Friday, February 17, 2012

Retro Active: Golden Sun

The best way to describe Golden Sun to someone might be to draw comparisons to it, the Final Fantasy series and the Zelda series, but I think that does the game a slight disservice. Golden Sun isn't just some shallow copycat RPG. It did something I never thought possible, especially the first time I played it.

It made an RPG feel new and fresh.

I hadn't felt this was about a game since Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo. Golden Sun is a game that takes the traditional RPG and adds puzzle solving, character class strategy, and multi-class creations with the ease of an RPG you would see on something like the PS3 or Xbox 360. But unlike a lot of different RPG's released these days, Golden Sun remembers to keep the story in focus the entire time.

The writing might not be the best of a video game, but it goes a long way in terms of some RPG's. You play the role of the silent protagonist named Issac as you and your friends try to right the past, protect your friends and save the world. You are added with the use of Psynergy, a magical force that aids you in fighting monsters and solving puzzles on your quest through the game. Rock in your way? Form a giant hand and move it aside. Wanna get up a cliff? Use your powers to make vines grow to climb.

Also along for the ride are magical creatures called Djinn. There are four different kinds of Djinn to find, each with their own powers and abilities that can be used in battle. Use enough of them while fighting, and you will get the ability to summon giant mythical beings to deal massive amounts of damage. With many Djinn's to collect and powers and abilities to gain from using them and mixing around which characters use which Djinn, there are plenty of different classes to use and Psynergy to cast.

The biggest problem I have with Golden Sun is that while the story draws you in and keeps you interested, it ends with a cliffhanger and a long ass continuation pass-code to enter into Golden Sun 2 (The Lost Age).

All that aside, replaying Golden Sun after many years of beating it for the first time there is still loads of fun to be had and challenges to be found. I recommend picking it up, you can find it for around $10 or less online or in vintage game stores. You might as well pick up Golden Sun: The Lost Age as well, as you will want to keep going as soon as the first game ends.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Zen and the Art of Manga Maintenance

A short essay on my own life and moments surrounding the emotional mess I am

Time has slowed to a halt for me as of recent days. My position in life has degraded to a point in which I have to take pause and pick up the pieces again. During this time I try to relax and keep my mind at ease with a few creature comforts that I surround myself with, all the while shutting out the rest of the outside world. This isn't a healthy thing to do normally, but I felt as if I needed it for a bit.

While my slump was just getting started, I began listening to all the stand-up comedy albums I own. I can remember now that just a few years ago these were new and fresh to me. They gave me a sense of preservation in times of heartache or sadness. Gave me a sort of look into my own future through the lens of what information and metaphor I was garnering from my favorite comedians. Unfortunately I fell further into the slump, knowing that these things have passed before but always under better situations.

Then I went into video gaming, a house for most of my demons as a youth. An outlet for most of my troubles and tribulations growing up in the manner I did. Controller in hand I was ready to destroy the problems before me, but with the return to constant gaming came the same creeping thoughts I've had before. The same crippling and dangerous thoughts that force you to confront them. The feeling of not contributing anything to your life, the feeling and overabundance of sloth, the constant nagging that this is only a distraction from a real problem. That final thought was the breaking point, and so I stopped gaming.

With only one more crutch in my life ready in the wings, I was more than ready to lean on it. It was the only thing keeping me from shutting out the world for who-knows how much longer.

One day after work I walk upstairs and contemplate whether or not it was worth staying awake, as sleep might be the easiest getaway of them all. It's then I noticed my manga collection. It made me take pause. I usually pride myself on taking an orderly approach to my manga collection; every volume lined up together, each book following in correct order, each book in alphabetical order. Today though, today it needed a change. I tipped my bookshelf over.

I stood over my rough mass of paper and inc. Slowly I reached down and picked out a manga, one that I haven't read since I was fourteen. Ranma ½ Volume #1. I glanced over at my digital clock and noted the time (9:44 P.M.), and then started to read the manga. I expected a sort of rush from nostalgia, the same sort of feeling associated with my earlier attempts to bring me crawling back from this depressive pit, and in a way I did feel that emotion. Nostalgia engulfed me for a brief, burning second but was almost immediately replaced by a new emotion. Happiness.

It took me several pages to realize, but this one manga alone was giving me both the nostalgia from my gaming past and the humor from my stand-up past in one swift deliverance. It was a mix of my childhood and it's best and worst moments, a dab of my teens and the uphill battle waged every day against an enemy I never knew. But more so that reminding me on these short bursts of emotion concerning my past feelings and trials, It made me look into the future. Perhaps not in the same way someone looks into a future made for them, but a future with this moment in mind. A future when this memory links all the other's I was experiencing with ease, care and consideration.

I had just built a moment, in the moment. A moment I will look back on. A moment I will remember as being a hard point in the life of my young adult self, but a moment non the less to remember and cherish. A moment to look back on, shared with a manga. My first manga. Thinking of me while older made me realize that this slump is exactly just that; a slump. It won't last long, and I will overcome it easily. Thinking of me while older in a way I've never done before; not imagining what I would look like, or what I'm doing, nor whether I am rich or poor. The fact of the matter is much more simple; I am there as I am older.

Closing the last page of Ranma ½, I set it in the now-empty bookcase. I look over at the time (12:02 A.M.) and smile. I pick up Azumanga Daioh, sit down on my bed, and happily prepare for a slow night of reorganizing my manga collection. One book at a time.