Diecast #221: Formative Games, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 6, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 132 comments

The mailbag is now empty. The email is in the header image if you’ve got questions for us.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Experienced points will return to the Escapist

I don’t have details yet, but I’m reasonably sure this is happening.

05:37 What was your first game?

Go ahead and answer this in the comments if you like: What is the first game you remember playing?

12:25 What was the first game you remember not liking?

27:02 What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

I notice there’s a pretty hard cutoff for me right around 1998 or so. Anything older than that is hard to play for any length of time. I wonder if this threshold will continue to move forward as I age, or if there was something special about that point in history. (Reminder: I’m pretty PC-centric now, and was even moreso in the 90s.)

32:16 A game that needs to be revived?

36:06 Mailbag: Anime

Dear Diecast,

I’ve noticed that the site contains an anime category which has not been updated since early 2008. My question is, does Shamus or anyone else have plans to do reviews or retrospectives on one of the many anime series that have been released over the years? I would love to see a large, analytical take on some of the more controversial shows, like Sword Art Online.


38:12 Mailbag: No Man’s Sky

So Paul,

Now that your favorite game, No Man’s Sky, has multiplayer, are you going to play it together with Shamus so that the two of you can finally see the brilliance of this brilliant game and eat all your negative comments you made about this brilliant peace of art?

Sincerely, a brilliant troll

Link (YouTube)

On one hand, I really would like to try NMS multiplayer just so I can see what it’s like. On the other hand, I really don’t think Hello Games deserves another sale as a result of leaving GoG players in the lurch.

Also, given the pulpy, random, hand-wavy approach this game has to its science, claiming “every atom procedural” is strange and misleading. This game barely simulates things on a macro level, much less a subatomic one. I mean, the planets are fixed relative to one another and the sun orbits around the planets to create the day / night cycle. Claiming that every atom is procedural is like claiming that Minecraft simulates all the internal organs of the player character. That’s not even something depicted in the game, much less procedural!

Ugh. This game drives me crazy.

42:05 Mailbag: Switch

You and the rest of the diecast crew had an Nintendo Switch launch espectacular in which most of you seemed pretty down on the new console (except Campster and you daughter IIRC). Has your perspective on it changed since? Why do you think the machine is successful?


From The Archives:

132 thoughts on “Diecast #221: Formative Games, Mailbag

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Experienced points will return to the Escapist


    What was your first game?


    What was the first game you remember not liking?

    Hmm,this is a difficult one.There had to have been games that I did not like before this one,but I just dont remember them.So I have to say great qin warriors ,an utter crap of a game.

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

    The original x-com.In fact,I still prefer that one over the remakes,janky ui and all.Though I guess I can still enjoy the original civilization,super mario and other similar platformers,but original x-com is the only one of those that I prefer over all of the remakes and sequels,while civ 4 is my most favorite civ,and I like shovel knight more than any other platformer.

    1. Lars says:

      First game I remember:
      Some golf-ish game, where that was the hole. Bad old times. First to enjoy: Prince of Persia
      First to dislike:
      Civ. Never got the hang of it. Dropped it 30 min in.
      Still enjoying:
      Magic Carpet – OK the controls are clumsy as hell. But somehow I can still do it.
      Revival game:
      Magic Carpet or Black & White (I liked gameplay and graphics of the second entry. Never got through the first one.)

      1. Lars says:

        Damn, the ascii signs of that golf game were blocked. And editing time is over.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        First to enjoy: Prince of Persia

        I still remember that I was one of the few people adamantly against the sands of time remake.And then I enjoyed it immensely.Remember when ubisoft could pleasantly surprise you?Those were the days.

        1. Lars says:

          I still object “The Forgotten Sands”. Not because it was a bad game, but because the Sands of Time trilogy was completed. There was no need for Forgotten Sands. And I really wanted a PoP 2008 sequel.

          1. PPX14 says:

            I know!! Same on both counts, it felt out of place and disappointed combat-wise and what I really wanted was a sequel to 2008.

            But Two Thrones was worse I think.

    2. Joe says:

      Are you familiar with Phoenix Point? It’s a new game in the same style, by the creator of the original X-Com. I don’t know how close it is to the original, but it’s similar at least.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:


        “Phoenix Point is most exciting in the ways it’s different from XCOM”

        Oh great!Ive read the same articles about the firaxis remake and the master of orion remake,and both of those have disappointed me.

        Now I am both excited and afraid.

        1. Droid says:

          “It’s like Dwarf Fortress, but with all the bad parts cut out!”

        2. Decius says:

          The Pheonix Point alpha combat is much closer to X-COM than it is to XCOM. Every shot fired lands somewhere, you can fire at and through total concealment (because drywall isn’t cover from heavy weapons), and you move one step at a time.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Crap,I messed that last link.And due to the three link spam filtering,I was not able to fix it.But you all know whats supposed to be there,so no biggie.

      A game that needs to be revived?

      Id love to have empire earth remade.It saddens me that it got so overshadowed by age of empires(which is good,but not AS good).And also,the sequels were crap.And then,the developers made a mobile game.Its a good mobile game,but its still a mobile game.

      And yes,a proper remake of x-com wouldve been great.Xenonauts did a good job of remaking it,but they did not improve the ui by much.Also,while I dont like the firaxis remakes that much,I still love what theyve done with some things,like bonds between soldiers in 2,the mechs in 1,various improvements of ui,etc.

      1. Droid says:

        empire earth remade

        Heck, throw in only an AI that can play the game without cheating and a lower zoom level for HD monitors and I would play it all over again for hundreds of hours…

        That said, if you can stand playing with a multiplayer noob, I’d be glad to try multiplayer.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          throw in only an AI that can play the game without cheating

          The thing Ive enjoyed the most about the game are the campaigns and the custom scenarios people have made.And those would be brutal with actually good ai.In fact,when the expansion improved the ai a bit,it turned one of the scenarios in the original from a nice long map into a brutal slog against superior opponents(the russian campaign,the map where you get your hands on the robots).Still beatable,but extremely difficult.

          The zoom level is really the biggest downfall of the game.It really is unbearably close.

    4. Steve C says:

      X-COM (1994) was the first title to come to mind. However Star Control 2 (1992) beats it by two years. I replayed it last year too. So SC2 is my answer.

      Xenonauts put in a good effort but missed the mark why X-COM was good. The original was so good because of shifting goals. You could set a goal, meet it, and work towards something else.

  2. Grimwear says:

    The first real game I remember playing would most likely be Diablo 1. The teacher who ran our computer lab loved macs so he had all the parents get macs for their homes if they were to get one. That included us. I’d seen friends play games like Age of Empires 1/2, Warcraft, and Rainbow Six and was excited to get them for myself but it turned out that none of them were released on mac. Weirdly enough Diablo 1 was on mac so that’s what I ended up with.

    First game I remember not liking was a touch typing game where you’re in a race against another car and you get speed boosts by typing properly. I hated that game and continue to dislike pure racing games to this day. I’m sure there’s no relation.

    If I were to revive an old game it would probably have to be Age of Mythology. While I do love most rts games I was absolutely enthralled with the addition of mythological creatures in mythology. I would go shopping with my mom and they would have the intro trailer running on the computer screens at the store and I would just watch it. It was the first collector’s edition I ever bought and proceeded to sit in the box unplayed for years since it turned out my mom’s computer couldn’t run it. Instead I just took out the dvd and watched the intro cinematic over and over.

    As a secondary I wish they’d revive games like Rome: Total War. Not the game itself but rather the way in which you unlock other factions by defeating them (or just beating a campaign). I loved starting as one faction, killing my neighbour, then starting a new campaign as the beaten faction and leap frog around the world that way. Now they just sell factions as dlc and it’s killed a lot of my enjoyment of the series.

    1. RCN says:

      I don’t think it is fair to have “edutainment” games in the first disliked.

      Their primary goal is not to entertain, but to teach. Unfortunately, because of that they usually get teachers to do these games, not game developers, so they can’t really join both ways.

      Civilization, Age of Empires and Kerbal Space Program (and others) taught me much more EACH than ALL edutainment games put together. And that just comes from the fact that these games put gameplay and entertainment first, and education as a side bonus.

      I think this so much I never even considered an edutainment game when thinking of my first game I hated. And if I had, it certainly would have been Dally Doo, a pink dragon-thing not unlike Barney the Dinosaur that made me play her game just in the hopes of there being a secret somewhere where I could cause it terrible pain because I thought all kinds of games did such things. She taught me what condescension is when I was 8 years old. It infuriated me to no end.

  3. Joe says:

    I read through the whole of your blog a couple of years ago, Shamus. I noticed that you often repeated the same themes and issues. Complaints about DRM, terrible stories, and so on. I’m not complaining myself, mind. Just an observation.

    In the mid to late 80s, my dad had a computer called a Microbee. Even by the standards of the time, I don’t think it was very good. No HD. To do absolutely anything, you had to use discs. At least they were the good old 3.5 inch ones. If they were actually floppy, god only knows what would have happened.

    Three games stand out. One was a side-scrolling shooter, kind of like R-Type, except not very good. The second was a maze with levels and elevators. While I’ve always liked mazes, I never had the patience to really work it out.

    The third, that I didn’t like, was a good old text adventure. Yes, I ran into the familiar problem of trying to work out the proper instructions. In hindsight, I’m glad I’m not the only one to suffer like that.

    The oldest that I still enjoy? I replayed Jedi Academy from 2003 last year. It’s not that good, but at least you get a lightsabre and Force powers from the start. Towards the end, dual-wield.

    After that, maybe Torchlight 1 and Borderlands 1, both from 2009. I love a plot-light loot-em-up.

    As for old games that should be revived, maybe the Dungeon Siege games. Or at least take the two good mechanics from them. Isometric ARPGs with parties instead of solo adventurers, almost full hemisphere camera movement, RTWP, and skills improve as you use them.

    1. Boobah says:

      I’m just not going to get anything done unless I get this pedantry out of the way: The 3.5″ disks were floppies. Yes, unlike the 5.25″ disks they had a hard plastic & metal sleeve, but the disk itself was still floppy; This is in contrast to the hard platters in a hard drive.

      Also, I found the 3.5″ floppies more prone to breakage than the 5.25″ ones.

  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The first game I remember playing was Super Mario Bros on NES. I was utterly fascinated by it, and I still have a strong reaction when I hear something that sounds like the electronic starting jingle of the neihbor’s tv I played it on.

    The first game I disliked was Gauntlet 2 on game boy. It was ugly, repetitive, unfair, boring, just shitty all around.

    The oldest game I’m still playing is Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (with the HD mod!), followed by Diablo 2.

  5. Fizban says:

    First videogame I’d have played would be. . . actually, not SNES. Because before that I had a couple of those old LCD handleld games, Power Rangers and Sonic. Not that I could hardly tell what was going on.

    For anyone that doesn’t recognize those, that’s like an LCD watch display except instead of a set of double 0s whose bars are turned on or off to form numbers, they had little character and platform and projectile shapes all over the screen, and every half a second or so the whole screen would update switching to the next set of positions. But no motion between them, so if you didn’t know what was supposed to be going on, it was just a mess.

    Unless maybe I’d played a Sonic demo cabinet at the store before either of those. not sure.

    First I really played properly was Super Mario World out of the All Stars+World combo when I got a SNES for Christmas, though I didn’t really start improving playing until Kirby Super Star. First game I disliked was Super Off Road, a top-down racing game whos “tank” controls made no sense. Eventually I came back after improving that skill in Mario Party and it was fine.

    I do find it kinda amusing whenever someone says they don’t have time for anime. ‘Cause. . . it’s tv shows. With shorter episodes than a lot of tv shows. But then, most people who’ve watched more than one tv anime in the past seem to intuitively understand that when you say “anime,” what you really mean is “lots of anime,” because you don’t just watch one, even if you aren’t deep diving the fandom and culture.

    Either way, might I suggest that bringing up Sword Art Online is the Dark Souls of anime discussions?

