By dankempster 7 Comments
Christmas Day has come and gone. We've all celebrated, exchanged gifts, and filled ourselves with so much food that we're frightened by the prospect of ever eating again. What does that leave for us to do? Well, you could always read the third and final part of this year's Christmas Mega-Blog.
Part Three - Loading My Last Save
I'd like to preface this instalment of the Mega-Blog with a disclaimer. While it may be the namesake of a popular Giant Bomb video feature, this blog entry has no intentional ties to that feature. I've never actually watched any of the 'Load Your Last Save' videos, and as a consequence I have no idea what the purpose or aim of the feature is. This Mega-Blog is actually loosely inspired by a blog entry I wrote back at the end of July, about my discovery of an old (and still-functional) PlayStation memory card, jam-packed with my old saved games. At the time I loaded up a few of the saves, and was overcome by nostalgic memories of the countless hours I spent with those games.
Based on that, I've decided to spend this Boxing Day loading up some of my oldest existing saves, playing each title for a while, and seeing just how much nostalgia I can evoke in the process. As the kind of gamer who will willingly restart a game if I leave it unplayed for a long amount of time, this is going to be a pretty novel experience for me. I've dug out all my old memory cards and I'm really excited to see where this little experiment takes me. Hopefully it's a concept that will translate well into a blogging space, although I apologise in advance if it doesn't. With all that now said, let's dive in and load up the first last save!
Game 1 - Final Fantasy X
After moving all of my remaining PS2 save games onto a single memory card last month, they unfortunately lost all of their original timestamps. As a result, I can't tell you when the last time I played Final Fantasy X was, although I'd be willing to bet it was around 2004 or 2005. The prospect of returning to a saved game that's seven years old is both exciting and daunting, and I wasted no time popping my Final Fantasy X disc into the PS2 and loading it up. The load screen informs me that I put 124 hours into FFX - a figure that both surprises and shocks me.
The game resumes with Tidus and the rest of the game's cast aboard the game's airship, presumably about to fly off and confront the game's main antagonist, Sin. My first port of call is the menu, a place where I figure I can probably get my bearings and re-acquaint myself with the particulars of the save. The item menu serves as an obituary to one of my long-dead RPG habits - item hoarding. I have 99 Potions, 99 Hi-Potions, 99 Phoenix Downs, 99 of every single status effect remedy... all of which often proved completely unnecessary, given my reliance on magic over items. My arsenal is also a testament to this obsessive-compulsive aspect of the old game-playing Dan, full to the brim with several seemingly unnecessary and certainly out-classed weaponry and armour.
Digging a little deeper, I find more evidence of just how much time I spent with Final Fantasy X. I decide to touch down in the Calm Lands and engage in a few random battles, to gauge the strength of my party. In the first fight I get into, I decimate the unfortunate enemies in no time. Every member of my party is equipped with their Celestial Weapon, as well as armour bestowed with powerful support abilities that break their HP and MP limits. It all comes back to me in an instant - the amount of time I sank into hunting down those weapons and helping them to realise their full potential, the amount of time I invested into forging that insanely powerful armour. And yet, in spite of my 124 hours on the game clock, I remember achieving very little in terms of Final Fantasy X's side-quests. I don't think I ever delved too deeply into the game's Arena mode, and I can only remember defeating one of the game's Dark Aeon monsters. I certainly didn't get anywhere near to facing the game's most powerful hidden boss, Penance. My Final Fantasy X save is not just a testament to my devotion to it. It's also a testament to the sheer scale of the game itself.
Game 2 - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Removing Final Fantasy X from the PS2, I replace it with my Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas disc. I believe this saved game dates from around 2006 or 2007, so not quite as old as my FFX save, but still a pretty long time ago in gaming terms.
The game auto-loads my save, and drops me in a small safehouse in the middle of Angel Pine. This fact really drives home not just how old this save is, but also how much my life has changed in the intervening years. The reason my game is saved in Angel Pine is because it's the closest location in the game to the map's highest point - Mount Chiliad. About five years ago, I had a friend who would meet up with me pretty regularly to play video games, and San Andreas in particular. Our favourite pastime in the game was to ascend Mount Chiliad, usually on a dirt-bike or bicycle, and launch ourselves off the mountain's highest point to see if we could survive the fall. So we didn't have to trek across half the map to get to our favourite playground, I deliberately kept my game saved in Angel Pine. Having the game put me back in this area is a bitter-sweet reminder of those fun times we used to share, before the pressures of school commitments and differing views sent us on our separate ways. Perhaps I should get back in touch with Tom, and see if he still remembers those Mount Chiliad Launching Competitions.
My first port of call is the Stats screen in the pause menu. I figure that if anything's going to give me a decent idea of my time spent with San Andreas, it's these numbers. This save boasts 100% completion, something that I remember achieving twice in two separate playthroughs of San Andreas. It also informs me that I spent sixty-seven hours with the game (or at least, with the game's missions - throw the aforementioned fun times with my long-lost friend into the equation and we're talking easily double that). It also lists my number of times wasted and busted as 0. This oddity is a result of my tendency to reload my save if I was ever killed or caught by the police. My main reason for this was one of convenience - I don't want to have to replenish my entire weapons arsenal every time I die or get cuffed. Funnily enough, this is one OCD gaming habit I've still not been able to completely kick - while I was able to tolerate death and arrest in my recent playthough of Grand Theft Auto III, I reverted to my old ways when playing Grand Theft Auto IV shortly after.
