Well, the festive season is finally upon us… unless you’re my sister in which case it arrived on the 1st of November. Like most people, we have a tradition of opening up an Advent Calendar throughout the month. I have three different Advent Calendars: a standard chocolate one (because I’m a big child), a movie one that helps us to decide what to watch in the run up to the 25th, and a gaming one. I started my Gaming Advent Calendar tradition on Twitter three years ago, where I would either pick games I got for Christmas or, in last year’s case, a random game from my collection. This year’s calendar will be a random selection of games that may or may not have anything to do with Christmas. I’ll also update this post every day with a new game so enjoy.
Day 1: Jet Set Radio Future – Xbox (2002)
Released in 2002, Jet Set Radio Future is the third entry in Sega’s classic series. Return to Tokyo-to as the GGs as you grind, tag and skate your way through the different districts. Along the way you’ll recruit a wide range of characters, each with their own unique stats. The game is a lot more open that its predecessor, with each area interconnected and no time limits, so you can tag to your hearts content. The fantastic DJ Professor K returns, to keep you updated while hitting you with funky beats. As a European launch title, it was a must have for the system.
Day 2: Skies of Arcadia Legends – GameCube (2002)
Skies of Arcadia Legends is a port of the Dreamcast JRPG from Sega. Released in 2002, it made some tweaks to the original. The random battle encounter rate has been toned down but due to the GameCube’s sound chip, the music has seen a downgrade. The game is a standard JRPG where you’ll encounter new characters on your way to stop the powerful Galcian. What makes this game stand out is the airship battles. Your movement on the world map is through an airship that can be upgraded. Along the way you’ll get into air ship battles that require a bit of strategy to get through. The game also features an elemental system, where you can change your elemental type depending on the enemy you’re battling. It’s well worth tracking down a copy if you love a great JRPG.
Day 3: Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped – PlayStation (1998)
Naughty Dog’s wonderful platformer was released on the PlayStation in 1998. As expected, you control Crash as he attempts to stop the nefarious Dr. Neo Cortex. This time, he’ll have help from Coco along the way. The game takes a lot of what worked in Crash Bandicoot 2 but adds in some fun new elements. This time Crash can take to the sky, hitch a ride off a dinosaur and race against bikers. The game looks wonderful, with each area having its own distinct setting based on periods in time (Medieval, Egypt, Pre-historic). The difficulty has also been toned down and combined with Crash’s new abilities, is even more accessible than ever. You’ll still need some serious skill to complete everything though.
Day 4: Gears of War 2 – Xbox 360 (2008)
Gears of War 2 took everything that made the original great and improved upon. The world looks more decrepit as you battle your way through hordes of Locust. The sound effects are great, especially when you get the chainsaw stuck into an enemy. The set pieces are much bigger this time and just as intense as ever. Subtle tweaks have also been made to the AI. Now they can revive you but nothing beats blasting through the story in co-op mode. Speaking of co-op modes, this one introduced Horde Mode, where you and friends must battle to survive 50 rounds against the Locust. Of course, if co-op isn’t you style, it does have a robust deathmatch mode. Just remember to bring the boomstick!
Day 5: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist – Sega Mega Drive (1992)
TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist is a side scrolling beat’em up released by Konami in 1992. As you’d expect from Konami beat’em ups at the time, it is a solid game if a bit short. Here, you and a friend can play as one of the four Turtles, each with their own unique stats. Some have longer reach, some are more powerful but all are great to control. The game also has a host of TMNT villains to battle, from the lowly Foot Soldiers to Bebop and Rocksteady, and of course the Shredder. The game includes five stages, with their own unique themes. A short game that’s a blast to play with a friend, and if you don’t like the cartoon look of the Turtles, you can always switch them to the comic style in the menus.
Day 6: Super Mario Galaxy – Wii (2007)
Released in 2007 on Nintendo’s massively successful console, you join the Italian plumber on a Galactic adventure. Mario hops, skips and jumps with perfect precision as you’d expect from Nintendo’s mascot. The Worlds come in a variety of sizes, both big and small. While the game is more of a single player adventure than other entries, such as 3D World, a second player can join in to help you hoover up Star Bits on your way. Beautifully presented, inventively crafted, Super Mario Galaxy is a joy to behold. Now, go rescue Princess Peach!
