Monthly Archives: December 2014

I rang in Y2K with a video game chauvinist. And then waved goodbye.

DukeNkemI spent the evening of 31 December 1999 playing Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, by far my favourite of his adventures. While his potty-mouthed schtick and penchant for sexism was well and truly worn by 1998, its more action-oriented take on the style of game made popular by classic platformer, Tomb Raider, was nothing short of brilliant.  I’d saved the game to play as I rang in the new millenium, after begging and pleading mum and dad to buy it for me for my sixteenth birthday not long before.  And it all went according to plan – while the rest of the country was either panicking over the Y2K bug or too drunk to care, I was running through time with the wise-cracking chauvinist kicking arse and chewing bubble gum.

And you know what?  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There is no dancing around the fact that Duke Nukem is more than tiny bit despicable.  Ever the teenage boy fantasy, he is the epitome of the male power-trip fantasy, complete with objectification of women, and a healthy dose of salty language.  Even writing it now I’m a little bit embarrassed by just how much I liked the games in the 90’s.  But there is something about his bombast, and his departure from the incredibly serious tone most console games at the time, that really appealed to me as straight-laced teenager.  The fact that those early post-3D games were actually pretty great games was almost inconsequential.

It was mature in that late night comedy dick joke way, and in a weird way, it made me feel like a grown up.  For many, that’s probably a cornerstone of their relationship with the Duke.   I still remember the first time I saw Duke Nukem 3D on the solitary 386 in primary school library and how much it felt like accidentally seeing a nipple when you snuck out to watch TV late at night.  It was the forbidden fruit that wasn’t just the violence of Mortal Kombat – which let’s be honest was getting rather tame by 1996 – it was that next level of adult that gave the incredible illusion that games were growing up.

And they were, but it certainly wasn’t Duke Nukem that was bringing on that revolution, rather he just represented all the taboo things one thinks are ‘adult’ when you’re not one.  And a rather crass representation at that.  Duke Nukem wouldn’t play in the post-internet proliferation era, but at the time, he was what people meant when they said “video games are maturing”. Bless the 1990’s.

A lot has changed since then, and ringing in the new millenium with a thoroughly 90’s cliche, feels in hindsight incredibly appropriate.  Sitting in my beanbag in a dimly lit room in front of an old-arse ‘His Master’s Voice’ CRT telly playing a ridiculously misogynistic and juvenile video game was a great welcome to an era that tried its darndest to dispose of almost all of the above.  Because, while Duke Nukem is still great as a retrospective curio and look into what videogame culture was like in the 90’s, he feels like a relic of the past.  And so, at 00:00, 1 January 2000, we kissed the relevance of gaming’s greatest chauvinist goodbye.

Forever.

Happy New Year everyone!  Thanks for your support in 2014 – I hope 2015 brings you many successes!

DukeNukemTTKscreen

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Warioware is my Nintendo nostalgia, my amiibo achilles heal

AshleyWariowareI’m as surprised as anyone that I’m playing not one, but two versions of Super Smash Bros.  I had a sum total of zero intention of buying either version, until word of mouth started perforating my usually strong iron will, and interest into the saccharine sweet beat ’em up started seeping into my brain.  After being laughed out of the store when I went in cold to buy the Wii U version the morning it launched, I begrudgingly picked up the 3DS version.  I liked it.  And so the Wii U version followed.  Suddenly I’m Super Smash Bros crazy, and although I’m confining myself to the incredibly well fleshed-out single player portions of the game, the games are so good I reckon I’d buy it again if Nintendo had a third pillar.

More than anything, though, Super Smash Bros reminded me just how rich Nintendo’s history is.  Although my history is relatively short, beginning and ending with Nintendo’s handhelds – I was a bit of a Gameboy tragic – until the Gamecube came along, for North America and Japan where Nintendo dominated throughout the 80’s and 90’s I can only imagine the endless stream of warm and fuzzy feelings the game sends their way.  Even for me it’s a great trip, often down someone else’s memory lane, and a great tribute to the japanese giant – not to mention a very clever device to keep people playing.  Everyone loves an in-game collectible and Super Smash Bros is collecting at its very best.

And then there’s Amiibos.  There is no questioning that’s Nintendo’s intention with its ridiculously and unexpectedly figurines, which finally caught Lucius not long ago, and I suspect he’s not off the hook just yet.  I haven’t fallen yet, but I know exactly where my line is, and I’m sure its only a matter of time until Nintendo gets there.  So the question is: where is that line?

