Archive for February, 2011

Game 33: Final Fantasy VII

Posted: February 26, 2011 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 343/1001 according to the list

Genre: Role-Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 1
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Sony

Final Fantasy is quite possibly the biggest RPG franchise known to man at this point in time. The game was named that because, when the first game was created, Square took a gamble by making it. It was the last game they could finance, and if they didn’t make it, they’d like be bankrupt. The game was a big success and Square is still around to this day.

After three games on the NES (Final Fantasy 1-3, although only the first made it out of Japan), and three on the SNES (4-6, although five didn’t make it out of Japan, and the other two were renumbered to II and III so it wasn’t noticed they were gone), as well as a few spin-offs like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Square stopped publishing for Nintendo.

Final Fantasy VII – the number was kept for all markets this time – was made for Sony’s Playstation and was a leap for the series in many ways. The first to use 3D-graphics instead of sprites, its visuals are distinctly different from the sprites of earlier games, and the storyline was updated to match. You start off as Cloud, a spiky-haired warrior with memory loss. An old and boring story now, but at the time it appealed to many, and its legacy remains.

Our Playthrough

As we say, we play the games until completion or for at least five hours. With Final Fantasy, we had no choice but to go for the latter, as going through it completely would’ve meant a blog hiatus of a few months. For those in the know, this put us in the Shinra building at the 65th floor.

Our Thoughts

Now here we are; the big one in the JRPG world. Well, one of the gargantuan titles anyway that defined the genre for a lot of people as well as helping to popularise JRPGs in the west. It truly started a sword and hair fetishism that seems wholly unnecessary. Yes, Cloud really does epitomise the emo JRPG character that all the genre’s detractors have grown to despise.

When it comes to animated characters I definitely agree with Matt Groening’s rule that you need to create a recognisable silhouette (which explains the hair in his animated series). However, the hair of JRPG protagonists tends to take this a bit too far. Thank god it eased up a little bit for Tidus in Final Fantasy X. I don’t think it’s that recognisable either.

Now, the sword is actually more worrying. Outside of battle, you don’t really see him carrying it around- and a sword taller than Cloud would stand out. The Freudian overtones are obvious and we’ll stay above them. This is something that is sort of addressed at some point when you engage in a little bit of light transvestism. When you get the wig from the strongman (don’t ask) he pulls it out from what appears to be Speedos… we are then advised that we may want to wash it first.  It’s a small acknowledgement to the bottomless pit that is an RPG’s pocket.

Even worse is that you get these after having a squat contest. The overtones are obvious, and these games often being associated with straight boys living in their basements drooling over the female characters in these games (which, I’m sure, none of our readers actually are) don’t seem as true as the comments this game seems to make on the topic. It’s a very happy game when it comes to those things; in the old sense of the word obviously. Very much so.

If we’re going to continue with the commentary of things being old I am going to draw attention to the graphics. This is especially highlighted by the quality discrepancy between gameplay and cut scenes. That is probably the most jarring thing in this game – and especially when other games of the age did it well. It’s a bit odd – in part they wanted to go for some realism, but they also wanted something more cartoony, and that’s jarring. The backgrounds are lovely, but the characters seem pixelly and, as jarring, don’t scale well. This isn’t helped by the apparent design decision of turning a 2D game into a 3D one, something that I don’t have confirmed, but that seems to have happened, based on the movement model and the fickleness of interaction. It’s almost as if some 3D models replaced the sprites, the perspective was changed in a few places, and nothing more. There is also a character, very early on, whose torso appears to be floating somewhat over his legs leaving a gap where the background can be seen through.

In fact, the main character Cloud’s arms are not always attached to his torso, as they taper into a point where they’re supposed to join. To be fair, you get somewhat used to it. What is interesting is how Cloud has possibly the worst looking of the characters during gameplay. Aeris looks somewhat passable as do Barret and most of the enemies. I mean if you were unable to get the pixels of a haunted house/turtle monster right it would be fairly awkward indeed. Yeah, for some reason the guy you’re looking at the most seems to be the most awkward, when you’d expect the greatest care to have gone into his model. At the time, it probably looked good.

Since we will be covering Final Fantasy VIII soon I will make a brief mention, but I think the move to a more humanoid character design was a great help to the series considering the technology available. It was only from the sixth generation consoles onwards where the more deformed chibi-like characters could be better rendered. In any case, the graphics are jarring and don’t help this game be as enjoyable now and you basically need to get yourself past that first before you can really enjoy it.

The criticisms of graphics solely lie with characters as the surroundings do look fantastic. The dark atmosphere is very well realised with the seedy settings and the murky surroundings. Dilapidated buildings, a train graveyard, drug references… fantastic. In fact, that makes the colourful, cartoony characters a little bit more jarring, with the characters not seeming to fit in with their environment. It’s a dark and gritty game, with some rather disturbing scenes – and not just if you’re bothered by crossdressers. (Apologies to readers of the transgender, intersex or transvestite variety. I don’t think I said we were.)

The gloomy steampunk look is then broken up by occasional moments of beauty (such as the flowers growing in an abandoned church) and these are all the poignant due to their infrequent and brief appearances. It is a fantastic way to juxtapose the more innocent world of the Aeris and the Ancients with what Shinra and the rest of humanity have done with their world. In fact I am not sure Final Fantasy VII could be made now as you are (in essence) assuming the role of a terrorist group. Well, there have been more games like that, but it does stand out now. (Not anywhere near as much as Rambo 3 where the lead character helps out the ‘noble Taliban’. If nothing else, Final Fantasy VI did this before – something we will learn about in the future)

Games have been made post-9/11 in a similar vein and have been met with much umbrage. I think the thing that really stands out with Final Fantasy VII is that you are a down-trodden people fighting the capitalist giants. I read somewhere that this would be now seen as an allegory of you taking the role of a Palestinian against Israel… but since this is not a political blog than I shall not elaborate on this more. It certainly makes you think.

So something else, the music. It’s hard to say much about these directly, as at a certain point, there is less improvement in this, but the sound track is good, and while you don’t have the fluent changes between scenes where you don’t notice the music changing, it makes for a more rousing setting when it does. In particular, at one point you have a fairly subdued background music that you’ve heard before… until the boss drops in and the game bursts into a rock soundtrack. You knew something big was going to happen right then and there. The soundtrack of course the work of Nobuo Uematsu who has done the music for the vast majority of the main series with Final Fantasies X-2 and XIII being the only ones to not feature any music written by him.

Now, be aware, there’s more Final Fantasies to come that we’ll discuss, in other to get through our collection of Kat’s games. We’ll probably be playing some smaller games in between – these games are massive (we’ve only seen a few bits and pieces of this game) and we want to focus on them for a few hours at a time, restricting our play time more or less to weekends only but it’ll be a large-haired, boyish charm gaming streak that’s coming up for us.

