The first thing you’re likely to notice about Socket’s title screen is probably going to be the background. A mosaic of warped clocks Salvador Dali style, it’s clear that the artists are communicating a basic time travel motif. However, anything beyond this fact refuses to make itself known. We can’t know how time travel will inform the game to follow because those facts aren’t apparent and the game refuses to offer any kind of explanation. Instead, it continues bombarding us with symbols that refuse to connect: a duck, an electrical outlet, the title itself (Time Dominator 1st in Japan), etc. What we end up with is a chaotic soup of imagery, one that disorients us and frustrates any attempt to make sense of all this noise.
Taking a casual glance at the media landscape, it’s clear that remixing plays a significant role in modern culture. A lot of entertainment today either remixes earlier pieces of pop culture, like vaporwave or YouTube Poops, or presents itself as material for the audience to remix at their leisure, like anime. Even the way we communicate online directly lifts from the media we consume to give it new meaning, whether that’s through GIFs, reaction videos, or anything in between.
However, if these examples are anything to go by, remixing (or at least its prevalence) is a rather new phenomenon, historically speaking. True, mass media has inundated daily life since at least the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until the advent of the computer in the 1990s that the average person had the tools they’d need to create remixes of their own. Obviously, it wouldn’t be until some time after this that remixing would become what it is today. So how is it a game like Silpheed feels right at home alongside modern remixes even though it has nothing to do with them? Despite coming out in 1993, just as the building blocks for modern remix culture were being put in place, Silpheed somehow manages to prefigure where that culture would go completely by accident.
As far as shooters go Accele Brid is about as average as they come. Were you to judge the game on its mechanical composition, you’d probably liken it to a hit song: predictable, straightforward, noticeably engineered, not particularly impressive or ambitious, but at the very least competent enough to hold your attention for a short bit. Yet games are more than just the rules they make you follow. Even in games that seemingly center around the activities you’re asked to perform (a lot of action games and some RPGs fall under this banner), other factors like theme and aesthetic are there dictating what relationship you have with the game and whatever actions/mindsets emerge as a result of that relationship. In cases like Accele Brid, for example, that relationship can come to define your entire experience with the game. Its novel use of dynamic pseudo-3D backdrops is the source of its greatest ambitions and its greatest follies.
Video games could use more smaller experience. I don’t mean that they need shorter games, although that wouldn’t hurt. And I don’t mean that they need more indie developers working on smaller projects; that scene is handling itself fine as it is. Rather, I wouldn’t mind seeing more games that concentrate on the minutiae of ordinary life. There’s value to be had in that. There are stories worth telling, and ideas worth exploring that games with a larger scope might not be able to handle.
These are the thoughts that come to mind as I write about Ihatovo Monogatari, the obscure SNES retelling of Kenji Miyazawa’s stories. (Miyazawa himself even makes a guest appearance toward the end of the game.) Ihatovo is by no means a big game. It’s basically nine loosely collected tales joined together by the hero’s search to complete a set of seven notebooks. Yet this loose set-up is precisely what allows the game to work its magic. Ihatovo hones in on the warm and sentimental feeling of life in a tightly knight community. Every fiber of its being is focused on drawing you into that community, explaining why it’s able to do so so well.