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Realm of the Mad God: The best MMORPG Shooter you’ve never heard of

Video Games - by - August 29, 2011 - 11:08 UTC - Be first to Comment!

As a former World of Warcraft player, I can say, without a doubt, Realm of the Mad God is the perfect fix for anybody who wants the epic feel of a paid subscription service MMORPG for literally none of the cost. I repeat, “None of the cost“. In the MMORPG world that is subscription services, guilds, level/item/reputation grinding, and hundreds (that’s right, I said hundreds) of hours of logged game time, its pretty rare to find something that you can pick up and play on your terms, for free, and get the same gratification in a flat, 8-bit world as you would in the three-dimensional world of eye-candy that is WoW and other MMORPG counterparts.

Let us break down “Realm of the Mad God”, shall we?

Hmmm…where to start…how about: “Getting started”?

That sounds good to me. We can dive into gameplay and specifics a few paragraphs later, but until then get your pen and paper ready; this might take a while.

That's Oryx "The Mad God"...he's pissed--AT YOU!

Getting Started

First, you must have the internet connected to your computer. Second, you must have your computer turned on–not off. Third, you must log on to the internet.

Fourth, go to www.realmofthemadgod.com and press “PLAY”.

Thats it. Really.

You are now officially logged into a world with countless other 8-bit warriors, ready to quest, raid dungeons, and take down bosses! Create an account, if you wish. It isn’t necessary to play, but I would still recommend doing so. If not, your characters are saved onto your computer as “cookies”and can therefore be deleted far more easily if you feel like scrubbing your computer, catch a virus, whatever. With an account, characters are saved to the account and can be accessed from any computer, at any time.

You get all that down? Good. Pens down, please.

Gameplay

Gameplay time!

You start out in Realm of the Mad God as a level 1 Wizard “noobie” navigating  your way through a tutorial dungeon, ala “Demon Souls”, learning the basic game functions such as:

  • moving your character (A-S-D-W move you left, down, right, and up)
  • your health and magic bar (red is health, blue is magic)
  • attacking (Left click! Duhhhh…)
  • World chat (Hit enter to bring up the typing bar)
  • and using your unique class abilities (Spacebar!).

You learn other never before seen abilities such as:

  • how to loot items from dead enemies
  •  adding items to your 8-slot bag
  •  blasting through cracked walls
  •  and other basic fundamentals that make up ROTMG!!!

The beautiful thing about basic fundamental actions? They are literally the only actions players will ever need!

There is not an abundance of spell bars, action bars, timers, and maps taking up your screen. Players have a map, four gear slots (class weapon, class item, ring slot, and class armor), your bag slots (eight total), statistics (Attack, dexterity, etc), and below that an empty space reserved for party members.

World of Warcraft screen layout

 

Realm of the Mad God screen layout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each number in your item bag correlates to the numbers on a player’s keyboard. If you have a “health pot” in slot 1, simply hit the number 1 to use it. Or, if you are busy running and gunning, you can hold “shift” and click whichever item you would like to use. Pretty simple, right?

Once you clear the tutorial dungeon, you find yourself in the “NEXUS”. In the Nexus, one can purchase upgrades to characters, such as 8-bit pets, alternative colors, special items, etc. In the center of the Nexus is the server room. Each server holds a maximum of 86 players. Enter a server and begin your quest!

Sound simple? It is! Everything about this game screams “SIMPLE”! From the graphics, to the layout, to the limited actions–this game is about as simplified as shredded wheat! And once players enter their realm of choice they’ll be thanking their hind end for Realm of the Mad God’s simplicity!

From the moment players leave the Nexus and enter their server, they are immediately bombarded with low level enemies. This is where players see the difference between ROTMG and your regular everyday MMORPG–the gameplay speed. This is a game of running and gunning. Players “shoot” attacks at enemies while dodging enemy’s attacks in return– think “Robotron”, “Geometry Wars”, “Smash TV”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please use this invention called “Google”. That will help.

Quests are automatically assigned to players as they level up–the higher the level the tougher the quests. All quests revolve around defeating a “Boss” enemy. Their location is revealed to players, on their map, and on screen with a tiny red arrow encompassing a portrait of the “boss”, pointing you in the right direction. Defeat “Boss” characters to gain quick EXP and move on to the next quest. The lower leveled bosses can be defeated alone, but as you rise in power, so do your foes! This is where an 8-bit warrior must find friends! Good thing they are everywhere!

Note the red arrow encompassing the quest boss? Its that simple, folks.

The greatest aspect of ROTMG is that once a player enters a server everybody is on the same team. There is no “ganking” (players killing other players), no horde vs alliance, no camping, just everybody working towards one goal–defeating Oryx “The Mad God”. If players are within the vicinity of one another they are automatically placed into a party. And unlike other MMORPG’s, the EXP points that people gain within a party are not divided amongst everyone, but given in whole! So if there are ten people in a party, and they kill a boss worth 50 EXP, everybody receives 50 EXP! The point of the game is to have everybody work together towards a common goal and help one another in the process.

Teamwork = a shit-ton of EXP for all!

When players first start questing, they find themselves on the outskirts of the map, in one of the sandy beach regions. The weakest enemies are located by the beach and as quests become more difficult, players venture further and further towards the center of the map. Speaking of the map…the map is arguably your most important tool. When a journey begins, the map is a giant black square. As players explore the island, more of the map is revealed. The beauty of Realm of the Mad God’s map is that every single person is represented by a green dot. This way, players can see where all of the action is taking place. If you were to run your cursor over a green dot, the characters name, class, and level pop up. Thats all very cool, right?

BUT THATS NOT ALL.

If you were to “click” on a players dot, the game gives you the option to teleport to them! If you see a gaggle of dots heading for a quest boss, but are too far away to catch up for the kill, simply choose a dot, click the dot, choose teleport and…BAM! There you are! This simple but effective function makes it easier to get around the map– but be careful! If a character is too weak for an area, death is all but guaranteed. So be careful where you teleport. It is a useful tool, but must be used in moderation. Teleport to the wrong area of the map and you can say goodbye to all that hard work leveling up!

Since I just brought up death, we should cover my next topic: Death.

Death

In Realm of the Mad God, death is not an option. I mean, characters can die, but in doing so means the deletion of said character. Thats right; once a character dies in Realm of the Mad God, he is gone. Forever. Like, never coming back. Ever. Any loot accumulated, any cool gear earned, whatever had been collected will be gone. So while the gameplay of ROTMG is fast and furious, recklessness will get you nowhere. Believe me, I know.

After you die, a screen pops up displaying your lifetime statistics with that character. After their statistics are tallied up, players gain “Fame points” based on their performance. The more dungeons players raid, the more enemies players kill, and the accuracy of attacks can earn more fame points. Use these fame points to buy stuff for characters in the Nexus.

Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki.

Levels & Classes

The level cap is 20, in Realm of the Mad God. No, its not very high compared to WoW’s 70-80 lvl system, but it is a difficult task to complete! As I said before, you can’t simply dive head first into battle against a Cube God at level 1. A single hit will destroy you! You have to take the time to slowly work your way towards the center of the map, gaining gear, experience, and meeting friends along the way. If you don’t, attaining 20 will never happen. And if you fail to attain level 20, then that means you can’t experience any new…CLASSES!

