Turn It Up to Eleven

When it comes right down to it, quite a bit of merchandise has been released to celebrate MegaMan’s 25th anniversary: soundtracks, re-releases of old games, various comic books, action figures, model kits, figurines, statues — the only thing that’s really missing would be a brand new game, which for many in the fanbase is an egregious omission. And while many Capcom employees have argued that the brand’s just as strong as ever and that games take much more time than most fans appear to understand, the void still remains. The problem with MegaMan as a franchise is determining what the next game should be, just due to the multiple incarnations the series can take. But that’s a problem I’m just going to evade: MegaMan 11 is what we’re talking about today, as it would likely be the most obvious choice. After all, when it comes to the Blue Bomber, the original Classic incarnation is still the most recognizable in mainstream circles. However, considering the lukewarm reception that met the series’ most recent release (MegaMan 10), it’s clear that Capcom should definitely try to go in a different direction.

The most common point of contention I’ve heard with regards to the Blue Bomber’s latest outing was definitely aimed at the game’s choice of graphical style. Regardless of how much people went gaga over MM9, the second time Capcom attempted another 8-bit throwback, it was an outrage. Considering the equally bitter response to NES-era graphics being used in the canonized fan project Street Fighter x MegaMan, the answer is clear: we need something new. Many people have responded very positively to the Smash Bros. redesign, which utilizes many of the qualities of Inafune’s old concept art, portrayed with the body proportions and posture of the 8-bit MegaMan of yore, so that seems like an obvious choice. Personally, I liked the redesign we saw in the cancelled MegaMan Universe game, while many other long for a new game that resembles games from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation eras instead. Whatever design choices Capcom ends up making in the long run, they should try to avoid the mistakes of certain games that have shied away from the old-school graphics: just make sure everything’s properly scaled (looking at you, MM7) and that obstacles and pitfalls are properly designated (looking at you, MM8). As long as you keep everything in their correct ratios from the 8-bit era, feel free to experiment.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have gameplay. A significant majority of fans definitely want the Classic series to retain the 2D platformer run-and-gun style that made us fall in love with the series 25 years ago. So try not to deviate from the basic formula for the most part. Bringing back certain elements from non-NES-styled games like certain stage elements that react to specific weapons, would be a nice touch, however. And feel free to add some unique stage gimmicks, those are always fun and keep the game from feeling derivative, while paying homage to its forebearers. There’s nothing more to say on the subject, really.

It seems like if there’s any major criticism I can pose regarding the games themselves, it would have to be that they’ve felt too short. 12 or 13 stages may have been alright back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, but these days, especially with games like the New Super Mario Bros. series and the recent Rayman games, it’s just not enough anymore. Doing something like the rearranged Doc Robot stages from MM3 would be a good way to increase the length of the game without needing extra art assets for new levels, even though in that context, it led to the game being released in an unfinished state. But these days? It should be entirely possible to extend the game to a decent, beefier length.

One thing the series should definitely bring back from 9 and 10 would be the multiple playable characters. I especially like how they simplified MegaMan back to his MM2-era playstyle, while incorporating his newer abilities (the charge shot and slide) into ProtoMan, so keeping that sort of thing going would be nice, especially if you make every character unique. Be sure to bring back Bass and Roll (with her playstyle from Powered Up, preferably) as well. Better yet, you could modify each stage to better fit with each character’s abilities: for example, you’d be able to reincorporate Bass’s double jump from MM&B without being broken, if he had special variants of stages that would allow him to utilize it properly. This would have the added benefit of increasing the game’s replayability as well. You could also try to make the Robot Masters playable (another idea taken from MMPU), but it’d be even cooler if you used the reformed “Light Numbers” (as they’ve been referred to in other media): you know, the Robot Masters from MM1 and MM9 respectively. It’d be pretty cool to play as those guys from MM1 again.

Similarly, I’d keep the story in the same style of that of 9 and 10. The cheesy 80’s-early 90’s Saturday Morning cartoon vibe is absolutely perfect for this particular series, regardless of however many people want Classic to get more gritty and serious. Those people probably just want MMX9 even more anyway. Speaking of which, try to avoid references to other franchises. I’ve seen a lot of people either ask for a game that bridges the gap between the Classic and X series or just a crossover between the two. Considering that the former would more that likely just lead to a conclusion to the Classic series and the latter wouldn’t make that much sense as a canon game (no, I don’t consider XOver canon), I don’t really see the point.

Then there are some things that are pretty simple and don’t really deserve their own paragraphs, but are still definitely worth mentioning. First off, put in an intro stage. The straight-up NES thing was nice and all, but you kinda bent the rules when you added the shop anyway. Intro stages are pretty much always a good idea when it comes to MegaMan games, it acts as a good tutorial for those new to the series and a good refresher course to those of us who haven’t played the games in a while. Furthermore, try to make some special stages and bring back Endless Mode from 9 and 10. Endless Mode was pretty awesome and the special stages were neat, because they were more difficult than typical stages, and in the case of MM10, they gave MegaMan some bonus weapons, which was pretty cool. Speaking of which, keep it at 8 Robot Masters, unless you’re extremely sure of your ability to balance additional weapons. Upping the Robot Masters would be a good way to expand on the stages like I suggested earlier, but at the same time, don’t go overboard. 9 or 10 seem like a fair amount, but the maximum you should shoot for should probably be 12, and in that case, you would probably want to split the game in half, like in MM7, MM8 and the Game Boy games.

Of course, there are also some minor touches I’d love to see, but definitely wouldn’t make or break the game in my opinion. For example, bring back the “New Rush Coil” (you know, the one from MM5?), maybe implement that as the Proto Coil to further differentiate Blues from Rock. Some cameos from earlier and lesser-known games would also be nice, but considering how they showed up in the last few games, I’m sure that will happen regardless. I’d also like to see a few references to various bits of ancillary media, like Hitoshi Ariga’s MegaMix/GigaMix manga or the Archie comics, you know sort of like how KonroMan from that WonderSwan game made a brief cameo in MegaMan ZX Advent. One final thing I’d like to see would be some more female Robot Masters. I know it really doesn’t matter in the end, but it was cool to see SplashWoman in MM9, so seeing another one would be great.

Of course, there is one last issue to address: should the next MegaMan game be a digital game or a retail disc-based game? Frankly, I’d say that really depends on both the length of the game itself and the amount of resources Capcom puts into developing it. But if Capcom does decide to make MM11 a full retail title, I would hope that it would be at least as long as other disc-based 2D platformers, like Donkey Kong Country Returns, Rayman Origins or New Super Mario Bros. U. This doesn’t exactly seem like an unfair request to make of Capcom. After all, paying $60 for a 2D platformer with only 13 stages is ridiculous.

In the end, there’s really one last piece of advice I can give to Capcom when considering how to make MegaMan 11 or any new MegaMan game for that matter: whatever you do, don’t screw it up. Cancelling Legends 3 and leaving MegaMan out of the loop for the past few years has made the fanbase kind of rabid. Add that to the fact that former Capcom USA VP Christian Svennson claimed that the future of the series was being considered by “top men” (which I always sort of assumed just meant that the source code for the Legends 3 prototype was going to be sealed away in that warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark), it’s easy to tell that there is clearly a lot riding on your next release in the franchise. So put as much effort, love and care into this next game as you possibly can. You’ve got a reputation to rebuild, Capcom, and the first step is delivering quality products, just like you used to.

[Oh, one more thing, get Jake “virt” Kaufman to do the soundtrack.]

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Why I Love Mega Man X

Long time readers (just humor me and pretend they exist) of Retronaissance will remember that the very first article posted was Professor Icepick discussing why he hated Mega Man X. The article was focused on the character, but I still can’t let that stand as the only article on this website about the Mega Man X series. As the title implies I love the Mega Man X series, and if anything that is an understatement. Unlike certain internet personalities I’m not going to claim it having a life bar was an innovation, but short of that I can’t praise the series enough. My purpose with this article is to explain why I think Mega Man X is not only the best Mega Man series, but one of the best series of all time.

Let’s start with a little history. It was 1993, two years into the SNES’ life, yet Mega Man was still seeing yearly releases for the NES. Six games in the same series on the same system was unprecedented at the time, and everyone wanted Mega Man to just move on to SNES already. In either very late 1993 or very early 1994 (I’ve never been able to find a consistent date), Mega Man finally came to the Super Nintendo in the form of Mega Man X. After the initial “where are 7-9?” state of confusion, people realized this was a reinvention of Mega Man. Everyone from the original series was dead (although most people assumed Mega Man X was Mega Man), and a new cast of characters was introduced.

Let’s look at how the setting and characters stack up against the original series. In the previous article, X was criticized for being whiny. This is really not a big issue, X doesn’t start getting really angsty until the later games (this article is mainly about Mega Man X 1-4, the prime of the series) and it only affects the gameplay in one game that everyone hates anyway. For the most part X is just there to be the playable character, like Mario, Link, and the original Mega Man. Sigma isn’t the deepest villain, but his motivation at least feels more serious than Wily’s desire to take over the world (OF COURSE!) just for the heck of it. Sigma also gets some interesting backstory revealed as the series goes along, and never did anything as stupid as Wily’s Mr. X disguise. Vile only had an important role in Mega Man X1, but both his scenes were much more memorable than anything a villain had done during gameplay up to that point. Vile’s unwinnable battle at the end of the intro stage and his arm being blown off is one of the most memorable and jaw dropping moments of the entire Mega Man series.

