Sierra Memories

December 6, 2014 12:05am
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I stumbled across this award show for video games tonight via a random tweet that somebody else posted – I really have no idea what the rest of the show covered, but it was neat to see these two veritable icons from my childhood get some recognition as vanguards in the video game industry some thirty years after their prime.

One of the earliest computer games that I ever played was a little text adventure called Mission Asteroid – despite it’s numbering, it was actually the third game that Sierra created for the Apple II. It was before I even had a Nintendo, so I must’ve only been six or seven at the time – I remember having to keep a notebook by the computer so that I could write down the various commands that worked as I progressed through the story! I don’t think that I ever actually made it to the asteroid – I could never seem to get the rocket to take off, but it sure was a fascinating experience to me and no doubt helped to spark a lifelong love for video games at large…

From there I played the same classics that everybody else played – King’s Quest, Space Quest, and when my parents weren’t around, Leisure Suit Larry! I was a HUGE Sierra fan, arguably almost a collector at my age because I would get their magazine that would have the Buy 1 Get 2 Free offers and end up ordering 6 or 9 games at a time until I literally had shelves of their game boxes in my room … the Hoyle games, the 3D Ultra games, you name it.

I remember playing Shivers for hours and hours before I could even figure out what I was supposed to be doing, though granted this was long before my need to watch scary movies with every light on in the house!

I also remember Phantasmagoria being something really special because this was around the time when Myst and other CD-based games just started to emerge, and it was kind of crazy to hold in your hands a game that required seven CD-roms to play!!!

Anyways, now that Ken and Roberta are well into retirement, I mostly read along in envy with their adventures in yachting on Ken’s Blog, it’s pretty awesome to see these two recognized as the pioneers in adventure gaming that they are, not to mention their little ceremonial passing of the torch to the crew that’s working on the next King’s Quest game.

Kinda makes me want to dig out some of those old game discs and spend a night exploring with Graham and Roger and Larry for old time’s sake… 😉

This should be fun!!!

November 24, 2014 3:10am
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So Santa Claus decided to visit our house a little early this year!

I had mentioned a while back that I was strongly leaning towards picking up a Wii U – Mario Kart 8 pretty much sealed the deal on that one. And then old faithful started acting up, first randomly turning off after you turned it on until it had a chance to warm up and finally culminating with a debilitating POP that led us to unplugging it from the wall out of fear of burning our entire house down… 😛

Well, all of this culminated in a bit of a shopping spree at Best Buy tonight where, in addition to ordering a replacement TV to be delivered just before Thanksgiving, we also pretty much cleared out the aisles of damn near every Wii U game and accessory that they had! We actually did the same thing years ago when we got our original Wii – it had come out a couple of years prior, so we finally ended up getting one with some of our wedding money, nearly filling a shopping cart with games and controllers to catch up on what we’d been missing for the past couple of years!

Anyways, tonight we’ve been playing around with it on the TV in our bedroom because as much as a part of me actually considered waiting three days to see it all for the first time on our brand new TV, the sane part of me said, “What are you, nuts?! Nobody buys a new game console and then lets it sit in the box for three days!!!”

Initial reactions:

  • Mario Kart 8 looks beautiful – the graphics are simply amazing and even from what little I’ve played so far, I love what they’ve done to add new dimension to the tracks. The tracks going up into the air are pretty wild!
  • Super Mario 3D World is decent … except for the damn cats, which seem to plague just about every level. I’ve always liked the Mario Galaxy perspective and allowing two players that can’t interfere with each other as they play is nice. But those damn cats…
  • Hyrule Warriors is unexpectedly my favorite so far – it’s an interesting twist on a Zelda game that’s already managed to suck me in, and it makes me want to find the time to revisit the rest of the series, too.
  • Wii U Sports Club is, well, troubling. Several of the games are basically Wii Sports +1, so it seems silly to buy it again. The worst, however, is golf because the whole put the Wii U Gamepad on the floor – while it’s a neat effect – is also a ridiculous notion for anyone who has anything other than adults in the house! Seriously, the dog nearly stepped on the thing like a dozen different times in the twenty minutes we were playing.
  • New Super Mario Bros U … the verdict is still out on this one.

Good grief – it’s already 3AM and I have absolutely no desire to go to bed at this point! 😛

a few more thoughts about FF: ATB

November 17, 2014 12:38am
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So despite my entirely negative review about a month ago, admittedly I’ve still been playing this sporadically here and there – I suppose you could say that morbid curiosity will do that to you.

I guess I wanted to see what other characters and monsters made appearances from the series, and ultimately how they ended it. I also really wanted to see at least one character from my favorite Final Fantasy of all-time (IV – Paladin Cecil, represent!), but apparently that just wasn’t in the cards for me.

