Tag Archives: Retrogaming

February Gaming

Games completed this month

Managed to clear a couple more games this month, thought it might be worth an update.


header-1Spec Ops: The Line (PC)

As suggested in my January post, I finished this at the start of February. Another one to tick off the 2017 list, I was pleasantly surprised by this. It is perhaps a bit less polished than some comparable military shooters, but the story was ambitious and had something to say. In places it was clunky, and some of the bigger twists were sort of spoiled for me by being late playing it, but if you’re a fan of this style of shooter and haven’t played this yet (or just bored of Call of Duty) it’s definitely worth a play.


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Game of Thrones – Telltale Adventure (PS4)

I managed to stick with this much better following Batman. It’s the worst of the Telltale games I’ve played, but still engaging enough. Part of the problem with it is just how well it does “Game of Thrones”, it’s just so bleak! Easier to recommend if you’re a fan of the show more than a fan of Telltale games, it comes with the same warning you’d give to someone just starting to read the books or watch the TV series. Don’t get too attached to anyone!


Also played in January

70009b60d454b028ef60886bd20b2ae2Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)

A decent promotion in Game, combined with my remaining store credit saw me picking both this and Shadow of Mordor on Xbox One.  I had intended to play Tomb Raider on either PC or PS4, but couldn’t argue with the price.  I’ve put 20ish hours in so far, and am about 70% through apparently.  Really enjoying it, have noticed a few bits of slowdown but nothing has really damaged the experience.  Looks likely that I’ll finish it in March and be able to move on to something else. Feeling good about continued progress towards that 2017 target!


headerAssault Android Cactus (PC)

Really good twin-stick shmup that deserves more attention than it received. I have been dropping in and out of this for a while, but over the last few weeks I have focused a bit more on the story mode.  I’d hoped to clear it during Feb but finding the last boss to be tricky! I have limited patience to just keep retrying though so I’ll be lucky if I even manage to clear it during March. We’ll see.


maxresdefaultOvercooked (Xbox One)

Finally got a couple of friends together for a decent session on this, made some good progress and we’re starting to gel a bit as a team. Well we were, until the alcohol being consumed hit Peak levels, and our skills went into decline.  Hopefully we can get another go at this in soon.


Mega Drive & Saturn stuff

I’ve now got a new (to me), modded Japanese SEGA Saturn, so have been dabbling quite a bit with that. Planning on picking a Saturn game to settle into when I’m done with Tomb Raider. I’ve got a few ideas so optimistic that’ll turn out well for a future update.

I’ve also been spending a bit of time with the Mega Drive again, mostly just playing a few shmups. I’d quite like to get a 1cc on Super Fantasy Zone on my actual hardware, as I’ve only previously managed to do it under emulation. If I’m successful I might see if I’m capable of any others…

All-Time Top 5 Arcade Puzzle Games

A good arcade puzzler is second only to a fighting game for a bit of 2-player versus. Like those fighting games, I’m not much good at these either (although I’m not entirely terrible at Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble). That doesn’t stop me giving them a go though, and I like to play a variety so at least I’m not always losing in the same way.

Here we have my Top 5, in reverse order as usual. Many of these games came out on a multitude of platforms, I’ve just put the versions I play in the title.

5) Zoo Cube (GC & GBA)
A bit neglected as I hardly ever manage to play it with anyone, largely because no one else seems to have heard about it. I enjoy the GameCube version, but have probably spent more time with it on the Gameboy Advance. It’s pretty unique as a puzzler, with falling shapes coming towards your cube from 6 directions, and you having to rotate the cube to match the abstract animal shapes appropriately. The GameCube version supports 4-player, but I’ve never found myself in a room with 4 people who knew how to play…

4) Baku Baku Animal (Saturn)
The second animal themed puzzler on this list, Baku Baku Animal does at least follow a more familiar pattern. Blocks containing animal heads or food stuffs fall from the sky, match the animal to its food to clear the blocks and send more blocks to your opponent. Bright, cheerful and very SEGA!

3) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (Saturn, PS3, PSP)
Recognisable characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games line up to puzzle each other to death. Big combos on the gem matching front see your character giving the opponent a bit of a kicking in the middle of the screen. If you like the art style of this one, it’s worth also picking up Pocket Fighter, which is a 1 on 1 fighting game in the Street Fighter style, featuring the Puzzle Fighter versions of these characters.

