Thursday, February 26, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Ending Sequences in Games

Last week I explored some of my favorite opening sequences in gaming, and this week I'm doing the polar opposite, my favorite ending sequences. While a great opening can get you off on the right foot and get you motivated to continue, a great closing is just as important. There's nothing worse than putting several hours of your life into a game only to have it leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

Like last week, I'll only be including the final moments of player control, and let me stress one more time: SPOILERS AHEAD! Let's get started.

Honorable Mention: Super Mario World

While the end credits in Super Mario Worldare perhaps my favorite end credits ever (not to mention that I love the music that accompanies it so much that my wife and I played it as we left the church at our wedding), you don't hear too many people talking about the events that lead up to it. You trek your way across the Valley of Bowser and finally make it his castle, and suddenly find yourself with several doors to choose from. The game had already proven itself to be bigger and better than any other Mario game up to that point, and this final stage only drove that fact home.

You have a room with four doors, each one taking you to a different area, and after you get through it, you have another set of four doors. This meant that you had 16 different combinations of paths to choose from in order to reach Bowser, and I had a ton of fun just going back and replaying the castle to see them all (and now I always choose doors 3 and 5 since they're the quickest to get through).

After a short section with a disco ball that you can turn on and off, you come to the final battle. Seeing Bowser descend upon you in his clown car/ship/bowling ball distributor was very intimidating. Then, after you manage to get through the first two stages of the battle, the once happy clown car furrows its brow and starts stomping it's way toward you. This was very intense for a 6-year-old Dustin Thomas, but the payoff is worth the fear if you can pull through.

That was quite a bit to say about an honorable mention, but Super Mario World is my favorite game of all-time, so you may be wondering what could possibly have beaten it? Well, let's continue and I'll tell you.

5. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

I play every campaign in the Call of Duty franchise, and I always wind up leaving them satisfied (except Ghosts, there's no logical reason why that dude was still alive). We can say what we want about Call of Duty and how it's become one of those "dudebro" titles, but I still enjoy the campaigns quite a bit, and they always end with some sort of epic showdown or event. But the one I still love going back to is the ending of the original Modern Warfare. I should clarify I'm not talking about the airplane hijacking bonus mission, I'm referring to the end of the actual story.

Though that mission is incredibly fun.

Up to that point you had already experienced a ton of intense moments, including the Captain Price sniper mission and the terrifying final moments of a soldier's life after his chopper is taken down by a detonated nuke. The game is very bleak at time, but never more so than in the game's final mission, when your vehicle is overturned and you're outnumbered by enemy forces. The game then goes into a cinematic slow-motion scene where you witness your comrades getting shot and the game's antagonist walking towards you.

After an incoming missile strikes down an enemy helicopter, the enemy's attention is diverted, and your camera pans left to find Captain Price (whose mustache is so manly that the only way to make it more manly is to attach my beard to it) who slides a pistol your way. Three concentrated shots later, followed by the words "Objective Completed," leave you feeling like you actually saved the world.

4. Super Metroid

Escape sequences in games are sometimes very captivating. I remember the final bridge escape from Uncharted 2 very vividly, and the Metal Gear Solid tunnel chase is also a very fond gaming memory of mine. But no game has done the escape sequence as well as Super Metroid. Before we get to that, though, let's back up a bit.

As you make your way through the final area of Planet Zebes, you find yourself about to be attacked by an enemy, when suddenly, the once tiny metroid appears, now several times larger, and kills the enemy before turning its attention on you. Once it realizes who you are, it lets you go and you're able to confront Mother Brain. It can't be overstated just how much of a surprise Mother Brain was here. Rather than just fighting a stationary brain in a glass enclosure, this one shows its true form, revealing itself to be the size of a t-rex. When it seems all hope is lost, the metroid reappears, saving and energizing Samus with a powerful new energy before Mother Brain is able to kill the metroid. A noble and appreciated sacrifice.

At this point Samus becomes a two-legged death machine and must race against the clock to get back to her ship before the planet explodes. I just played Super Metroid for the first time last summer, and this was a thrilling final sequence. I managed to escape the planet with only 15 seconds left, and I got really depressed when I discovered you can save the creatures that helped you along your adventure. I was selfish, little ones, and I'm sorry.

