Sunday, December 29, 2013

Raiden's Pokemon X/Y Review

Same game, different region. That sums up Pokemon X/Y. Overall a good game, but I wouldn't rate it any higher than third best gen in the series.

I think I would like X/Y a lot more if I hadn't played all of the other games first. After 6 generations and one sequel, the formula and basic gameplay is becoming a little stale to me. At the basic level, Pokemon remains an RPG with a party selection that no other series comes close to. Chrono Cross boasted over 40 playable characters, and that was huge. Pokemon has 718, if serebii is correct, so it's not even close.

They did try to switch up the basic formula with Mega Evolution, but that really didn't change much. It would make your Pokemon stronger and in some cases change the type, but other than that it wasn't anything big.

The bigger change came with the new addition of the Fairy type, which made Dragons a lot less overpowered. I'm a little confused as to why Fairy is weak to Poison and Steel (the only reason I've been able to come up with is that those types aren't strong against much), but that's not the thing that really bothers me about new types being added. They made such a big deal about how Fairy is the new big thing, but there are pokemon from previous generations that now have the Fairy type added. Why weren't those pokemon the fairy type? Is there something about the Kalos region that turns them into Fairy type? Why did it take them this long to discover a new type? I know I shouldn't expect continuity in a game targeted at younger children, but that still bothers me.

One thing that X/Y does extremely well is the Pokemon selection you get on your first playthrough before unlocking the national dex. You have the option of capturing at least twice the pokemon that you did in previous generations (including Eevee's, and gen 1 starters!) Some of the new pokemon are ridiculous though (I'm looking at you Klefki. Really? A set of keys?)

I would pay good money if Nintendo and Game Freak would give us a game where you can travel to all 6 regions, but that's something I'll probably never see (unless it's in MMO form, and that'd just suck).

Score: 7.2/10
Raiden's Top 100 Ranking: Not ranked.

Upcoming reviews: Phoenix Wright 5: Dual Destinies, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

If there are any games on my top 100 you'd like to see a more detailed review on, or any games you know I've played that you'd like me to review, let me know! Unfortunately, I don't have time to pick up new games that aren't already on my short list, at least for the next year or two.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Raiden's The Last of Us Review

Finally getting around to writing this, and only a hand full of months late! I'm going to try to keep it to light spoilers (if any at all), that don't give away anything as far as story specifics goes. If you're still planning on playing the game and don't want any spoilers whatsoever, you may want to turn back now. You've been warned.

The Last of Us is amazing in every way. Naughty Dog was able to create characters in Joel and Ellie that you can really connect to, and you really root for. One thing I really enjoyed is the moral gray area you take in the game. Most of the time you play as the hero, fighting for justice, peace, etc, but in The Last of Us things are different. Don't get me wrong, you're not playing as the villains or anything, it's just not clear cut. The other people you're fighting against are just trying to survive, same as you (it reminds me of some of the other groups of humans that the main group encounters in the Walking Dead TV show.)

There are a few complaints I've heard about this game that I'd like to address. Similar to Tomb Raider 2013, one of the negative things someone mentioned to me is that "it relies too much on stealth." That can be true, but only if that's how you choose to play the game. Yes, there are areas that are designed in a way that makes you sneak around, but there are also others that are built to make you charge in, guns blazing. If you choose to play the entire game through using stealth tactics and don't want to try anything different, or lack the skill to have success without it, that's not the fault of the game, that's on you.

The big thing a lot of people dislike is the ending. Obviously, I'm not going to go into anything specific about how the game ended, but I will say this. The ending that said people seem to want completely contradicts everything that the entire game has built, and goes against what the characters would do or say. When Naughty Dog was still working on the game, they changed the ending from what those people want to what the final product was for that reason, and I wouldn't want it any other way. The only thing I didn't like about the ending was that it meant the game was over, and my journey through the post apocalyptic world with Joel and Ellie had come to an end (at least until the single player DLC is released, starring Ellie! Woo!). One amusing thing I found was an "alternate ending" where the actors ended up singing all of the lines in the final scene like it was some kind of Broadway show. It was really something to see.

The controls are very smooth, and the crafting system works very well. You're able to find limited amounts of stuff like rags, alcohol, bottles, etc, and have to determine what you want to make with those resources. You also have to do that in real time, so there's no pausing to craft something you need in the middle of battle. There is also a proper New Game+ mode, so you can take a powered up Joel through again if you want to (which I did).

The Last of Us is an amazing, emotional journey that shows both the best and the worst (mostly the worst) of human nature. Watching the bond between Joel and Ellie grow and develop is very satisfying, and felt real (most games aren't capable of making those things feel genuine). I can say without any doubt that The Last of Us is the best game of this generation, and the second best I've ever played.

Score: 10/10
Raiden's Top 100 Ranking: 2nd Place (after Final Fantasy VI, before Tomb Raider 2013)

Upcoming reviews: Pokemon X/Y, Phoenix Wright 5: Dual Destinies, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

If there are any games on my top 100 you'd like to see a more detailed review on, or any games you know I've played that you'd like me to review, let me know! I unfortunately don't have time to pick up new games that aren't already on my short list, at least for the next year or two.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Last of Us

Just finished The Last of Us, and it's amazing. The only genuine complaints I've heard about it (aside from one guy on IRC who keeps whining that it was "overhyped" and that it was a PS3 exclusive who has no intention of playing the game, he just likes to bitch) was that the ending wasn't good, but I don't agree with that. I don't know what those people were expecting.