2) Bust-a-Move 2 / Puzzle Bobble 2 (Saturn and anything else I get my hands on)
This held the top spot for a very long time, and may well claw it back in time. The Puzzle Bobble franchise is iconic, often imitated never bettered. Taking it’s characters and design from the Bubble Bobble series, the game is a joy. Fire coloured bubbles up the screen, matching 3 or more of the same colour in order to make them disappear, the more you get rid of at once the more you send over to your opponent to ruin their day. Or more often, you slightly miss your shot, frantically try to repair the damage your own ineptitude has caused while your opponent gleefully sends over more bubbles to add to your ever descending wall.

1) Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4)
Probably cheating slightly, this is exceptional value given that along with the crazy Puyo Tetris mode (where you’re matching Puyos and making Tetris lines), it also includes arguably the finest versions of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris standalones too. The genius stroke here is when you play a versus match up, each player decides what to play. When competing with my girlfriend, I generally play Tetris against her Puyo Puyo, which gives me an almost fighting chance before my inevitable demise.

Although Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a Japanese only release, it is well worth importing. The menus are all in Japanese but there are plenty of excellent fan-translations online to help you navigate them, and even translations for the entire story mode should you be that way inclined.

Other mentions:
Dr Mario and Columns both almost made the list. Dr Mario missed out because I am entirely useless at it to the point of not enjoying myself even trying. Columns would have made the list if I was working just on childhood memories, it just doesn’t hold up today.

My setup

Ten reasons I own: A Gaming PC

Rounding off this set of posts for the time being, I thought I’d look my gaming PC. Obviously there are many benefits of a PC in terms of media and productivity, but I’m going to just look at gaming, after all I could get the other functions from a basic laptop for a fraction of the cost.

My setup

I’d also like to briefly address the heinous term “PC Master Race”. The implications of “Master Race” alone should be enough to make most people feel uncomfortable, but even taking it as a ‘light-hearted’ joke, it still stinks of the elitism that annoys the hell out of me in any ‘fandom’. PC gaming is rarely as straightforward as many would have you believe, and for everyone who preaches the wonders of Steam and how everything just works, there is someone else stuck in driver/windows/intermittent fault hell. I love gaming on my PC, but entirely understand anyone who prefers to just stick to consoles.

Anyway, on with the list.

        1. Real Time Strategy (RTS)
          A genre that remains painful to play on a controller, the real home for these is the PC. These games entirely capture the childhood enjoyment of playing toy soldiers. There are so many great series; Warcraft, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Dawn of War. All favourites, despite my complete failure to be any good at them.

          I’m also going to throw general strategy games in here, games I do enjoy but don’t play often, they only really feel ‘right’ in a PC environment.  Things like Settlers, Civilization, City Building sims etc.

        2. Blizzard
          The developer probably responsible for most of my play time overall and filled with a genius approach to promoting their own other games from within each title. Although they dabble with console releases, they always feel best to me on the PC. Diablo 3 is awesome on the modern consoles for couch co-op, but if I’m going to play online with friends, I still turn to the PC.

          Blizzard do an outstanding job of making me want to play all their games, all the time. Even the month I spent playing Hearthstone started because I just wanted to get 3 wins to unlock a mount in a different game. Heroes of the Storm & Hearthstone both managed to convince me to play genres I otherwise had no interest in. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 get regular play from me and even though I’m well out of World of Warcraft, I still go back for a few weeks for each expansion. I’ve just put down my pre-order for Overwatch, and yes I’ll be playing the PC version.

        3. First Person Shooter (FPS)
          My one time favourite genre, these days I have more of a love/hate relationship with it. As much as I love the Halo games and I’ve had a lot of fun with Destiny, whenever I sit at my desk to play a FPS online, it feels like coming home. Keyboard and Mouse controls being best for FPS is almost a cliché at this point, I’m sure there are plenty of skilled players who have never used anything other than a twin stick control pad. My love pretty much peaked with Quake 3 Arena, I dabble with whatever else my friends are playing, but I still go back to Quake Live for the Deathmatch fix.
        4. Shmups, emulators & rotating monitors
          Thanks to some great steam ports, I can play a lot of the best shmups on my PC. Although there are some great console ones still exclusive to modern consoles, the PC still has an overall edge. A rotating monitor arm gives me access to TATE mode to play vertical shmups like Raiden as they are intended, and coupled with my arcade stick I get a solid experience that could only really be improved by building a full Arcade Cabinet. Add to this the abundance of emulators (accepting the morally grey area of sourcing ROMs) and you get the ability to play the greatest shmups from arcade and console history, easily justifying PC ownership for a shmup fan.