As of right now there are 13 different classes to choose from. Meeting certain lvl requirements unlocks new classes:

  • TIER 1: Wizrad (Your starting class)
  • TIER 2: Priest (acquired with by reaching lvl 5 with your wizard), Archer (Lvl 5 Priest), Rogue (lvl 5 Archer), Warrior (lvl 5 Rogue)
  • TIER 2.5: Knight (lvl 20 Warrior)
  • TIER 3: Necromancer (lvl 20 Wizard & Priest), Paladin (lvl 20 Priest & Warrior), Assassin (lvl 20 Wizard & Rogue), Huntress (lvl 20 Rogue & Archer)
  • TIER 4: Mystic (lvl 20 Huntress & Necromancer), Trickster (lvl 20 Assassin & Paladin), Sorcerer (lvl 20 Necromancer & Assassin)

Thats a lot of leveling! And if players don’t take the necessary precautions while playing it’ll take forever!

The versatility of the classes allow players to discover what class is right for them. If a person likes speed, go with a Rogue. If a person likes to blow crap up, go with a Wizard. If people want to be a tank, go Warrior. Just because a class is lower on my tier list doesn’t mean they are any less effective than the classes in the higher tiers. I simply arranged them by availability, or in what order people tend to unlock them. All classes are effective and all classes are mained. I think the tier system is in place to add replay value to the game; adding that achievement factor we have grown to love, over the years. Obtaining the maximum level in multiple classes is the carrot at the end of the stick to keep players coming back for more.

Speaking of achievements! There are five achievements that can be obtained within each class. They are shown as five little stars in the class selection screen, underneath each character portrait. Obtaining stars raises player’s personal account “Star” rating. The more stars a player has, the bigger their rep. The first star is easy: “Gain 20 fame with your _____”. But, after that, the hill monumentally steepens–120 fame for the second star. After the second star, I haven’t a clue what the requirements for a third star are. I’ve never made it past the 20 fame achievement. I’m still new to the game. Shut up.

The multiple classes. Note a few empty spots. More classes to come? Also, note the 5 stars under each character.

With the 13 available classes and five achievement stars per character, players can end up with a total of…lets do some math!

13 characters x 5 stars = 65 stars!

I apologize for neglecting to show my work. 65 total reputation stars is the final answer.

(See, you’re learning, too)

In all seriousness, Realm of the Mad God is a phenomenal game. Its smart, cute, humorous, challenging, but its not overly time consuming. You can log on, immediately join a group of 85 other people, and grind out a few levels before bed. Maybe even take down Oryx himself? You should definitely give Realm of the Mad God a shot. Its as easy to pick up as it is addicting to play. But remember, easy to learn is not easy to master. This game will challenge your patience, your quick wit, and those run and gun skills. So be careful; one false step at level 19 and….poof. I’ll see you in the nexus.

Pete

 

2/28 Show to feature special guest Abraham “Neo” Sotelo

Radio Show, Video Games - by - February 25, 2011 - 23:46 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Abraham "Neo" Sotello w/ Sent. Storm & Capt. Comm.

Undefeated in high stakes money matches, Abraham “Neo” Sotelo, is our special guest this Sunday! He brings his 8-0 record to the studio as he takes on the three brothers Livingston for the grilling of a lifetime! Join us as we dabble in the likes of Money Matches, MvC3, Halloween in Santa Barbara, and much, much, more! Neo will also be taking calls and questions LIVE!

We also will be covering the Oscars, INSANE trades in the NBA (I’m talking to you Danny Ainge…), and the upcoming NFL draft.

Hope to see you there!

EVO, Podcasts, Thank Yous and…We have a banner?!

Podcasts, Site News, Video Games - by - July 6, 2010 - 11:15 UTC - Be first to Comment!

EVO

The Evolution fighting game competition is only days away; yet I am saddened and excited at the same time.

Sad: Because I can’t afford to go to Vegas to compete/cover/win lots of money and get comped really sick suites full of free booze and women at EVO this year.

Excited: Because I can live vicariously through other players as I watch the live stream from my bedroom in my underwear sobbing tears of regret for not sucking up what little money I have left to drive to Las Vegas and starve to death while I play video games.

Needless to say I wish I was going with all my heart. This will be the first missed EVO event for myself in two years and I have been thinking up every possible excuse to go this year. Last night I actually had a dream that I made the trip down to EVO this year and met up with my buddies Oscar, Giby, and Jaime. In my dream it was held in a massive convention center type place with multiple halls complete with big screens and seating. As soon as I entered the door the director of a Marvel vs Capcom 2 low-tier tournament approached me and told me I was going to play. I was excited. If there is one type of MvC2 I can play its low-tier MvC2. Then while waiting for my turn to play the shit kinda hit the fan–an old Junior College football buddy of mine showed up in a mask and tried to steal some chocolate that my girlfriend had packed for me. I ran him down and had to pummel him before he confessed that he had indeed stolen my chocolate and had left home years ago and has since been wasting away in Nevada. Then I woke up. Basically, if you guys have never made the treck out to Vegas–or if you were going way back in the day–to one of the many So Cal or EVO East, West, North, South events, you’ve been missing out.

Evo is something that every fighting game fan must experience. In years past there has been a few things you must be warned about: the smell –Which has gotten a lot better. Thank you video game nerds for wearing deodorant and staying presentable, the hijacking of sticks (keep that stick on hand at all times!), and a lot of hype screaming.

POD-CAST

We continue to add on to our blog. At this rate I think this blog may just become the greatest website that has been created within the past month and a half. If you have a problem with that please contact myself and I will send you my home address, phone number, etc.  and pray to see you on my doorstep for the ass-beating you are about to receive. If you really do show up then what most likely will happen is that I will be a little weirded out that you took my offer seriously, defuse the situation with food and shelter for the night, then hopefully have a drunken bonding moment that usually is reserved for not so great 90’s teen movies. I’m thinking.

Once we get this here pod-cast up and running we will see where it goes. Hopefully some people will listen every once in a while. I’m not keeping my hopes very high on that one.

BANNER

Look at it! There it is in all its glory! For now anyway. We wanted something simple–yet sophisticated– for the time being. So this is what our friend Mitchell Scholly came up with. Thanks Mitch!

For all the people who have been coming to the site thus far I would just like to say thank you on behalf of my brother and I. I hope that we can continue to entertain and drop knowledge on all things. Keep spreading the word. Make sure to add us on facebook!

Devastation 2010: Martin “Marn” Phan makes quite the case for himself

Video Games - by - June 26, 2010 - 22:19 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Devastation 2010 may as well have been the Welcome Back Marn party.

Of all the big names in attendance at Devastation 2010 Marn was probably the one competitor whom people counted out of the grand finals for Super Street Fighter 4. If you look at his track record you can’t help but notice that he hasn’t fared well in competition since the game came out. He came up empty handed on multiple occasions at NorCal Regionals and Mid-west Championships against stiff competition (Getting bounced by Alex Valle on both occasions…but that’s another story) so the man who was said to be one of the best in the nation was suddenly seen as over-hyped. And that’s just being nice. Believe me, Marn is being called a lot worse than over-hyped by many people sine he made a name for himself the past few years.

