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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
After a bit of downtime, the CPB blog is up and running!
As a celebratory first post, I’ve decided to write with a slightly different focus than I usually do. Instead of looking at one or two games in particular, I’ve decided to look at one of the most underrated video game companies from my youth – Taito.
There are several publishers this entry could have been about; Sunsoft, Jaleco, Taxan, Data East, Hudson Soft, the list goes on. There are some fantastic games strewn among each of these publishers, and a few of them landed on my Top 100 countdown.
In recent years, “video game hunting” has become a fun hobby of mine. I’ve read countless articles about game collecting and watched a ton of YouTube videos about it, and there’s just something about the search for rare and hard-to-find games that get the blood going.
As I built myself a wish list of games I should try to keep an eye out for, I couldn’t help but notice that every Taito game on it seemed to be way out of my price range. In fact, of the top ten rarest and most valuable *licensed* NES games, half of them were released by Taito!
With that in mind, I figured I’d try and shed some light on the games they released, and why some of them are so hard to find today.
Taito was the company responsible for the massive arcade hit Space Invaders in 1978, but to me, they were always known as the makers of Bubble Bobble.
Surprisingly don’t see this one around too often, considering how popular it was.
$25 cartridge only.
There were so many hours of my childhood spent playing that game with my father and my sisters, humming that non-stop music, bubble-hopping my way up to higher platforms, and shrieking in fear at the sight Baron von Blubba.
I had nightmares about this guy…
Bubble Bobble had a quasi-sequel in the form of a similar-looking (but human) protagonist in Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2. Instead of bubbles, you shoot rainbows at your enemies as you climb vertically-scrolling stages up high into the sky. The controls were almost identical to the original, and I had quite a bit of fun stomping on the rainbows to make them fall and take out any enemies below.
Not the rarest game, but definitely not easy to find.
$40 cartridge only.
This is going to sound strange, but have you ever had a memory tied to something, and it was only a brief visual image? Like, I know I had just rented the game somewhere nearby, but why on Earth does this specific place stick out in my mind? In any case, I remember being excited to play Rainbow Islands, and looking at the cartridge label while at this very intersection.
This is near the Oromocto, NB hospital, outside of Fredericton. We never drove to Oromocto to rent games, so we must have been there for some other reason… road trip? ER visit? Whatever it was, I can’t recall.
One of the first NES games I was ever witness to was actually one I was told I was too young to play. Renegade was one of my friend Stéphane’s games; he and his family lived in Shediac, New Brunswick, and it was he who first introduced me to the NES. Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt blew my young little mind and had me hooked for a while, but it wasn’t long after being left alone with the console that I “broke the rules” and popped in Renegade.
Easily found, probably because it wasn’t that great a game.
$10 cartridge only.
Compared to the other games I had been playing that night, the controls for Renegade felt awful, and I wasn’t very good at it at all. I can still play it today and not make it past that first screen (the one where they’re down in the subway station).
It was one of the first games I had ever played, and because of that, it will forever hold a special place in my mind.
Stephane’s family’s house was in a subdivision next to a drive-in theatre… I remember seeing its screen tower over the houses in front of it!
(This isn’t nearly as huge and amazing as I remembered…)
Another random Taito game from my childhood was Kiwi Kraze. This was the first time I heard about a kiwi being something *other* than a small, fuzzy fruit I was too fussy to eat. You play as a small yellow bird – a kiwi – that shoots spikes and travels from one end of New Zealand to the other to save all his kiwi friends.
So, it’s a game where you play as a kiwi, and the goal is to save all your Kiwi kiwi buddies. Yup!
It’s pretty straightforward and easy, but I enjoyed it. I’ll always associate it with being downstairs in our unfinished basement, playing the game, then turning it off to watch shows like DuckTales, Fun House and Tiny Toon Adventures on CTV… ahhhh the 90’s.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this game in my travels, actually.
$30 cartridge only.
I’ve already made a post about one of my favourite Taito games, Power Blade, so the last remaining Taito game I remember playing is The Flintstones: Rescue of Dino and Hoppy. I’ll save the talk of the extra-rare games for my next post!
In any case, this Flintstones game is actually quite good. It’s a platforming game where you play as Fred and bash enemies over the head with a club. You can hang from ledges and pull yourself up, and the level design takes advantage of that mechanic a little bit. I always found the graphics to be nice and colorful, and even though I didn’t watch the cartoon at all, I definitely enjoyed the overall feel the game had.
I’m not sure if my memory for this game comes off as creepy or not, but I’ll share it anyway!
When we rented the game for the first time in Baie-Sainte-Anne, the instruction manual came with it. I’m not sure why, but it seemed that one of the game’s previous renters had sprayed some kind of woman’s perfume on the manual. Now… instead of being grossed out or repulsed by it, I couldn’t stop sniffing it. It smelled fantastic!
