Fallout 76’s Identity Issue

The Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. concluded this weekend, and players got to spend quite a bit of time with it. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Bethesda’s multiplayer spin-off is meant to be. It feels like it’s trying to be everything at once, but it ends up being lackluster in every regard. Fallout 76 is a game that’s full of potential, potential that is ultimately stretched way too thin among the game’s core pillars.

Fallout 76 takes a traditionally single-player narrative-focused RPG series and attempts to transform it into a multiplayer survival game. While this isn’t an inherently negative change, it does make the game suffer because it won’t commit to the idea fully. The storytelling, quest design, and world suffer at the hands of the multiplayer component, and the multiplayer doesn’t reach its full potential because the game still tries to somewhat resemble a traditional Fallout game. The result is a game that is sorely lacking in direction and one that I find myself losing motivation to play.

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In a core Fallout entry, the player is typically given a reason to leave the Vault and brave the unknown wasteland. Fallout 3 tasked the player with finding their father, New Vegas saw players tracking down their would-be killer, and Fallout 4 asked players to find their son. Fallout 76 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by having the player – or players in this case – locate the Overseer of Vault 76. The problem with that is that there’s no real rush to find her. She’s dead. So is everyone else. And that’s the central problem with Fallout 76’s brand of storytelling.

Fallout 76 has no human NPCs. The only other living people you’ll come across are other players. What would be a colorful cast of characters and companions in any other Fallout game are rotting corpses in Fallout 76, and because this is a Bethesda game, every corpse has a holotape or a note next to it. You leave the Vault and head to the Overseer’s initial camp. Holotape. You’re directed to sign up for the Responders, a group of survivors dedicated to helping those affected by the bombs in a nearby town. Terminal. Your next quest is to find missing people listed in the terminal directory. They’re all dead, and each one has, you guessed it, a holotape. You get a quest marker sending you to the airport. Holotape and Terminal. The tape guides you in the direction of the fire station. Terminal. This how all the quests play out in Fallout 76. You’re sent to find someone. They’re dead. Listen to a recording. Quest complete.

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This wouldn’t be a problem if the tapes were actually interesting. All but a few of 76’s holotapes drag, but there are a few standouts. I found myself on the roof of a church and noticed a skeleton at what appeared to be a lookout post with a holotape on a table nearby. I put the tape in my Pip-Boy and what followed was a surprisingly heavy audio log.

“My name is Colonel, and I’m 13 years old.

I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything… um… the bombs and the messed up people and the cows with two heads. All of it.”

This poor boy went on for almost five minutes apologizing for his misdeeds.

“I was bad… just bad. I cheated on my spelling test, I kicked Chip Wilkins in the shins until he cried, I pushed Rosie McCloy down the stairs…”

The voice acting was stellar and I found myself getting absorbed in this boy’s story, even though I knew how it ended. I felt for him and I looked out at the desolate, abandoned town, realizing that every skeleton, every scorched body frozen in place due to the nuclear blast, was a human being once.

“And um… I just wanted to say I’m sorry about everything… because my dad said if I wasn’t this way that bad things wouldn’t happen…”

This poor kid blamed himself for the nuclear apocalypse. His dad was nowhere to be found either, presumably because he was lost to the blast, and the boy begs for him to come back. Listening to that tape was an unexpectedly solemn experience in an otherwise silly game, but the mood was quickly ruined before I even finished the tape. My friends were asking me where to find certain materials or how to craft certain weapons, people in jumpsuits and party hats were jumping on tables and emoting in the streets below, I couldn’t focus on the story I was being told. It was like trying to watch a serious scene in a TV show only to have your living room filled with a bunch of people messing around. Unfortunately, most of Fallout 76’s holotapes are not as interesting as Colonel’s story, and they’re usually a lot longer. The Overseer’s logs, which you’ll run into as you progress through the main questline, are upwards of 10 minutes each, and they’re just boring. I felt no connection to her and I felt in no rush to find her, even if she was alive, and I already knew she wasn’t because of the whole “No human NPCs” thing. Any chance this game had of telling a compelling story is gone because of immersion breaking moments like these.

