Sunday, 27 October 2013

Allie and Tobi's Next-Gen Nostalgias

So a hot topic in gamer nerd subculture at the moment I guess is NEXT GEN (groan) and we were watching this video here and… well, I don’t really think we can relate to this very common attitude with a lot of our peers… that NEXT GEN isn't so exciting anymore, and that things weren't as good as back when we were kids and blah blah Star Wars blah blah 1990s. I guess it’s probably true that the technical jumps are getting shorter as the development cycles get more… consistent. But still, I’m here thinking… hey, I'm old and have a job and I'm still excited by games and having moving experiences to look back on nostalgically.

Still, as a huge nerd I'm often interested to hear a gaming anecdotes of stuff people like. So.. Tobi and I thought we'd share. We're going to start with NES because Tobi is a noob casual fakegeek who didn't have a spectrum/atari/etc. What a jock. Psh.



Kirby’s Dreamland. I was pretty darn young at this point, and games were pretty rough and unforgiving. This was the first game I could beat without anyone’s help or cheat codes. Kirby was already some kind of all powerful god-protagonist, he could fly with unlimited energy, he could use all sorts of awesome powers and he was IMMORTAL, because when you died you could continue from where you left off. All the other games I had before then, when you died you had to start over the ENTIRE GAME. On top of that, being late in that generation it was practically SNES quality. The graphics were great, the controls were good, and at that time the game seemed enormous in size. I guess the defining moment would be when I beat the game, and it starts running through this grayscaled video of all the stages you had played, to remind you of how far you had come on your epic journey.

My pick actually looks pretty similar to Kirby, and came also really late in the NES lifecycle. Gimmick! is the story of a girl who gets kidnapped by her own dolls because they became jealous of her new toy. You play as that new toy in a jumping and running platforming adventure. Pretty standard NES stuff, right? WRONG! Gimmick! will blow your socks off and constantly question whether you are actually playing on an NES or not. Not only does it have some of the best visuals AND music on the system, it also sports proper physics-based gameplay. ...yeah! NES physics engine! Your primary method of attacking is to will a star into existence, which you get to throw around. This star will move according to the angle and velocity which you throw it with, but also bounces around based on the surfaces it hits. If you master this star, you can use it to hop on top of it to reach higher areas and quickly cruise through stages. Your own character is affected by these momentum and physics as well. Gimmick! is a technical marvel.


I never had a console of this generation. I didn't exactly have disposable income throughout my childhood. But I knew some kids who had SNES and Mega Drive and I was suuuuper jealous because of these 2 games: Sonic 3 and Donkey Kong Country. Multiplayer co-op was pretty much the best thing back then, cause I used to play games with my brother and sister and I still wasn't ace at games on my own (see last gen). So these were platform games (my fave genre back then) with well animated animal dudes in colourful exciting worlds AND YOU COULD TEAM UP AND PLAY AT THE SAME TIME. ON THE SAME SCREEN. There was nothing more exciting on this earth. But don’t worry, although I never got a snes or mega drive, Sonic 3 & Knuckles got a PC release and became one of my favourite games of all time. Happily ever after.

Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to cheat a little bit here. My actually most mind-blowing moment of this generation is too spoilerific to write down. It might be silly to hold back spoilers for games made in the early 90s, but I need to be considerate to Allie, who hasn't played it yet, yet intends to. So instead of that one, I'll jump to my number two choice, which is from Mega Man X. It's again one of my favourite games and I've played this one ...err *counts on his fingers* many...many times. Did you ever notice that the order you beat the stages in can alter other stages? Indeed! For example, if you beat Storm Eagle, some of his airship fleet will crash into the ground during your assault on it. These crashed ships will have destroyed some places on another stage! There are several examples of this, some of which even affect the game beyond mere aesthetics. They are just amazing little details that really made the game feel cohesive and cool.


So I guess I already had exciting mind blowing fun 3D times with Mario 64 and Zelda: OoT, but Majora’s Mask I remember being particularly exceptionally exciting and moving because its 3-day time travel system allowed them to have a new dimension (literally) to NPC behaviour. Now instead of just being stood in front of a stove in a house, NPCs would move around the world at different times of the day, they might go for a walk or a certain event would occur. On one of the days it rained and Anju would go out with an umbrella. A memorable moment for me is when I acquired a key to stay at the Inn in the village, and then that night I saw a goron sleeping outside because I had taken his room. That was my fault. My actions had consequences. I know this is hardly the first game to have ‘consequences’, but its presentation was outstanding.

Castlevania Symphony of the Night was and still is one of my favourite games. Getting to the end was something I easily and gladly did. At least, you think it's the end. Surely it must have been, you had pretty much filled out the entire map. But then after beating the "final" boss, the fog above the castle fade away and it reveals an exact replica of the castle, though upside down! You rush to tiny little square left unexplored and it teleports you to the inverted castle. The ceiling became the ground and the ground became the ceiling. You had an entire extra castle to explore, with new bosses, enemies and secrets! I not once noticed the layouts of ceilings in games until then. To this day I still look out for abnormal ceiling design.


