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Brown9 Blog

Level 14

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Level 14 blog.

I've been selling games left and right.

There was a time when I had over 200 games on my shelves. Now, I'm under 100, and the number will continue to diminish. In total I have over 150 games in my possession still, but that's only because titles on the GB/GBC/GBA aren't worth all that much and therefore aren't worth selling. They would make great stocking stuffers for Xmas though. Maybe I'll give some away.

Before, I used to hold onto games for the sake of "the collection". I'd spent so much money on this hobby I felt the need to justify it to myself by keeping games I didn't like because they were part of "the collection". This was especially true of games that were part of a series. Finally, I just figured what the heck? If I don't ever plan to replay it, why should I hold onto it?

I'm down to 5 Xbox 360 games. 3 PSP games. 6 PS3 games. A dozen PS2 titles. 4 Xbox games. 9 Gamecube titles.

Somehow Wii has been the lucky platform, boasting a library of 15 or 16 games. I guess you could say it's a testament to the strength of the First Party offerings. Either that or Browny has shades of sheep in the blood. Which I guess is true; why deny it? If I had to pick a single console provider I'd go with Nintendo. They're the most consistent. But this is turning into the wrong kind of blog.

Loyalty is out. I wouldn't be surprised if the next step I take is to sell a console. I mean honestly, do I need that Xbox? I won't ever play the likes of Halo: CE again, or Knights of the Old Republic or even Jade Empire. The Dreamcast was a vanity purchase, and I got to play Sonic Adventure. Now, it sits there neglected while the two games I own for the console catch dust on my shelf. My Gamecube is spared because the Gameboy Player is a super nifty tool and I like playing those games on the big screen.

Really the biggest offender to me right now is the 360, which is a glorified Banjo series emulator. To be perfectly honest I keep it around solely for Banjo, because the last time I actually put in a disc was so long ago... I think it's been more than two years now. Time certainly does fly.

So what's left? Well, ye olde DS and 3DS of course. Love those two matching devices. I'd use them more but the releases for the latter are so few and far between it sits neglected in the corner now.

At the end of it all, I feel terrible about having become so jaded about this hobby. It's a horrible mess of conflicting emotions, and I wish I could just separate myself from gaming without reprecussions. After all, I have a new hobby that's far more fulfilling than gaming. I guess this is what it must be like for people trying to stop smoking.

It's a long road to Level 15. Maybe next time I blog, I'll have one or two fewer consoles on my shelf.

Level 13

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Level 13 blog.

I have a strange thing to blog about this level. Much much shorter than my Level 12 blog (my top 25 games).

And that is the StreetPass feature on the 3DS. Lately, whenever I have the chance to step out, I take my 3DS with me and have it running with the StreetPass on. And I get at least one tag per outing.

But my question is... what's the point? The only thing I get out of this is seeing other people's Miis. Because the puzzles are a fun distraction, but I don't get the point of that, either. What's the reward? A hat for my Mii? Why would I want a hat that covers my Mii's hair?

This whole blog really is coming off as a bit of a whine and I'm sorry. But it's just something that bugs me about Nintendo's relative ineptitude concerning social features.

But maybe I've just been doing the tags without a proper game. Like Animal Crossing. Maybe things will improve then.

Comments: why do you tag? Do you tag? Help Browny understand the tagging?

My Favorite & Most Influential Games, Part 5

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So it comes down to this. The top five.

Favorites change. For me, not constantly, but often. One game on this part of the list I never thought would surprise me as much as it did and reach this high up, either. But perhaps that's the last great variable when it comes to which games end up being your favorites: anticipation. I anticipated the likes of Kingdom Hearts 2 and The Last Story, for example. The improvement to the former is what won me over, while the latter game is no where near this list. Arguments can be made against the former and for the latter, but I won't get into that here. Meanwhile, games like Eternal Darkness, Tactics Ogre, and even Metroid Prime were either complete mysteries or I went in with a negative outlook. To come out loving the game after a blank slate or a poor idea is probably magnified exponentially.

I've always wanted to be surprised. To be wowed by a game I chose to invest money in. Especially one I chose to invest money in. A gift that turns into a favorite is one thing, but it pales (IMO) to gambling on a title you have no idea about. Or little idea about. As times change, the brick & mortar shopping experience is dying slowly. Purchasing a game now almost always entails upfront research to make sure the $60 spent is worth it. Ask yourself, when was the last time you walked into a store, saw a game you had no idea about, and just picked it up on a whim? This was as much a part of gaming to me growing up as playing the games themselves.

But enough dilly-dally. Let's see what obvious choices Browny has made for his top 5 games:

#5 - Persona 4

To make use of the opening quip, back in 2007 I was enjoying a trip to a shopping mall with my folks when I stroll into a Babbages (the precursor or contemporary to Gamestop). Sitting on their shelf was a game with a blue box and silhouttes on the cover. It was a copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. This was a game I'd never heard of. A series I'd never heard of. And it was a brand new release just waiting to be picked up. And I had money in my wallet that was itching to be spent, so spend it I did. And I took the little game home with me.

It blew me away.

Then two years later, Atlus released the sequel. And I jumped at the game like there was no tomorrow. Much the same way Final Mix and IZJS improved upon their predecessors, Persona 4 did in regards to Persona 3. Everyone and their grandmother has probably played Persona 4 by now, so I won't waste any time detailing the game or what made it so great. But I have played this game several times from start to finish, and each time it has been an absolute delight. Even the Vita version.

There's really nothing more to Persona 4. It's a well-made game that I happened to play and love and will keep on loving for years to come.

