My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Sonic Unleashed’

I’ll never forget how excited I was during the lead up to the November 2008 release of Sonic Unleashed, my all time favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game. The initial teaser trailer featuring the hedgehog whistling and twirling a gold ring around his finger caught my interest, but it’s the trailer that debuted at that year’s E3 convention that really sold me on the game.

Sonic was always known for being the fastest thing alive, and Sonic Unleashed is a game that truly lived up to that title. I had never seen Sonic move at such absurd speeds, and my little 8th grade mind would watch that trailer over and over again until I finally got the game for myself the following Christmas, along with a brand new Playstation 3.

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Sonic Unleashed is my favorite Sonic game for a multitude of reasons, many of which have to do with just how ambitious the game was. To this day, it is still the most visually impressive Sonic game ever released, as well as the best use of the innovative technology afforded to Sega and Sonic Team courtesy of the custom built Hedgehog Engine.

This also extends to the computer animation done by Marza Animation Planet. The opening that they did for Unleashed will likely always be my favorite Sonic the Hedgehog cutscene, and seeing it always makes me wish for a fully animated Sonic movie (it also gives me some serious Toy Story 2 opening vibes).

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Speaking of which, Marza did actually get the opportunity to make an animated short film based on the game, aptly titled Night of the Werehog. It’s a cute little short, and I go back and watch it from time to time just to enjoy the animation.

The entire premise of Unleashed is Sonic and his new friend Chip embarking on a globe-trotting adventure to solve a planet sized jigsaw puzzle created by Eggman. Each level in the game is based on a real world location, and the music is appropriately composed to include instruments and sounds from each continent.

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Sonic Unleashed isn’t my absolute favorite Sonic soundtrack, but it’s definitely up there. The music is so catchy and varied, and every song goes a long way towards making each new place you visit feel unique.

Sonic Unleashed is the game that set a new standard for storytelling in Sonic games. It really feels like there was a lot of thought and effort put into the narrative, and tone wise, it feels very appropriate for the franchise. The game also featured one of Jason Griffith’s best performances as Sonic, and he remains my favorite voice for the hedgehog.

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Gameplay is what really makes or breaks a video game in most cases, and that is absolutely true of Sonic Unleashed. Just to get this out of the way, no, I’m not really bothered that much by the Werehog. While I do think it was a bad inclusion, his gameplay was largely inoffensive to me, outside of his stage length, and that’s about all I have to say on the matter.

The game’s biggest selling point is the new boost gameplay for 3d Sonic, which debuted in Sonic Rush three year prior. The two original Sonic Adventure games tried their best to bring Sonic and his friends into the third dimension, and in many ways, they succeeded. However, there were a few things that they never really nailed, and this held them back from being truly regarded as excellent 3d platformers.

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Sonic Unleashed’s solution to this problem is to essentially strip Sonic of being a platformer almost entirely. The worst parts of even the classic Sonic games were when they tried to be more like traditional platformers, and this problem was present and even exacerbated for the 3d entries in the series.

The classic games were all about earning your speed. Mastering the game’s controls and mechanics, as well as the Sonic franchise’s unique momentum based pinball physics would reward the player with incredible moments of speed.

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Sonic Unleashed takes the concept of speed as a reward, and applies it in a brand new way. Sonic’s boost ability rockets him to top speed in an instant, but the challenge this time around is being able to keep that speed for the duration of the level.

Sonic Unleashed manifests itself like a racing game, and to borrow a term from TSSZ writer BlazeHedgehog, it feels like a “racing platformer”, right down to Sonic’s secondary abilities such as the drift and quick step.

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Levels are littered with obstacles to stop Sonic dead in his tracks. Enemies, fire traps, spikes, springs that misdirect you, quick step challenges, having to drift around tight corners, all of these things and more keep the player engaged as they attempt to flawlessly dash through the beautiful locales the game has to offer.

The game perfectly nails the arcade-y feel that Sega is known for. I love chasing high scores and attempting to beat my own best times, and doing it in Sonic Unleashed feels so darn satisfying.

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I actually believe that Sonic Generations is, overall, a better game than Sonic Unleashed, as well as the right direction for the Modern Sonic boost gameplay style. It improves Sonic’s control, adds in platforming challenges that mesh well with the high speed gameplay and scales back on the difficulty present in Unleashed.

