It's a lot to ask, we know. You may not even have a PSP. If you do, it probably hasn't been charged in months. But if you consider yourself a gamer, don't sleep on Valkyria Chronicles II. The first Valkyria Chronicles was the underappreciated secretary, the Allison Sheedy from The Breakfast Club, the dead prez album of video games. For whatever reason—bad marketing, lack of mainstream appeal, etc.—VC's sales didn't reflect the quality of the game. So here's the deal: in celebration of VCII's release, we're going to run down a list of some of the most slept-on, high-quality games in (quasi) recent memory. You've got a long weekend coming up, might as well try a couple of these titles out if you haven't already. It's not like we're the Gestapo Parents trying to shove broccoli and lima beans and Cold War ideals down their kids' throats, we're just asking you to try something different—something that manages to be both nutritious and freakin' awesome.
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL (PS2, Gamecube)
Complex Says: We sort of get it: how the hell do you market a game whose protagonists were a modestly dressed woman and a talking pig? Ubisoft should have borrowed Kobe's PR team for the BG&E marketing campaign. If those guys could make anal infidelity (sort of) disappear, then they could have made this stellar action-adventure game blow up, even among wife-beating Luddites. A mature storyline combined with excellent characterization and solid gameplay shouldn't have been ignored by the gaming community.
INDIGO PROPHECY (Xbox, PS2)
Complex Says: To anyone who thought that Heavy Rain was one of the first true cinematic interactive experiences: you might want to peep this one out. Indigo Prophecy is Heavy Rain's absentee father that no one ever talks about. But if you do a Jerry Springer DNA check, you'll find it's an exact match: same designer (David Cage), same multiple protagonist POV, same crime thriller motif.
PSYCHONAUTS (Xbox, PS2)
Complex Says: Some Tim Schafer games are simply too quirky for the mainstream casual gamer mind to process. Thirteen-year-old rage-quitters on MW2 would probably have "lolwut" synaptic misfirings if they played Pychonauts. The game's protagonist dives into the psyches of fellow summer camp kids, leading to some blissfully surreal platforming gameplay. Oh, and the story was pretty good too—as can be expected from a Schafer production.
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS (PS2)
Complex Says: As well-known as this PS2 exclusive seems to be, it never sold that well. It's just known as "that game where you run around killing giants." And... well, that's pretty accurate. But can you imagine what it'd be like if a titmouse grabbed a toothpick and scurried up your leg, clutching onto your sparse leg hairs for dear life even as you try to shake him off? And then the little cornhole takes the toothpick and jabs you repeatedly in your weak spot (ours isn't that high up on our body)? Well, you're the titmouse in this game, and it successfully makes you empathize with the giants whom you're tasked to kill, which is the true genius of SoTC.
GIANTS: CITIZEN KABUTO (PC, PS2)
Complex Says: Planet Moon was always known for giving birth to quirky, creative games. Unfortunately, the publisher took this game from PM's loving arms and tossed it in a dumpster. Ultimately, the game was one of the few titles to successfully combine an RTS, a third-person shooter, and a topless water nymph in a single game.
OKAMI (PS2, Gamecube)
Complex Says: It's not like Okami is even that obscure. Initially, it was released on the PS2. We're guessing the main problem was that it scared people off with its aesthetically pleasing Japanese watercolor art direction and lack of AR-15 headshots. Subsequently it was released on the Wii, which has an installed base of 10 trillion bored housewives who haven't turned the system on ever since they got bored with Wii Fit. So... that didn't help much.
NO ONE LIVES FOREVER (PC, PS2)
Complex Says: Hey, what's an FPS doing on this list? Good shooters don't typically get slept on, and the lead was a strong, beautiful female. Oh, wait—the protagonist wasn't half-naked? Hell, since it's a shooter, you can't even see her ass (not without a cheat/mo,d at least)! Meh. Oh, and the game was set in the '60s? LOL @ women's lib! Wait, what's women's lib? At least we assume those are the "reasons" why people didn't pay attention to this excellent shooter. Go find a copy on eBay and school yourself.
ZACK & WIKI (Wii)
Complex Says: Oh, you know, just another boy-and-his-propeller-tailed-flying-monkey point-and-click puzzle game. Capcom refuses to make a sequel for the little-known but much-loved title, which gets fiendishly difficult always enjoyable. We guess we can understand their reticence; why waste time developing something awesome when you can just make Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop?
GRIM FANDANGO (PC)
Complex Says: Seriously, Tim Schafer games don't get enough attention. We sort of understand why it's a tough sell. It's a film noir adventure game that utilizes Aztec afterlife themes, which doesn't exactly sound like a universally-appealing combo #5 at McDonald's. But this LucasArts title—the last of its kind—has so much flavor that it needs to be tried at least once.
Complex Says: Hey, we're not going to co-sign VCII without telling you why the first one is a must-play. Yeah, the art style is anime-heavy, but the game itself looks like a moving, hand-painted canvas. Once you look past the weeaboo wet dream art direction, you can delve into the rock-solid gameplay, which is like one of those rare uncrappy Asian fusion restaurants. Chop up the western Gears of War shooter style perspective and meld it together with interspersed RTS ingredients and deep strategic elements. Then sprinkle an epic alternate-timeline post-WWII story with strong character development on top, and serve with an excellent soundtrack. That's Valkyria Chronicles. Now go find a copy.
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