Loyal subjects, I'm the Keyblade King and I thank you for joining me as we open the door on the video games which I believe to be the best of the best of the sixth generation! Enjoy.
SILENT HILL 2
A few of the games in this list were ruined for me because I had already heard about them; I was already aware of what to expect. With Silent Hill 2, I knew it was supposed to be one of the greatest survival horror games ever made. I knew that the town was really messed up and not everything was as it seemed and I knew that Pyramid Head was acting as the protagonist’s (James Sunderland) punisher. I was able to keep myself from learning what crime he had committed though but to be perfectly honest; I don’t think it would have mattered much if I had found out. And I’ll explain why in just a minute.
Silent Hill 2 was my first horror survival game and the first few moments of this game just play on the fact that this game’s reputation should proceed itself. You spend a good few minutes just walking through fog and hearing noises. I was seriously shitting myself, expecting a jump scare at any moment when of course, none arose. Right from the get go that is the type of tense atmosphere you’re experiencing with this game. It’s nerve-wrecking to the point where once you actually finally see your first monster, it comes at a relief because now you have something to kill. And after that, you have a lot of things to kill. The monsters come out to play and you’re first task is pretty much running into this dead-end and then this dead-end until you begin to find your way.
After the first few moments which are purely atmospheric, this game throws everything it can at you. It’s supposed to try to overwhelm you because that’s freaking scary. It’s difficult to get your head to function properly so even for someone with an analytical brain, you’ll miss out things that are questionable and just be thinking “Jesus Christ I need to run!” A sign of a great game is how quickly and how easily it can bring you into the world you’re playing, to the extent that a lot of the time with this game, I didn’t feel like I could relax or take my eyes off the screen until something made me throw the controller in the air and realise “Oh hey, I could just turn this off.”
Now I’m not gonna lie, I think Silent Hill 2 is a little dated and wasn’t the best crafted piece even at the time of its release. The controls and mechanics can be clunky and take you away from the experience at points. Weapon and item usage is quite irritating to get the hang of and I don’t know if it’s just versions of this game in the UK, but the controls are inversed and that’s annoying as hell to deal with because hardly any games have controls like that so it doesn’t achieve the realistic pull that it’s most likely trying to. However, when you do get the hang of this game and I do think the game somehow conditions you to get used to them very quickly out of fear for your life, the game becomes a joy to play for the most part.
In terms of the gameplay as a whole- the main elements are investigating areas, fighting monsters, including bosses with the variety of weapons you may find during your travels and solving the many puzzles this game has to offer. These puzzles aren’t simple either, if you’re playing at the normal difficulty or above, there is a genuine challenge with everything that is going on here and that’s also very good to have in a game, even though you’ll probably find yourself cursing your head off with phrases like “Why won’t you f**king die you mother**king c*nt basket!!” Seriously I didn’t even know I knew some of the words I started sprouting while playing this game.
I guess I should quickly mention for those who aren’t aware that in terms of design and music, Silent Hill as an entire series really but with specific mention to Silent Hill 2 is on a completely heaven bound level of greatness. Each song reflects perfectly what it needs to and there is so much detail and thought in all the character and even more especially the monster designs which you’ll begin to realise are representations of part of James’ psyche.
As for the story, well, it’s a very good psychological piece at all times. Along with your protagonist, you have four other characters along for the ride and during your time in Silent Hill, you begin to learn why they’ve been called to this town and your time with them allows the analytically minded to begin to calm down and reflect on the nature of the town that has been created and it’s a hell of a lot of fun, at least I think so, to begin to realise exactly what kind of spell or curse or whatever is actually affecting this town and once you’ve got that figured out, it doesn’t become difficult to see where James’ story is going. The reason that I don’t think it would have mattered if the ending was spoiled for me is that I had already pretty much figured it out through how the characters of Laura, Eddie and Maria play out. That’s not such a bad thing though because there’s still so much impact to it in the way that this game presents it and how in which the whole thing plays out.
All in all, I think this is an amazing horror survival game and is one of my favourite games of all time with credit to its design and psychological story elements but Silent Hill 2 isn’t the game that truly made me realise how messed up the whole world of Silent Hill was. Also, while I liked James by the ending, I had no real connection to him or any of the other characters which makes their fates not hit home as much as they would have in a different horror survival game but hey the Silent Hill team had two more chances to try again. Silent Hill 4 would fail them but Silent Hill 3…
SILENT HILL 3
Silent Hill 3 is when I personally think Team Silent hit gold with this franchise.
