The Aladdin’s Cave of Retro Gaming

Down a narrow walkway filled with neon lights and maid cafe waitresses, in the streets of Akihabara, Tokyo, lies a small stairway that leads into the glorious past of retro gaming. Super Potato is renowned throughout the retro gaming community, with stores in Osaka, Kansai and Tokyo, with the latter serving as the flagship store. I couldn’t visit Akihabara without paying a visit to this illustrious store that holds some of the world’s greatest video games.

Video game artwork from past and present adorned the walls and stairway upon entering the first floor of the store. It was like stepping into a museum, each item inside enriched in history. Across three floors a treasure trove of hidden gems from the 80s and 90s onwards, comparable to the gaming equivalent of Aladdin’s Cave.

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Losing myself in aisles of Super Potato – “The Aladdin’s Cave of Retro Gaming”

There were games I’d never seen before, rare titles – some still sealed in pristine condition. Famicon cartridges decorated the walls like an artist’s canvas bursting with colours, entwined with one another but holding consistency, similar to a Jackson Pollock painting. Every corner of the room just oozed with memories from my childhood, remembering back to when these retro characters and games were once more popular than the giants of today. Each one instantly triggering that nostalgic feeling.

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There were rows and rows of wondefully coloured Famicon boxes along with single cartridges, each one meticulously ordered throughout the store.

The Japanese versions of each game, in terms of packaging, seemed to be of a different calibre of what we are used to in the west. I’d never noticed that Japanese Gamecube games came in individual sleeves that featured full artwork, some with extra detailing such as textured raised spot glass accent to specific areas of the sleeve. Super Potato also sells pre-loved games and it just shows how much the locals value their possessions. The used games were in such pristine condition they could have been mistaken as brand new.

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The sleeve design and box artwork from the Japanese Gamecube games was a lot more appealling than those in the west. 

Not only does this condensed retreat offer games from the past, it also has a small selection of more recent releases, although they aren’t the stores main focus. Every side of the room features some form of popular gaming protagonist. There’s merchandise, gaming peripherals, home consoles and more, all of which are purchasable unless otherwise stated.

The highest floor of Super Potato is abundant with Arcade Machines that give prominence to the golden era of gaming. On approaching the top level of the store you are instantly hit by that vintage, retro beat from gaming’s past, like a waterfall of sound hitting your ears from the open doorway. Local folk can be seen spending their evenings in a pixelated universe, escaping the day to day mundane before heading back off into their daily lives. Luckily we managed to visit during a weekday so avoided the boat load of attendees we were told visited after working hours.

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We managed to visit the arcade mid afternoon on a weekday, avoiding the truck load of people who visted after working hours.

The pure excitement etched on people’s faces as they first stepped inside was shared among others as an instant reflection of those from the past. The first time we acquired the master sword in The Legend of Zelda, Defeated Bowser in Super Mario or stepped away victorious from the elite four in Pokemon. The Christmas days of way back when that saw us tearing open the newest home console, now housed on the walls similar to a video game museum. It’s the facial expressions in these memories and moments that was plastered on the faces of those arriving for the first time, the memories not only seemed to flood back to me upon entering but many others too.

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Although my girlfriend isn’t the biggest fan of gaming she certainly developed an appriciation for the place, especially after meeting the giant Super Mario at the entrance of Super Potato.

I for one had become extremely jaded with how important this era of gaming was, however, for many years I’d took it for granted. This gaming pilgrimage to Akihabara made me realise that this foundation of classics, that was built up so long ago, was the building block that allowed gaming to thrive today, becoming a behemoth of the entertainment industry, and for that, I am truly thankful.

To see more recent updates, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

/ CR

 

 

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Bigger isn’t always Better

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of the highlights, if not one of the best games shown at this year’s E3 press conference. They seem to be doing all the right things and taking the series in the right direction. The art style is simply gorgeous, matching that of gouache painted landscape. The exclusion of a hand holding tutorial and an open world in which I can explore is something I’ve longed for in ages.

