Tag Archives: Listmas 2013

Listmas 2013: Ethan’s 14 Most Influential Games, Part II (Special Guest Post)

    Cave Story (PC)





I found this game at the height of my dissatisfaction with gaming and yearning for the retro days. It was the perfect find. Everything about this game is short and sweet, without any of the tiresome, excessive features that keep stacking up in mainstream gaming. Beautiful, pixel-based graphics, platform-shooter gameplay, a brief story that respects the player’s intellect. In artistic endeavors, keeping things simple is what opens them up for the view to put themself in. This is a game that really invites you to develop a relationship with it. It also was my introduction to indie games.

    Tetris (PC)



I’m not the kind of person who really bites hard into casual games. I see them as time-wasters more than an experience. As old as Tetris is, I didn’t really play it until I got a job. At Job, I learned that there isn’t always a lot to do, so while sitting at Desk and awaiting Responsibility, time-wasters can be pretty handy. In those many hours, I played Tetris. I played it hard. Then I started playing it at home. Tetris became less about wasting time and more about perfecting a new skill. I became better at Tetris than I ever before thought humanly possible, and I know that I’m nothing compared to the powers that others have obtained.

    We Love Katamari (PS2)



Did everyone play Katamari or did nobody? Everyone talks about it like it’s obscure. It’s one of the most unique games I’ve ever played on a console. You are a tiny prince with a sticky ball and it’s your job to roll up everything in the world, starting with paperclips and ending with countries. You can only roll up things that you’re already larger than. If the game wasn’t pure fun, you would probably notice that you’re committing some of the most horrifyingly violent acts to ever take place in a game. You roll up babies, mothers, cats… Terrified police open fire upon you in desperation, but it’s hopeless for them. The blindfolded guy swinging at a pinata shouts “What’s going on?!” as you absorb him. You don’t care. You’re smiling and laughing and singing along to the music. You’re a child again, incapable of empathy.

    Counter Strike (PC)


My first shooter after Goldeneye 64 (So: my first good shooter). There’s not a lot to say about this one. It’s purely a multiplayer experience. It opened me up LAN parties and gaming online, which taught me that I was not nearly as exceptionally good at videogames as I thought I was, so there was a lot of gaming to do before I could be satisfied with stopping. It’s a game that wouldn’t be worth much for me to go back and replay, but it redefined my outlook on games in ways.

    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)



This is another game that I call a great artistic achievement. You are a swordsman slaying giant landscape monsters to revive a sacrificed girl. The bosses are fascinating and intense experiences, but that’s really all there is to it. The world is vast and completely open for you to explore, but there are only small things for you to find that boost your two stats (health and grip) very slightly. This game is the anti-Zelda. The world is so blank, other than the beginning and the end, that it becomes a playground for theory and the gamer’s own storytelling.

    Disgaea



This grid-based, tactical game has two sides. There’s the main game, with puzzle based elements controlling the battlefield maps in ways that can either secure your victory or destroy you, depending on how they are used. It’s fun and challenging and has a funny, offbeat story. Then there is the post-game where everything goes crazy and you have to become insanely powerful to accomplish anything. You can beat the story at around level 50, but your characters cap at level 9999. There are insane difficulty jumps between every remaining challenge, and you have to find creative ways to maximize your grind to ever have a hope (if done right, you can gain hundreds of levels with a single attack). It’s the most satisfying thing to be completely destroyed by a mob of super-powerful enemies, then to return and crush them all with a single character whom they can’t touch. There’s also something to say about my lack of regret for sinking over one-thousand hours into the first two games… so far. It might not be a good thing. I guess I’m prone to monomania.

