The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Ocarina of Time, after I had beaten the game time and time again, had become something of a digital toy box for me. With Link as the main ‘toy’, I’d create new stories for him to participate in within the pre-created structures of the Kingdom of Hyrule. Existing characters would be given new backgrounds and motivations, they would have tasks for Link to fulfil, and schedules of their own. Link would have several “homes” (secret locations, holes in the ground, hidden nooks behind waterfalls) that he would be responsible for maintaining and returning to after a long day of visiting his friends. This imaginary extension to an already infinitely replayable game brought me back to it for many years. Enter Majora’s Mask.
Majora’s Mask was exactly this. Well, almost exactly. The characters had a set schedule where they would do different things depending on the time of day and what day it was. They had their own backstory that would develop more as you played through their side missions. Majora’s Mask is not only a brilliantly crafted Zelda game – dungeons, puzzles, boss fights, the whole enchilada – but it also had a premade toybox included. It gave me even more of a reason to keep coming back to it.. but I never finished it. I hope to right this wrong in 2019.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Before Mass Effect and Dragon Age, the developers at Bioware made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – an action-rpg that was the culmination of years of work within the genre, and a glimpse at the studios’ ambitious future.
KOTOR was not only a fun D&D-like action-rpg within the Star Wars universe, but it set an example for what a game could accomplish with narrative. Not only do each of the campaigns main characters have their own backstory with branching dialogue trees and side missions based on their developing stories, but the players character had a more direct impact on the development of those character relationships as well as the main story.
Bioware introduced what is essentially a Good/Evil meter. Make enough good natured decisions in the game and you’ll get Light points, but if you make bad and evil decisions you’ll get Dark points. These points all add up to the development of your own character, the type of Jedi/Sith abilities you could learn, and even how you affect the overall narrative and ending of the game. Would you help save the Jedi order and the republic, or would you give into the Dark Side of the Force and join the Sith?
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy VII is probably my favorite game in the entire franchise. Most of that is likely based on nostalgia and the fact that it was my first JRPG, but I’ve accepted that despite the game’s flaws FFVII will reign as my favorite. FFVIII is a mess of dumb mechanics, dumb characters, and if you think it’s the best you’re dumb also. Sorry. Seriously though, stop trying to make arguments for 8. Stop it. Oh, and Final Fantasy X is not that bad. It’s actually pretty good. Fight me.
Having said all that, Final Fantasy IX might be better than all the former titles mentioned for a plethora of reasons. Reasons including its gorgeous art style that mixes the giant stone castles and quaint villages of high fantasy with a lived-in greasy quasi-futuristic steampunk aesthetic, all of the variations in landscapes and settings, the diverse cast of characters and their individual stories, and much much more. It’s been awhile since I played this game, so I might end up regretting everything I’ve just written! But I can’t wait to revisit this timeless classic.
I barely remember this game! I do remember absolutely loving it though, and a recent up-res PC port will be the perfect opportunity to pick up this classic JRPG from the Dreamcast. I don’t have a whole lot to say right now, but I’m sure I’ll go on a rant about how much I love it several months from now.