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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Hamsters, Penguins, and Sunlight: A Swap

I had the pleasure of going to another swap last weekend, and just for a bit of context, it was about double the size of the one that we went to late last month.  Not only are there more vendors at this event, but the day is more video game-focused rather than having a lot of toy or art vendors that don’t pique my interest as much.  We have also gotten our arrival timing down to an art where we get there just slightly after the event opens. We avoid the line and we also get in on some of the goodies before they all get snatched up!  I was pretty happy at what I was able to find at this one, but sadly my boyfriend came away with only a Pandora’s Box, an arcade emulation box with a Jamma connector that can be played on our home-made arcade cabinet.  He was actually pretty sad about the downgrade in quality for some of the games he loves like Neo Turf Masters, but I think there should still be a few gems hiding amongst some of the junk.  Hopefully.

As many of you know, I’ve been after NES games for a long while now, especially RPGs.  Just when I think I’ve finished my list of games I want to buy for the NES, someone goes and informs me of one I haven’t seen before.  The most recent example of this was a friend’s video review of Destiny of an Emperor.  It actually looks like a really interesting game that is a breath of fresh air from the turn-based games I’ve been playing lately.  I also found Karnov which I could’ve sworn I had already but didn’t.  I’m really bad at it, but hopefully I’ll get better after a few attempts at it.  Other great games I tracked down at this swap included Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger, an uncommon action RPG that I’ve been dying to find but could never find it under $100.  Its label had some snags and was a little beat up, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the other labels on games I’ve bought in the past.  Magician was also available for purchase.  I’m a little torn at whether or not I’ll like Magician since it has a miserable food system that can get to be quite onerous from what I’ve read about the game, but the music captivated me from the moment I turned on the system.  The game is really beautiful too.  I need to play more of it!  Last but not least from the NES games was Ultima Exodus, the third game in the Ultima series.  Even though I’ve been playing Ultima IV for a long while now, I think I’m a bit addicted to the difficulty and tedium of that game and want more of it somehow.  I’ve stopped questioning how my brain works by this point, but the Ultima series is quickly becoming one of my favourites.  Altogether, I paid $110 for these five games. A steal!

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Another cool game I discovered for the first time recently was Comix Zone for the Sega Genesis.  This game took my breath away when I watched a friend streaming the game one weekend afternoon.  The game unfolds on the pages of a comic book and your character fights bad guys as he moves from panel to panel.  The aesthetic is just indescribable for something of its age and I initially thought the game was from a much more modern system.  The difficulty level is pretty high on this one and I’m not usually very good at beat ’em ups, but this might be a good place to start.  Considering it was only $10, I couldn’t pass it up!

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I did also run into a game for the Sega Master System that I had been looking for pretty casually.  Penguin Land is a puzzle game that involves you moving your egg to safety without cracking it.  I’m usually not drawn to puzzle games but this one really made me smile when I saw some gameplay footage of it.  Plus, the penguin looks like Penta who stars in several games I’m a big fan of. I only paid $15 for this one with its case and manual.

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I found a few games for the Game Boy Advance as well, the first being Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak.  This one has been on my list for a while, and you may recall me picking up a few other games in the series like Ham-Hams Unite! and Ham-Ham Games.  I’ve been watching a lot of Hamtaro lately and I’ve fallen back in love with the show.  The characters are pretty fleshed out and the writing is pretty good, and Ham-Ham Heartbreak is just an extension of all of that.  I came up empty-handed looking for this game at the last couple of swaps, but I lucked out at this one.  I snatched the cartridge up for $25. Unfortunately toward the end of the day, I saw another copy for $20, but considering the deals I got on other things throughout the day, it didn’t put me too far behind.  I am no longer losing sleep over it.

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Some other Game Boy Advance games that I picked up were a little more in line with my regular fare, and the first was Fire Emblem.  I never expected to buy this game complete, but since I don’t really play a ton of strategy RPGs, passing up a decently priced virtually mint copy with the manual was not really an option for me.  I picked it up for $100, and though I probably could’ve found it a bit cheaper if I had waited, I was able to buy it from a friend of mine that I’ve gotten to know over the past few years going out to these things.  He cut me a deal on another game, so I didn’t feel bad not getting a super discount on this one.

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Another game for the Game Boy Advance I had been interested in finding for a while was Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand.  The weird cartridge you see in the photo has a light sensor in it that is used as one of the game’s mechanics. By using literal sunlight, your character can vanquish dark enemies that are susceptible to light. It’s a neat thing, and I think you can trick the cartridge into believing it’s daytime by using a full UV spectrum light. We have one of those hanging around, so it’ll be an experimental process seeing if everything is working properly.  I paid $60 for this one.

