Further things what happened while I was not at the computer (because I was busy poring over Boy’s new smart phone):
I’m playing the phone version of ilomilo. It’s beautifully scaled for teeny weeny eyestrain-o-vision—smaller, shorter, more manageable levels, but still plenty of mind-teasing variety and ingenious solutions—and some minor loading delays can’t destroy the impeccable aesthetic: without question it continues to be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
But what’s more interesting is how the mindset differs when playing the game alone. On the Xbox, I’m milo and the boy is ilo, two individual characters puzzle solving; on the phone, I switch so easily between the two that I become both, and the character instead is the relationship between them. I’m the sort of person that projects an entire personality onto a five-line SNES character, so take this with a grain of salt—but the different priorities still fascinate me.
I’m not sure yet where I stand on this “plot” thing in Pokémon Black and White. As I mentioned before, I was quite excited to find out that the central conflict would be around the role of Pokémon in society, but unsurprised to see much of it corrupted by shallow storytelling. I still hold out hope for N.
But even if the game drops the ball, having picked it up in the first place is amazing. It’s not new—I think a lot of Pokémon players, especially as they get older and a little smarter, wonder about the same thing: would a creature want to be trapped in a little ball and trained into a fighter and sent out in an endless slew of battles to get the shit kicked out of them, or worse yet would a creature want to get trapped in a little ball and then stored on a PC … forever? And Pokémon seem to be more than your average, this-world, non-sentient animal: they seem intelligent and emotional, both in the games and in other parts of the franchise.
In the previous generations it was easy to quash that sort of worry with, “Well, it’s just a game.” Because it is, and its underlying premise and mechanics would be less than useless if Pokémon had to be treated as independent, conscious entities. You’re still encouraged to love and groom them, but they’re “just” Pokémon, this capture-train-fight thing is what they do, and that’s it.
But it’s harder to dismiss the issue as just the premise of the game once the game itself starts questioning it.
So even if the plot doesn’t end up doing much (which would be no surprise), even if they do worse than little and try and sweep it all under the rug with an official “well that’s just what Pokémon do!”, the fact that it acknowledged the issue is something. It means that I can’t sweep it under the rug.
When I say that aesthetics matter (yes, this all spun out from that), I don’t mean quite that. In my ideal little fantasy Pokémon world (you have one too, right?), Pokémon really are my friends—I live and work along side them, I cuddle up against them at night. They’re not people, but they’re not just animals either (for all that I love animals, too)—they are remarkable, mysterious, sympathetic, intelligent, alien friends. So when I pick a Pokémon to be on my team, I pick a Pokémon that I would want in my home, napping on my bed. I like them clever, cuddly, mischievous, kind, sweet, and COVERED IN FLUFF you better believe it. I would fight Team Plasma to the death for those Pokémon, because—even if I can’t prove it—I know that we belong together as companions.
But what about the hundred languishing on my PC? What about the HM slave that I pull out just to set to task? Just pixels and bytes, of course; just the premise of the game. But I’ve been having these pangs of guilt, because the game won’t let me dismiss the issue anymore, not like that. I’m sensitive, I know—me and my nervous affair with Eve, me and my faithfulness to Chihiro (and love of Nanako, and beloved pet dogs, and and and): I am prone to making silly emotional connections in “just a game.” But Pokémon has always encouraged just that sort of thing, with its Pokémon walking behind you and happiness points and Silver’s entire story arc—and now it wants to know: do we really believe it?
Well, I decided: Pokemon Black will arrive at my door a few days later than everyone else who buys it on the release date, but who cares! It is a game and a decision and shiny DSi XL, and with this I am finally entering the current generation of handheld gaming (Patapon 2 on the PSP was a step in the direction, but now we’ve finally arrived at the destination).
I decided to go with BW because it is the new big best shiny thing, and because I know I’ll go mad with envy to watch my dash explode with new-game joy while I’m stuck on an older generation, even if that generation is new to me. I’m not wholly content to have just gen 5 until the endgame, in part because there are so many generations that I’ve missed, in part because I’m not sold on many of the gen 5 designs, but I imagine I’ll find plenty Pokémon to love if I give it the chance and above all: there is Snivy. I’ve found myself growing rather attached to Dawn while researching Platinum, so it’s a pity to lose her for now—but just for now: I can play it next. (And in Black I think I’ll play as male.)
I decided on Black mostly for aesthetic reasons: I like me some cutesy country landscapes (if Harvest Moon is any indication) and White’s ethos I think is up my alley, but Black’s look is more to my taste and I wanna explore Black City. White has some version exclusives that I want, but … well maybe this time, I’ll actually find someone to trade with via the magical powers of the internet.
On that note, I desperately want a Bulbasaur.
The angstrant about playing another Harvest Moon game is this:
Popuri is, as we know, one of my waifu to end all waifu: I fell hard for her in the SNES Harvest Moon, nevermind that she had about four lines of dialog; I am fated to woo and marry her again whenever I have the chance because we are Meant To Be. And the good news is that I can, because she reappears in Back to Nature/Boy & Girl (oh how badly I need to decide what to call it).
But the bad news is that that game has a 24-hour clock.
I actually started playing it a few months ago. Boy put it on my PSP when we bought it, and I started it up on a train ride. On my very first day I set out to get acquainted with my town, and Popuri’s family farm was about the second place I found. I was still getting used to walking on an angle (silly isometric view) and had approximately no idea where anything was, and then suddenly my beloved beautiful Popuri was running away in tears and I was trying to follow her up onto the mountain wherever that was and by the time I found it it was three in the morning and I was exhausted and panicking and turned off the game.
I do not know if I can function like this.
Because this is is the thing: in the original Harvest Moon, time stopped at 6pm. Evenings were one long surreal still haze full of watering and weeding; they were the break after a day spent frantically picking tomatoes and corn: no clock, no pressure, a time to be relaxed and productive. How will I be able to get everything done when I can’t spend a real-world hour weeding the entire farm on my first night?
How will I be able to find Popuri if it’s three in the goddamned morning?
Overdramatic, yes: also true. I am honestly frightened of the realistic 24 hour clock, and have been avoiding the game since then. I do not want to mess things up! I do not want to leave my beautiful beloved in the dark and the cold, in tears.
I’m sorta craving some Harvest Moon, though.
Not gonna lie, half the reason I love PC and PC-emulated games is that I can take a billion screenshots.