2018 – A Year of Change!

There is a very wonderful person who shares a love for games that you should all see here! I’m honoured to have gotten to know him over the past year and am excited to see where his blog will go in the future. He’s also a great streamer!

sirhcman's game blog

So 2018 is winding down and I have procrastinated on making my first blog post for nearly six months now. I would like to blame it on being productive in other areas of my life and having so many others things to do but in the end it just comes down to sheer laziness. When I setup this account I didn’t know what I wanted to write about (and quite frankly I still don’t!) so I will just give you some highlights of my 2018.

My 2018 started out on a roll, I was living in my parents basement! Now that might be a surprise to some but I had a good reason for living there as a mid-30 year old. I had just sold my house and was in the process of finding a new one! I was really excited because I had been trying to move for over…

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A Look Back at 2018

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone in its entirely, but somehow here we are with the sun soon to be setting on one of the busiest gaming years I think I’ve ever had.

A few really important things have happened this year for me in terms of collecting and gaming.  Collecting has more or less slowed to a crawl.  If you’ve been following here for a while, you’ll likely notice that my posts have become more infrequent since I’ve found a lot of the games I set out to find by this point.  I’m still looking for games, but not nearly as carefully or as often as before.  It sent me spiralling a little earlier in the year, but I’ve been busy refocusing.

What I mean by that is that I’ve had a really firm shift in my hobby from collecting to actually playing through games.  As weird as it’ll sound, as much as I’ve always intended to play through my collection, I was often paralyzed by choice and kept gravitating towards the same few games I had played my entire life.  I’ve finally taken a wide step around that issue and started diving into the backlog head first after implementing a bit of organization into my life recently, and I’m really happy with how things have been going.  Most of this momentum has grown out of streaming and developing more as a let’s player and a video reviewer over the past year.

The list of games that I’ve worked through in 2018 have been a mixture of RPGs and other games I’ve been playing on a stream night designated Meatstick Mondays, a title established by a viewer that has forced me to pick up games I’d never normally prioritize.  The catch: the games have to have meatsticks in them as a power-up item. Brilliant!  You’d be surprised how long my Meatstick Monday list is!

I’m going to run through the 26 games I’ve completed and say a little bit about each.  Playing through the games has resulted in me spending some time reviewing a few in video form and also doing a second playthrough for a let’s play series.  I’ll likely link here to some of those things as well to have the full scope of 2018 all in one place.  Here we go!

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

This was one of the first games I purchased off of eBay when I got a credit card but never finished until this year.  The completionist in me saw me struggling to make it through the game to a certain standard, but playing it casually turned out to be much more fun and relaxing.  I was actually pretty sick at the beginning of the year with a bad cough making streaming a bit cumbersome, but I stuck it out and finished it.  I’ve tried to adopt the casual playthrough attitude with all games I’ve been picking up.  Completionism is a huge roadblock for me.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis)

This game is one I’ve had since childhood and finish pretty regularly. Not much to say here.

The Lion King (Sega Genesis)

See above!

Jesus and the Temple (NES)

This game is part of the King of Kings compilation by Wisdom Tree.  I supported a Wisdom Tree Kickstarter a few years ago and got my hands on a multicart with all their games on it.  I finally had my chance to take a kick at the can but only managed to make my way through one of the three games.

David and Goliath (NES)

I must’ve been on a Wisdom Tree kick in early 2018 because this is part of another 3-game called Bible Adventures by them.  My skill level at this game is very touch-and-go, so I was thankful to have made it through.  I think I played it a few other times and didn’t end up finishing it, but it still counts if I only beat it once, right?

Super Mario Advance (GBA)

I was initially thrilled to see a game that might take a bit of a different approach on a tale as old as time: Super Mario Bros. 2 for NES.  SMB2 is one of my very favourite games, but I was pretty disappointed in the remake, mostly because of the voice acting. I articulated more thoughts in a comparison video here.  Toad can burn in a fiery death in Hell where he belongs.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) 

Naturally, to capture some footage of the original SMB2 game for the video above, I had to play through the game again.  Because it’s my favourite Mario game, I played through it quite a few times this year both for fun and also for some practice for a stream race I did against a nice fellow, The ReNesance.  There will definitely be an eventual rematch, but you can see our three races with Toad, Luigi and Princess Toadstool.  I also put in the Walk Backwards code and put it to some classic Michael Jackson for fun as well.  SMB2 will never get old for me!

Faxanadu (NES)

Faxanadu is pretty much my favourite game for the NES, and I was lucky enough to get to play it through a few times this year.  I never seem to get sick of ascending the World Tree and no matter how many times I play through it, I’m still never sure how many keys I need to bring along with me.  One playthrough of this game was also done over the month of November with The Renesance, and we did a tag-team playthrough of the game.  We’d each play for an hour and pass the password off to the other person to continue the playthrough.  We did this until we finished the game, and it was one of my favourite set of streams to date.  This is a long one, but I assembled all our legs of the game into one 4 hour-ish video.

Pokemon Blue (Game Boy)

I’ve been vying for a long while to actually finish a Pokemon game.  Earlier in life I had dabbled in a little bit of Pokemon Sapphire but I never completed it.  Some kind of Pokemon anniversary date had me pull Blue out of the pile and I decided to see it through to the end over a few weeks.  I enjoyed my playthrough overall, and it was surprisingly more difficult than I had been expecting!  The limited inventory got on my nerves pretty quickly, but I loved my little team (especially Butterfree!) and enjoyed pushing through to finish this one.

