Top 5 Underappreciated Treasure Games,
Treasure is one of the many game companies that made up many of our childhoods. With titles like Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Dynamite Heady, and Ikaruga, this developer made some of the greatest games of the past few console cycles, while sadly also not receiving the recognition it deserves. So, in honor of one of the more underappreciated game studios, let’s take a look at the most underappreciated of Treasure’s Games.
As ususal let’s set some ground rules for the list:
1. All games that Treasure has made (even the licensed ones) can be picked.
2. There are SPOILERS ahead… you’ve been warned
3. ‘Under-appreciated,’ in this case, is either a game that went unnoticed by players or got poor reviews when it should have done better.
As always, this is a subjective list, so if you disagree with these choices, feel free to give your own in the comments.
That being said, let’s get started:
5: Gunstar Superheroes
There was no way I’d make a list about Treasure without including a nod towards the awesome action series, Gunstar Heroes. Gunstar Superheroes is a remake/sequel of the popular Genesis game and, in addition to adding some truly sweet Mode 7 effects, story segments, voice clips, and revamped boss fights (Black’s casino got a great makeover), it added new gameplay modes like shooting sections and improved graphics. The game was a blast to play and deservedly gained a fair amount of critical success, with the only complaints being some dissatisfaction with the helicopter sections and the fact that the game didn’t support two-players. However, the game didn’t do that well in terms of sales.
There are a couple of reasons that might explain why this was the case. First, the game was released a year after the Nintendo DS premiered and the system was finally building up its more popular titles (Trauma Center, Advance Wars DS, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, etc.) so brick and mortar stores weren’t ordering lots of copies of the Game Boy advance game in the first place. Also, Treasure’s previous follow-up to one of their past successes on the platform (Advance Guardian Heroes) had been met with mixed reviews. However, if you ever come across a copy, you should definitely go out of your way to pick it up.
While Treasure has played with role-playing aspects in their games, such as Guardian Heroes leveling system, they’ve only made one full RPG. Light Crusader is definitely a unique entry for Treasure and the Genesis, as not only is it a role-playing game, complete with a full cast of NPCs and equipment system, it is also an action platformer, complete with Zelda-style dungeons (which are all contained within one dungeon) and puzzle solving (you could even sell fish to a cat!). The game also had pretty good music for a Genesis game and had a unique magic system where you could combine different types of magic to cast over 20 spells. The game is available on the Nintendo’s Virtual Console, so give it a try if you’re up for an adventure.
#3 Stretch Panic
Yes, this is the game where you play as a little girl who defeats enemies (including large breasted women) by stretching and snapping them (which led to the game unfortunately being reduced to “that game where you pinch nipples” at my school) with a demonic scarf. However, once you get past the weirdness of the concept, where you play a young girl who must exorcise her twelve older sisters who have become possessed by Vanity demons due to their obsessions with their looks, you find a game that has an extremely unique art-style and some very clever, memorable boss battles (while all of the sisters were vain, the demons possessing them turn them into whatever they were obsessed with; whether it’s a homicidal princess or an axe-murderer), while still keeping the arcade-style action and great gameplay that you’d expect from a Treasure game.
The game didn’t do so well with sales or critics and, sadly, understandably so. Stretch Panic came out a little over a year into the PlayStation 2’s lifespan, so, not only were gamers looking for the big name games they could trust or had a high-selling gimmick (ZOE came out only a few months before Stretch Panic), there were a ton of games coming out at the same time. Critic’s complaints about the bare levels before boss fights were also accurate, as they only contained one type of enemy (the aforementioned ladies with the comically-oversized breasts) and there were some control issues that made it difficult for players to pick up and play right away.
However, looking back on this game, it still had some things going for it. The mechanic of stretching, snapping and bending, once you got it down, works great and forces you to think of creative ways to use it in the varied and excellent boss fights, where you might have to use the environment to damage a boss or find unique ways to damage a boss (such as pulling on one bosses uvula so they’ll close their mouth around an explosion. If you can find a copy, you might want to give this game a try.
#2 Silhouette Mirage
When it comes to the concept of polarity switching in shooters, a mechanic where you switch between two extreme colors to absorb bullets and attack enemies, the game that most players think of starting this gameplay style is Treasure’s classic arcade game, Ikaruga. However, Treasure’s first foray into polarity switching actually came out three years before Ikaruga with Silhouette Mirage, an action side-scroller that had you play as Shyna, an artificial girl that had the ability to switch between two attributes, Silhouette (Red) and Mirage (Blue), and was tasked with restoring the world after scientists accidentally brought on Armageddon. The game was very stylish, including some colorful, animated stages and characters who were named after figures from Judeo-Christian mythology (For example, the computer who guides you is named Gehenna, the ancient Hebrew word for Hell), and had some great beat-em-up action, weapons, bosses, and stages to overcome.
So, how come this game isn’t remembered better as opposed to Ikaruga? A couple of reasons: first, the game was ridiculously difficult, even compared to other Treasure games like Radiant Silvergun and the English version was even tougher due to extra bosses. Secondly, the game, unlike a lot of Treasure’s games made before the sixth console generation, hasn’t been re-released (outside of the Japanese PSN store), so it’s not the easiest game to get a hold of. Still, if you know how to get a Japanese PSN account, you should give this one a go.
#1 Astro Boy: Omega Factor
So, what better way to end an underappreciated games list, than to end on a licensed game that was based on an underappreciated anime? The thing I’ve noticed about GOOD licensed games is that the developer has to be willing to take risks and not only adapt the spirit of the material but also put a unique spin on it that shows the developers cared about the project enough to put actual EFFORT into the game. For example, Telltale’s LEGO franchises not only make close adaptations when they make a game but they also add their unique blend of humor and add bonus characters and stages that are a wink to fans of the material and their games (for example, throwing Radagast The Brown into LEGO LOTR as an unlockable character). Well in this case, Treasure not only adapted elements of the 2003 Astro Boy anime (which is a great watch by the way), they also factored in other works by Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of manga and Astro Boy’s creator.
Astroboy: Omega Factor, instead of just being a straight-up adaptation of the anime, actually creates a new plot that takes in elements of the various adaptations of Astro Boy like Dr. Tenma being a straight-up villain like he was in the 2003 anime (which already added in characters like Duke Red and his son, Rock, from “Metropolis”) while also adding in appearances by characters like Black Jack, and even created a new plot about the lost continent of Mu (which has semblances to “Marine Express”), which is ruled by the villainous Sharaku (who originally appeared in “The Three-Eyed One”), who is the brother of the much more benevolent Sapphire (the main character of Princess Knight). The game even awards you for interacting with NPCs by having your meetings improve your stats (yes, improving your social links in this game improves your stats… and this game out before Persona 3), giving you an incentive to seek out all the cameos and characters you come across.
However, this game isn’t just good because it’s a love letter to Tezuka; it also has some fantastic gameplay. Not only can you use all of Astro’s special weapons, but using them is a snap and the combat flows very naturally. The game is also difficult but can be overcome by any player with a little practice and the game is too much fun to frustrate players. The boss fights are all unique and the characters look great, even when they are just 16-bit sprites. Toss in some great replay value and you not only have one of the best licensed games of all times, but one of the best Game Boy Advance games to come out. I highly recommend this game and consider it one of the best Treasure games that more people need to play.
So, that was the list. Feel free to share your thoughts on the list and give your own picks in the comments below, as well as any type of list you’d like to see in the future.