Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Five Under the Radar Games

Holy cow.  There's a lot of games out there that most people overlook.  Too many people follow the advice of this guy, and it's a real shame.  If you follow Extra Credits on youtube, you've probably seen their series of games you might not have tried.  They are a great resource of options, and I've found a handful of good examples, as well.  All of the games that I mention have their share of fans, just not many.  For some, this is a perfect time to try them out.  Either way, you'll be hard pressed to find games in here that aren't worth your time.

1: Elite Beat Agents (DS)
Elite Beat Agents got its start as a quirky japanese game called "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!" on the Nintendo DS.  It developed a massive cult following in Japan, due in no small part to how fun the game was to play.  Thanks to the region free setting on the DS, fans overseas could enjoy it, as well.  Mastiff and INIS came together and reprogrammed the game with an English soundtrack, and wester music, dubbing it "Elite Beat Agents."  The core gameplay is the same as Ouendan, and they managed to keep the feel of the Japanese original intact.

He saves the damsel!
The game involves a super elite squad, known as the Elite Beat Agents, helping people with their problems.  The scenarios are silly, the path to success wacky, and the songs tend to fit rather well.  The soundtrack features Highway Star by Deep Purple, Jumpin' Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, Another Loser Anthem (I don't wanna be you) by Good Charlotte, and Sk8ter Boi by Avril Lavigne, amongst others.  Players tap and draw out dance moves on the lower screen of the DS, and watch the reactions up above.  Miss too many notes, and the song fails.  It's not the most novel concept, but it's done in a reasonably novel way.  This game is great for people who love rhythm games, and people who want silly not-too-serious games.  It's definitely not for people with large hands, as they will have a lot of trouble seeing the screen, those that want a game with story, and younger kids will get bored of it pretty quick.  Other than that, it's worth checking out.

2: Blue Stinger (Dreamcast)
This Activision game was a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast.  Meant to basically be a competitor to Resident Evil, Blue Hazard plays up the "monsters and zombies everywhere" trope.  What separates it from other survival horror shooters is that deceased monsters drop money, which you then use to buy additional ammo and recovery items.  In a sense, it makes the game more playable, without completely breaking it.  Players have the option to control two different characters, each with their own set of equipment, and for one character, fighting styles based on the shirt he's wearing.  Probably one of the most memorable moments in the game is from the shopping center on the island.  Everything is set up for Christmas, and there's grotesque, mutated zombies everywhere.  There's a delicious irony in blasting away the undead while happy Christmas music plays in the background.

Fans of Resident Evil or Dead Rising will find something to like here.  It's not nearly as scary as Resident Evil, and not nearly as wacky as Dead Rising.  Even so, there's something in here that fans of both should be able to come together and check it out.

3: Castle Shikigami 2 (Dreamcast - Japan, PS2 - US)
Castle Shikigami 2 is famous not for what it does well, but what it does poorly.  XS Games did not hire particularly competent translators, and the dialogue shows this. 

Aside from the bad translation,  It actually has a lot going for it.  Bullet hell shooters are notoriously difficult, and this game is no exception.  Even so, it's still a lot of fun, and the visuals have held up surprisingly well.  If you like games like Raiden or Gradius, this is one worth trying out, even for the laughs it provides.

4: Sigma Star Saga (GBA)
Sigma Star Saga is a really quirky RPG on the GBA.  Best described as the bastard child of an RPG and a gradius clone, the game's random battles take place in fighter ships along a side scrolling path.    Add in a colorful cast of characters, a little backstabbing for spice, and you have yourself a fantastic game worth trying out.

Players take control of a spy embedded in an alien army as a traitor to humanity.  He continuously wrestles with the nature of his mission, almost in a "Dances with Wolves" or "Avatar" frame of mind.  As it progresses, it's tough to tell what side is really right.  There's no right answers, only wrong ones.  It definitely helps make it interesting.

As players progress, they'll unlock additional ways to customize their ships.  Firing patterns, shot type, and shot size can all be adjusted to suit one's own play style.  Not only that, but some types are better suited to specific planets.  While one area might want a double shot spread in front, another might require the player to prepare for surprise attacks coming from behind, and adjust their shot to a spiral-type motion.

Sigma Star Saga really deserves more attention than it got.  It's a great little romp, and a ton of fun to play.

5: Astal (Saturn)
Astal's kind of hard to explain Astal.  It's a lover chasing after his girlfriend, sure.  But it's also really, really pretty.  Even for the Saturn, which wasn't exactly the best at visual displays.  The sprites look like they could have been hand drawn, the music is amazing, and the backgrounds are just plain gorgeous.  The gameplay is a little clunky, and the game will sometimes register you taking damage when you thought you were clear. But overall, it's one worth trying out.

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