Nuu’s Top 100 Greatest Games of All-Time
80| Wii Sports
Released: November 19th, 2006
Available On: Wii
Likely the most hated game in all of gaming history, Wii Sports to many represented a scary turn the industry made during mid-2000s. Due to Nintendo getting trounced with the Gamecube, they knew they had to try something different with their next platform. It was obvious that the core gaming audience was no longer interested in most of Nintendo’s offerings. While Nintendo tried to win them back with the Gamecube with games like Eternal Darkness as well as exclusive titles in the Resident Evil and Metal Gear franchises, at the end of the day it wasn’t enough. As a result Nintendo decided to go after a very different market, adults, specifically adult women. Initially people thought Nintendo was crazy for trying to capture such a demographic. Then the sales numbers for December came in and the Wii was the best selling console. This initially was met with a warm response due to the fact that it didn’t trounce the other consoles as well as people being ecstatic that Sony’s death grip on the console market was no longer a reality. However, something began to happen. The Wii was very successful…too successful. It was successful to the extent that it began to outsell the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 combined. On top of that many traditionally core publishers such as EA and Ubisoft began to put their laurels behind more casual game development. Frightened by this, gamers began panicking as they feared a future where Halo and Grand Theft Auto would lose priority to Carnival Games and Just Dance.
This fear proved to be unwarranted. Eventually the Wii’s casual audience moved on to far cheaper mobile games. Ironically the fear of the Wii hasn’t died out, the animosity has just moved toward the mobile platform. Looking at the era today is like looking at a snapshot in time. It bring back a lot of memories both good and bad. It also leads us to be a lot more objective of certain games of that era as we are no longer in the thick of it. So how good is Wii Sports exactly? It is after all the game that started off this whole thing, or at least in the console space. Truth be told, Wii Sports is actually a very good game. It was just very misunderstood at the time. Sure it isn’t the deepest game out there, but it is definitely very fun to play. And that’s what made the game so successful, it is fun to play. There is a certain tingly feeling you get when you barely manage a squeeze of a win after playing your friend in Wii tennis. What also made the game so successful is accessibility. Anyone can pick up and play the game, even your parents. The controller is just a remote control where you have to make the same motions you do as in actually playing the sport. It’s so simple and intuitive that I have yet to run into anyone who doesn’t know how to use the controls within the first minute or so. This results in a lot of potential players as well as potential consumers for the Wii console.
The game offers a variety of different games to choose from. This includes golf, bowling, boxing, tennis, and baseball. All of these games are implemented reasonably enough, except perhaps for boxing, but I found bowling and tennis to be the best. One can also not mention Wii Sports without Miis. Miis were cute little cartoony avatars players created on their Wii console in which certain games would incorporate them as playable characters. Wii Sports was the most well known game to do this. Players would control their Mii as they played one of the five sports available in the game. So not only could you trounce your friend in your favorite sport on the Wii, but you can also physically see it as well.
As I said before, I feel that Wii Sports, as well as that entire era of games, was very misunderstood. Miyamoto said it best in what Nintendo was trying to achieve. He talked about how games use to be enjoyed by all demographics with titles such as Space Invaders and Pong. However, after the Atari era, and much to Nintendo’s credit, games began to become a little more complicated with more buttons, multiple character actions, input memorization, map screens, attributes, etc. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing and satisfied the teenage boy in the family, but it left the mother and father alienated toward games. They didn’t want to memorize combos or engage in resource management, they just simply wanted to play. And that’s what Wii Sports is, it isn’t a sports simulation or an adrenaline based arcade titles, it is simply a game that you play. Nintendo didn’t want to cannibalize core games, they wanted to expand the market by opening the gates to more casual players. And they succeeded.