Technically the game is a mess. Fallout 76 uses a heavily modified version of the Creation Engine, the very same engine Bethesda has been using for their open-world RPGs for over a decade at this point. It was buggy and broken for single-player games, so for a multiplayer game like Fallout 76, it’s even worse. I know the game is in beta, but this is really just a server stress test because it’s only open for certain times and it’s the full game with progress carrying over to next week’s release. Don’t let anyone fool you, this is practically the full release, and it’s unacceptable for a game to be releasing in this technical state in 2018. Framerate rarely stays at the target 30 FPS. Performance is not great, even on a PlayStation 4 Pro. The game has beautiful art direction but graphically it’s still basically Fallout 4, which didn’t look too hot on its release 3 years ago. Load times are atrocious and my game crashed on me multiple times. Enemies have spawned in the floor, in walls, didn’t have their animations load, attacked me while T-posing, and more. The base building system is buggy and doesn’t work like it should sometimes (no Bethesda, this wall isn’t floating it’s clearly attached to the foundation just let me place it down PLEASE), and sometimes textures just don’t load. An entire river was missing one time. Like the whole river. I could see below the map. I stared down into the abyss, and believe me, it stared right back.

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Fallout 76’s gameplay fares better, but not by much. Playing with a group is a blast. Shooting, looting, and exploring are all a great time if you’ve got friends coming out of the Vault with you. West Virginia’s locations and creatures are all incredibly interesting. My friends and I found a ropes course that we spent upwards of an hour trying to complete. In the end, I was the only one able to clear it, and I was rewarded with supplies, a Vault-Tec bobblehead, and bragging rights. Later we found ourselves in a dark, dank mine, flooded with both water and radiation. One of my party members popped a Rad-X and swam through a secret passage where they found some rare weapons. We spent hours searching for the elusive Mothman and even had a spooky run in with the elusive Flatwoods Monster. After spending so much time with the B.E.T.A., we had reached a high enough level to start using power armor, and hunting for missing pieces and components alongside the search for better weapons while also keeping ourselves fed and hydrated provided a satisfying enough gameplay loop to keep us entertained for hours. Playing solo isn’t as fun, but there’s still some enjoyment to be had. At least then you can enjoy the holotapes in peace.

Multiplayer isn’t perfect, though. Thanks to the incredibly weak narrative offerings of Fallout 76, my group often found ourselves wondering why we were doing what we were doing. Sure, we had a a main questline to work our way through and a bunch of side quests, but we all knew how they would play out. At the end of every quest was a corpse and a note, and none of us cared particularly enough to find them. PvP is also not as much of a focus as Bethesda initially implied. You don’t do full damage to other players unless they fight back, so it’s nearly impossible to kill someone unless it’s a mutual engagement. My group of three found a solo player without much armor and half health remaining, so we jumped him, firing at him with our best weapons. He got away. Think Borderlands duels as opposed to The Division’s Dark Zone. Even if you do kill someone, they spawn nearby anyway, and they can choose to get revenge on you, spawning them in PvP mode so they can get the jump on you. The reward for revenge is small, something like 5-10 caps, and if they do get you, you can do the same, trapping you both in an endless cycle of pointless PvP. Defending workshops is where PvP is meant to go down, but the resources provided by these workshops can be acquired elsewhere. PvP doesn’t have much meaning overall.

