Wii Retrospective: All About the Games

As Wii’s life draws to a full close, there is a lot to say about the system.  While you could fill several articles talking about the disbelief when it was revealed, unorthodox system design, massive mainstream success, and bitter hatred from several sectors of the gaming community, that’s not what is really going to matter when we look back on the system in the future.  The only thing that is going to matter from this point on is the game library, and that is what I am going to be looking back on.  While I could wait for the Nintendo cycle to make the entire world love Wii once Wii U’s successor is released, I’m just not that patient.  Wii’s lineup has been severely under appreciated, and I’m going to overview several categories to show just how much there is to the system if you look.  Instead of going genre by genre, I’m going to try something a little different and divide games by first and third party, with three sub-categories for each.  Let’s dive in to the best Wii has to offer.

First Party:

Nintendo Staples:

These are the franchises you expect on every Nintendo system (and God help them if they miss even one) by default.  Two of the big ones, Zelda and Metroid, both had a pair of Wii releases.  I don’t care enough about Metroid: Other M to defend it very much (although the fact that I view it as forgettable instead of an abomination probably counts at this point), but the other three entries in those series all deserve much more love than they’re given.  Zelda: Twilight Princess is what it promised to be, a direct follow-up to Ocarina of Time.  Yes, it’s pretty easy in combat, but everything else is done pretty much perfectly.  Shooting with the IR pointer feels great, screw Wii Sports, that was what impressed me at launch.  Skyward Sword, on the other hand, changed the formula quite a bit more.  While I wish aiming was done with the IR pointer, the sword combat worked perfectly.  One thing it annoys me that no one acknowledges is that SS fixed the combat difficulty problems and is one of the hardest Zeldas in that area, even without the unlockable hard mode.  Both games have incredible level design, focusing on intricate dungeons and dungeon like fields instead of wandering around.  As for Metroid, Metroid Prime 3 is another game that greatly benefits from the Wii controller.  The emphasis on aiming and shooting means that the IR pointer adds a huge amount to the series, and there were some very appreciated changes (FINALLY there are teleport points).  If you can overlook the fact that it doesn’t copy the Super Metroid formula as exactly as the original Metroid Prime did, I think you’ll see just how good MP3 is.

As for other Nintendo staples, one of Wii’s biggest strengths was its platformers.  Wario Land Shake-It, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland are all great entries in their series and a major part of what made Wii so great for those who missed the console 2D platformer.  Smash Bros. reached a new level of hype with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although the most vicious fighting involving it is probably from fan wars between it and Melee.  There were also entries in Fire Emblem, Nintendo Wars, Pokemon spin-offs, and Warioware for your Nintendo staples.  I know, I know, there wasn’t any Starfox, Pikmin or F-Zero and that’s the worst atrocity in human history, but as we’ll see in the next section there were things to make up for those.  I’m also aware that I skipped over one really, really obvious series, but again, just keep reading.

New and Revived IPs:

Not every Nintendo IP gets to show up on every system, and Wii had its share of revivals.  The Excite series kept its tradition of skipping every other Nintendo console, but Wii somehow managed to get an astounding three games in it, with Excite Truck, Excite Bots, and Excite Bike World Rally for Wiiware.  Punch-Out came back after a very long absence with a fantastic update.  After the original Sin and Punishment finally got a worldwide release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, it got an even better sequel that will easily fill the gap Starfox left in you.  Rhythm Tengoku got its first console release in Rhythm Heaven Fever.

But of course, everyone wants to know about the new IPs (until Nintendo skips over a major franchise in favor of one, at which point public opinion will immediately reverse).  The most prolific one, obviously, was the Wii (Insert word) series.  Wii Sports was the system seller for the mainstream, while Wii Play, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports Resort all sold very well along with their respective pack-in peripherals.  Wii Music did not have one and was a relative failure (and really hated by the gaming community).  Coincidence?  Probably.  Near the end of the system’s lifespan Nintendo brought in some new IPs in more traditional genres.  The rain fell and the world got to play Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, all of which filled a much needed genre gap for Wii.


Yes, Mario gets his own section.  Mario’s presence on Wii was one of the biggest for any Nintendo system, and that presence was well earned.  The first Mario game on Wii was actually Super Paper Mario, an RPG-platformer hybrid that suffered from an identity crisis but had some very creative ideas and great writing.  Mario Kart Wii is not one of the best games in the series for level design, but had probably the best implemented online play of any first party game on the system.  After a disliked Mario Party 8, Nintendo toned the series down quite a bit and released the much better received Mario Party 9 five years later.  Although it taught me I simply can’t get into a soccer game no matter who stars in it, Mario Striker’s Charged was a good effort from Next Level on their rise to prominence with Nintendo franchises.

