Tuesday, December 15, 2009

C.Jin's All-Time Favorite Games: Part I

Here is the first in a series of posts I'm going to make about what I consider to be my all-time favorite games.
As you can obviously tell from this blog, I'm quite a gamer. Over the course of my life, I must have played over a thousand different games on several different platforms.

The games I've chosen for this list are very special to me; they did not just wow me with graphics and over-the-top action. Something about these games struck a chord that immediately made me want to cherish them for a long time. I find myself playing them over and over again, never getting bored even after multiple playthroughs. In no particular order, these are my favorite games of all time.

Note that this is only a small portion of my favorite games, hence the "Part I". Expect a Part II in the future.

 Chrono Trigger

There was a point in my gaming life where I was trying to play through every RPG that came out during the '90's. Out of that lot, Chrono Trigger stood out as one of the best. From its unique art direction (headed by Akira Toriyama), to its amazing story about time travel, Chrono Trigger was a masterpiece in every sense of the word.


The epic time traveling tale is centered around an alien meteorite called Lavos, which crashed into the Earth billions of years ago. As your party, possibly through controlled acts of fate, stumbles upon portals that send them through various periods in time, you learn that Lavos is destined to emerge from the Earth in 1999 and destroy the world, turning it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. You and your party travel through various periods of time and meet dozens of new people, some with strange connections to Lavos. In the end, your ultimate goal is to prevent Lavos from destroying the world.

One of my favorite things about this game is the ability to unlock twelve different endings. At a certain point in the game, you gain access to a portal that takes you straight to the day Lavos emerges from the Earth. This means you can try and beat the game at any point after that. When you defeat Lavos at very specific points in the game, time itself is affected and you are treated to a unique ending. I love this creative touch as it gives the game plenty of replay value. 


Some moments in the game were just unforgettable. I'm recalling the court trial scene in Guardia, Frog's flashback, and the adventure through the magical kingdom of Zeal. Zeal in particular was amazing; its artistic design and soundtrack really put the experience on a higher level. Starting out on snowy plains, then beaming up to fantastically constructed floating islands is somewhat of a surreal experience. 

Of course, there were other aspects of the game as well. The combat system was top-notch for an RPG of its time, and the ability to run around and engage in battles with monsters you can see in plain view was definitely a breath of fresh air compared to the random battles in Final Fantasy. The music still sends me through nostalgia trips every time; especially the amazing theme that plays in the intro sequence.

With all of these things in mind, it is no wonder why Chrono Trigger is hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and why it is one of my all-time favorite games.

 Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus basically transcends typical video game artistry. It transcended the standard of "good gameplay" by being, in and of itself, a completely new experience rather than just a video game. It transcended the standard of "good graphics" by being an artistic masterpiece. To me, SOC was on a totally different plane of gaming.

The story and character backgrounds are left intentionally ambiguous to make the player's imagination run wild. All we know is that you are Wander, a warrior who has stepped into a forbidden land with the lifeless body of a young woman. Upon reaching a giant temple, Wander begins interacting with a disembodied voice, who tells him he must slay thirteen colossi spread throughout the lands if he wants to revive the girl. Without much hesitation, Wander gets on his horse and dashes off toward the first colossus.

When you enter the world of SOC, you'll find that there are no monsters to kill or even other people to interact with. You are completely alone...well not entirely. The only inhabitants in the land are Wander, his horse, and thirteen monstrous beings called Colossus. This gives the player a deep sense of isolation, which really adds to the overall experience of the game.  The landscape is beautifully rendered and endlessly expansive; even with nothing in the area and no music to accompany the scenery, you will most likely spend your time just being awed at the environment.

The game follows a very linear pattern. You begin at the temple, and are given a description of the colossus you are to slay. You then use a light reflected off of your sword to guide yourself toward the location of the colossus. Traveling across the expansive plains, deserts, swamps, mountainous regions, and lakes in the forbidden lands is an adventure in itself.

The greatest part of this experience comes from the battles with the Colossus. Every colossus is different, as they range from 200 foot humanoid giants, to 300 foot water serpants, to a regular sized bull-like colossus. Each one has one or more specific weak-points that you have to get to in order to plunge your sword into them and inflict damage. That is where the gameplay comes in; you have to read the movements of the colossi and sometimes use the environment to reach the weakpoints of these giants. Though, most of the battle involves you climbing the beasts themselves; climbing up pieces of armor and patches of fur is the key. The battles are incredibly epic and you really feel like a small insect trying to topple a giant.

The graphics are, like I mentioned earlier, beautifully rendered. Though, my favorite aspect of the game had to be its incredible orchestral soundtrack. The soundtrack itself is an award winning part of the game, and its accompaniment to the game makes the colossus battles that much more epic.

Shadow of the Colossus is an experience you really can't describe with words; it's just something you have to experience for yourself to realize its quality.

 Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is widely regarded as one of the best games of all time, so it is almost universally regarded with acclaim. It is not as simple as that for me, however. I first played Final Fantasy VII before I even knew what Final Fantasy was; before I was aware of RPG's; before I was even that much of a gamer. Being the game that FFVII was and still is, this game took me by storm. I could not think of a better game to introduce me to a whole different level of gaming. It was one of the first games I ever really appreciated, and it still has a place in my gaming life.

Everybody knows about Final Fantasy VII so I won't go into too much detail about the game. This game, more so than any other game I've played in my life, is one that never, ever gets boring. Though I couldn't possibly bring up a number, I have probably played through and completed the full game at least 30 times. There is just something about this game, whether it's the story I've so come to cherish or the gameplay I've come to master; every play-through has me at a comfortable and nostalgic level each time.

The story in particular is an incredible one that can never be forgotten. With moments like the raid on Shinra HQ, Cloud's flashback, Weapon's attack on Junon, Aeris's death, and the final battle against Safer Sephiroth, it is no wonder FFVII has had such a lasting impact on the gaming world. It set the standard for RPG's so high that no game has since been without something the gaming community now considers cliche.

There's not much else for me to tell you, except, I think I'm up for another play-through of Final Fantasy VII.


Okami is the poster child of a category called "best games nobody played". Due to its lackluster marketing campaign, not enough people bought this game. Gaming sites seem to rave about this situation every other day, but still not enough people realize just how great of a game Okami is. Due to it being released near the end of the Playstation 2's lifespan, I had been without a good PS2 game for a long time. Then, Okami came and exceeded my expectations tenfold.

Okami's greatest quality is its original gameplay, which is unlike anything in gaming history. You are Amaterasu, a Goddess who has taken the shape of a white wolf from legend. When Japan is covered in darkness due to the monster Orochi, Amaterasu is given the task of cleansing the land with the power of the Celestial Brush, which is the unique gameplay feature of Okami.

When holding onto the shoulder button, a canvas covers the screen and you are given control of a calligraphy brush. As you progress through the game, you learn abilities that give your brush different functions. For example, drawing a line through an enemy or an obstacle will cut it in half. Drawing a circle with a line coming from it creates a bomb, and drawing a swirl creates a gust of wind. Abilities like this are creatively employed throughout the game, where you are required to use them to advance through the story. They will even serve you in battle. The Celestial brush is a lot of fun to handle, and definitely the best part about Okami.

Equally impressive is its presentation, which is cel-shaded glory at its best. The art style is very reminiscent of traditional Japanese sumi-e, which are the ink-illustrations you typically see in history books. While it has a light-hearted, animated feel to it, Okami manages to push aesthetics to its limits and become a magnificent and beautifully rendered game.

What I really admired about this game was its touching story, the memorable characters, and the length that resulted from all this. Just when you think the adventure has come to an end, a whole new adventure begins, giving you 40+ hours of gameplay in one playthrough. From the smart-mouthed Issun, to the goofy yet heroic warrior Susano, you really come to admire these characters by the time Okami's touching ending comes around.

If you missed this game, all I've got to say is...shame on you. Gamers always whine about originality, but they're the ones not buying enough of games like Okami. If you really consider yourself a gamer, you'll go out and try this game now.

Final Fantasy VI

Here's the game I named the best Final Fantasy in the series. I'd rather not repeat myself, so I'm just going to carry over some of the important bits from my other article.

Final Fantasy VI is the best Final Fantasy in the series and definitely one of the greatest RPG's of its generation. No game has ever come close to its level of creativity and depth, even beyond the 16-bit era. I think what really puts this at the top for me is its incredible ensemble of characters, which is arguably the best cast of characters in the entire series. FFVI is unique in that it has no designated main character; each character is given a significant amount of backstory and each has their moment to shine. You really grew to like these characters, and given their unique innate abilities, the party combinations were endless.

Though, just as note-worthy are the villains, who absolutely ooze personality. Side character Ultros is especially great, with his ill-timed jokes and showing up at inappropriate moments. Never has a Final Fantasy been as lively and likeable as this. Though, the main villain obviously takes the spotlight here. Kefka, who looks and acts like a clown, is as insane as he appears. Reminiscent of the Joker, Kefka enjoys the sight of innocent people suffering and much prefers to laugh and hop around childishly than to take anything he does seriously. Kefka's unorthodox nature definitely puts him up there as one of, if not the best villain in the series.

The plot itself is an incredible piece of story-telling, and memorable scenes like the opera house scene, the phantom train sequence, and the final battle are truly unforgettable. Its RPG gameplay mechanics are deep, enjoyable, and highly addictive. You'll get hours and hours of optional content, especially near the end-game. It's amazing how much they fit onto one little cartridge. With colorful graphics and an incredible soundtrack to round things off, it's no mystery why I consider Final Fantasy VI to be the greatest Final Fantasy of all time.

I remember starting this game with little to no expectations. I was still relatively new to the series, after all. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. FFVI opened a new world for me. It turned me towards the world of SNES era RPG's and influenced me to try all of the games that came before it. Since then, I've come to love the genre, and for that, I'm thankful. 


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