Over 8 million people purchased Halo 3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sold a whopping 12 million. And Nintendo can’t defecate out Pokémon and “Wii Insert Random Thing To Do Here” games fast enough to completely satisfy the masses. But with all these amazing successes, there have been numerous games and even complete series that have fallen to the wayside. Remember: for every Super Mario Bros., there’s a Shutokou Battle 2: Drift King Keichii Tsuchiya & Masaaki Bandoh. As a proud gamer, I feel that it is my privilege—nay, my duty—to take some time and offer a brief glimpse at many of the games that disappeared into bargain bins and trash bins alike due to overshadowing from more prominent titles, as well as titles that will forever remain sequestered within one region of the world. You’d better be prepared to be educated a little, because there is much that you haven’t seen.
February 2012: Portal
Welcome back to “Gamera Obscura,” the monthly column that teaches you all about games that were either never released outside of their native countries, or were masked by the annuls of time.
YEAH, THAT’S WHY I’M HERE: TO BE EDUCATED. I SURE DON’T SHOW UP FOR THE FREE FOOD.
Hey, I put out that spinach dip and pumpernickel loaf especially for you, Ominous Voice.
WHOA! DID YOU SAY PUMPERNICKEL LOAF? DAMN, GIRL, THAT’S PRETTY SWEET!
I’m not a girl, but you’re welcome for the pumpernickel. Now, on to more important matters, such as this month’s obscure game.
YOU GO RIGHT ON AHEAD. I’M JUST GOING TO EAT UNTIL I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS! CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP…
This month’s game is Portal.
*SPITS OUT ALL FOOD PARTICLES* WHAT DID YOU SAY?!
I’m covered in moistened bread.
YEAH, YEAH, YOU CAN CLEAN THAT. DID YOU SERIOUSLY SAY THAT PORTAL IS THIS MONTH’S GAME?
I absolutely did. …ugh, this food particle on my neck isn’t even something I served you today.
NOW LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING! PORTAL HARDLY QUALIFIES AS AN OBSCURE GAME. I THINK THERE ARE ONLY THREE HUMANS WHO DON’T KNOW WHAT PORTAL IS, AND I SINCERELY DOUBT THEY VISIT THIS SITE!
Why are you getting so irate? …Ah! I know what the problem is. You think I’m talking about that game where you have to traverse through a whole bunch of tests involving making holes and falling through them. While that is an interesting game, we’re not going to talk about that. Nope, we’re going to talk about the 1986 PC game, also called “Portal”!
THERE’S ANOTHER PORTAL? IS IT SIMILAR?
Actually, the “original” Portal has very little in common with the version we are all familiar with. If you can picture it, it’s a text-based adventure game with a graphical interface. That is, there is a hell of a lot of reading, but you can click your way through different menus to get to different “areas.” But there aren’t even areas, really.
WHAT? DAMN, YOU’VE CONFUSED ME. SO WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS?
OK, I’d better back up a bit. You play as an astronaut who returns from a lengthy outer space mission, only to discover that the Earth has been wiped of any traces of humanity. The urban areas that once were hustling and/or bustling with activity have become empty and dilapidated. The only remaining functioning item of any use is a computer, connected to the Homer mainframe. By using the narrative texts found within that mainframe, you slowly develop a coherent explanation for what has happened.
CAN YOU SAVE THE EARTH?
Nah, it’s too late for that. Though it’s not noted in the game, I imagine your character can now steal fancy television sets and watch reruns of Malcolm in the Middle on DVD whenever he likes.
WHAT A GRIM FUTURE!
Your computer has different sections to examine, though most of them are locked at the start. Only after skulking through the texts that are readily available can you begin to unlock the remainder of the parts of the computer, leading to more reading. So, interactivity basically consists of…well, reading.
SO IF I WAS TO PLAY THIS GAME SOMEDAY, I’D HAVE TO BASICALLY SIT DOWN AND READ?
WHAT A GRIM FUTURE!
Sadly, yes. Unless you are an avid literature enthusiast (and I use the term loosely, considering that the narrative isn’t waxing poetic regularly), you’ll probably grow tired of this rather quickly. The interface may annoy you as well, leading you to think that maybe the 2007 Portal game might just be a better way to spend your time.
SAY, JEFF… DO YOU THINK THAT SOMEDAY WE MIGHT HAVE ACTUAL PORTAL GUNS?
It’s a possibility, though I imagine they may be used for explicit purposes, such as peering into girls’ change rooms and such.
WHAT A GRAND FUTURE!
They had visual novels that long ago?!