I'm a bit of an arbitrary gamer. I mostly enjoy retro games, but not for the challenge. I like games to be a mix of a book and a movie in that they are visually stimulating but still allow the player to fill in the voices and other elements with their imagination. I'm weird and awkward, if you couldn't tell.
Outside of video games, my other great passion is music. I'd consider myself a metalhead because it is what I gravitate towards most, but I don't consign myself to any one genre or style of music. My collection also boasts healthy helpings of darkwave, visual kei, neofolk, neoclassical, classic rock, prog rock, classical, and of course, video game soundtracks, along with smatterings of whatever else has caught my attention.
My favorite games include:
Castlevania II, IV, Symphony of the Night
Cthulhu Saves the World
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Final Fantasy IV, VI
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Lords of Thunder
Megaman II, III, V, X
Rocket Knight Adventures
Seiken Densetsu series: from Final Fantasy Adventure to Legend of Mana
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Tales of Symphonia
Threads of Fate
Tower of Heaven
World of Goo
Early in the morning of November 22nd, in those twilight hours between night and morning, I found myself unable to sleep: I had been dreaming of playing a Link Between Worlds. Giving up on the prospect of getting back to sleep, I started my morning routine. While in the shower, I noticed for the first time in the three years Iíve been living in this house that there was an upside down Triforce on one of the walls! I thought better of waking up my wife to share this startling discovery, and instead started thinking about why this game had me so wound up, unlike so few titles in the last two generations of video games.
Flash to today, and Iíve realized that I spent a majority of my weekend playing Linkís latest adventure - not since the launch month of World of Warcraft had a game made my food and restroom breaks negligible necessities. Somewhere in the sixth generation, video games became a world that moved on without me. I tried in vain to enjoy Super Mario Sunshine. Every Final Fantasy since VII made me want to scream the opening line of Minor Threatís Filler. I played Call of Duty and Halo in a befuddled state, wondering why each respective series was so revered. This is the part of my plight where many gamers are still with me, but then I reveal that I couldn't get into BioShock or Mass Effect either.†
I was a latecomer to the current generation, lured back in after listening to RetroforceGo! and hearing them speak of titles that embraced the retro aesthetic (way back when that was a novel idea). I enjoyed a small handful of titles, mostly on the wii. Still, I always felt like I was attending a hip party without an invitation. Nowhere was this more evident than when I attempted to play Left 4 Dead 2: I would join a game, take a few steps, and then see the voting dialog appear wherein players elected to remove me from play.
At first, I chuckled, assuming they didnít like my gamertag. After an hour or so of failing to play a game for longer than a few minutes, I was sure that video games just didnít want me anymore. I felt like a relic of a bygone era. I didnít want to see achievements; I celebrated my first one by disabling all notifications. I would often get annoyed when friends would appear uninvited in my Borderlands 2 games, derailing whatever plans I had in motion. I couldn't care less if people were able to see my activities. I forced myself through Skyward Sword, cursing every time I had to bowl a bomb or listen to Fi explain the same thing over and over.†
Seriously, was this necessary?
But A Link Between Worlds helped me rekindle that long-extinguished sense of immersion and wonder. Stepping back into the realm of a Link to the Past was like going to visit a ďmassiveĒ mountain from childhood, and instead of it being long-gone or disappointingly small, it was everything you remembered and more. This game is what nostalgia yearns to be Ė memories bearing the magic of age. Not only is there no guiding companion, thereís also no messing about in dungeons learning to use each key item.
Many fans praise the dungeon designs of Zelda where a new item is introduced, and the proceeding areas help the player utilize their new tool, often culminating in a boss fight that does the same. But this concept wore thin fast for me. By the time Twilight Princess came around, dungeons all bore a similar pattern, and boss fights were predictable breezes. With the latest title, a player is able to rent the tools and figure out for themselves how to use each one. Each dungeon and cave then becomes reliant on the more free-form experience of the player. I had no idea what the Tornado Rod was going to do, and I had a blast simply running around and creating vortices.†
Amazingly, A Link Between Worlds doesnít sacrifice story for this freedom. Rather than use cutscenes for thinly veiled handholding, most of dialog actually feels relevant. On the rare occasion that the wall is broken, it truly feels necessary. Remember the library in Linkís Awakening or the Know-It-All Birds in the Oracle titles? This is where guidance should be contained, and the tradition is continued with the hint goggles. I havenít used this helping item once, but Iím glad it is there for those who do need the extra assistance. Rather than going point by point, it would make more sense to simply state that A Link Between Worlds contains everything that made the series alluring, and sheds all the unnecessary fluff and candy-coating it has gained over the years.
