Warp Drive

Monday, August 3, 2020

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 8: Pros and Cons WIP)

Nintendo Rhapsody is an ongoing story about how Nintendo, and video games in general, helped me through some of the harder times in my life. Each chapter, known as a 'world' in Nintendo Rhapsody, is rather self contained with introductions and conclusions.

World 8-1: Lost at Sea

With my unceremonious departure from Cerritos College, and the apparent end of my school career, I fell back on that which I loved. My ongoing endeavors with Goalsoft. In January of 2001, I launched my first ever online magazine dedicated to Goalsoft. It was no doubt inspired in part by Nintendo Power. The Goalsoft MAG featured monthly interviews administered by Marlon with the various Goalsoft web staff, release dates for upcoming game projects, short stories, poems and one very controversial comedy column. The latter of which was hosted by Dave Smith. Goalsoft's resident comedy writer and beta tester. In the span of time between January and April of that year, I released Sword Quest III: Dimensional Drift, Super Israel World 2 and Swashblood Isle. I had originally intended to develop Swashblood Isle in Glumol, but the tools were unfortunately not made available until much later. I would instead use Clickteam's The Games Factory. Much like Klik & Play, it left something to be desired when developing traditional adventure games. Everything, as usual, had to be created from scratch. That included an inventory screen and dialogue prompt for every possible scenario in the game. Timers were used to tell the game whether or not an event could be triggered, and when and where to display an item. As a result of these limitations and improvisations, Swashblood Isle was more than a little rough around the edges. Clearly, I had an awful lot of free time on my hands. It certainly felt strange being out of school, but I still had a teacher or two in my life. I became rather hooked on TechTV, a cable network focused primarily on the computer industry. Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton hosted a late afternoon show known as The Screen Savers. They covered every computer topic one could imagine, but my favorite segments were the ones where they built custom machines for gaming and whatnot. It would be several years before I attempted such a thing of my own. With 2001 rapidly drawing to a close, I had just one thing on my mind. Nintendo's brand new disc-based console. For the longest time, it was known simply by a codename. Project Dolphin. A name that left quite a bit to the imagination.

Swashblood Isle Poster

My dad had taken an early retirement from The Boeing Company due to a back injury he sustained while on the job. He would come to find more time for hobbyist projects around the house, and maybe even a little time to play Nintendo. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing was one of those rare games that seemed to capture his interest. A rather comical two player boxing game developed and published by Midway Games. Michael Buffer appears as himself before every match with his iconic catchphrase, "Let's get ready to rumble!" Ready 2 Rumble Boxing was followed soon after by Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2. Sooner than I expected, in fact. Dad surprised me with the game on Christmas morning of 2000. Round 2 featured a number of notable celebrity appearances including Michael Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal. They would become playable from the boxer selection screen once a few requirements had been fulfilled. Like the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System before it, Nintendo 64 matches often resulted in creating a somewhat competitive environment. Mastering complex button presses was not one of my dad's strong points. He may have even preferred a more direct control option, but such a controller would still be at least a few years away. The Revolution would have to wait. Project Dolphin was next to surface. It was now known by its final name; Nintendo GameCube.

It 'twas that most joyful time of the year again. A time of merry; a time of cheer. Dad had strung lights abound with great care, the stockings were nestled gently beside the tree rich with marvelous decorations, while simply enchanting melodies played on the disc player. One could only sit and wonder about that which lied beneath the tree. [Christmas 2001 and the four GameCube games that defined it: Luigi's Mansion, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II and Wave Race: Blue Storm]

Home: Nintendo GameCube Unboxing

[The summer of 2002 and the story of Super Mario Sunshine]

[An introduction for Mark Gillie (meelWORM). An online colleague with whom I shared a number of antics and hijinx. From the moment he first entered into the agigames.com chat, I could tell that our brains operated on the same frequency. We shared the same spark of creativity, and more than that, a common interest in mischief. Our brains were so alike, we often finished each others' sentences. We were, in short, diabolical together]