Mario’s Wii games may not sound all that great so far, but that’s because I’m saving the best and most obvious ones for last.  After the traumatic Mario platformer drought on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, which only got one Mario platformer each, Wii had three Mario platformers on it, and all were absolute masterpieces.  New Super Mario Bros. Wii may have an army of internet posters who hate it because it has repeated world themes and a cappella, but if you give the game a chance you’ll find a platforming classic up there with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.  It also heralded the revival of the home console 2D platformer.  As for the Super Mario Galaxy games, do I need to say anything?  Even people who hate Wii acknowledge them as classics, they will be remembered as some of the best games of all time.

Well, that’s the first party section of Wii, but that’s all the system had to offer, right?  Considering I already said there would be a third party section, you can probably guess that’s wrong.  Let’s look at what third parties had to offer on Wii.

Third Party:

Prominent Exclusives:

This section covers third party games for Wii that had at least some sort of hype around them.  I am including timed exclusives as long as they were not announced for other platforms until the Wii version had already been released.  There were actually more games in this category than many people would expect.  Red Steel was the most hyped third party launch game, and while it didn’t turn out well it did manage to get a much better (and different in every way) sequel.  No More Heroes 1 and 2, Goldeneye 007, and Madworld were some other games that went against the tone often associated with Wii.  Wii also gave the rail shooter genre new life with House of the Dead Overkill, Dead Space Extraction, and the Resident Evil Chronicles games.

Not every prominent Wii third party game was about shooting or slashing.  The brilliant puzzle game Boom Blox, paint based platformer de Blob, and platformer/Katamari hybrid Rabbids Go Home were all unique games that the whole family could play.  Epic Mickey was somewhere in the middle, a dark but not violent take on Mickey Mouse with a surprisingly strong Nintendo 64 feel to the gameplay.  While somewhat stretching the definition of prominent, Muramasa was at least taken notice of in gaming communities and provided a great 2D combat engine to go with its beautiful painted world, while Capcom’s Zack and Wiki got attention for its great use of the Wii controller.  Speaking of Capcom, who can forget the anger caused by Monster Hunter Tri and Tatsunoko vs Capcom were announced as Wii exclusives?  But my favorite moment in this category was when, after a couple of mediocre storybook games, Sonic made his long, LONG overdue comeback in the Wii exclusive Sonic Colors.

There are also some Wiiware exclusives that deserve mention.  World of Goo is a brilliant physics based puzzle game that got a surprising amount of recognition.  Konami’s Rebirth series brought back Contra, Gradius, and classic style Castlevania.  Final Fantasy IV: The After Years may actually be the best received direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game.

Multi-platform Games:

Definitely not Wii’s strong point, and probably where much of the hatred of the system comes from.  Yes, Wii missed out on a huge amount of games that were released on both PS3 and 360, and apparently a system having its own library is a bad thing now.  Despite this, Wii had some multi-plats worth mentioning.  The Wii version of Rayman Raving Rabbids actually completely overshadowed the other versions, being one of the early showcases for the system’s controller.  Rayman didn’t forget this, and Wii got the incredible Rayman Origins at the same time and with the same content as the other systems.  De Blob 2 went multi-platform, but the Wii version didn’t miss out on anything from the others.  Despite being widely considered a disappointment, the Wii version of Epic Mickey 2 is actually the best one with the original developer and best control scheme.  The Call of Duty games didn’t have everything on Wii they did on other systems, but almost all of them did in fact make it to Wii, and Wii’s IR pointer controls could quite possibly make up for the shortcomings.  While sharing games with PS2 or PSP felt demeaning, there were some solid games where the Wii version was the definitive one thanks to the controls, such as Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Silent Hill Shattered Memories, and Ghostbusters (which was a completely different game than the PS360 version).  Wiiware had a better shot at sharing games with other platforms than retail releases, and Wii had some good games in that area like Mega Man 9 and 10, the Bit.Trip series, Cave Story, and Retro City Rampage.  Not a great lineup of multi-platform games, but it’s something.

Overlooked Gems:

Back in the height of the “Wii has hundreds of crappy games, the system therefore sucks!” days, I said that in the future they wouldn’t matter at all, and we’d only remember the gems in that gigantic pile of unnoticed third party games.  That time has come, let’s start with the cream of the crop.

Did you know Boom Blox had a sequel?  Boom Blox Bash Party may sound like a spin-off, but it’s actually a direct sequel that is even better than the first game.  Put assumptions aside, this series is not a party game or a simple arcade puzzler.  Boom Blox Bash Party had hundreds of brilliant and just inherently fun physics based puzzles, and is a must for every Wii U owner.  A Boy and his Blob is a fantastic sequel to the NES game that feels like a puzzle platformer merged with Zelda.  Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is actually a completely different game on Wii and uses the IR pointer for the best gameplay in any of the Sands games.  Lost in Shadow is another puzzle platformer, a deceptively huge game that doesn’t let the puzzle aspect completely overshadow the platforming.  Trauma Team combines Trauma Center gameplay and a few Phoenix Wright style play modes for a gigantic game that everyone should look into whether they’ve played the previous Trauma Centers or not.