Final Thoughts

I guess that we will have a set of more succint final thoughts once we have played our way through Kat’s Final Fantasy collection for the PS1. Needless to say that despite there being a fair degree of niggles with the controls as you make your way around the world (as well as some navigation issues with the menu screens) it is easy to see that this is where a lot of modern RPGs from both Japan and the West have taken a great deal of influence from. It is little wonder that spin-offs of this particular Final Fantasy setting have continued to be made.


Game 32: SSX Tricky

Posted: February 23, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 492/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports
Platform: Playstation 2, Gamcube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Multitasking is considered by some to be the spice of life, this is especially so with this blog. At any one time we typically have 2-3 games on the the go and SSX Tricky is a perfect candidate for a game you can just pick up and play on multiplayer whenever you want. This in stark contrast to games like Uplink and the forthcoming Final Fantasy VII which are best to cover in either one or two long sittings.

If you have previously read my profile you will know that SSX Tricky ranks as my favourite sports game of all time. Since the only sports game we have covered to this previous is this blog’s namesake it would be fair to say this is the first sports game we have covered that feels even slightly true to life.

Our Thoughts

So here we go, a sports game, and not for one of the largest sports out there; one that says that I am “full of class”, unless I suddenly find myself careering headfirst into a mailbox. It is a very revealing game and quite on the ball too as well as being the only sports game that I will defend to the hilt.

This playthrough has been greatly helped by me finding my old memory card on which is a file where I had unlocked all the tracks as well as master rankings for two snowboarders. Yeah, it’s been a great hep in seeing the game, although the fact that you almost completely ignore the male characters means that there was still plenty of early gameplay for me to pick up on. What do you mean? I had the rankings for both a male and a female. Well, okay, you did something for one male. The others were completely ignored. Even if he did seem to be the cutest one anyway, so that would explain that…

I mean when you view her level-up video it’s no wonder that my favourite is Kaori. Who wouldn’t love a panda backpack that break-dances? Yeah, breakdancing pandas sound… cute. Not that I had a chance to see that now. Just click the link a few lines ago. Ah yes. How did that get there? Well, in any case, it’s worth checking out.

One thing that I think needs to be noted is that this one of two snowboarding games on the list (the other being 1080° Snowboarding). It was during this time that there were quite a few snowboarding games out there and I was a bit of a fan despite no inclination to take to the slopes. The only main franchise absent here is Coolboarders… and if you have played them it’s pretty easy to see why when compared to the sublime madness of SSX Tricky.

It is insane, in a good way Mind you, you can tell this game is from the early noughties, as the characters would have been hip then, while now several seem, well, dated. The characters (and the voice actors behind them) are one of the main reasons that SSX Tricky is so fantastic. So much time was taken to flesh each of them out and make them as distinct from each other as possible. With voice actors as varied as David Arquette, Bif Naked, Lucy Liu and Macy Grey lending their talents you can get an idea of the different personalities on show. This is further elaborated in the making of videos that are packaged on each disc (with the explanation behind Brodi being particularly eye-opening). And the care put into the characters does show. They’re distinctive personalities, and you do start to like and dislike some of them – further helped by them actually being friends and enemies of you during the game – more likely the latter than the former.

The friendships actually matter in the games since an enemy can actually sabotage your chances by knocking you over. also the cutscenes watching the prospective boarders bicker can be fun. Especially since every boarder speaks in their native tongue (or at least in the right accent). This global view is a nice touch and one that the makers of Dead or Alive should heed when marketing their games abroad. Something actually taken a step further when they replaced one American character (Mac) with a German one (Marty… so cute) for the European release of the game. Then there’s the next step of customization, outfits and boards. With the latter being actually useful, and the former just… looking cute I guess. Some of the female’s outfits just scream fan service. (The females’) Not just them. You can have Brodi ride shirtless and he is nicely toned. We need to play more when we’re done with our writing then (oh jees) but yea a perfect example of the fanservice is Elise’s PVC policewoman outfit.

The next part, then, are the tracks. A nicely varied bunch, although some of them can get somewhat confusing. Some of them are truly insane. I mean Tokyo Megaplex is essentially a giant pinball machine with sections of zero gravity (with possibly the greatest potential for tricks). Then there is Hawaii’s Aloha Ice Jam where you are racing down a giant iceberg, which by sheer coincidence is melting (with a lot of tricky jumps and fast slopes.) The amount of thought that has gone into the construction of each track is mindboggling. It will take weeks of playing to uncover every conceivable route and discover each hidden shortcut. One of which means you have to dodge marauding penguins. Something Peter obviously wasn’t great at, as he squeed audibly several times over (imagine me glaring at him) …it’s cute. And yes, the later courses get worse. The early ones are fairly easy, but as you get further, you’ll be falling down ten times a minute.

That can depend on your ability though. There is a steep difficulty curve, but it’s done in such a way that warrents replay upon replay of the tracks. I cannot begin to count how often I have played the first track… It’s very true, and it’s not a bad thing – figuring out more ways to get through the tracks and do more tricks is very rewarding and the game does reward you for it.

The most rewarding aspect of the game, however, has to be the tricks. Even after years of playing this on and off there is a great deal of satisfaction that can be derived from executing a truly magnificent trick. It is, and it really makes you happy when you manage something like a 900 degree turn. Followed by a rail 50/50 and whatever more there is?

The best ones are tricks that simply defy the laws of gravity. Like executing a double back flip whilst doing the worm on the board. Kaori pirouettes, JP break dances and Marisol… well I am not really sure how to describe what her personal uber trick is. Yeah, it makes you wonder how that works. But then, at times, when you’re that high in the air, it feels like time slows down as you’re up there. Once you max out your characters stats and equip them with their uberboard then the tricks you can accomplish are stunning. The best one being where you do such acts of insanity that it can only title it as “???”. That’s quite insane, as I’ve never reached that, despite doing some impressive stunt even excluding the faceplants.

And if you do it well, you get ‘rewarded’ with Run DMC. Just an example of the great music used throughout. Each track gets their selection of songs which help add to their overall feel. There is also commentating by beat boxer Rahzel. Some of the quips that they have him come up with (depending on your boarding expertise) are genius. Mostly assuming you’re good enough. He is invaluable to the game’s atmosphere and was sorely missed in this game’s sequel SSX 3. I can see why that would be.

If there’s one criticism I’d have to give of this game, then it’s the learning curve that makes that a lot of the cool stuff stays locked just a bit long. Especially the cooler tracks are a long wait away. If you are more skilled with racing games then it makes a real different to the amount of time it takes to unlock all the tracks. Theoretically it may only take a few hours if you give it a good enough go. Thanks. It doesn’t help that the practice sections were not covered for the purposes of this review. The slope used to practice tricks is especially useful as it helps you realise how much of them rely in the timing.

