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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

May 14, 2011

PS3 Update Now Available

According to their Twitter feed, there is now an update available for the PS3.  I am making the assumption here, as I have not yet tried to do this myself, that this means you can at least go online long enough to get the update.  No word yet on whether the actual Playstation Network, the Playstation Store, support for third-party titles (such as CoD or DC Universe Online) or any other media (Netflix) is available at the moment, but since the only thing mentioned in the tweet was the update, it's pretty safe to say that there is nothing else working at the moment.

For Canadian subscribers to Netflix who only have a PS3, don't forget to pay your April and May recurring amounts to them...after all, think of all the streamed Netflix content you've been able to watch since April 20th!

May 10, 2011

Sony Trying To Get Back Online

That's the current word, straight from the Washington Post.  It appears Sony is going to attempt to get the network back up and running by the end of May.  Since the damn thing's been down since April 20th, that means an entire month plus of wasted money for anyone who was playing DC Universe Online, including yours truly.

And since they noticed unusual activity on April 19th, didn't shut down the service for an entire day, and then took until the 26th to admit that they fucked up royally, I have to say I'm fairly pissed off here.

I've already posted information on the Canadian lawsuit applying for class action status, and here's the US lawsuit info:  It was filed by Kristopher Johns, and is also seeking class action status.  Given the situation, I expect both lawsuits will be granted said status, and then we can all hop aboard the "What The Fuck Were You Thinking" train.

And if Sony really thinks that a couple of free movies and 30 days of free Playstation Plus is going to mollify 100 million subscribers...well, it's up to each and every one of us to disavow their notion of what is just.  Last time I checked, I was already a Playstation Plus member, and I buy movies, I don't rent them.  Sorry, Sony, you're going to have to do a hell of a lot better for me to remain a customer.  Start backing up that money truck; just because you haven't 'noticed' anyone using the information that was stolen 'so far' does not mean it won't be used, nor that it hasn't been used already and your company is just too 'useless' to see it.

May 6, 2011

Sony Corporation Tries To Buy Goodwill

Okay, now this is getting kind of funny.  Turns out that Sony thinks it can get back in everyone's good books by offering every PS3 owner a 30 day membership to Playstation Plus, and give out some free entertainment downloads.  Oh, and if you're American (which is lovely for them, but really puts it's foot up the ass of the rest of us) you'll also get a special year-long security insurance policy in case the information stolen is indeed used to nefarious ends by the hackers that took it.

So my question is this:  What the fuck about the rest of us?  The public in general is fully aware that at least 1/4 of the people affected by this little security fiasco are NOT US CITIZENS!  In fact, it was been widely publicized both in my blog and across news outlets globally, that a lot of the 25 million additional accounts that were discovered in the second hack were from Europe!  We've even gone so far as to name countries!  So how exactly does this insurance of only the American users help the rest of us if our bank account balances or credit ratings suddenly change wildly overnight?

And I also have to ask exactly what the hell Sony, and Chief Executive Howard Stringer in particular, think giving people a 30 day membership is going to do when compared to the fact that our identities have the potential to be stolen globally?  How does this little buy-off compare to giving out our addresses, full names and birthdates, which as anyone out of high school will tell you is enough to create an entirely new version of a person and screw up their life for good?

Sony, get ready to catch the hardball which is the multinational lawsuit, coming soon to a Superior courthouse near you!  How's that for a free entertainment download?

May 4, 2011

The Sony Lawsuits Commence

As of yesterday, a minimum $1 Billion lawsuit was filed in Toronto on behalf of the more than 1 million Canadian Playstation and Qriocity members, as a result of the information stolen by the two hacks that have occurred in Sony Corporation's databases in the past two weeks.  One the courts have certified the lawsuit, if Sony doesn't settle this immediately, the case will go to court.  Last time I checked, the courts don't take too kindly to a corporation which gathers personal data witht he reassurance that the information will be kept extremely safe and secure, and then goes and screws up their own security measures and allows the information out into the public domain.

The fact that a lot of people are currently glossing over is that not only did the hackers get to the credit card and debit card information, but sine they also have a huge number of addresses, birthdates, full names and e-mail addresses, the chances of full-blown identity thefts on a worldwide scale is quite possible.  Worrying about one credit card or one bank account is worrisome; worrying that your entire life could be systematically destroyed by someone else's use of your entire identity is devastating.  Take it from someone who is living with a person whose very own sister has done this to her, saddling her with thousands of dollars in debts she never accrued, and destroying her chances of ever owning property, a vehicle, securing a loan, anything financial whatsoever, until her sister is brought to justice.  And this is with knowing where the bitch lives!  Imagine where your information is, right now, pick a country...and good luck with stopping the injustice that Sony's lack of security has brought to us all.

As of yet, there is no information on how to join this lawsuit, and of course I'm speaking solely to the Canadian lawsuit.  There is a US lawsuit in the works as well, and when information about joining either of them comes my way, as well as other international suits which are likely going to follow, I will post any and all contact information right here in one handy source.  It may span multiple posts, but that's the best I can do to keep everyone abreast of the progress being made.

Personally, I'm so sick of Sony's bullshit at this point that I doubt I'll even remotely consider buying another system from them in the future.  We're currently using the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player more than a game system anyway, and since dedicated Blu-Ray players can be bought for as little as $100 at Wal-Mart (yes, I know, with zero features, blah blah blah), I can rest assured that at least with them I don't have to worry about getting personal information stolen while I'm watching Harry Potter.

May 3, 2011

Second Sony Hack Worse Than Originally Thought

Well, once again we have a huge blow being dealt to the wonderful fanboys who still think Sony is the king of all gaming companies.  It has been announced that over 25 million PC users have had their personal information swiped by a second successful hack attempt on Monday, possibly leading to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from European customers, and 12,700 non-US credit or debit card numbers.  That means us, Canada.

Investors are already saying that Sony botched the way they dealt with the first breach by not notifying customers and shutting down the network immediately, and suggest that they had nothing in place plan-wise in case a situation like this arose.  One also has to wonder exactly what the developers of certain titles that get major play over the internet (DC Universe Online ring any bells?) are likely to do when people have spent money for pay-for-play games and the network is not only down, but all their information is likely unsecured.  Sounds to me like Sony is in for more than a few lawsuits, some corporate, some class-action.

The funny thing is the comment I got when I mentioned last night that the PC network was shut down as well.  An anonymous poster complained that he didn't like the 360 because you have to pay an annual membership, and that he'd rather save his money for games.  I mentioned the following in a comment to his comment, but want to reiterate this here:  The cost of an annual membership to X-Box LIVE is approximately the same price as a new game on either the 360 or the PS3, and with it you already get access to piles of free downloads (themes, avatar items, demos of every arcade title and lots of disc game titles), videos, tips and tricks, previews (all of the last three you have to pay for on the PS3 as their Qore 'magazine' comes with a price) and, oh yes, they haven't threatened our personal information!  I'm sorry, but the PS3 doesn't have any titles good enough to want me to trade my credit card information to an identity thief for the opportunity to play them, and if your best argument is that you'd rather save your money for games on the PS3, then you obviously are too immature to realize that identity theft can ruin your entire future until it gets resolved.  That, and the PS3 has only a small handful of titles exclusive to the system that are worth owning in the first place.  If I can play a game on both the PS3 and the 360, I buy the 360 version each and every time, leaving the PS3 only about 3 franchises worth anything, and they aren't all that hot either.  "God Of War" had two good titles, then the graphics became the big story to the point that they almost rendered the third game unplayable, "Metal Gear Solid" is just a prettier re-hash of the previous titles in the series, and "Killzone" is a CoD knock-off that doesn't do it as well as the original.  Bad argument, sorry.

