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Time Management Games – Persona 4, Pikmin, Majora’s Mask & More / MY LIFE IN GAMING

August 12, 2019


– Time limits have been around in games for a long time. I suppose it made sense in the arcade, but was it ever actually needed for home games like Super Mario Brothers? Today we don’t really see time limits like we used too. But what about a game that turns time limits into time management mechanics that arch over the entire game? That can be pretty controversial because people do like to take their time in games. ^ But to me, these few games that force you ^ to manage your time wisely ^ can become so much more than ^ they would have been without. Many of them have become personal favorites, so let’s take a look at why I love them so much. (Intro Music) An obvious recent example is “Lightning Returns,” which from early previews I felt like it was going to be a game that was made just for me. Now hey, I’m with you that Final Fantasy XIII never needed to be a trilogy and the story is a bit questionable… but Lightning Returns hits so many right notes for me with its gameplay. Here we’ve got a time limit looking over the entire game. You’ve got 13 days until the end of the world. Though you do have to earn days past the initial six. I love trying to cram everything I could into each game day… planning where I needed to be and when. One of Lightning’s most important abilities is “chronostasis.” Which for a cost of battle rewards stops the clock for a while, letting you accomplish even more quests in each day. Now to be honest, I probably used chronostasis a little bit too much, and I did feel like I was starting to run out of things to do in the last several days of the game. Really what made Lightning Returns click for me was the moveset customization where you’re essentially building your own Final Fantasy jobs! The excellent battle system, and quest design that found the right balance of guidance without holding your hand quite as much as many other open world games do. So while the overarching time limit did give me a sense of urgency that helped keep me engrossed in the game, it actually ended up being farther down on my list of favorite things in Lightning Returns than I would have expected. Let’s go back to the beginning. The sixth Zelda game, Majora’s Mask, is the first time I experienced this sort of persistent time limit mechanic. Back in 2000, I largely measured a Zelda games awesomeness by how many dungeons it had. Ocarina of Time was mildly disappointing for it’s nine or so dungeons compared to A Link to the Past’s 11 or 12. So Majora’s Mask having only four main dungeons did worry me a bit, but I was looking for other things to impress me. Despite the title, the main hook of Majora’s Mask has less to do with masks and transformations then it has to do with the repeating cycle of three days. When you play the Song of Time to reset the cycle, you keep all of the critical inventory that you’ve earned.. but the entire world returns to the dawn of the first day. What makes this cool is that allowed the developers to create elaborate preset paths for every character to follow through every second of the three days. Learning what every character does, at what time, and then figuring out when, where, and how to influence them to change the outcome of events, is hugely rewarding. It’s this uniqueness that has me on some days think that well, maybe Majora’s Mask is my favorite Zelda game… maybe… Anyway, something I’ve always wanted to try in Majora’s Mask was to see if I could beat the game within a single cycle. Now there is one cycle at the start of the game that you are required to reset, but I wanted to beat the game without returning to the beginning after that point. So, on New Years Eve in 2009, after some research and not quite enough practice, I decided to ring in 2010 on the Backlogory Livestream with my own countdown to the end. After a miraculous recovery, I defeated the last boss this required before you can stop the clock. With about 20 slowed down game minutes to spare. Which translates to about 48 real world seconds. Sure maybe I could have done a lot better if I were an actual speedrunner, and had practiced more, or used special tricks, but the close shave makes this perhaps my favorite personal gaming achievement ever. As a side note, the only other game I’ve ever played that does anything quite like Majora’s Mask is one of Square Enix’s lesser known Playstation 2 games, Radiata Stories. I don’t recall it having the best battle system, but it’s a pretty funny game. – I can’t do nothin yet. – You can’t do, nothing? – And it actually has full on NPC schedules and movement paths. Which they follow religiously every game day. And if you follow these characters and figure out how to solve their problems, there’s a really strong chance that they’ll join you because there are 177 unique recruitable characters. So if you enjoy the schedule driven NPC interaction in Majora’s Mask, give Radiata Stories a try too. So then there’s the original Pikmin. This is the first game I ever played with a time limit that covers the entire game. If you don’t collect all of Captain Olimar’s critical spaceship parts within 