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 My Favourite Games #5: ShinGraywords
Posted by hb on July 30th, 2017 @10:04AM

‘My Favourite Games’ is a regular MossRanking feature which gives us a chance to get to know our fellow Spelunkers a little better. In each edition, we put the spotlight on one member of the community, as they pick three of their most treasured video games ever and give their reasons why. Featured members are allowed to pick whatever games they want... except for Spelunky.


In the fifth entry, we go to ShinGraywords, an ever-reliable runner and a popular name in the community. Graywords goes retro with his three games, revisiting some of the best the '90s had to offer. Here are his three games.



Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation 1, 1997)

Graywords’ first pick is one which many people consider to be one of the greatest games of all time. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night -- alongside the Metroid series -- helped to shape the ‘Metroidvania’ subgenre. Such games feature an open and interconnected world map which the player explores, picking up new abilities or items along the way to gain access to new areas. Graywords suggests that Symphony of the Night holds up today as a near-perfect example of the subgenre. “It’s a blast to play,” he shares. “I try to replay it at least once a year.”


Graywords says he has beaten Symphony of the Night more than fifty times now. When asked what makes him continue to revisit the game, he comments that he always finds new ways to play it, thanks to Symphony of the Night's open nature. “Sometimes it’s fun to just blaze through everything with the overpowered Crissaegrim. Other times I’ll feel like a challenge and do a fists-only run,” Graywords reveals. “The map is another reason I keep playing. The stages connect to each other in more than one location, so you don’t have to take the same route every time.”


A huge twist involves the discovery of the ‘inverted castle’ -- a secret which when unlocked doubles the length of the game. The player can attain a 200.6% map completion as a result. “Discovering the inverted castle was a thrill,” Graywords says. “I first learned about it watching my friend play through the import version of the PSX game. Helping him figure out the pendant clues in Japanese, getting the secret item, learning to use it properly, then realising you have a whole extra half of the game to explore -- those are priceless moments.”



Secret of Mana (SNES, 1993)

In the early ‘90s, the majority of role-playing games leaned towards turn-based battle systems. Secret of Mana -- Graywords’ second pick -- favoured real-time battles, and was one of the reasons why Square's title received (and continues to receive) much love and appreciation.


“It was a bit of a underserved subgenre at the time,” Graywords reflects. “It felt good to have an RPG that made me feel immersed and reactive, as opposed to waiting for my ‘turn’ to come up. I really felt ‘in control’ of the characters. This kind of gameplay reminded me a bit of Crystalis on the NES, which I loved... 'Whacking' -- or, critically hitting -- the monsters felt nice, and racking up big numbers with chain spellcasts against elemental weaknesses on bosses always gave me a big grin."


Then there’s Secret of Mana’s three-player cooperative multiplayer. Innovative at the time, particularly as owners of the game had to buy a multi-controller adapter (the SNES only had two controller ports), this feature made the game stand out even more as far as Graywords is concerned. “It really felt like a cohesive multiplayer experience,” he says. “Not to mention, all you had to do to join the game was press start on the controller, so it was easy for your buddies to drop in or out.”


That said, Graywords is full of praise for the whole package, not just the game’s innovations. “The beautiful art combined with the pastel colour palette really gave it a different feel from a lot of games out there,” he states. “And the beautiful, ethereal soundtrack kept me entranced, complementing the playstyle and the artwork to really glue the whole experience together.”



Rocket Knight Adventures (Genesis, 1993)

Konami’s opossum knight Sparkster did not get as much attention as Mario or Sonic in the 16-bit era, but 2D platformer Rocket Knight Adventures on the Genesis is a much-loved title for Graywords. “This one is pure platforming,” he says. “All you have is your sword, your rocket pack, your wits, and your tail. It’s one of the few Genesis games I still pop into my system from time to time.”


One of the most impressive things about Rocket Knight Adventures is its sheer and maddening variety. Gameplay can differ dramatically from stage to stage, keeping the player always on their toes. “There were several ‘all you can do is dodge’ sections of stages, some ‘on-rails’ sections at high rates of speed, and some gimmicky portions where you follow your reflection or control elevator devices,” Graywords explains. “At other points, they completely change the genre of the game by mixing in a shoot-’em-up stage or two, or throwing you into a robot boxing match. I loved the innovation and variety crammed into this game.”


Despite the series’ comparative underappreciation, Graywords reveals that he’s actually glad Sparkster and his adventures never reached the heights of popularity achieved by his platforming rivals. “While that could have allowed for more games and content, not all of that content would be guaranteed to be good,” he outlines. “But I would love to see more Rocket Knight games if they can capture the essence properly. I’m not sure how an official modern game would play out -- the Konami of the 1990s is not the Konami of today.”



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Previous 'My Favourite Games' entries:

Meowmixmix (#4)

MikeIsMyIke (#3)

Twiggle (#2)

Kinnijup (#1)