So you just beat the last boss, or you raced across an invisible line that was the difference between death or the finishing cutscene. Cue credits and any unresolved emotions that may still be lingering from the experience. But what do you do from there?
Often depending on the title, you go back for another round, you re-load a previous save file in order to obtain any collectibles that you may have missed, you load up your clear data in order to start a New Game Plus if the title has one, or you move on to newer adventures that you have yet to experience. The choice is ultimately up to you but there is one last option. The Post Game.
Post Game content, especially in JRPGs when they relate to dungeons, can be nasty and often they make the final boss fights look like nothing more than a walk in the park compared to them. These hardcore outside of the normal parameters will often test your skill, and your patience, to see if it’s worth actually completing it. My first one in particular was at the hands of Tales of Legendia in which the first mob monster kicked my ass so hard I basically left it there and walked away. Most Dungeon Crawlers I’ve done the same as I’m not just going to grind experience to level up in order to plow through a dungeon that has no meaning.
Completionists aiming for 100% or a Platinum Trophy like Richard will say that they are worth it, and more from him down below, but for players like me? I love myself a great experience but if it’s after the credits I’m often not interested especially if all it’s going to do is make things harder with no real added value. That is until Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Spoilers ahead!
Being the first real sequel to the original Dragon Quest Trilogy and relying heavily on Dragon Quest 3 for its history, Dragon Quest XI was fantastic all the way up to the final fight and the ensuing credits that acted as the epilogue. Finally defeating the big bad guy and putting an end to his tyranny, the world is saved but not without its scars. The heroes won but halfway through their journey they lost and most of the world suffered and many died including one of your very own.
Prompted to save my clear file, I did so and was brought back to the main menu. Loading up the file I was brought to after the epilogue and told to explore a tower. Groaning I almost put the controller away to go back to other titles that I had been meaning to but looking at the hour on the clock that evening I continues on. Thankfully so as this is the first time EVER that I’ve enjoyed Post Game content.
Climbing to the top of the tower I was presented with the option for my main character to go back in time and change what happened at the critical moment in which everything went to hell. The catch? Only he would remember what happened and retain the experiences and the knowledge, everyone else would be as they were for better or worse. Choosing to do so, this start of the Post Game felt more like the halfway point all over again as it was basically the what if scenario to what if they hadn’t lost and the world was destroyed. New story, new adventures, new monsters but it didn’t feel tacked on. It felt natural and for the first time I find myself invested in the hours that I’ve spent after the credits in order to explore past the point that should have been the end.
But to me, this was the exception to the rule. NG+ is one thing, where you go about maybe trying different decisions, aka Mass Effect, or actually taking the time to explore things you may not have the first time around. It’s another playthrough, you’re supposed to do more. Post Game though? Up until now I’ve avoided it and maybe i’ll try the next one that comes but I figure that it may just have been the exception to the rule for me. I now pass the floor over to Richard.
For me, post-game content is almost mandatory to make me truly enjoy a game as much as I’d like to. Most of the time, after I’ve finished a game, the foremost thought going through my head is something like “I don’t want this to end”. That’s where the post game content comes in.Giving some extra bosses or dungeons, or even bonus minigames, I feel like I’m still participating in the adventures of the main character or their group of party members.
For me, probably the first time I ever experienced “post-game content” was “Spyro the Dragon” on PS1. Rather apt since we got the reignited trilogy recently. After clearing the main game, if you go back and collect all the gems, eggs, and rescue all the dragons (if you hadn’t been doing so up until then), you unlock one last area, where you basically get free reign flight, and a massive amount of treasure. The sequel, “Ripto’s Rage”, had dragon shores and a slew of minigames culminating in a permanent powerup, and “Year of the Dragon” had a bunch of “minigame-esque” stages followed up by a bonus last boss fight. The thing about these post-game areas, at least in the Spyro trilogy, was that they were a fun culmination to your game. You’ve just beaten the last boss, it was tough and you’re now sweating in places you didn’t know you could, then you get an enjoyable wrap-up to wind down your experience.
Granted, post-game doesn’t have to be “fun”, per se. It could be an extra challenge, like you see in a lot of dungeon crawlers, where a bonus area opens up and it’s full of things so beefy they make you want to cry (Demon Gaze, I’m looking at you), or it could be a massive dungeon (like in Star Ocean 3, although that also had a really tough boss as well). Or if you want to take a look at Rabi-Ribi, not only does it have post-game, it has post-post game. This isn’t to say post-game content is always great.
As P.Y. mentioned, Tales of Legendia is a bit of a “good example” on post-game that makes you not care. I had a similar issue, where I fought the first mob and got rolled over so hard I wanted to cry. Similarly for a lot of dungeon crawlers, there are bonus areas that are just difficult and you have no real reason to go through them, and nor do you need to. You’ve finished the main game, and if that’s all you care about, then that’s fine too. Often, especially in more recent games where the main storyline has been way too easy, I find myself either giving self induced handicaps, or trying to make up weird playstyles in order to get the challenge I want out of a game. The post game is one such option where the developers can openly try and screw with you and I wholly welcome it.
On P.Y.s subject of “no reason to complete post-game”, I’m inclined to disagree, although not for every game, often times there is a mini-story-ish reason for doing the bonus dungeon. For instance, I mentioned Demon Gaze earlier. You actually do get bonus plot and a sort of “epilogue” chapter for clearing it, despite the fact that it’s tough as nails. Alternatively, other dungeon crawlers in similar veins, like Etrian Odyssey, basically just give you a tough area for no real reason. For those Monster Hunter fans out there, you may consider “online mode” a sort of “post-game”, as you don’t need to complete it, but that’s where all your extra difficulty mode comes from.
A couple post-games I’ve enjoyed that I haven’t mentioned yet? Megaman Battle Network/Starforce. There’s tough fights, but it’s really fun and it’s more skill than grinding. Star Ocean 3, Till the End of Time. Came out on PS2 (I think), had some tough fights, a dirty hard dungeon, and has a cameo boss of Lenneth from Valkyrie Profile, although she’ll almost certainly beat you senseless.
Tales of __. Most Tales series games have some sort of post game, or at least “just before the final boss fight” content. Most are pretty decent. Except Gladsheim, or whatever it was called in “Dawn of a New World”. Even I didn’t finish that one. Castlevania tends to have stuff open up after clearing the game, including new modes for you to try. Disgaea is infamous for exactly this type of stuff, where you can finish the game at around level 60, where the level cap is 9999, and some bonus bosses can get into levels of 5000+. At least they usually come with some hilarious mini-scenario.
While I won’t say post-game content has to be completed, at the very least I suggest trying it out. To me, post-game content feels like the devs saying “I loved making this game, so I’ve added this stuff for you guys who enjoyed it too!”.