Introducing Moments We Remember

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a time
Gaming at home, Aug 15, 2009, by Maria Morri (1920x1080)I’m about to embark on a journey with this post – and I’ll need your help. This journey will either lead to a honeycomb of new tales and new faces, or it will peter out and be assigned to the graveyard of faded feature ideas. So on that jolly note, here goes.

Real-life story features in game magazines and websites are some of my favourite. They are the ‘My Favourite Game’ articles. The community spotlights that were previously so common on GameSpot and IGN before social media killed forums. The career spotlights in the likes of Develop magazine. Or, occasionally, the one-off posts by guest writers who give you a whole new perspective on a game or genre. Continue reading

Fighter in Training

During a net search while writing about the Street Fighter IV comic book series I came across Neo Empire!

This website converges the UK fighting game scene in one place, with tournaments, forums and reports on all the developments in the world of fighting games. While they appear to be an independent group, they list many partners on their website which suggest they’re running a pretty impressive outfit.

Back in April I had a go on the arcade version of Namco’s Tekken 6, and before that I was shameless defeated on the arcade version of Street Fighter IV during the launch of the console version. I’d like to think I’m of average skill level with fighting games, but since I consider Soulcalibur my mainstay – purely because I can get my head round countering and pulling off one or two specials – I bet the kids online would thrash me like a sculpture made from papier-mâché.

Still, I’ve always had a vague wonderment at how invested fighting fans are in the world of their chosen fighting franchise, and even more so at their fighting skill. Perhaps more than any other genre out there, fighting games really do require the absolute epitome of technique and focus if players are to master the gameplay.

In the words of Chris Tucker: “Heck, anybody can shoot somebody.” But can you do a back flip, high-counter, duck, pull a reversal and transfer into a steaming dragon kick? Nope? Well, that makes two of us. Fortunately, I’m quite content enjoying the action from the sidelines, like one of the nameless 2D background characters cheering like an idiot. I’d even take one of those guys with the boombox.

Even with my fighting game deficit, I’ll be playing and learning as much about the genre as I can because, despite its relatively niche status these days, the appetite for virtual face-offs never dies. The book I unwrapped only yesterday – Arcade Mania! – is sure to keep me thumbing through it to dig out all sorts facts and details that will help in my quest to understand more. (A huge thank you to madtyger.) That way, if I ever get the chance to challenge a Japanese fighting master in the flashing halls of a Shinjuku arcade at least my defeat will be graceful.

Batman Arcade Forever!

There’ve been a lot of bad Batman games over the years. Batmen Vengeance, Batman Begins, Batman & Robin – but there’s one Batman game that stands tall, and holds its mediocre reputation proudly. There’s a game that silently tugs at my feet in the middle of the night, willing me to just try one more stage. There’s a game that’s brutal in its arcade mechanics, yet addicted me all most to no end. There’s one game that doesn’t only throw in co-op just because the license practically says it should, it’s actually good.

That game is Batman Forever: The Arcade Game.

OK, OK. Let’s just backup here for a sec. I know Batman Forever (PS) is hardly going to win any awards for its repetitive side-scrolling fighter thrills, but if there’s one guilty pleasure I just can’t deny it’s this one.

Back in 1998 my brother and I didn’t have many PS1 games, so we aimed to get the most out of the few we had. As soon as we popped in the disc, we went straight for the two-player co-op option and began our mission to clean up the streets of Gotham. Jumping out of the dorsal fin-shaped Batmobile – or rather forcibly ejected against our will – we headed into the backalleys, a horde of goons immediately shuffling forward to greet us.

What really is the heart of this game is the aggressive/scavenger-like gameplay. What I mean by this is one minute you be surrounded by bad guys, you and your buddy will take them down and then you’ll be rushing to collect the energy power-ups they drop. The more energy you have the stronger your attacks and combos will be, the stronger your combos the more enemies you see blink into oblivion (and the more the screen will ritualistically flash – as if counter attacking an epileptic with strobe lighting). And with two-players it doubly addictive.

Many ‘game over’ screens and repetitive audio clips later and we eventually made it to the penultimate level, and of the most infuriating arcade bosses I’ve ever fought, the monarch bat. Explosive batarangs, grappling hooks, tasers – no matter what we tried we just couldn’t seem to beat this boss. Inevitably, our credits soon ran out and it was ‘game over’ yet again. Now normally at this point I would take out the disc and feel cheated for buying such a frustrating and repetitive game. Yet despite all of it numerous faults, dodgy collision detection, half-baked walking animations and bosses which required equally as much luck as skill, we continued to play it.

You see, after you’ve played Batman Forever for a long as we did back then you begin to see the puppet strings and clockwork that makes it tick. With the right combination of moves and equipment we soon found that you could have all sorts of fun inflicting pain on these CPU drones. It’s actually possible to pull off x99 combos or more by furiously repeating the same combo move while in power-up mode. Once we realised this we returned to the crimebusting scene, with a vengeance. Memorising most enemy encounters and with improved combo knowledge we fought our way all the way to the Riddler’s throne room. Success was finally within our grasp. Unfortunately, the monarch bat had cost us most of our saved credits so when one of us when down fighting Two-Face we defeat was only a health bar away.

We did manage it that time. And we still haven’t beaten it. But Batman Forever remains one of my all-time favourite two-player games, for its gameplay rewards button mashing mayhem.