Tag Archives: Top 5

All-time Top 5 JRPGs (wot I’ve played…)

Yeah a bit of a cheat this one, as I’ve only properly played 5 Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) so that’ll be why your favourite isn’t in the list… I have tried to play plenty, but never got more than 2 hours into anything other than these 5.

I have really enjoyed the ones I have played (well the top 3 anyway) so I wouldn’t rule out playing more in the future. Anyway, on with the countdown!

Number 5 – Final Fantasy VII (PSX)

headerMy first JRPG, and apparently, the first one many of my friends played too. This game was a major event back in a high school, and for a while it seemed everyone was playing FFVII. I was quite enjoying it, albeit a departure from my usual choice of game. I do remember that trying to navigate the world map while also dealing with random encounters tested my patience, but the whole thing collapsed when my memory card corrupted around 20 hours in. I appreciate in the grand scheme of things, 20 hours isn’t very long, but that was pretty huge for me at the time, and certainly more than I’d be happy to play over.

I pretty much swore off the genre after this, and it would be quite a few years before I was to try them again.

Number 4 – Bravely Default (3DS)

BravelyDefault-810x449I gave this a go when struggling to find something other than Animal Crossing or Mario Kart to play on my 3DS. Discussions about it described a game with a similar feel to Final Fantasy VII which made me think perhaps I’d enjoy it. I was aware of the “outrage” at the changes made for the Western release from the anti video game censorship crowd, but they all seemed like changes for the better to me, so figured I’d give it a go.

I mostly enjoyed the game for maybe 18 hours. The story was nonsense and even with the localisation there was a a sufficient creepy ‘ick’ factor that never quite went away. (I think it was hard to distance from the fact that these characters were originally written to be 15 years old). However, the gameplay mechanics were fun, and I liked the ‘job’ system in building my party. It all got a bit grindy and dull though, and I just lost the will to come back to it.

Number 3 – Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)

landscape-1481743951-lost-odysseyA game I played mostly by chance, got a bargain on release without knowing anything about it and fired it up just to see what it was. I was blown away by the graphics, it was easily the best looking game I’d seen so far on a console, and at first was just playing to admire the aesthetics. I got sucked in though, and it became the first JRPG I ever saw through to completion. The story was ridiculous, which I suspect may be an essential criteria for a JRPG, and the costume designs left me questioning the usefulness of such armor in a swordfight.

I really liked the combat though, and the timing based boost you could give to your attacks was surprisingly satisfying. I sometimes think I might replay this, but then I laugh at the thought of me replaying anything, never mind a 40+ hour epic, and the impulse goes away.

Number 2 – Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn)

Panzer-Dragoon-SagaOnly played through this for the first time last month, and I am amazed how well it has held up. I was a big fan of Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei first time round on the Saturn, and this is doubtless the main reason I took to Saga the way I did. The art style was consistent with the previous games, and immediately felt like a comfortable return to that world.

The shift to turn-based combat was a concern before I started, I didn’t know how the previous rail-shooter style would translate. I need not have worried, the combat is superb, with the two basic attacks being lifted straight out of the other games to feel instantly familiar. The need to constantly keep re-positioning around the enemies and the bonus to attack speed granted for attacking as you move ensures that the combat remains engaging.

IMG_20170326_192804_565

I found the controls in general to be very well done, particularly in the parts where you’re navigating the world on your dragon. When revisiting early 3D games you often have to make allowances for the controls and/or camera, but I can honestly say I had no issues with either.

While the story here is no exception to my understanding of the JRPG norm, I did find myself happily reading all the subtitles and enjoying the many cut-scenes. This extra flavour for the world is a big part of why I’ve gone back to playing the original games, and why I’m optimistic that I might even beat them this time round.

Number 1 – Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360)

Eternal-Sonata-810x456Or, the one time I liked cel-shaded graphics.

I know about as much about JRPGs on the whole as I do Classical Music. The only composer I really like is Chopin, so the premise of this game immediately had me intrigued. The game is set inside a dream Frédéric Chopin has while he dies of Tuberculosis. Yeah. We’re well set up for another nonsense story, but this one did really hook me.

Until Eternal Sonata, I always found cel-shading to be a bit of a novelty. It’s such a perfect fit for making the whole game feel like an elaborate cartoon. It’s joyful, twee and yet manages to be interestingly educational at the same time, as along with the story cut-scenes it also has video history lessons relating to Chopin’s life. (From reading some commentary these weren’t to everyone’s taste, but I loved it)

The music in the game is obviously Chopin influenced, and accordingly spectacular. There are very few game soundtracks I listen to outside of playing the games, but the 4 disc album produced for this is still a staple on my iPod.

