Your Move

Board games. Video games. Anything but mind games. KMUW commentator Sam McConnell explores the latest (and the time-tested) world of games.

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The scariest game I’ve ever played was Silent Hill on the PlayStation, back in 1999. It got its influence less from slasher and zombie films, like its competitor Resident Evil, but rather from the psychological horror genre. Your character visits an abandoned town to find his missing daughter, but ends up stumbling upon a cult trying to summon its evil god. The game is dark and moody, with your flashlight the only light source for a lot of the game. There was a lot of fog, making it scary and uncomfortable to move around.

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Retro gaming has been big lately, demonstrated by the popularity of systems like the NES Mini and the Super Nintendo Mini. These systems play old games by way of an emulator - a program that runs on the device translates the old game code into something that can be run on the modern processor the system has. This usually works pretty well, but isn’t perfect - the software doesn’t always precisely implement the system it’s emulating, and this additional layer causes some lag in the gameplay.

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I’ve really enjoyed the mini retro consoles that have come out recently. The Super Nintendo mini especially has gotten a lot of my time. But I didn’t grow up with a Super Nintendo, I was a Sega kid. There have been many re-releases of Genesis game systems over the years, many poorly made. But a new device, the Sega Genesis Mini, was jointly made by Sega and a company called M2, who are known for their great handling of retro game releases.

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In 1993, I bought a Game Boy, which came bundled with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I also bought a copy of Kirby’s Dream Land, because, as I told my mom, “Zelda games are boring.” I have no idea where I came up with that idea, but it stuck, and I didn’t give Link’s Awakening a chance until after I was done with Kirby.

The original Final Fantasy was an absolute hit in Japan, but its sales were more modest in the U.S. While Japan got two sequels on the original Nintendo system, the U.S. would not get another Final Fantasy game until 1991’s Final Fantasy IV for Super Nintendo, which was renamed Final Fantasy II for the American release - an attempt to maintain continuity in naming, but really just confusing 10-year-old me when I was looking for information about the game on the fledgling internet.

  

In the mid-‘80s, Square was a Japanese video game company with no real successes. One of its employees, Hironobu Sakaguchi, had been wanting to develop a role-playing game for a while, but the company had been mostly making money on shooting action games. However, with the huge success of Dragon Quest in Japan in 1986, the market for RPGs suddenly opened up, and Sakaguchi got his wish. The next year, Square moved to a new office and Sakaguchi officially started development on the company’s first RPG, Final Fantasy.

Back in 2013, Capcom released a remake of their fantastic 1989 game, DuckTales. The game was greeted with positive reviews when it was released, with reviewers praising the faithful recreation of the show and balanced gameplay.

But after today, if you haven’t bought the game, you’re out of luck.

Back in 2015, I spoke about Super Mario Maker, a game where you get to create your own levels for Super Mario Bros. I called it “more of a tool than a game”. I had a ton of fun with it, even though I never really made anything I thought was good enough to share. Now, its sequel, Super Mario Maker 2, has been released for the Nintendo Switch.

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For a home game console, the Nintendo Switch is tiny. Mine sits atop my Xbox One like an oxpecker on a rhino. But compared to previous portable game systems, it’s a behemoth. I could fit the Nintendo 3DS or Game Boy Advance in my pocket. I need a bag to safely carry around my Switch, and with the detachable controllers on the sides, it feels like the whole unit could shatter if I dropped it.

Pokemon Go launched nearly three years ago, and was an instant hit for its developer Niantic. Niantic just launched their next game, but this time based on the Harry Potter universe.

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