Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great Video Games That You May Have Missed

There was a time – when I was a kid – that video games were incredibly expensive treasures to be savoured over time. As a result of the expensive nature of games there were a lot of titles that could be completely missed for the “big game of the season”.

This list will highlight some of the best games from yesteryear that you may have missed.

5. Golden Sun (GBA)

For those people that really enjoyed RPG games and had a Game Boy Advance, this game may not apply. I think it was even a pack-in with some GBAs, so I might be stepping out of the bounds of this list here. I don’t think so, though. Yeah, the game was popular enough to spawn two sequels – the newest of which will be released in this month, I do believe – but I still feel like there are lots of people out there that didn’t get to enjoy Golden Sun, so it makes the list.

Remember, I’m a professional lister, and you are not.

Golden Sun was a colourful, fun and inventive RPG or the Game Boy Advance, released in 2001 by Camelot Software.

It follows the typical RPG characters – a group of young people tasked with saving the world. The innovations come in the form of the battle system, which utilized “Djinn”, mythical creatures that imbued characters with different forms of elemental magic.

A cool feature to the game was that any character could utilize any Djinn, and they grew together as long as that character was equipped with a Djinn. However, characters could be “adept” to using a specific kind of magic. Someone might be particularly strong with fire and earth magic, over water or wind. The characters could all learn specific abilities corresponding to their Djinn and adept magic-set. It was a very deep battle system.

The biggest complaint about Golden Sun is the constant puzzling in the dungeons, but don’t let that discourage you. The game is insanely fun and enjoyable. You may have missed out on Golden Sun, but now that you know about it, you can get to playing it. GO!

4. Shatterhand (NES)

The NES is a system that gets a lot of praise, all of which is completely deserved. The fact is, however, that there were a great many games on this system that only a select few gamers ever got to try.

Shatterhand is one of the unsung titles from the NES that I try to tell as many people about as I can.

In a lot of ways it’s a Mega Man clone, but it has its very own touches that make it a unique, challenging and fun title.

Released in 1991 by Natsume, in Japan the game was called Super Rescue Solbrain. It was based on a live-action television show in Japan, but when it was localized for the US there were issues over copyright. The game was completely re-branded, sprites changed, and story re-written. The game was released in North America by Jaleco and re-named Shatterhand.

The story follows an ex-cop who had his arms destroyed by a rogue military group known as Metal Command – an army of cyborgs and robots. Our main character – Steve Hermann – is fitted with cyborg arms and codenamed Shatterhand. He then takes the fight to Metal Command.

There is a stage-select screen, much like Mega Man, and you work your way to an end boss for each stage. Once you finish the first six stages, you’re allowed to take on the last stage. As you play through the game you can obtain different power-ups, and depending on the order you collect the power-ups for your arms you can use different weapons. You can also get a little robot buddy that helps you out, almost like a Shoot ‘Em Up.

The game is very difficult. You get two lives to start – but can accumulate more in different stages - and once they're exhausted it’s game over. You do have unlimited continues until you turn the game off, though. It is a very fun, underrated action title and totally worth spending some time on.

3. Terranigma (SNES)

Now here’s a game I’d bet most of you haven’t even heard of. Released in 1995 by Enix, the game was developed by Quintet – the company behind many popular SNES titles like ActRaiser and Illusion of Gaia.

Although the game was released in Europe for the PAL Super Nintendo, it was never released State-side. It seems an odd choice because with an English translation already written, you’d imagine they could make some money releasing the game in North America. With its lackluster sales in Japan and Europe, however, an NA release never came about.

The game is an action-RPG that follows the resurrection of Earth. Yeah, it’s a heady story, but basically the Earth fell to ruin when the “lightside” and the “darkside” – also known as “God” and “Devil” fought for supremacy. Neither won, but as a result the continents of Earth were submerged in water and the Underworld – part of the dark side of Earth – now only has one remaining city. Now a young boy named Ark finds himself trying to resurrect Earth after the battle between God and Devil. That’s the best way I can describe it, because I only had the opportunity to play Terranigma myself for a few days several years ago.

Whether it was the religion/evolution-heavy storyline or the poor sales, Terranigma didn’t make it to the US and Canada but could have been a classic if it had just been given the chance. It uses an action-RPG style, which actually allows the player to attack when either standing still, running, jumping, etc. and the strength of those attacks increases depending on which attack you use. Other than that you level up like any other RPG.

The game looks great. Honestly, when I played Terranigma I had to use an emulator and the monitor I used would only output black and white, but the colours and art look great. I’m usually not a big action-RPG fan, but the time I had with Terranigma has always left me wanting more. I’ve even considering trying to get a PAL Super Nintendo and a copy of the game to truly enjoy it.

Often considered by the developers at Quintet as Illusion of Gaia 2, Terranigma is a damned good RPG. Go on, give it try.

2. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 (PS2)

The Legacy of Kain series has an interesting past. The first game was considered a hit, featuring a vampire by the name of Kain and utilizing a top-down, action semi-RPG style of play. I can say that I never really liked Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain – the game’s full title - all that much. That all changed with the release of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver on the Sony Playstation – and also PC and eventually Sega Dreamcast – in THE YEAR 2000!

