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Senior at UC Davis

Arts Reporter for The California Aggie (UC Davis school newspaper)

Associate Editor for GamerNode.com

-Anthony
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amlabella
2:33 PM on 07.15.2013



I'm not particularly familiar with fighting games. I played quite a bit of Street Fighter II on the SNES when I was younger, and I thought the single-player content in Mortal Kombat (2011) and Persona 4 Arena was great. That's pretty much it though; I guess a large reason for that is the fact that I'm terrible at fighting games. We're talking "I should upload videos to YouTube because I'm so bad" levels of incompetence. And yet I found myself watching a surprising amount of EVO 2013 this past weekend.

I say surprising because I've never watched EVO before. Listening to the commentators was like listening to a foreign language I'm not familiar with. I didn't recognize any of the big-name players that garnered roars of support from the large crowd. A puzzled look hit my face when one of the players in a final match "reset the bracket." Despite all that, I enjoyed EVO 2013 a lot.

That's not something I was expecting to say. Part of me looks down on EVO as some kind of guilty pleasure, and a couple of things from this weekend's events stood out as particularly unappealing. I watched on the official Twitch channel, and I must say that chat was awful for large portions of the tournament (especially during Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3). I probably shouldn't be surprised, but there was some grade-A idiocy in there. Also, the announcers were a bit hit-and-miss in my opinion. I enjoyed the commentary during the Super Smash Bros. Melee finals quite a bit, but the rest ranged from decent to bad.



The bad applies to one of the commentators during Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, who I believe is referred to as Yipes. I don't know, maybe people love him and I'm just not used to his personality as a newcomer, but he had some... interesting comments during yesterday's finals. One that stood out was how Justin Wong's eyes looked "extra Asian" at some point. If that's not racist, it's at least insensitive.

But enough negatives - as I said, I enjoyed EVO 2013. The enthusiasm that poured out from the audience, commentators, and competitors alike was incredibly infectious. The matches themselves were the real highlight though. The tournament had dominating performances, nail-biters, and unbelievable comebacks, ultimately appealing to everyone out there. I definitely had a favorite match: Justin Wong vs. Chris G in UMvC3.

I mean, I don't know the implications of Justin Wong coming back to beat Chris G in the losers bracket, but holy crap did that crowd go insane. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't swept up in the moment too. At the very least, there's something about an underdog and/or comeback that's irresistible in any competition, whether it's video games, sports, or any other form of entertainment.



My "game of show," so to speak, was Super Smash Bros. Melee, which is noteworthy when you consider that Nintendo wanted to pull the game from the entire competition. Boy am I glad it didn't, because pretty much every match in the finals yesterday was highly entertaining. Every time Wobblez would use the Ice Climbers' infinite grab technique (which I guess is appropriately called wobbling), a huge grin spread across my face. And you could hear the crowd loving it too - at the end of the tournament they started chanting "one more year." Hopefully Nintendo listens.

I also appreciated how EVO 2013 acted as a learning experience. I may have been initially confused about "resetting the bracket" as I previously mentioned, but now I know what it means. And I also used the word wobbling in this blog post... what's happening to me! Maybe I'll go put in my PS3 copy of Super Street Fighter IV this week and try that again. My guess is that I'll fail miserably and give up after an hour. We'll see!
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Here is the last part of my favorite games list. Thanks to everyone who read/commented, I appreciate the warm welcome!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Red Dead Redemption



I'm no western aficionado, but Red Dead Redemption's greatest strength is its atmosphere. Some of my favorite moments in that game simply involved riding my horse into town as I looked out on the beautiful landscape. The appealing western setting was populated by a cast of interesting and rich personalities, including protagonist John Marston. Rockstar really knows how to create memorable characters, don' they? It also felt like Red Dead Redemption improved on the structure of GTA games, with no shortage of entertaining side activities to take part in. The game also gets bonus points for having a bold and compelling ending, something I don't say about a lot of video games. Oh yeah, and the lead guitarist of my favorite band likes this game too, so that's gotta count for something.

