Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portal: What Will You Do For Cake?

It started out as part side story to Half Life 2, and part stand alone puzzle game, but Portal has possibly become bigger than the game that spawned it. I mean, Portal is an amazingly minimalist masterpiece, but what great puzzle game isn't? Most of the gameplay revolves around using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device or "portal gun" to create portals in different portions of a room. The player then uses those portals to solve puzzles, which will allow the player to exit a room and move on to the next. What drives your character, Chell, through this mind twisting gauntlet? A sadistic AI unit named GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), and it's promise of...cake. Yes, Chell is risking her very existence for cake. Well, as many clues suggest throughout the game, there is no cake. That makes me a little sad, but that's a story for another blog. Portal has spawned so much acclaim since it debuted in 2007 that there's more demand for a sequel to it than a followup to Half Life 2. With that in mind, Valve has announced Portal 2, and it should hit retail outlets in April of 2011. I won't speculate on what will be in Portal 2, but if it's anywhere close to the challenge in the first Portal, I'll be getting it on day one.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gauntlet: The Greatest Dungeon Crawler Ever!

I remember the voice and the phrases vividly. I also remember the ridiculous amounts of enemies. The game I'm referring to is not a rehash of the tired Dynasty Warriors series, nor is it Ikari Warriors. No, it is the legendary arcade game, Gauntlet. Gauntlet was released in 1985 by Atari Games, and was one of the first 4 player arcade games on the market. It was also the first class based multiplayer game, meaning each character controlled a different character type. The types were Wizard, Warrior, Valkyrie, and Elf. Each possessed different strengths and weaknesses, which made choosing the right character more of a decision based on your play style than anything. For example, the Warrior could take and dish out more damage than the Elf, but the Elf could fire his weapon faster and was a lot more agile. The enemies in Gauntlet were the most tenacious I've ever faced in a game. For one, they're spawned from monster generators which if not completely destroyed continue to pump out enemies. They also have a great knack for ganging up on players. It's not uncommon to be surrounded by no less than 20 enemies at a time. Then there's the friendly fire risk. If a fellow player isn't safe, he can whittle your health to nothing. Over the years, Gauntlet has spawned several sequels, with a reboot of the franchise coming through Midway in the late 90s, and the original was reissued as a part of the Midway Arcade Treasures compilation on PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox. The series as a whole has always been great, but for my money, the original will always be the best. There was always something about the tension of that countdown and how characters constantly lose health. Gauntlet was the true definition of a quarter muncher.Who knows if the series will continue, but an HD remix of the original Gauntlet or a special edition similar to Pac Man Chapionship Edition would be great. I do know that "Red Warrior needs food badly".

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Take On Kinect

So, It's the time of the year where folks are scrambling to get that one great gift that everyone in the family will enjoy for whatever holiday they're celebrating. One of those possible must haves is Kinect, Microsoft's highly touted motion control device for the Xbox 360. I recently got to put my hands on Kinect, and while it has flaws, It will probably be a hit regardless. As far as details go, this is my take on the device.

First off, the Kinect makes interacting with your Xbox a new experience, especially considering that gamers can use a number of voice commands to initiate a lot of important functions. As of right now, there are only a few prompts that are recognized by Kinect and there's no time frame as to an update to the device's firmware.

Setting up Kinect doesn't seem as complicated as some would have you believe, but you most certainly will need a great deal of space when setting up and using Kinect. Kinect requires 9 feet of space to work properly, so those in small apartments will be quite frustrated with set up when all they want to do is play. Long story short, if you don't have a lot of room, you may want to skip Kinect.

