Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Videogames I Actually Played in the Last Decade

Lots of other websites that make things like sense and money have best of the decade/year lists and I thought I'd do the same thing. Unfortunately, as I haven't played many, many of the games they list and I don't feel like lying about what I've played, here's a top 10 of the last decade of games I've actually played.

Persona 3 and Diablo 2 are here because they took in shitloads of my hours for the last decade. Persona 3 most recently, and Diablo 2, for basically middle and high school. Diablo 2, by virtue of the loot/kill dudes cycle that Borderlands added guns and a first person perspective to.

Persona 3, I've spent 140 hours on (finished both it and the expansion) and I still have a feeling in the back of my mind that I should go back to it. Yes, there's probably youtube videos of the interactions I want to see, but the fact that the "play it again" feeling is stuck in the back of my head means that there's something in the game that worked.

SSX 3. It does for snowboarding what Burnout does, which is communicate one thing: You aren't going to win unless you go faster and take chances. Are you barely hanging onto control of your rider? Are you not going for the crazy jumps? Be content with third place. At the final peak, you don't so much play SSX 3 as guide a human-shaped bullet down a mountain that's trying to kill you and the only way you'll survive is going fucking faster.

Chrono Cross. Not a sequel to the universally revered Chrono Trigger, but instead the next game in the series, Cross did too many things differently from Trigger for fans to appreciate it, but for me, the game comes to me when I think of best RPGs ever. There were 45ish characters, who all reacted differently to the game's stimuli, which means: you could play the game as serious or as straight forward as you wanted to, with the game's approval.

The battle system has aged well, the story's vicious little twists haven't lost their punch, the music is varied and rich, but what stands out to me, to this day, is the color palate and the environments. They were all evocative, they all were stages that had their own identities and reinforced the narrative.

When people say games don't make you think, I say put this in front of a fourteen year old boy and see the blown mind when he's finished.

Rock Band 2. It's a videogame where you play music with a band. Do you read this website?

Timesplitters 3: Future Perfect. My favorite first person shooter, which plays very very quickly, with a casual disregard for plot and a focus on a so bad it's good script. It had a fantastic sense of humor but also pacing, each end of the level boss was bigger and tougher than the last one and usually, more outrageous, too.

There's time travel, zombies, Russians, KGB, nuclear weapons somewhere, a train level, but more importantly, enemy types with character, level design that made me think before jumping in guns blazing and lots and lots of guns.

Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Speaking of guns, that's what the Ratchet and Clank series is known for and this iteration does not disappoint. True, there's no mind-control disco ball, but there's plenty of other oddball weapons for you to rain down murder with. Ratchet and Clank has always been a series about exploration/platforming and guns and here, they reach the sweet, sweet spot on the PS2. The weapons upgrade in an RPG like path, there's always a puzzle to break up the action and when they get to the final boss battle, it's basically a textbook on how to ramp up the difficulty in a way that's visible to the player.

Okay: That boss battle. It's in three stages. The first stage is a circular room, enclosed and it's just you and him. From there, he retreats to the sky where he uses his untouchable shield and death ray to harass you while you also fight off his elite units, using whatever you've saved up from the boss fight to get through them, culminating in a bridge where you fight two tank guys that more or less absorb ammunition every 50 feet.

Once you get past the bridge, you bring the boss back to earth, now more powerful than before, on an even smaller stage with all that copious extra ammunition leftover from going through another level's worth of enemies and a boss.

Resident Evil 4. Less jump scares, just more bad guys that you're not sure you can kill in increasingly small spaces. The terror comes from being trapped, desperately pumping bullets into enemies thinking "I literally don't have an inch I can move further backward into and the thing with two heads isn't stopping." The story isn't terribly exciting: Save a girl and get into progressively bigger trouble with higher caliber weapons, then the sprouting scythe head zombies show up and that's when you get HOLY FUCK THAT'S A TENTACLE SPIDER RUN MAN.

Metal Gear Solid 2. Say what you want about the looooooooooong cutscenes the game is known for, the Kojima Productions team knows how to set atmosphere and keep it. For half a year after I beat the game, I was so paranoid I peeked down corners to see whether there was a PMC guard on patrol. Also one of the subjects I used when I wrote about the military industrial complex in my mind: I can tell it to be terrified and produce the adrenaline but telling it to relax and think calmly? Much harder.

Super Smash Bros. If there was a gathering in college or free time in high school with other people, I was probably playing Super Smash Brothers, or one of the sequels. It's an icebreaker and something that accounted for hours of strategy practicums, by which I mean fighting Zach's Donkey Kong with my Kirby.

The title (and first track) from We Are the Pipettes. Look on the upper left, there's someone else's hand holding up the We Are sign, which I like as a subtle way of hinting at the band's post-Motown origin, "an experiment in manufactured pop," in that they manufactured themselves. The girls are out front and the male backing band is as invisible as they can get away with. There's also been enough lineup changes that I'm pretty sure the founding guitarist and that girl who sang on Pull Shapes are the only ones still in the band that recorded We Are the Pipettes, so, in that way, it's authentic to its manufactured origin. Anyway. We Are the Pipettes. Play loud.

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