Tag Archives: Top 5

All-Time Top 5 Real Time Strategy (RTS) Games

Before I’d even had chance to finish my Top 5 Fighting games ; @swooper_d had managed to convince me I needed to do this list too. Depending on the kind of RTS games you’re used to, there are going to be plenty of notable absences here. My Top 5 are all of the ‘build base, smash opponent variety’ because that’s what I like.

The Top 5 are also all PC games, which is pretty much the only acceptable place to play RTS games, with a notable exception picked up in the ‘honourable mentions’ at the end.


5) Age of Empires 2

War Elephants. I had so much fun playing Age of Empires 2 online with friends, and most of that fun involved being Persia and creating War Elephants. Not sure I ever won any matches, but it was a great time. It got a bit of a ‘HD’ re-release on Steam a little while back. I almost convinced a few people to play but they took one look at the dated interface and gave up!

4) Red Alert 3

Possibly the most “over the top” of the series, I just find this game highly amusing to play. It doesn’t quite recapture the joy of the original Red Alert, but it holds up much better to play now. The presentation, audio and cut scenes are all so very slick and it has a great campaign for co-operative play with a buddy. Now my favourite Command & Conquer game.

3) StarCraft 2

I was late to the StarCraft party, never really played the original game outside of a few skirmishes, and at the time it felt very similar to a game I was also dabbling with, Dark Reign. StarCraft 2 though, came along when the RTS scene had become a bit stale. This game is stunning, and although I’ve barely touched the multiplayer (mostly out of fear) the single player campaign and story is superb.

2) Total Annihilation

The most satisying in scale RTS game I have ever played, battles on Total Annihilation always felt epic. Right down to having in game maps that were so big you needed 128mb of RAM (imagine it) just to play them. The scale was spiritually superceeded by the Supreme Commander and Plantetary Annihilation games, but none have really recaptured the actual fun of the original. I should also shout out the PC Zone cover discs that used to include user created content for games at the time. (Wasn’t quite so easy to just grab such things from the internet back then.) Extra maps and units for Total Annihilation were regular features and greatly added to the enjoyment of the game.

1) WarCraft 3

No surprise if you’ve read my top 5 games of all time post, but WarCraft 3 remains my favourite ever RTS. As per my original post, this is still the only RTS game where I completed the whole campaign. I even managed to complete the campaign from the expansion, The Frozen Throne. I’m now two thirds through StarCraft 2 though so as soon as I settle down to play Legacy of the Void, I’ll have managed to finish two, like some kind of superhuman. WarCraft 3 is both my favourite multiplayer RTS as well as my favourite campaign, and yes also responsible for the many years of my life that went into World of Warcraft. I patiently await a true WarCraft 4.


Honourable Mentions and also-rans:

Command & Conquer: Red Alert – PS1 & PC

The first RTS that made me really pay attention. The original Command & Conquer never really grabbed me in the same way as Red Alert did. Thankfully a Playstation mouse made the console version viable and with the use of a link cable many head to head skirmishes took place on there. It was still best on PC though, and I had many a late night playing 3 player LAN games.

Dawn of War II

While I definitely had fun playing co-op Dawn of War 2, the lack of base-building was a real disappointment for me. The small numbers of units were a bit underwhelming too. I think I would have got more out of it if I cared for the licence, but one space marine is much the same as another…

Empire Earth

Making up in scale what it lacked in polish, Empire Earth was an entertaining idea. With battles spanning 500,000 years, the battles were all about the arms race and choosing the right time to attack. Make a mistake and you could be sending your men armed with bow & arrows to fight robots with laser guns. The game was otherwise pretty clunky, and the sequels didn’t quite manage to become essential, but at it’s core this is a great RTS for a battle with friends.

Age of Mythology

I really loved the theme for this, and after playing so much Age of Empires 2 I thought it would be the new go-to. None of my AoE 2 friends picked it up though, and I bounced off the single player campaign. Oh what could have been… As with AoE 2 I have picked up the HD re-release on Steam, so maybe it’ll still get some love one day.

Total Annihilation: Kingdoms

Much like Age of Mythology, I was really looking forward to a follow up for Total Annihilation. However this came out, and I just couldn’t get on with it. No one else I knew bought it either, so it was forgotten.

Halo Wars

The premise of this really appealed to me, but I had no desire to play on console when it came out on Xbox 360. I did have some joy playing Command & Conquer 3 on there, but soon gave way to frustration a few missions in when you needed to do anything even slightly fiddly. However, as Halo Wars and it’s sequel are now available on Xbox One with “Play Anywhere” I intend to pick them up at some point to play on PC, properly.

All-Time Top 5 Fighting Games

Another Top 5, these are getting harder to decide on, but if @swooper_d over on twitter can manage a top 30 then I don’t really have any excuses not to do this one.

In reverse order as usual, and where I’ve put down the platform for each game, that’s just where I played the game most or currently. Many of these are available on other systems.


