Posts Tagged ‘Most Memorable Games’

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (Honourable Mentions)

November 25, 2020

I could just add all the games that I dropped from the list to make room for other games … but I won’t, because most of them wouldn’t really fit here, as the games here tend to be games that could have made the list but had some kind of flaw that kept them off.

Star Trek:  Birth of the Federation:

This is the Star Trek semi-reply to Star Wars:  Rebellion, but while it provides more details on the planets it loses the characters which are what made Rebellion so good.  It’s an obvious thing to do but it — and the franchise, as far as I can tell — never really took advantage of that.  Still, it’s pretty fun to play and its space combat is more interesting — and faster — than Rebellion’s.  It’s just not quite as good as it could be.

Afterlife:

I love the concept and the advisors.  But outside of that it’s a fairly standard strategy game, and one that I’m not particularly good at.

Archon:

I really like the concept of the game — playing chess and fighting over every square — but I can’t play it anymore and even then I could outplay the computer most of the time.

Space 1889:

I really liked the concept of building characters with traits that gave then virtues and vices, but I never managed to get very far in the game.  I’d play it again or the Pen and Paper version if I could find it, but it’s mostly memorable for that element and the Victorian setting than for how much I loved to play it.

Akiba’s Trip:

It actually gives you the ability to determine your own attitude to a degree that most games don’t allow.  However, beyond that it’s still a fairly shallow RPG.

Conception II:

Probably one of the best attempts at a Persona-style game, but it is a bit shallow and the combat is both too shallow and boring and, because of that, a bit too hard and too grindy.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games(1 – 10)

November 18, 2020

10:  City of Heroes

This is the best MMORPG that I’ve ever played, or at least the MMORPG that I liked the best.  As I noted when I talked about Saint’s Row IV, superhero games are my kind of game, and City of Heroes was pretty much the best superhero game period that I’ve played.  While games like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance were fun, they didn’t have the personalization that I like in my games in general.  City of Heroes had it in spades.  A wide range of costume options let you create pretty much any character you wanted, and the classes and powersets were distinct enough that unlike most MMORPGs you could pick up a different class and powerset and feel like you were playing with a different character (this is why I never got into World of Warcraft past a free demo, as when I switched from my Undead Warlock to my Dwarf Paladin it really seemed like I was doing the same things in terms of gameplay and quests, which City of Heroes never felt like).  I tried out DC Universe Online, and while one of the travel powers was fun — the one where you basically climbed over things in the city — it was a bit too chaotic for me in general.  And I never tried Champions Online but from Shamus Young’s description of it  I wouldn’t care much for it either.

I keep hearing about official and unofficial attempts to reboot it, but unfortunately I don’t really have the time to keep up with them and track down the ones that are working and are reasonable legit.  Of all the MMOs I’ve liked, this is the one that died the earliest, and while I was still playing it.

9:  Star Wars:  Rebellion

This is a video game that I liked so much, I bought the board game.  As well as the remake, “Empire At War”.  But neither of them are the same as the original video game.  The game managed to capture the addictive nature of real-time and turn-based strategy games — you were always waiting for something to finish or happen so that you could implement the next step in your plan — while managing to capture the Star Wars universe better than any other game I’ve played — and I’ve played a lot of them — by making individual characters instead of units important resources.  It takes a slate of characters from the movies and expanded universe and gives you the ability to use them to command your fleets, sway planets to your side, research new ships and new ship classes, spy on your enemy, prevent enemy actions against you, and even perform specific missions to capture or kill enemy characters and destroy enemy facilities and ships.  You can even — although I’ve never tried it — sabotage and blow up the Death Star that way.  It had a number of events from the movies, and characters could even be trained in the Force which made them even more useful.  About its only weakness is that it didn’t go all in on the events and make special events a fairly constant part of the game.  Still, the characters matter and are familiar enough that you can feel for them and be happy for their successes.  Missions, then, are not “My spy gave me information about that planet” but are instead “Lando gave me information about that planet”, which makes it at least feel like more than a typical game with Star Wars skins (like, say, Galactic Battlegrounds).  That’s what makes it (almost) my favourite Star Wars game.

8:  Wing Commander IV:  The Price of Freedom

The flight simulator gameplay is good, but to be honest there are better flight sims out there (X-Wing Alliance, for example).  But this game wins out for me and even wins out over the other Wing Commander games because of its story.  Taking place after the Kilrathi war, it explores what attitude changes might come from a war that the humans almost lost and marries that to a story of an old hero who returns to the cockpit and steps into this huge mess.  It has betrayals, shifting loyalties, conspiracies, and all sorts of things like that.  And the best part about it is that it ends not in the cockpit, but in the Senate Hall.  You have to convince them that there is a conspiracy and that the man they trust is behind it.  If you select the wrong options, you can indeed lose the game at this point.  That’s a brave move and perhaps is the best example of marrying the flight sim component with the interactive movie elements that later Wing Commander games are known for.

7:  Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII

This is a strategy RPG where you can create your own character and wander the land until you join a city, and then you get to manage the city, do things, and fight battles.  My best moment was definitely when I created a character that was the son of a character that I had played as, and joined a city that then asked me to essentially betray him — he was in command of a rival city — to gain control of the city.  I ended up refusing to do so and quit their city, but what was interesting about it was that this followed not from scripted events, but just from a series of semi-random events and the overall rules of the world.  In general, that’s what the game really had for me:  an open-world that nevertheless wasn’t too open, and so where I could easily have goals and yet where goals and attitudes and events could follow from what the world provided.  So I was neither imposing a story on the world nor having the world impose a story on me, and that didn’t leave the game goal or purposeless.  The world provided the opportunity for goals and purpose and I chose the goal and purpose I wanted to pursue.  I don’t play it much anymore, but it’s still a great game and has left me with a soft spot for the series (I recently bought XIV while browsing in a store just because I remembered this game).

6:  Hardball 5

This is the only sports game to make the list, and it’s a pretty old one besides.  I think it was missing a lot of features that would be necessary in a sports game for me today — for example, I don’t think it had a proper season format — but it had the one quality that really defined for me what I like in sports games:  when I created my own personalized team and played on the default difficulty, I won pretty much every game, but it was close.  I have never been able to recapture that with any other sports game I’ve played, as it’s either been too easy or far too hard depending on what difficulty I set the game at.  And for some, just moving up to the next highest difficulty moved it from a cakewalk to a game where I was losing pretty much every game.  I know this game wasn’t trying to hit my sweet spot for games, but it managed it nonetheless.

5:  Persona 5

This is the game that everyone knew had to make the list.  After all, this is the game that I compared to Dragon Age:  Inquisition and stated that after finishing it the first time I immediately wanted to replay it, while having no interest in replaying DAI.  But, no, it’s not my favourite Persona game.  I don’t like the characters as much as I like the ones in the other games (although I like Makoto and Futaba is a generally more interesting character than most in the other games).  It feels overstuffed with activities, so I never really felt that I could give them the focus that I wanted to give them.  The new emphasis on solving dungeon puzzles could be annoying when all I wanted to do was get through the dungeon and get back to the Social Links.  For the most part, I really feel like it added too much and became kinda cluttered, especially since it dragged the time to play it out to about 80 hours, which discourages replays.  The fact that I have played it three times and intend to play Royal a couple more times, though, is a testament to how good the game is.

4:  Knights of the Old Republic

This is the first Star Wars RPG, and the best.  It combines the interesting things of the Pen and Paper experiences with what computer RPGs were able to do to give a pretty good Star Wars experience.  Starting in the Old Republic era let them reference things we saw in the movies without worrying about whether they were contradicting anything in them, and gave them the ability to carve out their own story with whatever consequences they wanted it to have, knowing that it would all be swept away by the time we reached the era of A New Hope.  The characters are interesting.  The planets work.  The story works.  It’s really the ideal mix of fanservice and new story that makes it a great Star Wars game.  I replayed it myself not too long ago, and did enjoy my time with it.

3:  Suikoden III

This was the game that started my love of JRPGs.  I loved it from it’s incredibly evocative introduction:

I still listen to that intro every so often.

In addition to that, it had a unique Tri-View system where you could view the same story from the perspective of each of the three main characters for the first part of the game, as well as some other minor characters (and one joke character in the dog).  The first part meant that your view of the story could change depending on which order you watched the story in.  It also gave you time to get to know each of them, which was important because at about the half-way point you ended up having to choose one to become the main character.  On top of that, the game had over 100 other characters to recruit and get to know.  And it had a deep, JRPG-style story, and a bunch of other things to do.  This is the best Suikoden game I’ve played, and I’ve played a number of them.

