popular  /  reviews  /  videos  /  community

The Memory Card

The Memory Card .91: A sniper rifle and a telephone

May 19 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up I have a strange relationship with the Grand Theft Auto games. While I love Rockstar (especially since their masterpiece Red Dead Redemption), the Grand Theft Auto games feel so similar, and, at some points, uninspired, that is hard for me to get excited about them. I still have purchased (and liked!) them all, but it seems I buy them because of a sense of duty rather than a genuine excitement about what I will be playing. Lucky for me, Grand Theft Auto IV turned out to be pretty good. The game has great characters, and that city -- my God, that city! -- is absolutely stunning, filled with tons of detail and a ridiculous amount of things to do. In the game, you play as Niko Bellic, a veteran from Eastern Europe who comes to Liberty City to pursue the “American Dream.” Unfortunately for him, this American Dream comes with the cost of doing some very bad things. At the very start of the game, Nico meets up with his cousin Roman, a fan favorite and easily one of the best characters in the game (“TITTIES!”). To say Roman is in over his head would be an understatement. Drowning in debt and the target of many violent loan sharks, Niko is forced to protect Roman on many occasions. Eventually, the two are kidnapped by a gang and brought to a man named Mikhail Faustin. Instead of killing them, though, Faustin is impressed by Niko’s actions in defending his cousin and hires him to do a series of dangerous jobs for him. While performing these jobs, Niko meets a series of characters: some good, some bad, and some really bad. One of these shady characters is crooked Deputy Police Commissioner Francis McReary. McReary sends Niko on many missions to “take care of” people he doesn’t want to deal with anymore. Most are the leaders of gangs or notorious drug dealers, but, regardless of who they are, McReary obviously crosses the line by taking the law into his own corrupt hands. Despite agreeing to help him, Niko knows what he is doing is not right, but at this point in the game he will do whatever it takes to reach that American Dream he so desperately wants. And if killing a bunch of bad people for a bunch of other bad people is what it takes, he is willing to make that sacrifice. After completing a few missions for McReary, the shady cop gets frustrated with Niko for not doing everything exactly as planned. To remedy this, he offers Niko one more job to make up for all of his unintentional shortcomings. McReary asks Niko to head to the apartment of a drug dealer ... and kill him. It is on this mission when this week’s Memory Card occurs: A sniper rifle and a telephone. The Moment Like most missions in Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko is tasked with hotwiring a car and driving to his instructed location. In this specific mission (entitled “Lure,” which Niko and the player will soon understand), Niko is also asked to pick up a sniper rifle from the back of a car before he proceeds to his destination. With sniper rifle in hand, Niko reaches a tall apartment complex. As he pulls his (stolen) car up in front of the building, McReary calls him on his cell phone. He instructs Niko to go to the roof of the building opposite of the drug dealer’s apartment. The loyal hire that he is, Niko makes his way to the roof of the apartment across the street from the dealer, sniper rifle in hand. When he reaches the roof, Niko realizes the drug dealer cannot be seen in his apartment. He is there, but sitting on his couch and out of view. Niko calls McReary, who instructs him to figure out a way to lure the target into the open. This is when Niko has to use his brain. How is he supposed to lure the drug dealer into his sniper rifle’s sights? Niko looks around the building. There is no way to jump over to the other apartment -- it’s too far! And even if he could do that, the drug dealer would hear all the ruckus and run away. Mission failed. Niko needs to figure out a way to get the dealer’s attention without him noticing that anything is out of the ordinary. Lucky for him, his sniper rifle has a sight with a very powerful zoom. He peers through the gun, zooms in across the street, and surveys his surroundings. The dealer’s apartment is filled with normal things one would find in an apartment: A bed, a television, a stereo, a telephone. Wait. A telephone. Maybe Niko could use that to his advantage ... At this point, the player can zoom in on the telephone’s digital display. By looking very closely (and carefully), the number of the dealer’s home phone can be seen on the digital screen. Using this information, Niko pulls out his cell phone and dials the number. After a slight pause, the home phone inside the dealer’s apartment rings. The dealer stands up from the couch, walks over to answer the phone, and steps right into Niko’s sights. Niko takes a deep breath, aligns his crosshairs over the drug dealer’s head, and pulls the trigger. With an explosion of red, the drug dealer falls to the ground ... dead. Mission accomplished. You can watch the entire “Lure” mission here: The Impact I love this part of Grand Theft Auto IV. Granted, it is a very short mission in a gigantic overall experience, but it is easily the most creative and inspired part of the entire game. As epic in scope as Grand Theft Auto IV is, most of its missions fall into the tried and true tradition of what Grand Theft Auto missions are all about: mainly, traveling to a new area, shooting up some thugs, and driving away -- sometimes casually and sometimes while being chased. The “Lure” mission has the same format as most of the other missions in the game, but adding in the remarkably clever twist about figuring out a way to distract the drug dealer takes the entire mission to a brand new level. Grand Theft Auto is not known for its puzzles, but this one sequence really involves a lot of outside thinking to figure out what to do next. And once you figure out you can call the number on the phone by zooming in and discovering it for yourself, it is extremely satisfying. Even cooler, calling the phone number is not the only way to distract the drug dealer! As you can tell while playing the scene, the dealer is watching TV while sitting on his couch. By shooting the satellite dish outside his window, the television goes out and the dealer walks over to see what is wrong. At this point Niko can also shoot him, just like he would if the dealer had answered the phone. But doing things this way leads to a few unfortunate problems with this sequence. One of the reasons I love using the phone to call the drug dealer is because of its relative realism and clever use of the environment. If the dealer was sitting at home and his phone rang, he realistically would get up to answer it. It just makes sense! But after shooting the satellite dish, would the drug dealer -- someone who is obviously aware of and nervous about potential gunfire -- really walk in front of the window to see what is wrong? I am no drug dealer, but I would think a gunshot and subsequent explosion would send me running! Similarly, Niko can also flat-out shoot the television to have the drug dealer walk over and check out what is wrong. But, again, a bullet through the television would most likely result in a different reaction from a real drug dealer. Another small issue: If the player is confused as what to do and looks around for a long period of time without doing anything, McReary will actually call Niko on his cell phone and just simply give him the phone number of the drug dealer. No, Rockstar! Have more faith! It is so much more satisfying for the player to figure these puzzles out on their own! But despite these negative thoughts, the “Lure” mission in Grand Theft Auto IV is still pretty impressive. It is possible to not even experience any of these downsides, so they are all minor complaints in a sequence that is surprisingly creative and ultimately very refreshing. And the fact that you even have multiple ways of luring the drug dealer into the sniper rifle’s sights is a definite positive! The more choice and options for the player in a game like this the better! While many big-budget videogames are starting to sacrifice originality for superior technology, it is nice to see glimpses of clever, intelligent, and unique game design pop up in the most unlikely of places. And just imagine: If every mission in the game was this creative, what would the entire game have been like? Maybe we already have our answer ...   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).86: Death is final (Fire Emblem).87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).88: The mark of a THIEF (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).89: MEAT 'SPLOSION! ('Splosion Man).90: In her father's Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
 photo

Have you ever played a videogame that you liked -- but didn’t love -- only to encounter a sequence that is so creative and well-designed it makes you wish the entire game contained more memorable moments like it? When t...

