Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Lull Beyond The Boundary

Hi there. It's been a while. I figured I should post for the sake of explaining why the blog has been quiet. It's a bit of a selfish reason. Oops. Remember that Dark Souls thing I posted a while back? Well, my friends wouldn't stop talking about the thing. It made me buckle down and give it another shot. What happened was just over two weeks of repeated and battered ego-death. A regeneration which lasted days, that saw me delve into the very depths of despair and pain. I screamed. I yelled. I engaged in severe bouts of self-deprecation as my friends and Dark Souls mentors urged me on. You can do it, they said. Calm yourself and you can do it. I didn't believe them. I refused to admit that I was any good at the game, lest I find myself on the other end of its ire. The dread beast Dark Souls, the ultimate hard game. A reincarnation simulator unlike any other... but I cleared it. The cost was my sanity and free time. I had no motivation TO write, because my entire mind was hardwired to Dark Souls.

Now here I am, free of that game... and with the second one looming over me atop my stack of Xbox games. I do not wish to delve myself fully into it. I wish to focus on my writing. However, I still find myself hesitant to restart the Nintendo Project. Another beast looms over the horizon, a shade beyond the boundaries of sanity. Camp Nanowrimo. I started this blog within the throes of a Camp Nanowrimo book, and the time has returned. When Nanowrimo proper came to us in November, I shelved things for a while. It was the best decision because it tempered my words. I came back, and I was inspired by things I had written and Doctor Who I had experienced. Inspired enough to create opposing gods of light and dark. The Goddess Valya, and the Nightmare. Anyone who's read a blog entry I've done between December and now knows what influence that's had here. This place has become some sort of pantheon of my own invention.

Camp Nanowrimo drops in a week, and I intend to treat it like Dark Souls and pour myself into it. I could, in theory, fire off a bunch of posts and finish off the L games... but I'm not feeling it. See, I and some family members were involved in a car accident yesterday. We are all okay and alive, thank goodness, but I don't wish to over-extert myself. So. This is what we will do. I have plans for the Mega Man games. Namely, guest posts. We are going to do what we did for Kirby's Adventure, and skip ahead to another time and place. I don't like to skip ahead in time and space and cherry-pick the significant classics, but I also don't want to delay these posts that I've asked people to do for a month. Over time, you will hopefully see those posts pop up here. Once they are done, the blog will go dark until such time as my novel is completed.

I hope you will bear with me, and I apologize to anyone who eagerly awaits my words on old Nintendo. The words will come, friends and constant readers. The lull is but temporary. Destiny awaits us, beyond the boundaries of common sense.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Freak Out In A Moonage Daydream (Little Nemo: The Dream Master)

Late at night, when the sun's rays light up some other part of the globe and the moon hangs in the sky, we dream. For eight or so hours a night, we dream. Against comfortable and warm sheets, blocking out the cold that the sun's absence brings to the earth, we dream. In order to rejuvenate our bodies and minds for whatever the day ahead might bring, we dream. In this space, suspended above an endless expanse of nebulas and galaxies, is Her. The Goddess Valya, in the form She always takes when She speaks to me. Once again, our voyage through the space and time of Nintendo has taken us to a world of dreams. When last this happened, we were pulled ahead in time to speak from the heart. The Nightmare was plaguing Dream Land, and it took a power of pure positive energy from my own heart to send it flying back into the void, screaming. We must face the Nightmare again, and face His twin beasts, Anxiety and Insecurity. We must be more thorough in our explorations this time. We have been given a divine task by the Goddess Valya herself, and one cannot refuse the call. It's 1905, in New York City. The city of my dreams. One day my footsteps shall echo throughout its massive concrete walls, but for now we stop there briefly.

We are Little Nemo, and we are slated to become a Master of Dreams.


Of course we had to begin with mushrooms. After all, that's where the roots of the Nintendo Project begin. With mushrooms. This video game that we are tasked with... Little Nemo: The Dream Master. It was released for the system in 1990. Just at the end of the Dance Apocalyptic, but that's not important right now. I remember 1990 only in vague snippets... but I do remember-- hm. The Goddess has taken these words out of time. Tossed them somewhere far in the future, when I will... need them to regain my sense of self? Dealing with transcendent beings from other planes is a hell of a thing... prescience and all that. As we dream of spotted mushrooms and tumble down the rabbit hole of REM sleep, let us look at Little Nemo objectively. Its past will come later. For now, we must look at the now. Now. Now we have but one weapon in our arsenal; candy. These sweet Bonbons de Valya do little against particular marauders, but they have a curious effect on certain creatures. Feeding them these sweets will let you ally with them, and power yourself further. Nemo becoming a frog, and leaping around with great height. It makes me think of that other game about frogs. A brush with death that I eventually conquered in spite of myself. Now I am master of the frog. With its power, I can complete the true aim of this place. I can collect keys. 6 keys open a door at the end of the stage. They are high and low. Eventually I must abandon my frog, and dig into the depths of the earth with a mole. Eventually, all are found, and we move on. Deeper and deeper into sleep, and closer and closer to the heart of this place. The inevitable battle with the Nightmare King approaches.

