Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How to spot a truly oddball moment in a video game

The word 'weird' in its broadest absolute sense can relate to anything or anyone that seems out of the ordinary, or not conforming to a general expectation. However weirdness is in the eye of the beholder and is more often than not a relative concept. If you imagine what a weird person would act and look like then chances are there is somebody that approximates that description who has a completely different idea of what a weird person is. It also depends where you are standing, at a cosplay event it is perfectly natural to see somebody dresses as Dr. Fetus from the Meat Boy games, but if my driving instructor was wearing that to a lesson... you get the idea.

Although I don't know when or where I'd consider "Bananarine" a regular part of my day.
So when I'm playing Conker's Bad Fur Day I don't think it weird that there's a sunflower with big boobies that I need to use to reach higher platforms. If that was in Super Mario Galaxy, yes, that would be messed up (although that would probably be more legitimate way to move between planets) but since it was featured in a game also including a giant boiler with balls and a couple of "pissing sections" it's not considered to be all that weird within the scope of the game. I must also emphasise that these oddities are made all the stranger because the player has to actually interact with these scenes. You do need to jump on the boobies instead of just hearing about it happen. Here are a couple of my personal experiences with true gaming weirdness.

The Girl Next Door - Final Fantasy 8
Now I'm one of those people who think the Junction system in this game was pretty effing cool and that number 8 is one the best games in the series. Maybe the fact that despite the widespread use of magic and the commonplace existence of monsters and other creatures, that the human society of this world is actually kinda normalish. People don't live in castles, villages or forts. They live in towns and cities with trains, hotels and tv studios. Even the character design isn't too over the top and this is Square (pre-Enix era, a.k.a "Square Preenix") we're talking about here. The 'modern society' bent of this game was possibly pushed a little bit too far by the inclusion of an item called "The Girl Next Door" which has an item which reads "a naughty magasine". You aren't actually allowed to buy it either because the shopkeeper says the group is  underage, which clears up any ambiguity that this is porno we're talking about here. Little did the shopkeeper know that my characters would need the material to calm their nerves before a big assassination mission further down the line.  

"Don't worry mate, I've got the emergency porn right here"
But as luck would have it, you can just find porn lying around on the street in the city of Timber. So I pick up my "naughty magasine" and get on my merry little way. That was in Disc 1 somewhere. Hours later in Disc 3 I find an NPC by the name of Zone who can not believe that I've found a copy of said sordid material and demands that I sell it to him. I can get 25000 gil for it (!!!) or I can give it to him for free and get a couple of rare cards for the Triple Triad card game, which is by far the better prize. So basically my main character Squall (I'm having none of this 'Leon' shit) has been reduced to a tawdry porn courier. Worse still, is that the moral of this particular side quest is that "It is morally superior to give porn you find on the street away for free". Possibly even more disturbing is that you can elect to keep the magasine all to yourself, which brings me on to my next example.

To the Men's Toilets for a Quick Perv  - Catherine
This game, unlike FF8 is meant to rife with sexual themes, given that the main story focuses on a man guilty of cheating on his long term girlfriend with the titular Catherine. Given that the main character Vincent spends most of his time running around block puzzles wearing nothing but pink boxer shorts and some fetching ram horns (the horns are on his head if you were wondering) I wouldn't even think twice about a 'naughty magasine' making an appearance. That would just be part of the fun!

There is already more explicit content in this game on its front cover then there is in FF8
    But twice during the game (maybe more than that but I played the "faithful lover" story line) Vincent receives provocative text messages from Catherine who has taken pictures of herself posing suggestively. Pfft, whatever that's fine, I know that's consistent with what Catherine is like as a character and fits in well with the game's overall tone. What really takes the biscuit is that in order to open the image attachment on his mobile phone, Vincent insists that he needs to do so in the privacy of a toilet cubicle at the Stray Sheep bar. I've already fulfilled the role of 'discarded porn courier' but now Atlus expects me to be okay with the role of 'shameless toilet masturbator'? Odder still is that there is no benefit or downside to doing this, it's just in the game. So yes, I was okay with it. Still weird.

I am the Eggman  - Dark Souls

I've discussed at length before how great I think the tone of this game is. In fact I even beat the haughty likes of Edge magasine to the punch in talking about Anor Londo's grandeur so there's no doubting that this game is polished and feels awesome to play. They might have pushed the 'we're going to make you feel insignificant' button a little too hard when they decide how to transport you back to the Undead Asylum for any revisits you make to that location. For the most part, Dark Souls boasts a seamlessly epic world where you can walk to anywhere on the map without loading screens or tedious Mass Effect style elevator rides. However for some transitions they do break this rule. To get to Anor Londo you need to be carried there by winged demon angel creatures, to get to the Painted World there is a fade out as you enter the painting and when you leave the Undead Asylum for the first time there's a really cool segment where a giant raven (or is it a crow? If only there was a device that would automatically tell the difference for me...) snatches you up and flies you to Lordran.

"That's so Raven" -- unless it's a crow.
But to get back to the Undead Asylum you need to somehow coax this giant winged fellow to take you there and you do that by crawling into its nest and pretending to be an egg. I may be imagining this but I'm sure a button input command appears as you approach the nest which says (Pretend to be an egg) or something daft like that but the fact remains that this moment is a single beacon of stupid in an otherwise flawlessly harrowing, desolate game.

I could make this article go on for pages more but there's my little selection. Honorable mentions go to:

  • Hugging (or not hugging) Leonardo Da Vinci - Assassin's Creed series
  • The Toilet Hand NPC - Legend of Zelda series (what is he doing in there?)
  • The Tea Brewing Side Quest - Professor Layton series

  That's plenty of article. Bye.

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