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Thread: WK's Top something or other... let's just say "games" and call it good list.

  1. #466
    Taking care of business Cid's Knight Bubba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fynn View Post
    I mean, it's pretty obvious what #4 is if you just read the quote from the end out loud.
    (SPOILER)Zeno Gias? The final Dungeon in Phillips CD-i smash Zelda: Wand of Gamelon? An unusual choice for a top five but each to their own!



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  2. #467
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    4.
    smurf FFVII, no I'm not saying that to be edgy and start this off with the bandwagon "let's hate on VII cause it's cool" I'm talking about the fact all these fans are clamoring for a remake of a game that for all intents and purposes holds up pretty well, and most of them really just wanted a simple graphical upgrade anyway; when this should be the game Square-Enix should be actually remaking cause the game wasn't even finished the first time around. So some fun facts that most veterans will know is that Xenogears actually started it's life as a proposal to be Final Fantasy VII being written by a few people who worked on FFVI, Sakaguchi deemed the game too dark and heavy to be a Final Fantasy but green lit the project where it spent a brief moment as being a sequel to Chrono Trigger which is very noticeable with both games having some shared elements and Lucca herself appears in the game as a cameo. Eventually the game became it's own thing called Project Noah before getting the title it's well known as. Despite the widespread rumor, Xenogears didn't have it's budget slashed so it can be given to FFVIII's development, Tetsuya Takahashi is just bad with budgeting since it was his first time as director and the scope of the game ended up exceeding the original idea for it. The team was told they could make a sequel or it if it sold a million units but the game fell short of that goal until several years later when the game became a cult favorite. By then most of the team left to form Monolith Soft while several members went on to make Chrono Cross which is why that game has so many similarities to this one. In fact, for a game better known for it's reputation than by people who have actually played it, it's surprising how influential this title was for Square internally at the time and how the influence of the game was felt in other titles like FFVII, Chrono Cross, Wild Arms 2, and Monolith Soft's own future projects. Hell, I am Setsuna itself has a few callbacks to this game so in a way I feel a bit vindicated for loving a game that for a long a time was ignored by the general JRPG community.
    Before I get into the lavish praise and reasoning why this game is so high on this list, I'm going to level with you. Despite how I, or any part of the fanbase tries to spin how magical and mature and awe inspiring this game is, it's hardly perfect. It's still an RPG written in the late 90s so expect lots of serious moments getting undercut by throw away gags, silly NPCs and scenarios, the heroes get rescued at one point by the team pet magically remembering it can grow fifty feet tall to punch robots, and most important at all: despite being a game that tackles themes of philosophy, religion, and the human condition, it's still a game about people preaching this stuff while piloting kung-fu robots. Hell the most common complaint about the game besides the Babel Tower is that the second disc contains a grand total of three dungeons, a mostly empty word map, and about twenty hours of story text where the cast narrates all the cool trout that would have happened had the team not blown all the budget on hookers and blow. I hope I have firmly established the fact that Xenogears isn't half as serious, mature, or some flawless masterpiece as the fanbase (and likely the rest of this post) makes it out to be. I am also happy I get one last chance to talk about my love for giant robots cause I smurfing love the Gears in this series, and this may be my favorite giant robot anything.
    The game opens with a massive space shuttle going through peacefully before it gets attacked by an enemy hacking into the ships mainframe and taking it over. When the captain realizes the destination the enemy is trying to take the ship, he orders the crew to evacuate while he activates the ships' self-destruct sequence. The ships weapons turn on the evacuees and no escape pods make it before the ship self-detonates and it's wreckage is pulled into the gravity of the closest planet. From some wreckage on the planet, a beautiful woman with purple hair emerges and watches as pieces of the remaining ship in the atmosphere transform into shooting stars on re-entry.
    The game then jumps 10,000 years into the future. The mainland is home to two powerful nations: The desert Kingdom of Aveh and the Kislev Empire. The two nations have been locked in a war that has lasted centuries and due to the intervention of the Ethos, a powerful religious order who scavenges the world for ancient relics, the people of the continent have rediscovered the technology of Gears. Giant, and often humanoid mecha, that are powerful tools of war. This discovery eventually gave Kislev the edge in the fighting because their empire contained more archeological caches of the machines, but a few years before the story properly begins, Aveh is contacted by mysterious military organization called Gebler. Gebler's military prowess and access to advanced Gears and elite pilots allows them to turn the tide of the war in Aveh's favor.
    The story begins in the small farming village of Lahan which sits on the border of these two nations. Fei Fong Wong is a painter and local martial arts enthusiast living a peaceful life in the village and getting ready to see his two best buddies get married together. Three years prior, Fei was brought to the village by a strange man in a mask who asked the village chief to take him in. Badly injured and traumatized by whatever happened, Fei recovered from his injuries but all memory of his life prior to coming to the village is gone. Fei is asked by his best friend Alice to fetch some camera equipment from Citan Uzuki, the village doctor, for the wedding. Citan is a wise and multi-talented man who knows a bit of everything and loves to tinker with machines. He arrived with his family not long after Fei did to the village and the two became fast friends due to being non-natives. When Fei begins his return trip home, he witnesses several large gears fly over head and one crash lands in the village. Fei and Citan rush to the scene of the burning village to help evacuate it. Fei discovers the crashed gear, an ominous black unit that was abandoned by it's pilot. A strange voice compels him to enter the machine which he does so. To Fei's surprise, even with the machines guidance systems, he displays natural talent piloting the gear. He fights off the gears in the village only to discover they were trying to protect the black unit from pursuit party based in Kislev. As Citan warns Fei not fight within the village, the pursuit forces begin slaughtering the remaining citizens, including Fei's other friend. The shock drives Fei in a rage and he blacks out. When he awakes, he discovers to his horror that his blind rage resulted in the village being utterly destroyed and the deaths of several people including his friend Alice and the village elder who took care of him. Fearing the survivors would lynch him, Citan has the village agree to banish him instead.
