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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Take your Video Games on Holiday


I recently returned home from an amazing cruise experience, in the South Pacific region.  For 11 nights we lived in absolute luxury on a floating hotel, and had the great fortune to experience the amazing islands making up Vanuatu and New Caledonia.  Best of all, I got to take my video games with me!  How did I do it?  Well, when I was a younger lad, I once convinced my parents to allow me to use a petrol generator to power my Nintendo 64 while camping, and I was able to rock out playing Zelda 64, while my folks stuffed around in the "great outdoors".  But no, this time it was a bit different.

With newer technology and a less hostile environment (that is, I could access power points), I didn't have to resort to such drastic measures.  Using just a laptop, a wired Xbox 360 controller and all my favourite childhood games in emulator/ROM format, I was able to fill the hours between real-world adventures on the cruise, with adventures of the 8 to 16 bit kind.

During my gaming sessions, I could fire up a virtual Super Nintendo, Megadrive or Nintendo 64 - and I would play classics such as Donkey Kong Country, variants of the Super Mario Brothers franchise, the Legend of Zelda series, and Super Metroid (don't worry kids, I own actual physical copies of these games).  The Xbox 360 controller seemed to work a treat with the old games, and felt a lot better; how many of you remember how brutally harsh the original Nintendo controllers felt?  They were made years before "ergonomics" was a thing.

Playing through the back catalogue, the one thing that struck me was how difficult these games actually were! Most games were predominately plat-formers, so quick timing, precise landings, and twitchy fingers were the order of the day.  It seemed that the older the game was, the more difficult it was.  Despite growing up with these very same games (and beating many of them first time around), I found myself being brutally re-schooled while playing games such as Super Mario World 3 (and... shudder... Battletoads).  In addition, with the Internet costing about 75 cents per minute on the boat (i.e.. forget about it), I genuinely lamented the inability to simply look up a walk-through or spoiler for games that I used to play before the Internet was even a thing.  It seems that modern games have been playing too soft with us all.

However, one of the beautiful aspects of emulator play is the ability to "save state"; a kind of alternative to saving games.  You can simply press a hotkey at any time to instantly save the state of play.  For example, just before attempting a tricky jump in Mario Brothers, you might want to save the state.  If you take the jump but fail miserably, simply reload the state.  Like something out of the Matrix, you are restored to the exact moment before you took the jump - ready to try again.  Yes, I will admit it's cheating.  But these games are hard!

Another great feature of playing emulator games on laptop is the ability to simply close the lid when you have had enough (you know, when you realise you should actually check out the sights and sounds of the amazing places you might find yourself in while on holiday).  Then, when you are ready to keep playing, simply open your laptop lid, and the game should be ready and waiting.  That's awesome holiday gaming goodness!

So, what other holiday gaming tips have you come up with?

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