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Lastly, I picked up a copy of Thousand Arms for the Playstation.  I already have a copy of this game, but I wanted to pass another copy along to a friend.  It was there and in beautiful shape, so I couldn’t say no!

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And that’s that!  What a fun game swap that was.  I’m looking forward to the others that will be happening over the next few months around these parts.  As usual, here’s a group photo of all the games I found.  Sadly there was nobody with a huge bin of manuals, but hopefully next time!

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Thank you all very much for reading, and happy almost-weekend!

-GG

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Swippity Swap, Swap-bee-do-ba-do-bop

Swap season has officially begun!  This year I had some time to sit down and make a hefty list of things I should be looking for thanks to a bunch of recommendations from people on Twitter, as well as some personal research.  As usual, my list was populated with mostly retro RPGs, but also a few platformer titles like Karnov for the NES.  Some of the usual games I’ve been hunting for are still on there after several years of searching, like Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom for NES.  I am still kicking myself for not picking it up for $60 a few years ago when I saw it because I haven’t seen it again since!

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to matter how much list-making and planning I do, the results of any swap meet are always going to be dependent on what is there and how free and loose I’m feeling with my cash in a given day.  We also brought along a huge tote of trades with us in anticipation of any big purchases, and thankfully that was a great idea and paid off enormously.

The first game I picked up was Uninvited for NES.  There had been lots of chatter about this game online via discussions about Deja Vu and Shadowgate, two other games in that series that I already own but unsurprisingly haven’t played.  Univited popped onto my radar for the first time when a friend of mine did a playthrough on her YouTube channel.  The first-person point-and-click is certainly something I gravitate towards, and with a mild horror setting, count me in!  I had checked game prices on eBay for this one and decided to hold out until the swap to see if I could find it for cheaper.  My patience paid off and I found what appeared to be the only copy there for around $60.

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The rest of the games here I traded for.  I had a bunch of common games for NES, PS1 and Game Boy that I was able to trade for a total asking price of about $750 Canadian for the next four games.  Call me crazy, but turning doubles and triples of common games into some really excellent rarer ones is something I never hesitate to do!  Onwards!

Firstly, I found a copy of Syd of Valis for the Sega Genesis.  I think of all the games I picked up, this one was the most overpriced especially given its condition.  The price tag was $55 and it goes online for cheaper than that, but for trade, I didn’t mind so much.  A lot of the people at the swaps now recognize my boyfriend and I as regulars that make a point to get out to these things, so we’re often getting thrown a deal here and there.  Rapport building is something I do not just for the benefits of nepotism, but because I’m genuinely looking to network out there with like-minded people and maybe make a few friends in the process.  Who knows?

Here’s a photo of the game!  At this size, you can definitely see some of the gouges and scuffs on the label.  The game works like a charm the first time every time, but I don’t really know many Genesis games that don’t.  Either way, it’s a fun RPG-like action game that I’m sure I’ll enjoy playing some day.

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Though I keep forgetting to post about it, we did find a Sega Saturn last summer with a bunch of sports games.  I had never managed to find any affordable Saturn games in any genres I like since that time, but thankfully a specific seller had a Saturn RPG and a couple of Sega CD games I wanted.  The game I picked up for the Saturn was Shining Wisdom, an action RPG from Working Designs.  Working Designs has its claws in me.  Every time I pick up an RPG I don’t know much about and think I might want to play it, it turns out to be from Working Designs.  Anyway, the game was in great condition with no visible mars or issues physically, though I’m always terrified to invest in disc media.  It’ll inevitably degrade like the floppy discs of yesteryear, but I hope that it’ll live throughout my lifetime.  For reference, the asking price on this one was $200, but the person I bought from dropped it down to $170 in trade value.

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Vay for Sega CD is a pretty cool game with a mature rating, something I’ve rarely seen on older generation console games.  Unsurprisingly it is an RPG from Working Designs that as far as I understand has not been rereleased at any time and is still a Sega CD exclusive.  This disc was a little more beat up than the others, but it seemed to play without too much issue when I tested it out.  Hopefully it won’t stall on me partway through the game though.  The asking price on this game was $100, priced to reflect its condition.

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Just as a side note, I did acquire full-sized game posters for Shining Wisdom and Vay from my friend’s game collection last year.

