Due to various circumstances (mostly my being sick), I’ve missed all of the events that I was planning to write about this week. That being the case, I’ve decided to try something a little new, somewhat inspired by this article (http://henryjenkins.org/2013/03/when-did-you-first-play-the-binding-of-isaac.html) by Adam Liszkiewicz on the Henry Jenkins blog.
Finding a game that I relate to in the same way that Liskiewicz relates to ‘The Binding of Isaac’ is difficult. Games that I’ve had multiple encounters with over time is easy enough – there are games that are just part of the popular zeitgeist, and there are a few of those that I run into all the time: Final Fantasy 7, Super Mario and Worms (in all its various incarnations) come to mind.
The game that fits the bill the best overall is probably Wild Arms. It’s one of the first games that I rented, and one of the games that I have had the most hardware problems with. The first two copies that I ran into froze after the first “act” of the game. There’s a difficult boss battle, followed by the game credits/a cut scene (in this game, the credits are run partway through the game for some reason).
For the uninitiated: Wild Arms is a game with three playable characters who start out with separate story lines and are eventually thrown together by fate and join forces to save the world from some kind of ancient “metal demons” who fought with the inhabitants of Filgaia thousands of years ago. One of them, Rudy Roughknight, has the ability to use ARMs – ancient weapons that are considered taboo. I guess that’s where the title of the game comes from. The other main characters are a princess named Cecilia who has been attending Mage school, and a treasure hunter/gun for hire named Jack.
Why this game stuck with me is probably because of the tools in the game. Collected throughout the first act, the objects are used to solve puzzles and progress the game. One of the tools is a blue wind mouse named Hanpan. Another is a pair of roller-skates, and yet another, a wand that lets the players talk to animals. There’s also a magical teardrop crystal that opens special doors. This creates some space for players to construct their own narratives – the hoodlum who wildly whips through town on his roller-skates until he crashes into something, or the jerk who trails bombs behind him (yet another tool). Sending Hanpan dashing off to places unintended is also fun, even though it never helped me solve any puzzles.
After the first two copies froze, I eventually found a disc to rent. One day, I went back to rent it again and it seems that somebody had just never returned it. Stole the copy of Wild Arms that I had been playing. I began to look for my own copy, but only in the same way that a person will see a movie title and say, “hey, I really should watch that.” I put it on my Christmas list, even. And then, Wild Arms: Alter Code F was announced.
Updated graphics? Updated gameplay? Sounds pretty good, right? But somehow I missed the actual launch, and by the time that I caught up to Alter Code F again, it seemed that nobody had anything really good to say about it.
I forgot about Wild Arms. I resigned myself to never finishing the game, never seeing the end of my Western JRPG adventure. Then, my fiancé gave me a copy for my birthday last year. I found my old memory card, plugged it in and realized… I was basically at the final boss. What?
So, rather than wondering when I first played Wild Arms, the question for me becomes “when did I ever stop playing Wild Arms?” Well, I haven’t yet. I’m still trying to beat a secret monster arena on one of the game’s many islands.
Oh, and, to this day, Michiko Naruke’s “Into the Wilderness” is hands-down my favourite game theme song.