Junior High and High School. My days of half-assed studying, social awkwardness and nonstop gaming. The days when playing with myself was fun, but playing with others was even funner. Co-Op and Multiplayer gameplay is probably my favorite aspect of video games. The way that games bring people together to have fun and compete is unlike any other medium. Some of my fondest memories came from Multiplayer gaming. I remember laughing till I cried, screaming at the top of my lungs in victory or defeat, and wiping the sweat from my palms after a sigh of relief, all from games.
One of my first multiplayer gaming experiences came from an RPG of all things. I've been a huge RPG fan since the original Final Fantasy, but one thing that most RPGs lacked was any semblance of cooperative gameplay. That is, until Secret of Mana. My brother and I would invite a friend over and the three of us would spend an entire weekend playing through the game (i was usually the Sprite). Not only did the game have co-op play, but the battles were in real time too! It wasn't just three guys sitting around inputting commands, it was three badass muthaf#&%@s running around f#&%in' $#!% up!
The summer after Junior High, we took a family vacation to Taiwan. While there, I noticed that my cousins had a floppy disk drive attached to the top of their Super Famicom. Instead of game cartridges, you used two or three floppy disks to load up a game. So naturally, my brother and I had to have one too. When we got the disk drive we also bought a dozen games at about $5 a pop. One of those games was Super Bomberman 4. I think we must have played that game every weekend for over a year straight. We'd invite a couple friends over, plug in the Multi-Tap and it was on! Some marathon battles would last until dawn in all their hilarious explosive glory. A couple times the neighbors from across the street would come by because we were being too loud.
After the N64 was released, Goldeneye became my first experience with addiction. I remember the adrenaline rush I got the first time I blew up my friends with a rocket launcher, or planted proximity mines behind me as they gave chase. Temple and Complex have to be my two favorite maps. Oddjob is cheap! Especially in Slappers Only mode! KLOBB kills ftw! Everything about the multiplayer mode is made of 100% pure awesomeness. In fact Goldeneye is probably one of the greatest multiplayer games ever made. When I got to college and started playing Counter-Strike , I still went back to Goldeneye for split-screen mayhem.
Another college favorite was Mario Party. It was my first experience gaming with girls, and some of them were pretty damn good too. That was the last time I viewed gaming as a "Guy Thing". I was fortunate that all my roommates in college were gamers too. When we got WCW/nWo Revenge we even bought a replica World Championship Belt. All challengers were welcome and needless to say the Title changed hands more often than in real life. I can't explain the feeling of drunkenly holding the Title Belt over your head after a heated 4-way match. " I'm on top of the world, ma!! "
Tribes 2 was another game that I played endlessly. No longer was it about Team Deathmatch, Capture-the-Flag was THE mode to play. Nothing beat grabbing a flag and hopping into your Shrike to cap the game winner. Or blowing up a potential flag capper w/ a satchel pack. Or sniping someone out of the air. I loved the foggy swamp setting of Quagmire. Setting up a remote inventory station underwater and bombing the opposition's generators to hell is oh-so-sweet.
After college, I started my career and eventually a family. Unfortunately, I don't have as much time for gaming as I used to, but I always get a little in each week. While online gaming grants me the freedom to game with others 24/7, I miss the days of sitting on the couch w/ my brother and our two best friends while we shot, bombed, stabbed and sniped each other for hours. S#!% talk is much more refrained when the guy is sitting next to you. There were no racist remarks from faceless 13-year-olds. Team Coordination was much easier, even though the other team might cheat by glancing at your screen. We shared laughs, we shared triumph and we shared defeat. It was just more fun to play your favorite game with your favorite people over two large pizzas.
Tell me that doesn't bring back some great memories?
While it wasn't the first RPG I've played, Chrono Trigger is definitely one of my favorites (2nd only to FFVI). The idea of time travel always fascinated me as I've wondered what it'd be like to travel back to Feudal Japan, or Ancient China, or Egypt. Or what the future would be like 50, 100 or even 1000 years from now (post-apocalyptic zombie world anyone?). Chrono Trigger brought my fascination into a 16-bit world and mesmerized me with its characters, story, music and presentation.
The Dream Team
Square Enix brought together arguably the best minds in the business for this game.
Masato Kato - Writer, also wrote for Final Fantasy VII & Xenogears
Hironobu Sakaguchi - Supervisor, also directed Final Fantasy I thru V and produced FFVI
Kazuhiko Aoki - Producer
Akira Toriyama - Character Design, also of Dragon Ball fame
Nobuo Uematsu - Composer, dare I say Legendary?
