Your Father Should Know

aderack: Added something.
Thom: that picture is excellent
aderack: Those pirates really get around.
aderack: I tried to think of some developer who was irritating me lately, and Eugene Jarvis came to mind. So I searched, and that’s the first picture I found of him.
Thom: yeah, Eugene has kind of turned to the dark side
aderack: He started off well enough!

Recent things have made me question his actual intentions with NARC.
Thom: you mean?
aderack: Well. I always thought it was an underhanded mockery of Regan-era drug war stereotypes.

But. You know, maybe he was a little more serious than that.
Thom: he’s stated actually that it was intended to be drug dealers vs. the feds originally
Thom: and then had to be changed because it wouldn’t have flown in that era
aderack: Aha.
aderack: So it… is sort of part of the Regan establishment, rather than mocking it.
aderack: Which says something about the Regan era!
aderack: Lots of fairy tales about the Bad Guys.
aderack: And about who the Good Guys are.
aderack: Every paternal figure is a Good Guy. Every Good Guy is either a paternal figure or someone willing to kick ass.
Thom: pretty much
aderack: The Bad Guys are all boogie men.
aderack: Criminals have a capital “C”.
aderack: There’s no context for them.
aderack: They just come out of the woodwork!
aderack: Dad is there to chase away the boogie man.
aderack: That’s the Regan era.
aderack: Listen to Dad. Trust in him. He’ll protect you.
Thom: The Cosby Show
aderack: Gee.
Thom: part of why the Simpsons, and their defeat of Cosby, was as much as anything else, the end of the Reagan era
aderack: Yeah, the Simpsons are kind of an important symbol of the ’90s. Questioning authority and the system again. The bend toward irreverence.
aderack: Remember how SHOCKING it was when it first appeared.
aderack: Now it’s hard to imagine why.
Thom: and how staid it is now
Thom: yeah
aderack: I mean, even going back and looking at the early stuff. It’s just — what it is. How could anyone be offended, outside the people who get offended by things?
aderack: Systematically, that is.
Thom: it’s almost too sly

What’s so good about Dragon Quest games?

There’s no nonsense to them. Keep in mind every other JRPG is a Dragon Quest clone, and has to contrive something to set itself apart from Dragon Quest. Draon Quest is, therefore, the fundamental game that everything else is a deviation from.

And there is a certain purity and wholeness to it, as an experience. It’s balanced for a certain sense of immediacy: all that matters is right now.

For the most part, the game realizes where its abstractions are and that they are abstractions. Although it’s mostly just statistics, fighting means something in and of itself: the stronger you get, the further you can safely explore. The larger your world becomes. It’s a barrier you must butt heads with if you want to grow. Nothing to glory in; it’s just a fact. This is compared to most RPGs where you fight to make it easier to beat upcoming bosses, or to level up for the sake of levelling up, or where fighting appears to be the whole point, for whatever reason, rather than a mere fact of exploration in dangerous places — and where you move forward to get to the next area and forward the plot and finish the game.

Its simplicity and its honestness really drive home how most other JPRGs have missed the point — by slapping on extra systems, extra layers of complexity just to make themselves different, trinkets, fetishes, by taking literally things that were abstract for a reason (like the numbers, or the concept of an “overworld”), by putting the focus on petty issues rather than practical ones.

When it comes down to it, Dragon Quest is about growing up, maturing, seeing the world. Experience has meaning, because the more experience you have the broader your world becomes. Money is practical because it allows you buy tools to help you in your travels.

You will constantly be hitting your head against your limit and being forced to go home, rest, recuperate. The next day you go out and hit the world again, a little wiser, a little stronger. Maybe today you’ll see something you never saw before.

That’s more or less the focus of every game. DQ8 makes it more clear by making trees trees, making mountains mountains, giving you a horizon and putting things on it to inspire you to go out and look for them. You will still keep having to go home. Stray too far, too quickly, and you will get in over your head and you will be in trouble. And you might just get killed. Yet that danger just adds all the more excitement to every day’s travel.

Curiously, if you can get around the interface issues (like having to choose “stairs” from a menu every time you want to climb them), the original Dragon Warrior has hardly dated at all. Again, that’s just a matter of the game’s fundamental simplicity. It’s like playing Super Mario Bros. or Asteroids. They’re all complete, as far as they go. Not as complex as current games, but so what. What’s complexity other than complexity. Compare that to Final Fantasy 1, which is pretty much unplayable by current standards. It just doesn’t know what it’s doing, or — more importantly — why it’s doing what it does.

When it comes down to it, playing Dragon Quest is a meditative experience. In Dragon Quest, things just Are. When you play, you just Are. It’s a game about Being. There’s no real goal; anything that the game might throw at you is a MacGuffin, really. Something to get you out the door. It’s a joyous game, a little melancholy, all about the patterns of life and change while always remaining the same. It’s happy simply to exist, and do what it does because that’s what it was put there to do. No ambition. No glory. No drama. Just a quest. A quest after dragons.

Tim Rogers and Goku Makai Mura

WARNING: occasionally-foul language approaches! NO REFUGE

You know, the delay between the button press and the throwing of the lance is pretty damned evil. I asked the booth dude if it was intentional, and he gave me the canned “we’re very very very very sorry — it’ll be fixed” response. So I take it they really, seriously don’t intend for it to be like that. And he was damned apologetic.

