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by Ethos

Winterscapes Countdown #1 – Frozen Zora’s Domain (Ocarina of Time)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

And we’ve reached the end! How fitting that my number one Winterscape is from my number one game. That game, of course, being The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

If you think this one is a bit of an odd choice, you’re quite correct. It’s not even a “winterscape,” per se – regardless, it’s one of my favorite environments of all time, and it’s definitely cold enough.

After the unforgettable turning point at the Temple of Time, Link wakes up to a decidedly different Hyrule. His home in Kokiri Forest lies in the shadow of a evil spirit, the Gorons are being held captive in their own mountain, but the worst fate, it seems, was reserved for the water-dwelling Zoras.  As you draw closer and closer to their watery cave-home, it becomes fairly obvious that something’s wrong. Snow is falling, and Navi warns of a cold wind. Regardless, it does nothing to dampen the initial shock when you step through the waterfall and back into the Zora’s Domain, seven years after Link’s initial visit.

Just... imagine this, except frozen.

Just... imagine this, except frozen.

And of course, after serving my needs for the first four picks, Google Image fails at finding a proper image. This entire countdown is now ruined, and I hate my life.

Kidding, just kidding. To sum up, Link’s second visit to Zora’s Domain is one of the more memorable moments that Ocarina of Time creates. The ice is hauntingly beautiful in spite of its malicious nature, and in a strangely dark twist, it remains even after the evil spirit in the Water Temple is defeated. I recognize what an oddball this pick may be, but I stand by it.

That concludes my silly Winterscapes Countdown, gents and ladies. Let the comments fly below, and if you can find a decent image of the frozen Zora’s Domain, be a good chap and send it my way.

Or a good lass. We don’t discriminate.

Fireside Games Countdown #1 – Star Fox 64

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Ethos’ Fireside Games are games that he can pull out at any moment and it will soothe his fruity soul in one way or another. It is the perfect mix of nostalgia and comfort. It is a game that gives the same feeling it did the first time he played it. It’s the sort of game that can create the most unique distinct cravings that only the game itself can satisfy. Ethos is counting down his top #5 all week.

Fox! Look behind you!

Fox! Look behind you!

#1 Fireside Game – Star Fox 64
My god I love this game. I’ve been steadily quoting it for over 12 years and it’s one of the few games that I can proudly say I’m good at. Perhaps I don’t know it like the back of my hand anymore, but I know my favourite route, and that’s the route I take when Star Fox 64 becomes the best fireside game. The incredibly memorable (and cheesy) dialogue to the perfect on-rails timing makes for a the ultimate half hour dose of warm gaming goodness. I talk alongside the game almost like singing along to a very popular song, and I get excited for every single level. Not just that, although I’m extremely familiar with every moment in the game, there is still challenge present to make the game have endless replay value; an important trait for a Fireside Game. The game is all about the high score and keeping your teammates alive, and all these responsibilities are dispensed at a challenging but not frustrating rate. It’s a wonderful balance of the comfortable expected and the challenging variable.

Star Fox 64 is absolutely the game I have beat the most number of times. I can knock out a playthrough in 30 minutes and I usually want to play it again right after. It’s absolutely a comfort to remember when Star Fox was all about the simple and satisfying gameplay and ridiculous characters. In fact, I’ll probably knock off another playthrough tonight.

Winterscapes Countdown #2 – Narshe (Final Fantasy VI)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Make way for a 2-D classic, everyone. My personal favorite 2-D game of all time, actually: Final Fantasy VI, originally released as Final Fantasy III on the SNES.

Narshe, as we all (hopefully) know is the opening area of the game. Biggs, Wedge, and the mysterious Terra, armed with Magitek exoskeletons, march into the snowy mining town of Narshe. Their mission is to retrieve something called an Esper.

Almost christmas-y in an odd quasi-steampunk way.

Almost christmas-y in an odd quasi-steampunk way.

While I’m not exactly a veteran of 2-D games, Final Fantasy VI is one of the few titles that lives up to the nostalgic hype surrounding it. The characters are unforgettable, the story is extremely well-told, and man is it one epic ride for a 2-D RPG. Just writing about it is making me want to seek out my copy of the GBA port, which is weird since I’m not much of a handheld gamer these days.

But what’s so great about Narshe? Well, it was the perfect setting for the game’s moody opening sequence. A humble coal mining city, blanketed in snow, with Nobuo Uematsu’s fantastically somber music playing in the background. The game begins here, and in fact returns here at a few key points – the most memorable being when Terra, the main female protagonist, finally transforms into an Esper.

(Yes, the statute of limitations on Final Fantasy VI spoilers is officially up).

But I’ll avoid gushing any longer. If you’ve played the game, I’m sure you agree with me. If you haven’t, I’d suggest you go snag a copy of the GBA port.  And be here tomorrow for the sure-to-be-disappointing #1 Winterscape of the week.

‘Till then!