I don't want to give away anything so I'm going to cut it there. I'll update my Top 100 accordingly with a new writeup for this one in a few days once it's had some time to sink in, so I can give it a placement that isn't based on the high of just finishing things up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Adoption Lottery

Another question that people ask a lot is what you do while you’re waiting to be matched. While it’s pretty much just waiting, we get monthly updates from most of the agencies we’re working with about how many times our profile has been shown. There are also situations that we apply to outside of our agencies that Rachel finds on her own through various adoption communities she’s a part of, and those situations are the subject of this post.

We hear of anywhere between one and ten situations a week this way, and if the situation works for us we apply for it. That’s when the Adoption Lottery begins. Pretty much everybody has dreamed of winning the lottery, and that’s kind of what applying to an adoption situation is like. When you buy the lottery ticket you know that the odds are very low that you’ll win, but you still think about what it would be like if you did. An adoption is the same (though the odds are a lot better than winning the lottery). You know that there are a dozen other families applying for the same situation and that the odds are against you, but there’s still that what if feeling, and the hope that maybe this will be the one, that this will be the child you’re meant to raise. You start looking at the date the child is due to figure out how much time you have to get everything figured out, and if it’s out of state, what the travel will be like. How long will you need to be out of state? Are you going to fly, drive, or take the train? What hotel should we stay at? How big of a car do we need to rent? What are the travel restrictions for newborns? All of these questions occupy your mind until you hear back from the agency and find out you weren't selected. But that’s okay. That just means that it wasn't meant to be, and there's no time to worry about what might have been. The next situation is right around the corner and you have to get ready to repeat the process again, because maybe, just maybe, the next one will be the child you've been waiting for.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adoption Update

I get asked frequently about how the adoption is going and today had a lot of action on that front, so here goes.

I know most people probably aren't too familiar with the adoption process, and when it's complete and you have the child it's great. It's getting there that sucks. As Rachel described it this evening, it's an emotional roller coaster, and the worst day we've had in the process since the failed adoption last year. We were told of a situation Tuesday for an African American child that was born a month ago, and the scenario was perfect for us. The fees were about $15,000 less than a typical adoption because the the child was already born, she was in Missouri so it was only about an 8 hour train ride, no drugs, alcohol, or mental health issues, and the birthmother was open to any race for the adoptive couple, and they wanted to child picked up next week. There were only 5 couples that they could find that were interested, so we had a 20% chance. This morning we heard from the agency, and the birthmother decided she wanted to see more profiles since she now wanted a family that had one African American/Biracial parent or child, so that one fell through.

Later this afternoon Rachel received a phone call from an adoption lawyer that was working on a case where a baby boy was born 10 weeks premature and the family he had been matched with backed out because they didn't want a premature baby and they had to find a family for him asap. The birthmother had already signed over her parental rights so there was no possibility of another failed adoption. The up front fees were fairly reasonable as well. I had to call him to talk about some insurance stuff and everything was going great until he said that the child was in Arkansas, and one or both of us would need to be there for 6 weeks until he was at normal birth weight and could be released from the hospital. With the medical expenses, travel, lodging, food, and car rental, those hidden fees increased the overall charges to about $15,000 over our budget, so we had to pass on that one. After all the time we've spent waiting, and the failed match, it was very difficult to pass on it, but there was no way we could afford it.

Thankfully, once the adoption is all done and we have our baby, none of this will matter. Right now the roller coaster is at the bottom of the tracks, but we're nearing that final incline. Maybe one day I'll tell our future child the story of how everything worked out in a How I Met Your Mother-esque manner (I'm watching that right now, so that's where the idea came from.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raiden's Top Games, Full List (Without writeups)

As requested, here is the full list (Updated January 8, 2014)

