Remarkable. I talk about them, write about them but rarely seem to play them. Thanks to recent events, that’s going to change. Honest.

Last weekend was a bank holiday (except Scotland) and a good gaming buddy of mine came up to Nottingham to check out my flat and catch up on stuff. He’s a dedicated gamer but has found real life has distracted him over the last few years. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and a significant amount of that time has been spent staring at Streetfighter 2 on the SNES. Ah, happy days.

I promised him there’d be no distractions. Just good banter and heaps of games. As it was, we didn’t get through half of the stuff we wanted to spend time on but we did have a jolly good few sessions on Xbox Live.

J, being a keen Sega fan (to the point of owning his own Virtua Fighter 3 cabinet) was looking forward to spending time on Outrun 2. I’m happy to say that XBL didn’t disappoint in that area as he and I got consistently beaten to the finish line by nearly everyone we played against. The mood was congenial though – apart from when Darran – editor of GamesTM’s Retro section started having a go at Jeff Minter.

In time honoured tradition, Streetfighter got put into the machine and Mark challenged me to a few rounds. I’m happy to report that I beat him to a bloody pulp using cheap characters (Ken, Chun Li) and even cheaper moves on a pad where I barely knew which buttons were kick and which were punch. Most satisfying! Particularly when Mark blamed his lack of confidence in his controller as the culprit for his woeful performance.

Mark challenged me to some more Streetfighter last night – this time with his converted Dreamcast Fighting Stick. His performance was far better and it looks like we’re fairly well matched as many of the round finished very closely. I was still victorious though – but it was a far more satisfying experience.

Other games played over the weekend were the mighty God of War on PlayStation 2. I would hope this game needs no introduction. I’ve spoken of my favour for this game online any number of times. J, sensitive soul that he is, found the action a bit too gutsy for his palette. Heck, we played some Burnout 3 and he found the morally dubious attitude of ramming cars and causing damage to be beyond his pure gaming spirit. He’s a noble fellow is J.

Highlight of the weekend was getting utterly trounced at SSX 3 by my gorgeous wife. SSX has a special place in our hearts as, firstly, it’s a darn fun game and, secondly, it’s the game that she first got really into. She enjoys the SSX games for more than any human should and I’m considering getting the fourth installment on Xbox so she can go online with it.

I rediscovered the balletic Gradius V over the weekend also. It succeeds in a similar vein to Outrun 2 in that it updates a classic title, bringing it bang up to date in terms of audio, video and game mechanics whilst retaining that pure sense of exhilaration that filled our hearts when we played the originals. It’s still rock hard though and I’ve yet to beat the game on it’s easiest setting. However, playing anything produced by Treasure is a genuine privilege and a reminder of what makes gaming so fun and challenging. And how bad I seem to be at it these days.

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