I remain annoyed the PS3 release afterwards had extra content, as I didn’t want to start over from the beginning after I completed it on the 360. I think I’d happily replay it now though if it was given a refresh for the modern consoles.

I’ve heard plenty of critique about Eternal Sonata, more than one person declare it “the worst JRPG I ever played”. I take some amusement from this, as it seems likely that as a generalisation, I can still say I don’t like JRPGs, and perhaps I like the ones I do because they are outliers within the genre.

What next?

I remain open to suggestions from anyone who can suggest games I might like based on what I’ve written above. I’ll be honest though and say there is next to no chance of me playing anything 16-bit or earlier.

I am thinking of playing Skies of Arcadia Legends, it always sort of appealed to me on Dreamcast, and now I’ve got the GameCube version which I’ve heard is generally an improvement.

Top 5 games 2016

Now seems as good a time as any to do a round up of the gaming year, and squeeze one more blog post into 2016.  Here we go for my Top 5 games of the year.  As usual its reverse order and I’ll throw a couple of ‘almost made it’ titles on at the end.

5) Doom

Surprisingly not the only first person shooter in the list, but the Doom reboot is superb.  Manages to play like all the great 90s FPS titles and not feel dated.  It’s brutal, but the campaign is a joy.  I haven’t touched the multiplayer, so can’t comment on that, but if you’re looking for a good single player shooter, definitely give it a go.  (I do find it interesting that some of the best single player shooters in recent years have been remakes of Wolfenstein, Doom and Shadow Warrior… maybe the sky isn’t falling?)

4) Forza Horizon 3

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this title alone managed to shift a few Xbox One consoles. Most of what I said about Forza Horizon 2 in my 10 reasons I own an Xbox One post still applies here, but even more so.  It’s gorgeous to look at and a joy to play.  I’m still assured that the first game in the series is the best one, but until I get chance to go back and play it properly myself, I’m happy to state that Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best racing games I’ve ever played, and easily the first title I’d recommend to someone looking for a current generation racer.

3) World of Warcraft Legion

Although not so much a game as an expansion pack, I’ve played plenty of games with less content than this expansion.  This made my list this year as it has been my favourite expansion so far, with only Wrath of the Lich King coming close, and with Legion, World of Warcraft is the best it’s ever been.  (Yes I played Vanilla WoW too, shut up.)

2) Life is Strange

This is also a sort of cheat, as the individual episodes came out in 2015.  However, it got released as a complete retail edition in January this year and I didn’t play it till after that, so I’m including it anyway.  I loved Life is Strange, and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel.  It’s the best single player game I’ve played this year, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story (and great soundtrack) to their games. It’s also the best ‘Telltale’ style game I’ve played, which seems to have kind of spoiled me for their stuff, oops.

1) Overwatch 

Think this is top of a lot of people’s lists this year, and not without good reason. It’s just so much fun! My love for Blizzard is well known, and Overwatch just shows that they can just as easily turn their brand of developer magic to fresh new I.P. It looks lovely, the voice acting and sound design are excellent and it has entirely reawakened my love for multiplayer FPS in a time when Call of Duty and friends had pretty much run it into the ground.

The only criticism I have for Overwatch at all, is simply that I don’t manage to play as much as I’d like, so I’m not getting better.

Other mentions:

Worms WMD: This was really close to making the list, the best worms game since Armageddon and a complete return to form. Still hilarious, and still only has Bomberman as competition for best local multiplayer game.  (Mario Kart lingers in third place for me, looking nervously at Overcooked)

Street Fighter V: Before it came out, I really expected this to make the list. Where it counts, SFV is a fantastic game. Within the fights themselves, SFV is the best 1v1 I’ve ever played. It’s an absolute joy and I play with my buddy (and long term Street Fighter nemesis, the Ryu to my Ken) whenever we get chance . However, the shortage of single player content has been widely reported, and although we were happy with the streamlined package, the knock on effect in terms of sales have decimated the online scene.  Street Fighter IV was wildly popular, and as such it was quick to get a game online and there were plenty of opponents at all levels for matchmaking.  The limited sales of SFV however mean that it takes ages to get a game, and the only players to match with are the real hardcore, and it’s difficult to have fun if you can’t get evenly matched. Disappointing. If more of my friends would get Xbox Ones, I think I’d move over entirely to Killer Instinct.

