Dusted off the old Nintendo Wii today

As one of the few people who stood in line on launch day I can say that the Wii’s massive popularity was no surprise to me. I often look back on the console with mixed feelings. A little over a year ago I picked up two Wii’s at a flea market and haven’t done a whole lot with either of them since. Today as I was playing some Minecraft I was starting to remember how fondly I loved the good old GameCube. I was thinking to myself how much I wish I had the money to go out and buy a GameCube and pick up a copy of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life to go back in time and play a game I enjoyed tremendously over a decade ago.

Well turns out I had forgotten that I bought a copy of the game a while back and it suddenly hit me, I had a Wii, I had a GameCube controller and sure enough I pulled my copy of The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Disc off the shelf and inside the case was my little while GameCube memory card. I dusted off the Wii, hooked it up, configured the Wii remote, threw in my copy of Harvest Moon and what do you know my old save from all those years ago was still in tact. I loaded it up and picked up my farm life right where I left off, little baby Mark showing me his toy car while wife, Nami, was in the kitchen apparently mulling over “life on the farm.”

Harvest Moon isn’t even an exclusive to the GameCube, yet it remains one of my fondest games for it. I remember putting endless hours into this game when it was brand new. I haven’t put that many hours into a game since discovering Minecrat, which I mostly play as a Harvest Moon substitute anyways. I didn’t spend a lot of time before I booted the Wii memory manager up just to see what other game saves remained in tact. I must have cleaned house at some point as most of my favorite games were gone. Still there were plenty of saves ranging from Metroid Prime, dozens of retro collections, Smash Bros. Melee, even my Robotech Battle Cry save was still there.

It wasn’t quite the same as hooking up the quaint little purple lunch box I fell in love with over a decade and a half ago. However, there was still a little of that GameCube charm left in the dusty old Wii. I always tell people the GameCube wasn’t a failure, it was Nintendo’s BEST SELLING console of all time, when you factor in the motion controlled redesign that Nintendo slipped into people’s homes through the back door. While most people who picked up a Wii were probably getting it for Wii Sports, Wii Fit and any number of waggle-wand casual fluff, some, like myself, picked it up as a full on replacement for our beloved, underappreciated little ‘Cube that could.

I don’t currently have hardly any games for the GameCube. I do expect I will be picking up a few just for old times sake in the near future. As I look at my small game collection I see five GameCube discs on the shelf. That wouldn’t be quite so bad if I didn’t have twice as many Wii games. The real reason I haven’t bothered trying to get back into GameCube collecting is the same reason I got out of Sega Saturn collecting. The units didn’t sell well enough to reach mass market saturation. That makes the games harder to find in good condition, which makes them more expensive all the time. Still, there is a very strong possibility I might talk myself into seeking out a few choice titles here and there in the near future. I would be more than happy to trade away my dust old Wii for an actual true GameCube someday. After all, I have a Wii U which is basically a Wii with it’s backwards compatibility. In the meantime I think I am going to be spending more time digging into the handful of GameCube games I do have to see what new memories I can make as I try to reconnect with old memories.

I sometimes go back and forth between SNES and GameCube, trying to decide which is my favorite Nintendo console of all time. I don’t have anywhere close to the time, or money, to begin collecting Super NES games, so I might just have to settle for my second favorite for the time being and be okay with that. One of the reasons I do wish to own an original GameCube over just a Wii is the Game Boy Player. However, as those are also getting expensive I might pass on that for a while. Again, it’s not urgent that I acquire one since I have a Game Boy Advance and a Game Boy Color.

I miss the days when I had a GameCube with a collection of 60 or so games, a half dozen controllers and a good old Sony Trinitron CRT tube television set. For now I can get by with a Wii hooked up to my HDTV LCD TV playing GameCube games.

 

Why the Nintendo Switch doesn’t need ALL of the 3rd party games.

Hear me out those 2 fanboys that find a way to read this. Nintendo is NOT Sony, they do not make the same type of system and their games appeal to a different audience. If the Switch was just a true home console replacement for the Wii U I would make a case Nintendo needed to do better this time around attracting 3rd parties, but since that is not the reality I would like to lay out an argument for why they not only can succeed without that level of AAA support, they are better off without it.