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (Sega Master System)

This game changed how I’ve felt about games I’ve played before and every game I’ve played since.  I wrote a post about it, but the long story short is that I am constantly humbled by how many quality of life changes RPGs now integrate to make the gamer’s life easier.  Ultima IV also made me think quite a bit about who I am as a person, and I would love to play more games in the series.  There’s so much hype about Ultima V out there, but I have such a long list of other things to play that it might be a while before I get there.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)

Mystic Quest was a nice break from the hardcore RPG-ness of Ultima IV.  It took a lot of the thinking out of the equation, but with a truly exceptional soundtrack and some tricky puzzles, I really loved it!  A lot of people rip on the game because of its “easiness”, but if you didn’t have the option to retry battles you died in immediately after death, this game would be significantly more difficult.  That boss music will be popping into my head for the rest of my life.

Kirby’s Adventure (NES)

I played this game on a stream viewer’s recommendation and had a way harder time than I ever could’ve imagined.  When I think of Kirby, I think of easier games that anyone can pick up and play.  This was definitely the case, but despite playing through the entire game in one sitting, I still didn’t feel like I had a handle on the game by the end of it all.  I think it’s the up-to-float that kept getting to me, as well as a bit of a delay when jumping and attacking.  I don’t think I’ll play it again for a long while.

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (SNES)

The Lost Levels is a game I’ve played a handful of times in my life.  I remember first playing it seriously in my late teens and having a standoff with 8-3 for several days before finally making my way through it.  I somehow made it through the entire game back then but ended up playing through it again twice this year: once for a let’s play and once on stream. I find this game so tricky that I can’t help but laugh at myself whenever I don’t make a jump or get killed over and over again by the same hammer brother. It’s honestly one of my favourite ways to just relax and get my smile on while enjoying some Mario.  Here’s a link to the stream archive which includes the full game.

Illusion of Gaia (SNES)

I’m going to be blunt here and say that this was probably my least favourite game of 2018.  I loved aspects of it like the action and the RPG mechanics of how your character levels, but the story was absolutely deplorable.  I have very little love for any of the characters, and I played it through twice: once for stream and once for a let’s play. I did a review of it here and there’s a let’s play up on my channel if anyone is interested in checking it out.

Conan (GameCube)

Playing Conan (a PAL exclusive) was one of the biggest steps I’ve taken out of my comfort zone this year. It’s a rather interesting 3D adventure game with platforming and RPG elements that had me laughing away.  There are a lot of problems with this game that I won’t really get into here, but in a nutshell it was just about as frustrating as it was funny at times.  I assembled some of what were my own favourite parts of the game in several clips videos that can be found in this playlist.  The playlist also includes a clips video from my N64 007 playthrough, which I did not complete this year but still had a thoroughly good laugh while playing.

Space Quest II (PC)

I’ve played a few of the King’s Quest games over the years and loved them, so when a viewer requested I take a stab at SQII, I couldn’t help myself.  It was so much fun getting back to basics with this adventure, and playing it through blind with a bunch of people biting their nails as you struggle through puzzles was one of my favourite experiences of 2018.  I desperately need to get back into PC point-and-click/text adventures.

Super Bonk (SNES)

One of the Meatstick Monday games, Super Bonk was surprisingly fun albeit a bit on the easy side.  I finished it in one sitting, but it definitely made me want to play more games in the series.  It doesn’t look like I’ll be picking up a Turbografx-16 any time soon since collecting for that system right now is like throwing fistfuls of money into the wind, but perhaps someday I’ll chance upon the NES Bonk game at a yard sale for $2. A girl can dream!  I put some thoughts together on Super Bonk in the review below.

Joe & Mac (NES)

You’d be surprised at how many caveman games easily sneak into Meatstick Mondays. Unlike the way cooler SNES Joe & Mac game, this one fell a little flat for me overall.  Despite being ridiculously clunky to the point of crying laughing occasionally, I don’t know that I’ll be wanting to play through this one again any time soon.  Meatstick Mondays giveth, and Meatstick Mondays taketh away.

Wizards & Warriors (NES)

This was a game I tried out after buying and had no idea what to do. I put it away for a long while and only ended up playing it when it popped up for Meatstick Mondays.  I actually really, really enjoyed the game overall.  After getting through some of the stumbling blocks with respect to which items did what and finally figured out where I needed to go, it all came together really nicely.  The soundtrack was definitely one of the highlights for me, and I can certainly see myself playing it again sometime.

Final Fantasy III (SNES)

You might be wondering why it has taken me so long to play this game, and I wouldn’t blame you.  I couldn’t really tell you why I put it off, but I’m certainly glad I played this masterpiece this year.  I actually met a lot of new folks streaming this game blind.  There were many folks that just dropped in to let me know that FFIII was their favourite and that they hoped I was enjoying the game.  I think I cried at least 4 or 5 times throughout the game (probably more) but especially at one specific part where it felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  I still haven’t been able to get all my words down on paper to assemble some thoughts on the subject, but it’s a work in progress.

Metroid (NES)

This game was requested by a viewer and had been sitting on my shelf for a long while.  I decided to make my own map for the game and go in blind, and it was a real grind for me for a little while.  At times I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the game, but that’s one of the benefits of streaming: there’s always someone there to encourage you and give you advice if you need and want it.  I didn’t review this game, but I did bust out a bit of science to put together a video on the plants of Brinstar if anyone wants to take a gander.