The most important part of this whole thing is whether or not it plays as well as advertised. The only annoyance I can foresee is that every original player will have to be calibrated to the unit. If not, it won't read properly, and will result in quite an annoying experience. Once it's calibrated to each player, Kinect can provide a great experience for folks looking for a way to bring families together around the TV. Will Kinect be used for Gears of War 3 or Ninja Gaiden 3, right now, I don't see it, but the folks at Microsoft are probably hard at work on a way to use Kinect for more "hardcore" games. Does it justify the seemingly steep price tag? For me, it doesn't just yet, but it's still a great device and something that will provide lots of fun for gamers and their families.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sword of Vermilion: Sega Got Medieval On The Genesis

Of all the different game genres that I've gotten my hands on, RPGs were the most difficult for me to enjoy. I never understood why that was, but I could never get into the early Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior games when I was younger. One really under the radar RPG changed that for me, and it was Sword of Vermilion for the Sega Genesis. The game follows the son of Erik V, king of Excalabria, on his quest to defeat Tsarkon and restore peace to his world. Sword of Vermilion was released in 1991, and for it's time was pretty cutting edge, utilizing a lot of the graphical innovations that made Phantasy Star II such an amazing game. I played Sword of Vermilion before I had ever touched a Phantasy Star game, and after playing Phantasy Star II for the first time, I can clearly see the similarities between the two games. honestly, the only difference is that Sword of Vermilion is entirely set in a medieval environment, while the Phantasy Star series is known for blending fantasy and science fiction to great effect. This was also one of those instances where Sega gave you every bit of info you'd need to finish the game if you were patient enough to read. Included in every copy of Sword of Vermilion was a 106 page hint book that clued gamers in on where they needed to go next. Hint books like this were a welcome surprise for any gamer thinking they would be flying blind through such a big game. The coolest part of this game was something that was rarely done well in RPGs to that point, with the only exceptions being the Phantasy Star games. The first person dungeons in this game are as fun as they are tense, and the added immensely to the overall gaming experience. Sword of Vermilion comes pretty cheap and it's pretty much available everywhere thanks to Virtual Console and the various iterations of the Sega Genesis Collection for different consoles.

Monday, November 22, 2010

WeaponLord: Yeah, That's Hardcore!!

I remember the first time I ever saw the terms "Namco" and "Fighting game" in the same sentence. It was an article in Gamefan magazine about a weapons based fighting game being developed by the future developers of Tekken and Soul Calibur. The game was called WeaponLord and it was being developed for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis simultaneously. Everybody who heard about this game, including myself, were extremely excited about the potential WeaponLord contained. When it was released, it received great reviews, and sold well, but some gamers went into the experience of that game expecting something similar to Samurai Shodown, which was the other notable weapon based fighting game on the market. WeaponLord took a very serious approach to combo based gameplay, where there was literally no chance of success for gamers who tried to button mash through matches. This put off a lot of novice players, but was a great relief for those who took pride in mastering the strengths and weaknesses of each character. The only thing that kept gamers from getting a legit sequel to WeaponLord was the end of the 16 bit system generation. Namco still owns the rights to WeaponLord, and for all intents and purposes, we could see a remake of that classic game, with updated controls and graphics. There would be no need to mess with the combo system, especially since a lot of those mechanics are still being used in the game industry today.If you decide you want to go a few rounds with WeaponLord, you can find it online at a great price, in most cases, around $5.00.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Did Acclaim Last As Long As They Did?

Throughout the history of video games, we've been met with great mysteries, but perhaps the greatest of all of them was the amount of time Acclaim last as a publisher and developer of video games. It was always amazing to me how so many of their games were bad, and it never occurred that they were all by Acclaim because of the multiple labels they published games under a bunch of different labels during the 8 and 16 bit days. They did a lot of home conversions for Midway's arcade titles, and they did some good work with those. Even the stranger ones like Trog and Smash TV were pretty good, mainly because Acclaim worked around the system limitations without messing with what made those games so much fun. They also made a lot of games based on movies and TV shows, and this was where Acclaim suffered. Most of the film or TV tie in games were poorly designed, glitchy garbage that some love for nostalgia's sake, but if they look deeper, they'll find true garbage. Take Acclaim's NES port of the Schwarzenegger sci fi classic, Total Recall for example, The game sought to capture the action and intensity of the movie, but it only botched the process. The game had horrible control, bad graphics, and it felt rushed. The same can be said for all of the games based on Fox's long standing animated series, The Simpsons. For some reason, Acclaim was allowed to continuously churn out that garbage and gamers continued to buy that trash out of love for the show. I still can't play Bart vs. The Space Mutants without being a little mad at myself for doing so. Somewhere during the 16 bit era, we all realized the occasional gem wasn't enough to make us love Acclaim, and many gamers slowly started to turn and walk away, but Acclaim wouldn't give up, and they gave us Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on N64, and for a minute, we were okay with them, but then they made those bad BMX games, which culminated in the release of BMX XXX, which was the most tasteless things ever done on a console in America(I can't say period, because there's some messed up stuff coming out of Japan). They finally closed up shop in 2004 after years of financial struggles and questionable business dealings. I mean, they were trying to buy ad space on people's tombstones. Who does that? Anyway, not all of Acclaims games were crap...to be honest, they had a few gems. The published The 3-D Battles of Worldrunner in the US, and that game was a gem. They will never be known as the house that spawned classics like Midway, but Acclaim has a place in video game history. Many gamers look at them like the elderly look at Bernie Madoff, but at least every move they made didn't bring misery to the community.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Alien Hominid...The Little Flash Game That Could