So! Yeah! It’s most definitely a problem. And I found it quite frankly unplayable like that.

Yeah. Well. You should have picked up a better weapon. The lance kind of sucks anyway. Always has. I just took it that they made it suck even more, to drive the point home. All the other weapons work just fine. I think the first weapon I picked up was the scythe, and that was great.

I think I died twice in the demo, and both were because I just did something fucking stupid, like jump into a bottomless pit of my own volition then wonder why I just did that.

i picked up the fucking crossbow, and it was alright. it still didn’t feel “right.”

Yeah, that wasn’t the best weapon to exchange it for. The crossbow wasn’t “right” in Chou Makai Mura either. I always avoided it. Better than the torch, though. And yeah, minimally better than the lance.

the capcom dude there said that the producer — i guess that’s fujiwara — is, for the record, “still kind of tooling with the idea of making it feel like the old ones, or making it feel fresh and optimized.” or something to that effect. in that, you see. well, you know. it’s like comparing rondo of blood to symphony of the night, control-wise. when i go to meet igarashi and crew next thursday (!! — any questions you want to ask, put them here) i plan to ask him some things about this; i know that a lot of japanese castlevania fans dropped out of fandom for the series when symphony of the night hit, because they felt its smoother controls were “selling out.”

you know what i mean?

I do. For the most part, the classic controls can go fuck themselves. This still basically feels like the old games, while not making me want to kill something.

that you say the demo for goku makaimura was not difficult says that you have played a lot of makaimura, or at least more than a person who has played none.

Well! That doesn’t mean I’ve ever been any GOOD at the series, saving Yuji Naka’s version of the second one — which was really fucking playable. The third game in particular, now, is a game that’s made unreasonably hard just to be unreasonably hard. I’ve only twice ever even made it past the first level. And it’s done so just arbitrarily, in part by taking out things that should be there and forcing reliance on new things that have no reason to be there. The first game I can forgive better because, you know, it was the first game and it was made in 1985. I still don’t think I’ve made it further than the third or fourth level without cheating, and then only maybe once ever.

This is… better. It’s more like a sequel to Dai, where Chou was more like a sequel to the original. And I don’t just mean the vertical shooting, which sure as hell helps. I just mean more thought was put into how the game’s put together, and it’s made to for going forward rather than hitting your head against a wall over and over. That you are revived instantly when you die is a big difference. You’re not penalized up the asshole for a single mistake. You just lose your life and make note to next time not do again what you did.

now! i’m not saying that the game should be zelda-dumb, i’m just saying that . . . hell, i don’t know. lord knows what i’m arguing here. it doesn’t fucking matter. just that, well, the truth is, i don’t like the game. you can’t argue with me on that one — you can’t tell me that i do indeed like it!!

i really liked it on genesis, i just think that on PSP it doesn’t feel . . . right. or it doesn’t feel grown up. that and i don’t like the jumping. i don’t like over-shooting every jump. it makes me feel dumb. though i guess that’s something i could learn.

fuck, maybe i should just quit playing videogames, i don’t know.

I didn’t have any problem with the jumping. So!

Should the game feel grown-up? I mean. What can you really do with a side-scrolling Makai Mura? It is informed by just about everything the earlier games did “wrong”, and it does a good job of patching them up without essentially changing how the game feels. It’s not a total reinvention like, you know, Gradius V or something. I don’t know that it needs to be, though. Makai Mura doesn’t have this long history of clutter like Gradius, that needed to be focused away. It just needed the hate removed, and that’s happened. And beyond that, the atmosphere has been made more like what the earlier games clearly wanted it to be.

If it were polished too much or made too easy it’d lose the scariness that the atmosphere’s there to amplify. As it is, it’s basically balanced to keep the player constantly on-edge without overwhelming him or punishing him inordinately. Which is a balance the earlier games never quite found.

Is it just that the game’s a 2D platformer rendered in 3D that puts you off? A meticulous revisitation of a game last seen in 1991, with only the things fixed and added that might ideally have been fixed and added in 1996 on, say, the Saturn? Are you wondering why Capcom even bothered if that’s all they were going to do? Especially with a platform like the PSP, which should be able to do… more, somehow?

Because that’s the thing that I like the best about it. That it subverts what the PSP can hypothetically do, and simply treats it like what it is: a fucking handheld system. A handheld system with pretty 3D graphics; still just a souped-up Game Boy, with a small screen and basically 2D controls. The fanciest, most expensive, most over-the-top Game Boy on Earth, maybe. Still just a Game Boy, still just as prone to dropping on the pavement, still an intimate system for use by a single person at a time only, ever, that has no need to impress or entertain anyone else and needs to entertain that single person in a way that he can wrench himself free at any moment, to jump off the train when his stop arrives.

It doesn’t bother with the bullshit. It’s just another Makai Mura — educated by fourteen years, perhaps — made for the only platform it could reasonably be made for, made in the only way it could reasonably be made. And suddenly it’s made clear: who the fuck wants a PS2 in his pocket? Let’s make the best of an unfortunate situation.