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (SNES)

As a lover of Faxanadu, it should come as no surprise that I would gravitate towards the side-scrolling, platforming, RPG-element-filled Ys III.  I liked this game so much I played it through twice within a few days.  Despite some grindy bits, the game comes highly recommended.  If you do nothing else, take a listen to the soundtrack!  I did a full playthrough of the game here, too.  I still need to play Ys II and IV.

Golden Axe Warrior (Sega Master System)

I loved this game.  It’s everything that the original Zelda for NES was and then some, and I can’t recommend this game enough to anyone that loved the original Hyrule.  I put some thoughts into a review and am still uploading parts of the playthrough I did, and I could easily pick up the game and play it through again already even though I just finished it.  I don’t want to spoil too much about the game, but not only is it more beautiful than Zelda, but it’s also better in virtually every way (except maybe the soundtrack).  I also love the meatstick work my boyfriend did for my thumbnail.  It makes me chuckle every time!

E.V.O. Search for Eden (SNES)

If you can recall some of my collecting blogs from the early days, you’ll know that this game was on my “to buy” list for a while and it took me some time to find for a good price.  I played through it this year in its entirety, and it was… strange.  Good, but strange.  I’m still not really sure how I feel about it but I’d recommend playing it just to experience it.  It’s definitely something you need to experience yourself to even begin to formulate an opinion about.  I will always treasure the moments I had playing as a horsecat and eating scared dinosaurs.

Aladdin (Sega Genesis)

I used to rent this game all the time as a little one and bought it sometime over this past year or two.  I laid it to rest as recently as last night, and I’m glad to turn the page on it (finally!)

Forgotten Worlds (Sega Genesis)

I played this through with my boyfriend just last night as well.  There was much air spooning and decimating of enlarged body parts.  I’m glad to say we were victorious!

That just about ends my year in review, and looking back on it all, I’ve been awfully busy in 2018 pursuing a new extension of my collecting hobby.  I can honestly say I’ve been loving every bit of it, and I’ve certainly adored getting to know everyone I’ve met over the past few years since starting up this blog and getting more into video-making and playing through my collection.  I keep hoping that this blogging world and the streaming/video-making worlds collide. We all loves games so much and there are so many wonderful, wonderful people to connect with.

I truly hope 2018 has been great for you all.  Though I’m not posting as much here as I used to, I’m still keeping an eye on all the goings-on here.  I wish you all the very best in 2019, in both your gaming endeavours and everything else in between.  Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading!

-GG

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Two Months Worth of Game Hunting

It’s always quite shocking to me when I come back to write up a post and realize it has been several months since the last one.  I knew things had slowed down but I didn’t realize quite how much they had slowed!  Anyway, I’ve finally managed to amass enough games to put a post together.  I had been hopeful toward the end of summer that I’d be able to make it out to a few swaps in the fall, but one of the ones that we normally go to didn’t run this year.  That left me mostly at the mercy of classifieds and the occasional eBay purchase or thrift store perusal, but nonetheless, here are some things I tracked down over the past couple of months.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll already know that I’m an enormous fan of the Master System.  Even though I only discovered the platform a few years ago, it has quickly become very near and dear to me and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to buy a boxed system, especially not for $100.  Before buying this, I wasn’t really aware that there were many, many iterations of this console released in the US and Canada, and this particular model was one of the first released in Canada, specifically.  It comes with controllers where the cord comes out of the side rather than the top, but nonetheless, I’m glad to have it.  The box itself is a little beat up at the enclosure, but overall, everything else was pretty well maintained.  The only problems I ran into so far were needing to clean some of the “melted”(?) styrofoam off of some of the wires. The rest of the items cleaned up quite nicely.  I’m pretty sure that the weird backwards joystick shown in the photo didn’t come with this system, and I’m not sure what the missing item might be.  The space does look pretty perfect for a game box.

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Next up is a handheld console: a Game Gear! I’ve never had one of my own before, and although this one looks just fine from the front, there are some issues with the battery door and a bit of cracking in one of the corners.  Though it’s not in the greatest shape, I got it for $10 with the hopes of maybe sending it away to be modified at some point for A/V out so I can stream with it.  There are a few people online that can do the mod, but I’m secretly hoping my boyfriend might be able to try it out himself.  I’ve heard it’s a tough procedure, so I’ll start shopping around soon to see who is performing such duties out in the world just in case a home job doesn’t work out.

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Onto some games! I did track down a few Game Boy / Game Boy Colour games in the last little while, and one of those is Cosmo Tank.  I first heard about this game from a YouTube video and decided to explore it a bit further.  Even though the ad listed an English copy of the game unfortunately the seller sent me a copy of the Japanese version instead.  I’ve heard that it’s still very playable regardless, so I didn’t bother trying to send it back.  Mario Tennis was also something I had been wanting to find given that some of the Mario Golf or Tennis games sometimes come along with an RPG-inspired single player mode.  I tried it out for a few minutes and had my ass handed to me, so I definitely think I need some practice!  Last but certainly not least here is Mega Man V!  In a previous post, I was complaining about an overpriced copy of the game for $119 + 13% sales tax at a local thrift store. I amazingly bought this one for $70. It’s still more than I wanted to spend, but this is only the second time I’ve seen this game ever and decided to strike while the iron was hot.