There were so many positive additions to the game – forging, cooking, climbing, various weapons and armour, just to name a few. The new gameplay mechanics that saw Link having to consume food to stay alive, whether that be gathered through foraging or hunting. The temperature gauge, that saw him losing hearts if he was stationed in a cold area for too long, meaning Link would have to acquire warmer clothes to stay alive. It was brilliant, finally, Nintendo seemed to be getting everything right.

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A screenshot taken from the 2014 trailer when the game was set for a 2015 launch and was known as The Legend of Zelda Wii U. This is the game that I was looking forward too.

Then the exploration was shown, I managed to watch the whole Nintendo Treehouse event and throughout I couldn’t help but feel that the Map was a little sparse and empty. Now I know that towns and storyline related NPC’s were stripped from the demo due to Nintendo not wanting to show too much at E3. The map was also restricted to just 1% of the final size, in order to not reveal too much.

All that aside, I felt as though the map lacked any real density. They mentioned how Breath of the Wild’s open world is 12 times bigger than that of Twilight Princess, as if bigger is always better? Personally, I’d rather have a map half the size but densely packed full of life, something that thrives and feels lived in, where the deep forests feel overgrown and uncharted and the valleys are bursting with personality.

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Screenshots taken from the 2016 trailer. Set for a 2017 launch. The difference is all most polar oppisite compared to the screenshot above, where as this should be the better version. It’s a dreary set of images when stacked up against that of the 2014 trailer screenshot.

After playing the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 last year, the bar was set higher than ever for open world games. Traversing through those worlds made me want to explore every nook and cranny and leave no stone unturned. Both worlds were packed full of places to explore. Even walking through a small wood in The Witcher 3 proved to be an exciting experience. The grass was long and overgrown, the trees shadowing over you, danger arose greatly as bears and beasts roamed in the area, you’d feel a real sense of Adventure and exploration from the map design alone. Whereas I just didn’t get that from Breath of the Wild.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn, another open world game set for 2017. This game features a densley packed world that looks deep and condensed, similar to that of the Legend of Zelda screenshot from the 2014 trailer, but a million miles away from the most recent 2016 ones. Not a good sign.

What we’d seen in the first trailer didn’t seem to represent the full game. The trailer seemed to be rich in life and dense in nature where the game demo lacked any real personality as if the game was bare beforehand and a few trees and camps were plonked within it to give an effect of a stocked landscape. Eiji Aonuma recently spoke about the games density.

“We talked a little bit about the idea of density, how dense to make this big world” Aonuma explained. The team realised that filling the vast landscape with things to do and explore would be a lot of work.

As the team experienced moving around on horseback or climbing up to a high place to paraglide down, they realised that their desire to see what’s ahead of the next horizon grew. At the same time, the team realised some moments should be subtle as you explore. “We realised that it’s OK if there’s pocket of emptiness”

– Interview source: IGN.com

I don’t want pockets of emptiness, what good is a huge world if that’s the case? why not a world half the size that isn’t as sparse? The encampments and shrines seem to be quite similar too. I’m aware each shrine will feature different puzzles and treasures but the game seems to resemble Far Cry in a way where you traverse to different outposts in order to overcome them, something that got boring quite quickly. A similar resemblance was shown many times in the demo with Bokoblin camps and each one seemed to be a similar setup. If this is representative of how each camp in the game is going to be, it’ll grow tiresome quite quickly.

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A Bokoblin camp, again the texture and setting of the world fail to resemble that of the 2014 trailer screenshot toward the top of this article.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Zelda game I’ve always wanted, but in terms of exploration I’m a little worried. I don’t know if it’s the lack of power on the Wii U, the stripped back demo or just bad examples used throughout their official game trailer and demos. I want this game to succeed on all levels but seeing something like the examples above gets me a little worried. This is a detrimental time for Nintendo and all I want to see is them return to form.

I hope I’m proved wrong, I hope this is just due to parts of the game being stripped back for the purpose of the demo. I’m curious to see what awaits over the horizon within the game. I don’t voice these opinions because I want to put Nintendo down or because I’m not fond of the game, I do it because I genuinely care and I want the game to be as best as it possibly can be. If the game is slated for its sparse appearance or lack of density it’ll be a blow, not just to Nintendo, but to myself and those of us that love the series.

