I am all up for a good challenge. Without it, it is hard to evolve as a person or find enthusiasm in a video game for example. Creativity can help, but this is where I hit a 50 foot wall. With Casper’s latest challenge, I have been staring at a blank slate for days not even knowing what to do with it. The first bloody time he tries to be nice to me with these challenges (most likely due to me making my own page), is when he truly got me!
I rarely change my opinion about a game for the more positive. In fact, its more likely that I find them ageing for the worse, and I am not sure if it is because I have become more mature or cynical. Perhaps a combination of both. Although, there are definitely certain games I did enjoy on my second attempt, for various reasons. It must be clarified that it has to be the same version of the game I enjoyed. Remakes will not count unless I played it specifically and enjoyed it on my second try. With that said, let me show you the times I had to give games a second chance in order to see them in a stronger light.
#12 Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver
I have had a troubled relationship with Pokémon as I love the core concept each instalment brings, but the changes between each iteration seemed limited. My favourite will always be the second generation due to dumb nostalgia alone, and my preferred way to enjoy it is through the remakes: Heartgold and Soulsilver. However, when I replayed this instalment about 2 years after they came out and beating the original GBC-versions, I realised how much effort Gamefreak added to the series since its original versions.
Since the second generation, we have gotten dual battles, natures, abilities, splitting special and physical attacks, and re-balancing pokémons in general. This made me realise just how much the series actually evolved if you cared to take a closer look. So why is this not higher on the list? Honestly, while it made me respect the series more, I still thought highly of Heartgold and Soulsilver already, and just appreciated it more to show me more of the series. It also was not enough to make me a fan, as I only bought two Pokémon titles after this remake. Still, it is nice to see that the series actually have substance and growth. Hopefully the pokéwalker will also return.
#11 Monster Hunter 3
First impressions are severely important to me when it comes to video games, and while I am rather an impatient man when a title offers a hand-holding tutorial, being too vague is also something that can damage the experience. Monster Hunter 3 felt like the first time I tried pen and paper role-playing: I loved the idea, but felt completely lost. I was not sure what to expect and with no real friends to play it with, I simply left the game on hold and figured I should pick it up when I understood more.
Thanks to online-videos and my sister, I gave the title another go and finally understood how to progress, important factors like eating, and how to embrace the stiff movement. This does not excuse the game for the lack of a solid tutorial, far from it. However, after getting over this uncomfortable hurdle, I was mesmerised in a world I did not want to leave and wanted to track down all Monster Hunter games from then on out. Like actually going on a Monster Hunt, you will have to be patient, fierce, and determined. Preferably with friends.
#10 Jak and Daxter
I suppose I have some explaining to do here, as I did not enjoy Jak and Daxter when it originally came out. It felt too spacious and never made a strong impact on me. It got incredibly high praises, and that baffled me even more as it was a perfectly okay title in my opinion and nothing more. However, for about 3 years ago, I revisited it in an attempt for reviewing the series, after playing through Sly– and Ratchet and Clank-series for either entertainment or writing-purposes.
When I did, I discovered that Jak and Daxter was not about creative layers of platforming for tackling challenging obstacles, but instead about using your moveset to overcome hurdles in creative manners, explore and enjoy the scenery. It is not my preferred platforming-experience compared to more linear ones, but it made me enjoy this title on a much higher level. I still find it hard to see the highest praise for it, but it became an easy platformer to recommend on the PlayStation 2 and I was happy that it was so easy to get into. However, if you wonder; no, I will not review this series as I cannot stand Jak 2, 3 or The Lost Frontier. At least we got one great platformer, that made me understand more the open 3D-platformer genre.
#9 Max Payne
This is where I learned that maturity is more than just a fancy word. Max Payne was a game I liked as a kid, but never got to truly appreciate or enjoy due to my circle of friends at the time. It might be harsh, but it is hard to talk about games in a more insightful way, when these friends only cared about GTA and hot coffee. This made me at unease whenever they wanted to do something mature for the sake of feeling better about themselves, which was a shame as I thought Max Payne had more to offer, but I could not truly see what.
Once I was finally old enough to actually purchase it, I discovered a much darker and interesting setup. The game was still entertaining and solid in its mechanics, but now I could get into the story, Noir style, lore and the cheese. It felt great to truly appreciate something because you believed there was more to it, and still enjoy the unadulterated violence. It is not so much that Max Payne is a game you have to be mature to understand, but it showed me that games can be so much more than just simple entertainment. Breaking my circle of friends, became worth it for me to grow and fully get engaged in Max’s pain. Changes can be good for putting something familiar in a new light.
