Category Archives: Video Games
I can’t tell you if it happens the moment I finish certain games. When the game I’m playing becomes one of my most beloved. But without a doubt, after time, there are some games I’ve played that stand out far above the rest. Guild Wars, GoldenEye 007, Super Mario Bros. 3… all of these are games that the memories stick with me. And Final Fantasy X is very much in their company.
This game first came out in 2001, the year I graduated. I spent part of the Christmas holiday with a friend, James, in San Antonio. He had recently gotten the game and was in the middle of playing it while I was there. The graphics were amazing. That was my immediate draw to the game. But as I watched him play, so much of the game felt larger than most. The soundtrack, the world, the story. It was grim, sad, and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next.
I left San Antonio long before James beat the game. I myself didn’t own a PlayStation 2, so I had no means to play it for myself. Months went by and I didn’t think about it much. I was very much a Nintendo fanboy so I spent my time playing Gamecube. Around my birthday in 2002 (I think) I took some of my birthday money and bought a PS2 bundled with Gran Turismo 3. One thing Nintendo didn’t have was a realistic driving game that was anything like GT3. So without much thought about Final Fantasy X, I snatched up the console.
I don’t remember when I finally bought Final Fantasy X. It was long enough that the game had dropped in price. I remember seeing it on display at a music and game store in the Manhattan Town Center Mall. It was $20 off or so and it really wasn’t until that moment that I thought about all those great experiences again. The more I thought about it, the more I figured it was a no-brainier to pick up.
I played it, several of my friends played it with me, and after several weeks, I beat it. Like I said in the beginning, I don’t know if at the moment I saw the ending that I was hooked on Final Fantasy or not. But sometime between now and then I’ve become quite a fan.
Let’s move ahead about 10 years. The PS3 is out and the PS2 is quickly becoming “retro”. Ouch. Very quietly it’s announced that Final Fantasy X is getting an HD remake. WOW! I’m excited! All of a sudden, I have the urge to re-live the story all over again. But if this game is coming out soon I didn’t want to dilute the experience by replaying it now. So I hold off.
Weeks go by and there’s no news. Months go by… maybe it was cancelled. There were never even any screenshots shown. But Sony press conferences come and go, and not even an acknowledgement of the game. Then about 6 months ago, some news that not only will it be Final Fantasy X, but it will also include X-2 and many of the international features that never made it to the US game! Then the soundtrack starts showing up on news sites and Youtube. Finally it’s a real thing.
This weekend, the game finally materialized. I relish these experiences as an adult, because it makes me feel like a kid again. I was always anticipating some game back when I was younger and it always felt like forever before it released. I probably haven’t felt like this about a new game since Skyward Sword. And this isn’t even really a new game!
I’ve been playing it pretty hardcore since Thursday night. It’s as much fun as it ever was. Between X and X-2, I could play them both, then just immediately start back at the beginning of X and have just as much fun as the first time though. Partly because the games are so lenghty, but mostly because they’re just so good.
I would love to watch Andrea play the game through. It’s such a great game that the only part that sucks is the lack of people to share your thoughts and feelings about it with. I know she respects that it’s one of my favorites, because she pre-ordered this remake for me before I did! I suppose that is enough for me.
I finally did it! It only took about 2 years, but I’ve finally reached the maximum level in Guild Wars 2. This doesn’t mean I’ve beat the game, just that I’ve maxed out my character’s growth and power. I spent about 35 gold last night decking him out with all the level 80 gear. It’s worth it though because I’ll probably be using this stuff for quite a while.
I played a bit while Mom was down over the weekend, then Sunday I made my final push to get from level 78 to 80. Didn’t take that long really. You earn so much more XP by doing events and goal oriented things than you do just killing stuff. But it’s hard for me to pull myself away from just exploring.
So now, I’m ready to move on and finish the rest of my personal story and “beat” the game. Though there’s a ton more content out there past the main storyline. I’m even toying with creating a new character afterwards… We’ll be talking about the Summer Olympics by the time they reach Level 80 for sure.
