Case Study in Fading Magic – Nintendo Entertainment System – Hydlide – 1989

Nintendo Entertainment System
T&E Soft Incorporated/FCI
Genre: Action RPG

Tracing any genre back to its roots is difficult, though you can usually find a batch of games that are clear frontrunners in innovation.  Mechanically speaking, there are a lot of games that owe their predecessors for concepts that were not quite perfect when they appeared but have since been worked to impressive precision.  For better or worse, Hydlide was one of those frontrunners.

Originally released in 1984 for computers in Japan, the game worked to present a fantasy role-playing game like no other, though it was joined by Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series at about the same time.  Both are action RPGs and while Dragon Slayer still comes up pretty frequently in my studies on video games and history, I’d only heard of Hydlide in passing once or twice before I found a complete-in-box version at my local gaming store.

There had to be some reason that I had heard so much about one series and not the other, I figured.  Looking into FCI, the publisher, I noticed that they had some hand in helping the Ultima and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games make it over this way, and I’ve enjoyed what I played of those.

Let me recount my journey for you, then, of how I felt about Hydlide on its own merits, historically and playing through it in the year 2018.

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The Ship Sinks – When the World is Full of Spoilers

Picture yourself sitting at your computer.  My guess is that at the moment, this may not be a stretch but bear with me.  As you’re scrolling through the front page of your favorite gaming site, you see an advertisement for a game you’ve been waiting for what feels like five lifetimes to play.  It’s been out for a few weeks, but you’ll finally have the money to grab it and see what everyone’s ‘oh man’s and ‘you need to play this game’s have been all about. As you scroll down your Twitter feed, you happen upon an interesting looking screenshot and linger a bit too long.

Is that the main villain of the game?  Wait, though, that character was clearly being shown as a friend to the hero in the trailer you watched.  You would have never seen that coming!

Okay.  No problem.  It sucks that the plot point was ruined for you, but you get your mind off of it by heading out to the movies for the night.  You’ve been looking forward to the new Marvel movie (there’s always one, isn’t there?) and after the diligence you’ve put toward avoiding interviews with the stars and major movie sites, you’re sure you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the two-hour thrill ride that awaits you.  You sidle into the line at the snack counter and just as you start to order, you hear the group behind you talking about how they are on their third viewing of this movie.

“Seriously, I can’t wait to see that again!  I was totally surprised when-”

Before you have the chance to throw your hands over your ears and sing loudly to mask the voices, you’ve had the entire second half of the movie ruined just because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you’re someone who wants to go into a piece of media pure and uninformed, the Information Age can be tough.  The general populace seems eager to not spoil everything for people who haven’t checked out the latest games, movies, books, and other works of the sort.  Eventually, though, the question arises:

When Is a Spoiler Not a Spoiler?

I took to Twitter to throw together a poll, gauging how people felt about spoilers and how long the grace period should be between something releasing and when you can generally get away with talking in a public forum about it in gritty detail.  The results?

Spoiler Poll Results

Thanks to the folks that participated in the poll!

Like most polls, I was in the minority on this though I’ll get to that in a bit.  While I admittedly left out the option for folks to express that spoilers are no big deal, I expected a bit more breathing room between release and full-blown public critiques.  Of course, that would be my feeling on this if people hadn’t replied with such well explained feelings on the matter. Given the stipulations and reasoning, six months to a year actually sounds completely understandable.  It also comes as no surprise to me that the second strongest answer was that it is never okay to talk about anything spoiler related. I don’t subscribe to the same thought process necessarily- if I want to tell people that they’re going to find Toad (spoiler alert)  in seven castles before they actually get to see Princess Toadstool, I’m taking the liberty to do so.  That said, if someone wants to go into detail about some of the finer points of a game like Final Fantasy VI, even with a grace period of 24 years I feel that the responsible thing to do is at least warn a fellow gamer.

Thankfully, that seems to be the major caveat that most people who answered the poll added.  Providing some kind of forewarning that there are indeed spoilers incoming will help the person looking at your blog or your Facebook post decide whether or not they want to partake in the information you’re putting out into the atmosphere.  There is certainly something to be said for consideration when discussing anything in depth especially in a place where everyone can see or hear it plainly. There are a few factors I hadn’t considered in my initial question, though, one of which doesn’t revolve around video games.

