Friday, January 28, 2011

Break for Lunar New Year.

I almost forgot that the Lunar New Year is upon us. I'm heading back to my wife's hometown for a while but I'll probably have more updates up next week. Got more stories I want to write for my ongoing Tales of the Famiclone series, so look out for that!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tales of the Famiclone - How I Discovered Beat 'em Ups.

I wouldn't get my own famiclone (we kids just called it the Micro Genius) until late 1993 and by then the Super NES (not to mention the Sega Mega Drive) would have been in full swing.

But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself. Rewind back a year to 1992. It was the new school term, I was in Standard 5 and there was a new kid in my class. His name was Azmi and a bunch of us was chummy with him. He had a Micro Genius with a bunch of games and invited us to come to his house and play.

When a bunch of people come over to play video games, the games of choice would of course be multiplayer games and so one of the games we played was Double Dragon II.

To say the game blew me away was an understatement. The games I had played prior to this were simple one-screen games like Donkey Kong, Popeye, Tetris and like I mentioned in my previous post, Battle City.

Double Dragon II had a story (which I could not understand due to it being in Japanese) told in cutscenes, something those other games I played didn't have! Unfortunately my friends had the tendency to skip over by pressing Start. I was always a little annoyed by that because I really wanted to savour the delicious anime-styled cutscenes. To this day, I don't skip cutscenes... ever.

And the gameplay. Down right addictive. Press one button to punch this way, punch another button to kick that way, press both to jump and off we go! Yeah! I was some dude in red, my friend was the dude in blue and everyone else needed to be punched to death and that was all we needed to know. It was exhilarating. We played that game over and over until the music kept playing in my mind days after.

We didn't finish the game in that day's session, so for sure we would visit Azmi again another day to try beat the game. And beat it we did, eventually.

Reaching the ending was oh-so-sweet, never mind the fact we didn't understand what was going on. We just knew we won and we were some kind of heroes... and there was a girl. Or something. We didn't really pay attention.

I didn't think about it at the time but I was definitely impressed with how some scenes were set in that game. Fighting through the mean back alleys, climbing pipes to get to the rooftops, only for the bad guy to escape on a helicopter.

But in the ensuing cutscene, it turns out the heroes manage to climb on to the helicopter anyway and that sets another memorable scene - the fight in the helicopter. The screen is remarkably smaller, only about three quarters of the usual game screen to show the cramped space in the helicopter.

If that wasn't already bad enough, the door in the corner of the screen kept opening and shutting and every time it opened, it would drag everyone, heroes and enemies included, towards it. So it became a sort of strategy to try get the bad guys knocked down and wouldn't have time to get back to their feet before they got sucked out. It felt like I was in an Eighties Action Movie and I was the Star.

To this day, I occasionally load up the Double Dragon II Arranged soundtrack and get transported back to a simpler time. Of course, I could just load up the game itself and play it myself but I don't have a NES, Famicom or famiclone anymore and playing on an emulator just isn't the same.

Double Dragon II was my first beat 'em up game and I was interested to play more games like it after we had played it to death. I asked Azmi, "Any other games similar to this?"

"Wanna try Double Dragon III?" he said.

"They made a sequel???"

"It's not as good..."

"I don't care! I wanna play it!"

But that was when Azmi's mum came home from work, which was my cue to leave.

So another day, another Double Dragon, and I guess, another blog post!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tales of the Famiclone - How I Discovered the Micro Genius.

My first memory of video games was in 1990. I was 9 and my family had just moved in to a new house. Our neighbours had this new thing called a "Micro Genius" plugged into their TV and their kids were playing a game where you controlled some fat guy with a mustache.

Yep, the Micro Genius was a famiclone and the game was Super Mario Bros. I given a chance to play that game but when I pressed right on the pad, I died at the first goomba. I hear everyone dies at the first goomba. I instantly took a dislike towards the game.

The next game they gave me to try was called Battle City. I've never actually heard or seen anyone talk or write about this game but when I first played it I thought it was the bee's knees. You (or with a friend) controlled a tank and your mission was to protect your base from being attacked by enemy tanks. The base was represented by an eagle at the bottom of the screen and it was surrounded by a wall that could be shot down by either you or the enemies.

This was particularly important because if you weren't careful, your friend could actually sabotage you and shoot the damn eagle himself and thus end the game. You could also shoot your friend, but I think you could only disable him for a few seconds, which also made him vulnerable to enemy tanks. This was truly a game made for assholes.

I wasn't a asshole, but turns out the neighbours kids were (and they continued to maintain that level of prominence for years after) and so they kept shooting the eagle to kill my enjoyment of the game. You see, it was their parents who asked them to let me have a go at their Micro Genius when my family came over to visit. The kids were initially reluctant but they finally let me play albeit begrudgingly.

I had a few moments of fun at least and when we got home I asked my parents whether we could have one too. The answer was a firm NO.

Apparently my parents had earlier read an article somewhere about how this new thing called video games were out to destroy the minds of children and they had kept me safe from such harm right until that moment. There was no chance I’d be getting a video game system of any kind under their watch.

It wasn't until much later till I got my own video game system. It was still a famiclone but it wasn't a Micro Genius. But that's a story for another blog post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Old Games. Just Like New Games.

So I've been thinking about what games I would want to get for the 3DS at launch but none of them really excite me. The only game I can even consider buying and actually enjoying would be Piloteings Resort but ehhh, I dunno. I've never really played the previous Pilotwings games and from what I know about them, it doesn't really make me want to play them.

