The idea sounded straightforward enough. What is your most treasured game? That's the simple question that was posed to Team USG. But their answers were anything but.
It's weird. When we initially brainstormed this feature, I thought it was a great idea. A chance to sit back and have some fun thinking about which of the many games I own is the most important to me. However, it ended up becoming quite a palarver. Firstly, I sat at my desk, zoning out in front of my screen while my mind ran through my inventory of games, trying to think of which was the most important to me. But the more I wracked my brain, the more it churned.
So I started opening cupboards, rooting through drawers, and even opened a dusty old box packed with Commodore 64 cassettes and old Atari cartridges looking for inspiration. I had memories jogged, saw shrink-wrapped collectibles that are really cool, and games I wanted as a kid that I acquired later on in life. But none were magically lit from above, while a choir of angels sang. Until I discovered an old shoebox, literally right at the back of a cupboard in my garage, that contained a small number of cassettes and cartridges that was my meager childhood games collection. In there was a one I'd forgotten I even had - but the moment I saw it, I knew that was the one.
My first gaming machine was a "broken" Atari 400 computer that was given to me by a friend of my Dad's. He didn't want it, since he'd upgraded to a new machine I'd never heard of called a Commodore 64, and thought I might have fun trying to fix it. That "fun" amounted to about five minutes of rewiring its RF cable, and lo! My first computer was ready to roll. Unfortunately, the selection of Avalon Hill strategy games that I was also given weren't exactly enthralling, so I started saving to buy my first game. It took a couple of months, during which time I trawled as many computer mags as possible reading reviews to help me decide which game I wanted to buy. In the end, I settled on Datasoft's Bruce Lee, which sounded awesome.
When I finally had the money, I mail ordered it, and some weeks later Bruce Lee finally arrived on my doorstep. That evening, after dinner, I loaded the game in excitement, but within hours had blitzed right through it. I played it again the following night and finished it even more quickly - and realized that was it. It had nothing more to give.
I was disappointed in the game. I was disappointed that it was going to take me another couple of months to save up to buy my next one. But most of all, I was disappointed in the reviews I'd read, all of which praised the game, but failed to articulate its lack of challenge. Bruce Lee's not a terrible game, but it has a fatal flaw that the reviewers of the day didn't report - either because they weren't very good players, or because they didn't spend enough time playing it. Either way, I thought that was very poor, and I decided that if these guys were professional reviewers and weren't finding out these things, maybe I should be doing it.
Looking back, that's a pretty arrogant thing to think, but what can I say? Within days, I was writing mock reviews, and through a combination of persistence and good fortune, I landed my first job as a reviewer early the following year.
As for that copy of Bruce Lee - it now has a permanent spot on my desk to remind me of why I'm here.
The theme of this feature implies physical possession of a game or something related to a game, not just a most cherished game (because that would be called something like "our favorite games" or whatever). Truth be told, I'm kind of over physical possessions. I have boxes of books and other crap lining my closet that I'm eager to get rid of as soon I have the time. I've had to sell off most of the games I love to make ends meet in hard times. I'm not really much of a collector anymore, truth be told. So this is a tough question to answer.
I guess the one effectively irreplaceable game item in my collection is one that isn't strictly legitimate -- which is why a new one would be so tough to come by. It's a physical copy of the English fan translation of Mother 3 (you know, the GBA sequel to EarthBound that never came to the U.S.). I know there are some people who make a grey-market side business out of selling reproduction carts of this version of the game, but mine isn't quite that shady. Instead, it's the English version of the game burned onto a Game Boy Advance review ROM.
See, back in the day, publishers used to send out GBA reviews on oversized grey carts with pieces of the rewriteable circuit board showing through little windows. We'd play the game, review it, and send it back to be reused for another reviewable title. Each cart cost upwards of $100, so publishers used to keep a tight rein on the whereabout of their review ROMs... that is, until the GBA market vanished and everyone shifted over to DS. At that point, publishers ceased caring and the old ROMs started piling up. Around that same time, Mother 3 came out, failed to find a legitimate U.S. release, and was graced with an excellent fan translation by Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin.
The translation hit right around the time third parties were throwing away their GBA ROMs and ROM burners, so I begged someone at an undisclosed publisher to burn a patched version of Mother 3 to one of those soon-to-be discarded review ROMs for me. Sure, it wasn't 100% legal, but since I purchased the Japanese version of the game when it launched I didn't exactly feel bad about it. At this point, I have no idea where I'd find a GBA ROM flasher or an appropriately sized ROM, so my copy of Mother 3 in English is the closest thing to irreplaceable. (I'd say "one of a kind," but I know a few other people who had the same idea I did.)