102. Pacman Versus (Gamecube)
101. Columns (Game Gear)
100. Home Alone (NES)
99. Final Fight (Arcade)
98. Final Fantasy VII (PSX)
97. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS)
96. Plague Inc (iOS)
95. Dragon Quest V (DS)
94. Katamari Damacy (PS2)
93. Super Bomberman (SNES)
92. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
91. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (Gameboy Advance)
90. Pokemon Emerald (Gameboy Advance)
89. Final Fantasy Legend 3 (Gameboy)
88. Gremlins 2 (NES)
87. Chip's Challenge (PC)
86. Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (PC)
85. Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires (PS2)
84. Punch-Out (NES)
83. Snake Rattle N Roll (NES)
82. Dragon Age 2 (PS3)
81. Captain Comic (PC)
80. The Simpsons (Arcade)
79. Worms 2 (PC)
78. Basewars (NES)
77. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)
76. The Raiden Project (PSX)
75. Lemmings (SNES)
74. Super Mario Brothers (NES)
73. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
72. Warcraft 2 (PC)
71. Maniac Mansion (NES)
70. Pokemon FireRed/Leafgreen (Gameboy Advance)
69. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
68. Diablo 2 (PC)
67. Uplink (PC)
66. Resident Evil (Gamecube)
65. Skitchin (Genesis)
64. Wizards and Warriors (NES)
63. The Addams Family (NES)
62. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES)
61. Phoenix Wright: And Justice for All (DS)
60. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)
59. Gemfire (SNES)
58. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
57. Megaman 3 (NES)
56. Age of Empires 2 (PC)
55. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Genesis)
54. Megaman X2 (SNES)
53. Little Nemo the Dream Master (NES)
52. Metroid Prime (Gamecube)
51. Age of Mythology (PC)
50. Sentinel 3 (iOS)
49. Bubble Bobble (NES)
48. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Wii)
47. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
46. Aquaria (PC)
45. FEAR (PC)
44. Megaman X4 (PSX)
43. Kickle Cubicle (NES)
42. Little Ninja Brothers (NES)
41. The Legend of Zelda (NES)
40. Gauntlet Legends (Arcade)
39. Aerobiz (SNES)
38. Twisted Metal 2 (PSX)
37. Super Mario World (SNES)
36. Parasite Eve (PSX)
35. Contra (NES)
34. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS)
33. Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 (Gameboy Advance)
32. Tetris & Dr. Mario (SNES)
31. Super Mario RPG (SNES)
30. SimCity (SNES)
29. Megaman X (SNES)
28. Resident Evil 2 (PSX)
27. GI Joe (NES)
26. Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)
25. Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest (NES)
24. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)
23. Dragon Warrior II (NES)
22. Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies (3DS)
21. Heavy Rain (PS3)
20. Metroid Fusion (Gameboy Advance)
19. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PSX)
18. Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations (DS)
17. Megaman X3 (SNES)
16. Friday the 13th (NES)
15. Megaman 2 (NES)
14. Final Fantasy X (PS2)
13. Tales of Symphonia (Gamecube)
12. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS)
11. Final Fantasy IV (SNES)
10. Dragon Age: Origins (PS3)
9. Ninja Gaiden 2 (NES)
8. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
6. Super Metroid (SNES)
5. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSX)
4. Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition (Wii)
3. Tomb Raider (PS3)
2. The Last of Us (PS3)
1. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Raiden's Top Games List: 5-1

5.) Super Metroid (SNES)
Shortly after I got my SNES, I went to a local used game store looking for a few more games with the leftover money I had. On the shelf for the low price of $26.99 was Super Metroid. I liked the original so much that I decided to give it a shot, and it was well worth the price. It took me years to figure out how to do the wall jump, and once I learned that added a new dimension through the game. I went through looking for spots to use the wall jump to go to places I wasn’t supposed to yet. There are so many things to find, speed runs to attempt, searching for new and amusing boss strategies. My only complaint is that I can’t get this game on a portable device.

4.) Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)
This game had me hooked as soon as I heard Dracula’s Castle for the first time. This is what action RPGs should be. A simple, but deep combat system (all of the different special attacks for your weapons), all sorts of different weapons to find, the inverted castle, Richter mode, starting stats based on how you did in the prologue, and who can forget the subpar voice acting. The opening with Richter and Dracula has so many memorable quotes. I was very excited when I first found out that you could glitch yourself outside of the castle and explore a few areas to fill in additional spots on the map. While the Playstation version wasn’t really complete (it didn’t include Maria mode, but that’s not a very big deal), it’s still one of the best games I’ve ever played.

3.) Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Wii)
There were several Wii games that were ruined by trying to force motion controls into a game (example: Donkey Kong Country Returns) where they weren’t really needed, but this is an excellent example of them making an amazing game that much better. The precision offered by the wiimotes, the easy way to break out the combat knife, and reloading with simple movements were all great additions. It helped smooth up the somewhat clunky controls that were used on Gamecube and Playstation 2. As far as the game itself goes (when it was first released on Gamecube), I was excited, but also skeptical. I really liked the original Resident Evil formula, and since I tend to resist change I didn’t want to get too excited for it. Capcom proved me wrong and released an outstanding game from the opening all the way to the end credits. Trying to keep Ashley alive was a fun addition, as was the shop. The attaché case was a better way of inventory management when compared to the other games in the series, though it was also a lot less realistic.

2.) Tomb Raider (Playstation 3)
I had thought that my top three games were set in stone for a long time, and no other game would make its way into that elite group. Crystal Dynamics had other plans. I’m not afraid to admit that I can’t stand the early Tomb Raider games. I really wanted to like them since I had friends talking about them all the time, and I tried, but I didn’t enjoy them. Unlimited handgun ammo, horrible AI, and Lara with her very…. questionable character design added up to me not enjoying the series. I read about the reboot and Lara’s new origin story in Game Informer (as well as much more realistic character design), and it piqued my interest. I started reading whatever I could find on various internet sites, and the more I read, the more I wanted to play it. After over a year of reading up on a game in development, my pre-order arrived. From the opening video, you could tell how much effort Crystal Dynamics had put into this. The visuals are stunning, the voice acting is superb, the intro portions did an outstanding job of helping to ease you into the game and the controls (which couldn’t get any better). Seeing Lara’s transformation from frightened person lost on an island to the hardened survivor she was at the end of the game was nothing short of amazing. Watching her apologize to a deer she had to kill for food was a touching moment, and then there was her first kill. Camilla Luddington’s performance in that scene was off the charts, and really sold a huge moment in the game, and for Lara as a character. I really hope that Square Enix decides to publish another installment in the series, and that they have Crystal Dynamics do the heavy lifting.

