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Pokémon The Best Game (one-shot)

The Best Game (one-shot)

Phoenixsong

the world's scariest violinist
Partners
  1. custom/skiddo-steplively
This was originally written back in the dim and dusty year of 2013. Back then I'd been planning to write a big ol' chapterfic about Blue that would've included several flashbacks, and this was intended to be one of them. Ultimately I decided against the flashbacks—and then decided against writing the fic in its original form at all—but I liked this bit, so I posted it as a standalone one-shot all those years ago. Recently I've had some thoughts about how to retool the original idea, and while struggling in vain to sort out the idea and Actually Make Words, I was reminded of this sucker and figured I might as well toss it up here. Why not?

That said, just because it's old doesn't mean I'm not looking for thoughts on it! While I feel I did a decent job with this piece and have always had a soft spot for it, parts of the first version bothered me for a long time, and I've only just recently gotten around to cleaning it up. The premise and general structure are identical (so not much will have changed if you've read this before); I've just retooled some bits that were distracting from the actual point of the thing and made some other little tweaks here and there. I'm hoping that those changes haven't ended up muddying things instead! And any general notes to keep in mind for future projects are always welcome, of course.

Rated G. The worst thing in here is some vague description of over-the-top, poorly-animated and obviously unrealistic video game violence, which is not so much relevant to the heart of the story as it is "Phoenix had more fun than was strictly necessary dreaming up a ridiculous Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat knockoff".

Thanks in advance for checking this out, and I hope you enjoy!

The Best Game

Morph Revenge II is Blue's favorite game. Other nine-year-olds might be drawn to Super Chopstar Planet's brighter graphics, or Porykart Netracer '95's multiplayer with more options and that one cool mode where you can blow up the other drivers, but when Red comes over it's always Morph Revenge II that gets the dust blown off its contacts. The television hums to life, the title screen slides down, characters are selected—Red tries someone different every time, Blue always picks Strider—and then, as sure as day follows night, as sure as Gramps has to go to the back doctor whenever he tries to lift something heavy by himself, Red loses. He can choose whichever morph he wants, Kitsunegari or Debonair or Amelia K. or El Rana, but he is always doomed to fumbling his combos while Blue pummels him from the other end of the screen. Then Red loses, and Blue wins, and all, for once, is right with the universe.

Chopstar might look a little better and Porykart might have more choices, but Red does not lose at those games and that means they are worse than Morph Revenge II.

Today Red is losing as Devil Drill. He hammers the controls, hoping that his frantic button-mashing will trigger her Morph Mode or at least scoot her more than a few steps down the battlefield. It does not. The fighter on the right flails her feathered arms uselessly, swiping and jumping at empty air, and for her trouble she receives a kick in her beak-face from clear across the stage. A few more stretch-kicks send her crashing to the ground in a spray of red pixels; the SNES produces a garbled screech that's supposed to sound like a dying fearow; PLAYER ONE WINS dominates the screen; and Morph Revenge II keeps its comfortable position as The Best Game.

Red sighs and pauses the game before the announcer can count in the start of round two. "Can we play Porykart now, Blue? We haven't played that in a while. Someone at school said he found something weird you can do with the turbo T-1 power-up, and I wanted to…"

"You can try that on your own game when you get back home." Blue reaches over to press the start button on Red's controller. "But hanging out here is the only time you have to play Morph Revenge II, so you better enjoy it while you can!"

"I wish Mom didn't think this game was too violent," Red says, not bothering to resist when Blue resumes the game without asking. "If I was allowed to play this at my house I could practice more, and then we could play more Porykart over here."

Big, bold numbers flash across the screen as the announcer voice's gravelly countdown begins. THREE. Blue adjusts his grip on the gamepad. TWO. His eyes dart between the two fighters, ready to react the second Devil Drill moves. ONE. He can see Red's face scrunched up in concentration, trying in vain to think of a new strategy. FIGHT

Blue jumps as his bedroom door bangs open, and in the moment it takes him to whirl around to see the intruder Red manages to land a few lucky punches. Blue restores things to their natural order with a jumping kick that bounces Devil Drill off the background and puts her well out of striking range. "Stay out of my room, Daisy," he snaps.

Daisy ignores him. "There's someone I think you two should meet," she says. Blue wishes she wouldn't sound so cheerful while Strider is trying to kick all of Devil Drill's blood out. "The new neighbors are going door-to-door introducing themselves now that they're all moved in. This is their daughter, Leaf!"

