Friday, January 12, 2018

First Things First: Best Openings in Gaming - Part Five

It only seems apropos that the first non-weekly article series to be posted on SuperPhillip Central in 2018 is First Things First, as this series of articles celebrates the best video game openings from our hobby's past and present. We're on a bit of a hand-drawn kick with Part Five's game and opening selections. From modern takes on old classics like Sonic Mania, to a handful of PS1 classics, this edition of First Things First: Best Openings in Gaming has some very good stuff on offer!

Take a look at past parts of this ongoing article series and then tell me in the comments which games you think SuperPhillip Central is missing so far.

Best Openings in Gaming - Part One
Best Openings in Gaming - Part Two
Best Openings in Gaming - Part Three
Best Openings in Gaming - Part Four

Sonic Mania (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Sonic Mania's opening video captures the brilliance that was the Sonic CD opening with a familiar intro, showing off some fantastic animation with crystal clear HD visuals. Starting with a ride up an elevator, our three heroes get pumped and primed to let loose, wild, and free in a white space of impressive geometry, bouncing springs, beautiful vistas, and twisting paths -- and all doing it with that signature Genesis-era attitude that old school Sonic fans adore. To see such an opening was also seeing the preview of the awesomeness that Sonic Mania's actual gameplay content had in store. Maybe we'll be seeing some nominations and potential awards for Sonic Mania during this month's SuperPhillip Central Best of 2017 Awards...!

Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 (PS2)

Back in the day, we didn't have any fancy schmancy Dragon Ball Super that continued the adventures of Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Piccolo, et. al. No, sirs and madams, we had Dragon Ball GT to endure, and Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 was the game that shoved a lot of the characters and designs from that series down our throats. However, we did get an amazing array of Dragon Ball series-related games around that time, sort of the golden years, if you will. Packed with characters and a love letter to Dragon Ball Z fans, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 emanated quality for both casual fighting game fans and lovers of Saiyans, Namekians, and Earthlings alike. The whole fun, fighting game begins with this introductory cutscene, capturing the essence and spirit of the source material remarkably. Note: The Japanese version is the one represented, but the North American version is great as well. It just features an instrumental rendition of the opening theme.

Wild Arms: Alter Code F (PS2)

First Things First originally saw the Wild Arms series in its very first edition with the debut of the series on the original PlayStation. Now, we turn to the remake of that game -- at least its opening. While not as powerful as the original Wild Arms' opening cutscene, Alter Code F still provides some honest emotion, particularly revolving around that red balloon wafting in the wind and the final scene viewed in the movie at a massive pile of brick and kindling that once was the castle and kingdom of Adlehyde. The new party members in this edition of Wild Arms also are provided time to shine as well. Like I said, it doesn't beat out the original Wild Arms (and that's somewhat due to my own nostalgia towards the game and its opening), but the introduction movie to Alter Code F does the job well all the same.

Chrono Trigger (PS1)

Speaking of the work of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, let's move on to our next game. With the launch of the PlayStation and the ability to use CDs instead of limited capacity cartridges, developers were able to put a lot more data into their games. Not only was the ability to produce richer sound available to devs, but so was the ability to add video. One of my favorite aspects of the PS1 was the introduction of anime cutscenes and how prevalent they were in Japanese games. This was seen even in ports brought over from past platforms, specifically the Super Nintendo. Chrono Trigger was one of these games, and to see so many familiar sights from a game many played in their youth in cutscene form as older and wiser gamers, it was a memorable experience. Akira Toriyama's work from Chrono Trigger was masterfully animated and colored to such rich detail. Then, you have composer Yasunori Mitsuda's theme for the game playing over the footage. It's a familiar yet totally new look at the world of Chrono Trigger, all done in but one, single opening movie.

Mega Man X5 (PS1)

Mega Man X5 was essentially the culmination of the X sub-series of Mega Man games. It was to be the conclusion of the story until Capcom saw its sales as a positive result and pushed for more games featuring X and Zero. The opening of Mega Man X5 is a lot more meaningful with the idea that no more Mega Man X games were going to be made, but it still leaves a nostalgic impact nonetheless. By showing quick glimpses of battles fought in past Mega Man X games, such as X versus Sigma and the villain's trusty attack dog in X1, X battling Serges, Agile, and Violen in Mega Man X2, and Zero dueling with Colonel from X4 -- these moments reminded players of the hard fought battles, victories, as well as losses taken in the war against Sigma and his Mavericks. Everything was on the line story-wise with Mega Man X5, and this cool opening movie helped to hammer that point home.

Jet Force Gemini (N64)

While the PlayStation had its higher capacity compact discs for the addition of better sound and the better implementation of video, the Nintendo 64 didn't have as much capabilities sticking with cartridges. That said, loading times were limited on N64 games. Let's do away with this tech talk, as that bores me! Onto the last game opening of Part Five of First Things First with a non-anime/non-hand-drawn introductory movie! Rare made a ton of amazing games on the Nintendo 64, but some aren't as widely talked about, such as Blast Corps for one, and this game, Jet Force Gemini. This sci-fi epic sees Mizar's insectoid army ambush the peace-loving Tribals as well as Team Jet Force Gemini's ship. The trio of heroes: Juno, Vela, and Lupus escape to their individual escape pods, being flung across the galaxy at opposite corners. You damn, dirty ants! Juno, Vela, and Lupus are about to take the fight right to Mizar's home turf as payback!

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