Cloud 9 is a feature I do here at Rainy Thursdays twice a month. It is my version of those “Top 10” posts you see floating around the blogosphere. Instead of ten items, however there are, of course, nine.
The first thing you should know about me is that I do judge by the cover, whether it be a book or video game. Most of the time I get it right although I have known to get it wrong occasionally. Here are my top seven games that I bought and played purely because of their artwork or jacket.. In no particular order:
Avalon Code for the Nintendo DS
Avalon Code is one of many games I downloaded to play for my DS that I ended up buying. What initially drew me were the elemental looking creatures on the front. I am a sucker for elementals. In short, the game is about a young person (you chose the gender) who must go about the world recording people, places, and things and deciding what is worthy to be passed on into the next world when this world inevitably ends. What I love about this game is that instead of trying to save the world from certain doom, you get to decide what is worth saving. Also, when you record things, you smack it with the Book of Prophecy given to the Chosen One (you) by the Fire Elemental Rempo.
The game play is filled with tons of features that you can fiddle around with. When you scan people, flowers, monsters, etc. with the book, they get their own page with a Code, a grid that has certain attributes. You can move these attributes to other pages such as a weapons page to attach that certain attribute (such as adding flames to your sword) or to people to change their fates/personalities. For example, in the beginning there is a young woman who is ill. When you scan her, a skull appears locked in the middle of her Code. If you manage to obtain certain attributes and place it in her Code, it will unlock the skull and essentially save her life (although she is just going to die eventually so what’s the point right? Wrong!). The Active Dimension Battle System (think Ocarina of Time/Final Fantasy XII) makes it easy to avoid monsters when you just want to get somewhere but having a blade in each hand makes it hard not to toy with everything that comes your way. All in all, it is a fun game purely about adventure and discovery instead of leveling up to beat a big bad boss.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for the Xbox 360 & PS3
From the moment I discovered this game’s existence, I was obsessed with it. I don’t even remember where I first saw anything about; I just remember searching the internet for anything and everything I could find about it. I became enamored with the main characters, I absolutely loved everything about the world they lived in, and I couldn’t wait to unfold their story which is based off of Wu Cheng’en‘s Journey to the West. While it’s not the first media based off of Classical Chinese novel, it is one that greatly interested me. Hell, I bought my Xbox 360 just so I could play the game. I still didn’t have one when the game was released a couple of months after I discovered it so you can bet I worked on getting one. Once I had the console, I immediately went and bought the game. Literally. I refused to go home without it.
Now let me tell you something before I continue. I am a slow game player. It takes me forever to beat games, probably because I mainly play games with long, intricate story lines and endless amounts of features to explore. I beat Enslaved in three days. Three days, guys. That is like a record for me. From the moment I popped that disc in the reader, I dedicated the next week of my life to playing it. I never expected to beat it so soon. But it was just that damn good! While it was the graphics that initially caught my attention, I became emotionally invested in the world and characters. I should admit that I love anything post-apocalyptic, so this was right up my alley. The only complaint I have about this game is that they could have done so much more, meaning they could have added more story and world exploration. I don’t care if they did it in a game, book, movie, or comic. I just wanted more. I still want more.
Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS
I want you to stop right now and look to the right at that game cover. Take a good hard look at the artwork. As an artist and art lover, I find it more gorgeous than I probably should. But seriously, the art is beautiful and it’s title Radiant Historia. How could I pass that up?
The game starts like many other RPGs. You play the male protagonist Stocke, a young soldier for a special intelligence agency and pretty much an awesome bad ass in red armor. Your superior sends you to make sure a fellow agent returns from enemy lines with important information. Sounds like a pretty routine story right? Wrong! The moment you step outside your town, everything goes to hell in a hand basket. The short version: everyone dies including Stocke. The difference is that when Stocke dies, he goes to place called Historia where two childlike twin gods tell him that the world is essentially dying (desertification) and that he needs to save it. How does he do this? By using a book called the White Chronicle to travel through time. Oh. that’s all? Nope. Throughout the game are pivotal moments when Stocke has to make a decision which influences the future of the game. Stocke can travel back into said pivotal points if the decision he makes is…less than satisfactory in the end. On top of that, someone else holds the Black Chronicle which does the same thing as the White Chronicle. Oh and should I mention that on top of trying to stop the world from turning into a desert, Stocke also has to deal with a war where his allies are enemies and enemies are allies? This game is probably one of the most stressful games I have ever played. And I love it! There is so much depth to this game that I was blown away. What else do you expect from Atlas?
Golden Sun: The Lost Age for the GBA
I remember begging my mom for this game the moment I saw it in Wal-mart. At the time, I didn’t know that it was the second in a series but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of it. It’s such a long, detailed game filled with puzzles, sweet ass magic using, and monster that make me want to use my magic to drop boulders on them. I simply cannot stress how much I love this game. Or the fact that I am one of the few people I know who has played it who has actually beaten it. Yup. It’s hard.
