Welcome back to Shack Chat, our recurring Friday column where the Shack staff ruminates on a topic, shares their opinions, and asks you, the intrepid Shacknews readers, to weigh in with your own. It's a fun way to help the staff get to know each other better, and to engage with all of you.
Question: What is your favorite licensed game?
Marvel's Spider-Man - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
I'm going to go with a more recent entry and, yeah, why wouldn't I go with the 2018 Shacknews Game of the Year? Marvel's Spider-Man was such a delight, from start to finish, and a marvelous (no pun intended) use of the Spider-Man license. It told a brilliant story for the character, largely independent of the comics, movies, and television shows, put a different spin on many of the world's different characters. And it focused just as much on what it meant to be Peter Parker, on top of what it what it meant to be Spider-Man.
Insomniac told a wholly original tale, which is hard to do given this character's 50-plus year history, and it's one that holds up with some of the best Spider-Man stories ever told. All of this is without even mentioning the amazing combat, the web-swinging mechanics, and the numerous side activities. I'm not sure if the eventual sequel can top this, because Marvel's Spider-Man has set the standard for what a truly great licensed game should be.
Yo! Noid - Blake Morse, Reviews Editor
I had spent most of my life attempting to avoid the Noid. He was the pizza-ruining mascot of Domino’s back in the late 80s/early 90s, and pizza is life. But then the NES gave me a reason to embrace -no- dare I say, love the Noid. Yo! Noid is actually a reskin of a Japanese ninja game, but so is Super Mario Bros. 2, so I think that it more than counts. Sure it’s a quirky marketing tie-in for one of the most villainous pizza mascots ever, but it’s also a sincerely enjoyable video game.
It’s also challenging as hell and I’ve rarely seen people other than myself beat even the first level. And even if people make it past that first level, there’s a mandatory pizza-eating contest mini-game that’s so random it ends with a game over more often than not even early on. While the Noid may be gone forever, its legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Yo! Noid players everywhere alongside such other great franchise marketing games of that era like the 7-Up Cool Spot, McDonald’s Kids, and T&C Surf Gear.
Batman: Arkham City - Greg Burke, Lives in the mines
Super Heroes have always made popular video games. I’ve played just about all of them. Spanning from Nintendo, Sega Genesis, to N64 and Xbox one. The biggest and most impressive one had to be Batman Arkham City. While Batman Arkham Asylum was great, its sequel expanded on everything that made the first great, adding more villains and nearly tripling the open world size. This map was huge, and went all over the place, to the darkest recesses of the sewers of old gotham to the top of the tallest tower. The original voice cast from the 90’s Batman Animated Series made a return as well. It’s probably the definitive super hero game that treat every aspect of its license with the utmost respect. All other game studios should take note.
Batman: Arkham Asylum - David L. Craddock, Longreads Editor
Shigeru Miyamoto famously said, “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Clearly, Miyamoto-san never played Batman: Dark Tomorrow. After a run of serviceable to good Batman games from the NES through the PS1, Batman: Dark Tomorrow looked like a Bat-fan’s dream come true: comic-book aesthetic, loads of villains, and a plethora of abilities and gadgets from Batman’s utility belt. What could go wrong?
Everything. Everything went wrong.
When Rocksteady announced Batman: Arkham Asylum, my first thought was, Uh… who’s Rocksteady? The months leading up to the game’s release were filled with screenshots and trailers to the point of oversaturation; I worried that the studio had shown its hand, or that the flood of media was an effort to cover up what could have been a terrible game.
I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Batman: Arkham Asylum marked the first time a game made me feel like Batman. It had stealth, gadgets, (admittedly rudimentary) detective work, and the combat system has been emulated to the point of exhaustion. The choice to concentrate on one key location, the titular Arkham facility, enabled Rocksteady’s designers, writers, and artists to pack every pixel full of personality. The open-world-style sequels were solid, but none captured my imagination as thoroughly as Arkham Asylum.
The Witcher 3 - Bill Lavoy, Owner of Trapper’s Cabin
Any opportunity to talk about The Witcher 3. That game still sits at the top of my list as the best video game I’ve ever played. When I say that, people remind me that Roach, Geralt’s horse, was a bit of a nightmare to control. Doesn’t matter. I’ve still never found another game that brought the same emotions from me that The Witcher 3 did. Not even The Last of Us, and that’s saying a lot.
Looking back, The Witcher 3 was full of so many journeys that I enjoyed taking part of. The main story itself was a huge journey. The Family Matters quest was a smaller one that still took a few hours to finish. Ciri’s quests were journeys of their own. The Witcher 3 was littered with quests and opportunities to get to know its characters and invest in them. Hopefully I can find that again in the future.