And of course, we can’t forget who it was that blew off Vile’s arm in that battle. Zero is definitely the most popular character in the X series, and that spot is well earned. Everything about him was done perfectly, his heroic entrance and promise that you could become as powerful as him got you really excited about collecting the upgrades. Sacrificing himself, becoming the first character besides a Mega Man that you could play as in a main series game, his Wily connection, everything about Zero was awesome. Although I’m tired of playing as him and prefer he go back to his MMX1 role as a non-playable badass and mentor, there’s no denying that Zero is one of the biggest contributions any Mega Man family game has made to the franchise.

The setting and presentation of Mega Man X was also very well done. The darker tone but still varied and colorful settings were just what people wanted out of SNES. There were amazing enemies that couldn’t have been done on NES like the giant bees in the intro stage or sea serpents in Launch Octopus’ level, and the death animation for bosses was the most amazing thing I had ever seen when I first played MMX. The music fit the tone perfectly and the fact that I can remember so much of it says a lot. I have a soft spot for animal themed groups of villains, and Mega Man X probably caused that. Each weapon giving boss being a different animal gave them much more variety and implied personality than the Man bosses from the original series. Finally killing Vile and Sigma felt much more dramatic than the fights against Wily, especially since X actually grew in power throughout the game.

Okay, we’ve got the minor stuff out of the way, time to focus on the gameplay. There are two omnipresent additions the Mega Man X series added to basic gameplay, and they are the core of why it is better than the original Mega Man. These are, of course, dashing and wall climbing. While the original Mega Man series had excellent control, the lack of any way to control your momentum when going into a jump (as opposed to something like Mario where a running start will affect how far you can jump) could lead to some frustrating “get as close as possible to the edge of a platform and pray you can make it” moments. The Mega Man X dash fixes this, giving you a burst of speed and distance whenever you need it without changing the normal jumping physics from the original MM. Wall climbing also reduces frustration from barely missed jumps, but what really makes it great is how well the levels are designed around it. Almost every level and boss would be impossible without it, the vertical platforming is used to full and excellent effect.

The new jumps aren’t the only thing Mega Man X added to the series. The upgrade system was rare for platformers at the time, and made for far more exciting secrets than 1-Ups or E-Tanks. X started with a tiny lifebar dwarfed by the bosses, but finding heart tanks in stages would gradually increase it until you were on equal footing. The subtanks were a brilliant idea, making you earn your energy refills by picking up health items with a full lifebar while their reusable nature meant you could never completely screw yourself over. What really matters, though, is the capsules. Getting permanent upgrades to your dash, buster, defense, and whatever random thing the helmet was being used for was one of the most exciting things a platformer could do. They also made X look a lot cooler. Mega Man X also made some minor but GREATLY appreciated tweaks to the interface. Being able to exit completed levels at any time, weapon energy powerups automatically filling your lowest weapon if you didn’t have one equipped, and getting your weapon energy back after clearing a Sigma fortress stage are such obvious accommodations that I can’t believe the Classic series has the nerve to make you pay for them.

You may have noticed I’ve been focusing very strongly on the original Mega Man X. While it is my favorite in the series, the main reason it is getting so much attention is because the first four MMX games are all very similar. Mega Man X2, X3, and X4 are all fairly close to being level packs for MMX1 (Zero’s unique play style in X4 aside), and you know what? That’s fine. Mega Man X is such a superbly polished and incredibly designed game that there honestly wasn’t anything that needed a major change. The changes in the later games are what caused the downfall of the series (although X5 and X8 are absolutely worth playing), the simplicity of the original Mega Man X is a strength, not something to be fixed. The almost infinite customization possible in the Zero and ZX Mega Man series hurts the level design, MMX at its prime knows your abilities and only has to plan for a few simple upgrades.

Mega Man X may have some memorable story moments, but it’s the simple gameplay (which allows for the level design to be complex) that makes the series what it is. The game may be a new generation for Mega Man, but it is really a refinement of the Classic series that polishes everything until it absolutely glows. I think this is the core of why I love it so much, despite the new and at times engaging setting the gameplay does not feel like a reinvention and all the problems that go along with that. Mega Man X is what the classic Mega Man games had the potential to be, and losing sight of that is what hurt the series in its later games. The classic Mega Man series already proved that you can go home again, and the X series desperately needs and deserves that same chance. Maybe in 1997 people thought the series needed to change, but it has been 15 years since then, and what we need now (especially after all the turmoil Mega Man has gone through) is what the X series was. Mega Man X9 needs to happen, the world needs X now more than ever.

The (Fool’s) Golden Age of Gaming

Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend that I find disturbing. There’s been a lot of nostalgia regarding the sixth generation of video gaming: you know, the PlayStation 2, Gamecube and the original Xbox. Now I understand that turnovers with regards to nostalgia have definitely decreased in length, as we’re already riding a wave of 90’s nostalgia, but this is different. Less of a wistful recollection of the “good ol’ days” and more a damnation of both the “current” (PS3/360/Wii) gen and the upcoming “next-gen” (PS4/XB1/WiiU) generation. I can, from at least an intellectual standpoint, understand where these people are coming from, but at the same time, to me, the sixth-generation was that bleak period where I lost my passion for the medium (more on that later).

So, let’s start by setting the stage for the so-called sixth-generation. Now some of you are probably wondering, why haven’t I mentioned the Dreamcast itself? Well, in my personal opinion, while the Dreamcast was technically a sixth-generation machine (and the only one that was referred to as a “128-bit system” for any significant amount of time), Sega’s abandonment of the platform in North America was truly the event that ushered in the true start of the sixth generation of video games, as it happened in close proximity to the North American launch of the PlayStation 2. Still, Sega dropping out of the console market and becoming a third-party developer was truly the end of an era. If you couldn’t tell by some of my earlier articles, I am a huge Sega fanboy. I picked up the Dreamcast at launch, so watching Sega effectively lie down and die in the wake of Sony’s second console, well, it was pretty devastating for me.

So, with the Dreamcast spoken for, let’s move onto the true contenders for supremacy during the sixth-generation, or as I like to call them, “the post-bit triplets”. Why such a stupid cumbersome name, you ask? Well, from the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, video game generations defined themselves by the number of bits they were able to process at a time. There was the 8-bit era, with the NES and Sega’s Master System, followed by the 16-bit era. The previous generation had both the original PlayStation and Sega’s Saturn referred to as 32-bit consoles, while their contemporary the Nintendo 64 had a 64-bit processor, though the differences between them were only vaguely noticable. As I said before, the Dreamcast was referred to as a 128-bit console, but after it was discontinued, so was the use of using the number of bits a processor could handle as the generation’s naming convention. As only the Xbox was capable of presenting resolutions higher than that of standard televisions (480p) and this ability was rarely utilized, the term “next-gen” was used to describe this generation as it unfolded. However, by this point, they are clearly no longer “next-gen”…so, I’m sort of at a loss on what to name them. As we typically refer to the two more powerful of the seventh-gen consoles as “the HD twins” for reasons that should be obvious, I’ve decided to give the previous generation’s three major consoles a similar moniker, the “post-bit triplets”. Due to both the abandonment of the “bit” naming convention with regards to these three, and as with the PS3 and Xbox 360, the differences in power and processing speed between the three is negligible at best.

First up, the PlayStation 2, the true harbinger of gaming’s sixth generation. Building on the market dominance of the original PlayStation, the PS2 was literally a juggernaut. To this day, it’s still the best selling home console OF ALL TIME. Though, this was mainly due to both the strength of the PlayStation brand and the fact that, at the time of its release, it was considered a reasonably priced DVD player (the PS3 would later fill that same niche with Bluray players, and actually helped BR win that particular format war). Most gamers focus less on those aspects of the PS2’s success and prefer to extol the system’s massive library of games. Most of the games worth playing, however, were their exclusive titles from third-party publishers. But in my opinion, when compared to both the previous generation and even its “pseudo-contemporary” the Dreamcast, the majority of even the most popular games in its library felt like they were all flash, no substance.

Next, there was the GameCube, Nintendo’s last attempt to “directly compete” with the other console manufacturers by attempting to match them in terms of power. As with the last generation, Nintendo went their own way when it came to storage media: finally eschewing cartridges (a major issue with the Nintendo 64), replacing them with mini-DVD discs. While this would have the added benefit of curbing piracy (likely a part of the reason Nintendo stuck with carts in the last generation), it came with its own set of disadvantages: smaller discs meant that certain games had to be split across multiple discs on the Gamecube, while their counterparts on other consoles could be burned to a single disc. In spite of this shortcoming, the Gamecube was actually more powerful than the PS2.

