Alphabest: GameCube – D

D is for Doo Wop That Thing

There’s one word which makes culling the D list a lot easier: Disney. As in, He disney wanna play any of them.

D

This is because, there are one hell of a lot of Disney games for the GameCube, and it would seem that most of them begin with the word “Disney”. We can bin every single one of them along with another Disney D game which doesn’t contain “Disney” – Donald Duck: Quack Attack.

It may seem harsh getting rid of so many just because they have the misfortune of being a Disney licenced product, but really, they all deserve it. From “Disney’s Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse” (which I completed, for my sins) to “Disney’s Tarzan: Freeride”, they’re all – without a single exception – crap. Some even have the double-whammy of being Disney and sports. Disney Sports Soccer for example. No.

Some other games that won’t progress past this point include a number of Dragon Ball Z titles (these are never good, yet people keep buying them), Dora the Explorer: Journey to the Purple Planet (hopefully she never comes back), Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 (it’s no Tony Hawk), and a pair of Def Jam fighting games.

What a dark time in gaming history.

It’s not all bad though! Have a look at what actually is worth mentioning:

donkey kongaDonkey Konga is a rhythm game, starring Donkey Kong, where you use a pair of bongos as the controller. You slap either drum in time to the music as shown on screen, and it also has a microphone which is designed to pick up claps, adding a bit more variety. It is a lot of fun, although your hands will hurt after even a short play. There were two sequels, but the original has the best tracklist and in rhythm games, the tracklist is everything.

doshin the giantDoshin the Giant surprised everyone by making it out of Japan, although it never reached the US. You take control of a huge naked yellow giant who definitely has a prominent navel and it isn’t a willy at all. He can raise and lower land, as well as move stuff about, in order to help the inhabitants of the world. Or, he can turn into the evil Jashin and wreak havoc on everyone. It’s a little like Black and White, but so much better.

And the Alphabest?

It’s funny that both games involve slapping stuff with open palms – you on the bongos in Donkey Konga, and Doshin himself in order to flatten the landscape. This aside, they couldn’t be more different. Donkey Konga is frequently frantic, but Doshin is mostly laid back.

Between them, I’d have to choose Doshin the Giant. It’s such a cute looking, relaxing game to play. Even when things go wrong – like natural disasters – you never feel pressured or stressed. And of course, it’s utterly bonkers, and that’s always an easy sell to me.

Next time: E. Is the Magic Number. (But what does it all mean?)

Alphabest: GameCube – C

C is for Chimichanga

Oh dear, C. You are not exactly a shining star in the galaxy of GameCube games, are you? So many games, so much crap.

C

Remember all those excellent game hunting games that came out in the early 2000s? Almost all branded Cabela? They were great, weren’t they? I lie. They were terrible. Three of them sullied the GameCube, but thankfully not outside the gun-hungry United States.

No, instead we got the more family friendly, but just as dire Cocoto trilogy of trash: Cocoto Funfair, Cocoto Cart Racer and, winning the prize for More Generic and Least Exciting Title Ever, Cocoto Platform Jumper. Wow. Just… wow. The US didn’t get any of these, the lucky sods.

Onto better things, with the excellent Crash Bandicoot. Of course I’m kidding, because Crash Bandicoot was never good ever, and how his games sold at all I’m at a loss to explain. Three titles appeared on the GameCube, two of which were (sigh) cart racing games, and one (The Wrath of Cortex) was an awful 3D platformer. Platyawner. More like Crap Bandicoot, right?

None of these will be making the final list for C, and neither will the Conflict: Desert Storm and Call of Duty games because boring shootmans. I don’t car if you like them, it’s my list. Also binned are the licenced crap titles, such as Cars, Codename: Kids Next Door, Chicken Little and Curious George.

