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Growing Up with 25 Years of Mega Man, One Series at a Time

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Mega Man 25th Anniversary

I’ve been playing Mega Man almost as long as I’ve been playing video games. And I’ve been playing video games almost my entire life. The little guy’s been fighting evil for 25 years now. With any luck, he’ll mirror the longevity of pop culture icons like James Bond, living to celebrate his fiftieth.

But what IS Mega Man? Over the years, Mega Man has meant many things. Whether it’s side-scrolling action, competitive RPGs, or grandiose, 3D adventures, the Mega Man series has made its mark on the medium across an absurd amount of titles. Each have their strengths and their diehard fan bases.

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Space Quest Memories

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two guys from Andromeda space quest

If you haven’t heard, The Two Guys from Andromeda (Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy), the original creators of the Space Quest series of adventure games, are back. They have teamed up for the first time in over twenty years to bring the world a brand-new SpaceVenture. They currently have only three days left on their Kickstarter campaign, so if you haven’t already done so, head over to their Kickstarter page to show your support.

The WingDamage staff are pretty big fans of the Space Quest games, as you might have been able to tell from our two part retrospective podcast from 2009 (Part 1, Part 2). I had the privilege of interviewing Scott and Mark this week for SideQuesting.com (and I had a blast doing it). What I came to realize during the interview is that the guys put so much of themselves into the Space Quest games, a series I spent innumerable hours with in Junior High and High School, that it felt like talking to old friends. It also got me thinking about what I loved about the games as a kid, and why they will always have a special place in this gamer’s heart.

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A Geek in Exile

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For about 7 years I worked in video game stores. To put that in perspective, my first week on the job saw the release of Halo 2 and my last week on the job saw the release of Dance on Broadway (even if that’s not quite as fortuitous or funny as I was hoping). Most of my days were spent talking about video games, Captain America, playing around on the internet, and selling the occasional video game.

Yes I have had arguments about Darth Vader fighting Captain America that came close to physical violence. So yeah, it was a pretty sweet gig while it lasted, but as all the economic indicators were pointing to the fact that the store I was working at was in the midst of financial implosion, I decided to leave to find work elsewhere.

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What Happened to Mirror’s Edge?

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If you haven’t heard of Mirror’s Edge, the first-person parkour fest from EA and DICE, you should really come out from under that rock you’ve been living under. Seriously, everybody can get behind jumping around on skyscrapers and giant construction equipment. Think Assassin’s Creed minus the knives and ancient architecture, with a slick monochrome aesthetic that makes the city appear almost too clean and perfect – something that stands in stark contrast to the abundant political corruption in the story.

What’s puzzling to many people (myself included) is that Mirror’s Edge achieved great review scores (averaging 79-81 on Metacritic, depending on platform), yet has somehow fallen by the wayside. Several representatives from both EA and DICE have expressed a love for the game and a desire to see a sequel, but so far nothing concrete has happened aside from hints at a second game during E3 2011. This is a sad scenario indeed, but it begs the question of why. With a cult following backing it up and people within the development and publishing companies both advocating it, why hasn’t a sequel already been made?

The obvious answer is that it didn’t sell well. Mirror’s Edge sold less than 150,000 copies during its first month on shelves, a relatively small number for a game that was supposed to kick start a new series for EA. With such low numbers, it’s no wonder EA decided a second game wasn’t worth backing. But why didn’t the game sell well? What was it that kept people from picking up an excellent title with high review scores and general praise from critics and players alike? What turned Mirror’s Edge into a sleeper hit?

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Decisions, Decisions: To Roleplay or to Exploit the System?

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Choices in Games

Video game narratives have so much potential. Through this interactive medium, we are often able to forge our own version of a story with the power of player choice. But despite so many games providing us with options, we are often left creating not the story we want, but the one that fits in line with predetermined binary extremes.

The moment a game rewards you with good or evil points, you start to decide which of the two moralities you want to base all future decisions on. This is because we have been trained to assume that there are far greater benefits from leaning to one side than finding a happy middle ground. Sadly, this assumption is usually correct.

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Who Needs Mario When You Have Giant Robots in Space?