Exiting from the pause menu, I walked my ripped, suit-wearing CJ out of the safehouse and onto the streets of Angel Pine. I swipe a Sanchez, flick the radio over to K-DST, and begin my ascent of Mount Chiliad. In the spirit of years gone by, and with The Who's 'Eminence Front' blaring from the radio, I launch myself from the peak of the mountain and cross my fingers. Splat. Not this time, I guess.
Game 3 - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Powering down the PS2, I switch channels to the one my trusty old GameCube is wired up to. I pop in my Zelda Collector's Edition disc and fire up the only Zelda game I still have a saved game for on my memory card - Majora's Mask. I figure it will be an interesting one to look back at, because unlike the previous two games, it's a title that I've never actually finished. This save in particular dates back to December 2008, when I attempted to play through the game for a third time (an effort that I actually documented as part of 2008's Christmas Mega-Blog).
As I reload the game, I find myself in control of Link in the middle of Clock Town, the game's hub location. My first stop is the status screen, which reveals to me a fair amount about my three-year-old, abandoned playthrough. The Item Select screen shows that thusfar in my adventure, I'd picked up bombs and bombchus, a bow (complete with Fire Arrows), the Lens of Truth, and two empty bottles. Unfortunately, since it's been three years since I last looked at this screen and my memory these days closely resembles a flour sifter, these items don't really give me a good indication as to my game progress. Thankfully, the Map screen and Mask Select screen come to my rescue in this regard. The world map reminds me that my most recently-visited location was the Great Bay, and the presence of the Zora Mask on the Mask screen indicates that I'd gotten as far as being able to turn into a Zora. The Quest Status screen reveals that I'd earned two sets of Remains from beating the game's first two dungeons. To be honest, I was hoping that picking the game back up now might jog my memory as to why I gave up on the game back then, but sadly it hasn't. The best guess that I can offer is that I simply got lost, or perhaps my return to University without my GameCube in January meant that I had to abandon my playthrough. I really can't say for certain, though.
The next logical step is to look at my Bomber's Notebook. While the main quest of Majora's Mask was the primary draw for me, I'd been reliably informed that the real meat of the game existed in its myriad side-quests, all of which are documented in the Bomber's Notebook. To be honest, my Notebook is despairingly blank, indicating that I probably didn't invest too much time into any of the game's side-quests during my time with it. Nonetheless, it does demonstrate my earning of a few masks, and the way in which I managed to earn them - for instance, I received the Bunny Hood from Grog after successfully turning his chicks into full-grown Cuccos, a Postman's hat for enabling the town postman's escape, and Kafei's Mask from Madame Aroma for agreeing to help her search for her son. The Bomber's Notebook is the main reason I opted to revisit this save, because I figured it would be a great little indicator of how deep I got into the world of Majora's Mask. Evidently, I didn't get very deep at all.
Revisiting this save, coupled with re-reading the aforementioned blog on the game, has made me feel pretty bad about not seeing Majora's Mask through to the end. Maybe in the New Year, I'll see about setting that straight.
Game 4 - Final Fantasy IX
This is definitely the save that I've been looking forward to re-loading the most. The save file, which I'm convinced is around eight years old, sits defiantly on an old, cracked, unofficial 30-block PS1 memory card that by all accounts of logic and reason should have given up the ghost years ago but thankfully hasn't. The memory card isn't PS2 compatible, meaning I can only access the save by wiring up a dusty old PS1 and placing my ten-year-old, badly-scratched fourth disc of Final Fantasy IX inside its creaky jaws once more. That was how I experienced the game almost a decade ago, and that's how I'm going to experience it now.
Perhaps the most brilliant thing about re-loading this Final Fantasy IX save is that it gives me an almost complete sense of the person I was back in 2003 or so. For a start, I'm able to pinpoint the save as coming from around that time because of the names I attributed to the game's characters. Every single one is named after somebody that I was friends with, admired, or had a crush on at roughly the time of my third year in secondary school. Not long after that, I drifted apart from this social group, and was lucky enough to fall in with a group of much more interesting, much friendlier people. As a result, this saved game opens a window into an almost completely forgotten period of my life. It's also evidently a remnant from the time when I used to change the characters' names in Final Fantasy games, something that I haven't done for many years now.
From the character screen, I move to the item menu, where once again solid evidence of my troubled item-hoarding past lies untouched. As with Final Fantasy X, my party is rocking 99 of pretty much every single healing item for no practical reason, and every single weapon or piece of armour I bought or picked up along the way sits in my neatly-organised inventory, never again to be used or equipped. Looking back on it now, I'm wondering if perhaps Final Fantasy IX was the game that instilled this hoarding mentality within me. In FFIX, there was a motivation for holding onto redundant weapons and armour - they could be used to teach abilities to characters, and weaker weapons were essential in tackling one of the game's dungeons, Ipsen's Castle. Could these factors have played a part in turning me into the hoarder I became? I think it's a possibility.
I wander round for a bit in the game's final areas, forcing myself into random battles and re-acquainting myself with Final Fantasy IX's mechanics and characters, before I reach over and power down the ancient, whirring PlayStation. My journey into a time eight years past, much like this blog, comes to a close.
Wow, that was one hell of a nostalgic journey, and a lot of fun to boot. On that note, I'm going to bring this final part of the 2011 Christmas Mega-Blog to an end. I hope you've all had a fantastic Christmas, filled with great gifts and greater times. In the coming days I'll be running through my Best of 2011 Awards, culminating in a list of my ten favourite games I played this year on New Year's Eve. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading, and I'm sure I'll see you all around.
Currently playing - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (PS2)