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Getsu Fuuma Den is a Famicom game that is filled with a play style along the lines of something like SpellCaster’s action sequences: a sidescrolling platformer.  Though this game was touted to be English-friendly from a friend online, I’m not so sure that I’ll be able to play it without using some sort of guide.  It was extremely cheap at around $5 shipped from eBay, and low prices tend to be the trend for Japanese games for the most part.  At the very least, the label art rocks!  Am I allowed to still say “rocks” or does that make me sound too much like a 90s kid?  All I know is that I get a ThunderCats vibe from it, and that makes me happy.

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Tucked away on a thrift shop shelf among many, many sports games, I happened to find Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for the Wii.  This game was an absolute steal at $2, and it’s in near perfect condition.  There is no sign of a single scratch on the disc, and the manual and registration card are crisp and minty.  I’ve been assured that Wario games are a lot of fun, and if it’s anything like the other Wario games, I’m sure it’ll be a good time.  I’m still feeling traumatized from one of the mini games in Wario Ware for the GBA where you spray a tiny, smiling brown star with what can only be a portable bidet…

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I’ve always been a fan of Mickey Mouse games, with my first love being Word of Illusion on the Sega Genesis.  Since I didn’t grow up with an SNES, I missed out on all the Mickey Mouse games for the system.  I’m happy I stumbled upon an ad for The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, a game that has received relatively positive reviews as far as I can tell.  I love fantasy worlds and when a world is revolving around some of my favourite cartoon characters, things only get better and better.  I’m looking forward to this one!

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Speaking of the Genesis, I found some games for that system at a pretty good deal as well.  The first is X-Men, which came with its case and manual.  The manual seems to have gotten wet at some point and the game also seems to smell a little bit like laundry detergent.  This seems to be a common theme for games I’ve picked up.  They’re either filthy and damp-smelling, or they smell like laundry.  Where do you guys store your games?  I’m genuinely curious!  Either way, X-Men is supposed to be pretty decent and the rest of the game was in fairly good shape.  Sadly, there was no poster inside. No maps or hints for me!

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A second set of games we picked up for the Genesis were The Ooze and Mutant League Hockey.  I had never heard of The Ooze previous to purchase, but a friend of mine did a brief review of Mutant League Hockey that sold me on the game.  I don’t normally tend toward sports games, but this one looks like too much fun to pass up.  You can likely tell from the photo below that the game’s art has been sun bleached, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I got this game for $15!  The guy who sold these things to me also sold me Mega Man V and he decided to let me have first pick of some of his collection he was parting ways with.  Mutant League Hockey usually goes for much more money, but he knew it was going to a good home and didn’t mind selling it to me for much less than regular asking price.  I’m pretty grateful for this!

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And last but not least are some NES games!  I’ve expanded my NES library quite a bit in the last little while because of a certain streamer I’ve been watching, The ReNesance. He has a penchant for puzzle platformers, and Milon’s Secret Castle is a game I think I might be able to manage after watching him play through it.  He also played NES Open Tournament Golf lately, and that was a game I had never really looked at seriously before.  Both of those games were $10 each.  And I’m sure you’re not truly believing your eyes, but I finally, finally managed to track down Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom!  I used some eBay bucks and a promotional code to snag this one, and though it’s still more than I wanted to spend on the game at $100, the game is in really, really nice shape.  I’m happy to finally put the search for Princess Tomato to rest.

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So given that winter is pretty much in full swing out this way and highway conditions have quickly deteriorated for travel, I’m going to continue to rely heavily on classifieds ads for most of my game hunting.  Wish me luck!  I hope your game-hunting and game-playing adventures are going smoothly.

As always, thank you for reading.

-GG

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Last Summer Game Swap/Exchange

Somehow several weeks have managed to fly by since I went to a game swap event.  I think I mentioned previously how hard it has been to find things locally over the last many months save for a few exceptions, but game swaps are normally a different story.  You know that there are going to be some good games there, and it’s just a question of whether or not the price is right.  I found some really great games and spent more than I was thinking I would, but after such a slow summer, I didn’t mind spending money I had already put aside for collecting anyway.

The first thing that I picked up was Oracle of Ages for Game Boy Colour.  You might be remembering somewhere deep inside the corners of your brains that I had fixed up a non-working copy in a post in the distant past.  Well, although we fixed it at the time, I tried starting it up again and discovered that it was completely dead again despite not having touched it since.  How it died or what it means for a cartridge like that to die completely is puzzling, but it is truly dead despite having no physical signs of damage. No amount of reflowing solder or other fixes revived it. Rest in peace, little cartridge.

Either way, I was lucky enough to find a new copy complete in box and with a much nicer label than my old copy.  The box is in nice condition, and given that I have Oracle of Seasons in near mint condition in box as well, it’s great to have both games at a similar level of completeness.  You may or may not know that my favourite Zelda game is Link’s Awakening, and Ages and Seasons were made in the same engine.  I really, really want to play these ones.  I also have another game hanging around called For Whom the Frog Tolls also made in Awakening’s engine, and it’s a translation of a Japan-only game with RPG flavours.  I digress! There is more to talk about!

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The second thing I picked up was a copy of a game I’ve been looking for for ages on the Game Boy: Gargoyle’s Quest.  I remember seeing gameplay of this one a long time ago and wanted to know more about the series.  I also only recently discovered that there was a Gargoyle’s Quest II on NES between this game and Demon’s Crest for SNES.  I love games that are a mixture of platforming with RPG elements (Faxanadu, anyone?) so something like this is right up my alley. I have no idea if I’ll ever own the other games in this series since they’re less common and more expensive, but this is a great place to start in the meantime.