The Memory Card .90: In her father's Shadow

May 12 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up It makes me feel like a broken record (or broken typewriter?) to keep featuring Final Fantasy VI on the Memory Card. This is its fifth appearance (!), but, honestly, I could easily write many more. The game is my favorite role-playing game of all time and has too many memorable moments to count. You can click here, here, here, and (deep breath!) here to read all about the other moments and related backstories. For this Memory Card, I will just be focusing on the events leading up to this week’s specific moment. In Final Fantasy VI, you can play as many different characters. Some are old; some are young. Some are men; some are women. Heck, some of them are not even human! While a giant cast of characters can sometimes make a game feel full to the point of being overwhelming, every character in Final Fantasy VI is so well-rounded and interesting that they all feel vital to the game’s overall experience. At the start of Final Fantasy VI, you are put in the role of arguably the game’s central main character, Terra, a young woman with a very mysterious past that is the prisoner of the evil Empire and being used as a weapon to find and capture Espers (magical creatures that are being used in horrible experiments). After encountering a powerful Esper during the game’s opening, extremely memorable sequence, Terra loses her memory and the true, epic story of Final Fantasy VI begins. What follows is one of the most engrossing, beautiful and well-designed role-playing adventures ever conceived -- one full of numerous moments that will make you gasp just as much as they will make you cry. As the story of Final Fantasy VI starts to unfold, Terra is united with a large variety of characters, each more interesting that the last. At one point early on, Terra is separated from her friends and the game splits off into three separate storylines. While all three must be played eventually, the player has the choice of which stories to experience first. One of these storylines follows a troubled young brother of a king by the name of Sabin. Sabin is tossed from a raft during a raging river battle and must journey across many lands to once again find his friends. Along the way he runs into a mysterious ninja by the name of Shadow. While very intimidating due to his all-black attire and lack of communication skills, Shadow is one of the bravest and most trustworthy characters in the game -- even if he has a tendency to disappear at a moment’s notice. Always standing by Shadow’s side is his pet dog, Interceptor, a loyal, strong pup (and my pick for the best videogame puppy EVER!) that possesses the same hidden sweetness of his owner. They both have tough exteriors but would do anything to protect the people that they love. Together, Shadow and Interceptor travel the world, taking on dangerous jobs here and there to get by, never really settling down in one spot. When Sabin first meets him, Shadow is hesitant to join him, but eventually does for reasons only Shadow will ever know (read: gil!). Eventually, Sabin, Shadow, Interceptor, and some other new companions reunite with Terra and her friends. At this point, Shadow again disappears, not joining back with the party until much later in the game, when the allies make their way to the small village of Thamasa. It is here in this seemingly unsuspecting village when this week’s Memory Card moment starts to reveal itself. The Moment Before heading to a place called Crescent Island to learn more about the Espers, Terra and the thief Locke team up with Shadow to travel to the tucked-away town of Thamasa, in the hopes the villagers there can help them with their quest. While there, the party meets an old man named Strago and his assumed adopted grandchild Relm, a young girl who is very skilled at drawing. Immediately upon entering the village, Interceptor forms a special bond with Relm. While the scary-looking dog usually growls and barks at strangers, he immediately takes a liking to Relm, even going so far as to letting her pet him. That night, while staying in a local inn, Terra and Locke are awakened by a huge fire in a nearby house. Looking for help from Shadow, they realize that he and Interceptor are nowhere to be found! Not having time to look for them, Terra and Locke run for the burning building. As they approach, they learn that Relm is trapped inside! Scared, but determined to help, Terra and Locke run inside the giant fire to save her. The fight through the inferno is tough, but eventually Terra and Locke reach Relm. To their surprise, Interceptor is also their trying to save her -- although the loyal pup is unsuccessful. Terra and Locke jump into action, but before they have a chance to do anything, the building around them starts to collapse. Right before they are crushed by the burning rubble, Shadow appears and saves everyone at the last minute. Barely escaping with their lives, the party makes their way outside just as the building falls to the ground around them. Thanking him for saving their lives, Shadow says nothing except for the fact that he only went into the burning house to save his dog Interceptor. Relm glances over. She senses something else was behind his rescue mission. Without even a heartfelt goodbye, Shadow again disappears into the smoke-filled night sky. It isn’t until much later in the game when Shadow once again appears. In a moment previously covered on the Memory Card, Shadow shows up wounded on a Floating Continent. By waiting for him before escaping, players are able to rescue Shadow and save him from dying. By doing this, Shadow can eventually join the party at a later point. If he is not saved, however, he is killed and never again returns to the game. This choice is very important to what happens in this week’s Memory Card, as both scenarios yield very different results. Let’s start by covering what happens if Shadow is saved. After the world is destroyed following the events of the Floating Continent, the party is split up. Only by visiting different parts of the world map can each individual be brought back together. Once Shadow rejoins the party, he becomes a member forever, never choosing to leave again. At this point (and even earlier in the game), when the party stays at certain inns, different members will have dreams about various past moments in their lives. Shadow has several dreams in the game, depending on where the party stays. The first few dreams reveal that Shadow once went by the name of Clyde and was a notorious train robber. You see, Clyde formed a thieves group called “Shadow” with his best friend and cohort Baram. During one of their most notorious train heists, Baram was killed, and Clyde fled to ... where else? The small village of Thamasa. There he met a beautiful young woman who he fathered a child with. Ashamed of the person he was -- and not wanting his child to be like him -- Clyde abandoned his lover and young child in Thamasa, and became the mysterious, cloaked ninja Shadow. At this point things start to come together. As the dreams go on, more information is revealed about Shadow’s past life. In his final dream in the game, the day Clyde (a.k.a. Shadow) leaves his family is shown. Interceptor -- revealed to be the family dog -- runs out of Clyde’s house and chooses to go with his master, although Clyde keeps telling him to stay with “the girl” (translation: his daughter). Interceptor looks back at the house, but still decides to leave with his master. It is at this point when the player knows there is a special connection between Shadow and someone in the village of Thamasa. It is pretty obvious who that person is, but not really confirmed. Until ... In a brilliant twist, if the player actually allows Shadow to die on the Floating Continent (so sad!), his final dream is replaced by Relm’s. In her dream, the same moment of Clyde leaving his family with Interceptor is shown once again. But this time it is shown from the perspective of inside the house. Here, it is revealed that Clyde’s child is actually Relm. Relm’s mother is nowhere to be found, assumed to have died over the years. In her place is Strago, tasked with taking care of Relm. Relm sees Interceptor approach her. She immediately knows what has happened and begs for her father to come back. She just wants to be with her “daddy.” Trying to do what he can, Interceptor runs out the front door and after Shadow. (This is why we see Interceptor run out of the house into Shadow’s final dream in the alternate scenario. So Rashomon!) As the final dream fades out, Relm is left still not knowing that Shadow is her dad. Since Shadow never once takes off the ninja gear covering his face, Relm never makes the connection he is her real father. Even if he survives, the moment is never discussed between the two characters. It is only implied and revealed to the player. A tragic ending, sure ... but one told in such a beautiful and touching way. You can watch all of Shadow’s dreams (including Relm’s!) right here: The Impact Man, I have my hand hovering over the Caps Lock button right now. I could easily hit it and just go off on a hyperbole-filled exclamation about how incredibly good Final Fantasy VI is and how it may contain more memorable videogame moments than any other game in existence. But, no. This moment in particular is so beautiful because of its subtlety that I am going to try my best to honor that. Please know, though, it is going to take everything in me to hold back. I love this game so much. There are many reasons the slow reveal of Shadow being Relm’s father is so wonderful. First off, as just mentioned, the subtle approach absolutely works wonders. Nowadays, it is very rare to find a videogame that doesn’t flat-out reveal exactly what is happening in the game through exposition or heavy-handed dialogue. It is hard to find a game that forces the player to think and make connections on their own. But this is exactly what Final Fantasy VI does. And it doesn’t just do this in one specific scene. It drops subtle hints about Relm being Shadow’s daughter throughout the entire game -- all building up to a fantastic, heartbreaking reveal at the very end. First there is the introduction of Shadow. His character is easily one of the most dynamic and interesting characters in all of Final Fantasy VI. The minute you meet him (accompanied by that incredible music!) you know there is much more to his character than meets the eye. As the game goes on -- and Shadow jumps in and out of the story -- the game leaves the player with just enough information to put two and two together and make a connection to him and Relm. At first, before the player even meets Relm, just Shadow’s lack of communication alone proves that he is hiding something. All the characters in Final Fantasy VI are so robust that the designers would never include a random character that doesn’t say a lot for no reason. All of this subtly builds up to the moment that the party meets Relm for the first time. Notice that the entire game Shadow is almost an optional character, but when the player enters Thamasa, Shadow becomes a required part of the story. Again, a subtle, but clever and vital choice. When Relm enters the game, Shadow may not say much, but his connection to Relm is established through, of all characters, Interceptor. Interceptor has growled and barked at everyone up to this point, but he is friendly to Relm. And Shadow and Relm are definitely not two of the major characters in the game! Establishing something this huge and emotional between two seemingly random characters makes the entire narrative twist even more surprising and impressive. After all of these subtle hints, the game finally chooses to reveal the truth in the last part of the game. But, in another brilliant move, the actual truth is not revealed unless certain requirements are met. First off, the player has to get the characters to dream, which doesn’t happen automatically outside of a few choice dreams from certain characters. By taking the time to explore these dreams, the player is rewarded with more information about Shadow’s past ... and more and more layers are peeled away, revealing the truth about his relationship with Relm. If Shadow survives on the Floating Continent, all of the dreams make it fairly obvious Relm is his daughter, but never make it official. It isn’t until Shadow is dead when the game shows Relm in Thamasa and, even then, the game establishes that Relm had a father who left her when she was young, but never really says it is Clyde/Shadow. It wasn’t until an interview with the game’s developers in 1995 when the truth was finally confirmed. The interview reveals that a scene was cut from the game where Strago suspects who Shadow really is. During a private meeting, Shadow takes off his hood and shows Strago that he is actually Clyde, Relm’s father. Would this scene have been a great addition to the game? Oh, of course! But, in a way, not ever revealing the truth and having the player figure it all out is much more rewarding. True, it becomes fairly obvious towards the end of the game that Shadow is Relm’s father, but this is only because the game sets everything up so perfectly. Shadow’s mysterious past. Interceptor’s reaction to Relm. The slow reveal of Shadow’s dreams. IT IS ALL JUST SO PERFECT!FINAL FANTASY VI IS SO FREAKIN’ AMAZING! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The beautiful, touching, and altogether surprising story of Shadow and Relm is one of the numerous reasons that Final Fantasy VI is not only my favorite role-playing game of all time, but one the greatest videogames ever created.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).86: Death is final (Fire Emblem).87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).88: The mark of a THIEF (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).89: MEAT 'SPLOSION! ('Splosion Man)
 photo

Family is a central part of anyone’s life. For better or worse, your family has a profound effect on you and changes your life in one way or another. Because of the emotionally deep connection everyone has to family, vi...

The Memory Card .89: MEAT 'SPLOSION!

May 05 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up Even though it’s already a couple years old, ‘Splosion Man is still one of my favorite Xbox Live Arcade games to date. In fact, it’s even one of my favorite 2D platformers of all time. The game is just really well-designed, really fun to play, and really, really entertaining. In the game, you play as the titular ‘Splosion Man, a fiery, explosive experiment gone wrong. Created in the laboratory Big Science, the game starts with ‘Splosion Man escaping from his prison. Happy to be free, ‘Splosion (I am calling him this for the rest of the article as his full name is a chore to type!) wreaks havoc throughout the lab in order to find a way to escape. The entire gameplay of ‘Splosion Man finds the main character traveling through multiple 2D, side-scrolling levels, using his explosive powers to traverse tricky obstacles and defeat various enemies. The game is a blast (no pun intended), and possesses a sick and rather twisted sense of humor throughout. For example, if ‘Splosion explodes next to one of the terrified scientists franticly running around the lab, their bodies will burst into a shower of flopping meat. It is rather gross, but weirdly satisfying, and, honestly, funny every time. While traveling through the games increasingly brilliant and challenging levels, ‘Splosion is also tasked with defeating three towering bosses. Each one is very well-designed and fills the entire screen. At the very end of the game, as ‘Splosion is on the verge of escaping the facility, he faces the final boss: A giant, meat-covered, lizard-like creature that is as terrifying to look at as he is disgusting. It is during this final boss battle when this week’s surreal Memory Card moment occurs: MEAT ‘SPLOSION! The Moment Even though the final boss in ‘Splosion Man looks crazy, he is defeated in a rather traditional manner. By memorizing his patterns, ‘Splosion must get the boss to smash his fists down onto huge orange panes of glass found on both sides of the room. Once his hands hit the glass three times, the panes shatter, forcing the massive enemy’s fists to plunge into the hot liquid below. After this happens, the boss pulls out his now-burned-to-a-crisp hands and places them in front of his mouth. The boss, being absolutely insane, smells his cooked meat hands, immediately bites them off, chews them into little pieces, and swallows. To ultimately defeat the boss, ‘Splosion must repeat this process for all of the enemy’s four arms. Once his first two arms are gone, ‘Splosion must explode next to the boss’s face, blinding him and forcing him to thrust his final two hands into electricity-filled tubing on the side of the room. Again, this burns his hands, turning his appendages into a tasty snack for the self-mutilating monster. Once all four arms are gone, one final maneuver is needed to put the boss to an end. Armless and completely blind, the final boss leans forward in absolute exhaustion. He lets his giant, blistered tongue fall out of his mouth. This is ‘Splosion’s opportunity. With his mouth open, ‘Splosion leaps inside the belly of the enormous beast. At this point, the player has to make ‘Splosion explode over and over again as fast as possible. The boss writhes around in pain, pieces of the meat covering his body fly in all directions. And, then, as if out of nowhere, something strange happens. The scene immediately jumps away from the boss action to a shot of a boy lying on a carpeted floor reading a book. And the shot is not created using in-game graphics. It is an actual real world shot using a real-life actor. As the boy quietly reads, a giant slab of cartoony meat falls from the sky onto the child’s book. It lands with a gross squish. The boy giggles and smiles at the camera. A cheesy sparkle emits from his white teeth. Um ... The action then cuts back to ‘Splosion exploding inside the boss’s belly. The player continues to hit the button on the controller as fast as possible. Again, the scene cuts to another real world shot. This one involves two men playing chess. Another cut of meat slaps onto the table, knocking over their chess pieces. The two men high-five. ... okay? The next montage of events repeats this pattern over and over again: Flashes of in-game footage of ‘Splosion exploding inside the boss’s body, cut together with increasingly random scenes set in the real world. A dog being surprised by a piece of falling meat; a cute couple laughing as a shower of hot dogs surrounds them. Each real world shot is more surreal and wacky than the one before it. Finally, after this goes on for minutes, ‘Splosion finally defeats the boss. He is engulfed in a white light and is destroyed once and for all. As if all of this wasn’t absurd enough, the closing credits then begin. Next to all the hardworking people’s names scrolling by, a crazy song begins to play, accompanied by a man in a ‘Splosion Man outfit running through the real world streets, kicking and punching random photos of young girls, and, I can only guess, people that worked on the game at development studio Twisted Pixel. Also, terrible, terrible green screen effects. As the last credit rolls, the logo of the game explodes in a blast of fire as the screen finally fades to black. The end. The absurd, ridiculous, quite amazing end to an absurd, ridiculous, quite amazing game. You really need to see the final boss battle and end credits sequence to believe it. So you can do that right here: The Impact Compared to some of the more moving and heartwarming moments that have been featured on The Memory Card in the past, this is obviously one of the least emotionally touching. (Unless, of course, the destruction of a giant murderous meat monster breaks your heart.) But the lack of emotional impact doesn’t make it any less memorable. In fact, I would go so far as to say the final sequence in ‘Splosion Man is one of the most energetic and inspired videogame endings in recent memory. There is a fine line between hilariously absurd and obnoxious, and, honestly, Twisted Pixel did cross that line a couple times in their most recent game, Comic Jumper. But with ‘Splosion Man, the absurdity just works perfectly. It never feels too out of control to be annoying, but is also insane enough to be genuinely funny. What I think really helps -- and also makes this ending sequence of events so effective -- is that the majority of ‘Splosion Man is not really designed around being “wacky” or “hilarious”. Sure, there are big laughs throughout the game, but the game is first and foremost a 2D platformer -- and a really well-designed one at that! With Comic Jumper, the game almost tries too hard to be funny throughout that it kind of loses some of its solid gameplay in the process. But I am not here to criticize Comic Jumper (I still like that game a lot!). But the comparison helps to understand what makes ‘Splosion Man work so well. ‘Splosion Man is just a really solid game with a very humorous tone to compliment the stellar gameplay. Even the final boss -- as crazy-looking as he is -- is, at its core, just a really well-paced and challenging final boss fight. So when you are about to defeat the boss and the game all of a sudden cuts to a random sequence of events showing real world actors being attacked by digital pieces of meat, well ... it is rather shocking, to say the least. The first time this happened to me I really didn’t know what was happening. It made no sense to me! Heck, it still doesn’t make any sense to me. But it is so absurdly awesome that I can’t help but smile every time I experience it. I am not here to clear my throat, push up my glasses, and obnoxiously break down why the comedy works (I don’t even think I know!), but I can tell you that the reactions from the actors are what make this sequence so damn funny. One particular chuckle-inducing moment is the priceless facial expressions (and accompanying poorly dubbed sound effects) of the couple having a picnic in the park. I mean ... what the heck? HA! It makes me laugh even typing about it. Is this ending sequence completely pointless and a little dumb? Oh, definitely! But give me pointless and dumb any day if it results in something so refreshingly creative and absolutely insane as the ending of ‘Splosion Man. I love it so much.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).86: Death is final (Fire Emblem).87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).88: The mark of a THIEF (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
 photo