1.)    Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Here it is, my favorite game ever (my wife was able to name it when I asked her, so I’ve mentioned it around the house as well). If you're on EsperNet you probably knew this was coming. I didn’t play this game until 1999 (two years after I played through Final Fantasy VII), and was blown away. The only thing I would change about it is the Operahouse sequence (like Cloud’s Past, I don’t want a 15 minute stretch in the middle of a game with very little happening.) Yes, I know the scene is supposed to be iconic, but it really slowed things down. Even that couldn’t weigh the rest of the game down. The battle system was great and with each of the 14 characters getting their own ability and backstory (some more detailed, others, like Umaro, not so much), there were a lot of different parties to choose from. The cast was great, with a lot of memorable characters, and main villains don’t get any better than Kefka. The SAND on his boots, poisoning Doma, destroying Mobliz,  and offing Gestahl and General Leo on his way to becoming one of the few villains in gaming to actually accomplish his goal of destroying the world made him the best final boss I’ve ever encountered. Kefka is psychotic and evil, and you wanted to keep playing so that you could make sure he got what was coming to him. There were so many different ways to go through the game in the world of ruin with the various cast members as you found them. There’s also the never to be solved mystery of Gogo’s true identity. I can only hope that another game comes along that I like as much as this one, but I really don’t see that happening.

And there you have it, my top 100 games. Hopefully you enjoyed it if you made it this far, and it didn't make you rage too badly.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Raiden's Top Games List: 10-6

Since the writeups are longer now, I've decided to split the top ten into two days (no worries, the writeups for the top five are already done!).

10.) Final Fantasy IV (SNES)
I think I own every one of the remakes they’ve done for this game. I like to say it’s because this is an outstanding game and not because I’m a sheep, but it’s probably both. I like the SNES/GBA/PSP/Playstation version a LOT more than the DS/iOS versions. The voice acting is nice, but the game looks terrible and the control is pretty blah. But anyway, enough about the inferior version. The story of this game had a lot of clichés, but was still very good. It also had a great cast, and some hilariously bad dialogue (YOU SPOONY BARD). I was listening to "To the Moon and Back" by Savage Garden when I started the final dungeons on the Moon, and every time I hear that song (which isn't often, but still) it reminds me of this game.

9.) Dragon Age (Playstation 3)
I tried several more “modern” RPGs on Playstation 3, and they all bored me and I was never able to get into them. Then I saw this one as part of a 50% off sale at Gamestop, and figured it was worth a shot. That was an excellent decision. I’ve started a character using pretty much every possible build, and even with that I still find myself being drawn back into this game. I really enjoy the battle system, there are so many different variations in the characters and builds, the story is great, and there are so many random quests (especially since I have Origins.)

8.) Ninja Gaiden 2 (NES)
This is one of the most difficult games I’ve ever played (it even referenced the difficulty on the game box), and finishing this one for the first time without use of a Game Genie or something like that was one of my proudest moments in my years of playing video games. I was so excited (and lame) that I saved the time that I beat the end boss, and still have that in a text file to this day (August 16, 2003, 1:35pm). There is so much to love about this game. The music is outstanding (The Parasprinter  is still one of my favorite tracks), the difficulty is very high, the story was great (by NES standards), and I really like the between level cinematic scenes. There were so many cool things they did with the level design as well (the wind in 2-2, the screen going from light to dark in 3-1, etc). I got this game from my parents for Christmas and I had never heard of the series before that time. For people who didn’t know much about video games, they hit that one out of the park.

7.) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)
This game and the next two were all very close, and it was tough to separate them. I really enjoyed Donkey Kong Country, but this game was superior in every way. The additions of Dixie and her helicopter spin and Squitter the Spider made searching for the bonuses and DK coins that much more fun. There are a few music tracks that stand out in Mining Melancholy and Stickerbrush Symphony (which is one of the most soothing pieces of music I’ve ever heard). I spent hours going through Chain Link Chamber trying to find one of the bonuses, and when I finally did get it I wanted to kick myself. Web Woods is one of my favorite levels in any platformer. There’s also Animal Antics, which would have been a forgettable level if you didn’t have to try to navigate the brambles as Squawks the Parrot with the wind changing direction (which would send you into the walls, and your doom). The first time I played the level I kept dying and probably would have been really frustrated if the music wasn’t so relaxing.