In terms of gameplay elements, they are a few improvements and they make the game a little better in my eyes although that’s traded in with a set of monsters that aren’t quite as visually appealing or related to our protagonist this time around. Quickly, what I’m trying to say here is that this choice has nothing to do with gameplay or anything like that; it comes fully down to story. There’s still the decent challenge here, there’s great puzzles and areas to explore. It’s all good stuff but what makes me prefer this game over Silent Hill 2, which is very often noted as the best survival horror game out there and the best Silent Hill game out there is that I think there’s more substance in this game and I think you get more out of replaying it.
Quickly noting I’m gonna be spoiling Silent Hill 1 and 3 and parts of the Silent Hill mythos as a whole so just skip this one if you don’t want to know. I like the story better, I think it adds to the series’ world more than any other game in the series and I relate to the characters at a higher level. That’s my reasoning in a nutshell so if you’re skipping; I’ll see you at number three.
Our protagonist this time around is called Heather Morris. She’s said to only be 17 and the girl has got some serious attitude on her which just makes her so fun to watch. So many other of the Silent Hill characters act like zombies merely trudging along giving a shocked gasp now and then or maybe a curse if the writers feel like being edgy but with Heather, the writers just had fun with it and I think Heather is the best developed protagonist in the series through her dialogue alone. It may also be that her age allows me to relate to her more and compare what my actions would be in these situations to how Heather handles it. I think that gives me more involvement in the game and I like that.
As we later learn, Heather is Harry Mason’s (the protagonist of the 1st game) daughter. Now if you played the first game, you’ll have found that Harry spends the entirety of the first game looking for his daughter Cheryl, who turns out was adopted, as her actual identity was part of a resident of the town on Silent Hill, a young girl with incredibly strong mental powers who was used by her mother, an occult leader, to birth the occult’s God. To explain everything would take too long so if you don’t know about, either look it up on a wiki or just play the game. At the end of SH1, the God is born as the final boss at the cost of both Alessa’s and thus Cheryl’s life although hope is given to Harry through the birth of a new child. Jump forward 17 years and we get Heather who as it turns out is the new reincarnation of both Alessa and Cheryl and is greatly wanted by one of Alessa’s old friends, Claudia Wolf. Only problem is, Claudia has been strongly conditioned through abuse to believe in the occult and desires paradise through making Heather ‘birth’ God.
Along for the ride are Douglas Cartland, a detective who Claudia has hired to capture Heather for her but who realises what’s actually going on and tries to help Heather and Vincent Smith, an apparent priest of the occult but someone who seems to recognise all too well what the world he lives in actually is. Vincent is probably one of the most interesting characters in the series just because of how knowing he seems to be. He is the one who points out that Silent Hill targets those with a certain darkness in their hearts and punishes them by making them see ‘monsters’. By doing so, he opens up way too many cans of worms that threaten the structure of everything. The final bosses are definitely monsters but the rest, what are they exactly? Just delusions, ordinary creatures or worse humans which have been made to look like monsters. The unfortunate part about it all is that there are points especially in Silent Hill 2 where it’s obvious that humans are killed because they appear to be monster like and that’s why I like Silent Hill 3 because it gives more story elements to the other games.
Heather’s story, continuing on from Silent Hill 1 and to be continued on in Origins and Shattered Memories in a different way shows a very complicated side to all of this but a very moving one. All of Silent Hill 3 has Heather be stripped of everything. Harry is killed and she runs the risk of starting the apocalypse out of anger for this but also a buried compassion for humanity and for Dahlia due to Alessa’s dormant personality. Playing the game back, you’ll notice a lot of symbolism that makes more sense upon this reveal and it seems that every time I play this game, I see something that I didn’t see or something clicks that didn’t before.
This strikes me as true horror because during this game’s narration, you have to witness everything that this young girl loses. Even the happiest of endings in this game are bittersweet and the ride there was terrifying, full of danger and pain. I personally can’t stand watching pain on this sort of level although I’m morbidly attached to it when I see it because I think it’s amazing how these characters will press on, without personal reward. The character of James Sunderland doesn’t speak to me like Heather does. Honestly James is either an ass or a tragic figure but he really doesn’t come close to the complex tragedy of Heather who loses out so much in so many different lives. It’s utterly heart-breaking and it’s that reason above all others that I love Silent Hill 3.
It goes places that not many dare to go, which I think is a very important feature to have in a horror game.
METAL GEAR SOLID: SNAKE EATER
This one’s going to be more difficult to talk about. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is so close to being a masterpiece of a game. There’s really no other way to describe it and I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I called it anything less. What can I really say about this game that hasn’t already been said by people a lot better than me? Well, here goes.
