Collecting video games used to be a feat reserved for the privileged few. I remember gawking at their bookshelves filled with Sega Genesis cartridges. I hated them, but – in my increased age – I have become what I so envied. I’m hardly alone in my newfound opulence.
Steam sales, Humble Bundles, GoG, Amazon, and even traditional retailers have made it easier than ever for the common man or woman to build a gaming empire in his or her own basement. The digital age has made our culture one of excess, long distanced from a past when a single dresser drawer could contain the average collection. What would happen if this now familiar excess ceased to be an option?
A sudden diaspora of video games isn’t imminent by any means, but it’s at least an interesting idea to consider. Reduced access would force gamers to dig in their heels even more than the “console wars” already do, and it would require that they be much more introspective about their personal preferences than their expansive Steam libraries have or will ever allow them to be.
The results of my personal introspection can be found below. Not found below? The anguish it took to cut out a lifetime’s worth of experiences. Like I said, heels had to be dug in, and they had to be dug in in some uncomfortable places.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN) – Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS stole the show at E3 2014, but it wouldn’t be the world-beating phenomenon that it is now without the success of its most fondly-remembered predecessor. Melee was a sequel that left nothing on the table, perfecting every element introduced in the original and adding more that would prove to be inseparable from the franchise’s future entries.
In my household, Super Smash Bros. Melee was something of a weekly ritual. My best friend from the neighborhood would come over, and he, my brother, and I would hover around the enormous 80’s television set that my Gamecube was plugged into playing the popular brawler for hours at a time. Devotion to the title got so out of hand that we had to institute artificial limits on our sessions, ending our time with the game only when one of us had garnered 100 total eliminations throughout our many four stock battles. We had a problem, but I don’t think that any of us would ever think to wish back the time lost on Melee.
Truth be told, I would substitute any Super Smash Bros. game – excepting Super Smash Bros. 64 – in this spot, as Brawl occupied a similar space in my life and I’m certain that the Wii U and 3DS iterations will do the same. Melee was my first love, though, and I will never be able to put any fighter that follows it at a spot above it in the hierarchy of personal affection.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) – I try not to be the kind of person who is easily influenced by a game’s technical prowess, but I couldn’t help it with Uncharted 2. From its debut at Spike’s Video Game Awards – which used to be an awkward stage show, not just an awkward gathering on Joel McHale’s couch – to its reappearance at E3 2009, I was hooked by Naughty Dog’s apparent dedication to finally translating Hollywood’s most boisterous action movies into an interactive medium. It goes without saying that my infatuation for the game extended past its release date, too, as Uncharted 2 more than lived up to the almost impossible expectations established for it by the press and fans alike.
I’ve found myself pining for Uncharted 2 many times since finishing it for the first time a day removed from its release. Diminishing returns have a surprisingly null impact on Among Thieves’ breathtaking set pieces, and the dialogue is so charming that the game serves as a perfect palate cleanser placed between the industrial glut of gritty shooters and self-serious action titles. Though it’s not the type of experience that diversifies itself upon every walkthrough, it does more than enough on these base merits to warrant several retreads. I can’t imagine composing a collection that doesn’t include Uncharted 2.
Team Fortress 2 (PC) – Team Fortress 2 and I are a story of love at first sight. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for cel-shading, but my affection for Valve’s class-based shooter is more than eye deep. In a climate of first-person shooters that was – and still is – as stale and lifeless as any genre has ever been, Team Fortress 2 was a breath of fresh air. It traded death matches for control points, and it abandoned the omnipresent brown hue of most high-profile video games for the pleasing aesthetic of Saturday morning cartoons.
I consider myself an early adopter of Team Fortress 2 – meaning in this case that I actually bought the game when a price tag was attached to more than just its virtual hats. It became a daily obsession, with many of my summer afternoons being spent behind the scope of the sniper on my cozy, Chicago-based private server. My time on the colorful frontiers ended well before hats monopolized players’ investment in the game, but I don’t begrudge Team Fortress 2 for what it has become; the move away from it was more a concession to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 reaching the peak points in their life cycle than it was to any of the game’s many evolutions. Given a smaller library with fewer games to play, I can see myself returning to the free-to-play shooter for an interminable amount of time.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) – I have a rule about giving games too positive of a public nudge in the immediate vicinity of their release, but I had to make an exception for Mario Kart 8. Suggesting that Nintendo’s latest kart racer is anything more than a satisfying iteration would be silly; however, suggesting that it is a wonderful refinement of a proven formula would be a perfectly fitting synopsis, and that is exactly how I can justify nominating Mario Kart 8 for my theoretically-limited collection.
