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110. Shantae (Game Boy Color)
Compared to its smoother-playing sequels, the original Shantae is a little wonky,
but it’s nonetheless an imaginative platforming adventure that is still
probably the most unique game in the series. Released late in the handheld’s
life, it’s probably one of the prettiest Game Boy Color games out there and is
packed with big colorful sprites and charming animations. Structurally, the
game is sort of like a cross between Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Zelda, and Metroid, but Shantae definitely has its own original flare that makes it stand
apart. The world and storyline is wacky, involving genies and pirates and roaming
zombie caravans, and the whole experience has a distinct sense of humor about
everything. I also adore the game’s unique and detailed belly-dancing mechanic
and Shantae’s transformation abilities. The original Shantae GBC cartridge is notoriously rare and expensive, but the
same experience can be purchased for a mere $5 on the 3DS eShop.
109. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (DSi)
Revenge carries over a lot of what made the original Shantae special and, in a quantifiable sense, improves on that game
in just about every way. The combat and platforming mechanics are much more
satisfying, Shantae’s dancing has been streamlined (though a bit of the charm has
been lost in the process), the world is more enjoyable to explore, the music
has been kicked up about ten or twenty notches as Jake Kaufman truly begins to
hit his stride, the quirky writing is even stronger (this is actually one of
the funniest games I’ve ever played), and the spritework is even more fantastic.
The one big drawback of Risky’s Revenge is
that its adventure feels a bit cut short and in order to get the full story,
you’ll need to play Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Still, even though I still find a lot to love in the
original Shantae, Risky’s Revenge is much more playable
and currently my favorite in this charming and creative series. While it was
originally released as a downloadable title on the Nintendo DSi, Risky’s Revenge has since been ported to
a bunch of other places, including 3DS, PC, and even smartphones.
108. Gone Home (PC)
I only just played Gone Home last year but it was a strangely nostalgic and personal
experience with all of its references to the 90s and a shy, artistic, relatable
protagonist with a large imagination and aspirations of being a writer. It also
combined a fantastic central voice performance and intelligent environmental
design to tell a gripping and human story that hooked me from beginning to end.
107. Super Smash Bros. (N64)
The original Super Smash Bros. was a bizarre and exciting game when it released
in 1999. There was even something inherently exciting about the colorful, hand-drawn
boxart that immediately captivated me, even though I barely knew who Samus Aran or
Fox McCloud were at the time. I did recognize Mario, Kirby, and Pikachu though
and I fell in love with this surreal mishmash of Nintendoverses almost as soon
as I started playing. It was a blast playing with friends of course, but I also
have fond memories of rushing home from school to smash targets with Donkey
Kong by myself. The original Smash
also has something that the newer games in the series largely lack: atmosphere.
From the strangely toned-down main menu music to the meta narrative of a child playing with their toys to the eerie music that plays after defeating the final
boss, there’s just something special about this game that I feel was lost as
the series went on to become the flashy monstrosity that it is today.
106. Unravel (PC)
While a clever and charming puzzle-platformer on
its own merits, what makes Unravel particularly
special to me is how much I relate to it. As I wrote here, it feels uncannily
like the game was made specifically for me between the beautiful, nearly
photorealistic appreciation of nature’s small wonders, the theme of a small creature
exploring our gigantic world, and even the fact that yarn has a special
nostalgic quality for me because my Nana loved to knit. Heck, the dang thing
even released on my birthday. While Unravel’s
narrative impact admittedly could have been stronger, it’s still an experience
that spoke to my heart and enchanted me thoroughly.
Join me next time for #105-101! Hope to see you then!