2:  Persona 4

The Persona series is my favourite game series of all-time.  I like Persona 4’s ease of dungeons better than Persona 3, but like the characters and story a bit less than I like Persona 3.  However, this is the series that at least originally got most of the spinoffs, and so the characters are the ones that are most familiar to me.  I can’t really say more about the series except that I love the S-links, love the humour and find the tactical combat interesting even when it’s on easy mode.

1:  Persona 3

About all I can say here is the story about how I came to stop worrying and love this game and this series.  I remember buying it at one point in the summer, and as sometimes happened with me I didn’t have the time to play it and so it sat I think in a closet for a while.  Then I ended up having a much longer Christmas vacation than normal and came across it, and decided to give it a try.  I loved the game, and ended up one time staying up until 5 am in the morning because I thought that I was almost done with the game (I wasn’t, as it was the fake ending).  And then when I finished the game I did something that I never, ever do with games (or almost anything):  I started playing the game over again immediately.  This started my love affair with the series and pretty much settled the way I play these games.  I have easily put thousands of hours into the Persona series — definitely over 1000 hours — making it also the most cost-effective series I’ve ever played.

So, that’s the list.  Next week are the honourable mentions and then that will do it.

 

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (11 – 20)

November 11, 2020

20:  Disciples 2

This is one of my favourite strategy games.  I’ve actually played some of the campaign but I actually really love to play, as usual for me, a four player hotseat game.  I’ve even managed to actually completely win a couple of times by capturing the capital cities, despite them being guarded by a hugely overwhelming final guardian that you can’t target with magic and that heals up really quickly each round.

My favourite faction to play is the undead, mostly because they have two types of really powerful units.  One type can lock down enemies with paralyzing abilities, and the other are werewolves that are immune to physical attacks.  Take the paralyzing leader with werewolf protection and you can win pretty much any fight as long as they don’t have too many characters that can fight with magic.  The other factions still have some good units, but nothing as good as this, so the undead seem pretty overpowered in that regard.

The biggest issue I have with this game is that the multiplayer maps, at least, are static, and so once you explore the dungeons and kill all the NPC parties, there’s no way to get more XP.  This means that in a multiplayer game once that happens if you lose your most powerful party anything you recruit will just get curbstomped by your enemies, unless you use a lot of magic to kill them off.  This makes the endgame pretty boring and very dependent on the outcome of one or two battles.  But other than that, the game is really, really fun.

19:  Defender of the Crown

I played this original on the Commodore 64, and it was one of if not my first strategy/RPG hybrid game.  And like Aliens and Pirates!, one of the best things about it is that it combines multiple gameplay elements into one game.  You had the strategy map where you had to determine what territories to attack, and then a combat element where you found out what happened when you attacked another army (to be fair, I don’t think there’s much if any actual gameplay there other than retreating).  If you attacked an area with castle, you had the siege gameplay where you were in control of a catapult and needed to make it so that you could attack it (and also to kill some defenders before doing so).  You also had the swordfights, used to raid opponents or rescue a princess for a bride (my version was broken so that doing so would crash the game).  You also had the jousting, which you  could use for game or to gain territory.  I was ultimately really good at all parts of the game and so could pretty much do all of it.

But what was also great about it is that while it didn’t let you build your own character, you got to choose from three characters, each of which were skilled in different ways.  Not only did this allow you to in some sense select your own difficulty level, it also allowed you to feel a personal connection to your character since they were unique.  So it was also a bit more personal than games like Aliens and even Pirates!

The combination of all of these is what made this one of my favourite games ever.  I do have the game from GOG and … have not had the time to play it yet.

18.  Dark Age of Camelot

For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of King Arthur.  The mythical realm that I probably like second best is Norse mythology.  And I have some interest in Celtic myth as well.  So the combination of all three in this game is pretty much tailor-made for me.  And at least when I was playing it, the realms were interestingly divided and had an interesting division of classes that fit well into the various myths.  So, essentially, when I was playing the game I was paying to spend time in some of my favourite mythologies, which is what really made the realms special.  This game was the game that first got me interested in MMORPGs, and for pretty much the only reason I play MMORPGs when, really, I don’t want to associate with people online very much and prefer soloing:  I want to play in that realm and can’t get that in a single player game.

The big problem with this MMORPG for me at the time, though, was that it was a little difficult to solo, mostly because you gained most of your XP through fighting and killing things, which is also always the least interesting part of any MMORPG for me.  So while it’s still running, I kinda drifted away from it to other MMORPGs that have more story to them and less strict combat.  It might be better now, but I don’t have the time to try it out again.

17:  Sentinel Worlds:  Future Magic I

This is far more of a pure RPG, and one of the first sci-fi RPGs I’ve ever played.  And it was really cool.  You started out having to fly your ship around and engage in combat, which is something that you had to do at multiple points in the game.  Then you had to explore ground-based planets and bases and even engage in conversation.  And you could completely customize your starting characters, so again I built it around my friends from high school.  So this game, essentially, hit all of my buttons.

I picked it up for an emulator, I think, and tried playing it, but had forgotten that you don’t actually get to select a class for each character, but instead create a character for each class, which I was ready to do.  I really should try to play this again sometime but — and this is becoming a pattern — I just don’t have the time.

16:  X-Men Legends:  Rise of Apocalypse

This is the sequel to X-Men:  Legends, and is where the gameplay really starts to come together.  It combines the X-Men and the Brotherhood allowing for more combinations of characters, improves the graphics, improves the gameplay, adds some other characters like Deadpool, and builds on a more interesting story in the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline.  All of this together makes it a more interesting game to play, which is why it comes in higher than the first game.  Especially because it has Deadpool in it.

15:  Persona 4 Arena

Persona 4 spawned a host of games, across a number of different genres.  While you can argue — and I probably would — that Persona 3 or Persona 5 are overall better games, this seems to be the one that either broke through gaming consciousness or else is the one that finally made Team Persona realize the franchise had legs.  At any rate, this is the Visual Novel/Fighting Game combo in the vein of — and done in association with — the guys who made the Blazblue games.  And that’s really why it works.

The game combines Persona’s incredible storytelling with Blazblue’s combat and room to have incredible stories.  As someone who doesn’t play fighting games for the fighting but mostly for the story, that made it actually work for me.  The fighting, especially on easy, was simple enough that I could get through it to enjoy the story and the story was fun enough to keep me interested in the game so that I could get past the fighting.  I did pretty much all of the paths — even the joke ones — and did enjoy it.  I think it took me a couple of days when I was on Christmas vacation to it.  And it has a really long VN section that nevertheless keeps you interested and builds to an amazing emotional climax.

I may never play the game in its entirety again, but I certainly don’t regret that I played the game.

14:  Knights of the Old Republic 2:  Sith Lords

As you might expect when talking about a favourite game that I like less than other games in the series, most of what I have to say about this game is actually negative, outlining why I don’t like it as much.  And I can summarize that for this game with this:  the game tried to be too cute.  It was famously unfinished, but there are a number of things added to it that it didn’t really need and might have been able to be cut to finish some other things.  It tried really hard to deconstruct some Star Wars/RPG themes and while sometimes that was interesting, often it didn’t really work.  Being able to turn all of your companions to Jedi was interesting but again probably wasn’t necessary (and involved level-watching to pull off).  The lightsaber forms were interesting but again not necessary.  The Jedi Prestige classes were, again, interesting but again not really necessary.  There’s a lot of things they tried to do but all they did was make things more complicated, and not all that much more interesting.

Also, I hated Kreia as a character and the game kept trying to push her on me as some kind of mentor figure.  None of my characters were ones that would actually listen to her.  My good characters found her too ruthless and uncaring.  My Enlightened Egoist evil characters found her too simplistic in her push for “neutrality”.  My thug evil characters hated her trying to spoil their fun.  None of my characters would ever take her with them off the ship and would want to get rid of her at the first opportunity.  That probably isn’t what they wanted.

Still, for all its flaws, it’s still a KotOR game, and has all the things that made that game interesting.  I tried to replay it recently, though, from a GOG version and got bored at the first space station (after the intro) and so that’s a pretty good reason to think it not as good as the original.

