Sunday, September 24, 2017

Micro Machines: I Miss Them!

-Rapid, incoherent speech- Well, it's not as good as John Moschitta Jr, but what I was attempting to say was how much I love and miss Micro Machines from when I was a child. I believe I grew up in the best era for children, although I think everyone thinks that about their childhood era. I grew up in the late 80s and all throughout the 90s, so there was never a day gone by that there wasn't something new and exciting pushed out to rot my child mind.

TV commercials of my generation were filled with seemingly endless ways to incorporate technology into toys and video games. That means my childhood was chock full of bleeps and bloops and anything you could imagine. When Micro Machines came on the scene they dethroned the previous king, Hot Wheels, or maybe Matchbox... one or the other. These tiny, easily swallowed vehicles came multiples in a single package. Your child mind thought why would I spend 75 cents on a single Hot Wheel when I could spend $4 and get 5 or 6 (I can't remember) Micro Machines? WHAT A DEAL!!

One of the kids in my neighborhood, who was a spoiled child who grew into a spoiled adult, had a large suitcase filled with Micro Machines. Almost every one produced, so I thought. Anything from the normal vehicles to the ones with light up headlights and tail lights all the way to airplane Micro Machines. He even had the monster truck ones that had huge wheels that were almost the size of a whole other Micro Machine! I remember often going to his house and watching him drag out that big, blue suitcase and plop it down in a patch of grass just beside a little dirt spot and force me to watch him play with them. I was never allowed to touch them, of course.

Eventually I would obtain my own, albeit small, collection of Micro Machines. I believe I got a few packs from Christmas, then a few more for my birthday, and from there I just obtained singles from flea markets for pocket change. Sadly as childhoods go, they come to an end and everything you own gets donated to Goodwill without your permission. Gone were all my childhood memories, Micro Machines and all.

Even though my actual Micro Machines were gone, my mother tried to make me feel better by buying me the video game for Game Boy one Christmas. I actually really enjoyed that game, although it is much different from the console versions. The video game filled that void for a short period, but it could only do so much, which wasn't enough. I missed my tiny vehicles.

Well, as of the past 5 years Goodwill has been paying me back, while I'm digging deeply through their outlet store bins. Not very often, but on occasion I will find myself a roughed up Micro Machine inside the bin and toss it in my purchase bag. I may not have as many Micro Machines as I did when I was a kid, but I will continue to pick them up when I can.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Era of Farming Sims.

For years there has been a strange obsession with farming style games. Most notably when Zynga brought Farmville to the most popular social media website to ever hit the internet. More recently there has also been an ever growing series of Farming Simulators, almost in the same ilk as Madden or FIFA.

For me it all started with Sim Farm on the PC, way back when I was just a young, dumb kid that wanted to while away the hours looking at a computer monitor. Addictive, yes, but Sim Farm was quickly ruined when I found the best crop to grow. I just made a few massive fields and grew nothing but that and there never really seemed to be much challenge. Sure, they would sometimes go bad before the field was fully harvested, but what I did manage to harvest and sell ended up netting me more cash than I ever needed to use in the game.

Another farming style game that caught my attention was Harvest Moon. I was in my early 20's, looking for SNES RPGs and kept seeing Harvest Moon pop up on lists of beloved SNES RPGs. The name conjured fantasy imagery in my head of a dark mount rising into the sky to slightly eclipse a full moon as dragons and warlords took to the sky to do battle. Harvest Moon harbors none of this, it was an adorable little farming sim.

Throughout the years I've played and loved many Harvest Moon games. With their open ended game play you can get tired of the repetition, but there are also many other things to keep you occupied and to keep your eyes peeled for. Harvest Moon offers such variety in the things you can do outside of tending to your farm that I felt it was quite possibly the first life simulator, in some ways.

Then came Animal Crossing and while Animal Crossing isn't strictly a farming sim, you have elements of Harvest Moon incorporated into the game. You can buy tools to do a small bit of farming, planting, harvesting, etc. Animal Crossing is more about socializing and helping make the town in which you live a better place, but there are some elements of farming you can do as well.

Most recently, however, I decided to look the horse straight into its mouth and purchase myself Farming Simulator 15. This wasn't my first romp with a Farming Simulator; the addiction took hold when I downloaded the free Farming Simulator 14 on my tablet and lost so many hours, days, weeks and months to that game, I felt that a console version might be more fun to play. If only I knew the truth.

The truth is yes, it is more fun, but at what cost? DEAR GOD AT WHAT COST!? You see, I don't necessarily have an additive personality, I find myself far too apathetic and lethargic to be addicted to much of anything. Things will catch my eye, I will play them to the point of repetition and get sick of them and cease all association with it. Farming Simulator 15, however, took control of me on a near molecular level.

I started playing as I did the free mobile app, but I soon found myself doing all kinds of things like running around to collect lucky coins, cutting down annoying trees, planting saplings to grow up to become even more annoying trees that I may very well someday cut down.

I would run the game as much as possible, and even more when I was making more money than I was paying out. Farming Simulator 15, and quite possibly the rest of the Farming Simulators, is an addiction I've not found repetitive, not yet at least. I'm not saying I won't, but I truly fear if and when I do I may not stay gone for too awful long.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why I'm ok with Greatest Hits Video Games.

Why does it seem that most video game collectors hate Sony's Greatest Hits editions of games? I don't see that much opposition to Nintendo's Classic Series on the NES, their Player's Choice on SNES, N64 and Gamecube, nor their Nintendo Select for Wii and Wii U. It seems as though Sony is the only brand collectors actively enjoy bashing for offering a lower price on an already proven great product.

When the original Playstation first launched I was a teenager, which means I didn't have much expendable income to throw around carelessly. My tactic was either to buy used from video game stores or swoop in and pick up a $19.99 Greatest Hits edition of the same thing that was sitting on the exact same shelf beside black label versions for $49.99. To me the choice was obvious.

The only difference was the bright green edge, which never really bothered me. However, this was before the time of DLC and other such things, so if you move into the world of PS3 (I know we're skipping PS2, just bear with me) you'll find a bright red case, but this will often times be the best version of the game to buy, since it will also include DLC packs. Sure you don't get the satisfaction of being among the first people who play the game at launch, but then again that's not really a distinction that matters because literally millions of other people are doing the exact same thing.

Sticking with PS3, I'm not sure why people don't complain more about PS3 spine labels because they're not very cohesive anyway. You will find original releases having a red horizontal PS3 logo at the top, which later changed to a black vertical PS3 logo. These aren't even Greatest Hits, these are just standard releases! Although I haven't dug very deeply I've never seen a single person complain about this, but if the case is red because it's a Greatest Hits edition, whoa boy! Fuck that shit! Right?

Now the PS2 Greatest Hits don't seem to garner as much hate as the original PS1 and PS3 games, but I have witnessed the occasional "Boy them red labels are ugly!" comment. Even if I was a case snob I would have to say the PS2 isn't that much of an offender! The label structure stays the exact same, only the color of the PS2 logo and the SLUS number are turned red. Not even an eye offending red, just a much different color than the original black labels.

What people are forgetting is regardless of how groomed your shelf may look, it's the same game at, often, a lower price that includes more content than the original did. If you prefer black labels, more power to you, but I'm a cheap bastard and I want as much as I can get for the lowest price I can get it for. Even if that means taking shit brown colored cases and placing them among shiny platinum cases, as long as I got the best deal I could. Again, because it's the same game!