79| Quake III Arena / Quake Live
Released: December 2nd, 1999
Definitive Version: PC (All major OSes); Also on: XBLA for Xbox 360, DC, PS2
Let’s get this out of the way. I was originally an Unreal Tournament guy. I was introduced to that series through my cousins who, at the time, recently purchased a new PC. I was confused about the game at first because it seemed very strange as they installed some mods in the game that allowed them to play as strange characters, such as The Mask from the movie “The Mask”, the Jim Carrey film. However, when they actually started playing the game it looked very cool. It was a lightening fast paced multiplayer first person shooter. When I tried the game I was hooked. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be for another seven years or so before I would play the series again. When I got Unreal Tournament 2004 with my newly built PC, I fell in love. The speed, the adrenaline, and the chaos. At the time I heard about Quake III, but never really gave it a shot. I finally did after a period where I no longer had a high-end computer, and I was very surprised. Sure the game didn’t have the variety of Unreal Tournament, but it made up for it with it by dialing up the speed and chaos a few more notches. And overall felt like a more competitive game as most maps were small to moderately sized with occasional open areas designed for deathmatch. This is in contrast to many of Unreal Tournament’s maps which were often huge landscapes and felt more akin to something like Halo. These two things combined made me prefer Quake over Unreal.
The gist of this game is that it is an arena shooter through and through. If you want to give someone of an example of a platformer, you give Super Mario Bros. If you want to give someone an example of an arena shooter, you give Quake III Arena. The game starts off with the player choosing which mode they want to play. The most popular mode, deathmatch, involves multiple players online moving across the map shooting one another, as they gather weapons and health until who ever racks up the most kills wins. It’s a very simple concept, but it works flawlessly. Another thing that makes the game stand out from typical first person shooters, isn’t just the speed, but the mobility. Players will be able to jump and hop all throughout the arena as they can go up platforms and different levels of the map in order to get to the perfect spot to raise hell on your opponents. However, the maps are designed in such a way that makes camping dangerous. There isn’t a spot you can stay in too long before you won’t be spotted as no place is too well hidden. All these things add up into a very frantic and fun game.
The game was updated and released as a free to play browser game on August 6th, 2010, however it was later changed to be priced at a whooping $10. What was once the most technically demanding game on the market can now be played on a Chromebook. The game is fantastic, but like all updated iterations has old fans complaining about the changes. No matter where you stand though, both games have active communities and both games are a blast to play. Almost twenty years later Quake III is still one of the most active first person shooters around. Its staying power really displays how timeless it is. With an entry price of $10, there is no reason not to at least try the game.
78| Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
Released: October 29th, 1993
Definitive Version: PC Engine CD; Also on: Virtual Console for Wii, PSP
When one brings up Castlevania the first thing that comes to mind are the recent “Metroidvania” games. Essentially side-scrolling action-adventure games with RPG elements. While these games are certainly great, they aren’t what the series was originally known for. Castlevania built its name by being a side-scrolling action series that was focused on airtight level mechanics and design. Armed with a whip and a choice of a special sub-weapon, the player guided their vampire hunter as they scaled platforms and fought enemies along the way until they reached the boss at the end of the level. A criticism could be given that this was all very simplistic, but that was the beauty of the games. There were no distractions or gimmicks, just tried and true gameplay.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is seen as many as the not only the magnum opus of these style of games, but also the swan song. Released on the PC Engine CD n Japan in 1993, it brought Castlevania to the disc age as it took advantage of the CD medium by having animated cutscenes, voices, and a killer soundtrack. Castlevania was widely acknowledged as having some of the most catchiest and memorable music in gaming and the developers capitalized that on the CD medium by composing what is arguably the best soundtrack in the series. However, the game didn’t stand out due to its presentation. The gameplay is why it gets so much love. Rather than continuing down the path set out by Super Castlevania IV which made the game easier and more accessible, Rondo of Blood lines up closer to its NES counterparts as it offers more limited mobility and tougher difficulty. It takes the “less is more” approach and manages to pull it off strikingly.
Of course mechanics can only take a game so far, design is a crucial part of games too, and here Rondo of Blood also excels. The levels are carefully crafted as it seems that ever inch of them seem to be tailored around the player’s experience. No platform is close enough to be too easy of a jump, no enemy is placed where they will be a sure kill, no sub-weapon is designed to be abused for too long. The game makes you work to progress and it makes completing each level that much sweeter. To be honest though, the same is true in inverse. No platform is too far away to be nearly impossible to get to, no enemy is placed in an area where they’d surely kill the player, and every sub-weapon that the player receives will find some use in its area for some time. The game may be tough, but it is also fair.
