Friday, November 14, 2014

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part One

If you've been around SuperPhillip Central for a little while (it's okay if you haven't, so no harm done), then you know that I like talking about underrated and overlooked games. I've done various series on the subject. However, most of the time, the games mentioned in these articles are from wholly new or overlooked franchises themselves.

There are also a multitude of series that I can think of that have one, two, or a handful of games in it that aren't viewed as highly as the others, whether just or not.

These ideas are where the concept of All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries comes from, and you, my lucky, lucky, little reader, are just in time to see the very first part of this series of articles! This edition will feature series like Grand Theft Auto, The Legend of Zelda, and Mega Man!

Grand Theft Auto - Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS, PSP)

With an updated and enhanced version of Grand Theft Auto V making its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this Tuesday, it only makes sense to lead off with one of the more overlooked entries in the series, Chinatown Wars.

This game originally released on the Nintendo DS to little fanfare commercially, despite the applause from critics. No doubt the Nintendo DS being viewed as a family platform had much to do with that, but also GTA: Chinatown Wars was a drastic departure from what many of the more modern Grand Theft Auto games were. You see, Chinatown Wars was old-school GTA in a top-down perspective, most likely due to the DS' limited hardware power. A PlayStation Portable version was made for the system, but it, too, suffered the fate of low sales. Unfortunately, the top-down original style of the GTA games is just too old-school for most modern gamers nowadays.

The Legend of Zelda - The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GCN)

The Legend of Zelda series has an abundance of quality titles under its historic belt, and many fans constantly are up in arms over which title is most overlooked. It's high time I throw my opinion into the debate circle!

Four Swords Adventures was, until A Link Between Worlds on the Nintendo 3DS, the closest thing to a revitalization of A Link to the Past we had at the time. That's just alluding to the presentation. That said, that's not what makes the game so appealing to me. While Four Swords Adventures did encompass Nintendo's failed GBA connectivity for up to four players to team up and tackle challenges within the game's eight worlds of three levels each, I found myself loving the solo campaign just as much. It felt like a bite-sized Zelda adventure, and it's one that I keep coming back to. While there is no interconnected world to speak of like most other Zelda games, Four Sword Adventures is a game which has puzzles that are brilliant, areas that are challenging, and has a cool old-school feel, perfect for someone who is a glutton for nostalgia like myself.

Donkey Kong - DK: King of Swing (GBA), DK: Jungle Climber (DS)

Before Donkey Kong Country Returns returned Donkey Kong into a more traditional platforming role, Nintendo put its great ape through a vast array of experiments. From rhythm games to action-platformers where the beats of a bongo drum determined the movements of DK, there was a lot of variety to be had.

Nintendo didn't just deliver one atypical DK experience on a handheld but two. The first was DK: King of Swing, a game where the L and R buttons served as Donkey Kong's left and right hands. You alternated between the two to climb peg-filled walls to progress through levels. Donkey Kong Country enemies like Kritters, Zingers, and Neckys returned to the spotlight for a DKC-like adventure with totally different rules. The second game was a direct sequel for the Nintendo DS, DK: Jungle Climber. Both games are without a doubt worth a look and need to be played just to appreciate how well they were designed. They might not have been the true Donkey Kong Country games fans wanted at that time, but they're well worth playing regardless.

Kirby - Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble (GBC)

Speaking of characters who have been through a lot of experimentation, Kirby is no stranger to differing and varying gameplay styles. One game he's stuck in a pinball table, another you're controlling ten different Kirby characters like a super cute army of doom!

Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble wasn't just a totally different gameplay experience; it was a totally different way to play in general. Through gyroscope technology within the Game Boy Color cartridge, you tilted, twisted, and turned the Game Boy system to move Kirby around a world of sky-high mazes filled with holes, traps, and obstacles. A Game Boy Advance sequel was once in the works a decade ago, but that, sadly, never came into fruition. You'll read more about that in a special article I have planned for next week!

Mega Man - Mega Man 7 (SNES)

All of the non-NES-style Classic Mega Man games could possibly be considered underrated, but I'm just going to stick with one of the games for now, and that is Mega Man 7 on the Super Nintendo. Using a larger sprite for the Blue Bomber meant that there was less real estate on screen for enemies and obstacles. However, I argue that Mega Man 7 is a splendid effort for everyone's favorite Robot Master butt-kicking machine. It had plenty of side content, level design with hidden areas to discover and enjoy, and a soundtrack that is considerably catchy. Mega Man 7 also happens to contain what I consider the most difficult final Dr. Wily encounter in series history.

Ratchet & Clank - Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (PS3)

While several recent Ratchet & Clank games have severely missed the mark and are rated poorly (rightfully so), the newest in the franchise, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, is a like bite-size treat for fans of the lovable lombax and witty robot pair. The frame-rate isn't always the greatest, the game may be a bit brief, and it doesn't compare to Going Commando or Up Your Arsenal, but Into the Nexus is indeed a right step for the franchise. It contained plenty of humorous moments, awesome new gadgets, gorgeous locations and locales to explore, and a Challenge Mode that kept me coming back multiple times. While I do await a new, full-length adventure for Ratchet and his biggest bud Clank, Into the Nexus was a terrific appetizer to chew on while I, and many other fans, wait.

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