Top Ten Video Game Series Comebacks (Part Two)

Here it is again, the intro paragraph that serves no purpose but I feel compelled to write. I’m counting down the top ten best series revivals in gaming, sequels that brought a series back to its full glory after a long absence or string of bad games. Without further filler, here are the top five:

Number 5: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Nintendo 3DS; 2012

How Things were Before: It was the NES era, and Nintendo was introducing the games that would grow into their legendary franchises. Super Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus. All came out in just over a year’s time span, and all were innovative if (to varying degrees) unpolished games with the seeds of greatness in them. All were popular NES games, all got an 8-bit sequel. Then there was the third game, a masterpiece that realized the potential of the series. Once that milestone was reached, all of these games became consistently fantastic series that were synonymous with Nintendo’s brilliance as a game developer. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and… wait, Kid Icarus never got a third game? Well, there was a pretty big gap between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Metroid, I guess Kid Icarus just missed SNES. Surely it will get a new game soon, maybe on Ultra 64!

15 YEARS LATER

…well, shit.

The Revival: After a long, long wait of nearly two decades (which seemed even longer to some since many were unaware of the GameBoy game), the impossible happened and a new Kid Icarus was announced at E3 2010. One of the games announced at the reveal of the 3DS, it is needless to say that fans were thrilled. As the game suffered numerous delays and more details were released, however, quite a bit of skepticism arose. The ground combat was more of a third person shooter than the platforming of the original games, and many doubted that the 3DS stylus controls would work for that genre. While I won’t argue that the controls have a considerable learning curve, once you get them down it’s clear that the game is amazing in every other way. The game is packed with weapons, bosses, dialogue, challenge, characters, and length to a ridiculous degree. It may not be a completely faithful translation of the 8-bit games, but it is definitely a successful one and should keep fans busy even if it takes another 20 years for a fourth game.

Number 4: Street Fighter IV
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC; 2009

How Things were Before: Street Fighter had a humble start as an obscure, really pretty bad arcade game. Street Fighter II, however, is one of the most influential games of all time and can be credited with popularizing a genre and possibly keeping arcades alive for an extra decade. With four enhanced versions and the Alpha series released, many joked that Street Fighter III would never see the light of day. It eventually did, six years after Street Fighter II. With only two returning characters from Street Fighter II, it wasn’t quite what people expected. The game disappointed many people, as was perhaps inevitable at that point, but a bigger problem for the series was the decline of fighting games as a whole. As arcades died fighting games became a niche genre, with no completely new 2D Street Fighter released in the sixth generation.

The Revival: After a gap nearly twice as long as the seemingly endless one between Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III, Street Fighter IV was finally released in Japanese arcades in 2008. Coming to home consoles in 2009, Street Fighter IV captured the feeling of SF2, which SF3 had been lacking. We also finally had a big name, high quality retail fighting game in the online console era. Online play revived the spirit of the arcades, an infinite supply of opponents to compete with. Street Fighter IV was just the game to take advantage of this, and the fighting genre was revived. SFIV also sent the message that 2D fighting games could be successful, which was certainly a good thing for the genre.

Number 3: Metal Gear Solid
Sony Playstation; 1998

How Things were Before: Well, it depends on region. If you were Japanese, Metal Gear was an innovative pair of games with an emphasis on stealth and a (for the time) deep story. There wasn’t much else like it, and nothing showed up during the 16-bit era. But it could have been much worse, and for most people reading this, it was. For western gamers, Metal Gear was an NES game with such an innovative premise that people managed to enjoy it despite the crippling flaws that were much worse than in the Japanese version. And then there was the American sequel, which I will follow Konami’s lead on and pretend never existed. At the start of the fifth generation, the series came back into focus with a new 3D entry planned for the Playstation. The game had a huge amount of hype, but more cynical gamers remembered that the last attempt at cinematic games resulted in the infamous FMV games of the early CD systems. And this was the era where a series transitioning to 3D was a huge risk. What would happen when Metal Gear Solid was finally released?

The Revival: The hype for the game was justified. Metal Gear Solid was one of the defining games of its generation, with genre defining gameplay and story/voice acting light years beyond what people expected from games in 1998. In an era when a classic series going 2D was a huge risk, Metal Gear Solid was not as good as the 2D games, it was exponentially better. The emotional connection to characters and tense stealth gameplay were defining moments of the 3D era. With a story that blew everyone away and gameplay that was both innovative and consistently fun (if kind of short), Metal Gear went from an obscure series to one of the most popular ones overnight. Possibly the biggest leap forward for a series on this list, the only thing stopping Metal Gear Solid from placing even higher is that there was little skepticism leading up to release or angst over the absence of the series during the generation it skipped.