    The Mother Series (NES, SNES, GBA)



My prefered playing order for these games: Earthbound (Mother 2), Mother 3, Mother (Earthbound Zero). If you want to play them all (you do) but only speak English, you’ll have to emulate and grab fan translation hacks. These games are absolutely beautiful, and they completely deviate from their JRPG genre. They are set in vintage America, and the action is mostly text-based. All of the dialogue and situations are quirky and funny, but the games are no joke. They can be disturbing, tragic, highly intellectual, and touching. Throughout it all, the fun and the heartbreak, you feel a sense of innocence. These games have more love in them than anything else I’ve ever played, and probably ever will play. Not just love for the game, from the creator or the player, but love for everyone and everything; and, of course, all of the vulnerability that comes with it.








Goodbye, now.

Listmas 2013: Ethan’s 14 Most Influential Games, Part I (Special Guest Post)

Today and tomorrow, I’m running two lists from a close friend and loyal reader. Please show your love in the comments!

This isn’t necessarily a list of recommendations, nor is it necessarily a list of favorites. It could be a little bit of each, or it could be an instruction manual on what games to give to your child while they are still impressionable. Something it most definitely is, though, is a list of the games that have had such a profound impact on me during my twenty-six years of life that they are recorded in my soul-crystals and can never be replaced.

    Super Mario World (SNES)



This was the first platformer, maybe the first videogame, that baby-me was given. It taught me how to jump without moving anything but my thumb, though for many years I would be physically jumping through intense moments in any game. It has a great balance of difficulty, a steady learning-curve, a colorful and imaginative world, tons of secrets and alternate paths including difficult hidden stages for people who are into that, memorable music… everything. It’s not the standard against which all other platformers are judged. Why would we do that? It’s not in any contest with any other game. There are platformers, and there is Super Mario World. There is every other Mario game, and there is Super Mario World. Forever, in my head, saying “Mario” will be a pointer only to this game.

    Final Fantasy IV, VI (SNES)


finalfantasyethan

I can’t pick one–I’ve been trying for years. If Mario taught me how to press buttons, these two taught me how to read. Final Fantasy VI (or III in Nintendo’s renumbering) is theoretically and artistically an amazing triumph and, I’ll always argue, the greatest Final Fantasy. It accomplishes its lofty ambitions so fluidly that it never seems out of place (For examples, having no main character, or having sidequests that are so integral that they are pursued without feeling “secret” or “optional.”) The memories of this game are mixed with Yoshitaka Amano’s beautiful and unique illustrations with which the now-tattered but still-treasured player’s guide was laden. And, of course, every note from the soundtrack to either game can be recalled effortlessly.

Final Fantasy VI was dark and tragic, but IV was lush and vibrant. Final Fantasy IV (or II, Nintendo…) is the triumphant fantasy that we all want told to us over and over–which is pretty much my approach to playing that game, as it was when I was young. Knights! Dwarves! Magic! Crystals! Regret! Rebirth! The future is from the past! Going to the moon in a giant whale/spaceship! So many crystals! There is everything to love, even if it is, artistically, pretty standard. It’s been ported with new content and remade with new mechanics and had sequels forced upon it, but none of that is canon with my childhood, so who cares.

    Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)



I don’t know what to say. I bought a used cartridge from FuncoLand just because I liked the title-sticker. It didn’t communicate anything to me other than “this game has a sword in it,” but that was enough. This game was a new format that allowed a different kind of exploration. The world is open, but obstacles that can’t be passed without certain items make the experience linear. The whole time, you’re taunted with visible secrets and treasures that are just out of your reach, feeding your need to explore. I’ve played every Zelda game since finding this one. More, please?

    Wanderers from Ys III (SNES)


This game feels different from any other in the strangest ways. It feels like it was heavily influenced by text-based games, but it’s a side-scrolling sword-slasher that’s light on the dialogue. There’s a menu element is used just rarely enough to always feel like a special opportunity, unlike Zelda which has you flipping between items in every room. Success is based on experience points, new armor, and magic rings more than it is on skill, due to many misplaced hit-boxes on enemies and Adol, your swordsman, having such a short reach that it’s difficult to avoid damage if you want to deal any. It also has a… story? I never took much notice of it when I was young. It’s far from perfect, but I played it so much when there were so few other games at hand that its battles and music will be echoing through my head forever.



