Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Video Games: The perfect game

What does it take to make a video game perfect? Well, in my opinion, if a video game is perfect, it means that there is no reason to ever stop playing it. It offers unlimited fun. Not even another game makes you stop playing the perfect game, although you might play something else once in a while.

I have not yet come across a perfect game, because so far in my life, I have always eventually stopped playing a game. I only come back to old games once in a while, but I don't play these games for very long amounts of time.

Now it's time to face what I believe are the key factors in making a perfect game. Of course the video game industry does not desire this state of perfection unless they can still get money from you on a regular basis.

1. No major bugs or crashes

It does not matter at all whether your game matches all, some or none of the other criteria in this list if it has a big flaw like crashing once in a while.
I have seen really good games like GTA: San Andreas that had the potential to keep me playing for months and years, but something serious killed off all the motivation and passion I had for playing the game.
Nobody cares what the reasons for crashing are. You don't want to know the technical stuff as a player, you want to play, this is what you paid for. A game should be free of bugs when it's released, period.

2. The basics

While it is true that really good video games depend more on a fun gameplay than good graphics, a good video game nowadays should at least be on the same level as video games of the same year when it comes to graphics, controls, gameplay and so on. Some games have really bad graphics, other games have state-of-the-art graphics but are stupid in other ways. Some basic things must be right so that the game is playable.

3. Identification

It is a good thing for a game if the player can identify with the game. This is achieved by letting the player create a profile or at least enter his name, so that the game will be "his" game as opposed to, let's say, his brother's game when they share it.
The most rudimentary way of identification is the good old "enter your name" function. It helps a lot if you can at least enter your full first name, and if you have 8 or 9 letters to enter, that will allow most players to do so, or at least enter their nickname. Some games are even incapable of that and you only get 3 to 5 letters. This is parodied in the Simpsons where Milhouse wants to enter his name in a video game as "Thrillhouse" but only manages to write "Thrillho".

Identification can go further, of course. Some management games, for instance, allow you to enter your full name, birth date, marital status and to upload a picture of yourself. You feel more attached to the game if you are given the opportunity to fill the game with something that is unique to you.

4.  Ability to customize / Creativity

There are many ways games can be customized. Sometimes it's superficial, like only being able to change the background colour of a menu. Other times, you get an editor with which you can create entire levels or campaigns.
Some customizing is natural to the game, like being able to set up your own team in a sports simulation.
Whether it is natural to the game or not, offering a player to customize a game helps making it a lot more fun.
In "Age of Empires", I even recreated the Japanese game show "Takeshi's Castle". It was a hundred times more fun than the ordinary campaigns the game came with.

5. All kinds of extras

This includes all the things that are not mentioned in other items of this list. Extras, from my point of view, are all the little things that make a game more interesting. These can be so called "Easter Eggs". Easter Eggs are weird things that are programmed into the game, for example when the faces of the programmers appear in the game, or when there is a pop culture reference to something from outside the game.
Other extras are: Cheats you can activate, unlockables you can unlock (extra modes, special items of the game, etc.), hidden content and so on. As a player, you want to discover all these little things.
A good example of extra content is the game "Goldeneye" for Nintendo 64, which I have presented before. You can unlock cheat codes that make the game a lot better.

6. Sandbox gameplay / Non-linearity

A sandbox-style game is a game that gives you the opportunity to pretty much do your own thing. You are not required to follow a linear chain of events to "finish" your game. Instead, you can do as you please. Sometimes, sandbox means that you have infinite funds in a manager game. In a game like GTA: Vice City, the environment is also sandbox-like, in this case it means that you can discover the whole area on your own and do your own things.
I enjoyed this aspect of gaming a lot in World of Warcraft. While other players always tried to kill everyone, I went fishing and cooking all the time. It's up to you what you wish to do. Of course, that is only the case if the game programmers intended this to happen. I believe that, for a game to be perfect, it needs the sandbox style to be enjoyed in the long run.