I didn’t know I realised exactly where that line was when I unlocked the Ashley trophy – the mischievous but cute as a button witch-in-training – in Super Smash Bros for 3DS.  Thats the very same time I realised that it’s not the usual suspects – the Super Mario Lands, Donkey Kong Lands or Kirby’s Dream Lands  – that evoke the greatest feelings of Nostalgia for me.  Rather it was that little Microgame collection released in 2004,  the game that in and of itself was a gigantic homage to its own company’s heritage, that holds within it all of my fondest Nintendo memories.  That game is WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! – and to a very slightly lesser extent its sequels even though i’m well aware that Twisted! at the very least is a better game. Regardless, they are bloody fantastic.

AshleyTrophy

Unlike most games that I hold dear, sometimes for very good reason and others with a severe case of rose-tinted glasses, the first Warioware game came out when I was just about to leave my teenage years.  Its clever self-referential and offbeat tone and its seemingly very deliberate attempt to capture the 8-bit magic of a simpler time.  Oddly, Warioware was my first taste of the Nintendo of the 80’s that the internet seems so awfully fond of.  Before Warioware (and arguably even after it, if you’re being technical) I’d never set eyes on let alone played the classics like Punch Out and Duck Hunt – in much the same way that Animal Crossing was my gateway to Excitebike and Balloon Fight.  And it’s this juxtaposition of these old games with the simplistic and minimalist that to me made it such an endearing game, and in some ways, ahead of its time for its neo retro-ness.  There was always something very retro feeling about Warioware as a franchise, so much so that I think my brain has been tricked into thinking its older than it actually is.

Look, I’m well aware that Warioware is far from ‘old’ Nintendo, and that in the pantheon of Nintendo characters Wario is practically a newborn.  But for me – that is someone that was weaned kicking and screaming into the world of consoles from home computers – Nintendo was just another company that made consoles and then made games to play on them.  It wasn’t the company with the cute roster of characters with a penchant for quality, that company that defined video games in the 90’s, or the company that practically invented – or at least refined – a fair chunk of the gameplay mechanics we rely so heavily on today.  It was just Nintendo the maker of the Game Boy, the alternative to Sega, and eventually, the company usurped by Sony.

But Warioware changed that.  Suddenly it all made sense, the way Nintendo was held so dearly by so many, suddenly it’s as though I finally got it.  The game was a perfect mix of zany characters, beautiful art style and sound design, and gameplay that perfectly walked the very fine line between being simple and being boring.  But most of all it was the game’s concept that caught me and indoctrinated me into the world of Nintendo.  It was an utterly ridiculous concept – Wario starting the titular Warioware Inc video game company to make games and capitalise on rising game sales – that was impossible not to love.  Somewhat serendipitously but suitably, Warioware the game about making games, defined the company for me.  And in doing so made its characters – and those like Ashley that came in later games – my own personal mascots for the company.

Without a rich history of Nintendo nostalgia, while I love the Marios and Yoshis as much as the next man, I haven’t felt the need to run out and buy into Nintendo’s latest money-making scheme.  But everyone has their achilles heal, and I’m afraid of what will happen should the funkmaster Jimmy T or jack-of-all trades Mona, make their way to store shelves.  Because I’d like nothing more than to have the faces of those that define my relationship with Nintendo staring right back at me from atop my mantelpiece.

Not delved into the world of amiibo yet?  Where is your line?  Tell us in the comments below!

Wariowarechars

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Favourite game ever? Don’t ask me.

If i’m ever asked what my favourite game of all time is, the first game that pops into my head is Dead Rising.  I don’t know why because it was an incredibly flawed experience that, although I had a hell of a good time with it, delivered moments of incredible frustration.  But even with those flaws and that controller chucking madness, it was a bloody good time, and one that evoked feelings of excitement and limitless positivity for the future of the medium that I haven’t had since.  I played it for hours and hours at a time – something i’m not generally want to do – slaughtering countless of the undead before usually coming to an untimely end and having to start again bigger and stronger than before.  I finally finished the game in a marathon session over the easter long weekend of 2007, and was so enamoured by the experience, I started it all over again.  It for me is a well-designed top-shelf modern video game experience.

But is it my favourite game of all time?