Having said that, Sonic Unleashed is my prefered game almost entirely because of the higher difficulty. It’s a game that forces you to master its mechanics if you want to have any real fun, and though this may be offputting to many players, it really appeals to someone like me.

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I love that feeling of getting your teeth kicked in by a level on your first time playing, only to return to it later on with a better grasp on how to play. This makes Unleashed a deeply rewarding game to play, and is the main reason why I still enjoy it almost a decade later.

Sonic Unleashed is a flawed game, and of that there is no doubt, but the high points of the game are some of the most fun I’ve ever had in any video game. Every inch of this game feels like it was made by people who wanted to make it, who wanted to make a revolutionary Sonic the Hedgehog game, and I can’t commend Sonic Team enough for this.

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No matter what bad times the series may go through, and even if I never get to play an amazing 3d Sonic game ever again, I’ll always be able to pick up Sonic Unleashed and have a great time. I’ve been playing it for nearly a decade, and I hope to play it for many more years to come.

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My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario World’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Super Mario World’

Few things remind me of my childhood the way that the Super Nintendo does. It was the first video game console that I ever owned, and went hand in hand with Sonic the Hedgehog in creating the gamer that is writing this essay today.

I spent a ton of time playing the Super Nintendo with my two older cousins, and we would spend hours and hours passing the controller while indulging in games like Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, Family Feud, Turtles in Time and Super Play Action Football.

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There are dozens of games I love on the Super Nintendo, but no title is closer to my heart than what I personally consider to be the greatest video game of all time, Super Mario World.

This game is essentially perfect. Mario is an absolute dream to control, with Yoshi and the cape feather being fantastic additions to his moveset. Level design is tight, and home to tons of pipes and secret exits, and I especially love the design of the castles.

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I could gush for hours on end about what makes this game so special. The way that Mario’s hat bounces as he jumps is such a small, but nice little detail, and the sprite work as a whole is phenomenal. And the soundtrack, oh man the soundtrack. It may lack the variety seen in other Mario games, but every tune is super nostalgic for me.

More so than just about any other game, Super Mario World reminds me of what it was like to play games as a kid. There were no internet guides, and I wasn’t old enough to have the knowledge about game design that I do now. Back then it was just me and my cousins against the game, and it was up to us to figure out all of its inner workings.

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I’ll never forget struggling to overcome Larry’s castle. I’ll never forget when we finally made our way out of the Forest of Illusions, and I’ll especially never forget the first time I ever saw the final confrontation with Bowser.

As much as I love this game, even I’m surprised at just how much I’ve remembered about it over the years. I’ve been replaying it on the Super Nintendo Classic, and I made it to the Forest of Illusion with every secret path and exit unlocked with zero problems.

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Everything about playing the game just feels right to me. I know exactly how Mario and Yoshi are going to respond to my inputs, I know exactly how far the momentum in my jumps is going to carry me, and I definitely know how to abuse the cape feather for flying through levels.

Aside from the memories I have of Super Mario World with my cousins, I also have fond memories of playing the game with some of my best friends. One weird thing I’ve noticed with me and Mario games is the fact that all of my favorites are the ones I’ve played with other people.

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A few years back, my friend Lucas and I pulled an all nighter beating Super Mario World, as I believe he had never fully beaten the game. An even shorter time ago, my friend Jesse and I opted to stay up all night beating Super Mario Galaxy, instead of studying for our college final exams like we had originally intended to do (we still passed though).

There isn’t anything I don’t love about Super Mario World. It’s perfect in just about every sense of the word, and is a title that every gamer should play at least once. I probably wouldn’t love games the way I did if it weren’t for Super Mario World and numerous other Super Nintendo games, and that console will always be very near and dear to my heart.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Persona 4 Golden’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Persona 4 Golden’

When I originally bought my Playstation Vita back in 2015,  I was already well aware of many of the most highly recommended games. Danganronpa, Freedom Wars and Dragon’s Crown were amongst their ranks, but no game had higher praise than Persona 4 Golden.

Before I first played Persona 4 Golden, my experience with the franchise was extremely limited. I remember seeing gameplay clips of Persona 3 on G4’s X-Play back in the day, and beyond, that my only experience with the games was from two of my best friends.

