Fool's Gold

One of the many dilemmas facing gamers with limited budgets is determining the games in which they should invest their money. Even with the widespread availability of reviews and information via the Internet, it is nonetheless always a challenge to determine which games to purchase next. Unless the player has actually played some of a game or played another game in the series, through already spending some money renting a desired game or already owning another game in the series, making a selection can be nothing short of excruciating.

One of the main problems is the general corruption of game journalism in general, the fact that money sometimes influences opinions, reviewers put their personal opinions well above their professional opinions, and that reviewers have different gold standards on what they consider perfect aspects of games, such as the gameplay. Some reviewers, for instance, might consider a game to be a gold standard, while others might consider the same game to be deeply flawed. There are also issues, as I have mentioned in previous editorials, that reviewers might not actually finish the games they review, which I acknowledge in my reviews of games that I didn't finish.

As a reviewer, I haven't played a game I would truly consider to be perfect, although there have been some instances in which I have come close. The highest score I have given to a game thus far has been a 9.5/10 to Ys: The Oath in Felghana for the PlayStation Portable, which I personally consider a gold standard of hack-and-slash gameplay and action RPGs in general. I would also consider other RPGs such as the Tales series to be gold standards in terms of gameplay, though in some instances not necessarily their other aspects such as story.

I acknowledge that others might not consider gold standards games I personally find deserving of that honor, and I will state that I am somewhat distrustful of mainstream gaming opinion, since the titles that they consider gold standards are not consistent with my personal favorite titles. For instance, many game critics consider The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to be a gold standard of action-adventure games and the Zelda series in general, although I consider the game deeply flawed, and would more consider A Link to the Past to be an action-adventure / Zelda gold standard.

That reviewers tend to pick favorites of particular series , and that each review only represents one person's opinion, further contributes to the dilemma of which games players should purchase. For instance, on GameRankings, the highest-rated installment of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy series is the ninth for the PlayStation, with 93.32%, although I personally consider the game deeply flawed, what with long loading times for battle and some issues with the story. Conversely, reviewers might pick least favorite games in particular series, regardless of mainstream opinion.

There are several solutions to the dilemma of each "official" game review representing one person's opinion. For instance, sites such as IGN and GameSpot should allow staff reviewers to post multiple "official" reviews and second and third opinions for each game reviewed, as to get a broader spectrum of opinion than represented by one individual's sole opinion. Furthermore, it is necessary for staff reviewers to acknowledge their favorite (not to mention least favorite) installments of particular series and what they consider to be gold standards of gaming, not to mention wooden spoon standards, so that mainstream gamers can get a good idea of which reviewers have tastes similar to them and thus make better buying decisions.

Mainstream game reviewers also need to acknowledge in their reviews exactly how much time they spent playing particular games for sake of honesty, since the quality of games can occasionally vary greatly depending upon what point of a game the player has reached. For instance, had I only written reviews of games based on only a few hours or so of gameplay, my reviews would be mostly positive (although there certainly are exceptions). Furthermore, certain games can have nasty difficulty curves, start our hard and become easy, start out easy but become hard, and players need to become aware of such things, and the general gameplay flaws of reviewed games.

As for which games I consider gold standards, as mentioned, I believe games such as Ys: The Oath in Felghana and the Tales games to be gold standards of action-RPG gameplay. As for turn-based gameplay and games that combine turn-based and real-time elements, I would consider titles such as Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII to be my personal gold standards of turn-based gameplay. I don't have any particular gold standards for tactical RPGs, although some of my personal favorites in this particular category include niche titles such as Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.

Conversely, there are certain titles in each subgenre I consider low points. For instance, I consider Beyond the Beyond to be a low point of turn-based RPG gameplay, Parasite Eve 2 to be a low point of action RPG gameplay, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor and the Fire Emblem series to be low points of tactical RPG gameplay.

In summation, there are many things complicating the dilemma of which games players should invest their time and money in, what with the general distrustworthiness of mainstream game journalism, the fact that different reviewers have different gold standards and non-gold standards of different game genres, and so forth. There are definitely simple solutions to the aforementioned issues, although common sense in that regard unfortunately lacks highly.

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