Finding the Sun, the Moon, the Stars: How Child of Light Restored My Passion for Video Games.

Those that follow my exploits on GI have seen me rant and rave about Child of Light, before and after its release.  Prior to April 30th, I twiddled my thumbs in eager anticipation as I waited for the day to arrive that I might immerse myself in a world that had already captured my heart.  I pored over the concept art in awe of the enchanting beauty that recalled the fantastical art of Brian Froud and the whimsy early Disney films.  I also made a point not to overexpose myself to YouTube clips of the story/gameplay, for fear that my own first hands-on experience would be spoiled.  It was during this waiting period, marked with anticipation for this exciting game, that I was also experiencing a deep and perpetual malaise for the current state of video gamedom.

As the owner of only a 3DS and a Wii U, the last few months have been trying indeed.  2014 has been as dry as a bone for the Wii U in particular.  One game in particular had the potential to reinvigorate my excitement for console gaming, that being Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.  However, I was sorely disappointed in the lack of innovation present in that title and found myself disillusioned with the platforming genre.  Since the beginning of 2014, DKC:TF has been the only true AAA title to grace the system.  The VC saw the release of Advance Wars, which I was excited to play for the first time, but again I found myself underwhelmed.  Even on the Indie front, the Wii U has failed to inspire much excitement; Unepic failed to live up to my expectations and has yet to be completed. The situation was growing dire indeed, and it looked as though Child of Light was my last chance to enjoy a video game experience before I was forced into a corner to wait for the sweet rain of another AAA Nintendo title to quench my thirst (and even then, there was no guarantee that any such game would arrive).  April 30th materialized at long last, and I waited patiently for the weekend in order to finally explore the world I’d so quickly grown to love.

Child of Light rose above and beyond my expectations to shine a light over the lingering shadows and reignite my passion for the medium of video games.

Of note, I have a great love for the fantastical in the realm of print, film and games.  I enjoy the magical charms of Tolkien’s works and the imaginative design elements of Bakshi and Henson.  This should give you a good idea as to why Child of Light strikes such a profound chord in me.  The world of Lemuria is hand-drawn/painted to life in breathtaking fashion, recalling the pastel brightness of The Secret of Kells, as well as the melancholy darkness of The Dark Crystal.  The characters are all designed with a hefty amount of eccentricity in mind, with distinct personalities as well as quirky visual aesthetics.  The fairy tale story is simple on the surface, yet subtly complex for those that deign to dig deeper.  The gameplay elements are similarly straight-forward, complementing the simple story elements in a way that highlights the narrative.  Everything about  Child of Light combined to create the most memorable, most incredible gaming experience I’d had in (literally) years.  The soundtrack, comprised mostly of delicate piano and haunting strings, creates an atmosphere of ethereal beauty.  Apart from a very abrupt ending that leaves much to be desired, Child of Light is as close to perfect as any of my other favorite games, including The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Obviously, gameplay elements themselves might be enough to drive away gaming melancholia, but in my particular case, it was this in combination with my current life circumstances that really helped remove the cobwebs of fading interest.  As some of you know, my wife and I recently welcomed our daughter into the world.  Only a little over 2 months old, she’s a splendid light that’s inspired a love in my heart that knows no limit.  Playing through Child of Light and becoming immersed in its coming of age tale, I found myself feeling an unusual attachment to the main character, Aurora.

Aurora, the young heroine players take control of, awakens to find herself in strange fantasy land far away from her homeland and family.  We learn that Aurora has indeed fallen victim to a mysterious malady and finds herself in Lemuria, confused, frightened, and in strange company.  Aurora spends the rest of the story attempting to restore the land of Lemuria, cast into darkness by a malicious queen of night, in order to return home to her ailing father.  When faced with these strange circumstances, Aurora displays childlike innocence and bravery, a stubborn loyalty to her friends, and compassion taught to her by her deceased mother.  Aurora is helped along the way by her own strong will, the aid of an eccentric band of misfits, and a love that transcends the finality of death, courtesy of her mother.  In the end, Aurora triumphs over the forces of darkness, wielding the powers of Light and transforming into a luminous Queen fit to lead her homeland, both inherited (Austria) and liberated (Lemuria).

As I guided Aurora through the lands of Lemuria, I couldn’t help but feel a fatherly connection to her, stemming from my newly established relationship with my real-life daughter.  I worried for Aurora when foul beasts lunged out of the shadows in Mahthildis Forest, and felt my heart swell as she glided gently on the wind, into the vast skies of Greater Lemuria and over the Cliffs of Erin.  I found myself wondering “If my own daughter found herself in the same situation as Aurora, would she be brave in the face of adversity?  Would she weep from missing her mother and father? Would she go out of her way to show compassion to those in need?” I already want so much for my little girl; I want her to lose herself in the worlds of fantasy, and be strong when the world pushes down on her little shoulders. My daughter is indeed my own tiny Child of Light.

These feelings swirling around in my heart permeated the entirety of my experience with Child of Light, and resulted in a truly wonderful experience that I may never have again in the realm of video games.  The fire in my belly that had died over the course of the last few months bellowed and rose into a violent pyre once again.  I found myself excited for what was on the horizon for the Wii U and the 3DS.  I promptly went out and purchased Mario Kart 7, in preparation for Mario Kart 8.  I saw my usual sarcasm and social nature re-emerge in the comment sections of  GI articles.  I found myself engaging in frivolous hypothesizing regarding the roster of Super Smash Bros and the future of The Legend of Zelda franchise.  This was all thanks to a truly magical game, and a little human that measures barely over 20 inches from head to foot.  Child of Light came to me at a time when my own light had started to fade.  Thankfully, that light has returned with exuberance.  It’s gonna be a good year for video games.

And that’s how Child of Light restored my passion for video games.  I’m not normally this sappy in my blog entries, so don’t get used to it.  Also, I promise to shut up about Child of Light now.  You’ve got to be sick of my raving, at this point…

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