The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Top 5 video games of the decade

5. Super Smash Bros Melee

What? Melee? Not Brawl? The game that was put on your top 10 all time games? Yes. Melee. Why? Simple reasons. Brawl is a better game because of it’s improved roster and it’s content. But Melee remains a fan favourite. It’s played more competitively, most characters are there for a reason (only one or two are there due to sell recently released games) and are also better balanced. Melee to 64 was basically re-inventing the wheel. Brawl to Melee was simply pimping it up. It’s the same wheel, but with more stuff on it. Let’s go into more detail.

Orchestrated Music: Melee was the first real Nintendo game to feature an orchestrated score thanks to the Gamecubes audio capabilities. And did it blow minds. Brinstar Depths, Fountain Of Dreams. Taking our 8-bit fantasies into new dimensions. It was heavenly.

What it did for Nintendo: Fire Emblem wasn’t known to America until Melee came along. The popularity of Marth (no 1 on tier list, fact fans) and Roy (fanboys are still bitter over his exclusion in Brawl) meant that at last, Nintendo had an international market for their turn based strategy fantasy series. Meanwhile Mother fans are still waiting for the same thing…It also boosted sales of pretty much every 1st party Nintendo game.

4. Half-Life 2

I’m not going to talk as much about Half-Life 2 as I haven’t played it in a long time (Computers not strong enough anymore) but what I do remember is this. Half-Life 2 came out of seemingly nowhere and stole my heart. I remember playing it and being blown away by it’s massive expansive world and storyline. Metroid Prime may have been coined with creating the First Person Adventure, but Half-Life 2 definitely perfects it.

3. Eternal Darkness (2002)

Eternal Darkness is actually quite a surprise on the list, if I’m honest. I had originally placed Resident Evil as my third favourite all-time game, but when I thought about, I realised that I prefered Eternal Darkness as my horror game of choice, then the more I thought about it, the higher in the list it deserved to be and the lower Resident Evil deserved to be, so Resident Evil (The GC Re-make btw) ended up sitting nicely at number 11, I wish I was doing a top 20, but I’m going on holiday soon and won’t have time to do it (I’ll do a quick round-up though)

Eternal Darkness is one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played. The game started life on the Nintendo 64, but was ported over to the Gamecube with better graphics (which is a good thing, the cinematics look incredible) and is an incredibly ambitious game. The game starts off with a murder at the Roivas estate in Rhode Island. The victim is Edward Roivas, a scholar and a collector of interesting objec’ du art, who is found without a head. His grand-daughter, Alex (the games heroine) decides to look for clues within the Roivas mansion that she’s inherited from him. She stumbles upon the Tome Of Eternal Darkness, a horrible book that as the game unfolds, it becomes clear to her that her grand-fathers death is just a small blip in a millenia old plot to destroy humanity.

Eterbal Darkness is incredible tour-de-force. The game is split into chapters, all at different time periods and different characters, all of which are “chosen ones” all of which contribute in someway getting to the final level. The game is set entirely within 4 locations. A chamber in the desert in Persia, A forgotten temple in cambodia, a cathedral in Aimens, France and the Roivas mansion. The idea is that as you revisit these places in later stages, you see times evolution on the place and how familiar the locations are, yet how different.

The story moves brilliantly, the idea is throughout the ages, the 4 artifacts of the ancients (the evil race plotting to overthrow humanity) are handed down to the chosen ones to end up in the Roivas estate. The characters you play as a joy to behold. From Pious, the roman centurion (who becomes an undead ambassador and the games primary antagonist) to Peter Jacob, a journalist during the first world war, each character has a vital part to play and it’s a tragedy what happens to most of them (most are killed in quite horrible ways after you’ve finished their chapter).

I haven’t even begun on the games main selling point. Sanity. the game contains a bar called the Sanity Meter, this decrases a little whenever enemies attack. When it gets to the bottom, you’d better be worried. Your character will begin to have delusions and hallucinations that range from the humourous to the downright terrifying. You could enter a room and have your head blown up. You could have your volume turned right down, your save file deleted or sink into the ground. Suddenly everything will flash and you’ll hear a haunting “This Can’t Be Happening” It’s enough to turn you as insane as your character.