Yet another category where this game impresses is with the bosses. They aren’t the greatest bosses in gaming, but they are all unique, memorable, and challenging. From a golem, to a dragon, to a werewolf, these bosses may seem cliche but they all behave differently and require the player to retool their strategy. The game might not be Dark Souls, but nevertheless fighting the bosses is still one of the most enjoyable parts of it.
It’s really easy to see why this game is so loved. It is not only arguably the last high quality entry in the same vein as the classic series, but also for the longest time the lost entry. Up until the PSP remake in 2007, which also included the original game, there was no English release of the game available. Sure one doesn’t exactly require the knowledge of Japanese to play it, but unless you imported the game from Japan you were shit out of luck. On top of that it was only available on the Turbograffx CD, which in the West was seen was one of those “other” platforms. These two things combined resulted in the game gaining a mystical status among the gaming community. Does the game live up to the hype? It certainly does.
77| Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Released: November 20th, 1995
Definitive Version: Super Nintendo; Also on: eShop for New 3DS, Virtual Console for Wii U and Wii, GBA
Everyone during the ’90s was familiar with Donkey Kong Country. Whether they owned it, rented it, or played it at a friend’s house, they were familiar with it. What made the game stand out so much were its graphics. Never before had pre-rendered graphics been implemented so well on a console. Sure there were games like Mortal Kombat that used pre-rendered sprites and what not, but they looked nowhere near as good as Donkey Kong Country. With the help of the Super FX chip, as well as a peculiar art style, Donkey Kong Country looked as if you were playing Toy Story, before Toy Story even existed. Unfortunately, a side effect of popularity is a group of vocal haters. Many claimed that the game had lukewarm gameplay at best and its graphics were the only thing carrying its success. Even Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto said as much, which added more fuel to the fire. Truth be told these comments are unwarranted. Like all of Rare’s platformers, Donkey Kong Country is a game a with very tight mechanics and polished game design, even though they went a little overboard at times with mini-games and collectibles (this would just be a mere taste of things to come). While it is true that much of its success was built on its revolutionary graphics technology, it doesn’t mean that the game didn’t have quality gameplay to match its success.
Donkey Kong Country is one of the best platformers out there, but the sequel managed to outdo it in every single aspect. Diddy’s Kong Quest built upon everything Rare learned from the first entry and expanded it even more. The game now featured more ambitious levels with even more variety, more interesting animals to control, bigger and better bosses, and even better graphics. It was essentially Donkey Kong Country with added hot sauce. The only real significant difference between the two games is the lack of Donkey Kong. This is due to the fact that the plot revolves around Donkey Kong being kidnapped and thus his brother Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie have to save him. Diddy plays exactly like he did in the previous entry. In fact they use he exact same sprite. Dixie however is a bit a different. Her main feature is the abilities to twirl her body so her hair acts like a helicopter, thus she glides in the air. This is a lot like the tanooki suit in Super Mario Bros series but covers a much shorter distance. Dixie is a very welcome change in the series. Donkey Kong in the first game was big, bulky, and slow. Thus using two small, nimble, and quick characters is a welcome change that noticeably speeds up the game.
There is also the matter of the music in the game. The music in the Donkey Country game’s are all great, and the second game in the series is no exception. It is so good in fact that it deserves its own paragraph. Throughout the game, you will find many high quality tracks, that are often a cross between being ambient and melodic. It is the absolute perfect match for the game.
The Donkey Kong Country series was a turning point for Rare. It was when the studio stopped being just another developer and began being the well renowned developer we know today…or at least used to know. During the ’90s Rare made groundbreaking games that transformed their respected genres and the Donkey Kong Country series was certainly part of that. Rare gave it there all when working on the series to make a name for themselves, and it shows. Being that the second entry is the best by a good margin makes it a must play.
76| 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Released: November 16th, 2010
Avaliable On: Nintendo DS
For most of the Nintendo DS’s lifespan, if you were to ask someone what the best adventure game was on the system you would almost unanimously get the Phoenix Wright series as an answer, with possibly Hotel Dusk as the sole exception. Being the best in the genre for the portable was quite a title as due to its touch screen and portability it became the go to system for adventure games, specifically point and click and visual novels. Four months before the release of the system’s three dimensional successor, a new game for the aging handheld arrived. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (often called 999 by sane people) was yet another adventure game for the platform that began making rounds. It quickly became a cult hit due to its unique storyline, relatable characters, and mysterious setting.
