That was the year Final Fantasy VII was released, and it has since been all over for me. While I did spend some of my earlier years playing the fabulous Commodore 64, it was the Playstation and FFVII that "started it all" as H1 would say.
Bunji and I bought initially two games when we bought our Playstation: Final Fantasy VII and Soul Blade. These were soon followed by Tekken 2 and Resident Evil. We began renting and purchasing only a few. It was only after I started working that the collection grew significantly but I digress.
1997 through 2006, this is all about you!
...And here they are. Some of them, anyway.
This list will comprise all the ones that are my "early" favourites. They're not the C64 generation and not the games I've played in the last 4 years (although there are tons of new favourites).
Now onwards to the list!
That's the only word I should say that sums up my obsession with FFVII. That silver-haired bad-assed with the long coat began my obsession with silver-haired or white-haired anime characters. To me, his character design was the epitome of cool. He went crazy, did not talk too much and burnt a town to the ground. One. whole. town. in. one. night.
Okay, so that's just sick on my part. But not as sick as when I laughed hysterically after Aerith got a masamune through the body. It certainly is not as sick as the fact that I still laugh now.
Aside from my terrible infatuation with Sephy, Final Fantasy VII was overall amazing to my 16 year old brain. And to think I actually hated it at first. I had never played a game like it before, and there was just too much to bloody understand.
I don't know what made me pick it up after the first hour of being pissed but I stuck with it, and have not regretted it since (though, money-wise, I blame this bastard of a game for my vg habits!).
There are only three games I have played through more than once in its entirety, and this is one of them.
What makes you so memorable, FFVII?
Music - Nobuo Uematsu is a hero of mine and a hero to many. Music worked double-time in this game. It conveyed the emotion of everything going on with the characters along with the dialogue; and it set the mood up for the corresponding scenes. And who can deny that "One-Winged Angel" is ultra-fantastic?
Characters - Sephiroth, Cid and Yuffie. Hey, I can like good guys too. Bughie J. miiiiggghht argue that Yuffie's a bad guy, but he's just sour she bested him and stole his materia. Yuffie rules!
Materia - Condensed pockets of the Lifestream that took on the properties of the elements. It's not magic, bitches! It's Condensation! Wait... um. Let us just say, they are colourful balls that fit into your weapon and you can summon bitchy ass Knights from them, among other things. And let us not forget you had to go to hell and back to raise a Golden Chocobo just to do so. Okay? Okay.
Story - Everybody wants to rule the world, but who the hell rules it from a volcano? An genetically-engineered man! A man with clones made from his own genetically-engineered self! And oh! I bet you didn't see that coming, but YOU are the clone! And here you thought you were just some blonde boy who liked to dress up in drag. Psh. It's the little details that made it so wonderful.
Here's something shocking. Mask of Majora might actually be my favourite game, even more so than FFVII. ::gasp!:: Well... hmm. It's a thought I've not really thought about too much in detail. While FFVII may have given me my favourite character in Sephiroth, Mask of Majora gave me an incredibly innovative experience in plot and game play. This game is genius, really and the second game I have played more than once. Also, put it on the 3DS and I can guarantee you that I will purchase and play it for the 3rd time.
What makes you so damned valuable to me, Mask of Majora?
The Moon - I don't know what the hell happened but if you wanted something to be afraid of, turn to the Moon in Mask of Majora. It's crashing down on your town in three days and with it, the ugliest face this side of Zoras. That, my friends, is adding insult to death.
Three Days - In just three days, you can either save the sorry asses of Clock Town (and if that was not incentive enough, you kinda have to save yourself while you're at it) or be an ass and take those ingrates with you. The second part was not an option unless you really wanted the "GAME OVER" screen. It should be lauded how wonderfully this game made use of time and your manipulation of it. If you suffer anxiety though, this is not the game for you.
