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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 54: The Games That Made Us, Hypothetical Pre-Orders

Tim Spaeth's picture

Have you ever considered which games were the turning points in your gaming career? WHY NOT? This week, we reflect on ours. Plus: The "Hypothetical Pre-Order Game," two grown men fight over Tom Welling, and barely a peep about Wing Commander. You're welcome. With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Richard Naik and Tim "It's a T-Shirt!" Spaeth.

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Tim, you have no idea how

Tim, you have no idea how happy I am that you used the Boomer Kuwunger theme.

I live to serve

Richard Naik wrote:

Tim, you have no idea how happy I am that you used the Boomer Kuwunger theme.

Just because it's Mega Man music, or does that song in particular hold a special meaning for you?

@Tim That's actually my

@Tim

That's actually my favorite song from the original, although I could probably identify any song from the whole series by ear. I'm that cool.

Snatcher

You might be interested to know, Brad, that Snatcher WAS ported to the PSX and Saturn, and later to the PlayStation Network.

The downside? Only in Japan!

Tim, you always do an

Tim, you always do an outstanding job as host. Looking forward to the next podcast.

Agree w/Chi

Out of this World was, in it's a time, mesmerizing. Not the best gameplay experience, but a watermark for graphic design.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgkf6wooDmw

important games

I'd mention

ELITE (C64, AppleIIc) - first space trader/pirate sandbox rpg. In size and scope still an amazing achievement...

DONKEY KONG COUNTRY(SNES) - making sprites from samples of CG rendered characters.. brilliant stroke of art, that.

CARNAGE HEART (PSOne) The only mech sim I can recall that involved making logic flowcharts for robots to battle one another. Had a slightly steep learning curve, but once you got the basics, very fun to play with and watch how your robots behaved.

TOMB RAIDER (PSOne) (special mention) for the music, the first game I really remember that had a soundtrack that emotionally involved you with the action, and the exploration.

re:Brad, Q-Bert-

the arcade cabinets also had a spring loaded ball-bearing-in-a-box device that would make a BANG! inside the cabinet when Q-bert fell to his death. Simple trick that gave the character physical weight!

Richard 2, Brad 1, everyone else 0!

I've only played 3 of all the games mentioned in the main topic, but did I ever devote my time with them. Mega Man X is a game that I would play through at least once a year, and it still holds up really well as an action platformer. No one does boss battles quite as thrilling as the Mega Man games.

Super Mario RPG was my first traditional JRPG and I still hold that as one of the genre's high points. It's short and very focused, which is a praise I'd also give to Chrono Trigger. I once spent an entire summer combing through every secrets of both games without the use of strategy guides. I was more successful with Super Mario RPG than Chrono Trigger, and I think there's still part of me that believes that you can still visit Schala after the attack at Zeal's Palace.

Thumbs way up to Snatcher too. I know the gameplay itself deserves some praises as well, but to me what really made it click for me were the elements that were periphery to the gameplay, like the story, characters, the Blade Runner atmosphere, and the electronica music. Also, I'll always harbor a secret crush to Mika Slayton...

Anyway, great episode. Looking forward to your discussion about adventure games. I will play The Longest Journey soon for the first time, so I'm also looking forward to that.

Decabo wrote: Tim, you

Decabo wrote:

Tim, you always do an outstanding job as host.

Yes he does -- in fact, I shudder to think how awful the show would be without Tim around to be hilarious and keep us all on track.

Thanks!

Decabo wrote:

Tim, you always do an outstanding job as host. Looking forward to the next podcast.

That means a great deal, Decabo -- thanks!!

MMX

@Nightdreamer

re: Bosses-exactly. No matter that their other flaws (and starting with X5 there are many) they always managed to crank out good bosses, which is why I always looked forward to them.

@Tim

I don't think this show would exist without your smooth, pleasing baritone.

Great episode!

my list

Super Metroid
It has everything i like about every kind of shooter & open world games: action, atmosphere, exploration, upgrades, music, bosses, even story/narration.
Clearly the game that defined my love for games the most although i don't think i realized it the day i finished it.
In retrospective it really set the bar for the games i liked afterwards.

Mario 64
3D matters. Exploring a world in 2D is fine, but really running around in a world that's getting that extra dimension, different story.

Game number 3 is hard.
Maybe i pick the chess computer i occasionally played with when we visited my aunt that took me some months (or years) to finally being able to beat it. Not exactly a videogame, though 8+8 LEDs are sort of a display, but it's my first computer driven game i played were i could do more than just dodge balls or whatever those LCD minigames offered.
NES and GB came much later for me.

Richard Naik

Richard Naik wrote:

@Tim

That's actually my favorite song from the original, although I could probably identify any song from the whole series by ear. I'm that cool.

Mega Man X is right up there with Mega Man 2 and 3 and 9 as having the best music of the series. Although, I prefer the music of the Armadillo.

Tim Spaeth, you should

Tim Spaeth, you should totally hook up your PS2 again if only to find out that once upon a time Sony made consoles that don't require firmware updates!

