Back in the Day – Shenmue

Do you know where sailors hang out?

I have to admit that I dramatically flutter from love to hate with this game. I ran out and bought it when it was released because it was the prettiest game on the Dreamcast at the time. Sometimes I think back to the hours I spent trying to beat it and wonder if I was just bored or hated myself.

Shenmue wasn’t like all the titles I usually played. Up until that point, I was big on games that had to be approached with at least one other person. Even when I had played single player games it was a play until you get stuck or died, then pass the controller deal. Shenmue was just me vs the world and I was determined to complete my mission of vengeance.

Shenmue existed, at least for me, in the time before those big fat strategy guides and folks on the internet with maps and video aids. When I wandered the streets in the town, I was really just wandering.

It took me eons to find those damned sailors.

To finish the game I think I had to talk to and follow every NPC on the disc. I continue my belief harboring feelings of self loathing when I think back to the “ninja training” provided in the game which consisted of what felt like one punch and one kick until the end. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the final battle in the title didn’t have the player fighting 70 dudes at once.

QTE’s are evil.

This was the first game that I could remember ripping me from otherwise normal gameplay to tell me exactly what button to push by taking over the screen or making me replay the entire sequence over. Sure, I’d died many a time on other games for essentially not jumping at the right time, but it’s much worse when it glaringly flashes a sequence of what feels like random button presses in the middle of the screen to do stuff that you already had a button for. If I need to duck and I have a duck button, having me press something else just to screw with me is dirty.

For all the real nerds, this game was filled with what were technical marvels like varying weather and the setting was rich with the history of the region. The world was so detailed that you could get lost for hours searching cabinets and drawers before even observing all the different NPCs going about their lives. You even had time to lose yourself in that horrible, but well done, job at the waterfront. There is even a ragingly awkward love interest thrown in the mix to top it all off.

This was continued in the second game to a lesser extent in order to make the playable area more expansive. If only more folks had checked the game out, there would have been more titles. The money they had to throw at the series to make it so nice was pretty much lost at launch and Ryo will likely never get his revenge.

 

Back in the Day – Comix Zone

 

In 1995, there was a lovely little system called the Sega Genesis. As kids we huddled around it and our television screens to delve into the fantasy worlds of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat. One of the stand out games turned out to be a too often forgotten Comix Zone.

Sure the gameplay is ridiculously dated by our standards. Sure the game came out after most of the consoles user base was angry enough to move onto something else. But the game was built on the double whammy of geek, it was a video game about a comic artist stuck in a comic book which functioned kind of like Kung Fu.

The game was sort of short, but you only got one life to make it through the panels. The concept was more interesting than the gameplay itself, but if you are a fan of single button linear games it is not too bad. Personally, I just like to get to the one villain who says “Your kung fu is good.” The story centered around comic artist Sketch Turner who was sucked into his own creation during a lightning storm. Unfortunately for Sketch, the villain in his book was granted partial access to the real world by the incident.

Video of  gameplay:

In case you missed it, the game is available on the Wii via the Virtual Console.