Saturday, December 30, 2023

The 1000 Games I've Beaten (#92 - 110)


#92 Xenogears (Playstation) – Winter 1999

This one I have a semi-complicated history with. It's one of my favorite RPGs of all time and one that I consider to be one of the great true epics out there... but I thought it was really bad the first time I played it. I had the PS1 connected to the TV with an old RF switch, and over time the sound kinda got iffy. I remember first noticing this with FFT whenever thunder would crash, it would overpower the sound. I figured this was some sort of PS1 quirk. When I got to this game, the gear sounds overpowered everything else and made the game kinda suck. I also had to restart the game after ten hours or so due to getting trapped (more on that later) and that didn't help the game's chances either.

Later I realized there was a problem with the TV but wasn't sure how to fix it. When I got to FF8 later in the year, I changed over to composite cables for the PS1 and it fixed all of the issues. Still remember how much nicer FF8 looked and sounded after the changeover. So that game wasn't marred by the issues like this one was. I gave Xenogears a replay and enjoyed it a lot more the second time. And two more times after that over the years.

Outside of how verbose it can be, like one lategame section where the characters talk for like 20 minutes about how they're going to attack an enemy fort, only to have the attack happen in cutscene and fail, thus making all of the discussion a waste of time....... I've got very little issue with the game at this point. The story and everything else are at the top of its class, and it's a crime that it never got any true sequels or prequels. People have been trying to fit the later Xeno- games into the mythology of this one, trying to make them fit in the canon, for decades. That's what an impact it had and why it should have really continued.

This is another game that has some spiritual connections to Chrono Trigger and shares some developers. I liked the various CT references, especially early in the game in Lahan. I've wondered before if the original drawing board concept for this game was actually going to be a CT sequel, kinda like how some Parasite Eve aspects got repurposed into FF7. This game does have backstory over a bunch of eras of time, and flashbacks aplenty, so it wouldn't shock me if originally all those time periods were intended to be visitable in the game. They even have a time period a few hundred years before the present where a big war is going on, like CT. And an old advanced civilization that collapsed. The list goes on. Main difference is that Xeno's prehistoric era is in space.

Favorite Xeno-Babe: Miang has a slight edge over Elly for me, though they're both gorgeous. Them both being naked on the cover of Perfect Works helped get the rest of the way through puberty, which I was apparently still going through.

Xeno-Rant: A few years later we got Xenosaga Episode 1, which game magazines of the era erroneously said was a retelling of Xenogears starting with Episode 1. Given the title, why wouldn't we think that? But nope, it wasn't actually connected. A lot of smug Xenosaga fans to this day poke at Xenogears fans by saying that the numerous references in the game are "just fanservice lol" and those people are annoying. More than that, all of this ensured that Xenosaga's fanbase dropped off a cliff after Episode 1 and the following games did very poorly on sales. Considering most of said fanbase were Xenogears fans, I don't know what they expected. It's too bad because Xenosaga Episode 3 was actually super good and actually DID do what it could to tie into Xenogears Episode 1 and tell that story to an extent, but not many people gave it a shot. At least not at launch.

Part I Got Stuck On: Now this is a comical one. About 12 hours into the game (and it's huge so this is like maybe a 5th of the way) there's a dungeon with a particularly strong boss. There's a merchant robot that sells gear-equipment that you need to defeat the boss of the dungeon. For some reason they give you the option to fight the merchant robot. Me being 15, of course I had to fight him and see what happens. This locked me out of the upgrades I needed, so I couldn't beat the boss of the dungeon. Found out the upgrades are also sold by a particular merchant in Aveh, so I tried to leave and go there, only to find that you inexplicably can't leave that dungeon. Had to start the game over. Wheee.

Biggest Xeno-Travesties: Besides that we never got any sequels or prequels to this (that could actually call themselves that, anyway), the sheer amount of things that got cut or left on the drawing board here is incredible. Disc 2 (of 2) is super rushed and most of the places you were supposed to go are relegated to quick text summations. This game might well have been gutted even more than Secret of Mana, which is ironic considering how closely related they are in developer DNA.

