Recent Event Highlights: Sagan Plays Guilty Gear XX #Reload, Sagan Plays his 'holy quadrinity' of PS2 games, Sagan Plays Jet Grind Radio, Sagan Plays Chrono Cross, Sagan Plays Black & White, Sagan Plays Jet Force Gemini, and 11 more...
Created by SaigonTime on Oct 6, 2009
Last updated: 03/10/10 at 11:16 PM
Square Enix, creators of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, purchases Eidos LLC., creators of the Hitman and Tomb Raiders series. Suddenly, Kingdom Hearts 3 sound like it could be a whole lot more interesting.
I've always had a love/hate relationship with 2D fighters; while the sprite-based art is usually gorgeous, many games (the Street Fighter series immediately comes to mind) fall victim to what I call 'match-up sickness:' rather than 'maining' one or two characters, players would tend to learn all the characters, then simply pick whatever character was mathematically or statistically more powerful against whatever character the opponent picked. Many companies actually foster this sort of behavior. While I realize this is just another approach to the game, it's never seemed very sporting to me, taking arithmetic over ability. In my opinion, if you're a truly skilled player, you should be able to take on any opponent...which is something Guilty Gear XX #(pronounced 'sharp')Reload allowed me to do. Guilty Gear XX is sort of Sammy Studios' 'Leaves of Grass,' being released in multiple incarnations: first the original Guilty Gear XX, then Guilty Gear XX #Red Reload, then Guilty Gear XX #Blue Reload, then Guilty Gear XX Slash, then Guilty Gear XX Λ (Accent) Core, THEN Guilty Gear XX Λ Core Plus. Characters in GGXX have limited movelists (only three or four special moves, with two supers, and one one-hit-kill move), but each character has wildly different moves and movement styles: the more 'normal' characters (Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske) wield swords and other traditional weapons, while other characters use vastly...different weapons, like Milla Rage (who uses her hair as a deadly weapon), Bridget (a cross-dressing boy who uses a yo-yo), and Zappa, a man who uses no physical weapons, but rather fights with any of the THIRTEEN GHOSTS THAT ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY POSSESSING HIM. All of the characters are incredibly detailed and unique in appearance, putting games with more traditional looks (such as the Street Fighter and King of Fighters series') to absolute shame, including the aforementioned Bridget, Dizzy (a young girl with an angel and a demon LITERALLY on her shoulders), and Eddie (a fighter covered in sentient parasites). It also features one of my favorite game characters of all time: Dr. Faust, an eight-foot-tall doctor who wears a paper bag mask with one eye over his head, wields a giant scalpel, and whose attacks, a strange brand of 'Schrodinger Fu,' include using his scalpel like a pogo stick, disappearing under a picnic blanket then reappearing by opening a door THROUGH the game screen, and an roulette-like ultra move that gives the defending player a 1/4 chance of completely negating the attack and a 3/4 chance of losing over half their health. The character designs are some of the most amazing and inspiring in the genre, and when each character has a unique balance of long and short distance attacks, 'matching up' becomes a thing of the past, allowing for true, skill-based gameplay that really turned me back on to 2D fighters when I thought all hope had been lost...even though I played it almost six years after it came out initially.