13:  Dragon Age Origins

This game didn’t make the list last time.  And, truthfully, I hadn’t finished it at that point, which is a pretty big part of the reason why it didn’t make the list last time and this time it ended up pretty high on the list.

The biggest benefit this game has is one that doesn’t appear in pretty much any of the other Bioware games:  the detailed and separate origin stories.  You get to choose what your race is, and from that you generally can choose an origin — like Human or Dwarf Noble or City or Dalish Elf — that changes where you start and, essentially, how you come to join the Wardens.  That ability to change your origin gives the game some replay value (I’ve played a mage, City Elf, Dalish Elf, and Dwarf Noble and think I’ve finished the game with each.  I might be mistaken about mage).  But that’s not really what makes the origins so special.

What makes them so special is that the world reacts to them.  You end up having to go to pretty much all of the places that had an origin and choosing a specific origin changes how people react to you.  It’s more than the — admittedly often impactful — feeling that you’ve come home.  No, the characters there react to your origin, being more friendly or often less friendly to you because of it.  But that’s not all.  You often run into characters from the origins in different parts of the world.  Jowan, for example, appears in the mage origin story and plays an important role in the overall plot.  The Dwarven Noble can meet his retainer in the main city and buy things from him at a reduced price.  So not only do you get big things, but little things as well.

Truthfully, it’s the little things that make Dragon Age Origins so good.  Yes, you get to see what impact your choices had on everyone and on the army you make, but those little moments from the origins and the little impacts from even the small quests are what make it feel like a world and not just a game.  This even carries on with companion affection and even when they might leave you.  The events seem to follow naturally from what you’ve done, and aren’t presented as gotchas or as simple failures.  So with its replay value and with those little moments, it’s one of my favourite games.

But I still don’t care for the gameplay that much.  Dragon Age 2’s gameplay, as a rogue, is so much more fun.

12:  Shadow Hearts

The original game with Yuri Hyuga, and the one that really sets the tone for the series, continuing on with Shadow Hearts Covenant.  It also introduced the unique Ring system where instead of just selecting an action and letting statistics decide what happens you instead have the additional step of having to hit sections of a ring to decide if it even has a chance of hitting.  While this sounds like it would be really, really annoying, it actually works well to give you something to do other than to just select an attack, and it throws you a bone by making it so that if you can hit the critical sections you get a bonus to your action, which gives you a reason to try to master the system instead of just playing it safe.  This also allows for the game to add ring statuses which can make things harder or easier for you, adding a new set of problems that you might want to solve, and a new set of items that can deal with just those sorts of problems.

I also like the characters better in the Shadow Hearts than in Covenant.  Outside of Yuri and Karin, the characters in Covenant are much goofier than they were in Shadow Hearts, while still allowing plenty of room for humour.  I like the more serious but still funny characters better than the ones that are just plain goofy.  In fact, the worlds are pretty much that way:  Covenant is more goofy while Shadow Hearts is more serious but still funny.  Ultimately, I think From the New World failed to grab me because it went even further down the goofy route which left me no characters to relate to.

Overall, Shadow Hearts was one of the first RPGs I managed to finish and was well worth the effort.

11:  Fatal Frame

This is another early game that I miraculously managed to finish.  It’s also the game that first got me interested in survival horror but the only survival horror game that actually grabbed me.  The claustrophobic atmosphere of the mansion is lost in Fatal Frame 2, and so it loses some of the fear that the first game managed to inspire.  But the big thing that made the game scary was the sound.  At various times the game used music (subtle) and other noises to provide a background creepiness that it was difficult to describe.  As you walked around the mansion, the various noises kept up that undertone of fear, even when nothing was happening.

This game also used a unique mechanism that helped with the fear, by taking away the myriad weapons that most survival horror games give you and replacing them with … a camera.  While that was certainly novel, it was also interesting because it meant that you had to drop into first-person mode to try to attack.  This forced you to hold ghosts in your viewfinder longer for stronger attacks, but also caused a feeling of panic when they jigged out of your sights and you had to desperately figure out where they went, often having to put the camera down and return to third-person view to figure it out.  This made things more scary and also a bit more skilled.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (21 – 30)

November 4, 2020

30:  Turrican

What was really great about this platformer was not the weapons, although the upgradable — by collecting the weapon again — scattershot and laser weapons were kinda cool.  The music was good, but again not what made it great.  And the platforming in general was fun — although rather difficult at the end as there the platforming was entirely vertical making it difficult to hit the higher platforms and hard to recover if you missed — but, again, not what made it great.  No, what made it great was the special weapon that you got right from the start:  the lightning.  Stand still and hold the button down, and you generated a stream of lightning that you could guide around with the joystick.  It was pretty powerful and could be guided to constantly attack bosses.  But you couldn’t move while generating it, so you wouldn’t make progress — and the game was timed — and you couldn’t dodge attacks from the boss.  I vaguely remember one boss where I could sit in a little gap in a wall and I think us it and/or the laser to hit the boss without taking too much damage.

Unfortunately, the game didn’t have a way to save, and so you had to start over if you ran out of lives.  One day a friend and I made it pretty deep into the game, but he had to go home — it was after midnight at that point and his parents were actually wondering where he was — and I had to go to sleep.  I never got back there again.

29:  Curse of the Azure Bonds

This was the first Gold Box game I ever played.  This was also, thus, the first game that I played that had the “create all the characters in your party” gameplay.  I didn’t know anything about D&D at the time, and so didn’t understand any of the world or the magic system or anything like that.  But I liked the story and liked the ability to put my own characters — again, usually my friends — into it.  Ultimately, this started my interest in the Gold Box games, in D&D, and in CRPGs.  Again, I never managed to finish this game (the only Gold Box game I never finished was “Gateway to the Savage Frontier”, using the “have one character run off the screen while being chased by a horde of enemies but which somehow is an automatic win” strategy).  I have it from GOG and on a C64 emulator, but have never really gotten back to it, probably because I keep starting with “Pool of Radiance” first. 

28:  Star Trek (Arcade)

When I was a kid, I would go stay with my grandparents for a week or so in the summer (probably not coincidentally right around the time of my parents’ anniversary).  The town they were in had two big advantages over mine.  First, they had access to cable, so while there I’d get to watch some cartoons and especially game shows that I couldn’t watch at home.  And second, they had an arcade, which I spent a lot of time at.  This is where I first played the wireframe Star Wars game, and where I played this Star Trek game.

The game wasn’t really Star Trek per se, although it did have an intro from Spock — he would say “Welcome aboard, Captain” and I’d reply with “Thank you”, in an arcade with other people around — and featured the Enterprise, Klingon ships, and starbases.  But it was an action game, similar to the “Kobayashi Maru”, although each level was at least techincally winnable.  You essentially piloted the Enterprise around the sector, attacking Klingon ships and docking at starbases to replenish your torpedoes and repair damage.  If you cleared out all the Klingons without dying, you won and moved on to the next level.  The game had a scanner on the top of the screen that showed where everything was and a first-person viewscreen view on the bottom, but I actually only used the scanner section and it was actually late in my playing of this game that I realized the first-person viewscreen was even there.

This is another one of those games that I get reminded of every so often and wish I could play it.

27:  Mass Effect

A friend of mine introduced me to the series by saying that it was like “Babylon 5”, one of my favourite TV shows.  At the time, you couldn’t get Mass Effect — the original game — anymore, so I picked up Mass Effect 2 for the PC.  I played through the first mission, and then never played it afterwards (I do that a bit with games he recommends, like with “The Witcher 2”, although I really do like that soundtrack).  A while later, the collected trilogy came out for the PS3, and I thought I’d give it a try.  I was then able to play the first game, and so started there.  And I really liked it.  It’s my favourite game in the series.

Only part of that is due to the story.  I think it does have a better story than the other two that works better and does a better job of doing what it’s supposed to do, but in reality it’s the gameplay that really makes this one my favourite.  While the Mako annoyed me at times — mostly because the waypoints kept pointing me to things that I couldn’t get to the way I was going, so I’d get lost and also bounce around a lot — it was far superior a method of planetary exploration than what we got in 2 or 3.  But the big difference is with the guns.  Unlike, it seems, most people, I far preferred the infinite ammo with cooldown model to the heat sink model.  The main reason for this was that my aim in games like that is … not good.  So it was a real help to me to be able to blast away in the general area and simply have to hide somewhere if I missed too much until the gun cooled down.  Because of that, I used the pistol pretty much throughout the entire game and wasn’t incredibly annoyed by the combat.

