Remembering the Super Nintendo

Not long after Nintendo gave the gaming world a way to play games on the go, they redefined the way we played games at home. Enter the Super Nintendo. Despite the grumbling of parents over the lack of backwards compatibility, every kid (myself included) wanted one. This system offered everything a serious gamer could want at the time. Crisp colorful 16-bit graphics, better sound and bigger more complex games. All of these promises were proven true with the very first SNES game many of us ever played, Super Mario World.

Nearly every successful franchise saw a release on the SNES, further cementing it as the new standard for home consoles. With pretty much every game developer on board, Nintendo proved again that they were champions of home console gaming.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be doing mixed reviews of both the SNES and Game Boy-era titles that influenced me as a kid. I may even cover a few classics that slipped thru my fingers the first time around.

This post is here to serve as both an introduction to many of the upcoming game reviews as well as a salute to one of the greatest home systems of all time

 

Dawn of the Handhelds

Somewhere between the glory days of the NES and the introduction of the SNES, Nintendo brought us the now legendary Game Boy. I was living in Japan when this little brick of happiness was released and I remember being in complete awe of it. It was not the most attractive device. A grey hunky of textured plastic with a puke-green screen that somehow formed grey/black pixels into graphics. But it played games. Damn good ones too.

Back then, the Game Boy came with a free copy of Tetris, the now-classic puzzle game with a soundtrack and proved that even beeps and bloops could be catchy and infectious to anyone within earshot.

As if an addictive puzzle game was not enough, it came with multiplayer capabilities. Yes, you would link two Game Boys together with a cable and ram bricks on to your best friend’s screen at the worse possible moment. It was amazing and the beginning of a whole new era for gamers.

As the system matured, so did the games. Eventually, many of these early portable titles even rivaled classic home console games in complexity and fun. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look back at the Game Boy titles that I loved as a kid, and even checking out a few of those that I may have missed the first time around. Previously, I touched on two of the Castlevania titles when I had my Castlevania playthrough back in the fall, so if you’re curious about my thoughts on those, please feel free to look back and enjoy.

 

Evolution

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So far I’ve written about my experiences growing up with the original 8-bit NES. But naturally, like many other kids who came of age in the 80’s and 90’s, I was also the proud owner of its successor the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The SNES was a thing of glory to behold. It boasted better graphics and better sound… I mean you could actually hear real speech. (Maybe only in 10 second fragments, but still!) This was a big deal. It also had a lineup of games that were a force to be reckoned with; Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link to the Past…. It was enough to make your head pop. It’s hard to make a statement like this, but I daresay that the Super Nintendo was just as important to legacy gaming as the original NES. I look at the NES as the seed/root and the SNES as the vine/blossom of Nintendo’s success.

Some of the greatest RPGs of all time saw the light of day on this box of 16-bit goodness. In fact, the SNES has been hailed by many as the pinnacle RPG platform. Not only did Nintendo’s first-party titles and various RPGs flourish on this new system, but the early 90’s saw the rise of two-player fighting games, these also soared to popularity thanks largely in part to the Super Nintendo. Games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II owe a debit of gratitude to the SNES.

As I mentioned in another post, around the mid-90’s my attention waned a bit from console gaming. I became more interested in social activities. Any gaming I did during this period was in front of a PC. My consoles sat on a shelf collecting dust while I learned the ways of new games like DOOM, Quake, and Diablo.

In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released. By this point Nintendo was so far off my radar I barely noticed. I vaguely remember seeing an ad for Mario 64 and I thought to myself “Wow. Would ya look at that!” To date, the N64 is probably my most neglected era of gaming. I have since gone back and experienced many of these great games on the Wii, but I feel like I missed being in the middle of all the action. It is a pox on my gaming record to be sure.

Around the same time, Nintendo faced it’s first serious competitor: The Sony Playstation. Sony’s console made the move from cartridge-based games to CD-ROM. My old roomate had one and after seeing it for the first time, I remember wondering if Nintendo’s days of dominance were over. It certainly seemed that way. The N64 fell in popularity over time and the Playstation earned a much larger audience. Third-party developers jumped ship in record numbers. The Final Fantasy series moved exclusively to Sony’s console. As did many games from Capcom and Konami.

