The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (September 2021)

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    The nominee I propose for the Hall of Greats is GTA: Vice City. An open-world sandbox drenched in nostalgic 1980s Technicolor dreams and trumps its predecessor GTA III in every way that matters. Ballsier, more brazen, innovative, daring and truly exciting-Vice City is thoroughly deserving of a place in the Hall of Greats.

    When I first saw the original trailer for GTA: Vice City, I was blown away. Backed by Kool and the Gang's Summer Madness and showing idyllic shots of the sun peaking through palm trees, the glistening post-card picturesque presentation does its utmost to welcome and soothe you into a new kind of GTA.

    What makes Vice City stand apart for all of GTA games before and since is its ability to captivate and make you feel wholly immersed in the time period. Radio stations run the gamete of the popular music genres of the time such as new, pop and rock, but also sprinkles in a helping of Hispanic influence courtesy of Radio Espantoso and features the long-lost love of pirate radio with the Wildstyle rap station. Talk radio stations get some love with two stonking additions in the form of K-CHAT-a talk show where a fancy woman interviews a bunch of weirdos and maniacs-and VCPR-a panellist discussion show where three guests discuss topics such as poverty, politics and nudism. The satire and writing of these talk radio stations is superb and totally hilarious.

    Vice City also sings with a smattering of pop culture references to an extent far beyond any other game in the franchise. Scarface is evidenced most notably with the Diaz mansion, the interiors looking strikingly similar to the one Tony Montana raises his drug empire in. Miami Vice is another clear point of inspiration, especially seeing as Tubbs' voice actor Phillip Michael Thomas lends his pipes to Tommy Vercetti's sidekick Lance Vance. Many larger and smaller references are trickled into Vice City to make it a referential 80s lover’s wet dream that listing them all will take forever-just know that Ken Rosenberg’s curly mop and the Malibu Club are the works of Carlito’s Way-another Al Pacino/ Brian De Palma offering.

    As for Tommy Vercetti and his presence in the world of Vice City, he’s the best kind of protagonist you could ask for. Vercetti has no morals, he speaks his mind, he takes no shit and he is all about creating destruction en masse. There’s no time for emotions or serious storytelling and all that Hollywood-aping pretentiousness, it’s about you and the havoc you spread with the seismic arsenal of weapons you’re given. You can carve caverns of bloody gore with a chainsaw that much like the rain, cascades down the screen after you’ve sent hostile guts a splattering. Fancy treating your foes like animals you intend to dissect like they were a hapless piece of meat? Then grab that cleaver or machete and get chopping away.

    If firearms are more your bag, then you can spit a barrage of bullets using the minigun which will result in satisfying sprays of blood gushing out of your victims. Then you have all manner of assault rifles, sniper rifles, a rip-roaring magnum, grenades and Molotov cocktails to choose from-oh and an RPG because wholesale destruction can’t be complete without one. There are an amalgamation of options for Tommy to commit gory murder and it’s pleasingly robust to have this level of diversity in the weapon selection.

    Vehicles are more varied in Vice City as well. From motorbikes, mopeds and dirt bikes to helicopters, sea planes, sea helicopters, speed boats and golf caddies as well as a host of new on-road vehicles, ensuring you get from point A-B in stylish elegance.

    As for missions they’re as wonderfully varied as the wholesale destruction you cause and far away from the obedient “yes man” missions of GTA 3. Whether it’s helping a real estate mogul clear away his competition, aiding a biker by wreaking sheer demolition on the populace, or being drugged to help the enemy-the story missions never fail to entertain and delight. Ambition is also showcased with heists and pivotal story missions that change the face of things moving forward, so the escalation of what GTA would go on to accomplish in later instalments is very much gleaned in Vice City.

    Though GTA 3 laid the groundwork and pencil sketched the franchise’s future in 3D, Vice City inked, coloured and gave GTA a vibrant and engrossing life. VC gave us a speaking protagonist, more complex and wildly diverse array of characters, more exciting missions, a grander sense of time and place, a greater diversity of radio stations, weapons and vehicles. The side activities were far more interesting too including destruction derbies, pizza delivery missions, RC missions and the ability to purchase properties including businesses that generate money. You can even participate in a mission where you dispatch naughty fliers and complete vehicle checklists for rewards.

