Made To Be Broken

A few months back, I wrote a piece about how both my feelings of nostalgia and general malaise towards more recent generations have cropped into how I view the medium of video games as they move forward: that is, negatively. Needless to say, there are just certain trends that are making me feel burnt out and I somehow long for what I remember as gaming’s “Wild West” era. While I was conceiving the piece, I was persuaded to split it in half and the previous article dealt with the more loose and open nature of the console market in general, focusing on just how many companies tried to break into the video game market in an effort to revolutionize it, but ended up as “also-ran” footnotes in the ever-lengthening history of video games.

This time around, I’ll be focusing more on oddities within the games of this time period themselves – games that would clearly be indies if they were made today. Though for the most part, I’ll be focusing on various cultural shifts that happened during this time period, many of which have had reverberations that affect the medium to this day. Perhaps if some of these events hadn’t happened, video games as a whole would look completely different. Shifts that may very well have only happened due to the sheer fluidity of the format at the time they occurred, things that may have even been impossible if they happened today.

One of the reasons I decided to write these articles in the first place was due to a story I had read online that just amazed me. It involved the cult classic D, an avant-garde full-motion video adventure game released in 1995 on the 3DO, Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC – the latter has recently been re-released on Good Old Games. The game’s creator, the late Kenji Eno related a story to 1UP about the game’s development. He actually added the game’s story late in the game’s development and it involved cannibalism, a taboo subject in many parts of the world. In order to assure that the game was released uncensored, Eno submitted the game for approval late, sending a copy without the story segments. He then switched that copy with the full game, sending it to be printed out. I am just awed by this story: if anything like this were to happen today, the game would have likely have been recalled and every original copy would have likely have been destroyed.

Indeed, the entire landscape of the video game market changed back in 1993. Due to the controversial video game releases of Night Trap and Mortal Kombat, both in their full unaltered state on various Sega platforms, there was a congressional hearing over whether or not video games with “controversial content” should have been completely banned. That’s right, the United States Congress threatened to ban video games with violent or sexual content, not unlike Germany or Australia’s wide array of video game regulation. In the end, a compromise was made: the video game industry decided to self-regulate content and educate parents on the type of content the products they were selling contained, in order to allow them to make informed purchases of material they deemed appropriate for their children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was founded the following year in 1994. It was later joined by Japan’s Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) in 2002 and Pan European Game Information (PEGI) in 2003. In the end, this was probably a net positive overall, but what I find ironic about this was that Sega was putting ratings on their games before the ESRB was even established.

Night Trap and D were both what were referred to as “full-motion video” (commonly abbreviated as “FMV”) games, utilizing the then-cutting edge ability of CD-based consoles to create an entire video game experience using video clips. Typically, these games utilized live-action footage, thus creating “graphics” that trump even modern video games in terms of realism. Of course, this would generally come at the cost of complex gameplay experiences: gameplay was rarely more complex than the quick-time events we’ve seen in video games for generations. Of course, we’ve recently seen a resurgence in the genre, via indie developers. Though this time around, it would seem that the games made in the revival are less about providing graphical fidelity and more about creating “art” – scare quotes intended.

Of course, the existence of FMV games as a genre brings up another point. This may just be a matter of my own perception, but it seemed like there was a time when popular titles would lead into entirely new genres. I remember watching the “first-person shooter” genre blossom from the more derogatory “Doom clones”. Street Fighter II, while not the first fighting game, cemented various aspects of the 2D fighting game genre. These days, it seems like we never surpass the “clone” phase of this evolution: the closest we’ve gotten is the deluge of “crafting” games in the wake of Minecraft, but this generally just leads to games in existing genres adopting its unique elements.

Likewise, another thing I’d consider to be better in “the good ol’ days” would be the limitations put upon developers. In generations past, developers were generally only limited by whatever hardware they were developing for. This would generally lead to clever solutions to problems: arcade games would be entirely overhauled if they weren’t suitable for consoles, various perspective cheats would be used to create amazing graphical tricks and sometimes even entirely new hardware could be added to offset whatever limitations the systems in question had. Meanwhile, in the modern era, developers seem to have the exact opposite problem – an amazing amount of power to work with, but generally held back by the far more mundane problem of a lack of resources. Strict deadlines, a lack of manpower or finances: these are the major bottlenecks that plague today’s developers. In an era where it seems like we’re getting less and less for the same amount, it’s just sad to consider that we’re effectively being cheated out of the best possible games of this generation for such bland reasons.

In the end, perhaps the reason that video games as a medium feels far less elastic and much more deeply rooted in various traditions is due to the simple fact that they have a history now. Much like how early motion pictures were far more inventive than modern films, video games have gone through their own set of growing pains and settled on various frameworks. While adhesion to whatever institutions that have taken root in the industry are obviously not mandatory, they’ve effectively become a groove that the industry as a whole have settled into, effectively creating the landscape we know today.

SNES: 25 Years, 25 Games

Recently, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System turned 25 years old in North America. Generally considered one of the best all-time consoles, the SNES’s library boasts many amazing titles. So, inspired by a list made by the staff at Game Informer, here are multiple opinions on the top 25 Super Nintendo games of all-time. I asked two other people to give their thoughts, as well as supplying some of my own.

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10 Games I’d Like To See Re-Released #05: SNK

Man, I’ve been slacking off a bit lately. I intended to have this up by the first of the month, like I usually do, but because I slacked off on next month’s article – and I’ve decided to have the companion piece to that pushed back to next month – I ended up just relaxing and recharging, instead of writing this one. In terms of games I ended up achieving, I can’t really claim victory here, but I am incredibly happy to hear that the original Dead Rising is being re-released on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While this technically wouldn’t have made my list, considering it was a last-generation title, it’s good to see that it will no longer be tethered to the Xbox 360 permanently. In addition, both main iterations of Dead Rising 2 (the original and Off the Record) are also hitting PS4 and XB1 – both games were already released on PC. I was kind of hoping we’d also see re-releases of Case Zero and Case West – but DR1 was really what I was most looking forward to in terms of re-releases.

Since I’ve gone on hiatus with PC ports, I feel like I might as well do my bragging about it in here. At the start of July, I got hit with a bombshell I wasn’t really expecting: Aksys Games got the rights to bring Falcom’s Tokyo Xanadu to North America and to make matters even sweeter – they’re financing a PC port of the game on Steam. It’s unknown if it’ll be a direct port of the Vita version, or if it will also include content from Tokyo Xanadu eX+, the enhanced PS4 port, but regardless I am ecstatic for what this may mean for future Falcom releases on PC.

Before we get started with the list, let’s go over the rules I’ve been keeping when writing these articles. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox) and earlier. I’ve decided to focus on one company for each article, and because I live in North America, I’m not counting any international re-releases, so if anyone decides to be a smartass and tells me I can buy some of this stuff on Japan or Europe’s services, that’s not going to work for me. If I can’t buy it legitimately from America, I’m not counting it. I’ll also be discussing any potential improvements that could be made to these games, in the case that they would receive an HD re-release. To make things reasonable, I’ll also be avoiding games that saw re-releases on 7th generation and later consoles, through PlayStation Classics, Virtual Console or other similar services. Of course, more substantial re-releases than straight emulations would be ideal, but at least the games themselves are easy enough to obtain and play.

To celebrate the recent release of The King of Fighters XIV, I’ve decided to delve into the library of the newly-rechristened SNK. SNK has been starting to re-release some of their classic fighting games on PS4 with full online functionality, as well as some of their arcade classics on PC via Steam and the Humble Bundle. However, I am clearly a very greedy individual, so I just can’t get enough SNK classics. Here are 10 games I’m absolutely hoping they re-release sometime soon.

Crystalis (NES)

I bet you were expecting me to start with a fighting game, weren’t you? Well, Crystalis is perhaps the best Zelda game on the original NES, at least in terms of official releases. The unnamed protagonist awakens in a post-apocalyptic world, where science and technology have been abandoned for magic. In order to defeat the devious machinations of the Draygonia Empire, our hero must combine the powers of the four elemental swords: Wind, Fire, Water and Thunder in order to reform the legendary sword, Crystalis.

Potential Improvements: Considering how poorly done the later GBC remake was, I’d prefer it if they just kept this one as true to the original as possible. Just put this sucker on the Virtual Console on Wii U, 3DS and NX (if it continues the Virtual Console program). That’s pretty much the best we can do for it.

