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December 2009 in review

Well, this is it. The final blog I'm going to post here. From now on, I'll be writing my blog here. I'll post links to the entries here instead of a full blog.

Now with that business out of the way, let's see how December turned out.

It was another one finshed game month:

25. Assassin's Creed II (X360)

I can't say much about this game except...wow. I absolutely loved it. I was pulled in from the get-go and I was addicted until I finished it. I was a big fan of the first Assassin's Creed, and the sequel did everything it was supposed to and more. It's a truly unbelievable game.

December is always a pretty big month for me since it's my birthday month as well as the Christmas season. The acquisition list is fairly large as a result:

-Assassin's Creed edition PSP
-Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines (PSP)
-Rock Band: Unplugged (PSP)
-Parappa the Rapper (PSP)
-Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2)
-Star Ocean: First Departure (PSP)
-FlatOut: Head On (PSP)
-God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP)
-Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360)
-Ghostbusters: The Video Game (X360)
-The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (PS3)

My wife surprised me with a PSP for my birthday. It's funny, because every time I think she's starting to get sick of my little habit, she does something like that and blows me away. If you add the Castlevania PSP game I've been sitting on for over a year, I've got a healthy start of a PSP collection.

You may have also noticed that PS3 game tacked onto the end. That's because my devious little plan worked to perfection. I got enough money in gift cards to the store I work at to get a PS3. It's sitting in a UPS warehouse as we speak waiting for them to start back up after the holidays. I expect to be playing Demon's Souls sometime Monday or Tuesday (the game I bought was just an impulse buy in case Demon's Souls doesn't arrive from Amazon in time). At any rate, I've still got about $85 in gift cards that I can't decide whether or not to buy a Wii, DS, or start tacking a little money on at a time for a new gaming TV...decisions, decisions!

Well, that's it for now. It's been fun doing this here for the last few years. Hopefully, I'll see you all in the new spot. Take care and have a great new year.

November 2009 in review

I survived Black Weekend. I wasn't sure how I'd handle the monster that the retail industry has created, but I did alright. Now, if I can just stay sane through the rest of this month, I'll be just fine.

What am I doing here again? Oh yeah...

I only finished one game this time:

24. Saints Row 2 (X360)

But who cares? I met my goal! At any rate, Saints Row 2 is a great game in the mold of GTA. While it's not quite as good as GTA, I like it better for one reason. GTA has started to take it self a bit too seriously over the years. Saints Row reminds me of GTAIII in that some of the humor is just over-the-top silly. The main character doing a reverse header over a couch in the hideout while completely faded in the Sons of Samedi mission strain still makes me laugh. In the end it's a very solid game that stacks up well with GTA.

On the acquisition front, it was a relatively slow month. My 360 got almost all the love, while I did find a quirky little PS2 game that I'd been seeking for some time. The damage:

-Damnation (X360)
-Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (X360)
-Guitar Hero: Van Halen (X360)
-Assassin's Creed II (X360)
-Dog's Life (PS2)
-Silent Hill: Homecoming (X360)

Assassin's Creed II is a masterpiece. If you follow my Twitter feed (@jollyroger3251), you'll know I have some complaints. The control isn't quite as precise as it should be and there are way too many assassination sidequests, for example. But overall, it's a completely engrossing experience that you start and find yourself looking at the clock four hours later wondering what happened. I'm almost finished with it and I'm already wondering what they'll do with the inevitable third installment.

With that, I'm out of here. The Christmas season is here and that means I'm a busy little retail elf. If my devious little plan works, I'll be compiling a bunch of gift cards from my family to the store where I work and combining them with my employee discount to obtain a PS3 and Demon's Souls. I see 2010 shaping up as the year of the epic RPG for me (although, as usual, my best laid gaming plans often go awry).

Happy holidays to you all (whichever one or ones you celebrate).

How an Obsessive Video Game Collector Was Born-Part 1

I remember it as if it were yesterday (to use a cliche):

It was the beginning of the summer vacation after third grade in 1988. I had just brought home my fourth quarter report card...the one that, if it contained straight A's, my father promised to buy me a NES. I had discovered the NES the previous summer (having, up to that point, been an Atari-exclusive kid) and had spent most of the ensuing year begging and pleading with various friends in town to let me play while begging and pleading with my father to get me one. I had always been one of those "underachieving" students, mostly because I was bored stiff and couldn't sit still to save my life, so my dad cut the aforementioned deal. There was the carrot: straight A's = NES.