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Cybernator

Most gamers were introduced to the Super Nintendo through the latest adventures of a certain portly plumber, but for me things were a little different. I was too young to have a job when the system released, and I still had only experienced a fraction of the NES library anyway. But as time went on, focus increasingly shifted to the more Super of Nintendos on the market, and eventually a cheaper package was released sans-Super Mario World. It was after this that one of my older brothers surprised me with what I still consider to be the greatest video game system ever made.

A Super Nintendo, the very same one that is hooked up behind me right now, sat on my bed and I was beside myself with excitement. The cheaper model came with a mail-in voucher for Super Mario All-Stars, but what was I to play in the meantime? It turned out the other surprise my brother had in store was a copy of Cybernator, a game I had never heard of before.

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Superlative Nintendo Entertainment System

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Superlatives are interesting things. Even though most reduce down to simply “better” or “best”, countless hundreds have become mainstays of the English lexicon. Just pick up any thesaurus and take a look. Seriously, try it. Oh, and when you’re done, look up the word “lexicon”. You know what it means? Thesaurus. I know, right? It’s all so meta. So meta in fact, it’s beyond meta. Fun fact: Meta comes from a Greek root meaning “beyond”. What does all this have to do with the Super Nintendo you ask? You’ve got some nerve mister.

One day, way back in the summer of 1986, my friend Franklin called me and said he had just got something called a “Nine Ten Doetainment Sister” for his birthday and that he wanted me to come over and “play it”. I had no idea what he was talking about. I assumed Franklin was high (again) and was seeing ‘skin spiders’ (again). But you know Franklin, what a nut. Anyway, I didn’t really have any friends and I was intrigued at this whole ‘Doetainment Sisters’ idea. So over I went. Once there, I discovered two things: 1) Franklins’ parents had actually got him a “Nintendo Entertainment System” for his birthday and, 2) Franklin wasn’t high at all. He was drunk. Very, very drunk. Seriously kids, stay in school.

That summer Franklin and I played his NES (a term I just invented just now) until school started. I remember it well. There were so many games. My favorite? It was a tie. Between all of them. I found it to be an amazing toy game system. It was better than an Odyssey, taped to the back of a ColecoVision, stapled to an Atari 2600. But as often happens, time passed and Franklin and his NES (mostly the latter) grew apart. Little did I know at the time, but the best was yet to come.

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Happy 20th Anniversary, Super Nintendo!

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It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since the launch of the Super Nintendo. It may have taken us an extra nine months to get the machine here in North America, but I’m sure we can all agree it was worth the wait. My friends and I had been drooling over the screenshots in gaming magazines for what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few months. They showed off the latest Mario, where he was riding some kind of crazy looking dinosaur.

There were screenshots of games we had no idea what they were about, like Act Raiser. There was this flying game that looked like they were pulling off actual 3D. Our minds were sufficiently blown.

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Chasing the E. Tank: The Top 5 Things to Save Metroid

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Let me be clear: Metroid is my absolute favorite video game series of all time. While I realize it’s quite common for longtime gamers to identify with a particular Nintendo franchise, I’ve always felt that Metroid was something special. The isolation, the atmosphere, the sense of progression; everything about the franchise reaches out to me.

That being said, I realize that the franchise has fallen on some hard times. The release of Metroid Prime 3 was practically ignored by Nintendo and its PR teams, Trilogy is almost impossible to find in stores and even harder to get for a decent price, and Other M was such a disappointment (both in terms of quality and in sales) that many a fan’s faith in Nintendo’s ability to handle the franchise has been shaken.

That’s why I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the top four things that I believe should be done with the next entry in the Metroid franchise.

Note: these are just this writer’s opinions. Currently, Nintendo has announced no plans regarding a new Metroid title.

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What Metroid Did Right

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It is a hard thing for me to admit, but the original Metroid is a tough game to go back to. While the graphics and controls hold up well, its insane difficulty and incredibly tedious health replenishment make it a frustrating ride. But I’m not here to focus on the few bad things. I want to talk about the things it did amazingly right.

The 8-bit era was a time when many developers were unsure how to make games for the home market. Looking through the NES library, you’ll find a huge selection of the games, particularly the early ones, are ports of arcade classics. The quarter munching arcade mentality was so ingrained in developers that even some of the best entries on the NES still have that feeling that they are after your allowance.

Let’s look at what set Metroid apart from the pack.

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