Quick back story for those of you who don’t follow the fighting game community:

Up until recently it had been decided that the best player in the United States was Justin Wong. Multiple 1st place showings at major fighting game competitions and his epic near comeback against Daigo Umehara at EVO 2009 cemented him as one of the best in the world.

Next in line?

You could say Marn.

Marn was a player of great skill who placed very well in a lot of competitions. He received a shit-ton of flack for being a Justin Wong “jock rider” because they were so close. They lived together, they trained together, they played the same characters, and they both had bad hair. Throw in the fact that Marn was a brash, flamboyant, trash-talking son-of-a-gun and people couldn’t help but hate the guy. Do you think Marn cared? Well, do you think Peter North thinks twice about blowing his load on three chicks at the same time? That’s a negatory.

Don't let the smile fool you. Mr. North will pop you in the eye with a load from across the room--and he won't give a fuck.

Long story short; Justin moves to California while Marn remains in NY and Marn flourishes.

Suddenly Marn is the main man. He’s running around the nation at break neck speed absolutely shitting on the competition. He goes out to California and dominates some of the legends of the game (Including Valle in SoCal) and keeps that middle finger up for the haters to see.

Now fast forward about a year later to the release of Super Street Fighter 4. Suddenly Marn doesn’t look so hot. His lack of performance now matches his horrible hair: Bad.

People said that Marn may have just been a product of what was called a “broken” game (Street Fighter 4 is deemed unplayable by some: Balance issues, link issues, hit-boxes. Others like myself loved it). Street Fighter 4 was a game of turtling and being a pussy. Super Street Fighter 4 is a game of offense and rush-downs. Marn seemed to struggle.

That is until Devastation 2010.

Marn took home the championship in Super Street Fighter 4, TvC, and Guilty Gear Teams (By himself). Why is this such a big deal? Because of how he went about his business. Marn showed up determined to do well. He had done his homework. He put in the time. He studied. He was focused.

He still had bad hair.

Devastation is the precursor to EVO so its pretty much your final tune-up before the Super Bowl of fighting game competitions. Its becoming a hotbed for talent in the West Coast. SoCal and NorCal (Mix in some East Coasters) make the trip out to Az to test their skills against the best. It’s the perfect measuring stick. The jump in Marn’s game was noticeably better. He was able to make primo adjustments against the likes of ComboFiend, Juicebox, and Valle. That’s impressive.   Very impressive.

Its no secret in the fighting game community that Marn is hands down one of the most hated individuals around. He’s good and he knows it. He knows you know it. He also knows that he’s back and better than ever–ready to make that run at the grand daddy of them all: EVO.

Marn on the right. He really doesn't give a fuck.

Alex Valle wins SSF4 Midwest Championship…old man still has it!

Video Games - by - May 9, 2010 - 23:57 UTC - Be first to Comment!

Unless you’ve lived under a rock the past decade, or are VERY green to the fighting game community(that’s a term for “new”), you’ve heard of Alex Valle. If you’ve heard of Alex Valle you probably are one of two people:

1st kind: Alex is an old fart who is over the hill. He thinks he’s still relevant in the scene today and needs to go away and “be a family man”.

2nd kind: Alex is still a relevant force in the community today and can compete on a very high level. He can “rush that shit down”, and does, on a regular basis.

For the most part the first group of people te

Alex Valle

Arguably one of the greatest...all time.

nd to be the new blood. ’09ers in some cases. They are new to the scene and worship one of two people (if not both) Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara. Valle seems old, washed up, senile, and you don’t really care what he and his old timer buddies say or do, they aren’t relevant with today’s gamers.

For a while it looked like they were right. Valle probably should have been checked into a nursing home for the elderly Street Fighter players. Depends, bed pan, the works. I too was on the fence as to whether Alex was done or not.

But, after his recent showing at MWC, I think the tides may be turning. He seems to have re-dedicated himself this second time around with Super Street Fighter 4 in winning MWC against a very aggressive Floe (Juri player) and in the process “rushing that shit down”. Honestly, I think Super plays to Alex’s game better than Vanilla (Standard SF4). The game seems to be more offensively oriented and suitable for rush down players. They game feels fast and plays a lot faster than Vanilla.

What does this mean? Well, I think that this old dog might have a few more tricks up his sleeve. MWC was a VERY good measuring stick, but we’ll get an even better look at Valle come Devastation (I’m assuming he’s going).

My Favorite 25 Video Games of the 2000s: Part 2

Video Games - by - January 17, 2010 - 01:05 UTC - Be first to Comment!

For those of you who haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

10. Capcom vs. SNK 2 – Multiple Platforms, 2001

The first game in my Top 10 sees a combination of two sets of my favorite fighting game characters ever. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Neo-Geo, as it was cool to see so many games on one arcade machine (I’m serious, that’s why I loved it so much) but their fighting games always appealed to me, especially the Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown games. King of Fighters really sealed the deal for me, as I loved the idea of tag team fighting and with so many characters to choose from (especially using some of my favorites from other Neo-Geo fighters) I became an instant fan of this series, as well.

The precursor to this game was a nifty fighter that had a weird point system, and although it was limited a bit in it’s execution, I enjoyed it enough. It was a cool concept, and wasn’t the first time something like this had been tried. But it was the second game that made me stand up and take notice of a style that I thought was the most balanced in all fighting games. Twice as many fighters as the first game, and instead of fighters with preset levels like in the first game, the sequel set your levels up in regards to how many characters you selected on a 4 point system (2-1-1 for 3 characters, 2-2 or 3-1 for 2 characters, or 4 for 1 character). It also added in many more characters on the SNK side that people were a bit more familiar with (like Haohmaru and Nakoruru from Samurai Showdown) to go along with some Capcom guys that hadn’t been seen in a while (ROLENTO~!).

But the best part of the game were the six styles that could be employed. Whereas the first game only had two (Capcom and SNK), the sequel featured four others that played to different strengths: parrying, storing super moves, custom combos (taken from Street Fighter Alpha) and, my favorite, the rage style, where you took so much damage that when your meter was filled, your character could unleash the best super moves in their arsenal at full power, something that was eventually used in Street Fighter IV for their Revenge Meter and Ultra Combos.

I made mention in an article I did for Sports Joystick in 2008 that I was extremely sad with EVO 2008 taking Capcom vs. SNK 2 out of the rotation, especially considering Third Strike was an technically inferior game that had become way too predictable and had turned almost into a parody of itself thanks to that year’s final, which featured 5 Chun-Li’s, 2 Ken’s, and, thankfully, an Akuma. That year, the CVS2 finals were much more varied, and also saw players use more than one team if the one they normally used didn’t get the job done. It also saw players have to master more than just one character to survive, meaning that a lot more had to be put in for somebody to become a master of the game.

It’s now a hard to find game and is highly sought after in the fighting game community, and while the biggest fighting game tournament in the world has decided to take it off the docket, I’m happy to have it here amongst my 10 favorite games of the last decade, and is the highest ranked amongst the Capcom/SNK fighters.

9. Final Fantasy IX – PlayStation, 2000

I almost put Final Fantasy X on this list. As a whole, X is gorgeous, had great voice acting, an awesome story line, a great fighting system, and the Sphere Grid is one of the coolest ways to build characters in the history of the series.

