Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fantasy, Final

I'm not an RPG guy. Or, rather, I am one and I just didn't realize it. I've self-actualized this fact only recently.

In 2008*, Kmork, that madman of mercurial mayhem, suggested I play Chrono Trigger, recently ported to the Nintendo DS. I'd always shied away from RPG games until then; the grinding to level up, random battles, D&D fantasy tropes, and the boring turn-based nature of the genre (or so I thought, having suffered through more than a few excruciatingly awful RPG games in my youth**) made me reluctant. But Kmork ensured me that Chrono Trigger was largely regarded as one of the best video games ever created, and a rudimentary Internet investigation proved that he was correct (as always, unless he isn't).

I'm sure that there are millions who would attest to the power of religion (billions, in that regard) or to the healing properties of homeopathic remedies; I wouldn't trust their word if it were tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. But entertainment is another matter. If enough people -- people who are knowledgeable, passionate, and, most of all, intelligent all around -- praise a video game, my interest is piqued. Fourteen years ago***, I moved to Korea. And while I was initially apprehensive of eating things like raw fish, chicken feet, grilled cow****, and so on, I understood that if a culinary dish is beloved by so many there must be something special about it.

So I played Chrono Trigger, and it was a glorious experience. The story, the characters, the score (THE SCORE!!!)...I will forever, fondly and thankfully, reminisce of Chrono Trigger***** in the same way I remember Star Wars, The Wire, the LeBron-era Miami Heat, Dostoevsky novels, the films of Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick, and The Bat roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland for the rest of my life as a paragon of entertainment.

So, why, if I enjoyed Chrono Trigger so much, didn't I seek out more classic RPG games? I'm not sure. Maybe it was because I thought nothing could top that experience*******. Maybe I was busy doing other things; as you get older, there is less and less time to pursue new interests. Your leisure window starts to close, and stuff that you'd like to do gradually becomes stuff that you want to do but don't have time for. Prioritization. Mostly, it's because work gets in the way.

And that's when serendipity stepped in. I edit video game localization, the translation of a game released in one language (in my case, Korean) into another (English, although I'm brushing up on my Dothraki). When I have downtime at work, I'm encouraged to play video games for research purposes. It's awesome********.

But Pac-Man and Temple Run don't offer much insight vis-à-vis game localization research. Those are games I enjoy playing these days because I have so little time to truly invest myself in a game like Chrono Trigger. However much I yearn to invest my time in watching the four-hour version of Once upon a Time in America, listen to The White Album in a sitting, or collect every star in Mario 64, I don't have the time. I've fantasized of a Henry Bemis-esque scenario in which I'm locked inside a fallout shelter during a nuclear apocalypse*********, because how else can I find the time to play an epic video game?

Enter: Final Fantasy IV. For the past three weeks, I've been grinding on that worthy at work like sandpaper on an incisor. It is the only RPG game after Chrono Trigger that I have loved immensely. It is also only the second RPG game I've played after Chrono Trigger.

There comes a point, not unlike conception, physically or abstract, where curiosity turns into interest, and then the next step, where interest becomes a passion. As it relates to video game RPGs, I have Kmork to thank for, first, being the spark plug, and, later, in the present day**********, being my RPG guru.

Like attempting to describe a dream, no one gives a shit about one's solo video game accomplishments. That said, beating the four Archfiends is an intense accomplishment I will always remember. It was trying, as all memorable experiences are. I was nervous. My hands were shaking. I won. I fucking won.

Then I slipped on ice on the walk home and broke my hip.

* which, damn, is nearly six years ago. It really does feel like it was yesterday.

** Double Dungeons for the Turbo Grafx 16; which, I imagine, is like having an early attraction to horror/fantasy and reading the Twilight series as a gateway.

*** over a third of my life! That's very cool, and also quite scary. Time really does keep on slippin' (slippin', slippin') into the future, Steve Miller.

**** Never again. Not because I love dogs, which I do, but because I hated the taste. I tried it, didn't like it.

***** I'm doing so right now! /meta

******* which is a dumb reason. I'd call someone who refused to watch gangster films an idiot if he stopped after seeing The Godfather. Goodfellas, yo!

******** Game testing, however, is not. Driving a Ferrari is fun, I would imagine. Building one, crash testing one, I imagine is not. Unless you're a masochist.

********* In this version, Bemis's broken spectacles are substituted by a thrown Dual Shock controller.

********** "later, in the present day" ... 88 miles per hour

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