Claude Speed: Worst Name in Gaming History?   Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned it a time or two already, but editing video game cutscenes together has been a hobby of mine for a long time now.  Not only does it give me an opportunity to unwind after a long week at work (I don’t know why it does, it just does), but it also gives me a chance to go through certain games as thoroughly as I possibly could.

The completionist in me would never allow myself to make a video knowing there was some kind of hidden cutscene I missed along the way!

With that in mind, I turned to one of my favourite games of all time – Grand Theft Auto III.

 

gta3

 

I’ve attempted to capture all the cutscenes from this game once already, but it didn’t pan out.  The reason?

A bloody unfortunate glitch.

GTA3 takes place over three islands and has you associating with plenty of shady characters throughout the course of the story.  On the island of Shoreside Vale, a gang war is brewing between the Red Jacks and Purple Nines.  D-Ice, leader of the Red Jacks, contacts Claude via payphone and gets him to run all sorts of fun little errands to eliminate every member of the Purple Nines.

Here’s where the glitch comes in; once you complete the D-Ice missions on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox versions of the game, the Purple Nines are permanently wiped off the face of Liberty City.  If you start a new game, complete all the missions through to Shoreside Vale and finally attempt D-Ice’s first mission (which has you doing drive-by shootings on dudes in purple), you will notice that there are only dudes in red that show up on the streets – the Red Jacks.

You can drive around all you want, but the gang members you’re looking to eliminate won’t show up.  Even if you delete your saved game file, there’s enough data on your PS2 Memory Card\Xbox Hard Drive to “remember” that time you completely wiped the other gang off the map.

Thankfully, this glitch is a relatively minor inconvenience.  The game’s main story missions will be intact, and you’ll still be able to finish the game’s main story.

Still, since I’m trying to achieve 100% completion, this glitch is tearing at the OCD part of my brain.  I’d love to be able to re-play those missions, and not just because they’re among the best in the entire game.

 

 

Because I couldn’t get all the cutscenes I wanted, that last playthrough I did went unfinished.  I deleted everything I had recorded and put the game aside for another day.

That’s when I got to tinkering… ugh, why do I always have to tinker?

Y’see, here’s something the true gamer in me has a rough time admitting now.  These days, I’m a bona-fide collector of NES, Super NES, Genesis and Game Boy games.  About 10 years ago, even though I was deep into all kinds of retro gaming, I was not big into spending money to pad my game collection.

Oddly enough, I had more money to spend on that sort of thing then than I do now, living at home rent-free and all.

In any case, the idea of doing a soft-mod to my original Xbox to load a bunch of roms and emulators on it wasn’t a big deal.  I loaded a disc with hundreds of NES, Super NES and Game Boy roms and got my console loaded with 8-and-16-bit goodness.

It’s truly an amazing feeling to have all these games at my fingertips, ready to play at any moment.  It changed my Xbox’s dashboard completely, and it allowed me to access components of my console that I’d never even seen before.  It’s basically a PC that also happens to play Xbox games!

 

Pretty much my Xbox's Main Menu since 2005.  There are some pretty cool skins available, however.

Pretty much my Xbox’s Main Menu since 2005. There are some pretty cool skins available, as well.

 

With the awesomeness, however, comes a slight pang of guilt.  Guilt from playing roms instead of the real deal.  Guilt that my Xbox is a mere shell of its old, original self.  Guilt about the fact that even though it’s fun to play these old games, I can’t do it with the controllers they were meant to be played with.

And then…  I encountered the Purple Nines glitch.

The collector in me isn’t exactly proud of having done the mod all those years ago, and I fully intend to either un-mod my current Xbox or buy another used console for cheap.  However, being able to fiddle around with the memory on the system is a benefit when dealing with a glitch like the one I’m dealing with.

It took some digging, but I managed to find where the save files were located so I could delete them.  Doing so came at a cost, though.

The save files that had been on my Xbox for more than a decade were all labeled as jumbled letters and numbers.  I wanted to go in there and specifically delete the GTA3 save file on my hard drive and nothing else, but there was nothing to differentiate the GTA3 file from the ones for Halo 2, NASCAR Thunder 2004, Knights of the Old Republic, and other games I’ve played through the years.

Because I wanted to overcome the Purple Nines glitch in my own way, I went ahead and deleted them all.

Career Mode progress in all my NASCAR games?  Gone.
Unlocked levels and ships in various Star Wars games?  Buh-bye.
Progress in “Legendary” mode in both Halo and Halo 2?  See ya!

That last one was very much a work in progress having not touched either game in about 9 years, but still…  it was hard for me to just delete everything and start from scratch.

So with all that in mind, I’m not quite done the Portland missions in Grand Theft Auto III.  I still have a while to go before finding out if deleting everything off my Xbox actually fixed the dreaded Purple Nines glitch, and the suspense is killing me.

If it ended up not fixing the glitch, my cutscene movie will just have to go on without that whole batch of clips, and my mass file-deletion will be all for naught.

 

I better see these jerks.

I better see these jerks.

 

I’ll be sure to post an update to this story once I get there…

Posted October 22, 2014 by Andre in Grand Theft Auto, Xbox

At a Loss…   Leave a comment

From the age of 8 until I was about 15, driving around town with my sister was a fun way to get out of the house.  Whether it was in her red ’91 Pontiac Sunbird or her black ’94 Honda Accord, we’d wander around anywhere between Oromocto and Keswick Ridge, usually stopping for a bite to eat somewhere along the way.

 

What a great car...  I remember the snowy day she drove this thing home.

What a great car… I remember the snowy day she drove this thing home.

 

We’d sometimes end up at one of her friends’ places, or even more interestingly, she’d want to stop in and see people at work.  Not necessarily *her* place of work, however.

My sister is in the RCMP, and much like myself at my current tech support job, she gets to associate with many people around the province.  Dropping in to say “hi” to people you talk to every day is nice, and it helps give you that extra connection with the person on the other end.

I was always “Michelle’s little brother” whenever we stopped at a detachment somewhere, but I didn’t mind – these were all top-notch folks that were very kind to me, and I actually hoped to be a policeman myself, someday.

Even now when I stop at routine police checkpoints, they look at my license and say “Hey, you’re Michelle’s brother!”

There were so many people I met in those years that some of their faces are only brief, fleeting images in my mind.  I remember the names and nicknames, but what they looked like is somewhat blurry in retrospect.  For one person, however, the memory is quite clear.

Probably only because it pertains to video games, but it’s quite clear nonetheless!

On one of the last nights I can remember driving around with her in early ’99, we ended up visiting one of her longtime friends and her husband in Oromocto.  They lived in a PMQ, and although I just had to Google what it stood for (Personnel\Private Married Quarters), it’s basically where members of the Armed Forces or Mounted Police and their spouses can call home.  They aren’t big, but they’re cheap and comfy.

In any case, the guy had rented a Nintendo 64 along with a couple games, and Michelle brought me along to give him a few pointers.  He was considering buying one himself, so I brought a couple games of my own to try and convince him the N64 was worth it.

 

Who wouldn't love owning this?

Who wouldn’t love owning this?

 

The idea was that my sister and her friend would catch up and talk about whatever while he and I played games.  That worked for me!

He had also rented Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Top Gear Rally.  I thought (and still think) SOTE was an absolutely fantastic game.  Exploring each level thoroughly yielded some cool secrets, and getting every Challenge Point in the game became an obsession of mine.

We played it quite a bit that night, but he didn’t seem to be sold on it.  He listened intently when I talked about what the game was like in the later levels, but even though he dug the atmosphere and the flying stages, I don’t think he was particularly fond of the controls.

We moved on to Top Gear Rally for a little while, which was the first (and so far only) time I played that game.  There were some unique vehicles and the controls were pretty good, and we had some pretty fun two-player races… still, it wasn’t long before we swapped it out and played some Mario Kart 64.