Fireside Games Countdown #2 – Flower

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Ethos’ Fireside Games are games that he can pull out at any moment and it will soothe his fruity soul in one way or another. It is the perfect mix of nostalgia and comfort. It is a game that gives the same feeling it did the first time he played it. It’s the sort of game that can create the most unique distinct cravings that only the game itself can satisfy. Ethos is counting down his top #5 all week.

One of my favourite levels

One of my favourite levels

#2 Fireside Game – Flower
Okay, so one of my old standbys managed to grapple their way onto this list. It’s the only one you’ll see from my top 5 favourite list, but there’s no way it couldn’t earn a top spot as a Fireside Game.

The recent analogy I’ve been using is that Flower is like a great album. There are levels for every mood that work great individually, or if you have the time, the entire piece works wonderfully as a whole. That definitely leaves no question as to why this game is on this list. Each level is a different emotion in playable form. If the lights are off, and the music is blasted, the game gives a better sensation of flying than any other attempt in video game form. Not only that, but it’s a great fireside game because of the flexibility of the levels. You could beat a level in 5 minutes for a quick fix or take half an hour collecting every petal, and consequently using the extra speed and height to explore every inch of the world.

But, also like a great album, there are times when you want to take a break from it to listen to other music. And perhaps that’s the reason why Flower isn’t in the number one spot. It’s not a game I often talk about, so start your guessing.

Winterscapes Countdown #3 – Great Glacier/Gaea’s Cliff (Final Fantasy VII)

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

A day late perhaps, but as they say, it’s better than never. The last two entries in my Winterscape Countdown have been from the Nintendo team, but what Riddlethosian list would be complete without at least one rep from the illustrious Final Fantasy series?

I’ll begin with the obligatory statement that I love Final Fantasy VII. Stereotypical as this may sound, it is and will likely remain my favorite Final Fantasy game, and one of my all-time favorite RPGs.

However, at this point you may be thinking to yourself, “why the hell is he including an environment from a decidedly shit-looking PSX RPG?” A just question, because Final Fantasy VII does, indeed, look like shit. Even by today’s standards, the Phendrana Drifts and Snowhead are pleasant to look at. The Great Glacier and Gaea’s cliff? Notsomuch. But like the first two on the list, GG and GC made the list on account of the atmosphere they set. And, additionally, for the significance of what takes place there.

Barret occasionally has something semi-profound to say.

Barret occasionally has something semi-profound to say.

A few short hours after the murder of Aeris, the broken party finds themselves in the snowy wastelands of the Great Glacier, doggedly on the trail of the elusive Sephiroth. Needless to say, a depressing tone takes over the game at this point. A friend is dead, the weather is shit, and Sephiroth is literally just ahead of them – you can feel a showdown approaching.

After scaling the treacherous Gaea’s Cliff, Cloud and friends finally meet Sephiroth face-to-face… and the rest, as they say, is history. Cloud’s true “identity” is revealed in one of the most shocking plot twists in gaming, and… all hell breaks loose, essentially. It’s moments like this that made Final Fantasy VII such an impacting experience for me all those years ago, and it’s yet another example of snow-laden gaming locales that will forever remain in my memory.

Oh, the power of snow.

Fireside Games Countdown #3 – Pokémon Platinum

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Ethos’ Fireside Games are games that he can pull out at any moment and it will soothe his fruity soul in one way or another. It is the perfect mix of nostalgia and comfort. It is a game that gives the same feeling it did the first time he played it. It’s the sort of game that can create the most unique distinct cravings that only the game itself can satisfy. Ethos is counting down his top #5 all week.

pokemon-platinum#3 Fireside Game – Pokémon Platinum
Oh Pokémon. This was an easy choice. Any time I’m not in the middle of a game, I will play Pokémon. Whenever a new version comes out, it is guaranteed that I will buy it day one and beat it faster than I beat most games. Now Silver is my favourite version overall, and Yellow is probably the version I’ve spent the most time with, but the Pokémon games are so near identical, I always play the latest one just for the convenience of playing it on the portable system I’m carrying around anyway, and because the interface changes are noticeable enough to feel annoyed playing the older versions.

Although it may be obvious, Pokémon Platinum makes an excellent Fireside Game because of its reliable and pick-up-and-play nature. I know what I’m getting, and it hits the spot every time. It’s a comfort because it can always be with you. Sure it’s a little depressing, but because the DS versions can essentially be played with one hand, I can spend my entire day with those addicting little mother fuckers. Also with the absurd number of creatures stuffed into the game, I can switch it up enough to not get bored. Pokémon is the series that got me into RPGs. I’ve been playing it for a decade and I will very likely being playing it until the day I die. It is reliable, fun, and the perfect Fireside Game. The only reason it’s third, really, is because I find that snuggling on a couch with a portable system doesn’t bring the same Fireside imagery as console games. Anyway, I have a party to go to. Suck it, chumps!

