weskerian Top 10 VG Meme Picture

Given that I’ve spent nearly twenty years of my life playing, writing about and otherwise being infatuated with Video Games, and considering that they brought me many of the better things in my life, I figured it was about time to fill in this meme. You might say Shak tagged me, but I actually just nicked this from her.

For me, it started when my parents bought me a Commodore Amiga. It was an unsophisticated system with bootleg games, but it essentially determined the direction my life took from that point.

Without further ado, it’s Dave’s Top Ten Video Game meme, in no particular order.

InFamous
This game is my most recent favourite. I acquired it just less than a year ago. In all honesty, the concept of this game alone was enough to sell it to me. Who wouldn’t want to play a game composed of free-running, shooting lightning from your hands, and being a superhero? When I finally got my hands on it, I found that it was actually more than I’d expected. It wasn’t just fun. It had depth, it had impact, it had compelling characters, a love story I adored, and a twist that kept me guessing right up until the end.

I loved this game so much. It was the first one I bothered to acquire all the trophies for on the PS3. It’s a pity that first glimpses of InFamous 2 have left me less than impressed. They turned main protagonist Cole McGrath into a pretty boy, gave him a boy band voice in place of his gravelly rumble, and introduced monsters, none of which give me the tingles about the next instalment. I will play it (eventually), but I’ll always remember the original for what it was. Nearly the perfect stand-alone game.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
What makes games scary is ignorance of the rules. The moment you can rationalise out that zombies/ghosts/freaky mutants can’t follow you from room to room is the moment they lose power over your mind. The moment you reduce everything to tactics based on game mechanics is the moment those things stop being scary. Eternal Darkness, on the other hand, gets rid of the rules. It sucks the safety out of the game, to the point where you may not be safe in an empty room, casting a spell or even in the options menu. This is why I rate this game as the scariest I’ve ever played.

But there’s a lot to love about this game, scary or not. The way each of the thirteen characters perceive the world they have been thrust into gives each one a sense of depth and complexity. The runic magic created a robust system of game play and exploration, and the reuse of the same four locations throughout two millennia helped to create the sense of the world changing with time. The writing and dialogue was superb, and the combat (though rudimentary, as much of Silicon Knights stuff seems to be) was enough to progress the story, which was the real star of the show.

This game is an example of one that knows its strength, and its strength is storytelling. And as a writing buff, I definitely tend to favour story over gameplay.

Resident Evil 3
Thanks to games like Eternal Darkness, Project Zero and Doom 3, Resident Evil is no longer the force to create jittery sleepless nights filled with paranoia about zombies in the closet that it used to be. It is, however, still one of my favourite series. I had to think long and hard about which of the RE games I liked most. In the end, I chose RE3.

I felt it did everything that RE1 and RE2 did, but a little better. The controls were more responsive, the game was more action-oriented, while still keeping the horror element high (mainly thanks to Nemesis). It also gave a wider picture of the outbreak in Raccoon City, which RE2 didn’t quite manage. I was never much impressed by Jill’s outfit, but that might actually be one of the only things I’d change. The introduction of more sensible puzzles (water check, vaccine machine) was definitely appreciated. The replay value was also greatly extended by the Epilogue endings (which I loved) and Operation Mad Jackal, which was epic fun.

In the end, Capcom took a step back with RECV, reprising the greater horror element from RE1. RECV was a great game, but I don’t think I liked, or played, it as much as RE3. RE4 was also good, but for different reasons. But, all told, the mid-point of the series gets my vote.

Shining Force 2
Wow, what to say about this one. I was a fan of Tactical RPG’s before I was a fan of RPG’s. In fact, at this point in my life, I’d never even played a Final Fantasy game. Shining Force 2 was one of those games. I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon it, but I suspect an old friend of mine was to blame. Now that I have both of these games in the Sega Mega Collection, I play Shining Force 1 more, but only because I played 2 so much when I was younger that I have the entire story memorised.

This game features pitched battles fought on chessboard-like battlefields with dozens of characters. The “Force” you can put together can consist of over 50 characters, ranging from elves, warriors, knights, werewolves, giant turtle monsters and FUCKING BIRDMEN. The music just felt heroic. The battle animations often looked beautiful (and greatly improved on the previous game). And the sprites looked amazing. King Gallam’s evil face and Zeon, the Demon King, are two of my favourites. Some of the stuff in this game was insane. Like a battle against chess pieces on a giant chess board (sound familiar, DMC fans) and a metal giant so big you can only attack his feet. I loved this game SO much.

I still love Tactical RPG’s, more than I do real RPG’s. I’ve recently started playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, and I love it, but nothing will trump Shining Force 2 for me.

