It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Time Machine update, but this one is big because I added two new consoles to my collection recently.
The first is a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES as many of us call it. Fellow video gaming fan (and super-cool relative) Sam Hicks held onto it for me until I could afford it and I was finally able to purchase a few days ago. The console still works like new, and the controller is still super-responsive. Between the games that Sam included with the SNES and trips to a local flea market and a couple of independent video game stores, my collection stands at a respectable 33 games. Here’s the rundown, with special notes as applicable:
- ActRaiser (cartridge only): Has it really been nearly 21 years since this game debuted in the U.S.? Yes. There’s something to be said for playing this game on the original hardware and with an original controller… and the battery backup still works.
- Battletoads & Double Dragon (cartridge only): I couldn’t help myself when I saw this, although I stunk when I tried it.
- Donkey Kong Country (cartridge only): This was one of the games I got with the console, and it remains as one of my favorite SNES games. Beautiful visuals, awesome sound, tight play controls, and an all-around fantastic game.
- F-Zero (cartridge only): This game is still a challenge. Although I think I prefer F-Zero X (Nintendo 64) a bit more, it’s still great to relive the memories of setting new records and seeing Mode 7 visuals shown off.
- Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (cartridge only): For a mere $6, I couldn’t pass this game up. Still fun to play, and there’s an underrated soundtrack here.
- HAL’s Hole-In-One Golf (cartridge only): The first of many sports games on this list, it’s also a game that I appreciate more now than in 1991 as I’ve since become more of a golf fan. Love the zoom-in on the hole when putts go in!
- Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (cartridge only): I’m not sure what it is about 8-bit and 16-bit baseball games, but I love ‘em. Never played either of the Griffey games, but heard good things from friends… so I got them both.
- Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run (cartridge only): I didn’t know this was a RARE-developed game until I tested it. Above-average visuals and easy to pick up and play. Need to be more patient when at bat, though.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (cartridge only): Many people think that Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game ever made, but this title gets my vote. Deep game with great everything.
- Madden NFL ’94 (complete): This game was $1 and came with box and instructions. Still fun.
- Madden NFL ’95 (complete): Another $1 complete game. First one with the FOX Sports affiliation.
- NBA Give ‘n Go (cartridge only): This game is the one that I was most excited to land. It’s based loosely on Konami‘s Run ‘n Gun coin-op (which I loved), plus it sports a full NBA license. Still as awesome as ever, despite framerate issues.
- NBA Hangtime (complete): The SNES version lags behind the N64 (best) and PlayStation versions, but still delivers a respectable arcade experience. The cheap price as a complete game hooked me.
- NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (cartridge only): I will never tire of NBA Jam or NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. Sure, there are compromises in this conversion, but it is close enough to still capture that addictive arcade magic. (I need the original BAD.)
- NCAA Basketball (cartridge only): There’s a whole lot of Mode 7 going on here, but there’s a fair game of basketball underneath all of that rotation and scaling wizardry. I spent hours on this 20 years ago.
- NFL Football (complete): It was $1. This game is significant to me because I bought it alongside Street Fighter II Turbo in the summer of 1993 and one of the two games was awesome while the other kind of sucked. You guess which one was which.
- NHLPA Hockey ’93 (complete): Another $1 find. This version sports the EASN brand, which ESPN sued to have EA change because of the similarity between the two brands. Now the two companies are friends and partners. Go figure.
- NHL ’94 (cartridge only): After the choppy framerate and experience in NHLPA Hockey ’93, EA was starting to get the hang of the SNES hardware with this game. The SEGA Genesis version is still far superior, but this isn’t bad.
- NHL Stanley Cup (cartridge only): If you thought there was a lot of Mode 7 being used in NCAA Basketball, trying playing this game and see how crazy the rotation is. Hockey didn’t translate as well as basketball, sadly.
- Sporting News Baseball (complete): This game is basically a port of World Class Baseball (TurboGrafx-16), but with better stat tracking and the MLBPA license. I have a soft spot for it, personally.