Michelle and her friend watched us play and laughed as we kept taking each other out with shells and trails of banana peels.  I really thought that this was the game that would sell him on the console!

We had a blast, and I recall he was leaning towards buying one as we were leaving.  “Don’t give up on Shadows of the Empire!” I shouted from the door.  “Keep playing it, it gets better and better!”

He smiled and laughed and said “Yep, I will!  I promise!”

I really don’t know if he ended up buying a Nintendo 64 or not, but playing SOTE that night re-invigorated my love for that game.  I went to Wal-Mart with Michelle a few days later and bought it, and even though she said “Wasn’t that game not fun?”, I knew that wasn’t the case.  There’s a reason it’s number #33 on my Top 100 list!

 

"Maintiens le droit."

“Maintiens le droit.”

 

Being a police officer brings with it a different kind of danger than being in the Armed Forces does.  Although the amount of craziness in this region pales in comparison to what happens in foreign countries, officers here still go to work every morning with the distinct possibility that they might not make it back home.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an issue commonly associated with being in the Army, but it affects more than just soldiers; officers, paramedics, nurses, firefighters…  even if you don’t have a job where lives are on the line, you could very easily suffer from it after a traumatic event.  Unfortunately, it’s a very common thing in today’s messed up world.

The young man who I tried hard as hell to convince to buy an N64 would one day come to suffer from PTSD.  His struggle was very public, and although he brought a massive amount of attention to people dealing with the disorder (and just how little help is available to those suffering from it), the court of public opinion painted him in a negative light.  He had made some radical and controversial decisions, but at the end of the day, it was all just to bring attention to his cause.

All of what I was seeing about this person on the news such a far cry from the young policeman I played video games with, and “just one of the guys” I’d hear reference to from time to time in conversation.

He was a good man, and he went through something a lot of people go through.  He did it in his own way, but in the end, it was all just too much for him.

I sincerely hope you’ve found the solace you’ve been looking for, Ron.  Rest in peace.

Posted October 9, 2014 by Andre in Mario, Nintendo 64, Racing, Star Wars

“This young man really is a superlative driver!”   Leave a comment

I’ve already written a fairly lengthy love letter to racing games, so I’ll spare you the details about why I enjoy them so much.  My current video project involves old Formula One games, and I’m so deep into it that my “video game brain” can barely process anything else.

That’s a poor excuse for the lack of posts this week and last, but hear me out!

There are a bunch of F1 racing games dating back to the 70’s, but I wanted to look at games from the 3D era.  I’d try to look up YouTube videos of what certain tracks looked like in some of the older games, and instead of crystal clear onboard shots, I’d always get either unnaturally smooth-looking emulator versions or a handycam-recorded eyesore.

I have capturing equipment and almost all the official F1 games dating back to 1996, so why not just make the videos I wanted to watch?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Isn’t that a saying?  I think it is.  Pretty deep for what I’m talking about, though.  haha

I also wanted to focus on console games, mostly because PC games have had countless mods and custom tracks created for them over the years.  I’ve played some great PC racing sims and mods, so it’s not to say I don’t appreciate them…  it’s just that there are TONS of those videos online already.

I find real-life onboard videos from any racing series to be fascinating to watch.  Seeing masters like Senna, Schumacher, Hakkinen and Prost handle these finely tuned machines with such finesse is like watching Les Claypool effortlessly play the bass riff to Tommy the Cat, or Bob Ross hypnotically hiding his happy trees on that blank canvas of his.

 

 

Pretty intense, right?  Video game onboards don’t really compare, but at the end of the day, I still find them quite entertaining.

Console-based F1 games have indeed come a long way.  Formula 1 on PlayStation was actually a game I played just as I was developing an interest in all forms of motorsport, so the timing was impeccable.  I’ve tried to keep up on “official” F1 games through the years, but since a fair amount of them weren’t released outside of Europe, my “retrospective” can only feature so many games.

I also wanted to explore as wide a variety as I could of games from different publishers without delving into the poorly-made ones.  Games like F1 Pole Position 64 and Monaco Grand Prix might have featured F1 racing, but were really not up to par with others that have been released over the years.

That being said, here are the games I focused on;

Formula 1 – PlayStation (1996 – Psygnosis)
F1 World Grand Prix – Nintendo 64 (1998 – Video System)
Formula 1 ’98 – PlayStation (1998 – Psygnosis)
F1 Racing Championship – PlayStation (2000 – UbiSoft)
F1 Championship Season 2000 – PlayStation 2 (2000 – EA Sports)
Formula One 2001 – PlayStation 2 (2001 – SCEE)
F1 2002 – PlayStation 2 (2002 – EA Sports)
Formula 1 Championship Edition – PlayStation 3 (2007 – SCEA)
F1 2009 – Wii (2009 – Codemasters)
F1 2013 – Xbox 360 (2013 – Codemasters)

I basically wanted a representation from each season I could.  For example, even though it was released in ’96, Formula 1 showcases the drivers, teams and tracks from the 1995 season.  There was no game based on the ’96 season, but the ’97-2002 seasons are all represented before F1 games took a small break in North America.

Formula 1 Championship Edition was fairly hyped at Sony’s E3 conference in 2006, but after its release in 2007, no official F1 game was released until 2009 when Codemasters took control of the license.  The last few years have seen a rise in popularity in the genre, and next month will see the release of F1 2014 on last-gen systems only (weird, I know).  I decided not to include F1 2010, 2011 and 2012 because I found they all pretty much looked the same; if a track had a slightly different layout in those games, however, I went ahead and recorded a lap.

I’ve been playing all these games quite extensively over the past couple months to get my videos captured, trying my best to get clean laps on every track.  Jumping from one game to the next – each of them having unique handling characteristics – has proven to be quite mentally taxing, and I’ve fallen asleep several times with laps playing through my brain over and over again.

Almost like Senna in the video above, I’m thinking about pushing that limit, even when I’m not playing the game.

Either way, I’m finally done with getting everything I wanted recorded, and I couldn’t be happier to be moving on to other games.  That being said, here’s the “world premiere” of The Onboard Retrospective of the Hungaroring circuit in Hungary!

Enjoy!

 

 

For comparison, here is a real life onboard from that track…

 

 

Also, in order to tie some kind of memory into this post, I feel obliged to bring up one of the more fantastic puns I’ve ever made – and it was related to the Hungaroring.

One morning before work last year, I was checking my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds as I usually do.  When the Red Bull Racing team’s Twitter account posted about the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix, I couldn’t help myself.  I saw a window of opportunity to crack a silly joke, and I took it.

 

Pun-tastic.

Pun-tastic.

 

The racing team retweeted it and it got seen by thousands of people around the globe.  It might’ve only gotten 4 Favourites and 5 Retweets, but that right there is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had on Twitter.

Posted October 5, 2014 by Andre in F1, Racing

It’s the smell… if there is such a thing.   Leave a comment

Every gamer has a list of “hidden gem” games they played growing up.  For me, titles like Felix the Cat, M.C. Kids, Totally Rad, and Power Blade were the third-party games I’d show my “Sega friends” to prove the NES had what it took to compete with the Genesis’ ever expanding lineup.

Oddly enough, these were all games that not even my “Nintendo friends” had heard of.

After getting my Super NES, I was really looking forward to playing not only the mega hits like the Zelda and Contra sequels, but also those sleeper hits that would validate me wanting the console so badly.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long before I played one.

 

1991 - Data East

1991 – Data East

 

Joe and Mac was the first game we rented after buying the Super NES.  In fact, Mom rented it the same day she bought me my brand new console soon after I started the second half of Grade 3.  I didn’t know all that much about the game, mostly because I hadn’t really paid attention to Nintendo Power’s Pak Watch section in the months leading up to the console’s release.

Owning a new console seemed like a bit of a pipe dream during those days.  I had wanted a Sega Genesis, a TurboGrafx-16 and whatever else was on the market, but I always got the impression that my parents had better things to spend money on.

