This is the second in a series of posts about NES games. As I described in an earlier post, I've decided to share my highly subjective, personal top-ten list of NES games based on how influential they were to me, one at a time and in no particular order. Number 10 on the list is a game for the Famicom Disk System—not strictly the NES, I know, but close enough for our purposes. That game is Apple Town Monogatari: Little Computer People (アップルタウン物語: Little Computer People).
Apple Town Monogatari: Little Computer People (Square, 1987) is a sort-of port of Activision's Little Computer People, released for numerous platforms, including the Apple II and Commodore 64. You can think of Little Computer People as a precursor to Tamagotchi in that the game consists of watching over and occassionally caring for a pet. The difference, as you might have guessed, is that the pet is a human being. Hence, a Little Computer [Person].
The version that appeared on the Famicom Disk System differed a bit from its PC counterparts. Apple Town Monogatari was developed by Square of Final Fantasy fame and has some differences such as the main character being a young girl instead of a man.
Some might find Apple Town Monogatari to be a fairly... boring game. After all, it has limited interactivity. However, I don't think a "boring" game is necessarily all that bad or boring.
Many early console games like Pitfall, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. mirror canonical adventure novels for children that have the story's hero endangering himself to save the day. Jump from here to there, find the key, slay the dragon, save the princess. I liked some of these books as a kid, and I liked some of these games, too. But not always. Sometimes I'm made a bit weary or anxious by constantly emperiling my fantasy self. (Why is danger fun, exactly?)
Where old-school platformers mimic stereotypically boyish novels, Apple Town Monogatari is closer to those stereotypically girly novels about friendship and self-actualization with domestic storylines that rarely venture outside of home or school. Indeed, I was immediately drawn to Apple Town Monogatari for the domestic fantasy worlds I recognized from playing house or playing with dolls when I was a child. Contained within Apple Town Monogatari are tiny, pixelated rooms whose smallest details are a pleasure to observe. It lacks adventure, but it is safe and secure. Fun can be had with both.
In one respect, yes, it's a game in which you watch a girl brush her teeth, talk on the phone, and dance. Perhaps it's not a game at all—maybe it's just a screensaver. (I find that the games I make are on the whole more influenced by screensavers than by video games.) In any case, I quite like the idea of a slow-paced, digital dollhouse that you can watch while you're dreaming. This idea has had a big impact on the games I make today and on what I believe makes a game good or interactive, fun or fantastic.
Bonus: Did you know that the two ports of Little Computer People that feature female characters are Japan-only releases? The second of these was released for the PC-8801.
Bonus #2: Did you know that the soundtrack of Apple Town Monogatari was composed by Nobuo Uematsu?
Posted December 7 at 12:37 AM while my foot is falling asleep.