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GAME COM ACTIVE.
Tiger Electronics was more or less the bane of my childhood in terms of consumer electronics. These bastards were responsible for some of the worst games I have ever played. If you can believe it, I played the handheld version of Sonic 3D Blast more than the Genesis version:
Tiger produced hundreds of these things. They were everywhere and they can still be found clogging the aisles of Goodwills and yard sales the world over. A bunch of them are collector's items now, since apparently people like having a constant reminder that their parents were cheap and uncaring in the form of a lackluster LCD game.
Tiger wasn't stupid, though. They knew how to follow the money, and the real money was in the handheld gaming market. After the spectacular failure of the Tiger R-Zone, an ill-advised console that attempted to co-opt the Virtual Boy's "success", Tiger proceeded to make a real handheld console, in the form of the Game.com:
It was the 90s. There was time for Klax.
The insult marketing was really, uh, not good for brand awareness. To this day, I don't see the appeal in it. I don't even recall an example of it that actually worked. It must have worked once or twice, otherwise companies wouldn't have bothered with it. But with bullshit commercials like this, it's no wonder why the Game.com was a huge flop.
That and the fact that the system had some of the WORST flaws imagineable.
The screen was so blurry and unreadable it made the Game Gear's LCD screen look like 1080p. Games with any amount of movement were completely unplayable. It was like the system suffered from motion blindness. I don't even know how that got past testing (they didn't care, most likely).
The screen was a touch screen, which, for the 90s, is pretty neat. The problem is that it is a very early example of a touch screen, which leaves input to a very low-resolution gridded area. There weren't many games that even used it, anyway. Lights Out is the best example:
This game was supposed to be Tiger's answer to Tetris. See, pressing one of the white tiles on a Lights Out grid turned the adjacent ones black, and you had to find a way to make all of the tiles black. This was a mini-game in Super Mario RPG, among other places. Clearly, it's good enough to be a full game.
It's actually not terrible, and it's a great example of a game that works despite the system's limitations. It's just not really memorable. Yeah, you can see the screen (since this is a puzzle game, after all), but good luck trying to kill an hour with this.
Allegedly, this is a port of the Sega Saturn compilation Sonic Jam, which puts Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles together on one disc.
In actuality, this game cobbles together levels from Sonic 2 and 3 and expects you to blast through them without seeing what the hell is going on because of the screen blur.
To put things in perspective, here's a run through of Sonic 3, via Sonic Jam on the Saturn:
A couple of audio issues aside, the Saturn version of Sonic 3 is a great port of a great game. You'd have no problem playing this like the Genesis version.
On the other hand, here's Sonic 3 via Sonic Jam on the Game.com:
Keep in mind, that video was captured by using an emulator (or a really rare Game.com capture device that doesn't actually exist). The video actually does it more justice than the Game.com hardware itself, due to the screen blur. Still, the music is comple rubbish, and the framerate is not due to some YouTube issue. That's the legit framerate. Ugh.
Another "shining" example of a Game.com game is Duke Nukem 3D.
A whole bunch of misleading marketing. This is Duke 3D, but just barely.
Now, to their credit, Tiger made Duke 3D somewhat playable by doing an Eye Of The Beholder-style dungeon crawl sort of gameplay, so the graphics aren't going to immediately fly off the handle and run your vision of the game. In fact, it may impress you a bit at first, because there's definitely some low-fi clips of Jon St. John's Duke voice and some recognizeable enemy types, but after you take a couple of steps, you'll see that Duke 3D really wasn't ready to be a portable game. Enemies can still hit you without you seeing them, and the draw distance is so low that you will be wandering into a grey void more often than not. All of this begs the question: What in the blue hell were they thinking when releasing this?
Tiger's venture into the handheld game market didn't last long. This thing tanked hard, as it should have. There were only about 20 or so games released for it over its short lifespan, which, oddly enough, is more of a library than the Virtual Boy had in the United States. Tiger had every license from Batman to Resident Evil to Midway arcade games, but they ranged in quality from "I can't see the goddamn screen" to "Is there even a goddamn ending to this?"
And, that, my friends, is a brief overview of some games on the Tiger Game.com. Please, don't sell the Virtual Boy or the Atari Lynx short by comparing them to this utter trash.
(By the way, it's pronounced "Game-Com", no "dot" in there. It was a weird time for technolomogy.)
I've written thirty-something blog posts here. Figured now was as good as any time to do an introduction post, since when I started posting at DTOID I kinda-sorta jumped right into the stuffs about the video games.
So, here goes:
The name is Titannel. Pronounced "Tie-Tannel". Not "Titan-El". It was the name of one of my characters in City of Heroes - it's a portmaneu of "titanium" and "sentinel". It kinda stuck as my name on social media.
But, you? Yes, you! You're nice. You can call me Connor, mostly because that is my real name.
Without any further BS, here are a few things about me that you really should know.
