Category Archives: gone games

30 Days of Gaming, #22 – A game sequel which disappointed you

I remember it well, tearing apart the floor of my bedroom closet in search of the original case for PlayStation’s Metal Gear Solid; unfortunately, as a younger fleshling, I was not as good as I am now about being organized and keeping good care of my videogame purchases, and I desperately needed this case. Without it, I could no longer progress. See, on the back of the jewel CD case was a screenshot of Solid Snake communicating with Meryl, giving her codec frequency the limelight. In-game, ArmsTech President Kenneth Baker mentions all of this, and it’s up to you, the gamer, to put it all together. I do believe the Internet was happening back then, but it was much slower to look things up on, and so, without the case to find that special codec signal, all future stealthiness was lost.

Visual proof for y’all:

It was magical, for sure; a wall-breaker, a mind-twist, a clever punch to make the moment truly have a lasting effect, a foreshadowing of what was to come. There’s plenty of other great things in Metal Gear Solid to talk about–Psycho Mantis was impressed by how long I’d been playing Suikoden–but alas, we’ll have to save it for a GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH posting as I did, for some unknown reason, trade it in. Boo. Anyways, this 30 Days of Gaming topic is about sequels…

There was no such magical moment in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Yup, there were twists and turns and surprises, but nothing really hit the mark as well as the former title did. MGS 2‘s biggest letdown was, naturally, removing the character we all loved playing as and replacing him with…Raiden. Snake handled missions with force and raw determination; Raiden, with his effeminate looks and high-pitched voice, handled them less-enthused with the occasional argument between his girlfriend Rose. Cruelty burns bright knowing that Snake is still around, disguised as a marine and offering advice during the mission. And then, of course, there’s nude Raiden, a sequence that was bewildering and baffling, that more or less summed up the entire MGS 2 experience in that, yes, we’d all been had.

Now, there’s a lot I do like about MGS 2. Namely the first chunk of the game where you get to play as Snake, the boss battle against Vamp, and shooting bad guys with tranquilizer darts and then stuffing them into lockers for non-lethal kills. But overall, it just did not live up to the same thrilling, dramatic experience as in Metal Gear Solid. If anything, it got more zany, and while a little insane humor has always been peppered into the franchise, it was usually deftly balanced with a great story and characters to care about. I never grew to care about Raiden, and I did attempt to throw himself from Big Shell numerous times; it’s unfortunate to see that he’s still an important character in the franchise years later. Doesn’t Rose know anything about smothering lovers in their sleep with pillows?

Other nominees for disappointing sequels include: Jak II, Colony Wars: Vengeance, and Dragon Age II (saying this without haven’t even played more than the demo yet). What game sequel disappointed you, dear Grinding Down readers, the most?

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

Sadly, I can only imagine how terrifying RPGs must have seemed when they first came out on gaming consoles years–nay, decades–ago. In contrast to games like Super Mario Bros and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, here was a gaming genre that moved slowly, told a grandiose tale, reduced combat to a turn-by-turn basis, and asked the player to save frequently because there’s no way you’ll end up finishing this title off on a lazy Saturday afternoon. To ease gamers into this notion of quests of the epic nature and turn-based combat, Squaresoft released Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the SNES in 1992, a game that was, for all intents and purposes, a gateway drug to the realm of harder, more satisfying drugs. Drugs here being RPGs, people. Calm down.

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest‘s plot is guessable. It’s about a young boy named Benjamin who is out to save the world. He’ll accomplish this hefty goal by collecting stolen crystals that affect the world’s four elemental powers. Yup. If that sounds familiar, you’re an attested RPGer. By the way, this unnamed world is divided into four regions: Foresta, Aquaria, Fireburg, and Windia. Go ahead and guess what each one is like, I’ll wait.

Gameplay, for an RPG, was simplified. And this was before Mass Effect II did it. Random battles, equipment customization, save points, and a full party system were abandoned for a streamlined, cleaner presentation that did most of the work for you. Newly acquired armor simply replaces the previously worn. You explored towns and chatted with folk, and you could chop down trees, blow up walls, and use a grappling hook to cross wide gaps. Sounds a bit more like a Zelda game, right? Here’s another instance of Squaresoft making it easier for gamers: the heal spell not only recovered lost HP, but also removed status ailments, eliminating the need for other item types.

I bought a copy of this game for über cheap several years after its release, after it missed the mark of finding lovers in the hardcore Final Fantasy fans, as well as the general mass market. I remember playing it for a bit, but never completing it. My favorite aspect was always how gargantuan the monsters you fought against were in comparison to Ben. Also, the main town in Windia stands out in my mind, but I can’t pinpoint why…maybe there was a band there playing music and I thought that was pretty neat? Maybe. But at some point, this game was bundled up with a bunch of other SNES carts as I traded them all in for my chance at a PlayStation. Strangely, it wouldn’t be until the PlayStation that a Final Fantasy game hit both targets of hardcore RPG fans and those not in the know.