Paying the equivalent of the price of a game annually(and oftentimes they have deals that lower that cost even more) to ensure my information's confidentiality?  Priceless.

May 2, 2011

Sony Fails Again

In what appears to be the collapse of the Playstation empire, Sony has as of this morning shut down it's online PC gaming service, which means that there are now no Sony services online bar their own website.  There have been rumours that the Playstation Network for the PS3 would be regaining some services this week, but there is now every indication that this latest development throws it all up in the air.

A lot of people wonder if there is any connection between the fact that once the Playstation Network was shut down, suddenly the American forces had enough time on their hands to kill Bin Laden.  I'm just putting the idea out there...

April 26, 2011

Sony Announces Depth of Trouble With Playstation Network

Well, it seems as though something of what myself and others have been writing about has caused people at Sony to admit what has really been going on and come clean with how bad the hack done to them last week really is.

First off, a link to the press release detailing what I'm about to tell you, and that can be found here.

The press release confirms these tidbits:  The Network is indeed offline on purpose.  They are re-building the Network from the ground up.  People's passwords have been compromised.  People's account activity has been compromised.  People's addresses, phone numbers, real names and birthdates, and e-mail addresses have been compromised.

Oh, and yes, while it can't be confirmed (bullshit), it is possible that credit card information has also been compromised as well.

So, the basic upshot of all of this is, is that the speculation I personally have been doing over the past two days has in fact not been speculation at all; rather I've been leaking the truth before they've announced it.

They are also providing a 1-800 number for those in the States to ask them any further questions, like how much money from my Playstation Plus membership am I getting back as a result of your overwhelming fuck-up that has the potential to allow hundreds of people to have their identities stolen?  The number is provided here for your irate phone calls:  1-800-345-7669 

Frankly, I'm even more pissed off that they took so long to admit the depth of the problem when they certainly knew from the outset exactly how bad things were.  This just goes to show what those of us among us were aware of from the launch of the PS3:  Sony no longer gives a shit about it's customers.  You need proof?  Follow the link provided at the top of the page, and read how they gently tell us they've given out our information by not using a secure enough service.

I'll be playing the 360, come get me when this shit is over.

PSN Down "Indefinitely"

So, today there's more news about the Playstation Network.  Well, one could call it news, or one could call it what the consumer expects from a system that screwed people over initially with the price, then a second time with a lack of system-selling games.

As of this morning, the Playstation Network is expected to be offline "indefinitely" while they fix the problem experienced when they were hacked last week.

Okay, so here's what is actually going on:  Now that they know their system is completely vulnerable to online attack, they've decided to rebuild the entire damn thing from the ground up.  What does that mean to the average consumer?  It means that at the very least a minor aspect of owning a PS3 has been removed...at most, all multiplayer functionality for each and every game that goes online is no longer available.  According to the Sony website itself, here, consumers can't play games, access the store, or sign into the network in any way.

Now here's what it REALLY means:  Anyone who paid for a Playstation Plus membership is getting screwed, anyone subscribing to the DC Universe Online MMORPG is getting screwed (I'm hit personally by both of these), and anyone who plays games multiplayer over single player (C.O.D. anyone?) is screwed.  Oh, and don't forget that your credit card information can't be spoken for either, as Sony isn't saying shit about that in particular.

If anyone harbours any doubts whatsoever regarding whether the PS3 is the lesser of the three systems, now would be the time to realize the truth.  The 360 hasn't been hacked and has better gaming titles for a system priced more reasonably, and the Wii II is being shown at this year's E3.  What will Sony do for E3?  Well, if I worked for them I'd have one big suggestion:  Apology City...

April 25, 2011

Playstation Network Still Down

You bet your ass I'm jumping on this bandwagon.

So, I'm one of the 70 million people who have been wondering exactly why I haven't been able to get online with my PS3 for five days - that's right, five freaking days, including a holiday weekend!  At first i thought it was my internet cable, but that checked out, then I got my wife to check their website for a tech support phone number, and we both got the same news (she saw a ticker on the site, I got a recorded message after dialing) that it was in fact that the PSN was down 'for maintenance.'

Well, I thought that was fishy, that a site so linked to a gaming console wouldn't have send out news that a major maintenance disconnect was scheduled.  After all, Microsoft always tells gamers when X-Box Live is going to be down for clean-up.  So, I speculated about why the site was down, especially for so long, especially on a long weekend.  And you know what?  Turns out the speculation was right...

The Playstation Network, vaunted repository of games, videos, music and Home, was hacked.

Now, a lot of people wouldn't think this is a big deal, but I personally have an enormous fucking problem with this:  The PS3, unlike the 360, requires the majority of it's purchases be done directly by credit card.  The 360 only expects that for memberships and digital purchase of full titles that were originally disc-based, and even those two things can still be done by entering coded cards instead of credit card digits.  So, since the PSN has now proven itself vulnerable, how willing are YOU to put your credit info online with them?

Sorry to all the PS3 fanboys out there, but once again the 360 comes out on top.  It's been out longer, has a richer online presence and, oh yeah, HASN'T BEEN HACKED!!!

Now, move back the couch, I got some KINECT to play...

April 8, 2011

Titles That Beg For A Sequel

Videogames are a lot like movies in certain ways.  They can make you laugh.  They can instill fear.  Some can even make you cry.  And, just like movies, some leave you wanting for more, more that will never come for one reason or another.  A while back, I wrote about what make a movie franchise and why certain titles get sequels while other, some more worthy films, never even get considered for a sequel.  The article can be found here.  I think the case can be made for certain videogame titles to have sequels, instead of the ones that actually get them.  Get ready for what may be a controversial post.

First of all, before I get any further, i want to give a shout out for the best and most meaningless double-dip in recent gaming history.  The title guilty of this dubious honour is "Batman: Arkham Asylum."  I would like to make it clear, straight from the outset, that I love this title.  The atmosphere, the voice acting, the gameplay, the storyline...nothing is amiss from this title whatsoever, as far as I am concerned.  My only sticking point, my only spot of contention, is that the game got released a second time with 3-D capability, that particular version being the one sported in the Amazon box over there on the left.  My problem with this second release is this:  Why the hell didn't they just do this in the first place?  It is an excellent game, and in 3-D it is absolutely incredible visually.  However, my original game save didn't translate over, and I have to gather my gamerscore achievements all over again (albeit earning more points as well).  Poor idea, and it makes me wary of buying the sequel too soon, because I don't want to give the company the idea that a double-dip is an acceptable practice.

Okay, that being said, there is a title that certainly deserves the sequel that is in the works.  This post, however, is about games that deserve it and don't seem to have one coming.  For a good example, I bring you "Condemned: Criminal Origins."  This was one of the first titles released for the 360 back in November of 2005, and it is still one of the best titles out there.  The sequel was great as well, and purposefully left the series open for a third title...and then nothing.  Monolith Productions, makers of both this franchise and "F.E.A.R." have added nothing to their website since 2009, and though there is in fact a "F.E.A.R. 3" on it's way, nothing has surfaced regarding a third in the "Condemned" franchise.  A shame really, as this is one very atmospheric game, rivalling "Resident Evil" for scares and creepy moments.  In fact, in my opinion, "Resident Evil" should have stopped with number 4 and been satisfied with that, as that is the perfect RE game.  But that's a series that goes on, so let's go to...

