Dashed Expectations

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 Post subject: 30 Years, 30 Games
PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:08 am 
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Welcome to my little project that I've had on the back of my mind since the middle of this year. As I am turning 30 years old, I thought it might be fun to look back at the games I've played and find out which ones were my absolute favourite that existed since I was alive. Obviously, I couldn't play some of these immediately as they came out (you really expect a newborn to get the complexity of a PC or a controller?) but the fact they existed that year is what makes them count. Specifically, they have to have been released in North America in that specific year. That's my only rule for this little experiment.

I hope you enjoy it!

List
1986 - King's Quest III: To Heir is Human
1987 - Metroid
1988 - Phantasy Star
1989 - Tetris
1990 - Super Mario Bros. 3
1991 - Super Mario World
1992 - The Lost Vikings
1993 - Kirby's Adventure
1994 - Super Metroid
1995 - EarthBound
1996 - Super Mario 64
1997 - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
1998 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
1999 - Rayman 2: The Great Escape
2000 - Pokémon Gold/Silver
2001 - Super Smash Bros. Melee
2002 - Metroid Prime
2003 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
2004 - Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
2005 - Shadow of the Colossus
2006 - Ōkami
2007 - Super Mario Galaxy
2008 - Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness
2009 - Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
2010 - Monster Hunter Tri
2011 - Pokémon Black/White
2012 - Xenoblade Chronicles
2013 - Fire Emblem Awakening
2014 - Shovel Knight
2015 - Ori and the Blind Forest

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:10 am 
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1986 -- King's Quest III: To Heir is Human

It has been 3 years since the video game crash of 1983, and a full year since it bounced back in 1985. Since then, games have started becoming more advanced than what was expected, and even Sierra On-Line brought back King's Quest from 1980 to make a sequel in 1985, and then this title for 1986: King's Quest III: To Heir is Human.

Sierra has gotten a bit of notoriety for having games that are just unbelievably punishing for even the smallest of errors, and this one was no exception. You play the role of a young individual named Gwydion, who has been taken into servitude by the evil wizard Manannan, who you are forced to do chores for basically all eternity. Naturally, your main objective is to escape him without being caught and zapped to death, but since he can seemingly appear out of anywhere, it requires you to be rather crafty and clever in hiding your intentions. Best part about this though...defeating Manannan was only half the game!

When it was first released, the game was looked a bit down upon for how much it departed from the first two games, despite the gameplay itself being pretty much unchanged. It did not star beloved hero Graham, it didn't take place in the kingdom of Daventry, and it had an overall darker theme to it, involving magic and slavery and such. Of course, those who did play it would found out for themselves that it links with the other games actually very well.

My own personal experience was met with a sense of wonder at the world I was exploring (and sometimes, intentionally disobeying Manannan led to hilarious "punishments") though I could never get very far since I didn't really know what I was doing. It wasn't until I grew older, got myself a DOSBox, found myself a guide, and managed to finally finish this game that I enjoyed originally on a Tandy 1000.

Here's an interesting tidbit: The game did come with a little booklet that told you about the different spells you could learn as well as various different items. One of which I had correctly surmised was the key to defeating Manannan, even back when I was around 10!

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:51 pm 
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By the way, that is one rad picture you've got at the top.

I'll be checking in on this thread as it updates.

Oh, and Happy Birthday!


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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:45 am 
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Now this is the best idea I've seen for a thread in a while. I'll be sure to keep an eye on it.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:18 am 
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First of all, lemme say I'm glad this is going over well with some of you. I'd like it if we had more users to appreciate it, but even a bit of feedback is nice, so thanks everyone!

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1987 - Metroid

Firstly, let me reiterate that I am going by North American release dates. While Metroid first came out in Japan in 1986, it didn't arrive on the North American NES system until 1987, so even though it is technically 30 years old as well, I am not counting this game as a 1986 game because I couldn't theoretically play it until '87. Now with that disclaimer out of the way...

Metroid was a super important game to me growing up as it was laying the foundation for what turned into, quite possibly, my favourite genre of all time. The first half of the "Metroidvania" name started right here, on the Planet Zebes, where famed bounty hunter Samus Aran must stop the diabolical Space Pirates from using the parasitic lifeforms, Metroids, as a weapon of galactic destruction. A Metroid drains the entire life energy of its target, leaving nothing but a husk and are incredibly resilient. However, in order to even reach where the Metroids are, Samus must first traverse a massive labyrinth of traps and dangers, finding upgrades among the Chozo ruins, and destroying as many Space Pirates along the way, including leaders Kraid and Ridley.

The game was a revolution at the time. Right off the bat, you know things are completely different when your first objective requires to walk LEFT first instead of right, unlike other popular platformers which more or less just copied the formula Super Mario Bros. made popular. Instead of a multitude of levels, you only had one giant one, with your progresses recorded via long, complex passwords (Famicom version had a save feature). It was very open ended, but still locked you from going absolutely everywhere by making you find specific upgrades throughout Zebes, such as the ability to roll into a ball to go underneath small passages, or the ability to make your shots freeze enemies in place to work as platforms. It was way ahead of its time, though admittedly, it is very hard to go back to the original since a ton of QOL that future titles brought are absent here. You're honestly better off playing the enhanced GBA remake Zero Mission.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention probably the biggest secret that was held within this game, specifically behind that power suit Samus wore. This gruff, tough, "space marine" wasn't some macho man, but a strong, independent woman! She didn't need any saving, she didn't need assistance, she didn't need any romance, all she needed was a constant paycheck from blowing up space monsters into space guts. Honestly, looking back, it's a nice little bit of forward thinking that, still today, we seem to be having trouble embracing. Sure, you can't actually tell that's a woman until the very end, but we, or at least I, didn't care about that. Samus was defined by her actions, and her actions were pure unadulterated awesomeness. In fact, learning she was a woman only enhanced that, proving that video game women can kick just as much ass as video game men, and it was wonderful for my young male mind to see for myself.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:51 am 
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1988 - Phantasy Star

In 1986, a company by the name of Enix released a little title called Dragon Quest. It kind of became a big deal, this genre we now refer to as the JRPG, at least modern interpretations of it, was pretty much born there. It was such a huge success, even today, a Dragon Quest release is the equivalent of a national holiday in Japan.