First, the Switch is NOT a home console. Despite Nintendo touting it as a “hybrid” and some in the gaming press towing that line, let’s face it, the machine is weaker than the base Xbox and PS4 consoles which have already been replaced with more powerful iterations. The reality is, more and more reports of the big budget AAA games NOT coming to Switch due to the weak hardware is a reality gamers have to accept. However, Nintendo has traditionally done well attracting handheld and mobile ports or versions of games for their portable consoles, Rock Star who has not made a game for a Nintendo home console ever has made games for the DS family. Microsoft, who competes directly with Nintendo in the home console space, has allowed Rare, a subsidiary of theirs, to release games for the Nintendo handhelds. If Nintendo, and their partners, want to be successful on Switch they have to look at it from that perspective. Sure make a comparable home port running on last gen builds if you must, but the focus needs to be getting the maximum potential out of the handheld side and letting the console shine in that arena.

Second, the Wii sold gangbusters and it was not just weaker, it was pathetic how weak it was compared to it’s big brothers. Unlike Switch, Wii had more than just weak horse power, slow CPU, less RAM and puny GPU going against it, it ALSO had to deal with the issue of the Wii remote, which meant certain games either had to be reworked entirely for motion controls, games like fighting games didn’t work so they were axed after the first few attempts, and that meant some games either had to be compromised, or developers had to spend additional, limited, resources retooling their game to not only run on weaker hardware but to utilize wonky, non industry standard controls. In the end it was easier for them to develop exclusive games for the Wii from the ground up than to try butchering their square games to fit into the round hole Nintendo was selling. Another limitation of the Wii was the memory size. It had 512 MEGABYTES, at least the Switch has 32 Giga Bytes and is expandable up to 512 GB. Wii was only expandable up to 8GB and that was a hard limit. The base Xbox ORIGINAL came with that  much memory. So games that required DLC or patches, and such, had to be compromised, or skipped. I wouldn’t pay full price for a Wii game that was missing key features, and most gamers didn’t which is why 3rd party games that did that sold terrible and the ones that sold well were built from the ground up with Wii in mind, or were quick ports of PS2 games with motion controls reworked anyways because they were cheap to port games that were already fully developed.

Third, Nintendo 1st party games always sell best and 2nd party games sell behind there, 3rd party games that DO find success on the Nintendo platform do so by imitating what Nintendo is doing on the console. A game like Mortal Kombat X or Destiny won’t work on a Nintendo Switch, but a 3rd party game in the Mortal Kombat universe that is scaled down to run on the hardware and caters to the retro audience that eats up Nintendo consoles has a better chance of appealing to that audience. Think of it like this. Switch is NOT getting SF5, but it is getting a SFII game that is targeting the Nintendo audience.

Fourth, Nintendo fans = retro fans. Let’s face it, with their roots going all the way back to Atari, Nintendo has been a part of the gaming community and in the hearts and minds of gamers since the first successful home consoles. Sony has been in the game for 20 years, but Nintendo has an additional 15 years on them easily. That means there is a larger audience of classic and retro gamers who identify with Nintendo. Sony has always gone after the more modern, younger gamers and Xbox has always tried to make a PC for the living room, leaving Nintendo the last remnants of the early days of video games. This causes a lot of warm fuzzy feelings with Nintendo gamers that Sony doesn’t and Microsoft never will have. You could make a case that Microsoft was in the game just as long with their PC stuff, but PC gamers and retro console/retro arcade gamers don’t always intersect. That being said, Wii was a retro gamers wet dream and for that reason alone I keep that wonky butt of gaming jokes around. Even now, the majority of launch titles really play on that nostalgia. In fact, ARMS and Breath of the Wild are the only games that I own for the console that aren’t retro themed or inspired in some way.

Nintendo does need to get some of the big name franchises, the Call of Duty games, the sports titles, etc., but they don’t need the latest and more current console iteration, realistically that’s not going to happen anyways, but they can get by with ports that are catered to their audience and the gamers who see it as a second console will play it for the Nintendo games and the retro games with 3rd party ports catered to their tastes leaving them to buy the deeper, more complex and big budget experiences on their preferred Microsoft, Sony or PC of choice.

That being said, there are going to be those who buy the Switch as their primary console and they will want some 3rd party games too. However, the majority of them are likely to be the same pro-Nintendo audience that favors the “Nintendo” style of gaming so they probably aren’t Call of Duty or Destiny gamers to begin with.

