The Revenge of Shinobi (1990)
It was a tearful experience for me when I realised that ninja was not a viable career path. I couldn’t even choose to study it in college. Basket weaving yes. Harry Potter yes. Even sociology, yes. But no modules on shurikens, ninjutsus, swordplay, kais, nunchuks, jet black clothing… they’re all massive gaps in my knowledge to this day. Uncle Monty wistfully made his eventual conclusion that he would never play the Dane. And I too had to come to terms with the sad fact that I would never be a Shinobi.
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Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (2003)
“OK, class, get into groups of 3 or 4” – words from a teacher more fearsome than the usual guff they give you. I didn’t mind being told by the teacher that I had detention, or that I was to see them after class, or that the lock on the boy’s changing room was double-bolted and I could scream as loud as I liked because nobody was coming to help me. But teamwork? Find a group of people willing to come together and work in harmony? Leave it out. It’s always a dreadful affair – if the teacher places you into random groups, you could be put alongside a group of drongos, or worse still, ambitious people who are hunting to get an A+. And they’ll get that goddam A+ if it means slitting your throat from ear to ear.
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Tales of Symphonia (2004)
I’m sure that this is one of those nostalgic things that everyone can legitimately try to claim for themselves, but I reckon I could easily be justified in saying that the 90s was the Golden Age for cartoons – even ahead of the mighty 80s and whenever it was that Catch the Pigeon first aired. Then, at any given time, you could find the best voice artists in ‘the business’ strutting their vocal stuff for the kids too “sick” to go to school and for the unemployed kids-at-heart to enjoy.
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Hatoful Boyfriend (2015)
Every now and then a game comes along so deviant that your conscience urges you not to play it. It is something that your super-ego won’t ever forgive you for. If you put Cho Aniki or Senran Kagura into your console and load it up, right then and there you are voluntarily flagging yourself for the FBI, the NSA, the MIB, and all sorts. It won’t be too much longer until the Facebook rabble catch wind of your transgressions against societal morality, and then it’s trial by social media for you. And of course, such trials are unwinnable. You are finished, your reputation left completely destroyed, you will be egged anywhere you go, children will scream at the sight of you, and even your mother will stop inviting you round for tea.
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Gran Turismo 5 (2010)
Oh, how I love racing games. I see them as one of gaming’s purest tests of skill; when done right, they’re a wonderful mixture of patience, focus and control. When done wrong, you get Crazy Frog Racer and Hello Kitty Karting. Whatever poison you choose, it’s all about taking risks, keeping concentration, and outfoxing challenging opponents to get across the line first. And if you can’t do any of that, just spend the most money – or if it’s Mario Kart, hang back at the start and wait for the top items, then goose your pal right at the finishing line. They are now no longer your pal.
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Donkey Kong (1981)
I’m not destined to be a great Donkey Kong player. In fact I’m probably a bit of a disgrace to the name of Donkey Kong. My first bad high score came when I was playing through Donkey Kong 64 and it became apparent that in order to beat the game, I’d have to beat an arcade perfect Donkey Kong conversion. Not only that, but I’d actually have to beat it twice, with one life each time, and it was harder the second time round. This is where I recorded my second bad high score, and my third, all the way through to my seven hundred and fifth, after which I burst into tears of failure. And I honestly can’t remember any other game ever making me do that.
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Legend of Zelda, The: The Wind Waker HD (2013)
An awful long time ago, I did a write-up on Wind Waker GameCube, or more accurately a 5,000 word dissertation. It was fairly stuffy, and in it I mostly spoke about how the graphics actually added a nice bit of whimsy and the story and plot was pleasant when you met big bad Ganon, but crucially some pilchard left a few dungeons out.
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Secret of Mana (1994)
I had a tough start with Secret of Mana. Things seemed so rosy – the year was 1995 and my mother had gone into town with the promise of bringing us home a new Super Nintendo game. What she brought us was the green wonder that is Secret of Mana, a game that was advertised as being like Zelda! That was all I needed to hear. I probably near took the glorious woman’s hand off and clambered up the stairs to play it immediately.
As I often did as a 4-year-old gamer boy, I pressed my little golfball head as closely to our 1970s television as I could without my hair standing on end. Then I pressed the Power button to load up the game, a chilling roar that must have surely come from the bowels of hell blared right in my face, and I screamed to the high heavens and left Mana alone for several years.
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Legend of Zelda, The: Oracle of Seasons (2001)
Here in Ireland, we don’t get seasons, so much as we get a yearlong cacophony of grey clouds and rain, that may be punctured by the sun for a rare two week stint in the month of July before normal service resumes. The winter lasts six times as long as what would be our summer, which means all of spring is swallowed up in freezing mornings as well, and autumn is a brief 10 day window of leaves being crunched under your feet wherever you go, but it’s still freezing.
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Westwood’s Monopoly (1995)
It looks like board games are making a comeback in a big way. I say comeback because anyone would have thought that video games would put paid to them. After all, why ponce around with dice and scorecards and cheap bits of plastic when you can fly fighter jets and destroy cities and play tennis with Mario instead? But now board games are being busted out at house parties and drinking sessions up and down the country, and suddenly it’s games of Mousetrap and Frustration that are dominating the social scene, rather than games of FIFA and, I don’t know, Rocket League.
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