The truth is, ask me on a day where I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic, and my answer could vary wildly.  It is a question that sends my brain into a flurry, and I can almost picture miniature bespectacled neuron men and women frantically searching through the filing cabinets that hold all of my gaming memories, flinging neatly labeled files into the air.  If it was a film you’d have a montage with game titles flying across the screen as these little guys flick through my visual memories – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, Another World, Power Monger, Doom II, Resident Evil 2 – each bringing with them warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia of growing up in the family home, my first kiss, my first….ehem…wicket.  It is a fun exercise, sure, but one that inevitably pulls out more questions than answers.

PowerMongerscreen

And that’s mainly because video games can never ever be viewed objectively, and my gaming memories are often more about time and place, rather than the actual act of playing the game.  Naturally, that is going to favour the older games that as I get older, remind me of a simpler time in my life and a perhaps more aspirational time for the industry.  Whether it was sulking under a desk lamp in my room playing Burgertime Deluxe after getting a stern parental talking to as a young lad,  or just marvelling at what Rare had achieved with Donkey Kong Land, it was a great time to be growing up alongside games.  Nostalgia is a juggernaut that more often than not can’t be beaten.

But when i’m not feeling nostalgic, I realise just how far we’ve come, and how amazingly talented the modern game developer is.  Super Mario Galaxy and Persona 3 were both mechanically brilliant games that kept me glued to the television over two consecutive summers, while there are short and sweet games like FEAR and Vanquish that I play every year almost as a matter of tradition.  And that’s when i’m not thinking about Dead Rising.  The fact is for some kids out there that didn’t grow up in the 80’s and 90’s these are the games that defined their childhood, and ergo, could well be at the top of their piles.

So is it an answerable question?  I’m sure there is a game out there that, if you develop an algorithm complex enough, is objectively the best game ever made.  But unless you’ve grown up in a vacuum, every game you’ve ever played and perhaps written about, has been the victim or benefactor of exogenous factors.  And that’s not a bad thing – despite the internet’s insistence to the contrary – it just means that much of the gaming-centric focused corner of the internet’s reliance on “best of” lists is undermined by the fact we are human.  And that is a wonderful realisation.

While Dead Rising be my favourite game today, tomorrow it could be an entirely different answer, so it’s just best not to ask.

DeadRising_Esc

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The Amiga: Another World Away

Another World, starring Sir "Lester" Gaulian.

Another World, starring Sir “Lester” Gaulian.

I just finished playing Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition on the 3DS, which was a bargain in the Nintendo eShop at £3.49. I remember when the original game came out on the Amiga in 1991: the cinematic graphics were mind-blowing at the time. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to play it back in the day, so I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to play Eric Chahi’s masterpiece.

The graphics still look fantastic – the silky smooth animation on Lester looks stunning, and the backdrops have a minimalist look that means they’ve barely dated. The gameplay, on the other hand, is showing its age somewhat. Much of the game involves trial and error puzzles, and one wrong move means instant death. Several times in the game you’ll enter a room only to be instantly killed because there you didn’t do something several rooms back. Or a guard will just pop up and vapourise you in one shot.

But I found myself compelled to finish it nonetheless, mostly because the game’s presentation and story are top notch. It does a brilliant job of forging the atmosphere of a strange, faraway and hostile planet where you’re never really sure what’s going on. The creators of Ico said that the game had a strong influence on them, and I can well believe that.

Perhaps the best thing about the game is that it leaves a lot unexplained – you never really find out who your captors are, or what the  motives of your alien companion are. Instead you’re encourage to fill in the blanks, and the game’s all the better for it. I’d rather a little mystery than exposition-heavy cut scenes every five minutes.

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Twelve (short) Games to play on Christmas evening

Taxi

Santa (or Father Christmas as he was known to me as a kid) has come and gone and you’ve probably had way too much egg nog by now.  ‘Tis the season, after all.  But most importantly we’re mere hours away from the first ball being bowled annual boxing day Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  It’s a wonderful time of year isn’t?

Anyway, yesterday I ran through six games that if you’re feeling rather antisocial on Christmas morning, are so short you could polish them off.  If you’ve just had Christmas lunch, and have answered more than your fair share of questions about when you’re getting married or having kids, or “why you kids change jobs so often”, here are another six games to keep you away from the, by now, very drunk family.  Merry Christmas and stay safe.

