Friday, December 20, 2013

Peripherals: The Dex Drive

I think I focus on the Playstation 1 so much because that was the era when I was making decent money babysitting, but I wasn't old enough to drive or have a real job.

Basically, my $40 a week would turn into a massive PS1 shopping spree once a month.

Saying that, I also had one of those high capacity, off brand memory cards for the PS1 that had the tendency to corrupt saves ever few months.

The summer of 1999 was particularly brutal. I spent most days in front of the PS1 while my parents were at work. One day, I tried to load my Metal Gear Solid save and the PS1 kept saying it couldnt' find it. When I went into the memory card utility, there was nothing there. Empty. Much like my heart.

I lost some incredibly important files.

  • Resident Evil save that had Hunk and Tofu unlocked. 
  • Resident Evil 3 play through that had the costumes and epilogues unlocked.
  • Armored Core save on the last mission that I never beat. 
  • Metal Gear Solid clear game with the tuxedo and bandanna unlocked. 
  • And probably the most important, my 35 hour's of Legend of Legaia. 

There's no more depressing (yet oddly liberating) feeling of knowing hours of your summer just vanished because of corrupt memory blocks.

Enter, the DexDrive. The DexDrive could connect to your computer so you could backup saves. I bought one, sold my high capacity memory card, and just used one standard 128 KB card.

I just swapped files on and off of my PC, since my incredibly large 40 GB hard drive could essentially hold unlimited amounts of PS1 saves.

I was already in full support of the DexDrive until I also realized that I could download other people's saves from the internet. I spent hours scouring message boards and GameFAQs trying to find save files that most resembled the ones I lost. There were even some hacked saves, unlocking items that never made it to the final game and levels never meant to see.

I was able to mostly restore my lost saves with a little perseverance and Yahoo! searches. And thus, the DexDrive saved my summer.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Editorial: Doom's 20th Anniversary

Doom turned 20 this week. TWENTY!!! (Oh GOD I'M GETTING SO OLD)

I actually liked Doom 2 a bit better than the original Doom, but the original Doom was the first time, father and son sat down, and said, "Wow, there might be something more to this gaming thing."

Side note: This is also the last first person shooter my dad could play. Once things went to 3D, it was game over.

Doom was the first game that I can remember sitting in my windowless basement office, on a gorgeous Saturday, and just playing for 8 hours straight with my buddy Spencer.

I started typing this on Tuesday and have had to just leave and come back and try to figure out where I wanted to focus the post. This game just means so much to my childhood.

  1. Wolfenstein 3D was impressive and great in it's own right, but Doom hit the culture so hard, it was the first computer game I remember talking about on the playground. Mario, Sonic, and if you were a hardcore gamer, Doom, were subjects of, "Oh I found this secret in level 1-3" or had that one kid claiming to have an uncle that worked at ID. That's how you knew the game was good, everyone's uncle somehow worked at ID after they left their gig at Nintendo.
  2. This was the first time I remember hearing someone refer to "hardcore gamers." 
  3. Any FPS that came after this had to set their weapon number toggles the same way as Doom. If the number 3 did not give me a shotgun or their equivalent of a shotgun, I just didn't understand. 4 was always going to be a machine gun. And 5 through the end was always the rocket launches, plasma guns, and explosives. 
  4. Doom was the first time I realized that I loved horror games. I didn't know that's why I liked Doom so much until I played Resident Evil a few years later, but nowadays a game in the horror genre gets my money about 90% of the time.  
  5. Doom is also the first time I started thinking about level design. To this day, when I boot up Doom, I can remember things about each map. "Oh, this one has that huge outdoor space." Or "Damn, this is the one with the dark area where the Imps will keep jumping out." 
  6. And damn the enemy design. So creative. Most of those enemies were inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, but it was Doom that made most of those architects standard in any Sci-Fi/Horror game. 
  7. Doom was the first time I bought a game on multiple platforms and didn't feel dirty about it. I had it on floppy, CD, and Playstation as a kid. And now I own it on CD, Steam, and Android. 
20 years later, Doom is still a mainstay in my collection. I generally play through the first three Resident Evils, Super Mario World, and Doom every year. 

IGN probably did the coolest thing for the Doom anniversary, Ryan McCaffery played Episode 1 with John "Make You His Bitch" Romero. The 90 minute video is worth every minute.

Also, if you love Doom, you should read "Masters of Doom" which tells the history of ID Games up until the early 2000s. This book makes you realize how much genius got together to create Doom.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grand Theft Auto

I started playing Grand Theft Auto 5, and although its impressive, I always think back to the top down versions I played as a kid. 

When I was in 8th grade, someone sneaked a demo copy of Grand Theft Auto in and installed it on all of the computer lab machines. (Along with Commandos) We took advantage of the aloof keyboarding teacher, who would plan keyboarding lessons to last an hour, when most of us could complete them in 15 minutes.

The 10 minute demo of GTA was some of the best fun I remember having at school. I wanted to bring this fun home with me. I couldn't figure out how to transport the demo on a floppy disk like I did with Scorched Earth, so when I went home, I started what would become a regular occurance in my adulthood.

I waited for everyone to go to bed, booted up the ole Hewlett Packard, fired up Netscape, and began searching for Grand Theft Auto. 

After several hours, I found a site that would give you Grand Theft Auto in 10 Zip files as long as you clicked on a certain amount of advertisements from their site. 

I did it, signing my Yahoo address up for a butt-ton of spam in the process, but I had Grand Theft Auto, the full version, for free. 

I never got far in the game, because of a tradition of side tracking and exploration that carries forth in current Grand Theft Auto games. Inevitably, I would do 5 or so missions and then see how much chaos I could create. 

When Grand Theft Auto 3 launched, I was impressed, but the 3D version of Liberty City just didn't hold me like the top down. I could watch someone play the game for hours and be perfectly happy. But when I had the controller in my hand, I just didn't get sucked in.

The same holds true for the current ones. But I persist and finish them as some sort of gaming flog I force upon myself. After all, Grant Theft Auto will be the talk of the gaming town for months after release and in 10 years, I'm sure some misty eyed middle-aged friend of mine will stare off into space and want to remember our time in GTA IV's party mode fondly as we smoke pipes and get our shoes shined. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Scraping It All and Starting Over

There comes a time in many RPG's where you hit a wall. There's that one boss you can't beat. Epic 30 minute battles are fought with the boss, only to have your entire party destroyed in one powerful AOE attack.

You have to take stock of where you are in the game and figure out if you need to grind it out further or just scrap what you've done, start over, and follow a guide.

I'm at that point in two games.

I've discussed how Final Fantasy VII is a huge black mark on my gaming history. I'm currently on disk 3, right at the point of no return.

Before I ventured on, I decided to make sure I was properly equipped to handle the final fight.

I've read that Knights of the Round is almost necessary to defeat the final boss. But the requirements for Knights of the Round are pretty steep.

Even if you don't have Knights of the Round, Yuffie and Vincent are almost necessary, both of which I missed.

