Friday, January 1, 2016

Retro ReCAP, Round 1 - Mass Effect Trilogy
Warning: The following presentation contains major spoilers, reader discretion is advised.

Tiger and Rabbit introduce a new mode for the new year, called Retro ReCAP. Here, the reflective pair discuss a single title and examine their first impressions, how they feel about the title now, and their personal cons and pros. In this inaugural edition of Retro ReCAP, Tiger and Rabbit examine the Mass Effect Trilogy and how their opinions have changed over time.


Tiger & Rabbit: Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

Rabbit: It's a brand new year which means we should do something new for TvR.

Tiger: What do you have in mind?

Rabbit: I think we should do reviews of video games, anime, manga, and other stuff that interests us.

Tiger: I don't do reviews.

Rabbit: Why not?

Tiger: I think you should go into a video game or other title with the mindset that you are going to write a review, that way you are really being analytical from the get go. I don't think you should just review something on a whim, you need to put deep thought into what you're doing. It's more than just an opinion when you review a game, you're basing it on past experiences, expectations, and examining the many facets of that title. It's too much work for me.

Rabbit: ^deep in thought^

Tiger: What?

Rabbit: ^crosses arms^ … there were a lot of “e” words in your statement.

Tiger: *shakes head* That's your takeaway from what I said? See this is exactly why we shouldn't do reviews.

Rabbit: How about we do something that's like a review but not a review. Like a recap!

Tiger: And we do what exactly?

Rabbit: We reminisce about the title but this isn't going to be just any old recap, this will be a retro recap!

Tiger: You know that's redundant, right?

Rabbit: We'll talk only about titles that we've played or watched multiple times. We can discuss our initial first impressions, how our opinions have changed over time, and list our pros and cons.

Tiger: But just to clarify, we won't be making a grand declaration of our like or dislike of a title with a score? I don't do scores.

Rabbit: Just our personal pros and cons.

Tiger: Okay, I think I can get on board with this. Retrospectives could be fun.

Rabbit: ^throws hands in air^ I got it, we'll do a reCAP!

Tiger: I thought we already established this.

Rabbit: No, don't you see? ^writes on paper^ We'll call it a reCAP because we're focusing on our Cons And Pros! Get it?

Tiger: Omae wa baka.

Rabbit: That's rude! I think that I should get to name the segment since I came up with the idea.

Tiger: Fine, fine, you win.

Rabbit: Woohoo!

Tiger: So, what's our first topic going to be?

Rabbit: The Mass Effect Trilogy!

Tiger: Wait, I thought we were only going to focus on one title at a time.

Rabbit: Well, we wouldn't talk about one episode of an anime series so I figured we shouldn't break up Mass Effect since it's almost like one gigantic game with three episodes.

Tiger: Does that mean we're going to talk about all three Uncharted games together? What about Golden Abyss? Or how about the Yakuza series? That one doesn't seem like it would be easy to discuss at once. What will you do with the Dragon Age series, are you going to treat that as one big game? Then there's manga like Rurouni Kenshin which is pretty long and has clearly defined story arcs, that could get out of hand.

Rabbit: Eh... I haven't thought that far out. Why don't we just keep an open-mind, remain flexible, and adapt as the situation dictates.

Tiger: You mean we'll just wing it.

Rabbit: ^giggles^

Tiger: I think we should preface our ME talk by stating that we played Mass Effect 2 first since the original game was Xbox 360 exclusive at the time.

Rabbit: I'm still surprised that your OCD allowed you to do that.

Tiger: It was tough and I felt like I was watching a movie after it was half over. I guess that validates your idea that all three games are really just one long journey.

Rabbit: See, I know what I'm doing here.

Tiger: At least that makes one of us. We've collectively played through all three games at least four times.

Rabbit: Each time playing a different kind of Shepard, romancing different characters, and making different choices than the time before.

Tiger: I think we should state that our canon Shepard was raised on Earth, was the sole survivor on Akuze, and is paragon.

Rabbit: Tali OTP!

Tiger: ME is just one big otome game to you, isn't it?

Rabbit: ^grins^ We've also done full renegade playthroughs or mixed it up and went fifty-fifty. We always play as a male Shepard though.

Tiger: I find the male romance characters to be pretty dry and boring. I'd rather play a male Shepard and make him my ideal guy and then romance a female character who is nothing like me.

Rabbit: That's not a very good fantasy. I personally would ship a MaleShep+Garrus romance option.

Tiger: You are strange. I wish Grunt were an option for FemShep. Or Legion.

Rabbit: And you think my romance choices are strange?

Tiger: Point of order, I'm just saying I would like that in-game, it's not like I have some strange fantasy where I have a robot lover who totally dotes on me, can be programmed to only care about my needs, and would also be immortal. I mean, c'mon, that's just weird.

Rabbit: You dug your own hole with that one. Now Miranda was an interesting choice, she-

Tiger: Maybe we should focus on what Retro ReCAP is supposed to really be and talk about our first impressions.