Last but not least was the most expensive game of the bunch with a whopping price tag of $400: Popful Mail for Sega CD.  I’ve heard this game touted as a holy grail of sorts for people collecting Sega CD and it’s consistently making its way to the top of many best game lists for the console.  And guess what? It’s another Working Designs game!  Because I got this one for trades that I acquired in game lots at lower than market prices, I didn’t pay anywhere near $400 for this game.  I love when that happens.  Testing it was a little scary because it seemed to be rubbing inside of my Sega CD console, leading me to believe that the disc was warped.  Thankfully we tried a backup Sega CD (yes, we have a few of those) and it worked flawlessly.

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I also need to say just how charming these 3 CD-based games look.  They take everything I love about the 16-bit era and clean it up and polish it to be lovelier than I ever thought possible.  I am aware that Sega CD games can be burned and played and deliver the same experience as the actual discs, but there’s something about owning the game and its manual that still appeals to me.  Other games like Snatcher that run almost double what Popful Mail does I’ll likely never have the opportunity to own unless someone gave it to me as a gift or I found it at a yard sale, but I have no problem burning ludicrously priced games to play them.  In this case, an opportunity to get these games for a discount presented itself, so I jumped all over it.

I have another swap post to make shortly, so hopefully you aren’t sated on these gentle acquisitions.  Stay tuned!

As always, thank you very much for reading.  I hope you’re all having a great start to the week!

-GG

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The Super Specific Sunshine Award

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I don’t know how this keeps happening, but you kind folks out there continue to recognize my humble little spot on the internet as a fun place to be!  Thank you very much to Matthew at Normal Happenings for nominating me for a special twist on the Sunshine Blogger Award: The Super Specific Sunshine Award.  I am grateful for the nomination and happily accept it!

Normal Happenings covers lots of things around my favourite topic (gaming!) as well as some personal posts tackling some difficult personal topics.  There’s lots there, so you should definitely take a gander out that way if you haven’t already.  Most notably on a personal level, I’m really excited to be taking part in the Hyrule Collaboration Project being run out of this blog. Mixing Zelda with anything is a recipe for fun and a sure way to get me all fired up!

I have been invited to answer some really fun and interesting super specific questions.  I will do my best to be as specific as possible in the spirit of the award!  Here they are:

 

  1. Text your best friend a potato emoji. What was their reply?

    I have an older phone and there was no potato emoji to be found.  However, my best friend would likely reply with a quote from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, when Will tells Hillary how to get revenge on someone she knows by putting a potato in her car’s exhaust pipe and keying her car.  She later replies:

    “I rubbed that damn potato all over Leeza’s car and it didn’t even make a scratch. At least they didn’t catch me putting my keys in her exhaust pipe.


  2. *RING* *RING*
    YOU: Hello.
    ???: Erm, yeah, this is Beatrix from [your favorite band].
    YOU: Seriously?
    BEATRIX: Seriously! And we need a favor.
    YOU: Uh, okay.
    BEATRIX: We’re trying to appeal to the Millennial crowd, and we need a weird, hipster album title. We’ll use whatever you come up with! Call us back.
    YOU: Hmm… What should I name the album? Also, what is the name of my favorite band?

    The album name would probably be Beard Oil, and the band would be The Offspring. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Dexter Holland with a beard.


  3. You can tame any animal as you would a cat or a dog. They get to live inside your home and become part of your family. Which animal will you tame?

    A kid (baby goat). But it would have to stay little forever, and it would also always have to wear a sweater.


  4. Take one of your favorite quotes, then jumble up the words!
    Example: against be advice The any anybody has actually to has the quality lead of judged they offer life of quality to.
    Actual Quote: The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead. – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    Can anyone in your comments reassemble the quote?

    Really a person you consider until you climb and walk into his point of skin… until things from around in his view of it his you never understand.


  5. What happened in the last dream you can remember? Tell us all about it in excruciating detail.

    I was in my hometown and was invited to a symphony performance.  All my friends from high school that I no longer talk to were going to be there.  The concert was taking place in a townhouse where all my ex-friends were gathered in the living room.  The living room was wallpapered in a yellowish paisley, and all furniture pieces were also yellowed with age, with large orangey-brown flowers adorning their surfaces.  The room was carpeted and was hot and stuffy.  A friend of mine that I haven’t spoken with in two years was also there, dressed head to toe in black and telling a story.  Everyone around her was laughing and they seemed to be getting on just fine without me.  I felt a pit in my stomach and retreated to an upstairs bedroom to pass my time while I waited for my father to come and pick me up.  My friends eventually found me and sat down around me on the bed that suddenly had no sheets or comforter on it, but nobody said anything to me.  They stared at me with anticipation, but I had no idea what to say.  I said nothing.  I remember wanting to leave, but the door was closed and I couldn’t seem to find a way out of the room.