Which means! These!

cel damageCel Damage is a cel-shaded, weaponised racing game in a similar mould to Mario Kart. Although perhaps it’s actually closer to Carmageddon or Twisted Metal in execution than Mario Kart, as the focus is on the weapons and not all of the game modes actually involve racing. Incredibly unusual at the time, the clever graphics engine produced a unique and impressive look – it’s almost Wacky Races the video game.

capcom vs snk 2 eoCapcom vs. SNK 2 EO: Millionaire Fighting 2001 is, as you may have guessed, a fighting game featuring characters from various Capcom and SNK fighting games. Despite the two contrasting types of fighting game, CvS2 comes closer to Capcom titles, no doubt because Capcom developed it. It is a fantastic fighter, but sadly the GameCube pad isn’t really suited for the required button layout, and as some character sprites are recycled from other games a few of them don’t quite fit in here. Very few of the fighters are millionaires too.

crazy taxiCrazy Taxi, a port of the arcade and Dreamcast original game, is just as good on the GameCube as it ever was. Perhaps better than the Dreamcast version, due to faster loading times. Other than that, it’s almost the same game. It can’t be knocked for that is it’s great, but for those of us who already had it on the Dreamcast, and had a Dreamcast still connected up, it was a pointless purchase.

And the AlphaBest?

C is not a great showcase for GameCube games, it has to be said. The three I’ve shortlisted are very good, but none are outstanding – and two of them were on other consoles first anyway. With that in mind, I’ve decided the best of the three can only be Cel Damage.

Underrated by many at the time, but it’s undeniably more fun than it has any right to be in multiplayer mode. I’m not one for promoting a game based on the graphics, usually, but Cel Damage really was quite special at the time. You have to wonder if Wind Waker would have taken the turn to cartoon graphics if Cel Damage hadn’t been one of the first to use the style.

Next time, D!

Alphabest: GameCube – B

B is for Baseball baseball baseball. It’s ROUNDERS, you idiots.

At first I was pleased to see there were plenty of B games for the GameCube from which to draw up a decent list, but it quickly became apparent that quantity does not guarantee quality. Let us examine why, yes?

B

I shall start with the traditional Sportscull(TM): Backyard Baseball, Backyard Baseball 2007 and Backyard Football join The Baseball 2003 in the Sportsbin(TM), never to be played – or even seen – ever again. Good riddance!

Since I’m an environmentalist, I do like to sort my rubbish into the correct refuse receptacles, so the LicencedTrash(TM) Bin has been deployed to contain a crappy array of Bratz, Barnyard, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bionicle, Bad Boys, Beyblade (whoooo?) and Batman titles. May the Lord have mercy on their terrible, terrible code.

Actually, Batman: Rise of Sin Tsu is supposedly quite decent, but “quite decent” don’t cut it for Alphabest. Not unless it’s letters like Q or U, anyway. Shudder.

A handful of Bomberman games exist for the GameCube, but somehow none of them are even close to being as good as the 16-bit titles in the series. Heck, some aren’t even proper Bomberman games – Bomberman Generation is closer to Pokémon!

Battalion Wars was a disappointing followup to Advance Wars for the Game Boy Advance, being superficially similar but playing out as a real time strategy game rather than turn based, which ruined it for me.

A few games that I understand are generally well liked include the RPGs Baten Kaitos and its sequel, BloodRayne, and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. I can’t comment on them personally however, as I’ve never played them. I did try to play Baten Kaitos, but because Amazon were useless with GameCube pre-orders I never got my copy. Boo.

Finally, before the Top Picks, a pair of pretty well known games that won’t be making it past this point. First up is BMX XXX, a nudity filled, expletive ridden followup to Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX. Imagine Tony Hawk, on a bike, and a stripclub, and you’re mostly there. It wasn’t a terrible BMX game, but BMX games aren’t as good as skating games and the “adults only” nature of this one only made things worse.

Then there’s Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, or What Yuji Naka Did Next And Why The Hell Didn’t Anyone Stop Him Oh God. A twee platformer with a great graphical style and premise – and some very special music – utterly ruined by awful gameplay and an even worse camera. Rolling around on an egg doesn’t get much worse than this.