In what can only be considered a severe bucking of Nintendo tradition, Mario Kart is an experience that has be buoyed by exceptionally competent online play. Mario Kart DS was the first in the series to transcend the living room, and that initial endeavor has only been strengthened over the course of the past two generations. Mario Kart 8 instantly matches players up with up to 11 other racers, setting the stage for fierce competition that more than dwarfs what is seen in the game’s usual single player races. What has kept me coming back to every Mario Kart since Mario Kart Wii is the game’s point system, a method of tracking player progress by awarding or reclaiming points from them depending on their success on the cart path.
Most nights this summer have ended with me mellowing out, playing Mario Kart 8 while I catch up on all of my podcasts. Surprisingly, for a game that is notorious for being nail-bitingly frustrating to anyone who dares to excel in it, Mario Kart is a calming experience for me, and I wouldn’t dare put together a collection without it.
World of Warcraft (PC) – Yes, I know. Including World of Warcraft on a list intended to identify titles with high levels of replay value is cheating, but I am naught but a mortal who spent crucial years of his life in Azeroth. I just have to have World of Warcraft.
Middle school was a tough time for me. It wasn’t class that I was struggling through – though I was barely scraping by in algebra; it was Stranglethorn Vale. I hate Stranglethorn Vale, but I also love Stranglethorn Vale. In those jungles is where I strengthened some of my best friendships, as my friends and I used valuable study time planning trips into the dangerous wilds to strengthen our heroes. We conquered the jungle, and then we conquered the desert, the swamp, outer space, etc. We conquered the world, and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Despite being an undeniable drain on my productivity that likely set my development back a handful of years, World of Warcraft is one of the things that I most fondly remember about growing up in this millennium. Like Team Fortress 2, I’ve tried revisiting World of Warcraft but have never been successful at recapturing the magic of those golden years. I believe that, given time away from my post in the dreaded Cult of the New, I could fall down the rabbit hole once again.
That said, I’m sure that my family, my girlfriend, and my employers are all grateful that this hypothetical era of no games will never occur, keeping me away from my wayward level 73 paladin. It’s just not meant to be, Trisillia.
Donkey Kong Country (SNES) – As a major fan of the platforming genre, choosing just one to grace this list was its own challenging form of labor. Ultimately, I’ve chosen to side with the original King of Swing, Donkey Kong, and what I think is the best of his numerous side-scrolling excursions.
For many reasons beyond its high level of platforming acumen, Donkey Kong Country sticks out as a personal highlight of the 16-bit era. Speaking from the perspective of nostalgia, it was my brother’s and I’s first Super Nintendo game, coming bundled as it did at the time with the iconic hardware. He was so excited that he hoisted it above his head, screaming in abject approval of his latest – and undeniably greatest – Christmas gift. There was no such celebration for Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, and especially not Super Mario 3D World. Based on that criterion alone it objectively surpasses the entirety of Nintendo’s other great platforming franchise, thus also surpassing every other platformer in the known universe.
Speaking from a more objective standpoint, Donkey Kong Country introduced a number of fresh twists on platforming while retaining the basic addictive flavor that made the genre an early favorite in the industry. That combined with its unique visual appeal make Donkey Kong Country my favorite platformer and, thusly, a must-have for my collection.
WWF No Mercy (N64) – Every year, Yuke’s and – starting last year – 2K promise the moon with their WWE games and deliver only a paltry gathering of stars. This annual disappointment is especially saddening given the fact that WWE 2K games are still playing catch-up with WWF No Mercy, a wrestling game on the Nintendo 64 that was released only a little less than 14 years ago.
Describing what No Mercy is in this day and age is difficult because it is a little bit different for everyone. On its surface, it is a fairly basic re-skinning of WCW/NWO Revenge complete with Vince McMahon’s troupe of bodybuilders and glorified stuntmen. Just below that, though, is an incredibly deep and rewarding ecosystem of custom creations offering more value to players than any other similar game has. Almost nothing is off limits, with the only limits being the extent to which players allow themselves to become invested in a 64-bit grappler from an era long gone by.