While I didn't know who the first 3 guys were at the time, Akira & Nobuo were definitely selling points for me. I remember seeing the box art at Toys R Us and immediately taking my ticket up to the counter. After all, this was an RPG by Square and Square always delivered! Not to mention that Nobuo has composed some of the most beautiful songs in video game history, including my personal favorite Terra's Theme from FFVI:
Crono - our brave hero, he's like a red-haired Goku w/ a katana. How badass is that? I'll tell you how badass that is... seriously badass. Baaaaaddaaaaaaasssssss even.
Lucca - every hero needs a sidekick that invents stuff. James Bond has Q or M or P or whoever the #$@!, Crono has Lucca, and she built the teleporter that kicks off an epic adventure. Plus she lives w/ the guilt of causing her mother's inability to walk. Hmmm Time Machine, Tragedy... I wonder what'll happen.
Frog - forget Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this amphibian kicked some serious ass. A true knight in shining armor, he wields the mighty Masamune.
Robo - the selfless robot companion. He turned a deserted waste land into a friggin' forest through 400 years of manual labor.
Ayla - feral cave woman with super model looks, yes please.
Magus - he doesn't walk, he glides and he fights with a scythe! You know who else fights with a scythe? Death, that's who.
I'm not going to spoil anything for those of you who haven't played this game. But let me make one thing clear, time traveling wackiness can lead to all kinds of awesome adventures. And depending on what you do or don't do you'll be treated to one of the game's thirteen endings. Yes, that's right, 13!
I remember waking up every morning before school just to play a little Chrono Trigger. I was probably in Middle School then. And every day when I got back home, I was in front of the TV w/ the SNES controller in hand wandering through different eras and fighting all sorts of villains. And the battles occured right on the map! No screen-change to battle mode. The bad guys jumped in and it was on.
On the weekends, my little brother and I would play for hours. It was like an interactive movie that I just couldn't let go of. Chrono Trigger wasn't just a game, it was an addiction, an addiction that lasted through school and well into the summer. While other kids were outside enjoying the summer or going on family vacations, my brother and I were experiencing one of the best RPGs ever. Then again, those other kids had friends. Oh well, we didn't need no stinkin' friends, the SNES introduced us to some of the most memorable characters in our lives. Even after beating the game a handful of times it was still fun to play. Shit, it's still fun to play now. I still have my original SNES cartridge... now I just need to find an SNES that works.
All last week, all I could think of was the MSG4 PS3 Bundle. I had the money to buy it, but I was worried about actually getting it on launch day. Lake Tahoe isn't exactly known for it's (video) gaming community. The only place in town that one could even hope to buy the bundle at was the local K-Mart, and trust me when I say that this is one of the sorriest K-Marts around. But the store wasn't doing a midnight launch and I had to work at 8 the next morning.
Carson City has a Gamestop, but those lazy bastards wouldn't do a midnight launch either. So I called the Carson City Wal Mart (king of marts), and they confirmed that they would in fact be selling the bundle at 12:01 AM, but they would not tell me how many they had. Since it's Carson City I didn't expect more than 3 bundles.
So after putting the family to bed I grabbed my keys and headed out on my journey at around 11:00 PM. Little did I know that there was road construction (yes, late night road construction) on the mountain pass down to Carson. I'd just watched Jumper, and I really wished I had that ability now.
Usually Carson is a 20 min. drive, but I didn't make it to Wal Mart till 11:45. When I arrived there were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot, and I noticed a handful of teenagers heading in. So I hurried my way over to the Electronics department only to find it empty, not a single person around.
"Am I in the wrong place?!"
I scanned the displays and didn't see MSG4 or the Bundle anywhere in sight. Then 2 girls emerged from an aisle w/ a Wal Mart employee (Wal Martian if you will). They followed him to the counter and I followed closely behind. As we approached the counter another 2 guys appeared out of nowhere. They said they'd been waiting since 9. I didn't say a word. The Wal Martian asked us how many we wanted, each of the girls wanted one, some guy wanted 2, then me and another guy just asked for one each. So he goes in the back and comes out with 4 bundles.
"You, you, you and you." he said, pointing to us. "I recognize your faces so these bundles are spoken for. Meet me at Register 23."
The girls raised up in protest, "Hey! There's two of us! We only get one?"
"Sorry, but these three guys have been waiting too, and you girls were the last to arrive."
The other 2 guys had been waiting since 9, and I had just gotten there.
"HAHA, suck it bitches!" I thought. I didn't say shit though. I just made my way over to the register and bought my bundle. And I got a $100 Wal Mart card!