 

 

All-Time Top 5 Arcade Puzzle Games

A good arcade puzzler is second only to a fighting game for a bit of 2-player versus. Like those fighting games, I’m not much good at these either (although I’m not entirely terrible at Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble). That doesn’t stop me giving them a go though, and I like to play a variety so at least I’m not always losing in the same way.

Here we have my Top 5, in reverse order as usual. Many of these games came out on a multitude of platforms, I’ve just put the versions I play in the title.

5) Zoo Cube (GC & GBA)
A bit neglected as I hardly ever manage to play it with anyone, largely because no one else seems to have heard about it. I enjoy the GameCube version, but have probably spent more time with it on the Gameboy Advance. It’s pretty unique as a puzzler, with falling shapes coming towards your cube from 6 directions, and you having to rotate the cube to match the abstract animal shapes appropriately. The GameCube version supports 4-player, but I’ve never found myself in a room with 4 people who knew how to play…

4) Baku Baku Animal (Saturn)
The second animal themed puzzler on this list, Baku Baku Animal does at least follow a more familiar pattern. Blocks containing animal heads or food stuffs fall from the sky, match the animal to its food to clear the blocks and send more blocks to your opponent. Bright, cheerful and very SEGA!

3) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (Saturn, PS3, PSP)
Recognisable characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games line up to puzzle each other to death. Big combos on the gem matching front see your character giving the opponent a bit of a kicking in the middle of the screen. If you like the art style of this one, it’s worth also picking up Pocket Fighter, which is a 1 on 1 fighting game in the Street Fighter style, featuring the Puzzle Fighter versions of these characters.

2) Bust-a-Move 2 / Puzzle Bobble 2 (Saturn and anything else I get my hands on)
This held the top spot for a very long time, and may well claw it back in time. The Puzzle Bobble franchise is iconic, often imitated never bettered. Taking it’s characters and design from the Bubble Bobble series, the game is a joy. Fire coloured bubbles up the screen, matching 3 or more of the same colour in order to make them disappear, the more you get rid of at once the more you send over to your opponent to ruin their day. Or more often, you slightly miss your shot, frantically try to repair the damage your own ineptitude has caused while your opponent gleefully sends over more bubbles to add to your ever descending wall.

1) Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4)
Probably cheating slightly, this is exceptional value given that along with the crazy Puyo Tetris mode (where you’re matching Puyos and making Tetris lines), it also includes arguably the finest versions of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris standalones too. The genius stroke here is when you play a versus match up, each player decides what to play. When competing with my girlfriend, I generally play Tetris against her Puyo Puyo, which gives me an almost fighting chance before my inevitable demise.

Although Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a Japanese only release, it is well worth importing. The menus are all in Japanese but there are plenty of excellent fan-translations online to help you navigate them, and even translations for the entire story mode should you be that way inclined.

Other mentions:
Dr Mario and Columns both almost made the list. Dr Mario missed out because I am entirely useless at it to the point of not enjoying myself even trying. Columns would have made the list if I was working just on childhood memories, it just doesn’t hold up today.

Top 5 Light Gun Games – (Playable on a HDTV…)

A favourite genre of mine growing up, my love for light gun games started with the SMS port of Operation Wolf. A genre most at home in the arcade, the home ports ran right through the various consoles over the years, peaking in the 32bit era, then almost dying out when we all (well not all but you know what I mean) started ditching those giant CRT screens for nice new flat ones.

For me the greatest thing to come out of the whole ‘motion control’ run started by the Wii, was those developers using the Wii pointers and Playstation Move controllers to bring back the Light Gun shooter. The Playstation 3 also had a couple of other gun peripherals, but the decent games are either PSMove compatible or exclusive. This list is simply my top 5 of the games to be played on these systems, then I’ll round it out with a summary of the others I know of for the gen. I think a follow up post might cover my favourites from the CRT days.

So in reverse order:

5) Dead Storm Pirates (PS3)
The least deep (haha) of the games in this list, it’s a no frills port of the arcade game, but it is still great fun to play with a friend. I believe you can get it on its own from the PSN store, but it is also included on the disc with the PS Move version of Time Crisis Razing Storm (more on that at the end) which is now picked up very cheaply.

4) Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection (PS3)
A double pack containing HD updates of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles from the Wii. Probably not worth getting again if you did complete them on the Wii, but if you’re coming at it fresh, then this is the version to go for. These are actually my favourite Resident Evil games, I always preferred the story to the game play of the main series, and my favourite memories of the early games is still watching other people play rather than playing myself. Be warned though, these are pretty tough!

3) Dead Space Extraction (PS3)
Ported from the Wii version, everything seems pretty much the same, but the graphics have had the usual polish. I understand it’s a prequel to the main Dead Space trilogy, but I still haven’t got round to playing those…

2) Ghost Squad (Wii)
Most of the Wii gun games made it to PS3, where Sony’s console received superior versions. However Ghost Squad was never ported, and is now the sole reason I still keep a Wii hooked up. It’s a port of the SEGA arcade game, and for me as close as they’ve got to recapturing the magic of Virtua Cop. A whole host of unlockables has me regularly going back to this, and it’s always a joy to play with a friend.

1) House of the Dead Overkill (Wii & PS3)
This is superb and quite possibly my favourite Light Gun game of all time. The soundtrack is amazing, some really funky tunes. The writing is often genuinely amusing too, although the dialogue is definitely not for children. The PS3 version has an extra level, supports 3D TV’s and also hilariously anaglyph 3D, shipping with a couple of pairs of the old red & blue 3D glasses. I originally played it through on the Wii, but switched to PS3 when that came out. It’s definitely better played on PS3, but both versions are solid.

Also worth mentioning is the excellent Typing of the Dead Overkill which came out on Steam. This is a typing game using all the levels from the House of the Dead Overkill, in the same way that the original Typing of the Dead on Dreamcast was based on House of the Dead 2.

I never got round to picking up gun attachments for my Wii, and happily play Wii games with just the naked wiimotes, on PS3 however I can recommend the official pistol grip attachments shown in the photo, they do make a difference.

Other mentions:
The Shoot (PS3) – Feels a bit like a tech demo, but it’s mildly entertaining. Worth grabbing for the £1 or £2 it can be found for now.

House of the Dead 2 & 3 (Wii) and House of the Dead 3 & 4 (PS3) – Really good ports of the arcade games, annoyingly HotD 2 never got ported to PS3, but it’s nice to be able to play it on Wii and not worry about finding room for a CRT to hook up a dreamcast…

Time Crisis Razing Storm & Time Crisis 4 (PS3) – Razing Storm is dreadful. However, Time Crisis 4 is a nice arcade game, and this disc also containing Dead Storm Pirates makes it pretty good value just for the two other games.

Link Crossbow Trainer (Wii) – Originally bundled with the bizarre official lightgun attachment for the Wii, this is a surprisingly fun short game. It’s good to play but I’d put that plastic attachment in the bin straight away. Pistol grips are the only way to go if you do want a gun style holder.

Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns (Wii) – I still haven’t played this, they weren’t great arcade games, so I haven’t bothered picking up this double pack of the ports, but may still grab them at some point.

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) – This is a triple pack of the ‘classic’ FMV games, the first two games are also available on the PS3. They’re very hard to recommend as they really haven’t aged well. The Nostalgia is strong though, and I loved the first game with the gun back on the CDi…

You may have noticed that I haven’t included Child of Eden in the list, despite it being in the photo. While still a “Rail Shooter”, it’s not quite the same, having more in common with Rez and the Panzer Dragoon games. Perhaps a blog for another day.

All-Time Top 5 Games Consoles

Time for another top 5, in reverse order again, although I already spoiled this if you read my Top 5 games post.  Again these are my favourites, so the rankings have been influenced by nostalgia and sentiment.  I will throw the “almost made it” machines onto the end.

Number 5 – SEGA Master System

The only system in this list that I don’t currently own, but that’s simply because I play the games on my Mega Drive to save space.  I grew up in a house with 4 older sisters, and fondly remember early years with the shared Texas TI99 and then a ZX Spectrum, but it wasn’t until the Master System that I would get a machine of my own.

I received the Master System II machine with built in Alex Kidd in Miracle World for my birthday. I shortly after received The Ninja and Transbot and these were the only games I owned for a year or so.  Transbot doesn’t really hold up so well now, but I loved them all and Alex Kidd remains a favourite today.  Fortunately, at the time I received my console, two of my sisters’s partners also owned Master Systems, with a good collection of games.  Through borrowing their games I discovered (and played to death) Fantasy Zone, Operation Wolf, Rocky, R-Type, Rampage and Moonwalker.  It was also the beginning of the age of video game rentals, and the repeated renting of Bubble Bobble started a series of gaming with one of my sisters that would continue throughout my childhood.