I could play WWF No Mercy forever, and I say that with plenty of confidence given the past five years of experience with the game. Beginning in high school and extending until now and long into the future, I’ve been running my own fantasy federation using WWF No Mercy that has special events every month, with one of those events being a 64-man tournament for a King of the Ring-type honor. Last year, my friends and I played all 63 matches of that tournament in a weekend. Then, we played a few more. Yes, we are insane, but we love No Mercy. I have no doubt that my love of No Mercy will last many more years, making it a must-have for my 10-game collection.
NFL Blitz (N64) – Speaking of sad obsessions, NFL Blitz is a game for which I have undying passion. I’ve created an entire league devoted to preserving the game in an era that doesn’t seem to value arcade-style sports video games, with the winner of the league receiving a tiny Charles Barkley figurine wearing a football helmet. Believe me, it makes sense, but I won’t bore you with all of the details.
Fittingly for a game that is controlled using only two buttons and a joystick, it’s hard to muster up much to say about NFL Blitz. It’s a relic of the arcade era that belongs in the past for most people who play games, but for me it is a treasure trove of potential fun and excitement that I couldn’t be bothered to live without. Just as Sam Bradford was to my St. Louis Rams in 2010, NFL Blitz was a selection I made without hesitation, and – just like Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams – it will continue to excite me for years to come. So help me God.
Elite Beat Agents (DS) – I’m a person without shame, so I have no qualms admitting to my past as a regular viewer of FOX’s hit musical comedy GLEE. I also listen to show tunes on Pandora. I’m a person without shame, and I’m a bad person for my love of musical theatre. Elite Beat Agents is a game that understands this bad, shameless side of me.
Feature 18 bad songs and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Elite Beat Agents is a game that seemed doomed for failure when it came stateside. Commercially, it did fail, but it didn’t fail to win me over with its toe-tapping beats and flat-out infuriating difficulty level. Beating the game on the highest difficulty setting took nearly a year to do. Beating the game on the highest difficulty setting again? That could take another year. Or two. Or three. I could play Elite Beat Agents for however long that takes and then some.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2) – Before Desmond Miles and Ezio Auditore, Ubisoft belonged to one man: the Prince. In The Sands of Time, the Prince returned to the third dimension to audition for American Ninja Warrior, this time with a magical dagger in tow that sent time spinning in the opposite direction. This game singlehandedly took its important but altogether uninteresting franchise from the back of peoples’ minds to the forefront of the industry, snatching up numerous Game of the Year honors and my heart in the process.
The Sands of Time was ahead of its time in many ways. Players scaled the scenery using parkour well before Mirror’s Edge and Assassin’s Creed were building entire games around the sport. Time flowed in reverse well before Braid made history on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Even the story was something to aspire to, with the game’s story of time travel and romance setting a precedent for storytelling that many action titles continue to fail to live up to.
The Prince’s time-travelling caper was so compelling that it spawned a Hollywood adaptation – which set a precedent of its own by even getting past the initial stages of production – that most people hated but I, of course, loved. What can I say? I am a diehard supporter of the Prince in any and all of his endeavors. I am still holding onto the preposterous hope that Dastan and friends will have another major game made bearing their likeness. Until then, the Sands of Time will have to do, just as it has for many years and just as it would continue to do as a member of my collection.
Love the inclusion of WWF No Mercy. That game was the shiznit. I’d probably also throw in Super Mario Galaxy instead of WOW, as well as Battlefield 4 (I need an online shooter) instead of NFL Blitz. Would also make room for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Good list, I’d also throw in a good puzzle game for good measure, maybe something like Meteos. Pokemon games also go a long way and as much as I love Elite Beat Agents, I feel like the upcoming Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call would beat it for me for rhythm games, 221 songs and 60 characters to level up is a lot of content to go through, and with plenty of difficulty and variety to spare.
I too would also add Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2, and perhaps Animal Crossing (any of them really).
I’ve gone back to WoW here and there, and the obvious signs of aging have never bothered me too much. I’ll be especially interested to see how the game fares following its impending face lift.
Video Courtesy of IGN
It was the shot heard around the world.
In a single moment on the grandest stage of them all, Sony seized the brass rings that had eluded them for an entire console generation and created what would ultimately become a sizable lead over their fiercest competitor. Nearly a year removed from E3 2013, Microsoft is still working to exorcise the demons brought about by this snapshot of history, and Sony is seated comfortably on this industry’s version of the Iron Throne; however, as anyone who has spent even a negligible amount of time following the year-to-year happenings of the “console wars” could tell you, it doesn’t take much more than a second for a king to be dethroned and his heir crowned.
