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Generation Loss

April 2, 2017

So, if you were ever active in trading around videotapes of obscure TV shows or anime, you’re probably familiar with the idea of generation loss – the idea that, the farther away from the original source you get, the less the image on your new copy resembles the original.

This weekend was spent clearing out my backlog of all remaining games from the Saturn/PS1 generation, and going back to early 3D titles has been a somewhat painful affair.  The generation loss, in this case, is that they looked so much better in my memory and some of them ought to have stayed there.

But I digress.

At any rate, after finishing up all of my remaining Saturn mahjong games, I was left with a dozen or so PS1 and Saturn titles, and I gave all of them a spin for a few minutes to decide which I would actually put effort into and which were going to be going directly to the eBay pile with no further shame.

This left me with GunGriffon (Saturn) and Silent Hill (PS1) – so let’s talk about those games.

GunGriffon is a first-person mech shooter that features some of the best-feeling giant robot movement I’ve ever experienced, and it’s something of a miracle that the game STILL feels good 20 years after it was released.  You’re piloting a big hunk of metal, and it feels at once very responsive to your controls and yet still bound by the rules of, you know, gravity and physics and all of those buzzkills.

Mind you, I don’t imagine there’s any particularly sophisticated math behind it.  This predates “physics engines” by quite some while.  It also doesn’t do very much with collisions.  Really, what stands out is the way your mech accelerates and decelerates, and how frustrating it can make it to go up against swarms of small and fast-moving enemies – they’re no threat to you, you can blow them away with little-to-no-effort… if they’d just, you know, hold still.

I’m not selling this, I can tell.

Anyway, it made it through the “let’s give it 10 minutes and see if I’ll put some real effort into it” culling phase, and then I started trying to actually beat the thing.

There are eight story missions.  It doesn’t have a ton of content.  In theory, if you know what you’re doing, it is a terribly quick play-through.

I wound up bouncing off mission four like a coyote mistaking a painted-on train tunnel for the real thing.  It wasn’t because the enemies were particularly difficult to kill, or that they were doing all that good of a job at killing ME, but I couldn’t tell precisely what the objective of the whole thing was supposed to be and I kept dying to a 10 minute time limit on the mission.  Furthermore, it’s an old enough game – and was never particularly popular in the first place – that there are no walkthroughs online.  I did find a recording of a streamer playing through the game, and he played up until the fourth mission and then failed due to running out of time.

Five attempts at mission four, with five GAME OVER due to running out of time, and it wound its way to the goodbye pile.

So then there was one, and the ONE in this case was Silent Hill, a game with a fantastic pedigree and a lot of anticipation to live up to.  I’ve played five other games in the series, and (with the exception of one or two puzzles and the escort-mission second half of Silent Hill 4) enjoyed all of them.

The original, though… well, there’s brilliance there, and it made a tremendous foundation for the sequels, but actually getting through the granddaddy of them all was a bit of a slog.  I had to resort to a spoiler-free walkthrough from a very early point, and I don’t feel at all bad about it considering how obtuse some of the puzzle solutions were and how easy it is to get lost when you’re wandering around the terribly low-polygon version of the world’s worst resort getaway destination.

It’s done, anyway, and that wraps up the Silent Hill games for me AND clears out my console backlog of everything published during the 1990s and before.  I have a handful of PS2 games and one last GBA game still sitting there from THAT generation, but that’s a challenge for another time.

 

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