I like to put out themed articles around the holidays, like horror themed games around Halloween and similarly Christmas related content around this festive time of year. As there’s not a lot of games that share the common thread of comic books and Christmas save the ones I’ve looked at in previous years like Batman Returns and Batman: Arkham Origins, I thought I would try something a little different. Having previously just watched a casual Christmas gaming conversation between Electric Playground host Victor Lucas and YouTube Content creator Johnny Millennium, aka Happy Console Gamer, it inspired me to reflect on some of my gaming memories from past years with the hope that it will create a conversation where others will join in and share their stories as well.
Now let’s hop in the way back machine to the year…
In 1992 I was eight years old so you can now carbon date my age if you wish, and it was around that time that my older brother felt it was time for me to get over this whole “believing in Santa” thing. I didn’t ask for any video game things that year, just a lot of Batman Returns toys like the Batcave with breakable skylight, Bruce Wayne costume swap chamber and the Penguin’s arctic hide out (I totally wanted to be one of those kids in the commercials who smashed the blocks) and the Batmissile Batmobile. I guess I was a good boy back then because I got all that stuff and probably a bunch of other things I don’t recall, but I also saw a peculiar box marked with a tag “To: Blair Fr: Santa”. I tore open the box and found to my surprise a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World.
“He must be real!” I thought. “Who else would know to get me this?!”.
Growing up we didn’t have any chain rental stores, just gas stations and other convenience stores that rented games and VHS movies and I remember trying to rent out any SNES games I could find but having not that much luck because I guess a lot of other kids got a SNES that year. I would get my parents to bring me around to random stores around six to see what I could catch being returned. This lead me to play a random assortment of games like Ultraman, Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally, Chuck Rock and easily the best of the bunch, Street Fighter II.
This Christmas wasn’t about me getting a lot of video game things for Christmas, I think the only game I received as a gift that year was Turok 2: Seeds of Evil from my brother, but about me enjoying the video game gifts another family got, namely my brother. For me it was my first year of high school, but for him, it was his first year of University so that year he got a PlayStation and a stack of great games like Tomb Raider III, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII and X-Men Vs. Street Fighter. Up to that point I was a Nintendo guy having only ever owned Nintendo consoles, but in 1999 I got a PlayStation education. We would play X-Men Vs. Street Fighter against one another, and what I remember most about this is getting a 5-hit combo and my late Uncle thinking the screen said “Shit”.
In the evening my brother would go hang out with his friends, leaving the PlayStation free for me to play. Among the stack of games he got, the one I decided to try out was Metal Gear Solid and like many I’m sure, it changed how I thought about games. Never in my life had I played a game that had opening credits like a movie with so much voice acting and cinematics. Needless to say my teenage mind was also blown out of the back of my skull when I had to place my controller on the ground, only to have it move by the sheer will of Psycho Mantis’ mind power, and to them defeat him in battle moments later by tricking him through switching controller ports.
I did end up buying a game that year with the money I got for Christmas, one I had rented out from a video store about a half hour or more away from where I lived that started a lifelong obsession with a franchise: Resident Evil 2. Again being educated mostly by Nintendo, I didn’t know really what Resident Evil was only that it was an insanely popular franchise on the PlayStation. The version I got was the N64 one because that was the system that I owned and what impressed me so much was how they managed to get the cinematics from the game on the cart. A lot of PlayStation games when ported to the Nintendo 64 were missing out on the flashy FMV’s and voice acting, and to see this game arrive in a more or less faithful state was really impressive. Not having a PlayStation of my own until a year later, I spent many a weekend replaying all four scenarios of this game over nearly every weekend throughout most of the year 2000.
It was in this year that I took a more active role in learning more about video games on other machines, and it was a good time to do so: The Dreamcast was still a viable platform, the PSOne still had a lot of great games coming out like Spider-Man, Final Fantasy IX and Dino Crisis 2 and the PlayStation 2 was set to arrive in the fall. I switched from buying Nintendo Power to buying Electronic Gaming Monthly and spent a lot of weekends renting out a Dreamcast from a local gas station and trying to get as far as I could in Resident Evil CODE: Veronica with no way to save because the place I rented the console from didn’t have a VMU to give out with the console. Because I loved the Dreamcast and its library so much, I decided I wanted one that year for Christmas and was advised by my brother that it probably wouldn’t be around and games like CODE: Veronica would wind up on other systems, and that I would be better off getting the PSOne, or as I referred to it as, the PlayStation the size of a sandwich container.
As history would note, he was very, very right and getting a PSOne was a great decision. I got to catch up on half a decade’s worth of great PlayStation games and play a game that I got that year along with my new console that I cherish to this day: Mega Man Legends 2, a game that is still not cheap to buy on eBay that my parents picked up for the price of $39.99 CAD at the Sony store. Sixteen years later and I’m still waiting for a proper conclusion to that game that I’ll probably never get.
I graduated from University in May of 2007 so this was my last Christmas where I got a lengthy break from school. Since graduating I’ve only worked in jobs where I only get a few days off around this time of year and work mostly, but at that point, I didn’t know what it was like to have anything to do around that time of year. It was this year that the ludicrously expensive PlayStation 3 came out, the Xbox 360 was in its second year and the Wii was proving impossible to get (thankfully a few friends in my residence dorm had one so I got to play the Wii Sports without owing one). None of those systems mattered though, because all I wanted to play was Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and was long as it was on the GameCube, I was content. This marked the last time I got to do almost nothing at the end of the year and throw myself head first into a video game with no other real responsibility and I miss it a lot.
Being a poor student, I didn’t get to buy many games while I was in school but of course around Christmas time I would get some spare money come my way which I would then get rid of immediately in exchange for new games to own. The game I had my eyes on to buy the second the stores reopened was one I saw brought up by Bryan Intihar, who’s now working on Spider-Man for the PS4 (I guess I can find a way to work comic book games into things), on a segment of the 1up Show: Elite Beat Agents.
Elite Beat Agents to this day is not only one of my favorite video games on the original DS, but probably also one of my favorite games of all time, even though I’m spectacularly bad at it. Its hilarious scenarios and the way it incorporates earworm pop songs into its gameplay that can only be realized on the DS is a thing of sheer brilliance and I’ll always be thankful for the 1up Show for showcasing a show I probably would have passed over otherwise. Over the years I’ve recommended this game to countless people and bought to anyone who will stand to hear me talk about.
I have other holiday gaming memories that I could share, but these are the ones that stand out the most to me. I hope you enjoyed hearing my stories and I’d love to hear some of yours either in the comments below, or you can also share them to me on Facebook as well as Twitter.