In a world where getting likes and backers for a project is a must, the term “favorite” gets tossed around quite a bit. Its very easy to get caught up in the hype of a game coming out and thinking it is the cream of the crop, especially when you put down $60 to get the thing, along with paying for whatever system you purchased to play it on. That in turn is what makes count downs so popular on any gaming channel–it fills us with pride knowing that we can put stock in our most cherished games and share that experience with other people. It also shows that if a person likes a certain game, they have certain tastes that can either separate or unify that person with the rest of the gaming community. This vain, but adorable ideology is something I’m going to try to avoid when making this list. This need to ride out the hype train and become elitist is what makes our community both accepting and toxic and I happen to enjoy avoiding toxicity.
Game developers play us for fools because we act like fools. That’s the bottom line. They don’t hate us, they just need to ensure their paycheck while fighting this insane fan base.
I don’t want to get you to like me through the games I play, nor do I have any ambition of trying to make you think the games I like are any better than the games you like. What I want to do is list the games I’ve played in my life that I could enjoy at a personal and mechanical level. Games that I could play for hours on end on a deserted island and still find enjoyment. Because of this, many of the classics you usually see on these kinds of lists won’t be seen. Further more most RPGs probably won’t make the list either–not because they are bad, but because the content put into them is in a finite amount. Maybe further down in the line I can do a top 5 most beloved games list–as that is a place where the RPGs and Visual Novels will shine.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to make the subject seem so heavy, in the future I would like to start a discussion about elitism in gaming and how that all came to be, but for now lets just get to the list. These games are not in any particular order they are just the 5 that stand out to me the most, starting with….
- Sonic Unleashed (PS3, Xbox 360)
I bet you didn’t expect that did you? The Sonic series, especially the modern series is known to have a multitude of games that are widely renown for how bad they are and this one is no exception. Ever since his first debut on the Sega Genesis where he wagged his finger at the title screen with no regard for how ridiculous he looked, Sonic was always known to be a lesser Mario clone but with more “90’s attitude” . Its no secret that the Sonic series is undergoing an identity crisis as they attempt to pull away from being a Mario clone while still attributing to the source material. The most infamous of which was Shadow the Hedgehog, where xXb’loddywrists69hedgehorfXx used a gun to shoot Eggman in the face and go to bed whenever he DAMN WELL PLEASED. Sonic Unleashed is also a victim to this phenomena because of the day/night cycle gimmick wherein, Sonic turns into a “Werehog” at night and remains his normal self during the day.
The Werehog sections of the game are bad. Movement is slow and clunky and a lot of the time the level design forces you to master its clunkiness through harrowing platforming sections where one wrong input can be the difference between five minutes of game-play and thirty. They seem to be going against everything a Sonic game is about and instead trying to be a God of War clone, which, at the time of release, was still very popular and relevant.
But back to the original point I was making, this game was made during a time where the Sonic series was trying to get away from being a Mario clone but having bad design choices by focusing on the other characters of the Sonic Universe. Which is why I was excited to hear that, aside from Tails and this god awful abomination the game does not focus on any other Sonic character, the main point of the game is Sonic. I don’t have to worry about having to defeat the big bad guy with the real super power of teamwork, and I don’t have to worry about doing a terrible fishing mini game. With a shift of focus comes a level of depth that I’ve always wanted in a Sonic game.
One of my biggest hang ups for the Sonic series has been the fact that you have the capability to go fast, but because of the fact it is trying to be Mario, you have to slow down to do platforming segments. In other words, being good at a Sonic game merely means you have gone through a painful trial and error method learning how the physics of that particular game work, and, where the jumps and turns are in each level. But with Sonic Unleashed and its day-time levels, I didn’t have to worry about that AND it managed to not be entirely on-rail. The 3D sections really let you tear through a level at maximum speed, but also rewarded you for being aware of your surroundings to find the shortcuts or rings to pick up. For once the 3D gameplay isn’t bogged down by glitches or bad camera angles, the 3D actually works! Each level had beautiful designs and are centered around real world locations which further enhanced the spirit of adventure that the Sonic games have been trying to go for and to top it off it was actually challenging! People who have played the game will know how hard the Adabat level was but how amazing it was at the same time. You literally run on water! That’s something that most games never let you do!
And I know what you are thinking: “But Justin, you’ve only described 50% of the game, the other 50% is garbage so how can this be your favorite game?” Really its not a 50-50 split of daytime and nighttime levels and because Sonic Unleashed added a level up system, I often found myself over-leveling the werehog to make those levels much easier. Although there were only one to two day-time levels per world and one to two werehog levels, each world hub had a bunch of different missions to try that had different twists on the level you had played before and often required you to do even crazier things, meanwhile, the werehog missions were entirely optional. Plus that whole bit about how being good at a Sonic level meant memorizing the level? In this game that kind of mentality is rewarded because when everything is done right its quite a spectacle to behold, its exhilarating to see a speed run come together on every Sonic Unleashed level without needing to clip through a wall.
I also hear people saying: “hey Justin, did you know there was a newer Sonic game called Sonic Generations? In that one you only play as the day-time Sonic but you can also play as Classic Sonic! its a dream come true!” Sonic Generations is a great game don’t get me wrong. Seeing City Escape redone brought tears to my eyes with how beautiful it was. But Sonic Unleashed was the first to try this “true Sonic style” while Sonic Generations was trying to pander to the fans it had lost over the years. They lowered the speed and difficulty of the game while also bringing back all the side characters of the Sonic universe to replace the missions I had come to love in Sonic Unleashed.
Sonic Unleashed is what Sonic 06 should have been. It IS Sonic Adventure 3 and there is a level of depth and fun that simply hasn’t been recreated since it came out in 2008. I feel that because the team had more freedom in this game to flesh out the Hedgehog engine, they didn’t hold back at all on the Sonic stages. The spirit of Sonic is lodged at that games core and for that I will always respect it. Well, at least half of it.