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They had both become huge fans of Persona 4 in the few years prior, with one of them also falling in love with Persona 3. As such, I had a fairly decent overview of what the Persona games were all about. I would often listen to them gush about how great the games were, or even watch them play through bits of it. Fast forward to a PSN flash sale in 2015, and I’m suddenly playing Persona 4 Golden for myself.

It actually took me quite a few hours to really get into the game. The opening felt a bit too lengthy for me at the time, but in retrospect, I know that this was a necessary step. It does a great job of setting up the story, world and characters, so that the main narrative doesn’t have to waste time once it gets going.

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I can’t exactly remember at what point in the game things finally started to click for me, but I do remember being absolutely enamored with just about everything it had to offer. Persona 4 Golden is equal parts dungeon crawling, turn based jrpg, and high school life simulator. At times you’ll be grinding shadows to prepare for the next boss encounter, while at others you’ll be getting in one more study session before your exams.

What makes Persona 4 Golden so special is that both halves of the game are engaging. The combat system is a fairly standard turn based affair, with the key to victory being exploiting enemy weak points. The variety comes in the form of choosing which Personas you take into battle, as well as being able to adapt to different situations on the fly.

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Many people would argue that the high school life is the best part of the game. I already mentioned studying for exams, and I couldn’t be more serious about that. Persona 4 Golden made me stress about getting good grades more than I ever have in real life. Outside of academics, you can also take part in extracurricular school activities, and develop your bonds with your friends.

Persona 4 Golden has a mechanic known as social links. Essentially, there are a number of characters that you can form a special bond with in the game, and take part in their personal story arc, and doing so with your party members actually helps with their skills in combat.

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Persona 4 Golden has a really strong narrative, but what makes me truly love the game is the cast of characters, more specifically, your party members. Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Rise, Naoto, Kanji and Teddie, these people didn’t feel like just video game characters to me, they felt like genuine friends.

None of them are trope-y, one note or stereotypical, they are each fully fleshed out people, each with their own dreams and sets of problems. On the surface, Yosuke feels like just a comic relief character, but he actually deals with serious issues of guilt and self doubt. Another example would be pop idol Rise, who struggles with the realities of being a celebrity. Examples like this can be given for every character, making them much more endearing and relatable.

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It’s rare that video games make me feel anything other than just the sensation of having fun, but Persona 4 Golden managed to do just that, and on multiple occasions. Hanging out at Junes with my friends was super familiar and comforting.  Going on a vacation to a ski resort, and getting snowed in with my girlfriend Chie was strangely romantic, and I adored checking in on Nanako and Dojima.

One moment that will always stick with me is Persona 4 Golden’s Inaba culture festival. As I stood with my friends and watched the fireworks illuminate the night sky, a feeling of profound sadness washed over me. I should’ve been overjoyed to be sharing such a special moment with these people, but I finally realized that my time with them would soon come to an end.

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I didn’t want to leave Inaba. I didn’t want to stop living with Nanako and Dojima. I didn’t want to stop making memories with my friends on the Investigation Team. Even as I inched closer and closer to the final boss, I just wanted time to stop so that I could enjoy my days with the people important to me.

It’s those types of moments that make Persona 4 Golden so special to me. No other game has given me the same warm feelings that this game has, and that sentiment rings especially true for the happy moments. Another one of these would be getting to visit Inaba just a few months after moving back home. 

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It was a nice surprise to see how much the crew had changed. They were still recognizable as my friends, but each of them had attained a new level of maturity and personal growth. Whether it be Naoto embracing her femininity, or Yosuke gaining the confidence to carry on, I was extremely proud of each and every one of my friends.


Just thinking about Persona 4 Golden makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Even the game’s rural setting gives me a strange sense of comfort and familiarity, and I always find myself having flashbacks to specific moments that happened in the different locales. Not only is Persona 4 Golden one of my favorite games of all time, but it is one of the best experiences I’ve had in entertainment, period.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Pokemon Emerald’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Pokemon Emerald’

This was easily the hardest entry to select for this countdown. I’ve loved the Pokemon series ever since I was a kid, but I’ve always had a hard time deciding what is the overall best game, let alone which one is my favorite. But whenever I toss and turn thinking about what Pokemon game is the most important to me, always land on Pokemon Emerald.

I technically didn’t start playing Pokemon until Pokemon Crystal, the third game in the franchise’s second generation. I was aware of Pokemon before I played Crystal, as I loved the anime and had briefly played the first generation at a friend’s house. I’ll never forget booting up Crystal for the first time, naming my rookie trainer, and starting my first journey through the Johto region with my Cyndaquil.

