Wednesday, February 4, 2009

gamer shames: i have some confessions to make

nope never beat them all sorry Maybe it’s the name of the blog or the ever-present shades of blue that compose its layout, but it shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to guess that I like Mega Man. Given my unconditional love of those dusty old action games, you’d think I’d have already played every one of them to completion, but that’s not true – Mega Man 2 is commonly considered the best game in the series, and unquestionably laid out the template upon which the rest of the series and its many spin-offs were built. I’ve never once beaten it.

Charge Shot!!! is trying out a new series of features, and because we like rhyming we’re calling it Gamer Shames. We’ll talk about games we never beat, games we played and are embarrassed about, and other things that any real game player would be ashamed to admit. Here come the confessions. Go easy on me?

No, I’ve never beaten Mega Man 2. It’s not that I don’t have the chops, I swear – I’ve beaten every other NES game in the series, with the exception of the first (which I think is true of many people). Mega Man is all about level and boss pattern memorization anyway, so if I devote any amount of time to the endeavor I’d likely beat it with little trouble. I never beat Mega Man 2 because I never took the time to beat Mega Man 2. The first game in the series I played as a wee bairn was the third, so that’s the one that has the most nostalgia value for me. This paragraph is reading like a laundry list of excuses – maybe I’ll just beat the game now and show all you young punks what’s what! Goddamn.

I’ve talked about it before, but I’ve never had any great love for the Sonic games. I’ve never played any one of them to completion. Having cut my teeth on Mario, I always enjoyed a slower-paced game with more rewards for exploration (and more corners to explore). In his early outings Sonic only ever really valued the blast through to the finish line, and his later outings have been too busy sucking to warrant my interest. It may mean that I’m missing out on a chunk of gaming history? But I feel okay with it, most of the time.

I can’t play Final Fantasy VII, and it’s because of the graphics. It’s considered a landmark for the series and for the JRPG, one that fans refuse to forget and one that people always point to when they need to forgive Square Enix for whatever the hell it is they’re doing now. I’ve tried, I really have, but I can’t get past the first few hours. The blocky, sub-Lego graphics kill my eyes. The load times between the all-too-frequent random battles kill my patience. The not-so-great translation and the melodramatic storyline kill most other things. Barring a revamped remake or remastered rerelease, I can’t see myself dropping 40 hours on this one. Perhaps a landmark game, but I can play plenty of better-looking better-playing RPGs that take things from FFVII and improve upon them.

To close this installment of Gamer Shames, one game I’m completely ashamed to love: Pokemon. The monster-collecting RPG proper, too, not any of its countless spinoffs. They’ve always been critically-acclaimed and people who actually play them know they’re pretty deep little games, but let’s face it. I’m twenty-three, and every time a new generation of the particularly Pikachu-heavy series comes out I’m right there, snapping it up like a twelve-year-old. I have never caught them all, but I did spend over 100 hours on Pokemon Diamond. It’s pretty safe to say that it is the most time I’ve spent with any single game in recent memory, and it’s not some earth-shaking blockbuster or quietly brilliant indie game trying to change the way we look at games – it was plain old, by-the-numbers Pokemon. There’s no way to slap the Games as Art tag on that mess.

For all our aspirations here, the fact of the matter is that sometimes we play games just to game – we don’t go into everything wanting to be intellectually stimulated or mentally challenged. Sometimes it’s a guilty pleasure, and sometimes we play stuff even dedicated gamers would cringe about. I want to say there’s no shame in it, but you know, there is a little. Like that’s going to stop me.