          Pew pew

        5. Controller options
          For many games the Keyboard & Mouse can be considered almost perfect, particularly the previously mentioned RTS and FPS genres. For those other games there is a seemingly never ending amount of choice. Personally I keep a USB Xbox 360 Control pad and Arcade Stick around for the majority of appropriate titles. I am considering adding a flight stick soon and getting involved in Elite Dangerous and replaying some classic Descent and Tie Fighter.

        6. Multiplayer
          While Xbox Live and PSN both do the matchmaking, parties and voice chat stuff perfectly well, it still feels to me like the PC has the edge. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the console options, but the choice and flexibility of systems on PC suits me better, whether using group Skype calls, or other platforms such as Curse or Ventrilo. There is also much better support for setting up private servers, and customising them appropriately.
        7. In-home streaming & Steamlink
          Relatively new to me, but since connecting a second PC in the lounge I’ve found Steam in-home streaming to be excellent.  Those games suited to a big screen and the sofa with a controller, i.e. platformers are a natural fit. The steam link hardware makes this an option for people without a second PC with a low cost of entry.
        8. Cost of games & persistent libraries
          Steam’s sales and sites selling bundles of games for a ‘pay-what-you-want’ system have led to a really low cost for PC games, making it very inexpensive to build up a (frankly ridiculous) library. It’s also important to note that unlike the console generation cycle, these games remain accessible with each upgrade. Although there is often some tinkering to get older games to run on each new version of windows, your library stays with you. Steps are sometimes taken via the console manufacturers to attempt to address this, at least for one generation, i.e. Xbox One backwards compatibility having limited support for Xbox 360 games. However it is more common for them to just make you re-buy the same game again, isn’t it Nintendo?

        9. Modding community
          Another well know advantage, is the availability of user created mods and patches for games. This is widespread and a huge bonus in so many areas. Entire genres have come out of mods for other games, Tower Defence and MOBA’s such as DOTA have their origins in user mods (for Warcraft 3 I believe…)

          Often mods are released for older games to take advantage of developments in hardware, with entire new engines added. Games like Doom, Quake, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and so many others benefit from this kind of thing. The closest parallel for consoles is generally the ‘HD Remaster’ which in many cases is still good, but disappointingly tends to involve re-buying the game again.

        10. Performance
          I have to put this in really, but yes, mid to high-end PC hardware is capable of outperforming consoles, and frequently has the best version of cross-platform releases where they take advantage of that hardware. Although it is important to note that this isn’t always the case, I’m looking at you Arkham Knight, and every big release currently on the Windows 10 store. Things like Killer Instinct, Quantum Break & Gears of War are all suffering issues, most seem to have been introduced by the distribution model though, and are good versions when you can get them working!

 

All-Time Top 5 Games Consoles

Time for another top 5, in reverse order again, although I already spoiled this if you read my Top 5 games post.  Again these are my favourites, so the rankings have been influenced by nostalgia and sentiment.  I will throw the “almost made it” machines onto the end.

Number 5 – SEGA Master System

The only system in this list that I don’t currently own, but that’s simply because I play the games on my Mega Drive to save space.  I grew up in a house with 4 older sisters, and fondly remember early years with the shared Texas TI99 and then a ZX Spectrum, but it wasn’t until the Master System that I would get a machine of my own.

I received the Master System II machine with built in Alex Kidd in Miracle World for my birthday. I shortly after received The Ninja and Transbot and these were the only games I owned for a year or so.  Transbot doesn’t really hold up so well now, but I loved them all and Alex Kidd remains a favourite today.  Fortunately, at the time I received my console, two of my sisters’s partners also owned Master Systems, with a good collection of games.  Through borrowing their games I discovered (and played to death) Fantasy Zone, Operation Wolf, Rocky, R-Type, Rampage and Moonwalker.  It was also the beginning of the age of video game rentals, and the repeated renting of Bubble Bobble started a series of gaming with one of my sisters that would continue throughout my childhood.