7. Warioware: Touched!

(Nintendo DS)

You could put the names of all the Warioware games in a hat and pick any of them, really, but Touched! is probably the easiest one to find and play these days.  But really any of them will do, because not only is Warioware one of the best pick up and play series around, it is als0 probably my favourite of any of Nintendo’s properties.  While the first of Nintendo’s reverent mini-game collections is still for mine the best in the series, making its home on the Game Boy Advance, Warioware: Touched! on the Nintendo DS was my introduction to the two-screened monstrosity that would dominate my game time for the next half a decade, and so holds a very special place in my heart. But while you can make your way through the game within a couple of good solid hours, if you stop there you’re kinda missing the point.amo

Warioware_Touched

8. Project Rub XY/XX

(Nintendo DS)

The courting of the opposite sex is hard.  Long gone are the days where the matriarch would spot a rich, agreeable chap riding into town on his horse, invite him to a spout of Victorian era dancing, and you’d have your daughter married of within the month.  Now it’s a long drawn of process of the man playing the hero, puffing his chest out, and beating off his competition with a stick.  Sega’s Nintendo DS launch title, the unfortunately named Project Rub XX/XY, captures that vital part of the human experience perfectly with a series of mini games that have you vying for the affections of a girl that didn’t quite have the ‘love at first sight’ you did.  It’s ridiculous, it’s over-the-top, and it just also happens to appeal to the most basic of human instincts.

ProjectRub

9. Gargoyle’s Quest

(Nintendo Game Boy / Nintendo 3DS)

Gargoyle’s Quest was the Game Boy’s quiet achiever for a long time.  I played the game when it came out, borrowing it off of a relative, and finding my way through to the credits by the end of the day.  But it was a mighty special experience, and like anyone that owned a Game Boy in the 90’s I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an instant classic, blending the overhead shenanigans of your typical JRPG with action platforming, to make a gaming cocktail fit for a king.  But to most, it didn’t rate a mention, struggling to get its head above the Marios and Donkey Kongs that got instant recognition as black and white classics seemingly on name alone.  Thankfully, the gospel that we Game Boy devotees had been spouting for years was spread when it finally made its way to Virtual Console, and finally Gargoyle’s Quest was put on the pedestal it so well and truly deserved, for everyone to see and admire.

Gargoyle's Quest, mine at long last.

10. Touch my Katamari

(PS Vita)

Katamari is the closest thing to intravenous happiness this side of Rayman Legends.  You could argue that, after six mainline console entries in the series, Katamari is getting a little long in the tooth. And yeah, sure, it hasn’t evolved a whole lot in that time, still having you roll a giant adhesive ball around ridiculously japanese real-life inspired locales, picking up everything in your path until the timer runs out (or, in some cases, you pick up a cow).  But does that matter when the simple fact is that Katamari’s infectious charm and addictive gameplay can make your heart sing even on the worst day?  And like a stack of games on this list, while you can make it to the end of the PS Vita game in a couple of hours, by the time you’ve gone back and collected everything and found all of the Prince’s adorable cousins, you’ll have the japanese lyrics to Everlasting Love etched into your brain.  And you’ll still have no clue what its about.

KatamariVita

11. Another World

(Everything, ever.)

In the scheme of things I think Another World is the game that had the most influence on my gaming tastes growing up.  It taught me video game violence didn’t need to be tasteless, that games could be smart without being complicated, and that you don’t need narrative shoved in your face to enjoy a good yarn.  But it also encapsulates everything I love about video games.  Games have been more real and believable – and sure as hell prettier – than Another World in the more than 20 years since its release, but none have managed to thoroughly transport me to a fictional planet quite like Eric Chahi’s masterpiece.  You could perhaps put it down to the fact that Lester is the spitting image of me, but I feel like I took that deadly journey, and survived to tell the tale.  Unless you consider Heart of the Alien cannon, I guess.

AnotherWorld

12. Prince of Persia

I miss the days where games weren’t judged on their length.  Prince of Persia comes from a time where it was okay to advertise that, hey, this game is exactly one hour long and if you can’t save the princess in an hour, well too bad Johnny but you lose.  It’s hard and fast time constraint wasn’t even worth a bullet point back in the day, but going back and playing the game all these years later, it’s a refreshing change in pace to games that seem to try their absolute hardest to pad their games out with meaningless distractions.  Bring the time limit back I say.  After all, saving the world can seldom wait.

PoP1989

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From The Armchair: False Starts and Fires

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

As we hurtle down the final furlong of the year, I for one will be grateful for the powerful respite offered by the festive season. The past few months have seen unending turmoil, mostly thanks to my relocation from London to “The McManor” in beautiful Edinburgh. This tumult has been combined with oodles of work-related travel and a punishing editing schedule, meaning that I am, for want of a more gentlemanly word, utterly knackered.

