Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Top Ten New Sony IPs from the Past Decade

While many publishers rest on their laurels or play it safe with their preexisting properties, Sony should get a ton of credit for not showing much fear in creating a constant stream of new franchises. It's unbelievable that they're so gung ho about them especially while the world is in its current economic situation and how much of a gamble fresh franchises really are. Whether it's God of War, Ratchet & Clank, or LittleBigPlanet, Sony's internal studios have crafted some of the finest new IPs of the last decade. This list is what I perceive to be Sony's ten best new series from the year 2002 to now. I don't expect you to agree with the order, but these ten franchises showcase Sony's greatest ideas of the past decade. Let's get to the top ten.

10) Killzone

Killzone debuted on the PlayStation 2 in 2004.  The series mostly consists of first-person shooters, but one third-person shooter in the PSP iteration, Killzone: Liberation, occurred. Guerrilla Games is currently in the midst of development for the franchise's Vita offering, Killzone: Mercenary. Killzone takes players in the middle of a war between the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (or ISA) and the Helghast army. Sony originally marketed Killzone as "a Halo killer." This didn't work out as planned with the first game of the series looking poorly graphically and possessing a bevy of troublesome glitches. Then the sequel on the PS3 got infamous notoriety for having a showing at an E3 press conference with what would later be revealed to be target renders and not actual gameplay, though Sony shamelessly argued against that on a consistent basis. Regardless, the game was a dramatic improvement over its predecessor, and it remains my favorite of the four current releases in the series.

9) LocoRoco

Representing my favorite genre, the platformer, in a different light, LocoRoco jumped onto the worldwide scene and PSP device in 2006. The series comes from the mind of Tsutomu Kouno, a developer who was involved with Ico. In the game, players don't move the main character, a LocoRoco blob, in a traditional sense (except for jumping). Instead, players are actually tilting the environment in which the character rests, similar to say, Super Monkey Ball, but in a 2D setting. This is performed by utilizing the PSP's two shoulder buttons. Through gathering berries hidden around the game's plentiful amount of levels, the LocoRoco can grow in size. With a face button, the amalgamation of LocoRoco can be split up into tinier forms to fit through small spaces. The goal of the game is to complete levels in a fast and efficient manner while avoiding perils like spikes, pits, and the sinister Moja group of enemies. What results is a platformer unlike anything you've ever experienced. It's colorful, it's clever, it's charming, and it's a series that, like Killzone, has seen four installments currently on the market.

8) Resistance

The other first-person shooter franchise on this list comes from the minds of Insomniac Games. For the PlayStation 3 launch they had a game concerning an alternate history where an alien race known as the Chimera have started an assault on the planet, Resistance: Fall of Man, which earned high praise. As one of the remaining human survivors left, you join the resistance against the Chimeran forces as the ensuing fight grows fiercer and bleaker by the hour. I enjoyed the Resistance franchise more than Killzone, and I'll explain why real quick. I enjoyed the lore behind the game and narrative, level design, multiplayer, local cooperative abilities, and particularly the weaponry more than Guerrilla Games' efforts. The weaponry, in general, harks back to Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank franchise in creativity, a franchise that we'll be discussing later on down the road on this very list. There was a perfect mix of realistic firepower and off-the-wall futuristic weaponry that was never before seen in a first-person shooter before. Like Killzone, Resistance also had a portable offering that was a third-person shooter, Resistance: Retribution. The series is currently on hiatus, but I would love to see the minds behind Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet the Lombax try their hand again at crafting another stellar shooter and addition to this sci-fi franchise.

7) inFamous

Sucker Punch had a reputation on the PlayStation 2 for creating the Sly Cooper platformer series of games. They took their know-how of making such games and implemented it into inFamous, an open world action-adventure platformer series spanning three games, one of which being non-canonical. Players assume the role of Cole MacGrath, a young man with gifted electrical superpowers, which he can choose to use for the benefit or detriment to mankind. Through completing different missions in different ways, Cole can earn Karma to have his abilities and appearance change. inFamous is quite unlike most open world games as Cole does not enter vehicles to get around Empire City and then in the second game, New Marais. Instead, he can scale buildings, grind across electrical lines, and even use his powers of electricity to slowly hover in the air. These games generally demand to be played through twice just to see both good and evil endings. They're also fun enough to warrant such a demand. While inFamous as a franchise is really fun, it doesn't hold a spark next to Sucker Punch's first series...

6) Sly Cooper

What a perfect segue! Here is Sucker Punch's first creation, the Sly Cooper series. As stated, this series built the main elements for their inFamous franchise. The game has players platforming as one of the members of Sly Cooper's gang. There's Sly Cooper himself, Bentley, a turtle who is not only a master of gadgets but is the brains behind most of the heists, and Murray, the muscle of the group. Sly's gameplay has him making his way through levels. His focus is on stealth rather than pure brawn, for alerting guards and alarms is generally a recipe for failure. Sly is not proud, he doesn't mind attacking foes from behind to defeat them. There are plenty of places Sly can use for stealth and to platform on, which are shown clearly by having an azure glow. Such places include ledges that Sly can sidestep upon, pipes to scale, tight ropes to balance on, and pointy spots that can be perched on. Each game is built on a series of heists that Sly and the gang plan out. They are divided between numerous missions involving platforming challenges or mini-games. I prefer the first Sly Cooper game to the rest because the rest relied on an open world setting for the missions instead of the original game which used a typical hub connecting each level. Regardless, the fun of seeing the fruits of Sly and the gang's labors go off without a hitch and with a successful heist makes for a platforming series that is remarkable. I eagerly await Thieves in Time, despite it not being done by Sucker Punch themselves.