    Fei's journey begins here and he finds himself being caught up in one major event after another, all the time being dogged by the mysterious Grahf, who was head of the pursuit forces that attacked Lahan, and whom claims that Fei has the power to kill god. His journey includes meeting a large cast of intriguing characters including Elly, a Gebler soldier whom Fei has a strange sense of familiarity with; helping an ousted prince now turned pirate to reclaim his thrown and possibly end the war; being imprisoned in Kislev where he has to solve series of murders with the King of the Prison in order to clear his own name; helping a gun toting Ethos priest hunt down monstrous creatures called Wels, and eventually getting help from the mysterious floating city of Shevat who lost a war to the even more mysterious shadow government of Solaris that manipulates all the political events on the planet in one way or another. In between, Fei has flashbacks of his past and that sometimes involves people that look like him and Elly but go by different names and are dealing with events that happened centuries before either is born. Fei's journey will take him across a story that spans different ages as he slowly begins to learn that maybe he shouldn't learn the truth about his past, a past that transcends both time and space.
    Xenogears is a very dense title. The game does the opposite of FFVII and uses 2D models on 3D Backgrounds much like Breath Of Fire, while the sprite work is nowhere near as good as Capcom's efforts, Square does a pretty commendable job and the characters and creatures in the game are quite distinct and memorable. Where Square excels is in the 3D model department, while the stages themselves vary from place to place, enemies and gears rendered in 3D are substantially better animated than some of the efforts by other games using a similar 2D/3D blend like BoFIV and Wild Arms 2. What's really interesting here for me is that the use of 3D maps end up changing the approach of levels. While BoF3 pioneered a lot this stuff, Xenogears innovated by adding platforming for better or for worse. This proves to be a bit of a double edge sword because while it adds a distinct and interesting layer to exploration now that you actually have full 3D access, as Brave Fencer Musashi taught us, platformers are not exactly Square's forte and more than any other feature of the game, this has aged the most poorly. Still, I commend them for actually pushing the envelope and creating a game that really does stand apart from the the main Final Fantasy series. Of anything, I feel more vindicated now when the team finally got this idea working in Xenoblade.
    Combat is also distinctly unique and while I wouldn't be surprised if it was pioneered by some lesser known Japanese only title, the gameplay certainly inspired the likes of Chrono Cross and Xenosaga's systems. Combat has two distinct forms: Human and Gear Battles. Human combat involves a character getting a certain amount of action points per round and having a Light, Medium, and Heavy attack button mapped to the controller. Depending on the characters level or where they are in the plot, they will have anywhere from 3 to 7 Action points. Light uses one point, Medium 2, and Heavy uses three. You can mix and match these attacks to chain together combos to defeat opponents and certainly combinations lead to Deathblows, which are special animated finishers that do more damage than usual. There are about a dozen Deathblows per character though some can't use this feature and excel in other areas. In addition to the combo system, characters can also use Ether Skills (Magic) or use items but this will use up their turn as well. If a character chooses to finish their turn without expending all of their action points, the leftover points begin to fill up a special bar until you have 28 total points. This bar serves as a form of Limit Break and allows the character to chain together Deathblows for high damaging combos that will take out a huge chunk of life but filling the bar is time consuming unless you are purposely filling it, and some bosses require this skill to be beaten as standard deathblows tend to initiate devastating counters. On the magic side of things, Xenogears actually emphasizes buff and debuff spells over standard offense, largely because only a few characters have access to offensive magic and of all of them, only three of them have skills worth using over deathblows and even then it's still situational. Human combat is significantly easier than Gear combat and most enemies will go down with a single deathblow.
    Gear combat works on the exact same principles but with some different rules that make it far more challenging and generally the more engaging combat in the game. Gears still use the whole combo rules but can only perform one action instead of chain attacks and their moves require Fuel instead of AP. Fuel does not regenerate every round, instead you're limited by the specs of the Gear's fuel capacity. There is an option to recharge fuel every round but it takes up a turn and doesn't regenerate as much fuel as you would like on normal circumstances. While a Gear can use any strength of attack per turn, they are limited to one action on their initial turn. On their following turn, their action will charge one combo level and there are a total of four combo levels though the fourth is restricted until a certain point in the story. If you Gear has a Level 1 Combo available, then if you start with a Light attack, you get the option of following it up with a second attack that activates the Gears own Deathblow that will consume more fuel than your heavy attack but cause significantly more damage in exchange. In essence, Gear Battles become a balancing act as you try to take down enemies while maintaining fuel levels through the dungeon, basically trying to be as efficient as possible. Here is often where offensive Ether abilities become more useful since they don't cost fuel to use. Some gears also learn special skills that cost a portion of fuel as well. Another challenge is that while human characters can use ether skills and items to heal and revive themselves, Gears can't be revived once they are K.O.ed and can only be healed by equipping special Heal Frames Accessories that restore a percentage of their health for the same percentage of fuel or by using one unique healing spell that is associated with probably the most loathed character in the game. While a Gears Combos are directly related to how the pilot has learned, the Gears don't gain levels at all, instead you have to keep them up-to-date with HP frames for health, Engines for their Power and Fuel, and Armor for their defense. These are largely set through the game so unlike other RPGs you can't just grind your way to victory to win. This may all sound pretty tough but it's actually pretty manageable since fuel is usually plentiful and Xenogears is one of those games where the dungeons and random battles are fairly easy to deal with barring a platforming section or two. Boss battles are another story and often prove to be the more challenging experience especially as the game pushes you more and more towards Gear battles and the game is quite fond of marathon boss battles where you may end up fighting several bosses in a row with no rest in-between. It's a decent compromise but not for everyone.