I mean, I didn’t rub it all over myself and wear it as a perfume of my own, but I’d definitely wave the booklet around in between levels to get a good whiff! It just smelled so good. If I were to ever smell that same scent today, I’d be like “GET ME TO AN NES WITH FLINTSTONES, STAT!”
I’ve seen this one around here and there, but without the smell.
$20 cartridge only.
In the next post, I’ll talk about those Taito games that, for one reason or another, have managed to increase in value since they were released 20 years ago. Stay tuned!
Even though I love playing older video games, a bunch of them bring back very strange, sometimes even sad memories. To play them now puts me right back in that state of mind I was in when I played them then. It’s almost like stepping into a time machine, and experiencing those same feelings I did back in the day.
Some might say that’s a bit strange. They might ask, “Why not live in the now? Why not focus on what’s to come, instead of something long since gone by? Don’t you think living in the past is a little… weird?”
To be honest, those questions have bounced around my mind quite a bit over the last few years I’ve written on this blog. As a person who has always been fascinated by the general subject of “history”, I guess it’s only natural for me to reflect on my own personal history.
We all have our quirks, I guess.
1996 – Naughty Dog
The general consensus about a person’s early teenage years is that they can be a bit awkward. While there are undoubtedly several well-known reasons for this – reasons I don’t much feel like getting into – I never considered mine to be all that bad.
Unfortunately, there was some stuff going on at that time that would be hard on anyone’s head, much less a 13 year old. A few family members had been diagnosed with Cancer, there was some uncertainty with jobs and money around the house (the worry ended up being all for naught, by the way), and I kept having friends whose families would move away and lose touch.
I felt like I was in a funk… but I still had NASCAR, and I still had video games. That’s healthy, right?
In any case, it was in March of ’97 that one of my great aunts in Baie-Sainte-Anne succumbed to Cancer a mere three months after learning she had the disease. It had been almost five years after my grandfather had passed away from natural causes, so handling the quick descent from “healthy” to “ill” to “deceased” was quite different for me, and hard to witness.
On top of what was happening in the Baie, another great aunt of mine (on the other side of the family, in Newfoundland) passed away the same day as the other’s funeral!
It was a rude awakening that the people I had grown up loving were starting to disappear.
In May of ’97, we went to the Baie to take care of some loose ends. Well, Mom did – I just tagged along as I always did, and brought some video games along to keep me occupied.
I rented a Sony PlayStation from Blockbuster Video with Andretti Racing and Crash Bandicoot. I had played the first stage of Crash SO MANY TIMES on a demo disc that I absolutely had to give the full game a try.
He seemed to be the front-runner to challenge Mario’s reign at the top of the video game heap, so I had to check out the competition!
PlayStation Interactive CD Sampler Vol. 3
No downloading. Just buy a magazine, and the demos are yours to play.
Crash Bandicoot – the first one, at least (I haven’t played any others) – turned out to be quite good. As I sat in that old mini-home and played Crash and Andretti Racing, it sort of helped me get over the fact that it was a lot quieter in the house. Melda was gone, her cats were gone, and that was just the way it had to be.
It sucked, but life went on. There were other things for me to look forward to.
I remember the weather on that trip being quite sunny and warm. Spring has always been my favourite season, but with the way things had gone in recent months, I soaked in as much of the nice weather as I could.
Next to Melda’s mini-home was a storage shed, and I could easily climb up on a few things to get onto its roof. Armed with my Walkman, a flimsy set of headphones and a mix-tape with three No Doubt songs and various dance tunes from the day, I climbed onto the roof of the shed and just contemplated stuff.
It was around this time that I thought “wow – this No Doubt rock thing is way more interesting than the rest of this mix tape!”
It had a bunch of songs from…
Now! 2 (Canada)
This is the Canadian one, but there were several “Now” compilation series around the world. There was lots of dance\pop junk on it, but I still quite enjoy this one… and it had the Imperial March jingle in it??
Anyway, No Doubt ended up being the seed that grew into my current love of rock, and I’ll always be able to go back and listen to Tragic Kingdom – or play Crash Bandicoot – and be right back in that moment, sitting on Melda’s shed’s roof, looking at the water, thinking about stuff.
The mini-home and shed are gone (and this tree would be creeping into the front door), but the memory remains.
Oh, and here’s a hint about the game we’ll be playing for our next Nostalgicast!
Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out…
It has happened again; I’ve neglected the ol’ CPB for far too long.
There’s certainly no lack of anything better for me to do, and it’s definitely not due to a lack of interest in video games (old or new). I’ve had a chance to complete a couple of the games I wrote about playing a few months ago, and I’m still playing the heck out of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.
I even purchased the PC version of Minecraft.
So it begins……. all over again.
A little while back, Jordan and I were talking about what was next for this blog. Naturally, I wanted to keep writing as long as I had memories to share. I still have a bunch more to write about, but I was hoping we could do more with it… something to keep it fresh and exciting.