1. I collect a TON of retro games.
I started collecting older stuff in 2009 or so, when I realized that a ton of the newer game releases were getting stale and annoyingly bogged down with DLC and poor, buggy initial releases. I wanted something different, and I had just found out about a local video game store in the area. I went there, and bought a copy of Golden Axe for the Genesis, A Genesis copy of Lethal Enforcers with a blue Justifier, and a Sega Menacer with the pack-in game and Terminator 2. I was ready to retro game. That humble collection turned into a ton of games for dozens of systems. I still collect modern stuff when I get the urge to play something recent, but mostly I go towards the retro stuff.
Today, I primarily collect for the Game Boy, the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U, though I look for everything under the sun. I actually own more Atari Lynx games than Wii U games right now, though that lead isn't by much.
2. I am a music junkie.
Yeah, this is a fairly generic thing to list as something you need to know about me, but it still bears repeating: I friggin' LOVE music, and I will continue to listen to stuff well after my video games have been destroyed by bit-rot and using improper power supplies.
Remember that post I made a couple of days ago (as of the time of this writing: 3/27/2015) on Rock Band 4 songs that need to exist? There is at least one more part to that I'll get to when I can, because I could talk at-length about five more bands that need to be in that game. It's something I really keep up, on, because music fosters creativity. And that is pretty amazing.
My current favorite band? Nada Surf. Check 'em out. They should be releasing a new album within the year, provided nothing horrible happens.
3. I own a Game Boy kiosk.
Just thought you might wanna know.
Picked this up at a local game store a couple of weeks ago. Remember how I said I collect for a ton of consoles? Well, I kinda sold off my NES and Sega Master System sets for this beauty, among a few assorted other games and accessories.
It's really cool. Now I can finally see that goddamn screen.
The Mega Man V was mine before the purchase of the kiosk. For what it's worth, mine came with a pristine version of Tetris.
4. I write other stuff, as well.
My main blog (which isn't quite as updated as this one because the community here is not only really nice, but also somewhat built-in) is where I post a lot of non videogame-related posts, though the two definitely overlap because of my hobbies. Check out my short stories!
They're literally "short" stories. A couple of 'em were for classes in college, the rest were just ones I decided to post. I have a ton more that I haven't finished, because my mind keeps jumping around, and I hate it.
5. I do (a very limited amount of) graphic design.
See that banner? Yeah, it's kinda neat, isn't it? I made it. Well, sort of. It's based on the work of Peter Saville. Each block corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. Go ahead and guess what it says!
My blog has a similar banner, but it's not quite the same. It's almost like it says something different.
My actual hand-drawing skills are not good, so a lot of my work is done on the computer, and even then it is very minimalist. By no means am I saying that I am a legitimate graphic designer, but I like what I've created thus far.
I'm currently working on a modified version of the "font", so I can use it without legal issues if I ever make money off of this stuff.
6. The best game on the Super Nintendo is Kirby Super Star.
Just another fun fact. Seriously, if you haven't played this game, what the hell is wrong with you? It's cute and colorful. IT'S FRIGGIN' ADORABLE.
Even if you don't necessarily like things that are cute and cuddly, this game is still one of the finest platforming experiences you will ever have in your entire life, mark my words. Go pick this one up on the Wii U eShop, or pay the $50 for the original cart. The DS version is good as well, but the original game has Capsule J:
And Capsule J is bad ass. Copyright issues kept him from being in the re-make of KSS on the DS. Instead, we got this poseur, Capsule J2:
Yeah, he's fundamentally identical to the first one, save for that he doesn't look like Twinbee so Konami can't sue HAL Laboratory. To hell with Konami and to hell with Twinbee. Capsule J!
7. I want to work for Harmonix Music Systems (among other places).
I graduated from a pre-Dunk City Florida Gulf Coast University with a degree in Communications (Public Relations was my focus) and a minor in Journalism. Most of my family lives near where Harmonix is located, so I'd really like to work there to see my family more. I have a passion for music and music in games, and I friggin' adore everything Harmonix has put out, even stuff like Eyetoy: Antigrav, which got me to buy an Eyetoy for my Playstation 2.
This isn't a cover letter, honest. I'm just, uh, talking about my career prospects. I'd settle for writing for a major video game journalism website, of course.
8. That's about it, really. For now, at least.
If you've got any questions, be sure to comment below. And read my blog posts. And pass 'em around if you like. I like having people read my stuff and comment on it because I think this stuff is worth talking about, and I hope that others do, too.
It also helps that I would love to become rich and famous someday, and every like or comment means that I'm one step closer to living my dream of filling a hot tub with cognac instead of water and living inside it for the better part of a week in my penthouse apartment overlooking the skyline of whatever major city is going to allow me to fill a hot tub with expensive liquor.
(That last bit probably won't happen. Most likely, I'd have to use something cheaper. Perhaps whiskey...)
I love music, man. I love all kinds of that stuff. When I'm rockin' the ear buds on my way to the gym, or when I'm pounding back Heinekens with my buds at TGI Fridays, I always listen to that shit.
Rock Band is totally friggin' cool, man. I traded in all of my Madden and Medal of Honor games back in 2008 to pay for half of Rock Band 2, and that shit was great. Used to rock the fuck out before studying for my Stats exams. Got me in the zone. For Stats.
I'm STOKED for Rock Band 4, man. I'm gonna sell my PS3 for it!