5) Shadow of the Colossus

Before Team Ico made projects in development hell, they actually made games like the superb Ico and this title of tremendous influence, Shadow of the Colossus (both of which are available in one single HD collection on the PlayStation 3). What do you really call the game, though? It has no towns or NPCs to speak of, and the only enemies the player are battling are the titular colossi. It becomes more of a puzzle than anything else. Figuring out how to reach each of the sixteen colossi, and then trying to think up a way to find and exploit their weakness(es) makes for an intriguing game. The world that Wander, the main character, explores is a sprawling series of environments ripe for traversal. Speaking of which, the music is also a notable part of the rich ambiance of the game, featuring work by Ko Otani. You might recognize some of his work from anime series like Gundam Wing and Outlaw Star, to name a couple. Regardless, the sensational symphonic orchestral soundtrack sweeps in and preys upon your emotions, much like the game it accompanies. What all these elements add up to make is one unforgettable PlayStation 2 classic, and a real reason why fans are so understanding in allowing The Last Guardian to be in development for so, so long.

4) Uncharted

Another stellar series from the fine folks at Naughty Dog, Uncharted is essentially a modern day interactive Indiana Jones with more wisecracks from the main character in Nathan Drake. The franchise consists of two main elements: third-person shooting and platforming, with some puzzles thrown in along the way to keep players' minds sharp. The fun in the series is seeing and hearing just Drake will manage to survive yet another improbable situation while giving direct commentary on just how absurd his situation is. The character comes off as very human, despite the very much superhuman things he does and endurance he has. Though the game pits players through mostly linear paths to slay enemies, traverse environments, and participate in set piece after glorious set piece, Uncharted as a series may come across as by-the-numbers, but it's one that makes for some solid entertainment. The multiplayer adds to the experience, giving players an enjoyable ride, much like the excellent single-player campaigns each of the four entries contain. If you're looking for the closest thing to summer blockbuster movie entertainment (whether you think that games should try to emulate as close to Hollywood as possible or not), then Uncharted is the series for you.

3) God of War 

The main character may be incredibly unlikable (in fact, a jerk in desperate need of anger management), but even with this caveat, the God of War series is especially well liked almost universally by the gaming community. Now, you can complain about there being six titles for the series in less than six years, but when they are mostly of high quality, does it really matter? The series revolves around Kratos as he hacks and slashes his way through armies of mythological creatures and gods. The game has players venturing through various locales such as The Temple of Pandora and Hades as they defeat bosses and other enemies, solve puzzles, and find treasure. There is no backtracking in these games for the most part, and camera control is minimal. The worry-free camera utilized in these games are completely fully functional and work well. The fighting focuses heavily on combo-based combat mostly using Kratos's blades attached by chains to his arms to strike foes and unleash unholy hell. Between the ingenious level design, smart puzzles, intense confrontations between lowly baddies and bosses alike, presentation, dramatic story, and visuals make for a franchise that is indeed as mythical as the God of War himself.

2) Ratchet & Clank

I'm going to admit something that longtime readers of SPC are already well versed in - I am a huge fan of platformers. (You don't even need to be well versed as I said as much in the LocoRoco part of this list.) That said, there is only one platforming series that has rivaled Ratchet & Clank for me in the past ten years, and that is the legendary and magical Mario franchise (which I would place higher than Ratchet thanks to Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. Wii alone). Regardless, this franchise which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year introduced so many novel ideas to the formula. The original Ratchet & Clank distanced itself from the common collect-a-thon mindset of typical 3D platformers through advancing the story upon various different planets, acquiring new, exotic weapons and gadgetry. The second game, Going Commando, introduced an RPG-like leveling up systems for weaponry that as the player uses them more, they grow in power. Up Your Arsenal added online play for intense multiplayer matches. Deadlocked was a drastic departure, giving players a gladiator-like experience, and the Future trilogy put Ratchet and Clank in gorgeous, jaw-dropping HD. While All 4 One was decidedly disappointing, the recently released Ratchet & Clank Collection allows the original three Ratchet games to be played with trophy support in full high-definition. A wonderful way to play this wonderful series, for sure. Now newcomers to the series can see why Ratchet & Clank is so well regarded by not only me, but a legion of fans.

1) LittleBigPlanet

The ability to create levels is nothing new, and online creator communities have been popular on the PC for years, but it was rare seeing such a brilliant display of creator tools that were as simple to use and fun to use than with LittleBigPlanet. The ease of sharing created levels and objects made for a compelling community full of creative and charming ideas. Players begin their journey through the land of yarn, cloth, and other household objects and make their own Sackboy (or to be politically correct, Sackgirl), and use a preexisting amount of clothing, accessories, and facial and body options to make their own unique creation. Through collecting hidden and out-of-the-way Prize Bubbles in the game's already manufactured levels (also a great way to learn how to make your own lovely levels, aside from the Stephen Fry-voiced tutorials), players unlocked new costume parts and level features in the form of materials and objects to play around with. Even if you lack the sheer ability to create anything that resembles something capable, you can play around with the tools given to you, and play the ideas of other LittleBigPlanet owners. I highly anticipate the PlayStation Vita version, a game that would make me purchase the portable if I had the money, and if the Wii U weren't coming. LittleBigPlanet isn't just one of Sony's most marvelous new IPs of the last decade, it's simply one of the best new IPs in ages.


I assume many of you will disagree with the order of these Sony IPs of the past ten years, but I hope you will agree that these are the best of the best. What PlayStation franchises are your favorite?

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