Friday, October 13, 2023

How I was introduced to Assassin's Creed

When Assassin's Creed first came out, I didn't have an Xbox 360 or PS3. I saw the commercials for it at Walmart, and I'd see it on the shelf from time to time, but I never thought I'd actually play the series. It was on consoles I didn't own, and it honestly didn't look like something I would enjoy. Back then I was kinda picky on what I would or wouldn't play, and I really didn't branch out much because of that. Heck, I was also in high school, so I didn't really have too many choices anyway. I didn't have a part time job yet, and my parents controlled what I could actually get. So AC was simply just not in the cards for me... But of course, that all eventually changed.

After I turned 17, I started my first job and began saving up for an Xbox 360. The main reason I wanted it was actually Sonic 06 (yes, laugh at me), but once I actually bought the console I decided to make the most out of it. I began buying games I wouldn't normally even look twice at, and surprisingly many of them became all time favorites of mine! I'll admit that AC still wasn't on my radar at that time, but the next year was pretty great overall. Soon I would go on to graduate from high school and start college, but that didn't slow me down when it came to gaming. If anything, it actually gave me more time to do just that! So once again I went out looking for new games, but nothing was really catching my eye. But then "it" happened...

We had a bad storm one Friday night, so I remember I went to bed early before the work the next day, and just kinda slept through it all. I didn't think about turning things off, but when I got a call from my mom the next day I was shocked to hear that my PC would no longer turn on... I was pretty upset to say the least... So being left with no choice (that PC was basically my life as I needed it for everything, especially with school), my parents helped me pack it up, and we took it to Best Buy (which was well over an hour away).

I was prepared to have to buy a new PC or something. Didn't know how we'd do it (I didn't have that kind of money, and my parents couldn't really afford to either), but we were going to have to do something. THANKFULLY Best Buy found that the PC itself was fine, and just the power supply unit was fired. They then sold us a new one, and told us it would take about half an hour to put it in. So in the mean time, I went "window shopping," and that's when I saw it. Assassin's Creed on sale for $20!

I really knew nothing about the game besides what I remembered seeing years ago, but looking at the back of the box convinced me it was worth giving it a shot. Considering I didn't have to buy a whole new PC, and did have enough money leftover after the new PSU, I went ahead and bought it. That was basically 14 years ago to this day. I didn't know about AC2 coming out (although there was a spot on the shelf advertising it), but when I got home and started up AC1 for the first time -- I was hooked instantly. The massive cities, the climbing, the combat, the leap of faith, etc, it was all just amazing to me! Sure, it got repetitive at times, but I played the heck out of that game daily up until the release of AC2 (which I of course had to buy).

I still remember playing it that Halloween also, and my mom's friend bringing her kids over. They got all excited and rushed into my room because they saw "VIDEO GAMES" and wanted to watch. Well, behind that Xbox 360 menu screen was AC paused with me stabbing a guy in the neck, so that wasn't easy to show them... Ended up just existing the game and losing progress, but it was worth it...

But anyway, what I thought was going to be a horrible day of losing my PC turned into the day I got introduced to one of my all time favorite series. So in a way, I'm thankful for that storm!

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Monday, July 24, 2023

Memories of Armored Core

After such a long (LONG) wait, Armored Core 6 is finally almost here, and I couldn't be happier. You see, Armored Core is a special series to me, but it's also one I haven't always been able to keep up with. I'm someone who kinda falls into a weird place with it, because although I love it and am a "long time fan," it's not a series I've been able to fully experience. Even so, what I have been there for will always be special to me, and I guess it's that nostalgia that really drives my excitement when it comes to this release. Now, in the past I slightly touched on my experience with the series, but today is a new day, and I feel like now is the perfect time to expand upon my story. 

Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of both robots and mechs. Power Rangers was my go to, and of course I had nearly all of the toys (thanks Uncle Mark)! I didn't really know what "mecha" was per say, but I loved pretty much anything that was robot related, and the more robots there were, the better. 

Jumping ahead to middle school, Toonami was a part of my new daily routine, and shows like Zoids and Gundam 08th MS Team were my go to after noon shows. Stupid middle school me still thought that Zoids was a knock off of Power Rangers, but I still liked it! I guess it was Gundam that made me realize there was more out there though, so I began watching it as well. They quickly became two of my favorite shows, and it made me wish that they would make video games about them also. (Yeah, that happened, but I had no idea it did...) Anyway -- I guess it's these two series that truly pushed me to become a mecha fan, but I had no idea how to continue from there. And then that's when my friend Ian started telling me about Armored Core.

Back then I was more of a Nintendo kid. Sure, I had a PlayStation 1, but even then I only played a few games on it. I was mainly into games like Mario, MegaMan, Kirby, etc, and I rarely branched out and tried something new. Only exceptions were when my uncle or cousins would get a new game or rent something, and I'd check it out, but most of the time it wasn't something that appealed to me. That being said, when Ian started talking about his PS2 games, they just flat out sounded amazing to me.

I never expected to get any of them though. This (dot) hack series he kept bringing up? Sounded really cool, but when was I ever going to play that? Armored Core 2 that he kept talking about was the same, but I was still interested in it. He'd tell me how you got to build different AC Units, and how you could customize each one to be unique. He talked about how he created speed builds, ones that focus on missiles, and sometimes he'd sit there and brain storm new plans with me. It's funny how I remember all of this after all these years, but sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. Heck his speed type he told me was like "using the float shoes on ice in Zelda." I knew exactly what he meant, and how hard that would be to control! But either way, what he told me about AC convinced me to give it a shot whenever I got the chance, but I never expected that day to come. Besides playing it a little bit one of the few times I went to his house -- AC2 was a game that would just be lost to me. That is, until I graduated middle school.

It took a couple of years, but when I finished 8th grade I received enough graduation money to buy a PlayStation 2. I still remember the day my mom drove me to different Walmarts to find the thing, and when we finally did I also grabbed a copy of MegaMan X 8. Of course I was going to start with the games I really wanted/knew I'd love, so the MegaMan games were at the top of the list. However around this very same time is when we discovered a new movie rental place in town, and thanks to that discovery, I got to try out a lot of new and different things. I didn't have money to buy games myself (obviously as I was just going into high school), but for $4, my parents were more than willing to let me rent a game from time to time. You got to keep it for a week, and our shopping trips were every week -- so it worked out nicely! And considering this new place had a huge selection of PS2 games, I couldn't have got the console at a better time.

Of course I started out renting games like Transformers first, but when Armored Core 2 caught my eye sitting on the front shelf, there was no way I could pass it up. Finally after all these years, I could play the game for myself. And it was amazing.

I did suck at the game, I'm not going to lie. The experience of playing the game was great and all, but I just didn't know what I was doing. Sure I played the heck out of it that week, and I did go on to rent it multiple times after, but overall it wasn't a game I was planning on returning to just because it was so hard. If I actually owned the game I'm sure I would've given it more time, but I had other games to rent, and because of that the AC series just sorta faded away from me. At least for a couple of years. Ultimately what changed everything for me was the summer of my junior year when my uncle opened a bakery, and I got my first part time job. That's when I bought my first game console on my own -- the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 opened up a whole new world to me. Finally I could play the new popular games like Halo 3, Portal, etc, and I was finally also able to jump into completely new series as well. No longer was I tied down by the Wii and what Nintendo had to offer, and with my own income I was able to actually test out quite a bit more series. Heck, since I jumped in so late, most of the good games were already cheap! It was such a good feeling going into a store, dropping $15-20 on a game I'd never heard of, and then just spend the next week playing it. It was like renting a game, but I never had to return it! I found so many gems this way, and I don't regret a single purchase. But then one day I also discovered that Armored Core 4 was a thing.

I remember looking up info about the game, and reading about it while in computer class at school. That night I then told my dad about it, and gave him the money to pick it up for me if he could find it at the local GameStop. At the time we didn't really have many video game stores around here, with the closest GameStop being an hour away near his work. At first he laughed and thought I meant "Armored Corp" when I wrote it down, but I was like "no it's actually Armored Core." He then took the money, and when he got home from work the next day he had the copy of my new game with him. I was beyond excited!

Even though I had a rough go with AC2, AC4 was a whole other story. Right off the bat I was blown away by the game's realistic graphics. Then I saw the fact that you could legit fly, AND do a high speed build far beyond whatever speeds the PS2 could handle. Afterwords I got pulled into it's mercenary based story, and got to work coming up with mech designs of my own. I wanted to be like my friend Ian, and create a wide verity of ACs to match my every need. This new game provided even more verity to it's customization, and even let you customize decals and colors of each part! By this point I had gotten into multiple mecha series like Code Geass, so of course I started recreating mechs from these shows as well. I basically went all out with the game, and each day I was excited to come home from school to play it. Taking on different missions each day, fighting other ACs in the arena -- it was all of my mecha dreams come true. 

And then I hurt my back in school.

The bad thing is, throwing my back out at age 17, means you're still going to have issues (sometimes worse) when you're 32. Almost half your life later, and things like this will still bother you. On the flip side, I got to stay home from school for a bit! Armored Core 4 is one of the main ways I spent my time being stuck to a chair. I still remember the time I dropped my 360 controller and had to figure out how to get it (that was very painful), but other than that it was a great memory! Having time and an excuse to do nothing but play AC4 was great, and I feel like that's when I really dove into the customization side of things. Eventually my back did get "better," and I went back to school, but I think it was that weekend I actually finished the game's "main" story. And I wanted more.

Surprise! There was more! Armored Core 4A (For Answer) was a follow up to AC4, and was said to improve upon everything in AC4. New story, new missions, new parts to customize your AC with, and just... A bunch of new content in general! Of course I had to have it too, and once again my dad was willing to pick it up for me on his way home. This time it was a full priced release though, unlike my old copy of AC4.

I actually didn't like For Answer as much as 4. Maybe I burned myself out on 4 during the couple of months I had just spent playing it, but I think it was more of the issues I had with it's content. For example, while it did have more to do, and it had some crazy huge boss fights, the story itself didn't grab me quite as much, and the split story paths had some really challenging missions I just couldn't overcome. It didn't help that the game had really long loading screens as well, so it did start to get on my nerves. Eventually I got to a point where I went down the "bad guy's route" and had multiple of the game's enemy bosses attacking me at once -- I never did clear that mission.