The gist of the game is that the player has been abducted and put on a ship. They wake up bewildered in a small room when it begins to fill up with water. The only exit is locked and needs a specific combination to open. The player then has to solve a series of puzzles in order to figure out the correct combination to open the door. When they exit the room eight other strangers emerge. It turns out all of them have been kidnapped as well. Suddenly the intercom for the ship comes on and apparently all nine passengers are being tested as they have a set amount of time to figure out all of the puzzles and leave the ship or else the ship will sink. As one could imagine, there is some initial sense of discord as strangers don’t always seem to want to work together. To capitalize on this, according to the intercom, the broadcast is just a recording as the one who put all the passengers on the ship and is the brains behind the operation is one of the nine passengers among them.
The introduction perfectly sets the tone for the game. Story and atmosphere wise, the entire game is built on the lack of trust. Passengers are often divided into teams in order to go into specific rooms to solve puzzles. Obviously not everyone trusts one another so being forced to work with others they aren’t comfortable with makes for some great dialogue and story telling. Suspicion seems to take constant priority as each character and even the player constantly guess who is the one really behind this twisted experiment and why. To further peak the player’s interest, each character is unique and has an intriguing background. In a way the player bonds with the characters, but knows that they shouldn’t get too attached as they all seem to have some type of skeletons in their closet.
The introduction also does a good job laying out the actual gameplay. The entire game progresses as such: engaging puzzle in room -> lengthy story segment -> rinse and repeat until the end. This is the game’s biggest flaw by far. It is just far too repetitive as the same basic formula is repeated over and over again. To the game’s credit many of the puzzles are very well done and memorable. However, some are also a huge headache. At times the puzzles are just a bit too cryptic and the fact that the room’s can be confusing to navigate through doesn’t help. Still if the player puts their mind to it they will be able to clear the room, and there is a certain satisfaction one gets from the “aha!” moment one gets after being stuck on one step for fifteen minutes and finally figuring things out.
Last but not least, the game has a fantastic soundtrack that everyone should listen to. Its electronic beats mixed with suspenseful chords really give the game its own identity. The soundtrack also ventures into music that sounds a bit unsettling, as the game really capitalizing on the question of “who is this person and why are they doing these things to us?”
999 is one of the last games in the DS’s long list of adventure titles. Over the years it has gained a strong cult following and the Zero Escape series is one of the most recognizable in the genre. If one is curious to see just how the series got its start or is merely interested in a game that will keep them guessing both with quality puzzles and opaque story, you can’t go wrong with 999.
75| Chrono Trigger
Released: August 22nd, 1995
Definitive Version: Nintendo DS; Also on: Virtual Console for Wii, SNES, Playstation, iOS, Android
Frequently said to be the greatest RPG of all-time, Chrono Trigger is as timeless as its premise. Released in 1995, the game broke many barriers and conventions in the JRPG subgenre. The game didn’t have random battles, it didn’t really have a Medieval setting, it allowed the player to make choices to effect the overarching story, and finally the game was made to be replayed as it even offered a new game plus option. While many of these things are standard in the genre today, back in 1995 these things were practically never seen before, and to have them all in one single game was revolutionary.
Chrono Trigger’s plot revolves around a boy who goes to an annual festival. Not long after arriving he physically runs into a girl. Due to his generosity, or more accurately the girl’s persistence, he ends up showing her around the event. Eventually the boy bumps into a friend of his who wants him to test our her latest invention, the telepod. It is more or less a teleporter. The boy volunteers and goes through unscathed, unfortunately this can’t be said for his female companion when she tries it. It turns out due to her having on a mysterious pendant she ends up going back in time. Thus the boy grabs the pendant and goes through the same telepod to retrieve the girl. This is just the very tip of the story which extends far further. Throughout the game the player will go as far back in the past as the Jurassic Age to so far in the future they reach the end of time itself. The only thing that matches the variety of time periods you will explore is the set of cast and characters you will encounter. Each major character has their own unique traits and personality that is melded within the era they reside. This results in a very engaging story that manages to even stand out in the modern age of CGI-like graphics and cinematic story telling. To add on to this, the story itself seems to hit the perfect medium as it is not so thin that it is practically non-existent like most 16-bit JRPGs, but not so text heavy that it is basically a visual novel like most JRPGs in the 32-bit era. It achieves the perfect balance of telling the story and having the player’s mind fill in the gaps.
