There’s a moment very, very near the end of Enix’s 1992 action game Soul Blazer where a character asks you to make them a promise. You’re leaving, for one reason or another, and this person says that even though you may never return, she’ll feel better if you lied and said you would. She asks you one last time, and the normal bit of agency Soul Blazer lends you, a “Yes/No” response, is minimized for the only instance in the entire game to a single option: “Yes.” It’s a compelling and surprising moment that serves to encapsulate Soul Blazer as a whole, and its frequent ability to find moments of bizarre power in unexpected places.
I’ve recently been playing a bunch of old games (this statement being equally appropriate to introduce anything I’ve written here), as a means of casual fun and time passing, with a couple of friends about my own age. I’m 26, and as such was in the prime of my youthful interest in video games at the advent of the Super Nintendo era. This was also the era of the Sega Genesis for some, but I was never as taken with the console, its games I had played at friends’ houses, and its marketing tact (this remains one of the most scurrilous ads of its time). I’ve owned exactly one Sega system in my life — my ill-fated seduction by the Dreamcast, years later.
I’ve been playing To The Moon recently, a generally wistful 2D light-adventure game with a pixel art aesthetic. In it, you play as two scientists who travel through a person’s memories Eternal Sunshine-style with the express intent of changing one thing: each of their clients is on their death bed, and wants to believe they accomplished a goal they never could. For the elderly John, that wish is to go to the moon.
When I was young, about eleven years old, it was a lot easier to get excited about the pending release of a new game. This was 1997 – I had internet access, though of a quite unsatisfactory sort. But I still very much absorbed most of my information, and thus ginned up most of my anticipation, through reading gaming magazines.