so i just showed up to dtoid to find that it's now impossible for4 me to make comments on any posts. this sucks for you dtoid, because i hide from all your skeevy programs that destroy my annonimity on the net. so the ONE method i had for ensuring you get some money out of my visits has been removed from me/us. not only this, but i had to register my email with your insipid "disqus" software. that shit's fucking stupid as hell. why should i give out my email both to dtoid AND their marketing program designed to remove my anonymity? AND, the shit didn't even work after it took my precious email from me. you're seriously hamstringing yourselves here, guys. you shouldn't be making your site MORE restrictive, you should make it less restrictive. anyway, ya'll just lost your one way of making money off of me, and ensured to never receive my opinion on any subject. i realize you don't care about that second part, but i assure you, i'm not the only one cutting ties with bullshit like this.
why the fuck do i bother with you guys? i know i'm just going to be ignored, afterall. maybe kotaku has changed enough to be a fun place to get my news.... (you guys realize there are only about a million places to get the SAME FUCKING NEWS YOU GUYS REPORT, right? so i say goodbye to the restrictive policies and uber cool maladjusts that make up this "community." feel free to erase my account. i'm done.
if any of you care about your internet privacy, i'd recommend looking into protecting it when visiting dtoid. you are being heavily watched on this site. i count 16 individual programs trying to access private info from my computer just on the home page. also, every comment is recorded by an outside source, in real time, as you enter it. kinda creepy, guys. don't trust dtoid, they're selling your info. (and they're collecting a METRIC TON of it. holy shit)
Now that the gaming industry has been around for a couple decades, we have moved past the original state of games being a niche hobby. Gaming has gone from being something on the nerd level of Dungeons and Dragons to being the biggest media format in the world. Our once modest hobby is now run by huge corporations all vying for our entertainment dollars. In my time spent visiting Destructoid, I canít help but notice how differently each of us view this industry. I attribute this diversity in thought to the fact that each of us took up our gamepad during different eras of gaming. Weíve had both shared and personal experiences with our consoles of choice, but we all take something away from the hobby that is unique to each of us. Iím coming up on my thirtieth birthday this month, and am in the mood to do some strolling down my own personal videogame memory lane. If youíd like to join me, read on.
My first console was the Atari 2600. It was 1983, I was three years old, and it was my mother who purchased the system for herself. Little did she know that that one entertainment decision would color the rest of her sonís life. Something to note about the Atari gen is that first off, wood paneling was intrinsic to home electronics for some reason, as were poorly functioning toggle switches. The 2600 had a bunch of switches that really didnít do anything, except make you feel like a spaceship captain whenever you booted up Pitfall. Itís also funny to note that it used the old fork style connectors to plug into the tv, so if you want to do any retro gaming on an Atari, you better have a 70s/80s era tv. The Atari had tons of games, many of them good. Games like Circus Atari, Chopper Command, Missile Command, Moon Patrol, The Smurfs, Pitfall, Space Invaders, and many more that are long forgotten to me. It also had plenty of crappy arcade ports, such as Pac-man and Donkey Kong. The greatest thing about the Atari was itís ease of play. You had a joystick and one button, so it was never that tough to figure out how to play a game. You usually could figure out your objective quickly and get right to work, keyword being usually. As the Atari aged, the videogame glut of the 80ís took over. Games were coming out that didnít actually work, and it was very buyer beware. I remember going over to my grandmaís to play her Atari (she had way more games than us), and finding a new copy of ET in her game box. I had seen the movie, of course, and got really excited. Upon turning the machine on, I found a game where you fall in holes, get chased by the FBI, and stretch ETís neck. I spent hours over multiple play sessions to try and figure out how to play that game. Not how to beat it, which isnít possible, but how to play it. Iíll save you the description, but that game was the first time I realized it was possible for a game to be unplayable. I suppose itís only fitting that I learned that lesson through the most famous crap game there ever was. As a retro enthusiast, Iíd say that the Atari gen was a really rad time, but itís also an era that doesnít really stand the test of time. Only a few of the games weathered the ages very well, and you probably wonít be throwing any Atari gaming parties any time soon. In short, you had to be there.
