Thursday, May 22, 2008

Six-Sided PokèHexagram

One year and a half (80+ hours) later, eight gym badges adorn my fanny pack, 92 balls tucked securely within. The path of Victory Road, I have fugging walked. Venusaur. Pidgeot. Gyrados. Persian. Raichu. Rapidash – the dread Six-Sided PokèHexagram, my daily bread.1

The Elite Four of the Pokèmon League, SOUNDLY have I beaten. TRAMPLED, even. No thrill of competition, no baited breath, no tooth and nail for me. Only a barely impeded series of knockout blows, leaving but the barest of scuffs on my beloved Pocket Monsters, and a pile of unconscious Elite Four Pokèmon, their trainers doubled over from the repeated gut punches I hath delivered UNTO THEM. I have, verily, thoroughly, BEATED IT.2

If Fat were here, and not in Oakland, he might comment that my recent Campaign of Completion3 feels a bit sad: for each game beated, a door of pleasure closes.4 I'd take it a step further: the Campaign of Completion is downright millennial.

In the Reviewieran tradition5, all things are possessed of a deeply autobiographical element. This element lends significant metaphorical context to objects such as molded plastic6 or video games, and also to books7, film8, music, even basketball9, so that the object's sum total meaning is greater than by itself.

There's nothing earth-shattering to this methodology, but it does allow us an escape trajectory from the usual decaying reviewing orbit. So, with video games, for example (frequently), typically noted merits and shortcomings such as graphics, control, story, whatever, are eschewed in favor of the number of hours spent drinking beers w/ Fat in his basement10, or whether the Missus likes distractedly watching the game while I play it, whether it possesses moreishness, or how it compares to similar experiences with other games. It’s a review which includes factors in no way dependent on the object being reviewed. It’s a purposeful celebration of the subjective.

In the context of the ongoing Campaign of Completion, Shenmue isn't just a fave Dreamcast game I finally got around to beating.11 It’s the crown jewel of the Greatest Dreamcast Goodwill Score Ever. 12 It’s the missus, great with child, snickering as she half-watched Ryu's fumbling attempts to find sailors.

Phantasy Star II, the Genesis component of the Campaign, was purchased online for cheap, on the condition that I replaced the save-state battery on my own13 (a process by which I lost all my save data – TWICE, the first time because the battery was not secured… securely enough, the second because the battery actually pooped out, so, yeah, I've gone through the first few dungeons on Mota two or three times). Its basically the only Genesis game I've ever put significant time into other than Sonic2, way back in circa 1993. It’s the game I texed my adoration of to Fat when I moonlighting as a boat worker last summer. It’s a game which appeals to me strongly enough that I've taken up the hobby of custom game cover design.14

Final Fantasy Tactics, the front of the Campaign of Completition least likely to be, uh, completed, has perhaps the weakest autobiographical links. I've owned this game since 2000 or 2001, when I played it frighteningly close to the end, then walked away from it entirely. This current round has advanced to the beginning of the fourth and final chapter, a route mostly walked during a five-week period where I played the part of Mr. Mom before acquiring my present job, firing up missions during the short periods that the kids slept.

Then there's our current topic: Pokèmon FireRed. This game was a gift, actually, from Fat hisself on the occasion of my 30th birthday. That was over a year and a half ago. As I recall, it was my 5th GBA game.

More generally, all four of these games represent the vanguard of my various gaming venues: Dreamcast, Genesis, PSOne, GBA. Beating these select games, thence, is heavily weighted b/c personally it represents a sort of moving on to the next level, rather than the previous pattern of losing focus and just purchasing another 3 games.

So, you see, the Campaign of Completion is about the end of an era.15 The games played become the stuff of legend, so that new games might stride the earth. And the display shelf(s) gains some more balance between games played, being played, and yet to be booted up.

-d.d.

P.S. Our 100th post!