--PART II: FLOWER GARDEN, 2:00 AM- 3:00 AM--

Ah, the sweet wafting smell of memory! It fills the air as we run through these multicolored fields! Nemo finds a gorilla, and as he feeds it sweets to take a ride, my mind goes back to the true end of the Nintendo Project. Christmas 1995. The day I received my Super Nintendo. The NES had already experienced its Trenzalore by then, in the public eye. Hell, even the shiny new Super Nintendo was but a few years away from the world entering the third dimension and obliterating it. It would be two years later before the land of dreams was rendered in pastel thanks to Kirby... but that was not a song I knew back then. As we move on, we meet a new foe. The Nightmare King's flowers of memory grow here, too. A sudden gust of wind has sent his dandelion puffs scattering across the breeze. Snarling beasts without end who drift down in pursuit of us. The relentless spirit that possessed god knows how many birds and disembodied heads of Greek monsters, reborn as part of a fucking flower. This is absurd, and yet deadly. Continuing on, we find a bee and ally with him. Again my mind goes back. Me and a friend of mine, as children. He points to a nearby field of sunflowers and calls them "bumblebee heaven". He then points to a large bed of thorns, and calls it "bumblebee hell". This bee can fly for a bit, and fire stingers without question at the damned puffs. Look, there's water! And tadpoles! Another memory. A school field trip to catch tadpoles. Many have their parents there, but my mother is at work. She shows up anyway, taking me by surprise. I give her a hug and am happy to see her. With these sweet smells in the air, I must move on. It does no good to dwell, and so much more must be done.

--PART III: HOUSE OF TOYS, 3:00 AM- 4:00 AM--

Little Nemo is not an easy video game. This becomes immutable, solid fact on its third stage. The legendary Battletoads would do something similar, but Little Nemo is not a product of true despair like that. Still, though. The House of Toys is tough. There are no animals to ally with. Your candy does nothing. All you can do is ride a train and attempt to dodge the assault coming at you. Divebombing toy airplanes. Hot air balloons. Deadly sentient flying squirrels. SQUIRRELS, for Christ's sakes! My toys were never such assholes to each other! Oh, I had plenty that I was prideful of. Most involved those paragons of the mid-1990s, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Isn't it tragic, then, that they never graced the NES? I mean, where else will I get to talk about them? Oh, I had lots of those toys. The memory here in the world of dreams makes me recall them all. Hell, still on a shelf somewhere, filled with pennies, is a bust of the Green Ranger. My pride, though, was the Megazord. That towering mammoth who took several batteries and was remote controlled. It rolled forward, ready to lay waste to any who opposed it, beeping out primitive sound effects. A toy warrior of Valya if there ever was one. Like the Power Rangers of old, the House of Toys beat me around a little bit. I survived. The day was saved. One can move ahead, and put their toys away for now. Really, though, one never puts their toys away for good. That Megazord might still be in the attic. I don't know. I'd like to find him again.