One of the great things about videogames is how absurd they can be. Whether this absurdity is intentional (Noby Noby Boy) or unintentional (“All your base are belong to us!”) it’s always nice to see games th...

The Memory Card .88: The mark of a THIEF

Apr 28 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up I used to say that The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is the most underrated of all the Zelda games, but that just isn’t true. It is on the original Game Boy (a now ancient handheld!) and is sometimes ignored by a lot of modern videogame audiences, but everyone that has ever played the game absolutely adores it, consistently ranking it as one of their favorite Zelda games of all time (including me!). So I guess the game is not underrated at all. In fact, it is perfectly rated, as far as all of its fans are concerned. Criminally ignored may be a better descriptor for the first (and best?) handheld Zelda adventure. In the game, you play as Link, the iconic hero of all the Zelda games. After the events of A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo, Link decides to travel the world’s seas in search of new lands and further adventures. Along his journey, his boat is hit by a massive storm and struck by a giant bolt of lightning. Both Link and his ship disappear in a flash of light. When he wakes up, Link finds himself on the shore of the mysterious island of Koholint. I don’t want to spoil the haunting secret of what Koholint really is here (but I will spoil it here!), but let’s just say things are not as they seem in Link’s strange, new world. In his first adventure outside of the familiar Hyrule, Link immediately sets off on a massive adventure to find a way home and solve the many mysteries surrounding the dark and curious land of Koholint. At one point, Link wanders into the quaint village of Mabe. The village, like in most Zelda games, is full of many different buildings and characters. One of these building houses the village shop. Run by a grumpy and attentive shopkeeper, the store holds many items that are very useful to Link, including such things as a shovel, bombs, and a bow and arrow. It is here in this store when this week’s surprising Memory Card moment occurs: The mark of a THIEF. The Moment There are in-game stores in many videogames, and most of them serve the exact same purpose: to buy different items to use on your quest. And most of these shops have a very similar interface. The player selects items from a list on the screen, chooses what they want to buy, pays for said items automatically, and leaves the store to continue on their way. In Link’s Awakening, however, things are handled a little differently. Upon entering the store, the game does not switch to a menu-based system. Instead, the items are placed in front of Link on the shop’s counter. Link then walks up to whatever item he wants, grabs it, and pays for it by talking to the shopkeeper -- a man eager for Link’s business. This process is similar to other Zelda games, with one key difference. In past Zelda games, Link does walk up to the items he wants to buy, but the minute he grabs them, the cost of the item is immediately depleted from his rupee supply. In Link’s Awakening, Link must carry the item to the shopkeeper and pay for it. This small change leaves the player with one interesting (and scandalous!) option. Instead of paying for the item like any good Hyrulian would do, Link can run around the shopkeeper several times, distract him, and quickly jet out the front door, ultimately stealing the item and getting it for free. If this tricky maneuver is successful (seriously, the shopkeeper is tough to distract!), the game will let you know you have stolen the item for free the minute you exit the shop. “Are you proud of yourself?” the game sarcastically asks you. At this point Link is free to roam the world with a brand new, completely free item as part of his inventory. Woo hoo, right? Having saved what could be several hundred rupees, this sounds like a great (although dastardly) scenario! But the game doesn’t let you get away with something so morally wrong so easily. Once you steal something from the store two major things happen. First, you can never enter the store again without being screamed at and subsequently murdered by the now furious shopkeeper. Every time you walk into the store he will immediately blast you with a lethal energy bolt, instantly killing Link. If that weren’t punishment enough, the game does something else that is as shocking as it is shameful. The game permanently changes your in-game name to “THIEF.” That’s right. THIEF. In all caps, just for that extra embarrassing emphasis. If you had named your character "Link" or after your own likeness at the beginning of the game, all of that is thrown out once you steal something from the store. Throughout the rest of the game, all characters will refer to you as THIEF no matter what you do. “Can you please retrieve this item for me, THIEF?!” “Thanks for rescuing me, THIEF!” “Please save our island, THIEF!” Ouch. It is a nasty little bit of punishment ... but wonderfully devious. You can watch what happens when Link steals from the village shop right here: The Impact Not to toot my own morally pure horn, but I never experienced this brilliant twist when playing Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I never stole anything from the store, so I never knew this could even happen! (Keep in mind, though, this is coming from a guy who tried to stop at all the stoplights in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.) It wasn’t until years later that I read about this harsh, utterly fantastic twist. As cruel as this little detail is, I can’t help but appreciate its brilliance. Obviously stealing in real-life is wrong. We all know this and try our best to avoid doing it at all costs. So why is it okay in a videogame? In a morally troublesome game such as Saint’s Row or Grand Theft Auto, stealing is part of the fun, so there would be no reason to punish the player for doing something that most people wouldn’t do in the real world. But in a game like Link’s Awakening, Link is a genuinely good guy with values pretty similar to what we consider “good” in real-life. He would never steal. It’s just not in his nature. So when you, the player, try to make him do that, it makes sense that the game punishes you. But even more impressive is the fact that this is even an option in the game! The designers of Link’s Awakening could have easily avoided all of this by just not letting you steal anything at all. They could have had Link pay for an item the minute he picks it up. But, no, the creators of the game, in a weird, twisted way, wanted to test the player. They wanted to see if anyone would make the effort to actually try to take something from the store for free. And, even better, stealing something is rather complicated! If you try to walk out of the shop without paying for something, the shopkeeper will stop you and just not let you leave. To actually escape without paying, you have to distract the shopkeeper and get out the front door while he is not looking. Trust me, it’s difficult. (And before you judge me, I went back and stole something as nothing but a healthy experiment once I knew it was a possibility. IT WAS IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE!) So if a player goes through all this hassle just to save a few rupees, the designers make sure they are punished for it. And, man, it sure stings to be caught red-handed for doing something that, let’s face it, is pretty shady. (What did the hardworking shopkeeper ever do to you?!) And for anyone that does get busted and chooses to continue playing (instead of turning off the game and walking away with their head hung in shame), they are reminded of their crime over and over again by being called THIEF throughout the rest of the game. Damn. Who knew Nintendo was worse at making you feel guilty than your own mother? As ingenious as this addition is, I am surprised it hasn’t carried over into more modern games. Sure, there are some pretty cool punishments for doing something morally wrong in a game, but nothing feels nearly as permanent as it does in Link’s Awakening. How neat would it be if, say, your Xbox Live avatar was stamped with some kind of “Scarlet Letter” for doing something morally wrong in a game? Yeah, I don’t necessarily want someone’s moral judgments up in my videogames, but, if anything, it would be an interesting experiment that could result in some fascinating (and ultimately depressing?) results. I don’t know about you, but I would love to know which of my Xbox 360 buddies kicked a puppy for no good reason in whatever videogame would even let you kick a puppy for no good reason. Permanently changing your name to THIEF for being a, well, thief in Link’s Awakening is still one of my favorite videogame moments of all time. It is very surprising and, frankly, a little harsh, but, let’s be honest, that’s kind of what makes it so awesome. The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).86: Death is final (Fire Emblem).87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
 photo

How do videogames punish the player for doing something wrong? The easy answer is they kill them. By performing a key jump or sword swing incorrectly, the game punishes the player by taking away one of their lives. But what a...

