Happy Holidays to one and all!
I hope you’ve been having a lovely Yuletide period. Being a Video Game enthusiast, Christmas has long been a period where I’ve acquired some of my favourite games as presents. So rather than looking at one particular game this week, I’ll instead take time to look at just a snippet of the many games that found their way down my chimney over the years. So thank you Father Christmas, this article is all down to you!
The Worst Games of Christmas’ Past
Sky Sports Football Quiz – PlayStation
Dire, boring and horrendously out of date, this PSX game took up space in my stocking at a Christmas around the early 2000’s. I love myself some football on the telly and I also generally like Sky Sports presentation of it all (Even though their Pro-Liverpool bias is almost sickening sometimes) but that hardly made me jump for joy when this lump of coal reared its ugly head. That I already had a PS2 by that point probably added to the general disappointment of this gift. Add to that the already potent disappointment that the game was dryer than a cracker wrapped in sand paper, and it’s not hard to see why this game failed to raise a smile from Grumpy Teen Mike.
The Hurricanes – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Despite being more powerful hardware, the SNES didn’t always get the best ports of games in comparison to its SEGA rival. Whereas the SNES had bonafide home runs in the form of Street Fighter II and FIFA, the Mega Drive/Genesis enjoyed much more luck when it came to Mortal Kombat and Jurassic Park. Another game that was much more enjoyable on the SEGA platform was The Hurricanes.
Based on the cartoon of the same name, the SEGA version had more varied gameplay and a bigger selection of characters to choose from. The SNES version was sluggish, dull and only gave the player the chance of choosing from two characters. The Christmas I spent traversing this painfully average platformer was not one of the most enjoyable ones I experienced. Considering the fact I turned down the chance of getting Aladdin instead of this sad sack only serves to cause even more frustration. A pulverisingly rubbish game, that probably ruined more Christmases than just mine.
James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies – PlayStation
This game really is an absolute dog of a Bond outing. Played from a third person view, it is an insipid attempt that pales in comparison to the mighty Goldeneye 64. The voice acting is abhorrent, the graphics are ugly and the gameplay is turgid as could be. Considering that I only owned a PlayStation at this point, and not yet an N64, I was left to mourn how my Nintendo playing friends were getting a vastly superior Bond experience than I was.
The game weighs in a meagre 10 levels, with the penultimate mission being one where you play not as bond but his Bond Girl Michelle Yeoh. She’s a perfectly decent kick arse character in the movie, but in the game her level is not only outrageously hard but you get to a stupid mini-game at the end of it where you have to put code into a computer so you can access important files. No clues have been given as to what you have to input, so you’ll waste minutes hitting every button until the game “rewards” you with access to the final level. It’s nothing more than a frivolous waste of time and a kick in the teeth to every PSX owner of the day.
The “So-So” Games of Christmas’ Past
Total NBA ’98 – PlayStation
Hardly a lousy game by any standard, at least a solid 6/7 out of 10 at the very least, but not exactly the game you’d most want to find under your Christmas Tree unless you were a basketball devote. For me, Christmas is a time when you want to get a game that’s a genuine Home Run, as opposed to a merely above average one. I’d played Total NBA at my friends house and liked it just fine, so I decided to ask for it for the want of getting a game of some sort for Christmas. This happens a lot with me actually, as my birthday is in October so I usually get most of what I want then and it can sometimes leave me at a loss for what to ask for for Christmas.
So it was due to that that I got myself a serviceable Basketball Sim. I know I’m damming it with faint praise, but it’s a perfectly playable Sports Game that you can find for a single penny plus postage on Amazon. For that price, you can’t go too wrong, although it is annoying that the game doesn’t have Michael Jordan on it. It does have a bloke wearing number 23 for Chicago Bulls, but he goes under the name “Roster Guard” and has a curious question mark over his picture. I wonder who this mysterious man could be? Pretty poor form really, that only adds to the games middling feel. Still, not a terrible game at all. Buy it if you want, or don’t. I don’t care what you do, just get off my property!
Mario Paint – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Right, before everyone goes spare, let me ask you a question about this game. What’s so great about it? That you have a mouse? That you can colour in pictures of Yoshi and “save” them, even though saving them has no practical use? For me, all Mario Paint is good for is a mildly amusing Fly Swatter game and an, admittedly great, song making mode. That’s literally the only worth I think the game has. I don’t know why Nintendo didn’t just release this to PC and Apple Mac instead of the SNES. Did they think that they’d make a mint on selling the game to parents who would think it was “worthier” than traditional games?
I shouldn’t knock that idea really, as it worked a treat on my parents. They took a look at this one and thought “That can’t be a bad game for Michael to play. It’s educational. Look, it’s got a mouse and everything!”
