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 Post subject: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:02 am 


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What are some games which execute something so perfectly to the point where you quite frankly shouldn't even be allowed to talk about it until you've played and thoroughly understood those games, and what would that something be? Be it minor things from how RNG, movement or enemy AI is handled, or major things like level design and visual hints. The game itself doesn't necessarily need to be good or perfect. Alternatively, you could also list games which end up doing something so poorly or with such wasted potential that they end up being the textbook example of how to not do things, but still end up being worth knowing about because of that.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:26 am 


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Definitely Tetris for starters. I can't think of a single other computer game that has such incredible depth and absolutely infinite replayability based entirely on one single, simple concept.
At the same time it also manages to demonstrate how tiny differences in the different ways of implementing the game (such as through the randomizer, rotation system, auto-repeat, etc.) can have an enormous impact on the gameplay.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:08 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:16 pm 


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The strategy genre is filled with complaints about stupid AI that can't even hope to compete against a human player in a meaningful way. Well, AI War: Fleet Command actually managed to accomplish exactly that.

Granted, the player and AI are playing different games. The AI starts with control of the whole map except the player's home planet, but manages to react well to the player's moves and offer a good challenge. From what I gathered, there are two AIs at play: a commander AI that works on a global scale and a sub-commander AI that acts locally. The commander tells the sub-commander to capture a planet from the player and the latter carries on the order as best as it can. It's capable of trying different strategies (use different units, retreat and attack from another point, use bait attacks, hit-n-run, send a small force to attack your flanks etc) or ultimately call off the attack.

One time I sent a cloaked scout deep into enemy territory and had a glimpse of how the AI works - lots of ships moving everywhere. While you are securing your planets the AI is definitely on the move as well, it's not simply waiting for you to attack.

Also, the game is meant to be unwinnable on difficulty 10. If you do manage to win, a log will be sent to the dev, he will see what you did and teach the AI how to defend itself from similar attacks in the future.

The game does have a number of issues that made it not as popular as it should be - it's kind of ugly, the UI is terrible, too many ships and turret types with long description texts that ultimately makes it all too overwhelming - but the AI part of it is a work of art. A sequel is in the works which hopefully will deal with these issues.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 8:57 pm 


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Very interesting topic. A few games that immediately come to mind:

ActRaiser 2. I adore the execution of the visual theme. Granted, portraying the cardinal sins is not exactly an original trope in any form of media. However, the subtle nuances as well as the more obvious allusions are all perfectly handled in this game, I've not seen something as finely chiselled in any other game. Ira is embodied by a marid, spirits who are oftentimes indeed irascible in arabian mythology, the boss leading up to that is a king consumed by his venal ambitions, his sprite doesn't even have eyes, making him look like a husk, a wraith, albeit a towering, martial one. Avaritia's stage is coated by a gilt lustre, coarsely contrasting the foul creatures that inhabit the stage, leading up to a vile dragon sheltering its treasures. Superbia itself is a man-made object, sitting atop the Tower of Babel, likewise endowed by several machines born out of human hubris. The final boss references Dante's depiction of the devil in a superb manner. It's such a magnificent game to look at, both on a superficial visual level and on the allegorical one.

The Ninja Warriors Again would be my pick as far as gameplay is concerned. I'm not unduly interested in this particular (sub-)genre whatsoever, yet still consider this to be one of the most essential action games on any given console, it's that well-crafted. Seldom is the game that merges imperturable fundamentals and a mercurial AI into such an exquisite package.

On the minuscule end of things, I love how MD Undeadline (which is a supreme 16-bit shooter in any case) handles the shield. You can raise it in an instance's notice to block small projectiles, yet contact with enemies as well as stentorian attacks will immediately pierce the defense. It's not meant as a substitute for your regular shots but as a complement. The game furthermore uses health bars in just the right way, they should've treated these as your lives (meaning that the actual lives should've been absent).

Another minor note: I really enjoyed how Jeanne d'Arc on the PSP allows characters you haven't used in a long time to level up extremely fast. I'm sure there are other games that are similarly balanced, I haven't played that many RPGs, though, hence this one stuck out to me. It also deserves a mention for brazenly quoting another video game:

Spoiler: show
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Lastly, I have to mention Valkyrie Profile's narrative. It's far from perfect on the whole, the general approach is handled expertly nonetheless. On the global scale, you're just waiting for things to run their inevitable course, stoically conducting the results. What I furthermore cherish about this is the "seemliness" of it: while your character is without a doubt a powerful entity, she is neither omnipotent nor willing to intervene at every situation. As a result, the game feels considerably more mature (actions have consequences, after all) than a lot of other titles from the genre. Granted, the canon ending ruins a lot of that just to present an epic conclusion, but the structure still stands. Lastly, I'm rather fond of some of the theological thoughts presented in the game, they remind me a little bit of Terry Pratchett's concept of gods in his Discworld novels. It helps that there are several appropriately memorable quotes and set-pieces in the game as well as an outstanding audiovisual presentation and a great battle system. Can't stress enough how much I loathe the story of Valkyrie Profile 2 which mainly consists of horribly lazy plot magic/handwaving and making everything much bigger. Instead of reining it in after the needlessly enormous ending of the first game, they just had to exceed it at every opportunity, thus resolutely abnegating what constituted and shaped it for some hollow and misunderstood grandeur.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 10:55 pm 


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I disagree with the thread's premise that there are some games that execute an idea so perfectly that they can forever stand as shining ideals. Games are an evolutionary medium and every game is based on games that preceded it. Furthermore, the frame within which games are referenced evolves, such as audience tastes and the ways games are brought to market, which in turns requires games to evolve in style.

However, what you can do, is point to games that caused evolutionary leaps rather then the usual small steps, or games that were the first to make a rough idea that already existed viable, even if many of these games have serious design flaws or have not aged that well. But those titles should be well known to all of us: Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Xevious, Wizardry, Tetris, Space Harrier, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Doom, Grand Theft Auto III, etc, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:49 pm 


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Stargazer always impresses me on every level.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 12:33 am 


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Perikles wrote:
a great battle system

VP2 had a better battle system, even if it was really broken
VP1 was just lol guts/auto item and you're practically immortal


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 12:36 am 


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TrackMania (supposedly the whole series, but I've only played Wii one) and Midnight Club II (at least PS2 build) brought restarting so immediate to the table that I didn't even mind doing it all the time, so, the game engines truly bespoke (even barely perceptible loading times would render those game designs obnoxious).

While I haven't played a ball-rolling game with any real trackball device, I can name two titles where technology ready-made was also just a perfect tool for the gameplay: Kororinpa (1st rather than 2nd) - perhaps the most universally accessible Wii game out there, where anybody familiar with a TV remote can explore its nuanced mechanics as thoroughly as they wish - and Ballance, where exclusively digital keyboard controls could have seemed like unnecessary drawback in its time (the mouse does precisely nothing there), but allow for such fine movement control that soon I wouldn't ask for any other way. Much as I appreciate Metroid: Other M game engine as a whole, its digital ball controls left me a tad underwhelmed, yet Ballance had proven that strictly digital can leave nothing to be desired in this regard.

Another example of familiar tools fitting the gameplay so perfectly you can only wonder why so late, or why never again, is Hostile Waters - a number of varied vehicles control with mouse & keyboard so intuitively that there's hardly any learning required. This kind of simplicity must be most challenging to design, I think (whereas designing complex solutions can be a trivial task).

Everybody knows how FPP platforming pretty much always sucks, right? Except maybe for Thief 1&2. Well, Inago Rage is one more shooty FPP (handling somewhat like Tribes) game in which I enjoyed platform-jumping on at least one stage (it's in the free demo, so there's no excuse not to try it).
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:15 am 


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I always said Devil May Cry 3 was a lot more clever than people gave it credit. Everyone saying Dante looked gay missed the detail that it's a prequel and Dante was pretty much wearing the same outfit Eddie Murphy was wearing while telling gay-bashing jokes in "Raw" back during the androgynous 80s. Then when you pass through the portal and enter hell what is the first thing you see but the heavenly city of Limbo for the virtuous unbaptised from Dante's Inferno. I also thought the battle against the chessboard was brilliant.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 2:39 am 


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Daimakaimura is my ideal example of an action game combining lethal unpredictability, calculated stage design and cinematic flash in a concise package. It's a charismatic production full of iconic sights and clever setpieces, where to be complacent is to invite sudden, hideous death. I think anyone looking to design an arcade-styled action game (a single-sitting experience meant to be replayed many times in pursuit of mastery) would do well to clear its first loop.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:54 pm 


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Lets open a can o' worms

So.. for Castletroids. We going Super Metroid? SotN?
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:02 pm 


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Super metroid. SotN is rubbish :D


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:08 pm 


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Yeah but.. I actually enjoy SotN
Go figure :3
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:30 pm 


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Blinge wrote:
Lets open a can o' worms

So.. for Castletroids. We going Super Metroid? SotN?

Order of Ecclesia
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:42 pm 


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iconoclast wrote:
Blinge wrote:
Lets open a can o' worms

So.. for Castletroids. We going Super Metroid? SotN?