    So okay, Gameplay sounds a bit mixed, and I already tried to dispel the myth that the story isn't a bit overly melodramatic and downright silly at times, so how the hell did this game get up to my number four spot you may be wondering. It's a bit complicated and there are several factors, I enjoy the gnarm charm of the story at times and find the more mature parts impactful. The game was incredibly ambitious at a time gaming felt like it was being ambitious and it really painted and interesting picture of what the future might bring, the game also came at a time in my life when I was really trying to come to terms with my religious and philosophical beliefs, and ultimately the games themes and scale were so inspiring for me that this game has largely impacted my writing style and what I like to write.
    So one thing many people don't know about me is that I had a pretty religious upbringing. I went to a private school run by a Baptist Church and my family is traditionally Methodist. Anyone familiar with the different branches of Christianity may realize that these two particular sects of Protestantism are kind of on opposite ends of the usual Christian spectrum and so getting kind of that one two punch of seeing very radically different interpretations of the religious faith, in combination to my own growing thirst for knowledge beyond religion, led me to have a crisis of faith at an early age. Nothing dramatic however but it was rather daunting to kind of be raised with an idea of how the world works and then ultimately finding yourself in a perpetual state of doubt about all of it. So yeah, I ended up turning my back on what I was raised to believe and I spent some time trying to find answers. This is kind of where Xenogears comes to play, cause along with Neon Genesis Evangelion, my mind was open to a larger historical record of religious beliefs and philosophy and the two stories ultimately built within me an interest in theology, philosophy, and psychology. The games use of Gnostic beliefs for the backdrop of the story as well as taking elements of Judaism, Islam, and the various Christian faiths fascinated me and finally pointed me towards new knowledge I can use to finally forge my own way. So I kind of associate this game with a time period where I was deep in thought and meditation about matters of the universe and why we are here and I came to a conclusion that satisfied me, so for that, I have to thank this game as well as FFTactics as well.
    So now that the heavy personal stuff is out of the way, Xenogears also just impressed with the scale of it's world building. I mean we argue about the FF worlds and stories all the time but in terms of scale and ambition, no entry in FF short of the MMO entries come close to crafting a world with so much detail, history, and multiple themes. Of anything, Xenogears greatest writing flaw is that it tried to tackle way too much and thus story lines and themes in the earlier chapters of the plot are quickly forgotten and often feel trivial to larger themes that unfold later. Xenogears is not so much the story of an amnesiac boy and his robot as much as it's about the history of the world he lives on and his intimate connection to all of the world changing events. The planet has four distinct time periods though only three are heavily dealt with but they have their own distinct politics and social issues like the Zeboim Era that is modeled after our modern era but with giant robots and fully working nanotechnology that would make Starfleet green with envy but the society is dealing with surviving a past fraught with nuclear war that has largely sterilized the population and one scientists goal to use nanotechnology to fix the damage on the atomic level. The Shevat-Solaris War of five hundred years prior to the games main plot is even more detailed and many of the issues Fei deals with in his time largely begin in this one. It may also have one of the most tragic love triangles in gaming between Krellian, Sophia, and Lacan. The modern era of the game is also overflowing with details as countries and entire regions feel very distinct from each each other. To the desert kingdom of Aveh with it's 1001 Nights feel and Modern Middle Eastern politics concerning coups by more powerful foreign countries and the complex religious issues within the region that center on a holy land and temple. Kislev is a cyberpunk dystopia with a culture steeped in rigid control, dealing with a mutant problem due to past experimentation with genetic engineering, bomb collars, and gladiatorial mecha fights. Aquavy is Mediterranean in feel and deal partly with industrial scavengers finding lost relics from the Zeboim era under the ocean floor, it is the home of the Ethos Sanctuary which has the appearance and hierarchy of the Catholic Church but is surprisingly secular in it's teachings like evolution and it's main focus is finding, repairing, and redistributing the lost technology of the past eras. The region is also overrun by mutant zombie like creatures called Wels which can be human size or grow to the size of a Gear. Shevat feels like a new take on the Kingdom of Zeal from CT and is where the largest amounts of callbacks to the games brief time as CT's sequel are concentrated. Solaris itself is basically Brave New World with several allusions to the U.S. in both it's culture and it's political policy with other nations. I wish to remind you all that this was a game released on the PS1 in 1998.
    Xenogears also has a fantastic cast of characters to go along with it' cool setting and timeline. I mean it's hard not to feel for the cast at times like when Bart calls Fei out for his pacifistic desires and the two have a fight only for Fei to start having second thoughts when Sigurd, Bart's first mate explains the rough childhood and burden of rule placed on Bart at such a young age never gave him a chance to make friends. His complex relationship with his cousin Margie who is still a child but also burden to be the new Holy Mother of the Nisan Sect. Rico spending his chapter trying to be stoned faced about not giving a damn about his hometown in Kislev only to realize how selfish he's been when he watches in horror as it burns and finally decides to act to save it. Plucky Hammer who is tapped around king's godslayers, special forces, spies, and great fighters simply trying to find some way to stay needed despite being the most normal person there.There's Billy's tragic backstory of watching his mother get killed by Wels and his father disintegrate as a person due to alcoholism and so it was up to him to