The Year was 1990. The Berlin Wall had fallen the year prior, Germany was reunited, the guy above was actually relevant and in a little village in lower saxony, my parents got a visitor.
It was a friend of them whose name I can hardly remember. He was somewhat of a wunderkind when it came to everything IT-related so he chose a job in that field. One summer evening he visited my parents and connected something to the TV. I wasn't sure what it actually was, but he was excited, my dad was excited and my mom was at least curious.
Then he switched it on and 4-year-old me came to his first contact with something called "video games".
Now I guess alot of you guys have similar stories to share and well, it's not such a special one. What was odd, however, was the thing he that played those video games. Remember: the big crash of 1983 had nearly eradicted video games outside of Japan and even there, companies like Nintendo had their fair share of trouble. That's why they didn't call their first console "Gamebrick" (although it was basically just that) but "Nintendo Entertainment System" (or as it is known in Japan: Famicom. Family Computer). Nobody really wanted to commit themselves fully to this medium.
At least until the aforementioned NES came around and took the market by storm.
While consoles had a bad standing, home computers were up and coming. So naturally, many companies wanted in on the action. Thus we got all our Ataris, Amigas, C64s and so on and so forth. While those were the big ones, the on system I made my first steps in gaming on was something, that outside of Japan noone hardly knows.
Now I'm sure everyone will come up with "Oh yeah, I know" but in my experience, the MSX isn't really well known. So allow me to give you a short overlook:
The MSX was actually not a name for a system, but for a unified construction standard. Inspired by Microsoft, the head of Microsoft Japan, Kazuhiko Nishi started the project in cooperation with another company he was the director of: ASCII Corporation (you know...the maker of those awesome SNES Controllers with the Turbo-Buttons). Microsoft wanted to create a unified standard and so, when you look for "MSX", you will find a lot of different models from the likes of Sony, Hitachi, ASCII etc. etc. etc. Japan was in the middle of its economic awakening and the companies soared.
Although the "standard" was unified, the systems themselves differed. So any MSX can run any software, that's MSX-supported, but over the years, the whole "standard" got diluted to the point, where there were definitely "superior" models.
Mind you, there are over 80 (!!!) different models of the MSX. And this is just the first iteration. I'm not even talking about the MSX 2, MSX 2+, Do-It-Yourself MSX, etc.
So what was the thing that defined "unified"? The OS. In this case, we got a slightly advanced version of basic: MSX basic.
Yeah..."Basic" is the operative word here. But it wasn't just "Basic", it was MSX Basic. So what does that mean? IT'S EXTENDED (MSX = MicroSoft eXtended.
...yup, it's like "Blast processing".
You might have already noticed the fun thing. Microsoft was the initiator yet the USA didn't really get to know it.
As I said above, it was the time after the big video game crash of 1983...the MSX was released in 1983 so you can probably imagine why it didn't go so well. The US already had a home system with the Atari and the first Macs, so there wasn't really a market.
Japan, however, wanted something alike, so the MSX was born.
And since it came out two years before the Famicom, many a big japanese developer started releasing their games on this black box. Most notably Konami and Hudson Soft who both had an amazing output for the system (which makes it hard for me to critisize Konami with righteous arguments since they were basically my entrance into gaming).
But this is a GARME JURNALIZM-Site, so let's get to the juicy part. Which games were there? I'm not gonna hand out a top list, I'd rather give some insight into what games there were with some selected words for every title.
So on to my first video-game ever:
Rollerball (1984, HAL Laboratory)
Yup...a pinball simulator. Can't really say too much about it. It had some okayish ball-physics for the time and was "fun for the whole family"...no really: before my family and me got separated we used to dust off the old system and pop this in for a family-tournament at least once a year.
Galaga (1984, Namco)
My second game was this gem. Why do I call it gem? Because since 2008 there's an official version of this game on XBLA. A game, that was 27 years old at that time.
Namco struck gold, when they released Galaga in the Arcades back in 1981 and the incredible popularity worked in its favor on the home systems. Galaga got ported to nearly everything with a floppy drive and up to this day, it's still awesome. It's more active than Space Invaders yet immediately instinctive to play.