But IX had a story that was memorable as well. For PlayStation, it was the best looking game in the series. It didn’t have voice acting capabilities, but the characters were some of the best. I think the thing I liked most about it was that when you played the game, you were ALWAYS looking forward to what happened next. I liked how you were constantly in search of cool things for ALL your characters, not just one. Zidane might have been the main character, but you were always looking for things for Dagger, or Steiner, or, most impressively, Vivi.

It was Zidane’s game to lead but it was Vivi who stole the show. Someone who was looking for an identity, someone who was pure of heart and had bravery that when it was absolutely necessary, he unleashed it towards those who deserved it. I loved that Zidane treated him just like anyone else that he met, but at the same time, he made sure that Vivi realized his potential as a person. I don’t think I could say that about anyone in Final Fantasy X, no matter how cool I thought Auron was (and trust me, that dude was cool).

In the end, it was a throwback to what made the games prior to this (like FF IV, and to a lesser extent, FF VI) so memorable. The weapons you used had to be mastered so that you could unleash their true capabilities. You even had an amazing subquest that saw you try and get to a point in Disc 4 in TWELVE HOURS to get Steiner’s best weapon, the Excalibur II. You also had a nice cast of villains that had the usual FF hierarchy (I think it was much better than FF VIII or X’s villains) but it was done in a logical manner that it seemed like they weren’t trying to rush things at the end.

In all, it was one of the most well-designed games that ever came out in the series, but gets lost in the shuffle between FF VII and FF X, the games that started the series out on their respective PlayStation platforms. It’s one of the best games Square Enix put out as far as having a great balance between story, gameplay and aesthetics.

And of course, it had Vivi.

8. WWF No Mercy – Nintendo 64, 2000

For my money, the best wrestling game THQ ever put out, even if it used the AKI-based gameplay from their Virtual All-Pro Wrestling series, and one of the best games ever for the N64. I remember getting this and the first thing I did was create myself, trying to use all the moves that none of the default wrestlers used. I didn’t really know at that time that they were all used by wrestlers from Japan (although I would figure that out soon enough when I increased my wrestling viewership) but I just thought they were the coolest.

Besides the crazy amount of moves you could assign to wrestlers, it also included some of my favorite former WCW wrestlers in the game (like Eddy Guerrero and, well, yeah, at that time, Chris Benoit) and a cool story mode that was done in a pyramid style to keep storylines fresh. It also allowed crazy things to happen in those story modes, like having The Big Show go after the Light Heavyweight title, and having someone like The Rock go after the Woman’s title.

It also added the ladder match into the fold, and even though it got to be tedious at times, it was a great addition to the franchise, and added a lot of dimensions to the game play. It also made a great sound when you slammed someone on it with a move or jumped off the top rope and did a move, too. I also liked how you got a chance to earn extras by earning money in the numerous game modes. The best item, you ask? That would be the ability to buy one of The Godfather’s hos…for $500,000. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, folks.

However, it was the Survival mode, where you started in a Royal Rumble type atmosphere and had to defeat as many other wrestlers as you could to earn some of that money, where the game got its replay value. You got a chance to try and get your way to 100 eliminations and earn a bunch of money doing it. There were times where it got a bit cheap, but at the same time, it was a mode where you had
a lot of fun knocking everybody out.

To many gamers, there are just games that you can pop in and play over and over again, regardless of how long you had been away from them. For me, this was my most treasured N64 game, something that THQ eventually used as template for their SmackDown! series. While that was indeed good, it never felt like this when it came to fluidity, physics and realism in wrestling mechanics. But there was one other wrestling game that is just a tiny bit better, something that sacrificed all those attributes for an engine that is unrivaled in the world of wrestling video games.

7. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns – PlayStation 2, 2007

I actually modded my old PS2 and bought the import version of this game. That’s how stoked I was to play this game. I had played King of Colosseum II, which was a 3D version of this game that had a bit more complicated grappling system and the real licensing for all the Japanese wrestling federations (How you doing, Samoa Joe?) but it was this iteration of the franchise, which really hadn’t changed since it’s inception in the early 90’s, that sold me on it being the superior wrestling game series.

The depth of this game is absolutely incredible. Hundreds of wrestlers, both past and present, including some of the greats in history that were not being used in the US-based wrestling games. Over 1,500 moves, including some that had never been used in any other games at all. I remember making my character for the first time and being amazed at the number of moves I could choose from, including some from the anime series that would eventually spawn the game “Ultimate Muscle.” Kinnuku Buster for the win!

But more than the moves and more than the wrestlers was that the game itself took realism to a whole new level with pro wrestling. (Weird statement for a fake sport, but hear me out.) You weren’t about to beat someone in two minutes…unless you used a move that was able to cause a critical hit to somebody. In fact, if you tried to go for a big move early, you would most likely get it countered right away. It also had a fantastic flow to it, allowing wrestlers to counter moves in an instant with precise timing in the same vein as wrestlers hitting their big moves.

It’s a niche game that definitely had a small audience to it (Two iterations of it were released on the Game Boy Advance to somewhat reasonable success), but it was the last game in the series (so far, at least) that allowed diehard wrestling fans like myself the chance to craft wrestling matches exactly how I’d like. The graphics were hardly amazing, the sound was minimally intriguing at best…but you have yourself a 30 minute match where you throw bomb after bomb, nearfall after nearfall, and you get totally ingrained in it, even if it uses the same sprites that had been around since the days of the Super Nintendo. While it retains the top game on my list in the wrestling genre, it’s probably the best wrestling game that most wrestling fans haven’t played yet.

6. MLB Power Pros 2008 – Numerous platforms, 2008

People fawn over MLB 09: The Show as the best baseball game that has come out in the last few years, but I’ll take this game every day of the week and a twice on Sunday for a doubleheader. Besides the incredible funny Japanese-style graphics, MLB Power Pros 2008 was a surprisingly deep game that allowed players to explore the game of baseball in many different forms.

There were some incredible modes to this game outside of the normal modes you would find in your normal baseball games. You had two different modes that saw you go through your baseball career in two different ways: MLB Life mode was more about how you spent your life outside of the game, while Career mode saw you start out in Spring Training as a young gun looking for a roster spot.

But it was how the game was presented that really drew you in. It was basically a direct port from it’s Japanese counterpart, but the American pastime was shown in a very Japanese manner, which made it completely unique. Graphically, it was much like an anime would be shown, even right down the emotions on the player’s faces. It was also presented in a very stop-and-go manner, a lot like something you would see in the Phoenix Wright series, where you’d almost get lulled into a false sense of security, and then BAM! OBJECTION~!

But the gameplay sealed the deal. It was simplified to a point, but at the same time, you had to know what you were doing or else you would get creamed. There was also something pretty awesome about the fact that I played a game that had a lot of similarities to the baseball games I grew up on (World Series Baseball, Baseball Stars 2, the SEGA World Series Baseball games, Triple Play), but it was almost updated to take away a lot of the flaws. It was easy to pick up, easy to master, and fun all around.

I was sad to hear that it didn’t get picked up for a 2009 iteration, but at the same time, I knew that much like the #2 game on my list, it didn’t matter what year the game came out in. It was all about how much fun you had playing it. And Power Pros was without a doubt the most fun baseball game I played from the last decade.

5. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King – PlayStation 2, 2005

I’ll tell you what, I didn’t expect this game to be that high on my list at first, thinking that the Final Fantasy games or some other RPGs would step up and claim the spot, but for me, I don’t really think an RPG got better than this. It was the first Dragon Quest game that was heavily pushed in the United States, and as I mentioned earlier with Star Ocean, it built upon the popularity shown with the Final Fantasy X games, but as soon as I saw it on the cheap, I had to buy it, only to see if it was worth a go around.

It was more than just a go around, and it turned out to be one of the best RPGs ever made. Drawn by the same animators who created the Dragon Ball Z series, the eighth chapter in the Dragon Quest series pitted the nameless hero on a search for a cure to his king’s curse, as he was turned into a toad thanks to an evil sorcerer that betrayed him named Dhoulmagus. Now, for those of you who have read everything so far, you’ve seen me harp on being able to keep things simple, but as long as the execution is tip-top, you’ve got me hooked.

It’s as simple a story as you’ll ever hear. Girl in distress (and that has to do with the curse, as well), a cast of characters that is memorable, and a vast world that saw you explore every inch of it to get everything you’d want out of the game. The sidequests are awesome (including a quest that sees you go to an entirely different world just to get some of the best things in the game) and the battles are fierce.

But everything about the game is memorable. From the mouse that turns into a secret weapon, to the game’s crazy moments between Yangus and the King (too many to count), to the monsters that you can recruit to fight off in the Monster Arena, to some crazy non-playable characters that you encounter…it’s just a game that sticks with you, and it invites you to challenge it again and again. The fighting alone takes a lot to get used to, and once you get the hang of it, you find out that you don’t know much of anything at all, and have to get used to it again.

I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing Square Enix produced in the 2000’s, and that’s with all the critically-acclaimed games that sold millions and millions, many more than Dragon Quest VIII sold, but at the same time, I’m not sure I played a more enjoyable game from them than this one
right here, the PlayStation 2’s not-so-hidden gem that made people love RPGs just a little bit more.

4. New Super Mario Bros. – Nintendo DS, 2006

I’ve beaten the game three times but that doesn’t make it less fun. I know the Wii version has come out but it’ll need to marinate a little while before it becomes top of the line (although if sales, reviews, feedback, and me playing it a little bit of it already has any indication, it’s gonna go down as an all-time great), but its predecessor is the reason the Wii game exists, taking the most recognizable game style in history, amping it up a bit, and making the old school new again.

The level designs are remarkably challenging, much like Super Mario World, but at the same time, it makes it fun to try and get the stuff to completely finish the game with all the gold coins. The new items add a lot of depth to the game, and I liked how the enemies were a little bit smarter in this game than previous incarnations. It allowed Mario to be new and fresh, but at the same time, retain what made the game so great in the first place, which, as I said before, seems to be a Nintendo staple.

It felt like any other side scrolling Mario game (which was key as there hadn’t been one in almost a decade), and when put up along side the great predecessors, it more than holds its own. It’s an incredible testament to the Nintendo way of gaming that even when pulling something out of mothballs, they make sure that if it’s going to get used again, it gets used correctly.

It’s the one game on my list that I can pick up and play any time I want to and it feels great every time I do it. I don’t have to start it at the beginning or make sure I’m playing it with the right people. I just have to start it up, pick a level, and go. It’s addicting, it’s fun, it hits all the right notes. It’s just like playing it for the first time ever. It doesn’t get too much better than that, folks.

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo Wii, 2008

Ever since Super Smash Bros. became the surprise hit of the Nintendo 64, I’ve been hooked on the game and its sequels. But the Wii version of the game hit me like one of Donkey Kong’s giant hammers. Over and over and over and over and over again. With that tinny music playing in the background, too. You know the tune. Almost like a horse race being played in fast forward.

It was Smash, but was a different kind of Smash. More characters (obviously), more levels (obviously), more items (obviously, including the Super Smash, which was the most welcome of the additions, if you ask me), but the gameplay was tighter. Combos flowed easier, and some of the game’s cheaper moves from the previous games were toned down a notch.

But why anybody plays Smash at all is because when you get a group of people together to play, it doesn’t get any better than a five life stock battle on a balanced melee level (Corneria is best, although Final Destination is alright, too) to see who’s got the best skills. Everyone had their go to character, but even as you dabbled in others you found out that they all had their own great nuances to them and it just made the game that much more fun to play.

I bring up EVO 2008 again because I felt vindicated upon arriving for it. Brawl had made it into the rotation for the first time that year, and I was very excited to see how it would be received in a crowd that had its heart set on all the Capcom fighters. Pete and I sat in the crowd and watched as the sequel to a phenomenal tournament game left people in awe, with some ridiculous knockouts that had people jumping out of their seats. For a game seen as too “kiddie,” it sure had the grown folk up in arms at the end.

That’s why I love the game so much. It looks like something a kid would play. It IS something a kid would play. But at 25, it’s the first game I break out if my buddies are over, because I don’t think we’d have nearly as much fun playing any other game.

2. NBA 2K1 – Sega Dreamcast, 2000

When my family bought a Dreamcast, we made sure we got it when the getting was good. After starting out at about $400, it came down in price a lot thanks to low sales, and it was right after I had a chance to play this game over at Sean’s house. I had saved up a little bit of money due to my umpiring, and Pete and I went all in on it: The game, an extra controller, two memory cards and a keyboard for online play.

It was then that this game took a hold of me like no other game I had played probably since Triple Play 98. It was the perfect sports game. Arcade-like enough to pick up and play, but deep enough so that if you wanted to get in-depth, it would allow you to truly master it. This also was the only sports game I ever played that truly understood the computer comeback correctly. I could be up 15 in the 4th quarter, but if I left good shooters open, the shots would fall.

Pete and I were not happy with how the Celtics were in this game (they were crap, really, with only Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker joined by a bunch of scrubs) so we decided to make our own versions of the Celtics. He had him and his friend Benny and a bunch of made up crazy looking dudes, while I took myself and all my basketball playing buddies and built the team around them.

With our respective created teams, we dominated, but at the same time, the game reacted to us being so good and amped it up themselves. You could cheat the game a bit if you truly wanted to, but in the end, they had a way of setting things up for you to have to fight for a win. There were great moves to make, tough shots to take, and you really had to be careful in how you used them because they left you wide open for turnovers and the like.

I think the best thing about the game was that it was easy to pick up and play, and the games were just so much fun to play. I don’t know how many times I hit a spin move into a three pointer at the top of the key to start a comeback, or post up and hit a fadeaway spinning into the lane. Nevermind the street mode in the game, with relaxed rules and a much freer arcade style gameplay. I don’t think I played a sports game that had more to it that was also so much fun.

It was something else to play this game back in its heyday. NBA Live never really translated well to the PS2, while the 2K Sports franchise became so popular that they split off from Sega and started their own brand. I liked the games that followed, but nothing touched 2K1 for its balance and ability to keep me entertained. In fact, seven years after its release when I busted out the Dreamcast and plugged it in, it still brought me back to the old days where I’d try and knock out half a season on the weekends. Basketball just got no better than this game to me, and it still doesn’t.

1. Mother 3 – Game Boy Advanced, 2003 (Japan-only release)

The game that tops my list isn’t a shocker to those who have played games with me. In fact, when it comes to video games in general over the course of my 20 years of gaming, I don’t have too many games on my list that crack the list of games that could be played over and over again for no reason other than to just play them.