    1. Kathryn says:

      Really?? I watch very little anime, but I loved SAO. Very interesting universe. I know of at least one other person who isn’t into anime generally but still liked it. What’s the controversy?

      (Maybe I’m just missing the comparison. Dark Souls is that super hard game that people either hate or love and the people who hate it are told to “git gud”, right? I know about it only from comments here.)

      1. Fizban says:

        Yes, extremely polarizing and people that want to talk about it will just go on and on about how either it’s completely garbage or the best thing ever.

        (Latter camp for me of course- it’s a perfectly serviceable show and all the complaints I’ve found which are actual problems and not just differences in taste, can be traced back to a few very specific and fixable issues. Which I can expound upon at great length. And because of that I can accept those flaws and enjoy it instead of whining).

        1. Decius says:

          SAO is both complete garbage and a pretty good anime.

          It breaks its own rules, characters ignore their own motivations in order to advance the plot, and it still tells a decent story overall.

          SAO Abridged fixes some of the glaring problems and is a much better anime.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Out of curiosity, which SAO character motivations are ignored, at which part?

          2. Fizban says:

            I too would be interested to hear about these ignored motivations. I also find the claim that a parody voiceover group has a “better” show (unless these guys aren’t voiceovers like usual?) dubious at best. If your youtube page is mocking the main character, I don’t think you’re going to put together a good show (or bother jumping through a hoop to give you a chance)- but I can see why people who feel the same way would claim it’s “better.”

            Although if it’s because they made the same changes I would (a couple of which are below), then that’d be even funnier.

            1. Crimson Dragoon says:

              I can’t say anything about SAO abridged, having never watched it, but Dragon Ball Z Abridged is far more enjoyable to me than DBZ, and I do (mostly) like the original. The writing is absolutely on point, and really gets to the meat of the original story and characters, but with all the fluff and filler taken out. And yeah, it satirizes the original show heavily, but its done with a very obvious love for the source material. Team Four Star isn’t making fun of DBZ because they hate it or think its stupid, they do it because they love making jokes in that world.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                DBZ Abridged works fairly well as a companion piece that comments on and critiques the original. It is not superior as a one for one replacement though.

        2. Kathryn says:

          Huh, okay. Well, I liked it a lot, but not enough to argue with people about it :-)

          I will say, the general topic of emergent economies/governments in games is a very interesting one. Eve Online is of course the classic real world example. SAO takes it to another level, which was part of what I found so compelling about the world. There were a lot of directions a creator could go once they’d had that idea of people trapped in a virtual world, and I enjoyed thinking about what we did see (how the guilds operated, “red” players (I forgot what they were called), the crafting economy, etc.) and how realistic I thought it was/how I would have handled it had it been my idea.

          (Also, when our youngest wore his super cute lightning bolt PJs, I called him Lightning Flash (his name).)

          1. Fizban says:

            I assume you saw Log Horizon, yes? That one is a lot more about the trapped in MMO/emergent principles experience, people looking for that calling it what SAO should have been. Also pretty good.

        3. Boobah says:

          My second biggest problem with the show is that SAO (the game) makes little sense. One gets the idea that Reki Kawahara was not only making up the details as he went along (forgivable) and has not only never played any MMORPG but never played any RPG more recent than Dragon Warrior, if that, and has filled in the blanks from random pop culture.

          As someone who spends a lot of time with these genres, it feels like being told, while playing my brand new copy of Super Tecmo Bowl, that the future of football games is Atari Football with photo-realistic graphics.

          1. Fizban says:

            Yup, that’s another common complaint. To which my usual response is: the person who made the game in-universe was probably also making it up as they went along. In-universe, Kayaba Akihiko created the full dive technology for the sole purpose of the making the fantasy world in his head into a place he could actually go, and the whole point of the game was to fill it with real people and trap them under a kill switch, so it would be a real world with death and everything.

            As to whether people would play an “MMO” which they’ve evaluated as being mechanically bad- yeah, I’d bet pretty much everything that if that technology actually existed, people would not give the slightest crap how bad the first game was mechanically. The raw novelty of being able to enter a fantasy world would sell out instantly. Games where you control an avatar with unrealistic abilities as easily as your own body is an entirely separate genre/control scheme, what sort of balancing would actually turn out to work the best would have little reason to match current MMOs, and hadn’t been explored yet in-universe anyway.

      2. Syal says:

        For my part, Sword Art Online had some interesting episodes, but was undone by the pervyness of it all.

        I liked the first three episodes, even though I was already noticing it was focusing on the girls. Then Episode 4 had the 12-year-old girl whose entire character motivation was “I have a crotch”. 5 and 6 were alright, actually taking advantage of the setting, and then the majority of the others just leaned into that generic pervy anime tone. Early complications ended up being simplified; the problematic guy from Episode 2 ends up being a straight villain, the 40-something evil-looking guy turns out to be evil even though the faces are supposed to be accurate representations of the players so why are there multiple veteran-looking old guys here to begin with.

        Then the second half got even more pervy with the cousin, and lowers the stakes, and introduces non-problems to overcome (The rumors were false; this quest isn’t just hard, it’s literally impossible! Good thing we picked up that impossible-possiblizing object that makes this non-door function exactly like the rumors said it does.)

        1. Fizban says:

          Yup, those are some pretty common complaints (though that’s the first I’ve heard of anyone complaining about the age of these people who all could afford cutting edge technology, who if anything are mostly too young). And they all stem from one simple problem: it’s a book adaptation. The first part of the Aincrad arc is actually the second book, a group of short side-stories printed after the original one-book story- the first book goes from the first day intro straight to when he kills the rare rabbit. There’s no ridiculous fanservice, it’s not focused on exploring the setting, it’s fast-forward to the beginning of the end. So a lot of people get annoyed at what they see as a fake out or shallow durdling and then find the conclusion unsatisfying. Unfortunate but understandable.

          The Fairy Dance arc is indeed the most problematic, but again is massively undercut by the fact that it’s an adaptation. Asuna being damsel’d off? Yup, that’s crap- but it would only take a tiny bit more of her own actions leading directly to her rescue to smooth that out. Cartoonishly evil villain that cements a trend of all series villains being sexual predators? Yeah that’s bad too and really no excuse. But a reduction in stakes? No.

          Ya see, in the book, you get to hear Kirito’s inner monologue, not just like one scene of sobbing before bed, and he’s frantic over the very real knowledge that there’s nothing he can do to stop this ridiculous forced marriage of his comatose girlfriend/wife to a man who’s basically already admitted exactly what he’s going to do. Does that sound like low stakes? Remember this is Japan, where the power of family leadership didn’t break down as far as it did in the west- some nothing teenager means nothing to her Father, who was already expecting her to marry this creep. The protagonist is desperately pursuing the one ridiculous hail-mary shot he has to find some sort of proof of foul play. Nothing he can do in the real world would succeed, and even at the end [SPOILER] he still fails and has to be deus ex machina’d (which is also ridiculous, but again could have been fixed by just making it a script triggered if he said the guy’s name instead of a machine ghost). There’s a whole theme throughout the book of Kirito’s video game ability supposedly so important before, not actually mattering at all, and him being powerless other than that.

          The alternate complaint is usually that he’s having too much fun instead, and well: if you’d been living a literal magical fantasy life for 2 years, tainted by the fact that you would literally die if you screwed up, and then you got to do it again but with no actual risk and also you can fly? Come on, no one gets mad at action heroes for enjoying bloody combat, let the guy live a little.

          1. Syal says:

            Does that sound like low stakes?

            We’ve gone from “I have to win or else I’m dead” to “I have to win or else I’ll be set back about an hour.” The stakes are absolutely lower.

            For the two older guys: they look like you would expect someone in that position to look in an actual medieval anime setting, so it felt like the animators forgot the setting was supposed to be a simulation populated by modern-day people.

            1. Allie says:

              As the person who wrote the question, I can understand where Shamus is coming from about watching Anime being exhausting. There’s just something about it that can make you burn out a bit quicker. I love the Magical Girl genre, but I can binge Miraculous (Western MG show) in a way that I can’t for Japanese ones like Sailor Moon or the various dubs of Pretty Cure.

              And I’m going to pull a Shamus and say sorry for singling SAO out in my question. Definitely wasn’t called for, and I realize my personal dislike is probably a lot greater than is rational for one show.

              For the questions that Shamus posed, my first game was FATE. 2005 Diablo clone made by the guys that would eventually do the Torchlight series.
              First game I disliked was probably the original Super Mario Bros, which I owned as a Nintendo Classic on the GBA. Six-year old me could not handle the inability to save your progress and limited lives.
              Oldest game I could enjoy would probably be any of the Nintendo platformers. RPG-wise, I can only barely stand the mechanics of KOTOR, and have given up any hope of playing Baldur’s Gate.

              1. Fizban says:

                Too late, you have unleashed the Dark Souls of anime discussions and I’m here to play! :p

            2. Fizban says:

              I can’t check the exact wording at the moment, but as I remember it, the first battles (in the cave) would have set them back several hours, described as half a day of their available time, and the second would have undone the entire last session (making it a potentially ridiculous gamble), and they only made it with like a day to spare. With absolutely no idea what they would find or how long it would take to accomplish.

              With that many unknowns, any amount of lost time is a danger. And that’s before the fact that most shows where “death” is on the line never actually kill their main characters anyway- not until maybe the final battle, and the final battle here is no heroic sacrifice. Very few battles in any media are really “I have to win or else I’ll die,” so I don’t really understand how some people apparently rely so much on that. Plenty of genres are full of battles with nothing on the line besides pride. The stakes here are, “I have to win, because if I lose too much time I condemn my girlfriend to the villain’s clutches, assuming I can even do anything when I get there.” Who cares about being personally safe if the person you care about is anything but? I’d expect more problems with him getting into any fights at all, but people I’ve discussed it with seem to focus on the lack of “stakes” instead of that.

              Similarly, you’d have to tell me which exact scene the aged guys who annoyed you are in. Even then- so a couple old banged up guys where there, those people exist, what’s the problem? Clothing and hairstyle are part of the game. If the animators decided to take some creative license in the facial structure of some minor characters, how is that a big deal? It’s not- just a little detail that was annoying after you’d already become un-invested in the show for other (more reasonable) reasons, that old death spiral whose trope name I can’t remember.

              Like I said, that’s what I think is actually behind a lot of the SAO hate. Lots of people lost their footing early and got combo’d by the little things they would have normally brushed off, and because of that just lumped everything together rather than trying to understand and form a more nuanced opinion. Not that anyone here’s going full on rage mode, thankfully.

              1. Allie says:

                I think your analysis on people’s problem with SAO is pretty spot on.
                Going from comments here, elsewhere, and my own personal experience with the show, I’ve come to the conclusion that SAO’s problem may have been more of a marketing one, and less a story one.
                Most summaries that people and Netflix/Crunchyroll/etc. give of SAO tends to be “Everyone’s trapped in an MMO and when they die, they die for real!” They make it sound like a huge, high-stakes, tense adventure through one world, when in reality, Aincrad ends fairly early on, and they jump through a bunch of other games. Additionally, nobody ever mentioned the romance between Kirito and Asuna when telling me why I should watch the show, which going from comments here, seems to be a pretty big piece of the story.
                I can’t help but wonder if a lot of the SAO mega-haters were in the same pre-viewing mindset as me: “Ah, this’ll be great! An anime made for gamers, it’ll have epic battles like WoW, great guild drama, and maybe some MMO humor! None of that harem, incest, or loli crap we usually get from anime and their stupid romance stories”.
                And then when the harem, incest, lolis, and anime romance not only showed up, but proved to be a big part of the story, people got pissy because nobody was prepared for that. At the time, I felt like SAO was an anime with a great premise ruined by a tacked-on harem/romance. Now, I’m wondering if it was really meant to be a traditional harem/romance anime, just set in a cool premise.
                In retrospect, I wish I’d known more about what the show would actually be like before going in. Then, when I watched it and disliked it, I would’ve simply said “This isn’t my style” and left quietly. Or maybe it would’ve been a surprise favorite.