As I mentioned in my profile this is my top sports game and I really hope Jeroen can see what I fell for. I can absolutely see that, and it might well be the best I’ve played so far. But we do have California Games coming up. As well as another 45 sports titles… Joy! Well, if this is part of the best, then these should turn out to be okay. But whether they’ll beat SSX Tricky… we’ll see. It’s a good start.

Final Thoughts

How can I finish now, having already mentioned everything there is to mention? The characters and level design of this game stand out, and it sets it apart from more normal sports game where you keep running around the same field with football players whose only differences are the shirts and hair colour.  The graphics are good – sure, it looks outdated by now, but it’s on that edge where it’s actually quite good still. And then there’s the sound, and I keep humming along to the songs I do know.

If you feel you have to try a sports game, this is the one you’ll want to go for. Truely. Until the next one that’ll make us change our minds, of course.

R.I.P. XBox 360 2006-2011

Posted: February 23, 2011 by mulholland in Goodbye

To anyone who is reading this I really ask for there to be no judgement about how bad this news made me feel. The loss of a console really should not have reduced me to tears but it really felt like the passing of something really important to me. Probably would acquaint to the similar feeling of when a pet dies.

(insert violins here)

My 360 red-ringed about a month ago we were playing a game of Lego Star Wars and after a few failed attempts to revive it I had to go to bed early because I was not exactly feeling good during the day and Red Ring of Death was just the last straw.

It took me about 3 weeks to send it off to try to get it fixed because that was how long it took before I felt comfortable in my finances (unemployment sucks). I waited for a week and then it arrived back partially dismantled with a letter explaining why they were unable to fix it. They enclosed a cheque refunding me pack the money minus postage meaning I have £45 back.

This may sound cheesy but since this console was around for a large portion of my life I would really like this post to stand as a thank you to it for being there for me and giving me so much joy.

I will be keeping the harddrive so that our times playing Halo 3, Fable 2, Mass Effect, Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Tekken 6, Bayonetta, Perfect Dark Zero, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, SoulCalibur IV, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed and the game that started it all (Viva Pinata) can be continued another time.

So thank you old friend. It’s been great.

Game 31: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Posted: February 20, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

Game 454/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

There are certain gaming series that have a large number of games on the 1001 list. So far we have made a sizeable dent in the Mario games (although to be honest there is a hell of a lot more to go) and we have a Metroid and some Final Fantasies on the way but now is a time for the first in a long line of Zelda games.

Since we are still whittling away titles from the first batch of games Kat lent us we have decided to first play Majora’s Mask. Whilst I have played this game before the main thing I associate with it is this song. If you click the link and fail to see the link then I don’t blame you. When we first got Sky there was this channel called Game Network which had a program which consisted of clips of video games set to music. As you can now guess Majora’s Mask was paired with the Eurodance song To Be You by Kim Lukas. Strange combination really.

Our Thoughts

If you had 3 days to stop some masked entity from crashing a demonic moon into your hometown what would you do? Other than looking for someone else to fix it? Probably ask for a present for my spouse in exchange for the deed to my spot on the market. Well he does jump ship… well fly away in the way a Deku is accustomed to do. I do doubt he would be able to outrun the moon though at his usual speed and predicted trajectory though. Fair enough, I suppose, but it’s what happens.

Let me note here that I personally don’t like time limits in games as a way to make it more exciting, and I was quite worried until we got the method to reverse time in the game. I could feel you tensing up as the time ran out. You were really getting annoyed and (to be honest) it was beginning to bug me.

I actually think that although the 3 day cycle adds a heap of restrictions it is a fantastic idea that was able to make sure that Majora’s Mask was set apart from Ocarina of Time. When you are coming after a game that was hailed as the best ever made it is important to implement a true game changer. I know that it bugged Jeroen as he is a real dab hand at taking his time and exploring the worlds (probably why he is much fonder of point-and-click games and RPGs like the previously reviewed Planescape: Torment).

In contrast there is me who likes to do a bit of exploration (which is why I lost so much of my life to exploring the entire map of GTA: San Andreas) but if there is too much of that in a game it gets boring for me. Then there is Majora’s Mask which, as a Zelda game, had to strike the balance between the time constraint and the exploration, a tough tightrope indeed.

Many complaints about the game were centred on the shorter dungeons and that there are fewer of them compared with other games in the franchise. Contrary to that is a much larger focus on side-quests which embraces the 3 day cycle. With this you have to keep a notebook of side-quests based on the movement patterns of people within Clock Town. A feature that I have only seen repeated in a game of a completely different genre: the survival horror cult classic Gregory Horror Show. And you seem to need it, although I’ve not yet seen enough of that.

Aside from the time limit, which is indeed a personal preference (and one of those things I change early before playing other classics like Fallout, who were quick to fix it in their patches), the game is well done. You can tell that they’ve had more time to work out what they can do with the N64, which shows in graphics, gameplay, the amount of options and things you can do (28 masks? Lots of sidequests, lots of other stuff to do) and it makes it a very good game to play. And you need the shorter dungeons and such – having to go through larger parts again and again because you ran out of time or have a side area to explore would detract from the fun part of the game.

That’s the only downside of the game really. Like a fool I wanted to stop playing and I reset the clock. But before I could get back to the dungeon I had to do all the other mini-tasks in order to be able to reach that area. I am so thankful that they included an option to slow the passage of time meaning that you get an extra 20-30 minutes before the 3 day cycle is completed. You seem to need it – and yeah, that’s part of where my complaint comes from, really. There’s ways to make it easier, but had I have to go through any longer, the repetitiveness would have made this even more exhausting. But enough on that, time for the praise this game absolutely deserves. Well yes, the readers of GameFAQs apparently named this the best game of the last decade so we really should sing the praises. As you’ll see, obviously I won’t agree with them, but then again – that’s the opinion of the averages anyway, where it could work if it were everyone’s second favourite.

As I said, the graphics are nice. The characters are given character through it, putting on certain masks looks like it hurts, and most of the environment are quite pretty in their own way. How about the music? Just like the other games in the franchise Majora’s Mask has a beautiful soundtrack. Even the short repetitive tunes you play on the ocarina to change time or to open the doors to the temples sound beautiful; very simple yet very effective. And a number of them are familiar tunes associated with the series for some time longer especially the incidental music which is something that a long-running successful franchise is able to do.

Yeah, and I’m sure it fits in here – I’m honest, I’m looking forward to trying other games and put it in perspective too. That is the problem with us first tackling such a late game in the series. Something we had to do because we need to play though all the games Kat gave us before Easter. Later on we will be able to refer forward so I guess it will all balance out. Yeah, so keep looking out for that. We have two more to do from Kat’s pile (including the Gamecube port of Ocarina of Time which, when I think about it now, would have been probably been better to do before this one) so there will be come franchise comparisons coming rather soon.

