One of my favorite things about RetroAchievements is how an Achievement of the Week or other site event might direct me to a game I’ve never heard of before that turns out to be a really fun experience. I have personally been directed to games like Firestriker, Deadeus, and Sheep Raider, while I have seen others directed to games I have great love for, like Rugrats Search for Reptar, or Harvest Moon 64. With that in mind, I wanted to use my Wish This Set entries to try and promote games that I suspect most people have not played or, in some cases, even ever heard of. Thank you to all the devs who give this site purpose – I hope something in my list can spark an interest and bring joy for you the way your sets have for me. Thank you also to the RANews team for giving me this opportunity to promote some games that have a special space in my heart, and extra shout-out to Bendyhuman for providing an example of what the article should look like and being available and in contact for any questions I might have had. Also, shout-out for using your own Wish This Set entry to request Rune Factory 3 – it’s Harvest Moon as an RPG! What’s not to love? I actually was going to have it on my list until I saw it was already covered. All nomination-seconding aside though, let’s dig in to my wishlist!
5. Lost in Blue (Nintendo DS)
|Lost in Blue||Nintendo DS||Adventure|
Lost in Blue is actually a stealth reboot of an existing Konami series, Survival Kids. In Japan, Lost in Blue maintains the Survival Kids title, though in the US, the new title led it to being treated as more of a spiritual successor. The first of three titles for the DS, Lost in Blue is a survival game taking place on a desert island. You play as Keith, a young passenger on a ship that begins to sink in a storm. Keith is tossed from the boat and washes ashore on the island, where he meets Skye, a young woman who was able to escape by life raft. You must work together to both survive, and to find a way off the island. As Keith, you explore the island looking for food, fresh water, firewood to provide heat at night, and crafting materials. Managing your resources and your bodily needs provides tension, though the atmosphere of the island itself is gorgeous and easily draws attention and the urge to explore, with deep blue water and lush green grass. While Keith can explore much of the island alone, he occasionally runs into areas where he needs assistance, such as to move something heavy. Skye is blind without her glasses, which broke soon after she came ashore, so Keith must lead her by hand across the unstable island terrain on these outings. In addition to gathering tools and supplies for survival, the areas of the island you explore and the choices you make in them determine which of the various ways off of the island (and therefore which of the various endings) are available to you.
The multiple routes and endings allow for a great deal of replayability, and replayability leads to increased expertise with the game as a whole, and that increased expertise can pay off with the potential for a variety of challenging achievements beyond simply seeing all of the story scenes. Even more importantly, a set for Lost in Blue paves the way for Lost in Blue 2, a game in which you can fistfight an alligator – and who doesn’t want an achievement for that on their profile?
4. Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Nintendo DS)
|Trauma Center: Under the Knife||Nintendo DS||Simulation/Action|
Set in the medically advanced future of 2018, the Trauma Center series takes place in a world medical science has advanced to the point of curing AIDS, cancer, and other previously deadly diseases. The player takes on the role of Dr. Derek Stiles, a skilled surgeon who possesses the Healing Touch, manifesting in game mechanics as the ability to slow down time to minimize blood loss during particularly difficult steps in the operation. Over the course of the game, Dr. Stiles is recruited into an organization called Caduceus, which is like a cross between Doctors Without Borders and the covert anti-terrorism work of Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4. The game is played using the DS touch screen, which displays a very abstracted (i.e. little-to-no gore) view of the area Dr. Stiles is working on. You switch between various tools like a scalpel to open the patient or cut out tumors, a suction device for draining pooled blood, or sutures and bandages to close wounds. At first, you use these to treat relatively routine, though life-threatening injuries and illnesses. However, the case that catches Caduceus’s attention is Dr. Stiles’ treatment of an aggressive, unknown parasitic disorder eventually revealed to be called GUILT. GUILT is a sci-fi, man-made terrorist bioweapon, and working with Caduceus, you save the lives of various patients infected with increasingly aggressive strains of the toxin.
Touch-screen-based gameplay can be a challenge with emulation, and Trauma Center is already infamous as a series for frustrating difficulty spikes, so a set based on this game certainly wouldn’t be for everyone. However, that same difficulty means even with a relatively simple set focused solely on progression and S-ranks, this game could be a real challenge for people to master. The Trauma Center series fascinated me when I was younger, though I didn’t have the skills to get very far in any of the games. A set could be the motivation to give it another try and see if I’ve improved at all, or if I – like many people – am doomed to gross medical malpractice.
3. Lux-Pain (Nintendo DS)
|Lux-Pain||Nintendo DS||Visual Novel|
If some of these are relatively obscure titles, I suspect Lux-Pain is completely unknown. Lux-Pain is primarily a visual novel, and tells the story of a Japanese city where emotional distress is a plague. The player character, Atsuki, has the power of Lux-Pain, an ability that allows him to see the physical manifestations of misery and trauma. These come in two forms – worms, who you uncover and squish by physically “digging beneath the surface” on the DS’s touch screen, and the Silent, monsters who you engage using a timing-sensitive tapping battle mini-game (think Elite Beat Agents without being synced to music). By squishing worms and defeating Silent, you unlock the ability to converse with people about their issues and help them to feel better. Outside of directly helping people, conversations are also used to gather information that allows you to prioritize who you are helping and where you are spending your time.