3. Prince of Persia (2008)

If you're a faithful reader of my top 5 lists, then you probably remember that I listed the 2008 version of Prince of Persia as my number one hidden gem on the previous generation systems a little while ago, and part of that is because of how much I loved the ending. Much like the baby metroid, your companion, Elika, sacrifices herself to save the world. If the game were to end right there, it wouldn't be as memorable.

What happens next is that the prince takes Elika into his arms and you're tasked with walking her body outside. The credits begin to roll as you continue to walk. I don't know why this was so cool to me, but it was. It was nice having something to do while the credits roll rather than just sitting around and looking at a bunch of letters formed together to make names. But it doesn't end there. In order to save Elika, you're given control of the prince once more and must destroy the Tree of Life, a major plot device in the game. When he does this, she is revived, but he opens the door for the game's antagonist, Ahriman, to unleash his darkness upon the world.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video that doesn't skip over the credits at the end.

I would have preferred if this were a player choice: save Elika or save the world, because whenever I'm given a choice, I always opt for the "greater good" conclusion. Nevertheless, this remains one of my favorite ending sequences ever.

Note: do not play the downloadable epilogue, it negates everything great about this ending.

2. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

On last week's list, Sonic429 brought up the openings of the Metal Gear Solid games. I then got really mad at myself because I'm one of the biggest Metal Gear fans you'll meet and I completely overlooked the tanker mission in MGS2. It was the first time since I started doing my weekly top 5 series that someone mentioned a game and I felt like I genuinely forgot something that probably would have made my list. Oh well.

But I wrote that list and this one in tandem, and I certainly couldn't write a list of my favorite endings without including one that left me sweating and with an aching thumb. I bought a Playstation 3 for the sole purpose of playing Metal Gear Solid 4, and while I did wind up playing other games on it, it remains my favorite PS3 exclusive and one of my favorite games of the last generation. The only section of the game I didn't care for was that tedious third mission in Prague, but outside of that, I think the game is a masterpiece. But how could you top the finales of MGS 1, 2, and 3? That final fisticuffs battle with Liquid and subsequent chase sequence? Completely outstanding. The weirdness that is the final hour of MGS2? Nothing if not memorable. The fight with The Boss that concludes MGS3? One of the best final battles in gaming.

It's only fitting that I need two videos to properly show the end of a Metal Gear game.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and try to explain what's going on to anyone that hasn't played the game because I only have so much time left in my life and that would take up the majority of it. The place I decided to start with this one is in the microwave room. Yeah, it's basically just a QTE that requires no skill or reflexes, but it was one of the most tense hours of my gaming life. At least, it felt like an hour based off of how bad my thumb was hurting by the end of it (unfortunately, I couldn't find a video that shows the button prompt, which makes you feel a great sense of urgency). But I had to block out that pain, I had to help Snake reach the end of his hero's journey. Then you get a nice little throwback to the original Metal Gear Solid, fighting Liquid at the top of Outer Haven, with cool close-ups adding a nice touch while the MGS theme plays over the scene.

1. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

The final moments of Blood Dragon speak to everything that I love about 80s action movies. There is no possibly way they could have crafted a better final sequence for the type of game that it was than the one that came in the finished product. Some may complain that there's no challenge at all, and it's true, there isn't, but that's what makes it great. You're in a giant, impenetrable, steel blood dragon that spouts one-liners and, in the dragon's own words: "shoots lasers out of its f****** eyes." You literally just walk to the end of the game in this dragon blowing up every single thing you see (no shortage of red barrels here). Oh, and by the way, you do all this while the song "War" from Rocky IV is playing. I listen to that song at the gym all the time!

The awesomeness begins at the 8:30 mark.

I've written an entire blog about why I feel Blood Dragon is the best "modern-retro" game ever, and there's really not much left to be said. How can you read that last paragraph and not be blown away? Just watch the video, guys. Trust me, it's worth it.

And as I always do at the ends of these lists, what are some of your favorite ending sequences that I may have missed?

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Favorite Opening Sequences in Games

Sometimes the opening of a game is all you need to decide if you want to continue playing. It's the first impression you get for the game, and if it doesn't capture you right away, then all may be lost. Before games started having cinematics, they didn't need them. But now that videogames are becoming more and more of a creative medium for storytelling, the importance on a game's opening can't be overstated.