raise his traumatized sister. Emerelda's tragic story surrounding her creation, or Maria having to confront her father she idolized ho now has gone mad room his research. Elly dealing with her conflict between serving her home nation that she is well aware is corrupt and evil and following her heart to be with the one person who understands her. Trying to figure out the truth about Citan and how he knows so much and wondering where his allegiance really lies. Finally Fei, I mean dear lord, he's easily one of the most complex characters written in the medium and he will drag you everyone from feeling bad for him, hating his cowardice, only to start liking him as he begins to accept his fate only to watch him crash back down when the world just beats him down for actually trying. His backstory is complex and takes one of the longest text base sequences in a game to finally unravel which is actually a good chunk of Disc 2, and despite it being pretty easy to figure out some of the connections he has with the villains, the game still finds ways to twist the whole ting around to still surprise you a little. Fei has one of the most complex pasts of any character and all the FF heroes combined can't quite measure up to how really screwed up it can get.
    Even more are some of the villains like Ramsus, the main antagonist throughout the game, whose intense inferiority complex he's had since birth allows every other villain to manipulate him to do all their dirty work and shackle him with the blame when he ultimately fails and his obsession to beat Fei and the mysterious Red Gear which he still has PTSD from. It's an amusing rivalry at first but the guy gets brow beaten and humiliated so often that his descent into delirium is pretty tragic and by the end you really feel bad for the guy cause all he wanted to do was prove that he was worth something and validate his existence and instead he's just used as a tool until the bitter end. Grahf, the cartoonish and hamtastic Darth Vader expy winds up being one of the most tragic figures in the story and his goal of killing god and possibly all life on the planet actually has circumstances that show he's more of a well-intention extremest who simply fell off the slippery slope due to the tragedy surrounding his life. His backstory and connection to Fei is not only quite an interesting twist but is actually one of the game's best subplots which also ties into Krelian, the game's ultimate antagonist who is probably only equaled to Revolver Ocelot in terms of his goals being somewhat justified and pulling a Karma Houdini on the player. Miang herself is also a fascinating and interesting character who constantly subverts your expectations of her and may be one of the best female villains in gaming. I pretty much mean when I say that Xenogears may have some of the best villains in gaming. In fact, they are often more of the heart of the story than the actual playable cast sometimes and there stories tend to be the most cathartic, a tradition continued with the game's spiritual sequel series Xenosaga which also had fantastic villains that often stole the spotlight from the party.
    With all this subjective praise on the writing though, another aspect that stands out to me for this game is that it's a Sci-Fi junkies wet dream in terms of references and inspiration. Soylent Green, Solaris, U.C. Timelines Mobile Suit Gundam series, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Giant Robo, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Star Wars, Star Trek franchise, Hades Project Zeromer, Voltron, Panzer World Galient, Neon Genesis Evangelion, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, Warhammer 40,000, the Philadelphia Experiment, Brave New World, 1984, and probably a dozen more anime's and legendary Sci-Fi novels I missed. I mean there is technically some fantasy shenanigans going on here but at the very heart of it all, Xenogears is pretty much a Sci-Fi RPG. In addition the game combines elements of Freudian and Jungian Psychology, All three major branches of Christianity, a crap ton of Judaism, Islamic traditions, Nordic Mythology, Buddhist philosophy, and was mine and probably a lot of other gamer's first real taste of Gnosticism. These elements are woven into the story and world from both extremes as just simple shout-outs and colorful window dressing to make something sound cooler than it really is, while other elements fall on the opposite spectrum and add interesting gravity and philosophical undertones to major concepts in the story such as the major plot basically mirroring the creation myth of Gnosticism and Fei's own personal journey being one that is deeply Buddhist despite all the Judaeo-Christian imagery the game is oozing. I mean lots of game use real world myth and religious concepts in there games or subtle film and literary ones, but Xenogears takes it to an art-form and wound up creating a game that is deeply philosophical at it's heart, much like any good Sci-Fi piece would be. What is the purpose of humanity? What is God? Does life have value and who truly decides this: society or the individual? Is Utopia at the cost of great sacrifice worth it? Is immortality really a good thing? What should religion's role in society be? What about science? Is devotion to God or Science more important than a person's life? While better stories have asked these questions before and Xenogears isn't treading any new ground that hasn't been in literary and media circles for over a few centuries, the game does try to bring this sophistication to gaming, though it failed to spark the interest in gamers like more successful philosophical works such as the Metal Gear franchise. Still, it was a ballsy game in an era where having an RPG with jagged looking humanoid characters and a camera that pans around them in combat was enough to get most gamers jaws dropping. I still feel that the loss of the Xenogears team really hurt the potential Square was showing back then, and I really wish the series would have continued under their banner.
    Overall, Xenogears, probably more than any other piece of media has influenced me the most as a writer. I don't post my trout very often because, well a lot of it's trout, and because I tend to favor grand epic stories with incredibly detailed world design, and loaded with symbolism, philosophical monologues, and bat-trout insane characters. I have at least three different stories on my back burner that take direct inspiration from this game alone so we're talking about a game that is really a larger part of my life than some cool game I simply unwind to play. In fact, if the gameplay was better and half the character arcs weren't dropped after the first Disc, this could have easily been my number one. My point is, this is a pretty special game for me on a lot of levels and I'm always happy to see people check it out despite knowing most people are not going to like this aging relic of a cheese fest, but it's still very special to me and it still inspires me to write which is one of the few things I really enjoy doing in life, so I don't really give a damn if you think the game is overrated and unplayable, it still means the world to me.

