Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Runescape: The Glory Days

*Disclaimer: This post will deal with Runescape as it was played years ago, not the new Runescape that most people play now.  Some people call this Old School Runescape.  I call it the Glory Days.*

I first started playing Runescape in September of 2003.  This was way back in the day, long before Runescape became the most popular free MMORPG of all time.  The plot was simple.  You created your own character, and did whatever you want. 
Runescape Classic: When things were Simple

There was no clear objective to do, rather you could do whatever you wanted.  If you wanted to kill monsters and enemies, go ahead.  If you wanted to chop down trees, catch shrimp, and cook yourself a nice dinner, be my guest.  If you wanted to just walk around and talk to other players and meet people from around the world, do it.  Nobody is stopping you. 

A bunch of players hanging out.

As time passed, the game evolved.  A year or two after I joined, Runescape 2 came out.  Runescape 2 made Runescape 1 look like a Beta version.  The graphics engine was entirely revamped, and so was the combat sytem.  It was like an entirely different game in itself.  It took a while for me to adjust, but when I did, I found it a lot of fun.

Runescape 2: A complete Graphical remake of Runescape 1

The best part of Runescape for me was the fact that it was an MMORPG.  I found it a revelation that I could talk to random people from the comfort of my bedroom.  There was a friends list where you could add people you have met.  Adding people to your friends list would give you an alert whenever they logged on.  Therefore, you would know when your friend was playing, and could coordinate hanging out with them online.

At the height of Runescape popularity.

It didn't take long for Runescape to become very popular.  At the height of popularity, there would be over 200,000 people online during peak hours of the day.

My favorite part of Runescape was playing a mini-game called Castle Wars.  I have easily spent over 2000 hours playing Castle Wars, and I do not regret it one bit.  Castle Wars is basically Capture the Flag.  There is a flag in each castle, and you have to steal the enemies flag and bring it back to your own base.  At the same time, you have to prevent the enemy from stealing your flag and running back to their base.  A game lasted 20 minutes long, and the team that scored the most points was declared the winner.  Even though the game seemed simple, there was a high amount of strategy involved.  There were specific Clans people made that you could join that were dedicated to Castle Wars, and I was a part of one of them.   

Two opponents meeting each other in Castle Wars

You may be wondering: Do I still play Runescape?  Sadly, the answer is No.  I stopped playing in May of 2012.  The next question to ask: Why?  Is it because you grew up?  No, that is not the reason.  The reason I quit Runescape is I did not like the updates and changes that the company was making to the game.  Starting in 2011, Runescape became more "money focused" rather than "content focused".  It seemed like the content that they were required you to spend real money to fully enjoy them. 

This picture shows the graphical improvements of Runescape

In addition, the community changed.  The days of people playing Runescape for fun and enjoyment was over.  Now, it was all about "Who can get to the highest level in the fastest amount of time?"  People were complaining about how long it took them to level up, and how boring it was doing the same thing over and over again.  To these people, it was like playing Runescape was a chore, not something to be looked forward to.

Monster Hunting in Runescape: Killing the King Black Dragon

Having said all that, Runescape still was a great and amazing game.  The concept of an Adventure game, where you can explore and do whatever you want: killing monsters, go on Quests, talk with people from around the world, was revolutionary for me.  And all those hours I spent playing Castle Wars, playing until my eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen.  Those were the days...


Monday, March 23, 2015

Grand Theft Auto 3


Those were always the first combination of buttons I would press whenever I played Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA 3).  Pressing the buttons in the order above would unlock all the weapons in the game.  Basically, you had every single gun and could go on a one man killing spree.  

It's hard to believe that it's been over 13 years since GTA 3 released.  Taking place in a fictional place called Liberty City, Grand Theft Auto 3 is mainly known for being one of the first Open World games.  Instead of being forced to do things in an A-B-C format, the player was free to roam around and do whatever they desired.  Interested in playing by the book?  Complete the missions and see the story unfold.  Walk past a really nice looking car?  Steal it.  Don't like the look the old lady gave you as she walked past you?  Beat her up.  When the game released the only limitation in GTA 3 seemed to be your own imagination.

"Excuse me, sir.  Your car looks nice.  It's mine now."

Driving a Car on water.  Only possible in Grand Theft Auto.