The Memory Card .87: A Snake in a microwave

Apr 21 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up My God, I love the Metal Gear Solid series. Going into Metal Gear Solid 4, I knew I would love the game -- I adored Metal Gear Solid 3! -- but I never imagined the PlayStation 3 exclusive would bring the revered series to a (supposed?) close with such visionary style. The game is so incredible, in fact, that it has already been featured on the Memory Card a couple of times already! You can check out more of the game’s overarching, gloriously convoluted story by clicking here and here. For this Memory Card, I am going to focus on the specific events leading up to this week’s moment. In Metal Gear Solid 4, you play as Old Snake, a gray-haired version of the Snake we have grown to worship in the previous Metal Gear games. Snake is “old” because his body is reacting poorly to being a clone of Big Boss -- a plot twist revealed in an earlier game in the series. Although his body is failing on Snake, forcing him to constantly inject his body with a life-saving syringe, the iconic soldier and mercenary shows no signs of slowing down. Accepting a mission to defeat his rival Liquid Ocelot once and for all, Snake is dropped into the middle of a war zone at the beginning of the game. After journeying through a destroyed city, Snake encounters Liquid as he continues his plot to hijack the Sons of the Patriots, a massive system that controls all the nanomachines that are inside of Snake and others like him. I know, it is all very complicated. But it wouldn’t be a great Metal Gear Solid game if it wasn’t for its ridiculously complex and dramatic storyline. Avoiding capture by sending out an electronic signal that incapacitates Snake, Liquid eventually escapes in a helicopter just before Snake has a chance to confront him. From here, Metal Gear Solid 4’s epic adventure begins, following Old Snake as he chases Liquid around the globe, running into many familiar faces (both good and bad) and facing some of his most challenging obstacles yet. After reuniting with Meryl, Raiden, Otacon and others (and experiencing an endless amount of out-of-control set pieces and story twists!), Snake eventually learns from his old ally Mei Ling that Liquid has taken up in a massive warship called Outer Haven. It is in this warship that Liquid plans on completing his despicable plan. It is also on-board Outer Haven when this week’s incredible Memory Card moment occurs: A Snake in a microwave. The Moment After being catapulted onto Outer Haven, Snake enters the gigantic warship all alone. As he enters the foreboding base, Snake realizes he is about to face one of the most daunting experiences of his life. Not only is Outer Haven equipped with some major advances in defense technology, numerous enemies swarm the complex. And in addition to all this, he knows that Liquid is waiting for him somewhere aboard the huge warship. There is no turning back now. Either Snake will find and finally destroy Liquid ... or he will die trying. Journeying farther into the ship, Snake eventually encounters Screaming Mantis, a very familiar foe that has taken Meryl hostage. After defeating the creepy enemy, Meryl is saved and decides to help Snake with the rest of his mission. Before they even have a chance to get far, they are ambushed by a large group of Liquid’s troops. Agreeing to hold them off, Meryl begins fighting the enemy soldiers, allowing Snake to move forward alone on his most important mission: to find and destroy Liquid. He learns that if he destroys the very core of the ship, Liquid’s plan will be put to an end. Snake carefully heads in the direction of this core, a dark place at the center of a maze of metallic hallways. As he approaches, his body is overcome by an extreme pain. Snake falls to his knees. His body is starting to fall apart. Without any notice, a squad of Liquid’s soldiers runs around the corner. They see Snake on his knees, struggling to even stand up. They draw their weapons. As they get closer, Snake pulls out one of his important syringes. He jams it into the side of his neck. But nothing happens. The syringe doesn’t work. The soldiers slowly inch forward, watching as Snakes rolls on the cold floor in pain. Right before the enemies get to Snake, though, the door behind him slides open. From the adjacent hallway, Raiden flies into the room. He lands between Snake and the soldiers, ready to fight. Since losing both arms in earlier tragedies, Raiden stands before the enemy troops, his huge sword held between his teeth. Raiden’s electrified body (don’t ask!) starts to knock some of the soldiers down. Snake is slowly revitalized by Raiden’s presence. The two of them step forward, past the fallen soldiers. Raiden sees that Snake is hurting and volunteers to go forward in his place. Snake knows the final corridor before reaching the core is full of deadly microwaves. He reminds Raiden that he has a life to go back to. Snake has nothing. He should be the one that makes the final sacrifice. “From here on, this is my fight.” With these words, Snake moves forward into the microwave-filled corridor, leaving Raiden behind to battle the recovering soldiers. What happens next is the stuff of videogame legend. The door to the microwave corridor opens up. Snake’s face is immediately burned. Despite the pain, he forces himself to move forward. Otacon remotely locks the heavy metal door behind Snake. From here, the player takes full control. The screen splits into two parts. A gorgeous music score begins to play. On the bottom screen, Snake starts to walk through the microwave-filled passage. On the top screen, the other events happening throughout the gunship play out: soldiers battling each other; Meryl struggling to stay alive; Raiden, armless, fighting a large squadron of troops. At this point, Otacon tells Snake that he must make it through the passage as quickly as possible. The player holds up on the analog stick to control Snake. Sadly, he moves very slowly because of the immense amount of pain he is in. Getting through the corridor is going to take some time. The player wants to get Snake through as quickly as possible, but his slow movement prevents this from happening. Smoke rises from Snake’s burning skin. He jerks in pain and falls to the floor. The player then must quickly press the triangle button as fast as possible to have Snake get back up on his feet. As they are doing this, Snake’s life bar starts to slowly deplete. Snake stands back up, but he bends over and moves at a much slower pace. He is in excruciating pain. Again, Snake falls and must get up with the help of the player. His energy bar lowers even more. He is near dead. This time, Snake doesn’t even have the strength to stand up. By continuously tapping the triangle button, he starts crawling towards the end of the passage. As all of this is happening, the haunting music continues to play. The top part of the screen starts showing Snake’s allies succumbing to defeat. All hope seems lost. As a player, you are forcing Snake to move forward. Every tap of the triangle button causes him more horrible pain. But you know this is the only thing that you can do to help him get to the end of the corridor. Eventually, Snake almost completely collapses. With nothing left in his life bar, he barely has any energy left to move. His low crawl becomes slower than that of a newborn child. But, still, he continues onward. After what feels like hours, Snake finally reaches his goal; the combination of the player’s determination and Snake’s strength gets him through. He reaches the end of the corridor, completely burned and destroyed. The exit to the passage closes behind him. Snake stands up. As his skin crackles and smokes, he takes a deep breath and steps forward towards his final battle with Liquid. Despite the pain he is in, he knows he must move on to save the world ... to save his friends ... and to save himself. You can watch Snake crawl through the microwave-filled corridor right here: The Impact This sequence in Metal Gear Solid 4 is, hands down, one of my favorite moments in videogame history. Gameplay-wise, not much really happens. As a player, you only hold up on the analog stick and repeatedly press the triangle button. What makes this scene so unbelievably memorable is the emotional connection you have with Snake as the sequence plays out. Going into the microwave-filled corridor, you already know Snake is hurting -- you can, literally, see it on his face. Right before he meets up with Raiden he is collapsing, his body barely hanging on. As a player, you want Snake to succeed and will do anything you can to make this happen. You have followed him on many adventures and don’t want to see him fail -- especially by your own hand. So as Snake steps into the corridor, you want nothing more than for things to turn out okay. When the game starts to become playable, your initial reaction is to have Snake just run through the corridor as fast as possible. You see the life bar depleting, and, like any good videogame player, you know that rooms that lower your energy need to be exited as quickly as possible. But when you try to run with Snake, he can’t do it. He is hurting too much. As you try to run forward, Snake only writhes in pain. At this point, Metal Gear Solid 4 doesn’t feel like a game anymore. With the combination of the brilliant split-screen and stunning music, the scene becomes a crazy visceral struggle for survival. You and Snake become one as you do anything it takes to save his life. You start to feel his pain. You experience everything that Snake is going through. Creator Hideo Kojima is the master of breaking the fourth wall in videogames (as evidenced by the incredible battles with Psycho Mantis and The End in MGS1 and 3, respectively). But with this sequence, Kojima’s genius is taken to a whole new emotional level. When I was playing this sequence for the first time, I actually got up from my couch and starting hitting the triangle button as quickly as possible. At first, I knew everything would be okay -- it always is! -- but I wanted to stand and give myself a better position to control Snake. But as the scene played out and my energy was almost gone, I realized that Snake still had a long way to go. He was barely moving and not even close to the end of the corridor. Maybe everything wouldn’t be okay ... At this point I started screaming at the screen. “Come on, Snake!” COME ON!” I remember yelling as I mashed on the buttons. I felt personally responsible for what happened to Snake. If he didn’t make it, it was my fault. And, man, I was not going to let that happen. So I fought. I fought to help Snake. I hit the buttons as fast as I could. So fast, that my fingers started hurting. I started feeling pain. Real pain. Just like Snake. As ridiculous as it sounds, Snake and I were in it together. When he made it to the end and survived, I let out a sigh of relief. I shook out my cramped hand, sat back down on the couch, and watched silently stunned as Snake continued on his journey. What did I just see? What did I just experience? From a technical standpoint alone, this scene is pretty much perfect (the music, graphics, and split-screen are wonderfully executed), but there is something about the Metal Gear Solid games -- and this scene in particular -- that just have a way of emotionally connecting to the player. And, boy, was I emotionally connected. No matter how many years go by, I will always remember Snake crawling through the microwave-filled corridor. Always. The moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).86: Death is final (Fire Emblem)
 photo

There is a terrifying sequence in George Orwell's classic novel 1984 that finds main character Winston Smith tied to a chair with a giant cage full of rats attached to his face. Rats are Winston’s worst fear and, throug...

The Memory Card .86: Death is final

Apr 14 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up It took a long time, but the Fire Emblem series finally made it to North American store shelves on the Game Boy Advance in 2003, more than ten years (and six iterations!) after the original game hit the original NES in Japan in 1990. But the wait was worth it. As someone who was a little overwhelmed by grid-based strategy games, I shied away from playing Fire Emblem when it was released on the Game Boy Advance. But once I did it completely changed my life. I feel instantly in love, still ranking the series as one of my favorite of all time. At the start of the game, you play as Lyn, one of three main characters that appears in Fire Emblem. Lyn is a brave, green-haired girl that lives on the Sacaen Plains with her tribe, the Lorca. Right before the beginning of the game, Lyn’s parents are murdered, along with the entire rest of her tribe. Devastated and alone, Lyn finds an injured tactician lying on the ground near her home. Wanting to avenge the death of her entire family, Lyn accompanies the tactician to train her sword skills and learn more about who killed her tribe. This is the very start of Fire Emblem and opens the game’s first chapter. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, Fire Emblem is a turn-based tactical role-playing game with gameplay taking place entirely on a grid (just like Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, or other games of similar type). After moving all your characters along this grid, the enemy takes a similar turn, moving all of its characters. This back and forth continues until one side accomplishes its goal. Either you complete the mission at hand, or the enemy prevents you from finishing this goal, usually by killing everyone in your party. Over the course of many incredible chapters, Fire Emblem follows Lyn as she meets dozens of different characters, each one playable and possessing skills completely unique to him or her. For example, archers are weaker than warriors, but can attack from farther away on the grid (as opposed to on the space directly next to your enemy). Magic-users possess a similar long-range skill. While simple enough to be appealing to non-tactical role-playing fans (like I used to be!), once the game opens up it becomes a refreshingly complex and satisfyingly deep RPG. As more and more characters are acquired in the game (some completely optional!) they are seamlessly woven into the story. And like any good tale starring a large cast, some of these characters start to become favorites. As a player, you find yourself selecting certain characters to do battle more often than others, partly because they are strong, but mainly because, well, you start to care for them. As Lyn and friends embark on a journey that starts personal but becomes of world-saving importance, they are faced with many hard battles with increasingly tough foes. And like in any role-playing game, one wrong move or an extra challenging foe can end in one of your characters dying. Usually this wouldn’t be such a big deal. Just use some kind of potion or spell to bring your character back to life, try again, and move on. But Fire Emblem isn’t like any other game. Once one of your characters die, this week’s Memory Card moment occurs: Death is final. The Moment You can already tell by the name of this week’s Memory Card, but when one of your characters dies in Fire Emblem, it is over. No second chances. Once they die they are gone for good. As Lyn and her friends journey through the game, each move they make is of utmost importance. The party takes extra precaution as they continue their quest to save the precious world around them. They make sure not to leap into battle unprepared. Their battle is a real life struggle between life and death. In one instance, for example, a young female Pegasus Knight named Florina is called into battle. She rides a mighty winged beast and is very skilled with a lance. What makes Florina so useful is her speed and ability to travel long distances on each turn. By flying on her Pegasus, she is able to travel across all types of terrain and spring surprise attacks on the most unlikely of foes. In addition to her skill on the battlefield, Florina is also one of the game’s most sweet and innocent characters. A Pegasus Knight-in-training, Florina is the youngest of three, highly honored sisters, both of them Pegasus Knights as well. Florina is shy and quiet, but never hesitates to help out her friends in need. In fact, she is so loyal and brave, that Hector, one of the game’s main characters, falls in love with her. By fighting along his side throughout the game, it is even possible to see Florina and Hector get married in one of the game’s alternate endings. As the story progresses and the party’s journey grows more difficult, it is a wonder to watch Florina grow into a strong young woman. Her journey (along with the journeys of all the other characters) is a treat to behold. But this journey comes to an immediate close if Florina dies in battle. One miscalculated move by you, the player, and Florina dies. Maybe an arrow pierces her heart. Maybe a hidden catapult takes down her precious Pegasus. Whatever the reason, if Florina dies, she says her final words and leaves the world forever. Her story comes to an abrupt close. Florina is gone. While shocking and unexpected, this very real and very tragic portrayal of death has the chance of happening with every single character you meet in Fire Emblem. If you grow connected to a lot of different characters (which is highly likely thanks to the game’s solid writing!), the moments of loss and bitter farewells happen very often. With each death, one more character from Lyn’s party (your party) is gone forever. You can watch what happens when a character dies in Fire Emblem right here: The Impact There have been many games that handle character death in a very similar way -- the aforementioned Final Fantasy Tactics is a good example, as well as the more recent (and absolutely stellar) Valkyria Chronicles for the PlayStation 3. In those games -- both tactical RPGs as well -- when your characters die in battle, they are gone for good as well (although it is a little more complicated and flexible due to some revised rules and alternate options). And while Final Fantasy Tactics was released before Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance, Fire Emblem was the first game I personally played with this devastating, yet utterly engrossing use of permanent death. My initial reaction to it was admittedly mixed. At first, I wasn’t a fan of this tactic, as I am a completionist at heart and would curse the screen every time one of my characters would die. Not only would I be angry that I made a dumb move and would now have to say goodbye to a character that I have been leveling up for several chapters, I started to realize that it was becoming more than that: To my surprise, I was actually starting to miss the characters and were sad and sorry to see them go. I … actually felt a little bad about seeing them die. And then it hit me: This gameplay mechanic was not bad. It was brilliant. In Fire Emblem (well, the early games at least) you can only save between chapters. Because of this, if a character dies in battle, you technically can reset the game and restart the chapter, making sure to not kill your character along the way. While this is a pretty major loophole, when you are two hours deep into a chapter, resetting the game is not really an easy (or realistic) option. But, you know what? I would still do it. In fact, I did it multiple times. I would be at the very end of a long, involved chapter, start to rush through my gameplay, make a dumb move and accidentally kill off one of my characters. If it was a character I liked (which, for me, WAS ALL OF THEM!) I would stop, stare at the power button, and think to myself: “Okay, Chad, you have played this chapter for almost two hours. You are about to finish it and save. Do you really want to reset because of one, random, completely fictional character that only exists in a videogame?” I wouldn’t even have to think about my answer for a second. I would flip off the power switch, reload the game, and try again. Why? Why the heck would I lose hours of gameplay for something like this? The answer was simple: I felt guilty. I felt bad that one of these characters had to die because of a stupid move I made. Yes, of course I knew the character wasn’t real and my decision to continue on without him/her would not mean anything in the long run (with so many characters, I could have easily found a suitable replacement in battle). But I didn’t care about being practical. When my characters died in Fire Emblem, I wanted them back. Simple as that. It was my first honest, genuine thought and I would act on this, resetting the game and giving the chapter another try. I didn’t say it wasn’t absolutely insane, but it is how the game made me feel (and still does!). Because of this, Fire Emblem will always go down as one of my most cherished game memories of all time. Losing a character forever -- and the unexpected feelings of remorse that elicits -- is something I will never forget.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis)
 photo