If ever you log onto newgrounds.com, you may notice the visage of a naked yellow alien brandishing a green ray gun. That little alien is not just a random mascot for the site, but it is also the lead character in a flash game on the site called Alien Hominid. Alien Hominid was the brainchild of a two man team consisting of Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin. They initially created a one level flash game which had the Alien fighting waves of FBI agents and two boss characters. Over time, Hominid became a major hit, and after some talking, Fulp and Paladin agreed to begin work on a full fledged console version of the game. They also went into business together and formed The Behemoth. Alien Hominid was expanded from one level to 16, more power ups were made available, and a bonus mini games were added as well. Alien Hominid was praised by many in the video game industry for being something most big budget games aren't, nothing about Alien Hominid felt forced, the game never took itself too seriously, and it was defiantly old school in a business that seems to shun what is considered old for shiny new and 3d. Alien Hominid made me feel like I was playing a the spliced together spawn of Contra, Metal Slug, and Sonic the Hedgehog, and I have no problem with that considering how great those three games were incredible. Alien Hominid is probably one of the biggest independent games ever released, and it effectively made the video game industry realize that there are small developers who, given the right opportunity, can pretty much make the entire video game industry stand up and take notice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Habits Might Kill Video Games!!

After years of playing video games, I've seen a lot of trends that have been beaten to death. I can vaguely recall some of the Pac-Man clones that reared their heads in the early 80s, and from there I vividly remember the knockoffs of Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Zelda, and Street Fighter 2. I have also noticed an alarming trend in video games, but something that definitely didn't start in video games. A general lack of creativity has become par for the course, and many gamers are gullible enough to go along with it at every turn. There are very few original concepts in gaming to begin with, but our "fear anything we don't understand" mindsets have made it quite difficult to push a game that can be considered new or original in the slightest to the masses out of fear. Fear that their project will be pushed under the rug by retailers who are only selling the latest First Person Shooter or cartoon cash in. I can remember the last game I saw truly try something different, Mirror's Edge. At that point in video game history, there had never been a platformer where every moment of gameplay was in the first person. It didn't exactly go off without a hitch, but it was a solid game, and it was a step towards some semblance of innovation. 2005's Shadow of the Colossus wasn't a necessarily original concept, but it was executed in an original fashion. Super Mario Galaxy had some elements of Toejam and Earl thrown into it's core gameplay, but we didn't care because the experience felt new. Now, by no means am I beating up on the video game industry or those who buy games because in the end we are all creatures of habit. We like the familiarity that that annual copy of NCAA, Smackdown vs. Raw, or Call Of Duty provides. Most of us don't want to admit that Vanquish is a lot like Gears of War, which in turn wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Killswitch, and we will take to message boards spewing hate to defend our games. I'm just as guilty as anybody else of being a creature of habit when it comes to games. Remember folks, my favorite video game series since I got a NES has been Castlevania, and with the exception of a few games in the series, I currently own 11 games in that series, and if I had a GBA, DS, and PSP, it would be more. I'm by no means saying do away with the games you enjoy playing, but I am saying, break up the monotony. Put something out of the ordinary on your gamefly queue, try dabbling in a new genre of game every now and then. There's a reason why the variety we saw in video game stores when we were younger is long gone, and it's all our fault.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sivak Games...The Future Is Old School

The homebrew gaming movement is a growing one, and some of the best homebrew games have been inspired by the venerable Mega Man series. One game that took it's inspiration from Mega Man with great success is Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril by independent developer Sivak Games.

to get more info on Sivak Games, check out these sites:




Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some Stuff I Want Under My Tree

A few days ago, I did a brief Holiday Buyer's Guide outlining some things you might want to check out. My personal tastes may be a little different, so this post will focus on stuff I want.

