Essential Five: Games Under $20 CDN!
Rather than ranking the games, or even claiming that these may be the most popular choices for the topic at hand, Essential Five will simply profile five high quality selections that I believe fit well within the topics borders. The second installment will address the aforementioned NES games, so for all of you who took my emulation walkthrough to heart there are some solid suggestions coming down the pipe as promised. And now, without further adieu, the first installment of Essential Five - Games Under $20 CDN!
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Available on PS2, X-Box & GameCube
POP: Sands of Time was a real sleeper hit in 2003. It was praised critcally but it flopped commerically, which is really too bad as the game was quite innovative in a number of ways. Although it may come across as a standard action-platformer at first, POP:SOT is really about the puzzles. Imagine the style of jumping and running puzzles you might face in a Zelda game, and multply that x10. However, rather than puzzles interupting the combat as you might find in a Zelda game, it's the combat that interupts the puzzles - and it makes for one of the most challenging and rewarding gameplay experiences you'll find.
What really makes POP:SOT stand out though is your control over time. Where with most games if you were to miss your jump and fall to your death or not see that creature sneak up behind you until it's too late, you'd probably be stuck replaying a good chunk of the game to get to that point. POP:SOT, however, gives you the ability to rewind your gameplay. This way, if after spending 20 minutes solving a complicated jumping puzzle you fall to your death, you'll no longer be stuck repeating those 20 minutes! It's absolute genius, and I just can't believe that nobody had thought of it before. This "rewind" technique was so well recieved that it is now spilling into other genres, as Full Auto, a racing game on the XBox 360, will be using it for drivers who accidentally hit a wall or miss a jump.
There are some great bonus features as well. Depending on the version you pick up certain unlockables will be available, such as the original Prince of Persia and it's sequel, Prince of Persia 2. All in all, this is a great value for less than $20. A defiite recommendation for anyone who enjoys challenging puzzles and wants to experience some truly outstanding acrobatic gameplay.
The Simpsons: Road Rage
Available on PS2, X-Box & GameCube
Although this game didn't do so well by critics, it's a must own title for any Simpsons fan. The game is essentially Crazy Taxi with a glossy coat of Springfield over it. More than a dozen characters are available to drive, and all of their vehicles are wonderfully approriate. Marge in her Canyonaro, Bart in the Honor Roller, Barney in the Plow King - the game is full of vehicles right out of the show. One of the best moments in the game actually takes place on the character selection screen. When you select Moe, he pulls up in his little flower power shitbox and the trunk opens up releasing a captive Panda. The game, if you couldn't tell, is clearly made for the shows die hard fans.
The game also features original dialogue voiced by the actual cast, and the writing is fantastic. Do a really scary jump with Ralph as your passenger and expect to hear "My pee came out." As you can see, the writing is sharp and faithful to the show.
This certainly isn't Gran Turismo, but if you're looking for an easy to pick up arcadey racer, or if you're just a fan of the show, this is a great title for the price.
Available on PS2
I was never one for games like Dance Dance Revolution. And no, it's not just because I'm a fat lazy bitch. Really, let's face facts: unless you're 80lbs and Asian chances are if you're playing it you're playing it with a controller. That's why I approached Frequency, Amplitude's predecessor, with a lot of skepticism. Gamers praised it as the rhythm game that was not only the most accessible to the rythmyically challenged, but the best in it's genre. I was quite surprised to find that, once I sat down and played it, I was in complete agreement. My only complaint with Frequency was the selection of music. With Amplitude, Sony fixed that in spades - replacing thuimping techno beats with the likes of David Bowie and Blink 182. It also added something that was sorely lacking in Frequency - online play.
The gameplay behind Amplitude is simple in concept - each song is seperated into different tracks (drums,vocals,guitar, etc..), and you jump from track to track activating each one with different button combinations. But what's simple in theory isn't always simple in execution. It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, this game offers a great challenge at a frenzied pace. The best part? Rather than being just under $20, this is available for less than $10! A slew of first party Sony games are going at the under $10 mark at a number of retailers, EB included. If you're a puzzle gamer that might want to make the jump to rhythm games, this is definitely the title for you.
Sonic Mega Collection
Available on the GameCube
Also Available on PS2 & X-Box as Sonic Mega Collection Plus+
Sonic Mega Collection, and it's enhanced version, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, are exactly what they sound like: compilations of Sonic games. The only major difference between the two is that Plus+ offers a handful of GameGear Sonic games in addition to the already great lineup. Not only does the Mega Collection offer the standard Sonic classics we've come to know and love (Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic & Knucles, etc..), but includes some lesser known titles like Sonic 3-D Blast and Sonic Spinball. However, the real gem of the collection is unquestionably Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, a puzzle game that is as instantly addictive as it is fun. Based on Puyo Puyo, the object of the game is to match little beans of the same color in strings of four or more. Once again, it sounds really simple but gets challenging fast.
Even if puzzles aren't you're thing, the sheer volume of classic Sonic gameplay on this disc makes it worth picking up. If you've ever owned a Genesis, this title is for you.
Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater 3
Available on PS2, X-Box & GameCube
In my opinion, THPS3 was the last really great Tony Hawk game. Although many would disagree, I feel the series really jumped the shark with THPS4. They made a lot of changes that some people liked, but to me, changing the formula of THPS was like changing the formula for Coke. It didn't work for Coke and it doesn't work for Hawk.
THPS3 maintains the same rock solid gameplay as the first two, offering fantastic new levels that range from foundries and suburban neighbourhoods and to airports and pirate ships. What made these earlier games so much better than the ones that followed was the sense of urgency they created. The levels had time limits and specified goals. From the beginning of a level, you knew exactly what you needed to acheive, and the pressure was on to do as much of it as you could in 2 minutes. Now the games are all about making the levels as big as you can while offering mission based gameplay. For every mission in the new games that asks you to do something actually relating to skateboarding, there's a mission all about playing tennis or climbing on rooves. This is not why people play Tony Hawk games. We're not here to collect bananas. We're here to thrash.
If like me you're a Tony Hawk purist, then you'll want to pick up the last great entry in the series, and thanks ot it's aging status, you'll easily find it for under $20 anywhere.