Category Archives: 1998

Podcast 19: Resident Evil 2 (#92)

Format: Playstation Genre: Survival Horror Released: 1998 Developer: Capcom

It’s been quite a journey for this podcast. Way back in early 2008, right at the very beginning of the blog, Ian decided he was going to write a post about a Resident Evil game. Problem was he couldn’t decide which one. Do you go with the original? Or Resident Evil 2, the game of the series he probably played the most? What about Resident Evil 4? Arguably the best of the series… Although saying that Resident Evil 3 has its moments as well.

Welcome to Raccoon City!

So rather than make a decision Ian did what he has done so many times with this blog. He didn’t bother. Flash forward to early 2011 and there are less than 10 posts left to do. Time is running out so he knuckles down and chooses Resident Evil 2. Ian finds it difficult to write though. What’s his ‘hook’? Can he restrict himself to just talking about Resident Evil 2? What can he say that’s not been said a thousand times before? So, again, he doesn’t bother starting. Eventually Lewis suggests ‘Let’s just do it as a podcast’.

I don't care what people say, anything called 'Licker' must be friendly.

So welcome to the 19th 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better podcast. A testament to Ian’s laziness and Lewis’s limitless patience. Enjoy!

Click below to listen directly through this site:

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Podcast 19 Resident Evil 2

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Oh, and before we go here’s a clip from ‘Spaced’. Other than the cheap speed and the fact the bean bag was green not blue, this is pretty much Ian at University.

Ian & Lewis

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Filed under 1998, Capcom, Playstation, Podcast, Survival Horror

#73: Gran Turismo

Format: Playstation Genre: Racing Released: 1998 Developer: Polyphony Digital

Last month, after a year of carefully preparing the case for why we should upgrade to high definition, I finally persuaded my girlfriend that we definitely,  definitely needed an HDTV. She was a little sceptical at first, but after we’d watched a couple of World Cup matches in glorious HD she agreed that the new telly was a huge improvement over our old (nay, ancient) 32-inch CRT TV (which incidentally was so heavy that it bent the shelf we had it on).

However, it was only when I connected up my Xbox 360 to our spangly new TV that this welcome new addition to our flat began to show its true colours. Flipping over the settings on my Xbox from standard definition to 1080p was an absolute revelation – I swear a chorus of angels struck up outside the window as heavenly light played across the screen and angelic trumpets heralded the dawn of a new era. It was like the scales had fallen from my eyes and I was seeing the true colours of the world for the first time. All those fuzzy edges I’d taken for granted suddenly disappeared, to be replaced by an image as crisp as a freshly pressed shirt manufactured by Walker’s. Truly, ’twas an awesome sight.

I experienced a similar revelation when I played Gran Turismo for the first time: I’d already been wowed by Ridge Racer and its ilk, but GT was in a class all of its own. At the time, I remember watching the GT replays with my jaw on the floor, astonished that the innocent little grey box under my telly was pumping out photo-realistic graphics that were barely distinguishable from watching racing IN REAL LIFE. Of course, a quick glance at the screenshot above proves that this clearly isn’t the case, but at the time it was simply amazing, and leaps and bounds ahead of anything else out there.

I’ve never been a huge fan of driving games, but I was absolutely hooked on Gran Turismo, and the ability to collect cars and tune them up was the clincher. In fact, GT was more like an RPG in which hunting for rare swords was replaced by hunting for rare cars, experience and levelling up was replaced by tuning engines, and grinding through low-level enemies was replaced by grinding through the lower circuits. Looking back, it feels like about half of my time playing GT was spent on those first few circuits, completing the same courses again and again to raise enough money for some new addition to my favourite car. But somehow it was still fun.

What I loved about the tuning system was that the modifications you made had a real effect on the way the car drove, and it was easily possible to overtune a car to the extent that it was practically undriveable. I remember one time I tuned my beloved Subaru Impreza to the point where the acceleration was so quick and the suspension was so stiff that it took off every time it went over the slightest bump, which meant I spent most of my laps ricocheting off cliff faces and ripping through grass, whooping like an American GI dishing out nylons and chewing gum to sexually repressed British housewives. And I don’t whoop very often, so this game was definitely doing something right.

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.gamefaqs.com.)

2 Comments

Filed under 1998, Playstation, Polyphony Digital, Racing

#72: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Format: Nintendo 64 Genre: RPG Released: 1998 Developer: Nintendo

I could probably write an entire book listing all of the reasons why this is one of the best games (if not THE best game) ever made. However, I expect you’re one of the 7.6 million people who bought Ocarina of Time the first time around, so I needn’t bore you by listing things you already know. (And if you haven’t played it yet, what the hell’s wrong with you?)

Having said all that, it’s going to take all of my willpower to restrain myself from gushing pages of half-formed sentiment and multilayered superlatives, such is the impact this game had on me. Bear with me, and I will stoically try not to sound like a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl who’s just seen her first boyband concert.

Long before Ocarina of Time was released, I remember hungrily devouring the first news about a new Zelda game for the N64 – and like most people, my first thought was: “What the hell’s an ocarina?” Of course, back in the 1990s I didn’t have Wikipedia to pump for information like some kind of coin-flipping, roll-up-smoking, police-informant cliché, so I’m not sure how I found out. There’s a strong chance that I may have even looked it up in a book. Now there’s an odd thought.

Brilliant, I found an ocarina! So... what's an ocarina then?

However I found out, I knew I wanted one immediately, but it wasn’t until I lived in Japan many years later that I achieved my goal of owning one of these mystical instruments. Sadly, the reality wasn’t quite as exciting as the game led me to believe. Playing my ocarina didn’t turn day into night or summon a horse to carry me across the plains of Hyrule, it just made a noise like a broken recorder. Although having said that, is it possible to tell a broken recorder apart from a non-broken one? If my memories of primary school band practice are anything to go by, recorders sound bloody awful whether they’re broken or not.

