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.

But Is It Art? – Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

I’ll be honest with you: the concept for this article came to me awhile back, when I challenged KI to beat Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the NES. The game is notoriously bad, largely due to the fact that the only reason most people know about it due to the Angry Video Game Nerd’s videos on it. Still, while watching him play it, eventually the game began to almost make sense to me. This led me to speculate: if this game had been released in a different time, at a different price point, would it have been considered as bad as it is? The game’s mechanics, attempting to reach the end of each level as Dr. Jekyll and trying to regain your sanity when the stress (damage) of being Jekyll turns you into the more aggressive Mr. Hyde. For its time, the game was certainly bad, but the concept struck me as sound, much more interesting than many art games we see today.

So what is the point of this article? Simply put, I’m going to be reexamining games that are generally considered to be horrible under an artistic lens. Are these games actually terrible or was the thin veneer of bad gameplay simply hiding a much broader message? After all, most art is considered inexplicable to the mainstream and a majority of games today that are classified as art are simply pretentious, all subverting the traditional form of video games in similar ways. Even more interesting, there are those out there that consider video games to be an art form all its own. From that stance, would even those games generally considered bad be art?

Today’s topic is Bubsy, specifically the first game in the series – Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. Bubsy is somewhat infamous on the internet, generally considered the worst of the Sonic imitators that flooded the market during the early-to-mid 1990s. There were worse knockoffs: Awesome Possum springs to mind. Bubsy’s claim to infamy, however, was the fact that he had more games than any other terrible knockoff of its time. Worst of all, Bubsy’s last game – Bubsy 3D in: “Furbitten Planet” – is generally considered one of the worst video games of all-time.

The early Bubsy games are generally considered poorly-made knockoffs of Sonic the Hedgehog. When I look at them, however, I think they’re a little too poorly-made in some respects. Perhaps this is just madness brought on by playing Bubsy via the Steam re-release Bubsy Two-Fur, but some of the design choices in the original game just seemed too purposefully misguided to attribute to sheer incompetence. This has led me to consider the possibility that Bubsy wasn’t simply intended to be just another competitor in the imitation “anthropomorphic animal mascot platformer” race to the bottom. Could Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind instead be a shallow stealth parody of Sonic the Hedgehog?

Let’s take a look at Exhibit A: both Sonic and Bubsy run at incredibly fast speeds. In Sonic’s case, it’s pretty obvious. At this point, there is a not at all insignificant faction of the Sonic fandom that consider anything but mindless high-speed exercises in holding right to win to be a bastardization of the series’ concept (It actually makes me wonder if they played the original games in the first place). Nevertheless, high speed action played a significant role in Sonic’s development and in differentiating him from Mario. For Bubsy, however, the fast speed was more of a detriment to the overall concept. Bubsy’s controls were slippery, the camera moved at a much slower rate and the level design was actually more evocative of the Mario games. In the end, running at fast speeds in Bubsy would pretty much kill anyone without a purrfect memory of the stage layout and clawsome reflexes.

That brings me to my next point, Exhibit B. Anyone who’s ever actually played Bubsy will tell you that he typifies the one-hit wonder mechanic in video games. Bubsy is extremely furagile, considering he can be killed by cheese wheels, eggs and falling from great heights (in a platformer, no less!). To make matters worse, the yarn balls (Bubsy’s take on collectables) are entirely useless, to the extent where they don’t even give you extra lives when you collect enough of them (despite what the game’s manual tells you). Think about it though, if you took away Sonic’s rings, he’d also be a one-hit wonder. I can recall a particularly traumatic segment in the first Sonic game I ever owned – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear – where I was flung into a boss battle with no rings and a child’s mind, believing that the only way to beat a boss would be to hit it and not, you know, just wait for the boss fight to finish itself while dodging bombs.

Of course, there’s more to this parody theory than mere gameplay mechanics. Even Bubsy’s attitude seems fairly familiar to anyone even remotely familiar with Sonic’s peripheral media, especially the cartoons from the 1990s: every other sentence out of Sonic’s earliest animated incarnations (all provided by Jaleel White, better known as Steve Urkel) was some watered-down kid-friendly take on the “attitude” that was prevalent in the mid ‘90s. Bubsy mainly kept his wisecracks to assorted puns and generally invoked a more Looney Tunes-inspired attitude. Meanwhile, the actual Sonic the Hedgehog, the one in the video games, also embodied the same rude ‘tude that was so prevalent at this point in time. The difference is in the way Sonic presents his attitude – through snarky pantomimes and gestures, non-verbally depicting his displeasure with being forced to stand still. In other words, if Bubsy was meant to emulate Looney Tunes characters, then Sonic was paying homage to cartoons of the silent era, Felix the Cat specifically springs to mind.