Enter the ControlPadBlues Nostalgicast.
Since YouTube is crammed with people playing games with commentary about everything and nothing all at once, our idea was to have our own take on the traditional “Let’s Play” videos. We established a few guidelines that might be able to separate ours from the rest of the pack;
- Instead of talking about random subjects, commentary would focus on the childhood memories that come flooding back during gameplay.
- No profanity, since there’s plenty of it out there already. If we do use profanity, it would be “bleeped”… because it’s funnier that way.
- No set schedule for video releases. Jordan and I are 30 year-olds with busy lives and these videos (like the blog) are done for our own enjoyment. What’s fun about a “deadline”, anyway?
At the end of the day, this is not only a fun way to keep games fresh, it’s also great way to keep in touch with a friend that lives more than 800km’s away.
That being said, here’s the little trailer I made for my YouTube channel, followed by the second episode of the CPB Nostalgicast. The first one (based on Super Mario Bros. 2) was 50 minutes long, so the second and much shorter episode will give you a better idea of what we’re aiming for.
Enjoy! I know we sure as hell are.
There are games that I rented through the years that were really not that memorable. For some reason, even though I didn’t have fun with it at all, Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum still manages to bring back memories of a pretty fun day in our little neighborhood.
1990 – NES
In reflecting on this game’s lanky visuals and awkward controls, I thought for sure it was an LJN title.
It’s quite baffling that even with the best source material – X-Men, Nightmare on Elm Street, Back to the Future, The Karate Kid, Jaws, among many others – a company could still manage to consistently make games that were genuinely difficult to have fun with.
It seemed like LJN always found a way to screw it all up…
Dash Galaxy was actually a Data East title, however. Having released classics like BurgerTime and BreakThru in the 80’s, they struggled to compete with other smaller publishers like Taito and Sunsoft. They managed to break thru with a few other hits (see what I did there?), but with the exception of Caveman Ninja – also known as Joe & Mac – there weren’t enough quality titles to save Data East from bankruptcy in the early 2000’s.
This has been on my wishlist for a while, but I can’t find it anywhere… even online.
Sad face. :(
Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum seems to be a love letter to the early batch of sci-fi movies and TV shows. The game’s box art, title screen and short introduction scene are reminiscent of something you’d see in Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, or even The Jetsons.
Not a bad concept, but it didn’t translate into anything all that fun to play.
The game suffers from a bit of an identity crisis as it tries to be two things all at once. On one hand, you have the top-down, block-pushing puzzle element, which serves as a way to travel from one level to the next. Once you get into the levels themselves, you control Dash in a side-scrolling environment to collect items you can use on the puzzle side to progress further into the game.
There isn’t much shooting going on, so it’s no Mega Man or Contra by any stretch of the imagination. Instead of killing enemies, you’re relegated to avoiding them as much as possible, although touching them and losing precious oxygen is sometimes unavoidable.
The controls aren’t great, but they might not be so bad if the enemies didn’t have such unforgiving patterns. As you’ll see in the video below, there are times that the player has to stop bouncing on a platform, wait a moment, then start the process all over again just to collect a star. It’s a tedious part of the game that happens way more than it should.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that graphics don’t necessarily make or break a game… but these are really quite bland, aren’t they? There’s no character on the screen that looks interesting enough at any given time to make me care about any of them.
The morning after renting it at the Co-op, I went down to the basement and played it for a few minutes. To put it mildly, I wasn’t impressed.
I didn’t get to rent something every weekend, so I had to pick my game of choice carefully on our trips to the video store. Whenever I got home to something I didn’t enjoy, it was quite a bummer. It’d have to wait until my mom was feeling generous enough to rent another game for me.
On that Saturday morning after dejectedly turning off my NES, I didn’t let the wasted rental opportunity get me down. It was a sunny and warm day outside, so my friend Michael and I went around the block on our bikes.
We’d always look for trails in wooded areas, park next to a small brook and look for tadpoles, that sort of thing. This time around, we may or may not have broken the law… I can’t be sure of this, but I do know we bypassed a locked gate that had a sign on it. What the sign said, I can’t remember, but it was probably “No Trespassing”.
It wasn’t a long bike ride, or anything, but it was fantastic to see a side of our neighborhood that we had never seen before. Thanks to the joy of MS Paint, I’ve highlighted the bike trails we took that day.
This goes without saying, but that ended up being way more fun than staying in and playing Dash Galaxy would have been.
I know this wasn’t much of a post, but I also wanted to say that I’m working on a pretty cool project with my good friend Jordan. We’re still in the process of crossing our T’s and dotting our……………. lower-cased J’s……….. and I’m greatly looking forward to sharing more news about that in my next few posts!