- Star Fox (cartridge only): I went nuts for this game in 1993, and went to several different venues to participate in the Super Star Fox Weekend competition. I finished first at one venue and scored a sweet jacket, which I literally wore to shreds.
- Stunt Race FX (cartridge only): I’m not sure why I bit on this. Nostalgia isn’t enough to hide the 15 frames per second awfulness that this experience delivers. It’s a piece of history… and hey, look: Super FX chip!
- Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 (cartridge only): YES. This game can be as serious or as wacky as you want it to be, all with full stat tracking. 180mph fastballs and hits that make the screen spin really fast? Both are here. Still awesome.
- Super Bases Loaded (cartridge only): The idea here is to “play a perfect game”. Easier said than done with a control scheme that takes some getting used to, but it’s still fun to try.
- Super High Impact (cartridge only): This game is to NFL Blitz as Arch-Rivals was to NBA Jam. Crazy plays, fights on the field, a loud announcer, and easy-to-learn controls should sound familiar. This arcade conversion is a little lacking, though.
- Super Mario World (cartridge only): What kind of SNES collection would I have if there wasn’t a Mario game in it? This is my second-favorite Mario game, behind Super Mario Bros. 3. That’s pretty good company to be in.
- Super Tennis (cartridge only): I used to be much better at this game, but I think I unconsciously play every tennis game like Virtua Tennis now… which is pretty much wrong.
- Taz-Mania (complete): This game, for lack of a better comparison, is F-Zero Jr. Taz has to grab tasty birds while racing against the clock to complete a course and budgeting his spin (or turbo boost) for proper use. This game is OK.
- Tecmo Super Bowl (cartridge only): I love this game. Tecmo Bowl Throwback was nice for XBLA and PSN/SEN, but the original– with all of the NFL teams and players– easily trumps it. Yes, I’m a bandwagon 49ers player. I admit it.
- Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (cartridge only): Tecmo attempted to build on its football success with arcade-influenced titles in other sports, and this was the next in line. Decent game, but controls take a bit to learn properly.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (cartridge only): This game borrows a bit from Street Fighter II, but the selection of characters from the TMNT universe and the tight gameplay make it more than just a clone. Good stuff.
- Tetris Attack (cartridge only): I will admit this here and now: The only game that I’ve ever played hooky from work in order to keep playing is this one. It’s highly addictive, in either this form or as one of the Puzzle League games.
- Uniracers (cartridge only): Thanks to a Pixar lawsuit, production on this game was limited… and it’s too bad. Fun, trick-based gameplay with lots of speed and quality animation. I was surprised to find this game so easily.
I still have many more games that I’m on the lookout for, but I’ll cover those in another installment. Look for Part Two of this column to go up in a day or two, as I talk about the other new console I got. It’s still thinking.
The first part of my Ace Combat Megaplay series is now live over at Splitkick.
I played through Air Combat in about three hours. It wasn’t an overly positive experience, but it was important to note some of the features that that the series would carry over in future installments. As I approach the other games in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how these features evolve and change.
There are a few things that I wanted to add here about my Air Combat experience:
The controls were awful to go back to. Perhaps I’ve finally adjusted to analog controls after resisting them for so long, but digital control wasn’t the big problem. Flying an F-14 shouldn’t be similar to driving a school bus, but that’s how it felt. In-flight turns were sluggish and it was hard to account for momentum in those turns while trying to take down enemy fighters. I realize that this was 1995 and that controls back then weren’t perfect, but going back to them after all of the Ace Combat experience that I’ve had was a formidable challenge when trying to enjoy the game.
