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System Splash Screens: Judging a Console by its Cover

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For many systems you fire up the first experience you have with it involves the splash screen, intro screen, logos, sound effects, rocket ships, flying carpets, and belly dancers. Like many things the quality and effort put into these introductions can have a profound impact on the player, or potential player, of a video game console, so let’s take a look at the good and the bad ones.

The Bad

Now, in order to be fair I will not include systems which completely lack a splash screen, this is only something that came to prominence in the late 80’s for the most part (with exceptions of course). So, which ones just leave you screaming for mercy?

Amiga CD32

Well, that was pretty dull. If you’re looking for uninspired intro screens nothing really beats this one, its a CD floating in space with a wordart logo above the disc with some flashy colors flying around. This looks like a $50 job that some video editing student did after discovering how awesome the Amiga is and how amazing a system based on Amiga software with CD support would be.

It would be a commercial failure of course.

FM Towns Marty

Well, my ears are bleeding now. For a CD based system the FM Towns Marty certainly has incredibly weak sound capabilities! It even released in 1993, the same year as the vastly superior 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and even the Amiga CD32 above, at least that one didn’t have digital garbage flowing out of the speakers!

Atari Jaguar

The Jaguar just has this look, reputation, and history of being a low budget machine with shoddy engineering. It was Atari’s last attempt at greatness (and killing off their fairly popular line of PCs to throw everything at the console probably did not help matters). Now to be fair this one isn’t entirely bad, its just a bit boring. A spinning cube with a Jaguar on it is hardly menacing. But, if they had done something like the MGM lion intro it would probably have been the greatest thing ever made by Atari or any company ever! The legitimacy of the menacing roar of the Jaguar is lessened by the rather cartoony, and already by then retro, little jingle that accompanies the cat.

The Good

Sega CD

What happens when a system has not just one amazing startup screen, but two? We end up with the Sega CD! Or Mega CD if you’re not a winning American. Oh, I’m not really counting the JVC X’eye, even though that intro is fairly enjoyable as well.

All I really have to say is one thing, I have never before been so entertained by dancing logos. This just shows how superior Sega’s execution was in the early 90’s, having some of the best hardware creators this side of Nintendo. Sega can just squeeze so much life out of hardware that could be considered inferior, giving their consoles so much passion and soul that no company has really ever been able to duplicate, not even Nintendo or Sony in my opinion.

Nintendo Gamecube

Nintendo, I love you to death. What cheeky bastards these guys were when designing the Gamecube and its startup screen. Everybody loves Easter Eggs, so let’s hide not one, but two colorful eggs on the very first screen you see when playing a Gamecube, all of which are enjoyable in moderation. Absolutely brilliant!

Sony Playstation

There are few words to describe just how amazing the experience of firing up an original Playstation is. Once you turn it on its like you, the gamer, are being sent into a powerful wind tunnel during astronaut training. Then you finally get to launch up into space just as the PS logo comes up and leave the atmosphere into cool, serene calm. An absolute joy for the ears, this is the THX intro of the video game world, and it will never get old.

So what are your favorite system start up screens, least favorites?

Video Game Confessionals: Chrono Cross Part 2

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WARNING: THIS SERIES WILL CONTAIN COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF SPOILERS. THIS WILL BE AT THE TOP OF EVERY ENTRY IN VIDEO GAME CONFESSIONALS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Serge and Kid steamroll their way through the Fossil Valley, meeting Solt and Peppor once again. These guys aren’t even funny. They’re just stupid henchmen. Think of the dumbest henchmen you could imagine and make them even more incompetent. We might be getting close to Solt and Peppor. Adonis in Disgaea was a more effective recurring boss, at least he is enjoyable and fits the mood of the game. They’re easily dispatched using the best battle strategy so far, mash attack and keep doing it, never stop once except to maybe heal.

Once in Termina the group of two explore, find some random guy polishing the statue of the current leader. The only statue we can even find. Huh. Serge and Kid keep trying to find their way around the city, eventually running into some stairs off to the West of the entrance and finding some people mentioning Nikki. You should have heard a little bit about him all the way back before the time/universe warp jump event. Whatever it was that happened.

There’s this dancer Miki that should walk inside after talking to the one random man in this room. It looks like a changing room, or close to it with the other two dancer girls in here. Miki, another person the player should have heard about by now, walks in talking about getting into the Shadow Forest because Nikki went there. There’s a random NPC that mentions this big tree where rare mushrooms can grow, then a secret entrance into the Viper Manor.

Whoa whoa whoa keep it in your pants.

Basically, the writing here is pretty solid. There’s plenty of information going around that goes back to after the waking and before the jump. Just like Breath of Fire; again I’m mentioning this series, which started 2 years before Chrono Trigger released, a few lines can be found referencing both sides of the world.

Anyway, in the Shadow Forest we find Nikki on the 2nd screen. Well that is quite anticlimactic.  That’s like finding the holy grail after wiping your feet on the rug. He claims to be singing to some monster, you’re behind him so he really doesn’t know you’re there. THIS IS A GUNS N’ ROSES RIP OFF. Sweet sister of mine? That’s one word from a lawsuit. Given Axl Rose’s history he probably would have eagerly jumped on the opportunity to sue what was the most influential RPG developer and publisher in existence at this time.