The way I decided to do this one is by starting from the first moment of actual player control. So if a game starts with an amazing opening cutscene and just plops you into the game with nothing special going on, that's not going to make it on here.

Before we begin, I should stress that there are SPOILERS for the upcoming games if you wish to avoid them.

Honorable Mentions

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Having the Joker taunting you the whole time he's on his way to his cell leaves you with an unsettling feeling. It's almost like he has an ace up his sleeve.

Uncharted 2

Simply put, this is how you begin your epic adventure game. I remember playing and being really bummed it was only a flashback. I couldn't wait to figure out how Nathan Drake got himself into such a predicament.

Portal 2

A game's opening doesn't always have to be thrilling, sometimes it just needs to put a smile on your face.

And now that we've got the honorable mentions out of the way, let's get to my top 5.

5. Resident Evil 2

The opening to the original Resident Evil was dripping with tension. After the initial (corny) opening scene, you walk through the first few rooms of the Spencer mansion bracing for the worst.

Resident Evil 2 took an entirely different approach. Instead of letting you sweat a little while, this time Capcom opted to throw you right into the middle of a zombie minefield. When I first played these games in the late 90s, I was never able to beat them because I was playing them entirely wrong. I didn't like the idea of having to run away from enemies, so I tried killing everything and would soon find myself with no ammo had sealed my inevitable gruesome fate.

With Resident Evil 2, you have to run away lest you get overwhelmed by the zombie horde shambling toward you. You may not like this opening better than the originals, but it's definitely a better way of showing you the proper way to play the game, which is to avoid conflict at all costs if you can.

This was also our first glimpse of Raccoon City outside of the mansion, and after finding what we presume to be a safe haven in the Raccoon City Police Department, we soon come to find just how wrong we are.

4. God of War 3

If there's one thing that the God of War series gets right, it's that they always open with a bang. In fact, with both the original and with this particular entry, my favorite part of the game is the first 30 minutes.

While the hydra battle that kicks off the original God of War is my favorite boss battle in the series, the opening of GoW3 takes the word 'epic' to a whole new level. You have titans climbing up Mount Olympus, the Greek gods convening together, and a giant, angry hippocampus trying to take you out before the come face to face with the sea god, Poseidon.

3. The Last Of Us

Rip my heart out, why don't you? This is the most recent game on the list, and I'm sure there are some out there who haven't had a chance to play it yet but want to, so, again, heavy spoilers after the video.

The Last of Us may be a post-apocalyptic game, which is way overdone, but one of the things that makes it stand out is the fact that instead of being dropped into the middle of an apocalypse, you actually get to experience the very beginning of the outbreak. You get to see the panic and hysteria that comes an unknown force ravaging the area.

Then, once you meet someone that you think is there to help you, things only get worse, and leads to one of the most heartbreaking deaths you'll ever experience in gaming.

2. Dead Space 2

The original Dead Space did a great job of conveying a sense of hopelessness. Even after you beat the game, you couldn't really celebrate, as you knew that things were only going to get worse for Isaac Clarke. And get worse, they did. The reason early survival horror games worked as well as they did was because even though you had some means of defense, you were hesitant to use them for fear of running out of ammo that you would need in future battles. What could be scarier? Well, how about not being able to defend yourself at all? Which is exactly what Dead Space 2 did.

While Dead Space 2 definitely took a step away from horror in favor of a more action oriented game, the opening scene left me on the edge of my seat with sweaty palms and white knuckles. After seeing a young man (rather gruesomely) transform into a necromorph before your very eyes, you're then tasked with escaping a mental hospital crawling with the alien undead, all while confined to a straight jacket.

1. Medal of Honor Frontline

I've always been a huge history buff, especially when it comes to wars. Put a war movie in front of me and I'm glued to my seat. World War II I've always found particularly fascinating, particularly the storming of the beach at Normandy. June 6th, 1944 will forever be known as D-Day, and when I saw a commercial for Medal of Honor Frontline that showed this particular battle, that was enough to convince me to buy the game.

