A few days ago I received a package from a mysterious company named Nodens Enterprises. It addressed me as Grubdog so I knew it had to be gaming related, but how did they know my address? Inside was an interesting art book with characters and locations, but no writing or context. Looked cool, but I was confused. I’d never heard of this game and I didn’t order anything like it. I dug through the package and found a letter.
“Hello Grubdog, you have been chosen to participate in a trial of a brand new videogame, 7th Encount. We’ve been reading your Dragon Quest writeups and following your gaming on the Miiverse, and we think you have what it takes to brave our trials. Enclosed is a ticket you will need to access our facility. Please bring this ticket and your 3DS to your local EB Games and they will direct you from there. Hehehe, good luck!
Whoa, what, huh?! Is this the most elaborate spam ever or the real deal? Sure enough there was a ticket behind the letter. It had a design of a dragon in the background with Japanese writing all over it. I couldn’t understand anything on this, but it had to be what the letter was talking about. With nothing to lose, I took it to EB Games just for kicks.
“Are you kidding me?! I thought they were joking about that.”
The bloke at the store seemed to know something about it, and I asked him what was going on. “Man, you have to see this” he said, and opened the back door. In the back room was some kind of terminal on a stand.
“We got this delivered by a company called Nodens Enterprises. Never heard of them but they said we would need it. I dunno what’s happening either man.”
Looks like we were both in the dark, so we just tried to operate this thing. It looked like one of those 3DS kiosks you find playable at events, so I stuck my 3DS on top and plugged it in. To my surprise a new icon appeared on the screen called 7th Encount, this must be the game the person in the letter was talking about. I tried to open it but it asked me to scan a ticket. Righto, I swiped the strange dragon ticket over the NFC reader hoping that’s what it meant. This was such a bizarre process.
“Updating 3DS Firmware”
Whoa, okay. Hopefully this is safe? It’s too late now I guess. It downloaded, the 3DS reset itself and I found myself in a different screen.
It was a character creation menu. Is this the game, 7th Encount or whatever? I had a few classes to choose from like an RPG, I picked “God Hand” because it sounded cool and new. I made my character the most exaggerated version of myself I possibly could just to indulge the fantasy a bit. Hmm, I have to make two more characters? I made one a shooter (Agent) and one a sword person (Samurai), just for a bit of variety. Both were girls so I felt cooler. It asked me if that was the party I wanted, and I held the cursor over OK for a few seconds before finally selecting it.
“Whoooooooooa!” the EB Games worker fell on the floor as a blinding light shot out of the 3DS. I felt it too, like I was being pushed. Suddenly everything went black and it felt like I was falling. Colours started coming back and I could feel my feet again, but this wasn’t right.
WHERE AM I? I turned around and couldn’t believe it. Standing in front of me were the two girl characters I had created. I looked at my pants and jacket… no way. I’m a douchebag now. Is this Virtual Reality? Am I still in EB Games?
My eyes needed a few moments to adjust. The graphics were a surreal mix of low resolution and high detail. Everything felt flat but extremely interesting. Was this intentional? It was certainly different. The view was fixed but we could see all we needed. Outside there were crackles of lightning over tall buildings, and floating black matter. I tried to speak but I couldn’t. The girls just looked at me and said nothing. This was too realistic.
Music was playing but I couldn’t see any speakers anywhere. It somehow stayed the same volume with each step we took, surreal technology. This must be HD sound or something. The song was catchy and upbeat which made no sense. I looked around at the place we were actually in, it felt abandoned and depressing. Grass grew on the walls and the plants did not look healthy. There was an odd black liquid dripping from the roof. Oh god, we’re under attack! It’s a battle!
I had no choice but to gather my wits and forget the scenario, these rabbits were mad. We can attack, guard, use skills or items. May as well start with the basics. All three of us attacked and took down one of the enemies, the sword was definitely the strongest standard attack at this point. Ouch! I took a small amount of damage before taking down the second enemy and winning the fight. Luckily it seems like there’s a lot of healing options. Both myself and Jess could heal at the expense of mana, and we have medi items on top of that.
