Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 10-1

By Jeff

We've made it. We've gone through 90 amazing games and only have 10 more to go. It was quite a journey down memory lane for me. Yes, there were plenty of typos along the way. And for some reason I started writing in the present tense telling you all how good a game "is", but at some point decided to switch to past tense as if the games no longer exist. Moral of that story? Don't blog early in the morning or late at night.

The following games are all tremendous. If there is criticism, it is just nitpicking. I love all these games and still play them today from time to time. You'll see quite a few RPGs. These are the types of games I enjoy the most. The great ones have incredible stories and feature strong characters that you grow to love or hate. The hate is the good kind of hate, where you are driven to beat them because they are just bad dudes and the world would be better without them. There are characters that you hate in the bad way, in that you wish they never existed because they are boring, stupid and or pointless (Cait Sith must die...), but the strength of the others allow you to overlook these screw ups.

Again, these are my favorite games. There are probably dozens of games out there that I haven't played that would have made this list if I had. If you love "Bioshock", "Mass Effect", "Portal" and "Half-Life", you will be disappointed that they are not on this list. I've never played them. Don't hold it against me!

You can see 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here, 70-61 here, 60-51 here, 50-41 here, 40-31 here, 30-21 here and 20-11 here.

10: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - This may be the best game ever. It took a great series and took it to a level that no one had seen before. Yes, a lot of the things that made "A Link to the Past" great were just recycled here and made better. But everything is so much better, from the story, the use of weapons and the gameplay, that you ignore this fact and just enjoy.

The freedom of battle is incredible. You went from an overhead shot that doesn't allow you to move diagonal, to being able to lock onto enemies and use a variety of attacks. A press of a button can cast a magic spell and you can actually aim your projectile weapons.

This game has everything but one thing, and that's why I don't put it at No. 1. While Link is an iconic character in the gaming world, we know nothing about him. I love that he is just a regular guy who is doing courageous acts just because it's the right thing. It's not for love, money or prestige. He is just doing what is right. But, he never says a word. We never know what he's thinking, or how he feels about the situation he's dealing with.

And Zelda, who the game was named after, is just some woman in the background. We know she knows Ganondorf is evil and she wants to stop him. That's about it. We know Link wants to help her, but that's it.

While this lack of character development is why I moved the game down the list, it goes to show how strong of an overall game it is. It has very little character development for the main cast, as everyone is very one-dimensional, yet you are still compelled to play it nonstop until you beat it.

9: Chrono Trigger (SNES) - Just like Link, this game's main character, Chrono, is silent. And just like Link, he is the most goodly person in the world he inhabits. He sacrifices himself to save his friends. He literally dies and you have to go back in time and save him. We learn about Chrono through the other playable characters. He helps a robot be human, an evil dude question his ways, a depressed knight find his honor again and really just make everyone around him a better person.

The game itself is mind blowing. You can get something along the lines of 12 or 22 endings. I can't remember. You can fight the end boss at many different stages with different characters, which then leads to different endings. I don't remember any other game of its time like this.

While I prefer a few other RPGs, which you'll see soon enough, the battle system to this game is one of my favorites in an RPG. Why? Because everyone is different. The characters specialize in different elements and then certain combinations of characters in battle can do different kinds of combo attacks. It's brilliant and keeps the game fresh and fun for multiple play throughs.

8: Secret of Mana (SNES) - It's like "A Link to the Past", but bigger and better.

Swan and I have probably spent 100 hours or so playing this game. And that's why this game is higher than the two games at 9 and 10. It's made for two players. so you have a buddy to explore the most massive world (at the time) that I'd ever seen in a game.

The leveling system helps keep the game fun to play through multiple times. Why? Well, not only do the character level up to become more stronger and get more hit points, but you level up different weapons and magics by using them.

While the boy (Three playables don't have names) never says a word (Seems like a trend), you learn that his parents sacrificed themselves and he never got to really meet them because of these sacrifices. Like Link and Chrono, he takes on evil without a second thought because it's the right thing to do.

The secondary characters, from the sprite to Dyluck, all have compelling stories as well. Just look at the sprite. If he and your company destroy the Mana Beast, he will cease to exist in your world. Which wouldn't be so tragic if his entire village was not massacred. So he goes from having close friends for the game, then you beat the game and he must now live a life of solitude. It's heart breaking. He knows he's doing to be alone if the Mana Beast is killed, but knows that if the beast is not slain, the world will be destroyed. It is a selfless act and the player really feels for the little dude.

7: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) - I don't know why a leaf turns a Mario into a raccoon that can fly. I also don't care. This game is incredible. The different worlds are so unique. You're in the desert, then a water world, then a land where giants live. I really don't know what else to say about this game. The details and variety this game provides is amazing for any game, let alone an 8-bit, NES game!

6: Twisted Metal 2 (Playstation) - Never mind the cars. You can blow up the Eiffel Tower. You can blow up the Statue of Liberty. It seems like everything is fair game.

This series is so creative. Who would have ever thought it would be a good idea to get a bunch of cars, create some crazy personalities for the drivers, load the cars with weapons and then just cause mass destruction? I don't know how they came up with it, but I'm so glad they did.

This game is so good on so many levels. The variety of vehicles makes you want to beat the game with every one of them. They all have different endings. Some are really silly, but some are dark and totally satisfying.

Then there are the two bosses. Oh. My. God. When Minion (Last guy of first game) shows up in the fourth level, and he is a tank that can destroy you in five seconds, it's terrifying. He seems impossible at first and makes you want to cry. You beat him, and then you have to go through four more levels! Then you get to Dark Tooth, and he's taller than buildings. He and Minion are just so intimidating to see, never mind trying to fight them. I think I just hid when I fought them for the first time. Yes, I didn't get to the next level, but I didn't explode and burn either.

5: Mega Man 3 (NES) -The worst gaming experience of my life revolved around this game. It wasn't any content in the game, it was the fact my NES copy stopped working. I was devastated. This was my favorite game ever at the time, and to not be able to play it was soul crushing.

Then came the Mega Man Anniversary pack for Playstation. It has every Mega Man game released for NES all on one disc. First game I played was "Mega Man 3" and it was just as good as I remembered.

The game is our intro to Proto Man, Rush and the slide. The robot bosses are cool, other than Top Man. The game was the longest of any of the NES titles and very challenging. It's not cheap challenging, but challenging.

"Mega Man 2" broke all new ground and is considered by many to be the series' best game, but "Mega Man 3" is superior in every aspect but the music. Hell, you even have to fight the robot bosses from "Mega Man 2" in the first set of Wily levels. So really it combines the best of two worlds!

4: Resident Evil (Playstation) - OK, ignore the TERRIBLE voice acting. "Barry? Where's Barry?" My god, it is so bad.

But once this terrible sequence is over, one of the greatest games ever begins. There are so many memorable scenes that still haunt my dreams. That first zombie, the dogs jumping through the windows, a giant snake, the first Hunter who just walks up and chops your head off and the Tyrant busting through the glass and stalking you around a lab. Terrifying.

The zombies and the monsters are just part of this game. The constant fear of what is around the corner makes every moment intense and has the player very tense the entire game.

Then there is the story. What starts as a special forces romp turns into a crazy game of betrayal and realization that there is something sinister and evil (Wink, wink) going on. At first it's just about finding your team. Then you learn all the wacky shit going and you just want to get out. But there are dogs outside! So now you're looking for a different way out, but there are more lab experiments ready to rip you apart. But as you find more teammates, dead, you find out there is a terrible plot to create biological weapons and someone in your team may be in on it!

See! It's intense!

3: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation) - Call me a fan boy. I don't care. And yes, other than weapons and limit breaks, characters are not diverse in battle. But the characters are incredible.

Cloud is a bit of an ass in the beginning, but he was impaled by a massive sword and then experimented on by an evil genetics scientist that messes up his memories. So yes, I feel bad for him. He overcomes this and becomes a true hero that you root for. He is not perfect like Chrono, Link or the boy, but that allows the player to relate to him more than the others mentioned above.

I have also read several blogs/articles hating on Sephiroth. They are entitled to their opinion, but he is a great bad guy. It's not the physical/magical power he wields. It's the mental games he plays on Cloud and others. He is manipulative and just evil because he thinks he is the superior being. He looks down on others and takes joy in not only killing them, but making them suffer mentally.

The majority of the other characters strong as well. Life Cloud, they are not perfect. They are all flawed in some way, but together they make it all work.y

Cait Sith sucks, but nobody's perfect.

And while I love the use of swords, spears and other classic weapons, they seem a little silly in the Final Fantasy worlds. There are rather advanced weaponry in these games like machine guns, lasers, rockets, etc., yet you are charging these well armed bad guys with a sword. How does that work? Someone ask the Light Brigade how that strategy worked out.

Whatever. Final Fantasy is awesome.

2: Final Fantasy VI (SNES) - Characters are the first thing I look for in a video game. Graphics are cool, fluid gameplay is a big plus, but my favorite games all have one thing in common. I actually care about the characters, just like I do with those in books and movies. I love plenty of games with no character development, but they don't bring the same satisfaction as games like "Final Fantasy VI".

