Thursday, June 15, 2017

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Eleven

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 our tenth edition, 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:

BioShock - BioShock 2 (Multi)

Of the three major BioShock games released, BioShock 2 seems to be the least appreciated due to having so many similarities to its predecessor. Sure, returning to Rapture didn't cause as much excitement as the theatrics of seeing it for the first time and how that reveal was handled in the original BioShock, but the first-person shooting elements, playing as a prototype for a Big Daddy, and taking on hordes of psychotic human enemies made for an engaging and enjoyable campaign. We got to see an expansion of the ideas presented in the original BioShock, and again, while BioShock 2 did feel like retreading familiar ground, it's very much worthy of being a part of the exquisite BioShock trilogy.

Prince of Persia - Prince of Persia (2008) (PS3, 360, PC)

Prince of Persia's 2008 reboot brought with it equal amounts of freshness into the series and disappointment in regards to ending on a cliffhanger that will most likely never be resolved. The game's superb cel-shaded art style made it stand out from the crowd, especially in a gaming generation that was consumed by a lot of brown, grey, and dark colors when it released. With a partner in crime, each needing each other to get through the game's maze of chambers and pathways, the amount of ways the main character could use his agility and mobility to progress was astounding. Unfortunately, Prince of Persia as a franchise is back on hiatus after a series of low-selling entries, despite the 2008 offering being one truly fantastic title.

Donkey Kong - Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

Between being on a failed system and having so many Nintendo fans ticked off that Retro Studios' talents were somehow "wasted" on another Donkey Kong Country game, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was a mighty 2D platformer that stands tall as one of the greatest of the genre -- yes, even outdoing Rare's efforts, something I never thought I'd ever write. From its levels that bring a wide assortment of thematic obstacles and challenges together to form cohesive stages to its wild abundance of character and charm, it's an absolute shame that Tropical Freeze is currently stuck on the Wii U. More people need to play this amazing game that surpasses even many of the 2D platforming god, Mario's many exploits. No hyperbole either.

Pokemon - Pokemon Colosseum (GCN)

When people talk about Pokemon, most of the time they refer to or allude to the handheld releases. After all, that's where Nintendo and The Pokemon Company puts most of their releases in the series and where Pokemon originated. Some table scraps, if you will, have been thrown out to console owners, but most of the time if you want a Pokemon game, you better have one of Nintendo's handhelds. Pokemon Colosseum wasn't just a new console spin-off for the Nintendo GameCube, but it was also a full-blown adventure -- not to be confused with a traditional mainline Pokemon release. As Wes, you explored the Orre region, investigating a nefarious group known as Team Cipher who was corrupting Pokemon, turning them into Shadow Pokemon. Having an adventure-based Pokemon game with the traditional battles of the handheld games was a breath of fresh air for the franchise, and although it did well commercially for a GameCube release, few really talk about it nowadays. A shame, as it's really a worthwhile entry for a console Pokemon game.

Mega Man - Mega Man & Bass (GBA)

Originally released on the Super Famicom in Japan only, Western gamers finally got an official (see: legal) chance to play Mega Man & Bass, although it was on the smaller screen of the Game Boy Advance. This meant there was less room to see upcoming hazards unlike the fuller Super Famicom release. Regardless, the ability to play as either Mega Man or Bass (introduced in Mega Man 7), each with their own advantages and disadvantages, a challenging difficulty, multiple collectibles in the form of data discs featuring every Robot Master in past Mega Man games, and the same, fun, old Mega Man gameplay fans knew the series for made this 15th anniversary game a great one. Sure, I've never beaten the damn thing because it gets ridiculously hard after the initial eight Robot Masters are defeated, but Mega Man & Bass remains an enjoyable handheld romp, and an underrated Mega Man game in general.

Mario Party - Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS)

ND Cube is a collection of developers who used to work for Hudson Soft, making past Mario Party games. However, since ND Cube has taken over as developer of the Mario Party series, the quality of the games has been up and down (mostly down). That said, Mario Party: Island Tour for the Nintendo 3DS featured some of the most engaging and enjoyable mini-games as a whole in any Mario Party in history. Plus, the whole "let's all ride in one car" mechanic introduced in Mario Party 9 was gone. Instead, each of Island Tour's six boards (one of which was only available for 3-4 players) had a different objective to it with varied obstacles that got in the way of doing that. Whether it was playing cautiously by hiding in an alcove or chancing fate by being in the possible path of a Banzai Bill, or collecting as many Mini-Stars as possible before reaching the end of a board, each board gave some form of variation. Throw in some appealing bonus modes like a mini-game tower to unlock secret characters, and I feel that this Mario Party was unfairly criticized and spat on.

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