While I don’t recommend them quite as strongly, there are some more obscure games worth checking out if their description catches your attention.  Blastworks is a shmup with a Little Big Planet style level editor.  Deadly Creatures is an aesthetically realistic platformer where you play as a spider and scorpion.  Elebits suffers from some early “is this a good way to use the controller?” issues, but is a creative and fun game almost impossible to describe.  The RPG Opoona, aerial combat game Sky Crawlers, and extreme sports game SSX Blur are some games I haven’t personally played, but their reputation suggests they deserve a mention.

As I hope you can see, Wii actually has a much greater quantity and variety of good games than its reputation would lead you to believe.  As I said, I have complete confidence that people will acknowledge this in time since it will at some point be a Nintendo system benefiting from the nostalgia filter, but you don’t have to wait.  With Wii games still easy to find and cheap, now is the perfect time to dig into the system’s under appreciated library.  Like every system, games will be Wii’s true legacy, and they leave a much better one than many people give them credit for.


Doomed Since 1889 (Part 2)

Oh they’re doomed, every year Nintendo is doomed!  Yep, it’s time to go over even more occasions where Nintendo was 100% really doomed for sure and we mean it this time.  Continuing chronologically, let’s jump in at the start of the sixth generation

Cause of Doom:  Playstation 2 market dominance
Time Period:  First half of the 2000s

The Problem:

After Nintendo 64 lost its console battle by a considerable margin, Nintendo’s GameCube had a lot less momentum going for it when it was released in 2001.  The momentum had shifted to Sony, and Playstation 2 was enjoying a tremendous amount of success.  In the most one sided console war since NES’ domination, the PS2 sold well over three times as much as the GameCube and Xbox combined.  GameCube was fighting with Xbox for a very distant second, Nintendo’s home console line seemed to have stopped being relevant.

Chances of Actual Doom:

While GameCube’s market performance was certainly a big disappointment, the chance of Nintendo actually being doomed wasn’t very high.  Nintendo is very self-reliant thanks to their first party franchises and focus on making games and systems profitable, even with GameCube’s meager sales they could release successful first party games.  There’s also the portable factor, Game Boy Advance continued portable dominance that would make NES and PS2 jealous, giving Nintendo plenty of money and keeping their name well known.

What Really Happened:

Things never really picked up for GameCube, despite some good years for game releases it ultimately ended up in third place by a tiny margin.  While the system would be considered a failure until nostalgia inevitably deified it in the eyes of the internet, it certainly did not kill Nintendo.  It can be argued it killed their status quo, but that’s for another entry…

Cause of Doom:  Sony’s making a portable
Time Period:  2004-2006

The Problem:

As mentioned in the previous entry, Sony dominated the sixth generation console war by a huge margin.  More than ever, Nintendo needed their unbroken streak of portable dominance to support themselves and stay relevant.  So naturally, when the so far undefeated Sony announced they were making a portable system nearly as strong as their PS2 console, it looked like the end for Nintendo.  Nearly a generation more powerful than Nintendo’s new gimmicky DS, Sony’s Playstation Portable was poised to finally end Nintendo’s 15 years of portable dominance and finish off the company once and for all.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Probably the highest since NES established Nintendo as an industry titan.  If PSP had beaten DS to the degree PS2 had stomped GameCube, Nintendo would have been in genuine trouble.  While Nintendo’s ultra-valuable IPs made it unlikely they could literally be forced out of business, being forced to become a third party if PSP and the upcoming PS3 won by a PS2 like margin was a real possibility.  And at the time, it didn’t seem like an incredibly unlikely scenario.

What Really Happened:

I think everyone knows.  While the seventh generation console wars are for the next entry, DS vs PSP turned out very much in Nintendo’s favor.  Despite a slow start for DS and a strong start for PSP, by late 2005 people were starting to notice that DS was heating up with game releases while PSP seemed confused about what to do now that it had launched.  PSP’s attempt to imitate PS2 with scaled down games in the most popular console series didn’t work, even the mighty Grand Theft Auto didn’t give PSP much of a boost.  Meanwhile, DS’ combination of extremely popular portable centric new IPs (Nintendogs, Brain Age) and revival of classic Nintendo series that many hadn’t liked the GCN incarnations of very much (New Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart DS) soared it to new heights.  No longer just the strongest portable, DS was the best selling game system period for several years, and come within striking distance of PS2 as the highest selling console of all time.  Not exactly doom for Nintendo.