6.) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

This game came with my Super Nintendo, and I figured I’d like it since I liked the original and Zelda 2 so much, but I didn’t know what I was in for. This game is amazing from start to finish. It gave Link the ability to jump off of hills, the light and dark worlds allowed for a lot of interesting little puzzles as far as where to use the Magic Mirror. I really liked the magic bottle concept too. There was the waterfall of wishing, the fairy in the Pyramid, the Gold sword, pieces of heart, and I could go on and on. The orchestral version of the Dark World theme is an amazing piece of music.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Raiden's Top Games List: 20-11

20.) Heavy Rain (Playstation 3)
If there was a single game that I could have made into a movie, it’d be this one. When I first read about it in Game Informer I was surprised by all of the hype it was being given, and how it was a genre unlike any other so there was really nothing to accurately compare it to. As the game neared release I kept reading more about it, and every word made me want to play it that much more. I ended up preordering it, and it was worth every penny. There are so many different ways you can go with the story and your decision making as you switch between four characters trying to track down the Origami Killer and save Ethan’s son before it’s too late. The story was amazing and the action sequences were very well done. I’d still love to see a proper sequel to this one, even though it’s pretty obvious that won’t be happening.

19.) Metroid Fusion (Gameboy Advance)
I waited for such a long time to see a proper 2d follow up to Super Metroid, and while there was very little hope in it surpassing Super Metroid, it was still a damn good game. Samus being given the Metroid vaccine at the start was an interesting touch, and while I was worried that exploring a space station wasn’t going to be anywhere near as good as exploring a planet, it turned out to be a pretty similar experience. While I did miss seeing Kraid (he tends to be one of my favorite boss fights), they did bring back Ridley which is always good. There was also the introduction of the SA-X, which was great. The intensity of being chased and stalked by something you can’t even scratch added a new level of excitement, especially when you had no way to avoid the battle and had to try to escape. It reminded me a little bit of Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. Giving Samus a little more character development was new to the series as well, as was the addition of Adam since she had to follow orders from someone else, but it was really just a way to keep people going in the right direction, instead of letting them go wherever like they did in earlier games in the series.

18.) Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (Playstation)
This was another series that I kept hearing people talk about but never played for myself. I don’t even remember what made me end up trying it in the first place, but somehow I ended up with the collector’s edition. I must have watched the Making of Lunar Disc a dozen times in the early days. Having the anime scenes with real voice acting was a big change in what I was used to. This game has everything, a good story, a great cast, funny moments, random cultural references (like the kid who said he ate his Wheaties). Plus, there’s always MAGIC EMPEROR GHALEON.

17.) Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations (DS)
What a way to finish up an outstanding trilogy. Usually when the basics stay the same, the third installment of a game tends to slow down but that wasn’t the case here. They went back to the Maya-in-peril card in 3-5, but somehow managed to make the fourth time a charm with regards to that underlying story within the case. Plus there's the comedy (see the picture!)

16.) Megaman X3 (SNES)
When I first read that Zero would be a playable character I went nuts. I actually found how to get the beam saber with X on one of my first playthroughs, since I just HAD to use Zero against a boss. Taking down Sigma’s final form was a lot easier with the beam saber, but if you did that Zero wasn’t with X at the end of the game, which is unacceptable. The levels were a lot longer, and they nearly doubled the amount of hidden stuff you could find with the ride armors and the enhancement chips, plus the Golden Armor (since the beam saber just wasn’t enough).

15.) Friday the 13th (NES)
There is a very good chance that I’m the only person alive that likes this game. I was so surprised the first time I read reviews of it online, since the scores it was being given were horrible. I can’t remember what issues the other reviewers had with it, but for me it’s one of my favorites. The music is pretty bland (aside from the cabin/title theme, which is so awesome that it makes up for everything else), but the gameplay is great. Each of the six counselors have different abilities (walking speed, rowing speed, and jumping height), and even though Mark edges out Crissy overall by his rowing ability, Crissy will always be my favorite. I have no idea why (other than the fact that I really like her name), but she was always my go to character dating back to when I first played this game when I was 7 or 8. For a game released in 1989, there were a lot of extra things you could do. Yeah, you could just try to take out Jason head on, or you could light the fireplaces and collect torches (or use the quicktorch method) to hit Jason really hard. There was the cave, taking down Jason’s mom to get things like the Sweater and Pitchfork on days 2 and 3, you could explore the forest and try to find the hidden cabins (I mapped those out when I was younger, how cool was I?!), and you could have the torch and jump, only to fly right into a knife and trade the second best weapon in the game in for the second worst weapon in the game. If I ever have a daughter and she has the nickname Crissy, this game is what gave me that idea. Who says you have to look in baby books to find good names for kids anyway?

14.) Megaman 2 (NES)
This game has it all. Amazing level design, even better music (Wily’s Castle, Flashman, Metalman, Woodman, Bubbleman), great bosses, and a solid difficulty factor (at least until you’ve played it several hundred times and everything becomes easy), but how many people spent that much time playing video games when they were younger? There’s something about the conclusion of this game that makes it stand out to me as one of my favorite endings of all, and I wish I knew what it was.

13.) Final Fantasy X (Playstation 2)
I played this one for about a half hour and wasn’t having too much fun with it, so I put it down and nearly forgot about it. About six months later I decided to give it another go since I like to give a game a decent chance before writing it off, and I’m glad I did. The good moments (everything but the damn laughing scene) outweigh the bad moments (the damn laughing scene). I’ll never forget the moment when I was playing the lightning dodging minigame, where you have to dodge 200 lightning bolts in a row, and I was at 194. Suddenly, a cat jumps onto my shoulders and makes me lose focus, and ZAP, back to the beginning. That hurt more than the claw marks on my back from said cat trying to keep from falling off when she realized she put a little too much oomph into her leap. To Zanarkand is also one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard.