Metroid Prime has gotta be my defining game of this gen. Everything about it was so good and atmospheric and just… well made. I remember arriving on Tallon Overworld, and you looked up and raindrops appeared on your visor. You’d see your reflection when you walked through steam. You explored the world looking for text on the walls. And each new ability was like christmas. Heat vision? Are you kidding me? This works on EVERYTHING? Top that, game. X-RAY VISION? SERIOUSLY? Good Game.

I had my mind blown many times here, as it was my first gaming generation. If I had to pick one game though, it had to have been Metal Gear Solid 3. Now even in just this game alone, I could pick many moments or elements, but there's one that stood out to me. I was still in uni at the time, so I didn't have a ton of time to play video games. This meant sometimes a solid week or more could get between each play-session. In MGS3, there is a character called The End, who ...well, was nearing the end of his life. He was an old man after all, conserving all his last remaining energy for his grand finale. However, since I was taking too long to actually wrap up his boss fight, he passed away on his own. Wuuuuuuuuuuuut. Yeah, you read that right. Because I took too long, the game decided he died of old age without me actually doing anything. Of course when you encounter it, you don't really notice and assume this was how it was supposed to go. Later I learned that I had skipped the entire battle. It was a shame too, as it turned out it was one of the more exciting encounters in the game.


The weather and world in Xenoblade Chronicles. I remember being in the city of Alcamoth, which is no way near the most exciting location, but the whole roof is windows where you can see the sky of the Eryth Sea, and today there was a thunderstorm. The lighting was perfect, that weird atmosphere you get where it feels darker than it should be, and there's an energy in the air. It just felt like I was there in a real thunderstorm. There were many parts in that game where I just stopped and watched the world. The virtual world. Another of my favourite places is the beginning of Valak mountain, you’re descending this steep mountain and its really as treacherous as it looks and the music is beautiful and then night falls and all the crystals begin to glow and the level transforms in front of you. Ah.. they don’t make games like tha-oh wait that was 2 years ago.

Mine is from the very same game, actually. Xenoblade Chronicles managed to pull the rug out from under me when I wanted to try and mock it. Very early on in the game, you are asked to use a system of caverns to trek to the top of a mountain. At this location, fuel cells were safely stored. When you reach the place, you have a great view of your colony and the surrounding area. For a Wii game, I was pretty impressed with what I saw. The cynic in me wanted to put it back in its place though, since it asked me backtrack all the way back to the town. I couldn't help but notice that there was a small lake at the bottom of the cliff I was standing on. I thought 'OH YEAH, GAME? WHAT IF I DO THIS?', and jumped off the cliff. Not only did the game allow me to take this massive shortcut, letting me successfully and safely drop down into the water, it also gave me an achievement! It may not have literally said 'YOU FELL DOWN SUPER FAR WITHOUT DYING, YOU ARE A CRAZY RAD COWBOY', but that was pretty much the spirit of what that achievement was. It later turned out that I could have easily used the game's fast travel system too, so backtracking was never going to be an issue either way.


Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was my first Monster Hunter game. Tobi has this weird love/hate relationship where he said it was frustratingly hard but he also really liked something about it. I was super curious, so I got this game. I hoped that with a bit of advice from him, well.. maybe I’d get somewhere. I was eager to impress him. I was doing really well, and really enjoying myself, when Tobi got a copy on the 3DS and found a way to hook it up so he might be able to play it online with me. Playing online with Tobi raaaarely ever works. Heck, playing online on a nintendo console has never not sucked before in my experience (sorry big N but even smash bros brawl had awful load times and lag). So anyway this game worked perfectly, I got to show Tobi how badass I was, we took down tons of huge deadly monsters with raw button pressy skills, it was awesome. One defining moment wasn't even in the game, it was when I went and watched Pacific Rim in the cinema.. and I felt kinda underwhelmed because I was thinking to myself ‘I could be at home, actually DOING this and not just watching someone else do it. Also I'd be better at it than this guy. Use your sword, dumbass!’ So yeah this game makes hollywood blockbusters seem like a radio play.

This generation is still young, but considering I have spent pretty much almost all of it playing Monster Hunter, it’s hard to not give it a shout-out as well. As Allie mentioned, this was a series that I had dabbled in before, with mixed results. The people I played with were not very helpful or supportive and tended to leave me in the dust. That had resulted me in having to tackle the monsters on my own, which lead to much frustration. Having Allie help me through it for pretty much half a year made it so much better, resulting in an unforgettable experience. I’d still get intimidated by all sorts of monsters constantly, but somehow we always managed to pull through, no matter how many teeth a Deviljho had. There is nothing quite like the wave of peaceful respite that hits you when you have beaten a quest. The stress is over and you get to absorb what you just had to pull off.

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