Video Games Which Meant Something to Me
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Deus Ex - PC Games
One word best sums up this game: possibilities. I think many games try to funnel you into a certain way of playing to the point where it has a numbing effect on a person's creative faculties. You become a habitual slave to custom and play a game without any wit, wonder or imagination. Warren Spector et al set out to strip away those artificial barriers in the hope of setting free those impulses or sparks of unorthodoxy and of course impudence. Without them who could've known besides blowing shit up, there is a secondary purpose to mines, like for example using it as pitons for climbing walls? This is a classic example of emergent gameplay. One of my favourite discoveries in this vein is recognising how useful a MIB unit can be. I figured that since it explodes during death, the explosion might help me open a locked container or even a door. So I lured it next to one when I had whittled it down to low health before delivering the fatal blow. Just as I had planned it, the container was blown open and the booty was there for the taking. Only in this way could I nab a lot of treasure and get into restricted areas without the need to waste lockpicks or spend so much skill points. This is just one of many, many examples of what you can do in Deus Ex. It rewards you for being left-field.
You can clearly see the influence of Deus Ex in games today, a prime example being Crysis. Not a lot of people, particularly those who are more of the console gaming persuasion knew how to play that game properly. Or rather they do not know how to "create their own fun" and let the game take its natural mundane course. If it did not have robust rpg elements to provide another anchor to the gameplay, the same sentiments would've emanated from the feedback of Deus Ex. In fact most people who even professed a liking of the game did not really understand its true beauty. You won't find an explanation in reviews and tribute write ups. They mainly look at things in face value such as its story, character development system, level design etc. The fact that it can stand on these merits and still be called a quality game is an achievement in itself. But I'm a little worried that the most important and defining aspect of the game is going to be lost amongst its other praised bits particularly to future generations. I certainly felt that way when I played the third game; the developer understood the appeal of multiple branching pathways but not much agency was granted to manipulate the game mechanics.
Even to this day, I still feel that Deus Ex 1 is the only Deus Ex that truly mattered. I never really got into the sequels. They're mere shadows of its predecessor's self. Invisible War for being consolised and Human Revolution for having little freedom.
If you've not played the arcade version yet, do yourself a favour and look for it. It's a lot better than the console ports. Capcom have really botched Balrog's transition to home systems, he plays more like someone who's hung up his gloves. While 2d fighting games are so eager to overload their games with as much pyrotechnics as possible, this is one game I've always returned to to remind myself what could've been if they didn't abuse the super move system.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Super famicom and SNES
3d Zeldas are good but nothing quite captures the essence and thrill of RIPPING through dungeons like the way you can in 2d Zeldas such as ALttP. It manages to strike a sweet balance between challenge and fun that to this day I can find no other equal to. My shoot em up itch is also satisfied when Link is granted the power to fire sword beams at enemies from long distance.
Wario Land 4 - Game Boy Advance
The dictionary definition of charm should have a picture of Wario Land 4 next to it. It just bristles with joy and whimsy. Wario is also far more interesting to play as than Mario with so many bags of tricks up his sleeve. It's fitting that the bizarre world Wario exists in is an extension of his warped imagination and thus created in his image. The developers must've been on shrooms with this one, and as disjointed as everything else is, the way it plays is pretty straightforward and logical. I've played the 3 titles that came before it but this was the bees knees and a triumph on Nintendo's part. Every great game I've come across seemed to all have annoying sections in them but that simply wasn't the case here. I enjoyed every second of it and I'd definitely introduce it to my children. I would sum this game up as Alice in Wonderland meets Mario and Monkey King.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest - Super famicom and SNES
The original DKC was a hard act to follow but the sequel managed to improve upon it in nearly every way possible. Dixie Kong was a revelation, and as odd as this may sound, her hair saved my ass in so many tight spots. Treasure hunters can also rejoice as there are plenty of goodies to whet your appetite.
Sid Meier's Civilization IV - PC Games
This is no exaggeration: Prepare to check out from life once you install Civ IV. This game I'm sure did some damage to my health. I was glued to the chair for hours upon hours playing it. I had some shaky moments in my quest for dominance but in the end I managed to beat all the other competitors by the skin of my teeth. Then not so long after celebrating my victory I started another game with China. This time I managed to stave off my urges and I think it needed some divine intervention to pull me away from this cursed game.
