150th Review Special, Finale: March of the Masterpieces

As anyone who has read my reviews knows, I tend to be very sparing when handing out 9/10s or 10/10s. While mainstream outlets tend to hand them out like penny candy when a game is promoted enough, I make games (and films, for that matter) work for those grades. I have it so that when a work earns a passing grade, even if it’s a 7/10, it’s a cause for celebration. With me having awarded no 10/10s in this block of 50 reviews, all we have left to discuss are the ones I awarded a 9/10. These are the games I point towards when talking about the hallmarks of a given era or decade, so if you’ve haven’t played them, check them out right away.


(9/10)


5. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Originally reviewed on: October 28, 2018

Yoshi’s Island stands above not only its follow-ups, but any of the 2D Mario games due to its excellent level design, inventive gameplay, and memorable boss fights. Speaking of which, the Yoshi subseries is quite a bit different from Nintendo’s other big-name franchises. While Mario was consistently good and Fire Emblem and The Legend of Zelda had their ups and downs over the years, the Yoshi subseries had an incredible debut installment, achieving a level of quality none of its follow-ups were able to match. The problem is that any later game would either attempt to be “like Yoshi’s Island, except not” or would become overly gimmicky such was the case with Yoshi’s Story or Yoshi Topsy-Turvy.

Though each individual Nintendo fan may come up with a different reason as to why later Yoshi games couldn’t serve as a worthy successor to the one that started it all, I personally feel that Yoshi’s Island is a little like Uncharted 2. What I mean is that Yoshi’s Island managed to be good in so many unique ways from its art design to its self-contained scenario that it would be nearly impossible to create a straight sequel without it being stuck in this game’s shadow. It’s the kind of masterpiece that really could have only been released in 1995 when 2D games had reached their peak and the designers of which were firing on all cylinders. Any later attempt to recreate what made this game so good only grasped that these ideas worked so well without really pondering why they worked. In fact, the means to make a game this good in this specific way may be forever lost, and that’s perfectly fine because it means later creators must find new ways to make masterpieces.


4. OneShot

Originally reviewed on: February 3, 2018

When I started writing game reviews, I always felt that game critics should strive to be on the level of their film-loving counterparts. As of this writing, I no longer want that to be true. In fact, I believe these two critical circles to have the exact opposite problems as one another. One can theoretically count on a film critic to review indie films and big-budget Hollywood productions as though they’re on equal footing, yet in practice, they tend to favor the former for good or for ill. Meanwhile, game critics are so close to the big-name developers themselves that one can count on them to regularly overlook indie titles. The only meaningful exceptions arise whenever the indie game in question is somehow making a lot of waves upon release, which, in the scene’s earliest days, was often accomplished by the creators going out of their way to touch as many raw nerves as possible.

Now, what does any of this have to do with OneShot? The answer is simple. While film critics have their own set of problems, if a film as innovative as OneShot appeared, they wouldn’t have let it fall by the wayside the way game critics did (assuming it wasn’t subject to the “hey, we were wrong to bash this work; it’s a masterpiece now” clause). It’s not all doom and gloom, for I can say this ties into the one of the biggest advantages gamers have over cinephiles. While I find the latter tend not to stray far from their comfort zone, a significant faction of gamers will latch onto something innovative when push comes to shove. Indeed, they were far more responsible for Undertale becoming the sleeper hit of 2015 than the press, who likely would’ve ignored it had it not been for its memetic spread. The same principle applies to OneShot, albeit to a quieter effect.

Someone writing for Polygon believed Gone Home to belong to a master class of affecting storytelling. I feel that person should’ve waited three years for OneShot to come out before writing that because it is far more worthy of that description. Though its gameplay is minimalistic, it beats Gone Home or any given walking simulator handily because it’s not ashamed about what it is. OneShot bends the medium in ways few artists dared dream, and it’s much more forward-looking as a storytelling experience than almost anything the Western AAA industry issued in the 2010s (or even the 2010s film industry, for that matter).


