Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The 1000 Games I've Beaten (#160 - 168)


#160 Chrono Cross (Playstation) – Summer 2000

The parade of incredible PS1 RPGs continues in this post, which is pretty much the back half of my 2000 golden era of RPGs. This game is notable for being the only game in history (yes, ever) that I stayed up four days in a row to play. Obviously I took breaks and I probably took naps too, but they were short enough that I can't remember any. Nope, for the better part of a week I was planted in front of the TV and the incredible soundtrack of this game was wafting through the house. I don't remember this four day extravaganza even being particularly tiring, where now I'm going to sleep every night whether I like it or not and usually earlier than I want to. Turns out youth is awesome and often taken for granted until it passes you by.

Chrono Trigger was debatably my favorite game for the past few years before this, so a sequel to it was something I was incredibly stoked for. The problem is that the actual game isn't really much of a sequel at all. But it does have some of the same themes, and a lategame cameo from several of the CT cast. The later parts of this game are particularly striking and memorable.

This game starts out really calm and peaceful, then goes to some really weird places. The battle with FATE, the giant creepy supercomputer that assumes a humanoid shape to fight you, still freaks me out a bit to this day. I also enjoyed all the CT references like Glenn, and that one blue-haired magician who resembled Magus. At the end of the day though, most of it amounted to little more than fanservice. This wasn't a real sequel, not the way we expected and all wanted. I still love the game, but yeah, it didn't measure up to my hopes and dreams going in. A similar situation would happen a couple years later with Xenosaga.

I should have a lot more to say about this one, but for whatever reason, not much is coming to mind.

Favorite Tune: All of them. Probably the tune that stands out the most when I think about it is the title screen. As someone who cares a lot about the ocean, that whole title screen made me feel.

Fondest Memory: All of it, mainly because of the music. Just playing the game and being chill and having a chill household with a chill family.

Fondest Memory From The Game: Well, I guess the part near the end where the CT kids show up under Leene's Bell during a sunset. Pretty awesome.

Party of Choice: Earlygame: Serge/Kid/Leena. Also known as Team Threesome. Lategame: Serge, Glenn, Riddel, a powerhouse trio.

Favorite Area: The frozen Dead Sea, the ruins of the city, and Chronopolis are one big fascinating and unsettling journey.

#161 Vagrant Story (Playstation) – Summer 2000

This was a game that was pretty hard to get into and understand, but incredibly fun and rewarding once it finally clicked. Sort of a proto-Fromsoft game in that regard. And incidentally, the music for this game was what I listened to during a lot of the Souls series, which was notoriously music-bereft at first until Sekiro and Elden Ring changed that by having actual soundtracks.

Also Merlose (the woman on the cover) helped me go through puberty. ...well I think I was done by then but yeah. The cover of this game is unnecessarily hot, except for the main character glaring at you. He's like "I know you're checking her out, ya rat bastard"

There's really nothing bad about this game, outside of maybe the graphics being incredibly antiquated. Even at the time they were starting to look really pixelly. Other than that it's an incredibly moody game with a gloomy and mysterious French city as the setting. They made sure to include extensive catacombs, as is French city tradition. Definitely one of 2000's (many) high points in gaming.

I think what jumps out at me the most was all the time I spent working on forging new weapons, micromanaging them, creating weapons specifically for destroying certain types of enemies, and so on. No game rewards you for micromanaging like this one does, because you can spend HOURS customizing equipment. This means the game has a steep learning curve that can seem daunting, however. To this day I'm still not 100% confident that I was playing this game entirely right.

Favorite Tune: The final dungeon, Great Cathedral. I pretty much perma-associate the music of this with Everquest as I was listening to this soundtrack a lot during that timeframe.

Best Boss Theme: This game has a multitude of different boss themes. My favorite is the first one you hear. Which again I associate with EQ as I remember listening to it during a dragon fight in that game.

#162 Final Fantasy Legend II (Game Boy) – Fall 2000

Got around to emulating the second "Legend" game. This one is more of what the first does, but significantly improved. They added robots as the new class (race?) in this game and they're pretty awesome, deriving level-like stats from their equipment rather than from items/grinding/meat like humans/mutants/monsters respectively. This was a terrific game and to this day is my favorite of the three. I like the "collect Magi" setup and how generally open it is, with each area having its own theme.

Toughest Part: The final boss. This thing was a total beast. Not sure what it is. Air Force from FFVI's big brother?

Party of Choice: This is a tough one because you've got some good class choices. I think the party I went with, and had the best luck with, was Human/Mutant/Robot/Robot. The robots really are good and can get OP if you load them up with high-tier equipment (something you have an abundance of laying around late in these games).

