Tag Archives: I look fabulous

FGC #514 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

LET'S QUESTToday we’re going to talk about videogames and how you engage with videogames. Actually, screw that, we’re going to talk about how I engage with videogames.

This odyssey into madness was prompted by Random ROB choosing Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. You may recall that ROB is now picking games from a truncated version of my master inventory of videogames, so, ultimately, DQ9 was no accident. Today’s game was always going to be picked eventually, as it is fondly remembered as one of my favorite games. In fact, I could toss out a few basic, personal facts about DQ9 immediately:

  1. It is one of my most favorite videogames
  2. It is absolutely my most favorite DS game, which is significant, as this is the system that hosted Flammole the Moleroid
  3. It is absolutely my most favorite Dragon Quest game, and the title that got me to enjoy the franchise after years of issues.
  4. I played Dragon Quest 9 for 197 hours, apparently. Given my general ADD and the wealth of alternative games I have available at any given moment, this is significant.
    That's a lot of time
  5. I never want to play Dragon Quest 9 ever again.

Considering the hours involved, that last point seems… peculiar.

To be clear, this is not a matter of burnout. For an easy example of that, consider Secret of Mana, a game that I played and replayed approximately every other day back in 1994. That was a game that, after I was wholly “done” with the experience (likely because Chrono Trigger was finally obtained), I was in no rush to repeat all over again. I had beaten the Mana Beast so many times with so many different sword techniques that I felt I was good and done with the title. But did I ever play the game again? Of course! Secret of Mana doesn’t hog my entertainment center as often as Mega Man 3 (which sees a replay at least annually), but I’ve undoubtedly returned to Randi a few times over the years. I may have “played out” Secret of Mana in its heyday, but I still feel like lapping up that nostalgia from time to time.

Dragon Quest 9? Not so much. That’s my original save file up there, and, short of a battery disaster, it’s never going anywhere. And why? Because even if I wipe that file, I’m never going to be able to play Dragon Quest 9 ever again.

BOOMIn a way, Dragon Quest 9 is a traditional Dragon Quest game from toe to tip. The basic plot, that you are a guardian angel that is torn from Heaven when a fallen angel decides to go all Morning Star on his celestial home, is little more than a framing excuse for venturing across the planet. There’s an evil empire to quash and apocalyptic demons to slay, but that’s all secondary to whatever you can do to help the next town over. They have a disease raging through their populace? Great, maybe you can kill it with a sword (and you can!). Dragon Quest 9 is a game about heroes tromping across the land, making the land slightly better, buying all of the medical herbs until the land has a shortage, and then saving the land from some manner of jerk that probably has a secret form or two. Start out saving a local inn business, finish up by rescuing God. Tale as old as time.

And, frankly, the most overt change to the Dragon Quest 9 formula here is simply a cosmetic upgrade of the good old days of the franchise, too. After years of well-defined protagonists and their distinct, sometimes dog-riding companions, DQ9 returned to the “generic” party of Dragon Quest/Warrior 3. You can create your own custom hero, and then choose three companions with their own distinct complexions and professions. Want a balanced party of the typical Knight, Monk, White Mage, and Black Mage? That’s fine! Want a party that is four re-headed thieves all named “Mona” for some reason? That’s also fine! Do what you want! There are plenty of memorable characters hanging around the fringes of DQ9, so you can create your own, wholly-silent party at your leisure. And speaking of customization, much of the equipment system and its attendant alchemy system in DQ9 seems tailor fit to encourage the player to experiment and adapt their party in new and exciting ways. Sure, you could make a beeline for all that metal slime armor, but wouldn’t it be more fun to have a character or two in a surprisingly resistant bikini? Or a celestial robe? Or just wholesale steal Alena’s outfit? There are options upon options here, and you could spend an entire day gathering the right materials (“ingredients”) to build the perfect superstar’s suit for your luminary. Assembling the perfect party, in more ways than just maxing out stats, is half the fun of DQ9, and it’s the kind of fun you don’t always see in a game where you’re ostensibly trying to “role play”.

CRAFTING!And, while these “new” features certainly account for why I played DQ9 for a “normal” number of hours, it was DQ9’s other big innovation that accounts for not only the excess hours spent playing, but also why I can never play the game again.

God help me, I loved the social aspects of Dragon Quest 9.

