Friday, October 5, 2012
Here is a list of games that I think I'm safe referring to as legendary in the sense that a significant portion of the video game community see them as being the cream of the crop, and the review scores for each of these games were very high. Of course, I personally don't like all of these games, and neither will you, but I think it's inarguable that they are highly esteemed and influential, and/or were important/noteworthy at the time of release:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Resident Evil 4
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Ninja Gaiden Black
Skies of Arcadia
Gran Turismo 3:A-Spec
Final Fantasy VII
Sonic The Hedgehog
Street Fighter II
Super Smash Bros.
Donkey Kong Country
Tales of Symphonia
Super Mario 64
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Super Mario World
Super Mario Bros.
Baldur's Gate II
Metal Gear Solid 3
Super Mario Bros. 3
Halo: Combat Evolved
Unreal Tournament 2004
Grand Theft Auto III
God of War
So, here's my question: what if any, current generation video games do you think should make this list? Are there any? Is it folly to try and answer this while the generation is still unfolding?
What are the characteristics that go into deciding if a game is considered 'legendary' or not? To me, the impact it made upon release, the ways in which it moved the genre, or gaming itself forward, how well the elements that make the game come together to form a novel or just well made, cohesive experience. Something that people will look back on say “remember when?”
Legendary games are those games that come to mind when you think of either a particular system, or a particular genre. For example, I'm not even a fan of the series, but when I think of the N64, I automatically think of Ocarina of Time. I mean, I have spoken about this before, so I won't get into crazy detail, but even as a non fan I get nostalgic when I think of it, and I recognize just how stellar that game really was. It took the formula perfected in ALTTP and translated it beautifully to 3D, while at the same time, taking the new opportunities afforded them by the move to the third dimension and utilizing them. Another game that comes to mind when I think of the N64 is of course Goldeneye. Goldeneye was a game that showed gamers and developers alike that FPS could be done extremely well on a console, and that included multiplayer, which to that point, had mostly been the domain of the PC.
Are there any games that have been released this generation that you can honestly say compare to LoZ:OOT, Goldeneye 007, Chrono Trigger, or Tales of Symphonia?
Trying to answer my own question is difficult. I think that time is an important ingredient in making this assessment, so I guess that answers one of my secondary questions. Retrospect, hindsight, whatever you want to call it, I think things will be more clear 5 or so years from now. Still though, I can't see it being impossible to go ahead and nominate some games now. I mean, I think it was pretty evident upon release that Ocarina of Time was stellar. So, let's see if I can think of anything.
Okay, games that define this generation, or a particular console, made significant advancements in a genre, and/or were just incredibly well made and really resonated with people. A game that you can replay 100 times and still enjoy yourself......Hmm....
Well, Shadow Complex comes to mind for me. It took what we thought could be done in 2D and flipped it on it's head with the perspective changes and the ridiculously amazing graphics. It made a few significant innovations in an under appreciated (sub)genre (although it also failed to match some of the classics like Super Metroid and SOTN on a few things, like bosses and music). It showed that a $15 game can look like a $60 one, play like a $60, and provide as much fun as a $60 one (more than most of them, imo).
I guess Geometry Wars would be another one. Basically for kick-starting the real launch of the xbox live arcade (I know it was technically on the xbox 1) and completely kicking ass. This $5 game had people hooked for MONTHS, with simple, yet very challenging gameplay. A complete and utter adrenaline burst awaited anyone who played it, and it had a stunning psychedelic sort of visual style. Great fun and very competitive, it was an excellent launch title.
Huh...so far I have picked two and they are both arcade games....interesting. Anyways, I digress. Let's keep going, shall we?
Ninja Gaiden II. The sequel to the best game of all time (objective fact), Ninja Gaiden Black had some biiiiiiiiiiiig shoes to fill. And, guess what? It failed. Miserably. NGB is the gold standard, 10/10 action/adventure experience (yes, I know I normally refer to it as a hack n slash, as do most people, but thinking about it after discussing action/adventures in my POST about the Spike VGA's, I realized that it's probably not inaccurate to call it an action/adventure, so I will do so going forward,a t least using it interchangeably with hack n slash). Ninja Gaiden II is maybe a 7 in comparison. I have gone over this in agonizingly specific detail many times before, both on this blog and otherwise, so I am just going to say that I only threw NGII in here to mess with a couple of my specific readers (hey Claudio, Guy and Shadow), and move on.