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Because of all this, Fallout 76 is in a weird spot. I do want to play more, but I don’t know if I’ll be putting as much time into this as I would another Fallout game, which is strange considering this is a multiplayer title designed to be a time sink. As someone who really enjoys Fallout’s narratives, I don’t see myself caring that much about the story Fallout 76 is trying to tell. The gameplay doesn’t hold up that well either, being lifted directly from Fallout 4, which had dated shooting even back in 2015. It’s fun with friends, but even then I can see my interest waning quickly. The only truly compelling thing about Fallout 76 is finding new gear to take on new monsters and craft new things, but for what purpose? There’s only so many times I can kill the Grafton Monster and get a leather left leg with some mods on it before it gets old. The game is still in beta and some people are already getting tired of it. With other, stronger multiplayer offerings out there like Fortnite, Black Ops 4, and the upcoming Red Dead Online, I don’t see Fallout 76 having much longevity after its release. It wants to keep its single player roots while fully embracing online connectivity. It’s just a shame the game suffers for that exact reason.

Have you been enjoying Fallout 76 so far? Be sure to let us know down below, and keep it here at Circle Square Games for all things Fallout.

Nintendo Switch Online, One Week Later

After a year and a half long “free trial period”, Nintendo Switch users now have to purchase a subscription to play online. The service launched one week ago today, and we’ve spent quite a bit of time with it. It’s definitely not perfect but we’ve been pleasantly surprised with what Nintendo’s provided.

The Good

The Price

At only $4/month or $20/year, Nintendo Switch Online isn’t going to break the bank for most people. There’s also a family plan for $35/year, but you can split it between 8 Nintendo Switch users, which can bring the price down to a measly $4.38 per person per year.

The NES Library

The service launched with 20 classic (for the most part) NES games available with 3 added each month.

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There are masterpieces like Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda, but nobody’s dying to play games like Tennis or Pro Wrestling. Regardless, 20 dollars a year for 20 games with more to come is still a great value. They even have online play added, so you can take on your friends in Balloon Fight from opposite sides of the country. We really are living in the future.

The UI

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The game selection screen is snappy and responsive, and all the NES games are contained in one app called “Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online”. It’s not the most elegant title, but it does stop your Switch home screen from getting cluttered with 20 different games plus three new ones each month. There are also filters to put over your gameplay, similar to the NES and SNES Classic Editions. It’s easy to get in and out of a game, and that’s great due to the pick up and play nature of some of these titles.

The Bad

Online Play

Everyone’s been enjoying online play on their Nintendo Switches completely free of charge since the console launched last March. Connection issues were written off with the promise of an improved infrastructure when the paid service would launch, yet here we are, paying for Nintendo Switch Online, and there are still just as many reports of disconnects in Splatoon 2 or laggy Arms matches. That’s not even taking into account the horrible implementation of voice chat and invites, which brings us to…

The Smartphone App

Since its reveal, nobody has liked the Nintendo Switch Online app. Voice chat has been done right so many times, but Nintendo always does things their own way, and sometimes that way isn’t the right way. This is one of those times. Why do you have to use a phone to talk to other players? Why isn’t voice chat through the Switch an option?Why do some games like Splatoon not even have team voice chat? So many questions that shouldn’t even need to be asked.

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The Verdict

Overall, Nintendo Switch Online hasn’t made much of an impression on us. It’s practically the same service we’ve been getting for free for 18 months until this point. The NES games are a good foundation to build off of, and hopefully other consoles will soon follow. Right now, the classic games are the service’s central selling point, and if they keep adding games at a steady rate and add new consoles like SNES, N64, and even Gamecube or DS, then Nintendo Switch Online might become a worthy successor to Virtual Console. Nintendo wanted Nintendo Switch Online to be a huge deal when it launched, but as of right now, it’s a resounding meh.

What do you think about Nintendo Switch Online? Let us know down below, and stay tuned to Circle Square Games for everything Nintendo.

 

 

Every Spider-Man PS4 Suit Ranked

A Spider-Man game is nothing without a ton of suits to unlock. Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 has a total of 28. Some are great, others not so much. But how do they stack up against one another? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Warning: This list contains minor plot spoilers and spoils all 28 unlockable suits (obviously).

 

28. Electrically Insulated Suit

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This suit isn’t much of a looker. It’s not completely ugly, but compared to the other 27 suits in the game, it’s hard to place this one anywhere other than last.

