Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Classic Arcade Gaming

   New technology is expensive.  I don't own an Xbox 360, PS3, or a Wii. The most recent console I have is a PSP, which I rarely use.  Sure, I'd love to have the realistic graphics that are seen in the games of these newer consoles, but my current budget doesn't have room to support this kind of spending.  Surrounding my television is a plethora of outdated gaming systems.  I own an original NES, SNES, N64, and a janky Playstation 2 for feeding my lust for Kingdom Hearts games.  I love these old systems for a number of reasons, but my heart truly belongs to another.
   Arcade cabinets are the medium through which games are truly meant to be played.  Standing in front of a large wooden box that houses a computer system that I will probably never fully comprehend and staring at a pane of glass provides a feeling that will forever beat out sitting on a couch ten feet away from a 46" TV.  The player is directly connected to the game that they are playing.  The action is happening inches away from your face.  It's a feeling to which there is no comparison.
   Of course, there are downsides to playing video games at an arcade.  Most arcades now focus either on games that supply the player with tickets, or new fashioned racing games like "The Fast and Furious 15: Drifting Into Oblivion".  But usually, tucked back in the corner where the carpet is completely worn down but still has the faint planetary pattern print, there are some classic games that supply hours of fun and adventure, and typically for only a quarter each play.  The titles of these games always vary, but I've found that most arcades that have come classic cabinets have some form of Pac-Man, be it an original, a Ms., or some hybrid that provides a collection of said games.  Alongside these, Galaga is typically a popular title, and also my personal favorite.  Unfortunately, working cabinets of many original games are very hard to come by, so some companies have released compilation cabinets with 50+ games on it, but hey, this is better than nothing, right?
   I recently visited the local arcade here in Bloomington, IN to see what types of classic games they had. I was pleasantly surprised, while still maintaining a level of sadness and longing.  This arcade (Great X Scape in the College Mall) had a minimal selection of games to begin with: a couple of dancing games, House of the Dead 4, a couple of newer fighting games, and air hockey.  The classic games were kept separate from these games and were actually outside of the establishment in the mall area.  They had a Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga compilation that is very popular in dying arcades and a Neo-Geo 4 game unit.  While this is a short list, it fortunately provided me with some fun.
   This is the sad state of arcades nowadays.  By bringing video games into the home, all desire to leave the couch and spend quarters for hours of gameplay has become "old school" and is therefore a burden.  In order to compete in the dying market, arcades are now forced to supply tacky cookie-cutter games in hopes of drawing in any type of player.  These new games also cost eight times the amount of old games.  Anyone who wants to play the classic games that literally established video games in popular culture has to get lucky in finding a quality arcade, find a port on a newer system, or scrounge up two grand and purchase their own cabinet.  These choices, to put it bluntly, suck.  No port of a game will ever come close to the experience or gameplay that an original cabinet provides, and as stated above, my financial limitations prevent me from purchasing anything so grandiose.
   For many players, arcades hold a special place in their heart.  These players have a favorite game and usually have their personal high score memorized (Galaga, 103,090... I know, pathetic).  It is a goal of mine to one day own a classic gaming cabinet, but I know that when that day comes I may have to settle for a newer compilation, as originals are both expensive to purchase and tricky to maintain.  Classic gaming will only die out when the players have all disappeared or forgotten the true nature of video games.

Monday, January 24, 2011

102 syllables on Nes

As I sat in class.
I wrote NES haiku.
They are crap. Enjoy.

The Problem

Push in. Push down. Push power
Blue flashing screen. S%!T!

My Oldest Enemies
Shadow Spark Magnet
Hard Top Gemini Needle
Snake Wiley Gamma

Crusty old Dpad.
Dirty scratched cracked grey plastic.
B button won’t work.

The Code

Big captial C.
Right Left Down Up A B Start.
Ten lives left to lose.

Do Not.
Get the cartridge wet.
Store in extreme temperatures.
Clean with alcohol.

