Day 23 | Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego
I spent so many hours in elementary school playing this game and Oregon Trail in the computer lab. Carmen became this mythical figure for a while, the ever-elusive criminal that was always just one step ahead, until I played smarter. This is a game that taught me a lot: what started as guessing became deductive reasoning, leading to facts and confidence. The game is painfully simple—it is DOS after all—but I didn’t often get bored with it, always wanting to find the next clue. Many different versions followed, even one about hunting down the world’s greatest thief in the afterlife. I even picked up Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego for the NES recently. This isn’t something I can play all the time of course, but I still enjoy the games and have a lot of fond memories in this as an escape from school or an indulgence for young detective fantasies. Maybe this is where that slight love of trivia I have comes from, but there are a few random facts I’ll always retain. This was the first place I learned there was a Hell, Michigan, but I seemed to have forgotten how tall the Statue of Liberty is. I also was an avid watcher of the game show, where the Chief (Lynee Thigpen) and the Host (Greg Lee) would give out assignments and questions with funny cartoon skits, accompanied by the soothing tunes of Rockapella. There was a cool cartoon as well. I hear there was some kind of Facebook game based off of the property in 2011, but would love to see an updated version of this game for a new generation, something like a Telltale game.
Day 22 | X-Men
One of my favorite teams from comics also has several great games to choose from, and I debated over whether to write about this or Legends, but there is a bit more of a connection here. When I was on a Saturday morning bowling league there would be long gaps in between turns, or my team would finish early, so I played a ton of X-Men in the arcade. I find it so hard to get bored with this game, especially as there are six different characters to play through with and the satisfaction of dispatching even the simplest enemy. I’ve beaten it with everyone—yes, even Dazzler, but Cyrclops was my preferred hero, with Colossus and Wolverine both coming in second, as well as Storm and Nightcrawler being fine to change up my play style. The game looks great, with solid character models and environments that appear like they could be straight from the comics. Most of the villains are iconic and fun to fight, while Magneto has one of gaming’s most quotable lines, “welcome to die!” I love the multiplayer aspect of course, quickly beating this with a few friends, or finding an actual cabinet if lucky. I was stoked when I found this for download on my XBox 360 and especially my phone a while back, but then absolutely heartbroken when I had to lose the game in an upgrade. Beat ‘em ups are the epitome of mindless fun and when there is one with some investment in it—nostalgia or intellectual property—it can become a fun retreat.
Day 21 | Final Fantasy VIII
I started my journey with Final Fantasy 3/6 on the SNES, and was one of the first RPGs I truly fell in love with. For some reason though, even with me playing the majority of it, I never found that connection with FF7. Something about this one stuck with me. No clue if it was the cast of characters—with Quistis being my favorite—the environments, which consisted of wonderful cities, nature, and even space, or just the gunblade; hell, I even owned a replica one. It wasn’t Squall though, who was kind of a blank slate at times with a few runaway emotions, but he worked well as a faceless protagonists for players to project themselves into. That opening cutscene was enough for me to be invested. An exhilarating fight with epic music in what is still an incredible artistic spectacle to view, pumping me up and having me immediately hating Seifer. People still can’t pronounce his name correctly. Back then I loved how long this tale was, not just the time that players needed to put in, but the large scale of the plot, even if it did waver and shift a lot at the end. I quickly cared what happened to most of these characters, especially after that big battle between the two gardens (flying cities). I may also be one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed the draw system and junctioning the Guardian Forces, once I figured it out. To tell how much I loved the soundtrack, and how often it used to get stuck in my head, we used a piece of that for music in my wedding. This may not be the best in the series, but it is still my favorite Final Fantasy game overall.
