Monday, January 22, 2024

The 1000 Games I've Beaten (#153 - 159)


#153 Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy) – Spring 2000
Another Game Boy game! So far, 2000 has been The Year of Gameboy. It's about to become The Year of RPG, though. You can tell how I did all of my NES and SNES emulating in 98 and 99, so Game Boy emulating finally had its moment. Too bad I never picked up the real game though, because this might have my single favorite box art on the system. Just a tremendous aesthetic here.

This is the prequel to Secret of Mana and an all-around solid action game. I'd say this is the best, or at least the most enjoyable, out of the four "Final Fantasy" Game Boy games. Funny how none of them were actually a "real" FF, but they'll always be FFs to me. This is a perfectly good game and I'd also probably rank it pretty high on an overall Game Boy ranking.

Not a lot that jumps out to me about this game. It's a ton of fun and has some great boss fights, with a nice basic linear progression that makes it hard to get lost.

Back when I played this, I didn't even know it was a SoM prequel. Not sure when I found that out. To me it was more like competition to Link's Awakening for top-down adventure games on the system.

Fondest Memory: Actually, replaying this in the late 2010's for posts. Got a lot more out of it at that point, along with the two (!!) remakes of the game. I barely remember anything about the 2000 playthrough and it was probably more of a formality than anything else (as I wanted to play all the FF games, catch up with Game Boy emulation, etc).

Favorite Boss: The two-headed dragon was pretty cool.

Favorite Weapon: The whip. Also my favorite weapon in Secret of Mana. Back in the day I was generally a sword guy (or a bone guy if we're in Prehistoria Evermore) but as the years went on and I replayed these games I found the whip to be the most appealing weapon.

Posts HERE.

#154 Fatal Fury 2 (Super NES) – Spring 2000

Whoa, a non Game Boy game. I've always kinda wanted to get into King of Fighters and that whole series, which began with Fatal Fury. However, there isn't really any good way to play through the series (no modern-system collections that I know of, etc) so my experience with the series pretty much began and ended with Fatal Fury 2 on the SNES. Oh, and decades later I also got to play King of Fighters XIV. In any case I like this series, I like the characters, I like the fighting styles and special moves. It's possible I'd put this series above Mortal Kombat and its sequels if I'd had the same access to it. However, people without a lot of arcade quarters, or a Neo-Geo at home, pretty much had to miss most of this series.

I think the SNES also got Fatal Fury, the original, and I'm surprised I never went back and played that one too. This second one has some great villains at least, like staff-wielding British punk Billy Kane, and Wolfgang Krauser looking like a Fist of the North Star version of Shredder.

#155 Wild Arms (Playstation) – Spring 2000

It took me a while to get into, but this was a good game (mostly carried by the incredible soundtrack, though the gameplay is solid). I remember playing it on a rental in 1998 and just not making a ton of headway in it for whatever reason. Also saw the proprietor of Let's Play (the game store that I frequented) playing this game on his in-store TV, which was cool. I finally bought it and gave it a real run somewhere around the end of 1999. I remember playing that and Goldeneye in the run up to Y2K.

However, I again hit some sort of mid-game impasse. Or maybe I just couldn't stay into it, not sure. I stopped playing at some point and shelved the game, getting instead into Game Boy emulation for a bit. However, by April or so I was ready to take another swing at this game and get it done. That time I was successful, and beat the game. The computer being in the shop that week helped a lot with me getting Wild Arms down, as I didn't have access to Game Boy emulation or Everquest.

Not sure why this game took me so many attempts to get into it, but eventually it clicked and I'm glad it did. I think I replayed it once, in like 2011, and defeated all the superbosses. Which I didn't manage to defeat ANY of the first time through.

Favorite Tune: "Marsh Where The Migrant Birds Gather". Nothing more to say.

Tune that gives me energy, even today: "Knight Quarters". The theme of the villain squad whenever they appear, or have a secret meeting.

One of my favorite dungeon themes of all time: "The Cold Darkness". If I ever need a dungeon theme for anything dungeon-related, this is the tune that immediately comes to mind. Just a deeply foreboding track.

