Playing favorites

I’m bored. I mean, like, near-fatally bored. Which translates into a new post for a blog I forget about 95% of the time!

I’d like to concentrate on games that have affected me throughout my life. That doesn’t mean they’re especially poignant or meaningful. These are games to which I somehow developed a strong attachment…there was just something about them that got to me, deep down.

Quake 3 Arena (PC)

I played Quake 1, or rather a mod of a mod of Quake 1, to death. Managed to skip Quake 2, although a bf of mine was rather keen on it. And then there was Q3A. Granted, I spent most of my time playing a total conversion called Urban Terror*, but I adored the vanilla game. The shiny graphics…the autobot smack talk…the smirking taunts…the satisfying punch of the railgun from across the map. Speaking of maps, it’s no wonder Q3A maps have shown up in later games. I still run through them idly in my head, when no one’s looking.

Zoarre (DOS)

Zoarre was a roguelike I played years before I knew what Rogue was. The particular version I played was gleaned from Big Blue Disk, the monthly tech news/graphic/games “magazine” to which my dad had a subscription. My tiny stick figure roamed the crudest of dungeons, fighting orcs and zombies and gelatinous cubes (from which my pet freen took the poison, saving my sorry butt). I never did get very far – hell, I don’t even know what the point was, other than to gain mounds of XP and treasure. Wait, didn’t I just describe every hack ‘n’ slash out there?

Nethack (cross-platform)

Ah, the granddaddy of all hack ‘n’ slash. I came to the Nethack table relatively late. Nevermind that it was still over ten years ago; compared to some of the games on this list, my interest in Nethack is woefully recent. A seemingly simple game, jazzed up by dynamic dungeons and the need to keep tabs on where you last came upon a bookstore or fountain (just in case you put on that ring of hunger by mistake). It’s like D&D without the bitchy DM!

Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (SNES)

A little mixture of hacking, slashing and RPG. This one was long and super-tough near the end…which doesn’t explain why, after I beat the game, I kept returning to the toughest parts of the dungeon to defeat blue and black demons. The music definitely burrowed within me. In fact, I could swear the Simpsons ripped off one of the in-menu melodies for “The Genesis Tub.” Maybe that’s just my interpretation. Oh, and the ghastly smacking sound when you walk into a wall? Priceless.

Zelda 1 (NES)

What can I say? I first saw it at my friend’s house, when her little brother was playing it in their living room. It only took a glance before I knew I had to bug the crap out of my parents to buy it. Screen after screen I drank it in, gathering potions and rings as I went.** Don’t even get me started on the dungeon music. Go ahead, laugh, but that shit was spooky.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Zelda 1, but…more. Better. Faster! …But only because you get the running boots early on. *ahem* I pretty much loved everything about the game: graphics, music (sad boy in the forest, anyone?), puzzles, fairies, monsters, the many different dungeons. One of the few games for which I own a strategy guide.

Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Some people took VI to heart; this one was my Dark Side of the Moon, as it were. I don’t remember why I had to have it, but by the time I wanted it it had fallen out of fashion. I had to convince my mom to drive me to all these weird vidja game-reselling stores (before Gamestop, gasp!). I think I actually called beforehand, too, destroying my crippling shyness. It was worth reaching out for the story alone. I won’t bore you with my take on the effusive sprites, the transcendent music or what a bitch those behemoths were. You already know.***

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES)

First off, shut up. Second, as I imagine was the case for many youngsters, this was my first real intro to FF. I’d hankered for FF1 since seeing a full issue devoted to it in Nintendo Power, but never ended up asking for it. I know, I was weird. When FFMQ came along, I glommed onto it and didn’t let go. Typical story, sure, but I’m mostly fond of the items (damn I love those charm claws) and the music.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (DOS)

There were two periods of HHG for me. My mom bought the game when it was all the rage back in “the day.” When I first played it, I’d never heard of Douglas Adams, a babel fish or manic-depressive robots. (give me a break, I was like five.) Nothing really made sense, which explains why I didn’t get very far. Fast forward to a time where I’d read two of the books and heard a bit of the radio play. Ahhh, much easier! …Wait, shit. Mom, you never told me these Invisiclues would fade after a while…

Beyond Zork (DOS)

Zork 1-3. A classic trilogy in its own right. However, the original Zorks seemed to lack something…intuition? Heart? Christmas tree monsters? Beyond Zork had all three, coupled with a rudimentary “you are here” graphics indicator. Christ, that made things easier. Sprinkled liberally with Frobozzian humor and more magical items than you could shake a stick (or stave or cane or rod) at, the thought of Beyond Zork always puts a smile on my face.

Team Fortress 2 (PC)

Now, I started out playing Team Fortress 1 way back when, which led me to the bastardized version, Mega Team Fortress. Notice I’m putting neither in this list, forsaking them both for their ten-years-in-the-making follow-up. Why? Because it’s just that good. Like any other TF1 disciple, my hopes were beyond low. Then Valve exploded onto the scene with their clever, aesthetically pleasing FPS that never fails to amuse me. As soon as I popped on my first server and saw the old 2fort and Well, my mind was completely blown. The visual style and cartoony action really appeal to me. Every time I play, I say to myself, “Goddamn, I love this game!”

* Fun fact: I own an Urban Terror shirt, but do not feel comfortable displaying my love for the game in public. Thanks, 9/11!
** Another fun fact: Chicago has two versions of public transport farecards. I chose blue over yellow because it reminded me of Link’s color scheme once he had the blue ring. Also, yellow sucks.
*** Fun fact #3: Despite his utter uselessness, I always had a thing for Edward. Ooo, a sensitive musician! *swoon*
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