Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.
Now we all love video games. At least most of you do. I can’t imagine that the majority of our visitors would be here if they didn’t, let alone reading this article. However, many of us can’t afford to run out and buy the latest new game when it is released, especially in this recession. Most of us have to deal with tuition/student loan payments, rent/mortgage payments, food, utilities, and in some cases, even extra mouths to feed. However, just because you’re swamped with bills doesn’t mean you have to keep playing the same games over and over again, simply because you can’t afford new ones. In this addition of the powet alphabet, I’m going to show you 10 selections straight from our weekly $20 Game of the Week feature, a.k.a the gamer stimulus package, designed to stimulate your collection and bail you out from the monotony of replaying the same titles again. I tried to cover every system here, and there is a good selection of genre offerings, so there is something for everyone. As luck would have it, this is also the 4 year anniversary of the column. All of these titles can be found for under 20 dollars anywhere you buy games from.

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (PS2)
fireprowrestlingAlthough the Fire Pro Wrestling series has been popular in Japan for nearly 2 decades, this is only the third time that it has hit the US (the first two times were on the Game Boy Advance). Although the graphical sprites look like they’re from an early 90s WCW game, underneath the hood lies the most complex and engaging wrestling experiences on any console in any generation, even surpassing THQ/Yuke’s WWE Smackdown vs Raw series in terms of customization options, variety, and even amount of wrestlers. You can book your own dream cards in match maker mode, create (or recreate) any wrestler you wish, and even create your own wrestling league, complete with face/heel sub-factions, your own referee, ring, and your own custom logo. Weather you’re a casual mark or an insider fan, this game has plenty to offer you provided you can look past the 16-bit era sprites and brave the steep learning curve. Oh yeah, and to the developers of this game, if you’re listening, I think I speak for fans everywhere when I say that we would love to see a sequel with online play and content sharing options that’s downloadable on Xbox Live Arcade/Playstation Network/Wii Ware. We would even settle for a DSi title, as long as we can use the stylus to design our own logos.

ESPN NFL 2k5 (PS2, Xbox)
espn2k5What Fire Pro Wrestling is for wrestling fans, ESPN NFL 2k5 is for football fans. The game was only $20 when it was first released, although many fans would have gladly paid full price for the content it included. You can set your team’s weekly practice regimen in a revamped franchise mode, customize your crib with various cool stuff, battle against stars like Funkmaster Flex and Carmen Electra, or just hit the field for a game of pigskin with a friend or the computer. Xbox owners can even use their custom soundtracks as stadium music. NFL 2k5 gave EA’s Madden some serious competition this year, and had them scrambling back to the drawing board. Want proof? Just months after this game’s release, EA Sports bought up exclusivity rights to ESPN, the NFL, NCAA football, and even Arena Football, thus locking Visual Concepts and Sega out of the video game football ring. That is a shame too, as an NFL 2k6 would have pushed the envelope even further.

Capcom Classics Collection Volume 1 (Xbox, PS2)
ca_17927_0_CapcomClassicsCollectionVol1Capcom may not be a console manufacturer, but they have created so many memorable intellectual properties that they have become almost as well known as a Nintendo or Sony. I’m willing to wager money that every gamer worth their salt has played at least one Capcom game during their life. Weather you’ve pwned chumps in Street Fighter, Unleashed an insanely cheap combo in Marvel Vs Capcom 2, blown apart zombies in Resident Evil, or even beat apart thugs in Final Fight, nearly every gamer has an entry from Capcom on their shelf. Capcom Classics Collection is a compilation of arcade hits from Capcom’s early days. Most of their classics are on here, from Final Fight, to Ghost ‘n’ Goblins, and even 3 versions of Street Fighter 2. The disc includes artwork, remixed music, and special hints and tips. For older gamers, this is a trip down memory lane, and for younger gamers, this is a look at how gaming was like before 3-d graphics, Havok physics, cell engines, or online play.

Also check out:
Capcom Classics Collection Volume 2 (Xbox, PS2)
Capcom Classics Collection Remixed (PSP)
Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded (PSP)
Mega Man Anniversary Collection (Xbox, Gamecube, Playstation 2)

The King of Fighters 94 – 98: The Orochi Saga (PS2)
kofI could have put any of SNK’s recent compilation packs on this list. Between them and the recent home releases of KOF XI and Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, there are almost enough for SNK to make up this list themselves. Be that as it may, what better way to represent SNK’s presence than it’s flagship fighter, King of Fighters? When it was first released, KOF shocked the world by introducing 3 on 3 gameplay in the fighting genre and teaming up characters from several SNK franchises. This compilation disc represents the first 5 entries of the series, from the debut of badass SNK villain Rugal to the mysterious Orochi, KOF’s storyline held many twists and surprises. The 98 ‘Dream Match’ allowed a break in the series by removing the storyline and bringing back characters who were either killed off or incapacitated in earlier KOF games. This disc also contains a challenge mode where you can unlock music tracks and artwork.