Which leaves:

burnout2Burnout 2 is the reason I bought an Xbox. You may be wondering why I’m mentioning that in a GameCube article, especially when I already owned a GameCube when the game came out, but the reason was the online leaderboards. However, even without them, Burnout 2 is a fantastic racing game, and more importantly, Crash Mode (where you crash into traffic to cause as much damage as possible) is one of the best modes in any game ever made. It’s worth buying just for that.

beach spikersBeach Spikers may “just” be a beach volleyball game, but it’s the most fun volleyball game. Seemingly based on the engine for Virtua Tennis, so you know the technical side is up to scratch, it’s fast, fluid and hilarious when you create your own pair of butch women and call them Richard and Judy then take them to the finals. Or is that just me?

beyond good and evilBeyond Good & Evil is a Zelda-like arcade adventure, with a fantastic game world and cast of characters. It has a cult following, and every so often rumours surface about a much hoped for sequel, but as I write one has yet to appear. It’s a game I really enjoyed but sadly never finished – I’d imported it and Freeloader (which I used to play it) caused it to crash at the same point every time. That and one of the stealth sections was too hard.

And the Alphabest?

All three titles listed are excellent, but all have slight flaws that stop them being perfect. Burnout 2 has no online, Beach Spikers is a bit shallow, and Beyond Good & Evil has frustrating stealth bits. Choosing the best is a hard task, but in the end, I’ve gone for Burnout 2.

Not so much for the racing, which is great and the speed of the game is up to eye-bleeding on the scale, but for Crash Mode which I mentioned above. Endlessly playable and always hilarious. They did release a variation on the mode as a standalone game on later consoles, but it never captured just what was so right about the mode in Burnout 2.

Alphabest: GameCube – A

A is for Absolution

That’s right folks! I’m doing it all again, only this time the Alphabest gun is trained on Nintendo’s finest purple console 1, the GameCube! Apparently 660 video games were released for the machine, but thanks to this series you’ll be able to eradicate 633. Won’t that be nice?

Let us start with A, for it is the first letter. *clears throat*

A

You know how most sports games get booted from the list from the very beginning? Bye bye All-Star Baseball 2002/3/4! I’m sure you’re all lovely baseball games, but sadly, you’re all still baseball games.

Like sports games, licenced titles often fall way short of being the best, and GameCube “A” games are no exception: Asterix and Obelix XXL, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt, The Ant Bully and American Chopper 2: Full Throttle vary from passable to nightmarish, but none make the cut.

Also in the bin are those most hated titles of the era, all the Army Men games. Taking the soldiers from Toy Story (or rather, not – they’re an entirely separate creation of course) and turning them into a variety of games seemed like a great idea, but every single one of them was terrible. Thankfully, the GameCube was only infected with a trio of these nasties, but there were over 20 in total.

That leaves the following three:

aggressive inlineAggressive Inline is that rare thing of a Tony Hawk style extreme sports game that doesn’t actually suck. In fact, unlike the likes of Dave Mirra, Mat Hoffman and AirBlade, Aggressive Inline is fantastic. It introduced elements to the style of game (like ditching time limits, and including vastly destructible environments that change the level layout) that the Tony Hawk series itself later implemented. Certainly the best non-Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk-style game for the GameCube.

animal crossingAnimal Crossing was the start 2 of an incredibly popular new series for Nintendo, spawning a sequel on almost every Nintendo platform since. Originally, the PAL version was released in Australia only causing many of us to either import from there, or get the US version and a Freeloader anti-region-lock disc, but it was absolutely worth it. It’s the most twee and menial game you can imagine, but running errands for animals, collecting furniture and insects, and constantly rearranging your house – all while paying off increasingly extortionate mortgages – was relaxing, friendly and addictive. Later games added improvements, but the game was damn good to begin with.