In retrospect, one of the most memorable gifts I got at Christmas in ’91 was Home Alone on VHS. It was one of those gifts that I opened and had to fake a reaction with, simply because I hadn’t asked for it and had very little knowledge about it.
My sister (who had gotten it for me) was quite excited about watching it and seeing my reaction to various scenes, so we all gathered and watched it that same day. When it came to the part with all the booby traps, I was quite literally ROTFL-ing. It was definitely the most entertaining movie I had ever seen!
Fast-forward to a week or so later…
Katie’s parents next-door had planned a New Year’s Day brunch with a few people from around the block. My parents were hosting a small get-together the night before, so they decided it would be easier for everyone if I just went over and slept at Katie’s house on New Year’s Eve.
A “sleep-over” was a strange concept to me at the time, but Katie and I were good friends, and we’d undoubtedly have lots of fun watching movies and eating junk food into the wee hours of… well, 1992.
On top of movies and snacks, we made a trip to Major Video and got to rent not one, but TWO games. I got to pick one, and Katie got to pick one.
In the early 90′s, Major Video was bought out by Blockbuster Video. With Blockbuster’s demise, Major Video stores are now making a comeback. Funny, how that works.
Naturally, my game of choice was Home Alone for NES. Unfortunately, the game was not nearly as fun as the movie.
The controls were touchy and unresponsive all at once. Kevin’s running animation looked awkward and unnatural, remeniscent of a forward-moving Moonwalk. The booby traps, the best part of the movie, were just square icons that could be placed anywhere around the house. The only goal was to just run away, not let Harry or Marv touch you for 20 minutes exactly, and the game was beaten.
I guess it was kinda fun exploring the 8-bit version of the McCallister home for a few minutes, but it was just so… jagged-looking. Not long after I started playing it, I was done with it.
Thankfully, Katie’s game of choice that night was…
I hung out with Katie so much that it was inevitable for me to do things I didn’t necessarily want to. I played with Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, Barbie dolls, played house a bunch of times (I always ended up in the pretend-kitchen), and of course, watched TV shows and movies I didn’t really want to.
The Little Mermaid was one of those movies.
Katie was a trooper and watched me play a lot of video games, so I thought it was only fair for me to repay the favor, and do things she wanted to do.
In any case, when the opportunity came to rent The Little Mermaid for NES, she jumped at it. I wasn’t completely against the idea, but I wasn’t necessarily all for it either.
Somewhat surprisingly, the game was fantastic! It was yet another instance of Capcom working their magic with the Disney license. It wasn’t the most challenging game ever, but man, trapping enemies with your tail-whip bubbles, then grabbing and throwing them at other enemies… so much fun!
To this day, I’ve gotten get more satisfaction from playing The Little Mermaid than I ever did with Modern Warfare 2… just sayin’.
The thing about sleep-overs I enjoyed when I was growing up was waking up in a different place than my own bedroom. Seeing how the sun would rise and shine into the room in the morning, and seeing how your friend’s family got their day started were both things you wouldn’t expect a little kid to think about.
For some reason, I did. I thought it was fascinating to observe routines that weren’t mine.
That first sleep-over I ever had on New Year’s Eve at Katie’s was memorable for the games and the snacks, but it was when we turned off the NES that came the memorable part of the evening.
We started flipping through the channels, eventually landing on the tail-end of something fun – probably The Simpsons. When the show ended and credits finished rolling, the memorable Star Trek: The Next Generation intro began.
I was still in my “Jupiter is plotting to leave its orbit, then hunt down and destroy planet Earth” phase. The idea of the deadliness of what lurked in outer space freaked me out, and that included science fiction shows.
When Katie said she wanted to leave it on MITV (Channel 6) to watch Star Trek, I shouted “NO!!! I’M ALLERGIC TO STAR TREK!!!”
Yep. Allergic to a television program. Katie straight-up laughed in my face.
I couldn’t help but admit that what I had just said was ridiculous. Still, as those opening credits rolled and the camera zoomed past several planets (Jupiter being one of them – ahhhh!), I just said “NOPE!! NOPE!! CAN’T DO IT!!”
We ended up watching something else entirely, maybe one of those T.G.I.F. shows on ABC, like Family Matters or Step by Step.
It definitely wasn’t Star Trek. That much was certain.
I honestly can’t make out anything of value that the Wet Bandits could get out of this place…
I am currently playing through five (technically six) games on four separate consoles. I can usually juggle two, or at the very most three at a time, but five or six is beyond anything my brain can handle.
I’m just a video game lightweight, I guess.
In any case, I need to whittle the list down to at least three, and I’m hoping this spur-of-the-moment post will help my decision-making process.
Grand Theft Auto V – PS3
Fantastic game. There’s lots of variety in the missions I’ve played so far, it has characters that you actually feel some kind of connection with, and it looks spectacular. Where IV’s driving controls made it feel like cars weighed a ton, V goes back to that great arcade-like feel from the PlayStation 2-generation of GTA games.