Fun Fact: The villains were the thing that really got me into this game. Alhazad was particularly intriguing, and Ziekfried seemed like a real menace.

Fondest Memory: Fighting Boomerang Flash, or at least listening to the music in that optional fight, then going out into the Spring rain and going downtown to pick up the sequel, that I had just learned was out already. What an incredible day, man.

#156 Wild Arms 2 (Playstation) – Summer 2000

I played this twice. Summer 2000 was straight off of the first game, and I finished this as well. Then I replayed it some time in the early 2010's, can't remember exactly when, with the sole purpose of defeating all of the superbosses. This game has a whole bunch of them and they're really well designed / appealing to fight. Back in the 2000s I had no interest in defeating all the superbosses (or grinding EXP... the two things I seem to like the most in RPGs now) so the large postgame here meant nothing to me. What I did get was a pretty excellent game that I enjoyed a lot more than the original (which was already good).

There was a brief time when I had this as one of my top two RPGs on the system, right behind FFT at that point. The thing I remember most about it is picking it up during that rainstorm. It was really something to beat a game and then go right to pick up the sequel, which again, had just dropped. I think it was still within its launch week, and I didn't even know until I was about to beat the first game. Wait what, there's a sequel? And it's out now? Just a whirlwind of events that day.

Design Choice I'd Like To See More Of: This had a choice of 3 protagonists at the outset, with each one having their own intro to the game, something I'm a big fan of. I like it even more when their paths stay split and the game lets you go between them, like Suikoden 3.

Favorite Tune: This has one of the best "tense" themes I've ever heard. It's a short track, but it's something. The drop-off at :32 is what gets it this spot.

Fondest Memory: Leaving music from this game running while I played EQ and ran around zones in that game. Specifically, the Guildgrad tune here was my background music for a lot of exploring in Ruins of Kunark. It fit really well and I remember getting to the top of the highest peak of Skyfire Mountains with a level 10ish Iksar, somehow not ever aggroing any of the level 50+ dragons and wyverns everywhere in the zone.

I Should Probably Mention This: The zany duo of Toka and Ge, the Enzo and Big Cass of Wild Arms 2. Not only were they memorable, they also had one of the best "wacky boss" themes I've ever heard. There aren't enough to make a list, but if I DID rank "wacky boss" themes, I'd put this at 2nd place. What's 1st? Why, Ultros' Opera House extravaganza in FFVI of course.

Thing I Found Most Annoying: Tim, with his big floppy shoes. Lilka's outfit, Lilka in general. Lilka's weird puzzle dungeon at the beginning. Bunch of superficial annoying things about this one. Kind of funny.

#157 Legend of Dragoon (Playstation) – Summer 2000

This was another great RPG. A little generic, and basically an RPG made by a Hollywood studio told to make an RPG, but it was a fine time and a game I'd actually recommend. Especially now that it has an HD version out for PS4 and probably Switch. I co-played this with at least one friend and it was a topic of discussion among a few more.

This was four discs of mayhem, and unlike the last two Final Fantasies, it actually used the last disc. That's right, the fourth disc had a huge chunk of the game. The soundtrack was great, with a few memorable boss themes especially. While almost everything about this game was derived from (or "inspired by" if you will) some other RPG of the era, the vast majority of it was almost directly lifted from FFVII. And that's... quite alright, actually, because I think if one weighed everything objectively, this is actually a superior game.

The battle system is the next evolution of Super Mario RPG style timed hits: You don't have to get it right, but if you do, you're rewarded. As a result, the battles are engaging and fun. There's really nothing bad about this game, outside of how derivative it was. There's something to be said for taking ideas and improving them. Like WoW did for EQ in 2004.

Favorite Tune: Royal Castle. There are so many to pick from in this game, but this one still manages to make me Feel.

Highest-Energy Tune: The first boss theme. Kind of futuristic, kind of makes you Feel. You know things just got serious when this starts playing.

Most Memorable Tune: Black Castle. The single most menacing piece of audio I've ever heard in a game. Can't even quite put my finger on why. It's got something to do with the low bass tone and the almost-inscrutable treble. This landed yet another EQ association, as I played it once while going through the ruins to fight Trakanon. He'd basically nuked this city with toxin breath and now resided there, and this tune fit that mood better than anything I could think of.