5) Street Fighter V – PS4

If this list was just on the strength of the actual gameplay sitting side by side with an evenly matched mate, then this would be comfortably way out in front. Unfortunately though, Capcom made some poor decisions around the original release of Street Fighter V, and although they have made numerous sizeable content updates, the game remains lacking for single player; and online is brutal if you’re not at least semi-pro.

4) Marvel vs Capcom 2 – DC

Was tricky to decide which of the ‘versus’ series from Capcom to include, as there are so many great ones. This is probably the one I spent the most time with, and has an incredible roster of playable characters.

 

3) Virtua Fighter 2 & 5 – Saturn & Xbox 360

Cheating here but I’m including both Virtua Fighter 2 and 5 in this list as I couldn’t decide which I liked more. It’s really impressive how well the Saturn port of Virtua Fighter 2 holds up though. When I want to play some Virtua Fighter, it’s one of these two games I reach for, and it’s decided based on whichever is closest.

2) Injustice 2 – PS4

Even I’m surprised by how high this sits. However, if Street Fighter V was an excecise in how not to release a mainstream fighting game, Injustice 2 is a masterclass in how it should be done. Builds on the great DC Fanservice of the first game with another fun story mode, then adds the ‘multiverse’ content and introduces a gear chasing mechanic like Diablo. Don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time playing any fighting game on my own. This is also handsdown the best Mortal Kombat game. (Fight me, ideally on one of these games) That said Mortal Kombat XL is pretty solid fun too.

1) Ultra Street Fighter IV – PS4 & PC

Street Fighter V wouldn’t have been anywhere near as disappointing if they hadn’t been following up the stellar work that had been done on this. Easily the best experience I’ve had all round with a fighting game, right down to the well delivered net play and matchmaking. I’ve gone with Ultra, as that’s what I mostly play now, but I have owned each iteration of SFIV and in my experience whichever you have access to is worth playing.


Honourable Mentions:

Skull Girls – PC & PS4

Some of the artwork is dubious and cringey, but this is a joy to play. Embracing the familiar 6 button layout of Street Fighter, this feels instantly familar and very polished.

 

Fighters Megamix – Saturn

A real slice of Sega Fanservice, basically a mashup of Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, fans were rewarded with unlockable characters from SEGA properties such as Sonic, Virtua Cop, and even the car from Daytona. This is excellent fun to play, and I’d probably rate it higher if I’d spent more time with the Fighting Vipers series.

Tekken Tag Tournament – PS2

The Tekken series has always been entertaining, but has never felt as balanced as other fighters. Particularly when compared to the Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter games. This is the game I had the most fun with. I picked up the sequel for PS3 in a sale but haven’t really got round to checking it out.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 – DC & Saturn

It’s a tough shout as to whether I’d go with Alpha 2 or 3, as I probably spent more time with the second game first time round. However, 3 is very much my go to these days, particularly now I have access to the excellent Japan only Saturn port.

Vampire Savior – Saturn & PS3

In an alternate reality, Capcom abandoned Street Fighter and carried on making games in the Vampire / Darkstalkers series. ūüôĀ
At least some of the characters live on in the Capcom vs games, but I’d really like another. Ideally a Street Fighter IV style reboot for the series.

 

All-Time Top 5 Board & Card Games

This is even less of an ‘all-time’ list than usual, since there is no way I’ve played enough games to be definitive. However, it’s my format and I’m sticking to it. Also I could easily do top 5 card games, top 5 co-op games, top 5 games to play drunk etc, but I thought I’d stay simple. Consider this the Top 5 of the games I personally want to play if you invite me to games day.


5) Takenoko

Easily the cutest board game I’ve ever played, the expansion adds a lady panda miniature and also panda babies (disappointingly though the babies are tokens and not more minis).¬† The game is a good mixture of strategy & luck, as you compete to be the best bamboo gardener. An easy recommend, and is a pretty good gateway game for people not used to playing many games beyond monopoly.

 

4) Elder Sign

The only co-op game on this list, and surprisingly also the only Lovecraftian one. Elder Sign really nails the theme and atmosphere. It’s essentially Cthulhu Yahtzee, but with enough systems to keep the luck of a game reliant on dice rolls from becoming frustrating.

This game is the one that really brought me round to enjoying co-op games. Never really saw the point before!

 

3) King of Tokyo

Giant monsters, what’s not to love?!

The sequel, King of New York, along with the various small expansions, add a little complexity, but core gameplay remains the same. Be the last giant monster standing.

 

 

2) Hero (or Star) Realms

Both Hero Realms and Star Realms are very similar games, if you were just going to pick up one, the choice is simply whether you prefer a fantasy or sci-fi theme. These have been the go to 2-player card game in our house since the demise of Lords of War (sob).

The gameplay involves using your resources to purchase better cards for your own deck, then using those cards to defeat your opponent. Easy game to recommend, and a 2 player starter deck can be had for around £15.

 

1) Small World

Still my favourite board game. I know this is great, because I’m always so pleased we get it to the table, that I don’t even mind if I lose.¬† It’s a game of conquering territory ala Risk, but with a large selection of player Races & Abilities which each impact the strategy of the game in different ways.