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I’ve been catching a lot of streams lately from friends on both Twitch and YouTube, and one of my friends streamed Gun.Smoke for NES.  Though that kind of game is not my usual fare, I saw it at the swap for a decent price and scooped it up.  It turns out that it was one of the first games my boyfriend ever played on NES as a youngster and was thrilled that I had brought it home.  It was a happy coincidence!  I think I heard somewhere that there are several label variants for this game.  If any of you own this game do you have this one or the other label?  I don’t know what the difference is in terms of timing of release or anything, but I’m just curious to know.

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Someone that watches my Twitch streams recommended that I pick up the game Shadowrun on SNES.  For a little while I kept thinking that I already had it, but I was thinking about Shadowgate for NES instead.  Apparently the SNES version has more action to it compared to the Genesis version which sticks to more of the tedious RPG elements, and on good advice I snatched this version up instead.  I had taken several walks around the convention hall looking for other copies of the game, and I’m pretty sure this was the only one. Lucky me!

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Now I think we all know by now just how much I love the Sega Master System.  I was tickled pink when a nice man sold me two games, Psycho Fox and Montezuma’s Revenge.  You could tell immediately that this person took great care of these games over the course of the time he owned them.  The boxes were in custom plastic cases to accommodate the case tabs, and the manual and game cartridges inside the cases were also wrapped up in plastic bags.  He had some pretty high prices on the games but after talking for a while and him seeing that I wasn’t just going to flip and resell his stuff, he came down to almost half of what he had been asking for both.  I think Montezuma’s revenge was originally a C64 game while Psycho Fox was an SMS exclusive (I could be wrong though.)  They were both games I had been wanting to find for a while, and buying them up means that my Master System collection is even closer to being complete.  I don’t know that there are too many more Master System games out there that I’m desperate to get my hands on.  But take a look at how beautiful these games are! They honestly look like they’ve never been played.

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Psycho Fox also came with a neat poster that I had never seen before.  In many of the other Master System games I own the included poster is the same generic one with all of the new releases on the back.  This one is special and is conveniently in absolutely pristine condition. I might have to stick this one in a frame or something.  There are a lot of great box art clips on it, including Psychic World.  It’s one of my favourite games for the system.

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The last game I got was a highly sought after RPG for the Sega Saturn for me: Albert Odyssey.  I never dreamed that I would actually get to own this game because of how expensive it is, but then suddenly there it was with a person that was willing to negotiate quite a bit on price.  Working Designs can really do no wrong, and I’ve heard that Albert Odyssey is an absolute gem to play.  I now have two good Saturn games, and that’s this one along with Shining Wisdom.  Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up a few other games in the future, but collecting for the Saturn is a financial nightmare.  If I never find another Saturn game, I could be happy with the two of these.

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So that brings us to the end of another swap post.  There is supposed to be another event coming up at the end of this month, and weather permitting, I might just have to go to it and see if I can finally find Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom for NES.  That game is still evading me and I’d really like to add it to my collection sometime!  This swap was highly successful at least, and as usual, here’s a little family photo of all the games I picked up here.

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I hope your collecting endeavours (if you collect) have been productive.  In many ways, I’m looking forward to the quiet of winter when I’ll finally be able to stop thinking so much about collecting and start enjoying my games.

Thanks so much for reading!

-GG

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Mishmash – My Favourite Kinds of Game Potatoes

The classifieds have been right up my alley lately.  I’ve found more games I was looking for in the last few weeks than I have all summer long and it has been such a welcome thing finding things again!  I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with two people with extras lying around or that were selling off parts of their personal collection, so the quality of the games I’ve been picking up have mainly been good.  No surprise water damage, no bad contacts or broken traces on boards… just good, clean games.

The first person I picked some games up from was a nice man who had lots of doubles.  He had listed a huge pile of common games, most of which I had already.  I did get a few things from him and the first two games were Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos for NES.  These games look to be tough as nails and beyond my skill level and capability at the moment, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to practice and defeat them some day.  I know a few folks that have had luck beating the first game, so there’s hope for me at least!  I honestly thought these games would be more expensive for some reason, but they were both pretty cheap.

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I also got two other games from the same person, and they are Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage for SNES, and Donkey Kong for Game Boy.  I honestly picked up the Bugs Bunny game on a whim and haven’t given it too much attention yet, but Donkey Kong was something I had been looking for for ages!  It’s constantly on Top 10 lists of Game Boy games because it’s not just the regular arcade game.  It is for about four levels and then it switches gears to become a platformer/puzzler with a lot of charm.  The cartridge unfortunately has a bit of wear on its label, but it turns on and works just fine.  That’s all I can ask for from a Game Boy game that was clearly well-loved and must’ve been stuck in a Game Boy for a very long time.  I paid $45 for these and the two Ninja Gaidens, so that wasn’t altogether too bad!

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Another classifieds ad was practically all about Sega, and you all know how I love my Sega! There were lots of great games in his list, and a very diverse and expansive collection.  By the time I got around to answering his ad a few things were already reserved by others but I did manage to sneak in and get a few things that I was missing for my collection.  The first was a bit of a disappointment: Operation Wolf for the Sega Master System.  Operation Wolf is one of a few known PAL region games that are incompatible with NTSC systems.  I should’ve known better about this one but had my fingers crossed that it might magically work out.  The game turns on just fine but it doesn’t allow you to control anything and you end up dying immediately.  The guy threw it in for free for me since he knew of these issues, so at least it’s nice on the shelf.  If it were heavier, I might turn it into an anchor.