7. Replay value or long play value

Some games go on forever and others are finished at some point. Even games that end at a certain point can be lots of fun to play again if the programmers know what to do. In Tales of Symphonia, for example, you can not see all cutscenes of the game in just one go. You must play the game many times if you want to see everything. The reason behind this is that different decisions you make have a different outcome everytime a decision is made. You are able to build relationships with other characters, but only your "best friends" are the ones who appear in the video scenes. Depending on who your friends are, you might learn about the different stories they have to tell from their lives. In some cases, a person who would be a traitor most of the time suddenly turns out to be loyal to you just because some decisions have been made differently, and someone else is a traitor. It took me years to find these things out, and sometimes I had no clue what possibilities were in the game. Therefore, you should always keep one or two of these secrets in the game to make people want to play a game again.
It's also possible in some games to restart the game, but to transfer a save state to the new game, which can be used to buy stuff in the new game that is usually not possible to be purchased so early.
For long-term games that don't end, it matters that there is always a challenge for the player. In football manager games, players end their careers but they are "reborn" and thus, the game can continue forever (at least in theory).

8.  Music and atmosphere

I have seen both of the two extremes: Games that have not much to offer but have a beautiful atmosphere and sweet music, and games that are so much fun but there is nothing to remember about them once the fun is gone... no nostalgia about them.

As I have said before, I have not come across the perfect game yet, so I stopped playing every game I ever played sooner or later. But some games have made it into my long-term memory. Surprisingly enough, not the games with the most hours played or the biggest overall fun factor are the most memorable, but the ones with the best music and most beautiful scenery are still in my head.

Sometimes I go to the storage room in my house and take out an old console that has been collecting dust. Then I play an old game for just one hour or two, and realise there is not much to play for. But I just play anyway because the music and landscapes are great.

A perfect game should also have great music and beautiful imagery.

 Games that came close

Pokemon: Very addictive, you could name your character after yourself, make your own team with Pokemon you chose, and even breed Pokemon. However, they never made the perfect game which would have consisted of a free-roaming world on a stationary console with good graphics and no restrictions as where you would go and what you would do. Instead, most good games were only on game boys and were pretty much over once you defeated the final bosses.

World of Warcraft: It comes very close to being perfect, because it has vast areas to explore and lets you choose many things to do, not only fighting, but also cooking, fishing, tailoring and so on. The downside is that it either costs you a lot of money to purchase new content and keep playing on an official server, or you have to find a private server, which is, according to most sources, illegal.

Various football manager simulations: Some of them were really good. But most of the times, there was a glitch that eventually killed off every save game. Other times, the game is really good but extremely complex, so you lose the love for the game and give up because you feel like this is not a game, but rather an office job you don't get paid for.

The Sims 3: This game comes up with the idea that you can live someone else's life and make all the decisions for the persons involved. You can create yourself in the game which offers identification, and there is a lot of customizability. However, you need to keep purchasing more and more expensive content so the game doesn't get boring. As surprising as it may sound, even the most exciting life gets boring once you've been through it.

Shenmue: You were able to walk around freely. It plays like real life plays... that means that you can even play other video games in the game! The game had really good music and a good atmosphere. On the negative side it was a little slow and eventually ended. The main story line was also linear, so you are supposed to get there and once you are there, you have seen it all.


A perfect game would have to be very customizable and make the player identify with it. It would have to be very stable, never break down, never crash, and have very solid graphics, controls and whatever else you usually take for granted in a good game. There would have to be many secrets, content to unlock and discover, cheats to use if you want to, and the game would need a game style that allows you to do everything you want to do. The music would have to be bombastic and you should have tears in your eyes from watching what is on the screen. You would never want to switch off your computer again. Something like that.

Which kind of game might turn out to be perfect one day? I don't know. From my taste of video games, I can imagine that I will eventually play a good football manager game that has no flaws and stick with it. Or maybe it will be a game like World of Warcraft, but then it has to be less expensive and never get boring.

If anyone has come across the perfect game and has been playing it for 5 years straight with no end to it, let me know.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Video Games: Most disappointing

I could not think of so many games that were disappointing, but I will concentrate on just some.

Fifa Manager (PC)

EA Sports releases this game every year in a different edition. There is always a new manager on the front picture of the game, but the game itself does not change much. They ask for the full price of a new computer game every year, but experts who analyse the game code found out that the game still has programming codes from earlier versions, even if they are not used any more. That means that the game is being recycled over and over with little effort.