 

 

 


Also rans:

DC Deck-Building Game

A strong alternative to Star / Hero Realms, this is another favourite in our house. There are various editions available, including a Street Fighter one.

The game play in this is similar to Star / Hero Realms, although the focus is on accumulating victory points in your deck rather than straight up combat with your opponent, so you don’t find out who has won till the end.¬† This is a good option if you regularly have more than 2 players, as for my money, it supports more players better than Star / Hero Realms.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork

This was very close to making the top 5. What I love about this is how well it handles the theme, but the game is still excellent if you have no idea about Discworld.

A gamesday regular.

 

Gloom

Sort of an inverse happy families. You start out with one of the set families, and as the game progresses various events occur having either a positive or negative effect on the quality of life of each family member. The general goal is to make your family as miserable as possible, and then have them expire.

Although not the most uplifting of game ideas, the real joy in this game comes from storytelling. Each family member has their own backstory, players are encouraged to flesh this out during the course of the game, weaving a narrative around the various cards they are playing on their turns. Gloom is always well received when I introduce it to new people, twice I’ve had to leave it behind when visiting friends so they can carry on playing, and pick myself up a new copy.

Love Letter

A fast paced ‘filler’ game, very easy to learn and cheap to pick up. Much like Gloom this Love Letter always goes down well when introducing it to others. Easier than Gloom to get going in the pub though.

All-Time Top 5 Local Multiplayer Games

While I’m very much a fan of online multiplayer in games, some of the finest experiences¬† to be had in videogames are with friends in the same room. For this list I’m focusing on the very best of these titles (according to the very scientific method of “these are the ones I like most”).

With the exception of number 4 on this list, I’ve picked franchises here, where there are multiple versions in the series¬†available with (usually) the same core gameplay. Feel free to interpret it as your favourite version in each case. I’ve also avoided 2 player games, but will concede that a winner stays on approach to games like Street Fighter also takes some beating. (ahem)


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5) Mario Kart

I think depending on nostalgia, which version of Mario Kart you’d choose for this will vary. Personally the Wii version (providing actual controllers are available and no one has to use the heinous motion wheel) was my favourite for a long time. I can see how Mario Kart 8 may hold the crown for many now, but I don’t own the hardware for it, and have no immediate plans to purchase any. These days my go-to would be the best Mario Kart, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. (This is obviously very surprising coming from me).

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4) Overcooked

Kind of hoping this gets to become a franchise in the future. Overcooked is also the only primarily co-operative title in the list, although the rage it can inspire does sometimes make you feel otherwise. When things are going well though, you do feel unstoppable. At making burgers.

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3) Micro Machines

I’m torn on this one for a favourite between Turbo Tournament on the Mega Drive, or V3 on the PlayStation. I’d also accept Mashed on PS2 / Xbox. A pity the recent reboot took some missteps really, as we’re well overdue for some quality racing in this style.

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2) Worms

There are seemingly hundreds of entries in this series, and after Worms World Party, they were mostly sub-par. Things started to improve with the Xbox Live Arcade versions, Worms and Worms 2:Armageddon. Though it was when Battlegrounds / Clan Wars came along that I really started recommending it again, and now with Worms W.M.D. they truly have made a return to form. It’s at least as good as as the classics, and personally I think it might be my favourite. Mostly on the strength of the Dub-step Gun, wub wub.

 

Sega Saturn Joy

1) Bomberman

As with Worms, I suspect there are more bad Bomberman games than good ones. However, the good ones really are great. My personal favourite version is the Saturn one, as evidenced by its appearance in my All-Time Top 5 Games. Bomberman remains the very best game to play with friends, and I want a new one.


Multiplayer titles that almost made it:

Everybody’s Golf

This really was close to making it, I imagine you could also include the Mario Golf games in this section. Everybody’s Golf is a gem of a game. I’m sure many people would give it a miss based just on an apathy for the sport, but it really is worth checking out. It’s a satisfying single player experience, but excels in the entertainment stakes once you throw a few friends into the mix.

Halo 3

Although I still enjoy the Halo series, and am currently playing through the Master Chief Collection in co-op, my time with the competitive multiplayer seems to have passed. However, where Halo 3 really shined was when you had 4 players in your lounge, playing online with other randoms. It was absolute carnage and I loved it. I’ve got dibs on driving the Warthog.

Puyo Puyo Tetris & ZooCube

Both of these puzzle games are superb fun (see another top 5!), but unfortunately I haven’t managed to get 4 people who like them into a room together to try the local multiplayer. I can see how they could make the list in principle, but have yet to try them out. Since I wrote about this previously, it is now available as a European release on PS4 and Switch, so definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.


Just a few more multiplayer games to mention…

Party Games

They don’t quite fit into the context of my original list, but with the right group of people, SingStar and to a lesser extent Just Dance, are highly entertaining games to break out at parties. For a more subdued but no less amusing experience, the Buzz series and more recently the Jackbox titles where people play along using their mobile phones, are definitely worth checking out. Sony seem to have begun to embrace this idea, with games in their ‘PlayLink’ series using this model of mobile phone as controller.

Goldeneye?