This game has the biggest cast of playable characters the series has ever seen. And they all have a good story to them, other than Umaro and Gogo. They all have their reasons for fighting the most evil character video games have ever seen in Kefka. Even if you don't like playing as certain characters (Gau and Relm), their stories are still compelling. Relm never knew her parents; Gau was thrown to the wild by his crazy father; Locke wanted to protect those who couldn't protect themselves; Shadow was trying to redeem a life of mistakes and selfishness; and the list goes on. You get attached to all of them.

Unlike "FF7", each character also has their own special skill, making strategy and different combinations more important (Unless you have everybody learn Ultima).

I really have nothing bad to say about this game.

1: Final Fantasy Tactics (Playstation) - Yeah, another Final Fantasy title. Hate all you want. This is my list.

Once again, it's all about story and characters, as well as a cool battle system and addictive job system.

The story, before it gets a little nuts at the end, just sucks you in. The country is filled with corruption in politics and the church. The characters never know who to trust and there's just a very mature them that I had never really experienced before in video games. I'm not talking blood, gore and language mature. I'm talking about how there is much going on. Most Final Fantasy games revolve around saving the world. There is some evil wanting to destroy/control everything and you need to stop him. This game is smaller. It's a continent that has been ravaged by war and different factions are vying for power. And your character is caught in the middle of these events.

Ah, the character. Ramza is my all-time favorite video game character. Like Link, Chrono and the boy in "Secret of Mana", he is just a good person. He is not tempted by evil and goes into battle because he has to fight for others. But here is where he differs. Ramza is not the strongest guy out there. You can make him strong, but his unique skill set is not that special compared to people like Orlandu and Agrias. He is an everyday man who is put in a unique and difficult situation.

He does not run from this, he keeps going forward to fight for justice and to save his sister and friends. We learn about who Ramza is and why he does what he does, which allows the player to become more connected to him.

And in the end, Ramza saves the day, but is considered a heretic. People of his generation are left to think he was a bad guy. Instead of charging back to clear his name, Ramza just rides away. He doesn't need to set the record straight. He did what he had to do, the right thing, and that's all he needs.

The whole Delita storyline creates intense emotions as well. Sometimes you think he is a good guy and hold out hope he will join you. Then you realize he is out for himself and may be the most evil of all the characters. Sure, he doesn't get possessed by demons like some (Told you it got a little silly), but he knowingly manipulates his former best friend (Ramza) for his own gains. The same best friend who threw away his standing with his family and life of luxury because he tried to rescue Delita's sister when no one else would. Yeah, Delita is a dick.

I can pick up this game any day of the week and find the same enjoyment I found the day I first played it. That's why it's No. 1.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 20-11

By Jeff

Almost done. I would say that the top 20 would all qualify as life changing video games. OK, that's dramatic. They didn't change my life. What they did do is provide me with endless hours of joy from childhood to today. I could pick up any one of these games, play through and love them. Some games just don't withstand the years of technological advances the gaming world has made and become hard to play now. None of these games suffer from that, and I don't think they ever will. At least not in my mind.

You can see 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here, 70-61 here, 60-51 here, 50-41 here, 40-31 here and 30-21 here.

20: Halo 2 (XBox) - This game was my first real experience with online multi-player. It was so addicting. Even when I was a terrible beginner, I just wanted to play more. And I didn't even own an XBox.

This led to a problem with my junior year roommate in college. See, there were eight of us living in a flat. Four of us were close and thoroughly enjoyed playing "Halo 2" on XBox Live. Unfortunately, only my roommate had an XBox Live account. This led us to playing his machine when he was out of the room.

Well, apparently this upset him greatly. Apparently we were lowering his ranking and his online friends were teasing him. This led to him trying to prevent us from playing without actually saying "Guys, can you stop playing?" That kind of request would have been met with respect and we would have stopped playing. Instead, he would take the game with him every where he went. Well, we had another person in the flat with the game, so we just used that.

How did my roommate respond? He still didn't ask us to stop. Now he took his controllers with him. Well, I already established that there was another XBox in the flat, so we had no problem getting some other remotes. Game on!

Never one to give up, my roommate then took the little chords on the end of the controllers that actually connects the remote to the XBox. Well, if we had the whole remotes, wouldn't we still have the small chords? Game on again!

Finally, he put a password on his XBox and we failed to crack the code. Whatever. It was a fun game while it lasted, and "Halo 2" was sweet too.

19: Resident Evil 4 (PS2, Wii) - Here is where the franchise started to break away from the survivor horror genre. You still had some scary stuff going on like bag-headed villagers with chainsaws cutting down a door to kill you, but there were no zombies. They were replaced with different types of monsters who could wield weapons, communicate and looked human but had crazy parasites that lived inside them that would come out and play. It also introduced the dreaded button prompt to the series. We know how I feel about button prompts...

But this game was amazing. The story was fun, the gameplay was crisp, the upgraded weapon system was new and it was challenging. The game also kept a very important aspect of the series. You could not run and shoot at the same. It made the game more difficult and scarier.

Oh, and the knife was actually useful! It's actually the best way to kill one of the final bosses.

On a technical level, it was probably the best game of the series. It just lacked the sense of dread and horror that the first and second installments had and replaced it with a bit of over the top action. Bosses went from being relatively small and simple (Giant spider, giant snake, giant humanoid with claw that impales you) to incredibly large and crazy (Little dude turning into giant plant-like monster, big dude turning into something I don't even know how to describe).

18: Starcraft (PC) - Anyone else put in the cheat code to continue playing a level after it's already a mission accomplished? I did this all the time on the 8th Terran mission. This is the one where you have to kill the Protoss, but not destroy a single Zerg structure, even though those jerks attack you all throughout the level. Well, the level ends with the Zerg overrunning your base and "killing" Kerrigan. Punch in that code and you can fight those bitches off. It was awesome.

17: Left 4 Dead 2 (XBox 360) - It came out like a year after the first one, but it was so fresh. There was now an option for melee weapons like chainsaws, crowbars, swords and frying pans.

The game also introduced more special infected, making the multi-player that much more fun. And these new infected could all do some major damage. There was a lot less sighs of disappointment because you got stuck with the Boomer again!

16: Red Dead Redemption (PS3, XBox 360) - At first, you say "Grand Theft Auto" with horses instead of cars. Then you realize that this game was so much more.

You have a protagonist really working toward a goal. He is trying to make a deal with the government so he and his family can live in peace. The weapons are simple but fun, and with "Sharpshooter" achievements that actually help you in the game, you're always trying to improve your skills at the game.

Yes, like all of the Rock Star games like this, it gets a little redundent. And if you don't know that you can call a random horse at any time, you might find yourself running across the whole friggin' map, which will take a long time. But overall, the game was an incredible gaming experience. The protagonist's final stand will go down as one of my favorite gaming moments ever.

15: Batman: Arkum City (PS3, XBox 360) - It somehow improved on a near perfect game. The Riddler clue thing got annoying again, but overall it just provided hours of entertainment, whether you're chasing down the Joker or tracking a sniper in this city turned prison. So much to do and so much fun doing it!

14: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) - I already shared that I made a huge mistake and sold this game once. The problem I had with it back then was I sucked at it when my brother first got the game. In my defense, I was 7 when we got it. There were certain things I just didn't understand. One of these was how to get to the castle at the top of Death Mountain. I didn't understand that the geography of the Light and Dark world changed and I needed to take advantage of this to reach the top of the mountain.

So I never got to the top of the mountain. I was stuck thinking I had missed something. We didn't have Internet at the time and I didn't know what a strategy guide was anyway.

So I've started playing this game all over again and loving it. The battle system is a little meh, especially when you see what the SNES was capable of with games like "Secret of Mana", but it gets the job done and doesn't take away from the game's greatness.

13: Turtles in Time (SNES) - There were no sidequests, no secret characters, no different paths to the end and no weapon upgrades on anything. It was an updated side scroller that the past two games for the NES were. And it was incredible.

Despite not having any change in the story or anything, I played this game over and over again by myself and with friends. I made my own "achivements", like not using a continue, or only being able to throw foot soldiers to kill them.

The game wasn't "better" than a lot of games before it on this list, but to me, it was more fun.

12: Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (PC) - Despite a glitch in this game that didn't allow me to play multi-player past so many terms, this game pretty much dominated a year of my life.

It was a simple game to understand. Build up more and better troops than your opponents and then crush them. This strategy worked for early levels in the campaign and some online/multi-player opponents. But once the difficulty cranked up, the computer would train troops faster than you. You could do everything right in upgrading buildings, trainnig troops, etc, but you would still be outnumbered. You had to work faster, or your battle strategies would have to change. As a beginner, I rarely used magic. I didn't see the need. I would just roll up with my Rampart creatures and destroy anyone. Then that stopped working.

It's still a tough game to master. I haven't and probably never will. But that's what keeps me coming back for more.

11: Warcraft 2 (PC) - The direct sequel to this was a better game, so why is it 50 spots lower than "Warcraft 2". Because I spent so much time with this game growing up. Swan and I would play for hours trying to beat levels without cheating, and then resort to cheating because our battle micro managing at 10 years old was not up to snuff.

