Tag Archives: Suikoden

Grinding Down’s most wanted videogames in 2012

The other night, as I curled up in bed under the heated blanket and the security of wrappings, I began to think about the games I’m most excited for in 2012. And sadly, I could only come up with two titles off the top of my head. That can’t be right…right? I mean, I know 2011 was a huge year full of big ol’ videogames, but there had to be some other solid stuff still in the pipeline. And yeah, after scouring the Interwebz, I found a few more that I’d like to try out in the new year. Whew. And so I now list ’em below for your convenience:

Animal Crossing 3DS

Not sure if Animal Crossing 3DS is going to be the actual title of the latest edition of Nintendo’s cutesy life sim, but at this point, it might as well be since we’ve had nothing else to go with for so very long. But I’m so ready to get back into the swing of daily living, collecting furniture and talking to neighbors and fishing and special town events and so on. Heck, after the lame Pilotwings Resort and the ultra difficult Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, this will probably be the third retail game I purchase for my Nintendo 3DS. Crazy, huh?

Please come out sooner than later.

Borderlands 2

Pew pew pew. I loved Borderlands for its setting and shooting and silly characters, not its story, and that’s all I’m looking forward to in the sequel, more setting and shooting and silly characters. Minus evil Claptraps though. Hey, if they add a story in this time, that’s even better, but I’m not expecting much. I just want to get back on Pandora, shoot some bandits, and collect a crazy amount of guns. No solid release date yet for this beast.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I don’t know. It’s more fantasy-themed RPGing with a really generic name. I get a Fable II vibe from it with a stronger attention to combat, but with a much larger world to explore. And you can be sneaking, too. I’m in.

Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century

Sigh. I was so excited when I caught wind of a new Suikoden game coming out. And then I learned it was only for one system, and a stupid one at that. I think I’m almost at the point that I’ll buy a stupid PSP just to play the newest Suikoden game. Those things should be dirt cheap now that the PS Vita is coming out next month. Maybe? Maaaaaaybe…

Game of Thrones

Not the RTS game, silly. There’s an RPG coming out just before season two kicks off on HBO in April. In this one, we get to play as new characters–one’s a shapeshifter and the other a red priest–and see some known Westeros events from their eyes. I have to wonder if it’ll feel too videogamey for its own good, but maybe it’ll be fun. I know George R.R. Martin has been involved in the project somewhat and even ends up making a cameo as a maester (with glasses). Given my love for the books and the show and the many, many characters, I am a little worried that I will over-scrutinize the thing and hate it for not being perfect.

Fez

A puzzle platformer with a unique style and perspective-shifting mechanic to it. The protagonist, a creature named Gomez, rocks a fez of its own and is obsessed with collecting hats, which sounds about right to me. Fez will be out on XBLA in early 2012, so maybe this month, maybe next month, or maybe the one after that. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it nonetheless.

Now, many of you are probably wondering why I haven’t included such heavy-hitters like Mass Effect 3 or BioShock Infinite on my latest do want list. Well, first things first, I’d probably have to finish Mass Effect 2 to get excited for the next adventure, and while I did eventually learn to enjoy BioShock, that kind of gun gameplay is too stressful for me. Too many times did I just sit in a corner of a room, listening to the noises around me, afraid to move a centimeter forward.

But what about y’all? What new games coming out in 2012 are you most excited for? Tell me below and convince me I should want them, too.

For the love of spritework

I’ve been thinking about sprites lately–no, not those kind–and why I absolutely love them, mainly to the point where a new game in 2011 with classic spritework is much more appealing to me than, say, just another modern title with all the latest tech, such as fancy lighting, particle effects, draw distance, and so on. Yup, even more than Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s hard to say if it’s all based on nostalgia or if it’s the artist in me appreciating that these moving images and interactive items on-screen were hand-crafted to be as is, to be simple yet recognizable, to still be able to stir emotions.

For nostalgia’s sake, I definitely grew up on sprite-based games. Earthbound, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Secret of Evermore, Mega Man X3, NHL ’94, Breath of Fire II, Secret of Mana–really, the list could go on. Blame this on the fact that the SNES was my first console ever, and that I ate up a lot of games on it. It’s where I became a gamer, grew my skills; I knew only sprites, and I had a hard time letting go. I think a lot of us did.