After the Atari debacle and the gaming crash, I was around five. I had no idea that gaming was over, so I was still jamming the old wood box, broken toggle switches and all. Well, until my grandma purchased the NES, and the golden era of gaming commenced. To say that the NES was more advanced than the Atari is an enormous understatement. It was rare for an Atari title to even have a scrolling background, and usually the gamescreen was just a black backdrop. The NES had full fledged gaming worlds that contained colorful graphics and cool characters. The first time booting up Super Mario Bros, was a landmark event for me. It was literally the moment that I decided that videogames were going to be my thing for life. Also, instead of seeing the console age poorly, we saw the games get progressively better. We went from SMB, to Metroid, to Zelda, to Punchout!... and the list goes on and on. Along with the history making games that Nintendo produced, we had companies like Capcom, Tecmo, and Konami making games that rivaled the quality Nintendo. It wasnít like today, where we all know that Nintendo is unmatched in quality by the third parties. No, all the games were on an even playing field, and great games were made by many small companies. I understand that for those of you that didnít live it, the NES might seem like a rather simple system. You might not understand what all of the hubbub is about, but this is the reason why we aged gamers look back so fondly on the gaming days of yore. There were more games to play than we had time for. I made it a point to trade games with all of my friends, trying to be sure I had played all the greats. Ducktales, Bionic Commando, Battletoads, Batman, Contra, Megaman, Ninja Gaiden, and the list goes on. I had a collection of around 30 games, which was probably about average for my friends, and Iím still finding great NES games to this day. It also must be noted that Super Mario Bros. 3 was the biggest moment of the generation. The hype for this title was like no other. We knew about it months in advance, and were all foaming at the mouth for it. We didnít know what to expect from on the gameplay side of things, as the game wasnít marketed with screenshots. It was a secret that we were all dying to find out, how were they going to change Mario this time. The game launched, and everyone bought it. We all had the shared experience in World 1-1 where you said, ďHoly shit, Mario can fly?!? This changes everything.Ē And it did. I spent the next year of my life memorizing that game. I beat it for time, 100% completion, and every other way you can imagine. The game was EPIC. For me, no other gaming event compares to SMB3. It was the pinnacle of gaming during the golden age of games. I wish that all of you new school gamers could go back and experience that moment, because gaming hasnít ever been as awesome as it was when Mario learned to fly.
This brings us to the 16 bit era. The time when shit got real and Nintendo no longer ruled gaming with an iron fist. At this point, my father decided that he wasnít going to fund my gaming habit any longer. I didnít own my first SNES until after graduating high school. That being said, Iím kind of glad that I didnít get a SNES, because it meant that Iíd get a little more time with those great NES games. I did get to play plenty of games for both Genesis and SNES, of course. My friends kept up on the console side of things. I actually played more Genesis than anything that gen, being as my best buddy of the time had a Genesis before the SNES came out. Now at that time, Sega was positioning themselves as the alternative for older, more mature gamers (sound familiar?). For me, this was a bunch of BS, Sonic was (and still is) a one trick pony, and games like Altered Beast were just crap in my eyes. I was drooling over Super Mario World. Not only did they make nice changes to the flying mechanic, but they included effing dinosaurs, dude! I pretty much remained a Nintendo only gamer until one game changed my mind, Street Fighter 2. Now, at this time there was a resurgence of arcade games in America, arcades were big business. If you went to your local arcade, you were guaranteed to find greasy haired dudes wanting to rid you of your quarters on this game. It was a phenomenon. When SF2 hit consoles, there was a glaring problem, the controls. This is a problem that has plagued us to this day. How do you make six button controls work on a SNES pad? In my mind, you donít. Enter the Genesis six button controller. This was the deal breaker for us at the time, which console was going to play SF2, and later on, Mortal Kombat with the most ease. Not only did the Genesis have better controls for these fighting games, but they also allowed for blood in their titles, which made them much cooler than their SNES counterparts. With the advantage of hindsight, Iím able to say that the Genesis and the SNES were about equal in quality titles. Genesis had the SNES beat hands down for fighting games, but also had a better version of Shadowrun, as well as the Mutant League games (Football and Hockey). The SNES had great titles like Metroid, Zelda, Punchout!, as well as the late gen stuff and rpgs. This is why Iím kind of glad that I didnít actually own either system back then, as I wouldnít have had the balanced perspective without all that time spent on my palís Genesis.
