Yesterday my brother let me come over to do some (free!) laundry. So in the midst of suds and folding I checked out a couple of demos on his 360.
Beautiful Katamari was first. I really like the controller for the 360 and think it’s a vast improvement over both controller models for the original Xbox. But in the context of Katamari, it was a bit awkward to play on a controller where the analog sticks aren’t side by side. I realize I’m being picky—it’s something I’m sure most people won’t have any problems with.
It was also disappointing to see that in Katamari’s third console incarnation that the camera is still wonky. And even though the graphics are bit brighter and a bit shinier, Beautiful Katamari is the same game as the first two. I don’t think online capabilities will do much in revolutionizing the formula either. It’s sure to be some fun, but there’s no way I’d shell out sixty bucks to play a game I essentially already own.
The demo I was truly excited to play was Eternal Sonata. This is the game I’d own a 360 for. Made by Tri-Crescendo (one of the two companies behind the Baten Kaitos games), I expect a ton out of it and its original premise of Chopin having delirious deathbed dreams. It. Is. Gorgeous. The visuals are dreamy and colorful. The music swirls and bends. The battles are fast-paced and genuinely fun. You only have a specific amount of time for your turn, so it’s similar to the Baten Kaitos series except it doesn’t feature cards. (People interested in the game probably already know about the light/dark features of battles as well.)
Yet I was crushed by what I gleaned from the gender roles of Eternal Sonata. The demo features no story, but it’s easy to tell what the prescribed roles are for the three characters that you control. The leader of the group is Allegretto, a pretty boy with a sword. We then have Polka, our cute and weak heroine who heals and whacks foes with an umbrella. Finally, there’s Beat, an eager and adorable young boy with an oversized gun. I love me my JRPGs and am not surprised with the common gender clichés that are often presented. But seriously, I’d like to see more. That said, I don’t know if there will be other characters that might push the gender envelope, but as of this moment, I’m doubting it.
After playing the Eternal Sonata demo, I’m left having to make a compromise that I always have to make. I know that when I do get a 360 down the line, I’ll most likely pick this game up. It has so much else going for it that I know I’ll enjoy, but I’m going to have to end up pushing the gender issues present in the game to the back of my mind. This has happened before with games that I’ve particularly enjoyed--Dragon Quest 8 and Tales of Symphonia, I’m looking at you.
While it’s true that I’m fully capable of enjoying a game despite problematic gender presentations, I’m tired of having to make so many compromises. And I know that I’m not alone—other gamers that are queer, identify as female and aren’t white often have to make the same type of aggravating decision when it comes to choosing a game to play.