Top Five – Best Games No One Played (Volume I)
The greatest part of being a gamer is the power of choice. There are thousands upon thousands of games that we can play, enjoy, and beat. Sometimes, while searching through piles of titles, we come across certain gems that we love but that don’t sell so well. This list is to honor those titles that are amazing and that most people probably never got a chance to play. Hope you guys enjoy it!
Ah, Phantom Dust! Lovingly referred to as “that game with the ugly protagonist!”. This one is somewhat obscure and unknown to most people. Even most hardcore gamers never got a chance to enjoy it. But the thing is that Phantom Dust is an absolutely amazing game full of depth and challenge. Think of it as a card based strategy game in real-time, with beautiful art, a bitchin’ soundtrack, and amazing “magic” effects. More or less the game takes place in arena-like levels on a surface world that is dangerous and beautiful in equal measures. Your job is to enter the upper world long enough to complete your mission, but not so long that the mysterious dust on the surface robs you of your memories. You complete missions by fighting; every single time. That’s all there is to it. You pick the proper powers, all with their own unique schools and even trajectories (for example: using a power with an arch trajectory to hit enemies hiding behind walls, etc.), and then go at it. You have to be incredibly strategic and unbelievably quick on your feet to defeat your opponents. Mind you, these opponents will not take it easy on you, and the game’s single-player campaign even includes some seriously tough bosses.
Better yet? The game also came along with an online multiplayer component so that you could battle your friends. It was actually a ton of fun, considering the game allowed you to create and build decks of powers that you could pit against your friends. The better you strategized and built your deck, the higher chance of victory. There was really nothing Phantom Dust didn’t offer…but for some odd reason, it never caught on. The game was a financial flop, even with its critical acclaim. Worse yet, you probably will not be hearing anything about Phantom Dust ever again, even if an XBLA re-release in HD would be a great way for the developers to make money from it one generation later.
This one is probably hard to find, but check eBay for it and if you can get your hands on it then don’t hesitate. It’s an amazing, amazing game.
If you played this game now without ever playing it before, you would probably suspect that it’s by the same developers behind Mirror’s Edge. The truth is that it’s actually not; Mirror’s Edge is a Western developed game by DICE, and Breakdown is a Japanese game developed and published by Namco. Last generation, when the gaming industry was in less of a slump, Japanese developers were actually still taking plenty of risks with the games they released. Breakdown, created for the original Xbox, was unique for a Japanese video game title: a first-person action game that was (and is) actually good. In fact, not only is it good, it’s downright fantastic. The game is full of action, mostly in a great combination of weapons and hand-to-hand combat, wonderful level design, and a great story. But I bet most people, even the most hardcore Xbox fanatics, will not actually know what this game is. Hell, I bet if you asked Namco about it, they wouldn’t even know what game you were talking about.
Breakdown sold poorly and its review scores were surprisingly low considering how amazing it is. You can probably find this one at a really low price, so give it a shot. I found my copy for $4 at a local Gamestop, and I’m sure it’s pretty economical online. Totally worth the money.
I am the kind of gamer that enjoys old-school PC adventure games. Growing up, the King’s Quest series was one of my absolute favorites, and I fondly remember wasting hours and hours trying to figure out how to solve each puzzle (usually by doing completely illogical things the developers thought made for sensible solutions). This was during a time where games refused vehemently to hold your hand and where the word “tutorial” was non-existent. Now, I’m not one for letting the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia get in the way of loving a wide range of video games; I know for a fact that not all games have to be difficult to be enjoyable and sometimes, whether we as hardcore gamers admit it or not, “easy” games have just as much value as “hard” ones. Try playing something like Flower, which has no structure or real difficulty, and tell me it has less gameplay value than something like Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. You wouldn’t be able to. But being the old-school PC adventure fan that I am, I simply could not resist when I heard that the Wii had its own point-and-click adventure title in the form of Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaro’s Treasure. Realizing that it was developed and published by Capcom, who not only has slowly fallen out of favor with me but who, so far as I can remember, has no experience with Western styled adventure games, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I took the game home with me. What I got was magic.
Zack and Wiki is an absolutely amazing game with a wonderful twist to the adventure genre. A few parts Wind Waker, a few parts Skies of Arcadia, and several parts Monkey Island, Zack and Wiki succeeds in being entertaining, charming, and immensely challenging. The basis of the game is simple: you play through different levels, each with their own unique puzzles, and you have to solve said puzzles with the tools given to you. Sounds pretty standard, but unlike other adventure games before it, it’s not a matter of packing as many items on you as possible and hoping that you can magically combine them into something useful when the time is right. Zack and Wiki gives you very specific items per level, all as living animals and then lets you convert said animals into tools through the use of Wiki’s magical powers. For example, a snake can become a hook to grab onto out-of-reach switches, a centipede becomes a saw to cut down trees, a bat becomes an umbrella to glide with, etc. It’s quite fantastic how much you can do in the game with such mundane items, and you will have to learn how to use each of them because the game never holds back. It is unforgiving in its difficulty and if you fail you start at the beginning of each level again. You might not think this matters but when you’re doing the final level which requires several dozens of solutions, it will take all your patience to carry on. It’s not a game for the faint of heart or those who simply want to relax with an easy title.
