HISTORY / COLLECTING: Sega Dreamcast

HISTORY OF THE DREAMCAST

In 1999 the Dreamcast released in the U.S. at a price tag of $199.99 ($286 today adjusted for inflation). dreamcast adBy the time it reached U.S. shores the system launched with a whopping 19 titles, including notable games Power Stone, Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, NFL 2K and House of the Dead 2. The Dreamcast was the first console of the sixth generation, which would end up being the most competitive console market ever. It did well for itself both in Japan and in the U.S. with its cheap price and large marketing push. But after the launch of the heralded and hyped PlayStation 2 the Dreamcast took a nose dive, along with every other console on the market at that time. The Dreamcast sold only 10.6 million over its very short 3 year lifespan. It would prove to be Sega’s final foray into the video game console market.

At many steps along the Dreamcast’s development Sega chose to go the cheapest route to them and thus in the end the cheapest route to the consumer. Sega’s Dreamcast used mostly parts that were seen in personal computers and they went with GD-ROMs which are similar to CD-ROMs rather than the DVDs Sony and Microsoft later used and thus cheaper. The Dreamcast used memory cards which inserted into the controllers. Its controllers looked a bit different than what we had seen at that time, as the analog stick was above the pad instead of below it. If I had to compare the controller to a previous one I would say its most like the larger controller version of the Saturn.

PERSONAL HISTORY WITH THE DREAMCAST

The Dreamcast was not popular in my area. I rarely saw one growing up aside from one friend who I Marvel_vs._Capcom_2_Coverhung out with from time to time. I remember Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike well and I think I played NFL 2K a couple times. That’s about the extent of my time with the system as a kid. Everything at that time was all about the PS2 and XBox. After college I started buying up all the consoles I had missed out on over the years. I picked up a Dreamcast with a handful of games and have played and enjoyed it here and there, namely the two Sonic Adventure games. I also rekindled my love for old arcade fighting classics Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.

COLLECTING FOR THE DREAMCAST

Dreamcast is one of the (not sure how would I put it…) weirder consoles to explain when it comes to collecting. The system itself is not in high demand, yet it isn’t all that easy to find. When you do find one its usually cheaper than $50 and from my experience tend to hold up well mechanically. However, when we talk about Dreamcast’s games its a whole different story. Most of the key games will run $25 at a minimum, with several of them being far more than that like Shenmue and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. They also in my experience are quite hard to see in the wild, maybe not quite Saturn levels of rare, but they’re definitely rare to see. If you want to collect for the Dreamcast you may have to resort to online more than any other console, unless you have a lot of patience and a lot of time.

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REVIEW: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Poll Winner: CONKER’S BAD FUR DAY

In 2001, near the end of the N64’s lifecycle, Rare released Conker’s Bad Fur Day. The game is intended Conkersbfdboxtowards older gamers, as it features foul language and crude jokes. Like most of Rare’s other masterpieces it is a 3D platformer/action game with a mix of puzzles. It features Conker, a humorous but foul squirrel. Its target audience, late release and lack of advertising led to it being Rare’s worst selling title, despite being a humongous critical success. It was rereleased in a slightly censored form on the XBox as Conker: Live and Reloaded and also rereleased in its original form on the XBox One’s Rare Replay collection.

I never had the pleasure of playing Conker’s Bad Fur Day back during my N64 days. In fact I had never even heard of the game until well after it’s release. It wasn’t until now that I picked it up to collect and cbfdreview, mainly because of its high price tag (~$100). The cover art doesn’t tell me much, but the warning below it saying its not for those under age 17 certainly does. After playing it I can see why. The game is full of alcohol use, sexual references and obscenities. Things that today we wouldn’t think twice about, but back in 2001 was a pretty rare thing for a video game, especially one on a Nintendo console. I found the use of these mature themes to be done in perfect and hilarious taste though. They are not thrown in simply for shock factor. They add to the story and personality of Conker and his world full of interesting characters and predicaments. I cannot think of another game that has made me literally laugh out loud as many times as I did with Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Joke after joke, funny character after funny character, I was never bored playing this game. There are tons of hidden jokes, movie references and tasteful breaking of the fourth wall. All of this is pulled off through superb writing and perfect voice acting, both of which helped me really become engrossed in the game and its crazy world.