Favorite Character: Probably Ramsus. It's too bad he never joins the party. I figured he'd pull a Magus and be the secret final party member. I bet that was originally planned and was yet another thing left on the drawing board.

Toughest Part: The battle with Miang in naga-mech very close to the end of the game.

#93 Final Fantasy Legend (Game Boy) – Winter 1999

This was a co-play with my friend Zoop and we liked it a lot. On emulator the graphics were nice and bright, and being able to form a party yourself and buy stat upgrades had appeal. Everyone probably knows by now that this isn't actually a Final Fantasy game, but a SaGa game. Still, the visuals look as much like an NES FF game as they could.

Besides buying stat upgrades, another thing I liked about this game was the way it sorta had "classes". They're not as appealing as, say, FF1 or anything, but at least they're there. The classes level up completely differently which puts an interesting spin on the game. If you grind a lot, Mutants will outpace everyone else due to leveling the normal way. However if you're plowing through the game, Humans can end up being the best due to how money pours in later on (since Humans buy their stat gains). Humans also have a lot more options for equipment and more slots for weapons. Then you've got Monster, which is interesting and can transform into all kinds of new shapes and sizes, but I never had much luck getting that to work out well for me. The sequel adds Robots which are pretty damn good, but I'll get to that one later.

Best Aspect: The simplicity. This is a barebones, simple Game Boy RPG and it does what it does well. "Go here, get this, find that, fight this guy"

Fondest Memory: The co-play, which was a good time and the first of a bunch of RPG co-plays over the following two years or so.

Post Series HERE.

#94 Mega Man 7 (Super NES) – Winter 1999

A few months after the NES six, I got around to this one. I was never that into this compared to the others and had no real history with it. In my view the Super NES was the domain of the X series, and this slower game with no dashing or wall climbing felt like a significant step back. Would have rather been playing another X game. Even to this day I really don't get much out of this one. Buuuut it's part of the series, so when I play the series, I gotta play this.

As for things I like about it, I like that it splits the bosses into two sets of four like the Game Boy Mega Men did. It was fun when I played it on emulator and gave myself save checkpoints before boss fights. Especially the last one, because...

Toughest Part: The final battle with Wily is the single hardest fight in the entire series and took me many, many, many tries. That battle is so difficult that the best strategy is to intentionally get hit by his less-damaging shots and use the i-frames to avoid his more-damaging shots. Otherwise you just straight-up run out of E-Tanks before you can deplete his health.

Post HERE.

#95 Arcana (Super NES) – Spring 1999

I don't remember too much about this one except that it's first person and has characters like Rooks and Teefa. Kind of an experimental game I think. I made sure to make time for it after hearing all about it from friends. It's a 3D maze game where the enemies are all on cards and you can use various elemental sprites as party members. It's a cool game but I don't think many people know it exists.

Fun Fact: The villain's name is Rimsala, which was also a boss in Secret of Evermore, so back in the day I pretended it was the same Rimsala and that the Evermore one was a statue/idol of the real deal, found here. That made the game more exciting, funnily enough.

#96 Breath of Fire III (Playstation) – Spring 1999

Liked this one a LOT and even though I skipped over BoF2 I wasn't worried about it. Rented this from Let's Play and was sold ss soon as I saw the awesome case art with the fire. This is one of those "multiple rental" games, not just because it's a big game, but because I liked it so damn much that I played through it twice. I wish I had this much fun with BoF4 (I really didn't) but more on that much later.

I remember that a number of things in this game had strong effects on me. The tragedy of Ryu and Teepo being separated as kids after they messed with the wrong gangster, and so on. Rei the tiger-man was pretty damn memorable too. This game was compulsively playable and I liked the system of splicing dragon genes to discover new forms.

