Underappreciated games of 2006

By Spencer . December 31, 2006 . 5:30pm

This year there were plenty of awesome (triple A titles if you must) on the marketplace. Gears of War, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Final Fantasy XII and New Super Mario Bros. immediately come to mind. However, each year there are some great games that fail to grab the limelight. Since 2006 was such an awesome year for video games it was easy to overlook titles.

 

DEFCON is one of those games that got glossed over. Introversion’s attempt at bringing Wargames into a game showed a twisted reality where everyone dies. All that mattered was how many people you can save from your country or if you’re the more sadistic type how many people you could nuke. The interface even has a level of detachment; you’re sitting at a nuclear launch console far away from the chaos. There is no gore, but there is something eerie about seeing text telling you that 5 million people died in a split second.

 

Two years ago Nintendo released Chibi Robo in Japan. The future of the cute helper robot game was shaky in the USA, Skip’s previous work Giftpia never made it over. Fans said they wanted Nintendo to bring the game to the USA, but when it finally came out no one seemed to care. Maybe because the creative “katamari” style game craze has faded or maybe because Chibi Robo was only about ten hours long (OK if you go through it fast it’s like six). It’s hard to recommend a game that short for $50 or $40, but now that Chibi Robo has fallen into the bargain bins for twenty or so give it a shot. Hint, it works on your newly purchased Wii too.

 

Speaking of Nintendo their entire Game Boy Advance Bit Generations series got glossed over. The games are simplistic arcade style titles with barebones graphics. We covered Digidrive, where you play a traffic cop for different colored ships. Later on I played around with Oribital where you absorb other planets into your planet to push through the galaxy. Both are pretty cool concept titles that Nintendo made, but even though they were anticipated in Japan no one really cared when they were released.

 

A collection of all of Konami’s Gradius games is a shoot ‘em up fans dream come true. So when Konami released a handheld version it should have been a sure fire hit. Instead it’s be marked down time after time and buried between copies of Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories. Sure there’s not as big of a market for shoot ‘em ups in the USA, but Gradius does have a fanbase. Maybe part of the problem is the PSP install base who just aren’t interested in the game. Here’s a counter solution, port it to the PS3 and sell it for $15 give the Gradius Collection a second shot Konami!

 

Of course Okami should be on this list too. After many years Clover Studio’s wolf game finally came out in English and Japanese. Despite critical review scores Okami never became the mega hit it should’ve. Chalk it up to attention being diverted to two new systems, the lack of advertising and the surprise success of Dead Rising. Now that Clover Studios has been dissolved the chance for a new Okami game is slim, but fans are still hoping. If you haven’t moved on to the new generation yet and own a PS2 seek this out, most stores sell it for $30.

 

Those are some of my picks for underappreciated games, but what are yours?  Post some comments or send your blog posts livejournal / blogger / Xanga / MySpace or whatever else about the topic and I’ll throw some links up.

 

Also to all of the Siliconera readers out there Happy New Year and we’ll keep bringing you original stories, playtests and news in ’07.


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  • the_importer

    Hmm, I really should try Chibi Robo. If only I had decent video rental stores in my area.

  • EvilAkito

    I think an underappreciated gem worth mentioning is Suikoden V. To elaborate, I’ll draw three big parallels between my experiences with Suikoden V and Twilight Princess. #1, both games are constantly bashed for not having great visuals. #2, both games are ciriticised for being too similar to a previous fan-favorite in their series (Suikoden II and Ocarina of Time respectively). But most importantly, #3, both of those games are the only 40+ hour games I’ve beaten this year. They were both the kinds of games that I could dedicate an entire free-day to playing. Other games (not to mention other life responsibilities) had to step aside and make room.

    I may be in the minority when saying this, but I think Suikoden V puts all other RPGs of this year to shame. Yes, even that certain other PS2 RPG that pretty much wins all the awards by default.

  • the_importer

    There was a Suikoden V?

    Maybe the reason why it’s underappreciated is due to lack of advertisement cause I had no idea they made past IV.

  • Jeff

    Wow, EvilAkito, with such a glowing recommendation I just might have to pick up a copy of Suikoden V. I almost did in like October because ToyR’Us had a copy, but I was knee deep in Okami at the time. I’m always looking for a new RPG series to try, since I find that I’m not very interested in RPG series from game-to-game (which is why I won’t buy all the FF titles just cause I like X and X2).

    It’s unfortunate that Okami was overlooked. It is easily my favorite game of this year (beating out Twilight Princess even). As much as I like Zelda, Okami gave me a similar experience that still seemed incredibly fresh, and the characters have more personality.

    Note to Nintendo: if you aren’t going to use VA for Zelda titles, gibberish makes a splendid substitute.

  • Bob

    Age of Empires 3 the Warchiefs was a great game. Also don’t forget Dreamfall the Longest Journey.