In the process of forging new friendships, we sometimes have to say goodbye to old ones. Goodbye can be a complicated word. It sometimes means until we meet again, and other times, it means forever. Forever is a mighty long time. What do we do with the pain we feel deep inside? Sometimes, we retreat into the world of make believe. Do you like trains? Because we are about to go on a trip. I have my sights set on a small village far from the hustle and bustle of every day life. I like to call it Wenfork. It is a name that just happened to come to me. It seemed nice enough. Wenfork was a village with infinite possibility. It just needed the right kind of touch. I brought a few of my make believe friends from home. One of them is named Bill Grig. His portrait will adorn the door of my new house. Wenfork needs its own anthem. I have that covered as well. And what is a village without villagers? Wenfork is filled with townsfolk, and each and every one of them is a unique individual. But Sven was my favorite among them. He lived just one square to the left of my house. We swapped stories and exchanged rare gifts. On occasion, we even wrote letters to one another. He was my next door neighbor, but more than that, he was my friend. A friend who was always there for me rain or shine. Until one day, that is, when he finally said goodbye and moved away to another village. I could hardly believe my eyes. I went back to where his house should be, but found an empty lot in its place. Goodbyes are never easy, but we can always cherish the memories we had together. "If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” -Fred Rogers

Animal Crossing was a rare gem for its time. Utilizing the internal clock of the Nintendo GameCube, it became possible to experience new activities and events with each passing day. Likewise, the ability to forge long-term friendships with in-game characters. Sven was but one of many possible villagers. All of which featured unique personalities. However, to be perfectly honest, I wanted Animal Crossing for one reason and one reason alone. The inclusion of playable Nintendo Entertainment System games. These could be received through certain villagers, and sometimes as birthday gifts. I created a rather snazzy game room in the basement of the house and arranged the NES games there. On that particular New Year's Eve, I skipped Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve to be with my make believe village. A reward was promised for sticking around until midnight. Wenfork would live on for many years to come. With every installment in the Animal Crossing series that followed, I maintained the name. The adornments and anthems would vary somewhat, but the spirit remained the same. Sadly, Sven would remain a cherished memory.

Animal Crossing: My Man Cave/NES Collection

Animal Crossing: Portrait of Bill Grig (Space Ruckus)

[The continuing adventures of Mark Gillie, and how for but a brief moment in time, we had the whole adventure game community turning heads with a persona named Conrad Sheldon. A grammar challenged character who, ironically, made me realize that my own grammar was in serious need of improvement]

I was a sailor lost at sea. With the sun beating down upon me, recollections of my past adventures filled my dazed mind. All the places I had been and the things I had tried to do there. The things I could have done differently. I could have fired an arrow at that Like Like instead of trying to defend against it with my shield. Having eaten my shield, I would have no other choice but to buy another. I could have bottled more fairies when I had the chance. I could have just ignored that cursed house in Termina's Ikana Canyon. Just when I thought all hope was lost, a passing seagull gave out a loud squawk. It appeared to be a fairly young bird. They rarely fly very far from dry land. I reached for my telescope and had a quick look around. Sure enough, there was an island home to a small village off in the distance. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker begins on just such an island. Link, as usual, finds himself in a deep slumber at the onset of his adventure. He must be a real party animal. Link awakes to the sound of his sister's voice. She informs him that their grandmother is looking for him. She wishes to bestow him with a gift for his birthday. A very familiar set of clothes. The green outfit worn by the hero of legend. The Wind Waker differs from earlier Zelda games in one key area. Its use of cel-shaded graphics. Sometimes referred to as toon shading. At the time of its release, The Wind Waker actually put a number of people off. It was one of those games that simply had to be seen in motion to be understood. Looks can quite often be deceiving. An ancient evil was lurking just below the surface. One which I had confronted numerous times before. The demon king himself; Ganon. The game concludes with one of the greatest sword fights in the whole series. Ganon, wielding a sword in each hand, duels Link on the ocean's floor with the waters held back by the power of the Triforce. Link emerges victorious in the end. He plunges his sword, the Master Sword, deep into Ganon's skull. Ganon's demonic reign was finished. Until the next Zelda game. Until twilight is upon us.

While scampering through my grandmother's kitchen as a small boy, she said to me with an ever slight disdain, "Why don't you sit down for a moment. I'll make you a grilled cheese sandwich." She knew how much I enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches. I could never pass up that offer. My grandmother and I were the best of buddies. We explored every local park we could find. My absolute favorite being the park with the giant steel battleship. I could lose myself for hours within its interiors. At the end of the day, my grandmother would be there waiting. After such a long day of playing in the battleships, the forts and the rocket ships, it would be time to leave. My grandmother was, in my eyes, known simply as Ma. There but for a precious moment in time, she was the closest companion I had. While I was busy saving Hyrule from flood waters many years later, I learned that Ma had become terminally ill. It would seem she had actually been sick since the previous Christmas season, and she chose to distance herself because she did not want us to see her that way. Ma passed away in the early morning hours of April 11th, 2003. It was not my first encounter with death and it would certainly not be my last.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Collection

