Saturday, August 3, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #92: NFL

I am not a huge fan of either football or social video games, yet Nintendo’s 1989 NFL has a place on this list.  It’s not here because it’s the best football game ever made (that comes later on the list).  It’s here because of the memories I have associated with it … and it was pretty fun to play.

This was the only licensed football game for Nintendo at that time.  My friend Steve had a NES and was a huge football fan, concomitantly he had this game, and one day after work he talked me into playing it.  Though I knew little about football other than its clubs, I ended up really enjoying it.  I enjoyed choosing a team (I started out playing my favorites: Eagles, Steelers and Rams, but later, due to a self-created system we were playing under, had to play teams like the Lions and Packers), picking a play and then controlling the players.  I lost miserably to Steve, but this one session started an after- work tradition of grabbing a few drinks, going into the den, and playing a game Monday through Friday.  It was a great way to unwind and to start the weekend.

I lost nearly every game we played, and when I lost, I lost badly.  It was shocking, really.  I admit: I sucked at it.  There was one day, however, when I picked the Chiefs (I don’t remember what Steve’s team was), and trounced him solidly.  My win was amazing, almost as if I used a cheat code.  I destroyed Steve, and what I remember was not the elation of winning so easily, but his utter disbelief in what was happening to him on the screen.  If that had been the only time we played, the game would still be on the list because of that single win.  I was on fire and his only response was an open mouth and the odd sounds that emitted from it with every touchdown.

I wouldn’t buy NFL today.  There would really be no reason to do so, as there are many better football games available.  I will never forget it, though.  It may have had a simple name, but for that period in my life it was a powerful game, and it led to my decision to start buying and playing football games many years later.  Long live the Chiefs!  (Though I still don’t give a crap about them in real life.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #93: Mortal Kombat -- Deception

Mortal Kombat:Deception is the first Mortal Kombat game I really liked.  I played the other games in the franchise and they provided a small bit of satisfaction (ripping the spine out of someone is always fun), but they also always felt as if they were lacking something.  This game changed all that, and how it did that was surprising.

It wasn’t the use of weapons, though I loved taking a blade to some of the characters.  It wasn’t the use of death traps, though watching someone land on a white-hot metal bar brought a smile to my face.  I also liked the use of koins and digging up graves to obtain things like alternative costumes and production art.  It wasn’t the storyline for the Konquest mode, either.  No, what made me love this game was the mini-games: one that was like chess and the other being a puzzle game along the lines of Tetris.  It took this from a mere fighting game to the level of an all-around gaming experience that offered a little bit of everything … and all of it was fun.

When I would grow tired of kicking the shit out of someone, I could switch gears and play one of the mini-games and have a really good time.  I even enjoyed the much maligned PSPport.  This was, hands down, a great video game that no longer fit into the “fighting game” category, though it still had that.  I can’t think of another fighting game that did anything like this and did it so well.  It was a game for all moods.

Mortal Kombat players remind me of people who like things that are “xtreme.”  You know them, too.  They are kind of dumb and think that the gross video they sought out on the Internet of the rotting corpse having sex with an Asian amputee while driving a Porsche into a tree somehow makes them cool.  They are easily entertained and believe they are edgy and transgressive.  (They aren’t.)  This game will still appeal to them, but it was the first one that had the potential to draw in other players, as well, and that is why it is on my list.  In fact, I find that the series as a whole has become stale, but this game remains its highlight.  Long live Deception.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not received this game to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #94: Star Wars -- Starfighter

You don’t see Star Wars: Starfighter on a whole lot of favorites lists, though it was released to critical acclaim.  Maybe it’s because the PS2, the system I played it on, is overrun with great games.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the game is tied in with Episode One: The Phantom Menace.  Or it could be that people just forgot about it.  Regardless, it is one of the best space shooters of all time, beat only by its sequel.

The plot doesn’t matter.  You are on various missions, which are the cut-and-dry standards of all games of this sort.  Basically, shoot things or defend things.  You’ve got space missions and ground missions and a quite a variety of ships along with different characters, but that doesn’t really matter.  What’s important is the feeling you get while playing it.  It seriously seems like you are involved in a massive space war (especially if you change the camera view on the game so that it looks like you are inside the ship you are piloting).  It’s immense and incredible.  Best Star Wars game ever, though?  Probably not these days, but when it was released it was a contender for the crown.  I know the next thing you are thinking: How are the controls?  Well …

A lot of flight simulation games are hard to control and take gamers quite some time to find a comfort level where they can actually play the game the way it was meant to be played.  That’s not the case here.  Yes, there is some trial and error, but after a mission or two you will have the hang of it and be able to relax and enjoy the destruction. 