#8 Gabriel Knight 2
Although other times, you might just need the right company. For me, this always holds true with my sister, as she is no matter what my perfect second player and can bring insight to things I had not thought about before. Or in this case: make jokes to the point we cannot stop laughing. Gabriel Knight 2 was one of the first FMV games I tried to finish and the shift from the last game, felt off and unfinished. It has not aged well either due to its slow nature, awkward acting, idiotic progression and poor pace. In the end, I simply got bored.
However, when I originally was going to play through the series, I invited my sister to join. We got easily through Gabriel Knight 1 with big smiles on our faces, talked about the remake vs the original, and then decided to tackle the second instalment together. When we got to the end, we both agreed it was a bad title, but hilarious. For me, this is The Room of video games; a so bad it is good title. I cannot say I enjoyed playing it with the exception of two puzzles, but I would be lying if I said I am not quoting this game with my sister years after our first playthrough. It is a game you should watch with some good friends or strong liquor as it has so much to offer unintentionally. If anything, it had me at least smiling compared to the third instalment.
#7 Duke Nukem 3D
I suppose due to the old circle of friends I mentioned, I could feel annoyed, alienated or depressed. This effected me in general life, and it eventually became difficult to not be cynical around them. Because of our differences and that I was an emotional teenager, I lacked a sense of humour, which in turn made me idiotic and close-minded. Hence I did not get Duke Nukem 3D. I did play the sidescrolling titles, but Duke Nukem was just this American stereotype who tried too hard to be cool.
When I mellowed out, grew up and replaced my circle of friends with people I cared to discuss games with, I also started to just have fun with them! This made me also enjoy poor puns, which led to my enthusiasm for parody-approached titles, starting with Blood because of my love for horror. It ended up being one of my favourite PC-titles ever and when I saw that they made both Shadow Warrior and Duke Nukem 3D, I decided to give both a go, and it was such a joy to see more personality and pure entertainment in these Apogee-titles. With the over the top action, great level-design, fun weapons, entertaining shootouts, and neat secrets in realistic environments, this feel like a game made for traditional gamers. They are simple entertainment like fantastic B-movie parodies. Cannot say much else than “Hail to the King, Baby”!
I believe that everyone remembers one game from their life that was not horror-themed, but terrified them from ever playing it again. For me, it was Outlaws. I simply got to the second map, and got shot from every angle, screams were heart wrenching and I died from an explosion out of nowhere. Keep in mind, I had yet to play Doom at this point, which I can just imagine what would have done to the 5 year old me. After growing up, and actually appreciating 90s shooter by id and Apogee, I went on a small Star Wars-hunt after the Dark Forces-series gave me two of my favourite licensed games: Dark Forces, and Jedi Academy.
When Outlaw was re-released on modern services, memories came flooding back and I was unsure if I could face them and see why it was such a cult following. I took a deep breath, bought it, made sure to have some tea on standby and started the game. What I thought was going to be a harsh return, was not too bad actually. In fact, I tread through the fear to not find just a fantastic shooter, but one that is probably one of the finest from its era. Creative guns, varied locations, tense shootouts, entertaining story, everything you want from a western film like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Outlaws showed me that you should never let fear get the better of you. Understand your fear, but never let it hinder you, otherwise you will lose out on life. Like I almost did.
#5 Icewind Dale
I miss good RPGs from time to time. I might be spoiled, as there are definitely titles that can go back to the glory-days and nail the original feeling, but what I noticed about titles like Divinity: Original Sin and Persona 5, is how their difficulties feel poorly implemented. Divinity has you go on scavenger-hunt for right side-quest in order to get stronger, while Persona 5’s sneak attack and weakness-system, makes it easier than first gen Pokémon. I wanted to love both titles as they have some great strengths to them, but they became unnecessarily long and kept you in one location for far too long for me to care. They simply feel padded.
I recently picked up and played through Grandia and Icewind Dale, as I do remember them being long RPGs, but never tiresome. I was actually right about that, but there was more to them. Both took you on grand adventures with interesting fights for making combat exciting and exploration engaging. While I will always praise Grandia’s level-up mechanics, engaging combat, and its sense of wonder and imagination, I chose Icewind Dale as I do not see many western RPGs as tightly put together as this one. Icewind Dale gives you vast locations to explore without them ever becoming dull or overstay their welcome, and an intriguing story that is never going unnecessarily dark or over-complicated. It is all wonderfully executed, and shows they had a reason for their length without making fights dull or forced.
