Obscure  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Obscure  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network 7 Best Platformers From the Last Year That You Haven't Heard Of https://www.gameskinny.com/wigc6/7-best-platformers-from-the-last-year-that-you-havent-heard-of https://www.gameskinny.com/wigc6/7-best-platformers-from-the-last-year-that-you-havent-heard-of Mon, 30 Jan 2017 01:44:44 -0500 Bryant Pereira

The indie game revolution revived genres of games that were beginning to lose their mass appeal -- namely platformers. With the popularity of Steam and digital downloads on consoles, platformer games started releasing in huge numbers again. The genre stopped being dominated by names like Nintendo and fans embraced the creativity of smaller studios.

Last year was no different, with some of the best platformers of the decade releasing. It doesn’t take much digging to find out about the hottest titles like Inside and Super Mario Run, but if you’re jumping for joy at the idea of playing some of the best platformers of 2016, look no more.

Headlander

Headlander is easily the most unconventional game on this list. It jumbles Metroid with old school sci-fi movies like Alien and puts you in control of a floating head. Yes, a platformer game where you don’t necessarily jump everywhere, but you fly through the levels in order to take control of robot bodies to make your own.

The theme in Headlander is unique, and under the creative umbrella of Double Fine and Adult Swim, this comes to no surprise. Robot enemies and NPC’s are former humans who uploaded their consciousness’ into what is called the Pleasure Dome. I’ll let your imagination figure the rest of that out.

The gameplay in Headlander is completely new yet familiar at the same time. Bodies are essentially different weapons, and you can upgrade your helmet in different ways like in other Metroidvania games. You can infinitely fly throughout the levels but must collide into enemies to decapitate them and take their bodies. The game mixes aesthetic, humor, and fun gameplay to make a remarkable experience.

Candle

Teku Studios from Spain wanted to make an impact on the indie scene with their debut game. Candle is a slow-paced, stealthy platformer.  Named after the studio, the story follows a young man named Teku who is on a quest to save his shaman apprentice. The soothing narration along with the beautiful hand-drawn watercolor graphics make the entire game feel like you're in a living painting.

Teku is not a speedy or powerful protagonist like in many other platformers. He instead focuses on stealth elements to combat enemies along with using his trusty candle. Teku uses his candle to illuminate new areas or overcome challenges, but the flames do not last forever. Sources of light must be uncovered and used, and sometimes the candle must be blown out in order to advance.

Candle's unique gameplay and alluring visuals are accompanied by a distinctive Spanish theme. The indigenous culture is apparent in the towns and characters and they blend excellently with the international style music. Candle is a relatively obscure game, with most of its reviews coming from foreign critics and websites. There may not be a lot of press coverage out there for Candle, but it is definitely a game to keep an eye out for.

Bound

Jumping on the success of games like Journey and The Unfinished Swan, Bound immerses us into a narrative that’s more about the atmosphere and art than gameplay. The protagonist sways through levels gracefully dancing from platform to platform. The controls are simple and the enemies do not pose a significant threat, but the world of Bound is a story of its own.

Interpretation is key in dance and in Bound. The game uses its mechanics to key players in on what is actually happening, leaving much of the story up to the player’s interpretation. The main plot is similar to a basic fairy tale, but the undertones and environment tell a story of their own of a woman who imagined a whole new world to better understand her own.

Bound's colorful landscape, majestic movement, and unique alternate paths keep players eyes glued to the screen and immersed in the beautiful world. The gameplay could use some more variety, and the dances themselves could have some more impact in the game, but Bound does an excellent job of promoting the fusion of art and games.

BoxBoxBoy

A tiny gem in a sea of AAA titles and 3D games, BoxBoxBoy combines simplicity with a quirky theme to make one of the best downloadable 3DS games. Brought to life from the creators of Kirby and Super Smash Bros., BoxBoxBoy follows the tale of our adorable box-shaped hero, Qbby in his second adventure.