And thus, dear reader, I was left to try and squeeze as much enjoyment out of this questionable gaming experience as I could. I bled that stone as much as possible, but I’m afraid to say that the well ran relatively dry after a day or so. I eventually just started making “funny” slide shows where Yoshi would shit himself. Hey, I apologise for nothing. Dinosaurs shitting themselves is hilarious and the day I get tired of that is the day I get tired of life in general.
But yeah, an underwhelming game. It’s not utter tripe or anything, but it’s hardly a world beater either.
Pro Evolution Soccer 6 – XBOX 360
Here we are, the moment the bloom came off the PES rose for me. I’d been a dedicated PES player since Pro Evolution Soccer 2 in 2002. That game completely converted me to Konami’s soccer antics and I didn’t buy another FIFA title until FIFA 07, and even then I didn’t fully return to suckle on EA’s footie teat until FIFA 11. PES 6 was the moment I started to realise that the PES Era was coming to an end. The warning signs had been there with PES 5, but PES 2 and 4 had been absolute classics in the genre, so to see PES 6 come in so mediocre was a real shame. The game does literally nothing new. Meanwhile, FIFA 07 added a compulsive Manager Mode and a mode where you could create your own match scenarios.
Want to start a game in the 30th minute with one team down to 10 men and the opposing team 1-0 up? Go ahead. I had so much fun with this in FIFA that PES 6 completely paled in comparison and just couldn’t retain my interest. Plus, my Everton team from FIFA 07 (The PC Version), with Timmy Cahill slotting for fun, ruled hard. For the first time I could remember in years, it mattered to me that all PES could offer was the chance to play as “Merseyside Blue” in the Master League. Sod that, I wanted to win the FA Cup with Everton! The gameplay of PES 6 wasn’t terrible or anything, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before and the game sadly didn’t have anything else to offer alongside it.
The Best Games of Christmas’ Past
Donkey Kong Country – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
This game blew my mind when I first saw it. The graphics were revolutionary and the game was so immensely playable that the game lasted me for practically a whole year up until I got Zelda: A Link to the Past for my birthday the following October. Yes, this game held my attention for 10 months. I replayed it constantly. The music is enchanting, there’s plenty of humour on show and, with two playable characters on offer, it provides plenty of multiplayer fun to boot. If you’ve never played this, you need to.
The most amazing thing about this game is that its sequel is even better!!! However, I didn’t get that at Christmas, so it doesn’t qualify for coverage in this feature. Still, DKC and DKC II are both bloody phenomenal and are games that should be played by everyone. They are that good!
Call of Duty – World at War
This game is intense, sometimes overly so, but I can’t deny that its narrative didn’t grab me. It highlights the grisliness and downright sickening nature of war in its brutal honesty, while also making you invested in the outcomes of both the American and Russian campaigns. The American campaign covers Kiefer Sutherland and his troops trying to take the fight to the lethal Japanese soldiers on the Pacific Isles. The level where you have to burn countless Japanese soldiers to death with a flame thrower made me feel beyond uneasy. I was so affected by it that I actually tried to complete those sections without the flame thrower but it was so difficult that I ended up taking the path of least resistance and went back to burning the opposing forces. Almost an allegory for war itself.
Meanwhile, the Russian Campaign sees you trying to repel the Nazi Invasion as your increasingly bitter and violent comrade Viktor Reznov spurs you on to kill without mercy or forethought. It really is a powerful game and not traditional Christmas fare at all, but still I spent most of a Christmas Holiday completing the campaign and taking part in the incredible online Zombie Mode (The first time the mode had been seen in a COD game)
Definitely one of the better entrants in the Call of Duty franchise.
Super Mario All-Stars – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
This is the game that started it all. I’d played the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES, but I’d never owned a video game console before. This all changed when the Christmas of 1993 came along, as my parents purchased a SNES for me. The system had seen a discount in price and, along with that, Nintendo were also boxing All-Stars in with the console.
Thus my love affair with video games began. It helped that I was already familiar with the original Mario game, but I hadn’t really played the other three games on this cartridge before, and it took a while to adapt to them. For instance, the first time I played Mario 2, I jumped on an enemy and panicked when it didn’t squelch under my plumber shoes like baddies had in the previous game. It took some trial and error to discover that I had to actually pick enemies up and throw them at their comrades. When I first played Mario 3, I didn’t realise that I actually had to move Mario along the map to the first level, so I sat there for a few moments just watching Mario standing on the map doing nothing. Ah, to be young and naïve again. These days, there’d be a prompt telling me what to do but back in the day you had to figure this stuff out yourself.
Truth be told, I generally prefer Super Mario World to any of the games on this cartridge, but the impact All-Stars had on me can never be discounted. Quite simply, it’s why I’m typing this right now.
Thanks for reading
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