Rabbit: Oh, good idea. I have to say that the first Mass Effect was unlike anything I've played up to that point. We've had games based in space before but I really felt like it was a mixture of Gundam meets Star Trek.

Tiger: I definitely agree with you on the vibe. I've always loved space operas like Seikai Trilogy with its complex characters who fight in massive space battles. Mass Effect captured that well. No matter which Shepard you play, the adventure that you go on is entertaining from the start. There's space politics to deal with, a rogue agent trying to build an army, and an ancient enemy who everyone believes is a myth.

Rabbit: As Shepard, you don't really know what your involvement is until you receive a vision from an ancient artifact.

Tiger: And like every good hero, you make it your sole mission to save the galaxy. I have to admit, I hated the gameplay in the first ME. The controls were clunky and there was just too much going on with the guns and mods. If it wasn't for the story, I probably would've never beaten it.

Rabbit: I think the colorful supporting cast really made the game for me. They all had distinct personalities and you actually influenced them throughout the game. Like with Garrus and the choice to harden or soften him during his loyalty mission.

Tiger: The stupid Mako though, those missions were the worst.

Rabbit: I liked the Mako, I even have a “see the moon in a Mako” poster in my room from Monkey Minion.

Tiger: The game would be so much better without the vehicle based missions. The save feature is a bear too, always having to wait for it to actually save before you can do anything.

Rabbit: It was hard replaying ME1 as well. Again, it has a great story but losing all the little things that were fixed with the sequels, like the cover system and loading, was hard to deal with.

Tiger: Not having a decent cover system was a nightmare when I played it on the hardest difficulty. I ended up just running around the level, trying not to die. I don't think I'll ever play ME1 again. I'd rather just go through the comic opener in ME2 to determine all of the choices.

Rabbit: You miss so many of the little references when you do that though. I really enjoyed seeing side characters from the previous games show up again. Overall, I think ME1 is a great story wrapped in bad gameplay mechanics. Luckily with ME2, BioWare seemingly fixed all of that.
Tiger: Going back to ME2 after playing through the first game made so much more sense, I actually understood the story more. You're right about the gameplay, ME2 is a totally different beast when it comes to actual combat. Ironically, I really disliked the characters initially but after playing through ME3 and going back through the trilogy again, I found that ME2 was my favorite game.

Rabbit: Why is that?

Tiger: The pacing of ME2's story is top tier. Even replaying it for the fourth time, I could feel the buildup as you hunt for the Collectors and prepare to jump through the Omega 4 Relay. I also really enjoyed working for Cerberus and the different treatment you got from old allies. Plus, the characters are all so cool. Miranda, Jack, Samara, Mordin, and then you have expanded roles for Garrus and Tali... it's just great.

Rabbit: I actually disliked the new additions. It felt like they replaced everyone with new actors and just expected you to like them. I also disliked having to scan every freaking planet for different materials. That got tedious quickly.

Tiger: It was rough if you didn't import an ME1 save, which gave you bonuses.

Rabbit: I don't know, I really didn't like being with Cerberus, especially after finding out what they were capable of in the first game.

Tiger: You do have the “I'm not with Cerberus, I'm just here because they resurrected me” line of dialogue to chose from.

Rabbit: Which I chose, often. Still, it didn't feel right not being with the Alliance anymore. I didn't like the whole Collector storyline either, I wanted to fight the Reapers but they were pushed into the background somewhat.

Tiger: Well, they did have to save something for ME3. Speaking of 3, man, my first impressions of that game were not good.

Rabbit: The whole fiasco about the ending was nuts. We didn't play that game right away either, partially because of all the negativity surrounding the game.

Tiger: Yes, I wanted to form my own thoughts on the game so I waited a bit to play it and I didn't really like what I saw. The gameplay was great, actually improved on ME2, but for me the story was not well done. I knew the Reapers were going to come and all the major civilizations were going to get attacked but the way it unfolded felt disjointed.

Rabbit: I enjoyed the experience. I wasn't sure what to think of the ending but I couldn't think of a better way to end it. I did enjoy having a last hurrah with all of my favorite sidekicks. There were a lot of nice throwbacks that fans who played the previous games could appreciate.

Tiger: They killed almost everyone from ME2 though! That bothered me.

Rabbit: I think you needed to have some of them die to add weight to the story. It's like TV shows, I hate when they threaten a character with death only to save him at the end. These NPCs who have grown to be your friends over the course of three games matter, so when they did die, it made a huge impact on the overall tone of the game.

Tiger: Wow, you wishing for people to die; you sound like me. I thought Miranda's death was poorly done, there wasn't much of an emotional pull for me. We all knew Thane was going to die but the manner in which he met his demise did tug at the heartstrings.

Rabbit: Mordin's death was so sad. Especially when he said he wished he could study the seashells.

Tiger: Legion really got to me though I've always been a fan of his.

Rabbit: What did you think of the endings?