12.) Tales of Symphonia (Gamecube)
This was my first entry into the Tales series. The battle system in this series is outstanding, and it helps to make things like level grinding a lot more fun. Where most RPGs tend to have a few good characters and a lot of dull fodder, the cast in this only had one real miss in my book.

11.) Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS)

If you like visual novels, this game (and the first entry in the series, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, and while you’re at it, get Time Hollow, Hotel Dusk, and Trace Memory as well) is an absolute must. They took the only thing I didn’t like about the first game (having to keep replaying the puzzle rooms) and gave you the ability to skip those once you completed them the first time. With all of the different endings, the characters, and the volume of great plot twists, this one had me looking forward to the third entry in the series as soon as I finished it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Raiden's Top Games List: 30-21

30.) Tetris & Dr. Mario (SNES)
What do you do when you‘re making a list of your top 100 games and your two favorite puzzle games are on the list? You remember that they did a combination cart on SNES and you put that on there instead so you don’t have to make the decision as to which game you like better!

29.) Super Mario RPG (SNES)
Mario, Bowser, and Princess Toadstool on the same team, and fighting for a common goal. Of course, I never used Toadstool (or Mallow), my party was always Mario, Geno, and Bowser. The timed hits were a new wrinkle compared to the other RPGs I had played at that point. While I don’t think this game did anything perfectly, it did pretty much everything very well, and that’s enough to earn it spot number 29 on my list.

28.) SimCity (SNES)
I first played SimCity in the computer lab when I was in sixth grade. It was the original version, very basic, but I had a lot of fun with it. When a friend of mine rented it on SNES I knew it was a game I had to play more of. I rented it a few times, but it wasn’t the same. I looked and looked and looked, calling every store that sold video games within 20 miles of my house for months, until my dad had a brilliant idea (he did some city planning type stuff for his job, so I think my parents were happy with one of my game obsessions for once, since it was a more educational game than they were used to me playing). They put an ad in the newspaper (this was long before the internet was a big thing), and we got a bite. A drive across town, $30 from my bank, and it was mine. A month later Media Play got a huge shipment, and they had copies in stock for over a year. There are so many different building strategies to use, and I’ve tried them all when it comes to reaching the elusive Megalopolis. Unfortunately for me, the closest I’ve been able to get to that level is 462,000 citizens. One of these days I will earn the Mario Monument, and I will hear the Megalopolis music, and I’ll see if the Mayor’s house grows another level after Metropolis. At least I hope I will.

27.) Megaman X (SNES)
When I first saw this game, I thought it was Megaman 10, and that confused me. Why would they skip ahead in the series like that? Then I read the manual and learned that X was a name and not a roman numeral. The capsules, charging your special weapons, and characters with actual personalities set this apart from the original series. Plus, it has Zero. When he first dashed in and saved X at the end up the highway stage, I said “Holy crap she’s awesome!” Zero’s death was horrible since I found myself caring more about him than I did X, but after he died I had no choice. Sigma had to pay for starting the uprising that lead to Zero’s demise. And pay he did, several hundred times over the past decade, on SNES, PC, my Ipad, PS2, and PSP.

26.) Resident Evil 2 (Playstation)
I got Resident Evil: Director’s Cut when it was released just so I could have the playable Resident Evil 2 demo. I played through the first game so many times and couldn’t wait for more zombie destruction, puzzles, and potentially horrible dialogue with bad voice acting. While the bad dialogue and voice acting didn’t remain, there were plenty of puzzles, tyrants, zombies, dogs, weird mutated bosses, and of course, an exploding lab.

25.) GI Joe (NES)
I loved GI Joe’s growing up, so when I found out they had a Nintendo game I had to play it. Playing as one of five different Joe’s, each with different weapons and abilities (though Blizzard was essentially useless), plus you could play as General Hawk in the last level! There was even a second and third playthrough with increased difficulty for people who took the time to finish the game.

24.) Final Fantasy Tactics (Playstation)
This was the first tactical RPG I ever played, and another genre I didn’t know about until it was released. It took me a little bit to get the hang of things, but once I did I was hooked. I still prefer to use my own characters instead of the others the game gives you (TG Cid, Agrias, Mustadio, etc).

23.) Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
The game that brought us Bloody Tears, one of my favorite video game tracks. I really liked how open ended this game was, and how you could choose where you wanted to go. Sure, if you went the wrong way without the proper items you couldn’t advance, but you were still able to go where you wanted to. If the internet existed when I first started playing this one I probably would have looked up where to go next, since there were so many different places to get lost (kneeling on the cliff with the red crystal, or at the river with the blue crystal being two of the ones that stand out).

22.) Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Playstation 3)
I liked Final Fantasy XIII, but there were a lot of flaws in the game. It was very, very linear, every time you did a paradigm shift you had to wait through that little animation, Hope (for most of the game), but XIII-2 improved on all of that. The story was pretty iffy, and they fell into the “Time Travel caused it” method of storytelling, but the gameplay and battle system made up for those shortcomings. While the ending was heavily foreshadowed, I still found myself a little surprised by it.