The King of Fighters 2003/NeoWave/XI/’94 Re-Bout (Arcade/PS2)

Admittedly, this is kind of overkill, but these are all great games and since they’re in the same series, why not? 2003 and XI were the first two games in the series’ third arc: commonly referred to as the “Tales of Ash” Saga; ’94 Re-Bout was a remake of the game that started it all, with enhanced graphics, playable bosses and the addition of Edit Mode; while NeoWave was just a pseudo-remake of 2002 made for the Atomiswave arcade hardware.

Potential Improvements: Online play is really the only thing I’d want for these re-releases. Graphical enhancements are optional, but would probably be appreciated by most people. Personally, I’d rather see bonus features like image galleries and sound tests.

SNK Gals’ Fighters (NGPC)

I was a huge fan of the NeoGeo Pocket Color back in the day. In fact, I actually owned one while it was still active in the United States and it really helped me to become the SNK fanboy I am today. To be honest though, a majority of the games SNK released on their slick little handheld were derivatives of arcade titles, with the most popular “original” titles being their crossover games with Capcom. However, there was at least one original fighting game IP on the NGPC I’d love to see re-emerge, even only as a re-release. SNK Gals’ Fighters was another crossover fighting game, this time taking various women fighters from games like King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown and Last Blade and put them into a more comedic setting not unlike Capcom’s Pocket Fighter. A fully realized sequel and/or remake of this game would be my true goal, but that seems unlikely without at least some kind of a re-release to gauge interest.

Potential Improvements: Online play, full stop. Everything else was at a point where it can’t really be improved, due to the small scale of the system it originated on.

Rage of the Dragons (Arcade)

This is probably the most legally murky of the choices on this list, Rage of the Dragons was a spiritual successor to the Double Dragon fighting game on NeoGeo, which was loosely based on the live-action movie adaptation. Playmore couldn’t get the rights to make an actual sequel, so instead they decided to create an homage: starring such original characters as James and William – the Lewis brothers and “Abubo”. All-in-all though, a solid tag fighter from the NeoGeo’s later days.

Potential Improvements: Once again, online play would be the most important thing for me. What would be really cool though, would be if they were able to work something out with Arc System Works (the current owner of the Double Dragon IP) to do a “Double Impact”-style release with the original DD fighting game. That game was great.

Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle (Arcade)

This is the point in the list where things start getting obscure. First up, we’ve got a fairly unknown duology of SNK arcade fighters. Savage Reign was generally considered a very forgettable fighting game, but its sequel, Kizuna Encounter, was a fairly solid game. The first tag-team fighting game SNK ever made, Kizuna significantly improved over its predecessor with a more interesting cast and improved gameplay engine. I’d mainly include Savage Reign just to show how far Kizuna came.

Potential Improvements: Online play, ‘nuff said. Including both the original arcade and arranged CD soundtracks would also be a nice gesture.

Aggressors of Dark Kombat (Arcade)

Another obscure game, fittingly made by ADK – the creators of World Heroes, who were later acquired by SNK – Aggressors of Dark Kombat is a unique fighting game compared to the majority of those that appeared on the NeoGeo. While some Fatal Fury games allowed characters to jump into the background and foreground, Aggressors allowed players to full-on walk in 3 dimensions, not unlike a beat-‘em-up like Final Fight, Streets of Rage or Sengoku. In addition, the game also utilized a similar control scheme to beat-‘em-ups: one button for attacks, one for grappling and one to jump. The game also featured the ability to grab and use weapons found throughout the battlefield (again, like most beat-‘em-ups). Matches consist of a single round, but both characters’ health bars have multiple layers, leading to long fights. The closest we’ve seen to a revival was the appearance of Kisarah Westfield in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum.

Potential Improvements: Online play is really the only recommendation I can think of, though honestly, this would probably do best in a collection with other ADK-developed titles, not unlike 2008’s Japan-exclusive compilation, ADK Tamashii for the PS2.

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (NGPC)

SNK’s non-fighting game releases are generally considered fairly obscure, but Dark Arms is probably the weirdest entry on my list. Based on the pre-NeoGeo lightgun shooter Beast Busters (which received a smartphone sequel a few years back), Dark Arms was a top-down action RPG-style game featuring a demon hunter who enters the spirit world in order to prevent an outbreak of monsters in the main world. Your mentor is the Master, a grim reaper-esque fighter who gives you a weapon, called the Catcher, which you can use to collect the souls of felled monsters in order to create an ultimate weapon: the titular Dark Arms. Probably one of the most unique titles on the NGPC, I’d love to see modern audience get the chance to play it.

Potential Improvements: To be honest, I’ve got nothing to add. A straight port of the original would be a great treat, especially as a budget title.

Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition (Arcade/PS1)­

The King of Fighters XIV isn’t SNK’s first foray into 3D graphics. They’ve actually been experimenting for quite some time. While most people argue that the KoF spinoff duology Maximum Impact was their best attempt, I was fond of an older title. Wild Ambition was effectively a remake of the original Fatal Fury, in the sense that MegaMan Powered Up was a remake of the original MegaMan: the basic plot remained the same, but there were some pretty extensive changes made – changes that no one really cares about since it’s not canon anyway. The roster’s been rearranged – with many of the old forgotten characters replaced with more popular ones from later iterations, like Mai Shirunai and Kim Kaphwan.

Potential Improvements: This isn’t going to surprise anyone, but online play is pretty much the only thing I’d add to this, especially if they use the PS1 version as a base.

Breakers Revenge (Arcade)

Probably the most obscure game on this list, Breakers Revenge was a revamp of a 1996 fighting game developed by Visco. The main reason it’s on the list is because it was exclusive to the arcades: there wasn’t a release on the AES or the NeoGeo CD, despite both platforms being active when it was released. I’m not sure exactly who owns the rights to this one, as Visco and SNK co-published it, but considering the fact that Visco’s currently making slot machines and flat screen TVs, I’d guess it would be easy enough for SNK to secure the rights.

Potential Improvements: I’m not even sure if I should continue writing this section, because it’s obvious just going to be online play. Although, honestly, I also wouldn’t mind seeing the original Breakers packed in as a bonus.

Samurai Shodown 64 & 64: Warrior’s Rage (Arcade)

Ever since SNK expressed interest in reviving some of their other old properties, one name has risen to the top of the list: Samurai Shodown. SNK’s #2 fighting game franchise – mostly due to the fact that until now, none of its characters appeared in a mainline King of Fighters game – Samurai Shodown has had a very successful run for the most part. The obvious choice of action would be to re-release the classic 2D games again. Unfortunately, considering the fact that Samurai Shodown Anthology, which contains every major release in the series, was released on the Wii and PSP, they’re still somewhat easy to get one’s hands on. So I’ve decided to ask for the next best thing: the lesser-known 3D releases for the Hyper NeoGeo 64. Samurai Shodown 64 and Warrior’s Rage told their own story, taking place after the second Samurai Shodown game. It also introducted the world to Asura and Shiki, two fairly popular characters that would later appear in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. Plus, no matter what, it can’t be as bad as Samurai Shodown Sen.

Potential Improvements: Online play would be my main request, but what would be really cool would be if they included the Samurai Shodown games from the NeoGeo Pocket Color, as they were scaled-down remakes of the 64 games. It would at least be interesting to have them compiled, at least for the sake of comparison.

Admittedly, it was harder to narrow this list down than it usually is. So my honorable mentions will be a little more in-depth than they usually are. First, we have Metal Slug Advance for the Game Boy Advance: one of the rarer spinoffs of the series, built from the ground up as a home gaming experience as opposed to the standard arcade run ‘n gun. Then there’s Buriki One, another Hyper NeoGeo 64 game. What appeals to me about B1 is its unique control scheme – buttons are used for movement, while the joystick is used to perform attacks and its tenuous connection to the Art of Fighting series. Finally, there’s The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood, another GBA game. It’s effectively the closest thing I’ll ever see to a King of Fighters R-3 and it’s a respectable game in its own right. I’d just love to see it get some more love.

Despite my overall love for SNK as a company, it was harder to make this list than I would have originally expected, but that’s mainly due to the fact that so many of the games I would’ve wanted received re-releases either during the seventh generation or even recently, with their latest round of re-releases on PS4 and Steam. Hopefully, some of the games on this list will be among SNK’s next choices when deciding which games to re-release in the future. By that token, let’s also hope that their classic slogan, “The Future is Now” is more literal than figurative.

