Something obscure that you feel deserves a bit more love. Let's share.
I'll start with Duke Nukem: Zero Hour, a game that has been on my mind, of late, after listening to Duke Nukem Forever impressions on several podcasts. This Eurocom third-person action game on the N64 was probably my favorite game in the series. It had great (Expansion Pak-enhanced) graphics for the time, a decent multiplayer, and a fairly epic single-player campaign. The campaign was a bit punishing, since you could only save between the lengthy levels, but I appreciated the old-school mastery that that save scheme demanded. Very fun, underappreciated game. I remember that it got ONE star in Next Generation magazine, which I subscribed to at the time. That might have been my first taste of losing faith in the game reviewing industry.
I'm a really big fan of replayability. When this game came out sandbox games were just starting to become a reality. That paired with fun driving physics (insane jumps and numerous cars to purchase), humorous gameplay, and inventive weapons/upgrades made for a really great experience. I was really bummed when SCi was gobbled up by Square Enix but who knows...maybe we'll see future Carmageddons someday. There was a N64 version of this game, Carmageddon 64, but it pailed in comparison to its PC version. A follow up to the series, Carmageddon TDR2000, was made but it didn't bring much more than what was already provided before.
For this board, I'll try something third-party since most quality Nintendo games are generally well-respected.
So Little King's Story it is, a fun RTS that's reminiscent of Pikmin, but with several doses of its own unique style. The game's storyline and writing are just extremely appealing and charming, and it builds throughout the game, culminating into a memorable climax. The boss fights along the way are some of the most varied and creative of this entire generation, from King Omelet's inspired quiz battle to King TV Dinnah's duel being a mix of channel surfing and a middle school geography test. Not to mention the pinball one!
The music is also extremely fitting, being remixes of various classical pieces, most of them familiar to the general public. There's a lot of Tchiakovsky's Nutcracker, quite a bit of Carmen, and plenty of Beethoven with a bit of Sousa as well, and it works surprisingly well.
The core gameplay is simple but addictive, like Pikmin with RPG-ish upgrades and some sim-like town-building. It's an all-around excellent game and certainly one of my favorites on the Wii!
Mine's Rune Factory Frontier. Very well reviewed game, and I think it was modestly received, but...people gave up on it too soon. Sure, it's a huge time-suck, but the gameplay and variety is excellent!
Beat Hazard. It's a Geometry Wars styled shooter, but uses your music for the levels, like Audiosurf. Although it's on PC and uses mouse and keyboard controls, gamepad is much preferred. Plug in a 360 gamepad and go. I believe as of right now, the game has it's major content pack released, Beat Hazard Ultra. Should get to it sometime.
Another is a recent purchase, No One Lives Forever 2. It's got a great style and humor, open-ended levels with objectives like Goldeneye or Perfect Dark. And there's a lot more to it that kinda makes me it more advanced Goldeneye. You can unscrew light bulbs or shoot them to darken areas, sound is used to great effect, move bodies out of sight, you can lean around corners, so much depth to what you can do. It's a shame it isn't on Steam or GOG, but 5 bucks for a used retail copy was hard to pass up.
Yeah, it's full of filler, is terribly short, and is very repetitive like all Spider-Man games are...but it has GREAT production values, fun voice acting and writing, with art and writing by the comic's original creators. Lots of fan service to fans of the comic.
With a move that will likely surprise absolutely no-one, I'm going to name a portable game:
This game kinda falls into the "underappreciated" category more than underrated, but it still needs more love. This game got seriously stealth-released on GBA last generation, and as a result no one really got to play this. It's a really fun action game that borrows elements from Bionic Commando and Shinobi. You, as Joe Usugi (sp?), must use your ninja-cop skills to take down a group of terrorists that have... uh, taken over. Something. And they have hostages. And stuff. Actually, I don't remember the story so much - mostly because whatever was there was so paper-thin that it's not important at all. It's seriously Bad Dudes-story line stuff. Are you a bad enough dude to be a ninja and kill terrorists while swinging around on the game's various environments across 20 different levels, using your ninja magic, powering up your throwing stars and slicing fools with your sword when they are foolish enough to get that close? Then this game is for you.
So yeah, even though the story is just... y'know, THERE, the game itself is brilliant. Tight controls allow you to pull off some seriously slick ninja moves, like spinning through the air with your sword unsheathed, slicing anything in your way like a projectile human blender, swing via your ninja rip-cord from the ceiling or walls, and collect lightning icons to power up your throwing stars to three levels, each becoming more and more powerful and deadly. (your ninja gi even changes color when you power up!) The stages are designed to you'll have to use your various moves to rescue all the hostages, while disarming and dispatching the enemy. There are also some light puzzle-solving you'll have to do - finding your way to all the hostages and the level's exit is not always a straight line. You'll have to do some exploring.
Anyway, it's a really fun game with tight controls, old-school gameplay and storyline, and well worth it for any action game fan. It's just a damn shame it's so rare. If you happen to find a copy that's reasonable, don't hesitate to pick it up. You (likely) won't regret it!
Got that game on the Gamecube all those years ago and just enjoyed the piss out of it. The game was just fun across the board. It didn't take itself seriously, you could go total demon on some of the bots with the weapons they gave you (I loved being able to cut off limbs and have them run around like chickens with their heads cut off), the single player (gasp!) was long (gasp!!) and super enjoyable (gasp!!!). Had a lot of twists. A certain portion kind of dragged on, but other than that it was one of the best games of last generation, IMO, that was criminally overlooked. Multiplayer was also fun against friends because of the vehicles or giant bots and all the other ways you could just blow each other up.
For me, though, I'll reach back a few years and throw out Total Annihilation for PC.
IMO, it's the perfect RTS game. While many people go back to Starcraft or Warcraft or any other RTS, this title will always reign in my book. This is a game that got me into the genre and has kept me there since. Massive battles, massive single player campaign, online battles, set-up your own multiplayer matches, great modding community (whoever created the Mutator AI needs to be given a hug and then shot for all the tears that has made me cry). It's incredible. Sadly I can't find my discs anymore for the expansion, which not only increased the game by ten fold but also broke it in some regards (of course, for the better). The Battle Tactics "expansion" was kind of neat, but still the vanilla game + Core Contingency is just RTS bliss. Sucks that they could never follow it up properly.
And apparently you can buy the vanilla game and both expansions for $6 online. OH. SNAP.