Thursday, August 23, 2012

KirbyPink's Top Ten Games of All Time

A top ten list are usually very subjective. It comes down to a persons preference and what they like, or what they want. There are some top ten lists out there on the internet that I mostly agree with, while some I don't agree with, but as I said before, it all comes down to a persons preference. One person may like role-playing games and base his top ten list on Final Fantasy or The Elder Scrolls. Another person may enjoy first person shooters more, and base his top ten list on games such as Call of Duty or Halo. Both lists are subjective to personal preference.

I love all kinds of games, and from different genres. When it came to picking out my top ten best games of all time, it was a really hard selection. I've been playing video games since I was a wee-lad of only three and since that time, I've played so many countless games on many consoles. From Sonic Adventures on the Dreamcast, to Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation 2. And from Splinter Cell on the Xbox to Kingdom Hearts on the PlayStation 2. So it was really hard to pick out the "top" ten outstanding games from the thousands that I have played. If you don't agree with the list, that's fine. Everyone has different preferences on what they like and what they hate. 

So without anything else to say, lets begin! 

10. The Getaway

The Getaway is an action, driving shooter that's set in London. It follows the criminal exploits of Mark Hammond who is blackmailed into doing dirty jobs for a British mafia, and a man called Charlie Jolson. The man kidnapped Mark's only son, and unless he doesn't perform the requests called out by Jolson, his son dies. As the game progresses, Mark begins to make new friends and eventually rescues his son. Then when you think it's over, the game pulls a clever switch and opens up an entirely different play-through where you play as a detective constable: Frank Carter, who's mission is to find proof of Jolson's criminal activity and put him behind bars. The story is very gritty and serious. It's not like Grand Theft Auto where everyone and everything is wacky fun. No, the story in the The Getaway is an engaging roller-coaster that will immerse you in the boots of London's most wanted man: Mark Hammond. And London's disgraced constable: Frank Carter.

I got the The Getaway as a present in 2005 when I first bought my PlayStation 2. I wasn't a fan of it at first because of the immense difficulty curve and the weird driving mechanics. But eventually, as I grew older, I became more fond of the realistic game-play mechanics The Getaway had and started to appreciate the story as I re-played the game so many times over. Nowadays, I go back and replay the game from time to time when I want to go on a nostalgic trip or when I'm simply in the mood to get immersed in an engaging story. The game-play is liner mission selection, but that's okay because not every game needs to have a sandbox mode and The Getaway is definitely not ashamed of not having a sandbox mode. The missions are all varied, with levels having you to chase someone, or to tail someone missions, or stealth missions, or to simply shoot someone. This is game-play variety that got tossed over-seas when developers began to make games for the current generation of consoles. Now it's all repetitive, third person based combat shooters with no varying mission objectives. This is why The Getaway is my tenth best game ever, because it's not repetitive like today's market of modern day action shooters. 

9. Splinter Cell

I played Splinter Cell back in 2004 when I still had an original Xbox to play it on. I actually played the sequel, Pandora's Tomorrow first before ever buying the original Splinter Cell game. The sequel had a few number of improvements but it failed to outshine the original, which still is one of the best examples of stealth based gaming ever. The maps are all varying, with colorful textures and amazing detail. The NPC's were amazingly well animated for their time and the game-play is awesome. There was suspension involved. It wasn't a simple "go behind guard and choke him". You had to change strategy and tactics every second because the guard would either be patrolling a different corridor or would have his back behind a wall, forcing the players to risk detection and create a distraction.