Nintendo has learned a long time ago they can’t go toe to toe with the big boys. That is why the had to go the blue ocean route. They found their audience with Wii and DS because they learned what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately people, mostly short sighted folks that don’t follow the gaming industry, tend to see the failure of the Wii U as an isolated event and pick it apart. I could write an entire article on why that failed and Switch is doing well, but instead I will just say Nintendo knows how to reach their audience and by merging their home console and handheld audience into one market they have finally solved many of the problems they were having.

Nintendo isn’t going to abandon the 3DS/2DS family just yet, but people have to understand how long it takes to make a game and launch a new platform before they go throwing around claims like new games coming to that as proof Nintendo isn’t merging their platforms. The Switch is it going forward. Games that were 1-2 years out from release when Switch launched that were already in development for 3DS were going to continue no matter what. Nintendo wasn’t just banking on if Switch failed they were working on plan b, rather what likely is happening is games that were commissioned and started before Switch was even finalized were just too far along to move over to the Switch and Nintendo always supports their old handheld or console at least a year or two after they replace it. However with Wii U, they stopped cold turkey, just killed it with Breath of the Wild and washed their hands of it.

In a world where Nintendo has to divide their attention between making games for two platforms, a small developer like Nintendo falls into the drought situation more often than they can handle. Once the 3DS winds down and all you see are ports and games coming from the smaller, lesser studios and the interns, you will start to see a shift of full development migrating to Switch and the merging of the two markets into one will be complete. After that point you won’t see six or seven Switch games a year followed by six or seven 3DS games, you will start seeing 10-20 games for Switch and 3DS will just fade away. By then the 3rd party developers who figure out how to make games for the Nintendo audience will have done so.

This is mostly meant to reassure the Switch faithful and those on the fence that while it looks bad on the surface so many developers not bringing their big titles to the system, keep in mind it takes 2-3 years to make a new game and most of those games were in development years before the Switch was finalized. The ones that could run or be made to run on the hardware and that would appeal to the Nintendo audience, will find their way on the system. Those that can’t be done without compromising the games just won’t, and shouldn’t, be ported. I say this as someone who had, and LOVED, the Gamecube, bringing half-baked ports that cut features, severely limiting the appeal and remove key components of the game, are NOT going to sell anyways so it’s just a waste of time bringing them over. I would rather get a Nintendo-style port of a game catered to the hardware, than a watered down port that has to cut features. Some argue that is splitting hairs, after all if they have to cater it to the hardware isn’t that the same as watering it down? Not if done right.

Hand held versions of games, especially on Nintendo consoles, have typically been built from the ground up to utilize the platform’s unique features anyways, so handheld gamers have come to expect that a Call of Duty that does get released on their machine is going to be built to run on that hardware. Does that mean there is hope for WWII coming to Switch? No, Activision already said so. But there is a chance they will find a way to port next years game to the console, or create a specific game tailored for the Switch hardware and catered to that audience. In other words, it’s going to be DS/Wii all over again, but this time the hardware is closer and has fewer hurdles to over come. You won’t get a PS4 game on Switch but you CAN and likely will get last gen PS3 style ports that make use of the unique features of the Switch and, best of all, can be played on the go in full HD console style graphics. In other words a portable PS3 is NOT a bad console to be making games for.

I love my PS3 and while I do want my big budget AAA games, I will get those on my PS4 and be happy with that, sell me games made for the Switch that make use of it’s features or at least give me PS3 quality games I can take on the go and I will be happy. Also, unlike PS2-Wii ports, where the leap from PS2 to PS3 was very obvious, many gamers continue to say the leap from PS3 to PS4 was so minimal it’s barely noticable anyways, getting a ton of late PS3 ports and PS3 “remasters” isn’t going to be bad for Nintendo gamers that stuck to Wii and missed out on those games, even the tiny percentage that migrated to Wii U are still going to find a ton of games they missed out on. For example, I did stick with Wii clear into 2008. I went full PC only until about 2013 when I picked up both a PS3 and a Wii U and I had no trouble going back through the PS3 library and finding tons of great games that never made it to Wii, those gamers, also likely the ones gobbling up all the Switches at the moment, like myself, are probably going to be just as happy playing Skyrim in 2017 on Switch as their friends were who played it when it was new. Think of it as new to you games.