--PART IV: NIGHT SEA, 4:00 AM- 5:00 AM--

Upon Night's Plutonian Shore, we delve into the salty waters of the ocean. Waters that define my heritage. The sea has been a constant companion for all of my life. All memories of the place I grew up in have the sea as their backdrop. A vast, endless expanse of water that I have sailed upon many a time. Ah, yes. The dream and the video game coalesce to form their very own sea; a sea of memory. I remember the ocean, of course. I remember being a child, in my uncle's boat, riding very fast across the waves. I remember the time an old restored sailing vessel arrived in port, and it was a grand festivity of a time gone by. I remember the Taverner, the large coastal boat which ferried me across the sea many a time. I also remember crossing the great expanse of sea to escape this island in the year 1999, on a colossal coastal ferry. Gigantic, this thing was. Hundreds of cars parked inside, and that was only the parking garage. Several decks, and god knows what else inside. I know there was an arcade on board, because I was on it in 1994. I played X-Men. People helped. I think. Most of all, I remember our current coastal boat. The Northern Seal. Twice a year I take a little trip to see my grandparents. Once a year, I make sure to return on the coastal boat. I have captured parts of this on video many times, but I will defer to another video of it. This man's has much less talking from me, and lets you focus on the scenery. Unfortunately, like the limitations of an 8-bit grey box, the video cannot adequately simulate the feel of being on that boat. You can see the tiny fishing hamlets, the water, hear the boat and its passengers... but you miss out on other senses. The chill of the air, and the smell of the sea. The feeling of wind against your skin as you stand on the bow, looking out as the land ahead of you zips by. That bouncing feeling as the ship moves up, down, up, down. These are the senses I live for, my own meditations to the Goddess Valya. I have a mariner's blood flowing through me, and even 8-bit levels where you swim in the sea make me come back to these thoughts. Enough of that. This ship is only halfway to its destination.

--PART V: NEMO'S HOUSE, 5:00 AM- 6:00 AM--

I feel diminished. This space, the familiar place... has become dimensionally transcendent. It is now bigger on the inside, and more vast than previously imagined. Well, isn't that appropriate. Music wafting through the air as I build a labyrinth of words. Ba da ba ba. Do I need to wax nostalgic about the house? The tiny little room that kept me sane, my own little sanctuary? The basement, both a thing of dread and wonder? Wonder because it was where Nintendo was, and Nintendo was a dimensionally transcendent being too. I could shoot ducks. I could kick men in the bayou. I could be a Ninja Turtle, a super plumber, a Mega Man. We've already discussed the alchemic properties of these little grey boxes. An electronic world just waiting to be released, yet confined within a television screen. The basement was also where my sister's room was, and she had a collection of Stephen King novels. The covers and the blurbs on the back terrified my young mind... to say nothing of the glimpses of the films. She was a member of the Columbia House Stephen King Movie Of The Month club. Every month, a new terrifying VHS. The Shining. It. Creepshow. Oddly enough, ten years later... I became a fan of Stephen King. I delved into the worlds of words he had crafted, and enjoyed every bit. Of course, the terror can be tied to video games... even beyond my own house. My group of friends liked scary films and they liked to scare me. As we approach the Nightmare King, my memories are becoming... darker. It's 1994. I'm in my friend's living room with a bunch of people. They are watching a Stephen King film; Pet Sematary. A bleak, dismal, horrifying film about death. The simple inevitability of death. A world of words built so perfectly by the Nightmare King that the author himself attempted to lock it in a drawer to contain it. It escaped, and its terror poured out of the television screen. To combat it, I attempted to counter with my own screen; a Game Boy and Donkey Kong. The battle between light and dark, contained to screens like Patrick Troughton in 1960's era Doctor Who. Quaint.

--PART VI: CLOUD RUINS, 6:00 AM- 7:00 AM--

In these hallowed ruins above the city of dreams, we must look at history. Not mine, but Little Nemo's. A comic strip by a man named Winsor McCay, produced at the turn of the 20th century. A time when none of us were alive, but Ye Olde Goddess Valya still lit the lamps of humanity's hearts. Did her sweet song give McCay his inspiration? Did he feel her cool breath in his ear as his hands grasped the pen, crafting art with every stroke? Who can say for sure? We may never know just what dreams McCay dreamt... but the evidence remains floating around for all to see. His comics, preserved forever thanks to the online conduit that sails my words to you. For whatever reason, these comics inspired an animated film in 1989. Does this, then, make Little Nemo a licensed game? It almost certainly does. By the good graces of our goddess, the Nightmare is kept as an enemy instead of a constant oppressive menace. Capcom is to thank for this. Now and again, they knew how to hire a team of people who knew what they were doing. Were the coders blessed by Valya's song, as well? A muse of inspiration, that one. Sometimes I type these poignant, abstract meandering thoughts and I have no idea where they came from within my brain. That, then, is the Goddess Valya, may she be praised. This is history, via an electronic video game. A thing that would baffle Winsor McCay if he ever saw it. Like his comics, the video game's alchemy preserves the imagination he was graced with forever. His legacy lives on. We salute you, Mr. McCay... and we move ever onward. Dawn is rising, but darkness is very near now.