Sticking with the Gamecube for just a moment, I’ve seen a lot of revisionist history going around recently, about how beloved the Gamecube was in its day. Bull. Shit. I forget when exactly this whole rose-colored look back at Nintendo’s last “true competitor for the dominance over the console market” began, but I remember it especially getting bad just after the Wii U’s North American launch, though I’d seen an inkling of the things to come during the Wii’s last year. I don’t understand exactly why the Gamecube became the icon it was, roughly a decade after its debut; no one liked the Mario platformer on it, the Zelda games on there fell victim to the “Zelda cycle” almost as spectacularly as Skyward Sword is still suffering to this day, most of its third-party exclusives ended up not being exclusives a year after their release and throughout the console’s lifespan, Nintendo was still unable to shake their kid-friendly image with regards to the hardcore. Yes, waggle was generally shoehorned into third-party games as hamfistedly as humanly possible and Wii U had a horrifically abysmal game drought post-launch, but a lot of these people who look back at the Gamecube with warm fuzzies while tearing into modern Nintendo tore into the Gamecube when it was still around as well.

Getting back on topic, the last contender of this particular generation was a newbie to the world of video games, but not to the world of electronic entertainment: Microsoft with their incredibly powerful (well, at the time) Xbox. As with Sony, Microsoft had prior experience with regards to consoles: the Sega Dreamcast ran on a variant of Microsoft’s Windows OS. Ironically, for a long time, I pegged Microsoft as Sega’s successor. What can I say, Sega’s departure from the console market left a massive void in my love for video games. The fact that many sequels to latter-day Sega classics hit the Xbox, like Jet Set Radio Future, Shenmue II and Panzer Dragoon Orta, as well as Peter Moore jumping ship to Microsoft only served to strengthen the connection. Unfortunately, the Xbox’s largest weakness also mirrored that of Sega’s previous two consoles: there was a significant lack of meaningful exclusives. Sure, Halo and Forza sold like gangbusters, but when compared to Sony’s glut of third-party content and Nintendo’s impressive first-party showing, the Xbox’s library felt a bit sparse.

Of course, the Xbox was more than just Microsoft’s first direct foray into the gaming market: I’d argue that it was actually the harbinger of the following generation’s advances. As the Xbox was named for the Windows PC interface “DirectX”, which it utilized to bring out the best of sixth-generation video game graphics, the Xbox itself also gave rise to many formerly PC-exclusive features that would become commonplace in future consoles. For example, while the PS2 had an external hard drive accessory, the Xbox was the first home console to come with an INTERNAL hard drive, thus negating the need for memory card accesories (which, the Xbox also had anyway). The Xbox was also the first home console with the ability to display games in high-definition natively, though this ability was used sparsely and mostly during the end of the system’s lifespan. And while many other consoles in the past attempted to utilize playing games online, the Xbox was the first to make it a worthwhile investment with their Xbox Live service. Unfortunately, this also set a bleak precedent of “pay to play (online)”, which has finally wormed its way onto Sony’s next-gen offering, but mostly stuck to Microsoft’s consoles at first. Still, this was the cost of progress: online gaming opened up so many avenues for multiplayer, I can sparsely imagine modern video games without it.

I think that, besides the aforementioned death of the Dreamcast, the largest blow towards my enthusiasm towards video games during the sixth generation had to be both what I’ve always referred to as “the death of 2D” and the widespread disappearance of many genres I, to the day, hold among my personal favorites. Sure, during the fifth-generation, the disappearance of 2D games in favor of flashier 3D titles was pretty much preordained after the Saturn (purveyor of the former) was utterly thrashed into oblivion by the original PlayStation. But even the PS1 had its fair share of 2D games. The majority of 2D releases on the PS2 were just ports and collections of older games, and as it was the market’s leader, Gamecube and Xbox just decided to follow suit. Same goes for those beloved genres of mine I mentioned earlier: sixth-gen was literally the worst generation for fighting games, 2D platformers and puzzle games since their inception. This is actually a pretty big part of the reason why I view any nostalgia for this period with barely-veiled disdain. The first two genres made a resurgence this past generation, and while puzzle games still have weak showings on consoles, they appear to have found a few new niches, in the form of handheld gaming, smartphones and downloadable titles.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: in my opinion, this particular generation was the worst era of gaming I’ve ever personally experienced. The period featuring the PlayStation 2 and its doppelgangers was by far, the worst era with regards to the actual offerings the market had to offer; to the point where most of the games I bought during this generation were either on the Dreamcast or just re-releases and sequels of games I’d enjoyed in previous generations. Even more irresponible is the fact that it began the rise of the AAA title, which is to this day, slowly choking the life out of the industry, leaving several bankrupt studios in its wake.

Then again, I can’t really say that the sixth generation didn’t also have its good points. Take the Game Boy Advance, for example. A haven for 2D games, platformers, puzzle games and even the occasional fighting game every once in a while: scoff if you must, The King of Fighters EX2 was actually quite excellent, despite the GBA’s button limitations. The GBA had pretty much everything I liked about gaming, to the point where, for quite some time, I totally abandoned console gaming in favor of handhelds, which was an eerily easy transition on my part. This wasn’t exactly hurt by the fact that the Game Gear was my first dedicated video game system, period.

Of course, by the end of the sixth-generation, Sony’s absolute unquestioned stranglehold over the majority of worthwhile third-party titles finally began to slack. Their exclusive deal with Rockstar evaporated, allowing the GTA spinoffs Vice City and San Andreas to find their way onto the Xbox. This coupled with the looming release of the Xbox’s successor, the Xbox 360, led to many of Sony’s exclusive partners jumping ship, going multiplatform as opposed to abandoning Sony outright, quite the opposite of what had happened two generations before, when Nintendo was met with a mass third-party exodus to the original PlayStation. This made third-party exclusives a far less common occurance in future generations and their strategic importance also began to diminish as time went on and budgets expanded, being replaced with time-exclusive release schedules and platform-exclusive DLC.

So, in a nutshell, all of the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth with regards to how either the seventh generation of video games or the upcoming eighth generation has or will ruin gaming forever fills me with little more than severe contempt. The longing for the “glory days” of when Sony reduced the entire industry into little more than a bland trudge with every console manufacturer going through the same exact motions strikes me as a strange longing, especially when confronted with the twin boogeymen of the future: patches and downloadable content. After all, all games were immaculately coded in the good ol’ days and there were no such things as hollow expansions in the past, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition in order to drown my sorrows over how Soul Calibur 3 totally wiped my memory card clean.

Rocking Out

Originally, this was going to be an article where I count down my favorites with regards to one extremely important aspect of the MegaMan series at large. No, not the various weapons, I’m talking about the music, of course. But as I mentioned last month, I’m incredibly hyped over the fact that MegaMan has finally made it into a Smash Bros. game. While I was coming up with ideas for said countdown article, I end up thinking to myself, well Brawl had multiple songs per stage and we already know that MegaMan’s got his own stage: the classic Skull Castle from MM2. So why not just come up with a list of songs from each game I’d like to see make an appearance in the upcoming Smash, as well as ones I think are the most likely to make it in. Of course, I’m going to be leaving out MegaMan 2 for obvious reasons: I mean, all the songs that played during his reveal trailer were FROM MM2. So without further ado, onto my list.

MegaMan 1: my own personal choice of the game that started it all would have to be the theme from FireMan’s stage. A classic, upbeat rhythm that gets quite a bit of love when it comes to fan remixes. The most likely song, on the other hand, is a no-brainer: CutMan’s theme. It’s probably one of the most iconic MegaMan Classic songs that didn’t originate in the second game. Besides, there are plenty of remixes officially made by Capcom for that one, so it’s already good to go.

MegaMan 3: Next up, what is perhaps my favorite of the original NES MM titles. I’ll be honest, this one was pretty hard to pick, I love the majority of the soundtrack to this one. But after careful soul searching, I decided to go with the ending theme, sometimes referred to as “ProtoMan’s Whistle Concert“. My gut tells me that Nintendo or Capcom or whoever it is that decides the music will end up going with SnakeMan’s theme, just due to how popular it appears to be when it comes to remixes, both officially commissioned or fan-made.

MegaMan 4: As we finally leave the golden era of the NES MegaMan (let alone the Classic franchise as a whole), some of the songs I’ll start mention will sound a little obscure to some of you. No worries though, I’ll be sure to give you enough context. My choice from this particular game would have to be the second theme from Dr. Cossack’s Citadel, the one that appears in the third and fourth stages of that particular fortress. It’s upbeat and fairly popular, so it sounds perfect for the Smash Bros. environment. I think the theme associated with the game’s final boss, the Wily Capsule, is still a more likely choice from the staff itself however.

MegaMan 5: As with MM3, I love this game’s soundtrack so much that picking a single song that I’d want to see in Smash was incredibly difficult. I love the majority of the soundtrack from this one and I definitely think it’s underrated. But when it came right down to it, I had to go with GravityMan’s theme, as it’s probably my favorite song out of the entire game. The staff pick, on the other hand, was literally the easiest one I’ve had to make for this entire article: ProtoMan’s Fortress. Seriously, this song gets so much attention these days, I’ve since labelled it “MM2 Wily Stage 1 for hipsters”. Which is ironic, because I really liked this song even before it became popular.

