Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 15 ~Valley of Repose~ (Pikmin 2)

Origin: Pikmin 2
Plays In: Valley of Repose
Status: Original Composition
Composers: Hajime Wakai/Kazumi Totaka

You know how some songs possess the rare ability to just instantly transport you into a previous time? It's a particularly strong form of nostalgia: obviously you can't just repeatedly abuse the song--lest it lose its magical powers--but that power is so mystical, so emotionally-absorbent that you can't help but leave it on during one cloudy day and remember.

Pikmin 2's Valley of Repose is one of those songs for me. My life was something of a whirlwind at the time of the game's release (Late summer 2004): I'd just discovered the late-night Adult Swim cartoon block, was on the cusp of becoming a teenager, and, best of all, was reveling in what was quite possibly the best time to be a young, passionate Nintendo flower child. It was just months after the awe-inspiring E3 2004 conference, which unleashed a barrage of long-awaited sequels (the aforementioned Pikmin 2 and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door), the handheld DS that quickly won the hearts of many a fan, and of course, a realistic Zelda.

Being the impressionable, passionate fanboy I was, to my current shame I discovered the perfect outlet to express my excitement: the official Nintendo Nsider Forums.  

Legendary for attracting sheer amounts of stupidity and taking up pitchforks for the sake of bashing every single aspect of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I'm still at a loss as to how exactly describe Nsider. I'd like to say it was the embodiment of internet underage chaos ("why does link have eyes?"), yet the imbalanced debates between raging l33t-speak preteens and young adults blessed with large vocabularies prove otherwise. I could be going crazy, though, for such proof no longer exists, but I'll get into that later. 

Anyway, I stumbled onto Nsider purely out of the appeal in the live chatrooms featuring folks who actually worked at Nintendo's American branch, but the post-E3 frenzy finally inspired me to get posting. This was actually a pivotal step for me: as much as I indulged in the likes of Smashboards and, there was always an obvious age-gap between me and most of of the other forumgoers, and at most times I felt too intimidated in sharing my inferior childish opinions with the cool, older kids. But here was a Nintendo-granted haven with kids on (roughly) the same maturity level as I was, and so there was no barrier in letting my voice be heard.

I really let myself go. I frequently argued with people over quoting each other repeatedly (causing radical disproportion in pages and so they took forever to read) and having crushes on fictional characters. In response to the flood of terrible fanfiction (of which often involved shambling attempts at humor in bashing the Tingle character), I created my own like-minded parody involving Mexican Pikmin and Kool-Aid that lasted for a year. I rambled about the greatness of the chubby tummies of Purple Pikmin. In the midst of all, bacon strips somehow became a false god to me and I advocated its wonderfulness constantly in the Pokemon Center chatroom, endorsed by Dratini himself.

And yet, I was almost never shunned for this madness; in fact, I found camaraderie. I quickly become known as the "Bacon Boy" by chatgoer and ficwriter alike. People flocked to my fic, and the thread actually ended up being under moderated watch due to my fans endlessly spamming the pages. I joined others in pre-teen Japanophile rage over the 4Kids butchering of the F-Zero anime adaption and the new Pokemon Gonbe being granted the localized name of Munchlax (the latter being by far and away my most embarassing "weaboo" moment). I posted a topic one day about how I was suddenly drowning in Super Mario nostalgia, and people chimed in on how much the games meant to them.

I made special friends over fanfiction, over heated Zelda-related debates that lasted for pages on end, and over what were simply just shared interests. We were all in awe of Pikmin 2, Paper Mario: TTYD, and the DS. I continually engaged in Zelda RPs. I roomed in Cabin 4 during the three-day online camping trip in Camp Hyrule and watched the awards ceremony with the rest of the forum. I learned life lessons, I was one of the gang, and living, breathing people working at NOA were just a click away. Life was good.

And then, something tragic happened: it stopped being funny.

Nay, it stopped being fun.

I don't know exactly when it happened. Maybe it was the day when I first came across erotic fan fiction and my innocence shattered, or the day I when I dug up an old VHS tape of Sleeping Beauty and I said to myself, "I've matured." Right at that moment, I was whisked away to an old dream I had when I was seven, watching as the opening camera from Mario 64 shifted not to Mario's warp pipe, but up, up the castle where Yoshi slept in a nest at the very top.

I don't know what that symbolized.

My Nsider friends either up and vanished or just left a final, cryptic message, never to be seen again. The flood of posts, members and memes continued, but nothing elicited laughter out of me. I suddenly wasn't interested in writing the fic anymore. The next season of Camp Hyrule didn't interest me, as did the allure of conversing with NOAs. It was all slipping further and further away, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

The spark was gone, and the depression following soon after with my social withdraw and my brother's entrance into the world of drugs left Nsider all but a distant, bittersweet memory.

In September 2007, two years after I'd--for the most part--stopped posting, Nintendo closed the forums for good without notice. Underneath the typical PR bullshit, we still don't really know why.

Valley of Repose doesn't just bring these memories back; it continues them. I'm a working member of society, walking out in the city streets one snowy day. It's a cloudy afternoon, just past the holidays. It's an ordinary winter day, maybe not that cold, and then I suddenly bump into someone. We both gasp. It's the guy I used to do Zelda RPs with, or the girl I made bad Kirby fic parodies with, or that one guy who apparently didn't know he was a forum-appointed Sage until he walked into the Pokemon Center chatroom. We jubilate in fervor and dine outside a coffee shop, catching up on old times and our new families and lives.

My friend suddenly stops laughing, and looks at me straight in the eye with unwavering force. "Do you miss those days?"

I blink and scratch the back of my head. Suddenly, it all rushes back: Shaun's pickles. Stumpy the horse. Me performing avatar sacrifices in the chatroom. The nostalgic, insanely popular NOA_Rufus Earthbound thread. The "wind waker outtakes" fanfic that was literally five lines of dialogue. That one time Nintendo published three new screenshots of Zelda: Twilight Princess and everyone and their dog posted threads about it. The cults of Family Guy, Case Closed and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The never-ending drama of "Why Hyrule Must Live"  and how The Wind Waker "declared war" on all other Zelda games for killing off Hyrule. The big blue of Colette's eyes in that one Tales of Symphonia avatar and the rainbow of colors assigned to each character-themed posting rank. Bacon.

...and then I remember how the very last post of Nsider Forums was "SHADOW'S RACING MAMA LUIGI" and then stuff like this and I have my answer: "Y'know, lemme tell you about a really cool place called NeoGAF."

Final Thoughts: My Nsider username was named after the Mr. Saturns of Earthbound, yet I never actually obtained a Mr. Saturn rank on there. Bummer.

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