Knightmare (Konami, 1986)
You're welcome. What for? This song will forever burn itself into your ears and never let go. Think you saw this game before? Possible, since Squaresoft blatantly ripped this off for their NES-title King's Knight. IMHO, Knightmare is still the better title. It controls so fluently and once you're in flow, nothing will stop you (except those damn bats)
Comic Bakery (Konami, 1984)
Konami was seemingly in love with classic tunes since there is nearly no game of that era that hasn't a memorable song in it. What else can be said? You're a chef and and have to take care of raccoons, so that the customers can get their rolls in the morning and an owl can give you bonus because OF COURSE.
Lode Runner (Broderbund Software, 1983)
Well...it's Lode Runner.
King's Valley (Konami, 1985)
If you want a blueprint for "Spelunky", King's Valley has you covered. One hit deaths? Check. Traps? Check. Balls hard evading? Check.
Circus Charlie (Konami, 1984)
A favorite of my little sister because LOOK AT ALL THE CGA CUTE!!!
Athletic Land (Konami, 1984)
1984 was really a good year for Konami it seems. Athletic Land is proof of that. Again: simple premise, hard to master, as you progress through screens of increasing difficulty and questionable hit detection.
Hyper Olympics (Konami, *sigh* 1984)
He, who doesn't know this game and hasn't broken at least two joysticks hath no righteth to calleth himself gamer.
Time Bandits (Personal Software Services, 1984)
Licensed crap....not an invention of today.
Keystone Kapers (Activision, 1984)
Even though the MSX wasn't popular in the States, companies like Activision still ported some games over there. Keystone Kapers is an example of such and I can't count all the hours little me tried to capture gangsters and robbers in the several malls.
Yie Ar Kung Fu (Konami, 1985)
Fun FAct: My parents never allowed me games like Street Fighter 2, YAKF on the other hand never bothered them. This was as basic, as it gets. I mean: next to the directional input, you need ONE button. The attack than differs, according to what direction you press. Special Attacks? HA. There isn't even Multiplayer and if you hoped, you could play as "Wang"...no you can't. Only one character. Things got different, however, in...
Yie Ar Kung Fu 2 - The Emperor of Yie-Gah (Konami, 1985)
The direct predecessor. Released in the same year. More of the same? Nope. This basically did everything different. More sophisticated graphics aside, this iteration of the series had you battle through screens of smaller enemies until you reached the real boss-fight. Also, it featured a dynamic soundtrack and Multiplayer-Mode with several characters.
The Hobbit (Melbourne House, 1982)
One of the best known Text Adventures ever, of course, the Hobbit made an entrance on the MSX. Neither did I know, what the Hobbit was, nor did I understand that much but time and again I used this game to learn English.
Well, I could go on and on since I played a LOT of games on this system. For years, this was my go-to gaming system. Partly, because I didn't know that things like the Gameboy existed, partly because my parents were incredible cheapskates.
Of course I forgot some games like Metal Gear, Parodius or Bomberman (three franchises that started on the MSX) but this is mostly because I didn't play them or didn't have them. Those games weren't so easy to come by, even in Europe.
So I hope I could bring some light into this partly forgotten Corner of Video Game History with some games that the wee little Zer0t0nin enjoyed the most.
I just wanted to ask a short question to the guys actually reading blogs around here. Like last year, I want to do a "My 2013 in gaming", however, I wanted to mix things up a bit. I've been toying with this idea for some time now: "My year in 2013" is going to be a Podcast. Or well: I'm planning on making it one.
It would contain my whole year in gaming (not just the highlights) and be accompanied by music from those titles etc. so that you wouldn't have to hear me talk for all that time.
The question I now have is:
Are you guys even interested?
Just wanted to know if it's ok to upload here and making a blog-post out of it without being perceived as an attention-whore or show-off.
Just leave your opinion in the comments; it's greatly appreciated.
And now for something completely different.
I was just sitting on the can, when this happened to me:
Owners of said system will know that screen all too well, as will PS3 owners.
If you hadn't guessed by now, let me explain it again: This came up, when I was on the CAN. I just wanted to take a dump and maybe master a course or two in "Sonic & All-Stars: Racing transformed", but was it possible? NO!
