By BoG 31 Comments
10. Final Fantasy VI
I've always been fascinated with the Final Fantasy series for some reason. Something about it just attracts me, as well as so many others. In the years when I was a blossoming young gamer, I, like so many others, enjoyed the Final Fantasy games. Not actually for the games, though. I don't actually really know why. Around this time, the most recent game was the only one I had ever played, Final Fantasy VIII. I thought it was awesome, and Squall was awesome, and chocobos were wicked cool. It was also about this time I was collecting Pokemon cards. In my eyes, there were only two FF games: VII and VIII. It was around this time that I encountered an internet quiz that told me it would reveal "Which Final Fantasy Character are you Most Like?" Being a young "fan" of the series, I couldn't help but see who I was. I took the quiz, and got the results. I don't actually remember who I got, I just remember thinking "There were Final Fantasies before VII?"
Fast forward a few years and you'll find a young BoG whose love was only growing for video games. I think it was 7th grade. About this time, I had played two more Final Fantasy games that weren't VIII, those being VII and X. X was one of the first games I ever saw to completion, and I hated it. It was around this time that I discovered emulators. Growing up, I skipped past the SNES generation straight to a PS1. I had owned a NES before, but no SNES or Genesis. I was gaining an appreciation for so many games that I had missed growing up. I also found Final Fantasy VI.
I remember when I first played the game. Still a huge "fan" of the series, I booted the game up in an emulator pretty late one night. I didn't sleep at all that night.
Final Fantasy VI is a game that has held up after all of these years. It's one of only a few games I've played through more than once, and I've loved it more each time. What makes it stand above so many other games? Well, first, it's the world. The steampunk world that is now Final Fantasy trademark, fantasy intertwined with technology. I still remember how amazed I was by these two dimensional graphics when they were so outdated, as they created such a fantastic world.
Third, the adventure. The team crafted among the most memorable adventures in all of video games. First discovering the secrets of Narshe, first meeting Edgar, fighting with the Returners, the three-way scene, the Ghost Train, Kefka's exploits... I took part in so many wonderful events, only having played it will you understand.
All of this is wrapped around what remains one of the best character building systems in Final Fantasy, the esper system. The system was without a doubt influential on all succeeding FF games, especially VII. Characters grew like other RPGs, but at the same time equipped espers which would also level up, and over time the characters would learn magic spells from them. You could also equip little trinkets to give you bonus abilities. The battle system, the usual ATB, was fun and remains so in most FF games.
I really love VI. Being one of the first FF games I put extensive time in and the first one I truly fell in love with, you must believe me, it is awesome. Oh, I almost forgot: it features the best soundtrack in the series. Can't forget that.
9. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
I grew up loving Super Mario Bros. on my NES, my only console as a child. The original was and remains a classic. This love for the original lead me to rabidly request to play Super Nintendo if I was at someone else's house and noticed that they owned a Mario game. Some of them were bad, as I learned from Mario's Time Machine. Some of them were good, as I learned from Super Mario World. And some of them were just brilliant, as is the case of Yoshi's Island. Whenever I saw Yoshi's Island, I obsessed over playing it. I played it in chunks over my life, and it became one of my favorite games from the bite sized experiences I had of it.
It wasn't until years later that I was finally able to play Yoshi's Island start to finish, one fluid experience. It's much better that way. It was when Nintendo re-released the game as Super Mario Advance 3. When I saw it was coming out, I rushed to reserve it. I played it non-stop for who knows how long. It was one of the first games I was ever nerdy enough to take the instruction booklet to school with me. I just had so much fun with the game, I couldn't get it out of my mind.
Yoshi's Island represents the epitome of straight up platforming. The game is full of huge obstacles, all of which require a skilled thumb to navigate. Each level is masterfully designed, the best level design in the legendary series. By adding the egg mechanic, a dimension was added to combat that will remain fun forever. There is so much variety in each level, too, both in the obstacle Yoshi tackles and the environments he explores. This variety comes in enemies, obstacles, and power ups that make baby mario run on walls or Yoshi fly around as a helicopter. This barely even scratches the surface of how much there is to see and do in Yoshi's Island, though.