    Visually you may think Vice City is rather garish as it’s using the same engine that ran GTA 3, but it released only one year afterwards and what R* managed to accomplish during its development is remarkable. No matter whether you’re witnessing the rain and thunder teeming down, watching the waters glisten and sparkle as you barrel through them on a Jetmax or Squallo speedboat, or you’re taking a trip down to the Malibu Club and gazing at an eye-wincing homage to The Village People as they boogie to Automatic by The Pointer Sisters-Vice City did all it could to make you feel part of the bygone era of the 80s.

    GTA Vice City deserves your vote because it transformed the perception of what GTA is capable of. GTA 3 may have been the genesis of the franchise’s leap into the third dimension, but Vice City amplified GTA’s appeal tenfold and all these years later it’s still a very fondly remembered entry in the franchise for the gigantic steps it took to establish GTA as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
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    Easy Allies Forums Hall of Greats Submission
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    It might not have the notoriety of being the first 3D Zelda, or the wide-open epicness of Ocarina of Time and Breath of the Wild. But what The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask does different is where its strengths lay.

    Rather than taking the straightforward adventure route of prior Zelda games, Majora's gameplay loop is a loop in the mightiest sense. Link is in an alternate reality where the moon is about to fall, and without the resources necessary to stop it, he must relive the same three in-game days (about 1 hour in real-time) over and over, each time gaining not only more tools, but also more knowledge about all of the people affected by the coming disaster. This knowledge gets logged in a notebook, eventually showing Link how to bring closure each of their problems by being in the right place at the right time.

    These problems range from shopkeepers not being able to stock a certain item to reuniting a soon-to-be-wed couple to healing lost souls with a song. Each time Link helps someone out, he's rewarded with a mask that gives him a new ability. Compared to Link's main set of tools, most of these are minor abilities such as being able to get more information from people or being able to speak to certain animals and monsters.

    However, three of the masks allow Link to transform into members of each of the regional races, with each one COMPLETELY changing the gameplay with a wholly different body type and moveset.

    The two words that best sum up Majora's Mask are "dense" and "variety". While the world is easily the smallest of the major console Zeldas, every single inch is filled with unique and worthwhile tasks to accomplish. Only four main dungeons have been compensated for with an extensive leadup to each one, as well as an enormous quantity of sidequests that are really more key to the flow of the game than the main path. Add in how the gameplay instantly turns on its head each time you put on a transformation mask plus the deep personalities of the multitude of NPCs, and the lack of physical scale just outright vanishes.

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    Some people find the game's timer stressful. But as long as you only tackle one major task per cycle, the timer rarely feels like anything other than a time-of-day indicator. This does put more onus on the player to pay attention rather than enjoy the sights, but as the sights are intended to give off a vibe of weariness rather than field-and-lake style glory, I'd say it's not an unreasonable ask.

    Getting back to the meat and potatoes of Zelda, the first three dungeons are all solidly designed (though like Ocarina of Time, the water temple is mazey and demands a strategy guide to prevent the onset of insanity) with an optional objective of finding Stray Fairies for major prizes, but they lack the atmosphere of the overworld. The BIG exception is the last one, the legendary Stone Tower Temple, which I (and others) consider to be the best dungeon in all of 3D Zelda. Not only is the atmosphere and variety of rooms and enemies superb, the central mechanic of turning the entire dungeon upside down is like two dungeons in one! Even the music changes!

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    The soundtrack is my personal favorite Zelda soundtrack. While a lot of tunes from Ocarina of Time are reused, it just makes the whole package sweeter. Including a full slate of new ocarina songs, the new musical additions have a similar structure to OOT's, but are more dark and dissonant. It's a fair step removed from Koji Kondo's usual upbeat style. Newcomer Toru Minegishi, who went on to be the lead composer of Twilight Princess and Splatoon, also helps out with some awesome battle music.

    And as for that atmosphere I mentioned, it's the BEST aspect of Majora's Mask, as well as what it has the MOST of. The world is pretty at times, but is drenched in unease, and a layer of sadness consistently seeps through its facade. A masterfully realized trifecta of writing, visual effects, and soundtrack come together to create an experience that is constantly entrancing and affecting.

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    And along with everything else, Majora is one of the best looking games on the Nintendo 64. With the mandatory extra RAM of the Expansion Pak, Majora exceeds Ocarina of Time's visuals throughout with brighter colours, more details, a killer blur motion effect, and a more advanced lighting engine that is central to the mood of the world. Scenes are bathed in uneasy purples, yellows, golds, and pastels; characters are gently lit by flickering torches; and weapons such as the Bombs and Light Arrows fill up rooms with searing lightbursts.