The presentation of the game was second to none at the time. For starters the graphics are incredible. They look great even today, and there are some scenes in the game that makes one wonder just how this was all achieved without the Super FX chip. That said, the game just doesn’t look pretty, but it also moves pretty. The animation is very smooth for a Super Nintendo game as it seems that almost every animation has at least three frames to it. The soundtrack is one of the best of the era. There is a reason why so much of the games music is still to this day recycled in so many Youtube videos. Not only are the songs catchy and memorable, but Squaresoft somehow got one of Rareware’s technical wizards on board to have the sound come out clear and modern. But what really steals the show is the script. Translator Ted Woosley managed to bring modern localization standards to a Super Nintendo game. The writing is virtually free from spelling errors, the plot in the game makes perfect sense, and the characters all have weight and emotion when they speak. Keep in mind this was an era where dialog boxes would often be limited to four or five words with countless spelling errors. Ted Woosley didn’t just raise the bar, he kicked it sky high.
Unfortunately, while the story and presentation of the game is timeless, the actual game design is less so. While the battle system is far ahead of most RPGs of its era, in the modern day it is a bit dated. Battles are won by often performing the same attacks over and over again. Occasionally the game throws a curve ball by having bosses with multiple limbs and different attributes, but they are few and far in between. While the areas in the game look pretty, it is at times difficult to tell where a path and exit is. There is one particular map in the Jurassic time period that made me want to pull my hair out. Save points also can be placed in questionable parts in the game leading to some significant pacing issues as it isn’t that fun replaying the same area again and again. The difficulty of the game can also fluctuate. Most of the time the difficulty is perfect, however there are a few parts of the game that I felt were a bit too difficult, specifically some of the bosses two thirds through the game. Where the game really stands out in gameplay are its choices and side quests. As said before, the choices in the game have a lot of weight to them as they can shift the story and even change the entire ending of the game. There are also multiple sides quests in the game that will force the player to explore different time periods to complete. Reading this on paper one may be worried that this may make things too confusing, but it works seamlessly while rarely holding the player’s hand.
Chrono Trigger is one of gaming’s most infamously legendary titles. After playing the game it is easy to see why. The plot, characters, writing, music, and graphics are all so timeless. While I concur that the game has aged well, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been surpassed. The story and characters in the game are great, however being that there are twenty years worth of games that have been released in the genre since the game’s initial release, a few are bound to surpass it in that category. While the story and presentation are as ripe as ever, the game design has become a little stale. The combat system is archaic by today’s standards and the maps could use a little work. Overall, Chrono Trigger could indeed be called a masterpiece as its faults are few and its strengths are many. Even when comparing it to most JRPGs today it still does many things games in the genre could learn from, and that’s saying something from a game that is over twenty years old that was released when its respected genre was only ten.
74| Ghost Trick
Released: January 11th, 2011
Definitive Version: iOS; Also on: DS
New IPs are a very tough thing to do. Gamers and publishers alike enjoy the familiar. There is far less risk of being burned when investing one’s money in a known product rather than an unknown one. During the late 2000s the Ace Attorney series was red hot. Being given a second breath of life in Japan due to the Nintendo DS re-releases and the localization being a sleeper hit in Western markets resulted in the series being amongst the most recognized in the gaming community. However, when series creator Shu Taukumi was asked if he wanted to be involved in the fourth entry, the first new entry in the series since it became so renowned, he declined. Instead he wanted to work on a new game, a different game. Ghost Trick is that game.
The biggest difference between Ghost Trick and Ace Attorney is that the former is a lot more “”puzzly”” than the other. Rather than undergoing detective work as you explore rooms, find items, and use gizmos and gadgets, Ghost Trick has the player interact with their surrounding environment. The plot revolves around a man who recently died and is now a disembodied ghost. The first thing he sees is a young woman about to be assassinated. She unfortunately meets an unfortunate end. However, it is then discovered that the ghost has the power to not only briefly rewind time, but also the ability to possess and manipulate objects. With this power the player saves the young woman’s life and proceeds to venture toward the mystery of how the young woman, the assassin, and himself are all connected.
