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1/18/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #70-61

70. Freedom Planet (Galaxytrail, 2014)

Freedom Planet makes no secret of what it is - an homage to Sega Genesis era action games like Sonic, Gunstar Heroes and Rocket Knight Adventures, adopting their colorful and fluidly-animated visual styles, uncomplicated control schemes, enormous bosses and fast-paced gameplay.  Like many of them, Freedom Planet is also a top-notch title worthy of hanging with the best of the genre, and I dare say it even surpasses many of the games that inspired it in quality.  Definitive proof that indie studios can make excellent games even on a shoestring budget.

69. 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!

68. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (Game Arts, 1998)

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.

67. Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed (Sumo Digital, 2012)


I'm generally not a big fan of racing games, but I do enjoy the occasional arcade racer.  For many years I considered Mario Kart the king of that particular genre, but then I played All Stars Racing Transformed and I was simply blown away by its quality.  Not only is this game gorgeous, smooth-controlling and blazingly fast, but it also brings a unique innovation with the titular transformations. Throughout the race, your vehicle shifts between three forms - car, plane and hovercraft - and the tracks dynamically shift before your eyes to accomodate the new racing style with things like collapsing bridges and portions where the track simply falls away and you have to navigate through asteroid fields or swoop under bridges.  Or my personal favorite, a stage where you race off the edge of After Burner's aircraft carrier, land in the water as a hovercraft, then switch to a plane to fly back onto it and begin the next lap.  It's incredibly fun to watch and completely seamless to play.  The game is also available on just about every platform that was on the market in 2012, so you really have no excuse not to check it out.  And you should, because it's one of the all-time greats.

66. Xenosaga (Trilogy) (Monolith, 2003, 2005, 2006)


Xenogears was one of Square's most divisive games in the PS1 era, with people either praising it as a work of ambitious genius or criticizing its lackluster design, slow pace and the fact that it clearly wasn't anything close to finished when it shipped thanks to Square pulling the rug out from under its development team.  Frustrated by that, its creators left to form their own studio (Monolith) and decided to create another franchise in its vein.  That was Xenosaga, and while it also suffers from heavy publisher interference, I think it is a much stronger product overall.  The gameplay is definitely much more refined, the story and characters are well-defined throughout, and it tells a complex, yet interesting tale of a looming evil that threatens the universe itself, as well as having some very interesting personalities on all sides of the conflict.  It's a bit difficult to follow at times and its gameplay can be a bit rough in spots, but the sheer ambition of it is incredible and it is undoubtedly a much more polished experience overall.  The only problem is that, like Xenogears, it will likely never get a proper resolution thanks to its publisher's meddling...

65. Rocket Knight Adventures (Konami, 1993)


Mascot platformers were a bit of a fad in the 90s, with every company wanting to create their own Sonic the Hedgehog in order to capitalize on his runaway success.  Most attempts were mediocre to outright terrible, but Konami's take outshined even its source material.  That was Rocket Knight Adventures, starring an opossum with a jetpack taking on an army of pigs who wielded giant robots and war machines aplenty.  It also perfectly highlighted the capabilities of the Genesis with its colorful visuals, fluid animations and fast-paced battles, particularly near the end of the game, as well as an excellent soundtrack that highlighted that the Genesis could easily hold its own against the SNES' MIDI capabilities.  The only letdown is that none of its sequels were anywhere near as good as the original game...

64. 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.

63. Metal Gear Solid 2 (Konami, 2001)


The second game in Kojima's ever-popular revival of the Metal Gear franchise, and to this day it's still a controversial entry, with some loving it for its complex storyline and others hating the introduction of a new protagonist in Raiden.  Regardless, though, Metal Gear Solid 2 was more of the same great action-stealth gameplay the first game brought to the table and then some.  Pair that with an incredible eye for detail and some top-notch boss battles and you have a game for the ages, and one of the titles that really put the Playstation 2 on the map.

62. Astro Boy: Omega Factor (Treasure/Hitmaker, 2004)


Not only my favorite Game Boy Advance game of all time, but one of the finest from the Sega, Hitmaker and Treasure camps to boot, Astro Boy is a great experience all around.  Combining numerous Osamu Tezuka characters into one enormous storyline, as well as several different gameplay styles (beat-em-up and scrolling shooter being the most prominent), Astro Boy is also a very challenging game.  But the real genius of it all is in its implementation - by finding characters, Astro Boy's "Omega Factor" develops, unlocking new abilities and upgrades.  A pretty clever way to explore the universe of Osamu Tezuka and a great game to boot!

61. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo, 2006/2016)

One of Nintendo's famous "remake sequels", simultaneously continuing the story of a franchise while remaking and expanding upon one of its older games.  In this case, Twilight Princess serves as a more polished reimagining of Ocarina of Time, a game which always belt a bit lacking to me (particularly in its bland overworld design and comparatively generic dungeons and items).  Twilight Princess, on the other hand, feels impeccably well-crafted by comparison - the combat is much more refined and even includes horseback battles, the dungeon designs are absolutely impeccable (with the water dungeon in particular going from one of the worst to one of my favorites) and the story is also surprisingly good, with lavishly-produced animation and expressive characters despite the lack of voiced dialog.  It's also just a gorgeous game all around, providing a strangely beautiful and alien aesthetic in spite of its subdued color palette.