27. ESU Suit

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This is the suit you get for collecting all 50 secret photo ops around the city. For finishing the game and then collecting extra collectibles, I was expecting something a little more exciting than this. It’s not a bad suit, but of the two joke suits in the game, it’s definitely the weaker.

26. Spirit Spider

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The Spirit Spider suit’s design is fine, but it doesn’t feel Spider-Man. It just looks odd swinging around in it.

25. Last Stand Suit

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There’s not much to say about the Last Stand suit. It’s somewhat bland, actually, which is fine in the context of the story it’s from, but in Spider-Man PS4, it just looks out of place.

24. Wrestler Suit

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The Wrestling Suit is a classic Spider-Man unlockable. Everyone knows Spidey went through a wrestling phase, and this specific suit is from Ultimate Spider-Man’s wrestling career. Although it works, there’s a reason he gets rid of it.

23. Fear Itself Suit

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While the concept behind the suit is cool, it really doesn’t fit in well in Spider-Man PS4. The neon webs on the suit do really pop at night, but during the day, it doesn’t look that great.

22. Secret War Suit

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The colors on this one don’t sit well with me. The red and the blue look fine on their own, but the combination of the two makes the suit hard on the eyes.

21. Classic Suit (Damaged)

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Who doesn’t love the red and blues? This is a great suit, but outside of the beginning of the game’s story, this suit doesn’t really have a place. You get a repaired version of it, and Spidey’s not the kind of guy to go swinging around in a torn suit if he has the choice.

20. Spider Armor – Mk III Suit

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This suit is way too bulky. It looks great in combat, but some of Spidey’s more acrobatic moves and swinging in general look strange. It’s like seeing Tony Stark web swinging.

19. Spider-Man 2099 Black Suit

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The 2099 suit is a classic, but it’s designed around the future. It looks great on Miguel O’Hara as he traverses the future, but on modern-day Peter Parker it just doesn’t feel right. Regardless, it’s still a slick outfit.

18. Negative Suit

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The Negative Suit is a great suit, but I wouldn’t wear it for more than a couple minutes. It’s a fun design, but it sticks out like a sore thumb against the game’s realistic backdrop (like another certain suit that shows up later on this list).

17. Spider Armor – Mk II Suit

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Spider Armor Mk II is the definition of sleek. The shiny black body with the long, slender yellow lines create a highly elegant suit.

16. Spider-Punk

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Spider-Punk is fun, but it’s another one of those suits you don’t wear for too long.

15. Spider-Man 2099 White Suit

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This is the superior 2099 suit. Many prefer the original black suit, but the white suit’s design has more going on, and it fits much better with this version of Spider-Man.

14. Homemade Suit

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If you liked this suit in Homecoming, you’ll like it here. It looks a little weird in some places, though, especially the goggles.

13. Velocity Suit

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The Velocity Suit’s body is awesome. I really like the glowing blue spider and the gray and red make an excellent pair. But the most important thing about a Spider-Man suit is the eyes, and the eyes on this one are, well, not ideal.

12. Stealth “Big Time” Suit

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This is a cool one, especially at night. Black and green is a slick combo, and the way the green glow is actually a light source that reflects onto surfaces is a nice touch.

11. Undies

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The second of the game’s joke suits, Undies is an instant classic. This isn’t a new idea, but the execution is flawless. The undies even have little Spider-Men on them.

10. Spider Armor – Mk IV Suit

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The Mk IV suit is just the red and blues with a modern touch, and sometimes, that’s all you need. Just like any of the glowing suits in this game, it looks brilliant at night.

9. Scarlet Spider Suit

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Everyone loves the Scarlet Spider suit. The hoodie is iconic to any Spidey fan, and it looks great in Spider-Man PS4. It doesn’t stray too far from classic Spider-Man outfits, but it’s different enough to have its own identity, and that’s what makes a strong Spider-Man suit.

