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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Super Punch-Out

Ultimately, one’s appreciation for Super Punch-Out comes down to how they will look at its traits. If someone happens to see its difficulty, simplicity, and brief content as flaws, then that means the game is not for them; and that is fine, arcade gameplay is always divisive when brought to consoles. However, if one evaluates those characteristics as being features, then it is impossible to go wrong with this Super Nintendo classic. Super Punch-Out does not revolutionize the formula because that element clicks so well and works within such a tight scope that it is hard to apply any sort of huge change to it. What the game does, instead, is give it a stunningly polished coat of paint, decorate it with a dozen new boxers with unique personalities, and dare players to climb the stairway that leads to the top of the boxing world. It sure is not easy and many will not make it, but as it always happens in great arcade games, the journey is addictive and thrilling.

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StarTropics

As a hybrid between the adventure and RPG genres, StarTropics was a pretty unique concept for the time, and the fact it uses a greater focus on story and more advanced dungeon design concepts to expand upon a few areas of The Legend of Zelda formula makes it easy to see why some fans often point to it as a franchise that was undeservingly left behind by Nintendo on the NES days. Contrarily, its punctual annoying design quirks, its irregular controls, its big gameplay overlap with a more popular property, and its birth towards the end of the system’s lifespan as a somewhat dated product might explain the reason why it was abandoned. Yet, when it is all said and done, there is some quality and fun to be found in the package, and although those may not come in large enough doses to make one desperately wish Nintendo had kept the property rolling, they should be sufficient to allow players to appreciate StarTropics for what it is: a charming quest with some nice ideas that still has its place as a legacy title.

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Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

There is no doubt Golden Sun: Dark Dawn could have been better. Its Game Boy Advance predecessors were landmarks for the system and for Nintendo on account of their impressive quality and of the fact they gave the company a traditional RPG franchise to call its own. And better yet, the saga uniquely tackled the conventional role-playing gameplay by introducing degrees of puzzle solving and exploration that at times made it interestingly flirt with the adventure genre. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn certainly carries those characteristics, meaning it is a good game. However, playing it is bound to be slightly bitter thanks to how, rather than pushing the franchise forward, the title shockingly tones down on puzzles and exploration while making a few notable mistakes that were not present in the prequels. For that reason, the third installment of the Golden Sun franchise is only truly recommended to fans, since everyone else is better off going for the superior Game Boy Advance epics.

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