26:  Saint’s Row IV

When I finally got around to playing “Saint’s Row the Third”, I found it to be a decent game that was probably bit too much of an FPS for me.  I liked the driving parts and so quite enjoyed running out to a place to attack a gang, generating threat, finishing them off, and then running back to the hideout while being chased.  So I spent most of my time simply wandering around the city, and found that I didn’t care that much for the story sections.  Again, the game was pretty much an FPS and FPSes are not my type of games.

“Saint’s Row IV”, on the other hand, is a superhero game.  And superhero games are indeed my sort of game.  I loved using the Super Jump to bounce around the city.  I also loved the tower missions where you had to climb to the top of the tower.  Unlike with “The Third”, I pretty much only ever got in the car to trigger the radio before hopping out and jumping all around the city.  The Mass Effect references were also kinda neat, although I wish they’d done more with the romances.  The humour worked most of the time — which is pretty much in line with how “The Third” worked as well — and so that added to the fun.  Additionally, even though it was a bit of a love letter to the entire rest of the series, it explained things well enough so that I wasn’t lost.  Again, this is another game that justifies my giving games in a series their own entries, as I like this one a lot better than I liked “Saint’s Row the Third”.

25:  Pirates!

I didn’t get to customize this one as much as other games that I loved, but it was ideal as an early open world game.  Pick a country and go around capturing ships, wooing Governor’s daughters, raiding settlements, and all sorts of other things.  I actually got to be incredibly good at swordfighting and so often managed to go into fights horribly outnumbered but able to win the swordfight to lower the morale of the opponents to get them to surrender to me.  I’m not really a fan of open world games — no matter how many of them you might find on this list — but this one was one that I could get into, mostly because it was less “open world to explore” and more “adopt a role and explore that”.

I have at least one of the sequels (for PSP I believe) and everything they have for that on GOG.  Again, I haven’t gotten around to playing any of it, though.

24:  Majesty

This is a game that shows that coming up with an interesting concept that suggests interesting gameplay can make for a game that stands out from the rest of the crowd in its genre (“Afterlife” is another example).  It could have been a basic real-time strategy game based on the idea that you were a ruler trying to accomplish certain things and you could hire various forces to do that.  But the game instead tied itself tightly to traditional fantasy tropes, and then made the brilliant move of giving the units basic autonomy.  So instead of simply sending out forces to deal with things, you had to recruit them and then provide them with incentives to do what you wanted them to.  And you couldn’t decide when they went to do those things, which means that they could get themselves overwhelmed and thus killed.  Of course, the more things they did successfully the more experience they got and so the more powerful they would be.  And if you paid them to accomplish things they’d be able to buy better items and so be even better.  In short, it took the standard tropes from similar strategy games and put them in the hands of the AI instead of the player, and the player then had to guide them to the right thing instead of simply telling them what to do.

Of course, this could get annoying if their priorities didn’t align with yours or if they acted stupidly.  I recall being in a situation where due to some of my mismanagement and some of theirs I couldn’t do anything because I had no one to fight off the monsters and trying to recruit someone just got them killed.  But I remember this as being surprisingly rare, and more than made up for by the charm and uniqueness of the game.

23:  X-Men Legends

The first game in the Legends series that eventually became the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series.  This game didn’t have the plethora of playable characters or unlockables of the other games, nor was its story as deep or engaging.  Still, it was an excellent start to this sort of series.  Essentially, the gameplay had you take up a team of four X-Men where you controlled one at a time, and then wander through various environments with action-based gameplay.  You also picked up disks and the like that let you run different scenarios in the Danger Room.  As you went along, you recruited other X-Men providing more choices and different combinations, and you also gained XP that let you add new abilities or enhance existing ones for each of your characters.  You also found equipment that would enhance your characters and their abilities, some of which was unique to that character.

The story was essentially a retelling of Kitty Pryde’s story, recasting it with Magma because Kitty’s abilities wouldn’t work at all in this game.  It actually works pretty well and does a good job of moving you from place to place in a way that makes sense.  The game lacks the endings where you had to make choices in the game and it tells you what each choice meant, but the story itself is still interesting enough to carry it through.

For the longest time, I didn’t manage to finish this game, but eventually I managed it by spamming Nightcrawler, I think.

22:  Shadow Hearts Covenant

I didn’t finish this game the first time I tried to play it, mostly because it’s actually a pretty long game.  I made it to Japan, I think, the first time and then, as per usual, got distracted by something else.  Eventually, though, I did finish the game and got to see the ending.

For the most part, this game seems to form a time loop with the original Shadow Hearts, as if you get the true ending it ends with Yuri seeming to start over at the train station about to get on the train that starts the story of Shadow Hearts.  The assumed progression is that in reality you get the bad ending of Shadow Hearts — Alice dies — and then as you go through Covenant you end up in a sort of wish chamber, which sends Karin back to become the main character Yuri’s mother and so ultimately to provide the death that spurs Yuri on, and then presumably Yuri back to redo Shadow Hearts and this time get the good ending (which you could get by something something pretty pedantic in the first game that you probably wouldn’t guess without a walkthrough).

The game is a good one.  The main character is still interesting, and the story has more depth to it than you might expect from that sort of JRPG, including taking the interesting tack of basing the best ending, perhaps, on a dramatic failure.  Karin Koenig is number 9 on my list of my favourite female characters.  The first game was hilarious and the second game manages to pull that off as well, despite sticking to a fairly dark story.  I didn’t care for “From the New World”, but while I didn’t like this one quite as much as the original, it’s still one of my favourite games.

21:  Wizardry 8

The main reason I love this game so much is because it more than any other game allows me to essentially import a set of characters from other media and build relatively reasonable facsimiles in this world.  Part of the reason for that is that it has probably the widest set of character classes out of any game that I’ve played, unless you can create your own custom class (like in the Elder Scrolls games).  So if you want a warrior type with some kind of magic, you actually have a number of options, and if you want a more pure magic user you have a number of options.  So it’s pretty easy to find a set of classes that work for pretty much any personality that you might want.  The second reason is that the game also provides you with a rather large set of voices to choose from, and the voices are divided up not based on voices, but based entirely on personalities.  This is important, because it not only gives you a voice that might sound right, but also a personality that might fit the character.  And since there are a number of them, it’s pretty easy to find a personality that works for almost any character.

I’ve done the Order of the Stick.  I’ve done Angel.  I’ve done Pretty Little Liars.  And a number of others that I can’t recall right now.

This however, is the game that distracts me with itself, where I will fairly often stop playing one game and start over with a new party.  The first reason for this is the above-mentioned customizability:  I’ll watch something and think that it would be cool to play as them, and so start over.  The second reason, though, is the same reason that I’ve never finished the game:  as you go on, the tactical turn-based combat is both overly frequent and overly involved.  So instead of interacting with characters — which is also really fun — I end up doing a lot more combat and having that take longer, which I don’t really enjoy.  The combat is less involved at the beginning, and so the beginning is often a bit more fun.

So, I’ll probably never finish it, but I will quite likely play it again.  And bug a friend to play it, as it turns out.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (31 – 40)

October 28, 2020

40:  Missing:  Since January

This game was also known as In Memoriam outside of North America.  What was interesting about this game was that it was what is called an “alternate reality game”, where the game attempted to blur the line between the game and reality itself.  It mostly did this through things like websites that you could look up in your research, but the most interesting part was that on installing the game it would ask for a hook into your E-mail system and during the game at various times it would send E-mails to you giving you certain information.  The most memorable one for me was actually a three-way E-mail chain where one of the participants was “introduced” to the other and said that it was nice to meet them.  While it wasn’t going to fool me into thinking that it was reality, that reflected a pretty fair amount of attention to detail that made the game more immersive.

The subject matter was pretty dark, as the premise is that the police are releasing a CD of puzzles related to the disappearance of two people by a shadowy figure, with the references and puzzles being decidedly creepy and even a bit supernatural.  I seem to recall playing it at around the same time as I was watching “Murder in Small Town X”, and the similar atmospheres probably helped them feed off of each other. 

I came into it a bit late and some of the sites and the like had disappeared, but a FAQ helped me get around that.  Still, I never finished it and even though I bought the sequel I never played that one.  That being said, I remember this game quite a bit and often wish that I could find a game like it out there, or could actually play it and maybe finish it.

