By Drew D. / December 23rd, 2021
It certainly doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been five years since I joined the Operation Rainfall team. And during my time here, I’ve had the pleasure to play some outstanding hidden gems that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered, and talk about titles that have moved me in ways I could never have predicted. I’ve also been given this platform in which I could draw new attention to past greats and other titles that I, personally, felt had gone relatively unnoticed or underappreciated. oprainfall has given me the opportunity to voice my personal opinions in an industry that I am passionate about and which has brought me tremendous joy. It has, and hopefully continues to be, a welcome presence that reminds me that there are those, like myself, who have an adoration for the niche, and that it’s perfectly okay to enjoy any style or genre however one likes. Looking back and thinking about it, it’s been pretty awesome.
And so, I’ll be taking a look back at some of the hidden gems I’ve discovered, old favorites that I’ve reviewed, and mention a few other titles that I’ve played, watched, or read, yet haven’t had the chance to talk about here during these past five years. Or, more simply, this is all about me geeking out about a bunch of stuff.
In the Beginning…
First, I’d like to do a bit of reminiscing regarding my entry point as an oprainfall writer: the TBT Review. Retro reviews by any name are always something I enjoy as they often remind me of my best gaming memories, regardless of when I actually played them. Those games of the 90’s, and many from the 00’s too, possess a unique charm that never fails to draw me in. So much so, that I still revisit them fairly frequently. Really, if anyone were to just mention certain game titles, I start daydreaming and soon start thinking, “I should replay that.” To have the ability to revisit that library of games, talk about why I so love them, and why they should never be forgotten is something that I find truly worthwhile. These are the games that made me a gamer, so yes, I shall geek out over them as often as I can.
Strangely enough, it’s not Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, or one of the many other masterpieces that I find myself revisiting the most, but rather it’s Kirby’s Adventure. Not only was this the game that introduced Kirby’s now iconic copy ability, but this has to be one of the most fun and engaging games I’ve played from the early 90’s era. Even for an NES era game, it still looks and sounds amazing and, best of all, its pure action. Plowing through enemies using their own powers, unlocking all of the secrets, and completing the game to 100% remains a satisfyingly fun escapade from start to finish. Video games are meant to be fun and Kirby’s Adventure delivers that aplenty. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to tell myself, “no,” when thinking about replaying it.
Of course, there’s plenty of SNES games worth replaying, many of those titles coming from Enix, and for me, Terranigma is at the top of my favorites list. Many Enix RPGs distinctly possess deeper stories and have this reputation of embracing tragedy and the bittersweet. They teach us that not everything or everyone gets a happy ending, or the type of closure we may feel a particular story or character deserves. It can be eye-opening or even humbling; most definitely profound, given that such diversity in a story and the emotional depth that accompanies it can be achieved in a video game. Terranigma is, to me, the pinnacle example of this, given the hardships and ultimate conclusions that the main character, Ark, must endure. And holy crap, the plot twists. Even though I know what’s to come, there’s always such an impact, every single time. That’s the mark of a fantastic story; that it can continue to deliver and instill such an incredible emotional impact each and every time you experience it.
The Well Known Classics
Although bringing attention to niche and lesser known titles is one of the best aspects of writing for this site, having the opportunity to share my own thoughts on some of the most well-known classics of the past few decades has been equally enjoyable. Not only do I get to share my own experiences regarding some of the best games ever, I get to revisit those moments that have forged deep, lasting memories within me. The first time you hear Frog’s Theme or experience the showdown against Magus in Chrono Trigger. The moment you step into the Forest Temple and get drawn in by the music and atmosphere in Ocarina of Time. Drawing out a rusted sword that causes your exile from home, yet leads you to meeting powerful friends that will shape your being and your destiny, slowly but surely coming to the realization that you can indeed achieve greatness enough to save the world. Yeah, pretty much all of Secret of Mana is one big, fantastic memory for me. Those are the moments I live for as a gamer, and getting to share that with even just one reader is a phenomenal feeling.
Metroid Prime Series
My attention will always be grabbed whenever a developer succeeds in trying something new and drastic. Hence the reason why I can never say enough about the Metroid Prime series. This series continues to impress me with just how well Retro Studios manages to adapt the classic 2D Metroid style to 3D. To have captured that feel, that Metroid charm, so accurately is simply amazing. In fact, I find myself wanting to replay the Prime series far more often than any of the 2D titles. Don’t get me wrong, as a fan, I absolutely love Super, Fusion, and the others. But, the Prime titles offer so much more. Deeper stories, tons of detail and depth through the scanning of nearly everything you encounter, the more complex combat and platforming, I could go on and on. The element that sticks out to me the most, though, will always be the point of view. To be able to see exactly what Samus sees through her visor is still the coolest aspect of the Prime series for me. And while platforming and playing as a sprite in 3rd-person will always have its allure, here we are in the suit, seeing through the visor, and getting right behind her iconic weaponry. Because of that first-person style, we get blood-pumping moments like having to look upwards to take in the sheer scale of the Omega Pirate or Meta Ridley, or the faster-paced battles against Dark Samus where it often dashes out of view to launch attacks in your blind spots. Oh, and to bundle or categorize all of that magnificence with an overtly simple term like FPS would be a sin. The perspective, combined with capturing that Metroid magic, allowed the developers to add new degrees of pace, energy, and fierceness that you just can’t quite get from the 2D titles.