Of course, you can't do anything you want in the game without consequences.  Killing someone usually attracted the attention of the police.  They would try to arrest you and bring you down.  Usually, the easiest solution would be to kill them.  Which is what I would do.  One of my favorite things to do in the game is steal a car, run over a bunch of people until the police started chasing me in their vehicles, and try to outrun them "Fast and Furious" style.  The purpose was to see how long you could survive before you got caught.  I would think I got pretty good at it.

Once you are are caught, or "busted", you are sent to the nearest police station.  

GTA 3 is one of my favorite games because of the freedom you have.  My friend was the one who owned the game, and he lived 2 doors down from me.  95% of the time when we played, we just went around exploring and killing people.  On the rare occasion, we attempted a few missions, but oftentimes would get sidetracked by a nice car.  There was also the "Mature" aspect of the game that appealed to me.  I was 9 when GTA 3 came out.  Playing a "M" rated game with blood, guns, and killing, a game I was technically not supposed to be playing, definitely added to the enjoyment.  

Walking around Liberty City like a boss, Rocket Launcher in hand.

Years later, I feel that GTA 3 still holds up well compared to the games available today.  Sure, the graphics might be outdated, but the open world experience and fun you can have never gets old.  If you gave me a PS2 and GTA 3 right now, I would happily spend a few hours immersed in the world of Liberty City.  But first, R2, R2, L1, R2, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT, UP, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT, UP.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pokemon Crystal

The Pokemon craze hit when I was in elementary school.  Pokemon was everywhere you went, it seemed impossible to escape.  Walking around school, I would see my classmates with Pokemon T shirts, Pokemon Hats, Pokemon Backpacks, even Pokemon Lunchboxes.  It was crazy, and I was a victim of the craze.  I had the Pokemon Trading Cards, but what I really coveted was my own Pokemon Video Game.  I wanted to be like the other people who could train and raise their own Pokemon pet.

The Pokemon craze was everywhere.

It took a few years, but I finally got my opportunity.  My neighbor had a copy of Pokemon Crystal, and I had a copy of Super Mario Bros: Deluxe.  We traded games for a day.  He liked Super Mario Bros.  I liked Pokemon Crystal.  I asked him if he wanted to trade games.  He said yes.  Success!  It was painful to let go of Super Mario Bros: Deluxe, because I really did like the game, and I hadn't beaten it yet.  The only way to remedy this was to take full advantage of the Pokemon Crystal Experience.

The most important decision you will make in the game: Which Pokemon do you choose?

Pokemon Crystal continues with the classic Pokemon format where you get to select your own Pokemon (out of 3) and go on an adventure, meeting cool people, battling familiar foes, and discovering new Pokemon creatures.  When I received the game, my neighbor had already started a save file, so I just continued from where he left off.  But thankfully, he was still in the beginning stages, so I didn't miss much.

A Map of the Radio Tower.  Buena is on the bottom right (Red Hair)

One of my favorite memories from the game was a Radio Quiz called Buena's Password.  At a certain time in the day, if you tuned in to Buena's radio station, she would announce a password.  After hearing the password, you could go to her location in the Radio Tower and recite the password to her.  Doing this would give you points, which you could cash in to get sought after prizes, such as a gold nugget.  I often would get up early before school just so I could listen to Buena on the radio and accumulate points.

A Gold Nugget: Worth 5000 coins.

Pokemon Crystal was one of my favorite games because you wrote your own adventure.  If you wanted to, you could breeze through the game in 20 hours.  But for people like me, who wanted to catch Pokemon, explore new places, and just walk around the virtual world, it offered a lot more.  It allowed me to escape from my house in New Jersey, and transport me to the Pokemon Johto region.  It was there where I didn't have to focus on stuff in real life like trying to learn Chinese, the only thing I had to focus on was trying to find rare Pokemon.

To this day, I still would rather search for hours trying to find rare Pokemon than learn Chinese. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped

What is a Bandicoot?  For a long time, I thought it was a made up species of animal.  But it turns out that they actually exist (see picture below).  Google defines a Bandicoot as "a mainly insectivorous marsupial native to Australia and New Guinea."  To me, they look like a cross between a squirrel and a rat.  But it is what it is.

