Random quote:


Check out my other site, RPGreats, for honest RPG reviews!

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. 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.

57. Divinity: Original Sin II (Larian Studios, 2017)

I never had much interest in the Divinity series; they all just seemed like mediocre knockoffs of games that came before them at a glance, and judging from the unimpressive reviews most of them have gotten, I'm not too far off in that assessment.  Original Sin was allegedly their big breakout title, but I didn't much care for it either; the constant bugginess and jank, inane dialog and slow, tedious combat just wore on me before long.  However, Original Sin II is where they finally got things right.  It takes the inventive and playful ideas of the original game and puts them in a smooth, responsive engine, and it actually becomes a ton of fun to explore the world, discover its densely-packed secrets and find clever ways to reach out-of-reach items, and battles are used much more sparingly so you don't get utterly sick of combat within the first few hours of gameplay.  But when it does happen, it's a thrill to turn the field of battle to your advantage at every opportunity - dropping oil and setting it ablaze, teleporting enemies into spikes or acid/fire fields, channeling lightning through steam clouds, knocking foes out with chloroform and backstabbing their friends, to name just a few.  The narrative is also vastly improved this time, with far less grating party banter and voiceover, genuinely engaging and witty dialog and a plethora of well-written and interesting pre-fab protagonists (and you can still create your own if you choose).  Some of the other mechanics are also unique and downright inspired; conversing with animals, eating the dead to see their memories; even the ability to choose the dominant instrument in the music is something I've never seen in another game.  Hell, I don't even mind the crafting as much now - it actually feels intuitive and doesn't just turn the game into a tedious scavenger hunt as most similar systems tend to.  It took a long road to get here, but Larian made a damn fine RPG with Original Sin II.

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. Deus Ex (Ion Storm, 2000)

Ion Storm was a company as well-known for the names on its payroll as for its comically extravagant office space and outlandish development costs. But despite some questionable management decisions, they managed to turn out several high profile titles in their short existence.  The one that easily stole the show was Deus Ex - a dystopian science fiction tale set in a world where every conspiracy theory imaginable is real.  It was also an early example of a game where one's choices actually matter, with significantly different play styles depending upon the player's choice of skills, story events changing based on choices and even three different endings.  A compelling dark tale in a surprisingly credible future, there's a good reason that it's the centerpiece of a meme: "Every time someone mentions Deus Ex, someone reinstalls Deus Ex. "

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...