After AC4A, I once again took a break from the series. I had other games to play, and my last year of high school kept me busy. A really fun time in my life overall, but none of that is Armored Core related. I actually didn't return to the series until early college when GameStop (which had now opened up closer to me) started selling PS2 games for cheap, and they had a buy 2 get 2 free deal. So of course I grabbed most of the Armored Core 3 series, as well as Resident Evil Code Veronica. 

AC3 was of course a lot different from 4 (and on older hardware), but man it was still fun. It got hard, and I didn't actually finish it (or it's follow ups), but I had a blast playing it. Last Raven was pretty crazy too, but it's difficulty started so high that I for sure never came close to the end. Again I still enjoyed it though, and I couldn't complain considering how cheap I got it. Afterwords I once again took a break from the series, but eventually I did jump back in with Armored Core V.

I really liked ACV. I hate that I missed out on all the online features of it (or mostly missed out), but it was a lot of fun for what it was. Smaller mechs, the ability to jump off of walls, and some really cool mission and level design. It took me roughly a year to actually beat the game as I had a lot going on in my life at the time, but I really REALLY enjoyed it. So much that I bought the follow up VD (Verdict Day) the moment I saw the credits roll. 

Sadly while the game did arrive a few days after placing the order, it came in a completely destroyed box. I guess I should've returned it, but I didn't. Instead I have a copy of VD that's box is pretty much shredded, with plastic pieces falling off non stop if you hold it the wrong way. I have no idea what happened to make it be in this state, but thankfully the disc was ok. And then once again, I would spend the next 2 years playing the game off and on in my free time. Unlike with 4A, I actually liked VD better than V. It was a full on improvement, and this time around I did get to experience some of the online content. Taking missions and doing things co-op to help your faction expand it's reach was such a cool feature, and I really liked the new customization options. Of course it was a lot more of the same, but that wasn't a bad thing. VD did what V did but better, and that's exactly what I hoped to get out of it.

And that's where my AC journey ended. I did go back and play some of the older games, but I've mostly been waiting for another entry. Little did I know that wouldn't be until 2023!

Now it's not like my mecha video game journey ended there. As a huge fan of Gundam, I've played pretty much all of the Gundam and Super Robot War releases. (Including Japanese exclusives.) I also played quite a bit of Daemon x Machina, which was created by the producer of older Armored Core games. It was a decent substitute to AC, but it's also very much a game of it's own. Heck last time I played it though has been a few years, and I remember some "Power Company" scammer just barged on in my house and was scouting the place out. That became a quick "uhhhh can I help you and what are you doing?" Before the guy scrambled out the door. Fun times.

Anyway, while I might not have been with the series the entire time, nor can I say I'm a super fan... I do love Armored Core, and I really can't wait for AC6. I'm looking forward to recapturing my time spent with AC4, and seeing what AC looks like on the next generation.

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Friday, July 7, 2023

The Platinum Log: Zone of the Enders

Zone of the Enders. I had heard about the series, but I didn't really know much about it. Back when I was in middle school, my friend Ryan REALLY got into the Metal Gear Solid games, and eventually he convinced me to look into them as well. At the time I didn't really know who Kojima was, but when I started doing more research into him, I started to realize I knew more about him than I thought. Or at least, I knew of his projects.

Thanks to MegaMan Battle Network, I knew what the Boktai series was, and thanks to the random GBA game I tried out, I technically knew about Zone of the Enders. But again, the only thing I knew about it was the fact it was a mecha series, and that it was a turn based strategy (which I sucked at). I didn't know that the mainline games were PS2 games, nor did I know what they played like. Heck, I didn't even realize the clip I saw in MGS Twin Snakes was Zone of the Enders. So when I finally finished the MGS series for myself, and wanted more, I turned my sights to other games Kojima had worked on. That's when I discovered what ZoE really was, but also quickly realized I most likely would never be able to play it... I was a college kid at the time, and the games were really hard to come by. So I put getting them on the back burner, and just focused on what I could play. But then something unexpected happened -- a collection was announced!

I wont lie, one of the main draws to the collection for me was the included demo of Metal Gear Rising, but being a mecha fan I did want the games as well. So I watched the prequel anime to the series to get myself ready, I saved up some money, and bought the game on release. I don't regret it!

While the original ZoE isn't my favorite of the two -- I did really enjoy it. The gameplay was a lot of fun, and I liked that it borrowed elements from other popular mecha series. The main character was a little annoying, but it was clear that was the point. (Entire thing reminded me of NGE, which was clearly the inspiration behind the game.) The structure of the game caught me off guard as well, as it used a city map system with missions popping up in different areas. These missions acted as the "stages" in the game, but what made them unique is the fact that damage carried over between said missions. So if a building got destroyed during the fight during, say, mission #2, but you came back for mission # 10, that same building would be gone. Which is where the struggles come into play.

First time playing through the story I didn't care about being perfect. I destroyed everything in my way, and took out the bad guys anyway possible. I really liked the game though, and didn't want it to end -- so I checked the trophy list to see if it was something I could accomplish. It was! However one of the requirements was to get A ranks on all stages, and to do that you can't have any building damage. See the problem? If you mess up at all near the start, that makes it impossible to continue getting A ranks, so you had to be perfect. But of course, I was up to the challenge!

Although it didn't take me long to do, I really had a lot of fun with this platinum. It extended the length of the game for me as I was replaying it, and it made me actually learn how to play the game. It's pretty short overall, but that's also what helps give it such replayability. It's honestly a game I would've replayed multiple times even without a trophy goal, but the trophies gave me something to work for. Overall it's a solid mecha game, but it honestly does get blown away by it's sequel. But I feel like that's how sequels should work?

Zone of the Enders was Platinum #7.

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Friday, June 16, 2023

A Complete Run Down of the MegaMan Timelines (Classic and Battle Network)

With the release of MegaMan Battle Network, the series has seen quite the surge in popularity again. So I figured now would be the perfect time to write something I've wanted to cover for a long time -- the MegaMan Timeline.

Now a lot of people might think that MegaMan is just a kids platforming game with little to no story, but I'm here today to prove them all wrong. The "crazy" truth is, MegaMan is actually quite complicated, and there's more than one timeline at play here. That's why some confusion pops up when talking about MegaMan Battle Network, and then comparing it with the rest of the greater MegaMan series. So with today's post, I want to also clear up that confusion, and go down the complete timeline.

Before we get started however, let me explain a little bit about the timeline, and where my information comes from. First of all, the series has a whole has been handled by multiple teams, and because of that some things can get a bit confusing. Parts of the story has actually been retconned, while some pieces of information actually come from the "dev team's point of view" and may or may not line up with what other teams originally intended. This especially becomes true when looking at the Zero and ZX series, as these games were developed by Inti Create. As for the source of my information -- most of it comes directly from the games, as well as the Official Complete Works books that has been released for multiple games in the series. (More specifically the MegaMan Zero books when referring to the Zero and ZX parts of the timeline.) For the sake of this blog post, I will mainly only be covering what is considered canon, and I will discuss gray areas where things may/may not have changed over the years. If anyone is interested to go deeper into the series than I currently have, I strongly recommend checking out the MegaMan Fan site the MegaMan Home Page or the MegaMan Fandom (Wikia). There's a lot to this series as a whole, so I'm really only going to be covering the basics here. Also if you find that anything I've said is in correct or you don't agree with it, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Also here's a general spoiler warning, as I'll be going into what needs to be said, but without giving away too much of the plot or overall story.

So with that being said... Let's get started.

The Beginning and the Split:

The beginning of the MegaMan timeline is also where our split occurs. In some ways this split can be seen as two different worlds, as it has never been made 100% clear if this branch ever really existed in the same timeline. Using the information we have from the games however, you can consider the two timelines two separate universes, that diverged in one major way. These universes share a similar background, but the characters differ slightly... Confused? Well don't worry, it's nothing too crazy (yet).

The Classic Timeline:

Before the start of MegaMan 1 (Classic) we find two scientists named Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. These two scientists are best friends, and work together to bring the sci-fi world of robotics into reality. The two eventually go on to develop a robot known as ProtoMan, but the two scientists fail to see eye to eye. Eventually the two have a falling out, and they both split off to do their own thing.

After the split, Dr. Light goes on to create a "son" named Rock, and a "daughter" named Roll. The two robots are his pride and joy, but are of course they aren't Light's only creations. Wanting to help the world, he created a series of "Robot Masters" to help with different tasks -- such as for construction. These robots were released into the world, and were working out completely fine; however, a jealous Dr. Wily had other plans for them. Hijacking the robots, Dr. Wily turns them into an army under his control, and sets them loose on the world to cause mass destruction. In order to fight back against Dr. Wily and free his fellow robot friends, Rock asks Dr. Light to turn him into a fighting robot, and becomes MegaMan (RockMan in Japan).

Going forward, the classic story is pretty straight forward. MegaMan 1 follows MegaMan as he takes out each of the Robot Masters, eventually fights Dr. Wily, and in the end sends him to jail. The next few games follow the same pattern of Dr. Wily getting out of jail and attempting to take down MegaMan with his new robots, but things eventually do change. ProtoMan reenters the picture pretty early on in the series and acts as both a friend and rival to his brother MegaMan, but it's not really until MegaMan 7 that we see a true rival character. And that character is a robot known as Bass.

Bass first shows up in MegaMan 7, and is Dr. Wily's answer to Dr. Light's MegaMan. Of course Bass doesn't actually like Wily or really follow his orders, but he does want to beat MegaMan himself, so their interests sometimes align. However, it's not Bass himself who will go on to change the series forever, but rather Bass' successor.

In MegaMan 8, an alien machine crashes into the earth, and both Dr. Light and Dr. Wily race to the crash site to see what's going on. Of course Light sent MegaMan in his place, but Wily beats him there and recovers what he's looking for. A strange energy source known as the "Evil Energy." This Evil Energy doesn't really come into play for the rest of MegaMan 8, but it has a major role concerning the rest of the series. 