Qbby uses his abilities to create boxes out of his body in order to press switches, build platforms, and block laser beams in order to reach his destination. Following the formula of the original BoxBoy, the sequel takes the only logical route -- add more boxes.

With two sets of boxes, the complexity and variety of puzzles increase exponentially. The game also enlists a limit to how many boxes you can use in order to collect the elusive crowns in the game. Each level presents challenges that are not made for trial and error, but rather solved through planned out strategies. BoxBoxBoy offers a number of different costumes you can dress Qbby in and also has a number of challenging post-game levels. For less than 5 bucks, BoxBoxBoy is a must-have on the 3DS.

Salt and Sanctuary

Commonly referred to as the 2D Dark Souls, Salt and Sanctuary is no ordinary platformer. The influence is immediately recognizable and the harsh gameplay it dishes out is just as hard as its seminal games’. Players take control of a hero who must roll to dodge enemies, memorize attack patterns, and die over and over again in order to make any progress.

The customization in Salt and Sanctuary is through the roof. Ska Studios boasts over 600 weapons, armor, spells, and items -- many of which can be crafted and upgraded. However, the game starts you off with essentially nothing, forcing players to patiently work for that big number. The game never explicitly directs you to your destination or has an overarching storyline. Everything is learned through gameplay and lore scattered throughout items and the sparse NPCs the game has to offer.

Although the game borrows heavily from the Souls series and JRPG leveling systems, the game plays very much like a Metroidvania game. Aside from fighting, there are some challenging platforming sections that are inaccessible until certain moves are learned. Revisiting areas to find weapons and fight more enemies is a common occurrence.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Reminiscent of old-school 90’s platformers and cartoons, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero’s vibrant graphics and funky soundtrack give the impression of an HD Sega Genesis game. The traditional side-scrolling levels are quick and full of explorable areas that are chock-full of collectibles to find. The musical direction is apparent the entire game, as Shantae dances to transform into different animals. Each animal enables different abilities Shantae can use to access different areas within levels and traverse over areas.

The game has a central town where you can purchase items, talk to NPCs, and most importantly, take on side missions that reward Shantae with new animal transformations. Outside of the town is a pulsating world of steaming deserts, riddled pirate ships, and tranquil temples. The cheery music and brightly colored hand-drawn art are a pleasure throughout the whole game.

Similar to Kirby games, Half-Genie Hero is not a difficult game in terms of defeating enemies. The monsters throughout the game won’t have patterned attacks like in Salt and Sanctuary and will more than likely walk back and forth and sprint towards you when startled. The real fun in the game is the experimentation of abilities, exploration of the beautiful levels, and the cleverly designed boss fights.

Owlboy

This list is for the best platformers you haven’t heard of yet, and although Owlboy is gushed over by critics everywhere, its long development cycle may have put it under the radar for many. Developed over 8 years, Owlboy is an old-school platformer for the new age of games. The pixel art is as perfect as any can get. Everything from the subtle movements of characters to the distinctly detailed design immediately draws attention to the game.

The presentation alone is enough to suck players in, but what really keeps them in is the gameplay. Owlboy’s main character Otus is extremely limited by himself as he can only roll, spin, and fly. However, Otus teams up with his friends to form differing ways to fight enemies. Defeating enemies creatively is rewarded with treasure, and Otus’ unique friends make every level feel fresh and new.

Everything from the level design to the music, to the sob-inducing story, is top notch. Don’t just take my word for it, though, look online at the raving reviews, or check it out for yourself to get engrossed in a real work of art.

Last year proved to be a quite the year for platformers, and 2017 is promising to be equally as good. Before starting a new adventure in anticipated games like Yooka-Laylee and Super Mario Odyssey, jump into one of last years best platformers to hold you over.