So here’s a few more screens from this beautiful game taken over the last couple days.
Last night I sat down and busted out some Mario Kart 64. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played, and a long time since I dove into time trials. I looked back at my twitter and it’s been 1,086 days since I put down a time that was good enough to rank in the top five on any tracks on my cart. So that probably means it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a time good enough to place first on any of those tracks.
For whatever reason I’d been thinking about this game lately. All the hours I’d spent perfecting those tracks and to some extent if those were skills that were lost forever, or if they were still inside me, buried beneath all the work stress, car repairs, bills, and savings. Of course there’s been a lot of good additions to my life too since then like my family. As nerdy as it sounds, my Mario Kart times were a very special thing to me in my school years. By both the good and the bad, since the late 90′s Mario Kart 64 is something that’s been steadily been pushed aside by other things that were of greater significance.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve changed so much since then. With the pressure of being pulled in so many directions, I feel like it’s wore me down making me more tired, irritable and cynical than ever. Changes I’m not really proud of. So from time to time I wonder if that free spirit is still at the center of the layers of serious crap that have been rolled and caked on top since then. I guess I felt like if I could still compete with my old self at something I was best at back then, then maybe I wasn’t as different a person as I felt after all.
Part of the reason it’s been 1,086 days since my last “blistering” time is because I’m always afraid that some day I’m going to sit down and not be able to do it anymore. That the “old” me really will be nothing more than just a memory. So with some mild trepidation, I picked a track I knew I’d spent a considerable amount of time on. Kalamari Desert. To put into perspective just HOW much time I’d spent racing this track, there is just a 0.42 second difference between 1st place and 5th place. That’s less time than it takes a fluorescent light bulb to turn on. This is exactly the reason I’ve been reluctant to race tracks like this because unless I really am as good as I used to be, there’s no chance I’ll ever have of ranking in the top 5.
My first run through was pretty far off the mark. Relatively at least. When you start getting picky, finding 2 seconds to shave off somewhere can get pretty tricky. But I did notice that my third lap was in the ballpark of my best lap ever. So I felt like getting on the board was achievable, especially since I was literally picking this up cold after ages.
After just my second run, I was really feeling good. My third lap was slower, but I’d picked up big time on laps one and two. Heck, over all I was just a half a second off 5th place and I knew I’d made some mistakes during the run. If I could just correct those, I could be on the board easily. Heck, maybe three runs would be all it would take and my skills had virtually never left me. Hell, maybe a new personal best was in store for me, all on just my 3rd run!
What followed in the 4th, 5th… 12th runs were waves of frustration. As I’d try to get more aggressive on each lap to cut into that time, I’d push just a little too far and make a mistake. I’d only finish all three laps maybe one out of every 5 attempts or so. But you know what, I wasn’t too bummed by it, because this was exactly how I used to play. In fact these exact scenarios used to infuriate the hell out of me. (Maybe I wasn’t so free and cheery as I’d like to think I used to be). Actually… I think Mario Kart Time Trials is the only game that literally made me throw controllers. I would start, restart, start, race, restart, start race finish… restart… all until my thumb was literally raw. So to think I just cranked out these times at will is far from reality.
Then finally after about an hour of racing this track. This one track. I finally did it.
I’d never been more happy to get 4th place. Only 0.16 seconds away from 1st place. I did try a couple more runs to see if I could crank out a 1st place. But honestly, after two runs and it not happening, I didn’t even want to keep going. As lame as this is, part of me didn’t want fell my old 1st place time because of all the work past me had put in to get it. WTF is wrong with my brain? The motivation this whole time was to prove that I’m still the same Matt I’ve always been, but when I have a chance to even be better I draw a line. I’ve gotta be nuts.
So someday I’ll beat that time. Maybe it will take another 1,000 days, but I hope not. I was thinking today about playing and caught myself saying I didn’t need to be playing it two days in a row because of all the other things I needed and wanted to do. Which is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for years that brought about this blog post today. So you know what. To hell with that mindset. If I have the time, and I want to play Mario Kart 64… or ANY other game for that matter. I’m just going to do it. Otherwise I end up convincing myself why I shouldn’t and end up doing something I enjoy less. I’m going to quit over thinking all this crap (see previous 1,000 words) and just have some damn fun. Time to go beat some old ghosts… in Mario Kart that is.
