List: Top 10 Video Games I Just Can’t Quit

A couple of weeks ago there was a “Freshly Pressed” blog post that caught my eye. This post, titled “Video Games I Just Can’t Quit,” was about the author’s list of games that he kept coming back to time and time again. I was very intrigued by this idea, and have been thinking about my own personal list since initially reading his. Here’s what I have come up with, a list of games that I continue to play over and over regardless of their age:

Super C [NES, 1990]
1) Super C [NES]
I have fond memories of playing this with my brother when I was a kid. In typical Contra fashion, the game is hard as hell. I think we only beat the game once or twice back then… it was brutal.

Dr. Mario
2) Dr. Mario [NES]
Man, I can’t even tell you how hooked I was on this game. We used to have insane Dr. Mario marathons in college, even developing a ranking chart for everyone who played regularly with us. My roommate was always #1 on the list, but I was a close second. Ah, the good ol’ days… Even today, my girlfriend and I bust it out from time to time.

Tetris
3) Tetris [NES]
For some reason, old puzzle games got a lot of “airplay” in college. My buddy Roy and I would play Tetris all the freakin’ time, often listening to The National while doing so (an odd mix, but it worked perfectly). I still have some version of Tetris for pretty much every system I own today.


4) Super Mario Bros. 3 [NES] & Super Mario World [SNES]
My two favorite Mario games. I still play them every now and then, picking up right where I left off. My girlfriend and I are working our way through SMW again, this time collecting all of the Yoshi coins and hidden items. Good times.


5) Golden Axe [GEN]
One of my favorite beat ’em ups. It’s still fun to relive the glory days as Gilius Thunderhead, that badass axe-wielding dwarf.


6) Castlevania: Symphony of the Night [PS1]
Believe it or not, this is what introduced me to the Castlevania series. The cheesy dialogue, the incredible soundtrack, the exploration gameplay, the inverted castle… this game has it all. Now that I also have it for the PSP (via the Dracula X Chronicles disc), I can play it anywhere.


7) Star Ocean: The Second Story [PS1]
I have probably started and stopped this game at least a dozen times. I still have a save file that is in the final dungeon, but I have been stuck on one of the last bosses for YEARS. Someday I will pick this back up and finally beat the damn game, and it will be absolutely glorious.


8) Suikoden [PS1]
Still one of my favorite RPGs to this day. I played through it multiple times and loved trying to recruit all 108 characters. Although many prefer the second game, I still think this one is best by far.


9) Quake III: Arena [PC]
Back in high school, my friends and I used to get all of our daily work done in “Computer Lit” (or whatever the basic computer class was) as fast as we could so we could play this. We had some furious deathmatches back in the day, and it remains one of my favorite FPS titles to this day. I never could master that damn rail gun, though I was pretty lethal with the rocket launcher and plasma gun.


10) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 [PS2]
This is the best all-around Tony Hawk game and it features some of the most memorable levels in the series (Airport, anyone?). This is one of the rare games where I had so much fun that I went through and beat the game multiple times with different skaters. I can still pick it up and play it today while remembering most of my special trick combos. Best skateboarding game ever, in my opinion.

So there you have it, my list of ten video games I just can’t quit. Working on this list has just made me want to go back and play all of these again.

How about you guys? What games do you keep coming back to?

Star Ocean: First Departure [PSP, 2008]

Star Ocean: First Departure [PSP, 2008]

Star Ocean: First Departure
System: PSP
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: October 21, 2008

One of my favorite role-playing games from my “youth” was Star Ocean: The Second Story for the Playstation. I put countless hours into that game, exploring alternate storylines, recruiting different characters and so on. That was my first foray into the SO franchise, and naturally I was incredibly curious about the elusive first Star Ocean game that was made for the SNES but never released in the USA. This Japanese-only game finally got released in the U.S. just two years ago, this time in PSP form and with a number of major changes.

The first thing I noticed right away was First Departure’s striking similarity to the PSX game I knew and loved. The game looks absolutely identical to its sequel, with the same style of character models and pre-rendered backgrounds (which are admittedly gorgeous). The battle system is also the same as SO2, and it is free-roaming real-time combat still holds up quite well. A lot of the same extra features are also here, such as an extensive item creation and customization system, and the ability to perform “private actions” to allow your party’s characters to interact with each other individually. The most notable upgrade is the usage of anime cutscenes, which are beautiful and give the game an extra bit of flair.

The story this time around is fairly basic and leaves something to be desired. You play as Roddick, a young village guard who is searching for a cure for a stone paralysis plague that is crippling the country. Roddick meets two Earthlings who suddenly appeared on this planet, and they decide to go back in time to find the cure. Basic stuff to be sure, but the gameplay is proficient enough to keep you playing even when the story lacks.

While the game offers some great variety in the form of its many optional bonus features (i.e. the aforementioned item customization, private actions, etc), it does have a handful of disappointing flaws. For one, navigating on the world map is painfully slow and boring. This becomes an exceptionally large problem when forced to backtrack to other worlds, which is a common occurrence during the game’s later stages. Another issue is the obnoxious voice acting during random battles where the characters yell the same things over and over again. Finally, while I found the degree of difficulty to be satisfactory, it could be potentially dismissed as “too easy” to some gamers.

There is a lot to like with Star Ocean: First Departure despite these few issues. I am exceptionally grateful that I even got the chance to play this game since I never believed it would be available for U.S. gamers. Basically, it comes down to this: if you played Star Ocean 2 and enjoyed it then you really ought to seek out First Departure. If you are just a fan of RPGs in general and are not going to readily dismiss a title just because of its age, then I do not hesitate to recommend Star Ocean. This is a good game, not a great one, but it packs enough of a punch to justify playing it for 20 hours.

7/10

Star Ocean: First Departure (screenshot)