Hello everyone! Remember me? Long-time no talk! Despite being MIA for the past four months, I’ve been squeezing in some quality gaming sessions in my spare time and thought I’d just share my impressions on each and every classic game that I’ve played thus far.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Although I prefer Super Metroid – that’s right, I said it – there is no disputing the perfection that is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a true triumph in game design. An exceptional experience from start to finish and a revolutionary implementation of longevity and replay value, with the inverted castle being a stroke of genius. Adding RPG elements to the Super Metroid structure is surprisingly effective and undoubtedly empowering. With a simple, yet efficient levelling system, a surprising selection of weapons with each of them encompassing a unique feel, a wide array of attainable gear with inimitable properties, and a bizarre execution of spell casting, all of which indicates Symphony of the Night’s idiosyncratic nature, that of which Super Metroid admittedly cannot match. Although I cater towards the more atmospherically eerie nature of science fiction, exquisitely depicted in Super Metroid, there’s an undoubtable charm to the demented representation of Dracula’s very own castle, so I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t aesthetically pleased. Not to mention that the crisp visuals are appropriately complemented by an extremely diverse musical arrangement that ranges from pieces ripped straight out of Transylvania to the grungy guitar licks of heavy metal. In short, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is gameplay perfection; simple movements and the visceral combat are heavenly, and its masterful sense exploration and progression is only rivalled by its predecessor and own legacy.
Chrono Trigger. My goodness, this game is simply immaculate. Its revolutionary addition of allowing players to start a new game with the statistics and/or equipment attained in the previous playthrough coined the ubiquitous term of new game plus, which has become fairly synonymous with Role Playing Games. Its turn based combat is extremely familiar for those who are accustomed to JRPGs, however it twists the standard formula ever so slightly and allows players to combine characters’ abilities to create devastating dual/triple techniques which are extraordinarily satisfying and a visual delight to say the least. Chrono Trigger is the quintessential embodiment of an adventure; an incredible cast of extremely lively characters that play off of one another, an uncharted journey that coasts off the edge of life or death, manipulating the very fabric of time to shape certain events of the story, and a melancholic farewell once the journey ends.
I didn’t realize how much I cared about Chrono Trigger’s characters until the tears started to percolate as I said goodbye to each and every one of them. Aside from Persona 4, Chrono Trigger arguably has the best cast of characters in any video game. Frog’s inner demons of incompetence and his inferiority complex with Cyrus, his childhood friend, is a tangible element that undoubtedly resonated with my own personal struggles. Robo’s very existence is a somber tale of soul searching and isolation as he is a decommissioned robot with a wiped memory bank, in the desolate future. His endearing relationship with Lucca will undeniably pull on your heartstrings as he bids her farewell when returning to his original timeline. Chrono Trigger’s exquisite score, impeccably composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, is undoubtedly a favourite of mine and “To Far Away Times” has quickly become my favourite video game track of all time. Chrono Trigger is simply a masterpiece, in every sense of the word; with an excellent story with multiple endings, an exuberant cast of characters, an addictive turn-based combat system, an open-ended sense of exploration, and a stellar soundtrack, Chrono Trigger is easily one of the greatest games of all time and a masterful experience that should not be missed.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
While Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is still my favourite 2D platformer of all time, its existence does not detract from the pristine quality experience that is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. The level of variety that Diddy’s Kong Quest presents is simply unfathomable, with each world and its corresponding level emanating a unique feel. Whether it be the wide array of different enemies to defeat, the excellent addition of new, and returning, animal buddies which completely fluctuates the pace of the standard, yet enjoyable platforming, the fanatical addiction of attaining every last hidden collectible, or the infectious soundtrack which is a masterpiece in and of itself, there is simply never a dull moment when playing Diddy’s Kong Quest. Each stage is both aesthetically and melodically varied, with each world and their corresponding levels catering to a specific theme and having exclusive gameplay mechanics that are only represented in specific worlds. Believe it or not, despite being titled Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong is by no means the star of this adventure. That notable honor goes to his best friend and nephew, Diddy Kong. However my personal favourite addition to the series would be none other than Diddy’s girlfriend Dixie Kong, who controls majestically given her exceptionally awesome ability, helicopter twirl, which allows her to glide through the air using her ponytail. Diddy’s Kong Quest is not only one of the best platformers ever created, it’s also one of the most creative and diverse, with each level and stage building upon the foundation of the last. For lack of a better phrase, Diddy’s Kong Quest always feels fresh and exciting with no element ever feeling out of place or regurgitated.