That being said, I'd be totally happy to throw this copy of the game into the garbage if Nintendo were to release a localized version of Mother 3 in some capacity -- retail, digital, 3DS, Wii. Hell, I'd settle for a Game & Watch. How about it, Nintendo? Why not make an honest man of me?
Like Jeremy, I'm going to skip the idea of physical possessions, though I have purchased my most cherished game in its physical state three times. The reason Square Enix releases its titles on every platform at $15 to $20 is they know that they have a base of customers who will buy a game again and again on every platform. My girlfriend owns Final Fantasy VI on Super Nintendo, Super Famicom, PlayStation (Final Fantasy Anthology), and PSN (PSOne Classic). They release it on a platform she owns, she buys it. In my case, that's split between two titles, both from the PlayStation era: Final Fantasy Tactics and Street Fighter Alpha 3. I'll go with the former title.
Final Fantasy Tactics will always hold a special place in my heart as my introduction to the Tactics genre. Strike that: I may have played one or two games of Shining Force before that, but it didn't stick with me. FFT was my first "holy crap Tactics games are awesome" game.
I remember the late nights digging deep within just to finish another round. Grinding just a few more a few more Job Points to unlock a new class. Sure, a fully-kitted Monk is the only class you need, but the road to unlocking Mime is a long one indeed. Unitl FFT, I didn't know a game could tell a story of grey morality with no clear good and evil (until the game ramps up towards its end). I put a ton of hours into Final Fantasy Tactics. Square Enix tried again with Tactics Advance and Tactics A2, but neither game touches the nostalgic high I get from the the original Tactics.
I moved... and lost my first copy. Sad, but I bought it again. I loaned it to someone who never returned it, so I bought the Greatest Hits release. An enhanced remake came out on PlayStation Portable, meaning I had to open my wallet again. I purchased the game on PlayStation Network twice: the PSOne Classic version and the digital version of War of the Lions. I'd probably buy it again on Android, but the PSN version works on my Vita.
That's how pressed I am about Final Fantasy Tactics. I purchased it over and over and started a brand-new save file so many times. And I'll keep doing so until Square Enix makes a Tactics game that surpasses it. That'll be a long wait.
I'm the exact opposite of Jeremy and Mike in this regard. Despite having a substantial Steam library and absolutely no qualms about digital downloads of PC games, I'm considerably more hesitant about downloadable console games -- perhaps because I can see Steam still being there a long way down the road, while I can't see Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo keeping digital storefronts for defunct systems open all that long. Anyway, the point is, I have a substantial collection of physical games stretching back to the Atari 8-bit computers -- though the majority of my collection consists of games from the PS1 era onwards.
Because of the size of my collection, it's really, really tough to pick just one game that I cherish above all others. There are games I absolutely adore and would happily play over and over again, but I kind of feel this question goes a little beyond that. There are games that are now rare and super-expensive in my part of the world, like the GameCube's Fire Emblem or the European version of Space Channel 5 Part 2 on PlayStation 2, but although I have no intention of parting with these -- not for the prices I paid for them, anyway! -- I'm not sure I'd regard them as being among the most treasured entries in my collection.
I need to stop pontificating and pick something, don't I? All right, all right. In that case, I pick the PlayStation 2 game Shadow of Memories (which, if I remember correctly, was also known as Shadow of Destiny).
Why do I treasure this game? Several reasons. Firstly, it was the very first PS2 game I bought, and the PS2 was the first console I bought with my own money rather than it being bought as a Christmas or birthday present from parents, so it felt like one of the first "status symbols" of growing up that I owned. I'd not long left home to go to university when I bought my PlayStation 2, and I was very excited to do so. I specifically picked Shadow of Memories as my first game because it sounded interesting and unconventional, and like something I wanted to play.
Which brings me to the second reason: Shadow of Memories marked a shift in my own personal tastes from flashy or gameplay-centric games from previous generations to titles that maybe weren't so technically accomplished but which told an interesting and compelling story. I've maintained these tastes today -- if a game's story keeps me interested, I'll forgive any number of mechanical or technical transgressions -- and as such, my buying and playing Shadow of Memories feels like a defining moment in my gaming career.
The lazy answer here would be: anything I own that my sister and I spent time playing. Though far from estranged, we're no longer the kids we used to be. I grew up and continued playing video games. My sister went off and joined the circus. (No. Seriously. She's a certified aerialist.) Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Legends of Mana and even the Mario franchise all fall into this category. However, if you had to force me to choose one game in particular, it'd be a weird selection.