Cause of Doom:  Everything associated with Wii
Time Period:  2005-2007

The Problem:

After GameCube’s market failure, Nintendo clearly felt they needed to take their consoles in a new direction.  And that direction was utter insanity.  A ridiculous motion based controller, graphics barely better than GameCube, and called Wii?  Nintendo had lost their minds and killed themselves in the console wars.  This was a colossal joke, it couldn’t be real.  There was no way Wii could possibly succeed, Nintendo would be third party within a year.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Wii was certainly a big gamble, if it had failed Nintendo’s home console line would have been in serious trouble.  However, by the time Wii’s controller was unveiled the tide had shifted in DS’ favor.  Even if Wii had failed, Nintendo still would have had their supremely successful portables, with the added security of knowing Sony wasn’t invincible.  Wii’s future was certainly uncertain, but the doom chance was much less than when DS’ had been.

What Really Happened:

Seriously, this is one of the most hilarious things that ever happened in gaming history.  After a hilarious yet devastating E3 conference where Sony took over a decade of market dominance and broke it into 599 pieces, Nintendo had Wii’s grand public unveiling and… the market loved it.  In two days the power dynamics of the past decade of gaming history had been completely reversed, and Wii launched to huge success.  With a year of release Nintendo was leading the console market wars, and built up a gigantic lead that even phasing out the system years before its competitors couldn’t overcome.  Nintendo was less doomed than they had been in decades, which is saying something.

The Problem:  3DS and Wii U not as successful as their predecessors

Time Period:  2011-Present

The Problem:

After a generation of incredible financial success for both their portable and home system, and lots of very bitter gamers and journalists who were so sure Nintendo was finally going to go third party, it was time to start again.  DS and Wii had lost some of their momentum late in their lives, so the doomsayers were primed to declare that the fad was over and Nintendo was doomed yet again.  Both systems had strong launches but sales quickly faded afterwards.  This, of course, led to a flood of “Nintendo is REALLY doomed this time!” articles.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Since this scenario is still happening as I write this, obviously this section will have a different perspective.  With 3DS already having recovered from its supposed doom with an early life cycle almost eerily similar to the DS, Nintendo is not in terrible danger.  Even in a worst case scenario for Wii U, it Nintendo’s first party games could likely support it until a new console generation, while 3DS comfortably supports Nintendo.  Regardless of how certain people are that Nintendo is doomed this time FOR REAL, I don’t think there’s much cause for alarm.

What I Think Will Happen:

3DS’ future looks pretty clear and bright, while it may not pass DS as one of the top two best selling consoles of all time, the hardware and games have reached a very good place in sales.  What is often overlooked with Wii U is that it actually had very strong sales at launch.  Claims that the public is tired of Mario simply aren’t true, New Super Mario Bros. U DID sell systems, it just didn’t keep selling month after month while delays caused a nasty drought.  With the drought finally over and a price cut, I think Wii U will recover and even if it doesn’t win the eight generation it should at least pass GameCube by a significant amount.

If there’s one thing Nintendo’s endless supposed deaths have shown us, it’s that you should never count out the company.  Not everything Nintendo does succeeds, but their perseverance, self-reliance, and impressive number of amazing comebacks should make you very skeptical of anyone trying to convince you that the 50th time is a charm for doomsday.  Nothing lasts forever, but there is nothing to indicate that Nintendo’s end is anywhere in sight.

Independent Streak

Indie games are a rising trend in modern gaming, once again invoking the days when games were handled entirely by tiny teams of a few developers, just like in “the good old days”. A stark contrast with most of today’s mainstream AAA offerings, with bloated teams of hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of staff members, leaving the games more homogenized and lacking any sort of single vision as a result. Of course, the big console manufacturers have decided to put more effort than ever before into courting the indie market: Sony, Nintendo and even Microsoft are in the process of creating a far more hospitable market for small indie teams to bring their titles to entirely new audiences. Still, there is a great deal of hostility towards indie games, when Sony recently announced a deluge of upcoming titles for the Vita, leaving slack-jawed troglodytes across multiple gaming forums decrying the majority of them as lackluster due to their indie status. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on these individuals. It wasn’t all that long ago when I myself hated indie games.

Why did I hate indie games, you ask? How could I possibly write off entire swathes of games simply because they had smaller budgets? How could anyone maintain such a blind hatred of something as innocuous as a small labor of love, cooked up by random people with a passion for gaming? Well, while anyone who knows me personally can attest to my ability to cast my hatred for entirely irrational reasons (to this day, I still demand Sony apologize for murdering my beloved Dreamcast and relegating Sega to the shameful stance of third-party developer), perhaps “blind” is the most suitable word for the hatred I had for indie games. After all, years later I can attest that it was entirely unjustifiable. You see, I made the all-too common mistake of conflating “indie games” with “art games”. Whoops.