"Prey."  Now, I just got word this week (from @sentuamessage on Twitter, actual information from their video updates via the 360 system itself) that there is in fact a sequel to this well-deserving title finally on it's way.  Anyone playing the first title will recognize the fact that the gameplay was excellent, and almost certainly lead to the success of the "Halflife 2" spin-off "Portal," which itself is getting a sequel in ten days time in North America.  "Prey" was in many ways unique, the least of which being that for the very first time in any title that i can recall, the story's protagonist was a Native American.  An excellent FPS with incredible multiplayer, this title has been crying for a sequel almost as long as people have been clamouring for "Duke Nukem Forever," which may finally see the light of day this year as well.  Okay, realistically the wait for DNF is admittedly fourteen years, while the wait for a sequel to "Prey" has only been five, but you get the idea.  It's been a long time coming, but finally our waiting is going to be rewarded.

So far, I've been concentrating on the 360, but there are titles out there for other systems that really deserve a sequel, or a new title in a very popular franchise.  The biggest one for the PS3 in my opinion is "Sly Cooper."  Last year's holiday season saw the release of the collection you see to the left there, and when going through the trophy list, one sees a hint that there may be in fact a planned fourth game.  Rumours are abounding that this year's E3 will have something Sly related, but only time will tell.  There is, however, one game that the 360 and PS3 would really exploit, one that hasn't seen a sequel even though the game was absolutely incredible, one title that didn't get the sales numbers it richly deserved, even though critics and gamers who played it alike were raving about it and begging for more people to take the time to give the title a try.  Those who have played it know exactly which game I'm referring to, and those who don't have never even heard of it.  The platforms were the PS2 and the original X-Box, and the game was "Psychonauts."

The game is currently available as a downloadable title for both systems (I'm fairly certain this is true - I know for certain that you can get it downloadable on the 360 and think I have seen it the same way in the Playstation Store).  If you haven't given it a try, I have only two words of advice for you:  Get it.  You will not be disappointed, and you too will join the ranks of people wishing it had done better numbers when first released.  How good is the game?  GameFaqs included "Psychonauts 2" as a part of this year's April Fool's joke on their website. 

As for the Wii, I'm not too sure what to say.  There are Zelda titles, there are Mario titles, there are Donkey Kong titles, and there are Metroid titles.  Seems like all the good franchises there are taken care of, and some of them not too well.  That is more a result of the poorer control offered by the gimmick that is the nunchuk controller in my opinion, though to be honest I still have more Wii titles than PS3 titles in house.

Well, that covers the current home-based consoles.  There are titles out there that either beg for more or actually have more coming for them, but they are from the defunct Dreamcast system, and at the moment there are plans to release some of those old titles on the 360 Arcade, so who knows what'll happen?  I do know that I'd pay to see another "Jet Grind Radio" title, that I've wanted "Shenmue" to continue it's original title run.  I'd also love to see another "Panzer Dragoon Saga" title come out, but I worry these are not to be.  Damn shame too, as the Dreamcast was itself simply a victim of poor sales rather than poor titles or capabilities.  The Wii is actually inferior graphically to the Dreamcast, and it came out years later.  Oh, if Sega just hadn't made so many missteps earlier on...

Anyway, I'm bringing this post to an end with the only plea for a sequel that I haven't touched on so far:  Please, Sony, please hear me when I say that you have thousands of loyal gamers who deeply crave a true, non-3D, non-timed, non-cooperative, non-multiplayer, actual honest to God 2D side-scrolling puzzle-filled sequel to "Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night."  Make that happen, and I'll renounce my 360 and sing your praises for the rest of my life.  Until then, I respectfully remain loyal to my 360...Gamerscore, Ho!!!

March 10, 2011

An Arcade Title to Rival Them All

Okay, I originally planned on doing a Playstation post here, talking about how Sony's first system brought me waves of enjoyment when it came out back in the day, and that post will in fact be written at some point in the near future...but first, I have to rave about another title that just got released yesterday on X-Box Live Arcade that is bringing me more fun and enjoyment than I thought previously possible from an arcade title.  The fact that it feels exactly like a previous full-on PC title that spawned a very successful franchise only adds to that happiness.  That previous franchise starter was "Diablo," and the arcade title is named "Torchlight."

First off, a little background history on the newer title at hand.  "Torchlight" is by no means a new title, as far as release date is concerned anyway.  The game was first available digitally in October 2009 and then on a 'disc in a box' (any SNL references regarding anything Justin Timberlake has ever sung on that show are strictly intentional) for PCs in January 2010 (European release in April 2010), and therefore my introduction to it via the X-Box Live Arcade release is quite late in terms of calling it a new title.  Additionally, this game won Best Debut Game Award of 2010 at the Game Developers Choice Awards, and both a sequel and an MMORPG are planned for the future, with the PC release of the sequel scheduled for July 2011.

As to my comparing it to "Diablo," well so did a lot of the critics when the title first came out, and all of the comments were about how well it captured the best of what "Diablo" was about.  For all you people who don't know about "Diablo," let me fill you in on that game's storyline.  This next paragraph WILL contain spoilers for those who aren't familiar with this story, so if my recommendation towards purchase of the original classic game that begat "Torchlight" leads you to follow the link provided, I strongly suggest skipping ahead so that the big plot points aren't ruined here.

"Diablo" took place under the town of Tristram, allowing the players to delve through 16 levels of dungeons in order to reach their goal: a confrontation with Diablo himself.  The reason for doing so involved a war between Heaven and Hell, and the Lord Of Terror is hidden deep under this unassuming town, built around a monastery which was itself built to keep watch on the beast beneath.  In order to ultimately save the world itself, the adventurer must go to the depths of Hell to kill this beast, one of the three Prime Evils (the others being Baal, Lord Of Destruction, and Mephisto, Lord Of Hatred), whose form had been previously trapped within a Soulstone, but which has been released by a possessed archbishop.  The demon has then possessed first the king, and then the king's son, and thus the adventurer arrives and is given the task of returning Diablo back into the Soulstone.  The hero does this, but then is forced to drive the stone into his own skull in order to attempt to keep Diablo at bay by the sheer force of his will.  There is much more of a backstory to this game, but for the purposes of storyline I have covered the basics.

As for gameplay mechanics, there are a few things that are needed to be known so that the comparison to "Torchlight" can be seen objectively.  "Diablo" was broken down into groups of four levels, each group having a graphical theme to the levels within, and located somewhere within the first level of each of the four groups was a method to get back to the surface directly, the first being the main entrance from the monastery.  Otherwise, the only way to return to the surface without an enormous amount of time-consuming backtracking was via a Scroll Of Town Portal which, kind of obviously, opened a portal back to town that could be used for a single two-way trip to the surface.  A player had a choice of three characters, a warrior type, a magical type, and an archer and trap using type (named as the Warrior, Sorcerer and Rogue respectively).  Attacking creatures was simply a matter of placing the mouse cursor over them and clicking, though in order to stay in one place whilst doing so one would have to hold down the control or alt button on the keyboard, can't remember which at the moment.  The adventurer generated light, and by moving around would reveal the level's map, which could be on-screen at all times.  Hidden outside the town was a poor beggar, Wirt The Peg-Legged Boy, who sold magical unrevealed items at outrageous prices.  Items not revealed could be revealed by use of an identify spell or by taking the items to Cain, the last surviving member of the church (with a deep dark storyline of his own).  Characters had skill trees into which points gained at level ups could be put in order to increase either the number of skills or the level of the skills at hand.  The entire game itself was a 'dungeon-crawl' and kept players underground for the extent of their adventuring, facing tons of monsters, unique named bosses, fountains which altered abilities and bestowed effects both good and bad upon the adventurer, and myriad items and equipment falling to the ground upon the death of a creature or the opening of a repository for goods.  This game could be played by up to four characters with internet connection.