My most treasured game is Ghost Master. To recap for those who have never heard of it: Ghost Master put you in charge of terrorizing unfortunate humans. Your mission was to get them, with the help of your spectral companions, to evacuate whatever building they were presently contained in. Before you ask, however, the answer's no. No, Ghost Master wasn't a multi-player experience. I think. It was either that or we were too figure out how to do. In spite of being a single-player sort of game, my sister and I poured hours into it. We strategized. We sat and watched each other play. We re-visited levels to see if we could string together better combos. We giggled hysterically as hapless human beings charged out of their homes, driven half-mad with delicious, delicious fear. In retrospect, I suppose this explains a lot about how I turned out a decade later. Hm.
I don't remember how much time we spent on it but it was amazing fun and a vital part of ye olde childhood. Nothing says cherished youthful memories like conspiring against humanity with your only sibling.
Whenever I get uptight about having to pay too much for video games, I remind myself that I paid $115.00 for Final Fantasy III on the SNES.
I had my father pick it up for me, since I was busy at the time. He did so at Canadian Tire, a Canadian branch of hardware stores that also sold video games once upon a time. The clerk said, "This must be for someone very special." He said, "Nah."
I wholly acknowledge Final Fantasy III has problems, and I'll be coming face-to-face with them when I inevitably play the iOS remake coming later this winter. Nevertheless, I'd still like to see Square-Enix attempt another game like it. A game with subtle, hesitant romance between adults. A game with a series of world-shattering events triggered by a single, fated meeting. A game set in a world that's fantastic and stokes the imagination, but isn't sterile.
Sidenote: Last time I loaded my Final Fantasy III cart, the battery still worked. Apparently I named all the characters after Power Rangers.
In August 2000, I drove down to Best Buy and picked up a fresh copy of Valkyie Profile -- the new RPG by then-resurgent Enix. IGN had been touting it for months, and having played Final Fantasy VII and VIII into the ground by the time, I was hungry for something new. Remarkably, Valkyrie Profile fulfilled every one of my expectations, quickly becoming one of my favorite RPGs ever.
I don't think I really appreciated Valkyrie Profile though until I replayed it a few years later. What's really neat about Valkyie Profile is the way that it switches things up with every playthrough, offering up some dungeons and characters while withholding others. Playing on Hard Mode is a completely different experience than Normal Mode, with longer chapters and unique dungeons. In a way, playing on Normal Mode is actually more challenging than Hard Mode, as you have less time to fulfill the conditions necessary to get the best ending. I always thought that was kind of neat.
To this day, I haven't played another RPG like Valkyrie Profile. Even its own sequels don't quite measure up, with Silmeria disappointingly featuring a much more traditional story structure. Other RPGs have non-linear exploration, and character recruitment, and turn-based combat melded with real-time combat, but none of them put all those elements together in quite the same way as Valkyie Profile. And did I mention that the music is phenomenal? The music is phenomenal.
My original launch copy of Valkyie Profile still sits on my shelf to this day. I have no intention of ever selling it. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of a kind.
This is a toss-up, because there are two video games I hold most dear: Um Jammer Lammy and Day of the Tentacle. While I've got tattoos of both Purple tentacle and Lammy on my inner forearms, Lammy remains the game I go back to over and over even though I could play it in my sleep. Parappa the Rapper was the beginning of my descent into a deep and passionate love for music and rhythm gaming, and though it was the game I exhausted thanks to Pizza Hut's demo disc before I played the full adventure, it was Um Jammer Lammy I ended up mastering.
Rodney Alan Greenblat's quirky artwork, the strangely-written English rock tunes, and the colorful characters made me fall in love. Teriyaki Yoko's stage frightened me, and the forgetful airplane pilot made me giggle as I banged my head. Lammy herself was an entertaining female character, even if she didn't quite believe in herself at first. And rocking out was as simple as a few button presses. Something about it stuck with me after my grandmother bought it for me that fateful Christmas, and I was in love. I flew through the stages, and even went back to complete them as Rammy. When I figured out there were special Parappa stages everyone's favorite rapping dog starred in with different lyrics and tunes I was sold. I dedicated most of my free time in my childhood to getting better and better until I could complete each stage with little effort. And when the time came that I decided I wanted to immortalize Lammy on my body, I reached out to Rodney himself for character art so I could have a clear image of her head for my tattoo. It's not perfect, and it's a niche game above all, but it's infinitely important to me.
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