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The 7 Best Final Fantasy Titles You May Not Have Played https://www.gameskinny.com/yh95l/the-7-best-final-fantasy-titles-you-may-not-have-played https://www.gameskinny.com/yh95l/the-7-best-final-fantasy-titles-you-may-not-have-played Fri, 13 Jan 2017 03:00:01 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

It's hard not to talk about Final Fantasy XV at this point, but then, it's hard not to talk about the series in general. With the first eponymous title having released in Japan back in 1987, you can expect the year to be full of celebration of Square-Enix's flagship series, the one that came before hearts and associated kingdoms, before the merged company was questing for dragons, and long before tombs and the raiding thereof.

But here's the fun part: Even if you've already played every numbered installment, you've still probably got some titles in the franchise you've never played. After all, three decades is a long time, and there are a lot of spin-offs, side stories, and connected titles that you can jump into if you're new to the franchise or an old friend.

Here, then, are some of the better titles that are also on the more obscure side. There are lots of spinoffs for the series that span mobile phones, handheld consoles, and various re-release formats, but these are the ones you might miss outright if you assume that Final Fantasy XV just had 14 predecessors.

1. Final Fantasy Dimensions

If you're an old-school fan of the franchise from the days of Final Fantasy VI, you may also be a fan who's loudly complaining about the fact that we haven't really gotten a direct sequel to the series' SNES history. But we have! Final Fantasy Dimensions came out in 2012, and it's really more or less everything you could want if you're a fan of the days when games were cartridges, graphics were sprites, and "blow on it and try again" was useful advice.

FFD follows the story of two separate adventuring parties, the Warriors of Light and the Warriors of Darkness, as they seek to understand a magical cataclysm that has hit the crystals (and, by extension, the world). Players can swap between numerous jobs for both parties, equipping secondary abilities learned by leveling jobs; you also unlock additional levels in jobs over time, and both Light Warriors and Dark Warriors earn new (and divergent) job options during play. It's a nostalgia trip for old-school fans and a fine way to while away time besides.

Acquiring the game: Some of the titles on this list can be a bit hard to pick up, but this one is going to mostly depend on your hardware; Final Fantasy Dimensions is available for iOS and Android mobile devices, but not for any console or PC platforms. It's probably best played on a tablet, but you can manage with a phone if you don't have a tab - and it's well worth the entry price if you can.

2. Final Fantasy Adventure

The Mana series, for most people in North America, seemed to have started and more or less ended with the excellent Secret of Mana on the Super Nintendo. What's easy to miss is that that game was itself a sequel to an explicit Final Fantasy spinoff, sort of a halfway point between the traditional gameplay of Final Fantasy games and the top-down adventuring of classic Legend of Zelda titles.

As you might expect, the gameplay still holds up remarkably well over the years, although what hasn't held up terribly well is the branding. Every remake of the game (and there have been several) tends to drop the Final Fantasy connection for one of several titles tying it back into the Mana franchise, which makes a certain amount of sense, but also means that you could easily miss that the game existed in the first place.

Acquiring the game: Despite the wishes of the fans, the original title is still not available on the various Nintendo Virtual Console stores, so you'll have to settle for the 3D remake Adventures of Mana on Android, iOS, and PlayStation Vita. Or you can hunt down the original Game Boy cartridge, if you feel like making more of a project out of it.

3. Vagrant Story

The answer of whether or not Vagrant Story is a Final Fantasy game changes depending on the day of the week, but the bulk of the evidence indicates that it is. The game never explicitly says where it takes place, but it's full of evidence that it takes place in Ivalice, and a lot of contextual clues support the idea that it's a sequel, in ways, to Final Fantasy XII. Considering that both titles are the brainchild of Yasumi Matsuno, this is not entirely surprising.

But even if you aren't totally sold on the connection, there's plenty to like within the game itself; it's a one-man romp through a complex city full of jumping puzzles, magical traps, and weapon customization. Figuring out the game's in-depth reforging system will take up plenty of time, and it will also be integral to properly dealing with the game's array of magical beasts. And if you like terse political stories about complex power interplays like Final Fantasy XII... suffice to say you're in for a treat.