I expect many people would put Goldeneye into a Top 5 of this category. I get it for the nostalgia, but it’s pretty much unplayable now, so let it rest in peace.

What about Smash Bros?

No.

All-Time Top 5 Racing Games

Racing games are still amongst my favourite game genres, despite my general apathy towards cars in real life. I’ve approached this list in my usual way, taking into account nostalgia and enjoyment. There was the normal amount of ‘almost made it’ games, so they’ll follow at the end.

Reverse order, as ever:

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5) Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One)

This very nearly didn’t make the list at all, and I strongly considered using an earlier entry. Once you’re in a race, I’m of the opinion that there is no better ‘realistic’ racing to be had than Forza 7. They’ve also improved the single player career mode to make it much more interesting than the last few iterations, 5 and 6 particularly were so very stale in that regard. However, in their ongoing bid to cash in on every possible additional revenue stream, the lootboxes, mods and pointless ‘Driver Outfits’ have made much of the experience incredibly tedious. Coupled with huge load times, this stuff grates even more. So annoying, because ‘in race’ it’s superb and looks stunning. Argh.

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4) Rage Racer (PlayStation)

Could easily have been any of the original PlayStation era Ridge Racer series, but this is the one I still choose to go back to now. I think Ridge Racer Type 4 is almost certainly the better game, but I just didn’t spend as much time with it. The art style of Rage Racer is really distinctive, and stands out against other racers not just in the series but across the 32 bit era.

Sadly I never got on with any of the Ridge Racer’s post PS1, and mostly just pretend the series ended with Type 4.

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3) Sega Rally (SEGA Saturn)

I still remember when I first saw Sega Rally running on my Saturn. It was the first time it really felt like I had ‘Arcade quality’ games at home, and also when I really started getting into Racing Games. Before the Saturn & PlayStation appeared, the racing games I liked tended to be of the top down variety, i.e. Micro Machines, Super Sprint. I always found it difficult to really get into the ‘driving into the screen’ style of racing games, even classics like Outrun, because I couldn’t escape the feeling that the car was staying still and the track was rushing towards me. Once polygons arrived, this was mostly mitigated for me, and I’ve never looked back.

Sega Rally remains an absolute joy to play, and it’s a testament to the quality of the game that many otherwise forgotten arcades around the country, manage to have a functioning Sega Rally twin cabinet amongst their gambling machines, and that it still draws in players.

 

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2) WipEout Omega Collection (PS4)

While the demise of Studio Liverpool has made it very unlikely we’ll get a true new Wipeout game, their last few releases had been refining content from earlier in the series. This latest collection put together by new developers is a masterpiece, and pretty much essential for a PS4 owner. All the content from the PS3 and Vita games, remastered to be a full 60 fps at 1080p. It’s gorgeous, and just as fun as it ever was. This month should see them release a free VR patch, which makes the entire game playable in PSVR. I can’t wait.

 

1) Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One)

When the original Forza Horizon first appeared, I really wasn’t convinced. I was much more into Forza Motorsport 4. This changed when I got my Xbox One though, I picked up Forza Horizon 2 and fell in love. It has the polish of the Motorsport games, but is just so much more fun, and easier to play in short bursts. I find I can play for half an hour in the morning before work, and make good progress in events. Horizon 3 was even better, giving an all new map and it didn’t hurt that when it arrived it was the best looking game on the console. The 2 DLC packs, Blizzard Mountain & Hot Wheels, are also outstanding and pretty much essential.

While this third game in the series is comfortably my favourite, what I like about¬† Forza Horizon is that the maps are so different, it is still worth playing the earlier games. I’m hoping they follow their own pattern, and release Forza Horizon 4 this year.


Other mentions:

Mario Kart (DS & Wii)¬†– This probably would have made my list if I’d been making it a few years ago. Although the series would likely be in my top 10, I have drifted away a bit. I adored the DS and Wii versions, and put many hours into multiplayer on both. However, 7 was a bit of a disappointment on the 3DS, and I’m yet to own either a Wii U or Switch to spend time with 8. Maybe that’ll change in the future, but neither console is on my radar yet.

Porsche Challenge & Rally Cross (PlayStation)¬†– I have great memories of both of these, and on nostalgia alone they’d probably be in my top 5. However, when I started drafting this list, I went back and played a bit of Porsche Challenge, and unlike Rage Racer & SEGA Rally, it hasn’t aged well at all. Borderline unplayable, I was too scared to go try Rally Cross.

Drive Club (PS4)¬†– I have no doubt that this is now a great game. It was admittedly a mess at launch, but the developers worked on it with frequent updates and it is now a very polished racer. Until Forza Horizon 3 came along it was the best looking racing game I’d ever played. Unfortunately I find it too difficult, and was unable to make too much progress. I got quite a bit more mileage out of the Motorbikes expansion, but just not prepared to put in the extra time to improve. Ultimately Forza Horizon and Motorsport series are better games and I’d sooner spend more time with those.

