Some games have an unlimited supply of replay value. There are several games that I am a die-hard fan of, and will probably be still playing when I am 80. The games listed below are a certified Good Time, but you should also note that I am several levels beyond “quirky” and there are those who would disagree as to the utter awesomitude of what I proudly call The Best Games Forever and Ever (According to Kimli).
Jet Set Radio Future [Xbox 180]
It’s pretty common knowledge exactly how much I LOVE this game. Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast was fun but tough; JSRF made the game beatable and therefore even more fun than the original. The cel-shading is a timeless look, the soundtrack is amazing, and the game is just plain fun. I love, love, love Jet Set Radio Future. I want to hug it and kiss it and tuck it into bed with me at night, and now that we’ve moved the Xbox 180 into the bedroom, I just might be able to do it.
I’m probably one of the very few people who are eagerly awaiting a sequel that will never materialize. This is unfortunate, but I have enough JSRF goodies to keep me going. I have not one but TWO figures of the guy to the left there for my various desks, all the soundtracks for the two games (there are four in total), and some very rare swag. When I love something, I love it all over the place. Make me a sequel, Sega! You can do it!
These games basically sum up all that is Japanese and fun in this world. Cute, bizarre, and more than a little insane, I truly delight in showing the Katamari series to my friends and watching their faces go slack with confusion. I really did buy an Xbox 360 just so I could play the third game in the series, Beautiful Katamari – I’ve pre-ordered and given myself 14 days to finish the Phantom Zelda so I can focus my attention where it’s needed [update: I did it, with ten hours to spare. Hooray!]. There’s also a Katamari PSP title, Me and My Katamari. It’s not quite as classic as the PS2 titles, but still fun – I’m such a devotee of the series that I actually pre-ordered the Japanese release because it came out two months before the NA version did. Sure, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on because I can’t read Japanese, but since the entire series is completely nuts, I didn’t really miss out by not understanding a word. Love the Katamari. Adore it, even. Yay!
Beyond Good and Evil [PS2, Xbox 180, PC]
I actually forgot to include this game on my Bestest Ever list, and once I realized my faux pas I damn near kicked myself in the junk. I LOVE Beyond Good and Evil. A title by Ubisoft, it’s an action game with a twist – you’re not just some Rambo wannabe with huge pecs and a bigger gun, you’re actually a green-haired orphan collector who happens to take pictures for a living. An engaging story line coupled with a wonderful mood-setting soundtrack makes for a game that’ll completely suck you in until the end, when your heart is ripped out and stomped upon – something about a cliffhanger ending and a refusal by Ubisoft to make a sequel? Anyway, check this game out especially if you’re a girl and want to play a female character (what a twist!) that keeps all her clothes on and is actually fully covered up. This game really does deserve extra props for that – okay, Lara Croft may be the uber-known action female, but I’d like to see a real woman doing those stunts with a triple F chest and tiny short shorts and seriously, why is her rack so big. Jade – green hair aside – is realistically animated and kicks ass, all while wearing normal clothes. I’m serious! Pants, shirt, a jacket even! Not a melon-sized breast covered in chain mail anywhere in site! The girls from Soul Calibur really could learn a thing or two from Jade and my other favourite female game character, Cate Archer from the No One Lives Forever series.
I digress. Beyond Good and Evil is an excellent game all ’round. It’s available for many consoles, and if you don’t own it already, you can probably pick it up for around $10. The game ranks very high on all the Top Games list, and is unfortunately high on the list of Best Games No One Ever Played. I told a Ubisoft employee at some event that I would personally buy every copy of BG&E I could find to drive up the sales numbers so they could continue the series (it was supposed to be a trilogy), but he just laughed at me. I was serious, goddamnit. Go buy this game now; maybe it’s not too late!
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time [PS2, Xbox, PC, Microwave, Gamecube, GBA, Toaster Oven, Mobile Phones]
Ironically, one of the main reasons Beyond Good and Evil did not do well was because this game – also by Ubisoft – was released at the same time. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time had the brand and history behind it, not to mention dazzlingly good reviews from every source. It’s hard to hold the murder of the BG&E series against PoP:SoT (and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, also by Ubisoft – gg, guys) though, because it really is a gorgeous game. Beautiful scenery, a plot true to the original, excellent voice work and awesome puzzles made for much replayabilit and a good time to boot. I originally bought this game for Ed, but quickly took it over and finished it several times while he busied himself with the NHL ‘0x games.