For my part, I could understand that.

When the Super NES was announced, I knew I’d probably have to ask for it for years before actually getting one.  Whenever I’d flip through the pages of EGM or NP and see the great-looking new games coming from Nintendo, I’d try to avoid getting too hyped up.  It’d be a long time before I’d ever get to experience these for myself, so I’d often just look at screenshots without reading articles.

 

Someday, fellas… someday.

Someday, fellas… someday.

 

To my great surprise, my mom bought me the spiffy new 16 bit console not long at all after it first came out.  The pack-in game of Super Mario World was obviously incredible, but Mom’s seemingly random choice to rent Joe and Mac was also a fantastic way for me to ring in the new era.

I loved that it was a simple arcade beat ‘em up where cave dudes beat up on sasquatches and other cavemen.  The bosses were huge prehistoric creatures, and my fascination with dinosaurs at the time didn’t hurt things.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I played the heck out of it that night.

The next day, my parents had plans for supper with family friends of ours, so I brought my Super NES and hooked it up to the TV in their basement.  I had plans on staying down there most of the day, mostly because they’d be busy cooking that evening’s meal…

 

Cabbage rolls!

Cabbage rolls!

 

It didn’t smell all that appetizing, but I felt adventurous enough to go upstairs at one point to see what a cabbage roll looked like.  I was a pretty finicky eater, but if the smell alone was enough to churn my stomach, maybe if I saw them being made I wouldn’t be so grossed out.

Now, when cabbage rolls are cooked, they get this greenish-beige and translucent look to them.  The sight of a cooked leaf of cabbage sitting in a sea of marinara sauce was a bit off-putting.  I didn’t care that it was filled with meat and seasoning… it looked kinda gross.

Eating leaves raw in a salad was one thing; eating them cooked sounded like a soggy mess, and I wanted nothing of it.  I headed back downstairs to play more Joe and Mac, and didn’t surface for a few hours at least.  I remember getting to the final level, which if I remember correctly takes place in the inside of a dinosaur’s digestive system.  Unfortunately, we had to leave before I had a chance to beat the game.

Whenever we went to their house afterwards, I could still smell the cabbage rolls.  It was probably all in my head of course, but I could swear the smell had permeated the walls, carpet, and even the futon I was playing on.

These days, my wife is an amazing cook, and she’s opened my mind up to enjoy many things I didn’t eat as a kid – namely certain kinds of seafood – so I was more than willing to give cabbage rolls another shot when she had a craving for them a year or so ago.

As it turns out, they’re pretty damn good!  The crunchiness of the cabbage, and the way the spices and the rice and the ground meats work with the tomato sauce, and beef broth… it’s one of my favourite meals now!

Not long after she made them, I purchased both Joe and Mac for Super NES and Data East Arcade Classics for Wii, which has the Arcade version on it.  It’s called Caveman Ninja and feels a tad different, but it’s more or less the same.

Two big games purchased, all because of a smell that brought me right back to that day of playing brand new games in the Shannahans’ basement.

 

Posted September 14, 2014 by Andre in Food, Joe and Mac, Super NES

Winner, winner! Chicken dinner!   Leave a comment

I can think of a few game-related birthday memories, but the one that sticks out the most is my 13th, which was in 1996.

Hitting my teen years was quite the milestone for me.  Being a “teenager” was so much cooler than “just being a kid”, so I wanted to do something memorable.  I hadn’t had a birthday party in a few years, but a bunch of friends and I got together and went to see the Kevin Costner movie Tin Cup.

I’m not sure why we chose to see that movie, but there were only four theatres at this particular cinema at the time – the only thing I can guess is that the other three movies being shown weren’t all that much more interesting.

In any case, it was just a typical romantic comedy with some golf action thrown in for good measure.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the awesome golf movie that Happy Gilmore was (which is what I was hoping for), but there was a scene in a strip club that had me thinking seeing this movie was a good choice.

C’mon.  I was 13.  Gimme a break.

Anyway, after the movie, we headed down to the same Greco restaurant I drive by each night when I come home from work.  Although my taste in pizza has become more refined as of late, it was a damn good greasy slice at the time.  I remember thinking it was a bit dreary weather-wise, but I ended up having quite the memorable day.

There were two games I got as a present that day, and both were for PC.

 

1992 - U.S. Gold

1992 – U.S. Gold

 

I had seen this game in the bargain bin at Zellers here in Fredericton, which was quite odd – not only were Street Fighter II games still coming out at that point (which made it feel like the game was still “current”), but the fact that there was a PC port blew my mind!  A Super Nintendo or Genesis version of an Arcade game made sense to me, but a PC version of a fighting game did not.

Another thing I was intrigued about was the sticker on the box (not seen above).  Apparently, there was a Mega Man and Mega Man 3 game included on the same disc as a bonus.  With the memory of the whole Mega Man 3 debacle fresh in my mind (the one where my NES copy got lost), I asked for the Street Fighter II PC game for my birthday.

Initially, I was thrilled about getting it… and then I played the games.

 

Looks pretty derpy, doesn't it?

Looks pretty derpy, doesn’t it?

 

It was still in the early days of the Internet, and we didn’t have it at our house.  If we had, I would have been able to look up the horrible reviews that both the Street Fighter II port and the completely new and original Mega Man games had been getting.

The SFII game was the exact same game I knew and loved, but had some pretty serious frame rate issues.  My PC was a 486, which was a pretty solid machine that ran Doom and Commander Keen games without any problems.  For it to struggle with a game that ran smoothly on a 16-bit console was perplexing.

I also had a Gravis Gamepad to play the game with, but even then, the game lagged so much that pulling off the special moves that made the game so fun was nearly impossible.

 

I especially liked the Super Famicom-like buttons. COLORS!

I especially liked the Super Famicom-like buttons.
COLORS!

 

And then there were the Mega Man games… *sigh*

Not only was I disheartened to find out these weren’t PC ports of the NES games I loved so much, but they also didn’t look and play anything like them.  The trademark music was replaced with the dulcet tones of your own breathing (I.E., there was none) and the three boss stages to be incredibly long and uninteresting.

The Mega Man 3 game doubled the total number of stages to six, but kept the same awkward look and feel.  To say I was disappointed with it is an understatement, and I actually felt bad about asking for it for my birthday.

 

 

I must have been on a PC kick in those days, because the only other game I got that year was for PC as well – Papyrus’ NASCAR Racing.

We had gone on our first trip to Pocono Raceway earlier that year, and I was obsessed with all forms of auto racing.  Not long before my birthday and the start of the school year, we made a trip to Calais, ME to do some cross-border shopping.  In the electronics section at Wal-Mart that day, I saw a PC game with my favourite driver’s car on the cover.

 

1994 - Papyrus

1994 – Papyrus

 

My fascination with the sport was still relatively new, but the game intrigued me.  The only NASCAR-related game I had played at that point was Kyle Petty’s No Fear Racing, which was very much an arcade-like racer with nitro boosts and offensive weapons à-la Super Mario Kart.

This game looked about as realistic as it could get in those days, and although I didn’t flat-out ask for it, I dropped some not-so-subtle hints it would make a great birthday gift!

I didn’t actually expect to get it however, so it was quite the surprise when I un-wrapped it that day at Greco.  Not long after installing (and then promptly deleting) Street Fighter II and Mega Man, I popped in the NASCAR Racing CD and installed the game to see what it was like.

Right off the bat, my impressions were mixed.  I had a console-like controller hooked up and ready to play these new games I had gotten, but it really didn’t feel right with NASCAR Racing.

Was it the game?  Was it the controller?  Whatever it was, it had me feeling like absolute crap – I had asked for TWO games, gotten them, and then didn’t particularly like either of them.  It wasn’t so much that I should have asked for something else (why oh WHY didn’t I ask for Super Mario RPG instead??), but the idea that games were big purchases.  To have my parents buy a game for me, then have it promptly forgotten about was something I was always mindful to avoid.