"Hi!" says the new girl. Blue grunts and keeps his eyes on the television. Red ventures a careful "Hello" over his shoulder and turns back to the game just as his fighter's health drops to half.

"She's your age, too! Isn't that cool?"

Blue grunts again; Red grunts, too, mostly because he's still struggling to make Devil Drill do something useful.

"I bet you'll be great friends," Daisy ventures hopefully. She presses on when neither boy responds. "Why don't you let Leaf play with you? Then you three can really get to know each other."

Blue grabs his remote and cranks up the volume, losing most of his sister's exasperated sigh in a stream of digitized shouts, shrieks and spatters. "I'm sorry they're being so rude right now, Leaf," she says, raising her voice on "rude" so Blue and Red don't miss it. "Boys and their video games, you know. Come downstairs with me and I'll get you and your parents some tea. I'm sure Red and my brother will be much friendlier when they're done."

"Thank you, Daisy," the girl says politely, "but I don't mind! I can just watch, and then we can play something together afterward!"

"Are you sure? I'd feel awful if you were just sitting up here while they ignored you."

"It's fine," the girl insists, and she flounces into the room. Daisy makes a sound like she still thinks it's a bad idea, but she heads back out into the upstairs hallway all the same.

Red presses pause again, stopping in the middle of a fruitless attempt to block a hail of flying feet. "We can play something else if you want, Leaf…" he starts, glancing over his shoulder at her and then hopefully at Blue.

"No, we can't," Blue snaps. He unpauses the game and gives Red a stern look. "We're not stopping until someone has killed all the other Jetcorp mutants and defeated Boreas and had the ultimate Morph Revenge, and I don't think we're gonna get that revenge playing hide-and-seek."

Red gives the girl an apologetic shrug. "Sorry."

The girl moves in closer, trying to get a better view of the TV. "What are you doing, anyway?"

Blue smirks. He can see her frowning out of the corner of his eye. "We're playing Morph Revenge II," he says proudly. "It's a game about mutants who escape from the lab that made them, and then they try to kill all the other mutants with their mutant pokémon powers. It's got lots of fighting and blood and it's real tough and anyone who isn't an expert just gets their butt kicked, so even if we weren't busy you couldn't play with us."

"No, I mean just you," the girl continues, stopping next to Red and glaring at the screen. "What are you doing? Don't you know how to play Devil Drill at all?"

She snatches the controller out of Red's hands before he can start saying "What?" and her thumbs fly over a sequence of buttons before he can finish it. Blue only just looks back in time to see the fearow-woman leap over a stretch-kick and drive her own foot right into Strider's face. His eyes go wide and he mashes the controls but his character has no time to respond—the girl has moved Devil Drill in close, too close, and in no time at all she has drilled her beak-face into the other mutant's chest. Strider's health bar plummets in a shower of pixellated gore. Blue's jaw plummets along with it.

"Devil Drill doesn't have any ranged attacks so you gotta keep her right in the other guy's face," the girl says, dropping the controller back into Red's lap while the announcer's crunchy voiceover proclaims Player Two the victor. "That's why she has all those long, flying jumps instead, to get in close. You shoulda been someone who can throw or shoot stuff, like Hollow or Shadow Man, if you were just gonna sit there and let him kick you all the time. Maybe El Rana 'cause he's harder to knock down."

Red nods dazedly, pressing start one more time so the match doesn't progress to the third round while he's still staring. Blue doesn't stop him. Strider and Devil Drill are both standing again, back in their fighting stances, health bars full and ready to go as soon as Red's start button is pressed, but he can still hear the announcer's voice loud and clear. PLAYER TWO WINS. Player One loses.

"Maybe you should watch me play this round so you can learn how to do it right," the girl continues. Red passes her the controller without a word, only remembering to look back at Blue for permission after he's already done it. Blue's knuckles have gone white around his own controller. He wants to say no, to tell this new kid to keep her hands off the one good thing he has, but he can't do it. He can't just walk away like this. No, she can play, and she'll play from the beginning, and this time she won't surprise him and he'll beat her because this is his favorite game.

THREE. TWO. ONE.

He does not lose at his favorite game.

