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1/19/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #60-51

60. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997)


While it wasn't the first game in the franchise to assume an open-world style of exploration (that being the relatively unpopular Castlevania II), Symphony of the Night was the game that took it to perfection.  Giving the player tons of options and abilities, as well as an enormous castle environment to explore, ensured that Symphony of the Night is a widely played game that still enjoys a massive cult following to this day.  While I never was a big fan of the Castlevania franchise, there's no denying that SOTN is a very worthwhile endeavor for the sheer amount of gameplay it offers - challenge runs, speedruns, or just casual playthroughs are all a blast in this one.  Oh, and it's got some really kickass visuals and music to boot.

59. Final Fantasy Tactics (Squaresoft, 1998)

When it comes to Final Fantasy games, for me at least, it's not so much a matter of "which one is the best" as "there is only one".   That one is Final Fantasy Tactics, a game which more or less serves as a storyline remake of Yasumi Matsuno's Tactics Ogre, but with the customizable class system of Final Fantasy V on top, allowing the player to mix-and-match abilities to create their ultimate team of units.  While it also possesses some of Final Fantasy's usual, erm, less-desirable aspects (a bad sense of humor, rough translation and wildly unbalanced gameplay in its late stages), the grim story and high challenge keep it a fresh and fun experience throughout.  Not a perfect game, but it's as close as Final Fantasy has ever gotten.

58. Suikoden V (Konami/Hudson Soft, 2006)


Suikoden was always a pretty overlooked franchise in North America, with the first two entries in particular going almost completely unnoticed in the early days of the Playstation and in the background behind the runaway success of the Final Fantasy franchise, respectively.  Suikoden 3 and 4 on the Playstation 2, on the other hand, were more widely recognized but less well-received among fans.  Seemingly created to address the disparity, Suikoden V is a throwback to the style of the first two games, but with some of the innovations of the later titles thrown in for good measure.  The end result is another great entry that joins elements of both the classic and latter Suikoden games, weaving a complex tale of a country at war with a cast of literally hundreds of distinct characters and numerous questlines that tie them all together into one grand epic.  The game's visuals are fairly drab for the Playstation 2, but the gameplay and storytelling are top-notch.  Just a shame, then, that this was the last proper Suikoden game...

57. 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 constantly sticking to shadows, glancing over your shoulder for enemies, and keeping to any shadows you could find to avoid being seen.  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.

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...