Microsoft and Sony are coming to E3 2014 on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the former looking to reverse the fortunes created by a series of about faces and the latter hoping only to hold on to the advantage first garnered at last year’s event. Microsoft is desperate while Sony is content – ironic given how their positions were inverted only a year prior – but now is not the time for complacency. If Sony wants to continue to build on recent successes, then they need to do at E3 2014 what they did in 2013: Steal the show. They need to make 2014 the Year of the PlayStation 4.
Despite what recent sales numbers may indicate, Sony is riding the slimmest of leads into E3 2014. After a year of picking away at their original design documents, Microsoft has released in the Xbox One a console that is nearly identical to the PlayStation 4. Most of the differences between the two systems are the result of the misguided perception that Microsoft is still clinging to its Draconian DRM policies -which just goes to show how affective Sony’s most recent E3 press conference really was – but these fallacies are sure to fall off of the radar with the passing of time. Without these mistruths to direct the masses in the direction of Sony’s newest monolithic piece of hardware, what does Sony have that Microsoft can’t also lay claim to? Superior specifications don’t hold the same weight in the public sphere as do such issues as consumers’ rights and competitive pricing.
Sony needs to show at E3 2014 what the PlayStation 4 can have that the Xbox One might not: A defining, first-party experience that hits store shelves before the calendar turns its final page, before the ball drops in Times Square, and before anything of its kind sees the light of day. Sony needs to show at E3 2014 that 2014, not 2015, is the year to jump on the current-generation bandwagon with their console.
The statement seems obvious enough; announce exciting new games for your system, and then the people will come to your system in droves. It’s about more than that, though.
Neither Sony nor Microsoft has announced a release schedule in which the current year features prominently. If E3 comes and goes without that statement being amended, then the two companies will enter 2015 with positions similar to those that they hold now. I don’t think Sony can stand to let Microsoft hang around long enough to still be in a close proximity by year’s end. Sony needs to use this year to get ahead while they still can, before their competition shapes up and before the imaginary differences distinguishing the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One become too distant of a memory for the general population to recall.
What this proverbial ace in the sleeve may look like is beyond me. Uncharted 4, with its developer’s recent turmoil, seems an unlikely candidate to save the day, and other known quantities such as The Last Guardian are hardly the types of experiences that carry with them the universal appeal needed to “win” a trade show like E3. Perhaps uncertainty works to Sony’s favor in this case. The allure of something new may be just what the PlayStation 4 needs to wave in the face of the Xbox One’s predictable entourage of first-party franchises. At this point in the game, anything, even an iteration belonging to one of the company’s lesser franchises, would help set Sony and its PlayStation 4 apart at E3.
Beyond that, it is entirely possible that PlayStation Now could rear its mysteriously-contoured head at this year’s show and set the stage for another year of competitive advantage. Regardless, Sony needs something – anything – to make the PlayStation 4 an appealing concept this year. Their lead is anything but permanent, and it won’t take much time for their dynasty to unravel under the pressure of a stiff opposition if Sony chooses complacency over urgency at E3 2014.
Last year, Sony made a pronouncement so loud that its echoes still permeate across the Internet. As those murmurs begin to fade, it is time for Sony to take the stage and make magic one more time. If not, E3 2015 could be lead into with a narrative from an entirely different point-of-view.
Transistor – PS4/PC
Like the character whose name it bears, Kirby is a franchise that has always been adaptive to its environment. Over time, Kirby has starred in a gyroscopic puzzler, a golf game, a pair of touch-screen-controlled action platformers, and countless other titles that have all deviated from the series’ roots. Kirby Triple Deluxe is different in that it is not different; it borrows from Kirby Super Star and Kirby’s Adventure, not Kirby’s Canvas Curse and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It is traditional, and it is the best game to star the pink puffball in more than a decade.
A return to form for Kirby means that little introduction is needed. Getting through the game’s many levels and boss encounters requires that the player suck enemies up and absorb their powers, using them to conquer a variety of obstacles and antagonistic characters. It’s a simple, well-trodden mechanic, but it is done to perfection in Triple Deluxe thanks to an assortment of new abilities that make blasting through each stage an absolute delight (albeit an easy delight, though such is standard fare for this Nintendo icon). My personal favorite new ability, Archer, provides Kirby with a bow that he can use to launch arrows in rapid succession in almost any direction. This power is especially useful for the game’s seven boss fights, and certain parts of the game can only be accessed by using it to make difficult trick shots.