FIGHT

Devil Drill blocks his opening kick, dashes in and proceeds to tear into the struggling Strider. The boys can barely see what's happening through the haze of crimson dots, and Blue can't mash buttons fast enough to keep up. "Then once you've got him pinned you do this and she goes into Morph Mode for the finisher," the girl explains, her tone almost disinterested as her fighter transforms into a monstrous bird and plunges a wicked beak into Strider's back. There are more red pixels, there's another scream and then the match is over. Blue's health is at zero. The girl hasn't taken any damage at all.

"Easy," says the girl, and Blue fumes silently as he reaches forward to turn off the console. "I dunno why you're still playing this anyway. My dad and I beat it forever ago. Morph Revenge III has way more fighters and cooler special moves and better graphics, so the blood doesn't look all blocky like that. You two can come over and play it sometime if you want! Devil Drill has a super-gross Monster Morph Mode attack now, if you like her, but she's nowhere near as awesome as Tank, the new blastoise guy…"

She bounces out the door, rattling off the list of new characters and new combos in between questions about what kind of tea Blue's sister has downstairs. Red, following close behind, says he doesn't know about the tea but can she teach him those combos if he comes by tomorrow? Blue stays where he is and yanks the cartridge out of the system. He glares at the characters on the worn sticker, then tosses the game into a corner when he can't look at Strider's smug face any longer.

Morph Revenge II is Blue's least favorite game.
 

OldschoolJohto

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Overall: I liked this! It stays on focus, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and gives a fun take on the Blue & Red rivalry. Gotta love seeing a girl kick everybody’s ass at the game that’s “for boys.” She was great. Most of my critique is sentence flow and pacing, though I do wish Red had a bit more of a presence.

So! Let’s dig in.

Other nine-year-olds might be drawn to Super Chopstar Planet's brighter graphics, or Porykart Netracer '95's multiplayer with more options and that one cool mode where you can blow up the other drivers, but when Red comes over it's always Morph Revenge II that gets the dust blown off its contacts.
I’m cool with the opening sentence—I like the parallelism with the ending line. But this is a long paragraph, and I feel like it drags a little. Some of it is qualifiers and passive language: might be drawn to, gets the dust blown off its contacts. The first bit I think could be strengthened by being tied to Red instead of to hypothetical other kids. (Would give more insight into Red too!) the second bit would be stronger if you framed it as Red and Blue dusting off the cartridge rather than the cartridge receiving that action from ... somewhere. Even with those fixes, it takes a while to get into the meat of the game, what it feels like to play it, and that’s when the story starts to feel most grounded. It would be great to get more of those tangible game details a little sooner. (Though I liked the details about the other games having better graphics.)

characters are selected
Blue and Red select their characters.

as sure as Gramps has to go to the back doctor
Should be “surely” to parallel the first part of the sentence. Also, this example took me a bit more effort to parse than “night following day.” It loses some of that snappy rhythm here.

Today Red is losing as Devil Drill. He hammers the controls, hoping that his frantic button-mashing will trigger her Morph Mode or at least scoot her more than a few steps down the battlefield.
Again, I wished I could picture the game more clearly here. Those details come after this when I feel like they ought to come before.

pixels; the SNES produces a garbled screech that's supposed to sound like a dying fearow; PLAYER ONE WINS dominates the screen; and Morph Revenge II keeps its comfortable position as The Best Game.
This could just be personal taste, but I’m not sure why these sentences are connected with semicolons instead of being left to stand on their own.

not bothering to resist when Blue resumes the game without asking.
I’m wondering why? I can buy it that Red would inevitably cave to Blue’s wishes here—especially with the reasoning that he can’t play at home—but it would still be nice to see him to resist a little more. Let them bicker! Right now Red feels like an accessory to Blue’s arc, not a character of his own right who wants things.

Blue wishes she wouldn't sound so cheerful while Strider is trying to kick all of Devil Drill's blood out.
This felt slightly off tone. Other passages imply that Blue is winning pretty easily, but this line makes it sound like he’s straining.

and I don't think we're gonna get that revenge playing hide-and-seek."
You could cut this line and I wouldn’t miss it!

Don't you know how to play Devil Drill at all?"
Yes, Leaf! I loved her handling, from the glimpse at her relationship with her dad to her nonchalant explanation of how to win. It’s a big deal to Blue, but not to her.

Blue's jaw plummets along with it.
I’d go with drops. I think a health bar can plummet, but not a jaw. Both can drop though!

Final thoughts: if not for the names of the protagonists, this could easily be in another fandom. Makes sense, since you said this was originally a flashback. But! I feel like you’ve got an opportunity to draw a parallel between battling Red in a game and preparing to battle him for real with Pokémon when they turn 10.