Also check out:
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 1 and 2 (PS2)
Samurai Showdown Anthology (PS2)
Metal Slug Anthology (PS2, Wii, PSP)

Taito Legends Volume 2 (PS2, PC)

taitolegends2.jpgTaito may not have been as recognizable as a Capcom, Midway, or even an SNK, but they are responsible for some of the most significant games of our hobby. Where would be gaming be without Space Invaders, Qix, Operation Wolf, Bust-a-Move, or Araknoid? At the very least, without a starting point for student developers, that’s for sure. This disc has around 40 games from Taito’s past. They have a better variety of games than any of the other recent compilation titles, as you’ll get everything from beat-em-ups, to puzzle games, to shooters, and even a few sports games thrown in for good measure. Some of the standouts here include G Darius, Elevator Action 2, and Arabian magic. There is something here for everyone.

Also check out:
Midway Arcade Treasures 1 – 3 (PS2, Xbox)
Taito Legends Volume 1 (Xbox, PS2)
Taito Legends Powered Up (PSP)

Mass Effect (Xbox 360, PC)
masseffectSimply put, this game is a masterpiece. It hits on all levels, from storytelling, to character development, art direction, and dialogue. Anyone who has played Knights of the Old Republic or Jade Empire can tell you that Bioware is good at crafting an engaging storyline in an rpg game, but with Mass Effect, Bioware has crafted a sci-fi universe that is as deep and epic as Star Wars and Battlestar Galatica. The way the game allows you to shape your character is nothing short of brilliant as well. You have complete control over Commander Shepard’s looks, gender, abilities, personality, background, and skillset. The only thing you can’t change about him (or her) is his (or her) last name. What is even more amazing is that this is only the first part of a 3-part trilogy. If you haven’t played this game yet, now is the time to do so, as many surprises are in store for the sequel. Oh and check out Powet’s top 5 things to do in Mass Effect.

Silent Hill 2 (Xbox, PS2, PC)

silenthill2There has been lots of debate about weather videogaming can be considered a viable literary art form. I say, all you have to do is pick up a copy of Silent Hill 2 (along with the game above and below this entry). It has one of the best narratives in gaming, and it provides a unique brand of survival horror that you just don’t see in other games in the genre (or even later games in the series for that matter). James Sunderland’s quest to find his wife (who is believed to have been deceased) in the town of Silent Hill contains many twists and turns, its endings leave a lot to the player to interpret. You can even go on and find a number of plot analyses in the FAQ section which dissect this game. Mark my words, in the near future, when gaming IS considered a literary art form, students will take literature classes where they will have to play the game, then do reports and homework assignments which take aim at its plot.

Eternal Darkness (Gamecube)
eternaldarknessThis is another Survival Horror game on the list for a completely different reason. Eternal Darkness is an amazing game on Gamecube, and it would be the last good Silicon Knights game that wasn’t a remake (Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes). Featuring 3 different storylines complete with their own enemies and endings, a dozen playable characters, a do-it-yourself spell crafting system, and a storyline that spanned over several centuries, Eternal Darkness was in a class by itself. However, what really put it over the top was the fourth-wall breaking hallucinations that occurred when your character’s sanity meter got too low. You’d walk along innocently, then watch as your body suddenly fell apart piece by piece, your TV suddenly shut off, the blue screen of death suddenly popped up, the game seemingly deleted every save on your memory card, the screen starts tilting, and other fun stuff. A lot of people wonder why this game didn’t do the numbers it should. If you think about it, it was quite easy for this game to slip through the cracks. The Survival horror genre contains many copycats, so it’s hard for a good title to be noticed unless it has the name Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Also, it was on a Nintendo system, and Nintendo systems are unfairly stereotyped as being ‘just for kids’. Even so, Eternal Darkness provided some much needed M-rated action on the Nintendo Gamecube. It’s too bad that Silicon Knights is too busy with the lackluster Too Human to give us a proper sequel.

Command and Conquer: The First Decade (PC)
cncfirstdecadeSure, the Command and Conquer series isn’t as deep as Starcraft or Age of Empires, but Westwood/Ea’s real time strategy series helped pioneered the basics of the 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) gameplay that has driven the genre. This compilation title contains every game up to and including Generals Zero Hour (except for the online game survivor). You’ll witness all the high and low points of the franchise, from the first battle against Nod in C&C 1, the alternate reality battle with the Soviets in the Red Alert, and even the FPS spin-off, Renegade. Make sure you go to the website and download the latest updates and patches, especially if you use Windows Vista.

Also check out:
Starcraft Battle Chest (PC)
Empire Earth 2 (PC)
Rise of Nations Gold Edition (PC)

Contra 4 (Nintendo DS)
contra4Now as much as we love today’s current crop of games, I think we all miss the glory days of 8 and 16 bit gaming. Back then, there were no CGI cinematics, online leaderboards, Havok physics, or motion sensing controls. It’s just you blasting through waves of enemies trying to take down the final boss. Contra 4 is a throwback to those days. Picking up where Contra 3 left off, Contra 4 gave gamers all the challenging gameplay they could handle while introducing Contra to a new generation of gamers. The game is also noted for its minimal use of the DS’s two screens. Instead of shoehorning in lame stylus gameplay, the second screen is simply used to extend the vertical length of the battlefield, upping the challenge even further. Numerous unlockables, including the original NES Contra and Super C, make the package even sweeter. This is a must have for any DS owner.

Also check out:
Mega Man 9 (WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network)

That’s it for our feature. Make sure you keep checking out Powet’s weekly $20 Game of the Week column for more cheap gaming ideas.