Day 7: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – PlayStation 3 (2011)
Level-5’s wonderful JRPG manages to bring together a fun monster capture system and the elegant art style of Studio Ghibli in perfect harmony. You follow Oliver as his life is turned upside down and he is thrust into a fantastical world. Along the way, you’ll join up with Esther and Swaine as you try to uncover the truth about Oliver’s mother. The world is beautifully crafted, from the cobbled streets of Ding Dong Dell to the twisting paths of the Tombstone Trail, all while accompanied by a majestic musical score. In the words of Drippy, this game is proper tidy, mun.
Day 8: Bucky O’Hare – Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)
In another dimension, another time and space, a parallel universe is falling on its face. Bucky O’Hare is a licensed platformer from Konami released in 1992. The player starts off as the captain of The Righteous Indignation but will pick up the other crew members along the way. The game allows you to pick from four planets straight away, each with their own theme and crew member to rescue. Once these have been completed, you then progress to the final few levels of the game, similar to Mega Man. The crew members themselves have unique abilities that can be powered up by collecting items. The game looks impressive, which you’d expect from a late NES game. Let’s croak us some toads!
Day 9: Alex Kidd in Miracle World – Sega Master System (1986)
Released in 1986 on the Sega Master System, Alex Kidd in Miracle World had you fight your way across 17 stages to defeat the evil Janken the Great. Unlike other platformers, Alex punches enemies (and blocks), can equip special items and even zoom across the stage in all sorts of vehicles. Boss battles are also different (and odd), requiring you to beat an opponent in a game of janken. Sega’s mascot would eventually come built into the Sega Master System II, allowing more people to get the catchy title music stuck in their head…
Day 10: WWF No Mercy – Nintendo 64 (2000)
Building on their success with WCW vs. The World, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour and WWF WrestleMania 2000, the AKI Corporation put together one of the best grapplers of all time. Published by THQ and released in 2000, WWF No Mercy had an impressive roster to choose from with over 65 superstars available. It also had a large selection of matches to take part in, from the regular 1v1 match-ups to Ladder Matches and Backstage Brawls. The create-a-wrestler feature returned, with more options to choose from. There was also a Championship mode, where you competed to win WWF gold. Along the way, certain choices you made could have an impact on the story line. Where this game really shines is in the hectic 4-player mode. This one is still popular today with a community that continuously mods it.
Day 11: TimeSplitters: Future Perfect – PlayStation 2 (2005)
Developed by Free Radical Design and published by EA, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect was the third game in the TimeSplitters series. A fast-paced first-person shooter that has you jumping through time. Each area is wonderfully crafted and the characters are both charming and amusing. Free Radical Design really hit the nail on the head with their humour. The game also features an incredible multiplayer mode. There are a tonne of characters to choose from (including a gingerbread man) and a wide variety of arenas to choose from or you could just make you’re own using the mapmaker. The game also has bots, just in case you don’t have enough players. A fun, furious shooter that any fans of the genre should try.
Day 12: Ori and the Blind Forest- Xbox One (2015)
Moon Studio’s delightful 2015 platformer has you guide Ori as he sets out on an adventure to find out what is happening to the forest. Similar to many Metroidvania games, the world is interconnected, with new areas opening up as you gain new abilities. The game encourages exploration and backtracking as there are also hidden areas to find. The visuals and sounds are both stunning and charming, drawing you into this fantastical world more and more. Ori is a joy to control, which is a relief as there are some trickier platform sections later on. It’s a game that’s simply wonderful from start to finish.
Day 13: Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride – Nintendo DS (2008)
Originally released in 1992, Dragon Quest V (as it’s more commonly known) wouldn’t see a western release until the DS remake. This instalment is set across a wide range of time, starting with the Hero as a child and follows him as he grows into an adult. Along the way, you’ll meet a whole host of interesting characters and be able to recuit monsters to your cause. You’ll also have a big decision to make! The gameplay is a standard JRPG, complete with a whole depth of magic to use. As you’d expect from a Dragon Quest game, the graphics are beautiful and the music is full of charm. The DS version adds in a few new features, including an extra “choice”. One of the best JRPGs available and a must have for the handheld.