I think I made a mistake in getting this for PlayStation 3 instead of Xbox 360, however. My 80GB hard drive is already packed full of software updates to several other games, and I had to delete a few things to make room for GTA V’s mandatory 8GB install. Somewhat annoying, but I’m not ruling out getting a newer-generation (and bigger HD-equipped) PS3 someday down the road.
Verdict: Keep playing. I can’t quit until that psychopath Trevor gets what’s (inevitably) coming to him.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – DS
This is the second time I’ve attempted a playthrough, the first time being about six years ago. My experience with the “touch screen only” controls wasn’t a great one, and it was a little tough on my (stylus-holding) left hand. I quit playing before completing the second dungeon, not really being in the mood to deal with the hand constantly cramping up.
A few months ago, I had just finished Wind Waker HD when I decided to see how the rest of this particular Zelda storyline unfolded. I had also acquired a 3DS XL during the summer months, so putting the game on a flat surface was a more viable option than it was with the DSi’s smaller screen. I wouldn’t have to squint quite as much to read text!
The game itself makes great use of the touch screen for puzzles, but repeatedly having to go back and re-visit a temple on Mercay Island (the island you start on) gets quite tedious. Other than that, I’m enjoying my experience much more this time around.
Verdict: Keep playing. I received A Link Between Worlds as a gift for Christmas, and even though I know it’s probably vastly superior to Phantom Hourglass, I can’t quit again!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Xbox 360
Very little in the Call of Duty series has surprised me since the first Modern Warfare game. These titles are a dime a dozen, and when I found this one for less than $10 at GameStop, I couldn’t resist.
Sometimes, you just need to shoot stuff.
Verdict: Stop playing. Someday, when I have three hours to kill, I’ll go through the single player campaign.
Super Mario 3D World – Wii U
It’s pretty hard to hate a game that goes out of its way to give you more of the fantastic Mario platforming you know and love. It’s not quite as sweaty palm-inducing as the Galaxy games were, but 3D World is so full of surprises that you just can’t stop playing it.
This is the closest we’ve gotten to a “New” Super Mario Bros. 2 game, what with the four different playable characters, the “slot” game (minus the casino vibe), as well as certain objects you can pick up and throw. I’m still waiting for another turnip-tossing, vine-climbing, Birdo-ShyGuy-and-Snifit-infested romp through SubCon… but this will have to do for now.
Verdict: Keep playing. I’ve made it to World 5, and once I’ve beaten the game, I can go through it at a later date to get all the bonus stuff.
Lego The Lord of the Rings – PS3
The only thing that matters when it comes to a Lego game is whether or not you like the franchise it’s based on. That’s pretty much it. I loved Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, but the Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean games didn’t really resonate with me all that much, simply because I’m not that big a fan of the movies.
Truth be told, I haven’t seen many of them.
I quite enjoy Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so this one is right up my alley. The puzzles are pretty simple, and your character can easily get lost in the massive battles that take place, but I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a light-hearted take on a story that can get pretty heavy, at times.
Verdict: Stop playing. As much as I’m liking it, I’ll pick this one back up later on.
NES Remix – Nintendo eShop (Wii U)
I consider NES Remix to be Nintendo’s answer to the booming popularity of mobile gaming. Much like games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush (and countless others), Remix has a three-star rating system for each level. I never really liked the concept all that much before, but applied to NES-themed levels? Fuggetaboutit.
This game was tailor-made for me, and though the $15 price tag might seem a tad high, you’d be surprised at just how much fun you can get out of it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time perfecting my run through some levels, doing my absolute best to get three Rainbow Stars on everything. I’m absolutely hooked!
Nintendo, please give me NES Remix 2, Game Boy Remix, and Super NES Remix ASAP. Please and thank you.
Verdict: Keep treating it as a mobile game, and play it whenever I feel like it. It’s not like I’ll get lost if I put it down for a while.
And there you have it. I’ve said this countless times before, but I really do intend to update this thing more often. I still have plenty of game-related memories, and I look forward to sharing them!
Racing simulators have come a long way since the dawn of video games.
In the beginning, there were the top-down games like Atari’s Indy 500 and Grand Prix. These “sims” were pretty common all the way through to the release of Super Sprint, and other games like Spy Hunter (and even Adventures in the Magic Kingdom) kept milking the formula for all it was worth.
Grand Prix (1982 – Atari) was actually quite visually impressive in its heyday.
Namco’s Pole Position popularized the “3D” and “behind the car” view by enhancing the player’s sense of speed. That type of racing game was popular well into the 16-bit era, with Rad Racer (NES) and Top Gear (Super NES) being two of the more memorable games that used that style.