Dark Horse Ensemble

I’m going to be completely honest here: lately, I’ve been feeling a little burnt out in some ways when it comes to modern gaming. Not enough to drop the habit entirely, as I did during the sixth generation, but the feelings of nostalgia I felt back then have bubbled back up to the surface, albeit for different reasons. Instead of the simple statement that “games back in the old games were, like, a billion times better!” (ah, the simplicity of adolescence!), these feelings are a bit more introspective. Instead, what I long for were the paradigm shifts of yore: when every electronics company tried to break into the video game console market, when big-name companies would actually publish the weird experimental games you only see as indies nowadays, back when computer games and video games were completely different things. Back when, at least from my perspective, video games were in their “wild west” period: an era where a plucky Hanafuda card company could break into the scene and take over the entire video game market, only to be toppled down the line by the company that brought us Betamax.

Originally, I was going to write a single article to attempt to flush out my nostalgia into something worthwhile. However, just due to how nebulous everything I’m talking about is and the fact that the original concept could only come across as a bitter rant from a nostalgic millennial, I was advised to split it into two articles instead. This time, we’ll be focusing on the hardware side of things – stay tuned for the software side of things sometime soon.

Since the sixth generation, the first-party gaming companies have been, shall we say, set in stone: Nintendo, which emerged all the way back during the third generation of gaming; Sony, which burst onto the scene during the fifth in an act of unbridled revenge on the former; and wacky PC company Microsoft sliding into the sixth generation, effectively taking over for the departing Sega. In previous generations, however, there were several pretenders to the throne – even back when people would have you believe there were even less choices. Now this article won’t be, by any means, comprehensive: instead, owing to the nostalgic origin of this piece, I’ll be writing about the systems I can remember most vividly.

First, let’s start with something a bit less obscure: the Sega Master System. Released in North America in 1986, the Master System was Sega’s first console released outside of Japan – it was known as the Mark III in its country of origin, being preceded by both the SG-1000 and the SG-1000 II, technically making it Sega’s third console overall. Now obviously, the Master System didn’t do such a great job breaking into the American market (as evidenced by the fact that what most people referred to as a “Sega” was generally the Genesis/MegaDrive), it did manage to break into a very profitable niche both in Europe and Latin America, especially Brazil. Regardless, the system sold well enough worldwide for Sega to continue tinkering with console hardware, before releasing their magnum opus: the aforementioned Genesis. While I personally had no experience with the Master System itself, it still manages to hold a special place in my heart: after all, the first video game system I ever owned was Sega’s Game Gear, which was effectively a portable (and significantly more popular) Master System.

Speaking of the Game Gear, here’s a fun fact: it wasn’t even the first handheld console to serve up games in color. Predating Sega’s slimmest handheld by two years in North America, The Atari Lynx was not only the first Atari system to be named after a wildcat, it was also surprisingly long-lived, being sold all the way into 1995. Cheaper and more power efficient than the Game Gear that would push it into obscurity, the Lynx’s Achilles’ heel was critical: it had an absolutely miniscule library of games, only managing to hit 75 official releases by the time the console was discontinued. That means that for its entire lifespan (from 1989 to 1995), the Lynx averaged roughly 12 and a half games a year. The main game I remember from the console was, bafflingly, a port of Ninja Gaiden III from the NES, though it had a respectable amount of ports, such as Robotron 2084, Ms. Pac-Man, Hard Drivin’, Pit Fighter, Double Dragon and bafflingly, the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden.

Another interesting factoid generally lost on most of us was the fact that the Sega Genesis was released in North America in August 1989, thus officially starting the fourth generation of video games for the Western hemisphere. Of course, many people would think that the Genesis would have to wait until the Super Nintendo was released in 1991 for some real competition, but you’d be wrong. The ultimate in also-rans, the TurboGrafx-16, released by Turbo Technologies Inc. (or TTI, for short), was released the same year as the Genesis in North America, but actually predated it in Japan: the MegaDrive was released in 1988, while the NEC’s PC-Engine (the TurboGrafx’s Japanese counterpart) was released the previous year. NEC’s little wonder console would also manage to beat Sega to many other milestones as well. The most notable of these would have to be the TurboGrafx-CD, released in North America in 1989, an add-on unit akin to the Sega CD. There was also 1992’s TurboDuo, which combined the CD into the base unit and beefed up the system specs as well. In addition, TTI (a joint venture of NEC and primary developer Hudson Soft) released the Super System Card by mail order, which upgraded existing TurboGrafx-CDs to the same specs as the TurboDuo.

Of course, perhaps the most amazing thing about the TurboGrafx-16 was its mascot: not platformer mascot Bonk (or PC Genjin, as he was known in Japan), I’m talking about Johnny Turbo. Truly a product of the halcyon age of the ‘90s, Johnny Turbo was the totally rad alter ego of computer expert Johnathan Brandstetter who fought against the evil alien overlords over at “FEKA” who were spreading lies about how the TurboDuo wasn’t the first CD-based game system on the market. Needless to say, the TurboGrafx-16 was generally considered a loser outside of its country of origin, mainly due to the fact that the base system was weaker than the Sega Genesis (which from our perspective, came out first) and that many of the best games the system had to offer were strictly Japan-only releases, leaving us with less recognizable games and some truly abysmal Western-developed releases. The ironic thing about this was that, in Japan, the MegaDrive was actually the third most popular system of its generation, effectively being trounced by the PC-Engine and its countless off-shoots.

However, perhaps the most incredible thing to come out of the TurboGrafx experiment was the TurboExpress. Released a whopping 4 years before Sega’s own portable Genesis the Nomad, the TurboExpress was a fully functional portable TurboGrafx-16 that could play all of the TG-16’s games. It also had a TV tuner, which allowed owners to transform the TurboExpress into a portable TV, much like the Game Gear had and even offered a link cable to allow for two-player play. In fact, a few TurboGrafx-16 games even had unique multiplayer modes for the TurboExpress.

Next up, we come to what was perhaps the biggest loser of any of the consoles I’ll be talking about in this article: the 3DO. Conceived by EA founder Trip Hawkins and developed by the aptly named 3DO company, the 3DO wasn’t so much a console as it was a series of specifications. Panasonic manufactured the first units back in 1993, but both Sanyo and GoldStar (later LG) would begin producing their own models in 1994. In essence, it was effectively the predecessor to Valve’s current model for its Steam Machines. The 3DO was a technological powerhouse back when it was initially released in 1993. Unfortunately, it was also launched at a whopping $699. Likewise, the game’s library generally consisted of some fairly unwieldy PC ports though there were a few gems on it. My main memory of the 3DO was playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo on it at a short-lived game shop near my house and I was literally blown away: my young mind was so impressed because while the Genesis and SNES couldn’t handle Super Turbo, this behemoth could! Unfortunately, developers never really adapted to the hardware and by the time both the PS1 and Saturn came out, the 3DO’s impressive technology had aged like an internet meme. It just couldn’t compete and bowed out entirely in 1996. 3DO did plan a successor, dubbed the M2, but eventually bowed out of the market and sold the concept to Panasonic who eventually abandoned their planned concept. The technology lived on in ATMs and coffee vending machines and Konami would also license its use to build an arcade board in the late 1990s.

Speaking of expensive powerhouses, what list would be complete without the NeoGeo Advanced Entertainment System. Now, while I’m sure most gamers are at least marginally aware of the NeoGeo Multi Video System, a proprietary arcade board built by SNK, substantially less should be familiar with its home console variant. Released in 1990 at a whopping $649.99, The NeoGeo AES was quite literally worth the price of admission, as it had the exact same specs and library as the MVS. Think about that, you could literally play arcade-perfect versions of arcade games from the comfort of your home at a mere $200 and without the hassle of trying to stash multiple arcade machines in your garage or basement. Of course, while the AES didn’t enjoy mainstream success, it did have a dedicated fanbase and an extremely long lifespan, with the last title being released in 2004. Then there’s the NeoGeo CD, released in 1994 at a much more reasonable $399, with games costing $50 apiece. Unfortunately, the NGCD was marred by extremely long load times, though the Japan-exclusive NeoGeo CDZ doubled its disc-read speed and its last game was released in 1999. The NeoGeo CD did have its fair share of exclusive titles however, the most well-known being Samurai Shodown RPG, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Last but not least, I’ll be talking about the also-ran that’s the closest to my heart. The one system on this list, I not only own, but owned while it was still alive and kicking. Despite relative success in the arcade and enthusiast gaming markets, SNK decided to branch out even further – into the handheld market. The Neo Geo Pocket was originally only released in Japan as a black-and-white handheld, but its successor, the Neo Geo Pocket Color saw a much wider release, including North America. A simple system to say the least, the NGPC was unique in many ways. It had the best selection of fighting games on a handheld EVER (yes, I’d say it’s even better than the Vita in that respect), but it also managed to push SNK out of their arcade-style comfort zone, allowing them to develop more refined gameplay experiences: classic turn-based RPGs like Card Fighters’ Clash and Biomotor Unitron, the turn-based strategy game Faselei!, the action RPG Dark Arms: Beast Busters 1999 and even third party support from Sega in the form of Sonic Pocket Adventure. Alas, when SNK closed down for the first time in 2000, the NGPC fell by the wayside, leaving several titles in limbo, including a revival of Ikari Warriors, a third game in the King of Fighters R series, NFL Blitz, Magician Lord and perhaps most heart-breaking of all to me, Windjammers. As an aside, ever since SNK announced that they’re looking through old IPs to revive in the near future, I’m personally hoping they consider giving another shot to ladies-only fighting game Gals’ Fighter, an NGPC original.