The Solution
Pull out. Blow in cart.
Push in. Pull out. Blow in cart.
Push in. Yes! Success!

Sorry to SuperTylerRPG I know the crappy nature of these Haiku will offend you as a poet. I am also aware that Haiku do not really have to be 17 syllables and that that is just a misconception. I like them that way so don't be a cock.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sound Test 3

This month, we will be examining the musical stylings of one of my favorite game series: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. The first game in the series came out in 2002 and was hailed as a breakthrough in lighting effects and stealth gameplay. To me, it was a breakthrough  in a lot of things. I loved the characters, the story, the music, and the mood of the game. For brevity's sake, let's talk about the music.

In most of the games, the music serves as ambiance. It rarely takes the forefront, and often doesn't even have any sort of real melody. In short, it generally couldn't get stuck in your head. However, there was one exception for me. Whenever Sam (the protagonist) was caught in scripted events where guards would pour in on his position, this rockin' tune got going. When you hear that riff, you know some hardcore business is going down. Sam Fisher doesn't mess around.

The second game's music is notable in that it was written by acclaimed composer Lalo Schifrin [most famous for writing the Mission Impossible theme (he also composed the soundtrack to the Rush Hour films)]. This guy knew what he was doing. He kept to the tradition of keeping the music in the background, but still put some flavor to it.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, often lauded as the best game in the series, arguably contains the best music of the games (reminds me of a little Capcom series in which the third game has the best music...). Amon Tobin, a famous Brazilian DJ, did the music for the game. As a house musician, Tobin was easily able to make the music part of the environment. He was in his element.

Here's a song from the fourth game. I don't want to talk about the game very much right now.

The fifth game is the most divergent from the series and takes the games in a new direction. The music was no exception. The music was done by Michael Nielson and Kaveh Cohen (who as far as I know are not famous for much else, but may become so in the near future; I really don't know); also of note here, Amon Tobin was asked back to do some tracks as well (he accepted and knocked it out of the park). Here, the music is more active and involved. Overall, it reflects the new style of the game and fits the gameplay as perfectly as the environmental music did in the previous games.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the musical adventures of Sam Fisher this month. Next month, ProtoScott will take a turn at Sound Test. In the meantime, keep your ears open for cool tunes!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Christmas Update

Well readers the holiday season is over, and I have just today gotten back to school and ended my holiday break. And since, like all good bloggers, I don't have the internet at home, I thought I would use my first hours back online to honor our most commercial season of the year and update all 5 of you followers on what I got for Christmas!

(Since this is a video game blog I will keep the list limited to things pertinent to that topic. Also I will be counting things that I bought with money others gave me.)


Super Nintendo Entertainment System (I know it is sad that I did not have one yet.)

Gameboy Pocket (A clear one. Just like I had when I was a young warthog.)

Virtual Boy (It is better than I thought it would be, and will hopefully yield more blog posts in the future)


For NES:
Ghostbusters 2
Where's Waldo
Exodus Journey to the Promise Land
(Don't worry my friends and family don't totally hate me. I bought 2 of those pieces of crap myself)

Kirby's Dream Land 3
Tetris Attack
Chrono Trigger
(Now that is a pretty serious leap in quality from the NES ones.)

For Sega Genesis:
Toy Story
(What can I say. I am a sucker for movie based Disney Sega games.)

For Gameboy:
Pokémon Yellow
Kirby's Dream Land 2
(Nothing like spending money on games that I can guarantee I already own as a boy.)

For Playstation:
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage
(I already owned the 3rd one, and don't you just hate only owning one game in a series.)

For Xbox 360:
Bionic Commando
(A remake of an NES game I spent hours trying to unsuccessfully beat? Yes!)

For Virtual Boy:
Wario Land
(I wonder which of these I will play more?)

There you have it folks. I hope you enjoy sharing in the joy of my collecting, and maybe someday I will give a complete listing of my collection of video games, seeing as I am the most active collector of the blog. For now though, I wish you all a happy new year, and say god bless consumerism!