Weekend Pickups – May 2021

Welcome back for another round of “I don’t really have anything specific in mind, so here’s what games I’ve bought lately”. It was Memorial Day weekend, which is usually considered the kick-off to summer as the weather has finally begun to stay a consistently mild temperature. It’s only a matter of days before we enter a few months of complaining about the heat as a change of pace from complaining about the cold(Talking about the weather…the signs of reaching middle-age have begun). Anyways…I was able to check out the game store in town and picked up a pile handful of games. I found a few PS3 games that I’d wanted to check out for a while, along with a few GBA and a single PS2 game. PlayStation 3 games have remained pretty inexpensive the past couple years, save for the few weeks this spring of people panic buying games after hearing about the now-reversed decision by Sony to shut down the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita digital storefronts. I have also wanted to build up my library of Game Boy Advance games, something I never did years ago when it was the current Nintendo handheld system. I happened to come across a few Castlevania games, which depending on the game, don’t typically sell for egregious amounts of money, but still aren’t something you find everyday.

The Games

Final Fantasy XIII

It wasn’t until my late teens/early 20’s that I really began to appreciate, or “get” RPGs as a genre, particularly(Pokemon Red & Gold being an exception). I’ve begun making the joke that I end up bringing home another JRPG every time I visit the local game store…and this weekend was no different. I’ve played quite a few different Final Fantasy games by this point, but have never played FFXIII(or either of the sequels). I remember when the game was released and thought it looked cool, but (foolishly)thought I was going to play through the previous entries before I’d begin playing it. I always heard a lot of mixed things about the game, but intend to play the game myself and create my own opinions from there…once I finish up what must be a dozen or so other JRPGs first…

The Darkness

I remember reading about a game called “The Darkness” shortly after getting my PlayStation 3 back in December 2007(as the original “Spider-Man” lettering indicates). The premise sounded interesting – a dark, supernatural FPS in which you have an army of monsters, “Darklings” available to summon and attack enemies, alongside an array of conventional weapons. The first game I played on my PS3 was a military shooter called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction shortly after that, so it got sort of lost in the middle of “bigger” games. I had always heard interesting things about The Darkness(and its sequel), so it’s simply another example of a game I didn’t get around to playing until years later.

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West is a game that I don’t really remember hearing anything about back when it was released in 2010, but in recent years I’ve heard quite a few people mention the game and how underrated it is compared to other games of the era. A hack ‘n slash action-adventure game made by Ninja Theory/Namco starring Andy Serkis and written by Alex Garland. Pretty intrigued by this one…


Singularity is another game that I remember hearing about back during the PS3 days but didn’t know all that much about. Similar to Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, I’ve heard more people mention the game in the last few years than I ever did following its release. I really enjoyed some of the older games developed by Raven Software like Star Wars Jedi Knight II, X-Men Legends, or Soldier of Fortune II. It’s a little disappointing that Raven has been relegated to little more than assisting Treyarch and Infinity Ward in making yearly Call of Duty releases since Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010, which was released a matter of months after Singularity.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

I remember first playing Castlevania: Lament of Innocence on a demo disk inside an issue of PlayStation Magazine and really liking it, so I ended up buying the game a couple months later. I ended up selling the game a few years back when I (regrettably)decided to downsize my game collection, but I’ve been keeping an eye out for a decent copy of the game the last year or so. I’ll admit the game didn’t do anything revolutionary with the series and may not reach the same heights of something like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but I still have something of a soft spot for the game. I had always known of the Castlevania games and had played Super Castlevania, as well as the NES original, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that I started getting really into the series, which happened to be right as Lament of Innocence was to be released…

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge

For as much as I and many others love the Banjo-Kazooie games, it’s usually(and understandably) the console releases that are mentioned. There were two BK games released for the Game Boy Advance – Banjo Pilot and Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge; the former being a cart racer similar to Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing(Banjo’s first appearance, btw) while the latter is an adventure-platformer more along the lines of what one associates with the series. Throughout video game history, handheld releases very RAREly(well done, right?) receive the recognition of home consoles, it’s easy to be unaware BK games were even made for the GBA. You don’t come across either game very often, but I’m still looking for a copy of Banjo Pilot to go along with Grunty’s Revenge…

Speaking of sequels that went unnoticed because they were released on a handheld…

Gunstar Super Heroes

Gunstar Heroes is one of my absolute favorite Sega Genesis games and would likely be near the top of my all-time favorites as well. A sequel – Gunstar Super Heroes was released on the GBA in 2005, 12 years after the original. It was only within the last decade or so that I myself had even heard of the game and I don’t seem to be alone in that regard as I’ve come across many others who were surprised to hear there was a sequel released. Looking forward to this one…

Advance Wars

Advance Wars is a series that I’d always wanted to play, as I have heard next to nothing negative about the game from anyone or anywhere since its release back in 2001, but was a little intimidated by for the longest time as RTS-type games have always been my weakest genre of games. I came across a copy of Advance Wars for a decent price and decided to finally give it a shot. The GBA releases are revered by fans and seemingly destined to be ignored by Nintendo as Intelligent Systems has finally started to gain more recognition now the Fire Emblem games have begun to increase in popularity on this side of the Pacific.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

While I have played a few of the Castlevania games for the Nintendo DS, I have never really played any of the three GBA releases – Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow. Circle of the Moon was released as one of the launch titles for the Game Boy Advance on June 11, 2001. None of the Castlevania games on the GBA seem to be very easy to find in the past few years and the latter pair(the ones that didn’t essentially get erased from the overall Castlevania timeline by Koji Igarashi) have begun to skyrocket in price, so as soon as I saw Circle of the Moon the other day I knew I had grab it. It’s just 11 days short of the 20-year anniversary of the Game Boy Advance’s release in North America, so it’s a perfect time to kick back and play some Castlevania….maybe I’ll even get around to watching Season 3 of the Netflix series as well.

