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I grew up deprived of videogames, all I ever wanted was an NES and my parents said no way. So as soon as I moved out I bought a Nintendo 64 and haven't looked back since. I love most types of games, mainly shooters, action and Nintendo first party stuff.

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I don't remember the Nintendo characters making Batman sound effects in this game

When I graduated from college with a degree in film and television production in 2001 I faced a post-dotcom economy in the gutter, especially in my hometown of Seattle. All of the film work had dried up with companies reluctant to produce commercials and corporate videos and investors wary to invest in feature films. The only work I could get was pulling cable for the Seattle Supersonics (R.I.P.) video crew and that hardly paid the bills. To make ends meet I took a day job as a daycare teacher. I figured it would be a breeze, I'd get to play with kids all day and could still work Sonics games at night. However, I quickly learned how a group of determined hooligans can disrupt a classroom and make my life a living hell.

My first few days at the daycare were pure bliss

When I first started all of the kids loved me. This honeymoon period lasted for about a week. While most of the kids were very sweet and obedient, there was a group of three older boys, probably around 11 or 12, whose hormones were kicking in and that caused them to be little punks. The first time I disciplined them they completely turned on me and devoted all of their energy to disrupting the class and testing me to see how far they could push me. I tried reasoning with these kids, I tried punishing them, I tried talking to their parents, nothing worked. I was getting incredibly frustrated because these three boys were taking all my attention away from the other kids, which isn't fair at all. At my wits end, I decided to turn to the last tool at my disposal: The Playstation 2.

This ad really makes me want to drop acid, I mean buy a Playstation 2

At the time I was sort of a hippie so I didn't want the kids to waste time in front of the tv playing videogames when they should be learning. That conviction was tossed aside when I discovered that videogames were the ultimate carrot to dangle in front of children. I promised the kids that if they behaved, did their homework, cleaned up, they could earn points to trade in for videogame time. This worked like a charm, especially with the juvenille delinquents who caused the most trouble. However, playing the Playstation 2 with the kids opened up a whole new problem I never anticipated: I was terrible at PS2 games and this made me an object of ridicule in the children's world.

SSX is way easier on controllers than 1080 for the N64

During college I double majored in Goldeneye and Smash Bros but I never played the PS2. The children, being freakishly good at games naturally, routinely wiped the floor with me when I tried to take them on in SSX or ATV Offroad Fury. I laughed it off but it really started to get under my skin when the 7 year old who pooped his pants was racking up million point combos and I could barely get my snowboarder to grind a rail without falling off. I'd tell them, "I am good at games, just not Playstation games. I'll beat you all at Smash Bros." They would laugh extra hard at me and say that they would destroy me at that game too. Luckily for me, fate would soon intervene and I would get my chance to test my Smash Bros skills against the young rapscallions.

This is what I imagine the scumbag who stole a PS2 from a daycare looks like

One Monday I arrived at work to discover that someone had broken in and stolen the Playstation 2. The children were devastated but not half as much as I was. The video games were the only form of control I had over them, without it my class would dissolve into dissaray. I managed to keep a reign on them for a week or so but soon the whippersnappers were back to their old tricks of mischief and defiance. Out of options I decided to bring my Nintendo 64 into the class and let the kids play it. They loved it, in fact the girls in the class spent more time playing Mario 64 than they ever did the PS2 games. I avoided playing any games with the kids for awhile, even though they challenged me to throw down with a little Kart or Smash action. While pretty confident in my abilities, I was rusty and the last thing I wanted to do was lose to them in these games too. It would cement my place as a sub-par gamer and relegate me to the lowest rung on their social ladder. Finally, after weeks of pressure I relented and set up a Smash Bros tournament with the kids.

I spent more time in college staring at this screen than any text book

The day of the Smash Bros tournament arrived. Choosing Link as my main I took all comers and beat them easily. I mean, it wasn't even close. I don't know why I was even worried. Kids may be naturally great at games but they didn't factor in going up against a guy who spent 4 years living with super competitive roomates whose game of choice was Smash Bros. I plowed through the field and the 3 troublemakers who had become the bane of my existence also kept winning in their brackets. As fate would have it, I ended up facing off against those hellions in the finals. Without breaking a sweat I eliminated them one by one until I triumped. Exhilarated, I just laughed as they whined and complained and demanded a rematch. Fine, I said. In fact, I offered to take them all on, 3 on one in a fight to the death in a stock 5 battle. They tried every tactic in vain as I countered their fireballs with bombs, knocked them off with my boomerang, used my spin attack to clear the entire board. I am not exagerating when I say that I eliminated all 15 of their lives and didn't lose a single one myself.