Because someone decided, that having WLAN would be an EXCELLENT opportunity to update the System Software whenever possible.
I admire the thought of all those people over in their tiny cubicles thinking about all the good they could do for us gamers, but DAMNIT: THINK OF THEIR BOWEL MOVEMENTS AS WELL.
Your updates take long...or at least long enough for me to "finish" before YOU are finished.
Now you're saying: "Well you made a picture, so obviously you were well entertained"
NO I WASN'T!!!
The above picture is not mine. I googled it. Why did I have to do it? Because I didn't take my cellphone with me.
Why didn't I do it?
BECAUSE I WAS TAKING MY FREAKING VITA WITH ME.
This isn't the first time I've been relegated to reading the back of the shampoo-bottle for the bazillionth time so now I ask for...no...I DEMAND for the following feature to be implemented into any handheld console from now on to eternity (because my 3DS starts to do that as well <.<):
The "I'm on the can"-button.
It's a little button, that is located on that side of the device, that doesn't interfere with your finger movement. It wouldn't have to be big, however, come in nice ceramic-white, or being made of ceramic to begin with, so that everyone could even guess its purpose without having to check the manual.
This button immediately puts a hold on any updates, downloads, installs, etc. and lets you use your handheld for anything BUT STARING AT MOTHERF'N PROGRESS-BAR.
"It's not possible" I hear you developers saying? STOP IT. Don't give me that crap (literally)!
The Vita boasts near-PS3-power, a touchscreen, a rear-touchpad, TWO cameras, SIXAXIS, twin-control-sticks, WLAN....and you can't be arsed to add a simple button? Noooooo, I don't think so.
You know this guy? Most likely not. Let me give you a hint. It's me. Find anything suspicious? Not a thing? Really?
Well let me tell you something...
...I've got a mental illness. Well actually three of them. Recurring depressions, PTSD and some form of "personality disorder with emotionally unstable episodes".
Let's be honest here for a second. Had you guessed it from that picture?
Then let's just imagine I told you the latter information first. I'm pretty sure, here are some of the guys you might have imagined me as:
What do those guys have in common? They are all "psychopaths", "nutcases", "insane people" or painted as one of the many things in between.
So yeah...I'm one of those guys, too. A fellow Dtoider, on one level with Vaas.
...you see, that is EXACTLY, why I welcome the Asylum Jam. Don't worry, this is not going to be one of those "Tropes against [insert stuff here] in videogames"-post; just a piece of my mind, where things are going wrong regarding mental-illnesses, where it's done right and why I can actually understand the current depiction.
What? The Joker is no Psychopath? You high?
No, not at all. Fact is, guys like the Joker are often branded as psychopaths or sociopaths without acknowledging what that actually is.
A psychopath CAN be sociopathic, but a sociopath can NEVER be a psychopath at the same time. Yep, there's a difference and yep, that difference actually matters.
A sociopath is someone who doesn't want to be a part of the society and therefore actively tries to counteract its morals, styles, younameit. It gets problematic, when those tendencies are going bonkers.
A psychopath is even more so someone who doesn't fit into society...but not so much because he doesn't want to, but more because he is unable to. This can have a lot of causes but mainly someone is called "psychopathic" when he is "given wrong information" so that he not only sees society to be wrong, but really, deeply believes it because he was told so.
It's needless to say this normally doesn't occur to you, unless you suffer some serious trauma or brain-washing procedures.
So let's remember: the sociopath does something because he believes it to be wrong, yet he is FULLY AWARE, that his behavior or actions are "illegal". The psychopath on the other hand doesn't even remotely think of legal issues, because he isn't necessarily even able to (or told so).
With this info, some of video-games' mad men or "asylum-setups" somehow lose a lot.
Take the critically acclaimed "Batman: Arkham Asylum" for instance. I absolutely LOVE this game, bought it on three separate consoles and finished it about twice as often.
However, if we take our definitions of sociopathic and psychpathic behavior and apply it here, it's becoming rather surreal that nearly no one of those criminals would actually be in there.
In a mental asylum: No.