Around this time, unknown to everyone else, Dr. Light also begins his new project. A new version of MegaMan he calls "MegaMan X." This new robot was created to have unlimited potential (hence the X in it's name), and also have the ability to think for itself and have feelings. While robots like MegaMan seem to have feelings, and can think for themselves -- ultimately, they can never go past their programming. MegaMan has a strong sense of justice, but that's just how he's made. Like the Robot Masters in MegaMan 1, he too could be reprogrammed to change his way of thinking. X on the other hand, is a new type or robot, and as close to human as possible. Only problem is, the world itself might not be ready for such a thing. Fearing what would happen if he was released, Dr. Light seals X away and runs tests on him to evaluate what type of robot he might become. Until the world itself is ready for him, X remains locked away.

On the flip side, Dr. Wily is also working on a robot similar to X, and to act as a follow up to Bass. Using the Evil Energy obtained in MegaMan 8, Wily completes his project, and shows a sneak peak to Bass during the events of the second MegaMan arcade game (which takes place after MegaMan 8). This robot dubbed "Zero" won't be released for some time, but once he is... It might've spelled the end for Dr. Light.

The only clue we have to what happened after the Classic series actually goes back to MegaMan X4 (don't worry we'll get to it). In X4 we see flash backs to Wily releasing Zero, and telling Zero about his rival Dr. Light. What did Zero do/what happened after this point? It's all fan speculation.

MegaMan X - 100 Years Later:

The second main series in the MegaMan timeline is MegaMan X and opens up roughly 100 years after the events of Classic.

At some point in time Dr. Light has passed away, and the robots he brought to the world are long gone. His lab has fallen to ruin, and MegaMan X remains inside. It isn't until a scientist by the name of Dr. Cain comes along, that X is discovered, and studied for how different he is. It's Dr. Cain who then sees the benefit in having robots that could think for themselves, and so he decides to reproduce Dr. Light's work and creates the "Reploid" line of robots. Robots based on MegaMan X, with all of his capabilities.

Needless to say... The world really wasn't ready.

Reploids that can think for themselves, is the same thing as humans thinking for themselves -- except much more dangerous. These things are massive machines, that can be turned into war machines as well. They have guns, swords, rockets, jets... You name it! If such a robot turns on humanity, then they will kill everything in their path. Such Reploids are officially dubbed as "Mavericks," and a group of Reploids are brought together to fight against such threats -- the "Maverick Hunters."

Leading the Maverick Hunters is an advanced Reploid by the name of Sigma. He's the best of the best, and has other elite Reploids under his command. Together with his team, Sigma protects humanity from the rogue Reploids, and peace is somewhat returned... That is, until one particular incident.

At some point in time, Zero gets released from Dr. Wily's lab, and goes completely crazy. Sigma is called in to deal with the threat, but things don't go exactly as planned. Although Sigma is able to stop the rampaging Zero, he shatters the crystal on Zero's helmet, and the "Evil Energy" seemingly transfers from Zero to Sigma himself. This marks the start of Sigma's decent into madness, and the events that will change the world forever.

Eventually X himself joins the Maverick Hunters (as he feels responsible for bringing Reploids into the world), and Zero is recruited as well. X and Zero become friends during this time, but X is nowhere near as strong as Zero. Sigma does betray the Maverick Hunters and sets out to destroy the world, and he also takes many of the Maverick Hunters with him. This leaves X and Zero as two of the remaining hunters that can deal with this new Maverick threat (now lead by Sigma), and that's where MegaMan X1 begins.

Now X1 actually has three versions of it's events. You have the original game summaries that basically just describe Sigma turning Maverick, you have a manga adaptation of MegaMan X, and you have the Anime OVA Day of Sigma. The OVA was actually created for the remake of X1 titled "Maverick Hunter X" and shows the moment Sigma turns on everyone, and bombs the city. It serves as a pretty nice prequel to the first game, but it does have some story changes. In this version Dr. Cain himself is nearing the end of his life, and is killed in the explosions. Considering Dr. Cain appears in future MegaMan X games, you can consider this non-canon for the main timeline, but most likely would've been the new canon for Maverick Hunter X2 on up (if they would've happened).


MegaMan X1 follows X and Zero taking down the Mavericks as well as Sigma. Zero is ultimately killed during the final section of the game, and leaves X alone to take down Sigma. X receives power ups left behind by Dr. Light throughout the game, and this is ultimately what gives him the power to beat Sigma. (While X1 has holographic recordings of Dr. Light attached to each upgrade, it's also implied that this may be an AI or Dr. Light's consciousness uploaded. Thus this hologram is actually aware of what's happening in the world.) And while Zero dying might seem like a spoiler, it's actually a reoccurring theme during the rest of the series.

Moving forward, X2 follows X as he continues his life as a Maverick Hunter without Zero by his side. The game introduces new characters, and one in particular looks very similar to a robot version of Dr. Wily. It's actually this Reploid who restores Zero and brings him back into the main story to help X stop Sigma once again. X3 focuses on a new "Anti Virus" to prevent Reploids from turning into Mavericks, but of course the virus fails and infects more. As expected Sigma is behind it, and X and Zero work together again to take him down. Yes it's a very basic story for the first three games in general, but things continue to develop from here on out.

X4 is where things take a turn, and more story is put into the games as a whole. X4 not only focuses on X and how he wants to find a way to bring peace to the world, but it also dives into Zero's story and who he is. As mentioned before, this is where we get to see glimpses of Zero's past, as well as him with Dr. Wily, and the modern day story causes Zero to question who he is and "what he is fighting for." As for the overall plot, it focuses on an army of Reploids who try to form their own nation, but of course things don't go so smoothly. Again, this is the turning point for both X and Zero, and things don't get better for them from here.

X5 we see the full on impact of the Sigma virus (yes Sigma himself has become a virus). At this point Sigma has infected an entire space station, and has set it on a collision course with the Earth, and it is up to X and Zero to put an end to it. To do so, they need to build the "Enigma Cannon" to destroy it before it's too late, but to do so they need to gather the required parts to repair it. Unfortunately the Reploids holding the parts have been infected by the Sigma virus, and have gone Maverick themselves. At this point it is actually possible for the Enigma Cannon to shoot the space colony down, but most of the time it will fail and you'll have to move onto Plan B within the game. And that Plan B is to crash a space shuttle into the colony and destroy it once and for all -- a mission Zero himself takes on.

Canon wise, the space shuttle is what destroys the colony, but it still crashes into the Earth and causes massive damage. The Sigma virus is spread everywhere, and humans become unable to live on the surface. The world is in complete chaos, and both X and Zero head off for the final battle against Sigma in his newest body.

The last part of X5 once again focuses mainly on Zero and who he is. It's revealed that Sigma has met with Wily in the past somehow (the Reploid from X2?) and he goes into detail about how the Sigma virus wont infect Zero, but instead make him stronger. Again, this virus technically originated from Zero to begin with, so it really isn't too surprising to us players. Despite learning the truth about the virus, Zero still takes down Sigma, but once again at the cost of his own life. X is caught up in the battle as well and left almost completely destroyed, but is saved by Dr. Light. (Again, sometimes he acts like a prerecorded message left behind for X, and other times he does things like this.) This is the original end to the X series...

A few years after Sigma's defeat and Zero's death, X continues to fight against Mavericks, but this time he hold's Zero's sword in his hand.

The Split and Retcon of X and Zero Series:

Originally MegaMan Zero 1 was meant to follow X5. Inafune joined up with Inti Create and had an outline for the story to follow. The game was to begin with X returning Zero's sword to him, but the overall plot had to be adjusted moving on from there. Ultimately the X series was too successful to stop it at X5, so X6 went into development at Capcom along side Zero 1. So changes to the story had to be made.

The Last Half of the X Series:

MegaMan X6 focuses on a strange new event called the Nightmare, and it changed some of the story events around to make the new story work. The time skip at the end of X5 is changed to happening a few weeks later rather than years, and Zero is once again revived so that he continues to be a main character in the series. Due to these decisions, the story of MegaMan Zero 1 also had to be altered, and the ending of X6 had to be done in a way where it wouldn't conflict with MegaMan Zero 1. So the game ends with Zero being sealed away in order to fix an issue with his body (implied to have something to do with the maverick virus), and the story is left at that. However, once again the X series continued to be popular, so this scene was retconned to take place at an "unknown point of time" so that more games could exist. In other words, this scene is the end of the X series timeline wise, but there are more events that take place between X6's normal ending, and Zero's final scene.

Moving on from there, we have X7 where new generation reploids become a thing, and the new main character Axl is introduced, and X8 that seemingly sets up the future where these new generation of reploids will take over. This is also the game where Sigma is killed once and for all, as a new big bad takes over. Unfortunately, this is where the X series technically comes to an end, so the future is still unknown.

Timeline wise we also have MegaMan X Command Mission which focuses on stopping a reploid rebellion, but the game is considered to be it's own timeline/world at the time of this writing. As the game released before X8, but takes place "after," it's impossible to tell at this time if it's truly a part of the canon as the X series has yet to continue.

The Elf Wars:

Sometime after the events of the X series, a new threat emerged. Using a new AI being known as the "Mother Elf," X manages to delete the Sigma Virus and put an end to the whole Maverick issue that plagued the world. However one evil man by the name of Dr. Weil decides to use the Mother Elf for his own plans instead, and captures her and uses her to put reploids under his control. On top of this, Weil takes Zero's body and creates a new reploid, dubbed Omega, and sets his very own Elf Wars into action. Zero is eventually built a new body, and both he and X put an end to the wars, but at the cost of the lives of most of the population. Once the war was over, Zero was once again sealed away, and a safe haven for humans and reploids known as "Neo Arcadia" is created -- with X as it's leader.

The Zero Series:

The Zero series begins some time after the Elf Wars and features Zero as the main character (obviously). It follows Zero as he's recovered by a young scientist named Ceil who leads a resistance group against Neo Arcadia. Neo Arcadia's government has taken over the world, and began killing innocent reploids as they pleased. Zero is told this is because their leader, X, has become corrupt, but things ultimately aren't that simple.

While the Zero series is only four games long, they are much more story focused than the previous X series, and feature hub areas to explore, multiple characters to talk to, and follow a different mission style structure. The series has plenty of characters with a wide range of backgrounds and mini story arcs to discover, and also once again dives into who Zero is. Zero 4 especially relies on the events of MegaMan X5, while Zero 1 serves as an introduction to this new version of the world. Eventually it's revealed that the X running Neo Arcadia is a fake, and that the real X has been turned into a Cyber Elf himself as he attempted to watch over the world alone. With Zero's return however, he takes a step back, and leaves the fate of the world in the hands of his best friend.