And this game was all about managing a battle. Your troops and your opponent's were relatively identical in the stat category. There were two spell casters each group had, and those were the only differences. So it wasn't a matter of finding the opponents weakness in troops, you had to pay very close attention (Attention one specific 10-year-old didn't have) to every aspect of the fight to come out on top. It was fun when you won and utterly disappointing/the game was cheating when you didn't.

We also would spend at least 10 minutes debating on which side to be. He was always a champion of the humans, I was a fan of the misunderstood orcs.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 30-21

By Jeff

Maybe the greatest thing that the newer generation of consoles provide is the ability to purchase older games for cheap and enjoy them all over again. I know there are emulators on the Internet that can get you these games for free, but it just isn't the same playing these games on a computer screen and with keyboards. Some games were made for that, "Secret of Mana" was not.

I just bough "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" on the Wii. It is righting a wrong I committed long ago. Yes, I sold the game on SNES to Swan for $20. There was no good reason for it. I wanted money. Now, I have it back and am loving it.

You can find 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here, 70-61 here, 60-51 here, 50-41 here and 40-31 here.

30: Super Street Fighter 2 (SNES, Sega Genesis) - Here was a fighting game that has withstood the test of time. It didn't need the gore of "Mortal Kombat" or the 3D environment of "Tekken". It just had awesomeness. Remember when I talked about conquering "HyperZone"? Well, the same friend lent me "Super Street Fighter 2" claiming M. Bison could not be beaten. Well, I took E. Honda and chopped Bison down, bitches! It was another of my greatest early gaming achievements.

29: Mario Kart (SNES) - F-You, Rainbow Road.

28: Mike Tyson's Punchout (NES) - I'm going to be honest right now. I never beat Mike Tyson. He knocked me out in one punch, multiple times. It's also interesting that this was more realistic than the "Rocky" movies.

27: Grand Theft Auto 4 (PS3, XBox 360) - What was the biggest flaw of "GTA 3"? The main character never said a word. You knew nothing about him other than he just got out of jail. The game was great and revolutionary, but it's not like you had any connection to the virtual man you were controlling.

Not so with "GTA 4". Niko Belic may do some bad things, but he's just trying to take care of himself and his own. You want him to succeed, not just because you want to progress in the game, but you Niko to be happy. When the game takes a tragic turn, you feel for him and really want revenge. You never got that feeling in "GTA 3".

Finally, this game had so much freedom. You could go on the Internet for dates, watch TV and go just about anywhere. It was phenomenal. 

26: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) - This is perhaps the most visually stunning game the video game world has ever seen. It has a fun story line and some of the most memorable sequences I've ever experienced. The train section alone is mind blowing.

Sure, it was pretty much "Indiana Jones" but in video game form and no whip, but is that a bad thing? The answer is no.

25: Mega Man X (SNES) - I have tried to write this section several times and just can't do the game justice. It took the classic NES series and went to a whole new level. You could find upgrades; you had to work in order to get a full life bar; and if you beat one boss and level, it could affect another one. There were no button prompts telling you what to do. There was no tutorial. You figured out the game early and tried to master it by the end. I could play this game for hours on end, beat it and then immediately start playing again.

24: Diablo (PC, Playstation) - I probably went through this game at least 30 times on hell mode for the Playstation. Only once did I get the Grandfather. The best sword in the game. Lazarus dropped it. The mythical Grandfather. Josh, who got all of us hooked on the game, had always talked about it, but none of us had ever seen it.

Unfortunately, I got it on the Playstation. If you're not familiar with "Diablo" on the Playstation, you could not keep unique items when you restarted the game. So I only had one level of Grandfather awesomeness! It was sad to let it go, but the game had to go on... Stupid Playstation.

23: WCW/NWO Revenge (N64) - There would not have been a "WWE: No Mercy" if "Revenge" didn't exist. It revolutionized wrestling games. Today, the graphics may look terrible, but you forget that the moment you put your opponent on your shoulders and you have a buddy clothesline that guy's ass.

22: God of War 3 (PS3) - OK, I hate button prompts, and "God of War 3" relies on them. But that tells you how good the game is. What's interesting is, while the story is fun, you aren't necessarily rooting for the protagonist, Kratos. He is a jerk and would sacrifice the world and countless innocents just so he can take revenge on the gods. He's a selfish jerk, but it's so much fun hacking bad guys to bits with him!

21: Kingdom Hearts (PS2) - It would be higher, but it made Squall (Leon) from "Final Fantasy VIII" seem cool. He was not cool. He was lame.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 40-31

By Jeff

Before I continue with the list, I'd just like to point out that "Mega Man 9" on the PS3 and XBox 360 is evil. Don't get me wrong, the game is a blast, but it's evil in how hard it is. One of the beauties of the "Mega Man" series is that they are challenging, but you don't need a tutorial to play them and you don't need to know what's coming up.

Challenges will present themselves, but you have a chance to overcome them. Maybe I have just lost my "Mega Man" skills, but I find "Mega Man 9" to branch away from this trend. There are levels where you are screwed because you don't know what's coming. I'm thinking of Plug Man's stage. There are disappearing blocks, a staple of "Mega Man". But unless you have played through the level already, and most likely died, then you don't know where the next block will appear and you fall to your death. My personal favorite was where it had a ledge to jump on, but as you jump from the last block to the ledge, another block appears above the ledge, preventing you from reaching said ledge. The result? You fall on spikes and die.

Anyway, I just wanted to express my love and hate for the game because it is one of the most recent games I am running through at the moment.

You can find 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here, 70-61 here, 60-51 here and 50-41 here.

40: Metal Gear Solid (Playstation) - This may be the first game I played where stealth was so important. At first, it was a strange sensation to not be able to just run through a fortress and kill everything without a care in the world. But then it grew on me and was a truly wonderful gaming experience. The guy is a top notch soldier/spy, but sometimes has to resort to a cardboard box to hide. Brilliant!

Also, you have to love a game where one minute you're in a sniper duel, then you're taking on an attack helicopter, then you're hiding in a box, and all the while there is an invisible ninja running around slicing people's hands off.
39: Dead Space (PS3, XBox 360) - Remember when "Resident Evil" games were actually scary? More on those later (Spoiler alert!). Anyway, "Dead Space" revived the whole survivor horror genre. You just have no idea what kind of abomination is coming next and where it's coming from. And on top of that, for some parts of the game you don't even have proper weapons to fight the creatures. Just make shift maintenance tools.

Mike would probably have nightmares if he played this game. And he wouldn't be alone.

38: Command and Conquer: Red Alert (PC) - I'm a democrat, so of course I love a game where I can actually be a communist. Especially when said commies have Mammoth Tanks that destroy everything that gets in their way and Tesla Coils that eletrocute anything that comes near my entitlements... er base. And with a code, I can just produce minerals (money) whenever I need it!

Conservatives can love this game too! You can have as many nukes as you want, as long as the mission keeps going on. Drop one and the next one starts production.

37: Metroid (NES) - If I had known when I was little that Samus was a woman, I would not have played this game. Totally didn't like girls back then.

Of course, trying to play this as a little kid was just a bad idea in general. See, "Metroid" is a very open game. You can pretty much go anywhere and need to retrace steps after getting certain items or clearing certain areas. Well, as a little kid, I had no idea that's how it worked! Needless to say, I failed miserably at this until much later.

36: Fallout 3 (PS3, XBox 360) - Post apocalypse games and movies are bit cliche. Mostly because if you've seen one post-nuclear winter world, you've seen them all. But "Fallout 3" was anything but cliche. You could be a great guy and do all the right things, end slavery and save towns from evil raiders. Or, you could do the opposite. You could make bounties for enslaving people, kill anyone you want to get their stuff and actually set off a nuclear bomb in a peaceful town. The choices were all yours.

The game also presents an interesting challenge. You can get the best gun in the game almost immediately, but then the real problem is finding ammo for the damn thing, as ammo and money to buy ammo is very scarce early on.

The battle system is a bit funky and annoying at times, but if the game were perfect it would be #1, right?

35: Castlevania (NES) - The only problem with this game is it led to "Castlevania II".

34: Wild Arms (Playstation) - I have never played a one-player game with friends as much as "Wild Arms". Swan and I were in an epic, but friendly, battle to beat Mike and our friend Josh to defeating this title. You see, between the four of us, only Swan and Mike had copies, which led to me heading over to Swan's house and Josh heading over to Mike's house to see the game completed.

We would help each other out on the tough puzzles, like the damn treasure chests being opened or closed or the blow up the green statue trick, but make no mistake, we all wanted to beat all the secret bosses and the game first.

I don't remember who won, I think it was Swan and I, but I could be mistaken. Either way, the game had a great battle system, because each character had skills unique to them. It's not like you got one spell for everyone, spammed it and dominated. You needed to master each character in order to stand a chance when Boomerang suddenly reappeared in the arena.

Epic game. So epic, I didn't even mind the characters in battle had no mouths...

