Video games have been a big part of my life for so long that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have the option to play one. I don’t recall too many holidays or birthdays going by that didn’t involve me getting at least one video game (even if I had to use gifted money or a gift card to get them). For last month’s Band of Bloggers prompt, I talked a lot about how Metal Gear Solid influenced me to start giving a hoot and reading more books. I think Mystic Quest might have also been a gifted game, and I had written about how that game helped me get to grips with this whole literacy thing. For this month’s prompt, I’m going to try and come up with a few more anecdotes about the games I’ve received as gifts and the memories that have stuck with me ever since.
On the night of Christmas 2001, I remember my Dad living in a basement apartment, I remember a cozy Christmas set up with a nice tree and a fire going in the fireplace, and I remember unwrapping an issue of The Official Xbox Magazine. My dad opened up his entertainment center, turned on the TV, and playing on screen was the Dead or Alive 3 attract mode video. What my Dad had done was bought the console and rented about a half dozen of the available games the platform had on offer. Of those, I remember playing Dead or Alive 3 (which was one of my more anticipated games), Project Gotham Racing, Fuzion Frenzy, Cel Damage, Amped, and of course Halo: Combat Evolved. I played a lot of Dead or Alive 3, I loved how realistic Amped looked, I still hate how PGR has been discontinued, but out of all of those games, Halo was the one I knew the least about. Funnily enough, that wound up being the one that had the biggest impact on me.
(Mr. Chief and his Mountain Dew Colored Suit)
Like many other console-centric players, I didn’t have a lot of experience with first person shooters. Goldeneye was fun while it lasted, but nothing before felt like Halo did. It took some getting used to, but moving the camera with the right stick while moving your character with the left became the standard for a reason. Halo was one of the rented games Dad didn’t think I would have cared that much about, but as the years rolled on Halo CE was one of the games I kept going back to while the original Xbox was still plugged into my TV, even after Halo 2 launched. I never bought into Xbox Live until the 360 launched, so Halo 2 didn’t leave as much of an impact on me as the original. There was one summer, I think 2003, where I played through Halo with a friend of mine from beginning to end on Legendary. It was the only time I played through on that level of difficulty, but it was just one of those childhood, fun-time memories that have stuck with me.
I feel like I talk about Final Fantasy a lot with these BoB prompts and I’m going to continue that trend by talking about the Christmas of 2000. By this point, my collection of original Playstation games was still relatively poor, but nestled in the Christmas tree was my copy of Final Fantasy IX! It was a shame I didn’t also receive a new memory card, because like so many of my other Playstation games, I started and restarted playing Final Fantasy IX multiple times before I was able to actually beat it. I can’t say the same about Final Fantasy VIII, another game that I claim to enjoy but which I still haven’t actually beaten yet. The world and narrative of IX just engages me in a stronger way than VIII did. There aren’t any specific stories that come to mind when it comes to Final Fantasy IX, it’s just a game that I played through several times, that I happened to have been gifted on Christmas day. Like many of my other Playstation games, I had to restart it multiple times due to Memory Card corruption, and like other narrative games, it tugged on my heart strings at the end because I'm a sucker for happy, sappy endings.
(Truely, these were the greatest foes one faced in any Playstation game)
I’m going to talk about my Dad again for a paragraph or two; back when I was a kid, the times I remember getting a console from him, there was never a scenario where I would unwrap a large box and find a new console. Like with the Xbox, there was one Christmas evening where, when I was dropped off at Dad’s house, the last thing he opened was his entertainment center. During Christmas of 1997, this last-minute reveal was undercut a little bit when I saw my Uncle already sat in front of the TV playing Crusin’ USA. That year, along with the Nintendo 64, Dad had picked up Crusin’ USA, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and Star Fox 64. As time went on, I would end up enjoying the RUSH series more than the Cruisin’ series, but I’ve played through all 3 Nintendo 64 Cruisin’ games and I’m impatiently awaiting a home port of the most recent Crusin’ arcade release that you may have seen at Dave and Busters. I usually blame my Dad for my love of arcade-style racing games, and the Cruisin’ series is a fantastic example of arcade racing.
Another arcade-style game series that I’m nostalgic for and blame my Dad for introducing me to is Star Fox. I didn’t receive the original game during a holiday necessarily, but it was during a family vacation. When I was about four or five, my family had gone to Nag’s Head and while at a miniature golf course, I tripped over a green and scraped my arm up to the point that I still have a little bit of a scar. I probably should have been taken to an urgent care place (those existed in 1993, right?), but instead I got to experience the medicinal properties of Star Fox. There aren’t any fun anecdotes about bodily injury that I can associate with Star Fox 64, but I will take this opportunity to complain about Nintendo keeping the 3DS release of Star Fox 64 priced at $40 from its launch in 2011, and not lowering it until 2019 when they added it to the Nintendo Selects line (in the US anyway, Europeans and Australian players got to buy this at a discount in 2015 and 2016). Star Fox and Star Fox 64 are games that I don’t usually binge, but they’re games that I can easily go back to, and replay in a day.
(Furries! In! Spaaaaaaaaaaace!)
I have a very bad memory, I’m not good at remembering names or faces, and my being able to remember these few anecdotes is a little bit of a miracle. Maybe it’s just because I chose to strain my brain and recall things that happened over twenty years ago though. I potentially have plenty of time left to form great, new memories though! The way things are going, I’ll probably have a niece or nephew to give games too at some point this decade. There’s also no telling which old games I might stumble upon at a used games shop or flea market which could unlock other ancient memories in my terrible, no-good, brain-meats. Now to go convert a gifted fifty-dollar bill into Uncle Gabe's Steamey-Time Fun Bucks, and make some more memories!