It seems that the nature of the games industry is that “bigger is always better”, that the bigger a map can be made the better it will be, as if it’s some kind of achievement, regardless of what lies within it. In general, I’d rather have a map that was half the size and full of personality, rich and alive, as opposed to something huge, barren and boring. Let’s hope as more of the game is unveiled my worries for its lack of density disappear.

/ CR

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E3 2016 in Retrospect

Well another E3 has passed and it’s unsettling to think how fast this one has come and gone. It seems not long ago I was sitting down to watch the reveal of Fallout 4, and now it’s been nearly a year since it’s release. I’m not here to talk about what was and wasn’t at E3 or what the games are like in terms of features, gameplay, story etc. That’s all already been covered by press insiders and the likes, as always I’m here to give my opinion on the last couple of days while I sip on a freshly made brew.

I always look forward to E3, the build up before the conferences can only be compared to the sleepless nights as a child on the eve of Christmas Day. I become very excited and giddy to see what the next year holds for the gaming industry as a whole. As many of you know I’m a PlayStation and Nintendo gamer at heart, but that’s not to say I don’t like to dabble in what Xbox and the other third parties are up too.

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Gears of War 4 is looking absolutely incredible, a big miss for PlayStation fans.

Xbox seemed to have a very strong conference this year, far improved to what was shown the year previous. Every year there’s always a game from their conference that I wish would be coming to PlayStation, this year it was Gears of War 4. I’ve only ever played the first two from the series and although enjoyable I’ve failed to work through the whole series, but the latest instalment looks incredible and is sure to be making a lot of GOW fans very happy.Project Scorpio was also revealed, something to get very excited about, as of now I’m a little wary about the whole concept. I’d like to see how developers will provide the better game for the newer consoles when they will always need to cater

Project Scorpio was also revealed, something to get very excited about. As of now I’m a little wary about the whole concept. I’d like to see how developers will provide the better game for the newer consoles when they will always need to cater for the lowest denominator. However, they could take the approach of a PC mentality, where the game is able to run at low, medium and high settings. Allowing Scorpio to take advantage of the high end and the original consoles run on the low end. Still no confirmation has been made although I’m very eager to hear more.

When voicing my opinion I try to avoid the negativity surrounding games and focus on the more positive aspects of the industry, but I really can’t fathom the words to describe the EA conference in a positive way. I feel like EA is kind of going through an identity crisis at the moment, in terms of where they stand or who they really appeal to. Their conference and genre of games seem too diverse in relation to the audience in a way that their showcase is never going to appeal to everyone. Once again the word on Twitter was that there was far too much talk about sports games, with FIFA and Madden taking up most of the show. I would’ve loved to have seen more of Mass Effect personally, as well as the Star Wars game from Visceral, sadly that wasn’t the case as it appears that both titles are too far away to devote any solid time to either one.

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Dishonored II’s setting is definitely remincient of the Bioshock series.

Without fail E3 always causes me to face off against my backlog of broken dreams, all those games I pictured finishing but just never got round to. In this case, it was Dishonored. As the second instalment began to unfold on stage it reminded me that I really needed to get back to the first game. The showcase of Dishonored II was glorious. Drawing me straight into that living, breathing world. The setting, atmosphere and culture of Karnaca, known as “the jewel of the south” in game, seems to absolutely thrive. It reminds me of the Bioshock series, which holds, in my opinion, the most unforgettable setting in a video game to date.

The conference I most look forward too is Sony’s. Mainly due to Nintendo not holding a traditional conference and PlayStation being my go to console ever since I was young. Last year’s conference was described as the “Year of Dreams” due to how well-received it was. They had a lot of competition this year from Microsoft and I thought that Xbox may steal this year’s event. That was until PlayStation came out firing on all cylinders, the conference kicked off with the reveal of five PlayStation exclusives off the belt, all revealed alongside a live symphony orchestra that was playing the score along to each trailer.

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God of War made it’s triumphant return and is looking as beautiful as ever.