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He had another Master System game that I wanted: Zillion II.  I went through a lot of rigmarole to get my hands on the first Zillion game and had been looking for the second.  This one was definitely priced to sell and even though it’s just a short little game, I thought it might be fun to try out.  From what I understand it’s completely different from the first game and is more focused on action.  While testing it out I think I died almost immediately, so that should be fun.

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The seller also had games for most of the cartridge-based systems, and he had a really good condition copy of Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure.  I used to rent this game pretty regularly growing up along with things like Toejam and Earl: Panic on Funkotron and Ren & Stimpy, and I remember the game being fun but difficult for some reason.  I was thrown right back to my teenaged years with the title screen and after about an hour of playing, I put it away for another day.  I’m looking forward to finally beating that one sometime.

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Lastly from this person, he had some games for handheld systems.  For the Game Gear, I got my hands on Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya.  Now I can cool off my quest to find Shining Force CD and focus on playing this version instead!  The only Nintendo game I got from him was for the Game Boy Advance, and that was Lady Sia.  I had seen this game at a local hock shop countless times for $30, and I’m glad I waited. I got a pretty sweet deal on all these games overall.  I think I paid $75 for everything.

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The last bunch of games I picked up I found at a game store I visited.  The prices for NES games were remarkably reasonable, so I picked up Astyanax and 8 Eyes for $10 altogether.  I have a feeling I’m going to want to ear 8 Eyes a new… eye? after playing it for a while but I think it’s well worth trying out. Astyanax had me at the dragon and swordsman  on the cover.

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The last two games I found at the store were for the N64.  The first was a game I’d been looking for for a friend of mine for a long while, and that was Starcraft 64.  The game’s label is pretty beat up and I think I’d rather try Starcraft on the PC at some point, but I’m glad that I finally found it for my buddy.  The other game was Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage, one of the very few RPGs for the system.  Though it received mainly mixed reviews online, I’m hopeful that it’ll be a decent game. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a manual online to help orient myself when the time comes!

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Well that was certainly a mouthful.  I’m sure since the gaming gods have smiled kindly upon me over the past few weeks that I’m destined to find nothing else until 2019, but thankfully I do have a few other posts in the works.  I’ve been to a swap and am still getting some photos edited for the post I’ve been working on about picking up an arcade machine, so stay tuned for those.

As always, thanks very much for reading.

-GG

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Slower than Molasses Going Uphill in January…

That’s what my mom used to call me whenever I’d take too much time getting dressed in the morning, or when I was generally being slow at life.  This is the best way I can describe how game hunting has been for the past few months.  I’m quickly realizing that I have a lot of games that I want already, and what I don’t have yet isn’t likely to show up in the wild in the classifieds or at a thrift store.  People are also selling common games for much higher prices out my way so I haven’t been buying up game lots for a few games and trading away the rest anymore.  The deals just aren’t there.  It’s been quite the crawl, and unless I’ve gone off to a game store or ordered stuff off of eBay, I can’t say I’ve had much luck at all.

Despite being more miss than hit lately, I did track down a small pile of games at a thrift store a few weeks ago.  The first of the bunch were the first two games in the Uncharted series.  I don’t usually go out of my way to buy PS3 games, but these were in beautiful condition and came with their manuals as well.  For $3 each they were a pretty decent deal.  I don’t know much about the series but I’ve heard that it’s well-loved and I’m sure I’ll get around to trying them out sometime in the future.

I was also surprised to find a sealed PS1 game in the bunch.  I stumbled upon Martian Gothic: Unification and chuckled to myself reading through a few reviews of the game after getting home. People generally find this game to be abysmal, and it might stay sealed for a long while since I’m not in any rush to play an abysmal game. I have too many good games to play to start wading through the bad ones just to say I did!

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In addition to these, I picked up A Boy and his Blob for Wii. I was patient with this game since it first appeared in the glass case at the thrift store for $16.  I waited a few weeks and since nobody picked it up, it eventually ended up on the shelf with a reduced price tag of $7.  I picked it up because I never had the chance to play the NES version, and I’ve heard this remake is a really big game with lots of levels and less obtuse puzzles than the original.  The graphics look really cute and I really need more reasons to bust out my Wii.  This disc was also in impeccable shape so it was hard to turn it down.  The manual looks like it has never even been touched before.  That’s how I like to find my games: pristine!

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Though I’ve ultimately put aside the Sega Master System RPG quest for a little while to play other things, I did pick up an SMS game lately that would fit quite nicely with my other RPGs from that console.  Heroes of the Lance was recommended to me by a YouTube commenter, and though I’m sure he means well, I think he might just like to see people suffer since this game looks pretty hard.  I’m completely unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons in any of its many forms so I’ll be going in blind for a game like this. There are aspects that look promising and it’s been a habit of mine to like games that nobody else does, so naturally I rolled the dice when this one.   Anything with a dragon on its cover is more or less going to captivate me whether I want it to or not.  I should also mention that the manual is really, really long.  When I first saw it I was immediately intimidated, but only 12 or so of the pages are in English!  I’m a bit torn because I wish that there was more than 12 pages of information to set me on a path to success, but I’m glad it’s not an 80-pager.