33: Legend of Zelda (NES) - OK, I've mentioned countless times how I played a lot of these NES games as a little kid and was terrible. But I was actually good at "Zelda"! Why? I saw my babysitter play and remembered all the places she bombed for extra hearts and where the dungeons were. Miss Sue was great at the game and I just copied her. Although, I'm pretty sure I was never able to find the Silver Arrows in the final dungeon in the "Second Quest" (Harder version)...

The one huge problem with this game was the saving. I don't know if it was our machine or our copy, but if you saved the game and went to turn off the machine, you had to press power and reset at the same time. If you didn't, the game would be lost. Man, Miss Sue got mighty pissed at me when I messed that up one day.

32: Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - The Blockbuster by my house used to have summer video game contests. The first year they divided it into three games. So each day you came, you had to do well in a different game. In the second year, they just did three days of "Donkey Kong Country". I came in third. My brothers' friends, who were older than me saw my name on the board and mentioned to me how cool it was. I have never felt so cool in my life...

31: Goldeneye 007 (N64) - This game would probably be higher if I was traumatized by the pure domination my friend Josh boasted at this game. Seriously, it would be 3-on-1 in multiplayer, and he would crush us. Also, when you get farther in the game, the bad guys just keep coming. Just infinite terrorits coming to get you because you didn't use a silencer.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 50-41

By Jeff

We're halfway through with my list of favorite video games of time. This next grouping is where I found myself really struggling. It was easy to think of the games that deserved to be here, but it was incredibly hard putting some of these games as low as they are. The games are awesome and could easily be higher, but then I'd be doing an injustice to other games. It's a no win situation!

You can find 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here, 70-61 here, and 60-51 here.

50: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (NES) - While the second game in this series was the most groundbreaking, with a portal from the classic arcade game, "TMNT 3" was just an epic game. The bosses were cool, the levels had some neat tricks to them (Hanging off the side of a submarine, golden gate bridge falling apart, etc.) and each turtle had a unique special they could use! But you couldn't just spam the special. Each time you used it, you'd lose a peg of health. So you had to use it strategically. Unless you only had one peg of life left, then you can just go nuts in a desperate attempt for survival.

One of my greatest gaming triumphs growing up occurred with this game. My buddy and I were playing and had mad it to the final boss, but barely. He quickly died and I was left with Mikey and one peg of health left. I then went on a tear and ripped Shredder a new one without being touched again to beat the game. I can still see it in my dreams sometimes!

 49: Final Fantasy X (PS2) - The first of many "Final Fantasy" titles on this list. While "Final Fantasy XIII", the first of the series on the PS3 is a downright disgrace to the series, "X" was a great game that made a beautiful transition to the PS2. I remember being amazed at the cut scene where Sephiroth burns Nibelheim to the ground in "FF7", but "X" was a whole new level of stunning  visuals.

The game also introduced an exciting new battle system. Yes, it was still turned based, but each character was strong against specific enemies, and you could switch party members in and out during battles! This meant that if you wanted to level everyone up, you didn't have to go around with a set party, spend an hour or two with them, and then do the same thing with a new group. You could level up everyone in every battle. It also kept you on your toes. Sometimes enemies would alter during the fight and you had to be ready to throw in a different character to maximize damage.

The voice acting was pretty terrible, aside from Auron. But it was the first time we had voice acting in "Final Fantasy" so it seemed great. You just had to mute Tidus some times.

The game was pretty linear, which was annoying, and the fact Tidus was a dream was beyond stupid. But the characters all have their own stories and they are compelling for the most part (Kimarhi, you kinda suck).

48: God of War (PS2) - My friend in college and I were talking video games one day. He told me about this game I had not heard of called "God of War", which had actually been out long enough it was a part of Playstation's Greatest Hits collection. He simply said "Go buy 'God of War', it will be the best $20 you spend in your life." I did, and at the time, it certainly was close to the best $20 I spent, at least on video games.

"God of War" is brutal. There are fountains of blood and the "hero" is a total jerk that you really don't feel sorry for at all. Sure, he was tricked into killing his family, but he killed tons of people before and showed that he was not a good person. But the game itself is a blast. You battle your way through various creatures, heroes and gods of Greek mythology and they all die by your awesome blades that are attached to your body by chains.

What stops the game from being higher? The puzzles you have to solve are boring as hell and I don't like how the games relies so heavily on button prompts. They don't take skill and strikes me as lazy gameplay.

47: Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2) - If you told me that it would be an amazing idea to combine classic Disney movie characters with "Final Fantasy" characters, I'd tell you to get away from me because syphilis was eating your brain and I didn't want to be near anyone with syphilis. I was mean back then...

Anyway, it sounds like a silly idea, right? Wrong. Square and Disney combined to create a compelling story and series of games doing just that, and they worked!

"Kingdom Hearts 2" has a weird beginning, and the Nobody enemies don't make a lot of sense, but the gameplay, battle system and everything else improves on the first game. I'm still not entirely sure what Organization XIII is trying to do, but their presence in the game always had you on your toes and expecting one of them to pop up and attack you at any time.

I wish that if there are future installments, they will be multi-player and a buddy can control Goofy or Donald. That is my dream.

46: Mega Man 2 (NES) - After "Final Fantasy", the little blue bomber is probably my favorite video game franchise of all time. The games are all so very simple side scrollers, but they provide endless joy and plenty of challenge. I still cheat on Heat Man's stage. Screw those disappearing blocks, I just get the jet powered surf board and fly over the bottomless pit. Could I get across with the blocks? Maybe. I have never, and will never try.

Anyway, the unprecedented freedom "Mega Man" gave you at the time was incredible. You got to choose what level you played and when! While this started in the original game, "Mega Man 2" perfected it and the gameplay. It is truly a flawless game. It's challenging, but not cheaply so. The music is incredible. The bad guys are unique and their stages are elaborate. I dare you to find a problem with this game.

45: Hot Shots Golf 3 (PS2) - Tiger Woods can suck it. This is one of those games that really didn't do anything special or new, but it provided me with hours of fun. I enjoyed mastering as many golfers as possible and getting ridiculous scores on every course.

44: Contra (NES) - Remember how I said "Mega Man 2" was challenging, but not in a cheap way? Well, Contra was challenging in a cheap way. You could only be hit ONCE. So you had to go eight levels, with three lives and a few continues, while you could only be hit by bad guys, and there were a TON of them, once. But it was so much fun to play, especially with a friend. And if you thought your friend wasn't carrying his weight, or your were just selfish (I was), you could steal their lives.

The variety of weapons was incredible. My personal favorite was the spray weapon. As a kid, it was the only way I could take down the first level's boss. Seriously, this game made "Super Ghouls and Ghosts" look easy.

43: Castlevania: Symphony of Night - It was "Castlevania", but bigger and more intense. The protagonist, Alucard, a bastard son of Dracula, was pretty bad ass too. It blew my mind when I flipped the castle upside down!

42: Dynasty Warriors 4 or 5 (PS2) - And really, we could put 2 and 3 in here too. Why? Because they are all the same game. You get to be a Chinese warrior that you can throw into the middle of an army and wreck all kinds of havoc. Seriously, you can charge 100 bad guys and come out untouched if you're really good at button mashing.

Of course, if you have a habit of doing this in the first level or two, and then try it when Lu Bu shows up and you have crappy weapons and no artifacts, you die very fast.

Really, this is the ultimate stress relieving game. Just pop it in and start annihilating peons in the Chinese army for hours at a time. It's also two-player, so you can enjoy with a buddy!

41: Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast) - You can have your "Maddens", "MLB the Shows", and any other sports game you want. Give me "Virtua Tennis" any day of the week. I've never had so much fun playing a sports game.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Favorite videos games of all time: 60-51

By Jeff

I'm rolling. I can't wait a day to post the next set. It's just too much fun and brings back so many memories!

You can find 100-91 here, 90-81 here,  80-71 here and 70-61 here.

60: NBA Jam (SNES, Sega Genesis) - My brother hated playing this game with me because I knew how to do a hard foul that was not called and allowed me to steal the ball from him constantly. I can still remember the pure joy I felt every time the announcer would tell me I was on fire and couldn't miss a shot. And on the flip side, the utter dread when your opponent would catch fire.

59: NHL 09 (PS3, Xbox 360) - I have mixed feeling regarding this game. I was used to the early EA Sports NHL games that all had certain tricks you could do to guarantee a goal. Sure, it wasn't competitive, but it made me feel good when my created players would put up 150 goals per season. Then I played "NHL 09". It is arguably the best sports game ever made, but I found myself losing more often than ever before. There were no tricks! I couldn't score at will if the situation called for it. The replay value was great, but my self esteem took quite a hit.

58: Batman: Arkum Asylum (PS3, Xbox 360) - This is modern gaming at its finest. The voice acting, the gameplay, story and fun factor are top notch in this adaptation of the caped crusader. The free fighting style, mixed with the cool gadgets you would expect from Batman make for a diverse combat system.

My favorite part is the progression of the game. You begin being able to go in to any fight and just defeat any of the thugs with brute force and button mashing. But soon enough, the bad guys have guns. This makes charging into a throng of evil doers with nothing but your fists and a batarang a suicide mission. You have to find stealthy ways to take out the enemies or risk being shot and dying very quickly.