World 8-2: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Super Mario Bros. taught me a number of things about life. Always eat your vegetables. Look before you leap. Be on the lookout for spare change; it has a way of materializing in strange places. But most importantly, more than any other lesson the game had to offer, I learned that the princess was in another castle. She was always in another castle. Throughout my high school years, I never truly felt whole. I often wondered if what that fellow student had told me about Melissa's feelings were in fact true. In his ever bone-crushing words, "Sorry, dude, she doesn't like you." It would only be with the arrival of Israel in my senior year that the truth began to surface. He was another fellow student of Barbara Dawson Educational Center. It turned out that other student was a chronic liar. Israel informed me that Melissa had moved to Texas, and I began a years-long quest to reach out to her. If for no other reason than to find closure once and for all. My quest would finally come to an end in the spring months of 2003. I located the number of the group home she was believed to be living in. I went through a rather rigorous review process with the administrator of the household. He then told me she would call back in a few minutes. I became weak in the knees as I stood there intensely eyeing the phone. I briefly thought about sitting down, but I was far too anxious at that point. Finally, after seven long years, I once again heard Melissa's voice. That feeling of pure ecstasy came rushing back to me. Though we were a thousand miles apart, it was as if we were standing in the same room together again. We talked about everything from those bygone school days to the name I had made for myself with Goalsoft. Sadly, it would seem that our conversations were being monitored by the group home. We intended to stay in touch, but our chats would often be limited to ten minutes. For the first time in my life, I decided to practice actual letter writing. I put my very best effort into those letters. I would include fun stories, pictures and even stickers. And I have no doubt Melissa enjoyed them. Her return letters would also include such things. For once, the princess was not in another castle. She may have been in another state, but she was not in another castle.

I had been hacking away on my own computer games for the better part of five years. It would seem as though time has a way of escaping our grasp. There was a time in which I was merely brainstorming ideas with friends for games that may never be. I would sit with Irvin at Barbara Dawson Educational Center while he played his Sega Game Gear. We had our own corner beside a set of poles on the far side of the basketball court. Irvin, always the perfectionist, would try to best his previous game sessions. He was a man with some mad skills looking to become a master. I just sat there in astonishment most days. Mortal Kombat II and Shinobi were two of his most cherished games on the system. He played Shinobi most of all, but his sessions with Mortal Kombat II provided me with enough inspiration for our own fighting game. One which would take place in that very school. In my imaginative game, Irvin would be the Raiden figure. He would be the protector of the realm. The wise one that everyone looked up to in times of trouble. And yes, per Irvin's very special request, there would even be a cool staff. Those times were becoming ever more of a fleeting memory with each passing day, but Irvin remained in my thoughts all those years later. Goalsoft was nearing a critical juncture. A number of colleagues were slowly moving on to other things, and I was desperately trying to find ways of rebooting the brand. I would soon return to a series I had long neglected.

[The birth of Space Ruckus: The Great Invasion, first hinted at in the concluding passage of Nintendo Rhapsody's World 5]

[A flashback to the week of June 24th-29th, 1990. My grandmother accompanied me to the Diagnostic School for a short-term assessment. We spent the better part of a week together in the dormitory while I was being evaluated by their staff. It was here in which I first discovered Nintendo. A little grey box that sat underneath a television in their recreation room. It was my saving grace. Through the exploration of worlds within that box, I would eventually overcome certain obstacles in my life. Many a joyous times would follow]

It was time to reboot.

Styx's Come Sail Away

Nintendo Rhapsody, World 8: Pros and Cons (Swashblood Isle II Machinima)
"I can still remember when Goal Soft was first starting out. We were just one little site with very few games. Now we have multiple sites and tons of games. We are expanding faster than ever before and have a vast community of visitors. In the future we will grow and grow and someday make professional games. I would like to thank all the visitors that made this possible." -Marlon Castillo
"I don't think I can say that I miss those days, but I certainly have a lasting fondness for all of the projects I was working on around that time, and Conrad was without a doubt, one of the most bizarre and enjoyable of those projects."
-Mark Gillie
"I was at school and I just happened to see Michael Haley. One of my personal close friends. He started talking about our ex-school, Barbara Dawson Educational Center, which I prefer to call hell. We met through there. We started talking about other stuff, and then he started talking about his own company and then... I got in." -Israel Alvidrez (on the subject of joining Goalsoft)
"I've been a game lover since I was five. Ever since then, I wanted to be in the making of the game. It hit me that I should test games at about ten or eleven. That has been my odd dream job." -Dave Smith
Further Reading:
Interview with meelWORM (Mark Gillie)
Nintendo Rhapsody Notes