Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
What about games that do not normally make it to “Top 5” lists? They rarely get the attention they deserve. We’re going to take a look at five unconventionally excellent video games.
5. Mega Man: Battle Network series
There have been many incarnations of Mega Man, a name we are all too familiar with. However, one series within the Mega Man franchise stands out because of its uniqueness, especially in relation to other games in the series. In 2001, Mega Man: Battle Network debuted for the Game Boy Advance, taking a different approach than the tried and true scrolling games of the past. Its release was due to the success of the Pokémon games, as Capcom needed to match the success Nintendo enjoyed.
We are all familiar with how integral technology has become in our society. In Battle Network, that fact exceeds our view of ‘integral’. Advanced technology has become the standard in homes and schools. Even air conditioning units and vending machines receive advanced systems of their own. Of course, the internet has evolved as well, to a point where users are required to own special devices in order to log on.
This device is called a PET—PErsonal information Terminal—and within the device “lives” a Network Navigator (NetNavi). In these games, the main character Lan, has a special NetNavi named Megaman.exe. This is where the familiarity of the original Mega Man universe ends.
The game follows Megaman and Lan as they fight a terrorist organization known as the WWW. The game featured innovative mechanics for its time: the wide expanse of environment and a dynamic, diverse fighting play style. Critics praised the combat system because it involved battling viruses while using “Chips” to enhance Megaman’s abilities.
One of the reasons why the game does not appear on many lists is because of the storyline. Some critics have complained that it’s childish, when the game is geared towards 9-13 year olds. However, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is honestly just a fun game to play when you’re looking for a casual good time.
4. Super Smash Bros.
The Nintendo 64 was probably the best thing ever invented, right? Those were the days when mastery of games came from the sweat of hard work and blowing into cartridges, not cheat codes.
Super Smash Bros. stands out because it took recognizable characters like Mario and Samus and allowed players to pit them against one another. The storyline was a successive series of battles against every other character, including a giant Donkey Kong or the Polygon fighters. In fact, one of the most memorable scenes of the game is when the ever enigmatic boss “Master Hand” (quite literally a giant hand) comes down in the final level to duel with the player.
Although the storyline was not terribly long, going up against your favorite characters was always a high selling point of the game. Moreover, the game is rightly praised for its multiplayer, making the game fun to play with your friends. Fighting was strangely strategic and characters were put in tiers by fans; in the first game, apparently, Pikachu was the best (though some of us feel that Samus is the choice to be any day).
The two successive games Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl have otherwise eclipsed the first game’s success due to more expansive character lists, in-depth storylines, and simply building on the game’s formula. The original still stays true to the core concepts of action and fun.
3. Batman: Arkham series
These two award-winning games (Batman: Arkham Asylum & Batman: Arkham City) revitalized the Batman mythos from within the gaming industry. Big-name actors like Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (The Joker) voiced iconic characters in a storyline crafted by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini. The game was innovative in the sense that both combat and graphics surpassed expectations and impressed players throughout the entire franchise.
One of the reasons why the Arkham series on the list is because of how intricately woven the universe was made. The game appealed to both Batman fans and hardcore gamers, and because of that, Dini was able to introduce the general populace to characters not often known—Victor Zasz, Clayface, Grundy, and Azrael. This gave Batman the much needed exposure past the Nolan Universe.
Players got a glimpse into exactly what makes Batman tick. In the first game, we get to go through Arkham Asylum, the famous setting within the Batman Universe. Players got to learn about the Asylum itself and all the inmates. One of the most appealing aspects to comic-book fan gamers was the real life information given in the bios of each character, such as their first appearance, height, weight, and the like.
Although this game appears on some top video game lists, it is mostly due to the combat. Utilizing what’s called a ‘free-flow’ combat system, players were able to craft their own combinations and provided action that was highly choreographed. However, the game made this list because of its uniqueness in the fact that it is one of the most popular superhero videogames ever made, and the public at large definitely needs more exposure to that.
When we talk about Pokémon, we are talking about the original three: Red, Blue, and Yellow. We think it is safe to say that Pokémon is a gateway game, meaning this is the game that probably got our generation into gaming.
One of the main reasons we found the game to be so compelling is because it is mostly about adventure and exploring. A ten-year-old kid basically throws caution to the wind, gets a Pokémon, and goes out into the world alone. It takes some guts, but he manages to traverse the entire continent, defeats all the gym leaders, and takes down the boss of a multi-million dollar mob, all before meeting with the most legendary of Pokémon.
If you think about it, Pokémon is a really thought provoking game. The player completely forgets about his rival, who is only trying to get his grandfather’s praise. Every time you see him, you beat him down. Take the ending of the game: Your rival has just beaten the Elite Four, and for a couple minutes, he is on the top of the world—until you beat him down again. That is when the Professor comes in, to see our glory. Not his grandson’s.
As with Super Smash Bros., the reason why this game makes the list at number two is that the future installments eclipsed the originals. Most recently, Pokémon Black and White 2 came out on the Nintendo DS. The games expanded to include multiple diverse regions and 649 Pokémon, compared to the original true and blue (or red) 151.
All in all, it is a fun game, though one thing will always bother us about it… Why do Pokéballs that contain creatures on subatomic levels cost less than a bicycle?
1. Kingdom Hearts
A lot of people will disagree, but Kingdom Hearts definitely deserves to be on this list. The game was utterly fantastic for many different reasons, but the biggest definitely stems from this question: How the did they pull this off? Disney characters with Final Fantasy characters? How was Square Enix ever going to make this a game that would not get laughed at?
Everyone is familiar with Disney’s big three: Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. We are presented with a universe in which Mickey is the King of an entire world populated solely by the “Mickey Crew”—Pete, Scrooge, etc. Other worlds populate the universe—some original, but most from Disney stories we know and love.
The game features three compelling main characters: Sora, the goofy and light-hearted kid and the one you control; Riku, the enigmatic and skillful rival; and Kairi, the love interest who actually adds some value to the story. The storyline focuses on the Heartless—creatures made of darkness who steal people’s hearts. Goofy and Donald are your companions as you traverse through classic Disney worlds as you pursue Kairi and they pursue their King.
There’s a giant mythos surrounding the game, and I know I have thrown that word around a lot in the article, but this time, I mean it. The universe is made from the bottom up, and it is a gripping story. The game starts in the boring Ordinary World—Destiny Islands, where the tutorial begins. But, even then, we are introduced to three familiar Final Fantasy characters: Tidus, Selphie, and Wakka. Already, we can see a mix between these two very different franchises.
The status quo is broken when our hero Sora gets the Keyblade—an ancient weapon with unspeakable power—receiving a destiny to battle the forces of evil left from the previous generation. Along the way, he is mentored by beloved characters from Final Fantasy: Squall Leonheart, the “number one ninja” Yuffie, and the ever enigmatic Aerith.
The game is highly recommended to anyone who wants to experience depth in story, addictive combat, and just an all-around good time. The only downside is that every game is on a different console past Kingdom Hearts II. Just a word of caution: if you ever attempt to fight Sephiroth, make sure you’re prepared. He is one scary boss fight.