While it's undeniable that guys like the aforementioned Joker or Killer Croc have some serious issues, the question of WHY they commited their crimes would land both of them in normal jail. Especially the Joker with his "for the lulz"-attitude as well as his demagogic skills would never even be allowed to have remote contact with asylum inmates.
The only criminals in Arkham Asylum who I'd deem fitting for the "psychopath"-label are Harley Quinn and maybe, but just MAYBE, Bane.
Harley Quinn was once a psychiatrist (though everyone who played Arkham Asylum should be familiar with this) until she fell for the Joker.
Getting into a completely submissive state of mental dependency certainly qualifies as psychopathic behavior.
Bane is a wee bit harder to characterize but given his origin story, I'm inclined to label him a psychopath. I mean: being incarcerated at age four for a crime your father commited and basically having no one to talk to but a teddy bear is not really the best way to teach a child right from wrong. That's why I'd give him the benefit of doubt.
The rest of the group, however, are fully aware of what they are doing, thus fully responsible for what they do.
Now why is this so important?
To understand that a mental illness doesn't make you a madman. Nor does it make you cringe on the spot and yell "THE FLOOR IS LAVA" whenever you hear a toaster at 4:37 a.m.
Yes, there ARE cases like this and it is definitely no joke. But we all know we are safe and sound from those lunatics because they rest safely locked away from us in places like these:
Let me give you a look into an actual home for patients like this:
Actually, I'm going to update this article with some photos of my own because Google only produced those horror-images, which kind of proves my point.
But it HAS to have a reason, right?
Yes, I do think it does and I kind of understand it. As the doctor in "L.A. Noire" said: the mind is the final frontier. It's something we can't really grasp because it's on the inside and everyone is different. In addition, everybody reacts different to varying stimuli so making be-all-end-all statements is nearly impossible.
Add to that the fact that mental-illnesses cover the whole front. From a slight stutter to pedophiliac-world-domination-fantasies: if you can think of it, there's a possibility it exists.
And come to think of it: a "lunatic" IS more captivating than your everyday person.
Normal is boring.
Normal is predictable.
But worst of all: normal is relatable. Just imagine: the guy who murdered Jason Brody's brother and sold one of his friends to a mixture of a rapist, drunk and archaeologist could be YOU.
Good to know that he is just a mad man. Not like you no. Heavens no, you would never do it, but do everything to stop him because it is just SO unrelatable. It gives you an enemy who is neither an alien, a zombie or a nazi but nevertheless unpredictable and at least thus far detached from reality to just shoehorn in every crazy stunt, murder or torture because LUNACY.
That's (I think) the reason, why it's mostly villains who have some kind of mental disorders.
I really question why that is, because
...the best example of mental-illness being displayed correctly is actually in a hero.
The guy who not only found the bodies of his wife and baby daughter, but got pulled into conspiracies only to be hunted down by every side......TWICE.
I don't know about you but in my opinion this would get to everyone and anyone who ever suffered from a depression (the clinical one...not being sad once in a while) will tell you, that it's not easy getting ANYTHING done in that case.
It's a state that needs to be adressed. Our friend Max, however, isn't really one to consult people. Not that this comes as a huge surprise given his recent experiences with people. He tried to change stuff but was unable to escape his dysfunctional behaviors...which is also something everyone with a history of depression will be able to confirm.
I wasn't a too big fan of Max Payne 3 but that was mostly because of some gameplay choices I didn't like.
The actual portrayal of Max and his behavioral patterns in light of his experiences is really good and relatable for someone like me.
Yes, he doesn't really achieve much. Because he can't. Because he is trapped inside a shell that's unbreakable for him.
He isn't someone who uses his illness as an excuse for his little power fantasies.
He doesn't justify torture, rape or genocide by a rough childhood.
He is a person like you and me. A familyman who suffered through horrible circumstances which left him scarred for life. And not just him...every sane person would be shattered by this.
"Where's the next part of Bargain Binge?" "Anything else to write?" "Why have your comments become so infrequent?" "Why are you posting again?"
Well, I know I've become somewhat of a rarer sight on this page and my blogging activity turned into something non-existent.
Well, I have neither abandoned gaming nor Destructoid. I just happen to undergo some psychological rehabilitation. I've waited pretty long for this opportunity and of course: when it came, it came on VERY short notice.
