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Memories of Legend

A masterpiece, a feat in game design, or a work of art. Call it what you will, but I remember Ocarina of Time as a game of memories.

My cousin and I spent long hours playing this game, exploring every nook and cranny of Hyrule, defeating bosses and navigating dungeons. This game represents a period in my life, a period of simplicity and lazy winter days.

The game is often noted as the first 3-D game in the Zelda series, but being new to the land of Nintendo games, I hadn’t played previous 2D Zeldas. And so I approached the game with a brilliant naivety.

I was first introduced to it when my cousin brought it over at our annual New Year’s Eve party. It was the end of 1998, as I recall. He was still in Kokiri Forest. Watching him navigate through the town was amazing. The graphics were beautifully realistic for the time. I knew that this game was something big, and I immediately wanted a copy of my own.

Around this time, my father had been wheeling and dealing with a friend of his at work to buy his old N64 games off of him. I believe he managed to get Ocarina of Time from him. I can’t quite remember how it went, but I do remember the excitement of holding the game in my hands.

And so it began. The days of working together with my cousin to get past dungeons. The jealousy of seeing him as an adult Link while I was still in the child part of the game. It always seemed he got me wherever I wanted to be.

During those days, I was new to the world of complex adventure games. My cousin ended up completing most of the game for me, but I still played it a lot.

Those were the days of gaming I remember the most, and in my mind, no game has ever rivaled the experience I had with Ocarina of Time.

Matt Atkins

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Cross-Pollenation 1: 8BitHero

In the first of our blog exchange program here is a review of 8BitHero. Their review of us is found here.

8BitHero is an up and coming blog headed up by Kerri Sharp (aspiring games journo/designer/DJ) and Craig Langridge (hopeful video game translator/localizer).
The Brighton based team provide a window on all that is new and happening in the gaming world. In addition key articles pepper the left hand bar, providing in depth opinion to go alongside you helping of news.

Going from strength to strength since October 06, long ay they continue. The question just remains, which one is 8bit and which is the hero.

The Beautiful Game(s)

Don’t you love to be sucked into the experience of a game? You know, the kind of game that has such an intriguing story and cast of characters that you wish you could (and sometimes do) play the game for hours on end? The kind of game that can have flaws, but they simply do not matter? The sort of game that feels like you are getting on a ride you do not want to get off of? Those are the sort of games I look for. In this article, we pay tribute to the top 15 greatest game experiences of all time. If you disagree, feel free to comment on this post with your own top 15.

15. Mortal Kombat

Finish Him! Nuff said? For those who can remember the crowds that would gather around a Mortal Kombat arcade, that is probably all you need to jog your memory. While this game will be remembered for the sight of seeing worried parents, and rabid gamers gathered around an arcade, its game play revolutionized fighting games forever.

14. Psychonauts

After reading about how watered down the ps2 version was by a respected video game magazine, I almost didn’t play this game. But I was very pleasantly surprised to experience one of the most creative platform games ever created. I still do not understand why this game didn’t sell better than it did. If you have not played this game, go buy it, now. Definitely one of the funniest and most entertaining games ever created.

13. Maniac Mansion

Girlfriend gets kidnapped by a green looking Martian family? You have to sneak in, talk to tentacles, microwave hamsters, and radio to other planets to save her from a creepy dungeon beneath the house? What’s not to love about this game? And why hasn’t there been a sequel announced for any systems beyond the NES? Keep the point and click system! Just make it more intuitive, give us voiceovers, and updated graphics! Truly, one of the most imaginative experiences ever in the history of video games.

12. Asherons Call

World of Warcraft fans. Time to pay tribute. Asherons Call was put out by Microsoft back in the late 90’s. For people who saw thru the crap that Everquest was, Asherons Call offered an “ahead of its time” arena in which to pown monsters and guys in black armor, endlessly. Many of its genius ideas were later taken and perfected, and we call that game World of Warcraft.

11. Street Fighter 2

The fighting game of all fighting games. I am hoping Microsoft’s recent decision to acquire Capcom means we may get a respectable online Street Fighter Game. While the EX series was popular in Japan, it did not do as well in the states. The series still has a lot of potential to grow, and I hope to see some enthusiasm around this series again in the future. For now, if you decide to play the classic SF2—no, you cannot attack the elephants in the Dhalism level. You just can’t.

10. River City Ransom

The first game to introduce frequent vomiting. River City Random. *BARF* For those of you who actually had a life in the 80s, let me fill you in. Every time you defeated a character, they would usually throw up. Poor Japanese translation at its best, River City Ransom let you explore small Japanese towns, where you could read and learn about new abilities, eat sushi, burgers, and the smiles are always free! Worth a play on the GBA port for the humor alone, but truly meant to be played 2 player on the NES. Come on Virtual Console!