3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Originally reviewed on: May 27, 2018

The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are fascinating case studies when trying to parse their receptions. Fans were dreading the release of The Wind Waker only for it to be retroactively declared a masterpiece when said fans realized they were betting against the house. Meanwhile, they were looking forward to the release of Twilight Princess, believing it to be the return to form the series needed. Now, The Wind Waker is popularly considered the better of the two games whereas Twilight Princess is often dismissed as Ocarina of Time 2.0.

Personally, I feel it’s an unfair assessment because there’s quite a lot more to it than that. Yes, speaking in retrospect, I can see a lot of what made Skyward Sword so tedious in Twilight Princess, a lot of dungeon items are useless outside of the areas in which they’re found, and one could make an argument that the dungeon design is less exploratory than that of The Wind Waker. However, I don’t think any of this matters in the end because Twilight Princess is a well-made game that has one of the series’ most creative scenarios on top of a solid dungeon design that impresses even to this day. Also, Midna. Fans may be divided on its quality, but I feel it managed to surpass the admittedly still superb Ocarina of Time.


2. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – Prosecutor’s Path

Originally reviewed on: May 20, 2018

One of the most intriguing things I learned when researching this game’s development process was that the writing staff spent five days and four nights in a place called the Capcom Manor to work on the game and brainstorm plot points. It turns out they took cues from the famed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who would similarly gather writers in a hotel room to write scripts. Because of this, one prevailing thought was going through my head as I wrote this review: “were Eshiro and Yamazaki channeling him as they made this game?” Every Ace Attorney game before Prosecutor’s Path had interesting story beats, but never before had they complemented each other this well. There’s not a trace of fluff or filler to be found; every new episode successfully builds off the one that preceded it, forming a memorable story with incredible twists and a strong cast. Spirit of Justice was a great game itself, but Prosecutor’s Path is in a league of its own, being one of the greatest story-heavy games ever made. I can also say that, as of this writing, it is bar-none my favorite Japan-exclusive game, managing to defeat the flawed-but-still-great Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War.


1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Originally reviewed on: August 31, 2018

Part of what made the meme-laden writing of Tri Force Heroes or the meme-spewing Ghirahim in Skyward Sword so disappointing is the knowledge that Nintendo doesn’t need to do any of that to be good. In hindsight, they come across as attempts on Nintendo’s part to try to be cool. In reality, they’ve never been cool. This assertion was proven when enthusiasts began flocking towards Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. Sonic the Hedgehog was undeniably cool – early nineties cool, specifically – and the way his debut game overshadowed Super Mario World would set the tone for how Nintendo’s games would be received from that point onward. Their experimental titles would get ignored only for fans to realize they passed up gems and retroactively declare them to be masterpieces. Even back when they were the only game in town, they really stood out like a sore thumb when you compare their work to other facets of eighties culture. So having established that Nintendo has never been cool, I can say that there is absolutely no problem with that. Nintendo has always been about being fun, not cool, which allows their work to transcend the eras in which they debuted.

This brings us to Breath of the Wild. By the 2010s, Nintendo had a fair share of detractors – particularly among the independent critics at the time. As such, it was commonly insinuated that a Nintendo game receiving any kind of significant acclaim was the result of critics refusing to take off their nostalgia goggles. However, I would have to argue that gamers favoring cool over fun wasn’t a problem limited to fans, but also critics. With critics having to hype the latest trendy AAA release as a perfect experience, they often shot themselves in the foot when the next one was somehow even more perfect. Consequently, by 2017, I realized that the overwhelming critical acclaim Nintendo games got were some of the only consensuses I could blindly trust. Because Nintendo seemed to go out of their way to defy the cultural trends at the time and deliver experiences that were fun above all else, I knew they didn’t earn those accolades by fitting in with what was popular at the time.