South Park: The Stick of Truth - Chris Jarrard, Employed here
It took almost all of willpower to not simply choose Turtles in Time again (not my fault when it is the obvious answer to each week’s question), but I ended up going with South Park: The Stick of Truth. Without any doubt, this game is the closest video game adaption to the real source material ever released, with creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone at the helm and graphics that are indistinguishable from the real show.
On top of looking and sounding just like a story arc on the show, Stick of Truth also managed to be a solid Paper Mario-style RPG. It features outstanding writing and voice work, standing tall above virtually all other video games. Almost every joke hit and it was obvious that Parker and Stone have an intense love of the video game medium.
GoldenEye 007 - Sam Chandler, Guides Editor
You really can’t go past Rare’s immensely popular Nintendo 64 title, GoldenEye 007. As far as licenced games go, GoldenEye managed to perfectly stride the line between a one-for-one remake and artistic liberties.
Despite the fact the dam was such a small section of the movie, it was so fleshed out in the actual game. I remember struggling as a kid for a long time, before I could really read too well, trying to figure out how to get past the gate. It took me all day to figure out I could shoot the lock off. Truly game-changing.
Whether you owned a N64 or Sony’s system, GoldenEye 007’s multiplayer was the multiplayer you wanted to play when you got together with friends. Slappers only, maybe even a couple of golden gun matches. Those were the days.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005) - Donovan Erskine, Intern
Star Wars: Battlefront II is my embodiment of gaming nostalgia. I spent so many hours after school and on weekends battling it out in a galaxy far, far away. Battlefront II had a strong fantasy element to it. And by that, I mean that my brother and I spent most of our time in offline matches creating our own Star Wars stories and playing out alternate timelines.
DuckTales (NES) - Asif Khan, Blathers about Blatherskite
DuckTales was one of the best video games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Capcom hit a homerun with this game based on IP licensed from Mr. Mouse and The Walt Disney Company. Modern indie darlings like Shovel Knight draw a ton of influence from the gameplay and level design featured in DuckTales for NES. The soundtrack in the game is also outstanding. While there are some other games that I could have mentioned, I think DuckTales is the best example of licensing going great. Sure, Batman is great, but Capcom really made a special game in 1989. I wish Disney would take similar chances on developers in 2019. They certainly have a lot more intellectual property than they did 30 years ago.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor
There are really too many licensed games to choose from. I had to think about the one I've had the most fun with. It'd have to be Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project. I spent hours trying to figure out what to do and what to click in this licensed Evangelion-centric game because I couldn't read Japanese. As a massive Evangelion fan, I was enamored with the idea of exploring an alternative timeline from the show as well as "raising" Shinji as if I were playing a Princess Maker game. Despite being an official Gainax game, the artwork doesn't look great, and the game isn't always without bugs. But I truly enjoyed spending time trying to decipher what my next move would be. I'm thinking I might check it out again here soon, just for giggles.
Cadence of Hyrule - Josh Hawkins, That guy that does things
There are quite a few licensed games that I’m a personal fan of, but if I had to choose just one, I think I’d have to go with Cadence of Hyrule because it’s the freshest in my mind as of late aside from John Wick Hex. This expertly blended combination of Crypt of the NecroDancer and The Legend of Zelda was such a welcome change from my normal gaming catalogue, and honestly I’ve found myself going back and playing it again and again just to experience the thrill of moving to the beat as I try to defeat different dungeons.
There’s something to be said about taking such an off-the-wall idea as Crypt of the NecroDancer and adding it to Legend of Zelda, let alone being able to pull it off so successfully. Honestly, I could gush on and on about how good this game is, but instead I’ll just link you to my review of Cadence of Hyrule. The game is great and you’re doing yourself a disservice by not playing it. Also, if chaining your movements to the beat isn’t your idea of fun, there’s also an unlinked mode that still allows you to enjoy this expertly crafted Zelda spin-off.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What is your favorite licensed game?
Star Wars: Pod Racer
First, it's worth saying that The Witcher 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, so clearly it would be the best, but I also was not (and am not) familiar with the source material so I'm not really sure it should count.
Star Wars, however, is source material that I have been familiar with basically my entire life. Episode I is not a good movie but I was 15 when it came out and super caught up in the hype of a new Star Wars film so I didn't hate it at the time (though with The Matrix coming out the same year I think I was starting to realize).
Pod Racer is a good game all on its own but it also took some of the best elements of the film (arguably one of the only good scenes from the film) and truly bring them to life in a video game. The game was addicting and good. Keep in mind that Quake 3, a game that I would play for more hours than I spent in college, came out in 1999 as well. For almost a decade no game could compete with Quake 3 for my attention but in 1999 / 2000 Star Wars Pod Racer managed to do exactly that.