In an effort to prevent this past week from being a total bust in terms of creative output - all I've produced so far since the last article is enfeebled whinging and a worrying amount of phlegm - here's the latest entry in the VGJunk Ephemera series. That's where I write about five little gaming moments that aren't enough to support whole articles on their own, but which I think about more than perhaps they deserve. Let's get right into it, shall we?
I Guess You Can Take It With You
World Heroes 2, the fighting game starring loosely re-imagined versions of historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Rasputin and, erm, Bruce Lee, also has a stage that features a pirate skeleton sitting on a pile of presumably ill-gotten booty.
It's such a fabulous hoard that even the treasure chest is made out of gold, which speaks to a level of extravagance not usually seen outside the homes of the most insanely wealthy sheiks. It didn't do this skeletal swashbuckler much good, though, and his animated bones must spend an eternity guarding his loot. This vignette in itself is enough to capture my interest - my love of skeletons has been well-documented by this point, and this particular skeleton even has a pirate hat and a hook for a hand - but there's something more to it. I think it's that hand motion, it makes it look like he's fanning his flustered skull as he watches the two warriors in front of him do battle. "Oh, you silly boys," he seems to be saying, "I do hope you're not fighting over little old me." Well, he's been down in this cave for god knows how long, it's bound to send anyone a little peculiar.
Shining Force II is an RPG, with the usual RPG battles between good and evil. The forces of good are a hardy bunch of warriors, but sometimes their commander might, I dunno, misjudge how far an enemy unit can move, leaving them exposed and susceptible to a beating. Hey, it's easy to forget how far the mobile ballistas can move each turn, okay? Not to worry, there are magic healing spells available that will fix them right up.
See? These medically-trained Tinkerbells flutter in, dispense some invigorating fairy dust to revive and replenish a battle-weary fighter and then flap off again, back to Yon Nurses' Station of the Faerie-Folke until someone else is willing to cough up the MP needed to summon them. This is not a service that is limited to the good guys, either, and certain enemy troops can cast healing magic too. They don't get tiny fairies tending to their wounds, mind you.
No, they have micro-devils instead, miniature succubi who perform the same job but, you know, evil. It's such a lovely little touch, and one that makes sense: I can't imagine fairies wanting to heal someone called the Dark Bishop. The Dark Bishop does not sound like someone whose goals would align with those of the gentle forest spirits. The Dark Bishop sounds like someone who would wear a ridiculous hat, and whaddya know! Seriously, that can't be comfortable on his ears. Just get one a couple of sizes smaller!
A Quick Breakfast
Speaking of spells, Playstation classic and firm VGJunk favourite Final Fantasy Tactics has spells! Lots of spells, including one that, yes, heals people with fairies. Fairies are the morphine of any fantasy kingdom worth its salt, it seems, but this is about a different spell. Sometimes when you cast a spell in Final Fantasy Tactics, your character will recite a short incantation. Unless you're playing the PSP re-release of FFT, because the spell quotes were removed from that version. Anyway, here's the quote for the spell Haste.
Layer upon layer of what, exactly? Time? Speed? Light, silken undergarments whose pleasurable caress encourages the wearer to move around more rapidly? I have no idea, but what I do know is that this quote always makes me think of breakfast. You see, when I was a youth the place I heard the phrase "layer upon layer" more than any other was in this TV commercial for the cereal Shreddies.
"Layer upon layer of whole wheat," the advert says, and so every single time I see the Haste quote from FFT my brain automatically summons up the memory of this '90s cereal advert, or at least that one line - I had forgotten all about the stuff with Romeo and Juliet and the Leslie Phillips-esque blue hunger gremlin. Poor hunger gremlin, everyone wanting to lock him away just because he was performing a necessary human function. Anyway, that's how Final Fantasy Tactics and Shreddies are forever intertwined in my mind. I can't believe I'm explaining this to people.
Jennifer Should Shower, Then
Splatterhouse 3 is a horror game, and usually it sticks to some fairly common videogame methods of horrifying the player.
Things like freaks in hockey masks, headless ghouls, bodily fluids in a wide range of exciting colours, that kind of thing. Did I mention it takes place in a spooky mansion, too? Because it does. That's why it's called Splatterhouse, because you're in a house that you're splattering with those colourful monster juices. As an aesthetic, it's pretty great. I certainly love it, that "oozing from the VHS cover of a horror movie" look, but Splatterhouse 3 has the occasional moment that offers a different, less obvious form of terror. I'm thinking specifically of this line from one of the game's intermissions.
It's just so weird, a startlingly effective evocation of the horrible things that are happening to Jennifer, made stranger by the slightly off-kilter delivery. How do we know that she's beginning to smell of the grave? Did Jennifer catch her own scent, the subtle (for Splatterhouse, at least) change letting her know that something is very wrong? Splatterhouse 3 is timed and a terrible fate will befall Jennifer if you don't get to her quickly enough, and while I'm on the fence about being timed as a gameplay mechanic these scenes add a real sense of tension to Rick's rampage through the mansion. In a series that I've often thought succeeds more at creating an fantastic atmosphere rather than at being a truly great game, this is one of the most atmospheric moments of them all.
It's an Acronym for Rude, Young and Unimpressed
Street Fighter Alpha now, and when I wrote about Street Fighter characters the other week I said that Ryu is possibly the blandest man ever to fight a karate demon and shoot fire out of his hands. I'm still sticking by that, but his ending in Street Fighter Alpha shows a slightly different side to his character - a cocky and frankly rather rude side. After being challenged to a rematch by Sagat, Ryu defeats the Emperor of Muay Thai once again, leaving Sagat humiliated. Ryu reacts in a way that you might describe as being a touch graceless.
C'mon, Ryu, don't just ignore him! There's no need to be impolite, even if the accompanying picture shows that Ryu is clearly staring right at Sagat and not ignoring him at all. Maybe it's just a bit of miscommunication: Ryu isn't ignoring Sagat, he's just not rising to his threats.
Okay, nope, Ryu is just being a bit of a dick. No-one likes a sore winner, kid. I think we can chalk this one up to youthful hot-headedness - Street Fighter Alpha being early in the SF chronology, of course. Still, in a way it's nice to see Ryu talking about something other than honourable combat and discovering the true path of the warrior for a change. Sagat probably doesn't think so, though.