Actually, before I do, I just want to say that this is really hard to do, because I not only have to consider my own thoughts on a game, I have to gauge the reaction of others, and then also consider extraneous factors like those I mentioned above (importance at time of release, pushing boundaries, being overwhelmingly well made, advancing a genre, etc). It's tough not to just name your personal favourite games, or to just name the games that have consistently scored really well.
Like, for example, Halo: Reach has received really high reviews (mostly above 9.0) and from what people say, it's excellent (although opinions are mixed). I have not played it, so I cannot comment on the quality, but, does a game like this get included? I wanna say no, because it might be great, but it's not special for any reason. It didn't do anything that hadn't been done before, it didn't really push boundaries, or take the world by storm....but that also means that I shouldn't include Bayonetta, as much as it may be very, very high in my personal all time list. Halo: Reach didn't shatter boundaries or act as a completely mind blowing overhaul of the series like Resident Evil 4 did for the RE series, and Bayonetta basically did everything extraordinarily well, but apart from pushing the genre forward in terms of combat and level design, I don't think it meets all of these secondary 'legendary' criteria either.
So, what games do? I already named Shadow Complex and Geometry Wars...what else?
Heavy Rain? Possibly, although the same studio made one like it last generation (Faranheit/Indigo Prophecy) so it loses a lot of the muster behind the cries of “innovative!” I'm sure it did new things, and I know it was well received, but I don't know if it was in the league of something 'legendary.' If you have played it (I only played the demo...twice) tell me what you think.
I haven't (as of yet) played either one, but I have heard nothing but stellar things about Super Mario Galaxy and SMG2 (especially 2, which is supposedly even better) and from what I understand, SMG really innovated and pushed the platforming genre forward. It also represented a redemption of sorts after Super Mario Sunshine.....the....odd duckling of the 3D titles. The reviews have been stellar for both. I am leaning towards yes for SMG....ya, I'll go with yes, and ask what the reader(s) think(s).
I really, really love The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and would like to include it, but I know that ES many fans thought that it was, in many ways, a step down from TES3: Morrowind. It also had some significant issues like the lacklustre main mission objectives and environment recycling (I have the damn Oblivion gates in mind with both of those) and some hefty glitches. The level scaling was a piss off for many, and the 3rd person mode was weak. It was an amazing game in my opinion, but ya, I don't think it quite fits.
This is tough! It's hard to gauge because you're looking for things that are hard to quantify like a game's impact. Probably easier in more lengthier hindsight, which speaks to one of my questions/points from earlier.
Claudio has just suggested to me (via MSN) the following games: Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Rainbow Six Vegas and Vegas 2, Gears of War, Dead Space, Bioshock, Condemned, Metal Gear Solid 4, Borderlands, Mass Effect, Uncharted 1 and 2, Killzone 2 and Infamous.....I don't think he gets the point of this exercise lol ;)
Let me quickly go through his proposed games and say a quick thing or two:
-Guitar Hero 3: Improved the GH formula and was popular and fun. That's about it.
-Rock Band: Took the GH formula and added logical progressions (namely drums and vocals). Um, no.
-NFS:MW: Uh....k....a good racing game I guess, but I don't see how this is even being considered.
-R6 Vegas/Vegas 2: No. Great games, but no impact on the genre. No big splash upon release, even.
-Gears of War: Took Kill. Switch and improved it, sexy graphics engine got people worked up. Then again, every other shooter out there is now copying it, which means it had a huge impact. I guess, based on that....okay. It counts.
-Dead Space: Very innovative with the Zero G elements and such, and the homemade weapon approach to combat. Excellent method of doing in game dialogue and information all being presented in the suit, aka new way of providing info sans a HUD. Amazing atmosphere, great visuals, cool dismemberment system, and they added the ability to move and shoot, which some will say was a good thing, and others will say was not. Wait...added? Huh? Dead Space wasn't a sequel. Ah, but what it WAS (was...lol) a game....inspired (ahem) by Resident Evil 4. Basically, they used the RE4 formula and added mobility to the combat. On that front, I think that hurts the game. The again, there were some cool innovations, and it was very well made. Tough one. A game I personally loved....but is it a classic? What do you, the reader, think? Lemme know!
-Bioshock: Deus Ex. System Shock. It was done before, and according to many, done better. Can't do it. Excellent frigging game though. Shitty sequel didn't help matters much.