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So why Pokemon Emerald? It wasn’t my first game, and though I do think it is one of the best Pokemon games, I don’t think it is the absolute greatest (an honor that probably goes to Pokemon Black and White 2). The answer to that, I think, is the fact that Generation III, and Pokemon Emerald specifically, is where I became a genuine Pokemon fanatic.

Pokemon Emerald was elementary school for me, and being that I was the prime target demographic for the series, I was constantly exposed to everything Pokemon. If I wasn’t playing the games, I was watching Ash and Pikachu’s adventures in Hoenn and the Battle Frontier, reading the novelizations of anime episodes, studying my Scholastic Trainer Handbook or desperately wishing for one of the toy Pokedexes.

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Beyond my nostalgia for the time and place that I played Pokemon Emerald, I also think it’s just an amazing Pokemon experience. The Hoenn region is one of the most divisive ones in the entire series, but I personally love it. I’m a huge sucker for tropical aesthetics, and it’s a huge part of why I love films like Lilo & Stitch and Moana, as well as the sounds of island music, with a few trumpets for good measure.

The Hoenn region was able to convey the sense of exploring an island that was completely unique from Kanto and Johto. This was even exemplified by the designs of Brendan and May (the best Pokemon girl). Much like their Generation II counterparts, the Generation III duo are wearing outfits that look much more appropriate for going on an adventure.

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Generation III is notable for being a drastic shift in the Pokemon franchise. It was the first one to not be directly connected to the previous games, and the general art style changed to be a bit more exaggerated and cartoony. Generation III also introduced a number of new mechanics, with two of the more notable ones being double battles and Pokemon abilities.

Similar to Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Emerald is a game that I spent a lot of time exploring. I would spend hours scouring the region for stronger trainers to battle, new Pokemon to catch, and more the ever elusive Legendary Pokemon encounters. Speaking of which, Generation III introduced quite a few of my favorite Pokemon designs. Grovyle, Swampert, Torkoal, Manectric, Snorunt, Poochyena, I could go on and on just listing them out.

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Pokemon Emerald was also the first game to introduce the Battle Frontier. I remember thinking that the Battle Frontier was the coolest thing ever, and it didn’t help that the anime based on the area is one of my favorite Pokemon shows. When you do enough exploring, your team is eventually going to be able to effortlessly defeat even the Hoenn Champion. But the Battle Frontier provided a much greater challenge.

Each of the facilities caps your levels, and this forced me to think more critically about my movesets and team combinations. In addition, different rulesets were employed at each area. One facility forces you to battle using a selection of rental Pokemon, while another places you in a tournament against several other trainers.

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Pokemon Emerald is my favorite Pokemon game to be sure, but it also reminds me of a time that was incredibly important to me. I’ve had a lot of cool experiences because of this franchise, and that statement extends to pretty much every generation. Pokemon is a series that brings people together and makes them happy, and I’m glad that it has been a part of my life.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The World Ends With You’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The World Ends With You’

This next game is somewhat of an interesting one on this list. I don’t really have any nostalgic childhood story attached to it, it’s just kind of a game that I picked up and fell in love with. I first was exposed to The World Ends With You on G4 TV’s X-Play. They were reviewing this really cool Nintendo DS Square Enix RPG, and they gave it extremely high marks.

The World Ends With You was developed by a good portion of the team that was responsible for the early Kingdom Hearts games, and Tetsuya Nomura, the creator of Kingdom Hearts, was actually the lead character designer for the title. Square Enix wanted to make a game that would take full advantage of the Nintendo DS dual screens, which led to the game’s unique combat system.

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In The World Ends With You, players control two characters at once. On the bottom screen is Neku Sakuraba, the game’s protagonist, while the top screen is occupied by one of the other characters that Neku can team up with. Neku is primarily controlled by stylus inputs, while his partner is controlled through use of the d-pad.

Instead of more traditional weapons such as swords and spears, Neku fights using Psychs. Psychs are somewhat of a catch all title for a variety of different attacks and abilities, and each character manifests theirs through different objects. These can be a stuffed animal, a skateboard or even a cell phone, and Neku in particular summons his powers through an assortment of… pins.