Since I hate wrangling Chocobo in the game, let alone some rare one, I'm considering starting over and specking my characters different ways and get the two characters I did not.

I could potentially spend another 10 hours grinding and leveling up to where it doesn't matter as much. I've had friends tell me they've beat the game around level 75-80. I'm currently sitting in the mid-50's.

Starting over means losing about 50 hours of game play. I fear if I start over, I'll never finish the game. I'll hit the wall I hit back in the late 90's and never progress.

The other game I'm currently stuck on is Vagrant Story. It's my all time favorite RPG. I've beaten it before, so I'm not agonizing over this decision as much. (Plus the game is only about 10-20 hours long) I'm stuck on a dragon and don't have any of the gear to make this a fair fight. He's killing me in two hits.

I know if I started Vagrant Story over, I would finish it. It's just a matter of how long will it take me. I'm about 3/4 of the way through the game and was really looking forward to finally taking on some of the New Game + dungeons.

I think I need to step away for a week or two, reassess, philosophize over our role in the universe, maybe get a life coach. Only then do I feel I can make this decision.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Game Trade Horror Story

At random times in my childhood, my mom would take up the issue of videogame violence, and I would find myself bribing my "cool" aunt to buy Resident Evil 2 for me.

One of those times was a random weekend afternoon when she walked into the room to find me playing Mortal Kombat 2 on the Sega Genesis. Being the showoff I was, I had just pulled off Kitana's fan decapitation. My brother, frustrated as always, threw controller 2 toward the Genesis.

I guess my mom attributed his violent outburst to losing to Mortal Kombat. But that was just how my little brother was. He had a short fuse. He'd cut his dress pants with scissors if he didn't want to go to church, he would rip the Sega Genesis from it's power supply to keep NBA jam from saving his losing record, and on multiple occasions hit me in the head with a metal trash can for just generally being better than him at everything.

So soon, we found ourselves wandering into a super shady used electronic store with Mortal Kombat 2, Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing, and Killer Instinct. We traded in three awesome fighting games of the generation for something like $35.

This was one of those stores where the owner sat behind the counter smoking cigars, with a sweat stained white t-shirt on, always reading some sort of magazine that had nothing to do with electronics. There were 300 copies of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with the "Not For Resale" banner on the cartridge hanging on the wall.

My father was sent with us to filter what was too violent and what wasn't. He was being a hard-ass about it, but I knew the way to his heart.

I saw Timothy Dalton with a pistol and the classic "007" logo. My old man loves James Bond like most guys do. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Ehh, that's clean violence. I don't think your mom would care."

He then vetoed games like Toe Jam & Earl for being "too weird" and Zombies Ate My Neighbors because although it looked cartoony, my mom has a weird thing about zombies and demons.

I ended up walking out of the store with James Bond 007: The Duel and Brett Hull Hockey. (which was far inferior to NHL 94, which I already had)

Now the Duel wasn't the worst game I'd ever played. It was a fairly standard action plat-former that was sort of a cross between the level design of Mega Man and the action and A.I. of Contra.

I became pretty good at the game, because when you don't have adult income, you have to force yourself to love mediocre games that you purchased.

Even as I faked a smile while saving ladies in nice dresses in the middle of a jungle, I couldn't help but think that I had lost out in this trade. Even as I killed jaws in his weird Mech and saw the ending sequence, I just wish I could kill villages with giant dinosaurs or steal the soul of Johnny Cage.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Sparse Population of Games

For the longest time, one of the ways to show off your new hardware (other than cars) was by showing screenshots with a ton of people rendered on it.

I was planning on buying a Playstation 3 until late one night on G4, I saw a trailer for Dead Rising, boasting it's hundreds of zombies on the screen at once. I almost threw up from excitement. I went out the next week and bought a Xbox 360.

On the flip side of this, it's really noticeably when a game is supposedly set in a major city, but is sparsely populated.

The Star Wars games seem to stick out, probably because of how many creatures roam the streets in the films.

I was recently playing Star Wars Bounty Hunter on the Gamecube and while was chasing down targets and having blaster fights with some of the dumbest guards in the galaxy, I realized that I'm on Coruscant, supposedly the most populated city in the galaxy, and there are only 10-15 residents hanging out.

And then I started thinking about other Star Wars games.

All the Battlefront games take place on what should be mostly populated maps, but there I am, killing Stormtroopers in Mos Eisley with 31 other soldiers and no one else.

KOTOR attempted to populate it's worlds with those really awkward NPCs that sort of stand around until you approach. But there were still large swaths of land in these cities with no one in them.

Even the Force Unleashed, a newer Star Wars game was often only populated by enemies. Yes, you were often attacking Imperial strongholds, but the Imperials often built their strongholds in major cities.

It's a dumb thing to complain about, but it's one of those things that bothers me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Eye Candy of Racing Games

Side note: Retronauts actually discussed arcade racers last week. I swear, I started writing this blog before I knew that was the topic. Figured I should give a shout-out to them though as they jolted my memory into remembering some other games.

Racing games were one of the last games people went to arcades to play, and are often used in demonstrations of the new hardware's capabilities.

Those gorgeous cars can show off the new lighting effects as streetlights and buildings reflect off of the hood of the car. It can show how the physics engine uses the processing power of the console to create realistic damage.

My first memory of a racing game is a little foggy, but I know it was in an arcade. It was either Pole Position or Cruising USA.

I played Pole Position much later than most people did because it was only a quarter a play, but I hated the game. The wheel gave no feedback and the pedal was in an awkward position where I always missed the brake.

I was a victim of the digitized graphics of the early 90's. I thought Donkey Kong Country and Mortal Kombat were some of the best looking games I had ever seen. So sitting down in the giant arcade cabinet and driving through California was an overstimulating experience. I didn't play Cruis'n USA as much as I would like since it was one of the first machines to break that dollar line.

One of the first racing games I remember playing at home was Nigel Mansell's World Championship Racing on DOS. I didn't understand Formula 1 racing (I still don't) but loved this game. Yes, that irritating buzzing noise was consistent during your entire play time, but I couldn't hear that because I had Disney Radio blasting the Bartman while I played.

A few years later, Virtua Racing for the Sega Genesis again captured my F1 imagination with the deliciously classic Sega "Virtua" look. (See Virtua Fighter) Sega had an entire line of games that looked like Max Headroom to show off their game system, and I admit, Virtua Racer still looks beautiful to me.

This game came on one of the larger cartridges and actually has the honor of being the game that ruined my first Genesis. Something fried and I had to get another Sega.

Ridge Racer spun in my Playstation 1 for more hours than a one course racing game should, but damn did the graphics blow my mind.

I think my favorite racing game of all time is Ridge Racer Type 4 for the Playstation 1. After all, it is the best looking racing game of all time according to critics of the mid to late 1990's.

The drifting in this game is beyond unrealistic, but it's fun, and that is what is important to me. Most of the racing games I've talked about are arcade racers rather than simulations. I don't understand or care to understand enough about cars to slowly tweak my setup for Gran Turismo or Forza.