My last bit of evidence is tenuous at best, but it’s still interesting in retrospect. Both the original Bubsy and Sonic have similar stage breakdowns. Each themed area (classified as a “zone” in Sonic jargon) has 3 levels (“acts”) with a boss fight at the end of the third level/act. Another interesting similarity is that the final level in both games is generally considered its own area – though Final Zone borrows a lot of its aesthetic from the preceding Scrap Brain Zone and consists of a short corridor and the game’s final showdown with Dr. Robotnik.

Of course, most people would probably say that I’m just looking too deep into connections that really aren’t there. That I’m attempting to salvage a game that is generally considered abominable when in reality, it’s just mediocre at best. Obviously, even if Bubsy were poorly constructed on purpose, that’s really no excuse for such a thing. Another think that must be taken into account is that the post-revival video game market was still fairly young by the time Bubsy first hit video screens. Is it really reasonable to conceive that someone could come up with something as avant-garde as a parody of a recent mega-hit in a day and age where every video game had to sell at a minimum of $50?

Regardless, I feel like Bubsy’s status as a terrible game is generally overstated. Aside from Bubsy 3D (which is definitely an abomination), Bubsy’s games were more mediocre than anything. Spotty controls, bizarre level design and most prominently, an annoying purrotagonist may be strikes against the game, but it’s not necessarily unique to gaming’s most despised bobcat. All the same, looking at maligned games from a different perspective was fun – perhaps there will be a sequel to this article down the line.

What do you think? Is Bubsy actually the smartest video game parody of the 16-bit era or am I off my rocker? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

 

Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2016

SNES Master KI

It’s time for another top ten most anticipated games list. 2015 didn’t turn out to be as good for games as I was hoping, and the primary reason for that was delays, so I’m doing things a little differently for this list. The jumped guns from my 2015 list are too numerous and prominent to just exclude, so I’m just going to ignore that list, even if it means some repetition. There’s still new stuff to say about the games, after all. 2016 looks even better than the pre-delays 2015, so let’s get to the list!

10: Pokken Tournament

A Pokemon fighter is long overdue, and one will arrive on Wii U in 2016. I’ve honestly lost track of what year it was when we first saw that teaser clip of an unidentified Pokemon game, but the long journey to a home system is almost over. Despite how obvious it was, I still breathed a sigh of relief when it was confirmed that Pokken Tournament would indeed get a home release. Wii U can definitely use a new fighter, and I’m looking forward to see what kind of bonuses we’ll get in the home version.

9: Ratchet and Clank (PS4)

I love platformers, I’ve made that very clear in my writing. While it feels like most retail platformers we could get in 2016 are in that vapor realm where they aren’t confirmed enough to make it to this list (Sonic’s anniversary game, Mario’s new concept 2D platformer and next 3D platformer), we do have Ratchet and Clank. A reboot of the series, the footage shown so far gives me hope that it will feel like a platformer, and it’s about time PS4 got one of its own (no I don’t remember Knack, and neither do you). Let’s hope it does well enough to give Jak and Sly another chance as well.

8: Ace Attorney 6

Being so story driven, I do no research about Ace Attorney games before playing them, so it’s hard to talk about this one. Regardless, I am very glad that it was confirmed for western release as soon as the game was announced, and I’m hoping the new setting will combat some of the predictability factor that hurt AA5 for me. Not much else to say, at least from me, but very much looking forward to this game.

7: Doom (2016)

I had a revelation during 2015: I love old style first person shooters. I played several Doom games for the first time, and was very happy to see that a new one with a simultaneous console release was already announced. Doom 2016 looks to have more of the fast paced action of the 90s games with some console style conveniences, which sounds great to me. A few years ago this series making my list never would have crossed my mind, but my horizons have been expanded and I can only hope Doom 2016 sparks a revival of FPSes with more enemy variety than “guys with different types of guns!”

6: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

This made Honorable Mention last year, with me saying that if Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was as big of an improvement as I had heard, it would have placed higher. Well, Pirate’s Curse was better than I had ever imagined, becoming my favorite WayForward game of all time by a clear margin. So naturally, Half-Genie Hero is much more anticipated by me this year. A sequel that fixes Pirate’s Curse’s only flaw (graphics that were incredibly pixelated in HD) is just what I want, so let’s hope that Half-Genie Hero finally makes it out in 2016.

