At what point does comparison cease to be a valuable and revealing undertaking, and instead take a nasty turn for the destructive? Though many might argue that endless analogizing of videogames (or any variety of art for that matter) can often result in needless bickering or altercation, I would venture to say that the near-exact opposite is true. The insight that results from direct comparison — be it a Disqus flame-war or an intelligent discourse amongst peers — is not needless, but essential. It’s how we judge art, it’s how we decipher what’s good, bad, ugly, or beautiful, and most importantly, it’s how a medium moves forward. If someone were raised in a cave and then asked to play and critique Dragon’s Crown, where would they begin? It would be impossible to assess its quality.
Yes, whether you intentionally compare or not, your brain is subconsciously pitting every game you’ve ever played against every other, performing complex analyses, and storing the results as criteria for how you will judge whatever comes next. The idea of not doing this is quite far-fetched, if you think about it – so I say we embrace it.
Vanillaware is a developer who has always understood the value of aesthetic beauty and arresting visual style in videogames, and each original release of theirs seems to push the visual envelope to new and strikingly provocative heights. The “painting-in-motion” cliche the developer is so-often associated with is really just the tip of the iceberg (as anyone who has seen their games in motion will tell you), and the things they’ve been able to achieve in recent times by splicing classic beat-em-up styles with bona fide, hand-drawn 2D thaumaturgy is nothing short of– well, pretty damn amazing and beautiful art-in-motion, that’s what.
So then – in the spirit of comparison, betterment, and good old-fashioned verbal dispute, I’ll be pitting Dragon’s Crown and Muramasa: The Demon Blade against each other in a devastating battle towards a final conclusion. Which game is better, point for point? I love them both, and actually don’t yet know what I’ll ultimately come up with as I write this. It will be a journey of discovery, a labor of passion, and most of all, an exercise in uncontrolled anger paroxysms as we all disagree with each other. Well, we can at least try to leave out that last part.
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