Category Archives: Games

Level One – Final Fantasy VII

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 78/100Title: Final Fantasy VII
Developer: Square
Original Platform: Sony Playstation
Year: 1997

As a self-identifying gamer, it has always been a bit crap that I hadn’t played Final Fantasy VII or ever had my own copy. I’ve waited a while to remedy this because of the ever-impending remake that is on the cards. However, whilst playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, I had a thought. I want to play Final Fantasy VII as close to the original as possible and this remake was altering so much of it that, for some, it could be considered a new game. So I bought a copy on PSN and have been playing it for the last two months.

Considering that I spent a long time on this game I think it’s fair to say that my opinion of this game has drastically altered since my brief try 5-6 years ago. I don’t think it helped that, back then, I didn’t get out of the first area – so I didn’t get to see the summons system, meet most of the playable character or get to see the large open(ish) world.

It’s not that this game didn’t have any issues for me. For one thing, as much as I loved the materia system – where you can level up and swap around magic/skill orbs – the way to swap them between characters was tedious. Especially when, for story reasons, everyone’s materia was all mixed up and you had to re-assign everything (damn it Yuffie!).

There were also some towns (like the beach one) and some minigames (like the snowboarding) that really distracted from what was otherwise an excellent and cohesive world. Sure there was some tonal whiplash, but for the most part it was handled with aplomb… apart from the snowboarding bit which really shouldn’t not have happened so close to the games bit emotional sequence (which would have been more shocking had I played it 12 years ago).

On the flip side, the variety in this game is startling – not quite up there with what they did in Final Fantasy VIbut not too far off what you got in later games like Final Fantasy X-2. Whilst I ended up settling on a party of Cloud, Red XIII and Barret because of their Limit Breaks – for most of the game I rotated through 4 characters and enjoyed experimenting with different tactics and combinations. I mean, I only dropped Cait Sith (a giant remote controlled plush toy) because his big ability can go wrong and insta-kill the party… which I found out during a boss battle.

The story lines this this game are also, on the whole, excellent. Whilst I was annoyed at Yuffie for messing with my materia – it was fun playing her side-quest storylines and getting a massive water dragon as a prize. Similarly, where I began the game really being annoyed with Cloud as being another moody pointy-haired protagonist, you really do start to care about him as a main character. Sure there are times where he is a bit generic in a JRPG way, but man has he been through the wringer.

I would also like to get into the, now kinda retro, environmental and genetic engineering messages within the game – but I can see the word count increasing at a stupidly quick pace and I have work in the morning. Needless to say, Shinra and Sephiroth are fantastic and timeless villains and how they work them into the mythology and message of the game was pretty damned cool.

So whilst I still think Final Fantasies VI and X are better on the whole, I am definitely turned around on VII. Would I have completed this if it wasn’t for the extra buttons that were added on the PSN release and had to really grind my way up? Honestly, I cannot tell but I am glad that I could enjoy the game for the story, combat and variety rather than getting annoyed about mining frogs for experience points.

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Level One – Mega Man II

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 77/100Title: Mega Man II
Developer: Capcom
Original Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year: 1988

It’s been nearly 4 months since I last posted about crossing off a new video game for this list – the excellent Diablo II – and since my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII is taking a while (and I sunk a lot of time into Horizon: Zero Dawn) I thought it would be a good idea for me to at least cross off one of the shorter remaining games.

For the purposes of this post I was lucky enough to have a husband who bought some Mega Man collections for the Switch, which meant I was able to play it without having to dominate the TV. Also, this collection comes with a ‘rewind button’, which helps to circumvent the high difficulty level of this game.

There is no way I can overstate the difficulty of Mega Man 2 compared to the likes of Super Mario Bros 3. This is one of those games where you can take a few steps in a given direction and die instantly. I’m guessing that Mega Man 2 is the 1980s robot-based platformer version of Dark Souls? Or is that too weird a comparison to make.

Difficulty level aside, the thing that makes this game really fun to play are all the power-ups that you get by beating the various bosses along the way. It’s cool how, at the beginning, you can choose the order that you complete the 8 bosses – which makes the first part of the game somewhat tactical… as long as you know which powers are given by each boss.

The powers themselves really do add to the tactical aspect of the game, tactics you need to work out on the fly in between instakills and prolonged boss battles. In the end I tended to over-rely on the throwing buzz-saw blades and making projectile leaf shields.

Ultimately I really enjoyed playing through Mega Man 2, but know that I would not have had the patience to do so if the rewind button was not available. It makes me wonder why this game (or any game in this franchise) was not included in the 1001 video games list. At least it made it on the Play That Game list.

