If you were to poll me as to what some of my favorite games of all time were, you'd see a lot of Clover Studio and Platinum Games titles on that list. Quite a bit, actually.
Both studios are comprised of brilliant minds that are somehow able to encapsulate what I love most about Eastern games again and again.
They're charming, challenging, and all around fun experiences that remind you why you became a gamer in the first place.
From 2006-2007, many members of Clover Studio left the defunct developer to form Platinum Games.
As a result, I thought it would be fun to include both studios in this list, especially in honor of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. We'll see how Platinum's own Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 fare later this year.
As a side note, the following list is in no particular order.
Viewtiful Joe (GameCube, PlayStation 2 - 2003, 2004)
What can I really say about Viewtiful Joe that hasn't been said a million times over? It's truly one of the best 2D platformers of all time.
Defying all logic that most designers in the genre were prescribing to at the time, Viewtiful Joe opted to go the route of technical platforming, which made it feel like a 2D fighting game on wheels.
Add in some of that Clover charm, including unforgettable bosses, memorable levels, and a ton of variety in terms of the moveset, and you have one amazing game. Even today, the game's art design and colors really pop, regardless of your platform of choice.
If you somehow missed this gem, make sure you check it out.
Okami (PlayStation 2, Wii - 2006, 2008)
If you ever told me that the creators of Viewtiful Joe would create one of the best Zelda games of all time, I would have laughed in your face.
Three years later though, against all odds, they did it. Okami graced the PS2 and pretty much blew everyone away right out of the gate. The amazing art style, the engaging, unique paintbrush gameplay, and RPG elements kept people entertained during this lengthy affair.
It also had a great story and wonderful themes to boot, as it was on naturalistic spiritualism, and Shintoism, two ideologies rarely acknowledged, much less explored in the West.
Okami will no doubt go down as one of the best RPGs of all time, and it's well deserved.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2013)
I had the chance to play through Revengeance last week, and I have to say -- it's probably the best action game I've played since Platinum's own Bayonetta.
Combat is swift, rewarding, challenging, and tight. It took me nearly an hour to fully grasp the game's concepts (even after playing the demo quite a bit), but once I did, Revengeance really nails down that feeling of controlling a badass cyborg ninja.
Surprisingly, it takes the whole "slaughtering innocents" angle that Ninja Gaiden III tried to go for, and nails it. It never gets too preachy, because the narrative is about Raiden himself, his past, and his struggle to acclimate to the evolving political and social climate.
Of course, it's a bit hard to take the story seriously when he's slicing giant gorilla robots into thirty pieces while riding missiles like surfboards, but for what it's worth, I was entertained and engaged throughout.
In fact, I have something I like to call the "mouth wide open" test. If a game drops my jaw at least once, odds are I'm having fun. My jaw dropped constantly playing this game. I don't really want to spoil any of the insane over-the-top action here, but needlessly to say it was a blast.
Platinum said they really wanted you to feel like Raiden acts like Metal Gear Solid 4's cutscenes. I'd say they accomplished that, and then some.
Bayonetta (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 - 2010)
In my mind, Bayonetta is locked in eternal combat with Devil May Cry 3 as the best action game of all time. Combat is deep, rewarding, and it's one of the hardest challenges I've ever played in my life, if you count the higher difficultly levels.
Not since Ninja Gaiden's Master Ninja mode did I struggle so much with having to learn pinpoint, perfect-frame dodging, and then some, but I loved every second of it. It's also packed to the gills with content, making it one of the most complete action games ever made.
It may be cheeky a times, and the plot may be a fairly throwaway affair, but I challenge you find many action games that can measure up to it. Barring a few other masterpieces, Bayonetta is in a league of its own.
God Hand (PlayStation 2, PSN - 2006, 2011)
Now we come full circle, to one of my favorite games ever, in any genre. Although I would put a few action titles a notch above God Hand in terms of the raw quality of combat, very few experiences have entertained me as much as Clover's lovable brawler.
The endearing characters, the outlandish set-pieces and insane bosses -- it's a world that I want to be a part of on a constant basis, and often times I'll replay the game just to get a piece of it.
But it's not just a straight brawler, to be clear. God Hand mixes some of the best design found in beat 'em ups to date, and mixes things up with fully explorable 3D environments. In just about every nook in cranny there's a hidden item, or someplace to visit.
In addition all of that, Clover made the game extremely challenging in a completely fair way. God Hand introduces a fairly unique way to keep you on your toes: a difficulty level that adapts to how well you're doing, mid-game. It's a really cool idea that keeps you constantly upping your game.
Also, Poison Chihuahua Racing. The fact that this exists makes me happy.