Better Late Than Never
This week was mostly dedicated to talking about something we came to call “last lick games,” the weird and notable releases that would be less likely to make it out the door had they not been released in a console’s final days when few people are paying attention. Anthony John Agnello talked about the concept in a For Our Consideration op-ed, and we later assembled a lineup of 14 interesting last licks in an Inventory. One of the most beloved games on that list was Mother 3, Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance sequel to EarthBound (Mother 2). Plenty of commenters sang its praises, including megantron, who wrote a long, heartfelt response:
What makes the game meaningful to me can be summed up by this commercial, featuring actress Ko Shibasaki:
Nintendo doesn’t show any game footage or cut scenes or anything like that in the commercial. It’s literally just Shibasaki talking about the emotions of the game and struggling not to cry. How unusual is that? I don’t think there’s any other game that could get away with that kind of marketing. The tagline for EarthBound is “No crying until the end,” but I guess they couldn’t reuse it for the sequel because unless you have no heart, you definitely will be crying way, way before the end…and then at the end…and then after the end. During the final battle of the game and then through the ending and the credits, I was crying—no, weeping. I cry easily enough at media, but this was beyond that: We’re talking 30 straight minutes of tears-streaming-down-my-face, goes-through-several-emotional-states (anger, grief, relief, catharsis) meltdown kind of crying. Then I read an interview with Shigesato Itoi, the series’ creator, about what the game means to him and cried some more.
Mother 3 makes me want to become a better person, and it makes me think that if I could talk to Itoi, he’d be able to tell me everything I need to know about life and how I should live it. (The other thing that makes me feel this way is The Once And Future King, which like Mother 3, seems to be the kind of humanistic story where your feelings about it evolve depending on your circumstances. They’re both works that can be enjoyed by children, but it takes a certain maturity and life experience to develop the empathy needed for a deeper connection.)
But lest I make this game sound like a total bummer, I have to say: It’s also really freaking funny and charming and thoughtful and the fantastic soundtrack will have you (PK) rockin’. There are ghosts who party all night, references to The Who, half-kangaroo and half-shark hybrid animals, the grossest roadside diner ever, jazz concerts, robots that tell you “pants-wettingly scary stories,” a coffee table you can ride as a horse, and potatoto patches. You get to play as a monkey and as a dog and you get to fight, among other things, an upright bass and baked yams and a men’s bathroom sign. The game is about growing up, family, environmental destruction and how money can’t buy happiness, and how things are never going back to the way they were before but maybe that’s okay because we’ve still got each other. And Rope Snake. YOU ALL STILL HAVE ROPE SNAKE.
Elsewhere, Staggering Stew Bum capitalized on our mention of 2002’s Austin Powers Pinball to relay a sad Powers-related anecdote:
Years ago I went to some random party for reasons I have long forgotten and the host had hired a professional Austin Powers impersonator to mingle with the guests and to be all Austin Powers-y. This counts as fun in some people’s eyes, though I don’t know how, stick in the mud that I am. Anyway, when “Austin” finally made his way over to where we were standing he started doing all the “groovy baby” bullshit, and although I was trying to hide my disdain for his presence, our eyes briefly met. At that moment, his act wavered for just an instant, and I could tell that this guy was feeling a burning shame that this was what he was reduced to in life, impersonating a tired gimmick that had long since passed its use-by date for the amusement of complete strangers, and he knew that I knew, and I knew that he knew that I knew. I momentarily felt sorry for the poor bastard, and then I got on with my life.
Over in the comments of Anthony’s For Our Consideration article, Patrick Lee (AKA Caspian Comic) brought up the short lifespan of the conversations that surround a new game upon release, and how being a thrifty late adopter means missing out on those discussions. Girard traced his “late adoption” back to his childhood:
My ancient flip phone’s buttons finally died a few months back. (I also “late adopted” it, not having any cell phone until about 3 years ago when lack of a landline in my new apartment led me to activate my brother’s old high school handset he had lying around.) I had to take advantage of a free upgrade. Luckily, they didn’t force my hand into a smart phone with a data plan I don’t give a shit about, and I got one of those dumbphones with a real mini-keyboard to make texting easier.
I think, for me, it’s an artifact of growing up relatively poor (I was more fortunate than a lot of kids, but we were a single-parent household where the single parent could only snag service jobs with her arts degree), and always, by necessity, getting new consoles a few years after release. This made me accustomed to squeezing as much life out of older hardware and games (“Mega Man X looks cool and all, but check out Mega Man 6!”), appreciating the merits of new games being released for old hardware, and having the time to research the first few years of releases for new consoles before deciding which I wanted rather than making an arbitrary launch-day decision based on advertising or whatever.
While in the past I could engage in the kind of time-sensitive critical conversations Patrick mentioned by simply, say, going to a friend’s house and playing Mario 3 with them, that isn’t as much of an option anymore. Instead, I find myself more and more vicariously experiencing newer games I don’t have the time, hardware, or often inclination to play by reading critical pieces on them and passively participating in the comments about them. (I read so much about Dark Souls on the Gameological Level 1 before finally playing it last year).
One of the upcoming last lick games Anthony pointed out was Yakuza 5, which Sony itself is helping Sega translate for North American PlayStation 3s. Son Of Now See Here kicked off a funny thread about some of that series’ more ridiculous aspects. Son later added this tidbit:
Yakuza 5 includes hunting down a man-eating bear in a snow storm, which is an actual serious problem that parts of Japan occasionally have.
They give you a gun.
But you can punch the bear.
You know you’re gonna punch the bear.
When I punched the shit out of a chandelier so that it’d fall on top of 20 guys, I thought it might have been a bit over the top…then I punched a tiger in the face.
And chainlinkspiral summed it up nicely:
I am happy I snagged Yakuza 4 when they put it up on PlayStation Network. It’s unique. Wandering around—drunk most of the time—doing random stuff feels like every Friday night in one perpetual game loop. I’ve never seen a game so invested in the idea of a local business scene. It’s sort of like a yellow pages or penny saver version of an open world game. Hell, I want a New Orleans Bourbon St. equivalent of the Yakuza series now, because that’s basically what Yakuza is. Bourbon St. Simulator. Man, Treme: The Game just got a lot more intriguing to me. Mini-games include: short-order chef, part time marching-band ensemble, statue street performer, and caricature artist.
That does it for this week, folks. As always, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!