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Favourite Video Games
Below are the favourites from my personal video game collection in fairly random order.
Actually, the order of these games is not entirely random. It would be sinful to start with anything other than Halo, the best game ever made. I bought the Xbox specifically for Halo - it is that special. The gameplay, the graphics, the incredible attention to detail make me think that Halo is actually not a video game like all the others. It is to video games what movies are to still pictures, or what cars are to bicycles.
The attention to detail is nicely illustrated by the smoke pouring out of your tank in a snowy valley. The smoke drifts away, slowly, on the winds that are actually part of the virtual world. And, if you throw a hand grenade in the water, the explosion will be followed by the sound of dirt falling back to earth, splashing in water. If you walk through the explosion spot, you'll hear the splashes surround you as you pass the place. This game is different.
The cooperative mode of gameplay is excellent, and is one of Halo's best features. In the end though, the graphics, the coop mode, and the love for detail are just niceties. The real power of Halo is how it plays: rich, creamy FPS action. The enemies have great AI, have their own tactics. The action is scripted to perfection, and although Halo is fun the first time, there is great satisfaction in improving your skills. That allows you to play Halo over and over again.
Other favourites: Project Gotham Racing, TimeSplitters 2
The N64 is massively underrated. Sony's obnoxious Playstation kept the N64 in the shadows, but it is actually the N64 that is technically superior and has the best games of its generation. Zelda, Mario's adventure and Goldeneye are the best games of their time. There can be no doubt.
007 Goldeneye is my favourite pick. Like Halo, it's an FPS. Like Halo, it changed the industry. This was the game that got me playing again after 15 years. It has a great and varied sequence of different challenges, and the storyline holds it all together to create that powerful atmosphere. There is stealth (the famous first scene on the Siberian Dam), brute killing sprees (the Train) and no-one who played Goldeneye will ever forget the security cameras!
Multi-player adds a whole dimension to the game. Compared to Quake, Goldeneye is more subtle. It requires skill, and tactics somehow matter much more than in any previous FPS multi-player setup. For about half a year, I'd try to move guests subtly into the direction of my N64 after dinner, starting up a conversation about the joys of gaming. If they didn't get the hint, bad luck for them. No-one escaped playing Goldeneye here.
Other must-have N64 games: Mario Kart, Super Mario, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
What about the Dreamcast? This machine was really good. Today, it might lose the battle against XBox and Playstation 2, but even now it probably makes far more sense to buy a second-hand Dreamcast with 25 games, rather than to buy a new XBox with a single game. I'm new to the Dreamcast, so I'll wait a few weeks before coming up with favourites.
Shenmue, though, must be the defining game of the Dreamcast. It's the adventure game that I have to get started on...
Many, er, Real Gamers consider the SNES to be the ultimate gamer's machine. It might have an obscure 16-bit processor and the power of a souped-up Commodore 64, but the 2D games reached their peak on this platform. It's probably true. For me, though, the vast majority of games on the SNES have little to offer today. There are exceptions, and those make the SNES worth owning after all. Super Metroid is the top 2D platformer, although the Mario games introduced on the old NES are solid too.
But then there is Donkey Kong Country. It pushed aside any other game on the SNES. Graphically, it's a work of art. With the limited horsepower of the SNES, developer Rare put on a show that is so good, that to this day I enjoy watching others play Donkey Kong Country. The music adds the right atmosphere to every stage, the cartoon graphics are so good you want to hug the telly. And, like any other Nintendo game, this one is not about killing and blowing up. Sure you bounce on evil monsters and throw a bit of TNT, but nobody gets to die really, do they? The reality of Nintendo is of course that they are a money-hungry monopolist that feeds off the pocket money of your children. But surely, the creators of DKC must be nice people?!
NES - The original Nintendo Entertainment System
This was the machine that separated the computer nerds from the gaming nerds. I was a computer nerd, and when this thing came on to the scene in the mid-80s, my gaming friends bought a NES, and the rest of us focused on 6502 assembler on our Commodore 64s. I only started gaming again 15 years later... so do I like the NES? No. The home computers of that time were a far better platform to play on, and you could still stick them into the TV and play in the living room. Still, the NES is the granny of every present-day console and there are some beautifully crafted games on it: the NES had decent Pac-man and Donkey Kong versions. Zelda made its first appearance, and then there was --
Mario Brothers. And MB2. And MB3. And it never really stopped because after four generations of consoles, these days, you're stuck playing Super Mario advance 2 on your Game Boy Advance. With hindsight, Mario Brothers was the game that showed Nintendo's true character. It sucked the pocket money out of every kid. If you didn't have it, you were a nobody at school. And Nintendo knew it. They've been squeezing cash out of kids with dozens of sequels for twenty years now.
Still, Mario Bros is a good game. Today, it is the only NES game that gets people hooked. The graphics are totally adapted to what the NES could create, and look juicy even now. The game requires skill, patience and rewards your learning curve. Er, I actually never got very far...
Chinese copycat game systems
There are quite a few NES and Atari 2600 clones that are on the market today. They are not-quite-legal products, as they typically hold 70 or so games in a big ROM. These machines a great retro-gaming objects though! I've got two; one is a NES clone whilst the other is an Atari 2600. Both hold 70+ original games and are great fun. They don't take up any space, yet are a nice collection in and of themselves.
The GunBoy, shown to the left, is only one representative of a whole series of similar machines. You have the Mega Joy, Mega Joy II, Mega Joy 2000, and who knows what more. All of them are excellent, with responsive joystick controls. The joystick is the entire machine - you put in the batteries, plug in the Scart connector and you're done. My GunBoy actually has a second joystick so you can play with a friend...
The TV Boy, to the left, is an Atari 2600 clone. It holds an excellent mix of games, including most of the classics. That is actually not quite the case for the MegaJoy-type NES clones. Probably due to copyright concerns, the NES machines often lack some of the top games. Not so, then, for the TV Boy. This one hooks up to the TV through an RF cable rather than a Scart. It has a less comfortable joystick, and I strongly recommend to buy the original TV Boy, which has separate joysticks and a mini-console. The all-in-one TV Boy II that I have is more easily found, but not quite as good.
Nintendo Game & Watch - Donkey Kong
Whey-hey! The little LCD game that was my first video game. I was really good at this... the high score counter went up to 999, and I could cycle past that magic score twice. Easily. My Donkey Kong is now restored to original specs, but at high school it was tuned: the little speaker could be disabled and a battery pack was taped to its back. The original batteries were rather expensive, so I fixed a nerdy solution with AA batteries... these days, though, the game looks like it should again. Gameplay is still brilliant, far better than Donkey Kong on the NES four years later.
Good Gaming Links
IGN has tons of game reviews for the more recent consoles. GameSpot is OK, but suffers from ads and subscriber restrictions. CDEmulation is the place where you can find out what a nice hacker's machine the Dreamcast can be! You have no idea...
ClassicGaming.com is the best place to start retrogaming. It combines classic games with emulator information. And emulators are the sensible way to gaming history, I guess.
Last updated January, 2003 by Oscar Vermeulen