02 August 2010

Gaming Project 101

I'm on vacation this week. Sort of on vacation. I'm going East to visit my family for a few days. Which, I don't expect, will be terribly relaxing. (It never is.) We always drive all over the place, visiting a million relatives. And my parents yell at each other. And I sit in the backseat and completely regress. My dad is having trouble seeing out of one of his eyes these days--his name is Bob; and I've started referring to him as "Bobclops"--which should make riding around with him driving A LOT more exciting than it normally is.

Whenever I have a few days to play what I want to play--as opposed to playing stuff that I have to review for work--I almost always take on a gaming project. A gaming project is when you pick one game and focus only on that game for the duration of your vacation time. Example: Over the Holidays a couple years back, I worked my way through Shadow of the Colossus in its entirety, defeating one colossus per day.

It was not unpleasant.

Gaming projects are a good way to fill in gaps in my gaming resume. Usually what I do is this: I pick a vintage game that I've been meaning to finish, but never quite got around to finishing. Mostly, it's just a good excuse to go back and appreciate the old crap.

Ah, old crap.

On Friday, late in the afternoon, Vic came into the office--he's off too this week--and announced that he was planning to get every last star in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Which surprised me, because I thought the whole "gaming project" thing was unique to me. Apparently, other people do these gaming projects too.

Or maybe it's just Vic. Who knows.

Over the weekend, while contemplating what my gaming project was going to be, I popped in the 360 version of Clash of the Titans. I was kind of excited for it. I enjoyed the movie far more than I thought I would. And I do love my God of War knock-offs. So the game had a lot going for it. Plus: The PR company who sent me the game also saw fit to include the Clash of the T.'s Blu-ray.

Good will = generated.

The game was originally supposed to come out when the movie was in theaters. But at the last minute, it was delayed. Which I read as a good sign. They realized the game needed more work, so they held onto it and decided to work on it some more. I'm always OK with that. I wish more publishers would make these kinds of executive decisions. There would be a lot less crap/junk in the world.

Clash of the Titans: The Videogame blows. It blows about as much as anything I have ever played in my life. I can't even describe how terrible it is. I can't believe that the WB and Namco would even bother to lay this big, damp turd of a game on the world. Poor world!!!!!

I played for about an hour before taking the disc out of the 360, boxing it up, then literally hurling it across my living room. (My living room is small, so the game didn't have very far to travel.)

What total and complete shit. And Sam Worthington looks like Sloth from The Goonies for some inexplicable reason. (Durrrrrrrrrrrrr! Durrrrrrrr, durrrrrrrr!!!)



As the English would say: What rubbish!

This game is so bad that it has, as an unfortunate side effect, retroactively diminished my opinion of the movie. Fuck this movie. I never want to see this movie again. And Liam Neeson: The Allman Brothers phoned. They want their wig back.


Back to my gaming project I went.

I've been meaning to get around to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for awhile now. I've been thinking about the game a lot for some reason. I've decided that this is my week to get it done. I sank about 4-5 hours into Majora's yesterday.

I go back and forth on Zelda as a franchise. Twilight Princess bored me. I tried to finish it TWICE. Both times I got so bored that I quit. Wind Waker was boring too. All that fucking sailing! And the ending just went on forever. (What do you mean I have to RE-FIGHT all the bosses again? What??????)

But A Link to the Past is ONE OF THE GREATEST GAMING MOMENTS OF MY LIFE. Man, I will never forget sitting in my tiny apartment in Chicago, eat gyros from the Greek place across the street, and playing through that game. I just loved it so much.

So Zelda: You will forever have a place in my heart, no matter how many boring games in a row Nintendo makes.

Majora's Mask always interested me because it seemed like such a dark, dirty little diversion when compared to the other games in the series. And man, is it ever dark! That weird cackling mask dealer in the clock tower! The Skull Kid and his weird dances! The grimacing red moon, looking like the creepy moon-face in the George Melies' 1902 movie.

It's all so strange and morbid. And great.

Beyond great.

Again, I'm left wondering why we even need these high-powered machines like the PS3 and 360. Man, we do not need all that power! We do not need more realism, and more pixels and more polygons.

We don't.

This game manages to be both silly and profound. It's almost 11 years old--it came out, appropriately enough, just before Halloween in 2000--so it looks crude by today's Modern Warfare 2 standards. Yet it somehow, someway manages to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery that is pretty much unmatched by almost anything I've played recently. Playing the game is akin to having a lucid dream. Everything seems familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It's so strange.

And great.

Did I mention that it's great?

Well. It is.

There are a couple of scarecrows who I've encountered on my journey so far. Or maybe it's the same scarecrow who continues to pop up in different places through out the game. Either way, The scarecrow(s) always offer(s) to do a dance that will fast-forward time 12 hours, if that's what I want him to do.

The scarecrow dance--the flailing arms! all the swaying!--makes me cringe every time I see it. It seems to go on far longer than it needs to. Yet I can't look away! I try, but I can't! Watch it for yourself. You'll see what I mean.

There are so many moments like this in Majora's Mask; moments that I react to, that I have an emotional response to, whether I want to or not. The weird jugglers in town who make the terrible joke about the kidnapping (the punchline: a "kid" was "napping"). The odd mask-wearing creature who disappears behind the Curiosity Shop door just before I can reach him. The old astronomer up in the tower, talking about Moon Tears. It always feels like the whole game is teetering on the edge of poor taste. It flirts with poor taste, then pulls back at the last second. It has this weird, discomforting menace.

These moments resonate long after I shut the game off. There's poetry and art in these moments. Real poetry. Real art.

These moments are far too rare in videogames. Far too rare.

I'll keep you posted on my Majora's Mask progress, just as soon as I make more. Stay tuned.


  1. I LOVE Majoras Mask for every reason you listed. Haha, when I first played it when I was little, it was creepy and I loved it. Definitely different than Ocarina of Time, which I love too.

    When Twilight Princess came out, I was excited to play it...until I realized I strongly disliked it and my mom told me she was going to get me a PS3 for my birthday but instead got me a Wii because Zelda was on it.

    What a sad, sad day that was.

  2. I made Majora's Mask my vacation gaming project earlier this summer as I'd never played it and yet I'm a huge Zelda fan. It gets odder and creepier as the game progresses, but it's worth every minute in the end.

  3. I just recently started playing Majora's Mask again as well. Such a great game. I'm loving it thus far.

    I played it a few times as a kid, but never had enough time with it to complete it. I've heard some people say that they like it more than Ocarina of Time, so I'm interested in being able to form a fair opinion of the two after completing it.

  4. Hmm I actually thought Majora's Mask was the weakest of all the Legend of Zelda games ... And I LOVED Windwaker for every reason imaginable. As for Twilight Princess, I didn't like it on the Wii, so I went out and bought it for the Gamecube. I couldn't believe how much better it was!! It was a completely different experience - not having to fight controls and what-not.

  5. Playing through Majora's Mask will be rewarding. Despite it's unique mechanics (like the groundhog day syndrome) it plays, looks and feels alot like OOT, so if you're a fan of that one, you're golden.

    The N64 visuals haven't aged well (on any game), but it makes little difference. The puzzles and gameplay trumps modern Zelda anyway.

  6. Interesting, as this is EXACTLY the Zelda game I need to play as well. Scott I'm curious if you are playing it on an actual Nintendo 64 or if you are playing the Collector's Edition Gamecube disc version on the Wii or ??

    I owned Ocarina of Time "at the time" but never really got that far into it ... I ended up playing it on the Gamecube years later on that special disc using a Wavebird and I think I enjoyed it better with that controller for sure!