We all know the way it works. You play through a level in a videogame, encounter an unexpectedly hard section, and your main character plummets into a bottomless pit ... or is singed by a giant dragon ... or is blown up by a ...

The Memory Card .85: You have chosen ... wisely

Apr 07 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were easily the golden age of graphic adventure games. Between the glorious releases from Sierra and LucasArts alone, PC gamers everywhere were treated to a constant barrage of absolutely classic titles. One of the most classic of these releases was LucasArts’ Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, an original adventure for the iconic archaeologist that was not only an exquisite adventure game, it could have easily been turned into a movie and felt like the perfect follow-up to Indy’s latest cinematic release (at the time), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the game, you play as Indiana Jones, successful college professor and world-class adventurer. After a brilliant opening sequence that finds Indiana Jones literally falling into clue after clue to locate a mysterious statue, Indy meets with a man named Mr. Smith on the campus of Barnett College. Using a small key, Mr. Smith opens the statue and removes a small bead. With no warning, Mr. Smith pulls a gun on Indy and steals both artifacts. Learning his true identity is that of Third Reich agent Klaus Kerner, Indiana Jones begins his pursuit of the dangerous thief. His tracking mission leads him to a woman named Sophia Hapgood, a former archaeologist turned psychic who is an expert on the lost city of Atlantis. After her awkward/sexy meeting with Indiana, Sophia learns that her office has been ransacked by Kerner. You see, Kerner and the Third Reich are searching for ancient Atlantean artifacts, including a necklace worn by Sophia (one that luckily was not taken since it always lives around her neck). Using her psychic powers and mystical connection to Atlantis, Sophia learns that a nasty Nazi scientist named Dr. Hans Ubermann is searching for the ruins of Atlantis to find an ancient power to use in warfare. With Indy’s help, the two set off on a world-hopping journey to meet up with the Nazis and put a stop to their nefarious plan. After traveling to many countries on many continents, Sophia and Indy eventually learn that the location of Atlantis can be found in a book in Barnett College, the same college Indy has taught at for years! It is here in Barnett College when this week’s Memory Card moment occurs. The Moment At Barnett College, Indy separates from Sophia and heads into the university’s massive library to locate the book containing the information he is looking for. After solving a series of puzzles using such seemingly random items as chewing gun and a lump of coal (I love adventure games!), Indiana finds the book he is searching for: "The Lost Dialogue of Plato". With the book in hand, Indiana Jones heads back to his office to meet up with Sophia. There, the two look through the book, trying their hardest to decipher the secrets that lie within. After flipping through some specially marked pages, Sophia and Indy find the information they need. Atlantis, it seems, is not in the Atlantic Ocean as so many people had guessed. It is actually 300 miles off the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean. And to locate the legendary underwater city, three stone discs must be found. Before having time to celebrate this newly acquired info, Sophia steps back. She announces that she has a psychic prediction for Indy. She tells Indiana that she will not be able to go with him to Atlantis. At this point, the game stops and three dialogue choices appear on-screen. This doesn’t seem strange, since dialogue selections appear in all the conversations throughout the entirety of Fate of Atlantis. But the choice the player makes at this point is of vast importance. After revealing her psychic prediction is that she will not be accompanying Indy to Atlantis, these three specific choices in dialogue appear: -You’re right, I better think this through alone.-I’d rather tackle this together with you.-I’d rather go into action by myself. Depending on what you choose, the entire rest of the game completely changes. By selecting the first choice, players are unknowingly choosing to take the Wits Path; the second choice leads to the Team Path; and the last selection becomes the Fists Path. After making (and cleverly confirming) his choice, the game moves forward based on whatever path the player (and, in turn, Indy) chooses. If Indy selects the Wits Path, he continues on his adventure all by himself, with the game putting a huge focus on difficult puzzles. If the Team Path is selected, Sophia accompanies Indy and the game uses both characters for its central gameplay (i.e. switching back and forth). And, finally, the Fists path puts a heavy focus on the game’s fighting mechanic (and less focus on puzzles), forcing Indy to get into many action-based fights as he makes his way to find the stone discs. All three paths are completely different and entirely change the way the game is played. Although the same overall locations are visited in all three paths, the things that happen along the way are entirely unique. New items and puzzles appear in all three paths; some characters will show up in one path, while not appearing in another; even some of the more detailed locations you visit are different. With his next destination being Monte Carlo and Algiers, Indy (or Indy and Sophia!) heads off to these locations to find the stone discs. Here, the effect of the choice he made back in Barnett College comes into play. Had he picked the Wits Path, Indy is faced with many complicated puzzles that most fans of adventure games would be familiar with (using and combining  a wide variety of items to move forward, etc.). If he chose the Team Path, both Indy and Sophia must tag team their way through many different scenarios to find the stones they are searching for. With Fists, all of these puzzles and characters are tossed aside, as Indy engages in a (slightly lacking) fighting mechanic, turning the game into much more of an action title, rather than a point-and click adventure. His choice playing out before him, Indy eventually finds all three stone discs and makes his way to the entrance to Atlantis. It is here when all three paths converge, the story seamlessly continuing forward with the same events and puzzles regardless of the path that was selected earlier. With the mysterious ruins of Atlantis before him, Indiana Jones sets forward to rescue Sophia and put a stop to the Nazis’ evil plan. You can watch Indiana Jones make his fateful choice right here: The Impact Okay, I just have to get something out of my system really quick: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I LOVE INDIANA JONES AND THE FATE OF ATLANTIS SO MUCH! There. I feel so much better now. But, seriously, the game is fantastic. There is a reason it is considered one of the best adventure games ever created. And this monumental choice halfway through the game is one of many reasons it is so outstanding. First off, I love how the game changes depending on what choice you make. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, something like Infamous for the PlayStation 3 features choice throughout, but never really uses that promising mechanic to its full extent. The good vs. evil choices in Infamous are interesting, but almost too obvious and predictable. In Fate of Atlantis, the choice you make turns the game into three completely unique experiences. Each path offers new puzzles, new characters, and even some new locations. Yes, the paths converge before the end of the game, making your choice ultimately meaningless in the long run, but that is not why the moment is so memorable. The moment works because it is so seamlessly incorporated into the story. In fact, it is so seamless and organic that you don’t even really know you are making a choice at all! The first time I played Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis I chose the Team Path. (What can I say? I loved Sophia as a character and didn’t want to part ways with her.) I didn’t really know I was choosing the Team Path, but the dialogue choice that most appealed to me as a player was “I’d rather tackle this together with you.” That’s what I wanted Indy to say. The second time I played through the game, I selected “You’re right, I better think this through alone,” thereby embarking on the Wits Path, a much more challenging (and completely different!) branch in the game. I had assumed that no matter what dialogue choice I made, all things would lead back to Sophia still coming with me to Monte Carlo and Algiers -- that’s how things usually work in adventure games. But, no. I chose to go alone and Indy went alone. The game changed based on my decision. As my adventure continued, the puzzles also had changed -- which made sense, given the fact that the original puzzles had been designed around tag teaming between two characters the first time through. I really wish more games embraced this style of “choose your own adventure” storytelling. And I really wish more games would completely change the overall gameplay depending on a moral choice you make halfway through, just like Fate of Atlantis so successfully accomplished. Depending on your choice, the game becomes a tag team mission, a traditional adventure, or an action game. Three completely different play types doing three completely different things. Brilliant. Admittedly, there have been some games over the years that do a similarly great job with choice. The Mass Effect series in particular not only finds certain choices affecting a player’s entire game, those same choices lead far into the sequels as well. A rather impressive feat! And Heavy Rain is also worth mentioning, with its numerous moments of branching paths and alternate storylines. But it all started with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. It’s been twenty years since the release of LucasArts’ class adventure game, and only a handful of titles have duplicated the choice mechanic in such a creative and unexpected way. It is an absolutely incredible moment in one of my most beloved adventure games of all time.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog).84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
 photo

There is a large focus on choice in the videogames of today. In games like Infamous and Fallout, for example, players are tasked with choosing between a good or evil path. It is an interesting mechanic that, unfortunately, le...

