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1/19/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #60-51

60. XCOM 2 (Firaxis Games, 2016)

Having played several entries in the series, I can say that XCOM 2, in combination with its War of the Chosen and Shen's Last Gift DLCs, and  is easily my favorite.  While the original is a classic and Enemy Unknown was a great remake, XCOM 2 takes things in an entirely new direction.  Set in a universe after the first alien war was lost and Advent has overtaken the planet with the aim of launching a sinister, world-spanning project, means it's a much darker game, but also one where the odds - and time - are very much stacked against you.  Managing your squad abilities and time are key elements of the strategy, as are making the most of all four new classes and their abilities.  The expansions only compound this, adding in tougher boss characters known as "the Chosen", new recruits in the form of SPARK androids with their own abilities, and a number of customization options.  A game with a lot to see and do, but you can play it for months and not see it all.  And you probably will, because it's ridiculously fun.

59. Grandia III (Game Arts, 2006)


A late-comer to the Playstation 2 game, and it didn't get a whole lot of attention as a result.  Which is a real shame, as this is one of Game Arts' finest titles.  Taking the fantastic, action-driven combat of Grandia and pushing it up to eleven, Grandia III's combat also has the player juggling enemies into the sky for massive damage and bonuses, and the fluid feel of it all makes combat in the game an absolute joy.  Of course, you also had a surprisingly strong story beneath it all thanks to Game Arts' impeccable writing team.  This really was a case of a game company giving a project their all, but just not getting the recognition they deserved from it...


58. Bayonetta 2 (PlatinumGames, 2014)


How do you follow up a game that puts just about every other action title ever made to shame? Well, it's definitely a tall order, but Yusuke Hashimoto found a way with Bayonetta 2.  Putting much more emphasis on wild boss battles and introducing a plethora of new weapons including dual swords, an enormous bow and arrows, an enormous mechanical hammer and a giant three-bladed scythe,  Bayonetta 2 also provides more of the same over-the-top fun whilst tightening the overall pacing and adding plenty of new challenges to conquer.  A truly amazing expansion on an already golden experience

57. Shadowrun: Dragonfall/Hong Kong (Harebrained Schemes, 2014/2015)


The second and third games in the rebooted Shadowrun franchise, and easily my favorite ones so far, expanding on everything the original brought to the table while losing nothing that made it great.  The story is nothing short of brilliant, bringing together a cast of diverse and complex characters to solve the mystery of their friend's death and the underlying conspiracy behind it.  Throughout the game, every choice you make seems to be the wrong one, making you new enemies and seemingly digging you deeper into a pit you can't escape from, while the combat only gets more intense with enemies bringing out bigger guns, setting up nastier traps and summoning bigger monsters to get in your way.  Stellar stuff all around, and a perfect example of how to do a grim, atmospheric game experience right.

56. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (Atlus, 2004)


Shin Megami Tensei is a franchise known for three things - its branching story paths, allowing the player to recruit demons, and of course being brutally difficult, requiring a great amount of player commitment and many, many deaths and continues to complete.  Nocturne is no different, providing a plethora of tricky dungeon puzzles, difficult bosses and all but requiring mastery of the game's fusion system and party customization to succeed.  Still, its haunting dreamlike atmosphere, compelling storyline, interesting characters and replay value make it a game that, while it may make you curse a lot, also proves to be extremely rewarding once you batten down and commit yourself to it fully.  Nocturne is Shin Megami Tensei - and Japanese RPGs - at their finest.

55. The World Ends With You (Square Enix/Jupiter, 2008)

For all intents and purposes, the last gasp of Square Enix's creativity before the company fell into a long string of mediocre retreads, remakes and cash-in sequels with no end in sight.  But what a game to go out on.  TWEWY is not only a pinnacle of brilliant design that perfectly takes advantage of the Nintendo DS' features, but has a surprisingly good underlying story to boot.  Featuring a group of kids thrown into a twisted game for survival in Shibuya, they must evade monsters, fight against "Noise" (monsters stylized after graffiti and born from negative human emotion) and last for seven days in order to be granted a second chance at life.  To that end, the player controls a team of two characters at once (one on each screen) and must use both characters in tandem to rack up damage, dodge enemy attacks and unleash the occasional super move on their enemies.  All that, plus the well-written characters and an incredible soundtrack, ensure that TWEWY is an unforgettable experience from beginning to end.  A must-play for any fan of unconventional JRPGs.




54. Metal Gear Solid (Konami, 1998)


A reboot of Kojima's stealth-driven Metal Gear franchise, which took the MSX and NES markets by storm with its fast-paced gameplay and surprisingly deep storyline for the era.  Solid was definitely a sight to behold when it first came out too, not only for its high production quality on par with a good film (even in spite of the grainy graphical capabilities of the PS1), but for the sheer scope and ambition of its storytelling.  Set in a world facing the threat of widespread nuclear proliferation, terrorism and the eponymous super-weapon Metal Gear REX, Snake's story as a reluctant hero sent to defuse one such situation lends itself to a very layered and compelling narrative.  Throughout it all, though, it also never loses sight of its roots as a video game, making sly references to such and even breaking the fourth wall on occasion.  A true classic.

53. The Legend of Zelda; Link's Awakening (Nintendo, 1993)


The Zelda franchise's first Game Boy outing, and what a debut it was, jumping straight to the top of Nintendo Power's popularity charts and staying there for a solid five years, only finally being upstaged by the Pokemon franchise in 1998.  There was a good reason for that too, as the game is stellar on every front.  Playing like something of a cross between the original Zelda and something of an action-platformer, the game swaps between sidescroller and overhead segments frequently throughout its dungeons, and platforming became just as much a part of the experience as defeating enemies and solving puzzles.  Of course, as per series standards, there was still plenty of that, as well as a top-notch presentation, a fun cast of characters and surprisingly good storyline that fully takes advantage of the game's surreal tone.

52. Dust: An Elysian Tail (Humble Hearts, 2012)


A gorgeously animated 2D adventure whose gameplay is strongly reminiscent of a Metroid title crossed with elements of a good Devil May Cry/Bayonetta styled beat-em-up, Dust is only made more impressive by the fact that it was designed, programmed and animated entirely by one guy.  The real draw to me, though, is its storyline, which has some surprisingly well-developed and acted characters and quite dark themes in spite of the overall cute, colorful visual style.  Despite that, it's also not afraid to have a sense of humor, giving us two of the most compelling protagonists I've seen in a game in quite a long time.  Dust is an incredible game, and easily one of the best the Xbox Live Arcade service ever brought us.  Of course, it's also since been ported to PC and PS4, so non-Xboxers have no excuse not to check it out too.

51. Mischief Makers (Treasure, 1997)

The first Treasure game I ever played, and once I did, I was hooked on the company for life. Equal parts over the top silly and awesome, the game has you playing as Marina Liteyears, a hyper-strong jet-propelled robotic maid out to rescue Professor Theo from his kidnappers, the Clancer army. The game's mechanics center on grabbing, shaking and throwing items to a variety of effects - grabbing missiles out of the air, shaking them to make them larger, and throwing them back at your enemies to name just one. Tossing enemies into one another, throwing bombs and items into a pot then shaking to "combine" them into one larger item to name a couple more. It even features some delightfully silly stages like riding a giant bee, outrunning a tidal wave on a tricycle and the ever-awesome missile surfing stage (pictured), as well as boss fights against some truly outlandish boss monsters. Hell, there's even a time trial system and a hidden gold gem in each stage that extends the ending cinematic slightly, giving it some considerable replay value as well. Another game that should be rereleased to a wider audience but still hasn't for some reason...