5: Street Fighter V

It will have been seven years since Street Fighter IV came to consoles when SFV comes out, and somehow this is FASTER than we’re used to for the series. Regardless, Street Fighter V seems to be doing everything right, from the free DLC characters to cross-play that will make things a lot easier for S-Rank. I haven’t been following this game as closely as some people I know, but Ryu will be waiting for me and I’m sure I’ll be able to jump right in and start fighting for the honor of D-Pads and consoles. I just hope I have some idea what the hell is happening in the endings this time.

4: Nier: Automata

This was probably the biggest pleasant shock for me in 2015’s gaming scene. I never expected Nier to get a sequel, and if I somehow did I sure as hell wouldn’t have expected Platinum to help make it. I loved Nier, I love Platinum, this is a match made in Heaven, or possibly a frozen hell. If you didn’t play Nier, it had some of the best RPG real-time combat I had ever seen and an amazing amount of gameplay variety. The combat had a similar feel to pure action games, so Platinum actually making it should make it truly amazing. Square-Enix had a great 2015, but this game is my favorite thing they announced all year.

3: Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam

If there’s a bright side to this game coming out late in NA, it’s that I’ll have Xenoblade X finished before I get this. Oh, and it also means it gets to make one of these lists. I loved Dream Team, and it sounds like Paper Jam is going to fix all the problems with it. More of the great level design and my favorite turn based combat system of all time, with better writing and skippable tutorials? Paper Jam sounds perfect, and you know which Mario and Luigi game it is? The fifth. It looks like my lucky number will come through again (even after 2005 and 2015 kind of shook my faith in it). And I couldn’t do this write-up with referencing paper jam Dipper. Akefhgkjfdgbnk!

2: Star Fox Zero

Yep, the top two (oh come on, you knew what number 1 was as soon as I said I wasn’t disqualifying games that were on last year’s list) are the same as last year. But after the tantrum thrown by people who don’t understand that Nintendo games always look much worse at their reveal than they actually will be, this game still needs love. Platinum is probably my favorite non-Nintendo developer right now, so Platinum and Nintendo working together on this game is pretty freaking awesome. After nearly 20 years of struggling, we are long, long overdue for an action-packed direct sequel to Star Fox 64, and it looks like that’s exactly what we’ll get in April. Never give up, trust your instincts, Nintendo franchises always strike back.

1: The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

We don’t know much more about this game than we did a year ago, but dammit, what we know is still enough to get me hyped. A Zelda with a huge but more importantly FILLED open world sounds great, but that honestly isn’t why I’m excited for this game. I’m excited for this game because I trust the series and developer, and I don’t see why so many people regard that as a bad thing. Aside from a few games that ironically seem to have been rushed to make sure Zelda Wii U didn’t have to be, Nintendo’s quality level has been extremely high in the past few years, and I see no reason not to expect fantastic things from this game. We’ll probably have to wait two and a half years between this game’s announcement and release, but none of that will matter once we finally have it in our hands.

Honorable Mentions

Uncharted 4

I still have some resentment towards this series for replacing Jak, but my true spite is reserved for The Last of Us. I enjoyed the PS3 Uncharted games, and if Uncharted 4 takes some cues from the current Tomb Raiders, it should be the best one yet.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

I love Twilight Princess, the only flaw is that combat is too easy. Just add a hard mode (which most Zeldas have now) and make sure to keep the Wii remote option, and things are perfect.

Final Fantasy XV

Haven’t been following this that closely, but if it has a good combat system and Square-Enix is as redeemed as they appear, this should be a great game. Not much else to say, really.

Shellshock

2015 was a very strange year for video games, and it didn’t leave me with a lot to offer. The games that did come out in 2015 that I’ve played were great, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Now that 2015 is about to end, let’s talk about 2016 and what it has to offer. There’s a lot of games coming out that I’m anticipating; some of them are games that were delayed, and others were announced within the year. Here are my top 10 most anticipated games of 2016.

10. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Developer: WayForward Studios
Publisher: WayForward Studios
Platform(s): PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, XBOX 360, XBOX One
Release Date: Early 2016

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was originally targeted for 2014, but the game had constant delays due to the extra Stretch Goals that were added. Once again, it makes my list, as I have been playing the Shantae series (sans Pirate’s Curse, which I intend to play at some point). Even though it’s coming to multiple platforms, I will be picking up the Wii U version.

