Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Video Game Memories Pt. 4: Sixth Generation (Xbox/PS2/GCN/DC Era)


The Xbox was my favourite console last gen. I owned a Gamecube as well, although I did not get my PS2 until this generation (the seventh) was already underway. Anyways, the Xbox is from where most of the gaming memories from this generation are derived, so I will mostly focus on that.

The xbox was released in North America on November 15th, 2001. My brother and I received ours on Christmas, a day I still fondly recall. The xbox has provided me with innumerable memories, some of which I will detail here.

So, the memories:

Nuahhaaahhhhaaaahhhhhaaahhaaa ooaaaahhhhhaaahhahhaa ooouuuuaaahhhhhhaahhaahaa

Forgive my undoubtedly horrible attempt at a written approximation of the coolest part of the Halo theme song (1st heard when you get to the menu). Now, allow me to elucidate this for you. Why is an FPS game in my list if I don't particularly care for FPS games? The answer is really simple: I used to love them (which I suppose you would have already known if you had read the memories from the fifth generation), and Halo, being the console n00b that I am, was so good I was transformed into a kid again when playing it, at least for a little while.

The game was the first FPS I ever played that had dual analog controls, which, while difficult to acclimate to at first, quickly ruined any chance I ever had of being able to play an FPS with only one stick ever again (sorry Goldeneye). Add in the awesome graphics and gameplay, including scripted events, incredibly adept and lifelike AI, awesome pacing, the insane LAN multiplayer, the excellent split screen co-op, and a legitimately good story in a shooter, and you had one awesome experience, at least for a console n00b.

The Single Best Game of All Time

I was going to include this later, but fuck it, I couldn't wait. I've gone on and on and on and on and on and on and on about this game in past blogs and reviews and on forums, etc, so I'll spare you guys and gals from having to read more of my fanboyish gushing and just leave it at this: This game is god, and the memories I have of playing it are too numerous to mention. I'll just list off three:

1)The first time a first boss kicked the ever loving fuck out of me in the ''next gen.''

You Shall not Pass (I did eventually, though, sorry pal)
2)The first time I Izuna Dropped an enemy. What a beautiful moment.


.....And Serve.
 3)Beating Very Hard mode for the first time. I bested the hardest game of that generation (at that point) on its hardest difficulty, and frankly, it made me feel damn proud.

I am badass, hear me roar.

The Single Best Game of All Time Made Better. Much Better.

When I think about you, I fight myseeeeeeelf.......

What do you do when you have developed the best damn game of all time?

Make it better, of course.

Improve the camera system, take the already insane AI and tweak it, add new enemies, including doppelganger fights that rival most, if not all, boss fights in normal games; change the item placement around, add in one of the coolest weapons imaginable (the Lunar Staff) in addition to smoke bombs and two new armlets, add two new difficulties (Ninja Dog, for the whiners, and Master Ninja, for the masochists like myself, who bested Very Hard and seek even more insane challenge), and, among other things, a brand new Mission Mode, featuring 50 missions to complete over the course of 4 difficulties.

Oh, and did I mention doppelganger fights? I did? Huh. So like, you fight yourself....like in the pic above....I did mention this? Oh, okay, just checking.

What about the Lunar Staff, and 50 mission long Mission Mode? Oh, I did as well? Huh.

Two words describe Ninja Gaiden Black:

Pure badass.

And the memories I have of this game? Again, far too numerous to mention, so here are three:

1)First time using the Lunar Staff. I swear I almost became religious on the spot.

2)The first time I encountered one of the clone fiends (Chapter 6, in the Monastery, (must be on Hard mode) and had my first doppelganger battle. I kid you not I could have cried from sheer joy. The action that unfolded on the screen was a ballet of carnage, and, despite the fact that the motherfucker was hard as shit, like everyone on the boards had been saying, I actually bested him first try, in what was an admittedly close battle.