It was great to see God of War return, many have said that it’s a little too close to the Last of Us, yet I’d disagree. Kratos, the main protagonist of the series, has never been a character that I’ve cared much about. The God of War games always had a fantastic concept in terms of reference to Greek Gods and Norse Mythology, yet Kratos was just an angry ball of fury and the games just seemed to be a tech demo for each console. However that changed with the reveal of this new title, Kratos seemed to convey more emotion in that one trailer than all three games previous. The game looked stunning and I can’t wait to see more of it and who can deny Kratos’ new epic beard.

I was also blown away by how great Horizon: Zero Dawn looked too, the animations when taking down the mechs were incredible. The fights seemed to convey the protagonist in the form of a dancing duel with the walker while using whatever she had in her arsenal to take it down. it’s so great to see the folks at Guerrilla, who’s portfolio consists of nearly nothing but the Killzone series, excelling on every level in order to create a fantastic looking game with a truly unique concept.

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In terms of sheer beauty, Horizon definitely took the show for me. The game is shaping up to be one of the best I’ve seen.

The pacing of the Sony show was total perfection and every game they revealed was something that genuinely interested or intrigued me. The surprise of the show was definitely the Crash Bandicoot remastered collection, I never thought the Bandicoot would see the light of day again, but as promised the three greatest crash titles will be remastered from the ground up. A highlight was seeing Hideo Kojima unveil his new game while uttering the words “I’m Back” with a smile beaming across his face, it was certainly a special moment for the fans. A truly magnificent way to round off another great year of games for Sony.

Last but not least was Nintendo, although they were showing the least amount of games I was fully aware that Pokemon Sun and Moon and The Legend of Zelda were the only ones being shown. It was great to see new additions to generation 7 of the Pokemon franchise, although I do feel as though more could have been shown, especially the next evolution line of the starter Pokemon.

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It was brilliant to finally get an in depth look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and what an incredible one at that. 

The Legend of Zelda was finally given its title, Breath of the Wild. I have a lot more to speak out on about the title, which will be coming in my next post, mainly to talk about my biggest gripe with the game. However, the game looks beautiful. The art style is right up my street and the general design aesthetic in terms of monsters, clothing, weapons and architecture is just stunning, going as far as to exceed Windwaker on a visual level, in my opinion.

All in all, it has been a fantastic E3, There’s so much to look forward to in the next year. Not only are all these great games coming out in the next year and onwards, but we have the reveal of the NX to look forward to along with VR and the 0.5 releases of PlayStation and Xbox. Certainly a lot to look forward too.

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Club Sega: A Step Back in Time

The first place I just had to visit when I arrived in Akihabara was Club Sega, known as Club Sega Akihabara (クラブ セガ 秋葉原) in Japan. Whenever anyone mentions Akihabara or makes reference to the Electric Town of Tokyo, the first thing that comes to mind for me is this neon-lit street that houses these Sega-branded Arcades, right in the heart of Akihabara. The area in which I visit contained three buildings all of the same style but are counted as three separate entities by Sega, despite being within walking distance of each other.

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The entrance to one of the Club Sega buildings, Akihabara, Tokyo.

As I approached what is known as the “Main” building I was in awe how something as vast as these arcades still existed this day in age. Back home in the UK, it’s lucky if you see any arcades at all, never mind something of this nature. What was even crazier was the fact that people were queuing up before the doors opened at 10:00am, more than likely to secure their favourite arcade cabinet in order to play with friends or reach a new high score. The same for the western world may have been apparent twenty to thirty years ago, but it’s something that has almost died out completely, that certainly wasn’t the case in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. It was like stepping back in time.

The first floor contained mainly claw machines in where an array of prizes was showcased at the back of the machine with one prize teetering on a ledge, ready to fall, playing it’s part in luring you in. Most people know that these are a game of chance and luck, the claw mechanism fails to grip the prize until a certain amount of money has passed through the machine. Meaning you could spend an ungodly amount or win the prize on your first go. That didn’t stop the other half diving in with a handful of change.

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The ever alluring claw machine that the other half spent all of her change on.