The storyline is amazingly realistic, with news broadcasts airing in the form of a pre-rendered cut-scene before and after each mission.  Basically, the plot follows. The NSF creates a new agency called Third Echelon, which specializes in espionage and infiltration. You take on the role of Sam Fisher, who is a new recruit to Third Echelon. Meanwhile, two Third Echelon agents have gone missing in Georgia, and it's up to Sam to find where they are located. When he locates the agents, the NSF starts to suspects that the Georgian government had a hand in eliminating the two agents. As the game progresses, the storyline becomes more and more thought-provoking as the main enemies start to to use inhumane tactics against America, such as a controlled blackout. It's a typical Tom Clancy story, with favoritism towards America. But the way the game executes the plot is actually very well done. You don't play as a young, inexperienced person. Sam Fisher was designed to be an experienced Navy Seal commando, who knows what he is doing. The sequel Chaos Theory took the concept of the original game, and improved upon it in so many different ways. Than Double Agent came, and things started to crash downhill, fast. Finally, Conviction is a pile of mediocrity, that has taken the modern day trend of fast paced gaming; with tension and pacing gone to make way for cover based combat. 

Stick with the original three games. 

8. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl

This is an interesting one. When I first played Shadow of Chernobyl, I didn't like it. It wasn't because of the boring pace, or the difficult combat or anything game-play related. It was because the game was lagging every frame a second. I uninstalled it and did not touch it again until a few months later when I got my graphic card repaired. I decided to reinstall it again and played through it right until a glitch prevented me from going any further. So I uninstalled it (again) and didn't touch it for at least one year. After one year, Call of Pripyat came out. So I went back to Shadows of Chernobyl, replayed through the entire game, got to the ending and... that's it. I did play the prequel Clear Sky, which I enjoyed, but Shadow of Chernobyl is a game that really has grown on over the years. I despised it, but eventually I came to enjoy it and had fun playing it. The atmosphere of the game is amazing and can really immerse someone in the environments. Speaking of environments, the ones in Shadow of Chernobyl are so well detailed, so amazingly polished that it really does feel like a post-apocalyptic game-world. Combined with the immersive atmosphere and you have a game that will suck you in for a very long time. 

The game-play is a combination of role-playing elements, mixed with shooting which is also mixed with exploration. The setting of the game is an area called "The Zone", which is based off of the real life Zone of Alienation that's located in the Ukraine. The Zone is a radioactive mess, with garbage debris being extremely harmful to the player characters health. The setting is an alternative future, where a second nuclear blast occurs in Pripyat after the first one. This blast eventually leads to the creation of mutants and anomalies, which are glowing circles that spawns rare and prized artifacts. These artifacts later attract the attention of Stalkers, who all have escaped to The Zone to start a new life for themselves. As you explore the game-world, you can really feel a connection towards the other NPC's. It's easier to relate with them and their struggles because your struggles are almost similar to what they have to endure. There's a real sense of brotherhood bonding in this game, and the game's habit of having Stalker fire camps illustrates this point. The prequel, Clear Sky had a few great ideas but was disappointing because of the amount of glitches and bugs that hampered the experience of being a Stalker. The sequel, Call of Pripyat starts off slow but gradually builds up the pacing with the immersive atmosphere and environment until half-way through the game. It's also the most stable S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game to date because of the low amount of glitches and bugs within it.

Overall though, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series are some of the best games that are currently out there and I definitely recommend Shadow of Chernobyl to anyone.

7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Yeah, everyone probably knows what Ocarina of Time is. I used to play this as a little kid almost every day until I got rid of N64. Nostalgia caused me to recently download this game on the Wii's Virtual Console and I can safely say that Ocarina of Time has really held up today in terms of technical performance, audio and visuals. The dungeons can get a bit repetitive, but it's all in good fun because there's also a varying amount of objectives to achieve. From heart collecting to bottle collecting. Or to collect every golden skeleton out there in the land of Hyrule. Speaking of Hyrule, it's not like Oblivion where every terrain is re-used. The map of Hyrule is incredibly diverse, with forests to the south, the sea out to the east and the desert to the west. The environments are so varied, that no matter how tired you are from walking to point A to point B, you'll always want to continue just to see the varied landscapes of Hyrule. 

