Saturday, 23 February 2013

1up Blog #39: My 25 Greatest Games Part I (03/03/2007)

MY 25 GREATEST GAMES Version 1.04(HTML problems mostly fixed)
  After nearly six months of "labour", my blog-child has finally been born! Now 12.5% the size of EGM's "200 Greatest Games of Their Time", my list has changed greatly. I've gone back to playing many games I haven't played for years, and thus, remembering the brilliance those games held. If you want to complain for my lack of "older" games on the list, you can. However, know that SNES was the first system I got... it's just too bad I didn't read EGM at the time; I played few "good" games for the system, and today, most of these "older" games (Atari through SNES) feel dated. Still, between the early stages of the PS1 to now; at least a good portion is covered. You might notice that there's a lot of writing for each game (they get especially long when you get into the lower numbered games). I don't really expect anyone to read the whole thing (It was so large I had to make two parts!), but I can assure you it will take an eagle's eye to spot a non-punctuation error (damn commas!) in here. I don't know if blogs are often this long, but this will definitely be the longest I write. You may also be surprised what gets number 1...
P.S. When I update the list, the "Version" will be notched up one decimal point (and .01 for honourable mentions, grammar changes, etc.).

Seen this list already and just want to skip to the comments (and I would prefer it if you comment on part two)? Click here to instantly flash to the comments, saving you the scrolling!
25. Guitar Hero (PS2) In all my years gaming (okay, so it's not that many), I would have never imagined that a game like this would have made my list of favorite games (I seem to enjoy story-centric games more). Guitar Hero may very well be the most innovative game, since well, I thought about innovation in games! It's amazing how it's once again fun to play music on a Fisher-Price toy! Still, GH isn't perfect. GH gives awesome guitar playing on a game system, but it also lacks variety (you pretty much do the same kind of guitar playing the entire game), and there are big gaps of "easy" in the story-mode. Still I can't deny how awesome GH is to just play, and finally, the rockin' tunes are well above any other song list in a game.

24. Half Life (PC) Sure, the single player campaign was dull, repetitive, and had pretty much no story (yet occasionally, the campaign can be fun), but that is not what I play this game for. Half-Life was the first online game I played, and hell, I'm still playing it! Sure, if I could play Halo 2 online, I wouldn't have liked Half-Life online as much (and maybe someday, I will probably play a better online game), but there will always be a special place in me for Half-Life.

23. Final Fantasy VIII (PS1) It's hard to talk about this game. Why? Well, in some ways I remember a game with horribly choppy visuals, long, boring spots here and there, an oft-confusing battle system, and a really weird storyline. But when I think harder, I also remember a game with stellar tunes that sit with the best of games, awesome characters, an addictive battle system, an interestingly weird story through the first 3 discs, and ultimately a game that felt like "Final Fantasy" (you ever get that feeling?) when FFVIII needed it the most. I think I'll leave it at that.

22. Resident Evil 4 (PS2) When first blasted up, RE4 gave me everything I could possibly ask for from the survival-horror genre. It had a killer widescreen presentation (which really upped the atmosphere for me), stellar, dimly lit graphics (also good for the atmosphere), a mysterious village setting (again: atmosphere), and here's one: I could actually move my character properly! RE4 has third-person shooting beyond my expectations. At first glance, it's hard to tell it apart from other third-person shooters, but in practice it feels dead-on and refreshing. The controls are completely nailed and simple to use, yet the combat will take just as much reckoning as a FPS. You'll pull head shots off with ease, but you'll still die quite a bit (this game is smart). I died exactly a hundred times (it keeps track!) throughout the lengthy 20-hour+ adventure. And the difficulty is neither hard nor easy. Perfectly fine with me! As told by the length, this game is immensely huge, and it probably takes three times as long to beat RE4 than past RE's; nothing short of amazing there. It is not without it's faults though. RE4 has an interesting plot, but it has a lot of gaps where little is revealed, and in the end, not a whole lot happened to expand what it was at the beginning of the game. It has a pretty weak final boss, ending, and soundtrack too. No biggie though, RE4 is still far and away the survival-horror champion.

21. Kingdom Hearts (PS2) Here's what I don't understand: Why everyone says it's a surprise Kingdom Hearts is a hit. The mere fact that its by the creators of Final Fantasy and showcases many of our favorite FF characters (that's right, no Zidane here folks), should warrant plenty of sales. And the Disney movies are such classics (come on, admit it!) and the mere thought of traversing all those "Wonderful Worlds" makes this a must-buy. Kingdom Hearts has a very fun, concise battle system. I had very few qualms with the camera (quit whining), I found jumping easier than many a lot of 3D games (not all, of coarse). The fighting itself was fun too, and it gave you abilities frequent enough to keep things interesting. Still, these battles are often too frequent (basically every room) and sometimes I felt it threw more enemies at you than needed. Still, KH succeeds in creating a great RPG. Don't expect an all too rosy story either!

