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After much delay, I finally started playing NiGHTS into dreams… HD. I’ve never played too many games on my PC just because I didn’t even have a proper controller for a lot of the genres I normally play otherwise, but I decided to just go, “To hell with it” and purchase an X-Box 360 controller. I know I was hankering for some retro gaming when I decided to buy it in euros even though it’d cost me a little extra.

I’m not really going to review NiGHTS here just because the game has such a powerful reputation, a cult classic that all Sega Saturn owners either remember fondly or always pined after. It is indeed an exquisite game, especially in its visual presentation and its smooth controls, but what I’ve found upon returning to my old favorite is that the game occupies this strange space for me where it is both somehow therapeutic while at the same time motivating and challenging.

Actually, I will say one thing about the game: it doesn’t control quite like the original Sega Saturn NiGHTS, and while the difference isn’t huge, it’s still noticeable for someone like me who poured hours and hours and hours into the old one. Playing widescreen can also throw off my sense of timing because the camera changes at ever-so-slightly different points.

I’ve written previously about how a current hobby of mine, Japanese mahjong, is a combination of luck and deception, and is thus enormously nerve-wracking. NiGHTS isn’t this, but it also doesn’t feel “casual” or “mindless.” Rather, it’s a game with a simple, clear-cut goal (get the highest score while beating each stage and boss), but I always feel like the game is only as intense as I want it to be. Unlike another perennial favorite of mine, Pokemon, it also isn’t hampered by the permanence of decisions (can’t use your single-player team because it wasn’t EV-trained properly!!!) If I want to just enjoy the bright colors and scenery, I can. If I want to push myself to get as close to perfect as possible, I can. If I just want to fight the bosses over and over again (and I do love doing that), I actually can now, thanks to NiGHTS HD. I can kill Gulpo in 10 seconds.

That reminds me that, even back then, my biggest complaint about the game is that the bosses are simply too easy regardless of whether you’ve played the game a ton or not. It’s the one thing that I think the sequel, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, improved upon tremendously (except for that stupid and frustrating fight against Bomamba).

Today marks the 5-Year Anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. That’s quite a big milestone I think, especially when I consider that it’s probably the longest I’ve ever actively stuck to something, but because I actually reflect on where I’ve been as a blogger and where I might go every year, I find myself not knowing really what to say that I haven’t said before. So, I’ve decided that maybe rather than just reminiscing on being a blogger, I would kind of talk about my pre-history of blogging, pretty much how I came to be active in communicating on the internet with fans and such, and how I strongly believe those experiences shaped much of how I write and approach anime. I’ve talked about some of these things in part before, so those who’ve been reading a while may see some familiar things, but I hope you’ll be entertained anyway.

My very first experience with online fando came shortly after purchasing my video game ever: NiGHTS into dreams…. I remember saying to myself at the time, “I must be the only NiGHTS fan out there!” based on how none of my friends even mentioned it, so I was pleasantly shocked to find out that there were communities dedicated to the game, even sites where people wrote fanfiction based on the universe. And so I hung on those early messageboards, things that didn’t even have the luxury of sub-boards and convenient categorizations, and it’s where I first learned about what it means to communicate online. I made a lot of friends then, both older and younger than me, and while I don’t really talk to them anymore I do cherish those times. Amidst the webrings and such I learned how big the world is. I was actually amazed that I could communicate with people from the UK!

My next big steps in terms of internet community went hand in hand: anime and Pokemon. With anime, I of course visited the Anime Web Turnpike and tried to read through every single site with the naive notion that if I did I could learn about every anime in existence. I mean, how many could there be? Though that was a fool’s errand, my pursuit of knowledge of anime is still of a similar sort, which I think shows in my writing. With Pokemon too, I can draw a clear line to where I am today as a blogger, firstly because discussions of the anime back when it first came out were filled with everyone’s wild hopes and speculations and theories, but secondly because a lot of my Pokemon community experience was on the competitive side.

