Discussion Topic of the Week: What is your favorite Game Boy game?
I'm not a big fan of sports, and I'm not a big fan of sports games (Blades of Steel for the NES is probably my favorite — off the top of my head). But having grown up in the heart of ACC basketball country surrounded by great and once-great teams (UNC, Duke, NCSU, Wake Forest, etc.), I have a soft spot for the ACC and NCAA college basketball tournaments. I tend to watch a couple games a year.
So I can't tell you much about NCAA Basketball Final Four '97, because I've never played it. The closest I've come was NBA Live '97 for the SNES, and that was pretty fun for a basketball game.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite basketball video game of all time?
Fifteen years ago today, Square released Final Fantasy Tactics in North America for the Sony PlayStation. (It's kinda crazy, because I was going to use this scan today anyway, just by chance.)
I remember being excited when this game came out. I'm sure I read a glowing review of it in EGM and recommended it to my brother, who promptly bought it and played it on and off for the next two years. I still have Final Fantasy Tactics' music stuck in my head just from hearing him play the game so much.
The game is a strategic masterpiece, and though I have not played it to completion myself, I appreciate its depth, its music, and I absolutely love its sprite-based graphics and spell effects. The sprite-based nature of FFT alone was something to cheer at a time when most new PSX games were plagued with choppy, low-res polygonal 3D graphics.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In your words, what's so great about Final Fantasy Tactics?
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite ball-themed video game? Any balls apply.
I've written about gratuitous and graphic video game advertising of the 1990s more than a few times over the years, but I never get tired of revisiting this wildly bombastic era in consumer marketing.
Here we see a nice ad for World Series Baseball 98 for the Sega Saturn, complete with front-and-center forearm scrape. I don't know about you, but this makes me want to play baseball. Injury sells.
See Also: Super Mario World 2 (2009)
Discussion Topic of the Week: Would a graphic ad like this make you more or less likely to play a certain video game?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Graphics quality aside, do you think today's video games are more sexist and violent than games from earlier eras?
I don't think I've ever played Tetrisphere. I'm sure I'll try it some day. But the game itself is almost beside the point here. Egad on the broken teeth, man. That is my worst nightmare.
Nintendo crafted this ad to be perfectly in line with the prevailing advertising style of the mid-late 1990s. Look back at a game magazine from that time and you'll see that almost every ad shows someone getting hurt, dismembered, or flagellated in some manner. And if not that, then they were too busy distributing boogers / urine / feces / something gross all over the place to feel left out. The edgy advertising trend started when Sega began purposely assaulting Nintendo's kiddie image in the early 1990s. And it spread. By 1996, even Mario games were advertised this way. Did you Play it Loud?
I covered this phenomenon to some extent back in my Game Ads A-Go-Go column on GameSetWatch in 2006 (especially "Proof that Video Game Companies Want You to Die"). The 90s were a time of growing pains — a sort of "teenage years" for the medium — when the game industry, gamers, press, and lawmakers alike embarked on an entirely new cultural exploration of mature themes in video games. I'm sure I could write a whole article on the subject, so I'll stop now and let you count your teeth.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your all-time favorite version of Tetris?
Here's a classic advertisement for Super Mario World 2 from the "Play it Loud" era. Baby Mario looks quite destructive.
In the mid-1990s, Nintendo tried to downplay its kiddie image and appeal to the "I'm-awesome-because-I-huff-Easy-Cheese" teenage set. The company's American branch formulated a new "Play it Loud" ad campaign to directly counter aggressive advertising from Sega.
Nintendo's new marketing theme focused on the stereotypical angsty "attitude" of youth in transition, which, in print, mostly translated to grungy fonts, eye-gougingly garish design, and scatological humor. Surprisingly to some, the campaign actually worked — Nintendo regained the lead in the 16-bit market right as that era was ending.
On another note, Super Mario World 2 is one of the best Super NES games, and definitely one of the most underrated. If you haven't played it yet, you're missing out on a platforming masterpiece. Drop everything and get yourself a copy. And don't forget to play it loud(ly).
Discussion topic of the week: What's the most underrated Super NES game?