Warp Drive

Monday, December 30, 2019

Games of Yesteryear

Below is a handful of my favorite classic computer and video games that have been thoroughly discussed in other articles on The Grig Post. I have included snippets from those articles here. I decided to present them in chronological order because I just cannot seem to bring myself to number them.

Chrono Trigger

I first played Chrono Trigger in 2000; one year after the "Year of Lavos." Technically, I first played it on PC, since I used an emulator (Snes9x). Before I played Chrono Trigger, I was not much of an RPG fan. I had a few friends that were very much into RPGs, however. They strongly suggested that I play a few. I was blown away by the depth of Chrono Trigger.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 6: It's About Time):
What is time? We like to think of it as a straight line from past to present to future, but our hearts and minds often dwell exclusively in the past or future. We rarely exist in the present moment. Time, it would seem, is merely an earthbound construct. It was the year 2000 AD in actuality, but my mind was fixated ever in the past. 1995 AD to be more precise. I was trying to hunt down a copy of Chrono Trigger for the Super Nintendo. I was very unlikely to still find the game in any store, and virtual console services would not exist for another six years. Thus, I settled on an emulator for Windows 98. I downloaded Snes9x alongside a ROM of Chrono Trigger. I would eventually find and purchase the Sony PlayStation compilation with Final Fantasy IV and the Nintendo DS version of Chrono Trigger, but for now, emulation appeared to be my only option. Chrono Trigger begins with a legitimate sense of joy and wonder. Crono is a carefree boy just out to have fun with his friends on the morning of the Millennial Fair. A stark contrast from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in which Link's adventure begins with a frantic quest in the midst of a storm. Both story techniques work effectively in their respective games, but Chrono Trigger does a far better job of building tension, and boy does it deliver on surprise twists. From the moment Crono's mother drew open his bedroom curtains, I knew that I was in for something special. Lucca, one of Crono's dearest friends, is a dedicated scientist and a rather talented inventor. Her latest invention, a teleportation device, was about to take the Millennial Fair by storm.
GoldenEye 007

I first played GoldenEye 007 in 1997. For me, it was the pinnacle of first person shooters. Perfect Dark would have made my list, but looking back, it was more of a retooling of what made GoldenEye 007 so good.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 5: Nintendo Strikes Back):
The following intelligence report is cleared for the eyes of special operatives only. Unlike Game Genie before it, I used InterAct's GameShark not as a means of cheating the system, but as a way of experimenting with and changing the underlying parameters of games. Given enough time and patience, one could alter a game rather significantly via homebrew code creation. Such is the case with GoldenEye 007. A first person shooter from Rare. As fate would have it, it was mere months after the game's release that my family first connected to the world wide web. I became engaged with a hacking community fairly early on. Those were competitive days. GameShark hackers were diligent and they were eager to outshine everyone else. I used to be ready for a good challenge. My codes ranged from the relatively benign, rendering the game with funny colors, to the downright awesome, activating then president Bill Clinton as a playable multiplayer character. I also helped discover a paintbrush weapon. I believe it was more of a glitch that made 007's arm look like a paintbrush, but it was certainly fun to whack guards with. Start a level with a sniper rifle in it, ignore every other item pickup, switch to unarmed, pick up the rifle and press A (in quick succession) as many times as it takes to cycle back to unarmed. I tried ever so feverishly to discover a method of travelling to that damn island on Dam. It was the top priority of many hackers for a long time. In the end, someone else beat me to it. The life of a secret agent is far from easy, but as the painter Bob Ross once said, "We don't make mistakes. We have happy accidents." Now, go paint the town red with that paintbrush. I expect you to dye, Mr. Bond.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

I first played "ALttP" in 1992. It was not the first Zelda game I ever played, mind you. I played The Legend of Zelda (NES) a few years earlier, which was also a good game, but nowhere near as great as this one. Until I played Chrono Trigger, A Link to the Past was my favorite video game of all time.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 3: Genesis):
I awoke to the sound of rain falling just outside my house. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I could scantily hear her voice. It was Princess Zelda and she was in imminent danger. My single finest SNES adventure was set to begin. The passage of time may have had something else to add, but The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was an incredible experience. It took everything wonderful about the first game on NES and dialed it to eleven. Hyrule was now populated with lusher landscapes, villages bustling with townspeople and deeper and more insightful dialogue. It was also quite challenging. With the aid of bottles and extra heart containers scattered about the land, Link's perilous quest became a bit less painful, but I was not always savvy to their secret locations. Following the third dungeon, I, like many others, obtained the Master Sword. Undoubtedly, the most exciting moment in the game. It meant I could now face Aghanim, the villain holding Zelda captive. I was overcome with joy when I finally defeated him. Zelda 3 truly had been a game without parallel - but wait. A flash of light enveloped the screen and I found myself atop a strange pyramid. To my jaw dropping surprise, the game had only just begun. There were another eight dungeons to conquer in what I learned to be the game's Dark World. Indeed, Zelda 3 did in fact have a parallel. It was Hyrule, but yet, it was not Hyrule. It was dark and twisted. Most of all, it was awesome. With a game of such scale, it was not long before I once again teamed with my brother. We each discovered our own secrets, and the ones we felt like sharing, we collectively put toward the ultimate defeat of Aghanim. He too went by another name, but some things are better left a surprise. We may have also cheated a little with a device that shall remain nameless. Let me just say, the golden power was in our hands. The Master Sword sleeps again. Until the next Zelda game.
SimCity