As I went to bed in preparation for the first day of Grade 8 (which was the next day), my mom asked me “Did you have a good birthday?  Do you like your gifts?”

I am an awful liar, so I couldn’t help but hesitate when I answered.

“Yes… um, I think so?  Yeaahhh?  I mean, to tell the truth, I’m really not sure.”

I don’t remember her reacting negatively to that answer, but I remember feeling absolutely awful, almost nauseated, as I attempted to fall asleep.

 

 

In the coming weeks, I did my best to find something, ANYTHING redeemable about this game.

I discovered that the in-game “paint shop” was incredibly fun and intuitive for making my own schemes.  There were a ton of pre-made decals and brush tools, and I would always try to make the coolest-looking car on the track.  If that failed, I’d give up and try to make the tackiest car on the track.

I discovered that turning the damage off and going full-throttle around each corner was way easier – and way more fun – than trying to navigate the corner legitimately.  To do that without slowing down or without spinning out wasn’t the “proper” way to play the game, but it was challenging nonetheless.

I discovered that turning the damage back on and going the wrong way around the track to cause a pileup was probably the most fun I had in playing a game in quite some time.  How many cars could I take out in a single wreck?  I’d invite Josh and Jean-Luc over to see how big the crashes could get, and we’d have competitions to see who could wreak the most havoc.

And then, just as my interest was in the game waning, I got the Christmas gift that changed everything.

 

Here it is;  The Thrustmaster...  *giggles*

Here it is; The Thrustmaster… *giggles*

 

It was essentially just a hunk of rubber and plastic latched onto a rotating controller (which you can kinda see in the centre of the wheel in the picture above).  Paired with the shifter and foot pedals however, it was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced.

No longer was this just a game, it was a simulator, and it was the way NASCAR games were meant to be played.

Whenever I’d watch a race on TV and there would be an onboard video from one of the cars, I’d always pay close attention to how drivers were using the throttle through the corners, how they’d turn the wheel abruptly to get the car to rotate in the centre of the corner, and how a car’s rear-end sliding through the turns could be on the edge, but fast…

I would soak up all the small details from the real thing, just so I could gain that extra tenth of a second per lap on the not-so-real thing.

I ended up buying three of the game’s sequels, a few other racing simulators, as well a couple “new and improved” steering wheels for PC.  I’ve participated in countless online races against people from around the world, and I’ve been a part of a league comprised of drivers from around the Maritime provinces.  I’ve been lucky enough to win my fair share of those races, and to have an absolute blast in doing it – even in defeat.

The night of my 13th birthday, I fell asleep thinking I had gotten a dud for a birthday present.

In retrospect, I can’t help but think it was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten.

 

Playing NASCAR Racing 4, which was a present for graduating from High School. I was actually calibrating my MS Sidewinder wheel, in this picture.

Playing NASCAR Racing 4, which was a present for graduating from High School.
I was actually calibrating my MS Sidewinder wheel.

Posted September 2, 2014 by Andre in Mega Man, NASCAR, PC, Racing, Street Fighter

Time moves in one direction, memory in another.   Leave a comment

Most of my childhood memories pertaining to video games revolve around a person.  Sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s a loved one – usually, it’s someone I would have played games with, or someone who would have at least enjoyed watching me play them.

This post is not about any of those people.

Remember that feeling you had growing up, when you just *knew* the person you were talking to had next to no knowledge about a subject you knew TONS about, so to avoid any awkwardness, you just avoided the subject entirely?

That’s how I felt with both of my grandmothers and video games.

I ate, slept, and breathed video games, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and NASCAR racing for the longest time, but I never brought those subjects up with either one of them.  I’d much rather talk with Mémère Joe about her beloved Toronto Blue Jays, or talk with Nan about boats – y’know, she had to like boats since she had to travel on one to get to New Brunswick from Newfoundland…  right??

Whether it was family or not, my childhood conversations always seemed to go better when the other person didn’t have to pretend to know what I was talking about.

Oddly enough, I still manage to retain a game-related memory of both of my grandmothers.

 

1990 - Codemasters

1990 – Codemasters

 

It was quite rare to find unlicensed NES games at a massive chain rental store like Blockbuster Video, mostly due to their fear of facing backlash from Nintendo.  I remember renting Tengen’s Super Sprint from Major Video once, but even then, I thought the cartridge was legit at the time… other than that, I always found the Camerica, Color Dreams, and even Famicom games at convenience stores around the province.

One such store was Baie-Sainte-Anne’s Day & Night Variété.  Whenever I’d go to that little store in “la Grande Rivière”, I couldn’t wait to check out the various oddities they had to offer.  Baby Boomer, Quattro Adventure, Crystal Mines and Bee 52 are the ones that stick out the most, although my discovery of Bio Miracle: Bokutte Upa was the one that left the biggest impression on me.

Camerica Games’ Quattro Sports was another one I managed to rent a time or two.  The first time I rented it, however, it proved to be quite the struggle.

At first, I was attracted to the game’s shiny gold cartridge.  If Zelda and Zelda II came in gold, and they were awesome, then Quattro Sports was going to be four times as awesome!

 

The same game, but probably better because of the gold-ness.

The same game, but probably better because of the gold-ness.

 

Unfortunately, the cart and my NES’ 72-pin connector had other plans.  No matter how many times I tried, I just couldn’t get the game to start without those patented “glitched up” graphics.

I tried wiggling the cartridge.  I tried inserting it at 95% and pushing down on it as the top of the cart scraped the front of the slot.  I tried flipping the dip-switch on the back of the cartridge.  I tried and tried (and tried) blowing on it until I was blue in the face…  I’m pretty sure I blew hard enough some saliva came out a few times, which then had me worried I had somehow damaged the cartridge beyond repair.

 

Common knowledge then, common knowledge now... This is bad.

Common knowledge then, common knowledge now…
This is bad.

 

Just as I was about to give up, I popped the cartridge in as delicately as I could, powered it up and BAM – it was crystal clear!  I was so excited, I couldn’t even believe it.  I even risked pressing the Reset button on my NES, and shut it off a time or two to see if it would keep working the next time I came back to play it.  I was good to go, so long as I didn’t take the cartridge out.

I remember thinking it was quite a fun game at the time.  There were pretty decent baseball, soccer and tennis games on there, but the top-down BMX bike game is the one I played the most.

Like any other game I’d rent, I’d play it for a while, get bored, then go outside.  The next morning, I showed my cousin Hélène the cool new sports game I rented.  She owned a Sega Genesis, so I took as many opportunities as possible to show her why Nintendo had the superior console.

After playing for a while with her, I left and went downstairs to do some coloring in an activity book of some kind.  She came down about 15 minutes later, very excitedly saying she had just gotten to World 3 in Super Mario Bros. 3.

“Wait…  Super Mario Bros. 3…  YOU TOOK OUT QUATTRO SPORTS???  IT TOOK ME FOREVER TO GET THAT GAME GOING!!!  NOW I’LL NEVER GET TO PLAY IT AGAIN AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!”

I was livid, and being quite loud about it if I remember correctly.  Mémère Joe, who never raised her voice at me or anyone else, ever, stepped in.

“OKAY, OKAY, C’T’ASSEZ!!  André, calme-toi, c’est pas la fin du monde.  Mange ton poulet pis tes frites.”

As she put the chicken nuggets and fries in front of me (which she had been making for us as we colored and played games), it dawned on me just how rude I’d just been to Hélène in front of Mémère.

I made my grandmother raise her voice, and I had never heard her raise her voice with anyone.  She was the nicest lady in the Baie, and anyone who ever met her would tell you the same… that morning, I felt like the biggest jerk of all time.

I ate my chicken nuggets in silence, apologized to Hélène, and ended up having no problem whatsoever in getting Quattro Sports to work again.