On Twitter recently, @nakamuramartin started a conversation about retrogaming, asking people to identify the console that they had the most nostalgia for. (Well it was recently when I started writing this…)  In my case nothing tops the Master System for that.

Number 4 – SEGA Dreamcast

The Dreamcast did so many things right, and in many ways was just a bit too early.  Online gaming on consoles wouldn’t really take off until home broadband was more widespread.  I was one of those who did play a lot of Dreamcast online, making full use of the available keyboard & mouse setup to play Quake 3 Arena 2 v 2 Capture the Flag.  It pains me to this day that consoles supporting keyboard & mouse for FPS games didn’t become the norm.  (PS3 showed such promise when Unreal Tournament 3 supported this setup and I loved it.  Interestingly it also supported mods and it was relatively easy to port mods from the PC version over.)

Another win for the machine was the availability of relatively inexpensive but quality Arcade Sticks.  These are still sought after now, and very popular for the modding community to upgrade the components and make them compatible with more modern consoles.  Having access to these for my favourite genres of shmups and fighting games really made the console shine in my eyes.  The console is still regarded as a powerhouse for these two genres particularly, and this is largely how it earns a place in my top 5.

A lot of criticism the Dreamcast does receive is about that controller.  I did find it good for the racing games on the system, and for me it is still the best way to play Crazy Taxi outside the arcade.  However, I can’t recommend it for those genres mentioned above, and understand completely if you wrote off FPS and Fighting games on Dreamcast at the time because the controller was pap.

I keep one setup now, and still return to it regularly for Mars Matrix and trips to Street Fighter Alpha 3.  It also still looks great on my HDTV, thanks to that VGA adapter.

Number 3 – SEGA Mega Drive

Another system on the list heavily influenced by nostalgia, this was the natural progression from my Master System, and still remember the Christmas it turned up.  I had the pack in with Mega Games 2, and spent so much time with Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and the Revenge of Shinobi.  Sonic the Hedgehog blew me away, and much like with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, I still can’t walk past the first Sonic game without at least doing the first couple of stages. So, so good.

Co-op gaming with my sister continued here, with Toejam & Earl being the game of choice.  Also fond memories of playing hours of 3 & 4 player James Pond: Aquatic Games, such a great multiplayer title.  I also enjoyed watching my sister play through Ecco the Dolphin, and being thoroughly confused by that final boss.  (I found the game too terrifying to play myself, and still struggle with it now!)  It’s such an iconic game though, I’d love a new Ecco game.

There are so many memories from the Mega Drive, and I hope to cover some of my favourites from the system in future posts.  I recently picked up an EverDrive cartridge for mine, and am enjoying discovering those titles from the excellent library of 16 bit shmups I missed first time round.  It’s a joy in full 60hz RGB.

Number 2 – PlayStation Vita

Probably the only system in the list that some people might find surprising, but bear with me. The second place spot was previously occupied by the Atari Jaguar (!) for the simple fact that it housed my previous favourite game of all time, Tempest 2000.  I am happy to replace that in my life with the Vita, since TxK took over as my favourite game, and is exclusive to the Vita.  At least with Tempest 2000 I can play an almost as good version on my number 1 console…

I adore the Vita, it’s so good at what it does.  It has an excellent collection of shmups, the first time I’ve really enjoyed them on a handheld. The PSP did a decent enough job, just never found it comfy enough for extended play times.  Wipeout 2048 is superb and there are so many great indies that although multiplatform, I still consider them ‘best on vita’.  Games like Velocity 2X, Rogue Legacy, Limbo, Thomas Was Alone etc.

Number 1 – SEGA Saturn

I’m certainly not alone in this choice, although at the time you could barely find people who had even heard of it.  The console that really made me feel like the Arcade experience was possible at home.  SEGA Rally, Virtual Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, these were the games I wanted to play constantly.  Digging deeper, particularly into the Japanese library, you discover that it has one of the greatest librarys of 2D shmups and fighters ever.  SNK and Capcom both put some superb titles onto this machine, often making use of the 1-4MB RAM expansion card to achieve amazing arcade ports that just weren’t possible otherwise.