There were the war stories,” entertaining recaps of Pokemon battles you’d had both online and off, where you had to take a rather dry text log consisting of “Pokemon used Attack! It’s Super Effective!” and spice it up into something more engaging. And then there were the strategy discussions, where we rated each others’ teams and discussed the pros and cons of various strategies. By engaging in those discussions, I think I laid some of the early groundwork for some of my more argument-oriented posts today. Obviously I was less experienced then in terms of conveying my ideas, but I remember wanting to present my ideas not only intelligently but also in an entertaining and accessible manner.

The amount of forums I interacted on grew and shrunk depending on various circumstances, but that idea of writing for fellow forum readers stuck with me throughout. It’s the reason I cannot truly accept the idea that the internet fosters idiocy in its communities: I know in my heart that my writing style was forged on internet forums, and I strongly believe that I benefited immensely from these interactions, and not only because it influenced the way I write.

So that’s “Early, Early Pre-Ogiue Maniax.” What you see from me in all of my posts on Ogiue Maniax comes from years of getting into spirited but (hopefully) good-natured arguments with people on a variety of nerdish topics. In fact, the reason why I ended up wanting a blog (and started participating less on other sites) was that I would frequently write forum responses which I felt argued really good points about a certain topic, but it would forever be confined to just that small community. I wanted to write about ideas and thoughts I had on my own terms.

Actually, in writing this mainly internet-oriented summary, I realize that I’m leaving out all of the real life development I had at the time as well. Around the same time, I discovered friends in school who had as much if not more interest in games and anime as I did, and I think the combination of both friends who understood me well (and are still friends with me today) as well as enriching internet communication actually worked together to help instill in me some confidence as to who I am and what I love. Still, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I would truly have faith in my abilities, and though they weren’t around all the way back then, I still feel a need to thank those who support me today.

If you ask me what my favorite video game ever is, my answer is unwavering and undeniable: NiGHTS into dreams… An absolute classic of the Sega Saturn, I poured countless hours into the game just enjoying everything, from the environments to the clever boss fights, from the excellent music to the crisp and ultra-smooth gameplay. No game that I’ve played, including its Wii sequel, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, has quite captured the movement of acrobatic flight that the original endowed upon players. I can wax nostalgic on this game until the end of the time, but I’ll cut it short by just saying that no game feels quite like it.

Now, NiGHTS is getting a downloadable HD remix. When I first saw the character models used for the kids, I immediately thought of the old blockier gameplay models. I have to wonder if they somehow took the models from the old cut scenes and used those instead, or if they’re built from scratch.

Are you part of the new generation that’s never seen a Saturn? Are you part of the old generation but just never got a chance to play it because you chose the Playstation over the Saturn (like most people ended up doing?) I think it is only in your favor to try it out. And if the HD version is somehow messed up, the game actually includes the original Saturn version as well, so no worries there.

Actually, one thing I am concerned with is the controllers themselves, as while playing the Wii NiGHTS I found the octagonal gate of the Nintendo analog sticks to compromise the smoothness of the flight needed to play a NiGHTS game properly, and it is probably because of the controller that it could not capture that feeling of acrobatic flight I mentioned at the beginning. The Saturn 3D controller’s analog control was so incredibly smooth and nice to use (though the controller itself was kind of clunky) that it makes every analog stick or equivalent since then pale in comparison.

I will have faith that the current consoles will be able to deal with it adequately for now, though I am concerned with the Windows edition. Does anyone know of a Saturn-to-USB converter for controllers?

Yesterday, October 26, 2009, was the day Geocities died.

Now some might call the Geocities we saw hobbling about with an IV attached to its arm not the “true” Geocities. It had, after all, been acquired by Yahoo back around 2000, and gradually lost a lot of what made Geocities so appealing in the mid to late 90s amidst both infrastructure modifications and the evolution of online trends. However, I think that deep within that mass of tubes and cybernetic implants there beat the heart of that noble site which once told anime fans that the best place to put a website was in a Pagoda in Tokyo. And even if that weren’t the case, we still have some evidence (thanks to archive.org) that it existed, and that it gave you 20mb of free space. Do you know big that is? It”s like four to six mp3s!

