Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Favorite Games Part 3

4. Alpha Centauri

There was one man who was more responsible for Sid Meier's legend status more than any other (besides Sid, of course): Brian Reynolds. Reynolds designed Sid Meier's Colonization and Civilization II, both widely recognized as some of the best games of all time. It was at this point that Meier and Reynolds wanted to make Civilization III, but couldn't due to legal wrangling over who owned the name. Instead, Reynolds and Meier went on to make Alpha Centauri.

Alpha Centauri was an amazing improvement over the Civilization series. For one thing, each faction has a specific personality, as well as bonuses and drawbacks to each. If you picked the Believers, a religious faction, your units would be more mentally strong due to their religious fervor, but you would suffer penalties to your scientific research. If you were part of the Peacekeepers, run by the UN, you would have happier people but suffer militarily.

Not only that, but interactions between opponents were now meaningful. You could actually hate a certain faction, not just because they took one of your bases, but because they genuinely had a dislikable personality. It was a revolution, and one that they have tried to duplicate in later installments of Civilization, but to no avail.

3. Lords of the Realm 2

Alpha Centauri wasn't the first game to give you characters that you truly cared about in a stategy game. Lords of the Realm 2, made in 1996, was a strategy game that had you fighting for the throne after the death of the king. There were some characters, like the Baron, that had pure motives in being King. Some, like the Bishop, achieved their means through subterfuge. For instance, let's say you forged an alliance with the Bishop. The Bishop would still wander into your lands and attack you, claiming he was "seizing the land for the church." Jerk.

Here's the opening cinematic, which should give you a good idea what I'm talking about:

The county management took place in a turn-based style akin to Civilization or Heroes of Might and Magic, but battles took place in real-time a la Warcraft. There was so much goodness in this game that it's hard to describe. I can still load it up and play it over and over, even if it is really easy for me now. Don't go anywhere near Lords of the Realm III, though. I'm warning you.

2. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is another classic with a capital "C." The story is as follows: Crono meets a pretty girl, Marle, at a fair. Crono's friend Lucca has a teleporting machine that malfunctions when Marle steps into it. Marle seemingly dissapears, and it's up to Crono to find her. From that simple setup is spun a time-travelling story about fate, destiny, friendship and loss. Your actions in the past affect the future, and you really feel like you're having an effect on the game world.

The battle system is one of the finest to grace RPGs during the 16-bit era. The graphics still look great almost 10 years later. And with the release of Chrono Trigger DS, we're finally able to play the game with the translation that was intended from the beginning. If you have any interest in RPGs, you owe it to yourself to play one of the gems of the 16-bit era.