Easy, simple RPGs, such as Costume Quest, can still be awesome, be loved. A part of me wants to believe the same can be said about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, but that same part also thinks that new equipment replacing old equipment against my will is extremely obnoxious.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Games Completed in 2011, #10 – X-MEN Arcade

My mother absolutely loved Walt Disney World, and it seemed like no more than two to three years would pass in my youth before we’d drive down to sunny Florida from buggy New Jersey yet again to spend a week walking the parks, seeing the sights, and eating like royalty. We always stayed inside Walt Disney World, but rarely at the same resort, and for all intents and purposes of today’s post I’m going to be talking about the time we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs. I was definitely under ten years old then, but many details remain fuzzy. I do, however, remember there being an arcade at the resort, an arcade with air hockey and Pac-Man and, most importantly, an X-MEN Arcade cabinet. I think the game itself was just called X-MEN, but that can be rather misleading and generalizing so we’re tossing in arcade for good measure. So, this arcade…it used quarters, not tokens or playcards, truly a relic of the past. I never had to beg for change from my parents, and I have this sort of LOST-style flashback of myself running up to my mother on one of the bike paths, watching in boyish anticipation as she fished around in her vacation belly-bag, and pulled out a handful of quarters—all mine.

As a kid, I thought the X-Men were just the coolest. Nothing cooler than a team of crazy-looking superheroes fighting even crazier-looking supervillains, in fact. I had the comics, the collectible cards, the TV series recorded every Saturday morning. And if I had my way, I would totally have been born a Mutant. My power? A cross between Kitty Pryde and Colossus, which is funny if you know anything about their history together. I’d basically like to either phase through walls or simply bust through ’em. But yeah…videogames. The X-MEN Arcade cabinet always had a crowd thanks to its ability for six people to play at once. It was definitely the most popular cabinet at the resort’s arcade—at least in my eyes it was—but it was worth the wait.

X-MEN Arcade is the continuation of the plot from 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men, an animated film I watched so many times that the VHS tape eventually disintegrated, wherein the X-Men go after Magneto for kidnapping Professor Xavier and Shadowcat. Six characters are available to play as—Wolverine, Cyclops, Dazzler, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus—and each plays pretty much the same save for their special moves. I usually selected Nightcrawler because his superpower could easily clear the screen of enemies. However, I never completed the game in the arcade—didn’t have enough quarters, didn’t have enough other players to help out, didn’t have the skills to beat the Blob without using up all my lives. Many, many reasons. And I never did find another X-MEN cabinet back home in New Jersey, and so that was that. Other X-Men games came out, but none quite like the arcade version.

Jump ahead in time like Bishop to 2011, and I’m playing X-Men Arcade again. This time, it’s very different. It’s silly, it’s easy even on the highest difficulty setting, and it’s unbelievably short. I beat it twice so far. When I played the game in the arcade, I never got farther than beating Wendigo, and I was surprised to see there was only a couple more levels to go. You have unlimited continues, which seems weird, and each level is more or less the same: walk left to right, beat up every enemy, continue on until you hit the level’s boss. It’s a perfunctory brawler and bland, but because it’s the X-Men, I’m okay with that.

Last October, my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Walt Disney World. Amazingly, we stayed at Coronado Springs, too. Here’s us waiting for the bus:

The arcade is no longer located in the resort’s main building. Instead, it’s been moved over to one of the pool areas, and we did see signs for the arcade, but we just never got over to see it. The hot tub was too soothing, too comforting. I’d like to imagine that the X-MEN Arcade cabinet is still there, still eating quarters.

The XBLA version is both a port and completely different take on the game. Go in for nostalgia’s sake, and you’ll have a good time. Otherwise, it’s nothing amazing these days. However, the experience of playing it again some twenty years later means a lot to me. I just wish I could tell my mom how much.

30 Days of Gaming, #1 – Your first videogame


This meme starts off with a doozy, and it’s a rather tricky doozy for me. See, while I’m going to talk about Super Mario World here as my first videogame, it most likely isn’t able to claim that title truthfully. Unfortunately, my gaming history from the early days is fairly foggy, and I know I played a lot of NES games over at the neighbors’, as well as bowling alley arcade machines and those weird solar-powered handheld things. I have very strong memories of a baseball one that traveled with me during long car rides. And I can’t quite place in the timeline when I got my GameBoy.

That said, Super Mario World–and the SNES is launched on–were truly my first, the very first console I ever opened on a Christmas morning, hugged, and called my own. It was the first videogame I could play, turn off, and turn back on an hour later, or the next morning, or whenever–because it was mine, and I was at home, not a friend’s place, and I could play it as much as I wanted. What we should also consider is that, having gotten no other games to play with the console for Christmas, I was extremely thankful the system came packaged with Super Mario World, which kept me busy for many snowy vacation days. And this trend of giving gamers a freebie is still somewhat followed by Nintendo (Wii Sports for the Nintendo Wii; those AR games for the Nintendo 3DS). It was a move that would ensure many would play it, burn it into their upbringing, never forget about it.

