Playin' Games With Brent Part 3

The end of an era...
By Bro
September 08, 2014
This is the final installment of Playin' Games With Brent, so if you've been putting up with me this long, take some comfort knowing that your pain is almost over ;) Before we get started, allow me to set the scene. This is the N64/PS1 era and in many ways these consoles represent transition. I'm not just talking about video games themselves. True, new technology gave way to new experiences. 3d gaming was beginning. Mario was defining 3d platforming, consoles would have soon have their first big league shooter, and Sony was giving us more mature content while their disc-based system were telling us stories in beautiful new ways. But along with that, us children were growing up too. As a teenager, I had finally found my own group of three best friends and much of the 4-player glory that Nintendo provided during this time was spent with them. I wrote an article about my times with them called The Crew under my old username Okeeday so feel free to check that out if you haven't yet. Brent was starting to lose interest in video games and was focusing more on his real passion; music. He still had games he liked to play, hence why I'm writing this, but I could tell he was getting ready to move on. Also, this is largely a Playstation story. The two of us had both consoles, but we played more ps1 games together in the end. So let me get to the n64 stuff first because it's a short list.

I believe this all began with Super Mario 64. One of my uncles (not Brent's dad) had just remarried and I had a new cousin named Alan because of it. He introduced me to most of the early n64 stuff like Mario Kart 64, Blast Corps, and Pilotwings 64. I didn't have the console yet. For years, my grandparents hosted huge Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and everybody from my dad's side of the family showed up. During one of these gatherings, Brent revealed to me that he had an n64. I was shocked. I asked what he had and I think at the time it was just Mario 64. I got the game and console for my birthday eventually.

My mom bought this game and the n64 while I was in the same store and drove me home with it in the same car and I never knew. True story.
I was thrilled, but Brent had already completed the game by then. He helped me get some stars and stuff, but I could tell at that point it was all old news to him. What he did do was show me how to screw around in the game. In fact, I would say that Mario 64 was my first sandbox game. Why? Well, once you've found all 120 stars, there's nothing left to do but screw around. Sure, Yoshi waits at the top of the castle now to give you a buttload of lives, but with the game's challenges done they're not necessary. Brent showed me how to get to the top of the castle using only wall kicks. I hadn't thought to try that before. I used to go to the lava world and just surf around on the koopa shell. Brent and I would try to get better times on the slide stages in the game. We'd try to see where we could get to with the wing-cap that wasn't objective-related. After the game is completed, there's a whole number of things to do to entertain yourself.

It was fun. And I'll say this about Mario 64. It has my favorite Bowser battles of any Mario game. Something about swinging him around by the tail and throwing him into a giant's very satisfying.

To this day, I've never had more fun fighting Bowser.

The only other n64 game I remember playing with him was the original Turok. He owned it and I borrowed it from him. I'll be honest, the very first time I played it, I didn't care for the game. I was uber-excited to play it after reading about it in Nintendo Power, but my first impression after playing it wasn't good. I'm not sure why, because over time I came to really like it a lot.

Still one of my favorite shooters.
It was different for a shooter. They key collecting, platforming, and the massive was like an adventure game and shooter combined. I still know the ultimate cheat code by heart. NTHGTHDGDCRTDTRK. It stands for On The Eighth Day God Created Turok. When Brent and I played it, we mostly used this code. I always liked to have the all the weapons and I really liked going right to the boss battles.

All the bosses are cool and fun to fight, but the mantis is my favorite.
I remember that Brent though the way the leapers swam in the water was creepy. Turok was great to screw around in too, largely in part of all the cheats and the massive level sizes and enemy variety. The grenade launcher is especially fun to use because not only does it kill the most basic grunt soldiers with one hit, it launches them in the air in a shower of blood and they yell this ridiculous scream. Even after they're dead, you can keep launching grenades and they'll keep launching up into the air and screaming. It's hilarious.

I couldn't find a screenshot, but trust me. Shoot a few grenades at these guys and hilarity will ensue.
I know I made several attempts at a genuine playthrough, but I don't think I ever completed the game properly. Oh well. I think that's it for the n64 here. I had Star Fox 64,Mario Kart 64, and others and I want to say we played those, but I don't remember any specific details regarding them. Therefore, let us move on.

By this time, my parental ban on fighting games was more or less lifted. I had two fighting games that I remember playing with both Brent and my best friends. Soul Blade, and Marvel vs Capcom. Brent had been a huge fighting game nut since their inception and I remember playing Soul Blade with him was something we both looked forward to. I preferred it to Tekken. Brent's parents had a tv with really good sound quality and as we booted the game up to do battle for the first time, I was impressed by the opening cinema even more than usual.

Soul Bladé was excellent. Brent preferred Seung Mina and Taki, while I was usually Li-Long or Mitsurugi. Eventually, we put a ban on using any of the unlockable weapons though. They were either too weak or too strong. Rock's best axe healed him really quickly and Li-Long had a couple nun-chucks that would poison you, letting you take damage over time. Once we banned special weapons, I want to say our battles were pretty balanced too. I don't think one of us ever dominated the other. Good times indeed. The first Soul Calibur was great too, but I never had the chance to play it with Brent. Since then, the series has more or less become a showcase for guest stars and a contest to see just how naked the developers can get Ivy and get away with. We had a ball with Soul Blade while it lasted though. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about Marvel vs Capcom. I know Brent and I played it, but the memories I have of it are playing it with my other friends.

I don't remember specifically, but a Mega Man/Ryu match sounds about right for us...
On that note, let's move on to something more concrete.