So yeah, while the time system can have its doubts, in general the game is good fun and very well put together and certainly worth a try, if you can still get your hands on it. It’s available on the Virtual Console for the Wii so it’s very easy to find. Ah, I did not know that. Then that’s worth going for.

Final Thoughts

This marks our last venture in Nintendo 64 gaming for a few weeks until we play the port of Ocarina of Time that came with The Wind Waker. The last few weeks of gaming have really made me miss my own console and games.

I guess it’s one of those things with trade-ins. In my time I have sold off a lot of games that I am now beginning to regret and will now start to peruse eBay and Amazon Marketplace to find such lost games like Gregory Horror Show, Pikmin, Pikmin 2, Bully and Kingdom Hearts.

Game 30: Perfect Dark

Posted: February 17, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 431/1001 according to the list

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 2000
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Okay we’re going for a bit of a Rare overdose but we promise that this is the last of their games which we will be covering for a while. Maybe…

Perfect Dark was originally released on May 2000 and is seen by many as being the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye 007 since it used an updated version of the same engine as well as utilising many of the same gameplay elements. The main difference is of course the plot where aliens take the place of the typical Bond villains… although considering they must be running out of plot ideas it is only a matter of time.

Our Playthrough

Thanks to Kat (hello again) we had access to most of the missions to have playthrough and gave a wide variety of them a go. Also, since this did take a lot from Goldeneye 007 we had to give the multiplayer a good going over since (as we will discuss when we play those games) it did inspire a lot in the Timesplitter series.

Our Thoughts

Where do you stand on James Bond one day fighting aliens? I was about to say something about realism, but James Bond already isn’t. All I can say is that our former prince consort wasn’t one, although he was apparently used as Bond villain in the past. I am more worried about suddenly representing James Bond as being a woman. When it comes down to the feel of the character and their missions there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Costume changes, silenced pistol, British accent I mean the list goes on. They even have similar first names. And even in the level designs, the endless corridors and enemies popping up out of nowhere are similar.

But when it comes to that, Perfect Dark does feel better. Better textures, more variation in looks so you know where you are and everything fitting together a little bit better. I would also argue that the variety and playability of the level-specific gadgets is vastly superior. On many levels it was far more player friendly. In the same way they also invested a lot more in the storytelling, I guess they felt they did not need to rely on people playing it having seen the film in order to get it. It may have helped that this had a more futuristic setting therefore meaning here would automatically be a greater level of intrigue rather than the obligatory ‘save the world by shooting the man with the fetish for gold paint’. There is actual motivation; something which is further elaborated on in the fantastic prequel Perfect Dark Zero as well as the novelizations which take place before this game. The latter of which you know better, but yeah, I agree, the game is easier to play, it’s easier to know what to do and where to go and it feels more like a story than a collection of separate scenes.

This begs the question though of why Goldeneye 007 is placed on a pedestal much higher than Perfect Dark. It must come down to personal taste but I am actually going to be playing more of Perfect Dark after this write-up but I was relieved that we had filled our 5 hour quota. So much is more relatable as a gamer whereas James Bond has always felt cold and aloof. I suspect it’s more that Goldeneye 007 was first, rather than it being the best.

Multiplayer is the one area this game really shines in comparison. As you may recall, we were negative about that in our Goldeneye 007 discussion, where it seemed tacked on at the last moment (and in fact, it was). Absolutely. This had a small element of character customisation which was appreciated (imagine a grey alien head on the body of a sexy woman wearing a red cocktail dress) as was the number of different modes. The best thing about the multiplayer, however, was the AI characters you could play against. This was a feature missing from Goldeneye 007 that could have made it a whole lot better. It means you’re playing together, adding some more fun elements to it.

And there’s nothing like being screamed at to stay in the zone because of the king of the hill. It did not help that you shot me to “see if you could”. We were on the same team! Aren’t we supposed to be testing this game? See what you can and can’t do and how it works? You deserved that stabbing you got later. Sure… That level sucked anyway, with all the rocket launchers. None of which I got to use.

Another great feature of this game was the sound. The voice-overs were very well executed during gameplay (although the common usage of “why me” when you shoot someone in the spleen got slightly tiresome). But the real kudos does belong to the music. It seemed to take a lot of inspiration from futuristic cinema and it changed in tempo and pitch depending on which area you entered and how likely you were to encounter danger. It’s a fairly boring thing to mention but for me it really stood out. It’s a good way of adding atmosphere without spelling it out – it’s something that often didn’t consciously get to me

The graphics, as mentioned, have been improved as well. Where in Goldeneye 007, they’re the well known slightly pixellated walls that get repetitive and look bad, Perfect Dark starts you out on a heli-pad, with a gorgeous city back drop, moon low in the sky, and even when you get it the environment keeps looking nice. Things are repeated, of course, but there’s a lot of variety at many points. There is also a great variety of stages you get to play in. During one level there is a wind turbine which dominated a portion of the sky whereas in another you are infiltrating Area 51 with obligatory aliens and scientific instruments.

Is there a dam to bungee jump off? Not exactly, but there is a floating computer you need to protect. That’s similar. Ah yes, the obligatory protect the headless chicken mission. There’s this computer that follows you at one point that holds a doctor’s brain (or something), with freaky eyes on its screen. You need to get this computer out without it being destroyed. Hard enough, considering how easy it dies, but then, like often happens in these games, this computer runs straight into the enemies to get shot, instead of hanging back so they can’t get to it. Those eyes did freak me out when I was trapped with it in an elevator. You could always put on your night-vision to blind yourself. I still know he’s there though… staring at my hot female physique as I shoot shotgun-wielding lady assassins in the head. Don’t worry; he left when you turned off the N64

Anyway, it’s a good game, certainly a step up from Goldeneye 007, its clear predecessor. Better multiplayer, the important thing for me here, better sound and graphics, tighter gameplay and a more involving story. Rare knew how to improve its game.

Final Thoughts

Having played this game so early it is likely that we will be referring back to this… a lot. I am really looking forward to all the upcoming first-person shooters since this has really whetted my appetite. Watch out Halo, Metroid Prime, Half-Life 2 and the rest of you. Pong and Beyond is coming.

Game 29: Banjo-Kazooie

Posted: February 14, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 364/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platformer
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Whilst Goldeneye 007 may be Rare’s most famous and highly rated game I think it is fair to say that Banjo-Kazooie may be the epitome of what makes a Rare game. It’s cute cartoon visuals and wide array of collectables have somewhat become major features  of their later game such as the already-reviewed Viva Pinata.

Although we appear to have now dealt with most of the games on this developed by Rare we still have Perfect Dark (coming very soon!) and one of the Banjo-Kazooie sequels. It is also a fair bet that we may have to get our hands on Kinect Sports one day when there is an update of the list.

Our Thoughts

So for the past few days, we’ve been playing as a bear with a bird on his back. I cannot help but feel that’s telling. I still have no idea why Kazooie is in Banjo’s backpack. It’s like in the opening sequence… she’s hanging in the backpack on a hat stand and is unable to get out; PETA should be alerted.

