Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kirby's Adventure ~Dream 6~ Nostalgic Grapes

Hey! I would've updated sooner, but unfortunately I had to learn a very important lesson today: Be careful about where you buy batteries on online stores. Take my word for it. Really.

Anyway, this is a very special entry because of a certain element I've been waiting and waiting to go over...what is it? You'll see in just a moment. Enjoy.


Gameplay. Graphics. Music. Controls. Sound Effects. Variety. Interface. Level Design.


These are the essential ingredients that are poured into the video game melting pot. Some are more important then others, but they are all vital in making the video games we all know and love. For example, while graphics leave no impression in terms of the player's enjoyment, it is important they are up to date with the current standards so as to not be jarring compared to other games of it's time. Meanwhile, the controls set for the game must be accurate or else the gamer will blame their actions on the button layout. Every sound effect, every graphic, every piece of level design is eventually ingrained into the player's mind.

However, that's not all we take in. Depending on when we play a game, we absorb many other things that go on around us, such as the time we spend with our families. There are countless others, such as our house layout, what was on television, our school life, the friends we cherished and hung out with, the toys we had and the games we'd play on hot summer days, and even what was going on the web. All of these culminate into many different forms, and as such a warm feeling envelops us as we remember the times we had with a special game; perhaps, even beyond that.

What is this feeling called?


I remember when I first heard that word. When Super Smash Bros. Melee came out nine years ago, everyone said that its greatest treasure was the appeal to nearly every facet of Nintendo history. Whether it was trophies of characters long-forgotten, levels that were faithful recreations of famous Nintendo locales, beautiful renditions of beloved music, and being able to pit obscure characters such as Ness and Marth against iconic figures Mario and Link. Everyone, whether it was the media or message board posters, referred to this celebration of everything Nintendo as nostalgia.

This word was very unfamiliar to me, but I could not deny the warmth that was growing in my heart as I fell more and more in love with Melee. It had to have a name, even if it was one I didn't know.

As I began to explore more of Nintendo's history, whether it was indulging myself in Earthbound or visiting websites such as Nintendo Land, something strange was happening. The more I read about these famous games that I hadn't played, their impact and legacy became known to me. Whenever people would lovingly recall what they loved most about Super Mario Bros. 3 or Kirby Super Star, I could feel as if I right there in the early 1990s, sitting down and playing Super Nintendo, watching Doug, and reading comic books. I was feeling nostalgia from other people's perspectives...feeling nostalgia for games I had never played. For times I never experienced or lived in.

Imagine that. A ten year old feeling nostalgia of all things. I guarantee you that it's true. If anything, I also felt it from my own perspective. Much like Melee itself, that special feeling became my greatest treasure. Melee, Earthbound, and the entire Kirby series were my best sources for this.

I often thought about Kirby nostalgia, particularly in the cases of Adventure and Super Star. What was life like back then? Did those gamers ingrain the senses of level design, music and background graphics into them? Did they feel the same why I did when I looked at those elements? Judging from the fanbases for those games, I'd like to think so.

While the Rainbow Resort is my favorite world in the game, I feel as though Grape Garden is the best candidate to discuss the impact of nostalgia. Namely, in two different angles: from my perspective, and from a broader one.

Let's get it on!


The Grape Garden. Kirby's ascent via Butter Building has lead him to this quaint village located in the clouds. The arrival of Dedede's baddies has put a stop to all of the quiet, so it's up to Kirby to save the day.

So, I suppose I'll start from the "broad side" of things first. Believe it or not, there is a rather controversial side of nostalgia for most gamers. See, we gamers often grow a special attachment to games we grew up with in our childhood, and there are cases where no matter how much better their inevitable sequels are, we still prefer the impact our old games made on us. Sometimes it's justified, flashier graphics and recorded music doesn't make everything better. Other times, however, you just have to take off your rose-tinted glasses and see how things have aged.

This was something I was worried about in regards to Kirby, but there are several features in Grape Garden that erased my concerns. What might that be, you ask?

How about the ability to turn into a FREAKING UFO?

Freaking AWESOME.

This is the greatest power in the game, and what makes it so cherished is that unlike the other powers, you lose it automatically after clearing a stage, so you have to take extra care of it.

So what does it do? Unfortunately, the internet sucks and I couldn't find any screenshots of any examples, but this is the answer: you shoot lasers. You can shoot FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF LASERS, and you alternate between them by how long you press the B button. You can fire off a swerving beam, a regular laser, a shooting star, and a combination of three shooting stars. It's as amazing as it sounds.

This particular level is the UFO's biggest chance to shine. Why? Take a look below.

After you leave the UFO area, you come across a fort of Star Boxes. These things don't do anything but impede your progress, so it's shooting time. There are a LOT of boxes here, so you can take your time and blow 'em all up. And hey, you might find a hidden switch if you look hard enough!

I know I previously said Kirby's Adventure doesn't always accommodate its level designs in regards to the abilities, but this is one instance where it works out quite well.