On Twitter recently, @nakamuramartin started a conversation about retrogaming, asking people to identify the console that they had the most nostalgia for. (Well it was recently when I started writing this…)  In my case nothing tops the Master System for that.

Number 4 – SEGA Dreamcast

The Dreamcast did so many things right, and in many ways was just a bit too early.  Online gaming on consoles wouldn’t really take off until home broadband was more widespread.  I was one of those who did play a lot of Dreamcast online, making full use of the available keyboard & mouse setup to play Quake 3 Arena 2 v 2 Capture the Flag.  It pains me to this day that consoles supporting keyboard & mouse for FPS games didn’t become the norm.  (PS3 showed such promise when Unreal Tournament 3 supported this setup and I loved it.  Interestingly it also supported mods and it was relatively easy to port mods from the PC version over.)

Another win for the machine was the availability of relatively inexpensive but quality Arcade Sticks.  These are still sought after now, and very popular for the modding community to upgrade the components and make them compatible with more modern consoles.  Having access to these for my favourite genres of shmups and fighting games really made the console shine in my eyes.  The console is still regarded as a powerhouse for these two genres particularly, and this is largely how it earns a place in my top 5.

A lot of criticism the Dreamcast does receive is about that controller.  I did find it good for the racing games on the system, and for me it is still the best way to play Crazy Taxi outside the arcade.  However, I can’t recommend it for those genres mentioned above, and understand completely if you wrote off FPS and Fighting games on Dreamcast at the time because the controller was pap.

I keep one setup now, and still return to it regularly for Mars Matrix and trips to Street Fighter Alpha 3.  It also still looks great on my HDTV, thanks to that VGA adapter.

Number 3 – SEGA Mega Drive

Another system on the list heavily influenced by nostalgia, this was the natural progression from my Master System, and still remember the Christmas it turned up.  I had the pack in with Mega Games 2, and spent so much time with Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and the Revenge of Shinobi.  Sonic the Hedgehog blew me away, and much like with Alex Kidd in Miracle World, I still can’t walk past the first Sonic game without at least doing the first couple of stages. So, so good.

Co-op gaming with my sister continued here, with Toejam & Earl being the game of choice.  Also fond memories of playing hours of 3 & 4 player James Pond: Aquatic Games, such a great multiplayer title.  I also enjoyed watching my sister play through Ecco the Dolphin, and being thoroughly confused by that final boss.  (I found the game too terrifying to play myself, and still struggle with it now!)  It’s such an iconic game though, I’d love a new Ecco game.

There are so many memories from the Mega Drive, and I hope to cover some of my favourites from the system in future posts.  I recently picked up an EverDrive cartridge for mine, and am enjoying discovering those titles from the excellent library of 16 bit shmups I missed first time round.  It’s a joy in full 60hz RGB.

Number 2 – PlayStation Vita

Probably the only system in the list that some people might find surprising, but bear with me. The second place spot was previously occupied by the Atari Jaguar (!) for the simple fact that it housed my previous favourite game of all time, Tempest 2000.  I am happy to replace that in my life with the Vita, since TxK took over as my favourite game, and is exclusive to the Vita.  At least with Tempest 2000 I can play an almost as good version on my number 1 console…

I adore the Vita, it’s so good at what it does.  It has an excellent collection of shmups, the first time I’ve really enjoyed them on a handheld. The PSP did a decent enough job, just never found it comfy enough for extended play times.  Wipeout 2048 is superb and there are so many great indies that although multiplatform, I still consider them ‘best on vita’.  Games like Velocity 2X, Rogue Legacy, Limbo, Thomas Was Alone etc.

Number 1 – SEGA Saturn

I’m certainly not alone in this choice, although at the time you could barely find people who had even heard of it.  The console that really made me feel like the Arcade experience was possible at home.  SEGA Rally, Virtual Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, these were the games I wanted to play constantly.  Digging deeper, particularly into the Japanese library, you discover that it has one of the greatest librarys of 2D shmups and fighters ever.  SNK and Capcom both put some superb titles onto this machine, often making use of the 1-4MB RAM expansion card to achieve amazing arcade ports that just weren’t possible otherwise.