39:  Age of Wonders 2

For those who know me, there’s probably only one thing I need to say about this game:  it has Hot Seat multiplayer.  Yes, this is another game that I played against myself, looking more for the story than for the actual strategic competition.  Basically taking the standard fantasy races, the game involves some spells, some gods, some bonuses from gods, and some units and throws them all at each other in a fairly decent strategy game.  Balance, however, wasn’t necessarily its strong suit, as some abilities might have been overpowered at times (I can’t remember if the overpowered Death Knights were in this game or only in the previous one).  Still, the series overall provided me with a decent sandbox to play around in, and the fact that it came with a scenario builder only added to the fun.  I never did get around to playing the campaigns.

The first time around, this one was ranked ahead of the first one.  On reflection, I like the first one better because it was simpler and had less moving parts.  This one got a little bit complicated at times for what benefits the extra complexity gave you, which made it a bit more difficult to just jump into and play.

38:  Age of Wonders

So despite promising to say more about these games this time around … there’s not much more to say about this game than was covered in the previous segment.  This was for me the game that really got Age of Wonders in my head and now with the games being out on GOG I’ve pretty much picked them all up, even if I haven’t found the time to play them all yet, and I don’t have the very latest yet because it’s more of a sci-fi setting.  I liked the charm of the fantasy setting for this game and have some other games to play if I want sci-fi, so it will need to go on sale before I’ll even consider picking it up.  Still, the only reason I’m even considering that game is because of my love of the series, and that can all be traced back to the hours I spent playing this game against myself.

37:  Lord of the Rings:  The Third Age

There are other games set in the Lord of the Rings universe, and even board games set in that universe (War of the Ring is the one I’ve played the most) but this is the only game that I’ve ever really played and gotten into.  As proof, I have actually finished this game to the end.  In fact, I’ve finished it twice.  That puts it in the rarefied company of the Persona games, Shadow Hearts and KotOR/Sith Lords.

Part of the reason I liked it is that unlike many other fans of the novels/movies I love works that focus on other characters and try to fit them into the existing structure, which is also one of the reasons I love “I, Jedi”.  Shamus Young talks about them this way:

Throughout the game, there have been two plot threads: One is personal to Travis, where he lets a few of his skeletons out of his closet and gets to know them. The second is the plot where Travis is gathering up these mysterious magical gnib-nabs for the spooky little girl. The former is just tacked on – Travis is sort of working out his issues by running into his past by accident. The latter is a largish retcon where the writers are trying to add a new character and new events to the origin of Silent Hill.

The Half-Life games did this same thing prior to Half-Life 2. There were several expansion packs to the original Half-Life, but since the main story was self-contained the writers didn’t have room to add anything new for Gordon Freeman to do. So instead they grafted all these other characters onto the game. You play as a security guard, some scientist colleagues of Dr. Freeman, a soldier, the guy who delivered pizzas to Black Mesa, Dr. Freeman’s pool boy, etc. These add-on stories had to be written in such a way that their protagonists did things which ran concurrent with the events of original game. In short, nothing new could happen. We could only learn more about peripheral events. Pretty soon it gets pretty hard to justifiably cram in new characters who don’t conflict with any of the others.

This isn’t storytelling. It’s adding cruft to the plot.

But when done even remotely well, I really like them.  They can add things to the existing plot and cover up potential plot holes.  And in fact one of the things that I most admire about them is how they have to add drama and tension to the plot while not contradicting what happened originally, and ideally while adding explanations and details that can add to the original work.  So I’m pretty much always interested in works that try to do that, which is why I bought this one in the first place.

The worst part of it is the gameplay, mostly the fact that you have to use skills to advance them but your skill use is limited by skill points that you can only refresh at certain points in the game and particularly when you hit a save point.  I hate that sort of gameplay because you get torn between having to use your skills and wanting to save them for when you really need them.  It also let you swap characters in and out of your party during a fight and the ones that you didn’t use still got half XP, but ultimately if you focused on a couple of characters — and the lead Gondorian and the elf maiden were two that you probably wanted to focus on — the others ended up too far behind to matter, and the Rohan maiden starts too low in level to survive the fights making it really, really hard to level her up.  Still, I was saved by the fact that save points restore all HP and SP and so if I was worried about that tracking back to a save point was always an option.  As I said, I managed to finish it twice, so I was actually able to overcome the gameplay issues, which is more than I can say for some games with better gameplay.  And better stories too, for that matter.

36:  The Old Republic

I’ve started two Diaries on this around the characters I’ve built that I’ve never finished.  I’ve commented before that this game might spoil me for all other games.  And to that end, right now this is the only game that I have on my schedule and so may be the only game I play for the next few months.  It’s not my favourite MMO, but it’s the one that even when City of Heroes was up and running and when I had Dark Age of Camelot that I could play the easiest.  And that’s only gotten easier with the new changes where with Rest XP, the 25% Bonus XP and what they normally give I can generally only do the planet and story missions and get enough levels to get me through the game.

That’s really the big benefit of the game for me.  The class stories are different so each class is a new story, and with eight of them by the time I finish them all I’ve forgotten the details and so the stories seem fresh again.  By switching between the Republic and Empire with each character, the planet stories also seem fresh, or at least don’t seem stale.  The gameplay is nothing exciting, but is at least simple enough that it doesn’t annoy or frustrate me, and while the combat can get boring mostly due to its sheer frequency, it’s not enough to bore me out of the game.  It’s the MMO I’ve played the most, despite my liking at least two better.  And it’s the only MMO that I’m still playing.

35:  Icewind Dale

Of the Bioware Forgotten Realms games, this is the only one that I can unequivocally say that I like.  Icewind Dale 2 appeals to me sometimes because it has more classes and more varied ones so making characters is easier and more interesting, but I really dislike how it makes level 1 characters commandos able to assault enemy encampments.  Icewind Dale sets you up as adventurers who are meant to be the minor part of a larger expedition, there to help and gain some experience, who end up thrust into larger issues by virtue of being the ones lucky or destined enough to survive.  And while the story can be a bit thin at times, I’ve enjoyed it far more than any of the Baldur’s Gate games or even Neverwinter Nights.  It helps that it lets me create a party all of my own creation, since that’s something that I have a hard time resisting.

Still, I never finished it, getting bogged down in various places over the various times I’ve played it.  This, of course, isn’t exactly odd for me, as it’s only been over the past couple of years that at least nominally “finishing” a game has been a priority for me.  I’d sit down and try to finish it again sometime but I have way too many games to play right now and not enough time to play them.  Still, I do keep considering it now and then.

34:  Lost Dimension

This was a game that left me wanting more.  Still, I did manage to finish it, three times, which is a huge plus for me.  I liked the traitor mechanism, and liked that the missions were simple enough — and enough carried over on a New Game+ — that replaying it was fairly simple.  Being able to mix and match powers on different characters was also cool.  Bonding with someone and then having them reveal as a traitor was heart wrenching.  The story behind everything had its hiccups, but worked pretty well and probably better than the equally dimension hopping Nonary Games.  Ultimately, it was a bit of a mix between the Personas and a standard visual novel, and while it’s not a Persona game it all came together pretty well.  I’d certainly buy and play a sequel, which is more than I can say for some games.

It’s also a game that I used as an example of innovative companion usage, precisely because of the traitor mechanism.  In gameplay, it’s you investing development time in characters that might be traitors.  While you can get back that investment if you have to erase them, relying on them makes it more difficult to get the others to vote them out as traitors.  In story, having to convince the others to vote them out makes for a more democratized experience, and having to erase characters that you’ve bonded with allows for more emotional depth to relationships and to those scenes than you could get otherwise.  And it’s all on you.  You’re the one who ultimately has to decide who are traitors and who aren’t, and who you bond with and who you don’t.  Without that traitor mechanism and pushing the boundaries of co-operative parties, none of that happens.

33:  Dragon Age 2

When I first played this game, I didn’t care for it that much, other than finding the question mechanism addictive.  When I replayed it, I enjoyed it a lot more.  Part of that was because I was playing it to analyze it and so had to pay attention to it.  So no playing while watching or listening to TV, which meant that I had to immerse myself in what the game itself was doing and saying.  And the second was realizing that the game was a tragedy, which let me appreciate it for what it really was and not as just a sequel to Dragon Age:  Origins setting up for Dragon Age:  Inquisition.

