Eventually what happens to us as we get older is that we start reminiscing about the past. We start looking back at the good times we had with our friends and thinking about what we had, and how we take that for granted. Now for me, I don't think of it so much as things are terrible now, and that I need to dwell in the past, in fact, things are great now, despite some problems, but there is definitely something special about that era to me and I'd like to share it with you.
First off, I was born in 1984. That puts me at 13 years old in 1997. I've always viewed puberty as the twilight between childhood and adulthood, where you are smart and mature enough to start thinking for yourself but not experienced enough to do much with it or be taken seriously by adults. In general I find that people become less impressionable the older they become, however this age in specific is crucial as to how you will develop into adulthood. So for that reason I look back and see where I started in my tastes not only gaming, but also music, literature, and movies.
I think the first system that comes to mind is the N64. Sure games like Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 captivated me, but there's a lot more than just that. Goldenye in specific turned me on the the FPS genre, while it hasn't aged as gracefully as something like Halo CE, it's no less important for the genre itself. I remember spending hours learning the inside and out of the levels, positioning myself perfectly just so I could barley see the gun turrets and they couldn't see me. I remember being able to hit those security camreas though the glass in the doors so it wouldn't set off the alarm, and systematically taking out guards so I could beat the levels without taking too much damage. It was there that I learned to appreciate the finer points of the game that took me from someone just casually playing on Agent to someone who could tackle the Aztek Complex on 00 Agent. Of course, then came the multiplayer which established my loved for 4 player split screen that continues to this day. It's amazing to think how much influence a single game had on my gaming habits well into my adulthood.
But there were certainly others along that line that had a similar impact, back in this era Capcom was able to produce some of the finest 2D fighters that gaming has ever seen. Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom 1-2, and Street Fighter Alpha 3 are some of my favorite games of all time. But Namco was no slouch either; Tekken 3 and Soul Calibur are games that I still play on a regular basis. Even lesser known 3D fighters like Virtua Fighter 3, Rival Schools/Project Justice and Power Stone hold a very special place in my heart. This is because I they had a better focus. Don't get me wrong, I loved Street Fighter IV, best fighter of the 8th generation IMO, but after 3 major expansions and countless tweaks there STILL isn't a single player component. I could spend hours in Alpha 3's World Tour mode, even Soul Calibur's mission mode gave enough single player content to keep my playing. People argue that the online modes should be enough to keep you playing, but I honestly don't like fighters online; the lag and cheap tactics are annoying. I'd much rather a legit story or quest mode (a la Virtua Fighter 5). But I understand I'm in the minority, but why not both?
One thing I do think needs improvement is the fact that there simply aren't enough games aimed at 12-15 year olds. But it seems to me that most games are either below or above that age range. I can see things like Minecraft and Lego able to stretch to that range, but what about dedicated games for that range? The way I see it Nintendo is primarly filling that gap. Games like Smash Bros, Pokemon, Mario Kart, and now Splatoon are you best bets for the preteen-early teen years. These games have the accessability for younger gamers, but the depth to grow with them. Think about it, where can you find things like that? Sonic is no longer very good, Capcom is making Street Fighter V but that's about it, snowboarding games are rarely released nor do we see stuff like Jet Set Radio or Banjo Kazooie very often. How do we expect kids to get into gaming when there's so little that's released that caters to them?
Don't get me wrong. These games do exist it's just that they are too infrequent. Games like Ni No Kuni, the Tekken series, Sunset Overdrive (despite some strong lanugage) Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Uncharted, Kingdom Hearts, and Theatrhythm just to name a few, but I for one would love to see more.
If there's one console that epitomizes this era it's the Dreamcast. To me the Dreamcast pretty much nailed everything because it was a console made for one kind of person: the gamer. It's wasn't made to compete with your blu ray player, it wasn't trying to get your grandma to buy it, it was made for people that expect top notch games and gaming centric features. Over the years I've come to love and appreciate all it's given the gaming community and how it's still giving, games are still being made for the system, long, long after the manufacturer has abandoned it. I loved how it had a heathy mix of both first and third party games, was affordable, and brought a lot of new ideas and experiences to the table. We all take things like online play, second screen, voice chat, downloadable content, and digital video output for granted but the Dreamcast was the first to do all of these things. I've already written a blog on the Sega, so I won't waste any more time here, but I thought it was worth mentioning notwithstanding.
Even though it's not nearly as relevant, I'd like to talk about external media. Maybe it's just me being nostalgic but I do have a soft spot for the music and movies of that era as well. I'm not a huge movie buff but I do have some movies that I simply adore, movies like Austin Powers, The Matrix, Fight Club, and Star Wars Episode 1 clearly fall under that timespan. Yes, I'm one of those guys who like the prequels better than the originals; sue me! One terribly underrated movie from my teen years is Titan AE, most probably don't remember it, but it has Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore and Bill Pullman in it, totally the preteen appeal that I look for.
In terms of anime I could go on about Neon Genesis Evangelion (the first anime I ever bought) and Outlar Star (which is my favorite anime of all time). I know that there are others but I really haven't delved into that era as much. And in terms of music, I can still appreciate Everybody by the Backstreet Boys, Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP, Lit, Green Day and the now (at least in my mind) iconic Americana album by The Offspring. It's amazing how songs and albums have such power to take you back and remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard them.
Like I said, I don't like to live in the past, but I wanted to share a special time with you guys. What about you, do you have a special time in gaming that you like to go back to? Let me know, sound off in the comments below!