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What is your perfect multiplayer game?

Mar 09 // Tony Ponce
   @megaStryke

Some of you may have seen the above image before. Originally posted on Racketboy three years ago, this setup was conceived for playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on the GameCube by circumventing the use of Game Boy Advances. Normally, up to four players each have to connect a GBA into one of the controller ports via a link cable. This workaround instead requires five television sets, five GameCubes, four Game Boy Players, four GC-GBA link cables, four GameCube controllers, and of course a copy of the game.

Obscene? Yes. Expensive? You bet. Totally awesome? Hell yeah!

Everyone has a multiplayer game or two that he or she favors above the rest. However, turning a typical night session into the perfect experience depends just as much on the tech, company, and atmosphere as on the game of choice. Maybe that means swapping your standard controllers for a set of custom-built, arcade-grade fight sticks or lugging your desktop over to a friend's basement for some LAN action.

What is your perfect multiplayer game? What do you do to ensure that conditions are perfect? Before you start writing in the comments or blogs, allow me to share my pick.

I rarely get a chance to game with others. I've had very few opportunities in the past few years, not like back in college when I could just pop over into the room across the hall for some intense Super Smash Bros. Melee or Mario Kart: Double Dash sessions.

Sadly, I was never taken in by the online scene. I find headsets to be awkward, killing my desire for chit-chat, and playing against silent opponents feels not much different than playing against bots. The online game I most engaged in was GunBound during my freshman year. I even inspired my roommate to give it a download and cut the EverQuest shit for a couple of minutes each day. Eventually, I quit because I was tired of getting served by jokers who bought overpowered gear via microtransactions.

I feed off the energy of folks beside me. Rolling with the right crew can even turn games you normally wouldn't be to jazzed about playing into hallmark experiences. Such was the case with my martial arts class when we gathered on weekends for some Halo 2 into the wee hours of the AM. FPSes aren't my bag, but on those days, Halo 2 was the greatest game of all time.

But the one game that made me lose it completely was Saturn Bomberman for the Sega Saturn.

Bomberman was the poster child for party games before "party game" was considered a proper videogame genre. It's so simple to pick up -- a direction pad plus two buttons and you are making it rain fire. It finds a healthy balance between family-friendliness and merciless violence that covers just about anyone's preference.

The formula is so basic and fun that Bomberman games have seen relatively little variation from one installment to the next over the past two decades. So what makes Saturn Bomberman more special than any of the other titles that have appeared on nearly every major gaming hardware since the NES?

Saturn Bomberman is the only game in the series that allows for ten-player local matches. Think about that for a minute! These games are typically capped off at eight players, including the recent ones on XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare. Not only can you cram even more people on this thing, but they all play in the same room and on the same TV.

I first had the opportunity to give this jewel a test drive at the 2009 Infinite Bits convention in Miami. I remember seeing the station set up in a corner and recalling all the praise I've heard showered upon the game. Throughout the rest of the day, I kept returning to that station for four or five more rounds at a time. Nothing else could distract me long enough.

To play Saturn Bomberman, you need not one but two multitaps. Now, anyone who's played a Bomberman game knows how chaotic having lots of people on a single map can become. You've reached the limits of good sense by the time eight people join the fray. That's why there is a special map for matches among nine or ten players. This map is so large that it requires a widescreen television to view adequately.

These days, you can buy a flat-panel, widescreen TV for peanuts. Back when Saturn Bomberman was released in 1997, however, a widescreen TV was a luxury item. That's on top of actually owning a Saturn, a copy of the game, two multitaps, and ten controllers, plus getting in touch with nine other people. You're in a whole new tax bracket at this point! Crack open the Dom Pérignon and go buck wild! Gotta respect Hudson for having the balls to pull this off!

A decade later, obtaining the needed materials is a bit less of a financial death knell. I haven't played Saturn Bomberman since, but I swear I will assemble my own Saturn rig in due time. There is nothing more magical than gathering nearly a dozen bloodlust-driven psychopaths into a room to blast one another for hours on end. It's an experience I'd like to share with each of you one of these days.

But enough of my blithering. What's your poison?


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