of the goal has been fulfilled, and less than a quarter of the time remains) But that’s why it’s more important than ever to not give up. One might ask “What’s the point of donating if it’s not going to get funded anyway?” But you can just as easily turn the question around: “What’s the point of not donating?” If the campaign succeeds, then you just got a cool game that you helped to make. If the campaign fails, you’re basically just giving a gift of cold hard cash to your future self. (Despite being on Indiegogo, this is a fixed funding campaign, so you get the money back if the goal isn’t reached) It’s a win-win. And the financial situation may not be as hopeless as it appears. While it may be unrealistic to expect that half the goal will be raised in the next week, there is another hope. The deadline can be extended by up to 20 days. However, this can only happen if a certain percentage of this goal is reached, so it’s still important that people contribute as soon as possible.

At the end of the day, all I can really do is ask you to click this this link. If you have the time to read my blog, I think you can probably spare a few minutes to check it out, unless you’re here on business for your job at The Lab That Studies Dumb Idiot Nerds. If you like what you see, that’s great. If you like what you see enough to pay money to make it happen, that’s even better. If you like what you see enough to spend an actually unwise amount of money on it, the kind of money that would make your parents say “wait what?” if they learned how much money you spent on it, then, well, you’re probably me. But if it doesn’t interest you, that’s cool, too. I’m not entitled to a say in how you spend your money. Hell, I’m not entitled to a say in how you spend your time, either. But I’d really like it if you went back and clicked the link at the beginning of this paragraph right after you read the last word in this paragraph, which is "be", surprising as that may be.

No comments:

Post a Comment