One of the first games I ever played on my PlayStation 1 was Beyond the Beyond, a strangely named RPG that I had rented for a few days. It tells the story of Finn, a young, unexperienced knight caught up in an ancient war between the Beings of Light and the Warlocks of the Underworld. Fairly traditional, and not just in story–the game, despite being released on an advanced console, looked like something one would play on their SNES. I was excited about this. I wasn’t ready for the future, for 3D gaming, for stuff like Battle Arena Toshinden and movable cameras. It wasn’t a great game, but it looked like what I had already learned to love, and that was enough for me to give it a try. I also fell hard for Suikoden and Suikoden II on the PlayStation, both of which feature gorgeous spritework paired with fantastic tunes.

When I moved on to the PlayStation 2, there were significantly less sprite-based games for that system. Maybe because that console had finally gotten a strong grasp on 3D gaming. A few still got my attention. Odin Sphere was repetitive as hecktown, but dang is it a beauty to behold. Marvel VS. Capcom 2 got a lot of play at friends’ houses. Can’t really think of others, unfortunately.

I’ve recently picked Chrono Trigger back up on the Nintendo DS and am enjoying traveling through time again, even if I’m rubbish at it. This is a game that’s eternal. It looks fabulous, just as it had when it released in August 1995, just as it will in twenty more years, and another thirty after that. These sprites are colorful and charismatic, eye-catching, easy to get. Only can sprites make a giant tick-boss look freaking amazing.

And now, in the current era of gaming systems–Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS–I’m still always on the lookout for good ol’ sprite-based games. And they are still coming out, especially on the handhelds sideline. Really looking forward to Professor Layton’s London Life, which is a bonus add-on for Professor Layton and the Last Specter, coming out this October. It’ll be unlocked from the start, promises over 100 hours of gameplay, and basically screams, “Hey, you like Earthbound? Here’s a new Earthbound!” Mmm mmm, looks delicious.

I dunno. Maybe it is just the artist in me appreciating art over connect polygons. Maybe it’s seeing something that can last a lifetime and beyond. Maybe I just miss being a kid, holed up in my room, a SNES my closest and most constant friend. Do you love sprites or new games still rocking sprites? If so, why? Speak up, Grinding Down readers. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this.

30 Days of Gaming, #26 – Best voice acting

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is infamous for its truculently long loading times, but I actually really liked the game, especially its voiceover work. If anything, that’s what I remember most, Kain narrating his own journey to the Pillars of Nosgoth. Now, I know the topic train for today’s meme entry calls for the “best voice acting,” but there were really too many choices to pick from these days, as the bar has been raised and re-raised over the last few years thanks to titles like L.A. Noire, Mass Effect, and Bioshock. So, instead, I went with a game that had great voice acting though I’m positive nobody would back me up if I called it the best.

As will soon be revealed, I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s a game I’ve played and replayed, discovering new things in it each time and just losing myself in the world and its characters. I can still remember how confused I was when Link switched between the Light World and Dark World, turning into a bunny elf thing, a sad reflection of his inner self. And when he…wait, no. I’m not here to talk about Link’s journey to rescue Zelda from Agahnim, as well as get the Master Sword and three mystical pendants. That’s another blog post, definitely forthcoming.

Transitioning on, when Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain came out in 1996 for the PlayStation, it was like getting an adult version of A Link to the Past. There was blood and violence and cruelty and creepiness, all played in a top-down perspective with a journey across an expansive land where collecting items and power-ups would help the hero explore even further. Plus, you drank blood from unsuspecting humans to regain health. I don’t even remember how I was able to buy it at the sweet age of 13, but I had. Or maybe someone else had for me. Can’t really picture that happening, as the only times I used a neighbor’s help was for getting discounted games from the now extinct Kay Bee Toys, such as Suikoden and Wild Arms. Either way, I had a copy of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and I played it night after night, my best friend over, stretched out on the floor, wide-eyed at the crazy beheadings and bloody swordsmanship. It was crazy times back then.  And while FMVs were a new and cool thing at the time, they were bereft of voice acting. For that glorious work, you had to play the game and discover.