  6. What is a unique dish from your region, country, or culture I should try?

    I have a partial French Canadian heritage, so if you eat meat, you should have some tortiere (meat pie).  Traditionally it can be made with beef but is sometimes a mix of beef and pork.  Some recipes add veggies and other things to make it more diverse, but my family always made it plain with spiced meat in a normal pie crust with a big pile of ketchup on top.  I’m not sure what the spices are… I’d have to ask!  Though it’s not my favourite thing, it’s still a little piece of Canadian culture that I enjoy once a year.


  7. The year: 2024. After a mediocre Summer Olympics, the Committee is trying to breathe to life into the games before interest goes down. Messaging you on LinkedIn, they elect you to the Olympic committee and grant you one thing. You get to incorporate a new Olympic sport – anything you want! What’s your new sport, how will it work, and why?

    Toe-touching for short-armed people.  I’ve recently discovered I have short arms and have not been able to touch my toes.  I want to see some glory brought to others of the short-armed variety.  The event would include ratio-based assessment of toe-touching abilities, comparing leg lengths and arm lengths. The person who could touch their toes and had the most terrible ratio would win.


  8. What is the most dangerous lyric in a pop song, if it is taken literally?
    For example: “Lightning strikes every time she moves” from the song “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris. Just imagine if that were real.

    Slim Pickens by The Offspring says,

    “Slim Pickens, well he does the right thing, and he rides the bomb to hell, yeah he rides the bomb to hell,” and later talks about someone “riding on a missile with a cowboy hat.”  That’s pretty dangerous!

    I think that’s modelled after the actual Slim Pickens, but it’s an excellent song.  I’m not sure if it’s classified as pop, but it’ll have to do!


  9. Oh no! The limited superpower bedbug strikes again!
    Which of the following limited superpowers would choose and why?
    – The ability to, once a week, go back in time exactly one minute.
    – The ability to, once a week, freeze time for exactly one minute.
    – The ability to, once a week, go forward in time exactly one minute.

    I would very likely choose the first option for the days I make a hot breakfast.  On those days, I get into my car and drive away and spend the rest of the day wondering if I turned the stove off.


  10. Self-referential numerical value survey question:
    Are my super specific questions weird?
    1-2: Not weird at all.
    3-4: Kinda weird, but not really.
    5-6: Weird, but not anymore than average.
    7-8: Yeah, you’re getting up there on the weirdness scale.
    9-10: Oh gosh, you’re super weird!

    6! They were definitely a unique set of questions, and I thoroughly enjoyed answering them 😀

Thank you all so much for your continued support in this venture. I hope you all enjoyed my answers.

Happy Monday, and thank you for reading.

-GG

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A Wild SNES Appears

The last month or so, I’ve been trying to focus on local classifieds ads for retro game hunting.  In part, this is because many of my local stores have left me feeling disappointed or have gotten so greedy that I think I am going to take a step back from visiting them for a while.  The next paragraph will detail some of that frustration, but feel free to skip it if you don’t want your dose of complaining for the day.

The thrift store in my city, alongside asking eBay prices for their retro games in many cases, is now starting to add other gaming-related merchandise to their showcase.  The showcase is a locked area at the front of the store where they normally put rare or expensive items to prevent theft.  The most recent additions to this trend are game guides.  I saw a bunch of them behind the glass at the front of the store priced at over $15 each for some not-so-popular games.  This might not seem heinous to most people reading, but these guides used to be available for $4-5 each a few months ago without question, and I’ve even managed to get some really great guides for $1 a piece if I was lucky.  At what point does a store stop being a thrift store?  It’s more like a weird consignment store that just steals your items and sells them at high prices for profit.  I should also make clear that this franchise is not one of the close-to-heart charitable organizations that truly helps the needy like the Salvation Army or Goodwill.  I would never complain about a store selling items at a high price if I knew the money was going to help the people the store was meant to help.  This store I’m struggling with is a full-on beast of a franchise that donates only a small portion of their proceeds to charity, and the lines are quite blurred there about how those donations truly work.  It’s disheartening to see these for-profit companies getting so greedy, but I digress.

Back to the games!

