I don't see anything wrong with a little bump and grind. Admittedly, that sort of opening might be better suited for a write-up on one of the Ys games, but I'm going somewhere with this. I didn't get a SNES until the Christmas of 1993. And didn't get A Link To The Past until sometime in 1994. I would have been thirteen at the time; in junior high. Of course at that age you'd play whatever game you had until it was your birthday or Christmas or whatever. I actually got A Link To The Past from a friend and yet I have no memory of what I traded him in exchange. I guarantee you that I got the better end of the deal, though.
A Link To The Past became my Friday night ritual for MONTHS. Probably for the entire year of 1994 and possibly bleeding into 95 as well. In my memory this game takes up a gigantic chunk of formative gaming years. And it was a big enough world to allow for what felt like never-ending exploration. Of course having now played Breath Of The Wild... well, wait - I'll come back to all that. Let me mention the music.
So Friday night I'd be at my dad's house which is where the SNES was (I had different consoles at each of my parent's houses). It seems like back then we'd always order either pizza or fish and chips on Friday nights, and it seems like ABC's TGIF shows were always on TV while we were eating. A quick look at Wikipedia says that the 94 lineup was Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Step By Step and Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. Although ABC lost me after dinner. After dinner was Zelda time. And I'd just lose the rest of the night to A Link To The Past, playing until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.
I had a small boombox in my bedroom at the time that I'd keep a cassette tape in with the 'record' and 'pause' buttons depressed so I was always ready to tape songs off the radio. And while I was still pretty deep into my grunge obsession in 94 (and to be honest, that hasn't changed much even in 2018), Friday nights belonged to Jam'n 94.5's broadcast which was entirely R&B and some light hip hop 'hits' of the day. Their Friday night program was clearly aimed at an early 20's demographic who were probably kicking off their weekend driving to a club or something. But it was my soundtrack to a fucking Zelda game that year.
Here's a dozen-deep playlist to give you an idea and get you in the mood for some Zelda:
How's that for a link to the past? Most of these songs are exactly the sort of shit we listen to when we are kids and are too embarrassed to admit we ever liked them when we're adults. But hey - there's beauty in banality and I'd like to really date myself here and paint a picture of the time. Plus it's interesting to me how memory works - how one sense is connected to another. The smell of banana hazelnut coffee will always bring me back to this small outside coffee shop that I skateboarded to in Waterville Valley, NH one summer on vacation in high school. And that crazy R. Kells etc will probably trigger thoughts of a 16-bit Hyrule.
When I recently decided that my household needed more than one 3DS again, I had to make a decision about which model to pick up. If you've taken a look at the 3DS family, there are a lot of choices. A standard 2DS is super cheap - and ugly. A New 3DS XL is like a luxury portable - and a bit on the bulky side. While the Switch is lovely for playing anywhere I want in my own house, I am too nervous to actually take it anywhere. I needed something sleek and pocket-friendly. I finally decided on the New 2DS XL for three reasons: a nice big screen; a thin and light body; the ability to play SNES games via the Virtual Console.
The first SNES game I bought on the new device was a no-brainer. We all know the accolades that A Link To The Past has received but ultimately there's one very important one here: if forced to make a choice, I'd rank A Link To The Past as my favorite game of all time. Its version of Hyrule is absolutely magical to me. It's the first game to ever make me just want to explore with no clear need for major progress. I loved just seeing what existed in this world. Oh, I got a shovel? I better dig anywhere that looks suspicious. And once you gain the ability to jump between light and dark worlds it becomes almost two games in one.
The 1994 version of myself spent literal hours doing things like the little archery mini-game or basically gambling by paying a few rupees to pick one chest out of three and continually try to gain more and more. There were no internet walkthroughs in 94 and I rarely would buy a strategy guide (probably because they weren't as easy to come by pre-Amazon), so it means a lot to me that back then I obtained every item, every heart, and felt like I saw everyTHING that this game had to offer. Though the 2018 version of me has a lot less free time for such things, so this time around I basically just plowed through the dungeons, obtaining only items that I actually needed to progress and picking up only upgrades that I happened to stumble upon. Maybe most impressive is that while it does require you pick up certain items, it's still pretty loosey goosey and I was able to beat them game with several items missing from my final inventory.