Crash Bandicoot vs A real bandicoot

Crash Bandicoot Warped is the 3rd entry in the series of Crash Bandicoot games made by NaughtyDog.  This game is similar to the second game in the sense that your goal is to go through a set of levels and collect the crystals, which would open up a portal where you could fight the boss.  When you succeed, you were granted access to the next set of worlds, where you would do the same thing. 

The first world hub in Crash Bandicoot Warped

Unlike the second game, beating a set of levels would grant you a special ability.  These ranged from a Double Jump to carrying around a Laser Guided Bazooka.  These special abilities greatly enhanced your ability to finish levels, and finish them efficiently.  My personal favorite is the Bazooka.  Instead of fighting enemies face-to-face, you could just sit back and snipe them away.  Because the Bazooka had unlimited ammo, you didn't have to worry about being accurate.  Just fire away!

Crash holding a Bazooka.  It's as awesome as it sounds.

Perhaps my favorite part about the game was the music.  Crash Bandicoot Warped has one of the best soundtracks out of any game I have played.  As soon as you see the Title Screen pop up, you are greeted with the Crash Bandicoot theme song, which is my favorite out of any video game.  The beat is catchy and is easy to get stuck in your head, not that I minded.  In addition, the music of the levels really added to the experience while playing.  In fact, I have a majority of the songs downloaded onto my phone, so I can listen to them anytime I want.

Below is a YouTube Video of a cover someone made of the Crash Bandicoot Theme song.

Crash Bandicoot Warped is one of my favorite childhood games because it was just a fun game to play.  Yes, there were levels that were hard and frustrating, but when you finally beat them it makes you feel really good.  Add the introduction of special abilities, it adds a whole new dimension to the game where you can tackle levels in different ways that were impossible before.  And last but not least, the amazing soundtrack.  Whoever came up with the music for the game should win a Grammy award.  I really do think the music is that good.  I'm serious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Super Mario Bros Deluxe

30 years ago, it you told someone that an Italian Plumber with a mustache, wearing a red hat + shirt, blue overalls, white gloves, and brown shoes would become one of the most recognizable characters in the world, they would call you crazy.  Flash forward to today, and Mario is arguably one of the most popular Video Game characters in the World.  He is so popular that he has become associated with Nintendo.  When people think of Nintendo, people think of Mario.

Super Mario Bros Deluxe is a GameBoy Port of the original Super Mario Bros that came out on the NES in 1985.  Bowser has captured Princess Peach, and it's Mario's job to search the castles in order to find Peach and free her from Bowser's grasp.  The gameplay is nearly identical, but the GameBoy version expands on the orginal by adding challenges for you to do.  One of them is the "Yoshi Egg" Challenge.  There is a hidden Yoshi Egg in each level, and the objective is to find where it is.  The trick is the block is invisible, so often times you would find the Yoshi Egg by luck (aka randomly jumping around). 

Finding a Yoshi Egg in a level

In addition, there is a mode called "Boo Race", where you race across special levels against Boo the ghost to see who finishes the level first.  Though this may seem simple, keep in mind that Boo is a ghost, which means he can pass through blocks instead of having to jump over them.   

Mario vs Boo.  Who will win?

In addition, there are different colors of Boo, which represents how fast they go.  They range from White, Green, Red, and Black.  Coincidentally, the Black Boo is the fastest, and by far the hardest to beat (I don't know if Nintendo did that on purpose, making the Black Boo the super fast one).  Below is a short YouTube video that shows a race against Black Boo. 

Note: This is a lot harder than it looks.

But by far my favorite part of the game is the Luigi levels.  The Luigi levels are basically Super Mario Bros 2, the version that released in Japan.  The Japanese version differed from the U.S Version because it was deemed "Too difficult" to play, so they made a different, easier version for the U.S gamers.  They weren't lying.  The Luigi levels are frustratingly difficult.  There was this one level that was so difficult, I had to look up a walk-through video on how to beat it.  And after watching the video, it still took me a while to finally succeed.

Super Mario Bros Deluxe is my favorite GameBoy game, and the reason I like Mario and still play his games today.  It is such a classic game, a simple 2-D side scroller, but even 30 years after its release it can appeal to new gamers today who have never played a Mario game before.  Just be sure to NOT start them off with the Luigi levels.  They were banned from the U.S for a reason.