Number 2: Sonic Colors
Nintendo Wii; 2010

How Things were Before: Now this is a series with a troubled history. Sonic the Hedgehog started out strong in the 16-bit era, his Genesis games being incredibly popular and spawning countless imitators while battling Mario in the fiercest mascot war in gaming history. But once the Genesis glory days ended… dear God. First, Sonic missed Saturn’s launch. As the proper 3D entry, Sonic X-Treme, was endlessly delayed Saturn was forced to consist on Genesis ports and a racing game. Saturn died without a real Sonic game, but its successor Dreamcast had a brand new, 3D Sonic with amazing graphics and high production values at launch. The series was going to make a comeback, right? No, things were going to get worse. Sonic Adventure was a decent game, but there were some significant flaws in the 3D transition. Okay, there’s a sequel to it, things will get better now, right? Hell no. For nearly a decade, we got Sonic game after Sonic game after Sonic game, and they all ranged from okay to terrible. 3D games with poorly implemented concepts, 2D games that mostly consisted of holding right, the series had a truly spectacular fall from grace. What made it worse was that Sega hyped at least half of these games (including Sonic 2006, one of the most hated games of all time) as the revival that would bring the series back to its former glory. Sonic had become a joke, almost everyone wanted the series to just die so they could remember the Genesis days in peace.

The Revival: After so many false promises of a revival, no one was very excited for Sonic Colors when it was announced in 2010. Sega wasn’t even pretending this time, saying it was “for kids” while Sonic 4 Episode 1 would be the game that really truly for real got the series back on track (it didn’t). As the game drew closer to release, the impressions of it were more positive than usual, and there was no nasty surprise in the game mechanics revealed. Still, people had been burned too many times before, and just suggesting Sonic Colors could be a good game was likely to enrage gaming forums. Then the game was released, and a miracle happened. After so many years of Sonic either taking a backseat to a poorly implemented new character or using speed as a substitute for good control and level design, Sonic Colors was an actual platformer! Sonic didn’t appear in only a third of game, turn into a werehog, or control like Bubsy. The levels were based on platforming and multiple paths, just like the Genesis games. The wisps acted as power-ups instead of derailing the gameplay. The story didn’t try to take itself seriously. After false promise after false promise after false promise every step of the dreaded Sonic Cycle had been systematically broken. Sonic Colors was not only a great game, Sega actually got the message! Sonic Generations and Sonic 4 Episode 2 continued the positive direction Colors had taken the series in, and the upcoming Sonic: Lost World looks to continue that. After so much suffering, Sonic finally found his way again.

Number 1: Metroid Prime
Nintendo GameCube; 2002

How Things were Before: As mentioned in the Kid Icarus entry, Metroid was introduced on NES and became one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Super Metroid was a gigantic leap for the series, and cemented it as a legend. With Mario and Zelda getting 3D entries for Nintendo 64, Metroid 64 was guaranteed, right? As with every other optimistic question I’ve asked in this article, the answer is no. Metroid never made an appearance on N64 or any other system during the fifth generation. A really popular series just skipping a generation like that wasn’t something people were used to at the time, so naturally this upset Metroid fans quite a bit. After constant requests for Metroid 64 fell on deaf ears, the series was finally shown to be alive in a tech demo at the GameCube’s unveiling. There was much rejoicing, until we got some further details… The new Metroid was going to be in first person. Made by an American developer Nintendo had just bought. Based in Texas. The outrage was truly spectacular, for Nintendo to neglect Metroid for so long and then do… this… to it was unforgivable. Nintendo had decided to kill the series for no reason, it was impossible that they could be this stupid. Fans declared the new FPS Metroid an abomination and preemptively banished it from the series canon. This was going to be one of the worst disasters in gaming history.

The Revival: As Metroid Prime drew closer to release, the mood around it became more optimistic. Most previews of the game were positive and said it captured the feel of the series. Despite this, there was still quite a bit of uncertainty up until the game was released. Once gamers got to play it, however, all fear turned out to be unfounded. Somehow, every insane decision Nintendo made about Metroid Prime worked out perfectly. The game was by no means a generic FPS, it was a truly faithful 3D transition for the series and one of the best games of its entire generation. The exploration, powers, combat, everything felt just as solid as it did in Super Metroid. After eight long years and what seemed to be deliberate sabotage on Nintendo’s part, Metroid was revived every bit as good as it had ever been. Metroid Prime is the shining example of why you should never give up hope for a series, and why you should give every game a chance no matter how crazy it sounds. The game’s exceptional quality, revival of a dormant series, and complete reversal of all expectations are what earned it the number one spot.

And there you have it, my ranking of the top ten series revivals in gaming history. Whether you agree with it or not, I hope you’ll remember that just because a series has been gone for a long time or you hated the last few games doesn’t mean hope is lost. As long as there are fans of a series, as long as the memories of its glory days remain, there will always be attempts to recreate that magic we thought was lost, and there is always a chance it will succeed.

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