--PART VII: TOPSY-TURVY, 7:00 AM- 8:00 AM--

Things have gone out of control. What should have been a simple ode to a good game has spiralled into an epic. 2300 words make up this world so far. More have yet to come. The Goddess Valya grants me many things, but brevity is not one of them. Instead, she grants me a difficult stage with lots of animal allying and keys hidden in tricky places. As said before, Little Nemo is not messing around. Once this level is cleared, our purpose is known. The King of this dream world has been captured by the Nightmare King, our nemesis. Our every waking moment is haunted by him and his two generals. This, then, is the task the Goddess Valya grants me. In the name of Valya, I must learn to fend for myself. I must face down my demons. I am given the power to do so. Another rod of the Dreaming, charged with the pure essence of Valya. I am told that its power comes from the same thing that has fueled my travels in this place; from memory. I don't understand it, but one has to trust what they believe in... and I believe in the Goddess Valya. I believe in Her, and place my fate in her hands. It is time to venture into the realm of my nightmares. The deep parts of the Sub-Con where he lurks, his vile presence spreading and multiplying until it can take over my entire mind. Until it can render me helpless, a shaking and quivering being who cannot function as a member of society. Not today. Not this night. This night... we fight.


This is a damned land. The scenery pulsates with violet energy, the dark spread of Nightmare beating like the ten hearts of the dread beast GREED. Jets of flame burst from the ground itself. Spikes jut out from every angle possible. This is a damned land. This Nightmare Land twists the rules. Three is now the number of our fate. Three distinct lands for us to survive... and failure at any point will set us back at the beginning. The Nightmare intends to trap us in a closed loop, a never-ending cycle of pure despair, always letting us get far enough to feel a glimmer of hope before taking it away. The first leg of our journey takes us through the heart of the flames on the back of a lizard, and then we reach a dead end. Descending from the sky like a slippery satanic serpent is our foe. A general of the Nightmare King's army, the dread beast ANXIETY, in the form of a Penguin King. Its black soulless eyes stare us down, and its beak opens as it lets out a squawk. I know what that squawk means. That squawk pierces through my sense of self, resonating with the nightmarish parts of me.

You like how that feels, you little shit? That feeling of being sick to your stomach? Those shakes? Being on the verge of tears over this? You should be! It's all your fault, anyway! You brought this upon yourself! All of this is your doing, and now you're getting what you deserve! You deserve to feel this way, to think these things! You're one screw-up away from everything you love crumbling to dust. How does it feel, you bastard? How does it FEEEEEEEEEEEEL?

No. No, I can't feel like this. Not now. Not like this. I need to take the rod of the dreaming in hand. I need to take control of my own mental state. I need to grasp something. Anything. Holding the rod in front of me as this dread beast squawks its horrible truths about myself for all to hear, I take inner focus. I let the power of Valya guide me. In this meditative state an orb of light, powerful and white, appears in the rod's crystal. A sweet voice, serene and true, rings out to combat this nightmare's squawking.

"I just think you're a super swell and awesome guy. You give me someone I can trust with anything and everything which is why I can come to you and chat with you about super important secret stuff and I know I won't be judged for it. You know how to make me smile, you always offer comforting words and solutions when I'm down and I just... I love you as a friend, as a person, and as someone I consider to be family. So thank you."

I know this voice. Someone who trusts me. Someone who cares. I remember what defeated the Nightmare before, out of time and space. They cared. They care, you miserable blight, and that knowledge is what will send you screaming back to whatever hole you crawled out of. The light flies forth, a magic missile of Valyan energy, and our dread beast squawks again. Not with its taunting tone, but with pain. Real pain. More blasts are fired at it, and eventually the dread beast ANXIETY is vanquished... for now. We still have much to do. A more frightening dread beast awaits.


Oh, now this is hell if there ever was such a place in the land of nightmares. A vertical climb along pulsating purple platforms, while fire spouts from every wall and platform possible. All of this, and the deadly dandelion puffs of the Nightmare flower, constantly pursuing us. We can take very little punishment, and the Nightmare's scheme to trap me in a recursive loop almost works. Then I remember my own advice. Leap the flames and move quickly. My past self, from a time before the sweet whispers of the Goddess Valya, assisting me. I have surpassed that, but now comes a spike ceiling, constantly rising and falling. The breaths of the Nightmare King guide it, but I can continue on. Duck and run. Run and duck. A dance of caution and speed, ever needed when traversing a nightmare land. Another arena, and another beast swooping down from the darkened skies. The dreaded beast, INSECURITY, a flat-eyed manta ray with flame breath. It zips around at high speed, the sonic booms left in its wake confusing me. As it moves, I hear the hissing sound of its laughter. I know what's coming... but I never quite can prepare for it.