By the end of the Zero series, Zero is once again forced to go up against Dr. Weil, and finally puts an end to his plan of using the Dark Elf.... It's just, this time Zero also doesn't survive.

The thing about the Zero series and it's placement in the timeline, is that the dev team over at Inti Creates had a plan from the get go. Previously the MegaMan series jumped into the 3D gaming space with a title called MegaMan Legends. Now this game did have multiple changes for the US release, but it's overall plot did remain the same. That being said, the game was set at the "end" of the MegaMan timeline, and the Zero dev team wanted to use the new Zero series to help lead the timeline to this point. This is one of the main reasons the reploids in Zero were given more human like appearances, and why Legends like designs could be seen throughout the games. With the events of Zero ending the way that they do, it left the series open to a new beginning, and would eventually lead the series to it's Legends conclusion... But things change...

The ZX Series:

The ZX series was the follow up to Zero, and took place hundreds of years after Zero. This time around humans and reploids have both advanced to the point where it's nearly impossible to tell them apart from each other (reploids now have biological parts, while humans are mechanically enhanced), except reploids are given a red triangle symbol on their heads. The story follows a corrupt government once again, with the main character being a human who joins the resistance. This time around the resistance is lead by a reploid who was a supporting character in the Zero series, and the main human character fights using a new device known as a "Bio Metal." Bio Metals are objects that contain the data of reploids from the past, and using them humans are able to transform into a version of said reploid. In ZX1's case, the main character (default character is a boy named Vent) gets Model X and transforms into a version of MegaMan X. He eventually gets Model Z as well (for Zero), as well as some other Bio Metals based off of other characters from the Zero series.

Sadly the ZX series only received two entries, with the second game (ZX Advent) focusing more on the mysterious new Model A that is very similar to the reploid Axl from the X series. Unfortunately, ZXA ends on a cliffhanger where a character reveals his plan to "reset" the world... Could this have been the event that leads to Legends? We may never know...

A World of Endless Water:

MegaMan Legends takes place far into the future, on an Earth that has been almost completely flooded. People live on small islands throughout the world, and many make a living as "Diggers" exploring old ruins from the world's past. The main character of this series is a 14 year old boy who was discovered sleeping in some old ruins, and is adopted by a famous Digger named Barrell Caskett. Barrell names the boy Rock (MegaMan in the US version... Which I'll touch on that soon...), and decides to raise him along side his granddaughter Roll. 

MegaMan Legends 1 focuses on the family crash landing on an island and going up against the pirates who show up looking for the treasure said to be hidden there, while Legends 2 focuses more on Roll and her parents who vanished when she was little. At first glance the games don't seem to have too much of a connection to the rest of the series, but both the ending of Legends 1, and specific events in Legends 2 help shed some light on that.

The truth is... This is so far into the future, that humanity has completely died out, and the "humans" that have replaced them are basically the next step in reploid evolution.

Rock himself is actually a "RockMan Unit" as part of the old system created by the last human being. His job was as an "Irregular Hunter" (the Japanese name for Maverick Hunters), and his job was to keep the order. But one thing lead to another, Rock was seriously injured, and he was sealed away within some ruins -- where Barrell would eventually discover him. 

As for the name changes in the English release... It kinda kills the plot twist. (Although me saying all of this does as well.) Rock was a seemingly "normal" teenager, with it being revealed that he's actually a RockMan Unit. Meanwhile in the US release, this "normal" kid is named MegaMan, and is actually a MegaMan Unit. Doesn't quite have the same impact when the so called normal kid is already named MegaMan...

And this is the current end to the series! No game has taken place after MegaMan Legends 2, with Legends 3 being canceled many years ago. It's a shame we haven't continued past this point, but maybe someday it'll happen... But, that's not the end of MegaMan.

Filling in the Gaps of the Classic Timeline:

Due to there being multiple time skips, there's plenty of room to fill in the gaps. MegaMan 9, 10, and 11 are all "newer" entries in the classic series, and all take place before X. X itself has ended on a cliffhanger with X8, and there's still quite a bit of time between X8 and X6's Zero ending. The Elf Wars themselves have never been shown in a game, only talked about, and the ZX series also ends on a cliffhanger. Not to mention there's a time skip between Zero and ZX that could be visited if they chose to, and there's a massive gap between ZX and Legends in general. So even if we get a sequel to ZX Advent, it doesn't mean that sequel would take us directly to Legends. Basically it's possible for entire new MegaMan Classic timeline series to be created thanks to these gaps, and games like MegaMan Classic, X, ZX, and Legends can always have direct sequels. So, this story is far from over... And this is still only one branch of the timeline.

Going Back to the Split:

So as I explained way back at the beginning, we have a point where the two main timelines diverged. In the Classic Timeline we have Dr. Light and Dr. Wily working together to create robots, but in the Battle Network timeline... Things went quite a bit different.

In Battle Network, this world's version of Dr. Wily is working along side a man named Dr. Hikari (which translates to Light). Wily focuses on robot research just as we see in the Classic series, but Dr. Hikari turns his focus towards creating a virtual cyber world. Needless to say, Dr. Wily becomes jealous of this world's version of Dr. Light, as Dr. Hikari's internet research is given more of a focus, and in return changes the world. Thanks to that research, the entire world becomes connected to the cyber world, and everyone begins carrying around handheld computers with their very own AI companions within them. This is what creates the world of Battle Network.

The Battle Network Series:

While the Battle Network timeline isn't as long or as complicated as the Classic timeline -- it is an RPG series and has much more story due to that. The first game in the series introduces us to our main character Lan (Netto in Japan... Yes, it's exactly what you might be thinking right now), and his AI Net Navi MegaMan.EXE. The two get caught up in cyber terrorist attacks being lead by Dr. Wily, and shows how the two eventually put an end to his plot. Of course, this is only scratching the surface, as Battle Network 2 introduces us to a new big bad, which in return connects to Battle Network 1's story, which is then expanded upon in Battle Network 3. Battle Network 4 begins a new story arc (which still builds off of what 1-3 set), and 5 and 6 serve as a conclusion to the story overall. A lot of things happen along the way however, and many of these events somewhat tie back into what we saw in the Classic series. Robots like Cutman from MegaMan 1 are seen in this series as Net Navis instead, and most are bad guys/play similar roles in this timeline as well. So again, while the series isn't as long as the main Classic timeline -- the games themselves are packed full of story and content.

Due to the nature of Battle Network, I prefer not to spoil the series. Timeline wise, it is pretty straight forward (as I explained above), but there's actually three versions of it.

The story canon to the games is as follows: Battle Network, Network Transmission, Battle Network 2, 3, Chip Challenge, 4, 5, and 6 -- with a non canon spin off "navi simulator" titled 4.5. This is the main timeline of Battle Network, with the other two timelines coming from other media.

On the anime side of things, we have a retelling of the Battle Network story, with tons of added content, and completely changed stories made just for the show. Season 1 is an adaptation of mainly Battle Network 1 and 2 (with great alterations), while Axess, Steam, Beast, and Beast + go their own routes completely. In other words, things seen in the show, don't relate back to the games, outside of borrowing characters.

The manga for Battle Network is more of an adaptation of the games compared to the anime, but even this timeline is different. It does however have a special (newly released) chapter that serves as an epilogue to both the games and manga, so that's a little bit of a gray area... And it's also the current "end" to the first series in this cyber world based timeline.

Star Force:

MegaMan Star Force is the second series in the alternate timeline, and takes place 200 years after Battle Network. It shows a world where the virtual world has turned into wi-fi networks, and humanity has finally broken away from relying on Net Navis... Or at least at first. The first game focuses on Geo, a young boy who lost his dad in a space accident, and an alien who fuses with him to transform him into the new super hero in town -- MegaMan. The two go up against other aliens and the humans they've fused with, and it mostly focuses on Geo trying to find a place in the world, and finally getting him to open up to others. Moving forward however, things do shift back towards the way things were in Battle Network. In SF3 a new version of navis finally return, and everyone in the world has them again, but unfortunately this is currently where things end. Star Force 3 is the last entry in the timeline, and we currently don't know where things will head from here. However, there was one small addition...

Operation Shooting Star was a remake of Battle Network 1, but actually begins with Geo (after the events of Star Force 3) traveling back in time to stop a new threat. This story arc takes place during a time skip that happened during Battle Network 1, and shows Lan and Geo meeting, and working together to stop this evil time traveler. The way it's handled makes it so nothing from Battle Network 1 (or the series in general) is retconned, and it also doesn't really advance the Star Force series. It's simply an extra story added into an enhanced remake of the original game. But it happened, and that's why I'm mentioning it here!

And then you have the anime.

Like Battle Network, Star Force also received an anime adaptation, which was a bit closer to what the games had to offer... But not really. While it didn't break away and do crazy things like the BN anime did, it still did it's own overall story. That being said, this anime series was a sequel to Battle Network's Beast +, so it falls into the very same anime timeline. It's just unlike BN, it only lasted for two series -- Star Force, and Tribe.

The End:

And that's basically it! My complicated long winded explanation of the MegaMan Timeline! If you actually read through all of that, and didn't get confused... Congrats and thank you for taking the time!! Yeah, this ended up being longer than I expected... But I also had fun going back through it. It reminded me how much I love this series as a whole, and how much I can't wait for new entries to be finally released. There's so much left open, so I hope one day we can finally fill in these gaps.

Well until next time guys!

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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Platinum Log: The Jak Series

Oh wow, it's been YEARS since I've last done one of these. The "Platinum Log" is a series I started to discuss games I actually took the time to do everything in -- or at least enough to get the game's Platinum Trophy. I was hoping to get through all of my games, and then start making new posts as I earned new ones; however, I slacked off... A lot... Life got busy, and I never got back to it. That is, until today!

For the first time in 6 years, I'm here today to talk about the next entries in my log book. This entry isn't just one game however; it's actually three. Platinums # 4, 5, and 6.

