Rage of the Day: Game save woes


(Editor’s note: In this feature series, our staff gets the chance to let off some steam -Bennett- and talk about some of the more infuriating aspects of the games and systems we love. After all, not everything can be rainbows and sunshine.)

Game saves. If you play tons of games like me I’m sure you’ll find these tufts of data incredibly precious. Hours upon hours of game progress stuck inside a little CR2032 battery (for us 80s and 90s gamers), memory cards, hard drives, etc.

I’m sure many of us take this now-simple technology for granted. They made the save passwords of yore obsolete, although you would still see several games utilize passwords for a long time afterward.

With saving game progress comes the inevitable kick in the pants: some sort of phenomenon (be it a glitch, power-outage or that evil little brother) that happens to take your precious hours and erase them from the world forever. The phenomenon then leads into something that can only be regarded as the game save woes. These are my stories.

My very first experience of losing my game progress came from Breath of Fire II for the SNES, one of my favorite games of all time (if you haven’t figured that out yet). I was seven years old and quite proud of the four or five hours I put into the game after I got it for my birthday.

My memory’s a little hazy, but I recall letting a friend borrow the game while I borrowed his copy of Donkey Kong Country 2. I distinctly remember telling him not to copy or erase my save, to just use his own slot and stick to it.

Fast forward a few days later: he comes to my doorstep with his mother, who tells me that my save game got accidentally deleted when he tried to copy a save. He brought his mom over because he was afraid to tell me the truth himself.

Wouldn't wish this even on my worst enemy.

My gaze drooped to the ground and I immediately got bummed out. Four to five hours of progress as a kid was a lot to me, particularly for an RPG like Breath of Fire II. He gave me back the game, and I gave him back his. He left, and then I cried tears of frustration.

Looking back at that, it seriously wasn’t a big deal; I could have easily reached the city of Wyndia in less time than that. Maybe it was karma: I remember a year or two beforehand I deleted my cousin’s Super Mario World saves right in front of his face for no good reason other then because I was being a mischievous little prick. I would’ve told my kid-self to man up, because a loss of a few hours of gameplay was absolutely jack-squat compared to the save progress I would lose in the years to come.

Over the years I would have my fair share of completely unfair game save losses, many due to memory card corruption. I’ve had a save game for Breath of Fire III on Playstation crap out on me two or three times, with the third time occurring after putting over 40 hours into the damn game. The save just kind of corrupted for no reason on my official transparent blue Playstation memory card. Yowch.

I tried playing through Final Fantasy on the NES in my middle school years. After hours and hours of grinding on sahagins in the sea, I saved, held the reset button in, and powered it off. I return to the game after a while, but thanks to my old NES’ janky 72-pin connector, the screen would flash blue and gray screens as it continuously turned on and off. Combine this with an old Final Fantasy cartridge, and you’re looking at a deleted save. To this day I’ve sworn off the NES version, instead opting to complete the game in its easier GBA remake form.

Losing progress on games that are really difficult, time-consuming and challenging really irks me too. So imagine my horror when I find out the save game I had stored on my friend’s copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been replaced by “AAAAAAAAAAAA” thanks to his kid brother. I had completed three of the game’s long-winded dungeons and a bunch of sidequests, and was about to enter Ikana Valley when it was lost. That sucked tremendously.

The next big loss of progress I would experience wasn’t the fault of me or any nefarious kid brothers, it would be the cause of faulty programming and corporations.

Back in 2004, Sony sent out a Holiday 2004 Demo Disc for the PS2 that featured a bevy of demos, most notably one for Viewtiful Joe 2. So I popped the disc in one day and played through the demo. The next time I played another game, I was suddenly greeted with text indicating that my memory card was corrupted.

One Google search later and I realized that Sony had a bit of a problem on their hands: anyone who played the Viewtiful Joe 2 demo with their memory card inserted would suffer from a corrupted card. I was absolutely furious. Despite having backup saves for a handful of my games on another card, I still lost a great deal. Copy-protected saves like the ones in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Mortal Kombat: Deception were gone. And this was after I had completed that terrible Konquest mode and unlocked all of the characters. Other saves I lost included ones from Katamari Damacy, Shinobi and Klonoa 2.

I recall seeing this banner as someone’s forum signature back in the day. Remember the experience, indeed.

Thankfully, Sony realized their grave error and in an effort of damage control, offered a free game to those affected in exchange for the faulty disc. The selection was noticeably small, but among them were Wild Arms 3 and Parappa the Rapper 2. I went with the latter.

My next big save-game loss would come in the summer of 2009, in the form of a corrupt official 1019-block Gamecube memory card. You remember those cards, right? You could save an entire game library’s worth of saves on that thing!

A 1019-block card's handy to have, unless it's kept inside a Wii.

