Thursday, February 14, 2008

#53-#40 Favourite Games

This list is hilariously out-of-date now, by the way.

53. Zoo Keeper
DS, 2005, Success/Ignition Entertainment

Yes, it’s just Bejeweled/Santa Balls/whatever with a new face. But damn it, it’s still a brilliant game, and the new face is deeply pleasing – I absolutely love the cubist animals and their eye-popping gurning as they’re sorted into oblivion. And the stylus control raises it from excellent to sublime. Quest mode’s complete rubbish, mind. Someone needs a slap for that.

52. killer7
Gamecube, 2005, Grasshopper Manufacture/Capcom

Style over substance? Most assuredly. But the substance is actually pretty good (imagine an ultra-stripped-down Resident Evil with Virtua Cop-style combat) and the style is phenomenal. Oozing class, gorgeous design and more originality in five minutes than most games/books/films cram into their entire length, and bolstered by stellar voice-acting, it’s one of the few games I’ve played that’s worth sticking with for the story alone. And what an ending!

51. Virtua Cop
Saturn, 1995, AM2/Sega

Lightgun games used to be known for being crap, y’know. Apparently no-one told Sega, and they came steaming in with this addictive, satisfying, and excessively cool effort. It looks a little lacklustre compared to its sequel, but for convincing the world not to give up on the genre and paving the way for Time Crisis, The House of the Dead and their ilk, it deserves your respect. Or, um, it’ll shoot you?

50. Pikmin 2
Gamecube, 2005, Nintendo

Good ol’ Shigsy, eh? He saw real-time strategies, usually a genre dominated by achingly serious sci-fi war guff, and said “I know, let’s do it in a garden with tiny squeaking plant-men.” And it works beautifully. Inventive, enthralling, atmospheric, intelligent and oh-so-pretty, it exudes that special kind of joy only games can give you. A bit too hard in places, but it gives far more than it takes away. Dazzling.

49. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Game Boy Advance, 2004, Flagship/Nintendo

The Minish Cap seems to have become the forgotten son of the Zelda family, and I have no idea why. It’s brilliant. The shrinky-dink hook is great, and gives the game a wide-eyed, family-movie style charm; it looks lovely; fusing Kinstones for delicious treats is highly addictive; and it has two of Zelda’s best ever gadgets in the ceramic-hoover Gust Jar and the flippy-flippy Cane of Pacci. The opening is a bit seen-it-all-before, and the final boss is far too aggravating, but other than that it’s wonderful, and deserves more appreciation.

48. WarioWare: Touched!
DS, 2005, Intelligent Systems/Nintendo

Ah, WarioWare. King of the it’s-about-ten-minutes-until-tea’s-on-the-table-and-I-need-to-do-something-as-my-years-of-gaming-have-caused-me-to-constantly-crave-stimulation-and-entertainment market. Which I may have just invented. A pretty shameless “Wheee-we-have-a-new-console-let’s-show-off-all-its-features-as-quickly-as-possible” release, it’s saved from motion-going by the series’ usual relentless invention, unyielding surrealism and steadfast idolatry of the nose and the picking thereof. WarioWare appeals deeply to the gamer id with its “complete task NOW well done here’s your reward now DO ANOTHER ONE” mechanic, and Touched!, while not quite up to its siblings, is as wonderful and hilarious as ever. And Ashley’s theme song is superb.

(Sam: 1, hyphens: 0)

47. Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition
Saturn, 1996, Taito/Acclaim

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. What day is it again?

46. Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition
Saturn, 1996, AM3/Sega

So the Saturn’s launched, and Daytona is ported right on over. People complain at the naff graphics and general rushed feel of the conversion, so Sega say, “Awright, giz a year or so and we’ll do a nicer version and chuck in some extra cars and tracks while we’re at it.” Then they release CCE and people complain at the altered handling and loss of super-cheesy vocals on the tunes. Tchuh. While it doesn’t handle as nicely as the original, I didn’t play that until years after I got this, so I was free to take it on its own merits. And those merits are many! It runs very nicely for a 3D Saturn racer; it plays well; the new tracks are good (National Park Speedway is actually my favourite Daytona course); the new cars add some variety, even if the differences between them are fairly small; I can’t resist the ultra-naff rock songs on the title screen and replay modes; and it’s a good deal easier than Sega Rally. Not the ultimate Daytona experience, then (I’d be tempted to plump for Daytona 2001 on the Dreamcast despite only having played a demo), but plenty good enough for me.

