I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance lately. Silly name aside (get it, KH:DDD or KH:3D ’cause it’s on the Nintendo 3DS? Hur hur), it’s a pretty sweet game, building on Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2, weaving in the other tangential Kingdom Hearts games that have been released. They are finally moving the Sora narrative forward instead of navel-gazing and weaving backstories. It’s technically excellent, with fantastic visuals that rival the original (on the Playstation 2) and some decent use of the 3DS 3D feature. It’s not necessary to play it in 3D (games that require the 3D would bug me), but the effect is great for some of the storytelling bits, setting the scene nicely.
So, KH nerdfanning aside (I do love the games), what strikes me most is the sheer fun of moving around in the game. The KH games have always been “action RPGs”, but this newest iteration has the characters zooming around the landscape, performing impossible air dashes, jumps and attacks that are just… fun. I’ve had similar fun just moving around in the Prince of Persia games. KH:3D lacks some of the elegance of the ‘Prince and the fluid athleticism of almost-plausible Parkour, but it makes up for it in speed and flexibility. I can use Sora and Riku’s “Flowmotion” abilities to ping-pong around a level or even scale a huge cliff in a few crazy jumps.
Here, I can admit that I’d probably love the Assassin’s Creed games, and their focus on Parkourish motion and exploring rooftops. They are M-rated, though, and I just don’t play M-rated games. It’s a personal choice that does cut me off from some games I suspect I’d really like, like the AC games, Mass Effect, The Secret World and BioShock, but that’s just one of my lines in the sand. It’s not a commentary on the potentially great games they are, just that there are some things I don’t want in my entertainment. Too much “coffee in the brownies”, as it were. That’s also not to denigrate any players who like those games or those developers who make them. I’m just a picky consumer.
Anyway, with the fun of Flowmotion rattling around in my head, I look at this Guild Wars 2 thing, with its respect for the Explorer mindset that I’m so deeply infused with, and, well… I kinda wish more MMOs would experiment with Parkour and new ways of getting around their game spaces. Yes, I hear TERA has some sort of climbing system, but that’s rudimentary compared to what I’m thinking about. I look at the ruins of Ascalon and think “I’d love to just climb around and go all monkeyish on it (Charrish, whatever)”. And yes, I love flying in MMOs, but climbing around like a superagile simean Spider-man is just… different. I hear City of Heroes has some pretty great movement options, too… maybe I should check those out before the game is shuttered forever.
So yes, I look at places in games and think “how can I get there?” I love Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City for the same reason; I can just go explore and climb around the place. I wish we had more of that sort of flexibility, especially in the MMO space. Developers are making these beautiful worlds… I want to go explore them.