                1. Fizban says:

                  Hadn’t considered the marketing angle, but yeah it’s real obvious once you look at it. I just went straight in blind, no preconceptions- even today when I read the blurb on something I do so knowing it’s about an even split whether it’s accurate/accurate only for the first episode/complete hogwash.

                  The first arc proper really is all about just Kirito and Asuna, and is basically the best thing about the series- or rather the first arc. Unlike the vast majority of anime/light novel/etc series, it’s a romance that isn’t just dangled in front of the audience for 100 episodes. It’s literally a stand-alone story with a believable relationship (nothing like fighting for your life to drive two people together faster) that happens right there in the first part, which made it popular, which meant the author wrote more. . . Except since their relationship arc already concluded, there’s nowhere left for it to go, and so after that it’s about other people’s stories that Kirito (and eventually Asuna) get involved in.

                  That’s the second part of my essay on the problems of it being adapted from a book: the Fairy Dance arc isn’t actually Kirito and Asuna’s story, they’re just part of it- it’s actually Suguha’s story, at least as much as theirs. This is easy to tell in the book because it spends nearly half the time being directly from her perspective, but the lack of inner monologues and the chunk of cut content (which admittedly was a good chunk to cut) makes her seem tacked on.

                  Now, I’ve watched far more trangressive stuff so I’m naturally resistant, but even so the much maligned “incest” angle. . . marriage between cousins is legal all over the place, and it’s not an unrealistic setup here. As long as one isn’t hung up on that, consider a summary of her story:

                  Suguha’s got a crush on a boy, but he’s her cousin and lives with her and she knows perfectly well that’s not a great starting point. Then he gets trapped in a death game for years, fairly traumatizing the family. In order to try to understand and cope with the situation, she picks up the next Full Dive game, and falls in love with that world just like he did, messing with her feelings even more. Then when he miraculously wakes up, she find’s out that while she was stuck out there he went and fell in love with some other girl. She’s the doomed point of a love triangle and there’s nothing she can do about it.

                  So she throws herself back into the game rather than dealing with that whole mess, where she soon runs into a new player who’s a cool dude and needs help with a mysterious task. She decides that she can get over her doomed feelings by falling in love with this guy, as they adventure across the game and all sorts of cool shit happens and she realizes she digs him. But her life is a story, and it turns out the guy she was throwing herself at to run away from her feelings is actually the person she was trying to distance herself from in the first place.

                  That’s a pretty effed arc right there. She gets no resolution, just takes a sucker punch and has to eat her feelings to support the person she cares about, in rescuing the other girl who’s already taken him. Half of the Fairy Dance arc is about Kirito being powerless, and the other half is about how Suguha was left behind and eventually has to just suck it up. It’s actually some pretty heavy themes. . . in the book, which didn’t transfer well to the show.

                  I have one last point I could discuss, regarding a specific reason I may have been better disposed towards the plot, but that can be a separate comment if it looks warranted.

                  1. Allie says:

                    If you’re still in the mood for discussion, I’d love to hear it. Glad that people have been willing to talk about it instead of just going into screaming anime critic mode.
                    I might actually buy the Sword Art Online light novels based on what you’ve said. For my first time through, should I read the original light novels or the Progressive ones?

                    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                      I would highly recommend watching the first season of the show and then reading the Progressive novels, in that order. Progressive is better written, better paced (because it actually intends to tell the story in a reasonable length, rather than to be done in a single short novel), and has a lot more depth to it. However, it also kind of assumes you’re familiar with what SAO is already. So the best of both worlds is the show for an entertaining summary, followed by Progressive for a much better second draft attempt at that story.

                    2. Fizban says:

                      I haven’t actually read the Progressive series, but from everything I’ve heard about it via a friend that does, it’s definitely more of an alternate version/retcon/redo/etc thing. It’s sure to be better written in general, since the author now has many more years of experience, but the main conceit (Kirito and Asuna adventuring together at lower levels) goes directly against the main conceit of the orignal novel (Kirito and Asuna knew each other from various boss raids and incidents, but weren’t together in a serious capacity until near the end of the game). It sounds to me it’s aiming to be like other light novels, dozens and dozens of books dangling the relationship in front of you, without actually getting there until the end, the trend which I think the original story bucked the hardest and to its greatest credit. The story of life in Aincrad is a different story.

                      In any case, Progressive hasn’t reached the end of the Aincrad arc that I’ve heard, so if you want to read the parts after then. . . yeah.

                      Full disclosure: I read fan translations, so it’s possible some lines got translated differently (sometime I should pick them up and compare, but they’re more expensive than I expect in softcovers so I haven’t yet). And as highly as I speak of the themes I found, it does still boil down to just a couple of the right lines in the right places with the right mindset- ultimately it’s still a light novel which was adapted scene for scene into the anime.

                      My recommendation would depend on how much of the anime you’ve already watched. If you watched the full first season of Aincrad and Fairy Dance, or dropped it early on in Aincrad, then just start over from the beginning with the books. If you liked Aincrad but dropped after the animated Fairy Dance put you off, then you could probably rewatch the Aincrad arc to get in the mood, then go to the book and see if the written version of Fairy Dance goes better.

                      Once you’re past Fairy Dance, I don’t think anyone who generally likes the show has any major complaints. The Phantom Bullet arc hold together, Mother’s Rosiario finally switches to Asuna’s perspective for a single book story, and then the Aliciazation arc begins and just refuses to die (it’s as long as the rest of the series put together and is a whole ‘nother bag of issues- the anime for it begins this fall and they say they’re gonna do the whole thing, hoo boy).

                    3. Fizban says:

                      And since you asked for more discussion, my final point- the admission that I may have had an easier time than most.

                      First we have how I wasn’t faked out by marketing. Then, while some people got mad at the sudden turn from short stories to what (I later learned) was actually the first book, I was on board- I was happy that we’d finally got to the plot that would finish the arc (and as I watched more anime, I found this to be a pretty common pattern, several episodes of gathering the team or exploring the world, before a plot starts to cover the last 1/2 to 1/4, in fact lots of light novel series spend their whole first book or two without a plot).

                      But the real clincher is on that matter of stakes. Hitting the end of the Aincrad arc, I was distressingly aware of the fact that during the final battle, Asuna was killed a significant portion of time before Kirito. Meaning that even though they had a final moment before the game ended and he staggered out of his hospital room, the writer had left themselves an ocean of room to say the kill-pulse had partially fired and left her a vegetable. This would have made for a super tragic end to the next arc: Asuna was the one who really wanted them to escape and live in the real world, so leaving her unable to do that would just be a perfect screw you ending, without actually cutting off further stories with the character, and forcing Kirito to really put his money where his mouth was in saying the virtual world was just as important as the real. A hardcore sci-fi focused downer ending that I was dreading, which probably would have made me forsake the series entirely (see also another certain anime, Gurren Lagann ).

                      So throughout the Fairy Dance arc, while everyone else was complaining about how she was locked up and the show was having way too much fun perving all over her (much less in the book), I was more concerned with what was actually going to happen at the end. The fact that Kirito’s life wasn’t in danger, and to a certain extent even the fact that Asuna was under threat from the big bad, neither had me worried, because of course he’s going to make it there and get her out- I was worried about the writer going for the horrifying downer ending where they could do everything right and win and still lose.

                      None of that changes any of my analysis of course, but it is possible that if I hadn’t supplied my own much greater “stakes” to lean on, I might have been more annoyed with Fairy Dance myself. Still pretty sure I’d have done like I did and gone to the books to see if the anime had screwed anything up/continue on, but it’s a lot easier to step back and analyze things when you make it all the way to the end, and the ending was a relief.

                      (I eventually put together enough pieces to find that the ridiculous downer ending is mostly a trope of Original anime, rather than Adaptations. Adapted anime are the first few books out of a long running series, of which only a couple are ever animated to the end, and were written by authors with long-term goals in mind. Original anime end their stories quickly, and are made by anime creators and committees rather than a single author, who seem to think that bad endings are cool and every show needs to have a lesson about how it’s not realistic to expect to win everything.)

                    4. shoeboxjeddy says:

                      “It sounds to me it’s aiming to be like other light novels, dozens and dozens of books dangling the relationship in front of you, without actually getting there until the end, the trend which I think the original story bucked the hardest and to its greatest credit.”

                      Eh… you don’t get credit for avoiding will they, won’t they if your characters get married after like 3 interactions. That’s just simplistic writing. The point of Progressive is to start from Episode 2 of the original (where Kirito is much more of a selfish power gamer than a hero and Asuna is standoffish and suffering some near fatal depression) and develop the story naturally to the higher levels instead of hitting fast forward through the whole experience as the original did. This means Kirito and Asuna are developing from an unfriendly duo with a common purpose, to teammates, to friends, to eventually lovers. It’s also developing the evil PvP faction in a natural way, rather than retconning it into the Aincrad storyline as the GGO storyline did. Finally, it’s developing the whole “AI develops sentience” idea in a more naturally paced way instead of just instantly crossing the finish line as the original did with Yui.

                      There’s an interesting tension to see how side characters from the original show and books might return, or if they do. Progressive picks up after the Episode 2 material, so the interaction with Kline from the first episode occurred in exactly the same way. It is unclear if Kirito met the ruthless solo from that one un-animated short story that took place just after episode 1 of the show, he’s never been mentioned. My BIG question is if the Moonlit Cats arc will still happen, as the author could easily have the Kirito x Asuna relationship on the ropes by then to allow for it. That storyline isn’t due for another dozen floors or more, if it were to happen in a similar way.

                    5. Fizban says:

                      ^ Oh I’ll probably be reading it eventually, once it gets somewhere I’m particularly interested or everything gets caught up with the rest of the series and it’s all the new content left.

                      Last time I was discussing it with my friend, reconciling the distance Kirito had in the original and dealing with the big chunk of empty time in the middle seemed easiest to resolve with the Black Cats story. If you need to show why Kirito and Asuna stopped hanging out as much, him crushing on another girl, and then withdrawing from everyone for a long-ass time after blaming himself for her death, is a pretty strong case to time skip and catch up with the original story whenever you feel like it.

                    6. Allie says:

                      Thanks for the good feedback you’ve all been giving!
                      I’m not sure what path I’ll follow on my second journey through SAO. Possibly none at the moment, since I’m trying to save up for a tattoo and Pathfinder: Kingmaker. But no matter what, I hope that it’ll be a better experience than the first one. Now I’ve got a much better idea of what to expect going in, and can appreciate it for that rather than hating it for what it wasn’t.

                2. RCN says:

                  I think you’re right. As a gamer who’ve also played several MMOs, the entire series seem to have absolutely no respect for the setting.

                  HunterxHunter’s Greed Island arc has much, MUCH more respect for MMO and gaming in general than SAO. And HunterxHunter is NOT an anime made around being an MMO as a premise, that’s only that single arc, and in many ways it is treated as a training arc. But it has clearer rules, less arbitrary battles, actually exciting and well choreographed battles, and lastly but not least you don’t have Kirito as the protagonist.

                  During all of the first season of SAO I felt it was a story written inside the MMO setting just because the writer felt MMOs were a popular subject but never respected it enough to even PLAY an actual MMO for all of fifteen minutes.

                  Then I went on to watch Overlord and I saw an anime roughly in the same vein (though it is a single player being transported to his MMO world) and it works much better simply because IT ACTUALLY ACTS on the idea of a normal person being trapped into an MMO world and the guy is mostly coasting on the fact he’s playing with a very overpowered character, but he barely has any real idea of what is going on among his minions and has to fake it just to not be overthrown by them.

                  1. Fizban says:

                    At risk of even more nested comments: can you tell me why it is that SAO is such a bad MMO? I’ve heard the complaint, but not a detailed description of why, like it should be so obvious to anyone. The only MMO I’ve played is Guild Wars, specifically because I don’t like the conceits behind most MMOs, but to me SAO doesn’t look like it’s misrepresenting much of anything.

                    Forced PvP outside of towns? Large level discrepancy results in auto-win in forced PvP? Grind-based leveling and economy? Doing anything significant requires large raid parties? That all sounds like plenty of MMOs to me.

