Game Boy 005

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

Last week I started going through a list of games for which I answered the following question: “What are your favorite games for platforms you’ve owned?” (from a social media meme that made the rounds back in early January). Check out part 1 for my picks that went from the VIC-20 until the PlayStation 2. Here then is part 2.

Game Boy Advance: Super Mario Advance 2
I really loved the Game Boy Advance, it had a fantastic form factor. I know this game is basically a remake of Super Mario World, but looking through the GBA library, this was the game I remember enjoying playing the most.

GameCube: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Even though it was received with mixed reactions because of the cartoony look, I was in love with this game even then, and it was at the time my favorite Zelda game since A Link to the Past (yes, more than Ocarina of Time). Sure, some bits were a bit of a drag (having to cross the entire map by boat), but it remains one of my favorite Zelda games, and I would love for them to revisit this version of Link again on Switch.

Nintendo DS: New Super Mario Bros.
I played tons and tons of games on the DS, and it would be easy to list over 20 games that I could say were fantastic gaming experiences for me, but I can’t help but think that this game was just so exciting and fun to play. Not only a return to 2D platforming for Mario, but one that was a joy to play.

PlayStation Portable: Lumines
Lumines just felt so damn cool — it brought me back to the cool aesthetics of the Dreamcast era, but with a techno sheen and an even better soundtrack. I’m not generally big into abstract puzzles games, but the way this was presented and the addictive gameplay made me fall in love with it, and spend countless hours playing.

Xbox 360: Red Dead Redemption
Sure, this a multi-platform game, but I played it on the 360, and so I place it here. It’s also my favorite game of this generation. I absolutely love westerns, and love open-world adventures games, and this was just the perfect mix of the two. You can imagine just how excited I am to play its sequel this year.

Nintendo Wii: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Despite its massive success, the Wii is the Nintendo console I never really “liked,” and it’s also the Nintendo console on which I’ve played the least games. I played Twilight Princess on GameCube, and the only mainline Zelda game I’ve never played is Skyward Sword (I didn’t want to play a Zelda game with those controls and with that low of a resolution). I know the Mario Galaxy games are much loved, but I barely played them, and so the only Wii game that I really have fond memories of playing is New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

PlayStation 3: Grand Theft Auto V
Yes, another GTA game (and another Rockstar game). If I had played this later on PS4, then GTA4 might have been my favorite here, but 5 it is. I loved it for the same reasons I fell in love with the series with San Andreas.

Nintendo 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
There are tons of games I’ve loved on the 3DS — and it was after playing Super Mario 3D Land on a friend’s 3DS that sold me on buying one a few days later — but if there’s one absolute standout for me, it has to be this direct sequel to A Link to the Past. Not only is it a fantastic game, but it also really does feel like a direct sequel to the Super NES classic, and I’m still hoping they make another one for Switch, using the same overhead perspective.

PlayStation Vita: Persona 4 Golden
I liked the Vita quite a lot, and there are a lot of games that I really enjoyed playing on it — the only negative I had for the device was that it was missing an extra pair of shoulder buttons. Persona 4 Golden was my first taste of Persona, and it was an absolute joy to play on Vita. I’m still a bit sad that I haven’t been able to really get into Persona 5 (in love with the aesthetic, but not with the rigid structure).

Nintendo Wii U: Mario Kart 8
I loved the Wii U, I really did, and it was home to some of the best Nintendo games in years (so much so that they’re getting re-released for Switch). I really, really loved the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD editions, as well as Super Mario 3D World, and don’t get me started on the Bayonetta games (I may even end up getting those again on Switch), but the game I put the most time on was Mario Kart 8. I love this game so much, that not only did I get it again on Switch, I’ve probably played just as much time on it as I did on the Wii U.

PlayStation 4: Yakuza 0
There have been so many great games that I’ve played on the PS4, and when I started thinking about putting Yakuza 0 here, I thought I was surely forgetting something. But no, even though it’s one of the latest games I finished (last month), I can’t help but feel like it was my favorite experience on the console so far — and I’m currently playing Yakuza Kiwami, which I’m also thoroughly enjoying.

Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
To be honest, it’s almost a tie between this, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but I think Breath of the Wild still has the edge. It’s the Zelda game that has surprised me the most, that has sucked me in the most, and that has seen me put in the most time playing. For a franchise I’ve loved my entire life, it’s pretty amazing to say those things about the latest entry in the series.

Game Boy 004

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

In early January there was a meme making the rounds on social networks asking you to answer the following question: “What are your favorite games for platforms you’ve owned?” I answered (on Twitter/Facebook) with a simple list, but this week I thought I’d explain why I selected each of these titles. Since there’s a lot, I’ll separate them in two parts, so here is part 1.

(And if you’re curious, here I list what I believe to be my 5 favorite games of all time.)

