My Year of JRPGs: Contact
Contact (Nintendo DS [reviewed])
Developer: AtlusMarvelous Entertainment
Publisher: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: October 17, 2006
What is it with Japanese developers and child protagonists? I’m not complaining, I guess, but I just think it’s kinda weird seeing as I’m not a child anymore, at least in terms of age.I just kinda feel like playing as a child isn’t really appealing to most people. Maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway, Contact has a child protagonist. Well, sort of. The person you control is a child, but technically you, the player, are the protagonist. Yes, that’s weird and confusing. Allow me to explain.
Contact is the story of the Professor and how he keeps losing his spaceship’s power cells. At the beginning of the game he drops one of them near a boy named Terry, and Terry helpfully returns the cell to the professor on his shit. But before Terry can get off the ship, the Professor takes off again.
Later, the ship crashes on a strange planet covered in oceans, and the ship’s power cells are scattered on islands all over the place for whatever reason. Luckily the ship is shaped like, well, a pirate ship, and so it can float around on the water.
So what happens next is the ship travels around from island to island, and Terry is forced by the Professor to leave the ship and recover the cells while the Professor hangs out on the ship doing very little. God, the Professor is such a douche.
Meanwhile, Terry isn’t the only one looking for the cells, and the other party may or may not have a nefarious reason for trying to gather them all up. Terry, who as I have mentioned already is a child, must do hand-to-hand combat with these “others” and assorted beasties that are found on the various islands in order to recover the cells.
Through all this, the Professor likes to talk to you, the player, as if you’re a character in the game. The Professor knows you’re Terry’s guiding force, and he addresses you like you’re the real protagonist. It’s a strange, fourth-wall-breaking thing, but it’s not surprising that this happens since the game comes from Grasshopper Manufacture, and they love that kind of thing. Still, it’s weird.
If you can accept the reality of a child going it alone against military forces — who, I should point out, have guns — with a cooking knife, and all the fourth-wall shattering going on, Contact is a pretty fun game. Combat is automated; you simply equip a weapon and let Terry go. Well, to be fair, that tactic will get Terry’s ass killed a lot, so most of the time you’ll get him close enough to hit the bad guy and them make him run away. Hit-and-run works best.
The more you do certain things, the more those skills, for lack of a better word, will level up. If you take a lot of damage, your health will increase, for example. It’s all automatic; you won’t be choosing what parts of Terry to improve.
Also, Terry can cook. This is fun, except when the little bastard burns to a crisp the healing item you’re trying to create. Terry f–ks up a lot at cooking.
My main complaint with the game is its lack of checkpoints. If you die while on a quest to pick up cells, you’re transported all the way back to the ship, which means you’re starting over. Your mission progress is saved, though, but it’s a real bitch if you’ve been playing for an hour and haven’t come across any place to save your game.
All in all, Contact is a solid little game that’s good for brief pick-up-and-play sessions. I tended to rock it for maybe 30 minutes at a time, which is short for my JRPG sessions, but that seems to be the sweet spot for this one. If you’re looking for a JRPG to play on your commute, you could doworse than Contact.