 

 

My grandmother on my dad’s side lived in Newfoundland, so I didn’t get to see her quite as much.  After my grandfather died in the late 80’s, Lovetta would make the trip to New Brunswick every couple years or so.  Everyone called her Lovie, but to us grandkids, she was Nan.

One day after school, I managed to embarrass myself in front of Nan.

Wal-Mart has been in my home city of Fredericton for 20-ish years now.  It replaced Woolco, if you Canadians reading this can remember that chain.  Even though my sister and mom were quite excited to finally have a Wal-Mart on this side of the US border, this store seemed like any other to me.

Eventually, they built a McDonald’s INSIDE the Wal-Mart.  All of a sudden, this place didn’t look so bad.

I didn’t eat there all that often, but it was fun to try and convince my mom I could get away with eating a quick cheeseburger and still be hungry for supper.  I was, after all, a growing 14 year old boy.

People would always say “Where are you putting all that food?  You must have a hollow leg!”

In early ’98 or so, the restaurant got a small kiosk that held a few 14-inch televisions and a Nintendo 64 hooked up to each of them.  Not only could I wait for my mom at McDickle’s and soak in the scent of burgs and fries, but I could also kill time by playing games on a console I didn’t own!

On one trip to Wal-Mart, my mom seemed to be in a rush.  Nan was with us, and she gave me a few bucks so I could grab a bite to eat while I waited for mom to shop for whatever she needed.

Unfortunately, the service was quite a bit slower than I expected it to be because I just had to order a McChicken sandwich, which they had to prepare from scratch just for me.  I was – and still am – a patient guy when it comes to waiting for food, so I went over to the N64 kiosk to play a bit of Bomberman 64.

 

It's cool that someone has it... it's just too bad it's completely useless.

It’s cool that someone has one…
it’s just too bad it’s completely useless.

 

The game wasn’t too bad – I hadn’t played too many N64 games yet at that point since I was a PlayStation owner, but I liked the overall look and feel of it.  It was still pretty early in the days of 3D platforming, so it didn’t take much to impress me at the time.

It had only been a few minutes, but it still felt like a while in waiting for the food to be ready.  By the time I walked back to the counter, they were just finishing up.  I was about to rush to a seat to scarf it down before Mom got done with her shopping, but she was already right behind me and ready to leave as I got my tray of food.

For some reason, I had my panties in a wad that day.  I’m not sure if I had a bad day in class or what, but when she suggested I should put it in a bag and take it on the road with us to the Big Potato (a local store that sells produce), I got angry.  I wanted to eat it when it was nice and fresh!

After all, they had made it just for me.

After some disagreement between us at the counter, Mom asked for a bag to put it in, which the cashier handed to her.  For some reason, I was beyond embarrassed about this.  I was still mad as I walked out the Wal-Mart doors and to the car where Lovie was patiently waiting for us.

I ate my McChicken and fries in the car, but I still held some frustration for not being able to eat it in the restaurant.  When we got to the Big Potato, I didn’t go in.  I stayed behind with Lovie and waited in the car.

“Was your sandwich good?” she asked.

“Yes, but it wasn’t worth the embarrassment.”

“Ohhh Andre, you can’t sweat the small stuff, m’love.  It’s no big deal when all is said and done.”

Once again, I felt like a huge jerk in front of someone I didn’t get to see all that often.

I’m still not sure what I was so embarrassed about – all Mom did was take the food off the tray and put it into a plastic bag – WHICH, by the way, was the first time I walked out of a fast food joint with food in a non-paper bag…  that was weird.

In any case, neither one of those moments were particularly proud ones.  The past few days have made me reflect on the days I spent with my grandmothers; Mémère Joe passed away in 2006, while Nan passed away in 2008, and although it’s a bit sad they’re both gone, I can’t help but have a smile on my face at the though of all the *other* times I got to spend with them.

Posted August 29, 2014 by Andre in Bomberman, NES, Nintendo 64, Unlicensed

You were just having a little nightmare…   Leave a comment

I haven’t really written a straight-up review of anything since my first year at Saint Thomas University when I wrote album reviews for the Brunswickan, which was actually the newspaper for the other university on campus – the University of New Brunswick.  They were just two-or-three paragraph blurbs about various nü-metal albums of the day, and weren’t exactly the most well thought-out things I’ve ever written.

In any event, this review of Majora’s Mask may get a bit long-winded, but it needs to be written.  The game has garnered a lot of attention as of late – you know, because Internet – and I felt the need to at least get my opinions on the game out there.

Time to see how deep the rabbit hole goes… what could possibly go wrong?

Time to see how deep the rabbit hole goes…
what could possibly go wrong?

The first aspect of gameplay I need to talk about is right there in the game’s title.  Masks played the role of “fun little side-quest” in Ocarina of Time, and collecting them all really wasn’t high on my Give-A-Hoot List.  Sure, you might’ve gotten some different responses from NPC’s when you spoke to them, but that wasn’t nearly enough to motivate me to seek out all eight of them.

After chasing Skull Kid through the forest in Majora’s introduction sequence, you’re given some not-so-subtle hints that masks play a much bigger and more functional role this time around.  To begin with, you’re not Link…  well, you are, but Deku Link honestly feels like something out of another game entirely.

Of all the forms you get to play as, Deku Link’s is pretty much the least interesting.

Of all the forms you get to play as, Deku Link’s is pretty much the least interesting.

At the end of a tutorial-like segment to get acquainted with your special abilities, you meet the character responsible for this whole shemozzle at the base of Clock Town’s main tower – the Happy Mask Salesman.  Majora’s Mask was in that massive backpack of his before he was ambushed by the aforementioned Skull Kid, resulting in the evil mask being stolen.

Good going, guy.

Good going, guy.

The game’s title + assuming\hoping you don’t have to play as Deku Link for much longer + an introductory character with a huge bag of masks begging you to get an important mask back = “gee I wonder if masks play an important part in this game?”

I didn’t, really… but thanks.

I didn’t, really… but thanks.

So that’s the first part about this game that bugged me on my first (incomplete) playthrough – sure, the idea of changing into characters was kinda fun, but don’t take a sort-of-boring thing from the first game and make it the next game’s MAIN THING!

Anyway, counting the three main form-altering masks (Deku, Zora and Goron), there is a grand total of 24 wearable masks that Link can find which grant him special abilities.  For example, one mask gives him the ability to bomb things by running up to them and pressing a button, while another alerts him to the nearby presence of fairies to regenerate health.

Some masks don’t serve much of a purpose, other than to help complete some side-quest involving an NPC.  Collecting all of them can be quite the painstaking process, sometimes involving long waits (even with the in-game clock sped up), and the payoff at the end of the game is barely even worth it.

Unfortunately, I was already somewhat disinterested before changing back to Link’s normal form.  Like I’ve done with many other games, I eventually came back to it and soldiered on.  Surely, there must be more to it than that.

Wheeeeeee!

Wheeeeeee!

The other big thing about Majora’s Mask is its three day cycle.  Clock Town and Termina’s residents are fearful of the moon looming overhead, and for good reason – not only does it have a freaky face on it, but it’s also getting closer and closer with each passing moment.  In just three days, just as the “Carnival of Time” is in full swing, Mr. Moon will crash into the Earth (or whatever planet it takes place on) and end life as they know it.

Creepy.

Creepy.

The in-game clock is definitely one of the most interesting aspects of the game.  At first, I thought it might be similar to a Mario game or any other platformer with a time limit, and that I’d feel pressure to complete tasks as quickly as possible and only succeed in the nick of time.  Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Though the length of “one day” lasts about 18 minutes, there are two songs Link can learn on his Ocarina to change the flow of time – one to slow the clock down to half-speed, and one to speed it up to twice as fast.  If you’re like me and enjoy taking your time to explore, you’ll be playing the “half-time” melody about as much as you played Zelda’s Lullaby in Ocarina of Time.

