This month, as ever, Later Levels has an awesome star blogger in the spotlight to pose a curious quandary to the gaming community. For October we’ve got the brilliant Megan from A Geeky Gal, where she covers the whole gamut of everything geeky. Her anime recommendations are usually on point (see this entry from her 30-day anime challenge, for example); if I had more time to watch anime, I’d probably start with one of the ones on her list!
The question, in fitting with the spooky season, is as follows:
In honour of Halloween, tell me what video game scared you the most. What is it about the elements, environments, music, or characters in the video game that scared you?
I do not really play scary games, because I suck at them. I hate jump scares; I can barely stand to watch horror movies in the cinema, even though I love some of the more subtle aspects of a good horror story. My experience with games that actually set out to frighten is minimal, so I’ll have to look elsewhere.
My first thought was Kingdom Hearts, but I always say Kingdom bloody Hearts so forget that. (As a kid, the very first sequence with its mysterious shadowy enemies, atmospheric darkness against the bright stained-glass floor, and utterly terrifying music building to a climax… yeah, it freaked me out.)
Other things I thought about: the Giygas battle in Earthbound, but I’ve not played the game so never mind; the ReDeads and the weird Link copy things in Ocarina of Time (I think? Could be Majora’s Mask), but I don’t remember them well enough so nah; the Scarecrow scenes in Arkham Asylum – especially the one where he fakes-out that your console/ PC is crashing, which is a proper moment of genuine, media-transcending fear – but I think Ian over at Adventure Rules already said that so eh.
So let’s go with a classic:
Lavender Town in Pokémon Red.
Just… just listen to this music. I couldn’t. I had to turn my Game Boy’s sound down every time I went through Lavender Town. There’s so much dissonance and now, as an adult who understands a bit more about how music works, I find it even more effective.
As a kid, going on this awesome journey felt so empowering… until you come to this place filled with nothing but reminders of mortality. Everyone here has lost something, or is even actively trying to communicate with the dead; nothing’s right in this place. Forget the urban legends and theories about children committing suicide, or Gary being there because you killed one of his ‘mons, just the stuff within the game is creepy enough. The ‘ghost’ in the tower, the one you need the Silph Scope to be able to see, isn’t really some mysterious creature at all but the spirit of a normal Pokémon that just isn’t able to pass on, and that makes it even more affecting.
Not to mention the fact that Cubone, according to some Pokédex entries, wear the skulls of their dead Marowak mothers, which ties its evolutionary family to death even more firmly. Heck, there’s even one which says the stains on the skull it wears are from its tears because it’s crying for the mother it’ll never see again. This particular Marowak’s ghost was killed protecting its baby when Team Rocket tried to harvest Cubone skulls, which is just devastating, and the whole thing is very much more emotionally affecting than most of the rest of the game to that point. (Not that there aren’t other super-creepy things in Pokédex entries. Looking at you, Mimikyu.)
So there you go. My scariest video game moment was being confronted with a depiction of the loss of a parent and the all-consuming fear of death. Well played, Pokémon Red.