Gameplay wise its platforming was overall fantastic and I would expect no less from a Rare game. It also makes good use of a semi-open world environment, using a sort of central hub that is cleverly connected to other smaller world pieces that all progress seamlessly with the overall plot line. As far as graphics and music this is without a doubt the best N64 game I’ve ever seen. Conker’s Bad Fur Day holds up better visually than any other Saturn, PlayStation or N64 I replayed for this blog. It has excellent themes that differ between the levels and do a great job of adding to the environment and personality of the game without being loud or demanding attention.

As impressed as I was with Conker’s Bad Fur Day I did find one small issue with it. Like Rare’s other platformers (actually all platformers up to then) there are some camera issues from time to time. It was really just an issue in one particular area of the world and wasn’t enough to ruin the game or anything, just enough to pull me out of the experience for a couple minutes.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a masterpiece of writing and game design, one I wish I hadn’t missed out on as a kid. Not only is this one of the best N64 games I’ve ever played, it may be one of the best games I’ve ever played…period. Thank you guys so much for voting for this game as I would’ve probably waited a long time before playing it.

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REVIEW: Blast Corps

Personal Favorite: BLAST CORPS

Blast Corps was another cult hit by Rare on the Nintendo 64. It released in 1997 to moderate sales but tremendous reviews, as it was the 2nd highest rated N64 game on Metacritic at the time of release. In Blast Corps you control various vehicles and mech suits in an effort to destroy buildings, terrain and other objectives in a variety of game modes. The game never had any sequels but was rereleased in the Rare Replay collection on XBox One.

Blast Corps’ cover art shows us only a couple examples from the large stable of vehicles you’ll be controlling in the game as you destroy your wayBlast_Corps_Coverart through environments time and time again. Visually this is not a beautiful game by any sense when you come back to it. Its a bit blurry, especially during some destruction animations, but at the time it came out it was one of the better looking games for the system. The sound effects are great, with different ones for each individual vehicle. Soundtrack came off a little weak to me at first when I was replaying Blast Corps but as I progressed a wider variety of music was introduced and it finished strong.

But lets get real here, in Blast Corps you could care less about the sound or visuals, you wanna tear shit up. You’re placed in a vehicle, told what to do (usually destroy X amount of terrain in X time or destroy all terrain in the path of this other emergency vehicle while its in motion so it can reach its destination safely) and immediately have to spring into fast paced demolition. Blast Corps is all about destruction and it has it in spades. Blast Corps brings you back to that inner child mentality, when you were a boy ramming your Tonka truck through the Lego buildings you had just set up, sending bricks flying left and right. It captures all the fun of those blast corps gifmoments but without the annoying clean-up and you inevitably stepping on stray Legos in the middle of the night. You would think that in Blast Corps you would get tired of just destroying environments time and time again but there are enough different courses, objectives and vehicles to keep you more than satiated. Just when you think you’ve mastered the handling of a bulldozer you’re given a dump truck that can only destroy things when its back collides with buildings at high speeds, forcing you to master power sliding (no easy feat in my opinion). Just when you get the hang of that you start a level and suddenly find yourself controlling a giant Transformers-esque mech, rocketing yourself through buildings to demolish an entire city in a set amount of time. Simply finishing a course is easy. But if you want to earn a gold star you’re gonna have to find RDU objects, destroy every inch of terrain and rescue citizens. Doing so requires speed and skill of a crazy degree. The game is original, challenging and addictive.

You may think Blast Corps sounds simple, and in actuality it is, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most fun experiences you’ll have in a video game, regardless of how aged the game looks at this point.

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REVIEW: Perfect Dark

Never Played: PERFECT DARK

I just realized that totally by accident we have chosen Rareware games for all three N64 games for replay and review. But I guess that just goes to show you the total domination of a hardware Rare had during the N64 era. I can’t think of another developer for another console who’s even come close to producing the number and quality of titles that Rare did for the N64. Hell, the average MetaCritic score of Blast Corps, Conker’s, DK64, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie is over 90. That is basically unheard of.