Snake Eater is a prequel to pretty much the whole series. It stars Big Boss, AKA Naked Snake AKA Solid Snake’s biological father. It explores the concepts of how the Metal Gear Nuclear Race first came up following the start of the Cold War between the US and Russia. The main focus is on the twisted world that is espionage, military and politics.
Naked Snake is poised with a mission to kill his mentor, The Boss, who has apparently betrayed the US to the Russians. Again, this is a game, I don’t want to spoil so I won’t but Naked Snake has to go through killing a lot of great assassins and such to even get a chance to find out exactly why his mentor has betrayed him. And the answer is not one that he will happily accept and truly changes the way he is as a person and the way he veiws the world as a whole. I'd also like to give mention to a particular boss, of such, that involves Naked Snake trying to fight off the ghosts of the people he has killed. As with any Metal Gear game, there’s a lot of variety in what your personal approach can be. This scene can be a very long one if you’ve spent your time killing all the people who get in your way instead of using the techniques of camouflage or just good old hiding behind a tree.
Themes like these would be further explored in Metal Gear Solid 4 and on a whole, MGS3 is really designed to be the platform for that game in many ways. It introduces the surprisingly strong and touching relationship between Solid Snake’s parents and the reason why he had to be born. It’s really a game that puts everything into perspective and changes the way you view a lot of the characters and the world you’re witnessing as a whole.
Games that can do that, in my opinion, are great because they give replay value to other games that maybe didn’t have them before. It furthers the mythos to create a beautifully crafted world which I just love every moment of and the characters especially Naked Snake is just so enjoyable to watch and play as is what makes this game shine to me. I’m sorry if I’m being too general here and not giving you enough to realise how a good a game this is but I can’t without spoiling anything. This is just a very powerful and moving game in a lot of ways which I really like and I definitely think you should go out and play.
This game is easily the best put together game of the sixth generation in my opinion.
The combat system?
The controls and graphics?
The gameplay mechanics such as fusing Personas or raising your teammate’s social links?
Fun, enjoyable and rewarding.
Deep, developed, sometimes subtle and above all interesting to a fault.
One of the best stories I’ve ever seen.
Yeah yeah, these would all get improved upon in Persona 4 Golden, you don’t have to rub it in but right now I want to just talk about the original.
Honestly, I would need so much time to go into how good Persona 4 is and yet I really don’t want to bore any of you so I’ll try and keep it brief. I do honestly believe that this game is one of the best games of all time. While some might complain about its lack of action at points, find its heavy visual novel aspects dull and boring to sit through and see no replay value in the social link storylines, I personally find they ultimately come together to make a complete the game which I personally have a lot of fun playing. To focus on each individual aspect of this game:
The combat. Persona 4 is a turn based RPG. Each character has their own set of stats, moves, strengths and weaknesses with your character holding the wild card ability to give them a choice of whatever powers they feel like playing around with. This makes the battling just so diverse and fun to play around with and simply based on the interesting look of the shadows and the dungeon layouts I have to say that it can actually be fun to grind in this game. It’s not overly difficult either which is very good because it’s a usual large part of your journey before you face the next boss of whatever dungeon you’re in. While grinding as a whole can get tedious, I think the way Persona 4 handles this shows that it understands this fact and is trying to make it something a little more enjoyable to the player which I’ll give my props too.
The bosses. These are so creative and fun to battle. Each boss has a very a distinct and unique feel to it; representing the characters or environment they’re based on. The designs are amazing on their own but by just looking at them you get to learn more about the characters who will soon be joining your adventure by seeing the representation of their darkest thoughts. This game, I need to point out, tends to find a good match of being not too difficult but requiring you to put in some effort. No boss is essentially easy but none are throw your controller down in frustration difficult or because the game’s screwing you around. It comes down to you not some flaw in the programming. If you’re not careful, you’ll die…a lot. You’ll only ever have yourself to blame and that’s nice. Now the downside of this would be that although the bosses are certainly memorable, I wouldn’t go around calling any of them amazingly fun bosses. Once you’ve got a handle on a strategy that works, well it works for the rest of the game. That’s just all there is to it. It doesn’t bother me so much- I can take an easy game like this because I think it has the story and design to make up for it and so the fun this game provides comes from somewhere else.
