Since we've reached the height of the Summer, we thought that this week we'd talk about your favorite summer gaming memories. Perhaps you harken back to your school days when you had the entire summer to play games, or maybe there's a more recent memory you have of playing games while on vacation - or simply at home during the warm summer evenings.
Whenever, and wherever it took place, we're interested to hear about your favorite summer gaming memory.
As always, here's the USgamer team to talk about theirs.
I have a lot of fond summer memories, from back when I had summers, so it's a little hard to say which is the absolute best. Mega Man 2 definitely was a big deal for me, though.
It's actually a little difficult to imagine a time when I could get totally pumped about a video game based on a handful of screenshots, but that's exactly what happened with Mega Man 2. Thumbing through the pages of Nintendo Power one summer evening while sitting in mandatory attendance at one of my brother's little league games, I came across the most stunning pair of NES screenshots I'd ever seen. They featured huge, cartoon-like robot monsters, packed with detail at a scale I didn't think was possible on NES. I had to own this game. This… Mega Man 2?
A dim memory stirred. Mega Man 2? That would imply a previous Mega Man! Ah yes… that game with the ugly cover. I had assumed it was one of that seemingly infinite array of low-grade early NES games like Chubby Cherub or whatever, but surely it couldn't have been all bad if it set the stage for this? I had already been through this process once before, when promos for Castlevania II sent me on a crusade to find and complete the original Castlevania first, and that had worked out great — Castlevania had been wonderful. Perhaps the same would hold true here!
A few weeks later, I found what appeared to be the last copy of the original Mega Man for sale in the entire city, affixed with a huge clearance sticker, even. It was sitting in the dusty NES corner of Waldensoftware. No one shopped at Waldensoftware, so it tended to be a great place to pick up out-of-print NES games. Lo and behold: My discount copy of Mega Man did in fact turn out to be far better than the terrible box would have suggested. It even had its share of large-scale cartoon bosses, though nothing of the caliber of that rad dragon in the Mega Man 2 screens.
If I had been looking forward to Mega Man 2 before, the quality of its predecessor totally sealed it for me. At this point, I had essentially become incandescent with determination to play it. As I mowed lawns in the blazing Texas heat over the next few weeks to earn money, I had those screenshots to fuel my determination — and, soon after that, an entire Nintendo Power spread featuring screenshot maps of the game, too. I would not fritter my earnings on inessential things. I would not lose sight of the goal. I would save up and buy Mega Man 2 the instant it became available.
And eventually, it arrived. My cool aunt who worked in the warehouse at Best Products, my number-one video game enabler during my adolescent years, snagged a copy off the truck for me the day it arrived. Also at a reduced price thanks to her employee discount — my introduction to the Mega Man series was all about cost-cutting. I handed over the cash and, if memory serves correctly, opened the package and inserted the game into my NES in a single graceful motion, like a samurai unsheathing his blade and making a killing stroke with trained economy.
It was amazing right from the start. The title screen picked up where the previous game's music left off! Every level looked incredible, except Crash Man's! The weapons were cool, the music stunning, the challenge tough but fair! I finished the game the next day — which would have been an anticlimax after so many month of obsession, except it was so good that I immediately played it again. And again. 25 years — 26? — I'm still playing it.
Next week's Mega Man Legacy Collection can't cause others to know and understand my fond Mega Man 2 memories. But it's super cheap, so at least you can relive my budget-minded entrée into the series.
Whenever I think about summer gaming, my mind immediately goes back to the 80's, growing up during the golden age of arcades. I lived near Aberystwyth on the west coast of Great Britain, and since it was a seaside town, it had a pier, upon which was a huge arcade. That was the place where you could find me most days. I was fortunate in that Aberystwyth had a great tourist trade during the summer, and consequently the arcade was very well visited. To keep the cash rolling in, the arcade owners invested plenty of money in new arcade machines, and because of that, I got the chance to play most new releases.
It's weird to think of a time when you had to leave the house to play the very best, most cutting-edge games, but that's what we did back in the day. It was a social thing too. I had a whole group of friends who I'd meet up and hang out with, and we'd share our strategies on how to beat the latest games.
Being rather good at video games (I held a number of UK national records during this period), I used to be able to make money by playing certain games - such as Asteroids, Defender, Missile Command and others titles where you could earn lots of extra lives. What I'd do is play for half an hour or so on a single credit, wait for a few people to start watching me and then after a while offer to sell them my game in progress for 30p - the equivalent of three credits. I almost always had a taker, who'd jump onto the machine quite happily and burn through all the extra lives I'd racked up. I'd rinse and repeat a few times and end up with enough money so that I could go practice on a new machine and learn how to play it - and start the process all over again.
The thing that's different about British arcades versus their American equivalent is that they're filled with slot machines as well as video games, which can be played by anyone of any age - there's no gambling restrictions. Since many of the slot machines have skill-based features, and I was pretty good at that too, I used to help people win jackpots - and they'd always give me some money for assisting them. I guess I was a bit of an arcade hustler in that sense, but growing up poor, I didn't have much money, and that's the way I'd make it so I could fund my video gaming.
And that's what I think about when I think of summer gaming. Spending all that time on Aberystwyth pier during the summer holidays, hanging out with friends, earning a bit of coin and playing all the latest video games. I didn't know how good I had it.
Show of hands: how many people owned the Super Multitap? Those were the days before the controllers were wireless. Those were the days before the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 made having 4 controller ports a thing. The Super Multitap was an add-on for the Super Nintendo that would expand one controller port into 4 controller ports, allowing you to hook up a total of 5 controllers in total.
I picked up the Super Multitap in June 1994, at the beginning of the summer. There weren't a ton of games that supported the Super Multitap, but I needed to justify the purchase to my parents, so I bought a few. It came bundled with Super Bomberman, but I also purchased Secret of Mana, Lord of the Rings, FIFA, NBA Jam, and Rock N' Roll Racing. Of those titles Super Bomberman probably got the most playtime, but I remember Secret of Mana fondly.
This was a Zelda-style game you could play with your friends. There have been a few similar titles since Secret of Mana, but Mana was one of the few that actually had a story. It was a tale in Squaresoft's high fantasy fashion: the boy, the girl, and the sprite up against a villain looking to destroy the world.
Three players was an odd limitation, but it worked out perfectly for me. There was me, my friend Mark, and his younger brother Brian; together we explored the world of Mana. Well "together" is a bit wrong if you're talking about the beginning of the game. See, since it had a plot, Mana didn't start you off with all three characters. The boy is the primary character, so you begin with him, later gaining the girl and then the sprite. I owned the game, so I got the boy, and Mark took the girl early on, but later switched the sprite.
Once you have everyone, there's a bit of give-and-take. Who gets which weapon? Who gets which elemental? I picked up the sword, since that's what you start with and I'm boring when it comes to fantasy games. Salamander was my choice of Mana Spirit until we gained Wisp, the spirit of light. Looking back, that's probably the beginning of my love of Paladin-style characters.
We had a blast with Secret of Mana. Maxing out our weapons, working together to take down bosses, and saving the world… together. It remains one of my favorite action-RPGs ever. It's the kind of experience that just worked: we were the right age, there wasn't anything else like it, and there was a sense of exploration to the whole thing. It was a great summer game.