Sony followed up their success in 2000 with the release of the Playstation 2. This console changed everything. It was leaps about bounds above anything seen before. Many PC defectors, like myself, were lured back to the living room thanks to the PS2. In attempt to strike back, Nintendo released the GameCube. It was a cute looking device that accepted odd little mini-discs. The GameCube was responsible for some good titles, but by this point it seemed that Nintendo has officially lost the battle and the home console scene now belonged to Sony. Thankfully, Nintendo was able to weather the storm due to the popularity of their handheld gaming devices.

It was around this time that Microsoft decided to enter the scene. They brought the Xbox to the table and for the first time ever the console battlefield included 3 main competitors. It was during this time that I stepped back on the console scene. I had been recently married, and my love for Final Fantasy had been rekindled. I purchased a PS2 and caught up on many of great games I missed over the years. Then one day, my wife came home with a GameCube. This enabled me to get reacquainted with Nintendo and their offerings at the time. I was slowly on my way back to being a full-fledged gamer again.

2005 was the year that console gaming came back full force. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360. For the first time a modern game console was combined with the power of the Internet. Sales surged and Sony’s dominance took a hit. To retaliate, Sony struck back with the powerful but pricey Playstation 3. I believe that price alone is what kept many people away from the PS3 initially. Due to this, the Xbox retained the top spot in many households for a time. (Mine included.)

By this time, I was fully back in my gamer persona. Nostalgia had worked it’s magic on me and I watched Nintendo’s next move with baited breath. Rumors had been flying around the Internet of Nintendo’s new project; codenamed “Revolution”. Everyone was talking. I remember the guy at my local Gamestop almost salivating as he claimed to have the inside scoop:

“I’ve been told by a very reliable source that it looks like a pyramid. On each facet is a slot for a different cartridge!! There’s one side for Nintendo, one for Super Nintendo, N64, Gamecube, and then the last side takes the new discs!”

Naturally, I had to point out that pyramids only had four sides, but that didn’t seem to matter to him.

What Nintendo actually did produce was the now famous Wii. Like many others, I was put off by the name. “Play with my Wii” jokes flew around the office. But I was intrigued by the new motion controls. I remember thinking it would either be revolutionary or a complete bomb.

The Wii was a smash-hit, outselling everything else. The secret to its success was its appeal to all audiences. Heck, even my parents bought one! Through the Virtual Console feature, new gamers were able to experience classic NES and SNES games that they had never seen before. Nintendo had returned!

That brings us to today. The three-way console race is still on and it’s hard to say who dominates. The beautiful thing is, it doesn’t matter anymore. Games are released across multiple platforms and these days and it makes little difference which you choose. I personally own all three systems and I enjoy each of them.

Now that we are all caught up, the main focus of this blog can finally begin. It is in this world that the modern gamer finds themselves. If you’re like me, you work full time job. You have a family to raise and life away from the computer or television screen. Time is limited. You love games, and you still want to experience them all, what do you do? I mean think about it. There’s new great titles being released every day. Now with things like Xbox Live, Playstation Network and the Virtual Console almost any legacy title you want is only a download away. It can be frustrating.

The answer is time management and focus. I’ve learned this the hard way. I also find a lot of my free time sucked away by MMO games. It is easy to fall behind. This blog is going to be a chronicle of my journey through the world of gaming. I’m going to be reliving the games of my youth as well as tackling the games of today. This site will serve as motivation to finally tackle that backlog. I hope you stay tuned.

J-Pop

extralarge   Princess Princess

J-Pop. AKA: Japanese pop music is another interest of mine that just won’t die. In Japan, young female Japanese singers are often called “idols”. They are often made up and dressed in a completely over-the-top fashion. I’m ashamed to admit, there’s something about these magical singing/dancing pixie-girls that enthralls me. The first time I was exposed to J-pop was days after moving to Japan with my family. I turned on the radio and searched the dial for the military network, upon finding it I heard about twenty seconds of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler and immediately turned it off. It dawned on me that the top 40 hits I had become accustomed to enjoying were likely to be in short supply for the duration of my stay. I sat there for a moment, pissed at realization that my days of being entertained by the radio were probably on hold for the next three years. I flipped it back on and decided to see what type of nonsense was being broadcast over the local airwaves….