Neo Geo MVS cabinet - SNK: Those who say arcade and home Neo Geo consoles are completely alike are incredibly clueless. The arcade version, or MVS is a personal choice for me because you can get games for a great deal less than you would have to shell out for the home equivalent, and besides, King of the Fighters 98 feels so much better on an upright cabinet.

Nintendo World Championships reproduction cart - Retrozone: I may never own a real copy of this game, but thanks to Retrozone (http://retrousb.com/) I can get a high quality reproduction of that game, along with a lot of other great homebrew NES games.

Final Fight Double Impact Press Kit - Capcom: Video Game publishers are pretty good about how they treat the press that covers their games, and Capcom is very good to them. The press kit for Final Fight Double Impact was so awesome that it released to retail. Any collector who gets their hands on one of these will find one of the most collectible packages around.

Intelligent Qube - Sony Computer Entertainment: Most gamers remember this from the demo disc that came packed in with the PS1, but those who got their hands on it were keepers of one of the treasures for that system. If anybody has a lead on a complete US copy, I would be in your debt.

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller - Capcom: It was released when RE4 launched on GameCube and PS2, and while I probably would never use it as an in game controller, it would be great for my collection.

Samurai Zombie Nation - Meldac: It's not a very good game, but the utter strangeness of this game combined with it's rarity makes me want it even more. It would be quite the happy dance moment if this was in my NES collection.

A custom MAME cabinet: Everybody who knows me knows that this will be an upcoming project for me. The only thing I have left to figure out is will it have a built in monitor or not. Oh, and mine will be much cooler than the one in this pic.

That pretty much all the stuff I would want if my friends were all rich gamers and had no issue buying me games for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Would You Like To See?

I'm having a slight brain fart today, so I'm not necessarily doing a post, but I am asking you guys for assistance. I want to know what you would like me to talk about...I mean, part of the reason I'm doing this blog is to give you, the reader, information. So please, use the comment box below and let me know what you want to see in upcoming posts. If you would rather tell me elsewhere, hit me up on twitter. My Twitter name is, you guessed it, @8bitanimal.

I can't wait to hear from you guys...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010 Holiday Buyer's Guide...Because You Should Get Something Good Even If You Buy It Yourself

The Holiday season is upon us, and no matter what you celebrate, there will be some sort of gift giving involved. A known fact nowadays is that a lot of game systems are out there, and that means a lot of competition for your gaming dollar. Well, that's why I'm here to help you out. In this post, I'll sift through the crap littering the places where we buy video games, and give you my personal picks for the Holiday season. I'll break this up into the most important categories: price, console, and genre...then I'll tell you if it should be a part of your gift giving ritual this year.

Note: I'll also be recommending games for the assorted download services also...

Vanquish - PS3/360 - $59.99 - Shooter: Take the cover based gameplay in Gears of War, and make it a lot faster, and you pretty much have a general idea of what you get with Vanquish. Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing, because Vanquish is an excellent third person shooter.

NBA 2K11 - PS3/360/Wii - $49.99-$59.99 - Sports: Two things about this one: EVERYBODY was going to buy this game anyway because of Michael Jordan's presence, but the fact that EA cancelled NBA Elite 11 had to help this game's chances. All jokes aside though, this is an excellent NBA simulation.

Disney's Epic Mickey - Wii - $49.99 - Platformer: The most anticipated game featuring Disney characters since the first Kingdom Hearts game. Epic Mickey is equal parts Okami and Super Mario Galaxy with a splash of Fable's good or evil mechanic thrown in.

