Are YouTubers ruining retrogaming?

I recently watched this video from Shawn Long aka RGT 85 and I wanted to react myself. It’s a very interesting topic and I’m glad he tackled it this way. He has some valid points but I’d like to share my input.

It is true that retrogaming prices have gone way up but I don’t think that YouTubers are to blame at all. Most of them are passionate gamers like you and me who just decided to share their thoughts and passion using the tools they have at their disposal, in this case YouTube. I agree that not all of those videos are perfect, some of them are not even remotely interesting. But at least they’re trying. I might write an article about my favorite ones later.

Prices in the retrogaming sphere were rising before YouTubers were a thing. I started collecting in 2008 and since then, I’ve seen prices go up and up and up. It’s crazy. For me, the market is to blame because, if a game or a system is too expensive, don’t buy it! It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, because people are more and more impatient and want to put their latest pick-up on Insta and Facebook or Twitter, they will go over the high price easily. Earlier this week, a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES reached and was sold for more than $30,000 on eBay! Are YouTubers to blame? I don’t think so. And, this phenomenon is not confined to gaming. It’s happening everywhere! Real estate, food, musical instruments, and any kind of collection from stamps to antiques. So it’s nothing new or dramatic.

Moreover, let’s not forget that video games have always been targeted to the upper class or upper middle class because they’re expensive! Nowadays, a system in America costs between $299 and $499 and games now range from $39 to $99 for some exclusive in-game content. And don’t forget that games on cartridges were expensive as well. It’s time we realize that maybe we’re all responsible for retrogaming prices skyrocketing. If you think it’s too expensive. Don’t buy it, period. There’s no use antagonizing the seller telling him he’s smoking something good to put prices like that. Anyway, we’re far from the YouTubers as an issue as you can see because frankly they’re mostly good people and certainly don’t do what they do in order to make the prices go up, it’s not good for them either!

7 most annoying bosses in video games

We spend long hours enjoying, exploring, visiting  and interacting in wonderful worlds thanks to the magic of video games that allow us to be actors instead of only spectators. But, because there’s always a but, those adventures are filled with bad guys that we have to defeat in order to progress further in the game. Sometimes they’re just so annoying that they get to our nerves. Here are the ones I found to be the most annoying.

Ghirahim – The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword – Nintendo Wii – 2011

I may be a retro gamer at heart, I still keep in touch with the current games even though they are not so good like the dedicated Wii episode of the Zelda series. It’s one of the best looking games ever and the art direction is amazing, no doubt about that. But what’s with the constant back and forth and the three areas only? But most importantly, what’s with Ghirahim? Not only is he one of the worst antagonist ever, the first few boss fights against him are ridiculously annoying. Add to that the barely working motion detection and you have a recipe for disaster. As you move your sword around with the Wiimote, the villain follows it with his right hand and will block every direct hit. The hint is to feint to hit on one side while actually hitting on the other… well, on paper. In actuality it rarely works and thus the battles takes forever and are overly frustrating. Never again, Nintendo! Never!

TimeSage – Dragon Quest VII – PlayStation – 2000

Dragon Quest games are known to be difficult. Heck! I never even finished one of them because of it. I reach the final battle and die miserably. But this is not what I want to deal with right now. In the seventh episode, which is the longest one to date made even longer with the 2016 3DS remake, around half of the adventure is the most annoying boss of the series, the TimeSage. Accompanied by two minions this battle can be done and redone, over and over because the monsters can purely and simply reset it, just like that. How horrible is that? The trick is to be quick.

Final Boss – Wario Blast – Game Boy – 1994

Bomberman was one of the first hit on the Famicom. Developed by the Sapporo-based Hudson Soft, the game quickly became a series with several episodes on the subsequent systems. On the Game Boy, after an episode that bears a different name depending on the territory it was released in, the series got mixed into the Mario franchise. Well, kind of at least. Wario and the Bomberman share the stage in Wario Blast. Like any other entry, each world is divided into 4 areas the last one being a boss fight. All of them are doable with a clear pattern except the last one. Whether I’m 8 or 28 (last time I tried), I still can’t manage to beat this motherfracking flying robot and its flying fists. It’s so annoying!

