Some time ago, I read the John Le Carre novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Le Carre’s sober, unromantic description of espionage during the cold war was very gripping and powerful. There are no fantastic gadgets, or cat stroking villains plotting world domination, just ordinary fallible people working two sides of a complex and grim international conflict. His novels make for fascinating and engrossing reading and he was very successful in his day, but something that stood out to me about this book and the rest of Le Carre’s works was how very rare it seems to be that we see a down to earth approach to spy stories. I suppose that, for as interesting as the real world of spies is, it is far too complex and depressingly serious for broad general appeal. Sometimes you just want to see the good guy fool absurdly evil bad guys. People long for the thrill of a sudden gunfight or a final act twist. That may be why one of the most enduring franchises in media history is Ian Flemming’s James Bond.
Between the time when bad sales drowned the Dreamcast, and the rise of the virtual reality console wars, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Solid Pawn, destined to wear the crown of a pretty well decked out retro games collection upon a troubled brow. It is I, the man himself, who alone can tell thee of this saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
Although Konami has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, at least as far as the gaming landscape is concerned, we will always have those old mainstay series to fondly look back on. Excellent hits like the Metal Gear series, with its fun arcadey stealth and bonkers story, Silent Hill with it’s mastery of horror and subtlety before the US studios got their hands on it, and Castlevania, the all out monster mash throwing the demon hordes of the night at you in consistently high quality titles. the only thing it couldn’t survive was the third dimension. Today I’d like to take another look at the forgotten children of the Castlevania series, the Gameboy titles.
Do your ever have those moments where you see something and it doesn’t leave much of an impact, but then years after you’ve forgotten about it, you see it again and it hits a dormant memory? This was the case for me with a particular NES game.
When I was a small child we would visit my grandmother and at her home was my uncle’s collection of NES games. Even though I was terrible at playing them, I still loved trying them out. Now, at the time I could barely read, and more often than not my brother would be the one actually playing through the games, but they still left impressions on me through the covers, the manuals, or the games themselves.
Although there were the classics, there were some games that were just to complex for a little kid to understand. One such game had a grey label depicting a man in a suit with a machine gun. I found the game hard to follow and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. All I could get from it was that you were exploring a city and there was a lot of reading involved.
Every time Nintendo releases a new system I await the time when they bring out their old guard for new games. So far, the Switch has delivered on the much-anticipated new Zelda, and announced the new Mario. However, the franchise I am the most anxious to hear from every time is Metroid; a series of superb quality, which has often gone underutilized by Nintendo.
Game consoles have had accessories in the past to enhance the experience of playing. Racing games have had special controllers designed like a car’s dashboard, such as the Arcade Racer Joystick for the Sega Saturn and the Hurricane Steering Wheel for PlayStation 3, space shooters and aerial dogfight games had joysticks made to feel more authentic, like the NES Quick Shot and the Saturn Mission Stick. To me, probably the most effective accessory is the light gun. It’s one of the oldest little toys, going back to the first game systems and even earlier.
A long time ago, there was an old apple computer in my house with some pre-loaded software on it. It had solitaire, a jigsaw puzzle program, and an old adventure game called Power Pete. But the program that stuck with me the most from that machine was Lode Runner: The Legend Returns. Lode Runner was a series of puzzle platformer games by Douglas Smith and published by Brøderbund, wherein you played as a man delving into a vast series of mines to find and/or steal gold. The Legend Returns was a sequel, in which you play as Jake Peril, searching through the subterranean caverns of the Earth to steal gold from the Mad Monks, in an effort to escape the dying planet. The game was colorful, challenging and creative. In addition to over one hundred single player and multiplayer levels, the game included a very diverse level editor that let you make your own crazy stages.