Games I Don’t Think Anyone Remembers: Meteos (DS)

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It was summer of 2005. I had had my Nintendo DS for a while, and I had heard about this new puzzle game just released for the system. It was called Meteos, and its style and mechanics intrigued me.

Meteos was a puzzle game. I’ve always been a fan of puzzle games, going back to Tetris and Dr. Mario on the NES. Meteos had a sci-fi style, with a story about planets battling with each other by launching blocks back and forth. The gameplay revolved around the DS’ touch screen and stylus: you moved blocks along vertical columns by touching and dragging them with the stylus. You lined up multiples of the same and those were launched to the top of the screen. If they were launched with enough force (ie. you get enough combos going), they go beyond the top of the screen to another player’s planet. The game becomes a sort of tug-of-war, with each player burning Meteos and trying to overload other player’s fields, in effect destroying their planet. The game had its share of power-ups to shake up gameplay.

There were different planets you could play as. Each planet had its own unique musical style and instrumentation, as well as Meteos symbols. In addition, each planet had its own level of gravity. Some planets had extreme gravity, meaning blocks fell quickly and you needed to build up a lot of combos to launch your Meteos off the screen. Some planets had very light gravity, meaning you could launch more Meteos quicker.

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I remember playing against friends a lot in this game, and how fun it was. The DS was still a new handheld at that point, and I was getting used to the wireless gameplay the system offered, compared with the game link cable required for the Game Boy family of systems. Technology was progressing. Friends and I would occasionally play between classes or just before the weekly anime club meetings.

I would also play it on my own just because it was a really fun puzzle game, with a lot of personality, and a lot to unlock. The main story mode had multiple branching paths (made visually clear by a branching path you could take through the story mode (you chose which planet to go to next, and the planets available to choose were determined by your performance in the previous match).

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The game also had a great soundtrack. I would carry a pair of earbuds around with me just so I could hear the music even when playing out and about campus. Each planet had its own musical style and instrumentation.

I remember there being a sequel released, but I never got or played it. Maybe it was that it was based on Disney properties, and lost that unique character and style the original had. Meteos was all about that interplanetary block puzzle-based warfare, and making it about Disney characters was a bizarre choice. I lost track of the games after that.

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It wasn’t until I got an XBOX 360 back in 2011 that I learned that an additional game had been made and released on that system. Called Meteos Wars, it was released on XBOX Live Arcade. I downloaded and played it, but I don’t remember much about it.

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I remembered the game the other day while playing Lumines on the Switch. Something about Lumines’ style reminded me of Meteos. Today I learned why.

You see, Tetsuya Mizuguchi was the producer of Meteos. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, then maybe you’ve heard of other games he either created or worked on. He worked on such games as Sega Rally Championship and Sega Touring Car Championship, and was partially in charge of Rez and Space Channel 5. Games he created include Rez, Lumines, and Child of Eden, all games with a heavy emphasis on interactive sound elements.

Then there’s Meteos’s lead designer, a guy named Masahiro Sakurai. The same Masahiro Sakurai in charge of the Super Smash Bros. series, although at that point we just had the first two games in the series. You get these two guys working together on a game and you know you’ve got something good.

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As of this point, Meteos Wars on XBOX Live Arcade is the last game in the series. It’d be neat to see it come back, maybe for the 3DS. I don’t think it’d work as well on the Switch, as a lot of its style was based around having those two screens. However, given Sakurai’s heavy workload in regards to Smash, and Mizuguchi working on Tetris Effect, I don’t know if or when it’ll ever happen.

Does anyone else remember Meteos?

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Remembering the Chronicles

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Way back in the early 2000s (way back? Is it really so long ago?), a neighbor and I would hang out after school and play multiplayer Gamecube games. We played a lot of Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart Double Dash!!, Tales of Symphonia, and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, but one game in particular stood out among the others, that being Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. We played through the entirety of the game together, and eventually I borrowed his copy and my mom and I played through the game together. Eventually I would move on, graduate high school, go on to University. Life would progress. I lost contact with that neighbor, and those adventures we went on in those games became happy memories tucked away in my mind.