Super Meat Boy -Wii/360/PC/Mac - $10.00-$20.00 - Platformer: The first downloadable title in this guide isn't for everybody. It's old school and brutally tough. The difficulty is kind of what gives Super Meat Boy it's charm, and hardcore gamers should be able to appreciate this one.

Splatterhouse - PS3/360 - $59.99 - Action: This remake of the classic Turbografx 16 and Genesis series is quite possibly the bloodiest video game ever made, and they had to tone it down to get an "M" rating from the ESRB. If it wasn't bloody, though, would it really be worthy of following in the footsteps of the amazingly gory for its time original?

Playstation Move -PS3 - $29.99-$399.99 - Casual: The Playstation Move is going to be the big thing Sony pushes this Holiday Season, but the pricepoint may turn off non gamers looking to get into it slowly. The technology does show promise since a lot of upcoming PS3 releases are going to utilize the Move technology.

Kinect - 360 - $149.99-$399.99 - Casual: Microsoft's much hyped Kinect was released, and by all accounts, it's something that will push a lot of units. Right now, there aren't a lot of "gamer's games" compatible with the unit, but considering the launch titles, it's more for families who are looking for a way to play games together.

Nintendo Wii: Super Mario Anniversary Bundle - $199.99: In honor of the 25th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has released a limited edition bundle that is sure to send collectors to stores nationwide. you get a red Wii console, red Wii remote, and two games, Wii Sports, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops - PS3/360/Wii/PC - $49.99-$59.99 - Shooter: Activision's acclaimed FPS series continues on after the departure of long time COD developer Infinity Ward. Based on reviews and word of mouth feedback, the game is stellar, and probably something you'll want in your collection.

NBA Jam -PS3/360/Wii - $49.99 - Arcade Sports: Nostalgia, and great gameplay combine for a great experience here. Even with a lack of online multiplayer on the Wii version, it's a great time for anybody who grabs a controller to play.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - PS3/360/PC - $59.99 -Stealth Action: Brotherhood takes the familiar formula from the previous games in the series and adds co op and competitive multiplayer gameplay, which is a first for a genre that had honestly gotten stale.

I know there might be some stuff I left out, but hey, if you already know that, then you didn't need me to tell you. This post may be expanded later if I hear about something you need to have, so keep checking back.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sports...Not The Huey Lewis Album

Ok kids, we're halfway done with the NFL regular season, The NBA and NHL have both kicked off, and we just crowned new World Series Champions. I figured this would be as good a time as any to shuffle through a genre that everybody seems to love...except me. I've never been one to quickly buy a sports game, and that may not change anytime soon, but I can appreciate a good game, whether it's a simulation, or a quirky change of pace to the rules of the traditional game. Here are some of my favorite sports games.

As with many lists I do, this one is in no particular order.

John Madden Football 93: Championship Edition - Electronic Arts - Genesis: The first Madden title to feature throwback teams and All time All Madden Teams is probably the only Madden I really care about.

Ultimate Basketball - American Sammy - NES: take the stuff folks loved about Double Dribble, and add substitutions, individual player stats, and fully animated dunk sequences where you can defend against being a poster. it was like Pat Riley Basketball on the Genesis, but better.

High Impact Football - Midway - Arcade: High Impact is as basic a football game as you can ask for, and it works beautifully. I mean, the game has a joystick and one action button, what's not to love.

Baseball Stars 2 - SNK - Neo Geo: I can say with great honesty that even now, in the winter of 2010, that Baseball Stars 2 is WITHOUT QUESTION one of the greatest sports video games EVER.

NFL 2K5 - 2K Games - Xbox, PS2: $20 price tag, full ESPN, great gameplay...no wonder EA got NFL exclusivity when they did. If they hadn't, they'd have a serious problem on their hands.

NHLPA Hockey 93 - Electronic Arts - Genesis: Probably my second favorite sports game. Full NHL rosters, fast paced gameplay, and there were actually fights in this one.

Blades Of Steel - Konami - NES: No NHL license, no stat tracking, no problem. Konami took their great, but flawed Arcade hockey game and made it the measuring stick for hockey video games.