The usual procedure that EA follows is like this: They make a few changes with little time to the release date left. They throw the product into the market. About a week or so later, they release the first patch to repair the worst bugs and glitches that make the game unplayable, for example bugs that make the game crash. However, the result is dissatisfying. On Amazon, I read the reviews every year and there are often 1 star reviews due to the same recurring problems.

The sad thing is that, every year, enough people get fooled. Another bad thing is that EA holds the official football association licences, which not only means that other game companies are not allowed to use the official names of the teams, in some countries other games are not even allowed to be published, so EA has a monopoly on football manager games.

I only bought some versions of the game and I am not going to return to the series any time soon. I even had one game that went well for some time but on a specific date in the calendar (after several seasons of playing!), the game just crashed. Even if I reloaded the game, it would always, always crash on the same date and there was nothing I could do about it. It was not even clear what caused the crash.

A big disappointment.

GTA: San Andreas

This game was a disappointment because of how high the expectations were and how poorly the game worked in the end. I am not saying that this game is bad or that there is no way to make it playable, but I played this game several times, even with years of not playing it in between, and every time I tried playing it, I got reminded why I stopped playing it. The game is better than its predecessor, Vice City, because it has a huge map with lots of places to go to and lots of new skills to learn. The possibilities were great.
The bad thing is that the game crashed a lot or had really bad glitches. At first, I thought that perhaps my computer was at fault, but Vice City was much more reliable and not inferior in terms of graphics (at least not much). Even with a better PC, the game would still crash too often. So what did I do? I saved the game whenever possible. Even after a few minutes of playing, I had to make sure to keep saving again and again. What is the worst thing that can happen to you? You forget to save, think you can trust the game, then it lets you down after 2 hours of playing without having saved the game in between. Well, it can happen when you are totally "in the game".

Then it got worse... after many hours of game progress, there was a glitch that made all save icons disappear. You must walk into these icons to save the game. They suddenly did not show up any more. No save icons, no saving. What a piece of crap!

On the internet there were message boards explaining that if you do this and that and install this patch and that patch, you can avoid this. But please... I am not buying a game to become a computer expert, I am buying a game to play it and I have no interest in fixing stuff other people fucked up. Game over!


The game itself was not a disappointment if you are not aware of the story behind it. This is the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie. That first game had an ending in which the weird skull guy (displayed in the picture) told the player that the next game would enable the player to enter areas of the game that were previously unaccessible. In the first game, you could already notice such places, like a hole in a mountain that was too high up, or an ice wall that had something hidden behind it.

My brother and me were thrilled about the idea we could finally enter these new areas. But when the new game was released, not only were none of these areas in the game, nobody in the game ever game an explanation to why the promises were broken. Even video game magazines did not bother to offer any explanation or excuse. It was just another game.

It took many years until I found out what had happened. When the internet was finally around, people with cheat code devices uncovered game parts in which gamers would have been able to enter a mode in which you are supposed to swap cartridges. The idea was called "stop n swop" or something like that. The only problem was that the process of changing cartridges with a nintendo console switched on was technically dangerous and could have destroyed the console. But that did not seem to be clear to the programmers, which is stupid because until then, everyone knew that you should not touch a cartridge when the system is on.

What makes the whole story even more disappointing is that there already was functioning technology that could have been used. In the video game generation before the Nintendo 64, Sega had used a cartridge for its Mega Drive (or Genesis) which could use another cartridge on top of it (Sonic and Knuckles). That technology was older but it worked. Why did Nintendo not make use of it?

Luigi's Mansion

This game was the opening entry for the Nintendo Gamecube. It was the first game you got when you bought the console, and usually it was also included when you bought the gaming system.

Again, it is not a bad game by itself. Luigi, who is Mario's stupid brother, is a ghostbuster in this game who needs to chase ghosts in an old house and find Mario. The game has nice graphics and a good atmosphere. But it was still kind of bad.

When my brother and me got the console and the game, we started playing on the same afternoon. The same night, my brother almost finished the game but a glitch occured that made the game crash. It was a one time event. The next day, after the frustration had settled down, we played the game again, and had the glitch not occured, the game would have been played through within 24 hours.

To finish a game within 24 hours in today's times is not a big achievement by the programmers. In the 80s and 90s, it was okay to finish a game within a day, because back then, technical possibilities were different and the gaming experience was also different. Back then, playing a game was like watching a movie, you went through many different levels and landscapes and had many different impressions of the game. But in modern games, you are supposed to spend more time in a level, take more time to finish one area and if a game is good, there is some replay value or side tasks to fulfill even when the main story is finished.