The Memory Card .84: A royal assist

Mar 31 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the GameCube has been featured on The Memory Card a couple times before. And for good reason: I LOVE THE GAME SO MUCH! If you want to read more details about the game’s epic story, you can click here and here to read the previous two features. For this entry, I am going to focus on the specific moments leading up to this week’s Memory Card. In the game, you play as Link, the green tunic-wearing hero of all the Zelda games. After his sister is kidnapped at the start of the game (already a twist on the classic damsel in distress storyline), Link sets off on an ocean-spanning quest to find her. Along the way, his adventure transforms from a simple rescue mission to that of a quest to save the world from all evil! During his quest, he meets a sassy pirate named Tetra. Upon finding the legendary Master Sword from the castle of Hyrule (now trapped in time under the sea), it is revealed that Tetra is actually Princess Zelda. After discovering the true identity of Tetra, Link sets off alone on a journey to restore the Master Sword to all its glory. To do this, he must awaken the Sages of Earth and Wind and find the hidden Triforce of Courage. Awakening the sages is not easy, but after completing two lengthy, satisfying dungeons, Link accomplishes his task. Finding the triforce on the other hand, is a whole different story. After locating eight treasure maps, Link finds all the pieces of the Triforce, while simultaneously discovering that the true Triforce of Courage is inside Link himself. He is the hero of legend that is destined to destroy the root of all evil. With his tasks complete, Link hurries back to Hyrule Castle. As Link enters the castle he witnesses a shocking sight. Right before his eyes, Princess Zelda disappears, captured by Ganondorf, the source of all evil. With a powered-up Master Sword in hand, Link breaks through a magical barrier surrounding Hyrule Castle and enters Ganon’s Tower. It is here in the tall, foreboding tower when this week’s Memory Card moment occurs: A royal assist. The Moment Ganon’s Tower is a treacherous dungeon full of enormous enemies and puzzling traps. After a long journey through the interior of the ominous structure, Link makes his way to the top room of the tower. Standing before him is a massive door. Slowly moving forward, Link pushes the door open and steps inside. As he steps inside the giant, water-filled room, Link sees an ornate bed in front of him. The bed is covered in a clear white curtain; two silhouettes projected by candlelight dance on its sheer surface. Link closes in on the bed and learns that the two shadowy shapes belong to Princess Zelda and Ganondorf. Princess Zelda lies asleep on the bed as Ganondorf towers over her. After a dramatic soliloquy on the fate of the world, Ganondorf screams and transforms into a massive three-formed beast. All three forms (Puppet, Spider, and Snake) are increasingly challenging, but Link manages to defeat them with the help of his handy light arrows. Ganondorf’s final form explodes in a puff of purple smoke. Link takes a deep breath. But, suddenly, from the ceiling, Ganondorf returns, holding an unconscious Princess Zelda. He beckons Link to the roof of the tower. Determined to get Zelda back, Link follows. As Link emerges from the darkness of the tower, he steps into a huge stone circle at the bottom of the sea. The only thing holding back the water is an energy barrier created by the power of the Triforce. Before Link even has a chance to ready himself, Ganondorf swoops forward and knocks Link back, the Master Sword flying out of his hands and landing only inches away from Princess Zelda’s still body. Ganondorf lifts Link in the air and extracts the power of the Triforce from him. But in a twist of fate, the King of Hyrule appears and stops Ganondorf from using the power of the Triforce. He splits apart the Triforce, causing the barrier to break, unleashing walls of water all around the tower. Ganondorf laughs. As Link stands up, Zelda unexpectedly joins his side, Master Sword in hand. She hands Link the Master Sword and tells him that they have to defeat Ganondorf and return to the world above the sea before the water washes them all away. With this, the final battle begins. Instead of Zelda standing by and being the object on the sidelines Link has to fight for, Zelda becomes a major contributor to the action. She equips herself with the light arrows and jumps into battle. While Link distracts Ganondorf, Zelda sneaks up behind him, charges her aim, and shoots a light arrow right into Ganondorf’s back. The impact stuns him, allowing Link to move forward and slash him with his sword. This process continues -- Link and Zelda, working together to defeat a common foe. After Ganondorf is injured, Zelda recommends a new technique, one sure to damage their enemy even more. Link equips his mirror shield and holds it up, all the while avoiding the constant onslaught of Ganondorf. When his shield is in the correct position, Zelda fires a light arrow directly at Link. Rebounding off his shield at the perfect angle, the beam from the light arrow strikes Ganon and stuns him one final time. With a golden opportunity in front of him, Link leaps into the air. He raises the Master Sword and plunges it directly into Ganondorf’s forehead. For a moment, everything stops. The screen goes white. When the action fades back in, the Master Sword is shown stabbed in the head of Ganondorf. The only sound that can be heard is the roar of the surrounding waterfalls. Ganondorf slowly turns to stone. He is dead. Shocked, but happy it is over, Zelda holds up Link, exhausted from the battle. The King of Hyrule steps forward, thanking the two for their heroic deeds. With no warning, the barrier surrounding the tower disappears completely. An entire sea pours in, surrounding Link and Zelda. Luckily, through the power of the King, Link and Zelda are placed inside magical bubbles, safe from the incoming water. As they float to the surface they say their final goodbyes to the King, watching him as he disappears into the dark waters below. Link and Zelda are safe. They reach the surface and look to the horizon; a new land and a new future await them. You can watch the incredible moment when Zelda assists Link right here: The Impact The final battle in Wind Waker is absolutely breathtaking. Before we get to the twist -- and the focus of this Memory Card -- let’s just talk about how gorgeous it is. The cell-shaded style of the graphics alone is stunning, but surrounding everything with beautifully animated waterfalls just takes everything over the edge. The final battle just looks incredible. It may be the best-looking final boss battle in the history of the Zelda series. And as soon as the battle starts it takes a major twist. Instead of fighting alone as Link -- as you had done in every single Zelda game up to that point -- Zelda fights along with you. Princess Zelda. A character that had been nothing but a damsel in distress was now fighting right next to you -- a vital part of the final battle. Tetra/Zelda was already such an interesting, well-rounded character throughout the entire game, that ending Wind Waker with a traditional Link vs. Ganondorf battle would have been fine -- Zelda would have still been viewed as the best and most complete iteration of the classic princess yet! But, no, the game doesn’t take that easy way out. And, honestly, it really couldn’t have. Throughout the entirety of Wind Waker, Tetra/Zelda is a major part of the story. She helps Link in so many situations, easily becoming the game’s second main character (outside of the King of Red Lions, of course). When Zelda is Tetra, she is a tough, strong girl, one that would never back down from a fight in order to help Link and save the ones around her. So why would this brave, courageous young woman not help Link just because she becomes a princess? She wouldn’t ... and the game respects this. At first, Wind Waker has Tetra stay behind once she finds out she is actually Princess Zelda. And, then, when Link returns to her, she is immediately kidnapped and knocked unconscious by Ganondorf. These moments are a slap in the face to the way Tetra/Zelda was developed up to that point. But, in a way, maybe the game’s designers did this on purpose? Once Zelda is kidnapped just like in every other Zelda game, it is easy to believe the rest of the game will play out just like the others. So when Zelda appears by your side during the final battle -- Master Sword in hand, mind you! -- it comes as a true surprise. As soon as Zelda wakes up, she is not going to stand on the sidelines like the end of Ocarina of Time. She is there to fight. She is there to do whatever it takes to put an end to Ganondorf. Just like Tetra. In this last moment, Princess Zelda proves that she and Tetra are one and the same. Watching Princess Zelda assist in the battle with Ganondorf is awesome and one of my favorite moments in the Zelda series. (One that worked so well it was duplicated in Twilight Princess.) The moment is surprising, clever, and a true breath of fresh air. It is a moment that changed the Zelda series (and how everyone viewed the iconic princess) forever.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X).83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog)
 photo

A damsel in distress. Those four words perfectly describe the basic plots of numerous videogames over the years. From the popular Mario series to even things like Ghosts 'n Goblins and Wizards & Warriors, a large majority...

The Memory Card .83: Blast Processing!

Mar 24 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up When the Sega Genesis was released in 1989, it had some surprising competition. While the graphics on the revolutionary-for-the-time 16-bit system were absolutely groundbreaking, the original NES was so popular that the Genesis did not make the initial dent that Sega was hoping for. But as the first year past, and Nintendo still had not released its follow-up to the NES, the Genesis started to gain ground. The arcade industry was booming, and Sega promised gamers that most of the popular games you could play in the arcade could also be played on the Genesis (and look almost as good!). This tactic paid off, as the Genesis slowly began to pick up steam. But then 1991 came along and everything changed. A few months before Nintendo would release its Super Nintendo in North America, Sega started promoting a brand new 2D platformer called Sonic the Hedgehog. In addition to the game, Sega also ran one of its most famous marketing campaigns of all time -- a campaign focusing on something called Blast Processing! According to their ads and commercials, Blast Processing was something only the Sega Genesis could do, allowing their games to run much faster and smoother than anything on the Super Nintendo. Regardless of the truth behind this notorious advertising, “Blast Processing” became a serious buzz word. Coupled with Sega’s other infamous ads (“Genesis does what Nintendon’t!”), the gaming industry couldn’t stop talking about the Genesis and the games that utilized Blast Processing, including the much-hyped Sonic the Hedgehog. When people finally played Sonic the Hedgehog, all thoughts about the validity of Blast Processing were forgotten (at least, for the time being). Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive hit. The marketing behind the game certainly helped, but what made the game an instant classic was the feeling gamers had the minute the first level started. Sonic the Hedgehog was fast. Really fast. The Moment It is right after the classic “SEEEEEEGGGGAAAAA!” intro and high-energy opening title screen when players are immediately dropped into Sonic the Hedgehog’s first stage: Green Hill Zone. At first glance, the colorful, quirky little game looks to be nothing more than a Mario clone starring a sassy blue hedgehog. Sonic can jump; he can run back and forth. Nothing much out of the ordinary. But then players press and hold right on the directional pad and everything changes. By running on a continuous path, Sonic speeds up to absurd speeds, trumping anything that could be done by holding down the “run” button in the Super Mario games. Of course, the option of taking things slow is there -- jumping on platforms and hopping on the heads of enemies to kill them -- but that isn’t the draw of the game. The real highlight of playing is to run as fast as you can to get to the end of the stage. As Sonic races through the now-legendary Green Hill Zone, much more than the normal platformer obstacles are there to meet him. Instead of only encountering a smattering of enemies and moving platforms, Sonic travels through giant loops and small, claustrophobic tunnels, spinning and whirling around like an out-of-control roller coaster. While running at ridiculous speeds, Sonic takes giant leaps of faith, landing perfectly and continuing his high-speed sprints. The stage flashes by in a blur of color. Eventually -- sometimes in mere seconds! -- Sonic makes it to the end of the level, spinning around a sign and revealing an image of the blue hedgehog himself. The levels in Sonic the Hedgehog move so fast and are so frenetic, yet controlled, that they become a well-choreographed dance, one that players can enjoy watching just as much as they enjoy participating in. The entire experience is absolutely exhilarating. In this one glorious, breathtaking, revolutionary stage, Sonic the Hedgehog defined itself as an instant classic. You can watch Green Hill Zone -- the very first level in Sonic the Hedgehog -- right here: The Impact Fun fact: I wanted to be a roller coaster designer my entire life -- I even went to college for it! I have always been fascinated with the twisting, unpredictable tracks of a well-designed roller coaster. I actually think the sleek, knotted tracks are things of beauty -- gorgeous manmade creations that entertain as much as they terrify. Because of this lifelong obsession, I was blown away the first time I ever played Sonic the Hedgehog. I felt like I was actually playing a roller coaster. The first time I reached the first loop in the Green Hill Zone I wanted to do nothing else. I just wanted to keep running through it over and over again. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in a videogame before. As much as I loved running fast through the levels in Super Mario Bros., that classic game never gave me the specific feeling of riding a roller coaster. It was magnificent. It only took one level, but after running through Green Hill Zone I fell instantly in love. Funny enough, before I decided to write this Memory Card, I thought: Maybe this moment is a little too insignificant. In a feature series full of dramatic, heartbreaking, emotional sequences, maybe writing about Sonic running through a level felt a little too ... slight. But then I thought about how Sonic the Hedgehog still exhilarates me today, all these years later. With every new Sonic game that comes out, all I want to do is see what kind of amazingly cool things I will able to run through in the first level. In a way, the success of this roller coaster experience can make or break a new Sonic game for me. If the first level gives me that same sense of exhilaration that Green Hill Zone did (while also offering some literal new twists to the mix!), I will most likely love it. Conversely, start off a new Sonic game without that same sense of speed and roller coaster wonder and the game will probably be a dud. IT’S LIKE SCIENCE! Sonic has become just as much of a staple in videogame history as it has become a joke. It seems that every new Sonic game is met with such a (justified?) critical bashing that it is hard to get excited about the series anymore. But think about that first time you grabbed the Genesis controller and played through Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog. Think about that first loop. (And the first twist in Sonic the Hedgehog 2!) It was revolutionary. Without Sonic, would there have been the minecart levels in the Donkey Kong Country series? Would there ever be a Uniracers? Would Bubsy exist? Okay, forget about that last one, but you know what I am saying. The first level of Sonic the Hedgehog was -- and still is! -- one of the most exhilarating experiences in videogame history. Even today, I still get excited when there is a roller coaster-like level in a game. The faster, the better. And it’s all thanks to Sonic.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound).82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X)
 photo