The game uses a sideview angle, like a play stage, as the player can scroll through the entire map as they can possess and manipulate objects to do their bidding. Often these manipulations are just simple things such as opening the cabinet door, ringing a phone, or opening an umbrella. When all of these minor actions add up one could solve quite a dilemma such as letting a young woman escape a killer, cluing the police to a suspect’s whereabouts, or leading a character away from a car crash. The game essentially has the player in control of the butterfly effect.This may seem mundane, but it is surprisingly fun. It is always very enjoyable going through trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t, what object you can and can’t reach, etc. The puzzles are difficult enough that they will require multiple playthroughs, but fair enough that you won’t be spending hours on end trying to solve one.
The Ace Attorney series is known for having charming characters and light-hearted murder mysteries. Ghost Trick continues on with this tradition with a diverse cast of likable characters who you just want to see more of. This particularly lends itself to the gameplay as one not only wants to complete a stage to progress, but also to protect the characters.The writing is very humorous and it isn’t uncommon for many of the lines to give the player a chuckle. Each cast member has their own personality and backstory that is told with great detail which really gives the game a much deeper lore than it is required to. Or if you want a short summary of the quality of the characters, story, and writing, it is from the creator of the Ace Attorney series. Yeah that sums up things pretty nicely.
The graphics in the game are mesmerizing. Despite having 2D gameplay and being developed for the Nintendo DS, the game uses 3D models and then transfers them into pre-rendered sprites. Normally this would be looked down upon, but the developers managed to use the advantages of 3D while mimicking the parts of 2D that matter. For starters the game uses simple polygonal models, shaders, and textures. Sure this means that the game wouldn’t win any awards in the tech department, but it does mean that the game has very clean look to it that stands the test of time. But where the game really stands out is in the animation. It’s really better to show than to tell:
The developers continued to use 3D models to their advantage as they incorporated tons of keyframes for each animation to make them look seamless. Keep in mind this was for the Nintendo DS which didn’t exactly have a lot of RAM to work with. The clean 3D models coupled with the smooth animation results in the game pioneering its own unique style.
Being honest, the game doesn’t really have any faults. I mean sure the soundtrack isn’t the best out there but it’s still great. The story isn’t going to make any top ten lists but it is still a very fun ride. The puzzles aren’t the most engrossing out there but they still give your brain a workout. Unfortunately this is exactly what keeps the game from ranking higher on the list. It’s a game where the whole is better than the sums of its parts. However, even considered that, when the parts combine it may make for a high quality product, but not something that would get too far on a list of the greatest games ever produced. Regardless the game is more than worth being played and anyone who enjoys Ace Attorney should pick it up. It is unfortunate that the game performed so poorly. Being released at the tail end of the Nintendo DS’s lifespan did the game no favors. Luckily the game isn’t rare at all and can be found for a dozen dollars or two for the DS. I don’t say this often, but I would recommend the iPad version of the game instead. Sure it runs at half the frame-rate than the DS version, which is a huge disadvantage. But the disadvantages end there as the graphics are much clearer, the sound is much better, and the controls are sharp with the ability to tween and drag the camera with ease and accurately select objects on a huge screen rather than a 3 inch one. Like its protagonist and sister series, it is a game that deserves to be resurrected and given a second chance.
73| Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Released: July 20th, 1990
Definitive Version: Any; Available On: MSX2, PSV, PS3, Xbox 360, PS2
It isn’t uncommon when a traditionally 2D game series makes the jump to 3D that it takes a lot of influences from its previous two dimensional entry. Ocarina of Time took a lot of influence from A Link to the Past as it included many areas and situations from the previous game. The same goes for Metroid Prime as it took a lot of influence from Super Metroid. However, there is a certain other series that took a lot of influence from its pixelated predecessor. Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation broke a lot of ground with its cinematic tone, blockbuster story, unique gameplay, and several quirks in game design. The stealth gameplay, the theme of a mixture of Japanese anime robots and Western spy thriller, finding specific codec numbers by looking at the game’s disc case, etc. What most people don’t know, is that it turns out that many of these things really weren’t that unique. In fact almost all of this was taken directly from the first two games in the series. Specifically from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
The game plays exactly like Metal Gear Solid. You play as Solid Snake an elite spy for the U.S. government who’s objective is to infiltrate the enemy base. In a top down perspective, Snake will be walking and crawling throughout the entire facility as he tries to avoid enemies. The top right of the screen has a map system that shows exactly where each enemy is. It’s good to pay attention to this as much as possible because if an enemy catches sight of Snake an alarm will go off and every enemy on the map will attack him, as well as back up being called. If Snake manages to escape and remain undetected for a few minutes then the alarm will stop and the enemies will let down their guard again. Snake can equip himself with a variety of weapons ranging from pistols, to machine guns, to rocket launchers, to his bare fists. On top of that he can also use items such as key cards to open up doors, cigarettes to slowly kill himself, or a box to hide himself in.