Of course, to this day, I still find myself moaning and groaning at art games, despite proponents of them arguing that my definition of art games is far too narrow and that, in fact, some of the games I hold in high regard should be rightfully considered art games. Alas, the term has been irredeemably poisoned in my eyes. I will always consider an “art game” to be a pretentious “game” (scare quotes intended) seeking to put forth some kind of a message that should only be considered deep by anyone under the age of 16. Games like “Dear Esther” and all those stupid side-scrolling games I used to see on Newgrounds where you would just hold right (or D, depending on the controls) and read through “poetic” text until your character committed suicide and the game was over. One could probably argue that a “true” art game would likely use the gameplay mechanics to achieve its artistic message, but so far, I’ve yet to see anything considered an “art game” even try to achieve anything like that. They’re more like student films than anything else, except they rely on a hollow form of interactivity for reasons I will never be able to fully understand.

So, where did this flawed conflation between indie and art games stem from? It’s actually quite simple, really. See, the first game I had ever heard referred to as an “indie” was Braid. Braid was, of course, a take on platformers that borrows gameplay from earlier games in the genre, but was considered hip and edgy because of the twist ending where (spoiler alert!) it turns out you were playing as the bad guy all along. The game’s creator, one Johnathan Blow, did not help matters, as he was just as pretentious as his game, perhaps moreso. Needless to say, in my eyes, this painted indie developers less as people working on games without the resources of a publisher at their disposal and more as a bunch of pretentious hipster douchebags. My bad.

From that point on, I had sworn never to support any kind of indie games, as they were the cancer that was killing “the one true gaming”. Around that time, I was starting to consider getting into PC gaming and so I had jumped on the Steam bandwagon, due in large part to the promise of Steam sales offering loads of games for a small cost. One such game that had caught my eye was a little title by the name of “The Wonderful End of the World”, which I would ham-fistedly summarize as “Katamari Damacy if it were made by Westerners”. Sure, I had never heard of the developer before, but the gameplay looked solid in the trailer and it was just a couple of bucks, no big deal, right? Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was an indie game. Or when I found out the same about VVVVVV (or V6, as I like to call it)?

I was devastated: had I become an obnoxious hipster douchenozzle who would praise video games for some hackneyed story twist or having music from some obscure techno-folk-reggaeton band no one had ever heard of rather than for their solid gameplay? Turns out the answer to that was no. Because around that time, I began to realize that all indie meant was that the game didn’t have big publisher money backing its creation. They didn’t revel in being counterculture for its own sake, many indie devs would probably jump at the chance to make their games under a big publisher’s banner. Once I understood that, I had another revelation: I had technically been playing indie games for a long time already. All those flash games I had played on Newgrounds and other sites of the like? Indie. At that point, I realized that while many art games were indie, not all indie games were art games. By extension, I also stopped seeing indie games as a tumorous growth on the fringes of the video game market and more as just an alternative to big-budget titles that had been losing my interest at that point anyway.

That’s probably the biggest thing I had taken from learning what an indie game really is. In many ways, it allowed for a much more varied marketplace than what AAA games had been offering me at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I still fall for the appeal of 8/16-bit-style games hook, line and sucker most of the time, but due to most indie developers’ inability to keep up with the graphical prowess of games with bigger budgets, they’ve been forced to rely on more abstact artstyles, rather than the “photorealistic” brown-and-grey sludge most companies push on their releases even to this day. They experiment with genres that had otherwise been abandoned while big publishers try to ape whatever sold like gangbusters 3 to 5 years earlier.

Now would probably be a good time to list off a few examples of some indie games I thought were awesome. This list is definitely not going to be complete by any means, and perhaps you’ve heard of some of the games I’m going to mention, but maybe you haven’t and I’ll be introducing you to something new. First off, there’s Oniken (which was recently greenlit on Steam), an 8-bit romp that I think would be best described as a cross between the old NES Ninja Gaidens and Strider. Undertaie (which I mentioned in an earlier article) is a unique take on JRPG-style gameplay and while it’s incomplete at the moment, the demo’s definitely worth a try. Yatagarasu, which currently exists as a Japanese language only beta, but has a more significant build in the works (and the current build is coming to the PS Vita in the future). And then there’s McPixel, a unique cross between point-and-click adventure games and WarioWare-style minigames.

Another thing about falling in love with indie games is that it’s lead me into a sort of love-hate relationship with Kickstarter and other similar platforms (Indiegogo is the only other one that really comes to mind). On one hand, being able to have a tangible effect on turning a game concept into an actual functional game is pretty invigorating. But on the other hand, sometimes there are just too many interesting ideas up for fund-raising for me to handle. That and it becomes hard to tell what is legitimate and what’s a scam at times. I’ve been pretty lucky in that regard thus far, but who knows if my luck with crowdfunding will run out at some point?

The way I framed my story about how my feelings about indie games have changed over the years may sound a bit unique, but really, it isn’t. I felt the same kind of blind hatred toward all games with a first-person perspective (decrying them all as “braindead CoD knockoffs”), sandbox games (“braindead GTA knockoffs”) and even the Zelda series (“boring and confusing”) until I decided to try them again later down the line. I guess if there’s any lesson to be learned there, it’s that you shouldn’t judge an entire body of work based on a single bad experience. Maybe one day, I’ll find something that qualifies as an art game that simultaneously succeeds as both art AND a game and I’ll learn to re-evaluate that specific type of game. But I don’t see that happening for years.