I still play through Ridge Racer Type 4 on my Vita about once a year, slowly unlocking all the cars again. It surprises me how many cars I remember from my childhood.

Friday, September 6, 2013

One for the Playstation

One was a game I lusted after. The marketing on this game sold it to me. I knew I had to buy it before I ever tried a demo of it. I saved my money up for weeks. I scoured the Toys R Us video game hallway looking for the piece of paper I had to bring to the customer service counter. I had to pass by more deserving games like Metal Gear Solid to find One. But I found it.

This was one of the rare times where my mom talked me out of buying a game. I don't really know why she chose this one specifically, but she said, "Why don't we go rent this one? I'll pay for that. If you still like it, you can buy it."

I'm glad she did.

One is a fun game. It sort of plays like Contra but in a 3d space. It's fast paced, machine gunning hundreds of enemies, ridiculously high jumping platforming goodness.

The first thing I noticed was the difficulty level was way higher than I was used to. I think that was a purposeful design choice. The old arcade philosophy of "make it brutal, the game is only 15 minutes long, and we need quarters."

So after about 20 or so tries, I went to the ole' trusty Cheat Code Central website and found some codes to help me through the game.

I was able to enter the code for all weapons. That was really all I needed. I started flying through the levels.

Turns out the game is only about 30 minutes long. After 6 stages I was seeing end credits with my mouth agape. I took the game back to Blockbuster and spent my money on other things.

Recently I was at a retro video game store and found some other PS1 games I had been hunting for. They had a buy 2 get 1 free deal, so I decided to pick up One again and see if my impression changed.

It's still hard as can be, but I was able to beat the first two levels without cheats this time.

There are a couple of things I noticed that I don't remember from my childhood.

  1. This game is buggy as hell. I was falling through maps, clipping on invisible walls, and unable to make jumps that I very obviously should be able to.
  2. The auto-lock-on rarely targets the guy you're pointing at. It usually finds a guy in the background. So melee is king.
  3. And the game is "EXTREME." After I beat the first mission, I was given a ranking of "Pissed." That sounds about right.
If I had paid for this game, it would've been $2.99. Which is about the right price for it. It's an interesting piece of history and can be a fun game. If you find it for $2.99, grab it. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ape Escape

I had two favorite sub-genres on the Playstation 1, survival horror and stealth. I had to buy second copies of Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, and Syphon Filter because I had just played them too much.

Late in the Playstation's life, magazines started talking about a game that in all honesty, looked like a kid's game. It was a ballsy move by Sony, being the first game that required a Dual Shock controller, something that still not everyone had. It promised to combine platforming elements, puzzles, and stealth action.

I just didn't understand how this stealth action was going to be any good, since I wouldn't have a silent pistol equipped under a terrorist threat. To me, the stealth genre involved some action hero, sticking to the shadows, getting fed intel over a headset.

Late in the summer of 1999, I found myself at Babbages with $130 in store credit. As I browsed the racks of games, Ape Escape kept jumping out at me. I still don't know what it was, because I had already written the game off, but that day, I wanted nothing more than to have Ape Escape.

I walked out of there with a green dual shock controller, Ape Escape, Warzone 2100, and The Unholy War. (Turned out to be one of my better game trips as all of those games ended up being personal "classics.")

The game was beyond anything I could've imagined. Each ape had it's own personality traits that played into how you could trick and capture them. The lights on top of their head told you how aware of danger they were. There were fully fledged mini-games like skiing and boxing that were better than many full retail counterparts. The levels locked out entire areas until you came back powered up later in the game.

I found myself completely enamored with this world. I couldn't put down the controller. My completionist ways didn't like leaving apes behind because I didn't have the right tool to catch them. I needed to unlock that next gadget. I needed to beat Jake in the next obstacle course.

I never finished the game. I had something like 2% of the game to clear to fully finish it, but like thousands of Playstation fans, I was the victim of a Mad Catz memory card corruption.

Thanks to an excellent PSP remake, I'm trying it again. The warm glow of my Vita screen transforms me back to summer of 1999 where I gladly trounce my way through the levels for the second time. I'm determined to get that 100% before Christmas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kickstarting Nostalgia and Tie Fighter

Some of the most successfully funded gaming Kickstarters are those that pull at our nostalgia heartstrings for genres the huge publishing companies have long considered dead.

Double Fine's Adventure game and Project Eternity are two of the better examples. The adventure game promises to scratch that Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango itch, and Project Eternity that hardcore DND adventure game.

I feel I know what to expect from those games, but one that I backed and am interested in seeing the finished product is Star Citizen, from the creator of Wing Commander, Chris Roberts.

I'm most interested in seeing this space flight simulator because what has been promised just doesn't seem possible for the $2,000,000 pledged. We are being promised the Earth and moon quite literally.

Every Friday my email inbox lights up with a well produced and often comedic variety show on art assets, updates on game development, and staff bios from the RSI Comm-link. It's obvious the passion is there, but since none of my Kickstarter games have yet shipped, I'm wondering what the final product will actually look like.

But I'm excited, even if it is cautiously.

I never played Wing Commander on the PC, (I put in some time on WC4 on the Playstation) but I put in massive amounts of time into Tie Fighter.

Daily I was pounding in the DOS line to start the game, listening to the CD Rom spinning hard in our Windows 95 HP desktop, and listening to the choppy intro movie.

I spent hours gladly escorting Imperial shuttles, inspecting space containers, and earning every badge in the training courses. It was a game I had to fully digest before I could put it back into the CD wallet.

It was a game of discovery. Not only of different planets and ships and tactics, but you were learning things about your ship well beyond the final credits.

I was able to get through most of the game chasing down A-Wings and switching between my primary and secondary weapons, but then I started discovering how I could divert power from my shields to a gun to have the recharge time shortened or I learned how to charge while barrel rolling to quickly take out an X-wing.

Now, I should've gone home and poured over the thick instruction book to find out how to use everything at my disposal before I booted the game, but I was 10 and I wanted to fly alongside Darth Vader immediately.

I loved the game. The story was gripping, pulling me into this world of Imperial factions and backstabbing. I forgot that the Rebels were supposed to be the good guys, and soon I understood the Empires side of the story. That's some powerful stuff. A game made me rethink three films that had been ingrained in my from the age of four.

I don't expect to be wowed by Tie Fighter, but it's been so long since I've played a real space sim that I can't imagine how when I leave my hanger the first time and see the billions of miles of stars around me that I won't have a chill down my spine and a smile on my face.

Monday, August 19, 2013

X-men on the Sega Genesis

Like most children in the early 90's, my brothers and I were completely caught up in X-men mania. (Something had to take the place of Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtle mania which we had just been cured of) The cartoon was on TV, the comics were getting a major push, and the giant two screen arcade game was eating our quarters.