Victory has never tasted so sweet

After a thorough drubbing, the boys had to admit that I was a better player than them. In fact their demeanor completely changed: I had entered their world and earned respect on their terms. They told stories of how good I was to other kids. They begged me to teach them my techniques. When they looked at me I could see the awe in their eyes. For the rest of the time I worked there I never had any trouble with these kids again. In all the years I've played games since, I've never had a competitive experience as completely satisfying as this Smash Bros tournament. And probably never will. Sometimes I wonder where those kids are today, hopefully the brief time I spent with them molded them into upstanding young men who went on to atttend college or at least graduate high school and get a job. Oh who am I kidding, I'm sure they're all dead or in jail right now.

Still one of the greatest commercials ever
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This image just screams "historical accuracy."

Back in the NES days I didn't have my own system so all of my gaming was done at other, luckier kids' houses. Since my friends didn't want to sit there for hours while I played "The Legend of Zelda" on their Nintendo most of the games I played were multiplayer. I experienced the co-op and VS hits like "Double Dragon," "Super Mario Bros 3" and "Contra" but the game I have the fondest memories of is the little discussed "North & South." The game is a crazy mix of real time strategy, competitive platforming and overtly racist cartoon caricatures. I seriously doubt this game would be made in today's politically correct climate but it remains a rarely discussed gem that's worth revisiting.

Note the Indian in a loincloth and sleepy Mexican. Classy.

The core of the game was: One player controlled the North, the other the South and you would try to win the Civil War. The overworld map was set up as a grid with icons indicating which side controlled what area. Visually it's very similar to a game like "Advance Wars" and other strategy games that came later. Players would take turns moving their units around and when your paths crossed you would engage each other on the field of battle. You could also merge your units together to create a larger force. And I think occasionally the Indians or Mexicans would decide to get involved and mess with everyone.

Dumbass horses are gonna run right into that river, I just know it.

From here, you are able to select your different units and fight in real time. This was the real hook of the game for me. Frantically firing a cannon to try and blow up the bridge, then switching to the cavalry to rush in and take out your opponents and then sending in the ground troops added up to hours of hectic fun. It was a real challege to manage all your troops at the same time. The cavalry could not move backwards so many times you'd be riding towards an assured victory only to have the bridge blow up in front of you, sending tiny horses and men plummeting to their deaths. And many a controller was thrown in rage because someone wasn't quick enough to modify the position of their ground troops and half of them fell into the canyons.

The key to winning these stages is knife management

What really set this game apart from other RTS games was the inclusion of side-scrolling VS stages. If you moved your troops to an enemy fort or train the game would move to a 2D view as your lone soldier attempted to conquer it over armed only with a few knives. The other player had a limited number of soldiers, each armed with a knife, to stop or slow down your progress. If you didn't have any more knives you could punch the opposing soldiers and send them flying into the air. And there was a time limit. These stages turned into some of the most intense gameplay experiences I ever had. One mistep could lead to failure, especially when you're running low on lives. I think this mode led to the most punches thrown in real life.

This video gives a good idea what the game was like, even though the person playing is terrible

Overall "North & South" was a unique title that boasted a variety of gameplay and a VS mode that was infinitely replayable. I find it odd that I never see it mentioned alongside NES classics but I'm sure that those of you who played it have fond memories. If you haven't experienced it it's worth checking out just to see how far ahead of its time it was. Now all we can do is wait for another cartoonish RTS/Sidescroller turning one of the most tragic events in American history into a children's videogame. I'm not going to hold my breath.
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Sorry Mario, but your Princess isn't in this castle, as per usual

It's easy to forget in this day and age with the internets and the youtubes and the videogame blogs but it used to be really hard to get a sneak peak at videogames before they came out. I'll never forget back in Jr High huddling around a friend's television watching the VHS tape previewing "Donkey Kong Country." The graphics were leaps and bounds beyond anything we had ever seen. However, nothing could prepare our feeble little 16 bit minds for what Nintendo would unleash on us in a few years: 3D gaming!!!! And I'm not talking about the latest 3D gimmicks, I'm talking about the Nintendo 64 and the fact that it sucessfully moved gaming into the 3rd dimension. This is the story of the first time I ever experienced that world.

