Game Boy 009 – GameStruck4

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

After keeping my weekly rhythm constant for the first eight editions, it’s now been over a month since the last one, which was never my intention. It started because of my trip to San Francisco for GDC, but then I wanted to write up the experience I had, and there was so much that I wanted to share that I just ended up not getting anything done. So in the meantime, I’ll start up again with something else, and touch on GDC at a later date — I have finished the draft for a presentation/report I’ll be doing at our next team meeting, but it’s close to 50 slides long.

So what do I want to share? Following a recent Twitter meme that saw people share four films that had a strong impact on them, under the “FilmStruck4” hashtag, some people started sharing the same but for games using the “GameStruck4” hashtag. Below is what I shared, which I consider to be some of the first games (in alphabetical order) that had a huge impact on me.

King’s Quest (PC)
I’ve always had a lot of love for point-and-click adventure games, and yes, it would be easy to point to all of the fantastic LucasArts games I played and loved (and although I love me some Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, one of my favorites was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis), but if I’m to think back on my first memories of the genre, it’s hard to avoid naming the King’s Quest series (even if for this purpose, I just mentioned the first one). I loved these games to bits (as well as many other releases from Sierra), and have fond memories of playing them both alone, and with friends sitting next to me.

Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nicodemus (PC)
I’ve mentioned this game previously when talking about favorite games (here and here), but more than a just a favorite of mine, I think it led to my love of playing RPGs — and those Dungeons & Dragons games from SSI that I also played so much of really owed a lot to it. The other influential RPG from that era for me was the first Might & Magic game.

Pitfall (Atari VCS)
As repetitious as this game may be, this was always my favorite game to play on the Atari VCS (or 2600). Thinking back on this, it’s no surprise how platformers turned into a favorite genre for me — especially during the 80s and 90s (although it still is) — and I’d say it all goes back to this game. I’ll never forget that rudimentary sound effect (sorta like a Tarzan yell) that played while Pitfall Harry swings on a vine.

Zork 1 (PC)
I’d say Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was my favorite Infocom game, but there’s no denying that it all started with the first Zork game — from that point, I fell in love with all things Infocom. When it comes to text adventures, I never really played much of anything that wasn’t Infocom, I was just really in love with their style, the stories, and the fantastic boxes filled with “feelies.”

Here’s an extra 4 “honorable mentions“:

F-19 (PC)
I never was big into flight simulators, but the one I did get into was F-19 from MicroProse — probably because the box looked so cool (the F-19 was a “theoretical” stealth jet fighter). I still remember the gigantic manual that came with it, and I did play it a lot, so I imagine I probably got pretty good at it. Another MicroProse game from those days that I remember loving a lot was Airborne Ranger. It’s maybe why I love playing Tom Clancy games so much.

Gorf (VIC-20)
It’s probably not that great a game, but the VIC-20 was the first computer we had, and the first device we had that played electronic games (I had to go to my friends’ homes to play Atari, Intellivision, and ColecoVision games). Of all the games I played on the VIC-20, I’m sure I played Gorf the most.

Spy Hunter (Arcade)
We had a corner arcade, and the game I played the most had to be Spy Hunter. James Bond fan that I am, I loved driving my spy car while eliminating enemies, with that classic Peter Gunn music playing. While I was in San Francisco last month I went to the Musée Mécanique, and had a chance to play it again. It’s still just as fun.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate (PC)
Of all the Ultima games I played, this was my favorite, and I still have such vivid memories of starting to playing it, after opening that black and foreboding box, and embarking on a journey that was so, well, dark. And with the world now being presented full-screen, it all felt so incredibly immersive.

Aggressive Retsuko

I didn’t think this would really be for me — I remember finding the premise of the character (an office lady who loves death metal) pretty funny, but didn’t think much of it beyond that — but I got curious when the animated series popped up on Netflix the other day, and I gotta say that I had a pretty fun time watching a few episodes (which are very binge-able, at like 10-15 minutes in length). Warning though, if you’ve worked in an office in Japan, this may trigger some PTSD.

God of War

Although I’d had a lot of fun playing the series in the past, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. I didn’t play the last game that came out, and wasn’t particularly excited for this new entry. But then all the crazy good buzz started filling my timeline just ahead of its release, and that got me excited to play it. I finally got the chance (I managed to snag a copy from our studio’s lending library), and after having played the first 4 hours last night, I definitely see what all the fuss is about — and I’m sure I haven’t even touched the best parts yet. But even from what I’ve played, you can tell that this is a special game, and although it still paints itself as a God of War game, it’s a beautiful evolution, with a more mature story, that comes with more interesting storytelling, and more of an “adventure” feel — meaning more exploration (here in the form of puzzle sequences), and not just a series of battles (which is what the old games felt like, even if some of those battles were truly spectacular and fun to take in). I’m also digging the RPG elements, like skill upgrades and weapon improvements, which is good incentive to try and pick up any and all resources available. Definitely looking forward to playing more.