What an exhausting week. Work pretty much sucked the life out of me, but you know what? I got to sleep until 8am today and it was magnificent.
We got a little bit of snow last night. Only a couple inches, but enough for me to take it pretty slow coming home. As I was putting along, I came across a car that had slid into the ditch. The person following behind me and I both stopped to make sure nobody was hurt. There was only one guy and he said he was fine. He was a foreign guy and had a pretty good accent that sounded African of some sort. He wanted us to help him push his car out of the ditch. I told him that wasn’t going to happen. There was no way we could push that car up an embankment like he slid down. And I wasn’t about to get trapped under a stranger’s car. I called 911 and they dispatched somebody. I told him it was best to wait in his car until they got here. As I was walking away, he climbed back into his car and hopelessly continued to try to drive out of the ditch. The car wasn’t there this morning when I headed back to work, so apparently he made it out somehow.
I had a lot of fun playing some Guild Wars 2 with Andrea and Mom tonight. Been a couple weeks since I’ve actually PLAYED. I log in from time to time and do some trading post stuff which is fun, but it’s nice to have a group of people to run with. We spent the entire night in just one map, Snowden Drifts, I think it was called. There is just so much darn stuff to do in that game.
I have been missing playing Guild Wars though. The original. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the Canthan New Year holiday just started. Or maybe it was because I was listening to the soundtrack at work. But it was (and still is) such a great game. The crowd is starting to thin out considerably there though. But there’s still a small collective in all the old hubs. Just sad to think that that game will never be the same bustling place is once was with 70+ districts in Lion’s Arch during the holidays.
Glad the weekend is here. Looking forward to a more normal week next week.
Since downloading Wii Fit U I’ve been trying to stay fairly regular with my workouts. That’s gone to all hell this week since I’ve been doing the morning show. Pretty much the only moments I’ve had to myself this week have been while I have been sleeping. But prior to this week, I’ve really been enjoying my workouts.
It’s nothing fancy, and it’s far from a hardcore workout. But as out of shape as I’ve been it’s probably better that way. I pretty much focus on Cardio to get my heart rate up and mix in some strength training routines in between like pushups, rowing squats etc. Probably the most brutal so far is the “Single-Arm Stand”. It sounds like something that would require you to balance on one arm. But what really happens is you hold one arm straight in the air with the Wiimote. Then you have to lay flat on the ground and get back up. All while keeping that arm completely vertical. It’s actually somewhat intense after I do about 12 reps with each arm. Wii Fit U is definitely enough to make you feel the burn and the soreness the next day.
That’s good though, that’s what I need it for. I’m not trying to be a fitness nut or anything, but I’m just trying to be more healthy.
One thing I’ve noticed is I pay a lot more attention to what I eat. Not because I’m trying to diet or anything, I just don’t want all these workouts to be for nothing! It’s definitely made me more aware of what I’m putting in my body. I wouldn’t say I’ve given anything up, but I watch my portions more closely than I used to.
The Fit Meter is pretty cool. After you’ve used it for a while, you can set a daily calorie goal. If you meet that goal while wearing the Fit Meter it will play a little fanfare tune for you. It tracks your distance and altitude and you can take fit meter challenges to put your daily activity in perspective. I’m currently working my way around the Island of Oahu.
Do I feel better? I can’t really tell. Maybe. Sometimes when I’m playing with Luke on the floor and I get up, that involuntary grunt isn’t there like it used to be. I’ve noticed when I do my 10 minute “run” during my workout, I’m able to push harder for longer. For the first time since I got the game, my Body Test said “Normal” instead of “Overweight”. So the needle is moving a bit. My goal is to get my BMI down to 22, but I definitely think I need to work some more activity into my day to accomplish that. Spring will help quite a bit with that, I’m sure!