To be honest, that bird seems like it’d get lost if you let it go out on its own. I think Banjo needs Kazooie more than the other way round. Well, he does need him for several manoeuvres, but mostly Kazooie seems to enjoy hiding in the backpack and making smart ass comments. As I said, it’s very familiar.

Anyway, this is one of those game mascots where you really do have to wonder how it worked so well. Also, what on earth were the guys at Rare smoking when they came up with it? When the game first came out I thought Banjo-Kazooie was a mutant.

Then there are the supporting characters which work so well. Like Gruntilda (the evil witch who kidnaps your sister) when she interjects random rhyming couplets as you trundle through the hub-world. Also there’s Gruntilda’s sister who also appears in corners and sewage pipes telling us about her sister’s habits. Who seems to have absolutely no other use? She looks pretty in the tutu? I’m glad to hear you lowered your standards even further.

Anyway, then there’s the mole who helps you out teaching you new moves, and over-exciting cauldrons who transport you between places. Bottles is such a sweetie, I do not understand why Kazooie hates him so… I don’t think Kazooie likes anyone all that much. She must love Banjo… despite earlier comments… that sounds wrong

Since this was the other major platformer released for the N64 the comparison really does need to be made. How do you feel this stood up next to Super Mario 64?

I think in a way it works better. It certainly has more character – nicer environments, more colourful and interesting characters, it’s a bit more fun. On the other hand, Super Mario 64 has the tighter gameplay – the mission structure helps you focus on what you should be doing, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses far more on exploration and almost luck to find what you need.

One way which I think this may work better is because of all the collectables. I think it does, it means you have to go out there and find anything. 5 birds, 100 notes, 2 honeycomb pieces in each level and 100 jigsaw pieces overall. As well as mumbo jumbos who appear to talk about bubblegum when you give them to the shaman. It’s weird when you turn into a termite. Yeah, but is of course necessary to solve the puzzle. (solve a few actually) But that’s where the difference lies – Super Mario 64 focuses on missions and completing tasks, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses on exploration.

I guess a lot of people focus on Super Mario 64 because it was one of the first to do most of the things used in Banjo-Kazooie. This game then found a way to update a lot of the things introduced in it. In their own way yeah. This is most obvious with the camera controls. Yeah, while occasionally a bit awkward, it’s far easier to move around and keep focused on where you want it. It’s only awkward when there is a wall in the way, something which afflicts camera controls to this very day. The other annoyance is that there are places where the camera ‘locks’ and you can’t move it at all. While it may help you not get the camera in an awkward position, it also makes it harder to get to an angle that feels better.

The graphics are also a point. They feel more detailed in this game, and while still retaining some cartoony edge, the worlds seem larger because of it. Not only do they feel larger but also lusher. This is helped by a group of interesting enemies that are as interesting as any friendly character. I was just about to mention them. The enemies all interact with you in their own way, even talking with you about how they are about to hurt you. The shark on the second level is a perfect example of this, and he is incredibly annoying as it is hard to kill him. You have to poop eggs on him but he disappears before you can land the final blow. While he is of course guarding one important collectable, one of the dinosaur birds who keep managing to get stuck in a place where they need rescue. I think it’s because Gruntilda had their wings pulled off. And put arms on instead? Ok, she had them plucked. Whatever, either way it’s mean. The way they scream for help makes my heart melt. I know.

This really is one of the games that I was most looking forward to having a go with. I do believe there was a good reason for that. It’s a lovely game with a lot of character and all of it works well together.

Final Thoughts

As said, this is a lovely platformer, at what’s probably the highlight of the genre. It’s funny and cute at times, there’s a lot of character, the collectibles allow for a lot of replay value and finishing the game will, quite simply, take you a long, long time. And those collectibles being required to go on makes it even more interesting. It’s a good game, and thanks to its roots, more interesting and charming than many of its competitors on the list. More games in the series are forthcoming – stay tuned for more!

Game 28: Planescape: Torment

Posted: February 11, 2011 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 416/1001 according to the list

Genre: RPG
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Black Isle Studios
Publisher: Interplay Entertainment

Vigilant readers of this blog may have realised that the last six games that we covered were all exclusively found on a Nintendo-made console. As you can probably guess we both felt the need for a change of venue when choosing the next game to cover. At the time of writing this we were close to Jeroen’s birthday so he chose an RPG which is loves very much indeed (and that is not only because I got it for him for Christmas 2 years ago).

Since this is a genre and gaming engine he knows well the majority of the write-up for Planescape: Torment will be done by him since he knows more of the technical details. I will be interjecting mentions of necrophilia and prostitution (seriously).

Our Playthrough

We played through the game for a few hours, finishing the introductory mausoleum area and dealing with some quests and things in the Hive. We’ve also had a lot of discussions – I’ve finished the game several times already, so I knew quite a bit about it. This way I could show and explain some things we wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.

Our Thoughts

What can change the nature of a man? Is it my homemade Anjou pear cake? That’s not an option of the game, but it gives many different options… love, hate, belief, knowledge, regret… I’m sorry, we never got far enough for that to matter to you. I guess that’s a slight issue with our 5 hour system but there are so many games to play and to be played that we can’t complete them all, despite how much we may love some of them. Yeah, and this is also why we’re going to play some games further down the line when we feel like it.

There are few games that have inspired that for me but I know for a fact that Planescape: Torment will be one for you. To be fair, it always was for me, and I’ve loved it since I first played it and probably know more of it than what is necessary. This is why everything, apart from my genius introduction containing inspired words of genius (ok maybe not) has been left to you. This is your soapbox Jeroen; show our readers how much you love this game. Where do we start?

First, I love the Infinity Engine, which was used in several games, with Planescape: Torment being one of its peaks – Baldur’s Gate 2, which we’ll discuss in the future, the other, and the Icewind Dale series just being plain fun. The gameplay is traditional, and may not have all you want, but it works. It’s controls are easy, you can pause whenever if you feel the need but mostly there is a real-time combat system that makes the action flow fast. The combat system works but is in no way a highlight unlike the gameplay that lies outside it.

Planescape: Torment has excellent scripting facilities, which show through in the cutscenes used, but even more so in the dialogs. They are huge, funny, highly readable, and while the game contains several novels worth of text, they come together in far more easy to read dialogs. Even though you need to keep your eye on them or else you’ll miss out. It’s a game that doesn’t follow the rule of show, don’t tell… it tells a lot, but the graphics rarely match.