Thankfully I have a fairly quiet January to look forward to, and I have lined up a series of gaming treats to while away the gloomy hours, ranging from Pokemon X to Alien: Isolation. I’m also looking forward to a marathon Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate session with my sister on Christmas Day while the rest of the family digest turkey and slump in front of whatever dreadful film they’re showing on BBC1 (I’ve just checked, it’s Gnomeo & Juliet).

But in the meantime, I managed to sneak in a little gaming this weekend. After a last-minute dash to the post office, followed by frantic cleaning and fevered present wrapping, I miraculously found myself with a little bit of time to myself. And to top it all off, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U arrived in the post that very morning – fate decreed a gaming night.

Sonic, Mega Man and Mario together in a game at last.

Sonic, Mega Man and Mario together in a game at last.

After settling down with Smash, I was initially very confused. But after working through the myriad menus and sub-menus, I eventually found the single-player campaign and joyfully tore my way through Classic mode with a couple of different characters. First impressions are very favourable: the game looks stunning, and it seems to be a big improvement on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which never really grabbed me. And once I started rooting through all the different menus, I was astonished by how much content was on offer – there are dozens of ways to play the game, of which All-Stars mode is my favourite so far. And then there’s the Amiibo compatibility – training an Amiibo to fight was surprisingly fun, even though really there’s not a lot you can do with them in the game except fight alongside one in online or local multiplayer. But it’s difficult to avoid getting attached to them and start ascribing them with a personality, especially with all the customisation options on offer. And now I want more Amiibos (see ‘Amiibo fever‘).

Little Inferno: it's mostly about burning things.

Little Inferno: it’s mostly about burning things.

After a few hours of pummelling Nintendo characters, I decided to take a break and see what was happening on the Nintendo eShop. Well, a Christmas sale, as it turns out, which quickly prompted purchases of Little Inferno and Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition. Yes, after months of fastidiously whittling down my gaming backlog, it’s suddenly growing again, undoing all that hard work. But dammit, it’s Christmas, the time for unbridled consumer spending!

I loaded up Little Inferno straight away, and the art style and bizarre humour immediately grabbed me. The game itself simply involves throwing various strange objects into a fireplace and watching them burn, but the twisted characters and mysterious plot make it strangely compelling, along with the odd ways in which the objects combust. I’m looking forward to playing all the way through to find out more about the strange world it’s set in.

Haytham: more interesting than Connor.

Haytham: more interesting than Connor.

After an hour of flinging things into a fire I fancied a change, so I loaded up Assassin’s Creed III. I started playing the Wii U version of this recently, and I’m not that far in. So far, my impressions have been decidedly mixed. Barely anything happens for the first few missions, and rather than placing you in the midst of a metropolis that you can explore at your leisure, you’re instead funneled down fairly linear routes in the American countryside. Also, I found Haytham Kenway to be a far more interesting character than Connor Kenway, and it was quite disappointing to find out I’d be mostly stuck with the latter. Then there’s the perennial modern-day bits with Desmond Miles, a character so bland that it feels as if he’s been designed by a committee. But despite all of this, I still quite enjoyed romping through the trees, being all assassin-ey, even if the game takes an absolute age to get going. On the strength of what I’ve seen so far, however, it’s definitely the weakest in the series.

So, dear reader, what are your gaming plans for the Christmas period and beyond? And what games are you looking forward to in 2015?

Toodle pip for now… and Merry Christmas!

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Twelve (short) Games to play on Christmas Morning

XMASinfectedI love Christmas time.  Where I live it brings unbearably hot weather and the sound of leather on willow.  For those of you not on this end of the world it brings snowmen and open fires.  Opposite seasons aside, one thing we share in common though, assuming you’ve found your way to this blog intentionally, is that the holidays are a time to enjoy playing video games, and lots of them.  But while there are plenty of amazing games that will have you playing day until night, sometimes its good to just power through a whole stack of ’em, and marvel at just how great your hand-eye coordination is.  Or how few friends you have.

Whichever one of those is true, let me help you sit in a dark room either in as little or as much clothing as possible depending on your hemisphere, square eyed and away from your family. Over two installments, i’ll bring you twelve games that are short enough to play through all of them in their entirety over your christmas break, or even Christmas day if you’re ultra keen.  These first six games will at least get you to your annual luncheon feast, but whether you play games or not, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

And on the family thing – you’re absolutely welcome.