In the end, talking about these old failures scratched that nostalgic itch ever so lightly, which is kind of ironic. Back when they existed, I generally considered the majority of them as pathetic imitators attempting to encroach on the territory of “real video games”, but when I think back on them, they were just a part of what made the environment so exciting back then. After all, no one thought Sony was going to become a powerhouse during the fifth generation and everyone expected Microsoft to drop out after the initial Xbox’s lack of success, only for the 360 to best the PS3 for the majority of its lifespan. Lately though, the closest we’ve seen to these competitors of old have been Valve’s line of Steam Machines and the Ouya, the crowd-funded failure of an Android console. More depressing still, this was even more action than we saw in the previous two generations. For the reasons I’ve stated, I’m actually somewhat excited to see what happens with Fuze Entertainment’s Tomahawk F1, which was released in China back in June. I’ll be honest, I agree with the general consensus that it looks a bit lame, and yet, that’s the reason I’m excited for it. I’m getting the warm fuzzies of nostalgia for this thing because it almost looks like the modern-day equivalent of the Atari Jaguar. Of course, who knows? It could surprise us.

But Is It Art? – Street Fighter: The Movie (Arcade)

I’ve wanted to do another one of these articles for quite some time now. In fact, I really wanted to do another one right after finishing up the first one about Bubsy. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t think of any topics that I both considered interesting and had enough knowledge about. However, not too long ago, a friend of mine suggested I do a new one, as he was a fan of the first and challenged me to rack my brain for inspiration for a suitable topic. Somehow, challenging me to continue this series gave me the inspiration for a new topic in record time.

If you haven’t read the title of the article, the topic of this entry in the “But Is It Art?” series is Street Fighter: The Movie: …The Game. Specifically, the version released in arcades circa June 1995. Now this game (which from here on out, I’ll abbreviate as “SFTM”) is the pinnacle of willfully forgotten Street Fighter games: it lacks the historical significance of the original Street Fighter from 1987; there is no real (albeit misguided) demand for character original to this iteration to make reappearances in future titles, quite unlike the Street Fighter EX series (developed by ARIKA) and there’s definitely no call for the game to be re-released, due to the game having the infamous reputation of being the worst Street Fighter game of all-time – even when taking into account the hyperbole slung at the most recent Street Fighter V.

Yet, I still beg the question: is it art? Where most stream monsters see an abomination cobbled together by the hands of a worthless “baka gaijin” company from the 1990s, I see what may very well be the most brilliant movie-to-video game adaptation of all time! Consider this, SFTM’s arcade version was generally considered a poor conversion of the classic Street Fighter 2, but who among you would not claim the exact same of its source material: the ill-received, ironic cult classic that was 1994’s Street Fighter movie. Can one consider a game that truly embodies the essence of the film it was commissioned to represent really be considered a failure? As I argued that Bubsy was a parody of the original Sonic the Hedgehog before, I now argue that Incredible Technologies made the greatest video game adaption of a major motion picture in the history of both mediums.

First off, let’s look at Exhibit A: the mindset behind the movie’s creation itself. Steven E. de Souza, the movie’s director actually wanted to actively downplay the “supernatural” elements of the games in his film adaptation, citing that adherence to the source material was what made the Super Mario Bros. movie a critical flop. Considering the fact that the movie that provided the basis from this game decided to actively avoid elements from the source material, wouldn’t it be more accurate to equally avoid those elements when converting the inaccurate movie into its own video game? Indeed, the game would only be considered defective if you were looking at it as a straight replication of the Street Fighter II games –this was strictly not the case: the game was a tie-in for the movie, which took its own creative liberties.

Exhibit B is a little more esoteric, but hopefully all will be revealed by the end of this paragraph. During the production of the Street Fighter movie, Capcom put an extreme emphasis on nabbing famous action star Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the leading role of William F. Guile, to the extent where they used a majority of the film’s budget signing both him and Raúl Juliá. The majority of the film’s cast reprised their roles in the game, with the exception of Juliá, who was replaced by a stuntman due to his ailing health. Why do I bring this up? Simple, it is almost common knowledge at this point that the original plan for Mortal Kombat was to create a licensed video game based on van Damme’s 1992 film Universal Soldier. Midway counter-pitched a game focused on Van Damme himself instead, taking inspiration from his 1988 film Bloodsport. As we all know, those plans fell through, but Van Damme provided the inspiration for the character Johnny Cage. Considering the fact that at least in the West, Mortal Kombat was Street Fighter’s chief rival at the time, bragging about the fact that Capcom had succeeded where Midway had failed seems like an entirely plausible theory – though ironically, van Damme only managed to record four hours of motion capture for the game, the rest of the digital captures were provided by one of Van Damme’s stuntmen: Mark Stefanich.

Finally, there’s Exhibit C: the fact that the movie itself was a Western production, it would only make sense for the video game adaptation itself to take on some Western design philosophies, in order to better match the tone and style of the film itself. Unfortunately for the game itself, at this point, the majority of 2D fighting games were simply terrible clones of the Mortal Kombat series, many so bad I have a sinking suspicion they were intended more as parodies than copycats. Even Mortal Kombat’s chief Western rival, Killer Instinct, aped elements of the game including blood and dynamic finishing moves. In fact, Incredible Technologies, the game’s developer, was no strange to Mortal Kombat clones, having made two of their own: 1992’s Time Killers and 1994’s Blood Storm – which is likely the reason why Capcom recruited them to make their own digitized live-action fighting game (even though both games actually used sprites).

As an aside, I just find it kind of interesting that many people consider the home console game – which was an entirely different game from the arcade version, which never received a home port – to be the superior game, though both are generally disliked. The home version was just a dolled-up recycling of the engine for the classic Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Granted, the home version of SFTM did add some new elements, actually being the first time in a Street Fighter game where you could use “EX” special moves (referred to as “Super Special Moves” in-game), predating even Street Fighter III 2nd Impact. Likewise, the roster was changed to better resemble Super Turbo as well: Sawada was kept, as he was a replacement for Fei Long, but the four palette-swapped Bison Troopers were removed from the game and replaced with Blanka and Dee Jay. Interestingly enough, there was an unused ending for Blanka in the arcade version, implying that he may have at one point been considered as a playable character. Even more bizarre was the absence of both Dhalsim and T. Hawk from both versions, despite appearing in the movie itself. Regardless, though the home version is considered the superior version of the game, my preferences lie with the arcade version, because all-in-all, no matter how bad the game itself may have been, the conversion made for home consoles was just an inferior version of a game that was eventually made available for both of the consoles SFTM appeared on – via the first Street Fighter Collection, a two-disc set that included Super Street Fighter II, Super Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold.

Of course, the argument that could be made against this theory is pretty obvious: Incredible Technologies doesn’t exactly have the best track record, though they would eventually enjoy reasonable success with the Golden Tee series. Likewise, while you’re unlikely to find Time Killers and Blood Storm on anyone’s top 10 worst fighting games of all-time list, the memorable aspects of these two games were their gimmicks, not great gameplay. Considering the fact that Capcom worked with such abominable companies as Acclaim, U.S. Gold and my mortal enemy, Hi-Tech Expressions, it’s entirely possible that this was just a cynical cash grab at the hands of Capcom to try to win over fans of their chief fighting game rival for the least amount of money possible. Fun fact: Incredible Technologies also co-developed Ducktales: The Quest for Gold on various computer systems (not to be confused with Capcom’s NES and Game Boy titles). That was actually the only Ducktales game I ever played growing up. Maybe I’ll revive Repressious Memories and do an episode on it someday.

