Q: How did we go from 15 games across a decade to five for a single year?
A: I knocked out the entire ’90s because the number of games that I own from that decade and played enough to talk about was, quite frankly, small. My game library balloons by the 21st century, so I won’t be forced to toss a bunch of years together again.
Q: Then why only five games for 2000?
A: Okay, my library balloons by 2001, but 2000 is still fairly slim.
Q: And the three others?
A: Games that didn’t make the cut, but I felt including in some capacity. Back when I created lists on my Giant Bomb profile, such games were added to a separate grouping of lists called “Other Games of…” They included titles that I didn’t play enough or old games that I already wrote about elsewhere. Just a few shout-outs to games I would’ve otherwise ignored when making “Game of the Year” lists.
Q: So these “Other Games” could get their own posts?
A: I’m not saying it couldn’t, but I haven’t decided either way.
Q: Are these lists going to be common now?
A: Probably. I enjoy doing them.
Truthfully, the only reason that Pokémon Stadium made the list is because I finished it — something I can’t say for the three “Other” games — and not because it’s good. Well, I’m sure I loved it as a 13-year-old, but these days I’d never buy a Pokémon game without training, catching, or adventuring. Stadium is only about battling a linear series of opponents, including gym leaders and the Elite Four, before tackling the monstrously difficult Mewtwo. That’s the bulk of Pokémon Stadium.
Stadium shipped with the Transfer Pak accessory, which allowed players to connect their original Pokémon games to the Nintendo 64. Beyond transferring own creatures into Stadium, it also lets you play the Game Boy games on your television, which was probably pretty novel at the time. Well, assuming you didn’t own the Super Game Boy on SNES.
The entire Pokémon Trading Card Game on a single Game Boy cartridge. How did Nintendo and Hudson perform such magic? Okay, that’s tongue-in-cheek, but I liked the idea of playing the TCG wherever I wanted without any flimsy cards or human contact enough to overlook the clunky controls and minimalist presentation.
Pokémon Card GB (the Japanese title) models itself after traditional Pokémon RPGs by featuring a young lad who challenges eight Club Masters (i.e. Gym Leaders) of different elemental types for Master Medals before tackling the four Grand Masters (the Elite Four). There’s no actual adventuring, though. Select the gym, er, club from an overworld map and get immediately transported. Instead of capturing Pokémon, new cards are gained after winning matches.
Yes, Pokémon Gold previously made my “Favorite Games of the ’90s” list, but that was for the Japanese version. This slot is for the English version. Yes, that’s cheating, and it’s for that reason that Majora’s Mask is ranked higher.
Of course, almost nothing differed between versions outside of the language, but I harbor nearly as many great memories of playing English Gold as I do its Japanese counterpart. In fact, between the two versions, I played enough Pokémon to completely lose interest in future games, skipping Pokémon Crystal — the updated version, like Yellow and Emerald, and the sequels Ruby and Sapphire. Only remakes of the original Red and Blue were enough to lure me back.
You’d think that I’d love the Nintendo DS remake of Gold, but HeartGold lacked a little something I can’t identify. Maybe it didn’t hit the right nostalgic nerves.
When I was younger, my parents cleaned a small business for a brief time, recruiting my sister and I into helping. At that same time, I was playing through Majora’s Mask for the first time. One of those cleaning days came and I refused to let my progress through Stone Tower Temple be reset, so I paused the game and left with my Nintendo 64 on for the handful of hours we were away. I completed the dungeon when I returned.
Majora’s Mask expertly juggles a living world with a constant impending doom, something that few games can manage. Bethesda’s games do the living world, but falters with creating constant dread. The Big Bad doesn’t exist until I continue that quest, but Majora’s looming moon and three-day limit continues to build pressure throughout the adventure, right up to the final boss.
I didn’t want to stop playing. Games that inspire such fervor are too rare, but Majora’s Mask is one of the few games that I couldn’t put down.
Surprised? The Lunar series didn’t make a big splash in North America, and the oft-remade Lunar: Silver Star is mentioned more.
My affection for Eternal Blue over Silver Star is because, quite simply, it’s the one I played first. Hiro and Lucia are the heroes that I enjoyed first, and I experienced the colorful casts’ character arcs years before I bought Silver Star. I fondly remember those pixelated anime cutscenes, quirky voice acting, and a translation full of personality and references to late ’90s pop-culture. (Those who complained about Fire Emblem Fates’ dialogue changes would go insane here.)
I don’t mean to say that my affection is based firmly in nostalgia, but Lunar 2 made a strong impact on me. It remains a entertaining RPG with a somewhat traditional battle system where non-special attacks require reaching enemies first instead of leaping across the screen to attack and jumping back. The battle and (especially) boss themes are etched in my brain, two of a handful songs in a game that forever remains in memory. And those graphics! Those 2D visuals were considered outdated in a post-Final Fantasy VII RPG world, but look better now than most on the PlayStation.
Shame that we’ll probably never see the PS1 version on PlayStation Network. I’d love to play my second favorite game ever without digging out the PS1 disk.
Bomberman Max: Red Challenger
Game Boy Color | Hudson Soft / Vatical Entertainment
Remember when Pokémon debuted with two versions? Remember when that led publishers to release two versions of their own games, whether it made sense or not? Yeah, that happened, and Hudson Soft got into that action with Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Red Challenger. I own the latter because my child self thought that Max looked cooler than Bomberman. These games also introduced creatures called Charaboms, and I can’t remember what they add to the classic Bomberman gameplay beyond trying to attract kids obsessed with Pokémon.
I own this game, so obviously it worked.
Metal Gear Solid (Ghost Babel)
Game Boy Color | Konami Computer Entertainment Japan / Konami
Otherwise known as the best Metal Gear Solid you never played, Ghost Babel (its Japanese subtitle) features Solid Snake in a non-canonical adventure that plays like the spiritual successor to Metal Gear 2 on MSX. Yes, that means Snake is sneaking in 2D, but Ghost Babel retains quite a bit that we love from the series, including bosses with dumb names, hiding in cardboard boxes, and using smoke (from a fogger instead of cigarrettes) to detect lasers.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to imagine Konami making the effort to release Ghost Babel on 3DS Virtual Console. It still could happen, but I wouldn’t say there’s much of a chance. Because Konami.
Sakura Taisen GB:!! Geki Hanagumi Nyūtai
Game Boy Color | Jupiter / Media Factory
I talked briefly about Sakura Wars on Game Boy Color in a past What’cha Been Playin’, and truth be told, I haven’t touched it since. The lack of an English translation patch is a killer, although I have considered recording a silent playthrough of the game using an English translation script (if such a thing exists) and editing in the English afterwards, but it’s an unfortunate victim of there being too many games to play this year.
Not that any of that previously stopped me from buying the first two Sakura Wars games on Sega Saturn, a console I don’t even own.