Funny thing, even today Luigi's mansion can get you a good amount of money if you sell it on ebay. It's just a brand, you know...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Video Games: Childhood games

In this list, I don't want to bring up all the games I played as a child. There would be too many of them. I want to focus on the first games I ever played. That also means that I can only refer to very old consoles. Only in some cases am I really sure those games are among the first I ever played. In other cases, it's just very old games that may not be the very first ever played by me.

World Grand Prix (Master System)

This game is, without any doubt, the first video game I ever played. Even more astonishing for me is that I even remember first playing it. It was my dad who played these sorts of games when I was too young to know what they are. One day, he allowed me to play the game after watching him play.
My dad was impressed that I knew how to change gears just by hearing the engine sound go high. So I figured it out really fast. But I was still very young so I crashed heavily most of the times, and it was against my nature as a child to acknowledge that braking the car in corners actually makes you faster in the long run.

 The game was pretty good for a game released as far back as 1986. Man.... just think about it. 1986. That was a time when drivers still died in F1. Michael Schumacher was only 17 years old back then.

Well, back to the game. It features real tracks (on the left, you can see the map of the Fuji Speedway), although the design is kind of repetitve, so you only see road and a little background. There are some variations, for example, when you go to Zandvoort (Netherlands), you see the typical wind mills in the background... as if that is everything people associate with that country.

Then there is the editor function. When I used it, it was the first time in my life that I figured out I was a creative person. I loved making up my own race tracks. You can choose straights, different types of corners, and in the end your course has to end where it started. Then you can race on it.

When you score points (back then, you only reached points if you were at least 6th), you can buy upgrades with these points, which puts a managerial aspect to the game. Tyres are less expensive than a new engine, but the engine will give you more of an advantage. Nice game, especially nice back when it came out, as it has a lot more options than other games.

Yars' Revenge (Atari)

As you may know, many Atari games are endless, so you are only hunting points all the way until you get tired. This game is no exception. You are some sort of space ship (and you can only tell by the cartridge it's supposed to be an insect) and must destroy.... something. Your guess is as good as mine.
Since Atari games had the worst graphics of all (and the console was older than the stuff Sega and Nintendo later came up with), the manuals of these games were full of imagery and vivid stories to get you into the mood.

I can't say much about the game. You must first destroy the brown shield that protects the enemy. Once in a while, you can fire a deadly shot. The enemy can also shoot at you, and it can fire some kind of nazi swastika (that's how it looks). You are able to hide in a safety zone (weird colours) where you can't shoot but can't be hurt either.

Millipede (Atari)

The cartridge of the game is way cooler than the game itself. You are a millipede (or rather, a block) that can shoot stuff. The only thing I really remember from this game is that I learned from it that "TNT" means dynamite.

Kids nowadays are so spoiled with good games but they don't know how lucky they are because it's only "old" people like me who will tell them about the dark ages.

TransBot (Master System)

 This is also another space ship game, and it's also endless, although I always thought as a child that there must be an ending. Your ship is flying from left to right constantly, so the screen always moves, and many different creatures attack you. They usually fly in various formations that you should identify so you know where everything is moving to. If you are too slow, you get hit by either the creatures or its projectiles, which causes damage and later a life.

There is a creative element put in by the programmers. Once in a while, a small van is driving at the bottom of the screen.

You shoot the van and a bubble appears. It wobbles across the screen and you must quickly fly into it before it's too late. Then the letters A to F are flipping at the top of the screen. Once you press the fire button, the flipping stops and your space ship transforms into another shape with different weaponry. Sometimes the ship has a very strong shot, other times a very large laser beam, and yet other times the shot also goes backwards, or scatters in front of you like spray. Then there is sometimes a big robot that you must defeat.

Eventually, you die, because you will be caught by surprise. That happens a lot when something comes up from behind after everything else so far has been coming from the right side of the screen.

Hang On (Master System)

 I didn't play this game a lot. My dad played it and I watched. It's like a time trial thing. You race on a bike, the scenery changes, it gets night, it gets day, and you go past check points.

If you're too slow, your race is over. And don't crash into anything or anyone.

