Originally a throwaway game included in the compilation package The Orange Box (featuring Half-Life 2, two expansion packs for it, and Team Fortress 2), Portal was the breakout hit of 2007. Not content with raking in critical acclaim in the form of multiple awards—including Game of the Year and Best Game Design from the Game Developers Choice Awards—it also gathered mass popular appeal in the form of internet memes, official merchandise and fan-made crafts. The source of all this acclaim? A simple, yet ingenious design, an engaging premise, a darkly funny script, and what is quite probably the best song ever played over ending credits.
You play as Chell, a young woman who wakes from stasis in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center and is instructed to test the Handheld Portal Device, a gun that shoots controlled wormholes to connect two points in space. Instructions are given via the AI, GLaDOS, a calm female voice that promises cake as it leads you through rooms filled with jets of fire, oddly polite gun turrets, and other hazards. After a point you start finding out what's behind the scenes and things only get darker—and funnier—from there.
Chell, chasing herself through walls
Your best friend in the place, the Weighted Companion Cube
Carrying a turret around, so it won't shoot
M. C. Escher would love this
The sequel to Chrono Trigger was long and eagerly awaited, until Chrono Cross was finally released in 1999 (2000 in North America). As a sequel it was less than ideal, as there are no familiar characters, locations, or anything, and the connection to Trigger is not revealed until very near the end of the game. However, on its own merits, Chrono Cross is an innovative, elaborate, and lovely game. Retaining the lack of random battles from the previous game, it further abandons traditional leveling, instead adding to your abilities in a "star" form as you progress through plot points, as well as a stamina system that gives you more opportunities for action during battles. Most notable are the massive forty-five member cast of playable characters and the eleven different endings, offering very flexible replay with all the possible combinations.
Serge would have been content to live his life in his small fishing village, marrying his girlfriend Leena, and generally never experiencing the world at large. Unfortunately, Fate has a different plan, and poor Serge is sent to an alternate reality in which he died as a child. His family is gone and his friends don't recognize him, but someone apparently does, as soldiers show up to capture him at his own grave. He fights them off with the help of a young thief named Kid and is quickly pulled into her search for the most valuable artifact in the world: the Frozen Flame. A war between nations, the struggle of humans versus demi-humans, and the six Dragon Gods against the destructive impulses of mankind all follow while Serge simply tries to figure out what's happened and how he can get home again. Pursued by Lynx—also after the Frozen Flame, among other things—and alternately helped and hindered by Lynx's companion, Harle, Serge finds out a lot more than he bargained for as to why he's alive and in this reality. It's not pretty, but that's what friends are for, right?
The Frozen Flame
Serge in action
1995 saw the release of a game created by a dream team consisting, among others, of such artists as Hironobu Sakaguchi—the creator of Final Fantasy—Akira Toriyama—the creator of Dragonball—and renowned composer Nobuo Uematsu. It was based on the standard RPG format of the time, but featured several innovations including a lack of random battles, over a dozen possible endings, and extensive, character-building sidequests. Graphics that were lovely for the time remained the same for the Playstation reissue (2001 in North America) but several anime sequences were added, regardless. Fun gameplay, an interesting plot with multiple variants, and the option to recruit a villain as a playable character are just some of the reasons that Chrono Trigger is consistently judged one of the best games of all time.
When Crono bumped into a girl at the Millenial Fair, he certainly didn't expect to end up travelling through time in an effort to stop a global catastrophe. Still, when Marle—the girl in question—vanishes into a strange portal while trying out a prototype teleportation device invented by Crono's friend Lucca, he doesn't hesitate to step in after her. It's the first step in a trip through human history, a massive war of humans versus the Mystics, and the gradual awareness of a parasitic creature that will destroy civilization if Crono and his friends can't stop it.
The good guys, of all shapes and eras
The showdown with Magus
The ultimate enemy is... a hedgehog?
Opening movie for the PSX
Today, 3/25/08, marks the US release of the long-anticipated prequel to Final Fantasy VII. Crisis Core, while PSP-specific, sports amazing graphics and a fantastic soundtrack, as well as quality voice acting and, quite frankly, the best spin-off of the wildly popular original game. Gathering both critical acclaim and popular appeal, FFVII:CC is a milestone in the franchise. As a prequel, it covers the seven years prior to FFVII leading right up to the moments almost immediately before the start of that game. Featuring characters known to FFVII fans that have not previously been given much face time, this is a game both comforting to old hands and accessible to new players, although only the latter will be surprised at the inevitable tragedy.
Zack Fair is a SOLDIER 2nd Class with a burning desire to prove himself. With the guidance of his friend and mentor Angeal, Zack works his way through the war in Wutai and up the ranks. Their relationship takes a hit, though, when they are sent to retrieve a SOLDIER gone AWOL: Genesis, longtime friend of both Angeal and Sephiroth. The genetic experimentation that is revealed in the search will have lasting implications, and also immediate, devestating impact.
Three friends at play
A familiar scene
A familiar face
The only time you've ever seen Cloud smile
Building on the successful model of the first two, the third R&C in 2004 merely changed around a few weapons and added in a multiplayer mode, both on- and offline. The graphics were a little cleaner, the maps a little larger, but for the most part the winning formula remained the same.
When Ratchet hears that his home planet of Veldin is under attack he rushes back to help with the defense. After being mistaken for a new sergeant by the Galactic Rangers and helping to clear out the initial attack it's revealed that it's been organized by an old enemy of Captain Qwark: Dr. Nefarious. Clank, having been confused with his TV personality, is recruited by the Galactic President to find Qwark so they can figure out how to defeat Nefarious at long last. Since Nefarious is threatening to turn all biological life into robots, though, Clank's loyalty comes into question. Could this be the end of the Lombax/robot team?
Ratchet & Clank
Secret Agent Clank!
Courtney Gears has a thing for Clank
Four-person, offline, multiplayer mode
Who doesn't love a Plasma Whip?