The Shameful Narcissist (check out their blog here) made a good point that some of the consideration could revolve around monetary and time commitment.  While no one wants to see spoilers for a movie they’re excited about that just released, ticket prices are not nearly as expensive as most games fresh off of the shelf.  Along the same lines, a film takes a couple of hours worth of investment whereas quite a few games can range from five to ten hours or so up to even 60-100 hours (I’m looking at you, Persona 5).  

Does this make the spoilers for a film less important than a video game?  Not at all! The cycle of a film, though, does feel like it lends itself to a shorter spoiler process.  Being able to finish a movie in a couple of hours means that it isn’t spread out over the course of a month or two.  Rarely can a video game be completed on the first day it’s purchased. How is this judged for things like television shows, books, and other media?  In a world full of people who believe the nature of spoilers to be different concepts, it’s tough to come up with one conclusive answer.

What Is a Spoiler?

A miserable little pile of secrets.

Actually, that kind of works, doesn’t it?  A lot of folks that I’ve spoken with, both online and off, have stated their opinions on what exactly constitutes a “spoiler” in the grand scheme of a game.  The story I tell most people to outline my confusion on the topic is that either just before or just when Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released, I mentioned to an acquaintance and diehard fan of the series that the bow that Link uses in the game looks really cool.  Their response was for me to stop talking about it because they didn’t want to hear spoilers for the game. Never mind that I haven’t played the last few Zelda games in any capacity but either they had avoided spoilers so much that they hadn’t seen the promotional art or the paranoia of the conversation continuing into spoiler territory was so great that the mention of a prominent weapon throughout the series set off their alarms.

The majority of the people I spoke to and that responded to the question online came down to the same conclusion as to what constitutes as a spoiler concerning a video game.  To most, a spoiler is a revelation that would remove the emotional impact from the game as a whole. Whether it be through character beats, plot twists, or the result of difficult choices that may affect the game, people tend to see these as spoilers that are the most egregious.  To confide my opinion on this in general, I feel the same way. I had a huge plot twist to Final Fantasy X ruined for me a few months after it came out and still haven’t finished it to this day because- well, why bother when I know the plot now?  Experiencing the plot is half of the point of playing an RPG and despite my resolution to go back and finish it someday soon, that mark will always affect my interest in watching everything unfold.

While in the minority of answers to my question, a few people did say that they take it upon themselves to cultivate the amount of promotional material they’ll observe and avoid whatever they can leading up to a game’s release and their time with it.  While I don’t take the same approach, the understanding did seem to stress the point of taking it upon themselves to avoid the information.  It can be difficult now especially if you read blogs or keep up with social media.  There is a lot to be said, however, for people wanting to get the most out of their experience and holding themselves accountable with filters and avoiding their favorite gaming news sources until they can get into the game themselves.

until dawn image.jpg

Sometimes, you just have to put your headphones on and tune out the information spread.

A Conclusion and How to Handle Spoilers

To coin a phrase that I’m sure someone else has said in these exact same words: “Everybody wants something different.”  Some people will play through a game regardless of how much they know about the plot and its intricacies while a number will go into a media blackout until that game hits their console or computer screen.  Some folks think that spoilers are something that should never be talked about while others think that once a game is released, every bit of information is fair game to post for the world to see. Where does this intrepid blogger stand on it?

Spoilers don’t bother me as much as most at this point in my life.  If I’m going to play a game, I’m going to play it regardless. I respect the fact, though, that plenty of other people don’t feel the same way that I do.  When I post screenshots of modern games, I try to make sure that they won’t ruin anything plot related or any incredibly interesting mechanics that may add to the experience for someone and aren’t common knowledge.  I feel that it’s my duty as a blogger and someone interested in promoting gaming history and analysis to outline when I’m going to discuss topics like that and while I may not always succeed, I hope the effort is as effective as I want it to be.  Personally, my threshold for full-on discussion without discussing spoilers openly is about ten years but it does depend on how it might affect the work. Talking about Super Mario Odyssey and its plot and mechanics is a bit different than talking about Octopath Traveller or Persona 5.  Still, I don’t see myself throwing out the Plot Discussion and Spoilers portion of my long form reviews anytime soon.  I’ll just do my best to keep highlighting and containing that information.

