Shenmue is one of those games that is either one of the greatest things you ever played or completely passed you by. I have NEVER met anyone who played it for a bit and then moved on, it’s either off your radar or you have great memories of playing it on the Dreamcast and cannot wait to replay the magic of the first two games on the Xbox One. You can guess by this hyperbole which side of the fence that I have always been on. Hours walking around looking for those Japanese capsule machines to get virtual toys. And again. And again. And now in 2018, I am more than ready to live that adventure all over again. Thank you SEGA!
Oh videogame players are a crazy bunch. I just spent the best part of an hour snooping around various forums to see how people are reacting to today’s BACK-COMPATIBLE-NEWS-IS-COMING announcement. Now when I first read this, I geeked out and started making a list of all the original Xbox games that I wanted to play again. The Simpsons Road Rage! Munch’s Oddysee! Project Gotham Racing 2! Bring itttttttt! It seems most other people are whining that this is just Xbox trying to make more money out of us with old things we don’t want. Jesus, kids, you don’t have to buy anything that you don’t want, chances are that younger gamers will look at original X games and wonder what all the fuss was about, but I remember first seeing that big black and green fella and just thinking WOW.
It was when I was at Paragon Publishing (yeah, we had full time games journalists in those days kids!) and they brought the new console in and everyone was “Microsoft making a console?” like it was the strangest thing ever, which seems ridiculous now, almost as ridiculous as when we used to carry around only one album! On a cassette! Fade to sepia…But then I saw Munch’s Oddysee and I was sold. No Metacritic. No YouTube, just gamers in a room with a game wanting to play it. Oh if only I could get re-acquainted with that old friend…Oh yeah, I have not written about the actual story yet…D’OH!
So, yeah, next week we get a new episode of Inside Xbox, the infommercial style show from Xbox in which they are set to reveal new things including the news about original Xbox back compat. Sure we have a few classics available already (KOTOR, Black) but I’m praying for everything suddenly going back compatible, as then I can just hotfoot it to CEX before they inflate those prices.
“Blah! It’s just a load of old rubbish!” screams @YOURMOMSUXXXX212 all over the Internet – and this is why we can’t have nice things.
You probably already know whether you are going to enjoy From Bedrooms To Billions. If I tell you it is two and a half hours of talking heads discussing the history of the home computer from the ZX80 to the dawn of the Sony PlayStation, you’re either yawning or you are already reeling off a list of those you expect to see featured and yes, most of the big names are here. Of course, everyone has a different list of people in the industry that they consider icons. Having been a games journalist for a decade, I had met some of my heroes such as Archer Maclean who is featured here, a funny and sincere man who likes to geek out about games, even though he created some of the best. If you ever played Mercury and thought it was too hard then you have me to blame. I visited his workshop and played Mercury and he was scribbling away as he watched me glide through it. “Hmm, I may have to change the difficulty”, his brain seemed to never stop ticking, he was happy to talk nostalgically as he is in the film, but his brain was always thinking of tomorrow, a great fellow.
It is a shame that the film virtually ignres the VIC20 which was my entrance into the computer world, it is mentioned for literally one line and then we are off to the Commodore 64, which my sister owned, but I was a Spectrum + boy. I remember my friend Ben coming over and we started playing Gauntlet at 9am, the next thing we knew, mom was coming in to tell us dinner was ready at 7pm! This was a magic time to be a gamer, though you had to be there I do not know how today’s kids would react if these games were all they had. Things have progressed so far, as described in the film, the consoles double in power and the prices half. In my day (oh dear, grandad!) I would save up a whole summer for my Spectrum whereas nowadays a lot of kids have multiple machines and the phone in their pocket is more expensive and more powerful than anything we had.
There are many moments when I geeked out here, one of the major ones was when they looked into Ultimate Play The Game, one of the finest companies, giving us Knightlore, Sabre Wolf and others, the packaging and the graphics and the gameplay were the best in the business. This was at a time when you could trust certain companies to give you different things. If you wanted a game based on the latest movie or sports star, you turned to Ocean (shame there was no mention of the mental Frankie Goes To Hollywood game that I used to love) and if you wanted the latest overseas hit (overseas was a long way away in those days, no internet, no cheap flights, no instant connections to everything in the world, many games were bought from the back of the magazines of the day) you turned to US Gold. The stories of these companies are told here with a few smiles as those involved acknowledge that luck was as big a part of it as was the ability to see what the next hit would be and market it properly.
There are people I know featured throughout too, PR types such as Lee Kirton, who not only gave me a lot of my favourite games in the console years, but took us out for a million beers and did not complain when his games got a low score – this was not a given, some times I received phone calls from a surprised PR when I gave their game a 50% mark, but I could always back it up. You just had to always remember that free beer and lavish hotels do not mean that you have sold your soul to that company. Not everyone remembered this, but I amsure the readers could see the difference, just as they could with the Crash and C&VG reviews featured in the film.
From Bedrooms To Billions is a brilliant look back at a great period in time when this country ruled the world and we all knew that FRAK! was a video game and not a dirty word.
US museum, The Strong, has announced the first video games to be inducted into its Hall Of Fame and they include my two favorite games of all time, Pac-Man and Tetris. The other games honoured are Doom, World Of Warcraft, Pong and Super Mario Bros. The games that were chosen are said to have “significantly affected the video game industry, popular culture, and society in general.”
These games will now be on permanent show at the museum in Rochester, New York and games will be added annually from now on. It is strange that Space Invaders is missing from this list, surely a must for next year, along with Breakout, Sonic The Hedgehog, Street Fighter II and Centipede. I have great memories of the games inducted, Pac-Man is my favorite of all time and I have played it on pretty much every console since the arcade game launched. Tetris was the game that came with the original GameBoy and was the most addictive of treats and the consoles could be linked together for epic two player battles. Oddly, I have never played World Of Warcraft…