Michael Andretti’s World GP (1990 – NES; shown above) and Al Unser Jr.’s Turbo Racing (1990 – NES) both feature drivers from the American CART (Indy) circuit, but use tracks from the Formula One World Championship instead.
As big a fan of racing as I am today, I was always awful at those games as a kid – the way lightning-quick reflexes were needed to make corners just didn’t suit my gaming style. It still doesn’t, actually.
With the advent of Mode 7, games like F-Zero and Super Mario Kart showed us what racing games could feel like. I was way better at these, simply because it felt like I had more input with the way the throttle and steering mechanics worked. You could see twists and turns in the distance, and you could actually anticipate and set up for the apex in a series of corners.
Not that it made F-Zero any easier!
Anyway, F-1 Pole Position for Super NES was one of those games that fired on all cylinders. The Mode 7 graphics gave you the sense that tracks were much more than just a bunch of blind corners thrown together. Each locale felt like it had a life of its own.
“Wow! Brazil looks so real!” – 13 year-old Andre
With the exception of the late, great Ayrton Senna (who had a game of his own with Sega), every F1 driver and team from the 1993 season made an appearance. You could also tinker with every aspect of your car’s performance before each session, maximizing your chances to win the main event.
Like Days of Thunder’s Cole Trickle however, I don’t do setups… I just drive the race car.
My favourite feature was the multiplayer. Crank up the A.I. difficulty, up the race length a bit, and then figure out the best pit strategy to try and out-rank your friends. It was so competitive between us, and definitely one of my greatest memories from playing a multiplayer game.
What’s crazy about this memory is that I remember the exact date. It wasn’t a special occasion, or anything, but August 16, 1997 will forever go down as an important day in “Andre history”…
It was the day Andre felt the effects of alcohol for the very first time.
Camping wasn’t something my folks did often when they were young, so in turn, neither did we. Mike’s family across the street had a fifth-wheel camper in their driveway that we’d hang out in during the summer months, and that was as close as I ever got.
We would run an extension cable from the house, plug in a small TV with “rabbit ears” and hook a Super NES up to it. Even though we were only in the driveway, it really felt like we were camping out. Obviously, there was plenty of playoff hockey being watched and video games games being played whenever we hung out in there.
On that night in August, Mike’s mom was hosting a staff party for her co-workers. Naturally, this was an opportunity to hang out in the camper with kids in the neighborhood, play games, eat snacks, whatever.
At one point during the party, Mike disappeared into his house for a while. His brother Brian and I were playing F-1 Pole Position, and things got pretty heated. I remember getting punched in the shoulder (and repaying the favour) on a few occasions as we battled for track position.
When Mike eventually came back, he emptied his pockets to uncover a couple bottles of beer (Moosehead Premium Dry Ice, to be exact), a pint of Long Island Iced Tea mix, and a half-pint of Fireball Whiskey.
Obviously, the idea was for us to drink it… but I couldn’t drink… could I? I was only 13 at the time, and not at all the type of kid to do anything to get into trouble (I was definitely what you’d call a goody-good). I had tried beer a time or two beforehand, but the idea of drinking a full bottle of it churned my stomach.
At the same time, there was no way I was chickening out. We paused the game for what seemed like an eternity while we all sampled the various products Mike had brought with him.
I started with a small foam cup of the Moosehead Dry Ice. It really tasted quite bitter and awful, but I did my best and drank every last drop of it. As for our friend Abba, he could barely even stomach the beer’s foamy bubbles. We all had a pretty good laugh when he started gagging after a sip or two!
Up next was the Long Island Iced Tea mix, which was obviously not meant to be had by itself. We drank it like that anyway, and of course, nobody liked it. I don’t think anyone was able to finish it.
Up next came the king of all dirty liquors – Fireball!
For those who don’t know, Fireball is a cinnamon-flavoured liqueur that’s reminiscent of those cinnamon hearts you can buy around Valentine’s Day. The liquor taste is pretty potent, and it’s widely known as something you’d do “shots” with. We did just that, and I almost tossed my cookies.
Almost. Not quite.
By that time, I was feeling a little dizzy. My reflexes really weren’t feeling like they normally did. I wasn’t quite drunk, but it was definitely a feeling I had never experienced before.
We kept playing F-1 Pole Position and NHL 97 quite late into the night, and I remember not doing well AT ALL. I was quite frustrated with my sudden complete lack of ability, so I tried to get some shut-eye while the others kept gaming.
In any case, playing F-1 Pole Position reminds me of that crazy night of very light to moderate boozin’ in the camper… and then the morning after, balancing a foam cup full of Cheetos’ on Abba’s head as he slept.
Only pic I could find!
You may be wondering how I remember the exact date that happened… well, it has to do with the my (then) newfound obsession with NASCAR. For some reason, the dates for some races stuck in my mind quite well.
