Sunday, 11 March 2012

HYTIB's top 10 videogame title screens.

You'd think a title screen is rather straight forward, right? That's what I first thought. Just a logo and a PRESS A KEY TO CONTINUE message would suffice. However it's come to my attention that title screens have practically become an art-form of its own. So to pay tribute to the hard work of these fine men and women that put in the extra effort, we've compiled a list of our favourite title sequences. 
A good title screen should immediately set the tone and atmosphere your game is going for, preferably without even muttering a single word. We’ve judged these solely based on the quality of the title screen and not of the quality of the game itself. Emphasis was placed on memorability, atmosphere, creativity, music, use of the technology at its disposal and, most importantly, how well it ties into the game. We tried to avoid entries with regular opening cutscenes, except when they flow into the actual title screen itself. Now without further stalling:

10. Wario Ware Touched
An interactive title screen is always a good way to start with. Noses of various sizes and stars that poop rainbows crawl onto the screen at a steady pace with funky music playing on the back. What sets this title screen apart is that you can jam all the small objects into the nostrils of the large noses. Yeah, that's right! NOSES IN NOSES HOW ABOUT THAT FOR YOUR XZIBIT MEMES.

I remember as this was my first DS game, spending a lot of time just fiddling about on this intro screen. It’s just a brilliant intuitive introduction to the DS features. It’s just a little playpen of silly objects that do different things, and you can throw them around and make marks and stuff, and then yeah, you can shove things up a nose for some reason. It’s Wario Ware, man.

09. Scribblenauts
In 9th place, another interactive title screen that lets you have hours of fun before you’re even pressed start. The appeal of Scribblenauts’s title screen is that you get to play the game right then and there. This is great if you just want to show your friends or mess around yourself. The mechanic of Scribblenauts is that you have a dictionary of pretty much any noun you can think of, and you can summon it and let it do what it does. Once you get bored of pitting Chthulu against the leviathan you can actually play the missions in the story mode.

I’ll even take it further than that. I was a little saddened to see that I preferred playing on the title screen over the actual game. I’m not sure if that was a testament to the brilliance of the sandbox they gave you so early on or because of some unfortunate decisions that bog down the actual campaign.

08. Demon’s Crest

Demon’s Crest isn’t particularly clever, but it just simply cool, especially when you take the SNES tech into consideration. A curtain of fire gets steadily obscured and the logo burns through whatever was blocking it. The look and eerie, gothic music immediately sets the tone for everything that’s in store for you.

It’s impressive that a simple idea like this would make it into our shortlist, but it’s just simple badass old-school cool factor. The kind of thing your 12 year old self would remember forever.

07. Deadly Creatures

Oh man this title screen is so awesome. It immerses you straight into what the game is presumably about: creepy spiders and shit. These realistic creepy crawlies wander past nonchalantly like you’re staring into a terrarium. It’s simple and brilliant, and if you’re super terrified of creepy crawlies it’ll probably make you quit right there.

Agreed, it’s super atmospheric and very well done. If you don’t know what you are getting into and you have a thing with bugs, you’ll feel the hairs on your arms immediately jump up. I really feel like I should commend them for the quality of the renditions and animation.

06. Metal Gear Solid 4

I love a good ambient and animated title sequence. You’re treated to a clearly aged Solid Snake, enjoying a smoke on a graveyard while tiny petals fly in the wind. He checks his weapon, kneels down readies himself to take his own life. Accompanying this is a sombre, tech-y sounding song playing on the background.

I haven’t played this game, but from what I understand this beautifully melancholy intro kinda ties into the plot as either a prologue or epilogue. It’s not only setting the tone of the game, but it’s also additive to the story, as well as looking good simply as a standalone scenario. It makes you want to play the game to find out what’s going on. Like a good book cover.

05. Super Metroid

Really, any of the Metroid series, including the Prime trilogy could take this spot. They all have the same format: a really cinematic, alien style intro that sets the tone and introduced the game in about 10 seconds. They’re so moody and well done every time.

Exactly. I feel like the Super Metroid one has the edge over the others because it was able to set the atmosphere so well and quickly on rather primitive hardware. Over the years I’ve noticed that ‘serious’ and ‘scary’ tones are very hard to convey in low spec 2D without throwing all subtlety overboard. Super Metroid didn't just pull it off. It nailed it.

04. Xenoblade Chronicles

Another beautiful ambient title sequence. You have the Monado sword sticking in a field, where it peacefully rests for days on end. Days turn into nights and nights transition into day,... It’s a very soothing scene with beautiful music. What I like about this one is that it is an endless title screen that doesn’t have to cut to a demo reel in order to reset itself, like so many others do.

Yeah this intro is like a really sweet screensaver. It’s got a minimalist approach but then as you’re letting it play listening to the awesome music, the background slowly changes and the music swells. It’s just.. you know, art.

03. Pikmin 2

Pikmin 2 is pretty much a perfect storm intro screen. It has all things I discuss when I talk about an intro screen I like: good visuals, atmosphere, simplicity, creativity, interactivity, relevance and even bonus easter eggs! You can control the little creatures on the intro screen there by pressing different buttons on the Gamecube controller. Also it’s super adorable.

I’m not sure how they could have done this any better. The Pikmin make up the logo, which I already thought was clever, but since you get to control the Pikmin and its predators, you get to do all sorts of cool things. You can distort the logo by moving the little guys or scaring them off with a bulblax, change it to read ‘Nintendo’ or if you get some of them eaten, there will be some gaps in the logo. Very cute and very fun.

02. Brutal Legend
This one just blows my mind. We had to discuss whether or not we should include it, because technically it is a big cutscene. However, since it flows so seamlessly into the title screen (and because it’s absolutely amazing) we decided to give it a free pass. Jack Black hypes you up about the story in live action video and presents the game as a rare, infamous heavy metal album.

Haha, this intro puts the meta in metal, am I right? Sorry. Anyway, yeah this one cheats its way into the shortlist because well, it’s not really an intro cutscene for the game’s story, its kind of introducing the actual game itself. Which is what a title screen does. I love a humorous use of live action in videogames, breaking the fourth wall and all that. This one is just really silly and uh... eh... guys... whats another word for ‘epic’? It’s cool. Yea.

01. LOZ Ocarina of Time

This isn’t a popularity contest or anything, but if there’s any one intro screen most people will remember it’ll be Ocarina of Time, where link runs around on his horse while some really nice music plays. It sets the tone of the game, hinting at both its vastness that was pretty new to 3D games at this point, and the fact that you’d later be able to ride around on a horse while nice music played. And it would be awesome.

It’s a personal favourite of mine too. I was doubting whether to nominate either this or Majora’s Mask’s, but this was just so much more iconic. The scope they showed, with the low-key soothing song playing felt so so calming and classy. It doesn’t need to be bombastic bombastic displays of intricate design. Just Link riding across Hyrule Field into an adventure. Another fun fact is that the title theme is an arrangement of the classic Zelda 1 flute-song. I thought that was a neat throwback touch.

So there you have it, folks. There were some pretty good ones that unfortunately didn't make our cut, but that's just the way things go. I'm interested in seeing how other people's top ten differ.

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