This was also the last system I played a lot with my sister, before we grew up and moved out. We lived on Bust-a-Move 2 (Puzzle Bobble) and it remains my favourite Puzzler/Match 3 to this day.  We even had the Bubble Bobble & Rainbow Islands pack, and played that together feeling nostalgic for the Master System.

This is close to being my most played console, and is in constant contention with my more modern machines.  I love it and if I only had one machine it would definitely be a SEGA Saturn.

Sega Saturn Joy

 

I could have been a contender…

PSX – This was close, as it does have some absolute gems.  Racing games in particular really stand out, I have found myself picking some of these up again to play on my PS3.  If anything though it is partly represented by the PS Vita, since playing Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and Kula World on that is a joy.

Neo Geo Pocket Colour – I have such affection for this console, and I still think it has the best thumbstick of any handheld.  A bigger library and a backlit screen would probably have secured it’s place in my top 5, I still fondly remember getting mine at UK launch.  I’ve yet to find another handheld that is so satisfying for fighting games.

All-time Top 5 Videogames

Hot on the heels of (13 months later than) my Top 5 Christmas songs, I’ve decided this format is a useful tool for inspiring blog posts.  This is still influenced by High Fidelity, but also because my friend Simon over at Red Parsley does it so well.

Maybe writing about my top 5 games of all time might give me pause to consider that I have the list right.  I’ll add a few ‘also rans’ to the end for those that either nearly made the list, or that may have been on there in the past.

In reverse order:

Number 5 – Saturn Bomberman – SEGA Saturn 1996

Bomberman is one of my favourite game series, and still my favourite local multi-player title.  I’ve been playing it since Dyna Blaster, and there have been some stand out titles along the way.  (Also plenty of dross spin-offs, but we’ll skip over them)  The Saturn edition is my favourite, partly because it’s on my favourite system of all time (oooh, I can feel another list coming on) but also because 10 player bomberman on a widescreen is still a thing of beauty, and a highlight of retro events for me.  I also enjoyed the single player campaign on this one, which I wouldn’t usually bother with.  Other releases in the series that I’ve really enjoyed are:

Bomberman Live: (This was Xbox 360, but essentially the same game came to Wii and PS3, I bought all 3 versions to play with different groups of friends online).  I adored it on the 360 and played it constantly.  Sadly my friends gradually stopped playing with me, apparently I’m a Bomberbully. 😦

Wario Blast: One of my favourite games for the original Gameboy, and one of few I still own.  I remember playing through this in co-op with my best mate in high school on his Super Gameboy.  Perhaps that SNES had a use afterall… *chuckle*

Atomic Bomberman: Difficult to defend generally, I nonetheless had a lot of fun with this.  Supporting 10 players, I played a bunch of it online on PC way before the Xbox 360 was on the scene.  It also helped that I grabbed the ‘Sold Out Software’ release, for full RRP, £4.99.

The PSX, Mega Drive and PC Engine also have solid versions I would happily recommend. 

Saturn Bomberman

Number 4 – Warcraft 3 – PC 2002

My favourite ever RTS, and the reason I ended up losing thousands of hours to World of Warcraft…  Real Time Strategy is that one genre I like the idea of much more than the reality.  I think Warcraft 3 remains as the only RTS I completed the entire story mode for, and all the content from the expansion.  It’s also the only one I ever managed to win any games online against randoms (although probably still less than 1 in 10…)  I keep it installed now, and still fire up the occasional skirmish.

It's all your fault, WC3!

It’s all your fault, WC3!

Number 3 – Bubble Bobble – SEGA Master System 1991

There is admittedly a certain amount of sentimentality to this for me, but the game still holds up today and deserves its place here.  These days I play it on the SEGA Saturn double release with Rainbow Islands, but first time round this was a regular on my Master System (arguably the best home port of the game ever) I played it in co-op with one of my sisters, and it is a favourite gaming memory.  If I ever do a top 5 local co-op games list, I’m pretty sure this will be number 1.  Interestingly the ‘Match 3’ spin-off series Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble is my favourite game in that genre too, and I played a lot of that with the same sister when I first got my Saturn.  From a nostalgia point of view, Toejam & Earl holds a similar place in my heart to Bubble Bobble, as that was our game on the Mega Drive, but it doesn’t play quite so well today.