What I found intrigued me. I stumbled upon what must have been some type of in-studio concert. Two Japanese men were talking back and forth for a few moments then all went silent and a guitar was heard. The intro consisted of some pretty elaborate and speedy fingerpicking, I waited for the first verse to begin, and I waited, and waited, and waited…. It seemed like 10 minutes before the song actually started. But that couldn’t be right. Could it? Finally, an older sounding man in a raspy voice began to sing. In fact he began to croon the same lyric over and over again. To my young American ears, it sounded like he saying “English! Didi-la-la Didi-la-la”. Who knows what he was really saying, but he went on repeating this for nearly another 10 minutes, over and over and over. I turned of the radio and silently wondered what I getting myself into.

That was the extent of my interest in Japanese music until maybe a year later. As part of a culture exchange program, we had a teenage Japanese girl stay with my family over the Christmas holiday. Among her personal belongings was a tape of an all-girl Japanese rock band “Princess Princess”.  She was eager to share this cassette with me and a quick listen revealed that this was MUCH DIFFERENT from “Didi-la-la”. Before leaving, she let me make a copy and I found myself listening to it often. Despite not being able to understand the lyrics, it ended up being one of my favorites. I kept the tape for many years until finally it simply wore out and quit playing.

After returning to the States, the years went by and I became involved in the whole 90’s Alternative scene. It wasn’t until many years later, after I got married, that my love for J-Pop was rekindled. I had taken a hiatus from video games for most of the mid to late 90’s. After marrying and settling down a bit, my wife and I bought a brand new PlayStation 2. One of the first games we purchased was Kingdom Hearts. This game was a strange blend of both Disney characters and icons from the Final Fantasy universe. It featured a theme sung by the J-pop idol Hikaru Utada. I found the song to be quite catchy and thanks to the Internet I got my hands on some of her other works.

utada-hikaru   Hikaru Utada

Fast forward a few more years, I find myself living in Tennessee working the graveyard shift for a bank. I discover a streaming J-pop station on the Internet called J-Fan Radio. This station opened my ears to even more Japanese artists. I fell in love with idols or bands with names like:  Tommy February6, Dragon Ash, Balzac, Ayumi Hamasaki, Koda Kumi, and Gackt.

In recent years, Japanese culture has entered the American mainstream thanks to video games and various anime. With them has come many original soundtracks featuring J-pop artists. Due to this, it’s very easy these days to get your hands on the latest music from our friends in Japan. If you’ve never experienced it, I recommend giving a listen. They make great soundtracks to late-night video game marathons. I take a bit of pride in being able to say “J-pop? Oh yeah, I was listening to that twenty years ago.” But honestly, I didn’t learn to appreciate it until many years later.

004392w9   Gackt

 

Final Fantasy

If Wizardry is considered the grandfather of western-style fantasy games. Than Final Fantasy is its far-eastern cousin. While Wizardry was rooted in classic Tolkien-style swords and sorcery, Final Fantasy can be summed up as more exotic techno-fantasy type of genre. I was introduced to the series while living in Japan. I had noticed the game in the collection of several of my Japanese friends, and I knew that it was off limits. “No play!” They would tell me any time I pointed to the game. I assume they feared I would accidentally delete their character data due to my inability to read the Japanese menus. Even though I wasn’t allowed behind the controls, I enjoyed watching them play the child-like characters, as they explored weird underwater shrines and did battle with goblins or vampires.

Eventually, the game was translated to English and made available to the western audience. I snapped it up immediately and never looked back. The summer of my post-6th grade year was spent exploring the game to the fullest. I created characters of every class, snooped through every nook and cranny of the dungeons, and defeated the final monster countless times.

I knew that Final Fantasy II and III were already available to my Japanese friends, and I was more than upset to learn that Nintendo of America intended to skip these tiles and repackage the upcoming Final Fantasy IV as “Final Fantasy 2” for the American audience. The original Final Fantasy II and III would not be made available in the west for many years.

As time went by, I consumed every Final Fantasy title made available to me. Eventually, even the elusive 2nd and 3rd games in the series were released in North America. To date, I have played and completed nearly every single-player entry in the series (except for the newly released XIII-2). As far as the online titles go, I was active in Final Fantasy XI from 2003 until the spring of 2011. I have been a supporter of Final Fantasy XIV ever since.