57: BattleTanx: Global Assault (N64) - My friends and I would spend hours rocking this game in my parents basement. With a dozen or so tank options and another dozen supplement weapons, this game just allowed us to cause all kinds of mayhem.

There are definitely games ranked lower than this game that are better, like the one directly before it. But you have to understand that this game marked a change in my life.

My brother and I really didn't get along as kids. We hated each other. We fought non-stop. But one Christmas we got this game. We found that it was two-player and came together to conquer it. I honestly was the moment we stopped hating each other. Quite a feat for a video game to accomplish.

56: Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2) - While "GTA 2" is a good game, it has terrible graphics and doesn't have the popularity that "GTA 3" brought to the franchise. "GTA 3" propelled RockStar to near the top of the gaming world. You can follow the story to the letter, or you can just roam the streets of Liberty City looking for trouble. How much fun is it to get your wanted level maxed out and see how long you can last against the army?

While the over the top violence is a turn off to some, it will go down as one of the most revolutionary games of all time.

55: Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) - Remember the cartoon show based on this game? And the episode they stole Sonic's shoes so he couldn't run fast? I'm embarrassed that I do.

In all seriousness, this game carried Sega for a long time. The levels were so large at the time and the detail was incredible. Adding characters like Tails was stupid, but we'll always have the original.

54: Sim City 2000 (PC) - The power of a god! You build a city to greatness, watch it flourish, and then, when you get bored of your creation, you can set every natural disaster known to man and a monster upon your city to bring it to fiery ruin.

53: Killzone 2 (PS3) - Fun weapons? Check. Excellent gameplay? Check. Cool story? Check. Improves greatly upon original? Check. Scary bad guys? Definitely.

52: Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360) - While you could charge a lot of bad guys by yourself in other first person shooters like "Halo", "KillZone", ect, you could not go off on your own in "Left 4 Dead". Doing so would guarantee death and failure because special zombies would incapacitate you and require your teammates to save you. And don't just give up on your teammate who is probably going to die. You need all the help you can get in order to complete each level. One less player and you have one less person to count on when a wave of zombies strikes.

Finally, a game that revolves around teamwork!

And who could forget the sheer terror when you encounter your first tank? In case you don't know what I'm talking about, a tank is a super large zombie that takes a ton of hits and can kill you party in moments. It always seems to come when you can least afford it.

51: Tomb Raider (PS1) - Just don't watch the movies. Then you might take it out on this great game, and that's not fair!

Favorite video games of all time: 70-61

By Jeff

In case you missed earlier installments, you can find 100-91 here, 90-81 here and 80-71 here.

70: Ninja Gaiden (NES) - Looking back at some of these NES games, it's amazing that I grew to love video games as much as I do. These games were so hard when I was a kid and I was terrible at them. I rarely got past the first couple levels, and "Ninja Gaiden" is no exception. First two levels were no problem. Even I could move through them without being hit. Then there was that damn third level in snow. Right near the end there was that stupid snow leopard thing, and then the eagle, and then the snow leopard would come back. I can't tell you how many times I died there. And then there was the jumping boss, whom I couldn't beat unless I had the fire ability. Such a hard game.

69: Super Double Dragon (SNES) - Best Double Dragon game ever. Nunchucks. That's all I have to say.

68: Super Punch Out! (SNES) - This one would probably be higher if not for the borderline... OK, blatant racism in some of the characters. But when you are in elementary school, you don't know what racism is, so it doesn't bother you at that point.

67: Super Ghouls and Ghosts (SNES) - I would slap the designers/makers responsible for this game. Don't get me wrong. It's a whole lot of fun, but it's also mean. First, they start you in a suit of armor, which you think would make you pretty tough, right? Nope. One hit and you're down to your underwear. Get hit again and you're dead. Second, bad guys just keep coming. They don't stop. Now, I can get over these first two things. Challenging games are great and hold replay value better. It's this third part that gets me. After you somehow battle through the entire game and beat the boss, you think you've won. Nope. Turns out you need to replay the whole game and get this new weapon, which is the only thing that hurts the main bad guy.

What!?! That's when I turned it off. I'm fine with being challenged, but I will not stand for being teased!

66. Super Mario Bros. World (SNES) - How cool is it when you get Yoshi? And then it get's cooler when you learn he can eat bad guys. And then it gets even cooler when he eats a red koopa and spits flame!

65: Bushido Blade (PS1) - Who doesn't love samurais and epic duels with swords, spears and sledgehammers? "Bushido Blade" was unlike any fighting game that came before it. Sure, it didn't have the cool moves of "Mortal Kombat" and "Street Fighter", but it seemed more honorable (You get game over if you attack your opponent from behind.) and had some really cool features. If you got a clean slash on your opponent's leg, he crouched or crawled the rest of the fight. If you messed their arm up, they found one-handed. And if you got a clean kill shot, they died in one move. It gave a true sense of urgency in your fights. One wrong move and you're done.

64: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - OK, this was the first action type game I played on the Wii. So when that first enemy appeared, I was swinging my arm as hard and as fast as I could, for some reason thinking this would speed up Link's attacks. It didn't. The only result was my arm hurting.

Stupidity aside, the "Legend of Zelda" games are something Nintendo has never failed at. Every one is fun, challenging and one of the best games to grace whatever system it's on. "Twilight Princess" is no different. You get to the end and you almost don't want to play the final dungeon because you don't want the game to be over. That is the mark of a truly great game.

63: Doom II (PC) - Soooo many monsters. Fortunately, there is plenty of ammo and many fun guns to destroy them with! If you had a bad day, this was a great way to relieve stress for an hour. And unlike "GTA", where you are mowing down pedestrians, you're killing demons in "Doom II", so it's OK to take pleasure in it... right?

62: X-Men (Arcade) - If you haven't wasted at least $20 on this game in arcades across the nation, you are either a liar or never entered a good arcade. I don't care if Wolverine is as tall as the Sentinels, it is awesome!

61: Warcraft III (PC) - So how do you take one of the greatest games ever ("Warcraft II") and improve every aspect of it? Just play "Warcraft III" and you'll find out. Graphics aside, the hero system is great, the upkeep system makes you actually think about what types of units you want to train and the different races actually have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

In "Warcraft II" the only differences in the armies was Orge Mage and Death Knights spells differed from Paladins and Mages'. That's it. All the other units did the same damage. So it was just a matter of building up a bigger army, micromanaging a battle or cheating that made the difference.

"Warcraft II" changed that and made for an incredible campaign experience.

The complicated case of Lance Armstrong

By Jeff

Lance Armstrong and video games have more in common than you think. Armstrong beat cancer and then came back to the sport of cycling and won a record seven consecutive Tour de France titles. We've since learned that he cheated to do so. That's like when you build a dynasty in any sports related video game and it's almost unfair because you have rigged the draft, performed lopsided trades or used a glitch in the game so that you can just bring the puck down the ice, swerve to one side and backhand the puck past the goalie every time ("NHL 96").

Or maybe you could say Armstrong is like the Konami Code. Without it, the game "Contra" is impossible because it's like all the enemies are hopped up on drugs and the only way you can beat them is to take said drugs.

OK, that was a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, there is a lot of debate on Armstrong with that reports are coming out that he will admit to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs during his career. Does the $400 million he helped raise for cancer awareness justify cheating in the sport that allowed him to raise that money?

I would say yes. Cycling is a sport, which in turn is a game. Cancer is one of the scariest things in the world that kills people indiscriminately. So yes, if cheating in a sport led to saving countless lives, then it is worth it.

But that is not all Armstrong did. He tried to or did destroy other people's lives in his attempt to cover up the truth. Those actions are not defensible. His bullying tactics are disgusting. This is not the type of person you want to look up to. Bullies are terrible people and there is no excuse for their actions.

In this sense, I have lost respect for Armstrong. If he just admitted to doping after he had won the titles, he still would have been able to raise all that money for cancer, but no one would have had to be hurt or threatened.

Cheating at a game is one thing. Especially in a sport where cheating is so rampant. But personally attacking individuals for addressing said cheating is inexcusable. While I am happy for the millions of people with cancer Armstrong has helped, his other actions will always leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 80-71

By Jeff

If you missed the earlier installments, you can find 90-81 here, and 100-91 here.

The game "Dishonored" is not going to appear on this list. I'm only about 30 minutes in. But if the rest of the game is as cool as the first 30 minutes, then it would definitely make the top 100, and probably the top 50. The character was a protector of the empress, whom is assassinated by some shady people who disappear after killing her, leaving the main character to take the fall. It's a first-person game, but you aren't mowing people down with fully automatic guns, you are sneaking around and maybe slicing them up with a sword.

That's what is so cool so far. You could play without killing anyone and just knocking them out, or you can chop their heads off. The choice is yours. In my prison escape I killed a few because I screwed up the non-lethal attack. And then there was another guy I meant to shoot with a sleeping dart, but used an incendiary dart by accident. He burned and died... Oops.

Anyway, my point is you won't see it on this current list, but if I were to make this list in a month, it would be.

80: Timesplitters (PS2) - If you're looking for an awesome storyline, this game is NOT for you. There is no story. You go through different time periods and get some kind of artifact and then escape to another portal. I have no idea what the artifacts do or why I'm getting them. I just know it's a blast trying to get through these levels as fast as possible so you can play as more different/crazy characters in multi-player.