Acquiring the game: This one is nice and easy; it's on the PlayStation Network, so you can easily download and play on a variety of different consoles and handheld devices. Although it's still a game meant for prolonged session play, so don't expect to load it onto a PSP and just pick up and go.

4. The Final Fantasy Legends series

While Final Fantasy Adventure is a title always included in the franchise that has later been excised, The Final Fantasy Legend was never part of the franchise in Japan. It's part of a wholly different series, the SaGa series which most people remember for going hideously off the rails into unplayable with Unlimited Saga. These three titles, then, are forgotten.

This is a shame, though, as The Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Legend II, and Final Fantasy Legend III are still really interesting games partly because of their weirdness. Even if they got into the franchise via backdoor branding, you can't really compare to the niftiness of a game that lets you install parts to turn your characters into cyborgs or evolve into new forms based on eating monster meat. They're far afield from the usual franchise, in other words.

(Full credit to GameFAQs for the screenshot.)

Acquiring the game: Unfortunately, this is going to be difficult. Final Fantasy Legend II had a re-release on the Nintendo DS back in 2009, but only in Japan; Final Fantasy Legend III, which may be the best of the batch, has never had a re-release since 1998. You'll need to hunt down the original cartridges and a working Game Boy to play through these, or resort to emulation.

5. Final Fantasy Tactics

If the only experience you have with this series involves the subtitle "Advance," you're missing out. Final Fantasy Tactics is a marvelous game that was still eminently playable long after its release, and its updated re-release The War of the Lions is an even better game, complete with a translation that hasn't been mangled beyond all comprehensibility.

Aside from featuring excellent tactical battles that pit players against a variety of terrain features and force you to think about aspects of jobs that you would have never otherwise considered, FFT features a complex, mature plot covering the rise and fall of nations while the player characters move on the periphery of huge events. It's a game that still has an active fan base and community nearly two decades after it came out in North America, and it's the sort of game you can lose yourself in for months... even after you've beaten it.

Acquiring the game: Fortunately, this one is easy; the remake for the PSP is a few years old, but the game is also available for iOS and Android devices, so you can doubtlessly find some way to play it.

6. Final Fantasy Explorers

Pretty much all of the titles on here are older titles, since many of them came out in a time when the game industry was akin to the Wild West, with no sort of central knowledge about what in the world was coming out for any given system. Final Fantasy Explorers, though, is just a year old, but it seems to have been largely forgotten despite that... which is a shame, as it's a fun game with lots to recommend it.

While the story is more or less purely an excuse plot, the actual gameplay is something of a fusion between Final Fantasy and the Monster Hunter series, with elements of Final Fantasy XI's baroque design. It also has a strong multiplayer focus, which encourages you to spread the game to your friends and farm up weird items together. That's always fun.

Acquiring the game: Again, this one came out in 2016; it shouldn't be too difficult to find. It's only for the 3DS, but since the 3DS is about as common as air molecules, that shouldn't pose a problem.

7. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

With the Final Fantasy VII remake on the way, it's a fair bet that Square-Enix has forgotten that the plot of that game was in no small part focused on how Cloud Strife wasn't a hero. He was some random dude pretending to be a hero for the sake of his ego. Harsh? Yes. But you can play as the hero of Final Fantasy VII; you just have to jump back to the prequel, Crisis Core. Which was released many years later, of course.

Crisis Core is an odd blend of turn-based and real-time combat set in the same world with a number of new systems derived from Final Fantasy VII's Materia system, with the story filling in the events before the start of the main entry. So you get all of the fun of swinging a huge sword without a hero who lapses into catatonia partway through. It's win-win.

(Full credit to the Final Fantasy Wiki for the screenshot.)

