Friday, November 21, 2014

Diancie, or: how I am still addicted to 'video game perfection'

Are you familiar with this sparkly little character, by any chance? It's called a Diancie, and it's the latest in a long line of special promotional Pokemon that are not normally available in-game. Ever since the first generation of the franchise, Nintendo have locked away at least one special little critter, and though the means of distribution have changed over the years, the gist is still the same: join in, or miss out.

Diancie is the first of three special Pokemon for the sixth generation of games, and in order to get it, you have to go into a participating retailer and grab a code. Redeem the code, collect your Diancie in-game, shove it in a PC box, and wiggle with giddiness that your perfect Pokedex streak remains intact. In Australia, the promotion is running from November 10th to the 27th. Once the date is over, the codes can no longer be redeemed. That's fine, obviously, because all of the previous promotional Pokemon were also only available for a limited time.

What makes things different, this time, is the code distribution method. As I alluded to, the way you've gotten these Pokemon has changed over the years. In prior games, you needed to simply connect to the Wi-Fi network of participating retailers, collect the Pokemon wirelessly, and knick off. There I was, the creepy guy sitting out in front of EB Games with a 3DS in his lap, hacking into their system to collect a Meloetta.

Obviously, the simplicity of this wireless method meant you never really realised the sheer scape of how popular Pokemon still is. Because you never interacted with anyone, and there was an unlimited supply on-hand. It was nothing like the old days, where I was standing in line at a shopping centre for hours - an eleven year old boy at the peak of Pokemon's hype - to collect my very own Mew during PokeTour 1999.

I didn't rush into retailers on November 10th, because obviously, I'm a mature adult in his mid-20s, and I had plenty of time. The previous giveaway this generation, of a shiny Gengar, was a smooth operation: get in, awkwardly ask for the imaginary ghost in the children's video game, and strut out.

On the 14th, I had a day off, so I decided I'd take the half hour walk to the nearest EB and snag my Diancie. It's free, after all, and I'm still a completionist at heart. For some reason, I felt the need to call in advance and ask about it. You know. Just in case. ..And they told me that they had run out.

Here's where the game has changed, you see - each of these codes they give away, is effectively one Diancie. There's no 'connect to the network and generate your own'. These codes are... actual... freaking... Diancies... And there weren't any left. I called the various EB's and JB Hi-Fi's in my local area, as well as the ones in the CBD. All of the nearby stores were completely out, and the major branches had gotten a second batch from a Nintendo representative a day ago... that had also run out.

And this is when I realised that there is something in me that I can't quite explain. To simplify it, I have an unhealthy addiction with perfection in video games. Sometimes, in a gameplay sense: In Super Mario 3D Land, your file progression is marked by stars. If you've finished the game without dying five times, those stars are shiny. I couldn't risk not having those shiny stars, so on every near-death, I quit the game before it was too late. I was playing Mario ultra-cautiously for menu aesthetics.

Sometimes, my addiction grows so frantic and ugly, like it did when I was trying desperately to find the Sonic Generations collector's edition, that I'm calling up every retailer, and visiting other ones physically to try and acquire the elusive item. Not because Sonic Generations was a hard game to get, but because I felt this sense of duty as a Sonic fan to get this particular, ultimate package. In the end, I gave in to my demons and paid some bastard on eBay $527.32 to get it. That's $362 more than its RRP. I paid half a grand to validate my fandom.

And here we sat again. My video game perfection causing a feeling of great unease. Because I've gotten every Pokemon up to this point, and if I miss out on Diancie, my whole collection is ruined. Every subsequent game will have a blank spot at #719 because I didn't get in quickly enough. How is this logical thinking, exactly?

I won't beat around the bush; through constant calling and prodding, I ascertained that the Nintendo rep made the rounds on Thursdays. I called JB Hi-Fi yesterday to see if they had gotten any in. The staff member asked me, in a rather serious tone, if I was going to be able to get there that day. I answered in the affirmative, and he said that was the only way I could get one, because they had only received a limited supply. I got in, I got my Diancie, I did a little dance(y?), and I had scratched that itch once again.

Obviously, it wasn't quite so bad this time, but how long will it be until I feel that urge again? It's debilitating, in the sense that it makes me make rash, stupid decisions. Frankly, if you put the word 'limited' or 'collector's' or 'exclusive' on anything I like, it will make me consider it. For example, I recently heard about the rush on the first wave of amiibos. And though they will get more in stock, I really wanted to be able to use one when I first play Smash Bros in December.

And so... Well, you'll see.

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