8. Stark Suit

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The MCU’s Stark Suit looks gorgeous in Spider-Man PS4. The red pops right off your screen, and it looks great in motion. If you can’t get enough of the MCU, this is your go-to costume.

7. Noir Suit

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The Noir Suit is so cool, but if you’re not playing at night, the suit sticks out. It’s perfect for stealth missions and night time swinging, but during the day, it doesn’t feel right.

6. Dark Suit

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While Spider-Man PS4 doesn’t have the iconic black symbiote suit, this is a nice alternative. You get it from completing all of Black Cat’s stakeouts, and it’s worth the time it takes. It’s so sleek.

5. Anti-Ock Suit

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Simplicity is key in designing a Spider-Man suit, and this is a prime example. It’s nearly identical to the Advanced Suit but the color palette is swapped to black and yellow. The plating on the suit looks cool, too. Overall, this is a fantastic suit.

4. Iron Spider Suit

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Man, what a suit. It looked good in Avengers, and it looks even better here. And you can use the arms as a suit power? Yes, please.

3. Classic Suit

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You can’t go wrong with the Classic Suit. It’s the look we all know and love, and there’s a reason it’s stuck around for this long. It’s iconic, it’s cool, and it’s Spider-Man.

2. Vintage Comic Book Suit

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This suit was a pleasant surprise.  It looks gorgeous in its own right, but the dynamic shading on it really adds another layer to its beauty. Also, the suit power is quips, and if that isn’t the most Spider-Man thing there is, then I don’t know what is. Cutscenes look so weird with this thing on though.

1. Advanced Suit

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Insomniac Games nailed the original suits they made for this game. The Anti-Ock suit is pretty, but this, this is a phenomenal suit. It’s a natural evolution of the classic Spider-Man suit, and the white is such a nice addition to the normal red and blue.

15 Games That Should Be On The PlayStation Classic

The original PlayStation has a legendary library of classic titles. Picking which games make it onto the Classic is like choosing between your children, but since Sony hasn’t chosen the last 15 games yet, someone has to, and that someone is me. Here are the rules:

  • No games that require a Dualshock controller. As much as I’d love to put Ape Escape on this list, the PlayStation Classic controllers don’t have analog sticks.
  • Games with remakes or remasters aren’t allowed. These games easily accessible in modernized forms, and as iconic as Crash and Spyro are, they’re already on PS4.

And with that out of the way, here are the 15 games that should round out the PlayStation Classic’s lineup.

Metal Gear Solid

maxresdefault.jpgThis is an obvious one. Metal Gear Solid is a landmark title that proved games can tell cinematic stories. With memorable characters, strong boss battles, a phenomenal soundtrack, and a selection of cardboard boxes, Metal Gear Solid is an easy choice for the PlayStation Classic.

Silent Hill

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Silent Hill isn’t content with jump scares and horrifying monsters. It aims to psychologically devastate you, making you fear every shadow and every sound. It took technical issues of the era like low draw distances and transformed them into creepy atmospheric elements like the town’s fog. Silent Hill evokes a feeling of uneasiness that few horror games have managed to recreate, and with Resident Evil’s recent comeback with a fantastic seventh entry and a remake of the second, it’s only fair Silent Hill gets a chance to shine as well.

Suikoden 2

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An absolutely massive cast of memorable characters combined with a sweeping, large scale narrative make Suikoden 2 a fantastic RPG. Not enough people played it, but those who have swear by it as one of the greatest role playing games ever developed. A spot on the PlayStation Classic would give Suikoden 2 some much needed, and very much deserved attention.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

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Symphony of the Night is an incredibly influential game. It’s half the namesake of the Metroidvania genre, and that alone makes it worthy of inclusion. However, on top of that, Symphony is also an amazing game. Rewarding exploration, RPG mechanics, and fluid movement blend together to create one of the greatest video games ever made.

