A Death in the Family

Final-Fantasy-IV_GBA_US_ESRBMy mother passed away last night, and here I am writing about a game that was released 20 years ago. Even after sitting with the news for the last 8 hours, I’m still not even sure how to begin processing the onslaught of emotions that I’m sure will be flooding my brain sooner as opposed to later. Our relationship shifted a bit over the last few years, for various reasons that aren’t really all that important. To me its funny how once someone finally passes on, all of the bad stuff that transpired over the course of decades, doesn’t matter, or at least doesn’t have the same weight to it, that it used to. The memories that you have, you want to be positive, and you want to love that person for who they were, not for what they became (if that makes any sense).

That’s what lead me to writing this piece. Of all of the people to get me into video games, my mother was the biggest influence. I had a Nintendo growing up, but I was only about 4 or 5 when the system made it into our living room, so I couldn’t really appreciate what I was seeing at the time. My mom however, took full advantage. The amount of games that she went through, was impressive, even by today’s standards. The fact that a game could control like shit, or be incredibly obtuse, didn’t really sway her one way or another; if she liked the game, she saw it through to the end, even if it meant investing months of time to do it (for the record, Castlevania II, Legacy of the Wizard, and Karnov are all games that fit this list). I’ve been working through an 8-bit backlog so to speak, and I’ll tell you, I don’t even want to touch Karnov.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the Final Fantasy IV soundtrack, which is one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve been looking to go through it again for quite some time, but really had no idea why. I’ve finished pretty much every version of the game that’s been released (with the exception of the DS version, which is on my desk as we speak), and with what little time I have available at the moment, I can’t really take the time to go through a 40 hour rpg.

Final Fantasy IV (better known as Final Fantasy II in the U.S. at the time) was the first game my mom and I finished together. When she got bored of the random battles, or the dungeons were taking too long to go through, she would hand off the controller and let me take over. We never really played a game as a team before, and there was a little bit of a rivalry between us, despite being a pretty large discrepancy over who got the most playing time. Since I was about 8 or 9, this meant that my time was limited to weekends, and that was also assuming she wasn’t playing anything at the time.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here.

By finishing this game together, it led us to start playing more cooperative games, Toe-Jam and Earl, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore, just to name a few. It was a pretty amazing time, and those are moments that I’ll never forget. I think it’s probably a little lame that most of my good memories about my mother are gaming related, but that was a common interest that we shared, and so in a moment such as this, I feel it’s appropriate.

Since my vision is getting a little bit blurry, I should probably wrap this up.

Even though the relationship became strained over the last few years, the good memories will always remain. I’ll never forget the time we spent sharing this silly fucking hobby.

Today I’m going to fire up the Super Nintendo and run through this game. I’m sure you’re okay with that.

Rest in Peace Mom.

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An 8-Bit Game a Day: Pocket Edition (NBA Live ’96)

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I used to be a pretty big sports game fan. These days I don’t really have the time or the money to keep any sort of tabs on where these games are going. When I did spend my hard earned cash on a sports title, it was usually basketball oriented. Back in the day, I was a pretty big fan of the NBA Live series. In fact, I had owned NBA Live ’96 on the Super Nintendo, and had invested many hours into it. However, once I bought a Dreamcast, and discovered the NBA 2K series, my love affair with NBA Live was pretty much finished.

Sports games were usually ported to every type of system that could connect to a screen. So I guess all in all, I shouldn’t have been too surprised the the NBA Live series had made it’s way over to the Game Boy. However, I would’ve been much happier to have learned that this was only a prototype, and not a full fledged game. Unfortunately, this game is very real, and very bad. You have your usual set up, you can choose to play an exhibition game, just the playoffs, or a full season. Since the game is an unmitigated mess, you’ll most likely want to play just an exhibition game, just to see what this thing looks like, and then never speak of it again (like I did).

After playing NBA Live, I feel as though I should avoid Game Boy ports of sports games. However, I just learned that EA’s NHL series had been ported over. My gut instinct is to stay far, far, away, you know, so I don’t catch anything. However, I am just a little curious as to what kind of a train wreck that might be. Stay tuned….

What am I playing lately? (Super Hexagon Edition)

Super-HexagonI’ve been neglecting this blog lately. It’s one of those things where, I’ve been meaning to put together some sort of update, but for one reason or another; it just never happened. You might call it, writers block, laziness, or I just don’t give a shit about it any more. Any one of those options would work just fine, actually. But to be honest, I actually kind of forgot about it. Go figure.

I struggle with finding things to write about. I haven’t really been playing any retro related stuff; and when I have, I turn it off after about four minutes or so. I haven’t really been playing anything really, I’ve just been dabbling in stuff here and there, but nothing has really kept my attention for longer than waiting until a loading screen fades, its really strange.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing more bite sized stuff. A couple months ago, I really got into “Woah Dave!”. Hell, I even did a video review of it:

There was just something about the simplicity of it, and how well it controlled regardless of what platform I was playing it on (full disclosure, I bought it 3 times). I was really addicted to it, and really believed that everyone should be playing it. In the last few months, I started playing iOS games again. I got into “Threes”, “Hitman Go”, and “Super Hexagon”.

I really suck at “Threes”, and “Hitman Go”. But “Super Hexagon”, that was just the game I was looking for. Now, I’ve played this game a lot in the past, so it’s not as though I suddenly stumbled upon some dirty little iOS secret. But in a day and age, where games like “Flappy Bird”, “Swing Copters”, and “Iron Pants” exist, and their claim to fame is the difficulty, and they control like crap. It’s good to know there are some games out there, that are not only difficult, but completely fair.