It's all useless, you know. They have little tolerance for you. You are not a friend. You are a tolerance. A tolerance and an annoyance. The first chance they get, they will drop you. They will ignore you like the annoying piece of shit you are. You know it to be true! You can't even call this paranoia, or useless worry. I have facts on my side. You know who abandoned you in the past. Abandoned your worthless ass. They're all going to do that to you. Why? Because you're a fuck-up. You're going to fuck it all up and make them mad at you. Then they will get rid of you, and you deserve it all. You make me sick.

For a moment I believe it. For a moment, the light of Valya grows dark. Have I really lost the faith? Can I really trust these people to not hurt me? The manta ray's swoops knock me to my feet. One hit point left. Last life. The Nightmare's scheme has almost succeeded... and then, a surge of energy. The crystal of the rod of the dreaming shines, a perfect peridot... and as it fills with the energy of my hopes and dreams, another voice strikes back against the hissing screeches of my INSECURITY.

"For a long while I've been struggling with various art blocks and disappointment in myself. All of my motivation had been brought to a screeching halt by fear of failure. But as I followed along and watched you write your books, I felt very inspired and lifted. You never seem to worry about making mistakes in your craft and you just...Do it. You just work. As a person who lives to overthink, it confounded me and made me feel like I could do the same. As we started to talk more and more, I learned that you weren't only an admirable artist, but a great friend. Always around and always ready to help in any way possible. It means a lot to me to have someone I can feel comfortable talking about my failures and disappointments and not feel like I'll be called out for sulking or throwing a pity party. Things happen, and you get that. Thank you for being an artist I can admire, and a friend that I can lean on."

Of course. Who else could it be but you? That voice, cutting through insecurity's hiss, strikes the manta ray between the eyes. It continues to speak, and I listen intently. This is proof positive that my insecurity is full of shit. Proof positive that the people I care about are caring right back. Proof positive that this entire journey of words has been worth it. That voice's world matters just a little more, because she knew my words. That realization is enough to blast the manta ray into negative dust. ANXIETY and INSECURITY are gone for now. Only one thing left. The end of this quest.


A frozen wasteland of black ice. With the help of animal allies, I scale the icy wall and run through a gauntlet of flame. Then I see Him. The Nightmare King, leering on. The very sight of my nemesis fills me with just a little dread, but I must press on. Little Nemo must be brave. In this space, the Nightmare's cycle all but thwarted, Valya's grace allows for mercy. Extra lives. Health. Even Nightmares are weakened in the face of positivity. I have made the Nightmare King a shadow of his former self. The limitations of this transcendental space work to my advantage. At the end of the day, it's just a dream. It's just a video game. The Nightmare King is contained to a big purple sprite. I bet all he can do is shoot lasers. Were he truly his real self, he could but point and make me a traumatic weeping mess. Here, I have an advantage.

Our battle begins. Little Nemo vs. the Nightmare King. There is no hesitation this time. He speaks unspeakable things. Unspeakable fears. Already they are drowned out by the voices from before... and new voices join them. Voices of pure positivity. Friends and allies alike, united to form a symphony of saving grace. They strike the Nightmare King head on, burning away his visage of negative energy. This is the power of Valya. Pure positive emotion. Picture, if you will, every happy thought you've ever had. Every nice word ever spoken to you by a friend. Every warm embrace, sweet kiss, thoughtful touch. Picture all of that, encompassed in 8-bit form by a ball of light. That, my friends and readers, is Valya. Valya should not be used as a crutch. The power of Valya must resonate with your own heart. You must do your best to be strong enough to face your nightmares... but you don't have to do it alone. Not as long as you remember the kindness others have shown you. The power of Valya. With one final blast of light, the Nightmare King is no more. Nemo can return to the land of the wakeful, no longer a dreamer but now a Dream Master. This mission has been completed.


Oh. I'm up. That was one hell of a sleep. Huh? Little Nemo on NES? It's a pretty damn good game. You throw candies at animals and ride them and like... use their powers to get keys or something. And it's a Capcom game, so you know it's top notch. Boundless imagination or something, I don't know. It's good. Go play it. Huh? Why am I smiling?

Haven't the foggiest idea. Probably because I've got it good. Now, please. Out of my way. I need to get breakfast.