So last night, I got the true ending in Chie’s story mode in Persona 4 Arena.
For those unfamiliar with the game, P4A has quite the complicated unlock system for the story mode. At first, you can only play as the first four members of the Persona 4 team AND you can only play their stories partway. Then you can play the rest of the P4 characters’ stories part-way. Then you can play the 3 main Persona 3 characters’ stories part-way. Then you can play Labrys’s story completely. Then you can play the concluding half of some of the Persona 3 characters’ stories. Then you can play the rest of the characters’ stories to completion. And then finally, after you’ve completed several of the other characters, it unlocks Elizabeth’s story.
Now each of the stories has its own unique perspective on the events that take place in Persona 4 Arena, with some of the stories having more variety than others (Labrys’s story in particular is very different) but even so, there’s a LOT of repetition. The dramatic events in the game start to lose their effect after the third or fourth time you’ve seen them. I can’t help but think that the game would have been improved drastically by just having one story mode that covered everything and has the player jump between controlling various characters rather than split the story off into 12 separate modes like they did.
This got me thinking about our own games. In one of our games, we have a dungeon that is split up into two parts – past and present. Your party gets split up between the two time periods & you have to go through the dungeon as each group. Your active party, the visuals, and the boss are different for each time period, but otherwise you’re going through the same stuff. Many people complained that they felt it was repetitive and I can’t really blame them. If I was to do it again, I would add more unique gameplay features to each time zone and otherwise reduce the amount of time you spent repeating content (there should have been fewer enemies for one thing).
That’s not to say that modified repetition can’t be done well. I especially enjoyed how it was handled in one scenario in the Sega CD version of Lunar: Eternal Blue (in one of the few areas I feel like the Sega CD version is superior). There’s a dungeon that you go through that’s pretty easy but it’s got a twist. At the “end” of the dungeon, the main character gets separated from the rest of his party, teams up with a new character and has to fight another copy of the boss. The exact same enemy that was so easy the first time turns into quite the different experience the second time.
However, the best series for modified repetition in my mind is the Siren series, especially the original game. There are about 15 areas in the game and most of them are revisited multiple times. However, it does a great job at keeping each area feeling fresh – different goals, different playable characters, different weapons (or lack thereof), different enemies, different story, different points in time in the narrative. In a few instances, the area itself will even be modified to show how the town is being corrupted. Rather than feeling cheap or repetitive, the reuse of the same areas actually improves the game as the player looks forward to seeing how the same areas will be used in drastically different ways later on. Plus, it makes the gameplay more manageable for the player – sure, they give you more difficult things to do later in the game, but by then you should have the advantage of some familiarity with the areas.
If we try to do something like this again, we’ll definitely try to make it turn out more like how Siren did things and less like repetition for the sake of padding. 🙂