Sonic 3 and Knuckles
I need to make it clear that its specifically Sonic 3 and Knuckles that I’m talking about here. I played Sonic 3 before SnK came out and I loved it, though the Hydro City Zone contributed heavily to my fear of water levels that still exists to this day. It’s probably that “dun-dun-dun-you-are-drow-ning” music. But then, the added whack of SnK added to the original improved the game one-hundred fold. The extension to the story, the extra character and the addition of the save system to SnK made completing it a whole lot more achievable, improved the replay value and just generally made the experience better.

This was the first Sonic game to have rudimentary cut scenes to explain how the game shifted from one level to the next. As well as the first one to have an underpinning storyline other than “Robotnik is being evil”. The level designs were varied, the bosses even more so. This was definitely Sonic at its best, and Sega was always going to struggle to beat this. As it was, Adventure and Adventure 2 just couldn’t compete.

I played this game to death. I had a completed game with every character (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Sonic & Tails), and by completed I mean all the chaos/ultra emeralds as well. This was probably the first game I achieved absolute completion with. I honestly cannot say how much I loved this. At the time I was playing this, I was also collecting the Sonic (The) Comics, which I believe were only produced here in England. They were AMAZING. I kind of wish I’d kept my 100+ (maybe even 200) strong collection, but I think they were thrown out long ago. The thought of that makes me weep inside.

Tales of Symphonia
I actually can’t believe I forgot this one. Originally, I had intended for this spot to be filled by Shadow Hearts. Don’t get me wrong, SH is an amazing game. The Final Fantasy-esque battle system, tempered with the game of skill that was the Wheel of Fortune added a quirk to the game that was original, though it could admittedly be kind of annoying. But the story was where SH really shined, and the ending in particular was heart-rending. The relationship between Yuri and Alice won this game many points. But the fact is, I’ve always preferred Active Battle systems, like the one in Tales of Symphonia and Star Ocean: Till The End of Time. And so, that is why I must rate Tales ahead of SH.

I think the main reason I was so thrilled with this game was that it is yet to be the only RPG that I have played with Shak. Most RPG’s are too boring to hold the attention of two people, because they are single player games. Splitting the work is fine if both are interested, but Shak doesn’t like RPGs as much as I do. This one was an exception. I think we both became very quickly immersed in the game, the characters and the world in which their struggle was set. Packed with some of the best voice acting talent in any game, ever, and combined with fast-paced, easily understood and exciting battle controls, this game had a lot to offer. As usual, it’s the story that really shines here for me. I won’t give away any details, but it rates far better than any Final Fantasy game I have ever played.

As far as value for money goes, imagine a game where you have an easy 40 hours of game play every time you play, and EIGHT possible endings, each one affecting the last five or so hours of game play, and various events throughout the game prior to that. I mean, this game was hugely entertaining and it allowed such massive changes in storyline that it was well worth putting in the 320 hours of gaming needed to get every possible variation of the story. As it was, I never managed it. Maybe someday I’ll have to go back through and find out what I missed.

Adventures of Alundra
Imagine a Legend of Zelda game with mature content and you have Alundra. This game trumps Nintendo’s RPG series by a long shot. It’s just a shame that it seemed to slip under the radar for most people. This game is interesting for many reasons. The story is excellent. The dialogue and characterisations are all profound and compelling, adding depth to the game universe. The bosses are often hideous in design (The Soul Leech and Zazan, the Great White Ape, in particular). Half of the levels even take place in dreams, of all places. The music ranges from sombre (Requiem) to heroic (The Wind That Shook The Earth) to outright terrifying (Lars’ Crypt).

Mostly, it stands out because it pulls no punches. Most of the principal cast die horrific deaths during the course of the game. The story is confounded by the arrival of a second protagonist with the same powers as your character, and the growing suspicion of many of the villagers, who see you as a curse rather than a blessing. The developers of this game knew what they were doing when they put this cast together and they use it to tug you every which way emotionally until the end.

Alundra is one of those games I tried and failed to play when I was younger. I was actually inspired to buy it by an ad in a gaming magazine. When I played, I found it harder than I was expecting. It was too cerebral for my tiny child brain to really understand. Playing it again a couple of years ago, I finally finished it. This game is laborious. If you buy it, do not expect an easy ride. Unlike Zelda, this is hard work (I finished Link to the Past without incident). The puzzles are difficult, unless you fancy selling your soul to GameFAQs for an equaliser.

But the payoff is well worth it. You will experience one of the finest gaming sensations I have ever had the pleasure to endure should you be able to play and complete this. Finding a copy, I imagine, will be half the battle.

MK vs. DC Universe
Of course, I had to include one of the MK games in this list. I'd never been a fan of beat-em-ups, but I was always more partial to MK than any of the others. I've never liked Tekken or Street Fighter. It was Shak who really turned me on to MK. My foray into the universe started with Deadly Alliance, which to my mind was the only PS2 gen game that was actually any good. MK1 and MK2 are both solid entries into the series as well, but it’s MKDC that makes my list.