Over the next few battles we looked at our skills, and this is where Michelle the Agent really shone. I had a healing skill and a slightly stronger Jab attack. She had a very interesting Hack ability, which she successfully used to hack two enemies. She was then able to use a different attack to make them kill each other while hacked. Wow, this game is cool. We saved a turn AND did damage with that hack combo like a status effect chain. Wait, we? These people I created felt like my friends already.
We followed the corridors and fought more basic enemies, growing a few levels in the process. The battles went really fast with our attacks hitting in seconds. Pretty satisfying battle system. An odd creature was waiting for us at the end, some kind of fiery floating cloud? Was this the boss? It had strong attacks and we faced a few scares on low health, but it was very easy to tell when to heal. This is a fast battle system but very organised and efficient with information. Eventually we won the battle and a voice came out of nowhere.
Hello? Damn it… everything’s going black again! No, I wanted to see what was next!
I awoke in some kind of VR capsule that confirmed my suspicion this was a game… but I was still… THIS guy?
This definitely wasn’t EB Games. I was starting to regret ever opening that package. This was getting ridiculous and I needed answers, what kind of company could create this and change my body?!
I hopped out of the capsule and was greeted by a rabbit in a top hat. No way?! I had seen them before in the art book from the package. I did not expect it to talk.
Chosen for WHAT? Do you work for Nodens?
“I’ll explain everything if you just follow me, hehehe!” it said cheekily, while quickly scurrying out the door. I followed the strange doll outside the building to try to get some answers.
After walking outside I was relieved to find a plaza with real people!
So it was a game, but I still had no idea how I got here. Everyone in the plaza was talking about 7th Encount like it was the hot new thing. The casual way people mentioned it felt very odd, how had I not heard of it before? I had to ask the rabbit. There were two buildings, one labelled “7th Encount” which we just came out of. The other one was Nodens Enterprises with the strange doll waiting outside the door. This building was absolutely massive. A big electronic door opened automatically as we walked in. Alright rabbit, it’s time to spill everything!
To cut short a long explanation, it turns out this strange doll was Nagamimi, the same one who sent me the package. The year was now 2100 and Nodens Enterprises was a videogame company from the future who are trying to stop dragons destroying the world. 7th Encount was a game specifically designed to find people who could work for them, to hunt down a real dragon who would be appearing this year to bring about destruction. Code: VFD was the name of the operation to stop the dragon, and they wanted me to be part of it.
Before I could respond properly the ground shook. Sirens went off and other staff from Nodens came out from their offices. “It’s an attack!”. Armed troops rushed by us, they also looked like they were made in a character creator. Curiosity got the best of me and I followed them out.
“No uh.. what? It’s too dangerous for you! What if it IS the Dragon? You’re not ready!” Nagamimi’s carefree attitude suddenly shifted to concern. I don’t care mate, this isn’t even me. I just want to beat this game now.
This was so overwhelming I just had to pretend it was a game. How on earth could a dragon be stomping around town? Was this bizarre world really the same as the real one? Were BOTH at stake?
We approached the dragon and wow, it looked menacing. Towering over the plaza with intent to kill. We selected our attacks, but we didn’t even get to use them. *SWIPE* It attacked all three of us at once and that was it.
The Nodens troops rushed in and took over the fight. Man, that really hurt. How can we beat something overpowered so early? They had thrown in a classic JRPG unwinnable fight into this bizarre reality. I can’t believe it. The troops successfully chased off the dragon, and there were people from the company all over the plaza now.
I sat down and had a talk to the rabbit. I just had to accept this was real. The President of Nodens approached me and congratulated my bravery, stating how important it was we stop the 7th Dragon from destroying the world. What choice did I have?
They all went back into the building but I just needed some time to think about it.
This maniac summed up the whole ordeal with eerie succinctness. We had to beat this game to save mankind. We had to save mankind before I could return to my life in 2017. My insignificant life as a gamer suddenly granted me this responsibility, but was that really a bad thing? I’ve beaten hundreds of games. I was ready for this. If life in the future has truly turned into a turn-based JRPG then this is my calling. The music here was really good, and I was curious about all the brand new sights here I could see. It was quite honestly, better than my real life. I went back into the building and accepted my fate. I accepted my dragon quest.
My body is ready. I’m going to beat this game or die trying.