Thief: The Dark Project - PC Games
There are games that ventured into uncharted territories no-one else dared tread on. Some end up with scars rendering it unplayable i.e. Trespasser while others came out looking like a million bucks. Thief 1 would be the latter example. The light meter was a fantastic invention, where detection rests on that trusty piece of equipment. The first two games in the series are the purest stealth games you will ever find in the genre even to this day. MGS, Splinter Cell and Hitman are quite stealthy but the protagonists are armed to the teeth to effectively start World War III. Garrett on the other hand, doesn't have that kind of luxury. His main arsenal at his disposal are swords, as well as bow and arrows which are primarily used for dousing out lights or noise minimisation. With that gear any thoughts of Ramboing the game is thrown out the window. He is essentially a weakling when detected that's why hiding is paramount for survival. The incentive for stealth is much greater and that's what sets it apart and makes it a helluva more realistic considering the scores of enemies he has to get around. With such single-minded approach to stealth, Garrett can effectively rob the whole town without leaving any trace of him having been there. What other game can afford you that level of badassery?
Something worth noting also is the sound design. There's hardly any music to speak of, and what little there is of it is blended into Thief's ambience thus doesn't become intrusive. That way, no pin can escape your hearing.
Resident Evil 4 - GameCube
The one universal language that players revel in is blasting the head off a zombie while watching a fountain of liquid red erupting from their necks. As if their heads were inflatable balloons loaded with blood ready to be popped by your bullet.
Mega Man 2 - Famicom and NES
Old school 8 bit Mega Man done right. As the series progressed, they concentrated more on Mega Man's movesets at the expense of its level design. While it may sound like there's more freedom given to the player, it actually becomes more one dimensional as shortcuts are being taken to beat the games.
Dishonored - PC Games
Game of the Year? Has a good shout for being game of its generation. This game is like a homage to the great first person PC classics of the past such as Deus Ex and Thief. Both games set the standard for sprawling, well thought out level design and I'm glad the spirit of these classics remains alive in titles like Dishonored.
I'm in love with the special powers on offer in this game. One I'm particularly fond of is the teleportational skill. There aren't many things satisfying in life as flitting through several spots in lightning speed and leaving a trail of dead bodies along the way. Very ninja like I would say.
Another cool element is the fact that the beautiful Chloe Moretz lent her voice talents to one of the characters in this game. It's a shame she didn't follow it through to the sequel. She would've made a great adult Emily Kaldwin with her new sexy and husky voice.
By now, Harvey Smith is a name to remember. It's about time too.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 - PC Games
I was already into real-time strategy long before I played Red Alert 2 but this game really cemented my love for them and consequently the Command & Conquer series. Nothing gets me more motivated and my testosterone going than the sight of of hot female officers supporting me. You get to assume command of three former soft porn actresses Kari Wuhrer, Athena Massey and Aleksandra Kaniak. It also doesn't hurt that it has ample doses of camp to relieve the tension of battles.
Super Mario Bros. - Famicom and NES
This game apparently saved the video game industry according to many people. But many others, particularly PC fans, would like a word with them.
Chrono Trigger - Super famicom and SNES
The game that really got me into RPGs for a while and things just went downhill thereafter. It made me averse to random encounters and I suspect if more people built their preferences around Chrono Trigger, then random encounters would not survive anymore. This game really spoiled me.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein - PC Games
Let's face it, you weren't really in it for the single player mode. This is the mother of all team based shooters. I had a lot of fun playing Team Fortress 2 and the like but this one was my obsession. It was a privilege to have played it during its peak popularity where the great maps and various gameplay modes like gold rush were still around. While its sequel Enemy Territory is bogged down with new features and missions that are drawn out, RtCW remains more focused and compact. The problem with making the maps very big is that it makes it difficult to meet with your team mates to back them up and vice versa - not something you'd want to happen in a team oriented game. The frequency of fire fights is higher which makes for many exciting close quarter battles.
DOOM - PC Games
Doom 2 might have the Super Shotgun but I could barely see anything in that game, which slowed things down for me. And for a game like Doom which is reliant on speed and twitchy reflexes, it's the last thing you want.
Duke Nukem 3D - PC Games
If SJWs win, games of this nature would never see the light of day. An incredibly enjoyable game that doesn't take itself seriously yet the world has to have literal-minded folks to ruin the fun for everyone. If anyone could make a case for offence (in spite of its weakness), it would be the police, who are portrayed as real pigs. Where is the selective outrage from these people? They're probably too busy doing their job to care about something so insignificant as video game cops.
Mole Mania - Game Boy
It's an oldie but a goodie. You can't call yourself a Miyamoto fan or even a Nintendo fan if you haven't played this. The aim of the game is to move a black ball to the end of each screen in order to progress to the next. Seems simple but when all kinds of obstacles are thrown into the mix you have to rely on your wits and acumen in problem solving to make it through.