Ultimately, this is about storyline again. The gameplay in beat-em-ups has never been particularly rewarding or deep. The original MK games' static moveset for every character made the game about who could utilise their basic move set best, rather than who could spam special moves in the longest chain like in Street Fighter. With the change to complex movesets in the next gen, MK went the same way. However, in MKDC there is a genuine Story Mode, which is the first time MK has included such a thing, without using some half-assed Konquest Mode to tell the story. And it’s good.

It is refreshing to see a game where the female characters, such as Sonya Blade and Wonderwoman, aren't neutered to suit the male-biased market video games usually cater too. We need more games where the women aren't just tits and asses walking about the place. Sonya, in particular, shows us what having a female character that can really kick ass is all about (see the scene where she picks Green Lantern up by the throat for a good example). It’s for this reason that I give this game MK's place on the list. Poor replay value, yes. Typical semi-mindless beat-em-up controls, certainly. But an amazing storyline earns this game all the points it needs to appear on this list.

On a related note, anyone who hasn’t seen Kevin Tanchareon’s Mortal Kombat Rebirth on Youtube should look it up immediately. Apparently, this is being turned into a ten-episode-long web series, starring Michael Jai White. THIS IS GOOD NEWS!

Final Fantasy X
I'm probably going to get shot out of a big fandom cannon for this, but this is easily my favourite of the series. Back in the day, it was FF7 by a long shot, but age and recent developments in that fandom have pushed it well and truly out of the position it once held in my affections. Instead, it’s FFX in its place. The primary reason is the battle system and sphere grid, both of which I think are examples of Final Fantasy's often dull game mechanics at their best.

I love how strategically sound your battles could be in this game thanks to the little pictures at the side of the screen. The ability to swap characters in and out of battle also made grinding that much easier. Grinding itself could be fun with this engine, and if there's one thing that needs to be fun, it's grinding. The sphere grid was another thing that just felt rewarding. I'm guilty of hording levels so that I could do big, long upgrading sessions, because it brought me immense nerdy joy.

But it was more than that. Final Fantasy always tried to expand on the histories of all its playable characters through events in the game off the beaten track. I don't think any game has been as successful in making me give a crap as this one. Tidus wasn't the whiny bitch that Cloud, Squall and even Zidane were, even when the "twist" occurs. All the others spiralled into self-pity. He just wanted to save Yuna, and for that I give him major respect. It’s not just him though. Wakka, Yuna, Rikku, Kimahri, Lulu - they're all great. So nice, so giving, so ultimately charismatic. Not a bad egg among them. And then there's Auron, who goes beyond awesome and into epic, but I think we can all agree on that one. My point, however, is that Auron doesn't add anything to this game that wasn't already there. He's just another amazing part of a game that would already have blown me away.

Final Fantasy X-2 was also good, if a little silly, and it was quite a cute way of tying up some loose ends. Shame FF7 didn't get a sequel that good really.

Secret of Evermore
I'm sure some of you older gamers have played Secret of Mana for the SNES. This game is the spiritual cousin of that game. In many ways it’s the same. Same life bars, same menu screen, same overall interface. The difference is that this game was made by Squaresoft Yankland and not in Japan. As such, the localisation is much better. The dialogue is sharper, the storyline is more streamlined and there are more elements of Western mythology and culture inherent in the overall makeup of the game. I, personally, prefer this. Since I know nothing about Japanese mythology or religion, or even just culture, I've always felt like there's something off whenever I play a Japanese game, some joke I am not getting a lot of the time.

This game gets its place on this list because I played it to death when I was younger. There's a great magic system (alchemy, using ingredients found in the environment by your trusty canine companion), the combat system is simple but still dynamic (three weapon types, sword, axe and spear, all with different uses), all of the environments look beautiful and have an amazing array of music to match, the bosses are challenging and genuinely quite scary looking, and the supporting cast is endearing. Most of all, I just loved playing this game, even if some parts of it kicked my ass (read: bottom of the well dungeon and the dark forest both hated me).

There were some nice details, like the fact that your dog would change shape in every world (from hulking beast, to greyhound, to poodle, to robotic toaster). All four transformations were dead cute. And the part where you get to turn a guy into a basket, goat or chicken because he's telling everyone that they're in a video game always made me chuckle. It’s well worth acquiring a ROM for, if you can find one that works. *grumbles*

But in all honesty, all of these games are worth getting, and that's not including all the ones I couldn't fit or decided against putting on this list. The rest of the early Resident Evil series, Shadow Hearts, Halo, Chrono Trigger, the early Mortal Kombat series up to Deadly Alliance, the 2D Sonic games, Shining Force 1, Metal Gear Solid, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, the Crash Bandicoot series, Batman: Arkham Asylum - all of which are great games. I’ve been playing games for too long not to have more than a couple of favourites, and this is just a small selection of the dozens of titles I’ve played.

But, whether for nostalgic purposes or because I picked them up along the way and never let them go, these are my Top Ten.
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