As demonstrated by the previous paragraph, all of Metal Gear’s core designs are perfectly present in this game. However, the similarities don’t just end there. Many of Metal Gear Solid’s unique “think outside the box” design decisions are present in this entry as well. For example there is a point in the game where you have to look through the game’s manual to see a picture of a codec call that you have to enter to contact an important individual. Another part of the game revolves around the player trying to find a hollow part of a wall, so the player has to knock on all of the walls in a room to find it and use some C4 to blow a hole in it. Being honest I was halfway expecting to come across a boss fight where I’d have to plug my controller into the number 2 port.
If there is one thing that Metal Gear Solid has that Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake lacks, it is a quality presentation and story. Now don’t get me wrong, for its time Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was on the bleeding edge when it came to story and cinematic presentation in games…for its time. Things changed a lot in regards to presentation and story from 1990 to 1998, and even more so from 1990 until today. For starters the characters are all very generic and one dimensional. They virtually have no personality what so ever. This shouldn’t come to much surprise as the characters are completely ripped off from popular American movies, as thier portraits from the codec calls of the original MSX2 version demonstrate.
The story is also very straight forward. “Stop the infamous underground terrorist group from creating a super-secret high end weapon so they can’t take over the world.” To be fair, Metal Gear Solid uses the same premise, but manages to make things a bit more complex and interesting due to various side-stories and secrets told throughout the game. Really, what salvages the story is seeing various tidbits you hear about from subsequent Metal Gear games such as Big Boss’s demise and Frank Jaeger’s betrayal. You keep hearing about these things in even the most modern Metal Gear games, and it’s satisfying to finally play through it.
Overall, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was a game way ahead of its time. It may not have all the flash and pizazz of its more contemporary entries; however that is also its charm. While modern entries of the series tend to be loaded with cutscenes and intense action segments, these things can also result in bloat and too much of a deviation from the core gameplay. One could view Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as lacking substance compared to the other games in the series, while one could also see it as trimming the fat.
72| Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Released: September 8th, 2009
Definitive Version: Playstation Vita; Also on: Wii
“Like a painting” is a saying that is thrown around a little too loosely in gaming. The term has been used to describe games from God of War III to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. While those games do in fact look pretty, we have to remember just what a painting actually looks like. Japanese developer Vanillaware is one of the extremely rare development studios that actually manages to actually achieve the statement. Rather than using 3D cel-shaded models, pixel art sprites, or even tradigital animation, Vanillaware paints characters and backgrounds on a computer and break them up into multiple parts in layers so they can animate them. The game looks like a painting because the game is a painting.
Throughout the game the player will be hypnotized by the attention to detail on the backgrounds and characters. The game’s unique traditional Japanese art style elevates the eye candy by a significant degree and also really sets the tone and atmosphere for the game. While the animation isn’t the best, it is still reasonable enough. When these things all come together the result is visual wizardry where you will often find yourself standing in multiple locations just to embrace the scenery.
Or some times running around, whatever works best.
Now while a game can look pretty, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it plays well. Luckily for Muramasa, it seems that the attention to the art didn’t shift much attention away from the gameplay. The game is best described as an evolution of the classic 16-bit action side-scroller. You can choose between two characters a young man and a teenage girl. Both wield samurai blades and have fairly simple action and combo sequences. The world is explored by moving left or right. Eventually you will reach a “door” to which you can enter and open up a new route with additional “doors” to multiple pathways. While exploring the world the player will come across a variety of enemies including ninjas, samurai, eagles, ghosts, and what have you. Fighting these enemies is simplistic, but also fun. Again, it feels like a modern day take of a 16-bit game with simple inputs and most of the skill in avoiding and countering enemy attacks.