Going back, it’s amazing to hear how similar Kain narrates his journey in an almost Bastion-like way, commenting on items he picks and locales he passes by in real time. It’s hard to say what was more exciting: gaining a new power or hearing Kain’s description of it. Simon Templeman‘s confident, scorned voice does wonders to bringing Kain to life, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s undead. The soundtrack also plays ally, backing Templeman with bells and choir harmonies and ominously held notes. If medieval times had a soundtrack, this is it. Kain is certainly the star of the show in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, but there’s some other spectacular performances to call out, such as Paul Lukather as the ancient and reclusive vampire Vorador and Tony Jay as the cunning puppet-master Mortanius.

Some of my favorite quotes from the game follow. Naturally, they do not read as well as they are heard, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to link to a bunch of YouTube videos. Those interested can certainly seek Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen out to see and hear what it’s like. Right:

“In his life, he was unknown…a petty noble. In death, he was unknown. Yet by choosing oblivion, he restored balance to the land. Shades cast no shadows.” – Ariel

“I am the last Pillar. The only survivor of the Circle of Nine. At my whim, the world will be healed or damned. At my whim.” – Kain

“The world had changed to my eyes. I had not expected such cruelty from the light. For in the embrace of the sun, I could find no comfort, only malice. This would change in time for the worse, along with other thing.” – Kain

I never got to play any of the other games in the series, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but it seems like some of the same voice actors carried over. Might have to try and find a used copy or two. Y’know, just to hear my friends again.

30 Days of Gaming, #20 – Favorite genre

If you thought the answer to this topic was gonna be racing or cooking sims, well…you’ve clearly not been paying much attention to Grinding Down. I’m all about the roleplaying games, but it did take me some years to really get into the genre and stay there, as many JRPGs almost ruined me, as they have almost ruined others before me. Thankfully, standout titles like Suikoden, Suikoden II, and Final Fantasy VII literally blew my genitals, taking me from teenhood to manhood in a matter of dozens of hours, thanks to intricate plots, fantastic battle systems, soaring sounds, elegant pacing, light grinding, addictive gameplay, and endings that still resonate with me to this day. Plus, y’know, they let me play a role in their worlds.

I’ve always been a big reader, and much of the credit can go to my sister Bitsy who, from an early age, passed along books she had already read to me. Many of these turned out to be fantasy novels–works by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony (oh my), and Anne McCaffrey–and it wasn’t too hard to leapfrog from them to more “adult” work, devouring things like The Belgariad series by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and stuff by David Gemmell. Throw in the classics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the entire Discworld series, and well, I was hooked on stories.

And here comes along a genre of videogames that promises epic stories…and more! The majority of RPGs, more often than not, at least five or ten years ago,
were fantasy-themed. Sure, there’s the occasional sci fi-themed RPG, and many could argue that Final Fantasy VII is more space and metal frames than swords and dragons, but these videogames gave all their love to royalty and kingdoms and knights and dragons and magic spells and small-time villages trying to make ends meet before war destroyed everything everywhere. So I ate it up, even the bad meals like Beyond the Beyond and SaGa Frontier. It didn’t matter–I just wanted to be in a realized world, growing as a character, growing into a story.

Character customization is not as important to me as character crafting is. Whenever a new RPG begins and you’re given the chance to mold how your dude or dudette looks, I click around, raise their cheekbones, lighten or dark their skin, find a cool beard, and call it a day. I can easily see that hours upon hours can be spent noodling with dozens of options, but that’s not important to me. Once we’re in the game, spending skill points or focusing on this spell or deciding what kind of armor Mini Paul will wear are the bigger decisions.

While RPGs are my favorite genre, this also can be problematic. On average, a RPG can take around 30 to 40 hours to complete. However, having an addictive personality, I end up playing most RPGs for double that. See: 130 hours logged so far in Dragon Quest IX, over 100 hours for Fallout 3, eighty+ hours for Fallout: New Vegas, and so on. Playing more than one RPG at a time is like juggling balls of fiery acid with no gloves, and yet it’s something I simply can’t avoid.