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In handheld news I picked up two games.  You might be wondering why on earth I’d ever consider buying the horrendous excuse of a game on the left in the photo below, but there’s a tiny story there.  I thought I owned it already.  I was convinced it was a terrible symptom of the pile of games I got from my friend Joe last year, but it turned out I didn’t have it after all.  I was reminded of the game while browsing Twitter one day: someone had made a thread describing bad games nobody should play, and N*Sync Get to the Show was on the list.  I decided to buy it because it gave me such a laugh, and though it’s probably one of the worst games I own, I’m desperately looking forward to playing it sometime.  Mario Golf Advance Tour is something I’ve been hoping to find for a while.  People have been going on a lot about Golf Story for Switch, and the idea of a golf RPG is pretty appealing to me.  What better place to start than here?  I also want to pick up the Mario Tennis games that have RPG elements as well as Mario Pinball Land.  I need all the Mario games on the GBA.

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Last but not least, I did pick up 3 NES games: Bionic Commando, Air Fortress, and Castlequest.  The first two have been recommended to me by a relatively new friend of mine, The ReNesance.  I’m going to link his YouTube channel here because he is an extremely talented painter and skilled retro gamer that I’d highly encourage everyone to check out.  He paints video game landscapes in his series called the GameScape Artist, and I can’t get enough of watching creative people do creative things, so his stuff is right up my alley.  Go and take a peek at him!  You won’t be disappointed!  But yes, he has gone on and on about how excellent Air Fortress and Bionic Commando are (and has done some gameplay of the former here), so I was happy to find those both at a game store nearby and make them my own.  Castlequest came to me from the land of eBay and was relatively cheap as it should be… there certainly aren’t fan mobs clamouring to get their hands on the game, but that doesn’t tell me anything about its funness or goodness.  People also never talk much about Faxanadu, and that’s one of my favourite games of all time.

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So a small yet happy post showcasing my scroungings from the last few months.  There are a few game swaps coming up this month that I’m going to try to make it out to.  I have high hopes that I’ll be able to cross some more things off my list and maybe do a bit of shopping for friends there too.  I’ve also been working on some other posts but am waiting for photos from my other half, so whenever he decides to get those over to me I’ll be able to tell you all about our arcade cabinet…

Hope you’re all getting ramped up for the long weekend.  Enjoy it, and thanks for reading!

-GG

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Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Has Changed Me

This has truly been the slowest game hunting year I’ve had to date, so my blog has been pretty quiet lately.  Though I have a few things on the go in terms of posts coming your way, in lieu of game collecting and blogging here, I’ve been busy playing through some of my crushing backlog, livestreaming, and putting together Let’s Plays and reviews/retrospectives on my YouTube channel. One game that I played through recently has really changed the way I approach RPGs in general.  Though I put it more succinctly in the video below, I still wanted to share a few thoughts about Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar for the Sega Master System.

Now I’ve played enough RPGs in my life to know what makes one good or bad in my mind. The game has to have a good story, likeable characters, and have a good buildup towards vanquishing the ultimate evil that has turned the game’s world upside down. What I had never considered before playing Ultima IV is what happens when there is no evil to conquer.  What happens when you’re just a person on a quest to not fight a malevolent being, but to instead personify all good things about human nature to be a beacon of hope and an example for others?

Ultima IV challenged everything that I knew about RPG tropes and forced me to think about it all in a different way. Normally I rush into battles and kill everything to become more experienced, but the game’s virtue system forced me to think about what I should be killing, if anything. A few questions I kept having to ask myself were do all creatures deserve to die in battle? Is valour more important than compassion towards other living creatures? How is justice served out to beings that are evil?  Am I the one that should choose to inflict death on something that I have no jurisdiction over?  So many questions!  The game’s virtue system not only forces you to think of these things so that you can eventually beat the game (you need to increase your virtues to win), but it also makes you think about these concepts in reference to your own morals and values.  I’m by no means doing the game’s virtue system justice by rambling on about battling, but so many other things in the game’s adventure force you to think about your actions in-game and contemplate how you as a person might handle similar situations in your own real life.  For example, many of the shopkeepers are blind and you can underpay them and get away with it. Your virtue rating for honesty goes down if you do, but you’ll have a pocket full of reagents to use and money left over to buy weapons and armour if you want to. Though I’d never steal from someone in real life, my curiosity would swell once in a while and I’d wonder what would happen if I did steal from those women.  Usually games allow us to live out a life we might never lead ourselves. Ultima IV puts a stop to that pretty quickly and punishes you for becoming the “bad guy”.  Every action you take in-game only affects you and your progress. If you steal treasure that belongs to others, you’re going to have to make up for that by being extra honest in the future to regain those honesty points.  If you don’t donate to beggars or give blood at the healer, your sacrifice rating will never increase.  Even dying in battle rewards you for sacrificing yourself! Ultima IV is upside down and topsy-turvey from every other game I’ve ever played.

The other thing I really loved about the game was that the main character is a completely blank slate. Anyone can step into the shoes of that character and experience the game from a personal perspective rather than have to try to conform to a developed character with a backstory.  I could never really relate to characters that were forced from their homes and were joining a rebellion to regain their destroyed worlds.  I also couldn’t relate much to the protagonist chosen by prophecy to become the hero of the land and strike down negative forces.  The protagonist in Ultima IV, the Avatar, is very much relatable.  All you know about him or her is that they got sucked into a magical world and have been asked to lead a good life and become virtuous to encourage others to do the same. As a regular human living a regular life, you could literally be that random person who was drawn into the world of Britannia to start your quest.  Very few games let you shape the game’s experience from your own perspective rather than seeing it through the eyes of a pre-formed character, and that was a really special thing for me in this experience.