That pretty much describes "Diablo" concisely and encompassing all major aspects of the title.  For "Torchlight," and this is the key point I'm trying to make, it will be easier to list what ISN'T the same.  This game is singleplayer only, though you do have a pet that travels with you.  That's it.  Oh, and instead of pointing a mouse cursor, you just face the direction of that which you are attacking and hit the attack button; depending on what you have equipped, and the range of what you are attempting to do damage to, you'll either approach and swing a weapon or attack from afar while standing still, no other button presses needed.

This is where people who are reading this ask 'Seriously, those are the big differences?'  Well, yes...and no.  Obviously the storyline isn't the same, and in "Torchlight" you're going underground via a mine...oh, and the quick way back to the surface occurs on the fourth level rather than the fifth...and Wirt isn't named Wirt, nor has he a peg leg.  Other than that, yeah, this is "Diablo" for consoles.  Oh, there are certainly other things I didn't mention - for example, socketable items (a mainstay of "Diablo II") are included here.  Oh, and the inventory is different, with 50 slots for gear found in the dungeons rather than the 'fill in the space "Tetris"-style inventory of "Diablo."  Everything else is pretty much exact, and I do mean exact:  the method of getting back to town using a scroll is even called a Scroll Of Town Portal.  Heck, even the makers are the same people who made "Diablo..." wait a tick, that might explain it!

The thing is, the original game worked, and the newer game released thirteen years later works just as well if not better.  I honestly have not had this much fun with an arcade title up to this point, and I have purchased a LOT of arcade titles.  In fact, I have had a great time playing the other titles I've purchased, but for both nostalgia and pure RPG greatness, "Torchlight" has it over all the other titles hands-down.  I personally am only working on dungeon level five at the moment, but I've been loving every minute of the game, and look eagerly forward to the sequel and probable MMORPG that will follow.  No word as to whether the sequel will in fact come to the 360, but given the fact that the game is incredible I expect that sales will tilt the scales steeply towards 'Hell yes!'  And, of course, all is not lost on the PC gamers side of things either.  See, you guys are the real lucky ones, because not only do you get to play "Torchlight II" before those who only play games on consoles, you're also getting close to a major release by the company that brought you the game it was modelled after...

February 17, 2011

Sega Genesis, How I Loved You

Not too long ago, I wrote about the fact that I grew up owning the original NES and how a lot of the games that came from that system hold a cherished place in my heart, beating out current titles in many ways.  I would be totally remiss if I didn't do at least a write-up of the only real competition that Nintendo had during those early years, especially since there are titles for which I have a soft spot from Sega as well.  So, let's take a look at what the Genesis offered back in the day.

First of all, I want it known that I'm not a videogame idiot, and I am perfectly aware that the Genesis was a next generation system from the original NES.  I put the two of them together in my mind due to the fact that these two systems were my first owned by these companies, even though Sega didn't get the Genesis going until the Super NES was on the market.  I only ever played the original Sega Master System when my current housemate Scott loaned it to me so as to provide a bit of variety one summer, while he tooled with Mario and friends on my NES.  As a result, I fell in love with exactly one SMS title back then in the summer of 1989, that being "Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap," now available as a Virtual Console downloadable title on the Nintendo Wii.  The gameplay still holds up; I suggest that if you own a Wii you grab the game and tell me it isn't still a fun title (except for trying to kill the pirate boss - he can be a real bitch to figure out where his weak spot is).

The Genesis itself had quite a few good titles, and often there were titles made for both the Genesis and the Super NES where the title shone brighter on the Genesis.  Anyone remember the original "Mortal Kombat" release debacle?  See, back then, this title in arcades was the most violent and realistic portrayal of blood in a videogame, and Nintendo simply refused to make the blood appear, so they changed the colour and made it resemble sweat.  Genesis owners weren't considered as young and family-based, so Sega gave them the blood as blood, and MK sold many more copies on the Genesis than on the SNES.  In fact, that might be considered Sega's first win over the more staid Nintendo.  This game, whether considering the arcade originals or the console versions, has stayed so popular over the years that games are still being made (the one at the side there is scheduled for an April 11th release this year), movies have been spawned, and a whole generation of adults still say 'Get over here' in Scorpion's gravelly bass.

However, there are two franchises that the Genesis really spawned, one that got a little too big for the confines of the original titles and as a result languished and died in later incarnations, another which is currently still producing new titles and remakes of older ones.  I'm talking about "Shining In The Darkness" and "Sonic The Hedgehog."  Just to be different, I'm going to cover the lesser-known franchise first, so there.

"Shining In The Darkness" was a great title, very similar in it's basic function as a little-known bare-bones minuscule title on a system I have yet to discuss, the TRS-80.  Now, the 'Trash 80," as those of us who owned it lovingly called it, was what is considered a second generation gaming system, like the Colecovision and the Atari 2600.  It came out in the early 80s, and was also sold as the Tandy Colour Computer, known as the CoCo.  The TRS-80 was sold in Radio Shack stores, and had a few features other consoles didn't.  First, it was also a living, breathing computer.  Okay, maybe not living and breathing, but whatever.  Second, and most odd for people born in 1990 or later, this system came with a cassette tape player that allowed you to take games off of CASSETTE TAPES and play them on your television.  I kid you not, go look it up if you don't believe me.  Anyway, this system predated the NES and SMS by one game system generation, yet one of the best titles that came out of this system was emulated in part by the Genesis nine years later.

The TRS-80 had an arcade title that came out, a real hot property called "Zaxxon."  Those who don't know of it would never consider playing it now; those who remember it recall it fondly.  yes, this system got a very popular arcade title added to the roster, and might even have had a second popular arcade title in it's fist with "Q-Bert," but that I'm not certain of.  Regardless, there was a hidden gem that was available back then, a simple dungeon-crawler titled "Dungeons Of Daggorath."  Using the most basic line drawings to simulate tunnels and creatures, DoD comprised 5 levels of quite intense gaming, with incredible glory for anyone who managed to survive to the end and incant the final wizard ring.  In fact, many a gamer never got further than the sudden shocking transition to the fourth level, and the daunting fact that one game, played in it's entirety from beginning to end without the ability to pause, could take as much as four to five hours depending upon how lucky you were with luring your needed drops to you successfully on the earlier levels.  DoD was not a game for the faint of heart, nor the ADD-riddled youth of today.  Patience, inventory management, and a spot of imagination were all necessary in order to successfully navigate and succeed in what I still consider one of the very best games I've ever played.  How good?  I currently own a rebuilt TRS-80 and a working copy of DoD, and have played the system within the last five years.  That's how good.  If the Wii Virtual Console ever released this title, gamers everywhere would learn what it really took to play old school titles.