Wiegraf/Velius – Final Fantasy Tactics – PlayStation – 1997

Final Fantasy Tactics is a fantastic game, one of my favorite in fact. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect though and it’s rather challenging especially in its original PlayStation version (the difficulty was toned down in the PSP one). The Wiegraf/Velius battle automatically comes when speaking about Final Fantasy Tactics because it’s hard, frustrating and long. The fight takes place in three parts. First one is against Wiegraf, then he transforms into the Zodiac creature Velius summoning three extremely powerful fiends, and finally the last phase takes place on the roof of the castle you were fighting in but you have to protect a character that is managed by the AI and does nothing to stay safe. Of course there is no possibility to save between the battles otherwise it would have been too easy…

All of the bosses in Deus Ex Human Revolution – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC – 2011

I’ll be quick on this one because there is an actual explanation for it. In 2011, Eidos Montreal released a new episode in the famed Deus Ex series actually taking place before JC Denton’s investigation. While the game is great and I had a lot of fun exploring and resolving the puzzles, it’s plagued by boss fights that have absolutely no place in it. Even from a storyline standpoint it barely makes sense. But there is a reason. Pressured by Square Enix, who recently acquired Eidos (including the Deus Ex franchise among other things) at the time of the development, Eidos Montreal had to include boss fights because a good game without any of those would be unthinkable. Therefore the Canadian company chose to outsource them and it didn’t go unnoticed. They’re hard, pushy, wrong and ultimately frustrating.

Eddie Pulaski – GTA San Andreas – PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC – 2004

I love the GTA franchise and I played almost all of them but GTA San Andreas is and will forever be my favorite. The map is big, the RPG flavor with all the different stats you can boost hits me right in the feels and the overall variety just worked for me. But man the missions can sometimes be frustrating and I even threw my controller into my TV leaving a permanent mark when trying to pass my plane pilot licence. Little did I know that it was just the tip of the iceberg. Towards the end of the game, you uncover the mystery around your mother death which is the reason why you came back to San Andreas. One such culprit is Eddie Pulaski. The mission in which you confront him is succeeded by a car pursuit and a hot one at that. While he has an abnormally super fast car, you have a buggy… It handles bad, turns are close to impossible and the road is full of cliffs from which you can fall to your death only to restart the mission all over again and again and again. I think I can hear myself screaming in rage when thinking about it. Fortunately for the people around me at that time, I managed to pass it, kill this SOB and go on to finish this incredible game.

Gill – Street Fighter III New Generation – Dreamcast – 2000

As a child and teen, I used to love fighting games. I was pretty good at it. In 2002, for my 16th birthday I bought a used Dreamcast with two controllers and a couple of games including Street Fighter III Double Impact that contained both New Generation and 2nd Impact. Therefore I booted New Generation first and went through the arcade mode without too much difficulty until I reached the boss, Gill. The red and blue character is overpowered and you feel like you’re being deceived by the game! It’s so unfair! Even on the lowest difficulty it’s like facing a wall parrying all your hits  and punching you in the face.

What are your frustrations when it comes to bosses? Please share below!

How can retrogaming make you rich?

After having tackled the subject once (second part is coming soon), let’s see how retrogaming can make you rich, but watch out, because there’s a twist.

Indeed, I won’t talk about money here because this is something that doesn’t interest me or at least not when retrogaming is at stake. No, here I will let you in on the secret richness that retrogaming holds or maybe you just didn’t see it.

Anyway, if you’re a retro gamer there’s a chance that you are actually interested in history and that’s good but I’d like you to go beyond that, at least if you intend to get rich in knowledge, that is. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will become an historian. Hell, maybe you don’t want to! But what’s the point in collecting or even playing some good old school games if it’s not to learn some trivia about them?

