Gaming My Way

17 Jul

The Use of Mini-Games

I have a love-hate relationship with mini-games. I’ve played some really well done mini-games, such as Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball, and some awful ones, such as the push-up mini game in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series or the Chao races in the Sonic Adventure line.

However, whether a game has amazing or terrible mini-games, how they’re incorporated can really make or break the main game.

For instance, in Sonic Adventure, the Chao games don’t get you anything more than some cool toys in the Chao Garden, and possibly an emblem or two. It’s isolated from the rest of the game, and not a big deal whether you play it or not. In short, you play it if you like it, otherwise you leave it be.

Not so in Sonic Adventure 2. In this game, in order to unlock one of the coolest features, the 3d remake of Green Hill Zone, you must play this insufferable mini-game over and over, and grind out stat boost’s in the normal levels of the game, to make your Chao good enough to win a variety of races that are based mainly on your Chao’s “level” in varying attributes. This is to say, the races have very little skill, other than timing some boosts. What’s more, no matter how good they get, it seems they still love to randomly trip, giving your opponents in the race the lead and costing you the race. But if you want to play the awesome level, you have to suffer through it and get the emblems. I know the Green Hill Zone is a very small part of the game, but come on, with so much other awesome stuff in the game, Chao aside, why would you keep this from us until we do these irritating games over and over?

In the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja line, it seems as though they really started wanting me to play the mini-games in the 3rd installment. The mini-games are incorporated into one of the story modes, and after that, in order to do all the missions, you’ll have to replay those mini-games multiple times as well. And most of them are irritating or pointless too! I don’t want to keep tapping X over and over again, or dodge trees I can’t see until they’re right in front of me. I wouldn’t mind if they made me play each game once to get through the main game and missions, but if you want to do that, you’ll play them all multiple times. Not good, especially when they aren’t that fun.

Finally, we have the best for last, Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball, a game I’m just recently growing to love as I work to unlock Wakka’s overdrives and ultimate weapon. Yes, I took a long break from this game once I finished the main storyline. I do extras once I’m drawn to go back to them. Anyway, back to the point, Blitzball is an amazing mini-game with a lot of detail put into it. Different characters are good at different things, everyone has unique stats over the levels to differentiate them, you can hire and fire members of your team, there’s a large number of special moves you can use, and it’s all wrapped up in a pretty rpg sports game.

Implementation is where it suffers a little though. I’ve already played out well over 25 games, and I’m still just almost to the point of getting Wakka’s third overdrive. Then I’ll have to play games waiting for his fourth to show up as a league or tournament prize, then play through those league or tournament games, then I’ll have to repeat that process for the final item I need to unlock his best weapon. I’m looking at 40-50 games played or more before I have all his stuff. While this isn’t too bad, since Blitzball is fun, it’s still more games of Blitzball than I really want to play.

Now, from all of these examples, it’s time to flat out say my piece about mini-games. It’s ok to integrate a mini-game into the main game a little bit: playing it once or twice to advance the plot or unlock something that significantly effects gameplay is a good way to introduce the mini-game to your players. Having them play that same game many times over in order to unlock something really cool or that has a major impact on the game is just irritating though. If the mini-game is fun and well-made, this irritation can be greatly reduced, but the mini-game is still not the game you always want to be playing. Rewards that have an impact on the main game ought to be delivered through playing the main game. Or perhaps playing a mini-game a couple of times, not many times over.

In this regard, out of the games I talked about, I think the original Sonic Adventure actually has the best implementation of a mini-game. Things you do in the main game can affect your success in the mini-game, but your success with the mini-game doesn’t translate into your success of the main game in any real way. The mini-game itself is actually pretty bad though.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a very fun mini-game, look no further than Blitzball. Unfortunately, your success in Blitzball is linked a bit too strongly to the power of one of your characters in the main game of Final Fantasy X.

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