I donít seek to argue that thereís something wrong with video games today. Nor is this blog my admitting to being an old curmudgeon who bitches about what the kids listen to on the radio nowadays. But like music, the years make it harder for me to find my way back to a pure gaming experience, where I can simply fall backwards into a gameís world as I would a pile of fluffy leaves on a crisp autumn day. This time around, I didnít have to dig deep into the indie titles or try my luck at something completely random in the hopes of stumbling into the magic. I just had to come home.
There is no bigger interest in my life than music. When Iím not actively engaged with someone, chances are good Iíll have my headphones on and cranked to a borderline unsafe levels. I carefully select the music that wakes me up each morning. When considering driving distance, I measure by the number of singles, EPs, and albums that would fit into the trip (my current commute to work is about a half album). And when it comes to videogame soundtracks, Iíll just say that my highest playcounts in iTunes largely belong to the ranks of Shimomura, Koshiro, Mitsuda, Kikuta, and Kondo.
But for all endearment I exude for music, Iím not terribly talented at creating it. Apparently, the skill traveled thoroughly through my older and younger siblings, then promptly skirted around me, as my musical aspirations were quelled after years of fruitless attempts to play the bass guitar. While Iím able to read music decently enough, I have no ear for notes, and ultimately hit the wall when I found that I couldnít write bass lines. Not wanting to be one of those bassists, I relinquished myself to my high schoolís sparsely populated choir, and quietly retired from the world of music not long after.
I mean, I figured I had long hair, what else did I need?
This all changed about ten months ago, wherein I would once again begin a musical endeavor by joining a handbell choir. The bells seemed easy enough to master. My assumption was that one simply held two notes at a time, and summoned them at will when desired. The first indicator that I may have underestimated the challenge was when the music was not, in fact, a series of ďring, donít ringĒ instructions. On the contrary, it was written in traditional notation, along with many symbols that I hadnít a clue how to decipher:
Iíll spare the details of the many harrowing rehearsals which were to follow, but suffice to say, I once again faced an impassible monolith of aural feats. I would fight mentally tooth and nail to establish a beat count, yet find myself floundering whenever Iíd miss a note. Iíd barely be exploring a sense of triumph for recognizing and performing gyros, hand Martellatos, plucks, and singing bowls, when Iíd be singled out for not recognizing that I should be playing my G# bell when there was an A♭ on the staff. When it seemed as though I had once again met my limit, hope appeared in the form of a nostalgic-tinged Final Fantasy title.
Like many others, the music of Final Fantasy is particularly near and dear to my heart. The Theme of Love from Final Fantasy IV plays when my wife calls. I use Uematsuís character themes and the opera scene as examples when arguing the unique potency of videogame music. So a videogame solely based around these melodies was predetermined to be amazing. Though my eyes and ears reveled in the memories evoked by Theatrhythm, I also couldnít help but notice a marked improvement in my bell choir performance since the game was first inserted into my 3DS. Initially, I was bold enough to consider the idea that I had awakened some long-dormant talents, and while there may be a shred of truth to this notion, it's not as though I was suddenly able to keep a steady count or hear the notes.
I would find myself recovering after dropping notes by sheer intuition. Entire songs would pass and I wouldnít bequeath myself even one count or ever glance to the conductor for direction. After nailing a piece and considering it a perfect chain, I came to realize how much that little game had helped me. Just as with the bells, the player doesnít have to hit certain notes in Theatrhythm, and instead has to be concerned with slightly varying techniques. Missing a few beats of a particularly complex sequence can be irrevocably damming, until the proper hand-ear coordination is built. The most incredible development has to be how Iíve been discerning notes Ė I still cannot hear a bell ring and have any sort of guess as to what was played, but while performing, I can feel where each piece should be placed, and know when I should be playing which accidentals.