There was just one catch: It was exclusive to the Famicom (NES in NA). Not to be outdone by Nintendo's exclusives, SEGA decided to create their own take on it and while it would play similarly to Enix's Dragon Quest, it would fundamentally be very different and, interestingly, give birth to their longest running franchise, if you can believe that.

Enter Phantasy Star, a JRPG with a very different coat of paint. Rather than taking place in a mystical fantasy world full of knights, elves, and dragons, it instead takes place in a science fiction setting and takes place across three different planets in a single star system. Rather than a strapping male protagonist out to stop evil, we instead have a female protagonist out to stop a horrible dictatorship. Enemy sprites were fully animated, various vehicles were needed to access different areas, there was a fast travel system, first person dungeons, scaling difficulty with enemies. In retrospect, the game was actually ahead of its time.

The story begins when our heroine Alis discovers her brother Nero having being beaten near to death. His last words were simply a plea for her to find help to stop the evil Lassic from "leading this world to destruction." And so she begins her quest, not out of fame or glory, but for vengeance for her brother. Along the way she befriends a talking cat named Myau, a great warrior named Odin, and a magical Esper named Noah, and the four travel across the planets of Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris as they seek out the necessary weapons and items needed to stop Lassic's reign of terror.

Admittedly, it can be hard to get back into a game this old without some sort of guide to help you. While the first person dungeons were a neat idea, it didn't exactly make traversing them very easy, often requiring you to bring some graph paper. There was a small bit of grind, especially at the beginning, as well, not for EXP but for money which turned out to be very scarce (which I guess makes sense considering part of Lassic's backstory is that he has raised taxes to ludicrous degrees), which can quickly turn off a modern player. There is a remake for PS2, but it was never released in North America so that doesn't really alleviate the problems. But if you stick to it, you'll find as I did a rather clever take with some nice little twists here and there, including learning that our final boss Lassic isn't actually the final boss, one of the first JRPGs to pull of a stunt like that but has become pretty mainstay since then.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:39 am 
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1989 - Tetris

The year of 1989 was a pretty big one for Nintendo. With the release of the handheld device Game Boy, players could now take the NES experience on the go...with a limited colour palette, at least. But what would launch, you may wonder, and come packaged with the device? Super Mario Land seemed like the obvious choice at the time, what with the mega success story that was Super Mario Bros. But entrepreneur Henk Rogers proposed that a simple game developed by Russian developer Alexey Pajitnov might build a much stronger base outside of the usual child appeal Mario brought. And so, this seemingly unknown title was to be packaged with every new Game Boy purchased...and has since become a worldwide phenomenon.

Behold Tetris, the granddaddy of modern day puzzle games! The idea is simple: Blocks of seven different shapes are falling from the ceiling at increasing speeds. If your tower reaches the top, it's game over. It's a game about lasting as long as possible as the pieces become harder and harder to fit. As you line up an entire row of pieces, you clear the line and the stack falls down based on the amount of lines cleared in a single shot. Scoring 4 line clears at once is dubbed a Tetris, the maximum possible. Pieces can be rotated and aligned whichever way you want so long as it continues to fall.

And...that's it. You just kept going trying to get as high a score as possible until you just can't anymore. It's incredibly easy to understand and play, but takes an incredible amount of skill and dexterity to become a "grand master." And that simplicity is why it is such a runaway success story. You show a screen to anybody, and they'll know what to do within a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Even today, as the Tetris Company continues to expand and evolve, creating new ways to enjoy the same game, people still fall back on the tried and true classic style of lining blocks up, clearing lines, and going for as long as possible. And putting it with every Game Boy was just about the smartest thing the two companies could do. Everyone had access to it, and it could be taken anywhere you went.

So many new puzzle games came around since the dawn of Tetris, but none have been able to capture that same widespread appeal as the original. A true work of art!

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:49 am 
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1990 - Super Mario Bros. 3

This right here.

This is my favourite game of all time.

Everything about it is just pure perfection. The colours, the level design, the unique worlds, the various different power-ups, the seemingly limitless number of secrets you can find...

It wasn't the last NES game, but it heralded the coming of the SNES in North America, and what a way to go out! Super Mario Bros. set the standard of how a platformer should be, but 3 raised the bar to a level I have yet to see jumped over. Let's try to go over things slowly and collectively though, shall we?

There were 8 Worlds in total, each encompassing a different theme -- Grass, Desert, Water, Giant, Sky, Ice, Pipe, and Bowser, all vastly different and unique in their own special way. Desert was full of scorching sand, Ice had slippery blocks everywhere that could be melted, but every one had roughly 10 levels, give or take, for you to find the exit in. Some levels are a joy to muck about in, others you loath entering, but all were expertly handcrafted by some truly dedicated level designers.

The power ups were plentiful and incredibly memorable. From the iconic Raccoon Leaf to the "way too good to use" Hammer Bros. Suit, there was something to like about each and every one of the new abilities the portly plumber could use. There were so many, in fact, that an item storage system was created for this game so you could select and use a power-up before even entering a level on the world map, so you could bring the best one for the level.

