Top 5 Favorite Moments (For Real)
I wasn’t going to leave you guys with joke picks, was I? Truth be told, I almost get jealous when people post their personal experiences with video games. A lot of retro gamers have had life-changing interactions with the medium. I don’t think I have enough fingers to count the number of people that owe their life to video games in one form or the other. Of course, I’m not really jealous, because these people have gone through a lot of challenges and generally difficult phases. I just love to see someone able to embrace gaming on such a personal level. You know what? Have some links:
In any case, while I personally don’t have touching stories of my interactions with these games, I do have “actual” favorite moments. Keep in mind, my experience with gaming hovers around big name franchises and far from SEGA consoles. I may have missed a couple of great moments, but, guess what? I’m open to comments and suggestions!
Oh and, let’s be honest here, there will be spoilers.
Honorable mention – Intros and Beginnings
Can we collectively give a round of applause to amazing intros? A great intro is usually one of the first sign of an amazing game. As a fan of the Final Fantasy series, (only one entry in the list, even I am surprised) I’ve been treated to amazing introductions; cinematics or action-packed gameplay. The Red Wings in FFIV, mechsuits in FFVI, the rivalry setting in during FFVIII’s opening cinematic, and the flower girl of FFVII followed by blowing up a reactor. Most of these really managed to grab RPG fans’ attention quickly. Of course, outside of RPGs, the same phenomenon occurs. As someone who didn’t really have experience with PC shooters, I have to admit that Halo’s introduction and first stage blew my mind. Same thing happened when playing Sonic Adventure and its perfect introduction level. There are so many other games we could talk about: Metroid Prime, Mega Man X, Metal Gear Solid, Okami, Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, etc. An intro sets the tone, it’s made to impress, it’s designed to grab attention. I cannot think of a game with a great intro and poor overall quality. I don’t think it exists and for a reason. Speaking of intros, I highly suggest you check out Orioto’s collection of video game painting on the theme of “Dawn of Adventure.” Here’s a sample:
5 – Grandia – Sue’s Adieu
I had trouble cutting it down to five choices. This one was very, very close to not making the list.I included this event for a couple of reasons. The first reason is reminding myself that I am not done enjoying these old games. I played Grandia for the first time 3 years ago and it could easily breach my top 10 RPGs. This game remains one of the most genuinely fun experience in my recent gaming history. It’s a classic that deserves its reputation and more. One of the strength of this game, for me, was character development. You start out with generally uninteresting characters, but you grow fairly quickly attached to them. Being insanely young, they mature fast throughout their overwhelming adventure. Originally, the protagonist, Justin, heads out to be an adventurer, to follow his father’s legacy. The fact that he’s only 14 becomes fairly less provocative once you realize that his friend Sue, who is probably closer to 8-10 years old, follows him around, fighting with a toy bow.
However, this game DOES acknowledge that the journey she undertakes might be a bit much for her. She collapses from exhaustion and, with the party, they agree to send her home. The actual scene of her departure is heartbreaking. Justin, whom has been an upbeat individual in most situations, remains speechless. Sue, not wanting to let her “weakness” impacts the party once again, tried her darnedest to stay strong and positive. When the other party member, Feena, convinces her that she doesn’t have to hold it in, the emotional explosion always makes me tear up. I love it because, unlike many other games, this isn’t about romance. It’s a bond similar to a brother-sister relationship and it’s beautiful.
4 – Super Mario RPG – Meet the Axem Rangers
Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars also probably stands in my top 10 RPGs. I may have named this entry after the memorable Power Rangers satire, but the whole Barrel Volcano sequence is nothing short of extraordinary. The wonderful thing about Mario RPG is that it felt like an RPG in the lighthearted Mario Universe, as opposed to the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series that mostly felt like a Mario game with RPG gameplay.
The scene starts with a fight with the Volcano boss, the Czar Dragon (a reference to FF6, from what I recall). Not a hard fight, per se, but decent enough. The true RPG aspect comes when, after falling into lava, he comes back in skeleton form for a true fight. Alright, maybe not that hard of a fight. However, it feels like the same marathon of fight you see in other RPGs. Getting your star stolen would be rage inducing in any other game if not for the Axem Rangers. Aaaah, these guys. For me, they really sum up the whole experience of Mario RPG.
See, the Axem Rangers are not really a satire of anything. They’re inspired by a lot of things including Power Rangers and hopeless henchmen, as you can see by their dialog. I think the fact that they represent one of the hardest battles in the game really adds to the experience. For one of the first time in the game, you have to plan out your battle. You NEED strategy; just like a real RPG. After a wonderfully balanced dungeon with great music, a twist after a boss fight, the marathon ends with the Axem Rangers. If there’s one moment that doesn’t need the Mario brand to make this game shine, it’s this one.
3 – Final Fantasy Tactics – Delita’s Final Move
Final Fantasy Tactics, despite its horrible translation, tells an incredibly deep story. While you follow the group led by Ramza Beoulve, uncovering mystical dangers lurking in the shadows, someone else is fighting to unite the land. Delita, Ramza’s childhood friend, is a commoner trying to make it to knighthood under the protection of the Beoulve family, or so he thought. The first chapter ends with Ramza and Delita ambushing a rebellious group who took Delita’s sister hostage. They are joined by the knights lead by Ramza’s brother who, seeing Delita’s sister is the only thing keeping the rebel alive, orders they both the rebel and the girl be killed. Who cares about a commoner, right?