As previous posts mentioned, Gravity Rush for the Vita was my first platinum. I went on to buy Resistance Burning Skies for Vita because I wanted more games, and it too was an easy platinum to get. This lit a fire in me that urged me to finish off some of my other games, and actually start hunting for trophies -- which lead me to go back to Rune Factory Tides of Destiny to finish it off. Instead of jumping to my next backlogged game though, I changed directions and once again went for something new: The Jak series.

Jak is something I never got to play as a kid. I didn't have a PS2, and by the time I did I didn't feel like trying these games out. I thought they were "kids" games and I had better things to do/play. (I was a dumb teenager.) Well, one day as I sat there at college I discovered something. The Jak and Sly collection were on sale on Amazon, and I had the extra money to buy them! In reality, the only reason I even bothered buying them was simply because I had missed out on them. I now had a PS3 that was lacking on exclusive games, and these two PlayStation exclusive series just seemed perfect for it. Plus I liked Naughty Dog, so of course I decided I'd play Jak first once they came. (I found the cringy post I made back then also... Ouch me... And seriously? I didn't like DMC? What was wrong with me?)

I still remember sitting there on one of the final days of college, as I talked to my friend Ryan as I ordered them. We were sitting in one of our usual spots in the math building, while also talking to another friend through my laptop. Nothing crazy happened that day, but it's the memory I always think of when I go back to these games. The other memory that comes to mind relates to Pokemon Black 2, and our home getting new windows put in. During that time I was dealing with health issues related to my wisdom teeth, and games like Pokemon Black 2 were helping me keep my mind off of it. While I also didn't have access to my room (thanks to all the furniture being moved around) it gave me something to do anywhere. But once I was able to get back in there, it was all Jak and Daxter.

Although it was a simple game, the first Jak had me hooked right away. I actually enjoyed collecting every little thing, and exploring it's world. My dad was home from work so I remember him walking in and watching me play once in awhile, but I mostly went through it on my own. Then at night while I was getting close to the end, we suddenly heard a crash, and looked out the window to see my old picture window shattered into millions of pieces -- the wind had blown it over and it had fallen just right to bust it. Originally we were going to donate it to a family friend, but that didn't happen! I know it's random, but it's yet again another memory of mine from Jak 1. Of course the game isn't that long, so it was shortly after the thing broke that I finished off Jak 1, and got the platinum. The game was just flat out fun. It didn't do anything too crazy platforming wise, but it was one of those games I felt like I had to do everything to actually beat the game. Anything less felt like I was cheating. And if you're wondering what type of game Jak 1 exactly was? Well of course I had to write a review over it once I finished it! 

The moment I finished Jak 1, I went right for Jak 2. I had always heard this was the point in the series that it became aimed at teens, and apparently people weren't kidding. Jak started cussing, the world was a lot darker and more bleak, you could hijack cars and drive them around a hub city, and guns became the new way to fight. It was a clear evolution of the series, but it also felt like something new all at the same time. Those who liked the happy go lucky adventure in 1 may not enjoy what 2 became, but once again I actually loved it. In fact, I liked it more than 1, and enjoyed the story it had to tell! It wasn't anything too crazy either, but the way it played out kept me invested. (Also quite a few of the "adult" jokes made me laugh!) But anyway... It continued to keep me hooked just as the previous game did, but this time I wasn't able to do it all in one go. While Jak and Daxter took me roughly two days, Jak 2 took me two weeks. I had a bit more going on in my life at this moment, and I also mainly just played the game at night. Eventually I did finish it off though, and then went back to get everything I missed for the platinum. This time around the game had side quests/side stories you needed to complete also (as it had that open world hub area with NPCs), so it was quite a bit more work than the original. (And of course you still had to collect things to.) But ultimately, getting the platinum for 2 never felt like a chore either, and it left me wanting more. (Yes I reviewed this one also.)

Jak 3... I'm actually mixed on this one. It was a continuation of what 2 had done, but with a much larger focus on the vehicles. It wasn't bad by any means, but at this point maybe I was starting to feel the burn of playing the games back to back. That didn't stop me from finishing it in a day though! Overall the game did feel smaller/shorter though, and it seemed to have an even bigger focus on the side content compared to the main game. Even this isn't exactly a bad thing, but it left me feeling like 2 was the main game in the series, while 3 felt like a post game after story/conclusion for it all. For the platinum I actually didn't even get one of the trophies the legit way however, because a glitch caused me to pick up and respawn a collectible -- so I unlocked it before I had actually done it myself. But while I didn't enjoy 3 as much as 2, I still felt it was worth a playthrough, and would like to go back to it again sometime. Heck, might even go back and play through all of the PS4 releases for 3 more platinums!

So overall, I do really like the series. It's been 10 years since I've actually gone through them, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. They were great platforming games, and a part of the golden age of PS2 platformers -- one that I missed out on as a kid. So getting to experience it years later on PS3 was a pretty great feeling, and something I do want to return to whenever I get the time. All three were well worth the platinum.

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Monday, May 1, 2023

MegaMan Battle Network - The Game That Made Me Who I Am

What makes a person? The answer? A lot of things. Who we are is determined by so many factors, that you can write entire books on the subject, yet never cover everything. Everything from genetics, to our environment influences who we become, and it is a never ending process. Sure, at some point people will become "stuck in their ways," but we are creatures that are able to adapt, and change as needed. So when asked "what makes you, you," many people will bring up things that were major influences on them. Not too long ago I made a post discussing how I grew up, but that's just one small part in the overall picture. As this is a gaming blog, I mainly discuss games and what not -- but there's so much more that has happened in my life, that it's shaped me into the person I am today. It's just sometimes games are at the center of such events, and sometimes these games lead me down a road I never expected to walk. When I look at everything that's happened to me because of games, then there's one series that truly made me who I am today. And that's MegaMan Battle Network.

Now, I'll be blunt. This isn't a short story. I'm sorry in advance if it feels like I'm rambling! But the simple fact is, this series means more to me than any other game series in existence. It's the game series that was the gateway to pretty much everything in my life, and because of that it really isn't going to be easy to explain it all. There's going to be a lot I miss, but I still wanted to take the time to go into what I can. I know I've mentioned some of these things in the past on this blog, but today I'd like to just get it all out there at once. I know it might sound stupid that a game had such an impact on me, but I hope you'll just hear me out, and maybe then  you'll understand. This is my story.

The first time I saw Battle Network, I didn't really care. I loved MegaMan thanks to my uncle letting me play MegaMan X, but I was limited on what games I could get as a kid (obviously). I didn't expect to play it, but I had to admit that the box art did look cool. I'd see it sitting on the shelf and look at it, but that's all the farther it initially went. This went on for an entire year, and up until the release of Battle Network 2 -- which again, I didn't expect to get. I was 10 at the time, and in my mind, I had other things to do, and other games to play. But then, things suddenly change.

I don't know why this happened, but I still remember the day clearly. It was the middle of summer, and I woke up at my mom's work home (again, I explained the situation in my previous post). It was a normal day, but for whatever reason I got this weird feeling like "you need to play Battle Network." I wasn't thinking about it or planning on ever getting it -- I seriously woke up with this thought in my mind, and a weird feeling that wouldn't go away. I didn't even know what the game was about. I just knew it was MegaMan, and at this point it might've even been months since I last saw the game in stores. (In fact, I know it had been months -- but I'll get to that later.) Even so, I just had to have it for some reason. It was seriously like something inside me was telling me to get it, and it wouldn't take no for an answer. I've only had this feeling a handful of times in my life, and this is the earliest example I can remember.

So what did I do? I listened.

Being 10, I didn't have a lot of money saved, but I had to come up with a way to get more. I knew later that day my mom and grandma would take me to pick up their paychecks, and usually we would go to Walmart after. So I got together all the change I had saved, and asked my mom if I could make a deal with her to earn whatever I was missing. She agreed, and I got to work doing chores around the house. I didn't know at the game I'd only need a few dollars, but as a 10 year old that was HUGE. Man, I can still picture myself running around the house doing everything I could possibly do just to earn a little bit more change... And then we got in the car and headed over to my grandparent's house.

The rest of that day went as usual. We drove 20 minutes away to the bank to get their checks, we stopped by McDonalds and sat in our usual spot, and then we went over to Walmart to get our weekly shopping done. At the time it wasn't a Super Walmart, but it still had the basics which were needed. Once we got there my mom took me over to the game section, and... It wasn't there. We looked everywhere, and we couldn't find a single MegaMan game on the shelves. Of course I was disappointed, but as we were getting ready to leave we noticed something -- the discount shelf. Apparently they did have it! For half off! Back then new GBA games were $30, and Walmart had one copy of Battle Network for sale for $15 -- such a great deal. I'm not even sure if my mom had to give me extra cash to buy it, but I didn't care! I was more than happy to give up everything I had for it. So that's what I did.

Walking around Walmart, I kept looking at and reading the back of the box. At one point though, for some reason the whole "Cyber World" thing bothered me. To put it bluntly, I was weird as a kid, and I'd refuse to play any game that had too much sci-fi or fantasy. I especially dropped things that featured magic, so this "entering the Cyber World" thing bugged me. Heck I actually put the game down on a shelf to leave it, but something inside screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING IDIOT, PICK IT UP" and so I did. I ended up buying the game after all, and we went home.

Of course I played it on the way back. We had a 20 minute drive, and a few other stops to make. I remember sitting on the Town Square as my mom ran inside her work's main office for a second, and that's when I first heard the ACDC Town main theme. It's a song I would end up loving, and a song I still think about every time I drive through that square (especially when my iTunes would happen to play it on my drive home as I went around that square). Eventually we'd get back to my grandparent's house, and my grandpa wanted us to ride with him somewhere as well -- so once again we took off. "Look mom I'm on the Internet!" Exact words I said as I continued to play the game while riding in his van. By 3:00 PM we had to be back at my mom's work, but of course that didn't stop me from continuing playing. I basically spent the rest of the summer on that game, up until I got stuck in Elecman's stage.