Level One – Minecraft

As part of the New Year’s 2018 update of PlayThatGame’s list, one of the games I’ve played fell out of the Top 100… so the numbers have been adjusted from here on out.

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 76/100Title: Minecraft
Developer: Mojang
Original Platform: PC
Year: 2011

Right so I originally crossed this off of the video games list back in 2014, but I probably spent a few hours playing this (whilst listening to the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast) and figured that was enough. However, after a recent(ish) visit to the in-laws my hub and I decided it would be worth us setting up our own Minecraft server and giving it a proper go in co-op mod.

Given my ever present fear of zombies, we decided that we would play it on peaceful mode. However, we wanted to still play it properly so we set it to Adventure Mode rather than Sandbox. So this means we don’t get attacked by random creatures, but we also have to craft and mine like with a regular game.

And so an addiction has been born. So far we’ve built bridges, houses and watch towers together. We’ve farmed spruce trees, sugar, wheat and obsidian (unsuccessfully). We’ve died a number of times falling into ravines and lava as well as off of one of my watch towers. So many times we have stayed up a bit too late on a weeknight as we try and finish off our latest construction project or mining attempt.

We’re still in the middle of making a mansion (although I have already completed a rather nice looking stable for our two riding horses) and I can how this may be one of those games (much like Skyrim) where we end up doing a lot of hours just wandering around to see what we can see. After all, I still haven’t seen an ice or a dessert biome (although I have been lucky to see the mushroom forest).

I really love this game.

Level One – Diablo II

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 78/100Title: Diablo II
Developer: Blizzard North
Original Platform: PC
Year: 2000

After a bit of a failed start to playing Baldur’s Gate (I pretty much fell asleep… which happens I guess) it took me a long time to think about what game to play next. Especially since I already spend a lot of time on Overwatch and have only just finished playing L.A. Noire. The deciding factor for Diablo II was that it would be a fun game to explore with the husband.

As I write this I am a long way from completely finishing Diablo II. It’s like Final Fantasy VI in that it’ll take me 30-50 hours to finish the game and, after a decent amount of playtime, you can just say that you’ve played it. I guess this is a long way of saying that Diablo II is a game where I am going to continue playing this for a while because, as expected, Blizzard know what they are doing.

Directly following the storyline of the first game, Diablo II starts as the evil being from the first game re-animates and continues his plan to enslave humanity. Your goal, therefore, is to defeat this evil as you kill monsters, complete quests and level up your character.

For my playthrough I went for the Amazon (who is a mix between a typical rogue and ranger character class) because of my love of playing characters with ranged attacks. The husband went for a paladin so that we had someone who could barrel in as I picked off enemies with my arrows (which are currently both poisonous and have the ability to give lightning damage).

Like in Overwatch everything in the game is balanced well and, at least so far, the difficultly curve is the right amount of shallow so that you aren’t overwhelmed too quickly (although that might be more the setting we picked). I’m also loving the variety in enemy types and level construction. Sure the quests are the typical kill this, rescue that, but the randomly generated item system helps to make each quest feel different enough to be engaging.

Usually an isometric point-and-click hack-and-slash game wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but there is something in Diablo II that helps to make it incredibly enjoyable and accessible. Once I finish this game properly, I think it’ll be time for me to have another go at Baldur’s Gate – maybe when I’m not exhausted after a long week at work.

As things currently stand I won’t have to play either Diablo or Diablo III unless I make the decision to expand my games list to a Top 250. Considering that I am only 22 games away from completing the Top 100… I guess I’ll need to think on that decision in a few years.

Level One – The Walking Dead

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 77/100Title: The Walking Dead
Developer: Telltale Games
Original Platform: PC,Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Year: 2012

When producing the Play That Game list I have tried to ensure that this particular entry on the list is reserved for ranking of only the first season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. So, for my blog, I have played through the first season of this episodic adventure game.

The Walking Dead for two reasons: my extreme jumpiness at survival horror games and my weird phobia of zombies. Having this be described as a graphic adventure-survival horror game made me think that this would be a game that would keep making me jump, but I don’t think that I jumped once – mainly because jump scares is not what this game is about.

This game is really more about presenting a character driven narrative with quick time events, some puzzles and interesting choice-based mechanics. The zombies and the imminent threat of attack is important to this game, because that’s the world, but it’s how this game deals with the psychology and inter-personal relationships that made me keep playing this. I also enjoyed the graphic novel style graphics, which have inspired some great feats of cosplay.

