Video games. Pretty cool stuff, eh? I’m going to tell you about ten titles that define my experience with video games over the years. This won’t be a “top 10 games” list, but rather a sort of “games I played a lot or represent the sorts of things I like a lot in games” list. Simple. Stuff.
When I was a kid, I’d at times go to a friend’s house and play some NES for a bit. You know, Duck Hunt. Some baseball game. But I didn’t really get into video games until the Genesis showed up at my house, along with this game:
That’s right, a licensed film game. In this case, Disney’s Aladdin. The movie was great, and the game was even better. You get to run around killing off guards with a sword, fly around on a magic carpet, and survive an intense fever dream in Genie-world. As a platformer the game still holds up today, though I find it way easier to play through now than I found it as a kid.
The games I would go on to play the most during my Genesis days though… Hey, do you care to guess? No, it’s not that hard. Go ahead and guess.
Sonic the Hedgehog was loads of fun. The first one I had was Sonic 2, but I’d go on to get the original, as well as Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles, and even Spinball. These games are remembered for being cool and for letting you run around really fast, but there is some solid platforming and exploration as well to be had. Not so much that it keeps you from slowing down for too long though–the top-notch level design always helped to enable you to either regain your momentum or keep it going. (Something that modern attempts such as Sonic 4 completely failed to grasp.) I liked all the old Sonic games, but my favorite might be the original. I love how trippy the special stage is.
Favorite character: Definitely Dr. Robotnik. Russian fatass builds a robot army using baby animals as their power sources–there can be no better villain. Also, he’s faster than Sonic! Canon. Fact.
Anyways, years passed, and some time in high school I got a Dreamcast. I kind of missed out on the Saturn since I didn’t have money at the time, and didn’t really know the thing existed. But the Dreamcast–I was well-aware of that. 9/9/99 was its big release day, and I remember playing Sonic Adventure at department stores and being just blown away. Now we could go fast in 3D. It was an exciting time.
I got a wide variety of games for the Dreamcast, and even subscribed to the Dreamcast magazine, which included a nifty demo disc with each issue. Good times! The magazine was great, because the writers were total Sega fans, but were also completely unafraid to give their honest opinion on things. They ran a lot of goofy articles too. What a bunch of goofballs.
Anyways, a couple games that represent my time with the good ‘ol Dreamcast. Let’s start with the most “Sega” title of them all:
Sega, at least in the good ‘ol days, was all about being fun and looking cool. You see a game like Toejam and Earl and you say, yeah, that was on the Genesis. Crazy Taxi? It made itself right at home on the Dreamcast. Anyways, this is where Jet Grind Radio comes in.
Absolutely ridiculous game. You roller-blade about Tokyo and spraypaint graffiti everywhere, grinding rails and avoiding the cops all the while. Over the course of the game you build up your gang, and you can even design your own graffiti if you want. Really unique art style and a really unique soundtrack. I’ve played through it… many times, let’s go with that.
And the other title I’ll bring up is the game that got me into RPGs:
Skies of Arcadia was perhaps the perfect game for introducing me to the RPG genre. The story is pretty straightforward–there’s extremely little in the way of random techno-magic-babble that seems common in a lot of RPGs. It was also an overall very positive and fun game. The characters aren’t moody or anything. They’re Robin Hood-style pirates out to kick trash, explore the world, blow shit up, and make fat stacks of gold doubloons.
The world was so huge in this game! You get to fly around in a floating pirate ship, discover all the different continents, and meet all the people who live in each land. The story was fun to go through, and the battle system was engaging enough that I didn’t mind all the random battles so much. Eventually you even get to build a base and hire your own crew, which I thought was cool.
During this high school time, sometimes I would join in on LAN parties with friends. The games everyone played generally entailed shooting each other: Quake 3 Arena, Unreal Tournament, and the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield. I sucked at all of these games. If it was an option, my only hope was to get in a vehicle and try running someone over.
There was one LAN party game we sometimes played though, that I actually liked and was good at:
Worms World Party is one of many variations of the basic turn-based Worms game. You pick a weapon, aim, and fire. Blow the enemies up with a stick of dynamite, shoot down a couple worms with a shotgun, or send one flying into the water with a baseball bat. Loads of fun, and an excellent blend of strategy and skill.
But more importantly, it’s just really funny. I mean, they’re little worms with squeaky voices, and they somehow have access to mines, grenades, and explosive sheep. It’s also a hoot when someone completely messes up, laying waste to his own worms in some incredulous manner.
(I also had a version of this on the Dreamcast, believe it or not.)
