I’ve owned this game since 1999, and I wanted it to be my first post for the top 100 PS1 games. I am older now, more disciplined and mature. I could set my mind to it and see it through! NO. NO I CAN’T.
In the spirit of Lufia and The Fortress of Doom for SNES, the final straw with Legend of Legaia (or LoL, which the game is kind of a joke) was another senseless and artificial fetch quest. This was the kind of pointless plot that you expect a few hours in to learn game mechanics, not after twenty hours into the story.
Things were already not going well. While playing, I listened to the following;
The reason? The main focus of this game (the battles) become frequent, long protracted affairs that didn’t need my attention. They were a waste of time. I couldn’t ethically use my gift of consciousness on them without dual-tasking something more important. The story, quests, and characters all followed suite with their own quirks and problems. While this game is interesting to talk about from a historical/cultural perspective (after all, it is a FF7 clone that speaks to what gamers were looking for and how developers tried to create it), the game itself sucks.
That’s when I started this enthralling and highly encompassing strategy game. Three months later, while only a few levels away from the finish line, I can honestly say I have no more — this game has successfully grounded me to dust.
The game’s biggest fault is that it peaks atmospherically during the first ten battles. The randomly-generated unit names will stick with me for the rest of my life. I wrote them on pieces of paper, categorized by their expertise and purpose. This might seem silly, but this game is pretty serious and requires so much thought that the units grow to be something akin to colleagues.
The pressure to sweat the details dissipates in the later half: after assiduously managing your brigade, you reach a point where it becomes a cakewalk. The last handful of battles were only slightly above point and click campaigns. With the 1.5 to 2.0 hour campaigns no longer demanding the riveting planning and execution, there was no point to continue.
I always start these games with the best of intentions: no guides, embrace the grind, willing to flounder. The drama of these games are in the struggle, and if you run to a walkthrough at the first moment of adversity, you will destroy anything these old games have to offer. The joy is figuring out the puzzles both via your own skill and serendipitous discovery.
Crystalis started as the type of game you do these top 100 lists for: a complete joy of an unknown. The graphics, mechanics, and puzzles are an addictive pull to do more. It was an instant favorite, but then came the moment that happens in every NES adventure/puzzle/RPG — the inscrutable puzzle with no hints and no logic but is required for you to continue. Thankfully, it survives this moment and avoids the NES’s ultimate desire to make every game unenjoyable.
Memory is a funny thing. I didn’t play Chrono Tigger until college, the days of Xbox360 and PS3. I only did so because of the insistence of my nerdy friends — they wouldn’t let it go that I never played it. So I borrowed their copy and spent my first Spring Break traveling through time.
Whenever I recall playing it, though, I always recollect the wrong things: I envision playing as a kid in the basement of the house I grew up in. It’s easier for my mind to classify it as a childhood experience rather than an adult one. Chrono Trigger perfectly captures the spirit of imagination with its craving for adventure, wonder, and sense of importance. You too will be sent back to an unbounded childhood feeling.
This game’s puzzles are so easy you can use them for consciousness screening.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #22/100 My Rating:
Playing Illusion of Gaia is like having an intense dream. The game is easy to play subconsciously, and the story doesn’t have any concrete sense of cause and effect; you will be whisked away randomly from desert to sea to land simply because a NPC says “off to ‘so and so’ next!” Anyone who is more sentient than a ham sandwich will be able to thrive.
Featuring the Mario cast in an RPG format, this game is a throwback to when Nintendo and Square were on good terms and more so when Square was THE company for anything Role playing.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #5/100 My Rating:
Mario was once just pixels on a screen — he moved from side-to-side and displayed a powerful red and blue sartorial combo, but you couldn’t really say you knew anything beyond that. The early Mario games were point A to B side-scrollers, and like how chess pieces have unique moves but no personality, you simply were scooting your square of pixelated art across the screen.
The Final Fantasy franchise made a killing on the Super Nintendo by turning those mundane patches of color into meaning. Final Fantasy 3/6 was the pinnacle point of characterization for the SNES (and maybe video games in general): there were 14 playable characters, each with their own motivations, fears and personalities. At the end of those games, you almost felt like you were saying goodbye to your friends since they had done such a good job at fleshing out those characters.
So who else would Nintendo trust when they wanted to turn their silent movie star into something more?