If you like underrated, flawed-yet-classic, diamond-in-the-rough, hidden treasure RPGS then I’ve got some sweet, sweet news for you. I’m always scouring the playfield for imaginative and inventive gems, and these are a few you should know about.
1. Magic PenGel (PSX)
Imagine thisーyou can draw any creature or any THING and it comes to life with unique abilities based on the color, shape, and size of its parts!
If you have an active imagination, like drawing, or are remotely silly, you are sure to have a blast! You gain more colors as you progress so you can gradually make bigger and more elaborate beasts. The catch is that the battle system boils down to a kinda flawed, kinda random rock-paper-scissors deal…but seeing your creatures fight never ceases to delight!
And Magic PenGel does a pretty amazing job of rendering 2D drawings into 3D and then animating them, with lots of options for different types of parts (hard, wiggly, used for walking, etc.).
I can only fantasize about a sequel on a system with even better drawing controls. (Modeling them out of “clay” by hand with a motion sensor system, anyone!?) …WAIT I just found out there IS a sequel! If you have a PS2 please play it for me:
2. Opoona (Wii)
What a cute, awkward and delightful name, perfect for the cute, awkward and delightful main character!
Opoona has a fresh and vibrant world, full of alien landscapes like the blue desert and populated by freaky smiling people reminiscent of Earthbound.
Most impressively, as one Gamefaqs reviewer describes, Opoona incredibly creates its own history of art with different movements and actual art objects that would make amazing art installations in REAL LIFE! All you installation artists out there should play this game NOW!
The battle system is scary and sometimes frustrating, but the characters, enemies, and locales are so cute I didn’t even mind. I did mind the incredibly confusing layouts of towns though, which turned the most minor tasks into mind-boggling chores. But…just look at cute little Opoona, he can’t help it! Neither can his sister Poleena or his brother Copoona!
3. Baiten Katos (Gamecube)
Speaking of flawed battle systems in unique environments with imaginative enemies, try Baiten Katos for Gamecube!
Only this game throws in the most outrageous, laugh-out-loud voice acting I have ever encountered (even more so than Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song!). The catch is that they speak the same lines every time an action is performed in battle, so if you use three bananas consecutively to heal someone (which is possible and necessary), the same poorly acted line is shouted three times in a row! Seems like a massive oversight, but the game is still a wonderful blast from a world of fantasy.
The character concept art is beautiful and they look awesome in-game, especially when performing cute dances in battle and flying all over with their wings.
4. Paladin’s Quest / Lennus (SNES)
If you have ever read my blog I dare say you already know about this series, but I hereby declare once and for all that everyone must play it! These two games for the SNES have more imagination, freshness, wild color schemes, and freaky deeky worldview than you can shake a GlowBow at (sorry, in-game weapon reference!)!
Many people dislike the first game’s art style, but if detail is your thing, try the second one which pushes SNES graphics to their limits (and now has an English translation). Read more here and here.
5. Fearless Fantasy (PC)
Now, this one is cheating, as I myself haven’t played it, but I am positive from the video and reviews that I would love it. It’s surreal, mysteriously heartwarming, and popular with womenーie a complete shoo-in. I don’t wanna give anything awayーjust watch the video on Steam for yourself!
If you have a PC, please check it out and let me know how it is! I wanna buy a copy just to support the developers even though I can’t play it on my Mac.
If you already know all of these games then you own the keys to my heart and I will wine and dine you next time you’re in Berlin. But for now share your own favorite unknown gems in the comments section below!