Community Post: The Hardest Part

I’ve not had the best of times when it comes to Co-Op games. For me, it comes down to one thing, which in my opinion, is the hardest thing about gaming with other people. Finding the right people for that game.

The first Co-op game I can remember playing was Champions of Norrath on the PS2. I played it with both of my brothers and our mother. My little brother wanted to hit things. So he played the barbarian. My older brother played the dark elf, finding it to be the “coolest” race there. My mom wanted to be an elf, so she was the woodland elven archer. I really can’t remember why I was the human cleric. Maybe because I wanted to heal, or maybe just because I thought she was pretty. I was young at the time.

First of all, timing was an issue. Most of the time my mom was home to play, my dad was too. The gaming system was in our living room which was right next to his room, so we felt bad when he had to deal with our noise, and him being left out, so we tried to just play when he wasn’t home. Second of all, the age of our players. My younger brother, and maybe myself, should not have been playing until we learned a little bit more about playing Co-Op and not getting everyone else killed. I can recall several times of us yelling at someone else not to do that, and watching them get killed.

The difference in gaming experience was very evident. My little brother was the lowest level, because he tended to run right into the middle of things and get himself killed. My mom and I were about the same. We were both playing squishy classes. My older brother kicked butt, and usually was reviving the rest of us. My little brother was good at hitting things. My mom shot things but was pretty dead when things came at her. My older brother summoned undead skeletons, usually with magic swords. Fire, lightning, and such. They were pretty neat. Me? I summoned a sparkly blue hammer. And yes, I have to include the fact that it sparkled as it stomped things, and followed around my blonde girl with pigtails.

We got Champions of Norrath: Return to Arms when it came out. We were excited. We did manage to beat the first one. Ask me now and I can’t remember the plot. We uploaded our characters from the first game, and started it off. We only got through one location. For some reason, most of the interest was lost. I would have continued on, but seriously a cleric who does nothing really but summon a hammer? I was toast to say the least. They traded off the two of them last week. I was rather sad, with my sentimental feelings for the game, but the truth was, they were dusty and we weren’t going to get back to them.

The four of us also played Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the PS2. There was always quite a bit of fussing over that game. Someone picked up health packs they didn’t need but someone else really did. Someone hit the button to level while someone else was in the middle of a fight. We had a surprising amount of drama over that one game. We did get through it eventually, but we never played a 4 person, or even a 3 person game again (unless you count Rock Band, which I count under a slightly different category).

Since I mentioned Rock Band, I’ll go ahead and get into that topic. Within my family, there were a few contentions. My mom wanted to play the bass guitar part. My older brother would play drums, guitar, and even occasionally sing. The rest of the time, I was the only one willing to sing. I didn’t mind it too much. I love singing. I minded the fact that I was stuck doing it and I didn’t know half the songs. That left my younger brother to fill in the role our older brother wasn’t taking. He could usually do songs on easy. But he also lacked, at the time, the ability to multitask and hit the bass pedal as well as the color it instructed on the drums or moving his hand for the guitar.

This was a game without commitment, that I could drag people into sometimes. One year at our New Year’s Eve party we had Rock Band set up in my brothers’ room. I was in the room playing with these two girls and their older brother. He was playing the guitar part, the older sister was playing the drums, the younger sister was playing the bass line, while I sang. The younger sister started fussing that she wanted to sing. So, we switched parts. The trouble was, she was probably 4 at that time. She didn’t know how to read. She didn’t know any of the songs. She just stared at the screen while we failed each song, fussing when we tried to suggest we switch back instruments. It was a long night. With other friends, the story tended to be that they were very set on doing the songs they knew, yet had me sing, when I didn’t know the song. It tended not to work as well.

I played a handful of two-player Co-Ops with my older brother. We played Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, and beat it. We both started X-men Legends and the Fantastic Four game on PS2, but he lost interest in the first, and we got stuck on the latter. The Adventures of Cookies and Cream… was very frustrating to say the least. There was a pretty good chance on each level that he was telling me exactly what to do or was on my controller as well.