Here are some tracks that need to be in Rock Band 4, man. If you don't like 'em, you can fuck off.
This shit is my JAM right here! I play this every day before I get up for class and I know I'll keep doing 'till the end of fuckin' time, man.
I'm not usually a fan of love songs, but this one is kinda special. Totally sealed the deal with one of the chicks from Tilted Kilt with this one. She was hot as FUUUUUUUCK.
You out there, Sarah? I still love you, baby. Answer my texts, babe!
Oh SHIIIIIIIIT. This was my JAM in the 90s, man! Loved this song, and it fucking SUCKS it hasn't been in Rock Band yet-
"This song was already in Rock Band."
What? The hell it has! I own all three of them! Fucking show me.
"It's a track in LEGO Rock Band, you dumbass!"
Oh, fuck that noise. Nobody but the nerds bought that kiddie bullshit. This track needs to be in a REAL Rock Band game. With a number in it or something.
DUUUUUUUDE! I saw DMB back in '07, before LeRoi died (RIP in peace, bro). Two words: Life. Changing. Experience. That shit was amazing. Fuck Harmonicaix for not putting in more Dave Matthews in Rock Band before this-
"Ants Marching was DLC in 2012."
Doesn't count, man. That shit takes too long to download. Leave that DLC to the nerds, man. Plus, if I download too much, my neighbor will notice and I'll have to call Comcast to come out and actually give me internet.
I don't care what DJ you gotta talk to, man, but you need to put some fucking DUBSTEP in this game! Fuck all of the Rush and Chili Peppers bullshit people want, put some dubstep in there! I'd pay for a full Rock Band: Dubstep!
(It's 6:26 in the morning and I need sleep. Don't take this seriously for a minute, because I sure as hell didn't)
I know my posts make me come off as a bit of a retro gamer. Kind of a Disco Stu for something that doesn't suck.
The thing is, I totally play modern consoles.
Case in point: I played the everloving hell out of the Rock Band series. That might have been my favorite game series of the last generation, simply because it was so goddamn fun. No matter who you are, what age you were, what background you came from, you could have some sort of fun playing Rock Band. You could bang away at the plywood-esque drum kit, or pretend that you're Jimi Hendrix with that sweet plastic guitar. I stuck to vocals, because I like to surprise people. I know I poured multiple weeks' worth of time into the series as a whole, and that's in between bringing all the instruments to my college's video game club every Friday night. If any of my former Rock Band band-mates are out there reading this: 'Sup. We need to hang out more.
The Rock Band series is also the best argument for continued production of downloadable content that the game industry has. It helps that Rock Band games are pretty loaded with content initially, and the DLC is completely optional. Still, it's a hell of an experience to blast through a dozen songs that weren't even on the game disc originally, and it's even cooler to see your favorite bands get represented in the exhausting catalogue of downloadable songs for the Rock Band games.
That said, I'm absolutely HYPED for Rock Band 4. I'm going to say this now, so it's out there: If Harmonix finds a way to make past-generation DLC compatible with the new version of Rock Band on a new console, I will buy an Xbox One IMMEDIATELY (all of my DLC is on the Xbox 360, of course).
Harmonix recently put out a song request form on their website. I've been putting in my requests like crazy, but here's a more in-depth look at what I would like to see in Rock Band 4. Keep in mind that this list is subjective, it's in no particular order, it could be fairly eclectic, blah blah blah... Let's do this.
Barenaked Ladies - Every Subway Car
I'm a huge fan of Barenaked Ladies. Also, the band is pretty good, too.
...I'll see myself out...
Anyway, this band is one that already has a little bit of representation in the Rock Band series, as their song "One Week" was one of the tracks in Rock Band Blitz. I really, really hate that song. Why, you ask?
Oh, here we go...
"One Week' was the first track off of BNL's album Stunt. It was, and still is, a fantastic record. Stunt is the album that put Barenaked Ladies on the map, solidifying the work they had done previously with Born on a Pirate Ship and their earlier efforts Maybe You Should Drive and Gordon, which didn’t have much penetration in the US market. "One Week" became the band’s biggest hit to date (Yes, even all these years). It's fairly obvious why this song was chosen to be in Rock Band.
Chances are, if you’re not already a fan of BNL, you’ve no doubt heard this song before. It’s less of a song and more of a thinly-veiled attempt to cram as many puns, wordplay, and pop culture references into three minutes’ worth of audio. This song was such a huge hit that it got these guys to sell out venues across the goddamn world. People came to their shows just to hear it. It’s funny how that works, because the song sounds absolutely nothing like their other songs (save for the singles they released that were meant to copy the song’s success, like “Another Postcard”, from 2003’s Everything to Everyone).
Even songs that were inherently silly, like “If I Had $1,000,000″ (off of their debut album, Gordon), had lyrics that were sincere and heartfelt. They were lyrics that could stand on their own without the few humorous lines in the song. “One Week” is just a mess. The worst part of all of it is that it has prevented people from taking the band seriously. Every single song from every one of their albums is going to be compared to it, and every journalist or television personality has proclaimed each successive album that BNL releases to be a more serious effort than what they’re known for.