Doomed Since 1889 (Part 1)

If there is one consistent in gaming, it’s that Nintendo is always doomed. Not in first place? Doomed. New system that could make them lose first place? Doomed. Game delayed? Doomed. Miyamoto stubbed his toe? Doomed. 500 wrong doomed predictions in a row? Well… don’t you think they’re due? Although I’m not an expert on what late 19th century Japanese cynics were saying about that flash in the pan Hanafuda company, I still have decades worth of Nintendoom to work with, so let’s look at some of the more memorable challenges that were definitely going to kill Nintendo this time.

Cause of Doom: Finding a direction
Time Period: 1950s and 60s

The Problem:

Nintendo enjoyed success as a maker of Hanafuda playing cards (even making the first Disney licensed merchandise in Japan), but it was a modest and localized success. When Hiroshi Yamauchi took over the company in 1949, he was determined to make it bigger and richer than it had been in the previous decades. Yamauchi set off on several completely unrelated ventures including instant rice, love hotels, and taxi cabs. As you can guess, none of those took off. Suffering a lack of direction and what seemed like unrealistic ambition on Yamauchi’s part, things weren’t looking good for Nintendo.

Chance of Actual Doom:

One of the highest of the scenarios. Nintendo had been around for the better part of a century at this point, but they were not the institution they are today. Yamauchi’s overreaching could have actually killed the company, it didn’t have huge cash reserves or globally recognized franchises from its Hanafuda days. And even if they were willing to go back to the old modest profits business model, could they really survive making playing cards in the late 20th century? If Nintendo hadn’t found the right industry, this genuinely could have been their end. Of course, barely anyone outside of Japan would be aware of them in the first place if it was.

What Really Happened:

Nintendo found a decent niche in electronic and mechanical toys, thanks to an employee named Gunpei Yokoi that Yamauchi took notice of. This and the invention of home video game consoles in the Magnavox Odyssey (which Nintendo distributed in Japan) led to Nintendo trying their hand at making their own video games. Yokoi turned out to be at least as skilled with video games as he was with mechanical toys and an artist named Shigeru Miyamoto was hired and assigned to make an arcade game. Donkey Kong was created and Nintendo as the world knows them was born.

Cause of Doom: Entering the North American console market
Time Period: 1985

The Problem:

Nintendo had become a successful creator of arcade games and launched a successful Japanese only console called the Famicom. Yamauchi was not satisfied with this level of success, and wanted control of the global console market. The problem, WAS there still a global console market? Things had gone disastrously wrong in North America, the mid-80s video game crash had forced most console manufactures out of the industry, and the market hated the entire idea of video game consoles. Yamauchi didn’t care, and was determined to release the Famicom in North America. Focus groups hated it and stores didn’t even want to stock it. Yamauchi was firm, the renamed Nintendo Entertainment System was going to launch in New York City in 1985, and on the entire continent in 1986.

Chance of Actual Doom:

Again, actually pretty high. Nintendo was investing a lot in their North American release of NES, and if they had failed it would have really hurt them. Nintendo was established in the video game industry, but not to the extent they would be in the future. If console gaming didn’t recover in North America then Nintendo could find themselves in a very vulnerable and niche position (even after taking over the NA market, NES didn’t do nearly as well in PAL territories). It’s hard to say what would have happened if NES had failed since video game history as we know it would be completely different, but Nintendo would certainly have been at a much bigger risk of going under.

What Really Happened:

I think everyone reading this knows. The Nintendo Entertainment System was a massive success and revived the North American console market stronger than it had ever been. Super Mario Bros. completely changed the way games were designed, and Nintendo became world famous and synonymous with video games. Video games as a whole can be neatly divided into before NES and after NES. Nintendo’s gamble paid off better than anyone could have hoped, and gaming is a much better place for it.

Cause of Doom: 16-bit competitors
Time Period: Late 80s/early 90s

The Problem:

NES had been a tremendous success and dominated the Japanese and North American video game markets to an extent not seen since. However, many were still convinced that video games, or at least Nintendo, were just a fad and that NES would crash just like Atari’s market. This obviously didn’t happen, but when NEC and Sega revealed their much more powerful systems and Nintendo’s wasn’t in sight, it seemed like Nintendo was about to become obsolete.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Nintendo actually dying at this point was not realistic. They had too much money and brand recognition to be completely pushed out of the market. Transitions between generations were still a pretty new thing, so the potential for a really big screw up was higher than in later gens, but with NES’ massive success the worst case realistic scenario was Nintendo losing their number one spot.