At the very end of the first act, you learn another song that saves the game and takes you back to the first day in the cycle.  Here’s where it gets a bit weird…

As though this wasn’t weird enough…

As though this wasn’t weird enough…

From the very beginning of the game, you have a very clear goal – to save the world from impending doom.  To do this, you must summon the “Four Giants” referred to at the beginning of the game…  using past Zelda experiences, you can fairly easily deduce that each of the Four Giants are found at the end of four separate dungeons.

What’s strange is the side-quest-like things you have to do in order to get to these dungeons.  For example, to get to the Snowhead Temple, you have to do the following;

Visit the Goron Village to trigger a conversation with Kaepora Gaebora…
Follow the talking owl on an awkward invisible platform chase…
Get the Lens of Truth at the end of the chase…
Go back to solid ground and use the Lens to talk to the ghost of the Goron Darmani…
Follow him on a chase all the way back through the way you entered the area…
Scale a tall cliff to enter the cave in which Darmani resides to get the Goron Mask…

*phew*

Go all the way back to the Goron Village and enter the main hall as Goron Link…
Speak to the Goron Child and find out why he’s crying…
Seek the Goron Elder, only to find he’s encased in ice…
Look around for some kind of hot substance to melt the ice…
Find some, melt the ice and speak to the Goron Elder…
Learn the *first part* of the Goron Lullaby…

*deep breath*

Return to the Goron Shrine and play what you know for the child…
Learn *the rest* of the Goron Lullaby from the child and put him to sleep…
Travel through the treacherous  Snowhead Mountain path…
Use the Lens of Truth to be able to see the somehow invisible Giant Goron in front of the temple…
Play the Goron Lullaby to put the Giant Goron to sleep, who then falls off to the side to reveal the temple’s entrance.

Gah!

While I certainly understand the concept of changing the way you progress and get to the next objective, they felt like menial chores that would normally be reserved for side quests.  Once again, it was something that was once optional but was now necessary.

On top of all that, one of the most interesting aspects of Zelda games up until then was the dungeons themselves – Majora’s Mask has four fairly challenging and well thought-out temples before the game’s final act, and that’s it.  The rest of the game’s fortresses in-between dungeons aren’t too bad, but feel a bit tacked-on; sort of like Ocarina’s Bottom of the Well and Gerudo Fortress stages.

I’d rather have more steak and fewer potatoes, if you know what I’m sayin’.

I’d rather have more steak and fewer potatoes, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Here’s the flipside to all that side quest-like stuff the game treats as the main attraction – in terms of the writing, the situations these characters are faced with and how you get to help and interact with them, it’s among the most heart-felt and emotional stuff in the entire series.  No Zelda game does it better, if you ask me.

Sure, the gameplay in dealing with some of these situations can be a little on the bland side, but even those little and seemingly meaningless interactions with the Gorons give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  “I helped make the end of the world not-so-crappy for you!  Hooray!”

Some of the subject matter can actually be pretty dark, which is another thing people enjoyed.  Nintendo games have often shied away from topics like religion, and are quite well-known for censoring any reference to tobacco or alcohol.  One challenging sequence deals with one of those things, albeit indirectly.

Romani Ranch is somewhat like Ocarina’s Lon Lon Ranch in that it’s where you find Epona (again).  The Ranch is also the main provider for Clock Town’s “Milk Bar”, which is a nightclub-like area Link can only get into with special membership.

"Hey bartender...  hit me with your finest buttermilk. On the rocks."

“Hey bartender… hit me with your finest buttermilk.
On the rocks.”

The Ranch’s caretakers are a little girl by the name of Romani and her adult sister Cremia.  Romani says that her big sister won’t let her try the Ranch’s signature product – Chateau Romani – until she’s old enough to drink it.

However, if you visit them on the Final Day, Romani is delighted at the prospect that her sister is finally letting her try the Chateau Romani later that evening.  Speaking to Cremia reveals that not only has the adult sister accepted that there is no hiding from the end of the world, but that there’s no reason to tell her little sister the fate that awaits Termina and its residents.

Cremia’s allowing Romani to drink Chateau Romani – an obvious nod to many wines from France having the word “Chateau” in them – allows the older sister to acknowledge the younger one’s passage into adulthood.  Furthermore, it’s believed by some game theorists (yep, they exist) that Cremia intends to get Romani intoxicated enough that she won’t be able to feel the inevitable chaos that comes with the Moon collision.

Sheesh!  Talk about sad.

Sheesh! Talk about sad.

My main gripe about these amazing little interactions is the fact that you constantly have to go back to the First Day.  If you help someone out, get something out of it, then save the game, it essentially undoes everything you just did.

If you help Romani get rid of the aliens at the Ranch (long story) and then happen to visit her later on, she’ll tell you all about her plight all over again.  It gave me a helpless feeling, one that came with the thought that no matter how many people I try to help, I just end up having to go back and un-do everything to help someone else – usually myself.

Majora’s Mask changes things around a bit from a gameplay perspective and makes you connect with its characters in a way that had never really been done in a Zelda game before.  Truth be told, the only other time I felt an awww-inducing emotional moment was during Wind Waker.

When Link leaves Outset Island for the first time and his grandmother watches from his front porch, I’ve gotta say…  that got me.

In the end, I absolutely suggest you play Majora’s Mask if you haven’t already.  It has some of the best storytelling in any game in the series, as well as some of its most memorable music.  It’s not for everyone, but there’s only one way for you to find out if it’s up your alley.

Verdict – DO IT UP!

Posted August 21, 2014 by Andre in Game Reviews, Zelda

Where’s the beef?   Leave a comment

I recently got my hands on the soundtrack for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which was a free gift for achieving “Platinum” status over at Club Nintendo.  After popping it into my car stereo and listening to it for a couple days’ worth of travel, I couldn’t help but be brought back to the various memorable moments the game had to offer.

For all the praise this game has gotten in recent years – including “Operation Moonfall”, a campaign to have it remade like Ocarina of Time was for 3DS – Majora’s Mask lives on as a polarizing figure in the franchise’s history.  Some love it, some love to hate it.

So where do I stand on this whole Ninten-debacle?  I don’t normally do full-on game reviews, but this one was begging for it.

 

2000 - Nintendo

2000 – Nintendo

 

To understand the draw of Majora’s Mask, you first have to look at the Zelda series as a whole.

Ever since the original NES classic was released, the formula was more-or-less the same in every game in the series; explore, complete a dungeon, mingle with NPC’s, explore some more, repeat.  Each game had a different hook, and the potential was always there for an entry to resonate with players less than the last one;

The Legend of Zelda (NES) – The original, straightforward Zelda
The Adventure of Link (NES) – RPG-type levelling up and side-scrolling levels
A Link to the Past (Super NES) – Light World\Dark World, with puzzles exploiting that mechanic
Link’s Awakening (Game Boy) – Mixing and matching inventory items
Ocarina of Time (N64) – Time-travelling between young and old Links
Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons (Game Boy Color) – Closely-related “twin” games, one focused on action, the other on puzzles
The Wind Waker (GameCube) – Cel-shaded with lots of water, lots of boats, and lots of sailing
Four Swords Adventures (GameCube) – 100% linear levels and stages with multiplayer as an option
The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance) – Being able to shrink down to a microscopic mini-Link
Twilight Princess (GameCube\Wii) – Being able to turn into wolf-Link
Phantom Hourglass (DS) – Touch screen controls, more boats and sailing
Spirit Tracks (DS) – Touch screen controls, trains
Skyward Sword (Wii) – 1:1 sword controls, using birds for transportation between two different worlds
A Link Between Worlds (3DS) – Turning into a painting to walk *in* walls

With all of that in mind and out of the way, what was it that made Majora’s Mask so special?  What made it stand apart from the rest of the pack, and made fans stand up and defend the game’s various oddities in the years following the game’s release?

There were a variety of things that developers wanted to try in Link’s first outing on the N64 but couldn’t, either due to time constraints or technical limitations.  Soon after the release of Ocarina of Time in November of ’98, a new Zelda Gaiden (which essentially translates to Zelda: Side Story) began development.

