Last week, as I hope you’ll recall, I wrote a lighthearted column about Nintendo’s new system, the Wii U, from the point of view of an old-school gamer.
I joked about the name, voiced some of my observations with the caveat that I hadn’t actually played it yet, and concluded by saying I plan to stick with the systems I already own.
That column attracted 1,800 hits online and a dozen comments, more than anything I’ve written here, and many of them vile in tone. I was accused of being a Sega fanboy and a Nintendo hater. My writing style was criticized and likened to “an angry forum post from a nerd living in a basement.” Two people took shots at me for the mere fact that I work at a newspaper in Moose Jaw.
And those were just the comments we opted to publish. Trust me, it got worse. (Most embarrassingly, I received a voice mail message from Nintendo of Canada, pointing out I’d given the incorrect date for the system’s release. Oops.)
I was surprised that some people took my column so seriously, but clearly it struck a nerve. So, to appease the gaming public and to prove that I am not, in fact, a basement-dwelling curmudgeon, here follows a list of 10 games I really like, including one actually released in this decade.
Circus Atari (Atari, 1980): You play a circus clown, using a seesaw to bounce back and forth across the screen to pop balloons. Make sure not to miss the seesaw on your way down, or you’ll break your neck. Originally an arcade game, the home version featured an extra innovation: colour graphics. Astounding!
K. C. Munchkin (Odyssey 2, 1981): Atari had the home license for Pac-Man, but Magnavox beat them to the punch with this thinly-disguised knock-off, resulting in a lawsuit. Most fans prefer this to what Atari eventually released, citing its superior graphics and gameplay.
BurgerTime (Intellivision, 1982): Playing a chef, you must walk across platforms to put burgers together, whilst avoiding angry pickles, sausages and eggs. It’s roughly as addictive as actual fast food. My suggestion: turn down the sound on your TV and listen to The Human League while playing; it fits the mood perfectly.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (Nintendo, 1987): This cartoonish boxing title was later re-released without Tyson’s name after his contract expired, replacing him with the generic “Mr. Dream.” Some objected to the rampant stereotyping contained in the game; few groups were spared, so at least it was an equal-opportunity offender.
Tetris (Nintendo, 1988): The famous falling-block puzzle game made addicts out of both myself and my dad. Because its creator, Alexey Pajitnov, was an employee of the Soviet government when he developed it, he didn’t receive royalties on the game until 1996, after his private company took over the rights.
Ninja Gaiden (Nintendo, 1989): Telling the story of a ninja who seeks to avenge his father’s death, this game was innovative in the late ‘80s for its use of vivid cut-scenes to advance the plot. But mostly it’s good, old-fashioned side-scrolling action, with a difficulty level that still confounds gamers today.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis, 1992): One of the first games I remember playing; my friend Danny had it, and we’d go head-to-head in two-player mode, though I usually got stuck playing as Tails. Our favourite part: the special stages, where we battled for rings while running through a 3-D tunnel.
Kirby’s Adventure (Nintendo, 1993): This was the first Kirby game on a home console, and also the first title in which he uses his trademark ability to gain an enemy’s abilities by inhaling and swallowing them. This game stretched the old Nintendo system to its limits with its colourful graphics and extended length.
Pokemon Blue (Game Boy, 1998): Like millions of kids, my brother and I got hooked on the craze to catch ‘em all in the late ‘90s: watching the TV show, collecting the cards, but especially playing the Game Boy game. This was also my introduction to role-playing games, and one of the few for which I had the patience to keep playing.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, 2010): This was a delightful surprise, a faithful adaptation of an old favourite that also added new features. The controls translate well to the Wii, and the game successfully captures the spirit of the original series. Shaking the Wiimote to get DK to pound his hands is a great touch.
Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.