Thursday, January 30, 2014

Video Game Home Bases: Skyloft vs. Comet Observatory

Ah, there's no place like home. A home should be a warm, comfortable spot where one can rest and spend time with loved ones. Or, perhaps, get refills of heart potions in between boss battles.

When it's done right, there's something pretty cool about "home bases" in video games. Returning to such a place after a long and grueling journey through a dungeon can give you the same sense of relief that you get from, say, going back to your suburban apartment after an exhausting day of fighting the crowd at Comic-Con. Or whatever.

Even the "Hero's Journey" archetype includes the "Return" as a major stage in the cycle. So just as there is some innate sense of satisfaction in stories that utilize this motif, so there is in these kinds of video games as well (which are usually very heavily story-based, anyway).

Two of my favorite video game "home bases" are Skyloft, from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and the Comet Observatory from Super Mario Galaxy. Just for fun - and in the spirit of Super Bowl week - let's see how they stack up against each other, shall we? (warning: mild spoilers below)

Music: one of the common features that these two home bases share is a brilliant theme song that evokes feelings of peacefulness and tranquility. Sometimes I'll just listen to the song itself while I'm working or doing chores. Skyloft's has kind of a gentle pastoral feel, while the Observatory's is a lilting classical waltz. I love them both, but I'll have to give the nod on this one to the Comet Observatory.
Comet Observatory

Creature Comforts: home is a place where you can eat stuff out of your fridge, sleep in your own bed, and recuperate from horrific battle wounds. Skyloft contains a bunch of heart plants as well as benches and stools where you can sit down and replenish all of your hearts. And you can actually sleep in your own room. The Observatory has a few 1-Up shrooms scattered about, and (eventually) has most of the rooms found in a typical house, including a garage and a kitchen. You can't sleep in the bedroom, though (does Mario ever sleep?) Skyloft has the bazaar, Beedle's Air Shop, and even a bathroom. I'm gonna go with Skyloft here.

Neighbors: Skyloft has a bunch of interesting characters who live with you, from your fellow Knight trainees who represent the standard range of high school stereotypes to the split-personality people at the Bazaar. The Observatory has lumas, toads, and Rosalina. Point to Skyloft.

Interesting Twists: Each home base has cool little nooks and crannies for you to discover throughout the game, and eventually each one plays a major role in the storyline that involves it becoming something that you wouldn't (or maybe you would, depending on how many video games you play) expect. I won't go into major detail here, but I will award this one to Skyloft.

So the winner is...Skyloft! Really, though, it's hard to choose between the two. You'll just have to play the games yourself and decide which one you prefer. As for me, I'm gonna go eat stuff out of my fridge now.

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    Sky Loft