Alien HominidAlien Hominid is a side scrolling shooter with great cartoony hand-drawn graphics and Metal Slug-like playability and difficulty. It may have started out life as a free Flash game, but the “full” release is much bigger and more polished, and features a load of extra game modes and features. And hats. Everyone loves hats, right?

And the Alphabest?

Although the other two games are excellent, neither were as groundbreaking and surprising as Animal Crossing. A year of my life was devoted to that game, playing on an almost daily basis and spending each week religiously checking turnip prices in order to try and make a killing on the Stalk Market and pay off my mortgages.

It’s filled with memorable characters and events, and even though you do very little of actual merit or impact, no other game at the time could relax and lull you like Animal Crossing could. And, you could connect up a GBA and travel to a special island on your handheld! Incredible.

Coming soon to a blog post near you: B!

Notes:

  1. Other colours are available but purple is canon
  2. Yes, I know there was an N64 precursor, but that was Japan only, and not called Animal Crossing.

Alphabest: Mega Drive – Roundup

Celebrate the Alphabestival.

It took months of work, but I finally finished my first Alphabest series of blog posts. I hope you enjoyed them, because I damn well didn’t. With it all out of the way, I though it prudent to provide the final list of “winners”, with links to each post, because why not?

Just remember – it may be the best game for that letter of the alphabet, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good game. I’m looking at you, Quackshot!

If you liked that, why not also have a look at my Top 10 Mega Drive Games article I wrote a while back, and try to pick up on any continuity errors.

Now all I have to do is decide which system to do the next Alphabest series on! How about the Watara Supervision? That should be quick at least…

Alphabest: Mega Drive – #

# is for #$%@!

That’s right – not all Mega Drive games are alphabetical. Some, are numerical! Here’s a sort of bonus extra for the Alphabest Mega Drive series celebrating all those games that start with a digit.

0-9

But only two do, so they’re both going on the shortlist immediately. No point narrowing them down!

3 ninjas kick back3 Ninjas Kick Back is a terrible platform fighting game based on the film of the same name. Well, I say based on – like many film licences of the time it’s barely recognisable as even related. It looks quite pretty, but that’s that’s about all it has going for it. It’s certainly no Revenge of Shinobi.

688 attack sub688 Attack Sub is a submarine simulator, and something of a unique experience on the Mega Drive. You are given orders, have to keep an eye on the status of your sub, respond to attacks, and take down enemy ships. It’s more of a management game than a submarine driving one, but is fun for a while at least – it’s main problem being that it is incredibly short.

And the Alphabest?

Well, there’s no way that Ninjas game is going to win, so by default, 688 Attack Sub will have to do. That’s OK though, as it isn’t a bad game – it’s just too short and will probably appeal to a very small number of people.

That really is it for the Mega Drive, aside from a likely roundup post collecting everything together. Join Future Me at some point in, er, the future for a new Alphabest series covering a different games machine!

Alphabest: Mega Drive – Z

Z is for Zat’s All Folks!

It is with sadness, and joy, actually mostly just joy. Solely joy. It is with the utmost amount of joy that I bring to you the final Mega Drive Alphabest installment. Yay!

Apart from numerically named games. Crap.

Z

Like some of the more recent letters of the alphabet, Z isn’t exactly overflowing with games, regardless of quality. However, it’s definitely an improvement on Y. In fact, the only truly awful Z title for the Mega Drive is Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel, which suffers from Anthropomorphic Animal Platformer Disorder in much the same way Bubsy the Sodding Bobcat and Aero the Goddamn Acrobat do.

Zool, also a platformer (only this time starring, uh, a comma?) is much better, but doesn’t feel at home as well as it did on the Amiga or Archimedies. Something about controlling it with a pad just feels off – perhaps it’s the speed of the game and the unusual physics.