    Coming Up Next: Your power is a gift, not a curse. No matter what happens, you must remember that. You are this world's last ray of light...our final hope.

  3. #468

  4. #469
    Pinkasaurus Rex Cid's Knight Pumpkin's Avatar
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    4. Naval Gazing - The Game!



    Chu Chu did nothing wrong

  5. #470
    Radical Dreamer Cid's Knight Fynn's Avatar
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    I find it funny how both Pumpkin and I are Catholics and we love this series even though some people get really pissy about it using religious themes

  6. #471
    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    xeno xeno xeno gears gears gears

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Man finding images for these things is always challenging, but this next entry is definitely going to be the hardest for me.

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    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    There's plenty of images of FFVII out there, Wolfy.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    3.
    I find as I get closer to the top that these are getting a bit harder to write, largely because a lot of my reasoning comes down to more personal things and I'm a fairly private person which makes writing these pieces a bit uncomfortable for me. So now we've reached my favorite Final Fantasy in the series, and the game that plays a large part of why I'm here and how I got into RPGs to begin with. There is no point in really recapping the story or gameplay because of the nature of our forum and due to this particular entry's reputation among fans. Besides, I have to leave something for the retrospective articles when I get back to them, which may happen once this list is completed.
    So this is the first Final Fantasy I ever played, and probably the second RPG I really remember playing. I had one gamer friend growing up through middle school and high school who was a huge fan of RPGs and he wanted me to get into them as well. Unfortunately, growing up in a Tolkien/High Fantasy obsessed house with some overbearing family members, I ignorantly believed that all RPGs were just silly fantasy bulltrout with elves and dwarves and occasionally a dragon or two. Not stuff I particularly disliked, but stuff I had been exposed to all my life and no longer really wowed me like they did when I was six or seven. None of this was helped that the few RPGs I knew of were the D&D RPGs and Dragon Warrior with their typical fantasy trappings on the cover. I loved video games, but I was more interested in the arcade experience of Beat 'em Ups and Fighting games. The idea of a game driven by menus didn't really appeal to me too much either, so for the longest time I resisted his attempts to get me into the genre. While I can never quite remember what started it, I finally relented and let him lend me two games he really thought I would like: Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana. SoM was chosen due to it's battle system being closer to what I was into and FFVI was chosen to appeal to my Sci-Fi interest and love of mecha and robots thanks to the Magitek Armors.
    I threw in FFVI first, watched the really cool intro and was pretty intrigued by the game's premise and the cool sequence of watching the party walk to Narshe in the Magitek Armors. I liked the idea of a world that no longer knew of magic and it suddenly being revived. It was an interesting premise that hadn't quite been as overused at the time as it is now. So I go into battle and the dudes are on one side taking turns hitting others and the damn asshole never bothered to give me an instruction manual or anything for this thing, so here I am trying to figure out what the buttons do and I probably fumbled for ten minutes inputting a command and then incorrectly canceling it and putting me back to square one. I think I got to the second scripted battle before I grew so frustrated that I called it quits and threw in Secret of Mana instead. So yeah, I started this relationship off kind of hating the game for making me feel stupid. After SoM softened my stance some more and more encouragement from my friend who lent it to me, I eventually decided to go back to the game and my time with SoM better prepared me for the dumbass menu system.
    Despite a hiccup here and there usually involving Sabin, I eventually got hooked on the ride. I loved the idea of magic and science being brought together in an unholy union, I liked the way magic was handled and I loved the more interactive and unconventional skill mechanics the party possessed that made them feel so distinct from each other. I became invested in Terra's story of discovery, Locke's tragic past, the Figaro's brother's relationship, Cyan's tragic intro, Celes' betrayal, and the uber awesome Shadow and Interceptor the Wonder Dog. By the time the Opera Scene and Magitek Factory passed by, I was sold on the game. Of course this all ended a bit tragically for me when I accidentally stumbled onto the Sketch Bug and ended up erasing all of the save files on the game, including my friend's brothers save which was the only one he told me not to touch. So I sheepishly gave him the game back without finishing it and apologized for it but he was pretty cool with it since he was aware of the bug himself. Still, I was too embarrassed to ask to borrow it again after killing his files to ever start over and finish it. Instead I plunged into the RPG genre I had been missing out on and went onto FFIV. It was my last year of Middle School I finally found my own copy of the game and I plunged into with enthusiastic zeal. By this time, my friends were obsessing over this other game called Chrono something but I was still trying to finish up a game that had become a bit of a Unicorn/Eleanor for me. Finishing this game was a major accomplishment for me cause it was a title that had kind of got me hooked on the series but I wasn't able to play it to completions for awhile and it drove my OCD crazy.