The person I met up with was selling an SNES along with a pile of games.  I mentioned a while back on Twitter that it was becoming increasingly frustrating looking at game lots because I already own a lot of common games that are normally advertised, but this particular game lot had a lot of cartridges I didn’t yet own. It was a no-brainer to scoop this up.  The person selling wanted $120 for 11 games and the console with a few controllers.

The console itself featured a yellow-grey gradient which is just barely visible in this photo.  Maybe its nose was in the sun while the rest of it was tucked quietly away out of the sun’s reach for many years, but at least it doesn’t smell like cigarettes!  I also got my hands on a Super Pad controller which is an aftermarket one.  I do love the PAL-inspired colour scheme on it though!

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The games were all in great shape with the exception of Primal Rage that had stickers stuck to the label, but I think I’ll be able to remove them with minimal damage.  The most exciting new games to me were Cybernator and Ardy Lightfoot.  I had heard of Ardy Lightfoot here and there, praised as one of the better platformers for the SNES given how many people tried to break out on that system with no-name mascots.  Testing the game saw me through a lot of deaths, but I think I will have more fun with it after some practice with the controls.  I especially love the tiny penguin you get to throw around.  Cybernator looks like something I wouldn’t normally be interested in, but I have a love for mech and robots growing inside me constantly.  I really love how destructive the little roboguy is in this game and I had a good time wandering around exploding everything in sight while testing it out.  There is apparently an involved story for Cybernator, so I’m anxious to get into that one eventually.

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I am a hit and miss puzzle game fan, so when Tetris & Dr. Mario and Tetris 2 appeared here, I was a little torn.  I do love me some Dr. Mario on NES, but I don’t know what the hell they did the the music in the SNES version.  It was so unpleasant to listen to that I didn’t spend much time fumbling my way through a few levels before turning it off and banishing to a dark corner of my SNES game shelf.  Tetris 2 is not what I’m used to.  I feel like my spatial perception skills are minimal at best and all these new shapes feel like torture to me. I still struggle with the original, so I am not too sure I will ever reach a level near mastery of this twist on the original’s gameplay.

If there is one game in the bunch here that I would like to light on fire and laugh at maniacally as it melts, it would be Eek! the Cat.  I can just barely recall the television show it was based on and don’t remember liking it very much.  When I popped the cartridge in, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe something cute? Maybe something zany? After seeing the game in action, I realized that it’s just full of awfulness.  Demons, even.  I’ve never had so little fun playing a game in my entire life than I did playing this one for 10 minutes. I feel the same about other games I try out without reading a manual like Populous here, but I know that that game requires some reading and background.  You don’t just dive into Populous expecting to know what to do and have fun right away.  You should be able to dive into Eek! the Cat and maybe have a bit of fun while you’re at it.  Not me!

This is all I have to report for the moment. I wish there was more in terms of hunting in the wild to show here, but alas… it is not yet time. There are some swap events on the way so I’ll be attending some of those and hopefully have some cool stuff to reveal in the short term.  I’m also getting a post together about my gaming space. We’ve made some really great touches to the Nerd Room, so I thought it might be an idea to share that here.  Things are incoming, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, as always.

-GG

 

 

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The Sunshine Blogger Award

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I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen by not one, but two wonderful bloggers to receive the Sunshine Blogger Award just in time for Spring!  Thank you so, so much to my nominators, the first being  Triform Trinity.  Triform Trinity’s site has a great mix of older and newer gaming content, and I first dove in after reading this review of Dark Cloud, a game I’d personally like to see burn in hell but felt a little more tolerant of after reading this balanced and objective review.  My second nomination came from 3PStart.  Though I’m new to The3rdPlayer, I’ve been slowly moving backward through the blog and catching up on some articles. One of my favourites I’ve checked out so far is this one describing memorable moments in select games, and it’s something I feel like I’d like to do myself.

Edit: I’ve also had a third not-so-secret nomination for this one that I missed (sorry again, I’m been horrible at keeping up with blogs lately) from Matthew at Normal Happenings. He had a Super Specific Sunshine Award Nomination just waiting for me, and I’m going to form a separate post to attack those super specific questions!  Thank you so very much!

Both blogs are wonderful and you should check them out if you haven’t already.  Honestly, I won’t be at all offended if you stop reading this and head over there straight away.

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  • Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

 

I’m on to questions now.  I’ll start with the ones posed by Triform Trinity first.

If you could choose one type of food to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

Probably pizza. It’s one of my favourite foods and it’s so diverse that I think it could serve me well for many years. I don’t know how I’d say goodbye to hamburgers or meatballs, though.