6. Kingdom Hearts 

I love this game. When I was a little kid, I grew up playing Kingdom Hearts. Sora really is a great and likeable character. And the combination of Square Enix characters with Disney proved to be a successful experimentation. So much so, that a handful of spin-offs were created that expands upon the Kingdom Heart universe. The plot is a classic "Heroes Journey" in which you play as Sora, a 14 year old kid living on an island with a number of other kids. His dream is to get off the island and to see what the other worlds are like. He wants to go exploring and adventuring alongside his friends Riku and Kairi. Suddenly, the island is attacked and his friend Kairi is kidnapped and Riku turns against him. Sora ends up in another world, where he teams up with Donald and Goofy in stopping a dark enemy called the Heartless who are simply goons of a much larger organization controlled by classic Disney villains.

The game-play is solid enough. It's a simple hack and slash game, where you have magic alongside your key-blade and you hack at anything that moves. The game gets really difficult in the later stages and it can take at least 20 tries before being able to beat the final boss fight. The ordinary fights themselves are repetitive somewhat. Monsters will suddenly spawn out of no where and you'll have to hack everyone of them (similar to Final Fantasy X). Afterwards, take couple of other steps and BAM! More random spawning monsters. It can get really tiring to a certain point, especially when you're trying to find your through a dungeon or a world. Thankfully though, exploring is fun. And it actually does feel rewarding when you stumble upon a treasure chest. 

Finally Kingdom Hearts, to this date, is the only game that has made me cry. No other games have done such a thing. 

5. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

I never played the original Metal Gear Solid. I've played every Metal Gear Solid game out there, with the exception of MGS4 and the original. However, Son of Liberty is the one that truly shines from the rest with its sophisticated storyline and complex themes. Not to mention that it has Raiden, who I actually like. The atmosphere is also amazing, and fits in well with the story; with dark, cloud rain pouring on a boat while you're trying to infiltrate it, or brightly colored skies over a complex research facility. 

The storyline is very complex for a video game. It is very complex, that at the time of its release, many publications called it "the first post-modernism game". You play as Solid Snake for the first half, and then play as Raiden in the second. There are twists and turns to the major plot in each characters respective play-point. The game-play is solid enough, with an emphasis on stealth, although shootouts sometimes happen. The boss fights are epic and amazingly well done, and the soundtrack just sounds great.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of those games where I can just came back to replay without ever getting bored. 

4. Deus Ex: Invisible War

Okay, this one will be a bit controversial. The original Deus Ex is a perfect gem. A model example of how games should be made. This is why the sequel got panned by the fan-base, because it never lived to the fan-base's expectations. Instead, the sequel got panned because of its dumb-down game-play mechanics, with the skill system removed. The removal of certain augmentations and the jaggy animations the character seem to have. Also it was shorter than expected, with only five locations to go to. 

But I don't despise Invisible War. I love this game. In fact, before ever playing the original, I played the sequel. In comparison to the original game, yes Invisible War is very flawed and highly streamlined. But on its own merits, it stands out to be an amazing blend of stealth, action, shooting, social and much more. The atmosphere is immersive enough to get someone like me to play until the first half is finished. The plot is as philosophical as it gets in a Deus Ex game, with every character and faction having their own unique ideology and beliefs. It's up to the players to decide which faction has the most agreeable ideals. 

The setting is also a great thing about Invisible War. People are living in a post-collapse world where Governments are at their weakest low point. The economy is not stable and many people are forced out onto the streets. There is a distinction between two classes, the poor who dwell underground and the rich who grew up in wealthy families and in higher class environment. It's almost like Metropolis. The original Deus Ex also had this recurring theme as well.

Overall, I like Deus Ex Invisible War. It stands on its own merits and can be an amazing game once you get into it. It's not as great as the first, but on its own, it's simply a superb game.