9. Dance Dance Revolution

D-D-R! I believe this game was made by the government to fight obesity in gamers. OK, not really, but it is a really fun work out. I wouldn’t recommend jumping on one in a shopping mall on your first try, but to wake up and get down to some Sean Paul as a start to your morning work out is pretty nice. Then if you actually like it, get in touch with me so I can own you in online mode.

8. Donkey Kong Country

The colors, the music, the rendered graphics, and the flawless game-play. These things truly made Donkey Kong Country a world in which you could spend days and days in. Too bad it was only a few hours long. This is an example of a game that really did not need to be changed much. Keep the old formula, and give us new graphics to look at, and we will be happy!

7. Zelda 3: A link to the past

Two words. Master Sword. Who can forget running in the sunlight towards the master sword as the animals parted a path for you? If you really want to feel like you are the savior of the world, this is your game. As you adventure into the world, it is not just the story that will keep you playing, but the desire to improve your game experience by acquiring new items. Also a wonderful example of how puzzles in video games should be made.

6. Golden Eye 007

While the Nintendo 64 didn’t offer many hits, the hits it offered were phenomenal. 007 lead the charge of four player game play that has now been adopted by every video game system. All hail. Oh yeah, and paintball mode rules.

5. Tetris DS

Who can’t appreciate the pure genius of this puzzle game? I believe this game was meant to be multiplayer as the online Nintendo DS version shows. Being able to connect wirelessly to anyone in the world to school them in a game of Tetris is pure gamer bliss.

4. Final Fantasy 4

As we all know by know, this was Final Fantasy 2 in the states. The first RPG to come stateside that had such a rich story line. Almost every character dies, and you feel for each one of them. As you progress towards your goal of saving the world, seeing your favorite characters sacrifice themselves for you to continue meant you couldn’t stop till you got there. I am also guessing you still have some Final Fantasy 4 music on your ipod?

3. StarCraft- with Battle.net

Easily the one game that I have spent the most hours playing. Blizzard revolutionized RTS games with this entry. Not only was the game exciting to play by itself, it developed a community of gamers who supported the multiplayer mode with fresh new maps, multiplayer RPGs, clans, tournaments, and all of the online mayhem you could ever ask for. Part of the downside of Blizzard getting rich off of WoW is we may not see a sequel for a long time. Please? Blizzard?

2. Final Fantasy 7

The game that brought RPGs to the mainstream. Final Fantasy 7. If you played RPGs before FF7 came out, you were probably a closet gamer who had to pay $80 for a copy of Final Fantasy 6 for your Super Nintendo. But once Cloud and his gang came to the rescue on the Playstation, in a game that was originally supposed to release on the Nintendo 64, by the way, you were safe to come out of the closet! There with you were a few million other gamers who enjoyed what I consider to be the best story written for a video game, ever. As well as revolutionary FMVs, cut scenes, and an imaginative world which sucked you in from the beginning. I also appreciated the amount of Japanese culture they left in the game. I sort of wish they would keep more of that in the current round of games coming out.

1. World of Warcraft

Here it is. The best gaming experience available right now. World of Warcraft. It appeared on South Park, it has over 6 Million Subscribers (probably more by the time you read this), and it will consume your life, if you let it. It is the alpha and the omega. The perfected MMO as we know it. If you don’t currently own it, its because you’re scared. I will close by quoting Cartman, “Butters, go buy World of Warcraft, install it on your computer, and join the online sensation before we all murder you.”

Dave Trager

The Play Biome

card_andyr_small.gifIn 2001, Tim Smit started a country garden project with a difference. Inspired by the fascinating story of plants’ importance to man, he set about creating an environment where people could again explore:

man’s relationship with and dependence upon plants

eden.gifOften acclaimed for its giant conservatory biomes, the Eden Project removed the usual boundaries and borders that kept the public away from the plants. Instead they provided enticing winding paths amoungst the undergrowth.

Art and information encouraged people to touch, smell and experience the plants in their natural habitats. For them, the problems this introduced was worth the results. They believed that a big part of enjoying and preserving something was to be invovled and connected to it.

We don’t have all the answers, we don’t want to tell others what to think; what we do is invite people to explore their world afresh

All very well, but what has this got to do with games? After a recent visit to the Eden Project, it struck me that this vision has much in common with Nintendo’s hopes for the Wii.

The previous boundaries, like complicated controllers and complex games, that kept many people away from games have now been replaced by friendly wii-remote. Games that took hours to learn have given way to games that anyone of any age can pick up and play.

