Like a sunset over a turquoise tide, beauty can be a fleeting glimpse, forgotten as the minutes and hours roll on. Somethings, however, can stay gorgeous for as long as they can be gazed upon; it is those views which stay with us the longest. For video games this means that something that looked mind blowing back in the 90s can look like the back end of a hippo in today’s HD climate. I am going to look at five games that I think will always be stunning, no matter how withered the rest of the world looks around them.
1. Final Fantasy 9
The world of FF9 is simply fantastical; from its stylised, steampunk architecture to the glorious flying ships that sail its blue skies, everything seems brimming with life and charm. Even the characters themselves have this irresistible warmness to their designs that makes them sink deep into the landscape behind them, as if they were there long before you ever picked up the controller.
Sure it may look a little grainy now, but you play this on the PSP or the PS Vita and let that smaller screen resolution do its work and you will find a world teeming with detail and oozing with character. FF7 may be the franchise poster boy, but it doesn’t hold all of the cards.
2. Ecco The Dolphin (Dreamcast)
Strangely for an enthusiast like myself, I only got round to playing this a few short weeks ago and I was stricken by how well it has held up. After the intro scene you are plunged straight into the depths and the sights to be seen are absolutely wonderful; water shimmers across the surface, ripples in the current fold rays of light so they cascade onto the backs of whales and fellow sea dwellers swim around with perfectly animated movements. The whole underwater landscape is gorgeous and there isn’t a rough edge to be seen; the fact that this game runs on hardware from 1999 genuinely baffles. A real treat for those, like me, who may have missed this gem back in the day.
3. The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker
It is strange to think that a game as widely praised as this was once thought to be the destroyer of the franchise. Fans were initially appalled when Ninty unveiled Link’s new cartoon style, but minds were soon changed when they saw its beautiful changing world in full motion. Everything from blades of grass to waves that roll on its huge open ocean are crisp, clear and delightful.
Link has also never been this expressive; with his eyes shifting around the environment at potential clues and his mouth creasing up at the sight of oncoming danger. If this Link is a Saturday morning cartoon then I know I for one will be tuning in every week.
4. Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)
From its vibrant, fantasy backgrounds full to the brim with little details all the way to the superb and imaginative character designs, SC is an absolute looker even to this day. As swords clash and whips go tearing through the air, you can almost feel the clanging of metal and the stabbing of spears.
What is vital here though is that even though beat em ups don’t usually concern themselves with the depth of their worlds, Soul Calibur dives in head first and puts on a real show. This game is no Knightmare, despite what its characters may be called.
The city of Rapture is, in my opinion, the single greatest world that gaming has ever come up with. Bioshock will make you believe that a city can breathe underwater; ironic given how often it takes your breath away.
The whole place not only reeks of what it once was but subtly hints at what horrors could lurk even deeper into its depths. Looking out a window you will be greeted by little fish, whales and even the infamous Big Daddies; who themselves are a massively iconic piece of design work. I have never before, or since been so dragged into a video game universe so quickly.
Every piece of furniture and shard of broken glass paints, piece by piece, a picture of a city that has crashed down from the lofty heights of its own decadence and fallen deep into a chasm of ruin and despair. Both horrifying and beautiful in equal measure, it is sometimes hard to know whether to gasp in shock or grin with delight.
Rapture isn’t an illusion though, its right there for us all to visit, stuck in a current of great gaming memories, somewhere beyond the sea….