  • Eric Fox

    While the sales of Okami have been anemic, it has been difficult to escape the glowing writings on the game all over the internet. The other titles in this list I haven’t heard about all year. But writings about Okami are consistently posted on blogs and video game news sites. There is a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding this game.

    Therefore, I have difficulty calling Okami “underappreciated.”

    It really makes me loose faith in the gaming public. That they can continue to buy updated Madden games year in and year out, but avoid an original gem like Okami.

  • the_importer

    It really makes me loose faith in the gaming public. That they can continue to buy updated Madden games year in and year out, but avoid an original gem like Okami.

    Same deal with people that will only buy a PS2 or XBOX 360 just to play GTA because they heard of all the violent stuff they can do. Really makes you wonder if we can these people gamers. I mean can I be called a Chef just because I know how to cook for myself or a plumber because I can use a plunger when my toilet is overflowing?

  • Kakashi

    I finally tried my unopened copy of Okami, just before 2006 ended. It is truly a beautiful game that has a lot of depth and the celestial brush is really an innovative idea. I’m glad I was able to squeeze in time to play this game right before the new year.

  • John H.

    Chibi Robo was nice, sure, but where’s the love for Odama? I’ve found it a much better game (although definitely challenging) than reviews have let on.

  • the_importer

    Chibi Robo was nice, sure, but where’s the love for Odama? I’ve found it a much better game (although definitely challenging) than reviews have let on.

    That’s another one I should try.

  • Veilknight

    Okami is one of those underappreciated games in sales value, but when things come down to press release and word of mouth from fans, that’s usually a game people will bring up when it comes to some of the best releases for the PS2 in 2006.

    It’s similar to Gunstar Heroes, a run-n-gun that was clearly ignored by many during its heyday on the Genesis but is now one of the most widely talked about games for the system when discussing quality titles.

  • ShadowMarth

    11 comments and not a single mention of Defcon. Shame.

    I’ve been playing this game quite a lot, since I got a normally non-gaming friend into it. He’s the dictator sort, and he couldn’t resist our tales of nuclear annihilation. It’s quite a fun game. The constraints of the Defcon timer make it pretty unique, and it’s an oddly simplified game for a real-time strategy, but it is still loads of fun, particularly in online multiplayer. With diplomacy options enabled, it reminds me of why I hate Risk. People always team up, and I’m always the one they nail.

    I wouldn’t say Bit Generations was under appreciated, I’d say it was downright ignored. Sure, IGN did a story on it, showed off the games, but they never made it stateside, and the import was too steep for anyone to even think about paying for such a small game.

  • the_importer

    Japanese are willing to pay full price for remakes and simple games.

    Only way Nintendo could have marketed the Bit Generations games in NA would have been to compile them on a single cart. It’s still not to late, I mean they would play great on the DS Lite.

  • Tarnum

    Where´s the love for Baten Kaitos Origins? Sure, it isn´t as great as the first part was, but nevertheless it´s one of my favourite RPGs ever.

  • Near_Shadow

    Am gonna buy Okami whenever the hell it comes out here in Europe v_v

    I don’t know about Japan but one title that is definitely underappreciated amongst importers is Rhythm Tengoku. Being a great and addictive game, this is Wario Ware meet rhythm games. It’s so good I’d say it’s the Ouendan of GBA games and one of the best GBA games in general. Must buy for anyone who has a GBA/SP/Micro or even a DS. And yes, that’s a lot of people.

    I’ve got Orbital as well, great game.

  • Near_Shadow

    Forgot to add that Rhythm Tengoku is great for importers cause it requires no Japanese knowledge at all. It’s one hell of a hard and addicting game. Buy it!

  • Big_Al

    Well since we’re on the subject of simple games, how about some Virtual Console titles?

    For some people that have never played them before, could have been worth their buck to download a few.

  • Spencer

    EvilAkito that is a lofty recommendation for Suikoden V, I’m not really into the series but maybe I should check it out.

    Bob thanks for mentioning Dreamfall: The Longest Journey that was a fantastic game too. Go backwards compaibility on the 360!

    John H. yeah Odama should probably be on this list. After all these years it took to make it’s been a very different game from the initial design. Too bad no one picked that up either.

    Tarnum Baten Kaitos Origins was OK, it came out at a bad time too where all the Nintendo focus was on the Wii instead of any of the Gamecube line up.

    It looks like the Gamecube got the short end of the stick in ’06, but in ’07 Nintendo has a lot of love.

  • Pesmerga00

    I second the Suikoden V recommendation. Some people may be turned off by the silent Protagonist, but the amount of emotion captured in facial and body expressions is impressive. The majority of the characters however, are voiced and done so very well. The story is more politically motivated, far from the standard boy saves world. The battles are mainly turn based, with a few RTS army/ship battles thrown in, which keep things from getting stale. All in all it may not be the best game, but it is certainly underrated and deserving of praise.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Contact was one of the best and the most underappreciated game of year.

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