I've always wondered what was going through those solider's heads as they approached the beach. They knew that even though they were conducting a surprise attack, they were still going to be out in the open once the enemy soldiers spotted them. Most of them probably went into the battle knowing their chance of survival was slim, but their duty to defend their country was a greater priority than even their own lives.

While the game doesn't depict the violence that took place during this battle, it's still a great depiction of one of the most important moments in military history.

I know that I missed some really good opening sequences, so what are some of your favorites?

Thanks for reading. Don't forget that I have a Twitter, you can listen to my podcast, and we also have a YouTube page now.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Last Gen Hidden Gems (Handheld)

I know that there are a lot of hardcore PSP fans out there, and for the life of me, I really wanted to give the PSP some love on this list, but when I got to thinking about all the games I played on mine, they were all big titles from Sony's flagship franchises like God of War and Metal Gear Solid. I even did a Google search and read several forum threads trying to find a hidden gem on the PSP that I had played, or for that matter, heard of. I'm really sorry, guys. And I should go ahead and let you know that if you're expecting things like Jeanne d'Arc or Valkyrie Profile Lenneth to be on this list, then you should probably go ahead and hit the back button on your web browser.

Don't take that to mean that I didn't love my PSP, because I really did. But the niche titles you find on the PSP (and on the Vita today), just aren't my thing. The Nintendo DS, however, was totally my thing, and I found so many hidden gems that this was a hard one to whittle down, but I managed to do it, and here are my choices:

Honorable Mentions: Elite Beat Agents & Retro Game Challenge

Elite Beat Agents is probably one of my top 10 Nintendo DS games, period. So why wouldn't I put it high up on this list? Because everyone lists EBA as a hidden gem on the DS, to the point that it's really not that hidden anymore. EBA is one of the most addicting games that the system has to offer, and several times I would accidentally-on-purpose keep myself awake in bed, saying that I was only going to play a song or two, knowing good and well that I was going to wind up playing for over an hour.

The game is quirky, and has a decent song selection if you like pop music. All I know is that it has both a Queen song and "September" from Earth, Wind, and Fire (which is one of my favorite songs ever, not even kidding), and those two songs alone made up for every time I had to play the levels with Hoobastank, Good Charlotte, and Avril Lavigne songs. It was one of the early games on the DS that justified the need for the second screen, and to this day is one of the best rhythm games you can find.

I really wanted Retro City Rampage to do to me the same thing that Retro Game Challenge did, and that is to make me feel like a kid again. Now, I'm not here to debate the value of Retro City Rampage, but I'll just say that I personally wasn't a fan. Few games are able to capture the same nostalgic lightning-in-a-bottle that Retro Game Challenge did so brilliantly. Everything from sitting in front of a television with your friends, to yelling at your mom to leave you alone, to thumbing through game magazines to find secrets are all beautifully replicated here.

The worst part about Retro Game Challenge is that it was given a sequel that was only released in Japan due to the original's poor North American sales. Retro Game Challenge is much more than meets the eye. Like the recent NES Remix releases, you're given specific challenges in 8 different games inspired by early NES/Famicom games. But the big difference here is that instead of just getting challenges, all 8 of those games are full games that can be unlocked in free play and played to your heart's content. You have a Galaga-like shooter, a vertical-scrolling space shooter, a series of three platformers (the first two being sort of like the original Mario Bros., and the third looking and playing very similarly to Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi), two racing games that are a cross between R.C. Pro Am and Super Off-Road, and a full-blown RPG akin to 8-bit Final Fantasy and Dragon's Quest games.

You can still find RGC used for around $20, but that little cartridge packs a big punch, and is well worth the cost for my fellow retro-enthusiasts.

5. Super Princess Peach

I understand why this game came under some heat when it was released. Yes, you basically use Princess Peach's PMS as a way to progress in the world. I completely understand why that upsets some people, and I respect everyones opinion who was. But at the end of the day, I don't play games for their political correctness; I play them to have fun, and Super Princess Peach is a ton of fun. Despite the controversy, it's still a very well made game and, in my opinion, the best platformer that Nintendo released on the DS.