#4 - Chrono Cross

Fun fact: I didn't play Chrono Trigger until several years ago. The exact date I couldn't say right now, but it was well into the Seventh Generation, and long after the game's initial release. This was always a hard game to track down for the SNES, and it would still be years before Square would rerelease the game on DS. But before I got a chance to, I was strolling through the same mall I would precisely one year later purchase Persona 3 from. And I walked into the same Babbages and saw a new copy of Chrono Cross on their shelf. A lucky find if ever there was one.

Chrono Cross was unorthodox. It played very different to any RPG I had played at the time, and was structured in such a way that I wasn't sure if the branching story paths were in any way consequential to the endgame. It was a learning process, to be sure, but it paid off in the end. The first time I beat Chrono Cross, it was a strange sense of completion. Almost like I had finished a gruesome trial. But despite that feeling, I wanted to try it again. I wanted to do it better this time. I wanted to pay attention to the world's nuances and characters' dialogue. There was something special tucked away in this game, and I had to see what it was for myself.

And so the more I played Chrono Cross, the more I became enamored with everything about the game. Nostalgia does play a big part in initial perceptions, and seeing as how I had none regarding the original Trigger, I was able to enjoy Cross in all its glory. Trigger might be the darling everyone showers with praise, but to me, Cross is the gem of the Fifth Generation. It is the greatest game to be released during that period of time, and I'm glad I was able to play it.

Honorable Mention - Super Mario Bros 3

A quick interlude before I move on to the top 3.

I've probably played more Super Mario World than Super Mario Bros 3, but this is the game that will always stay true to my heart from the franchise. Yes, RPG made the top 10, but sometimes a game doesn't need a definitive spot on some list to be amazing.

There's really nothing else to say about the game.

#3 - Xenoblade Chronicles

I've shared this story before: when Operation Rainfall was organized, of the three games on their list, The Last Story was my most wanted. I had tracked the game's progress through Sakaguchi's blog for years, and finally it would be in my possession. I had even stayed away from footage after the game's Japanese release to keep the surprise factor as high as possible. But to my dismay, Xenoblade Chronicles was to be the first game released as part of the operation. And following my revolting experience with Xenogears and Xenosaga alike, I was in no way hyped. But I bought the game anyway. Mostly due to positive word of mouth and a resolution to purchase every Rainfall game as thanks to Nintendo for releasing these three RPGs stateside.

And again, perhaps because of my zero expectations, the game blew me away.

This is what Final Fantasy XII should have been. As engaging as Kingdom Hearts, but with a measure of gameplay depth on par with or surpassing Final Fantasy XII. The world was seamless, vast, and almost entirely free to explore. Invisible walls didn't exist here; if you could see the place with your own eyes, chances were you could somehow reach it.

But it was more than that. It was all the little things. Quests that not only rewarded you handsomely, but were completed immediately and didn't require one more trek to the quest-giver. A gem-crafting system to further outfit your characters to fit your own playstyle. Every art had a use, every skill a benefit, and not a single playable character was dead weight. Any combination of party members resulted in minor to radical changes in your approach to combat. And no one party combination was better than the rest.

The story wasn't anything new, but it was something uncommon for the JRPG. It was a character-driven revenge plot, introduced just late enough into the onset of the game to make you sympathize with the protagonists. The voice acting, an aspect of games I tend to dread, sat well with me. The characters themselves were fun to listen to, and a joy to watch them interact.

It was just a game that hit all the right notes at a time when gaming was practically dead to me. If this had been the last game I'd ever played before quitting gaming cold turkey, I would never have looked back.

#2 - Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

I'm the Dragon Quest guy here on Gamespot. I could be wrong, but I don't think there's anyone else quite a fan of the series as I. But did you know that I wasn't always this way?

While the original game was one of my oldest and most cherished experiences, the series in general was something I had largely ignored up until the summer DQIX was released. On a whim, really, I chose to invest in both DQIV and DQIX. And that's when I realized just how far the series had come. It had adopted the silly visual premise and crafted a juggernaut of a franchise that I felt ashamed to have ignored for so long.

DQIX is an addiction. It's a game made up primarily of side content, and if that's not your thing this isn't the game for you. And normally, side content isn't my thing, either. But for reasons I could never explain it became my thing when I popped this baby into my DS. Much in the same way one spends hundreds of hours improving yourself in a MMO, I did that in DQIX solo. With every Slime killed, that was another point of EXP towards reaching my goal. What was the goal? I don't really know. That didn't matter. It was the journey that mattered.

Perhaps a time will come when this game won't be #2 on my list. Maybe it will get knocked off entirely. Maybe it will take the #1 slot. But for now, this is a game I can always go back to. I've clocked in over 300 hours, and there's still hundreds more for me to accomplish.

#1 - Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy VII was an experience unparalleled at the time I played it. It was the standard by which I assumed the gaming world judged all RPGs. And if VII was such a success, what was there to say about the others? I had sampled VIII prior to VII, so I didn't want to play that one next. X was on my radar, but I postponed buying it in favor of IX. Why? Because when I was younger (this was around 2002), my cousin picked up his own copy of Final Fantasy IX when it was brand new. So why not? Let's see what IX had to offer before X.

I could spend hours trying in vain to explain the sense of wonder and magic Final Fantasy IX relayed to me the first time I played it. Perhaps it was the comparison to the horribly poor translation found in VII, but every word spoken in this game seemed to ooze personality. The game world felt alive like no other I had ever experienced at the time. It was a fantasy setting like the one I had always imagined. Everything magical was almost mundane to the residents of Gaia, and that's what I wanted to feel. I wanted to be a part of this world, where magic was commonplace and so were talking anthropomorphic hippos. I wanted to be like Zidane, the charismatic womanizing thief. I wanted to fight side by side with Steiner, and cast powerful black magic like Vivi.