21.) Dragon Warrior 2 (NES)

I can’t figure out exactly what it is that makes me drawn to this game as much as I am. As far as RPGs from this time go it had a pretty good story, and being able to have three party members and fighting groups of enemies was a huge step up from Dragon Warrior when everything was one on one. The world in this game was huge (especially when compared to the original), and there were so many things to find. Don't worry about the picture, that's not really a dog, it's some kind of enormous tiger-like cat that wants to eat you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Raiden's Top Games List: 40-31

40.) Little Ninja Brothers (NES)
One of the first RPGs I ever played, long before I even knew that RPG was a genre. Random battles weren’t the same as you’d find in Dragon Warrior/Quest or Final Fantasy either, they were action scenes! You had to fight the various monsters in a Kung Fu Heroes style battle screen, and if you killed enough of them you’d get your exp and money. There were a lot of amusing little puns as well (such as the shop that says “Welcome to McRonald’s, would you like fries with that?”). I had to resort to ebay to find this game as well, but it was well worth the wait.

39.) The Legend of Zelda (NES)
The game that started one of the best series ever. I still remember opening this at my Grandparents house on Christmas, I was so excited to get home and play it, since it was mine, and not a copy that the babysitter or a friend brought over. I could save my own game and not have to keep replaying the early parts of it over and over again. The hour long car ride home never seemed longer than it did that day.

38.) Gauntlet Legends (Arcade)
Red Wizard needs food badly! With the N64 version, I ended up buying that memory expansion just to be able to play this with more people. As far as the Arcade version goes, I’ll still drop a dollar into it when I see it and we’re trying to pass the time. Steve, Espy, and I must have spent at least $100 each playing this game at Laser Quest the summer we were members there, but it was a smart financial decision! If you were able to beat the forest level you got a free game (normally $5), but we were able to finish the forest level by spending about $3. Good deal in my book!

37.) Aerobiz (SNES)
This is a game that I’m guessing most people haven’t heard of. If it wasn’t for a friend of mine in elementary school I wouldn’t know it existed either. You manage an airline and have to buy planes, open routes, and link all of the major cities in the world. Becoming the number one airline shouldn’t be that much fun.

36.) Twisted Metal 2 (Playstation)
I’ve played almost all of the entries in the Twisted Metal series, but none of them can even begin to compare to this one in my book. The levels were great, the controls were excellent, there were so many different cars to play as (though Grasshopper and Hammerhead were pretty much useless, they made for a great challenge). The different ways Calypso would generally end up screwing over the drivers in the end were also very entertaining.

35.) Super Mario World (SNES)
The first time I played this game at Ben’s, I knew I had to get a SNES at some point. It wasn’t the same straightforward Mario game we were used to at that point. There were all sorts of secrets, keys, second exits to ghost houses, branching paths to get across the world, star road, the special zone, etc. It also introduced Yoshi, who added an extra element to the game.

34.) Parasite Eve (Playstation)
A RPG where you can freely run around while in battle? Sign me up! This game made me interested in science class for the first time in my life, when we were learning about mitochondria. Even though I knew they didn’t cause people to spontaneously combust, I still wanted to hear the teacher start referencing them in the same way they were discussed in the game.

33.) Contra (NES)
When I was younger I would only play this game after using the famous Konami Code since I thought there was no possible way to finish the game without it. Then the day came where I entered the code and didn’t realize until the end credits that I went through the entire thing without dying. I haven’t used the Konami code since.

32.) Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS)
I played through and really enjoyed Trace Memory, so when I heard Cing was making another similar game I couldn’t wait to play it.  Hotel Dusk was worth the wait. The art style and character sketches were something I wasn’t used to seeing but fit the atmosphere perfectly. The cast was great (Kyle is still a favorite of mine), and the story was excellent.  Seeing how all the smaller pieces combined to complete the bigger puzzle was a great experience, and while the magic was slightly diminished in future playthroughs, it’s still fun to relive again and again. Well, not all of it. I still can’t get the hang of that bowling mini game. Dunning would be pretty upset if he saw how many dents I put in his walls.

31.) Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 (Gameboy Advance)

Tip of the hat to Restless for introducing me to this series. The gameplay in this series is pretty much the same as Fire Emblem, only there’s no permadeath and the units are giant robots. What really sets this game apart in my eyes though, is the cast. There aren’t many games that I can think of that have a better group of characters. The game doesn’t TROMBE INTURRUPT take itself too seriously (Episode 30?!, Mystery Gourmet?, etc). I found myself rooting for the characters to succeed, not just because I wanted to complete the game, but because I wanted to see them overcome the odds. This game also has one of the saddest moments I’ve encountered in a game (end of disc 1 has nothing on this), but I don’t want to say anything more. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Raiden's Top Games List: 50-41

50.) Metroid Prime (Gamecube)
When I first heard that Metroid was going to be getting a fully 3d installment, I was very excited. I wasn’t fond of the movement of all of the series I loved growing up turning 3d (Castlevania 64 anyone?), but I figured that if any series belonged in 3d, it was Metroid. It probably didn’t hurt that that there was an eight year dry spell for the series, but they already had me hopelessly hooked after the original and Super Metroid. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Exploring the beautiful world of Tallon IV with the backing of an excellent soundtrack that enhanced the atmosphere, great first person combat, fun and creative boss battles, the attention to minor details (such as the condensation on Samus’ visor in really hot areas) made for a wonderful experience. I never get tired of the music in the Phendrana Drifts, it fits the area perfectly.