For The Walking Dead you take on the role of Lee as he tries to survive in the brave new world of zombie attacks and act as guardian to 8-year-old Clementine. Over the course of the game you team up with other survivors (including, at one point, Glenn from the comics/TV series) as you try to find a way to escape from this hell that you find yourself in.

What’s truly excellent is how so many of your decisions have an impact. Things from the first episode can influence the final actions of your character in the final episode. Characters remember your dialogue choices and it will change how certain scenarios play out down the line. Of course some things (like deaths) are unavoidable, but such is life.

The incredibly well done thing about this game is how much you end up caring for these characters. Lee, Clementine, Christa, Omid and Molly are all complex and well realised people who you want to see survive this ordeal. Kenny is also a good character, but there are times you want to shake him.

The Walking Dead really is a game worth recommending. Even if you have not read the comic or are not a fan of the TV show, it has a lot to offer a gamer who loves a good story.

Level One – Assassin’s Creed II

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 76/100Title: Assassin’s Creed II
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Original Platform: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Year: 2009

In the original iteration of the Play That Game list Assassin’s Creed IV found itself in the Top 100. A few years and a lot of work later and it’s pretty much all change, which means Assassin’s Creed II is now the highest ranked of the franchise.  To be fair, there’s a reason for this – Assassin’s Creed II is significantly better.

As of writing this there have been 10 instalments in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and, if you believe most of the reviews, it still ranks as the best version out there. Why? Well, the answer can be broken down into three – excellent setting, the best main character and it was the game that perfected the formula.

 

Full disclosure, if I was making my own ‘best of’ list I would include Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood over Assassin’s Creed II, but that’s only because of the ability to recruit other assassins to your cause. Brotherhood works because of the excellent foundations that it’s predecessor set down, so it’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed II is the most worthy of this franchise to appear in the Top 100.

Still, I have a lot of affection for this game. I’ve played later entries without Ezio as the main character and, honestly, they felt the worse for it. I’m pretty much on my own when I say that I didn’t enjoy Assassin’s Creed IV , but that’s just opinions in the end.

Level One – Mario Kart 64

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 75/100Title: Mario Kart 64
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Original Platform: Nintendo 64
Year: 1996

At the end of 2017, I did a major update of the list on Play That Game which did alter a lot of the entries. As luck would have it, most of the games that left were ones I had not played yet (hurrah) so the number of games that I’ve yet to play remained the same. Sure makes my life a lot easier. Also means that I have a reason to play Mario Kart 64.

For a gamer of my age I think I am unusual in that my first exposure to the Mario Kart series was Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. In my younger years I was a PS1 kid who got a Nintendo 64 towards the end of the generation and, at that point, had not developed a love for the Mario franchise. I did, however, have most of the N64 games for Pokémon.

As someone who has since become a huge fan of Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8 it was a weird step back to the original 3D Mario Kart. Not as big a step back as Super Mario Kart (where I think I said a lot of similar things as I have just written), but a step back nonetheless.

Compared to it’s SNES predecessor Mario Kart 64 feels like the better game. In fact, I would argue that this game is the Mario Kart franchise in purest form. A lot of the gimmicks we love in the later versions of the game just aren’t present and instead we have Super Mario Kart with better driving, better graphics and the addition of, what would become, the blue shell.

I turned on my N64 with the intent to play Mario Kart 64 for 20 minutes and ended up playing it for an hour and a half. There is something miraculously addictive in this game that can still be found in the later editions. In terms of console games I cannot think of a more consistently great franchise than the Mario Kart games and I don’t think it really gets enough credit for that.

 

 

Level One – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 74/100Title: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Original Platform: PS3
Year: 2009

A while ago I tried my hand at the first Uncharted game. I never finished it because whilst I loved the story and puzzle elements it was the combat that got the better of me. The seemingly endless stream of enemies meant that I was left without ammo and without the will to carry on. If the series could improve upon this whilst keeping up the interesting puzzles and world building then Uncharted 2 would be exactly what I am looking for in a game.

Turns out, yes, Uncharted 2 was able to do exactly that whilst also delivering some of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever seen on a seventh generation console. It’s one of those games where you sometimes have to take time out of killing enemies or jumping between train cars in order to admire the work that’s gone into creating the in-game versions of Nepal and Tibet.

In terms of gameplay, I have to say that this is a clear improvement on the first Uncharted and is a lot more accurate and responsive than any of the Assassin’s Creed games that I’ve played. Sure there are times that you find Drake hiding behind a pillar the wrong way or plummeting to his death by accident, but when you think how far we’ve come from the original Tomb Raider game then it feels rather miraculous.

