Every now and then, I think it’s good to remember your roots in anything that you do. I feel that it helps a person stay well grounded by understanding just how they got to where they are today, even if that includes your video game roots. I find it absolutely interesting to know exactly how someone chooses which games they will purchase, experience, reject, etc. Maybe a friend introduced you to a title one day that absolutely blew you away and can’t get away from? Possibly a gameplay trailer gripped you in such a way that you never let go?
What makes you play the games that you play?
While writing for Co-Optimus these last couple of years, I've wondered a bunch of times: how did I get my interest in playing mainly co-op in the first place? Where did my love specifically for co-op modes originally come from? I've certainly played a large number of games with co-op included, but which ones had the most influence on my gaming interests? What were the co-op games out there that won over players time and time again?
To create an open discussion with our audience, I thought I would share a handful of my own experiences with co-op and how they shaped me into an avid co-op player. I've narrowed down my list to my top 5 co-op games (counting down) that helped shape my video game preferences for all time and why:
Normally, Mario Kart games don't have any true cooperation elements to them. Every player is there to win for themselves, either to get the best ranking or lap time possible. Double Dash!!, however, mixed things up in a very fantastic way: it had the option of two players occupying a single kart. One player would handle the driving, while the other would handle the items and offensive bash attack. I can’t tell you the amount of hours my siblings and I had spent trying to perfect our character combos, drift boosting techniques, and item activations. The best thing about co-op was, if one player got tired of driving or felt that they have the better luck with using the items, then switching roles was simple to do and could be done on the fly. Of all the co-op games I've played, Double Dash!! is co-op classic for the sheer level of cooperation needed to survive in a racing game with a co-driver; not something seen very often in the genre. Why more racing games don't try to implement these mechanics is beyond me, but it seems like it would be a market that has been prematurely left out to dry. All I can say is that this game was one of the first that got me out of my comfort zone in a typically single-player game genre and made me rethink the way I played with a partner.
#4. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
While many of you may not have heard about this game (all focused on that beast of a title, FF VII), this Gamecube gem had a certain charm to it that kept me and my buddies coming back for more. Each player would choose a character race and family profession that affected the rest of the game in drastic ways. Working together to cover each of the four race's battle weaknesses, as well as choosing wise family professions for obtaining the best items in the late game, was practically essential in co-op. I found out soon after I began a single-player file that the difficultly alone was annoyingly absurd, practically forcing me to play co-op. Thankfully, it led me to a great co-op experience I'd never forget.
The difficult thing about playing co-op in Crystal Chronicles, however, was that each player was required to own a Gameboy Advance and be hooked up to the main console via special link-cables (luckily, I had some handy). Since the vast world to explored was mostly filled with a poisonous gas called Miasma, the players are forced to carry around a chalice of special water that provided a barrier to the toxic air. This left co-op players having to work together to carry the chalice to keep moving forward and complete dungeons. Crystal Chronicles also has a time mechanic where, after 3 dungeons, an in-game year would pass and recap all the places explored and events experienced. Working together with my friends and developing the story year after year easily built cooperation and satisfaction within our team; it couldn't compare to any other game I had ever played before. Every now and then, my group will get together, boot up our characters, and continue in our shared story like it was yesterday. I think here is where found my love for a well done co-op storyline.
#3. Gears of War 2
It was a gritty, edgy, squad-based shooter that felt the best when played with a solid team of 4 players. Working together with my friends as a unit to distract, flank, sneak up behind, exchange weapons, etc, we developed our skills a squad and relished in the rewards of some highly polished teamwork. These tactics became our bread and butter in our having fun, so the newly introduced Horde Mode was the perfect place to test our survivability in-game and stamina in real life. We actually made an effort to complete all 50 waves one night and still kept on going after that. Future iterations in the series couldn’t capture the same level of co-op love I personally had for this game in particular, but they did retain the essence of what was originally there. Many future games had modes very similar to it in years to come, so it made me very happy to be able to transfer those teamwork skills into other games. I could take my love for the Gears of War 2 Horde Mode and experience it most games I was into later on with a group of well trusted teammates.