    VI has forever remained a magical game for me. Objectively, I can tear this game apart with an non-intuitive customization system that is largely obsolete due to your level being the only really important stat. Magic is overpowered, summons are underwhelming and several party skills and weapon/relic combos break this game with little effort. The plot is good for it's time but video game writing came a long way only a few years after this game released, and the second half of the game suffers from the writing coming off more stilted due to the open world nature of itself. The music, well who am I kidding, this game is Nobuo Uematsu's Magnum Opus and I can't really think of a better OST he worked on though a few do come close. Despite the flaws the game carries with itself, I can't help but love it though cause it was a game that actually made me care and feel for the cast. While VI has an interesting premise to it's world and setting, the game isn't so much plot focus as it is character focus, and I still feel VI has one of the best casts in the franchise. I salute them for giving me so many great characters and spending time with all but three of them to get you to actually give a damn about them which was pretty impressive cause even nowadays it's not uncommon to play games with three times the playtime and a quarter of the cast VI had and still feel like the writers dropped the ball on some of the characters. I mean I love FFTactics but if I was to discuss which specific characters I liked versus the ones I didn't care for or felt underutilized, I would become painfully aware that I only really loved a handful of them among a massive cast. VI's ensemble approach to the characters was a smart move and SE's attempts to have lightning strike twice just never materialized for them in my opinion.
    There are many other reasons why I love this game of course, I still feel VI kind of clinched the most interesting dungeon design in the series with great puzzles and unique scenarios to play through. Yet I feel it was how the game integrated gameplay and storytelling that really resonated with me.I love the Opera scene, it's a funny and ridiculous scenario but the music is great and that initial moment of panic when you realize you have to memorize a script to get through it was actually a mind blowing experience for my adolescent mind. Before that moment, games were just about overcoming obstacles and working towards a goal, and while this is not any different in theory, it caught me off guard to have the usual static story sections where I would patiently sit there and read text suddenly ask me to interact and play a part of it was kind of a watershed moment for me and irreversibly changed my mind about the medium. It might seem a bit silly now to think that something so simple and silly could have such a profound effect but in addition to having a pretty receptive mind due to my age, I simply never really experienced something like that before. I've dealt with an occasional dialogue tree but this was something different. I can't change the answers, I have to help Celes now play the part of Maria and it was a profound bonding moment for me. Celes is not even my favorite character in the game but that Opera scene has always made me feel a connection with her I simply don't have with too many characters and this to me is magical and the true potential of the medium, something I feel my next two entries embody on a greater level but for me this start down the road of video games as an art form began with VI.
    For me, VI is just filled with too many moments that stand out for me. Even though a game like Xenogears has better writing and deeper meaning to it's storytelling, it can't quite eclipse the feeling you get when you watch Edgar and Sabin decide the fate of Figaro to a coin toss, watching Setzer recount his lost love Daryl as you descend the stairs to her tomb, Cyan's memories of his family in the nightmare world, and Terra storming the gates of Narshe in Magitek Armor. VI is simply a magical game to me and I love all of it, even the stuff people often criticize the game for, I can forgive it because VI was probably my first "proper" RPG and it's what I cut my teeth on it, and I honestly can't think of a better game to be a real "first" for turn based RPGs. So many of it's elements went of the franchise, Limit Breaks, interactive gameplay sequence, special input devices for attacks, more open ended final acts, better blending of magic and science elements, and better dungeon design. Secret of Mana may have been the start of what I feel is Square's most successful and experimental period of the company's history, but I feel VI embodied this era better than any other entry with possibly VII being the only exception. Overall, VI is a bit like my last entry, a flawed but masterfully done game that pushed the genre and the series forward in some exciting ways. For it's few issues, the game has more good to outweigh the bad for me and whenever I truly begin to doubt my feelings for the series, I just need to pop this gem back in and play a few hours to remind myself why I've stayed so dedicated to the series in the first place. It's another stellar title from Square's Golden Age and a highlight of a time frame where I felt the developer was at it's creative peak, a sentiment many of the actual designers themselves believe in if interviews are to be believed. It was a great time to be alive, and it was a great time to be a gamer. No era since has really made me feel excited about the future of gaming like that time period, and no game better embodied that feeling to me than VI.

    Coming Up Next: "As long as we have 'loyalty till the end' there's no point in believing in anything, even in those we love. The only thing we can believe in, with absolute certainty is the mission, Jack."

  10. #475
    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    You like Final Fantasy VI? I never knew.