Now how has the game changed me and the way I think about RPGs you might ask? A lot of it stems from how going forward, I will never be able to play other games without feeling incredibly spoiled. A few examples are:

  1. Ultima IV makes you do everything yourself.  You want to heal? You need to make a potion for that.  Got poisoned wandering around in some swamp? You need to make a potion for that. Oh, you want to cast a spell that requires mandrake root or nightshade that can’t be found in stores? Get ready to talk to every single person in the world of Britannia to find a vague hint about where to look for those reagents. Everything is work, but there’s a great degree of satisfaction in that type of gameplay. I also love games like Harvest Moon for that very reason. It’s gratifying to see your work pay off.
  2. Acquiring information and using it isn’t easy in Ultima IV.  Many games I’ve played give some sort of auditory cue or highlight phrases to let you know that they’re important.  Those words are then thrown back in your face when you need them again.  Ultima IV does none of that. As a first-time player, I sat through conversation after conversation with many different people and had no idea what was or wasn’t important in our discussions. I had pages of notes that I never used, diagrams of things that I drew out just in case I needed them, and very little of it turned out to be relevant to my quest. In the Master System version, once keywords are discovered they will appear in conversations with people you’re supposed to talk to about certain things. This isn’t the case in all versions of the game.
  3. Battles can’t be won by smashing the Attack command over and over. You have to avoid physical obstacles and plan ahead in each battle based on what kind of terrain the battle is triggered on (for example, hilly areas have giant rocks in the way of ranged attacks.) You also have to think about your weaker characters and make sure that they’re never exposed to enemy attack. This is similar to front/back row dynamics in other RPGs, but sometimes when you enter a room in a dungeon and your weakest character is facing a bunch of enemies despite the best planning, it can be pretty devastating.
  4. Spells can only be used in battle if you’ve made them in advance. There is so much planning involved in Ultima IV, and you can soon be up the brownest creek of them all if you haven’t bought and mixed reagents to make various spells in advance of battle.  Though there are no bosses to fight, there are still really tough enemy encounters that can wipe out your entire party in an instant if you aren’t prepared. And in Ultima IV, it’s not just a matter of using a magic point restorative and casting away… if you don’t have a spell made up in your inventory, you don’t get to use it. And don’t think you can just run from battle and try it again. You’ll lose valour!
  5. Dying in-game is costly. You might remember me complaining a long while back about needing to pay $30 000 to revive a character in Miracle Warriors. This was the worst thing, right?  Well don’t think that dying in Ultima IV is going to be any easier. If anything, it’s far, far worse. If your whole party is wiped, say if you’ve gotten sunk at sea, the guy who is supposed to be helping you can’t get your stuff back from the void.  Any food, money, and fancy armour or weapons you had are gone. It’s often easier just to reset than to try to revive your party. Other games obviously let you start over from your last save or back where you died with everything intact. There is a huge difference in Ultima IV that again requires thinking ahead and careful planning.

Pretty much, Ultima IV has made me a more gracious and thankful RPG player. I’ve played Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and Illusion of Gaia since finishing up Ultima IV, and I felt like I had a lot more patience for all the little things that used to annoy me in games like those. Compared to the things I had to do in the land of Britannia to make it through, these other RPGs felt like a cake-walk. Mystic Quest and Gaia are both very linear so that might have a lot to do with that feeling, but it’s almost as if the trials and tedium of Ultima IV have increased my expectations of other games and they’re falling a bit short somehow. Though other RPGs produce less worrisome things both in quality and quantity making the game feel easier (easier = more fun), these other games I’ve played lately lack a lot of the micromanaging and head scratching that made the payoff feel so much more deserved and amazing in Ultima IV.  I hope that I can get back to just enjoying games for what they are rather than constantly making comparisons, but in a way, I’m really glad that I stuck it out through to the end of Ultima IV.  I feel like I can call myself a true RPG veteran after becoming the Avatar.

Before I go, I do think it’s important to say that I’d completely recommend Ultima IV to anyone wanting to play a game from a series that established so much of what we consider to be normal in the RPG genre. Just be aware that the learning curve is pretty steep and though it might feel frustrating and unintuitive at first, there’s lots of really thought-provoking gameplay just beyond the clunky interface.  I almost quit several times along the way myself, but some good old fashioned encouragement from people in the know helped me to push through.  If you don’t want to play the game yourself but want to see more of it, I did play through the entire game and recorded it for the internet. Though I’m sure there are only a small handful of people who want to watch this, I really wanted to put it out there so more people might get to experience the game in some form or another. It’s really worthwhile.

Have any of you dabbled in the Ultima series? I’ve recently bought up most of the rest of the games on GOG and am looking forward to dive into Ultima V some day. I also wanted to put it out there that if any of you want to play Ultima IV and ever need an ear or some advice, I’d be happy to help you through it.  There’s nothing like having a friend in your pocket to rely on if you need it.  These are the kinds of games that are meant to be played with company!

Thank you guys so much for reading! I hope you’re all enjoying what’s left of the weekend.

-GG

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