Shadow of the Colossus



I'm just as tired of the “games as art” debate as the rest of you, but then I play something like Shadow of the Colossus and I'm ready to spark up discussion again. The artistic vision and scope of this game is still astounding in 2013, and even if The Last Guardian never comes out, I'll continue to place Fumito Ueda among the industry's greatest visionaries. Shadow of the Colossus is absolutely masterful from a presentational standpoint, but the beauty of video games is the interactivity. The epic boss battles also factor into the game's artistic prowess, as players tackle each new colossi encounter like a puzzle and search for the weak spots. I still remember the sense of accomplishment as I felled each new behemoth when I first played it, and that feeling did not go away when I played it again on the PS3 HD collection.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic



I love Star Wars, so my affinity for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was established before I even played the game. But KOTOR is special because BioWare takes that historic Star Wars foundation and creates a world that still feels unique in many important ways. The characters in particular stand out as a high point; I mean, who can forget HK-47 and his sinister humor? In addition, BioWare does a wonderful job of incorporating key Star Wars elements in order to appeal to fans like myself – when I first got a lightsaber in that game, I had a giddy smile on my face for hours.

Super Mario 64



We all know that Super Mario 64 was a defining moment in the videogame industry – it demonstrated the limitless possibilities that come with 3D worlds, and did so in a way that managed to be fun in addition to influential. The level of imagination and wonderment that Super Mario 64 brought gamers everywhere was truly amazing, and I recall plenty of fond memories as I child when I first played the game. It also established itself as a classic that holds up with each passing year – there may be platformers that improved on the basic formula, but if I were to play Super Mario 64 right now I'm sure I'd have plenty of fun.

Super Mario Galaxy 2



A large part of the Super Mario Galaxy 2 design philosophy boils down to throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to see what works. Multiple levels introduce brand new mechanics, only to be abandoned on the next set of levels. And yet nearly every idea works, whether it's forming clouds or carefully rolling on a giant ball. It adds a level of variety to the experience that few games manage to pull off, resulting in an enjoyable time the whole way through. It should also be noted that this was the main reason I purchased a Wii – it ended up collecting a lot of dust after that, but I'm glad I got to experience Super Mario Galaxy 2.


Super Meat Boy



Now you guys can't fault me for looking down on the first two Mega Man games because they're difficult. There are few games that drive me to master mechanics and push my skillful limits, but Super Meat Boy is one of those games. The level of precision in the controls limits the frustration, because any mistake is always the player's fault. The expert level design also helps, providing hundreds of simultaneously creative and difficult obstacles to overcome. The fast-paced nature of the game and the brilliant replay system establishes an addictive pattern, in which I want to play just one more level. That one more level becomes 20 or 30, and then I see that the hours have flown by. I also love that I can see growth the more and more I play Super Meat Boy. When I beat it on the 360 (and did quite a few dark world levels) I died 5000+ times. I cut that number in half when I played it on the PC a year later. That's progress folks!

Super Metroid



The first game I ever played is still the greatest. I've presented this as an alphabetical list, but I can at least say that Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time. The open-ended world encouraged extensive exploration on my part as a child, and I can remember my brother and I taking turns playing the game as we tried to help each other through each new area. The game itself displayed a masterful sense of game design as each new upgrade pushed me even further, so that I wanted to go back and find every nook and cranny in the game's map. And man, what an intense conclusion conclusion, as the timer counts down and Samus escapes to safety. I should stop talking about Super Metroid right now, otherwise I'm liable to take up the rest of this blog post with more and more thoughts on this amazing game.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves



When Uncharted 2 first came out, many people described it as a great summer blockbuster movie in videogame form, and they weren't entirely wrong. But when I think of summer blockbusters, I don't necessarily equate that to top-notch quality. Fun certainly applies, but there's a certain guilty pleasure quality to such a category (a majority of the time). Uncharted 2 has plenty of action and thrills, including one of the more memorable openings of all time, but it's a lot more than that. Nathan Drake and the rest of the characters in Uncharted 2 contain an immense amount of charisma and likability that takes the narrative to a whole new height, even if the last quarter or so goes in some silly places. And actually playing the game is a joy as well, with tight third-person shooting and platforming mechanics. I'm not sure I've played any other game that had me on the edge of my seat quite like Uncharted 2 – it had me invested right from the get-go, and each subsequent playthrough has provided hours and hours of fun.

