After almost a year without an update, I finally managed to get a new RamblePak64 video up. I’ve spoken in the past about ways I wanted to update the series more often, but it was typically with the intent of releasing shorter-form content between longer videos. In the end, the amount of work was not reduced, particularly as audio editing is not something I’m a fan of. However, as I sit here and type this, I already have two new scripts partially written and am converting the remaining footage for the next video. Typically I don’t even begin recording new footage until a video is done. However, I feel like I’m more likely to be productive and create new content if, after the script writing phase is complete, I immediately begin capturing footage of and taking notes on the next project. Script writing, audio, and the video editing combined can take anywhere from a month to two months depending on the length of the video and time available for me. If I’m lucky, it can all be completed in the span of two or three weeks. By having these projects sort of lap over each other, I’ll hopefully be able to better maintain an output of a new video every one or two months.
Of course, one of the issues I’ve often come across during the process of editing video is either picking up on little details I’d incorrectly remembered or minutiae I’d missed out on altogether. In the case of Toren, there was an onslaught of little details I hadn’t picked up on until I was more closely scrutinizing every frame while trying to select clips to match my audio. In order to combat the typical crippling self-doubt and existential crises that accompany these realizations, I’ve decided to have a sort of “Afterthoughts” section following each video. In here, any notes or details that were left on the cutting room floor or picked up on will be observed here. Toren is a perfect game to follow up on, as it’s so densely packed with symbolism in its short three hours that, in the moment, can easily be missed. Or I’m just out of practice and am super oblivious while playing games these days. Either way, let’s start with something minor.
I was playing Toren for the third time whilst recording footage, and somehow I never noticed the stick icons resemble a crescent moon. I already had theories about the importance of the Lunar Cycle after my first playthrough of the game, yet somehow this small little observation just flew over my head. To grant myself the benefit of the doubt, I’m so used to the basic control schemes of games and just burning through these tutorials that I don’t pay button prompts too much mind. This is a lesson that I perhaps should be.
I found this to be an interesting shot, where instead of awakening in a puddle of blood the Moon Child comes to with a blood-red ray of light peering through a crack in the door. At this point I’m tempted to read into every little thing because so many of the visual elements are so intentionally chosen. This could just be an alternative to the puddle of blood, most notably as the Moon Child at this stage is too young for the standard comparison. It could, however, be a visual indicator of what’s to come. Be it the bloody fate of mankind beyond those doors, or the acknowledgment that once beyond that doorway the Moon Child enters the hazardous journey towards adulthood. There’s a multitude of things it could – or could not – mean. However, this is a shot that easily could have had no such light within it at all, so I am led to believe it was chosen with a specific purpose in mind.
Now, the text here isn’t exactly important so much as the symbol. This symbol of the tree appears in the loading screen as well as a handful of other environments. It was a sort of gameplay purpose, as each “branch” indicates a dream within the game, some of which are optional. However, what I want you to take note of is the roots at the bottom.
This was definitely an easy to miss detail, and one that I imagine a lot of others will wave off. After all, the game is clearly lower budget, and so “more convincing” looking roots at the bottom of the plant would hardly be expected. However, those roots look exactly like those at the bottom of the tree symbol we see repeatedly throughout the game. The tree symbol whose branches are tied to the memories and growth of the Moon Child. Given that the tree is what “bears the fruits” of humanity, anything linking it and the Moon Child together is important. Particularly given this shot from right before the final conflict with the dragon.
It is at this point that the Moon Child has achieved her full adulthood, her red garment completely gone. She is garbed in nothing but white and her black cloak, which only now occurs to me as fitting given how the phases of the moon appear (light and shadow). Ever hear of the term “blossoming into a woman”? I’m sure many have, as it’s a common idiom to describe a young girl’s maturity into adulthood. Well, here, as the Moon Child finally becomes a fully grown woman, the tree she has helped to grow has blossomed.
This is more something I wanted to highlight because it otherwise feels like an omission. It is noted that mankind had climbed the tower in order to reach the heavens and the moon, as is common with these sorts of myths. The Sun apparently punished mankind for their arrogance by never leaving the sky. This little detail honestly feels a bit out of place. It would make more sense and be more consistent with everything else if the sun were instead searching for the moon. It’s little details like this, despite the rest of the overwhelming evidence, that forces me to keep referring to my readings as theory. The only authorial intent I can confirm – and something else I wish I remembered to mention in the video – is that many of the symbols are also linked to Tarot cards. The Tower, the Wizard, the Moon, the Sun, and Death. All are common Tarot cards, whose lyrical use in the song “The Tower” made it an obvious choice for this video. With the use of Tarot Cards being the only thing I absolutely know the authors intended, everything else is unconfirmed theory.
Another one of those shots that could mean so much and so little at the same time. The Tower is littered with statues of young girls, and given the dragon’s ability to cause petrification and decay it certainly leaves one wondering if these statues were once living Moon Children. What I hadn’t thought about previously was the one with the goat on the left. Keep in mind the dragon itself bears some resemblances to a goat itself, an often popular creature to tie in with beings of hostility or evil (for example, Satan). The entire game is built upon the nature of the conflict between the goat-like dragon and the Moon Child, so this statue has me awfully curious of the intended meaning. It is so intentionally framed, and from what I can gather this is the only statue of a goat in the entirety of the game. I’m also driven to consider the placement of the dragon itself, as its character model is currently over-lapping with another series of statues that can be more clearly seen – and I believe serve the purpose of – this shot.
This image simultaneously looks like several young women shoving the dragon over the ledge as well as fighting not to fall off with him. A striking visual that frames this portion of the game as a fated struggle between the Moon Child and the dragon, or in some readings, life and death. Perhaps an image that suggests life will continue on.
The final image, and the one that had me considering for a moment going back for a rewrite of the entire seven minute portion of the video focusing on the cycle of life. To do so would have pushed the video back about two weeks, I imagine, and I just did not want to do that. I didn’t want to risk killing the drive to complete the video, and while one could argue that any subscribers could wait another couple weeks given my last video was in July, it’s because my last video was in July that I just had to push this forward. Truth be told, I haven’t put a video out that I’ve truly been proud of since Metroid: Other M, and while I now know this one definitely could have been better and more thorough, I’m still glad at what I put together.
In any event, all three times I beat the game I only paid mind to the Moon Child approaching the sun. I never noticed the statues to the left and right of her, wise men bearing witness to her walk. It was then that I realized the shot resembles a bride walking down the aisle towards her husband. In my notes I pondered the possibility that the wizard, serving as a guide, was a father figure to the Moon Child. If so, then this would very much reflect the idea of walking the bride down the aisle to meet the groom at the altar. At first I considered the Moon Child becoming young again to be symbolism representing the creation of a new babe, and while that may still be true it could also be a sort of reflection upon life. A father walking his daughter down the aisle is bound to reflect on his relationship with his daughter, going so far back as to recall the day she had been born. Following this walk, the Moon Child ascends into the clouds, hands held before her, and spreads her cloak into an eclipse that covers the sun.
Even thinking about it now has me wanting to sacrifice another afternoon to the game. Everything about the final conflict and its ending just fills me with a burning love for what Swordtales managed to put together. Regardless of how much better my video could have been, I’m glad that I chose to make a video about it at all as I may have never seen these different symbols if I weren’t scrubbing through footage more closely.
Rather than reflect on how much I missed, I’d rather focus on how much more I hopefully assisted you in seeing. If you play the game, please let me know what you think, be it here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.