Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Nine

If you've been around SuperPhillip Central for a little while (it's still 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 since part eight, I've come up with six more underrated entries to big-time franchises, some bigger than others. If you'd like to see past parts of this now long-running series, check them out here:

Mario Kart - Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

After the original Super Mario Kart essentially created a new genre with the mascot kart racer, after Mario Kart 64 took the franchise into uncharted territory with 3D, and after Mario Kart's debut on a handheld with Super Circuit, the Mario Kart series needed something special with its GameCube outing to make it stand out from the pack. Nintendo met that challenge with Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, a racer that innovated with the addition of two racers per kart, able to switch on the fly when strategy called for it. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! isn't as acclaimed by fans or critics as much as other Mario Kart games out there, but rest assured, it's a wonderful entry in the series, bringing forth 16 stellar new races, such as DK Mountain, Daisy Cruiser, and the always crazy and entertaining Baby Park. 

Donkey Kong - Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN)

Before Nintendo EAD went on to create one of the highest-rated games of all time with Super Mario Galaxy, the team crafted an innovative platforming adventure starring Donkey Kong known as Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat. The innovation came from the use of a bongo controller that came packaged with the game, where hitting the left bongo would move DK left, the right bongo would move DK right, and clapping (or you can alternately hit the rim of the controller) would attack enemies. Using all these inputs in tandem would allow players to exhaust a myriad of high-numbered combos, increasing DK's banana count and score in each pair of levels, followed by a traditional boss battle or a Punch-Out-styled Kong encounter. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat would get a Wii enhancement, ditching the bongo controller for the shaking of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

Banjo-Kazooie - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360)

Some fans of Banjo and his always cheeky partner Kazooie see Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts as the death of the franchise. Others see it as an extension of the formula with the same level of humor, charm, and wit the series is known for, just put in a vehicle-styled setting. Nuts & Bolts departed greatly from the standard foundation that Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie before it had laid down, offering missions in open world landscapes based off of using custom-constructed vehicles to achieve various goals. The fun wasn't just completing these goals for a Jiggy reward, but also seeing just how many ways you could go about accomplishing the same task. While Nuts & Bolts is decidedly not the direction most Banjo-Kazooie fans would have liked the series to go in, or even have the bear and bird attached to the game, for what it is, Nuts & Bolts is a terrific title.

The Legend of Zelda - The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

The Nintendo DS saw Nintendo selling almost as many of its dual-screened system as the PlayStation 2 did in its lifetime. Quite the achievement. It also saw the arrival of a focus on touch-based controls and the utilization of both of the system's screens. While not every DS game used either or both marketed features of the system, The Legend of Zelda franchise was one that did. Instead of using traditional analog controls like every other Zelda before it, Phantom Hourglass used all touch. From moving Link around to attacking foes, the touch screen was the central focus here. It made some tools like the Boomerang really intuitive, and while the rest of the controls took some learning, once the curve was met, they were wildly entertaining and worthwhile. I choose Phantom Hourglass over Spirit Tracks, the game's successor, due to one particular dungeon that requires multiple revisits, being a source of tedium for many a player. While that's a frustrating part of the game, overall, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a superb entry in the long-running franchise.

Kirby - Kirby: Mass Attack (DS)

Another Nintendo DS that focuses on touch, Kirby: Mass Attack is the fourth and final game in the series that arrived on the system. The first, Canvas Curse, had players moving Kirby through side-scrolling levels with the power of touch and through drawing lines to guide the pink puffball around. Mass Attack features a totally different method of using touch-- using it to guide a team of up to ten Kirbys through levels by tapping the screen, creating a star that the Kirby squadron can follow and even grab onto. There's also the ability to flick Kirbys into enemies and obstacles to clear stages. Being a late release on the Nintendo DS and the fourth Kirby game on the system, Kirby: Mass Attack didn't receive as much fanfare as the other three Kirby releases on the DS before it. It's a "mass"-ive shame, as the game is a intuitive, innovative, and entertaining delight that plays unlike any other platformer on the system.

Breath of Fire - Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter (PS2)

Previous Breath of Fire games featured many elements borrowed from other RPGs of the day, specifically Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, the two titans of RPGs back then. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 2's Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter eschewed many of the traditions of the series with a story told in an underground industrial world, where the goal was to reach the surface through defeating enemies, collecting keys, and doing one's best to stay alive. Repeated play-throughs of the game were recommended due to the story not being fully available through just one run through Dragon Quarter. The drastic departure of Dragon Quarter compared to past Breath of Fire games put off a lot of players, specifically those with a deep connection to the games, but those willing to give Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter a chance will discover a game highly worthy of playing and investing some time into.

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