30 days, his life support systems will fail. Pretty serious stuff. And lemme tell ya, it got me pretty motivated. I couldn’t stop thinking about Pikmin, even when I wasn’t playing the game. I was thinking about what routes I was going to explore. Which parts I was going to go for next. Whether I had time to spend an extra day growing my Pikmin army instead of collecting spaceship parts. To be honest, it’s actually not terribly difficult to beat the deadline. But even still, I really enjoyed the pressure that the time limit put on me, making me feel much more invested in Olimar’s plight, and keeping me on task. The controversial time limit was removed from Pikmin 2, and I dunno… it just didn’t have the same impact. I mean it was still good, but it never grabbed me like the first game and I ended up not even finishing it for three of four years. Pikmin 3 offers a bit of a compromise. You collect fruit to extend your juice supplies, which allows your crew to survive for another day. This is pretty cool because similar to Lightning Returns you have to actually earn the extra days. However it is really easy to build up a huge buffer on your supply, so the tension that the first game had just isn’t quite there. I avoided the Persona games for years because I thought the gun imagery in Persona 3 was kind of unsettling and I’m really skeptical about games where fans obsess over character interactions because that’s not guarantee that I’ll love it myself. Not to mention randomized dungeon design was a long standing no no in my book. But I found the bright colors of Persona 4 to be much more immediately appealing and the story sounding interesting so I finally decided to buy it in 2011 and it very much defined my August of that year. I took time that I’d earned off work just so I could play it all day. Obviously the story and characters were a huge part of that. I was surprised by just how much I was completely into the gameplay too. Random dungeons and all. The daily schedule system was a key component that tied all of it together for me. Every day you decide what to do after school. Socializing with friends, or doing other activities that increase your social stats, are excellent uses of your time. Not just for story reasons but also because your social links improve your parties battle capabilities. Of course, dungeon crawling is also a vital after school activity. Especially because every time there’s a character to rescue from a dungeon, you have a limited number of weeks to rescue them. I made a ridiculous number of saves, just in case I accidently made horrible use of my time. But I did just fine anyway. Major story events mostly occur on predetermined dates, and I love the feeling of progression through the weeks and months toward a definite conclusion. I kept feeling like I need to play just one more day. I’d been told that it would be difficult to get into Persona 3 after Persona 4, but I was quite surprised. I played the PSP version. And once I got used to a different setting and cast of characters, I feel in love with the game for many of the same reasons as Persona 4. The Last few months of the game’s story had me so on edge that I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on anything else if I didn’t just hurry up and see it through to the end. All in all I hold both games in equally high esteem as some of the best RPGs I’ve ever played, and Persona 5 is probably my most anticipated upcoming release. Of course, time management is no guarantee that I’m going to love a game. Dead Rising 2 is the only game in that series I’ve played, and I thought it was awful. Mega Man X5 kind of has a time limit too, and I didn’t like it either. I’ve also enjoyed a few other games with less critical time management aspects. While the endless nights and unlimited hot springs recoveries ruined the original Harvest Moon for me, I did enjoy Harvest Moon 64. And I recently beat Rune Factory 4 which I really loved. I was impressed by the gameplay in Pandora’s Tower much more than I expected to be. One feature being an ever present meter that shows how much time you have left to return to Elena with monster flesh. Even something like The World Ends With You, which didn’t have a true time limit, kept me hooked on it’s story because I was anticipating the conclusion at the end of seven days. And you may not think of it, but Castlevania 2 can be played with a deadline of sorts because you won’t get the best ending if you play for too many game days, or if you use too many continues. If you have any suggestions for other games like this that I might enjoy, let me know in the comments. My girlfriend keeps saying that I should try the Atelier series because of how it features time limits and travel time. Maybe I’ll give one of them a try someday. I know that strict schedules and time limits aren’t for everyone, but for me they can add the secret ingredient to make some otherwise merely good or great game incredible and unforgettable. ^ All of the tension ^ and I just feel more involved. ^ So if you’ve ever quit a game ^ because you hated the time limit.. ^ Why not give it another go ^ with a fresh mindset? It might just become an all time favorite. (Captions by Jordan “Link584”)