Favorite weapon: Definitely the ninja rope. I won’t say I was a pro with that thing, but I was better than everyone else at the LAN parties with it. Very useful tool! Could slip in and drop an explosive most anywhere I wanted.
When I was in college, I wasn’t really able to keep up with gaming too much. No money, no time, etc. I did have my laptop though, and with that I stumbled upon one game in particular I ended up loving a whole lot:
I already reviewed Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. It’s the best. Run a shop, make money, send adventurers into dungeons to make more money. I think this game clicked with me a lot because I was in college and had no money, so it made me feel like I was making some kind of progress in life. Also, Recette is easy to relate to, since I’m an idiot.
Eventually I was able to get a PS2 for really cheap, which was nice for playing some console games again. This was well after the PS2 had finished its life cycle, but hey, games are games. Got some good Guilty Gear in.
My good pal Nathan knew I was a hopeless otaku-wannabe and assumed that if he lent me this next game, that I would really love it:
Nathan was correct. Persona 4 is the best RPG there is. It seems it’s become a little less cool lately to like Persona 4, but whatever, haters gonna hate. I loved all 7,800 hours of it (or however long it was–damn, it’s long), with all its memorable and multifaceted characters, and its perfect blend of dungeon-crawling RPG gameplay with day-to-day life sim management. The presentation was top-notch, and the soundtrack was amazing. Also, probably one of the best examples of a localization done right.
Great game! I still need to play the Golden edition for the Vita.
Perhaps the main reason I got a PS2 though was because I was really interested in getting into the survival horror genre a lot more. I became a fan of horror stories in general while in college, and I learned there were a lot of games I had missed out on over the years. Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Resident Evil, etc. The franchise I feel I’ve enjoyed the most though would have to be…
Fatal Frame is a tough game, but it’s so good. Horror games are great for storytelling in that they have to be really good at atmosphere in order to succeed at all, and Fatal Frame is a great example of this. It’s got all kinds of spooky ghosts, and you never know when the next one will show up. And the whole mechanic of needing to wait as long as possible before taking the picture of the ghosts works so perfectly for cranking the intensity up to 11.
This one’s a lot of fun to play with friends watching during Halloween time! Some people get really freaked out, which is great. (I take a twisted pleasure in this.) Look forward to a review of Fatal Frame and other horror titles next month…
Over the last couple years my gaming system of choice has been the PS Vita. A bit of an odd choice perhaps, but that was what had the most games I wanted to play. And as it turns out, handheld gaming is a blast. Really nice to go to bed and play something for a bit. And long games can be whittled down bit-by-bit much more easily when you sneak in a quick gaming session whenever the opportunity arises.
In many ways the Vita feels tailor-made for me, when looking at its game library. Lots of creative, unusual, and smaller-name titles. Niche games from Japan, and quirky indies from the West. (Not to mention, easy access to PSP and PS1 digital libraries, both of which were new to me.) But what is the title that stands out the most?
There are few games that have ever held my attention quite so fully as Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. I mean, with a title like that, you know you’re in for a good time, right?
Danganronpa features a storyline somewhat like Battle Royale with gameplay somewhat like the Phoenix Wright games. Kids killing each other in secret–and then there’s a trial! This is a game that goes all-out to unnerve and unsettle you, then makes a really bad pun joke to show just how little it gives a shit. It’s an absolute blast, and it must be experienced to be believed. Sometimes I go back to this game just to make sure it’s a thing that actually exists. It’s so bizarre, and so good.
And it’s time for one last game on my list! This is the title I turn to if anyone brings up that whole thing about whether or not games can be art:
To put it plainly, there has never been a game quite like Yume Nikki (AKA Dream Diary). Well, at least until Yume Nikki came along. This is a game where you go to sleep. Love it already! But there’s more–you get to explore various dream worlds…
And that’s it. It really does feel like experiencing a dream though, and you have to give it a try to see it for yourself. Really immerse yourself in it, no distractions. Spend an hour or two just walking around, soaking in all the imagery. Yume Nikki is fantastic because it tells a story without telling a story. There is no dialogue. There are hardly even any events. But it’s clear there was a lot of thought put into the environments, and the ways you can interact with everything–it’s all set up to encourage your own interpretation of the character’s psyche. It is a beautiful game, and that ending is simply unforgettable.
I might pick a few of these titles to review during Sharkberg’s Positivity Week, so watch out for those maybe? Let me know if you’ve enjoyed any of these games yourself, or anything about the kind of experience you’ve had with games over the years.
(Note: Header and featured image taken from this fanart by groundzeroace.)