Valkyria Chronicles



Oh, how I wish more people bought/played Valkyria Chronicles! This strategy RPG did so many things right – meaningful upgrade systems, a unique on-field mechanic in which players took direct control of the characters, and a wonderful story that touched upon all kinds of topics, from racism to romance. I played this game for 40+ hours and did not get tired of it once. That's when you know everything has fallen right into place.
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Here is part 1 and part 2. There's only one more favorite games blog after this, then I promise I'll stop! And again, thanks for the comments so far.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two



I don't consider Half-Life 2 one of my all-time favorite games, but I can absolutely see why it's considered a landmark release. But the whole essence of this blog is personal preference, and Episode Two proves itself as the hallmark of the franchise in my eyes. In just a handful of hours it packs in meaningful narrative progression, entertaining firefights, and one of the most memorable set piece battles I've ever encountered. Taking down those striders completely blew me away in 2007, and having played the game again about a year ago, I can say it still carries a significant impact.

Journey




As I alluded to in my Call of Duty 4 entry, I'm far more interested in single-player experiences, but there are always exceptions, and Journey is one hell of an exception. The way this game creates a player-to-player connection with no text or voice chat is a monumental accomplishment in game design. The first time I played Journey, I lost my partner about halfway through and finished the rest by myself. It didn't feel right though – I missed my partner despite the fact that we had only exchanged a series of unknown symbols with each other. I can't think of any other multiplayer game that comes close to establishing such a strange bond. It also helps that Journey is perhaps the most artistically pleasing game I've ever experienced – that one sand surfing moment (if you've played it, you know what I'm talking about) is unbelievably beautiful.

The Last of Us




Yes, The Last of Us came out just weeks ago. Should I give it more time before I include it on an all-time favorites list? Probably, but this is my list, and in the words of Eric Cartman, “Whatever, I do what I want!” The Last of Us doesn't necessarily innovate in a bunch of meaningful ways – when you boil it down this is still a post-apocalyptic game, something we've seen plenty of in the videogame industry. But Naughty Dog executes on that formula so damn well that it really doesn't matter. Joel is one of the more complex videogame protagonists in, well, ever. But the real heart of the story is the dynamic relationship between him and Ellie, including all its ups and downs. Factor in some fantastic game mechanics that place a heavy emphasis on crafting and different play-styles (I took the cowardly approach plenty of times), and you have one of the year's best.

Mass Effect




I'm a sucker for huge, detailed, and expansive game worlds, so naturally Mass Effect was a perfect fit for me. I still remember reading a bunch of those codex entries – kudos to BioWare for putting so much time and effort into that backstory stuff, it makes it much easier to get sucked into the story. The first entry in the series had plenty of issues – many of the planets felt lifeless, sidequests were quite boring, and the combat was pretty clunky. But the narrative made up for a lot of those issues, including a wonderful cast of characters. It also felt different from its sequel... speaking of that game...

Mass Effect 2




I love Mass Effect, but the sequel is my favorite entry in the series. Plenty of fans were dismayed by the move to a more action-oriented experience, and as a fan of RPGs myself, I had certain problems with it. The world in Mass Effect 2 feels severely limited compared to its predecessor, and I kind of missed the more extensive leveling system from the first entry. But the massive combat overhaul was worth it, because enemy encounters were a lot of fun for a change. On top of that, the character development was even stronger and the sidequests were highlights of the entire game. If only we could somehow combine Mass Effect 1 and 2 into some kind of ultimate experience, then we'd be talking about possibly a top five game for me.

Mega Man X




I suck at Mega Man. I suck at Mega Man 2. I don't suck at Mega Man X, so it makes this list! Well, it's not that simple, but I do think the original series is just too damn hard for me. Mega Man X was a more inviting game, but it still retained the inventive boss battles and awesome power-ups that truly define Mega Man. It also gets special nostalgic bonus points for being the second game I ever played when I was much younger (the first game is on this list too, but that will show up in part 4).


Persona 4 Golden




I don't have much willpower – I give into temptation easily. But I did my best to avoid playing Persona 4 in the hopes that it would be re-released, and that day finally came in 2012. I proceeded to spend 130+ hours with Persona 4 Golden and got the platinum trophy... yeah, I like this game. I could ramble on about Persona 4 Golden forever, but I'll just say it has one of my favorite videogame casts of all time, it has a fusion system that I absolutely adore, and it features a lot more environmental variety than Persona 3 (exploring Tartarus became tiring after a while). Best of all is that Golden adds a whole bunch of extra content that honestly makes it a better experience. The extended scenes alone are fantastic, but man do I like being able to pick which skills get carried over during fusions. That's what I like to call a GAME CHANGER.