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27 Comments

  • Reply laurenhiya21 May 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Yeah you really should give the Atelier series a go 😀 I recently got Atelier Ayesha and I'm loving it so far (even if I'm awful with time limits, but you might be better at that than I am haha).

  • Reply The 8-Bit Duke May 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Persona 4 has become one of my favorite games… The only game I own on my Vita is the Golden version of P4….and you know, it was worth it. 

  • Reply The Canipa Effect May 23, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    As someone who has a sexual lust for Persona games, the time management aspect is something that really gives the game extra planning and balances the social and dungeon exploration aspects. Glad to enjoyed them!

  • Reply madichelp0 May 23, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    You don't have to compete for the world record to enjoy speedrunning. Learning new tricks and figuring out better routes is so much fun.

  • Reply Tea&Crumpets May 24, 2014 at 11:58 am

    The first Dead Rising is amazing, don't let the 2nd game put you off.

  • Reply Axem Titanium May 26, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Majora's Mask best Zelda come at me bros

  • Reply Tentacle May 28, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Dead Rising's time management is fantastic to me, but that's party down to the fact that I am a fan of horror games. The second instalment has the most complex time management I'd argue with survivors life's, mission goals and your daughters well being all limited to select time-frames… It can become needlessly stressful even on lower difficulty settings. Try out the 1st or 3rd games in series, each following a very simple goal: Escape.

    Great vid.

  • Reply AliGravity May 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm

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  • Reply ThePsiRocker June 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Funny those are some my favorite games, I guess I like time management in games more than I thought.  As of recently, the Atelier series has been my personal favorite that has time management. if you want to look into them I would suggest either Atelier Totori or Atelier Ayasha to start with.

  • Reply SenPlays June 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I personally am not a big fan of time limits, exspecialy wit RPGs, I like to relax, enjoy, and explore every nook and crany of an RPG world, and do all the side quests possable. Which makes me kind of sad becasue I Love the FF13 trilogy, its probably one of my favorite FF casts and storys overall. Ive finished both 13 and 13-2, but I am about 3 quarters of the way done with Lightning Returns, and have lost alot of motevation to play it bacause I have to stress about using my time well. But I want to see the end so bad but lack to motivation to play becasue I want to get everything in one playthrough. If I ever do get to finishing Lightning Returns, ill probably have to do a second playthrough on easy just so I can get all the side quests.

  • Reply Chris Tharyyn July 7, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I came to your channel from Kotaku, and I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your videos. Glad I found another high quality gaming channel.

  • Reply Ole Gerko July 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Quest for Glory 2-5 has a pretty hardcore time management. Also SMT: Devil Survivor is a very good series based on that.

  • Reply Robson Pommer September 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Valkyrie profile. And BTW, i LOVE Radiata stories.

  • Reply Ryan Rardin October 11, 2014 at 2:20 am

    If you like time management mechanics, try Valkyrie Profile on the PS1, if you can afford it, as it's pretty expensive.

  • Reply Michiel Kroder March 7, 2015 at 1:20 am

    The original Dead Rising's structure is very similar to Majora's Mask, time management wise. It actually gets more enjoyable when you play through multiple cycles.

  • Reply Jony Ibarra August 11, 2015 at 5:45 am

    I recomended to You one obscure game for the ps2 called shadow of destiny With this time mechanic that You discut in the video

  • Reply Christopher December 5, 2015 at 4:12 am

    I am just enjoying some game videos from a pair of guys who know how to lay down some interesting videos

  • Reply 88SLLS May 21, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Shinobi for ps2 had a quirky time management mechanic. The sword devoured your health and forced you to play quickly while stringing enemies in kill-combos to feed the sword. That game certainly didn't let you dawdle.

  • Reply tolon tolon May 25, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    valkyrie profile

  • Reply Jean-Michel Lafrance August 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    yay Radiata Story, favorite game ever.

  • Reply Abelino Jara October 17, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    2014 Winter for PS3… heh.

  • Reply SoloWing88 January 6, 2017 at 8:08 am

    When you played P3P, did you run both Main Characters? I prefer the FeMC as her responses was closer to a P4MC upbeat deal.

  • Reply Maverick Hunter K August 10, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Majora's is the best and I love Radiata Stories!

    Did you play Dead Rising 1 in the end? It's worlds apart from 2. 2 is mediocre, but 1 is really, really good.

  • Reply KWKBOX November 16, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Home Alone on the Sega Genesis. Best time limit game of all time.

  • Reply moviemetalhead November 20, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Shenmue and Dead Rising were awesome time management games, imo.

  • Reply Gregory Berrycone November 12, 2018 at 9:26 am

    no mention of pathologic? shaking my damn head…

  • Reply Blaf Snarten Burg July 10, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I'd love to see the full Majora's Mask "2 cycle stream"

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