I do love Morte aka a floating skull who follows you around and wants to have sexytime with female reanimated corpses. Well, he wants more than just that, but he’s a skull who enjoys life, despite being dead for probably several centuries. I guess that’s how he learnt all those fantastic insults. The characters, especially joinable PCs, are set up amazingly, written with a lot of personality. Morte is the one you encounter first, and he’s possibly the best – both as a fighter and as a comic relief. He’s witty, lecherous, and when he doesn’t want to make out with female zombies, he’s looking at the skeletons so he can use their bodies for himself. He misses having arms. Despite this his backstory is more complex than that and is slightly sad – the game title contains ‘Torment’ for a reason. Morte is a character where it shows, and for the sake of spoilers, I won’t explain why. Good show.

On to your goal – in this RPG we’re not going to save the country or world, or save girlfriends, or anything like that. No, the story is that you have to die. That’s it. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You see, you’re an amnesiac ugly, scarred dude who can’t die. He regenerates his own wounds and when he dies, he just wakes up in a nearby safe place and you continue playing. This makes the game easy, in a sense, but could also be said to just be a good way to prevent an endless load-save cycle.

Even though it does sound like a bit of a cheat (even just a lil bit) it fits in well with the general lore of the Planescape world. With the exception of the lush graphics which accompany the spells you (or your mage category companions) conjure this is probably the best aspect of the game and does help to set it apart from a lot of other RPGs. I mean as much as I loved Final Fantasy X (the only game to move me to tears) it’s mythology amounts to a fraction found in this. When you consider that this as non-linear as you can get for a pre-2000 RPG it’s pretty impressive.

It sort of is. Now, the mythology does get quite a boost from its outside source here, although it’s likely they’d have tried to get as much of it in the game even if it wasn’t there. But the game is based on a Dungeons & Dragons setting, appropriately called Planescape. It’s not the general sort of fantasy world, but it’s got steampunk influences with ideas of alternative worlds, the afterlife, and a far larger focus on thinking, philosophy and talking instead of fighting than you get in most normal fantasy RPGs. This game is one where the designers have done their best to translate it to the game and it works well, feels natural and unforced.

The game itself was created by some of the giants in the western story-based RPG world (as opposed to the sandbox games like Oblivion or the eastern RPGs like Final Fantasy series). Fallout, another game we’ll be covering down the line, being another one of their successes.

Now, down to a bit more mundane things, the looks and sound (yay). The graphics of the game are interesting. The major hindrance I’ve seen mentioned more often is the low resolution of the game – 640×480 feels very zoomed in, and mods that were later created to allow you to play the game in a higher resolution allows for seeing more of the prettiness. The spells, as mentioned before, are especially pretty. While even the mundane ones look awesome, the high level spells feature amazing movies and graphics that impress and suit their power. That one where your enemy is dragged to hell (sideline: Drag Me To Hell is an excellent movie) is especially impressive for a minor spell.  The one that really takes away the award is Celestial Host. It contains so many beautifully rendered stages with vengeful angels that culminate with the appearance of a rather pissy dragon and deservedly so. It’s all the heavens coming down on your enemy. I thought that was the meteor storm one… different type of heaven.

The graphics outside that are good. Sure, somewhat dated, but the style allows it to age, and the (mostly) hand-painted background in the areas your visit are gorgeous. The characters are pre-rendered sprites that are somewhat limited in what they can do, but do allow for better aging than what proper 3D graphics allowed at that time. The great thing about the graphics is that, in many ways, they are stylised. That way they do not age as quickly as other games which were attempting to use the best graphics available at the time. I mean look at games like the first Broken Sword or Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, they won’t graphically age for well over a decade. Maybe even longer. It also helps that most of the creatures and items you meet are so ‘out there’ – if you have nothing to compare to, then how can they look dated? Such as The Lady of Pain… who may or may not be a trio of levitating squirrels. Yes, you will have to play the game to get that reference and it’s explained further if you know the campaign setting.

The sounds were described as very good as well, and I can echo that. Walking past a bar makes it feel that way, as you hear the crowd talk. The music is a lovely classical soundtrack with a theme for every major character and several areas, and a sweeping battle track. As outstanding, however, is the voice acting. It’s done well, and you’ll see why when you see the names of some of the people involved. Jennifer Hale is a staple – she’s done lots of video games, including I believe voices for all the Infinity Engine games. But then there are bigger names. Tony Jay, Michael T. Weiss, John deLancie (Q from Star Trek, Rob Paulsen (Yakko Warner from Animaniacs), Sheena Easton. Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson). It’s an epic cast, and yet barely publicized. The box art did not help things much there… The box art is horrible in that sense, and you shouldn’t let that frighten you. It’s the main character (although a rather bad version of him), and he’s ugly, that’s the point. It’s what you get when you’ve lived that long. But the inclusion of a few other characters would’ve worked better.

It’s an amazing game. I’ve always liked it. It’s not exactly my cup of tea but I really can see why it got most of it’s accolades.

Final Thoughts

I love this game, and consider it one of the best RPGs and games ever made. Few are beating this combination of story-telling and gameplay. It’s interesting, intellectual, has a challenge, gives you choice but tells a lot. The graphics work, the sound is good, the gameplay is very nice, but the story and storytelling is what stands out.

As an aside

I love the Infinity Engine games, as said before. One of their major plus points is that throughout the years, people have found out a lot about the games and all the datafiles have been analysed. Because of this, and some design decisions made when creating the games to make patching easy, it’s easy to mod the games and write extra content for it, as well as to browse the files and find out how several things worse, another thing I just enjoy doing.

The modding, however, has led to an even greater amount of possibilities. I’ll go into a lot of recommendations when we get to Baldur’s Gate (2) about the possibilities for that game, but Planescape Torment has a few I’d personally recommend. First, to fix all the bugs, get the Planescape Torment Fix Pack. Some fixes might be debatable, but overall they work.

Tweaks and extra quests are always a dubious thing, as you’ll also want to experience parts of the game as they are, but the Tweak Pack will remove some frustrating elements from the game and allow access to a few more. PS:T Unfinished Business restores several quests and other items the developers didn’t have time to finish fully and were removed from the game. It’s very much worthwhile to try out later to get some more content in the game.

Last, the resolution issue I mentioned the game has is also fixed in a mod, and it makes the game just that much more playable. There’s two parts to this. First, there’s the Widescreen mod, which actually increases the resolution. Second, Ghostdog’s UI mod adds to and updates the graphics to work and look better on higher resolutions. Both worth a good try.

Another thing to promote here is the Icewind Dale series. Both parts are not as great as the other mentioned games, but these too have several mods. For all the Infinity Engine games, the mod list has a full list. Icewind Dale is also fairly underappreciated here compared to the Baldur’s Gate series, but it’s a nice hack and slash game with lots of looting and simple fun times. The story is still nice, the graphics are, it’s all good, and if you’re interested in the above games, go for Icewind Dale too. You won’t regret it.

Game 27: Mario Kart 64

Posted: February 8, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 305/1001 according to the list

Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

As we know, Mario loves his racing, and he loves racing with his friends. After doing so for the first time on the SNES, he returns on the Nintendo 64 with full 3D tracks, more options and paths, different weapons, more variety, and detours that you didn’t think of before. It’s prettier, nicer, faster, better, more interesting. Right?

