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Long before Tom Clancy’s flagship franchise became one of the best action shooters of the next generation, it was a tactical strategy game with as much concentration on planning and teamwork as there was on tagging terrorists in the face with your MP5. The emphasis was on building a four-person team and using the intel provided to outline an infiltration strategy to rescue hostages and complete objectives in increasingly challenging environments. Whether you’re playing by yourself and directing your AI team to their advance positions or playing with friends, it’s seeing a well-planned attack strategy come together in flawless execution (not easy) that makes this such a replayable game. The game is all about realism; you and your team go down fast, typically with a single shot (not the bullet sponges of today’s shooters). While the latter games in the series dramatically altered the gameplay, abandoning the pre-mission briefing, they appealed to a broader audience, but to really appreciate the franchise, you owe it to yourself to play this supremely challenging but highly satisfying game. Over and over.
Nightmare Creatures is a third-person survival horror game developed by Kalisto Entertainment featuring hack-n-slash gameplay set in 1834 London. Players choose to control one of two characters: Father Ignatius Blackward (male), a servant of God who has come to the city by request of the local church whose parishioners are disappearing, or Nadia Franciscus (female), the gymnast daughter of Dr. Jean Franciscus, an art historian and ancient secret societies expert who was murdered when he arrived in London. Your mission is to stop Adam Crowley, a mad scientist, any way you can, preferably with a giant dual bladed, long-handled axe because that’s how you’ll roll. It’s fast-paced, features excellent level design, some surprisingly deep combat, outrageous power-ups and magic, plus great sound design. Hacking off monster limbs, especially when you get a critical strike has never been more satisfying. You simply can’t wait for the next beasty to show his ugly mug. The controls and combos make for a bit of a learning curve, but once your thumbs get the groove, it’s all a bloody howl that will have you slicing your way through weeks of this great horror game.
Do you like cover-based third-person shooters? Well, guess what? This is where it started and the next game you have to play. You take control of Jean-Luc Cougar, a secret agent infiltrating a laser satellite’s command center with a team of others just like you. You’re loaded up with the usual array of weaponry from pistols to rifles, and each have their advantages, but the heart of the game is the innovative cover system that allows Cougar to hide behind flat surfaces (standing or kneeling) to perform a pop and shoot on enemies. Most guns have a red laser that allows further precise targeting. While the story and voice acting are not exactly top-notch, the gameplay more than makes up for it, with some great missions, excellent level design, challenging bosses, and so much shooter fun it will be all you think about while you’re trying earn a living doing whatever job it is you go to every day.
Yes. Sports. It’s on the list. This little gem is an absolute time crusher. You choose one of six riders, each with their own unique attributes and take them out on the courses. The gameplay is simple to get started but if you want to win then you’ve got to dig deep and get your timing and controlling down pat. It’s loaded with tricks that requires careful use of the up and down buttons on the D-pad. Very tricky. Once you master all the courses, which are unlocked after the first twenty, it’s on to the meg-addictive Stunt Course, which will have you simultaneously throwing your controller but leaping for joy. There’s a fun Soccer Game mode and the ultra-awesome Desert Mode, a randomly-generated map that has you racing about trying to put out campfires. Beating high scores will become an obsession. Oh, and splitscreen multiplayer couch-play. Color us giddy. The only thing you’ll be asking, “Is that the sun coming up?”
Let’s get serious now. If you have or ever owned a N64 and did not play this game, then you must fire that ol’ console back up and get your mitts on this game. The story is about an evil magician who summons a dark demon and blah, blah, blah, who cares? No one is playing Gauntlet for the story. We’re playing it to hack the crap outta tons of minions who make a nice line and head in our direction. The isometric top down view gives a great view of the battlefield and incoming baddies, which are surprisingly challenging not to mention loads of hugely satisfying fun. Naturally, you play as one of four characters: the wizard, the warrior, the archer, or the valkyrie, each with differing abilities and strengths. These characters can be swapped out at the start of each level, giving you lots of options for strategy, which you will definitely need. The game is all about exploration, finding all the secrets, chests and rest of the standard tropes of the genre, but it’s an absolute blast to head into battle, especially when you can play this with four friends at the same time on the same TV. Cooperation and competition make for a riotous good time. They simply don’t make games like this anymore. Pure classic video game bliss that will be stuck in your console for weeks at a time.
What are some of your favorite N64 games?