This was also the last system I played a lot with my sister, before we grew up and moved out. We lived on Bust-a-Move 2 (Puzzle Bobble) and it remains my favourite Puzzler/Match 3 to this day.  We even had the Bubble Bobble & Rainbow Islands pack, and played that together feeling nostalgic for the Master System.

This is close to being my most played console, and is in constant contention with my more modern machines.  I love it and if I only had one machine it would definitely be a SEGA Saturn.

Sega Saturn Joy

 

I could have been a contender…

PSX – This was close, as it does have some absolute gems.  Racing games in particular really stand out, I have found myself picking some of these up again to play on my PS3.  If anything though it is partly represented by the PS Vita, since playing Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and Kula World on that is a joy.

Neo Geo Pocket Colour – I have such affection for this console, and I still think it has the best thumbstick of any handheld.  A bigger library and a backlit screen would probably have secured it’s place in my top 5, I still fondly remember getting mine at UK launch.  I’ve yet to find another handheld that is so satisfying for fighting games.

All-time Top 5 Videogames

Hot on the heels of (13 months later than) my Top 5 Christmas songs, I’ve decided this format is a useful tool for inspiring blog posts.  This is still influenced by High Fidelity, but also because my friend Simon over at Red Parsley does it so well.

Maybe writing about my top 5 games of all time might give me pause to consider that I have the list right.  I’ll add a few ‘also rans’ to the end for those that either nearly made the list, or that may have been on there in the past.

In reverse order:

Number 5 – Saturn Bomberman – SEGA Saturn 1996

Bomberman is one of my favourite game series, and still my favourite local multi-player title.  I’ve been playing it since Dyna Blaster, and there have been some stand out titles along the way.  (Also plenty of dross spin-offs, but we’ll skip over them)  The Saturn edition is my favourite, partly because it’s on my favourite system of all time (oooh, I can feel another list coming on) but also because 10 player bomberman on a widescreen is still a thing of beauty, and a highlight of retro events for me.  I also enjoyed the single player campaign on this one, which I wouldn’t usually bother with.  Other releases in the series that I’ve really enjoyed are:

Bomberman Live: (This was Xbox 360, but essentially the same game came to Wii and PS3, I bought all 3 versions to play with different groups of friends online).  I adored it on the 360 and played it constantly.  Sadly my friends gradually stopped playing with me, apparently I’m a Bomberbully. 😦

Wario Blast: One of my favourite games for the original Gameboy, and one of few I still own.  I remember playing through this in co-op with my best mate in high school on his Super Gameboy.  Perhaps that SNES had a use afterall… *chuckle*

Atomic Bomberman: Difficult to defend generally, I nonetheless had a lot of fun with this.  Supporting 10 players, I played a bunch of it online on PC way before the Xbox 360 was on the scene.  It also helped that I grabbed the ‘Sold Out Software’ release, for full RRP, £4.99.

The PSX, Mega Drive and PC Engine also have solid versions I would happily recommend. 

Saturn Bomberman

Number 4 – Warcraft 3 – PC 2002

My favourite ever RTS, and the reason I ended up losing thousands of hours to World of Warcraft…  Real Time Strategy is that one genre I like the idea of much more than the reality.  I think Warcraft 3 remains as the only RTS I completed the entire story mode for, and all the content from the expansion.  It’s also the only one I ever managed to win any games online against randoms (although probably still less than 1 in 10…)  I keep it installed now, and still fire up the occasional skirmish.

It's all your fault, WC3!

It’s all your fault, WC3!

Number 3 – Bubble Bobble – SEGA Master System 1991

There is admittedly a certain amount of sentimentality to this for me, but the game still holds up today and deserves its place here.  These days I play it on the SEGA Saturn double release with Rainbow Islands, but first time round this was a regular on my Master System (arguably the best home port of the game ever) I played it in co-op with one of my sisters, and it is a favourite gaming memory.  If I ever do a top 5 local co-op games list, I’m pretty sure this will be number 1.  Interestingly the ‘Match 3’ spin-off series Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble is my favourite game in that genre too, and I played a lot of that with the same sister when I first got my Saturn.  From a nostalgia point of view, Toejam & Earl holds a similar place in my heart to Bubble Bobble, as that was our game on the Mega Drive, but it doesn’t play quite so well today.