Final Fantasy Tactics

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Final Fantasy Tactics strengths lie in its customization. Bold strategies and crazy party compositions pay off in the most unexpected ways. That, in combination with a strong Shakespearean narrative, makes Final Fantasy Tactics a solid choice for the PlayStation Classic.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater nailed the arcade skateboarding gameplay, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 perfected it. Brilliantly designed levels, a banging soundtrack, addicting gameplay, THPS 2 has it all. It even has Spider-Man in it. It’s the highest rated PlayStation game on Metacritic, how could you not include it?

Vagrant Story

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I first played Vagrant Story as a PS1 classic on my PSP. Even on that 4.3″ screen, I was hooked. It’s introduction is one of the most captivating scenes in any game. The presentation is top-notch, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the game features an incredibly complex and rewarding battle system and gripping narrative. Vagrant Story needs to be experienced by more people, and it absolutely deserves its spot on the PlayStation Classic.

Bushido Blade

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Bushido Blade is a fighting game without health bars. It’s a one on one sword fight, and one well placed strike can end your opponent. There really hasn’t been much else like it. It’s incredibly cinematic, incredibly elegant, and incredibly fun. Bushido Blade is an excellent choice for the PlayStation Classic.

Final Fantasy IX

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I know there’s already a Final Fantasy game on this thing, but IX deserves a spot on here too. Final Fantasy IX is a love letter to the franchise. It’s constantly overshadowed by VII, but those who have played IX will tell you it holds up. It’s medieval setting also provides a nice contrast to VII’s futuristic technology. Final Fantasy IX is charming and light-hearted, and it needs to be played by more people.

Tomb Raider 2

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Tomb Raider was a pioneer in the 3D action/adventure genre. It’s sequel, however, did everything better, and cemented Lara Croft as a gaming icon. Tomb Raider’s mix of exploration, platforming, puzzle-solving, and combat were perfected in the sequel. Refined controls, interesting environments, and exciting set pieces make Tomb Raider 2 the high point of the original games.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

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Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is a drastic departure from its predecessor, which was a top-down RPG. Soul Reaver is a sprawling action RPG with an engrossing narrative. The game’s key mechanic of switching between the physical and spectral realms allowed for interesting gameplay, and it’s also one of the first projects written by Amy Hennig, one of the industry’s most talented writers.

Rayman

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Rayman, like Symphony of the Night, ignored the call of the third dimension and instead remained 2D. The result was a gorgeous and incredibly animated game with great music and strong platforming. Rayman’s legacy can be seen in many 2D platformers since its release, and it’s still worth revisiting today.

Chrono Cross

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Chrono Trigger is widely regarded as one of the greatest games ever made. Its sequel doesn’t quite reach the same heights, but it’s still a phenomenal RPG and one of the best games on the PlayStation. In true Chrono fashion, the game features multiple endings and a journey that will send you across time and space.

Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins

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Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu were the tentpoles of 3D stealth on the PlayStation. Tenchu 2 featured a mission creator where you could build your own assassination missions and customize every feature from objectives to level layouts. An endlessly replayable stealth game with ninjas? Yes please.

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

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Criminally underrated, Klonoa is an exceptionally designed platformer that didn’t go fully 3D, instead opting for a 2.5D approach. The result is a challenging and deliberately designed platformer that uses the PlayStation’s graphical power to create gorgeous scenery. It’s up there with the platforming greats, and a spot on the PlayStation Classic could finally give this game the recognition it deserves.

 

Got any suggestions for the PlayStation Classic lineup? Did I miss something? Be sure to let me know down below.

We Are Never Getting This Chrono Trigger Sequel And Now I’m Sad

Look at this trailer. Look at this game. It’s gorgeous. It’s also never coming out.

Simon S. Anderson, creator of Owlboy and one hell of a pixel artist, tweeted a mock up for a hypothetical Chrono Trigger sequel entitled Chrono Break.

It looks fantastic, but unfortunately we’ll never get to play it. If the pixel art impresses you, go play Owlboy if you haven’t already. Seriously. Go play it. Now.

Owlboy is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.