MegaMan 6: MM6, on the other hand, has the opposite issue with me: I couldn’t really think up any good songs right off the bat. I’d ended up settling on KnightMan’s theme, just because it’s a pretty good song for a game like Smash Bros. I also had trouble determining the staff pick, but I think the song from the Mr. X’s Fortress stages is probably the most popular song in the game, but who can really say?

MegaMan 7: Oddly enough, this one was probably the easiest to come up with because both of my choices are the same exact song: the theme from the Intro Stage at the beginning of the game. I mean, it’s a pretty rocking tune and it even managed to show up in the Japanese commercial for this particular game.

MegaMan 8: This one was probably the most difficult to determine just based on the nature of the soundtrack itself is quite different from those of the other games, going for a more ambient sound over the catchy tunes that tend to appear in other MegaMan games. So I just went for my favortie track out of the entire game: FrostMan’s stage. As for the staff pick, it’s hard to say, either the first or second stage of Wily Tower. Both of those appear to be fairly popular.

MegaMan & Bass: The odd duck of the mainline MegaMan Classic series, though for the longest time, people dubbed it “MegaMan 9”. (Fun fact: according to decompiled ROMs, the game’s working title was actually “Rockman 8.5”. Nifty, huh?) Anyway, my pick for this particular game would have to be the theme from the King Fortress stages. But let’s face it, the obvious staff pick has to be the Robot Museum, just based on its popularity compared to every other song in the game.

MegaMan 9: The REAL MegaMan 9. I was kinda disappointed not to see any weapons from this game in MegaMan’s Smash debut trailer. As much as I like the majority of the game’s soundtrack, none of my preferred tunes really fit all that well with Smash’s gameplay, so I just decided to go with the theme from the Endless Stage mode, “Maze of Death“. But the obvious pick has got to be TornadoMan’s theme, “Thunder Tornado“. I mean, it was in the trailer. Maybe throw in the Title Screen jingle to make it the full medley from the announcement trailer.

MegaMan 10: And now we come to the final mainline Classic series title…well, at this point anyway. And as with 7, there’s only one clear choice, both in my own personal opinion and the likeliest song to be in overall: Nitro Rider, NitroMan’s theme. Again, this one was in MM10’s debut trailer and frankly, it’s a really awesome song.

Sure, those are the main games in the MegaMan series, but let’s face it, there’s way more where that came from. Case in point, my beloved MegaMan V for the Game Boy. I’d love it if they used the Final Boss theme, you know, the Sunstar fight. I’d also love it if they used the fourth stage theme from the Wily Tower scenario in MegaMan: The Wily Wars.

Then again, who’s to say that Classic should get all of the representation when it comes to the music in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS? I mean, I’m sure all of the fans of the MegaMan X games would love to see some kind of representation in Smash Bros. So why not just throw in the Intro Stage theme from the first game in that series? Hell, you could even technically even call that a song from the Classic series. Or why not throw in some variant of the main theme from the Battle Network series? That particular series had quite an impressive Japanese fanbase in its heyday.

I’d honestly also like to see a couple of songs that, while they aren’t really associated with any mainline Classic games, they are totally indicitive of the Blue Bomber’s previous appearances in fighting games, one way or another. First off, there’s “Kaze Yo Tsutaete“, which loosely translates to “Winds, Let Him Know” or “Wind, Carry My Words” (I don’t speak Japanese, and I’ve seen both translations used) but otherwise referred to as “Where the Wind Blows” in English. This was the theme associated with Roll in her appearances in both the Marvel vs. Capcom and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom games, though it actually originated in Rockman: Battle and Chase. I don’t know exactly which version they’d end up using, but I’m quite partial to the original version, and there’s even an off-vocal version of that lying around, so you wouldn’t even have to worry about scaring off those people who hate Japanese lyrics in games sold internationally (I’m guessing these people still exist, judging by Project X Zone’s North American release). And as I said before, if the idea of using songs from other franchises aren’t barred, I’m sure many people would appreciate including “Flutter vs. the Gesellschaft” as well. Used by both MegaMan Volnutt in the original Japanese-exclusive version of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Tron Bonne in both versions of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as well as various other crossovers.

Oh what the hell, I guess I’ll pick a song from the second MegaMan game after all. Chances are the entire soundtrack will be dominated by them anyway. Might as well just go with the flow. It’s hard to say honestly, Crashman’s theme is probably my favorite song in the entire game, but it doesn’t really fit so well with the game’s mood. I guess Heatman would probably be my choice on this one. Also, I guess if they want to cram in songs from other franchises (which Brawl did more than a couple times anyway), technically, you could throw in the “Haunted Graveyard” theme from Ghosts ‘n Goblins/Ghouls ‘n Ghosts/etc. You know, the theme from the first stage in every single game? After all, it did show up as a bonus alternate theme for Shademan’s stage in MM7.

Of course, that’s not to say that all, or any, of my choices are actually correct. They’re just predictions and I guess even the best predictions can be proven wrong. Either way, I’m hoping to see a lot of Blue Bomber representation when it comes to the next Smash Bros. game’s soundtrack.

[P.S. I apologize in advance if any of the links I have listed in this article have been taken down by the time you read this. Chances are, you can probably find the majority of these tracks just by typing their titles or descriptions into Youtube’s search function or by going to the Music Archive on The Mega Man Network.]

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.

Repetitive Painstaking Genre

When it comes to video games, every gamer I’ve ever met has at least one genre that rubs them the wrong way. Some hate the mind-numbing grind of hack-and-slash action games, some hate the point-and-click adventure games of old, due to the seemingly great leaps in logic when it comes to solving the puzzles found within them. From racing to fighting to puzzle games, every genre has their detractors. For me, it’s simulation sports, real-time strategy (RTS) and most controversial of all, the turn-based RPG. Honestly, it confuses even me: I like turn-based strategy games, so-called “action RPGs” and strategy RPGs, but something about “JRPGs” (flawed title in my opinion, but what can you do? It stuck.) alternately bores me and drives me up a wall with aggravation. It’s not to say that I’ve hated every single one I’ve played: take for example, the upcoming indie PC game Undertale, I played the demo for it and I loved it. The point is that the genre at large bugs me, and I’m gonna tell you why.

The first major problem I have with the genre stems from the very concept of it. From the beginning, RPGs with turn-based combat have simply relied on random number generators in order to determine the consequences of actions take by the player. Now I am totally aware that this is a proper simulation of the battle systems seen in traditional pen-and-paper role-playing games of old, but I still find the idea that character stats and random number generation are literally the only aspects that matter in gameplay. Skill literally means nothing in your typical turn-based RPG. If you reach a sufficiently high level, you literally can just charge headlong into battle without any strategy. Likewise, if you happen to be “underleveled”, frankly, you’re pretty much boned.

Well, unless you decide to suck it up and buckle down for problem the second: grinding. Ah yes, grinding: the magical formula that can turn a pretty good four-hour game into a 100+-hour nightmare. Because why bother actually putting effort into extending game time when you can just use absurdly strong enemies as a roadblock preventing the player from making any progress? Of course, experience is probably the least aggravating thing you’ll have to grind in your typical RPG. Sometimes you’ve got to grind for money too. But worst of all, grinding for items. Oh man, seriously, fuck that noise. Especially when it’s linked to some ridiculous fetchquest side mission that you need to complete in order to continue on. Seriously, that kind of thing is unforgivable. Fortunately, modern games don’t appear to force you grind as much as the games of old.

And then there’s my last major problem with the genre. It doesn’t really appear so much these days, but it was so pervasive for so much longer than it should’ve been and frankly, on the rare occasion that it shows up in modern games, I literally start seeing red. I am, of course, speaking of the dreaded “random battle”, the gameplay design choice where you randomly encounter enemies on the battlefield with no rhyme or reason. At best, it’s merely an annoyance. But at its worst, it makes RPGs into an infuriating mess. Oh man, seriously, excuse my language, but fuck random battles in the ear with a rusty spork. I mean, during the NES era, it was understandable. The system was honestly too weak to do anything but random battles, but from that point on, there was no excuse for having it in console JRPGs. No excuse whatsoever. And yet, it was still so very common for so very long.

Of course, there are a few other trends that annoy me as well, but they’re really pretty minor things. Like how pretty much every single turn-based RPG either relies on medieval fantasy or futuristic sci-fi settings. Seriously guys, it’s so bad, I’d even consider something as generic as steampunk western a massive change of pace. Speaking of cliches, there’s also a really common plot point that bothers me. Now I’ve been told the way that I summarized it in the past was technically incorrect, but I think I’ve got the jist of it now. It feels like at least half of the JRPGs on the market today revolve around a bunch of whiny teenagers covered in zippers joining together in order to kill a tyrant who is either trying to or has already become God. There, that’s way more accurate than my earlier complaint about how said teenagers team up to kill God.