The characters. Each character in Persona 4 feels like you’re best friend by the end of their social link. I am not even kidding. It amazes me how even a team of writers can make so many diverse characters all so likable and consistently inconsistent. There’s a stunning amount of realism involved in the character writing here which just blows my mind every time I see it and fill in a new blank that the game doesn’t try to baby me by giving me a load of exposition about. A lot of the time the relationships between you and your friends will change off-screen when you’re not around. It’s down to the other character thinking about their problems that decide what direction that character’s going to take. Now I guess I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that everyone’s problems work themselves out for the absolute best. No one seems to have lasting scars or insecurities. Now given the strength of the bonds that I, at the very least, felt at the end of the game made me consider whether I wanted to leave the game knowing that there’s something not completely right with this friend or that one. One of this game’s obvious themes is bonds and I think for that reason; the characters had to be written well and fully by the end. You have to believe that you’re making a difference in other peoples’ lives and that power is yours’ and to be honest, by the end, I certainly felt like that held true in some way or another.
The story. Whether you’re talking about the mystery or the character writing or the filler (goddamn the comedy of the filler in this game!) you’re gonna get the same answer from me; amazing. It is so rare to see writing this good. Not once does anything feel out of place or over stretched, under used or the result of any of the long list of bad writing pitfalls. I really don’t want to spoil this game to those who haven’t already had it spoiled but go on and have a look at it. I do want to talk more about this game in-depth but maybe a retrospective is still a long ways away.
The game is practically faultless in my eyes, to the extent that I’m sure that I must have rose tinted glasses welded to my skin every time I take a peek at it. It’s not a good thing that I can’t find any major faults with this game on any standard. I’m sure there will be people who disagree with me and point out all the mistakes with it that I didn’t and I goddamn hope they do because then I wouldn’t feel so bad at only landing this game at the number 2 spot. Under all normal circumstances Persona 4 would be my favourite game of the sixth generation and is definitely one of my favourite games of all time but it didn’t change my life as of such. Sure, I got an immense amount of enjoyment out of this game and the writing has honestly inspired me at great times of writer’s block and depression. This game is the ultimate pick me up but not a game I could define my life by and say that this game is an intrinsic to my own personality and life. I can only give credit for that to one game. My favourite sixth generation game of all time.
Was this ever even a question?
KINGDOM HEARTS 2
Surprise, surprise. Keyblade King’s favourite game is the widely viewed best game of the Kingdom Hearts series. What a bore that is. It’s not even that good! The combat can be messy, some of the bosses are unnecessarily difficult and use cheap tricks and it’s bloody Mickey Mouse in an emo hoody hanging out with a bunch of emos and the main character is like the only one who isn’t considering slicing their wrists!
Well…yeah. So? Unlike with Persona 4, I recognise all of this game’s faults. While it is a very cool game to play and certainly very pretty; the concept is silly, let’s be honest, the writing leaves open a lot of unanswered questions and plot holes and the chessyness of this game is beyond the highest of heavens.
But I really don’t give a fucking damn.
I suppose simply, Kingdom Hearts 2 is my favourite game of the sixth generation because it’s my favourite game of all time. It’s my favourite game of all time because to put it in the best way I can think of; it was sort of my gateway drug into… well my life as of right now and the path I took to get here.
Okay wait, let’s get some formalities out of the way first- despite what I’ve said, this is still a good game and I’m gonna sum up why really quickly; this game looks great, plays great, bosses are fun, final boss is epic as all hell, characters are interesting, well-acted and well designed, story really isn’t as convoluted as people make it out to be and the mini-games are a bit annoying and sort of pointless sometimes. There, I’ve been critical as much as you’re going to see me get with this game, now let’s move on to what I’ve been waiting 29 other slots to start talking about!
Kingdom Hearts 2 was the first Kingdom Hearts game I ever played. That might seem weird or make a goddamn lot of sense to some people but let’s just put it out there that I really wasn’t that confused by it. I picked it up because it looked pretty freaking cool. The design on the box is beautiful and seeing Cloud on the back was actually probably what hooked me more than anything. I had just played and liked FF7 and was already calling myself a Final Fantasy nut but then this beauty showed up in a GAME store.
The idea of Disney and Final Fantasy was really intriguing to me, at that time and the game looked amazing based off the cover art and the scenes from the game on the back. It was probably the first time I had taken interest in a game’s graphics and art design which are now much more important to me and something I’ll recognise on a more general first glance basis. Actually, reminiscing back, I remember that the design of the game cover was so captivating I didn’t even really recognise what the game was called and I definitely didn’t notice the sort of hidden II in the centre of the name. I figured I was playing a one-off game of sorts and it wasn’t until I started playing it did I realise that in fact I was playing some sort of sequel.