Sadly, as well as it might be for one's psyche to be there, the internet connection is...uhm...well...do you remember those times when you had to wait five minutes for a picture to load?
So yeah: I'm not gone, I just have to sort some stuff from my past.
See you on the next blog...I got some ideas already.
So here it is folks, the promised first edition of Bargain Binge. If you are asking asking yourself "What?" by now, I may link you to this post, explaining it all: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Zer0t0nin/bargain-binge-0-the-whatsit-the-rules-the-penguins-245321.phtml
So let's dive right in. We start of with:
what I liked:
I'm a sucker for cyberpunk. This world needs more of it and with upcoming titles like "Remember me", "Watch Dogs" or "Cyberpunk 2077", we're in pretty good shape there. Needless to say Syndicate's setting genuinely intrigued me. The story is basically "Cyberpunk 101", think of a poor-man's version of Deus Ex and the voice actors are doing a pretty good job with the delivery of the somewhat shallow script. The setting itself reminds somewhat of Shadowrun than Blade Runner and fans of the former will feel home almost immediately. The graphics are pretty nice with some great effects and an overall fitting art-direction that fits the tone well. The sound design is solid, guns sound distinctive enough and the soundtrack fits the equation with a blend of Industrial Rock, Electro and Dubstep. The gunplay itself is the bread and butter of the genre and it actually is nice, that nearly every firearm brings something different to the table without feeling overpowered (yes, even the target-seeking Gauss-gun) or imperative. You can finish every level with every combination of firearms. Even every boss-fight. Speaking of which: the boss-fights certainly are a highlight. Each one needs another tactic and they are far more demanding, than the normal enemies (once, because of the tactics, second because your chip abilities won't work).
You can acquire different abilities for your implant-chip that are all pretty useful and necessary to give you the edge in what are generally fun firefights.
Multiplayer focusses on a 4-player Coop-mode, that pitches you and three other players into missions against the AI. These ones can include intel acquiration, assasination, theft...everything from the colorful world of industrial espionage. Online play enables you to level your character up and then purchasing new guns, perks etc. You know the drill. While this can be a bit grindy at times, it actually encourages and the next new toy never feels too far away.
what I disliked:
For all it's worth: this game is short. If you know what to do and you're a hardened shooter-veteran, you will be able to breath through the campaign in 5 - 6 hours. There is no "New Game +" and the story doesn't offer anything like branching paths or the oh-so-popular decisions that would encourage another playthrough. In addition to that, the ending feels extremely rushed and very unfulfilling. The story itself is rather predictable and you will be able to sniff out double-crossings from miles away. So here again is the comparison to the Shadowrun universe: it just feels like "A story", never really "THE story" and what works for a deep universe with more than 20 years to build upon doesn't necessarily so in the universe of just two games with this new installment having not that much to do with it.
The graphics are nice and deliver a sterile look, but boy oh boy did they overdo it on the "bloom" side. I like it genrally in this setting, because the effect itself is fitting for it but this game really reminds me off this VGcats-strip. It hurts. It doesn't let you read stuff on Newsboards etc. This decision especially baffles me, since the rest of the game tries to evoke a deeper understanding of the world in you with news-pieces, personal logs etc. that you can find.
Gameplay-wise, the (thank god pretty few) platforming segments remind an awful lot of the parts of "Mirror's Edge" that just weren't very well designed. The enemy AI (aside the boss' ones) is servicable, but won't win any nobel-prizes soon.
Chip powers are another thing: you have your abilities but it never really feels like they matter, other than in firefights. Some puzzles would have been nice and would have served as a refresher in between the shooting parts.
Multiplayer is quite fun but like the single-player ultimately suffers from a severe lack of content like different game modes. I think publishers nowadays overdo it with DLC but in this case they really dropped the ball. The setting and world itself are interesting and would have been perfect for some additional scenarios with some more flesh.
So was it worth the reduced price of admission?
I'd say yes. I bought mine for 15,99 and considering that this is just barely more than what Activision charges for a CoD MapPack with four maps, you'll definitely get your money's worth. I think this game got more criticism, than it deserved due to the massive changes done to an established franchise. I don't get the amount of rage but I certainly DO think a classic Syndicate had worked well, if done right (I own the original on both, PC and SNES).