Of course, I didn’t really expect my ocarina to be magical, but the fact that I went out and bought one many years after playing this game shows just how much of an effect Ocarina of Time had on me (and a lot of other people too – famously, ocarina sales skyrocketed after this game was released).

Good old Epona - there's nothing quite like riding a video-game horse.

In terms of the actual game, whenever I think about Ocarina of Time the same image always sticks out in my mind – riding Epona (Link’s horse) across Hyrule Field. There was something really magical about being able to gallop across the entire game world – it gave me a sense of freedom that I’d never experienced before in a video game. Giving Link a horse was a stroke of genius: suddenly, getting from A to B was as much fun as actually arriving at B. In fact, often I’d be having so much fun just riding around and exploring that I’d forget about going to B entirely and end up stopping off at C before finding some kind of secret passage that led me to D, and before I knew it several hours would have gone by, my horse would be knackered and I’d be galloping towards Z and wondering where to go next.

There should definitely be more horses in video games, they’re so much more entertaining than cars. I mean, look at Shadow of the Colossus and Assassin’s Creed – some of the best bits involved galloping around on horseback, smiting your enemies.

Of course, the irony is that in real life I hate horses.

Anyway, like I said, Epona is one of the major reasons why Ocarina of Time is the wonderful game it is. Just have a look at the opening sequence above (make sure you have the sound turned up for the moody scene-setting music). Doesn’t it send shivers down your spine? I love that image of Link riding across the hills – there’s a sense of majesty that’s diametrically opposed to the cheap cinema thrills that are offered up by so many other video games. It’s like the game’s saying: “Yeah, we could show you lots of explosions and sword fights and that on the opening screen, but we’re better than that. We’re going to show you a horse galloping across a field, and you’re going to feel a sense of wonderment. Because that’s what we do.

Fishing has never been so much fun.

Right, let’s leave off horses for the time being and talk about something more interesting – fishing.

The amazing thing about Ocarina of Time is just how much effort and polish has gone into every last nook and cranny of the game, from individual lines of dialogue to the many varied and interesting subquests – including the addictive fishing minigame. It’s a mark of the game’s quality that even something as seemingly throwaway as a fishing subgame had so much thought and effort put into it that it could probably have been released as a game by itself. (I was going to make a terrible pun about it getting me “totally hooked” there, but I managed to pull back from the brink at the last moment.)

(Actually, I just realised I made exactly the same joke in the post on Sega Bass Fishing, so not only would it have been a terrible pun, it would have been repetitive too. Phew, that was a close one.)

See? It's not all just horses and fishing.

It’s not just the polish that makes the game stand out though – it’s the innovation. The rumble pak functionality for example – Nintendo had only released the rumble pak the previous year, and Ocarina of Time was the first game to truly use it to its full potential (the pad would vibrate if you were near treasure or if you got a bite in the fishing game). Then there’s Z-targeting, which allowed you to lock onto enemies in fights and circle around them – this concept was so radical and intuitive that it’s made its way into hundreds of 3D games since 1998, but it cropped up in Ocarina of Time first. And what about the day/night cycle? That was pretty damn clever too, and way ahead of its time.

As I said at the beginning, I could write a book about how fantastic this game is, but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. Instead, just have a look at the video below and remember how this game changed the gaming landscape forever.

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.gamefaqs.com/)

6 Comments

Filed under 1998, Nintendo, Nintendo 64, RPG

#62: Bushido Blade

Format: Playstation Genre: Fighting Released: 1998 Developer: Light Weight

Playing Bushido Blade for the first time was a very frustrating experience indeed. Your first instinct, as with any fighting game, is just to rush at your opponent, whacking all the buttons in the hope they might fall over. Although this strategy is usually fairly successful in games like Soul Calibur, in Bushido Blade it will get you killed in about three seconds.

Bushido Blade isn’t like other fighting games. There’s no health bar, no time limit and being hit full force with a sword has roughly the same effect as it would in real life – i.e. you die immediately. If you’re lucky, your opponent might only give you a non-fatal wound to an arm or leg, but this is likely to mean that limb will become unuseable. One time, when I was playing against a friend, my character was reduced to shuffling around on the floor, all four limbs rendered useless – it was a bit like that bit with the Black Knight in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, only with samurais and fewer jokes (although with plenty of annoying sniggers emanating from my boastful opponent).

Chopping down the bamboo was fun. Must have been ghost bamboo though, because it disappeared as soon as it fell over.

Fights in Bushido Blade were cautious, strategic affairs – the fact that you could die so easily meant that the onus was on defence rather than attack, and you’d often find yourself stealthily circling your foe, waiting for them to make a move and leave themselves open to attack. Using the environment to your advantage was also key – the open 3D levels were enormous and offered huge scope for various ways of attacking. Luring a quick opponent onto a narrow wooden bridge was a often good way to gain an advantage for a slower character with a heavy weapon, and likewise the quicker characters performed better in the open. Like in Monty Python, running away was often the best strategy.

The player on the right is in a bit of trouble here. A critical blow to the legs means you're reduced to crawling around.

Graphically the game really wasn’t up to much – the character models and environments are bland and blocky, but as my mum always says, it’s what’s underneath that counts. Underneath, Bushido Blade is one of the most revolutionary and unique fighting games ever created, and it’s just crying out for a modern update.

Lewis

(Screenshots from www.eurogamer.net)

2 Comments

Filed under 1998, Fighting, Light Weight, Playstation