Final Fantasy VII
There is no denying that Final Fantasy VII is a revolutionary title which arguably popularized the JRPG here in the west, but how does it hold up nearly two decades later? Well the short answer is yes! Let’s start off with the bad shall we? Graphically, Final Fantasy VII has not aged well; the polygonal character models are extraordinarily hard on the eyes, and it’s fairly hard to take anything seriously when character interactions are rendered to nothing more but LEGO characters standing next to one another. However, once you are able to look past its archaic visual fidelity, you’ll be able to perceive Final Fantasy VII for what it truly is, a beautiful and endearing experience, which still managed to be surprising, despite the well-known spoilers. Final Fantasy VII is excellent at building upon a foundation and developing mishaps into intriguing structured elements. While Final Fantasy VII may present a rather sluggish beginning, the copious amount of intriguing plot twists revealed throughout the journey make up for the meticulous nature of the game’s opening. The battle system is extremely familiar for JRPG veterans but introduces an excellent Materia levelling and combination system, where each skill, magic ability, and/or summon can be augmented and enhanced for gratifying results. Final Fantasy VII is an experience that exudes both charm and personality, while adhering to the addictive nature of JRPGs. While its shortcomings are evident from the very moment you enter Midgar, Final Fantasy VII’s addictive nature will eventually slither its way under your skin and once its teeth sink into you, there is simply no letting go.
I have a very polarizing opinion I’d like to exclaim, Half-Life’s story is surprisingly underwhelming; it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s most definitely not the amazing masterpiece of storytelling that some fans claim it to be. It’s a fairly standard plotline that serves as nothing more than simple reason for Gordon Freeman to move from point A to point B. All criticisms aside, Half-Life absolutely excels in responsive first person shooting, as its gunplay and intricate puzzles are nothing short of exhilarating; in fact, Half-Life is arguably my favourite first person shooter of all time. Though Half-Life was released before the prominence of aiming down sights, its heavy emphasis on aiming from the hip is surprisingly refreshing as this method of gameplay has been noticeably deficient in the modern realm of FPS’s. Half-Life’s gameplay would have been redundant if it didn’t have an impressive selection of weapons, but be rest assured knowing that Half-Life’s arsenal is absolutely beautiful. No two weapons ever feel the same, each with their own unique properties and most weapons having both a primary and secondary method of fire. Half-Life also rekindled my love for health packs! When was the last time you played an FPS that didn’t have regenerative health? This is most definitely a lost gameplay mechanic that is undoubtedly missed by many, as health packs added a certain essence of strategy to the FPS genre. Hopefully its sequel and its sequential episodes are able to expand on the tantalizing Black Mesa Incident and introduce new compelling characters, because interaction and development was poorly executed in the original.
Metal Gear Solid
I struggled playing Metal Gear Solid for over two years as I was simply unable to overcome its mandatory reliance on stealth execution; I am fairly incompetent when taking stealthy approaches and the inability to fend off enemies once compromised left much to be desired. However through pure determination and curiosity, I was able to pull through my uphill struggle and finally complete Kojima’s legendary experience, and boy oh boy was it quite the experience. First off, Kojima’s creative implementations are idiosyncratic and simply ingenious; the boss fight with Psycho Mantis or finding Meryl’s codec code are a select few signature touches that highlight Metal Gear Solid’s exquisitely obtuse nature. Given certain claims about the convoluted and nonsensical nature of the Metal Gear Solid storyline, I was pleasantly surprised to find the plot both comprehensible and extremely engaging. Characters are extremely well written, with Solid Snake, Otacon, and Sniper Wolf easily taking the spotlight, although every single member of FOXHOUND having a sudden change of heart is a little absurd and too convenient. Metal Gear Solid also excels in its boss fights, with each of them requiring a different method of strategy. The maniacal and obscene nature of the Psycho Mantis boss fight implores a “thinking outside of the box” mentality while the showdown between Sniper Wolf requires a considerable edge of patience and control, both being absolutely exhilarating in their own manner. While the controls can definitely be jarring at times, and the visuals are rather outdated – though nothing compares to the archaic LEGO structured visuals of Final Fantasy VII – Metal Gear Solid is still an excellent experience that conveys an intriguing tale and I absolutely cannot wait to delve into Snake’s next adventure.