The next few floors above contained various other prize winning games, but what I was really there for were the arcades. As the elevators opened to the next floor, it was apparent why many people still come here to play these games every day. The music blares out from the cabinets as you step back in time to a place where Arcades were as popular as ever. The neon glare from the machines captures its players in a daze. Cheering spectators crowd around popular players, ones who are exhausting their change in order to reach the highest score possible. Some people were even queuing up to play some of the most popular games. It was certainly a sight to behold.

I managed to snap a few pictures of locals playing their favourite games, one hand moving in a lighting quick manner to register the button presses as fast as possible, while the other hand raised a cigarette to their mouths to take another toke. Public smoking is still prohibited in these arcades and the second-hand smoke can still be seen lingering in the air as the neon lights from the arcade machine cut through it. I never expected these Arcades to be as popular and alive as they were, but that’s Japan in general for you. It strips every expectation you had of the place and presents something new.

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We spent a few hours in Club Sega in which most of the locals stayed glued to their seats.

I wasn’t looking for another arcade cabinet in particular but while advancing through the many different floors we did manage to stumble across a number of Pokken Tournament cabinets. This is where the Wii U title that released earlier this year was ported from. I stood in line to wait until a fresh set of competitors were brought up to the table. You can see why Nintendo wanted to get this game on a home console, some people were laughing and having fun, while others remained calm, focused and collected as they faced off against other competitors.

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This was actually my first time playing Pokken Tournament. I loved it so much that as soon as I got home I picked up a copy along with a Hori tournament controller.

Before we left we noticed a wall where many had shown their love for Club Sega, leaving their mark in the form of manga sketches, appreciative notes or just a general message stating who they were. My girlfriend decided to add a note to the wall in order to commemorate our visit to Club Sega. The place itself is a spectacle, I expected something different, wrongly comparing the place to the arcades back home, where in reality, the place thrives with people from all ages and walks of life. If you are visiting Japan and are in Akihabara, this is definitely worth a trip and somewhere I wouldn’t think twice to visit again if I were to return to Tokyo.

To see more pictures from my recent trip to Japan, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

/ CR

I’m going to Japan!

After months and months of saving and planning, in just under two weeks time I’ll finally get to tick “Travel to Japan” off my bucket list. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. From a very young age, I developed an interest in Japanese culture without even realising.

It all started when I got a SNES for Christmas, back in the early 90’s. I was brought up on Nintendo – Super Mario Bros. being my introduction to Video Games. My collection included classics such as – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Street Fighter II, Star Fox, Donkey Kong Country and much more. These games were my bread and butter and I sunk countless hours into them as a child. Through my friends, I got introduced to Pokemon, which was a complete phenomenon through the 90’s.

I have vivid memories of how it literally swept the nation and the world for that matter. It was incredible. Everyone was collecting and trading Pokemon cards, watching the TV show or playing the games. I used to watch Pokemon every Saturday morning and weekday nights along with Dragonball/Dragonball Z. I picked up a Gameboy with Tetris, which I still have to this day. I remember the day I got Pokemon Yellow, I went into town with my Mother and little brother. We bought it from a now discontinued gaming store. I came home and spent the rest of the day playing it until the batteries in my Gameboy died. Such great memories.

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Nintendo and PlayStation are my go to platforms when it comes to gaming.

As I got a little older I transitioned to PlayStation, although I still held a strong love for Nintendo. Video Games began to get a little more mature and I began to realise that games weren’t just a pastime for young children. Metal Gear Solid was the game that brought me to that realisation. The story gripped you, the character arcs were incredible and it felt like more than just a game. Final Fantasy VII evoked the same emotions. It was my first introduction to a deep story-driven JRPG, and I absolutely adored it.

You may begin to see a pattern starting to emerge – all of these Video Games, TV shows and various popular culture originate from Japan. This was something I wasn’t aware of at a younger age. The same pattern continued throughout the PS2 era and around the dawn of the PS3. I started to become aware of just how much of an influence Japanese gaming had on me. If it wasn’t for all of these games, I may have never been into gaming as much as I am now. I never knew that I was a fan of Anime, or that I even used to watch it and as I became aware of it I began to watch more of it. The older I got the more I developed a love for Japan, along with its history and culture. It soon became the country I wanted to visit most but it always seemed like a pipe dream. A few year ago my girlfriend and I conceived the idea of visiting Japan through the form a guided tour, but the price just seemed inaccessible and my dream of visiting Japan seemed to wither.