1. Syndicate

(Playstation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC)

Short but sweet, Syndicate follows the rather welcome trend of shooters becoming condensed but absolutely spectacular bullet fests, and doing it with such style that the hours will fly by. Syndicate is easily the longest game on this list, but still short by any measure, taking me just under five hours to plough through from beginning to end.  And if you can get past the fact that it’s not an isometric squad-based strategy game, you’ll probably be so caught up in the corporatised world Starbreeze created, and the brilliant firefights that you’ll have in it, that five hours will feel like five minutes, and before you know it you’ve missed Christmas lunch, and your share of fresh prawns and oysters has been devoured by your uncle John.

SyndicateScreen

2. Limbo

(Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / Playstation Vita / Xbox One / PC)

Limbo isn’t very Christmassy, in fact is pretty much the antithesis of joy and festivity the holidays bring, so if you’ve got a sensitive disposition maybe save this one until the end of the day.  But bleak content aside, it is still one of the best puzzle platformers experiences around, and one that can be had on pretty much every modern console known to man.  I don’t want to spoil anything – experiencing the journey for yourself really is a big part of the game – so just know that you’ll leave Limbo with a new appreciation for, well, everything.

LimboSC

3. Under Defeat HD

(Xbox 360 / Playstation 3)

It’s kind of endearing that despite waning significantly in popularity since the 32-bit era, shoot ’em ups are still hanging around on the periphery. Even more adorable, and equal parts awesome, is that publishers are willing to put their collective dicks on the line to put them out on discs for store shelves.  Under Defeat HD is one such game, with someone at original developer G.Rev deciding that the very late 2006 Dreamcast game needed some modern day loving, sprucing it up with fancy new graphics and plonking it on a disc.  I didn’t play the original, but the HD re-release was a reminder that the genre was still every bit as relevant as it was ten years ago, and that G.Rev were as good of a company to keep the genre alive as anyone.  The fact that the team was also responsible for Raystorm in the Taito days was just further proof in the pudding.

UnderDefeat

4. Sonic Advance

(Game Boy Advance)

The great thing about the early day of handhelds is how brief the games were.  Whether it was a function of the limitations of the hardware, or a conscious decision to make games that were perfect for playing on-the-go, it means that finding a game to play start to finish in a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon was usually as easy as closing your eyes and pulling a random game from the shelf.  If you were lucky, that game was Sonic Advance, marking the first time Sega’s blue blur appeared on a Nintendo console.  And it was a mighty fine debut and one that saw Dimps, who co-developed the game, take the reigns of the portable entries in the series which, for those who aren’t still paying attention to Sonic, are by far the best post-16-bit Sonic games around.

Egg Man Sonic Advance

5. Super Mario Land

(Game Boy / 3DS Virtual Console)

Super Mario Land will always be a Christmas game for me.  On Christmas day 1990 I was well and truly surprised when the big bearded fella in red left a Gameboy, Radar Mission and Super Mario Land in my sack (hehe).  In a cruel twist it was actually my sister that had asked for it, but once I’d had a taste of Nintendo’s monochromatic masterpiece, I was hooked.  The Game Boy quickly became the cornerstone of my gaming repertoire, and for the first few months, it was Super Mario Land that was cemented in the handheld.  Unlike those of you from the US, though, Super Mario Land was my first foray into the world of Nintendo’s mascot, and for that reason its the Land series that holds a special place in my as Mario’s – and then Wario’s – finest moments.

SuperMarioLand

6. Gitaroo Man

 (Playstation 2 / Playstation Portable)

I never got into Rock Band or Guitar Hero, aside from finding my inner beatlemaniac in Beatles Rock Band (I could play And Your bird Can Sing all day long), but despite that admission I’m still quite the fan of the rhythm game genre.  While Space Channel 5 is a classic, at the very least for its amazing soundtrack, Gitaroo Man is the better of the two classic japanese story-driven rhythm games, and the game I cut my music game teeth on.  It has a great and incredibly diverse soundtrack, taking you from J-pop and power ballads, to acid jazz and samba, all playing over some of the most bananas action sequences you’re ever likely to see in any video game.  The heavy duel with the deathly pale Gregorio III in a church is a particular highlight.  And the best thing, no plastic instruments required.  Whether you can stomach japanese craziness or not – personally I have a stomach of steel for the stuff – Gitaroo Man‘s simple but compelling gameplay makes it worth tracking down if you have any semblance of an interest in music-based video games.

GitarooMan

 

 This is the part one of a two part blog post.  Tune back tomorrow, Christmas day, to read the second and final installment! And be sure to leave your short game suggestions below.

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