Best Aspect: The soundtrack is pretty great. Especially the overworld theme, which I've had on while writing this.

#97 Darkwing Duck (NES) – Spring 1999

This was on the cover of the first Nintendo Power I bought, Volume 36. So I was pretty enthused to finally get to it. NP made the game look amazing and it ended up being one of those things I'd draw in notebooks in school. Well, seven years later I got to play the game via ROM. Surprised it was even this far down the list, but I had to get to those Mega Mans and the other classics.

Turns out it's a Mega Man 3 clone (yeah, that one specifically) where they cranked the difficulty way up. Regardless, this is something I pretty much had to play due to the NP association. I fumbled my way through it and finally got to find out who Stage 7 was (the final big bad), as NP didn't give that away.

#98 Metal Gear Solid (Playstation) – Spring 1999

The game that gave the PS1 a clear and distinct edge over the N64, if it didn't already have one. N64 didn't have anything like this, that's for sure. I think this game also helped make video games more mainstream for adults. If Squaresoft had stuck with Nintendo, this game would have been the point where Playstation caught up a bit. It was just that big.

I started this in the winter and mostly remember playing it during the cold snowy months. Was one of those things that I rented once or twice before going "f it" and buying the thing.

All of that said, I'm probably the one person on the planet who likes this the least of the five main-series MGSes. Most people have it listed as their favorite. I think the later games in the series captured far more of the "Hideo Kojima Mood" while this one is more experimental. However, people who played this first are gonna have more warm fuzzies for it. And don't get me wrong, it's an incredible game. It's basically "Metal Gear 3" and focuses much more on the overhead stealth gameplay of the MSX games rather than the departure into weirdville that followed in the sequels.

Favorite Boss: Vulcan Raven, stalking you through a freezer with a minigun. That was one of those terminator-ish fights where you have this hulking foe chasing you down in a confined area. That's right, NOT Psycho Mantis. I think Psycho Mantis might be the most overrated boss on the Playstation. Ooooh, he tells you what games you've played in the past! Screaming Mantis in MGS4 is a better actual battle, while using similar concepts to this.

Favorite Bae: Meryl, with her tank top and her great ass. Snake's words, not mine. Who am I kidding, also mine.

Best Aspect: The cinema-like presentation and the way the game just managed to do things that you didn't see from video games back then.

Post HERE.

#99 Soul Blazer (Super NES) – Spring 1999

The predecessor of Illusion of Gaia that I think a lot fewer people knew about. Plays similarly and is generally a fun romp, though I think it lacks most of the heart that game had. Of course I had to play it, as Illusion of Gaia was so good.

To this day I remember the main field theme of this game vividly, as it plays SO MUCH during the course of the game. Definitely an "Early SNES" type of experience.

Most Annoying Thing: The ball that rotates in a circle around your character for the entire game. But why? It is super distracting and just rotates away for the entire runtime of the game. I wanted to swat the lil bastard.

#100 Lagoon (Super NES) – Spring 1999

You can see right off the bat that this is totally a Ys clone. This game is most notable for your character having basically zero reach with his sword. It's trying to be a Zelda game but it ends up playing more like an overhead version of a very early Ys game. You end up basically having to bump into enemies to actually land hits. This kind of "bump combat" was apparently a minor genre in the early 90's when this game came out. I'm kinda glad the bump combat didn't catch on.

Best Aspect: Being able to make jokes about the MC's incredibly short sword.

#101 Ghost in the Shell (Playstation) – Summer 1999

This is another one of those games that temporarily became my favorite game of all time before I defaulted back to Chrono Trigger. This legitimately is better than it had any right to be, as a licensed anime tie-in. The developers managed to make it incredible though. You control a beetle-shaped mech that can run on any surface and dash at high-speed while unleashing homing missiles and other ballistic weapons. It's also fully 3D and was the first time I remember ever being truly impressed by PS1 3D compared to the N64 (which was usually superior). It's kind of like the original Armored Core except faster, simpler, and more fun. Yeah it's a lot less deep overall, but you're guaranteed to have a blast with this game.