Not necessarily my favorite

Not necessarily my favorite of all time, but certainly the three that had the most impact. To this day I look for elements of these three games in all my purchases, and they make me the gamer I am.

Elite - Spectrum 48k
Although I attained Elite status years later on the PC, I only ever got to Dangerous on the Speccy, but when I did, I knew I was a gamer. It took sooo long to achieve, so many tape loading errors, getting destroyed while trying to dock, getting blown to pieces by Krait/Sidewinder pirate gangs, that when I got to Dangerous, I knew I was a 'skilled'. The tantalising concept of an entire galaxy, nay EIGHT galaxies, to explore in your cool little ship, was so much food for the overactive imagination of an 8-year old. Maybe it is indeed an age thing, but even with the X series, EVE Online etc, I don't think any game has quite captured the imagination, the sense of wonder, discovery and possibilities that the original Elite had. (honourable mention goes to Underwurlde). To those people that think Demon's Souls is hard, eat your heart out!

Gradius (aka Nemesis) - Arcade
Every weekend, after swimming, my old man used to stop by the crowds gathered around the Nemesis machine in the local sports centre. I remember peering wide-eyed at the dazzling colours, yearning silently for my dad to let me have a go, the oohs and ahhs of the appreciative crowd at the feats of deftness, skill and reaction on display. But most of all I remember the catchy music, the music that I spent an aeon in later years trying to get the original Arcade composition of, not the tinny MIDI interpretations. Although most definitely not the representative game for 80s gaming music (that prize must go to Outrun or Super Mario), apart from being genuinely brilliant, this was the game that opened my ears to gaming music.

Final Fantasy VII - PC
Having jumped straight from Spectrum to PC, I skipped the 8/16-bit console generations entirely. Sick of killing bats on level 1, finding a longsword+1 at level 2, fireball spells at level 3, and bumping into the dwarven warrior with the Scottish accent at level 4, I was both fascinated and stunned by the JRPG sub-genre. So much so I actually saved up and bought a PSone for more of the same. There have been many great RPGs both before (Bards Tale, Ultima VII etc) and after (Baldur's Gate, Ocarina, KOTOR etc) but none impacted me as much as this one as to make me jump from PC to console. Oh and did I mention the game itself is brilliantly executed and balanced, and contains one of the most famous moments in video gaming history?

crackajack wrote: Mario

crackajack wrote:

Mario 64
3D matters. Exploring a world in 2D is fine, but really running around in a world that's getting that extra dimension, different story.

Yeah playing that game for the first time is a defining moment for me too. It was my first proper 3D game, and having come straight from Megadrive and SNES, it completely blew me away.

It was the only time a game ever really properly stunned me. I couldn't get my head around not only seeing this whole 3D world, but the notion that I could go anywhere in the visible area. That whole castle courtyard at the start holds so many memories for me, and then actually going into the castle and jumping through those paintings to a whole new world? Jesus, I nearly died.

Don't think gaming will ever do that for me again. I feel privileged to have had that experience.

Obviously, going into Hyrule Field for the first time in OoT is another defining moment for me, but Mario 64 just opened me up to a whole new way of gaming.

Also, in reference to the

Also, in reference to the discussion on Mortal Kombat - the "dumbing down the difficulty" thing isn't actually new. Fighting games have been doing this for a while now. In fact, I may have first noticed it in MK: Deadly Alliance, but I'm sure other games like Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur do it too.

Dumbing Down

Mortal Kombat does it more obviously than any of the games you mentioned. None of those games have their endbosses taunt you repeatedly after your many losses.

Important Games

Great podcast again this week; Tim must have put a ton of work into it (esp. with the Fantasy Preorder segment which was a howl) so well done to all. Great listening as usual folks, and thanks!

@Alv - nice list! I'm with you big-time on the first two and haven't played the third.

My list (nostalgia + listing stuff FTW):

The Emerald Isle: This was a text adventure released by an Eighties British outfit called Level 9. It wasn't their best work, but was accessible to a 12-year-old and really made my imagination run wild. I remember having to ask my grandmother what 'Carbide Granules' were, and her answer "Where did you get those; they're dangerous" helped me figure out how to light my lamp, and therefore pass through the dark cave and not get eaten by the giant bloody spider and so on. It was great, and it sparked a desire in me to create my own interactive fiction, which I believe I'll still do when I get a chance to learn Inform (and which hopefully more than two people will play).

Zelda: Twilight Princess: So twenty years passed, without me even picking up a game. When the Wii came out, I thought I'd get one to see what the fuss was about, and enjoyed Wii Sports and Tiger Woods Golf (truly the only useful application for the Wii). However, Zelda came with it, and after giving it a go, I started thinking, hmm, maybe there's a bit more to this gaming lark after all, and went and bought a 360. A rather disturbing journey towards geekdom followed over the next four years, involving all 3 consoles, a gaming PC, fan fiction, modding, and even two community submissions on this site. Thanks a bunch, Zelda. ;-)

Mount & Blade: I played this for about 6 months solid in 2009. It's the only game on this list which would also make it onto my favourites list. Never mind that it's a beautifully pure sandbox RPG, it also introduced me to modding, and gave me the opportunity to contribute to a mod which other people actually played and enjoyed. That is still quite incredible to me. This was kinda the culmination, twenty years later, of the feelings stirred up by the first game on my list, and as such is hugely significant to me as a gamer.

