NGNY Week 7: Vacation

A question recently came up on on the No Game New Year Facebook Group about what you want to do MORE of this year now that less time is spent buying and playing new video games. Without hesitation, I commented “go on more vacations.”

I have a pretty busy day job that requires me to stare at a computer for 9 hours, so when I think vacation, I think of nature. I think of going somewhere that my cell phone has no reception and internet is not available. Last week, my wife & I chose Eureka Springs, Arkansas as that spot.

I was honestly surprised by how beautiful it was. I live in a pretty flat area with not much nature to speak of. However, this location was only 4 hours away. We started driving on flat highway but ended up weaving around mountains. We found plenty to do between exploring the quiet town of Eureka Springs and going on all of the great hiking trails available. We even managed to visit a Civil War battlefield (my idea!)

The craziest part? I brought my Nintendo 3DS thinking I could spend some time finishing Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. I never even turned the system on.

Brian Castleberry recently posted an update on his No Game New Year and mentioned that this year is a “rediscovery of me.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. This vacation definitely helped.

NGNY Week 6: Vanquish

It’s only the first quarter of No Game New Year, but so far this has been a pretty easy resolution. I have been having a blast playing my old games, from the original NES to games on Steam. However, this past weekend I picked up a game I have been meaning to beat: Vanquish.

Oh, you haven’t heard of this game, or even played it? You really should try to change that. Vanquish was made by the brilliant developer, Platinum Games, and directed by the great Shinji Mikami. He happened to make another game called “Resident Evil.”

Vanquish is a stylish 3rd person shooter that takes place in a future where Russia has threatened to blow up New York City. You play as Sam Gideon, a former Heisman Trophy winner (huh?), who commands a technologically advanced suit loaded with weapons. It is up to you and your comrades to destroy the Russian threat (full of robots I might add).

Story aside, this game KICKS ASS. Imagine taking Gears of War and making it 5x more intense. There is also a cool mode where you can boost on the floor and take out enemies drive-by style. Your suit also has the option to slow down time, allowing you to dodge bullets and take out enemies in a cool, chill manner straight out of an action movie.

The story and dialogue is weak, but I will throw kudos to the game for making the president of the United States a female. Nice to see that for a change. Also, there is no multiplayer, which kills replay value. But seriously, you haven’t played this game? This is a must-own for 360 / PS3. GO FIND IT.

NGNY Week 5: Breath of Fire

With no new games being purchased, this year provides me a great opportunity to go back and play some classic JRPG’s I have been meaning to play. One of those is “Breath of Fire” for the Super Nintendo.

I’ve always known about Breath of Fire, but just never got around to playing any of the series. Like the OCD person I am, I always have to start with the first so I refused to buy any of the sequels. Luckily at MAGFest 2013, I was able to secure a copy from Jay (Game Chasers).

After browsing my collection for something to play, I finally decided to give Breath of Fire a shot. The first thing I noticed was that it was published by SquareSoft! I always thought it was a Capcom title (and it is), but I guess the first one was published by SquareSoft.

The story is somewhat generic. The world is at war between these “dragon” clans, light and dark. You live in a village that supports the light dragons, when suddenly the dark dragon clan devastates the village. It is up to you, the average village boy, to save the day. I found the whole “Breath of Fire” universe to be somewhat lacking. Villagers repeated lines, there was little exposition, and there wasn’t really anything interesting about my character.

Even the combat is lackluster. I call it a “Press A to Win” system. You can basically kill EVERYTHING by just attacking, with little to no strategy. But then, the game totally throws a wrench in your plan by making boss fights somewhat difficult (now I have to randomly heal while pressing A!). After about 12 hours of gameplay, I decided I had no motivation to continue and didn’t really care to play anymore. Interestingly enough, a lot of people online agree. Breath of Fire 1 & 2 apparently have not aged well at all. Maybe I’ll check out the 3rd or 4th installment.

On the other hand, my friend Steven has this series on his list of JRPG franchises that needs to die. Perhaps I’ll move on.

