Before I was introduced to Dark Souls II, my first game by FromSoftware was a little title called Lost Kingdoms
(which I am definitely going to need to talk about in-depth one day). My uncle Gil gave it to me one Christmas telling me he thought it was "that game with the Disney characters in it". I clarified that he must have been thinking of "Kingdom Hearts", but I was excited to have a new title for my Gamecube regardless. And when I slapped it in and fired it up, I was met with something that was a bit strange and rough around the edges - and unlike anything that I had ever played before. It's stuck with me for a long time, and yet most people I talk to have never heard of it. I'm sure that at the time, the same description would have applied to just about any of From's other titles. By the time I finally caught up with them, they were fast on their way to being everybody's darling. I didn't realize until later that the creator of Lost Kingdoms and Dark Souls were one and the same. I have also realized since then that you can really only get a game like Demon's Souls from a developer that's willing to make a game like Lost Kingdoms.
I finally got around to playing this last year. Couldn't be bothered to dredge up the ol' PS3 (dubbed "Slim Shady") so I spent a day configuring RPCS3. I had already played every other Souls game by that point, so I came in fully anticipating a modicum of rust. By the time Return to Slumber graced my ears, I was more cognizant than ever of why I had so much love for the Souls series. If I had the good luck of playing it when it first released, I think I would have been lost in Boletaria and never returned. It was a bittersweet meeting, one that came much too late, and one that I was all the happier for having.
I feel like I could spend a lot of time delving into this game's conception and history, but for once I really don't care to. If I'm taking them at face value, I think most any other Souls game you could point to has a leg up on Demon's Souls in some way. It would be very easy to write off the original as merely being a stepping stone for From to create their magnum opus, but I feel like that's just not giving it quite enough credit. Demon's Souls is experimental and busted and unquestionably inspired. Nobody believed in it, but it ended up finding an audience anyways. No, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I've never played a perfect video game (or at least won't admit to it). Regardless of how deeply flawed it might be, it's still so very important. It stands as a shining, heroic figure for every game out there that flew under the radar because it refused to be like all of the rest. It's like an episode of some cliched high school sitcom where they give the nerd a makeover and everybody suddenly falls in love with them, only for the nerd to decide in the end that they're more comfortable being themselves. Demon's Souls came back later with some nips and tucks as Dark Souls and suddenly the world was head over heels for it - but many of the things that made Dark Souls worth loving were already here. Now, don't get me wrong. Dark Souls is hot. But there's a solid chance none of us would even be talking about it if Demon's Souls didn't obviously have enough merit to make it worth taking a second chance on. And for my money, I really, really like nerds.
My other favorite Miyazaki really knocked it out of the park, here, and I'm glad he and everybody who was involved with it ultimately got the recognition they deserved. Boletaria is an absolute hellhole and I can't wait to take another vacation there one day.