My Ten Favorite Games Ever – Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, these are my personal ten favorite games ever.  Not the best games ever made, or even games I want to play again.  But the ten games I had the most fun playing the first time I played them.

Shadow of the Colossus

Age I was: 16

Last attempt at playing it: last year when it was re-released on PlayStation 3.  Shadow is one of the rare games that I’ve finished twice.  But there won’t be a third time.

Would I ever play it again: No

Between you and me, I never really liked Ico all that much.  Despite the massive amount of praise it got from pretty much everyone, I hated the combat and I detest escort missions in general.  A game that is all escorting, all the time was like being forced to listen to someone take a nail file to Gilbert Gottfried’s teeth.  So while the artwork was nice (I guess) and the puzzle design was alright (if you’re into that sort of thing), it did nothing for me.  As a result, Shadow of the Colossus was nowhere on my radar.  I had no faith in it.  Thought it would be a piece of shit.  And then I played the demo from the official PlayStation Magazine.  And I had to have it.  Like, right then.

There has never been anything quite like Shadow of the Colossus.  What made it work is how alone you feel in the world you’re in.  With no secondary enemies, treasures to find, caves to explore, fetch-quests, menus, and so on, and so on, everything is focused on intense, rewarding gameplay.  The storyline isn’t exactly deep, but you’re given just enough snippets of what’s going on to be curious exactly what you’re doing and why.  Despite the open-worldness of it, it felt like a dark ride at an amusement park.  You’re pushed from one goal to the next, feeling the exact emotion the developers want you to feel.  Fear from a lake monster.  Apprehension from a twenty-story tall behemoth.  Thrills as you soar through the air on a flying giant.  Even a true sense of loss when your horse seemingly dies.  Then again, I’m not sure they were trying to provoke “how the FUCK did it survive and limp all the way back here?” when it shows up during the final cut scene, which is what I was like.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Shadow of the Colossus is a one-and-done experience.  Yea, there’s a lot of hidden content, like lizards and fruits that increase your abilities.  And yea, they’re special weapons you get for beating the bosses a second time.  But the best parts about Shadow of the Colossus can only be experienced one time.  Those moments when you encounter a boss for the first time, or gaze in awe at a new area of the land to explore.  Once you’ve done that, there’s no turning back the clock.  Not even an HD upgrade of the game made playing through it a totally worthwhile use of my time last year.  I loved Shadow of the Colossus, but I can’t get anymore out of it.

XBLIG equivalent: Ha, right.  One game did try to recreate the whole “fight giant-sized enemies” schtick, Ogre’s Phantasm Sword Quest.  But that wasn’t even trying to be like Shadow of the Colossus.  It’s not an XBLIG, but the closest any game has come to reminding me of it was PlayStation Network hit Journey.  It wasn’t about the slaying of giants or the minimalistic presentation.  It was about the emotional focus.  A game that gives you the illusion of having freedom, but in reality pushes you from point A to point B while evoking specifically targeted reactions in the player.   Lots of games try to do that, but few are smart enough to keep it simple and aim for very specific nerves.

Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II

Age I was: 13 and 16

Last attempt at playing it: I’ve only played them once.

Would I ever play it again: No.  Well, define “again” since every single spinoff and sequel feels like the same fucking game, only increasingly less coherent.

I can’t really defend my love of Kingdom Hearts.  The story was absurd, the camera was unworkable, the characters as they originally stood all had the complexity of a straw, and it was fucking awesome.  It’s a real shame what has become of this series.  It reminds me of what happened to the Matrix series between the original flick and the two sequels, where the creators fell in love just a little bit too much with their own top-heavy mythology.  When it was just about Sora and Riku being separated from their home and their friend and being in a strange world surrounded by cartoon characters, I liked it.  Pitiful me totally melted when I saw a moogle.  “Oh gee, there’s a moogle, in this game that has Donald Duck and Goofy!  Tee hee!”  But as the sequels and spinoffs started adding evil organizations and Nobodys and all the stuff you see is real but maybe it’s not or maybe it’s a dream or maybe you’re remembering it wrong or you know what fuck it.  I wish I had played the original and then had myself hypnotized to get physically ill if I was ever tempted to play another game in the series.

Maybe I’m being hypocritical.  My inner anti-critic is saying “It’s Disney and it’s Square!  Come on, Cathy!  Of course it’s going to sound like raving insane fan-fiction!  Nothing at Disneyland makes sense either, but the rides are still fun!”  I chose to pair Shadow of the Colossus with Kingdom Hearts here because both feel like rides.  They give an artificial sense of being bigger than they really are, when they’re really drawing your attention to very specific things on a linear path that you have almost no control over.  Yet, it never feels like a fan service (see Smash Bros) or pretentious (see Epic Mickey) and remains charming.  At least the two main games do.  All the spinoffs can get in line to kiss my ass.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Even with all the options to change-up combat, with various combos and formations, the limited variety of enemies and ultra-repetitive nature of fights gets old quickly.  Both Kingdom Hearts and its sequel over-stayed their welcome by a good five to ten hours each.  Yes, too much of a good thing can and does happen.  I’m also increasingly uninterested in a possible third proper sequel.  That’s thanks in no small part to several spinoffs with titles that sound like badly translated Japanese.  358/2 Days?  Birth by Sleep??  Dream Drop Distance???  You made these incomprehensible pieces of shit instead  of #3 why?

XBLIG equivalent: Again, I really didn’t think this part out too much.  Seemed like a good idea when I came up with this feature.  Nothing really compares to it on XBLIG, so I’ll just end right here.  But, if you do want to try to make something like this yourself, remember to focus players attentions on very little while making them think there’s a lot more going on then there is.  It sounds absurd, but that’s exactly what Shadow of the Colossus and Kingdom Hearts both did, and did very well.

Continue to Part III: Cowboys and GoldenEye playing Aliens.

And yes I cheated: I’m counting Kingdom Hearts I & II as one game.  Just wait until the next chapter.  I do that twice!  So really this the top 13 games.  Why not?

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

3 Responses to My Ten Favorite Games Ever – Part 2

  1. Pingback: My Ten Favorite Games Ever – Part 1 « Indie Gamer Chick

  2. Pingback: My Ten Favorite Games Ever – Part 3 « Indie Gamer Chick

  3. Pingback: My Ten Favorite Games Ever – Part 5: Portal « Indie Gamer Chick

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