When school started again, and I went to middle school, I made sure to tell my friends about Battle Network as much as possible. (I thought it was cool that both me and Lan were 10.) We would play freeze tag outside in the school yard, but we'd put our own twists on it. We would pretend to be our favorite characters, and everyone had a special "move" to protect themselves from being frozen. I chose to be MegaMan.EXE, and I wanted my special move to be the Elect Sword Battle Chip. I explained to my friends how the sword would come out of the gun on his hand, and would do 120 damage if you managed to hit someone with it. In freeze tag terms, this translated to "I can freeze you once for 12 seconds if I slash you in time." Of course my friends didn't really understand, but throughout the year that would slowly change. I'd keep explaining the game to them, and eventually by the end of the next year, (6th grade) the show had been announced for Kids WB -- and of course everyone decided to watch it. In fact, I remember at the end of the school year we got to have a free day at the local park, and I spent a lot of that free day explaining things that would eventually happen in the show to them. That's also when we all started "playing" MegaMan at recess.

I think the release of the anime is what eventually pushed me to finish Battle Network 1, and move onto Battle Network 2. Again by this point the game was up for sale dirt cheap, but me and my dad had to run allover the place to track a copy down. We eventually found it on the discount shelf at Target in a city roughly an hour away, but man... It was complete luck. Me and him ended up spending the entire day together because my mom had to work a weekend, and it took most of that day to finally find it. I had a lot of fun though, and it was one of the few times we did something like that. Just him and me I mean... I often wonder if he remembers that day?

That start of that summer was spent playing Battle Network 2, and swimming at my grandparent's house. I'd bring BN2 with me of course, but usually I was playing outside every chance I got back then. I have a lot of fond memories from the game however, and I remember it shocked me quite a few times. Seeing Lan cuss for example -- didn't expect that! Then you had the whole rap battle for whisky thing. (How did they get away with this?) It made me realize that Battle Network wasn't exactly a kids game, and now that I think about it, I think it was the first game I owned that actually had cussing in it. Er, except for Crazy Taxi on the DreamCast, but that's a little different... Anyway -- I loved BN2, and it is honestly still one of my favorite games. Going back to school the next year (7th grade) was me talking about Battle Network, and discussing the show with friends once again, but we also continued our new tradition of "playing" Battle Network during recess. Of course I wanted to be Lan, my friends Ryan chose Dex, Ian created his own character, and Keith was Chaud (little did he know he was the coolest character of them all)... But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Leading up to the anime's announcement the school year of 6th grade was kinda crazy.

A lot happened during 6th grade for me, but I guess I don't have much more to say related to BN. Yeah,  I kept playing both 1 and 2 non stop throughout the year, but this wasn't the moment things changed for me. It was actually that next summer that would start it all. Now at this point I was getting interested in the internet as a whole (thanks MegaMan), but my focus was actually more towards Sonic. I joined the Sonic Team BBS, and people there would talk about their own fan websites, so that's what lead me to create the "MegaMan BBS." It would eventually become a MegaMan/Sonic discussion forum, but it wasn't much more than us kids messing around at the time. I didn't get serious with forums until I used Invision Power Boards to create The Chao Hideout, which would become a focus for me and my friends during the rest of our middle school years. But even this wouldn't explode until a little later.

The summer of 6th grade did change some things quite a bit as well. On top of getting Battle Network 2, the spinoff Network Transmission came out in the GameCube (which I ultimately ended up getting as well), but it wasn't my main focus. At around this same time MegaMan Battle Network 3 was also on its way, and my family decided to take us on a weekend get away around my birthday. The game would release around the same time, so she told me that she’d buy it for me once we found it. Our vacation wasn’t anywhere too far — it was actually to a city in Illinois called Bloomington, where we got to stay at a fancy hotel because of a deal my mom’s work had going on. So we took my grandparents with us, and spent the whole weekend just hitting all the stores and doing different things around the city. For me the highlight of the entire vacation was finding BN3 at the mall, but the trip was fun overall. I would play BN3 in the hotel at night, and on the way back home (of course), but even without the game it was still a nice trip. Once we got home however, I had to call Ryan and tell him right away that I was able to get it, and to my surprise so did he! This was a game changer.

Up until then it was always me talking about the games, and my friends watching the show. Now one of my best friends had the newest entry, AND to top it off, he bought Blue version while I had White. BN3 was the point in the series where multiple versions became a thing, and to 100% complete the games you needed to trade exclusive chips between the two versions. So since we both different versions, we were pretty much set. The rest of both of our summers (and the following school year) was spent playing the game, and it was amazing.

Both me and Ryan went to my church’s Bible School that year, and I remember we’d spend the car rides up (and back) Net Battling each other. Then every time we went to each other’s house, we made sure we always brought our copy of the game as well. We’d spend countless hours talking to each other on the phone, as we tried to complete everything and help each other, and of course we made sure to trade things to each other to help each other out. Eventually we did in fact 100% complete the game, but it was sooo much work, and took countless months and hours. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. It was a good 7th grade year. Although, me being “funny” about specific games did delay me some. (I’ll admit, the whole “demon” costume thing in BN3 bothered me at first.)

After yet another year went by, it was finally the summer of 7th grade, and my 8th grade year was quickly approaching. At this point I became much more involved with the internet, web design, fan sites, etc, and my friends were there with me. Chip Challenge would come out before Easter that year (which I've talked about in the past), but Battle Network 4 was the game me and Ryan would play off and on throughout that summer (again we got different versions), but the life changing stuff wouldn’t really happen for me until school started. Although we were getting older, all us friends kept role playing “MegaMan” during breaks, and that’s when I had the idea… “Let’s bring this ‘game’ to everyone.” And thus, Cyber Net was born.

Cyber Net was a MMBN rpg forum. We setup systems where you gained experience for every single post you made, and we used the profile signatures to give members their own personal navis. Originally we kept things basic, where stronger members would clearly beat weaker members, but we made sure everything was fair as well. If players had a creative way to win fights, then they win. It was all about using your imagination to come up with a way to win, while also staying within the limits of the Battle Network series. Shop areas were setup where you could gain different Battle Chips, some members opened their own "Custom Navi" shops for those who weren't experienced in graphic editing, and we kept up to date with what the series itself was currently doing. The Navi Customizer was there to add extra abilities and programs, and we allowed the form change and Double Soul systems as well. Basically we adapted everything that made BN into a forum RPG format, and it continued to evolve throughout the years. Eventually we borrowed from the anime, and introduced Net City as well -- a series of area based boards, each with their own functions and sub boards to explore. It became pretty in depth, and it attracted thousands of members. I never imagined it would become as big as it did, but... Yeah, it was a heck of a lot of fun. It's because of Cyber Net however, that I am where I am today.

CN (what I'll call it going forward) was what really taught me about the internet, and web design. It's what caused me to meet a lot of amazing people, and what got me more involved in the MegaMan community. I joined other fan sites and met great people (like Spikeman.EXE over at MMBN Online -- the guy who started the Rockman.EXE 4.5 Translation), and I learned more about the series in the process. One event that really changed things for me however, was when "Grave" attacked. Using the dubbed anime's version of "the bad guy's," we had a group consisting of unknown members attack CN. The group was lead by a member named Forte, and other members created alternate accounts to join under their ranks. These members were given extreme powers, and played out a story where I was kicked out of the site, and they took over. At the time I was using the username "Lan," but I rejoined my own site under the name "Netto" (Lan's Japanese name) to fight back against the Grave attack. As Netto, I united the members of the site, and went on an all out attack against Grave in CN's RPG. Grave made it clear that they would give up/return control of CN to "Lan" if they could be beaten, so it gave everyone a clear goal to fight towards. There were some members who were truly concerned about me/me losing the forum to a group of "hackers," but I ensured them that everything was okay. Eventually at the end of the story, Grave was "pushed away" and I revealed to everyone that I Netto, was in fact Lan, the creator of CN... But I didn't go back to being Lan. Instead, the name Netto stuck.

Of course to pull off a huge story like that, I had a lot of help. While many Grave members name's were unknown, some of my friends (who were also staff members) were a part of the group. This made sure Grave never gained too much power, and made sure they could not harm the site. Their attacks on specific staff members (such as banning their accounts/deleting their data from the RPG) was of course of their own doing (Staff Member B's Grave account, deleting Staff member B's Staff Member account.) Nothing was lost, but it made this evil group all the more convincing. I kept them under careful watch as well, and directed what they could or couldn't do. I wanted them to remain convincing, but ultimately it was all a game. What I didn't see coming however, is that eventually Grave inspired other members to form their own groups within the RPG as well. Without the same power of course, but these groups became new threats that members would fight against with a common goal. They were stories that I took part in, but had no control over -- and it was fun! This is how I actually met a lot of people, and made a lot of friends. These are people I would talk to for many years, and many of them would follow me to other projects as well -- including Netto's Game Room. Cyber Net as a whole shaped our lives at least in some way, but for me it was a huge impact... This site wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for CN.

During the height of CN's popularity, I didn't slow down. I still joined other fan sites as well, and went anywhere I could find to talk about Battle Network. That's when I got the crazy idea to check out the official Kid's WB forums. They had a MegaMan NT Warrior board to discuss the show, and I noticed a lot of people (most likely kids) wondering what happened next. The show got canceled after Axess in the west, but continued on for quite awhile in Japan. So I wanted to let them know that the series wasn't over, and that I had an answer to the question of "what's next." So I signed up for the site -- however, I ran into one issue. I couldn't use the name "Netto" and I wasn't sure what else to use. I didn't want to use "Super Shadow ?" like I was using on Sonic forums, so instead I went with the first thing that popped into my head. "NettoSaito." 

Netto, again, was Lan's Japanese name, but as for Saito? It's a little bit of a spoiler. Let's just say, it's a name MegaMan goes by in Japan. (The reasons why? You'll have to play the game to understand.) Anyway, I used this username originally just to join Kids WB, but it's what ended up sticking. Since that day I've been "NettoSaito" pretty much everywhere, and it's what would go on to inspire, well, things like this. Netto's Game Room. The name Netto would continue on since that day, and Cyber Net would continue to serve as the basis for pretty much all of my online projects. It's the reason I would branch out into fan game development, and the main reason I created an actual MMORPG for me and my friends (and those who happened to stumble upon it). But it's because of Battle Network in general, that I even got interested in the online world, and future technology. I never thought something like the PET would exist, but I always wished it would. Now days that dream has become a reality thanks to smart phones. So, in short, even my interests were influenced by this series, and it doesn't stop there.