Of course attacking a monster with a rock frontman voice does nothing, they’re already dancing in their own, strange way that our puny human minds cannot understand. There’s another mystery in this area, the green jelly things in the area that shock the crap out of Link. On the next screen we find Nikki once more and he ends up being cornered by a group of Dragoons. Of course you save him, the game wouldn’t progress if you didn’t. Then he takes a shower and you’re off once again.

You can only follow this path that he just took. Nikki wears lipstick. This is supposed to be a man, and he makes Robert Plant look like Attila the Hun. Anyway he finally joins and we can get past this giant, sleeping, carnivorous dandelion by taking one of the berries from the big Pokemon Gold and Silver berry plants and luring one of the big green jellies out to the giant dandelion. I managed to get Nikki to smash his guitar over this evil plant’s head for the final strike of the battle. It was exactly how I would want a The Who concert to end.

Nikki’s long lost cousin.

So, we get to meet our favorite friends Solt and Peppor once again. What am I like 2 hours in and this is our 3rd fight? Was Squaresoft already becoming this devoid of ideas for bosses? Even Zoah, the real boss here acknowledges their horrible attempts at comedy, yelling at them in ALL CAPS TO GET THE POINT ACROSS. Tweedle Dumb and Dumber go down in two attacks, they’re pretty much worthless and only serve as a continued tutorial for Elements in case you haven’t already figured this incredibly difficult and confusing mechanic out yet.

I wasn’t paying attention and Zoah knocked Nikki out. Serge landed a pretty sexy crit to put Zoah in his place and insert his own blue haired self as the dominant male in the forest today.

Gaming Dramatic Read 2: Rampage World Tour

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This is a series where I read the story and sometimes the character section of the manual of some random video game, in a dramatic fashion. The main goal is to bring attention to how good or bad some of the manual stories can be, and also how well they can prepare a player for a game.

Of course sometimes the dramatization ends up being completely uncalled for, and that’s where the real fun begins.

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Psycho’s Gaming History: Top 10 Important Games from my Childhood 5-1

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Welcome to part 2 of my countdown of the most important games that shaped young Psycho!

5 Spyro The Dragon

A dragon voiced by the Taco Bell dog.

A purple dragon with a mean charge, fiery breath, and could glide through the air. This was my first 3D platformer, and my oldest sister and I would play it whenever she was over on weekends. It was because of our team effort with this game, and its two sequels, that helped us beat everything 100% or more. This game blew my mind when I first played it and the original trilogy is still enjoyed every summer for a quick playthrough on those scorching hot days.

4 Super Mario All-Stars

Ah, another good wholesome SNES classic. Sadly during my childhood my experience with SNES games didn’t reach much further than the Mario series. I wouldn’t really begin learning of non-Mario adventures on the Super until the years of the supreme Playstation overlord phase of my childhood. I also would not get the chance to explore many of them until my high school years and current collecting days. But, all that said, when compiling a list of very important SNES games I decided that I would not want to read one, think about my own life, and not have All-Stars be of the utmost significance. Everything, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, AND 3? And go ahead and toss in the real Japanese SMB2 for good measure? And to think if I would have recieved my SNES much later then Super Mario All-Stars+World could have been the pack-in. Oh gracious me.

3 Gothic II

I bought this game randomly a few months before I bought the video card upgrade to my old PC. This RPG introduced me to the idea of open worlds in a deeper way than GTA2 and GTA3 did. Gothic II also got me interested in the larger world of PC RPGs in general, leading directly to Morrowind and KOTOR leading forward, and back in time to Fallout and even further backwards. Unfortunately, like Final Fantasy I can’t stand the newer releases of this series, but in my mind the first two games are prime examples of how to do open world exploration right and despite being 10 years old, still has more NPC behaviors than Skyrim.

2 Suikoden III

All 3 colored characters are the main protagonists, letting the player see the events of 2/3s of the game from multiple angles.

This game is one of the most important discoveries of my life, and it barely squeaks onto this list. I discovered my favorite console RPG series on a random rental, much like the same day that I randomly rented FF8 and for some reason discovered a lifelong love of the RPG genre period. I rented this game when I was 12, just a few months before becoming a teenager and marking my endpoint of thought for this list. The anime styled intro cinematic had my jaw on the floor and the Trinity Sight System had me hooked as soon as I understood it. Since then I’ve discovered an obsession, and have strong feelings as a fan of this series. This will not be the last time I mention this game or series.

1 Super Mario World & Super Mario Kart

What else should really go here? These two games were the first games that were mine. For a few months they were the only games outside of rentals that I could play. As the first two games for the first system that is mine (and I still own and use nearly daily) this one holds a lot of nostalgic value and just keeps trucking. That SNES has been through many years, and I only hope that it lives alongside me for many more. This well built, rugged Super Nintendo has outlived my first dog, these two carts always nearby for a quick play. Some random days I’ll just pop in Super Mario World and do a quick Star Road speedrun to kill some time. For a bit more of a touching story Super Mario Kart is still the only game I’ve really gotten my dad to play with me, it was never for very long, a race or two on that Christmas day and a couple other times. But, those memories and that bonding will stick with me forever, giving me a good idea of how to be a father to my own children when that chapter of my life unfolds.

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