Two paragraphs in, and I’ve yet to really dig into Super Mario World. It’s that same ol’ story from previous Mario games, wherein the princess gets herself kidnapped by Bowser and it’s up to Mario Mario and Luigi Mario to save her. They’ll travel across themed lands to get her, too. However, a new savior joins the party, and it’s my personal fav…Yoshi the dinosaur. When ridden, Yoshi can eat enemies, spit fire, and allow Mario to reach new heights thanks to a higher jump. The saddest thing anyone can witness is when an enemy hits a ridden Yoshi; the dinosaur cries out in horror, tosses its rider off, and makes a bee-line run for the nearest deathpit. It’s sickening, I say.

As a youngling, getting to the next section was all that mattered. And this game taught me how to jump, to run, to move effectively from left to right more so than any other game. I remember barely squeezing by on extra lives when beating World 4: Forest of Illusion and skipping over to the dreaded World 5: Chocolate Island. As I got older and revisited the game, I discovered that it harbored a great number of secrets. Things like Warp Whistles and holding down for X number of seconds to hide in the level’s backgrounds, but these were mostly about alternate exits and unlocking colored blocks throughout the worlds. Such things as alternate exits blew my mind back then; stumbling upon one where I accidentally had Caped Mario fly too far over the end goal on to discover a second end goal was like–I can only assume here as I don’t eat such dredge–finding two toys in a box of cereal purporting only one plastic army guy.

Awesomely, the game still stands up on its own today. Sure, some of the levels feel very short, and large chunks can be skipped if you are able to fly high enough, but the challenge still sits around medium. Those chargin’ football players always give me trouble. The graphics are just as colorful, and the music invades your head in ways you’d never expect. Hearing the bwwwwoooo-oop at the end of the level as the screen circles in on Mario and then goes black is pure cocaine.

And if older games had Achievements, I’d have ’em all for Super Mario World. Yes, even the one for opening up the EXTRA mode, which changed the colors of the levels, as well as messed with in-game sprites. This was accomplished by completing Star Road, which is not the easiest of tasks. But I had much more free time then to devote to a game, and no secret sat unturned. It’s most definitely a legendary title, and the fact that I’m considering it my first makes it all the more special.

Anyways, here’s a moment in time. Me with my wife’s copy of Super Mario World, a game now 20 years old. Enjoy the nostalgia, dear readers:

Next up on 30 Days of Gaming…is my favorite character? Hmm. Spoiler: it’s not that jerkbag, Milich.


Ah, Donkey Kong CountryOnly for Nintendo. And they meant it.

I was, in fact, never a subscriber to Nintendo Power (sorry, Greg Noe!), but somehow still got access to a VHS tape called Donkey Kong Country: Exposed, which was a behind-the-scenes tour of Nintendo of America’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, with bonus early game footage and tips from testers on how to access hidden bonus stages. Think I “borrowed” the tape from a friend’s house. Ahem. “Borrowed.” And it, much like the game itself, ended up parting with me some time during my switch from SNES to PlayStation 1. I have a strong feeling though that the VHS tape sold at a neighborhood yardsale for 50 cents. Oh yeah, made a profit.

Moving on, this plus about four other SNES titles more or less were my collection for the longest time. Money was tight, and if I didn’t get a game for Christmas, well…I was just a wee lad then that would water the grass or wash a neighbor’s car for pocket money. Was not rolling it, as they say. I relied a lot on renting games for a few days or borrowing them from a friend. Notice I said borrow and not “borrow”; no way I would’ve gotten away with something like that, not when a kid’s SNES or Sega Genesis was his or her only friend. Oh, and those other games consisted of Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and–don’t laugh, kids–Jurassic Park. I’ll talk about Jurassic Park for the SNES one day, but I am just not ready yet; the scars have not healed.

It’s clear that Donkey Kong Country came to be from other platformers of that day and age, most namely Super Mario Bros. The plot is essentially the same. Instead of saving the princess, you need to save DK’s stolen banana loot. The game has you collecting bananas in levels for extra lives; you can die by falling down holes in the level or getting touched by enemies; and you use a world map to select where you want to go. Sure, sure, the game did some original things too, but it pays a lot of homage to its elders.

But Donkey Kong Country is a very memorable game, and I think fondly about it a lot. The music, the jumping, the level progression, the mine carts, and the shooting from barrel to barrel to moving barrel. There was a lot going on within, and it was very successful in pushing the SNES to its limits and then mocking rival 32-bit and CD-ROM based consoles with purported superior processing power. I think many will first remember the pre-rendered 3D graphics, which really helped bring the 2D side-scrolling platformer to life; the early jungle levels are full of green and treetops and towering hills while the snow levels are replete with blizzards and glistening ledges. This engine was also used on Rare’s other title Killer Instinct, still in my collection now.