Nintendo gamers are fully accustomed to that mentality and unlike Wii U where development was hindered, Switch at least is easier to make games for, has features people want, is priced fair for what you get, and once game developers get into their groove, late 2018 and beyond the Switch is going to be a gaming behemoth. It’s going to have a short lifespan, sure, but it will be a great 5 years and then Switch 2.0 will be gearing up by then anyways. I know this ran a little long but there was a lot that had to be said.

I remain optimistic that Switch will

Looking back on the Nintendo Wii U: Nintendo’s last true Home console

So the topic I want to discuss today, is the Nintendo Wii U Nintendo’s last true home console? I’m sure I’ve dabbled on this in the past and I’m probably going to talk about it more in the future but this is just sort of a brief look back.

With the release of the Nintendo Switch people are saying that Nintendo future is bright and some people are saying their future is in doubt. But I don’t think Nintendo’s future has ever been in question to me. They’ve been in pretty good financial shape since they released the Nintendo DS and honestly Pokemon.

So if the Nintendo Switch is a true hybrid console then the question is does it count as at home console and that’s what I want to consider.

I’ve owned every Nintendo Home console since the NES so for me I have a lot invested in Nintendo’s success because they keep making products that I enjoy buying. However I have not owned every Nintendo handheld I’ve never owned a 3DS and I’ve never owned a Gameboy Advance SP or a GBA micro. I have owned Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance, original Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, and Gameboy Color, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the handheld’s my main problem is the screens are too small. I have bought most of them for a couple of games and mostly for road trips. I rarely just sit and game on a handheld.

So to me I don’t really think of the Nintendo Switch as a Home console I do have the doc but I never got it and I don’t hook it up to my TV I almost exclusively play in tablet mode with the joy cons attached. No it’s not that I haven’t tried it in console mode I have I played breath of the wild in console mode but most of the games that I have don’t really require being on the big screen and they don’t really gain anything from being on the big screen the tablet screen is good enough and I like to multitask so I usually will have my movies or TV shows playing on the TV while I’m gaming on the tablet this was the one feature I really enjoyed about the Wii U I could sit and play Nintendo games on the Wii U tablet while still watching a show.

A few years ago I was in a discussion board on a Nintendo fan site and we were talking about what Nintendo should do following up the Wii U and I had suggested that they should just make a tablet with buttons that has HDMI out that can connect to a TV for me personally I felt that a product like that would you not both of Nintendo’s core demographics their shrinking console market and they’re consistently loyal handheld Market. For me it seemed like such a no-brainer that I thought if they did anything other than that I was going to be disappointed and not be interested in buying the product considering how disappointed I was in there last two home consoles.

So for me I was very excited when I saw the Nintendo Switch reveal and learned it in fact was a tablet with buttons and HDMI connecting to a TV the best part is the controller’s word attachable that wasn’t something I had consider Nintendo doing as a tablet I kind of feel like maybe Nintendo could put a little more into some of the apps at least get a few multi media apps but I think Nintendo smart to stay focused on the gaming demographic if they were to take Apple head on or Google, they’d probably lose.

So let’s answer the question what to me makes a Home console. Well I’ve always maintained that in order to be a home game console it has to play video games on your TV that’s the core of it the Switch does not play video games on the TV not in its base mode it don’t you have to connect it to a separate piece of Hardware that connects that to your TV so to me that does not qualify the Switch is a true Home console to me it is a mobile device that connects to your TV not a true Home console.

So then to me that makes the Wii U Nintendo last true Home console assuming that the Switch moves forward as their new business model that looks like that’s going to be the plan. So I want to do some Reminiscing on the Nintendo Wii U as Nintendo’s last Home console. I’m going to briefly run down the things that I did not like about the Wii U first and then I’ll end on talking about the things that I did like. The very first thing I dislike about the Wii U was the name I hated the Wii I don’t make that a secret and I did not like the fact that the Wii U was the replacement of the way I wanted them to get away from the Wii brand the we name the motion controls in the little Mii Critters and they didn’t do that.

Some people can look past the name and I was able to do that as well but it was a hard sell. The second thing I didn’t like is how it force you to create a me I didn’t like the Mii’s on the Wii and I didn’t like having to use them and I don’t like being forced to I’ve never liked when any company video game website or anybody forces you to do something I like toys I like options if you give me the choice to do something I might choose to do so if you tell me I don’t have a choice then I don’t want to do it.