Eternal Darkness is a game that’s scary, funny, mind-boggling and brilliant. It’s intelligent and is full to the brim with references to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and many other literary figures (which is utter incrdible, Edwards narration into every chapter is a gaming highlight) The game forces you to stay on your toes and to be amazed. It drags you kicking and screaming into it’s world and once you’re in, you can’t escape. You’ll think about it all the time and you’ll love it. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

2. Mother 3 (2006)

Mother 3. What can I say about Mother 3 that I haven’t already said elsewhere? Well, first of all, don’t read and this and go “I’m going to pop down to my local shop and pick up a copy”. Unless you’re reading this in Japan, you won’t be able to. Coupled with Earthbound’s commercial failure and the fact that the game was released 2 years after the GBA’s succesor, the DS, the game was released in Japan, it sold very well, mainly because of the series popularity and it’s tied with it’s creator, Shigesato Itoi (who’s a big celebrity over there). I played an English fan translation ROM of the game, which may not be the translation it could have been, it’s still in English.

Mother 3 is an utter delight. The game starts off absolutely beautifully, with the 2 twins, Lucas and Claus visiting their grandfather, Alec. Meanwhile back at Tazmily Village, their father, Flint is looking after the sheep. However the night Lucas, Claus and Hinawa (the mother) begin their return home to Tazmily is when the Pigmasks show up…They set the Sunshine Forest on fire and start tinkering with the wildlife. Flint naturally tries to rescue his wife and kids, but things go wrong, very wrong…the kids are found washed up by the river and Hinawa….is killed by a chimera. Claus swears revenge on the monster and goes to kill it and goes missing, leaving a broken home of just Flint and Lucas. Before I continue, should I point out that this is a game that, according to Japan’s rating system CERO, is suitable for all ages? Barmy.

The game is easily a game of 2 halves. One half (the first 4 chapters, prologue included) shows Tazmily as this carefree utopian village, the kind of place that you dream of living, no matter where you live. Everyone knows each others name, there’s no bickering and it’s got beautiful landscapes and climates, surely it’s bliss. Then, as the Pigmasks gain more influence by selling Happy boxes (seen in Chapter 3) the village changes. Chapter 4 onwards is set 3 years later. Lucas has grown slightly into a stronger individual and Tazmily is now a much bigger town, stretching far. It’s moments like this that really mean something to the player. In a similar way to when Adult Link walks out the temple of time in OoT, you feel horrified and the need to put things back to the way they were. Of course it doesn’t help that as you go through Chpater 7, the town becomes more deserted as the Pigmasks take everyone off to “The City” By the end of Chapter 7, you feel like the town is a character and has passed away.

The game is also incredibly well-designed. Graphically, it really pushes the GBA to it’s limits. It’s full of dark caves, bright villages and grimy sewers, all of which look fantastic and have a beautiful charm to them. The character designs are also brilliant, from Lucas to Kumatora, each character feels uniquely desigend, you rarely bump into a look-a-like at all in the game (save for the pigmasks, of course)

The music, composed by long time Kirbymaestro, Shogo Sakai, is utterly incredible as well. It adds horror to areas like the Chimera Lab, joy to the prolouge and is also a contender for “Saddest piece ever” With the love theme. If you can find a copy of the two soundtracks. Mother3+ and Mother3i, they’re really worth listening to.

There are some exceptional pieces of music in the game. I think Mother 3 may go down as one of the most unappreciated games of all time or at least the best Japan Only game. It’s got everything a game should have, great story, great characters, great ideas. And on top of that, it compells you, it entices you, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry (believe me, the final battle will) and you’ll never want it to end. Which is what a perfect game should do. It was very, very difficult to choose between this and the decades greatest game, I honestly don’t know if I’ve made the right choice. Mother 3 is a celebration of life, death, sorrow and happiness. It is a nearly perfect game and I can’t imagine a more fitting beginning to the proceedings than “Welcome to the world of Mother3″ It’s a world alright and one that I never want to leave.

1. The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)

The Legend Of Zelda series is possibly one of the greatest video game franchises ever, spawning sequels that regularly surpass the previous games. However, after Ocarina Of Time (which, by this point was already legendary) and the stunning Majora’s Mask, Nintendo would have to pull something really, really special in order to bring fans over from the N64 to their new Gamecube. They showed off a demo of a realistic Link and Ganondorf fighting in 2001. It looked amazing graphically, we might have the realistic gritty Zelda, we’d imagined since OoT. Next year though, Nintendo shocked the world. Link was wandering around in a cel-shaded cartoon like game. Hang on…the fans realised. They were not happy.