Tecmo Super Bowl -Tecmo - NES: Regarded by many to be one of the best football games ever. It took the basic gameplay of the first NES Tecmo Bowl and added a full NFL license to it. This game is so beloved that homebrew roster updates come out almost yearly for it.

Double Dribble - Konami - NES: Konami's hardcourt masterpiece is one of those games that has become something of a legend. It's magic and appeal among gamers may not ever be duplicated, and it's all because they got rid of that damn dribble button.

Run And Gun - Konami - Arcade: It was copied by numerous game publishers, but none of them could make a basketball game that was as balls out fun as Run and Gun was.

Super Sidekicks 3 - SNK - Neo Geo: SNK's futbol series was, in my opinion, on par with Baseball Stars 2. That was just how good Super Sidekicks 3 was.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Latest Donations To The Home For Wayward Video Games

My game collection has been called "The Home For wayward Video Games" because of the large number of games that have been given to me or that I've purchased for very little. This quick video is a rundown on the stuff that I've gotten lately.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NARC: Wholesale Dopeboy Killing

As I was getting dressed to head to my day job, I saw something interesting. Just days after prop. #19 was defeated in California, DEA agents raided a warehouse in San Diego and discovered a tunnel leading to Mexico. In this tunnel was about 30-40 tons of Marijuana, and there was even more on the Mexico side. You may be thinking, what does this drug bust have to do with video games? Well, one video game focused solely on taking out a drug kingpin, and it was great. The game I'm referring to is NARC (the original game, not that trash that came out on PS2 and Xbox)

Narc was amazing when it released, because it was a game that literally could have killed the game industry because of the level of violence, characters, and of course the numerous drug references throughout. Playing as a DEA agent charged with taking down Mr. Big, players run into all manner of dope fiends and killers. from heroin addicts who throw needles at you, to child molester clowns, to anti government pot growers, this game had everything.

It was ported to several different systems, including NES, Amiga, and ZX Spectrum, and a lot of the ports received great reviews. The NES version was pushed with a highly anti-drug message attached to it, but critics of the extreme violence in the arcade version made sure Nintendo of America enforced restrictions on the drug references in that version of the game. The arcade version of NARC saw new life when it was a part of the second volume of the Midway Arcade Treasures series, which probably led to Midway deciding to reboot the franchise.

The reboot of Narc featured a controversial gameplay mechanic, giving players the option to either turn confiscated drugs in to the police evidence room, or keep them to either use or sell. This mechanic led to Narc being banned in Australia, but that wasn't a bad thing for Australia, because the game was pretty bad.

Narc had a simple concept: stop the drug epidemic by taking out drug dealers, but a lot of folks couldn't see beyond the violence in the game. Good game, simple message that most people can get behind, what's not to like. If more cops were like the ones in the Original NARC, we might not be looking at Mexico fall apart.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

California V. Video Games: The Final Battle

I've been kinda quiet about this Supreme Court case involving the video game industry mainly because I didn't want to say anything that could be viewed as a terrorist threat. to be quite honest, though, I pretty much don't care at this point. The law that Senator Yee is trying to pass has good intentions, but it was way too broad to properly implement. The state of California's definition of "violent" is so broad when it comes to video games that if it passed and was adopted nation wide, the only genre of games we would be allowed to play are puzzle games. Arguments for this case have been presented to the United States Supreme Court this week, and based on transcripts I've read, the main game their case is centered around is Postal 2. I'm sorry, but why is it every time somebody wants to go off about violence in video games, they pick a piece of crap to use as the scapegoat. Back in the 90s it was Night Trap way more than Mortal Kombat that was discussed, now Postal 2. I don't know 5 people personally who have ever played either of the Postal games. Hell, the only thing I knew about the first game was that Gary Coleman voice acted in it and Uwe Boll directed a film version. Another problem I have with this whole thing is that none of people arguing against it or judging it have ever touched a video game. Many of the Supreme Court Justices have no clue about video games after Pong. Their knowledge, however, isn't on trial, what is on trial is California's desire to circumvent the First Amendment to determine what is and isn't "violent" in video games, and if their are allowed to do so, this opens the door for the video game market in the United States to become as restrictive as the markets in Australia, Germany, and other countries where nothing beyond a Teen rating gets to store shelves. The ultimate irony in this situation is that the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, made his fortune and attained his fame by making movies that were incredibly violent, but movies aren't on trial here, it's video games. I honestly hope that the video games industry is ready to win this case, because if they lose, gamers nationwide may be screwed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Konami: If It Wasn't For Them, Games Would Suck Now