                    1. Syal says:

                      I also don’t play MMO’s, the MMO design never really bothered me, but… back to Fairy Dance. Losing hours of progress to a single death is enormously costly, even before you add forced PvP. Remember how Shamus was complaining about losing several minutes to a death in Dark Souls? That’s the kind of thing that kills a game.

                    2. Fizban says:

                      ^ I got the impression that for most players in ALO, character death wasn’t a big deal. There was mention of some loss of skill xp, like a lot of MMO death penalties, but the reason lost hours of game time would be bad for Kirito is specifically because of his time limit to cross a large distance. Hence Suguha/Leafa’s suggestion that they just give up rather than fight at the bridge, and how her friend was fine getting ganked trying to spy on people. For most players if they wanted to leave their “guild” territory they’d probably move in large groups, while for those just raiding or PvEing nearby a death would be normal (and with no “go back to your corpse” requirements). I can see lack of fast travel definitely being a major complaint in the game, but it’s the classic catch 22 of having a central movement mechanic that needs a reason to be shown off, and the resulting slog of moving cross country.

                    3. RCN says:

                      For one, the UI is a nested nightmare that makes the Skyrim base UI look intuitive and fast to use (except you can’t even pause to navigate it).

                      For instance, in order to use a potion you have to select the menu, select your character, select your itens, browse through ALL your itens, then select your potion, then confirm that you want to use the potion, THEN it will show up on your hand so you can “physically” use it.

                      The combat system is horrible and extremely simplistic. The class system of the original is non-existent and in ALO it is just horribly imbalanced (the fact your class is determined by your race limits what you can do tremendously). Everyone is SAO is a fighter. A MELEE fighter. At best you can be a tank or a dps, but there’s so little variation EVERYONE who is not Kirito has the exact same equipment.

                      The game has areas where you randomly can’t use crystals, the equivalent to a WoW hearthstone (an item you can use to teleport to a tavern or heal allies). Apparently there’s NO tutorial for this whatsoever, and they are specifically ambush areas where you are surrounded by greater-level enemies, so… they exist SOLELY as a gotcha DO IT AGAIN STUPID moments… except you can’t do it again, so they only exist only to propel drama for Kirito.

                      There are no stanced areas to keep players apart so they can work the same objective without interference and the loot system HEAVILY rewards kill-stealing.

                      Lastly, but not least, the game is structured like an adventure game from the 80s, not the near future. The whole world is designed around floors where you have to defeat the floor boss in order to advance. Not to mention that the anime too lazy to really display how these layers work on top of one another. It promised 100 layers in episode 1 and by episode two you figure they weren’t creative enough to develop more than 3 (the dungeons don’t count, they’re all virtually the same).

                      Also, Kirito is celebrated as a good player because he is “way too awesome and agile”, but anyone with passing knowledge of games know there’s a clear cap to agility, even in fighting games, and what really makes one player better than another is intimate knowledge of match-ups, abilities, skill combinations and so on. That is, GAME SYSTEMS. Heck, some of the best speed runners in the world aren’t even very agile on the controller, they just know the game very well. And yet, Kirito is always taken by surprise and shows complete lack of knowledge of SAO systems (even though they are very basic). There are TWO instances where he displays this, when he shows another player how to attack, and in another when he shows that having higher levels make you more powerful… which are as basic as you can get in an MMO (there’s also the time he shows Asuna how to EAT, but that was to show that Asuna is kinda dumb). It wouldn’t be hard to give Kirito a newbie player to whom he could explain those systems (instead of having kirito having no idea of how they work), but the show pass up the opportunity to do so multiple times because Kirito has to be a cool loner.

                  2. Fizban says:

                    ^Are those really the major complaints? Because none of those hold water as far as I can see, just boiling down to the same “not what I expected/wanted” problem.

                    Yes, the inventory is a nested nightmare. It’s not supposed to be quickly available, because you’re supposed to be acting like you would in real life. If you want something fast you put it in your pocket. Yes, there is no class system- something which many people consider a major feature of the Elder Scrolls series. No, there is not zero variation, if you’re aware of the differences between different melee weapons, how those real-life differences could be ignored by a video game, and how it’s clearly stated there are various background skill trees that aren’t fully explained.

                    Yes, the game has areas you suddenly can’t use crystals and sudden gotcha ambushes. . . which didn’t appear until later in the game (retroactively appearing in some earlier areas as well), which once again was not created with the intent to be a “game.” The beta didn’t go high enough for anyone to be aware of those “flaws,” and the creator literally wanted people to die to make everyone take things seriously. Of course there would be screw you traps around, which would kill the first people that found them, and punish anyone who didn’t learn to adapt.

                    Complaining that they don’t show enough layers, really? It’s a magically fantasy world some guy’s been daydreaming about since he was little, not an actual realistic location, what would be any point in them lining up “sensibly?” In a world where one is lucky to get more that 12 episodes of a show, what viewer would seriously expect to see more than those handful of places where something important happens? And even then, we see plenty of different places- where all the main combat has been cleared and people mostly just go for the scenery, exactly as one would expect late game.

                    The last complaint could be down to novel adaptation again if I really thought it needed it. Most of Kirito’s “superior knowledge of game mechanics” is supplied through inner monologue in the books, which is not repeated in the show that I remember (it’s been a while though), particularly in how he’d picked up this or that rare/annoying skill (throwing weapons, an unarmed counter and a combo that required unarmed skill), why he’s using a skill (the duel with stalker boy where he specifically attacks the weapon because the other guy won’t expect it and he know the weapon will get one-shot is exactly what you want). But this is the first time I’ve heard anyone demanding more of that. If you can’t imagine all the moving parts of learning how to move in a fight, knowing what and when and how to parry, and the video game skills that interact with that, as being “game systems,” then I don’t know what to tell you.

                    Sure, the story is not focused on showing in detail why Kirito is good at it, because that would be boring. No one wants to sit and watch a show about how good someone is at a game that doesn’t even exist. We know he’s good at the game because people say he is, and because we see him kicking ass in various situations, which is how most stories do it.

                    Edit: got the wrong reply chain but still should be readable.

                    1. Fizban says:

                      But that gives me room to squeeze this in (after which I’ll be checking the bottom of the comments in case anyone wants to continue there, since we’re basically out of room here.)

                      I didn’t really address the “agility” and ALO problems, which tie pretty nicely together since the Fairy Dance arc and ALO mechanics highlight the whole thing.

                      There’s a bit of a problem with human reflexes, nerve conduction velocity. Modern video games are controlled by your hands, but the Nerve Gear pulls inputs directly from your brain. I dunno the exact numbers, but this means reactions should in fact have a higher limit than real games. But more importantly, the specific point they make about Kirito, and Asuna, and all the other SAO survivors’ speed, is that it was gained from literal years of being hooked up to the machine 24/7.

                      ALO (and SAO, and GGO) have much more in common with modern FPS games than MMOs. ALO in particular is mentioned as being popular for emphasizing “player skill,” in the sense that it’s martial arts ability in the game environment, not MMO mechanics, that win the PvP (presumably on a dueling level). Or at least that’s how the translation I read sounded. In SAO it was generally best to use the system assist moves because they were more powerful, which meant there were matchups and tells and feints based on those mechanics to learn, etc (one might say that had he learned to fight more outside this, he wouldn’t have lost to Akihiko, who invented all the moves in the first place). In ALO it’s just body+weapon, like how an FPS duel is just hands+ wasd/mouse aim. Just like a modern FPS, once your avatar stats are equal it’s all down to practice-but between those with equal practice there is still the question of base ability, those twitch reflexes, and Kirito has that over a lot of people.

                      That’s where we come back to the theme of powerlessness I mentioned (for other commenters). Because during the Fairy Dance arc, Kirito doesn’t just lose the final battle- in fact, he actually doesn’t win any of his battles. Not because of his awesome agility, or skill in the game, or “gamer powers.” Because he cheated.

                      To start, the whole thing about ALO not having an inbuilt reaction limit. For most players this is probably nothing but marketing, but as noted, SAO survivors have a ridiculous amount of time in constant full dive and by the story’s rules that means they’re just faster- and apparently by ALO’s rules that means they just deal more damage. Secondly, his stats are hacked- as noted, he’s got partially corrupted data from his SAO character, so he doesn’t actually deserve the stats that let him roll in the big leagues, which may not even be functioning under the same rules as the ALO characters.

                      But the big thing is that the two major battles he “won,” on the bridge and against the salamander general, well how did he win those? Magic. A game mechanic he knew literally nothing about, no game mastery whatsoever. When horribly outnumbered, Yui feeds him the answer to scare them off. When confronted by a foe of high skill and a phasing weapon, another game mechanic he knew nothing about, Yui feeds him the answer to get him a sneak attack. Yui won those fights, not him.

                      That’s why the Kirito half of fairy Dance is all about him being powerless. It’s quite true that during Fairy Dance he’s not any good at ALO: every victory he had was because of someone else, whose help he only lucked into. He finishes off people who’d already been fighting, Yui helps him scare off an attack, Yui helps him fake out the general, the cut book content is also an ambush of an ongoing battle, he uses his hacked money to pay off a couple guilds to run a raid for him, Yui confirms Asuna’s presence, Asuna drops the key-card she acquired, and then a literal deus ex machina saves them at the end. Not once does Kirito save the day with his gamer powers, as he is so often mocked of doing. It’s a pretty total reversal from the previous arc.

              2. Syal says:

                These two guys.

                I’m sure part of it was having lost investment.

                1. Fizban says:

                  I can agree with them being a bit annoying actually, though not because they look medieval- the bad guy has a face that screams Evil loud enough to match ‘ol Grima Wormtounge, and the drill sergeant has one of those distinctly non-asian looking red hair ringing the whole face deals. Within common anime parameters, but they do stand out more than they really should.

    2. Fizban says:

      I missed oldest game. Let’s see. . . I was never very into the basic Mario platforming, but I do like to come back to Kirby Super Star every so often- it holds up better than both older and newer games I think.

      RPGs are interesting. Young or old, they’re generally quite long, but the engagement factors vary wildly based on game and plenty of newer games can rate high or low. I could jump into Pokemon Blue if I wanted, though it’s a bit of a grind sometimes. But I know that I’m pretty much done with the early Final Fantasy entries, even though I never properly finished 4 or 6 (should probably just give up and read an LP of 4). And in fact, as much of a classic as Fire Emblem (7) is, last time I tried replaying it just fell flat- just a few too many advancements in later games.

      1. Kathryn says:

        I don’t have a good LP link, but I do have a link to an interesting series of posts about the various translations of FFIV.

      2. Hal says:

        I really loved FF4 when I was a kid, but it really doesn’t hold up at all.

        One suspects that there’s an absolute mountain of material that could have ended up in the game to flesh out the narrative and characterization, but too little ended up in the remakes and re-releases, much less the original releases (in as much as you count FF2 in North America as an original release.) There are so many story beats that just seem to come out of nowhere, lore elements that never get explained, and character moments that are mysterious at best.

        Aside from that, most of the mechanics don’t really hold up well, either. The intense need for grinding is oft-cited, and for good reason. However, there are a lot of other things that don’t stand up to modern scrutiny either. Elemental vulnerability/resistance didn’t play too much of a factor in the course of the game, despite lots of spells and equipment that would suggest otherwise. Most of the spell lists are pretty redundant for that matter; and although there was an effort to make casting time matter for certain spells, it was way overdone in some cases.

        Like I said, I loved the game when I was a kid, but it doesn’t deserve it. It’s far more interesting as an example of what it could have been than what it actually was.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Yep the mechanics of FF4 really let it down.
          Guide: ‘This boss is basically unbeatable until your healer character gets to level 40 and unlocks a bigger cure spell.’
          Okay, so what’s my healer’s level? Ah, 31…
          …hmm, I wonder what’s on TV?

          1. Hal says:

            Yeah, that generally happens in the dwarven underground; a lot of games get hung up there. Presumably you could get a lot of leveling in because of all the side missions available, but many of those fights are very hard if you’re underleveled.

