The first one that springs to mind would be a game that has since not only one become of my personal favourites, but is also one that I had to revisit multiple times in order to complete it. Back in a fabled time known as the 1990s, when elves roamed the land, magic was in the air and Robbie Williams was considered a rebel, I liked my video games in pretty much just a single flavour- hectic. I wanted games to be all go all of the time. Perpetual states of action where you could never catch a break to really think about what was going on, you just acted on instinct and threw yourself headlong into the fray. My taste in gaming mirrored my personal playstyle. At the time, I didn’t believe in such things as waiting for the correct moment to strike, keeping distance or even blocking. Nope, I just swung blindly, kicking and screaming at everything and anything on the screen. In racers I held down that accelerator button for dear life and wouldn’t even consider the possibilities of braking around corners. Me? Slowing down? Never! Instead I used the railings at the sides of the road to turn my vehicle, scraping along them like a scene a cheap Fast and Furious knock off without the shiny bald craniums or the awful acting. In my mind, there was no room for slow paced, long winded RPGs like Final Fantasy.
It seems bizarre looking back at grumpy old me even picking up the joypad to attempt a game like this, yet miraculously it happened. I’d dismissed it and mocked it for quite some time while watching family members play through Final Fantasy VIII. I taunted them and generally acted fairly dickish until I actually tried it out for myself. Suddenly, my eyes were wide open. I was tossed into a crazy world of war and magic. Huge monsters known as Guardian Forces would rush to my aid at the drop of a hat and annihilate my opponents while I strategized and considered multiple outcomes for my next move. Should I attack my foes or heal my allies? Should my next action be offensive or defensive and what consequences would entail if I chose the wrong option? All these new concepts circled my mind as the story based elements of the game captivated me. I even nicknamed all my GFs to ensure that we’d become BFFs… Except Carbuncle. I wouldn’t even accept his friend request on Facebook. What had originally hit me as a boring seventy hour snooze-fest revealed itself to be an epic classic and proceeded to cover my face with proverbial egg.
I could tell you that my mistakes stopped right there and that FFVIII opened my eyes to a whole world of gaming possibilities from that moment on. How I’d learned my lesson and changed my wicked ways, but if I did say such a thing I’d be lying through my teeth in order to hang on to that one last shred of dignity. I like to back up my larger mistakes with a whole slew of little mistakes to make sure they don’t get lonely. One of which I’ve spent the last six or seven years looking very silly because of.
This love for the brand spilled over into the next generation as the Playstation 2 took up the slack producing the greatest library of video games I’d ever witnessed. So good, in fact, that I’m still collecting games for it 15 years after its initial release. I was passionate about this console. It supplied me with more hours of enjoyment that I could have ever dreamed, so when its rival, the original Xbox, reared its ugly-ass head, I took an instant disliking to it. I may have had grown up somewhat since the PS1 era, but I was still willing to fight that school boy style console war, spitting and snarling at this new device. I may have been a little over protective of my favourite console, so when the Xbox’s big brother, the 360, arrived on the scene to make its presence felt, it fell directly into my “fuck that” category.
I stood pretty damn solid on my decision to hate the 360 on sheer principal. Microsoft wouldn’t get a dime out of me. No, sir, I was a Playstation man through and through, with triangles, Xs, circles and squares running through my veins. I born and bred in a time when you couldn’t even buy a bottle of Lucazade without Lara Croft reassuring you that Sony made the best damn gaming platforms on the planet. Fuck Xbox and their shitty controllers that were the size of a small city. I wasn’t budging an inch. That was, of course, until I actually gave the machine a little time and everything changed.
I loved the idea of reliving old games through XBLA. The prospects of Xbox Live blew my mind! Being able to compete against players around the world instead of just whaling on my friends in our favourite games? That was the stuff of dreams. Then, when I realised I could put both of those concepts together and go international with retro games like Duke Nukem and Streets of Rage 2 there suddenly wasn’t enough hours in the day to play video games.
It was around this time that I was introduced to Left 4 Dead, the new wave title that played like an arcade game and required a team of four players to cooperate throughout each of its campaigns to survive. I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Plotting and planning strategic ways to outlive the countless waves of aggressive zombies with my friends was a blast. Attempting to put said strategies into action and watching them disintegrate from well made plans into complete chaos on the battlefield was even more so. This one was a real eye opener. It was followed by the fantastically underrated Wet, which mixed Max Payne’s signature style of slow motion shooting with Spider-Man like acrobatics in world that looked like it took place inside Quentin Tarantino’s head. This, in turn, saw me picking up Darksiders and Bayonetta, each of which acted as the perfect companion for the other. Where Darksiders excelled in the story department, its action was a little slow and clunky. Bayonetta, on the other hand, was the undisputed queen of fast paced hack n slash, but could barely complete a legible sentence, never mind a compelling story. I bought both games on the same day and they went hand in hand perfectly. Mass Effect, Dante’s Inferno, Batman: Arkham Asylum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine; the list just went on and on. Before I knew it, I was bowled over by the sheer magnitude of fantastic games on offer. Just as I was about to choke to death on my own smug cuntiness, these games sucker punched me and woke me up to just how wrong I’d been all along. It wasn’t a case of there just being one of two gems hidden in the dust either. Instead it was a seemingly endless array of classics. I’d successfully fallen off my high horse and crashed right into a fantastic realm of video gaming.
Every once in a while it feels good to be taken down a notch or two, to realise my own mistakes and wallow in the fantastic games that I would have otherwise have missed out on. The Xbox 360 remains the cherry on my stubborn cake with grumpy frosting. It’s the one that makes me take a step back and reconsider my choices in case I’m being blissfully ignorant towards games that I’d love if only I’d give them a chance. All these years later, it’s still my console of choice and still gets used more than any other appliance in the house bar the TV that it’s hooked up to. And every once in a while it makes me think, perhaps there’s even hope for Blazblue to someday make an impact on my favourites list... Probably not though.
Spud discusses one of the driving forces his gaming life- The endless want to beat really feckin' tough games!
Take a look back at some of the biggest, baddest, and best games that the phenomenal Xbox 360 had to offer.
Spud discusses the pros and cons of being an incredibly stubborn gamer.