Tomorrow is the last day for the free trial if you want to try it out. You’ll need a balance board though. We picked ours up on the local classifieds. Then if you purchase a Fit Meter for $20 the whole game is yours forever.
Twitter is definitely the worst thing ever to happen to this blog. A lot of the little moments I used to share, I end up tweeting, and rarely do I come here to expound upon those moments. Before Twitter, I’d lament about the most minute experiences. Now I blast them out there and feel less inclined to write about them here.
It’s not the end of the blog. No way. I’m coming back with a vengeance. (Watch this be the last post for another two weeks).
Tonight was Retro Night. Andrea, Luke and I played some Mario Kart 64 battle mode. It started out that way, because Luke wanted to play and in that mode he can just drive off in any direction he pleases. (And I get to use him for target practice. That still makes me a good dad, right?) Andrea took over Luke’s spot for a little bit and I had a blast playing. There was a moment when she pulled off a miraculous shot, and we both cried out in laughter, but I immediately thought about how long it’s been since that game had provided that, and how long it will probably be until the next time.
I would love to have a small group of people that wanted to get together on a regular basis and play old games like this. I don’t see that happening around here. Of course I never expected the GoldenEye Fests to be as popular as they were. That was when the N64 was the new thing though… Oh well. If I can trick Andrea into playing with me once in a while, that’s okay. And if that feeling is rare and fleeting, then I can appreciate it all the more I think.
I’d taken a bit of a break from my nightly routine. But Monday and today I was able to play a bit of Guild Wars 2. This game is more than I’ll ever be able to experience in its entirety, so for the moment, I’m happy just to be able to exist in it. There is so much content being released that I can’t keep up with it all. Two years have gone by and I still really haven’t gotten into any of the Wintersday stuff. Maybe this year…
I really can get enough though just adventuring and taking in the sites as usual. I’m following the main storyline and getting close to maxing out my character at level 80. There’s so much to do beyond that though. If this were me 5 years ago, I’d be hard pressed to pull myself away from this game. But alas, I try not to focus on what I’m missing in the game, and enjoy what I can experience when I have time. That alone is enough.
I know I’ve written here before about how weird life was back in the Gamecube days. As far as gaming is concerned the result today is that I have a rather large collection of games for that system that have been barely played.
F-Zero GX was my choice tonight for retro night. I’ve actually been thinking about this game for a while, ever since the 30 cent sale Nintendo had on the Wii U Virtual Console that featured the original F-Zero on SNES. I could have swore I’d played GX more, but when I popped it into the Wii tonight in the Retro Room, what I ended up playing was MUCH better than I remember.
First off, this game made me re-affirm my love for the Gamecube controller. What a well crafted, comfortable and precise instrument. I still would have preferred a more traditional button layout, but everything else is just about the pinnacle of controller design. It just melts into your hands. And this game, F-Zero GX really highlights how precise and solid the analog stick is.
Maybe I approached this game too much like Mario Kart. F-Zero is more about course memorization and well timed flicks of the stick than it is racking up power slides and cutting corners. I remember being absolutely terrible at this game when it came out. Apparently I haven’t given it another chance until over a decade later. What I discovered tonight is the smooth and polished controls, AI that really fights back, and some really creative course design. It didn’t take long though before the tracks started kicking my butt. I need to spend more time with this game and learn the tracks, I’m convinced that’s the ONLY way to win the later stages.
All of a sudden I’m smitten with this game that has literally been collecting dust for ten trips around the sun. I really hope to spend some more time with it this weekend and finally break it in. If anybody wants to come over for some split-screen action in the Retro Room, just make the call.
What a great day. I slept until 9AM and got out of bed and Luke was already up, goofing around in his crib. The Saturday morning ritual commenced with pancakes and Care Bears. I actually had zero obligations today. Well… I did have to work on a website for somebody, but that only took about 15 minutes.