9. Yooka-Laylee

Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team 17
Platform(s): Wii U, Playstation 4, XBOX One, PC
Release Date: October 2016

I grew up playing Rare’s 3D Platformers on the Nintendo 64, and I enjoyed most of them (mostly the Banjo-Kazooie series). However, I’ve lost interest in Rare soon after Microsoft bought them out, thus ending their partnership with Nintendo. After playing Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts on the XBOX 360, I was disgusted with what they did with the series, and thought to myself that Banjo-Kazooie is dead. Needless to say, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

Playtonic games is a company made up of former Rare staff members, especially most of the key members who worked on the original Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie games in many ways, but it also has elements from other games, such as Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64. I’m really looking forward to this game, as I would love to help keep the spirit of the old Rare alive!

8. Mighty No. 9

Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates, Abstraction Games (3DS/Vita)
Publisher: Comcept (Digital), Deep Silver (Retail)
Platform(s): Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Vita, XBOX One, XBOX 360, PC
Release Date: February 9, 2016 (Retail), February 12, 2016 (Digital)

Another repeat offender on my list, as this game keeps getting delayed over time. Thankfully, there is a guaranteed release date, as it’s going to be released on February 9th in Retail, and February 12th digitally across all platforms. Now as far as this game goes, I’m still excited for it, and anything that plays like Mega Man and the Mega Man X series makes me happy.

7. Street Fighter V

Developer: Capcom, Dimps
Publisher: Capcom
Platform(s): Playstation 4, PC
Release Date: February 16, 2016

Street Fighter V is the latest installment in the Street Fighter series. While Street Fighter IV (and its subsequent updates) provided a mix of nostalgia for Street Fighter II with a brand new look and feel to the series, Street Fighter V has a bit of Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III added to the mix, with tons of new things to make it stand out from the rest. There will be a starting cast of seventeen characters (twelve of them are returning, and five of them are brand new), with other characters coming at a later date.

What gets me excited about this game is that Charlie and R. Mika, who are among my favorite Street Fighter Alpha characters, make their return to the series in Street Fighter V. Other characters, such as Birdie, Urien and Karin, are excellent additions and it’s nice to see them back after being absent for years. We also have new takes on other returning characters, and the newer characters seem very interesting. I tried the demo at New York Comic Con this year, and I thought it was a major improvement from Street Fighter IV. I’m definitely looking forward to playing this game!

6. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: January 22, 2016

Announced at E3, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the fifth installment in the Mario & Luigi series. This game is a crossover between Mario & Luigi and the Paper Mario series, where both worlds collide. You take control of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario to take on both Bowser and Paper Bowser, and their respective armies running rampant across the Mushroom Kingdom. Gameplay is identical to that of the Mario & Luigi series, but you now press the Y Button in Battle to control Paper Mario’s Actions.

Since this game has the quirkiness and the humor from both the Mario & Luigi and the Paper Mario series, this is definitely something I am looking forward to. I still need to beat Partners in Time (which I’m not really a fan of) before tackling the others, then finally making my way to this game.

5. Project X Zone 2

Developer: Monolith Soft, Banpresto
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 16, 2016

I was surprised to see that Bandai Namco Games sign on for a sequel to Project X Zone. There are a lot more characters you control in this game, from Bandai Namco, Sega, Capcom, and now Nintendo! Fire Emblem Awakening’s Chrom and Lucina and Xenoblade Chronicles’ Fiora join the cast. Other series new to Project X Zone 2 are Shinobi, Strider, Ace Attorney, Shenmue, Soul Calibur, Yakuza, and even Segata Sanshiro himself, among others, are represented here.

This game retains the character turn based gameplay from its predecessor, but what interests me about this game is that you now have a full player turn, where you control all of your characters, and an enemy turn, where all the enemies are controlled, as opposed to a random character turn. This is another Strategy RPG that I will happily add to my Nintendo 3DS library, and I look forward to playing every second of it!

4. Pokken Tournament

Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: Q2 2016

I’m a huge fan of the Pokémon series, and I do enjoy playing Tekken, so this definitely works for me! Pokken Tournament has a fighting style where you roam around in an arena, performing multiple combos on your opponents, and unleashing an inner power (some of the Pokemon will become a Mega-Evolution) with a Resonance Gauge, allowing you to use Special Attacks. You can also summon assist Pokémon to help you out.