I enjoyed reading! Too bad you decided not to do the longer Blue fic!
 
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Phoenixsong

the world's scariest violinist
Partners
  1. custom/skiddo-steplively
one eternity later...

Thanks so much for reviewing! Sorry I didn't respond sooner, but shortly after posting this the descent into Moving Hell began, and it... took a while, bleh.

As a general note on your "more Red!" comments, because the same excuse unfortunately applies to all: You touched on this a bit, but yeah, the problem is that when I originally wrote this it was still a flashback. You'd get more character out of Red from other flashbacks and from the story itself. This was Leaf's (flashback) introduction, so Leaf was specifically supposed to get the spotlight instead of old-news Red. But it's 100% fair that, without that context, it doesn't seem like enough, and if this had been intended as a standalone from the start I (hope I) would've given that relationship the attention it deserves in situ. I'll have to see about whether there are changes I can make to this later, although I do admit I'd kinda like to be done with it, lol. But absolutely something to keep in mind if I salvage something for parts in the future, so huge thanks for bringing it up!

...now I think about it, all of that probably means the part before Leaf gets there goes on for too long in general, even if it were still in the original context. More detail about Red might honestly exacerbate the issue in that case, hm. Though I suppose that just means the story's scope would need to expand to include both.

Anyway! To address some of your other specific suggestions:

it takes a while to get into the meat of the game, what it feels like to play it, and that’s when the story starts to feel most grounded. It would be great to get more of those tangible game details a little sooner. (Though I liked the details about the other games having better graphics.)

Again, I wished I could picture the game more clearly here. Those details come after this when I feel like they ought to come before.

I think I was trying to straddle a line between "the details of the game aren't important, only that someone's finally better at it than him" and "wheeee making up silly retro game parodies is fun do more do more", and never really figured out the right balance. (There was definitely a much larger character roster in my notes somewhere, at least.) But hey, if the details of the silly game aren't distracting from the point so long as there's more room for it to happen, then maybe I can indulge just a tiny bit more, haha.

Should be “surely” to parallel the first part of the sentence. Also, this example took me a bit more effort to parse than “night following day.” It loses some of that snappy rhythm here.

Hm... can't remember whether "sure" over "surely" was deliberate to keep the narration's tone closer to "child-adjacent", or if I just made an oops, but if it's distracting it can certainly be fixed! (Or reworded entirely; not sure how many nine-year-olds, let alone seven-year-olds as they were in previous versions ????, would actually phrase it that way in the first place.) I'd have to think about how to retool the Gramps bit specifically, though. I'd like to keep it, but I do agree that it's a mouthful.

This could just be personal taste, but I’m not sure why these sentences are connected with semicolons instead of being left to stand on their own.

I wish I had an answer for you, because I suspect it was deliberate, but it's probably just "I have an inordinate fondness for semicolons" so it's easy enough to change.

This felt slightly off tone. Other passages imply that Blue is winning pretty easily, but this line makes it sound like he’s straining.

I can see how it might read that way, yeah. Would removing "trying" be enough to fix it?

You could cut this line and I wouldn’t miss it!

Nor would I. Honestly it probably should've been cut as part of the "Blue's complaints about Leaf are oddly misogynistic for some reason" edits I made before posting here.

I’d go with drops. I think a health bar can plummet, but not a jaw. Both can drop though!

Fair!

Too bad you decided not to do the longer Blue fic!

Theoretically I am still going to do the fic! It's just that the original longform plan was not the right way to go about it at all, haha. The point I ultimately wanted to play with can honestly be expressed in a one-shot rather than "the entirety of FRLG but constantly ~5 minutes in the past because it's following Blue instead". We'll see what happens!

Thanks again for giving this a look and for your helpful suggestions!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
So I think OSJ recc'ed this to me a while ago and I was a silly human who didn't try it out? Big shame. I know this is mostly older work so I don't really wanna dig in super hard, so here's a misc. collection of thoughts haha.

I like the size of this--things feel nicely breezy. The premise is really simple and we don't need to spend hours of painstaking character growth or anything, but what you do create is really organic. I'm a little biased but I'm a huge fan of Leaf just rolling in and kicking everyone's ass haha. The setup with lots of button-mashing in the beginning is really nice too; initially, I thought it was just to emphasize that Blue's a kid, but I think it pays off really well later when Leaf crushes him and he still can't really recognize anything beyond "lots of buttons are being mashed and also my health bar is now 0". He's not actually that good at the game ahahaha. It's really cute and in a believable way.