All you need to know about Super Hexagon, is that it’s over in less then 10 seconds; and showing it to your friends is not enough, you need to let them play it. It pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. Even if you feel as though you’ve had enough, you still go back for a few more cracks at it, just so you can break the 40 second barrier.

The visuals are simple, the music is awesome, and you need to give this game all of your money. Seriously, just do it already.

Whoa Dave! (Review)

WD_Boxart1000Jump, throw, and don’t die! That’s all you really need to know about the Woah Dave! experience. There’s no gimmick to the gameplay, or any weird mechanics to worry about. It’s about surviving as long as you can, avoiding monsters and collecting those shiny, shiny, pennies. Simply put, if you like Super Crate Box, Muffin Knight, or the original Mario Bros. Then you’ll feel right at home here, it’s an arcade experience through and through and an addictive one at that.

Once you get into how simple the game is, you begin to start coming up with different strategies as to how to dispose of the enemies that start charging at you. Do you chuck the skull bombs at the eggs before they hatch? do you wait until the egg hatches, and then use another egg to destroy the monster? or when would be the best time to use the “Whoa” block? these are all questions you start asking yourself after a game or two, and that’s when the addiction starts setting in. The music and the visuals are fantastic, and it really does make you feel as though you could’ve very easily had played this game 30 years ago, even though you actually never did. The action is fast, and you have complete control over Dave, and yes, this is true on the touch based iOS version as well (I would suggest using the pro controls, if you’re looking for the best option).

If you’re debating as to whether or not you should pick this game up, then you’re already spending too much time not playing Woah Dave! A simple arcade experience may not be exactly what everyone is looking for, with games like Destiny, Dragon Age, or Super Smash Brothers sucking up everyone’s precious gaming time, but quite honestly, even that’s not a good enough excuse to at least not give the game a shot. Just do it, you won’t be sorry.

Woah Dave! is currently available on iOS, Steam, and the 3DS. With plans to be released on Android, Playstation 4, and the Playstation Vita, in the upcoming months.

Score: 4 out of 4

Tiny Wings (Mini Review)

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 8.59.02 PMTiny Wings is one of those games that I could play over and over again, and never tire of. It’s one of the best examples of casual gaming out there. You control a bird whose wings are too tiny to fly. You use the hills to gain momentum, and gain enough speed to fly as long as you can. However, you only have until sunset. After the sun sets, you’ll have to start over.

If you own an iPhone or an iPad, you need to play this game. It’s easy to dismiss mobile gaming as some sort of freemium cash grab. But it’s nice to be reminded every once and awhile that there are still mobile experiences out there that have a soul.

An 8-bit game a day: Atlantis No Nazo (Mystery of Atlantis)

Let me first start off by saying, if you like your games to be more obtuse than fun, then Mystery of Atlantis is for you. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where I didn’t understand what was actually going on, more so than in this game. There are 100 zones to navigate in different locations (fields, caves, and ruins, just to name a few) and there’s a good chance you’ll miss a few of them, because there’s just no way to tell what door is going to lead you to what level. For example, I found a warp in zone 3 by falling in a random pit (you heard that right). This is just one of the many doors you’ll access purely by coincidence. Another example is in one of the later levels, where the door is hidden on a ledge, and can only be uncovered by putting down a stick of dynamite, jumping, and laying down another stick of dynamite to open the door. Had I not watched GameCenter CX, I never would have known that. The zones are not laid out in a numerical order, so memorization will play a huge role in your progression. Having to start the game from the beginning after losing all your lives, adds some challenge. But as I stated before, if you remember what doors lead to what rooms, it is possible to progress through the game quickly.

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Mystery of Atlantis isn’t a bad game. It’s certainly a game where your patience will be tested, but it’s also a game where if you can look past how unforgiving it is, you might actually like it. I know that after playing the game a few times, and remembering what doors led to what zones, I started to understand why someone would like this game. The game has one major flaw to me, and that’s the controls. Sure, I recognize the fact the game was released in 1986, so controls for many games were far from perfect. But in a platformer, you want those controls to be as tight and responsive as possible, and this game just doesn’t accomplish that, which is too bad in my opinion.

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All in all, Mystery of Atlantis is an average game at best, and it’s certainly not for everyone. From the controls, to the obtuseness of progressing through the game, there’s many reasons to not even bother with this game (I gave up after Zone 8, because I couldn’t find the exit). Without any hints whatsoever, it’s not a game where just anybody is going to jump into it and have a good time. However, for the masochists out there who pride themselves on beating the toughest games possible, this game might be right up your alley. For everyone else, it’s not a must play game by any means. If you’re curious check it out, but you’re not missing anything important here. Unless you have a large collection of controllers you wouldn’t mind snapping in half.

An 8-Bit Game a Day (under the radar edition): Catrap

I can’t really explain why, but I had this urge to play Catrap. I had played the game as a kid, but it didn’t really hold my interest for very long. This was probably due to wanting to play something more action oriented, but it might have also been due to thinking puzzle games were dumb.

I played the game multiple times over the last few years with use of an emulator, and on the 3DS after purchasing it from the e-shop, and I have to say that this is an underrated game. The game is pretty easy to start, you spend time getting used to moving around, pushing blocks, and knocking out enemies. You’ll even begin to use your ability to rewind time, which is a little mind-blowing considering this game was released almost 25 years ago, and it seems like it’s a staple that’s been in video games forever.

If you’re a fan of puzzle games, I would suggest checking it out. I would suggest playing either with an emulator, or spending the $3 to get it through the Nintendo e-shop. If you’re one of those types who just has to play the real deal, you can get the game for about $20, but if you’re looking for a copy complete with the box, you’ll easily be spending over $50.