While the storyline is non-existent, the gameplay is solid and multiplayer is incredible. The diverse characters (fishbowl for a head, Elvis, etc.) and some really cool weapons make it a unique game that I have spent many hours with.

79: Super Marios Bros. (NES) - If you're talking about innovative and changing the video game as we know it, this game is No. 1. Is there a gamer in the world who has not played this game? It's actually hard to review because everyone has played it and loves it. I'm sorry it's not higher. Maybe it's bitterness because I have never been able to beat it in under 5 minutes. I'm pretty sure Josh has...

78: LA Noire (PS3/XBox 360) - We go from the most old school game on the list to one with one of the greatest technological innovations in gaming. Obviously a PS3/XBox 360 game is going to have good graphics, but this is the first game I played where the characters really resembled the actors lending their voices to the game. Their lips also match what they're saying! It blew my mind. Then I read that the game developers actually sat the actors in a room with multiple cameras and taped them reading the lines. They they transfered it to digital, making it more realistic. It's also a vital aspect of the game because you have to read people and determine if they are lying or not. It's really cool!

Technology aside, "LA Noire" is a great change of pace in the open world environment popularized by "Grand Theft Auto". Instead of breaking the law and killing people, you are a detective solving crimes. It gets a little redundent, and I wish you have a little more freedom as to when you go fista cuffs and when you shoot the bad guys, but overall the game keeps you interested with great gameplay and a cool story.

77: Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball (SNES) - While technology in "LA Noire" helped make the game special, I love games like "Griffey", where there isn't any innovative technology to be had! You can't throw specific kind of pitches, just fast or slow. I don't think there is any skill or wayto hit the ball that determines a home run or a ground out to the pitcher. It really is a simple game, and it's great. Try and figure out the themes that all the teams use for their rosters since they didn't have the licensing to actually have the players' names other than Griffey's. There is a team of presidents, Detroit's roster is made up of Motown stars, etc.

It is the first baseball game to have the home run derby game mode. I'm pretty sure I have Mike's copy and never gave it back...

76: WWF No Mercy (N64) - Sure, the graphics are outdated today, but this is arguably the best wresting game ever. I was a huge wrestling fan growing up. The most important thing to pro wrestling is not the actual action, but the story lines behind it. You have to really like or hate the personalities to enjoy the show. "No Mercy" was the first wrestling game to actually attempt to convey story lines in the game's campaign. Looking back, the stories are not great, but at least the creators tried.

As for the gameplay, it is amazing how well it holds up today. The match could be going great for you. Your power grapples are working, you're building toward that finisher, and then your opponents hits you with a counter out of nowhere. Now you are the one being pounded and you find yourself running outside the ring as your opponent has "Special" and wants to Rock Bottom your ass.

75. Baldurs Gate (PC) - Who knew "Dungeons and Dragons" could be so much fun? Seriously, this game is based on the Forgotten Realms, which is related to the world of "Dungeons and Dragons".

Nerdiness aside, this game allows the player to choose the path of evil or good to complete the game. It it like "Diablo" but with a whole group and a little more freedom.

74: Pacman (NES) - I'd like this game a whole lot more if it ever ended.

73: Mortal Kombat 3 (Sega Genesis, SNES) - It's amazing all the improvements that were made between this and the first game. Graphics, gameplay, characters and pretty much every aspect of the game. It took the gore to a whole new level with the "Animalities". I never had a clue how to do all those cool finishing moves, but they looked awesome when people destroyed me with them!

72: Aliens vs. Predator (Arcade) - First, there is no such thing as a bad "Aliens vs. Predator" anything. Ever. Second, just look at all the chaos that is going on in this game. the action is non-stop and so were the quarters whenever I found arcades that housed this gem. Third, it gave me hope that if the Predator race did exist, I could befriend them like the humans in this game did!

71: Blades of Steel (NES) - Who cares that it doesn't have real NHL teams and players? Not me. This was such a drastic upgrade over the only other hockey game I knew of at the time ("Ice Hockey"). In "Ice Hockey" you select between fat players who are strong and slow, medium players who are average at everything, and skinny guys who are fast but get killed. Really, the most exciting part of the game was the zamboni. Then you play "Blades of Steel" and it's a whole new world. It was as realistic as NES got. It had fights that were not just two players close together making weird noises. Of course, it also had play continue like nothing happened after fights. Oh well...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 90-81

By Jeff

In case you missed 100-91, you can find it here.

You might notice that there will be very few Xbox exclusive games and no GameCube exclusive games. I don't own these systems, so I just never played a lot of these games. Sorry.

90: Marvel Ultimate Alliance (PS2, Xbox, PS3, Wii) - Considering I have never read the comics, I love the X-Men, Avengers and all those crazy Marvel characters, especially in video games. What is so enjoyable about "Ultimate Alliance" is you are not limited to one hero for a level/until you die. You get a group of four going, and then can cycle through the four. It's awesome. One second you're slashing people up with Wolverine, then the next you are flying through the air torching baddies with Thor's lighting.

89: Army of 2 (PS3, Xbox 360) - This is the first video game I played where teamwork really is vital to survival. Sure, multi-player games are all about working well with your buddy, but most of them are you both just charge forward and tear people up without a care in the world. "Army of 2" is different. You must provide suppressing fire, get the attention of the enemies and really work together. If you don't, you die. It's really the way multi-player should be.

88: Double Dragon 3 (NES) - The "Double Dragon" games are all winners, so why the third installment? Mostly because you are not limited to Jimmy and Billy Lee in this title. There are two other characters that you get along the way after besting them in combat. Yes, one of them might display racism (he is a martial artist named Chin). When I was a kid, I mostly used Chin because he had this cool diving head butt move, but who doesn't love the highly effective cyclone kick?

87: Peacekeepers (SNES) - OK, I'm going to be honest, this game is not better than similar side scrollers like "Knights of the Round". It's on this list because Swan and I played it once, loved it, and then could never find it again for years. Over time, we would talk about it and play it up like it was some phenomenal game. And then one Christmas, about 5-8 years later, my dad found the game somehow. Swan and I dominated it again and all was right in the world. But if you look at it, there is nothing special. It just brings back fun memories.

86: Robo Aleste (Sega CD) - Yes, there is a Sega CD game on this list! What a terrible system... Well, as terrible as this system is, this game is sweet. It's just a blast blowing up the millions of crazy enemies that come flying at you. Some are on the ground and can only hit you by firing weapons, while others are flying and can damage you if you fly into them. The fun thing is, half the time you can't tell if they're flying or not. So just blow it all up and enjoy! When I get the laser beam thing, there are no survivors.

85: Star Wars Battlefront II (PS2, PC, Xbox) - I'm not a big "Star Wars" nut. The first three movies were good, the next three were pretty bad and I have never read the books. This is a great game, though. When you think "Star Wars" you think Jedi knights, Dark Vader, Luke Skywalker and all the other heroes. "Battlefront II" puts you in the suit of a grunt clone soldier/storm trooper as you play through the major events of the movies. It's a fun shooter and an interesting way to approach the "Star Wars" franchise. It is also the first game I played where you had so much variety of troopers you could be, with all different sorts of weapons from shotguns to sniper rifles.

84: Monster Rancher (PS1) - This game combines two of my favorites things; music and video games. I have no idea how they did it, but this game was developed so that if you put music CD's you would get different types of monsters to train and fight.  It blew my mind! I always pop in Nirvana's "Nevermind" and get this weird cat creature that does a cyclone punch move that kills any monster as long as it hits. 

83: Super Smash Bros. (N64) - This game would probably be higher but I am terrible at it. Also, my friend Josh is pretty much unstoppable in it. Seriously, I have never seen him lose with Pikachu... ever. My friends and I could play this for hours on end growing up. This led to hours of frustration as Josh would beat the hell out of all of us, so not all of my memories are fond ones.

82: World Class Track Meet (NES) - I just like that you can get the Power Pad (20 years before "Dance, Dance Revolution) and you actually run in the events. And then for the hurdles, you actually jump! Also, has there ever been a more epic game pack than the "Super Mario Bros.", "Duck Hunt" and "World Class Track Meet"? This is also another game I was so bad at as a small kid. I'm pretty sure I fouled every long jump I tried.

81: Medal of Honor: Frontline - Man, the first mission still gives me chills when I play it. This game could be a lot of higher if it maintained the greatness of the first few missions throughout the game. Unfortunately, it basically becomes a James Bond game. You got behind enemy lines on specialized missions, infiltrating subs and just doing secret agent stuff. The mid to late levels are nothing like the pure chaos of the first few, that actually make you think you're fighting World War II. The game is still good, but its potential was so much greater.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Favorite video games of all time: 100-91

By Jeff

Another post without the the sports. I'm continuing to nerd it up because there just isn't anything fun to talk about in the sports world.

I could speculate on the head coaching searches of the NFL, but I don't know what it takes to be a head coach in the NFL. I also don't care at all who coaches the Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, etc.

The only feelings I have for the NFL playoffs are that I am rooting for every team but the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.

