Ever since video games became too long to finish in one sitting, saving one’s progress has been a part of the experience. Many titles allow players to do this anytime through the Pause Menu. In others, however, the characters must seek out a dedicated savepoint. These normally aren’t acknowledged in the story; they simply exist to record one’s progress.
Some games have in-world explanations for these save points. The writers position some function or task that the characters must fulfill in order for players to create a save file. Often times, these substitutes are weird and contrived. More importantly, they create extra inconveniences for the player wanting to sign off or take a bathroom break.
Minimalism has always been the MO of Team Ico’s titles, and that goes back to their debut game. Here, players explore a vast castle–solving puzzles and traversing obstacles with as few video game conventions as possible. That means no cumbersome HUD and a barren pause menu. Sadly, it also means no traditional save feature.
Instead, the characters record their progress at these ethereal benches. Finding these things isn’t easy given the castle’s maze-like layout. On top of that, they diminish the illusion somewhat. They look more like sofas than benches. Nothing takes players out of a fantastic setting than kicking back on a comfy couch.
6 Praying – Dragon Quest
Most JRPGs have simple save points, but DragonQuest adds a religious subtext. The heroes must go to a church and convene with a priest to record their progress. If they’re out in the wild, they can find a holy statue. Either way, they pray for their own safe return.
Religious individuals could spend plenty of time reading into this. If players die, they resurrect in a holy place thanks to divine intervention. Practically, though, it’s a real hassle, especially when exploring dungeons. These levels can stretch to ridiculous lengths, and only some have holy statues as a safety net. If the heroes suffer defeat at the hands of a tough boss, they lose a ton of progress due to a deliberate design choice. At that point, they’ll be praying for a different game.
5 Phone Booths – Yakuza
As many entries as the yakuza series has, one would think the developers would change this design choice, especially given advancing technology. To save the game, Kazuma Kiryu and his friends must use a phone booth. Granted, Kamurocho and the other hub areas have enough scattered around that it’s not a huge hassle. In addition, it makes sense for earlier entries and the ’80s-era prequel, Yakuza 0. However, the illusion starts to fade as the series moves more into the modern day.
Phone booths have become increasingly rare, and the reason is obvious: most people have a cell phone. The characters even use these devices at multiple points. This should give players cart blanche to save anytime, but the developers stubbornly stick to convention. Maybe Kiryu turns into Superman when fans aren’t looking.
4 Registration Point – Alien: Isolation
Even with killer aliens on the loose, it’s good to know that Weyland-Yutani employees keep certain benefits. Wandering the ship in Alien: Isolation, Amanda Ripley finds several emergency stations equipped with phones and scanners. She slides her key card in, and that’s how she saves her progress.
The situation is stressful enough. Now, players have to go through the trouble of finding these phones whenever they want a break. At least the yakuza phone booths are clearly indicated and hard to miss. the alien Registration points are invisible by comparison. Worse, it takes a few precious seconds to save the game. The xenomorph can still kill Ripley during this process, so she’d better make sure the coast is clear before seeking sanctuary. Maybe the company should have invested in a little extra security.
3 Typewriters – Resident Evil
Games seem to have a pattern of old tech serving as save points. To record progress in resident Evil, players must access the typewriters found in some rooms. It’s plain to see what Capcom was going for. The characters literally record their account by getting it down on paper. However, that doesn’t make it any less cumbersome, especially given the cluttered, low-res rooms of the earlier games. That’s bad enough.
For some reason, though, the developers throw in an extra step. The typewriters require ink ribbons. Not only does this limit the number of saves, but the ribbons themselves take up valuable space in the inventory. Suffice it to say, most players would rather face hordes of undead than jump through all of these hoops. No wonder later entries ditch such an excessive process.
2 Restrooms – Dead Rising
Yeah, it’s gross, but it’s also funny. During the zombie outbreak of Dead Rising, journalist Frank West finds himself trapped in a mall. It’s a contemporary setting, so a fantastic save point would feel out of place. Thankfully, the developers have come up with a clever alternative.
To save the game, West just goes to the restroom and relieves himself. Not only is this an amusing bit of literal toilet humor, but it fits the context perfectly. Malls have several restrooms peppered throughout. Visitors can access one no matter where they are, and that convenience translates naturally to save points.
1 Bonfires – Dark Souls
These are some of the most infuriating games out there, and part of that comes from the unforgiving checkpoints. It would be a small mercy to save right before a colossal boss fight or difficult skirmish. instead, Dark Souls players must rely on a series of bonfires. Resting at these sites creates a foothold, and gamers will treasure each and every one.
The space between these points is already a decent distance on the surface. Unfortunately, the slow movement and crushing hardships make the journey seem like an eternity. This is why the bonfire has become notorious in gaming: it represents a temporary reprieve from brutal punishment.
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