While Wizardry, nurtures the purest part of my dungeon crawling, spell casting, classing D&D spirit, Final Fantasy appeals of me in other ways. The art direction reminds me of my years living in Japan, while the settings and in-depth stories cater to the classic fantasy elements that make Wizardry so appealing.

A few years ago, I thought it might be interesting to play through various game franchises and post reviews of each game, noting how they have matured and developed over time. I did this with the Final Fantasy series.

In the coming months, I’ll be posting these reviews.

Wizardry

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One fateful summer night in 1989, my friend James suggested we play a computer game on his dad’s old black and white Macintosh. After a few rounds of Chess, I spotted an interesting looking icon in the games folder and pointed it out to James. “Oh no. That’s Wizardry,” he said. “It’s not very good. It’s too hard.”

Despite his protests, I kept bugging him and eventually he relented and let me play it. What I discovered was a mysterious labyrinth filled with dangerous monsters at every turn, cryptic messages scrawled on the walls left by less fortunate adventurers, traps, hidden doors and dead-ends. I was enamored.

“Hurry! Cast a healing spell!” I screamed as a band of Kobolds nearly killed the Fighter leading our party.

“I don’t know which spell is what!” James screamed. “They are all written in Latin or something!”

Moments later, the entire party was defeated.

“Oh no! My dad is going to kill me. This was his group, and I’m not supposed to play it. He’ll be so mad!” James gasped.

There was only one thing to do. I had to save James from what was sure to be a WHOLE WEEKEND of lawn mowing and car washing. We had to find a way to bring his Dad’s characters back to life. To accomplish that, we needed to create our own characters, send them into the dungeon to find and return the corpses of his father’s fallen party to the city where they could be resurrected.

It was truly a slumber party of epic proportions.

As I mentioned above, the game was Wizardry, and at the time it was the most fantastic thing I had ever played. It was the first game that really opened my eyes to world of swords and sorcery. If it wasn’t for Wizardry, I would have probably never taken an interest in other fantasy role playing games or even tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. In Wizardry, you create and control a party of six characters. Their mission is travel to the bottom of a ten-level maze to recover a magical amulet stolen by a powerful wizard. There is no in-game map, so it’s wise to chart every step you take on graph paper. If you don’t, eventually, you WILL get lost – and that was bad. Very bad.

For a time, I could only enjoy the game when I’ve visit James. But a year or so later, I was able to get my hands on a copy of Wizardry for the Nintendo. The NES version was an upgrade of sorts, instead of being monochrome, the maze was colored a muddy orange. And there was actual music that played in town and on the title screen. Thanks to this port of the original classic, I was finally able to complete my quest to recover the amulet, thus completing the game.

When the sequel was ported to the NES, I purchased it and loved it just as much.

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I knew that three more games existed in the series, but until the release of Wizardry V for the Super Nintendo, I was left out of the loop (my parents did not own a personal computer at the time).

Eventually, the information age hit my household and with the purchase of an IBM compatible PC by my mother, I saved my allowance and ran to the software store at the local mall. Sadly, too much time has passed and the older Wizardry titles were nowhere to be found. But the latest entry; Wizardry VI -Bane of the Cosmic Forge, sat shrink-wrapped on the shelf ready for me to take home. Even though it was now over a year old, this game was still a hot seller.

This was first title in a new direction for the Wizardry series. Released in 1990, the game features detailed graphics and outdoor environments. Bane was actually that start of a three game trilogy that wouldn’t come to a conclusion until 2001, with the release of Wizardry 8.

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Bane of the Cosmic Forge

wizardry8-2   Wizardry 8

With the release of Wizardry 8 on the horizon, there was a enough renewed buzz around the series that a compilation was released of the first seven titles. The Ultimate Wizardry Archives. Finally, I was able to sit down and play all the games of the series that I had missed. It was delightful to watch the games progress in quality from title to title. Plus, finally being able to get my hands on the PC versions, I now had the ability to import characters from game to game.