Still, A Link To The Past is like riding a bike for me. Sure I played through the game when it was re-released on Game Boy Advance, but it was really all those many Friday nights that has ingrained this world in me. There were times where I did a quick Google to remind myself some things: where was the flute buried again? How do I get the upgrade to make magic cost half as much? The most embarrassing was that I completely forgot that Hyrule Castle's front entrance later works as a door to the dark world. Duh. But for the most part, this is a game I really just KNOW. This version of the Zelda theme is the one that sounds most right to me in all its 16-bit glory. This version of Link is the one that looks the coolest to me. A Link To The Past is pure comfort food, friends. Maybe more importantly it's a Zelda game that is phenomenal if you play it like an endless open world game every Friday night for over a year, or if you treat it like a straight up linear adventure and plow through it in a week.
The night that Arena Of Valor launched on the Switch my wife came into my game room and asked what I was playing. "Oh this is a new free game... it's kind of like Heroes Of The Storm," I told her. She replied, "Okay... see you in six months then."
It would be impossible for me to talk about Arena Of Valor without talking about Heroes Of The Storm. They have a lot more in common than their awfully generic titles. You see Heroes Of The Storm was the first - and until now - only MOBA that I've ever been able to enjoy. And I feel like a big part of that is the ease of use. Yes, it's a MOBA - but I think it's one made for people who aren't really into MOBAs. Call it babby's first MOBA if you wish, but there is obviously a demographic of gamers who can enjoy MOBAs where matches can be played in twenty minutes; and that have mechanisms in place to make easing into the genre a lot less painful than the big names like Dota 2 or League Of Legends.
Having basically bailed on PC gaming in the past couple of years now, I've longed to see Heroes Of The Storm brought to consoles. Certainly Blizzard showed us what they could do with the console versions of Diablo III. That was game that seemed like it should never work on console, and yet it turns out that it's even BETTER when you use a controller! But I admit, even I was a bit suspicious about how well a controller could handle a MOBA - wishful thinking aside. And yet now I can assure you that Tencent has shown us that it's totally possible.
Outside of gameplay, I realize (and appreciate) the concerns that newcomers may have to this game. Yes, it's a game that first materialized on mobile phones. Yes, it's free to play and there's lots of things in-game to spend money on. But let me address these two items: First of all, Tencent did NOT take the easy road of merely just running an Android apk on the Switch. This new version of the game was clearly recreated with love and care to be a whole new CONSOLE experience. It looks great and it plays great. (It's also missing the DC licensed characters of the phone version if that matters to you. Though, I must say that they probably feeling jarring when juxtaposed against the fantasy themed characters and world).
As far as monetization goes, I guess that's up to you. I've personally never had an issue with playing these kinds of F2P games truly "free." I don't mind starting with a paltry cast of available characters and slowly unlocking new ones with in-game currency that I've earned. And after I month I've already unlocked more heroes than I've actually had time to use them all.
And I've been playing A LOT. Since the game launched last month it's pretty much become my "few rounds before bed" game. I'm currently sitting at level 18 and have started messing more with the Arcana system to buff my heroes. Even after all this time, I recognize that I'm fairly noob-ish but I'm having a good time. In a way, it reminds me of those early months of playing Heroes Of The Storm - learning new heroes, and getting my head wrapped around strategy and everything else. As such, I haven't even CONSIDERED playing any ranked matches yet. I know that I need to punch my own weight.
I love how even the perceived 'lost cause' matches can end in an upset. These crazy turns of event will be familiar to those who have played Heroes Of The Storm no doubt. Which is why when I see an overzealous and preemptively salty teammate suggest we just surrender a mere seven minutes into a game, I roll my eyes and don't even acknowledge the request. Arena Of Valor requires that your team always be doing SOMETHING constructive. So while an opposing team might be way ahead of you on kills, they may be forgetting to jungle; they may be ignoring an entire lane; they may be getting cocky and ignoring the fact that your tiny grunts are slowly chipping away at their defenses. It's awesome and exciting to see how quickly a tide can change. Better yet, it provides an easy lesson that you should never give up.