Actually, I have a second memory regarding this enemy: I'm the one who first discovered the (as I call it) recovery lock glitch that allows you to kill them without getting hit (I avoided using this in the campaign, but admit to using it in the Mission where you fought two of these assholes at once, but only on the Master Ninja difficulty, because they were just pissing me off (but I did end up beating them legit several times after that, I swear). If anyone reading this happens to be playing, or plans on playing this, I'll give you the glitch, but try to do it legit first, as glitching it offers no real sense of accomplishment:

Using the Dabilahro (fuck you Itagaki for removing this weapon from NGII), hit the doppelganger with a knockdown attack, combo or single attack, doesn't matter. Once he's down, immediately initiate the Gleam of Heaven and Earth move (X,Y) which has Ryu do an overhead attack followed by a forward flipping overhead smash. The second hit will land just as he begins his recovery animation, and this will knock him back down again, before he is able to recover. He will be locked in a loop of falling and then trying to recover. Repeat this until he is dead. Just be warned, you'll encounter times where he manages to recover; if so, just start the process over again.

3)Beating Master Ninja for the first time. Take my feelings after besting very hard in the first game, and amplify them by about a zillion. No, a gazillion. Master Ninja was almost unimaginably hard, especially in Chapters 1,2 and 13, if memory serves. I fondly (and with some resentment) recall taking upwards of 40 tries to get to the first save point. Shit, reaching the first save point on Master Ninja is actually a fond memory in and of itself. But I did, and I ended up beating it all and it was glorious!

Beating NGB on MN is easily my favourite video game related accomplishment (even though NGII (xbox 360) on MN (well, PoTMN but same thing) was even harder....felt more anger, disappointment, disgust and resentment than I did happiness, although there was much of that for sure...shit was HARD AS FUCK so beating it did feel triumphant, and the associated achievement and sexy ass gamer picture will be there for years to come to remind me of this feat).

I Like RPG's?

See, I have been gaming since the late 80's, and growing up, all I played were action games and platformers, with the occasional puzzle game thrown in. I had seen and heard of role playing games, but I wrote them off as boring and stupid, and never bothered to play one until I played Quest 64 in the mid '90's. That shitty game confirmed my preconceived notions, and put me off of rpg's for another several years, until I played Fable on xbox.

Yes, I said Fable.

*waits for flames*

See, I just never had the right mentality when I was young. I wanted action and rpg's were ''slow'' and ''boring.'' I didn't care about story. EVER. I always, always skipped or disregarded the story in games. I thought I would never enjoy an RPG.

So fast forward to the N64 era, and on a whim I tried Quest 64, because my younger brother borrowed it from a friend, and it confirmed for me my feeling that RPG's sucked.

Boy was I wrong.

Fast forward a few years, and along comes Fable.

I don't even remember how I first started playing Fable, but I do know that I was ready to quit near the start due to sheer boredom, but I persisted and within a few hours I was so immersed in the world of Albion I didn't want to leave. The sights, the sounds, the interaction between you and the NPC's, and how your actions had some actual, tangible effect on the world around you (and the story). The morality system, everything. It was all new to me and all very exciting. There was so much to see and do (remember, I was new to RPG's. I know Fable is an rpg lite, or to some, even an action/adventure with leveling, but to me it was all new).

I loved the combat in it, the mix of melee attacks, combos, flourishes and magic. Slowing time, casting lightning, it was so cool. Hunting for treasure, even digging it up out of the ground. The game had amazing music, graphics, everything. A real sense of charm that has stuck with me to this day. The world of Albion might not be the biggest game world out there, and it might not have the most content. But it's beautifully constructed and very endearing. I ended up putting hundreds of hours into multiple playthroughs of the game, and I became an RPG fan. Since then, my tatse in RPG's has grown significantly, and I like a wide variety of them, from Puzzle Quest to the Elder Scrolls series. I will always hold Fable in high regard, even if I have moved on.

