Battalion Wars

Because of the problems it presents, some may look at Battalion Wars as a bit of a misfire. After all, while Advance Wars, the property from which it came, represents one of the peaks of the strategy genre, this console spin-off is good but not spectacular. Yet, the fact it dared to translate that portable experience to a console while greatly altering the gameplay to a point that it lands on a different niche altogether is not just commendable, but also responsible for generating a very interesting product. The mixture between action and strategy it unearths is thoroughly unique, and in a setting where managing platoons of different units and skillfully shooting up the place with the appropriate type of weapon are both key to victory, the game comes across nicely designed scenarios that are worthy of the Advance Wars stamp in how they present challenge, replayability, and the need for careful planning. Therefore, even if the complex nature of what it tries to do contains obstacles the game does not totally overcome, the result is still worth checking out, since the experience that can be found here is not available anywhere else.

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Duck Tales

As the first fruit of a collaboration that would go on to yield bright platformers and adventure games, Duck Tales was a very positive sign of what was to come. With it, Capcom used the wisdom of its talented development team to turn a famous Disney property into a very engaging gaming experience, and it is not hard to understand why the title not only succeeded in its time, but also remained beloved long after that era. After all, rather than settling for a competent but forgettable design, the studio perfectly translated the cartoon’s charm to pixels while sprinkling it with refreshing gameplay ideas. The result is one of the NES’ finest hours and a project that would go on to serve as an example for anyone trying to use popular television and movie characters as the inspiration for a game.

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Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is quite simply one of the most ambitious projects to ever come out of Nintendo’s pipeline. With it, Monolith Soft further solidifies its property as one of the biggest representatives of the genre, taking almost everything that made its two predecessors feel magnificent to new heights. The world is not just the biggest one yet, but it is also intricately designed; the art style is vivid yet sober, achieving an immaculate level of quality; the plot’s tone is alluringly bleak; the customization options are unbelievably deep; the cutscenes are abundant, brilliantly directed, and greatly dramatic; the protagonists are the best in the saga by a very large margin; and the full-fledged nature of the more than one hundred sidequests threatens to set a new very high standard for the industry as a whole. As such, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 safely qualifies as one of the best RPGs of all time, and its mixture of exploration, battling, and questing goes straight to the history books to serve as a blueprint for the future of the genre.

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Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

As a remake of an acclaimed classic, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes has a lot going for it. Its tight level design, particularly prevalent in the mission’s first two acts, generates challenging stealth scenarios. Meanwhile, the tools and techniques available to the protagonist work towards not only enhancing these espionage sections, but also paving the way for engaging exploration. To top it all off, the quest gains dramatic contours via enhanced graphics, marvelous voice acting, a deep plot, a grand soundtrack, and lengthy cutscenes. It is a trusty recipe that would go on to be expanded and tweaked as the saga progressed. But, ultimately, the point that is driven home by this GameCube gem, which is very faithful to the original, is that the tridimensional framework of the series was both mature and confident from the start. And even if some small changes made here were not universally appreciated by fans, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is excellent; perhaps to the point that a few might see it as the definitive version of a game that defined a genre.

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Astral Chain

Astral Chain has the PlatinumGames signature all over it: barring a few exceptions, many of which are also products of the company, it is hard to find a Switch title that pulls off action gameplay with so much style, smoothness, and confidence. Yet, this is also a project that clearly attempts to push past the studio’s usual scope, not only betting on a more expansive and serious story, but also widening the framework of its missions to pair up abundant combat with investigations, platforming, and puzzle solving. Not everything that it tries clicks immaculately: the plot leaves hanging threads, its equivalents to dungeons can be visually confusing, and the platforming has a few rough spots. Nevertheless, Astral Chain is a flashy, nicely produced, and thrilling package of explosive action in a bleak but glossy cyberpunk future. And even if PlatinumGames has done better, at times it can be easy to perceive the title as a culmination of what they had done up to its release.