In the end, whether or not it was art, despite all the horrible things people have said about this game, it did some interesting things. Alongside the original Street Fighter Alpha (which came out the same month), it was one of the first Street Fighter games to expand on the Super Combo concept, allowing characters the chance to perform more than one. It gave some classic Street Fighter characters some brand new moves, most notably Guile’s Handcuffs, a reference to the infamous glitch from the original version of Street Fighter II. It was even unique to see a Capcom-published fighting game ape the concept of SNK’s desperation moves – special attacks only available to fighters when they lost a certain amount of health – though in this case, they were more like standard special moves than the super combo-esque moves more common in SNK’s version. There were also counter throws, the ability to interrupt blocks to perform special moves (not unlike an Alpha Counter) and SFTM Arcade even had the distinctive honor of being the first Capcom game to incorporate a “Tag Team” mode, predating X-Men vs. Street Fighter by over a year. Granted, this game’s Tag Mode was more like the 2-on-2 mode in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3: not allowing to switch characters on the fly, rather the second character would take the first’s place when they were defeated and the round would continue until both of one player’s characters were defeated.

Granted, I probably don’t have the best opinions with regards to the Street Fighter series in general. I don’t consider the first game to be an unplayable abomination, simply because my first experience with it was with a PC port so terrible, it made the original arcade version look like a gaming masterpiece. While most people fight over whether Super Turbo and Third Strike is the best game in the series, I personally tended to prefer the Alpha sub-series. So maybe considering Street Fighter: The Movie: The Arcade Game to be something of a work of art is just another one of those offbeat opinions I have.

What do you think? Was SFTM a brilliant commentary on its own flawed source material or a truly cynical fighting game built by committee to appeal to Capcom’s own pessimistic viewpoint of Mortal Kombat fans? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section.

10 Games I’d Like To See Re-Released #4: Namco Bandai

So after a bit of a hiatus, I feel like it’s time to bring back this old chestnut. On the plus side, since the last time I wrote one of these articles, I managed to score a victory: back in April, we saw the re-release of MegaMan Legends 2 on PSN as a PS1 classic. That means that the entire trilogy is now available to modern audiences. The first and second games in the series even managed to make the sales charts that month. Of course, that doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, like it would with PC ports, but who knows? Maybe more companies will raid their forgotten IPs in a way that will be beneficial to me and anyone else who wants to see the same missing games of yesteryear resurface.

Fourth verse, same as the first. Let’s go over the rules I’m using to make this series happen. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation (you know, the one that consisted of Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox) and earlier. I’ve decided to focus on one company for each article, and because I live in North America, I’m not counting any international re-releases, so if anyone decides to be a smartass and tells me I can buy some of this stuff on Japan or Europe’s services, well, that just doesn’t cut it for me. If I can’t buy it legitimately from America, I’m not counting it. I’ll also be discussing any potential improvements that could be made to these games, in cases where the games themselves would receive an HD re-release. To make things reasonable, I’ll also be avoiding games that saw re-releases on 7th generation and later consoles, via PlayStation Classics, Virtual Console or anything like that. Sure, more substantial re-releases than Sony’s and Nintendo’s emulations would be preferred, but they’re better than nothing.

This time, we’ll be looking at a company I generally love, but wouldn’t count among my favorites – Bandai Namco. Or is it Namco Bandai? Regardless, even when both companies were separate entities, they were both responsible for some great games, and unlike another merger that quickly comes to mind, they still manage to churn out many games I love. I must admit, Bandai Namco is actually fairly good when it comes to re-releasing games, so coming up with this list was a little difficult. Nevertheless, I’ve still got 10 games here that I’d love to see resurface in one form or another.

Soul Calibur III: Arcade Edition (Arcade)

I’m probably in a minority, because I personally believe that the last good game in the Soul series was Soul Calibur III. Unfortunately, the original PS2 release had some glitches and some balance issues. For some bizarre reason, the original version of the game hit PS2 and a later iteration was released in Arcade, with some additional content.

Potential Improvements: Obviously add in online multiplayer, as was done with the Online Edition of Soulcalibur II. Upgrade the graphics, so the game doesn’t look like a blurry pixelated mess on high-definition displays. I’d also try to include all of the content from both versions of the game.

Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (FC)

I’m a big fan of the Splatterhouse series, and while 2010’s reboot of the franchise included the other main entries in the series, this curiosity was left out of the mix. Wanpaku Graffiti was a self-aware parody of the Splatterhouse game with a cutesier super-deformed artstyle and the games’ infamous gore replaced with violence of a more slapstick variety.

Potential Improvements: Considering the game’s already in English, I’ve really got nothing to add. Maybe just make sure if it hits Virtual Console, it hits both platforms, instead of just one of them.

Fighting Layer (Arcade)

Has anyone ever wondered what happened to Allen Snider and Blair Dame after the first Street Fighter EX? Wonder no more, because many of them resurfaced in Fighting Layer, a 3D fighting game developed by Arika, the same company behind the SFEX games. A game strictly exclusive to the arcades, Fighting Layer was not so much a unique game, as it was simply quirky. In addition to the standard roster of 12 characters, some more original that others, the game’s single-player arcade ladder pitted players against several unique computer-only opponents, including a giant knight and a menagerie of deadly animals.

Potential Improvements: Same as I usually ask for with fighting games – a solid netcode and some way of improving graphical fidelity due to higher resolutions. The former’s obviously more important than the latter, though.

Soul Blade (PS1)

I know I don’t usually like to add more than one game from a single series to these lists, but I definitely think the forgotten first chapter of the Soul series deserves way more love. Known as “Soul Edge” in Arcades and the Japanese version, Soul Blade was a perfect blueprint for the series to come in a way that most first iterations of fighting games fail to be. It was also the first game in the series I played and what made me fall in love with the series in the first place.

Potential Improvements: Honestly, I’d be willing to take this one as-is if it shows up as a PS1 classic. Otherwise, same as usual – competent netcode, proper upscaling so the game doesn’t look worse than it always did. If they decide to go with the upgrade route, however, I would have to insist on keeping all of the extra goodies from the PS1 version.

The Outfoxies (Arcade)

Probably the most obscure game on my list, The Outfoxies is a unique game, which I actually encountered for the first time at my local arcade, Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL. The Outfoxies is a 2D arena-style combat game that has been compared more frequently to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. than traditional 2D fighting games. Players take on the role of 1 of 7 possible assassins, hired by the mysterious but talkative Mr. Acme. The characters include a wheelchair-bound professor, a pair of once-conjoined twins and even a chimpanzee in a top hat.

Potential Improvements: Online multiplayer is a must. The standard filters and an image gallery would be nice too.

Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil (PS2)

I have something of a weird relationship with the Klonoa series. My first actual exposure to it was playing the remake of the original game on the Wii, which I personally wasn’t a fan of. Seeing footage of the original version on PS1 made me interested again, so I decided to pick it up on PSN. Surprisingly, I liked that version way more than its “superior” remake, don’t ask me why. Having said that, I was perplexed to hear that the second game hadn’t been re-released as a PS2 classic, either on the PS3 or PS4. Clearly, if the first game warranted a re-release, then why not the second?

Potential Improvements: A straight PS2 classic re-release would be perfectly fine, though I guess with the PS4 version, that would require trophies. Nothing too ornate.

Starblade Alpha (PS1)

I’ll be honest, the only reason I’m remotely familiar with this game is because Namco used it as the loading screen mini-game in the PS2 version of Tekken 5. Regardless, it was a fun game and I was surprised to find that it was also released as its own individual game for the original PlayStation. An on-rails space shooter not unlike Star Wars Trilogy, Starblade may not have been the longest game but it’s still a pretty fun time-killer.

Potential Improvements: Again, I’d probably just make this a PS1 classic. If you were to do an enhanced port, I’d probably include both the original arcade version and the home conversion, for the sake of completion. It might be interesting to compare the two head-to-head.

Tail Concerto (PS1)

Another fairly obscure choice, Tail Concerto is generally best described as a MegaMan Legends-clone starring anthropomorphic animals. CyberConnect2’s premiere title, Tail Concerto was the first iteration of the Little Tail Bronx series, which even earned a spiritual successor/spin-off for the Nintendo DS, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter. The Little Tail Bronx series has a small cult following and a re-release of the game that started it all might spark more interest in the series. Unfortunately, the original North American release of this game was handled by Atlus USA, so it may be a hard sell. Then again, we did recently see a re-release of the original SNES version of Breath of Fire, a game developed by Capcom but translated and released in America by Squaresoft. So there may be a possibility.

Potential Improvements: A straight re-release as a PS1 classic seems like the best option. If Bandai Namco decides to port it to a new platform, I’d just upgrade the textures and provide a new translation – because I’m sure Atlus owns the rights to the original.