Since I had no 16 bit system by this point, my attention kind of moved on to different types of games altogether. I was dabbling with D&D and Magic, and getting away from electronic games. Until, that is, I heard about the N64. Now everybody knows that the 64 is a machine that doesnít have many great games, but at that time, the possibilities were mind boggling. A machine with 64 bits? It had to be awesome. It just so happened, that Nintendo launched the machine (without a game, boo!) close to my birthday, and I was able to convince pops to hook me up. Just like everyone else, my mind was blown by Mario 64. Then, again like everyone else, I waited another year to play a good game. The 64 was easily the biggest disappointment in my personal gaming history. A system with loads of potential that we didnít get to see until far too late in itís existence. I also got to play all the greats that came out for the Playstation, as everyone I knew had one, and later two or three as the original PS1ís were apt to die off (something that recurred with the PS2). This is when gaming made another huge change, kiddy games were out, and polished cg games were in. Sony built their system on games like Final Fantasy 7, Cool Boarders, Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, and GTA. Sure they had their Parapas and Crashes, but Playstation was the time of adolescence in gaming. It was about games that were scary or hardcore, but not cute. I really didnít get on that bandwagon. I wondered why youíd want to play games on a system that was so far behind graphics wise, and I couldnít grasp how people could be satisfied with the incredibly poor controller Sony offered. Really, a SNES controller with a wonky d pad that youíre supposed to play 3dish games with? To this day I canít get down with the sony gamepad. Back on point, just because I didnít understand the new Sony crowd, didnít mean that I wouldnít try out the games. I am, afterall, a gamer who enjoys games, not just Nintendo games, but games in general. I spent the endless hours needed to nearly 100% FF7, only skipped beating the Ruby Weapon. I had the experience of nearly shitting my pants when those damn dogs busted through the window in Resident Evil. Those moments are important, and are certainly landmark achievements. That being said, the N64 brought something new to the game. Analogue controls brought new possibilities for the industry. Even though it took forever to get any games on the damn thing, the last cart based console did happen to blow my mind with a few games. Mario and Zelda, of course, but Goldeneye really became the must have game. Shooters were only on PCs at the time (Doom being the standout title), so for many, this was their first experience with the FPS genre. It was, very much so, the beginning of gaming as we know it today. So, although no one really wants to go back and play the ďclassicĒ games of the 32/64 bit generation, that doesnít mean that it wasnít an important time in the development of the industry.
I could go on to talk about last gen, but I donít see the need. If you want to know what it was all about, you can visit any gaming store that sells used games. Titles from last gen are still plentiful. In the end, I hope this piece has been able to convey some of the experience of one veteran gamer. Maybe give those of you who didnít start gaming until later generations, a better idea as to the perspective of us old guys. When thinking back, Iíve got to say that Iím really glad to have been able to see the games industry from such an early time in itís development. As a person that hasnít ever really seen the point of most popular art, videogames keep me looking to the future and what could be. What sort of high tech device will be developed next? How will the next big game change the way I think about my favorite hobby? Videogames have always been exciting and I suppose thatís why we all devote large portions of our paychecks to our highly engaging pastime. Now if you donít mind, Iím off to fill the rest of my Sunday with the hobby Iíve kept with me my whole life, videogames.
Alright, Iíve been thinking about the current gen of gaming, and Iím trying to figure out what the hell it is that has made it so awesome for me. As background, Iíll add that I primarily game on the Wii, but I do enjoy HD gaming from time to time as well. As such, many would say that Iím not really experiencing everything that the current games have to offer, due to the fact that I donít see the HD systems as ďhigh tech.Ē I know that I just turned all the HD guys against me, but hear me out. I view this gen as the first to move past the limitations of graphics, and into the wholly new world of choice in control. Not just motion control, mind you, but CHOICE of control.
For most of ďteh hardcoreĒ gamers, this gen is all about HD graphics and internet gaming. Both of these qualities have their time and place, but we really did have access to them last gen. The fidelity in graphics saw a huge jump from the N64/PSX to the PS2/Cube/Xbox gen. So did the style of control, as analogue controls became the norm. If you take a look at the jump from last to current gen, the great forward strides are missing. For example, Xbox Live is basically the same as concerns gameplay, and HD graphics really arenít a huge jump forward, more of a half step. Neither advancement caused the industry to change.
Enter that oh so controversial white box to the mix. I donít think that anyone can deny that motion controls are the biggest advancement to the industry this gen. All three major hardware developers are now in the motion market, and itís obvious (to me at least) that motion control is here to stay. Now, I donít think that motion in and of itself is the key to advancing the industry. Weíve all played games where the movements feel tacked on, and sometimes it seems like they put in waggle for the sake of gimmick. As a fan of the Wii, Iím completely willing to admit that these wagglefests were the norm, at least to begin this gen. I, like any other gamer, have detested these so called ďgames,Ē and understand that for many, this is a driving reason to hate the Wii. Iíve come to tell you that those days are gone and that itís time to enjoy the fruits of the Big Nís labor. This gen will go down in history as the generation of choice.