Ubisoft did make good with sequels to PoP:SoT, but they also made a grave, horrible mistake: they changed the voice actor for the Prince. A large part of why so many people fell in love with the game was because of the charming and snarky Prince, and changing the actor and even the character to be a gritty, humourless, shirtless shadow of his former wit was just a slap in the face. They played it off by saying that the Sands gone did some trauma to the Prince hence his newfound grumpiness, but that’s another broken cardinal rule – heroes don’t change, and they don’t get Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. Ubisoft heard the screams of outrage and compromised in the threequel (The Two Thrones; has nothing to do with toilets) – the prince has two sides; one the charming chap from SoT and the other the cranky mess from The Warrior Within. The original is by far my favourite of the the three, and if you’re looking for an excellent action-adventure title that could be picked up for (literally) any console on the cheap, check this title out. It’s good enough that I ALMOST forgive Ubisoft for dropping BG&E to the curb – especially in light of what they did to the PoP sequels, it’s probably for the best they didn’t get the chance to turn Jade into another Ivy Valentine.
I almost universally love EA’s SSX series. The games are fun with fantastic soundtracks and have tons of replay value. They’re part of the EA Big line, meaning it’s a sports game without truly being a sports game – don’t worry about not trying this at home, because there’s no way you could. The games are a blast, and as close as I’ll ever get to real snowboarding. I’m okay with that, though.
EA did release an additional SSX title, called SSX Blur. It came out for the Wii, and is actually quite revolutionary for the way the game adapter to the Wii’s unique controller. Unfortunately, this changed the gameplay enough for me that I couldn’t get behind it – SSX Blur is on the Games I Gave Up On list for this reason. They also opted to not go with a licensed soundtrack, something I sorely missed. I’m still eagerly checking game sites for any sign of a non-Wii sequel, but as of yet, I’ve heard nothing.
Now THIS is how a puzzle game should be. Colourful, funky, varying enough from level to level to keep you playing under the covers until 4am, and just plain fun. Lumines II added some music videos that played in the background of your level, but I actually found it a little annoying and distracting. They didn’t tinker too much with the great formula though, and both games are a blast to play. They look and sound fantastic too. Yay for Lumines!
One of the things I loved about this game so much was the portability. The PSP can be played anywhere, up to and including the bathtub (don’t try this at home; I like to live on the edge). Lumines did come out with Lumines Live! for the Xbox 360, which is enjoyable for all the same reasons the first two entries in this series are, but lacks the portable factor because I can’t drag the 360 into bed with me. It’s still fun and there are some awesome new skins/tracks to make it worthwhile, but I can only play it parked on the couch.
Portal [Xbox 360, PC]
I don’ t know what I can say about Portal that hasn’t already been said. Portal is an amazing game. Portal made me forgive Valve for unleashing Counter-Strike players (the players, not the game itself) on an unsuspecting internet. I love Portal. I want to take it to bed with me and hug it all night long.
The game is a First Person Shooter in the loosest sense of the phrase – you have a gun, but you aren’t shooting bullets and you’re not trying to kill anyone. Valve carved out a new hole in the game genre block with this one, because Portal is an action/adventure/puzzle/comedy game. I guarantee there is no shelf for that in the stores, although with a little Energon and a lot of luck we could be seeing more of it in the future.
The plot of the game is both simple and ingenious – you are a test subject, and you are testing some new equipment to see how it would work in the real world. It’s only as you play the game that you realize something much more ominous is afoot, and you react accordingly. The game is pretty and fun and all that other good stuff, but the true strength of Portal is quite simply the sense of humour in which it was produced. The game is hilarious and weird and, if the game was part of an established series, would be the ultimate love letter to fans. As it is, Portal has immediately gained millions of fankids from this one release alone. It is brilliant. There may not be any cake, but the game is completely enjoyable and has a catchy theme song to boot.