PK's Favorite Video Game Series
181 7.71. Castlevania - Famicom and NES
I bought the first issue of Nintendo Power Advance with the thought that it would be a collector's item at some point, but primarily because I was looking forward to the next big handheld Nintendo and wanted the inside scoop. It really was a great publication, but it was mostly a strategy guide for four or five games at a time and didn't cover a bunch of different titles until the end of the magazine. Still, there was a big in-depth strategy guide dedicated to Circle of the Moon, and something about it just touched me. Now I can say I like the series for its dark, hellish setting, the more recent non-linearity of the games, and the overall, y'know, quality of the games; but back then I just took to it. Circle of the Moon may not be the best in the franchise, but it made Halloween my favorite holiday, got me into Metroidvanias and 2D games (mostly platformers) in general, and made Castlevania my all-time favorite series.
I went into a used video game store back when they carried games from a few generations back. There were NES games, Sega Genesis games (even though the company had been bought out by Nintendo), and Game Boy games. Since my brother had bought a Super Nintendo back when the N64 was big, I got Super Castlevania IV. I had to fight my brother to let me use the game on his system, and he let me under the condition I left it in his room with the SNES and the other games (I wonder why!). I began playing assuming that all Castlevania games had been made in the style of the GBA games, but was disappointed when it turned out to be just your standard sidescroller. I'm sure glad I went back to the game, because now it's my favorite of all time! I love Simon's eight-directional whip and the grimy, worn look of the castle. The difficulty might not be up to most veteran 'Vaniacs' standards, but I think it was pretty balanced except for the part where Simon has to walk under a bunch of instant death-inducing javelins. The series hasn't had such an incredibly fantastic control scheme since. Here's hoping for Simon in the next Super Smash Bros. game!
Runner-up: Symphony of the Night, which is equally perfect and almost as high on my list as SCVIV. It's the best of the Metroidvania Castlevanias, just as my first choice is the best of the classic style games I've played.
By the time I had found myself into both the Metroidvania as well as the straight platforming Castlevanias, I was buying this series from used game stores constantly. I ended up following a link from GameSpot.com to Amazon, where I got Castlevania: The Adventure. Unfortunately, I read the reviews afterward. Even if I had seen them, I doubt I had the discernment at the time to know what I'd like. This game should definitely have had a password system, even though there are only four levels. I made it to just two or three rooms before Dracula, but after hours of trying I had to quit and let my migraine subside. This game has a lot of good qualities to it, but the controls are slow, the jumps are ridiculous, and the difficulty is off the wall in a way that hinders one's enjoyment of the game. It's an adventure, but not one I'd recommend taking.
Runner-up: The N64 Castlevania, which had a bit of depth to it despite everything it did wrong.
464 7.92. Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis and Mega Drive
You might throw Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine in there as well. See, when I was between three and five years old my family lived in England where we owned a PAL Sega Genesis. This system was my introduction to video games, as I watched (and sometimes played) Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, The Lion King, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and - I believe, but I'm not sure - Animaniacs. When my family moved back to the US, my older brother played a significant part getting me into the series. He would buy the Archie series from book and comic book stores and even read some of them to me. He soon got Sonic's Schoolhouse for the PC and then a Dreamcast, along with Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, and Sonic Shuffle. To top things off, one of his friends gave me his Sega Game Gear, another one gave me a bunch of his Game Gear games, and yet another gave me an adapter for it.
If you'll take the time to look over My All-Time Favorite Video Games, it's all-too apparent that Sonic the Hedgehog games are more present than those of any other series. Castlevania may have more games at the high positions, but Sonic has been able to secure more spots on the list total. This is because Sonic the Hedgehog is - if you'll pardon every game inbetween Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Colors, continues to deliver fun games that are brilliant at their most fundamental level. Metroidvanias are my favorite genre of video game, but I must admit that's hard to be innovative with such an already-set formula. Sonic is also my longest-loved video game series. I now follow both Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Universe by Archie, my first long-term publication subscription besides Shonen Jump. But my love for the comics and the managerie of characters featured in them is better left for my Comic Book Collection list.
I played this game at a friend's house in elementary school, and we both fell in love. Er, with the game. I then bought the Sonic PC game 3-pack including Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic CD, and Sonic R. Before too long, I also finally bought a Genesis from a used game store (by this time my love for Sonic had progressed from a shared interest with my brother to something I would explore on my own - and that's how every passion should evolve). A friend from my second elementary school ended up giving me all his Sonic games - which were basically Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles - for reasons I'm still pondering.
I used to play through Mushroom Hill Zone as Knuckles in a most eccentric manner. I'd walk a few feet until I got to an opening and say "Knuckles journeyed onward, arriving at long last at the legendary bouncy red mushroom. He then dwelt there for 628 years," I'd walk a few more feet and say, "" I would say this out loud as a matter of fact, and I didn't flinch when one of my mentioned brother's unmentioned friends came out to sit on the couch and watch me in silence. Needless to say, I love this game. It's Sonic 3, except with Knuckles - who adds ingenious new gliding/wall-climbing gameplay to the mix. I love the Blue Spheres stages, I love every level of the game, and did I mention I love Knuckles? Actually, Tails was my favorite character back in the day, and still he, Sonic, and Knuckles remain the best utilized characters in the series, not to mention most frequently.