For Nintendo, the cost of compromising on complexity was worth it, if it meant bringing games to a wider audience. Their Wii (we as in us) monicer, highlights their beleif that we best enjoy games when everyone gets invovled. Not only are there more players, but our play interaction and mechanic benefits from the variety of perspectives.

Like the Eden Project, they are helping people explore man’s relationship with games.

Nintendo has created the most inviting, inclusive video game system to date. Thanks to our unique controller, anyone of any age or skill level can pick up and play games on the Wii console.

And as Tim Smit was surprised by the success of his project, Nintendo also look like they might exceed even their own dreams of playing being believing.

digg.gifAndy Robertson

Vega Baby – Part 2

card_charlej_small.gifContinuing his review from last time, Charles digs deeper into RainbowSix Vegas..

The AI in the game uses different scenario based voice commands and you get this sinking feeling regarding the yell for reinforcements. And everything is three dimensional. The first time the enemy drops into a room using fast ropes, if you aren’t using tactical overwatch moves, everyone is going to get wiped out. At the very least it has you closely examining every dark corner for a sniper, and every high ceiling casino floor for fastroping terrorists.

vegas2.gifSquad level tactics is a topic I wrote an online manual for another, turn-based play by email game three years ago (ed – Charles is writing an article on Laser Squad Nemesis coming soon). Using this background in a first person shooter with a co-op mode by itself is highly addictive.

Add in a real world friend in the same room, who knows the same basic moves and everything turns into a precision event. Every room sweep is a blast, and we are totally sucked into the experience. My palms sweat as they grip the wireless controller, and seeing a good sized splitscreen with 1080i detail makes it easier to pick off the waves of terrorists that we wade through. One level’s kills – 35 for me, 40 for Ben. That’s after we worked three hours to clear the single stage (Dante’s). Brutal yet somehow strangely relaxing.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Tom Clancy’s second best move was to get into interactive gaming. In the late 1980s, Red Storm Rising was a game that was actually encouraged to be used by aircrewmen as training in both sight recognition of Soviet warships and in basic antisubmarine warfare. With his franchise rights for Rainbow Six going in several different directions, the accuracy and detail payoff tremendously. This is a game with multiple replayability in co-op and single player mode.

And that’s not even covering the XBox Live experience. But after playing with a good, skilled friend, I think the Live with random teammates will pale in comparison.

Strap Get!

strap.gifTo save you an 0870 peak rate UK call, you just need to email wiiwriststrap@codestorm.co.uk with your name and address and the number of straps you require.

They will then post them out to you.

–Edit–
I ordered mine on 16th December and they arrived on the 2nd Jan. All free and nicely installed. Safe as houses!
—–

A New Heaven and Earth

card_rick_small.gifWith gamers pricking up their ears over Halo, Microsoft looked to fully dazzle them as they continued the story in the second edition. Oh yes, and that little bit of spice they call Xbox Live.

You’ll have to forgive me but I can honestly say Halo didn’t do it for me. The Xbox was interesting, but before people across the world discovered Xbox Live it didn’t really draw attention from Sony’s consoles. No, Halo looked very nice and had a great story but I wanted more, the thrill of looking a real opponent in the eye, of judging my skill on a world stage, and of connecting to friends across the globe.

Ironically, when Halo 2 was released on my birthday I did not really give it much of a look. As I said, the original nevber really clicked with me, so I could not see the sequel doing it either. And Top Spin was keeping me busy when-ever the kids slept!

halo3.gifThankfully, some spare birthday money and a slow games month led to a compulsive Halo 2 purchase along with some beers and ice cream. I took it home and popped it in, expecting to be back on TopSpin with an hour. Surfice to say, Topspin didn’t get played that night and not for quite a while after.

So what was it about Halo 2 that took me away from tennis court heaven. As I have already alluded, it was the online play. From the off you could tell it was a product of breeding, which led to a rapidly growing Halo 2 community that I had never see before on such a global scale.

The robustness of lag free online play, seamless matches and ingenious ranking systems soon meant I was playing every night with my family and friends. And every so often we would clan-up and gird ourselves against screaming american teenagers, and win (sometimes).

Then there was the gameplay itself. Balanced weapons, amazingly designed maps and perfectly crafted game types. Graphically it stood head and shoulders above anything else out there, and its sound effects and voice-work were tight and crisp. I still get a shiver when I hear those monks singing the Halo 2 welcome. Everything went together just right.

Now we wait for Halo 3. No longer happy to limp on with poor 360 emulation support of Halo 2. So we are being fed by the bright light of the next-gen games, we flutter from game to game with one question only; will this game fill the void that Halo left empty.digg.gif The only answer can be to hold up and wait for 2007…lets go for a wii.