Bubble Bobble

Number 2 – Quake – PC 1996

This was the game that made me really pay attention to the FPS genre.  One of my biggest (my views on Nintendo aside) ‘gamer crimes’ is not really liking Doom.  I just never really caught the hype, and although I had quite a bit of fun with Heretic, I didn’t really ‘get it’ until Quake came, and things were really 3D for the first time.  It also helped that I experienced DosQuake, then WinQuake, then GLQuake over a short period of time, each one blowing my mind afresh.  It was seriously close to taking my number one spot, and I replay at least the first few levels frequently (albeit with a nice new modern engine).  The single player game is glorious and the theme had me hooked.

The multi-player introduced me to deathmatches and led to those weekends of carrying your whole PC to a friend’s house for LAN parties.  It sparked a love affair with FPS multi-player which lasted a solid decade for me, and peaked with Q3A and UT99.  There have been great games since, but those are always the experiences I’m chasing when I play online now.

Quake

Number 1 and the greatest game of All-time! – TxK – 2014

Up until the release of TxK, this spot was occupied by Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar.  My views on Tempest 2000 can be applied to TxK pretty much as a copy & paste and still fit exactly.

TxK for me is the perfect game.  The visuals, sounds and gameplay all suit my tastes, and when I play it is gaming enjoyment at its finest.  This game alone would be enough to keep my Vita secure in its place as my favourite ever handheld (uh-oh…).  I also really love Space Giraffe (the game that caused me to buy an Xbox 360).

If you get the chance, Llamasoft attend a lot of games shows across the UK, and frequently have a version of TxK running on VR hardware with a custom built rotary controller.  This is the best way to experience the game, and I really wish it was in my house.

TxK

I could have been a contender…

These games almost made my list, and if I make top 5 lists based on platform or genre, I’d expect to see them there.

From the Master System: Fantasy Zone and Alex Kidd in Miracle World.  Both games massively sentimental for me, bathed in nostalgia.  I grew up with four older sisters who owned various micro computers.  My first gaming experiences were on the Texas Ti99, Commodore 16+4, Rubber-keyed speccy, but the first machine that was MINE was my Master System 2.  It had Alex Kidd built in, and it’ll forever be in my heart.  Fantasy Zone was probably bettered by its sequels, but the original still holds up.

Representing Nintendo (because I’m not a monster): Animal Crossing and Mario Kart.  These two series are generally the reason I buy Nintendo hardware.  Animal Crossing on the 3DS is probably my favourite, and Mario Kart Wii was stand-out because of how much I played it online.  Mario Kart DS at the height of the console’s popularity was sublime though, at one point I was playing this daily with 4 other people during lunchtime at work, including my boss.

Honourable mention: Myst – This was bundled with our first Windows 95 PC, a delightful P75 Compaq Presario.  It was SO pretty, and the music and sound fx were spot on.  I have been replaying it as ‘Real Myst’ on Steam recently, it gets a lot of grief, but it’s one of the best adventure games I’ve ever played, and one of the most atmospheric games of any genre.  (Also read the books, they’re excellent.)

Whatever happened to cross-platform peripherals?

It always used to be fairly common to take your games to your friend’s house to play on their console, providing you all had the same machine (and you weren’t that one kid who went Nintendo, bleurgh).  To a lesser extent this still happens now, although more often I find it just involves signing into your digital account to download your games straight onto their console.

What used to also be fairly common though, was owning joysticks and other controllers that were multi-format.  As far as I can remember, my first experience of this was owning the superb Quickshot Maverick.  Possibly the origin of my arcade stick love, I got this for my SEGA Master System and hammered R-Type, Fantasy Zone and Transbot(!) with it.  Well I say hammered, but I was young and probably shite/even worse than I am now.  The multi-format capability was a real bonus, I frequently took it to my friend’s house for C64 gaming, it was a joy for Sheep in Space, Arnie, Slicks and Silkworm, and later it became controller of choice for my next door neighbour’s Amiga and hours of Sensible Soccer.