Last year, I needed a break between some RPGs I was eating up, and so I picked up Mini Ninjas for the Xbox 360, thinking that an action title would be a good change of pace. I completed the game in under five hours. That’s it? I’ve played prologues in RPGs for longer than that (think Suikoden V, people), and I was a bit taken aback at how much quantity I look for in a game these days. Quantity over quality, especially when discussing bug-ridden games like the Fallout series. I don’t care how broken they are…there’s so much stuff to do to distract me from such bummers.

But yeah, RPGs. Love ’em. Always will so long as they continue on, which we all know they will. Can’t wait to see how big and massive Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is gonna be, as well as the multiple choice quiz that is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Sorry, upcoming Cooking Mama 4 for the 3DS…I DON’T GIVE TWO STEAMED CAULIFLOWERS ABOUT YOU.

30 Days of Gaming, #17 – Favorite antagonist

There’s a reason I didn’t just dive into the next topic train from the 30 Days of Gaming meme after the relatively easy previous two topics, and I’d like to think it’s a sound reason. Antagonists, by their very nature, are not meant to be liked. They are the reason the heroes we root for are stressing out so much, crying over dead girlfriends, striving to be a better person, or trying to save the world. Generally, videogame antagonists are one-dimensional, a single being with a single goal and a single way to get to it; this also makes them hard to like, their lack of depth. If only George R.R. Martin wrote every villain, right? Then this would be a different case indeed. SIDE NOTE: I’m doing drawings of characters from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Not every videogame has a clear antagonist. In some occasions, it’s time; on others, it’s your skill level. And that’s okay, not everybody needs to be poked and prodded forward.

I mean, there’s been a ton of antagonists that are memorable, but being remembered is not the same as being liked. Dr. Nefarious from the Ratchet & Clank series was over-the-top and goofy, but a perfect mad scientist to take down in the end. Psycho Mantis did wonders at freaking me out and telling me how many hours I’d logged in Suikoden as he battled Solid Snake. Clockwerk, a large, robotic owl, ends up doing some truly evil things. Gideon Graves gets all Dragon Ball Z-like, going from just an average dickhead to a larger-than-life threat and nearly impossible to beat. I still can’t say with authority if Final Fantasy IX‘s Kuja is a guy or a girl. Saren Arterius is a big jerkbag that released the Reaper fleet back into the galaxy in Mass Effect. Lastly, always fresh in my mind, is Koopa King Bowser, and how jumping over him or running under him–now a rather simple task–was exhilarating those first few times because he was three times Mario’s size and the little plumber that could was taking down Goliath.

Are any of them my favorite? No, never. But they’re still worth writing about, just not lovingly.

REVIEW – GameSpite Quarterly 8, the PlayStation Era

The Sony PlayStation was a system that got me through high school and carried its weight during the early college years; it was a system that seemed to be everything anyone could need, with a library certainly bigger than anticipated, and the power to steal hours upon hours away from my life. Many of my favorite titles call home to the 32-bit console that could: Suikoden, Suikoden II, Jumping Flash!, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and so on. It holds a special part of my soul beneath its silver lid, and that’s me being as honest as possible via a blog post. The dang thing means a lot to my growing up, my dealing with problems and friends and loneliness, and it was also a ton of fun to play, to invest in. I even decked it out with special stickers that came with early issues of PSM, a magazine that I subscribed to for a super long time because I enjoyed reading about my new toy and what it might be handling in the future. It’s been some time since I’ve read anything PlayStation-related in print form, too, which is my way of transitioning to the next paragraph.

The latest issue of GameSpite Quarterly, a simultaneous print and online zine by Jeremy Parish and pals, is all about the PlayStation, making it an instant buy for me, and I’m all the happier for it. The book arrived, and I at first couldn’t tell if I’d ordered, y’know, a book or…a brick. At around 435 pages, this is actually a tome, and there’s plenty of content to absorb, which is what I did over several days. It’s got that potpourri feel to it thanks to numerous authors writing varying articles about strikingly different titles and subjects. In the span of a few pages, GS8 goes from talking about how “mature” Sony got with its advertising to coverage of retro games like The Raiden Project and Final Fantasy Anthology. Content flows in a loose chronological order by game release dates, but at times feels a bit of a mish-mash effort; I’d have preferred a section devoted to game reviews and another to musings and features, but that’s just little ol’ me and my need for everything to be ordered and grouped and properly connected.