A couple weeks ago I got my own Gamecube, and got my own copy of FFCC. As I opened the package and saw the game’s case, memories rushed back to me, and I suddenly started remembering just why I love this game so much, why just hearing the opening theme, “Kaze No Ne“, makes me tear up.

I remember all those times hanging up with my neighbor, strategizing over the game, about who has which spell, which items, who should attack and how. He played a Selkie, I played a Yuke. I still have that save file on a GCN memory card. I still have that character, that old friend. I remember bringing that character over to a new save file so my mom and I could play together, journey through the world of the Crystal Chronicles. I remember just how much I truly enjoyed playing through a beautifully-made RPG with my mom, who loves RPGs just as much as I do. I remember she played as a Lilty, and we fought our way through those dungeons, collected those treasures, defeated those bosses, made our way to the end of the caravan’s journey and restored peace to the world. I treasure those memories. It makes me start to tear up again remembering just how happy that was.

I’m sat here listening to “Kaze No Ne” and the sound of that music, the voice of the singer, brings it all back.

I could go through all the technical details that I’ve realized lately concerning FFCC, about how it is one of the truest realizations of what an RPG really is in video game form: a role-playing game, a traditional table-top game, in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons, a bunch of friends hanging out, playing out an adventure, the story drawing organically from the conversations and jokes among those friends as they design their characters, make decisions, travel, deal with monsters, obstacles, and puzzles along the way. That’s what RPG campaigns like D&D are really all about, what makes them so popular, what makes me such a fan of the whole idea. FFCC recreates this so perfectly: discussion among friends playing about who will collect what weapons/spells, who will get what items, how everyone will attack, what everyone discovers along the way, how everyone reacts to what the game presents, how everyone works together to overcome the game’s challenges. FFCC does this so amazingly well.

I could go on about the game’s music. The game had an amazing soundtrack, from the opening theme to the background music. It was all so peaceful and beautiful, among if not the best soundtrack for any game on the Gamecube. I could go on about the visuals; they look dated today, but they still hold up so well. I could go on about the gameplay: I love the real-time combat, the way you unleash focus attacks and cast spells. I love how you and others can combine spells to make more powerful attacks. I could go on about the game’s story, about how emotional it is experiencing your character’s struggle to overcome the miasma and restore peace to the world, and how great it is to experience that with friends. I could go on about the experienced story, the story outside the game, that which you yourself experience with friends as you play.

Could it be the sacred wind
It’s calling me to now begin
To walk into the dark carrying the light of tomorrow

I was talking with my mom today, mentioning that I’d just obtained my own copy of FFCC. She also started remembering the game, and went on about how much she loved everything about it, and wishes she could play it again.

“Cast a spell for me when you play tonight,” she said when I told her I’d be playing it tonight. I really miss those times. I wish we could play the game together again.

Beating are the wings up high
Beyond the earth, beyond the sky
Come now, don’t hesitate
Don’t look back, we’ve got to go now

Don’t fear
You’ll be safe from now on
Morning sky watching over the world

Radio and Scanner Stuff

Uniden recently announced their newest scanner, the Bearcat SDS100. Beyond having a colorful display, it also introduces I/Q software defined radio to the scanner market. The form factor builds off the BCD436HP. However, it’s expected to run around $699 and includes firmware updates, but those cost extra. I’ll stay with what I have right now.

What am I using right now, though? I’ve settled on several radios and scanners for primary use. My main scanner is still the BCD536HP. For both digital trunking and analog signals, it works great. Lately, though, the record feature has been failing, as it decides on its own that it doesn’t want to record anymore. It’s not a problem with storage capacity, as there’s plenty of room left on the micro-SD card it’s using, so I don’t know. I also occasionally run my Radio Shack Pro-135, an older scanner that, as such, only does analog signals. What I like about it, though, is that there’s no boot-up time to using it, and it is easy to program. With my Radio Shack Pro-651 (a Whistler rebranded model, by the way), I have to wait a bit from switching it on to it actually scanning. I remember the BC125AT having a similar issue (I don’t currently have access to that scanner. I really wish I did, though, as that is a great scanner as far as analog-only units go). I sometimes have both the BCD536HP and the Pro-135 running in case one happens to miss something while locked on one signal.

I also have a Bearcat 980SSB, but I don’t really use it that often. Actually, it didn’t come with a “proper” power adapter (it’s designed right out of the box to be used in a vehicle, in place of a car stereo, so I had to order a power adapter unit to use it inside. It works, though). It’s a great CB radio, especially since it has single sideband capability. There is a good bit of CB traffic from truckers in this area, especially early in the mornings and in the evenings. If you’re still interested in CB radio, it’s a great unit.

For radios, I’ve got two that I mainly use. The first is the Tecsun PL-880. I got this a couple years ago as a replacement for my PL-660, and I love it. It has great reception quality on the shortwave band, and even on the AM. I sometimes scan the shortwave bands late at night, and can pull in a lot of stuff. I also use it as an alarm clock, set to go off each morning at 7am and to switch back off at 7:55. One thing I like about how it switches back off is that it fades to silence instead of just switching off suddenly, which is what my CC Radio SW does. C. Crane radios excel at audio quality. The SW Radio has knobs for treble, bass, and AM RF gain controls. It also has a large dial for scanning the dials, but the dial on mine has been bent a bit and doesn’t scan smoothly. Aside from occasional shortwave dialing, I often use this as a midnight-hour radio, with an alarm set for it to switch on and play radio for exactly one hour. It’s nice to fall asleep to.

That about does it for radio and scanner and scanner stuff for now. With any luck I’ll head out to a clear field south of town this Tuesday and take along my PL880 to do some shortwave listening. Last time I did that I picked up a couple of hams talking to each other, one based in east-coast NC and the other in northern Virginia.

The X-Files Are Closed

It’s now been almost a month since the latest (and probably last) season of The X-Files ended. I’ve had a month to think over and reflect on the latest season, what it means to the overall legacy of the show, and whether or not I even want another season (if it ever even happens, of which I’m doubtful).

Anyway, The X-Files returned a couple years ago with a six-episode run. The show had been off the air since May of 2002, with a single movie released in 2008 (a movie I’ve not seen, but have not heard good things about). Season 10 had only one good episode, and that was written by Darin Morgan, who wrote or co-wrote some classic X-Files episodes (including “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space“. (For those keeping track, I’m speaking of the episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”. That episode was great.)

Season 10 began and ended with two atrocious episodes (“My Struggle” and “My Struggle II”), both written solely by series creator Chris Carter. The episodes continued the series’ core mythos arc, but 14 years later, was anyone still remembering where the show left off after those last several seasons? These two episodes are examples of what not to do with a show. There was excessive meddling with the mythos arc, taking it in crazy new directions that made no sense, and repeatedly changing direction. The editing and pacing was way too fast paced and hectic. There was also plenty of misogynism. The episodes made me no longer care about the mythos arc.

Season 11 had 10 episodes. It also began and ended with Carter-penned “My Struggle” episodes, the creatively-titled “My Struggle III” and “My Struggle IV”. The first episode again changed direction with the mythos arc but I’d given up caring. Apparently season 10 was just a vision Scully had or something like that, it doesn’t really matter. Carter had some original idea way back when, but his writing has gone insane.