Over a Year Spent Playing Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3

As I mentioned earlier, I still rather enjoyed FPS games at this juncture in my gaming hobby, and Rainbow Six 3 was, and still is, my absolute favourite. I spent hundreds of hours playing this game online over the course of a year, and it was the best damn time I ever had online. My brother and I played it together, night after night, and we were joined by my best friend, his best friend (both of whom are mutual friends) and a genuinely kickass group of online gamers who we found out lived but a couple of hours from us, and who we got to know really well. Essentially, we had the same group rockin' it nearly every night for a year, and it was just insanely fun.

Best map: Garage.

Best moment: 1 vs. 4, me being the 1 (three teammates died right away). I stalked the 4 and WON IT for the team!!! Felt sooooo good.

Sports Games Are Fun Again! Blades of Steel 2.0?

Not much to say here, except somewhere between Blades of Steel and Unnecessary Roughness '95, I really started to lose interest in sports games. But then along came a spid- er, rather, NHL Hitz20-02. Total arcadey fun. Spent many, many, many dozens of hours playing this both single player and multiplayer with my brother and my best friend. This was a game of 3 on 3 hockey so far into the arcade side of things that you could take your goalie and skate down the ice and try to score on the other goalie.....assuming you could get past the 3 players in your way (which you actually quite often could!). And yes, if you were the team against whom someone was trying this, you could get al biblical and smite the oncoming goaltender (read: you could bodycheck the goalie). In an even more amsuing twist, the goalie could also attempt you deke around the defensemen. We've all seen or heard of goalies getting deked, but a goalie deking? Whoa!

Quick Memory: putting people through the glass (which happened a lot in this very, very arcadey take on hockey) with an impossibly hard hit was oh so satisfying.

Nuahhaaaaaaa aha haaaaaa 2.0

As I mentioned earlier, I still rather enjoyed FPS games at this juncture in my gaming hobby, and Halo 2 was, and still is, one of my favourites. I spent hundreds of hours playing this game online over the course of a year, and it was a great time overall, although marred by some positively distasteful experiences with some of the douche bags that started to really permeate the Live service around this time (all thanks to Halo).

As was the case with r63, my brother and I played it together, night after night, and we were joined by my best friend and his best friend (both of whom are mutual friends). Unfortunately, it's at this point where a pretty solid distinction needs to be made, as a genuinely kickass group of online gamers becomes a bunch of assholes a lot of the time. Still, gratuitous amounts of fun was had, and so here Halo 2 is, on my list.

The Power of Mind, Baby

You raise me uuuuuuuppppppp!!!!

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is one awesome fucking game that went criminally underplayed, and ultimately became a failure for Midway that will likely never get a sequel, even though some of the developers have expressed the desire to make another one. Anyways, I loved playing this game, and it provided me with some of my most fond memories from the xbox days. In this game, your mind was your greatest weapon. You had several psi powers at your disposal (Telekinesis, Mind Control, Pyrokinesis, Mind Drain, Aura View, and Remote Viewing) which you could use serially or even in combination. Lighting people on fire, sending them airborne, taking over an enemies mind and turning him into an ally, etc etc etc So fun. The first time I got to use a psi power I was giggling like a little schoolgirl sitting on the bus during a particularly bumpy ride with her hand resting between her legs.

Very fond memories of this one.

Your right hand comes off?

Shit, I hope my leg doesn't come off!!

Ha! Leg, hand, doesn't matter, this guy wins the prize! He's head and shoulders above the competition! (I can hear you groaning, stop it immediately or I'll be forced to....head....over there and take immediate action!) (hehehehe, okay, enough, I promise. I don't want my readers laughing their heads of- okay, okay, I'm done!)
Ah, Resident Evil 4 (and also, finally, a Gamecube game). This game was, to some at least, a godsend. Sure, many Resident Evil fans lamented the drastic changes to the Resident Evil formula and consequently disliked (or even outright hated) the game, but many felt as though the changes were needed, and served to liven up what was perhaps an aging and stagnating series.

 And so it seemed as though the fans were divided. They had been divided prior to the games' release, and I can recall them being even more so after. What was especially amusing to me was the cases of people who had felt one way prior to the games' release, and had been very vocal about it, but then after playing the game for some time totally abandoned their previously held convictions. The differing opinions among the fans manifested in three distinct groups, at least as I saw it.