 

 

 

Top 5 Games 2017

That time again to look back over the last twelve months and highlight my favourite games of the year. I was surprised to find that there are two remakes / remasters on this list, and that all of my top five were on the PS4 (although only two are exclusive to the platform). I have this time stuck closely to the brief, and all 5 were released in 2017. If I had decided to include all the games I’d played this year, we’d probably have Panzer Dragoon Saga on this list, but otherwise I think the line up would be pretty similar.


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5)¬† Everybody’s Golf – PS4

A series that I’ve had a passing interest in since the original PlayStation, the first time I put a lot of time into it in single player was on the Vita. That game was a joy and I¬†still revisit it when travelling. This latest version is delightful, I’m really enjoying playing through the career mode and the multiplayer is great fun both online and locally.

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4) WipEout Omega Collection – PS4

The first of two remasters on the list, WipEout Omega Collection is slightly bittersweet. After the closing of Studio Liverpool by Sony, a proper new WipEout seems unlikely at best. However, if this is to be the last game for the franchise, it’s a truly fitting finale. Containing all the content from the PS3 and Vita games (the Vita edition itself was something of a remastering of content from the PSP games), but running at a crisp 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second. An absolutely essential PS4 release.¬†This could be a system seller all on its own, and apparently we’re getting a free update in first quarter 2018 to make the whole thing playable in PSVR.

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3) Injustice 2 – PS4

If Street Fighter V was a demonstration of how not to make a fighting game interesting to the casual single player, Injustice 2 is a shining example of how it can be done. The first Injustice game was a complete surprise, a great fighting game with the DC licence being previously unheard of. It’s interesting that the Marvel licence had a run of great fighting games, that seems to have ended with the mediocre Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. Perhaps the universe only has room for one of them to be good at a time.

Injustice 2 built on the success of the first game, and despite my initial doubts about the gear system, it turned out to be a stroke of genius. I’m presently addicted to farming xp for all the characters, and chasing the loot in a Diablo-esque manner. While lootboxes are the bane of so many modern games, Injustice 2 throws so many of them at you via its Multiverse events, I’ve never felt pressured to spend any real money on micro-transactions and am regularly opening 50+ boxes of shiny new tat for my heroes.

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2) Nex Machina – PS4

Since releasing Nex Machina (and Matterfall, which I bought but haven’t really got round to playing yet) the developers, Housemarque, have announced that they’re leaving the genre behind, and won’t be making any more of these Arcade style experiences. I am fascinated to see what they do next, as the quality of their output cannot be denied. I’ll certainly miss their arcade games though. Nex Machina stands alongside Resogun as one of the best games on the PS4, and deserved to sell much better than it did.

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1) WonderBoy: The Dragon’s Trap – PS4

It’s possible I’ll be alone in placing a remake as my Game of the Year, but this was a real highlight of 2017 for me. The new benchmark for remakes, this smashed all my expectations. WonderBoy 3 was one of my favourite games back on the Master System, and this update was clearly produced by people who loved it at least as much as I did. I adore the new art, and it sounds great too. The fact that you can also play with any combination of old or new graphics, sound & music is also delightful. (I played much of it with modern graphics and music, and those classic sound fx).

The Dragon’s Trap gameplay holds up as well today as it did back then, and this is hands down the best game of 2017 for me. A triumph.

All-time Top 5 JRPGs (wot I’ve played…)

Yeah a bit of a cheat this one, as I’ve only properly¬†played 5 Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) so that’ll be why your favourite isn’t in the list… I have tried to play plenty, but never¬†got more than 2 hours into anything other than these 5.

I have really enjoyed the ones I have played (well the top 3 anyway) so I wouldn’t rule out playing more in the future. Anyway, on with the countdown!

Number 5 – Final Fantasy VII (PSX)

headerMy first JRPG, and apparently, the first one many of my friends played too. This game was a major event back in a high school, and for a while it seemed everyone was playing FFVII. I was quite enjoying it, albeit a departure from my usual choice of game. I do remember that trying to navigate the world map while also dealing with random encounters tested my patience, but the whole thing collapsed when my memory card corrupted around 20 hours in. I appreciate in the grand scheme of things, 20 hours isn’t very long, but that was pretty huge for me at the time, and certainly more than I’d be happy to play over.

I pretty much swore off the genre after this, and it would be quite a few years before I was to try them again.

Number 4 – Bravely Default (3DS)

BravelyDefault-810x449I gave this a go when¬†struggling to find something other than Animal Crossing or Mario Kart to play on my 3DS. Discussions about it described a game with a similar feel to Final Fantasy VII which made me think perhaps I’d enjoy it. I was aware of the “outrage” at the changes made for the Western release from the anti video game censorship crowd, but they all seemed like changes for the better to me, so figured I’d give it a go.

I mostly¬†enjoyed the game for maybe 18 hours. The story was nonsense and even with the localisation there was a a sufficient creepy ‘ick’ factor that never quite went away. (I think it was hard to distance from the fact that these characters were originally written to be 15 years old). However, the gameplay mechanics were fun, and I liked the ‘job’ system in building my party. It all got a bit grindy and dull though, and I just lost the will to come back to it.