That said, Iím not anything of a prodigy, and in terms of the game, I still canít beat any of the battle tracks on Ultimate. But I like to think these two musical fixtures in my life are aiding one another and furthering my extremely limited abilities, sort of in the same way that reading might expand a personís vocabulary. Iíve never been one to insinuate that videogames are some untapped resource for developing real-world skills, but after this experience I would absolutely contend that their breadth as a supplement should never be dismissed.
There's many reasons why I adore the music of video games, from those that extract ridiculous potential from short loops, to those which are unbelievably catchy, binding themselves forever into one's memory. But by far, my favorite pieces of video game music are those that evoke an emotional response. While I've come across plenty of moving songs in the world of music, finding one within a video game is a rare pleasure. What follows are the most evocative tracks I've heard. Some have been companions through tough times, others became memorable solely for the content they accompanied in-game, but all carry immense musical potency.
Though many of these games are older, I'll still warn in advance that nearly every entry contains spoilers. In most cases, I found it necessary to speak to the context of the music.
Super Mario RPG - Sad Song (Yoko Shimomura)
This gem in the Super NES library certainly isnít known for an emotionally charged story, but it does slip in a handful of tear-jerking moments, mostly found within Mallowís story. One particular sequence has been forever cemented in my memory. Near the end of the game, the party encounters Boomer, a katana-wielding warrior who resembles a Shogun, and a fight ensues atop two chandeliers. Upon being defeated, Boomer doesnít simply vanish into coins as other bosses. Instead, he has what appears to be an asthma attack, wondering aloud how he could have been defeated. Mario offers Boomer a reprieve, which he staunchly refuses, stating with pride that he is prepared to go out like a warrior.
Öand he proceeds to cut the chandelierís chain, plummeting presumably to his death. The Shy Guy holding the chain then openly weeps for his fallen companion, assuring himself that a little fall won't hurt Boomer. How freaking sad is that? The context of being within a Mario game makes it even worse, as the series is generally a safe haven from Pixar-style emotional sucker-punches. I think this moment passes by most players without making an impact, but for whatever reason, I canít play Super Mario RPG or hear this song without feeling my eyes well up a little for poor Boomer.
Xenoblade - Imperial Capital Agniratha / Night (Ace+)
In one of the more interesting game worlds of late, Xenoblade takes place on the bodies of two dead gods known as the Bionis and Mechonis, which house biological and mechanical life respectively. Much of Xenoblade is spent on a quest for vengeance against the denizens of Mechonis, who have been waging war on the residents of Bionis. When Shulk and his party finally reach the enemy's homeworld, they find it to be a massive factory designed to produce the Mechon. Their goal is to reach the capital city of Mechonis Ė Agniratha.
From the moment they step off the elevator to the city, what is presented before them in Agniratha is not a battle-hardened military capital, but an actual sprawling city, abandoned and in decay. A somber atmosphere seeps from the piano melody, exposing sensations of misplaced anger and sudden empathy. The brutal moment for me was reaching the security system, which distributes most of the quests for the area. The cityís security assures your party that collecting certain plant life and destroying some malfunctioning Mechon will restore balance to the capital and make it safe for the residents, despite the fact that the city is irrevocably ruined, and its citizens long gone. Like a bully who lashes out because of an abusive home life, it's hard not to feel sympathy; moments like this are what make the world seem so tragic.
World of Goo - Are You Coming Home, Love MOM (Kyle Gabler)
I adore the storytelling style of this game, where the player isn't so much performing a role in the game as they are facilitating the plot and bearing silent witness to its events. If one takes the time to learn exactly what is going on with the goo balls, it almost becomes unbearable to advance the game further. In Act 4, they reach the supercomputer MOM. Purported as an all-knowing superbeing, MOM turns out to be a spambot, and the questions she makes available merely exist to harvest more information from the user.
The child-like naÔvetť of the goo balls is what gets me, and it comes to a head during this sequence. Are You Coming Home, Love MOM absolutely nails that sympathetic edge with the understated chorus. The emotions evoked by this music are like helplessly watching a displaced animal struggle to grasp the world of humanity around them.
