From Spyro to the Brotherhood of Steel, Tom Martin caps off our trio of personal features with five games that mean a lot to him.
Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer
Google defines purgatory as “a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven”, I would define it as my experience of playing Spyro 2 when I was 6.
I did not own a memory card for my PlayStation 1, what this meant was that every time I played Spyro 2, I had to start it from the beginning. Sometimes at night I will still hear the shit-eating laugh of some unseen lizard and I’ll wake up desperately searching for a rock to shovel into my mouth. Plus, a few of the worlds didn’t work, so even if I got a ways into the game, I could never have progressed to the next homeworld.
I was overjoyed that the Spyro Rignited Trilogy, the remake of this classic platformer with the other two thrown in for fun I assume, is a solid game in and of itself, so more people might get a chance to play it. But I will always find a reason to dust off my old PS2 so that I can experience the old broken mess I loved when I was a kid.
Pokémon Platinum Version
If nostalgia has a soundtrack, mine is the soundtrack to Pokémon Platinum.
It takes a lot for music to stand out in this series, but Platinum’s slap bass and piano infused offering has it all:
Beauty in the soft twinkling of Route 216 at night, awe at the heavenly piano of the lords of time and space, Palkia and Dialga. The sheer dread of Cynthia’s ‘oh dear God, here comes Garchomp’ anthem, which I will sometimes recall as I lie back on my bed with my opium pipe by my side.
Or, what about the theme of galactic goth, Mr. ‘27 going on 64’ Cyrus, the boss of the bowl cut astrology club titled Team Galactic? With its slowly rising minor chords that partner his incessant death threats against you, a 10-year-old child who bought this game with his own pocket money.
It’s a visual novel about grief, responsibility, and coffee, swirled together in an anime-inspired, cell-shaded aesthetic. Necrobarista focuses on a Melbourne coffee bar (called The Terminal) where the recently deceased may spend 24 hours in the realm of the living before moving beyond.
Necrobarista’s greatest concentration of total dissolved solids (that’s how coffee strength is measured, says Google) is its brilliant cast of characters. From the new owner of the bar and self-confessed sadist Maddy Xiao, to famous real-life Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, every character will take you by the heart and… will be incredibly gentle to it. Because where many games dealing with the subject of grief delight in ripping you to pieces before building you back up again, Necrobarista’s story breaks your heart, and leaves the tools for its repair in your own hands.
Though it has only been a short while since I played it, I can already tell that Necrobarista will stick with me for a long time to come.
I never saw it coming.
I’d heard good things about Persona 5 when I picked it up on sale for £15 in late 2018 as an ‘end of exams’ treat for myself. I have now played the game, and its New Game Plus, and I’m itching to get my hands on Royal when my poor student wallet can allow it. I’ve got my eye on Scramble, the spinoff following the story of Persona 5, when it eventually launches in the west.
The game has its problems in its handling of LGBTQIA+ and feminist themes, but the sheer strength of its overarching message – the capacity of a younger generation to change the world – resonates with our political moment.
Persona 5 was the first JRPG I have played (this is to my shame I grant you) but my time with it has encouraged me to seek out other games, such as the Yakuza series, that might otherwise have remained outside my cultural frame of reference. It’s a game that will inform my gaming canon for the foreseeable future.
A wise man once said that war, war, never changes. Just like my love for this game.
Fallout 3 was the first game that ever truly engaged me narratively, and made me question my actions as I played it. Granted, the game’s moral queries aren’t the most complex – “Will you blow up this town for money? <Yes> <No> <Can I have more money?>” – but for me, 13 years old and borrowing the game from my mate Sam, that was complex enough.
It’s only writing this now that I consider my experiences with this game may be to thank for my ambition to write for video games. Fallout 3 was the first game in which I truly felt my actions were shaping the world outside of a narrative laid out for me.
It didn’t matter that this impact was as some jingling caps in my virtual pocket, and a crater where a town once was.
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