One of the groups of fans?
The first group consisted of the really pissed off Resident Evil fan (RPOREF) who hated the game and declared Resident Evil to be dead. There was no compromise with this group. The game was a travesty and Capcom ruined their childhoods. The second group was made up of the “it's a good/great game but terrible for a RE game” fans. They liked the game but really thought it sucked as a Resident Evil game, as it was not a “true” or “real” Resident Evil game. The third and final group consisted of fans who were very impressed with the changes made and thought that the series was given new life because of it. To them, the fourth game was a fantastic evolution of the series, and, while they loved the originals, they felt as though this evolution had been needed, and was a rousing success.

As for myself, I was not a fan of the series, per se, (especially not a diehard one) having had only moderate experience with the games (by then had only played RE1 and RE2 and hadn't even finished either of them) and therefore any major changes to the formula would have been more readily welcomed by me, with the only caveats being that the game retains the horror aspects (which it did, although in a diminished capacity) and that the game doesn't suck (which it did not). And boy did I freaking love this game.

I think my experience was similar to that of most casual or non fans. Having no stake in the outcome of the series, any drastic changes were far less consequential to us, and so we were more readily able to take things at face value without tacking on our expectations. And our thoughts on the game, going by the reviews and feedback from the day, was overwhelmingly positive. The review scores were very high, and the term game of the year (GOTY) was thrown around quite a bit right from the outset, if memory serves.

Resident Evil 4 was simply amazing. I fondly recall my time with the game (not that said time is over; I currently have a playthrough in progress on my Wii version of the game, although I have not played it in several months due to having several xbox 360 games on the go) and I can basically sum up my first playthrough as follows: “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!” I was incredibly impressed with basically everything about the game. However, this is not a review; rather, it's an article about fond memories, and I do have a few of those to dispense, apart from the ones involving the schism in the fanbase which I already detailed, so allow me to spend a a few minutes in the pursuit of that endeavor:

1) The attack on the abandoned cabin. WOW. I love this part even now, after playing the game 12-15 times, but the first time I experienced it?
Yes, this is where you run. Hey, look behind you, a cabin! Salvation? Or a death trap? Only one way to find out, now GO!
Insane. It was incredibly exciting, and really felt like a movie scene more than a scene in a game. Very immersive, very intense, and yes, very scary. For those uninitiated readers, basically you encounter the above enemies outside, and, with seemingly nowhere to hide, you make a break for it and encounter a seemingly abandoned cabin (which is not abandoned after all, you discover, as Louis is inside) and duck into it. After a cutscene plays, it is up to you and the two AI controlled characters (Louis and Ashley) to board up the windows, block the door, and knock over the ladders that get placed against the walls leading up the second floor windows, all in an effort to keep the bad guys out, as you are outnumbered and trapped. Of course, you aren't entirely successful in the sense that many of them do manage to get in, despite your best efforts to stop them.

It's really exciting running between doors and windows, on both floors, knocking over ladders (some with enemies climbing them at the time, which is extra fun as you get to watch them fall backwards down two stories) and shooting at the ones outside the windows trying to get in, and also the ones who manage to break in as you are frantically running back and forth trying to secure the entire cabin. Eventually, the hordes' persistence pays off, and the cabin fills with enemies who are breaking through your barriers, and streaming in though windows on both floors. You end up having to contend with them coming in through several windows on both floors (meaning that there will be some climbing down/up the stairs as well while they are also streaming) the front door and all of the windows.

It's a frightening and anxiety inducing section of the game, and I can recall my heart POUNDING as I played this part for the first time, a big goofy smile on my face and my eyes wide open as I shot at them through windows, pushed them to their death by pushing their ladders off of the walls, and ran up/down to the other level to take care of anyone trying to get in u/down there. Really immersive scene and very fondly recalled by myself.

2) The cult in the castle (the cat in the cradle?). 

That creepy ass chanting, chains, sickles, torches, wicked costumes....can you say CREEPY?