Chrono Cross - People Imprisoned by Destiny (Yasunori Mitsuda)
A persistent challenge in life seems to be that one will be faced with decisions that have no positive outcome, where all involved will be hurt. The slow swell of this track, with its brief pauses for effect and its crushing climax, is an eloquent companion for a struggle against the fates. Though it only plays twice in the game, it is among the more memorable in the OST, as in both instances, the song accompanies the need to raise weapons against a friend. Whether it's delivering bad news, ending a relationship, or trying in vain to help, I've known this feeling all too well, and People Imprisoned by Destiny always coerces a reappearance of those memories.
Akira Yamaoka captured a realization of hopelessness in such a poignant way with this piece. Played in-game when Lisa begins to understand that she is actually dead, this song not only punctuates her awakening, but Harry's reaction to her transformation and pleas for help. Whenever I encounter an account of the world's horrendous denizens - murderers, rapists, dictators and all in between - I'm reminded of Not Tomorrow, and can't help but feel sorrowful.
Those who persevered through the many flaws of Fragile Dreams were rewarded with an incredibly moving story. Seto's journey is relatively simple - he's looking for a girl encountered early in the game because he doesn't want to be alone anymore in the post-apocalyptic city. The stark atmosphere is wonderfully accentuated by the graceful soundtrack, which primarily employs the piano, and never fails to ignite each moment. After a bittersweet ending sequence where Seto finally unites with Ren, the credits roll with Tsuki No Nukumori playing.
Fittingly, the song has a precious frailty about it, with soft and soothing vocals over a beautiful melody. After accompanying Seto through the seemingly endless night, seeing him at long last achieve his desire to no longer be alone is overwhelming, and Tsuki No Nukumori is what pushed it over the edge for me. A journey often is in itself a reward rather than the actual destination, and this song properly reflects such a notion. While it is hard to recommend this game to all but the most patient players, it is without a doubt worth every broken weapon and camp by the fire waiting for the chicken-headed merchant.
Super Mario Galaxy - Stardust Road (Mahito Yokota)
Stepping out into the Space Junk Galaxy for the first time, I felt as though I had tumbled back into childhood, struck by a long-dormant sense of wonderment. Super Mario Galaxy, and this level in particular, represents how I envisioned outer space before my blissful ignorance was shattered by that all-spoiling bastard called knowledge. The soothing instrumentation evoke a magnificent serenity, as Mario bounds through a brilliantly illuminated backdrop. In the face of such unfettered beauty, it's nigh-impossible not to be overcome. Which is why this is always the game I reach for when I've had a lousy day.
Yeah, you knew it was coming. Usually, this song is associated with Aeris's death, and we're all quite familiar with it, so I wonít elaborate on that scene. In actuality, I am often reminded more of the first time it plays in the game, when Aeris is taken away by Shinra, and the party visits Elmyra. Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Elmyra came to be Aeris's guardian, and how Aeris helped her through the loss of her husband.
Nobuo's excellent theme perfectly captures the fragility of life, particularly with its porcelain-like opening; it is a testament to finding beauty even in the darkest of times. While a superior eye-roll may be appropriate when Aerisís death is referred to as ďthe moment gamers learned to cryĒ, there is a reason why everyone remembers it, and I largely attribute that memorability to this song.
Mother 3 - Sunflowers and Illusions / Name These Children / Mother?! (Shōgo Sakai)
Like the Lumine Mines and Magicant segments from Earthbound, my favorite moment in Mother 3 is when the narrative turns to the silent protagonist. In Chapter 6, Lucas has a sort of out of body experience, and the player is given a direct look into what has been going on his mind. What we see is a field of sunflowers, his deceased mother's favorite.
Three pieces of music play during this chapter, starting with the dreamy Sunflower Field. This gives way to Name These Children, as a flashback of Flint and Hinawa naming their children is presented. Lastly, Mother?! starts when Lucas witnesses the appearance of Hinawa's apparition. The scene and music together are an absolutely heart-wrenching reminder that, despite fighting the evils of the world and going on an epic quest, Lucas is still a kid, who misses his mother dearly.
