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1/18/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #70-61

70. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (Level-5, 2005/2017)

Dragon Quest wasn't an especially popular series in the west for a long while; it survived as a niche series in the NES era, but then missed two entire console generations (well, other than a late and little-advertised port of VII on PS1, but that game... wasn't very good), so when VIII was announced for a western release on the Playstation 2, nobody quite knew what to think.  However, under Level-5's banner the series stepped into a new generation in style, with colorful cel-shaded graphics, expressive character animations in cutscenes and combat alike, and even full voiceover; a very stark contrast to earlier games, which featured the bare minimum for animations and sound design.  The gameplay itself remains faithful to series tradition - turn-based battles and random encounters are still the order of the day - but having a customizable skill set for each of your characters, as well as a new mechanic in "Tension" (basically, storing up strength for one or more turns and then using it to buff up one of your moves) added a new layer of strategy.  The 3DS version adds even more content, including an alternate romance option, faster battles and two new playable characters.

69. Starflight (Binary Systems, 1986/1991)


A groundbreaking game in the mid-80s and still a standout one today, Starflight was amazing for the sheer amount of depth it provided; the player was given free reign to explore the galaxy, recover resources to sell, find inhabitable planets, interact with alien races (both diplomatically and in war), and generally carve out their own niche in a vast universe.  Of course, there was an underlying storyline as well, and a good one at that - the player's ultimate goal was to decipher clues found throughout their travels, unravel the mysteries of the galaxy, find out exactly why extinction-level events threaten every major star system they run across, and put a stop to it once and for all.

68. 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).

67. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (Game Arts, 2000)

I never could afford a Sega CD as a kid, so the groundbreaking Lunar games went completely over my head at the time.  Thankfully they got two very high-quality remakes on the Playstation, and when I played them I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.  Lunar 2, while I consider it the weaker of the two games, is still an extremely compelling experience, combining the feel of a good animated movie with some solid RPG mechanics and surprisingly good animation and voice acting for its era, not to mention a very strong love story as the focus of its plot.  Oh, and an absolutely stellar soundtrack, of course. I may not have had exposure to its original iteration until many years after the fact, but Lunar still stands as proof that the CD format could do a lot for the genre that the old memory-limited cartridges simply could not.

66. Torchlight II (Runic Games, 2012)

Diablo III may have been an unmitigated disaster (in fact, to date it's the only game I've ever shipped back to the publisher and gotten a refund for), but where Blizzard falls flat, their former staff picks up the slack.  Torchlight II is a ridiculously fun action-RPG with tons of loot, online co-op, mod support (even online - double bonus!) and some creative innovations, like being able to send your pet back to town to get more potions and trade in loot so you don't have to stop fighting, and having loot drops tracked separately for each player so you can grab up whatever you please from enemies (and still have plenty to trade between other players or even your own characters).  It's just pure fun and I love it.

65. Dark Cloud 2 (Level-5, 2003)

One of the first RPG released on the Playstation 2 was Dark Cloud, a game touted as a "Zelda Killer" by Sony despite the fact that the two really played nothing alike (and Dark Cloud lacked much of the polish of the game it set out to "kill").  Dark Cloud 2, however, was a significant overhaul to the gameplay, streamlining it in some respects (from six playable characters to 2, though each now wielded two weapons as well as a special ability), giving it more polish, and just a sheer amount of content with things like challenge medals, minigames, high quality voiceover and a much more colorful, cel-shaded palette on the whole.  A long, but satisfying adventure with a constant sense of fun and wonder throughout.

64. Marvel VS Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Capcom, 2000)

Even as someone who was blown away by the early Marvel-Capcom crossover games, Marvel VS Capcom 2 managed to impress me on a level no other fighter had (and few others have since).  With a roster of 56 playable characters, comprised of every character from previous crossover games and a handful of new ones, the same fast-paced gameplay that never misses a beat and teams of three (who can call in the other two characters to assist or chain Hyper Combos together for huge damage), the game is just a blast to play.  I'm not a huge fan of the bizarre CGI backgrounds or the strange light jazz soundtrack they got for this crazy crossover fight, but in terms of gameplay it's still among the best fighters ever made.

63. Metal Slug X (SNK, 1999)

Metal Slug X is a somewhat more polished reimagining of Metal Slug 2, eliminating much of its slowdown while remixing its gameplay with new enemy patterns and a slightly different boss order.  For my money, though, it's also the best Metal Slug game ever made, with a perfect blend of design cues, destructible environments and that good old gorgeous 2D animation, not to mention one of the greatest final battles in video game history.  This really is a title that must be experienced for any fan of arcade action.




62. Metroid Fusion (Nintendo, 2002)


Metroid enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the early 2000s thanks to Retro Studios' runaway hit Metroid Prime and a couple of top-notch releases on the Game Boy Advance.  The more controversial of the two was Metroid Fusion, which took on a much more dialog-heavy approach than its predecessors and also deigned to have - gasp! - linear game progression!  That didn't make it a bad game, though - far from it, in fact.  Metroid Fusion effectively captured the isolation of the earlier games, putting Samus alone against a space station full of creatures mutated by an aggressive alien virus and even an evil doppelganger that infected the remains of her original suit, resulting in an extremely dangerous new foe.  If Metroid and Super Metroid were homages to Alien, this one is an homage to The Thing - a much different experience, but no less good.

61: Quake (Id Software, 1997)

Every modern FPS owes much to Doom, but with apologies to that classic, I have to say I much prefer Quake these days.  It took some time to win me over, but after really taking in its atmosphere, gorgeously designed 3D maps, creepy enemies and relentlessly fast-paced design, it's pretty hard to go back.  Moreso when it has some fantastic addons like Arcane Dimensions and the two official expansion packs that expand upon the experience in some pretty amazing ways, adding new some of the most well-crafted new enemies, stages and bosses I've seen in any FPS.  Quake kicks ass and is the quintessential Id shooter from the 90s.