Boots’ Top 10 Video Games of All-Time #5: Resident Evil 2

The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.

Being a Nintendo child, I had reservations when the original PlayStation was released. It wasn’t until the summer of 1995 – seven months after its release – when I finally rented the console and two games from my local Blockbuster (!) and fired up Descent. It was a decent game, but I hadn’t quite adjusted to full 3D yet and it was a bit too much for me at that time. I decided to switch games so I popped in Resident Evil. Without going to deep into detail, let’s just say that I was instantly sold on the console from that point on.

Fast-forward to early 1998. Resident Evil had been largely critically lauded and the inevitable sequel was finally released. While I’m not sure how soon I was able to play it, I am certain that once I did, it was everything I could’ve hoped for and then some. The graphics were much improved over the original and the setting of the city and Police Station were magnificent. Along the way through the game, new characters were met and the corruption of the Umbrella Corporation was revealed to be far worse than imagined.

Kaboom!

Nothing a little grenade launcher can’t fix.

I vividly recall my first encounter with a Licker. I tried my best to take it out, but the pistol was mostly useless. It brought me back to my memories of the original game’s Hunters and how quickly they’d jump around, dodging my attacks. My fear and frustration levels toward the sequel were vastly elevated at this point.

Later, I was separated from a little girl I was trying to help named Sherry (not to be confused with my Minimum Requirements co-host). I was given control of her so that she could find a key that I needed to advance, so I sent her into the sewage plant. Little did I realize that there’d be THREE ZOMBIFIED DOGS waiting to eat her face. Of course, playing as an 8-year old girl, there was no way to attack the pups and I was forced to book it past them a few times while searching. Again, a very tense moment, with many more to come in my future.

Sherry

I don’t think he has any candy, little girl.

Resident Evil 2 was far more forgiving with the ammo drops for newcomers, but I also was aware of how the franchise’s mechanics worked so I wasn’t wasting too much ammo this time around. I made my way through the different puzzles, occasionally crossing paths with Leon and we’d exchange info about what we found in the station. In the end, I neutralized William Birkin and escaped the city with Leon and Sherry… but I wasn’t finished.

In a truly innovative move, RE2 allowed players to go back and play through the game as the other character from their perspective. Using the save data from my run with Claire, I was now in control of Leon’s side of the story. New scenarios popped up as well as different characters and a returning old friend from the last game. Even the ending was extended past the point where Claire’s had cut off, giving me what I still feel is one of the greatest credits music in all of gaming.

Needless to say, I was in love with this game. The original pretty much wrote the book on video games being a cinematic experience and the sequel held true to form. After finishing my Claire/Leon run I quickly restarted and did a Leon/Claire playthrough. It wasn’t much different, but I still enjoyed it. Of course, I later discovered that getting a good rank on your finished game stats would open up a couple secret scenarios, so I began playing over and over to improve upon my final score.

It got to the point where I was able to beat both characters’ quests in under 3 hours each, and with minimal damage (using First Aid Sprays hurt the ranking). I had memorized where to go to get items in order of need along with knowing when I’d need to visit each Item Storage box for maximum efficiency. Those S-Ranks were eventually mine and I played through a scenario as Hunk, an Umbrella-hired mercenary tasked with retrieving a sample of the G-virus for the evil company. Later, I was also able to play as a lump of tofu armed only with a knife. No, I’m not even joking.

Tofu

Not a healthy alternative to brains.

There is just something about this game that holds my attention super tightly that I often think to play it again on occasion. I’ll remember a quote from the script or a certain point of the game and think of how much I loved my time in Raccoon City proper. It was nice to see such a great improvement over the game that first drew me to the original PlayStation and I will never not sing its praises. I could literally play that game everyday and continue to love it so. It is never not fun, and that’s why it is at Number Five on my Top Ten.

PS – This game introduced the character of Ada Wong to my world, which became a whole different tangent in my life. A story for another time, perhaps.

PPS – Tyrants are still fucking scary.

Boots’ Top 10 Video Games of All-Time #6: Contra

Contra

The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.

They say you never forget your first. You sit there and look forward to it for years upon years, building the excitement for that fateful day when you finally get to feel what you’ve heard friends talk about for so long. It might be the best thing you’ve ever done, but it’s often awkward and possibly shameful if you didn’t think it through. Hell, it might be downright painful. Regardless, it will always be your first.

It was late 1988 and I was only 10 when I hit the milestone. After being duped into thinking my dreams were crushed, my parents did the ol’ “We forgot to put this last Christmas gift out” maneuver and handed us that final box. My brother and I tore through the wrapping and were then the proud owners of an NES. Of course, it came with Super Mario Bros. And Duck Hunt, but both of us also received one game of our own, and mine was Contra.