I first played SimCity in middle school. It was a very different kind of game for its time. Instead of wrecking everything in sight, the player was tasked with building and maintaining a city. Having previously played the simulation segments of ActRaiser on Super Nintendo, I found this concept rather fascinating. Furthermore, the idea that the city would continue to function while I was away from the computer. When I returned from another class assignment, I might just find that some interesting developments had occurred.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 4: Trial Separation):
Hillview was a whole new experience. There were an unnerving number of fellow students. Having been enrolled in non-public schools for many years prior, I was not prepared for the often twenty something students per classroom - or the fact I now had six classes a day. It was quite a bit to process. In retrospect, I always found smaller classes more focused and therefore rewarding experiences. One of those classes was, thankfully, a more intimate environment and it was there in which I began to take computers seriously. Previously, I saw them as rather dull educational instruments. I was assigned a floppy diskette and a desk terminal. My assignment was simple: Build and maintain a town in Maxis' SimCity. A town which continued to function whether I was present or not. It was like Quintet's ActRaiser, but without the action platforming stages. Computers were rad and all, but I really just wanted to get home and play the Sega Genesis.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles

I first played Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in 1994. By itself, it was very much an underwhelming game, but when locked-on to Sonic & Knuckles, it transformed into something of beauty. Knuckles became a playable character, Super Emeralds could be collected (unlocking Hyper Sonic/Knuckles and Super Tails) and additional levels were available.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 4: Trial Separation):
Pinball has always been a fascinating parlor game. The way in which the ball hit bumpers, bounced around the table and flew into and through ramps was pleasing to both the eyes and ears. If one video game captured the spirit of pinball in those early days, it was Sonic the Hedgehog. When the blue blur approached 360-degree loops and winding tunnels at high speed, he would morph into a ball and fly through with ease. It was more than pinball, it was a roller coaster. When Dad purchased our Sega Genesis, it included a mail-in rebate for a free game. I quickly sent away for Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It utilized a more powerful and chargeable spin dash. With a few other notable additions, each entry in the series was more exciting than the last. Sonic could now transform into Super Sonic and the villain, Dr. Robotnik, had even more dastardly plans. As if borrowing a cue from The Galactic Empire, he constructed a world decimating space station: The Death Egg. In its first appearance at the end of Sonic 2, there were no power-ups to be found. Just two nail biting boss battles. Used the Force, I did. Sonic 2 also introduced a second playable character, Tails, and up until the last set of single act zones, he could be played simultaneously via a second controller. I have no doubt my brother brought his usual A-game. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 would bring with it virtually seamless progression through acts and zones, the ability to save game progress and a new rival named Knuckles. It was initially on the short side, but with the release of Sonic & Knuckles just six months later, with its unique lock-on functionality, Sonic 3 became, in my mind, the greatest entry in the series. Although they may not have been as great as their predecessors, Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast were my Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and 5.
Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers

I first played "SQ4" in 1996. I found it in a bargain bin at Price Club for five bucks, so I was not expecting much. It was certainly better than I originally anticipated. Although, it did take several months to complete the Galaxy Galleria sequences due to timer issues. I still consider Space Quest IV to be my favorite in the series, seeing as it was the first one I played. I later picked up Space Quest V and Space Quest VI individually, and the "prequel trilogy" (Space Quest I, Space Quest II and Space Quest III) in the Roger Wilco Unclogged Collection.

The Treasure of the Sierra On-Line (Space Quest):
I was browsing a computer game bargain bin at Price Club (now Costco) when I came across something that piqued my interest. Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (A 3-D Animated Adventure Game). This was written on the back of the case, "Get ready for a trek through time with everybody's favorite inter-galactic sanitation engineer and freelance hero, Roger Wilco. In their latest spaced-out space opera, the Two Guys From Andromeda take on science fiction (and just about everything else!) in a spoofy sendup that will leave you laughing." They had me at time. I just love stories about time travel. I found myself enthralled with the atmosphere and music of the game, and it was also more than likely the first game that I played to feature voice acting. I would not finish Space Quest IV any time soon, but going back to what I said earlier, early Sierra games were often laden with bugs, and Space Quest IV was no exception. I was unable to complete the Galaxy Galleria sequence as a result of timer issues. My PC was a lot faster than the ones used to test the game so many years earlier. I eventually managed to complete the sequence through sheer luck alone. It would be a number of years before fans brought about a working patch to this problem.
Star Fox 64

