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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Taking it Back

All this talk of memory has me remembering something. Several years ago, a friend of mine and I were talking about the classic SNES game Chrono Trigger, and he remarked that he wished he could have parts of his memory erased so that he could play these games again. At the time I thought he was foolish. After all, there's always other games, or movies, or books, or music. Right? I'm not so sure now. There are a few reasons why I think he was right. First of all, it's a matter of numbers. There's only so many SNES games, only a few of those are classics, and only three of those are RPGs, and I've played them. It's also a lifetime thing. Certain media hit you at the time in your life when you are most likely to enjoy them. Say, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when you're in late high school or college. Many fantasy novels are aimed at, and embraced by, teenagers. As a child, I didn't comprehend the complexity of the amazing Wizardry VII.

Regardless, I have decided to set up a blogmeme. If you could go back and embrace a form of entertainment freshly, what would you pick?

With apologies to Kanye West, it goes something like this: Two words - S K - One Beat - hot shit. As all one of my old-time blog readers knows, I fell for this band pretty hard. It started when I bought the then-brand-new One Beat on a whim. I'd heard the band was good, I'd heard this album was good. The first couple of listens, I liked some of the songs. I really liked Prisstina and Oh! So I listened a few more times. After about three days, I was hooked. For the next nine months or so, I didn't listen to anything else but One Beat and the other five S-K albums I bought.

The only other album that I can think of as having such a dramatic effect on my musical tastes was when I discovered Television's Marquee Moon. But that album, the first while that I listened to it, I kind of liked it, and only realized that I loved it when I noticed that I'd been listening to very little else for about a month. (Interesting Marquee Moon memory-related aside: The first time I played Chrono Trigger was when I was listening to Marquee Moon. The two happened at the same time often enough that they are now linked in my memory in many respects. One of the best albums and games of all time being linked no doubt increases the memories I have of both.)

Difficult here. I used to be a big fantasy and science fiction fan, but in the last few years I've basically given up on fiction. Non-fiction doesn't offer the same kind of emotional connection - "yeah, I want to go back to before I read The Mismeasure of Man and realized the inherent racism of IQ tests" - so I don't have anything specific in recent memory. Going back further into my past nerdiness, I have fond memories of certain books. A Game of Thrones gave me hope for the fantasy genre when I was preparing to leave it, though I lost that hope eventually. Hyperion got me hooked on science fiction over fantasy, while Startide Rising was even better. And then there's the first time I met Miles Vorkosigan. But nothing that now I would say that I really wanted to go back and rediscover.
Clear choice here, on the other hand. I would love to remove the Lord of the Rings and see The Fellowship of the Ring anew. Despite my love of fantasy books, I had never been a big fan of the most famous trilogy. Movies based on books are usually bad. Movies based in a fantasy setting are almost always bad. So this had three strikes against it...until I saw it. And it was amazing. It captured what I wanted a fantasy adventure to look and feel like - even more than its not-quite-as-good sequels.

The only other movie I can think of is The Royal Tennenbaums, mostly because the first time I saw it, I thought it was the funniest thing ever, and the second time...not so much. That could have been for technical reasons, but hey, funny like that doesn't come along often. I'd rather have it over.

The toughest category, not because I can't think of anything specific, but because there's so many. Part of this is due to the nature of games. They last longer initially and get repeated less than books, movies, or music, making the bond of "first time" greater. Or maybe I just like games the best. Either way, Chrono Trigger, the game which sparked this train of thought, is certainly a contender, but I didn't realize how amazing it was until later - the same with its sister games, Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana. There are also dozens of classics which I played as a child but only appreciate their greatness now. Ultima VI, the game you win by convincing warring peoples to get along - last time ever in a game. Maybe if I could play the new Sid Meier's Pirates without knowledge of the old version, I'd appreciate it much more. Jedi Knight was the coolest thing ever when it was new. Many other games I only realized were fantastic in retrospect: Suikoden II, Final Fantasy X, Master of Orion. I doubt I'll ever realize the fun and newness of Diablo online again. I mean, that game got me onto the Internet. The Dreamcast is worthy of its own category here: Skies of Arcadia, Samba de Amigo, Soul Calibur, and the sublime Jet Grind Radio. Or there's games that I played on the Sega Channel, not knowing they were the cream of the Genesis crop: Phantasy Star IV, Shining Force II, Gunstar Heroes, and of course, the stunning speed of Sonic the Hedgehog.

This was actually giving me some difficulty until, surreptitiously listening to my game music collection, the strain of loud guitar wankiness hit mine ears. Then it was obvious. It had to be Dynasty Warriors III. When I initially borrowed that game, I knew there were Chinese people hitting each other. You chose whichever guy, or girl, looked the badassest, and the game threw battles at you, where you smashed people until you smashed the big person and then you won and got new people to smash. Slowly, I started putting together backstory - there were three kingdoms, five major leaders, characters who fought on certain sides, etc. And there were books. I read the books. I memorized the game. I unlocked all the characters.

I once chose to play Dynasty Warriors III for three extra days over eating decently for a weekend.

To have that all back - the chance to not know the story, the characters, how the game worked, and have someone say "Oh, you have a PS2? You NEED to play this game!" all over again would make me the happiest little gamer ever.

So anyway. If you want to do this, there's comments, or do it on your website and let me know. Or just make fun of my nerdiness. Whatever.
- Rowan Kaiser, 3:25 AM
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