Bubble Bobble

Number 2 – Quake – PC 1996

This was the game that made me really pay attention to the FPS genre.  One of my biggest (my views on Nintendo aside) ‘gamer crimes’ is not really liking Doom.  I just never really caught the hype, and although I had quite a bit of fun with Heretic, I didn’t really ‘get it’ until Quake came, and things were really 3D for the first time.  It also helped that I experienced DosQuake, then WinQuake, then GLQuake over a short period of time, each one blowing my mind afresh.  It was seriously close to taking my number one spot, and I replay at least the first few levels frequently (albeit with a nice new modern engine).  The single player game is glorious and the theme had me hooked.

The multi-player introduced me to deathmatches and led to those weekends of carrying your whole PC to a friend’s house for LAN parties.  It sparked a love affair with FPS multi-player which lasted a solid decade for me, and peaked with Q3A and UT99.  There have been great games since, but those are always the experiences I’m chasing when I play online now.

Quake

Number 1 and the greatest game of All-time! – TxK – 2014

Up until the release of TxK, this spot was occupied by Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar.  My views on Tempest 2000 can be applied to TxK pretty much as a copy & paste and still fit exactly.

TxK for me is the perfect game.  The visuals, sounds and gameplay all suit my tastes, and when I play it is gaming enjoyment at its finest.  This game alone would be enough to keep my Vita secure in its place as my favourite ever handheld (uh-oh…).  I also really love Space Giraffe (the game that caused me to buy an Xbox 360).

If you get the chance, Llamasoft attend a lot of games shows across the UK, and frequently have a version of TxK running on VR hardware with a custom built rotary controller.  This is the best way to experience the game, and I really wish it was in my house.

TxK

I could have been a contender…

These games almost made my list, and if I make top 5 lists based on platform or genre, I’d expect to see them there.

From the Master System: Fantasy Zone and Alex Kidd in Miracle World.  Both games massively sentimental for me, bathed in nostalgia.  I grew up with four older sisters who owned various micro computers.  My first gaming experiences were on the Texas Ti99, Commodore 16+4, Rubber-keyed speccy, but the first machine that was MINE was my Master System 2.  It had Alex Kidd built in, and it’ll forever be in my heart.  Fantasy Zone was probably bettered by its sequels, but the original still holds up.

Representing Nintendo (because I’m not a monster): Animal Crossing and Mario Kart.  These two series are generally the reason I buy Nintendo hardware.  Animal Crossing on the 3DS is probably my favourite, and Mario Kart Wii was stand-out because of how much I played it online.  Mario Kart DS at the height of the console’s popularity was sublime though, at one point I was playing this daily with 4 other people during lunchtime at work, including my boss.

Honourable mention: Myst – This was bundled with our first Windows 95 PC, a delightful P75 Compaq Presario.  It was SO pretty, and the music and sound fx were spot on.  I have been replaying it as ‘Real Myst’ on Steam recently, it gets a lot of grief, but it’s one of the best adventure games I’ve ever played, and one of the most atmospheric games of any genre.  (Also read the books, they’re excellent.)

All-time Top 5 Christmas Songs

Determined to at least get one more post on here before the end of the year, and inspired by both the season and a recent re-watching of the excellent High-Fidelity, I felt compelled to assemble my own Christmas Song Top 5.  In reverse order, for extra drama.

5. Glee – Deck the Rooftop

The only entry from Glee, I promise.  I love this, it’s just a shameless fun mash-up, and makes me happy. 🙂

4. Tim Minchin – White Wine in the Sun

This is beautiful.  Amusing and sentimental, and really hits home how I feel about Christmas, despite Christmas in Stoke not featuring much in the way of sun.

3. The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

Pretty sure there is a law that this has to be on every list of great Christmas songs, (it should probably be number one, but what the hell…)   It is great though, and the first time I hear it on the radio is a much better start to the season than celebrating a bloody red truck…

2. Rev Run & The Christmas All Stars – Santa Baby

Merry Hip Hop Christmas!  This is so great, easily my favourite version of Santa Baby, with so many great rappers.  It’s very 90s, but if we didn’t listen to dated songs at Christmas, we wouldn’t have much left…

1. Mighty Mighty BossTones – This Time of Year

My all-time favourite Christmas song is coincidently also by my all-time favourite band.  It’s joyous and I love it.  This time of year gets me and it never lets me act like I don’t care.  This time of year’s my favourite time of year ’cause all of us are here together.

Sorry about all that, I’ll get back to the games soon…