My gaming memory is chock full of games that induce fond smiles and wistful sighs. These games are classics, timeless epics for the ages, eternally enjoyable provided that the player can overlook dated sound and graphics. At least, for the most part. There are a few titles that did not bear up well under renewed scrutiny, but I shall ignore those for the time being. It is a beautiful sunny day here, I have the day off, am getting my hair done soon, and frankly have little interest in anything negative.
Some of these titles will certainly be familiar to most if not all of our readers, but if by chance a game is mentioned either here or in the comments, and you have not played it, please do give the game a chance.
1. Chrono Trigger
Let us get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Chrono Trigger was one of the sadly rare SNES RPGs with decent localization. The dialogue generally made sense, and could be quite enjoyable. Lucca and Frog in particular benefited from some well-chosen words. In addition the plot was appropriately epic, the battle system simple but effective, and the visuals were great for a SNES game. All in all, a very well-rounded title, one which I am sure we all know and love, and little more really needs to be said. Oh, except this: many people, myself included, prefer Chrono Trigger to its ‘sequel’ Chrono Cross for the Playstation. That says quite a bit about the quality of the original.
2. Rudra no Hihou
This title may turns a few heads and induce some curious head scratching. Rudra, as it is commonly called, is a Square RPG that was released in 1996 in Japan. It was never, in fact, released in North America or Europe – so no need to feel guilty about how you may have to go about obtaining a playable copy of it – wink, wink, nudge, nudge. A decent fan translation is available, and like most fan translations, is probably better than what we would have seen in an official localization.
The thing about Rudra that makes it so enjoyable for me is the battle/magic system. I cannot think of any other titles that utilize such a system. Unlike most Square RPGs, characters do not learn a set list of spells and abilities upon reaching certain levels, but instead they create their own spells using words of power. Technically you can enter any combination of letters to create a spell, and you will create something, it is just likely to be weak and inefficient. However, yes, you can cast a spell called “LusipurrSucks”, or “GiniaOwns”. With a little experimentation and luck, though, you can come up with some powerful abilities.
The plot is also pretty interesting and holds up fairly well after 13 years. The world is in an eternal cycle where the planet is purified every 4000 years to make way for new races, and when the game begins you are only a few weeks away from the next purge. You play as several different heroes and witness and shape events from each of their perspectives.
Quirky, weird, offbeat, and whimsical only begin to describe this game. Everything about it, from the music to the items to the characters are just … odd. The game is so wrong that it is, in fact, right. No other game is anything like Earthbound, therefore it cannot be outshone by similar titles on newer consoles. No other game has enemies like New-Age Retro Hippies that attack you with unnaturally white teeth, or an area full of Cultists who want to turn everything blue. Happy happy happy … blue. Let us not also forget Mr. Saturn (dong!).
Earthbound chronicles the adventures of Ness, our backpack-wearing, yoyo-swinging hero, along with his friends Paula, Jeff, and Poo. Poor Poo really drew the short straw when they were handing out names. Ness has to travel the world at the behest of a bee to meet up with the other three heroes and eventually defeat The Forces of Evil by going back in time with their consciousnesses transferred into the bodies of robots. No, really. True story.
The graphics and gameplay are entirely mediocre and that is fine, it is the setting that I remember so fondly, and which sets Earthbound apart from virtually every other game in existence.
Honorable mentions must go to games such as Terranigma, Final Fantasy 4-6, Secret of Evermore and the Panzer Dragoon series, all games which I would still be happy to play today, time permitting.