In 2000, Rare released Perfect Dark after three years of development. It ran off the same engine as their previous masterpiece Goldeneye and is somewhat of a spiritual successor to that game as well, both games being first-person spy shooters. It had good sales and even better critical acclaim, ending up being Metacritic’s second highest rated N64 game, finishing second only to the game many believe the best game of all time: Ocarina of Time. It spawned one sequel: Perfect Dark Zero which came to the Xbox 360 as a launch title. Perfect Dark was also remade as part of the Rare Replay collection on Xbox One.

Perfect Dark‘s cover art sets the mood for the game as a dark and sexy spy thriller. Having never played the game I didn’t know much of what to expect from it other than my extensive history with Goldeneye. It plays a lot like Goldeneye but with less attention to personality and more attention given to refining the stealth gameplay and an improvement on the controls and camera. Graphic-wise it was a step up over most other games I’ve played on N64 and it didn’t disappoint me in the audio department either with its funky spy themes, great voice acting and solid sound effects. I was particularly fond of the main menu’s theme. The gameplay has you controlling Joanna, as you infiltrate various areas and prove yourself as a new field agent in the cut-throat world of espionage. While the level designs and A.I. capabilities are great compared to other N64 shooters, I find it hard to look past how poor they were compared to modern day shooters. The A.I. in older shooters is so bad its laughable and often pulled me out of the experience. That’s a shame really because otherwise the music, aesthetics and just overall mood of the game do a good job of getting you engrossed in Perfect Dark and focused on your mission at hand. Missions were fun, a good length and of a respectable difficulty. Its hard for me to judge the game’s multiplayer as I didn’t have a chance to test it with actual humans. I have read many people’s praises of Perfect Dark‘s multiplayer and its great use of bots. I found the bots to be respectable for such an old game but again, not near as strong as what we have these days in our shooters.

My biggest fault I find with Perfect Dark is the same one I find when going back to play Goldeneye and most other older shooters, particularly those on N64: the controls are horrendous. Not just bad, like nigh unplayable bad. Perfect Dark is the best of any of them, but even it has its problems. Two joystucks are basically a requirement if you want to have fluid control of a 3D first person shooter, but we hadn’t quite figured that out yet at this stage in gaming. At that time we loved what we had and didn’t think twice about it. But coming back to these early 3D shooters after using the 360’s controller and the dfferent versions of the DualShock over the years it is infuriating and frustrating to play a FPS using the N64’s controller.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Perfect Dark and can see why its one of the best rated games ever. It may not hold up as well as other games, but I do believe it deserved its praise at its time and I wish I had played it back then before becoming so accustomed to the advances gaming has made with FPS’s.

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REVIEW: Nintendo 64

N64 REVIEW

The N64 console is pretty cool looking, especially if you have one of the funky neon colors the system comes in. The graphics don’t hold up well at all with time, but that was also the case when I replayed the Saturn and PlayStation. Of the three I think the N64 holds up the best graphically out of all of them, with its slightly better looking polygons and in general, better use of color. The sound was on par with the other two consoles, with none of the three really being a standout. The best thing the N64 had going for it was its library, primarily its killer line up of first party gems including Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, two games that will be recognized as great titles forever, with the former frequently voted as the best game in history.

As fun to replay as the N64 is, it definitely had some drawbacks. We have the cartridges first and foremost. Luckily this is the last console that will require me having to clean and continually retry games n64 controllernumerous times before they read. Personally my biggest beef with the N64 is and was always the controller. I think its easily the most overrated video game controller of all-time. I just don’t like the design, especially its control stick. If you hold the middle grip you have no natural access to the left shoulder button. If you try to hold it using the two outer grips you can’t use the control stick accurately or comfortably because of how wide the controller is. The control stick itself is garbage as its grip on top wears away easily over time and the stick inevitably gets loose and nigh unusable after moderate use. On top of that I’ve had two of my four controllers have problems with the A and B buttons getting stuck inside the controller and thus not be able to be depressed.

Overall the Nintendo 64 was a good system. The nostalgia factor and large library of great games help me overlook the poor design and craftsmanship of the controller. Nostalgia will make several people tell you its their favorite system ever. But I bet if most of them actually went back and played it now they would find themselves puzzled at how they ever suffered through such poor controls.

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