49.) Age of Mythology (PC)
After playing Age of Empires 2, I thought that there was never going to be another RTS that I would like more. Then I played Age of Mythology and was blown away. The two games are very similar at the basic level, but the depth and variation added by the God Powers, and an excellent campaign mode (and expansion mode) caused me to change that thought process.

48.) Sentinel 3 (iOS)
I had been hearing people talk about playing this new genre called “Tower Defense” and I thought it sounded interesting, but I had no idea where to look to try one out. When I got my ipad I decided to search for Tower Defense games and I found a game called Sentinel 3 on sale. The timing of that would ruin all other Tower Defense games I’ve played since (aside from maybe the upcoming Sentinel 4!). I was hooked before the first level was done. Once you buy the game (pretty cheap, given the size and depth of it), you don’t have to spend any additional money on it to advance, unlike so many others I’ve played since. As this was my first Tower Defense game, I still compare all of the others to it, and none of them have even come close. If you like Tower Defense, this game is a must!

47.) Bubble Bobble (NES)
At a time when violence in video games was out of control (Games like Contra , you SHOOT ALIENS WITH GUNS. THINK OF THE CHILDREN), a family friendly game came to the rescue. To defeat enemies, you trapped them in a bubble and popped it. Once popped, they turned into food. There were a bunch of various items and power-ups that you could get, and it was the first game I could remember with branching endings. Once you played through the main game and finished it you could advance to Super Bubble Bobble (aka the same levels, only with different enemies.) None of them were as difficult as level 57 on the initial mode, but still, it made for a very long game. My sister and a friend of hers actually went through the game and wrote down the passwords for every level and named it “Bub and Bob’s Password Pages” (this was long before the internet), and I still have that on my bookshelf today. This past Christmas when my brother was here, he mentioned that he found a way to beat the end boss (we never knew his name so we just called him Mr. Bubble) in about a minute and a half, which was huge. The battle normally took us about 5 minutes, so I was naturally skeptical, but he proved it right there. It’s always nice to learn new things about a game you’ve been playing for over 20 years.

46.) Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Wii)
This was the second Fire Emblem game I played, and it didn’t disappoint. The gameplay didn’t really change from the Sacred Stones, but it had a much better cast and a better story. It probably would have been better if I had played Path of Radiance first on Gamecube, but I had no idea there was a prequel of sorts until it was too late.

45.) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
Even though the NES port had two additional levels, I still liked the Arcade game a lot more. I ended up buying Battle Nexus 2 for Playstation 2 just so I could unlock this game and play it again. Yes, I own the NES version, but it’s just not the same. When we went to Florida when I was eight they had a little arcade building by the outdoor pool, and two older kids had broken open the coin collector for this game. They weren’t stealing the money though, they were grabbing handfuls of quarters and putting them into the game so they could play as long as they wanted to. Playing longer was worth more than getting away with at least $20 in quarters, that’s how much fun this game was.

44.) Aquaria (PC)
Prior to playing this game, I didn’t know that there were indie game developers (ignorant, I know). It looks and plays better than a lot of big budget games. Aquaria is big on exploration, kind of like Metroidvania, but it’s underwater. The voice acting is excellent, the world is vivid and very large, the music, like Metroid Prime, fits perfectly. The story starts off in kind of a Myst like manner, where you’re alone and have no idea what’s going on, but it ramps up as you go. Aquaria is available on Steam, from Bitblot’s site,  or on the iOS App Store for Ipad.

43.) FEAR (PC)
I normally don’t play FPS’ for their single player modes, I play them for deathmatches. A very exciting single player campaign was surpassed only by how creepy Alma was. As soon as I realized this game was going to have some scare moments, I had to wait to play it in the dark to enhance the atmosphere. It worked.

42.) Megaman X4 (Playstation)
Finally, the ability to play the entire game as Zero! Yeah, it may be hard mode vs. X’s easy mode, but it’s ZERO. The voiceacting was terrible (What am I fighting fooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr *gag*), but the gameplay was excellent. The anime scenes were a nice addition as well, and I really enjoyed the scene where Sigma and Zero fought for the first time when Zero was a Maverick and Sigma was the leader of the Maverick Hunters. Reaper Sigma ended up being the character basis for Darius in the Twisted Universe (for you IRCers out there).

41.) Kickle Cubicle (NES)

This was one of the first games I went for on ebay, since I could never find a copy of it in any of the used game stores around here. It’s kind of like a combination action/puzzle game. You have to turn enemies into ice blocks to make paths across the water to collect 3 magic bags (or something like that). There were a lot of levels, some of them very confusing to a young me when I rented it, but that didn’t matter since the game is that much fun.