For everyone that is old enough to remember, the decision to buy either a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis was a major one. Did you make the choice to buy the Super Nintendo -- a solid, classic console with some incredible ga...

The Memory Card .82: Yuna's empty embrace

Mar 17 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up I actually didn’t play Final Fantasy X until a few years after it was released. I had been a fan of all the games in the series up to that point, but after the perfection that was Final Fantasy IX on the original PlayStation, I was worried PlayStation 2’s first contribution to the series was going in a direction I didn’t like. Lucky for me, after finally playing the game, I was proven very wrong. I loved Final Fantasy X after finishing it and was surprised by how moved I was by the game’s epic, yet personal tale. In the game, you play as Tidus, a boyish, slightly generic Final Fantasy protagonist, who also happens to be the star of a strange underwater sport called blitzball. Final Fantasy X opens with Tidus in the middle of one of these heated and highly skilled games of blitzball, being cheered on by the futuristic city of Zanarkand. During the tournament, the city is unexpectedly attacked by a giant creature that goes by the ominous name of Sin. Teaming up with his older, wiser (and badass!) guardian Auron, Tidus runs through the streets of Zanarkand, the two trying their best to defend against the constant onslaught of Sin’s minions. Unfortunately, Tidus and Auron are unsuccessful in their battle and are overtaken by Sin. The world before Tidus fades to white. When Tidus awakes, he finds himself in an unfamiliar world -- the world of Spira. Shortly after arriving in this strange, new world, Tidus meets a girl by the name of Rikku, a member of the technology-driven tribe of the Al Bhed. Rikku informs Tidus that his home world of Zanarkand was destroyed by Sin 1000 years ago. For good reason, Tidus is confused and shocked by this news. Was he really 1000 years in the future? If so, how did this happen? And what the heck is going on? Before he even has a chance to comprehend anything, Sin reappears and attacks the ship Tidus and Rikku are on. After the vicious attack Tidus is thrown overboard. Waking up (again), Tidus now finds himself on the island of Besaid. Here he meets the eclectic character Wakka, a fellow blitzball player. It is Wakka that then introduces Tidus to Yuna, a beautiful summoner that is about to embark on an important pilgrimage to defeat Sin. Intrigued by Yuna, Tidus agrees to join Yuna’s pilgrimage under the guise that he is just going to travel with Wakka to help him in a far-off blitzball tournament and look for a way to get back home. Along their journey, Tidus and Yuna start to form a special bond. She finds interest in his mysterious qualities, while Tidus looks at Yuna as one of the bravest souls he has ever met, especially after finding out that, to defeat Sin, Yuna may have to sacrifice her own life. Determined to find a way to save Yuna and still destroy Sin, Tidus continues with Yuna (and many new friends) on her pilgrimage. Many lands, many hours, and many (many!) plot twists later, the party finally reaches the sad wasteland that was once Tidus’s home. Standing before them is the ruins of Zanarkand. It is here when this week’s Memory Card moment occurs: Yuna’s empty embrace. The Moment Here in Zanarkand, Tidus learns the horrible truth about who he really is and what happened to his beloved city. You see, the past Zanarkand, as Tidus has come to remember it, is not real. It is actually a dream world created by special summoners -- called fayth -- to keep the memories of this once great city alive. (Think of it as a thousand year dream the fayth are constantly experiencing.) And Sin -- whom Tidus also learns is actually his father, Jecht -- is maintaining the creation of this dream Zanarkand since he came into contact with Tidus and Auron at the beginning of the game. The fayth no longer want to hold onto this dream Zanarkand, but are forced to because of the existence of Sin. Like most recent Final Fantasy games, it is a confusing twist, but slowly starts to make sense as the final moments of the game continue on. Eventually, Tidus, Yuna, and the rest of the party do battle with a series of incredibly powerful bosses aboard their airship. The last boss they encounter is Sin himself, a massive beast with a haunting connection to Tidus. After defeating him, Tidus’s father Jecht is cured from his horrible curse. He is no longer Sin. He is free. After a tough battle, the party is successful. Yuna performs her final act, banishing all evil from the world. The dream world of Zanarkand is finally released. But everything is far from being a happy ending. Being from the dream Zanarkand, Tidus’s existence in the world of Spira starts to disappear as well. He starts to fade away before his friends’ eyes. Yuna looks on, but can’t believe what she is seeing. Her eyes start to tear up. Fearing she is going to lose him forever, Yuna leaps forward to embrace Tidus. She wants to tell him she cares for him. To tell him how much he means to her. To hold him in her arms one last time before he is gone forever. But as Yuna reaches out, she falls right through Tidus. He is disappearing so fast that she can’t even touch him. Yuna’s face lies against the cold, hard ground. She opens her eyes, but freezes in disbelief. Suddenly, Yuna gathers all the strength in her body. She stands up and looks into the sunset, reflected beautifully in the moving clouds. In one simple whisper, she says her final words to Tidus: "I love you." With this, Tidus appears behind Yuna. Her love for him giving them one last moment, he embraces her. He holds her close as if he never wants to let go. Yuna takes this moment in. She closes her eyes and tries her best to enjoy what is sure to be a moment she will never forget. With this final embrace, Tidus fades away. He slowly leans forward and floats off into the distant clouds. Yuna stares straight ahead, trying her best to stay strong. For a moment, the world stops. As Tidus flies away, he leaves Yuna -- and the world of Spira -- behind. Although devastated to see him go, Yuna uses her love for Tidus to find newfound strength. A strength she will use to make sure her world is a better place. As Yuna tells her people in a moving speech during the game’s final moments: "The people and friends that we have lost, and the dreams that have faded, never forget them." Words Yuna will always live by. You can watch the beautifully tragic final moments of Final Fantasy X right here: The Impact To be honest with you, I never really felt the full impact of Final Fantasy X’s ending until several playthroughs later. I always thought it was a beautiful, wholly satisfying conclusion, but I was so oversaturated with the exquisite graphics and overload of the senses that it took me a few times to really appreciate the farewell scene between Tidus and Yuna. Final Fantasy X is full of ridiculously over-the-top moments -- including some that populate the game’s ending -- but in the midst of this gorgeous chaos, the scene where Tidus disappears in front of Yuna possesses a quiet beauty that is quite remarkable. Although there were many cutscenes in the three PlayStation Final Fantasy games (VII, VIII, and IX), the cinematics felt very disconnected from the actual game since they looked so different than the in-game graphics. Final Fantasy X was the first Final Fantasy game I played in recent generations where the cutscenes looked almost identical to the actual game you were playing. And this reminded me of how the old Final Fantasy games handled cutscenes. Obviously the 16-bit games were not nearly as detailed as the modern iterations, but there was a certain charm in seeing all the cutscenes happen completely in-game. Regardless of the inferior technology, seeing Celes jump off that cliff in Final Fantasy VI is still just as powerful as any of the cinematics I have seen now. Unlike most romantic relationships in the Final Fantasy world, Tidus and Yuna have a more innocent, playful, unspoken relationship, and their final scene really reflects this. Just look at the direction of the sequence as a great example. As mentioned, Final Fantasy X is a very "loud" game, at times displaying cinematics that are almost too busy and chaotic. But when Tidus and Yuna part ways, everything is slowed down. Watch the scene again and count the number of lines of dialogue. There are very few. The directors of the game (Motomu Toriyama, Takayoshi Nakazato & Toshiro Tsuchida) trusted the story and the characters enough to slow down the action and let Tidus and Yuna’s final interaction be all about the looks on their faces; their body language; their unspoken love for each other. Look at the emotion on Yuna’s face right before she runs for that embrace with Tidus. The animators put such detail into this look that there is no need for any dialogue to accompany it. It is a beautiful, quiet moment that I had not seen since the glory days of the Final Fantasy games on the Super Nintendo. And notice the way the entire sequence has no problem taking its time. When Yuna falls to the ground after her empty embrace with Tidus, the camera stays on her face for an extended amount of time. When you take this truly stunning direction and couple it with an absolutely magnificent musical score, you have a really classic videogame scene on your hands. Sure, the ending gets a little overdramatic, but it is hard not to get choked up when Tidus makes that final leap into the clouds. The way the music stops for just a second; the way Yuna stands strong, while at the same time looking like she is about to erupt in tears. It all just works. The final sequence between Tidus and Yuna is definitely one of the highlights of the more recent Final Fantasy games. As strong as the melodrama is during their goodbye, the entire scene also has such a personal, quiet feel to it that it stands out as being one the most unique and touching videogame moments in the Final Fantasy series.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots) Season 5.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound)
 photo

For as many people that praise the modern Final Fantasy games for their glorious, technically impressive cutscenes, there is an equal amount of people that criticize them for being far too overdramatic and emotionally empty. ...