Naturally we had most of the games for the Sega Genesis. This was one of the few times where we could all agree to pool our allowance for a common cause. Although the games had many flaws (music and sound effects, terrible level design, difficulty, plot, etc) the X-men games hold a special place in my family's collective heart.

The 1993 X-men game was the first one we purchased. We had no idea it existed until one faithful trip to the video game aisles at Toys R Us where we found X-men on sale for $20. I pulled one of those pieces of paper off the display and wandered up to customer service to claim my prize.

It was actually a pretty solid action platformer.

This game reminded me much of the first Ninja Turtles' game on the NES because you could switch between one of four characters, (Cyclopes, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Gambit) and each one had special abilities or weapons that were better suited for certain parts of the game.

There was one level, Mojo's Super Crunch, that I was rarely able to beat. There was a platformer part, early on in the level where I never figured out how to get passed it.

I had to rely on Nightcrawler teleporting through a wall. Nightcrawler's teleporting ability was random, sometimes he would slide right to the other side of the wall for me and other times he would teleport backwards, essentially forcing me to start the game over again.

My favorite game was X-men 2: The Clone Wars. This took the controller sharing / bickering over who got to play out of mix because it had co-op. Not only did it have co-op, but it did it right. You didn't share lives, started with plenty of lives, and when one player fell off the screen, they would teleport up to the other character.

This had a weird cast of characters available, just like the first game. You could pick between Beast, Cyclops, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Psylocke (who was getting a big comic book push at the time) and Magneto. My brother and I loved the amount of choice, but with the cartoon being on the air, I wondered why we didn't see Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, or even Bishop?

In a way, I guess I have to give them props for including Nightcrawler and Beast, who had limited time in the cartoon, and Psylocke who had joined team Cyclops in the comic series, but never felt like a major player.

The big issue with this game is how large some of the levels are and the backtracking required. This gets especially confusing since so much of the maps have similar backgrounds. My brother and I stopped bickering over who got to play, and started arguing over which way we were supposed to go.

Finally, late in our Sega Genesis days, my brother traded Maximum Carnage for Wolverine: Adamantium Rage which turned out to be one of the biggest trade downs ever accomplished in my house.

Listen to those gorgeous opening credits. They hit that 90's extreme-ness so well.

It's a shame that the level design is so atrocious, the enemy design so uninspired, and the plot just about non-existent. I remember something about Wolverine having a photograph and wanting revenge, but I don't think it went much deeper than that.

The difficulty in Adamantium Rage was incredible as well. The only real way to beat the game was with a Game Genie or by doing what the guy in the YouTube video does and run through most of it.

I think most people can agree that X-men games have never been great. Some of the early beat-em-ups scratch that nostalgia itch, but most of the games have been digital piles of garbage. (I'm looking at you current generation Marvel games.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Light Guns Don't Work on HDTVs

When I was in college, I had one of those terrible months where my car required an $800 repair, my electric bill was $150 more than the previous month, and rent was due.

I had to sell most of my media to pay for everything. I sold my Gamecube, NES, Playstation 2, and about 150 DVDs and 200+ games.

I've slowly been rebuilding my collection now that I make adult wages.

One genre I noticed does not really exist on current platforms was the light gun game. Yes, the Nintendo Wii and Playstation Move have made it possible to have similar games, but there's nothing better than feeling the click on a Nintendo zapper's trigger and killing some ducks.

I wanted to buy Area 51 (again) for the PS1, but could not find a way to have a light gun connect to my PS3 to play it. So I started doing some research and found out that light gun games do not work on modern HD TVs.

I read a ton of technical explanations from computer science and electrical engineering students that I did not understand. I'm more of a visual guy. So the best explanation is to watch a video.

When you are not playing and pay close attention, you'll notice when the trigger is pulled the screen flashes black and the "hit box" around the bird flashes white. That was how light guns determined if it was a hit or not. The gun looked for that white box and if it did not see it, you missed.

If it did not see the black flash because you were pointing the gun off screen, some games would register that as a reload.

Out of all the theories I've read on why this exactly doesn't work, the two reasons that seem most logical are:

  1. Timing issue caused by refresh rate
    • PaRappa the Rapper is supposedly really hard to play on an LCD because of the minor delay between sound systems and the picture on the screen. 
    • I had trouble beating the first level of Space Channel 5 HD for the same reason.
    • Even a new game like Rocksmith is hard to play on a HDTV because of this same delay. 
  2. Brightness / no true black screen on an LCD
I am sure someone will figure this out. I have read a few threads where people claim that their super awesome TVs have a quick enough refresh rate to where it will register hits sometimes. I have a feeling the fix will be on the software side (HD collection for Wii and Move?) but who knows, maybe our televisions will become so crisp and fast that we will not need a software fix. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Official Playstation Magazine Demo Disk No. 5, February 1998

For a kid that didn't get much of an allowance, sometimes demo disks were the only way for me to enjoy "new" games. It was better for me to plop down $10 for a magazine, demo disk, and mall pretzel with cheese rather than save for six months and buy a game that I might not end up liking.

I recently found a bunch of my old Official Playstation Magazine demo disks. I've had emotions bouncing back and forth between, "I own most of the full versions of these games now and this could be the worst way to waste time" and "wow, this could be a really cool look into gaming history."

I had some time to waste, so I grabbed the first disk I saw in the binder, OPM No. 5, February 1998.

For those of you that don't know the format, OPM would send out a demo disk that generally had half playable demos and half teaser trailers with each of their magazines. This is an especially solid disk.

Resident Evil 2 (video)

The first thing I noticed was how terrible the compressed PS1 footage looked on an HD TV.

Second thing I noticed was that Capcom has had a hard-on for action oriented survival horror games since 1998. They might not have fully implemented that until Resident Evil 4, but this trailer shows no less than 6,000 gun shots.

Pandemonium 2 (Video)

Pandemonium was one of those games I always remember sitting front and center on the shelves for cheap. I always held it in my hand, read the back, looked at the pictures, and then set it back down. I could never figure out exactly what it was. I liked the colors, but that was about it.

I watched the 2 minute video with gameplay footage and I still don't know what it is. Anyone know if it were any good?

Tomb Raider 2 (Playable Demo)

All of my Tomb Raider instincts came back to me. I battled the tigers with the backwards strafe and fire (with the occasional roll) and the importance of walking when near edges. The one thing I forgot was how often my finger found R2 and I lit a flare. I burned through them all in the first minute or two.

I remember the demo. I played it over and over again doing speed runs, finding all the secrets, trying to do it without killing anything when I was a kid.

There were two things I noticed that were different from the final version.

Tigers seem to endlessly spawn in the opening area every 90 seconds or so. Also, there seemed to be more keys needed to open doors than I remember in the final version.

Crime Killer (Playable Demo) 

I don't remember this game. I tried to find more information about it because it just seemed like a weird game. I found a 15 year old IGN review (3/5) and a Gamespot review (6.8/10) but nothing else on the game. It's some sort of take on car combat where you drive around police vehicles and shoot down enemy cars.

