[The PS2 is now officially discontinued! We wanted to give this mighty system a proper farewell so we’re dedicating an entire week to it.]
There was a time when I didn’t have fun playing games. It still happens every now and then, but when I was younger, I couldn’t be bothered to play something I didn’t enjoy a second time. Whether it was too repetitious, too overwhelming, or just another World War II shooter, I decided that my time was better spent elsewhere. I was usually trying to come up with comic ideas or ignoring the growing amount of homework that was due the next day. I can admit that I grew up very lucky. I had all the major consoles and handhelds that were released, and yet, very little did anything for me. I started to feel like gaming might not be my thing. I had been playing ever since I was about two years old, but maybe I was just growing out of it? I didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t until a little game that my brother Seth had told me about that my opinion on story telling, art, and gaming would change as I knew it. That game happened to be Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward.
I remember sitting down with Seth on the couch in our basement, popping in the game I knew nothing about, and watching in awe at the opening cutscene on the 26” standard definition box television. The art style used was different than anything else I had seen before. It was neither realistic nor cartoonish. It appeared as though each character was a caricature of him or herself with a rugged, grainy wash to put it all together. It felt humorous and bleak at the same time. After the cutscene ended, I felt ready to play. I wanted to play this game. I didn’t mind the limited number of characters, even though numerous fighting games with absurd amounts of playable fighters had made me spoiled. Each one of the four protagonists had a unique backstory that I cared about and actually really thought on before I knew who I wanted to carry through Hunter‘s story to the end. To this day, I still pick the priest Father Cortez. Seth picked Kassandra and we set off.
I had played games like Gauntlet before, so I knew a little of what I was getting into: a top down view of you as you hack, slash, and shoot your way through supernatural beings. It felt familiar, and yet, it felt like nothing I had played before. The modern, gloomy levels made me truly believe the world these people had been dropped in to dispel the evil that surrounded them and the innocents that were scattered throughout. Using weapons like guns and different melee weapons while still maintaining a sense of mysticism and fantasy did a lot to keep my enjoyment high as well. With each passing chapter, I learned more and more of the plot. Trying to discover what was happening to this annihilated earth and who sent the mysterious email at the beginning of the game became my primary concern. It was a story that held my interest and that was a feat that not even the most intriguing books at that time had not been able to accomplish. I felt interested in stories again. Not just stories, but everything. Nothing felt too out of hand for me. I was able to sit down, play a game, and enjoy everything it had to offer; something I would not do again until Heavy Rain.
While I recognize Wayward –like many games– had its flaws, I did not care about them enough to where it inhibited my enjoyment. It did more for me in the week or so it took Seth and I to be it than any other game had. I started reading again to find that sense of wonder I had lived through Hunter. My imagination expanded exponentially and I drew more. It was a great feeling to know that I wasn’t the person who was so cynical that I couldn’t enjoy life and the things in it. There was a developer out there that set out to make a game that they wanted to. They knew it wasn’t for everyone, but they didn’t care, and for that I thank High Voltage Software. I don’t know what I would be doing right now. I might have stumbled upon it at some point sooner or later, but to play it at the time where I was going through a major identity crisis was something that still blows my mind. It reintroduced a number of things to me in a way that was appealing, exciting, and benevolent.
It is bittersweet that a Hunter game has not been made this generation. Do I really want it? What if it messed with the memory of my experience with Wayward? I guess it isn’t so bad. After all, I still own a copy of the game and intend to sit down with my brother and go through it once more. Just for old times sake.