My only real complaint about Super Princess Peach is the same complaint I had with Kirby Mass Attack: mandatory collection. Every level has 3 Toads for you to find, and if you get to the final castle and didn't collect every single one, then you aren't getting into that castle. When games do that, I get to the final level, discover that I can't play it, and say "Well, I guess I just beat the game." I seriously hate collection as a progression mechanic.

4. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

Even though this game also appears on other platforms, the definitive way to play it is on the Nintendo DS. If I remember correctly, the game was only $20 at launch, which I'm pretty sure is the only reason I decided to buy it in the first place. But I'm glad I decided to take that chance. The game is a puzzle RPG, and you wind up playing as five different heroes over the course of your adventure. I'm not even going to try and explain the story. For one, most stories in fantasy settings bore me to tears, but also because the game takes place between two other Might and Magic games, which is a series that I've had zero experience with before or since I played this game.

The gameplay is somewhat tricky to explain, so I'll just leave this video here for you to watch at your own discretion.

It may seem complicated at first, but there's something extremely satisfying about making one move and causing a chain of several of your units to link together for extreme damage. The final area does boost the difficulty quite a bit, almost do an unfair degree, so I would suggest leveling up your characters to the max in each section before advancing. You're going to get at least 20 hours of gameplay regardless of how many side quests and bounties you do, so you more than get your moneys worth.

3. Ninjatown

I'm very thankful that my friend Luke was a diehard Nintendo DS fan, and had a goal of collecting and playing every single game released for it. If it weren't for him, I would have completely overlooked Ninjatown. Going based on the cover art, it's hard to imagine it being anything but a kids game, but once you start playing, you realize right off the bat that it's much more than that. It may look cute, but don't take that the wrong way, the game definitely has some pretty difficult sections.

When Luke told me I should play it, I was expecting some sort of action-platformer, but what I got instead was a tower defense game. I've never been a big fan of tower defense, but Ninjatown just did it for me. There are modifiers for your ninja huts, special abilities to help aide you when the going gets tough, and tokens that can be collected and used to summon special ninja classes in dire situations.

The game has a great sense of humor, an adorable yet simple art style, and is just a joy to play. Even in the harder levels, I never got to the point that I wasn't having fun, which is sometimes a hard thing to pull off.

2. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Again, thankful for Luke on this one. I love a good story in a game just as much as anyone, but I would prefer if that awesome story also had some compelling gameplay to go along with it, which is why I've never minded the length of Metal Gear Solid cutscenes. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999, for short) is in the visual novel category, and there's little in the way of gameplay outside of some rudimentary puzzle sequences. While the puzzles may not be difficult, they're little more than a small distraction before letting you get to the piece of dialogue that will hopefully let you in on just what is going on.

So what's so good about the story? While I won't give spoilers because it's something you need to experience for yourself and also because there isn't enough time in the day to properly explain it, think of it like a Saw movie, except the twists are actually really good. There are a total of six endings, and you can skip any section of the game you've already experienced. Over the course of your six playthroughs, details slowly unravel themselves and knowledge about your fellow prisoners is revealed. The true ending is pretty mindblowing, and while the game does have a "true" ending, all of the endings actually take place, which is even more of a noodle-scratcher. There is a sequel on the 3DS and Vita called Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, which takes the story in even more outlandish directions. The story is still incomplete, however, and development on the final game has been halted due to the poor sales of the other two games, but I'm still holding on to hope that we will one day find out how this story ends.

1. Aliens Infestation

Even though I kind of hate the term 'metroidvania,' I must accept that it's not going anywhere. But I also can't deny that it's probably my favorite genre of game. One of the greatest tragedies about the Nintendo DS is that we didn't get a 2D Metroid game, but that doesn't mean we didn't get a ton of great metroidvanias. The three Castlevania games are all excellent and receive my highest recommendation. But where else can you go to get your metroidvania fix on the DS after you've blown through those? The answer is simple, you go to the company that has mastered 2D games in the past decade: WayForward. While the company has had some duds in the past, it doesn't take away from how great their games are when they're firing on all cylinders. That brings us to Aliens Infestation.