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I figure I probably pumped maybe $20 or so into the game total, spanning a couple of hourglass purchases because you get to a point where you can’t beat any of the bosses without either using them or waiting a day and a half to replenish your characters several times, and also maybe 15 or so “Premium Characters” out of the hope that eventually I would pull somebody that I actually liked!

Ended up getting Terra, Celes, and Locke from FFVI and Tifa, Aeris, and Red XIII from FFVII, but not a single solitary character from FFIV!!!

I’ve read that Cecil, Kain, and Rydia are the picks from FFIV – any of whom would’ve been cool, but no…

Anyways, I guess I’m done with it now, in that I’ve hit Level 99 and there’s no where else to go, and the end bosses still typically require a party refresh so there’s no way that I’m paying for the other worlds plus another pack of hourglasses to beat those, too. It’s too bad because the graphics and the character content deserve so much better – with six months time you could make a pretty cool, little game out of this that you could charge $9.99 for as a premium title based on everyone’s nostalgia for their favorite characters and monsters from the series.

I think it’s time to move on to something different. I even tried taking a few screenshots of the cooler monsters that we fought, but half the time the battlefield is so convoluted once attacks start flying that you can’t even pause to appreciate the individual attacks that any one character does. Oh well – I suppose sometimes that’s the way the Atma Weapon crumbles…

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I stumbled across this game late last night thinking it might be kind of cool, but it turns out … it’s not.

The idea is simple enough – it’s just the heroes and monsters from the Final Fantasy series fighting and the more you play, the more characters you can unlock to put in your party. Except that you’re not really fighting in the sense that you’ve grown to expect from the various games in the series. To “fight,” you simply swipe the character and he does his attack action, then gets back in line to wait his turn again.

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That’s all that everybody does, so it’s literally the equivalent of holding down the A button until the battle is over and XP is awarded.

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The whole game is basically just a ploy to get you to buy DLC, except that even that is random and in the two $0.99 purchases that I made, I got two random characters from games that I’ve never played. Awesome.

I get that the game can’t be a little more complicated without being a lot more complicated – I would’ve loved to see a setup where I could build a party from FFIV and FFVI characters and then pit them against the four elemental fiends from the first game – that would be cool, and I think if the game auto-leveled them appropriately on the spot you could still get a balanced fight out of all of the characters.

But I want to control their actual actions, too. In this game, every character is one hit and they’re out, which is fine for a throwaway game but the Final Fantasy series is loaded with rich characters and diverse abilities – to whittle these guys down to a single move that defines what they do is insulting to the series that created them.

This could’ve been a neat game with a whole lot of nostalgia factor, but instead it’s just blatant cash grab for in-app purchases where the creative process both begins and ends at the Premium Character Shop. 🙁

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A Love Letter to Video Games

September 3, 2014 11:08pm
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I thought this was pretty neat – sums up the sentimentality that so many of us share about video games quite nicely! 😉

1047c26a6b413b397f046a7624afcedeSuicide isn’t funny, but we sure do seem to lose an awful lot of funny people to it, don’t we?

Looking back at my own life, I’ve known too many people who’ve tried to commit suicide … granted, of course, that even one is too many.

Some of them succeeded, some of them failed, and I don’t think any of them you ever would’ve guessed from the surface that things had gotten that bad in their own heads. Which is a terrifying consideration when I think about some of the closer ones to me, but I think that proves just how devilish of a beast depression can be … and just when you think someone is through the worst of it all, it very much still has the capability of rearing its ugly head in the worst possible way.

And it sucks because now that all of the dialog is present and we talk about trying to be there for those in need, this is the time when the most important questions we have to ask those people who we’ve lost remain unanswered … why’d you do it? What was it that finally pushed you over the edge?? What could *I* have done differently so that you’d still be here with us???

We’ll never know, and the only thing we can really do is try to be a little more understanding, and pay a little better attention, and be there a little more for our friends and family all of the time because we never know when today might be that day when they’re clinging to the edge, waiting for someone … anyone … to come along and reach out a hand to help them back up.

We may try to put ourselves in their shoes, but we can’t … not even the ones who tried and failed, because they failed … whatever they were going through wasn’t quite enough … and don’t get me wrong, that’s a very, very good thing that we should be grateful for. Yet to try and quantify the ones who succeeded…

I mean, I’ve thought about it before, but never very seriously. I’ve thought about a lot of different things that are admittedly pretty morbid, but most of them I’d never carry through with … in a way, I think part of that is just the crux of being a storyteller. The creative mind wanders to all sorts of dark corners in search of its next work of art … we just don’t choose to share the lot of them with anyone but ourselves…

Truth be told, I’m actually quite terrified of my own death – to the point where I hate thinking about that part of my future because just not being makes me very sad and I haven’t really come to terms with the thought of mortality in my 34 years so far – but I’ve certainly had bad days where the thought has crossed my mind whether the people around me might be better off without. I think another part of it in my head is me just being passive aggressive – “I’ll show them…” and that kind of mentality, but then I step back and put it into context in reality, and I remember that life does go on without these people. It’s hard until it gets easier, and we always remember them, but suicide is a lousy way to get back at somebody because egos have a funny way of dissipating quite quickly after one dies.