It was a light-hearted adventure that escalated at the perfect pace to a conflict to save the world. And best of all it was driven by the characters. Taken on its own, Final Fantasy IX's story is nothing the series or fiction in general hasn't seen before a hundred times. What makes this game is the wonderful cast of characters and the personal journeys they all go through. Granted, some more than others.

Final Fantasy IX is my favorite game of all time. I know it backwards and forwards, almost entirely by heart, and can sit down at any time to play it through start to finish and collect virtually everything in the process. And there's really nothing else to be said on the matter.

And to end this blog, I'll borrow a quote from my favorite movie of all time. Thank you for reading!

"Well. There it is." -Emperor Joseph II, Amadeus

My Favorite & Most Influential Games, Part 4

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How do I feel about the current trends of gaming?

Disillusioned, if I had to put it into a single word.

I won't go outright and say all of modern gaming sucks (and I very well could and get attacked for it), but it just isn't for me anymore. I've debated with my friends and family and even people here on Gamespot about this countless times. Is it age? Is it that I'm slowly but surely growing out of video gaming? Or is it that I've been doing this for close to 22 years already and I've hit my limit? I'd probably say it's a bit of both. And if I keep at the hobby, I could probably last long enough to see another Generation that brings me endless joy. But I don't want to anymore. Gaming is an expensive hobby, and if I'm not getting my money's worth out of it, why bother?

That said, it's an integral part of my life now, so I won't ever turn my back on it completely. After all, my primary feeds on my RSS app are Siliconera and Kotaku. I wait silently for something to come along and wow me again like in the olden days. But until then, I'll look back fondly on my golden age.

#10 - Illusion of Gaia

If I had to pick a single, most influential game to my whole life, it would be this one. This is the game that changed my life for the better. Illusion of Gaia was a random little game that somehow made its way into my collection (probably no thanks to young me), and I played through it. Constantly.

I attribute Illusion of Gaia to stimulating my desire not only to read, but also write. Of all my earliest desires that I can recall, learning to read for the sole purpose of knowing just what was going on in this game is the most vivid and the most powerful. And from there, I expanded into the written word. While other kids played at recess and free time, I would sit at my desk and practice my writing and storytelling skills. Growing up I thought this was just a fantasy I myself created, but both my own mother and teachers confirm I'd spend countless hours pouring over scraps of paper with jumbles of letters and words that made no sense. But it was a start, and quite the start for a kid of five or six.

As a game, Illusion of Gaia is a bare bones RPG. It's an interesting if hilariously cheesy tale, but one fun enough to follow through to the end. The fact that it is told (mostly) in the first person by the main character and focuses heavily on the interactions between characters has probably shaped my own style of writing and storytelling more than I'd ever realize. While only at #10 for this particular list, Illusion of Gaia for the longest time sat at #1 for me. And in a way, it still is. I will never, ever not love this game.

#9 - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Dragon Warrior might have introduced me to the concept of the RPG, but it was Super Mario RPG that simplified it to such a degree that I finally learned to grasp the genre as a whole. It brought one of my favorite video game characters (at the time) to a genre I was familiar with, interested in, but not quite sure how to get into.

I find looking back that my RPG craze came in spurts. Golden Sun taught me at the onset of the 2000s that they were worth looking back for, while Super Mario RPG goaded me into trying as many as I could get my mitts on in the mid-to-late 1990s. Of course, at the time I was dependent on what my parents could acquire, so it was a lot harder to nab what were SNES blockbusters (such as Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and while not a blockbuster, Earthbound). I didn't really play a true Final Fantasy until VII many, many years later.

On its own, Super Mario RPG is nothing grand. It's a simple tale befitting the Mario brand with some humor thrown in for good measure. It served as the base template for two spin-off subseries later, the Mario & Luigi franchise and Paper Mario franchise. Games from each subseries made it on my list for this, but in the end I had to pick Mario RPG as the most influential of them all. While the successors improve on the fundamentals this game introduced, were it not for this game, I don't know what kind of gamer I'd be today.

#8 - Metroid Prime

I distinctly remember quite a bit of controversy or skepticism regarding Metroid Prime leading up to its release in the early 2000s. Metroid had always been a series of side-scrolling platformers, so how DARE they make it into a first-person shooter? I guess looking back I could see why it would look like the ultimate betrayel to fans (considering at the time, the FPS genre was starting to take off). Even I was skeptical at the time about this game. And long after my father bought the game, I refused adamantly to play it, and didn't give Metroid Fusion a rest as a sort of silent protest.

But then one day I popped the game into the Gamecube and fired it up. And it was... good. No, it was better than good; it was great. It was amazing. It was a word I couldn't fathom at the time: it was atmospheric. And that's what made this game such a hit with critics and gamers alike. There was a sense of immersion not easily explained when seeing this strange-yet-familiar game world through Samus Aran's eyes. When you faced off against monsters both old and new, you could feel your heart race as your fingers would frantically mash the fire button. Crawling through the cold Phendrana regions with Space Pirates at every turn was tense. I could feel my palms start to sweat when I jumped from rock to rock in the Magmoor Caverns. And exploring the Phazon Mines brought sheer terror when facing hordes of Space Pirates.

Metroid Prime is my reason for owning a Gamecube. It's a game I could turn on at virtually any moment and get a chill down my spine as I see the game world again for the umpteenth time. A game whose soundtrack I hum constantly for days after playing. And one of the few games that make me scream every time I'm killed, as if I were the one in the suit and not Samus.

#7 - Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System

It was a real pickle choosing to put this game on this list, let alone so high up. But there's something to be said when a game is improved upon so vastly from the original version. In fact, I'm sure if I had played Tactics Ogre back on the SNES or PSX, and then played the PSP version, it would probably be in this spot instead.