"Shining In The Darkness" for the most part is a remake of DoD with better graphics.  There are differences: the creatures in SITD don't come to you, you have to go to them.  You can also leave the dungeon in order to buy items to help you on your quest, including (if I remember correctly) armor and weapons.  DoD started you with one torch, one sword, and you had to kill to get anything else, that's it.  The other major difference, the only other one worth mentioning, is that DoD was freaking HARD.  SITD was less so, and didn't require a dedication that few games expect of a player these days.

Now, the interesting thing that happened with SITD is that it spawned two sequels that played 100% unlike the original.  "Shining Force" and "Shining Force 2" were turn-based strategy battle titles, and could not have been more different than the franchise's original title.  This isn't to say they were bad titles, quite the contrary, but the dungeon-crawling days were certainly in the past.  TBS (Turn-Based Strategy) fights sprawling over ruins of cities or across huge outdoor battlefields were the focus of SF and it's sequel, with periods between fights to explore towns, purchase items, and find hidden characters in order to add them to your interchangeable roster of ass-kickery.  While being so different from what spawned it, the game was incredibly fun, had a lot of humour, and was a pleasure to play.  The fact that RPG elements were added to the mix as well aided any challenges by giving your characters experience that they kept even if the current battle was lost.  Additionally, after achieving a certain character level, you could change the profession of the person or creature in order to give them new abilities and higher stats, so that ultimately the entire game could be successfully completed with perseverance.

"Shining Force 2" was the same kind of deal, but the problem was that the original game was very much on rails, which works for this particular genre.  SF2 made the environments so big, the world so large to explore, that the continuity between battles was completely lost and the title was more of a failure than a success in comparison to the preceding title.  However, 20 years after SITD was released, all three of this franchise's titles are in the top ten games list on GameFaqs for the Genesis system.

Then there was Sonic.  "Sonic The Hedgehog" was created for one reason and one reason only: to counter Mario's hold on the videogame frontier.  Mario was obviously a mascot for Nintendo, and Sega decided that in order to really compete they needed one of their own.  Hence, in 1991 Sonic was born.  Featuring speeds that previously just weren't seen in a platform-style game, Sonic soon begat multiple sequels and a following all his own.  There isn't really much needed to be said about this series of titles.  The popularity of the character, just like Mario, has never faded - even when the parent company dropped out of the console-making business as a result of later hardware missteps, rendering the little blue guy's raison d'etre non-existent.

The fact that as of this writing the first episode of what is being called the 4th title of the franchise (though there were five titles featuring him on the Genesis alone) has only recently been released across multiple current generation consoles as a downloadable game proves that old-school titles still have an influence, even after two decades.  While ultimately Sega lost out big time to Nintendo, the iconic mascot keeps the memory of cartridge-based consoles alive and well, and should continue to do so for quite some time.  I loved the NES, I loved the SNES, and I loved my Genesis.  Guess that's why I still own working versions of all these systems.  When it comes right down to it, whether you believe it or not, today's games owe everything to us older gamers who remember when fun was ALL it was about.  No matter what genre the current game is from, there was an original title that percolated an idea that spawned it, and more than likely that original title came from the 1980s-1990s.

For example, I give you Exhibit A:

Now, I'm going to go play CoD and attain Prestige level 5.  Gamerscore ho!

February 8, 2011

Top Ten Irritating Habits Of Multiplayer Twits

Okay, the heading could be a little less harsh, but if it were, the casual reader wouldn't understand the depth to which my hatred extends.  In order to be fair and not make this a post full of anger and negativity, I'll present my points in the form of helpful advice.  Oh, and this post is going to be a bit long-winded, I'm sure, but there is good reason for it, so to begin let me set the scene.

I am a lover of FPS gaming (First Person Shooter), with one specific franchise that I doggedly pursue the titles of.  That franchise, it should be no surprise, is "Call Of Duty."  Now, I have been playing the multiplayer games of these titles since the first "Modern Warfare" came out, and I have had complaints about the gameplay, glitches, fairness and matchmaking/connectivity of each and every title.  Some I've had more to bitch about than others, it is true, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the idiocy I have witnessed during the matches.  I have finally decided to address these complaints, and explain my deep irritation and frustration when these problems cost me a challenge, a level up, or a match win.  Some are game-type specific, and I will point that out as I go.  For the most part, however, I am referring solely to team-based gameplay, not one on one.

10.  Don't play Deathmatch games while in an objective-based lobby.  This sounds obvious, but might need a little more flesh to explain.  Deathmatch games are all about killing the enemy team and racking up the score before the other team does.  It is all about the kills.  Objective-based games, to put it mildly, aren't.  Whether it is a game of Domination (own the three capture points in order to gain score every five seconds), Capture The Flag (get the enemy team's flag to your base while your flag is still there), or Demolition (plant a bomb on the enemy team's two target crates while they attempt to stop you in a timed game), the objective remains to complete a winning match you must achieve your goal.  This does NOT mean find a place to kill anyone who comes near while not actually attempting to assist your team reach that goal.  I've been in games of Domination where the only person on my team even attempting to gain flag points in order to move toward a win has been me...on a team of six players!  Which leads me to my next item on the list...

9.  If in an objective-based game, try to achieve the objective yourself.  Again, this should be a damn no-brainer!  The game is Capture The Flag...how about doing something freaking crazy, like attempting to CAPTURE THE FLAG!!!  You know, it's only the reason you're in this game, it's only the title of the match, some people may consider it to be important enough to try and do it.  Oh, and keeping an eye on our team's flag is a great idea too, admittedly, but when camping on an objective it might help if you...

8.  Stay close to the objective you are defending.  What?  You mean that defending the objective a good sniper-distance away when armed with an SMG isn't a good idea?  Really?  Yes, you waste of a slot on our team roster, if you are so far away from the flag that when someone tries to grab it they get off-screen before you can get a shot off, you just might be too stupid to live.  This happens most frequently during CTF games, and the fact is it burns me up to see that the entire team is depending on the guy who chose to hang back to defend the flag, and the guy is so well-concealed in his little hidey spot that he can't actually do any defending.  This is also caused by the simplicity of the following rule:

7.  Know your gun's capabilities and use one that suits your strengths.  If you've never used a sniper rifle before, don't be in a CTF game volunteering to hang back and hold the flag with one.  Conversely to the prior point, I have seen sniper rifle equipped players covering the flag who, when the enemy comes in to grab it, fire a shot that goes so wildly off the mark that all they do is alert the entire enemy team that our side has a really crappy sniper.  The word 'crappy' is not the word I wanted to use there, I mean it REALLY isn't the word I want to use there, but since this is not marked as an adult-only blog, I'm trying to keep it clean.  We'll see how I do as we continue.

6.  Know the map.  Again, this one should be a no-brainer.  This affects ALL objective-based games, and even Team Deathmatch as well.  If you are unaware of a path that can lead the enemy directly to the centre of your defences, you are handing them a win over your team with your lack of knowledge.  Every CoD title has had the ability to start an offline game on each and every map, in order to allow full exploration and discovery of quick/hidden routes to and fro, and players who have trouble with retaining map imagery in their minds when playing should be using this feature to ensure they know where they are going and how best to get there.  Epic fail for those who don't, especially with the latest title in the franchise, "Black Ops," because they actually included a 'Combat Training' mode expressly for the purposes of fending off player complaints about my points 6 and 7.  My personal offline player is levelled up to max, with every weapon unlocked, enough CoD points to open each and every attachment for any gun I choose to practice with, every perk unlocked, every item of equipment at my disposal.  I did not do this to say "Hey, look at my offline guy, he can use anything."  No, I did it so that I can compare weapons, test the strengths of suggestions from other gamers regarding loadout usefulness, and ensure that I equip myself against other players with the best weapons for my personal gameplay style.  Oh, and that gameplay style?  It's called WANTING TO WIN.