The August 17th, 1997 running of the DeVilbiss 400 at Michigan International Speedway was a very forgettable one, if not for the absolute ugliest paint scheme I’ve ever seen (shown above). Whenever I think of that night of drinking, I think of that butt-ugly Ford Thunderbird that Geoffrey Bodine drove that day.
2013 – Rockstar Games
It seems that everything in the gaming world right now is revolving around the free-roaming juggernaut that is Grand Theft Auto V, and most would say, for good reason. You can pretty much do whatever the heck you want to, and the level of detail they’ve managed to incorporate is unreal.
For example, you know the “tick tick tick” your car makes when you turn it off and it starts to cool down? Well, if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear that when getting out of a car in GTA V.
I don’t own the game yet, but I had a chance to play it for about 30 minutes at a friend’s place. Even in that small amount of time, I had several “awww man, that is too cool” moments, which the GTA games seem to be damn good at pulling off.
That being said, here are my favourite moments from the GTA series. I haven’t played any of the “Episodes” games, past-or-current gen, so there won’t be any moments from them on here. Sorry!
10. Crossing the East Borough Bridge (GTA IV)
While the simple act of crossing a bridge doesn’t sound all that exciting on the surface, it was at that moment that I got a sense of just how amazing GTA IV looked.
Broker, the island of Liberty City that you start on, looks fantastic enough as it is. It’s an older part of town, and it has that distinct New York-ey feel to it. The area and buildings are based on Brooklyn, and you definitely get that feeling from that particular island.
I don’t recall exactly what mission it is that makes you cross the East Borough Bridge for the first time, but getting that first look at the Liberty City skyline at sunset was quite the sight to behold.
Not the coolest-looking bridge, but it does give you a nice view of the main downtown area.
I was so distracted by the view that I turned the corner way too late, slammed the concrete barrier head-on and sent poor Niko flying out the car’s windshield and to his death. He almost made it to the river, but not quite… it was awesome, though!!!
9. Just Business (GTA: San Andreas)
While it’s not the most complex mission in the game, Just Business makes up for it with style.
After a quick standoff with members of the Russian Mafia, CJ escapes on the back of a motorcycle driven by Big Smoke. Your job is to pick off the chasing Mafia members through streets, alleyways, and eventually, the Los Santos Storm Drain.
Not long after you enter the “big concrete ditch” that is the Storm Drain, you’re treated to a short cutscene of a massive truck barreling down from an overpass.
JC (John Connor) and CJ (Carl Johnson)
Obviously, any fan of the Terminator franchise would know what that was a reference to. It was a nice nod to a film that, in many ways, set the bar for action movies in the 90’s.
Also, the final stretch of the mission has you making a dramatic ramped-jump over parked cars. For no reason whatsoever, they all explode as you clear the mayhem. Over-the-top and hilarious… love it!
Completely unnecessary, but awesome nonetheless.
8. Buying Every Property Available and Owning Vice City (GTA: Vice City)
If there’s one thing that’s incredibly satisfying about the GTA games, it’s working your way up from rags to riches. You don’t start with very much, but by the time the end credits roll around, chances are pretty good that your character is loaded.
Even though you got this feeling in GTA III, it was Vice City that took it to another level.
Instead of one home base on each island, Vice City introduced the ability to buy whatever apartment or house you could afford. Not only that, but you could also purchase various businesses around town, complete every mission they offered, then show up every now and then to collect the revenue the business generated.
My personal favourite asset from the game, Sunshine Autos;
win races, get cars, then drive them through the second floor window when you need one.
Claude Speed (the lame-named protagonist from GTA III) might have owned a few condos around Liberty City, but it was Tommy Vercetti that truly became King of the city he called home.
7. How about the power of flight? That do anything for you? (GTA: Vice City)
Even though GTA III had the Dodo airplane, anyone who ever rode in one knew it was obviously not destined to reach great heights. Some persevered and managed to get it going pretty good, discovering a few cool things in their travels.
The “Ghost Town” behind Shoreside Vale is actually where the game’s introductory heist scene takes place.
In Vice City however, you were finally given your first taste of proper flight. When the helicopter became readily available on top of Diaz’s mansion, you could have a bird’s eye view of things whenever you wanted.
You could steal an Apache-like chopper with lots of firepower later on in the game, but being able to fly and enjoy the sights was good enough for me. San Andreas (and probably GTA V) upped the freedom level a bit with planes and the ability to skydive, but I’ll never forget that first time in the skies over Vice City.
6. Free-fallin’ in Arco del Oeste (GTA: San Andreas)
Unique (or Stunt) Jumps were always super fun to pull off whenever you found one. There was always money to be made by doing them, and that slow-motion camera was pretty slick. Still, it was those non-designated (i.e. way less obvious) jumps that were even more fun to do.
Case in point, San Andreas’ Arco del Oeste.