We Love Katamari (PS2)

I always found the Katamari Damacy games somewhat interesting. The minimalistic artstyle, the unique end-goal of collecting a giant ball of junk in order to create a star, the catchy soundtrack, it’s all good. Of course, the original Katamari Damacy is already available as a PS2 classic on PlayStation 3. Not so much for its direct sequel, We ♥ Katamari. Considering it was the last game with any involvement from the series’ creator Keita Takahashi, it seems like an important game to preserve.

Potential Improvements: Again, I’d probably just keep this a standard PS2 classic. If it got a proper re-release, I’d probably just want enhanced graphics to fit with the larger resolution and online options for the game’s multiplayer modes.

Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 & 2 (GBA)

These were the games that actually got me interested in the SRW series. A crossover mainstay in Japan, combining many giant robots from various pieces of Japanese media, the Super Robot Wars series has been active since the days of the original Famicom, across several platforms. The West got its first taste of the franchise in 2006, with the back-to-back releases of Banpresto’s first non-copyright laden attempt at the franchise, focusing entirely on Banpresto’s original characters from various games in the franchise, christened the “Banpresto Originals”. I picked up these games on the Game Boy Advance way back when and still own them. To this day, I’d still probably consider Super Robot Wars to be my favorite turn-based strategy series of all-time. Since then, we in the West haven’t been able to get any more releases in the series, but we have still managed to see cameos in the Project X Zone games that have made it westward.

Obviously, I’d prefer a full-on English release of the PS2 remake, Super Robot Wars: Original Generations, but considering the amount of legwork that would likely take, I wouldn’t mind just seeing the Game Boy Advance games we already saw released in English hit Virtual Console instead. Granted, this is another game in the hands of Atlus USA, so as with Tail Concerto (and on an unrelated topic, the original Guilty Gear), I’m sure this one has many hurdles to cross before any re-release could be obtained.

Potential Improvements: A straight re-release would probably be the best. Like, I said, an actual English release of the games’ extended remake would be amazing, but likely also prohibitively expensive.

This time, the honorable mentions are a bit unusual, since I had to use all of my more obvious choices on the list itself. I-Ninja, a 3D platformer for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube; the Rolling Thunder games, which appeared both in the Arcade and on the Sega Genesis; and both Ridge Racer Revolution and Rage Racer – two PS1 racers. Obviously, the real gems were on the list itself, but I think even these honorable mentions deserve a chance at new life. Hopefully, even more games will re-emerge from their slumber and find new life via digital distribution.

Spinoff Sideshow: The Zelda of Legend

I don’t know why, but it seems like I have this tendency to start new series on Retronaissance, and despite my efforts to continue them, it just never seems to pan out for me. At best, it seems like I just come up with new series that seem like new takes on older ones, almost like a spinoff. With that awkward segue, I bring you yet another series, which hopefully won’t meet the same fate as those others: Spinoff Sideshow – where I will be detailing potential spinoffs for existing video game franchises that just strike me as interesting.

Video games are one of those rare mediums where sequels generally have the potential to exceed their predecessors. Likewise, they have a tendency to be the rare genre where spinoffs can truly deliver a unique experience, as opposed to just being the same ol’-same ‘ol in a new locale or a weak vehicle for the breakout character of an existing property. Throughout my time gaming, I’ve seen my fair share of interesting spinoffs – games that do more than just regurgitate the standard formula and slap a new character on the front (granted, some of those are pretty good, like UmJammer Lammy or MegaMan & Bass). However, I personally prefer to see games that feel like a totally new experience, merely using the existing intellectual properties to make the sale. I’m talking about games like Luigi’s Mansion, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.

Our inaugural topic for this series? Well, people have been asking for an official Zelda-led Zelda title for quite some time now. Zelda’s playable appearance in Hyrule Warriors managed to stoke the flames of demand for that one and even Eiji Aonuma, current producer of the Zelda franchise, has expressed interest in such a title. I’ve seen some fan proposals for a game across the internet, most prominently one that turns my stomach by reducing Zelda to a gender-and-palette-swapped Link, stripping the character of her unique properties. Personally, I think I can do better than the others.

First of all, let’s consider the name. Since most people associate Link with the “Legend of Zelda” game, I’d avoid using it. Personally, I’d probably go for “Hyrule Historia” or “Legend of Hyrule”. Though if you want to make sure that Zelda’s name is in the title, we could go with “The Zelda of Legend”. I mean, it’s clever in a not-really clever way. I would personally go for a Hyrule-related name personally.

Now onto the real meat of this spinoff, the gameplay. The basic concept is simple – think of a traditional Zelda game with less of an emphasis on melee combat, focusing instead on slower, ranged combat and stealth. Obviously, the puzzles would also be kept, but Zelda would have a completely different moveset when compared to Link. While Link mostly utilizes on his Master Sword for combat, Zelda would instead mainly use light arrows (which are commonly associated with her) and other forms of magic. After all, we’ve seen Zelda cast various magic spells when acting as an NPC and in playable appearances in other games, such as Hyrule Warriors and especially the Super Smash Bros. games. For example, I could see using her Naryu’s Love attack from Smash to reflect projectiles back at enemies (a common strategy for taking down Zelda bosses) and Din’s Fire could be a potential replacement for bombs and the lantern.

My consideration for the most important aspect of Zelda’s arsenal is something that should be familiar to Zelda aficionados: transformations. After all, Zelda’s had more than her fair share of disguises in previous games, most of which gave her access to brand new powers and abilities. Now, the following examples are just that – examples – but hopefully, they’ll still provide some context. First, there’s the obvious pick, Zelda’s most famous alter-ego: Sheik, the stealthy Sheikah warrior. When disguised as Sheik, Zelda’s stealth abilities would increase and she’d be given access to new attacks. Another form that comes to mind would be Tetra from The Wind Waker, which would allow for direct melee combat, perhaps replacing magical skill for the cutlass and pistol she wielded in Hyrule Warriors Legends. The last concept I had for a transformation would be a monster transformation, not unlike how Zelda possessed a Phantom in Spirit Tracks. This ability would be entirely defensive, unable to attack, but in return, Zelda would be able to walk through dungeons without being attacked by monsters, even gaining the ability to talk to them not unlike the Power of Alter from Ys II, effectively adding a new dimension to the stealth gameplay I mentioned before – hiding in plain sight. This “Phantom” form would also be large, thus able to move certain objects, making it indispensable when it comes to solving specific puzzles.

As I said earlier, puzzles would be a key element for this game, to the extent where there would even be ways to obtain specific items or defeat enemies with little problem by utilizing certain items to solve puzzles. Likewise, the magic and transformations I mentioned earlier would count as dungeon items. Better yet, a Zelda-led spinoff could be the perfect opportunity to experiment with the standard Zelda items, modifying them to some extent. One of the ideas I came up with would be replacing the various effects of the Ocarina/Harp and various rods in the game with minor spells that could be found throughout the overworld map and dungeons, imbuing Zelda with control over fire and ice, the ability to fling herself into the air and to warp to various locations. Another idea would be to bring back old items that haven’t resurfaced in Zelda games in quite some time, like the Cane of Somaria, the Roc’s Cape or the Magnetic Gloves. Zelda could also utilize standard items in unique ways – for example, placing the Mirror Shield would allow Zelda to set up angled shots for her Light Arrows to hit a specific target placed at an angle she couldn’t hit directly. Finally, while I would like to keep Zelda’s standard form’s ability for melee combat limited to distinguish her from Link, I would also like to see the Rapier from Hyrule Warriors emerge in the game at some point, likely as a very-late game item, possibly even in the final dungeon.

Of course, one of the more important elements of the Zelda series with regards to its fanbase has been the story. I’d pretty much leave this blank for the most part, but in spite of the focus that has been placed upon the Zelda timelines, I feel like the stories work best when they come up with the storyline first and try to place in within the timeline later, as opposed to just trying to work a game into a specific point in a specific timeline. I guess this could be in the Adult Link timeline, you know, the one where the Hero of Time disappears? That’s my best guess off the top of my head.

I guess there are still two elephants in the room: what to do with Zelda’s most commonly recurring co-stars – Link and Ganon(dorf). I’m of two minds about Link. On one hand, leaving him out would probably be a far more suitable situation for Zelda taking charge in her own adventure. Likewise, this would also likely cement my suggestion for setting the game in “The Era Without a Hero”. On the other hand, it might be interesting to see Zelda react to a standard incarnation of Link, perhaps she could view him as her rival – not wanting to fall into the traditional role of damsel in distress her eponymous ancestors commonly fell into and instead choosing to save Hyrule all on her own. As for Ganondorf, personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a different final villain, especially one that could be original to Zelda’s story. Unfortunately, there’s the argument that could be made that saddling Zelda with anyone besides the Great King of Evil, pig demon or not, would likely delegitimize her adventures. I’d consider this a shame, but I can see the argument for making Ganon(dorf) the big bad.

