Games of My Youth: Part IV – PC/N64


I decided to merge parts four and five, as they were a little on the short side (relative to the SNES installment); it also made sense because both system has a unique aspect to it: the PC was never my primary gaming system when I had it, and the N64 I never owned at all.

I'll start things out with the PC.


Part IV.A -- PC
When my family got our hands on our first personal computer in roughly 1998 or so, it blew us away. It was frightening how large, massive and cool the internet was.

Aside from providing my parents with the ability to do their taxes electronically and giving me access to AOL chat rooms (which probably wasn't a good thing), our computer provided me access to something else: more video games!

In this, the fourth edition of “Games of my Youth,” I’ll take a look at my favorite computer games that I played as a child.


Acquisition:

My dad bought our first computer from a coworker. It was a piece of crap that had limited functionality and couldn’t do a whole lot.

My uncle, Kenny, owned and operated a computer store known as “Solutions” back in the 90’s. When it came time to get a new computer, he set us up with a custom-built one.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the specs on either.


Memorable Games:

Night Raid
Sometime in the mid-90’s, my mom and I were garage sailing and we stumbled upon a floppy disk with the words “Night Raid” printed on it; the owners explained that it was a computer game. We bought it for something like a dollar.


In Night Raid, you pilot this turret on top of a base. Planes fly by overhead, and drop paratroopers down at you. If any of these troopers should land safely on the ground, they enter your base and blow you up. The goal is get rid of them all; in successive levels, the troops swarm the skies more and more. It gets really tough!

Random Memory:
After level seven or something, during the intermission that separated the levels, a truck would drive up to your base and you’d be delivered a pizza. The delivery was accompanied by a robotic “PIZ – ZA” sound effect.


Dominus
Dominus was a strategy game released back in 1994; you played the role of this tough guy overlord who commanded a gang of minions. You were able to capture new monsters. The game had some pretty cool features, such as the ability to fuse multiple monsters to create new breeds, a custom spell-making system, the ability to clutter a battlefield with deadly traps, amongst other things.





Random Memory:
Not too long ago I found an old notebook with some of my old writing. I discovered that I had started making a strategy guide for Dominus! Basically, I was writing down elaborate strategies, descriptions of enemies (and what they were weak against), successful fusion combinations and things of that nature. Reading something like is fun – it really brings you back.


Commander Keen: Secret of the Oracle
I’ve heard Commander Keen described as “Mario on the PC,” and I think that’s a pretty accurate description. You’re basically this young kid with advanced technology that helps save the galaxy or something. You’re equipped with a gun and a pogostick. You need to use the pogostick to reach high places; some parts of this game required some really quick fingers – a challenge that was only amplified while using your keyboard as your controller.

Random Memory:
One level of the game is underwater and features the infamous “Dopefish,” a dim-witted marine enemy. The fish, proclaimed to be the “second-dumbest creature in the universe,” has appeared in a couple of other games (Wacky Wheels, SiN Episodes: Emergence) in the form of an easter egg.


Age of Empires
Recently, Microsoft released the third iteration of the Age of Empires series. The only one I ever gave much playing time to, though, was the first. After seeing my cousin play this, I went out and bought the gold edition of the game. Age of Empires is a classic real-time strategy game, comprised of civilizations of the past.





Random Memory:
When I think “Age of Empires,” I immediately think of the armored elephants that were released in one of the expansions. I can’t remember how good they were, but I do remember that I was thrilled with the concept of armor-covered war elephants.



Sim Farm
Sim Farm thrusted you, the gamer, into the role of a … you guessed it, a farmer. You had to plant crops, manage livestock and do some other pretty boring stuff. I don’t remember the game being particularly exciting, but it was a video game, and so it was automatically fun to me. Besides, my grandpa was a farmer all of his life, so I guess I had a little farmer in me too (although he wasn’t my biological grandpa, so that pretty much renders that last statement completely null and void... uhm... moving on... =P).

Random Memory:
Similar to the way Sim City rewarded you with things like Parks, Fairs, and the like, Sim Farm allowed you to build a little tiny town after reaching certain milestones. I think you even got to fly a little cropduster!



Wolfenstein 3D: Escape for Wolfenstein
In Wolfenstein, you played the role of an American soldier who was trying to escape this Nazi base. You did so by basically blasting your way out of there. The game consisted of kickin' (butts) and takin' names. It was actually divided into a series, consisting of six episodes; unfortunately, I only had the shareware episode (the first), and never played anything beyond that.

Random Memory:
The game had a lot of hidden secrets; you could walk up to random walls and press the action button, and sometimes secret passages would open up; these secret stashes provided you with various power-ups, such as medical kits or weapons. It was really fun searching for them.



Closing thoughts:
Our home computer was never my primary gaming system at any point in time. It provided me with some fun video gaming memories, but for the most part it was what I played when I got bored with my consoles. Although it was somewhat of an afterthought, there were still some memorable games that I played through the years on our crappy old computers.