Retrogaming can also allow you to meet new and amazing people! More and more people feel nostalgic about the games they played when they were young. There are many retrogaming related events happening all around  the world, some big, some just started by a few passionate retrogamers. I’ve been to a lot of these and every single time it was great! You spend time discussing, sharing memories, among other things. Nowadays, thanks to social networks it’s even easier to keep in touch because in those kinds of events you never know who you’re going to come across. When I was in Game On Expo in Chandler AZ last year, I met with Michael Price, a former game designer at Coleco, and Al Lowe, creator of the Leisure Suit Larry franchise. I also had the chance to speak briefly to the Gaming Historian, if you don’t know who he is, first shame on you, second just check his videos. I personally use them as reliable sources for my books, he’s that good! Anyway, that’s another great way to get rich thanks to retrogaming. Friendships that stick and that could be the most important lesson here.

If you have other ways to get rich thanks to retrogaming, let me know, I’m always on the look out!

A painful realization

Following my new game of Final Fantasy VII, I wanted to explore once more the next instalment that I hold dearly in my heart from my first playthrough. It did not go as expected and I was in for a painful realization.

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Indeed, in my memories, Final Fantasy VIII was more mature in so many levels. First, graphically speaking, the developers chose to give up the SD (Super Deformed—big head, small body) representation used in Final Fantasy in lieu of more realistic characters and proportions. The sound design was also upgraded as we hear the footsteps of the character, which is not as trivial as it may sound. This struck me back in 2000 and I felt playing a more adult and serious game because of that. Of course the game engine didn’t allow for heavy details on the faces especially, but it didn’t matter to me. Back then, I was 13, an age full of questioning, and self research. I was on my way to high school which would then lead me to the university which is one of the main area of the game (and a character in and of itself). But most importantly, character development was more in tune with what I felt back when I was a teen and the game was originally released. In 2000, when I completed my first play through on the PC version of this masterpiece, it was way ahead of Final Fantasy VII.

Now that I’m more than twice the age I was when I first played Final Fantasy VIII for the first time, I have a whole different understanding of the world around me, including video games. Playing again the games we enjoyed or not during our youth should be something we should all do, by the way. Having a new point of view on things, a better culture is helpful to catch on the jokes and the humour of those types of games.

 

Starting Final Fantasy VIII made me realize that it’s a deeply flawed game, especially when it is compared to its predecessor. First, right at the beginning there is a detail that I never noticed before which is nevertheless so important when it comes to playing a role playing game: there are no more treasure chests! As silly as it may sound, this is something that the developers chose not to include for some reason. Playing back-to-back Final Fantasy VII, with its world full treasure chests to hunt in every possible areas whether it’s covered in snow, in a sunken submarine or in a haunted mansion, and Final Fantasy VIII where hidden items are as rare as an Adamantoise, made me realize how much I relied on this feature to motivate me to explore the various locatio
s of a given game. Not only is it a way to reward us as players but it can also be a good way to direct us. For example, having a few chests here and there in the Tomb of the Unknown King in Final Fantasy VIII would help us not to wander around in circles.

ff-viii-tombSecond, the game system is so exploitable that, if you understand correctly how it works, the last third of the game becomes insignificant in terms of difficulty. The Junction system introduced here requires you to attach a certain magic spell to a certain ability to increase it. In order to have the said magic spell, you can, basically, draw it and stock it from monsters in battles or create it using items through abilities offered by the summons here called the Guardian Forces (I’ll come back to those later). Starting the game you can only draw magic from the enemies. The good thing is that they have an unlimited amount of them but the drawback (pun intended) is that it takes a certain amount of time. Come to think of it, this is kind of what life is. If you’re willing to spend enough time absorbing knowledge, you can exploit life’s rules to your own gain. Food for thoughts. Anyway, in Final Fantasy VIII, the systems allows to be so powerful so early on the adventure that you barely sweat during boss fights. It’s a bit of a shame considering that the point of an RPG is to progressively build up your character.

Finally, and it’s a detail, but developers wanted us to hear our characters moving so they added a sound effect for their footsteps. I haven’t realized until now that I actually didn’t care, not that it is annoying or anything but it’s funny to think that it was that important for them to be present in the game.

With that being said, I enjoyed this new playthrough, my first one in English for this game. Even though I didn’t care that much for the characters this time around, I loved every part of the game. Whether it is the Balamb Garden University, Deling City, getting lost in the Tomb of the Unknown King or blowing up the missile base. But I have to say that my biggest surprise was Ultimecia’s Castle. This last dungeon represents, for me, an apogee of the series. Upon entering this immense building, you are deprived of every feature including saving! Solving puzzles and beating up bosses will grant you those back. Even though it’s cruelly empty, the baroque architecture is amazing (woodwork, chandeliers,…), and the music track is amazing with its harpsichord part.