20. Metal Gear Ac!d (PSP) One of the more "surprise" hits that I've played. Like any Metal Gear game, Ac!d has a story the will twist your brain at every turn. There's lots of nostalgia to be had in this game; the characters, music, and cut-scenes from some abilities will get any Metal Gear fan squealing with joy. Combine that with a deep and addictive card system (though watch out for the ridiculous way you have to load ammo...), cool characters, and a solid length, and you got an odd Metal Gear game even better than the well-known MGS2.

19. Gears of War (Xbox 360) It's odd why I don't actually consider Gears to be the more Halo type of shooter. Yeah, I will no doubt draw comparisons to it due to the similar weight on its shoulders, but keep in mind it's a very different beast. You have to remember this isn't a FPS, so obviously it falls into TPS territory, which is usually a stale genre at that. But lets check out the story. Halo brought a story with phenomenal depth and mystery. Gears is mysterious all right, but only because through the entire campaign, the story really goes nowhere! But then again, I've loved tons of games where there's no story at all, so I can brush that aside. Thanks to the fine-tuned gunplay and cover system, the multiplayer in Gears could be the very best out there for a low player limit, but with roughly only one mode available, the appeal won't last forever. Still, Gears will not live in the shadow of Halo. If you're one of those people who think Gears is a slow paced, strategic shooter, you're way off. Gears boils down to part defensive, and part intense, action-packed firefights that can really only be called its own. And finally, the graphics set the standard for what all Western games should look like. Seriously, I only wish real-life looked this breathtakingly ruined!

18. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) You're seeing that right: there is indeed a retro game I can judge fairly against that of modern games. Is there any surprise that it's Zelda? The depth, longevity, and exploration is all here, but there's an extra twist: Challenge. I honestly don't remember one boss where I didn't die at least once. And the dungeons themselves forced me to die several times. However, this extra twist doesn't mean it can sit atop the peak with the rest. The world itself is fairly large, but in comparison to Ocarina, it feels kind of small. This eventually leads to frequent backtracking, which, especially in a game where starting points aren't exactly high in numbers, gets bothersome by the end. At any rate, you can't deny just how enjoyable Zelda's gameplay and dungeons are (even if not all the dungeons are stellar). The music is surprisingly stunning... maybe even the best in the series! Despite its flaws, A Link to the Past is Zelda, and though I still say Nintendo didn't truly hit it until Ocarina, neither Wind Waker nor Majora's Mask can come close to matching this.

17. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA) COTM brings something really special to the table, basic Mario/Metroid gameplay...and makes it wildly complex! I heard killer tunes that I never thought could be possible out of a mere handheld. It's not simple run, jump and wip here either. Just when you think COTM has reached it's peak in difficulty, the game brings you clever puzzles and even more absurd bosses that can kill you in a few hits if you don't play your cards (literally) wisely. Three quarters into the game, you'll have abilities well above the average platformer (can you reach the clouds!?). Added in with COM's adventurous gameplay, and you got something that you've likely played something similar to, but likely few things of those that are better. And while the game is quite dark (what, that boss was firing something?), it does set the appropriate Castlevania mood.

16. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2) DQVIII can easily be compared to any other Final Fantasy. It has a turn based, three-character battle system, a lengthy quest, a lot of towns and dungeons, and, of coarse, random battles. Yet, DQVIII is still a whole different beast. The scale of the world more so rivals that of Oblivion, rather than your average Final Fantasy. There is not a game that I've explored more on my first run, and at the same time enjoyed it. And the cel-shaded graphics are nearly perfect. Yes, other than in a few areas, the story is pretty much standard fare, but so what? This is one of the few RPG's where I actually died once in a while! And I loved it!

