#iplayed Arvoesine (A Lot)

Arvoesine is a 2010 videogame for the home computer entertainment system by Alastair John Jack. of the entire movement in revitalizing 8-and-16-bit-era design practices in a modern context, and the even smaller movement of doing it earnestly, this stands out as one of my personal favorites.

You can find Alastair on twitter, and perhaps bug him to put a website back up so you can download this game again.

this game was introduced to me in 2012 by my friend droqen, who fittingly has (or had, we all grow and change–like celestial plants) a similar approach to games, and so do i in my way.

the thing about Arvoesine… in most aspects, it will appear as an average cop to NES/Famicom aesthetics. it plays the aesthetic (even more faithfully than most) but obviously doesn’t “really” care to follow the limitations like a “true” retro loyalist would. for some reason we, games writ large, are infatuated with replicating an impression of the technical limitations rather than seek to understand the intricacies of how those systems produced expression as a form. and this is what it understands–Arvoesine understands the broad-strokes composition of peers from its design practice, and successfully stands among them.

much like my fav 8-bit games, Arvoesine is a game i have never beat. even more so, it’s a game i’ve been playing here and there ever since i was introduced to it in 2012. it’s a game that i don’t care to beat, but to simply immerse myself in the bliss of standing inside its clocktower mechanisms and pulling a few levers, challenging myself to self-improvement only for its own sake, and only at my leisure now and again. it is funny because, game theorists are the first to call play for its own sake the purest form of joy and self-expression, and gamers are the first to call it inadequate. perhaps this frames the success of works such as Shovel Knight and its kin, which reinterprets 8 and 16-bit design practices into the tedious chore paradigm of contemporary design which has proven itself valuable in selling copies and little else.

Arvoesine is blasphemous. it looks like the NES, and it uses three face buttons! enemies move in ways they would never on an 8-bit system! are there five colors on that sprite? look at all those unique tiles! is that transparency?

Yes. because in my eyes, Arvoesine carries confidence in understanding what’s really important. on consoles such as the NES, it took much more to accomplish things that we take for granted in games. as such, it forced a focus on the nuances of each element to make the game shine. this intricate and intimate detail is what has fostered much of our love and longetivity for this era of games. in the same way you had to be incredibly selective with code, so was the case for graphics and sound, and together they forced cohesion. these systems forced you to prioritize abstract sensations over representationalism in order to be compellingly expressive. in Arvoesine, you have a 3-hit combo, and each attack animation has a unique nuance and motion to it. moreso, the score mechanism is tied to this, giving you more points for defeating an enemy with the second or third hit in your combo. this kind of thing carries the true spirit of its era of design, not luxuriating in its own trappings but erecting joy from utilitarian expression; from crafting small narratives out of mosaic bitmaps and offering the simplest vestiges of ideas to feed the imagination of the person playing it.

8-bit games were not maimed by limitations, they were abstract and impressionistic. they evoked your imagination by feeding simple sensations directly into the core of your soul rather than bombarding you with extraneous photo noise to filter out and dissect for relevant parts. they were textures and sounds that had meaning only in their own context, if not the most bare evocation of a thing. all culture of worth comes into being from the necessity to make a lot out of a little, and Arvoesine does not gaze starry eyed in mimicry at works of the past, but rather, stands alongside them in the constellations of our culture.

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