After that, the game's actual story is enough to keep anyone going. Will the classic Disney villains accomplish their goal of gathering the seven Disney princesses? Who is behind the incursion of the darkness into these once peaceful worlds? When will you get the chance to see the king and master of red overalls Mickey Mouse? The story can become disjointed due to the jumping between so many Disney locales, but anyone with a reasonable attention span should be able to muscle through.
Kingdom Hearts stirs up the emotions at least as well as any book or non-game story. Just try to keep from getting misty at the final cinema…it won't work. There are very few games that inspire such devotion to their main characters. Zelda, Beyond Good and Evil and Resident Evil 4 all come to mind, but nobody does it better than Kingdom Hearts.
I could go on all day about how involving the Kingdom Hearts story is, but I feel I need to mention the drawbacks as well. Kingdom Hearts was a video game masterpiece, plain and simple. The two Kingdom Hearts sequels, Chain of Memories (GBA) and Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2), fail to come anywhere close to the first game's majesty. In fact, Chain of Memories has my nomination for the worst handheld game I've ever played. Kingdom Hearts 2 was even more of a disappointment. It was basically a new coat of paint on the original, minus the RPG elements and any modicum of a challenge. The inclusion of a new set of arch-enemies, black cloaked anime stereotypes with unpronounceable names, dragged the story into the depths of obscurity. Chains of Memories was responsible for introducing these train wrecks of characters, and basically sucked any fun out of the boss battles. "Hey, man…who are you fighting?" "I don't know, but he has spiky hair and more X's in his name than a new Xbox Live subscriber." If you feel as strongly about the first game as I do, skip the Kingdom Hearts sequels. They WILL tarnish your fond memories of the first.
So that's it. I chose Kingdom Hearts for my favorite game story of all time. Honestly, it is a shame that Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!! didn't have more going on, because I would have chosen that over Kingdom Hearts any day.
Devin Finley, Freelance Writer
Now, I was new to this series when I got it having only played the first. I'm sure it was dated when I played it, and I am equally sure that I have played many games with FANTASTIC storylines, but when I played Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War I was unequivocally moved by its storyline. I feel that this storyline is somewhat of a dark horse in this category because spending the whole game playing from behind the cockpit somehow alienates you from the amazing storyline that follows between missions.
Yet, I cannot say that I have ever been more upset in the loss of teammates. There are so many games where the player is given the option to heal or save a teammate, or they disappear leaving you with the hope that they will (and usually do) return. I do not, however, recall a moment quite as moving as when I lost teammate Chopper. It was not sad enough that I had him apologize to me when he crashed to his death, but after a long rigorous mission, I was very, VERY low on ammo as well as team morale now and forced to fight through the saddest song I may have ever heard with the least possible ammo to complete the mission.
With no radio traffic, the saddest song over head, and the sound of my wingmen fighting back tears, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung Wars is easily the most moving storyline I've ever played. I have to give it credit for both its originality and well written story. Losing rookies left and right early in the game, communicating with them, and trying to stay positive whilst they inquire about war was not easy. I've never felt a bigger sense of duty during a video game: Fighting to save not only your country, but also fighting for vengeance and truth. Lies continue to unravel as you fight from mission to mission for all that your team feels is freedom. Once your unit is cut off and left for dead by your native country (yet another painful blow), they're reborn under the new team name, Demons of Razgriz, a fitting name as you see through the storyline.
The storyline is littered with spies that have or have not changed allegiance, hard headed persons in command refusing to see the truth and only seeking glory, willing to kill any and everyone in their way (including you) rather than admit they were wrong. It also incorporates what was once a children's tale about the Demons of Razgriz. One of those never-made-sense-as-a-kid stories that applies to the lives of adults about a demon who rains death upon the lands before returning as a hero. Strange though it sounds, play the game and you'll understand. A fantastic score with music appropriate to all situations, voice-overs to match perfectly the digital image of the person created, good visuals, and many more features put Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War at the top of my list.
Justin Conte, Freelance Writer
A truly great story drives you to continue, be it watching a movie, reading a book, or even playing a video game in many instances. Not all games rely as heavily on story as others; some even function better when you don't try to shoehorn a story in (I'm looking at you Meteos). Still, I think the game that benefited most from its wonderful narrative was Chrono Trigger on the SNES. Without the story, we would have had just another cliche RPG, but instead we are given a complex plot interwoven between entirely different eras, with your characters forced to time travel through those eras. Were it not for the excellent story telling, the game would have been sub-par, clocking in at only 12 hours or so - incredibly short by RPG standards.
Sometimes I'm just glad some developers know story isn't always the most important part of the experience though. Two of my favorite recent games have been Earth Defense Force 2017 and Overlord, both use very little narrative to drive things forward, instead relying on solid, fun gameplay to keep you engrossed. These sorts of games tend to keep my attention a little less, being played for shorter periods, but I find I go back to them more than story-driven gaming. Both have their places, and developers just need to know when to keep the story out of my mindless shoot-em-up.
I think it's noteworthy however that the story driven games seem to be the ones I'm looking forward to months and months ahead of time, where games like Earth Defense Force 2017 only sold me once I was able to give them a try through a rental - meaning many of these games fly right under my radar, especially with these kind of experiences being readily available on a whim through downloadable services. Those who go the disk based route must fight even harder for my gaming dollar when it comes to mindless fun.