45. WarioWare: Twisted!
Game Boy Advance, NEVER (2005 in the US), Intelligent Systems/Nintendo

I don’t really import, which I guess is an odd thing for a lifelong gamer. I think I’ve just got it into my head that importing is too much hassle, despite the fact it hasn’t been for a long time. So when I saw this in my local game store sometime in 2005, I just assumed they’d finally got around to releasing it and snapped it up, not noticing it was the US version until I got home. Just as well, eh? The endless fiddling about (something to do with mercury in the cartridge or something) has resulted in Europe missing out on an absolute classic, generally agreed to be the best WarioWare of the lot. And while I haven’t played them all, this is certainly the best I have played. The spinning mechanic is seized on with astonishing vigour and used in every way imaginable – from stitching a seam to balancing a cat to a circular version of Super Mario Bros. oh my God. And it’s a huge game, hiding absolutely tons of unlockables away. A lucky buy indeed.

44. The House of the Dead 2
Dreamcast, 1999, AM1/Sega

Lightgun games exert a strange pull on me. No matter how many times I complete one, I’ll always go back and play it again. The net result is that I am now really, really, really good at this game because I’ve played it about a hojillion times. Which is nice. The main game itself is agreeable enough, with its branching routes, vicious bosses and astonishingly bad voice acting, but the Dreamcast version’s Original Mode is the icing on the cake, giving you new weapons, new characters to play as, and the ability to use lures from Sega Bass Fishing as bullets. Oh, and the fact that one of the zombies is clearly modelled on Kurt Cobain never fails to amuse me.

43. Burnout 2: Point of Impact
Gamecube, 2003, Criterion/Acclaim

I tried to play Burnout 3 once and it confused the hell out of me. Probably with some time I would’ve worked out what was going on, but it seems that Criterion hit their peak with the simplicity of the second game. Drive fast! Boost! Crash! The end. The nods to various classic Sega racers (Scud Race, Daytona) are very welcome too.

42. Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Gamecube, 2003, Nintendo

This was the first Mario Kart I owned, which probably explains why I like it more than other people generally do, although it did seem weird going back to it after a lengthy MKDS period and not being able to hop. Anyway. Great tracks (mostly), nice range of characters, brilliant four-player, gorgeous graphics and a two-characters-in-a-kart gimmick that I will maintain is excellent in the face of all opposition. So there.

41. Unreal Tournament
PC, 1999, Epic Games/GT Interactive

You know how in Penny Arcade they might illustrate Gabe and Tycho playing a game by having them actually inside the game, dressed in appropriate costumes? UT’s the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like that. Even Half-Life can’t match the sheer absorption that comes over you when you’re playing this, and you’re dodging about in your seat and craning your neck to see round corners without even realising it. The fantastic weapons list, sublime maps (Facing Worlds is one of the best things in gaming) and superb game modes don’t hurt, either.

40. Shining Wisdom
Saturn, 1996, Sonic! Software Planning/Sega

If you were a Sega fan in the early- to mid-‘90s, you’d’ve witnessed a whole bunch of Zelda clones turn up on the Mega Drive and Saturn as they madly scrambled to find a rival for Link to the Past. The Shining series was well-established by this point, so it’s no surprise that they chucked out one under that banner – except that complicated copyright ownerships meant that the English language version had all references to the other Shinings garbled, despite the fact that a couple of the characters actually turned up in Shining Force II. D’oh. Anyway, for all its derivativeness, Wisdom is one heck of a game. The plot’s a fairly standard save-the-princess-defeat-the-evil-fellow-who-plans-to-resurrect-a-giant dealie, but all the originality is poured into the dungeons. Helmets to fly with, an astonishingly hard level that requires you to fiddle with mirror images of it, burrowing shenanigans and a giant tree that has to be traversed by dressing up as a monkey – it’s brilliant. Some of the extra items are inspired, too, including a little car to pootle around in, and a judo suit that allows you to defeat enemies with martial-arts throws. The main gameplay hook of various power orbs that give different effects when combined with your different weapons is pretty great, too.

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