VIC-20: Gorf
Even though I played games on most of the original consoles — like the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Intellivision II, ColecoVision, Vectrex, etc. — I never actually owned any of them and so what I experienced of them was thanks to my friends who did own them. My first computer — and device that played “electronic games” –was the Commodore VIC-20 (precursor to the much more popular Commodore 64), and the game I remember playing the most on it was Gorf, a sort of suped-up Space Invaders.

MS-DOS: Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nicodemus
I was indeed a big PC gamer through the 80s and early 90s, and although there are tons of games I could point to as being special and essential — it was hard not to include an Infocom game here — I do have a special place in my heart for this computer RPG from SSI, which would I think influence the D&D games they later developed and published. In fact, to this day, when I play RPGs, I still use the same character names that I did when playing Phantasie III. I also remember playing it “co-op” with a friend, which was basically just us two sitting side-by-side in front of the PC, playing through it like you would solo.

NES: The Legend of Zelda
It’s hard not to name the Super Mario Bros. games here — for me, especially 2 and 3 — but my favorite franchise of all time is the Zelda series, and it all started here. I have so many fond memories of playing through this game, as well as its side-scrolling sequel. It’s a testament to the quality of the franchise that 30 years later, it’s still my favorite series.

Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog
Look, I’m not going to argue that Sonic was any better than the Mario games — it simply wasn’t — but that first game sure was a hell of a lot of fun to play, and I still remember how the colors popped on the Genesis. Mix in the speed of the character, and it felt like I was playing the cutting edge of video games.

Game Boy Color: Wario Land 3
The only proper Nintendo console I never owned (let’s not count the Virtual Boy) is the original Game Boy, but I did get a Game Boy Color, and for some reason the game that really stands out when thinking back on it is Wario Land 3. I can’t really talk about the quality of the game, but I still have vivid memories of playing it, and of the fun sound effects and soundtrack that my wife and I would constantly mimic (she from hearing me play all the time).

Super NES: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The two Zelda games on the NES were where I became enamoured with the franchise, but this was the game that I truly loved — and I’ll say that I also loved its direct sequel on 3DS, A Link Between Worlds. I also consider it to be one of my favorite games of all time.

PlayStation: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The PS1 was a fantastic console, and there are tons of games on it that I could pick — the first Tomb Raider game is a top contender as well — but it was hard for me to pick something other than Symphony of the Night. I was already a big fan of the Castlevania games on NES and Super NES, and this was a sequel that felt like an incredible follow-up, on all levels. I also have strong memories of it because I played it on a Japanese PS1 I picked up while I was a student in China, and played it in Japanese — the first words of Japanese I learned came from this and from Tomb Raider, which I also played in Japanese.

Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64
Sure, I love Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and when I listed my favorite games of all time, I included Wave Race 64, but if I’m going to narrow it to one title that represents the Nintendo 64 for me, it has to be this. Platformers are to this day one of my favorite genres, and suddenly being propelled into a 3D space was indeed mind blowing.

Dreamcast: Shenmue
When I get asked what my favorite console was, I like to mention the Dreamcast because it was a console that I adored so much, and that I remember really obsessing over. The games that were released on it had this amazing look to them, and it made me feel like I was playing something cool instead of just fun — think Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, etc. But if I was to narrow it down to my favorite game, it has to be Shenmue — and as you’ll see later in the list (and I was surprised myself when I was putting it together), it probably created my love of open-world adventure games.

PlayStation 2: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
I was actually late to the PS2 — it came out at the time in my life where I probably played the least amount of games, mostly sticking to Nintendo consoles (and so the GameCube). I did eventually get one, and tried to catch up as much as I could on the insanely great library of games that ended up coming out on it. San Andreas was actually the first GTA game I played (I never played III, and eventually only a bit of Vice City), and it blew me away. Taking what I loved from Shenmue (although none of the real-life interactions) and blowing them up in proper cities that I could freely navigate was ridiculously fun. Since I also really love driving in games, this made it that much more of an awesome game for me.

Next week, part 2, in which I go from the GBA to the Switch.

Rime

I played through Rime last night (played pretty much all of it in one play session — overall I think it took me about 6 hours to get through it), and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d been wanting to play this ever since I saw the first trailer, and was planning on eventually playing it on Switch, but since it’s one of the PS+ free offerings this month, I jumped in on my PS4, and I’m glad I did. Each chapter gets more and more interesting, and although it’s never super challenging, it made for an entertaining playthrough. It was the aesthetics that first got me interested, but the mix of exploration and puzzle solving made for a fun mix, and it was refreshing to not play a game like this where you’re constantly required to fight enemies. I definitely recommend playing it.

Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition

I only played it for an hour just now, but I already think I prefer this to the proper Final Fantasy XV (which I didn’t finish, but played over 20 hours). First off is that I really do like the cartoony look, and it makes the lead characters much more palatable to me — in the proper FF15 game, I thought the world itself was fantastically rendered, but I never could get into the main characters, with their Japanese idol boy band look. The combat itself is pretty simple, but still fun — and I wasn’t a huge fan of the combat in the regular game anyway (felt too chaotic, and so I never felt like I had a good control of what was happening). Again, I’ve only played an hour, so we’ll see if I actually stick it out (and end up paying for more, since the early game is free), but for now I find it quite enjoyable.

