SITE NEWS: Introduction

Hello.

I am a 25-year old Finnish male, and I have started this blog mainly for my own amusement, and as an outlet for a lot of opinions and ponderings I have, mostly regarding video games but also occasionally other stuff. I did, however, have in mind a theme of general nerdiness and just simply entertainment that I enjoy or, in some cases, do not enjoy.

As I said, I thought about focusing mainly on video games. I have been a gamer pretty much since I was 3 years old, and my parents bought the Nintendo Entertainment System for me and my sister, who is three years older than me. Obviously, I would end up spending much more time with said console than my sister, who would at some point make a good bit of fun about my gaming habits (I’m sure a lot of gamers-since-youth can relate).

The first game I had the opportunity to play was the first Super Mario Brothers game, which I wasn’t very good at; let’s keep in mind, however, that I was 3-4 years old at the time. I have a faint recollection of my cousin playing the game from beginning to end, and I was awestruck by his ability to beat the game that was so overpowering to me from about the third world onwards. I would later get my own feelings of triumph through games like Super Mario Brothers 2 and Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers 2.

In addition to those games, I played a couple of others on my NES as well: games borrowed from friends via a “temporary game exchange”. At that time it was pretty standard (at least where I was growing up) that kids would compare which games they had and lend each other titles to try out, in exchange for a game in kind. It sort of gave you an “insurance” that you would get your game back if the other person wanted theirs, but also created a sort of “gaming community” among kids, effectively allowing us to identify which people in our class etc. were into video games, and with whom you could discuss games and gaming.

One of these borrowed game experiences was, unsurprisingly, Super Mario Brothers 3, which was arguably the best one of the classic platformer series. At this point I had gained sufficient gameplay experience to be able to (eventually) reach the final boss and beat the game. From this point on, “beating the game” became a thing – I was no longer content with just playing the same levels over and over; I wanted to see what the late game would bring in any given game. After all, defeating the little Koopa princes to make your way to finally face Bowser himself felt really rewarding in itself, especially since I hadn’t had that experience a lot of times before.

Another game that I borrowed from my best friend would be at least as mention-worthy as the previously mentioned: Kirby’s Adventure. My friend had wished for a specific NES game for birthday/Christmas (I can’t remember which), and was extremely disappointed to find out his parents had instead bought him this super-obscure adventure game which literally none of us had ever heard of. Grudgingly, he began playing it, and – who knew – before long, every single one of our little peewee-gamer network (and several outsiders) were begging him for some borrowed time with this exotic title.

Myself, I would stay enticed by the world of the pink Japanese vacuum cleaner hero for years to come. Not only did the gameplay of Kirby’s Adventure achieve fantastic levels of fun, but possibly for the first time in my gaming life, I found myself interested in the colorful characters in the game. Even though the game itself revealed very little of the characters’ backstories or even the game’s plot itself, me and my friends often ended up drawing our own visions of the “Kirby lore” from our imaginations. This would later carry over to a few other games as well, up until the point when storytelling in games became explicit enough to plausibly follow.

Some time later, probably due to my likely constant queries on the possibility of a new gaming console, my mother (with whom me and my sister now lived after our parents’ divorce) agreed to buy me a used Super Nintendo Entertainment System, that came with a couple of games from the previous owner. I can’t remember exactly if there were three or four games, but I remember the first game that captured my attention was the first Donkey Kong Country.

Coming fresh from NES games and not having seen a great deal of other games, DKC’s graphics looked almost surrealistically amazing – and let’s face it, other than the bad resolution, those graphics could, in a way, still hold their own today. Before I had had time to properly finish said game, however, I heard a friend of mine was playing Donkey Kong Country 2, which seemed instantly intriguing to me, as I had immediatedly loved the first game. After seeing the sequel in action, however, the original game seemed to lose some of its glory – the second one seemed so much more fun, and somehow colorful. And the pirate theme seemed irresistible to me. I eventually asked my mother to buy it for me and she agreed, so we went out to the closest store that carried a decent selection of video games, only to find out that there were no SNES games for sale there, and there would never be any again. You see, a new generation of gaming consoles had already surfaced and claimed the market. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

DKC2 would end up becoming one of my favorite games (if not #1) for a long time to come. I would borrow it from the friend who had it for months at a time, and I ended up being the first one of my friends to thoroughly finish the game, bonus levels and all – even ahead of the game’s owner (who I don’t think ever actually collected all of the Bonus Coins, although he claimed he had almost immediatedly after I had presented him my entirely cleared Crocodile Island). This must have been my first experience of clearing out a game with optional content entirely, as well as my first experience of being “better” than someone, or in this case, being good sooner.