What Really Happened:

Nintendo of course had been planning a 16-bit system of their own all along. While waiting so long to reveal and release Super Nintendo was a mistake that gave Sega the edge for several years in the console wars, Nintendo ultimately won the generation battle and we got the glory that is SNES out of it. While this proved Nintendo wasn’t invincible, they certainly were not doomed. The 16-bit war demonstrated that even if Nintendo made mistakes, they were able to recover from them.

Cause of Doom: Playstation
Time Period: Mid to late 90s

The Problem:

After Nintendo’s hard won victory over Sega in the fourth generation console wars, they were feeling pretty confident. Perhaps too confident, they were going against the wishes of third party developers and making their new system, Nintendo 64, cartridge based instead of using the cheaper and much higher storage capacity CDs. They were also launching last once again, due to N64 being delayed. Sony had entered the console wars, but it wasn’t the Playstation itself that was such a threat to Nintendo. It was the fact that third parties were flocking to it, and almost overnight Nintendo went from having the most third party support to having the least.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Although the loss of third party support was a huge blow against Nintendo and did indeed cost them their market leader position, the chances of them actually dying weren’t terribly high. Nintendo’s first party games were as popular as ever, Super Mario 64 single-handedly gave N64 a huge amount of momentum right out of the starting gate. Game Boy was also there to supply Nintendo with money whenever they needed it. While certainly the biggest blow Nintendo had yet faced, fears of the company dying or being forced to abandon consoles were not well founded.

What Really Happened:

While it was never able to challenge PS1 in game quantity or market share from 1997 onward, Nintendo 64 had a comfortable slice of the market carved out for it, and Nintendo was still invincible in the portable sector as mentioned above. Nintendo did lose their position as the market leader and their third party support still hasn’t recovered, but they certainly were not doomed. And they at least got to show how self-sufficient they were, basically supporting Nintendo 64 by themselves for the entire generation.

As you probably know, there are plenty more times when Nintendo was apparently certain to die. Stay tuned for the next article when their portable is challenged, they give a console a name that the internet (*gasp*) makes fun of, and more.

Losing (Middle) Ground

If you’ve read quite any of my articles, you probably know by now that I often wax nostalgic in many of my articles, generally longing for what I consider to be gaming’s “golden age”: between the third (NES, Master System) and fifth (PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64) generations, with the obvious sweet spot in the fourth (TurboGrafx-16, Genesis, Super Nintendo). You might also recall an earlier article of mine where I outright said I considered the sixth generation to be a “dark age”. Still, thinking back on that article, there is one thing I have to admit I miss about the previous generation: the mid-tier game. What is the “mid-tier game”, you ask? I guess the best way to explain it would be to explain how it differs from other classifications of video games.

Of course, perhaps the most well-known style of game, at least these days, would be the AAA title: a game with a behemoth budget both in the game’s production and its marketing budget. The Call of Duties, the Halos, the God of Wars, that sort of thing. On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got the “downloadable game”: a smaller game at a smaller price point. Of course, by this point, simply calling them downloadable games is kind of a misnomer, as you can just download AAA games on consoles and PCs nowadays. Still, that’s the name they were given when they started popping up on consoles and I really don’t feel like coining a new term for it right now. After all, we’re talking about a totally different subject. Then, of course, you’ve got the indie game, which for the most part are just a subset of the aforementioned downloadable game, except it’s made by a developer without any help from a publisher. Well, unless a publisher decides to pick up the game and publish it. Sorry, going off-topic there again.

So, having defined other classes of video games, the question still remains: what is a mid-tier game? Well, in my opinion, it’s sort of a catch-all for any game that, while clearly not a triple-A title, it is also far too large to be viable as a downloadable game. If I had to give it a definition by price point, it would be a $40 game, compared to the $60 AAA game and the $5-20 downloadable/indie game. The “AA game”, another term I’ve heard used but never actually seen a proper example of, would probably fall into this category. I’ve also seen some people refer to them as “budget games”, likely due to the smaller sales price point in addition to the smaller budget involved in the game’s creation. That’s a nice and accurate term and all, but “budget” has a negative connotation: implying that the game is somehow inferior because they didn’t blow $200 million on animating hand signals or paying some celebrity to show up in the TV commercial. I’ll stick to “mid-tier”, thanks.

You’re probably asking why I feel the mid-tier game was important, if I can only define it in the most nebulous of terms. Simple: mid-tier games were safer to experiment with. Rather than giving an untested concept a massive budget to piss away when the game fails to sell, a new idea could be given less resources, sold for less and the concept could be properly tested, perhaps leading to a much more substantial sequel if the game manages to succeed on a significant degree. After all, that’s how gaming started: as a by and large experimental field, where extremely tiny dev teams (typically subsisting of one or two people) churned out several games in succession and from these less-reined titles, the building blocks of gaming were formed. While admittedly the mid-tier games of the recent past weren’t quite as important to the development of gaming’s future, they still played an interesting part in allowing new talent to surface and rise through the ranks.
Why am I defending the mid-tier game with such fervor, you ask? It’s simple, variety is always a good thing, especially when it comes to video games. This is pretty much an objective fact. Water is wet, grass is green and more variety is better than less. At the very least, there’s a better chance that you’ll find something you like. When it comes right down to it, having a vast selection of games that were, admittedly, cheaper to make, there’s a better chance you’ll find a great (or even just inventive) title compared to the bland focus-tested sludge that makes up a vast portion of the AAA market, especially these days. Sure, there were several mid-tier knockoffs of whatever the biggest-selling franchise at the moment was, but chances were, there were also other games that weren’t just rehashes of the flavor of the month. Obviously, there’s also the nostalgia factor: many of the games I loved growing up didn’t have the largest budgets or the most advanced graphics, but rather, they had solid or inventive gameplay. That’s really the most important thing when it comes to video games for me, back then and especially now.