            My solution to that was to grind smarter, not longer. When you first get the airship, before heading to get the Crystal of Earth in Troia, you can kill off the other party members and power-level Cecil; after this point in the game, everyone who joins the group is pegged to Cecil’s level (Edge is the exception), which makes life much, much easier.

            It’s not a hard grind, either, but it’s that or wait until the underground.

            1. Fizban says:

              That’s great. Nothing like gaming mechanics the player has no way of knowing about the evade the grind. Not sure if I was actually getting far enough for that to matter, but still pretty cool.

              1. Hal says:

                Oh, understand that this is one of those things you figure out when you’ve played the game through dozens of times.

                There’s a similar opportunity in the first Final Fantasy as well, which makes taking on the Marsh Cave much easier; otherwise you’re stuck grinding ogres for ages until you can afford some decent spells and gear.

      3. BlueHorus says:

        Kind of weirdly, my enjoyment of the early Final Fantasy games has changed.

        When I was ~12, I took the stort of FF5 seriously, and really cared :$. Now, though, I still like it: sure, it may be a veritable checklist of just, all the predictable cliches that you get in computer games, but it’s fast-moving, simple to understand and there’s a really earnest and heartfelt, vibe to everything*.
        It’s like watching a play written and performed by kindergarten students. Sure the acting’s bad and the plot’s simplistic nonsense. It was written by 5-year-olds, what did you expect?
        But bless those kids, they’re giving it their all and acting their little hearts out. And there’s more imagination and original ideas on display here than you get in a play you’d see elsewhere. This is charming.

        *I think the limitations of the SNES helped: the bright pixel graphics, the cute sprites and the 8-bit music. Also the score – Nobuo Uematsu rocks.

        1. Fizban says:

          FF5 is the only early one I actually haven’t played. I’ve read an LP (or maybe two?) but I don’t know how many liberties it took with the script and don’t remember any of the plot, quite possibly for the reasons you’ve stated.

          Hmm, I’m not sure if there’s any RPG plots I’ve really “grown out of.” I tend to take every world presented me on its own terms for the story, either I’m all in or I’m all out. They may be old as dirt tropes to me, but for the characters this is the life they’ve got to live through, so for them it’s only a laughing matter if they can laugh about it.

          A lot of settings and stories are really depressing once you take them seriously, and it’s interesting to view them through that lens instead of just as a fun time for the player.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            I’d recommend it. The story is – well, see above – and the mechanics are actually not bad: that’s where the grown-up thought went. The boss fights can actually get tactical and there’s a surprising amount of freedom and choice in how your characters grow via the Jobs system.

            Plus it’s old enought to install and run on pretty much any PC via freeware emulator and/or I’m sure you can find a bajillion remakes/re-releases from Squeenix.

            1. Syal says:

              Yeah, 5 is one of the high points of the series, in part because bosses are often weak to (one or two) status effects. When’s the last time a heavy-hitting physical boss could be turned into a toad? 5 has it.

              And then there’s the ridiculous stuff.

    3. Hal says:

      I had one of those little hand-held LCD games: Megaman 2. Despite being terrible, I somehow managed to get pretty good at it. I’m not sure I ever beat it, though.

      1. Fizban says:

        I found mine digging around recently and gave one of them a try. Was much more able to tell what was going on having played the Sonic games proper, but the lurching of the display was intense at that 2-3 frames per second. I could easily tell that 1: I now had the ability to practice and get better, and 2: there was no way I’d ever bother. Keeping them around as a piece of history though.

  6. I believe the first video game I ever played was Pong on a friend’s Atari in 1979.

    The first game I remember distinctly not liking was the arcade version of Dragon’s Lair. I just didn’t get it.

    I still go back and play the original Deus Ex and No One Lives Forever games. They are my happy place.

    1. TMC_Sherpa says:

      Similar to me except it was a dedicated pong machine.
      Dragon’s Lair! That’s a really good call. I was expecting a video game, not a QTE machine.

  7. Narkis says:

    What was your first game?

    The first game I remember playing was Chip’s Challenge, which was bundled with my father’s 386. The first purchased games I played were Settlers 3 and Civilization 3. I still have the CDs, and still play both.

    What was the first game you remember not liking?

    Dark Reign 2. It was the first purchase I regretted.

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

    I was going to say Master of Orion 2, but then Daemian Lucifer went and reminded me of X-com, so I’m going to have to change my answer to that. But most of my favorite games are roughly in the period of 1998-2004 and have remained so for almost twenty years now, so I’ll have to agree that it was a Golden Age of games.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      For everyone who really likes the two good moo games,I recommend stars in shadows.The only downside it has is that you cant make your own races,but the ones on offer are all good,and it does have modding support.

      1. Decius says:

        $10.98 with all DLC and receiving updates over a year after launch? Sold.

    2. PPX14 says:

      The first game I remember playing was Chip’s Challenge, which was bundled with my father’s 386.


      And then Rodent when I was banned from Chip’s Challenge as it was too stressful. My parents either uninstalled Chip, or just deleted the icon, not sure.

      1. PPX14 says:

        Oldest game:

        Dark Forces (1995) – very enjoyable!

  8. Kathryn says:

    First game would be Zork. On a floppy on the Apple ][e. Yes, I’m old.

    First game I didn’t like… Hmm. I think someone gave me Jurassic Park, which I didn’t like, for SNES. Probably something on the Atari or the ][e before that that I’m not thinking of.

    I would still play Zork. I would also still play Super Mario World and the Donkey Kong Country games. If we’re talking JRPGs, I don’t really have the patience/time to grind anymore, so almost none of the earlier ones are on my would-still-play list. (Yes, I know, you beat FFIV with only a level 2 Rosa, and you routinely finish FFX with only Rikku alive and no sphere grid or aeons. Good for you.)

    1. Fizban says:

      I also had the SNES Jurassic Park, and I like it aside from that one glaring flaw- absolutely no ability to save or password the game! Completion requires navigating multiple interiors in first person (with about the visual quality you’d expect, so you’re making your own map bro), and collecting every single raptor egg. These are not tasks that you accomplish in one sitting. Run it on an emulator with save states and it’s functional. Not necessarily super fun, but playable.

      It’s also the Jurrasic Park game that’s actually the most in tune with the books. Other games are contra clones or action platformers or park builders or first person shooters, having nothing to do with the actual plot. The SNES game however, lines up on multiple accounts: aside from needing to restore power to call for extraction, the tiny armories off in the middle of nowhere, where you get nerve gas to destroy the raptor next?

      Yeah that’s from the end of the book. Grant says they need to find out the extent of the raptors’ security breach, they find a hidden armory that no one had been told about, load up with gas masks and nerve gas for safety, and go raptor counting at the nest. So that’s pretty damn cool, one game that’s actually closer to the books rather than just being a game with dinos.

  9. John says:

    The first game I played was probably something on my neighbor’s Atari 2600 or else an arcade game I can no longer recall. I played an awful lot of Combat and Moon Patrol once upon a time.

    The first game I remember not liking was . . . oh, gosh, I don’t know. My father used to take us to this store that sold heavily discounted software. I think they got their stock by buying up the unwanted inventory from other software stores or maybe from other software stores that had gone bankrupt. They had a lot of old stuff. By the early 90s it was one of the few places we could reliably find games for our various Apple IIs. We got a few games there that I just never figured out. I guess I disliked those. It got to the point where I used to buy ports of Atari games as I figured those would at least possess a certain minimum comprehensibility. So while I was introduced to Moon Patrol on the 2600 I beat it on an Apple IIc.

    The first game I distinctly remember disliking was Broderbund’s Ancient Art of War, a strategy game that was a bit of an RTS a good five years or more before RTS was really a thing. I was so bad at that game. I could handle maneuvering armies on the map. I was terrible at leading armies in combat. There were three types of troops in the game, light infantry, heavy infantry, and archers, with a sort of a rock-paper-scissors relationship. Light infantry beats archers, heavy infantry beats light infantry, and archers beat heavy infantry. The trick was to compose your army in such a way as to counter the enemy’s composition and to order different troop types to advance or retreat to counter what the enemies troops were doing. I never got the hang of it, not that I tried particularly hard. I had played the sequel, The Ancient Art of War at Sea, first and I was really good at that game, even though I knew I was ignoring a lot of the content and playing in a way that the designers didn’t intend. Look, it’s not my fault that they made the little, fast ships so OP and that I could play the game like it was Sid Meier’s Pirates! instead of the Admiral Nelson simulator they were going for.

    The oldest game I enjoy today is either Sid Meier’s Colonization, Command & Conquer, or Tie Fighter. I still play all of those from time to time. I thought I would still enjoy playing Wing Commander Privateer, but it turns out that I don’t. The oldest game I could enjoy? I don’t know. I’ve got one of those mock Atari 2600 joysticks with a bunch of games on it, none of which I enjoy much, but I’d wager that I’d still enjoy some of the sports mini-game collections that Epyx used to put out way back when. I don’t know that I’d play them for a long time, but it’s hard to imagine not enjoying the surfing or BMX mini-games in California Games or the cliff diving in World Games.

  10. Hal says:

    What was your first game?

    Oldest game I remember playing was Donkey Kong on my uncle’s Colecovision.

    What was the first game you remember not liking?

    I don’t remember exactly which game. Could have been Rad Racer. I just remember discovering very early in the life of the NES that racing games were not for me. (Super Mario Kart was a delightful exception to that.)

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

    Ooooh. Well, I still have my collection of NES games, so I suppose I could count that. For games that I might spend more than a single afternoon on, however, I’d either have to say Final Fantasy (the original) or Quest for Glory. I’ve gone back to replay those every so often for most of my life; really enjoyable games!

    1. Marslineman says:

      Gotta love the ColecoVision. That was also my first game system/ gaming memory, although I’m not sure which game I played first- Donkey Kong, Smurfs, Carnival, or Zaxxon (my older sisters bought the system/ games).

      Oldest game I still enjoy would probably be the original Castlevania (1986, NES). Just played it through about a year ago- IMO the absolute platonic ideal of a NES-era platformer, with amazing music and fantastic level design. An absolute classic

      And I totally agree about the Quest for Glory games. Just re-played QfG4 a couple years ago, and it was again a wonderful experience. The creators of the QfG series also just put out a new game this past month- Hero-U. It got great reviews on GOG, although it seems to have slipped past the mainstream gaming media

      1. Hal says:

        Bizarrely enough, I never played QFG4; I only ever played up through 3 because that’s what I owned back in the day. Our computer didn’t have a CD drive and I could never find QFG4 on floppy disk.

        platonic ideal of a NES-era platformer

        You’d think that would be a Mario game. For my two cents, it’d be a Mega Man game (2 seems to be the highlight of the series for most.)

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          I absolutely love MM2 (it definitely has the best soundtrack of the 8-bit series), but I don’t even know how I ever finished it back in the day without save states. If you run out of crash bombs during the gun room boss fight in Dr. Wily’s Castle, I don’t know how you ever succeed. I think 3 and 4 introduced some of the additional mechanics that defined the rest of the 8-bit games (Rush, the slide, energy capsules for weapons), but the robot bosses start feeling lame and repetitive pretty quickly. How many versions of “fire guy”, “electricity guy”, “ninja guy”, etc. can you do?

          1. Hal says:

            Oh, the gun room. Yeah, that one is kind of a gut punch when you’re a kid. My solution to it was always to blow up all the walls, die, and then refill your weapon off of energy drops from the hallway outside the boss room. Not the most obvious solution, but since the walls don’t respawn, it becomes the easiest.

        2. Marslineman says:

          I suppose it’s true that the Mario games pretty much defined the platformer. And I certainly love MM2 (with another classic soundtrack). But to me, Castlevania was just a perfect game- the slightly delayed controls and the tight level design combine to force an absolute mastery of the mechanics. Which when achieved feels like playing a work of art. The eerie atmosphere combined with zero wasted motion- to me it’s absolutely beautiful.