As previously mentioned, the library for the Sony PlayStation is huge, and it’s no surprise that not every game gets covered in GS8. I’m sure many frog fans are going to be saddened to learn that there are zero words devoted to Frogger 3D and Frogger II: Swampy’s Revenge. And some titles that I actually wanted to read about deeply, such as Star Ocean: The Second Story, Metal Gear Solid, and Chrono Cross, were only given a single paragraph of love. Disappointing, sure. Blockbusters like Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider get the expected amount of coverage, and I particularly found myself immersed in Tomm Hulett’s “The 7 Deadly Sins of Xenogears,” a religiously in-depth analytical look at a game I never got to play. For the most part, the majority of the games covered get a small amount of text to go along with a huge, pixelated screenshot. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t (Baby Universe).

Not surprisingly, Parish’s love for quirky and less-loved titles takes the limelight here, with games like The Misadventures of Tron Bonne receiving eight pages of praise. Missed out on that game way-back-when, but it sounds pretty neat and has me only more excited for the forthcoming Mega Man Legends 3. My only other complaints are minor, but a second round of copyediting would have done wonders; as I read, I spotted a number of typos, as well as a lot of inconsistencies (if you’re devoting an entire issue to the PlayStation, you should stick to one spelling of it only). Otherwise, GS8 is so full of content and pages to flip through that the good outweighs the disappointing, and even though the entire book will make its way online over at GameSpite eventually, the printed form is still worth pursuing. Seeing that much content bundled and bound is impressive, and if you were at all a fan of the PlayStation it’s a no-brainer buy. Cracking GS8‘s spine is the easiest way to time-travel back to the good ol’ days of 3D polygons, memory cards, and games built around FMVs.

30 Days of Gaming, #2 – Your favorite character

I grew up in a small, New Jersey town known as Smithville, which is historic, quaint, and brimming with flesh-biting bugs in the summer. It’s the sort of place many know not, and I’m okay with that…mine forever more, as they say. I lived on a street that “ended” with two cul-de-sacs, and it was the kind of place where families raised their kids together at the same time, meaning I grew up with my neighbors’ kids at pretty much the same pace. We were all right around the same age, same grades, same what-have-yous. We hung out after school and on weekends, we went to planned BBQ parties, we fought with each other and made up, and had to deal with bullying and betrayal and boring bus stops in the morning. And through all of this was our parents, watching over, making amends, playing host to sleepovers and carpools, and one parent stands out to me especially in terms of today’s 30 Days of Gaming post: Mrs. B.

Mrs. B and her family lived directly across the street from my house. My family and hers were very close, as well as strangely similar in terms of kids; she had two daughters and a son, same as my mom and dad, and we were all pretty much four years apart too. We were destined to interact with each other. Anyways, Mrs. B worked the nights at the KayBee Toys in our local mall, and her son mentioned to me one day that she was able to get some great deals on the latest PlayStation games thanks to her employee discount. I believe he got Frogger 3D and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that year for Christmas. Luckily, I was able to work out a deal between my mother and Mrs. B to obtain a copy of Suikoden, a game coming out shortly before Final Fantasy VII that impressed me greatly from a preview article in some long-lost gaming magazine. As a youngling, I didn’t purchase many games so the ones i bought had to matter. I don’t remember where I got the cash from, but I do remember handing it over to Mrs. B with boyish excitement. And then I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally the game came back to me with a nice little note, too.