While CN continued on, of course more Battle Network games were released. I was a 13 year old running a popular online forum, but I still had to make time to play the actual games as well. So Battle Network 4 is what continued through 8th grade, and Battle Network 5 was released the summer between 8th and 9th grade. For 8th grade graduation I finally got a PS2 so I could finally play the newer MegaMan X games, but for my birthday I managed to get a copy of Battle Network 5 as well. Actually, I didn't even expect to find it honestly. My cousin bought me Kirby Canvas Curse for the DS, and I wanted to use my birthday money to buy Amazing Mirror so I could unlock extras in Canvas Curse. When we went to Target though, Battle Network 5 happened to be sitting there on the shelf! Thankfully I had enough to buy both it and Kirby. What I didn't realize however, was that when we stopped by to see my grandma (on my dad's side) on the way home, it would be one of the last times I actually saw her. She had Alzheimer's and usually didn't remember who we were, but we still stopped by every time we were in the area to see her (and my dad's brother). I remember sitting there playing BN5 during the visit, thinking nothing of it... And then we headed home. It wasn't anything special honestly, and I'm pretty sure she slept the entire time like usual. But after that day, we didn't really make it back up there. In fact, that side of the family came to our house for Christmas, and my grandma passed away a few weeks later on Friday the 13th.

That Christmas was interesting... I got MegaMan Zero 4 (from my mom's mom), and Battle Network 5 Double Team DS as a present, but also Animal Crossing Wild World and Mario Kart DS. It was my first real experience with an online games, and it's because of these games I was able to help keep my mind off of my grandma. MegaMan Zero 4 stayed in my DS and was always there to play when I needed it, and Animal Crossing WW became my "I have to take it everywhere, and play every day" type of game. I didn't care as much for BN5 DS, simply because it wasn't too much different... But it was found in a clearance bin at Walmart despite being new (so I knew I was getting it), and it was grabbed to be just something extra to give me. Personally I was more excited for the future of the series, and Animal Crossing took over anyway... So yeah... Overall the end of 2005 was great, and I was pretty hopeful going into 2006. But then my grandma passed away, and I learned what it was like to lose a family member.

Summer of 2006 was when I finished my freshman year of high school, and it's also when Battle Network 6 released. The game was set to be the end of the series, and I was pretty sad about that (obviously). By this point Cyber Net was really booming, and BN6 would be the last game to give us content to keep building our RPG off of. But I was still excited to play it, and so were most of the other members on CN. With BN5, many discussions were opened about the game, and the whole community worked together to get through everything and 100% complete the games. With BN6 it would go on to be the same way, but it was the last time this would happen. It was sad, but cool to see at the same time -- the ending to the story we all loved so much. I remember talking to Ryan about it in PE as we were packing our stuff up from the locker room (as school was ending for the summer), but by this point he had moved on from his GBA. So this time around it was just me and the members of CN going through it. We couldn't play against each other of course, but it was still fun. And so, that's what I'd spend my next summer doing. Playing BN6, and wishing the series wouldn't really end.

CN continued on after BN6. We introduced the Cyber Beasts to the RPG, and members continued to create their own stories. Memberships declined, but it was never about the popularity -- it was about the good people who were there making it a place you wanted to visit. I met so many great people, and many would continue to have an impact on my life for the years to come.

Eventually MegaMan Star Force was announced as a follow up series, and we all somewhat got our wish. The series continued in a new form, and of course we all jumped on board. Cyber Net began focusing on the changes made by the Star Force series, but we made sure to not stray too far from our BN roots. Star Force 1 released not too long after I got my driver's license, and it was the first time I took off on my own in a car to get something I really wanted. Tracking the game down wasn't easy, and it was my aunt who eventually found it for me (I just had to go pick it up). I hated driving, so it was a big deal to me -- but Star Force was worth it! Star Force 2 released the summer before my senior year, and it's one of the last games I got to play while I was at my mom's worth home/office. It would close later that year. And then you had Star Force 3 releasing that next summer, right before I started college -- which was terrifying. Although these three games didn't have as big of an impact on me, I did enjoy them, and they released at the end of my childhood. They were the games that sent me off into the real world, and the true end to the series I had just spent the last 8-9 years of my life playing. From the start of middle school, up to graduation and college -- they were there with me through it all.

As for Cyber Net, it continued on up until interest died. The thing about a fan site is, it only lasts as long as the series it's based on. Discussion about Star Force continued while the games were coming out (if it wasn't for GlacialLeaf helping everyone out with SF3, who knows when we would've finished "that" section), but with only 3 games being released -- there was only so much to talk about. Eventually things died down, and the new members joining didn't even know what Battle Network or Star Force was all about... Which was fine, but it caused stories to go in a completely different direction. Eventually their interest died out too, and the site faded into history -- sorta. My other fan projects continued on, and members of Cyber Net jumped over to those projects as well, and eventually the CN spirit would be rebooted over at Capcom's official Capcom-Unity where Netto's Game Room was born in 2011. Then eventually during the summer of 2013, we'd open, and break off on our own -- where we are to this day! Ultimately, this blog wouldn't even exist if it weren't for Battle Network, nor would I have met all the great people over at Capcom-Unity either. So much happened in my life because of this series, and it all started with me getting a funny feeling. 

Crazy how things work out right?

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Monday, April 10, 2023

Why Harvest Moon Still REALLY Annoys Me

There's not a lot in the world of gaming that I really let bother me. Hey, if I don't like a game, then I just stop playing it. If people obsess over something I don't care for? That's fine -- if they like it that's all that matters. Everyone has their own opinions, and I'll always respect that. Of course there are controversies that arise here and there as well, but most of the time such things blow over. Something usually happens to bring justice to those who were wronged, or it becomes a case where everyone boycotts the game or something. While some of the things that happen are truly horrible -- it's usually not long lasting, and as such, it doesn't continue to bother me as the years go on. Yeah, well, I can't say the same about the video game series "Harvest Moon." It's one of those things that just... Gets under my skin.

Why is that? If you're asking, then chances are you're about to learn something to day.

Now let me be blunt about this. I love Harvest Moon. I got into the series after learning about it in Nintendo Power, and the first entry I played was none other than Harvest Moon 64. It was a fun game, and I loved the whole daily life/farm simulator gameplay. It was cool exploring the world, getting to know people, making friends, getting married, having kids, and of course building up your farm. It was a life sim where you were pretty much free to do as you wished, and you never knew what would happen each day. Sure, there was busy work involved with taking care of things, but this actually made it fun. I flat out enjoyed every minute I played of Harvest Moon 64, and it made me want to play as many of the others as possible.

Moving forward I would go back to the original, and basically try to get at least one Harvest Moon game for each console I owned. PS1, GBA, PSP, DS, etc. I didn't buy them all, but I did enjoy each one I played. Heck even Innocent Life (which was somewhat of a let down) became one of my most played PSP games. I just really liked the series! Heck, I'll never forget the day I tracked down Rune Factory, and Rune Factory Frontier was the first game I had ever ordered off of Amazon. It too had issues with it's gameplay systems and loading screens, but I still loved it. That's when I noticed something though... When I noticed the start of what was soon to change...

Up until this point, Harvest Moon was published by a company called Natsume. Games like Rune Factory had subtitles like "A Fantasy Harvest Moon" after it, but Frontier did not. Frontier was instead published by Xseed, which is owned by the developers of the Harvest Moon series (Marvelous Interactive). In Japan the game's name roughly translates to "Farm Story" however, and because of this, Xseed did not own the right's to the name "Harvest Moon" in the west. So when releasing newer Rune Factory games, they could not include "Harvest Moon" in the game's title. And that's where the issues began.

Although Natsume would continue publishing the "Farm Story" part of the series in the west, it was only a matter of time before they were pushed out. And that's exactly what happened.

After the release of Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (it was a new beginning in more ways than one), Xseed completely took over publishing the series. HM3D was the game that would set the groundwork for the series going forward, and the future was looking bright -- for Marvelous that is. Natsume on the other hand, they were understandably not happy about this. They've been publishing the games for years, and it was a huge source of income. Sure they didn't actually make the games (minus a few spin off titles), but their deal to release the series was huge. The thing is, despite all of this, they still "owned" the "Harvest Moon" series. It ultimately didn't matter WHAT was created, or by whom, Natsume could include whatever they wanted as a part of the series name they owned. So with the 3DS becoming more and more popular, what do they do? They release their own "Harvest Moon," that's what.

While the real Harvest Moon (Farm Story) series got renamed to "Story of Seasons," Natsume hired other developers to create new Harvest Moon games for them. These games were low budget titles that looked and felt like knock offs of the real thing, but most people just assumed the game's quality dropped. With each new release Natsume would try to make it seem like they were going back to their "roots," but in reality these roots don't exist. They would continue to release game after game, attempting to cash in on someone else's IP, simply because they owned the name that people associated with that IP. It became a way to keep the Harvest Moon income rolling in, while doing something all their "own" at the same time. And this still continues to this day.

Now, I get how Natsume must feel about all of this. Again, the company they worked with abandoned them so they could do things on their own. I'm sure they felt betrayed; however, the way they responded will never sit right with me. The games they make now are clear rip offs, and not just games inspired by (what is now) Story of Seasons. For example, if you look at something like Stardew Valley, you'll find a game that was carefully crafted with love, and was inspired by Harvest Moon. It's an amazing game, that also finds it's own identity, while keeping the same heart that classic entries in the Harvest Moon series had. I mean, I can go on and on about how great Stardew Valley is, and there are many fans out there who would agree with me. There's no denying how much time and effort went into it, and how much the creator cared about his project. The new "Harvest Moon" games? I can't say the same.

Instead of finding their own identity, or being inspired by the originals, the new Harvest Moon series tries to be Story of Seasons. It copies mechanics (with some exceptions, like the Minecraft rip off entry), stories, character designs, and even tries to bring the "original" Harvest Moon characters back into the game. It doesn't hide that it's trying to be the real series, but ultimately it's still just a knock off. Of course being as it's called Harvest Moon, each game is released as a part of the series, but in reality it's not. Many fans do not know this however, and the games continue to sell. Sure it's reputation has gone down hill over the years, but ultimately, anyone who has any nostalgia for the previous (real) entries in the series, will instantly know what Harvest Moon is when they see it. They won't know Harvest Moon is no longer Harvest Moon -- and there's a high chance they'll give the new games a chance for old time sake. That's how this series is surviving... And it's unfortunate. Without it's branding, it most likely wouldn't last.