And then there’s the fact that the demand of turn-based RPGs have left me a bit shortchanged when it comes to specific publishers and developers regarding games in genres I actually like. For a long time, Game Freak made pretty much nothing but Pokemon games and at one point, Atlus actually made Shin Megami Tensei and other RPGS IN ADDITION to games in other genres like the classic fighter Power Instinct, rather than INSTEAD OF. The worst offender when it comes to this kind of thing is obviously Square Enix. Squaresoft and Enix used to be able to make awesome games in all kinds of genres, like Einhander, the Tobal series, Bust-A-Groove, E.V.O., Actraiser, Brave Fencer Musashi and many more. Nowadays, it’s nothing but Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts spinoffs, with the occasional Dragon Quest to break up the monotomy.

Seems like a sour note to end on, so I’m going to throw in a little ray of sunshine. Like I said before, I’m not willing to write off the entire genre as a waste. Truth be told, I can think of quite a few turn-based RPGs I’ve liked. Mainly because, for the most part, they deviated from those criticisms I lobbed at the genre itself. Kind of funny how that works right? The only games in the genre I actually liked don’t do the things that make me hate the genre. What a concept. Anyway, moving on.

The first turn-based RPGs I can say with certainty that I truly enjoyed were the two Lunar games released on the original PlayStation. I managed to track down Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete used at a Gamestop, as the game had gone out of print by the time I decided to pick it up. But the used copy I found was completely intact, including most, if not all, of the bonus items that came with the game originally. The game itself was amazing, it was the first time I’d ever even seen a JRPG without random battles. Another aspect of the game I liked what that the battle system had a mild semblance of strategy in it, due to the ability to set your party member’s location on the battlefield. I’ve since been informed that this wasn’t exactly unique to the Lunar PS1 remakes, but considering the fact that party members near the front of the battlefield gained improved accuracy and speed, while the ones in back had greater defense and were more likely to dodge enemy attacks, it had a greater impact on the gameplay overall. And frankly, for how cliched and corny the story was, it was my first actual JRPG. The sequel, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete was another favorite of mine and I even managed to pick that one up brand-new.

Perhaps the least popular entry on the list, Evolution: The World of Sacred Device for the Dreamcast was another favorite of mine, despite the fact that it’s considered an extremely generic dungeon-crawler. The battle system was interesting though, as if you were able to strategize properly, you could modify the attack order of your characters and enemies, getting “extra turns”, rather than the standard “everyone attacks, then we start over” system seen in most turn-based RPGs. The customizable Cyframes were also pretty interesting, as you could swap out parts allowing for different types of attacks. I never got to finish the Dreamcast version, but I did manage to play through the entirety of the Gamecube remake Evolution Worlds, which contained both the original and its sequel’s storylines in it. A bit short, but frankly, that was perfectly alright with me.

Technically the oldest example on this list is also the one I played most recently. I was recently dared to beat Earthbound for the SNES in under a month, I managed to do it with time to spare, but frankly I had some fun with it. Again, no random battles (sensing a pattern?), and while the battle system is fairly simple, there was one unique quirk I instantly fell in love with: the damage meters. Basically, when you take damage, your health cycles down slowly, so if you manage to get KOed by a random critical hit or something, you can manage to save your character if you manage to defeat all of your opponents or escape before your HP hits zero. I mean, that’s brilliant. I also liked the game’s quirky storyline and while I can’t really comment on the rest of the series, but Mother 3 looks like fun. And despite my newfound appreciation for the game, I’m still sad that I can no longer mock the fanbase anymore, due to the recent Virtual Console release of EB on the Wii U.

Speaking of quirky storylines, another of my favorite turn-based RPGs was Double Fine’s Costume Quest. I mean, what other RPG has you saving your sibling from a group of evil goblins trying to take over the world by using magical Halloween costumes that transform you into whatever you’re dressed up as, be it a giant robot, a knight, the Statue of Liberty or even a Unicorn? Each costume has its own unique attacks and abilities and some of them are even needed to solve puzzles on the overworld.

And of course, last but certainly not least, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series. These games are the total package: quirky stories, no random battles, an interesting battle system with actual in-game interaction, epic boss fights and awesome music. Ironically enough, it was Super Paper Mario that got me interested in these series, and that one wasn’t even an actual RPG. Honestly, I can’t wait for Mario and Luigi: Dream Team to come out next month.

In the end, I guess those games prove that there are some turn-based RPGs that even I like, despite my prejudice towards them. The common thread behind all of them appears to be that they manage to evade at least some of the problems I have with the genre at large and make at least some attempt to deviate from those bothersome conventions of the genre. But the damage has already been done when it comes to my acceptance of the genre as a whole.

(P.S. Seriously, Square Enix, at least re-release Einhander or Brave Fencer Musashi on PS1 Classics or something.)

Top Ten Video Game Series Comebacks (Part One)

I like sequels. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that. But I’ve done enough articles in a row trying to convince people of something, so let’s do something more upbeat. There are few things in gaming I love more than when an abandoned or tainted series brings out a new game that is as good or better than the glory days. To qualify for this list, prior to the game in question its series has to have either had at least two bad installments in a row, or been missing for at least one console generation. Let’s get right to it, I’ve even ranked the entries this time!

Number 10: Twisted Metal Black
Playstation 2; 2001

How Things were Before: One of the earliest games for the original Playstation, Twisted Metal popularized the car combat genre and enticed gamers with its interesting characters and quite dark setting and sense of humor. Everyone loved the weapon infused, city destroying destruction derby of the titular tournament. Twisted Metal 2 improved on the original in every way, and is a classic still enjoyable today. Then the original developer, SingleTrac, left the series and it was handed over to the infamous 989 studios. Twisted Metal 3 was a poor clone of Twisted Metal 2, using an identical formula but with much worse controls and writing. Twisted Metal 4 tried to be more original, but the gameplay was not improved and the story was a terrible fanfic (Calypso apparently had a never before mentioned magical ring of souls as his power source, meaning Sweet Tooth could steal it and take over the tournament). Twisted Metal had become a joke and no one wanted another one.

The Revival: Launching on the new Playstation 2, Twisted Metal Black was developed by a reincarnation of SingleTrac, Incognito Entertainment. Rebooting (well, kind of, it’s impossible to explain without spoilers) the series into the opposite of Twisted Metal 4’s corny insanity, Twisted Metal Black made it clear from the start that it was not a simple follow-up. One of the most disturbing games ever made, TMB’s characters all had horrific pasts that shocked gamers. The psychological horror angle was done excellently and made the series feel completely fresh again. The gameplay was polished to be even better than Twisted Metal 2, with balanced and strategic combat that the developers themselves called “Street Fighter II on wheels.” Twisted Metal Black was everything you could ask for in a series revival, so why is it only number 10? Unfortunately, upon being saved the series immediately went away, not getting a new entry until five years after TMB that was decent but underwhelming. Then it went away AGAIN until Sony decided to just have another reboot. The reboot was terrible, and the future of the series looks bleak. Twisted Metal Black did everything right, but its series threw away the new life it was given.

Number 9: Punch-Out!!
Nintendo Wii; 2009

How Things were Before: Punch-Out had two successful but not famous arcade games in the mid-80s, but what everyone remembers about the series is the NES installment. More a series of boss fights with puzzle elements than a boxing game, the NES Punch-Out became iconic and beloved. The series got another installment on the Super Nintendo, which didn’t get quite as much attention but was an excellent game that was even better than the first. Then… the series just vanished. Lost among the overwhelming number of franchises Nintendo had to support, the series did not get a new game on Nintendo 64 or GameCube. A lot of people thought the Wii’s controller would be perfect for the series, but did Nintendo still care about the franchise? With a different boxing game included in Wii Sports, it didn’t seem that way.

The Revival: In 2008, at the height of panic over Nintendo abandoning their fans and classic franchises (I’ll spare you the multi-paragraph rant on how people are now complaining about the exact opposite), a new Punch-Out game was announced for the Wii. Called simply Punch-Out!! (there are five games in the series, and only two names between all of them), the announcement was very welcome to Punch-Out fans and Nintendo fans in general. But now that the series was alive, there was the question of how it would transfer into the modern gaming client. The previous Punch-Out games were not very long, could the series justify a $50 release in 2009? As it turned out, absolutely. Punch-Out Wii may have had only 14 opponent boxers, but with their complete transformations in Title Defense mode, several special missions for each, and a high difficulty level, 100%ing the game was a massive undertaking. Add in the huge amount of personality given to the boxers and your trainer, and you have the best game in the Punch-Out series by a wide margin and a successful revival. Let’s hope another one is coming, even if it will probably be called Super Punch-Out yet again.

Number 8: Rayman Origins
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii; 2011

How Things were Before: In 1995, 2D platformers were in the later part of their golden age. With the next generation of gaming starting, most developers focused on polygons and 3D gameplay. Rayman, however, was a traditional sprite based 2D platformer that used more powerful hardware to look absolutely beautiful. There were some very severe problems with the gameplay, mainly the difficulty balance, but the wow factor made the game popular. As the generations proceeded, Rayman would get 3D sequels that were less visually distinctive but better designed in gameplay, and the series gained a loyal following. In 2006, a fourth entry in the series was announced for the upcoming Wii, which would see Rayman battling a new enemy species called Rabbids. The game was taken over by novel uses of the Wii Remote, and became a collection of mini-games. The game was very popular, with the Rabbids overshadowing Rayman. The Rabbids became the stars, with Rayman eventually being pushed out of his own series. The Rabbids even got a few platformer spin-offs, without Rayman in them at all. Rayman seemed dead and forgotten.

