Enter the Gungeon is one of my favorite games of all time. My current hour count on Steam is 288, but I know I've poured countless more playing co-op on the laptops of friends and family. I bought it the day it released on a whim, never expecting it to grab me the way it did, and 2 years later I'm still booting it up regularly. The game just feels so fluid, the style so well defined, each enemy oozing personality, and despite being absolutely garbage at it I always feel the urge to keep trying. I always feel the need to keep pushing forward, to see what's in the next chest, what the next floor will hold, hoping to finally beat that boss that made me want to throw the controller across the room.
When I saw that Enter the Gungeon would be coming to the Switch I knew it would be another day one purchase. After waiting eagerly half a year, news finally came that on December 14, 2017 I would gunning down Bullet Kin on the go, dodge rolling wherever on God's green Earth I god damn pleased. There was just one issue; Gungeon's release date had been announced only a week before it dropped and it would be releasing on a day I had long since made other plans.
Now, I've gotta get something off my chest, so y'all prepare yourselves for a tonal shift.
In 2017 my Mom died. I would describe that as an incredibly difficult, life altering event, but it didn't leave me feeling the way I always imagined it would. It didn't leave me feeling the way I thought it was supposed to make me feel. I thought it would devastate me, hit me like a fucking truck, make me break down in a billow of pure emotional anguish... but it didn't. While those around me shouldered the bulk of responsibility and grief I looked on, as if an observer, completely numb. I kept awaiting that "big cry", but nearly 8 months passed and it never came.
So, on December 14, 2017 I had made a plan to take a supplement that I hoped would spur on that avalanche of emotion.
I tried to prepare myself for a decent ride, all things considered. A week beforehand I stopped eating carbs, I made sure my surroundings were neat and clean, queued up some relaxing music, readied my art supplies, and swore not to browse the internet or play any videogames. But... I did make one exception. Of course I would purchase Enter the Gungeon as soon as it hit the eShop. I had to show the devs my support, after all. I refreshed the Switch eShop again and again, anticipating EtG's arrival. When it finally did arrive and the purchase was made I decided it was time to turn off the Switch, place it lovingly back in it's dock and fasten that small, square piece of paper to my tongue.
I had at least a half hour before the magic tablet kicked in. Sure, I promised myself I wouldn't be distracted with videogames, but what the hell? I was just dying to try out Gungeon's new motion control aiming. Nothing serious, no more than a few minutes of play to pass the time. Back in the shoes of my favorite Gungeoneer, I bumbled through a few rooms, taking a couple hits along the way as I contorted the joycon trying to mimic the precision I was used to. Stumbling into the first chest room I realized that this was no longer a throwaway run. I was about to be in for one hell of a ride.
A Rainbow Chest. A motherfucking Rainbow Chest. Contains 8 items with 0.0333% spawn rate. In all of my 200+ hours I had never actually encountered a Rainbow Chest, yet here I was preparing to pop my multi-colored cherry on my very first run on Switch. Latching the joycon back into it's proper place I strapped in and prepared for whatever madness was ahead of me.
As expected, the first chamber went down easy. I blew through the boss, procuring my first Master Round (reward for beating the boss without taking damage). Aiding me alongside my wealth of fire arms was a little passive item called the Full Metal Jacket, which basically made me invincible so long as I had a supply of damage negating blanks. I continued, breezing my way through the second chamber just as I had the first, earning my second Master Round.
Somewhere within chamber 3 my magic tablet began to kick in. Suddenly I became hyper aware of the plastic miracle I was holding in my hands. I started to feel less like a gunslinging misfit blasting through the depths of an impossible, pun filled labyrinth and more like some shmuck staring at a glowing screen. Despite the creeping existential dread things were still in my favor. I finished out the chamber damage free, securing my third Master Round.
As I entered Chamber 4, The Hollow, just the act of moving the character became difficult. I was no longer a player, I was a Video Game Operater, the simple handheld console I held in my hand feeling more like controls to a piece of heavy machinery. I knew I'd start taking hits and I did, but with the Full Metal Jacket I kept my massive supply of health at the expense of my bullet clearing blanks. When I reached The Hollow's boss, the Wallmonger, I had no blanks to fall back on. I weaved between bullets, the muscle memory of previous encounters kicking in, my movements and rolls becoming something of a dance. I managed to dodge and weave and topple the Wallmonger without taking a single hit. Master Round number 4 was locked down. One more Master Round and I could boast that I had achieved near perfection, the coveted Master Run.
Chamber 5. The Forge. Home to many failed attempts to reach the Gun That Can Kill the Past. Looking back, it's hard to say what exactly happened on the way to the final boss. It's a blur now, and due to inebriation it was a blur then, too. Frames ghosted much longer than they appeared, bullets swayed unnaturally, enemy appearances betrayed what had been burned into memory, morphing into twisted approximations of themselves. Hits were taken, but I had so many blanks and so much armor to fall back on that it barely made a dent.
I was more prepared to face the Dragun than ever before. More items, more health, more fucking guns. Unfortunately, the drug had taken hold of my senses too strongly; my perfect boss run would end here. During the fight I took 15 hits, a staggering amount of damage that would have ruined me during any other run. However, on December 14, 2017, a most sacred day, I claimed victory over the Dragun with 10 hits remaining. Far from a perfect ending, but certainly one of the most memorable journeys I've ever made in gaming.
The rest of the day didn't go quite as planned. Many feels were had, none that I anticipated or hoped for. Coming down from the high of my videogame euphoria I might even go as far as saying I had a "bad trip". I still wonder if I'll ever reach the place of absolute devastation I believe I need to feel. It's cliche, but I've thought about my mother's death every day since it happened, trying to push passed the numb barrier those thoughts bring on. Maybe it'll never happen. At least I'll always have the Gungeon to get lost in, I guess.