While many of the games in the Bit.Trip series move me to tears by way of frustration, they all nonetheless contain an incredibly affective story and soundtrack within all the daunting challenges. Following the events of Bit.Trip Fate, wherein the protagonist, Commander Video, has died, he finds himself returning back to the nether from whence he came. Flux is unlike any other game I've played; its entire breadth is one elongated death sequence. There is no way to fail a level, as Commander Video's death is an eventuality.
Catharsis is both the name of the third level and the title of the music which accompanies it. The stage begins with a cut scene showing him coming to terms with the events of his life, reaching a state of complete understanding. The song starts with a driving rhythm, building slowly as Commander Video begins to embrace the end. About six minutes in, the wall finally bursts, revealing a melody from Bit.Trip Runner's Impetus. Hearing this celebratory song return is as though Commander Video's mind is focusing on his most triumphant moment, a final bout of unrestrained joy before passing away.
I've never felt more connected to a character in a video game than in this moment. I've had to cope with two deaths in 2012; one was an agonizingly gradual passing of an elderly relative, the other a sudden decline in health of a formerly healthy co-worker. Both were emotionally devastating, and I found myself replaying Bit.Trip Flux almost daily and listening to Catharsis endlessly as I struggled to comprehend and cope with death's inevitability. In those moments where I was alone, severed from immediate contact and support, I truly believe the only thing that kept me from the brink was this music.
RetroforceGO! was what brought me to Destructoid, and more importantly, what brought me back into gaming. To say the least, it was the only gaming podcast I had come across that was just about hanging out and talking games, rather than stressing whatever the latest news is or clobbering the listener with gamer cred. For years I assumed there was nothing left in gaming for me, and was content to keep my head down and stick with older systems. RFGO! eased me back into the world of gaming, and provided hours of entertainment.
A few months ago, I started listening to some of my favorite episodes on the commute to and from work. at first, I was merely leaving each episode set at the best moments so that they could easily be queued up whenever I needed a laugh at work. Then I started noting all of my favorite moments as a guide. Not long after, I began extracting said moments into clips, and before long I was making a collection, and knew the end result would be too great not to share with anyone who enjoyed the show.
After pulling about 72 clips, nearly 40 minutes total, I called it quits. There's still plenty more classic moments, so there may be more installments in the future. But for now, I present RetroforceGO! Perfect Best parts 1-3:
Even before the idea that Link's Awakening is the definitive series experience was broached in the original post, I immediately knew this would be my contribution to Zelda week. To date, Iíve played through every entry in the series except for Spirit Tracks and three titles that I wonít besmirch the glory of Zelda week by mentioning any further other than this obtuse reference. While I enjoy every game, Linkís Awakening has always stood far above the rest. Iíll get to the argument soon enough, but first I want to share my initial experience with this title.
I bought my first Game Boy as a Linkís Awakening bundle. For my birthday that year I was given a gift of cash from my grandparents: $50. I had never been given a cash gift up to that point, and nearly lost my mind when my dad clued me in that I could buy a whole new game system with it along with some allowance money I had been saving (with a little help from dad when my feeble ten year old mind didnít calculate the sales tax right). Playing as Link on the go that summer was engrossing, to say the least.
So much so that when the family spent a day at a Lake Erie beach, I suffered horrendous sunburns from sitting hunched over my game boy all day in the heat, never bothering to put on sunscreen: the fact of the matter was, I HAD to finish Bottle Grotto that day. Never before had any Zelda game, or any game at all caused me to sustain personal injury because I was so hopelessly enraptured. In preparation for Skyward Sword, I pulled out the old cartridge along with the Game Boy Pocket and revisited Koholint Island. Following this playthrough, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no finer game in the series, and hereís why.
The Music Might as well start with a big one; the Zelda series had already established a strong aural component at this point, but Linkís Awakening brought it to a new level. Aside from a portion of the main Zelda theme, this title is packed with original music that maximizes the melodious purity afforded by the Game Boyís sound chip. Every dungeon has a unique theme that plays off of the atmosphere of each beautifully; from the looming sense of terror woven into Catfishís Maw to the understated eeriness emanating throughout the Face Shrine, the dungeon music alone is a masterwork of video game music.