Runner-up: The original. I just love the surrealism, vibrant visuals and simple speed-based sidescrolling. The bonus levels were fun as well.
Keep in mind that I've yet to play the series' less revered titles like Sonic Labyrinth and Sonic '06, and this entry is more about what this game represents. To most people, the quality of the '00s Sonic games never fell out of place when it came to the handheld entries. Obviously, I think differently. The Game Gear titles, though not as advanced (cue Eggman "Ho, ho, ho!") as the later handheld entries and the console titles of the 90s, had the magic of the Genesis games. They did this by not overhyping the speed aspect and, you know, creation levels. Sonic Advance wasn't all that great of a title, but at least it wasn't responsible for creating the monster that is post-Sonic Advance 2 handheld Sonic games. Back when I first played the game - and I was in middle school at this point - I felt the levels were too much like racetracks. Suddenly, the world was changing around me (it's so hard for a young lad!), and everyone was citing speed as the heart and soul of Sonic gameplay. And maybe it's just me, but I don't get much of a kick out of holding right on the D-pad and watching the level get beaten for me. It's almost like Sonic Advance 2 is a movie that constantly requires you to hold down on the play button, and I like my platforming, thank you very much. The game also penalizes the player for going in the direction that it by all common logic seems to be guiding him or her toward. Can you figure that out? Because I can't.
Sonic 3 did introduce an interesting partner element, and the Sonic Rush series tightened the controls considerably, but it wasn't until the DS version of Sonic Colors that the handheld games in this franchise would actually be interesting. Fortunately, Sega seems to be conscious of recent the games' failure to deliver. Unfortunately, they apply this only to the console entries and the inclusion of extra characters, many of them new. So for their big comeback, they put out Sonic 4 Episode 1, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations. All of these have the speed down, but with more to the levels than going fast. But no ability to play as - at the very least - Tails and Knuckles? I guess they're merely trying to return to creative, fun Sonic gameplay, and that they'll include more characters we all know and love once they have some confidence. It's even kind of been confirmed for Sonic 4 Episode 2. Seems like I got back into the series at the right time.
Runner-up: Rush, which was also just a huge speed-fest with the levels designed to get you to the end instead of to make you want to stay for a little while.
420 8.23. Pokemon: Blue Version - Game Boy
Blue was first played by me while on vacation to England. This was the first time I brought a video game along on a vacation, which has since become a practical tradition as I'm not a huge fan of tours, instead preferring the hotel rooms, eating out and the travel itself. I named my little Squirtle (now a level 99 Blastoise) after one of my late guinea pigs, the one I used to rush to play with every day after coming home from school. The whole Pokemon craze was bigger than anything I can remember from my childhood besides Harry Potter. So obviously there's some real nostalgia to my feelings toward this game. It's also as immersive as you can ever need in an RPG - 151 Pokemon to collect ensures many hours of playtime. And if you don't want to collect them all but just certain Pokemon, the system works for that as well. It's great that every wild battle can lead to a capture, while matches against other trainers earn you money. Usually getting a new character is the very rare exception to the rule in RPG battles. I also loved exploring the towns, talking to NPCs, and completing some of the side quests. Pokemon Blue is certainly an adventure - and it's good to know that the successive games only improved upon this formula, because the Nintendo Game Boy could only do so much.
What we were given with Pokemon Gold and Silver versions was an all-out experience that would envelope you and hook you further inside at every turn. My picking this doesn't say anything bad about Blue and Red - those games were massive, what with the entire world that could be navigated and the immense depth of being able to choose and train up to 151 different kinds of Pokemon. The second generation of Poke-games took what was there and expanded upon it, effectively reaching all the potential for a one-player traditional Pokemon experience. There are a boatload of new Pokemon, Pokemon-catching contests, a cell phone which allows the player to keep up with people and trainers met throughout the game, a radio which allows setting of different tunes to explore to, berries to heal/strengthen Pokemon in battles, the ability to breed Pokemon, and an all-around vaster world to explore (which includes the original Kanto from Red and Blue). Games that came afterward dropped a lot of the depth in this one, and while admittedly adding some cool gameplay features like each trainer in a battle fighting with two Pokemon at once, from what I've seen they never did so much for the formula so as to truly be innovative gems in their own right. However, one path that could be taken in the future - and one which is very likely at the rate they're going - is the possibility of a MMORPG Pokemon game. Now that would pick up right where Gold and Silver left off.
What? No, I haven't played what could be arguably be considered the series' worst. Beyond the primary handheld titles, the only two games I own are the Card Game for Game Boy Color and Hey You, Pikachu! on the N64. And as with my pick for Sonic the Hedgehog, this choice is influenced quite a bit by what the game did for the series rather than its individual merit. Of course it's nothing new, so there's that. Not only is it not new though, but it's the third nearly-identical version - fourth in Japan - to be made. Having Pikachu follow you is cute, and maybe Pikachu's Beach is an interesting secret, but there's not a lot going on that's game-changing (I swear I didn't just use that terminology!). Yellow also began the trend of releasing a slightly upgraded version to each generation of main Pokemon titles, which seems unnecessary since there's already two games just like it by the time of release and a bit like an excuse to not put everything into creating the best original title (titles, as it were) in the first place. Plus, you know, they're going to run out of colors faster this way.
