Been frustrated at the lack of new good releases lately? We have. But do not despair dear reader, Pixels and Grids has your back in this economic cesspool. Behold the best games of the last ten years that may have been lost in the shuffle of Grand Theft Autos, Halos, and Call of Dutys (duties?). So grab just a few bones and grab these gems that you may not have caught in their glory days.
These buried treasures are limited to the current century for the sake of a concise article and the fact that I don’t reasonably expect you to go trolling for Super Nintendo games.
JET GRIND RADIO
Developers: Smilebit, Sonic Team
Original Release Date: June 29, 2000
Current Metacritic Score: 94
The rare game that was as fun to watch as it was to play, Jet Grind Radio tasked you with skating around three different parts of fictitious Tokyo-to city to spraypaint, or tag as the kids say, your turf. Easier said than done as rival gangs such as the cyborg Noise Tanks, the fish costume wearing Poison Jam, and the all female victims of good lovin gone bad Love Shockers will challenge your dominance. Not to mention the police will shoot you on sight if they see you defiling their city. A game that was as quirky as Japanese games can be, Jet Grind Radio stands to this day as a unique take on sandbox shenanigans.
SKIES OF ARCADIA
Platforms: Dreamcast, Gamecube (Skies of Arcadia Legends)
Original Release Date: November 13, 2000
Current Metacritic Score: 93
Rare is the japanese RPG that flies under the radar, but Skies of Arcadia made that flight in a pirate airship! Easily the Dreamcast’s best RPG, Skies of Arcadia did not attempt to recreate the turn based RPG but did manage to give it a charm all it’s own. You control a Blue Rogue team, aka Sky Pirates as they battle their sworn enemies, the Valuan Empire. Featuring a soundtrack you’ll be humming for years, endearing characters, a compelling plot, great narrative and plenty of depth, Skies of Arcadia is everything you could want from a great RPG. A Gamecube port entitled Skies of Arcadia: Legends released a few years later for those of you who might have missed the Dreamcast bandwagon. Main characters Vyse and Aika also made an appearance in last year’s PS3 offering Valkyria Chronicles, also shaping up to be a potential buried treasure.
CONKER’S BAD FUR DAY
Platforms: Nintendo 64, XBOX (Conker: Live & Reloaded)
Developer and Publisher: Rareware
Original Release Date: March 4, 2001
Current Metacritic Score: 92
Arguably the last big hit for the N64, as well as arguably the last good game made by legendary developers Rare, Conker also succeeds in being arguably the funniest video game ever made. You play Conker, a foul mouthed squirrel with a penchant for getting tanked, public urination and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While it should be first and foremost said that this is a great platform game, it is important to note for the adult crowd that this is toilet humor at it’s finest… literally. In easily the most memorable boss battle of the century, you square off against the Great Mighty Poo, an opera singing pile of feces with sweet corn for teeth. Couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to folks. See for yourself in the video provided below.
Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Original Release Date: September 24, 2001
Current Metacritic Score: 90
Before Team Ico released the more commercially successful Shadow of the Colossus, the team debuted their talent with this gem of an adventure title and knocked it out of the park in their first at bat. You play as the titular main character who has the misfortune of having horns on his head. For that reason he is shunned from his village and locked away in a sarcophagi inside a deserted castle. A tremor, however shakes him loose to try and make his way out. Along the way he runs into Yorda, a fellow captive who is hunted by spirits trying to pry her away from her newfound companion. Team Ico does an incredible job of managing the relationship between these two characters despite the fact that they are unable to verbally communicate to each other in any way. Despite a complete lack of comprehensible dialogue, Ico manages to convey more emotional attachment than any game this side of Final Fantasy. This title gets my strongest recommendation and could be the most criminally underappreciated game ever made.
Platforms: Playstation 2, PSP (Gitaroo Man Lives)
Developers: Koei, Inis
Publishers: Koei, THQ
Original Release Date: February 20, 2oo2
Current Metacritic Score: 82
Before Guitar Hero, the rhythm genre was dominated by techno and dance mats. However, Gitaroo Man came along to infuse a bit of rock into the genre, along with reggae, jazz, samba and others and did it so well that Game Informer claimed it to be “the best rhythm game ever released.” High praise indeed, and I would have to agree. You play as U-1, a timid young man who is transformed into the legendary Gitaroo Man, the last descendent of Planet Gitaroo, through the help of his talking dog/amplifier. He is challenged for his Gitaroo (the instrument he wields to beat down his opponents with music) by such memorable characters as Flying-O (a hamburger shaped UFO), Mojo King Bee (a saxophone playing half man, half bumble bee), Ben-K (a robotic shark), the Sanbone Trio (skeletons who use their bones as instruments) and many others. And you thought the plot of Conker’s Bad Fur Day sounded weird. The music is fantastically catchy and the gameplay is challenging enough for immense satisfaction while not being overly frustrating. Take a look at the video below for a look at the gameplay of this quirky Japanese gem.
Well there’s five titles for you that you should rush out and buy immediately and share with your friends. I’ll throw some more your way in the coming weeks picking right up where we left off.