This game is SERIOUSLY underrated and out of everything on this list so far, this is the top game that I'd recommend anybody check out for themselves some time. It's the kind of game that pretty much anyone can enjoy regardless of game tastes.

Best Aspect: Being able to run up walls and across ceilings. It's a modern Spider-Man game before such things existed. Also the thumping, awesome soundtrack. To this day I occasionally listen to tracks from it.

#102 Final Fight 2 (Super NES) – Summer 1999

I rented this many years earlier alongside the first but didn't finish the game until 1999 on emulator. Always saw this as being way better than the first game in the series (while now I know better). It's actually the least of the 3 on SNES, lacking the QOL and replayability of the third, and lacking the iconic characters and foes of the first. Regardless, I thought differently in 1999, so I made sure to go back and play through Final Fight 2 on emulator while ignoring the first until much later in time. The first kinda alienated me because Katana (Sodom) was such a difficult boss. And he's in stage 2. Probably should have been much later in the game. Final Fight 2 on the other hand does have a smoother progression curve.

Wait a minute... no Cody? No Guy? Well, at least Maki is cool. And Haggar is the timeless constant throughout this series.

Post HERE.

#103 Dragon Ball Z Retsuden (Sega Genesis) – Summer 1999

Now we arrive at the big Summer 1999 Dragonball Z game fest. Over these few months I played a whole bunch of DBZ games that were Japan-only. Another huge benefit of emulation, besides being able to check out things I missed in the past. For some weird reason, the first DBZ game I played was the Genesis one, Retsuden.

This, much like most of the DBZ fighting games of this era, isn't actually good. Matter of fact, it might even play worse than the SNES counterparts it has. However, it has a few big strengths: Playable characters that aren't in other DBZ fighting games of that era, like Kuririn and Captain Ginyu. And also, great music, really terrific soundtrack here.

Fun Fact: This was the first Sega Genesis game I ever beat. I was willing to get Genesis emulation up and running just to play this game, as I wanted to consume as much DBZ gaming as possible. Funny thing is, this led to me buying an actual Sega Genesis soon after, along with an NES (finally) during a flea market raid. At this point in time you could get these systems for like $20 and their games for like $5-10. For example, with the Genesis I got Phantasy Star 4 for all of $10. Outstanding. More on all of this in the next episode, though.

Post HERE.

#104 Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (Super NES) – Summer 1999

Terrific game here even if it's Baby's First RPG in some ways. Everything about it is nice and simple. Weirdly enough I kinda associate it with wrestling. I saw some ECW right around this point and Sid Vicious had just debuted in WCW.

Fun Fact: I didn't rent or emulate this one, I actually saw it for $5 at Let's Play and picked it up. I probably wouldn't have played this for another decade or two if I hadn't stumbled upon it that day, because it wasn't even on "the list" for things to emulate at that point.

Favorite Music: The boss theme is real good but I think I like the Lava Dome theme the most. Sounds kind of like a wrestling theme, incidentally.

#105 Mega Man 8 (Playstation) – Summer 1999

I liked this one more than MM7 by a good margin, though still not as much as the NES classics. When I think original series Mega Man, I think 1-6. In any case, this was a rental, and I had a great time playing it. The intro movie music, title screen music, and intro stage music were all pretty incredible and stick in my head to this day. Weirdly enough nothing from later in the game sticks with me the same way. I think booting this up for the first time had a similar effect to Mega Man X4 where I was just really impressed with the cutscenes and the PS1's capabilities.

Toughest Part: Wily Stage 1. I probably have more trouble with this stage than any other single stage in the classic series. It's so bad that I go out of my way to avoid doing the fortress on replays of this game. The problem is that it's a jet-sled stage that plays totally different from most of the rest of the game. You get a similar section in an earlier stage that's nowhere near as tough as this, and that's it for practice. It's like something out of Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads. This level is the bane of my existence.