Fondest Memory: Mostly played this in a motel room. Was moving between my childhood place and a new apartment (which turned out to kinda be the end of a lot of good times, and the beginning of various health issues, incidentally). During the move we had to stay in a motel. I was playing two different things the week of the move, and ended up playing both of them pretty extensively at the motel. Basically I had the computer set up in the corner and was just hanging out, playing all week. It was pretty cool to be in a different place, and you could go outside and walk 50 feet to get freshly-made kraut dogs. The other thing I was playing that week was...

#163 Lufia and the Fortress of Doom (Super NES) – Fall 2000

All of those same fond memories can be copied over for this one, as I mostly played it in the motel. I think it was something I'd played a good amount of before this, and this was my big push to get the game finished. It's a pretty standard Dragon Quest style RPG, but it does have heart and the soundtrack is solid.

This one was a tiny bit of a slog, and I remember having trouble getting into it. There's nothing wrong with it at all, it just wasn't anything I hadn't seen many times before. The intro made me really interested...in playing the sequel. The motel stay was the perfect opportunity to sit down and really focus on this.

Favorite Character: Lufia, which is probably why I made her wear a pot on her head for a large portion of the game.

Most Interesting Aspect: The Sinistrals in general, but especially the beginning of the game where you play out the end of the last great battle against them. The intro of this game alone was enough to totally sell me on the sequel, which I went right into after this.

Favorite Sinistral: In this first one, Gades. He's the first one you see and he's a great antagonist throughout the majority of the game.

Favorite Tune: Sunken Shrine. I guess it's called "Silent Shrine" on the soundtrack, but I remember this being an undersea locale. Easily my favorite track on the soundtrack, though honorable mention to the incredible final boss theme.

Posts HERE.

#164 Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals (Super NES) – Fall 2000

This is one of the best RPGs on the SNES, and if we're only counting the ones we got in the West, it might even crack my top five on a good day. Since the intro of the first game shows you the end of this one, I knew about what to expect going in (like that Maxim and Tia weren't going to last). You also get an all-you-can-eat Sinistral buffet for this one, with the bad guys bringing all hands on deck to stop your party.

It's very puzzle-heavy and chances are if I replayed it now I'd probably find the pacing to be on the slow side, but the story and the moment to moment gameplay carry it through. I actually played a ton of this (at least half) during the motel week, after I finished up with FFL2 and Lufia. So it's got the same fond "motel week" memories. We really didn't have much else to do that week, with nowhere to go besides hanging out in this motel. Which was really conducive to getting a few more games done.

It's also significantly darker than the previous game, and doesn't shy away from having more adult themes at times, which is appreciated. To this day I'm left wondering though: What was the deal with Arek? The head honcho of the Sinistrals, their top guy, the leader of the operation... and you never actually fight him or even see him after the intro of this game. It's a little odd, unless the idea was to set him up for the NEXT game (as the previous game's intro did for this one). The next game being Lufia: Ruins Chasers which was cancelled. It's possible that one was meant to deal with Arek. Instead we got a couple of sequels that felt more like spinoffs, and neither followed up on this.

Favorite Sinistral: Erim. I mean, duh.

Toughest Part: The Ancient Cave is a real challenge. It's also totally optional, but of course I did it anyway.

Fun Fact: This was the first game I finished at the new apartment, where I'd live from 2000 to about 2010.

Posts HERE.

#165 Grandia (Playstation) – Fall 2000

This game is cool because it's full of childlike wonder, with likeable and idealistic characters going on an adventure to the end of the world (literally, kind of). Feena is gorgeous, and also a great character with a strong moral compass. This game is also the one time I'll give an RPG a pass for having a Goggle Boy protagonist, because he's okay too. This had an interesting magic system that I remember having to spend a lot of time building up elements for. But mostly I just liked the characters.

Fondest Memory: The town of Parm being peaceful and happy, with happy music and Justin's Mom strutting around. Justin's Mom...had it going on.

Favorite Tune: Boss Theme 1. One of the best boss themes I've ever heard, and would be at home in a lot of different games. Hell I could see this playing in Street Fighter.

Fun Fact: This was the first game I ever played through from scratch at the new apartment. So I associate this game with that place, and having the windows open with moonlight beaming in (as my new room had a very clear view of it).

Underrated/Unsung Part Of The Game: Dight Inn, and the part where you run through a thunderstorm around that point in the game. Some great themes there that didn't get onto the soundtrack.

