Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back to the Past #1 - A PS2 Retro Gaming Kickoff

The other night I found myself without a PC to game on, my current system being down for cleaning. This got me to thinking about all the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube games I have next to my computer desk, all  neatly shelved and alphabetically sorted. I began to think that if I'm such a proponent of the "good ol' days" of gaming, I should be willing to go back and actually play these old titles - many of which I HAVE NEVER PLAYED!

So, why not go back and at least try some of the hundreds of games I have and see how they've held up over the years? If not, what's the purpose to keep them all around?

That's how this "Back to the Past" series started.

I decided to start with the Xbox games first, but it was not to be and it highlighted one of the problems inherent to retro gaming. On trying to power on my Xbox console, I found that the power adapter (an upgraded model with a built-in breaker) was now faulty and would not work.

I've always been concerned about what it takes to keep a retro game "alive". It's not just having the disk; you need a working console, cables (and component cables if you want the picture to look half way decent), and controllers. You may also need memory cards and power supplies that are equally hard to obtain anymore. Then there are the upgrades for that generation of consoles - namely wireless controllers as opposed to the standard wired ones. None of these can be taken for granted because no one is making them anymore.

With Xbox not an option for now, I skipped ahead to my PS2 collection. I'm planning on doing this on a straight alphabetical order, taking the good with the bad. However, I won't be playing every game during this play through. I actually have played some of my old games, and when I come across those, I'll give my impressions of what they were like. If I really don't remember the game (or if I just want to try it again), I'll pop it into the console.

Note: The items in parenthesis after the title are Developer/Publisher/Year of Release.

.hack 1-4 (CyberConnect2/Bandai/2003, 2003, 2003, 2004) : Played #1, Infection, before.

An interesting series of JRPG's where you are actually playing a game within a game. You play a character who is playing a game himself, a sort of MMO. Events in that online game begin affect your friends in the "outer" game world. Yeah, sort of confusing to explain - it reminds me of the movie "Inception"! I never got too involved in it, but someday I'd like to watch the anime DVD's that came with each one - a unique pack-in for a game.

007 Nightfire (Eurocom Entertainment Software/EA/2002) : Played before.

As about as generic a shooter as you could make out of the James Bond license. There are lots of better FPS games out there to play.

007 Everything or Nothing (EA Redwood Shores/EA/2004) : Played before.

I've actually played a fair amount of this one and really enjoyed it. The designers came at it like the game was a new James Bond movie on its own. They got voices and likenesses of Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, and Willem Dafoe, and even wrote a James Bond movie style opening song - pretty classy for the times. This is one game I might go back and really try to complete someday.

Ace Combat 4 and Ace Combat 5 (Namco/Namco/2001 and 2004) : Played both before.

The game(s) break down into two sections - aerial combat missions that are more arcade action than simulation, and anime style cut scenes about the fictitious war the game is set in along with a lot of "war is bad"/"flying white doves" bits. I could probably play more of both of these, but I haven't, as the saying goes, just "gotten into them" yet.

Activision Anthology (Contraband Entertainment/Activision/2002) : Played before.

I think every retro gamer has a limit on how far they are willing to turn back the technology clock. For me, it's before you get to the NES and Atari 2600 days. Games from those days, especially the Atari 2600, feel like web browser Flash games now. I do feel that collections like this are very important for the preservation of gaming history and the extras they include are often quite interesting, but please don't make me play any more River Raid. Ever!

AEon Flux (Terminal Reality/Majesco Games/2005) : Played before.

Like the vast majority of movie tie-in games, this one is just plain bad. While they went through the trouble to get the likeness and voice of the movie's star, Charlize Theron, they put the game in a ridiculous setting that bears no resemblance to the movie - an underground city with robots and guards during some sort of crazy fashion show! Such a shame. The movie was pretty good and if they had been really daring, they could have tried a game based on the animated series. It would have raised a lot of eye brows and probably sold well just based on how the cartoon character is dressed.

Amplitude (Harmonix Music Systems/Sony/2003) : New.

This was Harmonix's second attempt at a music rhythm game, and it's amazing how little things have changed over the years. Basically, this is almost identical to the portable versions of Rock Band and the recent Rock Band Blitz release - same switching tracks and hitting note discs. Not very interesting by today after years of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Ape Escape 2 and 3 (Sony Japan/Ubisoft/2003 and 2006) : Both new.

Very similar game design between them (you play as a kid who has to catch monkeys that are being controlled through special hats by an evil "smarter" monkey), but AE3 has a story that pokes fun at movies, so I've been playing more of it. Part of the joy of this "back to the past" exploration is finding games like this (from Ubisoft, by the way and more about that in a sec) that were made before controller layouts became so standardized. In this game, you select items to use on the monkeys with the face buttons, then swing/activate them with the right thumbstick. You jump with the R1 OR R2 button, and do a change to an upgraded character by pressing both R1 and R2. And this is all just in the first hour or so of play! As for the Ubisoft note, I can't help but think this would be an interesting way for the Rabbid's franchise to go.

Console in the Wild Entries:

CITW #2 - Costco again. Kid playing on a blue 3DS XL. Too bad I didn't have mine for a StreetPass.
CITW #3 - Passed a guy outside of a Starbucks with a white 3DS (XL, I think). He was, however, actually playing/using a smart phone, so not sure if this really counts. I do wish I had asked him where he got the all while model though.

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