Right now my favorite hero is Krixi (the pixie...) who is one of the Mages in the game. She has some nice powerful attack and control spells that are projectiles so she can play pretty ranged. And I prefer to augment her with the Heal talent which has a short range but can still help teammates in a bind. After Krixi I tend to use Violet and Butterfly a lot. Violet is Marksman - basically a ranged attacker/flank who hits pretty damn hard. When using the speed-up talent she can be transitioned a bit from those who may have played Tracer a lot in Heroes Of The Storm. Butterfly on the other hand is just a straight up Warrior - one who reminds considerably of The Bride from Kill Bill (especially given her possible Oneechanbara-looking skin). I mean I haven't even touched a Tank yet. There's still so much for me to learn!
But that's always been the appeal of games like this for me. Just like Overwatch or Paladins or any of the other competitive games I've gotten into over the years. It's never really about getting good - it's about having fun. And if I improve in the process, then even better.
I've been a fan of Splatterhouse since I can remember. Heck, I've been a fan of the series since before I even played the first game. Just seeing ads and screenshots of the game in magazines as a kid was mind-blowing. It was so violent and crazy. I knew it was for me. But over the years that original game has been outshined by sequels of varying quality and nowadays I feel like I'm more of a Splatterhouse fan in spirit than in reality. As such I still can't seem to get rid of the cool Splatterhouse mask statue I got with my Gamestop pre-order of the last entry.
Namco recently released yet another of their Namco Museum compilations on the Switch, but this is the first one I know of to feature Splatterhouse. I HAD to get it. And so my wife and I fired it up this past week and gave it a go. The rose tint of nostalgia showed its ugly head with this one, I'm afraid. Splatterhouse as an IP is kind of awesome, but Splatterhouse - the original arcade game - is slightly less awesome.
In fairness I'll say it looks great, though. It has this sickly color pallet that really fits the mood. And the sprites are cool and pay tribute to lots of horror movies of the day. Let's not pretend that Rick wasn't modeled after Jason Voorhees. And I mean look around - there's nods to The Evil Dead and the Alien series and so on. It's fun stuff for horror fans, no doubt.
That said, the game controls pretty poorly. Rick kind of floats and isn't super responsive. And the hitboxes suck! And there's a stupid forcefield thing chasing you through a level so you can't take your time. I don't know, it just doesn't feel great. My memory says that the TurboGrafx-16 version was better... but maybe that's just rose tinted glasses as well? I will say this, though: my FAVORITE Splatterhouse game is probably Wanpaku Graffiti which was a Famicom exclusive remake of the first game that turned everything chibi and fun but also controlled a hell of a lot better than this.
My wife and I have long had a love/hate relationship with Ghosts N Goblins. I don't think that's really unusual either. I think anybody that loves this game does so because they kind of hate the shit that it puts them through. But it can also feel rewarding because of that shit. But here's the thing, I've always heard the NES version was terrible. Well now I know for myself - the NES version is terrible.
A lot of folks seem to be slamming the Nintendo Switch Online service and its selection of on-demand NES games. Not me, though. I think it's been a pretty cool little service so far. And hey, three (or kind of four) new games were added this week. It's fun to see what shows up in the list each month now. And so I had been saving Ghosts N Goblins for this month. I figured how bad could it be? I've played the Commodore 64 version for crying out loud!
Well it's bad. It's infuriatingly bad because there's just a bombardment of stuff trying to kill you immediately. And Arthur doesn't control as well as the arcade version. Just everything feels off on this game. The zombies seem to perpetually spawn and the power-up items blow and the projectiles have too much flicker and that red jerk from Demoncrest is everywhere and it's just bad. We honestly rage-quit before beating the first level... THE FIRST LEVEL!
So yeah, I wish there was some saving grace here. I wish I could say well at least the music is still awesome but I just couldn't have fun with this port. Ugh. I wish I could. Like I said, I've played the Commodore 64 version and I don't remember bailing on it this quickly.
I would say that I've been a casual appreciator of the Call Of Duty series for many years. Which is to say that I don't get on the hype train and feel the need to buy titles each year. Nor do I like to roll my snobby little eyes at each new COD announcement. I just fall somewhere in the middle. Some games in the series have interested me while others don't. It's just that plain and simple. And while I'm actual not a big fan of realistic war games to begin with, I've had fun playing the very first Call Of Duty which was certainly meant to display its realism. I've also had a blast with something like Advanced Warfare which was basically COD: The Halo Game or something along those lines. And this upcoming multiplayer game looks like the first time a battle royale has really interested me. So whatever.