Unfortunately for my father (or more accurately, his wallet), he didn't consider that the constant chirping that had finally worn him down would erode the resistance of someone with significantly less willpower...like my teacher. As I jumped off the bus and ran up to my house, I threw my bag full of all the crap a third grader accumulates over a school year and, since my dad was still at work, promptly forgot about my report card and the NES and went to play with my best friend, Steve. That evening, as soon as I realized that my dad was going to be home from work soon, I tore across my giant town of 250 residents as quickly as my bike would take me to await my judgement.

I hadn't been able to bring myself to look at my report card (which now resembled a cardstock ball from being stuffed in my giant bag o' junk), so I had no idea if I would spend my time playing as a certain mustachioed plumber or if I would go back to hours and hours of Yar's Revenge.

The moment of truth had arrived. My dad slowly (oh, so slowly) slid the now-mangled blue card from it's yellow envelope and opened it up. As I stood there, holding my breath, I watched my dad's face run a gamut of emotions from "aw, crap" to stunned to sort of happy and back to "aw, crap" as he realized that he was going to be about $150 poorer in a matter of hours. I still wasn't sure though. Then he handed the report card to my mom, who got a big smile on her face. I knew now! I let out a victory cry that scared half the town and promptly got me yelled at for being too loud. I didn't care...I had my NES!

Dinner was excruciating as I waited for the 10 mile trip to Wal-Mart. I knew that the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cart came with the system, but I figured that I'd get another game to go with it. By the time we left, I had decided on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Then my dad dropped this little bomb on me...since my sister got good grades too (straight S+ for the kindergartener), she would get to pick the game.

What?!?! Are you kidding me? My sister would go on to become the straightest of straight-A students. She would fart and the teacher would give her an A. This wasn't an event! At any rate, that older sibling instinct kicked in and, using all the salesman skills I'd acquired by trying to get her not to cry when she'd just damn near been killed by some sort of stupidity I'd just pulled, I set about trying to talk her into Punch-Out!!

Now, we're talking twenty-plus years ago, so the memories are as fuzzy in some spots as they are vivid in others, but I'm fairly certain she was eyeballing Zelda (which, in retrospect, would have been an equally awesome choice). Eventually, my charm (and the promise that she'd get to pick next month's game) won out and Mike Tyson came home with us.

The one game a month rule eventually fell by the wayside, as my parents discovered the Dragon Warrior series and started playing as well. Their focus on turn-based RPGs began a search far and wide for similar games (which, oddly, did not include the first Final Fantasy). In the meantime, we amassed a then-impressive collection of around 70 games. The reacquisition of these original games (a convoluted story in it's own right) was one of the seeds that started the collection I have today.

As far as the straight A's go, I'm 99% sure that my grades were fudged a bit. Granted, I was an A-B student (but the Pirate Kid could do sooo much more if he'd only apply himself!), so it wasn't a huge stretch. But, I'd never gotten straight A's before and I never did it again. Whether it was the prospect of a summer of icy stares from the kid behind the catcher's mask (because my failure to get the grades would have totally been her fault) or the fact that she was a sweet lady who didn't want to see a kid's heart broken (my personal guess), something made her give me the grades. For that, I thank you, Mrs. Rincker (and my dad probably doesn't...).

Coming soon-Part 2: PlayStation, N64, and the reacquisition of old friends.

October 2009 in review

Well, Rocktober has come and gone. It wasn't quite as awesome as I'd hoped. It rained so much that many farmers still have crops in the fields (and if you live in the midwestern US, you know that's a pretty big deal). As for me, I'm dreading the holiday season for the first time ever. I've worked retail before, but I've always escaped before the silly season arrived. I don't think I'm going to be that lucky this year.

Enough of that junk...let's talk about video games, shall we?

I took down two more games this month, putting me within one of my goal of 24 completions for the year. The gruesome twosome were:

22. WCW Nitro (PS)
23. Shadowgate Clas sic (GBC)

Nitro is one of those games that I loved when it came out, but the shine has worn off pretty badly. It's a really ugly game with some definite control issues, but it has tons of the WCW wrestlers I knew and loved back in the day. It was the most lovingly nostalgic 5.5 I've ever given out.

Shadowgate Clas sic is a nearly identical port of Shadowgate for the NES (and, oddly enough, the first handheld game I've ever completed). The game itself plays exactly like the NES version, but there are a few cosmetic differences to assist with it's move to a handheld. It's the same game I played before, so it gets the same score.