The interface was exactly the same as the Wii but there was a slight alteration and had to really annoying me verse and me Plaza and you couldn’t turn them off I didn’t like that either it was just a little reminder that you had a TV screen full of means running around chattering and that Mii gibberish language.

Looking back on it the only other thing I didn’t care for was how you had to load it into Wii mode in order to access the Wii stuff but now that I think about it, the one benefit to that is it allowed you to continue accessing the Wii virtual console and we download games which I did continue to do.

I don’t want to get to negative on it because I did buy the system and I did enjoy it I understand why other people didn’t but it was fun it had some fun games so let’s talk about the things I did like I loved the tablet in the off TV play being able to sit in my recliner and playing a game on the tablet while watching a Netflix show on the TV I enjoyed that.

I also liked the Pro Controller it was better than the classic controller on the Wii. I like the eShop it was easier to navigate the search function was a lot more useful it had a lot more games and it had a few non-game apps that Wii didn’t have as many of those.

I did like the web browser better on the Wii U and once they finally got profiles I liked using the Netflix app on the Wii U better than using it on the Wii which to be honest I never used it on the Wii but my sister did so I know what it was like and I didn’t care for it.

That’s enough about features a game console is only as good as its games so now I want to talk about the games. To a non Nintendo gamer the Wii U was a Barren Wasteland that’s a fact. Fortunately for me I am a Nintendo gamer and it had quite a few games that I really enjoyed.

The first game that I enjoyed the most with Super Mario 3D World I played this game a lot and I even showed it to people and recommended it to friends.

I also played Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad, both New Super Luigi U and new Super Mario Brothers U, Smash Bros. U, Dr. Luigi, Pikmin 3, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, the Wonderful 101, Hyrule Warriors, The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD remake, The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD remake, Mario versus Donkey Kong game, Splatoon, and Super Mario Maker. I had a few eShop titles like Shovel Knight, Pier Solar, a few others I can’t remember them all. Overall I was mostly satisfied with the games that I had I like most people there were a lot of games I didn’t enjoy those were the games I never bought and there weren’t very many games to choose from so they weren’t a lot of options.

I know some people will disagree with this but I’ll remember the Wii U a little more family than the original Wii but not as finely as the Nintendo GameCube I think I’m going to put it on par with the Nintendo 64 which is the system I like just a little tiny bit more than the Wii.

I think the end of the day it was a good system it had some good games it just had some marketing issues it had a few technical flaws that Nintendo couldn’t overcome and the biggest problem was it was a full HD console it was Nintendo’s first full HD consult and they didn’t know how to develop HD games.

Looking forward I think Nintendo is going to have a better time getting games out for the Switch because they’re going to be in the middle there going to be a little bit better and 3DS games but not quite as good as PS4 games and I think that’s Nintendo’s comfort zone.

The way you did have an assortment of accessories just not a crazy number like the Wii, but I didn’t own enough of them to really comment on that. The Nintendo GameCube was the last time I tried to make a Nintendo console my only console so I had a Wii U but I also had a PS4 and a PS3 so I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything I do think if you are a Wii U only console gamer you probably didn’t have a very good generation.

I think maybe in time I’ll start to appreciate it more for what it was and maybe Overlook some of its claws and maybe discover some of the hidden gems although I don’t think there’s that many hidden gems to discover cuz there’s not that many games.

I don’t want to speculate on what could have been or should have been or how it could have been improved I’ll just say that I had fun with it I’ll keep it around and I’ll be able to go back to it from time to time and reminisce without too many negative thoughts. At the time my biggest gripe continued to me the system being overpriced for what you got

When I bought mine Nintendo was running a special if you bought the deluxe edition it came with 3 games and any digital game you bought in the eShop you got like extra bonus points so I got a lot of free games just by buying the system so it worked out for me but I still think it was overpriced.

The games that I don’t own that I still want to pick up I can’t think of any maybe Paper Mario Maybe Star Fox I don’t care for Animal Crossing I don’t care for the Wario games and I won’t buy any of the games and have the Wii name in them, or depend heavily on the Mii’s.