I had actually never seen an Alien film prior to playing this game (I've seen both Alien and Aliens since then), but that wound up not mattering at all, the game is simply outstanding and I enjoyed every second of it. And after seeing the movies, I was able to go back and appreciate it even more. The game is fairly short, I wound up beating it in under 5 hours, but it's the kind of game that you could restart as soon as you finish it, which is exactly what I did. At the time, this was easily the best game based on the franchise, and even though Alien Isolation gives it a run for its money, I still prefer Infestation. While it's not a straight up survival horror game, there are definitely some good jump scares, especially considering that you'll be playing on a Nintendo DS and likely have the screen closer than you would a television.

While you do have a limited number of Colonial Marines to choose from, and you can wind up losing them all and having to start the game over, the game was never too difficult that I was worried about that actually happening. You can find new marines to recruit, as well as saving some that had been previously defeated, so you usually have a pretty good stock. Overall, Aliens Infestation was probably the kind of game that you looked at and thought "meh," but I would encourage you to give it a shot if you are a fan of Aliens or the metroidvania genre.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Collection: One Year Later

Whenever you commit to writing a weekly/monthly/whatever series, you get a bit burnt out, just ask OpiumHerz. I can only write so many Top 5 lists before both I and the reader need a break, though I do appreciate all the feedback I get from those. I've recently dove headfirst into video editing, and I've basically been self-teaching myself, but I've managed to create some decent stuff. Because of that, I found myself with little time to write, but don't worry, the Top 5 lists will resume next week. But due to my lack of free time this week, I thought I would do something fun.

About a year ago, my wife and I moved into our first house, and after a brief hiatus during the moving process, I returned with this blog showcasing my game room/collection. That was about a year ago, and time has really flown. So I decided this week I would just update you with some new pics of my collection. There are some new goodies, and I've done a bit of rearranging. I've also included some "then and now" pics. Enjoy!

I have both a modern game room and a retro game room. Let's start with the modern room, as it's where I spend the majority of my time.

As soon as you walk in, the first thing you'll notice is this:

This is probably the biggest change you'll notice from last year.

It was mostly just a matter of rearranging things in order to make room for that big, black monstrosity that now houses my modern systems.

Of course, we have the television itself and a few things that are housed beneath it.

These couple of pictures showcase some of the cooler findings I got this past summer at the flea market. You might notice that small shelf to the left of the television, that's an officially branded Nintendo Wii shelf. It's missing one of the shelves that would enable me to house more games, but it cost me $5, so I can't complain.

And in that lower picture, you may see (though it's obscured by shadows) a Nintendo Power #1. Right underneath it is Nintendo Power #2, which is the Castlevania II: Simon's Quest cover that many parents complained about back in the day. They came in a stack of Nintendo Powers that I managed to grab for $1 a piece. Pretty sweet.

Now let's move on to the game shelf itself.

Right above the shelf are a few gifts I've received from friends and family, as well as my senior prom picture where myself and three buddies are all doing wrestling poses. Yes, I'm doing John Cena's "Word Life" hand symbol, but this was 2003, and John Cena was awesome back when he was still rapping.

Even though I haven't watched a new episode of The Simpsons in almost a decade, my love for the series is still enough to ensure that I buy every single season on DVD. Unfortunately, in order to make room on my DVD shelves, I moved them down here, and some of them still reside on the shelf itself since there just simply wasn't enough room. I'm currently deciding what to do with them in order to display them better.

Here's a comparison of my knickknacks from last year.

To your immediate right from the game shelf is a closet that houses all of my miscellaneous boxes.

I have a hard time disposing of stuff, you never know when you'll need it. That brown shoe box up top is where I keep my slim PS2, but if you look to the right, that thing is pretty cool. I can't remember its exact name, but I think it's called a "Retromini." It's a portable NES. No, not an emulator and something that has NES games built it, I mean it's an actual portable NES. You slide the cartridges in on top like an original GameBoy, and it can actually be hooked up like a real NES, complete with two controllers and a light gun. It was a wedding gift from my buddy James (who hosts the Action Features podcast). I don't have a lot of uses for it, as I usually carry my 3DS if I'm traveling, and I have two different models of the NES, as well as the FC Twin which can also play them, but it's still a really cool piece of my collection.

Oh hey, here's my couch with a Mario blanket.

Let's take a look at my toy shelf in the corner.

