"Gather yee, gather yee for tales of generations past. This week I turned my attention to the excellent output by one of the greatest Japanese third party companies still in the business."
Namco. Just Namco before the whole Namco-Bandai, Bandai-Namco shenanigans. Namcot if you live in the Land of the Rising Sun. I will skip the story lesson for this one, I think everyone in the world played Pac-Man by now. Thanks to the unprecedented cooperation with Nintendo and Sega, not only was the Triforce Arcade Board a successful business plan but so was the GameCube support. Onwards to a tale...
...of the Belly of The Sea Monster and Card Battles!
Namco went "Final Fantasy" big on this GameCube exclusive RPG. It rewarded players with an impressive storyline, exceptional visuals and amazing music score. It was again to my great sadness that it's sequel/prequel "Baiten Kaitos Origins" went unreleased in PAL territories meaning that up to this day "Baten Kaitos Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean" remains alone and unique on my GameCube game shelf. It features many unconventional ways for the player to level up and use the acquired money. Speaking of getting money, it is also the possibility to take photos of enemies and characters you meet, these take around ten real minutes to develop and in case you took of something or someone rare, they can be sold for a tons of money.It's a shame that it seems Namco has given up on making new entries into this series, I would not mind having something like this to play on say, the 3DS. Highly recommended even if you pick it up today. In fact, I could probably go for a replay of this one soon...
... of Girl Rivalry, Excessive Cleavage and Licensed Cars!
"R:Racing Revolution" really devided "Ridge Racer" fans all over. Excessive cleveage aside (ahem) this entry in the series features real world lincesed cars and circuits, featuring touring races, rally segments and even drag racer. A nice mix of everything that will please gearheads of all genres . It boasts a really nice story mode where the player takes the role of ambulance driver Rena Hayami on her ascension to becoming the world's greatest racing driver. Tweakign the cars is a simple and rewarding experience and each car has it's own interesting historical tidbits for anyone who wants to learn how each one came to be. There is also a interesting"Pressure Meter" gimmick that builds up on your rivals when you're tailing them, filling it means the other driver will "panic" and make mistakes. Me, I just ram them off the road and enjoy the resulting delightful radio comments such as "You maniac!". So why I am singling this game out? It's the only great GameCube "Gran Turismo" style realistic racing simulation and overall a very complete package you should not be without. It even supports 16:9 screen ratio!
...of The Mysterious and Sadly Absent Pac-Man Vs!
Oh don't get me wrong, "Pac-Man World 2" is a polished, fantastic and challenging 3D platform adventure. Yet I will never understand why Nintendo and Namco decided not to bundle the awesome multi player treat that is "Pac-Man Vs" for free like as was released in the US of A. Regardless, it's still a worthy game that I quite enjoyed and should probably pick up "Pac-Man World 3" in the near future. Some trivia in case you are wondering, the original "Pac-Man World" was released for the original Playstation in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the franchise, a game I completely missed when it came out. I am still looking to get "Pac-Man Vs" down the line. Until that time, this one will keep me busy. Oh and speaking of incredibly good and underrated 3D platformers...
...of Ninjas that Have Nothing to do With Apple Devices!
"I-Ninja" is yet another tale of the underrated gem that vanished from video gaming history. Right off the bat, while trying to rescue your captive Master, you accidentally slice his head off but it's all go because he immediately goes Obi-Wan Kenobi ghost on you. Developed by British "Starfox" and SFX co-developers Argonaut, this is a very accomplished, humorous 3D platforming adventure that really offers a challenge as you progress, but it never frustrates the player in anyway. I could almost call this the inspiration for last generation surpassing hit "Mini Ninjas". Sadly Namco never released this fantastic gem in PAL territories, So I only bought the USA version last week and am currently playing it. Damn, I was missing out! And speaking of "Starfox"...
...of "THIS SUCKS COMPARED TO LYLAT WARS / STARFOX 64!"
Calm down, header sentence! Yes, "Starfox 64" truly is the pinnacle of the series. First and foremost, all the hate "Starfox Assault" gets is IMO quite unjust. Namco and Nintendo delivered a solid package and the first level alone was worth the asking price (ok I admit, I'm a huge "Starblade" fan). Yes, on foot missions are not what Starfox is all about but they are here, along with tank missions. Holding anything up to "Starfox 64" would always make any game fall short, but a terrible game? Sorry, no way. Not only are the main campaign missions varied and often breathtakingly stunning, the split screen local multiplayer will entertain again and again. Further invest in finding the game's many hidden medals and you unlock a nice amount of Namco classic arcade games for nostalgic entertainment. Will Nintendo ever give us a new Starfox at all, we all wonder? While they're not doing it, playing this one will sooth that wound.
I admit to being a fan of the Tales series, one among many I assure. It took me a long time to complete "Tales of Symphonia" but it remains my favourite of the series up to this day. Interesting and likeable characters, beautiful cel shaded graphics, that amazing real time battle system, the music, the world... oh the world. So rich and vibrant, so much to discover and so many dogs for Colette to meet. This was once a GameCube exclusive, but even nowadays Namco believes this game deserved a broader audience (and I'm sure the extra sales money must have helped the decision), so many more versions and HD remakes have been around for the last decade. That's a good thing, I never believe that people should miss out on great gaming masterpieces like this one just because they can only afford one home console. Lloyd and friends remain strong in my memories, hope they do in yours too.
...of Souls and Swords, Eternally Replayed!
No disrespect to Heihachi and Spawn, but everyone knows that the GameCube version of the superb "Soulcalibur II" is where it's at. Link just fit's in seamlessly with the rest of the cast and it's a joy to play. I would not trade the recent digital re-release with all the fancy HD and online multiplayer for my GameCube copy. A refinement and evolution of everything that made the original Dreamcast game a joy to play, this marks again IMO the highest point of the whole Soul franchise. I have hope that one day in the future this franchise will once again reach heights of perfection as it did in this game, but I must admit that possibly due to my old age, I am not looking forward the upcoming freemium game. But put a skilled friend by my side and we can play this one for hours and hours with every fight will be a new and fresh experience every time.
...of the Exclusive Remake of "Ace Combat 2"!
...or so I would like to write about, but sadly we do not live in that parallel universe where the GameCube sold like wildfire and Namco provided a fantastic entry of the "Ace Combat" series in Nintendo's little Cube of joy. But it was a great support from a third party company so no complaints from me. How about you, did I miss any of your GC favourites on this one? Any recommendations for me to purchase next? Fire up those comments below. But above all do remember: Play Hard, Play Loud!
OMAKE: I was going to write about this too, but it's one of the harshest Winter's in the Northern Hemisphere, it really (REALLY!) hurts to clap your hand and smack the bongas when your hand are ice cold most of the time.