Suikoden is a game I can talk about for many paragraphs, but we’re not here to talk about the game itself. Instead, a single character from it still lives in my head, falling down countless times, truly living up to his Star of Destiny, churning my stomach into knots. Yup, my favorite character is Gremio:

Servant to the McDohl family after one of Barbarossa Rugner’s Six Great Generals, Teo McDohl, saved his life, Gremio helped raise the general’s son Tir. He ended up playing both the role of a servant and a parent since Tir’s father was constantly away and his mother died some time after giving birth. He becomes a permanent party member for much of the beginning of the game as Tir escapes pursuit and begins to build his own rebellion army. At one point, Tir and company rescue a famous doctor from the prison operated by Milich Oppenheimer, another one of Barbarossa’s Six Great Generals. Before escaping, Milich traps everyone in a room and releases flesh-eating spores, which threaten to consume the entire party. Gremio is able to open the door, granting everyone freedom, but then locks himself in the room, afraid to let the spores get out. Here are his final words to Tir:

“Young Master, can you hear me? I’m sorry I can’t protect you any more … But now that you’ve grown up, you no longer need my protection. Young Master…You make me proud. I wish Master Teo could see you now. Young Master. I think it’s time to say goodbye. I can’t see anymore. Young Master. I’m proud of you. Promise me you’ll always follow your heart. That is my first, and final…request…”

In battle, if Tir’s health falls too low, Gremio will actually protect him from further damage by using his own body as a shield. Outside of battle, all the way to the end, he continued to protect his young master, no matter what the cost. It’s no wonder why Gremio is the Tenei Star (Heroic Star). What’s really sickening is that Milich can be recruited after all this to join Tir’s fight in the Gate Rune Wars.

Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy VII did not affect me as much as Gremio’s did. Both were surprising, sure, but his more so. It did not feel like a “great character death” sort of moment, just another prisoner rescue mission. I even remember loading him up with the best items before getting ready to leave the prison, only to not have lost just him, but everything he was carrying. Tir already loses his father early on in the game, and then shortly after he loses the man he called both father and friend. Suikoden is all about tragic losses actually.

I didn’t find out that Gremio could be resurrected before the final battle for many months. To do so, you simply have to recruit all 107 other Stars of Destiny, which, at the time when there was little Internet access and only magazine features to go off of, was very difficult. But I did it, and seeing him and Tir reunite just as the emotional cup overflowed really cemented his potency in my mind. It only made defeating Barbarossa all the more sweet.

Gremio is the sort of character easy to bond with. He’s caring, careful, and stubborn where it counts. He also makes a mean special stew. Thanks, Mrs. B, for letting me get to know him, if only for a little while.

Five Games I’m Very Thankful For

This week in the United States, it’s all about turkey, parades, football, and family fun. Better known as the holiday Thanksgiving, but I’d much prefer it dubbed Givingthanks, as that’s the point of it, a point which, seemingly, is undermined time and time again thanks to things like tryptophan and Black Friday shopping sprees. We’re supposed to be thankful—for family, friends, love, health, security, and, of course, videogames. Some might even consider them family and friends.

And so, in no particular order, here’s five games I’m eager to give thanks to for a whole bunch of different reasons…

Suikoden

Suikoden was the start of everything for me in terms of roleplaying games. I had sadly—and stupidly—missed the plethora of strong RPGs on the SNES and only dipped my toes into the genre once I got to the PlayStation. Think I tried out Beyond the Beyond and maybe something else before pre-ordering Final Fantasy VII and waiting patiently for it to hit its release date. To help ease the pain of waiting, I ended up picking up this anime-looking RPG called Suikoden for no clear reason I can recall. It just looked…interesting. And boy was it! Here’s what I ate up: a plot brimming with war and family politics and unforeseen death, as well as magic, an awesome castle that grew as your army grew, and a unique—at least to me—fighting system that encouraged combo attacks with like-minded allies. This game was pretty much the opposite of the eagerly awaited Final Fantasy VII; it sported sprites for graphics, focused on collecting 108 characters, and was smaller in scope, and yet I’m more thankful for its existence than that Square blockbuster. In fact, I’ve gone back and replayed Suikoden numerous times while Final Fantasy VII was last touched when I beat it back in late 1997.

New Super Mario Bros.

This one sits extremely close to my heart. See, a few years ago, my mother and I were flying out to visit my sister in Arizona. I had, only weeks before, gotten a Nintendo DS Lite, with two or so games in my collection. The one I was currently playing while sitting next to her on the four hour flight was New Super Mario Bros., and I was actually just toying around with the slew of mini-games included within the main game’s cart. My mother leaned over and uttered some words I never thought to hear: “Can I try?”

