Wednesday, 24 December 2008

[107] Amiga Memories

After reading a post on the Guardian Technology Blog about Christmas Gaming Memories, I decided to resurrect this post, first attempted some time over the summer, during my trawling through my parents' house. It is about the Amiga, which I received one Christmas morning 16 years ago. I was 6. Due to the unconventional genesis of this post, the perspective and chronology are a bit kinky, but I'm sure it still communicates.


Recently I've been searching through my parents' garage and loft. I've found comics, magazines, crap and tat. On the gaming front, however, I found my Amiga 500+.

Even though I did have a NES and a Mega Drive in the 80s, in 1991-1992, my father traded in those consoles and bought an Amiga (I wouldn't get another console until 1997-1998, with the PSX / N64). The Amiga is one of those platforms which is not as storied as the Sega / Nintendo / Sony consoles, but it was home to many groundbreaking and important games (which were often ported to more popular platforms afterwards). As I pretty much missed out on some of the best games of the 16-bit generation (we had already moved on from the Mega Drive before Sonic 2 had been released), my gaming nostalgia is mostly made up of Amiga titles. Here are a few that I found today, which in my opinion deserve recognition as some of the best games of all time (perhaps).

Another World, and its spiritual successor Flashback, were two fantastic games created by the French development studio Delphine Software. Both were created initially for the Amiga, before being ported to such platforms as MSDOS, SNES and Mega Drive.

It is funny, as just the other day I was browsing in the Zavvi sale, and found the 15th Anniversary edition of Another World (official site here), boasting high-definition remastering and other goodies. I tried playing through this game again, on an emulator, a few months ago. And while I think the gameplay itself is outdated (too much emphasis on trial and error and illogical developer-centric puzzle-solutions), I am still astounded by its rotoscoped animation, and beautiful artwork. Recently, gaming icon Hideo Kojima said that Another World was one of the 5 games that mattered most to him.

I don't think that The Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure require much in the way of introduction. They are both classics of the Lucasarts SCUMM point-and-click school, released in 1989-1990. Again, like Another World, the outmoded gameplay is savaged by some contemporary game critics, because it is very restricted, and the game logic is usually defined by the specific, often irrational whims of the designer. This is certainly true in Monkey Island, which develops along wonderfully amusing and surreal lines. The scripts in these games are funny and sharp, however, and the focus on storytelling make the Lucasarts library, and others in the style, still worth a play-through today.

One beautiful aspect of these games was the effort put into the manual and other packaging material that came in the game box. For Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for example, they reproduced a slimmed-down version of Dr. Jones Sr.'s 'Grail Diary', with original entries and artwork.

Mega Lo Mania, also known as Tyrants, is an action-strategy God game, developed by Amiga behemoths Sensible Software. I bought this game again, years later, for the Mega Drive (when I started collecting games again). It is a charismatic, quick-paced game, more about building up forces and tech instead of resource gathering and tactics. It is built around 'epochs', where the architecture and technology leap forward at certain points, giving one player an edge over the others. Again, probably quite dated, especially in light of the advances made by the Warcraft, Dune and Command and Conquer series, but an interesting curio nonetheless.

To finish up, one of the games of the early 1990s. Street Fighter II. A horrible port by anyone's standards, reducing the controls to (in my case) joystick-and-two-buttons, making any special moves particularly hard to pull off (and also explaining why I'm not as good at SFII on SNES or Arcade as I'd like to be). However, at 6 years old, I didn't really care about ports, framerate issues, and arcade-to-console conversions. I just liked playing as Guile. My dad apparently moved mountains to get hold of it, back in the day when you had to mail order this kind of stuff, and it came in a trendy little bag, which, to my surprise, is still intact.


1 comment:

Decider said...

You have 2 of my favorite games of all times: Another World and Monkey Island. Being Another World my favorite game of all times, and man...i have played a lot of them. I find it so satisfying that Another World is one of the most influentlial games to Kojima and also to Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, because this way i know that im on the right track...i also take this games games as one of the finest forms of game design and development. Of course the gameplay is dates, but hell, its 18 years old.But the game design and concept are so much ahead of its time, its mind blowing. Games nowadays try to achvieve the gaming experinence Another World ofered in 1991...and that is so much to be said about that game. To me, Eric Chahi is like Davinci to videogames. Thanks for sharing your memories mate. Cheers