What I’m Playing : Spring 2012

Flash forward from my last post. I’m now thirty-three, married, and a father of two. I’m still a gamer but a lot has changed since my Atari and NES years. Games are now high definition, online, and with advent of the 3DS and VR, even three-dimensional.  In the coming posts, I plan to wax nostalgic a bit more, but first I want to take a moment to detail what I’m playing now.

At any given moment, I break my gaming down into three categories: Console, PC, and MMO. I am the proud owner of all three current gen consoles, and despite it’s lack of power, I often find myself drawn to the Wii. Nintendo has a way dishing out some of the most strangely-appealing titles. This is true of their first-party offerings as well as their third-party releases. My most recent Wii purchase, and the console title I’m currently playing is the infamous Xenoblade Chroniclesxenobladechronicles_NAbox-5B1-5D

Xenoblade is a title that almost didn’t see a release in North America. It’s a Japanese-style RPG that Nintendo of America felt would have hard time finding a market with western audiences. I find this a bit amusing. To me, it seems Japanese pop-culture is huge with the age 8-30 demographic these days. When Nintendo announced the title would not be coming the US, the backlash was much louder than expected. An online movement known as Operation Rainfall was launched in attempt to bring Xenoblade and two other nixed titles to the US. Needless to say, as far as Xenoblade was concerned, Op Rainfall was a success. As a direct result of demand, Xenoblade Chronicles was released in the US as a Gamestop exclusive title in April of 2012.

I’ll do a complete write-up of the game once I have completed it. For now, I’ll say that I am thoroughly impressed. I am a big fan of JRPGs and this one does not disappoint.

On the PC front, I’m currently riding the Diablo III bandwagon.

The original Diablo was on of the first PC game titles that I purchased with my own money back in the day. It is a classic dungeon crawl (which I LOVE) with an overhead view. A combo that’s rarely done right. Diablo III has been twelve years in the making and I must say it was worth the wait. I purchased it solely for the single player content, but like many others, found myself sucked in to playing online with friends.

My only complaint is that the game is dependant on connectivity with Blizzard’s servers, even in single player mode. Which, since launch, have been up and down. This has been less than convenient for me. Luckily, over the last few days, things seem to have stabilized quite a bit.

Finally, in the MMO world, my currently subscription is the infamous Final Fantasy XIV.

960613_125615_front-5B1-5D

Let me preface this by saying I am a die hard Final Fantasy fan. This is a fact that I’m sure will come to light as this blog continues to develop. Perhaps that explains why I’ve stuck with this game through thick and thin. Anyone familiar with the title will no doubt be aware of it’s tumultuous history. Upon release, the game was a total flop. It was rushed to market, plagued with UI and server problems, and little to no in-game content.  Not long after it’s release, the development team was sacked and replaced. The new executive producer conducted a massive evaluation and deemed the current game largely un-fixable. The solution, rebuild the game from scratch.

It has been almost two years since the title’s release, and the long awaited version 2.0 is just around the corner. I must admit, even my faith in the title was shaken in the early days. But many fixes and refinements have been put in place and today the game has made a complete 180. I’m excited to see what the future holds with the 2.0 release.

On a side note, I’ve kept and “in-character” blog since the games release which can be found here:

http://ffxivkijimuna.blogspot.com

In closing, as this blog continues to develop it will be host to both nostalgic memories of my retro gaming years, as well my experiences with the latest and greatest titles. As my sons get older and begin diving into gaming, it is my intention to use that interest as a way to bond and spend time with them. That is truly the main purpose of this blog.

Coin-Op Origins

centipede-arcade-game-big

In my 33 years I’ve been many things. I’ve been a husband, a father, a student, a banker, an insurance agent, a pizza delivery guy, I’ve even flirted with being a rock star. As the years have gone by, I’ve worn many labels and enjoyed just as many hobbies. A lot of these interests have come and gone over time. But one thing has remained constant since I was a young kid: I’ve been a gamer.

I remember the first time I played a video game. I had to be no more than six years old. I was with my parents at the local Pizza Hut when I turned around to find myself face-to-face with a giant, glowing Centipede machine. The controls were simple; roll a big red ball, press the button as fast as you could, and try to shoot the centipede in a field filled with mushrooms.

I was enthralled. It was fantastic. There were blinking lights, beeps and bloops, bright colors – it was sheer magic! The machine was adorned with the painting of a menacing cartoon centipede poised to strike at some unknown victim… From that first quarter down the coin slot, I was hooked.

It wasn’t too long after that I encountered other arcade machines; Asteroids, Galaxian, Pac-Man, Q-bert, Frogger, Donkey Kong. I found all of them to be interesting to some extent. But nothing had tickled my fancy quite like the first time I saw that Centipede machine.

Although I can’t claim to remember, I’m pretty sure I begged my parents to eat out at Pizza Hut every night just so I could play Centipede. Eventually, I assume they figured they could save some money by finding a way for me to play it at home, and for Christmas that year, I got an Atari 2600. Complete with a Centipede cart.

The Atari version did not satisfy me the same way the arcade machine did. The Atari 2600 was not as powerful as most arcade cabinets. The graphics were much less colorful. Comparing art of the Atari version of Pac-Man to the arcade machine will make that clear in an instant. Regardless, for the next couple of years the Atari 2600 was what I gamed on. I had all the classics: Pitfall, Moon Patrol, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, all of which suffered in quality compared to their arcade counterparts. I’ve included two pictures below as an example:

untitled
Moon Patrol Arcade Version

s_MoonPatrol_31

Moon Patrol Atari 2600 Version

Just not the same is it?

For a year or more, I was content in my little bubble of watered-down Atari games.It wasn’t until one fateful trip to the local 7-Eleven with my father that I realized there was something better. It was there, Slurpee in hand, that I first laid eyes on a Super Mario Bros. arcade machine. Everything from the graphics to the sound were revolutionary. My dad handed me a quarter and I plunged head-first into the Mushroom Kingdom. Of course, I was clueless. I didn’t make it past the first Goomba. I had no idea you were supposed to jump over it, or better yet, on it.

I recall going to school the next day and telling my friends about it.  “He had a a mustache. You could REALLY see that he had a mustache! It looked almost as good as a cartoon!” I was completely obsessed with it. I remember drawing pictures of Mario and Koopa Turtles on notebook paper and cutting them out like paper dolls and acting out scenes I had seen from the game. I mean, I had that Mario Fever bad.

One day I was in Toys R Us, and I saw a “Mario Brothers” game for the 2600. Not understanding this was actually a different game, I let out a squeal unmatched to this day. Imagine my disappointment when I got it home only to realize it was not as “super” as Super Mario Bros. Even worse, it was another terrible Atari port.

My fever was cured that coming Christmas with the gift of a Nintendo Entertainment System by my grandmother. From the first day I pushed that SMB cart into that beautiful gray toaster and pressed the power button, I was marked as a gamer for life.