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    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    After you had posted this I've been thinking about FFVI and it is ridiculous how good it is. I've been playing Wild Arms and it is fun and has its own uniqueness that sets it apart from the standard JRPG but even though it came out two years later and for a more advanced system, it doesn't hold a candle to FFVI. This game has really aged well. Can't wait to show it to my kids some day.

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    Yossarian Lives Administrator Psychotic's Avatar
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    FFVI was, no, is a tremendous smurfing game, both at an emotional level with its characters but also in respect of gameplay with the excellent freeform-yet-still-story-based World of Ruin. A definitely worthy title.

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    I have some thoughts to add which I'll get round to tomorrow. A worthy top five entry!

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    2.When I was writing up the MGS1 entry, I had a moment of doubt, because despite a few issues I have with the title, I still consider it a fantastic entry and the nostalgia is certainly the strongest with that entry than many of the other titles in the franchise. So I sometimes wonder if I may be pouring more love into certain entries that I feel may fall short of it, but when I started collecting the images for this entry, it became clear to me why this entry was ranked so high for me. MGS3 is a fantastic game and I feel it's the Magnum Opus of the franchise and possibly for Kojima as well. There are many reasons why I love this game but I'm getting ahead of myself. MGS3 takes place in 1964, making it the chronologically first entry in the series, and taking place not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis which marked the closest moment during the Cold War where open war may occur between the two major super powers. You play as Naked Snake, the field agent for the new FOX unit which was developed in the U.S. and masterminded by Major Tom. Operation Virtuous Mission is a clandestine operation involving sending an agent into Soviet territory to rescue a rocket engineer named Sokolov who wished to defect to the U.S. but was instead traded by the government with Russia as a way to prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis from turning into open warfare. The mission is a test for the new organization and is being overseen by Snake's former mentor The Boss, a heroine of WWII whose Cobra Unit helped bring down the Third Reich making them all legendary soldiers in their own right. The mission is going smoothly until The Boss appears with two Davey Crockett class Nuclear Warheads which she trades with the GRU Colonel Volgin as an offering to defect to the Soviet Union along with the rest of her Cobra Unit. Volgin uses one of the warheads on his own facility to test it and Snake is badly beaten by the Boss and barely survives.Now the U.S. government is in a bit of a crisis. A U.S. nuclear weapon was used within their territory and the Russian Premier Khrushchev is in the midst of a political coup, which Volgin is spearheading thanks to his financial influence and having the Boss. The U.S. ultimately blames the Boss for the incident and gives the FOX unit an ultimatum. Be charged in her stead, or go back to Russia and stop Volgin and assassinate the Boss. Thus Snake finds himself back in Russia for Operation Snake Eater, but can Snake kill the only person who ever mattered to him? After the bizarre twists and turns with an unsatisfactory ending that was MGS2, it was refreshing to come into MGS3 and face a more down to earth plot based on Cold War spy thrillers of yesteryear. More importantly though is the game's more human elements at play within the story. Raiden was a guy the game mindsmurfed along with the player for ten or so hours, but Naked Snake, much like Solid Snake in MGS1 faces more personal issues while undertaking the mission that will change his life which adds a better emotional connection to the events. Of course this is Metal Gear so the game is still rife with wacky villains, government conspiracies and plot twists that change the whole premise of the story on it's head, but thankfully MGS3 shows a bit more restraint than MGS2 did. More importantly to me though is that MGS3 is one of my favorite types of stories, a start of darkness tale that details the events that led to the creation of MGS's most memorable antagonist, Big Boss. Once people saw the dates for the game's time period, most fans realized we were going to play as the man whom the Snake triplets were cloned from and the guy you've spent two games dealing with every bat trout crazy terrorist trying to keep his vision alive, so it was pretty cool to finally explore the life of a character most players probably only knew by reputation except for the small amount of fans who played (more like suffered) through the original NES version of Metal Gear. It should be noted that Naked Snake kind of splits the difference and meets in the middle between the series two previous protagonists. On the one hand, Naked Snake is still quite patriotic and naive like Raiden, but on the other hand, he's no green horn either and was personally trained by one of the greatest soldier to live which makes portrayed as a total badass out of the gate like Solid Snake in MGS1. It's a nice combination and serves as an interesting contrast to the original MGS1 where we witness Solid Snake's journey from bitter PTSD rattled killer into someone who once again learns to want to live and finds new meaning in his life, punctuated by the game's main theme of The Best is Yet to Come" whereas MGS3's Naked Snake is traumatized and broken down by betrayal and heartache in the course of his mission which turns him from his idealistic self to a broken and bitter man who will eventually wage war against his homeland, again punctuated by the game's ending theme Way to Fall. Course nothing quite hits you as hard as having to pull the trigger on the Boss yourself which may be one of the most brilliant uses of gameplay interface to ell a story in gaming. Another element MGS3 does which hearkens back to MGS1 over MGS2 is the return of the quirky support crew. Where I differ with most fans is that Naked Snake's crew is easily the best in the franchise. From laughing at Major Zero's love of James Bond, Para-Medic's film obsession which leads into one of the most bizarre Easter eggs in the series, to only sane man Signit chastising Naked Snake for the series staple cardboard box. There are so many fun little conversation pieces with the crew that it didn't take long for me to warm up to all of them. They may lack the drama of Naomi or social commentary of Natasha, but the whole crew is personable and fun, and I found myself constantly checking