Seasonal gaming habits – spring?

sonic_cd

So, it’s hitting spring around here (remember, this is the southern hemisphere ;)). This means it’s no longer cold (“cold” by Australian standards anyway), the garden comes alive (with new weeds and the lawn needs more frequent mowing), it’s brighter for longer and Christmas isn’t too far away (scary). Last year I wrote on how games are associated with my memories of different seasons. It’s completely irrational, but for me different seasons have tangible memories of gaming associated with them. So when the seasons change, it makes me think of different games. As opposed to something more logical/socially acceptable, like music, movies or first loves. Popular culture informs me these associations are acceptable. They’re probably right.

In my original rant, I mentioned Road Avenger (Mega CD), Sonic CD (Mega CD), Thunderhawk (Mega CD), Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter (Sega Saturn), Panzer Dragoon (Saturn), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn), Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive) and Street Fighter 2: Special Championship Edition (Mega Drive). While I haven’t done much gaming over the last couple of months, I seem to be going through a Mega Drive phase, having finished Wonderboy in Monster World back in July, buying a 32X in September and am currently contemplating playing through Phantasy Star 2. Well, I’m contemplating the latter via Sega Ages 2500 vol. 32: Phantasy Star Collection on the PS2, as you can set it to Very Easy/Easy to make the game less grindy compared to the cart. I do have Phantasy Star 2 in all its glory on the Mega Drive (including the map and the hint book!) from back in the day and even managed to finish it when I was a kid, but these days I don’t have the free time to grind-grind-grind my way through the game, so the M2-emulated compilation on the PS2 is my easy way out 🙂

So, looking at the list above I thought I’d focus on the Mega CD games, because I have unusually vivid memories of the Mega CD.

According to the Australian Video Game Magazine Score Archive at Retro Gaming Australia, Sonic CD was reviewed by Hyper in January 1994; this puts local availability anywhere from December 1993 to March 1994. The date is relevant because the first time I ever saw a Mega CD, in the flesh, was in my local favourite (and now sadly defunct) game store. Sitting on the front counter at the end of the two ailes full of Mega Drive and SNES games for rent that made up the small store (along with some Gameboy, Master System, NES and 3DO games to mix things up) was a Model 1 Mega Drive/Model 1 Mega CD combo with the opening splash screen/intro movie for Sonic CD running on a continuous loop. It was earth-shatteringly mindblowing in a way that you couldn’t imagine unless you were 12 years old and it was 1994. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily a case for quality, as back in 1994 East 17 was popular amongst 12 year olds and digitised graphics/Mark Hamil was the future of gaming.

So, enthused by the promise of CD-ROM technology and low-resolution video in 64 colours, I pooled enough money to be able to rent a Mega CD from said local independent for a weekend with Thunderhawk and Sonic CD to test the machine out. This happened to be in September, and I can still recall hooking up that extra power brick to the series of double adapters behind the laminate-woodgrain TV in the lounge room to experience the future.

It was, in a word, amazing.

Sonic CD proved a great platformer in its own right, but the combination of CD audio (being a PAL version we had the original Japanese soundtrack, which is still my preference to this day) and 3D special stages elevated it to something else. Even if they could probably be done on a SNES with an overlcocked SuperFX2.

Then came Core Design’s technical wonder of a game, Thunderhawk. Having spent many hours enjoying the glorious glory that was LHX Attack Chopper on our mighty 386DX40 PC (which became an even better game when I worked out you could copy the disk’s contents to the 40mb [!] HDD for faster loading), loading up Thunderhawk was all types of awesome. Great scrolling, amazing audio, and more detail compared to my previous flat-shaded shoot-shoot-helicopter experience with the former (not surprising given it was made in… 1990, compared to Thunderhawk, which was released in 1993). Thunderhawk would mark the start of a great relationship between Core Design and Sega that culminated with Tomb Raider launching first on the Saturn, whereupon Core sold out since Sony paid them a lot of money to go exclusive. Since Sega had very little money in 1996 and created a convoluted (but loveable) mess of hardware, this arrangement is not terribly surprising.