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    The only truly negative opinion I have about MM is that it's just a bit easy. However, this slight fault in gameplay is overcome with ease by the outstanding presentation.

    post-HoG edit - updated music link

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    It was back in 2003 when Ubisoft released a game that would pretty much change my taste in games, almost define it. I was fifteen and had enjoyed so far mostly (children's) platformers and after those FPS games, but with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time that all changed. That's when I discovered the action-adventure genre.

    The Sands of Time is a magical game. A wonderful journey. The atmosphere remains mysteriously peaceful throughout the whole game, even with all the fight sequences that happen time after time. At those times the action intensifies and the music changes suits, but when it's all over again and the Prince stands triumphant amidst the now-gone enemies the peace quickly returns. The game's balance works perfectly in that regard as the exploration and the sword fights come one after the other.

    Much of the exploration concentrates on large environmental puzzles in the huge palace and its courtyards and dungeons. The Prince needs to navigate through multiple obstacles, swing on poles, hit switches, run on walls and jump from ledges to the next ones. Often all of those combined, and sometimes with a ticking clock adding to the pressure. The euphoria is real when you finally beat a big room full of dangers and difficult traversal and get to continue.

    The fighting, on the other hand, happens mainly against large number of enemies who aren't exactly pushovers. They tend to teleport near you and swing their giant blades in big archs, forcing you to be on your guard. Luckily the Prince is an agile fellow who has an equally deadly sword of his own. The most satisfying move is to somersault over an enemy and stab them with the Dagger of Time, thus sucking the precious sand into it.

    Yes, the Dagger. The weapon that allows you to rewind time, THE gimmick of the series. It is a beautiful feature. Whether you've just failed a difficult wall-run or gotten hit by a deadly series of sword-strikes from an enemy, you just hold the button down and it all returns to moments before the disaster. Of course you can't spam it all the time as you need to refill the Dagger's power slots, but those are plentiful and there's sand to be found all over the palace.

    What I enjoy the most about the game, however, is its presentation. The story and how it's told. It's basically the Prince narrating the whole story and if you happen to die he simply gets a little confused and says that's not how it went. By the end of the game this whole narration angle has a beautiful payoff, which - spoiler - involves Farah. The other integral person of the story, without whom this would all be so, so much less. I love Farah. The way the pair struggle through the nightmare together and then get their peaceful moments from time to time is what elevates The Sands of Time so high for me. Those are the moments I remember the best. The moments that still bring a bittersweet smile on my face almost twenty years later.

    The Sands of Time wants to tell a story and it does it without anything unnecessary. It doesn't have any customization or weapons to choose from, because it doesn't need them. Instead the game tells about your progress by ripping away the Prince's shirt, sleeve by sleeve, until he finally throws the whole garment away. In the same fashion the Prince comes upon only a few new swords on his journey, which makes these discoveries every time huge moments to witness and cheer. All of these style choises made by the studio are literal joy for my senses.

    Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has remained in my Top 5 games of all time and it still continues to do so. There have been countless games that I've enjoyed and loved through the years after, but only a tiny fraction of them has had as lasting an impact as the Prince and Farah's story. The game's truly a classic for me and I love it dearly. "Kakolookiyam."

    I found an excellent clip from the Prison. A bit narration, then traversal, and finally fighting.
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    The Tower of Dawn, my favourite song from the game.
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  • I'm finally done!

    My video:

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    Chopping this thing down from 9 minutes was rough, sorry if there are obvious edits.

    I'll make another post in a few hours opening this thing for cross-examination.

  • Of these seven games one was brought by me, one is partly familiar and five are completely unknown to me (never played them, never saw someone else playing them). Therefore, I will give my votes solely based on your arguments. So don’t feel like you’ve already lost, because someone else brought more revered game – make the best case for your title and 3 points are yours.

  • I must say at this point that for the first EZA Community Hall of Greats-this seems rather impossible! You've all brought a fantastic and varied selection of games to the inaugural community HoG. Thank you all for participating and @Capnbobamous for making this all possible!

  • Hey everybody, cross-examination is now open. Here is a quick refresher on the rules:

    1. Each person is allowed to ask up to two questions per game presented.
    2. If a question is asked about a certain game, only the person who brought that game is allowed to respond.
    3. Anybody is able to cross-examine, even those who did not present a game themselves.

    There's no word limit or post limit here, so feel free to spread your questions out over time or ask them all at once. You do you! This will last until the end of the 19th, after which I will ask for your votes.

  • Question to @Brannox about Final Fantasy VII.

