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No Bones About It: Tarnished

By Michael David Sims
The joy is gone. As sad as it may seem, I found no joy while playing Mega Man Anniversary Collection. It's just not the same.

Truth be told, I haven't been playing video games lately. The love is gone, or at least taking a vacation. For a brief while I was addicted to City of Heroes, but the lack of initial powers, repetition of missions, and abundance of kill stealers turned me off quickly. Instead of using this newfound free time to write, I turned to the world of online Flash games. But most are too short, have shoddy controls, and get old quickly.

Despite this growing void, I found myself eagerly anticipating Mega Man Anniversary Collection. When word of its release reached me months ago, I nearly fell out of the chair and rushed for the store despite its distant release date. Like those Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fans who camp outside movie theaters for weeks in an effort to snatch the first tickets, I was willing to live outside Best Buy so I could be there the day the game hit the shelves that's how much I love the Mega Man franchise.

But then something odd happened. The release date was inexplicably pushed back, several times at that. And as the release date grew farther and farther away, I found other games to take my attention and eventually forgot about the Blue Bomber altogether.

As I not-so-eagerly waited for the Mega Man collection, Nintendo released several old 8-bit NES games for the GBA. Including The Legend of Zelda, a game that easily makes my Top Ten list.

With Zelda in hand, I rushed home and popped it into my SP (and will admit I was a little disheartened when I saw the cart wasn't gold), and turned the sucker on.

There it was, in all its glory. As the timeless theme (which, by the way, is the ringtone on my cell phone) hummed out the speaker, an overwhelming joy flowed throughout my limbs. Suddenly it was my seventh birthday again, and I was opening both the NES and Zelda at Aurelios Pizza with friends and family looking on as I beamed. The Classic NES Series version of the game was a perfect port, right down to the chugging that Zelda was famous for.

Though I've yet to play the game for any length of time, I know it's there waiting for me. (Then again, I have the original gold cart sitting next to my NES in the front room, just in case I need to feel the rectangular, two-button controller of old.) With the release of the Classic NES Series, I remembered that Mega Man Anniversary Collection was due out soon, and, once again, my anticipation for the game grew. With each passing day I recalled systematically beating one robotic boss after another throughout Mega Man's entire NES run.

Then the day came, and something strange happened. I forgot. Somewhere between fond remembrance and eager anticipation, the game completely slipped from my memory. In fact, it wasn't until I saw clay7926's thread on the subject that I remembered. It being after 11:00p by then, I swore I was going to "[hit] the stores tomorrow for some Mega Man goodness."

But I never did, and the conversation rolled on without me. It took me six more days to look for it, and, when I did, it was sold out everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I even went so far as to check a store that I loathe; that's how much I thought I wanted this game. After another day of searching, I finally found it at another detestable store.

Much like I felt when I opened Zelda a few weeks prior, childhood goodness filled me with glee as I literally dusted off my GameCube and sat down to play the first installment. Even though I'm more than used to the clunky GameCube controller, it didn't feel right playing Mega Man with anything except the original black and grey NES one. (On top of that, I've yet to become accustomed with the switching of the jump and fire buttons. It throws off my otherwise instinctual timing when I have to think about which button does what.)

As always, I made quick work of Gutsman, Bombman and Cutman (in that order) but found something to be missing. Nevertheless, I sucked it up, saved my game (I'm still torn on a save feature having been added to Mega Man), and started Mega Man II. Again, there was this nagging feeling that something was wrong or missing or different, and, in half the time I spent with the first game, I ended the second so I could move on to the third but never made it that far. Instead, I turned the whole thing off and pouted.

It just didn't feel right. And it's not just that the nostalgic joy was gone. Oh no. There was no enjoyment at all. Not even the slightest bit of fun for what I know is a great series of games.

Is something wrong with me, I pondered. After much thought, I concluded that it is not me but the video game industry. In the last month I have purchased four games: The Legend of Zelda (Classic NES Series) (GBA), Breakdown (Xbox), Activision Anthology (GBA) and Mega Man Anniversary Collection (GameCube). Look at that list one more time, and tell me what you see. Only one of those games is new. The other three are re-releases and anthologies. What does this say about the current video game market? What does this say of originality? What does this say about the future of gaming? In all three cases, the answer is simple: It's grim.

However, there is a shining beacon of hope at the end of this murky tunnel. Just like Capcom is celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Mega Man, so is EA with the Madden franchise. Instead of celebrating that by repackaging the first few Genesis and PC games for re-release, EA has seemingly ignored that fact and continues to plow forward with the series. Despite the fact that football games might not be the most original idea, EA continues to make improvements in graphics, control, and gameplay never content to rest on their laurels (when the could).

Another bright spot in the not-so-distant future is Peter Molyneux's Fable (formerly Project Ego), an epic RPG that quite literally spans a lifetime, and every action spawns an outcome that will lead you down the path of the righteous or damn you to bloody torment. Age sets in and scars acquired in battle never fade. It's the choices you make as a person, as you take on this role, that determines your fate.

This, people, is originality of the highest order and will surely not disappoint anyone willing to put time and effort into the game, just as the producers have. It's this outward expression of love (through painstaking craftsmanship) that fuels me as a gamer. When I sit down to play something like this, where it's obvious that the producers gave years of their lives just to make a few hours of mine enjoyable, that's when I truly appreciate gaming. On the flip side, when a longtime gamer such as myself stops caring about the classics he grew up on, it becomes quite clear that most studios no longer care about how much fun you or I have (or even if their ideas are original), but rather about the green we're willing to shell out especially for these once proud games repackaged for one classic anthology after another.

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Marvel Introduces Timely Comics
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