I mentioned earlier the environments, which are all truly a sight. Jungles, dystopic castles, flowery fields, and snowy mountains await you. But it's not just the environments, it's the gorgeous art style and the wonderful personality of the game that make it's world stand out. Though it's merely a two dimensional game, few games can stand toe to toe with the brilliant artwork of Yoshi's Island.
Without a doubt, Yoshi's Island is one of the most underrated games of all time. Most people don't even count it in their top Mario games, let alone see it as their favorite. It's got the most personality, the most variety, the best level design, best music, and is more challenging than every other game in the series. Oh gosh. Now I have to go play it again.
8. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
I received Eternal Darkness as a birthday gift from one of my closest friends. He and I are very different, but we've always shared great video games. I don't think he's ever played Eternal Darkness, but when he gave it to me, he knew I would. And he was right. It actually took me a few years to really get in to the game. I had played it, and I had liked it, but I was young at the time, and never really understood what was going on well enough to play more than 2 or 3 hours. After 2 or so years of sitting on the shelf, looking for a game to play, I started a new game in ED. Though not much older now, I was more mature and smart enough to grasp what Eternal Darkness is. This time around, I played unceasingly. The game grabbed me, and didn't let go.
Eternal Darkness represents a feat in video game story telling. The game's story is absolutely brilliant. The heavily H.P. Lovecraft tale spans known history, from Rome to the modern day. Each twist, each new revelation, only makes it more compelling. The way which the story is told, the themes it presents, and the writing are all magnificent, going beyond anything that came before it. To make the story better, it's got three different paths that, although similar, each shine a little more light on the overall picture.
The game also excels in the little details, from the changing of familiar scenery, the horror elements, but most of all, the sanity effects. The game gives you a sanity meter that will drain over time. When you're low on sanity, you'll feel the effects. Your head might explode, the screen will be out of focus, your game save might be deleted, things that are supposed to happen may not occur. Each sanity effect is unique, surprising, and really brings you into the game as they drive you a little bit insane, too. It only adds to the tension and horror in the game, the story, and the psychological thrills.
The gameplay is basic, but it works. You walk around, solving puzzles Resident Evil style, and taking out enemies with your current weapon. You target limbs to fight, and usually go for the head first, mostly to retain sanity. The game has a unique magic system that allows you to blend magic for different purposes and puzzles, as well as magic to heal and attack. All spells can be assigned to a handy quick spell menu.
Too many people missed Eternal Darkness. Last year, Denis Dyack got a lot of heat when he got banned from NeoGAF and Too Human turned out to be a dud. I still have faith in him, as do many others. Why? Because he made Eternal Darkness, a feat that cannot be spoiled.
7. Final Fantasy IX
Time for a continuation of my Final Fantasy story from my description of VI. We pick up the story with BoG as a sophomore in high school. I've now played two FF games start to finish, X and VI. I own most all of them, I was getting ready for III and twleve in the near future, and IV on my GBA, but I;d played very little. I picked up IV one day, and got sucked in. When XII was released on Halloween, I began playing that. Then it hit finally hit me, I consider my self a "fan" of FF, yet I've only finished two games. I can't just leave yet another half finished. So I put my new copy of XII on hold, and played through IV. Once I had, I finished XII. Then, it was on to III. I'd set up a schedule now, I was going to start new games in VII and VIII (my 4th new game in VIII), and then find a copy IX somewhere. When I started up VII, I just wasn't feeling it. I though I was burned out from FF games for a while. I thought maybe I'd try IX if I could find it, so I drove to my local Play N Trade, and they had it. I went home, and popped it in.
Now, I have to put my experience with the game on hold for just a little longer so you'll understand why I loved what was such and old game at that point. At the time, it had felt like so long since I had really loved a game. The glee I once felt playing video games seemed to have faded away as I got older. I tried to feel it, but it just never happened. Some games I wanted to love came and went. I thought I was just getting older, unable to feel like I did only a few years before.