By and far though, my favorite stages in Donkey Kong Country were any where you rode an animal. These included Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot, and all were tied to a specifically themed level. Yup, even as frustrating as the underwater levels were, once you got on that swordfish it was ::ahem:: clear swimming from there. Later games would introduce even more animals, and those also were worth looking forward to.

The only negatives I ever put on Donkey Kong Country‘s shoulders were its coin-based save system and boss battles. The boss battles all followed a very repetitive strategy and once you figured that out, it was hit ’em, hit ’em, an hit ’em dead. I ate everything else up with wide eyes and an open heart.

Tara and I combined our SNES collections back when we first started dating in 2008, and she had Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, a pleasant surprise, as well as a decent filler for the time being. That said, I’m definitely interested in seeing how Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii plays out despite having a paper-flat title.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.


Ah, Jumping Flash! No, I’m not exclaiming. The ! is just part of the game’s name, as well as the feeling I get when I realize that I traded this quirky gem during my transition from Playstation to Playstation 2. Why? Because, as far as I can tell, there’s never been anything quite like it since.

Releasing in 1995 for the Playstation, Jumping Flash! was a 3D platformer played from a first-person perspective. You are a robotic bunny named Robbit that is out to stop an insane astrophysicist named Baron Aloha from turning a bunch of worlds into private resorts. Yup, that’s the plot. I said it was quirky. To stop this low-life, Robbit must find the Jet Pods that propel each world and reunite the Crater Planet. Basically, you will jump, shoot things, jump, jump, shoot things, jump, and jump some more. There’s a lot of jumping to do, outpacing the shooting by several miles. Good thing this wasn’t called Step Aerobics Flash!

Robbit can jump up to three times: once off the ground, then in mid-air, and then a third time in mid-air, allowing him to reach crazy heights. What’s neat about this is that, as Robbit jumps, the camera tilts down to his feet so you see the ground (if it is still visible) below you rather than just staring at sky horizontally. This was pretty impressive the first time you did it, and gave the player an amazing sense of freedom.

Level designs varied, with the funnest being the one set in an amusement park with a roller-coaster as your launching point. In every world, Robbit could pick up a bunch of power-ups like rockets and cherry bombs, as well as hourglasses to extend the time. Yes, levels were timed, which made jumping around more exciting and intense, especially when the clock was ticking down and you were flying high.

Graphically, it is what it is. Polygon count is low, the sky is a static wash that never changes, and the enemies were cutesy animals like penguins and bomb-tossing beetles. It’s an early PS1 game, and it shows. Thankfully, the gameplay more than makes up for things.

Alas, I can’t recall too much about Jumping Flash! other than the main hub levels. I do know that at the end of each world, there would be a boss fight, but shake me silly because I don’t remember doing any of them. I suspect you had to shoot them somewhere special (keep it clean, people) and that jumping was involved.

It seems there was a direct sequel, Jumping Flash! 2, as well as some games loosely-based on the gameplay concept. It’s a shame that the series itself is so underrated and did not find a stronger fanbase. Given today’s consoles and technology, something truly great could be achieved here if developers were interested. Take this, add some Mirror’s Edge, a pinch of love, and go to town.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.



I can’t even recall why this game is no longer in my collection. I must have, at some point during my climb from Playstation 1 to Playstation 2, traded it in along with a heap of others to help get some extra gaming funds. The young fool I was…the young, dumb, blind-as-a-barrel fool.

Of Trap Gunner, what I remember the most is that it was a hoot to play. Not the storyline, not the characters, not the graphics–just that it was a party every time. The premise revolved around your character and another character running around a battlefield, and as you went you planted all different types of traps to snare them in and drain their life-bar. You could use bombs, pitfalls, gas, mines, and force panels. Some worked well on their own, others had to be used in conjunction with other traps to really seal the deal.

Here’s a great example of something I’d do every round in Trap Gunner, no matter the stage:
1. Plant a force panel
2. Directly across from the force panel plant a pitfall
3. Next to the pitfall plant a switch detonator
4. Lure my opponent over to the force panel
5. Enjoy the domino effect

The best part is that traps you plant can’t be seen by your opponent (and vice versa), making running around a bit nerve-wrecking. You might not want to go up those stairs…so you can drop into a sneak mode to sniff out enemy traps.

There was a single player mode, as well as a two player split-screen if I recall correctly. The story mode did little, but open up new levels and secret characters. All in all, Trap Gunner was a fun mix of action and strategy, and is most certainly a game I miss from time to time.

Check out the anime-like intro as well:

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.