5.  Aid your team in obtaining your objective.  Now, it would seem I already covered this in point 9 above and only worded it a bit differently, but I want to really make sure you understand the importance of this specific point.  I have sat on a flag in Domination, in the midst of the most open area of the map (usually, the flag in this location would be the 'B' flag), tethered due to my intent to capture said flag to a tiny area about 3 paces large.  Around me are the enemy, who may or may not have noticed me physically, but who could, if paying attention, see that their icon for their precious capture-point was flashing slowly to indicate that someone is indeed taking the point away from them.  Knowing me, I generally try to get on points of this nature during a game announcement (a voice in-game tells all players when something of some moment is in the offing, such as an enemy care package, a napalm strike, or an enemy taking a capture point), since at the very least the voice notifying our teams that a capture point is being taken will be delayed if not totally ignored by the game itself.  In fact, the best time to grab a seat at a capture point is when another member of your team is just starting to grab another capture point - oftentimes, the enemy team will hear that announcement and go after the one announced, not even noticing the other icon slowly flashing the warning that a cap is about to go off.  The thing I need to stress here is that the more people on a capture point, the faster it caps.  So, back to my scenario:  I'm on 'B', in the middle of nowhere, no cover, surrounded by enemy gunfire, and hoping desperately that I can get the cap done before anyone pays attention - and here comes some goofball idiot into the area, running and gunning, not even attempting to be quiet and certainly not attempting to help me cap the flag.  Result?  They kill him, spot me, and shoot me too, just as the cap is about to go off.  Aftermath?  No cap, no extra points for me, no gain for the team, hatred of useless loser costing our team a possible victory.  DON'T BE THAT GUY.

Another part of this comes from playing Demolition games.  When a guy is planting the bomb, COVER HIM!!!  Don't go running off to another part of the map to see if you can spot a good angle to shoot some random guy giving you grief, your bomb-planter is right where the enemy knows he is, especially if one of the targets has already been destroyed, so watch his back!  This goes double for the other team if they are trying to defuse the already planted bomb.  You know where your guy has to be to defuse it, you know that the entire enemy team is going to be trying to stop him (usually with grenades and grenade-like equipment), so get these enemies out of the way before they ruin your chances to save the level.  This advice shouldn't need to be typed out, but apparently it does.

4.  Don't draw attention to players in concealment.  Again, this should be a no-brainer.  I'm hiding.  I have camouflage to make it less apparent that I am where I am.  I am in bushes, overlooking the enemy objective.  Our team has the enemy flag, and once they get it to our base and capture it, it will respawn right where I am hidden.  I have placed a tactical insertion in this bush.  It will allow me to respawn right at their flag if I am killed in my attempt to run their flag to my base.  It gives off a bit of light that flashes to show the enemy that it exists, therefore I have hidden it away in this bush with me so that it is harder to see.  I am stealthy, I am like the wind.  So, do me a favour:  DON'T WALK UP TO ME IN PLAIN SIGHT OF ANYONE IN THE AREA TO INSPECT WHAT I'M DOING HIDING IN A BUSH!  I swear to God, this happened to me on a level named Array during a CTF game.  Anyone who is familiar with the game and this map in particular will understand when I state that one of the flags is in a little depression covered on one side by some rocks and the other side by the aforementioned tree overlooking the flag spot.  The one area that offers any concealment whatsoever, in the middle of the one area that the enemy will be watching with their snipers, who hopefully suck (see point 7 above), but I can't assume that piece of information...and the guy waltzes up to me, directly to me, and kind of just stands there inspecting my person.  Needless to say, we both got sniped immediately after that useless waste of space announced my presence to the enemy team covering the spot.  My tactical insertion was destroyed in the process, meaning my stealthy approach was totally and utterly wasted by this nimrod.  If you have no idea what you are doing, go practice, but don't ruin my game with your ineptitude.

3.  Help your teammates.  This doesn't necessarily follow the 'you are in an objective match - aim for the objective' idea.  This is more a 'you just watched your teammate throw down smoke for a care package, how about making sure he survives long enough to claim it' type of note.  Obviously, there are times when you can aim for getting a package drop in a remote corner of the map, so far away from the action that the odds that someone is in the vicinity are quite low...but there are times when someone is being sneaky, and there are times when you don't have the luxury of suddenly running off to a corner of the map to drop the smoke.  In these instances, it would be nice if someone who is helping hold an area, or someone who just happened to spawn near you, could pay attention to what someone other than themselves is doing and actually try to back you up in obtaining what could turn out to be a major game-changer in a box.  Chopper Gunners come in those boxes sometimes people, as do Napalm Strikes, Sentry Guns and other non-killstreak perks like the Death Machine and the Grim Reaper.  A game can swing wildly in the other direction with a good player controlling a Chopper Gunner, keeping the other team indoors while your mates grab all the flag points or run a flag to your base for a capture.  These players have earned the ability to possibly aid your team to win the game from a losing tide, and you just run off and hope he survives?  Is one 50 point kill that necessary?  Do you have such a strong grudge against the guy who killed you a second ago that you have to abandon your objective just to kill him, leaving your team effectively one useful player down?  Think before you act, you aren't playing Free For All.

2.  Don't hold grudges.  I just mentioned this above, but it requires it's own point of validation.  Yes, a guy just killed you, and yes, he did it from a spot that you might not have known about, and you were about to capture a point, and you were so close to getting where you wanted to go, and you almost stopped them from taking that location, and you were so close to that killstreak reward...etc., etc., etc...but here's the thing about multiplayer games:  If you are hell-bent on killing one particular dude who ruined your momentum, you are going to lower your team's effectiveness by one player if you go on a vendetta to get the guy back.  You are not playing alone, you are playing on a team.  Aid your team.  Yes, you want to climb the leaderboards, I get that, and there are game modes specifically to allow you to do just that.  This isn't that mode, this is for being a team, and going off half-cocked because someone stole your care package just isn't helpful to achieve a win.  You are in a team-based game, play with the team.

1.  Most importantly, use your brain.  There are three paths in Havana.  One goes through the buildings on the left.  One goes through the buildings on the right.  One goes straight down the centre of the street.  The enemy, perched on the second stories of the buildings at either end of the street as well as on the buildings on each side, are shooting everything that moves the entire length of the street.  You are at capture point 'C' at one end of the street and around a corner, and want to get to capture point 'A' which is at the other end of the street around a corner.  Do you A) Go through the buildings on the left, B) Go through the buildings on the right, or C) Go up the middle of the street where only tumbleweeds have a chance of surviving.  I am not joking when I say a vast majority of people, and I mean about 4 out of 6 on teams I have played on, will choose option C and get themselves killed.  Now, here is the part that gets my goat, here is the sticking point that makes me throw the controller, stomp around the house, and make me wish I hated playing multiplayer so I could avoid this idiocy:  After dying following option C, most players will attempt it again.  And again.  And again.  I kid you not.  I didn't want to use 'kid' there, I wanted to use a much stronger word, but this isn't an adult blog, as I mentioned before.  I am keeping it together pretty well so far, I must say.