That’s all for now! I’m pretty satisfied with the games I was able to find over the holiday weekend. What games have you picked up recently? Let me know. Thanks for reading!

Gaming Memories

A common practice while I sit at my desk working throughout the day is to read through the blog sites that I follow here on WordPress. In catching up with today’s blogs, Athena from The AmbiGamingCorner has written another blog post for Dragon Age Month titled – The Interesting Case of Dragon Age: Origins, or Multisensory Experiences and Memory. In the article, Athena discussed the connection between the way that our memories are formed and stored within our minds. Also mentioned within the post was how certain sensory details can trigger memories, such as the song played at your wedding or high school graduation. Simply hearing this combination of notes and sounds can bring with it an array of sensory details as you may remember a certain sight or smell, along with the type of things you were feeling at the time of such memories. The post got me thinking of examples of the feelings and emotions a few brief seconds of audio, whether sound effects or music, can bring forward. I decided shortly thereafter, it may be slightly less-restrictive to wax nostalgic in a separate post rather than leave an enormous collection of scattered thoughts in the comments section. Here are just a few of the games and associated memories/details that arise from hearing a split-second of intro music…

Note: For a more coherent description of what I attempt to say in the above paragraph, check out the original post. If you are not already familiar with Athena’s great blog site I strongly urge you to do so, as it contains a wealth of Dragon Age and Mass Effect knowledge, among other things.

Donkey Kong Country

It takes only a split-second of hearing Kranky Kong turn the gramophone playing the first few notes of the opening sequence of Donkey Kong Country before I come down with nostalgia overload. Immediately, I recall sitting in my neighbor’s living room playing DKC for the first time after school way back in November of 1994. I still remember how the tv/entertainment center was along the east wall or the color of the carpeting as I sat on the floor fixated on this SNES game. I can still vividly see the beige/tan sofa that sat to my right along the living room windows, I even remember the smell of the air freshener used in the house. I still remember staying there for sleepovers and sitting up until the early morning hours playing DKC trying to beat some of the stages like Millstone Mayhem or, god forbid, Minecart Madness. Another track from Donkey Kong Country I’ve mentioned numerous times is Aquatic Ambience, which is used in the underwater levels of the game(a gorilla collecting bananas underwater while riding a swordfish?) and feels almost heart-wrenching upon hearing. It’s one of those pieces of music that has the inexplicable ability to stir something within you, despite not being able to articulate just what it is that makes you feel this way.

Pokemon Red

Another title song that instantly transports me back to the days of my youth. Pokémon Red starts by the dramatic building of tension as the battle music begins, before showing a contest between Gengar and Nidoran, depicted in the black/gray hues of the Game Boy. Nearly anyone who has played a mainline Pokémon game can likely tell you the first time they heard the now-iconic battle theme that ushered millions of kids into what could only be described at the time as “Pokémania”. I’m unable to put my finger on precisely when I was first introduced to the newest phenomenon known as Pokémon in the late 90’s, though I’d wager “how” would be from flipping through issues of Nintendo Power as a kid. Hearing the Pokémon main battle theme to this day, I can still feel the yellow plastic of my Game Boy Color as I would sit and play Pokémon Red the entire way from school. I can still smell the warm spring air or the dust swirled about from beind the car as the final stretch of the drive home was on a dirt road. I remember how I would often sit behind the driver’s seat of the car and the feel of the fabric of the seats, or even the occasional creaking noise from the vinyl upholstery of the dashboard. Hell, I even remember times where I would realize I had been sitting in the car in the driveway for about 20 minutes before moving inside to continue my journey to become Pokémon Master of the Kanto Region…


Yes, here we are, I’m talking about Banjo-Kazooie….again. I often feel a tinge of embarrassment when I enthusiastically gush about a game that I loved as a kid, now an adult, but I can’t deny its significance. I remember first seeing the commercial for the game while watching Nickelodeon cartoons(most likely) one summer afternoon before deciding I wanted to play the game more than anything else I could think of. In our local town there was a small store which rented out VHS tapes, video games, along with a small assortment of knicknacks, and I remember my mom finally agreeing to let me rent Banjo-Kazooie from the store. Of course, I was fortunate enough the store also rented out a few Nintendo 64(and Playstation) consoles so I could actually play the game as I didn’t even have an N64 of my own at that point. I still remember the excitement of bringing the game home along with the rental console that was safely housed inside the big plastic, foam-lined briefcase and hurrying back to my bedroom to hook up to my little tv with the one broken antenna. All it takes is to hear the first musical notes(from a banjo, naturally) and I can almost smell the pungent odor of the secondhand smoke that penetrated the rental cases as the lady that ran the store sat behind the counter and smoked cigarettes all day. I have many memories of sitting alone in my bedroom in moments of quiet solitude playing Banjo-Kazooie and would love to dedicate a full-length blog post to expressing, or attempting to, what the game has meant to me over the years…

Thanks for reading!