Luckily things changed, we decided to scrap the idea of paying for a guided tour and plan things ourselves. Finally, the dream of the Video Gamer pilgrimage to Akihabara was alive and well. Apart from the usual tourist destinations, Geek culture wise, I plan to visit the Pokemon Centre(s), Animate – The 8-floor Flagship store for everything Anime and Manga related, Nanako Broadway and many others. I’m open to any other recommendations as to where to visit if there are any readers who have visited Japan before or have heard of anywhere that’s recommended?

I’ll be documenting my trip through photography, blog posts and youtube videos. All of which will be done when I get home. Although I will be live updating on Twitter and Instagram while I’m there, if you’d like to follow those feeds. I have a lot of content planned with this trip in mind, I know I have a large number of followers who share this interest of mine so I hope you guys look forward to what will be coming to WhatRhinoSaid over the next few month.

/ CR

Have you ever suffered from Video Game fatigue?

Late of last year, I was totally engrossed in the hype leading up to Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront. When both games released I actually took time off work to play them through. I played both titles endlessly and when I wasn’t swapping between the two of them, I’d be creating related content from both, to upload to my YouTube channel. As Christmas rolled in I began playing those games a lot less, In all honesty, I was playing all games less and less to the point where my PS4 started gathering dust as the weeks went by.

This isn’t the first time its happened. When I was younger I had a lot more time to play. I didn’t have a job, didn’t have a girlfriend and apart from a social life, gaming became my biggest form of recreation. As you get older, you begin to become more responsible for a number of things. Whether it be a full-time job, paying your way, spending time with your partner, becoming a parent etc. There are many things that can begin to chip away at your time spent gaming. In my case, I fall under a number of those categories, yet I still find the time to play games, but at the moment I just don’t have the drive or motivation to do so and that isn’t a bad thing.

When I first encountered this sudden turn off from gaming I scoured the web in search of some kind of remedy or advice, something that would allow me to continue enjoying video games in the same way I may have at a previous point in time. I’d try my hand at classics – going back to games I’d thoroughly enjoyed at an earlier age. I’d play new games and try to experience something different. None of the above ever worked, which is when I realised I’d gotten burnt out from playing video games. It may sound crazy, video games are meant to be fun aren’t they? something you turn to when you feel burnt out from other things such as work or after a bad day? But I definitely stand by the saying; too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

I definitely stand by the saying; too much of a good thing can be bad for you

If you genuinely love playing games and do so the majority of the time then this fatigue may be something you have experienced before. Nothing really seemed to jump out at me, I had a shelf full of games I’d barely touched yet didn’t feel the need to sit down and play them. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to do something that you have no love for. I’m an avid watcher of Kinda Funny and I spent a lot of time watching the various youtube content they uploaded. I realised I was going through the same experience of video game fatigue at the same time as Colin Moriarty, one of the driving forces behind Kinda Funny. It’s very rare that you hear people, especially highly involved in the gaming industry, talk about their lack of interest in video games at a given time.

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The set of Kinda Funny Gamescast – featuring Tim Gettys, Colin Moriarty and Greg Miller

From then on I just decided to take a step back from gaming and embrace it. I focused my interests elsewhere – picking up my first DSLR in order to continue my hobby of photography, I began reading a lot more and started catching up on various TV series’ and Films that had remained on my watch list for the last few month. I even booked my long awaited trip to Japan. I’ve never once felt guilty about not constantly being involved in video games, even though I am a passionate gamer at heart and someone who always wants to create content around that medium, in forms of blog writing and video related content.

The point I’m trying to get at is, it’s not a bad thing to take a step back now and again. Video games aren’t a form of prison or a ball and chain that is constantly tied to your persona. If you aren’t enjoying something it doesn’t hurt to take a break, no matter how long that break may be.

The point I’m trying to get at is, it’s not a bad thing to take a step back now and again. Video games aren’t a form of prison or a ball and chain that is constantly tied to your persona.