Murder on the Orient Express

The first reaction I had when this film was announced was, what’s the point unless they somehow change the solution — and considering the solution, it’s not really something you can do. Having watched it, because I know how it ends (it’s a fantastic novel) I felt a bit bored throughout, just following the motions to get to the end. Also, even though you have this great cast, outside of Poirot, no one is really given much to do, so you just get tiny glimpses of each — they come off as cameos, really. The film itself is beautifully shot though, especially the beginning in Istanbul, and then the interesting angles to frame shots in the train (especially the overhead shots). At the end they tease a follow-up remake to Death in the Nile, and although I have no idea if that will ever get made (don’t think this film was a big success at the box office), I’d probably enjoy that more since I don’t remember the solution for that one.

Yakuza Kiwami

I love this game so damn much. After playing through Yakuza 0 (which I adored), I told myself I’d take a little break before starting Kiwami (a remaster of the first Yakuza game), but I just couldn’t wait and dived in the following week. I’ve played 7-8 hours so far I think — took a break to play some other games I rented — and it’s pretty much what I want and was expecting from a Yakuza game: a beautifully rendered world, a tough-as-nails storyline, and insanely funny character bits. As good as it is, it does show its age a bit compared to 0 (a lot of annoying back-and-forth between missions for example), but it’s great, and I am definitely going to play Yakuza 2 Kiwami when it releases — and of course Yakuza 6 in a couple of months. Oh, and “Majima Everywhere” (where Majima just randomly pops up in a weird manner to challenge you to a fight) is quite possibly the best and funnest feature implemented in a game.

Fred Armisen: Standup for Drummers

I quite enjoyed this standup special on Netflix. The gimmick is that the audience is entirely composed of drummers, and a lot of the material is drumming-related. I generally like Fred Armisen, always enjoyed him on SNL, and I really like him here. All of the jokes aren’t gold, but he just has a fun way of delivering stuff, and I like when he gets a bit surreal. I think the highlight isn’t even a funny bit, but rather when he runs through drum sets/styles from the past century.

Gloomhaven

I had quite a nice board game collection by the time I left Japan, and was organizing (mostly) weekly game nights at my place. When I did leave, I sold all of it to friends, and then put all of that behind. I did get a chance to play a few games since moving to Montreal with colleagues at work, and over the past couple of years bought a few small 2-player games to possibly play with my wife (we played some, but not that much). Recently though I started playing pretty much weekly with a few colleagues at work, and it gave me the bug again, not only to be playing regularly, but also to get some games of my own. I bought a few small things over the holidays and in January, but then I made the big jump, and got the most insane board game I’ve ever owned (well, the World of Warcraft board game is pretty close). Currently ranked #1 on BoardGameGeek, Gloomhaven is all the rage, selling out through its print runs (following the re-release last month, there’s already a new print run announced). I’ve liked this sort of hack-and-slash board game adventure style forever, from the 80s when I was playing Talisman (and that’s the only board game I kept, that original edition), to more modern stuff like Runebound. This of course promised to trump them all, with an insane amount of scenarios (95), legacy-style development as you play a campaign, and just so much stuff in the box that I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when I opened the box. I’ve only played 1 session so far, and a lot of it was spent going over the rules with all the players, but we were already having a lot of fun as we started the first scenario, and I’m incredibly excited to play more (which will be this Thursday, and we’re planning weekly sessions).

The Cloverfield Paradox

So this popped up suddenly on Netflix, and everyone freaked out, and then the next day everyone one was saying it was shit. I liked the first Cloverfield movie fine, and really liked the second one, 10 Cloverfield Lane (would have liked Dan Trachtenberg to direct another one), and so I still wanted to check this one out. And you know what? I thought this was fine. Sure, not as good as the first two, but it wasn’t the pile of shit everyone seemed to be saying (and I do wish I could have gone into this with no expectations, instead of already expecting it to be bad). I didn’t really know where it was going with everything, liked the stuff it introduced in this “universe” (parallel universes, a possible origin for the monsters of this series, etc.) and it didn’t end in a clean way, which I can appreciate. And what a surprise to see Zhang Ziyi in it! I don’t know if it’s something I’d necessarily recommend to someone on its own, but as part of the series, if you like the other films, I think it’s worth taking in.

The Last Man on Earth

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this series since it started, and for some reason just never got around to watching it. It’s on Netflix now (3 seasons), and so I started watching it the other day, and love it. I’m 7-8 episodes into the first season, and so still have lots to watch, but already I can tell this is something special — and I’ve always enjoyed Will Forte in general. The frustration he feels once the 3rd person shows up (and then the 4th) does feel a bit frustrating for me too — I sorta feel like, jeeze, just get the hell out of there and find other people to be with — but I’m still having fun watching it.