Number 3 – Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)

landscape-1481743951-lost-odysseyA game I played mostly by chance, got a bargain on release without knowing anything about it and fired it up just to see what it was. I was blown away by the graphics, it was easily the best looking game I’d seen so far on a console, and at first was just playing to admire the aesthetics. I got sucked in though, and it became the first JRPG I ever saw through to completion. The story was ridiculous, which I suspect may¬†be an essential criteria for a¬†JRPG, and the¬†costume designs left me questioning the usefulness of such¬†armor in a swordfight.

I really liked the combat though, and the timing based boost you could give to your attacks was surprisingly satisfying. I sometimes think I might replay this, but then I laugh at the thought of me replaying anything, never mind a 40+ hour epic, and the impulse goes away.

Number 2 – Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn)

Panzer-Dragoon-SagaOnly played through this for the first time last month, and I am amazed how well it has held up. I was a big fan of Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei first time round on the Saturn, and this is doubtless the main reason I took to Saga the way I did. The art style was consistent with the previous games, and immediately felt like a comfortable return to that world.

The shift to turn-based combat was a concern before I started, I didn’t know how the previous rail-shooter style¬†would translate. I need not have worried, the combat is superb, with the two basic attacks being lifted straight out of the other games to feel instantly familiar. The need to constantly keep re-positioning around the enemies and the bonus to attack speed granted for attacking as you move ensures that the combat remains engaging.

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I found the controls in general to be¬†very well done, particularly in the parts where you’re navigating the world on your dragon. When revisiting early 3D games you often have to make allowances for the controls and/or camera, but I can honestly say I had no issues with either.

While the story here is no exception to my understanding of the JRPG norm, I did find myself happily reading all the subtitles and enjoying the many cut-scenes. This extra flavour for the world is a big part of why I’ve gone back to playing the original games, and why I’m optimistic that I might even beat them this time round.

Number 1 – Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360)

Eternal-Sonata-810x456Or, the one time I liked cel-shaded graphics.

I know about as much about JRPGs on the whole as I do Classical Music. The only composer I really like is Chopin, so the premise of this game immediately had me intrigued. The game is set inside¬†a dream Fr√©d√©ric Chopin has¬†while he dies of Tuberculosis. Yeah. We’re well set up for another nonsense story, but this one did really hook me.

Until Eternal Sonata, I always found cel-shading to be a bit of a novelty. It’s such a perfect fit for making the whole game feel like an elaborate cartoon. It’s joyful, twee and yet manages to be interestingly educational at the same time, as along with the story cut-scenes it also has video history lessons relating to Chopin’s life. (From reading some commentary these weren’t to everyone’s taste, but I loved it)

The music in the game is obviously Chopin influenced, and accordingly spectacular. There are very few game soundtracks I listen to outside of playing the games, but the 4 disc album produced for this is still a staple on my iPod.

I remain annoyed the PS3 release afterwards had extra content, as I didn’t want to start over from the beginning after I completed it on the 360. I think I’d happily replay it now though if it was given a refresh for the modern consoles.

I’ve heard plenty of critique about Eternal Sonata, more than one person declare it “the worst JRPG I ever played”. I take some amusement from this, as it seems likely that as a generalisation, I can still say I don’t like JRPGs, and perhaps I like the ones I do because they are¬†outliers within the genre.

What next?

I remain open to suggestions from anyone who can suggest games I might like based on what I’ve written above. I’ll be honest though and say there is next to no chance of me playing anything 16-bit or earlier.

I am thinking of¬†playing Skies of Arcadia Legends, it always sort of appealed to me on Dreamcast, and now I’ve got the GameCube version which I’ve heard is generally an improvement.

Top 5 games 2016

Now seems as good a time as any to do a round up of the gaming year, and squeeze one more blog post into 2016. ¬†Here we go for my Top 5 games of the year. ¬†As usual its reverse order and I’ll throw a couple of ‘almost made it’ titles on at the end.

5) Doom

Surprisingly not the only first person shooter in the list,¬†but the Doom reboot is superb. ¬†Manages to play like all the great 90s FPS titles and¬†not feel dated. ¬†It’s brutal, but the campaign is a joy. ¬†I haven’t touched the multiplayer, so can’t comment on that, but if you’re looking for a good single player shooter, definitely give it a go. ¬†(I do find it interesting that some of the best single player shooters in recent years have been remakes of Wolfenstein, Doom and Shadow Warrior… maybe the sky isn’t falling?)

4) Forza Horizon 3

I¬†wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this title alone managed to shift a few Xbox One consoles. Most of what I said about Forza Horizon 2 in my 10 reasons I own an Xbox One post still applies here, but even more so. ¬†It’s gorgeous to look at and a joy to play. ¬†I’m still assured that the first game in the series is the best one, but until I get chance to go back and play it properly myself, I’m happy to state that Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best racing games I’ve ever played, and¬†easily the first title I’d recommend to someone looking for a current generation racer.

3) World of Warcraft Legion

Although¬†not so much a game as an expansion pack, I’ve played plenty of games with less content than this expansion. ¬†This made my list this year as it has been my favourite expansion so far, with only Wrath of the Lich King coming close, and with Legion, World of Warcraft is the best it’s ever been. ¬†(Yes I played Vanilla WoW too, shut up.)