That whole castle area was just awesomeness defined with the wicked visual and architectural design, and the really cool environmental puzzles, but the cult in particular took it above and beyond. I really can't add much more to this. If you played the game, you know what I mean. If you didn't, well, remedy that....immediately!!!

3) This is sort of a two parter: the first encounter with potato sack chainsaw man dude guy....thing......and the first death at the hands of the potato sack chainsaw man dude guy....thing, because getting decapitated by a big scary chainsaw wielding psycho in full M rated, sexy, visceral, beautiful, bloody detail was AWESOME. Best player deaths from that generation, and probably the best since Mortal Kombat introduced fatalities. The only game since RE4 to do wicked player deaths in my mind was Dead Space, which, as fucking awesome as it was, was a ripoff of Resident Evil 4 anyways. Okay, okay, not a ripoff....just heavily inspired by it. Just as their next game, Dante's Inferno, wasn't a ripoff of God of War....just heavily, heavily inspired by it.

Looks like Leon is heading into a world of hurt......hahahahah heading. Get it? Heading? Hahahahaha. Okay, okay, enough corny jokes......He'll never be the head of a major corporation! Ahahahahahhaahahahhaa- okay, I'm done.

4) The El Gigante boss fight.

Not a great boss fight per se, but definitely fun, and quite arresting, visually. I mean, this was a BIG, IMPOSING boss, and at the time, it was really impressive to see. They did manage to make this fight much cooler the second (or was it the third?) time you fought one of the El Gigantes, because you fought it near these wooden shacks, and you would have to run into the shacks for supplies, but the Gigante would smash the house when you did, so you had to time it right and be quick about it. It was a small change but it added a bit of excitement to the fight.

Oh, and the cutscene preceding the first El Gigante fight was actually pretty good as well. They actually made it a bit suspenseful, so leading up to it you were like what the FUCK is coming? Not amazing, but decent.

5) The weapon cache/supply case that you carried around (although where you kept is is a mystery.....perhaps up your ass (yes, folks, I go for the low bro jokes)?

So why the hell am I putting THIS in my list of top memories from Resident Evil 4? A freaking case?


Well, and I know I am not alone in this, although I don't know how prevalent it was, exactly, I spent hours, and I do mean HOURS, over the course of my playthroughs, organizing each of my cases/caches. I put off buying a larger one until I absolutely had to. I used to like....play Tetris with my supplies to try and fit in everything possible before I had to buy a new one. It wasn't just that, though, I would spend inordinate amounts of time organizing it even if it was only half full, or a quarter full; however full it was, I would constantly shuffle the contents around and try and fit things in as organized a manner as possible. I would put things in groups, and then I would play around with the exact placement, trying to conserve space and make it aesthetically pleasing. I would turn things upside down, flip them left to right, switch them from horizontal to vertical, switch between doing rows and columns, etc.

Amanda used to watch me play and she would always groan when the case would come out because she knew I would probably spend the next 5 minutes organizing it. One time I went to the bathroom and when I came back she had moved my shit around on me. That drove me nuts (and was pretty damn funny)! Got her back though, when she had to sit there and watch me redo the whole thing! I know I wasn't the only one who did this, as I recall reading online that others were doing it as well. If anyone reading this played the game and did it as well, let me know in the comment section!

No, seriously, let me know. Me so lonely.....


What're Ya Buyin?
What're Ya Sellin?

"I've got good things on sale, stranger!

The removal of the merchant was one of the biggest disappointments that Resident Evil 5 brought. The creepy merchant who made no sense being where he was, selling things from under his jacket, how he stored them all there being one of the greatest mysteries of human history, was a definite bright spot in Resident Evil 4. I was looking forward to seeing him again in 5, and the fact that he wasn't there sucked, a lot. Why exactly was the merchant so awesome? Apart from his voice and the wicked lines he delivered was the fact that his presence made no.sense.at.all. and I liked that. It added a bit of strange charm to an already very interesting game. RE5 was bland in comparison :(

The End

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