I got to try the arcade version of this game at Dave & Busters in NYC, and I’m impressed with the gameplay. It feels different from Tekken, but then again, with Pokémon, it works! This is one of my must-have games for 2016, and I cannot wait to play this!

3. Star Fox Zero

Developer: Nintendo EPD, Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: April 22, 2016

Originally set for a 2015 release, Star Fox Zero goes back to its roots from the Star Fox (SNES) and Star Fox 64 days, with tons of new features, as well as scrapped ideas from Star Fox 2. This isn’t a remake, nor is it a prequel to the original Star Fox, but it is a new installment, nonetheless. There isn’t much dialogue revealed, but the gameplay is exactly as a Star Fox game should be. I got to try this out at Nintendo World Store during the E3 week, and I was impressed! The Gamepad controls takes time to get used to, but once I do, I will enjoy myself!

2. Fire Emblem Fates

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 19, 2016

I’ve enjoyed Fire Emblem Awakening when it was released in 2013, as I was craving for a Fire Emblem on 3DS at the time. I was heavily excited when Nintendo announced Fire Emblem Fates on the January 2015 Nintendo Direct. As soon as more details popped up, I was curious about having two different versions, and the first thing that popped up my mind was “So is this going to be Fire Emblem meets Pokémon now?”, but as it turns out, it’s part of the game’s story.

It starts off similarly on both versions, but after a certain point, you take a completely different path. Once you do take that path, you stick to it throughout the entire game. There is also a downloadable expansion, which serves as the game’s conclusion. This is probably the biggest story in any Fire Emblem game yet, and I look forward to February 19th!


 

Honorable Mentions

Before I talk about what’s number one, I’d like to talk about my honorable mentions. These games are what I’m looking forward to, but not as much as the games on this list, and as a result, they make this short list.

Bravely Second (Nintendo, Square Enix), Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine), Cuphead (Studio MDHR), Genei Ibun Roku #FE (Atlus, Nintendo)


 

1. The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: Holiday 2016

Another repeat offender, but there’s a reason for that. Eiji Aonuma needed more time for development of this game, so it’s slated for Holiday 2016 for now. We haven’t seen much of this, but what little I’ve seen is enough for me to put this on the number one spot. I am going to love moving around in an open world setting, and exploring new dungeons. We’ll see at E3 as to what’s going on with this game, and what else it has to offer.

And there we have it, my Most Anticipated games of 2016. It seems like 2016 will be a bigger year for video games, seeing as how we’re going to see the NX for the very first time, and how will it stack up against the competition. There’s a lot to look forward to, and I’m ready to take that ride!


 

Professor Icepick

Well, 2015 was a decent year for the most part. Sure, we got some good releases, but what I got out of it was more hope for the future. A lot of key titles were announced, and while most of them won’t hit until after 2016, it’s still important to look forward. On the plus side, all but 2 of my picks from last year actually hit this time around. Not bad, if you ask me.

10. The King of Fighters XIV

Publisher/Developer: SNK Playmore
Platform: PS4 (maybe more?)
Release Date: 2016

I’m going to be honest, I’ve been hard on the latest KoF game since it was first announced. After all, it would be hard to top the Playmore era’s magnum opus after SNK went back into hibernation for a few years. Then there was the Chinese buyout, which worried me somewhat at first, as I feared a shift from pachinko machines to mobile games. Worst of all was the first trailer: everything about it reminded me of the Maximum Impact games. But as time went on, especially after the latest trailer from the PlayStation Experience, the game’s look began to improve. It’s not quite at hype levels yet, but considering that it boasts a 50-character roster at launch (Mortal Kombat X only managed around half that, and it’s the closest competition that comes to mind), I think it’s worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully, the fact that PSX downgraded it to “Playstation 4 Console Exclusive”, as well as the fact that a key executive from SNK Playmore said that their success on Steam was a key reason they got back into game development, means I’ll be able to partake on my platform of choice down the line, hopefully with crossplay.

9. Star Fox Zero

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Platinum Games
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: April 22, 2016

If there’s one series that Nintendo fans have been clamoring for, it’s probably Metroid. Then F-Zero. Star Fox is definitely a close third, though. Sure, its legacy has been somewhat marred by various mediocre releases: Star Fox 64 was a tough act to follow. The upcoming Zero, however, looks like it might just do the trick. Co-developed by developer darling Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Madworld, Metal Gear Rising), Zero looks to be bringing Star Fox back to its action roots and is even managing to incorporate the Arwing’s Walker transformation from the cancelled Star Fox 2, among other things. With Platinum on-board and an emphasis on the classic gameplay of the first two games in the series, I’ve got a good feeling that this one might be the game to put Star Fox back on top.

