Game Over: "TIME GAL Failure collection / タイムギャル 失敗集"

Time Gal, an arcade game released in 1985 by Japanese developer Taito (also responsible for Space Invaders) can almost be described as existing entirely to illustrate the morbid and inexplicable satisfaction of "dying" in a video game. It uses Full-Motion Video (FMV) recorded to laserdisc and simple timed prompts as its mode of gameplay—as a scene plays, directional or attack cues briefly flash on the screen (up, left, right, etc.), and the player has to input the matching command quickly enough in order to avoid danger. Succeed, and the game is alerted to load the next sequential video clip. There are also different scenarios where the player is given a choice of several actions and must choose the single correct option in order to progress. Like Dragon's Lair (1983) before it, the entire game uses pre-drawn cel animation to give the illusion of a controllable cartoon, although in reality Time Gal possesses the same amount of gameplay depth as a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

While video games constantly have the relationship between choice and consequence on display—action and reaction, winning or losing—this user-edited "death" compilation for Time Gal (stringing together footage of every possible instance where the controlled protagonist meets her end) conveys this duality in an alarmingly direct way.  During the genesis of electronic games, a pause between lives had some practical value—it was a way to communicate to the player that their chance to win had ended and, if needed, elements of the board would be reset. The transitions weren't seamless, but they weren't jarring either. As graphical capabilities advanced and visual effects became less abstract, deaths became more integrated, dramatic and contextual to their environments. In the case of Time Gal, the deaths are incredibly stylistic, thanks to produced set pieces—the specific situations and mistakes of input dictate what kind of fate awaits time-hopping Reika Kirishima, and they've all been staged in a deliberate, pre-determined way. Granted, the game saves itself from being too grizzly by utilizing exaggerated chibi (childlike) poses, but as an edited compilation, the consequence for error takes on a disturbingly masochistic tone (a scene featuring a netted Kirishima and leering caveman is particularly distressing). Some deaths use the same animation but different spoken expressions, lending the video a drone-like quality of repetition and variation, a game unto itself. If anything, it's fascinating to watch for its sheer relentlessness. Understandably, FMV based games waned in popularity and are all but relics due to their shallow gameplay value. Every choice should determine an outcome—whether direct or indirect—in a video game, but sometimes these outcomes, even if they mean Game Over, are more powerful and "entertaining" than the machinations used to achieve them—a flaw within the medium that may never be transcended.

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  • Chris K

    Hey, Kurt- nice to “see” you here again!

  • FaeDcay

    I loved this game growing up!!! I used to play it all the time.

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