Alex Kidd: High-Tech World (Master System)

Before Sonic was invented, Alex Kidd was the mascot of Sega. But he was too unimpressive to challenge Nintendo's Mario, so his video game series died off in the 90s.

Alex Kidd: High Tech World is an interesting game and somehow unique. You are a prince in a castle who wants to go to the video game arcade somewhere in a different town. Your parents don't want you to go, so you must figure out your own way to get out of the castle.

That means you must first get pieces of a map that was torn to pieces, then get a paraglider, then get to the arcade through the forest.

In the first half of the game, it's all about you walking around your big castle. There are dozens of rooms you can visit and many secrets you must uncover. Every time you enter and leave a room, time passes. If you spend too much time searching for clues, you lose the game - game over!

There are also some deadly traps you must avoid. There is a knight armor hanging in one room. If you put on the armor, you are suddenly unable to move because it's too heavy - game over!

If you switch on the broken computer in another room, it gives you a fatal electric shock - game over!

If you talk to your dad too many times, he sends you to your room as punishment - game over!

If you walk down the staircase that is damaged, you break your neck - game over!

What makes the game really interesting is that it's educational and skill-improving in a playful way. Sometimes you have to remember people's names, other times you have to answer a teacher's questions ("how many bones does the human body have" etc.) and sometimes you have to come up with your own problem-solving abilities or just make a good guess. I think this game really helped me become a little more logical.

The second part of the game, just to bring it up, is an entirely different thing. Suddenly, it's a jump and run, you must evade ninja stars and jump from tree to tree. Finally you reach the town with the arcade. But in order to enter, you must finish one task. Either you must be there very early, or pray at the altar a hundred times, or something else. So there's even different ways to finish the game.

Asterix (Master System)

There is even video footage of me playing this game as a child. I was a little impatient at times, but it's funny to see how the problem-solving skills develop when playing this game.
This Asterix game has many levels, and on top of that, you can play each level with either Obelix or Asterix, and accordingly, the level is totally different. However, once you have decided for a character, you must finish the level with the character you chose and can't choose again.

You can also enter a bonus stage with the dog that belongs to Obelix if you collect enough bones from the romans. Yeah, those poor romans. They only exist for being beaten to death.

I like the level design, it's very different from stage to stage and colourful. When I last played this game in my mid-20s, I was not good enough to finish it.

Enduro Racer (Master System)

Yeah, another racing game. Back then, there was not really much else to do.

Enduro Racer has some decent music and different levels. In each level, you must pass as many opponent bikes or cars as possible. In the end, you get points for your efforts. If you do well, you can buy upgrades for your bike (just like in World Grand Prix) so things go easier. Your bike likes to jump over hills, and if you add upgrades like engine or suspension, you go around hopping like a grasshopper without even touching the road any more. It's hilarious.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear)

 Okay, this was obviously in the 90s and not one of the very first games I played, but. the first Sonic game marked the beginning of another great video game series. The music was already good and it was a nice jump and run game.

Even though the game is a little aged now and Sonic has a lot more skills nowadays, this is a classic.

The challenging part here is also to connect emeralds that are hidden in every level. I never found them all. Whatever.

Then there is this bad guy, Dr. Robotnik, also called Eggman. He put living animals into robots. Why? I don't know. It's the way it is.

His inventions are crazy and he always flies around in his Egg, a UFO kind of thing. If you have seen the Street Fighter movie with Jean-Claude van Damme, you have most probably seen a similar flying object used by the bad guy there.

I don't think it would make sense to add more games. This was just to show you what some of the first games were. There is more to come later.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Video Games: Most valued

Some video games give me a sentimental feeling about the past. For games to end up in this list, the games have to be more than just good. The whole atmosphere and feeling of the game have to be great. This is also the reason why many of the games you will see here have really good music.

The most important aspect to a game is...soul. And if you have ever had a favourite game even after 10-20 years, you know what that means.

I will not list them in any order this time, though. Let's go:

Grand Theft Auto - Vice City (PC)

 This game just barely made it into the list, but I still consider it to be good enough. I don't play this game any more, but I still have good memories of it.
You play as a thug who is building his own crime empire in a city that strongly resembles Miami. The game is set in 1986 and contains many famous songs from back then. This adds a lot to the beautiful 80s feeling and the very nice graphics of the game. It feels like Miami Vice, just that you control what happens.