I played Final Fantasy XII and loved it. Then I hated the game with a fiery passion. Then I loved it again. I was torn between the freedom of exploration and horribly broken-in-the-enemies'-favor combat system. Torn between a game world that was gorgeous to behold and a leveling system that made me want to grind just to feel like I wasn't THAT outclassed. A subdued, potentially poor but all the same engaging story with teeth-grindingly annoying random encounters. If it isn't clear already, the gameplay itself is what I loathed most about FFXII.

Then IZJS came into my life, and all was good again. This is what the game needed from the start; a well-done balancing act between your party's power and the enemies. To be rewarded for smart gameplay instead of forcing me to powerlevel because it was the only viable means of winning. Strategy was moot; now it's everything since your moveset is limited.

Even with the language barrier (this game is only available legally in Japanese), you owe it to yourself as a fan of the series to play the definitive version of Final Fantasy XII.

#6 - Banjo-Tooie

Platformers make up a bulk of the games on my shelf. Mario games are the kings of the genre, and many have tried to usurp that crown. And one by one, you could argue many have outdone the portly plumber. But on the whole, Mario is still king of the genre. So which Mario game to choose for this list? Yoshi's Island? Super Mario Bros? Maybe the Galaxy games?

I chose Banjo-Tooie. What's that? Not a Mario game, you say? Well of course not. It's a Rare title, and one of the finest examples of the platformer I've ever played.

This game has it all. Large, creative worlds to explore. Obstacles overcome by both tenacity and sharp gameplay. Humor by the truckload. Loads and loads of moves to keep the game fresh. But really what made this game the crowning achievement for me was the expertly designed interlocking worlds. Unlike Mario games where every world is isolated from the next, the worlds of Banjo-Tooie all connect to one another in some way. A train track from Witchyworld to Grunty Industries, causing rain to fall from Cloud Cuckooland to Terrydactyland; finding the hidden paths between worlds for the sake of one or two Jiggies always brought a sense of accomplishment and wonder to my eyes.

I could probably live without any other platformer in my life so long as I had this game. It was hard to turn down so many other games, but when it came down to it, I couldn't see myself enjoying Mario or Donkey Kong as much as the bear & bird.

Honorable Mention - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest

... but that's not to say I won't honor at least one of them.

Donkey Kong Country is a series with four exquisite platformers each worthy of a spot on any top 10 list. But for me, only one gets an honorable mention, and that's the second game. Diddy Kong Country (as I came to call it growing up) was always the hardest of the three original Country games for me. But when I finally mastered my platforming ability, I came to play the game on a daily basis for a month or so, and now I can easily finish the game in a pair of hours. Not to mention the soundtrack for this game is phenomenal, and the visuals dark and gritty compared to the other games in the series.

If there was space on my top 25, you know this game would have made the cut.

The top 5 are left. Join me next time!

My Favorite & Most Influential Games, Part 3

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I'll be up front about this: you will not see ANY games originally found on a Sega console on this list.

As with any kid growing up playing video games, what I had access to depended almost entirely on my parents. In my case, my father, since he was an ardent gamer up until... fairly recently. He was a Nintendo fan, and stuck to the Nintendo platform up until the day he gave up gaming entirely. And while I knew there were Sega consoles out there, I never even bothered to ask for one. After all, there was nothing worth playing on them, right? Well, looking back, I guess I missed out on a few noteworthy titles. But by the time I started caring enough about diversity in my gaming repetoire, I was already a diehard RPG fanatic. And where were the RPGs? On Nintendo's handhelds and Sony's consoles. Therefore, Sega was left to rot for me. I do wonder how different things would be if I had played some of the Genesis' or Dreamcasts' games growing up. Alas...

#15 - Golden Sun Duology

In late 2001, a little game called Golden Sun was released for the Game Boy Advance. It was an RPG, and marketed as a sort of throwback to the greats found on the SNES. Well, I picked it up and got right to playing it. And it blew me away.

This was around the time RPGs were becoming my bread & butter in gaming, so every game I could get my grubby paws on was sure to be great. Even the less than stellar releases. Thankfully, Golden Sun was a superb title, with deep class mechanics my young mind couldn't comprehend. But what really drove this one home was the end of the game: in that it didn't end. Golden Sun ended on a cliffhanger half-way through the adventures of Isaac & co., and so began the midquel: the waiting game. It would be a full two years before the sequel was released.

Because the sequel picks up right where the original left off, I've chosen to include both games into the #15 slot as a single game. Because despite the improvements in The Lost Age, they are one and the same story. If these games were rereleased today on the 3DS as a single package (with updated visuals), it'd be as a single, uninterrupted adventure. So that's what I see them as.

Did Golden Sun bring anything grand to the table? No. But it did do something important for me. And that was open my eyes to games that came before it. "A throwback" they called it. Did that mean all those older RPGs on the SNES and Playstation were just as good? Following that train of thought, I began a collection of RPGs that to this day has managed to survive for the most part. Without Golden Sun, who knows if I would have ever experienced any of the RPGs found on those two platforms.

#14 - Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was among the first games I ever played, and the only Castlevania game in my collection for a very, very long time. All the criticisms and rants you've probably heard regarding the game are entirely true, and I would never dare to challenge them. However, the dark tone of the series (still present even in Simon's Quest) stuck with me. And there came a time in the mid-2000s where I wanted to experience more of this gothic atmosphere.

Around this time, Castlevania games were experiencing a bit of praise and fame thanks to the efforts started by Symphony of the Night on the Playstation years before. Pushed onward by the successes of Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, there were plenty of Castlevania games in the "Metroid" style (dubbed Metroidvania) to choose from. And I sampled them all. But of them all, I found myself loving Order of Ecclesia more than any of them.