2) Life is Strange

This is also a sort of cheat, as the individual episodes came out in 2015. ¬†However, it got released as a¬†complete retail edition in January this year and I didn’t play it till after that, so I’m including it anyway. ¬†I loved Life is Strange, and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. ¬†It’s the best single player game I’ve played this year, and¬†I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story (and great soundtrack) to¬†their games. It’s also the best ‘Telltale’ style game I’ve played, which seems to have kind of spoiled me for their stuff, oops.

1) Overwatch 

Think this is top of a lot of people’s lists this year, and not without good reason. It’s just so much fun! My love for Blizzard¬†is well known, and Overwatch just shows that they can just as easily turn their brand of developer magic to fresh new I.P. It looks lovely, the voice acting and sound design are¬†excellent and it has entirely reawakened my love for multiplayer FPS in a time when Call of Duty and friends had pretty much run it into the ground.

The only criticism I have for Overwatch at all, is simply that I don’t manage to play as much as I’d like, so I’m not getting better.

Other mentions:

Worms WMD: This was really close to making the list, the best worms game since Armageddon and a complete return to form. Still hilarious, and still only has Bomberman as competition for best local multiplayer game.  (Mario Kart lingers in third place for me, looking nervously at Overcooked)

Street Fighter V: Before it came out, I really expected this to make the list. Where it counts, SFV is a fantastic game. Within the fights themselves, SFV is the best 1v1 I’ve ever played. It’s an absolute joy and I play with my buddy (and long term Street Fighter nemesis, the Ryu to my Ken) whenever we get chance . However, the shortage of single player content has been widely reported, and although we were¬†happy with the streamlined package, the knock on effect in terms of sales have decimated the online scene. ¬†Street Fighter IV was wildly popular, and as such it was quick to get a game online and there were plenty of opponents at all levels for matchmaking. ¬†The limited sales of SFV however mean that it takes ages to get a game, and the only players to match with are the real hardcore, and it’s difficult to have fun if you can’t get evenly matched. Disappointing. If more of my friends would get Xbox Ones, I think I’d move over entirely to Killer Instinct.

 

 

All-Time Top 5 Arcade Puzzle Games

A good arcade puzzler is second only to a fighting game for a bit of 2-player versus. Like those fighting games, I’m not much good at these either (although I’m not entirely terrible at Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble). That doesn’t stop me giving them a go though, and I like to play a variety¬†so at least I’m not always losing in the same way.

Here we have my Top 5, in reverse order as usual. Many of these games came out on a¬†multitude of platforms, I’ve just put the versions I play in the title.

5) Zoo Cube (GC & GBA)
A bit neglected as I hardly ever manage to play it with anyone, largely because no one else seems to have heard about it. I enjoy the GameCube version, but have probably spent more time with it on the Gameboy Advance. It’s pretty unique as a puzzler, with falling shapes coming towards your cube from 6 directions, and you having to rotate the cube to match the abstract animal shapes appropriately. The GameCube version supports 4-player, but I’ve never found myself in a room with 4 people who knew how to play…

4) Baku Baku Animal (Saturn)
The second animal themed puzzler on this list, Baku Baku Animal does at least follow a more familiar pattern. Blocks containing animal heads or food stuffs fall from the sky, match the animal to its food to clear the blocks and send more blocks to your opponent. Bright, cheerful and very SEGA!

3) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (Saturn, PS3, PSP)
Recognisable characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers games line up to puzzle each other to death. Big combos on the gem matching front see your character giving the opponent a bit of a kicking in the middle of the screen. If you like the art style of this one, it’s worth also picking up Pocket Fighter, which is a 1 on 1 fighting game in the Street Fighter style, featuring the Puzzle Fighter versions of these characters.

2) Bust-a-Move 2 / Puzzle Bobble 2 (Saturn and anything else I get my hands on)
This held the top spot for a very long time, and may well claw it back in time. The Puzzle Bobble franchise is iconic, often imitated never bettered. Taking it’s characters and design from the Bubble Bobble series, the game is a joy. Fire coloured bubbles up the screen, matching 3 or more of the same colour in order to make them disappear, the more you get rid of at once the more you send over to your opponent to ruin their day. Or more often, you slightly miss your shot, frantically try to repair the damage your own ineptitude has caused while your opponent gleefully sends over more bubbles to add to your ever descending wall.

1) Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4)
Probably cheating slightly, this is exceptional value given that along with the crazy Puyo Tetris mode (where you’re matching Puyos and making Tetris lines), it also includes arguably the finest versions of both Puyo Puyo and Tetris standalones too. The genius stroke here is when you play a versus match up, each player decides what to play. When competing with my girlfriend, I generally play Tetris against her Puyo Puyo, which gives me an almost fighting chance before my inevitable demise.

Although Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a Japanese only release, it is well worth importing. The menus are all in Japanese but there are plenty of excellent fan-translations online to help you navigate them, and even translations for the entire story mode should you be that way inclined.