Coolest Aspect: How your characters could transform into "Dragoon" forms with wings and significantly powered-up abilities. It was a lot like going Super Saiyan, which of course I enjoyed. And each character gained this ability at a different point in the game, meaning it was always an event for a new character to gain their Dragoon transformation. Comparable to getting the Omnigears in Xenogears. This also meant when you encountered a foe with a Dragoon form, it was going to be a serious battle.

#158 Suikoden 2 (Playstation) – Summer 2000

I think I co-played this with several friends, or at least we were all playing it around the same few months. Another game with a fantastic soundtrack. I can't even get to all of the songs I'd like to mention, so I'm not even gonna try.

Lot of grown-up themes in this one, dealing with war and chaos and division. It's a damn fine game, with a mood all its own and a story that doesn't insult your intelligence.

This is a great game with a ton of likeable characters. Something calming about this one. I tried playing it again in the 2010's and it didn't go too well; not sure why. But back in 2000 it was a super fun experience and something I remember fondly.

It should also be mentioned that it's the one game besides FFVII to ever succeed in hitting me hard with a character death.

Best Battle Theme: "The Chase", theme of the battle with Luca. This is probably on top of the list for great "chase battles" themes, multi-part fights where you're trying to corner your foe. Everything about this track conveys the feeling of what's happening onscreen.

Tune That Still Makes Me Feel: "Amid the Silence" (White Deer Inn theme)

Favorite Overall Tune: And on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the theme of war: "Battlefield Without Light"

Thing I Like: The "pawp, pawp" of the main character whacking things with tonfas.

Seriously, What A Great Villain: Luca Blight belongs in the conversation for the greatest RPG villains, but I don't think I've ever seen him on a top list.

#159 Legend of Mana (Playstation) – Summer 2000

Odd game here. I was stoked to play a sequel to Secret of Mana. Despite Seiken Densetsu 3 being at the top of the list for things I wanted to emulate in this timeframe, I hadn't played through it. Also it had just recently gotten its translation patch, so there was no reason not to. I did try SD3 out and was really impressed, then it rubbed me the wrong way with something weird. I think it became nighttime and all the forest monsters you fight went to sleep, so I was going around whacking sleeping rabites and stuff, and it just made me turn the game off. Yeah, I don't get it either. And then... for some reason I just kind of never got to it until decades later. I think 2014 was when I finally played SD3. Well, it was what it was.

Oh yeah, Legend of Mana. So this dropped on the PS1 and despite having this Mana game over here that I wasn't playing, I got it. I remember this game being exceedingly weird, and not that much like its predecessors. Some people swear by it though. Maybe it's better for someone who had a very different experience to mine. I guess it was pretty memorable, and it did have a nice aesthetic. Not something I'd ever pay money to play again though.

I also remember the AI teammates being super useless in this game, and most of the bosses being cheesable with simple basic attack spam with a fast weapon. They all recoil from hits for a split second so with a quick enough weapon you can stunlock them in recoils. It was truly bizarre. Magic was kind of useless as a result. I'd equip the glove weapon and just punch bosses to death without them ever even getting an attack off.

Toughest Part: I ran into issues on the final boss fight because it didn't have any recoil and I couldn't punch it to death without it ever getting an attack off.

Favorite Tune: The theme in the desert. This is a high-energy theme with instruments befitting a desert. It occasionally pops into my head even today. This game has a really tremendous soundtrack and I'm selling it short by not mentioning that. This post is so full of tremendous soundtracks though. So many good tunes in this one. I should at least post another one.

Another One: The final boss theme is great, foreboding and bad-ass at the same time. It plays during a moonlight duel with a demonic entity, and sounds precisely what a tune should sound like for a moonlight duel with a demonic entity. (Yeah I know it's some kind of avatar for the mana goddess, but it looks demonic enough)

Next: The second half of the 2000 golden age of RPGs, with a bunch more that my friends and I were all in on.

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