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Part Time UFO

Unlike a few of the creations of HAL Laboratory have done during the studios’ history, Part Time UFO is certainly not the kind of project that will send shock waves across the gaming landscape. However, it is a type of title that should, ideally, come out more frequently from the production lines of the industry’s larger players. It is a game so small and simple that it was built with the intention of breaking into the mobile market, but it is at the same time filled with the unusual creativity often observed in the indie scene and with all the polish, charm, and value that Nintendo as well as its partners tend to pack into what they make. Therefore, even if it stumbles punctually, what it does more often is amuse. And it does that so naturally that it might lead one to wonder why nobody had ever thought of creating a physics-based puzzle starring a sentient flying saucer that stacks stuff to help humans.

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No More Heroes 3

No More Heroes 3 is a title that invests hard in cutscenes, voice acting, script, character development, and art just for the sake of being as flashy as possible. To some, it will all come off as utterly ridiculous: there is too much cursing, the jokes are juvenile, the writing is heavy-handed, the plot is excessively goofy, and nothing really makes a lot of sense. This is a game that matches 8-bit icons with 3-D graphics, that introduces and concludes every iteration of its gameplay loop with animated credits respectively belonging to an American action cartoon and to an epic Japanese anime, that features casual heart-to-hearts between murderous aliens, and that brings characters into and out of the plot without any sort of reasonable explanation. Moreover, it portrays people who are nonchalant towards very graphic violence, who are unmoved by fountains of blood pouring out of decapitated heads or limbs, and who act like a deadly competition between assassins could be a normal daily activity one partakes in before going out for lunch. If these sound like positive traits, then No More Heroes 3 should be an enjoyable ride; if not, it is best left alone, because without its style to cover its flaws, the experience will be easily perceived as being very irregular.

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Mario Strikers: Battle League

Mario Strikers: Battle League achieves an undesirable special feat: it is simultaneously easy to love and to dislike. The stylish nature of its presentation, the lovable brutality of its gameplay, the impressive prowess of its technical aspects, the accessibility of its basics, and the unparalleled depth of its mechanics are all high points in the history of the Mushroom Kingdom’s foray into sports. However, the bare-bones state of its content upon release, a series of questionable design choices, and a few frustrating aspects of its formula make the package come off as a wasted opportunity. Because, sure, in spite of a few bumps on the road, many will understandably be able get a lot of value from what Next Level Games constructed here. But it is safe to say an equally great number of players will either not join the club altogether or regret they did so due to an abundance of problems.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is not without possible points of improvement, as extra work could have been done to make its characters feel more distinctive and for its difficulty settings to be more balanced. But ultimately, what the title provides is an experience seldom seen in the contemporary gaming landscape: a genuine arcade beat ‘em up. And better yet, it is a package that succeeds in being true to genre’s traditions, accessible to anyone who is willing to try it, and thematically irresistible on account of the excellent use of a charming property that had already given birth to a few classics of the format. With these qualities in place, the game is easy to recommend, and whether one chooses to tackle it alone, alongside friends, or by joining unknown players in online sessions, having fun is pretty much inevitable.

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River City Ransom

The highlight of River City Ransom is undoubtedly how the game grabs the well-established beat ‘em up formula that was prevalent in consoles and arcades of the time and manages to transform it quite boldly. The replacement of guided linear progression with a simple but effective open world is a radical departure that yields an adventure where punching and kicking are accompanied by exploration and even some backtracking. Meanwhile, its RPG elements turn the repeated beating of enemies into a far more engaging activity, since fighting leads to the upgrade of stats that are much needed for the heroes to be strong enough to rescue the damsel in distress. Therefore, while the fun fighting mechanics of River City Ransom guarantee its position among the best beat ‘em ups of the NES, the game’s successful experiments put it in a level of its own inside the genre when it comes to uniqueness and innovation.

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