Friday, March 3, 2017

Best of the Best: 1996

"Well, how many dragons do you know?"

Year: 1996
Movie: Dragonheart
Game: Killer Instinct 2
Album: Load by Metallica
Song: Comedown by Bush

So 1996 was my first full year in my new town, with new friends, and relative teenage autonomy. In some ways, I "went wild", understandably, but I was never a "bad kid", never really got into drugs, or parties, or criminal activity, or any of the stupid shit that I easily could have. Nope...I was still largely into the same things I had been into as a kid: movies, cartoons, games, comics, music etc....just more of it, because I now had more access. When it came to movies, as I said, I saw quite a lot of them at this point. And of those I saw, many were really good, even great. Some of those were fun comedies like Black Sheep and Happy Gilmore, big epics like Independence Day and Escape From LA, and dumbass shit that I for some reason still liked at the time, like Beavis and Butthead Do America.

But the movie that stood head and shoulders above the rest that year, was hands down Dragonheart. Starring Dennis Quaid as the "black knight" Bowen, and the great Sean Connery as the voice of the dragon Draco, it was just a really wonderful film that spoke to me on a lot of levels. It actually had a semi-profound affect on me, from the perspective of the "Old Code of King Arthur" and the mythology of the dragons and all that. It was just really cool stuff, and I didn't yet recognize it at the time, but I think it spoke to the part of me deep down that was already starting to transition into what would become my rather "pagan" beliefs by my late teens. Plus it was just a lot of fun, the dragon was great SFX for the time, it had a great soundtrack, a good balance of action and humor, etc. Dragonheart would actually remain my top favorite movie for many years afterward.

"Fight On"

So when it came to gaming in 1996, there was certainly a lot to like. I had finally, after many years of wanting one, gotten a Super Nintendo as a hand-me-down from a cousin for Christmas '95, so I finally had access to the 16-bit world in my own home, and thus I rented and played various SNES games. But the game that truly was my "game of 1996", was an arcade game, Killer Instinct 2. In the months that I lived fairly close to the mall in my new town, I spent an awful lot of time there, specifically in the old arcade it used to have, called "Tilt". I was there for a lot of new games arriving, and possibly the biggest, to me personally, was the morning I just happened to stroll in, when no one else was there, and they were setting up KI2. I'm about 95% certain that the cool guy that worked there (there was, naturally, also another guy who was a jerk), put in some free tokens to let me try it out after he finished setting it up. And of course, to a 14 year old boy who loves video games, that was amazing.

The game itself was amazing to me at the time, with prerendered graphics by Rare, the same company that made Donkey Kong Country on SNES, that looked more advanced than anything I had ever seen. The soundtrack was bad ass, and the gameplay, to me, was refined and improved over the original game. I liked KI1, but I fell madly in LOVE with KI2, and my favorite character was easily the werewolf guy you see up there, Sabrewulf. Ironically, my fav. character from KI1 was the girl opposite him in that pic, Black Orchid, though they totally changed her moveset for the sequel, and I didn't like her as much. But Sabrewulf was my "guy", and though I got pretty good with other characters, I more or less mastered him. Though in a twist of irony, when it came to my favorite games of '95 and '96, with UMK3, I was really good at versing other players, and I got a fair share of wins, but that game was a son of a bitch to actually try and beat. Especially because the last boss, Shao Kahn, is a royal motherfucker, the cheapest of the cheap. Whereas with KI2, I actually beat it quite regularly when I would play, and managed to beat it with several characters, but because of the more intricate combo system or whatever it was, I was not nearly as good as versing other players.

As for music? Well, also ironically, my "jam", my favorite song in both '95 and '96, were songs from albums that had originally released in 1994. In this case, it was "Comedown", by Bush, though I also really REALLY liked another song from that album, "Glycerin". But 1996 was also a year in which I first had a CD player, and thus very very slowly started to acquire CD albums. I picked "Load" by Metallica, because while I don't think I actually owned that album yet (I may have, don't quote me), it was certainly, looking back, my favorite album that came out that year.

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