The Star Wars franchise has had its share of bad games, which is fairly disappointing for fans.  This game, however, made up for the lost hours people spent playing those other losers.  It even made the movie it is set in seem more tolerable, and most people thought that wasn’t even possible.  One more reason it’s on the list?  Writing this makes me want to play it again, and if you remember the game I’m sure you feel much the same way.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this game to review, but clicking on a link may earn me a commission

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #95: Activision Hits Remixed

Many of the reasons why I like Activision Hits Remixed are similar to why I enjoy Atari Classics Evolved.  There is something pure about playing the classics from a time when the only storyline that really existed was in a manual and where it was wave after wave of things to shoot.  The games were simple and addictive and no company was better at that than Activision.  It always aimed high … and often succeeded.

I’m not sure what makes these classic games like Demon Attack, Pitfall, Barnstorming and Stampede “remixed,” but it could be the fact that the soundtrack is all ‘80s music.  Of course, there are a few different modes you can play them in, too, but the best way to enjoy them is not in black and white, but in their original color scheme. 

Activision not only gives us the games here (over 40 of them, actually), but also the manuals (usually kind of interesting to read) and the boxes, many of which were enticing, solid works of art.  As all Activision fans of that era know, the box art never lived up to the games inside, but you always held out hope.  Frankly, it rarely mattered because the games were just plain fun to play.

Some of the games collected here have individually made it onto my list for one reason or another.  Putting collections like this on my list almost seems like a cheat, too, but I stand by it.  Having all these games in one place in a handheld is like being a kid in a candy store.  It is overload of the best sort.  And you get to hear Wall of Voodoo while roping cattle.  How cool is that?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this game.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #96: Atari Classics Evolved

If you saw the title of this and your immediate reaction was to groan, you’ve played the game.  You didn’t groan because it sucked, though.  You groaned because it’s hard.  Very hard.  What makes it so difficult?  Atari Classics Evolved teases.  That’s right.  Teases.  Like the girl who wants to do everything but that.  You start out with a few old Atari games (like Centipede, Pong and Missile Command) in both their original state and a new “evolved” state (3D, better graphics, etc.), but if you want to get the fifty-plus Atari 2600 games available for play and dangled in front of your pleading eyes, well, you gotta work for it.

The “work” in this case is unlocking a few achievements in every one of the core games.  There are 11 core games, each with four awards.  If you are too lazy to do the math, that’s 44 awards.  Easy, right?  Hell no!  Yeah, some are obtained with relative ease, but there are others that will have you pulling out your hair trying to obtain them.  At some point you have a brainstorm, and then everything changes.

For me, this brainstorm was about a week into playing the game.  I was trying to unlock something in Super Breakout when it occurred to me: Why am I so hell-bent on unlocking old Atari games to play on a PSP?  What the hell was I thinking?  Would Adventure or Combat really be worth it?  Of course not, but I kept playing anyway, and that’s the beauty of this game.  These are simple, quick games with plenty of replay value, but the idea of getting more games that are actually worse is somehow enough to keep you playing.  It’s the equivalent to getting gold on all the license tests in Gran Turismo in order to win a Chevette to run in the races.

If you look at some of the poorly written reviews on Amazon for the game, you’ll find a lot of people pissed that they have to work to unlock the games (or can’t find cheat codes readily available).  These people obviously don’t get it.  It’s called a “challenge,” and challenges are supposed to be “hard.”  I know these are words lacking from far too many people’s vocabulary, but there we have it.  This game is a challenge, period.  If you don’t think the reward is worth it, don’t play it … or don’t play it for the reward. 

As for me, I have yet to unlock the damn games, but I’m still trying…

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive this game to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time # 97: Robot Tank

What wasn’t there to love about Activision’s 1983 Battlezone “homage” Robot Tank?  You commanded (remotely) a tank and your mission was to seek out enemy tanks and blow them to bits before they could reach … Santa Clara, California!  Of course, they shot back at you, and if they hit you lost some control of your tank or if it were a direct hit, totally lost the tank.  As if that weren’t enough (and in those days, that was often all you got), this game came with changing weather conditions and a transition from day to night.  That innovation is what caused me to purchase the game in the first place.  I figured it would make tank destroying fun, and it did, but what I didn’t realize is that it would also make me very, very nervous. 

Shooting tanks is great, but when your video screen and radar goes out at night and the screen goes black periodically, you can’t help but feel a bit tense when you hear another unseen tank unleash some hell in your direction.  You could try backpedalling or turning, but you didn’t know if you are turning into or away from the shot.  You also had to take whatever shot you could in those rare moments when you could see what was on your screen and hope for the best.  Today’s military has it so much easier.

Graphically, the game was fairly minimalist.  It was Atari back in the early ‘80s, so that is a given.  The graphics, however, still served the game well, though the outskirts of Santa Clara could have been the outskirts of any town anywhere.  Since you were supposed to be remotely controlling a tank, the graphics actually made a bit of sense as you could imagine that what you saw on your television is what you would have seen if you were really commanding a robot tank back in the early ‘80s. 

I’ve played this game again recently, just to revisit it.  I have to say that while it seems less intense these days (or perhaps my nerves are deadened from years of Candoor Root abuse), it still holds up fairly well.  Granted, there are better combat games that have come along, but back then this was about as good as it got for your home console when it came to tanks blasting the snot out of each other.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I paid for this freakin' game.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.