Yes, you can’t really solve the problems of Kirkwall.  But things would certainly have been worse without you.  You keep things in check longer and even manage to save some people who would otherwise have died.  You are supposed to fail.  The Templar/Mage conflict will happen.  But while you don’t get to choose your career you can choose at least roughly what will happen to at least some important things.  And while the companions aren’t classic, they do react to you and as they’d expect, as even the ones who don’t want to side with the side you end up siding with can be convinced to do so either by loyalty to you or by arguments.  It’s not perfect, and it can be buggy — my PS3 version seems more stable than, say, Chuck Sonnenberg’s versions — but it’s better than I thought it was at first.

32:  The Sims

I do love life simulators, which is pretty much why I like the Social Link aspects of the Personas the most out of everything.  This was one of if not the first games that provided me with that experience (I think the first one was an actual dating sim), and is still probably the only one that I’ve actually gotten into.  I’ve played other Sims games, but none of them really captured my attention like this one did.

Of course, for me I wasn’t really playing it as a strategy game.  As is my wont, I was playing it as a way to generate stories and so kinda liked the free will elements combined with my being able to have control myself.  Sadly, I was never really able to play it long enough to build up any really memorable stories, but the little I did do were interesting enough.  I probably would have liked more control over the initial set-up — you know, with some sort of cheats perhaps to tweak things exactly they way I wanted them to be in the neighbourhood — especially since the progressions — especially on the career tracks — were long enough to be annoying and got in the way of building a good story.   Still, I remember it fondly and again this is a game that I consider playing again at various times.

31:  Infiltrator

You know, I don’t think games today can capture the simply multi-component gameplay that old games managed to do (see also:  Pirates!).  Each element here was simple yet logically related:  fly your helicopter to the site in a simple flight combat simulator, infiltrate the site using various tools, get what you need, and fly out.  It provides variety in terms of gameplay and tools while still being simple enough that you know what you’re doing at all points.  Today, many such games I think would want to make each component deep enough for those who would like it, leaving almost every potential customer confused and struggling in at least one of those components, or else would clearly favour one over the others leaving fans of that component bored.  Infiltrator does not pretend to be anything more than it is, and I loved it for it.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (41 – 50)

October 21, 2020

So, let’s start this all of with numbers 41 – 50:

50:  Summer Games/Summer Games II

I forgot about this game (games?) the last time around, but was reminded of it when I picked up a bunch of old classic console thingies.  Getting those games was indeed one of the big drivers behind getting the C64 console, since I knew that at least I’d want to play the various Epyx games again, and this one in particular.

The Epyx games are probably the best of the various games that tried to emulate the Olympics.  Summer Games and Winter Games are the ones that did that explicitly, while other games like World Games and California Games built on the model to allow for games that you wouldn’t see in the Olympics.  The basic idea, of course, is to have a number of competitors — that were usually intended to map to players — compete in a number of events.  If you competed in one event, the winner was awarded the gold medal, second place the silver, and the third the bronze.  If you did more than one, then it totaled medals across all events and the person with the highest “score” (golds counted for more than silvers which counted for more than bronzes) was declared the overall winner.  The events used a variety of mechanisms, some of which were harder on joysticks than others (the 100m dash, for instance, required rapidly waggling the joystick, while skeet shooting was obviously far more restrained).

Of course, this was one of the first games where I played on my own by creating multiple players using the names of my friends.  You would have thought that since I was pretty much as good as myself in all events that this would result in a lot of ties, but the race events and even gymnastics had me often enough not get things quite the same so that the scores didn’t quite work out.  The only one that I recall being terrible for that was skeet shooting, where whomever missed one skeet pretty much didn’t get a medal in that event.  Still, again, my performance tended to be just inconsistent enough that not everyone got the gold in every event, making for some close competitions for the overall title … and no, the one on top wasn’t always or even usually the character named for myself [grin].

Summer Games II includes all the Summer Games games as well as some new ones, but the original is the one I played the most.  It’s the only one that makes the list because I never really had the other games to play either, and when I did play them the classic events tended to be more fun.

49:  Saint’s Row the Third

This was one of the games that I managed to finally get around to playing and finishing this year in the afternoons/evenings after “work”.  The best thing about the game was that it worked wonderfully in that role, and I haven’t found anything close to it (and IV) since.  Whether this would make the list or end up in my honourable mentions was debatable, though, because I liked parts of it and disliked parts of it.

This game, for those who don’t know it, is basically the type of open-world gangster game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto (which I’ve never played).  You get to insanely customize a character known as “The Boss” and then you step into a world where you can do lots and lots of things, and also where you have to go through some sort of story as well to end the game.  Unlike Grand Theft Auto, the game doesn’t take itself at all seriously, even in the story sections.  “The Boss” is pretty much a psychopath using violence to solve their problems, and all of their companions are pretty much the same.  This, then, makes the over-the-top violence more tolerable as we aren’t supposed to be thinking that this stuff is the way the world works or wondering if these people are heroes or villains.  They’re the people you play as to get to do the funny things in the world.  That’s it.

I really liked the driving part of this game.  I enjoyed running out to buy a store or do a quick mission or two and then running back to the hideout to dodge the gangs or police — or both — that I had offended.  The open world missions tended to be fun and easy to manage.  On the other hand, the story missions tended to involve, well, things that you’d normally see in games like this, and I’m not a fan of games like this, so the multi-stage protect missions tended to annoy me and I tended to, at least at times, not easily see the tricks to beat them.  So the game ended up being a mixed bag.

Still, driving around the city listening to my mix tape was really fun.

48:  Aliens

I was reminded of this game after watching the movies again.  I think I might have survived the game once or twice, but what really struck me about the game when I remembered it and why it makes the list now is because of its structure.  It has a really strong structure for a movie tie-in, especially one like “Aliens”, as it divides the game up into multiple sections that each represent some of the more interesting moments in the game.  It doesn’t simply ape the movie sections, but instead builds out different gameplays that you could say are “inspired” by the movie scenes so that you both get to explicitly play in the movie’s context while not being forced into crappy gameplay because the movie section doesn’t really fit into what the game wants.  So you get varied gameplay and yet get the scenes from the movie as well as a strong reference point (the James Bond tie-in “A View to a Kill” did the same thing, but I didn’t care for that one as much).

Also, the music they had while you were trying to bring the dropship down for a landing on the planet was really cool.

47:  Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

I picked up “The Nonary Games” in general because I liked the idea of an escape room video game.  “Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors” was the first game in the series, and so the first one that I played.  It mixes visual novel style conversations and choices with escape room sections, which I guess means that I have to say that there are visual novels that I like.  There are, of course, two main issues that I have with visual novels, which are that often they have limited interactivity (and so all I’m doing is reading, which I can do without having to have a game for that) or that the gameplay elements are poor and uninteresting.  The escape room elements are pretty fun in this game, and while the story sections can drag the story and characters are usually interesting enough to get me through it.  I also really like the multiple endings and the fact that you need to hit bad endings in order to get the good endings, so it encourages you to replay the game — and thus do the rooms that you skipped the last time — in order to get the full story.  So going back to do the rooms that you missed the first time isn’t something you do just to do it, but you get rewarded by finding out more of the story in doing so.  So if you like the story and like the escape rooms, you have more than enough reason to go and replay it.

Of course, without the ability to hop to the key choices in rooms you’ve already done — which is how the game worked originally — this wouldn’t work, as you’d have to do all the escapes that you’ve already solved just to advance the story, which would be boring, and also have to see all the story elements you’ve already seen.  But revamped as it was, it really worked for me, which is why it made the list.

46:  Virtue’s Last Reward

I, uh, already talked about the game series, didn’t I?  So there isn’t much to say about this game other than to link to where I played it, I guess?

Well, no, there’s a reason this game came out ahead of 999, and it’s because this one has more philosophical implications.  999 had everyone trying to work together to escape, with competing agendas and personalities potentially leading to deaths and foiling that.  It introduced a section where they believed that only some of them could escape that raised some tension, but that was the standard tension that you’d see in, say, a suspense or horror movie with that premise.  Virtue’s Last Reward based the main story choices on a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation, and had the characters debate what the right approach was.  This is what led to my musing on how it really should work and pointing out the issues with assuming that betrayal is the rational move in that position, and probably contributed to my position — that, to be fair, I was already pretty much ascribing to — that the major Game Theory problems result from us not considering what the other person will do when considering what the rational move is, which is itself irrational.  It also, of course, continued on with notions of a deadly virus and multiple worlds, elevating its story — like 999 — above simple and basic premises like you’d see in most games of its type.

