Week of Games: 6 & 5

Wednesday 27 September (2006)

Wednesday arrives, and with it the next two games on our list. Let’s take a look at the story so far, and see what the next two are:

7. Day of the Tentacle (PC)
8. Beyond Good & Evil (Gamecube)
9. Grim Fandango (PC)
10. Street Fighter 2 (SNES)

The 6th Best Game Everthe wind waker (gamecube)

God, here we go. Shut up! I know you all think Ocarina of Time should be here, but you’re wrong. I didn’t have an N64, so I couldn’t play Ocarina when it was a brand new state-of-the-art game – but I do have a copy of it on my Gamecube (three copies, actually – thanks Nintendo) as well as an original N64 version that my housemate has. And it’s a great game, and I enjoyed it a lot – but Wind Waker is by far the more accessable game.

Being the first new Zelda game I had played since 1992’s A Link To The Past, which I had found slightly underwhelming, I approached it with guarded enthusiasm. True, I was expecting great things from this game – but certainly I didn’t think I would prefer it over Super Mario Sunshine, a game which at the time I considered to be the best on the console. The cel-shaded pictures of Wind Waker I’d seen online and in magazines looked kind of cutesy, and I wasn’t really anticipating that it would hold much of a challenge.

Again, I was wrong. Right from the start I loved it – the cute cel-shaded world, free from the imprisonment of static images, came alive before my eyes, and suddenly I was watching a bona fide cartoon being made in real time. The learning curve was perfect; the game teaches you how to play it as you progress, to the point where if you try and re-load a saved game from somewhere deep into the game a few months after actually getting there, you’ll probably find it quite difficult. But not only did the learning suck you in gently, but the story did – from one task to another, you became more and more entrenched in the adventure, a few more pieces of the mystery revealed.

Then, before long, you find yourself out on the open ocean. And wow. The first time you realise just how massive this game is you do a kind of mental double-take. And it’s all real-time, there’s no loading times to speak of – you can be on an island, get in your boat and sail for three hours across the ocean, encountering squalls, sea monsters, countless sunrises and sunsets, and then arrive at another island on the other side of the world and dock your ship without ever having to watch a black screen with a slowly filling bar. It’s vast. And being set so much time after Ocarina, there’s a tangible sense of magic in the game – the stories of Link and Ganon are things of legend, not to be taken seriously. The protagonist in Wind Waker is only wearing Link’s trademark green because it’s something every boy has to do when he matures, in honour of the legends. Link is literally an everyman. But then you start your amazing quest and slowly you realise, not only are the legends true, but that you’re involved in a continuation of the same story. It’s mindblowing.

Needless to say, the action sequences and battles are amongst the most intuitive and accessable of any game, and the dungeons are a real treat to explore. Combined with the impressive musical score and perfectly executed cel-shaded style, this game is a joy and a beauty to behold.

Not as big as Ocarina, not as difficult – but Wind Waker has the edge over its predecessor for sheer playability and deliverance.


The 5th Best Game Evermetal gear solid (playstation)

Here is another game which I wasn’t (initially) interested in. I was a subscriber to the official Playstation magazine at the time, and whilst they devoted page after page on previewing Metal Gear Solid, I wasn’t paying attention – I was still almost solely into games like Broken Sword back then, and this didn’t look like my bag at all. Fortunately for me, the magazine somehow procured an enormous playable demo, which was on that month’s free CD. I always played the new game demos, so I gave it a go. It bowled me over.

I mean, this was a Playstation game but the introduction sequence played out like a cross between Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October. The voice casting was pitch perfect, and the concept of the game was at the same time realistically sound, and futuristically science fiction. The first task in the game was simple – negotiate your way past some guards and ride an elevator up to the next zone. What made this different from any game before it was the intelligence of the AI, and the realism that the game was trying create. There were puddles of water on the floor – if Snake ran through them, the guards would hear it and come running – then what? You could run away and hide, and the guards would talk amongst themselves about it probably being a rat or something. You could stand and fight, if you wanted, but you would have to be damn quick if you wanted to take the guards out before they had chance to raise the alarm and call for backup. If you were good you could dodge the puddles and other traps, sneak up behind a guard and strangle him without him even realising it until it was too late – no chance of alerting anyone that way.

Or, if you were really good, you could just sneak past the guards without them seeing or hearing you, and without killing any of them. And this stealth concept was unlike anything ever seen in gaming before – these days it’s extremely common, even in FPS games, but it all started with Metal Gear Solid. I mean, it made sense! If you’re trying to covertly infiltrate a terrorist stronghold, leaving a trail of corpses in your wake certainly would cause the bad guys to be suspicious. It makes for an incredibly engrossing gaming experience, and a new way of playing the age-old platform beat-em-up (albeit in 3D here.)

Back to the production values – everything about the game reeked of quality. The artwork, the acting, the music, the plot and characterisation. Snake has a micro-communication device, and when you use it the game segues to an animated representation of the conversation you’re having. And, you have plenty of people to talk to – your supervisors back at base, friends in the region who are in on the mission, even other people involved in the terrorist incident itself. You could talk to these people for fun, or to advance the plot of the game, and it all added to the realism.

That the story itself is so engrossing is one thing, but what Metal Gear Solid really did better than anything else was give you progressively harder, varied, intelligent and difficult boss battles. Whether you were lying down in the snow eating diazepam to steady your aim in a sniper duel or having a rocket launcher contest against a helicopter, the game had it all. And the final battle? What else but hand-to-hand combat; mano-a-mano with the toughest bad-guy of all.

Playing Metal Gear Solid is the most fun you can have with an action game. Finishing it is just about the most rewarding experience you can find in any game. This has stood the test of time and remains the benchmark by which all other stealth-action platform games are measured.


2 Responses to “Week of Games: 6 & 5”

  1. I’m not sure whether I agree with your Wind Waker judgement or not. I think it makes it difficult to definitely decide which is better because while one was a pioneer and had a massive element of surprise and shock, the other was the much-evolved successor and naturally improved on essentially every single aspect of the gameplay.

    This makes it difficult because one could argue that Wind Waker simply builds on a lot of what Ocarina of Time (and to a lesser extent Majora’s Mask) laid out. Indeed, much of the gameplay in Wind Waker is directly lifted from Ocarina of Time, moulded to fit the new world. Ocarina of Time on the other hand was really the first game to introduce it all to a 3D world, and it did so with flying colours.

    Overall, I’d call Wind Waker the better game. With both games now fairly aged memories, I’ve watched my sister play through both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker side by side for the past month or so and I tend to enjoy watching Wind Waker more. Not only is it graphically superior (though Ocarina of Time looked stunning in its day), but the storyline seems to move more quickly and is better implemented.

    I find it extremely hard to choose one over the other though, and I’d rather just avoid the situation altogether. Both are absolutely fantastic games; however, Wind Waker holds up much better as it’s such a realised vision and had a rich pair of predecessors to learn from, while Ocarina of Time relied a lot on being a pioneer to astound people so much and experimentally broke a lot of new ground.

    As a side note though, I did prefer the more fantastical world of Ocarina of Time to the more piratey one of Wind Waker. While I’m glad I got to experience the latter and enjoyed exploring it a lot, I’m very much looking forward to seeing a return to the former in Twilight Princess. Perhaps I’ve got a bit of inner Tingle and just want to see fairies and other such mystical things, but whatever. ;D

  2. Sally Says:

    When do we get Monkey Island? ;

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