The choice I mention above is one of playstyle. Many games are now coming out with multiple control options. Games now exist that can be played with classic button configurations, current high tech controllers, and even last gen control options. No other time in gaming (well maybe the NES gen) has given us these opportunities to enjoy games in such a freeform manner. It is now possible to have a fighting game like Tatsunoko vs Capcom, which is a hardcore fighting game in the Street Fighter style, in which a series vet and a complete newbie can compete on a more even playing field. Sure, the newb is going to have to pick up a real controller at some point to master the game, but with wiimote alone, that same newb can jump right in and enjoy the game against that vet right from the start. This is an occurrence in gaming that has NEVER happened before. Even though most of us arenít going to spend much time trying to play Tats with grandma, itís nice to have the option.
The other point I want to make about play control choice is what Iím more excited about. Itís the ability to change the experience of the game. For example, Resident Evil 4 on the Wii allows you to play the game just like you did on the Gamecube, same controller and all. In addition, you can switch to the more current control style of wiimote and nunchuk, changing the entire experience. Or, barring both of the aforementioned control styles, you could even play the game with the classic controller, if you prefer controlling the game with a style more akin to the PS2 version of the game. One game with three distinct gameplay options. To take my example one step further, look at Sin & Punishment. S&P also allows for the aforementioned control options, but this time the playstyle is both completely different and also genre defining. With the IR pointer on the wiimote, this game plays like nothing before it. With the dual stick controls, you could say the same thing. (I know that the first title could be considered an exception to that statement.) Effectively making S&P a ďmulti-experienceĒ title. This is the sort of gameplay that has NEVER been available in the past. This is the experience that Iím going to remember from this current generation of gaming.
I also want to take this idea of control choice one step further. Recently, I purchased a device which allows me to connect NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64 controllers to the Wii through the Gamecube ports. At first, this might seem like a nice way to experience the virtual console and not much else, but it also allows for more compelling control situations. I now get to experience the game Ikaruga with a fully functioning d pad (I know about the Hori digipad, but that would put me back $100 and would still mean using the cumbersome Ďcube face buttons). Along with the SNES pad, I also opt to turn the screen sideways through the in game menus, and now Iím playing the game in 480p as a side scroller. Pretty cool, right? This same control combo makes the game Chaos Field (a similar styled shmup for the Ďcube) actually playable. When I bought the game at launch last gen, I found out that it was a competent shooter with poor controls. It turns out that the game just needed a decent d pad and repositioning of the face buttons. Now Iíve got a dusty relic to pull out on occasion. A game that I never got to enjoy is getting a second chance, five years after itís release. Nice.
This is where things take a turn to the retro. It doesnít really rate as an accomplishment of current gen technology, but Iíve taken this idea a step further. Iíve taken the time to dig out all the Nintendo gear that I collected last gen and have now combined my parts like Voltron to form one of the ultimate gaming setups that Iíve yet experienced. Iíve got a Gamecube with Gameboy Player being controlled with an NES Advantage controller hooked up through my magic third party device. I use the thing to play original Gameboy games on my flatscreen. The only thing thatís missing is the Ďcube component cable, so I can play Battletoads in 480p. Too bad the damn things were only made for the first year of the purple boxís life, after that they discontinued support. I do have a launch Ďcube, however, so if I ever do find oneÖ Iíd also like to add that itís pretty damn cool to play Excitebike through the E-reader, through the GBA Player, with the Advantage. You know why? Because it takes out the flicker effect you get from connecting an NES to a flatscreen, and stretches the screen due to the GBA being so close to widescreen. In the future, I plan on coming up with a network of connections to bring GBA, GCN, Wii, and as many tvs and alternant controls as possible. Anyhow, enough of my nerd rant.
Iím sure that over the course of reading this, youíve come up with your own dream combination. Personally, Punch Out! with the Advantage is sounding pretty good right about now (Iím starting to sense a pattern here, hmmm). A six button Genesis controller would be great for those old VC fighting games. I could go on, but I wonít, thatís what comments are for. I think Iíve made my point here about play control options being part of the future of games. Goldeneye, for example, is going to be very interesting due to the ability to play with either the pointer controls or the dual stick controls. Thatís kind of a special first in gaming. For the first time weíre going to have an online title that allows for two completely separate control styles. Iíll just let that sink in.