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Combat is pretty fun and interesting overall, but it’s definitely not the main draw of The World Ends With You. The game’s greatest strengths are its story and exploration. The game takes place in the famous city of Shibuya, and the development team went to great lengths to present as accurate a portrayal as possible. I’ve never personally been to Shibuya, but based on my readings and research, I’d say they did a pretty good job.

I’ve recently been playing Persona 5, another game that takes place in Shibuya and I was very familiar with certain locales and landmarks such as the Scramble Crossing and the Hachiko statue. The even recruited a few Shibuya musical acts to contribute to the game’s soundtrack (which is really great stuff by the way). While they did have to make a couple of alterations, like changing Starbucks to Outback Cafe, the game seems to present a really authentic representation of one of Japan’s most famous cities.

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The city of Shibuya is also intrinsically tied to the plot of The World Ends With You. The game primarily takes place in an alternate version of Shibuya known as the Underground (UG for short). The Shibuya that exists in the the real world is simply called the Realground, or RG. The UG is the setting for the Reaper’s Game, which our protagonist Neku is a Player in.

The Reaper’s Game involves the titular Reapers tasking the players with various missions over the course of seven days, and each player must pay a unique entry fee at the game’s start. Upon winning the game, the Player is given back their entry fee, and granted one wish. I know that was quite a hefty info dump, and that’s honestly not even scratching the surface of this game’s lore, but for the sake of time and spoilers, I’m gonna cut the plot summary there.

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One of my favorite thematic elements of Kingdom Hearts is the idea that we are who we are because of the people in our lives. However, it is also important for us to strengthen our own hearts for the times that we can’t rely on other people. I’m not sure if Nomura had any hand in this game’s plot, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, because The World Ends With You takes that idea and really expands on it.

Neku Sakuraba is a 15 year old loner. He doesn’t have any real friends, as he has chosen to block out the noise of the rest of the world by wearing headphones. But Neku is forced to change his ways once he becomes wrapped up in the Reaper’s game. Each Player has to have a partner, as they are powerless without one, and also at constant risk of being immediately erased.

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It’s really hard to put Neku’s development in words without it just sounding like the generic story of a jerk who slowly opens up his heart to others, but I genuinely do believe that his journey is something special. One of the best moments in the game, and a moment that I actually took to heart for my personal life, is Neku’s conversation with Sanae Hanekoma.

Sanae runs a coffee shop in Shibuya, and serves as a mentor character to Neku over the course of the game. He says to Neku that, the world ends with you. If you want to enjoy life, expand your world. You gotta push your horizons out as far as they’ll go”. He is essentially telling Neku, who has lived his entire life pushing others away, that his world and perspective will only grow if he creates meaningful connections with others, a philosophy that is perfectly analogous to real life.

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Neku is amazing, but he obviously wouldn’t be anything without a great cast of friends. Every character is in the UG for a reason, and this reason in conjunction with their entry fee ends up greatly defining each character’s story arc. Again, it’s extremely hard to talk about any of this without spoiling the plot, but The World Ends With You has a really well rounded cast of characters, both friend and foe.

While the game doesn’t have a sequel (even though the Android and iOS port of the game teased one), Neku, Shiki, Joshua, Beat and Rhyme all appear in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3ds, making them the first characters in the franchise that didn’t hail from a Disney or Final Fantasy title. It was super cool seeing Sora and Neku interact, as the two couldn’t be any more different, and it was especially cool hearing the remixes of some of the game’s awesome tracks such as Twister and Calling.

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Before I wrap things up, I wanna give a shout out to the game’s ending song, A Lullaby For You. It was performed by a J-pop star named Jyongri, and she actually recorded both an English and Japanese version, similar to Utada Hikaru and her Kingdom Hearts contributions. A Lullaby For You has gone on to become one of my all time favorite songs, and should the Kingdom Hearts series ever lose Utada, I think Jyongri would be a great replacement.

I wasn’t able to really gush about this game the way I wanted to because of spoilers and what not, but this game really does mean a lot to me. It has a special focus on real world themes that I was able to relate to, many of which I try to implement into to my everyday life.

 

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time’

Throughout my middle school and high school years, I was a huge fan of Game Informer. Aside from game coverage on G4 TV’s X-Play, it was my biggest insight into what was going on in the gaming industry. Every month, I would be super excited to tear through every single page to see new game previews, reviews and even the entertaining bits of trivia that ended the magazine.

