Gaming in Montreal
Not too long ago, Steff and I packed our bags and boarded a train to Montreal for a weekend getaway. Though I was sad that our trip was scheduled at the same time as the Street Fighter V beta, I was excited to experience a part of Canada that I haven’t been to since I was a toddler. While we certainly had a wonderful time exploring the city, there was a surprising amount of gaming to be had that weekend.
On the train to Montreal, I ended up playing a lot of SteamWorld Dig. It’s been sitting on my Nintendo 3DS ever since JJ gifted it to me from his Humble Bundle. Full review to come at some point, but I did want to say now that it’s fantastic. The core of the game involves you mining for goods that can be cashed in for upgrades that let you dig deeper for longer periods of time. Though I didn’t have enough time to finish it on the train there, I beat it before boarding the train back. Thank you JJ for the awesome gift!
During our first night in the city, we wandered along a main street and stumbled upon the Amusement 2000 Plus arcade. While it was a narrow room, it did stretch back quite a bit and featured dozens of different arcade machines. I resisted the temptation to play on their Street Fighter IV cabinet, but Steff and I did get in a few close games of Fast & Furious and Mario Kart Arcade GP DX. It’s a shame that my home town no longer has any arcades, but it’s great to see one still kicking here.
Walking back to the hotel from the arcade, we just so happened to pass Foonzo, a retro gaming bar. We didn’t have time on this night to try it out, but we scheduled it in as a place we had to see before we left the city. The rest of Friday involved being at a random beer patio behind a warehouse, a hike through Mont Royal at night and 2am poutine with Steff’s friends from the area. Not at all gaming related, but awesome nonetheless.
On Saturday, we ventured to Old Montreal to take in the sights, sounds and delicious food it had to offer. It just so happens that the Montreal Science Centre there was running a video game exhibition with 100 games on display. We spent a few hours there and had a blast playing as many games as we could. They ran the gamut of old and new, as a Computer Space machine was on display, as well as an Oculus Rift demo booth. We had a great time playing old and new video games together of all sorts.
Only got a few minutes in with the Oculus, so I’ll just say a few things about my experience here versus writing a separate post. Wanting to get an immediate grasp on how this feels, I chose to go with the roller coaster demo. The sensation of being able to move your head around and see the camera move with you is really neat. At times, it looked really convincing that I was about to go down a steep hill on the coaster, which was great. Some of the things that took away from the illusion were the scan lines on the screens and the black border that prevents you from getting full peripheral vision. I’m fairly certain it was an older version of the unit, as I’ve heard that big strides were made in terms of overall image quality. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and am very curious to see what creators can do with this modern virtual reality technology.
Later that night, we finally checked out the Foonzo retro gaming bar. Located in the bottom floor of a building, its biggest selling point was free access to its video game and board game library as long as you were drinking something. Every table had a TV with one console. We spent most of our time at one of the Super Nintendo tables, though the NES, Genesis, Nintendo 64, Gamecube and Xbox were available. They also had two arcade machines set to free play; one for Street Fighter Alpha 3 and another for NBA Jam. Sadly, the right joystick was broken on Alpha 3, making it unplayable for two. We did have fun playing NBA Jam though, even if the mislabeled buttons confused Steff for awhile.
At our SNES table, we played a little bit of Mario Kart to settle some scores set in previous Mario Kart encounters we had that weekend. However, we mostly played Super Street Fighter II, which was a bit of a shock to me. In our 7+ year relationship, she’s shown 0 interest in playing my favourite gaming franchise, so her request to play Street Fighter took me aback. How could I possibly say no to that request now?
Not wanting to scare her away, we started slowly. I’d teach her one or two concepts followed by a few matches to try those things out. Then we’d repeat the process with new aspects of the game to learn. By the end of it, she was holding her own, pulling off special moves while demonstrating her ability to play tactically. She might have also thrown some trash talk my way while she was at it. Even if she never picks up the game again, it was great see her having a good time with it while taking the initiative to get better during that first session.
On our final day in Montreal, we visited Chez Geeks, a well-reviewed board game store and cafe close to the University of Quebec. One half of the store was dedicated to selling board games of all sorts. Their selection was pretty good with fairly good prices. I appreciate the fact that they also sell Dice Master singles, making it easier to get a hold of a few rares and super rares. I ended up being a tiny version of Quiddler that comes in a small metal tin that can’t be much bigger in radius than a Canadian $2 coin. The cafe side had a pretty good selection of games to play as well, though we didn’t have time to stick around.
Just before we left the city, we made one last stop at Foonzo for a few more rounds of Super Street Fighter II. With the training wheels off, we played some more serious matches while Steff experimented more with her character choices. Starting off with E. Honda the night before, she also dabbled with Chun-Li and M. Bison. Eventually, she ended up counter-picking my Zangief with Bison, as she felt like the match was more favourable with him versus the sumo champion. It was heartwarming to see her put that kind of thought into the process, while also putting up a pretty good fight.
Never had planned for our Montreal trip to have so much gaming in it, though I’m glad that it happened organically. We still got a lot out of sightseeing and spending time with friends, but the gaming time was great too. If you’re out in Montreal and want to add some gaming goodness to your itinerary, check those spots out!