But thereís so much more. While the main theme covers most of the outdoor locations, the mountainous areas are blessed with a gem of a tune that is still one of the more driving tunes of the series. By far though, my favorite entries are the variations on the Ballad of the Wind Fish theme. The melody shows up throughout the game, often at pivotal moments, and ties the story together. With so many outstanding tracks, the only thing left to do is wonder why the hell this game still has yet to receive any sort of OST release!
The Humor While fourth wall jokes and quirky humor have become a standard in many of the games, Linkís Awakening did it first, and still did it best. The children in Mabe Village offer gameplay advice then acknowledge that they really donít know what that means. A villager bluntly tells Link heís going to be lost later in the game in a rather subtle self-deprecating jab.
When Marin is following Link around sheíll criticize his Ocarina skills, terrorize the crane game operator, scold Link for looking inside dressers, and land on his head when the two jump down the village well. You can actually shoplift in Link's Awakening, resulting in everyone from that point on calling you THIEF instead of your chosen name. They even manage to squeeze in some slapstick when Tarin tries to knock down a beehive with a stick, resulting in a sort of Yakety Sax scene. The DX Version adds even more, with the photographer snapping pictures on the game's quirkier moments.
Sidescrolling in a Zelda game The original Zelda used side scrolling segments, but they were little more than connecting passages. Linkís Awakening turned this mechanic into actual platforming segments, requiring the player to use acquired items to traverse hazardous terrain in a two dimensional perspective. These challenges range from jumps to dashes and melting a path through ice cubes. Best of all, two of the dungeon bosses actually occur in this view, adding even more variety to the already diverse boss lineup.
The Combat System Zelda games arenít known for overly complex battle systems. However, this game has one simple distinction that sets it apart from the rest of the pack: your item buttons are fully customizable. While that does equate to two whole buttons, it was amazing at the time to be able to not always be holding your sword. Hell, you canít even do that now.
This not only afforded total freedom, it allowed for what I still consider the best two weapons in any Zelda game Ė bomb arrows, and the endless boomerang. The former should be self explanatory, but for those who arenít familiar with the latter, you can throw the boomerang, pick up the flying rooster with the power bracelet, then hover around as the weapon follows your path, annihilating everything below. Which brings me to my next point:
The Boomerang is an Unstoppable Killing Machine Generally this item is used to stun enemies, retrieve far items, and activate switches. In Linkís Awakening, the boomerang demolishes almost every enemy in one toss. Of course, you have to earn it by doing a rather extensive side quest that canít be completed until well after the halfway point. And you canít even get it until you trade a greedy moblin one of your key items. But good god is it worth having.
The Best Glitch Ever This one only applies for those who have an earlier version of the cartridge. Before it was corrected, one could warp across a given screen by applying the select button just as the screen began to scroll to the next area. While this may not seem like much, it could be used to bypass obstacles, dungeon sections, and warp randomly across the island, sometimes ending up in entirely glitched zones. When I first discovered this trick (thanks to Nintendo Power), I completed the dungeons out of order, and often had the key items even before entering them.
Of course, the gaming karma got me good when I warped into Eagleís Tower, then tried to exit and found myself lodged in a stone wall, as you have to unlock the tower from the outside before the stairs and entrance actually appear. In a brilliant maneuver, I then saved and quit, failing to realize that I would start in the exact same place when I loaded up the file later. Sure, it ruined my saved game, but I had a ton of fun and still experimented with it on a separate file on this most recent outing.
The primary plot arc is relatively simple, and all but spelled out for the player early on: Link needs to wake the Wind Fish in order to leave Koholint Island, which is the creature's dream. Waking the Wind Fish is achieved by gathering eight mystical instruments, hidden in each dungeon. It's a slight variation on the standard Zelda mechanic. On the surface, it seems straightforward enough. Looking deeper, however, opens a plethora of thought-provoking realizations. You are on a quest to destroy this intricate world - everything except for you and the Wind Fish will disappear at the end.