8. Timespinner

Publisher/Developer: Lunar Ray Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, 3DS
Release Date: July 2016

Timespinner was merely an honorable mention last year, but it ended up getting pushed back to 2016, much to my chagrin. One of my Kickstarter darlings from quite some time ago, Timespinner is looking to evoke various classic games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and MegaMan X, with a SNES-inspired artstyle. Players take on the role of Lunais, a young woman with the power to control time. After the technologically advanced empire of Lachiem kills her family, she vows revenge, travelling through history to destroy them all. With interesting time manipulation mechanics and solid-looking gameplay, Timespinner looks like it will be worth the wait.

7. Cuphead

Publisher/Developer: Studio MDHR
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

Cuphead was also only on my honorable mentions last year, but since then, this game has started looking better and better. A run-and-gun game with nothing but bosses starring two cup-headed inkblots who lost a bet with the devil and are forced to do his bidding. The real star of the game, however, is its beautiful 2D animation that looks like it was ripped straight out of a Max Fleischer cartoon. I thought it was due out last year, but there really wasn’t any solid confirmation on that.

6. Yooka-Laylee

Publisher/Developer: Team17/Playtonic Games
Platform: PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: October 2016

Another one of my Kickstarter darlings, though I’ll be surprised if you haven’t heard about it. Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to Rare’s N64-era platformers. You know, games like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and to a lesser extent, Donkey Kong 64. With vibrant character designs and a glorious soundtrack handled by David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, Yooka-Laylee is set to launch at the end of 2016.

5. Doom

Publisher/Developer: Bethesda Softworks/id Software
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: Spring 2016

Growing up with only a PC and a Game Gear during my earliest of gaming days wasn’t easy, missing out on some really big titles. Sure, there was the occasional port; some good, some bad, but then there was Doom. Doom was probably the first big mainstream PC gaming phenomenon I actually remember and it was glorious. After Doom II came out, the series went on a long hiatus, only to be revived with the mediocre Doom 3, which tried to retool the game into a pseudo-survival horror game for some reason. Bethesda got its hooks into the series recently, and that’s a good thing: they’re taking Doom back to its crazy, gory but ridiculously cartoony roots. I’m not completely sold on the game just yet: the cinematic kills look like they’ll get tedious after a while and Bethesda doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for releasing games without a hell of a lot of glitches at launch. Still, it looks like it’s going to be good regardless.

4. South Park: The Fractured but Whole

Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

I’ve loved South Park since the show debuted in 1996. I love Paper Mario, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I’d like The Stick of Truth. When Matt and Trey announced they were working on a sequel at Ubisoft’s E3 conference this year, I was incredibly hyped…and the hype still hasn’t exactly worn off. This time, they’re ditching the fantasy motif and going for something more superhero-related. Considering how awesome the superhero-themed episodes of South Park are and the fact that Matt and Trey are returning to write this one (with more experience under their belts this time), I’ve got some high hopes for this game.

3. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Publisher/Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Release Date: Summer 2016 (Japan)

Yeah, I know: Ys VIII will only be hitting Japan in 2016. Regardless, it’s exciting. We haven’t heard a thing about the game since TGS 2014, when it was first announced with that awesome teaser trailer. Then Toyko Xanadu took all of Falcom’s attention and for a while there, I thought Ys 8 might’ve just become vaporware. Fortunately, it’s back and with a release window no less: Summer 2016. Sure, we probably won’t see it hit the States for at least a year or two, but knowing it actually exists is good enough for me.

2. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Publisher/Developer: WayForward
Platform: PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

I love me some Shantae, that much you should know by now. For the third consecutive year, Half-Genie Hero makes the list. I’m not sure if it’ll actually hit in 2016, just like I wasn’t sure it would hit in 2014 or 2015. I just feel like keeping the hope alive, especially since development has really gone underway, especially with the release of the limited beta on PC. Nintendo appears to think it’s coming this year though. So there’s that.