Pokemon Red/Blue




If you've been reading this list carefully, then you know that nostalgia plays an important role in this whole process. Such is the case with Pokemon Red/Blue, and perhaps more so than others. I say that because I have no interest in playing a Pokemon game ever again, but boy did I love Pokemon Red/Blue when I was younger. It also helped that I was obsessed with the show, so playing out epic battles on my Game Boy was like a dream come true. And even though I have no interest in the games any more, I still have to say they're well-crafted RPGs.

Portal 2




I think the original Portal is one of the most overrated games of all time. There, I said it! That opinion made Portal 2 all the more surprising, because I was not expecting to love it so much. The GlaDOS humor works even better when you add someone like Wheatley into the mix, and J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson is a stroke of genius. In fact, all of the voice acting in Portal 2 is amazing, which makes the overarching narrative all the more compelling. The gameplay is the real star though, and the innovative portal system is strengthened by the inclusion of things like paint and excursion funnels (tractor beams). The cooperative multiplayer also deserves a special mention – in fact, I think the multiplayer in Portal 2 makes a better case for the game's overall brilliance in game design. It truly felt cooperative, and I can't say that about most multiplayer games. It also made me feel like a genius at times, which is always appreciated.
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Part 1 of my favorite games of all time can be found here. Thanks to everyone for the kind comments so far!

ESPN NFL 2K5



This is the only sports title on my greatest games list. The fact that Madden now dominates the virtual football market is a travesty, because ESPN NFL 2K5 was the true cream of the crop. The tie to ESPN results in some stellar presentation, complete with a SportsCenter feature hosted by Chris Berman (though it should be noted that I hate Chris Berman). But the real reason this game makes my list is because it was a blast to play - there's just something about the mechanics in 2K5 that appeals to me more than any Madden I've ever played. I do remember throwing a lot of interceptions though... well, maybe I was just bad at the game. That's always a possibility.

Final Fantasy VI



This one brings back some fond childhood memories. I recall going to my friend Danny's house to play this since I did not own Final Fantasy VI (that would later change). We'd switch back and forth and give each other tips as we played through to the end, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had with a video game. FFVI made another lasting impact on me when I was older and I played the GBA version. It was then that I first realized what an incredible game it actually is, in terms of storytelling, character development, and overall design. Now when anyone asks me about my favorite Final Fantasy game, I always answer Final Fantasy VI.

Final Fantasy VII



It seems like Final Fantasy VII receives more backlash with each passing year. Maybe it doesn't hold up as well as I'd like to think, but every time I remember the game I have a smile on my face. The narrative's epic scope really astounded me when I first played it, and I always found most of the characters interesting and compelling (but I'll admit Cloud is pretty lame). I also remember my brother playing it before me, and he printed out an entire walkthrough in case he got stuck. That took up a lot of paper and ink... boy was my dad angry!

Final Fantasy VIII



Final Fantasy VIII stands as one of the more divisive titles in the storied RPG franchise. I admit I have my fair share of problems with it - I'm not a big fan of the jumping storylines between Squall and Laguna (that should tell you which of the first two Godfather movies I prefer), and I fall into the "drawing spells is kinda dumb" camp. But I liked the junction system, I liked most of the characters, and I thought the romance between Squall and Rinoa was interesting (perhaps that was the young romantic in me slowly coming into fruition). Like FFVII, I'm not sure how well this holds up since I haven't played it in a while. But I choose to look back on it fondly and not worry about that.

God of War



The violence and brutality in God of War acted as a cathartic experience for both Kratos and myself. A stupid smile would be plastered across my face every time I'd juggle enemies in the air with Kratos' blades until they became a bloody mess (that sounds awful out of context...). The combat in God of War carefully toed the line between button-mashy and combo-focused, which made each playthrough rewarding and fun. Having played the game again recently, I can say the narrative doesn't hold up as well as I'd like it to. But the game solidified Kratos as a trademark videogame character, for better or worse. The protagonist's revenge-fueled desires got a bit tedious by the third game, but I was totally on board back in 2005.

Golden Sun



By this point it's no surprise that I like RPGs, but the ones featured in this list so far are more popular than Golden Sun. Imagine if Golden Sun had come out during the SNES days – we'd probably be talking about it as a classic. But let's not linger on that too much, because plenty of people love Golden Sun, myself included. It's definitely the game I spent the most time playing on my GBA, and for good reason. I always look at narrative/characters as the real soul and essence of an RPG, and Golden Sun excelled in both those departments. Outside of that, it took some creative risks with the Djinn summoning system and the inclusion of psyenergy abilities to solve in-game puzzles. These unique elements went a long way in establishing Golden Sun as a title that didn't simply rehash worn out JRPG tropes. Man, now I just want to go load this up on my DS...