I've always been a huge fan of the PS2: it's one of the more sturdy consoles of any I've owned, has one of the greatest game libraries of any system ever, and continues to be a viable platform more than 10 years after its release (more than twenty games are slated to be released on the PS2 in the coming year). Out of the over-1,900-strong game library, there are four games that influence me still to this day, all pictured in the photo: Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Soul Calibur 3, and Gungrave: Overdose (it's the game IN the PS2, as I've lost the box somewhere). To begin with, I'll talk about Gungrave: Overdose: it's a third-person shooter, but it holds little in common with what we think of today as a third-person-shooter; GG:OD has more in common with old-school sh'mups like Metal Slug and Contra than with Gears of War or Resident Evil - GG:OD puts the player in control of three different characters (two of them unlocked after the initial playthrough): the first one a silent undead gunslinger called Beyond the Grave who uses two giant handcannons and carries a 'Swiss Army Gun' in the shape of a coffin on his back capable of turning into a gatling gun, a rocket launcher, and a time distortion device (to name three of the nine modes). The second character is one Jyuji Kabane, a blind swordsman whose weapon of choice are dual katanas mounted on SMGs, and the third is Rocketbilly Redcadillac, a ghost that possesses a guitar and uses the music he plays to obliterate his enemies. The game had an incredibly over-the-top sensibility and an up-to-eleven art style, making use of similar cel-shading graphics as Jet Grind Radio, but in a much darker, violent setting. The gameplay was even more frenetic than Jet Force Gemini, throwing 30 or more enemies at the player at once - however, rather than take cover and move in a tactical manner, Gungrave: OD fully embraced a guns-akimbo shootout style filled with destructible cover, repellable missiles, and a fascinating system of scoring 'beats,' which were successive hits on anything destructible, whether it was enemies or the environment, as well as striking a dramatic pose right after obliterating enemy forces - by racking up a huge beat count, special moves could be utilized, giving GG:OD a 'rhythm game' flavor amidst the joyful carnage. The second game of my 'holy quadrinity' is Soul Calibur 3 - I had been a fan of 3D fighting games since I played the original Tekken in an arcade, but it always seemed that no one 'got it right,' per se. Even having played the Soul Calibur games before 3, things always seemed out of balance: everyone always picked the same two or three characters, simply because they were incredibly easy to win with. Soul Calibur 3 obliterated all my past experience with 3D fighters: it featured a large cast of fighters with distinctive styles, and what's more, each fighter was balanced. The gameplay itself was almost more of a strategy focus than reflexes: rather than focus on a 'strong, medium, weak' pattern that many fighting games had, the Soul series depended more on high, low, and kick attacks, as well as adding a button just for guarding, completely ruling out button-mashing in favor of a system that actually lent itself quite well to the swordplay of the series. The combat itself was incredibly complex as well, with movelists for single buttons going well into the double digits, and some total movelists stretching into triple digits, throwing a wrench into the past fighting game strategies of memorizing small movelists and character match-ups and, due to its complexity, making the game much more accessible for plays like myself. It also elevated the action of guarding from a simple defensive tactic to an offensive one: while 'guard impacting,' a tactic that not just negates any damage but also deflects the attack and causes a split-second of vulnerability, was carried over from previous games, 'just impacting,' a new tactic which acted like a guard impact but completely threw the opponent off his game, made an appearance, giving myself (someone to whom fighting games do not come easily) a new (if difficult to use) tool against combo-happy opponents. The third game is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, one of the first truly cinematic games I'd played. While many games such as the Metroid series certainly took nods from the big screen, MGS3 actually FELT like a movie, no doubt because of its many (and occasionally criticized) cutscenes, deep and involved storyline, and top-notch voice acting. Taking place in the forests of Russia and featuring egomaniacal masterminds, superpowered henchmen, double-and-triple agents, motorcycle chases, and self-aware, occasionally campy dialogue, MGS3 played like a James Bond film...if James Bond had been an American Green Beret. The overall package of the game, from the great music to tense, stealth-based action, made for a game more cohesive and enjoyable than 90% of anything I've played before or since. MGS3 also is one of the games that holds the 'made Sagan cry like a little baby at the end' alongside Chrono Cross, a fact that really speaks about the game's storyline and delivery. Those sorts of things are the moments I want to deliver in games, moments where the player is so involved and immersed in the game that it touches them that deeply. The last game is Shadow of the Colossus, which I would not only rank on my top ten favorite games, but also in the top ten games of all time. The game gives literally no backstory (the closest thing to a name any of the human characters have is The Wanderer, as the main character is known) other than a boy is trying to bring a girl back to life, and is willing to ride into the Forbidden Lands and make a deal with a being called Dormin to do it. Dormin tasks the Wanderer with destroying 12 statues, each one holding part of Dormin's power; when all twelve are destroyed, Dormin will be able to restore the girl to life. In order to destroy the statues, the Wanderer must destroy 12 Colossi, massive half-stone, half-something-else creatures that range in size from moving vans to big enough that you can't see the ground below when up on top. There are no other enemies in the game other than the Colossi, who inhabit a massive, otherwise-unoccupied landscape filled with forests, deserts, canyons, lakes, and mountains, impressing a great feeling of isolation on the player, as well as conveying the epic scope of the game. Each Colossi requires different strategies to defeat, some requiring quick reflexes, while others require the player to out-think the Colossi. However, as the game goes on, the task begins taking its toll on the Wanderer, leading up to one of the most unexpected (though not in a bad way) endings of any game I've ever played. Shadow of the Colossus is plainly one of the most imaginative and striking games I've ever played, one with a brilliant art direction, a jaw-dropping soundtrack, and an involving story told mostly through silence: while dialogue is exchanged at certain parts, rarely is any of it about what has led up to the point the game starts - is the girl the boy's sister? His loved one? Any storyline is left unsaid, and the player is allowed to infer what he knows (or wants to know) from facial expressions and physical actions, the story revealed like a colored silent movie. SotC is also one of the few (less than five) games I have been literally unable to put down, having played through the entire game in one 16-hour sitting. From what I've heard from friends and other game players, I was not alone in this: it was that compelling. Very few games are capable of holding that sort of sway, either in past or present times, and that sort of involvement is something I really strive for in my game concepts.