A couple of paragraphs up, I mentioned how Kirby’s Adventure hooked me on games of the Kirby series. That’s why I went entirely bonkers (pun intended) when I was browsing through my “local” (15km away) game store and came across a game titled Kirby’s Fun Pak (or Kirby Superstar by its other, maybe more widely recognized title). My mother had to relent to my urging, and she payed about 600 Finnish marks (about 100€ at the time of the currency transition, maybe less now) for another of my all-time favorite games. This title didn’t include just one string of levels to press through, but instead it consisted of several smaller (although a couple were rather long) chapters or “mini-games”, ranging from a classic linear level-after-level run to a strongly dialogue-narrated epic, to a somewhat branching treasure hunt in a massive cavern setup. It also featured modes like Arena, where you would face many of the game’s mini-bosses only, and a reflex-based sudden-death duel mode, called “Samurai Kirby”. This was a game that I played so much I can’t even guess how many hours I sank into it – I would, however, be both interested and frightened to know the actual number. I ended up clearing it 100% over and over again. Other SNES games worth a mention would be Donkey Kong Country 3Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s IslandKiller Instinct and NHL ’96. All of those games had a significant impact on me in one way or another.

Then came the incident that I described above – the case where I was about to get a DKC2 of my own only to find out that SNES games were a thing of the past. Some time earlier, actually, my friend (the same one who had received Kirby’s Adventure to his initial disappointment, later delight) had asked his parents for a SNES, but after visiting the electronics store said parents returned home with something different (again). This friend of mine was the first of my friends to have Sony PlayStation, which I remember being kind of a big deal at the time – and even as a kid, I understood why. Back then, it seemed the possibilities for this disc-fueled contraption were endless, and the games looked so amazing. It would be a while, though, until we would properly grasp the now-expanded world of video games and what it had to offer.

With the PlayStation console, my friend had received only a disc in a cardboard envelope titled “Demo One“. Honestly, we didn’t even know what a “demo” was – not in the general sense and not in what it meant in games. We assumed it was a full game, since we had no knowledge of any other possibility. We were so muddled by the strange-shaped controller and the super-graphic menus that we didn’t realize you could change the game you wish to try – instead we mashed “X” until a game started, and assumed the rest was just “generic start-up stuff”.

The game that we launched over and over again was Abe’s Oddysee. Hey, we could’ve done worse – as far as I remember, that one was the only game on the demo that actually became anything, among the likes of Kurushi, Life Force Tenka and Porsche Challenge. (Well, there was Disney’s Hercules, but the success of any given Disney license game is a bit debatable.) The demo ended at the part where Abe is supposed to get out of Rupture Farms and into the wilderness, only in the demo the path was crammed full of mines rendering passage utterly impossible. However, not understanding the concept of a “demo”, we kept trying to invent more and more outlandish ways to pass, and went through more and more trouble of finding possible alternate routes. Boy, did we have a laugh on our own expense when my friend realized what Demo One was actually about.

At this stage, we’re approaching a defining point in my life as a video game player. There were three games released for PlayStation that would, in one way or another, remain relevant to me to this day. Come to think of it, each of them has a distinct meaning for me today, deviating from one another quite clearly.

The first one – not chronologically – would be Metal Gear Solid. Like most people, I had my first contact with Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece of a game series through this game, which the creator knew full well and thus refrained from naming it “Metal Gear 3”, to avoid alienating potential new fans. If earlier I had seen actual storytelling in a game “teased” through interesting characters and text-based dialogue, this point in time was when games became – for me – comparable to movies in terms of conveying a story. Metal Gear Solid, along with the entire game series, has told a story unmatched in my eyes by any other game, or any movie, TV-series, or book, for that matter. In case it remains unclear, Metal Gear is my favorite game series of all time and I could write for hours on end on the many nuances of the decades-long epic. But now is not the time for that.

It should also be noted that this is one of the most important games in terms of developing my English skills – back when my classmates were learning some very fundamental phrases and words, I already knew strings of words such as “nuclear warhead disposal facility”. Whenever I ran into a word or an expression I didn’t understand, I would look it up, because the story was so interesting that I definitely didn’t want to miss out on anything because I couldn’t understand what was being said.

The second of the key games was Final Fantasy VII. I missed the impact of Final Fantasy VI which, I understand, was the hook of the series for a lot of gamers, but I was introduced to Squaresoft’s monumental RPG games through the seventh entry. Again, my views on video games were expanded and reinvented, as Final Fantasy VII told a story longer than any I had seen before, as well as demonstrated freedom unlike any I had toyed with up until that point. I would remain a follower of the Final Fantasy series for years, until Final Fantasy X, which lost me a bit since I was super late to the party – I didn’t get PS2 anywhere near the first ones. I later collected many of the older games as well, and Final Fantasy VI became one of my favorites.

Final Fantasy VII, however, excelled in my opinion in producing extremely memorable characters and story twists that actually made you smile, shudder, and grimace. That was something very unusual at the time – for me at least. It still is, in fact. Final Fantasy VII started what would later evolve into a high-maintenance appetite for role-playing games, even if I did splinter off the JRPG subgenre entirely in favor of games more akin to Baldur’s Gate, which I would find only much later.