When I came home from football camp during the summer of 2009, I was greeted with the July edition of Game Informer. I can still see the cover clear as day. It was all black, with the only image being that of an old, disheveled Max Payne. And at the very top of the cover, above even the Game Informer logo itself, was a line of text advertising a preview for Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time. 

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Although I was familiar with the name Ratchet & Clank, I had never played a single game. I had both a Playstation 2 and a Nintendo Gamecube, but my PS2 was almost exclusively used to play Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Ball Z and Naruto games, so I would miss out on quite a few notable games on the system, Ratchet & Clank being one of them.

The Playstation 3 is where I would really consider myself having become a true Playstation fan. I was a teenager, so my gaming taste was a bit more refined than when I was a kid, so I ended up playing all types of different games, including most of Sony’s first party offerings.

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I distinctly remember pouring over that issue of Game Informer for what must’ve been hours. I couldn’t believe how cool A Crack in Time both looked and sounded. So for Christmas that year, in addition to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and LittleBigPlanet… I also got Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Even back then, I was a sucker for continuity, so I really wanted to start with the first game in this new saga of Ratchet & Clank.

Needless to say, I ended up really enjoying the game. Although the gimmicky motion control stuff was really off-putting, everything else in the game was awesome. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I REALLY loved the gameplay. I couldn’t get enough of mowing through hordes of enemies, leveling up my weapons and collecting bolts while I explored the vast locales that the game had to offer.

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So the following year, I got A Crack in Time for my birthday (which is just one day before Christmas), and I spent the entire day playing. I was amazed at just how much fun the game was. I really liked Tools of Destruction, but I absolutely adored A Crack in Time, and it’s the game that made me a Ratchet & Clank fan.

Before I go more in depth with the game itself, I wanna talk about how it got me into the rest of the series. Not only have I played (and gotten the platinum trophy for) every Ratchet & Clank game that has come out since A Crack in Time, but I’ve also gone back and played the PS2 iterations (I also have the platinums in these games, except for Deadlocked).

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With the experience of just about every Ratchet & Clank game that isn’t a spin-off under my belt, I can confidently say that A Crack in Time is the best Ratchet & Clank game. The only aspect in which it has been surpassed is its presentation, and it took an installment on the Playstation 4 to do so.

As far as A Crack in Time is concerned, I’ll start with the story. Whenever I think about how I want the story in Sonic the Hedgehog games to be presented, my mind immediately jumps to this game. It’s everything I want out of a story, game or otherwise. It’s funny and comical, but knows when it needs to convey genuine drama and emotion. It takes itself just seriously enough to keep the audience engaged, but never gets so serious that you forget you’re playing a game about an anthromorph that fights aliens with crazy weapons.

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I won’t say much more about the story, as I really don’t wanna spoil how good it is, but I do have loads to say about the gameplay. In my eyes, the Playstation 2 games have a very clear trajectory. The first game was mostly a platformer, with bits of shooting thrown in for some added fun, while Going Commando was a pretty even split between platforming, exploration, puzzle solving and gunplay. Up Your Arsenal had a much greater focus on the weapons, but still had bits of platforming and puzzles, while Deadlocked is exclusively a shooter.

Similar to Going Commando, A Crack in Time is a perfect balance of everything that makes the series so great. There’s plenty of time to tear through the galaxy’s most fearsome creatures, but there’s also no shortage of platforming and exploration, the best example being the myriad of mini-planets that Ratchet can explore.

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These planets typically have a collectible that can be obtained by completing it’s challenge, and the challenges can range from defeating enemies, conquering platforming and swingshot challenges, or demonstrating mastery over your hoverboots.

One major thing that I feel like doesn’t get talked about nearly enough in the gaming industry, is how amazing the Clank sections are in A Crack in Time. In most Ratchet & Clank games, Clank’s sections are where the bulk of the puzzle solving takes place, and A Crack in Time is no different. But man, I can’t believe how innovative these puzzles are, nor can I even fathom how Insomniac Games came up with them.

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If I remember correctly, it was Ted Price that did an interview sometime during 2009 where he discussed the Clank puzzles. He said that he couldn’t accurately describe how they worked in words, you would just have to play them to understand, a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. If a man that had a hand in making the game can’t describe the puzzles, I certainly can’t expect to do much better, but here’s a nice little video to give you a taste.