I recently made a purchase from the Wii Ware service, and I was so impressed with the software, I canít help but write some thing about it. Which game did I purchase? Bit. Trip. Runner. Jonathanís review, which is quite good, can be found here:
http://www.destructoid.com/review-bit-trip-runner-174005.phtml Please consider this a companion piece, as I couldnít agree more with Mr. Holmesí sentiments. Runner has taken the ideas presented previously in the series to a whole new level. No longer are you looking at a mostly black screen, trying to keep track of small dots and blips. The graphics have been fleshed out, and now you see a complete scene unfold before you. Not only are the graphics improved, but the gameplay is more compelling than ever. I noticed while playing that more times than not, I was trying to pick up every item, even though you don't have to. Even at times when I was having serious trouble learning how to pass a stage, I was sure to pick up EVERY gold piece without fail. I was pushing myself to play a challenging game in the most difficult possible way. It is extremely rare for me (especially in the current game climate) to feel the need to 100% a level, let alone a whole game. The entire time I play Runner, Iím trying to put together the perfect run (when you succeed, it feels as good as any accomplishment in gaming). In fact, Iíve found myself stuck on the same level for long periods of time (over 30 min), only to realize that I could easily pass the stage if I just leave that last gold piece behind. For those of you that arenít convinced yet, this game is worth ALL of the $8 theyíre charging.
The first time I booted up the game, I couldnít help but notice the similarity to a game that I grew up with called moon patrol. The forced pace, and the obstacle dodging, and the color palette brought me right back to í85 in front of my grandmaís old television. As I continued to play, I noticed similarities to MANY games that Iíve played in the past. Not just titles from the Atari age, but games from the 8, 16, and 64 bit eras as well. There are even nods to games of the current generation in here!
Of course itís easy to see the similarities to games like Pitfall and Mario, but itís my plan to talk about the inspirations that you may have missed. I canít believe how many times Iíve caught myself looking at something in the background, only to smash headlong into a fireball. Sure enough, Iíll get to the same area in the stage, and find a nod to Space Invaders or Mario, or even The Simpsonís. The game is consistently tossing out these abstract reminders of gaming history. So much so, that Itís impossible not to notice the amount of effort that has gone into the game. This serves to provide the player with even more incentive to continue Runner's forced journey.
Now, I could spend some time talking about some of the funnier things in the game (like Navi from OoT as a garbarge sniffing fly!), or the current indie scene nods (level twoís similarity to WoG, Meatboy!), but I have to touch on the one thing that overwhelms them all. Something, that made my brain itch as soon as I saw the first stair step portion of the game. Something that I wasnít totally convinced of, at least, until I collected all of the gold in one of the level 3 courses. Bit. Trip. Runner. is maybe most influenced by one of my all time favorite 2600 games: The Smurfs.
The Smurfs was a game that (like most Atari games) suffered from poor controls. Just jumping up the platforms was too difficult for many. You can see in the video, that there was a double jump trick that made it a bit easier to get through, but itís nowhere near as easy as it looks. The spider in the video is what convinced me of the connection, as the same spider also lives in the bonus rounds of Runnerís third level. And, now that I watch the video, I can see that many of the elements of The Smurfs have made their way into Bit. Trip. Runner. From the color palettes to the similar gameplay, Runner has got that same smurfy feel to it. Itís sometimes challenging to control, but is at the same time, always rewarding. Forcing you to maintain perfect focus and timing, but playing you against your senses. Runner does it by throwing in subtleties, like changing the background color behind Commander Video at the same time you need to make a jump with perfect timing. Smurfs does it by confusing your mind with awkward controls. Both use increased tempo to effect greater difficulty. The end result is the same, a game that defies logic and becomes gruelingly difficult, but remains supremely rewarding.
Iíd like to end this by mentioning how big a fan of gaijin games Iíve become. I have been following them pretty closely and their earlier titles are great (I own Beat and Core). Runner, however, is a game of another caliber. It is the natural progression of the series, but at the same time is more than what the other three combine to be. It is great to see these types of games being made in an industry full of vapid, here today, gone tomorrow sorts of experiences. Not to mention the amount of comaraderie that I see between gaijin and Nintendo. I saw that Nintendo Channel video with you in a dress, btw, Alex. I thought you did very well with it. As for my parting sentiment, I say, Long Smurf the Indie Gaming scene on the Wii! couldn't resist, sorry...