    Megaman X (SNES)



Another legendary game that fell into my hands through magic, this was a gift from my Aunt who had no children and didn’t speak English. This is a side-scrolling platformer with gun-based combat and a massive emphasis on mobility. Wall-clinging and dash-jumping were added from the original Megaman games, giving you the ability to practically fly through stages and dodge anything where you were previously glued to the ground and had to deal with every enemy that didn’t have the courtesy to jump over you. Playing these games just makes you feel awesome, until X5, that is.

    Super Smash Brothers (N64)



This game proved that you could have a fast, technical fighting game without having to memorize button combos. You have two attack buttons and each can combined with a directional button for a different attack. The controls are the same with every character, but they all play differently. It’s amazing. It’s also worth note that games like this, along with MarioKart 64, Mario Party, and Goldeneye pretty much redefined gaming as something (or the very best thing) that could be done casually with a group of friends instead of something for the isolated.

    Guitar Hero 2 (PS2)



I didn’t even like music until I got this game. Seriously. Most of all that I’d ever heard was classic rock, and only while being driven to school. The heavier rock and metal to which this game exposed me was life-changing. It was rewarding to watch my skill-growth over the years that this game would stay close at hand. Listening to the songs while finding the perfect times to hit notes also taught me about beat, note-quartering, and time signatures. It lit a new fire in me. It took a while, but now musician and composer are in my list of skills.

Listmas 2013: Howard and Nester Comics

HowardNester

For those of you who were readers during the glory days of Nintendo Power, your first exposure to video game comics probably involved Howard Phillips and his good friend Nester.  These goofy stories were a source of tips and humor in the earlier issues of NP.  As the president of the Nintendo Fun Club, Howard Phillips would play the straight-man to Nester’s stubborn and off-the-wall antics.  Over the course of 21 issues, the lovable pair were immersed into the hit video games of the day, often to comedic results.

As a celebration of Listmas 2013, I am taking a break from the usual comic book analysis to share my three favorite Howard and Nester stories from pages past (hit the issue links for the full comics).  Here we go!

March/April 1989

07-1

As a kid who spent much of his time at the local library, the thought of finding a Legend of Zelda book seemed like a dream.  Granted, I wouldn’t have dismissed some of the classics like Nester here, but I definitely sought out the more off-beat stuff in the stacks.  I especially love Nester’s indignant reaction to finding Howard in his story, even though the bow-tied knight is just trying to help.

May/June 1990

14-1

This comic was the first time I had ever heard of QA departments and play-testing in video games.  Until that time, I just assumed that the developers made the games correctly on the first try.  What can I say, I was a naïve kid.  At least I knew better than to assume the world of game testing was as fantastic as Howard and Nester would make it seem.  If only we could just hop into a game to test for bugs.  Then again, that’s a lot of pain and respawning for anyone who is testing Call of Duty…

December 2012

LastNester1

Okay, so this one isn’t technically a “Howard and Nester” comic.  After Howard Phillips left Nintendo back in 1991, Nester carried the torch in his own adventures for many more issues.  It was in Issue 55 of Nintendo Power when Nester’s Adventures went on hiatus.  The plucky mascot showed up for three more special comic appearances: as a college student in #100, as a father in #231 (the twentieth anniversary of NP), and once more in the final issue of Nintendo Power, #285.  When the last issue hit store shelves, I made sure to secure a copy from my local bookstore.  This comic is a total tear-jerker to longtime readers of Nintendo Power (and to anyone with a heart).  I hope to someday share in this bittersweet sort of moment with my future children.

Looking back at these comics, I am really impressed with how well the artwork has stood up over time.  The facial expressions on Howard and Nester are very emotive, and the shading is especially nice throughout the series.  Special thanks to Tiny Cartridge for posting the final comic, and to the Howard and Nester Comics Archive, where you can find every one of these fun-filled stories.  Merry Listmas, everyone!