Ōkami - PlayStation 2
A game that provides further ammunition to make the case that games can be art. It's best described as an interactive Japanese painting come to life. It's works of beauty such as Okami that should be gracing museums not these pathetic excuses of mundanity currently on display. Gameplaywise, it's like a souped up 3d Zelda game but bolstered by an elaborate storyline.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Nintendo 64
The dungeons are good and all but it's all about the sidequests and that 3 day limit gimmick. Many people found this restriction off-putting but this sense of urgency really brought out the qualities that can be said a game like this can call its own. The people of Clock Town are stricken with panic as to what's occurring up in the sky and you can feel the tension and desperation grow with each passing day. I've never got that emotionally invested in a Zelda game quite as much as this one.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64
Whenever I play a Zelda game, it's always a case of been there done that. I blame it on the fans who are very protective of changes to THEIR games. The developers who worry about their income and livelihood have little choice other than to acquiesce to their fanbase's petty demands leaving the franchise in a perpetual state of stagnation.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - Nintendo DS
I never really paid much attention to the Castlevania series until Symphony of the Night whipped up a storm during its release. From then on I just got hooked on these Metroidvanias as they're so often referred to as. They have the exploratory structure of Metroid while retaining the lore of traditional Castlevania games. This iteration didn't have the emotional impact of the others but the double team feature really sealed the deal for me allowing creative ways to progress through the castle. The boss fights are some of the sweetest I've played of any game, highly so intricate in their arrangement. The game itself is pretty short but the unlockable levels and characters helps to maintain its replay value.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife - Nintendo DS
If art does in fact create life then I hope this game would provide the training and the encouragement needed for budding surgeons or those yet to be.
Godot practically ran the show in this instalment. The major Dahlia Hawthorne trial was the highlight of the game. But the other cases were fun in their own right to plough through. No objections here.
Rome: Total War - PC Games
My first encounter with the Total War series was from a game a friend lent to me. It was Shogan - the first game in the series. I don't remember it very well and never really got to enjoy it to the fullest extent due to other priorities I had at the time. But fast forward a couple of years later when I got my grubby hands on Rome and I was beginning to understand the praise heaped upon these games. I never got to beat the game even during my second attempt on normal. Those battles can be fun in occasional bursts, but when it occurs far too often, it can get tiring and mentally draining after a while. On top of that you've got to maintain good relations with your conquered city's inhabitants, which is a bastard in and of itself. It's not one for newbies of the genre but that doesn't mean I didn't have a blast playing it. I think if it focused less on macro management in favour of more micro it would be a better experience, instead of it feeling like playing two games in one.
Resident Evil - GameCube
The PS1 Resident Evil games were infamous for their tank controls so it's pretty hard to believe a remake would one up that achievement on a much more powerful system. But where the controls took a back seat, the graphics was an overhaul to end all overhauls. Despite my vocal stance of gameplay over graphics in forums, this game exposes the filthy graphics whore I truly am. I'm pretty seasoned when it comes to dealing with horror in media, nothing has freaked me out in ages, but this is one of the few games that tested me if only just a little. It was a treat roaming through the haunted mansion with Jill Valentine, her beauty offset all the unsettling drama that pervaded throughout. This game is best described as an oxymoron of the beautiful and the macabre.
Interesting story: I know a girl who loves horror movies but surprisingly doesn't play video games. She's a bit of a tomboy, yet her disinterest in them is baffling to me. This revelation made me realise of many girls I knew who in spite of growing up in a "masculine" environment hardly ever touched video games. The series is dominated by female protagonists, so no issue there with gender politics, yet somehow games like this turn them away. The idea that games are not for girls because it's a boys club as SJWs like to posit is an asinine observation. Unless of course girls find the violent aspects disagreeable? Or perhaps it's in girl's nature not to enjoy video games as studies would suggest: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compass-pleasure/201110/video-games-can-activate-the-brains-pleasure-circuits-0
It would be a huge shame if that's the case, because there's a vast array of experiences that were meant to cater to a diverse range of people. Developers would jeopardise their livelihood if they weren't looking at broadening their audience. But that doesn't mean to say they will respond to every whim and nag from hectoring media critics' and journalists' mouths. The final product is after all theirs and no amount of bullying is going to change that. The least you could do is ask nicely and not dehumanise the person in the process.