But I digress – back to the story.

To be honest, I thought that was going to be the end of my Mega CD experience as the add-on was expensive, so there wasn’t much possibility of being able to pick one up on pocket money and money gifting on birthdays or Christmas. Fast-forward a little over 12 months though, and things changed. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation in 1995, the upcoming Nintendo 64 (though I think we were still calling it the Ultra 64 at that stage), the tanking of the Mega CD and 32X and with the 16-bit era on its last legs (nobody told Nintendo, so we got Donky Kong Country, Secret of Evermore and in the US, Chrono Trigger to keep us entertained for a little longer), in 1995 the impossible became altogether possible. I’m not sure how I got the funds together, but I joined the Mega CD club in spring ’95. I probably have the receipt somewhere that’ll give the exact date too.

Mum was kind enough to pick up the console and a game (Sonic CD) while I was at school, but it was a modern day/1995 tragedy – I was behind on a geography assignment that was due the next day (a Friday if I recall correctly), so instead of unboxing my shiny new console I stole quick glances at it between burying my head in atlases and encyclopedias whilst trying to write something coherent.

Roll on the next day though, and after school it was Mega CD time. It was warm (so I’m guessing it was late-October or November), so the fan was buzzing away at the lowest speed, and the Mega Drive + Mega CD 2 combo was hooked up via RF to the recently-acquired 34cm TV (in fashionable late-80s matte black, a hand-me-down from my older brother who replaced the TV [and accompanying C64] with a 14″ SVGA monitor and the 386DX40). Packed in was Road Avenger, which received a cursory play, but the real meat was Sonic CD. I can’t tell you how many hours I sunk into that game in the months following, but it was a lot. I remember unlocking everything on that game, it was amazing. I even started playing Road Avenger after a while, and began to genuinely enjoy it. This last point is not surprising in the context of 1995/1996, as my burgeoning anime interest was about to ramp up following easier access to videos thanks to Siren/Manga Video and SBS kicking off things with Ninja Scroll on Des Mangan’s Cult Movie sessions on Saturday nights a few months later.

So – spring, Mega CD and a few classic titles. Unusual? Probably 🙂

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Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” in SID form

I’m quite comfortable admitting that I love Journey in all their cheesy arena rock spectacularity, so I’m understandably chuffed that someone hooked up two SID chips and brought Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” to life, C64-style.

Isn’t that all sorts of awesome? You can indulge in more 80s covers at kevinleerose’s channel. It’s okay, you’re allowed to admit to enjoying 80s arena rock.

And while we’re at it (on the topic of SID covers), I should also post this one up – it’s “Title Theme (Subsong 2)” from the C64 port of Turrican:

Yes, for those playing at home, that is an amazing SID track by the great Chris Hülsbeck… but it is actually a cover of the epic “The Escape” by Vince DiCola, from the animated spectacular of 1986 – Transformers: The Movie.

Fun fact – for our first X-mas, Wifey bought me the OST of Transformers: The Movie. Yes, she’s that awesome.

Oh, and if the name Chris Hülsbeck sounds familiar, its because he was a master of the SID. His original title track for R-Type on the C64 was also the inspiration for the first (and only :P) remix I’ve put together, which I posted up two years ago. I should get around to making a video for that with me failing horribly on R-Type or something and post it on YouTube. If nothing else, it’ll be funny 🙂

This post has turned into a gushing love-fest for the SID. This is a good thing. I blame it on Frank for getting me started on thinking about SID music after my previous post. But it’s the good kind of blame, because every time you listen to a SID, the world becomes a better place.

Truly.

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The 2010 C64 haul

C64 - second haul

The images have been in the gallery for ages but I just realised I hadn’t written anything on it!

Last year I picked up a great haul of C64 stuff from a local who was clearing out their old gear. Included in there was a Commodore 1802 monitor, Commodore MPS1250 dot-matrix printer, boxed C64, Commodore 1541-II disk drive, 1530 C2N tape drive and a fair whack of games, including some blank disks (which came in handy when I got my XM-1541 adapter). All up, it was a great haul from a nice local who was happy to see them go to a home that would give them some TLC.