Goldeneye 007



The main reason Goldeneye 007 makes my list is because it strengthened the bond between myself and my brother. When I was growing up, our central link was a mutual love of video games, and boy did we love playing Goldeneye 007 together. Countless hours were spent playing split-screen games against each other, and to this day they stand out as some of my fondest gaming memories. It helped that the game itself was a well-crafted console FPS (definitely a rarity back then), but again, the memories are what stand out most. My brother doesn't play video games as much as he used to, but any time I bring this game up, we both can't help but laugh and think back on those good times.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas



I'm a fan of the entire Grand Theft Auto series, so deciding on my favorite game is a tough choice. But I have to go with San Andreas, largely because its game world has arguably the most personality. Dan Houser and the rest of the Rockstar writing team are some of the best in the business, and that really comes through when I consider all the charismatic characters that populate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game also nails its early 90s California setting, complete with one of my favorite videogame soundtracks.

Guitar Hero



Fun isn't necessarily the most important part of any video game, but don't tell Guitar Hero that. Holy crap did I love playing this game when it first came out (after that too, but the first week or so was pure bliss). I don't know how to play any instruments and that probably won't change any time soon, so Guitar Hero was my portal into the guitar world. Eventually I became really good at the game, and I'd boastfully demonstrate my skills to friends and family. Even my dad enjoyed playing this game every now and then, which is noteworthy since he plays practically no video games.
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My second blog post was supposed to be the continuation of my favorite games, but then I woke up and read some devastating news. Ryan Davis, former GameSpot editor and Giant Bomb co-founder, has passed away at just 34 years old.

Across the internet you can see numerous gamers pouring their hearts out over this incredibly sad news. Many of them, myself included, have not met Ryan Davis. I've never interacted with him at all, whether it be on forums, Twitter, or any other medium. And yet his passing feels like a punch to the gut. I can say, without hesitation, that he had an effect on my life.

Going back to the GameSpot days, I'd take pleasure in reading his thoughtful reviews that brilliantly toed the line between professional and entertaining. It took him a little while to develop an on-camera personality (just take a look at this wonderful historic relic), but by the time he co-founded Giant Bomb with Jeff Gerstmann, he had cemented himself as a key figure in videogame journalism.

In fact, he stands as one of the biggest influences on my overall interest in videogame journalism. When I read Ryan Davis' content, I wanted to go out there and write something of my own so I could follow in his footsteps. That desire has only strengthened due to his work at Giant Bomb, where he has brought joy and laughter to viewers across the world.



I'm not entirely sure how Giant Bomb will fill such a void. Ryan Davis was almost a daily presence in my life, whether that came in the form of quicklooks, Bombcasts, or any other content that makes Giant Bomb such a special website. It's only been hours since I heard the news and I already miss him...

There's a reason why sites like Destructoid, IGN, Polygon, Game Informer, and others have such kind words to say about Ryan Davis. He may have worked at Giant Bomb, but his presence was felt throughout the entire videogame community. We've lost a truly stand-up guy today, and he will be missed.

My thoughts go out to Ryan Davis' family and friends.
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In case it's not obvious, I'm new to this whole Destructoid thing. Well, I've been reading Destructoid content for quite a while now, but forums and blogging are uncharted territory for me. But as they say, you gotta start some time... so why not right now?

I was thinking of what my first blog post should be, and then I thought of a common introductory question I've received on other sites: "What are some of your favorite games?" Well I'm glad you asked! (Even though you probably didn't). I love discussing my favorite games, so that seems like a good starting point for a first blog post.

I'll be splitting this up into a few separate blogs in an effort to avoid walls of text. One thing to note: this list will be in alphabetical order because ranking things is too damn hard!

Batman: Arkham Asylum



I never really thought much of Batman, whether that meant films, video games, comic books, or anything else that applied to the franchise. But then Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins came out and my position shifted. I finally learned that Batman is, well, awesome! Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum helped cement my new viewpoint with its emphasis on satisfying melee combat and nifty gadgets. Arkham Asylum itself certainly helped by creating a convenient environment for a whole slew of classic Batman villains. I ended up enjoying Arkham City even more, but I'll always remember Arkham Asylum as the game that first captured the essence of what makes Batman so great.

BioShock Infinite



The original BioShock would be on this list if the combat were slightly more interesting and the end of the game didn't crumble on itself in the wake of a brilliant first half. Luckily BioShock Infinite addresses those key issues with tighter gameplay mechanics, more interesting powers, and a mindblowing ending that I couldn't get over weeks after I witnessed it. Those fixes result in a better game, but Columbia and Elizabeth are the main reasons why I already consider BioShock Infinite an all-time favorite. The way in which Columbia slowly transitions from a bright utopia to a far more sinister city in the sky is nothing short of brilliant, and Elizabeth's mix of charm, charisma, and overall fragility results in one of the most memorable videogame sidekicks I can remember. The six year wait for Infinite was tough, but I guess Ken Levine knows what he's doing.

Braid



When I first played Braid, it shattered my expectations of how inventive and unique game mechanics can be. There are plenty of innovative releases every year, but there was something about the rewind feature in Braid that seemed incredibly novel. But even more impressive than that was the way in which that core mechanic tied directly into the game's narrative, creating an odd synthesis of story and gameplay that one doesn't necessarily expect from a smaller indie title. I've heard some people describe Braid as too high brow and/or pretentious (descriptions that have also been applied to lead designer Jonathan Blow), but I simply see it as a wonderful example of artistic expression. As far as I'm concerned, we need more game designers like Jonathan Blow.

Burnout 3: Takedown



Games like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo can be fun, but they lack the constant thrill of something like Burnout 3: Takedown. I played the first two entries in the series before Takedown, but this game really champions the adrenaline rush of driving into oncoming traffic and narrowly avoiding catastrophic collisions. That destruction is made even more fun with the addition of impact time, a slow-motion mode that allows players to apply "aftertouch" to crashes in an effort to rack up more property damage. Oh yeah, and there are "takedowns" as the game's title indicates, which essentially rewards players for being an asshole to AI opponents. How great is that?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare



My current relationship with Modern Warfare probably falls into the category of love/hate. It started a trend of multiplayer-focused games and terrible online communities, two things I don't particularly enjoy. But then I remember all the goods times I had with Call of Duty 4 back in 2007. Even though I mostly stick to single-player experiences, somehow this game's online multiplayer appealed to me. To this day I can't think of a competitive online game I had more fun playing. I didn't hit prestige a million times like other fans of the game, but I still put quite a few hours into Modern Warfare's online component. And hey, the single-player campaign was still pretty damn good.

Chrono Cross



If you were to ask me what my favorite RPG of all time is about five or six years ago, I probably would have said Chrono Cross. Apparently there are people out there who don't like this game, which continues to confound me. I struggle to think of a single thing I didn't like about this game – the unique battle system that focuses on stamina points, the overarching narrative, the countless number of recruitable characters... the list goes on and on. Chrono Cross also features one of my favorite videogame soundtracks of all time. I mean, how good is On the Beach of Dreams?

Chrono Trigger



Cue the Chrono Cross vs. Chrono Trigger debate! There are probably people yelling at me right now for even calling it a debate. Obviously Chrono Trigger is the more popular of the two, and that's fine by me. It has a wonderful cast of characters (Frog for life!), a cool time-traveling story, and numerous endings that reward repeated playthroughs. Best of all is that the game still holds up. Some classics don't stand the test of time, but I played through Chrono Trigger again on my DS in 2008 and had a grand ol' time.

Donkey Kong Country



You know who likes Donkey Kong Country more than me? My mom. She freakin' mastered this game, to my shock as a kid and now my general amusement as an adult. But she had good taste in games, because Donkey Kong Country is indeed fantastic. It hit all the right platforming notes – numerous collectibles, tight controls, challenging sections, and some pretty fun cooperative multiplayer. I seem to recall liking the sequel just as much, but the original game will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim



Sometimes I like losing myself in a game world, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim satisfies that need perfectly. Bethesda has mastered the art of fully-realized videogame environments, and Skyrim stands as the best example of the studio's skill in that particular area. It also improved on Oblivion in quite a few ways, especially in regard to the leveling system. When you put all that together, you have a game in which the hours just fly by. I couldn't put this game down for the first week or so, and the addiction carried over into 2012. I know friends who bought this game when it came out and haven't purchased a new release since. I'm not that crazy, but I can absolutely understand the addiction.
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