Thanks for the memories
The tail-end of console generations always feel a tad bittersweet. In our haste to eagerly welcome a new, shiny machine to the ever-growing stack of boxes underneath our televisions, we begin to neglect the systems we're currently graced with -- the ones that have kept us entertained for the better part of a decade. It's an easy enough trap to fall into; everyone shrugs off the ol' housecat in favor of the spritely, young kitten. But, truth be told, that housecat was a damn fine companion for a long time.
As we get set to usher in a new era with the PlayStation 4, it's a fine time to remember all that the PS3 had to offer. Just like when the Wii U was set to launch, we'd like to take a moment to look back at the experiences that personally defined this generation of games for us. These were the Destructoid Staff's favorite PlayStation 3 titles:
A Pomeranian fending off a lion on the mean streets of post-apocalyptic Tokyo is what sold me on Tokyo Jungle, because how could a premise like that not be successful? Yes, it's ridiculous, and yes, that's a substantial part of the appeal. But dig in, and you'll find a game that's far deeper than first impressions would suggest. There's some genuinely good design in here.
Whether you play as a chicken, a hippo, or a dinosaur, there is one real goal: to survive. Animals don't live forever, particularly not when it's all-out war among Tokyo Jungle's extensive collection of species, so that means eating. And mating. And then some more mating, just for good measure -- your children serve as extra lives, after all. Traits are eventually passed down to future generations as you complete objectives and although the inevitable death of your pack is permanent, not all progress will be lost for good.
There's a persistence to each species' stats for those willing to grind it out and, heck, just unlocking all of the creatures in the first place is a commitment. Tokyo Jungle is about as "PlayStation" a game as they come, if such a thing even exists -- it feels at home on the platform and remains one of my absolute favorite experiences. No PSN library is complete without it.
Despite my lengthy love affair with Japanese role-playing games, I wasn't always so hot on them. Even the brightest flames have been known to flicker and fade from time to time. But when the night was seemingly at its darkest, Valkyria Chronicles came along to rekindle my passions and make me realize why I adored JRPGs so much in the first place.
Valkyria Chronicles really struck a chord with me. The visual design is as distinctive as it is stunning, resembling something along the lines of a watercolor painting set in motion. Battles are centered around traditional tactical role-playing elements, but blend in visages of third-person shooters as well. The fusion is masterfully implemented and makes for an unparalleled experience that's both fresh and familiar.
Beyond that, a well-told narrative centering on a small nation caught up in a larger conflict analogous to World War II, a lovely cast of characters, and an emotional score tie together what's easily one of my favorite titles of the last decade.
I was not prepared to dive into Demon's Souls for the very first time. Not because it was particularly challenging, but due to the fact that it offered up a world rarely seen in the videogame realm. In Demon's Souls, nothing was sacred, and nothing was spelled out for you.
Whereas most games would feature a painstaking hour-long tutorial filled with tooltips even after you'd learned the basics, Demon's Souls lets you just run free and learn the rules as you go along. It was a brilliant approach, and one that led to a host of different strategies, discoveries, and the ability to essentially make up your own narrative.
Although Dark Souls brought the franchise into the forefront, it was its predecessor that really laid the groundwork. Even now, over four years later, Demon's Souls is still relevant, and a worthwhile addition to any PS3 owner's library.
For me, one of the defining characteristics of this past generation is the experimentation with games whose primary goal isn't to maim something or someone with a sword or a gun. Few titles embody that ideal more than thatgamecompany's offerings. Flower was one of the first games I've played with a focus on spreading beauty, and to that end it pushed the hardware masterfully.
Despite starring a gust of wind and containing no spoken or written word, Flower still manages to tell a distinct story with a full arc of conflict and resolution. That it chooses to resolve the conflict through creation rather than destruction helps to make it one of the most memorable experiences on the PlayStation 3.
Honorable mention: Killzone 2
Yeah, so my favorite games of last-gen seem to all involve how the game made me feel emotionally, and no other game comes close to how Journey can make a person feel. The game is a celebration of life, channeling everything from how lost one can feel growing up, right down to the tragedy of death. Don't even get me started on the soundtrack and how that alone can send a person through a wave of emotions either.
Journey may be one of the simplest games to play, but how it leaves you feeling after the fact is practically indescribable.
