|Since most of us got into video games when we were kids, there will always be a childlike splendor attached to the pastime. Let's face it - part of the reason why so many of us are fond of the NES is because it reminds us of a simpler time when the biggest problem we faced was the mountain of homework from Mrs. Lakes every day. So a game that gets the fundamentals right and adds some of that childhood whimsy to boot is going to score some massive bonus points.
I loved Dodge Ball as a kid. The elements of schoolyard Darwinism were in full force when this game was played; either you were a cunning predator, an evasive prey, or a sitting duck. And while the NES rendition of this game understandably lacks the "thundering herd" aspect of the game, it more than makes up for it with a bevy of ultra throws, countless facial expressions, and a peppy soundtrack. When you plug this game into your console, you know for sure that you're in for an extremely fun time.
I'm having some difficulty putting into words just what this game means to me. That's because this game transcends the typical boundaries of a simple rating from 1 to 10. There's just a sense of magic involved in playing this game that is hard to describe. Most of the things that you could rank on a scale are done quite well, to be sure, but it's almost as if the game is exempt from any concrete ranking system. The game even has a couple hang-ups - graphical breakup and no real plot - and yet it still manages to be one of the best video games I've played.
There really hasn't been a game quite like Super Dodge Ball since. No one title has managed to capture such a vivid representation of the schoolyard game, and while it is somewhat sad that this is the case, you have expect that they can only catch lightning in a bottle once.
#2: Mega Man 2
Have you ever had one of those times where you have a new game in hand, plug it into the console for the first time, and know within minutes that you've just discovered a game that will endure for years as one of the best on the system? Well, that's exactly the feeling I had when I played Mega Man 2 for the first time. Arguably the most popular Mega Man game on the NES, it's far and away the best game on the console - and I knew it right from the start.
Few games brought more to the table than the Mega Man series. There were so many features and conventions that you'd never seen in any other soldier shooter. From the acquisition of weapons from former enemies, to a non-linear itinerary that let you decide which level to tackle when, to the now-traditional drop down a vertical shaft lined with fatal spikes, Capcom took many of the common elements of the genre and either changed them to their own liking or disposed of them entirely. Heck, even the password was formatted in a new and interesting way now.
So why is it that the second game in the series is so much better than the others? Well, to be honest, it was the last game of the series that didn't take anything for granted. From the graphics, to the music, to the variable challenge to the ending, you knew that this game wasn't holding anything back. Later installments were quite self-aware and were more about the frills than the substance (although in most cases the latter didn't have any egregious flaws). Mega Man 2 wasn't worried about whether or not a certain aspect of the game fit into the series' mold, because at the time, the series was still in a formative state.
There's little argument that the Mega Man series is one of the most successful and influential series in video game history. There's also not a whole lot of debate about which game of the six released on the NES is best. But there is discussion about where this game falls in terms of the big picture. As far as I'm concerned, Mega Man 2 surpasses all other NES games in my collection, and almost takes the crown for the best game, period. In fact, it held that title for several years. Then the current #1 game was released.
|#1: Final Fantasy III
|There seems to be an element of fanboyism involved with lauding Final Fantasy games. Unless you take the time to really give the series an honest look, you'll often be accused of riding the bandwagon if you claim that the series is better than any other RPG out there. I will admit, I haven't played any games in the Phantasy Star series, or Lunar, or Harvest Moon, or the other series that those who are bashing the FF fanboys like to trot out as a rebuttal. However, I almost get the sense that in the end, it wouldn't matter. In order for any of those games to oust Final Fantasy III from its throne of superiority, they would have be almost literally perfect in every way. Final Fantasy III is so well-designed, so well-programmed, so well-drawn, well-composed and well-written, it would be just about impossible for any one game to overcome it.
You'll forgive me if this hardly comes as a surprise to those who know my tastes in video games. Ever since I've been reviewing them, I've never been silent in professing my adoration for this game. When I see other critics give the game even average scores, I'm ready to fight on its behalf. Whenever there's a discussion on the series, I let everyone know immediately where I stand, as if they didn't already know. If that's fanboyism, then so be it, but I have never met anyone who's been able to convince me that this game is any less spectacular than I believed when I first played through it.
So why exactly do I think that Final Fantasy III is the best game of them all? The graphics are drawn with an enormous attention to detail and exploiting the Super NES' wide array of colors. The music fits the mood perfectly in every setting, with over 60 different themes giving the game a variety that's hard to find in other games. All 12 major characters all look, act, speak, and feel like they're completely individual of each other, a phenomenon that's made only stronger when the game switches from Balance to Ruin and replaces the emphasis of fighting the Empire with developing each and every character you have to retrieve. It's equally accomodating to those who wish for an uphill battle as it is to those who want to coast their way into the finish line. It has the single best ending I've ever seen in a video game; 20 minutes that combine emotion and elation into one beautiful package.
I've been playing video games for 20 years. During that span of time I've gone from the red and blue blobs of Combat, up to the side-scrolling adventures of Super Mario Bros. After that, it was outward exploration with Link to the Past and nowadays I'm getting my daily workout from Dance Dance Revolution. But none of them, not a single game out there, has impressed me so much that it deserves the top spot in my countdown of greatest video games than Final Fantasy III.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's about time I started a new game.