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The Memory Card

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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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...

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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...
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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...
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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 ...
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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’...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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 ...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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The Memory Card .61: The dream of the Wind Fish


Jul 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.Wow. I can’t believe this is the start of the fourth (!) seas...
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The Memory Card .60: Flint's rage


Apr 02
// Chad Concelmo
This is it, kids: the Season 3 finale of The Memory Card. Like always, though, this feature will be back before you know it for a hopefully star-studded Season 4. My love of classic 16-bit era sprite graphics is so strong tha...
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The Memory Card .59: With knowledge comes nudity


Mar 26
// Chad Concelmo
For concerned parents, the formation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) and its decision to display ratings on videogame boxes must have been a huge relief. But, honestly, how much does it really work? For ever...






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