Monday, October 18, 2010

NEStify: The NES at 25

I never had any clue what a video game was until Christmas of 1988. That was when I got what was without question the best Christmas gift ever.

It was an Nintendo Entertainment System bundled with of course Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, two controllers, and the Zapper. Opening the package was like finding something from Outer Space; it was unreal. I had no concept that such a device could exist (the little interaction I had with computers at the time was a few brief glimpses of my Dad's IBM). Seeing it in action on my TV was equally awe inspiring. I mean I was controlling something on TV! How was that even possible? I adapted quickly to this new machine, learning how to play Mario like a pro and how to cheat at Duck Hunt and make that damn dog shut up. It was probably months before I got new game for the system, but at that time it didn't seem to matter much. Those games drew me in and hooked me. I can say truly that they changed me. From that Christmas day forward I was an addict. Video Games were now a permanent fixture in my life.

While the Atari 2600 and other devices out date it by a number of years (and to dismiss those systems would be foolish) for me the real golden age of games was the era in the late 80's when the NES emerged. Games were starting to come into their own then and the NES was the platform that served as ground zero for much of that change. It revitalized a dead industry and gave birth to genres and franchises that hold up the industry to this day.

It wasn't a perfect system, but at the time I'd say it came damn close. As the silver anniversary of the NES passes today, it becomes harder and harder for me to imagine a world in which it did not exist. I'd say pour one out for it today but the fact is it never really died like other consoles. The NES is still kicking around and it feels like it will never really go away.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The last month of Modern Warfare 2 has been rough. I've sunk about 20 hours into the multiplayer on the PC (a low number compared to many people in the game right now) and I think I've run into every hack and exploit in the game. The first MW had its fair share of problems with this (I actually stopped playing the first game on the PC and moved to the 360 because hacks became so common) but the popularity of this game at its launch has accelerated the speed at which the community would have normally found these. The most annoying thing I've run into thus far isn't even a cheat though; it's the akimbo 1887s. They're usually a one shot/one kill and have a crazy range for a shotgun of that power. Every single time someone kills me with those I want to ram a rusty railroad spike through that fucker's asshole.

Now thankfully there is a patch out now for all platforms that fixes these issues. Hopefully I can now safely come back to the game and enjoy getting my ass kicked by people who are just better than me, rather than people who are just cheating.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Needs more Ds

The most lasting thing I got from my viewing of Avatar last friday was a feeling of wonder and amazement. It wasn't just the experience of seeing the film in 3D, it was the execution of the 3D that that sucked me in. It could have easily been a series of cheap scares and out place moments where "OH MY GOD THAT GUN IS POINTING RIGHT AT YOU" but they weren't there. Avatar didn't just prove that modern 3D was a great technology, but that it can be done in a way that benefits the film and doesn't distract from the experience of watching it.

I don't want to hang to much on the film, it isn't perfect, but it has done a great deal to advance the medium. Like Jurassic Park was 16 years ago a revelation for CGI, Avatar is for 3D.

There are still some questions left to be answered, ticket prices, blu-ray, etc., but I still am more excited for films in a post Avatar world than I ever thought I would be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I just got served

So today is apparently Capcom day on the blog which is fine with me as long they keep putting out awesome stuff like this to talk about.

The background in this screenshot shows Metro City, the setting for the Final Fight games making it the most recent addition to Super Street Fighter IV that pays tribute to FF. (Another one of those references being Final Fight character Guy being added to the SFIV roster, also featured in the above screenshot.) If you don't already know, the Final Fight and Street Fighter franchises are already linked. Street Fighter was originally sold to arcades as a the sequel to Final Fight, but some where along the line the game's name was changed from Final Fight II to Street Fighter. Over the years Final Fight characters have made appearances in various Street Fighter games paying homage to the two series' linked roots.

While Street Fighter went on to become one of the most popular franchise's in gaming, Final Fight fell off the map. The only recent addition to the series was a putrid PS2 game released a few years ago. Final Fight may never return to the popularity it once had it's still nice to know Capcom hasn't forgotten about it. If you haven't played Final Fight before I highly suggest you change that, with Virtual Console on the Wii being one of the many legal means of downloading the game.

Hard or Easy

Like most normal humans I got my ass kicked last year by Mega Man 9. It was frustrating to the point where I felt like there was no fun in the game for me to have. That isn't to say that I don't understand why other people loved it. Truly challenging games are hard to find to in this day and age and I do think that some people just need a game to be frustrating before they can really get anything out of it.