Sooo what is going on OH MY GOD A FUSE LIGHT IT WITH FIRE



So...where does it lead?

A cloud with a Maximum Tomato.

I love the small things in life.


We're...WE'RE ON A PLATOON OF AIRSHIPS!! Am I smelling some Super Mario Bros. 3 vibes here?

Other then the ingenious level design, there are many factors to this unique level. For one thing, it's incredibly windy, and not only will you find yourself being tossed from one ship to another, but it's very cumbersome to float around. That's not to mention the army of the Shotzo cannons and the slice 'n dicing Sir Kibbles that are here to put an end to your parade. Throw in the constantly changing navigation (there's more then one door!), and you have yourself one heck of a level.

Once again, whoever took this screenshot had made a mistake. See, the fun thing to do is swallow the Parasol Waddle Dee, not run away from it! Why is it fun to swallow an innocent creature? Because he'll give you the parasol ability, and I like to just sit back and watch Kirby be pushed along by the gale.

Let's move on!

So after all that, you find yourself exploring the ruins of an airship...

then into a forest...


See, you immediately drive through a Bomb Block, and it sets off to a certain destination, so you gotta beat it to wherever it's going. You have to be super precise with your turning and make sure you don't crash. However, there's this one part where the explosion blows up part of a small pond, so you have to be ahead of it at this point or you'll crash into it. And you know something? I've only ever gotten past it by luck a few times. It's not necessary, but 1ups are your friends.

Aagh, not this guy! Another tough miniboss, he's annoying because if you have an ability that requires Kirby to touch someone (for example, Wheel or Stone), he'll cancel it automatically and toss you into a wall. A hard spot for a beginner. Now? He'll catch me off guard every now and then.

I still hate Demon Frog more, though.

Fun fact: I always thought he was a ladybug, but apparently he's called Rolling Turtle. I guess the green should have clued me in.

So, what happens if you swallow him? Welll...


You almost never use it again.

And yes, before you ask, the masked knight's gang of thugs return too.

But who's the boss of Grape Garden? Well, he first appears as that kooky eyeball thing above, but that's not his true form. When the battle begins, you'll swallow an enemy called Starman and gain the powers of High Jump, which...lets you jump really high.

And then it's a chase through the clouds. No, you do not spit your new jumping prowess at the eyeball. YOU JUMP AWAY FROM IT.

Aha! There's his true form! It's none other then Kracko, a recurring boss in the Kirby series. Being an evil cloud, he obviously wields the power of thunder. He's also a tough cookie in that he tends to swerve around the battlefield in a huge arc, so watch out for that.

So what's the best way to take this guy down? Well, you'll need a power that allows for free movement, so I'd definitely recommend to keep that High Jump power to attack him from an angle. Sword and surprisingly enough Stone are also some great choices. Just be careful of those spikes!


So, I'm done with one perspective.

What I tried to show up there was the effect of nostalgia. I've found that we are much more easily impressed when we were younger, and as such, most of us find things such as flying on airships and racing against a bomb block more exciting and memorable then traveling through a world of yarn. Our strong attachments to these old games, even if they are objectively less superior, make us prefer them.

Which side am I on in this? I believe that's an answer for another day, as I've let this go on too long. Let's check out some memorable aspects from my point of view.


So remember those "extra" doors I talked about earlier? You know, the ones that switches unlock? I'd like to take a look at the rest of them, and for this post I'd like to talk about The Arena and the one completely insignificant thing I remember about it.

So what is The Arena? Well, it's a one on one fight between you and one of the many mini-bosses in the game, each of whom are assigned to a specific door. I don't remember which one was in Grape Garden, but let's just follow the screenshot above. It's Kirby against the ice cube chucking Mr. Frosty! And the crowd is particularly excited! Sure, they're all just one pixel each, but look at the way they flicker!

Ha ha, I see your butt!

What's cool about The Arena is that you can just waltz in with any power, whereas typically you'd fight these guys with whatever you found in the stage. For example, wanna use the Laser power against Mr.Frosty? Perfectly fine!

It's usually a quick fight, and when it's done, you're free to swallow the miniboss and nab the Maximum Tomato as a reward. And then it's silent.

I mean, completely silent.

There is no sound. There is no audible reaction from the crowd. They just flicker. Over and over and over, faster then they did before.

They flicker. It's supposed be cheering.

This was something that stopped me cold every time that it happened. Not because it freaked me out, but because I was witnessing a trait of old hardware. I still wonder, are we supposed to imagine the cheers in our heads? Are we supposed to imagine who's in the crowd? I wonder what a kid in 1993 would've reacted to this. Did they take no notice of it and move on, or stare in awe like I did?

The crowd flickers, but they do not make sound. They are cheering and waving their arms, but there is not a sound coming out of their mouths. They just flicker.

This is a very old game.

Even today, I can't find the exact words to describe the power of this scene, of why I feel this is the very definition of the limits of old hardware. I can't say why that's so important. Maybe one day I will be able to. I don't know why, but I just love this moment. Even today.