Brent has a favorite video game ever made, and he discovered it during this time in our lives. It's called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and he was happy to introduce me to it when he found it.

I could tell Brent was excited about it. This made happy because it was apparent that he was losing his interest in gaming. It was nice to some of the fire was back. If you've ever played it, SOTN needs no introduction. It was castlevania combined with a Metroid style of gameplay. Side-scrolling Castlevanias have tried to stick with this formula ever since. Alurcard made a great protagonist. He had multiple swords and equipment to collect, along with being able to transform into a mist, bat, and wolf. He showed me where to find secrets and told me about the inverted castle once the main had been conquered...Brent loved this game. I love it too. In fact, I would say that this game along with Super Metroid represent the highest points in this style of gameplay. If I have any complaint with SOTN, it's this; it's kinda easy. Not to say it isn't blast to play, because it is, it's just not very difficult. This is especially true once you get the Crissaegrim. Kill enough of a particular enemy in the library, and eventually they'll drop this bad boy. Unlike other swords, this isn't swung from side to side. Each button press makes multiple slashes in front of Alucard. Repeatedly mash the button and you can walk though just about every enemy. Bosses, including Dracula himself, can be killed in seconds with this sword.

Don't get me wrong, it's awesome to be a walking death machine but my gosh, I like when things put up a fight too.
Symphony of the Night is the catalyst for the next game. Brent was big Mega Man fan and I had just purchased Mega Man 8. I was telling him about it, and he agreed to let me borrow SOTN in exchange for it.

I bought this version, and it did not include the collectible anthology booklet. I was reasonably miffed.

He came over to stay the night. I popped in Mega Man and handed him the controller. Mega Man 8 is not a bad game at all, but I could tell that he was disappointed. The voice acting from the bosses is horribly cheesy, and I know he didn't care for the 8 bosses to be broken up into groups of four. It followed the same pattern as Mega Man 7 on the SNES, where there was an intro stage then you got to pick from four stages. Then there was a middle stage and then you could pick from four more. I never cared for that either and I wonder to this day why Capcom went that route. I think he was expecting something along the lines the Nes style games. What was there was still fun to play though. There were a lot of cool additions like the Rush Bike.

This thing was awesome!
I gave him my recommendations for what upgrades to buy, told him the boss order, and showed him where to find the hidden bolts I knew of. He kept his end of the bargain and we swapped games for awhile, but I kinda felt bad because I knew I was getting the better end of the deal. If I remember right, I do think once he gave it back, he said he enjoyed it overall. I eventually came to own Mega Man x4, and I wish I could've lent him that instead. I preferred it to Mega Man 8.

One time I let him borrow the ps1 version of Road Rash. He played it, but he also declared it the cheesiest game ever made. I can see why. Looking back, the live action cutscenes were more hokey than anything. And when playing the game, the tires on the bike never moved.

Sure it's fun, but Brent was right. It was cheesy. Good soundtrack though.

To be honest, that's it. Most of my time spent playing video games was with my three best friends. But I have one more story to tell. One night at Brent's house, I was showing him my progress in SOTN when something strange happened. The map screen had somehow erased the progress I had made so areas I once explored were now blank. This meant that when I revisited them, my file was now saving as over 100% complete. Brent thought that was neat. Afterward, I asked if he didn't mind if I played Final Fantasy 7 for a bit. Brent wasn't into rpg's so I didn't play very long. I mostly just showed him the progress I had made. I had committed to FF7 like no other rpg since Chrono Trigger. I had every character at or close to lvl 99. I had every character's ultimate weapon. All those giant Weapons floating around the map that are really tough to kill? I beat them. I had my game saved at the crater at the end of the game.

All I had to do was enter the crater and defeat Sephiroth to finally finish this game...
I was simply trying to get the Knights of the Round materia and level up all my limit break attacks. I had invested well over 50 hours into the game and I wanted to show it off.

Then Brent erased my memory card.

It was an honest mistake. I had a Mad-Katz 12-page memory card. You're not supposed to remove it when changing pages, and I was in the process of changing pages when I was done playing. I went to get a drink or something when I looked over and Brent was pulling out my memory card and inserting his. I asked him if the lcd screen on my card was done flashing yet. He said he didn't know and asked why. His tone of voice suggested that he knew that something very bad may had just happened. I told him how my memory card worked and then I checked my game save files. Everything...Castlevania, Metal Gear, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, gone, all gone!! I knew it was an accident and I knew he felt genuinely bad about it, but I couldn't help reminding him of it sporadically throughout the night. To be honest, I didn't realize just what big a loss it was until I started playing through Final Fantasy again. There I was, roaming through the slums of Midgar when it hit me just how much progress was gone. I didn't have the heart to keep playing and I haven't touched FF7 since then.

That's all folks. But as this article winds to a close, I have to share something with you. Back in 2005/2006, I was googling old Nintendo games when I came across some links that took me to articles where people where talking about their favorite old video games, and what it was like to play them. I loved the stories people had to tell about the time and memories these games gave them. Eventually I wondered what site these article where from and lo and behold, I'd discovered Retrojunk. I've been coming here ever since. The neat thing about it is, all that stuff I wrote about in Playin' Games With Brent Part 1 are the very first memories RetroJunk ever brought back to me. It's been a story that deserves telling just for that reason.
Nowadays, Brent has a band that I think plays a type of grunge. Last time I spoke with my grandma, she said the band was touring Europe. I hear he's breaking even but loving life. Good on him. I don't know how much of all this he remembers, but I will never forget the times I spent...playin' games with Brent. Stay retro folks, thanks for reading.
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