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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In the late 1980s, when Nintendo was developing the Super Nintendo, they collaborated with Sony on a powerful sound chip for the console. This chip was a whole new way of synthesizing music and sound on a video game system, and it really helped the Super Nintendo stand out against its competition.

A lot of gaming websites have come out with lists of their “games of the decade” over the last few weeks, and that’s got me thinking. There have been a lot of games in the last decade. Ten years ago, we were welcoming Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, and Halo: Reach. Now we have new consoles, new handhelds, and even virtual reality starting to make an impact.

For Christmas of 1996, I knew what I wanted - a Nintendo 64. I had been fed a steady diet of Nintendo Power magazines, which led me to believe that the 64 was the bright future of gaming, and anything else was just an imposter. And I got it! But soon, I had friends telling me about Final Fantasy VII, and Tomb Raider, and tons of other games that appealed to me a great deal. I needed to get a PlayStation.

Pokemon is Nintendo’s perennial handheld game series, releasing on practically all of Nintendo’s portable game systems. The games have mostly been withheld from the home console market, but with Nintendo merging their home and handheld systems with the Switch, it was just a matter of time before we finally got our first new main-series Pokemon title that can be played on a TV. The games are released as a pair, as is customary for the series: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.


Sam McConnell / KMUW

Hideo Kojima is a rarity in the world of high-budget video game production. He's an auteur. The Metal Gear Solid games are all branded "A Hideo Kojima Game." He has a certain sensibility, but there has also always been a sense that he's been held back. That was before he formed his own independent studio, Kojima Productions, which just released its first game — Death Stranding.

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.

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.

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.

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.