Quickshot Maverick 1

Quickshot Maverick 1

In the Saturn era (my Golden Age of gaming) this phenomenon would help me out again.  I owned the delightful looking (!) Madcatz Fazor lightgun, compatible with both the Saturn and PSX.  As well as benefiting my ownership of each machine in turn, it also regularly travels to friend’s houses for ‘player 2’ experiences on Virtua Cop and Die Hard Trilogy etc.  Sadly it wasn’t ‘Guncon’ compatible, but later multi-platform lightguns were released that did support it.

Madcatz Fazor

Madcatz Fazor

At this time I also had the VRF1 Steering Wheel.  Again it was pretty funky looking, not entirely dissimilar from the official Saturn one.  This also worked on both Saturn and PSX, but also added N64 support into the mix.  This device and I spent hours on Sega Rally, Wipeout 2097, Ridge Racer and Porsche Challenge.  I remember devices of this kind being fairly common, although obviously varying wildly in quality, as has always been the nature of third party accessories.

Madcatz VRF1

Madcatz VRF1

Fast forward to present day, and things get a bit different.  As discussed in my previous post, I embraced multiformat gaming in a big way once I was old enough to finance/justify to myself owning a range of machines.  However the perils of being an adult also involve balancing budgets and apartment space.  I find it impossible to justify buying controllers such as steering wheels, when they’ll only work on one platform and I want to play racing games on three or more.  They are simply too expensive and take up too much space to get involved with owning multiple devices.

I did buy myself a HORI arcade stick for my 360 since it at least also worked on PC.  This worked out well for my love affair with Street Fighter 4, and the vast array of shmups I played on both 360 and PC.  Unfortunately this meant I was less inclined to enjoy fighters and (non-twinstick) shmups on my PS3 where I only had the standard pads.  Periodically I looked into either modding my existing stick or purchasing a custom one, utilising a multi-pcb like the MC Cthulhu board, but costs (and effort) kept putting me off.

Hori Fighting Stick EX2 - 360

My Hori Fighting Stick EX2, playing a little ImageFight.

Enter the CronusMax Plus.  I stumbled across this little gem on a friends FaceBook post, and it presented the ideal solution to my modern first world problem.  My existing Hori stick had exclusively been used with my PC since I traded in my 360, but after handing over my £45 for the cronus, I found I could now also use it on my PS3 (hello Gradius V and Tekken Tag 2), Xbox One (Killer Instinct!) and, with a little effort involving a ‘pass-thru’ setup with the PC in my lounge, also on PS4 (Jamestown+ and Injustice already getting play, and setting me up nicely for Street Fighter V).  I understand the device will do some other fancy stuff too, but just for this purpose it has already paid for itself.  A couple of weeks after my purchase a firmware update resolved the need for a pass-thru on PS4, and now even that is straight-forward.  I understand there are similar devices available, but so far as I’m aware it is the only one so far to resolve the PS4 issue properly, and thus the one I’d recommend.

CronusMax Plus

CronusMax Plus

I’m excited by the possibility now that if I want to upgrade my arcade stick I can stay cross-platform easily and still have a broad selection to choose from.  I may even investigate a steering wheel setup, or maybe get one of those Xbox One Elite Controllers.  £120 seems marginally more reasonable when I’d be able to use it on PS4 as well as Xbox One and PC. I could even use the PC ‘pass-thru’ arrangement to use Keyboard & Mouse on console FPS games, although I think that might be a step too far…

Part of me does wish they’d just standardise controllers, but at least there is an affordable workaround, and the open nature of the device for ‘tweaking’ does appeal.  Now I just have to deal with my other modern, multi-platform gamer problem.  How do I decide which group of friends I want to play online with?  I’m looking at you Destiny, if only there were shared servers for that…

“Real Gamers are Platform Agnostic”

As much as I hate the idea of “hobby gatekeeping” the title above is something I have been known to band about (see “I’m with the Sega Boy“). Of course the statement is mostly how I justify buying more games and consoles than I could ever actually play, rather than a declaration about “gamers”, whatever the hell they are…

A general rule for games consoles has always been the requirement of that “killer app” to sell the machine.  What I find interesting, is when they go beyond the obvious.  Everyone knows Sonic and Mario sold consoles, but it’s always refreshing to hear of other games that made people jump in.  Since the Dreamcast, the last machine I bought to play SEGA exclusives, there have been some key titles that stood out and made me buy each machine.  I largely skipped the PS2, but I think I’ve owned most other systems since the DC.