But I've skipped more COD's than I've played. And I really had no interest in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back when it launched in 2007. This was basically right around the time I had gotten heavily back into gaming after a bit of a hiatus in college, so mostly I was replying retro games a the time - on an endless hunt for the thrill of nostalgia. A game like Modern Warfare with its realistic take on the horrors of war and terrorism just wanted appealing to me at all. And to be totally honest, it wasn't appealing to me in 2018 either but I had been going through Game Informer's list of their Top 300 games of all time, and this one ranked rather high. When I came across a copy of it at Gamestop for a mere three dollars, I couldn't resist stepping slightly out of my comfort zone to give this one a try.
First of all this game still looks fucking great. I mean really. I know there's been some kind of remaster released for it since, but to my eyes the original 2007 release still looks pretty fantastic. Not bad for a $3 purchase! Right off the bat I'd say that the controls felt as smooth as butter, but I mean it's COD. This is what they do - and have done - for many years. So no surprises there. The opening mission grabbed me, though. It was a rather exciting attack on an ocean liner that ends up turning into a frantic escape as the ship goes down. Immediately the game shifts gears as the opening credits are overlaid upon you in the shoes of the subject of an execution. It's grim stuff, and yet I feel like the various roles you'll play in this game - some of which don't get to make it to the end credits - does a solid job of telling a compelling story rather than just being a throwaway narrative to justify shooting sections in between.
I must praise Infinity Ward for a couple of things - namely for respecting my time. Though it appears that players in 2007 were bummed at the brevity of the campaign, I for one really value a game that can tell a great story and offer great gameplay for seven solid hours and then bow out on a high note. I'll take that over a twenty or thirty hour game full of time-killing bullshit any day of the week. And given that the version of me in my thirties has a lot less free time than I used to, I actually prefer having these short single player experiences that I can knock out over a few nights in a single week and then move on to something else. Granted I did pay $3 rather than $60 for these seven hours, but I still hold my stance.
But it's not just the brevity of the campaign that Infinity Ward did so right. It's the pacing and the variance of it all. Those seven hours are spent constantly moving forward, making progress and seeing new and interesting things. It feels like each mission was a new and pleasant surprise. I was never really sure what I'd be doing. And no mission hung around longer than it needed to. Some missions are much longer than others, but that was refreshing. It's as if the developers asked "okay, how long does this REALLY need to be?" and just cut it off right there, making each feel like a perfect fit.
By cramming so much stuff into such a concise game, Modern Warfare really ends up feeling like a greatest hits of the series. And the result is that while I personally hate stealth, the one stealth mission didn't bother me because I knew it was only one out of eighteen and that it wasn't going to go on forever. I knew that it was only peppered in among missions where I'd be tasked with blowing up tanks, or dropping bombs via a computer terminal on a helicopter, or be playing an on rails shooter on the back of a speeding truck, or doing a sniper assassination mission, or... well, put it this way - even the one escort mission felt good because at least I could drop my wounded buddy and he'd still cover me. The missions are just that well thought out - so even the annoying stuff works.
Modern Warfare's vocal critics have also complained of how linear the game is. And that's whatever. Look, I love open world games too. But not everything has to be Breath Of The Wild, y'know? And I think a game like this that's attempting to tell such a tight story needs to be linear or else it chances losing that story in translation. For me personally I really enjoyed figuring out just how open I could force the game to be. You had clear objectives in each mission but I loved trying to see just HOW I could accomplish them. I'd often try to find backdoors that weren't obvious, or I'd just rush in and go full aggro when I wasn't supposed to. It was fun to just test the limits of the game, and surprisingly this super linear game never seemed to penalize me for trying something different.
All in all I had a really great time playing Modern Warfare. I'm in no rush to go out and seek all the others. And by the way, that numbering gets complicated, right? Like Modern Warfare 2 isn't Call Of Duty 5. But whatever. What I can say is that I'm totally pleased that I finally gave this game a chance. It's this kind of experience that makes me happy to randomly trust something as arbitrary as Game Informer's list of top games to force myself to try something I probably wouldn't have bothered with otherwise. Sure I'll play stuff that doesn't click in the process, but the feeling of discovery and success when something does click is awesome.