-Condemned: Criminal Origins: A survival horror game where the majority of the combat is hand to hand, and you do some very, very light CSI type stuff at a few points during the game. The combat system was really fresh, it looked great, had some legitimate scares within, played well, reviewed pretty well...but did it do anything revolutionary? Did it knock the pants off of survival horror fans and make people clamour to get an xbox 360? I;m going to have to say no, although I loved the game.
-Metal gear Solid 4: Didn't play more than an hour or so, and am not a series fan. What do you think, MGS fans? I heard many of you, and even Kojima himself, still prefer MGS3. Is that true?
-Borderlands: I love the ever loving truck out of this game, but does it count as a legendary classic of the generation? I don't know. This is tough! I'm wondering if a little bit of time is needed to pass, so that things become more clear, like the grand scheme sort of thing (plus a little nostalgia won't hurt, since that often plays into it). I'll have to say no, I guess, because while it was a terrific and FUN mix of FPS and RPG (not the first....once again I present System Shock and Deus Ex), it sacrificed way too much on the RPG side to see it was a remarkably successful hybrid. Whether by design or not, they basically made a stat based, open world (sort of...more like instanced open world) FPS with customization, quests and loot. Lots and lots of loot. The story, dialogue, cutscenes and character interaction was terrible for RPG standards.
-Mass Effect: Another shooter/RPG hybrid, although a much deeper and richer one. It felt 'epic' it played very well, it looked great, had excellent size, scale and scope (in terms of game world, narrative and lore) and it felt like a really new experience, although I must again mention Deus Ex and System Shock. Not entirely original, but it felt like it was, and it is really critically acclaimed and popular. The sequel even more so, although I personally hated that game and stopped playing after ten hours. The balance had shifted far too much to the shooter side of things for me. This is really tough. This game was pretty amazing, and it seemed like everyone was playing it at that time. It felt very, very fresh at the time, and looked/played/sounded amazing. It did innovative thing with dialogue, custscenes and choice (all not new but done so well)......Yes, I'll count it. Mass Effect gets the nod. Mass Effect 2 can go to hell.
-Uncharted and Uncharted 2: A TPS with some meh platforming (based on my 3-4 hours with UC2). I dunno, I didn't get it, but it's not fair for me to comment one war or the other. Uncharted fans, leave me a comment, and let me know what you think!
-Killzone 2: A standard FPS with “weight” and awesome visuals. I'm gonna go with....no. Hell no.
-Infamous: I only played like 20 minutes and was not at all impressed, but that's not remotely enough experience to say anything here. I'll leave it to the fans to plead their case. I certainly don't think the game set the gaming world on fire upon its release, that's for sure.
Wii Sports? Very popular, and showcased the Wii's abilities fairly well, especially at the time. Good, fun, simple game that is easily enjoyable alone, but great with friends. As a game, it's not great, but as a showpiece, it was excellent. I'll say yes, just because of how well it introduced the Wii and got people playing in an new way.
It' very hard for me to name PS3 games, because I haven't played most of them. I am sure I am probably missing...Oh, duh! Little Big Planet! I haven't played it, but from what I gather it innovated, it was very well made, had tons of features and replay value, it made a big splash, has already spawned a copycat, and is a must have for the Playstation 3. So, ya, Little Big Planet can be added to the list.
Are they any RPG's worthy of being added? Dragon Age was great, but apparently older Bioware games were better. Fallout 3 was yet another shooter/rpg hybrid, something that seems to have taken off this generation. It brought the classic PC series to consoles, and renewed interest in the series in a big way. It innovated, and changed things up.....but it also pissed off long time Fallout fans, and I mean REALLY pissed them off for the drastic switch from an isometric turn based rpg to an FPS/RPG hybrid. It was also terribly glitchy and certainly didn't push RPG's forward in any big way. I'm going to have to pass on this one. Demon's Souls? I never even got to play it, so I can't say anything.
No fighting games seem to fit the bill this gen. No sports games that I can think of. Hmm...
Puzzle Games? AH! Portal! I wasn't enamoured with it myself, but I know it definitely counts!
I guess I'll call it there. So, we have:
Super Mario Galaxy (tentatively)
Gears of War (reluctantly lol)
Mass Effect (tentatively)
Wii Sports (I can hear the groans already lol)
Little Big Planet
Alright, there's my list of this generation's classic games that will be known as legendary. I'm not sure how confident I am in that list. This was a really hard exercise!