The Memory Card .81: A prayer for Ness

Mar 10 // Chad Concelmo
The Set-Up I will always remember the day I purchased EarthBound from my local Toys “[backwards] R” Us. Not only was I surprised to see the game come in such an enormous box (the official Nintendo Player’s Guide came packed inside!), I will never forget the way the game affected me. I had no idea that the unassuming RPG I thought would be a fun, colorful distraction would turn out to be one of my favorite games of all time. EarthBound tells the story of a young boy Ness, who, partnered with three friends he meets along his journey, must put an end to an evil alien force named Giygas that is intent on taking over the universe. You know ... normal, everyday stuff that most kids have to deal with. While this is an overly simplified version of what happens throughout the epic game, it gives you a good sense of what EarthBound is ultimately about: the battle between good (Ness and his friends) and pure evil (Giygas). Along their journey to find and defeat Giygas, Ness and his three companions Paula, Jeff, and Poo encounter many different characters and situations -- some pleasant; some absolutely terrifying. One of these terrifying characters is Ness’s overweight bully of a neighbor, Pokey. In a sad, very dark twist, Pokey takes the side of Giygas and slowly, throughout the game, becomes more and more evil, in one instance even kidnapping Paula and trying to make her the subject of a human sacrifice. Yikes! Heavy stuff! After locating eight sanctuary locations -- places that imbue the group with the power to defeat Giygas -- Ness must do battle with his own nightmare. Upon defeating this nightmare, Ness becomes much stronger, strong enough in fact to finally be able to take on the ridiculously powerful Giygas. But confronting Giygas in his current state will not be that simple. At this point in the game, Ness and his friends visit Jeff’s father, a man that goes by the name of Dr. Andonuts. Dr. Andonuts reveals to them his greatest, most wondrous invention: the Phase Distorter. Using this device, Ness and friends will be able to travel back in time, to a point when Giygas is at his most vulnerable. The unfortunate dilemma, though: Organic material can't make the jump through time. This forces Ness and his companions to have to sacrifice their own physical bodies, transferring their exposed souls into metallic robots with slight likenesses to each of their characters. It is a very tragic, albeit necessary step that Ness and his friends surprisingly choose to accept. With their bodies lifeless and left behind in the present, Ness and party travel into the past and take over their new empty robot shells, determined to defeat Giygas and put an end to all that is evil in the universe. The Moment The world the souls of Ness and friends enter is filled with twisted, gnarled imagery. The heroes are forced to navigate monochrome cliffs and pulsating entrails in a world void of all goodness. They must journey forward, bodies left behind, to a fate full of painful uncertainty. Eventually, the group reaches the end of their path and encounters, not just Giygas, but a now sickly Pokey. Gone are the playful, rotund features Pokey once displayed. In place of his childlike appearance is a pale, ghostly form, a young boy poisoned by the effect of pure evil. It is a very sad sight. Living inside of a large spider-like mech, Pokey begins to taunt Ness and friends, telling them that Giygas should destroy the universe -- it will only make things better. Before Ness even has a chance to react, Pokey lunges forward in his grotesque machine and attacks the robot party. A traditional, if extra challenging, turn-based battle ensues. Following similar mechanics to the rest of the game, players are tasked with fighting Pokey, while also defending against his and Giygas’s powerful attacks. The battle is long and brutal. With perseverance, Ness and his friends are triumphant, defeating Pokey and banishing him to another time period. This leaves Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo left to face against the source of all evil: Giygas. Without hesitation, the final battle begins. The thing standing before Ness and friends is like nothing the party has ever encountered. Giygas does not appear as a natural form, just as an entity -- one composed of swirling, dark, dripping images. Ness tries to attack. Nothing happens. Trying to assist, the party jumps in, hurling PSI powers and offensive items at the massive form of evil energy. Again, nothing. At this point things look bleak. With no way to harm Giygas, what are the heroes supposed to do? Giygas begins to unleash his devastating attacks. Ness and his friends can do nothing but try their best to defend against the brutal onslaught. All hope seems lost. But then, a thought occurs. What if attacking this entity is not the way to go? Maybe there is another way to go about things. With this, Paula selects her “Pray” command. Up to this point in the game, the “Pray” command could be used in battle to generate a random effect. Sometimes this effect can be good (restoring hit points!) or bad (causing status ailments!). During the battle with Giygas, praying is all the party has left to believe in. So Paula uses the “Pray” command and the screen fades to black. Upon returning, some friendly faces -- characters previously encountered in the game -- are shown in a far-off village. They hear Paula’s prayer and join together to pray for the safety of Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo. From here the battle continues, and, for the first time, Giygas is damaged. His defenses fall. Praying seems to work. The pattern then continues, with Ness, Jeff, and Poo defending, while Paula puts all her energy into praying. And each time she activates this command, a new set of friends joins in universal prayer -- each prayer doing more and more damage to Giygas. After repeating this over and over, Paula unleashes all of her energy into one finally plea for help. This time, in a shocking twist, the character that answers that prayer is the player himself. That’s right: Using the name you entered during the game, your own character -- the person playing the game -- answers Paula’s prayer. You break the fourth wall and become part of the game. You pray using all your might and start to unleash powerful attacks against Giygas. The praying continues and Giygas is more and more damaged. Eventually, you, the player, deliver one final, devastating blow. Giygas is defeated. Although Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo made the epic journey to reach Giygas, you are the one who holds the power to defeat him. You use all the love and fondness you built up for these characters to finally put an end to the universe’s greatest evil. Your prayer saves the day. It is a magnificent, completely unexpected twist that is nothing short of brilliant. With this defeat, Giygas fades away and Ness and friends emerge triumphant, returning to their bodies to live in a world free of evil. All thanks to you. You can watch the innovative, emotional twist right here: The Impact If I had tens of thousands of more words left in this feature, I could easily go into the immense metaphors and symbolism that are found throughout the final sequence in EarthBound. Leading up to the battle with Giygas, there is a lot of pretty deep stuff going on. The climax of the game is rather stunning. But this article is about the player’s prayer specifically, so that’s what we will stay focused on. The moment the game breaks the fourth wall and reaches out to the player is absolutely incredible. Up to this point, there were games that tried similar rule-breaking gimmicks, but none of them had the same emotional impact as this specific moment in EarthBound. Like most RPGs, EarthBound is a fairly long game, following the playable main characters through many adventures over many different settings. As you travel with these characters, you start to feel a bond with them. Just as you grow fond of characters in a novel, it is only natural to feel some sort of connection with a group of characters you spend an inordinate amount of time with. So when you reach the final battle with Giygas you want Ness and his friends to triumph. Instead of the game offering a traditional final turn-based battle, it plays on the emotions the player has for these characters and actually incorporates them into the gameplay. How many games have you played, or movies have you watched, or books have you read, when you wanted to shout out and root for certain characters to accomplish something they are striving for? I like to call this emotional investment the “Bastian from The Neverending Story” effect. You are so intertwined with the world and characters you are experiencing that, dammit, you have no shame in screaming out “Atreyu!” at the top of your lungs every now and then. This is the same thing that happens during the battle with Giygas in EarthBound. As a player who loves these characters, you are watching Ness and friends basically die in front of you. They are helpless to do battle with their final foe. On the inside, you want to help them. You want to say a prayer and see them through to victory -- even if this is happening subconsciously. And then it happens. The game reaches out to you. Not you as in your main character, but, literally, you. It taps into your love for these characters and asks you to pray for them. And once you do, it is this final prayer that defeats Giygas. And that is an important detail to note. This could have happened anywhere in the game and it would still be an unbelievably cool addition. But it is made all the more powerful by having it occur during the very last battle. Not only does this amp up the drama, but having your prayer be the thing that defeats Giygas is, quite frankly, a stroke of genius. The final prayer in EarthBound is an absolutely amazing moment. It is not only a highly effective narrative technique, it completely elevates the entire medium of videogames, proving that games can be so much more than just mindless running and jumping. They can be deep, layered pieces of visual storytelling that can connect to the player in unexpected, very emotional ways. And to think: This remarkable moment occurred on the 16-bit Super Nintendo ... almost twenty years ago. A very impressive accomplishment for an even more impressive game.   The Memory Card Save Files Season 1.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid).02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV).03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid).04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human).05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil) .06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI).07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil).08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission).09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents).10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI).12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus).13: The submerged letter (StarTropics).14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker).15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars).17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads).18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V).19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid).20: The message in the glass (BioShock) Season 2.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger).22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2).24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft).25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64).26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) .27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War).28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon).29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2).30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI).31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle).33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid).35: A leap of faith (Ico).36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215).38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64).39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4).40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey) Season 3.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars) .42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2).43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI).44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden).46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island).47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) .48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard).49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana).50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two).51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim).52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past) .53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) .54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion).55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger).56: A fiery demise? (Portal) .57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil) .58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day).59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III).60: Flint's rage (Mother 3) Season 4.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening).62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII).63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando) .64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater).65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter).66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV).67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra) .68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box).69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King).70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2).71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV).72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves).73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria).74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger).75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II).76: Brotherly love (Mother 3).77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island).78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride).79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2).80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
 photo

After a hiatus that went on much longer than planned, I am very happy to announce that The Memory Card is back for its fifth season! For anyone reading this that is not familiar with this feature, The Memory Card is a long-ru...

 photo

The Memory Card .80: The return to Shadow Moses


Dec 30
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. I can’t believe this is the fourth season finale of the Me...
 photo

The Memory Card .79: Inside the worm


Dec 23
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. As a huge fan of old school videogames (SNES 4 LIFE!), I love wh...
 photo

The Memory Card .78: The statue of a hero


Dec 16
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. The realistic passage of time is something surprisingly ignored ...
 photo

The Memory Card .77: Prince Froggy


Dec 10
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. What makes a good boss battle? When you break it down, it’...
 photo

The Memory Card .76: Brotherly love


Nov 19
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. We all have experienced our fair share of sad moments in videoga...
 photo

The Memory Card .75: The blind fighting the blind


Nov 12
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. Regardless of their varying types of gameplay, videogames genera...
 photo

The Memory Card .74: Crono's trial


Nov 05
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. How many of you reading this right now have attacked a chicken with your swo...
 photo

The Memory Card .73: Death by funnel


Oct 29
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. Halloween is always such a fun time for me. Not necessarily beca...
 photo

The Memory Card .72: The collapsing building


Oct 22
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.For the last two weeks, The Memory Card has put on a fine suit an...
 photo

The Memory Card .71: The rotating room


Oct 15
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.Last week was the first edition of a three-part Memory Card minis...
 photo

The Memory Card .70: Giant robot fish!


Oct 08
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.As a huge fan of retro games, I tell myself over and over again t...
 photo

The Memory Card .69: TKO! BJ! LOL!


Oct 01
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.I was originally going to write about an entirely different topic t...
 photo

The Memory Card .68: Anton's love story


Sep 24
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.Love is portrayed in many different ways in videogames. In epic J...
 photo

The Memory Card .67: Scaling the waterfall


Sep 17
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.Online multiplayer is revolutionary. The fact that almost every con...
 photo

The Memory Card .66: Taloon the merchant


Sep 03
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.For years, role-playing games have introduced numerous, colorful ...
 photo

The Memory Card .65: A glimpse into the future


Aug 27
// Chad Concelmo
“The Memory Card” is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.Sequels can be very rewarding for a player if done right. Instead...
 photo

The Memory Card .64: Death and The Sorrow


Aug 20
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. What happens to videogame characters after they die? As a gamer, y...
 photo

The Memory Card .63: Auf Wiedersehen!


Aug 13
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time. I have witnessed a multitude of videogame moments over the years t...
 photo

The Memory Card .62: Leaving Midgar


Aug 06
// Chad Concelmo
"The Memory Card" is a seasonal feature that dissects and honors some of the most artistic, innovative, and memorable videogame moments of all time.The feeling of discovery. It’s a pretty extraordinary feeling...

  Around the web (login to improve these)




Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -