16 of the Proest Game Distractions (2013)
Adj. pro: Of the highest or finest quality; exceptionally good of its kind. (pro-er, pro-est)
To be honest, I don’t tend to complete many games. I did back in the day – when I could, because I was surrounded by either shitty games or impossible games, and even my 4-year-old self got tired of that shit. But these days, when have tended to be easier than ever, I’m far more likely to play either 20 minutes of a game and then put something else on while dismissing the first one, or else play the first half of the game, download the soundtrack, look at Wikipedia or a dedicated Wikia for the plot and character details and then YouTube the ending. Isn’t that terrible?
But just because you don’t wind up beating the game, it doesn’t mean your money has been wasted. Far from it! Here, we look at what most normal people would call “mini-games” or “alternate game modes” but what I, being a bit differently-abled, like to call “distractions”. It’s a fine thing for games to have lots of different playing modes and side-games, so long as they don’t get in the way of the overall, you know, game. Indeed, I sort of look upon games that don’t have any such mini-games (sorry, “distractions”) as being like deprived children with no cool Christmas presents to show off to me. What the fuck do I care that you have nice hair or a wonderful voice, dull child, when you didn’t even get a go-kart this year for me to mess around in? Below are 16 of the finest distractions that gaming has to offer, 16 different timesinks that boast enough depth or playability to make up the value of the game’s price alone. As usual, I try to pick only one game from any particular series. But, as is also usual, I tend to end up breaking that one rule. Please do enjoy, and these are in no real order ‘cept the very last one.
16. Mercenaries Mode – Resident Evil 4
Conscious of the fact that I’ve never set foot on a battlefield in my pampered life, I’d still point out that a bow and arrow is a fucking stupid thing to bring to a zombie Ganado fight – even one with a LAM. But don’t tell Rambo I said that
First of all, a confession: no, I haven’t beaten all stages with all characters with five stars. That’s just fucking impossible, I swear to you. I think I might have managed it with Krauser and Wesker, because of the former’s arm and the latter’s punch and magnum. But Leon, Ada and this strange HUNK fella? Forget it. You might as well be fisting yourself. Just turn the console off and have an angerwank instead – you’ll feel the same fury in the slow build-up and at least you know it’ll eventually all pay off. With Leon’s piddly shotgun and pistol, you might just as well be warding off the double-chainsaw wielding Super Salvador with toothpicks and a bag of frozen peas.
With all that unpleasantness out of the way, it’s time to give some credit to Resident Evil 4’s addictive Mercenaries Mode. The one player game gave me a big surprise: I’d bought the game based on a whim and the throwaway compliments of a few people. What I played was a revelation, undoubtedly one of the finest games of the… fifth generation of video gaming? Sixth? So the Mercenaries Mode was a nice bonus after a great game had concluded: choose an area and kill as many Ganado mooks in the allotted time as possible. Each character plays a little differently and they all come equipped with their own unique weaponry – good if you’re Krauser with a cool and unique bow and arrow, very bad if you’re bland Leon with the vanilla shotgun (oo-er) or HUNK with the jelly-firing TMP and a horribly imprecise neck-breaker move. But it’s still boss to build up lots of time and get a massive chain combo going with Wesker or Krauser. Condescending fact of the day: ‘ganados’ is Spanish for ‘livestock’ or ‘cattle’.
15. Fly Swatter/Composer – Mario Paint
Yeah… if you see this thing in your room, try not to go after it with a pissy little plastic swatter
I’d know how to read music if it was all Mushrooms, Planes and Fire Flowers…!
Actually, we have a dead heat here. Since even Nintendo realised that they couldn’t just sell a rudimentary MS Paint clone bundled with a peripheral that wasn’t going receive a jot of support, they wisely decided to throw in all sorts of goodies and mini-games to aid the painting malarkey. I always loved the Colouring Book, since I was a very easily entertained child. And making frames and animating them is fun… when your creations don’t look like utter clag. But there’s two sideshows that demand attention over all else: the Fly Swatter mini-game, and the Composer. The Fly Swatter game is a simple enough affair: move the Mouse over the flies as they come onscreen, and swat the busy cunts sharpish. There’s several stages and varieties of flies, with some of the fuckers able to hit you back with their own form of poisonous gas (farts basically, but let’s not be juvenile). I know of people who bought Mario Paint for that game alone – someone in the PC game design business lost out on a killing!
The Composer mode is more notable these days for being its own computer program, with all sorts of brilliant user-created songs and renditions available to flick through on YouTube like a strange sort of e-record shop where songs are created with the video game equivalent of the Nokia 3310 composer. The only drawbacks in the SNES version of the Composer are that you can’t save many of your creations, and you can’t make them very long. So perhaps the Fly Swatter does edge this bout… but you can’t make a rendition of Rise of the Valkyries using Marios and Cats in that, can you?
14. 1-Up Mushroom Dodging – Super Mario 64
You sure this is the right time to grandstand, Mario?
Popularised by a couple of Japanese lads making a YouTube video where they play this and laugh like crazy when they lose – at least, that’s where I was first turned on to the game. Is there a nicer sound in the world than a few Japanese lads laughing like crazy? Christ, I wish I could be as happy as those fellas, I still wanna be Lord Gloom when I grow up. The premise: 1-Up Mushrooms are always appearing out of nowhere in Super Mario 64, but certain 1-Up Mushrooms chase Mario faster than that fat fucker who lives across from me chases the ice cream van – and he is FAT.
The challenge is to get away from this crazy homing 1-Up Mushroom for as long as you can, using any technique you can, with one of the most popular challenges being to get all 8 Red Coins in the level. The most suitable place to do the challenge is the fourth Course, Cool Cool Mountain. With the 8 Red Coins found up and down the mountain, and with falling to your doom another distinct possibility AND with the 1-Up Mushroom channeling the robotic spirit of the T-1000, you can seriously spend hours on this tense exercise. What you really need for this game to work is a pal alongside you, taking up the mantle of a rally co-driver/navigator – bonus points if he, too, is from glorious Nippon.
13. Blue Sphere – Sonic 3 and Knuckles
BLUE SPHERES IS INNOCENT
Though simple games tend to make the best distractions these days (how many hours have been lost playing Temple Run or New Star Soccer?), that needn’t mean variety ought to be sacrificed. If I told you that the Blue Sphere mode of Sonic & Knuckles boasted 134,217,728 levels, what would you say? Well… to get all of these levels, you’ll need to lock Sonic 1 into the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge, so I guess you could say that Blue Sphere belongs to no game really. It’s taken from the Chaos Emerald hunting bonus stages of both Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles though, the quasi-3D game where Sonic or his buddies run around touching all of the blue spheres – but touch a red sphere once and you fail. You can increase your ring amount as well, for little purpose really, but it’s fun to try and run the perimeter around a cluster of blue spheres and turn them all into rings.
The longer you spend running around, the faster the music gets – and the faster you get as well. OK, so you wouldn’t sit on your ass and play all 134 million levels (a hundred and thirty four million levels for Christ’s sake), even as a kid with limitless patience. But lock Sonic the Hedgehog onto Sonic and Knuckles (using the LOCK-ON(TM) technology!!!) and sit down and play – you’ll be amazed how many levels you get through before you start seeing blue spheres and checkerboard patterns everywhere, like that Tetris effect. Perfect!
12. Poker – Super Mario 64 DS
Long sleeves and gloves? He’s got a fucking hatload of Aces Stars hidden up his arms, make no mistake. CONSTANT VIGILANCE
“But you can play Poker anywhere!” you cry. But can you play against Luigi himself for top Mushroom Kingdom dollar anywhere? I think not. Also available on the New Super Mario Bros. cart, one of the greatest and most unsung features of the Super Mario 64 port that showed us what the DS could do is the multitude of mini games playable completely independently of the main game. Some need unlocking, but available from the outset are the card games against Luigi – in particular, the simplified version of Five Card Draw Poker.
I don’t know what it is about this game that grabs my attention so much, even over the game where you draw platforms under Mario with the stylus, the game where you launch Spinies at Lakitus, the game where you separate different colour Bob-Ombs, or the game where you see if they love you, or if they love you not… you can stake up to 5 coins against Luigi the dealer as you try and shed your goddamn Clouds and Mushrooms in favour of Starmans (Starmen?) and Marios. Games are finished in seconds, and you’ll love to see the numbers go up as you bet high and blow Luigi away. He does his fair share of cheating too, of course, to make sure you don’t get too far ahead. As per usual, I’ve got no proof for this cheating, but the alternative would be to suggest that my Mario Poker skills are inadequate. And you wouldn’t be fucking cheeky enough to suggest that, would you?! I am Captain Maths – I am goddamn Rainman.
11. Fishing Pond – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
“Hey! Control your temper!”
You can’t get much more of a grandiose adventure than that of Ocarina of Time. Alright, the usual Kill Ganon plot was already becoming hackneyed, but seeing almost every part of the future world of Hyrule enveloped in malevolent forces added a terrific sense of urgency to the game: it was simple, but you could see the effect that the victorious villain was having over the world. One part that remained wonderfully unaffected by Ganon’s influence was the Fishing Hole, run by a very itchy, follicly-challenged and excitable owner. For just 20 Rupees, Link can fish for as long as he likes. And since time actually passes in the Fishing Hole at a curiously slow pace, you can actually spend literal days in here. I suppose it’s only common courtesy from the owner, who freely admits that you’re his only customer, and that’s over a 7 year period. He says he’s about to go out of business! Is there a posse of hardnut Hylian debt collectors on his case? Is Ganon or some weapon of a Gerudo plotting to evict the owner?
Anyway, 20 Rupees gives Link unlimited license to reel in the lunkers. It was originally conceived as a simple office distraction by some poor overworked Japanese programmer while they were doing the Water Temple – fuck, wouldn’t you want to be doing anything other than designing that dungeon? Reminds me of lads programming full games onto their calculators during mind-crushing double Maths classes. There’s all kinds of little facets to the Fishing Pond that give it a surprising and wonderful depth: The fish are at their most excitable at the crack of dawn or at the wolfcall of night, and it can rain to make them even more… flirtatious. On that note, it can be a bit teeth-gnashing trying to track down the flighty fish that will land you the Golden Scale – it’s best to remember that these polygonated fish are best treated like attractive women. As an adult, you can find the invisible Sinking Lure in certain parts of the area, so long as Link kind of runs around in the possible locations – it’s weird enough to sound like an internet rumour on an old Geocities site where Ocarina of Time MIDIs automatically start playing, but it’s true.
It probably must be said that the more advanced Fishing Hole of Twilight Princess is a step-up, but fishing was sort of irreparably damaged in that game after the excruciating intro where it became necessary to catch some food for a cat or something. Like most people, I had the Wii version (pity the GameCube one isn’t altogether cheap). I thought my game was faulty, for fuck’s sake, and that was on Christmas morning! With the calm and soothing music of Kakariko Village playing, and against the backdrop of a slowly rising or setting sun, the Ocarina of Time Fishing Pond remains for me the most wonderful place in the series to while whole hours away. But when those treacherous fish start jumping out of the water and making faces at Link… be prepared. And one more thing, there’s no such thing as the Hylian Loach. I don’t care if you can show me pictures or YouTube videos or shit in the game’s coding – the fucker doesn’t exist, and you’d be wise not to look for it.
10. Triple Triad – Final Fantasy VIII
Once you build up a right fucker of a deck, the scrubs of the Triple Triad playing world will be powerless. You can then harvest their best cards and immediately convert them into the FF8 equivalent of performance enhancing drugs
You can forget about the plot in Final Fantasy VIII for a start – it seems to start out well enough, showing Squall’s graduation to a fully fledged SeeD member and his first missions, like the frantic escape from Dollet, the train job with Rinoa’s non-entity crew and the Galbadian Missile Crisis. All too quickly, things turn south, when monsters come from the moon to an invisible city and the love interest gets lost in space but she’s a possessed sorceress but not really a sorceress at all but the real sorceress is attacking from space but not in this time period and and and… Yes, you can disregard all that. And, given that the player can gain a skill early doors that removes all random encounters, the battle system can be completely disregarded as well (having already been broken in half after an hour’s play).
So what’s the point in playing? Why, it’s Triple Triad – a simple card game, popular the world over. Both players take 5 cards each, someone goes first and the players take turns to place cards on a 3×3 grid. Each card has a number on its four cardinal directions, with higher numbers being stronger. If you place a card next to one of your opponent’s and your card’s relevant number is higher than theirs adjacent, you ‘take’ that card and increase your score. Take more cards than your opponent and you win, giving you the pick of your opponent’s cards.
Fortunately, your disgruntled opponent never gets stroppy and threatens to fight you directly rather than give up their MiniMog card – probably just as well for them, since your Squall will have been heavily broken and turned into an absolute über-raper, especially with devastating Limit Breaks on tap. Build up a big collection of cards and you’re basically unstoppable from an early stage (echoing the game’s regular battling, I suppose) but that doesn’t make slaughtering poor players any less fun – sometimes it’s good to be a flat-track bully. Just think of Final Fantasy VIII as a worldwide card-battling game with a few strange plot devices getting in the way and you’ll be alright.
9. Battle Frontier – Pokémon (various)
You’ll soon see what they mean by “Life imitating art”
Okay, so the Battle Frontier areas don’t exactly offer much respite or variety from the bread and butter Trainer battles of the main game of Pokémon, but they help to keep things fresh and interesting once you’ve beaten the Elite Four and Champion. Simply put, Battle Frontiers are areas where all kinds of themed battles take place, each with their own restrictions, found in the series from Pokémon Emerald onwards (a lone Battle Tower also existed in Pokémon Crystal). Examples of battling facilities found on the Battle Frontiers include the Battle Palace, where your Pokémon must fight without your input, and the Battle Factory, where you cast aside your own monsters for Rental Pokémon, like the Stadium games.
The diversity keeps it all exciting, and yous cans wins prizes and points to exchange for great TMs and rare items. Just be aware that the AI shits will savagely cheat to shatter your win record sooner or later – even if you try to get your retaliation in first by Gamesharking your Pokémon. Reckon you’re safe enough with a Spiritomb or Sableye with Wonder Guard Sharked onto it? Prepare to fight against Rampardos, Haxorus and Excadrill with Mold Breaker and Toxic each. And try to stop bouncing your GBA off the wooden floor or snapping your DS Lite in half when each of your three Pokémon get wiped out thrice in a row by Sheer Cold. 30% accuracy? Are you fucking joking me? But then, the ass-pounding frustration is what makes it compelling… or perhaps I’m just a dirty masochist.
8. Death Race – F-Zero X
Although it’s called the DEATH RACE, the other competitors won’t ever go for you – they’re sitting ducks. Which is bad news for the Deep Claw here
Even the fucking name tells you all you need to know. What a step-up F-Zero X was from the SNES original! 30 racers was just a phenomenal leap, and the speed was ramped up as well. But the Death Race invites us to take both of the new features that F-Zero X is most proud of and shit all over them. Wow, 30 racers? Yeah, well you gotta run all the pricks right off the track! Such incredibly high speed! Only needed to catch up to the stragglers and fuck ’em up!
That is the essence of the Death Race: a simple straight-loop course, where the goal is to destroy all other 29 F-Zero machines as quickly as possible. So simple, but like all destruction it’s thrillingly effective, and it only takes a minute or two assuming you don’t foul it up too much. You’ll come back to it again and again in an effort to shave some milliseconds off the time it takes to slaughter all your rivals. I was once immensely proud of my record of 55 seconds with the Astro Robin, but then I gave my file a delete lol. But the Tool Assisted Speedruns of the Death Race are well worth a watch on YouTube.
7. Wooing Trollops – Harvest Moon (various)
Ruh roh! I sense a ‘Mission Abort’ coming up here
Tricking girls into liking, marrying and later being impregnated by your redneck farmer character has always been such an integral part of the Harvest Moon series that it’s easy to forget that it’s nearly always optional. More than anything else, I’d call Harvest Moon a time-management game. You might have infinite days to do your business, but you’ll still have to divide your time well to get your responsibilities done (befriending Harvest Sprites so that they’ll do all your farm work i.e. spamming Sweet Potatoes) before you can go off gallivanting.
Most Harvest Moon games tend to give you at least 5 vastly different females, although A Wonderful Life pissed us off with only 3 (and one of those was on the turn). They tend to fall into convenient and frequently recurring archetypes, including: the blondie with a booze problem (may come from a broken home or have those all important daddy issues); the demure girl with Coke-bottle glasses (may be religious); the short-haired animal lover (kindness and purity personified, probably a mortal sin to take her cherry); Ann (the ginger, always called Ann or Anne, probably the most identifiable girl of Harvest Moon), and many more.
Sometimes it can be easy to woo the ladies, with the lovely Eve from the SNES original being the most convenient to manipulate – the nights never end until you go asleep, so keep taking scabby flowers from the mountains and throwing them at her in the pub. She’ll be ready to marry you after one grindy night! Actually, I should also point out that it’s not just hussies that you can score Affection Points with: more and more, the later games of the series allow you to play as a female, giving you a host of male potential suitors… as well as a Kappa. So far, however, no Harvest Moon allows for same sex marriages. Maybe that’ll change? Until then, pick out a potential bride or groom early doors, look at online guides to learn their entire schedule – where they’ll be every day in the sun as well in as the rain, no matter what the season. Hey, there’s no Facebook in the world of Harvest Moon, so how else will you do your stalking?
6. Anaconda – Timesplitters 2
It’s like you’re playing a Nokia version of Snake… only, that’s not a Nokia version of Snake. Isn’t that weird?
Alright, we all remember Snake, don’t we? I’m sure the game wasn’t actually invented for the old monophonic-toned Nokia phones, but given the incredible popularity it enjoyed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it did. I better say first of all that Timesplitters 2 is a game that I fucking love. The series is boss on the whole as well, with Future Perfect also being strong, although the first isn’t the greatest. Are rumours of a Timesplitters 4 accurate? Each FPS that comes out these days is another nail in gaming’s coffin (obviously!), but I bloody hope the rumours come true.
Anyway, throughout the second game you can find a few minigames that you can interrupt your mission with at any time and begin playing, and the best of these is Anaconda. The game is Snake really, except your snake no longer turns in only right-angles. Instead, your snake turns fluidly, 360 degrees in any direction according to the analogue stick, and you’ll have to make sure you don’t crash into the more curved parts of your snake’s arse. Best of all, it’s multiplayer. Up to 4 players can play! Now there’s an 8-bit orgasm and a half. The snake doesn’t move very quickly, but you know what Snake is like: the difficulty and tensity just creeps up on you, once you’ve gotten past the requisite slow start. Both Snake and Anaconda are just examples of one of those phenomena that are incredibly addictive, but you really don’t know why.
5. Helping out the Militia – Metal Gear Solid 4
FUCK EM UP
When you’re not watching the self-indulgent nanomachine-powered nonsense cuts of a frustrated wannabe film director that typifies Metal Gear Solid 4, you’re running from point A to point B at Otacon’s simpering request, sneaking past the enemy PMCs. And true, you might be a purist and elect to be sneaky. You might even try going in the cardboard box or the new steel drum, although I’ve never once had a bit of luck with that in any of the games – I’d call trying to trick trained soldiers with a fucking bit or corrugated paper “suicidal” against enemies with even the barest of AI. I suppose if you want to be conferred the coveted title of Big Boss, you’ll have to spend about four years of your life sneaking past everyone and not killing a soul – and who wants to do that? So you might as well join the local friendly militia in their fight against the oppressive PMCs in the Middle East and South America.
Arm yourself with the gamebreaking M14 EBR Sniperassaultfucker and pick enemies off from afar as you work out new tactical locations to maximise your camo (fucking hell, I have an erection). Sitting behind a mass of sandbags and nailing enemies from down the street doesn’t seem particularly novel, or riveting even, but you’ll quickly become wrapped up in the camaraderie of your fellow soldiers as you strive to protect them. They may go down faster than Xbox One’s stock after this year’s E3 but you’ll still try your best to protect all your allies, and there’s nothing more satisfying than the cheers and triumphant cries when the plucky militia finally overcome the enemy. It’s almost like you really ARE a grizzled veteran-soldier-who-really-shouldn’t-be-out-on-the-battlefield-anymore suffering from accelerated aging stuck in a game where “nanomachines” take precedence over God!
Blowing away so many enemies may seem callous and against the whole spirit of the game, but it’s either that or see cannon fodder friendlies blown away by superior foes. These days, having the spirit of Liquid Snake admonish you for your massacring is even necessary for a Trophy. After all, Snake has less than a year left, so if he’s gotta go out, why not go out by taking as many of the other fuckers as possible screaming with him?
4. Fishing – Animal Crossing (various)
Haw haw! Yes, yes, rather!
Animal Crossing is… Christ, what is the point of the game? I mean, I lap it up, but if someone put that question to me I’d struggle desperately to come out with something coherent, something that’d actually make you wanna play it. I suppose you could say that a totalitarian raccoon who’ll have the words “Arbeit macht frei” etched on his headstone and who wields the power of the entire world economy coerces you into taking out increasingly steep mortgages for pokey little bug-infested huts. Your character works tirelessly, selling dirt and lint to try and make the necessary Bells, but the racoonazi just wants more and more capital. If that’s the entire point of the game, then what else is there to do to make your hamster wheel existence a little less monotonous? Why, just about anything possible in your wee biosphere of a town – in fact, you might say this whole venture is just one big silly distraction, with lots of mini distractions contained within. The town song creating, the shirt and pattern designing, the NES game playing, the fossil and insect collecting, it’s all really distracting. Even the furniture arrangement and Feng Shui (remember when that was a buzzword? Buzzwordssss?) manipulating is a never-ending source of spergy, obsessive-compulsive amusement.
But the pick of the pastimes once more lies in the fishing. To get a full list (library? …bestiary?) of fish, you’ll need to go fishing for the little bastards all year round – and remember, that’s all in real time. It’s the same with collecting insects, except you’ve got to kind of sneak up on them as they rest on trees and that’s a bit of an effort. For fishing, you’ve just got to cast your line towards the black shape in the drink and press the button only when it definitely bites – fuck up once and that’s it for you, making it a real test of mettle and focus to reel the rare ones in. But the very best bit about it all comes when you’ve landed the fish: accompanied by a delightful little jingle, your character turns to the camera and delivers a joke based on the name of the fish. And better than that, apart from the odd excruciating pun, they’re actually genuinely funny. Carpe diem!
3. Tin Pin Slammer – The World Ends With You
It’s… better than it looks
First, some unreserved praise: The World Ends With You was an absolute gem of a game, especially once it resolved the issue of its protagonist being a pain in the padded ass and once you get past the fact that you can almost see your 15-year-old female ally’s fanny (US readers be wary, that’s the UK version of “fanny”) in all her sprites. How would you explain that one to the authorities? “Sir, is it true that the girl being sexualised in this game you’re playing is only 15?” “Jeez… gotta bounce, yo!”
In brief, the battle system requires your character to wear Pins – simply different items that give you various effects in battle, like healing or multiple hits or the ability to throw shit at enemies etc. But there’s a popular game among the residents of Shibuya known as Tin Pin Slammer, where you take your deck of Pins (a maximum of 6, like a certain other series of games) and try to ram your opponent’s Pins off the board with various moves and weaponry. Truth be told, you won’t be playing much of it throughout the main game. But once you get to “Another Day”, which comprises much of the the post-game content, you’ll be taking on anime stereotypes up and down town, and you can take on friends via wireless DS doo-hickery as well. Each and everyone of the 300+ Pins have their own stats for Tin Pin Slammer purposes… and the music is delightfully chirpy! Slam… On!
2. Paramedic – Grand Theft Auto (various)
“Gawrsh, sure is a lotta blood coming from the doctor-car! A-hyuck!” “This is the LAST time I bring you out in the ambulance, Goofy!”
You don’t always have to be a mad, bad motherfucker when it comes to GTA. After all, I’m surely not the only one to make a sport out of trying to drive properly and obeying the rules of the road every so often, instead of mowing down pedestrians and coppers. Right? …Right? Well, if you’re a freak like me, you’ll already be a great fit for the Paramedic missions available in most of the later Grand Theft Auto games. It’s real simple – grab yourself an Ambulance and then give something back to the community you’ve metaphorically raped by going to pick up patients.
Seems handy, but when the little bastards are in the back of your vehicle you’ve got to be careful not to bump them about too often, or the ungrateful sods’ll go and die on you. You’d be surprised how guilty this makes one feel, this being a game where soliciting a brasser and shooting her to reclaim your money is up there with making a Hitler Mii when it comes to rituals of breaking a game in. Just watch out for coppers, since you’re not immune from the law even while undertaking this wonderfully charitable work. Also, take the doors off the ambulance if you can – saves time on fuckers getting in! Hey, it beats the bloody flying school, plus you can get extra health for doing it. Everyone’s a winner! Except, you know, the battered, bruised, bloody and mangled no-marks you’ve got to bring in… but that’s the doctor’s problem.
1. Chao Garden – Sonic Adventure 2
It’s like when a load of school students are fucking around, not knowing that the teacher’s appeared behind them looking mighty pissed off
Here it is, the pinnacle of divertion. Is divertion not a word? Should I not just use diversion, you say? I’ll use whatever the fuck I want, pal. The main game of Sonic Adventure 2 is strong enough already, but there’s times when I think that, if collecting Chao Drives and Animals were possible in some other way, the main game would see a lot less playtime from me. Know what I mean? Alright, some explanation: in the overall mediocre world of 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games, there exist cute little creatures with teardrop heids known as Chao. Chao is the singular and the plural form, immediately calling Pokémon to mind (do not get this one wrong, desperately furry-loving Sonic fanboys will eat you as a side-order). And it’s pronounced ‘chow’, as in ‘chow-derrrr’ and not ‘chow-dah’. Actually, Chao were present in Sonic Adventure 1 as well, but it was in the sequel where the Chao Garden concept really came to the fore.
You can enter the Chao Garden for the first time by finding the Garden key in any one of the 1P stages. At the end of that stage, your character (3 from the Hero side in Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, 3 from the Dark side in Shadow, Dr. Eggman Robotnik and Rouge the Bat) travels to the first Chao Garden, which is neutrally aligned. There, they will initially find two eggs. Once they’re hatched (you can wait it out, pick it up and rock it gently or blast it at the rocky wall at maximum velocity), you have your first two Chao! Head on down to the Chao Kindergarten and name them, enrol them in school to teach them how to sing tunelessly, or buy new eggs to raise your number of Chao soldiers. When shown affection by the Hero characters, Chao will turn white and gain affinity for the Hero line, with Dark characters turning their Chao black after repeated petting and feeding. Your Chao goes through two evolutions (one Pokémon-esque sudden transformation, the other much more gradual and subtle) as they become locked into their status as a Hero/Dark Chao, or even Neutrally aligned Chao. Evolving Chao into either opposite alignment unlocks a new Garden specifically for them, too!
Each Chao can level up in five stats: Power, Fly, Run, Swim and Stamina (plus Luck and Intelligence). You can level up your Chao’s stats by feeding them Animals (which also changes their appearance) and Chao Drives which focuses more on one stat only. You’ll want to make use of the infinite Chao Drive trick here to save yourself some time – after all, even the cute Chao end up dead eventually! Yes, even these deliciously cute creatures have to become wormfood eventually. But if you didn’t treat the Chao like total dogshit throughout its life, it’ll be reincarnated as an egg of itself… spooky!
The reason why you’d even want to level their stats up in the first place (all the way to Level 99) is so that your Chao will become a contender in the Chao Races and Chao Karate tournaments. It also helps towards getting about a dozen or so emblems in the game, important for some (glad I ain’t one of them there completionists). Overall, I’d have to give the Chao Garden 94 Chili Dogs out of a possible 100. But the enduring question is, where the fuck is the Chao Garden now? I’d say easily a million people plus would lap that shit up, even as a standalone game with unchanged graphics and only a token few new features. But have SEGA ever been known for sensible decisions?