I was a little more active in acquisitions this month. I set (and achieved) a goal of acquiring my 200th NES game this month. I got some great suggestions (especially from hart704 and usagi704). Unfortunately, due to availability and/or price issues, I wasn't able to add many (if any) of their suggestions. Instead, they're now on my wishlist for the future. At any rate, here's the month's haul:

-The Last Remnant (X360)
-Silent Hill 4: The Room (PS2)
-Baseball Stars (NES)
-Elevator Action (NES)
-Ghostbusters (NES)
-M.U.S.C.L.E. (NES)
-Solomon's Key (NES)
-Track & Field (NES)
-Family Game Night: Battleship (XBLA)
-NFL Tour (X360)
-Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City (X360)

I'm still trying to knock out that last game to hit my goal for the year. I'm playing a bunch right now, but have settled into Saints Row 2 (again...I never finished it) and am about half done. I also need to finally get around to trying to beat the bonus mission in Medal of Honor: Underground (PS) and slogging my way through WCW/nWo Thunder (PS). Once Assassin's Creed II shows up, I'll probably forget about everything else for awhile.

Speaking of Assassin's Creed II, I have it preordered...and I can't wait. I played the first one on a whim and fell in love. I hope that I like it as much as I enjoyed the first one. I keep saying I want to pick up Batman: Arkham Asylum and Ghostbusters for my (newly repaired...or more accurately, replaced with a refurb) 360, and you can now add Brutal Legend to that list. And as always, I'm keeping my eyes open for any old-school gems I might find.

For all you North American 360 fans out there, I found an interesting little site a week or so ago. xboxamerica.com is a site where, if you plug in your gamertag and the state/province you live in, you get ranked according to other site users in your state and country. I'm currently ranked 237th in Illinois and 5,957th nationwide (as of yesterday). It's another cool way to obsess about your gamerscore.

Well, that's about it for this month. I'm hoping I survive the holiday retail season. We'll see. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have about a third of Stilwater to take over.

September 2009 in review

Rocktober is here! There are so many great reasons to love this time of year: The weather is starting to cool down, football season (both college and pro) is in full swing, it will soon be World Series time (unfortunately, my White Sox will be playing golf), and one of the most awesome holidays of all, Halloween, is coming (Pac-Man or Charlie Brown...I haven't decided which one I'm going to dress up as yet). As a matter of fact, you'll notice that I like this month so much that I (with the help of my best friend) gave it a totally unoriginal, yet also totally fitting new name: Rocktober!

The other great thing about this time of year is that, since it's cooling off outside, it's much easier to excuse staying inside to play video games. Which is good because, after the massive amount of games I polished off in July and August, I didn't finish a single game in September

*cue fail jingle from Super Mario Bros. 2 slot machine*

That's right...not a single one. Luckily, I've only got three more to finish to hit my goal this year. I do have Medal of Honor: Underground and WCW Nitro (both PS) nearly finished, so I'll probably be able to add those to my list fairly soon (if I can get past that stupid final mission in MoH:U, that is...).

As far as acquisitions go, it wasn't a huge month. I wound up picking up six new games:

-The Beatles: Rock Band (X360)
-Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07 (X360)
-Guitar Hero 5 (X360)
-The Bard's Tale (NES)
-Centurion: Defender of Rome (Gen)
-Shadowgate Clas sic (GBC)

I had planned on picking up Batman: Arkham Asylum at some point in September, but my 360 decided to crap out. It has just arrived in Texas for it's operation...I'm hoping to get it back soon.

As for this month, I have a rather dedicated goal in mind. When I was adding my newest games to my database, I noticed that I have 194 NES games. I'm going to try to pick up six more to give myself an even 200. Now, here's where you come in.

I've already posted this in a couple different locations, and now I'm going to ask you: what should I try to track down for my six NES games? Here's what I've got...what am I missing?

Random thought of the month: I posted this on Twitter (@jollyroger3251) a few weeks ago after spending a couple hours shooting holes in various pixelated bad guys. I got to thinking about how many digital dudes I'd shot, stomped, kicked, punched, eaten, and otherwise rendered devoid of life and I started wondering what the body count actually was. Has anyone else ever actually thought about how many enemies they'd killed throughout their gaming career? When I sit there and actually look back on all the years I've played all these video games, from lighting up robots in Berzerk to filling VZ soldiers full of lead in Mercenaries 2, I figure my kill count has to be in the millions. Kind of mind boggling, eh?