#4 Tomb Raider 2
Let me take you to an interesting mindset. After being introduced to Crash Bandicoot 3, Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Ape Escape to name a few, I was accustomed to games having no form of tank-controls. So imagine my confusion, when I got to try Tomb Raider 2 and it only had just that? You might think: “well, it has a nice tutorial-level in the form of your mansion! surely that helped?” It definitely would, but for some reason I started in the middle of a bloody mountain. It ended with me absolutely freaking out as I was confused with how to climb, swimming made me claustrophobic, I had no idea where I was going and suddenly animals started attacking me!
It might have been a demo-disc, but I had no clue on what was going on or how to react, making me just stumped. After I got older, I found many 3D titles ageing poorly, but also gems that took the limitations of the technology to consideration. Games like Doom 64, Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill and I can now add Tomb Raider 2 to this list. From the start, you are able to venture through Lara’s mansion and get grips with the controller if you want to, and the stages are laid out to be progressively harder with more tools and obstacles to learn about. I suppose that sometimes, you just got to see things from the start, and I am happy I did here.
#3 Silent Hill 2
Any fan of this series would see this coming. What makes Silent Hill 2 and a couple of the later titles engaging on a second playthrough, is not just the alternative endings you can get, but also how it throughout the game, portraits our main-character. Shattered Memories goes further by alternating events to represent the player and his/her choices, and while that makes it engaging on multiple playthroughs as well, Silent Hill 2 was such an eyeopener when I played through it.
I loved Silent Hill 2 from the first time I played it due to its unsettling atmosphere and the horror-elements from visuals to the survival. After going through the game, experiencing strange scenarios and characters, it was all made clear when I got to the ending. Because of this, I just had to see every event to get more out of the protagonists, and the side-characters, and see what I might have lost. After the second playthrough, I got a different ending that gave me more insight and an interesting what-if scenario. In the end, I played Silent Hill 2 many times until I got the joke-ending. Really, Silent Hill 2 went with such a deep portrayal of a controversial character I got obsessed with it. Seeing every detail is in itself a wonder. Like seeing every brushstroke of a painting.
#2 Ultima 4
I was not unfamiliar with RPGs on consoles or the more straight-forward natures of Action RPGs on PC, but besides dungeon-crawlers, my RPG-experience on PC was severely limited. After enjoying Bard’s Tale and Pool of Radiance, I wanted to tackle Ultima 4 since it was another famous title. It made me utterly confused as I was not strong in English and I had no idea what was going on. This was because Ultima 4 was unlike any RPG I was accustomed to, and in fact, still is one of the most unique experiences I have ever witnessed.
Ultima 4 is not really about defeating an evil creature or saving the world, but about achieving enlightenment by becoming the true hero. Elements like letting fiends run to improve your honour, understanding the odd combat-moves, and making the right choices for how to approach a situation, is unlike anything I have ever seen, and goes further than the traditional “saint vs demon” approach in other Western RPG. I am somewhat ashamed that I could not see earlier what this game was. Do not get me wrong, I would not be shocked if you disliked this title, but to do so without trying to understand it, feels shallow. Enlightenment comes from you taking the steps and trying to understand with a critical eye, and Ultima 4 taught me this. As well as how important manuals were.
When I encountered Myst for the first time, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It had no form of tutorial, tension or even things that reminded me of what a game was. This had still images, only the mousebutton to rely on and a calm atmosphere, yet demanded you utilising your intelligence to the max. In this game, you were trapped on a MYSTical island and had to find your way out. Nothing else to it, and you had to take your time with it. It fascinated me and I still remember witnessing my father playing it and doing odd combinations that somehow let him progress. As an idiot kid, I was ecstatic once I got to the second section of this era, but ended up stopping there as I was simply too young to understand it.
However, Myst is probably one of the most sophisticated games I have ever played. I cannot sing enough praises now that I am older, as every puzzle feels perfect in its setup, and as long as you have a pen and paper nearby, you should always have your solution written down if you pay attention. When I understood this and was able to take in the intriguing setup and writing, Myst became the game I held in the highest regards compared to other PC games.
I wanted to embrace Casper’s love for anime, as he is both the writer for Legacy of Games and Reasons to Anime. You, my friend, have showed me plenty of interesting shows and movies (which I am very thankful for), but it is not often we talk about games based on anime. And what better way to do so, than to start from the very bottom. What are the worst games based on anime you have ever played?