Also, the lagomorph is both annoying and compelling.

45:  M1 Tank Platoon

This is the one game to survive from the bottom of the first round, and really was the game that made me think that redoing the list would make more sense than simply adding in the new games where I thought they’d fit.  This was a game where, again, I could add characters as my friends.  But they could also get killed, adding a different emotional element to it.  It also was pretty interesting without being overly complicated. 

You basically ran a platoon of tanks trying to defend against a Soviet conventional assault on Europe.  You always had your four tanks, but you often got other elements like artillery and recon helicopters that you needed to use to their fullest advantage to win the section.  If you won enough, you’d blunt the Soviet attack and push them back and essentially win the non-nuclear WWIII.  It had personalization, strategy and history.  For someone like me, that’s an irresistible combination.

44:  X-Wing Alliance

As I said when I talked about this the last time, this is the only game of the X-Wing series that made the cut.  I could have added X-Wing, Tie Fighter, or X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter here as I played all of those, but this game gets the nod for very similar reasons to M1 Tank Platoon:  you can argue that the other games had better aspects, but this game had the combination of aspects that most appeal to me personally.

First, there’s the main story, which ties into the movies and ends — although I never got there — with the attack on Death Star II.  You could easily argue that Tie Fighter’s story that for what could have been the first time focused, at least initially, on the Empire was a better story, and I know that many have and will.  But Alliance’s story mode is still as interesting as any in the series, and the events tie into the missions fairly well.  So even if other games in the series did it better, it’s still pretty good and suffices for people who want that.

Second, there’s the personal story, where you run smuggling missions and deal with the issues around your family.  This doesn’t really exist in any of the other games, and again provides a more personal element to the story than you’d have otherwise.  It’s not really personalization, but it does provide a story that shows that the main character is a person, and not just someone piloting an X-Wing.

And finally, and probably most importantly for me, it has a wonderful simulator, where you can set-up a scenario and play through it to see what happens.  None of the other games have anything like this, and I almost certainly played with the simulator more than I played with anything else in the rest of the series.  When I think about this game, what I miss is the simulator, not so much the story missions.

So, it has a good Star Wars related story, a good personal story, and a great simulator.  For someone like me, you can’t get much better than that.

43:  Fatal Frame 2

As I noted last time, this is the game that justifies my not adding games by series, as I liked it, just not as much as I liked the original Fatal Frame (and Fatal Frame 3 didn’t make the list).  I also never managed to finish it, unlike Fatal Frame.

The basic idea of a horror game where you don’t get to use a lot of weapons but instead have one — a camera — is still good.  The twin idea isn’t a bad one, although Mayu can be a bit annoying at times and having someone else on hand can make things a bit less scary (until Mayu goes nuts, I suppose).  But it does seem to lose something moving to a village rather than one house, and the worst part is that they take the camera away from you at one point and expect you to carry on, which is the part where I stopped playing the game.  That’s pretty much a Clocktower 3 section, but wasn’t what I was interested in at the point.  I still have these games and still have some PS2 consoles and so perhaps I could play it and finish it, but it’s not looking promising.

42:  Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Yes, there is a new version of this out for the Switch.  Yes, I was considering buying one for this and a few other games.  No, I haven’t done that, because at right about that time I was a) looking for Ring Fit Plus which I can’t get and b) the virus stopped me from browsing in video game stores.  Anyway, it’s hard to believe that it will capture what made this game great.  The story works as a typical video game story.  The combination of characters is pretty interesting.  You don’t seem to be as forced to use certain characters as you might have been in the X-Men Legends series, although maybe the only characters I liked were ones that could do everything.  I even — and Shamus Young will hate me for saying this — like the Quick Time events because the consequences of failing were minor.  And I could actually beat the game, which is always a plus.  This is another game that I might be able to play again but … probably won’t any time soon.

41:  Elder Scrolls:  Oblivion

I have an interesting relationship with the Elder Scrolls series.  I tried to play Morrowind and my excursion ended under an hour in with me going berserk on a guard and then uninstalling the game.  On the more modern end, I’ve tried playing Skyrim something like three times and haven’t gotten past the first town.  I even started Oblivion at least twice before managing to get a run going that I finished, playing as Angel from the Buffyverse and ending up with a character that was massively strong and great at hand-to-hand combat.  My favourite move was to sneak up to an enemy and then punch them, which with the extra damage from attacking while in stealth often killed them.

These sorts of open-world games have always struck me as “single-player MMOs”, with the sort of quests and wandering and lack of story focus of your typical MMO but without the other players.  In order to keep things open-world, they don’t want to push players to do the story too much for fear of making it a linear game, but this lack of focus often — at least for me — hurts the impact of the story.  Oblivion is indeed fairly bad at that, as at one point I stumbled across the main story while looking for a shop.  But the second (third?) time through I managed to enjoy at least the gates enough to get through it.

Still, by far the best part of the game for me was the Shivering Isles expansion.  It had an interesting environment with a nice self-contained story so that I could follow it along while exploring the Isles.  The thing I most remember about the game is that, and I wish the rest of the game could have been more like that.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games Update

October 14, 2020

So about six years ago I put together a list of my top 50 most memorable/favourite games.  I’ve been pondering updating it for a while now, and I’m going to do that over the next few weeks.

Obviously, one of the main reasons to update it is that there have been a number of new games that I’ve played and liked over six years, “Persona 5” being an obvious example.  But simply adding games to the list wouldn’t make for that interesting an update, other than figuring out where those things would slot in against the other games.  When I looked at the list, though, I thought that I’d want to keep the list at 50 instead of simply expanding it to take the new games into account, and also that some of the games on the bottom of the list were games that I’d feel worse about dropping from the list than games that were higher on the list, which could make for some interesting decisions.  I also looked back at some of the games that didn’t make the list the first time and realized that I was thinking differently about them now.  Given that, I thought that it might be interesting to see where the list went.

And then I added enough games that I ended up pushing off the games that I thought I’d rather keep on the list than games that were higher on the list than them, with one exception.

Anyway, I’m going to redo the list and am going to try to talk more about each game this time.  We’ll see how that goes over the next few weeks.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (honourable mentions)

November 25, 2014

So, in this last post, I’ll talk about the games that didn’t quite make the cut. I could have just added them and gone to 60 or something, but for a lot of these games I don’t really feel that they are good enough to make the list of my favourite games, but they deserve to be mentioned as good games in their own light. So here they are, in no particular order:

Final Fantasy X: I like Yuna and can even tolerate Tidus. I like Lulu better though. The game was fun, although I hated the puzzle sequences when you were trying to get to the interior of the temple. But it’s not that memorable. It’s that game that I should finish sometime, not that game that I remember really fondly.

Afterlife: I talked about this game here, but I remember it more for wishing that I could play it and play it well than actually playing it. It was a unique game, but again I don’t really recall playing it that much.

Dragon Age Origins: The best thing about this game is the fact that you have so many choices for how you start the game, based on who you are and who you want to be, including what race and gender you are. But I find the gore that stays on you to be a bit much and jarring in cutscenes, the world is a bit too dark for my tastes, the combat is a bit too frenetic for me to handle and I dislike games where you can miss companions (I had to start over once because I missed Leiliana). I am planning on finishing this game, but I’m not sure it will ever make the list.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love: The interesting thing about this one is that I forgot about it when I was making up the list, and then wanted to add it onto the main list while writing in the descriptions … and then decided that even though at first blush it should be on the list, it wasn’t better than the 50th game for me. I liked the game, but I had more fun overall with the other games. Go figure.

Space 1889: What was great about this game? Tying it to the Victorian era and giving you related vices and virtues. So, the setting and the implementation of parts of that. I never got far in the game though.

Archon: If any of my friends from high school are reading this, they’ll probably wonder why this isn’t in the main list. I guess it’s because while I love the concept of chess where you actually fight over every square, and it implemented it well, it never really had anything like a story to it or anything, nor any way for me to build one. So, again, when I compared it to the 50th game on the list, it came up a bit short. But, still, “Kill it with your snake thing!”.

