Wednesday, April 5, 2017

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Ten

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 nine (it's amazing that we've reached the tenth installment!), 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 long-running series, check them out here:

Paper Mario - Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)

Our first game has come up quite a lot in the past month here at SuperPhillip Central, whether it's underrated games with even more underrated soundtracks or Wii U games I'd like to see get a second chance on the Nintendo Switch. There are very good reasons for this. Paper Mario: Color Splash might not have been what fans of the turn-based antics of the series wanted, but if you make peace with Color Splash not being a typical RPG, then you'll find a game that was charming to its very core, a game that possessed insanely clever dialogue, a game with enjoyable puzzles to solve, and a game with battles that, unlike its predecessor Sticker Star, actually were worthwhile to engage in. It being released so late in the Wii U's life made Paper Mario: Color Splash a game that many gamers overlooked as their attention turned to the Switch.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sonic Riders (PS2, GCN, XBX)

It's no secret that Sonic the Hedgehog's transition to 3D from his 2D roots has not been an easy one. That's putting it lightly. However, there are various 3D Sonic games that play rather well and some are even fantastic. Several spin-off games featuring the blue blur are also quite good or at least serviceable. That is what the hoverboard racer Sonic Riders is, a game that released during the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox generation of gaming platforms. With three types of hoverboards: speed, power, and air, players could use each hoverboard type's specific specialty to take shortcuts and paths that other hoverboard types couldn't. The roster of racers was a wonderful combination of well known Sonic friends as well as some surprising SEGA stars, and the races were fast paced and loads of fun. It all added up to a speedy supersonic racer fitting for the blue hedgehog.

Ratchet & Clank - Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2)

Make no mistake that while I feel Ratchet: Deadlocked is an inferior game to the preceding Ratchet & Clank trilogy of PlayStation games due to its focus on pure shooting over platforming, multiplayer, and needless desire to be darker, the game remains an entertaining third-person shooter with much of the charm the series is known for. Deadlocked began with Ratchet, Clank, and gadget-maker Al being abducted and forced to compete in an interstellar deathmatch with their survival on the line. Missions were decently varied, though they could have used a little less repetition, and the controls were as tight as ever. Shooting felt fun, and while the story was darker (for some reason both Naughty Dog and Insomniac felt their respective platforming franchises needed to be edgier, totally losing the plot of why the games were popular in the first place), the humor of the series was maintained. Ratchet: Deadlocked was a nice break for the tried and true formula established for the Ratchet & Clank series and ended up being entertaining.

Metal Gear - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)

After several games taking on a different gameplay approach than most Metal Gear Solid fans were used to, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops returned to the classic action-stealth gameplay that made the series such a well known quantity. Working well with the portable approach of the PSP, the game is divided up between bite-size missions, requiring the player to not only recruit allies but also to form squads. Each soldier had their own highs and lows in what they could contribute to the squad, such as some being better at providing intel to the squad than others who might be more proficient at healing ailing squad members. Due to it being on a handheld with struggling software sales (at least in the West) instead of on a home console, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops isn't as popular as other entries in the Metal Gear mythos, but don't be like a tranquilized soldier and sleep on this game, as it's quite the action-packed, squad-based superstar.

Castlevania - Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (PSN, XBLA)

From one Konami-owned property to another, we move on from Metal Gear and look towards the Gothic would of Castlevania. Like Portable Ops, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair sported an atypical approach to its mother series. This time around the game focused on multiplayer to be done in short bursts. Harmony of Despair offered a handful of levels each with multiple rooms to fight enemies and find items in, all ending in a boss to take out. While the Xbox Live Arcade version strictly limited multiplayer to online, the PlayStation 3 version offered both online and local multiplayer. Sure, Harmony of Despair wasn't a traditional Castlevania by any stretch of the imagination, but with so many entries prior to this one emulating Symphony of the Night, it was nice to have a change for once.

Resident Evil - Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii, PS3)

Light gun and on-rails games generally don't amass a lot of content, but that changed with the duo of Resident Evil games in that style for the Wii and later the PS3. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles made multiple changes from its predecessor, The Umbrella Chronicles, and these improved the experience, such as having players have their own separate health bars, giving players an easier time at nailing head shots, and full customization of weapons. The game featured multiple scenarios, from familiar stories like a retelling of Resident Evil 2 and an abridged version of Resident Evil: Code Veronica's events to two scenarios starring Leon Kennedy and Jack Krauser from Resident Evil 4 based in South America that reveal how Krauser turned on his country and gave into Umbrella. There is a lot of stuff to do in The Darkside Chronicles and the challenge is great enough to make for a super satisfying rail shooter worthy of any fan of Resident Evil or the genre in general.

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