I can only really think of a few examples of what I would consider to be mid-tier games. God Hand for PlayStation 2 is a pretty good example. On the surface, the game is hideous and it’s been said that it was released before Clover Studios was able to complete it, but it’s still an incredibly fun game with a hilarious storyline and serves as the missing link between the side-scrolling beat-’em-ups of yesteryear and the melee combat-based action games (Devil May Cry, God of War, etc.) that began to spring up in the sixth-gen and are still widespread to this day. Tim Schaffer’s Psychonauts is another good example, not only of a mid-tier game, but also of a mid-tier publisher: Majesco. Hell, last generation, established companies made their bread and butter from mid-tier releases. SNK Playmore comes quickly to mind, with console releases of both their classic (Art of Fighting Anthology, Metal Slug Anthology, the Fatal Fury Battle Archives games) and modern (King of Fighters XI, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum) arcade games.

This generation, we’ve seen a significant drop in the number of games that were full retail releases that weren’t classified as triple-A games or some kind of compilation of download-exclusive titles and this trend has only been increasing each year, with no signs of slowing down. The homogenization of the market looks like it might get even worse next generation, especially considering the fact that Nintendo has finally made the jump to high-definition graphics. But what exactly is causing the mid-tier well to dry up? While I praise the advent of downloadable games on consoles for reviving the ability to craft smaller experiences more in-tune with my admittedly more old-school tastes, this had the added side-effect of creating an even more perfect environment for experimental games than the mid-tier of old. Of course, that’s not the only thing killing the mid-tier market. AAA games are becoming more and more pervasive by the year, due in part to a sluggish economy and higher costs for game development than ever before. Add that to the fact that many video game publishers are publicly traded and investors typically value a minor short-term gain overall (over more significant long-term gains and even the continued health of the company they’re investing in) and it’s honestly no surprise that mainstream gaming has become such a wasteland of banal, formulated cashgrabs.

Frankly, I think it’s a shame that as the console industry exists today games can only exist in the form of an bloated paint-by-numbers AAA monstrosity or as some dinky little downloadable game (let’s face it, folks, nine times out of ten, whenever a major publisher decides to make anything in the downloadable range, it’s going to be small, overpriced and on the whole, unsatisfying). From a businessman’s perspective that kind of makes sense: AAA games are where the big bucks are at (when it comes to consoles anyway), and anything smaller simply isn’t worth dumping any significant amount of resources into. They’ve only now begun to drop their stigma of being wholly inferior to disc-based titles, due mostly to a flood of indie titles on both PSN and Nintendo’s eShop (let’s be fair, XBLIG really didn’t do anybody any favors). Still, without the mid-tier buffer, a massive divide has formed in gaming and if anything, it’s hurting the established publishers that can afford to make triple-A games more than anyone else. As they continue to keep up with the absolute apex of what today’s consoles (and doubly so, next generation), every game that doesn’t make back at least twice its own immense budget is considered a financial flop and another nail in the company’s coffin.

Perhaps mid-tier is dead for good, but the concept behind it is certainly important to keep around. Massive AAA budgets are draining most publishers dry, and that’s on top of the fact that HD development has crippled all but the largest companies. All it really takes is one or two AAA bombs to bankrupt a company, which just leads to a more fearful (and therefore conservative) industry, which is especially disappointing for any form of media. We saw games go from a nearly-uniform $50 price point in the PS2-era to mostly $60 (with a significant number of $40 titles as well) last gen, and yet we still hear from most publishers that the prices have to go up in order for them to even break even. Something’s got to give. Perhaps the success of indie games like Guacamelee! and the fact that all three first-party companies are beginning to support indie developers with the amount of fervor afforded to them only on PCs in the past will show the major publishers that not every single solitary game needs photo-realistic graphics and a massive marketing budget in order to deliver a worthwhile experience. Maybe the mid-tier renaissance will be a downloadable one, breaking down the current downloadable stigma with regards to console and handheld games and leading to an increase in satisfying experiences. All I know is that it needs to happen soon in order to prevent another industry-wide crash, we lost too many good publishers and developers last generation.

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.]

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!


…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.