Unfortunately, keeping the memory card in a Wii’s memory card slot while the system is on standby happens to have an adverse effect on it (as in, the Wii’s standby state would still send juice to the card, eventually frying it). And I’m not making this up, this happened to several people and there wasn’t a damn thing that Nintendo would do for you in that situation.

Among the lost data were F-Zero GX, Ikaruga, Killer7, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time/Warrior Within, Resident Evil and its prequel Zero, Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, Wind Waker, and a completed Super Smash Bros. Melee save. That was groan-inducing. What’s more, I was right at the end of Beyond Good & Evil, though thankfully that’s a short game anyway. From that point on, I never kept my memory cards in the Wii for extended periods of time.

My final woe is fairly recent, and it involves my Metal Gear Solid 4-bundled 80GB PS3. Back in April of last year, after watching Black Swan on Blu-ray, I figured I’d get back into Final Fantasy XIII since I put so little time into it. I had just received Odin as an Eidolon when BOOM: my monitor’s image turned into a black screen with artifacts, and then my PS3 shut off. I attempt to turn it back on, and I realized that my PS3 was inflicted with the horrid Yellow Light of Death. A bad overheating issue of some kind.

By then, my PS3 was out of the warranty period, so I had to pay Sony around $??? To get it “fixed” (read: get a replacement). Although I had backed up most of my saves a month or two prior (only losing an hour or two’s worth of FFXIII, LittleBigPlanet 2, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3), I had lost my entire completed Demon’s Souls save (copy-protected!). That was a pretty big ouch, although I’m glad I had actually finished the game before this happened. I had also lost my completed PS2 Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter & Mortal Kombat: Deception saves yet again because even the PS3 wouldn’t allow them to be backed up.

Remember when I told you this happened last April? Can you recall what happened later on in that month? Yes, the ugly Playstation Network hackings. So when I did get my replacement PS3, I found myself unable to even redownload all of my PSN downloads. Talk about a big, old bummer.

Oh, and I haven’t played Final Fantasy XIII ever since. I should get back on that.

Losing a game save can be tough to handle. It can feel very frustrating to lose so much work on something. It makes you think about all the hours of sweat and tears you wasted on a game. If anything positive is to be gained from this, it’s that the second time around, you begin a game knowing what it’ll throw at you, thus it doesn’t always take you as much time to go through to where you originally were. And maybe you’ll even stumble upon a new experience somewhere. I know that was the case for me in my replaying of Beyond Good & Evil and Demon’s Souls.

You also learn to back up your game saves more often. I have a USB stick dedicated to safeguarding backups of my PS1, PS2, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 saves.

This brings me to my final point: copy-protected saves, no matter how you look at them, are more of a hindrance than anything. I understand a developer’s need to prevent people from cheating, like in the case of Super Smash Bros. Melee/Brawl, Demon’s and Dark Souls, and older titles like Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Mortal Kombat: Deception, but that does not make it right to inconvenience those of us who copy saves just because we don’t want to lose them.

It’s a lot like DRM on PC games these days, where the supposed safeguards will just inconvenience actual buyers and do nothing to deter pirates who can easily circumvent the blockage anyway.

Thankfully, Sony is onto something with their cloud save storage through Playstation Plus (Steam, as well). My Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls saves are happily up in the cloud, safe from the jaws of erasure. But Playstation Plus still won’t accept copy-protected PS2 game saves, which is rather peculiar to me.

Nintendo doesn’t have any way of protecting anti-copy saves like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which is just mental, considering all the hard work that goes into 100%ing that title. And Microsoft is another one that needs a slap on the wrist: you can’t even back up your classic Xbox game saves onto a USB stick, even though Sony let’s you do that with PS1 and PS2 games on a PS3. And then they proceed to warn you that removing your Xbox 360’s hard drive will cause that precious Ninja Gaiden Black save to disappear.

What?! That’s just absurd. You guys have some thinking to do. I will not stand for a lack of back-up procedures for legacy game saves. Those are the most prone to corruption and deletion.

Just think about all those cartridges we have with our completed RPG saves on them. As the years go by, the batteries holding onto our precious completed Pokémon Blue/Red and Chrono Trigger saves are that much closer to going the way of the dodo. In the case of SNES and Genesis saves, we at least have a device like the Retrode which can save those.

And in case you were wondering, I made sure to back this Word file up on Dropbox. Because I’m that careful nowadays.


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Author: Patrick Kulikowski View all posts by
Patrick Kulikowski is a Rutgers University graduate with aspirations of joining the game industry. I have a strong love of games and their music. When not serving as Associate Editor for Pixelitis,net and a writer for Game Music Online, you'll see him working on a game music drum cover project entitled "VGdrum" and managing his Breath of Fire Facebook and Twitter fan pages.

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