Do you remember that day you received your first video game console? How about that time you discovered a secret stage that none of your friends knew about? Those days of being so excited for the latest iteration in a long-running series, only to be disappointed or have your expectations exceeded beyond your wildest dreams. That is what the Video Gamer’s Experience is all about. Now lets take a trip down this electronic memory lane where I look at the top five video game-based birthday presents I’ve ever received (listed in chronological order).
Game Gear (1995)
Unlike many kids of my generation, Nintendo’s original “Game Boy” wasn’t the first handheld video game system I owned. After getting a Sega “Genesis” a year-plus earlier, I had become a Sega guy who didn’t care about anything “Nintendo” (unless I was playing someone else’s Nintendo system including the aforementioned “Game Boy”). So when it was time to make my birthday list to celebrate my tenth year of life, Sega’s brightly colored screen, portable gaming device was the only option for me. It worked out well for me that year as I was given a “Game Gear” bundle featuring the system, a much needed AC adapter (the “Game Gear” figuratively ate up four AA-batteries like nothing) and “Sonic 2”. Having loved the original and sequel “Sonic the Hedgehog” games, this was the perfect bundle for me. My “Game Gear” became my go-to gaming device for the next years mostly thanks to the affordability of games both great and terrible.
Game Boy Pocket (1997)
Though I still was playing my “Game Gear” constantly, my urge to give Nintendo another shot in entertaining me started resurging in 1997. Mostly, the feeling came when my friend Matthew brought his “Game Boy” to school (he was also the only person I’ve ever known to own a Sega “Nomad”). In his system – the original “fat” version – sat then-recently released “King of Fighters ‘95”. Of course I not only wanted a “Game Boy” after a few minutes with the game, I also needed to have this exceptional fighter that played better than any fighting game I experienced on the “Game Gear”. Convincing my parents to let me take the day off (it was on a Friday, and I did all my school work for that day in advance and turned it in on Thursday), I had the opportunity to celebrate my day … by going to school for a few minutes to showoff the latest version of Nintendo’s handheld juggernaut – the “Game Boy Pocket” – and my copy of “KoF ‘95”. I thanked everyone for the birthday wishes and left soon after to continue my enjoyment. I stayed a “Game Boy” player for the next decade or so (until my “Game Boy Advance” died), and it all started with the “Game Boy” I could, but rarely did, keep in my pocket.
Tekken 3 & Twisted Metal 2 (1998)
I had been the owner of Sony’s “Playstation” video game console for less than six months by the time my birthday arrived. Not having the opportunity to be a “Playstation” player until two years after the console’s release, games that intrigued me greatly were only admired from afar. One of those games/franchises happened to be the budding “Tekken” series. After two spectacular entries in the series, “Tekken 3” promised to improve on its predecessors and provide modes and options not available in the arcade edition. Though I was able to test the waters of 3D fighting games beforehand, nothing compared to the magnificence of “Tekken 3”. It was everything I hoped for and more – becoming my benchmark game in the genre for years (and the highpoint of franchise for me until “Tekken 5”).
Though I was optimistic about getting “Tekken 3” that year, I wasn’t sure until the day arrived and it was in my hands. I pretty much could’ve bet my life on getting “Twisted Metal 2” as a present. Having rented the game a few months earlier, my dad and I became obsessed with second “Twisted Metal” to the point it was as much a gift for him as it was for me. I was so confident that I’d receive “TM2” that I told anyone who cared. My friend Jason – pretty much the only person who listened to me about my birthday list outside of my family – took his free time to literally write out all of the special moves, codes, level passwords for each character. It added a whole new dimension to the game before the days of Youtube video guides and information right at one’s fingertips. That spring, summer and fall were mostly about playing those games.
Final Fantasy Anthology (2000)
Though I proudly consider “Final Fantasy VII” as my first true RPG experience, the truth is I had a few brushes with the role-playing game genre and “Final Fantasy” franchise. Being a late adopter of the Super Nintendo, my time exploring the system’s extensive library was rather short. And during those days as a SNES gamer, I had a chance to rent “Final Fantasy III”; but couldn’t comprehend the typical nuisances seen in RPGs before and after the game’s release. Almost two years after I became a Sony “Playstation” owner, it was announced that “Final Fantasy III” under its real name of “Final Fantasy VI” would be packaged with its predecessor “Final Fantasy V” (a game never released outside of Japan) and given to the world as “Final Fantasy Anthology”.
With a greater understanding of how to play a game like “Final Fantasy”, I finally had the chance to enjoy both classic games (with me actually replaying “VI” two times after seeing the grandiose finale over the years) when my birthday arrived and for years after. To this day “Final Fantasy VI” is one of my favorite experiences as a gamer and “V” holds a nice spot on the list of my all-time favorite “Final Fantasy” entries.
UFC Undisputed 2009 (2009)
The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) was hitting a new level of popularity as the 21st century reached the end of its first decade. At the forefront of this revolution in combat sports was (and still is) the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Sadly, the greatness of knockouts and submissions aplenty never translated well into video games. Most MMA/UFC video games were clunky, slow, and downright lacking in what makes a MMA fight memorable. Then it was announced that the developers and publishers behind then-WWE’s yearly video games were making a UFC game that would right the wrongs of previous attempts by other companies. Thanks to a well-timed demo, many people hopeful the game would turn out well were reasonably hyped; including yours truly.
It wasn’t the smoothest, most polished or deep sports-based fighting game ever made, but the first entry in a future trilogy proved to be tremendously fun whether playing locally or online. The latter is where I attained the most fun. Not being a big multiplayer gamer, the journey from sub-par player to tournament winner almost a year later occurred mostly thanks to my time playing online against other virtual mixed martial artists. When I think back to the seventh generation of video games and how much fun I had, “UFC Undisputed 2009” stands as the heavyweight champion of the world.