NGNY Week 4: Justin

Welcome to Week 4 of No Game New Year.

So I am a little behind, but have no fear I will catch up on previous weeks. Life has been a little off lately. Recently a friend of mine, Justin Carmical, took his own life. It really shook me and just left me wondering…why?

If you aren’t familiar, Justin Carmical was known online as JewWario. He made a video series known as You Can Play Thiswhich was all about Japanese import games. I first met Justin at MAGFest 2013. He had recently joined Retroware TV and was hanging out with the crew all weekend. He was also one of the first people I saw when arriving at the hotel. He greeted me like we had known each other for years! We hung out the whole weekend, talking video games, sports, beer, candy, and just about everything. The most memorable moment was when we all hopped in a car and drove to a local retro store to check out their stock.

I met up with Justin later that year at ConBravo. We met at the booth in the vendor hall and shared a cake someone had baked for him. I remember before I left for the airport to go home, I gave him one of my last Gaming Historian shirts as a gift, which he was super excited to receive. That would be the last time I saw Justin alive. I skipped MAGFest 2014 and he took his own life shortly after.

Justin was such a happy, nice, sweet person that it disturbed me when I found out. I kept thinking “why, Justin?”. But then again, none of us knew the personal demons Justin had inside. Taking your own life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and I only wish I knew more so I could have helped him. His death also got me thinking about No Game New Year. This resolution was started as a way to clear my backlog and save money, but now it means so much more. It means that you should enjoy the time you have in this world and spend it with the people you care about the most.

RIP Justin. I’ll miss you.

NGNY Week 3: NES Downsizing

By far, my biggest collection has to be my NES games. They are mostly cheap and very easy to find in the wild, so I would say this is probably the most common system to collect for.

One key point of No Game New Year was to downsize your collection and keep it to only games you like. Makes sense, right? So this week, I decided to go through a few NES games. My process was to first clean each cartridge with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol, test the game, then play it. So let’s get started!

Golf

Well, I couldn’t even get this game to work! I cleaned it to death and tried over and over, but nothing. Looks like a throwaway!

Pro Wrestling

As a black box game, Pro Wrestling does have some historical significance. But the game itself is just not fun to play at all. I actually found out I own two copies of this game. Both of them go!

Soccer

As you can see, I’m going through quite a few black box games. Soccer is slow, frustrating, and pretty darn easy. Goodbye!

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!!

Ah, now here we have a classic! This is obviously a keeper, but I actually own both variants: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out & Punch-Out. The 2nd version appeared after all the legal trouble Mike Tyson got into during his career, and he was replaced in the game by Mr. Dream. Essentially I own the same game twice, so one needs to go. I think I’ll stick with the original. Fighting against Mr. Dream does not compare to Mike Tyson.

Balloon Fight

This is one of my favorite games on the NES and probably one of the best black box games released. A treasure of my collection. It stays!

Excitebike

My copy is pretty rough. The label is tearing and there is some sort of substance that I can’t get off on the front. Nevertheless, Excitebike is a classic and still fun to play. A keeper!

XEXYZ

This game is….weird. The platforming doesn’t feel tight at all, and your best weapon is a bouncy ball. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. I don’t want to give up on XEXYZ yet. It is a Hudson Soft game, after all.

Metroid

This is kind of a no-brainer. Although this could be considered one of the weaker Metroid games, it is still so much fun to explore this game with no clue on where to go. I was constantly going into rooms, dying, and making my way back to figure out what the hell was in there.

Kid Icarus

I always wished they made a second Kid Icarus on the NES. It was one of my favorite games as a kid, and I still enjoy it today. However, this time around I actually got a lot farther than I usually do. In fact, I got close to completing the game! This game should be on every NES collectors shelf.

That’s all for this week! It was fun going back and playing some oldies while also realizing I owned a few games that don’t even work. I was able to get rid of a few games and next time, I’ll be tackling a few more.