Oh, I forgot, please introduce us to you in a way as if we saw a movie in the theatre.

A quiet girl lives far, far up north somewhere in Canada.  She likes video games, especially the older ones.  But something is looming in her home… a backlog so big that it very well may consume her. And all she keeps doing is playing the same five games over and over again…

Would you write in diary or record one instead? Why?

I think I would write.  I’ve always been a fan of writing by hand and I kept a journal for the majority of my teenage and early adult years.  I do sometimes keep a gratitude journal to help focus on the positives.  I’m also not a big fan of speaking my feelings aloud, even if it’s just to myself.  Once you let it out into the universe, it’s out there forever.

What is your favorite commercial you can remember to this day?

Definitely something from the 80s. The Grape Escape commercial was always really catchy and comes back to me often.  I also have this very vague, fuzzy memory of two men pulling bits of hamburger patty off of a giant hamburger and tasting it.  It still makes my mouth water even though I haven’t seen it for at least two decades and have no idea what it was for. Probably Burger King or something.

I am in a bind and in need of a book to read before going to an event, can you recommend me a great one?

I haven’t read a book in a long while, but one that really stuck with me when I first read it was Misery by Stephen King.  I used to read a lot of “horror” novels growing up, so my recommendation would probably something from that genre.

You can travel where ever you want…where would you like to go?

I’d like to see more of Canada.  It’s such a huge country and I haven’t seen much of it.

Let us know the quote that best describes you as a person.

Chin-up, buttercup.

What is your favorite genre in film? Why is that?

I really like psychological thriller movies, sometimes with a touch of sci-fi.  Either those, or 80s Arnold Schwarzenegger/comedy movies.  Some of my favourites I’ve seen lately are Alien, Silence of the Lambs, Drop Dead Fred, Groundhog Day, etc. I don’t really enjoy new movies much.

Being in the mood for good old classic games, what would you recommend me?

Hmmmm.  No matter what kind of game you’re in the mood for, I’d probably always recommend Faxanadu for NES.  It’s got everything!

Rats or spiders?

Definitely spiders. Rats are more unpredictable and I can run away from spiders knowing they won’t damage my home.

Congratulations! You are now the new designer for the next new jingle and burger that McDonalds will use from now on. What will you do?

I would write a little song that goes something like this: A moment on your lips, a lifetime on your thighs… if anyone tells you differently they’re just spewing lies!

Just kidding. I like a little McDonald’s once in a while.

Onto the questions from 3PStart!

What TV show, book or movie would you want to see turned into a video game?

Definitely something Peanuts. Lots of the Peanuts games we got in North America were meh and I’d like to see a proper game come out of that series.  Snoopy Concert was a Japan exclusive that looks like so much fun! I wish we had something like that here.

Are you a fan of any particular voice artists/actors?

I really love Dominic Armato, the guy that does Guybrush Threepwood in the Monkey Island series.  His delivery of those lines just kills me and he really makes the games shine.

Which game do you feel gets little to no coverage, retrospective or otherwise, that you feel deserves more love?

Faxanadu! It’s one of my favourite NES games and nobody talks about it much.  It’s honestly an amazing game that I think everyone should play.

What is a vocal song, licensed or otherwise, that you loved as a part of the game it was involved in?

Memories of Life in FFIX.  I haven’t played a lot of games that have vocals in them, but man… after the weep-fest that was the end of FFIX and hearing that song play in the credits, I was a puddle of mush for the rest of the night.

One title from your favorite series absolutely has to be deleted from memory and history, but you get to choose which one. Which would you choose?

One of my favourite game series is The Legend of Zelda, and I think I’d vote to delete A Link to the Past. I know people are probably readying their rotten tomatoes to pelt me with, but it was one of the Zelda games I just couldn’t get into when I was younger.  I found it really long and frustrating compared to other titles in the series.  Maybe I just need to try it out again, but that’s my answer for now! *runs for cover*

Once again, thank you very much to my two nominators. I’ve nominated some folks that I’ve known for a while here, and also some I’ve been getting to know only recently.  Either way, you should definitely take some time and scoot over their way to take a look-see and what they have to offer.

My nominees:

A Reluctant Hero

Nerd Thoughts Blog

TheDeviot

TheArcadeBlogger

NintendoFigures

Here are some questions for my nominees! I’m not a very good question-maker, but I hope these pique someone’s interest!  If anyone I wasn’t able to nominate feels so compelled, feel free to answer these. You’re all lovely folks and it’s too bad that I can’t just list everyone’s blogs that I love under the nominees section.

