Archived Story

Joystick: Achievements for the patient gamer

Published 11:03am Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trophies and achievements inspire a sickening Pavlovian response in many console gamers, myself included. They’re a cheap way to garner and keep interest in even the shoddiest of games, and sometimes they’re downright cruel. The trophies for “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes” are no exception.

I have long thought about tackling the trophies in this 2010 hack-and-slash game. Set in a fictionalized 16th century Japan, you play as one of 16 characters with wildly outlandish, anachronistic personalities and skills trying to unify the country through civil war. From a giant robot to a dancing idol, a rough mercenary brandishing machine guns and rocket launchers to a punk rock, one-eyed samurai who’s practically a gangster, you must conquer your foes and defeat all before you, culminating in a fictionalized version of the real-life battle of Sekigahara.

In other words, this game is silly, escapist fun.

What’s not so fun is the trophies used to keep your interest in hack-and-slash games like this. SenBasa, as its fans call the series, plays similarly to the “Dynasty Warriors” games but feels a little more methodical and deliberate in its mechanics, and definitely not as fast. This makes meeting certain trophy requirements a hassle.

Try to win a battle without taking damage? Sounds good, if you only play one particular stage. The same goes for playing a battle only using your special Limit Break-type move over and over again.

Beat the game with all characters? Sounds easy enough. Each character goes through about five to 10 battles in their campaign mode, so the game shouldn’t take too long. But wait! Each character also has branching story paths, resulting in up to five endings for any given protagonist. If every stage takes about 15 to 25 minutes to complete, then earning the 100 percent Campaign Mode trophy will take you a long time.

Oh, but don’t worry, there’s a trophy in “SenBasa: SH” for playing for more than 100 hours.

To say this game has ridiculous trophies is an understatement, but gamers have long complained about the unfair, subjective nature of trophies and achievements, and the jury is still out on whether having such milestones fundamentally changes the way a game is played.

But that’s beside the point when you have a game like “SenBasa: SH.” It is long and grueling, and only the most dedicated players will ever get all of its trophies.

That’s the challenge to it, and it’s borderline absurd challenges like this that make many players consistently retry games over again, hoping to accomplish something that seems cool and might be worth bragging about to another gamer.

Case in point: As of this column, I had played “SenBasa: SH” for about 94 hours. I’m still less than halfway through every character’s story mode paths. I have a long way to go, and the completionist in me just died a little inside.

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