    Every artform evolves over time, but videogames evolve especially fast, and things that were groundbreaking and innovative yesterday feels simplistic and limited today, because follow-up games took those ideas and pushed them even further. And I’m not talking just about technical side, I’m talking about everything, even storytelling. I loved Mass Effect 2 to death when I played it a decade ago, but when I’ve replayed it in Legendary Edition this summer, I was extremely disappointed with the fact that your companions don’t talk to each other even when they really should (I took Miranda on Jack’s loyalty mission and she remained silent even when Jack talked shit on Cerberus’s experiments). Lack of such subtle conversations didn’t bother me at all in 2010, but in 2021 a hero that doesn’t react to his surrounding feels poorly written.

    So, it’s hard for me to believe that things you were praising in your presentation (story, characters, battle system) will have the same impact if you play this game today for the first time. Final Fantasy VII may be an important part of gaming history and was probably Great in 1997. But is it really Great in 2021?

  • Question to @JDINCINERATOR about GTA: Vice City.

    In your presentation you’ve praised this game for perfectly capturing the vibe of the era and being incredibly immersive. At the same time, you said that there’s no time for emotions or serious storytelling and you spend most of the time wreaking havoc and destruction. Aren’t these two aspects contradicting each other?

  • Question to @DIPSET about Tony Hawk's Underground.

    In your presentation you’ve talked about “One more try” aspect of this game and from my experience the desire to try again only kicks in when you feel like it was just a stupid mistake, and you can do it perfectly on the very next attempt. You may then lose 10 times in a row, but you must always feel that next one will be the one. But then you said that a lot of goals are really difficult. Giving “one more try” to a difficult task usually means just bashing your head against the wall – to succeed you need to commit time to analyze the task, to get good at each component and then to practice chaining those things together.

    Does that mean that “One more try” aspect of Tony Hawk's Underground only works when you’ve already mastered this game and just improving your scores?

  • Question to @Oscillator about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

    My biggest concern with games with time loop mechanic is that you have to redo a lot of actions over and over, which can be especially unpleasant if you were on the right track and just ran out of time. And one-hour loop seems like a lot of progress ready to be lost. I imagine that the prospect of such significant progression loss will pressure you to skip dialogs, exploration, and experimentation, which are probably the very things that make this game worth playing.

    So, I want to ask you: what positive aspects time loop mechanic bring to this game and what makes drawbacks of having time loop mechanic less dreadful than they seem from the outside?

  • Question to @Sentinel-Beach about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

    In gameplay video that you’ve presented, camera was seamless during traversal, but there were a lot of perspective shifts during combat. Having two different camera behaviors seem odd on its own, but it’s especially strange when the more “chaotic” version is allocated to fighting enemies. This was a very simple environment, yet I was disoriented and confused to the point that I initially thought that some portion of gameplay was cut for the interest of time.

    How camera feels when you play the game? Is it more, or less a hurdle than when you watch someone else playing it?

  • Question to @Capnbobamous about Katamari Damacy.

    In your presentation you’ve mentioned simplicity, joyfulness and equality as the main things that make this game a unique experience. And while it’s true that most games try to be more serious or focused, there are many games (especially among indies) that shares the same qualities. Flower, Donut County, ABZÛ, probably Journey, probably Tearaway, likely the most of “walking simulators”… If I was more familiar with this sub-genre, I would likely name many more similar games.

    It’s obvious that Katamari Damacy is a very special game for you, but new player doesn’t have such bond yet. So why should he choose to play Katamari Damacy instead of any other simple joyful game with positive meaning?

  • @ffff0 I believe that Vice City is fully capable of providing something that feels authentic whilst leveraging that with GTA's brand of open-world sandbox mayhem. I don't think there's a formidable contradiction here. I think I see what you're saying because serious storytelling when done well can make a game even more immersive, but I think Vice City is able to marry its 80s era presentation with a penchant for destruction by doffing its cap to all the references it makes to pop culture.

  • @ffff0 Generally do you think it's a bit too early to consider Apex Legends a great given that it's two-years old and its community is still going strong, or do you believe enough time has elapsed for it to be considered a great?

  • @brannox Given that Final Fantasy VII is over two-decades old, do you think it's capable of being as enjoyable today as it was when it came out in 1997?

  • @dipset Do you think that Tony Hawks Underground's ability to get off your board undermines the arcade pleasures of its predecessors in any way?

  • @oscillator Do you think Majora's Mask does enough to step out of Ocarina of Time's shadow and establish an identity all its own?

  • @sentinel-beach How do you feel Prince of Persia has inspired other games in its genre and do you hold it up as a trailblazer of sorts?