Friday, 22 February 2008

Games galore

Like many other bloggers before me, I feel it is my turn to infest the Internet with my opinions on what is great and what sucks metaphorical genitalia. Today I'm feeling positive, so we'll stick with the former. And what is the fabled topic of discussion?

Video games.
(Oh come on, like you didn't see that coming.)

Watch as I, for your own amusement, list my top 10 favourite and most influential games of all time.
Or at least post-1992, when I could hold the controller and have the vaguest idea of what the cool blue buttons did.

No particular order. Just the order I think of them.

The Curse Of Monkey Island. (1997, PC, LucasArts.)

One of the first games I ever completed, admittedly with a little help from the parents. The Curse Of Monkey Island is the third installation of the Monkey Island series, and manages to implement comedy with outstanding gameplay. Some of the jokes used in the game are some of the funniest I've heard in a game. You play as Guybrush Threepwood, a wannabe pirate (because pirates are obviously better than ninjas,) as you try to defeat the zombie pirate LeChuck, who you meet in the previous two games. You know you're in for a treat as soon as you watch the opening scene. Not only do the opening credits have an amazing song played over them, but you start off marooned in the middle of the ocean in a dodgem car, pining for food and water, all of which float buy much to the ignorance of Guybrush. As a ten year old this was comedy gold to me, and it still is to this day.
The game has advanced a lot from the second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. No longer do you have to click the action from the menu at the bottom, but all the actions you need are encased in a coin that pops up when you hold down the mouse button, making it much easier. The graphics have improved a fair bit as well, and I was amazed at how good some of the scenes were animated. Admittedly, LucasArts have spoilt the aesthetics a bit in the next installment, Escape From Monkey Island, by bringing it into 3D. In my opinion 2D looked much better.
If you've not played this game before, or are a fan of the Monkey Island series I'd fully recommend The Curse Of Monkey Island.

Final Fantasy VII. (1997, PSX, Square.)

Let's just get one thing straight before I begin. I'm not using this game because it's the most popular, it made the list because it was the first final Fantasy I ever played, well before all the hype about it came up. Just needed to get any "Fanboy!!1" comments out of the way. FFVII was the game that brought Final Fantasy into the mainstream eye, and was also the first FF Playstation release. Previously, The SNES was honoured with such delights. It was the first 3D Final Fantasy, as the previous games had used sprites, typical of the time. One thing that set it apart from any other games was the size of the game. I first saw this game at a computer fair and thought it might be a good game to pass the time. And that it did. 60+ in-game hours later I was hooked, and helping Cloud and the gang get raped by Weapon and Sephiroth. Even after I'd completed the story mode, there were too many sidequests left just to let it sit alone on my shelf collecting dust. It also opened the gates to other Final Fantasy games, such as IX, my favorite. Recently I managed to get FFI and FFII for the PSP, and got the Advent Children soundtrack, so even now it has as much an impact on me as it did over ten years ago.
The size and depth of the story was amazing, as was the soundtrack, and some of the challenges. (Chocobo Racing, anyone?) The story has caused a few spin-offs, such as the game The Dirge Of Cerberus, and the film Final Fantasy: Advent Children. I could go on forever about FFVII, as there is just too much to talk about. But I'm sure you've heard it all before.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. (2002, PS2, RockStar.)

Vice City was the fifth game to be released into the Grant Theft Auto franchise, and the sequel to Grand Theft Auto III, though it is set nearly 20 years beforehand. Before Vice City, I'd never been into the GTA franchise. Sure, I'd played the first few, but as soon as I played VC, I loved it. The story, in my opinion, is the best in the series, and even though the engine needed a bit of work, it was still one of the best. Some of the radio stations where the best I'd heard, and it is another of those games which managed to bring comedy with good gameplay. GTAIII also does this, but I never really got into that game until a few years later. There was a wide range of weapons, and the game was pretty non-linear, which was different to anything else I'd played before then. If I got bored of doing missions, I could go and explore the city, and there was a lot to explore. The range of weapons to be found meant it rarely bored me. It was also the first GTA game to use helicopters and which allowed you to fly. GTAIII allowed you to briefly, but the controls were messed up and needed lots of improvement. And to all those saying these types of "murder simulators" encourage violence, I've not once told a hilarious anecdote about how I beheaded a guy with a screwdriver. But I'll leave the violence rant for another blog.

Sonic The Hedgehog. (1991, Sega Megadrive, Sonic Team.)

Where would any self respecting games list be without Sonic. Possibly the fist game I ever played, and I've never regretted it. My dad teaching me how to play, and the countless hours that followed is one of the best highlights from my childhood. No violence, barely any story, no character development, but lots and lots of shiny rings. Who knew collecting spinning rings and jumping on small animals so they transformed back into bunnies could shape a childhood. But it did. To this day I still have my Dad's Sega Megadrive, along with the three Sonic games with the Knuckles expansion pack.