The Revival: As you might expect, despite Ubisoft seeming to have forgotten about Rayman, he still had a quite dedicated fanbase that was not happy about the Rabbids taking over. In 2010, it was announced that Rayman would return to his platforming ways in an episodic series of digital download games. In 2011 this changed into a full retail release, and the final game was better than anyone could have expected. In some ways it was similar to the original Rayman (which is good, since the plot had been all but removed, making the Origins in the title a relic), a beautiful 2D platformer using 2D animation to look absolutely stunning. However, unlike the original, the gameplay was just as good as the visuals. Rayman Origins managed to be a creative, very challenging platformer without relying on trial and error level design or bad collision detection like the original game. Rayman Origins not only got Rayman back in the spotlight, it far exceeded all previous games in the series and is sure to be remembered as a classic platformer.

Number 7: Mortal Kombat (2011)
Playstation 3, Xbox 360; 2011

How Things were Before: Anyone alive in the 90s, gamer or not, knows about Mortal Kombat. Most famous for the uproar its violent finishing moves caused, Mortal Kombat was always a series that got by on image. But what an amazing image it was, for a time period in the mid-90s Mortal Kombat was just the coolest thing imaginable. It wasn’t just the blood, the dark fantasy setting and seemingly endless secrets captured the imagination of gamers everywhere. It was enough to make you not realize how shallow and unbalanced the actual fighting was. Needless to say, when the cool factor wore off, the series fell hard. Mortal Kombat 4 had an awkward transition to 3D that hurt the presentation as much as the gameplay (the digitized graphics in the 2D MKs were a big part of the appeal), and gamers had clearly gotten sick of the series. The series went on hiatus, with a five year gap between Mortal Kombat 4 and the next game in the main series. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and its follow-ups made more of an effort to be quality fighting games, but they still fell short and never came close to recapturing the aesthetic feel the 2D games had. That fighting games as a whole were far less popular than in the series’ heyday did not help. After Mortal Kombat vs DC was released over a decade since it would have been relevant, there seemed to be no hope for the series.

The Revival: With Street Fighter IV making fighting games popular again (more on that later) it made sense that another revival of the Mortal Kombat series would be attempted. Called simply Mortal Kombat, the game would be a reboot (albeit one caused by in-story reasons) retelling the first three games of the series, its prime. It would have almost every character and stage from the first three games included. But would that be enough to make people care about the series again? Turns out it didn’t have to be, after more than 15 years Mortal Kombat finally became a legitimate fighter. NetherRealm studios completely redid the fighting engine, and finally made a balanced, competitive fighting game for the series. There was also an exceptional amount of one player content added, including a story mode that had a ridiculous plot but showed off the setting people had loved in the past very well. The best game in the series by a huge margin, Mortal Kombat is the best thing that could happen to longtime fans.

Number 6: Donkey Kong Country Returns:
Nintendo Wii; 2010

How Things were Before: Donkey Kong is one of the oldest still active video game characters, debuting with Mario over 30 years ago. But the series this revival is about started in 1994 with Donkey Kong Country, a Super Nintendo platformer that blew everyone away with its pre-rendered graphics. It was followed by two sequels on the same system and the trilogy became some of the best loved games of SNES’ many, many classics. There was also a solid trilogy of GameBoy spin-offs. A Nintendo 64 sequel was a given, and it was released in 1999. There’s some controversy over its quality, but many, including me, feel its obsession with collecting and switching characters made for a far inferior game compared to the SNES installments. After that, the series faded away. The only thing you could even argue was a Donkey Kong platformer on GameCube was Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which was a good and creative game, but very different from the Donkey Kong Country games. As a new decade began, the series’ glory days were far behind it.

The Revival: As E3 2010 approached, there were rumors of a new Donkey Kong game by the extremely talented Retro Studios. At Nintendo’s showing, these rumors proved true, but to our surprise the game was a 2D sidescroller. The platformer revival having just started, people were not accustomed to such an anticipated console game being two dimensional. There was some disappointment caused by the game being 2D, but most were just excited that Donkey Kong Country had finally, as the title itself announced, returned. The game turned out to be better than anyone could have hoped. With level design significantly better than the already excellent SNES games, and also a much longer game, Donkey Kong Country Returns was the best game in the series. Like another series that it isn’t time to talk about yet, Retro had given Donkey Kong Country a truly glorious rebirth. And with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze announced less than a week ago as I write this, that rebirth seems to have been sustained.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for the second part of this article. We still have the top five video game series revivals of all time countdown!

The Forgotten Universe

For anyone not living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard the good news regarding our beloved Blue Bomber: MegaMan has officially been confirmed as a character in Nintendo’s upcoming Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U. Frankly, everything about this makes me excited: from his movelist to his revamped design, which seems to be a slightly stubbier and more refined take on MM’s design from the promotional art in the Complete Works re-releases of the NES games on the original PlayStation. Still, it’s perhaps the first real bit of good news that fans of MegaMan have seen for some time, considering we’ve gone 3 years without seeing anything major in the way of new games. And while the wounds have still yet to heal completely, it still seems like a good time to talk about one cancelled game in particular. No, I’m not talking about Legends 3: many have already spoken on that game’s behalf already, it’s a cliche at this point. No, I’m going to be talking about the first game that got cancelled, the one only a few mourned when it was first cancelled. I’m talking, of course, about the ill-fated MegaMan Universe.

For those of you who don’t remember, MegaMan Universe was one of the games announced by Keiji Inafune back in 2010, right before he announced the aforementioned Legends 3. Universe was revealed with a stop-motion animated trailer made by various artists from the “i am 8bit” art movement and with music from acclaimed MegaMan tribute band The Megas. Full of references to various other Capcom games, including trippy bits where a claymation MegaMan turns into Arthur from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins/Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts games and Ryu from Street Fighter while fighting off a horde of Metools, Tellies and other old-school MegaMan foes. It also showed off the birth of the now-despised Bad Box Art MegaMan, a good-humored ribbing of the downright bizarre North American boxart for the original MegaMan on the NES.

I’ve always speculated that MMU was planned as a reaction to the then-recent fan backlash against MegaMan 10 for being another NES throwback game like 2008’s MM9, but then, considering it was announced the same year 10 was released, that doesn’t exactly seem plausible. The game’s art-style was also a significant departure from the traditional Inafune-inspired artwork of old. Frankly, I liked it, but there were many others who didn’t. Still, the game was 2.5D, which was definitely a change from the 8-bit sprites. But it also resembled a previous attempt at a Classic revival: MegaMan Powered Up.

The game’s 2.5D format wasn’t the only thing Capcom took from Powered Up. The game had an extreme emphasis on customization. In addition to bringing back the Stage Builder mode from MMPU (and making it a major portion of the game itself), players would’ve also have been able to create their own player character, using parts from MegaMan, various robot masters, characters from other Capcom properties and even alternate versions of MegaMan (like the aforementioned BBA MegaMan and the more Inafune-inspired “Rockman”). Many fans and journalists likened the idea to effectively being a ripoff of LittleBigPlanet. Ironically enough, Powered Up predated LBP by over two years.

Of course, Powered Up wasn’t the only game Universe was inspired by. Pretty much every part of the game was a direct reference to the most famous Classic series game of them all: MegaMan 2. From the various stage builder locales, to the Robot Masters depicted and even the soundtrack, the entire game appeared to be a heartfelt love letter to MM2, not unlike MM9 was. Whether or not this was the entire scope of the game or if this game was an attempt to revitalize the MMPU series, I guess we’ll never know.

What I do know is that I actually experienced the game firsthand. While I was in attendance at New York Comic-Con in 2010, Capcom had a booth there with, what I believe was, an alpha build of MMU. I’ll be honest, the game was a bit rough around the edges, but I could see some real potential there. After all, the game was still in development. I managed to beat the stage I picked: I remember little about the playthrough aside from the fact that there were three stages (easy, normal and hard) and the one I had chosen (one of the latter two) used the MM2 Airman stage motif and I managed to beat it fairly easily, despite losing one of the three lives I was granted in the demo. I was rewarded with an inflatable lance based on Arthur’s from the GnG games with the MMU logo on it. I still have it to this day.

Considering how intrigued I was by the new designs and how much I had enjoyed the demo, I was honestly sad to see the game get cancelled. I can still remember how the entire affair took place. After playing the demo and the announcement of a variant on Japanese childrens TV show character Gachapin (dubbed “Megapin”) was announced as a playable character, news on MMU dried up. Keiji Inafune had left Capcom at that point and the future of the title (both MM titles he had just announced, arguably) was uncertain. I remembered asking Christian “Sven” Svennson about the status of the title on Capcom’s “Ask Capcom” forum. He assured me there would be some big news regarding the title coming soon and that it certainly wasn’t cancelled. About two weeks later, MegaMan Universe was officially cancelled. I’d like to say I was surprised when it happened, but frankly, I was just a little ticked off that I had been lied to, either as an attempt to avoid negative PR or due to Svennson’s own ignorance of what was going on. I already knew that when Inafune left Capcom, the two MegaMan games he announced just before his departure were already dead.