Order of Ecclesia


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:52 pm 


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SotN is one of my favourite games, but its value is in production, atmosphere, and attention to detail.

Super Metroid is the one to study if you want to investigate a wonder of unique game design and elements that work strangely together in spite of all logic. It's definitely a historic game.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:35 pm 


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Super Metroid is the best Metroidvania I've ever played, without a doubt.

Love SotN to death doe!


Would also put all of Super Metroid, SotN and Castlevania IV as contenders in the "best atmosphere in a sprite game" category. Or maybe "presentation" is the label I'm looking for? Anyway, you get my drift.




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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:46 pm 


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Blinge wrote:
Lets open a can o' worms

So.. for Castletroids. We going Super Metroid? SotN?


Hollow Knight.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:40 am 


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Mischief Maker wrote:
Hollow Knight.

Hm, I remember you praising Valdis Story quite a bit, has this one overtaken it in your book?
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:48 am 


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BulletMagnet wrote:
Mischief Maker wrote:
Hollow Knight.

Hm, I remember you praising Valdis Story quite a bit, has this one overtaken it in your book?


I'd say they're different animals.

Valdis Story is more of an action RPG with heavy emphasis on skill trees and character builds with a light metroidvania scaffolding.

Hollow Knight is the most pure game about exploring a (massive) hostile alien world in platformer fashion I've played since the original Metroid. Seriously, it's a contender for 2017 GOTY.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:09 am 


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:41 am 


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Hollow knight really is amazing. The one thing super metroid clearly does better than it is the freedom and movement tech samus' kit gives you. Mastering simple things like wall jumping and bomb jumping already gives you a huge amount of freedom, then when you learn about things like shinespark and mockball even more doors open. There is a huge amount of depth there.


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:18 pm 


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OT - Why is it called Metroidvania? Makes it sound like SOTN came out at the same time as Metroid and helped invent the genre. Just a personal tick I suppose.
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Adding properly to the thread I will say Bionic Commando Rearmed.

It updated the graphics while retaining the feel of the original, ditched the collect-a-thon health system and replaced it with a proper health bar, added a bunch of weapons that are actually useful and you will use throughout the game, has well thought out boss battles when the original had none, and most important it controls amazingly. Amazingly.

Also has some great dialogue between the characters and Simon Viklund nailed the soundtrack, which like the graphics was updated but still identifiable as Bionic Commando.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:20 pm 


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Stevens wrote:
OT - Why is it called Metroidvania? Makes it sound like SOTN came out at the same time as Metroid and helped invent the genre. Just a personal tick I suppose.

i think it was a nickname given to SotN on it's release. Critics called it Metroidvania in jest, to poke fun a the huge "inspiration" it took from Metroid


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:43 pm 


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Wasn't aware of that. Thanks FB.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:55 pm 


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I think when talking about that term people often forget Simon's Quest was a thing but maybe that's for the best.

There's also a danger when talking about essential plays that subsequent games are judged more by the milestones than they are by their own merit.
I'm not saying I disagree with the practice, just musing.

One thing that ticks me off sometimes is " X game is just a clone of Milestone game " - completely dismissing the later game in a single sentence.
This isn't a callout but an example I can think of is Obscura saying King's Field is an Ultima Underworld clone.
While this is true to a large extent, it doesn't mean KF didn't bring its own ideas and formula to the table.

Oh and while we're at it, is UU the essential play when it comes to dungeon crawlers w/ first person action?
Never played it myself.
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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:13 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:41 am 


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Immryr wrote:
Hollow knight really is amazing. The one thing super metroid clearly does better than it is the freedom and movement tech samus' kit gives you. Mastering simple things like wall jumping and bomb jumping already gives you a huge amount of freedom, then when you learn about things like shinespark and mockball even more doors open. There is a huge amount of depth there.


What is hollow knight's crystal heart if not shinespark?


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 Post subject: Re: Essential plays
PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 6:19 am 


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It's just an upgrade you collect, press a button and it goes. There is no mastery required or depth in that. You can use shinespark in a bunch of different ways, crystal heart you just press a button and it blasts you directly forwards.

Same can be said about the wall jump, in HK to wall jump you just collect an upgrade start bouncing up walls, in SM it's built into your standard kit but requires a level of mastery to make the most out of it. Bouncing between two walls is easy enough, but still requires practice to get the timing down. Then as you get better you can do it up a single straight wall, then you get better again and can get up walls like the one to the left of your ship and do ledge grabs etc.

This is a much more nuanced approach than HK takes.

The idea of not just gating progress behind item collection, but also your own skill is something that the games which came after SM seem to have completely ignored. It gives the game so much depth and replayability.


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