Welcome to part 8 of a brand new mega list for CelJaded’s Top 100 Best Video Games. This eighth post features entries #30 to #21.

Be sure to read the introduction that I put together beforehand too as it gives a more detailed introduction on what I’m trying to achieve here as well as a few other random musings that you may find insightful.

If you’re looking for another post in this same series then consider visiting the associated index which includes a readout of all published entries and the posts in which they appear.

“It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.”


 

#30 – Speed Devils

Principal Platforms: Dreamcast | Developer: Ubisoft | Publisher: Ubisoft | Genre: Racing | Year: 1999

Speed Devils

I disagree with magazine reviews quite a lot, but it’s a rare instance indeed where I find a supposedly “bad” game to be unexpectedly brilliant.

Speed Devils is one such rare exception; a game so good that I struggle to comprehend what the American edition of Official Dreamcast Magazine could have been thinking when they handed out their controversial 3/10 review score all those years ago.

Every other publication I can think of at the time was more forthcoming with their treatment of Speed Devils, but even then I still find it to be a heavily underrated Dreamcast racer that offers all the thrills of high stakes arcade racing without forgetting the important elements that make video games like this fun in the first place.

A remastered version of an older PC title called Speed Busters: American Highways, Speed Devils is a console exclusive game whose style of play is more arcadey than similar titles in the genre. Featuring solid controls, crisp graphics and a smooth frame rate, Speed Devils is an instantly appealing racer with enough challenge to keep fans of the genre more than happy.

Each race pits you against a roster of colourful AI controlled drivers that have their own unique level of competency and knowledge of the track. The levels themselves are also a highlight with each one featuring plenty of obstacles and weather conditions that will require you to select your choice of tires carefully.

Later levels feature more outlandish and tongue-in-cheek set pieces such as the Hollywood Disaster level that comes complete with earthquakes, collapsing structures and even a walking mechanical dinosaur that eats cars!

Although an admittedly unimpressive two player versus mode is included, the extensive ‘Championship Mode’ is where the fun is really at with this one. Starting off with only the most basic (and rather banged up) motor to get you going, you’ll compete in various races during a season in order to earn additional funds that will help you repair your vehicle, install various upgrades and add new cars to your own personal garage space.

This is where the more inspired parts of Speed Devils begin to shine through. Purchasing and upgrading your own cars is hugely satisfying in its own right, but earning the money to do this is not simply a case of winning races. Each level features several police radars dotted along specific sections of the track and if you manage to exceed a set speed when passing these checkpoints, that radar will be considered “busted” and will award an instant lump sum of cash depending on how fast you were traveling at that time.

Your knowledge of the course and its various shortcuts may not be perfect when you first start out, but learning the location of these radars and how to throttle your speed when approaching them are an effective goal to aim for even when you’re not confident in placing first.

Certain characters may visit your garage before a race too and they’ll offer wagers that promise a big payout if you can fulfill them. Sometimes they’ll ask you to bust a specific radar, maintain a high speed or even request that you prevent another racer from finishing first.

Win enough wagers against another driver though and the rivalry between you will get more heated and eventually culminate in a vendetta battle. Vendettas are a single lap head-to-head race where the reward is the other driver’s car; a prospect that makes the stakes a lot more interesting for those who like a good gamble.

All of this sounds like a great fit for an online game and there are many parts of Speed Devil‘s design where you get the impression that things were adapted from an online enabled brief when the delays with the Dreamcast‘s online support became apparent.

Indeed, the game would later be re-released under a new package titled: Speed Devils: Online Racing; a trimmed down version that promised all of the features of pursuing a championship alongside connected players from all over the world. Although I never played SDOR myself, the reports of an inferior frame rate and maligned game engine were less than encouraging.

And if Speed Devils does have a weakness then it may be its lacklustre physics engine that doesn’t offer much nuance in handling or cornering like perhaps Metropolis Street Racer does. The music is okay, but the selection of tracks is very limited and it’s a shame that the multiplayer mode doesn’t support up to four players in split-screen like similar titles from the era had managed.

Overall though, Speed Devils is a quality racing game that prioritizes a good time above anything else. The extensive single player experience, silky smooth gameplay and other sparks of originality offer tremendous replay value in their own right.

There’s definitely a learning curve in appreciating this overlooked title, but the end result here makes the time spent playing all the more worth it.

 

#29 – Nights Into Dreams…

Principal Platforms: Sega Saturn | Developer: Sonic Team | Publisher: Sega | Genre: 3D Action | Year: 1996

Nights… Into Dreams

Nights into Dreams… (henceforth referred to as Nights) is one of gaming’s most indefinable titles; a piece of software possessed of a very rare originality and charm that still ranks as one of Sonic Team‘s finest ever efforts and one of the hidden gems of the fifth generation of home consoles.

The backstory tells of a journey set in the magical land of Nightopia; a land which people visit whilst they dream. Players select the role of either Claris or Elliot; two children who have been beckoned to this fantasy land by NiGHTS; an acrobatic do-gooder in purple jester clothes who calls Nightopia his home.

NiGHTS needs help to defeat the evil wizard called Wizeman who plans to break through to the waking world to, presumably, do all sorts of evil wizard-like things.

Like I said before, Nights is a very difficult game to label. The meat of the gameplay takes place in a scrolling 2.5D perspective where players maneuver the high-flying NiGHTS through all manner of obstacles and enemies whilst collecting a preset number of floating blue orbs.

Once you’ve collected the minimum number of orbs, you must return to the start of the level and deposit them into a gazebo thing to complete the lap and refresh your time limit for the stage.

When the next laps begins however, the route through the stage will be seamlessly altered; taking you along an entirely new path through the large 3D world that makes up the stage as a whole. It’s a wonderful system that’s bolstered by core gameplay that’s remarkably well paced and satisfying to play. With the Sega Saturn‘s 3D control pad (which came bundled with early copies of the game), Nights handles remarkably well and makes for a more fluid experience overall.

There is very little violence in the game at all, with thrills instead coming from NiGHTS’ thrilling power of flight; capturing orbs in the vortices created by his acrobatic loop-the-loops and the trick combo bonuses that trigger when passing through one of the game’s many bonus rings. There are times where the spectacle plays more like an aerial stunt show, with the camera constantly weaving and spinning to keep up with your flashy displays.

The number of nice little touches is also impressive. Take the special segments where NiGHTS commandeers a bobsled, swims underwater, or swings around a spherical enemy, and this is to say nothing of the A-Life system working behind the scenes; a sort of living world mechanic that morphs the environment’s inhabitants and background music the more you perform certain actions at ground level. It may be superfluous to the main attraction of the action stages, but it’s impressive nonetheless to see the kind of hidden depth present in the game’s code.

The colourful 3D graphics are an impressive feat for the Sega Saturn hardware too with all kinds of lush scenery and dream-like objects dotting the landscape. Nights is one of Sega‘s leading purveyors of the “blue skies in gaming” ideology; presenting beautiful gardens, sunny skies and wonderful vistas untouched by gaming’s usually more dreary set pieces.

The game looks inspired and vibrant, and extremely refreshing. Nights also comes complete with a widely celebrated soundtrack full of whimsical and enchanting tunes during action stages and plenty of dramatic and threatening pianos during boss fights.

Which brings us to what is Nights’ biggest weakness; the boss battles. Each encounter is a short head-to-head fight with a gigantic 3D honcho, but the spectacle is ultimately spoiled by awkwardly slow and sometimes obscure battle mechanics that can ruin your progress and force a level restart if you fail. The game is also somewhat short and those not tempted by the lure of high scores and A-Life exploration may not find much replay value in the game as a whole.

But if you can get past these shortcomings,  Nights into Dreams… is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is gorgeous, addictive and overall a very special game that stands as one of the Sega Saturn‘s finest English exclusives, however few they might be.

 

#28 – Under Defeat HD

Principal Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 | Developer: G.rev | Publisher: Rising Star Games | Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up | Year: 2012

Under Defeat HD (PS3)

Despite its admittedly silly “Engrish” name, Under Defeat steps in and shows other up-the-screen shmups how it’s done with tidy visuals, straightforward but rewarding gameplay and an awesome 2 player mode.

What’s even better is the nicely balanced level of difficulty which rarely frustrates over its beautifully crafted five levels filled with numerous American war machines begging to be destroyed. Yes, in a very strange twist you actually play as female German soldiers in a “weird war” setting that sees you fighting off allied soldiers in your attack helicopter.

The game plays so well as your vertically orientated chopper has the ability to turn at 45 degree angles (similar to Zero Gunner 2; a game I really need to play more of…) thus opening up an entirely new dimension of control.

Your craft can also collect one of three different ‘option’ units that attach to your weapon system and allow you to periodically deploy vulcan blasts, cannon shots or a powerful rocket propelled warhead at the enemy.

As good as the Dreamcast version is however, things would take an even more awesome turn when the game made its way to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition. This high definition rendition takes things to a new level of quality by adding a full widescreen mode which, much like Rez HD before it, nukes the Dreamcast original from orbit it looks so good.

More gameplay modes are added into the package too including an alternative chopper, extra options, dual stick controls, achievements and a bonus soundtrack CD, all at a low price point that adds up to an excellent new version of an already great game.

Several purists bemoan the lack of arcade-perfect gameplay apparent in this HD remaster, but as a casual fan at least, I can’t honestly see anything in the frame rate or enemy behaviour that adversely affects my enjoyment of the game, so take that how you will.

It’s an unorthodox title to proclaim as your favourite shmup perhaps, but that’s exactly what Under Defeat HD is to me.

An underrated classic.

 

#27 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Principal Platforms:PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U | Developer: Eidos Montreal | Publisher: Square Enix | Genre: First-person Shooter | Year: 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Quite the opposite from Nights, this third game in the lauded Deus Ex series comes chock full of black skies, towering skyscrapers and street level prejudice.

This prequel follows protagonist Adam Jensen; a cybernetically augmented corporate bodyguard who finds himself on the wrong side of a conspiracy that could undermine the course of human development forever.

Although I would argue that Deus Ex: Human Revolution has more in common with the oft-reviled second game in the series, there’s no doubting that the overall tone and approach this time around is much closer to that oppressive cyberpunk tone that the first game has become known for.

The game’s structure is still semi-linear in design and allows for many different approaches to individual situations. Players can tailor their skills however they want and build their own expert hacker, ninja or door kicker Jensen as the game goes on.

Human Revolution has its stumbling blocks. The boss battles are poorly balanced and contrived encounters (that rely on knowledge of the game’s prequel novel in order to be threatening) and a lull certainly does set in towards the final quarter of the over-extending narrative.

But Deus Ex has never been so enjoyable to play. The replay value is high due to the number of play styles you can pursue and there are often different dialogue choices that will have you wondering how a situation would change if you suddenly decided to act like an asshole, or in my case, a reasonable human being.

Although it’s not to everyone’s tastes, I particularly enjoy the orange hue that drenches the game world; an evocative design choice that lends the setting an almost eerie futuristic ambiance from scene to scene. This is bolstered further by an excellent soundtrack courtesy of Michael McCann which features many brooding and atmospheric “stealthy” tracks amongst more tense and turbulent pieces for when a firefight breaks out.

And of course we can’t forget to mention the work of voice actor Elias Toufexis; whose gravelly portrayal of no-nonsense cyborg Adam Jensen captured the hearts of gamers everywhere with his delivery of Jensen’s many sombre recollections and downtrodden remarks.

There are many other spectacles to help keep you engaged, whether it’s the lethal (and supremely addictive) take-downs that a stealthy Jensen can execute or the hacking mini games that give you a little more to chew on than the usual Pipe Mania style puzzles that genre fans have become used to.

Not many FPS games can do versatility in the way that Deus Ex: Human Revolution does it. Whether you favour stealth, shoot outs or role-playing, this game has something for you.

Another worthy follow-up in an already stellar series.

Exactly what I asked for.

 

#26 – Fire Pro Wrestling D

Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | Developer: Human Entertainment, Spike | Publisher: Human Entertainment, Spike | Genre: Sports | Year: 2001

Fire Pro Wrestling D (Sega Dreamcast)

Known in Japan as: ファイヤープロレスリングD (how’s that for some useless information!), Fire Pro Wrestling D is widely regarded as one of the finest wrestling games ever programmed and nearly fifteen years on, it doesn’t seem like that fact is set to change any time soon.

A long-standing and illustrious series of wrestling games, the Fire Pro franchise is notable for its incredible devotion to capturing all of the intricacies, accuracies and excitement of real sports entertainment.

Sporting lovingly-drawn 2D sprites and played from an isometric viewpoint, Fire Pro Wrestling D is a spectacular rendition of the real thing and packs in more match stipulations, wrestlers and added features that come in a hundred similar games.

The animation on display is nothing short of excellent as wrestlers deliver suplexes, power bombs and diving sentons that will have wrestling fans in awe of the authenticity present in each frame.

Of particular note is the pacing that each match-up follows. It’s not possible to instantly jump in and start executing your wrestler’s most powerful moves as first you have to wear down your opponent with basic holds and strikes to limit the threat of being reversed. Once you’ve dealt enough early damage, you can start pursuing more spectacular throws and finishers that will lead to that crucial pinfall or submission.

The variety in the different match types and stipulations further enhance the gameplay as your tactics will need to adapt once you’re thrown into an 8-man tag team, battle royal or “gruesome fighting” match to name but a few.

Pretty soon though you’ll want to create your own wrestlers and Fire Pro Wrestling D certainly has you covered on that front. Every wrestling move you can possibly think of is included in the creation menu (with downloadable bonus moves that can save to your memory card) and every aspect of your wrestler’s costume can be tweaked and edited with custom colours and logos.

For a game running on 2D sprites, it’s fascinating how many fantasy and real life athletes you can create with what’s made available. Even more amazing are the complex AI routines that you can set which then dictate how each wrestler will behave in a variety of different situations; it’s enormously impressive stuff.

It’s honestly difficult to find any fault with this game whatsoever, but it has to be said that there are disadvantages for the sort of immersive detail that the developers have sought. Firstly, the game is an experts only affair in terms of difficulty. Learning how to play Fire Pro requires very precise timing and a lot of patience.

All of the game’s moves, including the various punches, dives and grapples must be aligned perfectly on the relevant 2D plane otherwise they won’t touch your opponent. Fists must connect with hit boxes accurately and a suplex for instance must be timed the very moment a grapple initiates otherwise your opponent will likely get a free reversal. Quite different from most wrestling games, this is a button basher’s worst nightmare as there’s no quicker way to lose a match than to wildly hit buttons.

This prerequisite level of skill is what makes Fire Pro a great game of course, but it’s also extremely off-putting for beginners and it will be hard for advanced players to find an opponent that can match them, outside of simply setting an AI controlled opponent to their maximum level.

Each match requires intense concentration too and the overall difficulty can unfortunately limit the amount of showy maneuvers that are perhaps a little more risky to pull off in the heat of battle.

For English speakers, Fire Pro Wrestling D offers the additional challenge of being almost entirely supported by Japanese menu text meaning this is one import title that will take a lot of dedication (and print outs) in order to reliably suss out.

There are other options to ease this burden including many online translations, an incredible (and very unofficial) fan-made English version of the game, as well as a remastered edition for PlayStation 2 called Fire Pro Wrestling Returns which sports entirely new features, match stipulations and English screen text for the North American release.

Despite the incredibly steep learning curve though, Fire Pro Wrestling D is a near peerless wrestling title and one that is well worth the effort of delving into if you’re a fan of the sport in question.

“Dig it!”

 

#25 – Soulcalibur II

Principal Platforms: Arcade, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox | Developer: Project Soul | Publisher: Namco | Genre: 3D Beat ‘Em Up | Year: 2002

Soulcalibur II (Xbox)

Beat ’em ups have an innate personal learning curve and it’s a rare player indeed who can claim to master multiple characters at once. Selecting your favourite fighter and then learning the many intricacies, stances and moves of that character is a long process that can take years to master, but the payoff is satisfying in a great way too.

In short: the best entry in a beat ’em up franchise for one player may just be the one where his/her character is the most effective.

Even so, I still think of Soulcalibur II as a greater sequel mainly for its more casual refinements to an already winning formula. The roster of fighters has been bolstered by new faces of course, there are new weapons for each fighter that each come with their own innate abilities and the home console weapon master mode has been expanded with even more challenges and tough battles to overcome.

Fights are faster and more frantic than the original and those exquisite graphics have been honed once again to present even more astonishingly detailed character models and 3D environments.

As with the original Soulcalibur, many of the game’s characters have the ability to change their stance during gameplay which alters their attacks and adds more variety to your standard offence. The wealth of moves and fighting styles unlock a greater potential for more player creativity and learning to craft your own personal fighting style is key to consistently winning games.

This also marks the first time the series introduced platform exclusive guest characters from other franchises with Soulcalibur II including Heihachi Mishima from Tekken (PlayStation 2), Todd McFarlane’s Spawn (Xbox) and Nintendo’s Link (GameCube). It’s an approach that clashes somewhat with the game’s established identity, but it has always helped the Soul series stand out from the crowd and appeal to a broader market.

The package is further rounded out by additional game modes, fighter exhibitions and the option to toggle between the English and Japaneses voice files- an excellent feature for fighting games that was sadly not all that common at the time of this game’s release.

Soulcalibur II is a great title for both casual and expert levels of play. Every character feels viable, the animation is smooth and overall the game just feels very satisfying to play. More recently Namco released a remastered version titled Soulcalibur II HD Online; an online compatible re-release that stands, if nothing else, as a fitting testament to the game’s enduring popularity over the years.

The soul still burns.

 

#24 – Skies of Arcadia

Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, GameCube | Developer: Overworks | Publisher: Sega | Genre: RPG | Year: 2000

Skies of Arcadia (Sega Dreamcast)

Skies of Arcadia is one the finest console RPGs ever to come out of Japan and one of the most popular Dreamcast titles ever made, RPG or otherwise.

A massive adventure spanning over two 1GB large discs, Skies of Arcadia is a Jules Verne meets Star Wars tale of pirates who live above the clouds on floating islands and do battle from within their flying warships and iron-clad fortresses.

The story begins with the tyrannical Valuan Empire hunting for the multicoloured Moon Crystals that will awaken the Gigas; a sextet of ancient creature-like constructs that will give the Valuans enough power to dominate the world.

Fina, a young woman from the reclusive Silver Civilization, is sent to retrieve the Moon Crystals but is soon captured. After she is rescued by the heroic Blue Rogue pirate band however, Fina joins forces with primary protagonist Vice and his friend Aika in a quest to find the artifacts before the Empire can do the same.

Skies of Arcadia‘s story may be a touch on the familiar side then, but the journey as a whole is made extremely satisfying because of instantly likeable characters, fun combat and plenty of thematic treasure hunting.

Battles are traditional turn-based slug fests when fought on the ground and whilst they’re not overly different from the norm, there’s still plenty of equipment to collect, spells to learn and super moves to pull off that it’s still enjoyable in its own right.

The real fun starts when you get access to your own vessel though, as the airborne ship-to-ship combat is a lot more tense and interesting. Here you can recruit new crew members (each with their own individual bonuses), select attack patterns and perform special maneuvers depending on the events that crop up during the battle.

This variety is also present in the narrative; an area where the game truly excels. Spectacular boss battles will be fought, characters will separate, new threats will emerge and there’s no telling where you as a player will end up next. One moment you can be chasing a gigantic whale or tracking the evil pirate Blackbeard and the next moment you can find yourself navigating cells on a prison island or marooned on a desert island foraging for food in order to survive.

The game world feels alive with things to see and you’re never far from a new quest, character or discovery whilst sailing the skies. Uncovering lost temples, ruined artifacts and hidden treasure is addictive in its own right and later you’ll have the opportunity to assemble more sympathizers to your cause and pursue the elusive title of Vice the Legend.

The graphics are crisp and colourful, the music is a grand orchestral affair and you’re looking at many hours of game time before reaching the end.

Not all is perfect though. The overly frequent random battles are an unfortunate inclusion as is the unbalanced difficulty curve which results in battles being far too easy. Once you acquire your own ship later in the game it becomes almost impossible to lose any air-based combat due to its overwhelming power and durability. Combat is also somewhat basic and the battles themselves lack the punch of say Grandia II; another stellar Dreamcast RPG that, incidentally, is also way too easy to complete.

A re-release for GameCube with the awkward title of Skies of Arcadia Legends seeks to correct this somewhat by adding new encounters and bounty missions that prove to be a far more difficult prospect for completionists. Although I’ve not personally played this version myself, the extra features and lowering of the game’s encounter rate seem to constitute a definitive build of the game.

Either way though, Skies of Arcadia is an excellent JRPG and one that is rife with enough hours of adventuring, looting and glory to last a lifetime.

 

#23 – Rocket Knight Adventures

Principal Platforms: Mega Drive | Developer: Konami | Publisher: Konami | Genre: Platformer | Year: 1993

Rocket Knight Adventures (Sega Genesis)

After Sonic the Hedgehog made his mark on the video gaming market in 1991, the sheer number of platform games featuring a mascot with attitude were as unmistakable as they were numerous.

From the awful Bubsy to the merely average Cool Spot, these games all sought to offer more of those “snarky animals with kickin’ powers” without necessarily thinking about what could make that concept special.

Here’s one such game though that was a bit different.

Konami; longtime developer of many classic SNES games, delivered their first Sega Mega Drive exclusive in 1993- an awe-inspiring debut cartridge called Rocket Knight Adventures.

Players take control of a jet pack wearing opossum named Sparkster as he fights against an army of militant anthropomorphic pigs on a quest to save a princess and defeat his rival Axle Gear.

Broken down into seven stages of intense challenge and 2D platforming action, this is an immensely playable game that proves to be a success in spite of its more derivative elements.

In truth, Rocket Knight Adventures is less of a platformer and more of an example of the incredibly niche sub genre that is situation rush. Where a boss rush for example might be a string of consecutive boss battles one after the other, a situation rush title is simply one that places you in many different situations in quick succession.

Take the third level as an example. You begin in a simple platforming section where you must cross a fiery lake. The twist here is that you must use your reflection in the molten lava to judge your obscured jumps. Following this, the screen advances to the next “situation” where you find yourself swimming through booby trapped water before battling a giant mechanical crab. After this, the situation changes once more and you must now cross a lava river and dodge ceiling spikes whilst boarding an autonomous walking platform. The final situation then occurs in the form of a boss battle where you must destroy a giant robot fish that attempts to gobble up the platforms you need to stay out of harm’s way.

As you can tell, the gameplay here rarely falls into a pattern and you’re constantly having to adapt to what each new situation brings next. Luckily all this chaos is backed up by a simple but effective set of moves for your hero.

Aside from simple sword swiping and jumping capabilities, Sparkster’s main ability is to charge his jet pack in order to rapidly fly across the screen in one of the eight different linear directions and he does this with his trusty sword extended. Using the jet pack is thus critical for damaging enemies, traversing chasms and collecting items, so it’s essential that you, as a player, master this technique as the game goes on.

And master you should, as Rocket Knight Adventures is a devilishly challenging game at times, although not in a way that feels insurmountable. I can remember playing this game for hours on end as a child, desperately trying to reach the final battle; such was its immense appeal.

And if that wasn’t enough, the game also manages to impress with its wonderfully crisp 16-bit graphics, memorable music and a ton of unique and detailed boss battles.

Rocket Knight Adventures is much more than a mere Sonic clone. Sure, it features a mascot with attitude (at least for the North American release), collectibles that sound like rings and levels that move really fast, but behind all that is a extremely playable 2D action game that stands on its own two feet as a bona fide 16-bit classic.

 

#22 – Goldeneye 007

Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64 | Developer: Rare | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: First-person Shooter | Year: 1997

Goldeneye 007 (N64)

If there’s one generally accepted fact in video gaming, it’s that licensed titles are terrible.

And if there’s one generally accepted exception to that particular fact, then it’s Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64.

Following the movie’s plot to an uncanny degree of accuracy (apparently Rare used actual movie set blueprints to construct levels), Goldeneye offers hours of rewarding gameplay and frantic multiplayer action for all.

For a game built on a 64-bit engine, Goldeneye is surprisingly realistic with lots of varied animation and solid physics backing up what might be an otherwise forgettable action romp.

Rather than hovering in midair, weapons lie static on the ground and on top of tables, key cards fly out of pockets and get lost in floor tiles and factory doors move at a convincingly steady pace. They’re small points maybe, but it’s these little touches that the game does so effortlessly well.

Goldeneye also possesses one of the best examples of difficulty in gaming’s history with a campaign that takes on extra enemies, fewer power-ups and additional objectives as the challenge ramps up.

Completing the ‘silo’ level at the easiest setting for instance is a simple case of dashing headlong towards an exit whereas tackling it on hard (AKA “OO Agent”) demands that you rig each floor with explosives and collect circuit boards as you go.

Difficulty here isn’t simply achieved by making enemies more dangerous, instead the new objectives require more thought and a greater level of management on part of the player. It’s this, as well as a plethora of unlockable cheat codes, that really adds to Goldeneye‘s longevity as a single player experience.

Of course the multiplayer mode isn’t far behind in this regard, and the four player split-screen action on offer is easily up there with the N64‘s best offerings. Just don’t let anyone play as Oddjob; trust me when I say: you don’t need that.

In an ironic twist, the Goldeneye license has been subsequently butchered by Electronic Arts over the years with their many terrible ‘successor’ games that seek to milk some of the glory from this 64-bit original. Yes, Goldeneye is a great game, but can we please leave it that way?

Accept no imitations, this is one of the finest Nintendo games out there and no amount of remakes or spiritual pandering will change that.

It is invincible!

 

#21 – Saturn Bomberman

Principal Platforms: Sega Saturn | Developer: Hudson Soft | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Action | Year: 1996

Saturn Bomberman (1996)

Let’s get the weaker aspects out of the way first.

Saturn Bomberman‘s story mode isn’t exactly great. It’s a perfectly nice diversion and the 2 player cooperative aspect is an inspired touch despite it not being particularly well balanced for the adventuring format (there’s simply not enough space on the map for two players to safely move around).

Well, that’s enough of what’s bad. On to the good!

The Bomberman series is known as one of the best mutliplayer experiences money can buy and my personal favourite goes to this rarity; a Sega Saturn exclusive that sports all the glorious explosions, laughter and multiplayer mayhem you have come to expect from Hudson Soft‘s beloved franchise.

The battle mode is the main event here; multiplayer contests can be customized to accommodate up to eight players in standard match-ups and a whopping ten players in the “wide” format.

Whilst this massive multiplayer mode had a tendency to look a bit squished on regular televisions in 1996, large widescreen TVs cope a lot better making Saturn Bomberman one of the very few 32-bit era titles that are somewhat more HDTV friendly than usual!

The gameplay itself is largely the same from previous entries in the series; you set bombs to destroy your opponents while collecting various power-ups, that will help you survive the round. There are new collectibles and dinosaur mounts (or Tirras) that make their first appearance in this game however.

The dinosaur mounts are especially fun as they offer unique abilities ranging from bomb kicking to super speed and even allow you to take a free hit before being eliminated.

Saturn Bomberman is one of the best games in the series simply because of its supported player count, varied battle arenas and faithful 2D action. Once the series made its arguably ruinous transition into 3D, the end seemed nigh for this once dependable series but this Saturn exclusive still stands as the best in my eyes.