Resident Evil 4
Although Resident Evil 4 doesn’t meet the iconic horror standards that the original constructed, I’d honestly say that it’s a better game overall, which is high praise because I absolutely adore the original Resident Evil. As opposed to being called a survival horror game, I’d categorize Resident Evil 4 has a survival horror/action game as it caters to a more bombastic nature with intense thrilling set pieces as opposed to the enclosed, claustrophobic nature of the 1996 original. Granted Resident Evil 4 can still be scary; certain locales retain that claustrophobic intensity and the fact that you can’t move while aiming, as enemies creep closer and closer towards you, further indicates that Resident Evil 4 still emits that anxious and uncomfortable aura. Resident Evil 4 is also the title that popularized the “over the shoulder” camera view, which has become synonymous with the third person shooter genre. While Resident Evil 4 tosses out the adventure mechanics of the original and shamefully lacks its intricate puzzles, it has retained the key explorative structure by allowing players to deviate from the beaten path in order to collect an assortment of ammo, treasure, gold, and new weapons. As I previously noted, the set-pieces in Resident Evil 4 are absolutely insane, in the best meaning of the word; whether you’re harpooning a giant amphibious creature in an expansive lake or partaking in an exhilarating mine cart escape, Resident Evil 4’s endless supply of adrenaline racing moments are easily some of gaming’s very best. Resident Evil 4 also introduced arguably the creepiest enemy in the entire series, the Regenerators. These ugly monstrosities are capable of near-instantaneous regeneration, so normal weaponry is rendered useless. Players must use an infrared scope to target the plaga resonating inside these abominations, and must pick them off one by one. Accompanied with the grotesque but exhilarating boss fights, an excellent weapon upgrade and modification system, and the traditional implementation of ammo scarcity, Resident Evil 4 is a revolutionary title that pushed both the Resident Evil series, and gaming as whole, forward to a new era.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
I learned one thing from playing all of these classic games for the past four months: Square used to make some amazing titles, with Super Mario RPG being the third Square title on this list. Super Mario RPG is an excellent hybrid of Nintendo’s iconic character and Square’s masterful expertise of the role playing genre; Super Mario RPG is simply the best of both worlds with it being one of the greatest Mario games and one of Square’s finest RPGs. First off, Super Mario RPG is a traditional turn-based RPG with an interactive twist; if a normal attack is timed properly – pressing the attack button at the correct time during the attack– Mario, or the corresponding character, will deal an additional amount of damage. Special moves are also reliant on correct timing as each magic ability or skill require their own set of button interactions. This more interactive nature of the traditional genre is rather fitting to the creative foundation of the Mario series and is a refreshing take on a favourite genre of mine. Even though a lot RPGs continuously implement the bad habit of permitting too many playable characters, Super Mario RPG keeps things plain and simple; Super Mario RPG only has five playable characters, but each of them are given the right amount of screen time for them to feel relevant to the experience, something that Final Fantasy VII struggled with. The familiar Mario, Princess Peach (Toadstool), and even Bowser are as charming as ever here, with Bowser’s insecurities paying off as excellent comic relief. The newly introduced Mallow and Geno are excellent additions to the Super Mario team, with Mallow hilariously believing he’s a tadpole and Geno being a badass warrior from Star Road using a children’s toy as a vessel. These two amazing characters are inexcusably omitted from the rest of the Super Mario universe as they have not appeared in anything since their 1995 debut (and no, the Geno Mii Fighter Outfit in Super Smash Bros for 3DS/Wii U does not count!). It’s simply tragic.
So there you have it, all nine games that have kept me occupied and MIA for the last four months! Despite my selective qualms with some of the listed titles, I’m fairly certain that most, if not all of them will end up on my favourite games of all-time list!