Wednesday, June 13, 2018

All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries - Part Twelve

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 eleventh 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:

Marvel vs. Capcom - Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC)

This first game represented on All-Star Franchises, Underrated Entries stirred up quite a bit of controversy with how it was presented and how it was handled by both Marvel and Capcom. Missing key characters to its roster due to difficulties on Marvel's side of the equation and having a sterile presentation overall, there was a good amount to find troubling about the newest installment of Marvel vs. Capcom. However, the actual fighting game systems incorporated into the game still showed Capcom knew how to make a fighter and an engaging one at that. The new Infinity Stones mechanic, more accessible controls, and welcomed Story Mode made Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite a better game than a lot of players give it credit for. That said, next time how about teaming up for a crossover fighting game with a company that has less of a stick up its butt, huh, Capcom?

Monster Hunter - Monster Hunter Stories (3DS)

Releasing near the end of the Nintendo 3DS's time in the spotlight meant that your game would more than likely get overlooked by the gaming public. That was the case with Monster Hunter Stories, a game that served as a traditional RPG-styled spin-off for the Monster Hunter series. Not only did you fight alongside and did battle with monsters, but you also collected eggs to hatch and acquire new teammates in the form of stronger beasts and monsters alike. The rock-paper-scissors-like combat system kept you on your toes in battle, and the story involved, albeit far more family-friendly than what one usually gets from Monster Hunter, was something that could keep players enthralled from beginning to end in this 40 hour+ adventure. Throw in a wide abundance of quests both main and side to take on, and you have a Monster Hunter spin-off that deserves to be played by more people.

God of War - God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)

The first God of War on the PlayStation Portable, Chains of Olympus, saw much success in the critical and commercial fields. The followup, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, was met with less in both categories. Although Ghost of Sparta brought a lot of familiarity from past games into the fold, it also brought forth a stirring story featuring Kratos's brother that served as an interesting look at an otherwise one-note character (well, that was until this year's God of War, of course). The same enjoyable hack and slash combat, occasional platforming, and crafty puzzles that the series was known for made an appearance in Ghost of Sparta, and running on the small PSP hardware remains a fascinating concept. Being able to play another traditional God of War on a handheld--with no sacrifices made--was amazing at the time, and Ghost of Sparta remains an amazing game.

Kirby - Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64)

Kirby's Nintendo 64 platforming adventure was and still is an atypical one for the series. Levels incorporated the Nintendo 64's main selling point, 3D, to create 2.5D platforming worlds to explore, suck up foes, and absorb their abilities. Speaking of which, this was handled differently as well compared to other Kirby games, allowing the pink puffball to throw his currently equipped copy ability at foes and combine them to create an all-new ability. This meant that Kirby's arsenal of copy abilities was at one of his highest in any previous game in the series. The addition of the collectible titular crystal shards brought with it more longevity and replay value than your typical Kirby game. From its wonderfully crafted 2.5D worlds that possessed pathways that could twist and turn around themselves to the innovative mechanic of combining copy abilities, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a terrific entry in the Kirby franchise that doesn't get as much love as I think it needs for two reasons: 1) It released at the tail end of the N64's life, and 2) It can be hard tracking down a used copy for a reasonable price. Thankfully, past Virtual Console releases have helped with giving Kirby 64 a second chance to shine as brightly as the shards of the crystal he's out to collect.

Pikmin - Hey! Pikmin (3DS)

I mentioned Monster Hunter Stories previously as a Nintendo 3DS game that launched in the system's waning years. Hey! Pikmin was another, a spin-off in the cult classic Pikmin series that took on a different, unfamiliar form to fans of the franchise. Hey! Pikmin was a game that essentially brought the classic gameplay of the series and transplanted it into a 2D side-scroller. Captain Olimar could still gather Pikmin, though this time only up to 20, guide them through enemy and puzzle-filled levels as they searched for treasure and each level's goal. The game offered a robust amount of content and things to do: such as beating each level without losing a single Pikmin, collecting all of the treasure in a level, finding secret exits in levels to reach bonus ones, and taking on colossal bosses in fierce battles. Hey! Pikmin wasn't exactly the game that fans of the series wanted, but it was a welcome edition to the series and its lore that put a wonderful spin and fresh take on the Pikmin franchise.

Ridge Racer - Ridge Racer 3D (3DS)

Ready to race? A lot of Nintendo 3DS owners at launch definitely were, but when people talk about great entries in the Ridge Racer franchise, most look towards Ridge Racer Type-4, Ridge Racer 7, or heck, even the PSP entries of the long-running racing series. One that seems to get overlooked in these discussions is the excellent Nintendo 3DS launch title Ridge Racer 3D. It was essentially a compilation of the best in the franchise, featuring a robust roster of cars, tracks, and adrenaline-inducing races and race types. Ridge Racer 3D put players at the back of the line at the start of each race with the goal of overtaking all adversaries in front of you and hopefully crossing the finish line in first. The drifting in Ridge Racer 3D felt as good as ever, and the 3D effect that entered the fold was surreal and astounding at the time. The game was loaded with things to unlock, races to compete in, and modes to participate in. The lack of online play surely hurt, but it didn't overall bring the entire experience down to an immense enough degree that Ridge Racer 3D wasn't worth playing.

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