Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bad At Games III - Demo Disc-overy

Where was I? Oh yes, the wife and I had bought a second hand Playstation and she was busy jumping through tombs in the legendary Tomb Raider.

In these days before the consoles hooked themselves up to Skynet and could read your heartbeat from a room away, the only real way to discover (pardon the pun) what new games were coming out was to buy the magazine. If you were wise, you’d go for the Official Playstation Magazine and eagerly slam in the demo disc that was glued to the front of each issue. The demo disc held samples of around half a dozen games, just the first level usually, so that you could tell if the game was going to be worth your hard earned cash.

Some months it was a bit of a waste of time – a handful of rather bad games that were not worth the time or the energy. But once in a while, there was a gem on there that had you instantly hooked. A demo you kept reloading over and over again.

There were four demos that really stood out for me as being real high points in my gaming history. These are in no order really, just ones that come to mind.

MTV Sports: Snowboarding
The first was MTV Snowboarding. Yeah, I know. A snowboarding game. How could that be cool? Well, it had an awesome soundtrack. My first real exposure to Blink 182, and there were also cool tracks from Fear Factory and Ministry. The controls were simple, you could play two player, and although the demo only had two slopes we played it over and over and over again. Of course, when the game came out, we did eventually buy it, and blasted through it in about two hours… and then it was kinda over…

Hogs of War PS1 Game
The next of the demos that grabbed me by the face and kept me reloading the game was Hogs of War. A simple 3D version of Worms that had a comical Rik Mayall voiceover that you would eventually turn off after half an hour in the full game. You took it in turns, shooting bizarre weapons at each other as odd little racial stereotyped pigs in a WWII style setting. I don’t know what it was about this game, but I did rather enjoy it. Possibly too much. Of course, I played for the glory of the Soviet Union in most of my games.

Thirdly was Final Fantasy VII. The demo was a disc to itself, and took Cloud through to placing the bomb early on in the game. Playthrough of the demo took easily twenty five minutes to play, and it was just stunning. I think I only played the demo through a couple of times before I realised that I needed to buy the full game. And what a game it was. I loved FFVII. And it is, still, to date, the only Final Fantasy game I’ve actually completed to the end. 
Final Fantasy VII - Genius!

The final boss battle with Sephiroth took nearly three hours, and I only managed it thanks to getting the Knights of the Round Materia and the Mime Materia to copy its effects over and over. Man that was a hard fight. Sweaty palms, shaky hands and a weak bladder by the end of that, but FFVII is still a work of genius. At a time when I didn’t get to tabletop game very often (if at all) it filled a hole in my gaming life, and made me wonder why there wasn’t an official Final Fantasy tabletop RPG…

A special mention should also go for the demo disc that included the opening title sequence to FFVIII. Good lord that was amazing…

The original Grand Theft Auto game
Finally, and holding the record for the most times I reloaded the demo had to be one of the most unlikely and simplest games ever – one that would produce a series of amazing games – Grand Theft Auto. The original GTA was a top-down and incredibly basic game, with a little guy who was barely more than a dozen pixels jumping into cars and causing carnage. The whole of the city was open to you, and the complete game seemed to be there on the demo disc, but it cunningly timed the demo to switch off after five minutes. But every time you reloaded it you could do something different, explore a different part of the city, try some of the missions, cause more mayhem, try to jump that gap, steal that police car, and more.

I loved GTA, bought the game after almost wearing the disc out. I played GTA and FFVII so much we had the regular PS1 problem where you had to stand the console on its side or upside-down to get the discs to load. 

And then, Sony announced the PS2… it had to be done…

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