I'm willing to give it a chance though. I just wished there were other games in the launch day lineup. I was really hoping Ocarina of Time and StarFox 3DS would make it for the launch day but now Nintendo is only saying sometime "before June". I want those games when I buy the system dammit!

Yes, I'm impatient.

The other two games that have me excited for the 3DS but have left me disappointed because they're not at launch either are actually the two announced Virtual Console games, Super Mario Land and Zelda: Link's Awakening.

What does that say about me? I can't wait to get the latest Nintendo handheld but all I want to play on it are all old games.

I'll probably just end up playing Dragon Quest IX on it until something worthwhile gets released.

The Consoles I Own and Want to Own.

So currently I own:
  • 1 x Game Boy Advance (JP, Indigo, melted screen)
  • 1 x Game Boy Advance (EU, Indigo) [added: 22/03/2011]
  • 1 x GameCube (NTSC, Indigo)
  • 1 x Game Boy Player (NTSC, Black)
  • 1 x Game Boy Micro (EU, Silver)
  • 1 x Game Boy Micro (US, 20th Anniversary Edition) [added: 22/03/2011]
  • 1 x Wii (NTSC, official Malaysian unit)
  • 1 x Nintendo DS Lite (Crimson Black, Korean)
I know it's somewhere, I just have to dig around a bit:
  • 1 x GameBoy Pocket (Yellow)
So yeah, not a particularly impressive collection but I am planning to get some older consoles down the road, whenever the time is right. I will update this post when I obtain them. My current wish list:
  • Famicom
  • Nintendo Entertainment System (NTSC)
  • Super Nintendo (NTSC)
  • More GBAs (regular or frontlit/backlit SPs)
  • Virtual Boy (haha, well, we'll see)
I will try do a list of Nintendo-related games I own but that will have to wait, I think. I just moved and I'm still getting my house into some semblance of order and that is going slowly because I seem to be using the money I should use for shelves (I have a LOT of books) for buying old, useless video games instead.

p/s Oh yeah, I'll be getting a 3DS as well.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Warning! A huge battleship "3DS" is approaching fast.

    I know I said this blog would be about old games and old game consoles but with all the recent hoopla regarding the 3DS, I just can't help myself. I'm not a true Nintendo fan if I don't gush over newly-announced Nintendo handhelds, amirite?

    So now that the US price has been announced ($250) and launch date has been confirmed (27th March 2011), what do I think? I guess the price is fair, considering the amount of tech the 3DS has within its guts. 3D screen, 3D-capable cameras, touch screen, gyroscope, accelerometer, pedometer and an always on tag mode (now called StreetPass).

    That last point I find quite intriguing because the most interesting feature in Dragon Quest IX was its tag mode ability, which allowed you to trade maps and add other players' characters as guests in your game. Unfortunately this was hampered by the fact that you had to actually stop playing and specifically set your game to tag mode. I found this slightly annoying because the most likely place for me to tag people would be on the train commute to work but of course, I'd rather be playing the game rather than spending the whole train ride waiting for someone to tag me.

    I also like how the pedometer tracks how many steps you've taken and rewards you with coins, with  which you can use to spend and buy in-game rewards. A genius take on the Achievement and Trophy systems on the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively. I do a lot of walking everyday in my commute to work and back so I hope to use this to it's utmost potential.

    Like with the Wii and DSi, the 3DS will also have an online store, this time called the eShop. Apparently you can transfer over your DSi games, which is good but seeing that I do not own a DSi, I will not be using this feature. Nice of Nintendo to be thinking of us users, though. Would have been nicer if you gave us the ability to create accounts so we can carry over games to any console tied to that account, like what Sony does with PSN. But hey, that's Nintendo. What interests me about the eShop is that it also has its own Virtual Console and will offer Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. Screens of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Super Mario Land have already been shown so I guess that pretty much confirms them for appearing on the VC at some point in time. I loved Link's Awakening and wouldn't mind buying that from the eShop day one. I really hope they give it more support than they did the Wii's Virtual Console though.

    And speaking of games, the 3DS launch games for US don't really impress me that much. I'd probably go with PilotWings Resort and maybe Ridge Racer 3D but the rest is just, I dunno... bleh to me. I don't like fighting games so Dead or Alive Dimensions and Street Fighter IV is out for me. Still, nice to know Kid Icarus, Ocarina of Time, StarFox 3D, Animal Crossing (for the missus) and Paper Mario will be coming out by June.

    On a final note, the colour selection at launch is pretty weak but I guess that's on par with all Nintendo handheld releases. The best colours are always saved for later in the console's life. All regions will be getting the blue and black variants at launch but I had really hoped they would release the red one (like in the pic above) as well. Neither blue nor black really gels with me but I'm guessing I will go with blue.

    Now to make the decision whether to preorder in the US or preorder here. Decisions, decisions...

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Obligatory Introductory Story.

    Hello world!

    I was talking to a colleague and the conversation hovered over an issue of Retro Gamer and that soon led to our mutual love for old Nintendo consoles, mainly the Super Nintendo. Well, for me it was the Super Nintendo, for him it was the Super Famicom. We grew up in the same country but apparently we grew up with different consoles.

    So anyway, soon he made the suggestion that I should start a blog about retro games, seeing how I love retro gaming so much. This blog will not concentrate on just the Super Nintendo/Famicom however but will cover mostly the GameCube and GameBoy Advance-era games and occasionally I will branch out and touch upon the other retro consoles.

    So why make yet another blog about retro games, specifically Nintendo ones, which many people have already poured thousands upon thousands of words over? Because I love Nintendo and just one more blog about them can't hurt, right? In any case, this blog will be a catalogue of sorts for my passion (or obsession, really) with all things Nintendo.