I do have Nintendo Land but that’s because it came with the system and I’ve just never played it and I’ve never saw fit to sell it.

The rest of the games unfortunately if they’re on Switch like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe I just bought for Switch I think I’ll get them on the Switch I’m not interested in going back to the Wii U at this point. I guess there’s a couple of Sonic games that I haven’t played and I think there’s a Rayman game on the Wii U but I’m not 100% I think some of those games are coming to Switch.

I guess that’s all I have to say on it I’m enjoying the Switch and I know all look finally back on the Wii U in time. I don’t think it had as much potential as some of Nintendo previous consoles I think it was held back tremendously by the hardware and it was also held back by some of the Wii stuff but it was a good system not their best certainly not their worst.

Retro vs. Modern gaming

The age old question, well maybe not age old but the question of the day is, what’s the better type of gamer the modern gamer or the retro gamer? For me personally I think they two both have merits, but as a primarily retro gamer I tend to lean towards retro as the better option. However there is a new way of thinking, the modern-retro gamer is also a thing now. Take into consideration the new, retro-styled games like Shovel Knight, or Retro City Rampage, to name two extremely popular titles. But that is not the type of retro gaming I am talking about so first let’s define retro, then lets define modern and compare the two to see which one offers the more robust gaming solution.

I have always identified four types of gaming platforms. The first is the arcade platform or the short, casual gaming  that dominated the 80’s and early 90’s. The second is the PC gamer, PC being short hand for computer which for me is all encompassing, the third type of gaming is the console game, the dedicated living room machine that offers a stripped down, bare-bones gaming experience or a completely streamlined all-in-one solution. The fourth type is the mobile gamer or the gamer on the go.

I define the divide between retro and modern differently for each of the four types of gaming. Arcade games are considered retro, to me at least, if they were created before the 3-D revolution. Retro arcade games range from the earliest video machines such as Pong or Space War, to the mid-90’s 2D fighting games. The divide is the Sega Model 2 hardware and the Midway Zues/Nintendo Ultra 64 hardware. Everything before those periods is retro and everything following is modern. Modern arcade gaming is mostly made up of dance and rhythm games, hunting games and simulations, mostly sports or horse racing, they aren’t really that many non-gambling games today that have any resemblance to the classic arcade quarter munchers of the yester-year we all long for.

PC gaming is a little more complex. For the most part, non-IBM PC or non-Windows based x86 gaming that ranges from the earliest microcomputers to the end of the Atari Falcon line and the Amiga brand are considered retro. For IBM-compatible or Windows PC, a.k.a “PC gaming” the divide is Windows 95. Everything before Windows 95, including DOS and all early Windows games are considered retro, including those from the PC CD-ROM era. Modern PC gaming basically starts with Windows 98 leaving Windows 95 as sort of a buffer between classic, or retro, and modern. I am talking strictly in game design and philosophy here, PC gaming became incredibly more complex with the start of Windows 95 and the introduction of Direct X, prior to that PC gaming was not at all unified nor easy to identify.

Handheld gaming is pretty much divided up into Game Boy and post-Game Boy. Meaning Everything from the Game Boy Advance (and variants) backwards is considered retro and everything from the Nintendo DS onwards (including mobile phones and PSP/Vita) is modern. Again this goes back to game design and philosophy. Prior to the GBA hand held games were basically seen as miniaturized versions or downgraded ports of existing games. With DS and PSP especially it was possible, and common, to have full blown console level dedicated games on the mobile platform that were basically comparable to the modern platform.

Console gaming the divide is much easier for the most part, but there are some overlaps. As with Windows 95, there is a clear-cut divide between classic game design philosophy and modern or even post-modern design philosophy, this is the Sony Playstation.

The Sony PS1 as it is sometimes called marks the buffer between retro or classic game design and the start of modern, cinematic story based gaming. PS1 is a transition console that includes a diverse library of classic and retro (modern at the time) games that played similar to the true retro games of the SNES, NES, ad Sega Genesis period, as well as the beginnings of the modern interactive movie games of today. The modern philosophy began mostly with Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, and the infamous Grand Theft Auto, which all had their first bouts of success on the Sony Playstation. While FF7 was a benchmark for modern gaming, it was really based on the retro FF6 JRPG style but it deserves credit for bringing the RPG genre to the modern era. However, games like Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Crash Bandicoot, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Tetris Plus, Mega Man 8, and many, many more, play just like their 16-bit SNES counterparts leaving them as a bridge between the retro and modern gaming machines.