This event sounds the end of the “tutorial” and starts the game with a bang. Ramza turns away from his family and Delita leaves to seek vengeance and redemption. As I said before, while we follow Ramza, the real story of the war follows Delita. With some careful planning, obvious superior fighting abilities and a LOT of manipulation of nobles greedy for power and the throne, Delita manages to make his way to the top of the ladder. As he meets and kidnaps Princess Ovelia, heir to the throne, he plans the lasts steps of his plan. By marrying her, and with every other figure of power out of the loop, he becomes king. While he is her guardian and kidnapper, he tries to convince her that he wants to help her take the throne and bring peace back.
Unfortunately, he didn’t plan for two things. The first one was using Ramza to finish the fight with the evil sect, the second was falling in love with Ovelia. As Ramza, you do spend quite some time protecting the Princess who sees your noble intentions and considers you a true friend. Both these events join together in a scene after the ending where Ovelia hears news of Ramza’s death. She believes it is all Delita’s fault and, with that, the last ounces of trust she could have in her relationship with him fade away. She assassinates him and he retaliates. He’s reached his goal, the world is at peace, but at what cost? Was all this manipulation worth it? The game ends this way, not explaining anything and that’s why it’s so memorable. When you leave the player come to his own conclusions, when you leave the moral debate to the player as a parting gift, you will leave your mark.
2 – Yoshi’s Island : Rocking Bowser’s World
Mario 3 and Super Mario World are constantly referred as the best 2D Mario games. You know what they don’t have? interesting boss battles. When Yoshi’s Island arrived with its color book graphics, who could’ve expected this would be the Mario game to cover this “weakness”? Yoshi’s Island boss lineup is probably my favorite in video game history. Some favorites include the pirahna plant, the giant koopa, the frog’s insides, the blob with a heart. etc. Two of them stand out so much, they make up my second favorite moment.
The first one ends the fifth world. It’s not a hard boss. In fact, it’s pretty easy, but it’s so different. Fighting a giant penguin-thing on the moon by stabbing it with ground pounded stakes, what could be more entertaining than this? This is like Mario Galaxy before its time! The penguin being blasted into space creating a constellation is just icing on the cake.
But even that boss fight can’t compare to the final showdown. I love getting to the end of Bowser’s Castle and being greeted by Baby Bowser. It’s like he isn’t evil at all, he’s just a spoiled brat that wants to ride Yoshi. This fight alone could’ve been tweaked to be turned in a decent boss fight, but there had to be a second part. You expect Kamek to turn Baby Bowser in something else, but you don’t expect what’s coming. I LOVE that the music changes to something so… alien to the tone of the rest of the game. That hardcore rocking music really sets the mood. This isn’t child’s play anymore. Bowser is now a giant, and he’s out of control. The camera shifts to the first person view and you have to change your whole perspective if you want to survive. The challenge certainly is there. It’s hard to judge how high to throw your egg as you’ve never really played from that angle. But it’s very manageable, especially considering the harder stages that lead to the end of World 6. Long story short, this boss battle is unique, challenging and intense. Surprising for a Mario game at the time.
1 – Super Metroid : The Sacrifice
Yes, this one was included in the previous column. But it rightfully deserves to top this particular list. Super Metroid deserves to be on top of many, many lists. Everything about the game is made to lead up to this moment. The intro with the pulsing cry of the imprisoned metroid really focuses the player’s attention towards the creature. The following explanations establish the relationship between it and Samus. The capture of the Metroid by Ridley enforce how important the little critter is. You don’t see it again until you notice the clones created by Mother Brain down in Maridia. Like every other game before it, you realize they’re dangerous. Reaching Tourian and contemplating its lack of enemies, it doesn’t take a genius to know something’s about to happen. Of course, when the giant Metroid attacks you and lets you go, you already have doubts of which Metroid it is. However, that does not impact the greatness of the final boss fight.
Especially the first time you face Mother Brain, when you get hit by the giant laser beam, your mind immediately ponders a way to avoid the next hit. It could be part of the fight, right? Because the possibility of losing against Mother Brain is so credible, the sudden arrival of the Metroid clutching Mother Brain to save its own mother still catches the player off guard. It’s amazing because no dialog is required for the emotions to really shine through. After the Metroid is sacrificed to help Samus regain her power, the change of music and the new weapon given to Samus as a final gift set the stage for revenge. With Mother Brain’s head bouncing frantically, powerless before Samus’ rainbow laser beam, you can almost imagine her yelling furiously inside the power suit.
There are a lot of games I replay every few years. Most of the times, I play for 4-5 hours just to get myself back in the fun of their respective gameplay, but never really feel the need to finish them. However, I always, ALWAYS, play Super Metroid through the ending. That ending is magic.
So, there you have it, my top 5 favorite moments in retrogaming. Keep in mind, this list could be different if I had to write it next month. There are so many moments worth enjoying, it’s almost absurd limiting them to 5. As I said, I wish I could relate on a personal level to some experiences with these games, but, looking back at the list I wrote, I feel like playing each and every one of these games right now. In fact, while I was cutting it back to 5, I wanted to play all of the games that were even remotely close to making the top 5. I guess I have more personal attachment to these than I originally thought. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing about our hobby?
As I stated before, why not give me a couple of your favorite moments? See you in two weeks?