This game had interesting concepts and beautiful art, but its 2009 release predates the increasing familiarity western gamers have come to have with the visual novel genre, and so it was reviewed poorly on the basis of a lack of gameplay. It also had issues like translated voice lines not matching translated text, and occasional mistranslated text that can make conversations harder to follow than they need to be, further hurting it in reviews. I believe achievements for this game could help people to go back and discover the things about it that are interesting and ahead of its time, like its early attempts at a video game narrative about mental health, and perhaps help to cultivate a cult fanbase for the game.
2. Monster Rancher Battle Card Episode II (PlayStation)
|Monster Rancher Battle Card Episode II||PlayStation||Card Game|
Everybody knows the Game Boy adaptation of the Pokemon Trading Card Game and its skillful translation of the monster-collecting TCG to a video game format. Released around the same time, however, and lesser-known, were a Game Boy original Monster Rancher Battle Card and this significantly improved PlayStation sequel. In this game you play as the titular monster rancher and friend of series-mainstay Colt. On Colt’s 15th birthday, you attend a party where you meet her friend Cue, a “card breeder” (someone interested in battling monsters, but unable due to age or other factors to actually raise them, and so who plays a card game officially sanctioned by the in-universe monster battle organizations). Cue gifts Colt a rare stone with a slot for every monster card, as well as the cards Colt does not yet have in order to allow her to complete it. Upon filling in the tablet, Colt is transported to the legendary Paradise of Monsters, and you are tasked with saving her by competing in Battle Card tournaments to collect all of the monster cards and fill the tablet once again.
The actual card game is played with a party of three monster cards which start in play, and a deck of attack, defense, and support cards. Instead of the energy cards from Pokemon, the Monster Rancher Battle Card system uses GUTS, a mana reserve earned by discarding cards. Thus, the game is played by balancing cards in your hand worth keeping or discarding based on cost and utility. Do you burn several low-value cards in order to power a particularly strong attack that you may or may not draw in time, or do you focus on consistently dealing smaller blows? Your attack cards are tied to the monster cards you have in play, as well. If Suezo loses all of his HP, you’re not going to be able to use Eye Beam, and the GUTS you saved up may be for nothing.
Card games provide for a number of achievement opportunities beyond simple story progression, which makes this game a great potential set. And with the Monster Rancher remasters releasing soon, it’s a great time to jump (back) into the franchise, whether you’re new or a veteran. Who knows? Maybe a remake of this game could be in the future, too!
1. Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times | Enchanted Folk and the School of Wizardry (Nintendo DS)
|Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times | Enchanted Folk and the School of Wizardry||Nintendo DS||Life Simulation|
The success of SporyTike and SlashTangent’s wonderful work on Animal Crossing: Wild World, as well as Spory’s previous work on the JP only N64 Animal Forest, makes me believe a set like this can work. Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times (MQMT) was a game I saw promoted in Nintendo Power and with which I instantly became fascinated. Instead of moving to a small town of animals as the only human, MQMT places your character as a new student staying in the dorms of a wizarding school filled with mystical creatures. While the player character lives in a dorm room, your fellow students live in houses similar to those found in Animal Crossing games. These students function like villagers in Animal Crossing: there are a variety of potential students, they have different personalities, and you can interact with and befriend them. Beyond Animal Crossing, however, MQMT also has a best friends/dating system with your classmates, adding depth to interactions with them. You can also play instruments near your classmates and they will join in jamming with you, a feature that Animal Crossing only recently saw with New Horizons. The main draw of a wizarding school game, of course, is its magic, and MQMT has plenty of it. As a player character, you attend classes in various magical subjects where you learn a variety of spells, such as the ability to freeze bugs in place, making them easier to catch, or the ability to transform into a classmate. There is even a spell you can cast on classmates to make them fart. These classes are tied to a real time clock and provide you with the skills you’ll need to take on each week’s mission. There are 52 missions, which means the game is meant to be played over the course of a year.
While this game is charming and has many cool features Animal Crossing lacks, it can be easier to fall off of than Animal Crossing due to a greater focus on weekly rather than daily content. Achievements for this game could not only encourage completion of the actual game missions, but of other side tasks like making friends or collecting rideable brooms. This could drive people to stick with it longer in the lulls between missions and classes. Despite the game’s uniqueness, the three sequels it received only ever released in Japan. I would love if achievements drove enough interest to this game that we might get a sequel or spiritual successor on current gen hardware. That’s a lofty goal, of course. More realistically, however, achievements would put eyes on a completely overlooked game that I thank has something magical (no pun intended) about it. It’s one of my favorite hidden gems, and I would love simply having more people to talk with about it.