As I dove into the series, I was surprised by the lack of information on the Internet available for Wizardry at the time, so I decided to create my own Wizardry fanpage. From 2001 to 2003, Kyler’s Wizardry Den was the largest source of Wizardry information on the net. I can boastfully say that my contributions to the Wizardry community live on this day. Even though my website is no more, the exclusive maps that I created can still be found floating around the web. At one point, I even boldly elaborated on the original background plot for Wizardry I, adding some colorful commentary and ideas to the scant three-line background found in the original manual. Before going bankrupt, Sir-Tech soft included my rendition of the Wizardry story on their website, officially making my ideas canon. I was honored.

Since the release of Wizardry 8 and the bankruptcy of the founding company, things here in the west have been quiet. Many young gamers have never even heard of the series. This, however, is not true for Japan.

Once Wizardry was released on the NES, the Japanese audience went wild. The first 7 games were made available on the Famicom, Super Famicom, and Sony Playstation (Japan only of course). At some point, a Japanese publisher bought the rights to the franchise and number of Japanese-exclusive games were made for handheld systems as well. To date, most of these Wizardry: Gaiden and Wizardry Empire titles have yet to see release in the US.

One exception was the release of Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land. This title, known as Busin: Wizardry Alternative in Japan, did see a North American release on the PS2. While it did not sell very well at the time, it is long sought after by gamers like myself, and I highly recommended it. I have to admit, the Japanese “get it”. They understand what Wizardry is really about. If I may be so bold as to suggest, Tales of the Forsaken Land actually makes a better sequel to Wizardry V than Bane does. To me, it seems to be more of a natural progression. Sadly, the direct sequel  to Tales of the Forsaken Land never saw the light of day outside of Japan.

Wiz 6, 7, and 8, while great games, often times feel like RPGs from some other franchise. The Japanese titles, seem to stay very true to the roots of the series.

Tales of the Forsaken Land, was the our last taste of the Japanese Wizardry series until the recent release of Wizardy: Labyrinth of Lost Souls on the Playstation Network.

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What a surprise this was! I am in love with this title. It is classic Wizardry with a nice modern polish to it. All of the original elements that made Wizardry unique are there. Yes, the Japanese have certainly put their own spin on the art-direction of the series. But, being a fan of Japanese art and culture, you will not hear any complaints from me.

I’m taking my time with this title, not wanting to finish it too fast because, believe it or not, the next chapter in the history of Wizardry is about to manifest here in the US with the release of Wizardry Online.

Yes! You read that right. Imagine, an MMO with the look and feel of the classic Wizardry… A maze crawler that features permanent character death, friendly fire, and always-on pvp. Brutal! The mere idea of it is an instant turn off for most western players. In games these days, if you die, no big deal. Just run out to your body in spirit form and resurrect with little to no penalty. Not with Wizardry Online. No sir! And we’re actually going to see a release here in the US. I still can’t believe it.

Just thinking about it, I am reminded of that night in ’89. Crawling through the uncharted dungeon trying to find Jame’s father’s characters…  I can’t wait to relive that magic moment again.

The Nintendo Era

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The world of gaming changed forever in October of 1985. That is the month that the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America.

I still remember getting mine. It was Christmas morning, at my grandmother’s house. I tore the wrapping paper from the corner and my eyes caught sight of the golden Nintendo Seal. I knew immediately what it was before the rest of the paper was even off the box. I had stared at the NES boxes on the shelf at Toys ‘R Us long enough that even a little peek of what lie underneath the wrapping gave it away.

The NES came with a copy of Super Mario Bros., but I also received a copy of Metroid that year. Metroid sat on the shelf for a few weeks, however. I was completely hooked on SMB… I clearly remember sitting in front of the TV for the next two days playing Mario almost non-stop. It was snowing outside and much too cold to go out and play (thankfully), so I had a convenient excuse.

As time went on, my game collection grew and grew. I had most of the classic titles:

SMB, Kid Icarus, Zelda, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Double Dragon, Skate or Die…  You name it. And what I didn’t own, I rented from the video store.

At one point, I subscribed to the official Nintendo magazine: The Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter.

The first issue I received featured the newly released Mike Tyson’s Punchout. The next issue was the intro for The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The following one featured some hockey game, I don’t recall which. There were no further issues of the newsletter, because that next month, it was changed into the magazine we all know and love: Nintendo Power.