3. Dark Chronicle

Dark Chronicle (or Dark Cloud 2) is a stand-alone sequel to the original Dark Cloud. The game takes the original and improves upon it with better graphics, better game-play and less repetitive dungeons. The unique thing about Dark Cloud 2 is the setting. It's a mixture of steam-punk, with fantasy and a bit of a futuristic fantasy. The main protagonist is Max, a child engineer who is wanted by several parties because of a rare gem that he wears. As such, he must leave the city that he was born in and head out into the world, where he will find answers to questions. 

I'm not that far into Dark Cloud 2. The presentation of the game was fantastic and the unique art-style helps separate it from other known RPG's such as Final Fantasy. It's just that the game is extremely long and if your a completionist (like me) than it'll take you well over 30 hours to beat this game. But that's not a fault, I actually consider it to be a praise. And Max may well be the second best protagonist I've ever seen in a game, next to Sora obviously.

The game-play is solid enough. There are actually two modes of game-play. One involves exploration, in which you explore city hubs for clues to advance the plot. The other mode is dungeon mode, where your equipped with a gun, a sword and some powder. Weapons are breakable in this game and if you don't adjust your weapons properly with the right repair powder, than you're a goner. And the game reverts you back "all" the way to the start menu screen if you fail or get game-over. Thankfully you can save your game progress at anytime you want.

2. Deus Ex

Deus Ex is basically the perfect example of how a game should be made. You have so many options and choices to choose from in the context of the game-play. For example, if you want to get by a locked door by firing a rocket at it, than you are welcome to do so. If you want to lock-pick it, than you are welcome to do so. If you want to stealth around each level, hunting your preys silently, than you are welcomed to do so. Deus Ex is basically the pinnacle of gaming perfection. The storyline is amazingly well written, the characters are well rounded and feel like they actually contribute something worthwhile to the plot, and the game-play is innovative, intuitive and unique.

You play as J.C Denton. A police agent working with an organization called UNACTO. Your job is receive some shipments of vaccines for the American government to recover. This vaccine helps cure a plague that's affecting the lower class of New York City, and the Government wants to ensure that the few quantities of this vaccine is given only to high ranking Government officials. What's interesting about the plot is that right away you can relate with the enemy guards. They are not necessarily doing an evil act by stealing the vaccine because they simply want to return it back to the people who needs it the most. 

Later on, in probably one of the best twists ever, it turns out that the Government actually made the plague on purpose. When J.C finds out about this, the organization UNACTO locks him up. From this moment on, J.C Denton simply keeps on getting deeper and deeper in a rabbit hole. It's a conspiracy simulator, and a damn good one with suburb and complex writing from start to finish. It's very sophisticated and I highly recommend it. It's only a couple of dollars on Steam.

1. Dark Cloud

You were not expecting this, were you? 

Dark Cloud is a perfect gem. The game-play and the in-game world are original and varying. Just like Dark Cloud 2, the original has two basic game-play mode. One is a dungeon crawler, which is very fun and never seems to get boring. It involves slashing away at monsters in dungeons and collecting keys to unlock locked doors. The other mode, however, is a lot more unique and involves restoring broken villages back to their original self. This mode is called the Gamma mode and it's a whole lot of fun. The mechanics of this mode are Sim City inspired. You collect the parts required to build villages in dungeons and piece them together the Gamma mode.

There are also extra additions to Dark Cloud as well. These are the setting, characters and the plot. The setting, like I said before, is  unique and is a mixture of futuristic, steam-punk fantasy. The characters are all well rounded and all have some on-going struggle individually, in which Toan (the protagonist) helps out. Finally, the plot is amazingly well done and while it may not have been original, it was still fun. The quirky writing, and characters are simply one of the best NPC's you'll ever encounter in any game. Remember that Dark Cloud is an acquired taste. You may not like it, but I sure as hell did, and had a lot of great fun with it. 

So that's it. These are my top ten best games of all time. All of them gets a KirbyPink score of 10/10.

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