Looking at Dragon Quest 9 from a strictly pragmatic perspective, it was clearly a trial run for the MMORPG that was the eventual Dragon Quest 10. DQ9 eschews the typical DQ experience by allowing other players to join your party as you cooperate and quest across the land. Thus, DQ9 was designed first and foremost as a traditional JRPG, but allowed for a significant amount of wiggle room to squeeze in a guest participant or two. Or, put another way, you didn’t need a raid party to conquer that impossible boss, but it sure would be easier if your level 100 buddy stopped by. And there were more passive concessions made to the concept of making DQ massively multiplayer, too. There were quests that were released on a timed basis (causing players that had “finished” the game to return), timed online shop sales (a great reason to log in routinely), and spot-pass shared treasure maps that allowed you to share randomly generated dungeons with friends… or anyone that happened to be within wi-fi range. Since not all maps were created equal, the most massive multi-playing involved in DQ9 wound up being map swapping with as many people as possible. And regardless of whether or not map swaps were meant to be the most popular DQ9 pastime, these were all baby steps to seeing what people would want (and what the franchise could support) in DQ10. But if you were some manner of DQ purist, you could technically ignore all these add-ons and still have an enjoyable experience.

I did not ignore those MMORPG-lite features. Lacking friends that were interested in Dragon Quest (Smash Bros? Yes. 100 hour JRPGs for handhelds? No.), I drove an hour away to visit a Best Buy promotion where I was told there would be other nerds sharing maps. I got maps. I got stickers. I was a happy Goggle Bob.

Tag!

And it would be impossible to replicate that experience.

I’m not going to claim I’ve never done anything vaguely ridiculous for a videogame. I’m not even going to claim that “driving an hour for a virtual trinket” is really all that crazy. But for me, it was a singular experience. It was something none of my friends were doing, so I was forced to make a solitary trip in search of some cave full metal slimes. It was the logical endpoint of logging into DQ9 every day for sales, and checking frequently to see if a fun sidequest had become available yet. It was a time when I downloaded material maps off Gamefaqs message boards, and skulked around forums looking for alchemy recipes. There was this whole “meta game” that was a significant chunk of my life for approximately six months wherein I absorbed as much Dragon Quest 9 information from as many sources as possible. From that perspective, spending a day driving to a silly Nintendo promotion seems almost… necessary. Be glad I didn’t fly to another country or join a gang or something, Mom!

Not you againBut, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone that understands the passage of time, any kind of Dragon Quest 9 fervor eventually burned out to a mere handful of embers. All the quests were released, network services were discontinued, and, in a few short years, the idea of someone using a Nintendo DS to spotpass became as esoteric as someone using AOL to change their away message. The meat of Dragon Quest 9, the main quest and its many tangential vignettes, is always going to be there and available, but those early, tentative steps into the world of hybrid online/local multiplayer are gone forever. Sure, you can finagle a wireless modem into broadcasting the old DQ network for fun and profit, but it’s not the same. You’re never going to randomly obtain a treasure map by walking around the mall ever again (and not just because the mall closed, too). There’s never going to be another Dragon Quest 9 event at Best Buy.

So, after devoting nearly 200 hours to a videogame, I never want to play it again. Why? Because I can’t. What’s real and true and memorable about that game is gone forever, and it isn’t coming back. May as well save that file full of foreign treasure maps for future generations, and move on to something else.

Dragon Quest 9, you were an exceptional and singular Nintendo DS experience. Rest in peace, and be a beautiful, blue ghost creature forever haunting your graveyard.

FGC #514 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

  • System: Nintendo DS. One would suppose a modern remake could rectify these issues, but then I wouldn’t be replaying the exact same game, now would I? Dragon Quest of Theseus.
  • Number of players: A whole cosmos of people… but I think only four at a time.
  • It's an innnyHey, some of these screen shots are clearly from a new playthrough: Well, yes, I did give it a try for this article. I preserved my precious save file on its cart, and attempted an emulated run of DQ9, but it only proved my hypothesis: you can’t go home again. And maybe you can’t play DQ9 after DQ11, either.
  • Speaking of Maps: The whole map system leading to unlimited, random dungeons after a game full of carefully created caves is an amazing swerve that obviously accounted for a significant amount of my playtime. That said, I was downright surprised to boot up my old cartridge and find there were a number of maps I never completed.

