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Returning from an international gaming convention, I couldn't wait to put my pictures on Facebook. Half the fun of being adventurous is bragging about the awesome things that you had a chance to see and do. And if you can find kooky games that never got released in America you can inspire a little bit more envy in your friends with each bizarre gem found..
As I was preparing to upload the photos I noticed Shaun, an old friend of mine, in chat. I hadn’t spoken to him in a while so I threw out an introductory, “Yo!”
Shaun replied, “Hey, how did the trip go? Find anything good?”
What an awesome day this was shaping up to be. I had been waiting the entire plane trip to brag about my new gaming swag. I rushed headlong into my pent up gaming infomercial.
“I hit the DS games hard,” I gushed. “It may be last gen, but it’s not region locked. Most of the stuff I got was just cheap filler like a UK driver’s ed test prep game.
"However, I did find some bits o’ strangeness worth mentioning. Apparently, Mr. Bean somehow got a DS platformer a few years ago. But the real prize was a game starring Tingle.”
“No way,” Shaun typed. I shot him a link to a review of Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland to corroborate my story. He replied, “Unbelievable. Sure sounds more interesting than what I've got at the moment.”
I ventured, “More Facebook fluff?”
Confirming my suspicions he said, “Yeah, it’s that cutesy city building thing your cousin John was going on about.”
With a healthy dose of gamer sympathy I asked, “How is it?”
After a few seconds Shaun replied, “Not bad actually. You order around a little chibi imp and it builds things for you. Its gameplay is a bit thin but it has some character to it, at least.”
With a slight chuckle I wrote, “Let me know how it goes. I’m going to upload my trip pics and then take some shots of Rupeeland gameplay. The quality won’t be great, but I want to inflict this on everyone ASAP.”
I set the uploader to start on my pictures before popping the Rupeeland game card into the system. It didn't load at first, but a quick pass with some rubbing alcohol seemed to fix the problem.
The title card featured Tingle frolicking in front of a castle while gently joyous music chimed through the speakers. Once in the game itself, the atmosphere promised to provide some good material to show off. Soothing birds and vibrant art complemented the quirky rupee centric mechanics. If a game ever started by trying to kill the player with charm, it would be this one.
After playing for awhile, I put the game down when I heard the familiar Facebook chat chime. “Sorry, if I’m bothering you,” Shaun typed. “I just want to check something real quick. Is Facebook working normally for you?” I conducted a quick, confused survey before assuring him that everything was normal on my end.
“Odd,” he typed before a long pause. “My Facebook has turned red and black. I thought it might be the game app, but virus scans show nothing. I have restarted the computer. I even reinstalled chrome. And, I have triple checked for anything routing me to another site. I was hoping it was some sort of promotion or event. I can’t explain this.”
“I’d cut my losses and go to an expert tomorrow,” I feebly offered.
“I know,” he said. ”I’m just kind of disappointed that I won’t get to see the end of the game. Your cousin was really hyping it. I think it has something to do with the imp.
"It keeps getting larger as I build my city. Thanks anyway.”
Regretting my inability to help, I return to Rupeeland. Once again, I was lost in it within a few minutes. I was nearing the first boss fight when I heard repeating Facebook chimes. My cousin was spamming me with links to play a game called "Cityscaper Naraku." There are times when I swear he has the social grace of an impatient wildebeest.
Attempting to retain composure I responded, “Hey, if that’s the game you sent to Shaun it’s done something crazy to his computer. Don’t think you are going to get me to try it until I hear back from him about what happened.”
“That’s just a harmless side effect. Besides, you have got to check out the ending,” he continued. I tried several times to politely tell him that I would play later and each time he countered with, “It has a rather lovely ending.”
Now genuinely annoyed, I snapped. “I don’t know why you are talking like that, but I don’t care. When you calm down we can talk. Until then, I'm the middle of something.”
Even after my outburst he persisted. Eventually, I just blocked him in frustration.
I’d talk to my aunt tomorrow and see if everything was alright. I really wasn't in a state to handle diplomacy and hoped that he had just forgotten a dose of Ritalin.
I tried to calm down by getting back into Rupeeland, but I just couldn't focus. Despite occasionally being a hyper pain in the butt, John hadn't acted like this before. There had to be something about the game that really got to him.
A quick search for "Cityscaper Naraku" yielded little more than a mountain of glowing reviews. It was only upon reading the reviews I started to grow uneasy.
Every game I have ever played is hated by someone. Even a classic will have at least a few detractors. This was the first game I’d seen earn unanimous maximum scores. And every review, I mean every single review, ended with the phrase, “It has a rather lovely ending.”
Beyond that, the phrase kept showing up in squee-filled forum posts.
It was in image macros. It headlined blogs. If it was a “lying cake”-esque meme it must have sprung up while I was on my trip. I’d never seen anything like this.
My attention returned to Facebook when a cacophony of chimes alerted me to a flood of messages. High school acquaintances, work friends, classmates alike were all sending me the same message, “It has a rather lovely ending.” For every one I blocked, several more joined in the spam attack.
Amidst the din, I noticed Shaun was still on. Typing the fastest I had ever typed, I sent, “Hey, you aren't still playing that game are you? Something weird is going on. People are freaking out about it. I can't get a moment's peace. Close Facebook. I’ll call you.”
“But I’m so close to the end,” he whined. “I think I've been building in some sort of pattern. It’s oddly geometric and kinda pleasant.”
“I’M NOT JOKING. CLOSE FB NOW!!!” I responded. I was screaming as I typed in a vain attempt to make him hear the warning. Hard booting the computer, I grabbed my cell phone.
My fingers barely found their target as they dialed.
I sighed as Shaun picked up the phone. Unable to contain my relief I said, “Thank God, tell me what you saw in the game, and maybe we can figure out why everyone has lost their mind over this thing.”
Those few seconds I waited before he spoke crept by at an anguished pace. It was only when I was considering checking to see if the call had been dropped that I heard him speak in a voice full of a placid distance. “If you want to know what is in the game you’ll have to play it.
"It’s a lot of fun, actually. And I don’t want to spoil any surprise, but it has a rather lovely ending.”