102 7.74. Wario Land (Super Mario Land 3) - Game Boy
Back before I became internet savvy and knew how to find games I might be interested in, buying a new game could be pretty trial-and-error with only the back of the box or a friend's opinion to go on. I got most of my earliest games from Best Buy, and sometime in those last two years of the 90s I played my first Wario Land game via a try-me Game Boy that happened to be in the store. I remember the game being in one of the early parts, but still progressed a few levels. Call me greedy - I wanted more, and let my mom know as much. She purchased it for me shortly afterward, and the decision to get it is one of the ones I'm more satisfied with in my life. I loved the platforming, I loved the way Wario couldn't get hurt, I loved his unique control scheme. I would have a hard time keeping up with the series, but my older brother (both of my older and oldest brothers loved this game as well) later obtained 3 and 4, plus two or three of the WarioWare games. I never quite got into WarioWare, but I've played the two Wario Land games and more recently bought two more entries in the series for my unscrupulous man-in-overalls platforming fix.
One of those games was Master of Disguise. While I enjoyed the dollar sign eyes out of Wario Land II, I must say this game has taken its place for a variety of reasons. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that it's a Metroidvania, for one thing, and a cleverly design one with lots of challenging but doable puzzles and cool boss fights. The graphics are stunning as well - definitely the best in the series. I enjoyed the touch screen mechanics, though that's what everyone else seems to hate about it. I'm glad I decided to give it a try besides the negative reviews, though I was more hopeful since GameFAQs users seemed to like it a good deal. They also liked my least favorite, funnily enough.
Runner-up: Wario Land II. This game innovated in so many ways, with Wario's full-blown invulnerability and his numerous alternate states.
Back a couple of years ago when my mom got the idea into her head to buy a Wii for the family, which I was by no mean going to argue with her about, we went to Target intending to pick some games to go along with. I wanted 2D games, so when she asked me what would be some good games to buy (I know, I know! Things just went my way in this situation), I went for Super Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Wario Land: Shake It! I played Super Paper Mario right away, would only get to playing Brawl a year from then, and a year later from then would play Shake It! Ironically, the game I was more eager to play (Paper Mario) ended up being my least favorite of the bunch, and Wario Land: Shake It! somewhere in the middle. It's very... Not what I expect from a Wario Land game. The platforming's fun and solid, the graphics are prettily rendered, and the music's downright fantastic, but there's less of what makes Wario great in that he doesn't have any unique transformations, be they via hats, costumes, or enemy and level effects like in previous series titles. Sure, he has his fire and snowball form at just a few places throughout the game, but it's not a strong aspect of it by any means. This game really does little new other than incorporating the Wiimote, which is actually one of the things I enjoyed more about the game. As for the favorite game of the bundle that we bought with our Wii, that's next.
384 8.25. Super Smash Bros. - Nintendo 64
First time I played this game was at a video game store right after it first came out. Later, my brother bought a Nintendo 64, which he eventually traded to me for a large jar of candy I'd saved up from middle school classes where the teachers would occasionally reward their students with little candies. I gave him a whole year's worth of savings for the console, but it's still the best danged trade I've ever made. Not too long after that I got ahold of a used copy of Smash Bros., with all characters and levels already unlocked. This game started quite possibly the best party game tradition in video gaming history. The simple fighting mechanics with plenty of level interaction and item usage works much better than the complex speed-fighters with little in the way of mentioned variety. There wasn't much to unlock since the basic things - attaining characters and levels - had already been done, but there would be much more depth to future entries in the series. Unfortunately, Super Smash Bros. saw a release at the end of the N64's life cycle, and I don't think the idea caught on as much as Team Kirby would have liked until Melee. I think it's pretty high up there among the many all-time N64 gems.
Brawl is my favorite for the same reason Pokemon Gold is my favorite Pokemon game - for adding onto the formula and getting the most out of it. With Brawl we have thirty-five characters, forty-one stages, tons of trophies, an adventure mode - which, while not a true platforming experience, provides an introduction to the characters and lets the player get a feel for the game - and improved graphics and gameplay. Brawl is often criticized for slowing down the fighting in addition to a variety of other things, but I personally find it to be the best incarnation of the formula yet - and we'll see what they do for the Wii U and 3DS titles.
It just always seemed like this game is too hardcore for people of different skill levels to play together and have an equal experience. I never owned a GameCube (probably another reason I never got as into this game), and whenever I played this at friends' houses I got totally trounced. Now I'm not ragging on Melee allowing the player to master it - it's just that with a game like Brawl there's more variety and simpler physics which rounds out the odds so that even the less well-trained ones can win every now and then. Another reason for me choosing this one as my least favorite is that the original invented the formula and Brawl is the best version of it, and thus this one suffers the unfortunate fate middle children generally do.
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