15. Chrono Cross (PS1) I find it odd that CC is actually a sequel (I never played Trigger). Not until basically the end of the game did I run into any bizarre plot stuff, but maybe that's just because CC (for some reason, I hate that acronym) handles itself so well. CC is not a regular RPG, it runs a little short at about 25 hours, but it's a really, really killer (and polished) 25 hours, I tell you (and it's easier to replay that way). Even with that short time slot though, you're still going back and forth quite a bit close to the end. CC has an overwhelming amount of characters (over forty in all) that you don't really need to find in order to understand the plot. However this makes the game a lot less linear (and the character designs are excellent anyway!). The story itself is very engaging, and about a third through the game, I found one of the greatest plot twists ever! After CC, Yasunori Mitsuda should've become almost as much a household name as Nobou Uematsu (however, Japanese names are hard to remember...)! Haunting, sad, happy, evil, every theme is done here, and they are all brilliantly symphonized.
14. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2) These don't come very often: A sequel to a game that already was a surprise hit, and everything is completely screwed with! KHII doesn't deny the original's importance, but it tries as hard as it can to 1up it in everyway. The story seems a bit convoluted and overwrought at first, but not to worry, it ends up being a very well written and thorough tale. At any rate, with all this screwing around something's bound to go wrong. The pacing is awkward here (a huge fifteen hour lull in plot-development certainly hurts the story), cut-scenes seem to happen in every freaking room you walk in, and I miss the original's interaction it had with the environment. But enough with being picky; I thought KHI's bosses were impressive, but pretty much everyone of them in this game shows weeks, and weeks of effort, and are always fun till their tenth and final health bar (!) drops. These bosses easily blend into KHII's extremely hyper gameplay and stunning visuals. The second chapter can often be seen as the dark horse in many game series', but unlike those others, KHII doesn't wait for next-gen to come around, it pretends it's already here.

13. Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox) Soaring wings, beautiful backdrops, massive bosses that fill so much of the screen (sometimes they literally take up three screens!), while what seems like a hundred fighter planes, hover in front. This is but a moment of the eight or ten hours it will take to play through Orta. Orta does wind up being a pretty short game, but to me, it feels like a stellar, extended (and likely bizarre), Japanese only anime movie. The battles are amazing, but it looks like nothing you've seen before (unless you're one of the few who have played a past Panzer game), there's no dub in existence, a cool plot, yet the mythology seems so deep at times, it feels bewildering. Yes, this game is very hardcore and only those who are hardcore can appreciate it. Just as I did.

12. Final Fantasy X (PS2) FFX's prologue was simply amazing. At least at first, I literally believed the CG looked like it was done with live-action characters! All I could hope was that the real-time graphics would live up to them. Surprisingly, they did. I couldn't believe what I was seeing... and hearing. Full-blown voice acting this time: no faking voice tones and reading (well, at least not most of the time), and Nobou Uematsu only perfected the mood. Not only that, the story seemed terrific so far; Auron was damn cool (he doesn't need two hands to kick ass), and Tidus showed that he would likely become a strong main character. Long story short, I could only play it for an hour. I waited a whole year to play it again, and still, I was amazed by the first hour just like I remember. It's not like the game messed up and got worse from then on though; I just that I noticed that most of the battles were really easy, so strategy wasn't always needed. However, the new "Sphere Grid" was so cool, I never really gave up on strategy for long. I was never bored with the battles either, like one of the previous efforts on the first disc, *cough* FFIX *cough*. That first hour also showed promise of an epic adventure. And the "epic" part was spot on, and yes, this was an "adventure" too, but for an "adventure" you sure are walking a narrow path for a long time. Luckily, the game makes up for some of that by still having a "longer" path to walk on (this still took me just as long as previous FF's). The game's story is great, and it was definitely worth it to see the ending, although there were points where I was waiting for another interesting thing to happen in the story. Lastly, the characters consistently were cool and likeable, and the tunes continued to make my heart race. Ultimately, FFX's first hour showed potential of something even grander, but that doesn't matter; FFX, in many ways, was far ahead of its time. Haven't you noticed the wannabes still floating around?
11. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2) Wow! For nearly two years I was under the impression that 2004's Game of the Year was always Halo 2... and it still is... with Ninja Gaiden next in line (but it was quite a match!)! But "2004 Game of the Year" was one of the thoughts running through my mind after seeing MGS3's all-revealing ending. I will not stutter when I say this: MGS3 has the best ending ever made. And that's by a long shot! MGS3 would also have the best characters ever if the awesome Cobra Unit members would have each gotten a good share of back-story retold. There is little revealed about them, and in not doing so, it's hard to emotionalize with those characters (and the final boss is the best one!). It would even have the best story ever if there were perhaps a few more twists peppered throughout the game, but alas, a perfect game is not to be. MGS3 does however, fix all my complaints in MGS2's gameplay (though I can't say it revolutionizes it): I didn't run through any part of the game, and I had an awesome time sneaking through every (gorgeous) environment. MGS3's thrilling conclusion repeatedly dropped my jaw to unhealthy proportions; Hideo Kojima is the only man in the gaming industry that can do this. MGS3, though not the best paced game, is still not one to be forgotten.