Link, The Hero of (anything and anyone you can think of) - Poor kid. I wish someone would cut this kid some slack. I love Link. I love that he's mostly mute. I love that he is not afraid to wear that hideous tunic which matches so nicely his beautiful hat, and I love that he can play an instrument. He learns fast, that golden-headed child, and if not for that, we'd be d-e-d. Good for him! Seriously though, while I often fancy adult-hottie Link, Kid Link is loveable too. Link has become one of my favourites and with good reason.
The Twist - Ultimately you find out who's behind the falling of the Moon. Why? Did you think the Moon acted of its own accord? Ha. Funny. It turns out it's your friend from back in the forest. The one you least expected... and now you know, don't trust anyone! Or at least, don't leave them behind by themselves. They tend to go crazy from the loneliness. The other twist? This game should be classified under "Survival Horror". Talk about creepy!
(Above picture - not Mask of Majora Link but rather Wind Waker Link. I was stupid and never bought the figures from the Ocarina of Time days. I knew I should have bought that Ganondorf! That little black scribble on his head? Shigeru Miyamoto disgraced my Link with his signature! Oh, I'm only kidding of course. He made that Link the most beautiful Link I will ever see, and all the more cool because Miyamoto-San laughed at me when I gave him my Link for signature.)
Jak & Daxter Series (Naughty Dog, 2001-2005)
While I really enjoyed Crash Bandicoot which gets an honourable mention for Crash Bandicoot: Warped and Crash Team Racing, Jak & Daxter made me pledge allegiance to Naughty Dog.
Unlike Square who I know has the capacity to disappoint me (that's right, Final Fantasy VIII - you were god awful save your soundtrack), I'm not sure the same holds true of Naughty Dog. That's a bold statement considering I have not yet played the Uncharted Series. However, based on the glowing reviews, I'd say its a winner.
The only reason I have not yet thrown myself into the world of Nathan Drake is that the realism is throwing me off a bit for them. I know why Naughty Dog went cartoony, and I recognize that Jak took a turn for the dark, more serious turn (which I loved!) so there should be no reason why I cannot or will not enjoy Uncharted as well. I'll get there eventually. It's on my list of games to play.
But what about Jak & Daxter? Why so esteemed as a favourite of mine?
The humour - As much of a brat Daxter is, he did have a lot of moments there.
Stuff - You give me things to collect, and I will do answer the call. Like all platformers, collecting all manners of junk is the key and it probably facilitated my addiction to collect real world stuff now. Hm. Hold on, I might be having a personal breakthrough...
The world - In the first game, everything was just so bright. Life was fairly good even though the darkness was brewing...and then it hit. The settings went from peaceful to one hell of a ride, which leads me to my next mention of adoration.
Dark Eco - Jak, the previously mute, cheery friend who jumped from cliff to cliff and lived a mostly carefree life got infused with Dark Eco. He grew a goatie, turned evil and started to talk. And boy was he angry! Being tortured and experimented on would probably do that to a person (a goatee though? That was a bad-assed necessary extra!).
What impressed me most about this series was that it went from your standard platformer to a rush of an adventure, action and shooter hybrid! There were weapons galore and I'm not usually into games with guns that fire lasers or what have you. I like my fire to come from magic, thank you. This though? I became hooked on Jak II and Jak III.
I love Brave Fencer Musashiden like you would not believe. I wanted everything Squaresoft and near bought or rented everything Squaresoft.
BFM came with the FFVIII demo (trickery! It looked good in theory but was crap in reality!) and while the lure to buy was FFVIII (shenanigans!), turns out BFM made that whole package legendary.
Oh Brave Fencer Musashi, I love thee so. How much? Let me list the ways
Ridiculous - I think it took me a little bit to catch on but this is how it went in my head: that's an awfully weird name for an Empire. Allucaneet? What? Princess Fillet. Huh? Gingerelle of the Thirquencher Empire? Wh...wait. Oh. Everyone's named after food and drink! Hahaha, how stupid! Yet, so endearing... Hold on though, how come that one dude is named Jon. That's terribly normal...