When the game came out, it was innovative. I remember, back then, most games were very linear. You went from one level to the next. This game, however, is different. You can move freely within the city limits, although you have to unlock some urban parts of the city one by one. But you can freely choose missions and at some point, you can just do your own thing. Even when you have only played through half of the game, it's fun to just do what is fun to do. Going to the beach, riding a bike, shooting innocent people just for fun, being a cop, using a helicopter, robbing stores, throwing grenades at the police station, conquering the army facility with a minigun, and so on. You can enter cheats for invincibility, and it is possible to change the design of your character skin. I once made a terminator skin and had lots of fun destroying the city.

Tales of Symphonia (Nintendo Gamecube)

 Tales of Symphonia is the only Gamecube game that left a lasting impression on me. It's the type of role playing game where you are a hero with some companions walking around a mystical area and fighting enemies in group battles.
The specialty of the game is that it features many possible turns and twists in the story. Depending on how the relationships between the characters are and the choices you make, a different outcome can occur and you get different cutscenes in between.

The characters all have their own history, and they are not the usual stuff you are used to. One character is a convicted murderer with a guilt complex, and he needs to learn to cope with his dark past. Other characters have to cope with racism and other burdens. There are some plot twists, the voice acting is good, and there are more things to discover than what you can achieve in just one playthrough.
It's also possible to play with more than one player. And it took me years to figure out there are entire levels hidden in the game if only you take the right actions at the right time. Without the help of the internet, I wouldn't even know there are different ways to end the game that differ so much from each other.

Pokemon - Red and Blue Edition (Game Boy Colour)

 I can still remember how I went to a store with my brother to buy game boys. It was 1999. We bought them only to play these Pokemon games. I already mentioned Pokemon in my last post. The red and blue edition were the best Pokemon games if you consider the impact they made in their respective time period. All the Pokemon games after these two were only additions, but not as revolutionary as the first two games. The best thing about these games is how much joy they brought. There is a sense of non-linearity to playing Pokemon, because although you are required to go from one city to the next, at least it is up to you which Pokemon you want to catch and train.

Energie-Manager (Amiga)

 One of the first manager games I played, Energie Manager allows you to manage your own restaurant chain in Germany. It was developed under the licence of the German ministry of economics and is supposed to have an educational effect on the player, because success in this game is strongly connected to sustainability and environmental aspects. The music is calm and enjoyable, and the gameplay is also very calm. You are allowed to take your time. First, you decide on a name for your restaurant chain, and you decide on the type of food your are serving: Fast food, Asian, German, French and so on. This has no effect on anything though.

When you start, you decide on the city that you want to start your business in. Some of the biggest German cities are available, like Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.
When you arrive in the city, you see the skyline of each city and decide your next steps. You must buy a piece of land, ask an architect to construct a building for you (including parking space and energy-saving materials, if you like), fill your restaurant with furniture and find waiters, cooks, delivery drivers and janitors at the job office. You can also buy a car or bike for your delivery service, and you can go to the bank to buy shares from your opponents or to buy your own shares. On top of that, you can go to an advertising company and promote your restaurant. 

Once your restaurant is fully furnished and has sufficient employees, you can go to the train station and visit the next city to build a restaurant, although you can build different restaurants within the same city.

Whenever you do something, time passes, and you can only act within the time period of 3 months, then the turn is over and it's your opponents' turns. You can play against human players or the computer.

 After each turn, you get information from the bookkeeping department, where they tell you about visitors and finances. Once in a while, you will be informed via fax about your activities regarding environmental aspects. It is not possible to tell which washing machine or fridge is best for mother nature, but they all have text that you can read, so when you read "rain water recycling" in the toilet describtion, you can guess that it's better than a high class toilet that wastes water. Or you can tell that a small kitchen with only minimal working space is better than a giant kitchen that needs half the rain forest to be assembled.

The game has its flaws. The major flaw is that it's too simplistic at times. The bank sector is almost useless, because in order to win, you must take all the time you have to build a restaurant and quickly go to another city to build another restaurant towards the next quarter of the year. There is also a lack of logic. Restaurant customers, in reality, would not care that much about eco-friendly restaurants and will prefer better-looking furniture than eco-friendly stuff. But it's nice enough.

