It's interesting how we change as people, as entities, as time marches on. The world and universe are in an eternal state of flux, everything moves on without us, and we're pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So it's always interesting to revisit things we experienced ages ago but haven't really touched in a good while, like certain foods, vidya gaems, films, books, sex positions, etc. Thus I arrived at the conclusion to play Sirrento Hirru: Oranges again, for the first time since its release about eight years ago.
I mean sure, I actually did play it again after that, but only for like five minutes at some point, so for all intents and purposes, this was a fresh playthrough for me. I was still familiar with characters and plot events, but so much of it was fairly fresh to me, such as the actual layouts of the maps and where I needed to go, the solutions to the puzzles... And this time I was gonna do it all without a guide (first time around I used a guide for a couple of the puzzles.) Surely this will be fun, right? See how I can handle this game and how I feel about it after I finish it. See if my thoughts and opinions change on it at all.
Well, here goes my stream of consciousness rambling about this game.
I recall thoroughly enjoying this game way back when at release. The real world atmosphere of my small breezy town certainly helped immerse me in the game originally. Sun was goin' down much earlier in the day, it was cold outside, dark and with beautiful downbeat skies. The perfect weather for me and the perfect weather to trawl through a SH game, playing it on your PSP in your bedroom in the dark with earbuds.
I knew the game wasn't perfect but I reckon I would've rated it fairly highly back then. In fact, I looked up my ancient Gamespot user review where I apparently gave the game a whopping 9 out of 10. How easy to please I was back then. The cool thing is, my recent runthrough was done on a PSP emulator called PPSSPP, which is great, because Oranges is the one game out of hundreds that never got fixed up so well. There are annoying graphical glitches such as the flashlight rarely working the way it's supposed to, random flickering textures, framebuffer rendering issues where the text is rendered too big all the time which cuts some of it off as well as lots of polygons and sectors of the screen sometimes not being drawn, and the occasional slowdown when the flashlight is on. But I was advised the game would be "beatable", and yes it is since I did beat it, but I would've had a much easier time if it weren't for those aforementioned issues.
Houston, We've Got Problems
Anyway, this game hasn't aged so well for me. The graphics, I'll accept them for what they were back then. They hold up well enough. The monster design however, is really uninspired. Certainly much better than what we were originally gonna get, but still not really evocative or thought-provoking like prior installments. I mean seriously, you have an entire boss battle with the Caliban, and then immediately after it becomes a recurring enemy in the streets? Whose idea was that? Then there's that roadkill monster which was already annoying with his bullshit "hey imma leap across da whole screen in less than a nanosecond" attacks, so they just triple his size and call it a new monster as well? Aside from that, the combat is annoying.
Sometimes my melee strikes wouldn't connect, or I'd get ganged up on by enemies. It made combat a chore. It got to the point where I figured out "combos" that combined gunshots and melee hits to take care of most enemies. Travis' control is also a hindrance. He runs terribly slow even for SH protagonist standards, and gets tired way too easily. There's not enough energy drinks in the game to accommodate his lack of cardio. This is compounded by the horrible camera system. You don't have much control over the camera besides a single button that's supposed to "focus" the camera, but all it does is reset it to a position it feels like setting it to. If you're running and the fixed camera angle changes, you'll often end up rapidly switching between the same two camera angles thanks to the garbage tank controls. This has caused me to lose both health due to random attacks from enemies I couldn't properly dodge as well as situational awareness thanks to a shoddy camera.
I was so-so with the idea of breakable weapons. On one hand, it means you'll virtually never run out of means to defend yourself, but on the other hand, so many of the weapons are weak pieces of shit that many of them become irrelevant, wasting space in your inventory (you can't drop items so gg) until the latter portion of the game where you start picking up spears and pitchforks. By the time I got that far, I was spamming bullets anyway, so it was moot for me.
Tuck Me In And Tell Me Stories
The overall gameplay-story structure was like the old games -- run around, solve puzzles and pick up plot items to advance the plot, dodge a monster here and there, absorb atmospheric symbolism, etc. It was decent. The plot however was not this game's strong suit. Many have said this and agreed that the game would've been much better had it simply been about Travis and his own backstory, without the pointless Alessa drivel thrown in. We didn't need to see or hear about Alessa in this game. Travis -- all things considered -- has a cool backstory and a really dark potential parallel side of his character that very few picked up on. Unfortunately, it doesn't get fully explored because of the path the devs went down.
In fact, this game could've turned out a lot worse than it did. Just peep this tidbit from the game's wiki page:
Issues with the game's engine and "a confused high-level vision for the game" led to the production of the game being transferred from the team in the United States to another studio in the United Kingdom, to ensure the final product would be "a tighter, more focused game that will provide fans with the experience they want... a Silent Hill experience"; the release date was also pushed forward from winter 2006 to Q3/4 2007. The version of Origins that the United Kingdom development team received was intended to be a dark comedy inspired by the American television series Scrubs. Konami allowed the team to change the game, provided that the changes were done within the same budget and time frame; Origins 's script, level design, and monsters were redone within a week by Sam Barlow.
I just won't even comment on the red bolded part. That's up there with the DBZ battle over Toluca Lake from early HC. Thank you based Climax UK. Impressive what they managed to accomplish in only a year.
What Measure Is A Progression?
I did find some things a bit odd. Like how after Travis finishes up in the hospital, he finds a ticket on the ground to go to the theater, and then he just decides to go there. I mean I totally understand why he'd go there, by this point he's in tune with how fucked things are and he'd probably guess he's meant to go there since a ticket just randomly manifested in the hospital lobby like that... But the way it happens is just so cobbled together. They could've shown Alessa giving him the ticket, or him waking up in the lobby and finding it in his jacket pocket or something. A minor nitpick, but stuff like this happens elsewhere as well in the game.
When it comes to characters and their...characterization and portrayals, I had no issues with these as well. Everybody is totally in tune with how they were in the first game. People said Lisa and Kauffman were "out of character", same with Alessa. I think that's all bunk. Lisa *did* act flirty in the first game with Harry, what with all the hugging and clutching him and acting so needy with him. We know that she died via drug overdose and most likely it was the White Claudia drug, which we see in Origins (I think Travis assumes it just coke when it comes across it) when she's seen post-coital with that sleazebag Kauffman. Kauffman was a garbage trashbag of a human since the first game and that is continued here. Alessa was always out for her own desires (which was to screw over those who screwed her over whilst simultaneously escaping her own suffering) and that's how she is here. I'm not sure where people got the idea she was some saintly goody-goody two-shoes in the first game from.
Anyway, it's just a shame that we could've have gotten a more cohesively-told story in this game. I think this game would've been more well-received if the Alessa stuff wasn't a part of it. I did enjoy my playthrough even with all the countless annoyances thanks to the camera and combat. Overall, I'd give this game 3 out of 6 kirby's.