Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Bigredcoat’s Way Better Top 15 Part 2

Posted by nfinit on November 27, 2009

10:  Forza Motorsport 3

I was hesitant to place something I’d recently played on this list, as I think a game needs time to be judged correctly–  but let’s be honest, the Forza games have outclassed Gran Truismo 4 since the day Forza 1 was released, and there’s just no good reason to go back to Forza 2 thanks to unlimited rewinds.  Forza 3 is simply the best (if not the most comprehensive) sim console racer ever made, at least until GT5 is released.  This is the height of the art form.

9:  Ikaruga

The past decade has been terrible for console shooters.  Virtually everything new and interesting to come out of the genre has been a direct result of ZUN’s PC-only Touhou Project.  It seems like the actual commercial games industry has moved on; the genre itself hasn’t been relevant on a mass market scale since the SNES.  And not without good reason; shooter devs did a very through job of drilling down into their core fan base to the point where the genre became an indecipherable mess to anyone new to games.

So to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure if a shooter belongs on the list, save for the fact that shooters were and remain my first love in gaming and I wanted one here.  On the console side there have been maybe three relevant shooters released in the past decade– Ikaruga, Gradius V and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.  I happen to love all three of these games, but Ikaruga is the more inventive and interesting of the three.

All that being said– Ikaruga is an outstanding game and is itself one of the best shmups ever made.  It’s polarity shot mechanic makes it almost as much of a puzzle game as it is a shooter, and on top of that involves nascent elements of rythm-based gameplay with its combo system.  But sadly it’s still too difficult and too frustrating to ever be enjoyed by anyone who’s not a hardcore gamer who isn’t already familiar with and willing to put up with the various bullshit involved in playing shooters.

Indeed, Ikaruga is so inscrutable to anyone not in the core audience that I’m having a hard time justifying its position here at all.  If you’re not into traditional console shooters and/or into having your teeth kicked in and trying to rationalize that as “having a good time”, put something more casual friendly here instead, like a nice friendly Sly Cooper game.

8:  Soul Calibur 2

Speaking of dead genres–

Well that’s not entirely fair.  Despite Capcom’s best efforts to kill the genre in the late 90’s, the fighting game has somehow inexplicably hung around, even occasionally managing to produce the occasional standout title– indeed, despite the genre being cluttered with stuff that’s inscrutable to anyone from the outside looking in, it’s managed to remain relevant, and I think Namco’s Soul Calibur series takes a lot of the credit for that.  Simply put, the Soul Calibur games are the sort of games where any idiot can feel like they’re making good progress by randomly slapping buttons; yet there’s enough meaty game there to satisfy hardcore gamers as well.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it was released in 1999– and thus ineligible for the whole “decade” thing, I’d put the first Soul Calibur here instead.  But while it’s not as important as Soul Calibur 1 was, Soul Calibur 2 has Ivy, and that more than makes up for Soul Calibur 1 providing the entire reason for the Dreamcast to exist.

(also, this over Street Fighter IV?  Well, yeah.  The Soul Calibur games are inherently more fun than Street Fighter games.  Street Fighters are only really enjoyable at a high competitive level and are generally unplayable using a standard gamepad.  Not only do you not need a $120 accessory to get full enjoyment from a Soul Calibur game; Namco’s actually went thier way to provide something resembling a compelling single-player action RPG with SC2.  Plus, you don’t feel the need to put in 80 hours of work with a single player before you feel like you know what you’re doing with SC2.  The Soul Calibur games are the most accessable fighting games ever made, and as a result may well be the most fun you can have in a 1-on-1 fighter regardless of skill level.  If you’re playing vide0games as a job, Street Fighter 4 cant’ be touched.)

7:  Grand Theft Auto IV

I never got around to playing any of the Playstation 3 GTA games, and thus I’m full well welling to accept that GTA3 or Vice City or San Andreas may be better games; but GTA IV achieved something wholly remarkable for the realm of console games as far as I’m concerned, and that’s provide actual character development.  Rockstar made you care about protagonist Niko Bellic;  That’s something most television shows and even movies screw up with most of the time.  Even most authors have a hard time showing a character grow and change through the arc of a story; Rockstar’s writers managed to do this in an action-oriented videogame with hardly a scrap of text to be found.

The game itself ain’t too bad, either, provided you don’t mind being bugged by a litany of bored, lonely acquaintances wanting to hit you up for a game of darts when you’re in the middle of tearing through Central Park on a motorcycle while trying to get away from the police.

6:  Knights of the Old Republic

I’ve only recently started playing Dragon Age, and I may well have to adjust this ranking once I’m done with it, but right now I think KOTOR represents the best game Bioware’s ever put out, and on top of that may well be the best Star Wars-related property to be released since Lucasart’s holy trinity of Tie Fighter/Xwing/Xwing vs Tie Fighter.

But beyond that, KOTOR represents the point where it became possible to take console western RPGs seriously.  Yes, there was a  PC version, and yes the PC version is probably the definitive version of the game– but at the same, Xbox KOTOR wasn’t a regrettable experience.  Indeed, Xbox KOTOR felt decidedly like a console game, albeit a console game with the richness and depth of the very best Bioware RPGs.  It’s an ability Bioware was able to expand upon in Jade Empire, Mass Effect and most recently Dragon Age.  Thanks to KOTOR, console gamers are able to enjoy “grown up” RPGs without any compromise made to controls or immersion– the fact that it’s a damned fine game and one of the best scifi RPG games ever crafted is just gravy.


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