Today was one of those days where inspiration for the game I chose came from outside influences. Actually, it was the culmination of several days worth of influences, both in real life on the video game universe. Today, I chose to play the original Batman, on the NES of course.
For starters, I have been emailing back and forth with my favorite pizza delivery guy in a point/counterpoint type of discussion thread, talking about what we thought about The Dark Knight Rises movie, and why it does or doesn't hold up to scrutiny. That was my first of many inspirations for Batman.
This morning, on twitter, their was chatter about the new Arkham game announced for later this year, and the corresponding handheld (Vita and 3DS) game that is going to be a completely new and different Arkham experience in its own right. The handheld game is supposed to be a Metroidvania 2D style platformer, which sounds awesome, and immediately elicited memories of the original NES Batman from someone on twitter, going as far as to post a screen shot from the original game.
Well played, sir.
Then, this afternoon, while I was taking my seven year old to baseball practice, we had a discussion about superheroes, and he pointed out that Batman was the only one he could think of that didn't have any powers, and then asked if he could be real. This, of course, made me happy as all getup, as that is the exact reason I have always been fond of the caped crusader in comparison to his superhuman friends and counterparts. By then, I still hadn't decided what game to play, but that discussion cemented the notion that Batman was going to be lucky number 105.
As I started playing it, however, I suddenly felt a different connection to Batman and why playing it was important today. In light of the Boston Marathon tragedy, it's times like these where I wish there was someone like Batman to help make rights all the wrongs in the world, especially this great country of ours. Someone who is willing to fight for what's right, fight for notion of safety and not feeling fear constantly, and fight for the greater good. Amidst the tragedy of the horrific events today, one thing was crystal clear and not nearly talked about enough. Despite the chaos, panic, confusion and horror of what took place, there were HUNDREDS of people responding at the scene, running towards the destruction despite the uncertainty of what was unfolding, and putting their own lives on the line to help and try to save as many people as possible.
These were all normal people - workers, volunteers, police officers, fireman, EMTs and anyone else nearby that was brave enough to run towards the crime scene, not away from it. These people weren't superheroes with super powers, but average citizens doing what was right for the greater good. Each and every single person there helping in whatever way they could was essentially Batman. And essentially, Batman is in all of us. He is the good side, the caring side and the protective side of each one use. We are Batman, and Batman is us.
I did play the game, however. It is still fun. It's a tough side-scrolling platformer, where you have the ability to wall jump like Ninja Gaiden, and you have a selection of projectiles in your arsenal at your disposal. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be based around the Batman movie, but it turned out to be very loosely based on it, for the sake of making an interesting and fun video game. It still remains one of my favorite NES games (top 10, perhaps?) and remains fun and frustrating to this day.
Thank you, Batman, for keeping me entertained for all these years. And thank you to everyone in Boston today helping to make a horrible and terrible situation just a little easier to cope with. Thank you all for not only being what we needed, but what we deserved as a society,
Today was the first day of PAX East, a gaming convention held in Boston, which is a direct result of the overwhelming popularity of the original gaming convention, now called PAX Prime, held in Seattle. Because PAX East is before the mecca of gaming conferences, E3, there usually isn't a lot of huge surprises or reveals, as most companies are already prepping for E3 and would rather make the impact on the biggest stage of them, not before (unless it's their own, of course).
Well, today, was the exception of the rule.
Capcom formerly announced that they were remaking the classic, nostalgic-driven Disney game, DuckTales, in glorious new HD graphics. It is due to be released this summer, for all major consoles as a downloadable title, thus officially making this the best summer of gaming ever. They promised it is the same game as the original, just spruced up with all the fancy bells and whistles of this generations graphics and mechanics, but also adding in at least one addition level.
In other words, one of the most beloved games for children of the late 80's and early 90's is going to make you all warm and fuzzy inside all over again.
I honestly couldn't be happier. I almost died of excitement when I heard about it this morning, and instantly I knew what game I wanted to play tonight. I busted out my old cartridge of DuckTales, blew in to it (as is custom with NES games, for those youngins who might not know what's up), and played it. I beat it to, in just over an hour, because one, that's how I roll, and two, that's just the game. Hard to master at first, but once you get the rhythm down, it's a piece of cake.
Now, I could write a whole lot more about this game, my memories of it, etc. etc., but honestly, there is only one appropriate way to due this blog post justice. I'm going to try and get the theme song stuck in your head, as it has been in mine all day.
Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes - it's a duck blur
You might solve a mystery or rewrite history
Duck Tales, Oo-oo
Tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales, oo-oo
D-d-d-danger, watch behind you - there's a stranger out to find you
What to do? Just grab onto some Duck Tales, oo-oo!
Not pony tails or cotton tails but Duck Tales, oo-oo!
When it seems they're headed for the final curtain
Bold deduction never fails, that's for certain
The worst of messes become successes!
Duck Tales, Oo-oo
Tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales, oo-oo
Not pony tails or cotton tails but Duck Tales, oo-oo!
Still not enough? Maybe you aren't that easily influenced, or maybe you've just never heard the song before, so you have no context to go from. Well, if that's the case, then...
So yeah, you could say I am excited for this. If only for nostalgia sake, the announcement made me a really happy gamer. And playing the old one tonight was fun, refreshing and a good way to start the hype machine.
Isn't a sad, though, how a guy with so many new games to play has been completely derailed back-to-back nights by 25 year old games? That's just how the cookie crumbles, I suppose.
Do you remember how I claimed this blog project was almost a direct result of my gaming ADD, my short attention span and my uncanny ability to be distracted with whatever is new and shiny, often leaving me playing several games at once, multiple games a day? Well, tonight is proof in the pudding of how bad it is sometimes.
Tonight, I have every single intention to play and write about Lego City Undercover for the Wii U, which I just picked up yesterday. Finally, a new game that isn't a port on the Wii U, and not an eShop title either! I was super excited just to buy the game, much less finally play it.
So when I got home tonight, I turned on the PS3 first, mainly because I wanted to get some God of War Ascension in before diving in to Lego City Undercover, since I was going to be writing about the latter. Well, turns out there was a system update that needed to happen (shocking, I know) before playing anything, so I went ahead and started that dubious process. I turned on the Wii U, popped in the disc and grabbed my Vita in anticipation of long load screens, figuring I could get my daily challenge on Smart As... done for the day while waiting.
Before jumping right into the game, however, I wanted to browse the eShop real quick, just to see what came out today. Low and behold, Zen Pinball 2 was finally released, and Punch-Out!!, the old NES version, was added to the Virtual Console for the promo price of a mere thirty cents! So I started the downloading process for those two games, while mastering the Smart As... daily challenges. Then I realized that my PS3 was finally done updating its own system, so I fired up God of War, because well, that was my original plan anyway.
I played a couple hours of that, and finally got to a point where I felt good about stopping for the evening. I picked up the Wii U GamePad, checked my finalized downloads, installed them, and then made the mistake of opening up Punch-Out!!. That was a mistake, you see, because I LOVE Punch-Out!!, and could play that game any time, for whatever reason. A long while later, I realized that I still needed to write this blog, and well, here we are.
Punch-Out!! will always have a special place in my heart. It was one of the first games that I remember, along with the Mega Man games, that I played that used the code system to essentially save your progress. It gave you a code every so often to allow you to pick up at a certain point next time you played so you wouldn't have to replay all the fights you already dominated in. A simple system that is ridiculous in this age of technology, where a simple Google search would produce every code I wanted for it. But back then, it was a life saver and a time saver, and prevented the loveable Glass Joe from being destroyed over and over again.
Another thing I will always remember is how this game forced you into pattern memorization like no other, as that was the only key to victory, along with quick reaction times. For anyone that says video games rot your brain, give Punch-Out!! and try and then tell me your brain feels like mush, because mine feels amazing afterwards (unlike a real boxer's brain after a fight, but that's a different topic for another time, I'm afraid). Once you figured out the pattern of each fighter's offense and defense, you could easily reign down on them with a fury of punches. Up until the last couple of fights, that theory holds true, but after that, it's not only muscle/pattern memory, but quick reaction times. If you weren't dead on with your punch timing, there was no chance for victory. Especially when fighting Mike Tyson.
Speaking of Tyson, that is the version I had as a kid. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!. I didn't even realize a second version, featuring the fictional Mr. Dream ever existed until much later in my life. Of course, that second version is the only version that Nintendo is still allowed to liscence and redistribute, so that's what I was playing tonight. Mr. Dream is still as hard as Mike Tyson was, but for some reason, he just isn't as intimidating as Tyson was. I realize it's only a game, but man, Tyson was the Baddest Man on the Planet for a reason, and just his likeness in that game sent chills down the spines of kids everywhere. Again, though, Mr. Dream is still as hard, and even tonight I couldn't beat him. I gave it all I could, but let's be real here - I'm older now then I was back then, and my reflexes just aren't what they used to be, despite all the practice I got with the God of War Quick Time Events recently. Also, fatigue and distractions played a good part in it as well.
So yeah, I have ADD. Bad. Tonight was the perfect example of that. But at least I got to play one of my all-time favorite games, and probably my third-favorite sports game ever. There are a couple more Punch-Out!! games to play this year, so look forward to that. Unless I get distracted in the mean time, of course.