The big draw of Uncharted for me was that it feels like are playing your way through a fantastic adventure film. I mean this is essentially an Indiana Jones video game, just with a far better looking lead (as Pam Poovey from Archer would say: sploosh) and a much longer run time. It’s a game that I found hard to put down and ended up playing in two long sittings.

So yes, with the exception of the annoyingly arbitrary final boss battle, I can really see how this is ranked as the best game from 2009. The whole game just feels completely cinematic in scope where it takes breaks to engage in shoot outs. Having played this I think I should give the original Uncharted a second look, but just have the difficulty turned way down.

Level One – Half-Life 2

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 73/100Title: Half-Life 2
Developer: Valve
Original Platform: PC
Year: 2004

So much has been said about Half-Life 2 and the public’s thirst for Half-Life 2 Episode 3 and Half-Life 3. Going into this game (which is ranked at #5 on Play That Game) there was a lot of expectation, although probably a bit less than it could have been since I didn’t completely get on with the original Half-Life.

I think it’s a well known sentiment that Half-Life 2 is head and shoulders above the original. The only thing I had a real issue with, that I didn’t have before, was the brightness. I had to up the brightness on the game, had to play with TV settings and close the curtains before I could see what I was doing. This appears to be an issue with the console port as the hub was fine playing on the PC.

Still, with the exception of that it this was more enjoyable to play. However, thanks to my phobia of zombies, I was unable to continue playing it myself once I reached Ravenholm. So, I had to switch to a Let’s Play to see more of the game and the many uses of the gravity gun (seriously, why did this have to go all Resident Evil on me – I would have enjoyed hurling circular saws at enemy soldiers).

So what did I enjoy most about Half-Life 2? Well, aside from D0g it has to be the puzzles. It makes sense that they made good use of gaming physics seeing how Valve is the company behind the Portal games. It wasn’t always perfect, sometimes it was difficult for me to jump out of the water because of the buoyancy physics, but when they worked some of them were ingenious.

A lot has to be said for the sheer variety in this game. Puzzle elements, some survival horror, boats, cars and a lot of different weapons to change things up. The one-shot kill crossbow and the gravity gun are especially fun, mainly because Valve put in such little quirks like covering enemies in paint when you throw a paint can at them. It’s a small touch, but very much appreciated.

You have to give Valve so much credit for this game. The environments they created still look great some 14 years later and the leaps they made in this and other titles from The Orange Box have really shaped games released afterwards. I wish I was less jumpy with video games as I feel I have missed out on something, but thanks to Let’s Plays I was still able to find a lot of enjoyment even if it wasn’t me having the encounters with G-Man.

Level One – Metroid Prime

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 72/100Title: Metroid Prime
Developer: Retro Studios
Original Platform: Gamecube
Year: 2002

Today it feels like I am going to break a cardinal gaming sin… or at least that I have a sin to confess. Forgive me oh digital father for I have sinned: I did not enjoy my time with Metroid Prime. It may feel a bit over the top to start a blog post in this way, but I have some friends who will probably disown me for this opinion.

Starting off some disclosure, I have played the original Gamecube version of the game for this. Also, this is the second time that I tried to play this particular game… the first being some 15 years ago when the game originally came out and I would rent titles from the local Blockbuster. I figured that I would enjoy this game better now that I have become a better gamer… alas I still didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about.

Let’s talk positives. The music and the ambient sound is excellent, as is the world building. When you are roaming the various mazes and areas within the game it feels truly alien and tense. Sure, there has been 15 years in graphical innovation since (I mean, just look at Breath of the Wild) but the whole package still somewhat holds up to modern scrutiny.

What doesn’t help are two things: the controls and my sense of panic. The latter is something that I have to deal with for most games and is why I am hesitant about starting The Last of Us. It sounds ridiculous as I’ve been able to play Skyrim with minimal screaming… but there’s something about a marriage of undead creatures and a set of controls that I find difficult to work my way around. I don’t want to be running from alien mosquitos whilst thinking ‘oh my god, oh my god’.

 

I know there are some saying that if I wanted a better experience (especially with the controls) then I should have played the Wii port of Metroid Prime instead. It’s a valid point and probably something to consider should I end up expanding my gaming list and suddenly need to play Metroid Prime 2. Until then, I just wanted to give this game a go as it was originally meant to be played. Just sucks that it didn’t work for me.