Nostalgia is a funny thing. I got into collecting old videogames around eight years ago, in part to re-establish a connection with my inner child; to transport myself back to a simpler period in my life. At the time I started snatching up the initial bricks and mortar of my current collection, I was in a strange place in my life. I had just completed my (somewhat delayed) post-secondary education, but couldn’t find a job in my field and was therefore employed as a “sandwich artist”. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were living in an cramped apartment in a not-so-great area near downtown (complete with corner dwelling hookers, an adjacent coffee shop populated by recently released psych-ward patients and a psychotic drug dealing downstairs neighbor).
I had never gotten rid of any of my old videogames from when I was a kid, and I even made enough use of them to justify taking them with me when I left the comfort of my parent’s basement.
I don’t remember the exact moment I started “collecting” videogames, I just started buying the old games that I remembered liking but never owned as a kid – some I’d rented, others that I’d played at friend’s houses. From there I got into games and systems that I never had access to, such as the Turbo Grafx-16 and Sega Master System. It was during my introduction to the Master System that I heard about the numerous ports of popular Genesis games that had graced the console. Titles such as Altered Beast, Streets of Rage 2 and even Mortal Kombat all saw 8-bit Master System releases. Intrigued, I started collecting and discovering them for myself, and the game that intrigued me most was the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Essentially an updated, albeit portable, version of the console original, Continuum Shift 2 brings more of the same 2D fighting flash to series fans… but does this update bring enough to the the table to warrant the purchase?
The answer to that question depends on what kind of fighting game player you are. On one side of the argument, this portable update of the PS3/360 original would be the perfect way to get introduced to the series. It’s a near-flawless handheld recreation that boasts smooth animation, brilliant 2D sprites, tight controls, and even throws in the original game’s DLC characters.
These new-comer perks are also the biggest detriment to series diehards; there are just far to few updates to the console original, aside from the character DLC and a new game mode, to be considered a must have.
As a kid I never actually owned a Game Boy. I was one of the “turncoats” who went straight from the NES to the SEGA Genesis in Sonic the Hedgehog’s brilliant blue wake. That is not to say that I didn’t ever play any Game Boy games at the time. I had this good friend whose Game Boy was practically communal between him, myself, and his twin sister. We used to play Super Mario Land and Tetris almost constantly, draining a King’s ransom in batteries. I distinctly remember playing Metroid II shortly after it was released in Chris’s basement; making maps on foolscap, color coding different sections, the whole nine.
As a child I never did beat the original Metroid, nor did I complete its sequel, come to think of it. The Metroid games were something of mystery, an impossible enigma. There was an older kid in my neighborhood who had a code (his own personal password, you see) for the original NES game. He wouldn’t allow us into his parents basement until he had entered it, for fear of his password becoming common knowledge. We didn’t really care, though, because we just wanted to watch in awe while he decimated Motherbrain and gutted the white whale that was Metroid right in front of us.
Button-mashing has come a long way. Over the years I’ve button-mashed my way through the best of them; why just two weeks ago I button-mashed my way to several near victories on a Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter cabinet at a local arcade. I’ve also recently purchased the HD version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 for my PS3, and still occasionally pick it up and aimlessly thrash at the controller until my wrists get tired.
Being a casual veteran of the Arcana Heart series (Atlus’ PlayStation 2 port, anyway) I somewhat knew what to expect coming into the recently released 3rd entry in the fighting series; lots of cute anime girls based on a vast array of moe archetypes, all wearing skimpy and/or adorable outfits, and devastating each other with seizure inducing color bursts, which ignite the screen like cotton candy fireworks.
Is this what I got when I sat down to play Arcana Heart 3? Yes.
Is that a bad thing? Well, it is and it isn’t.
As much as people discuss the emergence of casual audiences today, the 8-bit Nintendo era was the perfect casual crossroads in videogame technology from my nostalgic vantage point. It was far more cost efficient than the computers of the day, with the savings far out-weighing what those computers could offer the casual consumer for entertainment. It also offered the potential for more complex types of games than the vastly inferior blocks and bleeps of the earlier Atari 2600 and other contenders prior to the infamous crash of the industry.
And as the NES found its way into more living rooms, it became an ideal platform for the ultimate casual player time-sink; puzzle games.
From my own childhood, I can comfortably say that the release of the NES version of Tetris caused a massive influx of casual gaming interest. Different from the Wii boom, this was still a time when videogames were viewed as little more than children’s toys, and as a result this first casual revolution did not serve to sell more Nintendo consoles to casual players but instead saw game time on your own Nintendo eroded, chiefly by your parent’s newly sparked interest in your toy.
The concept of time travel has been used as a plot device in videogames time and time again, often with sterling results. From Square’s masterpiece, Chrono Trigger, and its follow up, Chrono Cross, to more recent fair such as Atlus’ DS release, Radiant Historia, time travel is nothing new for the medium. And yet as memorable as those titles are, no videogame that I’ve played to date uses the concept of time quite as effectively as Jikandia: The Timeless Land.
On the surface, the story is simple enough. You play a typical high school student who, along with eight of your friends, is magically transported to another world during your daily commute to school. You come to learn that you have been summoned to the world of Jikandia to help save it from destruction. Jikandia, until very recently, was devoid of time – that is until a crop of monstrous baddies began popping up, bringing with them the concept of time, which threatens to unravel the world of Jikandia with the resulting chaos.
In order to get back to your own world, players must uncover the origins of these vile monsters, eliminating them and restoring Jikandia the timeless land to its former state.
Hyperdimension Neptunia is the definition of middle ground. This is the kind of game that had all the potential to be a quirky hidden gem, but instead stacks its misgivings and annoying quirks to set an experience in constant danger of collapsing under that weight.
The story of Neptunia takes place in a world called Gamindustri, which is governed by a group of Goddesses who inhabit a realm called Celestia. The four goddesses are each personifications of video game consoles. Green Heart, or Verte (XBox 360) is ruthless and conceded, White Heart, or Blanc (Wii) is sweet on the outside and uncontrollably self centered and petty within, Black Heart, or Noire (PS3), is arrogant and cruel, and lastly Purple Heart, or Neptunia, (Sega’s imaginary Dreamcast successor) is brash and competitive.
The four Goddesses, or Console Patron Units (CPUs) have been battling each other for a millennia in the Console War, fighting to gain absolute control over Celestia (and by extension Gameindustri) and achieve the title of True Goddess.