The first issue of Nintendo Power was a real jaw-dropper. On the cover, they premiered Super Mario Bros. 2. Seeing those words in print, virtually caused time to stop.

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I was a total fanboy, as were most of my fellow third-grade classmates. Not only did we collect games, but we had various controllers, the NES MAX, the NES Advantage… years later I was even the owner of the notorious Power Glove. If it wasn’t accessories we were buying, it was literature. Hint guides and code books were all the rage. Our school book fair sold them in droves. It was easy money for publishers.

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But even the mighty fall to some extent. Nintendo has had many competitors since the NES debuted in the 80’s. I think it’s fair to say that as time has gone by, Nintendo has lost a bit of their audience to competitors like Sony and Microsoft. These days, Nintendo seems to focus more on casual and family gaming, leaving them as a bit of a niche taste. Perhaps this will change with the release of the new console the Wii U, who knows. But I will say this, I still don’t think that any future console will ever cause the revolution that the original NES started. I would probably not be a gamer if it wasn’t for this big grey toaster.

Keep puffing on those carts.

Retro Flashback: Super Mario Bros.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, my love for gaming went mainstream on the Chrismas morning I unwrapped my first Nintendo Entertainment System. I received two games that morning, Super Mario Bros. and Metroid.

Anyone who owned an NES in the 80’s and 90’s had a copy of Super Mario. It came with virtually every NES sold. As such, it was an instant ice-breaker for kids my age. It didn’t matter who you were, you knew how to play SMB. You could sit down next to another kid, even if you’ve never met before, and there was an instant bond

Everything about SMB was fascinating to a young kid such as myself. Chicken turtles, man-eating plants, smiling clouds, a plumber that can “spit” fireballs. It was just mind blowing at the time. There was nothing else like it.

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When I look back now, I can really appreciate just how much of a game-changer this title was. The wizards at Nintendo exhibited sheer genius. Not only in design, but also in marketing. I read once that sometime in the late 90’s, a poll was conducted and it found that more children worldwide recognized Mario than recognized Mickey Mouse. I believe it. The marketing machine was in full swing as a result of it’s popularity: There were cartoons, breakfast cereals, toys, etc. Not only did this game spawn a plethora of sequels, but it has been re-released over and over. (I personally have bought this game no less than 5 times).

I have owned this title on the NES, I bought the enhanced remake (Super Mario All Stars) for the SNES, I purchased it again for the Gameboy Color, again on the Wii virtual console, and yet again, with the Wii Mario Anniversary edition. Nintendo got my money time and time again, all on one single game.

mario-all-stars-screen-5B1-5DSuper Mario All Stars Remake

 

When my oldest son approached at the age of four and said, “Daddy, I think I would like try playing one of your video games now.” The first thing I grabbed for him was Super Mario.

Here’s to a classic title that has truly withstood the test of time. I plan to introduce a segment in the blog where I play through old classics and offer a “Retro Review”. I imagine that this title may be the first. Stay Tuned!

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A Night of Retro-Gaming

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After making my inital post, my curiosity was nudged a bit regarding the availability of old classic titles on modern systems. A while back I purchased the classic Gauntlet from the Xbox Live Arcade, so I knew that such titles were available. Interestingly enough, Gauntlet and other Midway titles seem to have been pulled from Xbox Live, but I did manage to find a few good classics for sale.

For only 400 points apiece, I snagged copies of both Asteroids/Asteroids Deluxe and Centipede/Millipede. The download comes with the titles both in their classic versions as well as new and enhanced graphics. However, aside from the visual changes, the games remain untouched.

It goes without saying that old coin-op style games are much more difficult than most modern day titles. This degree of difficulty was a big turn off for my eight-year-old son. Although, he did find the base simplicity of each game to be a bit appealing.

It’s a safe bet that these classics are not going get much playtime from him, the world of gaming has changed a great deal, and titles such as these are just not on the radar of most younger gamers these days. In reality, they are technically even “before my time”. But I must admit, there is still something magical about them. I was up until 2:00am playing Asteroids the other night, despite not making it past the third or fourth wave.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I remember playing an arcade table Asteroids machine back during summer camp of my 3rd grade/4th grade year. Now, I could just find a similar version of Pitfall or Moon Patrol.

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.

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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.