Acquiring the game: This one is only a few years old, but you'll need a PSP to play it, which might actually be more of a chore than finding the game itself. Gaming is weird like that.

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Breakdown: The Obscure Gem Everyone Should Play https://www.gameskinny.com/oiwum/breakdown-the-obscure-gem-everyone-should-play https://www.gameskinny.com/oiwum/breakdown-the-obscure-gem-everyone-should-play Thu, 10 Nov 2016 04:08:49 -0500 MrDanielPrice

Breakdown. You probably haven’t heard of it and I’m not surprised.

Breakdown was a first-person action adventure game released back in 2004 for Microsoft’s original Xbox. Developed and published by Namco in Japan and North America and published by Electronic Arts in Europe, it’s an extremely obscure title that, according to sales estimates provided by VGCharts, was an abysmal commercial failure -- only selling around 12,000 units globally. Ouch!

Despite poor sales, Breakdown is probably one of the most innovative first-person shooters ever devised. (It even inspired the critically acclaimed gameplay of Mirror’s Edge.) It’s more than a decade old, but surpasses current video games in some aspects that, surprisingly, haven’t been replicated since.

The Story

The game’s story is excellent and engaging, if not a little cliché. We play as Derrick Cole, a guy who wakes up in a science facility with no memory of who he is or why he’s there. We go through the most immersive tutorial section I’ve ever played in a game ever—we learn how to look around, move, shoot and how to throw punches and kicks, all with a perfectly good reason to do so, being that we were just in a coma

After being given a sedative, a bunch of soldiers storm into the room and try to kill us. We’re narrowly saved by a woman named Alex. We’ve never met before, but she sure knows us.

I won’t spoil the story, but know that it involves taking down a lot of military soldiers and getting into more than a few fist fights with alien warriors called the T’lan, who are equipped with impenetrable energy shields that only Derrick can break through. This is where the hand-to-hand portion of the game’s combat system comes into play.

As the story progresses, you’ll meet a few more characters and it will get more complex and a lot less cliché than you might expect.

The Gameplay

While this game is something I believe everyone should play—hence the title of this piece—it’s far from perfect. Shooting is much like you’d expect in any other first-person shooter, except that you can’t free aim at all. You use the A button to lock onto your target and pull the trigger. It works, but it’s a flawed mechanic that results in little marksmanship needed from the player, a lot of frustration—especially on the hardest difficulty setting and in later portions of the campaign—and taking lots of lead to the face. The latter aspect is made worse by the inability to regenerate health.

The hand-to-hand combat fares much better, and it’s immediately obvious why locking onto a target was chosen as opposed to free aiming. However, while the first-person fist fights are one of the game’s highlights. And in my books, it’s part of the reason Breakdown is such a unique and innovative game, things start to break down—no pun intended—when you’re faced with more than one T’lan warrior at a time.

Due to only being able to attack one target at a time and the narrow field of view offered by the immersive first-person perspective, it’s an absolute pain to take down two T’lan at a time. While your partner Alex will aggro one of them in the times when you’re not separated from her, there are still plenty of occasions where you’re expected to take on more than one threat at a time on your own.

These situations highlight the glaring flaw in the game’s lock-on mechanic, making you feel less like a badass supersoldier and more like an amateur boxer -- taking hits from behind and at the side as you desperately try to knock one guy on his ass and give yourself enough time to turn around and swing a few punches at the second guy before his buddy gets back up on his feet.

The combat system is unique, immersive and engaging, yet results in too many frustrating moments that shine a light on the messy, ugly face of its terribly flawed design.

Eating, Drinking and World Interaction

Another aspect of the game that stands out—and one that isn’t flawed by any means—is how health recovery and world interaction is handled. That is the pinnacle of what this title has to offer in regards to pure immersion; it’s also the most prominent element of the overall experience that I remembered from originally playing the game when I was younger.