Episode 11.02 carried on the story of the Lone Gunmen. I remember, in the months leading up to season 10, reading the comic book continuation of the show, the I guess officially unofficial season 10 (muddled a bit because the comic books had support from Chris Carter). One element of the comic books was that the Lone Gunmen, all three, were still alive and were now working for the government in a base hidden underneath Arlington Cemetery. Of course, the Lone Gunmen died in the original X-Files, so having them return would ruin that episode. Season 10 had a cameo by the Gunmen (or at least from Langly) in a sequence that probably didn’t really happen. There’s a scene in this episode (called “This”, by the way) where Mulder and Scully are tracking clues from Langly that lead them to Arlington Cemetery, to a specific tombstone. My first thought was that Carter was actually following the story of the comics and would bring back the Gunmen. However, that wasn’t the case. This episode shut the book on whether the Gunmen were still alive. They are all dead. They’re not returning. Glad that at least Langly had a final episode, though.

Next memorable episode is 11.04, “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat”. I remember the promos playing this up as a humorous episode, which it was. This was a great episode. Introducing a character who has supposedly been part of the main character cast all along but we just have never seen him (or we remember a false history), this episode plays a lot with the Mandela Effect (or the Mengele Effect, as our mystery character, Reg, puts it). There’s a lot of playing around with false memories, and a lot of hilarious scenes. Stuart Margolin is great as Dr. They, in some well acted and well shot scenes with Duchovny. This is a great parody of the show itself, and the scene at the end with Skinner is just great. Already this season is better than season 10.

11.05 is one of those Major Episodes, finally introducing us to William. He turns out to have a superpower of manipulating how people see him, because of course he does. Best thing I can say about this episode is that at least it wasn’t written by Carter (it was written by James Wong, who wrote/co-wrote such classics as “Squeeze”, “Tooms”, “Home”, and “The Field Where I Died”). Of course the episode ends with Mulder and Scully just missing William, encountering him without knowing they encountered him, and William runs away. We’ve still got four more episodes followed by one more mythos episode.

11.06 is probably going to go down as the best episode of this season. It’s a Skinner-focused episode (I think only the second episode to be such). Mitch Pileggi is fantastic in this episode, and it’s great that he gets an entire episode about his character. Anything more I say will ruin the surprises of this episode. Give it a watch, I think you’ll enjoy it.

11.07 is a letdown, overall. It has some great ideas. Doing an episode with minimal dialog is a great approach, and is done well here. That it all leads up to a pretty bad joke is a disappointment. It has some great moments, such as Mulder wondering why Scully has a better house than him. There’s a great underlying message about how we, as a society, have become so focused on our phones, though.

11.08 is a classic in the creepy ghost and supernatural vein. There are so many different styles of a classic X-Files episode, ranging from UFOs/aliens to monsters to ghosts to the unexplained. This is the creepy ghost variety.

11.09 is pretty forgettable, but it was in the classic vein of those episodes that are just really morbid and grotesque.

And that brings us to the finale, 11.10, “My Struggle IV”. If you go into something expecting to be disappointed, you’re rarely surprised. This is Carter’s finale to the series. I’m wondering if he wrote this expecting to do another series or not. Gillian Anderson has said in recent interviews that she’s done playing Scully, so that puts to rest any real possibility of a new season. (Also, Skinner is apparently killed in this episode, so that’s a disappointment) Mulder and Scully both finally and officially meet William and he’s supposedly killed but the final shot of the episode proves that he is in fact still alive (does that surprise anyone?). Cigarette-Smoking Man is also shot and falls into a river but does anyone expect that to really be his end? The guy survived missiles launched from helicopters to the face. This isn’t gonna hurt him. Frantic pacing and editing plague this episode. Also, Carter has an obsession with car chases. Seriously. Also, Scully is pregnant again.

And that ends The X-Files. Season 11 had some great episodes, among the series’ best, but the mythos is such a mess that I don’t see how anyone can care anymore. It’s sad that the series ended on such a bad note, but at least “My Struggle IV” offered some sort of closure, unlike “My Struggle II”. The let-down of that is enough to make me rather the series had not come back, but I’m glad that this last season gave us some new classic episodes. It was like reuniting with an old friend and realizing you’ve both gone separate ways enough that a brief meeting is enough. Society has changed. The world is different. The X-Files belongs to a different, past era. Let’s close the book and move on.