This is kind of my "pride and joy." It's such a cool little area in the room. Those wrestling figures on the bottom are the same ones I had as a kid, and I've spent a lot of years and a lot of money on those Simpsons figures. I actually stopped for a long time, but I managed to find quite a few new ones at the flea markets last summer. Here's a comparison.

At first glance, you may not notice many new additions. They're mostly up front on the lower shelf. My personal favorites are Lurleen Lumpkin and Boxing Homer. Boxing Homer is from the episode "The Homer They Fall," a fantastic episode from season 8, and probably a top 20 episode of all-time.

Right next to it is my newfangled work station.

This is where I record my podcast, as well as the majority of my writing, and now, my video editing. It's slightly obscured by my podcast mic, but behind it is one of my favorite figures in my collection: my Simpsons figure of Bret Hart, which combines two of my passions in life.

The workstation itself is pretty bare bones, and I also need to get a more comfortable chair, but I'm a pretty simple guy and it gets the job done. Plus, it has plenty of room for my coffee to sit.

Alright, that's pretty much it for the modern room. There's some art and stuff on the walls that I've shown in several other blogs, so just go to those if you want to see them.

Moving on, let's head to the retro room. Please excuse the lighting on the wide shots. It was a bit of a dreary day and I needed to have the light on.

First things first, here's my favorite part of my entire home: the retro game collection.

But before we take a more in-depth look there, let's tour the rest of the room. Every person has to have a bookshelf, even if the majority of your books are strategy guides and pro wrestler autobiographies.

And yes, those are Goosebumps books. I loved those books as a kid, and that's the entire 62-book run of the series before it transitioned to Goosebumps 2000.

This is where I've spent a lot of time lately, capturing some retro footage. And every collector has to have a Power Glove.

Around the borders of the ceiling are shelves with some of my favorite action figures.

I used to be a huge collector of all of NECA's video game licensed figures. I literally had 5 boxes full of them before I decided to finally purge that collection and pick up a nice chunk of change in the process. I kept my favorite ones, like Claptrap and the Headshot Locust from Gears of War, and the ones you see here are pretty much the only ones that remain.

There's also a shelf in the corner that contains some other books, bobbleheads, random figures, etc.

Here's a couple comparison photos to 2014.

And lastly, the retro game shelf.

First, let's compare it to last year.

I first got into collecting back in 2008. I started off by just collecting NES, then I progressed to collecting for everything. Then, like an idiot, I decided to sell off a great deal of it in order to focus on the NES again, and now, I'm back to collecting everything. The only problem is that now, collecting is huge, and I refuse to pay the kind of prices that re-sellers ask for, and eBay is a lost cause at this point.

At last count, my NES collection was at 387. I'm right around the halfway mark as far as licensed NES games go (licensed games being my main focus, though I do grab unlicensed stuff for the right price). What's crazy is that at this point, it's really difficult for me to find anything I don't already have. It's not that they're expensive, it's just that there are some cheap games that are extremely hard to come by. Like Volleyball. Plain, boring, black box Volleyball. I can't find that game anywhere.

Here's a quick look at what sits on top of the shelves before I move on to the games themselves.

There are some cool little things there. Some random Club Nintendo prizes (R.I.P.), the NECA retro figures, the RE4 chainsaw controller, some mini Terminator figures, and of course, the Michael Jackson Barbie.

Alright, now let's take a closer look at the game collection. The pictures aren't close enough to make out every title, but you should be able to make out a few.

There aren't any "holy grail" games in there like Little Samson or Bubble Bobble 2, but I do have a few that I managed to find cheap a while back that have skyrocketed in recent years. Games like DuckTales 2, Contra Force, Fire N Ice, Chip N Dale 2, etc. Definitely games that I'm glad I managed to find when I did. Below is some close ups my SNES and PS1/PS2 games.

Again, nothing too spectacular. When it comes to systems other than the NES, I typically only search for the games I want. You know, the classics. So, naturally, there's things like Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, the Donkey Kong Countries, and then things like Final Fantasy VII/VIII, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil 4 on the Playstation side of things.

And there you have it: my game collection, one year later.

I hope you guys enjoyed this stroll through my home. I feel so much closer to you guys now.

New Top 5 next week. In the meantime, listen to my podcast.

Thanks for reading/looking.