When playing the CoD titles, I have repeatedly come across scenarios like the one I've just mentioned.  Regardless of how many alternate routes there are, people will still follow one in particular, even if it means handing someone multiple killstreaks for no good reason.  It is simply ludicrous.  When simply going to the left or right can provide cover enough to allow you to ambush the enemy or achieve the goal they are trying so hard to keep you away from, more often than not the brain-dead lemmings will continue to run to their slaughter.  It takes two to three times for me to attempt to dislodge someone from a spot before I choose an alternate route, and while that may still be excessive to some (and I might even concur that anything more than 2 is too many), I will then attempt to find another route while my teammates mindlessly follow their same death walk and rack up the enemy score.  I wish I was kidding, but I'm so very much am not.

It gets worse.  Another well-known aspect of multiplayer games of this type is the simple need for someone who gets killed to return to the scene of the crime to, at least once, attempt to get the guy back.  Hardly from being the vendetta-type activity I mentioned in point 2 above, this hearkens back to how people are hardwired to exhibit certain types of behaviour in certain situations if not consciously given thought.  Being killed a second time from the same person in the same area and then continuing to pursue it is the problem in point 2, but here I am speaking of the person doing the killing.  You kill someone, you know the likelihood of them attempting to get you back, especially in a Deathmatch game, is going to be pretty high...so do your team a favour:  Move.  Simple.  Not out of the area, not at all, just move to a different vantage point from which they won't spot you when they are looking at where you were.  I can't count how many times I have gotten the drop on someone by simply moving to the left or right of where I was so that they come charging in guns blazing, only to fall at my feet because I'm no longer behind that pipe, I'm over behind that box instead.  And now I'm not behind that box anymore, I'm up on the top of this crate.  Whoops!  Now I'm back behind the pipe, you've died three times in a row, and now you've left the game in frustration and sent me an angry letter about how I'm not playing fairly.  Yes, this actually happened.

It's not as good as another letter I got as a result of a kill achieved in the previous title in the series, "Modern Warfare 2."  Someone complained to me about not playing fairly because he killed me while lying on the floor in a wooden shack, and I figured that I'd come up to a side wall and shoot him through it relying on my target indicator to tell me if I was hitting him.  He whined about how I couldn't beat him fairly by using the doorway he was covering, and how that wasn't right.  All I know is that our team won, he stayed still and was killed by his own stupidity, and whining about it later made him look like a fool.  I killed you through the wall because I used my brain and as a result I am a better player than you are.  Deal with it.  I told him that he was killed by my being aware that he didn't move, and that to blame me for not considering the possibility that he could be shot through a wall by anyone he had killed in that position was ridiculous.  He never wrote back.  I wonder if he ever got a brain.  Loser.

Sorry, but I happen to be a good player of these titles.  Not spectacular, not the top of the heap, and I know when I'm up against better.  I am, however, good enough to get to the top of the prestige heap (currently approaching Prestige 5, 1/3 of the way to 15), and my gamertag, Timbuctu, is in the top 200000 on the Prestige Leaderboards for the current title in Domination, top 120000 for CTF.  Those are all-time stats, not weekly or monthly, and on the 360 as of last night.  I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I am trying to say that I play a LOT of CoD (going on 125 hours for this title alone) and know enough to give this advice.

So there you have it, 10 helpful tips for multiplayer twits, so that they don't get in the way of my levelling up and winning my matches.  If you find yourself doing ANY of the above to people in your games, you are the problem and you need to smarten up.  Whether you are 9 or 90, and the age ranges of people in the multiplayer lobbies does indeed encompass those ages, you shouldn't be playing objective-based games without these simple truths.  There are other modes for you if you want to be the lone hero, the person with the highest kills, or the person looking out for themselves only.  Domination, CTF and Demolition are not for you.  They require team support, even if you are not using a headset (I don't).  Knowing the objective and how to accomplish it is the only thing a team needs in order to work together.  Well, that, and the desire to do so.  That might be point 11, but I only planned for 10, so tough luck.  I'm going to go slaughter some more twits who don't know the first thing about objective-based multiplayer gameplay, and enjoy watching my kills shoot higher and higher at their expense.  Oh, and bear in mind that CoD games are the only titles I play so constantly without any hope of getting any achievement score out of them.

After all, I'm a Gamerscore Ho!

February 3, 2011

Growing Up On Nintendo - Part Three, What Has Kept These Titles Alive For A Quarter-Century?

That is really a long title.  Maybe I should shorten it, but it certainly asks the right question:  What is it exactly about the titles I've been mentioning over the last two days that makes the older titles classics, and the franchises continue to add more games to current systems?  I'm going to try and answer that today, and we'll see if I'm right.

First off, every game that I mentioned has at least one musical theme that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever played the games I've listed.  This is going to be a video-heavy posting, so be ready to open YouTube videos as go along here, so that you too can hear and see what I'm on about.  First we have the Mario franchise.  The music from the original game has been used so frequently throughout our society that even a recent (within the last 6 months) episode of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" had The Roots playing it for someone coming onstage for an interview.  Here's the original music:
Brings back a lot of memories, and every title in the Mario series up to and including the "Super Mario Galaxy" titles include at least one location where the original music, maybe with a full orchestration, can be heard.  Other samples from the original game can usually be found at various locations in the later titles.  Additionally, since the introduction of water- and air-level music in "Super Mario World," any level in games released since have added that theme to any 'swimming' or 'up in the clouds' type levels.
As you can see by the title, that was the swimming world music, and the air level music follows:
Mario isn't the only franchise that has music that is exceptionally recognizable to gamers.  "The Legend Of Zelda" and "Final Fantasy" both have music that is considered for inclusion in one form or another in each and every new title in their respective franchises.
The music from this Overworld area is considered the main Zelda theme, important enough to be played majestically at the end of "A Link To The Past" almost as a gift to the gamers so in love with the series.  The next clip is long, but the theme will be recognizable when reached, at 1:53.
The "Final Fantasy" theme, to my knowledge, doesn't actually appear in any of the games, except perhaps in menus.  The theme itself, titled 'Prelude,' is gorgeous, an endless loop that repeats, and is generally found at the beginning of the games when starting a new character.
The music featured above for these three titles have so saturated the public awareness that I would be completely surprised to meet someone in a developed country that hasn't heard at least one of the themes placed above.  Even the titles I have not included videos for, most notably "Metroid" and "Dragon Warrior" have themes and musical cues that have carried over from title to title over the years, and it is these aspects that endear them to the followers of these franchises.

Another aspect that all these games share is rich storylines that do not require cutting edge graphics to relate.  This is especially true for the first Zelda and Final Fantasy titles.  Let's be totally honest, you were controlling little squares and rectangles conjoined in such a way that if you squinted you could suggest they resembled something akin to a human being.  A green circle was a bush; a black curve was a boomerang.  These titles left more to the imagination than do the titles of current systems, and that may have been the entire point.