1 Grass, Flying, Water/Flying, Normal, Electric, Fire.
2 This being a peculiar penchant I like to call the "I have you now," wherein you over-level, either by design, mistake, or a combination, and then totally destroy a boss or final boss, therein not only beat the level/game, but, in a sense, beating the games own mechanics. Affectionary Diet thinks
all games should end this way, and I'm inclinationed to agreement.
3 A 4-pronged offensive: Shenmue, Pokemon, Phantasy Star II, Final Fantasy Tactics (PSOne). Shenmue was 1st to fall. Phantasy Star II is slated to be the 3rd.
4 Indeed, sadly, w/o Shenmue, the Dreamcast is considerably less… well, just less.
5 F
at once expressed an inkling to lay out some directional markers for what may or may not be considered CANON by the Church of Reviewiera. I thought about his inquiry on my way to work the next day, inbetween bouts of crawling the sewers below Merkovia in Lunar Legend. My feeling is that this quest, although interesting, is fundamentally flawed, perhaps, since, in Reviewiera, the supreme law of the land is Some Stuff Is Better Than Some Other Stuff. This tenet is tempered w/ the idea that That Stuff That Is Better is a completely subjective value judgment unique to the individual.
6 Like stikfas!
7 Like the cyberpunk movement!
8 Like Transformers!
9 Like the Warriors vs. Bucks!
10 The time we drank beers Fats basement (no specific cite availabe).
11 see: the Streets of Dobuita are Never Lonely.
12 see: I have a problem.
13 Fixing Phantasy Star II
14 Hybridization
15 Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 kinda blows.
Make no doubt, its still the giant robot strategy game with colorful fight animations you know and love, but lets just say I now appreciate Final Fantasy's habit of not making direct sequels a little bit more. Taisen2 has a few new mechs, some new moves (Chain Attacks, which are fuggin' rad), some new mechanics (support actions broken out a bit more), some new characters, and the signature animations are either new or dressed up (also fuggin' rad).
But that's pretty much it. The story is even less interesting than the first installment's hodgepodge giant robo anime homage – an element underlined by the recycling of backgrounds for the story breaks.
Oh yeah, battle maps from the 1st game get recycled, too.
So, Taisen2's been languishing in my GBA Special Player since I beat (the rather disappointing and anti-climatic) Lunar Legend. Back in the workforce, I fired up Taisen2 a couple times during lunch, and quickly found myself wondering if there was anything else I needed to do (read: this game is boring as fuck). After bitching about it w/ Fat when he brought Palomcid over to visit Ivon, and also visiting Taggart Island (which necessitated me taking Taisen2 out of the GBA), I decided Taisen2 was going back in the box. And it was time to get back to Pokèmon: FireRed.
It was from here that the Campaign of Completion began.

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1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Kudos, DDT, on not only a fitting 100th post, but 1 of my favorite posts ever. The Campaign of Completitude indeed is oft' tinged with sadness: one of my favorite reasons to not finish a game is that I simply...don't want the experience to be over.

Contact--about which I can neither shut up nor write a proper post--was a bit of a heartbreaker in this respect. Somehow, I just knew that when the story was over, the game would let me roll around, fish more, fight random beasties, collect drops, buy more items. Sure, there wasn't any more story, sure the characters had finished their arcs, sure there weren't going to be any more bosses, but there was this neat world I wanted to spend more time in. There was no such option, of course. (The World Ends With You--Square Enix' major-label version of Contact--does allow this after the credits roll, I gather. If so, rad. And...thanks.)

But really what I wanted to talk about, briefly and unsatisfactorily, are a couple other major traditions we got goin' round heah. I mean, absolutely nothing trumps the (awareness/enjoyment of) metaphorical+biographical context granting objects greater meaning, our "purposeful celebration of the subjective". But there's a couple others.

There's the thrill of the good score. Not the typical vid-game good score, the good score from the store, the item you procured by the sharpness of your eye and the quickness of your wallet-drawing hand.

The pleasures of camraderie, from our times in my basement or yr living room, to the minor aspects of community afforded by these 'nets. (I browbeat my buddy Canada into acquiring a DS, when he really prolly woulda preferred a PSP, and then crammed games down his throat: Drill Dozer, Star Trek: Tactical Assault, Metroid Prime Pinball... Our living-room battles for supremacy in the latter 2 are some of my favorite memories of our friendship.)

The strange power of branding. Somehow, in my 30s, Sega now means a lot to me. Metroid means a lot to me. For hell's sake, the House of the Dead series means something to me...

Midway between those last two, the satisfactions of taste. Here lies the richness of loving the generally-misapprehended: understanding that the cream of the Dreamcast's library equals in quality and surpasses in charm the library of any other console to date. Knowing that the GBA (and the DS!) will offer the discerning and picky guy far more than the little kid who probably got one with a movie tie-in game. Discovering that a shitty game can provide a platform for a wonderful afternoon, given the right circumstances.

The urge to consume, coupled with many of the above, that has me reading a dozen hit-or-miss sites to ensure I hoover up enough information that at any game store I might be able to pounce upon a hidden treasure. Something even the cats who work there probably don't know is rad.

The experience of relationships with certain kinds of play, over a long time. This one I don't think DDT shares as much, as his tastes seem to run toward the narrative-heavier. My own tastes being very much "mid-core", I spend a lot--a LOT--of time with puzzle games, shmups, and other pick-up-and-play things with essentially zero in the way of story. In particular, I very love video pinball. These are the sorts of games you can forget for a year, return to, and enjoy, and even be good at still.

