I never studied Child Psychology, so I don’t know if there is a term for this, but there’s a peculiar period of time that I recall vividly from my own childhood when, having gotten past the whole “the universe started with my birth” fallacy, I moved on to acknowledging that everything I know and have experienced has come before, and, like I am seven years old now, my father was once seven years old himself, and his father before him. There must be a name for this period of development, where the world grows just a little bit smaller, and you know, deep down, that your love of grilled cheese may be, without even knowing the word for it, hereditary. A genetic memory, aided by your environment, to guarantee your life the strophic form of your forefathers.
Then again, I played Nintendo as a kid.
I will defend Nintendo (the company, not the system I referred to in the previous paragraph) until my dying breath, because they keep beach city weird. As I write this, Nintendo’s latest release is taking the world by storm, and it’s all about cute squid girls painting structures with Alec Templeton precision while defending the values of either cats (yay!) or dogs (cretins!). And that’s one of the more straightforward plots from Nintendo, lest we forget the next big Nintendo release features anthropomorphic animals piloting starships that turn into robot chickens to combat a giant brain. Nintendo’s own iconic mascot has a mushroom-dependency problem, but, don’t worry, he’s a doctor.
And if you’re reading this, I bet that last paragraph actually made sense to you. In fact, I bet it made sense to you without even having to think about it. Okay, maybe not the Templeton reference. Regardless, thanks to an overexposure since childhood, so much “Nintendo logic” makes perfect sense to our metroid-shaped brains, so imagining a flesh colored creature capable of devouring the stars themselves is not so much scary as it is a gentle reminder that emperor penguins are not to be trusted with food supplies.
The greatest and worst thing about childhood is not having anywhere near the experience points necessary to level up to being a useful member of society. Being a child sucks for being taken seriously, but it does leave a lot of space for magic and wonder and imagining that big, amazing world that’s out there and waiting for you the absolute minute you clean your room and are allowed back outside again. And that kind of thinking, combined with the previously mentioned knowledge that “everything has come before” leads to some weird conclusions.
I’m talking about jumping on turtles.
Playing Rygar as an adult, I have to fall back on that hoary old chestnut of “what were they smoking?” Frankly, I’ve always hated that expression, as it reduces imagination to a substance, as if someone needs external stimulus to produce something as “whacky” as a talking cat (!?!), but in this case, it’s a little unusual that the first thing a Roman warrior encounters on his journey to save his land is… a giant shuffling turtle. But don’t worry, I got this, I know what to do.
Rygar, jump on that turtle.
Here’s where Nintendo (generally talking about the system again) gets dangerous. Rygar is a great wealth of repeats from other video games and sources, and, as a kid, if I saw the same thing twice, I figured it must be some archetypical facet of the universe that I am just now discovering. Much like the Castlevania trilogy taught me that whips are the deadliest weapons ever devised, Rygar confirmed a few sneaking suspicions…
1. Turtles (non-mutant) are nature’s mobile trampolines (see also: Super Mario Bros)
2. Yo-Yos are capable weapons (see also: Star Tropics, Goonies II)
3. Greco-Roman warriors being revived for battle is a normal thing (see also: Altered Beast)
4. Grappling hooks are basically elevators in rope form (see also: Batman, Legend of Zelda)
5. Floating Islands? Completely normal. (see also: All of Japan’s output for a solid decade)
I am eternally grateful that I live in an area that is devoid of turtles or yo-yo stores, as either would have likely lead to my incarceration at a young age.
While I eventually acknowledged that maybe Nintendo games are not a valid way of discovering the world, I did internalize many video game lessons from Rygar and its ilk. I didn’t play Rygar until I was a little older than when I played some other beloved NES franchises, so it may have been my first metroidvania where progression seemed “gated” and deliberate. Remember that childhood naiveté I mentioned earlier? That led to a number of games, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest comes immediately to mind, working on magic and fuzziness more than actual programming (“That ferryman finally took me where I needed to go! I guess he just does that sometimes. Now, time to randomly jump in every lake!”). Rygar is the first game I can remember ever having a nonlinear structure, but enough hints (in the form of scary bald men) to make everything gel into a much more cohesive whole (and it probably helps that there weren’t villages full of dicks lying to me). You’re literally telling me I need the crossbow to proceed? Oh, good, that means I can stop jumping into this pit over and over again expecting to finally bridge the gap. Many people fault modern gaming’s “tools as keys” and “explain away” design philosophies, but we should all remember that every video game has the potential to be someone’s first game, and an informed gamer is a worthy gamer.
Just watch those gamers around the turtles.
FGC #7 Rygar
- System: NES
- Number of Players: 1
- Number of Identical Old Men in Ancient Argool: Innumerable
- Shield as an offensive weapon: Ill-advised
- Gonna talk about the sequel? No.
- Is there a robot involved? You better believe it
- Did You Know? In the American version, Crash Man is the hero, while Clash Man is the villain. In Japan, Crash Man is the villain, and the hero is unnamed. Air Man works best across all versions. Wait… I might be thinking of another game.
- Would I Play Again? It was kind of neat playing this again for the first time in ages, but I like to accomplish something in a game sitting. Rygar is impossibly long and completely devoid of a password or save feature, and it’s not really a “pick up” game. I will probably play Rygar again if it becomes the last video game on Earth… and most books have been destroyed. And it’s raining.
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Micro Game$. Great. A blog about video games about a video game about creating video games via playing video games. We’re going through the looking glass, people, so please look forward to it!