The Nintendo Wii, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Sony's Playstation 3 are all unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, sending console fanboys into a raving frenzy and amusing PC gamers briefly before they went back to playing pirated games.
2002 saw the release of the Playstation 2, the Gamecube, and the Xbox, moving gaming into a completely new, fully-3D era.
The Dreamcast had been out for three years, but I had yet to touch it - in fact, when I won one in a card game at school, I didn't even know what it looked like. The guy I won it from was tired of it anyway, and it only had one game: Jet Grind Radio. I said it looked pretty stupid. He said I'd love it. He was right. Jet Grind Radio was a love letter to Japanese graffiti culture, sporting a completely new (at the time) graphical style called cel-shading, which was absolutely jaw-dropping. The game revolves around 'tagging,' whether it's marking your territory, having art wars with rival graffiti gangs, or combating the corporate-owned police force encroaching on your territory - the entire game is nonviolent, though: your only weapon is your art, a catalogue of over 100 different works to choose from, as well as the option to create your own graffiti in an in-depth creation tool. The game sported a large number of playable characters (as well as many secret unlockables), virtually guaranteeing there was someone who could relate to any player's inner art rebel. It also sported an absolutely amazing soundtrack, a memorable mix of J-Pop, mash-ups, American industrial, and hip-hop that really expanded my musical tastes. Truth be told, JGR expanded my tastes in general, awakening a side of my 'gamer' persona I didn't know existed, one responsible for my love of quirky games like the Katamari series. [Jet Grind Radio box art]. Retrieved Oct 10, 2009, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_Set_Radio
The Game Developers Conference hosts the 1st annual Game Developers Choice Awards, giving The Sims the first 'Game of the Year' award, other winners include Valve's Counter-Strike (best debut game), Blizzard's Diablo II (excellence in audio), and Ion Storm's Deus Ex (excellence in game design).
Sony collaborates with American Online to bring internet connectivity to the PS2, allowing browsing and e-mail capabilities. Strangely, millions of PS2 users STILL find those stupid '290 HOURS FREE' CDs in their mailboxes every day.
Sony's Playstation 2 and SEGA's Dreamcast mutual internet networks interface with one another, allowing the first example of cross-console play.
Chrono Trigger was the game that first caught my attention to RPGs (and subsequently caused me to get bored with any other RPG on the market at the time), so I was hesitant about picking up another one, even one my friends recommended to me, until I heard the name: Chrono Cross. A sequel-not-sequel to Chrono Trigger, Cross takes place on (ostensibly) the same planet as Trigger, but instead of traveling back and forth through time, the player finds himself traveling between his own dimension, and an alternate one created when an event in the past (involving the protagonist when he was a very young child, of course) which was SUPPOSED to happen...didn't, causing a distortion in the fabric of reality. While many of the differences in events in Trigger were on a grand, epic scale, the differences between dimensions in Cross were on a much smaller, more intimate scale: a happy-go-lucky fisherman in the native reality was an embittered, cynical dock-worker in the other, all because of a single choice he made - whereas the player in Trigger is made aware of consequences far in the future, the player in Cross sees the changes on a much smaller, more intimate scale, one of the things that really grabbed me on a very human level. Cross also sported a whopping 45 party members, each with their own unique storylines and interactions with one another, giving the game a replay value that most games today can't rival. But I think the real reason that Cross still resonates so deeply with me is that it was the first game to make me cry. And not little sniffles either, I'm talking about full-on, three-tissue-box, bawling, an honor that fewer games than I can count on one hand have earned. Even sitting here typing this little write-up gives me a lump in my throat. Chrono Cross was really the first time that gave me the idea that a game could be more than just an entertainment medium where you beat one guy just to get to the next - a game could be a beautifully animated tale the player went through that touched them on a personal, intimate level, the same way a great movie or a great book could.