Somehow, I think that the gaming press was somewhat to blame regarding Universe’s demise. MMU honestly got torn apart by a lot of journalists when it first became playable. One major complaint I recall showing up a great deal was the fact that it had stiff controls. Stiff controls in a game that was still in its Alpha phase? What a concept! Whatever it was that got MMU cancelled, it just seemed kind of weird how quickly everyone seemed to turn on the game. First they were griping that MM10 was “yet another” 8-bit throwback game, ala the universally-beloved MM9 and said they wanted a change of pace. MMU does just that, departing from many of the stylistic conventions of past MegaMan games and everyone throws an even bigger tantrum. Then, two years later, we get a free PC game that started out as a fan homage to both Street Fighter and MegaMan and people complain about the 8-bit style used in that as well. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how popular opinion works.

In the end, I think the most insulting part of the cancellation of MegaMan Universe was not so much the way it got cancelled or the way the majority of people reacted to it when it happened. In reality, I think the worst part is what it took to make people start caring: the cancellation of MegaMan Legends 3. It was only after Legends 3’s failure to be greenlit that people started complaining, wailing and moaning that “we’d seen two MegaMan games cancelled”, while when MMU got cancelled, most people responded with a shrug and a resounding “meh”. It wasn’t an outrage until the game you wanted got trashed. It reminds me of the whole Operation Rainfall “movement”: sure, they talked about bringing all three games (Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower) to North America, but let’s face facts: as long as they got Xenoblade and Last Story, they were more than willing to throw Pandora’s Tower (the one game that actually looked interesting to me) under the bus, to the point where they declared total victory once Last Story got confirmed for NA release by XSEED. To them, Pandora’s Tower getting a release down the line was just a happy little bonus.

Of course, regardless of who’s to blame for the game’s cancellation or who used said cancellation to fuel feigned outrage, the point is no amount of ranting will ever bring this interesting little game back. But looking back at that MegaMan reveal for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS (really wish they had put more effort into coming up with a title), there was one little graphical detail that struck me as a bit strange. Despite the clearly Classic NES-inspired motions and design of the Blue Bomber, there were noticable creases in the cyan part of his armor. Not unlike those seen in the design of “MegaMan” in MegaMan Universe. It’s probably just a coincidence, but part of me still likes to think it’s just Nintendo’s way of paying homage to the cancelled game, sort of like how I believe that the upcoming Sonic Lost World is totally a revival of the cancelled Saturn game Sonic X-Treme, despite Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka saying he had never even heard of X-Treme beforehand. Just the thought that interesting old ideas that got scrapped can come back in some form just cheers me up, I guess. Maybe one day, we’ll see another attempt at a MegaMan game with a stage builder.

Used for Good: Why Used Games Are Vital

I’m not going to pretend I like all video game companies exactly the same. While I’ll never say a game is bad or refuse to play it because I dislike the company that makes its system, and I can like an individual system better due to its game lineup, I’m not going to deny that between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft I have a fairly distinct tier list in how much I like them as companies. As you can probably guess if you’ve seen my previous articles, Nintendo is at the top. Microsoft is at the bottom, and I am disclosing this because I want to emphasize that my… strong… reactions towards some features in the upcoming Xbox One are not because of pre-existing dislike for Microsoft or the Xbox brand. If Sony or even Nintendo did this, I would if anything be more angry, since I would be forced not to buy a system I would otherwise be likely to. So the gist of this is that Xbox One and how it treats used games is why I am so angry at Microsoft, not the other way around.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a summary of Xbox One’s approach to Digital Rights Management (DRM). There are (among others) two features in X1 that no other mainstream video game console has ever attempted: a required daily online “check-in” for games to be playable, and the need for external permission from a company to use a game disc on more than one system. The online check-in has a host of issues unrelated to used games, but for this article the main issue with it is that it allows the enforcement of requiring “permission” to use a disc on more than one system. This online check-in means that you can not simply keep a system offline so that the disc does not use its one time activation code, and if you do have the disc’s ownership transferred to another system, you will be forced to go online so that the system can take away your permission to play the game even if you have the disc inserted in the console.

Now, as I’m sure you can guess, the reason why a disc will be prevented from working on more than one console is an attempt to control the used game market. Like nearly every other purchased good in a free society, video games can be sold or given to another person by the original buyer. If someone buys a used copy of a game, they will most likely not buy that game new, so the publisher will get one less sale. Publishers (some much more than others) do not like this. The Xbox One’s system requires the cooperation of a game’s publisher for a used game to be sold, since they must give the disc a new activation code for it to work on a new system. Microsoft has stated they will not charge publishers for this, but publishers are free to charge retailers or gamers to activate the disc on a separate system. They may also not charge, or not allow the disc to be reused at all.

The point of this article is not to convince you that Microsoft and the publishers who pressured them to do this are bad companies we should be angry at (although that is certainly true), it is to stress that Xbox One is a danger to both the rights of gamers and the preservation of gaming, and regardless of how you feel about the companies involved, the system must not succeed while using the DRM setup it currently has. Yes, I’m angry. I’m really freaking angry, but I will be doing my best to focus on logical arguments instead of my emotions.

Now, the first issue that has to be addressed is the position that video game publishers have a right to be so upset about used games and try to limit them. I understand that it is possible for used games to cost a publisher some sales, but every goods based industry depends on a balance between the interests of consumers and producers. The simple fact is that publishers do not have a right to people buying their games, while people do have a right to sell and give away their property. Allowing used games is clearly the preferable option to taking away the rights of consumers. People who compare used games to piracy are missing an obvious distinction: used games are a finite resource. If I make pirated copies of a game I own, I can still play the original and hundreds, thousands, theoretically millions of people can all play my pirated copies at the same time. If I sell a game I own, I can no longer play it, and if the person who bought the game sells it they can no longer play it. The amount of used copies of a game is limited by the amount of new ones sold, a good game that people want to play for more than a weekend is not going to have its sales killed because people keep reselling it. There is an enforced balance to the sales of used games, one that rewards publishers that provide high quality and substantial games. Eliminating used game sales can harm gamers even if they don’t buy used games, since it cuts down on incentive for publishers to release good games with high replay value.

Now, as Microsoft would be quick to point out, Xbox One does not technically ban used games. It is possible to transfer a disc between consoles, but developers will have the option of charging players or retailers that act as a middleman a fee to do so. Companies also have the option of completely stopping a game from being sold used by refusing to reactivate its discs. Which companies will take which approach to used X1 games and what the fees will be is still a matter of speculation, but what I want to stress is that it does not matter how much companies charge to reactivate game discs, needing the reactivation at all is a disaster for game preservation. No matter how many companies agree to reactivate their games for free, regardless of whether you feel it’s fair for a company to get a cut of used games sales, the simple fact is that this service will not be around forever. Systems stop being supported, and publishers move on or go out of business. With X1 as it is now, in a decade or so every game on it will be unobtainable by legal means. It is still possible to buy games and systems that are decades old and well out of production, that will not be the case for Xbox One. Any game exclusive to it will be lost forever (except, ironically, in the form of the pirated copies that Microsoft and third parties want to stop) in the future. This is something we can not allow to happen to games, the future of the medium is being directly threatened by restricting used games. Whether you play old games or not, I hope that out of respect for the medium of video games and empathy for future gamers who want to experience its past that you can understand how important this issue is.

Some argue that games will inevitably be delivered exclusively through digital services in the future, and that therefore used games will die anyway and it doesn’t matter what happens to disc based games. I will not deny that digital distribution will most likely become the sole form of game delivery at some point in the future, but the technology to preserve games will also advance. Legally backing up copies of digital games, especially on consoles, is simply not advanced enough at this point for us to entrust the preservation of gaming to it. There may come a time when playing and storing a game on a computer is as simple as a song, video clip, or even text. That time has not come yet, however, and for the time being being able to preserve games through transferring physical copies is necessary for the games to be playable in the future. There is also the issue of Xbox One’s daily check-in, which is a more severe form of DRM than even digital services like Steam (which will for the most part let you play games from it offline after the initial download) employ. Xbox One’s approach to the issue not only falls short of the hypothetical method that would make it acceptable, it is worse than currently existing ones.

In conclusion, I would like to make my beliefs on Xbox One clear: the system, as it is now, should not be bought by any gamer. This is not a matter of company loyalty, gamers as a whole must look past that and unite to defend their rights and the future of their hobby. I understand that this may be more difficult for some gamers than others, depending on how much X1’s exclusive games appeal to them, but if you really care about the future of the Xbox brand and those games you must help make Microsoft realize their mistake. No company makes permanent decisions, if the backlash hurts Microsoft enough they can change this. Even if it’s too late to fix the systems being released, we could at the very least stop the bleeding and maybe force Microsoft to make a new model. The more resolute we are in not supporting the system, the quicker the disastrous decisions made on it can be reversed. The quicker this happens, the less games will have their future endangered. We have to look at the longer term picture, especially gamers who want to be able to enjoy Xbox One and its games. It may seem frustrating now if there is an exclusive you really want on X1, but you will not regret your decision if your patience ensures that game can be enjoyed in the future.