The demo itself was a mess. Textures were dropping, the cop car handled like a pinball machine, and there were hundreds of aircraft firing missiles and lasers onto these city streets, but not really hitting anything.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert (Playable Demo)

No! RTS games do not belong on a console. Just NO!

C&C has similar problems to Warcraft 2. Huge frame rate drops, terrible controls, and everything looks like a messy blob.

2 disks of fun and mouse support were bullet points on the splash screen. That should say a lot when two bullet points were hardware related.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Editorial: Nintendo Launch Retrospective

With the Nintendo WiiU launching back in November, there still isn’t an impressive library. My local game store has one half shelf dedicated to WiiU games. Most of the real estate has Wii overflow from the full Wii shelf next to it.

When you think about it, besides the Mario game that came packed in with the system, most Nintendo launches were weak on the software side. You got that one killer app, but for months, nothing else.

I’m going to break down the classic Nintendo 1st party game, the biggest 3rd party game, and the worst game at launch.

NES (1985): The NES had a soft launch, only releasing to FAO Schwartz in New York originally and eventually would find its way everywhere. It obviously wasn’t a blockbuster seller immediately, but this is the system that built the Nintendo name.
  • 1st Party: Super Mario Bros
  • 3rd Party: Kung-Fu
  • Worst Game: Gyromite

Gameboy (1989): Again, hard to get concrete numbers and dates, the Gameboy managed to sell really well. Most people mostly used the portable as a Tetris machine for the first several months of its life, but eventually the Gameboy would go on to sell more than 118 million units.
  • 1st Party: Super Mario Land
  • 3rd Party: Tetris
  • Worst Game: Baseball (bad port of original NES game)

Super NES (1991): The Super NES has one of the smaller launches in Nintendo history, but they launched with a much greater quality of games.
  • 1st Party: Super Mario World
  • 3rd Party: Sim City
  • Worst Game: Gradius 3 (It’s not a bad game, just the worst out of the launch titles.)

Nintendo 64 (1997): Quite literally there were only two games at the launch of the N64 as far as I can tell, but both games were fantastic.
  • 1st Party: Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64
  • 3rd Party: N/A
  • Worst Game: Pilotwings (?)

Nintendo Game Cube (2001): The Gamecube is often frowned upon as one of the worst Nintendo systems to hit the market. I believe it was the best. But the launch was mostly ports from other consoles.
The Gamecube launched with 13 games. Not only did it have the weakest 1st party launch title in Nintendo’s history, Luigi’s Mansion, it also only contained games that could be purchased for other consoles.
  • 1st Party: Luigi’s Mansion
  • 3rd Party: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II
  • Worst Game: Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge

Gameboy Advance (2001): The Gameboy Advance had a fairly limited launch line up. It had many games, but was almost all ports from other systems.
  • 1st Party: Super Mario Advance (Super Mario 2 Repackaged)
  • 3rd Party:  Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Earthworm Jim, Rayman Advance
  • Worst: Army Men Advance

Nintendo DS (2004): The Nintendo DS had a mildly better launch than the Game Cube. Since most games didn’t know how to use the touchpad yet, most had little reason to actually be on the DS, other than the cheap production value. The worst game, Ping Pals, managed to get many <1 10s="" 500="" america="" around="" ds="" in="" launch="" media.="" north="" of="" on="" out="" p="" sold="" somewhere="" still="" supposedly="" the="" units="" week.="">
  • 1st Party: Metroid Prime Hunters: First hunt
  • 3rd Party: The Urbs: Sims in the City
  • Worst Game: Ping Pals

Nintendo Wii (2006): Nintendo Wii had a weak launch lineup with bang up marketing. Games that were broken like “Red Steel” were pushed like the second coming. The strongest non-pack in release, Zelda, was a Gamecube port. Now Wii fans have been treated to at best, three worthwhile releases a year.
  • 1st Party: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports
  • 3rd Party: Call of Duty 3, Red Steel
  • Worst Game: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Nintendo 3DS (2011): I’m still confused about the 3DS launch. As far as I can tell, there pretty much wasn’t software at the launch of the 3DS. Literally there were games, but not really. Most were rehashing of other games or games that hadn’t figured out the tech quite yet.
  • 1st Party: Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats
  • 3rd Party: Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition,
  • Worst Game: Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, Asphalt 3D

Nintendo WiiU (2012):  Jokes aside, I want this console to work. Failing consoles are good for no one. Still, it seems Nintendo rushed the hardware out the door knowing that it's tech specs wouldn't be able to compete with PS4 and Xbox One. There weren't a lot of launch games and besides the release of Pikmin 3, there really haven't been many game releases since launch.

Most of the third party games are ports of older games from this generation like Mass Effect 3 and Batman Arkham City.

  • 1st Party: New Super Mario Bros U
  • 3rd Party: Mass Effect 3: Special Edition
  • Worst Game: Game Party Champions

I guess my conclusion from looking at all the Nintendo launches is that I should stop expecting these insanely great pack in launches like the SNES and N64. The launches weren't as bad as I thought, but there weren't many stand outs.

The business model has changed. Xbox 360 launched with nothing. Playstation 3 took forever to get some great exclusives out. Kinect and Move are both jokes. PS4 and Xbox One both have weak launches.

I guess I held Nintendo at a higher level. But nowadays, it’s all about the hardware sales. No one wants to take a risk on an unproven console and install base. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Super Mario Brothers 3 vs. Super Mario World

Usually when someone talks about the greatest of the Mario games, either Super Mario Brothers 3 or Super Mario World are argued for.

Sure, there is the occasional person that throws Mario 64 or the original Super Mario Bros into the mix, but generally I think Mario 3 and World are the two best of the pre-2000 core-Mario games.

If I took an official vote, my bet would be that Mario 3 is the overall favorite.

It was the first game with the diverging paths world map, insane amounts of secrets, memorable boss battles, and that ridiculous combo of the maze like world 7 and difficult world 8.

I sat cross legged, challenging myself to beat the game without using whistles and saving that P-wing until the flying fortress level for several years.

Mario was fine tuned and indeed, Mario 3 is probably the best game on the NES, but I always tend to have a soft spot for Super Mario World.

It's partly because I didn't actually own a SNES and didn't get as much time with Super Mario World. There was a point where I did have some Mario 3 fatigue.

Super Mario World has its own bullet-ed list of features that could go bullet for bullet with Mario 3, like an even larger world map, more secrets, the introduction of Yoshi in a Mario game, and a diverse set of levels.

But I think it's more about the social aspects of the game. I remember setting up a 27" standard definition television on the bottom bunk of my cousin's bunk bed, his window open allowing the crisp autumn air to blow against our shirtless bodies, and draping sheets over the outside to give us a cave to fully escape into this other world. (It sounds like some pre-teen, homoerotic adventure now that I've typed it out)

We would scream, laugh, talk about small world's issues, discuss what we were going to blow our allowance on, and beg his mom to order us pizza.

