Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Top Ten Best Fourth Entries

It's August the 4th, so today SuperPhillip Central is getting into the numbered spirit and counting down the best of the best when it comes to fourth entries in gaming franchises. Most game series are lucky to even get a sequel nowadays, so reaching the fourth entry of a franchise is quite special. What's even more special are these ten fourth entries that are the ones that did their respective series the proudest. After you've taken a look at SPC's choices, feel free to contribute your own favorite fourth entries that may have been left off this list.

10) Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

A remake of the original Castlevania, Super Castlevania IV took the series into new territory with 16-bit graphics, stunning Mode 7 visuals, eight way attacking with hero Simon Belmont's whip, as well as the ability to block projectiles and swing from certain rings with the weapon. Through the 11 level game, the classic Castlevania formula was molded to a perfect design. If you're looking for the best of the classic Castlevania formula (i.e. the non-Metroid style games), then Super Castlevania IV is an easy pick to choose.

9) Mega Man X4 (PS1, SAT)

It was tough deciding between this game and Mega Man 4, but I ultimately went with Mega Man X4 due to it being a grander evolution of the franchise. This is mostly due to it being the first Mega Man X game on 32-bit hardware, the original PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Offering eight more cleverly designed Maverick levels, two unique stories and the first opportunity to play as X's friend Zero for 100% of the game, Mega Man X4 gave players an exciting and adrenaline-pumping ride through its multiple levels, begging them to play through the game multiple times to see and collect all the game had to offer.

8) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (ARC, SNES)

One of the greatest cooperative arcade games I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, Turtles in Time, the fourth game in Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of games, brought with it stellar gameplay, multiple levels to bash Foot Soldiers in, powerful bosses that required learning their attack patterns, and the ability to launch foes into the screen (at least in the Super Nintendo home version). The Super Nintendo port was special because it played so faithfully to the arcade game, and you didn't need to leech off your mom or dad's supply of quarters to continue playing.

7) Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

The final part of Solid Snake and the Patriots' story, Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots took the Metal Gear Solid into a new futuristic direction with new mechanics like an over-the-shoulder view for firing weapons, OctoCamo for more competent stealth capabilities, and a Psyche Meter, which if it depleted too much, would affect Solid Snake negatively in combat. While the story itself wasn't perfect, offering some cringe-inducing moments, overall the story of Solid Snake and the Patriots was concluded in a respectable and creative manner. It only makes the wait for Metal Gear Solid V that much harder.

6) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS (Wii U, 3DS)

Masahiro Sakurai actually considers Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and for 3DS to be separate entries, the fourth and fifth. However, since there's no telling which he considers the fourth and the fifth (is the 3DS version the fourth? The fifth?), I'm including both on this list. I consider this edition of Super Smash Bros. to be the best yet. The game's fighting mechanics don't stray too far on either side of the competitive spectrum that it alienates either the hardcore fighting community or casual players. What it does offer outside of balanced gameplay is a slew of modes, great online play, an abundance of characters and stages, and enough Nintendo love to make the staunchest of Nintendo fans smile.

5) Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Back in 1991, both Final Fantasy II and III had been passed up for localization. Thus, when Final Fantasy IV came to the West, it was numbered as Final Fantasy II, as it was the second Final Fantasy game released here. That minor history lesson aside, Final Fantasy IV brought with it an epic story with more dimensional characters than had been previously seen, an "Active Time Battle" system used in fights to keep players from idling to long when making tactical battle decisions, and a masterful soundtrack by the incomparable Nobuo Uematsu. While I wouldn't consider Final Fantasy IV the best Final Fantasy on the SNES, it is still a magnificent and magical title worth playing. Definitely one of my favorites in the franchise.

4) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Multi)

Taking the Call of Duty franchise away from World War II and into modern times, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the game in the series to put the Call of Duty name near the top of the AAA heap. Although it didn't particularly innovate on the first-person shooter genre, it did refine its gameplay to awesome heights, offering tight controls, a compelling single player campaign, and a multiplayer that kept players coming back for more years after its initial release.

3) Street Fighter IV (Multi)

Similar to the transition between Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III, it seemed like we were doomed to spin-offs and expansions of Street Fighter III, never quite reaching an all-new entry in the series. Then the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 generation came along and lo and behold, Capcom gave us Street Fighter IV. Using fully 3D models as opposed to the 2D sprites of past games, new Ultra Moves, and a new system known as Focus Attacks, the current latest in the Street Fighter series (until the PS4 and PC's Street Fighter V, of course) rocked the arcade and fighting game scene for good reason. It was an excellent fighter.

2) Resident Evil 4 (Multi)

Sometimes viewed in a negative light for turning the formerly horror Resident Evil series into a more action-packed AAA blockbuster series, we'll just be noting Resident Evil 4 for being a fantastically designed game. The pacing is near pitch perfect, offering a pace that is absolutely unmatched. I believe Resident Evil 4 is a grand mix and near perfect balance of survival horror and action. There is a reason that so many shooters following Resident Evil 4's wake have taken so much inspiration from the game and still do. It's one of gaming's greatest in more ways than one.

1) Super Mario World (SNES)

The number one pick for the best fourth entry in gaming history is Super Mario World, actually known partly as Super Mario Bros. 4 in its native homeland of Japan. The game introduced the series to 16-bits, a whole new world to explore in Dinosaur Land, brought along with it a world map with dozens of secret exits in levels to find, and brought to gaming everyone's favorite Koopa-gobbling dinosaur, Yoshi. Super Mario World is one of the best video games in the history of the medium, and whether one prefers it to Super Mario Bros. 3 or not is a moot point, as this fourth Super Mario Bros. game delivers time and time again, perfect for repeat playing.

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