The power-up that makes the most notable impact on Triple Deluxe is Kirby’s “Hypernova” ability. At the end of a select number of stages, a tree grows bearing a mystical fruit that Kirby absorbs in order to amplify the magnitude of his base sucking power. With this skill in tow, Kirby can inhale seemingly everything in his path, including items, blocks, enemies, and other large objects that would normally be too dense for the puffy protagonist to ingest. Hypernova dramatically shifts the pace of the game by changing its focus from quick-and-dirty platforming to slow, pensive puzzling, a surprising turn of events that may be welcomed more warmly by some than it will be by others. I found Hypernova to be a refreshing addition, both because of its fresh take on the franchise and the restraint with which it is employed. To HAL Laboratory’s credit, Hypernova is employed sparingly over the course of the game’s main single-player mode. If used too often, the sheer awe of its bombast would be overpowered by a sense of overexposure. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and as a result Hypernova remains one of the highlights of my time with the game.
Hypernova is also a good stylistic fit for Triple Deluxe, a game that heavily employs visual frills from start to finish. As usual, Kirby’s world is one of wonder, coated with bright colors and decadent backdrops, and it looks better than it ever has before on the Nintendo 3DS. The platform’s 3D capabilities only serve to bolster these creative flourishes, as has been seen consistently with first-party games on the system. I found myself consistently turning the handheld’s slider up in order to get the game’s full effects. Regardless of the player’s 3D preference, Triple Deluxe is a beautiful game that is a spectacle throughout.
That being said, the 3D is occasionally used as more than just garnish for the game’s aesthetic appeal. New to the series is the inclusion of background layers in every stage that are populated by their own set of obstacles for Kirby to overcome. In many cases, these planes can be accessed by leaping into star-shaped portals found in levels’ foregrounds, but the background is alternatively an inaccessible home to hazards that transition from the back of the screen to its front. This is an excruciatingly obvious use of 3D that works well for the most part, though it does occasionally feel tacked-on in order to make Triple Deluxe feel like a game that could only be made on the 3DS.
After conquering the game’s seven worlds, a modest process that took me six hours to complete in full (meaning that I found all of the game’s 100 main collectible items, Sun Stones), Triple Deluxe offers players with five other modes that they can use to occupy their time with the game. The most notable of these is DeDeDe Tour, a separate version of the game’s main campaign that lets players control the franchise’s main recurring villain, King DeDeDe. DeDeDe Tour offers more challenge than does Kirby’s jaunt through the game, and it makes for a compelling excuse to run through Triple Deluxe’s wondrous landscapes one more time.
The other extra modes are more modest in terms of their scope, but they are no less fun or interesting. Arena and True Arena are throwbacks to Kirby Super Star (the best Kirby game, for those of you keeping track at home) that task players with challenging all of Triple Deluxe’s boss characters in succession, with the latter extending the challenge of the boss rush mode by pitting Kirby against DX versions of the regular bosses. DeDeDe’s Drum Dash is a fun distraction that combines the fun of simple timing-based platforming with the game’s unsurprisingly fantastic soundtrack. Last and certainly least (but not bad by any means) is Kirby Fighters, a multiplayer mode that has players choose one of Kirby’s abilities and battle it out in a style similar to that of Super Smash Bros. This is a pleasant mode, but it is crippled in that it only lets players choose from a pool of 10 of the game’s 26 total abilities. Also, it just isn’t Super Smash Bros., which is a noteworthy shortcoming of most fighting games.
I have been a lifelong fan of Kirby, but it has been a long time since a side-scrolling entry in the series validated my affection for it. Triple Deluxe is an about face for a stale property, rejuvenating one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters with exceptional graphics, refined mechanics, and enough content to warrant an unbridled recommendation.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5
I figured out how to log in to my account!
I don’t write here often enough to make any demands, but if there is any chance of getting a code for the new Kirby I’d love to take it for a spin. If someone who more regularly contributes wants it/already requested it, then I politely redact my request.
I thought so too, Joe, but I researched the matter and found that you could play most Gameboy Color games on the original Gameboy. The only exceptions to the rule are games like Pokemon Crystal and Oracle of Ages/Seasons that play off of transparent cartridges. Gameboy Color games like Harvest Moon 2, which was released on a black cartridge, can…[Read more]
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