I first played Star Fox 64 in 1997. I was never a very big fan of rail shooters, but this was one of the best. Of course, it does also contain a few free-roaming stages.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 5: Nintendo Strikes Back):
I have always been fascinated with space. Everything from the furthest reaches of the cosmos to the space between spaces: the realm of dreams. Everyone used to think I had my head in the clouds. "Earth to Mike" became a fairly common utterance. With Nintendo 64 games such as Star Fox 64 and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, it was only a matter of time before that fascination reached critical mass. Star Fox 64 presented me with multiple routes to embark upon spanning the Lylat solar system. Skill was especially key if I wished to remain on the harder routes. The game came packaged with a device known as a Rumble Pak. It attached to the Nintendo 64 controller, and whenever intense action unfolded on-screen, it shook like nothing else. It was the next logical step toward truly feeling as though I were in the game. Star Fox 64 was technically my brother's game. He received it as a birthday present. As always, however, when it came time to ace the game, it was a team effort. A special medal could be earned for each and every course. It was no easy task, but for Nintendo veterans and wizards such as ourselves, we managed well enough. It was time to put our skills to the ultimate test. With every medal in hand, Expert Mode unlocked via the main menu. We would have to ace the game all over again. A considerably harder task than before. I had one final piece of business to attend to on Venom. Andross, the villain of this game, had virtually begged for me to confront his true form. I followed the hard route to Venom and decimated his armies in the process. In the end, he revealed himself to be a floating, eye spewing brain. It was tough to nail those final shots in just the right place without being caught in his vines, but I eventually dealt the last blow. Andross enveloped himself and the surrounding area in flames. He intended to take me with him. As I began my escape, I heard a familiar voice call out to me. "Earth to Mike," said the voice, as if he had been attempting to reach me for quite some time. It was, of course, Dad. I had neglected other responsibilities long enough. Sophomore year had begun and I was slowly learning to fit in with my fellow high school students. Soon, I would discover a tool capable of designing computer games and I would have my very own space saga. It would become quite a ruckus.
Super Mario Bros. 3

I first played Super Mario Bros. 3 on Christmas Day of 1990, as evidenced by these two YouTube videos. The addition of items, map screens and warp whistles set it apart from Super Mario Bros. and Doki Doki Panic: Mario Edition... Okay, Super Mario Bros. 2 US.

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 2: Back in the Cradle):
I saved, arguably, the greatest NES game and memory for last. A game so challenging and immense for its time, I needed the help of my brother to complete its final world. He had a rather unique approach to video games in his youth. It may have taken him a few seconds to realize a pipe was blocking his path forward, but in his mind, he was thinking two or three steps ahead. Where I might permit fear to cloud my reflex actions, he would remain unaffected. Truly, he was a wizard of Super Mario Bros. 3. In contrast to the two earlier Super Mario Bros. games, SMB3 featured a map to explore between levels. This often encouraged us to embark on alternate paths. It could sometimes be as simple as a step in the right direction, but as with one sneaky secret in the game's second world, we needed a special hammer to chisel through rock. As my brother and I neared the eighth and final world, I became ever more fearful of the path ahead. King Koopa awaited our arrival in a world that looked very much like hell. The first screen was simple enough. A lone tank and airship impeded our march forward, but it was just that: the first screen. Awaiting us on the screens to come were creepy hands which could pull Mario/Luigi into levels filled with lava and flying demon fish, more heavily armed airships and anything else the dinosaur king felt his fiery kingdom could not go without. By the time we finally descended on the last stronghold, I had lost the will to go on. I passed the controller to my brother and waited just outside the closed bedroom door, peaking in every once in a while to see how he was doing. It was a nail biting experience. To my great surprise and relief, I peaked back into the room just in time to witness King Koopa ground pound through the brick floor to his demise. I may not possess any photos or videos of that moment, but rest assured, it was something awesome. It was a team effort, but my brother finished the job and saved the Mushroom Kingdom in the process.
Nintendo Rhapsody: The Lost Archives:
My grandmother and aunt picked up my first computer from a business, to the best of my recollection, known as NET Computers. It was a custom IBM 486/66 with four megabytes of RAM. I knew next to nothing about computers in 1994. So little so that when I began playing SimCity 2000 and noticed the landscape had edges, I thought I needed more RAM to build bigger cities. I quickly upgraded to eight megabytes of RAM. SimCity 2000 remained, of course, unaffected. My aunt gave me a copy of the original SimCity and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. The computer itself came with Doom and Epic Pinball pre-installed in MS-DOS. Doom transported players to the one place nobody wants to go, but it was truly something else in 1994.

My counselor, Dana, was engaged to an employee from Interplay. I forget just who for the moment, but she knew a lot more about game design than anyone else I had the pleasure of meeting while growing up. She questioned my use of cheat codes, whether it be "19, 65, 9, 17" or "IDDQD." For the fun of a video game should be in the learning curve, not the easy route. Okay, but "IDSPISPOPD" is pretty cool for discovering hard to find secrets. Many id fans may already know this, but John Romero's gory head is in the final level of Doom 2 behind the Icon of Sin. Only visible with the clipping code "IDCLIP." As for Interplay, I still have a Descent II CD lying around somewhere. According to Wikipedia, it was merely published by Interplay, but it was a fun, if not dizzying, 3D space flight game.
Original Top 11: Video Games (2009)

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