July 25, 2009

Video game weekend

- If you buy loose cartridges or CDs that don't come with the manual, have a look at this site. They've scanned manuals into free PDFs, some even in color.

- My big complaint about the newer consoles is that they've turned video games into movies. I want to play, not watch. A lot of responses to that post on various discussion forums said that the movie comparison was wrong. Of course it's not -- it's obvious that video games are trying to substitute or compete with movies, since the late '90s anyway. In fact, here's the creator of Sony's PlayStation, Ken Kutaragi, on his vision, from a 2001 Wired interview:

My initial goal with the PlayStation was to expand the game experience by expanding the available entertainment content. With PS2, one of my goals is to take entertainment even further, from games to a fusion of games, music, and movies.

So there you have it -- proof that it was the 3-D era that marked the end of video games as games, especially when the graphics became good enough in the late '90s to substitute for passable CGI effects from movies.

- Assuming that you still prefer playing games to watching bad movies, you should get a Game Boy Player for your GameCube. I've put a link to it in the Amazon box at the top, under the video games section. It goes for about $10, and it allows you to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games on your TV.

For people like me who tuned out of the video game world in the mid-late '90s when the direction toward movies began, this is a godsend. There are a lot of great games in the non-movie style that came out then, but they were mostly released on the handheld systems, since they didn't have 3-D graphics and therefore didn't even bother to compete with movies. Even better, they all feel fresh because I've never played them before.

Playing Double Dragon II for the thousandth time is still pretty fun, but I already know everything about that game. However, the average video game player probably didn't get around to the Game Boy games since playing them on a tiny screen isn't nearly as exciting as playing on a TV. There are three incredible Zelda games for the Game Boy, all in color (Link's Awakening DX, Oracle of Ages, and Oracle of Seasons), three Castlevania games for Game Boy and three even better ones for the Game Boy Advance, a great color sequel to Bionic Commando, a stunning enhanced remake of the original Metroid on GBA (Metroid Fusion is a lot more boring, though), a string of great Kirby games -- and the most highly rated Metal Gear game is for the Game Boy Color.

So if you're looking for a fresh gameplay experience in the classic non-movie style, you can't go wrong with a Game Boy Player. Most of the games for it are fairly cheap, and the Player itself is only $10. If you don't have a GameCube, it's cheap too -- you can probably find a used one for $20 or $30 now since it wasn't as popular as the PS2.

And of course, you could always buy the full consoles from the golden age -- circa 1992, not 1982 -- but the games can be a bit more expensive for them, at least the great ones. Some are available for download on the Wii's Virtual Console, but not even a good fraction. I'll probably start reviewing some of the ones worth buying, but I want to wait until my TurboGrafx-16 gets here on Monday. Don't think I'll be getting a Neo Geo, though -- how many different Street Fighter clones could you want?


  1. Bullshit.

    As I said before, the most demanding games in terms of skill came after the 3d revolution. Quake, Counterstrike, Starcraft, etc.

  2. thanks for the tip about the GC Gameboy player. I've yet to buy one of the next generation systems and probably won't (maybe the Wii) so I end up playing NES, SNES, etc when people come over. There's really nothing like Mario Kart or Party or Tennis with a group of people. Everybody enjoys the old stuff. Another favorite is Dr. Mario on NES vs. another person. It can get pretty intense; it's so simple and classic and unfettered by movie intros, and the like.

    One thing retro gaming will do for you is get you listening to the old video game music and humming the tunes all the time. You should check out some of the covers and remixes done on Youtube and particularly on a site called Overclocked Remix.

  3. As I said before, the most demanding games in terms of skill came after the 3d revolution.

    Nah, I already proved that wrong. You're cherry-picking examples of hard games. What you need to do is look at the average game.

    Now it is common to describe games by their run time -- e.g., 20 hours, 50 hours, etc. No one would've said that about Zelda II because only 1 in 100,000 were going to beat it at all. Same for just about any of the older games.

    And recall that games are more movie than game now (by design) -- movies being passive and requiring no skill to complete viewing.

  4. Quoth agnostic, who ought to look into enabling the blockquote element for comments:

    "You're cherry-picking examples of hard games. What you need to do is look at the average game."

    That's likely because back during the NES/SMS/Genesis days, most games were modeled on--or outright ports of--arcade games that were designed to eat your quarters, and some of the things let you have only three continues as if you couldn't spend more than $.75 in one sitting.

    From what I can tell (as someone who never bothered with a console newer than the SNES), newer games changed the difficulty by allowing more frequent saving and giving more opportunities to farm for useful items. Compare Mega Man 3 to X: compared to the former, X had lifebar upgrades and useful equipment pieces that could be hunted down and even backfarmed for. 3 just had the odd energy tank lying around.

  5. Don't forget the existence of great (and free) emulators. ZSNES has most the SNES library available, with a very convenient feature allowing you to save at any point. For rpgers, it doesn't get any better. For other gamers, you'll have to invest in a generic computer controller of some sort--qwerty keyboards obviously don't allow for a responsive, full range of motion.

  6. Save states are for wimps. Unless you're using it as a replacement for letting the game run with the TV off and coming back to it later.

    Now that I've bought the actual consoles and played cartridges on them again, ROMs don't feel the same. The graphics are pretty close, but the play control, while good, feels off.

    The only good use for ROMs is to try out games that you're unsure about buying, or for super-rare / prohibitively expensive games like Terranigma or arcade games.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."