Why I’m not enjoying Summon Night 5

I’m not just “not enjoying” Summon Night 5, I’ve put it on hold. Not dropped it, just shelved for a bit while I try to sort out my feelings. I haven’t played that much more Summon Night 5 since my last post on it, just about three or four more chapters? I’m at Chapter 6 or 7 or wherever it is that Ruelly turns into a bunny girl for no good reason. I wouldn’t even have made it that far if Stella Glow hadn’t reminded me how much I love SRPGs. And then I went back to SN5 and it reminded me anew how much I don’t like SN5. Why not? Well I gave it some thought and came up with two possible reasons.

Reason one: It’s not the Summon Night I’m used to

I’ve played the first four games in the Summon Night series and they all share a common aesthetic and the same basic gameplay. If you go back and read my posts about them, they’re actually fairly critical. Those games aren’t paragons of virtue or anything close to masterpieces, but they’re fun and very playable. And over the course of playing them I’ve come to expect Summon Night games to look and feel a certain way. Using a larger number of units, using various summon units, weapons, equipment, shopping, discovering new summons, and on and on.

So when you take an unrelated SRPG, put some summons into it and call it Summon Night out of nowhere, it’s like rghh nnnrgghh nooOOO. Worse than that, it’s downright creepy. It’s like some shambling monster slit Summon Night‘s throat and is wearing its skin with a grin. Who are you and what have you done with my Summon Night?!!!

Reason two: I don’t like Arca

Do I have a choice in the matter, Arca?

She’s too much of a bright-eyed know-it-all. Oh so clever, oh so popular, oh so earnest, oh so pretty, everybody likes her and the ones that don’t are flat out wrong and are going to learn to like her pronto. You hear that, Souken and Yeng Hua? And of course she’s a starry-eyed idealist and her view is the right view and everyone else is wrong blah blah.

Again back to the shared features of Summon Night games, they usually have a well-meaning, rather clueless protagonist who learns a lot and develops a worldview and philosophy over the course of the game. Sometimes it’s an unconvincing philosophy (SN3), sometimes it’s downright regressive (SN4) and sometimes it’s the usual “I want to protect my friends” stuff every JRPG does.

But even if you don’t agree with it, it’s still something you both came up with – you the gamer and the protagonist whose hands you held throughout the game. That makes it a lot easier to accept than Arca’s wholesale prefab do-gooder attitude. Just thinking of how hard I had to work to get my student and the guardians to accept me in SN3 makes me shake my head at Arca’s legions of adoring fans and buddies.

You could look on the bright side and see it as a fresh spin on the usual affair. And one can always hope that something would shake Arca free of her “Helping others is always the right thing to do regardless of the situation or your stated duty” belief. That would be nice. Really nice. Especially if someone gets killed because she was off being a Girl Scout somewhere. Doubly-especially if that someone is Arca and the game ends right there.

Any hope?

The gameplay thing is flexible. I’ve played and enjoyed SN spin-offs like Tears Crown and Swordcraft Story, so it’s not a complete dealbreaker. Realistically speaking, Flight-Plan is gone and never coming back so we have to make the most of what we have left. …Or not. I could just walk away and not look back. I’m leaning in that direction right now. I already started something new on the PSP (Nayuta no Kiseki, loving it the way I never thought I could love a Falcom game) and the SRPG hole in my heart will be filled by Stella Glow this weekend. But! As I’ve said before, it’s “complicated” between me and Summon Night games so don’t be surprised if I post a completion report someday soon.

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