Archive for February, 2017

Growing Up Gaming – Nintendo 64

I don’t recall the details of buying the Nintendo N64 as vividly as the prior systems and certainly didn’t get as many games for it. After all, the only console I can think of with a smaller library is the ill conceived Virtual Boy. I didn’t even play Super Mario 64 on the system, but there were some games I certainly did enjoy.

I got my first real FPS experience on the system with Goldeneye 007, aside from a bit of prior experience with Wolfenstein 3D on a friend’s PC. Despite that bit of experience, Goldeneye was the first I really played through and enjoyed, both for the single player campaign and the multiplayer experience. My friends and I played the 4 player battles enough that we invented our own games, such as 3 on 1 battles of “capture the base” (where in one level, the “base” was the restroom). While I still like Goldeneye, and had fun with Perfect Dark as well, I never really got into the FPS genre as a result of playing it.

Another shooter on N64 I liked was Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and I still prefer 3rd person shooters over FPS. Although the game was probably fairly ranked as an average game, it wasn’t bad and it did offer a chance to play in the Star Wars galaxy. I particularly liked the Hoth level and the final level with the chance to do some space battles.

But if we want to talk about “Star Wars” + “Space Battles” then Star Wars Rogue Squadron was the game to get. The entire game was excellent, from its own Hoth battle to the more on rails levels. IF any series needs a current gen entry, even a VR entry, it’s Rogue Squadron. An entire game in an X-Wing sounds much more intriguing than just a bit of DLC in Star Wars Battlefront.

But for the N64, even Star Wars has to step aside when it comes to space battles as my favorite game on the system is Star Fox 64. Essentially a remake of the game on SNES, Star Fox 64 feels like it is the presentation of what the initial game was intended to be. With more complete shapes and graphics, superior music, and a bit of actual voice acting, the game was truly a masterpiece that has sadly not been matched since (unless you count Star Fox 64 3D for Nintendo 3DS).

Of all this era’s games, Star Fox 64’s graphics still hold comparatively well.

The only other big game I have strong nostalgia for is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first game to let us explore Hyrule freely in 3D, but more importantly to let us do so on horseback! Truly, Epona was the real breakthrough for the Zelda series here. The other unique aspect I liked was utilizying four arrow buttons for the ocarina music. However, aside from these new additions, it was just an excellent game that brought everything great from the series to the still budding world of 3D graphics.

Seriously, even the opening & title screen said “It’s all about Epona.”

As is obvious by the shortness of the list, I didn’t play too many games for the N64 and while the small library is partially to blame, it’s really the diversity of Playstation’s line up that really reduced my gaming with Nintendo this generation. I did miss some good games, like Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and a few others.

I will give an honorable mention to Mischief Makers, which was a pretty darn good side scroller I remember quite enjoying. I was particularly happy to add it back to my library a couple years ago.

That’s pretty much it for my N64 experience. Next up, I’ll take a step away from consoles and head over to the PC that dominated the next few years of my gaming with a little game a few people may have heard of called EverQuest.

Growing Up Gaming – Playstation

Like so many others, I started the shift to Playstation from Nintendo for one game in particular. Final Fantasy VII.

final_fantasy_vii_box_art

Final Fantasy II and III (still talking US SNES here) made me a full Final Fantasy fanatic. When Squaresoft announced the next installment on Playstation, it was already no question I would get it, but then the commercials showed off some cut scenes and it was like the future had arrived. The cut scenes they showed were like nothing we’d had seen before. If you go back to look at them now, they still aren’t that bad, but certainly show their age.

Then there are the graphics of the actual game. They aren’t too bad in combat, and the backgrounds were definitely beautiful, but the polygonal block bodies of the characters are certainly rough. The game definitely had weaknesses, not helped by some poor localization translations due to a rather short deadline given to the localization team. It has since developed a divided opinion with some feeling it’s an overrated entry and others feeling it’s the best entry in the series.

Personally, I had leaned towards it being a great game that was still overrated, but have started leaning back towards it being pretty damn good. I’m not sure it’s the best entry in the series and I honestly don’t want to try to narrow down a de facto decision of which I think is the absolute best, but Final Fantasy VII, in my mind, definitely deserves its praise.I think Sephiroth is generally overrated and JENOVA is generally underrated in the game’s dual villain dichotomy. While I liked all of the cast, and I was stunned when Aeris (Aerith!) was killed, my favorite team was Cloud, Tifa, and Red XIII (Tifa being the best of waifus past, present, or future).