The full roundup is in the C64 collections gallery.

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Seasonal gaming habits and associations

This one’s a little left-of-center, but I thought I’d post it anyhows.

I’ve found over the years that, just as musos will track periods of time in their lives or historical phases by the music associated therewith, I have begun over the years to do the same thing with video games. I see this happening on two levels, micro (annual seasons/events) and macro (periods of time).

The most recent/up-coming example of Micro Gaming Associations (let’s give it a fancy acronym – MiGA – yeah!) would be Easter. And it’s a completely irrational.

Back in March 1993, my brothers and I pooled our resources and sold off our Sega Master System, all our controllers (bar one or two we left behind, came in handy for 1-button games like Sonic or Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive) and all our games in order to pool the $300 for a Sega Mega Drive (original model, without the serial port though) pack that included Sonic 1 and vouchers to get Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (boo!) and Columns (uber). I’ll leave the full, drawn-out story for a later post, but suffice to say we picked one up and come Easter, we had a Mega Drive, and it was the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of the universe to my pre-pubescent brain.

So, I still remember clearly on the morning of Good Friday, after partaking in copius amounts of hot cross buns (yum), I jumped in front of the telly and played – of all things – Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. It was an awesome game in 1993, and while it’s probably a bit on the rubbish side, is still a lot of fun today. If you’re irrational like myself.

So, for the last couple of years I’ve gone to the habit of digging out Moonwalker and give the game a crack around Easter time because of the association with the season – in fact, if you check out my 10 April 2009 gaming session gallery, you’ll find a few pics from the first stage of Moonwalker 🙂 The same thing may happen this weekend 😀

Thus, when Easter comes around, you can count on me firing up the old 16-bit beast and having a crack at Moonwalker. But what about other seasons? Let’s have a think…

MiGA list:

  • Seasons –
    • Summer: Shenmue (Dreamcast), Asuka 120% Limited (Saturn), Wonderboy in Monster World (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Master System)
    • Autumn: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Sega Mega Drive), Super Mario All-Stars (SNES), Donkey Kong Country (SNES), Secret of Mana (SNES), Sonic 2 (Sega Mega Drive), Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast), Ico (Playstation 2)
    • Winter: Phantasy Star 4 (Mega Drive), Rocket Knight Adventures (Mega Drive), Ghostbusters (Mega Drive), TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist (Mega Drive), Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES), Super Metroid (SNES), Dragon Force (Saturn), Magic Knight Rayearth (Saturn), Vampire Savior (Saturn), Saturn Bomberman (Saturn), Sonic 1 (Master System)
    • Spring: Road Avenger (Mega CD), Sonic CD (Mega CD), Thuderhawk (Mega CD), Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter (Sega Saturn), Panzer Dragoon (Saturn), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn), Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive), Street Fighter 2: Special Championship Edition (Mega Drive)
  • Holidays –
    • Christmas: Shenmue (Dreamcast), NiGHTS (Saturn), Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn), Story of Thor (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Master System)
    • Easter: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Mega Drive), Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Mega Drive)

It’s a bit illogical and extremely inconsistent, but I thought I’d share anyhows 🙂

So what about Macro Gaming Associations (MaGA to keep things going) – for the purpose of my ranting and raving, I’ll use these to define where particular games emphasised or are representational of a period of years or within a particular generation of game systems. This one’s still a bit hazy/inconsistent compared to the former which I’ve spent more time thinking about, so bear with me for this more randomised list. Note that like the above, these are representational of my personal bias, hence why some systems/games aren’t represented and why some games that may have come out in other periods are represented out of date. Where games represent the period and were ported to numerous systems, I’ve placed them in favoured order of association. Thus, if a game came out on the C64 and arcade but I spent more time playing the C64 version, that gets preference, even if the arcade original was much better.

