31-Day Game Challenge
Out of all the series' I've played nothing is as delightfully bonkers as the Danganronpa series. Sure the games rely heavily on text and therefore reading, but if you can bypass it you'll be utterly treated to some of the most off-the-wall characters and situations you will find in any videogame. Monokuma is deliciously devious and is such an evil, cunning but hilarious bear villian-always cropping up onscreen to interfere in serious conversations-and seeing as he's the figurehead of the despair that goes on in the series-he's a very nosey character who is voiced perfectly. I don't know if I can explain further about the games without spoilage, but certain characters like Byakuya and Toko and their interactions together make my eyes bleed with laughter and bewilderment. There's really nothing that approaches Danganronpa when it comes to berserk hilarity-a series that any anime videogame fan really should check out if they aren't averse to reading lots of text-although there are a handful of cutscenes too. You can take your Personas and your Yakuzas and they will fail to compete with the mind-melting lunacy that goes on in Danganronpa. Here are a few of my favourite tracks from the series.
Day 5 - Overworld or Hub World
Final Fantasy VI
There are a lot of overworlds that I'm very attached to as a fan of the JRPG genre. These are essential; the living and breathing space where your world is given legs and the characters are given locations and history to exist believably. One of my absolute favorites has to go to Final Fantasy VI, a game that doesn't just lay out a world and give it history, but changes and adapts to the story being told throughout the adventure as well.
You're progressively introduced to the map throughout the adventure and slowly gain an understanding of the geography. It's overwhelming in the beginning and seems so large, but as you meet new characters, they all seem to have a place they come from that you can remember from the story to attach them to. Whether it's the castle of Figaro, the dingy, rundown town of Zozo, or the iconic and cold mining town of Narche, these are important and memorable places with things that happen on top of them being visually, thematically and musically unique. We grow attached to many of these places like they are characters themselves even though they don't really change.
Spoilers ahead - Actually, they do.
Three fourths of the way through the game, after you think you're going to fight the final boss the last time, he goes completely crazy and destroys the world, fracturing the landscape you came to know, as well as pretty much everything else; the party and the people who live in each place. The rest of the game takes place in World of Ruin, the same world you came to know, but everyone is broken now, like the world, trying to recover and survive in a bleak landscape. Towns are different, people are different, and now it's about trying to get the band back together in the same way that by the end you hope you can put the world back to some state of sanity and health, or maybe even better than before.
World of Balance and World of Ruin aren't just places where you select where to go next in the story, they're an essential element that is a character unto themself; changing, growing and dying just like characters we follow as we progress through it. It's a world living worth saving.
Day 5 - Hub world or overworld
3D Dot Game Heroes
Honestly I had a hard time thinking about this one, so I choose this game despite only playing like 30% of it back then. I just love the art style of this game in combination with the music. It feels so jolly. I still accidentally hum the overworld theme every now and then.
Day 6 - Game that makes you feel relaxed
Aer: Memories of Old
After a rough day, sometimes I'll install this game and just fly around for a little bit. The music is incredible, and the lo-fi polygonal graphics just have a coziness that's just so easy to get lost in. There's never any real danger of failure or death, but the game allows you to explore to your heart's content; through the clouds finding animals on floating islands and ruins that hold ancient history. It's too bad the studio went bankrupt, I would have loved to see what they did after.
Here's a bit of the soundtrack and a trailer with the game in motion.
Oscillator last edited by Oscillator
Day 4, console exclusive series
I take "console exclusive" to mean "only released on console, not handheld/PC/arcade/mobile". And one of the few series that I can attach that description to AND enjoy multiple titles in is Project Gotham Racing. Specifically, 2 and 4.
2 refined what 1 (an original Xbox launch title) started*, with tighter physics, better lighting, bigger environments (hello Chicago and Nürburgring!), more modes, a bigger soundtrack, and most importantly, online play. It was the definitive racing game on Xbox Live for the original Xbox. If you weren't playing Halo 2, you were playing the community gametype Cat & Mouse:
---> More on 2 <---
4 is one of the most visually impressive games on the Xbox 360, and was a huge step up in every way from the wonky 3, which was rushed to make the launch of the 360. It ramped up the environment size even further with New York, and fairly successfully added bikes to the mix (the turbine bike is one of the coolest licensed vehicles ever in a game). The gameplay isn't quite as addictive as 2's (it feels a touch more technical), the tracks tend to feel more dreary (part of it is a greater emphasis on inclement weather), and I don't remember any of the soundtrack. But the production values are utterly rock solid.
Microsoft had gone all-in on the blander Forza series by this point though, chasing the sim crowd, and gave PGR 4 little marketing.
*PGR is a spiritual successor of Metropolis Street Racer, but is quite distant in a technical sense.
Day 6 - Game that makes you feel relaxed
TE is a very unique game for me. The trippy visuals and amazing soundtrack, combined with the modern Tetris gameplay, made me feel things that I never really felt before while playing a puzzle game like this. The range of emotions that this game can make me feel is pretty awe-inspiring. I'm not very good at Tetris, so nowadays I just play one of the relax playlists just to wind down. The Sea playlist is my favorite one, I'm in love with the underwater feel of it.
Day 7 - Indie Game
This was one of the most powerful games I've played in a long time. I even wrote a podcast episode about it. Celeste is tough as nails but never sticks your nose in your failure the same way a lot of other games do that pride themselves on overcoming obstacles. The difficulty is specifically what the game is about; overcoming the things that are the most difficult that seems impossible, but it's about the encouragement and support necessary to overcome it. It wasn't easy, but after dying thousands of times, I beat every level in the game, after multiple times stopping to tell someone I didn't think I could do it or that it was impossible. Shortly after every time, I would get that drive, and the pieces fall into place.
