Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Xmas Haul, 2013.

Since I was too slow on the draw to get my other Christmas-related game ad up before, well, Christmas, I decided to shelve it for relevance next Winter and instead I've fallen down the post category I have a vague memory of explicitly rejecting in previous years: the What I Got For Christmas post. (This isn't everything -- it's the Sub-Category: Video Game Stuff spotlight.)

So let's go around the clock here. At noon there we have a baggie of "Cut the Rope" candies. Though I instantly placed them as game-related, they were in all truth simply bought as candies, as I am known to have soft spot for gummies. I see this as a great sign of the rebounding recovery games have made in the pop culture, since I imagine probably 1982 was the most recent time that you could go to the store to buy some [generic product] and end up accidentally buying a bag of [product] proudly emblazoned with a video game mascot without having any idea that it was related in any way to a game. "Aw, mom, not Frogger-ghetti again! We've had it every night for two weeks!" "Sit down and eat your dinner! It was marked down 75% at the market so I bought the whole case lot. I don't know what's wrong with it!" The only problem here is that while the candy fiend in me wants to tear it open and enjoy the sweet, sweet contents, the game paraphernalia collector in me wants to preserve it in pristine condition, to take place of pride next to the Angry Birds Hallowe'en candies on my game-stuff shelf. Probably the rest of the candy will be eaten first, and then we'll consider conducting a little deeper investigation into this museum exhibit.

1 o' clock: "So, your partner collects game stuff? This is a game, he'll enjoy it!" This has been my first year with credit and consequently my first year of the Steam Winter Sale, 'nuff said. So it comes as a surprise to be reminded that Valve also had its products published in boxes on store shelves... by Sierra of all publishers! One of the reasons I am a retro-gamer is that I am not a big fan of the "shoot your opponent in the face" genre that has dominated the industry since the advent of DooM, hearkening back to a kinder, gentler time when other kinds of games were made. So the appeal of deathmatches and military themes generally misses the mark with me. I must confess, I probably will not be slipping this disc into my optical drive. (And what's this "Team Fortress 1" they mention on the back of the box? You mean TF2 didn't just spontaneously emerge, fully-formed?)

3 o'clock: I am pleased to announce that my CoLeCoVision cartridge collection has now doubled with the acquisition of Gorf, Carnival and Lady Bug. Now all I need is a console to run them on. (A friend has one, but no working cables. We killed some time trying without success to bring it to life at my latest retro gaming party, but no dice yet. Maybe by upping the ante with additional carts we can motivate a more rigorous attempt to revive the machine.)

3:30: Also: I am pretty sure that is a Game Gear cart, but I didn't know that the GG ever suffered from pirate multicart syndrome! I will have to round up some batteries and test it. "Super 82 in 1" is a quantity that also appears on GB and Famicom knock-off carts, but Google can't seem to turn up anything on this one. I may be the first to cover it! Too bad MobyGames won't allow me to document it there...

5 o'clock: It's hard to believe that as of this latest console generation, there are still people who will pay money for a physical object filled with cheat codes when they can be found in great abundance for free online. (I suppose having them handy like this saves people from having to print them out or, ack, write them down accurately and then be plagued with little pieces of paper covered in arcane formulae around the gaming area.) This volume is a 2-in-1: one side of he book is for the last generation's consoles and the other side covers its handheld machines. The Nintendo DS is the only handheld from that generation that I own and so that's where I will derive any use and value, if any, from this book. I suspect the days are numbered for BradyGames, unless they can figure out some other industry to branch out into. (Books of cheat codes for casual mobile games?)

5:25: There's a thrift shop in Burnaby that for months featured a substantial, redundant pile of N-Gage games in its "auction" shelf, the idea being that people bid on those lots and the winning bid gets the item. I was always a bit curious to see what an N-Gage game looked like (SPOILER: also with a well over 10-to-1 empty-box-to-game ratio, like a Nintendo DS flash cart, but much more disappointing), but lacking the hardware and trying to maintain a modicum of financial responsibility (and also: trying to keep a lid on the collection monster in the basement) I've been trying to avoid collecting games for machines I don't own. Eventually the lot was broken up into pieces and put on the shelves as, I suppose, no one else owned an N-Gage either and no one placed any bids on the lot. Still I held firm, instead making regular trips to the ice cream parlour across the street. (I know, that's an edge case of "holding firm", but I take what I can get.) Then, eventually, this turned up in my stocking. I guess Santa also patronizes that thrift store.

5:35: OK, so I own Battlefront II for the PS2, but having cut my teeth on my ex-roommate's Xbox version of the game, the one I had dissuaded me with its protracted loading sequences. (I imagine the Xbox's on-board hard drive has something to do with it.) So when we ended up with $20 in-store credit after returning some Christmas used trousers that didn't quite fit, I tossed this in the shopping cart to help us reach the magic number. It really is quite an effective title.

5:40: We bought our PlayStation 2 after the PS3 had been announced, and the conventional wisdom holds true that the end of its life cycle can be a great time to get on board with a new console -- because the games are cheaper, the programmers have figured out how to play to the strengths of the hardware, and the used-game resale market is wider. For a brief moment, I owned a console that I could walk into stores and buy games for. Not many -- Shadow of the Colossus, Secret Agent Clank... OK, that was about it. Then the window closed and the grey resale market again became my only option. But since acquiring a DS at a garage sale, once again I'm in that situation of being able to wander down the games aisle in a department store and go "hey, if I wanted to, I could actually buy that and make it run on a machine I own!" True, the last time I did so was with Nintendogs for my partner when the Virgin Megastore downtown shut down, but it's nice to have the little hypothetical possibility remain viable in the back of one's head. In time I suppose the 3DS will take over completely, but until then... my partner can play tit for tat and get me new games while picking up bulk potato chips for Christmas parties! The games in question appear unremarkable: the end of Lego's vaunted gender-neutrality writ large, and a title from the other side of the coin. What is a Squinkie? I have no idea. But I still dig outsider titles like that from the game historian perspective, as with such un-sexy subjects to document and archive, I'm virtually guaranteed to have a topic that no one else has bothered covering.

11 o'clock: How on earth has this Street Fighter 2 SNES box remained in such excellent condition since 1992? The artwork is amazingly amazing, an excellent summation of the gameplay inside (well no, it doesn't depict Ken and Ryu taking turns throwing boring fireballs at each other). We played a lot of this one at my first bachelor house, 5 dudes who wanted to see all the warriors' endings (Zangief's was my favorite, pure over-the-top stereotype in a game that had nothing to work with but stereotypes.)

And here at midnight, we have the Ms. Pac-Man candy dispenser. It doesn't seem to have been cleaned since 1982, and I'm contemplating how to achieve that without compromising its retro authenticity. (Sadly, the Cut the Rope candies are too big to pass through its mechanical guts.) The 3/4 profile is a new look for Ms. Pac-Man, with a full two eyes, lips and two blushing cheeks where usually we see only one eye, lips, one cheek and a beauty mark. It's almost Picasso-cubist. Almost.

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you find as many great deals in the Steam Winter Sale as I did 8)

Edit: gee whiz gang, next time I forget to put in my linebreak tags, how about one of you tip me off?