Government. Espionage. Military. Tom Clancy, the best selling author and co-founder of development studio Red Storm Entertainment, died October 1 at the age of 66. While Clancy was best known for his career as the author of military and espionage thrillers like The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Red Storm Rising, he has also been able to elevate his stories from page to screen in blockbuster film adaptations and ultimately becoming a pioneer in modern games development. While not solely responsible for the popularization of Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher or Rainbow Six’s Ding Chavez, Clancy provided the guidance and vision that allowed Red Storm Entertainment to become a AAA development studio under UbiSoft’s banner.
So while I wait patiently for next year’s launch of The Division, here are ten of Tom Clancy’s gifts to the gaming world.
While not anywhere near the pantheon of stellar flight combat simulators, HAWX deserves credit for carving out a little niche typically reserved for the Ace Combat series. Not robust enough to be a simulator but still grounded in the Clancy brand of potential realism, HAWX managed to toe the line between simulator and action-oriented flight combat simulator. While not the soap opera that its rival Ace Combat was, HAWX shared storyline with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 provides just enough unique narrative. Continue reading
The funny thing about getting a launch day system is not about the fancy hardware, its about finding the right game to show off that fancy hardware. In hindsight, many launch games are fairly awful and even the once vaunted great titles look pale when compared to titles that come at the end of a console’s lifespan. The Xbox 360 in particular had a fairly weak launch which only produced one consensus hit, Call of Duty 2. There were other hits in the launch window but even Elder Scrolls IV has not aged well, and nobody is jumping at the chance to play Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero again.
Its no surprise that Nintendo is often the king of the launch classic as they seem to have mastered the art of crafting a game to showcase their hardware.
10. Lumines – Sony PlayStation Portable
An under-rated title on an under-rated system, the UMD for Lumines lived in my PSP for much of the launch year (often swapping places with the PSP’s Ridge Racer). Q? Entertainment’s Lumines was a euphoric puzzle game that played with color combinations and used music to dictate the speed of the levels. Some levels would be fast, some would be slow, some would have a jarring off-tempo beat that would be make getting into a groove all the more difficult. It was a game that used the PSP’s big, bright screen to its fullest potential and a formula that has never quite been replicated for the franchise since. Continue reading
The Japanese RPG is truly an icon. It is odd that it gets differentiated so greatly from western RPGs because both feature stat crunching, crafting and plucky adventurers striving to save the world. But JRPGs are clearly a particular niche that emphasize mature themes and narrative, as told through coming of age stories. Random encounters, separate battle systems and sweeping cutscenes are all part of the JRPG mystique, and something that I have come to love as a gamer.
The JRPG is clearly more than just Final Fantasy, who itself is a textbook definition of the mechanics that make up a JRPG. While I love the Final Fantasy franchise, Japan has much more to offer for this incredibly varied genre.
To a certain degree, Xenosaga needs to be recognized for its own merits. After all, it succeeded in creating a bonafide icon in KOS-MOS, the calculating female android that is a central figure throughout the entire franchise. While a decade of age has not been terribly kind to the slow battle system of Xenosaga, it will forever be known as the JRPG saga that strove to make cutscenes a theatrical experience (over 8 hours in the first game alone). It was a chore, yes, but the spiritual successor to the revered Xenogears gets the nod for its sweeping nature and never wavering from a ludicrous goal. Continue reading
Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Japan’s famed Kaiju monster and giant mecha films and anime, was a powerful film that I enjoyed every minute of. While the campy script and paper-thin characters resulted in a third place domestic box office finish, I can’t argue with giant robots fighting massive aliens in some of the most jaw dropping fun I’ve seen all year.
Of course, the logical continuation is to consider how a film like Pacific Rim ties into gaming with an incredibly obvious answer: there’s nothing wrong with giant robots in games. The allure of piloting a massive mech has been a constant theme in gaming so this list pays homage to those giant exo-suits of destruction.
A few things to note. Firstly, this list only has pilotable mechs, so Metal Gear has been notably left off. Secondly, I expect Titanfall to be in serious consideration for the top of this list, just not yet. Finally, I’ve limited the list to only franchises with one particular title highlighted, mostly because I don’t want a list dominated by just Armored Core or Mechwarriors.
10. Omega Boost
Believe it or not, Polyphony Digital used to make more than just Gran Turismo. Launched late in the original Playstation’s lifetime, Omega Boost was a blur of a game that had incredibly fast gameplay running at an unheard of 60 fps all featuring an incredibly nimble mech that would jet around narrow corridors and open spaces while launching an arsenal of missiles. It was simple, it was gorgeous, and it was a great way to blow through a few hours. Continue reading
Believe it or not, this year’s E3 was more than Microsoft and Sony exchanging blows (or depending on how you saw it, Microsoft rocking in the fetal position). With new consoles means new gorgeous games to salivate over and Nintendo is always a safe bet to surprise, especially in a period where the Wii U needs to gain a firm hold before the new systems launch. But as much hype as pipeline titles like Star Wars Battlefront, Mirror’s Edge 2, Kingdom Hearts III and Halo have gotten, this list is reserved for titles that have shown off at least a little bit of gameplay.
10. Destiny – Bungie – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, X360
Sci-Fi action studios need to take notice whenever Bungie tries something new, Destiny looks stunning. Set on Earth in the distant future, it looks like scavenging is a way of life for a planet taken over by aliens. But as much as Bungie is fantastic creators of worlds, Destiny looks incredibly similar to Halo from the weaponry to the 343 Guilty Spark knock-off.
E3 officially begins today, as the show will open to denizens of reporters (not named Theory Flaw) ready for terrible food, hourly deadlines and product demos galore. But while many games will get their moment of glory in the coming days, the major players have already opened their hands for heads-up poker. Franchise reboots, new exclusives, new consoles and product strategy highlight this list of the biggest news to come out of the pre-show presentations.
10. Crimson Dragon
I had to try my hardest not to write Dragoon because this is clearly designed in the vein of the stellar dragon riding series Panzer Dragoon. Even bringing back Panzer Dragoon series director Yukio Futatsugi this Kinect based Xbox One game features massive bosses and gorgeous dragon-borne aerial combat. While I fear it may play a little too closely to Child of Eden, this is clearly a bold move by Microsoft.
Over the weekend at the Tales of Festival in Japan, series producer finally confirmed the rumors surrounding a possible HD remake of Tales of Symphonia. Scheduled to release for the PlayStation 3, the tentatively titled Tales of Symphonia Chronicles will include HD remakes of the PS2 cut of the original Tales of Symphonia as well as an HD version of the sequel, Dawn of the New World. Symphonia is not only my favorite entries in the Namco produced franchise, but is also one of my favorite games of all time. Getting to revisit the story of Lloyd, Collette and Kratos has me giddy with excitement, especially since I neglected to play the sequel, which launched to lukewarm reception.
It seems that HD remakes are becoming a simple way for studios to both cater to their fans and make a bit of money by giving their successful franchises a fresh coat of paint. Already we’ve seen HD renditions of God of War, Metal Gear Solid, Jak and Daxter, Shadow of the Colossus, Halo: Combat Evolved and even downloadable fare in Prince of Persia, Rez and Beyond Good and Evil to name a few. The trend will continue with HD collections of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X on the horizon, as well as remakes of Duck Tales and Mickey’s Castle of Illusion.