Foundation: Episode II - The Top 25 Square Games
By Kevin Leung, July 27th, 2002
If you make only one 8-bit pilgrimage to Final Fantasy it should be this one. Indeed, the franchise owes a great deal to Final Fantasy III for many of the core concepts and trademarks that we've come to love. Its laundry list of innovations reads like some kind of digital doctrine for the modern console RPG: a versatile Job system, hidden quests, high replay value, smart dungeon design, a deep storyline, detailed graphics and music. No one could have foreseen that, years later, we would still be talking about moogles, summon monsters, and a crusty old man named Cid. Undoubtedly, Final Fantasy III earns a spot on this list. Now there's only one thing left to figure out: just what the heck is an 'Onion Kid' anyway?
Plays like: A punishing ordeal as one of the most demanding installments of the series.
Imagine a place of child-like wonder where you're neither awake nor dreaming but perhaps somewhere in between. Legend of Mana is one such splendor: a fantasy playground where storybook pages come to life and all your make-believe friends are just around the bend. As the fourth chapter of the fabled Seiken Densetsu series, the producers wanted to create something totally different from the past and introduce new concepts such as the Landmake and Action Edit system. From the order of the dialogue to the way you finished the game, everything was presented in a non-linear fashion. Whether this game succeeded or wandered too far off the beaten path is up to you. One thing is for sure, there's no short supply of cuddly rabites! Honestly, who could resist the charm of hopping play-doh?
Plays like: One-quarter Narnia, two cups Brian Froud, and a dash of The Never Ending Story.
"Legend of Mana is a game where you're free to choose what you like, and do as you like. You can make your own gear, raise your own allies, seek friends...you make the call on what to do (or not do). Truly a refreshing change of pace."
One of my favourite films of all time is the 1979 Ridley Scott classic, Alien. I find the dark congested style of cinematography to be fascinating; it's graphically motionless and morbidly quiet. The theme of the lone female (Ripley) against the dangerous predator (the Alien) still resides in our societal archetypes and Parasite Eve is no exception. Based on the novel by Hideaki Sena, the game pits Aya Brea against an invisible killer known as "Eve." Like Alien, you don't know where your enemy is hiding initially, which is the compelling nature of the beast: we as human beings are frightened by that which we cannot see. On the other hand, gruesome images of chestbursters and mutant mitochondria burrowed deep within our bodies serve as a horrific reminder that perhaps we should focus on ourselves and fear far more what is inside of us.
Plays like: Survival Horror at the cellular level.
Older gamers like myself will remember a time when side-scrolling beat-'em-ups were king. Back in the 80's, there were at least two things prevalent in pop culture: kung-fu and ninjas. Oh, how our innocent minds were easily corrupted by the likes of Battletoads, Double Dragon, and yes, even Bad Dudes (to this day, I still wonder if I'm a bad enough dude to rescue the president). So it was a major surprise when Square announced that one of their first PS2 games, The Bouncer, would be a member of that classic but frail genre. The slick presentation and explosive FMV immediately grabs you and doesn't let go. The in-game ballroom brawling is competent and reminiscent of Ehrgeiz. Although it could have used a bit more polish, The Bouncer still managed to rouse the public and capitalize on Sony's vision of producing movie-like games for the future of entertainment. Perhaps a few more shiny titles like this could revitalize the beat-'em-up action games that once had such a knock out punch on the industry.
Plays like: Final Fight Fantasy.
Game writers must resist the urge of being bias towards one particular game. There are times when we must exercise complete impartiality and act with proper professionalism.
This ain't one of those times.
I LOVE Seiken Densetsu 3!! Always have, always will. Translated as 'Legend of the Holy Sword 3' but regarded in the west as 'Secret of Mana 2,' it is the sequel which we were robbed of. The fact of the matter is that this game should have been released in North America. I'm quite certain I wasn't the only one outraged after learning it was passed over in favour of the lesser Secret of Evermore. Let me propose a theory to you: had Seiken Densetsu 3 been released domestically, it might very well have shared the 16-bit throne with other RPG contemporaries of its day. And why not? Six delightful heroes to choose from, beautiful graphics overflowing with colour and detail, precious music, over the top action that makes The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past look like Barney & Friends, multiple story paths/endings, the sheer joy of playing with not just one but two of your friends, lots of huggable rabites...it's all here for you to taste like ripe fruit from the gods. I pray that Square will make amends and give us a portable version of Seiken Densetsu 3 for the GameBoy Advance - a whole new generation of gamers deserve it.
Plays like: Heaven in a cartridge.
"Seiken Densetsu 3 pushes the SNES to its limits; this game puts most PlayStation games to shame. It is also one of the all-time gameplay gods featuring one of the only successful multiple-character real-time battle systems. With a marvelous plot and a unique storyline system, Seiken Densetsu 3 features replayability and gameplay brilliance taken to its furthest."
Squaresoft Hidden Gems:
Rudra No Hihou
Do you enjoy experimenting with magic to produce unexpected results? Do you have a working knowledge of katakana? Rudra No Hihou may be for you. Rarely ever spoken of, information about this forgotten Super Famicom RPG is buried beneath the archives of Google as 'Rudra's Treasure.' Every 4000 years, the malicious Rudra appears on the planet to perform genocide on the dominating race. He will eradicate them in order to maintain balance in the natural order of things. For humans their time is coming and sixteen days remain before Rudra will appear once again. Players will embark on multiple scenarios and build up their magic arsenal before battling the god. However, you don't learn or purchase your spells: you create them with words. By making combinations of Japanese characters, you might achieve the destructive flames of 'Inferno' or harness the flooding power of 'Tsunami.' Those who enjoyed Kartia: The Word of Fate by Atlus will feel right at home as the magic system of both games are similar in design.
To Be Continued...
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