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Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I Hate Resident Evil

Yeah I know. Resident Evil. A favorite of many gamers world-wide, and yet I hate it? As a fan of the classic consoles, I never got a chance to play Resident Evil when it first came out back in 1996. I didn't own a PS1 back in it's heyday, but did eventually own a PS2, so I missed out on some pretty great games because I was still playing Super Nintendo and N64. As it turns out though, Resident Evil was a horrible game, so maybe I am glad I missed out on it initially.

Being a Nintendo Kid, my first experience with Resident Evil was the re-made version of the original game on the Game Cube. I admit, I was excited when I found it used at a local game store. I had never played it, and had only heard about it from friends. I knew it involved killing zombies, and was supposed to be scary, so I was set to enjoy something new. That romance was short lived however. Resident Evil sucked so bad I returned the game within a week or two of buying it. But being the avid gamer that I am, I decided to give it another go, and got Resident Evil Zero, also on the Game Cube. My thoughts were that maybe it would be different....wrong. It was the same crappy game. So why do I hate Resident Evil? Simple, the controls suck.

So what is it about the controls that suck? Well Capcom went with a configuration known in the gaming world as tank controls. Tank control can be defined as follows:

Tank controls refers to a control style for third person perspective games where manual turning is required instead of the more common method of facing in the direction that the analog stick is tilted and moving forward. 



On the surface that doesn't sound bad, and a lot of games have been made using this control scheme. However, when applied to a game like Resident Evil, it did nothing but ruin the gaming experience for me. I understand that the complexity of the tank control configuration, at least to some people, added to the game's horror theme. My biggest problem was that "UP" on the game controller was always forward, no matter what direction your character was facing on the screen. This led to moments of  getting attacked by a zombie from behind, and then having to navigate the controls so that your character could turn around and face the attacker, usually resulting in death. The constant struggles to survive due to the use of the frustrating nature of tank controls makes this game lose that element of fun really quickly. Hence my hatred for this game.

The biggest issue I have is that there were so many other games that got the survival-horror genre right. If Resident Evil would have been designed differently I think it would have been much better. I look at games like Doom, and wonder what Resident Evil would have been like if they had used those same controls. I know Doom is a first person game, and Resident Evil is a third person, so apples and oranges. But still...Doom was a lot funner to play through, and often kept me on the edge of my seat as I would round a blind corner, not knowing what enemies lay just beyond. It worked.

Lately I have been playing Fallout 3 on my PS3 system, and then it hit me. Here is a game that has you sneaking around fighting zombies (mutants), in a dark and horrific setting. A true survival-horror game. This is a game that remains fun, and doesn't use the annoying tank control configuration. This is what Resident Evil should have been.

Too bad Capcom. You came close to making something great, but ruined it when you decided to go with the worst use of tank controls ever seen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Classic Console Review: Nintendo GameBoy

With people shopping for holiday gifts, including gaming consoles, I decided to write about one of my favorite consoles, albeit a handheld one, the Nintendo GameBoy.

Released: North America - July 1989
Bits: 8

    Anyone from the 1990's will certainly remember this gem. While Nintendo was not the first company to develop and release handheld gaming devices, the GameBoy handheld console certainly capitalized on the portable console concept by releasing games from the popular game franchises found on it's already popular NES home system. Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, Castlevania, and even Donkey Kong had games that were released on the GameBoy system. In my experience, the most popular game, at least in my family, was Tetris. My family spent many hours on roadtrips passing the GameBoy around the car playing Tetris. It was actually the first version of Tetris I ever played. I don't recall playing it on the regular Nintendo, and only later played the Dr. Mario/Tetris version on the Super Nintendo.
The "Split-Pea" LCD of the original GameBoy.
 So what was it like playing a GameBoy back in the late 80's/early 90's? The original system was an 8-bit, 2.6 inch diagonal Reflective STN LCD screen that provided a colorless (unless you consider pea-green/yellowish background with black pixels a color) on-the-go gaming experience. Yes, for me, the pea-green LCD screen is the biggest memory I have from back then. I understand that Nintendo was shooting for a black and white display on these systems, and I can only guess that the technical limitations of the time prevented the LCD screen from being truely black and white, or at the very least  black with a grey/silver background. By comparison, Sega's Game Gear handheld came out in 1991, and utilized a full 32
color screen that really blew the original GameBoy out of the water.And then there was the
Atari Lynx....wait....I never knew anyone that had that one, so screw it. The point is, I loved playing on my GameBoy.
Typical Accessory Advertisement for the GameBoy
Does this mean that the GameBoy was perfect? Far from it. I already mentioned the fact that it had a "black and white" LCD screen that looked more like pea soup. Add on the fact that it was not backlit like the Game Gear was, and it limits your ability to play this thing in anything less than direct sunlight. That's right, the original system could not be played at night, in the backseat of your family sedan during a long roadtrip. To counter this problem, Nintendo designed and sold some peripherials such as a screen magnifier with a built
in light. This accessory not only magnified the screen, but provided a needed light source so you could play in dark or low light conditions. On a side note, having a screen that was not backlit did have one advantage. The few kids that did have a Game Gear system could not get away with playing games in class, as the bright screen often illuminated the player's face, tipping off the teacher. Kids with GameBoys, could usually get away with playing Super Mario Land or Tetris during long lectures, as long as they remembered to turn the sound down to zero.

    Some other accessories that I remember seeing were the GameBoy Camera, and the GameBoy Printer. I only saw them a couple of times, and never owned either of them myself, so I will not go in to much detail about how they worked or what exactly they did. All I do know about them, is that you could use them in tandem to take a digital black and white photo of yourself, and then print it off. Seems kinda cheesy by today's standards...but hey, this was the 1990's so it was pretty cool for the time. The only other accessory I remember was the Game Link cable that allowed you to connect to other GameBoys and play multi-player games. I never owned one of these either, and no one i knew had one, so I really cannot comment about it.
Yes the GameBoy was an amazing little device, and it certainly was one I have fond memories of. In my opionion it helped pave the way for the Nintendo 3DS, PSP and PS Vita of

today. The success of these handhelds owe a big thanks to the original GameBoy system.