Personal bias aside, "One Week" is a decent choice for Rock Band because it's a fun karaoke standard and it's basically a hallmark of late-90s musical pop culture. It's just not what I would have chosen. I guess that's why I don't work for Harmonix (but I would really, really like to. Damn them for not offering internships out-of-state...)
Herein lies my reason to pick "Every Subway Car" as a Rock Band 4 track: It's a track from the current, post-Steven Page BNL. This is much more representative of their current sound than "One Week", and it shows that the band could write something beautiful and emotional without being sad, and without record scratches or pop culture references. It also showcases every Rock Band instrument flawlessly: you could choose anything and have a fun time on it. Good stuff.
Rilo Kiley - Patiently
Rilo Kiley is another band that has a track in the Rock Band series already: "Portions For Foxes", off of their album More Adventurous, was in Rock Band 3. "Portions For Foxes" is a great song, if a little, uh, unsubtle? Yeah. That's a decent description.
"Patiently" is off of the B-Side collection Rkives, which was released a couple of years ago, well after the band broke up. It's a shame that sort of thing goes down, but it happens.
Oh, that's right. "Who the hell is Rilo Kiley?" you ask?
Remember the redhead from The Wizard, that movie that was made specifically to advertise Super Mario Bros. 3? She formed a band with one of the kids who was on Salute Your Shorts and, together with a couple of other people who didn't have some sort of impact on my childhood, they took on the world. Sort of. Maybe it's more accurate to say that they took on the midwestern United States.
I like "Patiently" because it showcases two sets of vocals, sometimes at the same time. Jenny Lewis' voice is the primary one, and Blake Sennett's is the secondary, as it is on most RK tracks. The both of them are completely distinct, which would make for a fun set of vocal harmonies. Plus, I really like the guitar in this song. It would probably annoy a dog or a cat, but it's really nice. The opening also showcases some neat, Pixies-esque volume shift that hooks you in immediately, and could be a hell of a wake-up call for the less-energetic of players.
Nada Surf - The Way You Wear Your Head
Ah, Nada Surf. One of the best bands named after an existential concept. Nada Surf became a bit of a late-1990s success due to their song "Popular", which used a spoken-word style of lyrics for the verses and a sung chorus. The song was definitely post-grunge in sound, with a vocal style that sounded like a deadpan mix of Henry Rollins at the start and Sam Kinison near the end. In a similar fate to the previously-listed Barenaked Ladies, the rest of Nada Surf's catalogue sounds nothing like that, at least not vocally. Despite that, the truth of the matter is that if Harmonix were to actually pick a Nada Surf song to use in Rock Band 4, it would be "Popular" due to it being the band's most well-known track, no doubt about it.
Let Go is Nada Surf's third album, released in 2002, and GOOD GOD it is fantastic. I have a copy of the European version of the album, and it is basically flawless pop-laced indie rock. "The Way You Wear Your Head" is a standout track in an album full of standout tracks. It's loud, it's intense without being overwhelming, and the lyrics are absolutely beautiful. This would be a great vocal track and a great guitar track to play as well. Keyboards are MIA, but that hasn't stopped Harmonix from releasing DLC in the past without it.
Y'know, I'd love to see the entirety of Let Go as an album release for RB4, but I'd have more luck hitting the lottery than for that dream to become reality. Oh well. Let's hope that Nada Surf gets some sort of representation in Rock Band, because not only does the band deserve that recognition, it would be an absolute blast to play through their catalogue on a plastic guitar.
Edith - Peek Into Your Window
(No YouTube link for this one, since it's not on YouTube at all. Here's an Amazon link to Hunker Down, the album that this track came off of)
This is an obscure one. Stay with me here.
I've wanted to write about this band for a very long time, but I've avoided it for a while because this is a hard band to promote: They haven't been a real entity since the early 2000s, and their albums are IMPOSSIBLE to find if you didn't live in Boston, Massachusetts during that time. Thankfully, we have the internet, where you can buy the most obscure albums for a penny and $4 shipping.
No, there was no one named Edith in their band. I don't quite know why they chose that as the band name, but I'm sure that all of the people asking which one of them was Edith got annoying real quick. Their first album was called Outfit, released in August 2001. It's really nice. The sound is definitely power pop, with a little late-90s grunge thrown in some places (it's most obvious during the instrumental track "Intermission", which is exactly what it sounds like).
"Peek Into Your Window" is the second track off of Edith's second album, Hunker Down, in 2002. The sophomore release from the band, like a surprising amount of other bands, sounds very different from the previous album. This change isn't in genre or lyrics, mind you, it's in the production. It's very clear that the Hunker Down's recording process was completely different than that of Outfit. In a few cases, they don't even sound like the same band. From what I can tell from liner notes and other sources (as few as they are), Hunker Down was chock-full of guest musicians playing on each track for one reason or another. I'm not quite sure why, but it happened, and it made for a very interesting spread of tracks for the album. Another interesting thing I've noticed about the album is that some of the songs appear to be unfinished or possibly rushed through production. Maybe it's just me, but tracks like "Digging Around" and "Suffering Again", while great, seem to end at least a minute too early. The last bit of lyrics for "Digging Around" aren't even printed in my copy's liner notes.
