The New World’s All Razzle-Dazzle

After seeing the first game tonight seems to be about stories FROM it, or getting away FROM it, I had to suss out why stories about the trip TO the “New World” are not that pervasive in western/any culture: nothing happened! They just kinda went “Effit”, hoisted a few sails and quickly found out I spy isn’t a terribly enduring pastime at sea. That’s whether you see “them” as Columbus et al or those good ole chip-shouldered Puritans. While the context of a fantasy JRPG leaves open the possibility of another new world altogether (the cover art suggests they’ve discovered either Heaven, an island beset by a billowy fog, or somewhere too avalanchey for safe downhill skiing), the mundane interpretation is ascertained soon after having sent the disc whirring into the PS2 “funcepticle”. Or, more conveniently for most of us, by setting eyes on what Kenneth ‘Tide’ Cheung has graced us with here: Shadow Hearts: From the New World in a slightly less commonplace single-segmented 3:50:43.

Those who’ve felt traditional turn-based fighting in JRPGs can’t comprise quite enough high-pressure execution are in for disillusionment. The “Judgment Ring”, the “Stock” system, Sanity Points, Stellar Charts, and Fusioning are all part of a kaleidoscopic landscape of the routing and decision-making in this run. You’ll believe Tide telling you this is a competed enough title when you watch him nailing an ungodly percentage of the narrowest margin attacks, even blind ones, and calling it a requirement! I’m not lying either to say I thought it was segmented at first… Anyway, I hope you’ll appreciate this, the very first SDA run for a Shadow Hearts series game.

On the theme of discovery, here’s the ostensible discovery of the joys of reading by Macaulay Culkin in a role that was one of three embarrassments that same year that somehow narrowly failed to win him a Razzle. Now if that hasn’t made you skip ahead a few paragraphs, allow me to fill in some details: Do you remember a half-animated, half-live-action kids’ movie from 1994 that united a cast suspiciously saturated with Star Trek, including Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Lloyd, and Leonard Nemoy, aside from the rugrat at the center of attention? Ironically enough, one of the critics perceived The Pagemaster‘s moral as “books can be almost as much fun as TV cartoons and video arcade games”… which is something our second runner Michael ‘arglefumph’ Gray must have taken to heart.

You couldn’t mount flashy multimedia on humble home consoles, so they received plain platformers, whereas the PC bunch could relive Culkin’s journey into three realms of juvenile interest – adventure, mythology, and horror – in a slender approximation of the “real thing”. In the pointy and clicky, arglefumph’s main enemy was a random quiz show and getting people to stop talking (we’ve been there). Viewers of the single-sitting 0:35:17 are adviced to wear professional grade pun-proof earmuffs: something like the +10 Sonic Nullifiers from Knights of the Old Republic should do.

Revolving around discovery more than ever, Starflight is a seminal epic describing the thrifty early renaissance of a secluded colony of disaster survivors (in the hip-shot year 4620) peering into a region of space rendered alien by generations of roaching underground… and by the aliens themselves, durr. As a budding starship captain, your adventures bring you across hundreds of unexplored worlds that you must visit in order to keep a supply of fuel, lifeforms for scientific study, and minerals for upgrades. Sometimes you might even run across a fully inhabitable world enabling humans to set up a boutique. If you cross ways with one of those other sentient races, you won’t know what kinds of dealings they’ll be open to having with you; if nothing else, a bit of a space spar can always be resorted to.

Starflight was absolutely astonishing for the time in 1986 – the technology (built on Assembly and a language called FORTH that’s incidentally also been used for programming actual spacecrafts) made it as much a marvel of software engineering as it impressed as a game. It was really the boundless, procedurally generated universe and the seamless marriage of all these finely honed elements within its allotted 128KB of RAM that made even copies of Elite from two years prior start gathering some dust. You’re given a tasklist that contains, but is not limited to, all the stuff I mentioned above and also just plain brazenly venturing where no peep’s ventured to date, something the cast of The Pagemaster might be able to give you a little primer on. There are still those who find things Starflight did better than the equally epic and perhaps even more famous Star Control II – a game you’ll mistake for a graphical overhaul at first glance.

Tony ‘ZenicReverie’ Foster does away with frittering time and space, going straight for the cosmic jugular – that’s 0:04:29 of undermining my high anthem of a game you’re supposed to get hopelessly lost in, completed on the Genesis version… from 1991! Think how popular the game must have been to warrant a five-years-later conversion like that.

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Source: Speed Demos Archive

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