This kid has no idea what he's in for

Back in early 1996 the schoolyard was abuzz about the imminent launch of the Nintendo 64. We'd seen pictures in magazines and on primitive gaming websites and the fleeting images promised a magical world of polygons to explore. I didn't know what the hell a polygon was I just knew I had to get my hands on some as soon as possible. Luckily I would have an chance to play Super Mario 64 months before it was to be released stateside. That opportunity would be at a traveling videogame expo that gave gamers an opportunity to go hands on with upcoming titles, or in this case, upcoming systems. My friend got wind that the exhibit would be coming to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle and Super Mario 64 would be on display. I knew that my purpose in life was to go there and play Mario's latest adventure before anyone else.

The Pacific Science Center, usually an educational experience for kids' field trips but not today

The day finally arrived, my buddy and I braved the typical Seattle rain and high tailed it to the Seattle Center. I remember weaving my way through the show floor, brushing past kiosks with titles like Crash Bandicoot as I worked towards the centerpiece of the exhibit: Super Mario 64 running in all its glory on a gigantic screen. I'll never forget peeking between cabinets running lesser titles and catching glimpses of Mario running around, jumping on fully 3D Goombas and, *gasp* DID I JUST SEE MARIO BLAST OFF FROM A CANNON!?!?!?!?! Finally we made it to the front of the line, able to experience the glory of Mario in 3D for ourselves.


Aaamaazing!!!! is an understatement. Gripping the controller, gently nudging the analog stick to move Mario around the screen, pulling off my first triple jump, I felt as though the neurons in my brain were being rearranged. This was the sort of thing we'd dreamed about since we first clutched an NES controller. Nintendo had created a 3D world and it was perfect. It looked perfect, controlled perfectly and was so beautiful I was enthralled simply wandering through the environment. After the initial wow factor I was taken aback by the sheer freedom the game offered. Want to climb to the top of that tree? Go for it! Think you can blast out of this cannon and grab a flagpole? Give it a shot! My few short minutes with the game were not enough, I wanted to live in the 64 bit Mushroom Kingdom. Walking out of there I felt as if my world had truly changed. The Nintendo 64 was going to usher in 3D games that would push the medium towards total immersion.

THE FUN MACHINE, or considering how much sleep it robbed me of it should be called THE CRACK MACHINE

A few months later my buddy got an N64 and we stayed up all night playing Mario 64. It was the first time I can remember being just as happy watching someone else play as when I was in control. Discovering things like the penguin race, flying to the top of the pyramid in Shifting Sands, the first time we grabbed Bowser's tail and flung him out of the ring; it was a transcendent experience. Sure, time has dulled the impact of first playing it but to this day Super Mario 64 has one of the most fully realized 3D environments ever created. The world is so expertly designed I will never get tired of exploring it. With each generation's subsequent upgrade of graphics and control types games are looking and playing closer and closer to real life but nothing again will ever leave me in awe like the first time I popped out of that pipe and took my first tentative steps towards Peach's castle.

Of course, it wasn't ALL perfect
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Last year the shift at my job changed so I'm working overnights which some days leaves me with lots of free time. To relieve boredom I decided to start a videogame blog and scoured the internet to find the right home. After being turned off by the discourse on most sites I discovered Destructoid to have a very smart, funny and supportive community. And even though I don't post regularly I am always blown away by the thoughtful comments you guys all leave on my writings. Thank you all so much for creating this safe, welcoming place for videogame enthusiasts to write and share thoughts.

I was prompted to write this note after meeting with my dad last week. He said he enjoys reading my blog, even though he has no clue what I'm talking about, because of the comments from the community. He was impressed by how nice everyone is, saying most of his experience with internet posters is negative. I wanted to share that with all of you, and thank you all for making Destructoid a great place.