Winterscapes Countdown #4 – Snowhead Mountain Range (Majora’s Mask)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Hello, and welcome back to my pointless-yet-amusing countdown of videogame snowscapes. Today, we’ll be stepping even further back in time to examine a snowscape from a rather controversial game: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

I’m talking, of course, about Snowhead Mountain Range, the distinct “snow” area of the game.

Remember this frozen dumbass?

Remember this frozen dumbass?

I’m a longtime defender of Majora’s Mask. The time limit doesn’t bother me in the least, and I find the atmosphere beautifully crafted.  Out of the four different areas of the game’s world, Snowhead has always been my favorite. Partly because of the snow, but also because the dungeon is one of the two good ones in the game.

Not to say that the others are bad… well, wait, the Great Bay Temple is pretty terrible, actually.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m knda running out of things to say. To sum up, I like the Snowhead Mountain Range. So I’m making it #4 on my stupid list. And you can all deal with that.

Farewell and goodnight. I’m ridiculously tired.

A Brief Intermission

Friday, December 18th, 2009
Happy Holidays, you bastards.

Happy Holidays, you bastards.

Fireside Games Countdown #4 – Final Fantasy X

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

ffxboxartEthos’ Fireside Games are games that he can pull out at any moment and it will soothe his fruity soul in one way or another. It is the perfect mix of nostalgia and comfort. It is a game that gives the same feeling it did the first time he played it. It’s the sort of game that can create the most unique distinct cravings that only the game itself can satisfy. Ethos is counting down his top #5 all week.

#4 Fireside Game – Final Fantasy X
Bloo-ya! Bet you didn’t see that coming! Yup, although Final Fantasy X comes after IX and XII and VII and maybe V on my list of overall favourites, it’s actually the Final Fantasy I get the most distinct cravings for. The unique world, quick battle system, and addicting sphere grid hit the spot for me if I just need to play an RPG that’s familiar and fun without feeling the need to play the entire game. It also took me a while to get a PS2, so finally being able to play a new Final Fantasy on my own system was a big joy. Like any good comfort game, Final Fantasy X represents that blend of nostalgia and hitting the exact spot of a good game craving. It probably also helps that it takes quicker to go up a Sphere Level than it would a traditional level for that feeling for quick satisfaction.

So why choose X over IX? Sure, IX is a comfort for me too, and of course it has oodles of nostalgia as well, but if I’m going to play IX, I want to start from the beginning and I want to do everything. I want to collect every item and learn every ability. In X, I don’t care where I start. I’ll enjoy the locales, the music, and the battle system without feeling the need to do more or less than I want to. Maybe I’ll play for 5 minutes, or maybe I’ll play for 4 hours. Either way, Final Fantasy X is a comfort, my go-to fix for a lazy day made for playing (semi) modern RPGs, and well deserving of the #4 spot.

Winterscapes Countdown #5 – Phendrana Drifts (Metroid Prime)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Ethan has already begun his stupid countdown, so it’s time to begin mine.

Which, for the record, is even MORE stupid.

Regardless, we’re gonna do this. I’m a sucker for snow scenes, as I’ve mentioned previously. That being the case, I’m a sucker for snowy videogame locales. And because I own a website, I’m going to take the liberty of counting down my five favorite “snowscapes.” Be excited. Or better yet, be disgusted. As the title suggests, the first shout-out goes to the immortal Metroid Prime.

I haven’t talked much about Metroid Prime on Riddlethos, despite how much I adore the game. It is, quite simply, one of the most atmospherically masterful games ever created, and will probably remain so until the end of time. But given the nature of the list, I must restrain myself and skip to the point  - The Phendrana Drifts. This picture should help with some of the explaining:

phendrana

Pretty as the screen might be, it doesn’t do the Phendrana Drifts justice. Metroid Prime’s Phendrana Drifts is a cold, hostile place, composed of heavy snowdrifts and frozen lakes. The natural inhabitants are nasty enough, and that’s to say nothing of the “visitors” who have taken residence. Veterans of the original Metroid Prime will recall that Samus’s first contact with the Space Pirates – as well as the titular Metroids – is made here, in this snowy wasteland. Beautifully rendered on Nintendo’s GameCube, and dripping with atmosphere, the Phendrana Drifts is not a place to be forgotten.

For many people, Metroid Prime is a difficult game to get into – and that holds true for myself as well. When I first stuck the disc into my GameCube at the tender age of… er… 12 or so, I gave up less than three hours in. The punishing difficulty, slow pace, and unremitting bleakness was enough to turn me off.

A year or so later, I gave the game a second try. I picked up where my last save was, and soon found myself in the snowy plains of Phendrana. And I didn’t touch another game until I had beaten the final boss.

Winter is a nostalgic time of year by nature, and I hope to reflect this in my silly countdown. Be here tomorrow for more. And if you haven’t played Metroid Prime, then for the love of Christ, give it a go.