Monday, September 12, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (80-76)

Click here for the introduction!

80. Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)

The original Metroid for NES has not aged well. In concept, it’s brilliant and revolutionary for its time and it still has an eerie atmosphere of isolation to this day, but refilling one’s health and missiles after dying is such an egregious chore and the copy-and-paste level design makes things not only extremely confusing (in a bad way) but also just rather dull a lot of the time. Enter Zero Mission, an excellent remake that addresses these issues as well as gives the game a visual makeover and an interesting extra chapter after the finale. What Zero Mission may lack in terms of the original’s stark atmosphere, it makes up for by being a much more playable and well-designed experience.

79. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Prime 3 is my least favorite of the trilogy but it’s still a worthy Metroid experience. While I prefer sinking my space bounty hunter boots into one, intricately-detailed world, I still appreciate that Corruption switches things up by having Samus be able to jump into her ship and explore multiple planets. The game is gorgeous for a Wii game (once again, Retro Studios is an exceptional talent when it comes to art direction and world-building) and each environment that Samus visits is distinct. Corruption also sees one of the best uses of the Wii’s motion controls with simple and fluid point and shoot mechanics and I even get a kick out of the gimmicky stuff as well, such as turning the Wii remote to turn levers and so on. The game also features some pretty decent voice acting, though I personally still prefer my Metroid more isolated and quiet than this; still, the game knows when to shut up and chatty bits are mostly few and far between. Corruption is a satisfying end to the stellar Prime trilogy; it’s just unfortunate that at this present time it is also, sadly, at nearly ten years old the last great original Metroid game we’ve gotten.

78. Portal (PC)

If you’ve never played Portal, stop reading and go play it. I won’t outright spoil anything major here, but if you’ve somehow missed this game and haven’t been in the loop in regards to nerd culture in the last ten years or so, this is definitely a game best experienced blind. Portal is an unassuming masterpiece. Originally packed into The Orange Box, it begins as a rather straightforward puzzle game, albeit one with a really neat mechanical hook, as the player moves from test chamber to test chamber solving increasingly difficult puzzles with the portal gun as a robotic voice on the intercom blandly guides them on. It’s rare that a game is as genius on as many levels as Portal is, because as brilliant as the game’s central portal mechanic is, what ultimately makes the experience so memorable is how it fools players into thinking it is just a series of puzzles…until that dull intercom guide starts talking about android hell and promises of cake, and you start to question, “Wait, what did she just say?”. Furthermore, enterprising players might use the portal gun creatively to sneak behind a wall and land themselves in a part of the facility they aren’t supposed to be in, where they’ll likely find mad scrawls and implications that “the cake is a lie”. No one expected the writing and the narrative to overshadow the unique mechanics in Portal, and no one expected the unmistakable mark that the game would leave on popular culture. Portal is one of a very small number of games that I can’t personally find a single fault in, and if you somehow haven’t played it (and ignored my earlier suggestion and are still reading this), please do yourself a favor and change that.

77. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

Yoshi’s Island is a wonderful game made with love and care and effort. I could point to its disparate elements: its gorgeous art-style that hasn’t aged a day, its small but unforgettable soundtrack, and its imaginative level designs and bosses…but ultimately this game just has a certain feeling about it that I can’t quite describe. When I think of Yoshi’s Island, I often think of the cave levels. The sparkling rocks, the waterfalls in the distance, maybe some mist pervading the scene, little ghost creatures carrying lanterns, giant mushrooms and little munching plant monsters, and above all else that absolutely enchanting music. There’s just nothing else quite like it. I distinctly remember how appealing this game’s box-art and overall look was to me as a kid, and how much I really wanted to play it. I remember playing it at a friend’s house once, but I unfortunately didn’t experience Yoshi’s Island in full until the Game Boy Advance port, though I now own and have completed the original and superior version as well, don’t worry.

76. Sonic Colors (Wii)

The game that brought Sonic back into my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still been consistently replaying the classic Genesis games over the years, but when it came to actively following the Sonic series, I’d largely tuned out after one disappointing and poorly received game after the next was churned out. I hesitated for a while but I eventually took the plunge again with Colors after positive reviews and seeing what simply looked like an overall very solid game. I’m so glad I did because this game made me remember why I fell in love with Sonic as a kid. It has flaws, such as its obnoxious writing and stiff 3D control (most of the game plays from a 2D perspective, which fares better control-wise), but its creative and beautiful worlds like Planet Wisp and Aquarium Park, its wonderful and catchy soundtrack, and its layered level designs all brought to mind the 2D Genesis games that I grew up with, and yet the game still felt very fresh as well. With the Wisp power-ups, Sonic Team also finally found a gimmick in this one that supplemented Sonic’s core gameplay in a positive way instead of divided it or bogged it down. In short, I was a Sonic fan again, for better and for worse (and with the recently announced Sonic Mania, right now I’m happily leaning more towards “for better”).


The games continue next time with #75-71!

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