  1. Which food item in a movie/television show/video game used to make your mouth water?
  2. If you could only recommend one game to someone to play, what would it be and why?
  3. When you were in elementary school, what was your favourite class or subject? Is it still that today?
  4. What’s the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?
  5. Mario or Luigi?

Hope you’re all off to a wonderful week and that you are enjoying the warmer weather!  I have a few posts to write up in the next little while, so stay tuned for those.

-GG

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The Most Ninfundo You’ll Ever Have

Even though the snow keeps on coming out here in these parts, it seems that people are finally getting into Spring Cleaning Mode and are dusting the cobwebs off of all their old games to sell or purge.  As you likely know by now, I’m not the type to pass up a good deal when I see one, and the good deals are slowly peeking out of the darkness.  I picked up a whole pile of stuff for $120 from a really nice young man just today, and as usual, there were some real winners!

So as not to be accused of misleading anyone with my catchy title, I will include the non-Nintendo games first.  There were three Intellivision games that we were surprised to find since they were not listed in the ad.  I haven’t fired up the old beast in a long while now, so this will give me an excuse to try it out again.

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The next bunch of games were for the Game Boy: Super Mario Land, Star Wars, Super Return of the Jedi, and Nemesis.  I didn’t have either of the Star Wars games, and from what I can tell, these are the same titles that were also released on other more “robust” systems.  It’ll be interesting to play those and see if they’re different or truncated from those other versions.  It was also nice to get a nearly pristine copy of Nemesis.  Another copy I already had has a torn label, and I didn’t have the booklet before now.

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Though no Game Boy Advance games were included in the game lot, an indigo GBA was in the box along with everything else.  Thankfully there were no batteries left inside.  More often than not I’ve opened up an old handheld to find corroded batteries oozing away behind that battery door.  The screen only has one tiny scratch, but it works!

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We also found a few things for the SNES.  In addition to the Game Boy Star Wars games, we also got a copy of Super Star Wars.  I’ve heard that this game is really difficult, but I’m up for the challenge of a hard platformer.  Also included was a second copy of Aladdin with a much nicer label.  Our other copy was pretty mangled.   I only remember renting the Genesis version.  I never had a chance to try out the SNES version of the game, which is apparently entirely different.  The Super Game Boy is also a really excellent thing to have around.  It’s good to have a backup in case something ends up happening to my first one.  You can never have enough Super Game Boys.

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There was an N64 game (A Bug’s Life) and a 3rd party N64 controller.  I was really surprised at how convincing the fake N64 controller looked.  It feels really good to hold and the analog stick feels nice and snappy.  I’ll be curious to know if it’s as good in practice as it seems in principle, but I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.  A part of me wants to carve “Nintendo” into that tempting little space up there just to make it all the more convincing.

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On the topic of controllers, we also got a few for the NES, and a weird 3rd party monster of sorts for what appears to be the SNES with a tiny screen that I have yet to try.  There is also one of those horrible aftermarket controllers with the cord that comes out of the side instead of the top and has more buttons than it should.  I remember accidentally ordering two controllers very much like this one when I was young and stupid, but unlike this one with what seems to be a 6 foot long cord, the ones I ordered had a cord of about 3 feet in length, if that. They’re ridiculously short and feel like they might explode if you hold them too hard.  I still have them as a reminder to read ads thoroughly before buying!  We also got an NES zapper, but I didn’t show it here because I’m horrible and forgot to include it in the photo.  Also, I’m also not too sure where this circuit board overlay sticker came from.  Anyone know?

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Since you’re seeing NES controllers, you must be wondering: are there any NES games?  The answer to that would be yes.  We got 13 NES games in total, and the first one, Bigfoot, we got with its box.  I tested this one out awhile ago and despite it seeming like a cool monster truck game, what little I played of it had me being a monster truck, but I was racing another monster truck instead of smashing things with my giantness.  Maybe there is more to it than a short test might reveal, but that has yet to be seen.

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The other games were all loose, and only one came with its manual.  There are lots of sports games here and some we already have, but the price of the lot was worth it for the games on the right side of the photo alone.  I’ve been pretty desperate to find a copy of Maniac Mansion for a decent price, and thankfully that’s the one that came with its manual!  I’m not sure how different the game is from its PC counterpart, but I’m curious to try it out.  It was also nice to find the Zeldas and a copy of Final Fantasy that I’ll be able to give away to a friend of mine or trade at a game swap.  I was intially really excited to find Tale Spin, though I’m not sure if it’s the game I thought I remembered from childhood.  Popping it in for a test didn’t jog my memory like I thought it would, so there’s some elusive fleeting childhood memory floating around in my brain that I thought was Tale Spin but is actually another game.  I’ll find it some day!