(Tonally I'm reminded of Salvage actually--if the protagonist were to narrate a story in an AU where they have slightly more understanding of social norms lmao)

The characters are good for who they are here--it's mostly short, it's not really so much that a lesson is learned/internalized and more that a kid gets wrekt a little. In general I like the setup/payoff, and then the return to Blue swearing that this game is garbage now--it's a fun twist of events and it made for a really lovely read. Thank you for sharing, and I hope that beeg NaNoWriMo number in your signature means we'll be getting more stories from you soon! 👀

Then Red loses, and Blue wins, and all, for once, is right with the universe.
I thought this was a super interesting line--does Blue not always win? When does this take place? I usually got the feeling that in canon Blue is usually the winner until the one time that really matters

"No, I mean just you," the girl continues, stopping next to Red and glaring at the screen. "What are you doing? Don't you know how to play Devil Drill at all?"
I LOVE dialogue mixups and this one is A+

Today Red is losing as Devil Drill. He hammers the controls, hoping that his frantic button-mashing will trigger her Morph Mode or at least scoot her more than a few steps down the battlefield.
Again, not super here to twist your ears on prose or anything, but I thought the focal shift in the early paragraphs was a bit hard--details like Red "hoping" sort of lean into a third omni narrator, but the bulk of the fic is closer to limited third around Blue. In this one I had to futz around and remember who the main character was a little (but I did figure it out, as we can see, lol).
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Popping by to check out your work! I wasn't sure what to expect here, but I really enjoyed it. My interest in video games is pretty close to zero, but I felt like you did a really solid job entwining those aspects with the characterization, and I never felt bored with it. I am such a sucker for explorations of the Red and Blue rivalry, and I particularly loves takes that show Blue needing more from Red than Red needs from him, and the inevitable angst. You did a great job capturing this elementary school boy mindset and capturing the particular poignancy and tragedy that comes when a friendship dynamic that feels like a immutable rule of the universe is disrupted. I loved the way you set up Leaf's entrance--let's meet the quiet girl next door--and the way she absolutely shatters the Red/Blue equilibrium.

I would be very down for a Blue chapter-fic if you get around to it!

Other nine-year-olds might be drawn to Super Chopstar Planet's brighter graphics, or Porykart Netracer '95's multiplayer with more options and that one cool mode where you can blow up the other drivers, but when Red comes over it's always Morph Revenge II that gets the dust blown off its contacts.
I enjoyed the narrative voice in this--both in Blue's head but with some ironic distance.

I almost wanted to push this even further, like, "and that one cool mode where you can blow up the other drivers and actually see their guts."

Chopstar might look a little better and Porykart might have more choices, but Red does not lose at those games and that means they are worse than Morph Revenge II.
Love the matter-of-a-fact, one plus one equals two way this is structured.

Today Red is losing as Devil Drill. He hammers the controls, hoping that his frantic button-mashing will trigger her Morph Mode or at least scoot her more than a few steps down the battlefield. It does not.
And enjoying the sentence length modulation here. I can feel Blue's smugness through the text.

"Hi!" says the new girl. Blue grunts and keeps his eyes on the television.
Since he's not looking at her, I feel like some description/judgement based on how she sounds might be in order? Like, one adjective Blue can use to write her off mentally (if "girl" and "not-Red" don't already do that, lol.)

Red ventures a careful "Hello" over his shoulder and turns back to the game just as his fighter's health drops to half.
I like the characterization of Red here, and throughout. It's nicely subtle, but you definitely get a sense of him as amicable and willing to go along with what other people want.

"I bet you'll be great friends," Daisy ventures hopefully.
Ventures is a unique enough speech tag that seeing it twice in such close succession was jarring.

She presses on when neither boy responds.
This felt a little outside-of-POV. Maybe, "neither of them responds."

It's a game about mutants who escape from the lab that made them, and then they try to kill all the other mutants with their mutant pokémon powers.
Lol, pokemorph fic called out.

"No, I mean just you," the girl continues, stopping next to Red and glaring at the screen. "What are you doing? Don't you know how to play Devil Drill at all?"

She snatches the controller out of Red's hands before he can start saying "What?" and her thumbs fly over a sequence of buttons before he can finish it.
Hah, love it!