Now back to the story. I popped in the game, and began playing. That youthful spark came back as I played Final Fantasy IX all night long. I just fell in love. The atmosphere, the characters, the adventure, all came together to make me a few years younger. It was a liberating experience. I love IX for doing it to me.
Not just any game can make you feel like a child again, however. Final Fantasy IX has one of the best stories in the series, some of the most memorable characters, and is just one big exciting adventure. There are turckloads of memorable moments in Final Fantasy IX. I loved so much even just the smallest details of the game, it's locales, and its story.
The game also excels among Final Fantasy games, once again introducing a new, fresh character customization system. I loved learning skills from weapons, and then rearranging my equipped skills to perfect my character. Like VI before it, IX once again gave the cast of characters unique abilities, all of which made selecting a party more interesting (especially once Quina joins the party).
Final Fantasy IX is, in my eyes, the greatest of this fabled series. Though perhaps the writing isn't as good as that of XII, the music (though awesome) isn't quite as good as VI, or the customization may not be as deep as V, I have never had more fun playing an RPG. I don't know why Final Fantasy IX was pushed to the side by so many gamers, but I do know they are all missing out.
6. Half Life 2
Looking back, Half Life 2 was all but destined to be a major disappointment. The original Half Life, though not on my list, is among the all time gaming greats. It was hailed as the greatest single player FPS experience ever. The story was wonderful, the gameplay was great... In every facet, Half Life raised the bar. How in the world can
a sequel top that? When the game was revealed, I'd say it only made matters worse. The graphics were better than anything we had seen to date, the physics were revolutionary, Valve was in way over their heads. As time went on, it seemed only bad news accompanied HL2. Honestly, I wrote it off as another Duke Nukem Forever, probably something that would never come out. When its release became official, and it slowly approached, admittedly, I was really excited. I told my self not to get my hopes up, but Valve had really talked this game up. Really, though, it couldn't avoid dissapointment.
Well, it did.
Half Life 2 is a masterpiece. Everything we wanted in a Half Life sequel is here, and so much more. The graphics are magnificent even today, the combat is tighter than ever, and the atmosphere is unparalleled. They did it. I reiterate, Half Life 2 is a masterpiece. I've said this about so many games on my list so far, but my heart was pounding the entire way through. The game does not skip a beat. Whether you're running from the combine in a sort of underground railroad, your being attacked by aircraft as you run across a bridge, or just experiencing the horror of a headcrab coming out of nowhere, you won't ever get bored. As I mentioned before, the atmosphere is brilliant. Few video game worlds can be as atmospheric as City 17. I'm sitting here, and I just can't describe it. It's just... awesome.
Just as it's predecessor, Half Life 2 raised the bar for gameplay. It helped usher in a new era of first person shooter and advance a genre that was all but perfected. It would be difficult to improve on gameplay in the genre, but with awesome weapons all with cool secondary fire, Half Life 2 set today's standard. The game didn't fall short of awesome combat, utilizing more traditional weapons, as well as the awesome gravity gun. Holy crap, the gravity gun, do you guys remember when your gravity gun gets powered up and you could rip stuff off the walls? Oh gosh. The gravity gun also made for some unique puzzles, which were up to par with those of the first game. All the weapons were awesome, from the standard pistol to the crossbow.
On a side note, though I'm not counting them as the original game, HL2 episodes 1 and 2 are awesome additions to the title.
Even with every opportunity to fail, Valve pulled it off. They continue to do so, what with the Orange Box being as awesome as it is. Oh, yeah, MAKE EPISODE 3.
Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Oracle of Ages was a magnificent Zelda title, and my second favorite 2D entry in the series. It had a huge variety of worlds, amazing puzzles, and Ricky the Kangaroo.
Wow. I honestly just want to right my top 5 now. I don't have time though. I'm really excited to share it, even though I know everyone will have their issues with it. Anyways, feel free to discuss and disagree!