Remakes of Classics
The trend of remaking classics is looking like it will continue into the foreseeable future and, for now, I remain a mix of both hopeful and leery. My personal experience regarding remade classics is a bit limited, yet the two titles I’ve reviewed each left profound feelings. I love the Seiken Densetsu 3: Trials of Mana remake. This 3D remake did not lose nor sacrifice any of the charms of its 2D counterpart regarding story, characters, or gameplay. The visuals kept with that distinguished Mana style, and the remade soundtrack is nothing short of masterful. But then there’s the Secret of Mana remake. While the story and gameplay remain true to their source, I felt the aesthetic decisions nearly ruined the game. Using an overly cartoonish visual style clashed with the many story elements that possess a sad, fearful, or tragic tone and also too often clashed with the moods set by the characters’ feelings. A touch more realism, akin to the visual decisions made for Trials of Mana‘s cast, I feel, would have helped better deliver the emotional impacts of the narrative. The worst of failures, however, remains that egregious soundtrack. The sheer brilliance of the original’s sound score is utterly lost, replaced with an insult of a remix. Just thinking about it upsets me. Well, needless to say, my feelings regarding these remakes are strong. One was an overall success, the other, while satisfactory, had unforgivable mistakes. And those are just the two I’ve reviewed here. So while I can appreciate the fact that a remake or remaster can bring new attention and new fans to these games and series, I shall simply hope that any revisit-efforts do their originals justice.
A Slew of Personal Favorites
From the start, oprainfall has enabled me to review many of my all-time favorites, giving me the opportunity to say exactly why I love these particular games and, hopefully, convince a reader or two to try them themselves. I find it to be fulfilling, in that I get to draw new attention to titles that I feel deserve it. Whether it’s the fun had, the memories made, or the emotional impact left, many of my favorites are ones I find I can talk about endlessly and be easily convinced to play again and again. For example, Supergiant’s Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, come to mind, as each title has a wealth of action, yet immerses you in deep story and introduce characters that become easy to care for. Also, each of their stories has their moments of joy and melancholy, thoroughly playing with your emotions throughout. To go a bit further, my favorite of the group, Transistor, remains a gaming fixture for me due to its exceptional, clever gameplay, badass main heroine, and its breathtaking aesthetics.
Whereas Supergiant titles are fairly new in my repertoire, reviewing several of the Mana titles brought me back to my childhood, in which I enjoyed these epic journeys across colorful, imaginative worlds teeming with life. Epic hardly begins to explain such experiences, and getting wrapped up in the backstories and the personal reasons for why these characters are willing to travel the world and confront the fiercest of foes is something I take great pleasure in when playing. And of course, there are plenty others, too, that are outstanding in my memory; Darksiders, Bayonetta, Ocarina of Time, and the many SNES classics I’ve gotten to share with this community.
What I hadn’t expected, however, is the bittersweet feeling I sometimes perceive when playing, reviewing, or just thinking about lesser known games. I find myself lingering on the thought of how so many games, and manga and anime too, whether they were once popular, or only had a niche following, have slowly fallen into obscurity. I find myself thinking that my discussing a long-ago released game might be the last time in who knows how long that particular title will receive any kind of attention from the gaming world. Again, the hope would be to bring renewed attention to such games, to encourage conversation, to reignite dormant memories or feelings others may have once had. Yet, it’s a shame that many games will ultimately remain distant memories. For me in particular, I was recently reminiscing about Baten Kaitos. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone brought up that game in any kind of conversation, with its fantastical world, card based battle system, and its terrible English dub? Or how about Arc Rise Fantasia, Eternal Sonata, Baroque, and Parasite Eve? My goodness, when was the last time anyone brought up The Last Story or Pandora’s Tower? Remember those? Again, it’s not just games, either. Witch Hunter Robin, .hack//SIGN, Black Cat, Trinity Blood, Claymore, I could keep going. Not every title is a masterpiece, but whether it’s me, or you, or someone out there, any particular title has the ability to become something more to an individual. It’s exactly this fact which causes that bittersweet feeling. It’s a realization that it’s up to us to carry on the conversations, to revisit old favorites, and to hold onto those wonderful memories we’ve been gifted by experiencing them.
Along with fanboying over old favorites, oprainfall has introduced me to a plethora of new games, many of which I previously never heard about and would have completely missed out on. If it weren’t for the access to developers and their works that this position provides, I would have missed out on titles that I have since called hidden gems in my reviews. Necrobarista is the best example I can think of regarding this, for I had not heard anything about it previously, yet playing it yielded such a deep, heartfelt impression that I’m truly grateful I didn’t miss out. For those unfamiliar, Necrobarista is a visual novel that explores the many topics surrounding death, such as trauma, regret, and the processes of coming to terms with it and, ultimately, letting go. Funny, charming, yet incredibly thought provoking, this is a game I’m glad to have experienced. And I can even say that it’s now a favorite of mine. Virgo Versus the Zodiac is another example of nearly missing out, yet instead I got the chance to discover this fantastic 8-bit stylized RPG. Its story is deceptively deep, Virgo as a main character brings unabated energy, rage, and feistiness, and the consequences of your actions could affect all of creation. Pretty darn epic and again, one I am wholly glad I got to play.
There are plenty of other examples too. Ghost 1.0, for its Metroid-esque platforming and combat, along with an excellent story and tons of humor delivered through impressive voice acting. The Vagrant, for its tragic heroine, ferocious hack-and-slash combat, and its striking visual style that combines destitute with touches of macabre. And, When the Past was Around, for its enrapturing soundtrack and sound effects, as well as its immersive point-and-click gameplay within an artistically charismatic world. These are all games that left that powerful, lasting impression on me that we seek as gamers; those feelings that make you want to replay them time and again. I am grateful that I’ve had the chance to play them.
Drew’s thoughts on other media on page 2 ->
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