Post HERE.

#106 Killer Instinct (Game Boy) – Summer 1999

At this point I borrowed a yellow Game Boy Pocket from a friend and liked the bigger, clearer screen that made things far more playable than on my old OG Game Boy. Borrowed 3 games with it and this was the first of them. Killer Instinct is something that never really made any major impression on me, but I'll say the Game Boy version looked really good in terms of animations and so on. It's amazing how much more fluid and detailed something like this was compared to early Game Boy games. It also has Super Game Boy enhancements as seen above, but I played it entirely on the GBP.

Character of Choice: Glacius

#107 Donkey Kong Land (Game Boy) – Summer 1999

Second game I borrowed and one I'd been kinda wanting to check out for a long time, given what a huge fan I was of DKC and DKC2. This one has its own unique charm, with new worlds and levels and  whole roster of new foes to battle. Had a blast with this. Oh yeah, and the yellow Game Boy Pocket was perfect for this for obvious reasons.

(Very short) post HERE.

#108 Pocket Bomberman (Game Boy Color) – Summer 1999

The third of the trio I borrowed and the last one I finished. I love me some Bomberman, and this was no exception. ...until the end. The final boss is some sort of vampire bat villain, and that fight is harder than everything else in the game combined. I probably died around 30 times trying to get past that fight.

Toughest Part: That damn BAT

#109 Ninja Gaiden II (NES) – Summer 1999

Back to emulation as I knocked off the next thing on my "missed NES game" list. I love the story and cutscenes of the original trilogy, and wish someone would make a movie about it. The story is just THAT intriguing, and it sets this trilogy above most NES platformers.

I think NG2 is the best of the trilogy for a few reasons. New powerups, more variety than the first game. Doesn't have a bizarre situation where it forces you to repeat the entire last world if you die to the final boss, like the first game does. And it has unlimited continues, unlike the third game. I actually find the third game the easiest of the three on direct difficulty, but it's probably the hardest when you factor in that it doesn't have unlimited continues like the first two (read: it's the easiest on emulator).

Favorite Boss Fight: The robot boss on top of the Tower of Lahja. That entire area is super-atmospheric and this fight just looks awesome.

Favorite Powerup: The doppleganger that gives you an orange clone. First thing I think of when I think of this game.

#110 Dragon Ball Z 2: Gekishin Freeza (NES) – Summer 1999

The second of four Dragonball Z RPGs on the Famicom/NES...and IMO the best of the four. I may be biased because it's the first one I played through and I didn't play the others through for many years. This one covers the Freeza Saga, which is actually the perfect DBZ saga to make an RPG out of. Great soundtrack, fun gameplay, and back and forth RPG battles make this one of the best DBZ games. It was really punching above its weight and I'd say it's the single best RPG you can play about DBZ on an old retro system. Course now we have Kakarot and so forth. This is more of a traditional RPG though. 

Plowing through Freeza's minions as I leveled up my Z-Warriors was a great time, especially considering the game gives you Tien, Yamcha, and Chaozu right from the get-go as if they didn't die in the Saiyan Saga. So you can even level those guys up. Freeza ends up slicing right through everybody except Gokou (and to a lesser extent Piccolo) of course.

The Downside: For some unknown reason, they left SSJ Gokou vs Freeza out of this game entirely, and it ends with Gokou "defeating" Freeza with the Genki Dama and then going SSJ in the post-battle cutscene. Really odd decision and takes a lot of winds out of the sails of the endgame. They open the next game with SSJ Gokou vs Freeza as the intro fight, so it gets covered eventually in this RPG series, but yeah.

Posts HERE and HERE.

Closing in on the end of the 90's here. Next up: Lots of DBZ... and Phantasy Star 4

The 1000 Games I've Beaten

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