There are a couple of missions that involve flying at low altitudes through ravines or caves. These types of missions eventually became staples of the Ace Combat series, but the ones in Air Combat were more frustrating than in other games. The reason for this is because you can’t alter your flight speed. It’s already tough to steer and handle your plane, but taking tight corners without being able to adjust your speed is a more formidable challenge than it needs to be. Worse yet, Air Combat penalizes crashes by permanently removing certain planes from your hangar if you destroy them. I lost my A-10 for the rest of the game after it became a permanent part of the canyon when I crashed.
One of the things that I liked about Air Combat was the mission map. Choosing which mission to take is a nice touch, and it sometimes depends on how much money is at stake. If I needed a certain amount of cash for a new plane in the hangar, picking a more lucrative mission was better than going through the motions and completing each mission in sequence. Branching mission paths start in Ace Combat 2, but this game allows more freedom in choosing which sorties to fly.
The soundtrack here is still great. I admit to listening to it while writing, driving, or even in the shower. The mix of guitar and keys really drives the experience at times, like in this track:
With Air Combat now done, it’s on to Ace Combat 2 next week. This is one of my favorite PlayStation games, and it’s one of the best games in the Ace Combat series overall. Additions like opposing aces, medals to unlock, and branching mission paths are some of the best parts of the game, but I’ll need to be mindful of how– if at all– the controls have improved.
I hope you like the direction that it’s taking; the Splitkick team operates on a peer editing system, so some rewrites and edits took place before the piece was livened up with media and posted. I’d love some feedback on the piece if you have some time.
Look for Ace Combat 2 to go live sometime late next week.
I want to thank everyone for their positive response to the Ace Combat Megaplay project. Between Consoleation and Twitter, I’ve been encouraged by the responses I’ve received. I’ve been wanting to get back into some more traditional writing, to go along with my industry analysis, and I think that this project is a big step for me in that direction. I’m hoping to have one installment released every 7-10 days. I did complete the first installment (for Air Combat) today. The game only took about three hours to play through, and the words have been written.
The rest of the lineup looks like this:
- Ace Combat 2 (PlayStation)
- Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere (PlayStation)
- Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (PlayStation 2)
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PlayStation 2)
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (PlayStation 2)
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (Xbox 360)
- Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (PlayStation 3)**
** — I’m also considering replaying the Xbox 360 version to see if there are any notable platform differences.
I’m also considering adding Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (Nintendo 3DS) as a bonus installment if response to the project is good.
I’m also happy to announce that Splitkick will be publishing my Ace Combat Megaplay writing installments. I began writing as an industry analysis contributor for the site earlier this month and, after some discussion with site staff, but this is an opportunity to be published on a wider scale and hopefully gain some exposure and experience in the process. While I’ll still be maintaining Consoleation and Armchair Analysis, my hope is that being published outside of a personal blog space will help me towards my goal of becoming an established and legitimate writer. I haven’t given up hope that I might be able to earn a paying job somewhere down the line, and I think that this Splitkick partnership is a good step in that direction. I hope that you’ll add the site to your bookmarks and give it a read when time allows. There’s a lot of great writing to be read over there.
After each installment goes live, I’ll probably write up an addendum for each one here. I like being able to add some extra insight after a piece of mine is published elsewhere, talking about my personal experiences or adding things that I might have left out of the original work.
Thanks again for your support of this project, and I’ll be checking back in once the first installment goes live.
Namco’s Ace Combat series has been one of my personal favorites. I have fond memories of playing Air Combat for the PlayStation just after the console launched back in 1995, but it was Ace Combat 2 that really captured my attention and made me the fan that I am today. Ace Combat 2 was just one of the many quality titles that came out for the PlayStation in 1997. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, PaRappa the Rapper, Rage Racer, Intelligent Cube, Colony Wars, and Final Fantasy VII all competed for playing time back then, but Ace Combat 2 kept drawing me back with its arcade-style gameplay and intense sorties. It was Top Gun without the over-the-top characters and real-world setting, and that suited me just fine.