For a combination of reasons, really. The largest of which, in my opinion, was the protagonist Shanoa. On her own, Shanoa isn't anything to write home about. She's about as typical as female protagonists go in the realm of video games. Nothing is done to make her stand out. But by simple virtue of being a female protagonist in a Castlevania game (the first one since Legends, despite other ladies appearing in future installments they weren't the primary protagonist/player avatar) she's memorable in my eyes.

Second, the game's difficulty is nothing to sneeze at. If there was always one thing about the Metroidvania games in general was that they were always too easy. It didn't matter how impossible a monster seemed, if you left and came back later with a few more levels under your belt, you could walk all over them. No such luck here, where Shanoa's constitution was always fragile and a few good blows would end your game (and her life). Could this be construed as a sexist design choice? I'm not even going to touch it. The point is the game finally dared to taunt the player, "this is a hard game, and you're going to like it".

Not to sneeze at any of the other games in the series, but this is the one I'd play over all others. From the classics to the other Metroidvanias. And Shanoa ranks up there among my favorite video game protagonists.

#13 - Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix

It's no secret to the people who know me that I am a huge Disney fan. If gaming was my bread, Disney films were my water growing up. So a game that combined the (then) greatness of Square and Disney in a single package? And an RPG? I was THERE.

And while I enjoyed the original Kingdom Hearts, loved the new spin on things with Chain of Memories, it was Kingdom Hearts 2 that really made me love the series completely. Until I realized something: the more I played the games, the more boring they got. And if there's one thing I can't stand in a game, it's getting bored. Throw me unfair challenges that cause me to ragequit or stories so inept I feel myself getting stupider by the minute, these are small potatoes compared to a game that lulls me to sleep. But there was a silver lining in this dark cloud: the Final Mix edition.

After spending a ton of money to acquire a Japanese import PS2, I acquired Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix and fell in love all over again. This is the definitive version of the game, and in my opinion the high point of the series entire. It had an extra difficulty setting to further challenge you, an optional low level restriction, and best of all: extras as far as the eye could see. This wasn't a hack job of a rerelease with a few new items thrown in; you got your money's worth of extra content. And extra content you could play over and over again! Permit me while I swoon.

As for influential, I'll admit this one did little for me. This was just one of the purest examples of sheer FUN I had playing games. I will make a case for this game being one of the shining examples of original-to-rerelease improvements, though.

#12 - Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

Arguing which game is the greatest game ever made is a lot like arguing which piece of art is the greatest ever made. There is no right answer. But I will put myself out there by defending Tactics Ogre as the epitome of video gaming in general.

And I'm talking of the PSP version more than the original SNES release or subsequent rereleases. The PSP version made numerous changes to the game for the sake of streamlining the experience, and darn it all it made the game perfect. From the engrossing plot of political intrigue and betrayel to the superb localized script (and I will confess I have a thing for "medieval English" scripts) to the branching story paths depending on your actions, to the superb tactical combat, this game has it all. I've heard arguments the game can be too easy, but I've always found it to be just right on that front.

Why would I put a game I'd consider the best ever made only at #12 on my list? Because as perfect as this game is in my opinion, it lacks attachment to me personally. This is a game I played recently, and I've yet to sit through all of it to boot. When the day comes that I see all this game has to offer me, perhaps its position will change. Or perhaps I'd never make such a wild claim as labeling it the best game ever made. But for now, it sits here. And I am happy I got the chance to try it out.

#11 - Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

As the Seventh Generation of console gaming drew to a close, I found myself growing more and more disillusioned with the hobby. Gone was my desire to play everything on the market; all I wanted were games that brought me joy like they had in the past. It was a sign that I should look to giving up the gaming racket. Then along came Theatrhythm to provide just what I wanted.

This is a game made for fans of one of the most influential parts of the long-running Final Fantasy series, the music. As a game, it's a simple premise turned up to eleven in terms of repetition. But for me, it was not only a trip down memory lane, but an addictive gaming experience. And so much fun you could not begin to imagine.

Often is the music of video games forgotten in the grand scheme of things. Theatrhythm is here to remind some of us that it can be the centerpiece of a whole game. If only there was more to choose from in terms of songs for this title. But other than that, this is a game that will never leave the side of my 3DS until the day it dies.

Honorable Mention - Megaman Zero

The Megaman series is one I didn't grow up with. I always knew of its existence, but never cared enough to give it a try. After all, there were so many of them, which was the right one to start with? Then along came the Zero series, resetting the counter to 1 and letting me jump in.

Megaman Zero was hard. It required twitch reflexes and lots of practice to master the game and achieve the highest possible rank. But even if you chose to slow down and just beat the game as methodically as you wanted to, it was still an absolute blast to play. However, as much as I love the series and Megaman games in general today, not a single one of them did enough for me on their own to make this list.

However, were it not for Megaman Zero, I never would have sampled so many other games in the series. And for that, I give this game a consolation prize.

The Top Ten begins next time. Now it gets interesting (or predictable?).

My Favorite & Most Influential Games, Part 2

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Did I say next month or two? I meant less time. Because my opinion tends to be fickle and it's better to finish this ASAP.

When I drew up the list for this blog, there were close to 90 games on it from virtually every platform and generation. Except for Generation 1 and 2, since I wasn't even born at the time and never really played games on the Atari consoles or contemporaries. I did get one not too long ago, and sampled one or two games on it. Alas, I've gone past the point of seeing the merit of those games. And if I want to play something from the arcade era of video gaming, I'll take myself to an actual arcade, plug in a quarter and have some old fashioned fun. Or actually buy a cabinet and install it in a corner of my room.

#20 - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

This was the first game I ever got for my very own Game Boy, way back in the Holiday Season of '93. I was stoked; finally, a Zelda game I could play on that green screen device!

