From a Gamer’s Basement

As I write this it’s close to Sunday morning, and I just came back from a week long stay at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Fun times, except for the trip back home which I will forever call the car ride that couldn’t have sucked more ass. A trip that should have only taken 8-9 hours to get back took 13. If you’re curious those four extra hours were spent near Philadelphia at a near standstill in 90 degree heat. Regardless, it’s a small price to pay for the relaxation I enjoyed as this was my last real break as my senior semester starts this Monday. So anyways, let’s get on with the show. Last week I wrote about video games and anime and their relationship to each other. I asked for some of you to send in some of your own suggestions, and I got one really outstanding (and longer) submission that I’m going to share with you. So here is a bit of what Eli Kaplan had to say on the subject.

“My list of my top 6 anime, with thoughts about whether they should be made a video game:

1. A MGS-like remake of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostrio. Done RIGHT, damnit. The world needs this. If that fails, a MGS-like Mononoke Hime.

2. Giant Robo. Giant Robots and super humans facing off and seeking out mass destruction weapons. Large and small scale fighting. Possibly a tactical angle for the large scale stuff, arcade action for the small.

3. Serial Experiments Lain as done a la Shenmue. Cinematic, slow, eerie, and having a slow but bizarre breakdown of reality. Can have TONS of computer mini-games and customizable Navi browsing. Perhaps do a little hacking to earn money to buy more gear.

4. Revolutionary Girl Utena. A side scroller fighter? 3d? Use analog controls for a fencing experience. Actually not in my top ten anime list, but … the idea of analog control fencing just sounds great. Perhaps even a platforming component. No idea how to stretch the storyline out, though. Not actually one of my favorite anime.

5. Magic Circle Guru Guru. A great TV show that is all about RPGs. I don’t think this show has ever been picked up by the US. A cutesy fantasy show about a boy and girl doing the classic RPG wander from village to village in search of treasure. The TV show even HAS stats pop up over character heads. Not as a one time gag, but ALL THE TIME. This would be an RPG that breaks the fourth wall CONSTANTLY. Give the writing to the people who did Star Control II, in theory. ^_^

6. Excel Saga, as done by Rockstar Games, using the Grand Theft Auto engine. Drive-by Puchuu shootings. Excel takes out evil programmers. (then massive intentional lighting errors happen in the game.) Try to navigate Hyatt across the city without making contact with a pedestrian, or anything else that’s solid in nature, thus avoiding a horrible death. GTA has so much freedom and personality; it would be interesting to see Excel Saga’s ‘quack’ perspective applied to a city as a whole.

Not one of my top 6, but it cries out for a modern console game: SLAYERS. How obvious is this? We already have a host of monster designs, character designs… maybe a tactical, but probably a traditional RPG.”

Eli is right, we do NEED a new Slayers game. It is truly overdo. As for all his other selections, I think they all have some merit and hopefully we’ll see some decent games for anime series that deserve them in the near future. And, honestly, who wouldn’t want to see a great remake of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostrio? Everything about Lupin III is just beyond cool. I’m a big fan of the series and the whole Old School Anime gimmick Adult Swim is doing with Detective Conan (Case Closed) and Lupin III is aces with me.

But let’s move on to today’s topic. While I was down at the Outer Banks there was a ton of stuff to do. Going to the beach, gift shops, great places to eat, tons of interesting places to tour, and all that jazz. However, one thing was missing from everything, and I didn’t even realize it until I was halfway home, sweltering in traffic heat. It was a revelation that made me realize just how much things have changed in terms of video games and their various forms. For all the beaches and mini-malls and gift shops at the Outer Banks there I did not see one single old school video arcade. Not once was I caught off guard with the allure of some flashing lights and some crazy sounds that made me want to willingly plug as many quarters as necessary into various machines to achieve video arcade nirvana. When did time pass me by? Because last time I checked a beach, and a tourism town just wasn’t complete without an arcade. While I was surprised at first by all of this, after a moment (and yelling at the person in front of me) I realized that I shouldn’t be surprised at all. Console gaming killed off video arcades as a viable form of gaming a long time ago. The arcades you see today are simply holdovers that are reminders of what gaming used to be like. So today’s column is dedicated to my nostalgia over arcades. So in that vein I figure I will share with you the two games, above all others, that I enjoyed in my days as an early teen.

When I think of arcades two genres of games immediately leap to mind: fighters and shooters. Coincidentally my two top choices represent those two genres very well. The first is the shooter Area 51. Never heard of it? If you never walked into an arcade in the late 90’s maybe I would believe that. This just wasn’t a game for me, it was an addiction. It was pure video game crack that I craved. It got so bad that if I even saw this game in an arcade I had to play it AND record the perfect 999,999 score to be number one on that machine. At one time I had seven different Area 51 machines in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area with AJA and 999,999 as the top score. Like I said it was an obsession. Area 51 was a shooter based on the premise that the real life top secret base in Nevada had been compromised and an alien invasion was now happening. Your job was to stop the invasion and slaughter as many aliens as possible with the life you had. You played by picking up the light gun and shooting at the screen. Words can not accurately explain how fun this really is. I got so good at it that I could easily top 400,000 on 50 cents, while getting all of the cool and often funny secrets. One little gem was if you shot out these three blue lights in one of the early stages you would go to a bonus stage where you simply blew away a bathroom full of aliens doing their business. The final enemy in the game was the mothership which could be a bit difficult due to the sheer numbers of aliens on the screen at one time. Overall all; however, Area 51 wasn’t too insane, but it also wasn’t too easy. It was just the right combination of all the necessary ingredients to make an instant arcade classic that you can still find in the back parts of most arcades you come across today. I still manage to squeeze in a game or two every so often just to stay fresh. Old habits die hard I guess.

The second game I will talk about (and say hey, it is now Sunday morning…this has truly been a long day) is Mortal Kombat II. Does it get any better than MK II? This was the game that had parents and politicians in a fit because of the huge amounts of blood and violence on display. Mortal Kombat II, infamous for its fatalities, certainly was as risque as it got for its time. And of course when a game has that much talk around it, it’s more than likely to be a huge success, which MK II was both in the arcades and on the consoles. But to truly experience MK II, I think you had to have played it at an arcade with your friends. Where I used to live there is a place called the Mountain Laurel Pool, which is the local spot for families and whatever to go swimming for a small cost. Hidden at this area is perhaps the smallest arcade ever. My friends and I, back when we were kids, would always go to the pool and our parents thought nothing of it. It’s a perfectly natural thing for kids to go swimming on hot summer days. What they didn’t know though is that we almost never actually swam. No, instead we packed ourselves into this tiny room to play as many games of MK II that we could afford from the pockets of quarters we had smuggled along the way from our folks. We had tournaments nearly every day, and we all got so good at the game that it really was a situation where on any given day anyone of us could have won. And of course, too add humiliation we would usually use a Friendship to finish off our opponent just to add a little insult to injury.

So next time you see an arcade, do yourself a favor and stop in. Maybe you’ll find an old favorite tucked away and you’ll rediscover just how fun they are. Consoles are definitely the preferable way to game, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the video arcade. See you all next week when I have another edition of From a Gamer’s Basement.