Saturday, May 29, 2010

Diversion: My Favorite Video Games

I'll get back to my Feminism in Animation series as soon as school's done raking me over the coals for a bit. Just to prove I'm not actually dead or something, here's a quick list of video games I like enough to play more than once. I'm hardly a gamer, but I do blow off a considerable amount of steam with my old standards here.

1. Katamari Damacy

This and its sequel, We Love Katamari, are not only fun and inventive, but addictive enough to play over and over. I've been playing one or the other of these games for probably about four years now and they're still fun. It's a little hard to describe what the point of the game is, since it's so bizarre you basically have to play it to understand. Basically, you are a tiny little green alien prince, and your dad's the King of All Cosmos. You'd barely fill his codpiece, and he never misses an opportunity to tell you what a huge (ha ha) disappointment you are, even when you're working your butt off to clean up his mess. It seems one night, dear ol' dad went on a bender and smashed up everything in the galaxy, and now its your job to make new stuff to replace it. How does one go about making new stars, constellations and planets, you ask? Why, take a little sticky ball called a katamari down to Earth and use it to roll up anything you can find until it's big enough, then shoot it into the sky. You roll up everything from bugs and thumbtacks to people, houses, and even continents. Naturally there's a time limit you have to beat, and even if you win the level, chances are high your katamari won't meet the King's standards and he'll give you some backhanded compliment about how he would have done it better. If you lose... you don't want to lose. Let's just put it that way. So really, the game's supposedly about rolling a bunch of weird stuff up into a ball to make a star, but really it's all about father-son bonding and family strife, mixed up with some really fun gameplay and some catchy Japanese pop/rock music. (Yeah, I know there's more of these games out there but I haven't played them yet.)

2. Okami


To list all the reasons I love this game would take me too long, so here's just the highlights. For starters, it's gorgeous. I love the stylized design for the characters, and the sumi-e look they gave everything, and some of the effects are just fantastic. Secondly, I love the inventive gameplay. Not only do you control a character in the game, but you can also control the elements as the wielder of a divine ink brush that literally draws the wind blowing or the trees blooming. Not to be left out, I love the story. It's like a giant mash-up of some of Japan's best-known folklore, and even though many of the stories have been tweaked with, it's still a lot of fun to have that moment of recognition when you figure out who a character is or what story you're involved in. It's deceivingly epic, too-- just when you think you've finished the game, you figure out you're not even halfway done with it. The premise is fairly simple: you are the sun goddess Amaterasu, on Earth in the avatar form of a white wolf in order to stop the rampaging evil that's been unleashed on Japan. You travel around smiting demons, helping villagers, solving puzzles, restoring dead trees and sacred pools, and regaining your power over nature by relearning divine brush techniques. You complete loads of mini-quests during your big one, and travel from one end of Japan to the other, encountering all sorts of people and animals along the way. It's incredibly addicting and tons of fun to play, or even just to watch. I only have it on the PS2, but I've heard the Wii version is pretty fun, too. I've also heard there's a sequel coming out for the DS, so I'm excited about that.

3. The Legend of Zelda

I'm not sure how many times I've beat this game, but it's quite a few. Yeah, I'm talking the original Nintendo, 8-bit graphics version. I don't know what it is about this game I like so much, but I find it tons of fun. I haven't played any of the other Zelda games, though I know people that like some of them quite a bit, so maybe I'll get around to it someday. For now, this one's satisfying enough for me. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the good ol' days when this was the height of video game technology, but I never played this game much back when it was new. Maybe I'm just tickled that Zelda's named after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a simple adventure story. Can't really put my finger on why I like this one so much, but I do anyway.

4. Space Invaders

Now this game was a huge part of my childhood. My brother had an Atari system and a bunch of games for it, and this was the one I played the most. Followed closely by some shooting game that had over 20 different styles of games that you'd go through and select, and I discovered I was really good at one of them (edit: I believe this game was known as Tank Plus). But that wasn't this game. This game, in all its simplicity, was the first game I can remember getting a callus from playing so much. Part of it was my desire to outdo my brother's old scores, but part of it was I just liked playing the game. There's something so ingeniously simple about it, and all these old games, that still makes them fun to play even with their primitive graphics. Like the developers were more concerned with stuff like making the game fun and not how realistic they could make it look. Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.

5. Lots of Games on the Atari 2600 I Never Played but that Have Awesome Names

I never played Tapeworm, but can only imagine what the plot of that was. Or Tax Avoiders, which seems to be a little human figure trying to gather money while avoiding what appear to be snakes, what might be either a spider or a large asterisk, and what I'm assuming is the tax man. I can't really tell, though. Plaque Attack looks like a similar idea to Space Invaders, only instead of a cannon, you're a tube of toothpaste defending two rows of teeth from floating junk food. has tons of these old games listed and I have to assume that they're probably more fun to imagine than they were to actually play, but you never know.

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