1. Street Fighter V

Publisher/Developer: Capcom
Platform:  PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: February 16, 2016

Pretty obvious, when you think about it. I’ve loved the Street Fighter series since I played the second game on the SNES when I was a child. I’ve gotten my hands on the beta twice and I’ve had fun with it. I’ll probably have way more fun when I get a chance to play against friends though. The new characters look better than most of the ones from the original version of Street Fighter 4: F.A.N.G’s my personal favorite at this point in time, but I’ve honestly like all of them but Necalli. There’s also the fact that Capcom’s already confirmed 6 new characters for next year, all of whom will be free to those who put in the time and the effort to unlock them. All-in-all, Street Fighter V has been fun and hopefully it lives up to my expectations when the game launches in February.


 

Honorable Mentions

Project X Zone 2

Publisher/Developer: Bandai Namco/Monolith Soft
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: February 16, 2016

I was a fan of the original – never finished it though, because chapters got too long for me. Besides, it’s got Segata Sanshiro in it. ‘Nuff said.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Publisher/Developer: Atlus/Vanillaware
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3
Release Date: Spring 2016

Ever since I played Muramasa, I’ve wanted to try out more of Vanillaware’s games. I always sort of hoped that Odin Sphere would hit PS2 Classics, but this is even better. Only this that could make this better would be a PC release. (Then again, George Kamitani himself said they were exploring options for that sort of thing…)

Hyper Light Drifter

Publisher/Developer: Heart Machine
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Ouya
Release Date: 2016

Making my honorable mentions list two years in a row is no small feat. Hyper Light Drifter is an action RPG with a beautiful pseudo-retro style. Despite not being released yet, it has managed to achieve quiet the number of cameos and references: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Indivisible, Runbow, the list goes on.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/AlphaDream
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: January 22, 2016

Aside from the original on SNES, I have enjoyed pretty much every Mario RPG games. Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi are two of my favorite turn-based RPG series of all-time, so a crossover between the two is more than welcome from my standpoint.

Clayfighter

Publisher/Developer: Interplay/Drip Drop Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: 2016

When I was a kid, I used to love playing the original Clayfighter on Sega Genesis. The sequels weren’t so good, but I’m still sort of looking forward to the upcoming reboot. Hopefully it ends up exceeding even the original, while maintaining its wacky sense of humor.


 

Dishonorable Mention

Mighty No. 9

Publisher/Developer: Comcept/Inti Creates
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS
Release Date: February 9, 2016

The reason I consider this a “dishonorable” mention is because, while I am still looking forward its release, the development cycle was infested with problems and constant delays. Don’t even get me started on the Red Ash debacle, which was followed with the final delay that pushed it into 2016. Part of me thinks that was Inafune’s way of punishing us, but I just can’t be sure.

So those are my most anticipated games of 2016. That’s not to say that there aren’t even more games that I’m looking forward to, but these are my top picks. What do you think? Did we miss any games you’re looking forward to? Feel free to sound off in the comments section with your picks for 2016.

Under Reconstruction: Ys V -Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have something of an obsession with remakes. The only real problem I have is that most of the time, I feel like they’re being wasted. It’s the same with movies: most of the stuff getting remade is already perfectly fine. It just seems like a waste in many cases, in some cases, the remake even turns out worse than the original (Wander of the Dragons, anyone?). Isn’t the point of remakes to improve on the source material? Why remake a perfectly good game when there’s so much trash out there just begging for a second chance?

Welcome to the first entry in a new series: Under Reconstruction. Similar to some of the other series I’ve written on here, this is going to be a proposal series, taking a look at weak games in various franchises (with at least a cult following) and determine the best way to rehabilitate them into something worthy of their respective series. …or at least cut down on how terrible it is.

Today’s topic is the fifth game in the Ys franchise: Ushinawareta Suna no Miyako Kefin for the Super Famicom. This topic hits me a little more personally than usual, as I spent the better part of this year doing a marathon run-through of 5 games in the series, concluding with Ys V. Now Ys V wasn’t the only clunker I played through: the SFC version of Ys IV (Mask of the Sun) was also fairly mediocre, but it has two competent companion titles (The Dawn of Ys on PC-Engine CD and Memories of Celceta on PlayStation Vita) to pick up the slack. Ys V only has a remake on the PS2 handled by Taito, one that fixes some of the original game’s issues, while creating entirely new ones in the process.

Ys V is generally considered the black sheep of the Ys franchise, but apparently originally that title was held by the third game in the series. Wanderers from Ys was a deviation from the traditional top-down perspective commonly associated with the early Ys games, opting for a side-scrolling system that led to some unfavorable comparisons to Zelda II. However, this all changed when the game was remade as The Oath in Felghana, generally considered one of the best games in the entire franchise. There’s also been something of a pattern in the Ys series’ releases as of late: Ys Seven was followed by the aforementioned Memories of Celceta, which was a reimagining of Ys IV. When the eighth game in the Ys franchise (recently reconfirmed by Falcom, to my relief) was first announced, fans of the series began to speculate that a similar remake or reimagining for Ys V would be on the horizon.

