Growing up I was a Nintendo kid with a PHD in Squarest RPG's. I thought the world started and ended with Final Fantasy and no matter how compelling your argument I couldn't be swayed. As an adult I have come to realize that there are many other great JRPG franchises from the 8 and 16 bit era that are just as deserving of my time. A major contender for the title of best JRPG franchise is the Phantasy Star series. Other than a few hours with a Genesis and a copy of Phantasy Star 2 (or was it 4?) at my aunt's house, I had never played any of the entries. With my trusty emulation machine in hand I decided it was time to rectify that.
Enter Alis, Odin, Myau and Noah and the wonderful world of the Algol system. I figured if you're going to give it a real shot you might as well start at the beginning, so that's what I did when I flashed up Phantasy Star from the Sega Master System. Right off the bat I was impressed by the "cut scenes" and battle animation. For an 8 bit system these were some impressive graphics to be pumping out. On par with some 16 bit offerings if I may be so bold (and it's my blog so I'll be as bold as I damn well please). The overworld graphics were on par with other games from that era and the menu system was rudimentary and functional. But all in all I was buckled in for a fun ride in an old car and I wasn't going to let a few aged menus stop me from enjoying this title.
Phantasy Star is unique in that you can save anywhere at anytime. So playing it on my RetroPie didn't actually give me any unfair advantage over the games mechanics (not that it would have mattered one lick to me anyway). However something I did discover very quickly was that this game was clearly designed in an era long since gone from video games. Cryptic messages from townsfolk, perilous dungeons with no map, no markings and nothing to guide you but a compass and a stack of graph paper (if you are so lucky). Now pre-teen me would have sunk hours into this exploring every corner, manually drawing out each map like a modern day Lewis and Clark. Grinding on enemies until I was able to fell them in a single blow (ok I may have still done this part). Sadly modern day me has neither the time nor the patience for such exploration. To paraphrase one of my favourite YouTube game reviewers
'There are too many games to waste time stuck or lost in a retro title'
So I did what any reasonable gamer with not enough time and a desire to see a story through would do... I followed a walk through. Now you may be thinking
'First save states now walk throughs? This guy is a fraud, he's no real gamer'
I can assure you not only do I not care what you think of how I enjoy my hobby, but I'd wager that no one else does either. How many people out there have shelves of guides, tip books and Nintendo Powers that all offer tricks and walk throughs for some of the toughest games from the 80's and 90's? Well the internet is the modern day magazine and I say go for it. So I did.
What I found in the 30 or so hours it took me to journey across the 3 planets in the Algol system with Alis and company was that this was a solid way to start a franchise. They get a lot right; combat graphics, story, simple levelling up system and difficulty (of monsters). They also had some areas for improvement; not being able to select which target to attack for focused fire, needlessly drawn out travel between planets/towns and difficulty (of dungeons).
At the end of the day I was happy I had waited to take this adventure with Phantasy Star, so much so that I fired up the sequel today and plan to make that my next take down. A little part of me is sad that I don't have the time and lack of responsibility that pre-teen Sean had, but as long as I've got save states and walk throughs I'll be able to enjoy all these games that carefree little guy missed out on.
In the year 20XX I played Mega Man X for the CartridgeClub on my WiiU virtual console. Nothing can top the feeling of playing a game with a community of friends and everyone trading tips and tricks. I made it all the way to the final boss of this SNES platforming jewel, but was never able to put that final nail in Sigma's coffin. You see my brother got all the skill when it comes to jumping and shooting, all I got was the lousy tee shirt.
After the month passed I never expected to get back to the Blue Bomber's first foray on the SNES, even though I had added the cartridge to my want list. Then along came the RetroPie and everything changed.
Now I know the WiiU virtual console, like the RetroPie, also has save states, but until recently I felt like that was cheating. As if using them would somehow lessen my enjoyment of the game. Boy was I wrong! Mega Man X was the first game I completed on my fancy new toy and every second of it was pure bliss. Gone was the stress of starting a level over again, no more would I have the hassle of writing down a password. I saved after every boss fight and again in the stages right before attempting those mid level champs and final robot masters. Am I ashamed? Shit no. I got to experience this entire game from start to finish including all the upgrades.
The music, some of the best in gaming history, sounded just as good. The graphics, those gorgeous sprites that were crafted with such detail and love, all looked just as amazing. Stage design lost none of its charm, whether it was underwater, in the air or deep underground.
Bottom line is I loved this game when I played it as a kid, when I played it with the Club and even more so when I beat it using save states and a walk through. I'm not ashamed anymore and I'm happy to say that I'll keep knocking off these classics in my own time, on my own terms.
I recommend you do the same. Play how you want, when you want. No apologies, no regrets. Now if you need me I'll be over here listening to that Spark Mandrill music, because you just can't top those beats.
Hello my name is Sean and I am an emulator user.
Some days it seems like that statement is an admission of guilt in some retro gaming circles, and I am ashamed to admit that I once counted myself amongst the 'purists'. Recently things have changed for me, I have less time, I have less money, I have less patience and, I have more responsibilities. All of those things add up to me ignoring a lot of the games from yesteryear that would have made up the majority of young, wild and free Sean's play time. A friend of mine made some tweets a couple months back about how frustrated he was about not being able to find an NES Classic. His solution was to instead get a custom built RetroPie from the King of Code Travis (of Polypill fame). Time went by and I found myself envious of each of Diego's (my Mini NES-less friend) tweets championing his newfound retro goldmine.
So I did something I often claimed I never would, and I asked Travis to hook me up. My very own RetroPie arrived just 2 days ago and everything has changed for the better.
This little rig is amazing! I asked for complete libraries of the SMS, Genesis, NES, SNES, TG16, Neo-Geo and a few choice Sega CD titles. No problem for the King of Code. Now I am a man with simple desires, one of which being that I expect my toys to work right out of the box. I don't want to fiddle, I don't want to adjust settings, I just want it to work. So in the instructional video Travis sent me it was pointed out that all the button mapping, input lag reducing and optimizing had already been taken care of for me. All the waist bands in Texas couldn't hide the boner I had that day.
So here I am, a former purist who would only play games on original hardware or official virtual consoles. I am using save states and I am loving it. The RetroPie has given me the freedom to enjoy those games that my adult life (and slow thumbs) had made unaccessible to me. It has made retro gaming fun for me again. Will I be entering any tournaments or going for world records? No, I'll just be over here enjoying games I love (and some I haven't played before) in a format that makes me happy.
My name is Sean and I am an emulator user and, more importantly, I am a GAMER.