It’s A Jungle Out There!



The above line was uttered by Michael Douglas’ character (Gordon Gecko) in Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama “Wall Street”. It aptly describes what its like to be a videogame enthusiast in the 1990’s. Great games and consoles on which to play them have never been more affordable. Thanks to the advancement in add-on technology, the PC and Mac can now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best Sony, Sega and Nintendo can offer (and in many instances surpass them).

Problem is that this is America, land of the free and home of the all-mighty dollar. There is so much of a good thing that many of us can’t help but feel left out of the loop if we’re not playing the newest, best, fastest, you-name-it videogame for our favorite(s) platform(s). This isn’t a new phenomenon, since it goes back to the ‘my toy is bigger and better than your toy’ argument kids/parents have endured for ages. Remember the kid in your neighborhood who had the most games for the then-hot platform of the moment? You wanted to chock him and get his games. But you played nice, kissed up and went to his home after school and on weekends to play videogames. I know because I was the kid in my Latin American neighborhood with the first Atari 2600 back in the early 1980’s, and people who would kick my ass in school would get all chummy and befriend me to play with “Donkey Kong”, “Pitfall” and “Combat”. The roles got reversed when one of them got the Atari 5200 and we headed to his house to suck…you get the idea!

Now, in my mid-20’s, I find myself the owner of three next-gen. platforms that provide me and some friends with some great hours of fun and entertainment. Problem is I’m also the loyal-type that, when purchasing a videogame, wants to make a commitment to that purchase. Sure, I’ll purchase the occasional stinker (what was Sega thinking when they released “Sky Target”?) or rent an untried oddity here and there (“Guardian Heroes” anyone?). But those games ̃­can be returned or exchanged for another one, while the one’s you (and no one else but YOU) treasure will be a part of your permanent collection. This was easy when you had a system, games for it, and not enough dough to even think about buying another platform. Result: you played them suckers to death and got the most gaming satisfaction out of your hard-earned buck. I still fondly recall the day, ages ago, when me and my parents (who only bought me the thing and had no idea how to use it) spent ten whole hours (4:00 PM to 2:00 AM on a Saturday) trying to beat the 2600 game “Kangaroo” and dying over and over again. Since it was on the eve of my parent’s separation (which eventually led to their divorce), the last memory of me and my folks together as a unit revolves around a videogame system.

But enough feeling! What I’m getting at is that there are so many good games and systems at affordable prices that, with the newly found phenomenon of multi-system ownership (a no-brainer if you include the PC), a gamer has to be creative in the shuffling and re-shuffling of his/her videogame collection for the purchase of newer games to add to the constantly re-shuffled collection (still with me?). A few days ago, on one fell swoop, I parted company with a videogame system (to be repurchased when its price eventually drops) and five videogames for $187 for (what else?) more games. It’s not that I was down to my very last dollar or that there was no more money in the bank for dates and Saturday night partying. It was mostly a sense of guilt for being so attached to so many games that I don’t necessarily play every day (or ever!). I had the urge to part with some of those games I thought would be a part of my permanent collection, just to prove myself that I’m not addicted to videogames (which I am!!??). Maybe it was fear that, in the near future, I would be standing next to brand-new copies of “Nightmare Creatures” (PSX), “San Francisco Rush” (N64) and “Quake” (Saturn) at a local Electronic Boutique with my wallet empty and my fancy tickled big time!

So here’s how it went: my PSX’s skipping problem (you know, the FMV getting choppy and freezing) really ticked me off one day, so in a fit of anger I packed it and went to Electronics Boutique and FuncoLand. EB would give me $50, FuncoLand $110 in credit or $88 with a mailed check; I bit the bullet and took the check, since anyone who has ever shopped at FuncoLand knows they pay OK prices for used games but they resell them (and new titles) at outrageous prices. Since I sold the PSX, and there were no new games I wanted coming in the near future (“Sonic Jam” and “Goldeneye” were the last), the time was right to sell games that could still fetch some bucks toward the Christmas line-up. At least one game from my N64, Saturn and PSX libraries had to be sacrificed (everyone must suffer!); have you ever parted from a priced (not necessarily valuable) possession just to be ahead of the curve and prepared for the future? “Warcraft II” mentality.

I have nothing against Sony or the PSX, and any true gamer knows that, despite putting our beloved Saturn in the canvas on a technical knockout in the eighth round of the fight, there are some bitching games exclusive to the PSX that are musts: “Tekken 2”, “Final Fantasy VII” (thanks for the gift Marllory…you’re the girl!), “Ridge Racer” (the series), etc. I sold the PSX because it skipped, yes. But also to remove the temptation of purchasing the gazillion really good games coming in the next few months (“Tomb Raider 2”, “Gex 2”, “Crash 2”, sequel-of-choice, etc.), which we know will eventually drop down to more reasonable prices because the glut of software will demand it. “WipeOut XL” dropped to $24.95 by as early as January of 1996, less than five months after originally released; the same has to happen to some really good sleeper hits that will inevitable be lost in the PSX’s Christmas rush.

