Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Now I remember!

I realized while running through an area for the thirtieth time in Trinity last night why I am enjoying the game. It does indeed remind me of an older, better game, and in such a subliminal way that it was actually the formation that the main characters run in that finally jogged my memory. This will require a little back story...

I was a fierce proponent of the Dreamcast; I loved everything the system had to offer, from its terrible controllers to large collection of excellent fighting games, but it was the inclusion of a network adapter that I was most proud of. Gaming over the 'internet' was almost totally foreign to me. The only previous taste of it was a modem adapter for the SNES (X-Play, I think) that allowed me to play laggy games of Mortal Kombat 2 and Killer Instinct over the narrow, fledgling tubes. It was terrible, but I didn't know any better. With this new system and an ISP supposedly dedicated to gaming (yes, I had SegaNet) I experienced online gaming bliss previously reserved for PC gamers.

There were plenty of PC ports that took advantage of the built in adapter, Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament being the biggest and best. Quake 3 even let you play against PC players. This of course drove me to purchasing the Dreamcast mouse and keyboard to stay competitive. When I moved them over to Unreal and played against other console players it honestly felt like I was cheating. The new online console world was indeed awesome and quite ahead of its time, but it was not until Phantasy Star Online that I was truly hooked. PSO offered the perfect mix of killing things for better weapons used kill bigger things and teamwork. It capped the party size at three which was just fine for me. Any more and I would lose track of who was doing  what but small enough that if someone stole your new weapon when you died and didn't give it back you could remember who he was. I spent hours, days, perhaps weeks on that game on the same character. I can still remember the layout of some of the levels and the music that went with them, not to mention what to feed your mags to get the best bonuses.

Then the second one came out, and it was no longer free to play online. Then the Dreamcast died and SegaNet died with it, and it was years before I played anything online to that extent again. I blame PSO for my short lived addiction to Guild Wars: it played a lot like PSO and was not near as time consuming as World of Warcraft. I gave it a shot when it came out again for the Xbox 360, but it was not the same. PSO worked because I had not expectations for online play and it surpassed all of them. It sounds negative, but by the time the 360 version arrived those expectations had changed and PSO had not. It was an old friend who had aged faster then I had and that wasn't much fun to hang around with anymore.

Such is my wonderful and sad story of PSO and SegaNet. And what does this have to do with Trinity? Trinity looks and works a great deal like PSO. It shares the same basic combat, the corridor laden levels, the size limit on your party size, the way new quests keep popping up in the same areas, the searching and searching for a weapon just a tiny bit better than the last one. It almost is PSO; it just isn't online. Most would see this as a negative, but the online community has both grown and devolved to such a degree that for me it is a relief. I can play my game all by myself, being nostalgic for the days when I could play with random people and they wouldn't all be douche bags.

I have no idea if this was intentional, if this is an homage or my imagination. It doesn't matter, really. It's fun to forget just how long ago 2001 was and how god damn old I have gotten since then.

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