Ecco - The Tides Of Time (Sega Mega Drive)

Beautiful game. I also remember how I bought this and brought it home. Ecco is the kind of game that you can use if you want to escape from this world. It puts you into a different kind of world with a dream-like scenery. The music is awesome. I wish landscapes like the ones you see in the game really existed. Maybe Hawaii comes closest to it. Or maybe Iceland, at times.

About the story: You are a dolphin with special abilities, and some alien force is trying to conquer the whole world. You must solve riddles and go from level to level. You can also transform into other animals sometimes, for example sharks and seagulls.

There is a cheat you can use so that you can access all the levels. I like to use this cheat just so I can hear all the music in the game and visit all the beautiful sceneries. For a game made in the mid 90s, this looks really sweet. It's also a mostly calm game.

Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles (Sega Mega Drive)

Back in the 90s, you were either a Mario fan or a Sonic fan. I was a Sonic fan.

When Sonic and Knuckles came out, it was revolutionary because the cartridge allowed other games to be put on top of it. This allowed the player to use Knuckles, the new character, in the older games Sonic 2 and Sonic 3. Knuckles had the ability to glide after jumping and to break rock barriers with his fists. Thus, he could access areas in the game that previously were unreachable. I even wondered as a child: What is behind this rock barrier that I can't break? What am I doing wrong? Only later I noticed that Sega had planned to release Sonic and Knuckles, and then it was clear that this was all designed to put a new character in an already released game.

The graphics are nice, the music too, and it's a great jump and run game.

 I value it a lot because it's the game I played with my brother when I was a child. If you decided to play with both Sonic and Tails at the same time, one player could be Sonic and one Tails. Tails was a fox with many tails, so he could fly (yeah, just go with it). It was useful to have another human player to hover you to different areas.

Both games combined were great fun, because when the levels of one game ended, you could just keep playing the new levels as if it was all one game.

As far as I know, there has never been a successful attempt at using this cartridge technology.

Sonic Adventure (Sega Dreamcast)

The Dreamcast was a video game console produced by Sega that came out by the turn of the millennium. Sonic Adventure was the first game I played on it. And it was fantastic. The graphics were much better than the Nintendo 64 graphics, since it was a new console generation.
There is so much great music in this game. My favourite part of the game is the Casinopolis stage with lots of cool casino gaming.
A special part of the game is the Chao garden. The chao is a kind of pet that you can raise in the game. You can even put the chao into the memory card of the dreamcast and play a game with it in a game boy like fashion.
The chao races go a step further. You let the chao run against other chaos, and if you fed your chao well, it will win. The chao learns from animals caught in the levels that Sonic and his friends go through.

Many characters can be played. You can also collect Sonic symbols that are hidden everywhere in the game to unlock stuff.

Shenmue (Sega Dreamcast)

This is the story of Ryo Hazuki, a young man who lives in Japan in the year 1986. He lives in a beautiful suburban area, with a dojo near his house. One day, his father is killed by a mysterious Chinese man. Ryo is very upset about this and swears he will avenge his father's death. But first, he needs to find out what happened and why is father was killed.

He goes to the nearby city and asks around. The area that Ryo walks through was inspired by an existing city in Japan that looks extremely similar to the game design.
As you take your own time exploring the game, time passes, and the weather changes. According to the game creators, the weather implemented into the game is exactly the same weather that Japan had in 1986, day by day. When you spend a lot of time playing this game, you will even see snow falling, and Christmas decorations coming to town.

When it was created, the game was the most expensive game ever. Millions of dollars went into the production of the game, and it shows that this game is special. The music is just amazing and it makes you want to go to Japan immediately.

This game, like Vice City, allows you to do your own thing. Of course you are supposed to complete the game, but you have a lot of time to explore the area. You can go to the arcade and play old Sega games from the past. You can go to a parking lot and improve your martial arts skills. Or you go to shops and buy some nice food to feed a cat whose mother was killed the same day your father died (by the car the people used who killed your father).

Some people say the game is a little slow-paced. But I don't consider it to be a problem. When you want a game that captures the spirit of Japan, it's better that it takes a little time and moves calmly.

Holy Magic Century / Quest 64 (Nintendo 64)

There was no Zelda game yet when the Nintendo 64 came out. So the first game of that kind was Holy Magic Century, also known as Quest 64 in the USA.

