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Favorite Games Without Quick Looks

If I were a video producin' kinda guy, and I wanted (and were allowed, for that matter) to create some video content for Giant Bomb, my first port of call besides the usual LPs and Bombasticas would be belated Quick Looks for the following games to fill in some important (if only to me) gaps in the site's coverage. Giant Bomb has a small team (well, two small teams) and can't reliably cover everything in their busy schedules at the best of times, but in addition they also have a handful of blindspots with the most prominent being Japanese RPGs, and to a lesser extent - I can usually rely on Vinny, Alex or Brad to catch these - graphic adventure games and CRPGs: three of my favorite genres. There's also the handful of games that, for whatever reason, did not see a North American release but did see a European one. It'd be easy enough for Giant Bomb to miss those.

I've specifically chosen games for this list that came out after the Giant Bomb site as we know it formed in July 2008. Technically speaking, they "missed" every game release before then, so there's no point drawing from that immense catalog. In fact, I'm going to set the start point after the first Quick Look that ever went live on the site: The "Gamecock Demos Legendary" video, which appeared on August 27th 2008. I'm also excepting any games that appeared on TNT or UPF in lieu of a separate Quick Look.

If the next person Giant Bomb hires is a JRPG fan, I implore them to get some of these games the overdue attention they deserve. Just find a way to shoehorn it in between the wrestling and DOTA talk.

(P.S. #1: I was tempted to add Deadly Premonition on a technicality, since it never actually got a Quick Look, but I think the site has thoroughly chronicled the adventures of Agent Francis York Morgan (just call him York, everyone else does) in the sleepy burg of Greenvale.)

(P.S. #2: Please feel free to suggest your own favorite games without Quick Looks in the comments below, or make your own list and let me (or ZombiePie) know about it. I'd like to think I can keep up with current releases, but as Giant Bomb is my primary gaming site the chances are if they missed something, so did I. I'd love to hear about any forgotten gems you might know about, especially if they're from the three above genres.)

List items

  • (October 24th 2008 [EU]) This utterly absurd disaster survival game takes a few ideas from Irem's famous Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series, released over here as Disaster Report and Raw Danger, and embellishes them just a smidge with an entire 90s Blockbuster's store's worth of awful action movie clichés and overdramatic acting. It out-Kojimas Kojima in its adherence to sheer cinematic lunacy, and ties it all together with some moderately fun light-gun action, some terrible driving sequences and ZZT-style civilian rescue mini-games. It's a game I want Giant Bomb to experience one way or another, if not as a Quick Look then as something more long form. I particularly think Dan and Drew would get a kick out of this one, being the bad action movie buffs they are.

  • (November 20th 2008) Square-Enix's 2008 RPG, which made ripples at the time for briefly being a 360 exclusive JRPG (that wasn't from Mistwalker) and for adopting the thoroughly Western Unreal Engine, was a hodgepodge of curious ideas and themes that didn't entirely pan out. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easier to look at the game now and marvel at its many innovations and risky chances, though there's no denying it's still on the rough side with its frustratingly randomized combat direction, horrendous UE texture pop-in (mitigated on the PC version) and abstruse character progression mechanics. I really enjoyed the story and setting too, even if the protagonist was a bit of a whiner.

  • (March 17th 2009) I have a soft spot for Suikoden games, and this was the last one Konami ever published for Western audiences. It's unlikely we'll ever see one again, barring the possibility of a pachinko game that lets you have 108 balls on the table at once. The data truncation process that this DS cart went through meant scrapping a lot of what made Suikoden stand out - the tactical warfare using heroes you'd recruited - and created other interesting problems in the process, like the ludicrously speedy delivery of the main character's voiced lines. It's still a Suikoden game though, and worthy of respect for that if nothing else. Like the Last Remnant, I also think the story is kinda cool. A nihilistic gestalt being comprised of all the souls of a single universe, moving to neighboring dimensions to repeat the process? Eerie.

  • (March 16th 2010) Speaking of eerie, Fragile Dreams is half RPG and half melancholy walking simulator of the Let's All Go to the Rapture variety. You pick your way across a series of dilapidated and lifeless environments, fighting the literal ghosts of civilization and befriending numerous characters only to lose them again. It's a game that broaches the subject of hope, and the perils and travails faced by its young protagonist often serve to quash that hope more than end his life. This is emotional anime teens dialed up to a nauseating degree, so it's definitely not for everyone. It is, however, a game that deserves some recognition for its distinctiveness.

  • (September 17th 2010 [EU]) Giant Bomb wasn't around to cover the release of the first Kyle Hyde game, 2007's Hotel Dusk: Room 215, and its sequel Last Window also passed them by thanks to the odd decision to not publish the game in North America. The appeal of these games is twofold: it makes palatable the "things just happen on a schedule" Japanese approach to adventure games, halting the exploration whenever the player finds an important clue to suddenly kickstart some exposition or a completely unrelated incident that moves the plot along, and the game's hero has an appealing rundown quality to him. Kyle Hyde's seen it all in his years on the force and subsequent years as an undercover private investigator and grows tired of fools and liars quickly, so it's fun to watch him bounce off the various NPCs he meets in his two adventures, who either have something to hide or are complete dumbasses (the exception being his boss's flirtatious secretary Rachel, his intellectual equal). Two well-paced, well-written portable adventure games to rival the Phoenix Wrights on the system.

  • (October 10th 2010) Between Vinny discovering the Zero Escape series now with the recent release of Zero Time Dilemma, discussing his time with each one on the Beastcast, and Patrick's coverage of the first two games in his own features for the site, I think it's fair to say that visitors of Giant Bomb are well acquainted with Kotaro Uchikoshi's series of narratively-complex room escape adventure games. All the same, none of the three games ever saw a Quick Look, and anyone who is interested in the Zero Escape series and their fearsome reputation but doesn't want to get whole swathes of the story spoiled for them (via Patrick's Virtue's Last Reward spoilercast) won't have any videos to peruse on-site for an immediate impression. It'd be hard to convey in a Quick Look what makes the games so endearing - you'd have to show off some of the wild late-game content, perhaps a "bad ending" or two - and for some versions of the game the room puzzles are no longer a factor. All the same, it's a conspicuous gap.

  • (February 22nd 2011) Another RPG for a portable console, from which it is already hard enough to record footage without having to justify that effort to cover an RPG no-one on staff is interested in. Yet Radiant Historia might be the best RPG for the Nintendo DS, even with all the competition. Its branching timeline paths provide a fascinating non-linear storytelling structure, one that depends on knowledge gleaned from alternate futures and the dangers to come to create a better result in the past. Getting caught in ambushes, rewinding time to warn your allies ahead of time, choosing not to trust the companion who will eventually betray you - as you continue to subvert the timeline to fix errors in your judgement, more and more complications arise to confound you. It's rare to see an RPG so intelligently obtuse, and while its Mega Man: Network style grid-based RPG combat is engrossing enough, it's the many ways you can discover early game overs and see how things would've shaken out if you'd chosen a different path that makes the game so compelling. Like reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book with your fingers stuck in multiple folds, strategically holding your place on several earlier decisions just in case you need to go back in a hurry.

  • (March 29th 2011) As is often the case with their Ys games, Falcom first developed this entry in their long-running The Legend of Heroes series many years ago for PC before it eventually got a PSP/Steam localization thanks to frequent partners XSEED. The Trails in the Sky games are nothing particularly special in terms of graphical wonder or pushing the envelope, but it's a very solid series with some clever writing and twists that perhaps doesn't get the attention it deserves for administering so carefully to the fundamentals of the genre. In addition, new Legend of Heroes games are getting localized all the time now - Trails of Cold Steel 2 is out next month (September 2016, if you're coming to this list late) - so it'd help to have a base with which to help differentiate the new entries in the series.

  • (February 21st 2012) Vinny and Ryan produced a memorable and typically hilarious co-operative Quick Look for Drinkbox's first Tales from Space game, About a Blob, but the duo never followed it up with a look at its superior sequel. Rather than a pair of blobs, the player now controls a singular and royally-pissed off mutant blob that follows the Katamari Damacy route of starting small - evading giant humans while passing through the plumbing of their homes - before getting big enough to devour the entire planet. As well as being an inventive and brilliant puzzle-platformer, the game has a great B-movie sensibility and macabre sense of humor akin to the "true ending" of the 1980s Rick Moranis "The Little Shop of Horrors" musical, though much of the core gameplay is retained from its predecessor.

  • (May 31st 2012) I can forgive the Giant Bomb guys to an extent for neglecting Ys. Ys Origin originally came out in 2006 for PC in Japan, so covering its long-delayed English localization in 2012 would've been a stretch. All the same, it'd be the easiest of the five English-language Ys games that came out between 2008 and now - which include The Oath in Felghana for Steam in 2012, Ys Origin for Steam in 2012, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim for Steam in 2015, Ys Seven for PSP in 2010 and Ys: Memories of Celceta for PS Vita in 2014 - for the guys to record footage for. Maybe they don't care about anime RPGs that look a decade or so old? That'd be fair too, except the Ys games are some of the most fun and accessible (though hardly "easy") JRPGs out there for PC gamers and, unlike their contemporaries, move at an incredible clip rather than bogging you down with hours of exposition. Unusual for a RPG series developed primarily for home computers, they have an "Arcade" sensibility akin to a Gauntlet or a brawler like Shadow Over Mystara from the speedy pace to the rad thrash metal soundtracks. They're all worth a Quick Look at least.

  • (April 16th 2012) Operation Rainfall produced enough of a wave in the video game journalism community - a grassroots campaign to demand Nintendo publish three particularly noteworthy RPGs created for their Wii console for a States-side audience thirsty for new Wii games, each of which was notable for having an English localization release already in Europe - that I think Patrick felt obligated to cover one of them with a Quick Look: Monolith Soft's Xenoblade Chronicles, which I think can be safely said to be the best of the three. Giant Bomb did not cover the other two, which also saw eventual 2012 US releases. Pandora's Tower, the first of those, is an action-RPG that vaguely resembles a 3D Castlevania that has players locate demon meat to feed their cursed girlfriend before she turns into a monster, giving them a long-term goal of figuring out how to lift her curse while maintaining the ever-present short-term goal of finding the meat in question and returning it to her in time. The game finds a lot of applications with its chain weapon, from using it to hit switches to pulling and spinning monsters around, and the loop of making incremental progress between trips back and forth is actually more palatable than it sounds. As with Dark Souls, every new shortcut you open and ladder you kick down feels like a minor victory, and you're finding useful treasures and materials all the while to make subsequent runs more of a success.

  • (August 14th 2012) Mistwalker's Wii RPG, the third and final Operational Rainfall release, was a divisive one: though I gave it five stars on the site (perhaps a bit generous), it's seen as many positive reviews as negative ones here and elsewhere. The game has a distinct dichotomy to its game design: while you have for the most part a real-time strategy RPG where fast-thinking and awareness of your surroundings is key to victory, the game also has the pace and rhythm of a third-person shooter of the Gears of War variety, where you and your teammates are taking down enemies in arena-like environments using various pieces of cover for support. Most of the game's strategy hinges on the protagonist's two major powers: his ability to bring allies back to life a limited number of times, and his ability to draw the enemy's aggro temporarily. By manipulating the enemies into pursuing you, and then using their pathing to either hide or plan ambushes while your friends whittle down their numbers during the distraction, you can win a lot of these scenarios by using the environment and your powers to maximum effect. It's a far more tactical game than it sounds, and while the generic plot and characters aren't much to write home about its pace and the way each new battle adds new wrinkles and new strategies to try out makes it one of the more exciting RPGs from the last gen. It also has a Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack too, did I mention that?

  • (October 23rd 2012) See above with 999. VLR was a bolder and more nutso sequel, and one that finally let you skip the room puzzles on replays as long as you had completed them once before. Navigating the various branching paths became a lot easier with that mercy, and became more conducive to enjoying the game's elaborate story and many dead ends and twists. Naturally, you will want to play 999 first to get any idea of what's going on, but the series is worth the investment. (I'm not counting Patrick's Spoilercast video for this game, since it's not intended for anyone who hasn't already beaten it.)

  • (November 1st 2012) While it has procedurally generated "levels" and harsh penalties for dying too soon (though death is usually inevitable if you don't choose to quit while you're ahead), Cargo Commander is not a roguelike. Rather, it's a randomized 2D shooter/platformer (like, say, the many fine Indie SpaceWhippers out there) that crystallizes the "risk vs. reward" conceit. The goal is to find cargo and bring it back to your ship, using the ship's powerful magnet to drag space hulks into range and then salvage them. As you proceed, more and more "mutants" show up to claw your eyes out, it becomes trickier to find cargo and navigate the many switches in gravity, and wormholes start destroying all the ships you dragged in beginning with the last one to arrive. You're always on the clock, and so you learn how best to prioritize what time you have for the maximum amount of gain, even if that means spending several tense seconds in the vacuum of space as you move quickly from wreck to wreck. The game keeps you hooked with a game-wide scavenger hunt, level seeds that give you new cargo types to pursue and constant convenience-focused upgrades (like starting with certain power-ups you'd normally have to buy each run) as you recover more unique variants of cargo. Despite my attempts to move on and cover more games that month - it was during one of the regular "May Mastery" daily blogging features - I kept coming back to it until I finally hit 100% and saw the game's brief true ending. A tricky game to praise in words, but then the benefit of a Quick Look is that the footage itself does a lot of the heavy lifting.

  • (August 6th 2013) Far as I know, Giant Bomb has yet to Quick Look a single Tales game, and there's been seven released in the US since Giant Bomb formed (eight, if you include the remastered Tales of Symphonia Chronicles). For the sake of not filling this whole list with Tales games, I'll just go with 2013's Tales of Xillia, which I had the fortune of playing recently. I'd generally point to Symphonia and Vesperia as the most accessible entry point to the series, but Xillia works just as well: the characters and plot are fairly Tales standard, which is less of an issue if it's the first Tales you've ever played, and it's one of the most mechanically in-depth RPGs I've played this side of a D&D adaptation.

  • (September 4th 2013) A little Indie puzzle-platformer that came and went, Full Bore takes the "digging for materials" subgenre blueprint used by the likes of Super Motherload, SteamWorld Dig and Minecraft and turns it into a tactical puzzle game that gets insidiously difficult fast. The game's also chock full of secrets and bizarre lore that you have to search for and piece together, not unlike Polytron's Fez, and on the whole turned out to be far more than the sum of its parts. There's so many Indie puzzle-platformers with gimmicky gravity- or time-based special abilities out there that it's easy for the truly special ones, like Full Bore, to slip between the cracks.

  • (March 28th 2014) I wasn't completely satisfied with the Might & Magic reboot. It chose to base itself on the pre-Mandate of Heaven era, whereas I consider VI and VII to not only be the best games in the series but very distinct from what everyone else was doing at the time, becoming the de facto answer to "what is Might & Magic?" rather than the Wizardry-aping original five. All the same, the Might & Magic series was a significant cornerstone of the CRPG genre and this throwback does right by the source material. Well, at least mechanically - the story is taken from the more recent Heroes of Might & Magic series, which dropped the cool hidden alien/sci-fi angle for some generic Diablo-ass bullshit about angels and demons. All right, so maybe I am a little bitter, but a Quick Look of this could afford the dual opportunity of extolling the game's virtues while condemning its less fortunate choices.

  • (September 16th 2014) This one's a bit of a cheat, since Giant Bomb did indeed cover the original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy with a Quick Look. More a revamp than a sequel, Curtain Call nevertheless fixed almost everything wrong with the original while adding a huge amount of additional content by way of playable characters, music tracks and a far more engrossing "Dark Notes" feature. It's the superlative Theatrhythm experience, and it deserved to be raised up as something all sequels should aspire towards (even if they're really just revamps). It definitely could've used more Mystic Quest music though.

  • (October 23rd 2014) Curiously, Giant Bomb covered Shantae's sophomore adventure Risky's Revenge several years after its release but not its sequel, Pirate's Curse, which came out the same year as the delayed Quick Look in question. Pirate's Curse is, if anything, a bigger, smarter and more elaborate sequel to the DSi (half-)genie SpaceWhipper and equally worthy of a Quick Look. I guess there's a "one per year" clause for Shantae games over there?

  • (December 2nd 2015) You could argue a free downloadable game doesn't necessarily need the sort of consumer advice Quick Looks provide given that anyone can try it out without cost. Even so, Pokémon Picross is the most interesting Picross game I've ever played, and that's largely because the developers found ways to factor in the special powers and elemental types of the many Pokémon featured. You don't often get the chance to use power-ups in a Picross game, and you could debate that it takes away the strategic purity of the puzzles, but somehow they made it work. A Quick Look of the game would have to be fairly quick - being an F2P game, it has one of those obnoxious "stamina" meters that recharges very slowly in real-time unless you buy a few digital uppers - but there would be enough time to get across the many ways Pokémon Picross differs from your average Picross game.