Special shout out to Elsa who went out of her way to make me feel welcome when I first joined the site.

The first thing I did with my new system

“Why are you getting this then?” a mother asks her young son standing in line next to me on 3DS launch day. Her question was prompted after the child gave a big, “Meh…” to every game the clerk suggested he pick up to go with his magical new toy from Nintendo.

“Monkey Ball is pretty fun,” the beleaguered clerk offers.

“I don’t know …” the kid responds. He is even less enthusiastic about “Steel Diver” and “Madden” (which I forgot was even a launch title)

“Super Street Fighter 4 looks pretty cool, that’s what I’m getting,” I suggest. The kid looks at me blankly. Realizing I wasn’t going to be able help him, I pay for my pre-orders and leave the store.

On the drive home, I couldn’t help but think about the mother’s question. “Why AM I getting this?” I wasn’t planning on picking one up but after I saw video of AR games online I wanted to have one just to experience the new technology. Another reason I used to justify my purchase was the fact that I’ve bought every Nintendo system since the Gameboy Advance at launch. Sure, the only game I got with the Advance was “Namco Museum” which grew old quickly. And, yes, after amusing myself with the novel touch controls of “Feel the Magic: XY/XX” for a couple hours and struggling to play “Super Mario 64” without an analog stick my DS went unused for months until “Kirby’s Canvas Curse” and “Mario Kart DS “ came out. Nintendo handhelds have never had the strongest launch titles. I knew this yet I was compelled to purchase one anyways. Why?

Is Nintendo trying to tell me I was stoned when I created my Mii?

When I got home the first thing I did was create a Mii from my photo. I was amazed at how that worked and quickly got my girlfriend to create one too. She loved the Wii and DS but now games exclusively on her iPhone. I thought this might be enough to bring her back to the Nintendo side of gaming. After taking her picture and watching her Mii come to life she was still unimpressed.

“Eh, I already did that on the Wii,” was her response. Unfazed, I then proceeded to show her the AR games. While initially intrigued, she quickly lost interest when she saw how you had to move around the table to play them. “I like my iPhone,” she sighed as she plopped back onto the couch to play another round of “Word Ace.”

“But, but, this isn’t trying to do what the iPhone does,” I pleaded to no avail. I had hoped she’d be taken in by the new technology but she was more concerned about how much cash I’d just dropped when the Kinect I bought a few short months ago sits atop my television, neglected, just staring at me, shooting beams of infared light into my eyes to remind me what a waste of money it was.

After checking out the gimmicks I decided to get down to it and play some games. As soon as I started my first match of “Super Street Fighter 4” I was instantly happy. The 3D effect is pretty neat but unnecessary. I was just thrilled to have such a deep fighting game on a portable. I’ve never taken the time to get good at the game but having it on the go I’ll have more opportunities to take it out and play in bite-sized chunks.

In Jr HIgh if you would've told me that some day I'd be able to look at Cammy from this angle, IN 3D, from the comfort of my own home I would've messed my pants.

While the 3D effects didn’t do much in normal mode, when you play in “3D mode” with the camera behind your shoulder the 3D really pops. I found myself drawn in while playing like this, even if it takes getting used to. The depth of field is amazing and makes the fighting much more visceral. Still, I have one huge huge complaint about the whole setup. Maybe it’s because I’m a button masher but I found I jostled the handheld around so much the 3D effects kept getting distorted when the screen moved. Hopefully this is something that future titles will take into consideration when planning control schemes. The game runs at a a higher framerate without 3D on so I suspect most people will play in two dimensions.

After a couple hours with "Street Fighter" I popped in “Ridge Racer 3D.” While the graphics aren’t anything special, I loved the depth that the 3D gave. When it comes to showing off the potential 3D will have for racing games like “Mario Kart ” or "Burnout 3D" please “Ridge Racer 3D” is a really exciting proof of concept. Still, the key word here is POTENTIAL, the game doesn’t knock your socks off. It's still the same basic gameplay, in all it's sliding glory, which is familiar fun but feels like a relic in this day and age.

