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"The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, a day so painful to some that it is referred to only as the "B-Ballnacht". Thousands upon thousands of the world's greatest ballers were massacred in a swath of violence and sports bigotry as the game was outlawed worldwide. The reason: the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order. Among the few ballers and fans that survived the basketball genocide was Charles Barkley, the man capable of performing the "Verboten Jam"...
Flash forward 12 years to the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York, 2053. A Chaos Dunk rocks the island of Manhattan, killing 15 million. When the finger is put on the aging Charles Barkley, he must evade the capture of the B-Ball Removal Department, led by former friend and baller Michael Jordan, and disappear into the dangerous underground of the post-cyberpocalypse to clear his name and find out the mysterious truth behind the Chaos Dunk. Joined by allies along the way, including his son Hoopz, Barkley must face the dangers of a life he thought he gave up a long time ago and discover the secrets behind the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S."
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If you're familiar with the indie rpg scene, or have passing knowledge of jrpgs (most of which is limited to the console market), you'll be aware of just how terrible it all is. Filled with cliched angst-ridden heroes wielding swords that can slice through bullets, costumes each more outlandish than the last, and convoluted battle systems filled to the brim with meaningless numbers, the rpg genre is the victim of niche in-breeding. Unlike most other genres of games that have evolved in leaps and bounds as technology grew, today's rpgs are more or less prettier versions of games made 10 years ago.
We're not even going to look at Square's methodical rereleases of old Final Fantasy games.
Barkley, Shut Up and Jam! Gaiden: Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa is, as you may have guessed from the title, a startlingly self-aware game full of idiosyncrasies and parody. The above story is really what the game's plot is, as outlandish as it sounds, and the game plays it completely straight.
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Nothing is beyond the premise of the game: Charles Barkley is an angst-ridden character capable of great power, Michael Jordan is a traitor who hunts Charles down relentlessly, and many other basketball players will make their appearance in the game. You'll go through sewers, traipse through a furry town (where you'll have to help someone compose a love sonnet), fight your way through the ancient b-ball catacombs, and eventually fight the final boss Ghost Dad. Each revelation will make you grin as you suspend disbelief and by the end of the game, you think you won't be surprised by anything anymore, and the game goes ahead and does so anyway.
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The battle system is reminiscent of latter FF Active-Battle systems, but throws in little action minigames for each attack as well. All enemy encounters are not random, as there are enemies that you have to move into on the maps to start a battle. This makes battles enjoyable as they're rarely forced, and the unique mechanics for each attack keeps the player interested. You never have to grind to gain high enough levels to continue, and the entire game can be beaten just by playing it straight through.
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There are little sidequests and things that lead you off the beaten path, but they never distract you for long. The main thrust of the game is in the main story, and the sidequests serve to add a little flavor, nothing more.
Of course, that doesn't mean that they aren't hilarious and a lot of fun in their own right.
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Barkley Shut Up and Jam! isn't a "joke game" in the usual sense. It shows an astounding awareness of the problems that plague rpgs today. It parodies many, many genre conventions but is an entertaining and excellent game in its own right. You owe it to yourself to check it out.