Looking back now, what Link's Awakening means to me is a lot more than that memory. This was the game that introduced me to the concept of fan pairings. For the first time ever, I wanted the main character to be happy with someone in a romantic sense. Of course, this wasn't my line of thinking back in late '93 slash early '94. After all, I was still a kid then. But as I grew older the Link/Marin pairing became an important part of Zelda "lore" to me. So much so I chose to express my adoration for this pairing with a piece of fan ficition. It's up to you if that's a good thing or bad.

But as a game, Link's Awakening is a Zelda game done right. There's an emphasis on exploration, a world map that requires filling in through said exploration, and a bittersweet ending that makes the whole adventure worthwhile. To this day, reading that mural in the Face Shrine late in the game still sends a chill down my spine.

#19 - The World Ends With You

Every once in a while, a game comes along that isn't attached to any existing franchise and completely blows me away. This has happened to me several times in my gaming career, but not all of them can make this list. A few do, I'll confess right now, and one of them is The World Ends With You.

It's an RPG that takes advantage of the DS's dual screen set-up to provide innovative gameplay. The touch screen is used effectively and doesn't feel forced or hammered in. Switching between two screens in the middle of combat feels natural and becomes second nature almost instantly. And perhaps the best part of this whole package is the presentation. An RPG set in the modern day? The last game I knew did something to this effect was Earthbound, and that was more of a parody title than anything.

TWEWY takes itself seriously. It tells an engaging story with likable, down-to-earth characters, all of which demonstrate growth from the start of the adventure to the end. The visuals are highly stylized, expressive, and the monster design is creative and appealing. The sprite work is fantastic in an age where sprites are a dying breed. Best of all, the script is so masterfully translated with -GASP- actual modern slang. Granted, as the years pass this slang becomes dated, but at the time of release it was shockingly spot on and I never found myself rolling my eyes at dated phrases.

Of all the games and RPGs to grace that delicious device, TWEWY is the prime example. This game is the reason to own a DS, in my humble opinion.

#18 - Catherine

"Is it an RPG?"
"Is it a dating sim?"
"Could it be the next Persona in disguise?"

These were the kinds of questions surrounding Atlus' surprise hit of 2011 among my social circle. When it came to games I early anticipate, I tend to know exactly what I'm getting into. Catherine was such a mystery leading up to its initial release, it was almost more fun playing the waiting game than the actual game itself.

... almost.

Catherine has been described as a "Qbert style" game. I don't know how accurate that is, given I've never actually played Qbert. But for what it is, Catherine is a great gaming experience. The story was fun to follow, and held up surprisingly well for multiple playthroughs. The gameplay struck this perfect balance for me of challenge and taunting; every time I'd die I'd be tempted to try again rather than throw my controller in rage. And I would die constantly. The little hidden nods to other Atlus games (many of which I have played before) were also nice treats.

If there was one thing I really despised about the game, it was the camera controls and being unable to see what's on the other side of the tower of blocks. But other than that, I could play this game for hours on end and continually rage as I kept losing on my way to the top.

#17 - Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

So back in 2002 I was presented with a little dilemma: which one of two games would I buy one fateful summer?

An entry is a well-established survival horror franchise, Resident Evil (something, I forget the exact entry). Or Eternal Darkness.

I am so happy I chose this gem of a game. While not difficult by any stretch of the imagination, it was well-written and amazingly fun to play. A series of interlocking stories that with each passing chapter, made me wonder if at the end of it all humanity would end up doomed and scrubbing eldritch abomination sh*t stains off the floor for all eternity. And that would have been merciful all things considering.

And really I don't want to say anything more about this game for fear of ruining stuff for anyone who hasn't played this game. This game alone is a fantastic reason to own a Gamecube, almost always given a thumbs-up by fans of Lovecraft for the similar themes, and a great horror title to play late at night when you're all alone in the house. Just be sure to keep your grip on reality steady.

#16 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Another Zelda game on this list? Yes, another Zelda game. Pipe down and listen.

More than Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask or Twilight Princess. More than Wind Waker, Minish Cap or the Oracles games. This is the archetypical Zelda adventure. The template which all subsequent Zelda games followed. Does this make it better than all the games to follow? No. But it is better than Ocarina of Time (take THAT you Ocarina fanboys!). And so is Twilight Princess (double whammy!).

If there's one thing missing from A Link to the Past that is present in all future games, it's the other races of Hyrule. This would be a game I'd gladly take a full remake of if they incorporated the races now standard to the series. But until then, I have my imagination to fill in the gaps as to why the likes of the Gerudo and Goron aren't present in Hyrule. And why the Zoras have become so gosh-darned UGLY.

But what is it about A Link to the Past that earns it such a high spot on my favorite games list? Nostalgia, baby. Pure, unfiltered nostalgia. This is a game that gorges on the stuff. An adventure that is never forgotten if experienced early enough in your lifetime. If I had to choose a single Zelda game and label it the best Zelda game ever, it would be the Wind Waker. But if I had to choose a Zelda game to take with me to the grave, it would be A Link to the Past.

Honorable Mention - Pikmin

It's a charming little game where you land on a strange world (which happens to be Earth, har har) and call upon the aid of local wildlife to repair your ship. There's a timer involved, because if Captain Olimar doesn't get off the planet in time, the deadly oxygen all around him will kill him. Sounds like a jolly good time, right?

Except once you start playing, you'll realize the horror of Pikmin. And really, that extra bit of thought is what lands the game on my list as an honorable mention. It tells a lot about me that I could not stand to play the game ever again following a certain point. When you start viewing the Pikmin as living creatures, you don't WANT to use them to help you out. You don't WANT to see them get eaten alive. Or crushed. Or drowned. Or burned. Or any other horrible way to die that the world of Earth supplies.