 

The colorful Zelda Gaiden screenshot I remember seeing in Nintendo Power.

The tacky-looking Zelda Gaiden screenshot I remember seeing in Nintendo Power.

 

This mixed-bag of unused ideas came together to form a game that would change the traditional Zelda progression model and offer something completely different.

Unfortunately, with mixed ideas came mixed reactions from the Zelda faithful.  The game scored pretty high with critics, but the game’s darker and generally sadder tones made the game slightly less accessible to happy-go-lucky gamers like me.

I mean, c’mon – I played games in my teens to escape and have fun, not to get bummed out about characters experiencing the end of the world!

In the second part of this entry, I’ll take a look at the various gameplay elements and quirky characters that make Majora’s Mask the most unique game in the Zelda series.

Posted August 20, 2014 by Andre in Game Reviews, Zelda

Fight, Samus! For everlasting peace!   2 comments

Thankfully, my lack of updates for the past week hasn’t been due to anything but me taking a nice trip down south.  No, I didn’t travel to a sunny white beach or tropical island paradise or anything of the sort, but it certainly was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever taken.

And there were games…  ohhh there were some nice games.

The whole purpose of the trip was our annual pilgrimage to northern Pennsylvania for a NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway, a tradition our family has looked forward to every year since 1995.  While the race itself is undoubtedly the main attraction on these trips, there are many places in the good ol’ U.S. of A. where one can find a good deal on video games.  Much better than here in New Brunswick, that’s for sure.

 

GAMES.

GAMES.

 

The top-loading “NES 2″

This wasn’t on my list of things to look for, but when I saw this thing on the shelf at Game-X-Change in Waterbury, CT (a chain of stores featured in The Game Chasers show on YouTube), I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ll probably only use it seldomly, but it’s such an interesting piece of gaming history, and that dogbone controller is just so cool…  that, and it works way better than the original NES did.

No blinking blue\red\green\garbled screen when you power it on!!  Wow!

Blades of Steel (NES)

I got this game on the Wii’s Virtual Console, but the fact that it’s one of my favourite sports games on the NES meant that I couldn’t pass it up when I found it for $4.  My friend Katie next door owned it (well, her father did) and I quite vividly remember LOVING not only the hockey itself, but also the little Gradius mini-game in-between periods.

Time for some 8-bit hockey tournaments with friends!

Pokémon Blue Version (Game Boy)

This is the only Pokémon game I’ve ever played, and I must say that I enjoyed it quite a bit back in the fall of 1998.  It also served as my introduction to a new phenomenon called “emulation”.

Early in Grade 10, I asked my friend Tyler what this Pokémon craze was all about, and he showed up the next day with a floppy disk; “Put this in your computer, double-click on what’s in there, then have some fun.”

I couldn’t get over the fact that I was playing a Game Boy game so easily on a big screen.  This was quite clearly not legal at all, but it was amazing!

 

It reminded me of this amazing thing.

It reminded me of this amazing thing.

 

I can completely understand how people of all ages get addicted to this series.  By the end of that first night in front of my PC, I HAD to catch ‘em all.  I never did, since my obsession with all things Star Wars would take over a few weeks later with the release of the first trailer for The Phantom Menace.

Still, catching ‘em all in Blue Version is on my bucket list.

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)

I don’t know much about this game, other than the fact it was released pretty early in the DS’ lifespan.  If the frustrating and cramp-inducing controls of Phantom Hourglass are any indication, I might not get on board with this one…  still, it won’t hurt to give it a shot.

F-Zero GX (GameCube)

I”ve only ever played this briefly, but if it’s anything like F-Zero X on N64, I absolutely can’t wait to play it.  Apparently, it’s quite a difficult game, but racing games are my thing.

Bring it on!!

Activision Anthology (PS2)

As I may have mentioned before, I love these compilation discs with all the old school titles on them.  Capcom, Taito, Midway, Sega and Data East (to name a few) have all released at least one of these, and there are only a couple more of them on my wishlist…

I’m lookin’ at you, Tecmo Arcade Classics.  You’re next!!!

Medal of Honor: Vanguard (PS2)

I had somewhat grown tired of the WWII shooter genre by the time this one came out.  Still, I’ve always preferred the Medal of Honor series to Call of Duty, and when I found this one for cheap, I couldn’t help myself.

Medal of Honor: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360)

Speaking of cheap, this game is only a year old and was actually half the price of Vanguard‘s.  I’ve heard it’s somewhat bad, but I’m sure it’s not *that* bad…  is it????

Fallout: New Vegas – Ultimate Edition (Xbox 360)

I actually already owned this for PS3, but I decided a little while ago that owning a shooter on Sony’s console when it was also available on the Xbox 360 was a disgrace.  The PS3 controller’s triggers are cushiony and feel incredibly cheap, so any action or driving game that makes heavy use of them can be quite frustrating because of it.

I haven’t even played Fallout 3 yet (like Mass Effect, I know I’ll enjoy it), but when I found this in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, I couldn’t pass it up!

Metroid (NES)

Surprisingly, I’d never really owned the NES version of this game.  I mean, yeah, I have the Classic NES Series version on Game Boy Advance, and I was able to unlock the original on GameCube by beating both Prime and Fusion (I even bought the GBA-to-GC link cable especially for it, and haven’t used it since)…  but that’s not really owning it the way it was meant to be owned.

At least, I don’t think it is.  Metroid is an absolute classic, so when I saw it at Game-X-Change, I went for it.

The Hyperkin Retron 5

Here it is – the main reason (besides the race) that I was looking forward to my trip to the US.

It’s not like I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to buy this somewhere nearby.  Moncton’s Spin-It! and Fredericton’s Geek Chic stores usually sell this sort of console, but usually at some crazy marked-up price to make a profit.  The Retron 5 site and even ThinkGeek sell it as well, but then I’d have to pay for shipping.

Ugh, and having to make sure I was home – and wearing pants – when the package would be delivered was just too much.  Finding one on store shelves – preferably at the $140 price tag they were selling it for online – was my goal.

At the Game-X-Change in Waterbury, I walked in and immediately zoned in on a Retron 5 box on the shelf.  My excitement quickly turned to dismay as I read the sticker in the top-left corner of the box that said “DISPLAY ONLY”.  I decided to just look around to see what I could find, and as you can see above, I did find a few good deals.

After I brought my games to the cashier, I saw that there was a Retron 5 hooked up to a TV behind the counter.  Staff had apparently only set it up a day or two earlier to test games and give customers reassurance that the cartridges they were buying actually worked.

I didn’t push my luck, but I did start talking about being from Canada, how I was in the (general) area because of a NASCAR race, and that one of my goals was to find a Retron 5 of my own.

To my surprise, the clerk behind the counter said “I can sell you the demo unit I have, if you want it really badly.  My boss said we should use it to test, but that if someone really wanted it, I could sell it to them.”

That had my attention, but what were they selling it at?  After a quick price lookup, he nodded at me and said those magic numbers…  $140.

I was absolutely stunned.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  I ended up seeing the console twice more in other stores at $200, so to walk out of that place with a $140 Retron 5 is quite something.

The thing has its quirks, but it really is an amazing little console.  I’ll let Pat the NES Punk lay it all on the line – his review was actually the one that sold me on it in the first place!

 

 

To top it all off, the race went off without a hitch.  The forecast had called for rain pretty much every day there was something going on at the track, and since that happens pretty much every year, I decided not to let it get me down.  I always worry that we’ll travel that far, spend an insane amount of money and time only to have it rain on race day.  They usually just run it the next day, but that’s no fun – it also cuts into some serious game-chasing time!

Alas, it didn’t rain a drop on race day.

In any case, the race itself was quite entertaining, and I took video from the grandstands as Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag.  I also caught my reaction (which was just me being ridiculous) and then uploaded it to YouTube, thinking it’d get a couple views…  to my great surprise, I got a Twitter message from a guy that worked at ESPN saying they were making a compilation video of people reacting to Dale Jr.’s win, and that they wanted my video!