  10. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) Every once in a while, there's a game that comes along and makes you question why you're still sucking all that time away on endless rpg's, when a much shorter, but thrilling experience still feels above them in the end. But you won't be putting away those rpg's for long because that's when you realize just how few games are as good as this Colossal one. How long has one questioned what a gaming experience is? Ultimately, that's in the eye of the beholder, but I'm sure this game will at least make you think it over once more. Taking down beautiful colossi never feels like a matter of timing and button pressing, like attacking enemies usually are. Yes, that "skill" does come into play here, but it's hardly the challenge of the game. Solving a Colossus is like solving a riddle (though awkward controls play an annoying part in that) and once it all comes crashes crashing down you'll feel an unusual pang of guilt. In my opinion, if we want the gaming crowd to truly grow, Wii Sports is not the answer; it's gaming experiences like this that will get regular Joe's to plop down $600 on a new system... Not like there are actually any others like this that truly feel made with everyone in mind to just have an amazing, emotive gaming experience. Be it with the soundtrack, story, or the swing of a sword.
9. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1) I can't stress enough just how deep FF Tactics is. It dishes up what is quite possibly the deepest story ever not in book form, which, in fact, does make sense! If you're too weaned on the other FF's easy difficulties then go home! After a few battles into the game the going gets tough and doesn't slowdown for a single moment from there. These battles feature deep, tactical gameplay (but you never get so many abilities that you'll lose track of them) that requires your attention. You progress through multiple story missions and let me tell you: almost every one of them features an insane plot-twist (something like sixty of them)! To be honest though, FF Tactics might have no actual flaws to it (I'm one of the few who wasn't bothered by the translation), but there was something not right, as a reason for say... not liking FF Tactics as my favorite game. After intense procrastination, I came to the conclusion that all you really do is: battle, earn plot point. Battle... repeat, repeat, repeat. While the battle system is, like I said, immensely deep and fun, there are few efforts made to put a fresh spin on it. Even the extra missions for the most part seem to lack any change or more importantly, enough to keep me playing. Still, FF Tactics' story (and in some ways, gameplay) takes the term growth and runs with it, and that works better than anything I've seen.

8. Breakdown (Xbox) Undersold and underrated. It's now time for you to appreciate Breakdown's under-appreciated brilliance. To describe Breakdown in a sentence: Something from a mind of a genius. Breakdown's story is so well written it feels like a long lost Orson Scott Card book, yet the gameplay shows it's worthy to stand by its narrative. Breakdown provides a very unique style of guns-and-fists gameplay. The punching is revolutionary. Think about other shooters with punching... now completely forget those. Breakdown brings such unique combo-style punching that gunplay isn't really needed. But Breakdown has that too, and while the gunplay is no Halo in that department (what with the auto-aim), it still serves as a playful diversion. Expect some interesting first-person platforming too. Again, I got to go back to the story. The environments, characters... everything... they all bring together a very unique experience. That's not to say Breakdown doesn't have its quibbles (occasionally iffy AI, some empty areas), yet, in connection with its mind-tripping story, those quibbles almost feel like they're meant to be there!

7. Final Fantasy XII (PS2) Not too long ago, I considered a great story to RPG's essential. So essential that were the story not good enough, I simply wouldn't get thrust in its world. I'm going to get this chip off FFXII's shoulder as soon as possible: it's story is eh, good. The story certainly had its mystical and engrossing moments, but I wouldn't say it's worthy of being mentioned among the much better ones in games. Yet, I was totally hooked to FFXII's world. This is not only the first time I've been put in awe by the environments in a Final Fantasy, but it also put me in shock on how they can make those environments so large and never miss a pixel in detail. The gameplay was pretty much what I've been asking from RPG's for ages, and ends up being the most fun I've had empting a demented wolf's hit points (though not quite the most addicting). Should I mention that the voice acting and dialogue nearly blows away anything before it! Despite the story's shortcoming's (maybe Matsuno was needed a little longer), this game is worthy of whatever hours (or should I say months) that it will take to fully understand it, be it the gameplay or story.

6. Halo 2 (Xbox) This game really had potential to be even higher on the list (it is after all, part of the Halo series!), but surprisingly, it was because of the gameplay that it isn't. While it made many improvements from the original, it still all in all, felt mostly the same (I wanted more from a sequel). Either way you put it, if you played the original, you'd know the gameplay would still be the best part of the game! The story is about on par with the originals'; having a few huge twists, and setting up for something even greater in the future. Level design is brilliantly done, along with the AI, and the amazing music (even better than Halo 1's music) syncs in with the levels, and form some really cool moments that feel scripted...but they're not. Revert and the checkpoint plays out completely different. The graphics (especially on cut-scenes) shine right off the moon, easy to gawk at for a long time. Finally, the multiplayer: Dozen's of modes, maps, better level design than the original, and thankfully, banshees. There's at least one thing (well, two with the music) that lived up to the massive amount of hype! But even without it, that still wouldn't have stopped me from me from loving this game!

Now prepare yourself for the main event... Part II !

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