Where the gameplay really shines though is the boss battles. The bosses tend to be very ambitious and intimidating. They include heavenly giants that tower over the player, snake-like dragons that fly through the sky as the player dodges their flames, a giant Octopus in a stormy sea, etc. It is during these encounters where the combat shines the most as the player’s skill and patience will be put to the test. These segments also look beautiful with huge characters with a massive amount of detail put into them.
The story of the game is very run of the mill. It features two characters, six on Vita, a young swordsman and a teenage girl who is possessed by a ruthless tyrant. The former involves the swordsman fighting for his country and commander, who is also his lover. The later involves a girl being controlled by the sprit of an outlaw who is out to get revenge. Personally I enjoyed the latter story significantly more as I felt that that those two protagonists were more developed character wise than the two protagonists in the other story.
While the gameplay is very good, I will admit that it is not enough alone to prop up the game to be ranked so high. In reality the reason why this game is remembered so much is due to the art. Beholding the game is indeed a spectacle. However, being pretty will only push a game so far. And while the game is still high in quality if one takes the gorgeous art off the table it is nothing groundbreaking. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t an experience you will remember for quite some time, and like many 16-bit games it is highly replayable. There isn’t that much better of a pitch for a game than it being a painting that you can also play.
71| X-Men 2: Clone Wars
Released: 1995 (Exact date unknown)
Avaliable on: Sega Genesis
You press the power button on your console, the game starts. No menu screen, no select screen, not even a console boot up. The second your press the power button the game starts with a random X-Men character. You run through the screen taking out enemies and avoiding obstacles. Things are difficult but with enough retries you pull through. Then the boot screen starts up, the license logo appears, and then a debriefing cutscene. You can now select what character to use for the next level. This is the first impression X Men 2: Clone Wars gives. The game delivers the coldest open possible. It sets the tone of the game from the start. Less fluff, more action.
X Men 2: Clone Wars is 16-bit side-scrolling action at its finest.You know the drill, keep running right, and occasionally left, while defeating a bunch of enemies until you get to the end boss. Defeat the boss and repeat. It may sound mundane, but with this game it really is not. The controls are tight, the jumping feels accurate, and attacking enemies leave the player with a feeling of satisfaction. The platforms in the levels are well spaced out, the enemies are placed in all of the correct spots, and the objective of each part of the level varies so the player doesn’t get bored. The game certainly isn’t innovative, it just does everything so right.
Having “X Men” in the title obviously means that it is a comic book game. The game uses the license very well as there are a good share of playable characters and they all play just like they do in the comics. Wolverine is great for close up and personal attacks, Cyclops beam attack is very useful for getting rid of enemies from afar, Gambit is designed to take advantage of his poles long reach, Nightcrawler is very sneaky and quick, etc. Not only does this offer the player to try out what playstyle they prefer (as long as the character survives), but it also results in the game being very replayable. In a way it makes the cold open make sense as it forces the player to play as a character they may not like, but could enjoy the way they play.
Graphically the game looks great. Developer Headgames manages to make the game look close to the comic as possible due to a wide variety of colors on the characters and the backgrounds. The game also spots a lot of nifty effects. Such as in the cold open level it is snowing and you can see tons of individual snow particles on the screen.
Sure you can see the effect is similar to putting static on the screen, but it is nevertheless a cool effect to see on the Genesis.
Unfortunately while the game looks good, it doesn’t sound good. While the sound effects and music go well with the game, the quality is of the classic muted and muffled early ’90s Genesis games. I mean just listen to this shit. At a time when Treasure, Game Freak, and Bluesky Software were putting out high quality music this just doesn’t meet the standards.
There isn’t much else to say about the game. It is your typical action oriented 16-bit sidescroller. What makes it stand out are the X Men property and that the game is extremely well polished. It is a bit unfortunate that the game seems to be ignored. The game came out just when the 16-bit era was wrapping up and likely was overshadowed by the Sega Saturn, Playstation, and the big Super Nintendo blockbusters. It also got overshadowed by its very successful and shitty predecessor X Men which is a very boring and terrible game. If you want the definitive superhero game of the 16-bit era then look no further.