After a stumble with the US version of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere on the PlayStation in 2000, Namco then delivered three fantastic Ace Combat games for the PlayStation 2. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies landed on the PlayStation 2 in the fall of 2001 and is arguably the best entry in the series. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War hit three years later in 2004, followed by an Unsung War semi-sequel called Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War in the spring of 2006. The series really came into its own on the PlayStation 2 platform and these three games are among my overall favorites. Namco then pulled a surprise and released Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for the Xbox 360 (instead of the PlayStation 3) in the fall of 2007. I never completed Ace Combat 6, but the scope of the battles was larger than anything seen in the series before. Finally, last October, Namco released a non-numbered Ace Combat game called Ace Combat: Assault Horizon for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Assault Horizon drew some inspiration from Call of Duty and implemented some new gameplay ideas.
As we prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Ace Combat 2 in May, I’m going to be playing each of these eight games in order and will be posting something about each game individually. These won’t be reviews, but will instead be impressions of my time with each game. I’m looking forward to playing through each of these games over the next few weeks and sharing my experiences with you.
The first sortie takes off with Air Combat this week. It’s time to kick the tires and light the fires.
I’ve been back in Massachusetts for three months now, and I’ve slowly been reacquainting myself with the landscape. I heard about a place called Game Play that was something new that had sprung up in my absence and wanted to check it out as a change of pace from Video Game Castle (which I love) and GameStop (with whom most of my recent experiences here have been poor). I didn’t know what to expect, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience. It’s not perfect, but it’s a store with an independent feel and yet a very professional demeanor.
When I walked in, the first thing that caught my attention was the size of the store. It’s pretty large for a games-only retailer, based on my experience. All of the current generation platforms were well-represented, with a good selection of new and previously owned software. The original Xbox and PlayStation 2 also had fair selections of used games to look over. While (aside from the inclusion of original Xbox games) this sounds similar to any GameStop layout, the comparison ended with banks of TVs and gaming chairs for customers to play on. There was also more gaming-related merchandise, including some great t-shirts for sale that I had to force myself not to buy. The store was all about video games, but without the “corporate drone” feel of a GameStop location.
The gaming stations were pretty busy. For a fee per hour, customers can play games at will, or they can use the time to try out games before they buy them. If the gameplay hourly fee is used to try out a game and the customer decides to buy that game, the fee is applied to the cost of the game, which is a nice touch. It’s not quite the risk-free game trial approach that FuncoLand and a few other independent retailers have used in the past, but it seems fair given the setup and operating cost involved. I love the idea of having game stations like this. It doesn’t replace arcades, but if you have a free hour, being able to play some games on a nice setup like Game Play has is a nice idea. It’s great for parties, too.
The staff was great, to a person. The manager sincerely took to the fact that I was a new customer without going overboard. He described a bit about the store and where to find things, but that was it. Customers are given free reign to browse without pressure, and questions were answered with a smile and with as much knowledge as possible. If an answer wasn’t known, an honest “I’m not sure” was given, which impressed me as I observed a couple of interactions. There were two upsell items: one is a $15 annual membership card, which is similar to other gaming retail membership programs but also discounts the hourly rate for playing games in the store. The other was for scratch/damage protection for games, similar to GameStop‘s model. The pitch I was given was casual in nature, with no real pressure to buy. The manager was ringing my transaction and seemed more interested in getting me to come back because I wanted to, rather than investing in a card or other features to “win” my loyalty. I did take the card and the protection on the items I bought, if only because the pitch was so stress-free. Other transactions I witnessed with different staff members went the same way; there were a lot of passes, but rejections didn’t seem to matter.
Game Play also does one thing that other gaming retailers don’t do. New games sell for $55, not $60. It encourages new game sales and serves as a motivator to buy from this store. The manager explained to me that competing with a retail giant like GameStop is a major challenge, but consumers seem receptive to the lower price and that those customers usually end up being repeat customers. Cuts like that might not be possible with the pre-owned side of the business and trade-ins, but not once during my visit did I hear sales of a used game being pushed over the sale of a new game. The idea of a sales transaction of any type seemed to be the more important factor.