If there was a listing for "classic hardcore gaming" in the dictionary, chances are you'd see a picture of almost every game released by Konami for the NES. This was going to be a historical post talking about Konami's history, but I'd much rather talk about what made them worth discussing, their video games.

My first experience with a Konami game was also my first experience with my favorite series of games. Castlevania had just come out, and a friend of mine had it. I had played Mario, Metroid, and Zelda at this point, and they were cool, but I wanted something a little grittier. Castlevania was right up my alley, with the zombies popping up out of the floor to attack me, the fish men patrolling any body of water I encountered, and those damn Medusa heads. Castlevania was one of the first games 10 or so games I played on the NES, and it stuck with me.

In addition to action games like Castlevania and Contra, Konami became known for shooters like Gradius, Life Force, Stinger, and Jackal. Jackal was different from the others though since the player controlled a jeep and had to rescue hostages. This one was every bit as hard as Gradius was, and if you weren't careful, you'd get the game over screen very quickly. Life Force was very similar to Gradius, but it took quite a different story arc from the Gradius games. Life Force, or Salamander as it was known in Japan, took place inside of a giant alien organism. Life Force became so popular that an anime based on the game was produced in 1988.

Another game that is synonymous with Konami is Contra. I shouldn't need to say a lot about Contra, because it gave us so much since it appeared in Arcades and on the NES in the 80s. Contra pretty much defined what an action game is supposed to be. I'll put it like this,If it wasn't for Contra, there would be no Doom, Halo, or any other action game that has been released in the last 20 years.

The great thing about Konami's games is that they stand up well to time...they never feel slow when compared to games that have been released recently. If you don't believe me, pop in a copy of Contra and tell me it isn't fast paced, tense, and incredibly fun. So, Thank you Konami for giving gamers genre defining greatness on the NES.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sega Dreamcast: Bigger In Death Than It Was In Life

One's potential is only as good as the application of that potential. Whenever I think of that statement in terms of video game consoles, one name always sticks out in my mind, Dreamcast. Sega's final console was never a graphical behemoth, but it is considered a favorite among gamers. When Sega's final console hit American stores on 9-9-99, it was a hit, and players ate up the arcade perfect ports of Crazy Taxi and Soulcalibur, along with the almost Madden killing greatness that was the NFL2K series. They also enjoyed great original games like Jet Grind Radio, and Resident Evil Code Veronica, but something went wrong, and Sega was completely unprepared for the juggernaut on the horizon called Playstation 2. Sony had all the major licensees Sega lacked, and one other major edge, the PS2 also served as a DVD player. This made the Playstation 2 a must have piece of hardware. The Dreamcast, for it's early demise has become a lot like Tupac or Biggie, much more famous after it's death than during it's life. Sega's little white box of joy also originated several things that are now commonalities in current generation consoles. Dreamcast was the first console with a built in modem for web browsing and online play, a first for a console. It's online service, SEGAnet, is essentially an early version of Xbox Live, and players could get downloadable content for their DC by connecting it to a phone line. The homebrew and emulator communities have also gravitated to the Dreamcast because of the ease involved in developing for it, and several homebrew game engines have surfaced, allowing folks to build new games with great ease. One of the things that contributed to the death of the Dreamcast has also kept it alive to this day. it can be pretty easy for a gamer to make an "unofficial" copy of a Dreamcast game for their personal use, thus giving gamers access to the entire library of Dreamcast games. A few years ago, gamers were fed information suggesting that Sega was getting back into the console market, but sadly this was a hoax, and we never got that new Dreamcast. Sega's decision to leave the console market may have been painful for gamers to process, but their parting gift to gamers everywhere proved to be so far ahead of it time that it Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are just catching up.