In the long run, games are there to be enjoyed.  A lot of people get enjoyment out of surprises and engaging with media with a fresh and clear view and as a community, I think it’s good to bear that in mind.  Thankfully, most of the community I’ve spoken with tend to agree as I honestly believe that a big step in creating a positive community around any media is to let people enjoy things the way that they like.  Being aware that some people want to have this information highlighted for them at the very least is a pretty small step toward that goal.

If you have any thoughts or want to discuss, feel free to do so in the comments (and much like in my Twitter question on this, I have faith in the folks that talk on here will keep things civil)!  How do you feel about spoilers? Any thoughts on how things like re-releases and remasters affect them? Any other advice on how to handle them? Feel free to chat me up here or on Twitter ( @the3rdplayer ) to let me know.

Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

General Updates – Bright New Horizons

Hey folks!

I’ve tried really hard to stick to my guns on not excusing myself every time I have a long break between posts but I felt like this warranted at least some kind of signal that I am actually still active and avidly writing up pieces to post up here.

First, the serious ‘real life’ business: without going into too much detail, some pretty life-altering events have occurred over the past month or two that have caused a need for relocation and a general upheaval of my way of living.  Sadly, this isn’t as cool as being a super spy or anything like that.  I do want to reassure anyone that despite my vagueries, I’m doing all right and managing things like my mental health well.  As a part of managing that, though, I feel like transparency is important on a subject that involves a sudden drop in frequency that may take some time to recover from.

That said, I’ve been working on some pieces for the blog concerning reviews, collecting, and editorials!  “Like what?” you might ask.

Well, I’ll be happy to tell you!  For one, I have a few mobile games that I’d like to get some quick and dirty reviews out on.  I’ve also been working through my Steam backlog a bit and on the back of writing about Lucius as my last entry, I’ve started playing through Lucius II: The Prophecy so I’m sure I’ll be working on something regarding that soon!

So far as collecting, my relocation has made things a bit difficult regarding my original plan to accumulate the Atelier and Fire Emblem series, but I have some other items to show and chat about.  That particular vein of chatter, however, may dry up just a bit until I’m back up and running on all cylinders again.

Editorially, I asked a question on Twitter recently about the nature of spoilers and folks’ opinions on them.  Some interesting answers popped up and along with expressing my own opinion, I’m looking forward to finishing up a piece involving those discussions.

Last but not least, I’ve signed on to write a piece for a collaboration being set up by Matthew over at Normal Happenings about “The Games That Define Us”!  While I’ve just started conceptualizing and jotting down notes, the cast of contributors is phenomenal and have been super energetic and friendly to engage with so far.  If you want to check out more about the project, the original call for entries is here.  I am definitely looking forward to the project and see how it all turns out!

I understand that that is never a need to explain your hiatus or a long stretch of time between posts- real life happens and sometimes it happens in a hard and sudden fashion.  I appreciate everyone who stops in and checks out what I have to say here so at the very least, I wanted to let people know that I’m doing all right and that while I may not be at my previous frequency for a bit, I’m still standing.

Thanks for understanding and keep being great!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Evil’s First Outing – PC – Lucius – 2012

Shiver Games/Lace Mamba Global
Genre: Stealth Horror

The number of horror sub-genres in film are vast- slashers, thrillers, hauntings, killer toys; the groupings are near endless and occasionally ridiculous.  One particular style of horror movie that still makes the rounds is the ‘demonic child’ trope. Whatever the reason, the concept of something usually cherished as pure and innocent like a child exacting horrible deeds has unsettled movie goes for decades with titles like The Omen, The Bad Seed, and The Good Son.  Shiver Games decided to take their own spin on this with their flagship title, Lucius.