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The last thing we got in the $120 lot was a Retro Duo machine that plays NES and SNES games.  I’m curious to know if the S-video signal coming out of it will be any better than my original hardware that only outputs in composite.  I’ve never had this kind of machine before so I’m interested to see how it’ll perform versus the real deal.  I hope it doesn’t eat games for breakfast or something sinister like that.

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Apart from the lot mentioned above, I’ve been doing a bit of online shopping as well.  Since finding a few Famicom games a few posts ago, I’ve had a bit of a fire lit to find some Famicom exclusives that are native English speaker-friendly.  I found a short list of some interesting ones and ordered them from Japan.  The most expensive game by far of this lot was Holy Diver which I paid over $100 for, but the rest were between $10-30.  After barely spending any money on games for months, I thought I could afford to splurge a little bit.

Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun (Kid Dracula, top left) is my my substitute for the Game Boy version of Kid Dracula that I’ll likely never buy for its current asking price.  I’ve heard that the Famicom version of the game is really well done and accomplishes much of what the Game Boy game does, but with a little more controversy.  Apparently some sprites were deemed unfriendly for North American audiences, which is why it wasn’t localized.  Too bad… it has mostly to do with a hooded figure in white with a manji on its costume.  There was a manji dungeon in the Legend of Zelda and that sure didn’t stop that from being localized, but I digress…

I fell in love with Yume Penguin Monogatari (top right) when I watched a video on Penta the penguin and saw some gameplay from it.  I first encountered Penta in Antarctic Adventure on my 72-in-1 Cartridge Story pirate cart from childhood and used to sing Skater’s Waltz at the top of my lungs while shuffling around pits and avoiding seals.  This Famicom game takes Penta and throws him into a unique adventure where his girlfriend has left him because he has become overweight and won’t get back together with him until he slims down.  Seems like a silly premise, but the game’s bad guy literally has his thugs throwing food at you to keep you overweight, and it makes me laugh.  It’s a fun platformer that I think everyone would probably enjoy.

Valkyrie no Bouken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu (bottom right) is an 8-bit RPG that has virtually no text at all.  All the information you need about items and how to use them is in the manual, which has thankfully been translated.  It’s a wander-fest, and its lack of Japanese text was the appeal to me.  This was the cheapest of the four.

Holy Diver (bottom left) is supposed to be very much like Castlevania in gameplay style and aesthetic, and from what I’ve read and seen of it, I love it already without having played too much of it.  It has the protagonist casting spells and being generally badass, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.  I’ve also had the song Holy Diver stuck in my head for weeks since I first learned of the game.  You’re welcome.

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Last but not least, I paid a visit to a friend of mine that owns a game store recently and picked up a few more NES games.  I had been looking for the remaining two Dragon Warrior games I was missing and found them at the shop.  Dragon Warrior II was sitting there with a price tag of $50, and when I showed some interest in that, my friend told me he had a boxed copy of DWIII hanging around too if I wanted it.  It was boxed with its manual but was missing the map and monster information, and he had a nasty price tag of $175 on there.  I had brought in a bag of trades, comprised mostly of extra copies of PS1 Final Fantasy games.  We ended up doing a straight trade for everything after I complained about a peeling label, the generally meh condition of the manual, and some box troubles.  He was quite happy to have both of the games going to a good home.  Here’s a photo of the two Dragon Warrior games I picked up.

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With those, I finally have the entire NES Dragon Warrior bunch!  I have probably mentioned it before, but a few summers ago I was looking through classifieds ads and there was a person selling all four games for $150.  I was 15 minutes late phoning the owner of the ad and the games were already sold.  I’ve thought about that bitterly for the past few years as I’ve seen the prices for these games go higher and higher, and thankfully now I can stop thinking about it.  In all its current glory, here is my whole little Dragon Warrior NES collection!

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I was really happy to find all these awesome games, and with great Nintendo power comes great responsibility – I have to catalogue and play everything!

I hope you’re all well and that you have some exciting gaming plans for the weekend.  I’ll leave it to CheapBossAttack to probe everyone about what they’ll be playing this weekend in his Freakin’ Weekend post, but I will send out well-wishes to you all.

Thanks for reading.

-GG

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