Part IV.B -- N64

The Nintendo 64 was released in September of 1996, selling for a modest $200 at launch. It was Nintendo’s third-generation console, succeeding both the NES and the SNES.

Despite not owning a N64 until a few years ago, I was still able to play a lot of it back in the day; I was fortunate enough to have a handful of friends who all owned the system.


Acquisition:

Well, technically, I never had one! I eventually bought one off of EBGames in 2004 or so, but during my childhood I didn’t ever own a N64.

I never acquired a Nintendo 64, but I did acquire a little bit more freedom as a result of being a little bit older. I can remember a lot of summer days consisting of getting done with baseball practice, then riding bike to my buddy's house to drink Surge and play 64 all day.


Memorable Games:

Super Mario 64
If you’ve read my past articles, you’ll probably remember that Mario games have made a few appearances so far: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World were all amongst my most memorable games of my youth. It was only natural that Super Mario 64 would eventually be added to the list…



When the N64 was released, my uncle rented my cousin and I the console and this game. We were blown away. It was really the first time we had experienced 3D gaming. Playing with Mario in three dimensions was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Again, like I’ve said in the past, I’m once-again impressed at Nintendo’s ability to produce an extremely high-quality game right at launch. Last summer I finally ran through this game and collected all 120 stars.

Random Memory:
When I’d stay at my uncle's, he’d make me and my cousin go to bed early. We’d always lay down, wait till he went to bed and then mute the TV and play N64 all night. It was a blast!




GoldenEye 007
The campaign in GoldenEye was a lot of fun; because I never owned the system, though, I never really got much of a chance to play it. Everyone knows that the real fun in GoldenEye was in its multiplayer action! It’d be neat to see how many hours my buddies and I logged playing this game back in the day... The weapons and items you got were a lot of fun to tinker around with -- I absolutely adored remote mines!

Unfortunately, Goldeneye is essentially "aged poorly" epitomized. If you go back and play this game, you'll find hideous graphics and an unbearable frame rate. With that said, maybe you can will your way through playing it again with the help from our good ol' buddy "nostalgia." But what gives? Why the heck am I playing the role of "Donald Downer!?" Lets get back to some good memories!



Random Memory:
Our favorite level to play was that testing plant that had the upstairs bathrooms you could go into. Runner-up would be the "The Bunker" (I think that was the name); it was primarily indoors, but you were able to run outside onto a snow-covered helipad.





WCW vs. NWO: Revenge
The wrestling games on the 64 were nothing short of a blast to play. I always loved playing as the small, acrobatic characters – guys like Rey Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon. I remember executing special moves consisted of rotating the analog joystick around. Doing so lead to some painful marks on your palms.


Random Memory:
Unsurprisingly, we were playing this during the height of my interest in professional wrestling. Those were the days when Steve Austin ruled the WWF and when Goldberg was truly unbeatable. Ah, male-targeted soap operas at their finest!






The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Similar to Mario, Zelda has now appeared as a memorable game on all three Nintendo consoles. The first time I played this game I was blown away. It was so incredible seeing Link in 3D for the first time! I ended up borrowing my friends N64 as well as this game, and I played it like there was no tomorrow. Interesting piece of tidbit here: are you aware that this game appears as the number one rated game of all-time on Game Rankings’ master list?

Random Memory:
A buddy of mine (who wasn’t much of a gamer) invited me and another friend over after explaining that he was stuck in this game. I got a good chuckle when I discovered that he couldn’t even get past the Deku tree!




Earthbound 64
…well, it would have been, anyway. Earthbound 64 (known as “Mother 3” in Japan) was the sequel to the cult SNES classic “Earthbound.” The development of the game was very shaky, leading to this title eventually being cancelled in August of 2000.

While this game never saw the light of day, it would have undoubtedly been one of my favorites. Being a huge Earthbound fan, I can’t imagine how I would have reacted to seeing the quirky Earthbound universe in 3D. I remember how truly incredible it felt seeing and playing through Mario and Zelda in 3D for the first time… if only I would have had the opportunity to have felt the same with my beloved Earthbound!

Every time I hear about this game, I can’t help but sigh and think to myself, “what could have been…”

It bears worth noting that the game was essentially revived, being released on the Game Boy Advance under the name of "Mother 3" in 2005 in Japan. The problem is that it was never brought to America. It is also worth mentioning that a fan translation is being worked on (www.starmen.net for more info [hands-down the best Earthbound fan site on the internet)... while this translation will probably be released sometime in the next half year, it just won't be the same as playing Earthbound in three dimensions...

Random Memory:
The first time I received word of this game was in Nintendo Power. It was basically a small preview of Earthbound 64. That, folks, was genuine excitement.



Closing thoughts:
It’s kind of funny that, despite never owning the console (at least not during childhood), the Nintendo 64 has so many memories scattered throughout my head. I think its responsible for introducing me to social gaming, as I had to my hang out with my friends if I wanted to play it.