    Kind of redundant

    I’m sure it was just because I was too busy farming every other map in the game, but those Copper Ruins of Ruin are calling to me…

  • If you liked the MMORPG-lite features in DQ9, why don’t you play more MMORPGs? Every once in a great while, I downright enjoy getting drunk with my friends. However, that does not mean I want to become a heroin addict. I know my limits and addictions.
  • Explain your OG party member names: Robyn is my usual “female” nom de guerre, and appears often in other games. Rydia the green-haired mage requires absolutely no explanation. Felicia was initially a thief class, so she was named after a familiar Spider-Man character. And Misfit was a redhead named for another comic book character, this time a star from Gail Simone’s then-current run of Birds of Prey. I’m not certain if Misfit is still bungling around the DC Universe at this point, but someone should at least give her a try at appearing in one of the CW shows. She’d fit right in!
  • Choo chooFavorite Class: I had to work the hardest for Luminary, so that’s going to win. Also, in a game that somehow enticed me into caring about JRPG fashion, I’m always going to choose the most fashionable class.
  • Retro Challenge: There are a number of maps that feature the final bosses from previous Dragon Quest adventures. Considering I don’t think I had finished a single Dragon Quest game before DQ9’s release (does Rocket Slime count?), all of these bosses were new to me, and generally about as “nostalgic” as any other random monster. And that’s cool! It wound up encouraging me to play previous DQ titles, and now I can identify a Dhoulmagus from fifty paces.
  • Getting Around: The best airship available is a choo-choo. That is the best.
  • Did you know? As of this writing, DQ9 is the only mainline title to not see a revision/upgrade version of some kind. This is a crime.
  • Would I play again: …. Seriously?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Castlevania: Rondo of Blood! That’s the good one! Yay! Please look forward to it!

Achoo

FGC #304 Pokémon X/Y

I am a heterosexual male, and, for this, I consider myself lucky. To be clear, in this case I’m not talking about being lucky because being a (white) heterosexual male is practically easy mode on a social and biological level; no, I consider myself lucky because I like being a heterosexual male. I’m about 90% straight (10% of me gazes wistfully at pictures of Cillian Murphy), so I’ve never doubted my sexuality, and I’m a man’s man, so I’m totally okay with my boy parts. Mind you, I suppose I have always been terrible at sports (both playing and watching), and my body isn’t so much built for lumberjacking as it seems to be more designed for comfortably filling office chairs, but, regardless, I’ve never thought I wanted to be another gender. I am comfortable in my own skin, and, barring scientific advances that would allow me to graft a tail to my spine, I have no grand desire to change any part of me. I am just as genetics made me, and I’m okay with that.

However, if you were to boot up any save file of mine from a game that allows you to choose your protagonist’s gender… Well… It might appear that I want to be a pretty, pretty princess.

Today’s game is Pokémon X/Y. Starting with Pokémon Crystal (effectively Pokémon 2.5, for anyone not familiar with the odd naming conventions of the franchise), it became possible to choose “the girl” as your digital avatar. Likely because of Crystal being something of a revision/”incremental version” game, this started a simple pattern in my playing habits. When I played the first Pokémon game of a generation (like, say, Pokémon Ruby), I would choose the boy character, and name him Bob. Then, when the inevitable sequel popped up (like Pokémon Emerald), I would choose the girl character, and name her Robin (Bob – Rob – Robin). If any prequel remakes popped up in that time, I’d go with the “kiddy” version of the names in the same pattern, usually something like Bobby followed by Robyn. All o' 'emGenerally, I considered this a simple way to trade with myself across multiple Gameboys, as the naming convention would make it easy to see where Pokémon originated. I know that Mewtwo was originally caught by Bobby in Pokémon Fire Red, for instance. Not being certain of such a thing would be intolerable.

But that all changed with Pokémon X (forget Y, X has the better Mega Charizard). At first, I was going to follow my usual pattern, and just wait for the inevitable Pokémon Z (ha!) to break Robin back out of the mothballs. After all, Pokémon X/Y had dramatically expanded online features, and it feels… I don’t know… dishonest to misrepresent your gender online. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying that I’ve always been uncomfortable presenting myself as something I’m not while online. I guess I’ve always had this thought in my head that men posing as women online were doing it for the attention, and I’m not nothing if not an attention whore (VISIT GOGGLEBOB.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION). So, as a good child of previews and going into every Pokémon game knowing as much as possible, I decided I was going to stick to my usual “Bob” persona, and play Pokémon as a man, the way God intended.