Hopefully the forthcoming remake collection will make the game what it truly should be, with improved localization and fleshed out segments that were clunky or unclear in the original release.

The summons got more details in their animations and more impressive, but there was one thing I particularly didn’t like about them – too many Bahamuts. I’m on board with Bahamut being among the strongest summons, if not THE strongest, but having Bahamut Zero, Neo-Bahamut, and Super Hyper Ultra Supreme Zeta Excelsior Turbo Arcade Capcom Bahamut got a bit much.

I finished Final Fantasy VIII on the system, but didn’t like the game nearly as much, especially the Draw system. The graphics were a clear improvement over the polygons of VII, but are still pretty rough to go back to today and the story and characters weren’t as memorable for me. I will give VIII credit on having a better ending than VII, though, since it actually had a conclusion for the main characters while VII basically gave us a Final Fantasy ending for Disney’s The Lion King.

I loved Final Fantasy IX much more than its predecessor and it ranks highly in my all time favorites in the series. With the return of characters being specific classes, the game seemed able to really set scenes to give each character their own story arc with personality and growth.It was alos a nice change to have the more cheerful world and cast after the darker, even angsty, atmosphere of the previous two games. Even Final Fantasy VI was a good bit darker, particularly the second half. While I said previously that I would be hard pressed to pinpoint my absolute favorite Final Fantasy, I do think IX is my favorite ending of them all, and definitely my favorite ending of the series on Playstation.

The other Final Fantasy game often overlooked on the system is Final Fantasy Tactics. I had not played tactical RPGs with the aforementioned exception of Shining Force II. I actually liked the earlier portion of Tactics as the story is more grounded in the war and political intrigue amidst the kingdoms before it gets into demons and monsters and nefarious looming evils.

Though I loved Final Fantasy VII, another RPG I have fond memories of came out alongside it on the Playstation – Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. Where Square Enix was breaking new ground with CG cut scenes gaming hadn’t seen the equal to before, Lunar (originally on Sega CD) had beautifully animated anime cut scenes and vocal songs that kicked off right from the intro. It is a fantastic game a lot of voice acting (and includes a collection of outtakes and bloopers at the end, which get rather amusing).

 

There are so many RPGs on Playstation and so many I never played as a result. A few others I particularly enjoyed were Star Ocean: The Second Story, Wild Arms, Breath of Fire III, and Tales of Destiny. Chrono Cross was a good RPG, but came off feeling a little disappointing for me as a follow up to Chrono Trigger. Likewise, I enjoyed Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete, but not as much as Silver Star Story.

Moving away from RPGs, Playstation pulled me far into a new genre: Survival Horror. I had been exposed to the genre with Alone in the Dark on PC, but didn’t get too far in that one. Now Resident Evil 2 truly dragged me into it. I learned to dread the “click click click” of Lickers and became paranoid of a sudden burst of glass with dogs or ravens coming for me. I really knew to be worried if I found a room with a ribbon, ammo, and herbs with a typewriter. This led me to go back to play the first one and I then continued with each main entry since.

Playstation also had Spider-Man, which was the first really good Spider-Man game (also available on N64) that let you climb the walls and ceilings as well as web swing on top of good combat. It was followed by the equally good Spider-Man: Enter Electro. While the games may not seem as good today, especially without an open world, they were absolutely great at their time. These games began the tradition of having unlockable costumes that I really hope continues on the new Playstation 4 game.

The last game to have the a long lasting impact on me from the Playstation is Metal Gear Solid. I most remember the trippy 4th wall break with Psycho Mantis being such a surprise. The solution was quite clever as well, though it drove me nuts figuring out the call frequency that’s given to you on the back of the case. The Metal Gear Solid theme is one of my favorite video game music pieces.

This line up is far from complete, though. I played Crash Bandicoot and was introduced to Spyro the Dragon on the system. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was a lot of fun as well. And yet despite all the good memories on Playstation, I still barely scratched the surface of what was available. As with every console I collect for, hopefully I’ll be able to get back to more of them some day.

That’s it for this entry. Next up, I’ll briefly discuss my time with the overshadowed Nintendo 64.