The weapons and gadgets are essential components of any Ratchet & Clank game, and A Crack in Time has a whole slew of them. While there are a few returning weapons like the Negotiator and Mag-Net launcher the game also introduces the Constructo weapons, and to this day, A Crack in Time is their only appearance. The Constructo weapons were an attempt to spice up the standard pistol, shotgun and grenade weapons. In addition to the normal benefits that are gained from leveling up, these weapons could also be outfitted with various mods that changed up their functions on the battlefield.

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I said before that I believe that A Crack in Time is the best Ratchet & Clank game, and I don’t know that any game will ever dethrone it. This isn’t because the game is perfect or anything, but it I can’t imagine it being any better than it already is. Again, aside from its presentation, there isn’t a single element of any Ratchet & Clank game that followed or preceded A Crack in Time that I think wasn’t done better in this game.

The story is much more engaging, the gameplay is Ratchet & Clank at its finest, there’s plenty of exploration for worthwhile collectibles, tons of post-game content, the list could go on and on. Not only is A Crack in Time my favorite Ratchet & Clank game, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’

When I discussed my love for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Super Mario Kart, I put quite a bit of emphasis on two of my older cousins. As I said before, these two were incredibly influential on my early gaming years, and are largely responsible for making me a gamer today. Amongst the many games that I discovered because of them, is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Unlike games like Sonic Spinball, Link’s Awakening isn’t a game that caught my eye by being on display on their entertainment center. I actually found this game by rummaging through some of their old Game Boy games (which is also how I came across Kirby’s Dream Land). The Legend of Zelda, just the name alone caused my imagination to run wild. At that point in my life, most of the games I loved featured flashy, or at least attention grabbing cover art. But Link’s Awakening was a different case entirely.

Beached.jpg

A bronze background with a rusted shield and sword at the forefront, what kind of adventure could this little Game Boy cartridge hold? The story begins with a young boy named Link being washed ashore by a vicious storm. He’s discovered by a young girl named Marin, and after a bit of exploration around the island of Koholint, encounters a strange owl who recounts the tale of the Wind Fish to our young hero.

In order to return home, Link must awaken the Wind Fish by gathering a series of magical instruments that are scattered about Koholint Island. Along the way, it is eventually revealed that Koholint Island is a dream of the Wind Fish, and rousing it from its slumber will cause the island and all of its inhabitants to disappear.

Sneaky

I have a very limited experience with the Legend of Zelda series as a whole, but Link’s Awakening easily has my favorite story of the ones I’ve played. The characters are simple, but memorable, and waking up the Wind Fish is a genuinely bittersweet moment in the game. As a player trying to out myself in Link’s mindset, I had to consider whether or not it was even worth leaving such a fun and peaceful island lifestyle.

As much as I love the story, it’s not what made me fall in love with the game as a child. In fact, I didn’t even complete the game until just a few years ago (it was a bit too complex for my childhood self). It was the sense of wonder that the game gave me that kept me enthralled and entertained for hours on end.

Wind Fish

As a child, I only ever got as far as obtaining the third instrument, but the fact that I never could beat the game really bothered me. I loved simply exploring Koholint Island, and interacting with all of the locals. I’ll never forget the layout of the beach that Link washes up on, or the fact that Marin’s brother gets transformed into a Tanuki.

It sounds like it should be really frustrating experience. After all, the main objective of most games is to complete them, right? In the case of Link’s Awakening and games like it, the exploration is a huge part of the experience. In real life, I could only explore as far as my backyard and playground would allow. But Link’s Awakening took me to far more interesting locales.

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Another thing I’ll never forget is the music. The soundtrack along with the sound effects will forever be ingrained in my head, and I mean that in the best possible way. The ominous track that plays over the game’s intro, the quaint piece that accompanies Marin’s village and the head-bopping tune from the Mysterious Woods are just a few of my favorite songs from the game. Not to mention the jingle that plays when Link acquires a piece of power.

Compared to other Zelda games I’ve played, I love how different Link’s Awakening is. It’s far removed from series conventions like the Triforce, the Kingdom of Hyrule and even Princess Zelda herself, but this makes it a very unique installment in the series. It put an interesting spin on traditional Zelda stories, and ambitiously tried to fit a fully featured Zelda experience on a handheld. I’ll always treasure my memories of Link’s Awakening, and beyond my own personal nostalgia, I genuinely believe it is a great game.