And the secrets... It's just littered with them! Each and every time I go through this, I still find something new that surprises me. It could be a pipe I never thought trying to enter, or learning what the exact coin count was to summon a white Mushroom House, or even finding out that Chain Chomp can break free from its leash. These are stuff I learned as I kept playing this title over and over again, and I have never grown bored of it!

Even the story, of what little there was, was still very much ahead of the curve in terms of Mario. Rather than rescuing the princess, you instead had to recover the magic wands from across the different kingdoms to save the transformed kings, with Peach (then Toadstool) giving you a letter of encouragement every time you finished a world. I wish they'd go back to doing something like this more often, honestly.

But really, above all else, this was my childhood, just trying to master this, and mastered I have. There is nothing that compares to the sheer joy of Super Mario Bros. 3.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:44 am 
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1991 - Super Mario World

In 1991 in North America, Nintendo's first real upgrade, the Super Nintendo, had launched. Stronger processing power and higher bits, it was capable of showcasing things the NES only wish it could. At the time, the idea of getting a new console for the same piece of entertainment didn't exactly go over well with parents, calling it a scam, but eventually they were swayed since it actually was a new experience, and with it came a slew of pretty stellar launch titles, with the pack in bringing back our favourite plumber in Super Mario World.

When it comes to which Mario platformer is on top, you often have two camps: Those that deem the previously mentioned SMB3 as the great one, and those that prefer its SNES sequel. It's not hard to see why some would take this over the other. The colours are even more vibrant, the levels are incredibly complex, there are secret exits for the first time, you could ride on Mario's new dinosaur pal Yoshi, and more.

Launching with the SNES, Super Mario World stunned players right out of the gate. Its sprites were far more detailed to the point you could see the stitches in Mario's overalls. The sizes and complexities of the enemies were varied with new ways to threaten our hero. The Feather Cape power up remains probably the best way to fly to date this side of a P-Wing, even if it took a bit to master it. And let's not forget that there is not one, but two entirely optional bonus worlds to explore that began a trend of giving players brutal challenges if they really want to test their abilities. The save system, a first ever for Mario, was a welcome feature too.

Personally speaking, it doesn't quite have that special spark that SMB3 gave me, but it comes pretty dang close to being one of the best Mario games ever. This was one of the first Mario games where finding every secret was pretty much encouraged, the game actively tracking how many exits you've reached. It was basically my first real "carrot-on-a-stick" moment in video games that pushed me to really try to see everything it had to offer, with the reward being a file name with 96★, and also changing the world map to look like autumn has come. There's never a dull moment here.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:39 am 
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1992 - The Lost Vikings

A platformer of a different colour, brought to you by Interplay and some completely underground company known, oh, Blizzard Entertainment! Y'know, the blokes that brought Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch? While this game wasn't their first (that honor went to RPM Racing in 1991), it at the very least put the company on my own radar for the very first time.

The Lost Vikings, developed by Blizzard (then known as Silicon & Synapse), takes you in the role of the three titular vikings as you help them find their way home through time and space. What sets this apart from other platformers at the time was that, not only did they all have unique abilities, you had to play all of them at the same time, switching between characters as needed. You had to keep all three alive by the end of the level in order to clear it, solving some clever puzzles along the way.

Erik the Swift, funny enough, is the singular character that can actually jump in the game, so he's the only one that can do the actual platforming. He's also the fastest one, able to quickly scout the map and avoid enemies or use his speed to ram into targets at a high speed. Baleog the Fierce is the fighter of the group, using both a sword and a "lifetime supply of arrows" to defeat foes and solve puzzles. Olaf the Stout is our big shield guy, who can block just about anything and everything so long as he's looking directly at it, and can also raise it above his head to use as a glider or as an extra platform for other vikings to stand on.

You need to use all three characters' strengths to your advantage in order to guide them through safely. But take caution, because just because you aren't controlling one doesn't mean the others are safe from danger. While you wouldn't need to micro manage like Blizzard's more famous RTS titles, a lack of foresight could lead to a viking's death, and restarting the level.

It had a whimsical sense of charm with the game itself poking fun at the absurdity of this setup. These characters were also rather chatty, making quips every time you clear a stage, either making reference to the level they just did, insulting each other, or both. It was a fun sort of "reward" each time you cleared it.

One neat little thing I'd like to mention though is the multiplayer, which could support up to 3 with the proper controller plugins, allowing for full co-op gameplay. Although, since the characters need to be separated a lot, it wasn't really true co-op, but it was a neat touch.

While they haven't had a game since their one sequel, Blizzard has never forgotten one of their earliest heroes, getting referenced in World of Warcraft and even becoming playable once again in Heroes of the Storm. In fact, if you happen to be interested in playing this classic, Blizz has got you covered: Go to their official Battle.net website and download the full game for free right there!

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:54 am 
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1993 - Kirby's Adventure

Our pink puffball makes his console debut in Kirby's Adventure, which came out only just a year after his actual debut in Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy. Adventure takes the foundation that Dream Land built and expands on it greatly, providing us with a list of Kirby firsts that would become a hallmark of his entire character and franchise.

This was the first game that gave us his iconic copy powers, and it's just something I can't even imagine him without anymore. By swallowing enemies, he can gain abilities associated with them. Eat a fire based enemy? Now he has fire powers! Enemy wielding a sword? Kirby's got a sword now! The levels were far more varied as well, with several worlds to go in with lots of hidden secrets that required specific powers to get the bonuses they hide. After enough progress, only then would you finally unlock the boss of that "world" and be able to progress further into the game.