Hockey still isn't on yet, so there is nothing to talk about there.

Taking that into consideration, I spent this week developing a list of my favorite 100 video games and then the grueling task of ordering them. At first, it was easy. The top 20 was a breeze. But 21-100 was filled with tough decisions, edits, somehow forgetting incredible games and going back to place them in their proper place.

So here is 100-91. This is a list of MY favorite games. Yours will be different. Also, I have never played highly acclaimed games like "Bioshock", "Half-Life" and "Mass Effect" to name a few. Those games will not be on this list. I hear great things and I look forward to playing them someday, but if I haven't played it, then it can't be on my list, can it?

100: Rampage (NES) - Come on. Who hasn't wanted to control a giant Godzilla or King Kong-like creature and go on a massive spree of destruction. We're talking destroying buildings, tanks and eating people. It iss so much fun punching a building, finding a man inside, and then eating said man to get some life back.

99: After Burner (NES) - I grew up loving the movie "Iron Eagle" ("Top Gun" can suck it). And this game reminded me of that movie. You are a jet fighter and you destroy other jet fighters. Sure, you don't have the dog fights that are now possible in gaming, but the fact you can lock on, dodge missles and barrel roll is awesome.

98: Hyper Zone (SNES) - A friend of mine in first or second grade owned this title. He claimed it was impossible. He lent it to me and I conquered it. We are no longer friends. Did this game play a role in our friendship dissolving? No. He became a d-bag.

Anyway, this game iss just a lot of fun and was a common game played on the Nickelodeon game show surrounding video games in the early 90's. I always saw players fail at this game and was mad I never had the opportunity to go on and dominate.

97: Life Force (NES) - You'll see a lot of these old school NES games on my list. It was, and still is, a great system. I still have one that occasionally works! "Life Force" is awesome for two reasons. First, the way the levels are alive. Did you see how the cave just transformed around the :47 mark? And then there is a level you're in a dragon's mouth and and its teeth suddenly chomp at you. Second, it is two-player, which is rare for games like this.

Also, I love these shooter-type games where you just fire like crazy, hope for upgrades and try your damndest not to explode. Unfortunately, I played this game, and a lot like it, when I was in the 5-8 range, so I exploded early and often. Nope. That's not what she said, Mike.

96: Iron Sword: Wizards and Warriors II (NES) - This game, like so many NES games, is tough. Very tough and frustrating. But it iss also a blast to play. There are so many places to explore, items to gather and it introduces magic as a weapon for the hero, Kuros. It is also unique in that you had to find the magic spell in order to beat a section's boss. Without the spell, the boss couldn't be hurt. It was a layer that was new to me in the video game world. Also, I really enjoy ducking and jabbing the sword like it's a machine gun.

95: ExciteBike (NES) - This is on the list for one reason: Going off a jump at high speeds, crashing and then rolling for the remainder of the course. OK, it is also a lot of fun.

94: Colony Wars (PS1) - Think "After Burner" but in space and better, and that's what "Colony Wars" is. The dog fights are intense and the weapons are cool, especially how you have to switch from shield destroying lasers to ship destroying lasers once the shields are down. I don't remember what the story is all about. All I care about is blowing up as many ships as I can.

93: Wizards and Warriors (NES) - This game holds a special place in my heart for some strange reason I can't explain. I really sucked at it as a kid. I could get to the third level and that was it. And then, on the third level you need this on potion to make you jump higher to get to a treasure required to advance. So you can spend an hour trying to get the bad guys to drop that potion, and then you still sometimes miss the jump!

Whatever. Like its sequel, "Wizards and Warriors" is more expansive than most of the games of its era. It is challenging and that challenge significantly raises its replay value. Oh, I also love the temper tantrem Kuro throws before he dies. Classic.

92: Knights of the Round (SNES) - This is the first fighter side-scroller I recall where you can level up throughout the game and get better weapons and armor. The time period of the game is what draws me to it, and I have fond memories of the co-op mode. Someone really needs to tell Swan that Lancelot is the worst of the playable characters, though.

91: Warhawk (PS1) - OK, if this game only had it's first level, it would still be on this list. The freedom you have in battle and flying around is just awesome. All the different weapons made it an instant upgrade to anything that came before it. I remember playing this and forgettoing about the actual mission. I would just chase around the other fighters in dog fights.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Worst 10 Final Fantasy characters

By Jeff

It was so much fun doing the top 10 Final Fantasy characters, I had to keep it going with the 10 worst. Just thinking about these games and characters reminds me of growing up and rocking these games with my best friends.

Honorable mentions. Gau and Relm (Final Fantasy VI/III in US) - In terms of usability, these two are probably the worst. Relm's sketch skill and Gau's rage skill are worthless. They are also fairly annoying any time they speak.

So why are they not gracing the top 10?

Shadow is a great character, and through him we learn that Relm is his daughter, who he deserted. Without Relm, Shadow is less complex and the player isn't waiting to see if he redeems himself with Relm.

As for Gau, the dude was thrown into the wild as a baby and was raised by the creatures of the Veldt (Think African plains). He also has some fun moments with Cyan and Sabin, which make the portions of the game where you have to use Gau tolerable.

10. Sazh (Final Fantasy XIII) - It is tragic that Sazh's son is turned into a crystal. His weapons are cool and the way he poses when he shoots is funny. But the character did nothing for the game itself. I actually forgot his name and had to look it up for this post.

Now, if we're talking costume and appearance, Sazh would be one of the best.

9. Zell (Final Fantasy VIII) - There are going to be a lot of people from this game. Here is what I remember about Zell. He used his fists and loved eating hot dogs. That's it. I don't remember him having any kind of story or being interesting at all.

8. Tidus (Final Fantasy X) - This was a great game, but the protagonist was one of the weakest the series has seen. I think part of my problem with Tidus is the voice acting for him was so terrible. His voice was annoying and had me hitting mute on several occasions. The fact he was a dream really upset me as well. I still don't get how that was supposed to work and how he and Yuna could have banged if he didn't really exist. Finally, if your main character has to say the line "This is my story" multiple times during the game, then clearly the writers didn't do a very good job of establishing him as the main guy. You never heard Cloud saying that crap.

7. Yu Yevon (Final Fantasy X), Necron (Final Fantasy IX), Orphan (Final Fantasy XIII) - These are bad guys that you don't know are the source of the game's evil until the end. Well, Necron isn't the source of evil, it is just thrown in there at the end and makes very little sense. I think they are perfect examples of the writers not knowing when to stop. Why couldn't these games end with their respective antagonists (Seymour and Sin, Kuja, and Barthandelus)? The three characters above serve no purpose in terms of you hating them, like the other bad guys. They are just there and annoy the player.

6. Amarant (Final Fantasy IX) - What do you get when you have a character with no story behind him, no comic relief, is useless in battle and the game would not change at all if they did not exist? You get Amarant. He would be higher, but he wasn't annoying. He was just pointless.

5. Cait Sith (Final Fantasy VII) - The man controlling the cat, Reeve, was actually a cool character in the Final Fantasy VII universe. He was a just man caught up in an evil organization. Unfortunately, instead of learning more about Reeve, we get Cait Sith, a robot cat that rides a stuffed moogle that looks nothing like a moogle.

All of the Final Fantasy games need a character for comic relief, and that is the role Sith plays. But if the player gets Yuffie, she fills this void and is actually a real person.

Cait Sith also gets emotional when his stuffed body is crushed by the Temple of the Ancients. But he is just a stuffed doll, another one shows up 5 minutes later. It's impossible to care about the character. Thank goodness there was no voice acting.

4. Squall (Final Fantasy VIII) - Other than a really cool weapon, Squall sucked. He was the worst protagonist the series has ever had when the game actually has a definite main character. He is sulky, annoying and boring.

3. Elena (Final Fantasy VII) - When one thinks of the Turks, the first things they think of are cool music, Reno, Rude and a feeling of bad assness. In the game, Reno is cool and does whatever he wants. He disobeys orders, has a pimp cane as a weapon and gets into fights when he is outnumbered. In the movie "Advent Children" he is hilarious.

Rude is quiet and cool. He just goes about his business and kicks ass when he has to.

Elena just doesn't fit as a Turk. She is talkative, annoying and ends up rolling down a mountain. Seriously, the Turks are supposed to be cool assassins that you don't want to mess with. Elena strikes no fear into anyone's heart.

2. Ultimecia (Final Fantasy VIII) - I hate this character to so much. In Final Fantasy VI we had Kefka. In Final Fantasy VII we had Sephiroth. These were two bad guys that made you hate them so much. You felt like you were actually doing the real world a favor by defeating them. These were guys who murdered women and children and didn't give it a second thought. They could be two of the greatest bad guys in video game history.

So then we get Ultimecia. She is a futuristic sorceress who is somehow controlling events in the past. You don't learn about her until 98 percent of the game is done. The idea behind her is something like she wants to become a goddess by compressing time or something like that. We don't learn much about her and don't really care about her.

Are you seeing a pattern with this list? If the character has a crappy story surrounding them, they are making this list. The best part about the Final Fantasy series is the story of each game. These are like great fantasy books in video game form. If you can't connect or care about the characters, positively or negatively, then those characters have failed.