Biebs has been bugging me to play Hexxit, a Minecraft mod pack with heavy emphasis on adventuring. Today I finally got the opportunity. At first I pretty much dove right in. I made a wooden sword and started rolling through some of the light dungeons near the spawn. I promptly got my butt kicked. So at that point I decided I needed to establish a stronghold and build up some resources. There’s a TON to do and a ton you can do in this version of Minecraft. And I’m excited to dive into it.
I’ve been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Leaf to a great extent. With only one big gripe… there’s only been the fishing pole, net or shovel for sale at Nookling’s since I started the game. I really need my slingshot, watering can, and axe. It bugs me to no end as I’ve seen about six presents floating overhead so far and no way to get them.
This is the first Animal Crossing game since the first that really feels different. The biggest difference is you get to be the mayor as Tortimer has retired to a tropical island. It’s cool because you get to decide in what order you want to enhance your town. It definitely would benefit from multiple players as many of the projects are pretty expensive. Right now I’m working on getting my house filled out with more room, so that soaks up all my bells. But there will be plenty of time to get to it all. Animal Crossing is a long term dedication.
I’d really been craving a game of this type too. Something you can build on incrementally. You end up feeling pretty invested in games like this after you’ve been playing off and on for a couple years. You have your favorite residents, the collections you’re trying to complete and all the different holidays you want to check in on. We even used Animal Crossing as our official New Year’s Eve countdown!
All of the holiday travels are done. And they weren’t without some eventfulness. We got all loaded up to head to Kansas City for Christmas with Andrea’s family, that’s when I noticed a steady stream of antifreeze dripping from underneath the Jeep. It was coming out quick enough that I knew we weren’t going to try taking it. I looked it over quickly and couldn’t exactly deduce where the leak was coming from, so Andrea, frustrated, loaded all our gear into the Cutlass instead which made the trip without issue.
When we got back home Thursday, I looked the Jeep over a bit more and it looked like it was leaking from the gasket. Which meant the pump had to come off, which in turn meant, might as well replace the pump. Long story short: I have learned never to be shocked by what you find when you buy a used vehicle. The water pump had a HOLE in it! Like an actual hole through the pump. Sometime before we bought the Jeep someone had dabbed some RTV sealer over the hole. It’s amazing that it lasted over a year. But now we have a new pump and thermostat and it seems like it’s working great and doesn’t leak a drop. Even got it put back together in time to head to Cimarron on that Saturday! Not too bad for the old KartMaster’s Garage.
Also did some work on the Jeep that was more, “scheduled”. For Christmas I got Andrea a new amp and speaker box. We already had the speaker which is what made the project affordable. It was quite a bit of work, but I’m glad I did it right. Had the front seat out and all the interior trim apart on the passenger side to run the power cable. Ended up breaking off one of the bolts that holds the seat down because it was siezed up, so that won’t be fun to drill out and fix… but I’ll get it done eventually. The finished product is the only thing you can really see is the power cable under the hood, and the speaker in the back. No ugly wires showing anywhere. Real clean.
So that kinda gets caught back up to today. Got a little more snow, but just about an inch or so, nothing that will slow anything down. Maybe enough for Luke and I to go play in tomorrow morning!
One of the reasons I love vacations is that they are a great way to hit the “reset” switch. You get time to get caught up on those things that have been piling up and you head back into the working world with a resolve that you aren’t ever going to let that happen again. Of course it always does end up happening again, but I do enjoy this time where all is right with the world.
I totally hit the ground running today. Literally even. I got out of bed to a pot of coffee that I remembered to get ready the night before. Enjoyed one cup then headed for my Wii Fit U workout. I like that you can customize your routines for the activities you want to do and how long you want your workout to be. I started with some warm up stuff like bicycling and hula hoop. Then a 10 minute jog, some push ups and jacknifes, then a short run. It took about 35 minutes, which isn’t too bad for a morning workout I think.
I had a lot of setbacks at work today, but I approached them with a much more positive attitude. It all just seemed a lot easier. I dunno.
Then I came home to my 2014 Nintendo Calendar from Club Nintendo!
It’s pretty cool, but a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Hey, it was free!