games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games of 1998 – Metal Gear Solid, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, More

October 10, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Metal Gear Solid

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. I’m here to talk about the year of 1998, the Dreamcast had just launched in Japan but wouldn’t hit American shores for another year. Also, Einhander apparently came out in America in 1998, not 1997, so my bad. Ah well, let’s begin:

#8: Crash Bandicoot Warped

At this point, Crash was getting a little long in the tooth, but was still a very solid quasi-3D platformer. The new time travel elements add in a bit more variety to the setting. There is more stuff to collect in the levels, which adds in a tad more to the replayability. It also lets you play as Coco, on occasion, and while the levels aren’t exactly memorable, they are still a nice change of pace. Graphically, the game was pretty colorful and charming, and the water levels on the jet-ski looked great.

#7: Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

I’ve always been of two minds about Tenchu. On the plus side, it was probably the first 3D stealth game that I can remember playing. It had decent-sized levels, a lot of fun tricks you could use as a ninja, was fairly violent, and had a neat debug menu you could really mess around with. The negative side is that you could barely see more than 10 feet in front of you at any given time, which made actually playing the game much more of a chore than it should have been. Also, all the levels take place at night, which does fit into the ninja motif, but doesn’t exactly make the levels pop out any. Still, it was a noble effort, regardless of any technical hurdles.

#6: Gran Turismo

I was never a fan of the Gran Turismo series but even I won’t disregard the importance of the game. I think my big problem with it is that it really didn’t ease you into the act of racing. Yes, there were the license tests, but those weren’t exactly great. I did have some fond memories of playing the game with my dad though. The reason it’s on this list is because it basically started the simulation racing genre, especially with regards to real life cars. There may have been simulation racers before, and I know other racing games had real cars in them, but those were almost always arcade fluff games that wasn’t representative of the real world. Gran Turismo might seem primitive by today’s standards, but it attempted to have cars in a realistic space and that is commendable. Also, the Garbage and Ash songs on the soundtrack were good.

#5: Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 was an iterative sequel, not a complete reinvention, but it did add some fun mechanics. The biggest addition was he “Zapping” system, which had connective material between characters. If you were playing as Leon and took a box of bullets in the first game, then you went to play as Claire for the second one, those bullets would be gone. The game generally played the same as the first one but felt more expansive due to the ludicrous size of the police station and the opening few scant minutes running around Raccoon City.

#4: Parasite Eve

I have pretty much loved Parasite Eve from the day it came out. I don’t think it’s a great playing RPG, per se, it’s serviceable enough but the mix of real-time combat and waiting for your action bar to fill up could get annoying. I don’t view it as wholly negative though as it gave Parasite Eve a pretty distinctive play style. The big reason it’s on this list though is because it was a fantastically looking and sounding game with a really interesting story. Square took what they learned from Final Fantasy 7, in regards to movie sequences and blew it out with Parasite Eve, with cut scenes that are gorgeous. There’s no mis-match of artistic styles also, Aya looks the same in gameplay and cut-scenes, generally speaking, which is cohesive. The soundtrack is noticeably gothic and downtrodden, which helps invoke the sense that New York City is under attack and is largely empty. I really enjoy RPGs that take place in the modern world, so I’m a huge fan of Parasite Eve.

#3: Starcraft

I largely didn’t have a PC growing up, so classic games like Monkey Island, X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter, Jedi Knight, Total Annihilation, etc. really went by me. I did play Warcraft 2, but that was the exception, rather than the rule. Starcraft really built upon the legacy of Warcraft 2 and then some. You now have three playable races, Terrans, Zerg and Protoss who all have their own individual stories and units. Each is pretty well balanced against one another with the Zerg being cheap and quick to make, but having weaker units, the Terrans being medium of the road, and the Protoss having (typically) stronger units but requiring more resources to create them, and they can’t heal, but do have functionally double the life. It wasn’t the first RTS game, not by a long shot, but it helped to really bring the genre into its own, with millions of people playing and countries (South Korea) getting addicted to it.

#2: Metal Gear Solid

I really wrestled with this game, and my top choice, and I suspect it will cause some arguments in the comments section. I love me some MGS 1, it was a dramatic step of what could be accomplished on the PS1. While they might seem small by today’s standards, each area in MGS 1 felt massive, much larger than areas in games before for the system. It gave you a full environment for you to explore, stealthily take out foes, shoot your guns, etc. Yes, you can argue that the original Metal Gear on the NES had a lot of this same form, but it’s on such a higher scale, that it was probably inconceivable for them to imagine it could look like it does on the PS1. Add to that, full voice acting for everything in the game, unheard of stealth and gameplay mechanics (the Psycho Mantis fight for one), and an adult/mature storyline, and not only was MGS 1 one of the best games for the year, it was one of the best games of the console’s lifespan.

#1: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

What Mario 64 was able to do for the Mario franchise, Ocarina of Time was able to do for the Zelda franchise. It successfully turned a previously 2D (or 2D world, at least) franchise into a fully 3D one, by adding intelligent upgrades to the experience. The big innovation that Ocarina added was Z-targeting, allowing you to focus on a single enemy, and changing the way the camera and character move, from exploration to combat. Ocarina also solidified the elemental dungeon design that Link to the Past somewhat had, with the ice dungeon, fire temple, water temple, and so on. It also gave N64 owners a fully-fleshed out experience that was both graphically impressive and had some good audio for the system it was on. Ocarina of Time was a game-changer for the Zelda franchise and a lot of the core concepts are still being used in today’s games.

For comments, list which games of 1998 you enjoyed and why.

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Top 8 Games of 1999

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison