By dankempster 4 Comments
Hey guys. Time for part three of my Top 30 Games list!
20. Second Sight
PlayStation 2 (2004)I'm fairly certain this will come as a surprise to most readers. Second Sight went undetected by quite a few gamers, probably due to it not being quite so well-hyped by the media as developer Free Radical's TimeSplitters series. It was on this basis that I picked it up, although I wasn't quite sure what to expect given Free Radical had previously focused on FPS games. I was surprised to discover that Second Sight was not only a successful departure from what Free Radical did best, but also an outstanding game in its own right. The story was well-written and well-realised, to the point where it could have been crafted by a well-known writer of supernatural thrillers. It stays with me to this day as one of the best video game stories I've experienced - surprising considering the TimeSplitters games have always been lacking in the story department. The gameplay was also refreshing, employing psychic powers in order to provide a twist on the standard mix of stealth and shooting. Graphically the game still holds up well, with Free Radical's distinctive art style carried over from TimeSplitters giving the game its own unique personality. Sure, the physics were a bit janky at times, and the stealth stuff was a little irksome, but Second Sight was on the whole an incredible action game, thoroughly deserving of its spot on this list.
19. Spyro: Year of the Dragon
PlayStation (2000)I used to be a huge fan of Spyro. You wouldn't know it from looking at him now, but there was a time when the little purple dragon was the PlayStation's hottest property. The peak of the series' brilliance, for me, is best illustrated by the third instalment - Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The game took everything that was great about Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer and amplified it to the point of near-perfection. The mission-based level structure was unlike anything else in platforming at the time, rewarding players for completing tasks while other games like the Crash series were still relying on the "find-the-object-hidden-in-the-level" method. The 150 eggs you had to find ensured plenty of mileage out of the game, and the activities required to win these eggs ranged from skateboarding, to hoverboard races, to shooting mini-games, to ice hockey, and many more. It also introduced new playable characters for the first time in the series, including a kangaroo, a military penguin, a secret agent monkey, and even Spyro's dragonfly buddy, Sparx. Each of these characters differed enough from Spyro to warrant different playing styles, without sacrificing the essence of the game itself. Year of the Dragon looked gorgeous, making the most of the PlayStation's limited hardware, and to top it all off was another stellar musical score delivered by Stewart Copeland. This is my mum's favourite game of all time, and it's easily one of mine, too.
18. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
GameCube (2003)If memory serves me correctly, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was my first proper Zelda game. I'd dabbled with a couple of the GameBoy games before, but I'd never seriously sat down to play a Zelda game before Wind Waker. That was probably a good thing, because it meant I went into it with no apprehension about the graphical style, and no real expectations relating to Ocarina of Time. As a result, I found Wind Waker to be an exhilirating ride from start to finish, with buckets of style, awesome characters and a compelling story. The gameplay was incredibly strong, with some expertly-designed dungeons and truly memorable boss fights breaking up the overworld exploration (which was also awesome - exploring the seas in search of new islands was always a blast). If anything makes Wind Waker stand out from the crowd, though, it's those cel-shaded graphics. The art style is one of the most memorable (and most impressive) of any game I've ever played, and it's one of the main reasons why I think I couldn't put the game down - I just didn't want to stop looking at it. I've since played Ocarina of Time, and while I do believe it's the better game, that could never negate the hours of fun I had with Wind Waker. There's just something about the way Wind Waker conducts itself (pardon the pun) that makes it the more memorable game in my eyes.
17. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
PlayStation (1997)I can still remember fairly vividly the day my dad unplugged the Mega Drive and wired up the family's shiny new PlayStation for the first time. It came with two games - Rayman, which only narrowly escaped a mention on this list, and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Crash Bandicoot 2 was, as a result of this, the first 3D game I ever played, and it's stuck with me to this very day as one of the best platformers for the original PlayStation. It didn't mess about with innovative new features. It simply took the winning gameplay from the original game, threw it into a new layout with five world hubs separated by boss battles, and added some shiny purple crystals for you to collect as an incentive for progress. Sure, there were some on-rails levels (who could forget that cute polar bear?), but for the most part it was unadulterated 3D platforming at its best. Crash 2 is also the game that I think best defines the series' unique sense of style and humour. From well-designed boss battles like Ripper Roo, Tiny Tiger and N. Gin, right down to the countless new death animations, the Crash universe really came into its own with the second game. There was even a pretty interesting plot going on, with Cortex deceiving Crash and manipulating him into collecting the crystals in order to use them for his own diabolical schemes. It's a shame the Crash series has become so saturated and bastardised now, but at least we have real gems like Cortex Strikes Back to look back on.
16. Tomb Raider
PlayStation (1996)I've always been a fan of the Tomb Raider series. With the exception of The Angel of Darkness, I've loved every instalment (yes, even that Chronicles game). But despite the major advancements the series has made over the years, it's the original game that has made it onto my list. Tomb Raider set the benchmark for the modern action/adventure game with its impressive (at the time) visuals, intriguing plot and sweeping scale. The gameplay was revolutionary for its time, offering the player large 3D environments to explore and incorporating a healthy mixture of simple combat and complex puzzle-solving. It was also crammed full of cinematic moments that have stayed in the minds of gamers the world over for years - from the penalty incurred for stepping on the hand of Midas, to first glimpsing the enormous Sphinx in the Egyptian levels, to the truly unforgettable Tyrannosaurus encounter in the Lost Valley. I remember playing this with my parents a lot, often helping them out when they became stuck by making that difficult jump or finding that elusive lever. The game is pretty much unplayable now to all but the most perseverant of gamers due to its archaic control scheme, which in some ways is a shame. It can be relived in the form of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a modern remake using the engine from Tomb Raider: Legend. Everybody who considers themselves a fan of the genre should at least check this out, though, to see both the origins of the concept and just how far it's come in the last thirteen years.
Thanks for reading, guys. Writing this list has really made me want to go back and play some of these games. If I weren't so engrossed in my second playthrough of Grand Theft Auto IV, I'd probably break out the PS2 and get stuck back into them. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the list, so please do comment. If you missed out on them, you can follow these links to parts one and two, which cover numbers 30 to 26 and 25 to 21 respectively. Be sure to check back tomorrow for part four, covering numbers 15 to 11. Once again, thanks for reading, and see you around.
Currently playing - Grand Theft Auto IV (X360)