Day 14: Sonic Adventure – Dreamcast (1998)
A launch title for the Dreamcast, Sonic Adventure was one of the blue blur’s first forays into the world of 3D. The game is split out into six stories, with a final one unlocked after you finish them all. You start out as Sonic and as you meet the other characters in his section, their sections are unlocked. Each character’s story is designed around their abilities, such as speed for Sonic or gliding for Knuckles. The game controls well, if a little ropey in places, and the music is pure Sonic cheesy-ness. It certainly is one of the blue hedgehog’s stronger 3D entries and there’s nothing quite like blasting down the side of a building at break-neck speed.
Day 15: Tales of Berseria – PlayStation 4 (2016)
Bandai Namco’s most recent entry in the Tales series (for now), Tales of Berseria follows Velvet Crowe as her world is thrown into chaos. Filled with rage, she sets out to find out what happened on that horrible night and to get revenge. Along the way, she’ll team up with a whole host of characters, from the strong to the zany, each with their own abilities and spells to use in battle. The game is a prequel of sorts to Tales of Zestiria. It shares the same world but is set in the distant past so a lot of Zestiria locations look a lot different. The combat is a hybrid between a traditional JRPG and an ARPG. You encounter enemies in the world map and then battle them in a small “arena”. It is something that fans of the series are well used to. The games locations are lovingly crafted and well detailed. A tale full of twists and turns, lovable characters and an intuitive battle system make this a must have for fans of the genre.
Day 16: Donkey Kong Country – Super Nintendo (1994)
Rare’s iconic take on the gorilla hit store shelves in 1994. Using pre-rendered 3D graphics, the troublesome-twosome really stood out on the Super Nintendo. The game looks wonderful, with each zone having its own theme such as a jungle or a snowy mountain. The gameplay is a standard side-scrolling platformer where you’ll hop, jump and roll your way to the exit, taking out (or avoiding) enemies along the way. You can play as either Donkey or Diddy Kong, switching between them on the fly. Each Kong controls a little differently and if they get hit, they’ll run off the screen. Of course, you can get them again by finding a DK barrel. The music wonderfully accompanies the gameplay, from the upbeat jungle music to the serene water sounds. There is a two player mode where you can work together or against each other. Now go and rescue those bananas!
Day 17: Halo: Reach – Xbox 360 (2010)
The swansong to Bungie’s involvement with the Halo series sees you placed in the helmet of Noble Six, a new member of Noble Team. Reach is a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved and is set against the backdrop of the fall of the UNSC on Reach. The game is a first-person shooter with some third-person sections, most notably when you take control of a vehicle. Like the others in the series, the combat is fast paced and making use of your surroundings is a must, especially on higher difficulties. The game looks amazing and is accompanied by a somber soundtrack, that ties in well to the final few days of Reach. Multiplayer is present (as you’d expect). You can play through the campaign with some friends (and the other Noble Six members) or jump into the versus mode and take out other players across both new and returning maps. Reach is a truly wonderful experience that focuses more on the characters and their journey than any other game in the series.
Day 18: Ridge Racer Type 4 – PlayStation (1998)
Namco’s fourth entry in their popular arcade racing series debuted on the PlayStation in Japan 1998 before seeing a worldwide release in 1999. The games visuals looked crisp for the time and the music was pure adrenaline pumping goodness. The handling differed depending on what car you chose and what style of traction you wanted. Cars came in two forms: Drift and Grip. These did exactly what you’d expect, either letting you drift around corners or remained glued to the track. The game also had a story mode called “Grand Prix”. Here, there were four difficulty levels to choose from, each presented as a different team with a different story. The goal was to qualify for the the Final on New Year’s Eve by finishing above a certain place in each race. Depending on how you performed in the races, you would unlock cars for later stages and non-Grand Prix modes. A fun and thrilling racer that’s one of the best on the system.
