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1/23/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #50-41

50. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition (Capcom, 2006)

The original Devil May Cry was a runaway hit in the early days of the Playstation 2, sporting a unique blend of intense beat-em-up action and puzzle solving with a high level of challenge and some boss battles that were amazing in scale.  After a rather poorly botched sequel in DMC2, Capcom put the series back on track with 3, which not only sported tighter controls and camera angles, but a much greater variety of gameplay as there were now four distinct gameplay styles to choose from, each with their own unique advantages.  Swordmaster would grant the player additional moves with all melee weapons, for example, while Trickster made the player more agile and better able to avoid enemy attacks.  There were also a much wider variety of weapons and firearms to choose from, including an electric guitar that could summon swarms of bats and lightning bolts, a pair of swords that summoned fire and wind, and my personal favorite, a flail wielded like a nunchuck.  The Special Edition also added in Vergil as a playable character, lending even more variety to the gameplay, and alleviated some complaints about the original's difficulty by including mid-stage checkpoints and changing the difficulty levels to be more akin to the Japanese release's.  While far from the strongest game in terms of storytelling, Devil May Cry 3 provided a strong blend of strategy and action, and while its style has been often imitated, there's nothing else quite like it out there.

49. Alien Soldier (Treasure, 1995)

Another early Treasure title, and one which attracted some criticism for its relatively complicated controls and mechanics.  Once the player is used to it, though, the game is an absolutely brilliant action experience.  Essentially a series of enormous boss battles, the player must master dodging, utilizing six different weapon types, countering enemy shots to turn their bullets into more health, and destroying them on set time limits in order to persevere to the end, which proves to be a very long but extremely rewarding ordeal.  The only real shame is that it was given such a limited release in most regions.


48. Thief Gold (Looking Glass Studios, 1998)

Metal Gear may have popularized the genre, but Looking Glass's Thief is without a doubt my favorite stealth game franchise, primarily because it carries the tension of the genre so well - you were sticking to shadows every step of the way, glancing over your shoulder for enemies, and using any tricks or hidden passages you could find to avoid being seen (or make a quick escape if you were).  The grim fantasy setting and eerie architecture only added to the mood, as well as giving you some unique and fantastic tools for the job - from moss arrows (quieting your footsteps on metal and stone floors) to rope arrows to flash bombs and gas mines, you had plenty of options to accommodate your particular gameplay style.  Add multiple difficulty settings on top, each with their own mission objectives, and you have a game with plenty of replay value as well.  To say nothing of some of the brilliant fan-made missions and level packs out there.


47. NieR: Automata (PlatinumGames, 2017)

Yoko Taro is famous for making games both deranged and surprisingly emotional, but they were always rather lacking on the gameplay front.  Automata definitely fixes that right away, combining Platinum's over-the-top style and smooth animations into the mix, and the result is sublime.  A tragic, beautiful, twisted and thoroughly gripping ride, made all the more impactful by an incredible soundtrack (that changes on the fly based on the in-game action) and some incredible voiceover from all involved, but particularly Kira Buckland as 2B and Kyle McCarley as 9S.  It may go on just a touch too long, but it's a journey you'll never forget after you take the plunge.

46. Danganronpa (Tetralogy) (Spike Chunsoft, 2014-2017)

It may be a visual novel series, but thanks to some very strong writing and aesthetic design in spite of its limited budget, Danganronpa rapidly became one of my favorite game franchises in the short while after I played it.  Starring a group of high school kids trapped in a twisted game of survival where they're forced to kill one another over the vague promise of escape, Danganronpa manages to be surreal, violent, and wildly funny all the same time.  That all comes down to the brilliant writing, which has a jokey tone throughout yet still manages to get the player invested with its strongly-written characters and murder mystery elements.  A lot of fun from start to finish, and the franchise that singlehandedly justifies the purchase of a PSVita (or Playstation TV) in my book.

45. Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (Origin Systems, 1988)

The last of the "classic" style Ultimas and undeniably the best of them in terms of gameplay, putting the player through a lengthy ordeal of difficult battles, challenging dungeon puzzles and the Ultima staple of lots of traveling, note-taking and problem-solving in order to gather all the needed items and complete the game.  Even towns aren't safe, as the guards are now corrupt pawns of a world-spanning dictatorship and try to shake you down or harass you, and the three Shadowlords roam the world, corrupting peoples' minds and proving to be extremely dangerous foes who can easily wipe out your entire party unless you know exactly how to deal with them.  Ultima V is a challenge for sure, but its dark atmosphere, well-realized game environment and brilliant writing shine through, creating one of the greatest CRPGs of all time.

44. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Nintendo, 2015)


Majora's Mask was always one of the more unpopular 3D Zelda titles, with complaints commonly aimed at its unconventional style, unclear goals and relatively high difficulty level for the franchise.  Honestly, though, I always thought it was a big improvement over Ocarina of Time, which to me always felt like an unnecessary prequel and a big step back gameplay-wise from the earlier titles.  The 3DS title definitely addresses a few common complaints, however, with the player now able to adjust the clock to a desired time to complete certain events (instead of just in 6-hour increments), the ability to have actual saves instead of temporary quick-saves before events, and a handy notebook to keep track of the game's many quests.  Not to mention reworked boss battles that add a bit more of Zelda's puzzle-solving element to the proceedings.  A fine update of the game, and definitely my favorite of the 3D Zeldas for its bizarre atmosphere.

43. Startropics (Nintendo, 1990)


A rare example of a game never getting a Japanese release despite being created by a Japanese development team.  They were missing out, though, as Startropics is a high quality title.  Essentially an Americanized Legend of Zelda, the game features a more modern environment replete with a lot of Zelda's puzzle-oriented dungeons, giant bosses and action-driven gameplay.  Further matching the theme, your weapons included things like baseballs and yo-yos, and you were given a submarine to patrol the game's environments (navigated by a character who bears a strong resemblance to ROB), all in a quest to rescue your uncle from an alien overlord who seeks to conquer Earth and destroy the last of a race called the Argonians.  It's a bit outlandish and fiendishly difficult at times (particularly the final dungeons), but the sheer charm of it makes Startropics into a memorable experience nevertheless.

42. Marvel's Spider-Man (Insomniac Games, 2018)


The Batman Arkham franchise may have started a golden age of superhero video games, but Marvel's Spider-man took that format and pushed everything in it up to 11.  The game looks amazing, has some killer voiceover (even with different takes depending on what Spider-man's actually doing during dialog), and it plays fantastically well - taking down bad guys, sneaking through security and traps and just gliding around the city are all buttery-smooth and exquisitely fun.  Not to mention a great storyline that pays homage to the character and everything that makes Spider-man great whilst pulling no punches in its emotional moments, and even some fantastic DLC missions.  Superhero games have been around since gaming's earliest days, but Marvel's Spider-Man stands as one of the very best ever made (and will long into the future).

41. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (Rare, 1995)


The original Donkey Kong Country was a smash hit on the SNES for its stylish computer-generated visuals, fantastic soundtrack (good enough to get released on CD!) and simple yet addicting platformer action that rivaled the likes of Mario.  Well, like any good sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2 has a lot more to offer - more varied stages, new enemy types, bigger boss battles, and plenty of challenge throughout.  There was even a bit of a twist a la Super Mario World in the form of an entire new hidden world if you were good enough to collect enough of the hidden coins.  And of course, you didn't truly master the game until you collected the DK coins hidden in each stage.  And beat it on hard mode!