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Sometimes in the medium that is video games, you will see a game in a popular series like Halo, Resident Evil, a game featuring a different protagonist with a completely different plot but still adhering to the canon of the mainline games and what came before.

Some examples, in this case, are the Resident Evil light gun games, Final Fantasy X-2, or even portable video games such as Daxter, Secret Agent Clank, Killzone: Mercenary, or Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.

Allan Muir – Managing Editor and Xbox Stalwart

Halo 3: ODST

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When it comes down to what kind of guy I am, I will always be a Halo guy. I am in the middle of writing another edition of Video Game Story Time solely focused on Halo: ODST. Because it’s the type of game I feared we would never get and that is the story of someone who wasn’t a giant badass like Master Chief. But thankfully this game served as a remedy to those who were possibly getting fatigued after Halo 3 a couple of years earlier.

Martin O’Donnell who, along with Michael Salvatori provided the music of Halo along with the iconic Halo theme. You can tell by the Overture of ODST that this would be a different experience and it would be. In behind the scenes videos for ODST, O’Donnell would talk about how he was approaching things differently and there is a track from the Original Soundtrack that is more associated with ODST than O’Donnell and that is the track titled “Deference for Darkness”. It has an orchestral-Jazz mix with the Jazz parts feeling very noir and O’Donnell mentioned that the beginning of the track you could interpret a certain sequence as “ALL A LONE” which perfectly embodies the soul of the game and the story of The Rookie. You can listen to the track here.

The thing I love about ODST more than possibly the music is the fact that the game stands on it’s own two feet when it comes to the beautiful story written by Bungie Studios. scribe and author Joseph Staten. In a way, it was a reunion for three characters from Firefly/Serenity. They even got Mal himself Nathan Fillion to play the squad leader and ironically the two Firefly alums were in kind of similar roles in the people of Alan Tudyk as the pilot and Adam Baldwin as the big tough guy. Add in veteran voice actor Nolan North, and the Cylon queen herself Tricia Helfer. Which surprisingly fit perfectly according to a ViDoc for the game as her character and Fillion’s were supposed to be formerly connected romantically which as it turns out Fillion and Helfer dated ages ago. A big thing introduced in ODST were “signettes” which were the last bit of a flashback that was played out in first person and would lead into the next mission. Another is the fact that this may have been the only non-linear Halo game as you could go around the devastated version of New Mombassa in as many different ways as you desired. So without dragging this out just go out and play Halo 3: ODST before I reach through the computer and smack you in the face.

In the meantime enjoy this video of Bungie explaining the story of ODST and how they achieved it.

Josh Miller – Staff Writer

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Before I owned a Super Nintendo, I was eager to play Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. An old Nintendo Power magazine laid out the boss battles and between knowing this was an RPG (which I was starting to get into) and seeing the design of characters, I knew I wanted to play this game. All these years later, it’s still one of my favorite games of all time.

When gushing praise about this game, I don’t even know where to start. Is it the cameos from other Nintendo properties? What about the humor? How about an actual plot that extends beyond a captured princess for the umpteenth time? There are so many great things about this game and not enough space in this roundtable for me to go all in. So let me discuss just a few things here.

This game introduced two characters who never really get a spotlight at Nintendo although one of them is a cult favorite. Mallow and Geno. Mallow is a loveable if not dumb cloud person raised to believe he is a frog. Geno is a being from Star Road who comes down and inhabits a doll to assist Mario in finding the seven stars. Both characters receive plenty of time to become special to players, and it’s a shame Nintendo hasn’t done more with them. Even when asked to be in Super Smash Bros, fans receive little more than crickets.

The battle system is rather typical for JRPGs in that day and age, but much like Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle, this game utilizes everything so well in this format. For example, Bowser may throw a chain chomp as his weapon or summon a Boo while Mario throws fire balls or kicks Koopa shells. Timing attacks also leads to increased damage or even multiple hits such as Mario jumping. Very par the course for these type of games, but still has that Nintendo flavor.

It wouldn’t take much for me to keep going. I would love to discuss Booster or the Axem Rangers or how excited I would get every time I ran across Bowser before he joins the party. If anything, talking about Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars puts a smile on my face every time, and that’s why it’s my favorite spinoff game.

 

Graydon Webb – Staff Writer

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles

There was such a toss-up for me when trying to figure out my favorite spin-off. I’m a big fan of Forza Horizon, and how it took an established racing simulator and turned it into an open-world arcade racer. I also love what the WarioWare games did for the minigame/party game genre, all the while being a spin-off about Mario’s derpy cousin. But deep down in my heart, I’ll always be an Assassin’s Creed die-hard, and while Assassin’s Creed Chronicles may not have been a perfect spin-off series, what it did to expand on the series’ lore made my fanatical heart burst every time I picked up the controller.

Over the course of a year in 2015, Ubisoft released three spin-off titles under the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles moniker: China, India, and Russia. Each game told the story of a “new” assassin in their respective homelands over the course of a six-hour side-scroller. I put “new” in quotations because technically these characters aren’t franchise newcomers. China‘s protagonist was featured in the short film Embers, India‘s assassin was featured in the Brahman graphic novel, and Nikolai from Russia was Daniel Cross’s ancestor featured in the comics The Fall and The Chain. For hardcore fans of the series like me, we knew these characters and were delighted to finally get to live their stories through the Chronicles trilogy.

I mentioned before that these games weren’t perfect, in fact, they were far from it. Changing the gameplay from open-world third person to side-scrolling came as a shock to many people, which may have been why these titles didn’t draw in as many players. The action was more focused on stealth assassinations, as open combat would – frankly – get you murdered. Looking back on these games I can recall an unfortunately large amount of frustration while trying to maintain my stealthiness, or trudging through particularly difficult puzzles. Perfectly-timed jumps, climbs, and dodges made for some frantic moments that left me either smiling triumphantly or screaming at my television.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles was a mixed bag for many people. Personally, I loved getting to learn more about these protagonists, and the regional influence on each game’s level design made for some truly unique experiences. From caverns to elephants to locomotives, the dangers were varied and equally satisfying to overcome. Utilizing each assassin’s tools to take down enemies and outsmart traps made for some memorable moments, and the distinctive art style of the narrative cutscenes was a nice touch. Not enough people played Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, not even when the games became free with PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. I would highly recommend them to any AC fan, though, as the story and the characters are worth the occasional slog through time-consuming chase sequences and the mobile game-esque rating system of each stealth sequence. Seriously, what was up with that?

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