Thursday, January 24, 2019

Buy Buy Again

I don't know what to make of the flavor,
but at least it's fun to say! Like most Korean
foods, really. Bibimbap. Bi-bimmmm-BAP!
(image from Serious Eats)
Okay, I bought a bottle of gochujang on a whim, and this stuff is a complete mystery to me. It's sweet like catsup, smokey like chipotles, and ends with a slightly unpleasant fermented tang. What do you even DO with this?! It's like the Riddler of condiments! I made a grilled sandwich with it, and while I could keep it down, it wasn't exactly a taste delight in every bite. Yet I'm probably going to be banging my head against this culinary puzzle for the next couple of months, because I do so hate to waste food. Even the crap I probably shouldn't have bought in the first place.

Speaking of mysteries... I've been pondering my gaming purchases, and I've noticed that over the last twenty years, I've been buying a lot of titles which I technically already owned. It doesn't seem like the smartest use of my gaming dollar, so I decided to dig a little deeper and find the logic in these redundancies. Turns out that most of these re-buys fit into one of the following categories...


Tunnel B1. Not a good
game when I owned it on
Saturn, but certainly more
palatable when you get
it and a dozen other games
for a few bucks in
an indie bundle.
(image from eStarland)
Even with downloadable content and subscription services as a counterweight, you get a lot more bang for your gaming buck in the 21st century. It's not just that games are longer than ever, taking anywhere from twenty to eighty hours to complete... it's that digital distribution, intense competition, and a fickle public turn today's big budget hits into tomorrow's clearance priced antiques. 

This is a pretty good deal for collectors, as well as anyone who missed the game the first time and hopes to satisfy their curiosity about it. I already owned the superior Dreamcast version of King of Fighters '99, but when Sony offered the Playstation port in a flash sale for the cost of a fast food soft drink, I had to have that too. The animation isn't as smooth and the load times are a little on the long side, but when the game costs a couple of dollars and plays on three different systems (the PS3, PSP, and Vita), I'm willing to slum a little.


The harsh reality of today's gaming technology is that it's made us lazy. Spacious hard drives have made us reluctant to get off the couch to swap discs, and we sure as hell don't want to dig up that dusty old console from a decade ago to play our older favorites. So we buy them again, in HD, for the console that's already hooked up to our television set. That's less of an issue for Xbox One owners, since that system can play over half of what was released for the Xbox 360, but even they'll have to break out their wallets if they want to jump back a few generations. After all, Microsoft didn't even have much of a presence in the video game industry back in the 20th century...


"I can't wait to play Strider on my...
uh, what is this?"
(image from Moby Games)
The harsh reality of yesterday's gaming technology is that home conversions of arcade favorites were often drastically changed, and not up to snuff with the originals. The Nintendo Entertainment System was notorious for games that called themselves Gyruss, Ninja Gaiden, and Bionic Commando, but could be better described as spin-offs, tailor made for the less powerful hardware. They were still good in their own right, but probably not what you expected when you saw the names on the boxes. 

Even when the gap between arcade and home gaming started to close in the 1990s, perfect ports weren't a guarantee. Namco whiffed its Namco Museum collections for a half dozen consoles, until finally getting it right with the 50th Anniversary for the Xbox and Playstation 2. I can't tell you how many times I bought (and re-bought) this for Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man, until I was finally satisfied with it.


It's in a gamer's nature to hunt for bonus prizes. However, when buying video game collections, they're not looking for cherries or chests overflowing with treasure, but omake... goodies like artwork, soundtracks, cheats, and interviews with the designers. Digital Eclipse (both when it was first founded in the 1990s, and the recently resurrected company headed by archivist Frank Cifaldi) earned a reputation as the master of omake, packing titles like Sega Genesis Collection, Capcom Classics Collection Remixed, and The Disney Afternoon Collection with so much extra content that they'd be hard to resist even in the unlikely situation that you already owned all the games on the discs. 

Those bonuses usually don't change the games themselves, but Capcom went the extra mile with Street Fighter Alpha Anthology, which included all three games in the Alpha series, AND the spin-off Pocket Fighter, AND an exclusive versus mode that let players use the super charged attacks from the Marvel vs. Capcom series. That's the kind of stuff that will bring someone who already owns all the Street Fighter Alpha games back to the table for another helping.


PSP, kills boredom dead!
(image from Amazon)
Never underestimate the draw of a game you can take anywhere. It's what made the Nintendo Switch a success despite its performance deficit next to competing consoles. Many of the third-party games on the Switch first made their debuts on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, but players are willing to give Skyrim and Dark Souls another spin now that those experiences aren't chained to the living room television set. 

Even the fourteen year old PSP got a lot of mileage out of stuffing a console quality experience in your pocket. I've got Disgaea for both the Playstation 3 and its handheld cousin, and spent a whoooole lot more time with the PSP version. The hours of grinding necessary to power up your characters and their weapons is best done during a boring airplane trip, or a boring car trip, or any other situation where you find yourself bored to tears. (Maybe not that showing of Fantastic Beasts and How I Wish I Chose Another Movie. The usher got pretty testy about that.)


Sometimes you're willing to buy a game over and over simply because you love it that much. Ms. Pac-Man has been a serious money magnet for me... I've owned it on everything from the Atari 2600 to the Playstation 4, with plenty of systems in between. Yeah, I even had the Coleco tabletop that looks like a tiny arcade cabinet. I didn't get to keep it for long, but it was fun while it lasted! I've got King of Fighters '99 for the Playstation, the Dreamcast, in the Japanese NESTS Collection for the Playstation 3, and the Xbox One, evidently because I can't bear to ever be in a situation where I can't play my favorite game in the KOF series. The same thing applies to Darkstalkers and its two sequels... I made sure that I have at least one of the games in that franchise for every console that's ever had it.

The font that haunts your nightmares...
(image from Lunatic Pandora on Twitter)
So there you have it... six pretty good reasons to re-buy the games you already own. Sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to list "HD remasters" as the seventh reason. I find that these lack the spirit of the originals, either because they were clumsily ported to the new hardware, or because they introduce graphics and sound that clash with the original developers' vision for the games. I'm pretty sure signs written in Comic Book Sans are not the kind of scare Silent Hill fans wanted from that series...


  1. I've always used gochujang as a base for cooking rather than as a condiment in its own right. It's essential for a properly spicy bibimbap, and is also good in noodle dishes.

    1. Thanks for the input! Can gochujang be effectively used outside of Korean cuisine? I've heard it works well enough in soups.

  2. What's awesome about all those NES arcade conversions is that I lived 15 miles from the nearest arcade. My "what fresh hell this?" reaction wasn't with the home port; it was for the arcade originals. To this day I still prefer the NES versions of Ninja Gaiden, Bionic Commando, and TMNT II / Arcade 1989.

    1. Some of them are legitimately better. It's hard to go back to the arcade version of Bionic Commando after you've played the NES game. Having said that, it did feel like a bait and switch, and I did prefer some of those arcade games.