On the flip side of things -- Story of Seasons is typically seen as the knock off because of this. The back of the box usually mentions it's a part of the Farm Story series, but it's spelled out as it's Japanese name "Bokujo Monogatari"), but who will even know what this means? Or who even reads the back of a box, when it's sitting behind glass in a store? The only ones who know the truth are those who follow the series, and that's just sad. Natsume continues to cash in using the name people know and love, while the developers are stuck under a new title, and seen as the knock off.

Of course, now that remakes of older titles are coming out, more and more people are learning the truth about the series, but we'll most likely never reach a point where everyone knows. Harvest Moon will continue, and Story of Seasons will follow along behind it in the eye's of the general public. Again, it's understandable how Natsume must've felt when Xseed took over -- but it just doesn't feel right. But that's also how our world works. People will do what people want to do, and money is behind it all. 

The whole thing is just a raw deal for both sides, but I'll always hate the fact that knock off Harvest Moon games continue to enter the market. Pretty much yearly at this point. I know that there are those who truly enjoy the games, and I can respect that, but it'll always leave a bad taste in my mouth. So yeah, the new "Harvest Moon" series will always be the one thing in gaming that annoys me the most...

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Thursday, April 6, 2023

My Life and How I Became a Gamer

I can't believe it. I've had this blog for 12 years now, and there's one story I have never told. The story behind pretty much everything this blog stands for! The reason I became a gamer, and how my life went down this long, long road. It's not a standard story either -- nor is it one I can easily explain without giving more background. You see, it relates directly back to who I am as a person. It's a life that only a handful of people in this world have experienced, and it's the reason I have such compassion and understanding for the way the world is. You see, me becoming a gamer all ties back to this one thing... Sure, I might've gotten into games anyway, but I don't think it would've been as impactful. Of course I've mentioned this "thing" multiple times in the past, but I've never actually explained how it worked, or how it really related to me playing games. So, today, I'm going to do just that. I'm going back to the beginning, and sharing as much of the story as I can. Confidentiality prevents me from going into too much detail, but I'll say what I can. There's also some details I do not remember myself, so I'll be relying on what others have told me. That being said, it's not like I don't have some memories of my own of these events, but I was so young that it's just really small things I can recall. (Small, yet impactful enough on me that I remembered it for some reason.)

Anyway, this is the story of how I became a gamer.

So, growing up, my mom had a unique job. She managed a home for the developed mentally disabled. By the time I was born, she had two clients which I will simply call A and S. I cannot go into the details of what their disabilities were, but A was a younger lady at the time (although older than my mom), while S was the older of the two. My mom's job was to basically live with these two women, and make sure their needs were met. They were mentally not capable of living on their own, and were basically kids. It was my mom's job to teach them to be as independent as possible of course (and she did a great job), but ultimately it would never be possible. They would always need someone. During the day they went to their school/work program, and my mom would be back at the home after 3:00 PM to take care of them when they returned. Back then this house was located roughly an hour away from our real home, so my mom usually just lived there full time. My grandma worked for the same company, so she would take over for my mom on the weekends, but usually we would stay on the weekends as well. Yes, it was a demanding job for my mom with a lot of responsibilities, but it became a second home to us, and those two clients became family. Heck, they even spent a lot of the holidays with us throughout my entire life. Yeah it was a job, but it was also more than that.

Being born in 91, I only have so many memories of this "original" home. When I was getting close to turning 5, my mom's work home got moved to a house closer to our actual home. This way I could stay within the same school district of where I really lived. This original house is where everything started for me though, and I still have a lot of fond memories of it -- as well as some sad ones. For example, when I was really young, we had a dog named Ginger who got hit by a train... She got replaced by a dog named Daisy, who I then grew up with. I was really young when Ginger was around, but I still remember her, and I still remember the day she died. Then you have the house itself. I still remember it's layout nearly perfectly. It's been 28 years since I've seen inside, but those memories have never left me. Like when my dad would leave for work early in the morning, and he'd get toys out of the closet for me. I still remember sitting there playing with those TMNT figures. The memory was impactful enough, that it's never faded. Or that time I wanted to watch the Doug marathon on Nick, but he shut it off after possibly hours! Dumb little things like that are what I remember most honestly, but maybe that's why I remember this so clearly as well. The day I got my Nintendo.

I was 2 years old, and apparently I was already showing interest in video games. I'd go to my cousin's house, and apparently they would hand me a not plugged in controller to play with, while they took control of the actual game. Little kid me was smart enough to realize I wasn't doing anything, and I'd get mad at them and REALLY want to play. But I was too little, and they figured I wouldn't be able to. But eventually they replaced their Nintendo with a Super Nintendo, and decided to pass on the original NES to me. Now I don't remember seeing the NES at their house, nor do I remember them giving me the controller to play, but I do remember the day the NES was brought home to my mom's work home.

What I didn't know until maybe 5-6 years ago, was that my cousin's NES actually didn't work anymore. I knew they replaced it with a SNES, but didn't know about the NES being broken. In fact, I didn't even know that my uncle (my mom's brother who passed away back in 2013 -- not the father to my cousin's) had one as well. And wouldn't you know it? His was broken too! So the NES I received from my cousins? It was actually a mismatch of working parts taken from the two broken NES consoles. But none of that would've mattered to me at the time -- I just wanted to play with my new toy. And that's what I did!

I still remember my dad hooking it up in the corner of that living room. It was right by the window. He sat down with me and got Super Mario Bros working (putting it in resulted in a blue screen, so you had to jam the game cart into the corner, and mess with it until it worked), and I got to work playing it! I only really remember dying non stop, and not getting very far. I remember thinking that it would take me awhile to get to the end, and didn't know how I ever would. I guess I really was too young for it, as my parents did have to help me get through some of the basics. (I couldn't read, I was only 2 going on 3!) I know shortly after we did disconnect the NES and take it to our actual house, but eventually we would bring it back to the work home as well. That's when my gaming addiction began.

When I was a little older, my mom sat down and taught me how to play Mario. She taught me how to swim in the underwater levels, and started showing me all the tricks and secrets. Of course my cousins would play with me as well, and my uncle would invite me over to my grandma's house (where he lived at the time) to play his new SNES also. The more I played/watched, the more I learned, and the better I became. Getting older helped also, but it's mainly because I got to spend so much time just learning. Of course I still loved being outside as a kid, but when I was stuck inside, the NES became my best friend. My mom's client A also really loved watching Mario, and she'd actually ask me to play it for her -- so I would. This is how I would pass the time while my mom was at work, but I really didn't get too much freedom with this until we moved to the new house. Again, by then I was 4 (going on 5), and things became a bit different. 

Moving to the new house was a chore. The place was extremely dirty, and the old lady who used to live there had dropped pills allover the floor. I remember my mom telling me not to touch anything, and made sure I didn't get into anything that would hurt me, but she also hooked up my NES in the living room for me to play while we were there. We spent a lot of days (while the clients were in the work program) down there as she tried to get things ready to move in, and the entire time I just stood around playing my Nintendo on the little TV we had moved in ahead of time. I remember being excited that we got to go to a new house, but I honestly remember playing my games more than I remember what my mom was doing at the time. This new house had more rooms as well, so for the first time I was actually able to play my Nintendo without hogging the TV -- so I got more time with it. Of course A still wanted to watch me play Mario, so we did set it up in other rooms too, but overall I spent more time on my own with the TV than with others. Well, except for all the times my parents played them with me that is.

Over the next, many, years, my game consoles became my go to. This new work home didn't have a yard to play in, so I mainly would play inside with me toys while watching TV, or start up a game when I felt like it. It kept me entertained, that's for sure, and of course things wouldn't stop at the NES. I would later go on to get a SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, etc, but those are all stories for another time. Some of which are stories I have shared before, but maybe I'll touch on them again sometime. 

For me, games aren't just something to play though. They're memories from different moments in my life. Looking at games, or replaying them takes me back to those days, and I realize just how special those memories really were. Sometimes it's not even the game itself that I remember fondly, but the memories of what was happening at the time of getting/playing the game are what makes me feel so nostalgic for it. Growing up in that house is what made me who I am today. Video games gave me something to do, and got me hooked for life, but living in that environment was a unique experience. It's the reason I am who I am today. It taught me to be more understanding when it comes to people with disabilities, and it helped me understand a world that many people overlook or know absolutely nothing about. For me, growing up around such people was normal, and it wasn't until I went to school that I realized just how unusual my life really had been. But even so, those clients were family to me, and I never saw them as anything other than... Well, people. Seeing the world how it is today, it's unfortunate that many still don't understand such things, but I'm also happy to see we are taking steps forward. I mean, heck, mental health has become more of a focus in recent years, and things like ADHD and forms of autism are being brought to the light. Of course there is still so much more out there, and being who I am, my life is still tied to those with such disabilities. My mom continues to work in the field, my dad retired from the field, and my wife has worked in the field and is currently a paraprofessional for a high school. She has grown up around and been connected with the population her entire life as well, and they will always have a special place in her heart -- as with mine as well. Yes, video games were there for me during all the time that I lived in that work home, but it's really the home and the memories of the people that I treasure most. When it burned down awhile back, that was one of the saddest days for me... I still miss that place, and wish I could return sometime -- if even just for a visit. But sadly, it's impossible. Modeling it in VR is as close as I can get, but even that's not the same. It's unfortunate, but life moves on. At least the memories remain.

And, there you go. Now not only do you guys know how I got into gaming, but you got to learn a little more about what makes me tick. I hope you enjoyed reading! 

Until next time guys.

Side Note: This picture still makes me sad. We moved out of the work home when I was 17, because S sadly passed away. This meant A had to be put in another home, and my mom lost her job as a result. She was already working at a second job at the time, so she switched over to full time, and continued working there. 

Years later the house was sold to someone else, and the boyfriend of the lady living there actually tried to kill her. He set the house on fire, and it was damaged beyond repair. It was torn down a few weeks later -- the picture was taken before the demolition began. A tragic end to a place I cared about so much.

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