It was a game that couldn't be beat in one weekend. We grew with the game. Sure, we might have beat Bowser after just a couple weekends, but that 55% completion on the save screen mocked us. We spent months finding all of the secrets we could, until we were forever stuck on the 5th Special level.

Eventually we noticed girls and more adult oriented video games like Resident Evil took over our Friday-post-roller-skating-game-nights. Super Mario World was packed into a box and largely forgotten about. It wasn't until last fall when I was given a family member's SNES and about 15 games that I remembered the magic.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Demon Sword - NES

This was one of those games (much like Megaman) where the box art didn't really show you a great representation of the game. 

In Demon Sword, you play as a pale, skinny man in a kimono. The cover would have you believe that you were in charge of a shirtless Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting hawk dragons.

The actual goal of the game was to put this mythical tree branch looking sword back together and banish the demons. As you beat levels, your sword got longer until it was larger than the character. Link's buster sword had nothing on this one. 

I would describe this game as Super Ninja Mario Gaiden. 

The combat and boss fights reminded me of Ninja Gaiden. It was a chess match of dodging and slashing with some magic and ninja stars thrown in.

The actual platforming was more like Mario where you could fly through the level just based on muscle memory. 

And that speed was the thing that mesmerized me. 

Up to this point, I owned Mario, Zelda, the Adventures of Bayou Billy and Fester's Quest. Mario had a nice pace to it, but if any of you played any of Bayou Billy or Fester's Quest, you realized how much the developers actually hate you as a consumer. Much of your time was spent moving your character slowly across the screen. 

So when I got my hands on Demon's Sword and was able to fly through the trees with almost no frame rate issues, I felt free. The only other time I had a similar sensation was the first time I drove a car without my parents in it. 

I played this game so often that the contacts started wearing out and the first level was played as a mess of busted pixels. But by then, my muscle memory was so great, I could literally do it blind.

I checked on eBay and this treasure was going for $.99 on several auctions. If you have an NES and skipped this game before, drop a dollar on it and let me know what you thought.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Editorial: How Did You Get Your Nintendo to Work?

There was nothing worse than seeing two flashing colors on your TV screen when you should be seeing that glorious NES game title screen.

A un-countable number of comedians have already covered the subject of how everyone had their special way of getting their Nintendo to work and how you could only get your own NES working.

My cousin Ryan would lick the game and then press the game down as hard as he could. In desperation, I once licked a particularly troublesome game and remember tasting a dusty battery.

One of my best friend's in high-school had to use a Game Genie even if they weren't putting in codes. Without the Genie, the console wouldn't recognize a game was inserted.

My neighbor across the street would discard the warnings about only using the official Nintendo cleaning kit and would dab rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip and rub it in the games.

My wife's family would do a combo of blowing into the game, rubbing it down with a dry Q-tip, and in some cases shoving a Popsicle stick into the system to hold the games at the perfect height to make contact with the terminals. 

I would blow into a game for exactly 30 seconds. I'd then push the game all the way into the system and then pull the game out just a pinch. And I could never push the game down into the system. If I pushed it down how you were supposed to, blinking color screens all day long. 

You don't get these great stories anymore. 

Telling the heroic tale of putting your red-ringed 360 into the official Microsoft casket and waiting two to six weeks for a refurbished console to make its way back just doesn't have the same comedic feel of laying in your pajamas on the floor at 6:00 a.m. getting dizzy from blowing into a game for too long. 

So how did you get your NES to work?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Editorial: Inverted Axis and Inverted Choices

My wife humors me and plays video games with me sometimes. She's pretty good at them. But there's one setting she always needs to change immediately, and that's to turn on the inverted Y axis.

It's not often you meet someone that prefers the inverted axis. I know only three people that prefer the inverted axis, and two of them are in my wife's family. It seems to be a relic of the Flight Simulator days, or at least that's where my wife traces it back to.

There are times where she plays as the first player, saves the inverted setting, and the next time I pick up the controller I find I can't hit the side of a barn. And sometimes its not immediately apparent what is wrong. I'll play ten minutes just thinking I'm having a really off day before I remember that my wife had the controller last.

It's just strange how some settings are just assumed now and when a developer does them differently, it can really mess up your life.

Remember during the Playstation 1 era where many Japanese developed games had "O" as the select option in menus and "X" as the cancel option. (I'm looking at you Konami and Square)

I can't tell you how many times I spent five minutes stuck on the title screen of Metal Gear Solid because I would press "X" to load the game.

Or when you try to play Halo and end up throwing grenade when you really just want to aim down the sites.

Things that seem to have been ingrained into our gaming DNA by large adoption of standard settings. Call of Duty and Battlefield have taught us that the left trigger should aim down the site and the joystick-less games of the present just about shun the inverted axis.

I wonder if research and development studied the best way to handle these settings or if a few guys on the development team picked up a controller and found their preference, forcing it on the masses.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hunter Hunted

One of my favorite childhood computer games was a Sierra platformer adventure game called Hunter Hunted.

My best friend from 4th-6th grade was his wealthy grandparents favorite grandchild.

We would get to spend weekends at their high-end, lake front condo, playing on their ultra powerful PC, powered by the ultra fast Pentium 2 processor. And since he was their favorite, they were always buying whatever the new PC game at Wal Mart was just for our pleasure.

Most of these games were installed and forgotten, but Hunter Hunted was one that stuck. It quickly earned a spot in our regular rotation.

It was a side scrolling game where you played as the strongest human on the planet, Jake, where you have to run from a beast hunting you, rebuild your car, and dodge the security bots on each level.

It was such a simple game, but addictive. Each level was a new puzzle.  Each weapon had its own weight. And for a computer platformer, it was incredibly polished.

And the graphics, my were they beautiful. The art design looked like Killer Instinct or Donkey Kong Country with a steam punk twist.

And being a 90s computer game, the soundtrack was mostly Metal. It was everything you could want in a game from 1996.

The best part of the game was the local multiplayer. My buddy would plug in his joystick and I would jam on the keyboard as we played an incredibly frantic game of cat and mouse.

Jake and the beast, Garathe Den, each had their own stats and unique weapons. Jake had the more powerful weapons whereas Garathe had a few more hit points and could navigate the levels with greater speed. As always, there were ways to cheese the game, certain areas where the opponent's weapons couldn't touch you but you were free to rain grenades down on them.

Unfortunately, this was one of those games that never got much traction on the playground. No matter how many times Spencer or I brought up how great it was, we just couldn't get anyone else to bite. In a way, I'm happy. It's my own private little game that not many people have heard of.

Around 1997,  Spencer moved away and thus my way to play Hunter Hunted.

I begged my dad to get a copy of Hunter Hunted for our own computer. He delivered a copy only weeks later (thanks to a buddy at work) on a burned CD. (Way ahead of our time, I know) Unfortunately, our computer was only half the power of Spencer's grandparents. The frame rate came to a crawl anytime anyone attacked. The game would simply crash if my brother and I tried to boot up the multiplayer.

