Lytherus recently brought four new writers on board to deliver even more content to our visitors. Our first blogger, Robbie, is now sharing his personal video game recommendations in a new segment called “What Are We Playing?”, intended to introduce our audience to the likes (and dislikes) of our reviewers!
FINAL FANTASY VII
This was actually the first Final Fantasy game to be released in Europe, so it was the first game from the series that I had the pleasure of playing. Final Fantasy is a fabulously strong series, boasting plenty of great games, but I’ve always felt that number VII is Final Fantasy’s crowning achievement.
The plot initially centers on Cloud Strife’s employment as a mercenary by an eco-terrorist group calling themselves AVALANCHE. Concerned that the all-powerful Shinra corporation are slowly killing the planet by using massive reactors to drain the lifestream out of the Earth to harness as energy, AVALANCHE, with the assistance of Cloud, blow up one of Shinra’s reactors. Despite concerns over Cloud’s murky past as a Shinra soldier, the eco-terrorist group are impressed with his abilities and employ him for another mission. Events rapidly escalate, resulting in the appearance of one of the greatest video game villains of all time, Sephiroth. Cloud has previous history with Sephiroth, although he struggles to recall much of his past as he battles to find out who he was and exactly what connects him to Sephiroth. AVALANCHE, on Cloud’s insistence, track Sephiroth as they deem him to now pose a bigger threat to the planet than Shinra, all the while trying to evade detection from the megacorporation.
In March 2010, the CEO of Square Enix said the company was exploring the possibility of remaking the game, first released in 1997. My old copy is worn beyond repair but thankfully the game was made available in 2009 for download on the PlayStation Network.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
From A Link to the Past on the SNES to the Wii’s launch title Twilight Princess, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every title I’ve played in the Zelda series. Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be one of the greatest video games of all time and was the first game to be awarded a perfect 40 out of 40 rating by the highly respected Japanese video game magazine Famitsu. I personally regard the latest offering, Twilight Princess, to be the closest that Nintendo have come to equaling the majesty of Ocarina of Time.
Typically, a Zelda game follows Link as he travels around Hyrule gathering ancient relics like the triforce and the master sword in order to defeat the evil Ganondorf, who has a fondness for kidnapping Princess Zelda every second week. Innovative storylines rarely feature in this series, but the excellent boss battles, the time consuming puzzles as well as the exploratory potential of the beautiful Hyrule that we see in every Zelda title mean Nintendo rarely miss the mark when it comes to producing these games.
It was announced in January 2011 that a new Zelda game for the Wii, titled Skyward Sword, is near completion. No release date has been confirmed, although it has been revealed that it will hit shelves shortly after the Nintendo 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time becomes available in June 2001.
METAL GEAR SOLID
Reportedly, when Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima announced his retirement from directing future Metal Gear games he received death threats from aggrieved fans. Thankfully, Kojima changed his mind and returned to direct the final installment of the Metal Gear Solid series, but the alleged death threats go to show just how pivotal Kojima’s involvement was regarded by fans.
Kojima is a truly unique game director. One estimate claimed that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots consists of cut scenes that amount to about half of the content of the game. Kojima wants video games to be like interactive movies, and with the Metal Gear Solid series his vision comes close to fruition.
The Metal Gear games are regarded as the pioneers of the stealth and espionage genre. Playing mainly as Solid Snake, the player has to avoid enemy eyes and infiltrate bases, usually in order to establish any and all plans to build Metal Gears. A Metal Gear is a bipedal walking tank, capable of firing a nuclear missile at any location on the globe. Complex storylines involving terrorists, secret societies and genetic engineering make this series one of the most engaging video game series one could play, both for the gameplay and the cut scenes.
GOD OF WAR
Restricted by Zeus’ command not to supplant the position of another god, the gods of Olympus turn to a mere mortal man to put a stop to the destruction waged by Ares, the God of War. Meet Kratos, former general of Ares’ armies, driven by vengeance and with a personal vendetta against his former master. To slay a god, Kratos must first navigate the deserts and then reach the zenith of Pandora’s temple to wield the power of Pandora’s box, which will give him powers comparable to a god.
Not only is this game blood-fuelled and action-packed, it also features some of the best puzzle play I ever had the joy of solving. It’s like an off the rails Prince of Persia. Playing as Kratos is almost like playing as the villain because he is overcome with hatred and consumed with murderous rage. Greek mythology is an interesting enough topic anyway, but fighting against Medusa and slicing off one of the many heads of the Hydra is just a whole new level of awesomeness.
This game was the first in a trilogy, which ultimately explains how the gods and titans of old died out. Two titles were also released for the Sony PSP and Universal Studios were behind a failed attempt to convert God of War to the silver screen.
MONSTER HUNTER TRI
Monster Hunter Tri is an unusual title as it’s one of few role-playing games not driven by a storyline. The player is planted in a land inhabited by humans who live in constant fear of the many dangerous monsters roaming the land, patrolling the skies and lurking in the depths of the water. Your job is simple, go hunt ’em.
You can hunt alone or go online and take on beasts that would usually be beyond your capabilities by teaming up with other players. Killing the magnificent monsters is not your only objective here. For every monster successfully killed, there is a monster that must be captured alive. This is perhaps even more challenging than killing them, as one must first injure the monster and then send it to sleep before it can recover. The item gathering is just as fun as the hunting, as the player can forge weapons and armour from the horns, bones, skin and teeth of slain monsters.