In every hub for each world, there's a multitude of things to do. You can reenter any level, play minigames, and just run around. It might not sound fun to round around in a 2D hub, but I'm telling you, it's there.

The Grape Garden hub is special to me for one reason. When I first played the ROM, I fell in love with the music that played in it. It was soft, reflective, and hinted at an age gone by. I would just sit there, staring at my screen, and listen to it.

I never found that exact ROM again, but when I found another one, the music changed. Every other piece of music was exactly the same, but that song was different. Only that song. I don't remember how it changed, but it did. When I bought the actual cartridge seven years ago, the changed version was the one that played. The song I heard two years prior still played clearly in my head.

Three years ago, I downloaded the game on the Wii's Virtual Console service. The song changed for a second and final time.

I don't remember it sounding like this.

The melody is somewhat off. The song is now in a rushed tone, as if it wants to pack its things and leave right away. It goads me into picking a level, not allowing me to stay in its company. The instruments are all over the place, and they do not appeal to the ear. It does not suck you in. It does not let you contemplate. It's different.

I don't remember it sounding like this., it didn't sound like this. It did NOT sound like this. I remember. The original version I heard was not only serene, but kind and accepting. When it comes down to the actual melody, it's kind of the same...just not without all of the extra fluff. I'm not making this up. It was different. I still remember that song.

It is true that when we grow up, it turns out we misremember certain things from our childhood. Certain scenes in movies do not play exactly the way we remember them. Perhaps we never got as far in a certain game as we thought. However, there is another side to this, and if there's one thing I've learned about life, it's this: Time changes things. This is the only example I can think of at the moment, but I know for a fact that over the course of time, things have changed and don't work quite the way we used to.

For whatever reason, time changed this song. And the worst thing about it? I'm probably the only one who remembers it.



You might be wondering: Do I still feel nostalgia now?

Well, I suppose the best way I can answer that life is very different then it was eight years ago, particularly on the internet. No longer do people gently tell stories of the days of old. People now bitterly recall of how much better things were back then, and how the games of today don't even compare. They bitch and moan about the Wii not being up to standards, whether it's about its incompetent online system or the lack of HD, or about the latest iterations of Zelda, Mario Kart, and Smash Bros. being inferior to their previous counterparts. No longer do we have sites on Geocities, Angelfire, or Tripod that were simple fan sites for video games, and long gone are the days of sprite comics.

Melee is no longer regarded for its nostalgia. The fans now claim it's always been about the speed, the weight you put into your attacks, and about appealing not to the Nintendo faithful, but to the competitive fanbase that turns the game into a clusterfuck of super fast gameplay. It was designed for that fandom, they say. The latest Smash Bros., Brawl, was regarded as a failure in many people's eyes because of this view.

Here's another question: Are the good old days gone?

Here's my take on it: I took the "loss" of the good old days rather hard. After a morbid period in '05, I picked myself up in the next year, but with all of the wrong tools. I chased after illusions, believing that I could faithfully recreate everything I felt in my youth. My interests changed rapidly, and in the end I became saturated with too much while not chasing my future. Aside from those who lived with me, I shut my family out of my life. I forgot about living.

It wasn't until two years ago that I realized the predicament I was in, and while it's been a long time coming, I think I'm about to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Are the good old days gone? No, they are not. The past is gone. Things today are different, no doubt, but some things are still the same. I recall people criticizing Mario Sunshine, Animal Crossing, Star Fox Adventures, The Wind Waker, and even Melee just as much as they do for Twilight Princess, Mario Kart Wii, and Brawl today. Just as they criticized the Wii for having terrible online, they criticized the Gamecube for not being able to play DVDs.

Were there are lot of things I was pissed off about back then? You betcha. And maybe it's the same today, but at the same time, my past self and I had/have a habit of looking on the bright side of things, and not destroying my entertainment for minor setbacks. Could things be better? Yes, but here's another thing I've learned about life: It is what it is.

I suppose what I'm trying to get across is an amazing gift, and too many people waste it by complaining and being bitter, wishing for everything to as simple as it was in their youth, without looking at what they have now. Take a look around you, and tell me what you see. I have books I still have to read, grammar exercises I must work on, and friends I should probably be talking to. There is so much out there for me to take in, and I'll waste it all by chasing nostalgia.

Do I still feel nostalgia? Yes. Do I feel exactly the same playing Kirby's Adventure as I did back then? No, and I probably never will. But I remember. And so long as I remember and still have fun playing it, it doesn't really matter.

All I ask is that somewhere out there, I hope that there's a kid who was like me out there. Someone who is young and of ten years, but feels exactly the way I did about Nintendo like me way back then. Someone who feels exactly how I felt about the Wii as I did for the Gamecube. Someone who has engaged himself into Nintendo lore and is able to embrace it all. Someone who feels misunderstood, but is happy surrounded by what he has. Someone like me.



I think we'll keep this going for about four more posts. I'll begin writing my Epic Yarn review tomorrow.

See you in a few days!

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