Ahem, sorry.

Although I consider playing through Soul Reaver one of my fondest video game memories, I have to talk about its direct sequel, Soul Reaver 2, which was released for the Playstation 2 in 2001.

The game directly follows the series of events that occurred in the original title. The depth of story behind these games is amazing, and something to be experienced, so I won’t go into too much detail. Essentially, though, the Soul Reaver games follow Raziel – a fallen General of Kain. Raziel is killed by Kain and resurrected as a new form of being known as a Soul Reaver. I guess you could describe them as a soul vampire, in a way, but with the ability to traverse both the spirit world and the real world. Raziel fights for vengeance against the tyrannical Kain, which sets the stage for Soul Reaver 2.

Soul Reaver 2 not only tackles the depth of story that is present in the Legacy of Kain universe, but incorporates time travel. Oh yes, it goes there.

We have Raziel travelling to different points in the past and the present trying to fix the wrong-doings that befell a group of mythological beings known as the Sarafan, all of which ties into the story of the original Legacy of Kain game. Again, I can’t possibly do the storyline to these games justice, but I wanted to give you some background.

The style is a simple, over-the-shoulder action platformer. As I mentioned before, you can pass between the real world and the spirit world. Each presents different challenges, but can open different paths in the varying levels. You learn different attacks as you progress through the game, which are helpful against the many enemies and challenging boss battles.

Play this game – and its predecessor – for the story, if nothing else. It’s like reading an epic gothic fantasy story all while enjoying an incredible video game.

1. Parasite Eve (PSX)

Parasite Eve might also seem an odd fit for this list, as it is a highly regarded game by many gamers out there. The fact is, however, that Parasite Eve was mostly enjoyed by hardcore gamers in the wake of Square releasing Final Fantasy VII. Parasite Eve actually sold 1.9 million copies worldwide as of 2004 and was the 7th best-selling game of 1998, but I still feel it’s a game that was played by the hardcore and initiated gamer, and was mostly missed by a lot of people in its time.

The game is a rare title in that it was developed by Squaresoft – now Square Enix – and is actually based on a novel by the same title. It follows Aya Brea, a police officer in “present day” Manhattan. This is another story-driven game, so I won’t go into too much detail, but basically mitochondria - look 'em up - are considered reserves of a special kind of energy, and Aya is able to harness that energy in different ways. Certain creatures all over Manhattan begin to turn into monsters, due to their mitochondria, and Aya fights to stop them and whatever is the cause of the outbreak.

The style of the game is so unique. It’s a survival horror-RPG. Basically you go to specific destinations, as there is no “overworld map” like in a traditional RPG. In those areas you can find random encounters, but the fights are like a free-roaming action-RPG. You can’t go anywhere once in a battle – there’s an invisible barrier of sorts – but you can run wherever you like within that barrier and perform attacks whenever your ATB – Active Time Battle – gauge is full. As you level up you learn new attacks and can also upgrade your regular weapons. Aya can use a host of guns, which she can even mix with her mitochondrial attacks.

This game has so much depth in both its story and its gameplay that it should be a must-play for anyone that enjoys video games. It spawned a sequel on the PS2, but it just didn’t quite capture the same feel as the original. It’s still a great game, but not nearly as good as its predecessor. A third game, titled The 3rd Birthday, is coming out very soon for the PSP and although I don’t own a PSP, it’s definitely a game that’s on my radar, but if you play one game in this series, make it the original for the Sony Playstation.


Cole D'Arc said...

with that amazing box art, i can't understand how Shatter Hand could have possibly been overlooked.

and i hadn't heard of that SNES game but now i really want to play it. you probably told me about it before but i don't remember.

Cole D'Arc said...

and ive been on such a role replaying games lately that perhaps i'll next get started on Parasite Eve. i haven't played through that game in like nine years. maybe more.

orc145626 said...

holy shit i thought 5-o-rama died but it's back :)

Shane said...

Golden Sun is one of my favorite RPG's and favorite GBA titles from back in the day. My brother and I were obsessed with it and I can't wait to play the new one which is out on the 29th, I believe. Golden Sun is probably the only RPG I beat without ever having to "push" myself through some tedious or uninteresting parts. Also, it has some of the sweetest summoning effects and animations that I never get tired of.

Shatterhand...never heard of it. Want to play it now. Makes me think of Brainsmasher: A Love Story.

Terranigma is familiar to me, especially the box art, but I may have only played a bit on an emulator.

Soul Reaver 2 I've heard praised quite a bit in the past, but never played any of the series.

Parasite Eve, ditto. Heard the praise but never played. Enjoyable list and I like that you touched on several consoles and systems.

Ryan said...

Cole - PE is a game I've started off again many times and kept putting off. I think I told you before, but I wanted to do that for a playthrough on YT, but it wouldn't record well with screencap.

Shane - Thanks. My original list almost ended up being all PS titles, haha. I then went back and changed it. What's funny is that I completely forgot the game I originally wrote the list for. I'll have to revisit this topic in a few months!