So I showed her how to hold the console and use the touchscreen/stylus, and the rest is history. While out in Arizona, she just had to get a DS of her own (a pink one), as well as some games, such as Brain Age and Brain Academy and those kind. She still plays it frequently to this game, having built a good-sized collection of hidden object games, puzzlers, and interactive story-based games. For all I know about my mother, this was the first time she’s ever played videogames, and now we even have lengthy conversations about ‘em!

Super Metroid

Super Metroid is a game that taught me how to pay attention to everything. And I do mean everything. Boss battle patterns, cracks in the walls, tiny crevices perfect for roly-poly Samus to roll through, the undiscovered parts on the game’s wonderfully intricate map. More specifically, I’m talking about that part where Samus has to watch some space alien critters wall-hop up a long stretch of map to reach freedom and then do the same thing herself. That required a lot of paying attention to. As well as trial and error. Still, to this day, I have trouble wall-jumping in that game. I can maybe go once or twice up, but hitting the third or fourth jump really requires a certain thumb-to-button rhythm not found in my veins.

As frustrating as this section was, especially for a young boy on the brink of insanity, I’m more than thankful for what it taught me. Patience and practice do make (almost) perfect.

Shadow of the Colossus

Speaking of patience, enter Shadow of the Colossus. This is the game that stands tall and proud behind the “are videogames art?” debate, as well as standing tall and proud on its own merits because it’s an absolutely phenomenal gaming experience. It’s basically a straight boss run, with each colossus a puzzle of their own. Like Super Metroid, this game really asked a lot out of the gamer in terms of paying attention. One had to first figure out how to get Wander up on the colossi. Then they had to get him towards its weak point, wherever that was, and then they had to stab a bunch of times and pray they didn’t tossed off like a ragdoll. If they did, well…you had to start all over. But each subsequent colossus was worth it, and conquering them was a mix of teenage jubilation and eerie sadness. I’m thankful this game made me feel so confused emotionally, more so than any other at this point, but I’m even more thankful for what it didn’t do. The world within is more or less barren, save for a lizard or eagle, as well as the titular colossi, which meant no mindless sword-fighting enemy troops. It also meant no sidequests or towns to visit or people to converse with. It was just you, the colossi, and the hope of saving a loved one. Shadow of the Colossus gets to the point like no other title.

Tetris

Without Tetris, high school study hall would’ve been pure torture. Thanks to the power of nerds worldwide, everyone that got a Texas Instrumental calculator—so long as you knew someone who already had it on their calc—was able to play the legendary and seemingly unbeatable puzzle game from Russia. It worked just like the GameBoy version, but I don’t remember it having sound, which was fine and all, considering most of us were playing secretly beneath a trapper-keeper in class. It also helped on the bus ride to and fro. It’s biggest plus was that no one ever beat it; you just played and played the same few levels over and over again, each time differently thankfully enough, and that was all one needed from Tetris.

That’s plenty of thanks from me. Greg Noe, over at The First Hour, came up with a good number of multiplayer games he’s thankful for–do check out his article as well! Do you have any games you’re extremely thankful exist? Speak up!

Suikoden Tierkreis Finds the Eternal Darkness

Here’s the cover art for…hmm, let me start again actually. Here’s the “cover art” for Suikoden Tierkreis, which evidently came out today for the Nintendo DS:

suikoden-tierkreis

And I thought Chrono Trigger DS barely tried.

Anyways, for those too lazy to flip this over in the game store, this cover art tells them absolutely nothing about Suikoden Tierkreis other than it’s made by Konami and has WiFi features. Considering how rocking the artwork for the first two entries in series were (unarguably the best games in the series, too), this is a shame and a waste of space. The game’s biggest draw is the ability to collect 108 characters for your army and castle, always has been. Granted, there’s the European version of cover art floating around, which is much better at presenting the sort of game Suiko fans are expecting.

Yet what do we Americans get?

Blackness, the evergoing dark, a void to fall into and never return from. In short, nothing at all.