"Peek Into Your Window" is a personal favorite. It has a great Pixies-esque "quiet, then loud, then quiet, then loud, then REALLY loud, then REALLY quiet" sound to it in terms of volume, not necessarily in musical style. The lyrics are clever and memorable, sticking with you for a while after the fact. This would make a fantastic choice for a Rock Band track, if only for the fact that more people would get to hear it and hopefully be pleasantly surprised by it.
As for the band itself? Edith more or less dissolved after 2002. All was not lost, however! The band got back together in 2009 under a new name: The Vivs. They've had a few lineup changes since then, but the core of the band is still there: Karen Harris, the front-woman and main songwriter is still at it. They're releasing a new record in May, which means that some new tracks from the The Vivs are prime candidates for inclusion in Rock Band in some form, as well. Fingers crossed.
Tribe - Miracle of Sound
This is another relatively-obscure one, but chances are if you're a Rock Band fan, you've heard this band before: Their song "Outside" was a bonus track in the first Rock Band. That's actually where I first heard the band, and I kind-of-sort-of fell in love with Tribe.
I was about a decade and a half too late, of course, but still. I actually found a copy of Tribe's first album Here At The Home in my dad's old music collection, no doubt some sort of impulse buy, since it really isn't the sort of music my dad liked.
Tribe itself was one of those cult favorite bands in Boston, Massachusetts. My aunt claims to have gone to one or two of their shows in the early 1990s, and I envy her quite a bit because of it. It's kind of hard to tell the level of success the band had before their breakup in 1994, but it seems to be fairly substantial: they definitely played at venues overseas and in areas outside of New England, though they are still remembered as a local favorite to your 90s hipster Bostonian.
Musically, they were very much a late-80s rock band, in the style of 'Til Tuesday or Siouxsie & The Banshees. In fact, those are the two bands I would use to describe Tribe's sound. Their second album, Abort came out in August 1991, which is decidedly poor-timing in retrospect: It was one month before Nirvana's Nevermind came out, which changed the landscape of music completely. I don't need to go into detail about that, of course. Suffice to say, Tribe seems to have gotten left in the dust.
Their third album, Sleeper, gave us the track "Miracle of Sound", which pokes some fun at bands that lip-syned and mimed their concerts to a pre-recorded track, a la Milli Vanilli. It is something that I'd love to see in Rock Band 4, as, once again, every instrument gets a chance to shine in this track. It would be kind of funny to see this track in the game, due to the song's subject matter, as well. Hopefully someone at Harmonix has a good sense of irony?
Oh, by the way, Terri Brosius, the woman who voiced SHODAN in the System Shock games, was Tribe's keyboard player and occasional vocalist. She also currently plays keyboard and vocals in The Vivs, as well. It's kind of crazy that the source of a lot of my childhood nightmares is also the vocalist in two bands that I really enjoy.
I'm honestly surprised that we haven't gotten more Tribe in Rock Band - At least two of the members of the band are employees of Harmonix, and since Harmonix is chock-full of musicians who would love to promote their music, past or present, it's a wonder we haven't gotten more. Maybe there are royalty issues or something causing problems, but I'm sure something like that could be worked out. Hell, Harmonix managed to find the master tapes for Rush's Moving Pictures and a metric ton of Beatles recordings. I'm sure a couple of Tribe songs aren't out of the question for the future.
Strap in. This post is gonna be a doorstop.
I'll start with a story:
In November 2013, I had just been hired at the local international airport to work as a barista at the main-terminal Starbucks. Woohoo, employment! I didn't last long there due to a scheduling conflict, but that's beside the point. My orientation day was November 14th, which happened to be the day right before the Playstation 4 was to be released. I had pre-ordered right after E3 that year because Sony's press conference blew me away, and I had not anticipated actually having a job at that point because my career prospects were fairly dire. No matter. I went to the orientation, and I was given my schedule:
My first day was November 15th, 4:30 AM. I had to pick up my PS4 at midnight.
I got home at 6 PM on the 14th, slept 'till 11 PM. Drove to Gamestop, waited in line for a little bit (and saw one of my old roommates, though I don't know if he recognized me), and got my goddamn Playstation 4. I sprinted out of the store, drove home, and slept till 3 AM. After a shower, a long commute to the airport and a couple of parking mishaps, I was in-uniform and serving coffee a little bit before 4:29 AM.
What game did I get with the system? Killzone: Shadow Fall. Great game. Showed a lot of what the PS4 could do. I haven't bought a lot since then for the PS4, unfortunately.
I do, however, love looking back at the launch titles for other systems. When you're faced with the prospect of buying a new console and all the bits that have to come with it (extra controllers, memory cards, cables, etc), you're often left with enough cash to buy MAYBE one game, and two if there happens to be some sort of sale. In that moment, you need to think quickly, because that one game justifies your whole console. Which should you choose?
Throughout the last 30+ years, we've had a lot of launch titles to choose from when the next new thing hits the market. This is my personal list of my favorite launch games.
