A Long Time Ago, On Far, Far and Away the Best Console…

A terrifying, vindictive government; a determined group of rebels and rabble rousers; a resistance built on hope. No, we’re not talking about the last ten days, we’re talking about Star Wars!

As a cultural phenomenon in the midst of a modern renaissance, Star Wars is everywhere today, but such wasn’t the case in 1992. And since my parents weren’t big fans at the time, the probability of me being able to watch the full trilogy was slim to none. How could a ten year old with mild interest keep track of the happenings in a galaxy long ago and far, far away? Enter Super Star Wars.

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Retribution, Revenge, and Red Dead Redemption

I spawned at the edge of a cliff. Was it too high? Would I survive the fall? I looked around quickly, trying to suss out an alternative, but before I could even formulate a plan shots rang out and my character crumpled to the ground.

“This sucks,” said Ben.

“I know.”

It was two versus three and the guys we were playing with (against?) had been griefing us for the last fifteen minutes or so, not even allowing us enough time to call our horses or get better weapons before unceremoniously gunning us down. It did suck, but we weren’t going to quit and we weren’t going to switch games. This was our game. This was Red Dead Redemption.

“Look,” I said, “Cory will be here soon and we’ll turn the tables on these guys.”

“Alright,” Ben replied. “I’m just saying, it was more fun yesterday when we were punching horses off a cliff.”

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Horse physics!

Yeah, we did that … for four hours. We also loaded our horses and ourselves into a wagon and drove it off the highest cliff we could find, just to see what would happen, holed up against the federalis at Torquemada, completed the gang hideout missions, and rushed what must have been all the gold in the West. The world was our playground, and while we completed team missions and also participated in the other multiplayer modes, most of our time was just messing around, doing the dumbest things we could think to do. Including getting griefed for large swaths of time, apparently.

I spawned again, certain I was about to be blown away, and heard a voice that was as welcome to me as Han’s was to Luke in the Death Star’s trench.

“You boys need a hand?”

Cory was here. With the tables even we made quick work of our attackers. Then Brian showed up. And Matt. Pretty soon the griefers turned into the griefees as we mercilessly gunned them down, taunting them all the while. Payback’s a bitch.

After a few minutes of this, they quit the game. Fair enough but we weren’t done.

Hold on a sec,” I said, opening the Xbox Live menu.

I scrolled through the recently-played-with list until I found their names.

“Alright guys, y’all ready?”

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Vengeance was ours and we did repay.

We warped into their new game. Ben mapped their position and we saddled up. It was sunset and I’ll never forget our group of seven, galloping across the plains, armed to the teeth, destruction in our hearts. We stormed down the hill into Blackwater and laid waste to our foes. They only made it a minute or two before they quit and blocked us but we had our vengeance and it was sweet. In the immortal words of Dipper Pines, “Revenge is underrated.”

 

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Genesis)

“Seeehhh guuuhh”

That soft welcoming chorus when you first boot up most Genesis games is how it all started. I had just gotten a Sega Genesis for Christmas in 1993, branching out from the SNES my family shared. My dad was always a techie. Long before I knew or understood what that was (which ultimately was passed down to me), I just reaped the benefit of constantly being surrounded with cool gadgets. I don’t remember what game(s) came with the Genesis, but I do remember getting Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as well that Christmas. What was cool about this gift was that it was the first console that was “mine”. Normally video games were a family present, a shared entertainment that none of us had claim to. Being the youngest of three though my brother and sister were over video games for the most part so they didn’t care about the cool new system I got with the super fast blue guy in red shoes. They definitely didn’t care about his little double-tailed fox buddy either. So all through that Christmas break at school I stayed indoors playing a bunch of Sonic 2 from top to bottom. I learned to hate Chemical Plant Zone and drowning. Despite that I was tickled pink from the blast processing experience that was unlike anything I had before on either of Nintendo’s systems.

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Mega Man Monday

One year my parents happened to win a trip for two to Quebec via some kind of radio contest. They went, it was fun, end of story. Or was it the end of the story? You see, after spending the weekend with the radio hosts, my parents became fast friends with them, and continued the relationship to this day. What does that have to do with Mega Man 2? For me, everything. Because after that day, when the station was having a contest, very occasionally (I think twice ever) I was able to call up and be bumped to the head of the line and, if I remember correctly, I was even supplied with the right answer. It was a regular Quiz Show situation and I was a ten year old Ralph Fiennes.

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Kain’t Fight This Feeling

My first brush with Final Fantasy IV (then Final Fantasy 2) was watching my friends, Jordan and Chris, play it at their house. I had come over in time to witness them infiltrating Baron Castle and defeating Kainazzo, (original English name so don’t @ me, bro) imposter king and Fiend of Water. This was my first brush with an RPG and the graphics, music and story quickly sucked me in. I continued to play bits and pieces with my friends but they weren’t allowed to loan games so I could never get fully invested in the story, which just killed me.  I could tell there was something special there, and I wanted in. Continue reading “Kain’t Fight This Feeling”

Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)

So let us travel back to 1997. A young Chris can be found drooling over those infamous trailers that made players think games could run looking like a Pixar moviewith nothing but cut scene footage. It took about a month of begging before I finally managed to secure this massive three disc game. Since then it’s stuck with me through my life, giving me probably about seventeen different directions I could share with you how much I fell for this game. Instead I’ll stick with three oddball memories as it’d grow into the classic I’d love for years.