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Final Fantasy VIII is a work of art no doubt about it. But I realized that it lacks something in terms of character development. I would gladly play it again or if Square Enix would offer a remake after finishing the one they’re working on right now, I wouldn’t say no.

Final Fantasy Adventure (aka Mystic Quest) the one that started it all for me

I have to admit and you must have guessed it while reading the other articles, I’m a sucker for all things RPG especially when they are from Japan but I’m open to all kind of video games experiences. I love Role Playing Games and I’ve playing them since my tender youth (that is now far away now that I come to think of it).

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The first game I’ve played to discover the genre (I’m not counting the obscure Castle of the Winds I played on my computer as it was austere and very limited gameplay-wise) was Final Fantasy Adventure or Mystic Quest for the Game Boy as it was known in my home country of France. I later discovered that it was also the very first episode of the Mana series its original Japanese moniker being Seiken Densetsu that we can actually and roughly translate as the Legend of the Sacred Sword. This is also the game that made me discover and fall in love with a then small company from the land of the rising sun, Squaresoft.

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Castle of the Winds

I got it as a gift (I was—and still am in some ways—a very spoiled child) for this strange custom of celebrating my “day”. Let me enlighten you for a bit. In France, every day is associated with a Saint as the country was built on catholic religion principles. As my name is Antoine, it was, or so we thought for a long time, on July 5th (turns out the Saint celebrated that day was Antoine-Marie and my “day” was actually on June 13th but that’s another story). On that day parents give a present to their beloved child. On that fateful day in 1993, my father got me Final Fantasy Adventure and I was in for a ride, let me tell you.

First the packaging was amazing. Not only did it come with a bright green box with a side view of an armor (growing up in a country where the Middle Ages were full of knights and castles, it was very well done from a marketing standpoint), it also included a thick manual. Usually it meant that the document was in several languages, the game being sold simultaneously, for example, in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. But not Mystic Quest! No, the manual was here integrally in French and was big because it explained the rules, different magic spells and ailments you could face. Moreover, it contained a short strategy guide for the first hour or so of gameplay! Perfect for a rookie like me!

The game in itself is Action RPG as dynamic as we could expect with great graphics, set in a medieval-fantasy world, and with an amazing soundtrack by the master Kenji Ito who would go on to sign the entire SaGa compositions (I’ll come back to that series later on). You play as a hero who is a gladiator for the entertainment of the evil Empire Glaive. You even witness your best friend Willy dying before your very eyes. “Look for Bogard, the Gemma Knight” were his last words. Fed up with those ludicrous working conditions you decide to escape. Sadly, as soon as you step outside, you overhear a discussion between the Dark Lord and his vassal, Julius, about the mysterious Mana tree. The Glaive leader sees you and chases you but you face a cliff. Not wanting any witness of his machiavellian plan, he doesn’t hesitate to push you down. After a long and brutal fall you wake up in a mysterious land still equipped with your sword and shield. On your way to look for the mysterious knight, you rescue a girl who was escorted by her friend Hasim to meet Bogard as well. As it cannot be a coincidence, you take here with you and there your adventure begins.

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Your playground in Mystic Quest

While limited by the small capabilities of the Game Boy, the developers from Squaresoft did an amazing job with Mystic Quest. The adventure is epic and long, the puzzles are smart and make you feel smarter when you understand how to resolve them. The controls are ridiculously simple, once more because of the hardware. You attack with A and use an item or a spell with B. That’s it.

It’s not an easy quest though and if you don’t pay attention to your HP very often, you could be in for a nasty death. One of the many great features of the game is that you can save your adventure anytime by simply pressing the Select button. However, it means, that it is up to you to do it every so often so you don’t precious minutes of gameplay.