Pikmin is the honorable mention here and not the sequel because I never finished the sequel. Call me horrible, but the removal of the timer and the focus on collecting trinkets and knick-knacks for money made the game just too dark for my tastes. I am sending hundreds, potentially thousands of little creatures to their deaths to turn a tidy profit? I can't do that.

Perhaps I looked too deep into the whole concept. And perhaps I'm just too kind-hearted and soft for my own good. But I can't help but cover my ears when I hear their tortured cries in the game on the off chance someone is playing it.

There's still more to come, so join me next time for Part 3~!

My Favorite & Most Influential Games, Part 1

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I have played many, many games over the course of my 23 years walking this planet. For the better part of my life I eschewed a strong social life in favor of packing in as many games as I could into my existence. Nowadays, I sorta regret this. But that's not to say I look back on my time gaming with disgust; on the contrary, it was these games that shaped who I am today.

I've played over five hundred games in my life, but this list is for the 25 most influential to me. These are the games that, after much consideration, I'd want to be locked into a basement with and I'd never want to bash my head against a wall until I die. As such, there's bound to be a few games of... questionable merit from an objective standpoint. This is a biased list (as they all are, even the official "Best Games Ever"). Nostalgia plays a huge roll in this.

But enough jibber-jabber. Here are the Top 25 Games for Browny (with some honorable mentions tossed in for good measure).

#25 - Pokemon, Generation 2

When Pokemon first landed in the States, it swept the country's youth in a frenzy. I distinctly remember there wasn't a kid you could talk to on the playground that wasn't into some aspect of Pokemon. Aside from the video games, there was the new Trading Card Game rendition of the series, merchandise snuck into school to show off, and my personal favorite: the network of word of mouth on secrets regarding the game. Bill's Secret Garden ring a bell?

But as influential as the first generation of Pokemon was, when it boiled down to it, it was Generation 2 that resonated with me the most. Four of the five generations made my initial list of 80+ games when I was drawing up the candidates for this blog series. And not the remakes on DS, but the original GB classics that won my heart more than the rest. Are the games flawed? Definitely. Could it be argued they aren't the best the series has to offer? Maybe, but nostalgia wins over sane reasoning for this list.

#24 - Dragon Warrior

I started playing video games before I could even talk, just before the tender age of two. I learned by constantly watching my father run obstacle courses in Super Mario Bros. and hack away at an endless supply of Slimes in Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest I). And when I finally learned how to grasp the controller in my hands, there were two games I played nonstop. And one of them was Dragon Warrior.

This was my first RPG, though at the time I didn't even understand what the RPG entailed. This wasn't a game of constant action; it was slow, methodical, and downright horrifying. The soothing music of the open field did little to quell my fear of the constant threat of running into Slimes and Drackees while I traveled outside of Tantagel Castle. As I grew up, I learned more and more about the RPG genre, and when I was finally an adult I returned to this game to finish it once and for all. This game is probably the crux of my entire childhood, and the underlying reason for my adoration of all things RPG. It isn't about skill or speed; it's about survival. A sense of wonder and adventure few games manage to capture.

There's not a day goes by that I don't look upon my copy of Dragon Warrior and smile. And there's nothing quite as relaxing and medatative to me as grinding out a hundred Slimes in a row on that old NES cart.

#23 - Blue Dragon

It's a funny thing to look back on my time with Blue Dragon. When the game was released, it was pretty much panned by critics and many gamers alike. It was consistently compared to the very series it was aping, that being Dragon Quest. And at the time, I was in my foul teenage mood and was sorta rebelling against Dragon Quest. To me, this was the game that should have been universally praised, not Dragon Quest VIII. This one brought so much more to the table.

But as time passed and I played the game more and more, I realized the issues with the game. Blue Dragon is in no way a great game. It is, at best, passable. It's a shameless derivitive of the DQ series, and it failed to capture even the faintest trace of the magic that series embodies. Toriyama's designs are lovely, but the world of the game is barren and lifeless. This is the strangest thing ever, considering for the most part, all Dragon Quest games are just as devoid of a teeming world as Blue Dragon is. But another huge drawback to the game is the weak cast of characters, all of whom are cookie-cutter RPG archetypes with no redeeming qualities. Really, it's a wonder I didn't go with Lost Odyssey for this list.

But actually, there was a good reason for that. As much as I adored Lost Odyssey's Thousand Years of Dreams gimmick, it was sadly just that: a gimmick. The primary plot of the game was just as terrible as Blue Dragon's and actually only made worse when experienced alongside the spectacularly written Dreams segments. But above all, Lost Odyssey was just not as fun to play as Blue Dragon. It felt slower, more restricted, and too serious for its own good. Not to say Blue Dragon's borderline-sacchrine cheery mood is any better than Lost Odyssey's brood, but I feel something serious falling flat hurts more than something light-hearted doing the same.

But all that aside, Blue Dragon has a spot on my list (and even above a couple other games!!) for a reason. It managed to capture ONE aspect of the Dragon Quest series almost perfectly. This game is a grindfest, and a darn enjoyable one at that.

#22 - Halo: Combat Evolved

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I detest the current trend of gaming. First person shooters are all the rage, and as such the market is flooded with clones of whichever franchise is selling the most copies. But don't take that to mean I don't like the FPS as a genre (regardless of what I might have said in the past). There is a place for it in my heart, and one game sits on this list as the representative for the genre as a whole.