Finally, a game that had a big impact on me back in the day but its meaning would transform greatly over the years (or that of its sequels would, at least), is Resident Evil. We played the first game as kids, probably as 9-year-olds or so, even though quite frankly the first game was really scary. And not only that, it required some serious brainwork to complete, and I find it fairly awesome that we managed to beat the game back when we were still kids. Granted, we played it as a “team”, the two of us, and played with Jill, which makes the game exponentially easier. I later beat the game with Chris, which as a child seemed utterly impossible, since his small inventory and lack of decent equipment throughout the game mostly felt like a cruel joke.

I would eventually progress to the game’s sequels systematically, and to this day Resident Evil: Code Veronica X is the only game of the main series I haven’t quite finished, and that’s mainly because that game is ridiculously long. The GameCube remake of the first game became one of my alltime favorite games (which it still remains), due to it retaining basically all of the things that made the original so awesome, while improving on things like graphics and atmosphere. Resident Evil 4 was a turning point in the series, but I still liked that game, even if I did hope for the return of zombies and some more traditional elements in future installations. The next two games would change how I felt about the series for good. But that, once again, is a long story that I’m not going to stuff in here.

PlayStation also introduced me to games such as Grand Theft AutoCommand & Conquer (whose sequel, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is another one of my alltime favorite games), the Crash Bandicoot series (which later spawned Crash Team Racing, a game me and my friends still play today in our get-togethers), Spyro the Dragon and loads of others – after all, this was the era when games started popping up everywhere like mushrooms after rain, so there were bound to be many great games among all of them.

I would remain a patron of Sony even after the next generation saw the release of the first XBox console. The console in question has always remained a bit obscure to me, as I’ve never owned one and I’ve barely even tried it out. So far, I’ve had no reason to drop out of my commitment to the Japanese electronic entertainment behemoth, and so I haven’t. I did buy a used GameCube console from a friend of mine in order to try out the aforementioned Resident Evil remake, as well as Resident Evil 4. Then again, GameCube was Nintendo’s last effort to compete with the other two gaming giants – after that they kind of withdrew into a torpor of stagnant re-releases of their old games.

I (eventually) bought PlayStation 2, and later – when the actual boom had already passed – PlayStation 3. I actually bought PlayStation 3 for one game and one game only – I was practically ready to not spend any more money on consoles and just focus on PC gaming if anything – and that game was Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I simply had to own that game. That one actually made the entire series come together and made it the absolute greatest entertainment experience I’ve ever come across.

As time went on, I became more interested in PC gaming, as I had access to better hardware and such. I spent several months, probably, playing Might & Magic VII: For Blood and Honor, which I found was simply fantastic. After I had beaten it, I really wanted another game to have similar qualities, and after browsing the website of some game retailer (I can’t even remember which one it was), I narrowed my options down to two: Icewind Dale and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I picked the latter, and boy was I happy I did. (Icewind Dale is also a great game, as I would come to notice as I played it years later, but I do feel I made the right pick.)

Morrowind became the game I have played more than any other game ever (except perhaps NetHack, which can’t be beaten), and I would literally spend all day playing it at some point – I would wake up at or after noon, play for at least 12 hours straight, barely pausing even to eat, and then go to sleep to regain my strength for more playing. At that point, I was really hooked – in the sort of negative meaning of the word. But I had such a good time with Morrowind – I was absolutely astounded by how free the game felt, and how amazing it was to just look around at the view from a mountaintop or down a river. Even if Morrowind’s graphics seem laughable now, back then there was something absolutely unique about the world – you could actually go anywhere you wanted.

I became a fan of the series, even if I did quickly notice that Morrowind would not be topped by its sequels – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was a fun, good-looking game but for some reason it didn’t have the same magic in it. Perhaps it was because the world was no longer unique and unusual with believable history and culture as well as the framework for your own imagination to fill in the blanks, but had turned more into another Middle-Earth -clone. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim similarly failed to improve, as it had more of some things but less of things that would have made it feel amazing. I’m not going to get deeper into that right now.

These days, I play a lot of different games through Steam mostly, but not exclusively. I have PlayStation 3 (I haven’t yet bought PlayStation 4 but I intend to, maybe next year) but I prefer PC most of the time. I also own a PSP but it’s already fading into history, so not much worth attention there. Tactics games are kind of a specialty of mine, as well as role-playing games, strategy games and puzzlers. I like a great variety of games though; the only games I’m generally not crazy about are sports games, with the exception of the NHL series and a few others.

So there. I’m not expecting anyone to read through all that, even if I did cut a big chunk of it to make it even remotely readable. But if you did, that’s awesome, thank you. I’m intending to write something at least once a week – sometimes maybe just short blurts, but quite possibly sometimes longer rants or meditations.

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