The gaming of my youth

With Xbox360 approaching its fifth birthday we’ve become accustomed to dazzling high definition gaming. As things move on we’ll all soon be viewing things in real 3D environments with total motion control as if we are John Anderton in Minority Report – the bit before he tore his eyes out. Yet the more things progress, the more we hanker after what used to be and for me it’s an eclectic mix of gaming glories past.

Shenmue – Dreamcast

Where can I find, sailors? It’s a line that will never lose its amusement factor. Shenmue, release in 1999 on the Dreamcast, is the epic and unfinished tale of Ryo Hazuki in his quest to find who killed his father and ultimately seek his revenge. There’s a reason why so many fans hanker after a third iteration; it’s a game that oozes immersion, with fantastical locales, stunning soundtrack and intensive adventuring even if there were some frustrating QTEs.

If you’ve never played the game you owe it to yourself to get a second hand Dreamcast and whilst you’re at it, pick up Soul Calibur, ChuChu Rocket, Jet Grind Radio and Resident Evil Code: Veronica.

Law of the West – Commodore 64

In the early 80s, school kid fanboys were battling over what was the best computer: the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64. I was lucky enough to have both of them and although it will never be considered an absolute classic, Law of the West was one of the most fabulous experiences the C64 had to offer.

You played the role of a sheriff, there to protect the citizens of Gold Gulch through wit, guile or just plain old violence. A series of conversations presented itself, with a selection of responses that would either enrage or calm the person at the end of your iron sights. Of course there was no need to spark up a dialogue at all – you could just shoot the crap out of everyone, much to the disgust of the town Doctor, who wouldn’t heal you when shot if you did.

Red Dead Redemption? You don’t know you’re born.

Knight Lore – ZX Spectrum

Knight Lore was released to an astonished audience by Ultimate Play the Game in 1984. It introduced the Sinclair user to the wonders of 3D isometric graphics (okay, perhaps Ant Attack or Android got there first, but it wasn’t really on the same playing field). Much aped for the rest of the Spectrum’s life time, Knight Lore involved puzzle solving across a map of many rooms in a bid to rid yourself of a werewolf curse.

The company behind the game is now known as Rare – you may have heard of them – at the time they were the king of 8-bit game programming, releasing many other titles, not least of which were Gun Fright, Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf.

GoldenEye – Nintendo 64

Going back to this game now does show how choppy and smeared with Vaseline N64 games could be. At the time this game seemed like the dog’s bollocks, with four player adversarial kill-a-thons and a super level design for single player. This is a time when Rare were still making decent games, but I think they have since lost their way.

With a remake announced as a Wii exclusive at E3 2010 by Nintendo, it may well answer the prayers of many a gamer’s dreams. Let’s just hope they don’t muck it up.

Chrono Trigger – SNES

There was once a time when RPGs didn’t have hours of full motion video and voice acting, yet they could still be great – Chrono Trigger is one such game. It was revolutionary with its sprawling side-quests, multiple endings and lack of random encounters. Rather than suddenly being ushered to combat out of the blue, it was possible to see the enemy on-screen, engage them and have none of this transitional nonsense. It was a time when Square was Square and active time battle 2.0 slotted in better than a lubed up ferret. Square didn’t hold your hand much back then. Are you an RPG fan? Then you might want to check this title out.

These games and many more have frequented the systems I have owned over the years; even the Atari Jaguar has its fond place in my collection. It is nice to look back on these and remember the good times, but actually peering in to that era now shows how much we’ve moved on; how archaic these games seem now. Apart from those listed obviously, they’re great and I’m sure you have your favourites too.

As much as I hanker after the games of my youth, I wouldn’t want to give up on ergonomic controllers and Xbox Live anytime soon. I look with feverish giddiness at where we might be in another thirty years’ time. Long live the ever marching improvement of technology.


Marty Greenwell

Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.

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