"Maybe you should watch me play this round so you can learn how to do it right," the girl continues. Red passes her the controller without a word, only remembering to look back at Blue for permission after he's already done it. Blue's knuckles have gone white around his own controller.
This says so much about the Red/Blue dynamic and Blue's expectations for it. As if Red is obliged to get Blue's permission. Those control issues are a great look on you, Blue, I'm sure they'll bring you much happiness!

Morph Revenge II is Blue's least favorite game.
Perfect closer.
 

zion of arcadia

too much of my own quietness is with me
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. marowak-alola
This popped up on the front page, and I decided to read it since it was short. Since it was old, I hadn't planned on saying anything, but then I was like, eh, why not. A lot of what I might've pointed out has already been noted, so I'll just stick to a couple brief observations:

First, I like how middle school this feels. It reminds me a little of Diary of a Wimpy Kid when it's really clicking. Blue, Red, and Leaf have a matter-of-factness to them, what with their squishy brains not yet being fully developed and all that fun stuff. Even then, and despite how short the oneshot is, you manage to establish clearly defined voices for the three main characters. Very nice.

"Thank you, Daisy," the girl says politely, "but I don't mind! I can just watch, and then we can play something together afterward!"

This struck me as a touch contrived, so we could keep the element of surprise when it turns out she's really good. I'm not sure why Leaf wouldn't just say she plays video games. I could maybe see it as a character moment--being polite?--but nothing else in the text really indicates that.

It's only indirectly alluded too, but I find it interesting how much parenting plays a role in this story. You have Red, whose mom won't let him play the game because it's too violent, you have Leaf, who's so good at the game because she plays with her dad, and then you have Blue, who has... nobody? Or, at least, no parental figure outside his grandfather and his sister. It's interesting, too, that Oak never really makes an appearance (busy with work?), his sister mostly seems annoyed and apathetic.

Blue loves Morph Revenge II so much not just because he consistently wins, but because it lets him use a weakness in the relationship Red has with his mother against Red. Red is bad at the game because of a decision his mother made out of love; Leaf is good at the game because of a decision her father made out of love. It's why it doesn't just stop being Blue's favorite game, it becomes his least favorite game. Fascinating character detail that gives Blue dimension beyond just being a manipulative sore loser.

It took me a while to find a poem I liked in relation to this. But you'll be proud to know I persevered. Here:

What is the boy now, who has lost his ball.
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over—there it is in the water!
No use to say 'O there are other balls':
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is worthless.

--The Ball Poem by John Berryman
 
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Rainfall

Bug Catcher
Location
US
Pronouns
he/they
[blitzmode-(notquite)fast]

Hey Phoenixsong! Really enjoy your worldbuilding in the discord. I daresay I and others would be interested if you decide to write more fic! I do see that you seem to have works-in-progress : )

Hopping to The Best Game! Such a sweet little story

This was originally written back in the dim and dusty year of 2013. Back then I'd been planning to write a big ol' chapterfic about Blue that would've included several flashbacks, and this was intended to be one of them. Ultimately I decided against the flashbacks—and then decided against writing the fic in its original form at all—but I liked this bit, so I posted it as a standalone one-shot all those years ago.
It's nice to see some context of where this work came from, and some decisions, such as the inclusion and then reversion of flashbacks.
Recently I've had some thoughts about how to retool the original idea, and while struggling in vain to sort out the idea and Actually Make Words, I was reminded of this
Sounds good : )

which is not so much relevant to the heart of the story as it is "Phoenix had more fun than was strictly necessary dreaming up a ridiculous Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat knockoff".
love it!
___

Morph Revenge II is Blue's favorite game. Other nine-year-olds might be drawn to Super Chopstar Planet's brighter graphics, or Porykart Netracer '95's multiplayer with more options and that one cool mode where you can blow up the other drivers, but when Red comes over it's always Morph Revenge II that gets the dust blown off its contacts. The television hums to life, the title screen slides down, characters are selected—Red tries someone different every time, Blue always picks Strider—and then, as sure as day follows night, as sure as Gramps has to go to the back doctor whenever he tries to lift something heavy by himself, Red loses.
Enjoyed that phrase, "but when Red comes over it's always Morph Revenge II that gets the dust blow off its contacts." And the sequence following it, for that feel when one's setting up to play video games, alone or especially with friends : )
"ure as Gramps has to go to the back doctor" oh joy (poor Professor Oak!)
Also, Netracer is obviously Net-racer, but I also see "trace" in there, another potential reference to Porygon!