          And yeah, QfG4 was a bitch to get to work properly back in the day, even if you had a CD drive. But it’s definitely worth checking out today- in my opinion, it’s the best QfG game. And the voice acting is absolutely superb- you have Jennifer Carpenter (Femshep) in one of her first roles, and the narrator is voiced by non other than Gimli (from the LotR movies). A beautiful dark tale, and one of my favorite games of all time.

  11. Tomato says:

    I’m discovering old games from back to the early 90s all the time and enjoy them from beginning to end. TIE Fighter, DN3D, Doom, X-COM are all very playable. Why wouldn’t they be? They haven’t changed. I believe, if someone can’t get into DN3D today they probably wouldn’t have wanted to play it in 1996 either. Maybe they wouldn’t even have been gamers at all back then. Gaming had a smaller (niche) audience.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The games have not changed,but the monitors have.Playing those games on big ass wide screen monitors is not that good of an experience.Unless you play them windowed,and not everyone likes that.They are great for tablets though.

  12. Droid says:

    The oldest game I’d still enjoy today? Lemme look this up, which of these is older:

    – Pharaoh, Oct 1999
    – Age of Empires II, Sep 1999
    – Wario Land II, Feb 1999
    – Baldur’s Gate, Nov 1998
    – ANNO 1602, Sep 1998
    – Settlers III, Aug 1998
    – Battlespire, Nov 1997 (hey, no one asked “enjoyment from playing the game myself“, right?)
    – Age of Empires, Oct 1997
    – Dungeon Keeper, Jun 1997
    – Quake, Jun 1996

    Wow, we have a winner!

    That’s not the oldest game, I’ve played, though. I have actually played games that are at least a few years older than myself, but none of them really hold up today even from my perspective, tainted with nostalgia as it is. Or I just can’t remember them right now.

  13. Rymdsmurfen says:

    First game I remember playing would be Atari Gran Trak 10. The graphics was just as good as the driving experience.

    Can’t remember the first game I didn’t like, but I guess it must have been a C64 game. A pirated one with no printed instructions and entirely incomprehensible. Had a couple of those.

    Except for nostalgic reasons I don’t think I would play any older game. BG/Icewind Dale perhaps?

  14. Furo says:

    The first game I’ve played? Sopwith, I guess.

    Also, for some reason I still remember the first ZX Spectrum game I’ve played, which was a bit later: Chicago 30’s.

    And the oldest game I can still enjoy, and, indeed, enjoed fairly recently, is probably Might and Magic III.

    1. RCN says:

      Love me some might and magic. My favorite is 7, though.

      What is it about JVC RPGs that make them so enjoyable?

      The roleplay is light. The progression is nice but there are deeper games on that. The writing is deeper than it seems but it is still very silly.

      I think it is because he fills his game in a way that they feel crammed with content that other RPGs just feel either barren or small in comparison.

    2. Blake Winton says:

      I loved Sopwith! One of the first things I ever printed was a screenshot of it, with Ctrl-PrtScr! Well, I loved it until we upgraded our computer, and it ran far too fast to play.

      My first game was probably Apple Panic or Raster Blaster, with Choplifter and Lode Runner close behind…

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    “Every atom is procedural” doesn’t even make sense as a metaphor, there’s plenty of scripted content.

  16. DangerNorm says:

    You should start a podcast with something else occasionally, otherwise it will become a de facto standard and legacy listeners will be unable to recognize Diecasts that don’t start with “So Paul…”.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its too late now that he has started even the episode with SoldierHawke and no Paul with “So,Paul”

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Gave me a right spook when I listened to that episode too.

  17. Allan says:

    Regarding the bad games thing, I can empathise a lot with what paul said at first. When I was a young kid back in the days of 56k internet about 15 years ago and only being able to buy 3 or 4 games a year (outside of birthday and christmas) I got one called Army Men II. It was a strange tactical combat sim about sapient living plastic toy soldier figurines who were engaged in a genocidal racial war (green army figurines versus tan army figurines mostly) and there was a dimensional portal that the tans were using to enter our dimension and aquire ‘superweapons’ such as magnifying glasses, zippo lighters an hairspray and you had to guide the righteous green army to victory. I played that game to death, getting deeply into it’s lore, going over every mission til i found every secret, side objective and perfect score. It was a truly utterly amazing game that I had so much fun with.
    Then I remember several years later I looked up the old game out of curiosity and found a lot of the contemporary reviews of it had been pretty scathing. A lot of people thought it was a pretty poor game, but since I’d had pretty much no other games to play I’d wrung enjoyment from it like a dishcloth in the desert. Kind of want to playit again now see if still can.

  18. djw says:

    I’m old enough that my first video game probably was some variant on pong. However, the first game that I recall being intrigued by was Adventure on Atari 2600. I also watched a friends uncle play Adventure (a different adventure, the precursor to Zork) on the Heathkit computer in their basement. This was probably in 1981.

    I don’t recall any games that stick out as the first game that I did not like. I did not even own a PC or console until the mid-90’s, so I was happy to play any game to feed my starved addiction prior to that.

    Oldest game I am happy to play now is Masters of Magic (1994) since nothing made since has quite managed to scratch the same itch, despite many attempts to do so. The Age of Wonder series made a valiant attempt, and is fun in its own way, but it is no Masters of Magic…

    Aside from that I mostly agree with the 1998-ish cutoff, although “Ninety-Three” mentioned Might and Magic III, which I think I probably could still enjoy (I have played IV as recently as 10 years ago, but never did play III).

  19. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    The first game I can remember ever playing was Berzerk on my cousin’s Atari 2600. And since I was quite young and not of a generation that was born into computers and gaming, I was quite terrible at it. Not long after that, I was immersed in “gaming” by my school creating for us a computer class that consisted of playing learning-based games on the monochrome monitors of Apple IIe machines. But that doesn’t count as gaming, right?

    The first game I remember not liking was RC Pro Am on the NES because my child-brain could not grasp the steering mechanics of that isometric view. I came back to that game years later and had more success with it. I did play my friend’s copy of the terrible E.T. game on the 2600 that was so awful that a large pile of them ended up in a landfill in New Mexico. But that game was so nonsensical that it seemed to transcend good or bad in the sense of “This isn’t right. It’s not even wrong.”

    The oldest game that I could still enjoy today is pretty much anything I played back on that 8-bit NES. But I guess the question is more specific than that, so I’d say Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior (Quest). I think I’d lean more toward that latter now that I think about it.

    A game that needs revived? The one that jumped immediately to my mind was a PS1 RPG that I really enjoyed: The Legend of Dragoon. Some of the translation for the localization wasn’t great, but I remember really liking the story. A close runner-up for me would be the NES game The Battle of Olympus. It was Nintendo-hard, but it dove deeper into Greek mythology than anything had before and would only be rivaled later by Kratos as he stuck a pile of dynamite under that mythology and pushed the plunger.

  20. Ninety-Three says:

    The first game I remember playing is some DOS game from when I was approximately three, all I remember is that you controlled a dump truck picking up things. The first game I can put a name to was Myst, although there was a lot of sitting on my dad’s lap pointing at things.

    I’m sure there were plenty of games I didn’t like as a kid, but none of them were the kind of big disappointments that stuck with me. Some time around age ten I got a Commander Keen game for Gameboy and it kind of sucked, so that I guess?

    I could probably enjoy fifteen minutes of Tetris (1984), but if we’re talking about an evening’s gaming the old candidates are X-COM (1994) which I still play sometimes, Myst (1993) which I enjoyed a 2016 replay of, or maybe Lemmings (1991).

    Edit: Actually, I never had a console growing up but I got to experience it at friend’s houses, I could probably still enjoy Super Mario 3 (1988, or 1990 NA release).

  21. Bubble181 says:

    Oldest game I recall playing a lot – Zeliard – published in 1987. I’m old, man. In some respects it still holds up – it’s an easy side-scrolling with some platformy bits. Graphics are horribly dated and don’t expect a lot of depth, but hey, there’s different weapons and shields, different magic abilities, magical artifacts to find to open up new areas,…. I can still play it to this day, though it’s different than it was for 4-or-5-year-old me, of course.

    First game I remember not liking…Probably one of those too-hard-for-my-age games. I started gaming when I was 3 or 4 (yeah, so I played Pong and Pac-Man before Zeliard, probably, but I don’t remember those). Oh, hey, I do remember Actua Soccer (’95) with a deep-seated anger and hatred. My brother loved it and loved destroying me in it – I was horrible at it.

    Oldest game I still enjoy…Some games are much “simpler” now than they looked back then, but I still enjoy C&C (the original), Zeliard, HoMM III, Warcraft II (I find I has aged more, but YMMV), and I even still enjoy Daggerfall (The Elder Scrolls: Before it was cool). I usually replay slightly newer games, simply because it’s easier to get them and to get them to work – most of the really old ones I only own on floppy or disc, and my pc can’t read either anymore.

    Needs to be revived…A *good* base-builder RPG like Warcraft or C&C – both have newer iterations, but those aren’t the same (MMORPG in one case, fast-paced wannabe-moba-crap in the other). I’d also say Top-down ARPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind dale, but honestly ,that genre is fuill of life right now, I haven’t even finished Tyranny or Pillars of Eternity!

    1. Hal says:

      Yeah, the RTS is not a popular genre anymore. There are those mobile games that kind of simulate it, but like most mobile games, their purpose seems to be to extract money from your wallet, not to provide any sort of gameplay experience.

      I’ve always thought that a fully realized single-player Warcraft RPG (and not just the single-player experience of the MMO) would have been a really wonderful game. People decry the various off-kilter things you could do with mechanics and gearing the MMO that were removed for the sake of balance, something that’s important in an MMO with PvP mechanics and people racing to be world-first finishers of content. In a single player game? You don’t have the muck with that, so people can fool around with esoteric builds to their hearts’ content. Plus, not having to build the world around a persistent setting in an online basis means the world can change around you in ways that are difficult to pull off in an MMO.

      But neither a traditional RPG or an RTS will pull in the cash that the MMO does, so . . . that’s the end of that.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Also,both baldurs gate and icewind dale do have enhanced editions,which are actually good facelifts.

    3. GoStu says:

      I said the same thing about RTS: the genre, by and large, seems to be effectively dead. Starcraft 2 is still doing its thing but other than that, it seems like nobody wants to go near Real Time Strategy any more. There’ll probably never be another Warcraft RTS, Command and Conquer has been killed and its skin stretched over a shitty mobile game, and all kinds on one-off IP is just littered out there waiting for a resurrection.

      These used to be super-popular, now it feels like nobody goes near it. I’m aware of maybe two credible indies that did RTS and neither of them were especially well-received. Grey Goo was a sort-of classic style RTS that got a boring 6/10 on Steam despite some fanfare and hype. Achron was ingenious but seriously brain-twisting at times and I dropped it as I simply couldn’t out-think it.

      1. Droid says:

        There’s Act of War/Act of Aggression which had a mixed reception, Age of Empires II HD has been releasing new content up to last year IIRC, the practically brand-new (not really) AoE I Definitive Edition, an announcement for AoE IV which I am very sceptical about, Northgard which is slowly converging on some gameplay, etc. There’s also a few AoE knockoff indie titles that I was never interested in and forgot, but they are usually featured on one AoE YouTube channel or another.

        That said, there is AI War: Fleet Command from Arcen Games. It’s an “Asymmetric Grand Strategic 4X Tower Defense RTS” (no, I’m not kidding, and neither are they lying!) which is a joy to figure out if you can get past the UI (7/7 difficulty and few extra options is a good start, whereas 10/10 difficulty is going to rip out your guts and make you eat them). The devs are working on a sequel for that, which hopefully fixes the strange UI and downtime issues (mainly waiting for things to rebuild after you screw up, which can be sped up, though).

  22. baud says:

    First game I’ve played is either one of the preinstalled windows game, like demineur, one of the card games or the pinball game, or Age of Empire. And I remember trying (and failing horribly) to play prince of persia with my brothers.

