James loves collecting video games and seeking out hidden gems.
My absolute favourite thing about collecting video games is discovering a hidden gem. You're rooting through the shelves in a video game store or browsing eBay, and you come across a game that you've never heard of. It looks interesting based on the cover, but there's only one way to find out if it's any good.
When you finally realise you've found something special, it's like digging up buried treasure. And now you have a question: why have I never heard of this game before? And then you get excited to tell people about it.
And that's why I'm here! Here are five of my favourite video game hidden gems.
1. Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is a Japanese role-playing game for the PlayStation 2.
This game has a unique premise. You control two protagonists: Kharg, the human, and Darc, the deimos. Both have their own party of characters, and the game switches between the two throughout the game, allowing you to experience both stories at the same time. It’s a fun and distinctive way to experience the game.
Also enjoyable is the battle system. It’s a tactical system where you move your characters around a grid. Once in range, you can strike them with your weapon (preferably from behind). Of course, there is magic, though there’s no MP; instead, there are spirit stones, which you have a limited supply of and must buy more of. This makes casting magic a difficult decision, adding to the strategy.
Arc also has fun characters, great music and colourful graphics. It’s a well-rounded JRPG that is worth your time.
2. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
If you’re a fan of the Valkyria Chronicles series, this game should be right up your alley. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a strategy roleplaying game with comic book-style graphics and big, colourful characters. It is exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS.
Aliens have invaded and Abraham Lincoln (yes, really) forms a team known as S.T.E.A.M. (Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace) to… well… eliminate the aliens.
The story is over the top as is the gameplay. Your party members range from a lion to a little boy with a spring fist. You move your characters around the battlefield to move them into position to fire on the enemies. As you move, your “steam” will drain. Once it is emptied, you will be frozen in place. As I said: similar to Valkyria Chronicles. Each character has their own weapon of choice and special attacks. The aforementioned lion can somersault across the map, or even roar to increase his allies' defences.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. takes strategy to get the win, making it an overall satisfying experience. It’s full of charm, looks great and you should give it a shot.
3. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Fragile Dreams is an action role-playing game with elements of survival horror. I was instantly drawn to this game based on the beautiful cover. It’s a unique experience and is dripping with atmosphere.
Fragile Dreams is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth—specifically Tokyo. Seto is the protagonist, and he wanders the lonely streets, battling ghosts with his trusty stick (makes sense to me).
The gameplay isn’t up to much; it’s typical survival horror. As for scares, I was actually on edge quite a few times playing this; I remember the noises the ghosts make to be quite unnerving. Really, the game’s allure is the atmosphere, story and characters, though. Not to spoil but there’s an event that takes place a few hours into the game that really tore me up.
If you’re looking for a unique game with a unique feel to it, this is one for you.
4. Job Island: Hard Working People
Okay, you take one look at this game and you think shovelware, right? “What’s that? You perform jobs with the Wiimote?” It’s the kind of game where you expect the controls to barely work— you’ll play it for five minutes and then you forget all about it.
Actually, no. Job Island has a surprising amount of depth and charm. It’s actually a really fun game that is worth a look.
The story is quirky, to say the least. There’s a meteor crashing to Earth and you must take on various jobs to save up enough money to buy a giant laser beam to blow it up. Yes, a laser beam. There are other items you can buy as well, such as ones to slow down the meteor’s descent. The game has a time limit, as in you have a numbered amount of time until the meteor drops, adding to the challenge.
There are numerous jobs included, ranging from fireman to farmer. There's a lot of variety here. As for the controls, I only really had issues with making pizzas (go figure).
By the way, there is another game out there called Sports Island. That is the game you think Job Island is going to be. Give it a miss.
Job Island is the definition of a hidden gem.
5. Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors
Otogi 2 is a hack-and-slash, action-adventure game by FromSoftware for the original Xbox.
Raikoh Minamoto is the protagonist, and he is set the task of saving Japan from demons. Thankfully, he is not alone and is joined by several other playable characters: Seimei, Kintoki, Suetake, Sadamitsu and Tsuna.
Otogi’s characters are a varied bunch with their own unique moveset. You select a stage and a character and off you go. Each stage has a task that you must complete. This could range from defeating all of the enemies on the map or destroying every obstacle in your path. You must select the best character for the job or risk failure.
Every character in Otogi 2 is fun and unique, and each has a distinct look. After every stage is complete, you can level up your characters or buy new items or weapons from the shop. As it’s a FromSoftware game, you can also expect quite the challenge.
Despite getting good reviews on release, the game, unfortunately, didn’t sell well. It’s on the pricier side for an original Xbox game, but with its multitude of unique characters and challenging and deep gameplay, it’s definitely worth the price.
© 2022 James Author