Jon and Leno - Tragedy. This is the kind of tragedy I did not expect to come. For a game so light-hearted, I was shocked when... when... okay. I cannot even say it. This was worse than when the creators of FFVII made me use Cloud to defeat Sephiroth in the final showdown (as far as I'm concerned, Sephy won that whole battle). Even as the game ended, I expected it to be all some sort of hoax but alas, BFM made me suffer heartache even after the credits rolled.
Heart - Despite the ridiculousness and the Jon and Leno incident, all the pieces made this game fun. Oh, and stealing the abilities of your enemies and assimilating them to your advantage was pretty damned cool too. How do I get over the thorns? Why, suck the heart out of that springy enemy and let's bounce right over it too! That was such great fun. Truly, truly was.
Addiction - If there's one thing to know about me, its that I hate spending in game money. I rather find my weapons and items and any game that forces me to spend monies is the devil. And while you would think this is right up my alley, Musashi often collected money not for items but for toys. There were action figures of every enemy you caught, and your virtual action figures had virtual signature moves. Yet, I refused to buy toys. Bughie J. on the other hand, he was all about spending my hard-earned cash. On some toys. Psh. Irony much? Yeah.
Minku - No fear though as I had my revenge. This is by no means an admission that I cut down 13 minku plus their giant mother and had fun while doing it. I maintain to this day, that those Minku ran into my sword as I was slashing around, and that eating the berries was part of the greater good.
Tsuyoshi Sekito - The soundtrack to this game is near perfect. I wish I could meet this man, so that he may sign my copy of it.
Musashi and Kojiro - Musashi is a disrespectful little punk samurai. He's awesome, tells you like it is and does not mince words. Enter Kojiro, sworn life long enemy to Musashi - if only Musashi cared. Their 'rivalry' made the story even funnier, except that last bit when The Wizard of Darkness kinda absorbed Kojiro. No, wait. It was funny even then.
(Above picture: Bookmarks.
I bought these from some dude on Ebay way back when.
Apparently, he thought my name was beautiful.
Thanks dude. Your handwriting is beautiful!)
Life simulators...who knew they could be so much f.u.n.? Don't we spend enough time trying to earn enough money to maintain our real houses? Why the hell then, should I go into a virtual world and pay some crook my mortgage by busting my ass picking and selling some peaches from the trees I planted outside my house?
Really now, why do we love this game?
The Slavin' - If only peach, apple and pear trees grew so easily and planted with such ease in real life. I'd be doing it all the time. And if only I could occasionally take shovel to earth and dig up bags of money. I'd definitely be spending my days doing that. ::sigh:: If only my loan shark was a tanuki! And his name was Tom Nook (that crook!)! I'd gladly keep re-decorating my house and paying him bells. all. the. time.
The Collecting - how come the local Museum waited for me to move in before filing its exhibits? Huh? Not that I didn't have oodles of joy fishing and catching bugs ('cept you dragonfly. You were a pain in the ass and I still have nightmares about you). And how come these blasted animals who live in town are so needy? Most importantly, how come I love being everyone's biatch even though sometimes they look at my bee stung face and start laughing?
2 AM and 1 PM - Even though I may encounter a ghost that early in the morning, I'll take my chances if only to skulk around by the light of the moon and listen to that music. And damn it, if I want to hear various random cats meowing, I'll walk around town at 1 PM if I want! There was a lot of music in this game and it's all so cute and hypnotic. How else was Nintendo going to make you sit there and waste your life for an entire year?
Every Day - ah yes. That's the other thing Nintendo EAD did. They made something happen virtually every day of the year. Rather it went by seasons as there was something new to do every time the seasons came, and it all happened in real time. Yes, Real Time. As in, today it's October 2nd and in Animal Crossing time (if you did not mess with your system settings), it is also October 2nd. It also means it's Autumn and the leaves are turning colour.