While I drifted (no pun intended) off to sleep the question, “Why are you getting this, then?” echoed through my mind. Sure, I’d had fun with the gimmicks and two games but is the 3DS really worth the money? I fell asleep anxiously excited for the next day when I could show off my new toy to the people who will really appreciate it: All the geeks I work with.

Me and Mii and the 3DS and an iPhone in a mirror. Whew, I'm exhausted.

The first thing I did when I got into work was fire up the “OK Go” video and pass the system around. Everyone was blown away. Having had the system for 25 hours and already used to the gimmicks I complained, “The resolution isn’t what I had hoped it would be.”

“Yeah but it’s 3D!” was the consensus from the 3DS virgins. When I busted out the AR cards people were absolutely floored. I watched with delight as my friends took turns messing with it, completely in awe. The AR shooting games garnered the strongest reactions.

My co-worker Adam checking out the AR for the first time. Mind = BLOWN

“THIS is why I got this, then” I thought to myself. It was a delight to see the looks on peoples' faces when they first witnessed the 3D and AR. Who cares if the launch lineup is weak? Who cares if the AR gimmicks will grow old fast? I am showing people a new technology that they’ve never even imagined was possible and that is worth the price of picking the 3DS up at launch.

Now I am sitting alone at my desk. The occasional coworker comes over to check out the 3DS, plays with it for a few minutes and gives it back, probably to never pick up again. I look over my game library and don’t really feel like playing any 3DS stuff. A cartridge catches my eye and I think to myself, “I wonder if…”

I eject “Street Fighter” and pop in “Super Mario 64.” My thumb rests comfortably on the analog stick and I fire it up. A smile comes to my face as I pull off Mario’s jumps and turns with ease. Finally, 7 years later, I am playing “Super Mario 64” on a handheld and not battling the controls. The 3DS might not have the best launch lineup ever but the games I got are fun, the tech is impressive and finally having an analog stick to control “Mario 64” and “Mario Kart” is the icing on the cake. And that’s enough to keep me going until “Ocarina of Time” comes out.

Sweet, sweet analog nub. You'll keep me company until better 3DS games are on the shelf
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Beyond Good and Evil is easily my favorite game of the last generation. The combination of graphics, characters, music and variety of gameplay added up to one of the most immersive video game worlds ever created. It was far ahead of it's time in 2003. I've been anxiously awaiting the HD remake and downloaded it as soon as it was relased on Xbox Live. As I fired it up for the first time, the soothing strains of the theme music instantly brought the memories flooding back. After a few minutes of playing, however, another memory came back to me. One so traumatic that I had blocked it from my mind: the horror of BG&E's camera controls.

Maybe it's because I was weaned on Microsoft Flight Simulator but for whatever reason it is mandatory for my in game camera to be inverted. I cannot play with a camera set to normal. So when I first started walking around Hillys I noticed the camera wasn't inverted. I went to the settings and changed the camera to "reversed." Diving back into the game I pressed down on the thumbstick, the camera went up, then I pressed left on the thumbstick and the camera went right. "Huh?" I thought. I went back into the options to try to fix the camera settings and realized there's no option to seperately change the Y and X axis. So since I want my Y axis inverted, the only option is to reverse the X axis as well. After another 30 minutes of wandering into walls, the camera not responding the way I wanted it to I was instantly transported back to my tiny apartment in 2003, playing this game on the Gamecube and having the exact same problem. I remember I finally got used to it but I can't believe they didn't update this option along with the graphics. It's 2011, people! It was frustrating enough that I cut my gameplay session short.

I wish I had more to talk about in this impression but I only put about an hour into the game. Once I get used to the borked camera I'm sure I'll be drawn back into the world. The game still looks great, plays great, sounds great. I remember the combat getting repetitive but for now I'm really enjoying it. And just piloting the hovercraft around taking pictures of creatures is so much fun to do all over again in lush HD. This game is truly great, everyone should pick it up. It's just a shame that they put so much time into updating it to look modern and yet they didn't fix a simple thing like camera controls. I worry that the clunky camera will put off gamers checking out the demo, and that's a shame. BG&E deserves to reach a wide audience and hopefully renewed interest will speed the development of a sequel.

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