#10: Fable (XBOX)
Hype seems to be more important to most gamers than the games themselves. Hype is everywhere, it's all around us. Probably on the very page you're looking at. There's ads everywhere, and magazine articles telling you how awesome every game is going to be. It never stops, not even when you finally buy the game after hearing about it for months, sometimes years. You look at the back of your newly acquired package and there's even more hype. Surely, they've plastered some bullets noting every special feature and a bunch of quotes from EGM or GamePro on there. Naturally, when you start playing the game and it doesn't turn out to be the most amazing experience of your gaming life, you ignore all of the game's qualities, no matter how redeeming, and blame the game, not yourself for giving in to the marketing schemes which are required to make this industry work. And this, gamers, is how a wonderful, often hilariously entertaining RPG like Fable falls under incredible scrutiny simply for not living up to something virtually impossible to live up to.
You may have heard from the religious cult of Ys fans that Ys III was a very big departure from the rest of the beloved series. Where all other Ys games took place from Zelda's bird's eye perspective, Ys III instead took a cue more from Castlevania, opting for side-scrolling action. While this indeed made Ys III feel a bit alienated from its brethren, it by no means makes it an inferior title. Not only was Ys one of the finest side-scrolling action/RPG hybrids of its day, it arguably had the best soundtrack out of the entire 5-part saga, and considering that Ys is a series primarily respect for its music, that's quite a chip on its shoulder.
This one has always puzzled me a bit. Back in 1992, Final Fantasy really didn't have enough of a reputation for the titles in the series to full under much scrutiny, but somehow Final Fantasy Mystic Quest seemed to already have everyone rooting against it just for being different. When you really break it down, Mystic Quest has very few differences from Final Fantasy IV. It's more linear and confining, but it also has plenty of qualities that balance out the formula, such as the ability to jump, some nice Zelda-style puzzles (elements which still have yet to reappear even in the latest games of the franchise), and one the most awesome soundtracks a Final Fantasy title has ever claimed.
I've never quite understood gamers as a collective mass of opinions. When a sequel to a successful game remains primarily the same, the game is shunned and considered a rehash put out to milk the franchise. When a sequel to a successful game is different, gamers will dub it a blasphemy, often saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" One such example of this hypocrisy is Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (Donkey Kong Country 3), a game which recaptured the wonderful platforming elements of the beloved Diddy's Kong Quest, and delving even a little deeper by adding a truly massive side quest centered on collecting 13 birds very well hidden across the world.
Tragically, the 2D fighter seemed to die as bigger, badder 3D fighting games, that focused more on realism (and big boobs) than spirit, conquered the consoles. There was no room for Street Fighter or Fatal Fury in a world of Tekken and Dead or Alive. Thus, 2D fighters had to evolve, taking on the shape and appearance of 3D fighters, but remaining 2D at heart. Bloody Roar was one of the first to usher in this new era of hybrids. Reactions to the series have always been very mixed, but for some reason, the best game in the series is the one that seems to get the most flack. With some of the most impressive visuals on the GC at the time (it was released very shortly after launch), a really catchy soundtrack, and the same bestial violence we've come to love, Primal Fury deserves to be treasured as a link to the past, not a hindrance to the present.
Contrary to popular belief, being based on a movie does not make a game bad. Being bad makes a game bad. Not all the time, but occasionally, a development house will actually put effort into a licensed title and take the opportunity they've been given to try ideas they might not have otherwise had. Judge Dredd is a very nice run & gun shooter, with a brain. It takes the weapon variety and platforming of Contra and slows it down with objective based play, that'll have you scouring every corner of the well-designed stages to find the keys to your advancement. There's even a great rail shooter stage. Judge Dredd might not have been a good movie, but it makes for a very satisfying game, perhaps a more suitable form of media for Dredd in the first place.
#4: Mega Man X6 (PS)
This one is really amusing. Consider that from 1987, when the Blue Boomer first hit the market, all the way up until very recently, the biggest advancement the multi-dozen game series had undergone was the inclusion of armor powerups. By the time Mega Man X6 rolled around, it was very apparent that Mega Man was not a series about well-scripted dialogue, translation, or depth. It was about running through eight elementally themed stages, fighting an elementally themed boss at the end of each, and then taking his elementally themed weapon. Seriously, were you expecting something else from Mega Man X6 after 14 years of repetition? By the way, Mega Man X6 just happens to be the best 32-bit entry to the X series, period.
I wont bore you by telling you the story of Final Fantasy VII and its impact on the gaming world, because I know EGM, GamePro, and about a dozen other publications have already told it to you far more times than you wanted to hear it. So let's cut to late 1997, early 1998, the wake of Final Fantasy VII. In this wake, there was a game that was doomed from the moment of conception, doomed for the simple fact that it came out too soon after the climax of the most popular game of all time. Try to imagine going to a Nirvana show during their prime. They're done playing and they head off stage, but just before they leave, an unknown band is announced. They come on stage and wail like no band you've ever heard before. But is anyone else around to listen? No. Nirvana's gone, everyone left. Who cares about these guys? SaGa Frontier, a free-spirited, good-to-do RPG, no worse than any RPG of the 16-bit era, and better than many of the ones in the 32-bit era, was a victim of this abhorrent fate.
Right, I know what you're saying in your mind. "MJ: Chaos in the Windy City?! That game blows!" The problem is, you haven't played it, have you? ... thought so. Indeed, I really can't blame anyone for coming to that conclusion. The title and facade alone implies something completely devoid of quality, but if titles and facades determined quality, very few games would be what they truly are underneath. Very, very few people have actually played MJ. It is a game with a reputation based on general assumption and word of mouth. Just by watching the intro, one can get the feeling that this game can't possibly be good. But it is. Any skeptics out there, please, try being logical and look past the title and the sponsor. Look at what really matters; the gameplay. It's in there, and it's deep. Amongst the Bubsies, Yo Noids, Captain Novolins, and other horrendous would-be mascot platformers, MJ deserves more to be placed in the ranks of Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong Country, and Sonic.
I've been writing reviews for a very long time. And for a very long time, I formatted my reviews in the typical category-by-category breakdown, commenting on graphics, music, etc., and giving each of those categories a score, and then a final score. The inherent flaw with this method is that games aren't about numbers and individual categories, they're about every implement and layer coming together to provide the whole gaming experience. One of the games that taught me this flaw was Unlimited SaGa. When you break Unlimited SaGa into cumbersome little jigsaw puzzle pieces and examine each one individually, almost every one of them seems mediocre, sans its amazing soundtrack, which is quite possibly one of the greatest ever composed for a game. However, when you put these pieces together and look at the experience they create, you have a true work of art on your hands. People have a hard time seeing this because they're impatient. They want to look at the pieces of the puzzle and try to imagine what the big picture looks like, then throw the pieces back in the box and move on. While this may work for some games, it does not work for Unlimited SaGa. To truly say you've played Unlimited SaGa, one must invest the labor of putting all those pieces to together, and see the very threshold of beauty that Unlimited SaGa truly is.
So there you have it. Some of these titles are on the death row of gaming prison, but they're innocent. Despite what you've heard, what you've seen, what you think, I emplore you to give these games a shot. Peel back the layers that blind you from the core of quality and see the entertainment that awaits!
List by GaIcian (02/02/2006)
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