The Next Level: Selling Sega Bit by Bit (Part 2)

Last week, I discussed the still very real possibility that Sega could end up on the auction block like THQ and Midway before it and tried to determine the best homes for a dozen of its franchises, both popular and obscure. This week, it’s gonna be more of the same: 12 Sega franchises and what companies would be the best fits for them.

Starting off this week’s assortment, Sega’s famous horror lightgun arcade smash, House of the Dead. The answer for this one’s obvious: Namco Bandai is still making Time Crisis games for both consoles and arcades to this day, and aside from Sega, they’re the only major Japanese publisher with a stake in the genre to this day. My secondary choice was gonna be Activision, which would cause the series to suffer like G did? So I did a little research for companies that had made some recent lightgun rail shooters, sure Capcom had those Resident Evil spinoffs, but then I saw a name that perked up my ears: Castlevania: The Arcade. That’s right, Konami actually made a lightgun (light-whip) game a few years back.

Next up, another oldie-but-goodie, Sega’s Genesis beat-’em-up classic, Streets of Rage. Now, you’re probably thinking the choice for this one is obvious: “Give it to Capcom, because blah blah blah Final Fight.” Well, I’m going off the beaten path with this one and giving it to an unlikely contender: SNK Playmore. SNK has quite the predigree of arcade beat-’em-ups in their past, games like Mutation Nation, the Sengoku series and even a few weird experiments in the genre like the first-person brawler The Super Spy (featuring the first appearance of SNK villain supreme, Geese Howard!) and the beat-’em-up/one-on-one fighting game hybrid Street Smart. Seeing SNK tackle a genre that isn’t a fighting game or Metal Slug again would be a fantastic treat and getting a fourth, actual factual Streets of Rage is pretty high on my Sega wishlist. Otherwise, yeah, give it to Konami or Capcom, I guess. Either one would probably just end up sitting on the franchise anyway.

Samba de Amigo, like Space Channel 5, was another of Sega’s rhythm game experiments, however this one focused heavily on motion-control through the maraca peripherals that were available both in the original arcade version and the Dreamcast home port. Considering the Wii got a port of Samba de Amigo itself that utilized the Wii Remote and Nunchuk add-on to accurately recreate the arcade experience, Nintendo is the clear choice. The fact that they themselves have a rhythm series that’s equally as wacky as Samba (Rhythm Heaven) is just icing on the cake. Likewise, Namco Bandai still makes Taiko Drum Master games, so they’d be an equally valid choice, especially if it did better in arcades than on consoles.

Then there’s OutRun, an unconventional arcade-style racer that focuses on completing an extended course with multiple branching paths within a time limit rather than beating out CPU-controlled drivers. It’s also one of my all-time favorite Sega franchises and I was especially happy to see it get a shout-out in the recent Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. Not too many companies really focus on arcade-style racers these days, as most have moved onto racing sims, so the only obvious answer here would be Namco Bandai, who still put out a damn good Ridge Racer every once in a while. Second place goes to Ubisoft, as they currently publish the Trackmania games.

Jet Set Radio was one of those games that didn’t really get a fair shake when it first came out, but became a beloved cult classic down the line. Released when the Dreamcast was on the very precipice of disaster at the hands of Sony’s Playstation 2, Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, as it was once titled in North America) is one of those rare 3D games that manages to avoid showing its age even today, due in part to its cel-shaded graphical style. The gameplay emulated the popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but managed to expand on it to the point where JSR felt like a complete different game. After all, what other game can you think of where you can destroy tanks and helicopters by tagging them with graffiti? Personally, I’d give it to Ubisoft, considering both their work on Shaun White’s Skateboarding (proving they could get the skating mechanics right) and the Rayman series (proving that they’d likely keep the unique graphical style of the series. The only other company I think could do Jet Set Radio justice would be Nintendo.

Speaking of cult classics from the Dreamcast era, Shenmue is perhaps the prototypical example of the problems regarding the AAA industry today. Despite being the 4th best selling title overall on the Dreamcast, Shenmue fell short of earning back its immense budget. Still, there are many who wait for another entry in the series, even after the second game also failed to perform well outside of niche audiences. Having said that, I’d say that Atlus would be the best choice for the franchise. Both due to the fact that they’ve made a few games with similar mechanics to the series (Catherine comes to mind for me personally and I’ve heard the same regarding their Persona series) and because they tend to also do well with regards to niche audiences. My other choice is an extremely unorthodox one: Telltale Games. Considering the fact that Shenmue’s gameplay is not so far removed from point-and-click adventure games and its storyline is considered one of the main draws of the series, Telltale just seems like an interesting choice for a sequel, especially if they reunite the original creative team for a Shenmue III.

Valkyria Chronicles is another one of Sega’s more niche titles, at least as far as non-Japanese audiences go. An interesting take on the strategy RPG genre, where you shift into a third-person shooter-style segment during each party member’s turn. Consider the game’s unique take on the genre, I think that Atlus would probably be the best company to take on this one, due to its unique take on the genre and its popularity in Japan. After all, Atlus has even handled third-person shooters in the past (God Mode). If not them, then Nippon Ichi Software would probably be a good choice, considering their experience with the strategy-RPG genre.

There’s also Sega’s unique puzzle game: Chu Chu Rocket. Considering the fact that this was actually ported to the Game Boy Advance as a launch title, I’d be quite alright giving this to Nintendo. They would likely keep it on eShop, which would actually probably be a smart business tactic, considering the simplicity of the game’s overall design. I’d also consider Atlus to be a valid choice, considering their history with unorthodox puzzle games like the aforementioned Catherine and Rock of Ages.

Virtual On, while generally called an action game, is probably the best example of what I’ve come to call “arena fighters”. Think of it as the precursor to Anarchy Reigns, only with a custom arcade cabinet to boot. As such, my first choice would be Platinum Games. The problem is, I don’t really have a follow-up. Capcom used to make good arena fighters, like the Power Stone games and Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand. Konami made Castlevania Judgment, which in spite of its hideous character designs, was actually a pretty decent one. But considering the similarities between the recent Dragon Ball Z and Naruto fighting games with arena fighters, not to mention how close the Soul Calibur games are to them, maybe Namco Bandai would be the best secondary choice. At the very least, Namdai (Banco?) getting the rights would mean that Temjin and Fei-Yen would likely show up in the Super Robot Wars games a lot more often.
After Burner was Sega’s take on the combat flight simulator genre, only with good old fashioned 1980’s arcade flair thrown to give the game some fun factor. Recently it’s seen a resurgance, having been referenced in games like Bayonetta and the aforementioned All-Stars Racing Transformed (as a stage and one-third of a vehicle!). I can’t really think of many companies that still do games in that genre, aside from Namco Bandai, with their Ace Combat series. Otherwise, I’d just give it to Nintendo, because I can’t really think of anyone else who’d take it.

Then you’ve got the Super Monkey Ball series, another cult-classic Sega series, involving tiny monkeys in hamster balls running to the end of an obstacle course in order to get some bananas. The easy answer here is Nintendo: this game totally sounds like something the Big N would make. Hell, we might even see a Donkey Kong Country x Super Monkey Ball game. Atlus seems like a fair choice too, considering that they published the extremely similar Rock of Ages.

Rounding out this article’s list is Skies of Arcadia, one of Sega’s RPGs from the Dreamcast era. Considering it also showed up on the Gamecube, I’d just give it to Nintendo. They could use a couple more traditional JRPGs, right? I’d just as well avoid seeing Skies of Arcadia becoming another victim of Square-Enix’s IP hoarding, so Atlus seems like the only other logical choice.

Before we wrap things up, I’d like to discuss the fates of a few honorable mentions. First off, Sega’s original mascot, Alex Kidd should probably just go to Nintendo. Then there’s Columns, Sega’s first major attempt at a Tetris-style puzzle game, give that to Q Entertainment. Seaman was Sega’s attempt at a virtual pet style game, Microsoft seems like the best choice, considering I can’t think of a franchise that would be more Kinect-friendly. Shining Force was Sega’s first major success in the strategy-RPG genre, so give that to Nippon Ichi Software, as they make a great deal of SRPGs and would probably jump at having such a (comparitively) big name. Give Vectorman to Platinum Games, because they turned some heads in the third-person shooter genre with Vanquish. Finally, I’d give both Total War and Football Manager to Valve, considering they sell like gangbusters on Steam.

I guess if this two-part article has taught me anything, it’s that perhaps, Sega is greater than the sum of its parts, or rather its franchises. That’s probably the reason why, the last time they were in dire financial straits, Sammy Corporation just bought out the entire company, rather than simply taking on franchises that were considered the most important. Hopefully, should Sega fall once again, history will repeat itself in that case and all of Sega’s IPs will be kept together.