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If you love it, change it: Commander Keen

There are certain games and game series which I love and cherish in a manner normally reserved for the person from whom one received one's first kiss, games that I played as a child and which set me on the path of lifelong game love. Any game from Sierra with "Quest" in the title, for example, has a good chance of brightening my life. The Ultima games are similar, at least up to Ultima 8. But there is one game series which, above all others, sends me into such nostalgic fits that after a good gameplay session I often feel the need to settle down with a tall glass of chocolate milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a few episodes of Eureka's Castle in order to relive my childhood.

The Commander Keen games were wonderful. The graphics were pretty cool for the time, they were easy to play, and it's just a great concept. Basically, the premise is that you're this kid:

This is William Joseph Blazkowicz II, otherwise know as Billy Blaze, otherwise known as Commander Keen. Billy Blaze is eight and has an IQ of 314, and has built his own spaceship, the Beans-With-Bacon Megarocket, out of soup cans and anything else he could scrounge. When he can manage it, he sneaks out, flies off in his rocket, and goes and fights aliens with his trusty ray gun (technically a Neural Stunner in the second trilogy), while amassing a shit ton of candy and toys along the way. His primary foe is the self-styled Grand Intellect, Mortimer McMire, a little shit from his class who scored, I believe, one point higher on the IQ test.

Side note for fans of the Wolfenstein games: this kid is the grandson of William Joseph "B.J." Blazkowicz, from Wolfenstein 3D.

Now, this all together is fantastic. I mean, it's a super-kiddy game, but who cares? It's fun! So here's what I'd change.

Well, first, I'd like to see more Keen games. That's just obvious. There were two Keen trilogies and Keen Dreams; we were promised a third trilogy, but it never materialized. Goddammit, where is The Universe is Toast?

Besides that, I'd like to see the Keen games--all of them--get the Megaman Powered Up treatment. Sure, there was at one point a little non-canon Gamebody Color release, but that doesn't count. I want to see a real rerelease, specifically for the DS or the PSP: nicer graphics, update sound that isn't all blippy MIDIs, and maybe an alternate play mode or two. I'd love to see how his babysitter would handle the situation in the sixth game if Keen had gotten kidnapped instead of her.

Could she handle it?

If Keen was the bad guy and Mortimer was the hero, could he stand to look a Vorticon in the face?

I'd also like to see one or two more options applied to the main game. Specifically, the Flower Power bombs from Keen Dreams were awesome. They should be incorporated into the other games, for when you need a quick fix and are tired of your ray gun. Although seriously, who gets tired of a zap gun? Or power-ups for that most glorious of all transport devices, Keen's pogo stick.

I feel it's important to specify that, while I think these games should be updated a little so I can play them constantly instead of occasionally, I don't think they should be made any more mature. These are kids' games. You play an eight-year-old and get points for collecting lollipops. I don't want blood; I like shooting venomous slugs and seeing them freeze up and look shocked.

The Commander Keen games are still available at http://www.3drealms.com/index.html, and that's pretty cool. But I think they deserve to shine again, to be exposed to a new generation of budding gamers as well as to the older generation of slavering fanatics.

I might be getting overly excited, but seriously. This is my childhood.
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About FlonneMcNinjaone of us since 3:18 PM on 04.29.2008

I'm twenty-one. I spend a lot of time reading and playing video games. I love Princess Daisy and hate Princess Peach. I will most likely not be talking about much new stuff, because getting games that are new requires one to have a budget that stretches at least a bit past the subsistence level. And, as you may have noticed, I fucking love tacticals.

Oh! Almost forgot. I have another blog, where I talk about books and comics and occasionally cooking. It's called Four-Color World, and it's at https://fourcolorworld.blogspot.com.

Currently playing:
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (PSP)--2nd playthrough, currently power-leveling
Jeanne D'Arc (PSP)
Rondo of Swords (DS)
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (PS2)
La Pucelle: Tactics (PS2)
Makai Kingdom (PS2)
Phantom Brave (PS2)
Commander Keen, all of them, constantly
Hocus Pocus (DOS on PC)