Other mentions:
Dr Mario and Columns both almost made the list. Dr Mario missed out because I am entirely useless at it to the point of not enjoying myself even trying. Columns would have made the list if I was working just on childhood memories, it just doesn’t hold up today.

Top 5 Light Gun Games ‚Äď (Playable on a HDTV…)

A favourite genre of mine growing up, my love for light gun games started with the SMS port of Operation Wolf. A genre most at home in the arcade, the home ports ran right through the various consoles over the years, peaking in the 32bit era, then almost dying out when we all (well not all but you know what I mean) started ditching those giant CRT screens for nice new flat ones.

For me the greatest thing to come out of the whole ‚Äėmotion control‚Äô run started by the Wii, was those developers using the Wii pointers and Playstation Move controllers to bring back the Light Gun shooter. The Playstation 3 also had a couple of other gun peripherals, but the decent games are either PSMove compatible or exclusive. This list is simply my top 5 of the games to be played on these systems, then I‚Äôll round it out with a summary of the others I know of for the gen. I think a follow up post might cover my favourites from the CRT days.

So in reverse order:

5) Dead Storm Pirates (PS3)
The least deep (haha) of the games in this list, it’s a no frills port of the arcade game, but it is still great fun to play with a friend. I believe you can get it on its own from the PSN store, but it is also included on the disc with the PS Move version of Time Crisis Razing Storm (more on that at the end) which is now picked up very cheaply.

4) Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection (PS3)
A double pack containing HD updates of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles from the Wii. Probably not worth getting again if you did complete them on the Wii, but if you’re coming at it fresh, then this is the version to go for. These are actually my favourite Resident Evil games, I always preferred the story to the game play of the main series, and my favourite memories of the early games is still watching other people play rather than playing myself. Be warned though, these are pretty tough!

3) Dead Space Extraction (PS3)
Ported from the Wii version, everything seems pretty much the same, but the graphics have had the usual polish. I understand it’s a prequel to the main Dead Space trilogy, but I still haven’t got round to playing those…

2) Ghost Squad (Wii)
Most of the Wii gun games made it to PS3, where Sony‚Äôs console received superior versions. However Ghost Squad was never ported, and is now the sole reason I still keep a Wii hooked up. It‚Äôs a port of the SEGA arcade game, and for me as close as they‚Äôve got to recapturing the magic of Virtua Cop. A whole host of unlockables has me regularly going back to this, and it’s always a joy to play with a friend.

1) House of the Dead Overkill (Wii & PS3)
This is superb and quite possibly my favourite Light Gun game of all time. The soundtrack is amazing, some really funky tunes. The writing is often genuinely amusing too, although the dialogue is definitely not for children. The PS3 version has an extra level, supports 3D TV’s and also hilariously anaglyph 3D, shipping with a couple of pairs of the old red & blue 3D glasses. I originally played it through on the Wii, but switched to PS3 when that came out. It’s definitely better played on PS3, but both versions are solid.

Also worth mentioning is the excellent Typing of the Dead Overkill which came out on Steam. This is a typing game using all the levels from the House of the Dead Overkill, in the same way that the original Typing of the Dead on Dreamcast was based on House of the Dead 2.

I never got round to picking up gun attachments for my Wii, and happily play Wii games with just the naked wiimotes, on PS3 however I can recommend the official pistol grip attachments shown in the photo, they do make a difference.

Other mentions:
The Shoot (PS3) ‚Äď Feels a bit like a tech demo, but it‚Äôs mildly entertaining. Worth grabbing for the ¬£1 or ¬£2 it can be found for now.

House of the Dead 2 & 3 (Wii) and House of the Dead 3 & 4 (PS3) ‚Äď Really good ports of the arcade games, annoyingly HotD 2 never got ported to PS3, but it‚Äôs nice to be able to play it on Wii and not worry about finding room for a CRT to hook up a dreamcast‚Ķ

Time Crisis Razing Storm & Time Crisis 4 (PS3) ‚Äď Razing Storm is dreadful. However, Time Crisis 4 is a nice arcade game, and this disc also containing Dead Storm Pirates makes it pretty good value just for the two other games.

Link Crossbow Trainer (Wii) ‚Äď Originally bundled with the bizarre official lightgun attachment for the Wii, this is a surprisingly fun short game. It‚Äôs good to play but I‚Äôd put that plastic attachment in the bin straight away. Pistol grips are the only way to go if you do want a gun style holder.

Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns (Wii) ‚Äď I still haven‚Äôt played this, they weren‚Äôt great arcade games, so I haven‚Äôt bothered picking up this double pack of the ports, but may still grab them at some point.

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) ‚Äď This is a triple pack of the ‚Äėclassic‚Äô FMV games, the first two games are also available on the PS3. They‚Äôre very hard to recommend as they really haven‚Äôt aged well. The Nostalgia is strong though, and I loved the first game with the gun back on the CDi‚Ķ

You may have noticed that I haven’t included Child of Eden in the list, despite it being in the photo. While still a “Rail Shooter”, it’s not quite the same, having more in common with Rez and the Panzer Dragoon games. Perhaps a blog for another day.