The games were also heavily text-based.  Not as much as "Zork," mind you, but they had a lot of text included in the title as a way of conveying all manner of information and humour to the player.  Nowadays, voice acting with subtitles is the norm, but it is a knife that can cut both ways.  What may be arguably the best 2D side-scrolling game ever made for any console, "Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night," is marred by exactly one glaring problem, and that is the voice acting.  It is terrible, it is ridiculous, it actually refers to an item as 'The jewel of Open' because it opens doors, it has been the butt of jokes for years...and it isn't the only one.  "Resident Evil," a game that has inspired tons of sequels as well as a movie franchise, contains a voice-over in the popular re-make of the original game that required someone to say the line 'I am the master of unlocking.'  These two titles are also considered classics, but we're talking the first two Nintendo systems, so we'll get to those in later posts.  The point is, today's games follow the line from Jeff Goldblum's character in "Jurassic Park:"  '[The developers] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.'  Just because you can make a game look pretty or sound better doesn't mean you should, especially at the expense of gameplay.

Which leads me to the third and most obvious loss in games today: solid playability.  This is not to say that the games today are unplayable, far from it, but it is strongly advising that except for a few stand-out titles the games of today are either way too easy to master or are deliberately convoluted and purposefully challenging with no real basis for it.  There are way too many examples to be laid out here, especially due to the fact that this post is not meant to bash any particular system on the flaws inherent in the parent company's attempt to screw over the consumer, but suffice it to say that old games were more fun overall.  They had more ingenuity, more thought put into them.  Name a game that has you having to learn an operatic score in order to progress.  Can't do it?  You haven't played "Final Fantasy 3."  Name a game where music being played correctly to bring a girl's memories back to herself is the only way to successfully defeat the title's final boss.  No?  Then you've never played "Lunar."  Like the Castlevania title I mentioned earlier, these are on another system, but the point remains: Innovation in today's games is more about the cool controls, the neat-o graphics and the wonderful special effects and booming bass.  They forget to add fun.

This is not true of all titles, of course it isn't.  However, I can honestly say that in comparison to today's multitude of titles, very few strike me as direct descendants of the incredible adventures of old.  Sure, they made you work for 100% completion, but they didn't take 80 hours, they didn't take doing things that you would never have considered doing through the course of a normal game, and they didn't come with flashy guidebooks to tell you how to do things.  Hell, I remember playing the original "Solomon's Key" on the NES, easily the hardest game I have EVER come across, and having to call the Nintendo Hotline in order to sort out how to get through many of the levels to the good ending.  There was no GameFaqs, there were no strategy guides, and the controls only consisted of two abilities: jumping and creating/destroying magic blocks.  That was it, the entire game's controls.  Two buttons.  One, actually, since in order to jump you pressed up on the control pad.  A one-button game that is easily the hardest one I've ever come across, and yet each and every puzzle within the 50 odd levels was also fun.  Graphics sucked, sound sucked, controls only the basics, and I remember that title better than most.  Why?  The storyline, the music, and the fun.  Three ingredients.  Tell the developers to get cooking again.

Until next time, when we start to look at Nintendo's only competitor in those early days, Gamerscore ho!

February 2, 2011

Growing Up On Nintendo - Part Two, The Super NES

The Super Nintendo system was a great step forward in the video game history books, taking gaming to places we never thought possible considering the humble beginnings from whence we came.  Since the systems pre-dating the original NES looked so bush league in comparison, when the NES took things forward gamers were treated to attractive graphics and more lush environments.  The SNES changed that even further with what was called Mode-7 graphics.

Mode-7 allowed for things to rotate.  Doesn't sound like much, does it?  Nowadays, games like CoD allow you to turn your head and see the world spin around you - but back in the early 90s, this was a huge innovation.  Add to that the fact that developers, both at Nintendo and from 3rd party companies, were starting to really get creative with their storylines and game interactions, and you can see why so many classic titles that are talked about with reverence came from this system.

The first title, shipped with the SNES when I purchased it, was "Super Mario World."  Look at that price over there, in the Amazon box.  $299.99.  No joke.  That is for a brand-spanking new copy of a game that came out in 1991.  See, this is what I'm on about:  Here is a classic example of a game being so cherished that the actual RETAIL price has more than quadrupled since it released 20 YEARS AGO!!!  What else need be said?  The game is truly revolutionary as far as the Mario series is concerned, and while the more recent "Super Mario Galaxy" titles are much deeper in terms of level development and controller use, SMW remains one of the very best 2D side-scrolling game titles ever created.

The biggest challenger to the 2D side-scrolling title was also a series made by Nintendo, towards the end of the system's lifespan.  "Donkey Kong Country," released Holiday 1994, showed just how detailed a videogame could be.  It came out when the next generation of gaming systems were getting poised to be released, with only a year left in the system's expected retail span, but it was early enough to spawn two sequels, which lead directly to the most recent release in the series coming out in Holiday 2010 with "Donkey Kong Country Returns."  As you can see, a new copy of the original title sells for less than the copy of "Super Mario World," but not by much when considering how much they originally sold for.  Again, it is because this is a title which spawned a ton of followers, allowing the SNES to get a bit more life out of itself before being shoved over by what was for many a step backward with the N64.  Yes, the N64 had better graphics and larger games, but there was a problem with the system and we'll get to that another time.

The SNES had a slight problem in the marketing of their game titles.  It seemed as though a few developers couldn't quite wrap their heads around the 'super' in the title.  This is a new "Castlevania" game, let's slap 'super' on the title, so people know it's all better than the last one and stuff.  Great.  One title, however, deserved the exact moniker they gave it, and it even lived up to the 'super' tacked on to the name.  That title was "Super Metroid."  Now, it is true that the original "Metroid" introduced us to the first really strong female avatar in a videogame back on the NES, but there were a few things that the first game didn't have that were fixed for this semi-sequel.  Number one, the ability to save the game at multiple locations was absent from the original title; number two is that we didn't know Samus, our lead character, was in fact a woman.  Other than that, and the main reason I call this game a semi-sequel, this title was a prettier re-hash of the original title, but the thing is it worked!  It was "Metroid" on a grander scale, or so it felt, and with the ability to really improve upon your character as you progressed through the multiple zones of Planet Zebes (which was present in the first game, but much less than in this title) it became pretty much the first science fiction based RPG out there.

But, of course, I had to go and mention RPGs, and the RPG at the top of the SNES list has to be the hands-down best 2D RPG ever made, "The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past."  Again, you see the price of the original title new in box listed as $300 over there in the Amazon box.  I know that people who really know gaming will argue that "Chrono Trigger" was bigger, more immersive, and maybe even longer - however, I stand by my words and simply state that I personally have played through this title so many times that I can't even begin to count.  The Amazon selling price alone backs up my opinion.  This title took RPGs to the most accessible level they have ever been, with graphics pleasing the eye and a story that remains classic to the series.  Many titles have followed this one in the course of the Zelda series, but this one stands out, for reasons we'll get to in the next post.  Suffice it to say right now that without this title, Zelda games wouldn't have become the driving force they are now for today's newest Nintendo's systems, the Wii and the 3DS.

There have certainly been other titles worthy of mention here in this post, some of which may never be played on a next generation system.  Titles like "The Secret Of Mana," "EarthBound," or "Soul Blazer."  One title in particular, that lives on in my heart as being the best of a particular series that has gone on to multiple incarnations, is "Final Fantasy 3," but the discussion of that title is going to wait until the third part of this posting series, What Has Kept These Titles Alive For A Quarter-Century?  For now, I leave you with some links to these classic titles.  If you have a SNES hiding away in a closet somewhere, grab these up.  The batteries will give you about four years of quality retro gaming, and you'll thank me for the suggestion.  Until next time, Gamerscore ho!