Hello all,

With my birthday looming (I turn 34 on Saturday) I’ve found myself thinking about all the games I’ve gotten for my birthday over the years.

I’m not really a birthday person to be honest. I think because it’s the coldest month of the year and everyone is still recovering from Christmas, it seems like an anti climax. Thinking about some of the games I’ve received over the years, I can see why I’m not someone who gets excited over their big day.

8th birthday – Knightmare (Atari ST)

Knightmare Atari ST

I’d really wanted a game called Rollin’ Ronnie for my birthday, but I was told by my parents that they couldn’t get it. It looked great too – a platformer with a kid trying to get home (I think)…I could relate. It was the first time I’d realised that a console/computer system wasn’t going to last for ever and that my Atari ST was dying out.

Anyway, I got Knightmare instead as 1) it was meant to be like Dungeon Master and 2) I liked the TV show of the same name. If you’re British you might remember it, as a team of teenagers would guide a friend with a massive helmet (I know how that reads, but that’s what it was) around a virtual reality fantasy setting. Lots of shouts of “You’re in a room…take two steps left, no that’s your right…you’ve fell in the lake”

The game was pretty dull though…very gray and I got lost very early on. One mission was a tree asking for me to find it’s child…cue hours spent looking for a twig….a twig! Luckily the Master System was around the corner and I’d never be disappointed again…right?

9th birthday – Shadow Dancer (Master System)

Shadow Dancer MS

Right.

One of the mistakes I made as a young gamer was buying games based on 1) box art and 2) ninjas. Shadow Dancer on the Master System ticked those boxes…for the modest sum of £32. I’ve played the Mega Drive version for this blog and hinted at my frustration at the Master System port. Basically, they are different games…the Mega Drive got a new re-imagined game while the Master System has a near direct port of the arcade….you know how well the Master System does with arcade ports.

To be fair to Shadow Dancer, it’s not the worst arcade port on the Master System…Altered Beast is my winner of that accolade. However, the large sprites make it a clunky game. A ninja game should be sleek and smooth. MS Shadow Dancer is the opposite. It’s the gaming equivalent of trying to creep downstairs at night without waking anyone up for tambourine practice.

10th birthday – Sonic Chaos (Master System) 

Sonic Chaos

A year later and another £30…and I was the proud owner of Sonic Chaos. It’s not totally my fault though…it was Dixons’ fault. I originally wanted Cool Spot, but it was out of stock. So I grabbed Sonic Chaos instead…and got to the end of it the next day. Playing through Sonic Chaos was an empty experience, devoid of challenge apart from the one special zone that I always mess up. The one special zone that I can’t beat and therefore can never completely finish Sonic Chaos.

A few years ago, I was hooked on reading TV Tropes, especially the video games tropes. I was reading through the ‘Obvious Betas’ section, about games that were released before being finished. Reading the entry for Sonic Chaos made me realize that I’d wasted a birthday present on a game that wasn’t even finished. It was so obvious too, thinking back…Sonic Chaos has next to no enemies in it, six fairly routine levels and some haphazard special zones.

18th birthday – Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)

gta 3

I got my PS2 for my 18th birthday….a great present, but I’m really not sure why I chose it. I was allowed a big present for a landmark birthday and just figured, “eh, there’s a new Playstation.”

Truthfully, it was a good birthday but the negatives were 1) my Pro Evolution Soccer addiction would soon kick off (no pun intended) causing me to miss out on nearly fifteen years worth of classic games and 2) my complex relationship with GTA III began.

As stated previously, I have a pattern with GTA III. Buy it, love it, stop playing it cold turkey, never go back. I’m planning on breaking this cycle soon though…

22nd birthday – Dead Or Alive 4 (Xbox 360)

Dead or Alive 4

There’s nothing wrong with Dead or Alive 4, it’s a fine fighting game. Oh no, this is more one of my trademark ‘idiot’ moments.

Basically, I ordered the game from Play and was thrilled when it turned up. I was single and had time to kill. I needed entertaining. Problem was, every time I put the game disc in the Xbox 360, the screen went funny. The picture was all over the show. So I sent the game back in a rage. Didn’t read the instructions or the box, just back in the post.

Play apologised and sent me a new copy a few days later. I excitedly put the disc in the Xbox 360…weird screen display again. I was raging, cursing Play and the game itself. All I wanted was my birthday present and it was a week later and I was still trying to get the game working.

I can’t remember how it happened (I’ve a horrible feeling I returned the game to Play again…I’m not 100% sure) but I saw something fall out of the Dead or Alive 4 case. I just thought it was litter…it was actually a helpful piece of paper saying “change the resolution on the Xbox 360, numbskull.” I did it and what do you know…Dead or Alive 4 played perfectly.

I’m still blaming Play though…

I’m sure there are more, but I’ve forgotten them. There have been lots of positives too, but I’ve forgotten most of them too. Basically, I’m getting old and my memory is going…

When I start telling stories that don’t go anywhere, then I’ll worry. Until next time…

Do you have any birthday gaming horror stories? I’d love to hear them in the comments!