The Wind Waker’s graphical style still has it’s haters, 6 years after release, but  that’s what makes it nigh on perfect. The presentation is flawless, Link, now back to being a 12 year old, is more human than ever before, he laughs, he cries, he winces in pain. And not to mention, the story is possibly the most beautiful epic story in the series.

Link lives on Outset Island with his sister and Grandma. When they reach a certain age, kids have to dress in a green tunic to respect the ancient hero of time (Link from OoT) for a day, during this day, Link’s sister is kidnapped by a giant bird and taken to Forsaken Fortress, far far away in the Great Sea. Link, with the help of a pirate called Tetra go off to rescue her (it fails) and Link ends up with a talking boat on another island completely.

What follows is an epic adventure. It’s a ripping sea faring tale of legends, strange tribes, pirates and princess’s and when you find out it’s all related to Ocarina Of Time (Ganondorf shows up about half-way through the game as the main antagonist) and you travel to Hyrule, deep beneath the waves, you feel a part of your childhood playing OoT reborn, you’re hit with nostalgia.

Let’s talk about the sea. The sea is split into squares on your map. On each of these squares is an island, each one unique and containing either a town, a cave or interesting stuff. Each one is essential if you want to complete the game 100% which is an impossibility compared to Ocarina Of Time. Now, being on the sea, you can go treasure hunting if you have the correct sea map, which is a fun little past-time. Be aware of giant Octo’s though…

Obviously, you can only go in the direction the wind faces, but you can’t control the wind, right? Wrong. Link is given The Wind Waker, a baton that controls the winds direction when you play the right tune, in a similar way to the titular Ocarina from it’s spiritual prequel. This obviously make sea-faring a lot faster.

Let’s discuss the islands, as you spend a lot of time there. Each Island has their own feel and personality, from the dark and broody Forsaken Fortress, to the homely Outset Island to the spiritual Forest Haven. Each one bursting full of life, and thanks to the graphics, feel like an utter delight. I’ve probably raved about the graphics already, but they’re just so good, so beautiful and so fun, I feel I could discuss them for hours. They are an absolute joy. They really immerse you in the characters and as the game gets darker, they suit it right down to a tee.

Ah yes, darkness. Zelda games are used to this running theme. From the end of Ocarina Of Time, when you climb up Ganon’s castle stairs, whilst his organ music gets louder, to Majora’s Mask’s moon. The end of this game is dark. And set’s up the most epic fight I’ve ever seen. It’s you and Zelda on the roof of Ganon’s castle, fighting Ganondorf sword to sword, whilst Hyrule below fills up with water, finally dying. It’s truly an incredible sight.

The music is also utterly incredible. It’s all celtic themed (until the end of the game) and suits the sea faring well. You never get bored of the Ocean theme and the bouncy Windfall Island theme. Also, when you fight an enemy, the music is timed perfectly when you strike them, it add’s an aura of interactivity. Not to mention the opening theme and the credits theme are perfect pieces of music. In every way.

So, there you go, The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker is my favourite game of the decade, no, of all time. why? Because it’s immersive. You fall in love with the world and the graphics, it’s like a living Studio Ghibli cartoon. Each character has a personality and is unique, there’s no duplicates. From the sassy Tetra, (Tetra/Zelda in this game is the best incarnation of the character, bar none) to the rebellious bumblebee gang, you’ll never hate a single character, even Ganondorf, who despite his evilness, is quite possibly insane here. And when the final battle ends, Link is sent back to the surface and Hyrule dies along with it’s king, you feel that it’s the end of the series (I sometimes wish that Phantom Hourglass never happened) and what a fitting end, the best game ever.


4 responses to “Top 5 video games of the decade

  1. san diego audio video 30/12/2009 at 20:26

    WOw, I love that, I myself spend most of the vacation on TV and PS3, and video games, have no much freinds

  2. aaron anderson 13/03/2010 at 15:14

    My list would’ve probably included Conker’s BFD, which I’m a big fan of.
    Otherwise it’s a pretty great line-up, glad to see Mother 3 is on there, I haven’t had the chance to play Eternal Darkness but I’m sure it’s cheap enough to pick up along the way.

  3. alexisnotroll 13/03/2010 at 22:02

    It’s cheap, but it’s not easy to come by, bizarrely the games that don’t sell never are… Also, I did really have a tough desicion regarding putting Conkers Bad Fur Day on the list. I think the game is amazing but let down by unforgiving difficulty.

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