I’d previously talked about Geocities and how despite never having a Geocities site myself, it was an important part of my youth and my fandom. So many people I met online had Geocities sites, or Fortune City, or Angelfire. Memories of my favorite vido game, NiGHTS into dreams, are tied inexorably to my time on these sites. More broadly though, it represented that era when kids of all ages realized that yes, they could have their own website. On the internet. For free. Gradually, that thrill turned to finding out that yes, even you could implement a scrolling marquee and javascript pop-ups. The most important thing though was that it was yours.

I know some people are ashamed of their old Geocities sites, and I think that’s kind of silly. Sure, the sites might not live up to our current understanding of accessible web design, but they’re so representative of their era that to be relieved that they’re gone is to be relieved that a piece of history has been erased, both greater and personal. After all, that was who you were back in 1997, and you should be proud of that.

I recently listened to the Ninja Consultant podcast concerning the sexualization that occurs among fangirls, and the fact that this has become more prominent in recent times, with not only yaoi becoming a common sight at conventions but also modern works such as Dr. Who and Avatar: The Last Airbender being consciously aware of this fanbase. The topic of fanfiction comes up in the discussion, which is to be expected given that fanfiction and fangirls practically go hand in hand, but it reminded me of the fact that at the beginning of my own internet-based fandom I too was into fanfiction.

When I first began using the internet, my first fandom was a NiGHTS into dreams fanfiction site. I loved the Sega Saturn game to death (and still do), and I sought out other fans of NiGHTS. It was there that I found a site called “Nightopia on the Net” which would later change its name a few more times. It was here that I not only discovered other people with a passion for NiGHTS, but also stories that expanded upon the few plot details we were given as players of the game into a rich and vibrant (at least in my young eyes) universe. I’ve never read the Star Wars Extended Universe books, but I suspect the feeling was similar to anyone who is a fan of those, a feeling that the world given to us in these initial stories is so vast and unexplored that one can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

At some point, a few years down the line, I read fanfiction less and less. By this point I had been checking out fanfiction from various sources based on all sorts of series and would even actively seek out more unusual titles and concepts. Something in me began to sour, and I could no longer take fanfiction until I almost stopped reading it entirely. Back then, my reasoning was that I disliked the stories being produced for my fandoms, feeling that more than any sort of technical errors the problem was that the writers did not understand the characters. The characters’ actual personalities as displayed in their respective shows were nothing like the personalities displayed in fanfiction, and I asked (no one), “What’s the point of using these characters if you’re not going to actually use them?”

As mentioned in the Ninja Consultant discussion, it seems as if some works these days are simply there as fan fodder. Characters are given basic traits which appeal to the “shipping” side of fandom, and fans are free to ignore or cultivate any “evidence” as to whether or not their “One True Pair” could thrive. Setting aside any original creators’ desires to actively engage this line of thought, by all rights these are the people who are responsible for me leaving fanfiction in the first place.

But really was I, and am I, all that different?

Why do people enjoy pairing unreasonable characters together? To put it simply, it’s because they find the pairing to be hot. No big mysteries there. It’s what makes the Zutara pairing in Avatar so popular: a conflict of emotions, the fire/water dynamic, the idea that “if only they would get together, they would be great.” Of course, the conflict comes from actually getting them together.

Is there something wrong with this? Wanting to dive deeper into a world, to prove through fanfiction that there is so much more to a story, one can say that trying to find deeper subtext in the relationships presented is its own form of exploration. Hell, I can somewhat relate to making unreasonable pairings. I have a rather straight-laced friend who I would like to see date girls that would be all over him 24/7. Why? Because it would entertain me to no end.

Perhaps there is a threshold, and it is crossed when fans begin to believe that their opinions constitute the truth about a work, or even what should be true. This isn’t about creator’s vision vs spectator’s vision or anything of that sort, but rather to what extent people and groups begin to believe their own hype. Other than that, I think people are free to believe in whatever they want.

Even then, such a statement borders on the idea that there’s such a thing as a “right” fan and a “wrong” fan, and really, even if I find certain fans or their reasoning distasteful, I am just one person and I am not a judge of fanfiction. More importantly, I am not a judge of the heart.

After all, as Sasahara once said to Ogiue, no one can stop you from liking something.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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