Chopstar might look a little better and Porykart might have more choices, but Red does not lose at those games and that means they are worse than Morph Revenge II.
Lovely way to put it, that winning (when playing with Red) is the important aspect of the game to Blue!

The fighter on the right flails her feathered arms uselessly, swiping and jumping at empty air, and for her trouble she receives a kick in her beak-face from clear across the stage.
Sounds like very good in-game battle description : )

A few more stretch-kicks send her crashing to the ground in a spray of red pixels; the SNES produces a garbled screech that's supposed to sound like a dying fearow; PLAYER ONE WINS dominates the screen; and Morph Revenge II keeps its comfortable position as The Best Game.
Yes please, yes, four statements interspersed with semicolon separators, with the final line driving the thesis home again.

"You can try that on your own game when you get back home." Blue reaches over to press the start button on Red's controller. "But hanging out here is the only time you have to play Morph Revenge II, so you better enjoy it while you can!"

"I wish Mom didn't think this game was too violent," Red says, not bothering to resist when Blue resumes the game without asking. "If I was allowed to play this at my house I could practice more, and then we could play more Porykart over here."
This sounds like a common young kids dynamic, where one is more driving of what activity gets done and is a bit cavalier with boundaries, while another or others acquiesce to this direction.

Big, bold numbers flash across the screen as the announcer voice's gravelly countdown begins. THREE. Blue adjusts his grip on the gamepad. TWO. His eyes dart between the two fighters, ready to react the second Devil Drill moves. ONE. He can see Red's face scrunched up in concentration, trying in vain to think of a new strategy. FIGHT

Blue jumps as his bedroom door bangs open, and in the moment it takes him to whirl around to see the intruder Red manages to land a few lucky punches.
Haha, love the detail in description of small actions as the game countdown progresses.

"The new neighbors are going door-to-door introducing themselves now that they're all moved in. This is their daughter, Leaf!"

"Hi!" says the new girl. Blue grunts and keeps his eyes on the television. Red ventures a careful "Hello" over his shoulder and turns back to the game just as his fighter's health drops to half.

"She's your age, too! Isn't that cool?"

Blue grunts again; Red grunts, too, mostly because he's still struggling to make Devil Drill do something useful.
I don't know if my following comment counts as problematic, but boys will be boys! When they're absorbed in their videogame toys, good luck getting us to be polite and decently-mannered.

"I bet you'll be great friends," Daisy ventures hopefully. She presses on when neither boy responds. "Why don't you let Leaf play with you? Then you three can really get to know each other."

Blue grabs his remote and cranks up the volume, losing most of his sister's exasperated sigh in a stream of digitized shouts, shrieks and spatters. "I'm sorry they're being so rude right now, Leaf," she says, raising her voice on "rude" so Blue and Red don't miss it.
What a wonderful unwelcome exchange from both sides : )


"Thank you, Daisy," the girl says politely, "but I don't mind! I can just watch, and then we can play something together afterward!"

"Are you sure? I'd feel awful if you were just sitting up here while they ignored you."

"It's fine," the girl insists, and she flounces into the room. Daisy makes a sound like she still thinks it's a bad idea, but she heads back out into the upstairs hallway all the same.

Red presses pause again, stopping in the middle of a fruitless attempt to block a hail of flying feet. "We can play something else if you want, Leaf…" he starts, glancing over his shoulder at her and then hopefully at Blue.

"No, we can't," Blue snaps. He unpauses the game and gives Red a stern look. "We're not stopping until someone has killed all the other Jetcorp mutants and defeated Boreas and had the ultimate Morph Revenge, and I don't think we're gonna get that revenge playing hide-and-seek."

Red gives the girl an apologetic shrug. "Sorry."

The girl moves in closer, trying to get a better view of the TV. "What are you doing, anyway?"
Leaf has spunk! Spirit! Red made an attempt to be inclusive, but is along for the ride of Blue's adamant need to enjoy being number one.

The girl moves in closer, trying to get a better view of the TV. "What are you doing, anyway?"

Blue smirks. He can see her frowning out of the corner of his eye. "We're playing Morph Revenge II," he says proudly. "It's a game about mutants who escape from the lab that made them, and then they try to kill all the other mutants with their mutant pokémon powers. It's got lots of fighting and blood and it's real tough and anyone who isn't an expert just gets their butt kicked, so even if we weren't busy you couldn't play with us."