And of course, some days are better than others because there are Festivals to consider. Yep, the folk of AC also celebrated Christmas with you. Christmas! If you made friends, you'd get presents of furniture disguised as bug eaten leaves. And on Halloween? Oh Jack! You hide so well! Thanks for the candy! Trick or Treat and I'll see you next year!
What else did Nintendo do to keep you playing? They threatened to take your awesome animal friends away if you neglected them. If you left for too long, they could pack up and move. They also threatened to have your house infested with cockroaches if you went away for too long. I have played in well over 7 years. I...don't think I will ever return for the shock of seeing those nasties. Never Ever.
I think my Brother Bunji was unkind enough to give away our original copy of RE1. I do not know what he was thinking. The bad voice acting contributed to the awesomeness of this game. We were introduced to survival horror, and later realized there was nothing to be scared of some slow, shuffling zombies (especially the one that lived under the stairs).
I have spoken at great length before regarding RE and what makes these games so fantastic for me are the new and old memories with Bunji. But I would like to mention why I love Resident Evil 2 so much (though I'm sure I have before). This was the best bloody, valentine present I ever got. Thanks Papa HOchie! The copy I have of this game means a lot to me.
(Above picture: any excuse to take a picture of my Pet Licker. Muwahahaha.)
Pegged as the very first game to utilize the dual shock analogue controller in its entirety, Ape Escape was not just built on a gimmick.
Not only did it make clever use of the controller but the game itself was a hell of a lot of fun.
What made you so freakin' fantastic, Ape Escape?
The Monkeys - Every monkey had personality and there were a ton of monkeys to catch! Some were more aggressive than others, some timid, some witty and some not so much. One plus to capturing a monkey was getting the quirky profile of said monkey. It was always hilarious and sometimes, a little bit dirty. H1, remember that monkey that 'ate some yellow snow'? Gross.
Time Travel - If monkeys were let loose on different events throughout history, how would the world look? Basically, there'd be a lot of monkey programming on the tele. There'd also be monkeys riding on mammoths or dinosaurs, hitching a ride on Nessie's back and Ninja Monkeys lurking in the bamboo forests of Ancient Japan.
Be Quiet, be vewwy, vewwy quiet - For every era in history, the music changes to suite. Electronica inspired, Soichi Terada did a fine job of it. It's one of the most kick-ass soundtracks made even more fabulous by your actions in the game. If my character Spike ducked down to do a surprise attack on a monkey, certain instruments would be muted or lowered to demonstrate the act of sneaking.
Spectre and Spike - Again, throw a white-haired monkey in red pants into the fray and I'm all over it. Then, you throw a spikey headed kid with skunk hair into it, and I'm even happier. The Evil Monkey and the Evil Kid (he was evil! He took joy in catching those poor monkeys!) had cool, simple designs that aptly described their personalities.
(Above picture: A cactus or a monkey? Hmmm...)
If there's one series I got H1 hooked on it's this one. Even though we have a lot of games subsequent to this, Back to Nature was the one that started the fascination.
What's so great about Harvesting? And the Moon?
The Marrying - There was no option in Back to Nature to play as a girl, so as boys we played. We probably would have done that anyway. Our boys toiled and toiled, and then began showing interest in certain girls in the town. So that's what that empty heart was at the bottom of the screen! That bitch showed no interest in me! She's an eff! Or maybe I had to work to win her affection? Yeah, maaayybeee...
It may have taken a little over a year or close to two in game time, but H1 and I finally were able to marry some girls of our choice. She married Elly, the honest, hardworking and homely girl of the bunch. I think she worked at the clinic, right H1? You stole her affection from the Doctor? You got 'an in' by friending her Grandma and little bro? You're sly, H1. Very sly!
I ended up marrying Karen. She was um, the town drunk. A lush. A party girl. A Ho. Oh. Who said that? And what does that make me?
The Seasons - For the past few days (in real life!), it's been raining rather heavily. Fall just started. What do I think about? "It's raining today! Hooray! I don't have to water the plants! I have to go gather eggs and wait, maybe cook? Pick some grapes with Cliff? Milk the cows! Feed the animals! Man, I hope I put them in the barn yesterday... What should I do? Go talk to people in town? Go to the mines...fishing, perhaps?"