Before you judge this game, you should know that the only graphics one could refer to back then was the graphics of the previous console generation, meaning NES and Mega Drive. So this game was the first game I played that had real 3D technology scenery. I was amazed how the houses looked. They looked much more real as compared to 2D houses.

Even though the graphics look aged today and can't compare to Zelda in the opinion of many people, I like the bright colours and vivid images. Sometimes I have dreams at night with colours like these.

The game was developed in a rushed way. It was supposed to be released very quickly, and that's the reason why some parts of the game feel "empty". You notice this when looking at dozens of empty rooms within the houses you visit, or by the fact that there is absolutely no character development. There was supposed to be more than one hero, but instead, you only play one person. His name is Ayron in Europe or Brian in the USA. He is a young magician from a monastery. His father was on a mission but didn't return, so you are supposed to find your missing father. You can collect elemental spirits (water, earth, fire, wind) to learn magic spells. You don't move up in levels, but you gain experience individually depending on what you do. If you use your staff to beat enemies, you gain health points more quickly. If you get hit, your defence improves, if you evade attacks, your agility improves.

Magic spells improve by collecting spirits. Some spirits can be found in the wild, others come with winning battles. The best thing to do is to boost your water spirits up to seven. Then you get the healing spell, after which you don't need to eat bread as often.

For this game, a good Japanese composer of classical music was hired. The music throughout the game is majestic, medieval and mysterious.

I think this game shows better than any other game in the list that game that not many people loved to death can have a strong personal meaning to someone. If you ignore the music, it will be very mediocre nowadays and most people will laugh at it and play Zelda instead.

Flashback (Amiga)

Wow! A game must be really good if I can still remember buying it in 1993! I played a demo version of it, then asked my dad if we can buy it once it comes out. I remember well picking it up in the store. I was only 10 years old.

And Flashback really is great.

You start the game with a  cutscene. A person is running away, barely avoiding being hit by laser beams coming out of laser guns. He jumps on a futuristic motorbike that can hover, and leaves the hangar of some unknown place. But the guys with the laser guns go after him with a big space ship and still try to shoot him. They eventually hit his bike and he falls into the jungle.

You don't know what happened, and neither does the main character. He has no memory of who he is, it looks like the guys at the hangar erased his memory.

When you wake up, you find a strange cube. It turns out to be a holo cube, a device that contains a holographic message. You suddenly see yourself speaking to you. The hologram tells you that your name is Conrad Hart, and that you created this message knowing that you were in danger and that your memory might be erased. You are supposed to find your good friend Ian who lives in a city called Modern Washington.

So you escape from the jungle and find your way to the city from the underground ventilation shafts.

You find Ian who tells you that he has your memory stored in his lab. You are able to get your memory back. As it turns out, you were working as a scientist / agent and developed a device that measures the molecular density of living beings. You found out that some "individuals" have an unusually high molecular density but appear to be human on the outside.You must have found out something rather scary - it seems they are aliens in disguise.

 Ian tells you to go and find one of his friends, who might help you along the way. As it turns out, you are far away from earth on another planet, and planet earth is in danger. You find Ian's friend who helps you get a fake ID (see the symbolism?). You then get a work permit, accomplish some missions and try to get a flight back to earth. But that is harder than you think, because it costs a fortune. So you must take part in a tv show called "death tower" where you must survive until the end to win a trip to earth.

Later on in the game, you reach earth, but people are still after you. You must destroy the planet where the aliens are plotting their bad plans. A man dies in front of your eyes who leaves dynamite for you to use. You find his journal in which he writes that he was forced to work for the aliens for thousands of days. He planned to blow up the "master brain", an organic life form that controls the alien planet. In the end, you are able to blow up the planet and escape just in time. But you are lost in space and have nowhere to go, so you lay down in a freezing chamber, drifting into an unknown future.

This game has some music that is really good, and the graphics are great. But the game also has a good atmosphere. There is a sense of melancholy in the game. It's all about "the quest for identity". What we learn from this game is that you can't get back your identity just by restoring your memory. There is more to it, and when the game ends, you still have the feeling that Conrad hasn't gotten back his sense of who he is. It's a restless journey that ends in uncertainty. Don't we all have this kind of feeling sometimes?