    First game I’ve disliked was Age of Empire, because I did not really knew how to play. I was started enjoying STR with the EA adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

    Oldest game I could replay is Zelda: Link’s awakening (color version), which I picked in bargain bin and played multiple times since then.

  23. Ander says:

    First I can remember was a Winnie the Pooh game on game boy color. I know there were kid computer adventure games before that by Humongous, e.g. Spy Fox, Freddie Fish, but I can’t remember specifically.

    First I remember disliking was a…I think it would have been the DS version of GRID. Absolutely no sense of speed. That game taught me to not follow a reviewer’s preferences blindly.

    Not sure what I could still play. I have a SNES Classis, and I’ve been quite enjoying Super Metroid.

  24. evilmrhenry says:

    I’ve actually been going through old DOS platforming games recently, and having fun. A lot of them still hold up reasonably well. I’ve also played through a bunch of DOOM-related games, though on a DOOM source port, because they’re much better that way. I’ve also played through Super Mario World very recently. In general, anything SNES-level or above is generally going to be fine. NES-level gets a bit iffy; the game needs to be really good for me to want to bother. Atari-level I don’t even bother with. The jump from Atari to the NES isn’t just in graphics; the older games didn’t even have enough space to manage proper gameplay.

  25. First Game?
    I remember playing an old JumpStart PC game where you had to click and drag to feed a dog a bone and also some game about what I think might have been a wildthing at the beach. First actual game I remember playing was probably goldeneye or something on my cousins N64 years later. First game I ever got really into though was Metroid Prime.

    First game I remember not liking?
    Some start wars PC game my dad bought for me. It was kind of like an RTS, but I don’t remember the name of it and I’m don’t care enough to google. It was probably a fun game, but I was like 5 so I didn’t stick around long.

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?
    For 3D games it’s probably half life or SS2, but I just recently played I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream which was a point and click from 1995 and really enjoyed it.

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    What was your first game?

    The first game I ever played was Asteroids on, I believe, a Heathkit H89. If it wasn’t the Heathkit, it was some other computer released around 1978-1982.

    (I can’t 100% reliably say which computer it was, because part of my father’s job was to bring home super expensive personal computers and test them out and decide which ones the company would use.

    As one example of something I remember that most kids probably didn’t experience, I remember being annoyed at IBM for changing the name of PC-DOS to OS/2. The PC-DOS boot screen just looked better.)

    What was the first game you remember not liking?

    I remember not liking that PAC-GAL (a text mode pacman clone) wouldn’t work on the newer computers.

    I remember not liking Pacman as much as I liked Super Pacman.

    I remember not liking E.T. for the 2600 for all the same reasons most kids didn’t like E.T. for the 2600.

    I remember getting annoyed at the defective copy protection for Robot Odyssey affecting the original legitimate copy we had as well as both of the two replacement copies we ordered. The copy protection kept me from playing past the tutorial levels, so I just played them over and over again.

    I remember despising Windows 2.x and 3.x because they took up too much memory and you couldn’t run any good (DOS) games when they were loaded.

    I remember thinking that the RISC OS on my friend’s Acorn computer was garbage because it didn’t have a prompt and could only boot into memory-hogging GUI mode. Only it turned out that there actually was the equivalent of a DOS prompt built in to RISC OS, not to mention BASIC built in (!!!), and my friend just wasn’t computer-literate enough to think either of those were useful. So Acorn computers weren’t garbage at all, after all.

    I remember not liking Final Fantasy on the NES because my tastes were not yet sophisticated enough to appreciate turn-based combat.

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

    Other than Colossal Cave or Trek? (Those aren’t fair picks because I haven’t actually played either on a mainframe.) I guess that would have to be Asteroids. Spacewar is historically significant, but just isn’t that good.

    A game that needs to be revived?

    Most of the ones I would have picked have actually been done recently or will be out soon. Kickstarter can be disappointing, but you also get some amazing things out of it on a regular basis. A recent example: Chasm is good.

    Rocky’s Boots / Robot Odyssey, maybe. We already have redstone in Minecraft and the ability to create Turing-complete computers in Infinifactory and other games have similar sufficiently-complex mechanics, but nothing that aims to teach you digital circuit logic in a kid-friendly way. My ideal final Robot Odyssey 2 level would ask you to create a computer capable of running Robot Odyssey 1.

  27. NPC says:

    “what do they want to sell? What are they in it for?”
    Gamestop makes its dosh on used game sales and, increasingly, on general “gamer” merchandise. The flagship Gamestop in my own town has more shelf space for Funko Pops than for actual videogames.

  28. Christopher says:

    The first game I played was the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cart that came with w ton of NESes. I forget which of them I played first.

    The first game I remember actively disliking was the SNES adaptation of the movie The Pagemaster. It’s an abysmal game justifiably forgotten to time, which I got along with some actually good games and some actual classics when I bought a used SNES.

    The oldest game I can still enjoy is probably Super Mario World on the SNES, 1990, soon 30 years old. I was born the same year, so it’s a good cut-off point. I have occasionally played some NES games and had a decent time, and good game design has aged gracefully – but almost all the good ones have gotten remakes on later consoles, and I prefer those versions.

    Honestly though, I just rarely revisit very old games, so I dunno.

    Revive God Hand, you cowards

  29. tmtvl says:

    Oldest game I remember playing:
    No idea of the name, but a game where you guide a frog through a maze I played about a year before my parents got Windows 3.1.1.

    First game I disliked:
    First game I remember disliking was Test Drive 4 for the PlayStation. Coincidentally the first game I actually hated was also a racing game. They just don’t seem like my jam.

    Oldest game I play today:
    I play Final Fantasy V (released 1992) every so often, I’d say it’s the first FF game that was actually really fun to play.

    Game I want to revive:
    This is a tough one, as there’s two old PC RPGs vying for my attention: Revenant, which had a really interesting combat system and would’ve been a great game if the devs didn’t get screwed over because of John Romero’s Daikatana…
    and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, my favourite RPG ever. In fact, the one game that never was released which I pine for the most would be the sequel, Journey to the Centre of Arcanum.

    Anyway, that’s my list done, thanks for yet another great show, guys.

  30. Jason says:

    The first game I remember playing was Telegames Pong. The kind where both of the dials are permanently attached to the console.

    First game I remember not liking is a tough call. Defender was definitely too hard for me, so that’s a contender. There were a lot of crappy games in the 80s, but we played them all because we had no choice. Even if they weren’t any good.
    I absolutely loved watching Dragons Lair, but almost never played it because it was way too hard. I’d put my 50 cents in (the only game in the arcade that cost more than a quarter) and would die so fast it wasn’t funny.

    Oldest game I could still play would be the original Star Wars arcade game. The vector graphics one that’s just the assault on the Death Star over and over. I haven’t played it in years though, But I think it would still hold up.
    The oldest game I still play occasionally would probably be Gargoyle’s Quest on the Gameboy. It was the second Gameboy game I owned (after Tetris of course) and I played the heck out of it. I still fire it up on the emulator occasionally.
    For PC games, it would be the original Half-Life. It’s still fun to play sometimes.

  31. “What is the first game you remember playing?”

    Wow, that’s really difficult! At home it would be Space Invaders on a old Atari console (looks at the website background artwork… now that is eerie!)

    Here’s the thing though, I probably played a game on a arcade first, but I can’t recall any that predates my memory of Space Invaders. I also had Pong on the console as well so it could even be that.

    “What was the first game you remember not liking?”

    I think I’ve suppressed the memory by now. But it was probably based on expectations, i.e. how SWTOR was not KoTOR3.

    “What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?”

    This is a tad difficult. I’d have to say Knights of The Old Republic (KoTOR). I’m sick tired of the same missions and, running around underwater is horrifyingly tedious, and I really dislike kashyyyk. Yet…I always have this constant itch “Hmm. maybe just “one” more time?!” in my mind). It’s the equivalent of being obese and crying while you eat a piece of cake admitting to yourself how fat you are but you still keep eating the cake.

    “A game that needs to be revived?”

    KoTOR. just kidding, well kinda not. It needs to be re-mastered to take more advantage of modern tech. Fix a few issues it has (video cutscenes bugging out), add back some cut content. Improve audio quality, maybe spruce up some of the textures etc. Same with KoTOR2.

    But there are three games that really need to be revived/rebooted. No One Lives Forever (and it’s sequel), and Blade Runner The Game and Aliens vs Predator 2″ by Monolith (and it’s prequel expansion).

  32. Lisa says:

    What was your first game?

    It’s either a pong variant or space invaders (the one where the colour of the rows was transparent coloured bands placed over the black and white screen).

    What was the first game you remember not liking?

    Cops and Robbers on the VIC 20. I never got on with that one!

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?

    I still play some of the earlier C64 titles like Impossible Mission, Elite or even Zork. I recently started playing Ultima IV again. The only reason I stopped is I’m far lazier now about taking notes than I used to be. And you really need notes! (or an excellent whatchamacallit!)

    A game that needs to be revived?

    I’d love the Ultima series to start again. But ignoring the terrible last installment …

    1. GoStu says:

      Well, at least Elite has a modernized version…

  33. Canthros says:

    The first game I remember was some sort of lemonade stand edutainment thing running on my parents’ Apple II (no bleeding a, b, c, or d (or e)!). I might have been 5 or so. Somewhere around 1984-1986 or so, if I had to guess.

    The first game I remember disliking is probably the multiplayer side of Starcraft, ca 1998. I just don’t bother with strategy games, now. The multiplayer side of them is the part that’s genuinely interesting, and, also, the part I am positively awful at.

    The oldest game I could probably still go back and play is Final Fantasy IV or VI, both of which probably rely on a fair bit of nostalgia, since I played those as FF II and FF III on the SNES back in the day. (V isn’t bad, but I never really got into the story in that one, and found the gameplay a bit more tedious than I currently enjoy. Still like the Job System, though. FF1 is a bit thin, all the way around, and FF2 suffers, badly, from a leveling mechanic that is more interesting than fun to play with. I tried to play FF3 on the DS or 3DS, and got lost when the story sort of evaporated at one point.) It’s probably the case that I could go back and play most of Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 3, or Super Mario World, too, but platforming really hasn’t been my gig for a long while.

    A series I wish they’d revive … I don’t think I really want it touched, at the moment, but I would love another Jedi Knight/Jedi Academy game. At present, though, all that stuff is waaaaay out of canon, and it’d probably be a perfunctory single player campaign tied to a lootbox-driven multiplayer shooter or a games-as-a-service nightmare.

  34. Syal says:

    First videogame I remember playing was either Galaxian at my dad’s school, or Super Mario Brothers 1 when I got a Nintendo.

    First game I remember disliking was Xevious.

    As for oldest games I can still enjoy… I’m easily entertained. I can still enjoy Galaxian, and Super Mario Brothers 1, and Dragon Quest 1.

    …I’m assuming we’re limiting this to videogames. Otherwise you’re looking at Cribbage or Farkle, and disliking Punch Buggy.

  35. Aaron Ellery Breland says:

    My first and first enjoyed game were the same. A stand up arcade machine of Moon Patrol in a laundromat in Lowell Michigan circa 1983. Mind blown.

  36. RJT says:

    The first…entertaining…computer…thing…I played was on this computer that didn’t have a hard drive and plugged into the TV. It had a manual of sample BASIC programs you could type in, which took me a very long time as I couldn’t read at the time. I liked the one that let you hit different keys to change the color on the screen.

    The first official game I remember playing was probably Chuck Yeager’s Flight Simulator. According to Wikipedia, this game apparently got into legal trouble for the name which was later changed. I really enjoyed the Sopwith Camel, which could be flown upside down. I never could figure out how to launch the space shuttle.

    There were a lot of flavorless Genesis games I probably hated, but I don’t remember them now. The games that annoyed me enough to quit playing (and give up on videogames entirely until GOG came around) were the formerly Maxis games after they were bought by EA. They had some truly intrusive DRM.