Back in gym class for seventh grade, sitting on the floor with a split in my pants waiting for the day to end (don’t ask) – I was talking to my buddy about video games. Scott was going on about Final Fantasy VII, how awesome it was, how much time he spent on it, etc. He had previously played FF3 on SNES and enjoyed it a lot. The series was mostly foreign to me, having just dabbled in FF2 (SNES) a bit but never taking it too seriously. All the cool places he was talking about… Magic, dragons, crazy guys with silver hair and swords the length of a Buick. I was awe in listening to him talk about it because I knew I wanted to get it already. It was akin to reading reviews for a game you already preordered, eager for any taste of it you can. The TV commercials had won me over and now I just needed to wear my mom down into buying it for me. The final piece of that came into play when I found a coupon in some game magazine at the time to save $10 when buying it at Target, so I knew it was almost mine. Scott then explained to me “Oh dude, it’s so good. I can’t wait til you get it and play it. Just don’t waste your time with the healer chick Aeris, they kill her off at the end of the first disc.” – Done. Just like that. A game I was so eager for, that would eventually go on to be one of my top five favorite games of all time – Spoiled in the eve of me acquiring it and playing it for the first time. One of the most heart-wrenching moments of gaming written off as a random point of data just like “contains 13 towns to visit, fully rendered in 3D!” would be blasted on the back of a game box.

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It’s Squall Good!

In denial and still heartbroken over what I saw as Square’s betrayal of Nintendo, I never really got into Final Fantasy VII. I had also never had the funds before to dabble in video-game-system-polygamy, and I had already opted for a Nintendo 64, for better or worse, with Final Fantasy or without, ’til GameCube do us part. But time heals all wounds and bagging groceries on Camp Pendleton was a fairly lucrative job so I wound up in possession of a PlayStation sometime in the fall of 1999.

The events of my life in 1999-2000 were a perfect storm for falling in love with the angsty, teenage-soap-opera that is Final Fantasy VIII. To recap, it was my senior year of high school so there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel that could lead to almost anywhere, and the possibilities were intoxicating; in order to woo a certain young lady, I had begun watching Dawson’s Creek, then airing season 3, which to this day is a masterful mix of nostalgia, heartache, angst, and wanting, not to mention the best slow-burn love triangle in TV history (seriously, watch it); as a young Mormon guy, I was getting ready to serve a mission, which can involve two years of service in a foreign country. All of this created a fertile field for the story of two star-crossed lovers and their team of teenage diplomats/warriors who crisscross the globe to battle a time-compressing future-wizard and her cronies.

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An Ode to an Age

“Oh cool,” I said. “A jacket.”

It was a blue and white windbreaker, to be specific and it was cool, just not what a newly-minted 11 year old was hoping for as his final birthday  present. I tried to hide my disappointment.

“Thanks Mom and Dad.”

“You’re welcome,” said my mom, smiling. “Isn’t it cool how it has so many pockets?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I replied, shoving my hands into the side pockets, trying to match her enthusiasm.

My fingers brushed against some crumpled paper and I pulled it out, thinking it was that white packing paper they use to fluff out display clothing. But it wasn’t that at all. It was $50.

“Whoa, fifty bucks?!”

My parents laughed.

“What do you want to get?”

Of course they knew the answer before they asked the question, so the next day we headed towards the Mission Viejo mall to scope out the now-defunct Babbages. Approximately twenty minutes later we walked out with a game that looked awesome but that I had never played before: Final Fight.


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Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)

Back in the early 90’s beat ’em ups were all the rage on the streets. There were Final Fights, Golden Axes, Double Dragons, some Bad Dudes, Power Rangers, X-Men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then you had your Streets of Rage smack dab right in the middle of the frenzy of pallet swapping enemy punch-a-thons with friends. While hard to stick out in that busy crowd of what seems to be a pretty well-tread genre, Streets of Rage managed to hold its own. In particular for me I had a soft spot for Streets of Rage 2, and it’s youngest hero, Skate.

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Double the Dragons, Double the Fun

Growing up, few games were a staple of every sleepover and birthday party like Double Dragon 2: The Revenge. It was a game that hit on every level, that everyone could enjoy. Challenging but not to hard, great co-op but still fun to play solo, good range of enemy-types and environments, and awesome moves. Double Dragon 2 did what a great action sequel should do, that is, it built upon the original and added better set pieces and a slightly more complicated set of moves while keeping the good stuff. I don’t even know how many times I cyclone and high jump-kicked my way through that game, but whatever my parents paid for it was money well-spent.

This is right before that knee sends The Mysterious         Warrior across the room.

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