RandomRob wrote: ELITE

RandomRob wrote:

ELITE (C64, AppleIIc) - first space trader/pirate sandbox rpg. In size and scope still an amazing achievement...

Thanks to you and Alv for bring up ELITE. I played Elite Plus on the PC and while Mechwarrior introduced me to the sandbox/mercenary for hire, Elite did get me into trading gameplay aspect. While I'm a huge fan of the space sim/trading genre, to date, there's only been one modern game that I thoroughly enjoyed in the genre: Escape Velocity. If there were more space trading games over the years, I may have cited the game as well.

Also, after you mentioned Elite here, I did some research and discovered an indie game called Flatspace that looks intriguing.

RandomRob wrote:

CARNAGE HEART (PSOne) The only mech sim I can recall that involved making logic flowcharts for robots to battle one another. Had a slightly steep learning curve, but once you got the basics, very fun to play with and watch how your robots behaved.

Man, I really enjoyed this game also. I don't know what happened to my copy, but I'd love to be able to play it again. I approached the tactics to my Dragon Age Origins characters pretty much the same way.

One other game I probably should have gave a huge shout out to was M.U.L.E.. The multiplayer and commerce/trading elements of the game were groundbreaking.

M.U.L.E. was a furious game,

M.U.L.E. was a furious game, and you could play with 4 people! That was a serious contender in the after school computer lab :D

"Gaming Made Me" is an

"Gaming Made Me" is an ongoing series at Rock, Paper, Shotgun:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/gaming-made-me/

There are also guest features from e.g. Ken Levine:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/07/13/gaming-made-me-ken-levine/

GMM is a quite interesting read.

Games that influenced me greatly:

X-Wing (1993)
This game influenced me twofold. The "German" version had a German manual but the whole game was in English, which resulted in me learning english to understand the game. Me having only very basic english skills at that time collided with the games relatively complex nature. It was one of my very first PC games and I was still used to the standard NES controller with not many buttons beside A and B. Now this comes along with missions that are more complex than "just kill everyone". Mindblowing!

UFO - Enemy Unknown (1994)
I never felt afraid for any character in a game before UFO. I was getting used to the heroes of the game being more powerful but at least as powerful as the opponent. I was used to the enemies in a game to use simple patterns, with Mega Man being already rather complex (lol). UFO turned this upside down. The invading aliens were cunning, unpredictable and physical superior to the men and women I commanded. When a grenade blew up three of my soldiers I felt like I let them down. Everytime a sniper killed one of my scouts without me seeing him I felt helpless. The first time I finished a mission without loosing anyone was a triumph! When I invaded Cydonia and my best soldier was mind controlled and blew himself and 2 others up I was in shock. When I finished the mission after all I felt like I'm on top of the world.

Demon's Souls (2010 in Europe, 2009 everywhere else)
One of the most satisfying games I ever played. People say its "hard" but I disagree. It is unforgiving, but it doesn't punish you for playing. It punishes you for having a "jump right in and worry later"-mentality you get awarded for in most other games. It also made me rethink online gaming together with Starcraft 2 and the more recent Brink.

Li On wrote: X-Wing

Li On wrote:

X-Wing (1993)
This game influenced me twofold. The "German" version had a German manual but the whole game was in English, which resulted in me learning english to understand the game. Me having only very basic english skills at that time collided with the games relatively complex nature. It was one of my very first PC games and I was still used to the standard NES controller with not many buttons beside A and B. Now this comes along with missions that are more complex than "just kill everyone". Mindblowing!

With you on that. X-Wing was truly a special game, and I would probably have that 4th on my list. The story and cinematics had everything you would want and expect from the Star-Wars franchise and LucasArts at their peak. But the thing that really set this game apart from its peers was the gameplay aspect, specifically the energy management between weapons, shields and engines. Easy to get into, difficult to master, but when you did, gave you a real feeling of achievement. Blew all competition (Wing Commander etc) clean out of the water.

Alv wrote: But the thing

Alv wrote:

But the thing that really set this game apart from its peers was the gameplay aspect, specifically the energy management between weapons, shields and engines. Easy to get into, difficult to master, but when you did, gave you a real feeling of achievement.

The management of shields, weapons and engines is something I really missed in other space fighting games. It was fun to figure out different things like being able to outrun not only torpedoes, but even missiles in an A-wing with full energy on the engines. Or being able to destroy a tie fighter by ramming it with full shields forward (in a X-Wing), without taking hull damage. Finding the blind spot of a star destroyer and taking them down single handed. And much more :)

Wing Commander was quite cinematic but the gameplay was just not as good as in X-Wing and later Tie Fighter. I still regard Tie Fighter as the pinnacle of Star Wars games.

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