Nintendo 64 and the Saturn, on the other hand, will be ushering some of their best software lineups in years. I’m so glad Nintendo had to delay some of their key software until next year (I know that sounds backwards if you love videogames but read on). There are now gamers who had their accounts balanced for some great Nintendo goodness (“Yoshi’s Story”, “Zelda 64”, “Banjo K.”, Conker’s Quest”, etc.) who now only have a few worthy Nintendo 64 choices for the holidays (“Diddy Kong Racing”, a “Mario Kart”-clone and “San Francisco Rush” are the only two I can think of). If the temptation to play some of the best games is strong enough (and let’s face it: we gamers are one greedy bunch when it comes to Christmas wishes), multi-platform owners might buy a few more Saturn titles than they expected. I know that, with the PSX out of my life for a few months, there is nothing between me and some sleepless nights of “Sonic R”, “Quake”, “Duke Nukem 3D” over the net, etc. (maybe a girl or two, but a gentleman never tells…:).

“Pandemonium” and “Resident Evil” were the two games I let go from my PSX collection. Crystal Dynamics’ 2D-meets-3D was a really cool experience and I really wanted to keep it, since it’s the only platformer I ever owned for the PSX (never relly fell for the hype surrounding “Crash Bandicoot”). And of course “R.E.” is a classic that has sold more PSX’s to people than any other game; I know because I bought mine after sampling the game (making it my second platform, after the 3DO and before the Saturn). “Pandemonium” was really cheap when purchased ($25), and I played “R.E.” to death. I seriously thought about selling my copy of “Final Fantasy VII”, since I really don’t like RPG’s too much (and I still haven’t gotten through the first 30 minutes of “Wild Arms”, which has been sitting in my shelf for weeks). But it was a gift from my girl (Mal), and I hear the game’s good (duh!). I’ll keep it for when the PSX returns, since the other two games gave up $32.

The Nintendo 64 had to let go something, so out went “Doom 64” (a bargain when purchased used at $49…those darn N64 carts!) and “WaveRace 64” (it’s a gamble, hoping sometime next year the game will be released again with Rumble Pack compatibility). I’ll miss them both dearly since they were both the best in their own way: “Doom 64”, although featuring dated gameplay, was the best console version of Id’s classic PC title (the Saturn, sadly, received a Probe/ GT Interactive port of “Doom” so bad even The Dark Falcon hasn’t reviewed it…now that’s bad!). “WaveRace 64” is the best racing game ever made (yes, even better that Sega’s best Saturn racers), and has the most realistic control of a vehicle (watercraft) ever sensed on a console. I liked them both, but not as much as other N64 titles I would have had to let go (“Turok”, “Mario Kart 64”, etc.). $60 more.

I swear I’m not sucking up to you, fellow Saturn gamers, when I say letting go of a Saturn game was the hardest of the three platforms to decide. The good: the games I’ve chosen are of such high-quality and provide so much gaming goodness I couldn’t single out a game I would trade in for cash…too much gameplay packed into those CD’s. The bad: the fact that nowadays you can barely get anything for used Saturn software makes it easier to hold onto Saturn classics (“Virtua Cop” and “Virtua Fighter 2” for 50 cents?) than the still valuable PSX oldies ($14 for “WipeOut” and “Destruction Derby”). But a sacrificial lamb had to be chosen, so out went Acclaim/Taito’s “Bust-A-Move 2”: I’ll rent it often and miss its cute charm, but it still fetches some good money for a Saturn oldie ($7). “Death Tank” (hidden game inside “PowerSlave”) will have to do until “B.A.M 3” gets released on early 1998 (there’s also some NetLink gaming I heard is happening…).

What will I use the dough fetched from those games for? I already purchased the Saturn RAM cart ($50 if you can find it new…mine had a couple of “Shining the Holy Ark” files saved on it…a return?), and a rare used copy of Capcom’s “Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo” for Saturn ($19.95 in good condition…YES!). The rest will go toward a few good games I can’t get my friends and relatives to give me as presents this holiday. As an atheist I’m under no moral or religious obligation to give anybody any presents, so that leaves some dough for gaming, partying and…lady chasing (I swear I didn’t become an atheist for the sake of gaming; that would be too much!). Then, after New Year’s, I’ll continue to further advance my career in the field of TV Production and Broadcasting in order to become a more productive member of my bosses’ company and our American community. That’ll hopefully result in a raise, which will mean more tax revenues for local schools and Interstate highways, and more money in my pocket for games like Yuji Naka’s “Burning Rangers” and “NiGHTS 2” (good one!). I could move out of my $765 a month apartment (gotta love those New York City shoe bo…studio apartments!), or get that overnight shift at McDonald’s, or ask my girl to cancel her dozen suscriptions to women’s magazine she hardly reads, etc. All I know is that I need more money so I can buy more games, so I can sell some of them, so I’ll have money in my pocket. So I could buy more games to play, then sell, then purchase again when I feel their absence (Bob and Bub…where are you?), or new flashy one’s…(we could even do a Public Service Announcement for the Drug Free America Coalit…oops!).

Now excuse me while I go play a few rounds of “Kangoroo” in my rusty bit still working Atari 2600, and reminisce about that feeling of loneliness that overwhelms you when you’re in a room full of people enjoying the same pastime…yet you feel remote and separate from those surrounding you. Addiction? Fear? Lots of free time? How about confusion?

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