The campaign can keep you entertained throughout and the multiplayer is worth checking out.
HINDSIGHT: worth the full price?
Nope, definitely not. While the gameplay-flaws are nothing game-breaking, it just suffers from content in every respect. I do prefer a well done shorter game to an overblown clusterfuck (think "Journey" and FFXIII for an extreme example) but it just feels to rushed and unfuflfilling.
That was Syndicate. Next up:
What I liked:
It's Mortal Kombat at it's worst and that makes it sooooo good. Everything about it screams "I'M FROM THE NINETIES" and it just works. The story-mode especially suffers from extreme shlockage in the cutscenes that manage to watch the razor's edge between guilty pleasure and shame and I love it. Hell: the story itself suffers from the typical Nineties "Ah fuck, we gonna do it anew...in RADICAL". Shao Khan triumphed at the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon. We all know that this is not good, so in a despaired effort, Raiden sends a message back through time to the beginning of the first Mortal Kombat tournament (yes, the one from the first game) to write the whole history again. The game then spans around an alternate story-arc to MK 1 - 3.
Is everything left retro? Thankfully not. Netherrealm Studios did a commendable job of revitalizing this franchise with a much needed infection of gameplay-overhaul. Let's face it kids: nearly nobody in the nineties played MK for the gameplay. The pre-rendered figures always controlled somewhat sluggish and slow with some strange hitboxes and not nearly the flow, that other fighting games like Street Fighter or Killer Instinct inherited. Why you think everyone hated on Pitfighter?
We all played it for it's genuine brand of ultra-violence.
Netherrealm did a great job identifying, what made it a succesful franchise in the first place (ultra-violence, interesting characters, etc.) while shelfing stuff that was just outdated (mostly all of the gameplay). The result is a game that's fluent combat with manic combos and juggles even surpasses most other fighting games currently on the market while not alienating newbies to the matter. The cast of fighters is impressive with nearly every character from the whole series in it. PS3 owners even get an exclusive with Kratos joining their ranks...a good fit.
The amount of content in this game is amazing. In addition to the story mode, single players can engage in some retro-arcade-ladder mode or simple 1 - 1 fights. Then, there is the challenge tower, which features 300 (!!!) challenges that rank from "defeat 100 Zombies" over "where is the missing eye" up to "win this fight in 10 seconds without taking any damage". Players get rewarded for nearly everything they do with points that can be unlocked on the graveyard for random stuff like character Art, additional costumes or even new finishers.
The multiplayer is where every fighting game should shine, however, and MK does so with bravado. Basically everybody can set up tournaments, the lobby system is extremely fun with players being able to rate fights or shout random profanities at the current two fighters and the netcode makes for great, delay-free fisticuffs.
The Komplete edition basically bundles every released DLC into the game. The nice thing: it's on the disc, so no download. While it's mostly buffing up the already impressive roster with the formerly missing characters from the universe and all of their classic constumes, the most intriguing thing about the DLC should be the ability to play as none other than Freddy Kruger himself.
What I disliked:
There is actually not that much to dislike unless you are not a fan of fighting games, but then why would you have bothered with buying it in the first place? If I now had to nitpick it would be the inevitable difficulty spikes in the story mode, courtesy of the differing fighting styles and the fact, that the unlockable extra finishers are actually already unlocked. All you DO unlock is the move list to do so which can be looked up on the internet.
So, is it worth the reduced price?
Absolutely. If you're a fan of fighting games you get something closely resembling your wet dreams. 32 different fighters with different fighting styles and enough content to keep you playing for months on end...only to return later for "just one more round".
HINDSIGHT: Was it worth full price
Ah, this one is hard to say. While I tend to say "yes", because of all the aforementioned stuff, I have to say no, due to the questionable business decision of releasing a fighting game another time with some added content for the same full price-tag.
This was the first edition of Bargain Binge. Feedback is always a welcome thing. I think the next issue (if it is something to be desired xD) will take a week or two since it will feature two games, that might take me a little longer to finish: Dragon's Dogma and Deus Ex - Human Revolution.