Fallout - PC Games
The Fallout series is enjoying a revival with its blend of cinematic action and fully realised open worlds. But I always find myself turning to the older games thanks in large part to the level of malleability offered in them. Its rpg character development system is so advanced the world practically bends in accordance to your choices. If your character creation was a bumbling fool, he will be treated that way among his peers and his dialogue choices will reflect that. This provides for some genuinely humourous situations in the game and adds flavour to the drab world the protagonist finds himself in.
Super Bomberman 3 - Super famicom and SNES
I've not had the good fortune to have played Saturn Bomberman which I heard was the definitive Bomberman experience, be that as it may, I've had a lot of fun with this iteration. It added a fair amount of features which have been the staples of the franchise ever since.
Panzer Dragoon Orta - Xbox
It seems strange to find an arcadey title on the Xbox but I'm not complaining. Missing out on the Sega Saturn means I only ever got to play one game in the Panzer Dragoon series and that was Orta. I had a rootin tootin good time with it even though I still haven't beaten the game yet.
Gunstar Super Heroes - Game Boy Advance
Gunstar Super Heroes is a prime example of why I prefer run n gun shooters over shoot em ups. Why? The answer is simple really. More variety. Merely holding down the fire button and manoeuvring your ship can be a one dimensional affair. Gunstar gives you melee attacks and really creative use of perspectives in various levels which allows the player strategic use of the terrain.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Nintendo DS
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - PC Games
Legacy of Kain was a pretty sweet series about vampires but I never quite sunk my teeth into those games as much as this one. I simply fell head over heels over the art design in this game. If I were to pick a game world to live in it be Bloodlines. It's simply the coolest world I've ever immersed myself in, with colourful and offbeat characters to engage in deep and stimulating conversations with. The gameplay itself needs tinkering as there's a myriad of bugs that hold up its quality. But there's no denying the soul this game possesses. As always, you would never expect less than stellar writing either from Troika (a remnant of Black Isle Studios), which breathes life into these polygonal models. I'd gladly take this game over any of the Hammer horrors and Anne Rice books out there.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - PlayStation
My head felt like it ran three marathons each time I finished playing this. I heard games like Street Fighter being compared to chess. As much as I loved those games, the level of strategy pales in comparison to games like Oddworld. Every little move or action you made in this game was decisive and is the difference between saving a Mudokon or not.
Shadow Hearts - PlayStation 2
The original over Covenant anytime. A lot of fine-tuning went into areas which needed improvement in the original, but I reckon Covenant lacked its heart. I felt way more involved with the story and characters in the first game, especially Yuri. He actually had charm and charisma, traits which seemed to have disappeared into thin air during his second appearance. With a tenacious villain like Albert Simon constantly breathing down your neck too, the stakes also felt a lot higher.
I was also enamoured by its dark and gruesome presentation which is showcased in its settings, monsters and lore.
Desperation moves sucked and I'm glad they ditched that in favour of power gauges to prevent so much abuse of that system. The fact that they also included several iterations of each character was a welcome feature. Some people just prefer to play as 94 Kyo Kusanagi than his 96 counterpart. Capcom took this on board and the anniversary edition of Street Fighter II was born.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 - Sega Saturn
Alpha 3 had a little too much to make it a fun game to play. I prefer the more compact and less crazy prequel. While older veterans of the series baulk at the idea of air-blocking, I believe it adds a nice dynamic to the gameplay. With wave after wave of projectiles directed your way at so many angles, I think this a case where air-blocking unlike previous instalments is necessary.
Max Payne - PC Games
This is like a potpourri of all those amazing things in life all rolled into one heady joint. Such as the neo-noir genre, graphic novels, the Matrix, the mafia, Hong Kong cinema and Norse mythology. Some may not appreciate the effort but how can you not envy the madness behind the thought?
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne - PC Games
The first game had a lot of cheesy moments but this one went all guns blazing on the serious front. It's a classical film noir love story this time around punctuated by high octane moments to match its senseless state of affairs.
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As far as innovative ideas are concerned in video games, the artist is more important than the critic. Especially certain critics who are wholly preoccupied in dealing with the identity politics aspect, insisting somehow it will gain the medium more credibility as a serious art form. Funnily enough, this was not what Roger Ebert was addressing when he posed the question of whether games can be qualified as art. In his own words it was the nature of the medium that engendered his scepticism apparently and not things like the ethnicity or gender of a character. Indeed the graphics and game mechanics working in tandem are the essential elements into the playability of a video game. It's this very interactivity which separates it from other mediums and really the stuff that matters first and foremost in its evolution.
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