Perfect control, amazing art, and outstanding tracks from Lena Raine.
Here's an abridged video version of the podcast episode I wrote for those interested.
Day 7 - Indie Game
Galak-Z: The Dimensional
I got this game from PS Plus a while back, and I never actually finished it because it's just so damn hard. It's a 2D space ship-mech combat game with a charming retro anime/TV show inspired aesthetic and structure. The combat feels so intense and unforgiving, everything can mess up in an instant and it feels so satisfying to get through these moments. Precision in both aiming shots and dodging them is so important here.
@bam541 man, talk about a game I don't like playing but wish I did. I love the 80s anime vibes but hate controlling the ship and the level structures. And roguelikes.
@happygaming It's definitely not for everyone. The controls got me a bit frustrated at first, but I started liking it after the first hour.
Day 8 - First or Third Person Shooter
I was a huge fan of Doom growing up, but wasn't really big on Doom 3 when it came out. It took a long time to get a game that felt like a proper franchise entry, but 2016's Doom feels so genuine to its roots. It's visceral and loud and violent, and plays more like the arena shooters of old like Quake or Unreal Tournament than the Call of Duty's and Battlefield games that have become the shooter standard. You constantly have to move and also keep track of your surroundings, knowing which enemies to pick off in what order. And that soundtrack by Mick Gordon is just outstanding. Definitely need to give Eternal a shot soon.
Day 5, hub world or overworld
It's a common pick, but I have to go for Gruntilda's Lair in Banjo-Kazooie. There's mysteries and secrets around every corner, wonderful progression with the Note Doors, dynamic theme music, and great integration with the individual worlds via transformations.
Day 8 - First or Third Person Shooter
KZ2 feels heavy in almost every way. The protagonist's side keeps getting beat down hard, both by the oppressiveness of the planet's atmosphere and the ruthless plans of the Helghast. It also literally feels heavy to control, which makes aiming and shooting feel more deliberate than usual. The excellent hit feedback on the enemies (their body shakes so much when you shot them enough), in conjunction with the great feel of the weapons, adds to the satisfaction of getting through the tough skirmishes. This is not my most played entry of the series (KZ3's multiplayer is too good, missed the boat on KZ2), but it's probably the best one, considering KZ3's less memorable campaign.
When it comes to my favourite third-person shooter I have to swing my mind back to 2012 and to a shooter that looked like it could've been just another military shooter with just another basic campaign where you shoot loads of men-but this one was special, this one made you care and this one had a dark underbelly. I am of course talking about Spec-Ops: The Line-one of the best shooters I've ever played because besides the story being excellent and inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness-it's shooting gameplay is very smooth and very satisfying-oh and you can bury your foes in sand and get swept up in sandstorms.
Day 6, game that makes you feel relaxed
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Day 7, indie game
I'm not much for indie games. Many (most?) of them are either 2D platformers, which I have little interest in, or have a lo-fi aesthetic. I crave multi-layered gameplay, and bold production values.
It's barely an indie game (having been funded by Microsoft), but I'll pick Cuphead. It's a less typical kind of 2D platformer, where you're not focused on power-ups or solving puzzles, but pure reflexes. And any other issues I have with the gameplay style are wiped away by the brilliant aesthetic and super-high quality animation.
Day 9 - Licensed Game
Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse
Back on the Super Nintendo, Capcom had a series of fantastic Disney licensed games, including Aladdin and Goof Troop, but my favorite was always Magical Quest. It plays sort of like an adventure platformer. It's slower, but you have to explore levels a little bit to find where to go. You start out with the ability to jump on enemies and throw them at other guys (same with parts of the environment), but as you progress and fight bosses, you unlock new abilities from costumes, Mega Man style. So by the end you can shoot guys with a fire-hose like a fireman, grapple around with a hook like Bionic Commando and even shoot magic. The bosses and levels all advance in a way that slowly requires a mastery of all of these abilities, and it all comes out to be a fantastic underrated gem.
It, as well as its two sequels were even ported over to the GBA years later, so if you don't have a Super Nintendo and have a Gameboy laying around somewhere, I'd definitely recommend picking them up and giving them a try.
This might not be the most popular Bond game nor successful (and perhaps contributed to Bizarre Creations' demise) but 007: Blood Stone was a decent and original Bond videogame that had pretty awesome CQC takedowns. More of a "swimmin in 7s" kind of game, but Blood Stone deserves some love.
Day 9 - Licensed Game
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
My respect for this game comes mostly from watching the two movies right before playing this for the first time back then, and noticing how much the devs really cared to make something that felt like it was always meant to exist with the movies. The story and acting performances are fun, and they really nailed the feel of the ghostbusting gameplay. It's an awesome game, and I probably should replay this soon (got it on Switch already).
Day 10 - RPG From a Western Studio
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Try as I may, I've never been able to get into the flavor of Western RPGs, but this was one I was always excited to try and get into, and was eventually my pack-in with my Xbox. Love me some Star Wars, maybe I'll give this one a shot again someday. Not to be a downer on Western-RPGs, but building my own character hasn't ever caught my interest the same way a silent protagonist made for me that I have no say in the creation or development of does. Maybe it's why I'm also not good at D&D.
All that aside, I still think this game has a really unique vibe, great music, and lets you fight guys with swords! I was really bad at it when I got it originally and never really got further than the first city. My friends raved about Jedi training and building their own lightsaber and I was always just stuck in the first city, either out of mechanical confusion, or misunderstanding my goals.