Our Playthrough

We did single player, we did multiplayer. Kat joined in for a bit to try three player gaming. In other words, we tried to see all there is to see – at easy and hard difficulty. With and without falling in random lakes, holes and other deep places.

Our Thoughts

This game explains why it’s important to have some sense of reliable, realistic physics even in a fantasy-based game. Only you could fall through the top of a wall (or find out such a physics glitch exists). It happens. Apparently, with the Bowser’s Castle barriers, only the sides are solid – you fall through the top. Then again it did annoy me no end that a carpet, dirt track and wooden bridge all have the same physics befitting polished marble. Yeah, and banana peels only make you slip ten seconds after you’ve raced past them. Don’t forget the snowmen filled with nitro glycerine. Ledges you can fall off from a few metres away. And the moment you even graze certain sections you tumble into a lake…

It looks nicer than the SNES game, there’s some improvement, but it just feels off at times, which makes the game a lot harder. It is true that with the later editions in the series like Mario Kart Wii and Double Dash we have become spoilt. Bear in mind this was the franchise’s first foray into 3D. True, and you can’t make the physics too complicated on the relatively limited hardware. So considering what they had to deal with… they did a lot with it, but you could find better physics on F-Zero X. Absolutely. It just gets frustrating to play at times,  an effect that increases exponentially as you get into the harder courses.  It matters little on the simple racing tracks, but when you reach places like the aforementioned Bowser’s Castle, it’s hard.

Then there is the total nightmare that is Yoshi Valley. Don’t even start.  I finished dead last, by a large margin. It was a good experiment in track construction. The idea of multiple pathways through it could have actually been a real boon of a track. In reality though, it didn’t turn our that great and is in fact an almighty mess that is a chore to play. The lack of barriers only makes it harder, as half the time, trying to pick a route means you just fall in between without any way of getting out. The extra bombs strewn about the place in Versus Mode doesn’t help much either.

Interesting note: if 3-4 players are playing at the same time it is unable to play the music so the only soundtrack is breathing and the occasional curse word. The latter is quite frequent and I’m sure with a nice beat, it could lead to a song that’ll top the charts. It looks nice, there’s nice ideas about multiple tracks, different routes, with areas of the track that are there to explore without it leading you anywhere, but as a whole, the game feels unpolished. Due to the limitations, it’s not as good as the later games, and that gets annoying. It’s a work in progress, and interesting in that sense.

Now for something completely different: positives. Sound, when it’s there, is good. The voicing makes it more alive. The sound effects are good. It’s nice. Although I did get a little bit tired of hearing Mario cheer every time he managed to overtake me. Because he’s better? Just because he was incredibly vocal about it. The music, as always, is really good too. This makes it more of a shame when it gets taken away in multiplayer.

Another good thing is the atmosphere of the track and how it impacts your races. One interesting example is the train in Kalimari Desert. One or two of them drive around on a track, and if you’re unlucky, they’ll pass just as you have to cross the railway. Then there are the penguins in Sherbert land which look adorable. The cuteness factor is multiplied threefold when you hit them and they make a little squeaky noise. Something we both loved to try out, of course. It was intentional when we did so. Which sort of leads us onto the graphics. The Mario style has always been beautifully rendered in the games and this is no exception. Yeah. The environments are beautiful and the creatures, where appropriate, cute. And the touches they’ve put in, both in the characters and on the outside, can be amazing. (who is also present in the Wii remake of the track) (Yeah.  Which is slightly more playable, as we discussed before.)
This may read a little bit one-sided in terms of thoughts but this really is a good racing game. It does strike a good balance between challenging and fun. It has a charming personality too. It just that the good sides of the game are all of the generic kind – looks good, sounds good – while there’s some specific issues with the downside of the game. It’s charming, it’s fun, but sometimes you need to be careful to avoid the tracks and areas where the game doesn’t work as well.

Final Thoughts

I would like to personally apologise for all the Mario games in the first 27 games, we’re going to steer clear of him for a while after this game. Then again there will be a lot of Final Fantasy and Zelda titles soon, just a fyi.

In terms of this game I do believe that we have been very harsh when judging Mario Kart 64 as we have done so in a more modern context. It is good, but there are a lot of racing games out there better than this one especially the Mario Kart games that followed this one.

Game 26: Super Mario 64

Posted: February 5, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 326/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platform
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Heads. I won. It’s time for a little bit of Super Mario 64. Yeah, and I don’t mind. The first real Mario 3D game. The game that moved it from a 2D platformer to a 3D action platformer that’s far more mission based and less linear. It also features far less mushrooms, so it’s a bit less interesting by default.

The Princess baked Mario a cake. Bowser was also hungry, and so he captured her and hid the stars you need to get to him to free the Princess in a number of paintings, inhabited by both the familiar old cast of friends of enemies and a number of new ones.

Our Playthrough

We had the fortune of being able to play a game with all 120 stars found on it (thanks Kat or one of Kat’s brothers), meaning that we had a chance to explore the castle and try out most of the levels and a couple of different missions.

Our Thoughts

I want cake, I wonder what sort of cake the Princess made for Mario. Why does Princess Peach bake cakes anyway? Doesn’t she have Toads to do that for her? It’s clearly more important than ruling a full Kingdom and that’s a proper kingdom, not just a figurehead position. Even though there’s no king we see either. In that way it appears to be more of a principality… like Monaco without the Formula 1. The Mario Kart series? Touché.

It’s a big country anyways. With its tennis courts, kart racing venues and whatever other sports facilities Peach builds in order to scratch that uncontrollable itch of hers to lose weight. Too much cake I venture.

And different lands in several different versions of the RPGs as well, in which she’s as often the damsel in distress as part-time hero. Still, this game keeps the world far more contained, by only taking place in Peach’s Castle and its environment even though there’s no way to get in or out of it except for one pipe that disappears immediately. Apart from the magical portraits; I do love the ripple effect as you jump through them. Are they portals to another worlds, or do you just jump into the painting?

It looks nice, yeah. It all looks nice to be honest. One amazing thing is that this is 15 years old and yet it does not look it quite yet. Maybe it helps that the graphics stayed the same in the DS port. You can tell there’s less polygons, it’s all not as complex as it could be and the environments are quite sparse – you can tell the difference between it and, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2 – but yeah, the graphics work great on the DS’s smaller screens.

Yes, there is definitely a difference I grant you but as a game it really has not aged too badly, especially when you compare it to the likes of Lylat Wars or Dune II. The bright and cartoony looks help a lot with that. True, but you have to admit that a lot of the things this game pioneered already feel very well perfected – the camera system especially.