I appreciate when games are hard and challenging.
That is especially true when the difficulty has a meaning, a reason, a point to the madness. But when a game is just plain ridiculously hard for the sake of being hard, I have a hard time accepting it. When a game is hard to cover up missing aspects of the game, like depth, graphics, game play or the fun factor, then I just plain and simple don't want to anything to do with something like that.
I say that provisionally and conditionally, as one of the fondest games of my childhood and a game I still hold near and dear to my heart falls under this category of games I usually won't touch with a 10 foot pole.
Adventures of Dino Riki, for the original NES, almost ruined my childhood memories for video games, but looking back, it is one of the games I remember the most. I was rage quitting video games before "rage quitting" was a thing. It was a game that I dumped several, several hours in, all in hopes of one day beating it. It wasn't a long game, it wasn't a great game, and it was barely considered a fun game, but damn, was it a hard game.
I honestly can't even remember how long it took me to finally beat the game (all 6 levels of it), but I remember that moment when I finally did. I had played it all morning, lost several times over and over again, until finally - FINALLY - I had the PERFECT run. And a perfect run is exactly what is needed to beat this frustrating game, as once you lose your lives and continues, it's all back to square one. And that can happen in a blink of an eye. Once I beat the final boss, I expected a huge celebration and the best end-game cut scene EVER. Instead, the game simply starts over from the first level, only at an elevated difficulty, as if the game wasn't hard enough. This pattern, apparently, just continues forever. I have never even come close to beating the game a second time through, and I don't even remember getting past the first or second level of the second play through.
A second play through, just harder? Really? That's all I get for throwing hours of my precious childhood away? I hate you, Dino Riki. But I love you oh so much, for reasons I'll never be able to explain.
I randomly thought about this game today, as I do from time to time, for no apparent reason whatsoever. And thus, I played it for my blog tonight. I didn't play it to try and beat it, because after not touching it for so long (I play it once every few years or so), there is no way to regain "perfect run form" just in a couple of tries. I played it to remind myself why I hate stupidly hard games with no purpose. I played it to remember my childhood, and how this game almost broke me of my love for video games before it ever was fully established. And I played it to try to understand what the hell it is that makes me love this game so much.
Guess what? I didn't beat it, it's still harder than it should be, I'm glad it didn't make me hate video games forever, and I still have no idea why I love the game. I don't even remember why I originally got the game in the first place back in the day, and now, I don't have idea why I love it. I honestly don't. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment? Maybe I just played the game so much that I fell in love with it based solely on quantity of quality.
No, I didn't beat it tonight. Not even close. I suppose I could have fired up the Game Genie and dispatched the game quickly and painlessly, but that is the equivalent of getting a henna tattoo instead of the real thing. It's painless and anyone can do it, but in the end, the excitement wears off quicker than you would hope, and there is no long-lasting satisfaction. A real tattoo, however, hurts, but you can always show it off as a symbol of whatever you want it to mean - a badge of honor, if you will.
Dino Riki is my tattoo. I may not have full sleeves, but I have a couple that I am proud to say I got the hard way.
I can't quit you, Dino Riki. I love you, and always will ... you hard SOB, you.
So after last night's post talking about a bunch of old games I played as a kid, I was feeling quite nostalgic today. That, on top of it being Championship Sunday for the NFL, I was in a old school football game kind of of mood. So what game did I grab to play? Tecmo Super Bowl, of course, for the NES.
(There was a SNES version a couple of years later by the same name, to eliminate any confusion.)
Did you know that Tecmo Super Bowl was the first sports video game to have license agreement with both the league (NFL) and the players union, meaning they were the first to use actual team names and real life players names in the same game? How cool is that?
Coincidentally, it was also the first sports video game that I played the absolute crap out of. As a kid, my parents couldn't/wouldn't buy me the game, so instead, I rented it from Blockbuster. I remember playing it once, taking it back, realizing how much I loved it and went to rent it back - only to find out it was already gone. It was several weeks before I found that sucker back on the shelf, so when I got my hands on it again, I didn't let go. I must have re-rented that game over and over again for two months straight, if not more. No joke.
To whomever the poor sap was waiting for me to return it ... I'm sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry at all. That game was freaking awesome.
Tonight I played a few games, and dominated as usual. If you could play a career mode, I would have been playing this game for 21+ years now, straight. The playbooks are simple, the plays are easy to run, and the defense is straight vicious if you pick the right play to defend. But the best thing about this game, which I realized for billionth time, is that great running backs are impossible to stop, no matter what.