Day 19: Kirby Star Allies – Nintendo Switch (2018)
Kirby is back in this fun adventure from HAL Laboratory. The cute little pink ball must make his way across varying worlds to stop an evil force being restored. Along the way, Kirby can meet new allies, inhale enemies to gain new abilities and find hidden secrets. The game can be played solo or with up to three friends, each taking control of one of Kirby’s allies (or former foes). The game is a 2D platformer that features inventive level design, exciting boss battles and tonnes of post-game content to unlock. The music is joyous and the graphics look crisp. Kirby controls really well and the game never feels too challenging (like most Kirby games). It’s definitely one to try if you just want to unwind or play with friends.
Day 20: Streets of Rage II – Sega Mega Drive (1992)
Sega’s iconic beat’em up returned with a blast in 1992. Streets of Rage II took almost everything from the first game and improved upon it. The only thing noticeably missing is the specials, but at least you don’t have to worry about pressing the wrong button. The game looks amazing, with each sprite being incredibly detailed. The combat is just as smooth as ever and feels so satisfying when you take out enemies. There are four characters to choose from this time, with Skate and Max joining Axel and Blaze as they attempt to rescue Adam. The four characters have their own stats, for example Max is a powerhouse but is slower than the other characters. There are eight stages to battle through as you attempt to reach Mr. X. Each stage comes with its own setting and is accompanied by a glorious soundtrack. The soundtrack is so good…
Day 21: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – PlayStation 3 (2009)
The second entry in Naughty Dog’s quadriolgy (or should that be quintology) sees Nathan Drake once again in a world of trouble. Starting out hanging on for dear life, Uncharted 2 then takes us on a journey to explain how Nate has found himself in such a perilous predicament. The game is vastly improved over the first entry. The graphics look more lush and detailed, the combat is more refined and free flowing, and Nate is just as witty as ever. The game leans into its set pieces more this time around and some of them are truly spectacular. The game also introduced a host of new characters and they really bring out the best in Nate, especially Chloe. A frantic adventure that’s a must have for fans of the genre and probably the high point in a fantastic series.
Day 22: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Xbox (2003)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Bioware gave us one of the best Star Wars games ever. Set long before the films, Knights of the Old Republic has you explore the galaxy, trying to find a way to stop Darth Malak. On your quest, you’ll recruit Jedi, star pilots, killer robots and even a Wookie. You’ll get to explore the deserts of Tatooine, the forest of Kashyyyk and the Sith world of Korriban, among others. Outside of the main story, there are tonnes of side-missions to undertake that will give you a little more back story on your party or some new equipment. Combat is round based, giving you plenty of time to plot out your next move. Like many of Bioware’s games, there is a “morality” system. The question is, will you walk the path of the Jedi, or fall to the dark side…
Day 23: Shining Force III – Sega Saturn (1997)
Released in 1997 in Japan, Camelot Software’s Shining Force III was originally split into three separate but overlapping scenarios. When it was released in the West in 1998, only Scenario 1 made the journey across. The third entry in the series continues with the tactical turn-based combat of the previous entries, with characters gaining exp required to level up. The characters and backgrounds are lovingly brought to life in 3D, a truly remarkable feat on Sega’s fifth generation console. Scenario 1’s plot follows a war between Aspinia and Destonia as two heroes on opposite sides work together to find out the real cause behind the conflict. While Scenario 2 and 3 never saw an official release in the West, there do exist fan translations and reproduction discs to sink your teeth into.
Day 24: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Nintendo 64 (2000)
Dawn of the Final Day. Following the massive success of Ocarina of Time, a single team were tasked with getting a new Zelda game out within a year. Reusing assets from its predecessor, Eiji Aonuma and Yoshiaki Koizumi’s team put together one of the most unique adventure games ever made. Set across three days, Young Link is dragged into the world of Termina in pursuit of the Skull Kid. There, he meets all sorts of quirky and tragic characters. Link can also transform into different versions by equipping masks. These masks give him all sorts of abilities that will help him overcome the challenges this strange world throws at him. The biggest feature of this game is the three day cycle. The world and people move around Link during the three days, performing certain actions at certain times. Of course, Link, armed with his ocarina, can play around with time, either speeding it up or resetting the cycle. The games somber tone is wonderfully encapsulated in its characters, world and music, all of which are a joy to behold.
And with that, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holidays and a wonderful new year. Enjoy the festivities but remember to stay safe and we’ll see you in 2021.