In Defense of Idea Factory
“Idea Factory’s reputation is starting to become well known, and since this column already covered one IF game it may seem like bullying to highlight another one.”
Yeah, it does.
The following quote comes from Hardcore Gaming 101‘s “Weekly Kusoge” (Shit Game) section, where they recently decided to feature Spectral Force: Genesis. Lets make no mistake here, that game is not exactly “good” but shit?! That’s a bit of a stretch. I bring this up not because of the game in question though, but because of HG101’s history with Idea Factory.
You see, for a while we saw Idea Factory games see occasional U.S. releases and no one batted an eye. They were rough, but they had their fans. However, then HG101 ran an article claiming that Idea Factory was infamous for making bad games and that they’re known in Japan as “Idea Fuck”. This was the first I had ever heard of this, but it would not be the last.
Skip ahead about a month after this. There was an Idea Factory game coming out that I was interested in and I mentioned it to a friend of mine. His response? “Oh no, not Idea Fuck! Dude all their games suck!” This person had never played an Idea Factory game in his entire life and had no frame of reference. But now “Idea Fuck” was well known! No one is supposed to play an “Idea Fuck” game!
Worse still, the guy had never read HG101’s article on it. He heard the term from a podcast.
A while later I was talking to a different friend and the term popped up again. “Oh no! Not Idea Fuck!”. Later I saw it on a message board, and then again, and again! Now it seems nearly inescapable!
Indeed, Idea Factory’s reputation is starting to become well known…and it does seem like bullying.
Spectral Force: Genesis being called a “kusoge” though is just sad, as is the write-up for it. I’ll be blunt, the game is very flawed but it still has bright spots. Something an astute reader can actually tell from the text as the writer fails to properly convey any sort of major issue but rather just a bunch of decent complaints.
There are two lines of outright hyperbole that bother me though:
“Spectral Force Genesis is on its own unsalvageable level of trash even when compared to other IF games.”
Err…I think I could salvage it with one minor tweak. One so minor you might be able to hack it in with a GameShark/Code Breaker/Action Replay.
“Battles between armies are nearly unplayable.”
Really? Because all I had to do was draw a line from one group to another. Didn’t seem that hard to me. In fact, I found the game to disappointingly be a cake walk!
If you’d like me to explain, Spectral Force: Genesis is a world conquest sim on the Nintendo DS, similar in many ways to Dragon Force. You pick one of 40 different nations and try to rule it while conquering the rest. Combat involves up to 3 units of tiny sprite-based soldiers (similar to Dragon Force again) with one of three unit types that are strong and weak against one another Rock-Paper-Scissors-style. Units are controlled via the touch screen where you draw a line for the path you want that unit to take and when it encounters an enemy unit they fight. Meanwhile the top screen shows a dynamic 3D view of the brawling 2D sprites.
It’s pretty easy to see why I like this. It’s like Dragon Force but portable and a little different. Also, there’s nothing else like it on DS. Shoot, games like this are rare in America in general!
Having said that, the complaints the HG101 writer brings up are true. Using specials can potentially be a bad idea because time does not stop (use them at range/the beginning of the fight) and units get caught on one another (though only briefly). Also getting the good ending does require too much guess work. But really these are just rough edges in my estimation.
The big issue, and the one thing that needs to be changed, is the random schedule. For reasons beyond human comprehension, what you and every other country gets to do that turn is decided randomly ahead of time. You can only Battle on Battle turns, you can only fortify defenses on Build turns, you can only get more troops on Financial turns. This removes a lot of the strategy, tension, and challenge. You never have to worry about the enemy hammering you with attacks because you’ll rarely see two Battle turns in a row! That means you can completely refill your forces before every encounter. So just make units that contain all 3 troop types, keep your forces stocked, and fortify the perimeter. Easy win, no problems at all.
So, all you have to do to “salvage” the game and turn it from “sub-par” to “rough but pretty good” is let the player choose what action they want to take every turn. That’s it! All you have to do to make the game better!
This is why they’re called “Idea Fuck”! Not because they make crap games (not exactly anyway), but because they have great creative and fun ideas…and then they fuck them up in some utterly baffling way! In this case: Why would you ever make what you can do every turn into something completely random?!
I would also like to say that we keep getting the wrong Idea Factory games. For some reason they keep sending us the bland turn-based grid-based FFTactics-esque strategy games rather than the World Conquest Sims! Seriously, Idea Factory makes a ton of those and we rarely see any! All we got in the genre from them are Spectral Force: Genesis and Generations of Chaos (which I am poking at on Android)! I wanna see more of that stuff! I got a cheap Korean copy of Mists of Chaos and lemme tell you that thing looks fascinating. We’re talking little girls in penguin suits buying weapons from bunnygirl maids while commanding armies of giant enemy crabs! Now THAT is what I’m talking about!
*ahem* Still, I hope this clarifies something: Why Idea Factory has fans/is still in business. Yes, there are fans of the company and despite being burned by a number of their games, I can still see why: Their games are unusual, adventurous, and packed with content. Yes, they are often rough and have some stupid glaring game design flaw that will make you scream “WHY?!”, but they have a certain charm to them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play Black Stone: Magic & Steel again and see what I think of it these days. I can’t exactly remember why I quit. Something about a big stupid tower level early on…