And a story from today maybe will illustrate a whole lot of our traditions...

A couple nights ago, plugging away at The World Ends With You, I took a break to indulge one of my most-frequent annoying addictions: reading internet reviews of things I (a) already own and (b) have fully-formed opinions about. As it happens, I just relocated to Oakland, and only have my DS to play with.# Most of the collection is in storage, so I have only my travel-case selection of games, which reflects both recent purchases/campaigns, and legacy games of type one (things I think I actually might someday finish) and type two (things I can't bear to be without).^

So after I finish reading another typical valentine to Square Enix' latest, I look 'round for other new releases. Just because I like knowing more than store employees and pointedly not correcting them. And I findy the, by this account, thoroughly mediocre Dream Pinball. Which, yah, I've seen on the shelf and felt a bit of a pull towards, just b/c (a) I'm obsessed w/ video pinball$ and (b) it's pretty cheap.

But let's get clear: this review isn't fodder for any sane man's obsession. Its judgment runs the gamut from "generic...average...decent enough effort" to "pretty well done...acceptable...average...admissible". Score-wise, it gets the industry standard 6.5 which usually means 'if you like this genre, you'll give it an 8'.

Somehow, since reading the review, I've had the words "Dream Pinball"...uh, pinball their way through my head a dozen times an hour. I didn't buy it today at Best Buy b/c it didn't have a price tag on it, and the guy working thought it was 30 wing-wangs. The 'nets suggest this one's a Jackson, and that I'll pay, but not more. But I really am sweating this fucking game.

So, to scratch the itch, I dig out Metroid Prime Pinball. This game I call The Greatest Bathroom Game of All Time, and it's easily one of my most-played games ever. Since my investigation of its multiplayer, though, with Canada, and against strangers at PAX, the single-player has really lost its appeal. So pulling it out was by way of a retirement, a last fling, a quick hurrah before consigning it to the beer-bottle boxes which house the DS games not living in my travel case.

What I'd forgotten was that all my mastery had come on normal difficulty, and that I'd kicked it up to expert. And I'd forgotten that expert difficulty is a stiff challenge--the sort of stern, but thoroughly fair test I respond to in a Big Way.

A couple hours later, I'd posted my second-highest score ever, and my girlfriend had banned the game from the bedroom on the grounds that I need to be more "calm".

As for Dream Pinball...we'll see. I'll prolly buy it. I'll prolly unlock everything. It'll prolly end up another ultra-niche title I have Strong Opinions about. But Metroid Prime Pinball? Well. That one...that one I'll prolly play as long as I'm playing games.

-Fat

^
Lately I've been playing The World Ends With You almost exclusively. But Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword still lurks in there as well. Actually, since I quit playing that one on the final boss, it prolly counts as one I might finish someday, along with Star Trek: Tactical Assault. The things I just have to have around include Gunpey and Metroid Prime Pinball. I guess there's another category of 'games unlike other games I've got that I might wanna play sometimes': Picross, Touch Detective, Geometry Wars. And a couple of GBA games, because I do hate to neglect any available slot...

#
This isn't quite true. I moved in the GameCube, but it's little more than an Animal Crossing adaptor: my girlfriend digs Animal Crossing. Or anyways she did until a couple days ago. Now she's bored with it, and the Cube sits there, with its interesting library--I never did finish Beyond Good and Evil--its GameBoy Player... It just sits there.

The most interesting part of the whole thing is that I moved in the GCN so we could play AC. I didn't move in the Wii, which'd play it just fine, thanks. And which has a bunch of other games I'd love to be playing...thanks again...

I actually packed up the GCN 'way back when I bought my Wii; a couple days later, I unpacked it, cuz I wanted to play Alien Hominid. Somehow, it just felt better on the Cube...

$
Off the top of my head:
Williams Collection (Wii)
Pinball of the Dead (GBA)
Alien Crush (TG-16, by way of Wii)
Devil's Crush (TG-16, by way of Wii)
Metroid Prime Pinball (DS)
Odama (GCN)

And I've got my eye out for the Gottlieb Collection for GCN, and a decent copy of Pokemon Pinball. Fuck. I've eyed something called Flipper Critters more than once. I have a problem.

I HAVE to put this someplace: in general, the best writing about games comes from the UK. Dunno why. But the only site I find consistently worth reading review-wise is Eurogamer. And the only stupid thing I can think of that they ever did was pan MPP. Twice.

12:35 AM  

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