Well, this one was a bit of a rambler. The excitement that comes with this time of year does that to me. Have a happy Rocktober and I'll catch you all next month.

August 2009 in review

An abnormally cool summer continues (good) and my Chicago White Sox have officially waved the white flag and conceded defeat in the American League Central Division (bad). Football season is coming and that means even cooler weather, Halloween, and even more excuses to play video games.

I put a giant dent in my game completion goal this month. I was able to take down five games, putting me at 21 out of 24 for the year. The fab five include:

17. Earthbound (SNES)
18. Deja Vu (NES)
19. Uninvited (NES)
20. Tecmo Bowl (NES)
21. Castlevania (NES)

Earthbound is an absolutely legendary game. It's great fun and legitimately hilarious. It was a bit longer than I remembered, but totally worth the 20-25 hours I sunk into it. My personal favorite enemy is the New-Age Retro Hippie, especially when he uses a toothbrush.

Deja Vu and Uninvited are two of the three Kemco/Icom games (along with Shadowgate). Deja Vu was pretty good, with a kind of film noir-esque story and 1940s setting. Uninvited was just dumb. It was the third of the three and it seemed pretty obvious that the programmers were bored at that point.

Tecmo Bowl is one of my all-time favorite games. I played as Chicago (naturally) and rode the legendary PAYTON to the Tecmo Bowl title. I won by an average score of 44-9. I used RUN 1 and RUN 2 and only threw two passes the entire season (one completion, one pick). I loved this one as a kid and it's one of the few games that hasn't lost it's shine all these years later.

Castlevania rates right up there with Metroid for personal satisfaction upon completing it. It's one of those rock-hard games and I'm proud to say I finished it. Once again, huge thanks to usagi704 for helping me through a couple mega-tough parts.

August was the slowest month for acquisitions I've had in a long time. I only purchased three games all month (and I'm pretty sure I can hear my wife heaving a giant sigh of relief). We unexpectedly had to put brakes on my wife's car and that wound up shooting through the rest of our summer fund a bit earlier than I would have liked. So, here's the short list:

August acquisitions-
-The Simpsons: Road Rage (GBA)
-Metal Gear Solid (GBC)
-WCW/nWo Thunder (PS)

I plan on picking up a couple biggies this month. I'm hearing great things about Batman: Arkham Asylum and I'll definitely grab Rock Band: The Beatles fairly soon. I've got a few golden oldies that I'm going to start working on tracking down as well.

That's about it for this month. Catch me on Twitter @jollyroger3251 if you like. I generally use it to spit out random thoughts about whatever game I happen to be playing at that time. See you all next time.

July 2009 in review

If there's one thing I like about my new job, it's the ability I have to sleep until noon, work until 9:00 pm, and then play video games until about 3:00 in the morning. It almost feels like I'm in high school on summer vacation again. I just wish it paid better...

At any rate, it's been a fairly slow month. I haven't had too much going on, which has made it a banner month for completions. These put me at 16 for the year, 2/3 of the way to my goal of 24 for the year. The fallen games include:

13. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (PS2)
14. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PS2)
15. Champions: Return to Arms (PS2)
16. Metal Gear (NES)

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is yet another one of those mindless hack n' slashers that I love so much. Blue Warrior became a Level 99 Legend and saved the world. There isn't much to it and if you want to actually play the game to completion, you will do a TON of grinding (or, slappin' slimes, if you're in my family). But it's good to turn your brain off and just kill things.

I didn't like Max Payne 2 quite as much as the original, but it's still a great game. I'm not sure why, but as soon as I heard about the upcoming Max Payne 3, I decided that I had to rip through it NOW. I'm now looking forward to the third game's release so I can continue in Max's snakebitten shoes.

Remember what I said about Gauntlet? Well, the same could pretty much be said for Champions: Return to Arms. It's a little prettier and a little more complex, but it's the same idea...and that's not a bad thing. I finished the story mode in this one, but it also has several side missions that are almost impossible to complete with just one character. I have yet to bother with some of those.

Metal Gear is one of my childhood favorites. I played the hell out of it when I was about 12 and I surprised myself with how much I actually remember about it. It took me about four hours, but I took it down in one sitting. Now I just have to get through the awful Snake's Revenge (the existence of which isn't even acknowledged by Hideo Kojima, if I remember correctly).