"No, I mean just you," the girl continues, stopping next to Red and glaring at the screen. "What are you doing? Don't you know how to play Devil Drill at all?"
Careful you don't judge too quickly or dismissively! Which can sometimes be a hard thing for people. Here we goooooo : D : D : D

She snatches the controller out of Red's hands before he can start saying "What?" and her thumbs fly over a sequence of buttons before he can finish it. Blue only just looks back in time to see the fearow-woman leap over a stretch-kick and drive her own foot right into Strider's face. His eyes go wide and he mashes the controls but his character has no time to respond—the girl has moved Devil Drill in close, too close, and in no time at all she has drilled her beak-face into the other mutant's chest. Strider's health bar plummets in a shower of pixellated gore. Blue's jaw plummets along with it.
Here it is! Leaf has experience with the game and doesn't have time or even the concept of taking it easy on Blue. It's just a video game to her. Very nice prose, very flowing, of how Leaf jumps in and takes over for Red, and proceeds to pummel Blue's fighter with Blue not even having the chance to react in-game, concluding the fight with the mutual plummeting. Leaf doesn't care about the fight she just won, she just goes into a nerdy explanation of mechanics to a certainly surprised Red (and flabbergasted Blue).

he can still hear the announcer's voice loud and clear. PLAYER TWO WINS. Player One loses.
Poor Blue. The world where he is skilled in this one game over his friend has not so much slipped away as having been pulled out from under him. The game lets him know, and he hears it resoundingly.

"Maybe you should watch me play this round so you can learn how to do it right," the girl continues. Red passes her the controller without a word, only remembering to look back at Blue for permission after he's already done it. Blue's knuckles have gone white around his own controller. He wants to say no, to tell this new kid to keep her hands off the one good thing he has, but he can't do it. He can't just walk away like this. No, she can play, and she'll play from the beginning, and this time she won't surprise him and he'll beat her because this is his favorite game.

THREE. TWO. ONE.

He does not lose at his favorite game.
I love that dynamic with Red, here going along to Leaf's flow, and only looking back for permission after the controller was passed along. Not the sharpest or most alert, and I identify with that.

The boys can barely see what's happening through the haze of crimson dots, and Blue can't mash buttons fast enough to keep up. "Then once you've got him pinned you do this and she goes into Morph Mode for the finisher," the girl explains, her tone almost disinterested as her fighter transforms into a monstrous bird and plunges a wicked beak into Strider's back. There are more red pixels, there's another scream and then the match is over. Blue's health is at zero. The girl hasn't taken any damage at all.
So important to Blue, and so clinical to Leaf.

"Easy," says the girl, and Blue fumes silently as he reaches forward to turn off the console. "I dunno why you're still playing this anyway. My dad and I beat it forever ago. Morph Revenge III has way more fighters and cooler special moves and better graphics, so the blood doesn't look all blocky like that. You two can come over and play it sometime if you want!
Very nice of Leaf to be inviting to the two she just met, and not be put off by their respective lukewarm and chilly welcome.

She bounces out the door, rattling off the list of new characters and new combos in between questions about what kind of tea Blue's sister has downstairs. Red, following close behind, says he doesn't know about the tea but can she teach him those combos if he comes by tomorrow?
Fun dynamic where Red is a follower and Leaf is rattling off the video game notes. She does care about the game, just the one she hasn't already played thoroughly already!

Blue stays where he is and yanks the cartridge out of the system. He glares at the characters on the worn sticker, then tosses the game into a corner when he can't look at Strider's smug face any longer.

Morph Revenge II is Blue's least favorite game.
Poor Blue, again! An utter loss, having to face reality, where his opponent doesn't even care. Even lost in front of his friend, who's now following the annoying girl instead of staying with him. But maybe that's ok, since he's sulking. The game has done a complete turnaround. It's no longer his favorite game.
__

This was a lovely little story! I like the very natural but sharp contrasts among its four characters. The videogame and environment imagery are very well done and give the story its proper decoration. The story flows very naturally, and it's a wonderful little look into Blue's world, and how it changed, with his clearly favorite game becoming a point of losing from the hands of a new neighbor he didn't care about at all. It's clear being good, and being better at the game was what was important to him, and it was turned upside down in a terrible, passing meeting. Lovely picture of the encounter and potential future-growing-up experience.
 
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