2000 was a good year as far as high school went. Despite Chad’s departure, I was able to meet some awesome new people. Anthony entered my life due to a Home Economics (i.e. Cooking) class, and we became fast friends. He and I would spend oodles and oodles of time together while he was in high school, and he was the best man at my wedding. He was there in many of my gaming memories – beating Street Fighter Alpha 3′s Dramatic Battle together, witnessing me crush the super-hard final stages in World Tour Mode (same game), me serving as his fighting game trainer (as Chris had done with me), playing Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Alpha 3, Smash Bros. Melee, Capcom Vs. SNK 2 and Soul Calibur with me all the time. It was a rare weekend when we weren’t at his or my place. Beyond games, though, he was and is an awesome man, and despite hardly seeing or hearing from him these days, I’d have to say he’s the finest friend I’ve had outside of Grace.
My junior year also got me into classes I wanted to take – I was back in the drama program, which ours was a unique one. Usually drama programs are where a bunch of outcasts and eclectic kids end up getting into (which I would consider myself both :p ), but ours had football players, ASMC officers, some of the most popular people on campus and the outcasts/eclectics. And we all got along for the most part. I became friends with a wide array of people thanks to our diverse program, and our instructor I would rank highly among the most influential teachers I’ve had. I served as a stage manager for all of the shows, with small bit parts in a couple. I also got into Multimedia, where I had the chance to use these newfangled computer do-dads I’ve heard so much about. I learned Photoshop, video editing, audio editing and other skills, which I occasionally utilize here for the blog. I adored this class, despite bumping into my newest and most contested rival, my former friend W. (I’ll save using his name, since he’s not a pleasant memory). W. had always taken to belittling me for some reason, and 2000 was the year I parted ways with my old comrades (since Chad was gone and Chris and Trent were hanging with new people before I wised up), which apparently incited him to up the ante. He would go out of his way to say some sort of negative remark to me (including shouting across campus), and made any class I ended up with him unpleasant. I don’t know what crawled up his ass to become so vindictive – I imagine he had a shitty life outside of school and needed a scapegoat. I made the right choice to jump ship, though, as they all got into pot and drunk shenanigans not too far afterward. We had some good times, no doubt – Goldeneye battles and whatnot, but overall I was and am relieved that I no longer have to deal with them.
I also had fun with girls. Well, not really. I unintentionally developed a slight stalker phase with one crush, which I quickly realized and crushed as I talked to her about it (and apologized). It was my first attempt to ask a girl out, and although she and I got along well, she wasn’t interested in taking it further…which was fine in the end. She and I remained solid friends through high school. I look at any past rejection as a good thing, as it got me into dating and marrying Grace down the road, and I wouldn’t trade her for nothing. :) The last play introduced me to a new crush, who I would spend the whole summer dreaming about. Heh. God, revisiting my crushes is such a goofy self-analysis. I can see how immature and idiotic I was. Ah, youth. I’ll save my senior memories for 2001.
In 2000 I believe that I had four personal projects running. One is tied to So…this webcomic/Snow Dragon, as I’ve mentioned before. It’s where Blade and Claire/Janelle/Mike/Lindsay/Drew’s powers in Shi Kurai are from. The others I’ll be a little more open about, as two of them are obsolete now and one may become a webcomic on here in due time. One of the aborted projects revolved around Bobby, the cat, based on my own cat of the same name. I loved Bobby – he was an affectionate and lovely cat. So I merged him into a game design that he would collect alphabet scrolls to gain magical powers. Sort of Metroid-ish. It never really got too far – I think I progressed more on compiling what Foo Fighter songs I wanted to use than any real design aspects. :p The second was taking Jamiroquai’s Space Cowboy persona into a game premise, which also didn’t get too far. That’s where Didjital came from, and somehow I combined the two universes for Shi Kurai. So those two ideas are long gone, now. The last is titled Black Blood, and it’s where Kryst originates. It’s a fantasy-tinged title, but I’m not 100% sure where I’m taking it yet. But I am considering a webcomic for it, so I guess look forward to that!
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (N64, Atlus/Quest)
Easily the best RPG for the N64, Ogre Battle 64 features a robust character development system, a fascinating plot and some intense strategical battling. Well worth looking into if you love strat-based RPG’s.
Skies of Arcadia (DC, Sega)
Sega’s sky-faring opus, with a dynamic and likable cast, an incredible world to poke around in, a solid set of battle engines and is simply an experience that I can not recommend enough.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (DC, Capcom)
Capcom’s final chapter in the Alpha subbranch is the finest one, with its richest cast, glorious animation and a myriad of gameplay options and styles to tinker around in. The RPG-esque World Tour mode and Dramatic Battle adds immensely to the pleasure.