Okay, my favorite game is Journey, but some jerk already took that one. So, Ni No Kuni comes in second place. As soon as I saw the first trailer for Ni No Kuni, I knew I wanted to get lost in its world(s). If you hadn't noticed, the game looks absolutely stunning, both in-game during its animated cutscenes. It's a world filled with innocence, corruption, and perhaps most importantly, color. And I don't just mean the pigments and hues that the game uses (which, by the way, are splendid), but I'm also referring to the wild personalities that are encountered throughout the game. It's a fantasy world unlike any other.
Oh yeah, gameplay. Despite my AI-controlled allies SUCKING, the core gameplay mechanics are super solid. The Pokémon-style "gotta catch 'em all" allure is as strong as ever, especially considering it's accompanied by a Pokémon-style evolving mechanic. Encountering new monsters is exhilarating and when the opportunity arises to catch one, maybe a little dance might be done in order to celebrate. Only a little dance, though. Maybe.
The Last Guy is the first game I purchased on PSN, and it remains one of my favorites. In the game, you play as the titular Last Guy, rescuing the survivors of a global monster attack and leading them to safety, while avoiding enemies which prowl maze-like streets.
A sweet marriage of mechanics found in Snake and Pac-Man, the game balances risk and reward well by making the player both powerful and vulnerable with every group of survivors collected. The enemy types are varied and, in combination, deadly as sin, making this one hell of a challenge. It's also really cool to look at, as all the stages are derived from aerial photography of real-world locales. Definitely one to check out if you haven't delved into the older titles of the PSN library.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is a near perfect metaphor for this generation of Japanese videogames. It's about an old man who's struggling against time, pondering his past, reluctantly adapting to new standards, self conscious, fearful, strained, trying to stay true to himself while making sense of the demands of the world around him. Hideo Kojima is over 50 years old. He's making games for people more than half his age. I bet he feels like an Old Snake more often than not.
While I prefer its predecessor overall, Metal Gear Solid 4 represents the series at its most intense and self-conflicted. There is a tension here that you wont find anywhere else. It works so hard to be a movie, and then shoves copious loads of videogame logic right in your face. It throws you into huge dramatic gunfights, but allows you to listen to Sea Breeze on your fake-iPod while you battle. It's a globe-trotting epic and a small, arcade-like maze game at the same time.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is videogames at the crossroads. It's a series born on the MSX and the NES staring at the future and not sure what's going to happen. For a a guy in his thirties who first fell in love with videogames because of stuff like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, it's easy to relate with Kojima and his grizzled, aging action hero.
Honorable mentions: Yakuza series, The Last Guy, Guacamelee, Lone Survivor
I must have stood there for five minutes. After a while, I even put my controller down. Like watching Elizabeth dance on the pier in BioShock Infinite, I never wanted it to end. And knowing that I was the only one who could make it end was the hardest part.
I watched Joel and Ellie watch the giraffes, and time stood still. That was it. The most peaceful, serene moment either of these characters would ever experience, and I was able to experience it right along with them. And it was beautiful. It was perfect.
It's hard to believe, thinking about it now, that in a game filled with mushroom-headed zombies and some of the goddamn toughest human enemies ever to appear in a videogame, my memory always goes back to that scene with the giraffes. But that's what made The Last of Us so special; sure, the combat was thrilling and the story was executed flawlessly, but for me, it will always be about Joel and Ellie, and that brief moment of respite I was fortunate to share with them. It was one of the greatest joys I've ever experienced in gaming, and I wish I could go back and live in that moment forever.
If there is one series, to me, that has embodied Mega Man in 3D it’s Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank. At its core, the game is all about running, jumping, platforming, and blasting enemies away with crazy, over-the-top massive weapons of destruction -- something Capcom’s beloved series excelled at in the 2D era. I fell in love with the furry Lombax and his robotic companion on the PlayStation 2, but it wasn’t until their first grand outing on the PS3 that truly sold me on Sony's new console.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction was the first game to blur lines visually between a videogame and a Pixar movie. Explosions full of debris flying every which way, gorgeously lush worlds brimming with mystery, high-intensity space combat, and some of the most realistically-rendered fur to ever grace a videogame critter made Tools of Destruction a game that satisfied every sense of my body. Its full follow-up, A Crack in Time, was great too and I’m eagerly waiting to get my hands on Into the Nexus, but Tools of Destruction will always have a place in my heart. Like I said, it is what first sold me on the PS3, and more importantly this generation of HD gaming.