I didn’t put down the game though. Kingdom Hearts 2 primarily begins with a recap of the first Kingdom Hearts game. Besides I already knew the start of the story with the first Kingdom Hearts game because unbeknownst to me when I first started playing Kingdom Hearts 2, this game wasn’t my first experience with the series.
I think my first notion of Kingdom Hearts was an advert for the GBA version of Chain of Memories. And I clearly remember thinking that it was the stupidest looking and sounding thing I had ever heard? What the hell were people doing trying to make Disney dark? Disney isn’t dark…wow, young me was a dumbass.
At some point between seeing that ad and getting Kingdom Hearts 2, while at school, there were these scholastic book magazines which showed all the books you could buy off of them, to encourage reading and what not. I being the lonely book nerd that I was had read more books by age 9 or so than most people read in their whole lives. I was growing tired of the same old words over and over again and well that’s when one particular book caught my eye from that magazine.
I’m not entirely sure if I was into anime at that time, I may have started watching Naruto and started to figure that Japan actually existed or again maybe just pretty cover art won me over but the book I really wanted was the first volume of the Kingdom Hearts manga (this was also my first manga). Seriously, finding this all out a few years later bloody blew my mind but I hope it sort of explains why I have such a deep connection with the Kingdom Hearts series.
Kingdom Hearts 2 dragged me into a world which I didn’t want to escape from. It helped that the character of Roxas, who you first play as in Kingdom Hearts 2, was the epitome of all that I was and wanted to be at around age 11 so I found him extremely easy to relate to and have a hell of a lot of fun playing as. As of right now, he’s probably one of my favourite characters…ever. It’s a good thing that Sora’s a nice kid and the Disney stuff kicked in after Roxas’ seventh day, because I was about ready to go throw my PS2 out the window. I remember being so goddamn angry and upset but I couldn’t understand fully why at the time. That also was the first time I’ve ever cried at a video game. This series brought around a lot of firsts for me as you can plainly see.
Including my first ‘ships’ if you want to call them that and my first real desire to think about more than just what I was seeing in front of me. There was a lot more to the Kingdom Hearts universe than what I was seeing and there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. It showed me that I shouldn’t take everything at face value, that sometimes I it was fun to come up with my own answers, even if they turned out to be wrong.
And on the internet I found like-minded people. Kingdom Hearts gave me inspiration to start writing fanfiction and that was in like 2007, which was pretty much the best year to be in any fandom because everything seemed awesome in that year but from those beginnings in writing, my dream to become a writer was born and it also made me more comfortable online from talking to people about the series…at least for a little while. I’m not going into it here but the Kingdom Hearts fandom has been both one of the best and easily worst fandoms I’ve seen in terms of the people involved in it. But I did get through that too and became a more comfortable and confident person because of it, so it really was for the best in long run. The world didn’t seem so clouded to me as before. I would always come back to playing this game and I will never get bored of it because of how many memories it brings back to me.
What I’m basically trying to get at is, Kingdom Hearts 2 could be the worst game in the world but if it still changed my life the way it did, I would still happily call it my favourite game of all time and place it rightly on its throne in terms of the sixth generation games as well.
At the end of the day, the console war goes on just because people will always find a reason to argue. Games like Call of Duty and Fifa will always sell every year because the people behind those games know how to market to an audience and make use of a lot of little kids’ desires to kill people and be amazing and athletic and be in control with only the press of a few buttons.
I think people’s favourite games will always be those who reflect them as a person and those which have inspired them one way or another. They are the games that that person has forged a link between it and themselves, making it a strong part of them. If art reflects life and video games are art, then the gamers of the world are constantly being exposed to some of the best art of our generation.
Maybe the reason we all get so worked up over which games are the best is because when someone dislikes your favourite game, it’s like they’re showing their dislike for a part of you. Nobody wants to have any part of themselves insulted. As humans, we just can’t take the blows that deals to our pride.
This is probably especially so for the games of the sixth generation because for the majority of us, they’re the games that made up our childhood and our teenaged years. They’re the games we played when we were discovering ourselves and maybe they even played a big part of that.
Or maybe people on the internet just really love a great fight and I’m taking this way way too seriously.
Whatever the reason, my favourite game of the sixth generation is Kingdom Hearts 2 and if you feel like sharing with me the part of yourself that is your favourite game of this generation, please go ahead and do so in the comments. We can have some ‘fun’ debates as well, if you really want. I’ll warn you though, I’m not gonna change my mind!