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3. (2001, PSX, Activision.)

The game that hooked me into skating games, and possibly one of the early influences of 'Rock' music. Skating, good music, and good challenges. What was not to like? With bands such as Motorhead and The Ramones gracing my ears, I kept going back to play. The range of tricks had a little something to do with it as well. The size and variety of levels has to have an honourable mention, as well as the 'Park Creator' option, which I spent many hours on. Plenty of conversations in school revolved around me and a mate discussing the park we'd created the night before, and the insane combos we'd pulled off. (We weren't the coolest of people.) THPS3 was the final game where the timer was present at all times. This was called classic mode in the later games.

Guitar Hero II. (2006, PS2, Harmonix Music Systems.)

Since coming to uni my love for GH has grown because of my mates. I think it's safe to say I'm addicted. OK, so Guitar Hero III has Rise Against, and Guitar Hero I has Graveyard BBQ, but GHII was the game which made me beg my parents that Christmas for. Just because I played it in a demo booth in Curry's. Shout At The Devil - Motley Crue, who I also saw the following April, because I'd heard this song and fell in love with the band. It hasn't stopped introducing bands and songs to me. The unlockable section is a great feature as unsigned bands get featured in the game, then people like me rejoice since they can 'play' their song. The hammers on's and pull off's had improved much since the last installment of Guitar Hero, which made it a little easier. There's always going to be that argument to "go play real guitar", but when you're having this much fun you don't care. To be fair, real guitar does hurt less though.

Duke Nukem 3D. (1996, PC, 3D Realms.)

Another game introduced by my dad, and the game which brought me into the world of FPS's. 1996, so I was 7. As a 7 year old, seeing mutant pigs with guns is cool. As a 7 year old, controlling the dude that kills them is awesome. I must admit, I had to use cheats to get through most of the game, but that's expected of someone so young, right?
For 1996, some of the graphics were stunning. I'll always remember the space level, I think it was the second one, and just staring out the window into space, or hooking up loads of lasers just to see the explosions.
3D Realms did a great job of enforcing some comedy into the game. Some of the gore was exaggerated, such as shooting a pig and watching them wheeze on the floor, or just some of the quips Duke makes in the game. Well if you're going to make a game about saving the human race and killing pigs you might as well make a few jokes about it.

Hogs Of War. (2000, PSX, Infogrammes Studios.)

Continuing the theme of pigs, Hogs of War was a game I got when I bought my Playstation. It's sort of a Worms clone, in which you control a team of pigs instead. Comedy is a high factor in the game, as the pigs make comments when injured, attacking etc, and Rik Mayall of Bottom and The Young Ones fame popping in to act as the general during multiplayer mode and FMV sequences. For me, it was the Rik Mayall voiceovers that won the game. I loved Bottom and used to play multiplayer against the computer just to hear some of the remarks he made.
The teams in the game represent six nations of the world: England, America, France, Russia, Japan and Germany. Each pig makes comments relevant to their particular stereotype.
Some of the weapons used are typical of the genre, such as bazookas etc, but there are also some new ones, such as the medical dart, which you use to shoot your team-mates to heal them.
With such a range of levels, I never got bored of this game.

Pac-Mania. (1987, Sega Megadrive, Namco.)

Not to be confused with the original Pac-Man, released in 1980 by Namco, Pac-Mania, for me, was the first time I'd come across Pac Man. My mum love the game and introduced me to it. I really should thank her for that. Since then I've bought and been given clothing and other merchandise with the loveable 'hero' decorating it. Originally an arcade game, the aim of the game is to eat all the pellets without touching the ghosts. Sounds easy? You'd be wrong. The difficulty increases each level, and the ghosts get more fearsome. The maps change each level, and grow in size increasing the challenge. It's the ultimate addiction.

Age Of Empires II: The Age Of Kings. (1999, PC, Ensemble Studios.)

Originally downloaded from a demo, I fell in love with the Age of empires franchise, especially the second installation. Some people like the different games for their graphics, the abilities or the settlements. I like it for the sheep.
You could herd sheep at your town centre, and get a shepard to collect food from them. This was a new feature for the second game, which was changed slightly for the third game.
Other, more sane reasons, for liking the game included the random map campaigns. The variety of maps and customisation on each was astounding. If you didn't like any, start from scratch and make your own map. even make your own objectives. Hour, days, even weeks were spent making maps and giving myself crazy advantages. Withing the editor there were also a few troops you couldn't research in the game, such as the Flying Dutchman.
The expansion pack wasn't too bad, as it added yet more maps and settlements for you to try out.

And so ends my list. You may not agree with what has been said, but please remember this has been about what has influenced me as a gamer, not the most successful or most popular game. If you still don't agree, then go write your own blog.

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