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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Handheld Gaming Part 1 – The Past (Riddles)

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Yep, you didn’t expect it, (hell I didn’t) but we’ve got another theme week going here at Riddlethos. Flying by the seat our pants just a little, and apparently I wasn’t deemed worthy of a Best of Lord Riddles or whatever, but regardless, things are moving – and that’s the important thing. Movement. Forward movement, preferably.

As the banner clearly implies, we’re talking about portables this week. Portable gaming systems, to be precise; from the halcyon days of Nintendo’s giant grey brick to the current rumblings of 3DSs and NGPs and whatnot. I sorta just came up with the idea, made the banner, and ploughed ahead without consulting Ethan – which I know means that it’s up to *me* to ensure this week doesn’t go to shit. Something of a tall order. Especially since I don’t actually know a whole lot about portable systems.

Okay, well, I know about them. But, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with my gaming habits knows, I’m really not a portable gamer. There are multiple reasons for this, many of which I’ll be discussing in the next installment of this three-part series, which deals with the current generation of portable gaming hardware. For now, though, we’re going to take a look into the past – a past, in which my gaming habits were merely formulating.

Because,  you see: ironically enough, my life with videogames begins with handheld systems. My first meaningful introduction to videogames was through the GameBoy Color. A yellow GameBoy Color that actually belonged to my younger brother. The memories of this time period are somewhat vague. I was probably around 10 years old, meaning my brother would have been 6. My six-year-old brother would – in what appears to  have been destiny – play The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. I would mostly watch him. I’d never seen anything like it – and y’know what? I really didn’t care much for it. I couldn’t grasp the concept. I knew nothing about videogames, I thought they were all about senseless killing and violence, and that they made people stupid. (That’s what my parents had told me, at least.)

Even still, that’s what inspired me to buy a Game Boy Advance. I vaguely remember buying one off eBay or something for dirt-cheap. An original, wide model; not the sexy SPs (which were brand new at the time, if I recall.) The first game I bought or it? Spider-Man: somethingsomethingbasedonthemovie. Somewhat embarassing to admit, although by my memory, that game was awesome. I played the living fuck out of it. Pure side-scrolling beat-em-up awesomeness, miles better than its 3D console counterparts (which I ended up playing at a later date). It’s weird to remember a time when I’d literally play and replay games dozens upon dozens of times, but back then, that’s what I did.

Oh, the memories.

After Spider-Man came the similar Wolverine game, which I also played the shit out of. And then – then came EA’s Lord of the Rings games for the handheld. Yes, it was a movie-based game from EA – but in a major difference from their inferior console counterparts, the GBA games played like a Tolkien-set version of Blizzard’s Diablo games. Isometric viewpoints, simple point-and-mash combat, multiple characters to choose from, tons of loot to pick up, spells to throw around, stats to upgrade; to put it simply, the games were awesome. I spent countless – countless – hours with these games. Countless playthroughs as every different character, for both The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of my longtime affinity for RPGs, which has characterized much of my life as a gamer.

Shortly afterwards, I bought my first gaming console – the GameCube. That took up most of my gaming time, especially at first – but a few months down the road, after my first, fateful playthrough of Ocarina of Time, my interest in the  handheld was quickly revitalized for the sake of Zelda. In rapid succession, I played through Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Shortly after came Link’s Awakening and the GBA release of A Link to the Past. Ocarina of Time was what catalyzed my love for the Zelda series; but it was on the Game Boy that I gained true appreciation for the series – and, for higher-concept gaming in general.

And if I’m to be honest, that more or less chronicles my time with the past generations of handhelds. Not very prolific, yet ironically, they were the most formative years of my gaming habits. Honestly, I appreciate the fact that even though I started when 3D graphics were standard, 2D platforming was still my introduction to gaming. It’s also, perhaps, a testament to one of portable gaming’s most valuable features, even today: it is the reason 2D gaming still lives. Sure, we might be seeing a bit of a 2D revolution right now, with games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong, and the upcoming Mortal Kombat. But, handhelds are why 2D has been preserved all these years, so such a revolution could be possible.

Well, I’ve spoken my piece. Ethan should soon follow suit, and the I’ll be back in a day or two with comments and insight on the current generation of handhelds – the DS and its various incarnations, the PSP and its various incarnations, and maybe even a little about the iPhone/iPod Touch – and its notable “first incarnation.”

Have any fond memories of portable gaming you’d like to share? Any comments of any kind? Sound off below.