We got minigames, we got our introduction to on-again-off-again rival Meta Knight, we even got the first time the final boss was something rather otherworldly with last game's villain King Dedede actually pulling a "doing the wrong thing for the right reasons" kind of deal. Heck, this was even the first time he was canonically pink in North America! These were things that weren't seen in the last game, but are pretty much everything that defines Kirby.

It all started with Kirby's Adventure, a really massive by NES standards title, but a very important one for Sakurai's little baby.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:41 am 
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1994 - Super Metroid

The magnum opus of the Metroid franchise, and the sub-genre in general. While the NES game laid down the foundation, Super Metroid provides all the blueprints that every game that genre emulates from. Playing a game where you explore a large world finding collectables in order to progress further? Chances are, this is the game that helped shape it, it's that important. It just so happens to be my favourite SNES title too!

Third game in the series and the last one that the late Gunpei Yokoi was a part of and Sakamoto's directorial debut for the series, Samus had just finished exterminating the Metroid species on their home planet of SR388, save for a recently hatched baby, which she took with her to Ceres Station for study. Not long after, however, Space Pirate Ridley attacks the station, captures the hatchling, and makes way back to Planet Zebes. Samus makes planet fall on the same planet as the first game, with a few recognizable areas to boot, in order to stop the pirates one last time and take back that Metroid at all costs before they are cloned and bring devastation to the galaxy.

Everything about the original game was significantly enhanced for this one. A helpful map is always at hand whenever you get lost and each area was very carefully crafted so not to give a sense of déjà vu like the original. The bosses were much more interactive besides a simple "hit it with missiles until it dies" that old Kraid and Ridley gave. Sprite detail was so intricate, they even went so far as to make Samus looking left and right look different from each other (most games just mirror the sprite to save time/effort). Let's not also forget the fact that the new abilities Samus can obtain are even more grand, and she no longer needs to drop one beam to use another, instead stacking their effects together.

The mazes and labyrinths are huge and tricky, but not impossible to figure out. There are subtle hints on every corner of the screen. You just need to look.

And who can forget the finale, which manages to make you feel emotion over monsters without any form of dialogue whatsoever? I always believed Metroid excelled in a "show, don't tell" style of storytelling, and it is displayed perfectly in this game. It's something, sadly, newer Metroids seem to forget. Sometimes, less is a lot more.

I keep coming back to this almost every year, getting 100% of the items within just above 2 hours in completion time. Don't let that small time fool you; I consider myself an experienced Super Metroid player. My first time took at least 10 hours to finish. I just learned the optimal route, which is part of the joy of the franchise and its copycats: Finding the most optimal way to finish. There's a reason this is a well loved speed-running game.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:31 am 
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1995 - EarthBound

I really had to think about this one. 1995 was such a great year for games, better than I remember it being. It was a tricky choice, but I ultimately went with a title I didn't even play until incredibly recently. Like, Wii U recently. And the fact that I loved it so much despite having played it so late really stands out.

Here is EarthBound, probably the biggest example of a cult classic in video game history. It's a JRPG, but you wouldn't know that based on looking at it. It takes place in a fictionalized version of a modern at the time world called Eagleland. It stars four kid heroes on their quest across the different locals to stop an alien invasion before things take a turn for the worst.

I remember seeing screenshots of this back in an issue of Nintendo Power. I wasn't sure what to make of it then, but I did take an immediate appeal to its premise. You weren't going into castles or dungeons. You were just in a suburban environment and your common foes were stray dogs, sentient gas pumps, and hippies. It's that kind of surrealism that really piqued my curiosity. Unfortunately, getting a copy of the game was ludicrously expensive due to its rather poor sales performance when first released. With a market slogan that went "This game stinks," it was doomed to fail from the start.

I don't think it really brings anything new to the JRPG table, at least nothing that other games haven't tried to emulate as opposed to trendsetters like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, but what it does have is a lot of whimsy and heart. You're just a kid with psychic abilities out to see the world, making new friends, finding wondrous sights, and even feeling homesick once and a while (you should call your Mom regularly, both in game and real life). It was just so very charming at what it was trying to do while still remaining grounded.

Most probably remember this game either because Ness, our main protagonist, was playable in Smash, or because they heard about the infamous final battle against Giygas, which is the stuff of nightmares. No hyperbole! That final boss is something super freaky for a game that looks as colourful as this. I wouldn't doubt it played a part in why it was re-rated from an E to a T when released on Wii U. It leaves quite an impact.

While I do talk a lot about its charm, it's not necessarily lacking in fun gameplay, it just isn't what everyone remembers. The speedometer-like HP bar is a neat mechanic, meaning if you are quick enough with the heal after taking fatal damage, your character won't actually be knocked out, and enemies weren't randoms anymore, but appeared right on the overworld. How you approach them is actually important as you can get a first strike on them, or vice-versa. Heck, if you level up enough, you could skip the fights altogether!

Honestly, EarthBound is a game I really can't put into words. Just see it for yourself and enjoy the ride. That's all I can really say about it.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:14 am 
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1996 - Super Mario 64

Welcome to the third dimension, friends! It might sound ludicrous, but when Nintendo launched their Nintendo 64, it only had two games to choose from! Not exactly a lot. But thankfully, one stood so far above, it more than made up for it and can be seen as one of the best launch games ever.

Super Mario 64 helped to push the way forward for 3D platformers in the same way Super Mario Bros. pushed the way forward for 2D platformers. Everyone's favourite plumber was invited to Peach's Castle for a lovely cake, but upon arriving, finds out that Bowser has pretty much captured the inhabitants within and scattered power stars across various different painting worlds to seal everyone within. It's now up to Mario to recover the stars and free Peach and her retainers.