  • Decades –
    • 1980s: Asteroids (Atari 2600), Pitfall (Atari 2600), Enduro (Atari 2600), R-Type (Commodore 64, arcade), TMNT (Commodore 64 [platformer], arcade), International Karate (Commodore 64), The Last Ninja (Commodore 64), Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja (Commodore 64, Amiga 500, arcade), Wizball (Commodore 64), Combat School (Commodore 64), The Great Giana Sisters (Commodore 64), Bruce Lee (Commodore 64), Outrun (Commodore 64, arcade), Afterburner 2 (Commodore 64, deluxe hyrdraulic arcade cabinet), Wonderboy (Commodore 64), Space Invaders (cocktail arcade cabinet), China Gate (arcade)
    • 1990s: Wing Commander (DOS), Space Quest 3 (DOS), Warcraft 2 (DOS), Police Quest 2 (DOS), Double Dragon 2 (NES), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES), The Flinstones (NES), Advanced D&D Collection series (Commodore 64, DOS), Sonic 1-2 (Master System, Mega Drive), Wonderboy 1-3 (Sega Master System), Alex Kidd in Miracle World/Shinobi World (Sega Master System), Sonic 3 + Knucles (Sega Mega Drive), Gunstar Heroes (Mega Drive), Story of Thor (Mega Drive), Phantasy Star 2/4 (Mega Drive), Super Mario World (SNES), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES), Secret of Mana (SNES), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn), NiGHTS (Saturn), Guardian Heroes (Saturn), Saturn Bomberman (Saturn), Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn), Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast), Soul Calibur (Dreamcast), Daytona 8-way linkup (arcade), Last Bronx (arcade, Saturn), Sega Rally 2 (arcade), X-Men vs Street Fighter (arcade, Saturn), Dead or Alive (arcade, Saturn), House of the Dead 2 (arcade, Dreamcast), Street Fighter 2/CE/HF/Super/Super Turbo (arcade), Metal Slug (arcade, Saturn), King of Fighters ’96 (arcade, Saturn), Crazy Taxi (arcade, Dreamcast)
    • 2000s: Shenmue 1-2 (Dreamcast), Dead or Alive 2 (Dreamcast, arcade, Playstation 2), Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast), Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast), Powerstone 2 (Dreamcast), Gauntlet Legends (Dreamcast), Ico (Playstation 2), Kingdom Hearts (Playstation), Viewtiful Joe (Gamecube), Tales of Phantasia (Gamecube), The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (Gamecube), Panzer Dragoon Orta (XBox)
  • Generations (in order of preference/emphasised experience) –
    • 8-bit: Atari 2600, Commodore 64, NES
    • 16-bit: Mega Drive, SNES, DOS
    • 32-bit: Saturn
    • 128-bit: Dreamcast, Gamecube, Playstation 2, XBox

Like I said, irrational, huh?

I think a special point needs to be made on the inclusion of the PS2 and the whole 128-bit gen note above – it’s actually all to Wifey’s credit that I had a big love of the PS2 in the last generation, as I was irrationally opposed to it on principle (being a bit of a Sega fanboy :P), but it garnered quite the soft spot in the end. It was also the first time I’d been in a financial position to actually get use of all the consoles in a single generation, so it’s quite interesting in that respect.

To be honest, I think I like the first list based on MiGA better than the second, as I feel like I’m making more of a randomised, generated list of games tied to extremely large swaths of time with the MaGA list, and the former seems more personal in its choices… but then again, when I think back on time periods, those are the games that stand out, at least at the moment I’m writing up this post.

I’ll have a thorough chuckle if either of these concepts get picked up anywhere else, or how many people throw on the rose-tinted glasses and look back on their classic games like this. I suspect I’m not the only one, but at the same time I don’t think I have my finger on the pulse in any way.

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed that long-winded return to retro gaming blogging. I promise I’ll start getting back into regular posting from now on!

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Gaming sessions – 11 October 2009

Had a quick go at the C64 and some fresh tapes, along with my new tool in my arsenal, a stand-alone tape deck. Makes for speedy rewinding/fast-forwarding of tapes between sessions and save the motor some strain on the tape deck on the C64.

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