The game is also brilliant by its diversity so much in terms of the areas you visit, you’ll explore swamps, forests, caves, desert lands, castles, and much more; the non-playable characters you’ll meet and befriend among whom some will follow you—and even betray you—like Amanda who looks for her brother, a robot, a mysterious traveller and many more; or the man yweapons and piece of equipment you can carry some of which have a direct impact on the quests like the axe that cuts the wood, the scythe that cuts the plants, the chain that catch the poles or the specific pieces of equipment you need to have to enter the Dwarf cave.

Every aspect of the RPG genre is respected, from the management of your—rather small—inventory, your equipment or your levels. Indeed, every slain monsters awards you some well deserved gold and experience points. Once reaching a new threshold you’ll be prompted to select the way you want to distribute your points: Stamina, Power, Wisdom, or Will. Grinding is of the essence, especially at the beginning as the very early monsters can be disturbingly unfair if not prepared for them. Fortunately as every screen is filled with those treacherous creatures, you’ll have many opportunities to level up and become more powerful.

Let me conclude on the soundtrack of this gem which is a nectar for your ears especially if you love chiptune soundtrack and in my humble opinion the Game Boy delivers the best there is on this kind. Kenji Ito is a virtuoso and offers melodic and charming compositions with epic boss battle themes, tearing sad theme, and empowering over world themes. All of that with very limited hardware capabilities which renders his prowess even more amazing.

This is a game I completed countless of times and that I hold dearly in my heart and in my collection. I can only recommend it, preferably in its original version even though some remakes are available on the Game Boy Advance as Sword of Mana or on mobile devices as well as PlayStation Vita under the name Adventures of Mana.

Final Fantasy XV is out so I played VII again (and it hasn’t aged a bit)

Yes, the new Final Fantasy is out and yes, the reviews are great but not over-the-top as expected by many. We’ve been waiting for this game for 10 years! Even though it’s nowhere as close as Duke Nukem Forever’s 14 years, it’s still a substantial expectancy.

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On my side, because I operated my company for close to 2 years, I haven’t got the chance (nor the money) to get the latest generation consoles and therefore couldn’t play either of the demos available for the 15th episode of my favorite franchise of all time or the full game itself for that matter. Considering the most recent feedback, I did something way better!

Lately, with my small earnings I offered myself a GPD Q9, an Android tablet with some buttons and joysticks that is literally built for retro gaming (my specialty). Indeed, you’ll find built-in emulators and can downloads hundreds of games including Final Fantasy VII.

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Very curious to see how the PlayStation would be emulated on my newly acquired device and eager to be able to play my very first Final Fantasy game in the palms of my hands, I gave it a go and was particularly disappointed on my first try. It was laggy, and the sound effects were “meh” at best. So I stopped it because when I first played it almost 20 years ago on my PC, it was also laggy and I even had an issue with my graphics card that flipped all the cinematics. But I got to love it even though, I didn’t actually play through it the first time. As I got my game for Christmas 1997-and proudly still own it-my cousin who is almost 9 years older than me and taught me the ropes of RPG and JRPG came by and showed me how to play the game. I was happy to let him because I knew I could go back afterwards when he left. And I had plenty of times to do so. You see, I own so many different versions of that games that I could play it literally anywhere.

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Anyway, I found out on my tablet that I could tweak a ew settings of the PlayStation emulator and-hurray!-it worked and allowed me to play a perfectly trustworthy version of Final Fantasy VII and couldn’t be happier. This is how my past week went.

Every time I launch it, I feel like I’m 12 again going battles after battles, advancing the plot, and discovering some details I hadn’t noticed before. And I love that feeling. Time goes by, hours are engulfed in this world that gets more and more depressing as the story line is revealed to us.

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Even though it is probably the 10th time I play it from beginning to the end, I try new teams composition, new materia arrangements and read a few theories here and there to complete my experience. Furthermore, it’s a very good exercise for your memory as you try to remember where is what and who to talk to in order to unlock the next scene in the game. In my case, I’m pretty good and proud to remember many details after so many years.

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Now that I’m done with it again, I’ll probably play VIII (although I might be done with it by the time I publish this article) and then a new game. I don’t expect a lot from Final Fantasy VII Remake on which CyberConnect 2 is working along with Square Enix. I don’t mind about the episodic releases as I’ll be able to buy them all at once considering that I have more than 3 years and counting on video games to catch up on! Wait & see…