Tag Archives: dramatic

Portal, PC

Portal is a legendary first-person puzzle/gravity game developed and published by Valve in 2007.

I say “gravity game” because Portal combines basic physics (acceleration, velocity, gravity, and inertia), with the ability to open up entry and exit portals, to create a game so beautifully simple-yet-complex that it is almost beyond belief…

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Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Nintendo 64

Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a surprising 2001 release – on the Nintendo 64 – for British developer Rare, in collaboration with Nintendo.

What is surprising about it is that it is an “adult” game – meaning: it contains cartoon characters behaving in ways that you don’t normally see in a Nintendo game, like vomiting on people’s shoes, making sexual innuendo, and using mild swear words.

Continue reading Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Nintendo 64

IndyCar Racing, PC

Papyrus Design Group‘s 1993 classic IndyCar Racing is a fast, MS-DOS-based racing game with lots to interest petrolheads, sim fans, and car geeks.

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Karateka, Commodore 64

Karateka was Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner‘s first published game. He programmed it (originally for the Apple II) while attending Yale University in 1984.

It’s a simple martial arts fighting game that uses rotoscoped graphics to create realistic animation. Back in 1984 they were pretty revolutionary.

Continue reading Karateka, Commodore 64

Etrian Odyssey, Nintendo DS

This pioneering Japanese RPG was first released in 2007 and paved the way for one of the greatest series in the history of level-grinders… The Etrian Odyssey series.

Number three is my favourite, but one and two are excellent too (see also the Nintendo 3DS fourth instalment), and all follow the same credo. Which is: to base a game around exploration, mapping, and turn-based combat. And to make the party system flexible, so that adventurers can take out different parties and experiment with character skills.

Of course this first Etrian Odyssey is not quite as finessed as the second and third (or fourth) games. It’s missing some important features of the later games, like some of the usability features that make this type of game easy to play on a handheld (for example: it hasn’t got the ability to cycle through your characters using the L&R shoulder buttons, which is available from game two onwards, which makes a significant difference). It doesn’t have ‘auto attacks’, which saves time with low level monsters; and the boost system is clumsy. Also: the layout of the text isn’t right in this first game either – it’s kinda misaligned inside the dialogue boxes, which Atlus fixed in the next game.

Etrian Odyssey also doesn’t quite have the breadth of variation as seen in the second, third and fourth games, although it does establish many of the series’ staples, such as character classes Landsknechts and Dark Hunters (specialised fighters who can excel with certain weapons, like swords and whips). It also establishes front and back rows and allows some classes to specialise in either, which is a nice feature (because you can choose to take a single character in a radically different direction to the norm, which is always interesting). A lot of thought has obviously gone in to Etrian Odyssey and the way it plays, and it is good to see how many great ideas were included at the start.

Etrian Odyssey is a beautifully-produced game by Atlus. The art is wonderful throughout and the music and menu system are highly polished.

If you’ve played the later Etrian Odyssey games before this one then you might get tired of it quickly, simply because it lacks the control/menu shortcuts of the sequels. That’d be a pity because this first game has a tremendous amount of content to play through and is technically a great piece of programming. The stylus controls on the mapping system were pretty much nailed with this first game. In fact: the mapping element – as a whole – was this game’s gift to the RPG world. It is such a great feature and works brilliantly well in this – and every other Etrian Odyssey game that followed it. It’s the game’s USP, and it’s also the series’ USP.

More on The King of Grabs:
Etrian Odyssey, Etrian Odyssey II, Etrian Odyssey III

More: Etrian Odyssey on Wikipedia

Final Fantasy VIII, PlayStation

Considered something of a curveball to the hugely successful episode seven, Final Fantasy VIII (eight) is more great level-grinding goodness from Japanese dev Gods, Square. This one released in 1999.

A completely different setting and characters to previous instalments, Final Fantasy VIII features six playable protagonists and five temporarily-playable characters, each of whom make their entrance at key points in the story. The main character – who you begin the game with – is called Squall Leonhart – and Squall is a SeeD cadet. “SeeDs” by the way are elite mercenaries who can “junction” Guardian Forces to create a wide range of special offensive and defensive abilities, and these kind of act as a substitute for armour and accessories. In combat, SeeDs can use weapons and cast magic, and create all manner of colourful lightshows with their spells, and can even activate special power moves with “Limit Breaks” – using a meter that builds up and can be unleashed when full. They must also use “Draw Points” to keep their magic points topped-up for battle.

The aim of the game is to use all the powers and resources at your disposal to defeat the sorceress, Ultimecia, who is attempting to destroy the universe by compressing time. This is spectacular, high brow science fiction fantasy… gobbledegook… Gobbledegook of the highest order, nonetheless…

In terms of presentation, Final Fantasy VIII really pushed the original PlayStation to its limits, with amazing animated cut scenes, beautiful 2D backgrounds, lots of special effects during combat, and much more 3D than the previous game. The menu system in this was a big leap forward too. People often forget how good Final Fantasy VIII was for the time, because it was eclipsed by the gigantic presence of its predecessor.

A long-awaited re-mastered edition of Final Fantasy VIII goes on sale on Steam this week. The 3rd of September to be precise. Will it be worth the £15.99 they’re asking for it? Having very much enjoyed the original, my response is: quite possibly.

Note: These screenshots are from the original PlayStation version.

More: Final Fantasy VIII on Wikipedia
Steam: Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Steam

Stonekeep, PC

Stonekeep is a strange first-person Role-Playing Game, developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1995.

I say “strange” because Stonekeep comes from a time when developers were looking for any excuse to inject some full-motion video into their games, and Stonekeep uses digitised video quite a lot, and it now looks very dated. Actually, Stonekeep uses two very dated graphical techniques to create the world you’re exploring – the second technique being Silicon Graphics-rendered graphics (the first being the aforementioned digitised video technique, a la Mortal Kombat). It’s the clash of the bad graphics techniques…

The way the digitised video has been used in the game means that a lot of the characters and monsters in it look kinda like pantomime villains… Well I felt like I was playing a pantomime fantasy game with Stonekeep… The visual style of this game reminds me of that TV show, Knightmare – the one that superimposed live actors over painted fantasy backdrops… That’s what they tried to do with this game – film people in costumes and incorporate them into a Role-Playing Game… And the end result is a bit of a weird mess!

In spite of the outdated presentation Stonekeep plays excellently. Movement is quick and simple, and is tile-based. A journal keeps track of quests, items, maps, stats and available spells (which are cast using runes inscribed on wands). Combat is real-time; similar to that seen in the mighty Dungeon Master. Quests and puzzles are fairly simple – mostly unblock a route or kill a bad guy – although there are a few surprises along the way that take Stonekeep beyond the merely ‘generic’.

I wouldn’t say that Stonekeep is a ‘solid gold classic’, but I would recommend that RPG fans give it a try. Or even better: play it to the later stages at least, because that’s where it gets more interesting. That said: if you have a low tolerance for goblins, faeries, and ice queens then maybe this game isn’t for you…

Stonekeep is a game that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten and does have its moments, even though the story and setting are a little trite. Don’t let me put you off though – Stonekeep plays nicely in DOSBox and is cheap on GOG.com and is well worth adding to the collection.

More: Stonekeep on Wikipedia
GOG.com: Stonekeep on GOG.com