GameCube 
Main game here was Luigi’s Mansion, which I did really enjoy.  My console purchase was also helped by stumbling across a dirt cheap 2nd hand one only a month after launch…

Xbox
Admittedly I bought this for Halo, as it became apparent that as much as I prefer keyb & mouse for fps, I was going to have to get used to a controller.  The other factor though was the ease of modding, so I spent more time with emulators on my Xbox, and using xbconnect to play Rainbow 6 and Links golf online with friends, bypassing Xbox live…

Nintendo DS
Mario Kart and Animal Crossing were the big factors here, no surprises. Probably still my favourite versions of both franchises.

Wii
Yes, I bought this at launch to play Wii Sports, just like everyone else, I’m not a monster.  Later the purchase was justified with the addition of Mario Kart and Animal Crossing, apart from that I mostly played GameCube games on it.

Xbox 360
The promise of Space Giraffe from Jeff Minter put this on my radar, and I was happily waiting for the release to buy it.  However I played Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Assault Heroes on a friends machine, and I was convinced to jump in before SG came out.  SG was still day one though, rank 27 on the hardcore leaderboard is about the best I think I’ve ever done on any game…

PS3
As with the 360, my main reason for buying this wasn’t out yet when I bought the console.  I was sold on PS3 when I heard about the upcoming Wipeout HD, I was content waiting for that, until the same friend showed me Super Stardust HD and Everyday Shooter.  There should also be an honourable mention here for SingStar, was definitely a factor!

3DS
Techinically I didn’t buy this, as it was generously donated by a friend who was upgrading to an XL.  However my reasons for wanting it were the usual Mario Kart and Animal Crossing combo…

PS Vita
This was another launch purchase for me, only my second one ever. Wipeout 2048 and Super Stardust both being ready at launch were enough to convince me, and I never regretted the purchase.  Later FuturLab’s Velocity games and Jeff Minter’s TxK (which arrived replacing Tempest 2000 as my favourite game of all time) would secure the Vita’s place as my favourite handheld system.

PS4
I resisted this for a while, mostly because I was still mourning the demise of Wipeout, RESOGUN was a huge draw though.  I played it at a friends knowing that I’d eventually own one.  It wasn’t long after RESOGUN turned up on the Vita and I was playing that constantly that I was in GAME handing over my cash for a PS4.  PSPlus was a big draw too, having been subscribed to that prior to the PS4 launching, meant I’d already got a decent library of games for it by the time I picked one up.

Xbox One
My most recent purchase, only in the last few months.  Rare Replay was the key title here, without which I might have skipped it entirely.  While RR was the catalyst, Halo Master Chief collection and Forza exclusives sold it.  On the whole I still think the PS4 is the better choice if you’re only going to have one current system, but both Halo and Forza are “best in class” for me, and completely warrant owning an Xbox One as well.

I should also give a nod to my gaming PC, it is decent enough that I can still play latest releases, although I’m no longer getting away with setting all the graphics to max at 1080p… (4k is still some way in my future) The low cost of games on PC is a factor in my maintaining one, so I often pick up cross-platform titles on Steam.  The biggest draw in terms of exclusives for me though is Blizzard.  Even discounting the thousands of hours I originally spent on WoW, a significant amount of my gaming time is spent on StarCraft 2, Heroes of the Storm and Diablo 3 (yeah I know it has a console release, but I still prefer playing it on pc, click click click).  Having a persistent games library for PC is also a nice touch, compared to effectively starting from scratch each new console generation.  It’s pretty horrific for the backlog though…

So far as notable absences go, I think I just missed out the Wii U.  I have been largely uninspired by this, Mario Kart should have been enough, but I really don’t like that controller and the Animal Crossing titles have been disappointing.  I maintain that I would buy a budget Wii U that had a classic controller instead of the touchscreen one, ala the later Wii’s that dropped backwards compatibility, and just came with Mario Kart.

And with that, I manage not to go a whole year without updating the blog. I’m off to play Forza.