Remember: I'm just a guy who writes about video games. My choices are mine alone, so please keep that in mind. If I missed something, be sure to talk about it in the comment section, because I'll probably agree with you about how that game I didn't write about is awesome.
Also, I'm posting YouTube clips instead of static images. It definitely gives a better representation of the game itself. Credit goes to the respective uploaders.
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (Nintendo 3DS)
When the Nintendo 3DS launched, it didn't have too much going for it. The system was hard for people to deal with, since the 3D wasn't flawless, and the launch lineup was pretty much awful: We saw a return of Pilotwings, but how many people really were clamoring for another Pilotwings game?
(I totally was, but whatever...)
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is a fantastic port of SSFIV. It's kind of insane to see it running on a handheld system (before the Vita came out, no less). Pretty much every bit of SSFIV were ported over, save for some of the more detailed backgrounds. Thanks to Capcom's implementation of streamlined touch screen controls and the standard SF button-layout, it means that both the experienced fighting game fan and the novice player can throw Hadoukens and Sonic Booms like they're nothing and both can have fun doing it. In all, Super Street Fighter IV is a great fighter on a system that isn't really known for its fighting games.
Wipeout: Pure (Playstation Portable)
The Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP both blew my mind, for one very specific reason: 3D gaming on a handheld.
This is commonplace today, of course, but after 15 or so years of 2D, 8-and-16-bit games on the Game Boy, Game Gear, and other systems, it was a feast for the eyes to see something like Wipeout Pure on the PSP. For me, it was a clear message: Handheld games are changing. Forever.
Graphics aside, the game is fantastic. Everything is crisp and streamlined, even down to the menus. The smooth, F-Zero meets Gran Turismo style is apparent in every aspect of this game's identity. It's probably my favorite of the Wipeout series, though a lot of the games tend to bleed together. Pure stands out, as it had the advantage of making Sony look lightyears ahead of their competition. It's funny to look back on it, as Sony didn't take the ball and run with it.
At least, they didn't run fast enough.
Power Stone (Sega Dreamcast)
I've talked about my initial experience with the Sega Dreamcast before. It's a very cool system that continues to have a reputation of being criminally underrated. The damn console had everything.
One of the best reasons to own the system is its library of arcade-perfect game conversions. Chances are, if you're playing a game on the Dreamcast that was initially an arcade game, there will be little to no difference between the two versions. Capcom was great at this. Case in point: Power Stone.
Power Stone is a 3D fighting game with a neat steampunk vibe to it. You play as multiple colorful adventurers, pirates, thieves, and other such types competing for treasure and bragging rights. It's an awesome game, and a very good example of a 3D fighter that works very well. The biggest downfall of it (other than the price) is the fact that you can only have two players at once in a fight. The sequel would rectify that problem.
The Dreamcast had a hell of a launch lineup, with classics like Sonic Adventure, House of The Dead 2, and Soul Calibur giving consumers a lot of reasons to own the console.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (Nintendo Gamecube)
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was a relatively-late release on the Nintendo 64. It was a game that showed that Star Wars-style ship combat was something that could be done easily on consoles, as opposed to using some kind of crazy flight stick on the PC with the TIE Fighter and X-Wing games. Rogue Squadron took the complication out of dogfighting and put a more comprehensive story behind it. It also took the fighting to the surface of planets in the Star Wars Galaxy, as opposed to being stuck out in space.
Rogue Leader, the sequel to Rogue Squadron, amped the awesomeness up quite a bit. The power of the Nintendo Gamecube made great cinematics possible in the game, which was something the first Rogue Squadron game was lacking. This is best shown in the first mission of the game, which re-creates the Death Star trench run from A New Hope near-flawlessly.
The game itself doesn't stick to movie moments, though. It branches off into Expanded Universe territory pretty quick, showing what happened to the Rebel Alliance between Episodes IV and V (namely, that the Empire wrecked their shit at Yavin IV, necessitating an emergency transplant to Hoth, and, of course, we all know how that turned out for the Rebels...)
The game goes beyond that, as well, covering the entire Star Wars Original Trilogy and a lot of the stuff that wasn't seen on-screen. That's pretty damn awesome. You have a multitude of ships to use, and most ships have individual uses which will need to be used eventually. I liked the A-Wing, but that's just me.
For the Gamecube launch, you had a few good options. Luigi's Mansion was a given (and it nearly made the list...), Batman: Vengeance was a really nice game if you didn't pay full price, and I don't even want to think about how much I played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3...
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was probably my favorite game of the Gamecube's launch. I know I waited in front of K-Mart long enough for it.
Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)
It was a hard choice for #1. I went with something that I was actually alive for (well, barely). First, a little background:
Super Mario Bros. on the NES is basically a perfect game. Really, it is. Anyone who claims that it is overrated is completely and objectively wrong. The reason for that is because without Super Mario Bros, we would not have video games as they are today. It simply would not be. Without Super Mario Bros, we would not have this entire section of not only the entertainment industry, but our culture.
Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but y'know what? Nintendo managed to improve on perfection. Mario 2 was a completely different take on the series that didn't quite move forward but still proved to be a very good game, but Mario 3 added some power-ups and a world map to make an AMAZING game that is probably the best game on the NES, hands down.