Others not making the final cut, but certainly not terrible, are a clutch of other games. Zoop is a fun puzzle game which would have been great for a tenner or so but a full £40-odd quid, when it wasn’t nearly approaching Puyo Puyo or Tetris was a bit much. Zoom! is also a puzzle game, only more arcadey and not unlike Painter or Crush Roller with a 3D perspective. It’s a very early Mega Drive game and it shows, but it’s actually rather good and quite addictive.

Zero Tolerance is a brave attempt at a first person shootmans for the Mega Drive. It’s technically incredible considering what it is trying to do, but suffers badly due to the console really not being up to the task – it’s blocky, the main game screen is in a tiny window, the draw distance is barely past your nose and the graphics are very plain. It plays OK, but seems like more of a proof of concept than a proper game.

Which leaves us with these, actually rather decent, three:

zany golfZany Golf is an excellent crazy golf game by Electronic Arts. You may perhaps expect it to use the engine for the already decent PGA series, but instead it’s isometric. Some varied holes, from the “normal” crazy golf sort to some impractical on a real-life course (such as the pinball and Breakout style ones) make it a lot of fun, and it’s only let down a little by being a bit jerky and slow, although this doesn’t really affect the gameplay.

zombiesZombies, known as Zombies Ate My Neighbours (without the “u”, shudder) in other regions, is an excellent comedy horror B-movie themed co-op arcade game not a million miles away from something like Gauntlet. A massive range of silly weapons (water pistols and ice lollies, for example) and enemies right out of the films (zombies, evil dolls, giant babies) make for a memorable and unique game. Unfortunately, the SNES version is a little better simply because of the extra joypad buttons, which help greatly with weapon selection.

zero wingZero Wing is, as everyone knows has the most hilariously bad dialogue ever. So bad that it became a viral internet meme before viral internet memes were even a thing. Remember All Your Base? That was Zero Wing. Terrible localisation aside, Zero Wing is also an excellent side scrolling shoot ’em up with all the stuff I like in such games – great power ups and massive bizarre bosses. And your ship looks like Thunderbird 4. Sort of.

And the Alphabest?

As good as the other two are, and despite it not being the best version of the game, the winner here – by a long way – has to be Zombies. It’s genuinely funny, from the characters (both those you save and those you defeat) to the weapons, the locations, the music and the level titles (many of which are a play on words of horror film names). It’s a shame the SNES works just a little better thanks to a more suited controller, but Zombies is still excellent.

And that’s that. There can’t be many games that begin with a number (and this is supposed to be Alphabest after all) so see that episode as a brucie bonus.

Alphabest: Mega Drive – Y

Y is for Why Oh Why Oh Why

Oh my this is going to be good. As in, terrible. The list of Y games is… minimal.

Y

Let us begin with the two Yu Yu Hakusho games, as we’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel before we even start. There’s one called Gaiden, and one called Makyo Toitsusen, and they’re both terrible one-on-one fighting games. Maykyo Toitsusen is even made by Treasure and manages to be awful. Avoid both of these.

That’s it. That’s all the games begining with Y. Well, except Yogi Bear: Cartoon Capers which is not being included for obvious reasons, and the shortest shortlist I’ve done so far. Which is:

ys ii wanderers from ysYs III: Wanderers from Ys is a side-on platform role playing game, similar in style to Zelda II and Wonder Boy in Monster Land, with some Castlevania similarities. It’s pretty good too, if nothing outstanding. Better than Zelda II, anyway. There’s a remake for the PC and some Playstation platforms now, which is probably the best way to play it. Also, I have no idea how you say “Ys”. “Wise”? “Eees”? “Why-Ess”? “Is”? Who knows.

And the Alphabest?

Let’s not beat around the bush here. There’s only one option and it sure as hell isn’t going to be Yogi Sodding Bear.

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys wins by default, and although it isn’t as good as most of the other winners it certainly is far from terrible.

Next time: Z! Finally! Then I can sto–what do you mean I haven’t done numbers? Geez.