The Chalet

I really enjoyed this series, that popped up on Netflix recently. It’s a 6-episode mystery set in a small village in France, with a group of people “stranded” and deaths starting. That’s always the best of setups when it comes to mysteries, and my wife and I both had a good time watching it. I think the story and solution were pretty satisfying.

Florence

I finally played Florence this morning, and yeah, as everyone has been saying, this is such a wonderful little game. It feels more like an interactive story/comic than a game, but whatever you call it, it’s a joy to take in, with superb visuals, storytelling, and music. Certainly one of the best mobile game experiences out there.

Spring 2018 Anime Season

After a few disappointing anime seasons, I found myself enjoying most of what I wanted to watch during this past winter season — I really liked Junji Ito Collection, thought Kokkoku was pretty good, as well as Devilman Crybaby (although I haven’t finished watching it), and I watched the first episode of B: The Beginning and will watch more. When I started looking into the new spring season — which I always do on AniChart — I found quite a few things I was interested in watching. Below are those series, and I’ve already started watching all of them, so I’ll indicate what I think so far, after 1-2 episodes.

FLCL Progressive
I’m a huge fan of the original FLCL (as is most everyone who’s watched it), and when a sequel series was announced, my first reaction was that I didn’t think it was a good idea. I still tried to keep hope alive that it would be good — and the fact that the original creators are back was a good sign — but I’m just shocked at how much I disliked the first episode. I’m going to watch the second episode when it’s out, just to make sure, but wow, I was bored to tears with what I saw in episode 1. I even rewatched the original series last year, and still loved it, so it’s not a case of me not being into this series/world anymore.

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
I didn’t really know what to expect with this series, but figured I’d check it out because I liked the idea of galactic battles as a setting (I don’t feel like we get a lot of series like that anymore), and that it’s produced by Production I.G. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes, and I’m really digging it so far. It really is all about the space battles and the tactics used, and the first episode ends on a great cliffhanger. I’m pleasantly surprised by this.

Lupin III: Part V
I love Lupin, and have watched a lot of his series and movies, and so was pretty happy when I saw they were launching a new series this season. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes, and so far it’s really fun. It’s an interestingly modern setup (people are following Lupin — and getting in his way — through social media), and yet it feels like classic Lupin. I’m pretty sure I’ll be enjoying the rest of this.

Megalo Box
Despite the name, this is actually an Ashita no Joe series set in the future, in celebration of the series’ 50th anniversary. I’ve never read or watched anything that has to do with Ashita no Joe, but the description sounded interesting — a world where cybernetically-enhanced boxing matches take place — and I liked the first episode. The world looks very Akira-esque (if not of that quality), and this is probably the way to get me to watch a sports-themed series (I don’t tend to like watching sports-related anime).

Fist of the Blue Sky
This is a prequel series to First of the North Star. I know the basic setup of First of the North Star — and I can’t wait to play the game by the developers of the Yakuza series — but I’ve never read or watched any. I thought the first episode was pretty neat — its CG cel-shaded, like Knights of Sidonia and Ajin, and produced by that same studio — and it’s funny to see these ridiculously muscled-up characters interacting with crazy kung-fu-inspired moves. But by the second episode I was already growing bored with the story — and lack of action — and so I’m not especially excited to continue watching it. I might give it another episode.

Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)

I thought the first season was an incredibly fun return to this character and this world, and I was quite looking forward to the second season. It aired a while back, but was just recently added to Netflix, and so far (I’m halfway through) it’s just as fun. It’s kinda insane who much they manage to fit into one episode, and the casting of Lee Majors as Ash’s dad was pretty inspired.

Lost in Space

I watched the first episode of Netflix’s new Lost in Space series, and gotta say I was really impressed. That first episode feels like a movie more than a TV series (in terms of production values), and it sets things up quite nicely for what’s to follow (i.e. I really want to know where this thing is going to go). I was cautiously excited about the series following the first trailers, and I’m glad that it seems to be avoiding the sci-fi curse Netflix has these days (most of its sci-fi productions tend to be disappointing).

Andre the Giant

HBO released a new documentary about Andre the Giant this week, and it’s quite good. I already know Andre’s story — from being a fan of wresting during that era, as well as the great biographical graphic novel  by Box Brown — but this is a nice round-up of his career, and there were bits that were new to me. The part where they talk about his legendary farts had me in stitches. It’s an amazing life, but a sad one as well (because of his condition, and how he decided not to properly deal with it).