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10 Underappreciated Videogaming Gems

Despite plaudits from critics and commentators, some games do not do as well as they deserve when it comes to sales figures and revenue. Throughout the history of games, some wonderful titles have fallen by the wayside. On occasion, this failure to translate critical praise into commercial success has resulted in sequels being cut, studio heads being fired and, most dramatically, entire studios being axed.
We present you with a selection of games that, over the last decade (-ish) we believe didn’t fair as well as they ought to have at retail. 
Blur (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)

For some reason, Blur never managed to capture the kind of audience that we all expected it to. Despite receiving plaudits from much of the gaming press, its brand of slick, fast, power-up focused racing never took off to the same degree with the games-buying public. Perhaps it was the fact that the similarly spectacular Split/Second was released at around the same time, or perhaps people are just not interested in combat-racers anymore but, whatever the reason, Blur deserved better.
Battle Fantasia (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

The forgotten gem of the Arc System Works portfolio (which also includes the BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series’), Battle Fantasia is probably this generation’s finest fighting game that no one has ever heard of.  It combines fiercely traditional gameplay elements with a striking, fresh and unique art style to create a spectacle that few fighting games can claim to match. Despite being released at a cut-price in the UK, the game still didn’t sell well at all (it wasn’t helped by the fact that many retailers failed to display it) and soon fizzled out all together.
Any game with characters named Deathbringer, Urs Van de Land and Watson Livingston is okay is our book.
Okami (PlayStation 2)

An obvious choice but no less deserving of mentioning, Okami suffered enormously from being released at the end of the PS2’s life cycle – it’s EU release didn’t come until after the release of the Xbox 360 and only a month prior to the launch of the PS3. Beautiful art-style aside, Okami is one of the finest adventure-RPGs to appear to the PS2 and one of the few games on the system that doesn’t feel outdated upon loading it up today. With Okamiden and lead-protagonist Amaterasu’s appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the original is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon but, that doesn’t change the fact that Okami’s commercial showing in no way does the game justice.
Vanquish (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Developer Platinum Games know how to make special products. Bayonetta, MadWorld and Vanquish all stand out as examples of how to turn great ideas into great products. But, despite rave reviews, Vanquish never made much of an impact at retail. It’s likely that this was a result of some extremely poor timing on the part of the game’s publisher, Sega; released throughout Europe in the same month as Fable III, Fallout: New Vegas and Fifa 11, Vanquish was always going to struggle to compete with those established and beloved brands. If you’ve yet to play it, do yourself a favour and pick up a cheap copy online or in from a bargain bin. You’ll not regret it.
The Last Express (PC)

There are point-and-click adventures and then there’s The Last Express. Not only is The Last Express one of the finest games of its type, it’s one of the finest PC games period. It bent the established rules to such a degree that it’s barely recognisable from any other game ever made – be it point-and-click or not. The way real actors were used to record the action and were then turned into ‘cartoons’, the unique manner in which time constantly moves forward and the way in which the game’s characters play out their roles (regardless of whether you choose to interact with them or not) all combine to form a brilliant, affecting and sorely underappreciated gem of a game.
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Beyond Good & Evil (Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC)

What should have been one of the top-selling titles of the previous console generation is now largely remembered as being one of its highest-profile flops; resulting in the original plan for it to become a trilogy being scrapped. The story of young, plucky reporter Jade and her attempt to uncover an alien conspiracy taking place on her home world of Hillys has recently been re-released via Xbox LIVE Arcade but, the fact remains that Beyond Good & Evil deserves more (much more) than a shiny new HD upgrade.
Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Eternal Sonata may not be the most original or dynamic of RPGs but, what it attempts to do it accomplishes with flair and finesse. Sporting a cutesy, vibrant art style, enjoyable battle system and a genuine affection for classical composer Frederic Chopin, Eternal Sonata is a game that’s incredibly easy to fall for. While it bucks the Japanese RPG trend of delivering something that’s going to take at least 50 hours to complete, the content of Eternal Sonata is deeper and more rewarding than anything offered up by the likes of recent entries in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest franchises.
Alan Wake (Xbox 360)

Okay, so Alan Wake sold well enough but, it deserved to do much better. Clumsy combat aside, the story of a horror writer being absorbed into his own creation is one of the most memorable experiences you can glean from your Xbox 360. The characters, the story, the location, the atmosphere may all be very Twin Peaks but, then again, what’s wrong with that? Many games have tried and failed to create imposing, claustrophobic atmospheres – Alan Wake nails it.
No One Lives Forever (PC)
A stealth-shooter set in sixties in which you play as female protagonist Cate Archer, an agent of the secret organisation UNITY that aims to keep the world at peace… yes please I’ll have some of that. Just why No One Lives Forever didn’t perform better at retail is a mystery. For its time it had incredibly impressive animation, A.I. and many a unique gameplay element. Despite the fact that (compared to other games in this list) it has aged quite dramatically, it’s still worth playing for its wonderful sense of humour alone.
Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)

Say what you like about the state of Japanese RPG’s but, if one thing’s for certain, it’s a genre that knows how to do ‘epicness’. Featuring meteor strikes, warring nations and struggling monarchies, Lost Odyssey is a prime example of a JRPG storyline as it should be done. Lost Odyssey represents everything that Final Fantasy XIII should have been – it’s fun, it provides a battle system that rewards tactical thinking and it features a cast that is in some way likeable.
Honourable Mentions:
– Rez (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2)
– Psychonauts (PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC)
– Killer 7 (PlayStation 2, GameCube) 


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