Maybe I should tell you about the battle system. I usually don’t like turn-based battle systems for obvious reasons, but Golden Sun’s is just awesome. It actually requires a crap ton of strategy. On top of having weapons for some good ole’ fashion beatings, you also have magic (fire, water, earth, air), items that do damage/status changes, djinn, and summons. The summons are my favorite but to use them, you have to use engage the djinn. Not to mention you can mess with the classes of the characters which essentially changes what magic they can use. So complicated….
Theresia: Dear Emile for the Nintendo DS
Here is the part where I mention what a wuss I am. I can’t even play Clock Towers 3 by myself without having nightmares of being chased by a fatty in a leather mask with a sledge-hammer. Silent Hill and Resident Evil? Don’t even get me started…
Anyway, I was hesitant to play this game based on the fact that it is, in fact, a psychological horror game. Something about it wouldn’t let me say no, however, and I was soon so wrapped up in the story and puzzles that I forgot to be scared.
The game actually consists of two different games: Dear Emile and Dear Martel. To play Dear Martel, however, you have to finish Emile. Both stories involve a protagonist who wakes up in a decrepit building with their memories gone. In order to regain their memories, and escape, they must work their way through cryptic messages and traps. As you work your way through the puzzles, you are given glimpses of what really happened. While the game doesn’t have any actually enemies (or living people for that matter), the protagonist can still lose life if they don’t adequately disarm a trap. The graphics aren’t the greatest but I think it works for this game. The gritty, darkness gives it a certain eerie feel appropriate for a psychological horror. What I loved most about the game was when everything came together and clicked into place and the player understood everything.
Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for the PS2/Microsoft Windows/PSP/Mobile Phone
First off, I love the artwork but that really has nothing to do with the game play. What I can tell you about the game is that Adol’s (the red-head) ship is attacked and he awakens shortly after in a nearby village where he meets Olha and Isha (blue hair). I played the game so long ago that I can’t remember specifics other than the fact that some gorgeous guy with long dark hair is trying to mess shit up and Adol has to stop him. Oh and you get to use magic. Sweet sweet magic. I think at this point, I can’t play a game if it doesn’t have magic somewhere in it. I also remember that in the beginning, like title screen beginning, there is an option where Adol goes into this chamber and you can use him to put in codes. Cheat codes. The game lets you, no, invites you to put in cheat codes. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed out of this room because I used a code that let me start the game at max level. While it made the game so much easier and allowed me to enjoy the story line and world at my leisure, it kind of took the triumph of beating the game.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time for the PS2
Star Ocean was yet again another game I didn’t know was in a series when I bought it. It is probably just as well because had I played the first two, I probably wouldn’t have bought the third. Star Ocean games seem to follow a similar pattern. Some tragedy or what have you befalls that protagonist, some time or space travel happens, and then shit hits the fan. The series has many features standard for RPGs such as the turn-based battle system and multiple characters in your party, but Star Ocean manages to make its own mark in the RPG world. It has features you need to utilize in order to proceed in the game (like cooking, wtf?!??!) which can be frustrating. Without the strategy guide – which I should mention is about as thick as one of my textbooks – I would not have had the patience to make it through this game. Another feature that all the Star Oceans, and many RPGs possess, is puzzles. However, for some reason, the video game gods like to watch in amusement as I get stuck in specific places and struggle to figure out just what the hell to do for days on end. Not even kidding. I would like to think I am fairly decent at solving puzzles in video games by now but Star Oceans get me every time. I usually end up just walking around destroying every monster that crosses my path until I am at a ridiculously highly level for the area before I admit defeat and look at the walkthrough.
Child of Light
The only reason I know about this game is because I saw an ad in which Yoshitaka Amano was working on artwork for this game. If you do not know who that it, he is the gentleman who does artwork for Final Fantasy. I was so enthralled with the art that I went and looked up the trailer for it. I should mention that I absolute loathe sidescrollers. They tend to be the bane of my video gaming existence. However, I wanted to play this game with everything that I am. In fact, it is one of the few games I bought the day it was released.
This game is just absolutely lovely. From its intricate turn-based battle system to its poetic dialogues , there is not a single thing about this game that I can pretend to complain about. The world is huge and filled many nooks and crannies to explore. There are multiple characters with their own story lines to discover. Not to mention the graphics are absolutely breathtaking and the gameplay is falwless.
I actually knew nothing about this game before I bought it. All I knew was that it had a pretty cover that looked like it belonged to an J-RPG. I am all about Japanese RPGs. The graphics for this game are stunning. Honestly, they put Final Fantasy to shame. I can appreciate how beautiful the worlds in Final Fantasy are, but the landscapes for Eternal Sonata are just so surprisingly gorgeous.
I also love the battle system. It is a type of turn based, but your attacks depend on if you are standing in the light or shade, and how far away you are from the enemy. You are allowed to run around the battlefield but you have a time limit for movements and attacks.
What I don’t like about this game? The ridiculously cheesy dialogue. The storyline itself is pretty interesting albeit generic but I have to skip over the majority of the cut scenes because I just can’t even deal with the dialogue. It seems a bit juvenile and just all around silly.
Do you judge games by their covers? What games have you played that surprised you?