a review of Infinite Undiscovery
a videogame developed by tri-Ace
and published by Square-Enix
for the microsoft xbox 360
text by Ario Barzan
In a previous article, it was said that Folkssoul had probably the worst videogame name ever, the definite declaration being stayed by its outside-Japan name. There is no probably, now. That position belongs to Infinite Undiscovery. With such an incredible title, it’s not hard to believe that legions of people, at this very moment, are twisting their bodies into flesh-pretzels, trying to birth logical explanations that somehow validate the word choice.
I’ll now give a body to those ghosts of ideas by recalling the press conference where the game was announced — where the director said, in Japanese, “‘Infinite’ means . . . infinite. And ‘Undiscovery’ implies the opposite of what is discovered. As in, things that are not yet discovered.” After a twenty second pause (in the course of which no less than three galaxies were consumed by massive black holes), the director continued, saying, “It’s actually not a real word. We made it up.” Someone might’ve literally clapped their hands once, though I’m not going to say for sure.
Kinda want to end the review here and give the game its stars, but I won’t, because there are two other “important” things to touch on. Or, maybe, because I’m a little bit frightened that a comment might out-length the review. Also, perhaps you’ve fetched a cup of coffee to enjoy while reading – this might be the highest compliment I could receive (as long as the coffee doesn’t taste like venom-piss) – and I want to honor that hopefully good cup of coffee.
For one, the music is done by Motoi Sakuraba — and it sort of sucks. Sakuraba is one of the funnier video game composers, in that he possesses the ability, if you can call it that, to transcend a “reasonably reasonable” track record, and instead be irritatingly unpredictable. If you’re ever in the position of pondering the qualitative prospects of a new Sakuraba soundtrack, you should probably stop that wondering, because who the heck knows? It’d be easier to say that we wish Kenji Ito had done the score, a man who can craft the most vicious battle songs ever, full of righteous, octave-popping basslines, while writing beautiful, sweet themes for towns and landscapes — though we realize we could wish that for almost any game soundtrack. It’s more realistic, then, to say that the music herein is mostly brassy nonsense that stresses the already boring cliché of “technical expansiveness allowing for greater boredom.”
Then there’s the issue of voice acting (watch this to get intimate with the bullstuff). Legend has it that this video was passed around to a dozen individuals before someone recognized the Terrible Something contained within. And while it’s confounding that gameplay videos always feature incompetent players, in this instance we can be glad that the awfulness exposes, in magnificent fashion, the Terrible Something. In the video, a young man named Capell (get it? he’s a musician? a-capella? hyuck!!) is running around a courtyard. There’s also a blue ogre and a few snakes. Every once in a while, when the hero is in close proximity to the ogre, the ogre will wind up a swing with his axe and proceed to whack it into said hero’s body. Dust spurts up, sparks shoot out, and Capell gets his feces packed in so tight, it must be compacted into rock-hard stuff-strata on the spot.
The first few times, I couldn’t quite catch what Capell was saying when he got hit, due to the speed, the earnestness of it. A little more than halfway through, I realized that he was saying, “Cut it out!” and had what was the best laugh of the day. (Practically) every time he is hit, Capell will say — in the manner befitting the nervous equalizer who runs out into the middle of the school’s playground to break up a fight, arms spread out, eyebrows quivering — “Cut it out!” Understand that I don’t mean to make this out to be about how he says it, so much as he’s actually saying it.
This segues into a few Sub-Things, one being that the translators are, beyond a doubt, anime-wall-scroll-owning sociopaths who wouldn’t dare desecrate the original intent of the Masterful Script. Really, how weirdly obsessive-compulsive is it that they try to translate the scream-like full-words of the flailing characters into full words of English? Another: the fact that these localizing teams’ efforts are impossibly being okayed shows that actual, certain humans believe We the Player can’t get enough of sound bites, no matter how bad or limited they are. Kingdom Hearts 2 has the (useless) excuse of making people who have forum avatars of Sora slamming his non-canonical dong into Riku hyperventilate from hearing Cogsworth’s voice actor speak once again. Nintendo’s modern portrayal of a tooting, yipping, shrill monkey-Mario is feeding the same type of rabid character worship, evidenced by a consumer base that would boycott a game featuring a silent Mario with e-comments about it being “definitely not next-gen and for faggots.” There’s no going back, now!
Infinite Undiscovery isn’t a Kingdom Hearts 2 (I say with relief and a morbid displeasure), yet it doesn’t have anterior attachments to “warrant” vigorous employment of dumb sound bites. They’re there because they’re there, and it’s just strange. Stop and think about it for a moment: full-grown individuals played this game for hours and hours, questioning nothing – and if they did, it must’ve been a vague twinkle that rose up a few days before the product’s release, quelled as they spent the next four hours trying to satisfy a friend’s bet that they couldn’t rub their stomach and pat their head at the same time. Making things sillier, absurdity is pitted against absurdity when everything is so perceptually rendered — and then denyingly tried to fit into a number-filled hole of heaving abstractions. Here is a super-detailed dude being slammed with a super-detailed monster’s axe, crying “Cut it out!” and rising to the occasion after a fall like nothing has happened. Is this what it would be like, watching a badly dubbed, “pro-wrestling” tag-team match, eight-hundred years in the future on the planet Zangledorp?
. . . Maybe. And that might sound fantastic – until you realize that this game is not about wink-winking and nudge-nudging. It is a Serious, Long, Role-Playing Game, and every time the lead character gets hit, he’s probably going to gasp, “Cut it out!” and any illusory wall that’s been building up will shatter from that goofy clown horn (while the friend behind spits his grape soda out in real life). The voice acting in itself, and as a whole, is pretty damned dire as something you have to “live with,” like the boy/girlfriend with an apocalyptic laugh (break-up . . . imminent). The ideal place to watch the cutscenes is in an embryonic chamber at the center of the Earth.
Still, the game won’t beat you and send you to bed, bruised and crying. The battle system is basically Final Fantasy XII, where you control the lead character and switch “gambit” sets with the D-pad. That’s cute and deserving of a few claps for daring to be real. It’s just annoying that most of the weight, wherever, is counterbalanced by prickly Howevers. On one hand, yeah, you’ve got this pretty decent battle design — however, in modern-Castlevania fashion, heaps of abilities are handed out, exhausting themselves in a couple instances due to specificity, or just exist because someone at the studio might’ve had a number squeaked up on a whiteboard designating “Amount of curiosities to be included.” On one hand, the villages and towns and whatnot are large – however, they are large (let’s reflect on Oblivion for a second and how the designers silently, screamingly encouraged fast-travel in towns because they knew that no one wanted to walk around those things). On one hand, the game promises to host an armada of variables to Affect the Future – however, taking part in these Dynamic Events feels about as meaningful as choosing an airport’s moving sidewalk over, you know, just walking.
Really, the game tries a lot of conceptually nifty things — though, yeah, it’s trying too much and accomplishing too little. What we end up with is a contradicting friction, a combination of the soggy-eyed, mellow-flavored feel-goodness of petting an assembly line of cats and the shoulder-shuddering act of also giving each of their penises a couple, brisk hand-pumps.
In conclusion – tri-Ace: next time you get to thinking about that game-making deal, why not contact us? We know a fair number of male and female people in noise rock bands who would gladly submit pain-like guttural screams for free.