Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery – Weekly Recommendations 17/01 – 22/01

Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.

It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but try telling that to 'Splosion Man developers, Twisted Pixel.

Last week they called-out Capcom and their new App Store game, MaXplosion, citing plagiarism and “complete theft” of their best selling 2009 Xbox Live title, ‘Splosion Man. MaXplosion is accused of resembling ‘Splosion Man in more than just name, featuring the exact same gameplay concepts that made the Xbox Live original such a success.

To make matters worse, Twisted Pixel claim that they initially pitched the game to Capcom, who declined to pick it up.

Capcom’s “new” game aside, it is inevitable that games will borrow themes, characters and mechanics from one another. However, at times it goes beyond inspiration, wandering into the realms of out and out theft, stifling creativity and resulting in dull regurgitations. However, it can also lead to excellent hybrid games that utilize what has worked before, whilst adding something of their own.

Here are three games that follow the latter example, borrowing heavily from their predecessors yet being worthwhile and able to succeed on their own merits.

1. Streets of Rage – Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) (1991)

Streets of Rage arrived on the Mega Drive in 1991to critical acclaim.  It would be ported to the Master System, Game Gear and Mega CD in subsequent years, and can be found on any number of Sega best of collections. Side-scrolling beat em’ ups were ten to a dozen during the 16 bit era, and with Streets of Rage SEGA followed to a tee the blueprint for success established by games such as Double Dragon and Final Fight.

As one of three brilliantly named deadly do-gooders - Adam Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding - you patrol the streets of rage, disposing of the familiar leather clad goons and oversized mini-bosses. Power-ups, weapons and special attacks are picked up along the way and a final level decision allows for two possible endings. Fast paced, colourful and featuring an excellent soundtrack it perfectly encapsulated the thrill of the arcade, and despite being a bit late to the party, it has since become synonymous with the genre.

Streets of Rage would spawn two sequels and a comic, and its OST remains widely sought after. Although it did little to innovate, it stands as one of the finest series on the Mega Drive.

2. Dante’s Inferno – PS3, Xbox 360, PSP (2010)

From the moment it was announced, Dante’s Inferno was fighting an uphill battle. It was crucified for its very loose take on Dante's Divine Comedy and frowned upon for so closely mimicking the God of War series. But somewhere beneath all that criticism lurks a rather enjoyable and impressive game.

It is evident that Visceral Games went to a great deal of effort in creating Hell and its ghastly inhabitants. The nine rings of the underworld are atmospheric and dark, populated by creatures from the darkest recesses of the most twisted of minds. From its cut-scenes and animated sections to its oversized bosses, Dante’s Inferno is a very polished adventure, and just like GOW, its combat is mindless and gruesome fun.

Sure, it lifted God of War’s style and controls wholesale, and it did little with its rich source material aside from anger those familiar with the Divine Comedy, but as a standalone, disposable experience it is easy to recommend and can be picked-up cheaply online.

3. The Legend of Dragoon – PS1 (1999 – 2001)

With The Legend of Dragoon Sony attempted to tap into Square’s success with the big budget, cut-scene-heavy RPG epic. Although it didn’t enjoy the same exposure and sales as the games it tried so hard to replicate, it stands as one of the best RPG’s of its generation. It has garnered a cult following over the years, and due to its relative scarcity original copies of the 4 disc adventure now command a hefty sum, usually around £50-70 for a PAL copy.

Back in 2001, hoping to recapture the joys of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, I searched my local game shops for sometime before I finally found a copy of The Legend of Dragoon. Although not quite on par with those classics, it doesn’t fall too far short, providing a deep and engrossing adventure that pushed the PS1 to its limits. The familiar world map, battle mode and field map are all present and the combat system introduced a challenging precision mode that differentiated it from the crowd. Just like Square’s PS1 opuses, it is at its most impressive in the field map, with 3D characters set against a 2D pre-rendered background. These diverse and beautiful settings ranged from rural vistas to bustling metropolises. Ten years removed from my lone playthrough, these visuals are what I best recall about my 50+ hours with Dart and co.

Don’t fret if you don’t have an original copy, as The Legend of Dragoon can now be found on PSN in some regions.


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