Now that I’m reflecting on it, I don’t think I’ve played a single Co-Op for any system but the PS2. I’ve gotten used to playing games on my own. Even on Lotro, I usually do things by myself. Those that have played with me would love to tell you stories about the time I ran them off a cliff. In my defense, I thought it was a really steep hill (or which there are several), and they didn’t have to be following so close behind me. Or letting me take the lead for that matter. Anyway, it’s something I really ought to do. I just need to actually find the right person for the right game to play with, a thing of which I have had little luck for so far.

My “Deserted Island” Games – NES/SNES edition

Image by Flickr user Fujoshi.
Image by Flickr user Fujoshi

After completing a lot of day dreaming and soul searching, I decided to combine the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) into one post for this installment of my “deserted games” series. Why? It’s certainly not because I didn’t love the SNES to death, because I did. But as fun as the NES was, we didn’t have many games for it. Could I spend the rest of my days playing Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3? Maybe. But only maybe. So with a list of choices in hand, I had to make some tough decisions. Some were obvious, and others less so. I’m sure at least a couple of my game choices would still drive me bananas in the heat and quiet. And man, does it get quiet on this here island…except for those dang birds that keep squawking! This is supposed to be a deserted island! Just quit with all the noise and help me get this coconut!! Sheesh.

Continue reading My “Deserted Island” Games – NES/SNES edition

Heroes And Villains: Console Gaming

image by Flickr user: PseudoGil
image by Flickr user: PseudoGil

Every year at E3 we have the so-called “winners” and “losers”. It’s usually a distinction of who you’re a fan of and your personal taste in games, but this year was very different wasn’t it. Sure we still had a “winner” and a “loser”, but in the wake of Microsoft’s awful announcement of the Xbox One and the pokes at those policies made by Sony at their press conference, the two opposing companies have been elevated from ‘winner’ and ‘loser’, to something resembling ‘hero’ and ‘villain’.
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Some Backwards Thinking

Screenshot by Flickr User: TheStouffer
Screenshot by Flickr User: TheStouffer

Like so many others at the start of a new year, I made a short list of resolutions with the ultimate goal of getting my life in order.  At the top of the agenda: clean out my stuff from the parents’ basement.  The task was meant to be a sort of gift to my mother, who I am sure is tired of looking at piles of junk covering an otherwise-serviceable living space.  Granted, I tend to keep my assets meticulously organized and well-maintained, but they remain massive piles of junk in the basement, nonetheless.

You see, I have a tiny habit of being a packrat.  A more accurate description of my character would reveal that I am a hoarder who keeps nearly every item that enters my possession.  But after two trips home this year, I have made my way through half of my treasure stores.  Thanks to the efforts of my wife, I have parted with several items: old school papers and receipts have been recycled, unneeded clothes and furniture were donated, I have even managed to gift or Ebay some of my massive collection of gaming memorabilia.  But no matter what anyone says or offers, I cannot get rid of a single video game that I own; the games of my past are simply too precious to throw away.

Many people have tried to reason with me on this matter.  “When was the last time you played your NES?  Do you really need all of this stuff?  Can’t you play this on your computer?”  All of these are valid comments.  It has been quite a while since I hooked up my old Nintendo; the old girl cannot even run on a modern television without a conversion cable.  Certainly I do not need any of my old games.  I have piles of newer titles that I have not even started, so I am in no short supply of entertainment.  And of course I have emulated much of my older collection for the sake of convenience.  In spite of all these criticisms, I will not budge.

Let’s look at this from another angle.  Now that all the hullabaloo of E3 has died down, it has become clear that yet another console generation will abandon backwards compatibility with the previous systems.  All of the games I purchased for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 will only run on their parent consoles.  On top of that, my digital purchases for the Live Arcade and Playstation Network will not carry over, so these titles are tethered to my current consoles until the end of time (or when they break down, whichever comes first).  Despite all of the technological marvels displayed at the latest E3, it seems that even going back even one console generation is proving too much for Microsoft and Sony.