A few years ago I purchased a copy of Hunter Hunted off of eBay. Surprisingly, it worked without much prodding on my current generation hardware. I played through the 65 single player missions with a smile on my face, eventually giving the CD ROM its home on my permanent game shelf.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Editorial: The Importance of the Controller (Top 3 List)

With this new generation of consoles coming, the controller seems to be the most talked about feature. (You know, other than that whole DRM thing) I don't remember the controller design being all that important up until the Playstation 1 / N64 era. Moving into "3D" worlds required much more precision than ever before. Manufacturers had to concentrate on more than going left or right and having 2-6 input buttons.

The controller had to be an afterthought for most console designers before the early 90s.

The NES came with its harsh rectangle and stiff D-pad. The Colecovision had its calculator with the joystick at the top. Or the similarly designed Intellivision with the calculator at the top instead.

Sega seemed to have the worst designs. I never really got comfortable with the Dreamcast controller and the few times I held a Saturn controller I wanted to throw it out the window. Even the simplicity of the Genesis controller wasn't exactly perfect. I still have scars from the blisters that controller gave me when playing Royal Rumble.

There have actually been more controller failures than successes. But, being ever the positive person, I'm going to focus on my top three favorite controllers.

3. Xbox 360

There's no way this controller could be in the top list if the D-pad was used more often in modern games. We can all agree, it is probably the worst D-pad on a controller. 

But in the age of the console first person shooter, this controller is the best. The triggers, bumpers, and placement of the sticks are ergonomically perfect for the modern console game. 

It wasn't until I switched to the Playstation 3 when I realized just how perfect this controller is. And considering where it came from, it's design was no small feat. Just look at the original Xbox's controller (I count it among the worst) compared to where Microsoft brought the design for the 360. 

2. Playstation Dual Shock 2: Specifically, the emerald green see through Dual Shock 2 controller. 

The weight was great, the design gorgeous, and I could play for five hours without getting tired. 

I loved being able to see through the case and see how the Dual Shock worked. 

I used this bad boy so much that the analog sticks eventually stopped working. Not willing to throw it in the trash, I took the controller apart and figured out how the thing worked. Turned out one of the pads the joystick interacted with was lose. Just had to reseat it and it worked perfectly. 

It felt solid to. I knew I could use it as a weapon if I somehow came under attack while playing games. 

1. Nintendo Gamecube

A small confession, I might spend time on the weekends writing love poetry to this controller. 

I don't hear this controller talked about often, but no other controller comes close to the Gamecube. My fingers instantly knew where all the buttons were. It was light, it had a lot of beautiful feminine curves, and it came in just about every color you could want.

It felt like the games were built around the controller, whether you were playing MarioKart or Resident Evil 4. Everything just worked. 

I still boot up my Gamecube from time to time and just wish I could pair that controller up with my Playstation 3. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Editorial: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the Personality of the Level

A buddy came over last weekend for a kickback, old-school sleepover with pizza, video games, and general nerd discussion. (The only difference is instead of drinking Mountain Dew, we drank beer.)

When he saw that I had several Genesis classics on PSN, he demanded we boot them up. 

First up was Sonic the Hedgehog 2. My buddy is a Sonic fiend. He's one of those few people that have been able to forgive the countless terrible games featuring our favorite blue mascot. He's one of those mythological people that get excited before every Sonic game that comes out.  

I have a soft spot for the first three Sonic games on the Genesis, but I drifted apart from the chili dog eating animal after the Genesis. 

There are sections of the game I vividly remember. The beautiful first zone, Emerald Hill, bouncing off the flippers in Casino Night Zone, and the frustrating Shoots and Ladders of the Oil Ocean Zone. 

And then there are the ones I always forget about, not because they are lesser zones, but they were the ones I didn't have to play as much or they didn't cause me to throw my controller at the TV. It had been so long since I'd played Sonic 2, that when we came to Aquatic Ruin, Hill Top, or that damned Metropolis Zone, it was like seeing the game for the first time again. 

I was amazed at how varied each zone was. It's something missing from games today. Gears of War and Call of Duty are filled with the same brown and gray hues for the entire 10 hour campaign. 

In Sonic 2, each Zone has a personality, its own music and enemies. You came to know the new difficulties that awaiting in each area. It was handy when talking about the new secret you found on the playground to reference the lava river in Hill Top Zone or the bottomless pit in Mystic Cave. I can't say, "oh, there's a dog tag hidden in the ruined city, with all the cement and dust when the locusts attack," because that's the entire game. 

It took maybe 15 minutes for my buddy to get to the Winged Fortress, where hundreds of times I gave up on the game in my childhood.

We didn't beat it Saturday night. It might have been because we did not have a Genesis controller so the muscle memory was just slightly off. It might have just been the 7 beers we each had already. But Dr. "Eggman" Robotnic would continue to hold the last Chaos Emeralds. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

OPM September 1999 - Letters to the Editor

Back in 1999, I had an embarrassing Limp Bizkit related email address, dressed like a skater, and was a mall rat. Having just moved to a new city and getting a "babysitting" job that paid a whole $40 a week, I spent a lot of time bouncing between the Babbages, FunCoLand, and Gamestop at my local mall to pass the time and blow some cash.

I was a regular at Babbages. The employees there actually liked talking videogames and appeared to know more than your average game shop mall employee.

I was known by name at Babbages. They knew that I was good for $50-80 a month and I traded in games all the time. I often was able to jump ahead on pre-order waiting lists (when they still meant something) and was privy to games they hadn't yet demoed on the floor.

So, when they got a Dreamcast with Powerstone, the manager treated me like a VIP. He said, "Dan, I have something awesome to show you. Let's play." I grabbed that large awkward controller and we booted up the Sega Dreamcast.

It was fun. It was actually a fun 3D arena fighter with weapons spread across each map.  I unfortunately bought Bio F.R.E.A.K.S for the Playstation 1 and knew how these types of games typically went.

My mind was having a hard time conceiving how smooth the frame rate was for a 3d fighter.I was all too familiar with the frame rate drop when playing multiplayer Smash Brothers or Goldeneye on the N64, but my brief time on the Dreamcast I didn't notice any slowdown.

Then he popped in Sonic Adventure and my jaw dropped when I saw my favorite blue mascot blazing through this 3D city.

While I was playing, the manager was spewing off all these hardware specs that meant very little to me, but essentially he said, "Dreamcast is more powerful than what the PS2 will be."

I was just about sold.

Later while contemplating if I should blow my summer allowance on a Dreamcast, I came up with the idea to write a letter to the editor of the Official Playstation Magazine.

I was surprised when my Yahoo! Messenger started exploding with all of these strangers telling me, "Thank you for asking for a side by side comparison." Or "You tell them." (Which was weird, because I don't feel like I expressed an opinion.)

I had no clue that my letter had been published as my OPM still hadn't arrived. (I later found out, this issue came out a week earlier in Canada, which is why I wasn't aware that I had been published.)

Here is the only time I've been published in a magazine.