Tiger: Synthesis is stupid! Absolutely stupid. I find it funny that the Illusive Man's wish turned out to be the paragon choice in a sense. I mean, you become a Reaper, how cool is that. I didn't like destroying them since it meant that EDI would have been killed in the process too. Plus, the idea that Shepard can survive feels wrong. He needed to die. I felt the same way about the Hero of Ferelden in Dragon Age: Origins. It just felt to unrealistic for Shepard to live, he needed to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Rabbit: I didn't mind the synthesis ending but I agree with you about destroying the Reapers, I wouldn't want to get rid of all technology.

Tiger: I wish they had a “major look!” ending where you push the button and nothing happens. Oops, there's just no stopping the Reapers.

Rabbit: That would have been a terrible ending!

Tiger: I do prefer the vanilla endings to the DLC that BioWare was forced to create by the fanbase. So what that everything wasn't wrapped up in a nice little bow, sometimes you won't always know the exact ending. Heck, I prefer vague endings anyway, I like the ability to put my own interpretation on things.

Rabbit: I wasn't a huge fan of any of the DLC. It wasn't bad but I felt like it didn't add too much to the story. Except maybe Leviathan, I felt that it explained some of the origins of the Reapers. And of course the Citadel DLC is awesome.

Tiger: I've been generally pleased with all the ME DLC. I enjoyed the additional characters in ME2 and felt that the story content was strong with Arrival and Overlord. So I was happy with what we got for ME3.

Rabbit: I did feel like it was a downgrade when ME3 didn't offer as many companions as ME2 did. Yes, I loved having Liara and Ashley/Kaidan back and it wouldn't be an ME game without Tali and Garrus but only adding James and EDI made it feel a little sparse.

Tiger: I'd rather have old characters return than a bunch of new ones though. It was the third and final game of the trilogy, not really time to add a bunch of new faces into the mix. Javik was kind of interesting but I never used him much. Speaking of new characters, I enjoyed Traynor a lot.

Rabbit: She was pretty funny and not as creepy as Kelly from ME2.

Tiger: We haven't even touched the multiplayer.

Rabbit: I never played it much but I can say it was pretty fun when I did. I liked the chance to experiment with the different abilities too since you can't change Shepard's class once you start the game.
Tiger: Okay, I think we've rambled on long enough. We've talked about our first impressions but how have your opinions changed now that we've played all three games a few times.

Rabbit: Personally, I still find the first Mass Effect worth playing even with its quirks. It's the beginning of this entire journey and even though it's a pain to play at times, I still think it's worth the effort if you haven't before. For ME2, I was pretty high on this game when it first came out but it's slowly become my least favorite in the series. I didn't get as attached to the characters like I did in ME1, it was strange working for Cerberus, and I didn't like the Collectors as an enemy. Plus, with so many people in peril, you sure had a lot of random sidequests going on. I felt ME3 had the tightest narrative pacing. From the very first moment you take control of Shepard to the final minute, it always felt like you were moving forward towards your goal of saving the galaxy. I also loved feeling like I was back home on the Normandy and surrounded by my best friends. And no matter which ending you chose, ME3 was a great way to say goodbye to the crew of the Normandy and everyone you've met along the way.

Tiger: I'm on the opposite spectrum when it comes to ME. I don't think it's worth playing again and I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't played it at all. Graphically, it isn't on par with ME2 or ME3 and the gameplay is terrible. Yes, the story matters but the comic intro for ME2 fills in a lot of the gaps. You kind of miss some great moments with Ashley/Kaidan and Liara but they aren't even in freaking ME2 that much. For me, Mass Effect 2 is the Godfather 2 of games. It is the best, it improves on everything. The graphics are cleaner, the gameplay is smooth, the story is more cohesive, the characters have depth, and the pacing is awesome. Yes, there are sidequests that take you all over but if you take too long before you jump through the Omega 4 Relay, people could die. People you know could die. And that final boss, oh man, ME2 is my favorite of the series. While I didn't like ME3 the first time I played it, it has since grown on me. I found that the story and pacing aren't that bad and you're right about the last hurrah with your best buds feeling. Citadel is totally worth playing through a few times and I was content with the vanilla endings. Overall, there's nothing quite like the Mass Effect Trilogy. If you're a sci-fi fan or an RPG fan and haven't touched these games, you really should get on it.

Rabbit: Well, I think this was a fun Retro ReCAP! I like this segment already.

Tiger: We should try and stay on track a little more next time and maybe get into the meat a little more.

Rabbit: Just remain flexible and adapt to the situation.

Tiger: Yeah, yeah, I know, just wing it.

Mass Effect Trilogy ReCAP

 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Poor controls of Mass Effect 1
 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Mass Effect 1's long load and save times
 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Mass Effect 3's DLC endings were unnecessary

 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png Mass Effect 1 is diminished when compared to sequels
 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png New characters in Mass Effect 2 weren't compelling
 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png Mass Effect 2's pacing felt disjointed

 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Depth of Mass Effect 2's characters
 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Cover system and tighter controls of Mass Effect 2
 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Mass Effect 2's graphics upgrade

 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png Mass Effect 1's initial levels set the tone for entire series
 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png Mass Effect 3's pacing was the best of the series
 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png The Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 was a great way to say goodbye

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