It's a plot device that grants a pensive portal into the realm of dreams. Is Marin a manifestation of the dreamer's longing and hope, with her desire of becoming a seagull and flying away to sing for far-away lands? Or is she simply a memory fragment of someone in the real world? Because we're never given any information on the Wind Fish, it's all a manner of interpretation. And if you just want to play a Zelda game, Link's Awakening delivers there too.
The Dream Shrine and the Ghost Lastly, I'm bringing up two specific moments in the game that have always stuck with me. The first is the Dream Shrine. In Mabe Village, there is a small building blocked by boulders that can only be accessed after obtaining the Power Bracelet. The Dream Shrine is nothing more than an altar and a bed, an obvious nod to Zelda II. When Link hops on the bed, he enters a micro dream world, populated by bizarre creatures that mimic his movements and guard the Ocarina. While it's a short mini-dungeon, the mere idea of a dream within a dream blew my mind.
The last portion of this wonderful game I want to talk about is among my favorite moments in any video game. At one point between dungeons, a ghost begins following Link. He is unnamed in the game, but later given the name of Nakura in the Manga. He floats far behind our protagonist, and has a creepy little musical sting that plays every time you enter a new screen with it in tow. Nakura prevents Link from entering dungeons, and cryptically insists that he be taken home. Home, as it turns out, is an abandoned house by the island's south bay. Once inside (and joined by another fantastic piece of soundtrack), the ghost simply says,
As a kid, this was my introduction to the word nostalgia, and gaining a grasp on the concept was moving, to say the least. This little diversion stitches a seam between happiness and remorse that moves me every time, especially when the ghost then requests to be taken back to his grave. I've found this little episode particularly affective. The ghost clearly didn't need Link for transport - he was looking for an escort, a companion through the ghost's memories of another world, and someone to accompany him to the final resting place. And when one considers the ghost's role in the dream world, this whole side quest becomes as provoking as the main plot.
So that's my worship of Link's Awakening - the most Zelda Zelda game ever. Even if Skyward Sword surpasses it in every way, this game will always have a special place in my collection.
Apologies in advance to anyone who can't look at Mega Man 3 the same way after this.
In the original Mega Man, the robots are designed to perform industrial tasks, and conveniently double as a world domination task force for Dr. Wily. For the second attempt, Dr. Wily takes things a little more seriously and designs 8 robots who are all basically walking weapons (unless youíd like to argue that Quick Man has a nonviolent purpose). For me, the first two titles are the only stories where Dr. Wily takes himself seriously.
Formerly, I would lump Mega Man 3 with its predecessors. On my most recent play through, courtesy of the Anniversary Collection, I started to notice some peculiar characteristics on the third title. Initially, I wrote them off as products of an overactive (and Internet-tainted) imagination, and longed for the days when Dr. Wily turning into an alien at the end of Mega Man 2 still scared the shit out of me. But as I finished the game, there was no question: sure as Mega Man 6 is full of racial stereotypes, the robot masters of Mega Man 3 are part of Wily's new perverse scheme, bent on luring Mega Man into some bizarre trysts.
Rather than make an overarching argument, Iím going to go through each boss and share exactly what Iíve found when I took a closer look at the functionality of each one. But first, let's take a look at the stage select screen. In all other games, the center piece is either a static Mega Man or a sigil of the boss. Here, Mega Man's eyes follow the cursor wearily between each robot master. And upon closer look, their twisted intents are blatant: just look at how hungrily Hard Man is eyeing our protagonist!
He clued me in, so Iíll start with him. At a young age, my friend and I would snicker about how Top Man liked to be on Top. And that really says it all. Look at that smirk on the stage select screen, thatís the smarmy little smile of mechanized rapist. His strategy is to dazzle the eye with spinning tops, and then whips himself into a spinning sexual frenzy at poor Mega Man, no doubt intending to buffet the blue bomber with a whirling steel shaft. He even grasps his crotch MJ style and throws out a fisting salute. Thatís a pose that will strike fear into robot virgins for generations to come.
