With 2019 turning over into 2020 and the geek show beginning its second decade of life – there’s a scary thought – the time was right to add a new string to the website. We have movie reviews and that is cool, we shine a light on things that don’t really get the time of the day especially in an age where a single blockbuster can take up 8 screens of an 11 screen cinema. But what about video games? The Geek Show is built off the back of video games just as much as it is comics, movies or animation. That’s where the idea for this editorial series can from. I will be looking at interesting topics in games whether they are pressing new things like the fast-approaching new generation fronted by the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5 or something more long term. The question when launching a new backbone to the website to offset all these obscure movie reviews is where do you start? And the easiest way to start something new is to do just that, start from the beginning.
What is the first video game you remember loving?
I am dating myself in saying this, but my gaming history dates all the way back to the ZX spectrum, fair enough, back in the 1990s I wasn’t exactly at the front of the gaming zeitgeist, to use terms bandied around today I was a good generation behind. I have crude shadows of memories from those days, the closest I can come to remembering anything I played back then was the original Pitfall and the New Zealand Story. I probably played older too thanks to my school (when I was 11) using ancient (even then) BBC machines to teach us through maths games. It wasn’t until the time I got my master system – I was very much a SEGA kid – that the gaming bug bit in any way. Most of the games I got back then where plucked from the £10 bargain section, I mean, I was under 10 at that point in time, my parents would never have bought me a game for £40 – or whatever a new game cost back then. Luckily in those days, hardware developers like SEGA and NINTENDO built a game into the machine. So, day 1 of owning your new console you would be guaranteed to have at least one new game to go with your new bit of kit. Honestly, I think the likes of SONY, MICROSOFT and NINTENDO would be doing the world a solid if they started doing that again especially with some of the numbers being thrown around for the new consoles out in Quarter III this year and what they could cost. One source quoted that the Series X might cost as much as £1,000. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Coming packaged with my Master System was Alex Kidd in Miracle World.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World was the bread and butter of those years in gaming, a side-scrolling platformer – now-through 20/20 hindsight you could probably make the debate that it was a Super Mario rip-off. Interestingly, this began life as a Dragon Ball game but had to be reworked when Sega lost the license. Fun fact. In it, you play a character called Alex and you guessed right, he is a kid. With a cursory check on Wikipedia, I can tell you that Alex is a martial artist who sets out to defeat a villain called Janken the Great who defeated the King Thunder and kidnapped his son, Prince Egle and Egle’s fiancée, Princess Lora. Apparently, I have no memory of any of that. What I do remember, however, is the classic platforming, boss battles and great score by Tokuhiko Uwabo. It was from the 8-bit era, after all, that is a generation of games whose music has endured to this day.
The thing I do want to bring up about the game is the boss battles. Alex can punch specific bricks to get the game’s currency to spend at shops scattered throughout the game and punch miniature pterodactyls to death with his mighty fist. If this followed suit with other platformers of the era, he’d also do the same in the boss battles. Punch, jump, done in. Only that isn’t the case, as whenever you meet one of the games many bosses you engage them in a battle of rock, paper, scissors, or to give it its Japanese name – Janken. Each boss was a puzzle and you had to learn the order of when they would do rock, paper or scissors in order to react and beat them. No murder via a playful jump on the head. This was made all the more difficult by there being no save function back then, so if you lost, back to the beginning of the game you go. All these years later this is the most interesting aspect to me; here you are faced with the goons of a big bad and you don’t defeat them via beating them up or anything violent, no, you beat them via a playground game. If this was made now, such a construct would mean you are in for a condescendingly easy game – but again, no, this was the 8-bit era, games weren’t easy back then. It really does endear me to Alex Kidd to think that he is the most wholesome of heroes and in an age where games are defined by guns, microtransactions and other means of violence – wholesome is something that the gaming world is sorely missing outside of certain quarters of the indie development community.
I have played hundreds of games over my lifetime and there’s very few that I can remember as vividly as this humble platformer released in 1987. And I didn’t even finish the thing either, nor did I play its sequels. Now, I end this first blog in a series where I talk about the wide world of videogames by asking you, the reader, the same question. What was the game that made you fall in love with video games?