With the Control Stick, a feature that would become standard in almost every 3D game from this point on, we could move Mario in large worlds in 360 degrees! Finding the power stars felt like a departure from the standard "reach the end of the goal" that Mario titles used to be a part of, but it feels so right with this game. Being one of the first real 3D platformers, or at least one of the first to get it right, there are definitely some signs of growing pains. Some of the jumping can be a bit dodging and the camera is wonky as all get out, but the devs made sure to work around these issues with their level designs and are able to keep a super fun experience all the way through.

Mario is more athletic than ever, being able to do jumps you wouldn't think possible. Backflips, side somersaults, jumping off walls, there was a sense of satisfaction in being able to do all these maneuvers to access new areas and is just pure fun to muck about, which according to Miyamoto, is exactly the point. There is no "wrong" way to get a star, and he wanted players to have fun figuring out new ways to clear challenges. And with 120 of the suckers out there, it's a beefy game. Even today, it can take quite a while to finish.

20 years later and I still like to come back to Peach's Castle and try out new tricks to get those stars. What a way to start a new generation for Nintendo's titles.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:10 am 
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1997 - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Oh sure, we may be in the beginning of 3D gaming, but there was still some 2D goodness to be had about if you knew where to look. Case in point, Konami's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

This is where the second half of the Metroidvania name comes from. At this point, Koji Igarashi, affectionately known as Iga by his fans, took the Castlevania series in a bold new direction. Rather than making your way to the end goal and fighting a boss, you would instead explore the very mazes of Dracula's Castle itself in a more open manner, collecting upgrades as you go in order to reach new areas.

But abilities aren't the only things our protagonist, Alucard (first seen in Castlevania III), can find. There are also various upgrades to his equipment including a variety of different weapons, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Symphony of the Night set forth a new era of Castlevania games and, depending on who you ask, are either the better parts or the worst parts of the franchise. I consider myself a member of the "better" part. Don't get me wrong, though. The old style Castlevania games were still good, especially the likes of Super Castlevania IV and Rondo of Blood, but I've always gravitated more towards being able to explore a wide map instead of a linear path, which is why I am more fond of the Iga-vanias as they are known as.

Taking place directly after the events of Rondo of Blood, when Richter Belmont defeated Dracula as Belmonts are wont to do, Castlevania seemed to have come back, even though Dracula himself seems to be gone (he needs about a 100 year rest in order to regain his strength for resurrection). Concerned, Alucard forgoes his several centuries of isolation to investigate this strange new event, and finds that his father's many servants are very much back again. He must put a stop to this madness at all costs!

You may be more familiar with it as the game that asked us, "What is a man?" before replying with, "A miserable little pile of secrets!" Yes, this game's voice acting wasn't exactly what one would call "stellar," though at the time, video game voice acting was just finding its footing. Anyway, that's hardly why I keep coming back to it or why I deem it so crucial to my list.

This opened a brand new door for fans, introducing me to a franchise I didn't even know I wanted. Symphony of the Night is where this new generation all began and it still holds up very well now.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:45 am 
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1998 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Easily one of the greatest titles in existence, and I almost missed out on it. Here's the thing, and this is kind of embarrassing to admit: I never wanted to get into the Legend of Zelda franchise for an incredibly petty reason: It was popular. People praised the series, it was constantly at the top in Nintendo Power, it just made me feel sick. But then, one day, we all decided, "OK, Mr. Greatest Game of All Time. Show me what you got!"

...It sure showed me a thing or too. And I'm happy for it.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If there is ever a reason to own a N64, it's this magnificent beast of a game! The 5th game in the franchise, our young hero Link leaves the comfort of the Kokiri Forest as he learns that darkness will consume the land of Hyrule and it is his destiny to stop it. In order to do so, Link must gather the three Spiritual Stones across Hyrule, play the Song of Time on the Ocarina of Time, and stop evil from entering the Sacred Realm and gaining access to the powerful Triforce.

But here's where an already good game takes an interesting twist:

Our hero is sealed within the realm for seven years because the Master Sword that guarded it deemed him too young to be a hero, and thus put him in hibernation. This created a pretty big backfire since the evil Ganondorf was able to just walk into the Sacred Realm without trouble. Our now adult Link must go back into a ruined Hyrule to awaken the Six Sages and stop the King of Evil Ganondorf.

This seven year mechanic, with the Master Sword and Ocarina of Time being the key, created a changing world. What parts of Hyrule you could go to and what was within the world differed greatly depending on whether you were playing as a child or as an adult. A peaceful and prosperous Hyrule Castle Town as a child would be teeming with horrible monsters as an adult after Ganondorf takes over.

OOT also brings with it an incredibly memorable list of characters, including childhood friend Saria, ranch girl Malon and her father Talon, the mysterious Sheik, Princess Zelda herself... That's just the tip of the iceberg. These are characters that stick with you, despite the fact that this was an era where the story didn't get too complex. It was a very simple "good vs evil" with a seven year time travel mechanic built in, but maybe the simpler plot is what made all these characters, major or minor, so memorable. They really stood out, especially when you reunite with ones you met as a child when you come back as an adult.

The dungeons were impressively designed, the boss battles were clever, the different tools Link can use were fun to use... You could spend all day pointing out just how down near perfect Ocarina of Time is. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of game.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:27 am 
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1999 - Rayman 2: The Great Escape

Another great title that I almost didn't get into. This time it had to do with its rather, how to say, bizarre art style and characters. It looked a little too out there. Still, after my mother brought it over one day, I finally went ahead and gave it a try.

The lesson, which is something that I know I've heard many times as a kid, was, "never judge a book by its cover." What I ended up playing was fun right from beginning to end!