There is a little overlap however, Saturn is more modern than Retro and the Dreamcast is very modern while the N64 is more retro than modern. That is why I place the Playstation as the bridge between the classic, or retro and the modern with N64 and Saturn, it’s contemporary competition, as sort of buffers. For me those two machines are clearly retro but they have some of the beginnings of modern gaming seeping through. The N64 especially with its major push into 3-D gaming.

With the Playstation as the divider then, where does a modern gamer looking to get into retro gaming start? And for that matter where does a retro gamer looking to ease into modern gaming go?

I will tackle these both one at a time. For the modern gamer it depends on your point of entry. I will focus on each category, arcade, console, PC and mobile, and tackle them one by one.

The modern PC gamer is most likely going to do what all PC gamers have done since the beginning of time, work their way back to the beginning via their favorite franchises. A modern Doom gamer is going to go back and play classic Doom, a modern Elder Scrolls gamer should check out the original D&D games like Eye of the Beholder or the Warcraft games to get a good bit of history. The modern PC gamer has the benefit of Windows being essentially backwards compatible with pretty much all previous operating systems so it’s much easier for the PC gamer to go back in time and try out older games. Here is a road map I recommend for the modern, millennial and younger PC gamer.

As Windows 95 is the divide I recommend starting with some of the classic PC CD-ROM titles from the early DirectX era. A few to get started are MechWarrior 2, Descent, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3-D, Unreal, Star Wars Dark Forces, Myst, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Diablo, Warcraft, StarCraft, Sim City 2000, and Baldur’s Gate. These are all semi-retro but modern enough games for a PC gamer to get their feet wet looking to sample some classic PC gaming but without going too old school.

Then work your way backwards. Some good games to try from the VGA and 386 period would be the original DOS Duke Nukem side-scroller, Jazz Jackrabbit, Sim City, Eye of the Beholder and Eye of the Beholder 2 Legend of Darkmoon,  any of the early Bard’s Tale, Ultima and Might and Magic games. Then going further back why not give Commodore 64 a shot, either via emulation or scouring ebay for an actual working machine, they are pretty cheap by modern standards.

Arcade gamer I will just say this, either pick up MAME for your PC or get onto Xbox Live Arcade or PSN and look for retro arcade compilations like Mortal Kombat Komplete Kollection, Tower of Mystara Collection, Metal Slug Anthology, Namco Museum, Midways Arcade Treasures, etc, basically pick up any of these classic arcade compilations to get you started. The PS2 is the BEST retro arcade gaming machine outside of MAME.

Mobile gamer. I won’t get too into this one. Basically if you are into modern mobile games like iOS and Android games or 3DS and PS Vita games my advice is just dig back through the catalogs. The Nintendo Game Boy Advance is a very good place to start along with the original DS, there are tons of retro gaming goodies to be found on those as well as the PSP, a portable gaming treasure trove. Personally I recommend a GBA because it gives access to the Game Boy classic and Game Boy color line up of games as well and then pick up a DS or 3DS and work backwards through the catalog as they are backwards compatible then get into PSP when you are ready to upgrade into the meater portable games that are based on console gaming of the past.

Now for the console gamer. The roadmap here is more complicated. If your a modern Playstation gamer and want to get into retro gaming the first place to start is the PS1 classics. Then depending on if you are more into Japanese games or Western (US/European) games will determine which consoles to back track through. If you are more into Japanese games, Castlevania, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, etc, pick up a Super NES and dig into the classic games on there such as Super Castlevania 4, Street Fighter 2, Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy 3, Chrono Trigger, Mega Man X, and maybe some Contra 3. IF you are more into western gaming, then I recommend starting with a Sega Genesis and picking up some games like Chakhan the Forever Man, Vector Man, Earthworm Jim, Toejam and Earl, Streets of Rage, Eternal Champions, X-Men, Maximum Carnage, Boogerman, Fatal Rewind, Haunting starring Poulterguy, or even some Comix Zone. SNES has its fair share of western games too as does the Genesis its share of Japanese games, but the split is in favor of each as described above, for the most part.