back with them to hear what they had to say. It's a damn shame the series never got it right after this game. Course this leads us into the heart of the whole thing, the gameplay, and MGS3 has my favorite gameplay of the "classic series" and while I feel MGSV blows this game out of the water on the gameplay front, MGS3 is still a strong second, especially if you play the more user friendly Subsistence version that finally dropped the overhead camera view the series has had since it's inception. Part of the reason why I love the gameplay is the addition of the Camo system and CQC. CQC finally resolves one of my biggest beefs with the previous two entries, which was the lackluster hand-to-hand combat the series had. As epic as fighting Cyborg Ninja and Liquid is in the first game, I could have done without the funky combat controls. Raiden getting a sword is cool and all, but again, the controls are hardly intuitive. CQC kind of resolved all of this for me, granted, they have a high learning curve, but once mastered, CQC opens the possibilities in gameplay so much more than what was possible in earlier installments. In fact it's so powerful and unfortunately convoluted in execution that the series has powered it down and overly simplified it with every new installment. Still, nothing beats taking down an enemy soldier who thought he got the drop on you, only to force information out of him to call in an airstrike to wipe out all of his buddies in the area and then finish it off by slitting his throat. Hell, if you haven't tried to beat The Boss with just CQC, you are missing out on one of the best final boss battles in the series. Camo is the other new mechanic, and I love what it brings to the table. The move to a more literal organic levels made it interesting to switch around camo to hide in plain sight. It does everything a stealth title should do, it makes you think more about your surroundings, rewards you with proper use of tools at your disposal, and it adds the tension of hiding in plain sight and being only a few inches from a guards path and possible discovery as you slowly inch your way through the jungles to your next destination. Having to jump to the menu to switch out can be a bit annoying but I feel the rewards outweigh this very minor inconvenience. I also love the fact it really gives Big Boss that old school special forces vibe. Helping matters is the enemy A.I. still being pretty sharp after their intelligence boost from the last game, so you really need to rely on these tools to make your way through the game unmolested by constant alerts and the army of guards coming at you. Other new features I loved besides calling in air-strikes is the ability to sabotage weapon and food storage facilities to weaken the patrols around you and let you hear their stomachs growling to alert you that they are close by. Hell you can even get info to call off enemy alerts. The hunt for food is also a pretty neat mechanic, and while some fans hate the whole deal and stamina maintenance, I actually found it fun trying to see what new animals I could catch and conversing with Para-Medic on the new species only for Naked Snake's inevitable "but how does it taste?" line. It made the environments feel a bit more alive, made you have to be a bit more wary of animal threats, and feeds back into the games excellent Codec crew. Course the crown jewel of this for me is that MGS3 has hands down my favorite boss battles in the series. From humiliating a young Revolver Ocelot, the most intense sniper duel in the series, the sheer horror of being chased around a dark tunnel by a guy with a flame thrower, and the epic hand-to-hand battle against the Boss herself; MGS3 outdoes itself in the boss arena for me and while many of the bosses can be cheesed pretty easily with the right strategy, I urge you to try to fight them fair and square at least once to see how exhilarating most of them can be. I still have fond memories of trying to take down The Fear without the Thermal Goggles, actually trying to take the End on in a fair sniper duel which involved several times of me getting sneaked up on and being sent back to Granin's facility. My other love of this game is it's historical element. Most of the series always took place "20 minutes into the future" or so to speak but this was the first game to actually be placed within a real historical context and I love how the plot twists those real world events into the narrative. I was born in the tail end of the Cold War, while I was too young to really understand it at the time, coming from a military family and a family that loves it's history, I grew up on Cold War films and talking about it. It's honestly the most fascinating part of the 20th century to me with the possible exception of the Communist/Socialist/Anarchist movements of the first few decades. So having the game take place in this fascinating time period and giving heavy fan service to the films of the era made this game a real treat since I grew up watching these types of things. More importantly, I liked the interesting themes placed on the game since the story is a Cold War tale but written in a post-Cold War era which entails certain hindsight that actually feed very well into Naked Snake's fall from grace. Current enemies can become future allies, and current allies can become future enemies and this is something you see a lot of in real world history and politics, which is why the very notion of an "enemy" seems silly since the circumstances may eventually change that. It's amusing that future Big Boss entries show that all of his allies from this game become his enemies and his biggest supporters are the ones he either fought against or betrayed him in this title. I feel like this is an important life lesson for people who sometimes get swept up in the notion of a "forever enemy" that propagandist like to use to get people on their side. I always find it interesting to talk politics with my Baby Boomer parents just so I can witness firsthand the extent of control the propaganda of that time still holds over them and paints their views on certain countries and political ideologies. MGS3 is just a fantastic title from beginning to end and easily my favorite entry in the franchise. I can tell you now that one thing all of the top ten have in common for me are that they are all titles I almost immediately started up again as soon as I finished it. MGS3 alone was a game I think I played through three times within two weeks of getting it for Christmas. It has the most emotional ending of a video game I've ever seen and is probably the only game to come close to making me actually tear up a bit when you watch the end. The game is embodies the best the series and gaming itself can offer, and you owe it yourselves to play it and experience one of the greatest games ever made.

    Coming up: Good Morning Crono!

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