So why is Zack and Wiki on this list? Because the game had miserable sales despite its critical acclaim. Most Wii owners ignored it in the face of titles like Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess. Worse yet, Capcom has no plans for a sequel of any sort, and more than likely we will probably never hear of Zack and Wiki again. It’s a shame this game has been all but forgotten considering it stands as one of the Wii’s absolute best offerings. The good news is that you can probably find this game for really cheap now, so if you haven’t already had a chance to enjoy Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaro’s Treasure, then go ahead and pick up a copy as soon as you can! I promise it won’t disappoint.
This game got decent reviews and sold only decent amounts, neither of which is suggestive of its brilliance. The game is absolute digital crack, right on the level of something like the Sims, except much more interesting in concept and design. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is absolutely flawless in every way, with extremely well-developed gameplay mechanics, ingenious humor, interesting artistic design, and not a single loose end left visible to the player. Not only is this the best game Rare has made post-Nintendo, but I would go as far as to argue that this game is one of their absolute best, being rivaled only by the likes of Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie. That’s a testament to how good this game really is…and yet, very few people even played it. While I enjoy some of the more popular titles in gaming today, a game like this comes along and makes me fall in love with gaming all over again.
What really, really gets me about this game is that its overall presentation hides the fact that it’s full of immense depth. There are so many complexities for Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise that I wonder if kids are even capable of playing it at all without having their little heads explode. Seriously, have you tried collecting every pinata in this game? I have, and after over 80+ hours of gameplay, I’m still missing one! It’s all so intricately beautiful and so engaging that it’s sort of impossible to dislike this game.
The bad news is that we will probably never see a sequel to this or any continuation. Rare has been relegated to making bulls**t games for the bulls**t “system” that is the Kinect. So don’t expect Rare to ever work on any of its own I.P.s ever again, much less this one which was probably one of their least financially successful titles. The good news is that you can probably find this game for very cheap, but do yourself a favor: skip the original VP and stick to Trouble in Paradise. It’s superior in every way.
In a sea of same-y cash-cows this generation, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is a hell of a gem. I can’t stress this enough: give this game a try if you haven’t already. It’s one of the best gaming experiences you will ever have.
Not content with simply destroying the competition in the rail shooter front with the first two Panzer Dragoon games, SEGA set out to make history once more. The end result? Panzer Dragoon Saga; quite possibly the greatest JRPG ever made. Remember when you first saw Final Fantasy VII and you were blown away by Cloud’s deformed Popeye forearms and the pre-rendered backgrounds? Yeah, Panzer Dragoon Saga had high quality character models, full voice acting, and nothing was static. The game was light years ahead of the competition in almost every way imaginable. How long did it take for Final Fantasy to have voice acting? It was in Final Fantasy X, and don’t you forget it! Saga was doing it years before. But what’s voice acting, right? It’s cool and all, but what else did this game do to deserve so much praise? It was flawless and imaginative. That’s what made it deserving of so much praise.
The battle system of Panzer Dragoon Saga is intricate to the last minute detail and it is still one of the best (rivaled only by the battle system in Grandia II and Final Fantasy X-2). Here you could move around enemies in 360 degrees like in typical Panzer Dragoon games before it, except now you had energy bars that would be consumed depending on the attacks you used (think: Final Fantasy’s “ATB” bars). The thing is that there were three of them and you could perform multiple attacks depending on the cost of each attack: that meant you could actually chain attacks together. The interesting thing is that bosses in the game would often have weak spots but the weak spots would change, forcing your entire strategy to be reworked. It was also more dramatic and much more cinematic than any Final Fantasy battle system has ever been. The dragon morphing system of the series also received great attention to detail and unlike the other Panzer Dragoon games the dragon in Saga can morph into hundreds of different forms. This is because Saga allows the player to change five different statistics of his or her dragon which can lead to many different variations never before seen in the series. The story itself is compelling and the art and sound are out of this world. There is almost nothing Panzer Dragoon Saga didn’t do right.
This game makes the list because when it released in North America the quantities of it were extremely limited (think: several thousands, at most). Worse yet, the Saturn is a nearly impossible machine to emulate and while we can even emulate a Nintendo DS in this day and age with no problem, Saturn emulation has gone nowhere in over a decade. So don’t expect to play this game on your PC any time soon. If you really want it, you could find a copy of it on eBay, but those copies retail for at least $200…if you’re lucky. Now here comes the final nail in the coffin for this one: not content with releasing this game in limited quantities and just generally sucking balls post-Dreamcast, SEGA revealed that they have actually lost the source code to Panzer Dragoon Saga. Translation: you will never see a re-release on Virtual Console, Xbox LIVE Arcade, or Playstation Network.
Panzer Dragoon Saga takes the top spot not only because it’s one of the greatest games ever made, but because most gamers never played it and the chances that they ever will are slim-to-none.