In the 1990’s, EarthBound was that game for me. Pete and I loved that game. The big box, the strategy guide, the cool Starman on the front…it was awesome. We rented it so much that we convinced our mom it would be easier to just buy the damn thing instead of wasting our money renting it. It turn
ed out to be the best purchase I ever made. With my guidance skills, Pete and I tackled the game full on, taking turns (with him doing most of the playing) as we looked to beat the game. When we eventually did, I got my other friends into it, and they felt the same about the game that I did, eventually turning it into a situation not unlike a great book, where when you finish reading it, you pass it along in hopes that someone else would enjoy it as much as you did.

The sequel to that game ended up being over a decade in the making for hardcore fans like myself, who waited on the arrival of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive add-on and the game that would send it into a must-buy for me: EarthBound 2. Previews came out and got us all riled up, even with the 64DD in doubt, and we were all hoping to hear that it would be coming out much sooner than later.

But it never came, as the 64DD got scrapped in favor of a brand new project, which would eventually become the Nintendo Gamecube. EarthBound 2 got scrapped due to the cancellation of the 64DD, and faded into obscurity when it came to it’s North American fans. I was crushed, but even more crushed when I heard the follow-up announcement a while later, when it was said that the project was back on…but for the Game Boy Advance…and that it wasn’t going to be sold in the U.S.

So eight years after the game sold here in the U.S. known as EarthBound hit the shelves, Mother 3 hit the Japanese market and was named a great success, as along with its release was a combo release of the first two Mother games for the GBA, known in the U.S. as EarthBound Zero, a Nintendo release, and EarthBound. With the popularity of EarthBound back in its heyday, people were waiting for it to be released on the Game Boy Advance, but the day never came, even with rumors of a packaged deal much like Japan did with the first two Mother games.

That led many fans of the game to lash out in petition so that Nintendo would grant a North American release, but that never happened either, which led a group of fans to do the video game world’s version of “The Grey Album.” Taking the downloadable ROM of the Japanese version of the game, hackers actually two years to complete a fully translated patch of the game, finally allowing Mother fans to plahttp://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=2222063571064060967&postID=6072295814852152882y the game they had waited over a decade to play.

Even waiting that long, it was worth the wait.

It was a game that played a lot like EarthBound, but it had its own little twists. There was a musical accompaniment to each battle that allowed the player to attack enemies to the beat of the song, adding up the damage as the hits grew to achieve maximum damage. It was a perfect musically assisted system, as the fourth hit on every combo was the most damage, and you could have a maximum of 16 hits total, the equivalent of four measures of music to a 4/4 time, which was the normal amount of time for a beat to come around again in a song.

It wasn’t just the music. The battle system still had the same quirky attributes I loved from EarthBound: Awesomely named enemies with weirdly drawn but awesome animations, and every day weapons that became deadly. Cool PSI abilities that looked even cooler in this game than in the last. And the cast of characters was unique and each brought a lot to the table, including a couple familiar faces that get you all nostalgic and teary-eyed and such.

But it was the story that grabbed you and it was the story that never let you go until the very end. You have a vague idea of what was in store, but even then, the trip to get there was just so insanely awesome. It also stretched the range of human emotions better than any game I had ever played, INCLUDING it’s predecessor, which dealt with human emotions almost perfectly. I have no idea how the game improved on such an incredible ride like the first one, but it did.

The graphics were a lot like EarthBound’s, but still looked great, even on a system where graphics weren’t really expected to be truly outstanding. The animations were nice, and the characters showed emotions really well. Retaining the graphic feel from EarthBound I think was a very important thing with the game, as it allowed the game to retain a lot of the charm that it’s predecessor had. The preview shots for the 64DD version that never came didn’t really have the same look that EarthBound had, and I think that in an alternate universe, people are disappointed with how EarthBound 2 turned out.

But Mother 3 is a masterpiece for the simple fact that like EarthBound, it grabs the attention of the player and never lets go. It mixes humor, heartbreak, courage, action, excitement and originality to create a gaming experience like no other, and like “The Grey Album,” although it’s not technically “legal” to play it, it has to be experienced if you’re an RPG fan at all. While it has been explained at great detail before as to why it’s held in such high regard, the ultimate regard it can be given is that it can only truly be understood and appreciated upon playing it, so that you understand how those who have played it love it so much.

So if there’s a Mother 4 that comes out in 2014, I hope that it makes its way Stateside, but don’t be surprised if I have to wait until 2018 to play it if it doesn’t. Besides, when you wait for something so long and it turns out to be worth it, it just makes you want to experience it again.

An experience that you won’t soon forget.

My Favorite 25 Video Games of the 2000s: Part 1

Video Games - by - January 16, 2010 - 03:50 UTC - Be first to Comment!

I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 years old and Ben Casias introduced me to the awesomeness that was Super Mario Bros. on the NES. I’m really happy with how I grew into gaming, too. The first time I ever had a video game system in my house was when I rented a Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog and proceeded to destroy the game. I remember sitting down so much I got cramps in my legs from sitting Indian style. From there, I got a TurboGrafx-16 for my 10th birthday and I was hooked. By the way, for those who don’t know anything about the TG-16, if you have a Wii, check out their games. Not as famous as their competitors, but good lord, some awesome stuff, including all the Bonk games and some amazing hidden gems (like the Jackie Chan game, the TV Sports franchises, and World Class Baseball, which was my favorite baseball game ever until I got my hands on Hardball III).

As the games grew, I went with them, and while the 2000s weren’t as awesome to me as the 1990’s were, where I played some of the greatest games ever made, bar none, there were still some pretty awesome stuff. I skew towards sports games, action/adventure games, fighting games, platformers and RPGs, and while this list will show off all of those biases, there will be a surprise or two in there just to keep things fresh. So without further adieu:

25. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – PlayStation 2, 2001

Us Livingston kids were all big fans of the Crash Bandicoot series, which was interesting as it was a straight-line platformer featuring a made-up Australian animal that had an unbelievable ability to jump really high. He was supposed to be the PlayStation mascot, and it worked for a while, but once the jump was made to PlayStation 2, the bandicoot became passe, and Sony looked for a new mascot.

Enter Jax, a…uh, what is he? And Daxter, who I think was a muskrat, but I don’t really know. We got it for Christmas one year and after playing it for a while, it grew on me. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one, as there were five Jax games made after this. However, none of the sequels matched up to the original, which was, at its best, a platformer that took the best from previous platformers, added a few puzzle elements to it, and voila! You have yourself a franchise starter that sells itself in future iterations. There were games beforehand in the 3D vein that were more memorable (Super Mario 64) and after it (Super Mario Galaxy, although I didn’t play it nearly enough for it to get on this list, sadly) but for us who only dug us some PlayStation 2, this was a fantastic platformer.

24. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes – Arcade/PlayStation 2/Dreamcast/XBox/Everything else, 2000

When Pete and I went to EVO 2008, I called this game the “Hollywood” fighter at the tournament. It went last. It was flashy. It had the biggest crowd. During the tournament for the other games, the biggest following was a MVC2 money match between two teenagers where people bet over $1,000 on a 10-match series. Was it really that much of a technical game? Of course it was, but it was also a game that, like all fighters, had a tier system that ended up making the game unbalanced in the end.

