Last week, I played through Dead Space 2. This week, I'll see it through to the end one more time, perhaps having more fun, feeling less stressed, better appreciating its immense technical and visual artistry. Let's hear it for New Game Plus.
Visceral Games' Dead Space 2, like the original, is an experience designed to be played more than once, if only to enjoy all of its unlockable weapons, trophies and achievements. Playing again through a horrific adventure like the Dead Space games or the Resident Evil games—another series that often benefits from a second playthrough—is cathartic. You know where the scares wait in hiding. You are a more powerful being—except in the rare circumstance in which you fight zombies as a knife-wielding piece of tofu.
It is almost impossible to sample everything in a game like Dead Space 2, with its large arsenal and extended upgrade tree, the first time through. It's better motivation for me to hold onto my video games, rather than trade them in, than any multiplayer mode attached to a strong singe-player game.
Now, the New Game Plus—or NG+, but let's not call it NGP—that I'm referring to is of the type that upon completing a video game, you are presented with an all-new way to revisit the game. Same story, same adventure (for the most part), more powerful you. In the case of Dead Space games, you'll restart your adventure from the beginning with all the upgrades, ammo and know-how from the last playthrough. Other great games like Vagrant Story for the PlayStation, Diablo II for the PC and Demon's Souls for the PS3 offer similar opportunities.
But I've appreciated other types of New Game Plus variations. In the case of many Castlevania games, an opportunity to play through Dracula's castle as someone else, someone more powerful, to sprint through an adventure previously more challenging. One great Game Boy Advance game made New Game Plus playing a requirement.
And while I often prefer the New Game Plus that makes things easier on me, as Dead Space games do, I also enjoy the ones that make things more difficult.
From Software's Demon's Souls and Blizzard's Diablo II made me a lover of the challenging type of NG+, for their systems bring players back to the beginning of a brutal role-playing experience, well-equipped but still fragile in a harsher, harder world. Those re-run experiences offer a new sensation, feeling more powerful, more versatile, but still powerless at times.
I've played through Diablo II games until I reached Hell mode. I'm getting close to my New Game Plus Plus in Demon's Souls—and replayed as a wildly different character type. Rarely have few games gripped me as do the ones that feature modes like this. We should see more of it.
We should see more creativity in its implementation, as in the case of Astro Boy: Omega Factor.
Without New Game Plus, this portable action adventure from shoot 'em up masters Treasure would have been adequate, satisfying. In fact, back in 2004, when reaching the end of Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the first time and being unaware of its NG+ mode, I wondered what the big deal was. I wondered why I was left with an unappealing ending to a short game that seemed simple.
Then I started again, seeing the rest of Astro Boy: Omega Factor, learning the other half of its story, savoring its gameplay better the second time around. It joined games like Demon's Souls, Dead Space and Vagrant Story as personal hallmarks.
As far as Dead Space 2 is concerned, I've mentally planned to play it four times. Once to review it, once to savor it, once more to see how hard Zealot difficulty will be on a fully upgraded Isaac Clarke, once to see if I can get this spectacular weapon. Few games compel me to do such things.