Initially, I was torn between Goldeneye on the N64 and this game. But as much as Goldeneye deserves praise for laying the groundwork for the FPS today, I don't find it quite as fun as Halo: CE. Perhaps it's the setting, perhaps it's the simple but effective level design, or perhaps it's just because Halo allows me to ride a car and shoot the ever-living snot out of aliens while a buddy drives. And really, co-operative play is another factor that ranked Halo above Goldeneye and a few other games on this list. I like to play with people, and as such having a friend or family member to shoot aliens with is an immensely gratifying experience.

I played several other Halo games after this one, but none were quite as memorable as the experiences of the first. While many would scoff at placing this FPS above so many others, just remember it was because of what this game and military-themed shooters did to the industry that I chose never again to try the FPS genre.

#21 - Star Wars Galaxies

The MMO is the logical extension of the RPG. To play with others in these massive fantasy worlds is the ultimate goal, and when computers made it possible to engage in this it was a dream come true for many a gamer. Granted, SWG was not the first of its kind. And many would say it wasn't a particularly good example of the genre as a whole given the theme. But since I was still nibbling on single-player experiences at around the time this game was released, it was my first taste of the MMO, and thusly the standard to which I held any other MMO to follow.

Star Wars Galaxies wasn't so much a game as it was a second life. Where you hunted space monsters to earn a living, and passed the time talking to complete strangers in the meantime. Where every outing was preceded by a drink at the local bar and tipping the local dancer and singer as thanks for bestowing positive buffs. Where traveling for 20 minutes across a barren landscape to reach a vendor to buy a piece of equipment was commonplace. Where goals weren't determined by some omniscient developer, but by your own choice. Where you weren't tied to a single job or role in life, but were free (and encouraged) to change it up as often as you wanted. Where the game world was a creation of the inhabitants and not a God.

As time passed, the MMO scene changed as companies tried to ape what was successful. And with it came the fall of this virtual world we built up. I am forevermore saddened by this, but in a way it taught a lesson: nothing lasts forever. And I will never forget the time spent in this second life. This is the only game on my list I can never go back to. The one I can never relive.

Honorable Mention - Roller Coaster Tycoon

When I first got a (hand-me-down) computer, there was one game installed on it that turned out to be a godsend. That game was Roller Coaster Tycoon, a fun and addictive little simulation title wherein you manage a theme park. Before this game, the simulation genre was a mystery to me; I was raised on consoles and handhelds and games like this weren't very common.

If this game didn't make my list, it's because as fun as it was to build my own theme park, that was all there was to it. The actual game required you to accomplish various tasks with many pre-built parks, but that's not why I wanted to play it. I just wanted a plot of land and build up the park as I saw fit. I didn't want a constant reminder looming over me. And it wasn't until RCT2 that this was made easier by including a scenario editor.

Still, be it the original or part 2, the games hold a special place in my heart. Just not enough of a place to make the top 25.

There's still more to come, but that will have to wait until next time. Until then!

Level 11

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Level 11 account.

Here's a topic that sprung to mind recently: online. Co-op, or competitive?

A reason why I don't play online all that much anymore (or rather, ever did) is because I hate competitive multiplayer. Really in the only regards I enjoy it is one-on-one fighters and board games. The former because there's a level of skill involved, the latter because it's 90% chance depending on the game. And at the end of the day, the majority of online games (especially for consoles) doesn't even fall into either of these categories. They are usually FPS.

Which is fine. For them.

I like playing WITH people. Not AGAINST people. And for that, I can turn to the MMO. But there are so many to choose from now, and all of them feel so mediocre following World of Warcraft. They all strive to be the WoW killer, and thus all ape the same general formula. Finding a MMO that doesn't focus heavily on combat is a tall order. It's not impossible, just really, really difficult. And that's discouraging to say the least. Because sadly the more involving combat gets in a MMO, the less you are able to talk to people you play with.

I've shared this tale before many times, but because we are all simply the culmination of our experiences it's as relevant to me as anything else. When I played the MMO Star Wars Galaxies, the draw was never the combat. Far from it, the draw of the game was the community. This was a sandbox MMO that would only work if the community was willing to play along. And play along they did; at its height, it was a living, breathing universe. When WoW came along, even existing games tried to ape it to bring in new players. SWG was one of them, and with the focus on combat they ruined the universe the community had worked so hard to build.

All I'm saying is the original intent of the MMO, at least I feel, was to provide a setting for players to interact socially. When you place emphasis on combat as the sole draw to your game world, what am I to do when there's nothing left to fight? What if I tire of the fighting? What else can I do?

SWG had player lodgings and cities. A very freeform system to allow you to decorate what was yours. For the longest time, this was the one feature people I knew from my SWG days wanted from WoW. And (to my knowledge) they never delivered.

Of course these are just specific-yet-broad examples. And grossly off the mark from what the initial blog topic was.

I want to play a game co-operatively. A MMORPG where I can enjoy the killing of monsters but also the social aspect. To have something to do in a civil setting that doesn't involve killing monsters or working to improve your character or wealth. But most importantly of all, at least to me, is to have a theme that appeals.

I look forward to Animal Crossing: New Leaf in June. I hope by playing the game with people I've come to consider friends, we can have that bit of fun I've been dying to have for the longest time in gaming. And perhaps somewhere down the line, I hope DQX is localized so that I could also indulge in that game with my best friend (among others) for hours on end.

Level 10

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Level 10 account.

I honestly did not think I'd level up as quickly as I did. As such I have nothing important to share. Heck it's not even Valentine's Day yet.

I guess I'll make due with a few random thoughts:

  • I really dislike Sword Art Online. 
  • I really like Dragon Quest.
  • A few members of PUSH seem to be under the impression I'm a chick which I'm totally not.

That should do it.

Level 9

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Level 9 account.

February is the month of romance. If American Greeting Card Companies are to be believed.

Let's all make a pact: we will all get girlfriends by Valentine's Day.

That is all.

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