Okay, so maybe that thought crosses my mind once in a while...the grape picking. But I will tell you what happens A LOT. I find myself humming the Harvest Moon Season songs as the Seasons change. That's a true, sad story that I just shared with you. Please refrain from laughing.
Plotting - There was a time when we did not know how to properly plot our land. Now, we're frickin' pros. And we know exactly what to plant, when to plant it and what would be most profitable. Back to Nature taught us how to be prepared for other games in the series! In real life though? I tend to kill tomatoes. Let's not talk about it anymore.
(Above picture: CLee and his Main Squeeze)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons (Capcom/Nintendo, 2001)
All you need to know is that I spent a bit more money to get copies of these games 5 years after their orignal release date. I bought them for myself for Christmas in 2005, and played in the cold, wintry month of January in 2006. I hooked up the GBA to the Gamecube and spent hours in my room playing on the 'big' screen. I loved them and I am proud to have them in my collection.
Final Fantasy V (Square, 1999) and Final Fantasy X (Square, 2001)
There's always going to be an FF debate on which is the greatest. It's going to differ on your fond memories or experiences with that particular installment. While a lot of people loved FFVI, I did not have the attachment to it as FFVII was my favourite. That's not to say subsequent FF series were not great but for me, my favourites are VII, V and X.
FFV was a two player campaign undertaken by Bughie J. and myself. I think I relegated him to a healer. No one wants to be a healer, so that must have sucked for him until of course, I started getting my ass kicked. Then he could be something much more grand and show me how its done. This was released as part of Squaresoft's Anthology collection, along with Final Fantasy VI.
FFV had Bartz. Or was it Butz? Shady translation can turn you into a butt, it seems. There was Boko the Chocobo and Ex-Death. Of all FF bosses from FF games I have played, I found Ex-Death to be the most brutal. Sephiroth may have burnt down one town as part of his small scale acts of violent behaviour but Ex-Death? Well. He used The Void to toss entire Empires into, swallowed and deleted from existence just like that.
FFX - I don't like love stories. I find them mostly unnecessary in a majority of Hollywood movies. Base a game around a love story and I will probably dislike it plenty (what's that FFVIII?). FFX though was an exception. There was a lot more going on than just Tidus and Yuna, and then at the end it was all over for them. I liked Tidus a lot and that actually made me slightly sad but I'm okay with it. Also, I may be slightly bitter I never got the good, True Ending to FFX-2.
The Sims (Maxis/Electronic Arts, 2001)
Yes, another life simulator. Except in this one, we could actually be really rich, have lots of affairs without any real consequence and build our own dream houses complete with indoor swimming pools and extravagant bathrooms.
H1 and I were obsessed with The Sims. Eventually we both became super Sim Masters. The Figaro Family of my creation were insanely wealthy. One of my men (Sabin, it was) stole Miss Fortune from H1's household, married her and left H1's Mr. Ill Fortune to die by way of the Mysterious Guinea Pig. He began haunting the house too. It was tragic.
Then, Edgar who was married to Ayala, became a criminal and a mad scientist. Miss Fortune who married Sabin, started up an affair with Edgar as they both ran on the same schedule doing the same line of work. The affair took them to rooms in the house where no one else were allowed and it was rather busy maintaining it. Phew.
Eventually, H1 had a Bughie Bugh child of her own - a smart little girl with horn-rimmed glasses and a cape. Didn't anyone tell her that capes are not only dangerous but ridiculous too?
We lived very full Sim lives and were successful without cheating. The rosebud cheat code meant nothing to us!
And there you have it! My fond memories of some of my favourite games. I did not expect this to be so long but when you've reached Legendary Status, I suppose it's only right to give credit and justify it with a long, nerdish post that only I will read.
Currently listening to: "Kaneda" by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, from the Akira Symphonic Soundtrack.