I was finally relatively successful in scaling back my acquisitions this month, although I do have an interesting story. First, the list:

July Acquisitions-
-Dark Sector (X360)
-Forza Motorsport 2 (X360)
-WCW Nitro (PS)
-Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows (PS2)
-Fracture (X360)
-Buzz! Junior: Jungle Party (PS2)
-Comix Zone (XBLA)
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Arcade (XBLA)

Short list this month. Now, see Fracture on that list? It's a relatively nondescript purchase, until I tell how I obtained it.

I had taken my wife out to dinner at this little restaurant in our town. They had advertisements on the placemats, one of which was for this little secondhand shop that advertised a ton of video game stuff. I went over there the next day and, while they didn't have much, they did have a couple things I was interested in. Unfortunately, they didn't accept debit cards so I had to go back with cash a couple days later.

When I returned, I nearly fell over when I saw my aunt working behind the counter. It turns out that she and my cousin run this little place so they have something to do. I had no idea they were the owners of the shop. But now I have another place to go look for stuff.

As for the upcoming month, I don't foresee much in the way of acquisitions, but I'm hoping for a little more of a dent in my backlog. I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through Earthbound (SNES) and have Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden hanging out next to my NES for practice. I'm ahead of my pace right now, so anything I finish this month just puts me farther ahead. I'm kind of ready to get this over with so I can play something a little more involved. I've got some great games sitting there waiting on me...I just need to find the time to knock them off.

Before I leave, here's a couple more places to find me if you wish:

Twitter: jollyroger3251
Backloggery: jollyroger78

Add away if you like. Until next time...

June 2009 in review

Well, my unemployment lasted exactly zero days. I was able to find a job at Sears in the receiving section. It's not exactly lucrative, but it'll pay the bills (and buy the occasional video game) until something a bit more permanent pops free. Then it becomes toy money and a 10% discount on things like TVs and sound systems (and more video games).

I was only able to knock out one game this month, but it was a big one for me:

12. Metroid (NES)

I am embarrassed to say that, despite owning the game pretty much since it came out way back in the late 80s, I had never finished it. I got Samus to take her helmet off, which is pretty good for the first runthrough I guess. It's an awesome game and I'm glad I can finally count it among my completions.

It doesn't look like it, but I actually did cut the game buying back a little this month. And what I did get was rather hit and miss. There's a bunch of Singstar and Buzz! games in there for my wife and most of the other stuff was picked up on a couple of trips out of town. So, all in all, it was a relatively slow month (as always, these are in the order that they found their way into my collection):

June Acquisitions-
-Singstar: Legends (PS2)
-Singstar: Country (PS2)
-Alone in the Dark (360)
-Clive Barker's Jericho (360)
-Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360)
-Silent Hill 2 (PS2)
-Two Worlds (360)
-Tourist Trophy (PS2)
-Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (NES)
-Gun.Smoke (NES)
-WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling (SNES)
-Silent Hill (PS)
-Buzz!: The Hollywood Quiz (PS2)
-Buzz! Junior: Robo Jam (PS2)
-Mojo! (PS2)
-Singstar: Pop (PS2)
-Mojo! (PS2)
-NASCAR '08 (360)
-Stuntman: Ignition (360)
-PBR: Out of the Chute (PS2)

The collection stands at 927 games. I hadn't actually planned on hitting 1,000 this year, but it's starting to look like a possibility. We'll see.

The Iron Maiden track pack has me playing the heck out of Rock Band 2 (360) again. Maiden is one of my all-time favorite bands, so I was pretty excited when they announced the songs. I wish they would have included "Wrathchild", but you can't win 'em all. I've also been playing a lot of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (PS2) and since Blue Warrior is now a level 60 Champion (!), I'll probably finish this one off very soon. I'm not sure what's next after that. I'm eyeballing Metal Gear (NES), Max Payne 2 (PS2), and STILL want to go back and clean up some of the 360 games I've got started.

Oh, and something I don't always do: a random song suggestion of the month! If you're a hair metal fan at all, check out "Shake & Tumble" by Firehouse. I have had this song for years, but had never listened to it. Then I jumped in the car after work and it was on. For all the crap they take for looking stupid, no one can deny that most hair metal bands were excellent musicians.

That's it for now. June was a ridiculous month...I'm hoping July is a little more relaxed. Catch you all next month.