Based out of Finland, Shiver Games has only worked on games in the Lucius series including a ‘demake’ of the original title and a second game, Lucius II: The Prophecy.  Their goal, according to their website, is to offer up a unique spin on horror gaming.  While there isn’t a lot of other information presented by their site, their devotion to the title is clear.  After spending some time with Lucius, though, I definitely have some thoughts on this little tenacious project.
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Adventures in Collecting – The Journey Begins

To be candid, I’ve wanted to collect video games for a while.  It’s a daunting thing to think about, though.  There are just so many of them and when certain titles start to rise in price, they reach some serious heights sometimes.

At first, I took to the tactic of picking up odds and ends here and there.  I don’t have a ton of income and there are only a couple of retro video game stores in the area.  This meant I could moderate how much money I spent and slowly build up my collection with titles that I may not necessarily be seeking out but would bolster my number of pieces.  That worked for a while but felt aimless.  Also, I managed to double buy not once but twice, making my still tiny collection redundant.

That was when my new objective came to light to give me a little more direction in the midst of this new quest.

There are a few series that have made a huge impact on me but haven’t seen the light of day on stateside shelves.  In past overviews, I’ve made it clear that I absolutely adore the Fire Emblem series.  It hits all of my sweet spots- large casts, intrigue and grounded plots dressed up with strategy battles.  I also recently started my Atelier series overview which is another group of games that I’ve fallen for.  Given that they just reached their nineteenth entry (with the twentieth just announced as Atelier Nelke), the heavily anime-inspired crafting RPG has preoccupied me heavily over the past few years and was a big part of the bonding between myself and my husband.  Then there’s the Shin Megami Tensei series.  Specifically, I’ve been enamored with the Persona series, but every piece of gaming under the Shin Megami Tensei brand has enthralled me with their mature themes and modern day/post-apocalyptic settings.

The ‘trouble’ with these series is that a large number of their offerings live overseas and need to be imported to get them.  This actually benefits me, though, because I’ve settled on not purchasing a new game until the one I’ve ordered arrives, placing a few weeks in between orders.  It also means that I have more direction and the products I’m going out of my way for really mean something to me personally.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll still be picking up other games along the way when I can.  This method fits my style a little better, though, and I’m excited to check out some items I wouldn’t have seen just perusing retro stores near me.

Much to my excitement, my first purchase arrived a couple of weeks ago in the form of Fire Emblem Gaiden for the Famicom.

There were so many interesting things about receiving this game, not the least of which is that it is the first Famicom cartridge I’ve ever come into contact with.  The box itself seems like it’s about 2/3 the size of US packaging for Nintendo, and the cartridge is a rectangle rather than a square (I know this might be old hat for other collectors out there, but my mind was kind of blown!).  The game was also in near mint condition with only some damage on the corners of the cardboard containing the contents.

Now to be clear, I can’t read Japanese.  I dabble in playing around on Google translate to help with phrases here and there but that about sums up my ability to read kanji.  There is very little chance I will play these foreign titles and as of this writing, I haven’t even gotten a Famicom system and don’t have plans to do so yet.  That doesn’t change the awe I had looking through the manual and over the packaging.

For the personal note on this one, I loved Fire Emblem Gaiden since I played the fan translation a few years back.  Seeing some of the roots of the series I had become mildly obsessed with was a treat, and I loved the story of Celica and Alm.  It played a lot like Sacred Stones, one of my favorite Fire Emblem games, and it had a lot of interesting mechanics for its timeframe.  I was pretty ecstatic when Fire Emblem Echoes was announced so finding its source material at a reasonable price on eBay felt pretty fortuitous.  If I was going to start off with this mission, this felt like the right ‘first blood’ to be drawn.

My next purchase is already on the way and should be here in the next couple of weeks, though I do have another piece to write about in a few days.  My plan is to fill out these series as I can and to talk up some fun facts about the experiences as I can so I hope you’ll enjoy the journey along with me, collector or not!

(Also, if you’d like to check out more information on this game, check out the first part of my Fire Emblem Overview that goes over the first two games in the series here.)