Now I’m sure that there are games that people think should be on the list, or should be there in a different order. All I can say here is that this is my list based on my own opinion, and I’m not trying to say that these games are necessarily better or worse than any others objectively. But let me finish by mentioning at least one set of games that people probably will be wondering why I didn’t mention them at all: the Fallouts, and Planescape: Torment. And the reason for that is pretty much the same for all of them: I was never able to get into them for some reason. I own them, they’re on my list to play, and they are the sort of games I liked, and yet they leave me cold. I can’t explain why, and I have tried to play them, to no avail. So perhaps this must remain one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Anyway, that’s it for the list. After this, I hope to get back to some philosophy and the like for a while, for those who care more about that than about games.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (1 – 10)

November 24, 2014

10: Fatal Frame: This game contains my favourite female character ever and maybe my favourite character ever, and the game was very creepy and had the perfect atmosphere for the sort of game it was trying to be. So after talking about it recently, what more do I have to say? Well, how about why it’s only 10th on the list. The reason? It’s fairly short, and sometimes it’s too hard to solve its puzzles without a FAQ. But considering the strength of the games that are left on the list, that’s enough for it to only come in at number 10.

9: City of Heroes: My favourite MMO. Classes played differently enough to allow for my altitis, especially combined with the mass of character customization options. The early levels weren’t boring, and the game did play reasonably well solo at least at low levels. Task forces were amazing additions and some of the most fun I had in the game … and that was even with me playing with other people. The Hallowe’en events were really cool. I was really, really sad to see this one go.

8: Star Wars: Rebellion: I’ve talked about this game here, and again there isn’t much more to say about it.

7: Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom: An interactive movie attached to a flight simulator, true, but it’s a good one. It examines a number of deep issues, I like a lot of the characters, and the choices are actually big ones and ones that you can indeed role play a bit. But the very best thing about this game is how it ends and how you win the game: not in the cockpit, but on the Senate floor. You have to win a debate against the man behind the latest war and who wants to remake humanity stronger, faster and better, with or without their consent. This is a game that embraces its interactive movie component as much as it does its flight sim component … and the PS1 version has an invincible mode so that I could, indeed, actually finish it.

6: Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII: This is a strategy game where you aren’t a nameless and faceless leader, but are a person who gets hired to lead armies. You can get married. You make friends. You get promoted. You play politics. You do more things day to day using your skills than leading armies. One of my most memorable moments was when I played a character that was the son of another general. I was working for one city, and my father was working for a city that they wanted to invade. They asked me to go and do something dishonourable using that relationship. I told them no and quit, and moved away from the battle altogether. Remember, this was in a strategy game, not an RPG, and it followed from the actual events in the game. That moment solidified this as one of my favourite games ever.

5: Hardball 5: Now, you might be wondering how a sports game got up this high on the list, when no other sports games even made the list. The reason is that this was the perfect sports game for me. When I created my own personal roster of players and made them great — but still great for certain roles — and played this on the default difficulty, I pretty much won every game, but they were pretty much all close games. I didn’t blow them out 15 – 0 very often, like I do in MLB 07 The Show. And that’s what I want out of a sports game: to win but to have it be close. I’d rather take a blowout win than a close loss if that’s what happens in most of the games I play. And this game did it without trying, and no game in no sport that I’ve tried has even come close.

4: Knights of the Old Republic: This game captures the Star Wars feel and has interesting characters to boot. You get to play as a Jedi. The story is interesting. The combat system works and is cool. Really, what can I say about this game? It may seem a little clunky now, but it’s still an interesting game.

3: Suikoden III: The tri-view system is an amazing way to tell the story. The characters are great. The story is great. You can actually get the stars without an insane amount of trouble, although the reward for that is a bit slim. The battles are done well and even involve some strategy. It’s not quite as addictive as the Personas, but it’s definitely an excellent RPG.

2: Persona 4: And my top two games are games in the same series that are, in fact, both about equally good. This is the one where the dungeons mean something, but where the S-links mean less. This is the game that got me to buy a Vita, for the Golden version. And yet at the end of the day, it sits just a wee bit behind Persona 3 for one main reason …

1: Persona 3: This one gets the nod for my best game ever over Persona 4 because … it started my love for this series. I bought it, put it aside for a few months, and then decided to try it on a long Christmas vacation. I loved it so much that when it ended I immediately started over, which I never do for games that don’t have a different story or let you take a different path with a different character. This was a very linear game, but the story was strong and the S-links were amazing. This is the game that also started me down the path of looking for games with dating sim options, and for me this is a true RPG in the sense that I get to decide who my friends are and how I live my life and, through that, what kind of person I am, while still remaining in a world where I have a power and have to save it. This is my favourite game ever.

Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games (11 – 20)

November 23, 2014

20: Shadow Hearts: Covenant: This game isn’t far off of Shadow Hearts, and it is more detailed and more advanced, but it seems to involve a lot more running around than Shadow Hearts did, and the story is also pretty good. But the characters are definitely a bit goofier, and so it doesn’t quite have the charm of Shadow Hearts. But the additions are good … if, again, tending towards goofy rather than serious.

19: Wizardry 8: This is the game that can distract me with itself. The mix of classes is good and the personalities really make for a different experience when you play it, and it definitely lends itself to, say, creating the Order of the Stick or groups like that and seeing how they do. Its combat, however, can be a bit annoying and long, especially at higher levels and when you just want to get somewhere. I still return to this game every so often.

18: Disciples 2: I recently talked about this game here, so, well, go see why it ends up here on the list over there.

17: Defender of the Crown: A very nice mix of turn-based strategy and action combat. I became unbeatable once I learned how to joust well enough to win territories that way, but I also mastered sieges and swordplay. The only downside I had was that in the game I had I couldn’t rescue the fair maiden and get married … because the game would crash at the … interesting part. Another game that had a nice mix of styles that ensured that you never got stuck doing the same thing over and over.

16: Dark Age of Camelot: My first MMO, and my first attack of altitis. Lots of classes, so lots of room to make characters, and three realms representing three of my favourite mythologies gave me lots of room to create and play characters. Its biggest problem was that it was a bit hard to solo most of the classes most of the time, and even then I wasn’t that fond of grouping, and it did involve a lot of grinding. And I got lost a lot. But otherwise a fine MMO. And that was without me experiencing Realm vs Realm, one of its big selling points.

15: Sentinel Worlds: Future Magic I: An excellent space RPG. You selected a crew for various roles — which ended up being my friends — and then had to help solve a mystery, starting with a massive battle in space. You switched between space and ground fights, and the story unfolded around you. I never managed to finish it, but that was because I think I had a bug … or missed something in the days before online walkthroughs. I don’t think I’ve played a space RPG this good since.

14: X-Men Legends: Rise of Apocalypse: This is by far the strongest of the Legends/Alliance series of games. It introduces gimmick fights but doesn’t overdo them. The story is strong and well implemented. It has Deadpool in it as a playable character. And since he’s a boss, he gets to talk to himself as well in replays. There’s just nothing wrong with this game at all.

13: Persona 4 Arena: You know how I like story in my fighting games? This one has the best of any game I’ve ever played. You can see the twist coming and it’s still wrenching. And on Easy mode the auto-combo let me get through the fights and experience the story. I’m not sure that this is a game that fight game fans will appreciate, but the story aspects are definitely my type of fighting game.

12: Knights of the Old Republic 2: This comes in a fair bit behind the first game, but I’m not one of those who really hates the ending and the less than finished bits. I liked the attempts to deconstruct some gaming tropes, since it was done in an unobtrusive manner; you’ll get it if you know the games and if you don’t it won’t puzzle you or cause you any grief. So, why does this score so relatively low? Kreia. A lot of people like her character, but she didn’t work for me, as none of my characters would want her around. My light side characters — even the pragmatic ones — wouldn’t care for her grumbling about helping others, and my dark side characters wouldn’t like her constantly telling them not to pursue their evil whims. While she might give an interesting perspective, she’s just so annoying about it that in story and playing as an RPG she really doesn’t fit. I kept her on the ship and never let her leave unless I needed to take her along.

11: Shadow Hearts: The game that introduced us to Yuri Hyuga, an irreverent anti-hero with some charm and a lot of attitude. The story was dark and yet had enough humour to lighten up the mood when necessary. The Ring system was an interesting twist on traditional combat. Fusions were interesting as well. This game rarely put a foot wrong.