The ramp to nowhere in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t quite remember if it was one of Mike Torino’s missions or what, but for some reason, I recall making it to the top of a mountain with (what else) a mountain bike. By pedaling to the peak, you see an abandoned old shack with a ridiculously long wooden ramp to nowhere.
When the mission eventually wrapped up, naturally, I went back to try flying off that ramp.
There’s really nothing to gain from doing it, since it’s just a long drop into the river below. It was just so damn liberating, though! I could’ve used the parachute supplied nearby, but it wasn’t necessary. I was having a blast just falling from such a great height without getting hurt.
5. Bomb da Base (GTA III)
Again, this isn’t the most complex mission in the world, but I found it pretty badass the first time I played through it.
Armed with a sniper rifle, it’s your job to protect your buddy 8-Ball from members of the Columbian Cartel from the roof of a warehouse nearby. As he sneaks aboard the massive cargo ship to plant explosives and blow it up, you’re dropping gang members left and right, shooting barrels of gasoline to make them explode…
Run 8-Ball, run!!! Eeeeeee!!!
You just tag-teamed the Cartel and sank a friggin’ cargo ship… amazing.
4. The Jetpack (GTA: San Andreas)
Though the helicopter in Vice City was fun, it did feel a bit big and cumbersome. It didn’t have a wide-range of attacks, but that was alright… we were just happy to be flying.
In San Andreas, the jetpack took things to a whole new level. No longer were we confined to a cockpit at the mercy of whatever that physics made the thing airborne in the first place. With this, we could explore every nook and cranny of the gaming world, attack with whatever weapon we wanted to in mid-air, and get around about as quickly and easily as we could ever have dreamed of.
Aside from having a great view, the top of this bridge holds a little secret.
3. G-Spotlight (GTA: Vice City)
Another great thing about Vice City was the inclusion of motorcycles. The good ol’ PCJ-900 was perfect for jumps, and it made slipping through traffic hassle-free a possibility. That was, of course, until a car turned at an intersection right in front of you and sent you flying… other than that, it was fantastic.
One of the missions that adult movie mogul Steve Scott sends you on starts off by having you casually ride a motorcycle into a skyscraper elevator. In the office area several stories up, you have to break through the window and jump to the adjacent building.
The idea is to keep jumping from building to building, eventually re-arranging a spotlight to promote Scott’s new film. It wasn’t the easiest mission, since every jump had to be perfect, but it was oh-so satisfying to get it all done.
*Warning: The following video contains crappy-looking partial nudity.*
2. The kid is not my son! (GTA: Vice City)
Being a nostalgic person, I think back to the 80’s and 90’s quite fondly. I think I look back more favourably on the 90’s, having done most of my “growing up” during that phase… not to mention, the music was particularly awesome.
When I think of the 80’s though, I think of two things.
The first is Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, and how my sisters listened to it non-stop. You literally can’t think of 80’s music without thinking of Billie Jean, Beat It, or the Thriller song itself. The whole album was incredible, come to think of it.
The second is Miami Vice, which my sisters and parents watched from time to time. There was something about the way it was shot, and the colours of Miami just lit up the screen… not to mention, Crockett and Tubbs’ flashy suits were a staple of fashion from the decade.
When I first played Vice City, I couldn’t get over how retro the game felt. I was plopped into a world with orange-tinted lens flare complimented by baby blues and neon pinks. It *looked* like my childhood.
80′s colours along Washington Beach, where the game begins.
On top of that, the game is programmed in a way that Billie Jean is the first song that plays on a car radio, no matter what ride you happened to hijack first. From that moment on, I knew Vice City would be something special.
Say what you will about Michael Jackson,
but the dude made Thriller. THRILLER.
1. But wait, there’s more! (GTA III)
The Callahan Bridge gets blown up in the game’s intro, and though you can explore beyond the cement barriers placed at its entrance, there’s no getting across to the other side for the first part of the game. That didn’t stop me from trying, of course, but I always failed.
In between missions, I’d explore like crazy. Hidden Packages, Unique Jump locations, Rampages tucked away in back alleys… there was a TON to see and do in Portland, so getting over to the other side wasn’t a high priority. I was sure I’d get there eventually anyway.
When I finally made it over to Staunton Island, I couldn’t get over how much more there was to see and do. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw yet another bridge on the opposite side of the island! How many of these islands were there? The first part of the game was so massive, and it was already the biggest and best playground I had ever experienced.
When the bridge to Shoreside Vale eventually opened up, I couldn’t believe it. It was quite the feeling.
The fold-out map that came with the game, but I didn’t get with the rental.
It must be noted that I found all this out that weekend I first played the game. The rental I had did not include the map of Liberty City shown above, which explains the “wow” factor I experienced when I found out about the newer islands.
So, there you have it. I haven’t even played through all the games in the series yet, and I’m sure there are plenty more moments like these waiting to be had.
That being said, what are some of your favourite moments?