For me MM9 was a huge disappoint. It was a game that I was really anticipating and to load it up to find that I was absolutely wretched at it was heartbreaking. I don't use the term "heartbreaking" here lightly either. This was the same feeling of heartbreak I used to get all the time as a kid when I would get a game, try to play it, and find that I was just too terrible at it to get anywhere. I knew that the game itself wasn't bad, but rather I was bad. For a person like myself who loves games this type of revelation is akin to an art collector realizing that they've gone blind. Being unable to see something that seemingly everyone else could was (and still is) depressing. Now I do know that I'm not the only person who sucks a MM9 or the only person who loved video games growing up and was awful at them, but when you suck at a game you know to be good you sometimes feel like you're the only one.

I've read some places and heard some people I know wonder aloud why games have (as I alluded to earlier) become easier. The answer is simply because of people like me. Developers have grown past wanting to create games that are challenging for the sake of it in favor of games that can challenge players without being frustrating. Devs want players to see the worlds they've created; and why wouldn't they? There is no point in pouring all that effort into something only a small portion of your potential players will see. That isn't to say that there is no room for hard games, in fact there should be plenty of room for both levels of challenge in games today.

Mega Man 10, was announced earlier this year with the addition of an easy mode to the game. Whether or not it was a decision made due to the whining of people like me or someone at Capcom wanted to share their creation I don't really know. I'm just glad that I'll be able to see the game like other poeple.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Metal Gear?

I should have known that I wasn't going to like Metal Gear Solid 4. The signs were all there: the long cutscenes, the difficult game mechanics, the tangled storyline. I new all these things going into MGS4, yet I felt the need to give the game a fair shake. Despite all of its flaws I like my PS3 I like the interface, I've liked most of the games I played on it, and damnit I still love that controller no matter if I use Sixaxis as often as I change the oil in my car.

The point is that like Fox Mulder, despite all evidence pointing to the contray, I wanted to believe. I know many more people have discovered the truth of Metal Gear, but no matter how hard I try to see it, I seem to be blind to it.

I can stomach bizarre, convoluted stories that require steeped knowledge of continuity to understand. Somewhere here in my bedroom is a copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a stoy that is fundmentally wrapped in about 40 years of comic book continuity. I love this book, despite the fact that the first time I read it years ago, about 70% of it went completely over my head. I can't find that twisted geek love here in MGS4. Sitting through 20 minute long explanitions of secret government cloning projects, that is presented as pure talking head exposition is just frustrating to me.

There is also a heavy dose of pretension ingrained in most of the story. Following each boss battle the game is stopped and you are subjected to a long tale giving you the sad story of the person you just killed. Whatever subtleness that was there before is explained in painstaking fashion to the player. Kojima (the game's producer and creator) has a message to give you, and no amount of interpretation is to be left to the viewer.

The game preaches of the evils of the military industrial complex. There are no questions asked to be answered by the viewer. Only a worldview that we are supposed to accept. This is a shame because the played is turned into a viewer constantly. The core advantage to this medium is removed, active participation in a story is turned into passive observation.

The game itself though shines at first. Players are rewarded for being patient and using the environment to their advantage. It's a deep game, and there is no absolute one way to get past the game's stealth sections. Conversely the game's bosses are very pattern based and rely on the player learning the right way to beat them. This really wasn't a problem though until the last 2 bosses for me where the game became far more frustrating and literally leaned on callbacks to past games in the series to hold it up.

That is ultimately why I didn't like MGS4. The game offers great promise that is met more and more by disappointment towards the end. I walked away wanting more of the game I started playing, and none of the game it ended up being. Fresh gameplay ideas are turned into old ones, or jokes about old gameplay concepts.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is without a doubt an uncompromisng vision on Hideo Kojima's part, and not even I can deny that comes across as a labor of love. It's just not a vision I can embrace.

Mostly it's about games, mostly.

The only value of someone's opinion is found in sharing it with someone else. At least that's the backbone of what has made me crawl back to blogging here. I have opinions, and they hold no value unless I share them. I may only be sharing them with empty void of the internet where I don't know if anyone is listening, but at least I'm sharing them. Now that that is out of the way I can begin.


This blog is about games.

Well it's mostly about games. I'd hate to lie to you, my dear internet, by pretending that I won't veer off course on occasion. Tangents are a nasty by product of my writing. A post about Gears of War may end up in a rant about comic books. This is how my brain works, it is a beast I have trouble reigning in.

The name (Single Player Experience) doesn't hold that much meaning, It sounded better than most of the other things I could come with. Perhaps it's best use is to remind me that I'm here to talk about games.

Oh yeah, games.

Video games, board games, pen and paper games, whatever variety of game I play I'll wind up talking about it here. Mostly video games though, I imagine that I could not provide a dozen different write ups on the game of Risk I played last night. There are probably other people out there better suited for that. Not that there isn't an endless supply of people already writing about what I will be here, and again likely doing far better than I. However, the point here is that I'm the one writing this, not someone else. Well, at least that's the point for me.

Enough about me though and this blog, let's begin.