 

This face was on television for the whole world to see. YOU'RE WELCOME, WORLD.

This face was on television for the whole world to see.
YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD.

 

So that’s about it!  What an epic and unbelievable trip.  I needed that, for sure.

Up next, I talk about one of the most polarizing games in Nintendo history!

Posted August 13, 2014 by Andre in NASCAR, NES, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360

“Man, you crazy.”   Leave a comment

I’ve often been asked why I bother going to countless flea markets, yard sales and pawn shops looking for old games.  In this day and age where the majority of older games can easily be playable with emulators on most PC’s for free (even those from the GameCube\PlayStation 2\original Xbox era) I suppose that’s a fair question.

At the same time, there’s a feeling of authenticity that comes with playing the game on the actual cartridge or disc it was made to work from.  I totally understand that the developers who made these older games don’t reap any benefits from me buying these games used, but it’s not a question of “doing it legally” for me…  it’s about the idea of playing the real deal.

It’s like finding the recipe for Big Mac sauce on the Internet, and you try to make your own two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions on a sesame seed bun.  I mean, it’ll probably turn out pretty good, but it’s just not quite as good as when McDonald’s makes it for you.

 

Authenticity on a bun.

Authenticity on a bun.

 

Because of that, roms just don’t cut it for me anymore.  Although the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Consoles are nice, it’s just not the same.

That being said, there are times I wish I was okay with the cheaper option…

 

$200 cartridge only.

$200 cartridge only.

 

As you’ve probably guessed, Power Blade 2 is the sequel to the number 90 game on my Top 100 list, Power Blade.  I enjoyed the original quite a bit and rented it often, but I only rented this one once and didn’t get to play it all that much for some reason.

If this game reminds me of anything, it’s that a Nintendo Power article’s unique drawings could go a long way in determining whether or not I wanted to play a game.

In the article for Power Blade 2, there was a lot of emphasis on the different suits Nova could wear, as well as the special abilities each suit gave him.  I honestly could not tell you which suit did what without looking it up, but I remember thinking “WHOA – the first game only had a silver suit, and this one has one that’s red, one blue, one yellow and one green!”

 

Amazing how mere colors could hook you into playing a game... Also, I guess this explains what the suits do.

Amazing how mere colors could hook you into playing a game…
Also, I guess this explains what the suits do.

 

I guess the main reason for this game being so expensive these days is the same as a few others – it probably didn’t sell all that well, so it being uncommon means that as more and more game collectors pick it up, the more they’re able to charge when a sucker like me goes looking for it!

Maybe someday, Nova…  maybe someday.

 

Anywhere between $265 and $340 cartridge only.

Anywhere between $265 and $340 cartridge only.

 

Of all the valuable games in this post, Bubble Bobble Part 2 (ignoring Rainbow Islands completely, apparently) is the one I played and enjoyed the most growing up.  It’s more or less the same idea as the first game, but with more vibrant and detailed graphics – at the expense of the frame rate, unfortunately.  There are also a few levels that actually take up more than one screen (side-scrolling in a Bubble Bobble game???), and more frequent boss fights.

The main reason this game is harder to find these days is that it was released quite late in the NES’ lifespan, a full two years after the Super NES was released.  Many folks had already moved on to the newer console, so quite a few 8-bit games flew under the radar after 1991.

 

Like at the end of the first game, seeing a HUGE version of a regular enemy was amazing.

Like at the end of the first game, seeing a HUGE version of a regular enemy was amazing.

 

So, after losing my baby teeth, my primary teeth came in pretty crooked.  It was pretty obvious I was going to need braces, and in Grade 4, I went in for my first (of three) appointments to get it all done.  After getting only 4 of my top teeth done the first time around, I went back again later to add four more on the bottom, and then one final time to have them put on every tooth.

On the same day as that last appointment, we also put my cat Fluff down…  that day sucked.

Anyway, there were 4 years of countless appointments at the orthodontist to tighten things up – a little tweak here, a little tweak there…  it was a lot of work to get my teeth into the position they’re in today, and I’m incredibly thankful to have gotten all that work done.

To get at this point was incredibly painful, however.  I definitely realize there are many more painful things a person can go through – seriously, cancer patients deserve all of the fist bumps – but I can’t stress how much of a wimp I was as a kid.  Still am, actually.

 

I’d take my mind off the pain by playing tons of games… but boy, did I ever need that pain.

I’d take my mind off the pain by playing tons of games…
but boy, did I ever need that pain.

 

 

In any case, it was the day of one of these check-ups that I rented Bubble Bobble Part 2 for the first time.  My teeth were absolutely throbbing by the time I got home and started playing it…  and that is quite literally all I remember when I think of this game;  dental pain.

 

Anywhere between $274 and $400 cartridge only.

Anywhere between $274 and $400 cartridge only.

 

Also lost in the late shuffle of NES releases was Panic Restaurant.  I don’t have much to say about it except for the fact that I’ve never played it.  It’s about a chef whose restaurant becomes infested with living food and kitchen supplies, and it’s up to him (you) to bash them all into oblivion with his (your) frying pan.  Sounds like fun!

If you ever find a copy of this game in your travels for less than a hundred bucks, it might be a good idea to pick it up (if only for the re-sale value).

Aside from the unlicensed carts, Stadium Events and Nintendo World Championship carts that fetch a ridiculous amount of money (we’re talking four and five digits-worth), these next couple games are some potentially fantastic flea market finds.

 

Anywhere between $550 and $750 cartridge only.

Anywhere between $550 and $750 cartridge only.

 

Little Samson is another one of those NES titles that was released after the Super NES hit stores, and sales for the game suffered because of it.  It’s pretty hard to find due to being deemed a failure and subsequently being pulled off the shelves, but the crazy prices can also be attributed to the fact that it’s quite fun to play!

You can control four different characters at the touch of a button, and each which have their own unique abilities to help explore different parts of the game map.  Like Mega Man, you choose the levels you want to play and can re-visit them after completion to get stuff you missed the first time around.

While it definitely seems like the kind of game I’d enjoy, I doubt I’ll ever have an income high enough to justify purchasing it.

 

This episode is a few years old and the game is worth more than that now, but Shady Jay definitely (to quote the show) caught this flea market vendor slippin'.

This episode of The Game Chasers is a few years old and the game is worth more than that now, but Shady Jay definitely (to quote the show) caught this flea market vendor slippin’.

 

The final part of this post is dedicated to another sequel to yet another underappreciated game.  The Flintstones had themselves a pretty solid platformer with the fairly common Rescue of Dino and Hoppy, but decided to take a rather interesting route for the sequel.

 

Anywhere between $650 and $1,000 cartridge only.

Anywhere between $650 and $1,000 cartridge only.

 

Back when Blockbuster Video was the king of video store chains, it would be fairly common for them to get certain titles a while before hitting retail store shelves.  This exclusivity helped boost Blockbuster’s numbers, as well as help companies garner extra hype for their game ahead of the actual release date.  It was a win-win situation!

Surprise at Dinosaur Peak was one of these exclusive rentals.  Due to its late release in the NES’ lifespan and lack of popularity as a rental, the game never actually made it to retail stores for regular sale.  In fact, the first people who can claim to have owned the game relatively early on probably picked it up when their local Blockbuster store liquidated its NES game inventory for one reason or another.

It’s one of the hardest-to-find games in the NES library, but don’t lose hope!  You could get lucky!

 

These guys certainly did.

These guys certainly did.

 

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one of my favourite gaming companies.  For all I know, this could be the tip of the iceberg!  The blog’s downtime has given me time to think of a few ideas for the site, and I intend to expand beyond the regular “childhood memory” posts…  y’know, just to switch it up a bit.

Until next time!

Posted July 27, 2014 by Andre in Taito