Grandia II (DC, UBI Soft/Gamearts)
Grandia II is a visual tour de force for the Dreamcast, and has one of the most gripping battle systems in any RPG I’ve played. Add in a solid soundtrack and a decent cast of adventurers and I’m happy as hell.
In my opinion, the best game of 2000 was…
Skies of Arcadia (DC, Sega)
You wouldn’t have expected anything else, right? :p
I’ve gushed so much about this game on the site that it’s hard to think of something new to say about it. I think that my Dreamcast Anniversary reflections does that insanely well. I’ve also covered my adoration of the game’s excellent art direction (led by Itsuki Hoshi), soundtrack (done by Yutaka Minobe and Takayuki Maeda), characters (I’ve covered Vyse, and plan to get Aika and Fina’s spotlights done this year) and have drawn more fan art and wallpapers (1 – 2) for it than any other game. But, I’ll try very hard to come up with something original here.
Skies of Arcadia is not a perfect game. It has its flaws – overly common random battles, Vyse is a little clunky in the overworld (and climbs up ladders way too slowly), its plot relies on the Magical McGuffin school of progression a little much, the default battle engine can drag on for too long, and I’m sure other problems other gamers have experienced that aren’t leaping to mind. For me, though, I was able to look past all of that and see something that was absolutely amazing. A game that, despite its design issues, completely wowed me every step of the way.
Part of that enrapture has been Vyse, Aika and Fina’s phenomenal characterization. Vyse is such an optimistic guy with his heart set on big things, and is quite able to keep himself composed and focused in even the toughest circumstances. This trait is one to admire. Aika’s feisty behavior and zeal for being a pirate is a nice counterbalance to Fina’s more subdued and shy personality, and both build upon that foundation and become extraordinary sidekicks to Vyse (who also grows beautifully) throughout the game’s story. And while Skies does run with the magic crystal collection trope, it does a whole bunch more with its plot than merely idling around those objects. It tackles cultural issues, as the Valuans attempt to dominate the other realms and eradicate what they consider inferior. It reveals that other cultures are something to preserve, and that assimilation is not always the greatest answer. As Vyse and Co. try to protect these locales from Valua’s military, and as they explore and chat with residents in those places, my mind was blown at how well Sega captured such cultural diversity and its importance so well in this game. My revisit brought those memories flooding back, even more poignantly now that I’m going to be a cultural anthropologist myself.
I’ve delved into Skies’ handling of exploration before, but it’s the flipside to the cultural aspects that caught my attention most. I LOVE exploration in games. Linear games can be fun, no doubt, but I appreciate and relish being able to poke around and discover areas and secrets. Many of my favorite games have such an aspect to them, and that component was fully realized thanks to Skies. With a multitude of discoveries to track down, a huge world to sail in, hidden sidequests and battles for the persistent (which the Gamecube port enhances with its extra boss battles), and the eventual acquiring of a base you can build to your liking…as long as you can gather all of the various crewmates needed to construct it! – there’s nothing quite like sailing the blue skies in …Skies. Honestly. It left such an impact that I used “Sailing the Blue Skies since (year here)” at my old site for years.
But the most telling piece of evidence is how MUCH I’ve written or created or admired about this game. I can ramble on and on about it if I can, and have devoted massive amounts of my time into playing and discussing and sharing it. And really, it’s been THE game of games for me – the one that I can quickly point to as my favorite without a lot of thought. I don’t know what else I can do to showcase my passion for Skies than merely pointing out the Skies of Arcadia tag for LVLs. and asking you to look at the records of the site’s coverage of it (the Imagery and my Favorite Games won’t pop up there, but I know how to link to those!) to see for yourself how much I love this game.
Some personal anecdotes…
I own the DC original and GC port, although my DC copy has issues on the second disc (and I’m too scared to try to dip it into hot water to remove the probable film that is screwing with it). Won’t sell either! I also have the soundtrack, but it’s a bootleg copy. If I had the money, I would import the collector’s stuff from Japan and the real soundtrack – I’m that serious.
I’d kill for some Skies of Arcadia figures. Well, that’s strong – I’d really love to have some, let’s put it that way.
Is it wrong I’m more interested in Vyse, Aika and Fina’s cameos in Valkyria Chronicles than anything else?
I have a Nintendo Power poster of Skies on the wall in my house. Grace doesn’t like it that much, but it’s the biggest piece of Skies adoration I own, and we’ve luckily reached a compromise about me keeping it up.
Breath of Fire IV
Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000
Dead or Alive 2
Jet Set Radio
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
Metal Slug 3
Power Stone 2
Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Skies of Arcadia
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion
The World Is Not Enough (video game)
Back to 1999 – Forward to 2001