But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the funnest games I’ve ever played, as it has a fantastic knack for dragging you in. I remember the thing I wanted to do most was drop a 100 hit combo (which is easily possible even if you aren’t that great at the game; Cable, Iron Man, War Machine, in that order, for the win) but soon after, it was air combos. And then tag-in combos, and then corner juggles, and then you realize that in order to truly be great, you had to grab the same three guys and use the same strategy over and over again to be effective. That’s why of all the fighters I played, it stays relatively low, but even I can’t say that many bad things about the game. It’s not like Third Strike, where you’re either Ken or Chun-Li and you’re looking for the same thing over and over. It’s re-release on the PlayStation Network puts me ever closer to buying a stick and getting my 100-hit combo on. I’m so close…

23. Tetris DS – Nintendo DS, 2006

There was a game that came out for the Nintendo 64 called “The New Tetris” that turned a couple of summers in Sonoma into giant competitions between me and my friends. It was the last time Tetris was relevant in my life, and that was in 1999. So seven years later, when I heard they were coming out with a new version of it for the Nintendo DS, I got a bit psyched. Sam got it for his DS, and then I just had to play it myself. Before I knew it, I was hooked. It had some really neat twists on the classic puzzler (Mission Mode alone could keep me occupied for hours on end) but it was the presentation that really did it for me.

If there’s one thing you can count on with Nintendo, they always find a way to take the older games and release them to a new audience for them to like it as much as guys like me did back in our video game heyday. If the basics remain from what made it great, but they do enough to bring you back in, they’ve done their job. This game was simple to some, but to a guy like me, who can appreciate the small nuances a game has that links it to the games from its past, it makes it that much more awesome. Which reminds me…the next time I’m in California, I’m gonna have to borrow that for a while…sorry, Sam!

22. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 – Multiple platforms, 2002

I LOVED the Tony Hawk games. Tony Hawk 2 is solely responsible for getting me into Mos Def. That would get it on the list, but it was this game, that I bought as a PS2 greatest hit, that solidified it in my mind. It had the perfect balance of the incredible tricks from the previous games with the added benefits of better physics and awesome level design (The Embarcadero in San Francisco is my favorite), and, of course, the ability to do manuals, which over time allowed Will and I many a Tony Hawk trick joke, where we’d call out combos and throw about 12 manuals in the middle to keep the streak going.

It was also awesome to have the free skate career mode, where you had a list of goals that you had to complete, and then with the points you earned, allowed you to move on to the game’s other levels. It also allowed your created skater the ability to earn new tricks in relation to the tricks he already used, really allowing you to be creative with what your skater could be like as he became better down the road. Besides that, the free skate mode was awesome with a big group of friends, which was revisited in the later games in the franchise. In fact, when they went to the Underground name after this game, the series started to lose its luster. This was the pinnacle, in my opinion, of the Tony Hawk franchise.

21. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga – Game Boy Advance, 2003

One of the last games to be released for the Game Boy Advance, it was the first RPG featuring Mario and Luigi since the incredible Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Mario and Luigi wasn’t your traditional JRPG like its predecessor, but what it did well was mix in your normal Mario goofiness with a lot of neat puzzles and interactions. In fact, most people think that the best pa
rt of the game is the interactions with all the non-playable characters in the game, leading to some absolutely awesome moments, some which are some of the funniest I’ve ever seen in games.

The other part about this, which is seriously understated, is that it ushered in an era of role-playing games on the Nintendo handheld systems that made the Game Boy Advance’s successor, the Nintendo DS, the best home for RPGs in the handheld market. This series was so successful that it spawned two sequels on the DS, but the original, which was a tight and surprisingly challenging game that put smiles on gamers faces worldwide thanks to its unique approach, is my favorite of the three. Sometimes, you just can’t beat the original.

20. Winning Eleven 9: Pro Evolution Soccer – Multiple Platforms, 2005

The best soccer game I played this decade. You can take it to the bank. Technically precise, and almost too much for even the most die hard players, the Winning Eleven franchise had long been one of the premier sports series in all of video games. I got into it my junior year of college when I was looking for a soccer game to play during my “Tim gets used to soccer” phase. It took a while for me to get used to it, but when I did…good lord.

It was just fun. I remember playing FIFA 08 with Blake a few weeks before I came out to Florida and while it wasn’t nearly as tight as Winning Eleven, it was still so much fun. I think it’s because you really treat soccer games like a puzzle, trying to fit the right pieces together and in the right spots so that you can be successful. The best part is when you do a cross to one of the forwards, and then all of a sudden, you head one in. I don’t think there’s a better feeling in a sports game than a well executed centering pass that leads to a header. Fantastic stuff. FIFA got better as it got closer to the edge of the decade, with FIFA 10 being the supposed pinnacle, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t play a better soccer game than the one I played in 2005.

19. Star Ocean: Until the End of Time – PlayStation 2, 2005

I only got into the Star Ocean series because after Square Enix did Final Fantasy X, the company did a great job getting fringe fans into their secondary franchises. Not exactly hard for an RPG guy to like an epic game like this. I never beat the game, but I always loved how this game was set up. It was pretty linear in its story, but certain actions led to major parts of the story being changed, and even determined if you got certain characters or not. It was a lot like Chrono Trigger in that if you wanted to get everything in the game, you had to beat it a couple of times, which could become quite tedious.

My favorite part of the game was the battle system. It had a fantastic rewards program that allowed your party to increase certain things like experience or money or items by having a certain amount of fights without taking major damage. It meant that if you were able to extend the bonus fights out to 10, 20, 50 battles, that you could boost your characters faster and get some sweet swag. The story was pretty basic stuff (invaded planet seeks shelter, young boy is in the middle of it and somehow becomes part of even larger subplot for galactic dominance) but it was done very well. The music is one of the best parts of the game, as it sets up big moments and sets the right mood, too. I’m a fan of games that have simple premises but are done well enough that the simplicity is balanced out by fantastic execution, and this game does it in spades. The sequel to this was released on XBox 360 in 2009, but has been announced as a PS3 release in a couple of months, which is turning out to be a huge stretch for Square Enix, as it includes the release of the next game in their most important franchise: Final Fantasy XIII.

18. Virtua Tennis 2 – Dreamcast, 2001

I’ll tell you the first time I played this: Santa Cruz, 2001 summer, Cocoanut Grove arcade. It was on one of the big screens and people were all around it, and I became hooked. Just like soccer, tennis can be awfully addicting (ask the Kingwood house guys about Mario Tennis for GameCube one time) and this game turned out to be one of the most addicting games I would ever play.

You were always trying to get a max serve. You were always trying to get to the net for a smash. And you knew that if you were going to play doubles, you get Tim Henman because if there’s anybody you want at the net, it’s the best volley guy in tennis. For me, it was always fun to get a big rally going, especially with a giant group of people waiting to get in. It always made for a good day if a lot of people were looking to play. I ended up getting Virtua Tennis 3 for my PlayStation 3 before coming out to Florida, and while it had a lot of cool new features, it doesn’t touch the second game for the complete package, which has some of the best gameplay in a sports game that I have ever seen.

17. Katamari Damacy – PlayStation 2, 2004

(GOD that picture is awesome.)

The most original game on the countdown, you roll a ball all over the world (literally) so that the Prince of the Cosmos is able to win the affection of his father, the King, who sarcastically and almost sadistically forced his son to make Katamaris, large balls of objects that get collected to help restore the lost stars in the galaxy. It’s quirky, it’s fun, but the best part was the visuals.

The idea is to start with small things like pins, ants, and so forth, but once it got to a certain size, you were able to grab things that were larger in size, like cows, small cars, and the like. The later levels, where you start with a slightly bigger ball and look to make it hundreds and thousands of meters in diameter, sees the most ridiculous things rolled up. Buses, buildings, houses…you name it, you can roll it over and get it. It’s truly the most unique game design I saw during the 2000s, and is a game that grew in popularity quickly. So quickly that it spawned a sequel. But for me, you can’t really do better than this, as the initial shock and awe the game provided was unprecedented.

16. Gitaroo Man – PlayStation 2, 2002

Another one for the Japanese quirky side of things, with this one being a high schooler who loves a girl, and then all of a sudden, gets visited by a dog that tells him he’s the great “Gitaroo Man”, who helps fight evil forces with his legendary guitar. Unbelievably enough, the game is phenomenal, even with that goofy premise, and it’s due to two things and two things only: An ncredible music soundtrack and an original way of playing the musical notes that predates all the Guitar Hero/Rock Band games.

But there was always something that bothered us when we played the game on hard: We couldn’t get past that damn UFO level if we tried our damndest. (See above picture) It was just too much techno for us to come up with when it came to hitting the notes correctly. Even with that, you got some incredible level designs, with the musical numbers turning out to be tremendously catchy. It’s another unique game experience that I was happy to see make it’s way to the United States from Japan, as even as a niche game, it became one of the most sought after games for the PS2, eventually re-released on the PSP several years later. For my money, you can’t beat this incarnation of the game, one that stands as an aweso
me achievement in musical gaming.

15. Golden Sun – Game Boy Advance, 2001

One of the “Dragon Quest” style JRPG’s that became the Game Boy Advance’s first major RPG haul. While the GBA would feature remakes of previous RPGs, this became the first game that ushered in the era of the GBA being a fantastic little nesting area for RPGs, as they would re-release past Final Fantasy games and the best Zelda game ever: A Link to the Past, soon after this.

It’s a simple story of a man trying to help save his home land, but I think the story was executed very well, and I loved how the four characters could rotate back and forth between the numerous Djinni that gave them magical powers, giving them numerous combinations of magical powers. It also featured some fantastic graphics for a Game Boy Advanced game, and the hidden items in the game where fun to find because a lot of them were right there out in the open and you had to use your magical powers in order to get them, which was later used in the Mario and Luigi franchise. But this game set the GBA standard, one that would be duplicated down the road, but in my eyes, not quite as good as this one.

14. Street Fighter IV – Multiple platforms, 2008

The first time I played this game, I was hooked. It was a lot like the Street Fighter II, but much more fluid and much more responsive. I was one of the first lucky few in the US to play it on an arcade standup, as it was presented at EVO 2008 shortly after its Japanese release. I remember deciding to go with Zangief over E. Honda, who I normally played with, and was amazed at how well he played, effortlessly going into all of his special moves with ease.

But what impressed me most of all was that after Street Fighter III, which was Capcom trying to keep the old around and just throw it in with a bunch of new people, this game felt so much more like the best 2D fighter ever: Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It wasn’t as technically sound as SSFII Turbo, but at the same time, you could tell that they did a lot with this game to make it feel like the old game, and it goes a long way in showing that by bringing back the the old guard that they wanted to retain that feel. Fantastically enough, the reception was so good that Capcom has decided to come out with Super Street Fighter IV in 2010, no doubt expanding on the great ideas of Street Fighter IV, and like Street Fighter II did to me as a kid, will make new fans out of one of the oldest games on the market.

13. Mega Man 9 – Numerous platforms, 2009

When I heard that they were coming out with another Mega Man, I was absolutely stoked. When I heard it was going to be done in the old Mega Man style (most notably Mega Man 2), I about lost it. Those of us who played the Mega Man series growing up knew exactly what to expect out of it: a game that looks easy in execution, but at the same time, becomes difficult to master completely. The game retained the old look, had some fantastic bosses, and, if you knew how to do it correctly, had a path that allowed you to beat the game much easier than just picking random levels.

It was also perfect for what today’s systems were trying to do, which is reach out to older fans who might not be into the newer, flashier games of today. The game was executed perfectly, right down to the sprites and the 8-bit music, which still makes me smile when I think about it. It became one of the most downloaded games on any of the new systems, and with such a fantastic approach and wonderful reception, Capcom announced that they will go ahead with Mega Man 10, which will be done in the retro style as well. Go ahead and pencil that one in as one my 25 favorites for the 2010’s right now.

12. Mario Kart Wii – Nintendo Wii, 2008

It was hard to pick between this and Mario Kart Double Dash, which would have been the only GameCube game on the list, but when I thought about it, the Wii version allowed me to go back and experience the play that made me love it so much way back on the SNES, when Super Mario Kart burst onto the scene and became the surprise hit of the SNES days. Staying true to the older versions of the game, the Wii version took the best of all the previous Mario Kart games and perfected its execution, with some fantastic level design on the new levels and, like other Mario Kart games, the return of classic tracks from the older games.

The presentation is what really got me, as the Wii controller fit into this wheel that allowed for a more realistic experience (well, one with go karts, at least) and they really made it feel like it was a big deal. There was this stretch that saw the Wii release this, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Mario Galaxy in the span of about five months, and it’s not surprising that when these games came out, Wii sales skyrocketed. For me, it was all about nostalgia, and not only did this game do it, but it made me realize that the Wii was a lot more than the Virtual Console, and that even with the weird controller design, that it had a lot of potential to do some really cool things. This game proved that the Nintendo mantra of not fixing what wasn’t broken continued to make winners. It’s also one of the most fun party games you could play.

11. Kingdom Hearts II – PlayStation 2, 2006

So when fans heard that Square Enix was going to team up with Disney, we all wondered if it would work. Preview screens showed the main character, Sora, teaming up with Goofy and Donald as he went around to many different Disney worlds looking for something. And then we played it and were mesmerized about how the game was designed. Not quite RPG, but not quite a platformer, the game showed that it had an audience…but it was the game’s second incarnation that really did it right.

It took all the problems in the first game and not only eliminated them, but added to the great parts. More weapons, more special attacks, different worlds, revisited worlds with some neat things added to them, and more interaction with Square Enix characters, as everyone from Squall Lionheart and Yuffie joined favorites Cloud and Sephiroth as a part of the world in which Sora was looking to save after his nearly year long sleep. The story is a little complicated to explain, and I think it would be a lot better to play the first game before tackling this one (even with them reviewing much of the key points in its predecessor at the game’s onset), but as a whole, I don’t think you’ll see a game that took a unique idea and improved on it so much in only one iteration. The big question now is whether they finish off the trilogy, which has been one of the most requested games in the last few years. And much like Mega Man 10, if it does come out, you can bet that Kingdom Hearts III will be on my favorites from the 2010’s.

Stay tuned for Part II, which should be coming out on 1/16!