Bring It Back: Lost Loves Valentine’s Day Edition
I think just about everybody has suffered heartbreak of some sort. Despite the general perception that gamers don’t care about much, they too feel the pangs of the heart. When StarCraft: Ghost was indefinitely delayed, fans wept for a future that could have been. When Star Ocean: The Last Hope was released on the PS3, many fans wailed over the series’ gradual, but steady, decline.
But let’s not reminisce about the could-have-beens and the disappointments. Instead, I want to share my relationship with some games from my past. Let’s focus on the happy times, shall we? After all, Valentine’s Day is all about the love. I want to talk about games that impacted me in powerful ways. I will try to include a wide range of games from different platforms, time periods, and genres. Without further ado, I present to you my top ten list of lost loves.
Homeworld was the first experience I had that showed me the true potential of video games. Sure, I had enjoyed RPGs and FPSs on consoles and some strategy titles on PC, but none of them even came close to the scope and majesty of Homeworld. I already had a love for RTS games when I first played Homeworld, and my love of the genre only increased after playing countless hours creating, managing, and controlling my fleet. I remember simply being in awe of what Homeworld was capable of. The free-rotating camera, the freedom of movement, the effective UI, and stunning visuals all combined to make every gaming session a wonder. I still judge new games by how much of that feeling of awe they can inspire in me. Check out my Bring It Back article about Homeworld for more info.
This was my very first experience with the RTS genre and I absolutely loved it. Age of Empires drew me towards PC gaming and I’ve never looked back (at least, not when I have half-way decent hardware). I admit that I was devastated when Ensemble Studios got the ax and I realized I would never see a proper continuation of the series. Still, Age of Empires II stands the test of time relatively well and I find myself going back to it on occasion.
Blizzard took everything I liked about Age of Empires and condensed it into a fast-paced and brutal little game called StarCraft. While it isn’t fair to compare StarCraft with Age of Empires, I must admit that I generally enjoyed playing the former more. I think a large part of my commitment to StarCraft is due to the compelling storyline. StarCraft had characters that I really cared about. I felt directly involved in the story and how it unfolded.
I don’t think I played Final Fantasy VI until after VII, but I enjoyed VI even more than its later companion (I know, I’m probably in the minority here). There’s just something about those SNES graphics and the sometimes quirky dialogue the pulled me in and never let go. Final Fantasy VI is the standard that I measure most RPGs against. The plot was excellent, the gameplay superb, and the game featured one of the most villainous villains to ever be conceived. Kefka’s laugh will forever be etched into my memory.
Ah, yes. Everyone has heard of Zelda and many have played at least one of the games in the genre. Ocarina of Time was particularly well-received and it is highly regarded even now. For me, Ocarina of Time was the first real trip I made to 3-D gaming and it was glorious. While the plot wasn’t completely novel, the gameplay and audio were astounding. To this day, I don’t think I’ve played through any other game as many times as Ocarina of Time.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you think Perfect Dark was just a Goldeneye 007 clone. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Perfect Dark featured a good plot (not excellent, but good), better gameplay than 007, and the best multiplayer around for several years. Perfect Dark, to my knowledge, was the first game to introduce bots for multiplayer on consoles. When Halo came out on the Xbox, my major complaint was that it didn’t have bots for multiplayer. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t really like to play with other people, especially in FPSs. Bots in multiplayer can only enhance gameplay. I mean, c’mon, Perfect Dark has a “VengeBot.” If you kill him, that sucker will hunt you down mercilessly.
I remember distinctly getting my GameBoy Color. It was hot pink. I was a little embarrassed by it, but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying Pokemon Blue. I logged more time into Pokemon Blue than any other game. Ever. I think I spent somewhere around 500 hours in that little world. I’m not entirely sure what drove me to play it over and over again. Then again, I’m not entirely sure why I love playing Pokemon Black after playing every other Pokemon game in existence. All I know is that Pokemon has had a unique influence on my view of video games.
A space-combat simulator? That sounds pretty cool. A space-combat simulator with ships that range from fighters to massive capital ships that I can destroy? That sounds amazing. Welcome to Freespace. Before Freespace, I didn’t give flight sims, combat or otherwise, any attention at all. One day, I picked the game up in the bargain bin at Fred Meyer for $10 or so. The $10 was worth it. A well-crafted story, superb combat mechanics, and beautiful visuals set the bar for combat flight sims. Check out my Bring It Back article about Freespace for more info.
Dark Cloud took many of the aspects of Ocarina of Time and improved them. The combat in Dark Cloud is similar to Ocarina of Time and the quality of gameplay hits the same high notes. Both games are dungeon crawlers of a sort, but Ocarina of Time placed a heavier emphasis on puzzles. Dark Cloud simply incorporated Ocarina of Time’s features into a resoundingly successful genre-mashing game. Take Ocarina of Time, add Sim City and JRPG leveling systems, and you get Dark Cloud. Except that in this RPG, you level up your weapons, not your main characters. The weapon leveling system is extremely addictive. For more information check out my Bring It Back article about Dark Cloud.
Morrowind was my first introduction to a sand-box game on such an impressive scale. At first, I had no idea what to do and I didn’t like it. After time, I came to understand the appeal of go-anywhere game design. While sand-box style game design isn’t right for everything, it makes for a long-lasting experience. The gameplay in Morrowind was refreshing (aside from those damn Cliff Racers) and I soon fell in love with the game’s lore. There is so much history in The Elder Scrolls that students could probably study it.
All of these games impacted me in important ways and I judge new games in part, or whole, by how they measure up to these titles. While they may be lost loves of times past, they are still worth talking to now and then.