That's a lot of MBs and MHz!

Thinking back, the manager was probably trying to get a hardware sale. He probably didn't have a strong preference one way or the other in the Sega vs Sony vs Nintendo fight.

I don't know if he was getting desperate because the Dreamcast wasn't selling as well as they had hoped or if in a year he would be spouting the same lines about the Playstation 2 being the superior console.

Either way, I used my money to buy a car and I wouldn't have either console until 2002 when the first Resident Evil film was released on DVD and I bought my PS2.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Editorial: Biggest E3 Misteps

Watching Microsoft confirm our worst DRM fears and then the subsequent bitch slap Sony delivered only hours later made me think of the biggest E3 missteps. Konami is a perennial failure forcing Japanese executives to read intense English scripts about their games. And damn if there aren't always CEOs that obviously know nothing about games, nervously standing in front of the crowd, talking about games, spewing buzz words. All of these clips could be cut into a 3 hour montage on YouTube.

Here are 3 of my favorite failures at E3.

Nintendo 2008
E3 has only been widely available to watch for maybe 8 years now, and there have been some pretty pathetic pressers, but nothing was as disappointing as Nintendo in 2008 when they spent what felt like half their conference showing the future failure that is Wii music.

Sega 1995

I read this one in countless magazines and just couldn't believe it. I was a Genesis guy and was incredibly excited about the Saturn.

Sega decided they would surprise release the Sega Saturn the day of the conference, but only to some stores and with only 6 launch games. On top of that, the Saturn was $100 more than the Playstation. All these missteps culminated in the Saturn sitting in the 1990s shame circle right next to the Virtual Boy and Apple Pippin.

Sony 2006

Sony already had a misstep with their 2005 conference where they egotistically announced a $499 price point, but then came the realistic-battles-from-feudal-Japan-crab-battle. Just watch the video, it explains itself.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Smash Brothers Brawl

Last week, I did the unthinkable. I took my 10-year-old Smash Brother's Brawl save and deleted it. It had everything unlocked and a good chunk of the trophies earned. Something in me said I needed to earn all the unlocks once again. Something told me that enough time had passed that my 20-year-old self had earned things that my almost 30-year-old self didn't deserve.

Well I stare at Marth and Jigglypuff as my only two unlocked characters right now, and I think I made a mistake.

I remember seeing this commercial as a kid and freaking out. This premise was just too much for me.

I couldn't decide if this was an elaborate joke or if it were real. I knew Nintendo protected their first party creations, but then again they did allow the CD-I version of Mario and Zelda.

I did not own a Nintendo 64 and when I found out this was a real thing, I was jealous. I'd heard rumors that Sony was developing a similar 4 person fighting game involving ninjas, but like most things in this first 3D generation, it was an idea that never materialized.

It wasn't until several years later, when the Gamecube was released, that I finally got to play a Smash Brothers' game. It... was... glorious.

It was one of those Mountain Dew and pizza fueled game sessions that lasted seven hours. I was hooked. As the night went on, we unlocked most of the secret characters and levels, and we just kept going. Around 4 a.m. my buddy rubbed his unblinking eyes and went home. We repeated this several weekends in a row never getting sick of it.

Eventually I would go back and play the Nintendo 64 version. (which was just as enjoyable) I was never big into fighting games but something about the quick sessions and heavy hits had me hooked.

It was a fighting game that required some skill, but you could also win with luck and some good button mashing. It was the ultimate level playing field. (Don't get me wrong, I recognize when someone has talent.)

There was magic in seeing the Mushroom Kingdom, Donkey Kong Country, and Starfox themed levels rendered. The music, the art, and the power-ups were all deliciously Nintendo for something that on paper was not Nintendo. Had you come to me in 1992 and said, "Someday, you'll be able to beat the hell out of Mario while being Link," I would've told you to shut the hell up.

I remember when the Wii version was coming out, how excited I was watching the website update with new characters, levels, and power-ups every week. I could not wait to see what other achieved games would be tapped.

There aren't many games that bring out that excitement in me nowadays. I know with E3 coming in the next days, we're due to hear about the next Smash Brothers' entry. Again, I find myself without a Nintendo console. I'll be on the outside looking in, until maybe 5 years from now when I can revisit

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Editorial: Losing Steam with the JRPG

I've always had this internal battle raging. About twice a year I get this yearning to play a JRPG style game and about 1.9 times a year I get this yearning to not finish that game.

This all started with Final Fantasy VII in the summer of 1997. My cousin and I went to the local rental store, saw this cool cover with a guy and a huge sword, and took it home. No amount of pizza and Mountain Dew could dull the disappointment that we weren't actively running into large hordes of enemies and cutting them down with this man sized sword.

That night, thinking maybe we missed something, I popped the game in after my cousin went to bed. I tried to take the game in. The prerendered backgrounds were beautiful. The music, some of the best I'd heard. But still, I just didn't understand the battle engine. My 13 year old self couldn't understand why my characters were taking breaks between hits. I didn't feel their fate actually rested in my hands, but rather rested in the hands of Lady Luck.

I've revisted Final Fantasy VII on my PSP in 2009 and enjoyed it much more. In fact, I've made it to the end of disk two... and I've been stuck there for 2 years. This isn't because I've come against a tough boss, its because I read a spoiler that said, "Don't even bother fighting the last boss without Knights of the Round," which I did not get.

The only two JRPG style games that I've actually finished are Legend of Legaia (PS1) and Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360). Both gave me an intense feeling of accomplishment and I think that's the feeling I'm chasing when I boot up that JRPG every year.

And while I chase that, the list of JRPGs that sit unfinished on my Vita and PS3 memory cards grows and this is almost a memorial for them, because I just don't know if I will ever finish any of them. The world will remain in chaos and the hero will remain casually living life at the last save point.

  • Final Fantasy IV - Corrupt save state has me stuck in a dungeon I immediately die in
  • Final Fantasy V - 3 hours in and I lost steam
  • Final Fantasy VII - Sitting at the end of disk two where I have to decide whether to grind my level up to 99 or try to go back and get Knights of the Round. 
  • Final Fantasy VIII - There's really no good reason. I actually liked this one better than VII, bought a copy of it, but never played more than the demo. 
  • Grandia - I just don't know where I'm supposed to go after the first town and am too lazy to look it up. 
  • Chrono Cross - It just seems so daunting to play this. 
  • Persona 4 Golden - Can't beat a boss about 6 hours in. 

Bringing Back the Blog

I've decided to bring back my old "Media Whore" blog. This time its going to be more focused on old games, memories, and old gaming magazines. Sure there will be an occasional thought about a newer game or film or comic, but this is really for me to reminisce.

I'm going to leave my old blogs up which are damn near 5 years old now because why the hell not. They weren't all written by me, but its still interesting to see what was popular then.

The group that would soon become wrong about a dozen articles before we bought a domain and had a proper site for three years.

I've been missing having an outlet for my video game thoughts. So, this blog is a free, public place for me to accomplish that.