If you want to wade into retro gaming without diving in head first, I recommend picking up a PS3 for the PSN games, PS2 for the arcade compilations and backwards compatibility with the PS1 library, the Nintendo Wii (or Wii U) for the Virtual Console, and a Nintendo DS and GBA for the plethora of retro gaming titles accessible via those platforms. Unless you are really into PC gaming or PC style games I don’t recommend the Xbox for retro gaming as its really more of a modern games machine and the handful of retro games you can get on an Xbox are ALSO on Playstation whereas there are DOZENS of retro games on Playstation and Nintendo that aren’t available on Xbox. Xbox is fine for modern gaming but its a wasteland for retro gaming unless you mod it in which case just load up the emulators on your PC and be done with it.

That is my Retro vs. Modern PC gaming guide.

Virtual Reality is finally near

Go back in time to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and there was this prevailing belief in our culture that virtual reality was going to someday become a reality. We had glimpses of it in the 90’s but they were expensive ventures that had little real substance.

In 2006 the first strides were made to bring VR to the masses. Nintendo released their Wii gaming machine that introduced motion controls to the world of interactive entertainment. While the concept was a novel idea, the execution ultimately turned into nothing more than just that, a novelty. Still the sales success of the Wii and it’s “magic wand” did re-introduce gamers to the idea of virtual reality and soon their competitors began offering motion controls and immersive experiences on their machines as well.

Then a few years latter Oculus was conceived which has finally made its way to market. I am not here to actually write a review of the Oculus Rift, since I don’t currently own one and I haven’t had a chance to demo one either. Instead I just want to express my excitement that between this machine and others now hitting the market, or soon to be hitting the market, I will soon get a chance to experience that world of VR that was promised to us over twenty years ago.

If you are not clear what Virtual Reality is think of it as total immersion. In normal, or should I say traditional, video games you sit on a couch and interact with the TV using a game controller. Wii took this a step closer to immersion giving us motion controls, that were neat but ahead of their time. Wii itself was actually a repeat of a similar attempt two decades earlier, the Power Glove. So with any new technology it takes time for things to advance to a point where consumers might buy in.

There are two schools of thought that are prevailing currently when it comes to VR. The first is the skeptics who have watched VR tech come and go for years and see this new round as nothing more than a waste of money and energy. The  argument is these machines are too expensive, the games are not ready, there are too few types of games that would benefit from VR, the list goes on.

The other school of though is that with the level of investment and excitement this time VR is bound to take off. The argument goes that the entry point isn’t as great as it used to be, that it is in line with other budding technologies of our time that have taken off, so not out of reach for the average consumer. They also argue that with as much competition now there is a greater chance of success.

If you look at either argument you will see they both have some merits. While I personally think VR is the future, and I am super excited for the devices that are hitting the market, I do concede that price is an issue. For me in order to get into Oculus I would need to spend a minimum of $950 dollars on a compatible PC, that is if I order one pre-tested by Oculus to work, I could always buy a cheaper model or build one my own and “make it fit” by upgrading necessary hardware but in the end the time cost doesn’t balance the money saved so I would still prefer to buy a pre-built machine proven to work. Then on top of that there is the $600 entry fee of the machine itself. On top of that I would need to buy compatible games, non of which I currently own as of right now. This puts Oculus just out of my reach. While true I am planning on buying a new computer in the very near future, I am not looking to spend that kind of money on one at this time.

With Oculus out that leaves me looking at the three, that I know of, devices either on the market or about to be by the end of the year. The one I am most likely to purchase is the Playstation VR. Why? Because for starters I already own a PS4 which is the base machine required for the Playstation VR. Also I currently own a couple of dozen games for the PS4 and several of the games that are set to be compatible with Playstation VR are games I was already interested in getting. This means that the barrier of entry is lower for me, I can buy the headset, pick up a compatible game and be on my way for about the price of a new game console. Now unless the NX totally blows my mind, I am perfectly happy buying a PS VR since I am planning on getting a new console this year anyways, it was either going to be Xbox One or NX but I might just stick to getting PS VR.

One thing that makes me excited about this round of VR is the technology has finally arrived where it no longer is a burden to play. I am also excited by the number of companies getting into this, especially seeing Sony who is the world-wide leader in the video game industry. I don’t think VR is “here and now” like many are proclaiming but I have always felt it was the future and for the first time I do believe that future is very near.