You plan a game that is so packed to the walls it's standing-room only; it's so much of a leap forward that you need to create a whole new console to release it.
Super Mario World came out with the Super Nintendo, as the console's pack-in in the United States. This ensured that everyone got to play this beast of a game.
The game itself is fairly simple: Bowser kidnapped the princess, you gotta go beat him. Great stuff. The difference now is that you're doing it in a real, interconnected world. The Mario 3 world maps were basically a linear experience: You moved right, got to another area, and stayed there till you moved to another area. Super Mario World improved this by allowing backwards movement on the world map: you could go to previously-beaten areas and re-play them, sometimes finding hidden secrets, like hidden switches and alternate routes through an area. The game was massive to explore, and every area was unique, yet it was all interconnected. That massive world map you could see when you hit the select button on the map screen? You got to go to ALL of that and some parts that you didn't actually see.
The reason I'm putting this as the top launch title is because it represents a true centerpiece for the system it came out on. Every design choice in Super Mario World was meant to one-up (no pun intended) the original Nintendo's hardware limitations: Mario 3 didn't have backgrounds? Mario World has some awesome esoteric backgrounds that will stick with you to this day. Mario's new dinosaur sidekick, Yoshi, was added because Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had always wanted Mario to ride a dinosaur but the technical limitations of the NES prevented that dream from becoming reality. The sound is more robust, the visuals are crisp and striking. Hell, Mario can FLY.
Super Mario World is a perfect sequel, and perhaps the perfect launch title for any system.
I've mentioned this before, but in 1994-1995, Nintendo was more or less on the top of the world.
It's kind of amazing to know that some people still use "Nintendo" as a stand-in for video games as a whole. Nintendo themselves haven't done that since 1991, and yet the practice still stands. Nintendo had managed to transcended the marketplace and become a part of pop culture. No other company has accomplished that to the same extent as Nintendo.
Nintendo took full advantage of that status, too. They capitalized on the NES' popularity by making tons of awesome games (and putting a strangehold on third-party developers, but that's another show), and they launched into the 16-bit era with some instantly-classic games like Super Mario World and F-Zero, effectively ushering in the second half of their Golden Age in the video game industry.
In the mid-1990s, however, things began to change quite a bit. Compact disc technology was becoming more affordable, and the benefits of CDs over cartridges as a storage medium were immediately apparent. Sony had a falling out with Nintendo, and they decided to release their own console, the Playstation. Sega had the Saturn. Nintendo had...
Well, they didn't have much, at least at the time. The Nintendo 64 was in development, but there was no way it was going to be out before 1996. They needed something to fill in the gap, since their Super Nintendo games were getting a little dated compared to the other consoles at the time. Pokemon had yet to be released in the US, and wouldn't be until 1998, so the Game Boy was floundering a little bit. What was Nintendo to do?
They called upon the genius of Gunpei Yokoi, the man who designed the Game & Watch games, as well as the Game Boy, and had him create the next new thing for Nintendo. That thing was supposed to usher in a new age of gaming. It didn't. It was the Nintendo Virtual Boy.
The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s attempt to make a virtual reality game console in the mid 1990s. Y’know, since virtual reality was the wave of the future back then, if Lawnmower Man and Jonny Mneumonic were to be believed. The Virtual Boy looked a hell of a lot like what you would expect a virtual reality device to look like; it was a big pair of goggles that you had to look into to see the game, and a nifty game controller that had two directional pads, which was kind of novel. Note that I said “novel”, not “useful” or “needed.”
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Well, yeah. It is. It’s friggin’ sweet. There’s a few very glaring flaws with the system design, though.
– The system uses special black magic to allow the user to see games in 3D. This is something that’s all the rage right now, so to see it on a console that was released in 1995 is pretty amazing. The flaws of stereoscopic 3D still plague the system, however. It is very hard to play games for more than a few minutes at a time due to the eye strain that occurs when looking at the screen for long periods of time. There was even a disclaimer on the box that warned that children under the age of 6 shouldn’t play the console due to the potential for it to cause PERMANENT EYE DAMAGE.
– The Virtual Boy used a red and black color scheme to display its games. This, coupled with the 3D issues listed above, made for a sometimes-disorienting game experience. Some people have claimed that it also makes red things harder to see once you stop playing, as well. This odd design choice was due to a cost-cutting measure during development: The Virtual Boy was originally supposed to be a full-color system, but blue and green LEDs were expensive to use, and would have brought the price of the unit to WAY beyond consumer-level. As a result, the machine primarily used red LEDs, which were much cheaper to use, hence why all of the games are red and black monochrome.
– There were a little over a dozen games released in the US, so there isn’t much to choose from. It’s unfortunate, too – A lot of the games are really good. Even more tragic is the fact that every game is unique to the system - there is very little chance any of the games will see a re-release in the future.
The game lineup was definitely interesting. Here are a few of my favorite games for the console:
Wario Land is probably the best game on the Virtual Boy, and it’s usually the first one that people track down for the system. This was the game that made me need a Virtual Boy, back when I played one in a Service Merchandise while my mom was shopping for school clothes and stuff that actually mattered.