Day 20 | GoldenEye 007
What’s not to like about the title that was popularized for revolutionizing the first person shooter genre on consoles? On the N64 no less! People complain about that awkward controller, but I became surgical with that and the RCP90. I played that multiplayer mode so often with friends that I had every map memorized and strategies for days. So much of that is still engraved into my memory, because at that age it established the pecking order. Rare was already a favored company, but this made me respect that golden R so much more, from the soundtrack and gadget use to driving a tank down the street. With so many modes, codes, and just hours of fun, I’m amazed that I’m not into more online shooters, but GoldenEye is simply just way more entertaining—even now. It is so rare when a movie-tie-in game is actually good, but the development team was given time to make sure this one lived up to the 007 reputation. The story doesn’t follow the movie exactly, but close enough and with accurate locations that it always made me want to watch the movie again. Playing it is fantastic, not just in the main campaign but the extra levels that revisits older films in the series. I went back through so many times on 00 Agent to try and be more professional or just slaughter every NPC I could, especially in the Facility. Shooting scientists in the hand until they pull out a DD4 is too much fun. I’ve owned multiple copies of this game and no other title with the Bond license has really come close to capturing this type of fun.
Day 19 | Star Fox 64
Playing the original version of this game on the SNES was an incredible experience, even if I didn’t know what that dog (General Pepper) was yelling at me on the way out. That later version that retold the same story on a larger scale and upped the presentation with a few extra mechanics was the definitive Star Fox for me though, but I hear an even further updated one came out for the DS. I put a ton of hours into the N64 game though, playing the main story, challenging myself, and even doing quite a few hours in the multiplayer since I really enjoyed controlling the tank. The story is a lot of fun, and contains a world I’ve always wanted to know more about, populated by anamorphic characters with attitudes and their own personal histories. I always wanted them to do more games that expanded the story, but this one by itself is quite epic, making it so much fun to revisit. This was a new level of fun with dogfights at the time, an open area of plane versus plane against an AI talking smack. I loved the branching paths, all the secrets to find, little tricks to make it through stages faster. The boss fights were also fun, great for repeat battles, and the whole adventure on Venom was exhilarating. I remember how much the rumble pak actually did enhance this title, mostly because of the flight simulator aspect, and even that weird controller layout felt right here. The whole experience was fantastic and memorable. I do need to play the new one. Even if it sucks though, I will always be able to go back to this and find some happiness.
Day 18 | The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
As much as I appreciate and like the first game in this series, the SNES entry is where I truly became engrossed in the characters and world of Hyrule. This game is a true adventure, an epic tale, not only to save the princess and free the kingdom from evil, but something that truly feels like a character’s growth after a series of hardships and triumphs. The argument of how good storytelling in video games can be comes up still and this was one of the first titles where I craved more of the story, especially when it came to the elements of the past and other world. One of the true treasures of this title is the exploration, searching through the various areas for hidden secrets, pushing on random items, wondering where else to try placing a bomb. I love the map and used to study it, having it memorized, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but usually kids from school would find things before me. Each of the bosses was a fantastic and fun challenge and I always loved fighting Gannon. Learning how to use the items in each of the temples and feeling smart for figuring out small puzzles, all of this was so rewarding and rarely felt old. I spent many a Saturday with this game, going back through different areas, even long after I had learned the game backwards and forwards. I almost put Ocarina of Time on here, as it is also one of my favorites, but LttP just edges out with the gameplay in its overall experience. I’m still working through Breath of the Wild, taking my time and enjoying the exploration all over again.
[Some major X-Men comic spoilers from the last couple of years]
I’m a huge comics fan, but man is it hard to keep up. In the recent couple of years I’ve been reading more independent stuff as well as going back through older series, but now I want to catch up on some bigger stories that have affected the worlds I used to love. I’m more partial to Marvel and decided to start with the big events that I didn’t know much about, being incredibly disappointed by Secret Wars (2015) and enjoying Civil War II for the most part, but then I picked up a new hardcover I thought was sure to be an easy win since it featured one of my favorite teams in comics, the X-Men. Inhumans Vs. X-Men was not what I expected though; I was wrong, but I want to talk about why.
Continue reading this article…