Rayman 2: The Great Escape is the latest of Michel Ancel, a dev I've come to greatly respect thanks in no small part to this game here. It may be a sequel to the original side scrolling platformer, but it really has no relation to the first game outside of our hero.

The story begins actually with the bad guys winning. Robot pirates from outer space have kidnapped many citizens of the world, including Rayman, and have also destroyed the heart of the world, splitting it up into 1,000 Lums. All hope seemed lost, until Ly the fairy and Globox hatched a plan to break Rayman out of his cell. Now, Rayman must seek out the four masks to awaken Polokus, for with his power, Rayman will be able to stop Admiral Razorbeard and his band of pirates and save his friends.

While there were certainly things to collect, Rayman 2's 3D platforming was very different from others of the era. Rather than exploring large open worlds trying to find every trinket, you followed a mostly linear path, picking up whatever you can find along the way. In a sense, it actually stayed closer to its roots better than something like Mario 64. Combat was surprisingly fun, involving a targeting system to strafe as you avoid enemy fire, and upgrades were spaced out nice and evenly. Each level felt unique and different, with completely different hazards, traps, puzzles, secrets.

It's probably one of the more well loved Rayman titles out there, which is why UbiSoft has gone to great lengths to port it to every system under the sun. Can't really blame them, honestly.

But for me, this was the gateway game to trying new things out, new genres, new weirdness. Sometimes, you just come across something you didn't expect to like, which just makes it feel more rewarding when you do come to love it.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
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2000 - Pokémon Gold/Silver

1998 was pretty important for North American audiences. We got hit with what would actually turn out to be the second most profitable video game franchise of all time: Pokémon. Who though catching and battling little monsters would be so entertaining?

Not wanting to just sit on their success, Game Freak brings us the first true sequel to the original games with Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. These games were improved upon the original in virtually every single way. The type effectiveness was better tweaked, the coding was a lot more polished, better QOL stuff such as multiple bag spaces were added, and that's just stuff that was fixed from before. It introduced a slew of new features such as breeding to make your ultimate partner, a day/night cycle to better create immersion, full use of the GBC's colour palette, reworkings of status conditions to avoid "unfair" scenarios, and thus far the only generation to date to include a second region to explore (specifically, the original Kanto region from the first games).

It's really what everybody wanted from a sequel: The same gameplay, but vastly improved. But more importantly, this showed that this franchise had real staying power. Red/Blue showed us the games had potential, but I know a few that said it was "just a fad" and would die down like everything else, but Gold/Silver proved that the company was committed to making this more than just a one off success story.

And now, on the year of Pokémon's 20th Anniversary since its Japanese release, I'd say they've pretty much succeeded in that regard. It's a franchise that continues to improve and continues to be a lot of fun.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
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2001 - Super Smash Bros. Melee

When writing this list, I've come to a rather interesting conclusion: The Gamecube had an amazing launch at the end of 2001! There was the new take on Mario with Luigi's Mansion, the birth of the Pikmin franchise, some really great third party stuff like Super Monkey Ball and Star Wars: Rogue Leader: Roge Squadron II...and of course, this big title that is still played heavily to this very day: Super Smash Bros. Melee.

The original 1999 Super Smash Bros. was a great experiment hindered by its small budget, but after the game performed way above expectations, a ton more development went into its GCN sequel, and the results are night and day. The gameplay was smoother and faster, there was more than double the amount of playable characters, single player was hugely expanded on, and more.

Smash Bros., to me at least, was always more of a celebration of Nintendo's history than anything else, and they really took that to heart starting with Melee with the introduction of Trophies. These were in-game collectibles you could find of various different characters you could see across history, each coming with a short description of who or what it was supposed to be. It was a touch that absolutely wasn't needed, but as an enthusiast, it really scratched that itch for knowledge.

Melee also gave rise to a new kind of fighting game fan in the competitive scene. Unlike other fighters out in the business, this wasn't about wittling down your opponent's health to zero, but more like a glorified sumo contest. And years of hard practice have made for some spectacular showcases of people making use of every little nuance that each character is capable of, way above a level I'm capable of.

While there have been Smash Bros. since then, people still like to fall back to this one since it seemed to get every single mechanic just right. And again, to think it came out just mere weeks after the GCN launched, this was the game to go back to when you and a bunch of pals were hanging out.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
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2002 - Metroid Prime

8 years.

That's the length of time it was since the last Metroid game when 2002 rolled around. Despite the amount of importance and greatness Super Metroid brought to the table, the fact of the matter was that it just didn't sell the kind of money Nintendo wanted to see. So despite the promise of "See You Next Mission," fans were left waiting. There was talks of a N64 game and Samus made appearances in Smash Bros., but no actually Metroid game was every brought to us.

Enter the GCN era, where newcomer Texas company Retro Studios were tasked with giving Metroid a bold new direction. At first, I was pumped because we are finally getting a new Metroid after all these years...until I heard that it would be in first-person.

I almost completely lost it. How could a game with such an intricate level design and sense of exploration like Metroid be reduced to a linear style game like Doom or Quake? There's nothing wrong with those games, but they weren't Metroid. I was beyond upset!

But, I was so starved for a new Metroid, I decided to play it...and it exceeded well beyond my expectations. They didn't just take Super Metroid into 3D, they perfected it on the very first try! I was blown away!

Everything might have a first-person perspective and you do shoot things, but that was where the similarities between Metroid Prime and other FPSes ended. All the hallmarks of a great Metroid were there: A large world to explore, various power-ups that let you access new areas to find, deadly boss battles, even some puzzle solving was thrown in.