What about Nintendo and the potential of the Virtual Console?  At this time, there are 27 titles available to download on the Wii-U eShop, most of which are licensed Nintendo properties.  Combined with the games available on the Wii eShop, which covers eight different consoles from several companies, players have roughly 450 titles available to purchase.  While this is a great library of games to choose from, these offerings are hardly comprehensive.  Just looking at the games I have stored away reveals dozens of titles that are not included on the eShop, and probably never will be (sorry, Monster Party).

How about buying older items from your local used game store?  Earlier this year, GameStop voided all Playstation 2 transactions, which limits their products to only current gen offerings and smart phones.  This relegates all previous consoles and their games to Goodwill, flea markets, and online dealers.   Oh sure, some of the more fondly remembered classics will get re-releases and bundle packaged, but so many great games are getting tossed out the moment something shiny and new comes along to be sold (and resold) by GameStop.

This leaves the argument of simply emulating all of my old games and pitching the physical copies.  After all, I could make a pretty penny off of some of the more beloved titles in my collection, and keeping my games in a digital format would free up some space.  But there is something lost when playing hunched over a computer screen with the cold embrace of a keyboard.  Call it nostalgia sickness, but playing older console games just isn’t the same without a controller in hand and sitting on a comfy couch.  I am the sort who would prefer to pay for an ideal gaming experience as opposed to piracy or emulation.  But if no one is offering, what choice do I have?

It seems that for the near future, I will be keeping my old games and consoles.  I want to preserve these games and the unique experiences offered by each one, so I can share them with new friends and loved ones.  Besides, no one really uses the basement anymore; Mom can handle the clutter.

-Chip, Games I Made My Girlfriend Play

My “Deserted Island” Games – Atari 7800 edition

Image by Flickr user Easterbilby
Image by Flickr user Easterbilby

With news of new consoles, Sony vs. Microsoft, policy changes, and MOAR GAMES! hanging heavy in the air, my desire to drive my DeLorean back to a simpler time feels stronger than ever. With that in mind, I’m going to be playing the “deserted island” game over my next several posts. You know the typical ice breaker question: “If you were stranded on a deserted island, which five movies/games/tv shows/people, etc., would you want to have with you?” Well, with each post I plan to highlight a single console and at least five games for that console that I’d want to have. Though the island and its infinite supply of electricity aren’t real, the games and consoles are; and I’ll only be writing about consoles that I’ve owned or used and games that I’ve actually played. (Sorry Sega fans, no Sonic and Knuckles here.) And while I’ll be covering my favorite games, I wouldn’t call these my “top 5 favorite games” lists – simply liking a game doesn’t imply that I want to spend my life with it. Also, the lists are not in any order because on a deserted island, there is no order. There is only time.

So as with all things, we shall begin at the beginning with my first console, the Atari 7800.

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Majora’s Mask: The Greatest of the Oddball Zeldas

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always had an odd relationship with the Zelda series. I think they’re all great games, they all play well, are memorable, and hold my attention. However, I’ve never liked what I call the traditional Zelda games as much as the odder entries in the franchise. I like the Oracle games over Link’s Awakening, Twilight Princess is just as good to me as Windwaker, and my pick for greatest Zelda game ever made (excluding the ones I haven’t played of course) is Majora’s Mask, not Ocarina of Time.
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With All These New Consoles Coming Out, Why Not Just Get a PC?

Image by Flickr user Handles
Image by Flickr user Handles

With the bulk of the big E3 announcements behind us, and as the excitement wanes just a tad, what are we left with? A slew of great looking games for either a new $500 console or a new $400 console. The Wii U is still hovering around the $300-$350. Maybe its price will drop by the time those other new consoles hit the market. Or maybe not. Either way, if someone was looking to buy all-new this holiday season, s/he could easily drop $1200. And that’s not even counting all the games, accessories, online access fees, etc.