It’s a ridiculously fun platformer, where you play as Mario’s even-more-overweight and greedy opposite, collecting coins and elbowing enemies in the face. This game plays similar to the rest of the Wario Land series, but it’s most similar to the first one on the Game Boy. The visuals are really nice; the game looks like a monochrome Super Nintendo game moreso than a Game Boy one. The 3D effects give the backgrounds some amazing detail, and the sense of perspective you get when playing is really awesome. Despite the fact that this game was more or less the killer app for the Virtual Boy, it hasn’t seen a release since ’95. This game, more than a lot of others, needs a 3DS Virtual Console re-release. It's excellent.
V-Tetris. This was actually a Japan-only release, developed by one of my favorite companies, Bullet Proof Software. They’re the people responsible for games like Yoshi’s Cookie, Hatris, and… Michael Andretti’s Indy Car Challenge. I've talked about BPS before, so go check my other blog post if you want to know a little more about them.
It's also worth noting that there was another Tetris game released for the system: 3D Tetris was the last US-released Virtual Boy game, and, contrary to the name, it's actually a version of Welltris, which is an official spin-off of Tetris made by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov. Welltris is basically a 3D version of Tetris where you have the same block-stacking objective but instead of stacking blocks in a 2D tower, you did it in a 3D cube. It's confusing, and not nearly as fun as normal Tetris. Fun fact: Bullet Proof Software developed the original version of Welltris on the PC, but they didn't develop 3D Tetris on the Virtual Boy, instead making V-Tetris. Goddamn, this got confusing.
Now, Tetris is a game that is hard to screw up. And, honestly, BPS didn’t really screw up here. The biggest hurdle to overcome was the 3D effect with the Virtual Boy, and they didn’t quite do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. The 3D works fine. It’s actually a really cool effect that made me flinch a little bit because it actually looked like the blocks were actually coming towards me.
The game definitely plays great. The problem is that Tetris is an addictive game. Putting an addictive game on a console that has the potential to physically harm you is a terrible idea. I played this for about an hour straight earlier today, and I felt awful afterwards. Most of the Virtual Boy games are designed for short bursts of gameplay, so you can take a break from playing when you feel lousy. Tetris doesn’t quite work like that.
Nester’s Funky Bowling. There isn’t anything particularly “funky” about it. It’s just a bowling game, starring Nester.
Who is Nester, you may ask? (Damn kids...)
Why, he was the long-time mascot of Nintendo Power, which was a magazine that, for twenty-something years, was the be-all-end-all of Nintendo news and info. Unfortunately its publication ended just after the launch of the Wii U. Nester appeared in a monthly comic strip for Nintendo Power, which highlighted a different game for each comic. He originally was partnered with Howard Phillips, a former employee of Nintendo of America, but eventually he started headlining comics without Howard.
Nester’s Funky Bowling is one hell of a bowling game. It’s a genre that I honestly have no interest in since the last time I went to a bowling alley it was less about bowling and more about downing $3 Sam Adams, but this particular bowling game manages to actually be enjoyable. It’s satisfying as hell to actually get a strike, and Nester’s reactions whenever you don’t get one are very amusing since Nester is a sore loser.
The Virtual Boy’s library was small. Most of the games didn’t see a release outside of the console. There’s a few more gems in the VB library, such as Vertical Force, a shooter by Hudson Soft, and the incredibly-rare Jack Bros., which is a dungeon crawler in the style of Gauntlet. Jack Bros. is actually the first game in the Shin Megami Tensei series to be brought over to the US. It was published by Atlus, which basically means that it’s incredibly expensive on the aftermarket because Atlus didn’t make nearly enough copies of the game, like always (see: Run Saber, Snowboard Kids 2, Ogre Battle 64, Trap Gunner, etc).
The Virtual Boy was a gigantic failure for Nintendo. In fact, it was their first “real” failure in the game industry. The general public just didn’t catch on to the whole craze of virtual reality once all of its flaws were apparent, and the sales of the VB reflected that. This thing was nearly given away by 1996. It’s treated as a huge black mark on Nintendo’s history, even moreso than the perceived mistakes they made when developing the Nintendo 64. Needless to say, Nintendo really doesn’t like to talk about the Virtual Boy right now.
Even worse, the Virtual Boy was also the device that ended Gunpei Yokoi's success with Nintendo. The blame for the Virtual Boy's failure was placed solely on Yokoi's shoulders, which led him to leave Nintendo in late 1996.
I think a lot of the criticism of the Virtual Boy is valid. The console is not well-designed for any sort of serious gaming session, and the pain that can be caused by LOOKING AT THE SCREEN is a huge issue that cannot be avoided. Despite this, a lot of the games on the VB are really good, and it’s a shame that a lot of people didn’t experience it. Most people who have heard of the VB in passing will dump it with truly horrible game consoles, like the Tiger Game.Com or the Hyperscan. That’s not really fair. The Virtual Boy actually has good stuff on it, and you owe it to yourself to at least give it a play if you ever see one. Just make sure to bring some eyedrops.