1. Rinoa (Final Fantasy VIII) - Worst character the series has ever seen. I could go on for quite some time about Rinoa, but there is a simple way to show how much I disliked her.

In Final Fantasy VII, the player is so angry Aerith is murdered by Sephiroth. It makes the game so much better. Aerith is lovable, cute, fun and if anyone in that game deserved to live, it was her. Her death makes the game better, as it makes you feel what Cloud and his friends are feeling. You want to rip Sephiroth apart.

In complete contrast, there is a time Rinoa is floating in space and Squall has to go out and save her. In that moment, I wanted to close the spaceship door and leave her.

And then when Rinoa is a part of Adel and you have to heal Rinoa, while killing Adel, who is sucking life out of Rinoa, all you want to do kill Rinoa so she stops helping Adel!

So here is a character we are supposed to love and feel bad for, but I'm pretty sure every player wanted her to die or be incapacitated in some way so you never have to use her again. Compare that to Aerith, a character you're hoping there is some way to bring back and makes you want to punch the picture of Sephiroth in the instruction booklet.

I don't think I leveled Rinoa past 23.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 10 Final Fantasy characters

By Jeff

It's been a while since I did a good nerd post/list. What better way to ring in the new year than to take a look at the greatest video game series of all time, Final Fantasy, and pick the 10 best characters these great games have given us?

Before we get to the list, I need to share that this list is not just looking at good guys/heros. Eevery character, from evil to just, is in play. Also, I played most of these games when I was a kid. I say this because I was a bit sexist back then and never used the girls/women unless I had to. Finally, this ranking isn't really looking at the usability of the character in the game. It is looking at the depth of that character and the emotions they brought out in the player.

Honorable Mention. Aerith/Aeris (Final Fnatasy VII) - She is the star of maybe the most memorable and shocking scene the series has ever seen. She is this cute, seemingly harmless girl who just wants to save the planet and who also breaks through Cloud's incredibly cold outer shell. She is the last person you would expect to be impaled and killed less than halfway through the game! Without this death, Sephiroth would not be nearly as hated a villain as he ends up being. She would be higher, but she almost seems too flawless a character to relate to.

10.  Yuna (Final Fantasy X and X-2) - I never really got into Final Fantasy X-2, but Yuna was a very interesting character in X and deserves to be mentioned. She is so young and innocent. You could picture her as the girl next door or that pretty, but shy girl you went to school with. But she also had more strength than anyone gives her credit for. She was willingly going on a suicide mission to give the world a break from the monster known as Sin. Maybe she didn't know that one of her friends had to become the monster, but she knew that she would have to sacrifice her life in order to stop Sin for a few years. She knw that yet still went on her pilgrimmage willingly. Bascailly, she was a better person than all of us!

9. Zalbag (Final Fantasy Tactics) - Our first Non-Playable Character (NPC) to grace the list. If Zalbag joined with his evil brother, Dycedarg, he would have been pretty much unstoppable. He was supposedly one of the greatest knights to ever live. The player never really witnesses this, but it is alluded to by game dialogue and his rank of Ark Knight. But he threw that power away to try and dish out justice on his brother, who had poisoned their father. Zalbag is also one of the most tragic characters in the Final Fantasy Tactics world, because right when he finally opens his eyes to the conspiracy around him and you think he is going to join you, he is turned into a friggin' vampire and the player has to kill him. I spent an hour on that battle trying every possible way to save him. Never had I wanted a video game character to live so much since General Leo got offed by Kefka in Final Fantasy III (Or VI).

8. Vivi (Final Fantasy IX) - Cloud from Final Fantasy VII gets all the attention on his journey to find himself, but Vivi's story was more touching. He knows he's not human, but has no idea what he is. Then he finds out that he was manufactured and others like him were weapons of war and had short lifespans. That is quite a lot to take in for the equivalent of an adolescent. Yet he plowed forth and helped save the world, even as so many feared and hated him.

7. Balthier (Final Fantasy X11) - It was really hard to put your finger on the main character of Final Fantasy X11. Vaan was on the cover and the first character you meet, but Ashe was the princess fighting for her country's freedom. Then there was a the former judge/sky pirate Balthier. He proclaimed himself the hero of the story and I agree. He had the best lines and his story was the most intriguing. His father was one of the main bad guys, and we learned throughout the course of the game that Balthier used to be one of the hated judges, but left to become a sky pirate.

6. Kefka (Final Fantasy III) - OK, there are some that think his clown/jester get-up makes him less scary and there are those that thinks it makes him more menacing. I look past the clown appearance and look at the pure evil that was Kefka. He is the one Final Fantasy bad guy who actually succeeds in destroying the world, kind of! He killed countless people when he used the Light of Judgement and basically created a post-apocalypse environment for the whole second half of the game. And while there are some Final Fantasy bad guys who are evil because they are possessed by demons, are demons, aliens that want to destroy the world, gods that want to destroy the world, etc... Kefka was a human who just took pleasure in the suffering of others. He poisened the Water supply of Doma, killing women and children. He left whole towns of orphans by casting the Light of Judgement for no other reason than to show off his power. He assassinated General Leo, the Emperor and a ton of Espers. He was probably the most naturally evil character the series has ever seen.

5. Auron (Final Fnatasy X) - I get goosebumps every time I watch the cut scene where the group learns that Yuna must die to stop Sin and Auron makes his grand speech. Even without his general badassdom throughout the game, this would have locked him into the Top 5. Forget that he carries a big sword and dominates enemies, it's that moment where Auron shines. Throughout the game, he has cool lines, but never says a lot and we don't know how he died. Then we see that he was trying to avenge his friends when he was struck down. And then he makes the appeal to fight against sorrow and pain, rather than settle for false hope. It was one of the greatest scenes the series has and will ever see. It also illustrates how strong of a character Yuna is, cementing her place on this list.

4. Locke (Final Fantasy III) - The most useful and powerful character in Final Fantasy III is without a doubt Sabin. With his blitzes, he dominates enemies throughout the game without using any MP, and then he can always learn Ultima and be unstoppable. But the strongest character is the treasure hunter known as Locke. He is a knight in shining armor without the knighthood or the armor. When Terra is going to be taken by Narshe guards, Locke saves her, as he has this thing about never letting woman down again. He saves Celes on several occasions and is just an all around good guy.

When the world crumbles, he's not out drinking or crying, he is trying to find the magicite that can bring his past lover back to life after she died saving him. He always put others first. He also had that really neat Steal/Mug command.

3. Cloud (Final Fantasy VII) - He is kind of a dick in the beginning. All he wants is money. Then you learn all the crap he had to endure. Sephiroth brutally murdered his mother, nearly killed his best friend from childhood and torched his home town. Later, he is genetically altered, his best friend from later on is life is pumped full of lead and he has no idea who he is. You are really rooting for this guy! His spiky hair and giant Buster Sword have become the symbols of the series.

It's quite an experience watching Cloud grow from bitchy mercenary to respectable hero. While he still holds the old grudge against Sephiroth, at the end he is in the fight to save the world and puts that above his own vengeance. But even then, the man is tormented by letting Aerith die (Go watch Advent Children... Now!). Seeing him find that inner peace is incredibly rewarding.

2. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII) - Yes, the dude seems to be pure evil. He has done some terrible things in the past, like torching Nibelheim, but that whole scene is done under the premise that he is going insane because he thinks his mother was the evil god, Jenova. But the moment you really come to hate Sephiroth is when he impales Aerith. This was the first time I recall in a video game where one of the main characters is killed off. He fell from the sky, like his mother when she came to the planet, and killed Aerith like his mother did to the other Cetra.

The thing is, while Sephiroth is a very bad man, he is also a tragic villain. He is the victim Dr. Hojo's lab experiments. Sephiroth actually had a human mother, Lucrecia, but Hojo infused her with Jenova cells, making Sephiroth all powerful and thinking he is a god destined to destroy the planet. I mean that is no excuse for mass murder, but still makes you wonder what would have happened if Hojo didn't make Sephiroth an experiment.

1. Ramza (Final Fantasy Tactics) - Ramza is probably the weakest protagonist the series has ever had. Cloud was a master swordsman and Omni-Slash could take out some of the final bosses by itself. All of Final Fantasy III's characters could learn Ultima. Tidus was a dream that could kill people. Ramza was a squire turned hero. His default class was a squire and the best thing he could learn was Ultima. There was no Holy Sword skill like Agrias and Orlandu. He was not a Temple Knight like Beowulf. He is the character in the series you can relate to more than anybody.

For the most part, he fights because it is the right thing to do. Whether it is defying his brothers to try and save Teta, or working to stop a war that will kill tens of thousands, he is doing it out of morals. He could have walked away at any time. The world was not facing a calamity like Meteor or a crazy clown with a laser beam. But he fought on to protect those he cared about and those who could not fight for themselves against a corrupt government and church (and demons). In the end, he received no recognition for his heroics. Instead he remains labeled a heretic. While some might storm the castle to clear his name and oust his former friend, now king, he just walks away, knowing he did the right thing and his sister is safe.