For those who don’t know, Contra is one of many NES Konami titles that is notorious for its challenge and high quality. A port of the arcade game of the same title, this side-scrolling shooter gave players fits thanks in part to that unique Konami design and the inherent challenge of their games. Because of that trait, the developer often instilled the popular “Konami Code” that would give either multiple lives or full power-ups depending on the game in question.

USE THE CODE

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start

Contra’s code resulted in a thirty life reserve for the player and for many, including myself, it wasn’t until utilizing the code that players were able to finally conquer the game and defeat the evil Red Falcon terrorist/alien organization.

But here’s the thing… I had already had time with SMB thanks to its arcade release and while the NES port was a near-perfect re-creation, I had less desire to dedicate time to it thanks to previous experience, so I devoted every minute to Contra, and it was all worth it.

Of course, when you play a game for that amount of time, you become a part of it. You memorize patterns, you remember where items are located, you know where enemies are going to appear; the game becomes an extension of your being. As I played it more and more, I found my zen in its intricacies.

Hangar Zone

Why are there spiked claws above the mine cart tracks? That seems hazardous.

It wasn’t long before I had a surefire technique all set up. It was quite simple, really, and merely consisted of the following steps:

    1. Get the Spread Gun
    2. Get the Rapid-Fire power-up
    3. DOMINATE!!!

Seriously, if you have that gun throughout the entirety of the game, no one should pose much of a threat. Your biggest concern then becomes environmental hazards like flame pillars, spiked walls, or making sure you jump properly over the boss of Stage 6 when he charges you.

I eventually got to a point where I no longer need the Konami Code to finish the game, and at my apex, I was easily able to beat it in less than two deaths and could consistently pull off flawless runs. As of now, I can still occasionally pull one off.

The other great part about this game for me was its soundtrack. Konami has a history of having great music in their games and Contra was no exception. If you are familiar with their music, you can probably tell that they have one of the NES’ most unique sound palettes. Even Konami’s offshoot company Ultra Games used this palette for many titles. There’s just something about the tones and sounds that give them such a powerful quality, and Contra really shows it off with well-written, fast-paced, tense songs that only improve on the game’s atmosphere.

Yes, Contra was my first, and yes, it was equally awkward, embarrassing, and painful in the beginning. But the more time I invested, the more experience I earned, the more I learned of its finer details, all of it combined to give me confidence in my ability as a gamer to improve and know what I was doing from that point on. No longer would I be intimidated by another now that I had the skillset needed to feel prolific.

…and I’ll never forget it. Ever.

Boots’ Top 10 Video Games of All-Time #10: Mega Man 2

The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.

The year was 198X…

My brother and I hadn’t had our NES for very long but we were burning through games left and right thanks to a local Mexican food store and their kickass game rental policy. Video stores were offering rentals at $5 for three days, but this place was doing five days at $4. Considering that my family shopped there all the time, it only made sense to stick with them out of loyalty.

Somewhere along the lines, we had gotten our grubby little hands on the first Mega Man game and we instantly loved it. The game was a master class in simple-yet-effective design and had a challenge that only the best could get the hang of. Between my group of close friend, my brother was the only person I knew who could finish the game back then.

Of course, when the sequel came out, we were all giddy and ready to (have our parents) buy this game at release. Sadly, because we were such strong renters, our parents never saw the need to really buy games so we were relegated to waiting for it to be available at the food shop. However, our friends – who also were brothers – were able to get a copy. They had arguments about who was going to play it first and how far the other could get before handing the controller over.

They don’t really look like robots on this box art.

Once I was able to play the game, I was in love. It once again followed the same basic principles of design as the first game, but this time it had MORE bosses! I remember vividly that I first chose to face Air Man, which I later learned was a huge mistake. Still, I was able to defeat him and get his Air Shooter… which is a terrible weapon in the practical sense.

Stupid choice aside, I was still happy to see that the difficulty was slightly lowered, but not to a point where the game was a breeze to get through. Each boss had a set pattern that one can easily discern if they pay enough attention, and the joy of finding out which weapon was most effective against them was undeniable. Those discoveries put a smile on my face, and nothing was better than equipping the Metal Blade against Metal Man and discovering that it only took ONE HIT to defeat him.

The other great aspect of this game was its amazing soundtrack. Back in the NES days, a lot of games featured a ton of memorable music but, for whatever reason, Mega Man 2 always stood out as one of the best, in my mind. Even the intro song just ingratiates its way into your heart within 5 seconds, and then escalates into what is easily one of the most memorable themes in all of video games.

I replayed this game as much as I could before returning it to that store. Both my brother and I finished it within those five days, and the younger of our friends was the first of them to defeat Dr. Wily. Needless to say, the older brother wasn’t too happy about that. I think they fought over it.

Mega Man, your blue suit and giant eyes will always have a special place in my heart over the course of all your games but Mega Man 2 is easily the best of them all, making it my Number 10 Favorite Game of All-Time.

Hey, Mega Man... what's up with your eyes?

Hey, Mega Man… what’s up with your eyes?