Digging for Treasure, Part 3

Taking a moment to shine a light on some games that are underappreciated, forgotten or simply unnoticed

To say that there are a lot of games out there would be the understatement of the century. So many games come out each year that it’s impossible to keep up with them all, meaning that many of them fly under the radar. There’s also the matter of older games being forgotten simply because younger generations of gamers were never exposed to them. This is an injustice; and although I cannot fix it, I can at least combat it. This is a series dedicated to showing some love for games that deserved more attention than they received.

“Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders”

This game came to me by way of a recommendation from a friend back in 2006. It’s a good thing I listened because I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I’ve always wanted to like real-time strategy, or RTS, games, but I could never get into them. “Kingdom Under Fire” is the exception. This game is a hybrid of RTS and RPG elements. What I mean by this is that you have your combat units to control, like any RTS, but when you go into battle with your lead unit, the game zooms in and you take control of your commander character on the field. It’s an awesome, unique spin on the RTS genre that I’ve only seen in “Kingdom Under Fire.”

It also has a decent level of depth in the form of managing your army. The game provides many different types of units which allows for experimentation in how you set up your army. On top of that, you can level up your various unit leaders’ abilities to better synergize with their specific troop, and you can upgrade their equipment as well as your character’s. If you enjoy RTS or RPG games, consider giving “Kingdom Under Fire” a try. Unless it’s “Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom.” Stay away from that one.

“Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy”

This little gem is a shooter that wanted to be more than just a shooter. In case the name doesn’t give it away, psychic abilities pervade throughout this game, and these are what make “Psi-Ops” stand out. You obtain various powers over the course of the game, including, but not limited to, telekinesis, pyrokinesis and mind control. If that sounds like fun, that’s because it is. Sure, you could just pick up a gun and fire away, but why do that when you can instead pick up a huge ball of solid marble and hurl it at them?

Or better yet, pick up your enemies with your mind and move them into the path of a wave of disintegrating energy, or you could just chuck them into a ventilation fan. “Call of Duty” doesn’t let you do that, does it? This is the kind of creative thinking and tinkering that can take a hackneyed formula and make it unique and refreshing. A particularly fond memory of mine is from one of the boss battles, in which the boss saw it fit to toss train cars at me. That was fun.

“Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu”

This is a neat little game from the Playstation era. It’s steeped in a melancholic atmosphere, and I like that overtly somber tone, personally. The main draw of this game is in its pet management systems.

“Jade Cocoon” is similar to the “Pokemon” series in that you can capture the various critters you battle and tame them so they fight for you. Where this game differs is the merging mechanic. You can combine your captured minions to create a new, merged minion with abilities and an appearance influenced by its parent creatures. That’s the bulk of the fun right there. Mixing and matching and seeing what kinds of crazy monsters you can whip up.

There’s a layer of strategy to it as well, in the sense that you have to merge carefully to get just the right abilities and strengths. Too much reckless merging can leave you with a bunch of weaklings resulting in you getting crushed by a boss. I have to admit that “Jade Cocoon” probably isn’t for everyone, but if you really like pet management games, give this one a shot.