The story takes place between the events of the first two games. Samus has defeated the Space Pirates for the first time and picks up a distress signal orbiting the planet Tallon IV. As it turns out, it was a Space Pirate Frigate made up of stragglers from the Zebes base and they have been conducting some experiments using a mutagen called Phazon. After Samus defeats a giant parasite, meets an old enemy and escapes before the ship explodes, she makes her way to the planet's surface itself to put a stop to the experiments the Pirates are conducting.

What I especially enjoyed about this storytelling is, outside of voiceless cutscenes, a lot of it was pretty optional. You could read logs from Pirates (translated by your visor) or the ancient Chozo that had lived on the planet to get a lot more lore and story bits if you so wanted, and it added a lot more personality to the universe, personality I didn't even know I wanted. But these small bits of flavor were enough to satisfy without going full blown cutscene-o-rama like some games ended up doing.

By putting you inside the power suit, Metroid Prime became an experience. From small details such as ripples of water after you climb out of a pond, to being able to change to X-Ray vision so detailed, you can even see Samus's bones in the arm cannon and how she fires the weapon.

But more than anything, Metroid was back, and it was a wonderful time to be a fan. Metroid Prime is absolute perfection, and I had doubted it possible. Well done!

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 8:47 am 
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2003 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

I had an internal debate about this one. There were a few 2003 games that made the shortlist. But this Zelda game with a different take on the art style was what won out. Care to know why?

Because I still know people who can't acknowledge how good it is. Personally, that is. And I want to let them know, right here, right now; The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the best Zelda game!

Now, let's start with a small confession. I was a bit turned off by the cel-shaded art too, at first. But here me out for a second! In the year 2000, back when Nintendo did an event known as Space World, they showcased a demonstration of Link and Ganondorf getting into a sword fight that used graphics that looked closer to what Ocarina of Time had. People had assumed that this was what our newest Zelda was going to look like, so when it was revealed to look more like this, people flipped. It wasn't "real," it looked like it was for kids, that kind of thing. I was feeling that way a bit too.

Still, I gave it a try, and you know what? This game really is fantastic! Here, let me break it right down for you:

Once upon a time, there was a land called Hyrule, where evil was thwarted by a hero clad in green known as the Hero of Time. However, evil soon reappeared and engulfed Hyrule once more. The people prayed for the hero to return, but he did not appear, and so they left their fate to the gods in hopes of a future. That kingdom is now long gone, with no one knowing what became of them and soon fell to legend, save for one small island where it is customary for boys to wear green tunics when the come of age. Enter our protagonist Link, who is celebrating his birthday when, after saving a pirate girl from deep in a small forest, sees his own sister get kidnapped and goes on a quest across the Great Sea to save her.

As the name suggests, the Great Sea is incredibly vast! It is probably one of the largest Zelda overworlds around (though I'm sure BotW will beat it easily) and you will be exploring these islands on your own talking boat known as the King of Red Lions. And this is where I end up absolutely adoring Wind Waker. Using the baton to change the wind, I looked forward to seeing what each island on the 7x7 grid map had to offer. Each one felt like it had a real purpose for existing and worth actually going to and seeing what secrets lay inside. Sometimes, you can find a chest with some rupees, other times you could encounter a Great Fairy who will give you more storage or power, and even still you could find mini dungeons with some nice rewards at the end. And that's just what's on the islands! You could also hunt for sunken treasure, battle giant squids, find a mysterious ghost ship, there was a lot to find in the Great Sea.

It's not without its faults, mind you. The number of dungeons is a little lackluster, the beginning is really poor, sailing can feel long, and the infamous Triforce Hunt was padding to the extreme. But the stuff it does well, it does extremely well. The puzzles were clever, the characters were memorable, and as stated, exploring each and every island made everything worth it.

And then there's the graphic style, the big issue I still see people take from this. From a screenshot, it might not seem like much, but honestly, it needs to be seen in motion. It is really a cartoon/anime that is in playable form. The characters have a lot of emotion in their faces and movements and the bright colours really help everything stand out. The animations are fluid and drawn out beautifully. It still looks gorgeous to watch even today, in contrast to its "realistic GCN brother" Twilight Princess, which is all muddy and gross to look at now. It's so good to look at, I daresay it didn't even need an HD re-release (though the QOL stuff it adds still makes the game worth it for those with a Wii U).

And for anyone that calls it kiddy...I just need you to watch that final battle scene when Link deals the final blow. That is not at all a kid friendly end to an enemy.

Wind Waker. Best Zelda. That's my stance and I'm sticking with it! Unless BotW turns out to be everything I think it is...

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:25 pm 
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I, too, look upon Wind Waker very fondly, although I'll admit a lot of that is simply due to the fact that it was my first ever Zelda game.

With that said, its direct sequel, Phantom Hourglass, was soooo underwhelming by comparison.


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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 6:18 pm 
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I feel like Nintendo did shoot themselves by showing that Link vs Ganon fight in an OoT style, it really did Wind Waker no favors. The Wind Waker is the ultimate example of 'graphics do not make a game', and probably for a different reason. Its visual does look really great with the details and expressions characters make, but everyone just hated it for being cutesy and stuff. I adored the game, unlike most games I put down at a time, I came to really love this one for a lot of what it did. The HD remaster fixed so much that it's almost perfect. Also agreeing with Pikminpulator, Phantom Hourglass was not the sequel Wind Waker deserved. It's ok but it's under whelming for several reasons. I feel like a 3DS sequel that wasn't top down would have been great, it is strange to go from a 3D Zelda to a 2D top down one...

Everything else on this list that I played, I agree with and they're just great. No other way to put it.

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:54 am 
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2004 - Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

I always feel a little sad when I look at the current market of Paper Mario games. They just can't even come close to the high bar that Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door set. There are pages of greatness within, but let's start from the top of the book.

