Name: Dean Bowman
Age: 29 going on 40
Current Location: Norwich
First gaming memory: As a kid, long before I got my hands on my first console (a Mega Drive), my friend had a Commodore 64. My most vivid memory was waiting for the cassette to load up for Into the Eagles Nest. The load screen image (which bore little resemblance to the actual graphics) took so long to build up we even had time to play a board game while we were waiting! Then the game would finally start and we’d last all of ten seconds before we were blasted by Nazis. Still, it didn’t put me off gaming.
Longest gaming session: Probably one of my many marathon sessions on Final Fantasy XII, which I plowed over 180 hours into during an extended period of blissful unemployment.
Least favourite genre: Probably sport games. I dislike sport in real life anyway, so the thought of simulating it in a game seems like the worst idea ever. Although I admit that any sport game can be made better with the introduction of explosive power ups.
Favourite gaming snack: A packet of Sweet Chilli Sensations always goes down a treat (perhaps too much so).
Reaction to dying in-game: The first time it happens I’m quite philosophical about it and take it in my stride, the second time I swear blue murder and the third time I become stoically resigned to my fate. I’d like to say that I never die more than three times in a row, but that would be a massive lie.
Favourite game character: There are so many good characters: Nathan Drake, Lara Croft (the new one, in particular), Commander Shepard… I’m going to have to go with George Stobbart from the Broken Sword games, because literally everything that comes out of his mouth is funny or cool or both.
Most hated game character: Vaan from Final Fantasy XII because he ruined one of my favourite games ever by being such a bland, whining emo child. Balthier should totally have been the main protagonist, rather than this jumped up boy band reject, and I like to think he would have been if Matsuno hadn’t been removed from the project part way.
Favourite game EVER! Vagrant Story by Yasumi Matsuno (the creator of Final Fantasy Tactics) on PSX. That game so completely captured my imagination. The story is so deep and wonderfully written and it’s got a unique atmosphere. That and its notorious difficulty gave it an immense sense of isolation.
It was an RPG with minimal NPCs, no side quests and no shops. You were trapped and any weapons had to be crafted by your own hands or wrenched from the corpses of your foes. On top of that the way the affinity system worked was incredibly punishing. You’d find an amazing sword that would give you a slight edge against dragons, only to find it did next to no damage to humans. It’s very much the spiritual precursor to Dark Souls in that regard. Also Hitoshi Sakimoto’s orchestral score is one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.
Duncan asks: What is the most important aspect of a game to you?
I’d have to say the story. I’m fascinated by how developers are starting to discover ways of telling stories that are unique to games as an artform, rather than simply copying cinema and literature. One of the best recent examples has to be Red Dead Redemption. The whole denouement of that game is jaw dropping and although it pastiched Hollywood Westerns throughout, in the end it did something that was only possible in a game, pulling the rug completely from under you. Also. I play a lot of older games, particularly point and click adventures (a very narrative driven genre) and I can overlook clunky gameplay and aged graphics for a good story with good characters.
Carly aks: Which is your favourite JRPG, and why?
That’s a tough one as this is one of my favourite genres. Probably Vagrant Story, but as I’ve already spoken about that as my favourite game I’ll choose something else. I love the anime style story of Persona 4, which draws on so many aspects of pop Japanese culture. I also love Shadow Hearts with its brilliant alternative take on world history. But I’ll go with Final Fantasy X. Final Fantasy games have always dealt with serious themes, but this game is the apex of the series in my opinion and the maturity and subtlety of the story blew my mind. The whole game was such a brilliant critique of organised religion and I absolutely loved the characters, particularly Yuna and her heartbreaking situation and the relationship between Tidus and his father.
Michael asks: Which Point and Click would you redo for the modern era?
Well Sam and Max and Monkey Island have already been rebooted excellently by Telltale Games, so I’d probably have to go with Discworld. I absolutely love that game (and its sequels). I recently checked to see if it was on Good Old Games (the repository of adventure game goodness) and I was shocked to find it was unavailable. Discworld captured the humour of Pratchett’s novels perfectly and also had some wonderfully quirky puzzles. Id like to see this reissued but I don’t think it could be made any better, especially the voice acting: Eric Idle, Tony Robinson and Jon Pertwee. Inspired!