Things I’ve Done: Fighting While Gardening (Odin Sphere)

Can you imagine being the girl in blue pictured on the left? Can you imagine facing her fearsome foe? Can you imagine having to plant a garden in the middle of that?

In the grand tradition of other articles I've written about great moments of video games -- and in the spirit of the original MTV Multiplayer, which was to chronicle my adventures in actual video games -- I am launching a recurring feature called "Things I've Done." This will be my way to tell you about interesting things that have popped up in the many, many games that I play.

Trust me: I play a lot of stuff. I see a lot. And I want to let you know about it.

So about this fighting and gardening thing. I experienced it in a recent PS2 game from Atlus called "Odin Sphere." Some might recommend this game because it is a relatively obscure role-playing game from a cult-favorite Japanese developer called Vanillaware. Others might recommend it for its lovely storybook visuals. Others may like the unusual experience of a side-scrolling RPG.

I recommend trying it for anyone who wants to experience fighting while gardening.

Here's how it works: the player-character (one of whom is Gwendolyn, the girl in blue) gains health by eating food. Eating food also occasionally extends her health bar. Some of the best basic foods for this are fruit and meat.

How does she get fruit and meat? By planting fruit and sheep trees (yes, sheep trees).

How does the fruit grow? By absorbing the swirling energy of defeated enemies.

So what's the best way to grow this stuff? Plant a seed in the ground right before a bunch of enemies come running her way. Then slay those enemies with determined fury. Watch their energies fly and the seeds sprout into full plants. Whack the fruit (or sheep) that appear off the branches. Do it quickly or else they'll spoil. And then chow down. Bear in mind that more enemies are probably attacking while all this is happening. It's -- kind of -- like that scene in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in which Zhang Ziyi is fighting people in the tea house while still drinking her tea.

Clearly I'm interested in games that do things a little differently. I just never expected to be fighting while gardening. But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. Game designers are really good at stuffing combat into every nook of video games, to a point that would seem excessive in any other medium. When you play a James Bond game, there are, what, 10 fights for any one that was in the movie? When developers make burger-making games, they'll make you swat flies while making burgers. When they make racing games, more than a few developers deem that a driving experience could be improved by adding combat.

Really, according video game logic, combat goes with everything -- like the color black or a side of fries. I guess I should just be wondering when a game designer will think to combine a game about doing the laundry with a fighting mechanic. Or maybe make a combat-swimming game?? Combat-sky-diving?

Fighting While Gardening. That's a "Thing I've Done."