One of the games designed by Peter Molyneux before his ego overtook his creative spark, Black & White took the idea of God games like the Sim City series and Populous (games which I found exceedingly boring), and truly lived up to the name with the player literally being a God, not a faceless city administrator or some such nonsense. B&W put the me squarely in control of my peoples' fate (and the rest of the game world's, to an extent), gave a few basic goals, then let me run free. B&W was really my first experience with what's referred to as Player Cruelty/Caring Potential/Punishment - the player's actions could both benefit and harm his people depending on how he did things. Case in point: an evil god, when his people became lazy, could set a few houses on fire and maybe toss a few villagers off into the ocean. This would spur the villagers to work harder. While it may have seemed cruel at the time, the extra wood and food they harvested would end up sustaining them through the winter (and it's not like they could've rebuilt the houses anyway). Likewise, a caring god could spend all of his time babying his people and teaching his avatar (a towering creature that learned from the player and acted on his example; your right-hand man when you were on the other side of the world) nice things. But if you went up against an angry, vengeful god, your creature would be defenseless against his, and you'd spend all your time taking care of your pet instead of defending against your rival...who just set your entire food stores on fire. B&W was also the first game to make me get a little misty-eyed, thanks to an intentionally badly-timed tutorial on rescuing drowning villagers, so there's that too.
Jet Force Gemini is, simply put, the game responsible for my love of shooters, third-person or first-person. Most if not all of the games I'd played up to this point either (a) had only one enemy engage the player at a time or (b) had three or less enemies engage the player at a time. JFG was a tour de force that held no qualms about throwing 12-14 enemies at a time at the player (and that was just the first level), ratcheting the action up to a frenetic pace that I had never experienced before. While health and ammunition were plentiful, enemies didn't wait for you to be ready; they'd pursue you, take cover, throw grenades, flank you - while not 'tactical' by today's standards, JFG required me to think AND shoot, and with enemies coming from behind, below, above, and in front, it was a complete adrenaline rush that very few games of the sort can replicate today. JFG was also the first games to impact me on a musical level: the soundtrack to the game was absolutely stunning, and was coupled perfectly with unique environments that put the Playstation's grainy graphics to shame. The JFG soundtrack is still in heavy rotation on my iTunes, even today.
Gaming celebrity Billy Mitchell plays the world's first perfect game of Pac-Man, scoring 3,333,360 points.
Spyro the Dragon was my first 3D platforming experience, and it was a complete departure from anything I'd seen since: it had the cutesy graphics of something along the lines of the Mario games (usually a turn-off for me in MOST cases), yet had a remarkable amount of freedom as far as movement and level progression went, as well as a somewhat cynical sense of humor about the fairy-tale world it portrayed. While only a few dragons had to be freed in order to open up the next world, travel between them was completely unmitigated, allowing the player to travel back to places they'd been much earlier in the game and finish tasks with new abilities or knowledge, something I'd seen only in a few RPGs and the Metroid/Super Metroid games.
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences hosts its 1st Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, inducting Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo to the AIAS Hall of Fame!
Shortly after the invention of the internet, gaming help website and notorious forum-trolling grounds GameFaqs comes to life. Someone says 'GENESIS HAS NO GAMES' and oh lord it just went downhill from there.
The Playstation home console is released in North America!
Chrono Trigger did all sorts of things I didn't realize that games were allowed to do: multiple endings, branching story paths, and one of the most complex (and convoluted) storylines ever. I remember many late nights staying up, trying to figure out exactly what was happening. Paper was procured, and graphs WERE drawn. My addiction to Chrono Trigger would leave me pretty much bored with other RPGs of the time, until a certain Playstation game with a similar name came out...
The Sonic games were my first introduction to the glorious world of 16-bit color, which really rocked my world. It also introduced me to the three main characters (Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails), all of whom played similarly, but with unique power that really changed the game. The Sonic games also introduced me to a compelling narrative and a powerful sense of morality in gaming: the entire series is told more or less without any dialogue whatsoever, yet the story, a strong environmentalist narrative, is still conveyed adequately through the animation of the various sprites and the emotions they showed.
Super Nintendo is released in North America!
Sagan plays Metroid for the first time. Multiple rooms! Ladies in armor suits! Save states! Hard bosses! Amazing music! My illusions that video games were just about Italian plumbers were shattered.