If you love video games, something will come along eventually and generally catch your attention enough to peak your interest again. I have my eye on The Witness at the minute and Firewatch isn’t too far away now. With those intriguing titles on the horizon, my video game drought may be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

/ CR

The Evolution of Video Games at ‘Game On 2.0’

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the opening night of the ‘Game On 2.0’ exhibition at the Life Centre, Newcastle. This exhibition showcases the biggest collection of playable computer games in the world and I was delighted to be attending, courtesy of Komodo – my place of work. 2015-05-22 17.05.58

The entrance to the Life Centre, Newcastle welcomed by Super Mario and the Game On 2.0 event.

This major international exhibition appeals to all ages. The place was stacked full of playable games, some from before my time; with classics such as Pong, Asteroids and Space Invaders dating all the way to the modern titles we see today, such as Minecraft, Smash Bros and VR titles. The event catered for everyone – literally. We were greeted with lots of waiters dressed head to toe in Super Mario attire, they served a variety of food and drinks, which I happily took advantage of – It was a shame not to see Luigi anywhere though.

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Complimentary food and drinks were served at the event. You can’t go wrong with Fish & Chips and a good beer.

Although the event started at 5pm, we waited in the main foyer of the life centre where there were a few smaller exhibitions unrelated to the event. We weren’t able to attend the event right away and were instead subjected to an array of quite lengthy talks and speeches from those who had hosted the night.

Which was fair enough, but considering mostly everyone was waiting to get in and play some games, I felt as though these could have been kept brief, as opposed to the 40+ minutes they went on for. The night it’s self only ran for 2 hours and most of that was held up by talks. Coming from a gamer and probably speaking for many others, all I wanted to do was jump in!

Once we finally got through the doors we were greeted by a game that many would say started it all – PONG. Although the original cabinet wasn’t playable, we were linked up with original controls and a playable game on the big screen. My competitive nature was straight away revealed and I challenged one of my colleagues, Paul, for a game.

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PONG was one of the games I really wanted to play – having never played it before. It was a barrel of laughs and I can see how it become beloved among many.

The controls were very unresponsive and hard to get used to, as they were basically just dials, which resulted in the paddle on screen moving when you turned it. But what else would you expect from a game that was released in 1972. As soon as the game kicked off the pixels started to increase speed from either side of the screen. I was already in a fit of laughs at how competitive me and my opponent became.

I instantly forget about how old it was, the controls, lacklustre graphics and instead became engrossed in the competitive game play. It was a very close game, with the score going back and forth throughout, resembling the game play itself. In the end I came back from an 8 point gap to win the game (which I was delighted about and proceeded to make sure Paul knew about it).

I can see how a lot of people found so much fun in such a simple form of entertainment. It’s not really about how good the game looks or plays, but how people react to it and what they get out of it.

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A few arcades from around the early 70’s.

From the pong machine there were various other consoles from around that same generation, some which weren’t playable, such as a look into what those from the 70s thought what arcades might look like in the future.

As I looked along the horizon of flashing neon lights coming from the arcade cabinets my eyes caught one in particular – Space Invaders, which had an Asteroids cab sat parallel to it. I was definitely up for both and had never played the games in their original cabinets before. It was certainly an experience and I would love one for home use.

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Standing in line to play the original Space Invaders cabinet. Absolutely love this game.

The next bout between Paul and I was on Mario Kart 64. I’d like to think of myself to be quite the veteran Mario Kart player, having played everyone bar this one. As we both struggled with controls we didn’t get off to the best start, but Paul was soon eating my dust and I took an easy point to make the tally 2-0.

Looks like Paul was going to have to step his game up. I then went on to view a series of older consoles, playing the likes of Castlevania as well as Pitfall on the Atari 2600. It was amazing to get a feel for some of the consoles that basically built the foundations of what we have today.

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There were tons of old consoles and game I’d never experienced before.

Paul eyed Dead or Alive on the original Xbox and we were quick to get it underway. I’d never played a DOA game and had never owned the original Xbox, so I was the underdog for this battle. Paul quickly made sure of that and before I could even get a punch in he’d made it 2-1. As soon as we’d played that I had to find a fighting game In which I’d be able to match or beat him. I spotted Street Fighter 2 and the challenge began.