And by great running backs, I of course mean one guy: BO JACKSON.
As a kid and a sports fan, Bo Jackson was the man. But as a gamer, in this game, Bo Jackson was a god. And still is. See for yourself. (This isn't my video, by the way, but one I found on YouTube, and is the perfect example to what I'm talking about.)
Man, I can't wait for the Super Bowl now. Even though I pretty much hate both teams playing, it is the Super Bowl after all. Sure, it might not be as great or as exciting as a game of Tecmo Super Bowl, but it is still the biggest sporting event of the year.
Even without Bo Jackson in it.
For my very first game of this ridiculous project known as My Year of Gaming, I could have easily picked any game I wanted to. With a huge library of games, finding a game wasn't a problem, but finding the PERFECT game to be number one was a different story.
I could have chosen one of the newest, hottest games to be released to play, or one of the "Game of the Year" nominations. I didn't choose either, however, and instead opted for one of my favorite games of mine, and one I probably have the most fondest memories of ever. I chose Super Mario Bros. 3, originally released for the NES.
This game was the first game I remember actually going to the store and picking out myself as a kid, as all my games before that were just given to me by my parents or grandparents. I remember actually knowing about the game before purchasing, which seems ridiculous nowadays, but back then, that was a huge achievement for video games. Today, we know about games coming out several years from now and get every detail about it throughout its development cycle. But back then, in 1990, most people bought games because the box art looked cool when they were browsing at the store.
Man, I played this game almost to death as a kid. Remember those cleaning kits you could buy to clean the old NES game cartridges? I had to get one of those kits specifically FOR this game, because I played it so much, blowing into it to the point of saliva particles gumming up the board inside. When the Super Nintendo was released, my cousin got one, but I didn't for another year, and honestly, because of SMB3, I didn't mind waiting one bit.
Playing this game today brought back so many fond memories, some of which I think about every so often, but tons of others that I had forgotten about until this game brought them to the forefront of my memory. If I were to sit down and try to tell someone where all the secrets are in that game without playing it for years, there's not a chance I could do it from memory, but as I played it, I found secret after secret, effortlessly, as if I had just played it yesterday. It's an absolute phenomenon, one that I'm sure many people experience, and one I have encountered before, yet it is still mind-blowing every time it happens.
I also realized that this game may be responsible for the foundation of my gaming ADD. All the little nuances that occur throughout the game that are so obsessive compulsive is insane. Jumping at the perfect moment to grab the wand at it's highest peak? Check. Spinning the bolts on the airships as fast as possible to get it to the end of it's track before the screen pushes you off? Check. Timing your run at the end of the levels to hit the P-power and jump into the corner of the box to get a star card? Check. After defeating a hammer brothers stage, timing your jump from one side of the screen to the other to hit the chest the moment it appears (and not too early so that the chest appears on the side of the screen where you jumped from)? Check. And that is only a few of the many, many idiosyncrasies in the game that I still feel urged to do, despite them not altering the game in any way, shape or form.
The game itself is so smart, so groundbreaking for it's genre, and I'm really glad that the New Super Mario Bros. games have dove back into the well of creativity that SMB3 opened up and brought some of those ideas back out. Usually, I am opposed to remakes of games, but honestly, if they did a straight-up HD remake of this game, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to dive right in.
Another thing that struck me as I played through the entire game today was how short the levels are, with the exception of the Level 8 stages. I could easily run through the average stage in about a minute or less it seems, which was perfect back then in order to put in as many stages as possible into the the game. In today's standards, it would hardly be considered long enough for a downloadable title, but alas, our standards for games have changed just a little bit since 1990.
Yes, I finished the game. I skipped one or two levels, but refused to use the warp whistles at all, despite the need to collect every single one I could. Just like when I was a kid, I felt no satisfaction in beating a game after skipping through complete worlds, even after beating it countless times. I remember as a kid using warp whistles only when I had friends over, to show off how cool and powerful they were, but deep down inside, I felt ashamed of my actions.
I love this game, and always will. My seven year old son watched me play some of it today, and while he seemed interested in it at first, especially after finding out how old it was, he eventually got bored of it and went about his business. It makes me wonder if kids these days will ever be able to latch on and fall in love with games to the point where over 20 years later, they still love it. I question it because of the sheer amount of games available to play, the numerous systems and the speed in which big blockbuster, AAA titles are pushed out onto shelves. I guess we will see twenty years from now, but I do know one thing. Twenty years from now I'm positive I will still love Super Mario Bros. 3.
My Year of Gaming – Project Stats
Games played: 1
Systems played on: NES = 1
Total time played: 3 hours
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
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Games played for project : 365