Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (95-91)

Click here for the introduction!

95. Mega Man 2 (NES)

I’ve never been a big Mega Man person. I have hazy memories of playing some of the old NES games as a kid and I’ve tried several of the games since, but there are just so many of them and they usually kick my ass so much that I just quickly lose patience. The one big exception is Mega Man 2, which I find to be easy enough to comfortably enjoy, but not so easy as to be a total pushover (two different difficulty settings also help). Its level design feels simplistic, but there’s also something very elegant about it. Likewise, the colorful visuals, large enemy sprites, smooth mechanics, and fantastic soundtrack all jive together very well. The first time I got to Dr. Wily’s fortress and heard that inspiring music, I knew the game was something special.

94. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

I didn’t fully appreciate how much of a terrific platformer Donkey Kong Country Returns is until I replayed it shortly before its sequel, Tropical Freeze, came out. Once I took my time to fully invest myself in this game’s rich, finely-crafted world, I was transported back to a time when video games where I controlled a character that hopped and bopped through colorful, imaginative worlds consistently enraptured me. Every inch of Returns is polished, from its sound design to its artfully crafted levels, which are packed with detail and make Donkey Kong Island truly feel like a living, breathing world. Retro Studios has proven time and again that they have some of the best artists and environment designers in the business. As far as retro-throwbacks go, DKC Returns is basically as good as they come, but though it’s transformative, it’s still largely a callback to the original DKC. This is what initially underwhelmed me about the game so much, and while it isn’t necessarily a flaw, I almost always prefer when a game really breaks out on its own and carves out its own identity. Luckily, that’s exactly the direction Retro smartly took Tropical Freeze in, but we’ll talk about that later.

93. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)

I am not a big Kingdom Hearts fan. In fact, I find most of the first game to be pretty bland and empty-feeling. Kingdom Hearts II, however, captivated me immediately. I’ve heard many pan the game’s lengthy prologue section, but I was completely engrossed in its mysterious and surreal atmosphere. The rest of the game improved in every single way upon the first game for me: the worlds had more personality and felt more alive, there were more original, non-Disney locations and characters, the narrative felt more prevalent throughout the entire experience, the combat was more fluid and enjoyable, and the soundtrack is even more beautiful throughout. I associate Kingdom Hearts II with the summer before I headed off to college. Perhaps this is another reason why the prologue spoke so much to me: it involves a group of kids idling their time away during summer vacation, and something about the peaceful but melancholic music and atmosphere of Twilight Town felt very appropriate for the time in my life. Kingdom Hearts II as a whole felt like one last imaginative adventure before I headed off into the frightening unknown and although it may sound a bit melodramatic, in a way this game represents the bittersweet end of my childhood.

92. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (PS2)

Devil May Cry 3 may be the best pure action game I’ve ever played. This game is campy, goofy fun wrapped up in a delicious gothic atmosphere. As the titular Dante, you surf around on the backs of demons, wield creative weapons like a triple ice nunchaku and a demonic electric guitar (like it literally shoots electricity), and explore an ancient tower that has appeared in the middle of a modern-day city. Joining Dante are a memorable cast of characters, including a badass lady named, uh, Lady, Dante’s twin brother and rival Vergil, and a bizarre jester named, er, Jester…so the names aren’t the most creative thing, but the characters themselves are great, trust me. The deep combat and mechanics are where this game truly shines, as it involves several different combat “Styles” to cycle through such as Swordmaster and Gunslinger to name a few, and experimenting with each one and with the wide variety of imaginative weapons is an absolute blast. DMC3 is also a notably difficult game, but learning and mastering the mechanics and levels is a joy, and you’ll be amazed by the wacky antics you’ll eventually be able to pull off. It’s one of only a handful of games where I had so much fun replaying levels over and over again as I mastered my skills.

91. World of Goo (Wii)

For a puzzle game to captivate me it must have something more than just challenging riddles to solve; it has to have atmosphere, narrative, something that makes it stand out. Enter World of Goo, a game I played on Wii that really took me by surprise. I fell in love with this game not only because the core goo-building mechanic is interesting and the physics-based puzzles are challenging, but because the game’s world and vibe is simply intoxicating. The Tim Burton-esque art is one part of this, but the moody and beautiful soundtrack by Kyle Gabler (which is free to download on his website) is also a huge factor, as is the way the narrative unfolds. For such an initially silly-looking game, World of Goo is a surprisingly emotional experience.


I hope you join me again for #90-86!

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