This brings us to Breath of the Wild. It is easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played – not only in a visual sense, but a meta one as well. Hidemaro Fujibayashi and Eiji Aonuma managed to explore the open-world design in ways few Western developers had never considered. The result is that even when I, and many others, were feeling the effects of open-world burnout thanks to the Western AAA industry deciding that “linearity = bad”, Breath of the Wild still managed to deliver an experience that felt completely fresh. The team behind this game should be proud; they took everything that made the original The Legend of Zelda so memorable in 1986 and passed that feeling onto a new generation of enthusiasts in 2017. As one of the best games I’ve ever played, it’s the perfect choice to round out this list.


And that’s that! With me having ranked the 51 games I’ve reviewed between Majora’s Mask and now, here’s how they fare compared to the first 100 games I talked about. New and revised entries are bolded.

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  2. Undertale
  3. Planescape: Torment
  4. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  6. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – Prosecutor’s Path
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  8. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  10. OneShot
  11. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
  12. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
  13. Metroid Prime
  14. Chrono Trigger
  15. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  16. Treasure of the Rudras
  17. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
  18. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  19. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
  20. Resident Evil 4
  21. Earthbound
  22. Super Metroid
  23. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  24. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
  25. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
  26. Final Fantasy V
  27. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  28. Super Mario World
  29. Super Mario Bros. 3
  30. Super Mario 64
  31. Shadow of the Colossus
  32. Bravely Default
  33. Papers, Please
  34. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  35. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
  36. BioShock Infinite
  37. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations
  38. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  39. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  40. Final Fantasy VI
  41. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
  42. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  43. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  44. Live A Live
  45. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
  46. Far Cry 3
  47. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
  48. Metroid Fusion
  49. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
  50. Metal Gear Solid
  51. Rakuen
  52. Final Fantasy IV
  53. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  54. ActRaiser
  55. Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
  56. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  57. Metroid: Samus Returns
  58. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
  59. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
  60. The Legend of Zelda
  61. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  62. BioShock
  63. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
  64. Breath of Fire II
  65. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All
  66. Ico
  67. Metroid: Zero Mission
  68. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  69. Blast Corps
  70. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
  71. Super Mario Bros. 2
  72. VVVVVV
  73. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  74. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
  75. BioShock 2
  76. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
  77. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
  78. Super Mario Bros.
  79. System Shock 2
  80. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  81. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  82. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
  83. Braid
  84. Breath of Fire
  85. Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation
  86. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
  87. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
  88. Far Cry 4
  89. Final Fantasy
  90. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  91. King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human
  92. The Witness
  93. Metal Gear
  94. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
  95. Earthbound Beginnings
  96. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  97. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  98. Laura Bow: The Colonel’s Bequest
  99. Mother 3
  100. Sin and Punishment
  101. King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown
  102. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
  103. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  104. Super Mario Land
  105. Final Fantasy III
  106. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
  107. X
  108. Metroid
  109. Metroid II: Return of Samus
  110. Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line
  111. Dragon Quest
  112. Final Fantasy II
  113. The Stanley Parable
  114. Spec Ops: The Line
  115. The Last of Us
  116. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  117. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
  118. Beyond: Two Souls
  119. Yoshi’s Story
  120. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
  121. Limbo
  122. King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne
  123. Gone Home
  124. Sonic Heroes
  125. Shadowgate
  126. The Beginner’s Guide
  127. Call of Duty: Ghosts
  128. Metroid: Other M
  129. Snake’s Revenge
  130. Sonic R
  131. Haze
  132. Lester the Unlikely
  133. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
  134. Bokosuka Wars
  135. Friday the 13th (NES)
  136. Quest for Camelot
  137. Takeshi’s Challenge
  138. Deadly Towers
  139. Rise of the Robots
  140. Where’s Waldo
  141. Ride to Hell: Retribution
  142. Transformers: Mystery of Convoy
  143. Anubis II
  144. Ninjabread Man
  145. Isle of the Dead
  146. King’s Knight
  147. Nerves of Steel
  148. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  149. Metal Morph
  150. Dragon’s Lair (NES)

Full disclosure: Since my last milestone post, some of my opinions have changed slightly. Though I don’t remember all of the scoring changes I’ve made since then, I will list some of the more notable ones.

