I’ve been watching old episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) lately. Most of the time his opinions are spot on. Unlike most people my age, I actually did play the Atari Jaguar. I have an uncle that until recently lived in a room in my grandparent’s basement. A grown man living in his parent’s basement with lots of expensive video games? Nooooo! Truthfully, that’s where the stereotype ends as his biggest hobby next to video games, music, TV, and movies was bicycles. That’s right, instead of sitting his fat ass down and playing too many video games, he’d sit his Lance Armstrong biking ass down and play too many video games.
Growing up, my grandparents watched me and my older brother a lot. As you can guess, we spent a lot of time down in our uncle’s room playing games. For this reason, I had a history with the Atari ST, Atari 800, etc. without being a spoiled rich kid. At home we had video games, but only because he conspired to have our family members pitch in to buy us games around the holidays. Most games were shared between me and my older brother and we never expected to get more than one. When my little brother exits the holidays with eight new Xbox360 games I think about that and resist the temptation to tell him in an old person voice, “In MY day, we only got one crappy cartridge, and we were GRATEFUL!”
When the AVGN quoted, “Where did you learn to fly,” not only did I remember that game and the annoying voice, I remembered my older brother repeating it during the car ride home, the next day, a year later, and maybe one of the last times I saw him. The Tempest game DID have great music, but I sucked at it as much as I sucked at the arcade game. I avoided that one too. Yes, I report that kids did easily figure out how to turn the gore on Kasumi Ninja. We did. You know what? It was post Mortal Kombat, and both me and my brother had seen much more gorey movies, so it was another game played a few times and tossed aside.
I have never disagreed more with the AVGN when he brought up Attack of the Killer Penguins. I had nearly forgot about that awesome game. The AVGN didn’t say it was bad, but he did say that the premise was so messed up that only someone drinking or on drugs would be into it. Yeah, or maybe a couple of crazy, nerdy kids.
Besides this game, I spent most of my time with the Jaguar playing Theme Park. This was your typical simulation game only instead of a city, an ant colony, or earth, it was a theme park. Awesome. You soon learn, however, that it isn’t easy building and managing a theme park. People are whiny, throw their garbage around, rides break, etc. I was always good at the simulation genre, but this one was tricky. Each time I played it I was like, “Okay, I’ve thought about it, and I think I know how I’m going to make this theme park really work this time!” but I never did as well with it as say SimCity.
Another game I spent some time on was Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tails. I had the Super Nintendo Bubsy and loved it. That means a lot considering I’m not a sucker for side scrollers. This Bubsy game was the same idea, but something lost in translation. It was a lot harder and for the wrong reasons. The SNES one had spot on controls and balance. This one would make you die even if you didn’t really touch an enemy. It was also just a million times less amusing and creative. My brother gave it a lot more play than I did, and I have a feeling the AVGN who seems biased for side scrollers, may have even liked it.
The other few I was surprised he didn’t touch on, and I won’t touch with a ten foot pole, is Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. Oh, wait, I remember why he didn’t cover it. He couldn’t get the Jaguar CD add on to work. My uncle had a working one. I don’t know if he still has it or it still works today, but I guess I have the happy knowledge to know I got to touch something in classic gaming that AVGN never has. I will sit a moment in smug satisfaction. No, I could never get anywhere in those games. Even my older brother who beat Brain Dead 13 never got into them.
A game I loved to play that was missing from the review is Rayman. Yes, another side scroller that I will actually rave about. It was silly cartoony fun. The levels were varied enough with Rayman gaining different powers as time went on. The difficulty was there, but not too much, and the game play was fluid. I mean, this game looked 64-bit. It was colorful and smooth. I’ve never played the Playstation or other versions, so I’m not sure how this measures up compared to the cross platform releases first hand, but the internet tells me that the other console versions were missing areas and levels.
Lets end this on another cross platform game that deserves mention: Worms. If you didn’t know it ever was out for the Jaguar, you would probably remember the PC version. It’s silly. You’re about as likely to blow up yourself than the enemy worms. But you know what, it was fun.
You know what else is fun? I can’t even rememeber if I played this game on the Jaguar or if I’m just remembering playing it in my Uncle’s room on the PC. How is that fun? This is a point that needs to be made. The AVGN is maybe about my age, playing these games now and analyzing them now. Even if you take a great game of then and play it now, it’s flaws will be apparent. I feel lucky that I grew up with video games and I feel lucky that they grew up with me. I was able to appreciate the older games the way they were meant to be apprciated in- the context of the time. Every now and then the AVGN says, “You have to remember, this came out in a time when…” and it’s true. There was no bar, no standard, and no formula. When a mediocre or terrible game comes out now, it confuses me. There’s really no reason. We have the technology and the benefit of experience. When a great game came out before, its boundaries were pushed and sometimes the game even lagged as they tried to push the limit of what could be done graphically. Sometimes you’d wonder how they fit so many hours of game play on one cartridge. When I played these games when I was a kid, I wondered about how amazing it would have been without those boundaries. It’s sad to see that having these much more limitless tools at the fingertips of the designer and developer doesn’t automatically raise the bar. A crappy video game today is still a crappy video game, but it has a lot less excuses. It’s like when you’re a kid and you pee the bed and it’s not that big of a deal. Fast forward to when you’re thirty, peeing the bed is not only unacceptable, people will look at you cross eyed and ask, “What the is wrong with you!?”.
You have to understand that, yes, Jaguar wet the bed sometimes. Jaguar was the first 64-bit gaming system. It was flawed, but so is the first of anything that comes out (and I don’t just mean video game consoles either). Back then it was a lot of trial and error and working with not only new technologies, but really a new artistic medium.