Honorable Mention: RPG Maker (Playstation) - Fall 2000

It's worth noting that besides Chrono Cross, this is the only other game I've stayed up more than two days with. When it first dropped, I was up for three straight days working on it. Since then, I've stayed up for two days a few times (which only requires missing one night of sleep) but that's about it. I had copious amounts of notes ready to go in the creation of a game on here, so I set about right away with purpose.

Obviously there's no way to "beat" a game like this but it was huge and shouldn't be forgotten. Doing text on this was a total PITA because it didn't support a keyboard, but other than that it is an extremely user-friendly game. The actual game (once created) plays a lot like Dragon Quest. I had a whole lineup of games planned to create on here, but I only got about halfway through the first one before losing my files due to a saving mishap that was my fault but also an easy mistake to make. After losing dozens of hours of work, my desire to continue just totally died and I never resumed the project. It's too bad because I did make significant headway and was on track to having a finished playable game in the near future.

It's too bad I didn't get ahold of a better version of the game around this time. On the PC (so...keyboard support!) RPG Maker 2000 was probably out and was significantly better than this. Then there was RPG Maker 2003 which was even better, and probably to this day the best version of the software. Unfortunately I just completely whiffed on both of these PC installments even existing, and focused on the Playstation varieties which were a bit meh in comparison. This first one was fine though.

#166 Operation C (Game Boy) – Fall 2000

It's a spinoff of Contra...for the Game Boy! And it's really good. Probably an underrated game. At the end of the day games just need to be fun, and this was fun. It was fairly challenging as well, but I was able to get through it with a lot less trouble than the NES games. At one time this was supposed to be "Contra III" and Contra III was going to be "Super Contra", IIRC.

You've got facehuggers, Xenomorphs, and everything else you'd expect from the series. This probably belongs pretty high on a Game Boy "best of" list, but I think it flies under people's radar. It's a pretty short game, as Game Boy interpretations of these NES serieses usually are.

Post HERE.

#167 Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64) – Fall 2000

From the makers of Goldeneye, another first-person shooter with great multiplayer, great single-player, and extremely solid gameplay for the era. This was also a significant graphical improvement over Goldeneye and had a really interesting, dark storyline involving aliens and government coverups. Especially in the era of X-Files, this was an awesome game. It also bridges the gap between Goldeneye and Halo. I mean it's visibly the bridge game between the two, and raised the bar for FPS games on every level.

Favorite Tune: The pause screen had an incredibly chill theme. Chill...and foreboding at the same time, if that's possible. Probably depends on your mood.

#168 Final Fantasy IX (Playstation) – Fall 2000

The last game I played in 2000, and pretty much the end of the amazing run of RPGs I played that year. This is also the last thing I remember playing alongside a bunch of friends, at least for a while. Whole bunch of us got this and were playing it towards the end of the year. My main memory here was picking it up from Let's Play (of course) and waiting for the bus home with a chill wind in the air and all kinds of fallen leaves whooshing by. I think it was soon after Halloween. A very nice time of year for sure.

As for the actual game, I found it less fun than the two before it, due to the general slowness of the battles. I mean they are SLOW. I did like the return to four characters in battle; unfortunately it didn't persist in the FFs after this. The overworld theme in this game is probably my favorite overworld theme in the entire series, which is noteworthy. The visuals are also quite nice and probably the pinnacle of PS1 pre-rendered backgrounds.

Funny thing is, I spent most of the game waiting for "Skirmish With Silver Dragons" to play, which was erroneously labeled online as the boss theme. When it didn't play, I figured it must be the BIG boss theme. Then when I fought a big decisive boss and that also didn't have it as a theme, I was just confused. Where was it? Kind of like how I went through FFIV waiting for Culex to show up. Well, the tune finally played...in a cutscene during Disc 4. So I waited a while. "Boss theme" my ass!

Favorite Character: Vivi. Probably everyone's favorite character.

Favorite Dungeon: The final dungeon, Memoria, where you fight the bosses from the original Final Fantasy.

Favorite Scene: The "You're Not Alone" scene is one of the greats, though it's been so played-out at this point by Youtubers that I'm pretty tired of seeing it / hearing the tune. Back in the day though, it was a strong scene.

Favorite Tune: Ipsen's Castle. I find this track to be one of the most epic dungeon themes in the entire FF series. It's triumphant and the Gregorian chants add a ton.

Party of Choice: Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, ? ...The first 3 were mainstays for me, while the fourth was more of a swing spot. Back then it usually went to Amarant, later playthroughs it usually goes to Vivi.

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