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My Favorite Games! 10: Dune

After making my 2016 GOTY List I re-acquired a taste for writing about games. That's one of my favorite things about games; discussing them. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of people around me to discuss games with. But, thank God Giant Bomb exists so I can share this stuff here. I thought it would be fun for me to write about my favorite games. By favorite, I mean the games I have the most fondness for. That doesn't necessarily mean the best games. It can, but not always. Case and point, my favorite game console is the Sega-CD. But, by no measure whatsoever is the Sega-CD the best console ever made. It's not even close, honestly. But most of my fondest video game memories are linked to that system, so I adore the thing as busted as it kind of was.

The other thing I think you all should know before I launch into my list is my history with games. I'm 30 as of this writing which would mean that presumably my first console should have been an 8-bit system. Well, we had an 8-bit system (a Sega Master System) but my first experience with games was with my Dad's old Colecovision.

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My Mom had bought my Dad an Odyssey before my older brother and I were born and he had been a fan of video games ever since. By the time I came around (or, well, became aware enough of my own existence and environment to experience video games) the Colecovision was the old console, having moved into my parents' bedroom and hooked up to their old, wood-grained, late-70's TV, and the Master System was, from time to time, hooked up to our main TV in the family room. So as a kid, the console that was readily accessible to me was the Colecovision and I played it all the time. I messed around a bit with the Master System but didn't really play any of those games in-depth until I got an attachment for my Sega Gamegear (no Gamegear games will be added to this list, by the way).

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The next console I had a ton of experience with was the Sega Genesis, then the Sega-CD, then the 32X (no 32X game will make the list either), then the N64, Gamecube, Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3, and now the PS4. I had messed around a bit with handhelds, but I was mostly a home console person. Same with arcades. I went to a few arcades from time to time, but the experience of being in the arcade was more meaningful to me than actually playing the games (though playing After Burner with the actual, moving arcade cabinet was an amazing experience). I was also late to PCs and all of my PCs, up to present day, have been under-powered. So my experience with PCs have been limited as well.

Alright, all the preamble out of the way. Lets get to the list!

10: Dune (Sega-CD)

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The perfect example of 'favorite' versus 'best'. Dune is a weird game. It was originally released on the PC in 1992 and was eventually ported to the Sega-CD and Amiga in 1993. It was loosely based on David Lynch's Dune movie, released in 1984. And by loosely I mean the only thing they have in common is that the game as the likeness of Kyle MacLachlan and they are both in the same universe with similar art designs.

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The game itself is a hybrid of sorts. It's a story based first-person adventure game mixed with a resource management strategy game. I'll try to be as brief with the breakdown of this game as I can be. The player character is Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) who is charged with convincing the Fremen, the natives of the planet Dune, to work with them to harvest spice, a resource only found on Dune that is the be all end all thingamajig that is the solution to every possible thing in the Dune universe. As I'm sure most of you know, he's actually 'the one' that has been prophesied to free the Fremen from oppression and essentially slavery to the Galactic Empire that desires spice so f'ing much. So Paul joins forces with the Fremen to fight the Empire and their lackeys, House Harkonnen (who just so happen to be the sworn enemies of House Atreides). The story isn't necessarily the strong point of the game or the movie, honestly. Though, the game is very well written considering the nature of the story and especially considering the era and console it was released on.

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The main gameplay comes from the resource management. Essentially, the player needs to manage the Fremen troops as they mine for spice, fight the Harkonnen, and foster plant life through horticulture. The game has an in-game day, night cycle and that concept plays a key role in the flow of the game. For example, House Atreides is on Dune through a contract with the Emperor who demands shipments of spice on a nearly weekly basis. So the player needs to make sure that the Fremen are mining enough spice to meet that quota. To allow for faster spice mining, you'll need to provide them with harvesters (machines that mine spice at a faster rate) which can be bought, but only with spice. Harvesters draw the attention of sandworms, which can destroy the harvesters, kill your troops, and halt spice mining production. So you'll need to buy ornithopters, which are essentially helicopters, with, you guessed it, spice. Spice is also a limited resource and so the player will need to move troops from location to location as the spice well, so to speak, dries up from area to area. New areas need to be prospected before they are mined, which takes time. Moving troops around takes time. The military will need new weapons, which can be bought with, say it together now, spice. The military is effected by their moral, which is impacted by how often you contact them to see how they are doing, how well they perform, and how much plant life is being grown. Plant life production causes all the spice in a location to be destroyed, however. And if you fail to meet the quota of the Emperor to many times in a row, you lose the game. If you take to long to take out House Harkonnen you'll end up running out of spice to send to the Emperor, and you'll lose. If you attack Harkonnen's too quickly they'll beat all your military troops and take them as slaves effectively taking away your ability to beat the game.

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Sounds kind of complicated, huh?

I played this game originally when I was around 8-9 years old. It was the first game I had played that had had so many systems in place, was so complicated, and did so little to guide the player along. You were left on your own after they tutorial-ized the various systems. It was a struggle for me, but also a ton of fun figuring it all out. Over the course of about a year I had wrapped my head around all the systems and finally beat the game and I felt awesome. Really awesome. Like how I feel now when I beat hard sections in Souls games. I had earned that ending. That was what made the experience so memorable for me. Now, I can go back and blast through the game but that first experience was something else. I think it was a mix of the nature of the game being such a different experience for a home console game (or at least the home console games I had experienced) and the age at which I had played it. I was used to pretty linear, straightforward experiences. Platformers and action games. Games where you , more or less, ran to the right and hit the right button at the right time. Great games, mind you, but this experience for me was so different. This was an intellectual experience. For a 8-9 year old kid, that type of experience can be really meaningful. Match that with a great presentation and this was one of the most memorable gaming experiences I have ever had.

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