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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #80-71



80. Gitaroo Man (iNiS, 2002)


A low-key release in the early days of the Playstation 2, which would only get buried further once the music game genre took off and it got buried under a parade of Rock Band and Guitar Hero games.  A shame, as Gitaroo Man is a wild ride from start to finish.  Telling the story of a kid named U-1 as he acquires the magical Gitaroo and battles an invading alien force with its powers, the story, animations, songs and general gameplay style are all perfectly suited to that brand of energetic madness, lending itself to a fast-paced, challenging, hilarious and thoroughly unforgettable experience on every front.

79. Grandia II (Game Arts, 2000)


An overlooked RPG if there ever was one, though I can't blame people too much for that - its initial release was on the Dreamcast and the PS2 and PC ports that followed a couple years after left much to be desired.  However, I am glad it's getting more recognition in recent days, as Grandia II, like the others in the series, is a fantastic experience.  A darker tale than the first for sure, but it retains its innovative combat system that allowed turns to be delayed or cancelled entirely with well-placed attacks.  And of course, some excellent music and surprisingly good VO for the era add much to the experience as well.

78. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within (Firaxis Games, 2012/2013)


A remake of the DOS strategy/sim classic X-COM: UFO Defense, as well as a reboot of a long-dormant series, Enemy Unknown takes that format and polishes it up to modern standards with its revamped mechanics and interface, intuitive yet deep design and even a few new elements like continent bonuses.  The Enemy Within expansion only adds more to an already great experience, letting you collect a resource called "Meld" in the field that can be used to grant your soldiers superhuman abilities like super-leaping, psychic resistance or even a secondary heart to make them tougher to kill, or just turn them into a badass cyborg killing machine.  It also adds in new maps, several new mission types, enemies and reintroduces attacks on your home base, which can immediately end your run if you lose.  But if even that's not enough to appease, there is an amazing fan mod for the PC version called "The Long War" that dynamically adjusts the difficulty depending on your mission grades, allows for larger squad sizes and adds a bunch of new weapons, items and psi abilities to make for a much longer - and tougher - alien war.  A stellar update of a classic which streamlines the original's design, but is by no means dumbed-down.

77. Marvel VS Capcom: Clash of Heroes (Capcom, 1998)

An arcade game I must have sunk well over $50 into during a class field trip, and I don't regret it one bit as this game is just as fun now as it was then. The incredible presentation and visuals (including some clever interactive stages), plethora of hidden characters, amazing soundtrack and intense gameplay are all honed to perfection here, and of course it features the star of one of my favorite franchises of all time (Mega Man) as a playable character, which was a huge plus. It may be largely overshadowed by its sequels, but to me, the original Marvel VS Capcom is over-the-top fun at its most pure.

76. Space Harrier (Sega, 1985)


It's hard to believe that this game is almost as old as I am, since it conveys a feeling of three-dimensional depth and speed that easily rivals games released years after the fact.  Its gameplay is fairly straightforward shoot-em-up fare, but the sheer number of sprites on screen at a time, as well as the scaling effects, smooth motion and sheer frequency for which things fly at you, is downright exhilarating.  The strange science fantasy landscapes you blaze through throughout the game are also a joy to behold.  The game was so far ahead of its time that it couldn't be properly conveyed on a home console for nearly a decade after the fact, and even then you had to buy one of those crummy 32X addons to play it!  Thankfully, we now have a much better alternative in the 3DS port of the game, which adds in some new features like a proper final boss battle and analog controls to make it true to the arcade version.

75. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (Playstation 4/PC, 2017)


Final Fantasy XII in its original form was kind of a mixed bag; while it had an amazing world to explore and some fantastic characters, its gameplay was rather dull, with little variety between the cast (especially as they all work off of the same skill pool) and an overall slow pace.  Zodiac Age addresses both of these by introducing something of a job system to the game, as well as having a fast forward feature and immediate access to new post-game content (in particular the ability to dual-class once a character's first class is maxed out).  A game that mixes the best elements of western CRPGs and Japanese RPGs together into one awesome package.

74. 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 titles.




73. 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...

72. Saturn Bomberman (Hudson Soft, 1997)


The greatest Bomberman game of all time, as well as one of the best multiplayer experiences ever made, for one simple reason: Ten way multiplayer.  Yes, up to ten players can leap into the fray and try to blow each other up with a plethora of powerups in an ever-closing arena full of fire and mayhem.  Granted, it'll cost you quite a bit to get that experience; a Sega Saturn, two Saturn multitaps, a copy of a rare and expensive game, and of course enough controllers to go around, but is it worth it to have an incredibly entertaining romp with nine friends?  You bet it is.



71. Ys: The Oath in Felghana (Falcom, 2005/2012)


Ys is a series I wasn't familiar with until fairly recently, but I'm glad I hopped on board when it had its trilogy of releases on the PSP.  Easily my favorite of those was Oath in Felghana, a remake of the much-maligned Wanderers from Ys released on the 16-bit platforms.  Oath retains the action-driven gameplay of the series but amps it up to eleven, actually rewarding the player with stat bonuses and extra experience for mowing through enemies as quickly as possible, and having some very fast-paced, intense boss fights comparable to games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.  Of course, the series' high standards for well-written characters and incredible power metal soundtracks also shine through, delivering an experience as intense and driving as it is fun.