  • My stance when it came to works with weak endings has changed slightly. The highest score such a work can receive is a 5/10 as opposed to a 6/10. I made this change because a 6/10 is still a work I can ultimately recommend when push comes to shove, and a work with a terrible ending is a difficult proposition no matter how good it may have been beforehand. Accordingly, games such as System Shock 2, Link’s Awakening, and Metal Gear Solid V have been dropped to that tier.
  • Though Metroid Prime 3 remains my favorite Metroid game as of this writing, I reduced to a 9/10 because I feel in hindsight it’s not quite that once-in-a-lifetime achievement that warrants a 10/10.
  • The original Uncharted was reduced to a 4/10 because it feels too prototypical compared to its sequels.
  • Seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time demonstrated to me how Uncharted 2 falls short of capturing its essence. It’s still good, but I reduced it to a 7/10.
  • Uncharted 3 was reduced to a 5/10 because I couldn’t come up with a metric that declares it a superior effort to System Shock 2.
  • Because I feel BioShock Infinite is slightly better than the original Modern Warfare, the latter score was dropped to a 7/10 as well.
  • Though Planescape: Torment is still a 10/10, I now consider Undertale the superior effort because it is more in tune with the medium when it comes to delivering its narrative.
  • Even if it had more of an excuse than most cases, I probably wouldn’t award a game a passing grade if its cutscenes were as long as those of Metal Gear Solid 4. As such, it was dropped to a 6/10.

And for those who have been reading all this time, yes, I still maintain a spreadsheet of the games I’ve reviewed. This includes how many times I’ve awarded each grade and the decades in which each game originated.

We’re now headed into the last month of 2018, and I’ve been working on a new game review as usual. Given that it will be my 151st review, I thought it appropriate to talk about a game in which the number 151 is particularly important.

I wish to thank you all once again for your continued support!

18 thoughts on “150th Review Special, Finale: March of the Masterpieces

  1. Sometimes the fanbase can really ruin a game. That’s why I try not to read reviews. or learn anything about the game, especially if I’m interested in playing it. Typically, I read reviews after I play the game. I finally purchased Undertale, although honestly I would have never picked it up if it weren’t for so many people out there praising it, including yourself.

    Like

    • I have to say I don’t fully agree. Granted, I’m saying this entirely because I don’t participate in any fandoms, so I can understand the sentiment. Still, I feel that, at the end of the day, you shouldn’t let noisy fans ruin your enjoyment of something you like; the exact second you do, you’re letting them dictate what you do, and that’s not a right they deserve.

      Having said that, this is precisely why I review games that are well received. You see, at first, I thought it pointless to contribute a review that agrees with the mass consensus. Therefore, my early reviews came in two flavors A) positive reviews of obscure games and B) negative/mixed reviewed of mainstream ones. Now that I know that neither critics nor fans are wholly infallible, I realize the importance of reviewing pretty much everything I come across; even if it agrees with the majority. And I have to say that if my writings got you interested in playing Undertale, then this is exactly why I write these reviews; sometimes, you need somebody who has no stakes in the work being good or bad to charge into a critically acclaimed work head-on and report whether or not it lives up to the hype.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I already left an unnecessarily long response to your comment on my site and – sorry to bring things down – I’m going through a rough emotional time right now, so I’ll try to keep my comments brief. But because I like your writing so much I feel obligated to comment.

    I agree, no Yoshi sequel has matched up to Yoshi’s Island (admittedly not a small feat). But, I feel that Yoshi’s Wooly World on Wii U was its first worthy sequel. One of the more underrated Nintendo games in history, as its reviews often seemed to dismiss it because it wasn’t as good as Yoshi’s Island, instead of recognizing how much of an improvement it was over pretty much every other Yoshi game released in between.