Except…. Well…



I wouldn’t want to ruin such delightful photo opportunities with crummy male fashion sense, now would I?

I am a man. I have been one all of my life. Yet, likely thanks to a combination of general isolation and too many of my childhood heroes wearing exclusively armor, I have no concept of male fashion. My closet consists of approximately two pairs of jeans, two pairs of pants, a suit, and twelve thousand “witty” t-shirts. Oh, and I own one “presentable” pair of sneakers, and like twenty different kinds of flip flops. I live by the beach! This is allowed! … Though I suppose that kind of rational isn’t going to get me on the cover of any fashion magazines in the near future.

And I’m pretty sure I know the real source of this problem: I’m straight. I’m not claiming there’s some magical queer eye thing going on that my sex has completely missed. I’m just saying that, ultimately, I don’t pay attention to what works for men. As far as my brain (and maybe other parts of my anatomy) cares, other men may as well be featureless blobs, and I literally cannot remember what another male is wearing about ten seconds after I stop looking at the dude. That bubbles over into my own ensembles, and as a direct result of having no “fashion role models”, I dress like… a featureless blob.

WIZARD!But the other side of that coin is that there is an entire wing of my brain dedicated to “checking out chicks”, and that department has been storing information (coincidentally) since I hit puberty. Trust me, I would much rather be able to immediately recall my grandmother’s birthday at any given moment, but, no, my brain would prefer to regurgitate the exact jean style worn by my first crush six billion years back. I don’t want to be casually storing all this information, but I’m pretty sure I understand “what works” on a woman because I’ve been subconsciously studying it much longer than I’ve been worried about what I’m wearing.

Yes, I am absolutely just saying I understand “women’s fashion” because I find women wearing particular things to be more attractive. I’m not claiming to be some kind of women’s fashion guru, I just know what I, and only I, like to see. I’m an egocentric jackass, but I know what I like.

But getting back to our game du jour, I knew about the “fashion factor” of Pokémon X going into the adventure, and I thus decided to go with “Robin” and never look back. And I don’t regret my choice for a moment: the male outfits in this game are pretty lame, but everything on the female side of the changing room is pretty great. And I’m a giant fan of purple, which really doesn’t work for any man save Prince, but works phenomenally on any given pale brunette that winds up being my digital avatar. See also Saint’s Row. See also Splatoon. See also Create-A-Soul in Soulcalibur. See also Dragon Quest 9. See also every game where I can customize a character even the tiniest bit, because I know what I like to see.

Hi, I’m Goggle Bob, I’m a straight male that enjoys looking at pretty women, even if those women are supposed to be “me”. Look, if I’m going to spend 200 hours with a game, I may as well like what I’m looking at.

And at least someone appreciates my choices. Thanks, Pokémon XX.

FGC #304 Pokémon X/Y

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. The bottom screen used for Wi-Fi features is pretty marvelous in this game, and should emulated by every WiiU… oh, that system is already dead.
  • Number of players: One endless single player experience, but also two player for competitions/trades. Also, technically infinity players for some of the online stuff. More games should be infinity players.
  • Isn’t this the generation that introduced Mega Evolutions? Yes, but no one cares about that when there are fashion choices afoot.
  • Favorite Pokémon (this generation): Aegislash is a living sword ghost that can control minds and slash smaller Pokémon in half. Living sword monsters hiding in tall grass is clearly further evidence of my Pokémon theory.
  • Did you catch ‘em all? Damn straight.
    I win

    Even had to go to McDonald’s for some damn magic rock creature.
  • Did you know? Pokémon X/Y was the first Pokémon game to be released simultaneously worldwide. This is helpful for global training, but also had the fun side effect of the entire Pokédex being hidden until the game was actually released. Oh, and six months of terrible fanart suppositions of evolved forms of Pokémon. Hm, maybe Gamefreak should just release all Pokédata immediately to save us from those horrors.
  • Would I play again: Pokémon X is finally the generation where everything seems to “work” 100%, and revisiting the game isn’t a gigantic chore. Unfortunately, it’s also not the most recent Pokémon game, so it’s unlikely to get played again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubble Bobble for the NES! Something something fantastic story. Let us look forward to it!

Such hair
Even my Megas are gorgeous.