Thursday, August 20, 2015

Greatness Comes in Threes: Best Trilogies in Gaming - Part Two

The trilogy-- in movies it's a common occurrence with hugely successful blockbusters whether it's Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Toy Story, or Back to the Future. Trilogies are also pretty common in gaming as well, but at the same token, an actual good trilogy is a completely different matter. This new article series details some of the very best trilogies that our hobby and industry have been able to create in its much shorter lifespan. This second edition (the first was seen last week) deals with more recent trilogies both official and unofficial.

The Uncharted Trilogy

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3)

Naughty Dog changed drastically from its cartoon mascot Crash Bandicoot games on the original PlayStation (that trilogy was covered last week). Now, the studio is more focused on making games interactive experiences that rival big Hollywood blockbusters. Whether that's a good direction or not for video games to emulate Hollywood and not try to be its own medium is an argument for another day. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune introduced Nathan Drake, not really an everyman, as he has some freakish physical strength, as shown by his ability to seamlessly climb cliff sides, leap over large chasms, and perform other acrobatics that would make an Olympian jealous. The greatest in the current trilogy, Among Thieves, dialed up the action sevenfold, brought with it a more well balanced and enjoyable campaign, and delivered some incredible multiplayer. Uncharted 3 released years later, though while it's a better game than the original, it failed to live up to Uncharted 2 in the gameplay and campaign department. Still, the Uncharted trilogy is one of the PlayStation brand's strongest, and for good reason-- it's an adventure like no other.

The God of War Trilogy

God of War (PS2)
God of War II (PS2)
God of War III (PS3)

Join Kratos on his journey of redemption and revenge with the God of War trilogy. While his character becomes much less sympathetic as the series goes on, it's always mad fun to beat the living hell out of centaurs, cyclopses, harpies, and other foes from Greek mythology. The original saw the story of Kratos being tricked by the current God of War Ares into slaying his loved ones, and going to get revenge on the god. God of War II saw Zeus stripping Kratos of the powers he inherited from Ares at the end of the original game and savagely killing Kratos, sending him to Hades. Both God of War II and III see Kratos on a perilous adventure through rooms of enemies, platforming challenges, big bosses, and tricky puzzles in order to get revenge on Zeus and the gods that stand in his way. God of War as a series delivers epic battles and set pieces, a brilliant combat system that is accessible enough for beginners but deep enough for more experienced players to unleash massive combos on foes, and superb level design that makes the entire game a joy to explore.

The Grand Theft Auto PS2 Trilogy

Grand Theft Auto III (PS2, XBX)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, XBX)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XBX)

The original pair of Grand Theft Auto games are worth mentioning for starting the series, but they featured an overhead perspective. It wasn't until the franchise's first full foray into 3D with its first PlayStation 2 entry, Grand Theft Auto III, that the series started gaining huge amounts of popularity. It was a revolutionary game and set the standard for many crime-based open world games set in a city. Vice City took the franchise to the 1980s, offering a time warp that felt genuine, as well as a more relate-able protagonist, voiced by the great Ray Liotta. Jetting around the neon metropolis of Vice City with classic '80s music blaring from your vehicle's stereo speakers was always an awesome experience. San Andreas then came, delivering a fantastic gang story, character customization, and a then-unprecedented world to explore with three unique large cities, a robust countryside and desert to explore, and just an amazing, living, breathing place to journey and tool around in. San Andreas remains my favorite GTA game, though going through GTA V currently might take its place.

The Final Fantasy PS1 Trilogy

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
Final Fantasy VIII (PS1)
Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

An unofficial trilogy, but every generation starting with the one where the Final Fantasy series debuted up until the PS2 generation, there were three mainline Final Fantasy games released. What I consider the greatest generation of Final Fantasy games (although the SNES games very seriously rival it, but that's a subject for another edition) is the PlayStation trio, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Final Fantasy VII is one of the most popular Final Fantasy games in existence, being the one that a lot of players started with first, or it was the one that had the most impact for players as it was the first 3D Final Fantasy. Sure, the LEGO-like characters outside of cutscenes didn't really look good even for the time, but the gameplay, story, and battle systems are top tier to this day. Final Fantasy VIII is the black sheep of the PS1 Final Fantasy trilogy, using a junction and draw system that many didn't care for. However, it did bring us one of the best mini-games in gaming history, the massively addicting collectible card game Triple Triad. Lastly, Final Fantasy IX went back to a more medieval world with characters that resembled a fairy tale instead of the realistic approach VII and VIII went with. While battles take a while to load, which is a shame, the game is overall the unsung star of the PlayStation Final Fantasy trio of games.

The Metroid Prime Trilogy

Metroid Prime (GCN)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GCN)
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Retro Studios was hurting in a big way trying to bring Metroid into 3D. A trip to the studio by Shigeru Miyamoto did wonders for the project. When the final game released, Metroid Prime, gamers like myself, the same ones who doubted the ability of this young studio and whether Metroid could would in first-person, were blown away by how amazing the game was. Putting a game series with a deep history and ties to 2D and implementing it into a 3D one is already a difficult task. Retro Studios successfully did so with Metroid and not only that, but made one of the best games of all time, if I may be so bold. The sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, added a light and dark world mechanic, doubling the amount of exploration involved and creating some clever design tricks between worlds. The game also introduced multiplayer that would be the basis for the Nintendo DS Metroid title Metroid Prime Hunters. When the series jumped to the Nintendo Wii, Corruption introduced absolutely stellar pointer controls with the Wii Remote which still is my preferred way to play first-person games for maximum fun factor. The whole trilogy was later released on one disc as, coincidentally enough, the Metroid Prime Trilogy, offering the same Wii Remote functionality for all three games. If you don't want to pony up the high amount of money for a complete version of the original disc and box on Wii, you can download the trilogy on the Wii U.

The Sly Cooper Trilogy

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PS2)
Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2)
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (PS2)

We started this edition of Best Trilogies in Gaming with a what could be described as a thief (but a handsome and dignified one), so let's conclude this edition with another, although an anthropomorphic one in the form of a raccoon, Sly Cooper. The Sly Cooper trilogy on the PlayStation 2 from Infamous developer Sucker Punch, showed brilliant stealth gameplay, fast paced and prized platforming, and a universe of lovable characters. The first Sly Cooper is my personal favorite, as the latter two introduced an open world hub that made the games more Grand Theft Auto in mission design that the linear platforming levels of the original. That isn't to say the second and third games are bad by any stretch of the imagination, though. My personal order of favorite Sly Cooper games on the PS2 starts with the original, then goes in the order of release. Sly 3 brought with it more mini-games than I would have liked that replaced a lot of the platforming goodness the other two games had. Still, the trilogy is a wonderful one for any 3D platforming fan. Speaking of which, definitely check out Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time on the PlayStation 3 and Vita. It's not made by Sucker Punch, but it's a highly competent platforming adventure.

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