  37. WarlockOfOz says:

    Oldest video game played (excluding coin-op machines) – likely asteroids on an Atari. Used to ride my bicycle an hour to a friend’s house just to play it.
    Oldest video game on my own equipment – hand coded snake on a Dick Smith VZ-200 (won as a prize, it was a Vic-20 equivalent in the commodore 64 era, and the prize didn’t include the cassette player attachment…).
    Oldest video game I specifically recall on my own equipment: Elite on an Amstrad C128.
    Oldest video game I have recently replayed: Starcontrol 2. ***Want more/remake***

  38. First game?: IK+ (International Karate +) for C64.

    First game you remember not liking?: The original SimCity. Just didn’t click with me. But SC2k is one of the best games ever made.

    Oldest game you could still enjoy today?: Master of Magic for DOS. My other answer would be The Settlers for A500, but was mostly superseded by the anniversary edition of The Settlers 2 and Widelands.

  39. Joe Informatico says:

    First game: I want to say Galaga. Definitely a quarter-munching shooter from that era.

    First game disliked: Probably Pole Position. It was an early racing game, but the way your car exploded if you even touched something that wasn’t the road made it extremely frustrating.

    Oldest game I can still enjoy today: Spy Hunter. I got into Bond movies at a young age through my dad, and this was the best approximation of one until GoldenEye N64. If I can actually find a cabinet in the wild I will play it, but the PlayStation port I had was okay too.

  40. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    What is the first game you remember playing?
    The original Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet triple cartridge. I appreciate that that was it because from the VERY beginning, I was trained that gaming was all kinds of things. Different genres, different input devices, different styles, etc. By the time the next must play light gun shooters came out (Time Crisis and Point Blank for Ps1), that was already something I thought was cool. Same with motion controls on Wii Sports, I’d run a track meet in a game when I was a tiny child, Wii seemed like a good update, rather than an amazing new idea from my perspective.

    What was the first game you remember not liking?
    I’ll call this one a tie. It was either the Joseph portion of Bible Adventures for NES (tuned like crap, involved scaling a never ending waterfall to find the poor, lost baby Jesus. Judging by how I could NEVER beat it, he DEFINITELY starved to death). Banging my head against this did have the side effect of making the infamous waterfall level of Lion King for Genesis a cake walk. Oh sorry guys, playing a version of this that is physically possible to beat is just too simple with my tragic, Jesus-neglect-killing backstory. Or it could have been Ren and Stimpy Space Cadet Adventures for the Game Boy. Each level was about 57 years long and featured imprecise controls, extremely esoteric navigation, and ruthless enemies that could easily wipe out your tiny, tiny health bar. If they had been more generous with health items and lives, I probably would have beaten this many times, as I was obsessed with it for some reason. As it was, getting to the 2nd level where you get to play Stimpy was a bit of a feat.

    What’s the oldest game you could still enjoy today?
    Pac-Man is something I always find appealing for a round or two, no matter how many times I play it. Ms. Pac-man is even better.

    A game that needs to be revived?
    Rocket Knight Adventures. 2D platforming from the Contra IV era, Konami absolutely nailed the two Genesis games in this series. I’ve never gotten to try the very different SNES version of Sparkster to see if it is any good, unfortunately. Konami nowadays is complete trash and didn’t bother to release that one on Wii or 3DS Virtual Console. There actually was a 360/Ps3 era new game in the series (confusingly called just “Rocket Knight”), but it’s the worst in the series by far (unless Sparkster SNES is terrible). Very Sonic 4-ish, in that it takes the basic idea of the original, applies ugly low-effort 3D graphics to it, slows it WAY down, gets the physics wrong, and only ever rises to the level of “eh… that was okay.” If they could do a Sonic Mania type new release, I would buy it in an INSTANT.

  41. GoStu says:

    First Game: I have some memories of playing something called “Fleas” or “Fleez” on an old PC. It was a top-down schmup kind of game that in hindsight wasn’t very special at all.

    Oldest Game you Still Enjoy: This is a tough one. I do think that game developers have gotten much better at making games as time’s gone on. Rutskarn’s Altered Scrolls series touches on some things about how studios have refined their games over time. I have fond nostalgia for Morrowind but I have a suspicion that it might evaporate if I went back for another playthrough, so I’ve never seriously tried.

    I’m tempted to say something like some of the old 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games. Those were very fun at the time, and yet the developers of Sonic have notoriously never really managed to improve upon or update the formula. This is assuming you don’t count something like Tetris or Pong, which I can still play a little, but I feel they’re not in the spirit of the question.

    Edit: one more contender – the Heroes of Might and Magic games, particularly #3. This is yet another entry in the series of games that “man these were good, shame they screwed it up so bad later”.

    First Game you Disliked: I award this title to ‘old adventure games with text parsers’. They can share it because I don’t remember which one was the first one I played and hated. Old platformers were “simply” extremely punishing with somewhat stiff controls; at least the challenge was clear. Trying to solve these old adventure games was guessing at riddles and the developer cheated and made them rely on crazy-person moon logic. At best you could soldier through by ‘using’ every object on every other object and puzzle, hoping to advance. At worst there were a lot of instant game overs that didn’t have the courtesy to tell you that you’ve lost until you invest several more hours playing.

    What game needs to be revived: Can I award this to an entire genre? If yes, I’d say Real Time Strategy needs to make a comeback. I fear that Starcraft has kind of poisoned the well though, as it’s codified a lot of gameplay nuisances that become sacred cows to the whole genre. Gathering resources isn’t just player busywork; it’s now a “must” to have. SC2 so thoroughly dominates the RTS scene that even the best knockoffs straight copy a lot of its gameplay nuisances. The Total War series does keep doing its thing with different IP hats, but otherwise I feel like innovation in the scene is dead. There’s very few indies even trying it that I’m aware of.

    Achron was a very promising (if confusing) indie entry in the genre that garnered very little attention. Tom Clancy’s EndWar was fun and strayed from the formula in a lot of good ways, but feels overlooked in hindsight. I guess if I have to narrow it down I’d love to see another Endwar, even if it means divorcing Tom Clancy and just rebranding to something else. I loved the mechanics, I loved the “strategy without busywork”, and think that it could have a real win on its hands.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Gathering resources isn’t just player busywork; it’s now a “must” to have.

      Not really.Ive played a bunch of strategies that focused on territory control instead.

      As for the genre,sadly it experienced the same thing first person shooters did once health regen and cover crouching took over:They got replaced by a slightly different genre.In the case of strategies,its the mobas that pushed them into a niche,because a strategy where you control just one person are so much easier to get into.

      But if you really want a niche that died:3d real time strategies are what I miss the most.Those never got any real traction,despite both(technically all three)homeworlds being fantastic.

      What killed achron for me was poor ai.I really like what they did with time travel there though,thats such a neat concept.

  42. RCN says:

    Oldest game you remember playing:

    Wolfenstein 3D on my father’s computer, after watching him play for hours on end. I was 4 years old I think. My greatest accomplishment at the time was defeating the first enemy. Then there was ANOTHER of the fucking nazis.

    First game you disliked:

    Tricky, but it certainly would be Harpoon. A submarine game. I just didn’t understand a thing about it. It was because I wanted to play Warcraft, but I didn’t know the game’s name and in the list “Harpoon” seemed familiar. But that’s not really fair, since it was a mistake and that game isn’t supposed to be played by someone who doesn’t understand a thing nor can read a thing on the screen.

    Oldest game still enjoyed:

    Heroes of Might and Magic II. Without a doubt. I’m currently making a “let’s play” with it on Something Awful (well, actually about to revive, we took a long hiatus for personal reasons).

    What game needs to be revived:

    Party-based first-person RPGs. I know Legend of Grimrock and Might and Magic X were a thing, but instead of seeing a revival of the genre it simply went dark again. And I didn’t particularly like Legend of Grimrock’s approach to combat where it seems more like a rhythm game than an RPG where you have to dance around monsters to avoid their attacks because your whole party ABSOLUTELY CANNOT face-off any monster head-on. If only M&MX had had ten times its budget (that would likely amount to 20 bucks) and ANY marketing, maybe the genre really would have been revived. As it stands, I simply start a weirder party on M&M X again to satisfy this particular itch.

  43. Gautsu says:

    My only problem with SAO is that there is only one black swordsman in manga/anime, and it isn’t Kirito.

    First Game I remember playing wasn’t Pong, but something from the arcade in that era. The first game I remember beating was the Star Wars Death Star run in the arcades (although my brother went through that 3 times in a row at my 4th birthday at Chuck E Cheese. I remember the adults gathering around this little 3 year old wrecking the game). First console game I remember playing was Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600.

    First Game I Disliked: Have to go with the above Dragon’s Lair. Not only was it hard as shit and just a giant QTE, but it was a dollar a play.

    Oldest Game Still Enjoyed: If games are art, anything good should still be good years later. Even if they aren’t. Currently replaying the old SSI 1st Edition AD&D games on a Surface Pro at my free time at work. Back to Pools of Darkness (1991) going to beat Dave’s Challenge this time. My Abandonware, GoG, and Old-Games.com are doing the Lord’s Work preserving the games that would disappear without help like theirs.

    What Games Need to be Revived: I can think of three games (or series) that the game’s plot intrigued me enough to be disappointed that they were cancelled or just never completed. The first is the Legacy of Kain series. It only needed one more game to wrap it all up and there are numerous posts around the internet about why it never happened. The second was Advent: Rising. I played through on the og Xbox and had none of the bugs, and I thought it was a sci-fi game to rival Halo, with an intriguing premise behind humanity’s place in the universe. Was originally supposed to be a series of 10 games, only 1 got made. And lastly, as flawed as it was, I enjoyed Too Human, and I would have liked to see where they were going with the story. Besides some questionable design decisions (the resurrection cutscene every time you died), to me the biggest problem felt like it was missing either a chapter 1 (pre-Grendel to explain why he was such an anomaly) or Chapter 2 ( to transition from fighting machines to chasing down Hod more organic).

    1. Fizban says:

      Aren’t we up to at least three or four (black swordsmen) by this point?

      I was pretty tickled when I found out that the super grimdark Berserk I wasn’t interested in had the same (painfully generic) moniker for its protagonist. I’m sure it’s made for at least a couple funny mixups somewhere :)

  44. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Oldest game is going to be quite difficult… way, waaaay back we had that Russian (or whatever) handheld about catching eggs into a basket, the game had literally four buttons corresponding to the four lanes the eggs could come from, the speed was always going up and if you missed an egg it was game over. That was literally the entire game.

    Then we had some kind of weird off-brand console thing that we’ve never seen a cartridge for (I’m honestly not sure if this was a gaming system or if it was supposed to run, possibly bootleg, cartridges for some actual brand) but that came preloaded with a bunch of games like snake, frogger, pong and such, it even handled multiplayer.

    Our first actual computer would be Amiga 500 in the 90s (not sure when in the 90s exactly, especially since we might have been a couple years behind the Western countries in terms of home available tech), and other than a bunch of games I can’t name (that mostly came on bootleg floppies with names like “game with an old guy” “humanlike dude” “shooting spaceships”) I distinctly remember replaying one of the Turrican games many a time (I think it was 2), also Syndicate that I never finished, maybe Another World (did that have a release for the A500 or did I only play that on the PC?), also some adventure games, we definitely had Lair of the Temptress and Innocent Until Caught, though the only way we worked through those was with a walkthrough (especially with English not being our first language), I remember having an actual notebook where I’d write down titles of adventure games and which issue of which gamer mag had a walkthrough for that.

  45. Gordon Wrigley says:

    On the Myst topic, have you tried The Witness from 2016

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I enjoyed it immensely. So beautiful and serene. Learning a novel visual language was thrilling. And for whatever reason JB’s purported pretentiousness doesn’t bother me.
      I think Shamus played it as well, but didn’t get very far.
      I wrote a bit more extensively about it on the forums back when the game came out:
      The discussion is pretty rambling, but starts here and stays in the thread:
      Fair warning, there’s a Lachlan section AND a Rocketeer section, so, buckle up.
      My big post is here:
      But of course the discussion carries on from that point a bit before fizzling.

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