When picking up weapons and collecting ammunition, most games simply have you aim at the object, press a button and POOF!, -- it disappears from where it was and is magically in your hand. And you only have to walk over ammunition to pick it up.

This isn’t the case in Breakdown, however. When you pick up weapons and ammo, you actually pick them up. Derrick will reach down, pick up the weapon, inspect it for a second or two, and then it’s added to your arsenal. Ammunition is handled in a similar fashion, with Derrick picking up sole magazines, looking at them for a moment and then tucking them away in his combat vest.

Here’s the kicker, though, and one of the little touches that makes this game so damned immersive, when you kill a soldier and he drops a gun you already own, Derrick will pick it up, eject the magazine, then drop the gun and just take the ammo -- exactly as you’d expect someone to do in real-life.

One of the downsides about the weapons is that there’s very few of them. If you include the frag grenade, there are only five weapons you’ll use in total, almost half of which you’ll pick up within the first hour of play time. The most peculiar thing about Breakdown’s arsenal— thought I’m not even sure it can be called that—is that its pistol acts very much as the equivalent to other games’ sniper weapons; it does more damage per bullet and is more accurate than the submachine gun.

This game has many things it can be faulted for, but world interaction is not one of them. It doesn’t stop with weapons and ammo, though. Every other action is performed the same realistic way, and with excellent animations for each. You heal by picking up burgers or ration bars and eating them. You can use vending machines to dispense cans of carbonated goodness to drink, too. All this is animated meticulously -- down to inserting a coin, pressing the button, and picking up the can from the dispensing tray.

You’ll open doors, swipe key cards, press lift buttons, absorb alien energy orbs, climb ladders, and do some light parkouring in this game. All are fully animated from an engaging first-person perspective, accompanied with superb and realistic sound bites. Looking down, you’ll see you’re an actual human being with feet, rather than a camera holding a gun.

It’s the closest thing to real world interaction any video game has ever come, prior to virtual reality gear hitting the market. In fact, a remaster or remake of this game would be a perfect way to show off what VR gaming has to offer.

The World

The environments you’ll adventure through largely consist of grey hallways. In Breakdown's defense, this does make sense given the context and the location. However, this samey feeling will be alleviated with some outdoor sections and a spattering of interior designs that mix things up a bit.

Again, I’m keeping this vague, so as to not to spoil the experience for those who haven’t played it yet.

The Audio

The music in Breakdown is another strong point. Fast, thumping beats will attack your ears while you’re in the midst of action -- whether you’re shooting soldiers or kicking some T’lan ass. During the quiet parts, you’ll sometimes be treated to some slow, creepy music that keeps you on edge and wondering whether there’ll be something or someone out to kill you around the corner.

The voice acting is also good, considering the game’s age, which adds to a solid audio experience all-round.

Go Hard or Go Home

If you don’t like it hard, then this game isn’t for you. I played it on the highest difficulty possible and it was a challenging experience -- though this may partially be due to the flaws in its design. I’ve no doubt fans of games such as Dark Souls and XCOM will be right at home here.

My Final Thoughts

Breakdown is probably the most memorable gaming experience I’ve ever had. Despite all the things this game does wrong, the idea behind it and the vision the development team clearly had for this project is well intact. It’s a great game that, in spite of its flaws, is one of the most unique, immersive, engrossing and engaging experiences gaming has to offer.

The real shame here is that the game hasn’t seen a reboot, remake, remaster, or any new installments in the series. That’s not so surprising considering the low sales figures, but I think this gem of a game should see some new treatment. This is not an experience that should be left to rot, forever living in the nether of obscure games no one has heard of.

Breakdown deserves to be played by anyone who has a serious appreciation for video games. It shouldn’t be left relegated to the dusty shelves of used game shops and cheap eBay listings. Play it, tell people about it, criticize it, do whatever you want with it. Just get the word out, whether it’s good or bad, and tear away the veil of obscurity shrouding an innovative title that deserves some serious attention.

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