The first sequel to the unusual N64 RPG Paper Mario, The Thousand Year Door sees our favourite plumber in papery form once again when Princess Peach informs him of a legendary treasure that may be found in the town of Rogueport. She mails him a treasure map, but this is no ordinary map! It is a magical one that can point our hero to the locations of the seven Crystal Stars needed to open up the fabled Thousand Year Door, where the treasure is said to be sleeping. But along the way, we learn that the Princess has been kidnapped, but not by Bowser this time, but from a new race of baddies known as the X-Nauts, who also wish to open the Thousand Year Door themselves. It is now a race between the two forces as Mario tries to collect the stars and save Peach!

That's the basic storyline in a nutshell, but the game goes far, far deeper than that. Like its predecessor, each game is split into chapters, but what really makes things work out this time was that each chapter felt so contained with its own sub-plots, their own unique gimmicks, and more. One chapter has you gathering a bunch of little critters through a giant tree, another has you become a professional MMA fighter, and even another takes place almost exclusively on a fancy train ride with a terrorist attack plot hidden among the passengers. While the main focus is in opening the Thousand Year Door itself, it's these smaller plots that really take the shine.

The locales that Mario visit are also very different than what you normally would expect from the whimsy of a Mario game. Rogueport, the central hub, is a seedy place you would expect out of something like a gangster movie before a cute Mario title. There's a town covered in perpetual twilight, a deserted island full of ghosts, a forest where everything is monochrome, and more. Nothing here was standard. Were Mario himself not involved, you could just as easily mistake this for a different game.

The combat itself is wonderful. Building on the original game's system, Mario and his partners have access to a lot more actions (and they aren't exclusive to just badges anymore) but what really helps it stand out is the fact that all fights take place on stage as if they were acting out a play. This isn't just for looks, though, this is an actual gameplay mechanic! As you battle and win and level up, your audience gets bigger, which means more people cheering you on and possibly giving you items (or more chances for hecklers to ruin your life) and the faster your "star power" fills up, allowing Mario to perform spectacular moves. Mario and his partners also need to keep the crowd excited, not only by performing well in battle, but doing it in style as well. That's not even getting into the fact that props and light fixtures could mess with you at a moment's notice. It adds a nice, silly, but fun new take on the battles.

Outside of combat, Mario has pretty much embraced his papery self. While the original used the paper aesthetic as an excuse to not have to make full 3D models, the devs at Intelligent Systems fully ran with the idea, making Mario fold like origami to solve puzzles and making background pieces change up in exactly a way you'd expect paper to act, such as ripping a "piece" of the scene off to reveal a hidden staircase, or flipping it like a book to make a bridge. They are rather cute touches.

But ultimately, what keeps me coming back is its diverse cast of characters. At first glance, they appear to be classic Mario characters but wearing outfits, but deep down, they have real depth to their personalities. We have a Koopa that is rather shy and wanting to avenge his father, a Bob-omb who lost the love of his life to illness, a secretary-manager Toad trying to find out what happened to her missing brother at a seedy arena, a villainous siren who is constantly getting mistreated and punished by her older sister for reasons that weren't even her fault... That's but a handful of the major characters you meet in the game, and the minor ones are no slouch either. These are characters that you care about, that you want to hope for a happy ending for. In a Mario game of all things! This entire thing was a story worth experiencing over and over again.

It was fun, it was very different, and it had some great writing all around. One of the great RPGs, and it stars a man known for just jumping on an enemy's head!

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 Post subject: Re: 30 Years,, 30 Games
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2005 - Shadow of the Colossus

This title was quite the experience. With a grand total of 16 enemies in the entire game for such a large scale world, it doesn't sound like much, but Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus proved that there was a lot more than what you would think.

Our adventure begins with a man named Wander and his horse Agro carrying with them a girl named Mono, who was a maiden that had been sacrificed for reasons the game didn't really explain. He wishes to restore her, but to do so, he enters a forbidden land and makes a deal with an ancient being where his wish will be granted if he slays the 16 colossi that roam the land.

The gameplay is made up of basically two parts: Find the colossus, and then defeat the colossus, and all of it involves using the environments to solve platforming puzzles. Our protagonist isn't exactly a strongman though, in fact he's kind of weak. He can only grip onto things for as long as his stamina holds and he's actually really clumsy with that sword he wields (though he's got a pretty good shot with the bow). As the name implies, the colossi are massive beings, and trying to kill them with a sword is almost like someone trying to stab you with a toothpick. But the colossi each share something in common: Glowing weak points. Wander needs to climb these colossi (who will attempt to shake him off), find these spots, and then stab them with his sword. Black blood oozing out is a sign that you are succeeding and with a little more, the giant beast will be brought down, though not before Wander is hit with some black entrails that warp him back to the main temple.

It can feel a bit janky and might be hard to get into at first, but I think this was done deliberately so. Wander is a simple man with a simple purpose: He wants to revive this girl Mono, and he's willing to do whatever it takes. But as you continue to fight more and more of these beasts, something starts to come across the players mind: Do the ends really justify the means?

The game gives you quite a look into the morality of men without really outright spelling it out for you. You enter a land full of giants, yet not a single one of them ever attacks you unless provoked (and even some don't even do that). They posed no danger to the greater world, no malice. And now your character enters their domain and is killing them one by one, all for the sake of one person.

It's that sort of mentality that I had as I played through this game that really gave it a special edge over just about anything else. I mean, it also helped that each colossi had their own unique mechanics to try to get to their weak points, but the solemn theme of the game is what makes it special to me. We humans are flawed creatures, driven by our own selfish desires. This game shows us just who the real monsters are in the end.

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