The store also hosts regular tournaments. There are sometimes entry fees to cover costs, but turnouts have apparently been quite good and these events build community ties. I’ve always been a big proponent of tournaments and am a big fan of Game Play‘s active role in helping to organize and host them. I’m probably going to drop in and watch the Super Smash Bros. Brawl event on February 25th. I won’t play (because I’m terrible, quite frankly) but it’s fun to get caught up in an event and see who comes out on top.
Game Play really impressed me, and I recommend it to other video gaming fans here in the Springfield, MA area. If the store can stay the course with great staff, fun events, and a low pressure sales environment as I saw this past weekend, then it’s a great alternative to GameStop and shows that brick & mortar stores just might have a bit more of a future than we think.
I’ve been revisiting my stance on online passes recently.
I’ve had some interesting conversations with people that I trust and respect on Twitter, and I’ve seen some fair-to-argue reasons why online passes exist. It’s true that publishers are cut out of the used sales loop and would like some of that revenue. There’s genuine concern that publishers may cut back or even fold if extra revenue isn’t somehow culled from consumers, and we see this frequently with DLC. I don’t necessarily agree with these arguments, but I can at least understand where they’re coming from. I’ve reached a point where I accept that, until digital distribution comes into full effect, online passes are here to stay.
This piece, which has NSFW langauge and was publicized by Kotaku today, tries to do the same thing that my Twitter conversations did… but does it in such an offensive, insulting, and immature manner that the message is fatally diluted as a result. It’s a textbook example of how not to argue a point, because anyone who was either neutral or in opposition to the issue at hand stopped reading less than 100 words in:
Fine then. Don’t F___ING BUY IT, you entitled, self-centered pricks. 38 Studios and every other company who implements an online pass don’t have to listen to a f___ing word of your whining.
Tell me why anyone would keep reading after that point, unless they’re already staunch proponents of online passes.
I didn’t, initially. I took to Twitter instead and publicly called Kotaku out for publicizing something so malignant. I understand that it’s a “Speak Up” piece and that a Kotaku staffer didn’t write it… but a Kotaku staffer sure thought it was a good idea to greenlight the piece and share it with its entire readership. More on that in a bit, though.
Mr. “Skeletal-Minion”, the piece’s author, is obviously very passionate about the industry. He doesn’t want leeches– errr, those who buy used games– to have an ill effect on the entertainment that he holds so dear. Indeed, these people who buy used can’t seem to “skip one f___ing value meal to make up the difference between a new and used copy” are seemingly threats.
It’s good to have a message, and to be passionate, but this is not how it’s done the right way. This is voiced as a teenager’s temper tantrum, spewing vile and vitriol at anyone within earshot who doesn’t agree. There’s no message sent here about online passes and whether 38 Studios was in the right or the wrong about moving a quest line to DLC. If there is, it’s upstaged by the delivery method, which bludgeons readers with verbal abuse from stem to stern. Even as a neutral observer, I’d be far less inclined to listen to anything that the writer has to say. Instead, I’d be angry and want to attack the messenger without caring for the message.
Is this what we’re reduced to in order to get our points across? Do I need to start dropping F-bombs and dealing the insults to get people to listen to me? Is the issue really so binary that there’s no room for debate? The decision by Kotaku to publicize such a diatribe is disappointing because it proves that yes might be the answer to these questions and it really should not be. I find it hard to believe that not one other Kotaku commenter didn’t have a less inflammatory argument that could have been showcased. Instead, Mr. “Skeletal-Minion” gets rewarded with a bully pulpit and the bad blood boils between the Used and New factions. Nothing is solved, and nothing even remotely productive emerges as a result.
It’s great that Kotaku is recognizing and publicizing the opinions of its readers with a wider audience. I just hope that, in the future, more care and consideration will go into the selection of these opinions. Passion does not always equate to substance, as this example clearly demonstrates.