Games You Never Heard of (But Should Have Played),
Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman- First released in 1999, Playstation
Just look at the opening theme of Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman and tell me that it has a ton of style! Despite the perception of no substance, Rising Zan was a forerunner of the so-called B-game genre, which includes over-the-top cult hits like MadWorld and God Hand. But before they graced the gaming space, Rising Zan had the monopoly on being absurd.
Starring Zan, an American who was taught how to use a gun and katana in Japan, Rising Zan is a cross between a 1950’s spaghetti western and a chambara movie, combing two styles into a chop suey of pure spectacle. The game play sadly is not as smooth as the premise, with some stiff controls that are compounded by blasé level design and mission structure.
But for a game that is all about the style and short on any substance, Rising Zan is still a fun, score-challenge romp to enjoy. It really is emblematic of what a slick, B-game can be, and with the presence of many independent and small time releases that offer a similar experience, Rising Zan can serve as the precedent for such titles to follow, and is at least worthy of a play-through.
Tail of the Sun- Released in 1996, PlayStation
Tail of the Sun is one of the most bizarre games I have ever played. Part caveman simulation, part action-RPG, Tail of the Sun is all about surviving in a Neolithic setting, as you and your tiny tribe of cro-magnon attempt to thrive in a vast and treacherous world filled with mammoths, tigers, and volcanoes.
Tail of the Sun is unique because it is a full 3D adventure that literally throws you into a world-building simulation. You start with a tribe of three, and play one member of the tribe until they die. The goal is to procreate enough to keep the tribe alive, thrive in the harsh landscape, and construct a tower made out of mammoth tusks in an attempt to reach the sun in the sky. To do this, you need to hunt animals for food, and build up your skills by eating Japanese wafers found in the wild.
Yes, that’s right. Japanese mochi were around when Pangea existed. Thankfully they help your cavemen build up their thinking, running, and swimming power, allowing you to last longer in the wild and survive against predators. It actually increases your stats so that you, and your small tribe of pre-humans, can survive out there. Throw in a very dark nighttime system and some Easter eggs like Stonehenge and Atlantis, and Tail of the Sun offers a unique, if somewhat slow going, experience that many gamers might not be ready to play. It is something different, but also something worth checking out.
Weaponlord- Released in 1995, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis
We all know that Namco, the company behind great fighting franchises like Tekken and Soul Calibur, has a pedigree for tightly controlled, visually slick fighting games. But one of their first, and arguably most experimental, is the precursor to the Soul series, the 2D fighter Weaponlord.
Thrown into a sword and sorcery, Conan-esque world where a group of fighters hoped to slay the demon lord Zarak, Weaponlord was ahead of its time, offering a complex parry system that we would see polished and implemented in Street Fighter III years later. The thrusting block system and counter system also allowed for a more action-packed experience, coupled with several, equally complex combo moves that were built from the ground up for the consoles.
Yep, Weaponlord was the first fighting game to be made exclusively for home consoles, and not made for the PC or arcades, which was the norm back in the day. Sadly, the game was never a huge success, despite being a forerunner for many ideas that would germinate in fighting games thereafter. Many of the developers of Weaponlord actually did move on to create Soul Edge and the Soul Calibur series, so at the very least, the series has a spiritual successor out there in some form. As it stands, Weaponlord is a game that is difficult to get used to, but well worth the time it takes to master.
Well, there you have it. Nine games that, for me at least, are worth a look if you have the time, cash, or emulator to play them. I am sure there are a ton of hidden gems out there that fans will be able to point out as well. But what do you think? Are these games worthy or is there something that I overlooked? Who knows, we may see them show up on a list some day….