If you had told me that I would be playing a game almost entirely constructed from meta-jokes about the video game industry, built within a framework of a JRPG and visual novel, I may have called you mad. I may have called the publishers mad. I may have called the world itself mad.
But here I am, playing Hyperdimension Neptunia. When the prologue cutscenes of your game manages to to make a "Genesis does what Nintendon't" joke in 2011 and more surprisingly makes it work, I'm truthfully unsure what could await me further into the game. Summons of Fantasy Zone, dungeons where you're chasing a remarkably fast blue... wolf, an extended discussion regarding the breast size of respective consoles, an almost Final Fantasy 13-esque stagger meter as part of the battle mechanics...
This game is weird in ways I didn't know video games could be. Though ultimately, what shocks me about it is not that it was simply made. I have far too much knowledge about Japanese geek culture for that to be surprising. What shocks me is that it was released in the West of all things. How did that happen? I have no real idea, but I'm just glad it was.
So, I'm staring at a copy of the N64 version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
It's a gold cartridge, which for a reasonable span of time in video gaming was kind of a big thing to do to your cartridge, rather than stick with the drab grays and blacks available. Indeed, for a while it seemed like getting a banana-color DKC was almost as valued as any of the current collector's edition trinkets packed in with our current games. Maybe we were just easier to please back then.
Still, the last of these as far as I can recall, were the Pokemon series; which conveniently color-coded right up to the switch from the GBA to DS, I suppose. Which brings me to a thought. Would colorized DS catridges mean much any longer or has that era just passed by unheralded?
Now, don't get me wrong, I believe that much of his work once removed from the oeuvre of hyper-nationalized war cinema is great. His influence upon such cultural touchstones as the USS Indianapolis monologue in Jaws is, well, important. However, I often feel as if the shadow of Red Dawn looms over what he does, particularly in the case of the coming-up Homefront. In a similar way to how the involvement of Orson Scott Card's wretched Empire work made Shadow Complex a very complicated purchase to decide upon or not, John Milius is complicating a decision on whether or not to observe and interact with Homefront.
It's a right-wing nightmare/wet dream, the opportunity for real God-fearing Americans, the salt of the earth, those lovely gentleman who wear "don't tread on me" t-shirts and wave placards about trees of liberty being watered with blood at political rallies to show those blasted government pinheads that they'll rescue America from the oncoming foreign hordes. How useful it must be to have picked the one foreign enemy America has which is as impotent and sad as North Korea as the main foil to the virtualized conflict.
Obviously, I know that it's a first-person shooter. The hyper-nationalized, hyper-masculine nature of the genre is one I'm well-accustomed to but still, something seems peculiarly off about Homefront's foray into the field. Like Red Dawn, or rather the fans of Red Dawn, it feels to be marketing towards that hypernationalism in earnest, rather than as the implied anti-war narratives of many of the successful war films or even war video games typically follow. To the point, Red Dawn was written in the 80s in support of the Afghani "freedom fighters" who were at the time in conflict with the invading Soviet war machine. Many of those same "freedom fighters" would go on to become the "Muslim insurgents" and Al-Qaeda operatives the American war machine is fighting even now.
I wonder if the irony of the Red Dawn narrative in 2011 will be properly explored in Homefront. Will this become the link of sympathy between the Afghanistan occupation's "insurgents" and how a Western public would react to our own lands being occupied? Or will it just be double-thought out of, as Red Dawn's drama was once it became inconvenient to consider? Just put away as another in a series of modern warfare first-person shooters which grasped at more than it could accomplish, except for that peculiar core of fans who seem kind of... sketchy, like they think the events depicted will really happen any day now.
Plus, call me paranoid, but I kind of feel like this is the game where all the 13-year-olds shouting racial slurs in the other multiplayer FPSs will converge like locusts. So there's that to concern myself with.
In the way an often-abused animal will flinch whenever a gesture with threatening implications is raised near it, I worry about the final "game" which will be released as part of the X-Box House Party 2011. On the face of it, there shouldn't be a problem, or at least none that wouldn't arise from the cavalcade of indie games being released with avatars and dubious value, but possibly just the implication that Full House Poker will involve both retro gaming (y'know, playing cards, the immoral scourge of 18th-century youths) and avatars with new and unique gestures makes me break out in cold sweats.
Nights of waking up screaming about the Sunset Riders that never came, of poorly-implemented paddlegames, of the Intellivision claiming a few dozen more souls in its wicked calculator-grasp. These are the things which race through my head as I consider Full House Poker.
Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Full House Poker will be more like 1 vs. 100, its supposed "spiritual" predecessor. But I have to admit that some foul bitter creature, nestled deep in my heart, fears an Arcade poker selling me a Game Pack full of Bridge.