I think we all get low from time to time, and your definition of low may vary from mine and somebody else’s … but the definition of low to someone who’s depressed is in an entirely different sphere that we’ll just never know. And that’s both a good and a bad thing.

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I think my favorite memory of Robin Williams was watching him host Comic Relief with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal on HBO. He was always so off the wall and unpredictable, and he wasn’t burdened by movie ratings or a censor as to what types of dirty jokes were off limits. It was just so cool to watch three of the biggest names in comedy riffing off of each other for hours on end between each act, and it was one of the things that kind of inspired me to create Just Laugh because I wanted to be a part of something cool like that, too…

Something I probably shouldn’t admit in public – I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Good Morning, Vietnam.

I guess I need to get on that.

But Aladdin, Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting … some of the dialog from Good Will Hunting bring tears to my eyes with how raw and emotional he could deliver, and yet on the other side with Genie he’s probably one of the most memorable characters to come out of The Disney Decade…

“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Good Will Hunting

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Dead Poet’s Society

“Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck.” – Aladdin

And he named his daughter Zelda – just how amazingly cool is that?!

Robin Williams always seemed like a pretty great guy. He made a lot of us laugh, and he made a lot of us think, and that’s how I’m going to remember him. 🙂

Good news and bad news, Link…

July 18, 2014 1:16am
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So the good news is, apparently Christopher is fairly easily entertained simply by watching his Dad play The Legend of Zelda…

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The bad news is…

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…I’ve never actually beaten the second quest before – or even gotten very far in it, for that matter… 😕

Also, I feel like I had some non-Hyrulean things that I was also supposed to get done tonight. Dishes? Clean bottles?! Here’s a lesson in choosing your battles, kid – saving the princess always comes first! 😉

Dear Nintendo Power…

June 19, 2014 11:40pm
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npI got a real kick out of this series of posts from a long-time Nintendo fan where he’s actually been able to interview a handful of Nintendo Game Counselors on what their work experiences were like back in the day.

I definitely agree that at least at the time, being a game counselor would’ve pretty much been the awesomest job in the world for a pre-teen me who played Nintendo 23 hours a day and wanted to live inside of that Nintendo Power ad that showed a bedroom decked out from floor to ceiling with World of Nintendo gear! Of course, in hindsight having worked in a call center several years later, it may not have made for the best long-term career goal, but if I had been straight out of high school with the options help kids beat video games vs. sweep the warehouse until you’re lucky enough to get to drive a truck at 3am instead … I guess that still would’ve been pretty sweet!

I never was allowed to call the 900-number, but I’m still amazed how they took the time to actually write return letters to kids like me who would write in about their greatest achievements and the games that currently had them stumped. I kind of wish that I somehow had access to the original letters that I had sent out to Nintendo because I can just picture an 11 year-old me studiously typing away at the typewriter about how he just can’t figure out how to defeat Odin the basement of Baron Castle in Final Fantasy 2! 😀

That said, what I do have is the actual responses that I received from the various times that I wrote to Nintendo, and after a bit of Morning Toast inspiration, I went ahead and scanned mine, too. It doesn’t look like he’s managed to interview any of the three folks who answered my questions, but hey, there’s still time!

I’ve never really been much of a K’Nex fan, although I do have a few random sets from the Mario Kart series that they have. That said, I was at Target this evening … and maybe it’s just because I already completed The Simpsons and I need something new to collect … but I saw a box of the Mario blind packs and started sorting through them.

It was when I got the hint that they’re really not all that blind that I decided to pick up a handful of them just to play a hunch!

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I couldn’t help but notice that on the back of each pack there was a code, and although the code was identical for each one in the box, what was different from one pack to another was that each had a specific number in the code underlined. 

No … that couldn’t be the difference between all of the figures, could it?! 😮 

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0514048 – Bullet Bill

0514048 – Diddy Kong

0514048 – Cheep Cheep (0 double-underlined)

0514048 – Toad

Of course, my luck I ended up picking the least desirable of all the characters with not a primary like Mario or Bowser or even Yoshi in sight! Still, I suppose if I wanted to go back and grab the others, it wouldn’t be too difficult now, assuming that they’re not all picked over and all that’s left are Toads and Diddys. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll do that or not … at first glance I thought they might look neat on a shelf by all of my games once I get ’em unpacked and find room for them, but there are some other toy lines that have made Mario figures that look arguably better, so we’ll see.

Man, do I SO WISH that Nintendo had signed this series with Lego and not K’Nex, though!!!

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