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Street Fighter 2 – It was a shame they never had an original cabinet. But still great to play this after so many years.

I took the first game to make it 3-1, by using Honda, the match was extremely close. I like to think I fair as quite a good Street Fighter player but just couldn’t seem to deal with the pressure of the competition. I used Ken and folded almost instantly, bad idea. I couldn’t even execute the simplest of Hadoken’s (I blame the fight stick) I was trashed by Blanka and Paul drew a point back – 3-2.

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I’d love to add the Atari 2600 to my console collection. All of the consoles were displayed extremely well throughout the exhibition. 

It was a great idea to show off museum type collections of all consoles past and present. I particularly enjoyed the handheld console section that has been displayed. I’d started my handheld gaming on the original Gameboy, which held a lot of good memories for me, playing the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon.

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A showcase of different handheld consoles from throughout the ages.

There was also a section that showcased Artwork and Concepts Art from classics such as Jak & Daxter, Lara Croft and Uncharted. This was accompanied with memorabilia from these games, some pieces being very rare.

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Concept Art was featured throughout the exhibition and it was great to see what characters looked like before the ones we know and love today.

There was also a children’s section, it was great to see the younger generation being able to experience games that I played when I was their age. With games such as Animal Crossing, which is probably one of the best games for a child to start on. I have many fond memories sinking countless hours into that series, something that I still often do on the 3DS.

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It was great to see newcomers interacting with classics new and hold.

I then eyed a gamecube, four controllers were laid upon the table, the game running was Super Smash Bros. The amount of hours I’ve played Smash as Kirby is no ones business. I was quick to challenge Paul and a few other colleagues of mine to a game. With five stocks each I was tactfully watching, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

I love how fast and intense Smash is. It’s a right laugh and if you’ve never played the game before I highly recommend it. The fight was chaotic, hectic, like any other smash game. It’s amazing to see how well the Gamecube version still holds up.

Four stocks quickly turned into two and I had the advantage over Paul with one stock up on him. I bided my time, struck at the right moment and made it 4-2 with ease. By this stage Paul new he was beaten, seeing as as though the as the night was closing to an end. Poor Paul.

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Super StarDust HD in 3D on the PS4.

We still had time for a few other games. As I’d never played a game in 3D before, it was great to get to experience that with a Super Stardust 3D on the PS4. This game was a brilliant example of how 3D can work in certain games. It added to the experience, with asteroids shooting out towards me and explosions taking on a whole new dimension.

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There was a fantastic selection of Arcade cabinets on offer.

I was so pleased to see the Oculus Rift at the event. I first experienced this in 2014 at EGX. I was blown away once again, I’m usually not one for “gimmicks”, I like my old school ways – Couch, controller and TV. To me though VR is not a gimmick, if you ever have a chance to experience Virtual Reality as part of the Oculus Rift then please do – you won’t be disappointed.

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Donkey Kong was definitely one of favourites I played throughout the night.

As the night was quickly approaching 7:00pm the doors were about to close, what better way to end the night than to play an arcade cabinet that I can only dream of owning – Donkey Kong. It was brilliant to experience this game for the first time. The colours just looked fantastic and the game play was totally addictive. I can see why this machine swallowed up countless amounts of loose change back in its day.

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Destroying the Death Star. A great way to end the night.

With five minutes to kill I played a game I’d never seen before, this was a Star Wars cabinet. With the bright, green, neon lines flashing about on screen, I piloted an X-wing through space, destroying TIE Fighters – before descending onto the Death Star to give that final last shot.

With my team of colleagues stood behind me, giving off that true arcade atmosphere and on the clock before the exhibition closed, what better way to end the night than to destroy the Death Star!

All round I had an absolute blast. Sure the pictures aren’t the best, Hopefully an investment in a camera isn’t far off, but I can’t recommend the event enough, especially if you live in, or are travelling to the area soon. The event is open to the public now and runs until 1st November 2015. For more information – Visit Life Centre, Newcastle Game On 2.0 Exhibition.

/ CR