As for the game’s style, for some reason I’ve always pictured this game as more of a 3D game, as you may have been able to guess by my write-up. Having said that, a 2D game could be interesting as well, though aside from A Link Between Worlds, those games have a reputation for being low-rate handheld titles when compared to the 3D games that commonly originate on consoles. Regarding a second quest, I mean that’s a Zelda staple, so it seems like it would be a perfect choice. Instead of just making it a mirrored hard mode, however, I’d like to see an alternate playable character. My personal pick would be Impa, though I’m sure there could be other worthy characters. Having said that, being a Zelda-centered game would be a good excuse to throw in a little fanservice – I know what you’re thinking I mean, but you’re wrong. I mean Nintendo should make the effort to throw in some popular side characters from earlier games into the setting of Zelda’s adventure, whether in the form of identical descendants/ancestors or just extremely similar counterparts.

I’ve always considered the idea of a Zelda-led game to be more interesting than the common request to just “make Link a girl”, due to the simple fact that Zelda’s unique ability set would lead to a far more interesting game in the interest of “promoting diversity” than simply giving Link a pair of X chromosomes ever could. I’ll be honest, the latter always struck me as lazy pandering. Hopefully, Nintendo decides to do a Zelda-led game at some point in the future, either as a fully-featured console title or even as an eShop pilot title which could lead to a full-fledged expansion in the future.

Top 10 Games I Want Ported FROM PC

In the past, I’ll admit, I’ve had a tendency to write articles that were simply thinly-veiled attempts at port-begging – one of the perceived cardinal sins of PC gamers in general. Eventually, I decided to branch out into asking that old and nearly-forgotten games be re-released on modern platforms, partially out of the revelation that begging for games on a single platform was completely self-serving, but equally important was the fact that I was just running low on material in general: hopefully that problem won’t end up rectifying itself.

Regardless, after those articles began to dry up, I considered multiple ways to keep the concept alive. While I’m happy with what I ended up deciding on, there were some other concepts I managed to kick around: one of them a simple enough concept – a complete reversal on the original idea, done up as an April Fools’ parody of one of those PC ports articles, done completely tongue-in-cheek, focusing on the idea that it was, in fact, the console gamers that were being deprived of games. As time went on, I began to feel that the joke article simultaneously came off as too bitter in tone and was far too interesting of an article to relegate to joke status. So while I still decided to release the article on April 1st, it’s now a legitimate article, detailing 10 games I feel console gamers should be allowed to play.

The rules for this article is somewhat different than the usual. This time, we’re looking at relatively recent PC games (let’s say, games that were released from 2006 – a decade ago, near the beginning of the seventh-generation of video game consoles) that have not appeared on consoles at the time this article was written. To make things a little more interesting, I’m also going to opine on which platforms the game would be best suited.
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You Just Might Get It

Over the past year, we have seen a significant uptake in confirmations for long-awaited titles with a significant amount of fan demand. Square Enix is finally making a full remake of Final Fantasy 7, Capcom is at work on a remake of Resident Evil 2, Yu Suzuki is finally free to work on the long-awaited Shenmue III and Sony even revived The Last Guardian, a project many had assumed dead (myself included). We’ve also seen Half-Life 3 listed on a Steam database leak that included many other titles which have since been confirmed. Even last month, there have been some rumblings from some very reliable sources that Nintendo may finally be releasing Mother 3 outside of Japan, which is what led me to reflect on all of these events in the first place. Is this the beginning of a new renaissance for video games or could this be the beginning of the end of the current era of video games?
Yes, I know that last bit seems a bit like hyperbole, but think about it: many of these titles have been the money shot for companies, the one big thing each publisher could offer that could bring even the most jaded ex-customers evangelize that their once-beloved company has made a complete return to form…assuming all goes according to plan. After all, this isn’t the first time that games once thought impossible or abandoned have resurfaced.
Exhibit A: Duke Nukem Forever. After languishing in development hell for over a decade, DNF finally managed to hit store shelves in 2011. It was met with mostly negative reactions: the gameplay had modernized the wrong aspects, while keeping outdated elements that could use updated; the game’s storyline and humor was considered immature and juvenile at best and downright offensive at worst and some have even claimed that the graphics in the final build look worse than some of the earlier unreleased builds. One of the best examples of the old idiom “be careful what you wish for”, the only things that came out of Duke Nukem Forever’s eventual release were the IP being doomed to being confined to one of the scummiest developers I’ve ever seen since I started playing video games and the fact that it acts as a perfect warning that any dream game can easily be turned into a nightmare given the proper circumstances.
Then again, Duke Nukem Forever was merely a sequel. I’ve pretty much always assumed that remakes are held with even more scrutiny than sequels. A few years back, I wrote that sequels generally had a rough time just due to fanbases never being able to agree on how much or how little a new iteration of a series should change from its predecessors. Yet no one would disagree that a game’s sequel should change at least something. Likewise, very few fans would bemoan borrowing any concepts from the game’s pedigree – unless there were complete shifts in the series’ history and even then, most fans generally have a good idea of what game to use as a base for future games in their series of choice. When dealing with pre-established material, the idea that anything should deviate from the source material is itself a heated topic for debate. Some believe that a remake should closely resemble the original game as much as possible, with the only real alterations being improved graphics and load times. Others believe that a remake is license to fully reimagine the original source material to the point where it becomes unrecognizable. Most gamers fall somewhere between these two extremes and unfortunately, there’s the rub: with an even broader spectrum to play with, there’s an even smaller chance that the developers can make a product that would satisfy the majority of the audience.
We’re already seeing that now with Final Fantasy 7 Remake. When the game was first announced, every fan of the PS1 classic was completely elated, especially after the cruel tease that the Steam port of the original PC version was being ported to PS4 in the first place. Eventually, information began trickling in. Fans were pleased with the early graphics and the exploratory gameplay impressed many. Then Square Enix revealed the battle system: not the Active Time Battle-flavored turn-based system the fans had grown up with, but rather something that looked significantly more real-time and action-oriented. From what I could see online, the fanbase was immediately divided: some kept open minds about the changes, with a few even stating that the new changes looked interesting; while others felt betrayed, saying that Square Enix had turned their backs on them. However, the worst was yet to come – Square Enix then announced that FF7 Remake would be episodic, that is, split into multiple games. The most positive response to that bombshell was cautious optimism, but the majority saw the decision with pure, unadulterated pessimism.
The way I see things, there are two distinct outcomes for these games and they all rely entirely on sales and fan response, critics be damned. The game either hits or exceeds its sales targets or fails to make them by a significant amount. Ironically enough, I’d consider failure to be the more beneficial outcome on these projects. Why, you may ask? It’s nothing against the projects themselves, but if the games themselves fail and the publishers didn’t sink all of their finances on development, then it should be easy enough to regroup and come up with a new project without the hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase resting on its shoulders.
Conversely, let’s say these games are runaway successes. I’ve only got one question for the publishers should that happen: okay, what’s next? Let’s face it, if these games end up succeeding, all these companies (aside from SEGA, I guess, since they’re pretty hands off with Shenmue III) will have blown their loads when it comes to fan service. After all, what do you do for an encore when the most anticipated title in your library finally gets released? Sure, there are definitely other long-awaited titles from many of these companies – the problem is, none of them have quite the same reach as the titles they’ve chosen. Take Square Enix: if FF7 Remake succeeds, then what else can they do? Kingdom Hearts III has already been announced, but it’s currently being held up by FFXV. After that sees release, there’s really nothing with as much appeal – some fans might ask for a remake of FFVI (trust me, I know at least one guy who’s begging for one); others might ask for Squenix to try their hands at another series, Chrono Trigger comes quickly to mind. The problem with any of these projects is that they lack the same consolidated fan response that FF7 Remake has.
Of course, this is all just one man’s opinion – and that man tends to be pessimistic and likes to find the cloud in every silver lining. Maybe I’m wrong to scrutinize the logic behind finally giving the fans what they want, without any potential thought into the repercussions that might have in the long run or at least consideration of what “the next big thing” would be. In fact, I honestly hope I’m wrong. I happen to like most of the companies that are putting their necks on the line and don’t want them to go the way of THQ, all for the sake of a pie in the sky release that has a snowball’s chance in Hell of reaching the immense expectations of a fanbase that’s been salivating over these releases for at least a decade in most cases.

10 Games I’d Like To See Re-Released #3: Square Enix

Time again for another one of those lists I concocted to fill the void left in my heart now that I lack enough contenders to do those PC ports lists. No complaints though, because this list is a lot more inclusive, considering these are games that no one outside of emulation junkies and retro game hoarders can get their hands on these days anyway. Better yet, it even affords me the chance to look into companies that I don’t constantly moon over. So, let’s start 2016 with a company I don’t usually discuss.

Before we get to that, let’s go over the rules I’m limiting myself to in this series once again. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation (PS2/Gamecube/Xbox) and earlier. I’ve decided to focus on one company for each article, and because I live in North America, I’m not counting any international re-releases, so don’t telling me something on my list got re-released in Japan. If I can’t buy it legitimately from America, I’m not counting it. I’ll also be discussing any potential improvements that could be made to these games, in cases where the games themselves would receive an HD re-release. To make things reasonable, I’ll also be avoiding games that saw re-releases on 7th generation and later consoles, via PlayStation Classics, Virtual Console or anything like that. Sure, more substantial re-releases than Sony’s and Nintendo’s emulations would be preferred, but it’s better than nothing.

This time around, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve picked Square Enix. You see, before they converged into an unstoppable onslaught of Final Fantasys, Dragon Quests and Kingdom Hearts spinoffs – with the occasional Eidos title, for variety – Square Enix was, in fact, two separate companies: Squaresoft and Enix. Proof positive that not everything is greater than the sum of its parts: while I have nothing but disdain for the direction modern Square Enix has taken, both Square and Enix were responsible for many games that I love to this day.

Brave Fencer Musashi (PS1)

While most people only remember Square’s many turn-based RPGs, they were also responsible for some great action-RPGs as well. One of my favorites would have to be the PS1 classic Brave Fencer Musashi, due to its colorful world and unique cast of characters (one of the bosses is a friggin’ rhythm minigame – cool, right?). To add insult to injury, this game’s already available on PSN in Japan. Get used to hearing that, because it’s going to become a theme.

Potential Improvements: Honestly, if that upcoming Steam port of Final Fantasy 9 lives up to the hype, I’d love to see a similar treatment for Brave Fencer Musashi. Enhanced graphics would be great, achievements would be nice, anything else is appreciated but not necessary.

Einhänder (PS1)

Another thing old-school Square did that Square Enix doesn’t do is experiment in genres that they’re not known for. Case in point: Einhänder – one of the best shmups of the fifth generation, bar none. Combining solid 2D gameplay with high-quality (for the time) 3D graphics, which allowed for some dynamic transitions. Again, Japan saw a PSN re-release while North America was left in the cold.

Potential Improvements: In addition to enhanced graphics and achievements, I’ve heard that the North American version of Einhänder was modified significantly from the original Japanese. I’d prefer the original version if I had to choose, but it would be really cool if the features from both versions were present in any overhaul.

Bust-A-Groove 1 & 2 (PS1)

I loved rhythm games back in the PS1 days. PaRappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy and Dance Dance Revolution were great, but the Bust-A-Groove games from Enix took things to a whole new level. Focusing more on competition than just following the beat, the BAG games were unique when they were released and I still consider them among the best the genre has to offer. Unlike the previous two games, these games haven’t seen re-releases in any region, possibly due to copyright issues with the game’s soundtrack – an important element in any rhythm game.

Potential Improvements: Enhanced graphics would be nice, but what would really sell me on this one would be the inclusion of both the English and Japanese soundtracks this time around. Online multiplayer is also a must.

Tobal No. 1 & Tobal 2 (PS1)

I told you the Squaresoft of old had some amazing genre diversity, case in point – the Tobal games. Developed by Dream Factory, the first game boasted character designs from Akira Toriyama himself. In addition to its solid 3D fighting game mechanics, the Tobal games boasted a unique “Quest” mode: tweaking the game into an action-RPG with multiple dungeons to explore. I never actually got to play Tobal 2, considering it only saw release in Japan, but it apparently boasts a roster of 200 playable characters – a feat that hasn’t been seen before or matched since.

Potential Improvements: Enhanced graphics, online multiplayer and achievements would be nice. Seeing Tobal 2 receive an English translation would be great.

Bushido Blade 1 & 2 (PS1)

Unique for their time, the Bushido Blade games took fighting game conventions and turned them on their head. No life bar, no time limit, just two combatants and their weapons of choice. Bushido Blade was unique because most hits would immediately end the match in death, but fighters could also choose to simply wound their opponents with the game’s “Body Damage System” – for example, crippling an opponent’s legs would force them to crawl.

Potential Improvements: Online play would be a must for these games. Enhanced graphics would be nice too, as well as the inclusion of the blood added to the North American version (though the option to revert it to the yellow flash from the original Japanese version would please everyone).

E.V.O.: Search for Eden (SNES)

I don’t even know how to categorize this game, but I still enjoy it. E.V.O. puts you in the role of a creature of their own design through various periods of Earth’s development from the Cambrian Period all the way to the Quaternary period. It’s really hard to describe, somewhere between a simulation game and an action-RPG, where you kill weaker creatures in order to evolve into stronger forms. Truly unique for its time, it’s a shame the game didn’t get more exposure – both when it was new and even to this day.

Potential Improvements: I can’t really think of much to improve if this were to receive a release on something besides Virtual Console. The best I can really think of would be to include a translated version of 46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron, an earlier game for the NRC PC-98, which was effectively E.V.O.’s prequel. A turn-based RPG, it would be interesting and somewhat poetic to see E.V.O.’s roots released in English for the first time.

Mischief Makers (N64)

This game’s something of a white whale for me – a Treasure game that received no re-release, with no licenses preventing a re-release and on a system that’s notoriously difficult to emulate properly. Players are thrust into the role of robot maid Marina as she attempts to rescue her imperiled creator Professor Theo. Marina can attack her foes by grabbing objects and shaking them in order to rob enemies of their gems (the collectable du jour) or other items.

Potential Improvements: Graphical enhancements would be nice and if this were a port to other platforms, I’d love to see the controls modified slightly – the N64’s controller led to some weird layouts.

Ehrgeiz (PS1)

Before there was Dissidia, there was Ehrgeiz. Another Dream Factory fighting game, Ehrgeiz was originally published by Namco when it was in arcades. Square took over when the game hit the original PlayStation and it shows: several Final Fantasy 7 characters were made playable in the game – Cloud and Tifa were unlockable in the Arcade version and Sephiroth, Yuffie, Vincent, and even Zack were added to the console version. Ehrgeiz was almost like a prototype of Power Stone, with arena-style combat and the ability to use objects throughout the stage as weapons.

Potential Improvements: Online play is definitely needed for sure, graphical enhancements would be nice and the inclusion of the complete roster is a must-have.

The Bouncer (PS2)

I’ll be honest with you, The Bouncer was one of the games I most anticipated when the PlayStation 2 launched, but poor review scores kept me away. Looking back at it, it still looks like a very interesting game, especially considering it was one of the few early attempts at beat-‘em-ups in the 6th generation, before their eventual evolution into modern action games.

Potential Improvements: I guess ideally, if this game were to come back, I’d like to see a full overhaul of the game, incorporating all of the features that were dropped from early trailers. Aside from that, I’d be fine with upscaled graphics and online functionality of the game’s multiplayer mode.

Soul Blazer/Illusion of Gaia/Terranigma (SNES)

As odd as it sounds, these three games are all related, so I’ve grouped them together as their fans are wont to do. Collectively referred to as the “Soul Blazer series”, the “Gaia trilogy” or the “Quintet Heaven and Earth Trilogy” among other names, all three of these games were developed by Quintet, the team behind the much-acclaimed ActRaiser. These three games were loosely connected action-RPGs, and while Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia were both released in North America, Terranigma was not so lucky.

Potential Improvements: Aside from making sure that Terranigma is running at NTSC speeds with the English translation, I can’t really think of anything specific I would want besides perfect ports.

Just a few honorable mentions this time around: Drakengard 1 & 2, the Wonder Project J duology (with an official English translation) and Rad Racer. This time around, quite a few games have been blocked by regional issues, which is a damn shame. Writing these lists is honestly more fun when it’s difficult to fill the entire list, Sega and Capcom had several games I want re-released, but most of Square Enix’s good stuff is buried deep in their back catalog, forgotten by far too many people.