    Also, I still highly recommend DKC Tropical Freeze. The only modern 2D platformer that stacks up to the likes of DKC2 and Yoshi’s Island. In fact, in a weird way, it’s kind of become the game in which my entire rating system revolves. Obviously I didn’t quite give it a 10 (though perhaps in hindsight I should, seeing as it’s become an all-time favorite of mine. Perhaps when I actually make my long-promised list it may even rank higher than some games I have given a 10/10. Guess that opens up the debate of what warrants a spot on such a list). Geez, I love that game. Not to mention it marked David Wise’s return to composing games after an extended hiatus, and of course it’s audial heaven.

    Sad to see Super Mario’s World and 64 ranked (relatively) low on your list. But I’m repeating myself at this point. Aside from the lack of plumbers, necktie-wearing apes, and fat-rolling/sun-praising knights, it’s hard to argue with the games in your top 10. Breath of the Wild has got to be in my all-time top 10 somewhere. As much as I actually really like RDR2, BotW is still easily the best open-world game I’ve played.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that’s fine. This is a pretty stressful time of year. If you’re going to post long comments, feel free. And thanks! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed these writings that much.

      I kind of think the sequels failed to be a worthy follow-up to Yoshi’s Island partly because it was such a strong debut installment. Mario, Metroid, Pokémon, and Fire Emblem all had middlings debut installments that, in retrospect, come across as half-formed versions of their sequels. Yoshi’s Island doesn’t have this problem; it emerged fully formed with so many unique mechanics that it would be difficult to make a sequel without making it the same, but more or not like the original at all. I may end up checking out Wooly World and Tropical Freeze in the meantime, though my Wii U tablet didn’t work the last time I tried to use it (it wouldn’t even charge when I tried to do so). In the meantime, I think you should give OneShot a spin; I think you’d dig it.

      Yeah, Breath of the Wild felt fresh even after I was burned out on open-world games. Western AAA developers seem to have an unsaid checklist of what to put in an open-world game; the Breath of the Wild team approached the genre from an outsider’s perspective, which allowed them to add things Western developers had long since abandoned (i.e. boss fights), fixing many of the genre’s shortcomings in one fell swoop. I saw one Nintendo fan insinuate that Breath of the Wild was no different than any other open-world game out there, but that’s not true at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I liken you to Edge magazine when it comes scores. You are more strict with ratings, or rather more sensible than other publications who consider 8/10 to be an average grade. I myself am very generous, but then again using a five star system gives less wiggle room for marks.

    You showed my the light on how good Breath of the Wild is, but alas I never beat it. I guess I need hand holding, because open world titles are things I rarely finish. That’s why I haven’t bothered to buy the latest Red Dead. I’m tempted to give Oneshot a go, based on what I have read here. Sounds good and isn’t a big time sink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In hindsight, I don’t really get how some publications are so liberal when it comes to handing out 9/10s. It basically makes the other numbers worthless, and there really doesn’t need to be that many numbers dedicated to bad/mediocre games.

      I’m glad I was able to show you how good Breath of the Wild is and I hope you revisit it some day and see all it has to offer.

      Yup, OneShot is a compact experience with no filler; I think you’d like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: November 2018 in Summary: 150 Game Reviews! | Extra Life

  5. Well, congrats on getting to 150+ reviews. That’s a massive accomplishment.

    Also, I’ve been feeling that I’ve been needing to get myself Prosecutor’s Path since you first reviewed it, and it’s placement on this list is only stirring that up more. Ah, my schedule’s not going to like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, do whatever you can to check out Prosecutor’s Path. I guarantee you’ll be impressed. When I finished it, it quickly became one of my all-time favorites.

      And thank you. You’ve been there every step of the way, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

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