Since this title is exclusive to the Wii it has not received the fanfare it deserves. I strongly urge any RPG fans to blow the dust off the Wii and purchase this title. You will not regret it.
RESIDENT EVIL 4
The definitive game in the quintessential survival horror franchise that is the Resident Evil series. After Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had been met with mixed reviews, this came along and not only reinvigorated the series but revolutionized third-person shooter games. The over the shoulder camera angle introduced by Resident Evil 4 is now widely used in modern third-person shooters such as Gears of War. The interactive cut scenes were a welcome addition. One particular boss fight features the main character, Leon, engage in a knife fight with an opponent in which the entirety of the dual is an interactive cut scene.
Resident Evil 4 is the first game in the main series set outside of Racoon City and the change of scenery does it justice. Based in a rural village in Western Europe, Leon Kennedy ( the protagonist of Resident Evil 2) has been sent to follow-up on a lead that suggests the President’s recently kidnapped daughter could be held hostage in the village. When Leon investigates the village he makes a shocking discovery, there are no zombies! Instead, the creators opted to go with parasites that infect and eventually take over the human body. Still though, they walk like zombies and they die like zombies, right? Wrong. When shot at repeatedly, the heads of certain villagers erupt in a mesh of brains and blood to reveal the parasites within, who will proceed to lunge wildly at Leon with their spiked tentacles. These guys represent the average enemy in the game, the boss fights are even more intense.
FABLE: THE LOST CHAPTERS
Fable is a game that divides opinion, not because it was a poor game but because it suffered from the insane levels of hype created by the team behind it. It’s easy to see why fans, who had been promised the greatest video game ever, were a little underwhelmed when it turned out Fable wasn’t quite at that level. Luckily for me, I was oblivious to the hype having not heard of the game and just happened to randomly pick up a special edition of Fable almost a year after its release, because the cover looked cool. Ready to commence battle with a joypad in my hand, I had no unnecessarily high expectations of what I was about to play. This is perhaps why I rate the game so highly, while others can only recall disappointment.
An aspect of this game that certainly didn’t disappoint was the hero’s alignment. Saved from the burning wreckage of his hometown, the controllable character is brought up in the hero’s guild, which trains and produces the heroes (and villains) of tomorrow. When finally released into the big bad world, the player has to face choices of whether to spare the lives of those who try to kill him and fail, or to finish them once and for all. Killing too many people will result in the character sparking terror in the populace of the villages and cities he visits. Physically, horns shall begin to sprout from his head and his skin will go pale as death. Showing remorse and compassion will equally cause the hero to be adored and championed by the people. Based on character’s decisions, the game has four different endings, which gives players the opportunity to return to this game again and again.
STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT
It’s such a shame that, for whatever reasons, numerous different production companies gained and then lost the rights to make a Star Wars Battlefront III, seemingly causing LucasArts to give up on it. The original, and especially the sequel, were must-haves for any Star Wars fan when they came out on the PlayStation 2.
The Battlefront games are third-person shooters, in which the player controls a soldier in one of two opposing sides, with the objective being to kill all the opponent’s troops and reinforcements or to capture every command point on the level. When I say level I really mean planet. Battlefront II covers almost every battle on every planet mentioned in the movies, including additional battles not featured in the cinema releases. In the sequel game, the main playing mode sees the player takes control of a soldier in the 501st legion of the clone army. The story of the Star Wars saga is narrated by a clone trooper, which gives the player an interesting and original perspective of the fall and rise of the Jedi. Upgrades from the first Battlefront game include the ability to play as Jedi and Sith characters, as well as the immensely fun space battles.
SUPER MARIO GALAXY
Princess Zelda could easily be mistaken in thinking she is the most frequently kidnapped woman in video game history, but Bowser’s obsession with Princess Peach makes Ganondorf look like a harmless internet stalker. Nintendo rarely buck the trend when it comes to the plot of their finest franchises like Zelda and Mario, and Super Mario Galaxy is no exception.
What is exceptional though, is the breathtaking level design in Galaxy. This is without doubt the most aesthetically pleasing platform game I’ve played. The visuals are wonderous as each level consists of multiple mini-planets, comets and other stellar bodies that Mario can defy gravity to travel to and from. While this is all new territory for our favourite Italian plumber, some things never change and in typical Mario fashion, some planets consist entirely of sand while others are ice, fire and water-based. This is one game I could never tire of replaying and is quite possibly the best platform game ever made.
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
Shadow of the Colossus is a game with a truly unique atmosphere. The vast land it encompasses is inhabited by the colossi, of which there are 16, and nothing else. For all the miles the player will traverse on horseback, there is not one town to explore or any characters to interact with. The player must locate the colossi, who usually dwell in remote places and areas that are awkward to reach. Once found you must slay them, which is no easy feat as they usually have just one weakness and as the name suggests, they are rather large. While the first couple of colossi are relatively easy to defeat, they become more challenging as the game progresses. Indeed, the final few colossi gave me endless hours of frustration as I fought, seemingly in vain, to better them.
Robbie is joining the team as a book, movie, anime/manga, and video game blogger and reviewer. He’s a journalism student and active soccer blogger.