Atop his head is a giant U, as in ďTonight. You.Ē Like his depraved buddy Top Man, Magnet Man opts to distract and lead his prey by launching three magnets, no doubt designed to intimidate and confuse. The loud noise emitted with each launch serves to further distract so that he can deploy the trap Ė a magnetic field that drags Mega Man helplessly towards his captor. The double M can barely contain his excitement when the blue guy shows up, so much that his knees quiver in anticipation.
Obese and bound in leather, Hard Man is clearly a Bear in the robotic community, and he wants Mega Man as his cub. Upon entering his lair, Hard Manís animalistic urges take over, growling and thrusting his arms in the air. As his name implies, this robot master likes it rough Ė he starts by literally fisting our hero, then loses control and simply pounces, crushing Mega Man in rolls of robotic fat.
Green penis cannon. It's pretty obvious what those trouser snakes are searching for.
A younger version of myself might be skeptical at this point Ė how could a walking power plant possibly be a meant for dirty activities? Well, thanks to the Internet and an insatiable curiosity, itís quite obvious that Spark Man is all about erotic electrostimulation (hey don't look at me like that, I learned about it from Wikipedia!). He doesnít just want to put his angular dong into M squared Ė the Sparkster wants pain with his pleasure. Spark Man can be seen shocking himself through the freaking head, building his pleasure, before launching his flashy discharge. And once his helpless victim has been subdued, he leaps with reckless abandon, ready with his evil rods.
Shadow Manís game is obviously bloodplay, with all his vats of the crimson liquid, brought forth by his endless supply of throwing stars. The only way to halt this vile ingress is to completely dominate Shadow Man, utilizing Top Manís trademark robot crotch-y whirlwind to beat the bastard into submission. But this clearly plays right into his desire to be a switch. Thatís why his life bar goes down so fast. Just look at how eager he is to accept it in the above screen shot.
Also known as Mťnage ŗ trois man. He is only defeated when overloaded with the green penis cannon. Need I say more?
Wrapping up our list of cybernetic perverts is the robotic gimp. Heís sealed up in a vinyl suit, complete with a big red ball gag. Clearly turned on by piercings and injections, Needle Man flings his needles endlessly, pummeling Mega Man so that he can get close enough to launch his spiky tri-penis apparatus, allowing for maximum penetration. More than likely, Needle Man was Hard Manís cub until a scrawnier, sexier robot came on the scene. Desperate for the suffocating embrace of his lumberjack bear, Needleman is a scorned lover out for vengeance.
Proto Man He shows up occasionally, and serves as the interlude between Dr. Wily's bodysuits and the castle stages. His pattern of attack is simple and laughable. He's obviously trying to help Mega Man from the other side, as if to say to the other robots "hey, look I'm gonna get him! Yeah look at me hop suggestively!"
Dr. Wily Of course, we all know Dr. Wily was quick to cover his tracks, playing the whole attempt off as renewed world domination attempt once Mega Man showed up at his doorstop. So aside from the attempted Mega gang bang at the end of stage 3, the rest of the game is relatively innocuous. At least until, Wily shows up in this wide-eyed robot spewing white bursts from a flexible tube-like appendage, which just happens to be located in the nether quarters - luckily, some well placed hard knuckles can render his nefarious yogurt hose flaccid.
People refer to this as the fake Gamma, but I'm thinking once again that Dr. Wily had a quick backup plan to obscure his dirty secret. Look at what is purported to be the actual "ultimate weapon":
Yeah, it's a big mouth and some other robot's head awkwardly grafted on top who just chatters mindlessly, probably asking to be released from its awful existence of being half torso, half Julia Roberts-sized mouth with what looks like a white bra draped on top. While Mega Man dispatches this sin against nature, Dr. Wily quickly threw together a cockpit (which apparently draws eyes on the mouth-boob abomination). Then when the Doc finally shows up, it's a classic case of him declaring that if he can't have the Blue Bomber, no one can.
The only way to stop the maniacal old deviant is to give him all the robo wood he can handle. It's up to the Top Spin or Search Snakes to bring this perverted chapter in the series to a close, leaving Mega Man to wander along a grassy field, tracing Dr. Light's journals trying to figure out what went so very wrong, wondering if he'll ever sleep comfortably again.
On a serious note, what exactly is that thing floating on top of the tree?