The camera system bugged me at times. While you can set it yourself and make it better that way, it’s not yet smart enough to always do it automatically. I loved it when you saw the cameraman in the mirror. That’s a cute detail – there’s a Lakitu following your every move. It rarely shows – this and the introduction explanation of the camera are two of the few times – but it makes it a bit more… well, Mario. It does take a while to learn how to control it but once you do it’s actually really well done – even if the C-Buttons on the N64 controller do not feel that natural to use to move the camera. Yeah, you can tell it needed work, but once it works, it works well.

Same with the open world feel of each of the courses. It’s so much better in the Galaxy games, but it works very well here. It feels pretty open, but again, on having to develop it, the boundaries feel artificial at times. One of them is during the giant world, where the water just stops. There’s no real indication of where or why, you just can’t swim any further and the water is darker (similar in a way to Super Mario Sunshine.) I never understood why all the courses appears to be floating… that’s Mario’s world. From the start, there have been endless pits in the levels. Very true.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am deeply in love with the first Super Mario Galaxy I would happily say that this is the best of the Mario platformers that I’ve played. It’s just so iconic. Some things are done better by other games, and the Mario games have evolved, but this is a good, basic game, missions, open world, 3D… it all works together well here. And there’s a lost penguin! Which you threw away! It throws itself away every time you get hit, jump wrong, or anything like that. I didn’t want to throw it. Likely story.

Final Thoughts

Have we peaked too early? This is widely regarded as one of the best games ever released (if not the best platformer) and we are only 26 games in. Super Mario 64 really is a great game and I would suggest that anyone who is yet to play this to try the DS port. It’s a very good substitute for the N64 version.

Game 25: Goldeneye 007

Posted: February 2, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 345/1001 according to the list

Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release:1997
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

The latest in a long line of classics (thanks again Kat) that are covering in this blog. Goldeneye 007 is the first of a rather select few of movie tie-in games that we will be featuring and is by far the most successful. It has been often crowned the best computer game ever released and if it is not at the top it is definitely very high up.

At the time it received near perfect scores left, right and centre and since then has been the influence for every game since that involves either stealth or a gun-based multiplayer. Whether or not you like the game itself you are bound to have loved those which followed in it’s wake.

Our Playthrough

Since I had previously owned this game it was mostly left to Jeroen to play through most of the missions. We had a good bash at the multiplayer though, if they code it we will game.

Our Thoughts

James Bond it is. I think I’m rather like him. Handsome, smart, fast, and with a license to kill. Well, nearly like him then. I will not rise to the bait… I am strong and can avoid the obvious gag.

So let’s go beyond the simple choice of whether to flatter or shatter illusions and talk about Rare’s Goldeneye 007. One of many iconic games that we will see by this developer. And much-loved, one of the huge games of its day. It invented a lot of what we would commonly associated with shoot ’em ups. As well as most action games and some FPSs. And did a lot to move the genre to the console as well. It pioneered stealth and a truly revolutionary multi-player move.

Yet, even when I used to own it over 10 years ago, I hated it. It is almost forbidden for a gamer to say that, but I never liked it. Even now when I play it I can appreciate what it did for games on the whole, it is truly one of the landmark games in the industry’s history,  however, I was relieved when we actually stopped playing it. For me, it’s the controls that are the most frustrating. Partially this is probably because of the age of the game and where they started, but it is still annoying. They feel slightly counter-intuitive, but are also inaccurate – it’s hard to aim or even walk accurately somewhere. This isn’t helped by the lack of any sort of help – there’s no clue, for example, how to copy a key, you just have to keep looking for anything that helps, and then spend ten minutes trying to figure out how to use a ‘key analyser’, all of this while being set upon by infinitely respawning enemies. The upside to the infinitely respawning enemies is the ability to execute an infinite amount of crotch-shots. Something almost mesmerizing about watching them double over in pain. If you can manage it. Not helping is the thing that is a problem of all FPS games of its day – due to technical limitations, corridors look the same, and the reuse of textures and such can make it harder to find your way around – you get lost more easily, not knowing what’ll show up where. Due to the lack of hints on what to do or how to do it, it gets frustrating after some time.

This is overtly negative to be fair as the multiplayer mode is actually good fun. Oh yes, the multiplayer game is great. So is the single player mode, as those frustrations are really the only ones I had, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. It suffers from the problem that it can be hard to know where the other player is due to the radar but it’s great fun (much better than when I used to play it by myself). The radar is challenging at times, but helps (and I wished I could have it in single player).  And it’s fairly balanced, in part due to the complete lack of health regeneration. You want to avoid shots… and if you know you’re about to die, taking people with you, even if it doesn’t take off full health, is a worthwhile tactic – they’ll be easier to get next time. I did that to you with a rocket launcher in the face if I remember correctly.  For some reason I always prefered to play multiplayer as Jaws. (As in the guy from Moonraker not the shark, although that would be awesome) It’s hard to say why it does work, but multiplayer shines, and that’s the one thing you must try when playing the game.

One thing to note, which is quite interesting, is that the multiplayer mode was actually an afterthought. One programmer sat on his own for a few days to add it in, but it wasn’t originally part of the work done, which is why it’s even more amazing that it works so well, but possibly also shows how the simplicity makes it easier to pick up and have fun with it. I guess that does help to explain why some of the levels involved felt a little unfinished. Yeah, roughly build to provide a challenge, but not to be as visually attractive or expansive. Something that seems to afflict the game in general anyway – you get the feeling there should be more to see and do in some levels. Some of the levels do feel very small indeed with the actual objectives to be fairly limited.  I mean the first level tasks you with bungee jumping off of a dam… I guess that’s more explained if you know the film. And apparently, if you read up on cut stuff, the original goal was to get a speedboat and get supplies from another island before you can do the bungee jump to escape. That would make more sense.

One thing about this game I am thankful for is them not including that god awful theme song by Tina Turner. I liked that at the time. Seriously? I can only name a handful of Bond songs that I really liked and Goldeneye really is not one of them. I was ten, eleven? It was a huge hit back then.
Even though, Justin Bieber has huge hits. I still want to throw a paperweight into the TV screen whenever he comes on. DON’T! I just got a new one (this is the first game we played on it). Would make me very sad. WE just got a new one, once I get employed I am paying for my half of it. I will not have this argument with you again. Just load up the next game so we can forget we ever tried Goldeneye 007‘s single player. Sure dear. Perfect Dark? It’s pretty much the successor game, except that it doesn’t have James Bond in it. I’m more in the mood for Super Mario 64. Toss a coin? Sure

Final Thoughts

Once hailed as the perfect game of the time, and there’s no doubt that this game was great compared to what came before it. Good multiplayer, a nice single player story, something that ties together well. These days, the graphics are, of course, dated and the controls aren’t great, but this remains a good game. Although, as a PC gamer, I’m tempted to say that in part, this does follow trends set in the PC world earlier. Still, being able to apply this to the console, in its own way, is a revelation, and one often followed up on and improved.