Gameplay

Ys V was a significant departure from earlier games in the franchise. What separated Ys from most action-RPGs of its era was its combat system: instead of using a button to attack, the player would simply bump into enemies off-center to deal damage to the enemies. Bumping dead center would either lead to traded hits or just damage to the player, depending on which game you were playing. However, both original versions of Ys IV revealed some significant shortcomings with the Ys series’ trademark. In Mask of the Sun on the Super Famicom, poor collision detection, stiff movement and precise hitboxes forced all but the most skilled players to grind in order to compensate for the game’s shortcomings. The PC-Engine CD’s Dawn of Ys, on the other hand, veered in the opposite direction. The addition of diagonal movement broke the traditional engine wide open, making killing enemies far easier than in previous games.

In order to compensate for this, Ys V elected to use a more traditional attack system. Unfortunately, this did not come without issues. Compared to the earlier top-down games in the series, combat felt sluggish, especially during boss fights. This was only compounded by the addition of a jump button, which was awkward as it sent Adol forward a set distance every time. This came into play with some awkward isometric platforming (not unlike that of Super Mario RPG) and worse yet, boss fights that required you to jump and slash to land hits, leaving little to no time to dodge. Even more bafflingly was the decision to give different swords completely different attack styles. Some swords slashed, allowing for a wider range, while others did more of a poke, which allowed for better range, but only facing forward. Regardless, it’s somewhat jarring to totally have to switch up your tactics simply based around what weapon you’re using…and since Ys V generally follows the same item progression as other games in the series, it’s pretty much unavoidable.

For as bad as Ys V was, it definitely had a net positive impact on the series overall. The following game in the franchise (Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim) refined on the gameplay mechanics introduced in Ys V and would eventually lead to the release of two games that are generally considered among the best of the entire franchise: the aforementioned Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin. So while Ys V was filled with its own hiccups, it was an experiment that would eventually bear fruit and help perpetuate the Ys series until they eventually made the jump to 3D on the PSP.

Having said that, I’d probably use either Oath in Felghana or Origin as a base when it comes to developing this new game’s gameplay, just as an homage to the fact that this game was the progenitor of those games. There’s also the fact that the system used in Ys Seven, Memories of Celceta and apparently the upcoming Lacrimosa of Dana are all party-based: Ys V really lacks an assortment of characters that are battle-ready and I’d rather not shoehorn in a bunch of OCs to compensate for that. It would also be a nice change of pace for fans of the earlier games in the series.

Aside from that, most of my advice for the game’s base gameplay mechanics are pretty simple: “make it better” isn’t a constructive suggestion after all. First and foremost, ditch the separation between experience for physical attacks and magic: all that really did was provide me with less incentive to use magic (more on that later). To pay tribute to the original Ys V, I’d like to see two separate physical attack buttons to reference the “slash” and “poke” methods of attack I mentioned earlier: balanced so that slash is faster and provides more peripheral range, while poke deals more damage and has further reach. Finally, I’d fix the jumping mechanics. It looks like later games fixed that issue, but I figured that it was still worth mentioning regardless.

Magic

Now onto the weakest part of the original’s gameplay: the magic system. The magic system in the older games in the series was simple: equip some kind of relic (wand, ring, whatever) and you’d either get access the magic’s effect at the cost of some magic points. Simple stuff. Not so with Kefin: things became a lot more complicated. Basically, you have various elements of 6 types which are hidden throughout the game’s setting. You take these elements you find to various alchemists, who are able to craft items known as “Fluxstones” from specific combinations of three elements. Each Fluxstone can be equipped to any weapon (all 5 of them) and used at a cost of specific MP. Did I mention that you also have to charge the spells by holding one of the shoulder buttons before you can actually use them? Needless to say, the magic system in this game was a mess.

I’d say I could have come up with a better magic system in my sleep, but that would only be half-true: I just sort of outlined this one as I was drifting off to sleep one night. First things first, ditch the fluxstones. Crafting specific spells permanently without the knowledge of what they can do is stupid, period. Instead, we limit the number of elements found in the game themselves, 18 elements – 6 of each type found in the original game: fire, water, earth, wind, light and dark. Likewise, each weapon would have a set number of element slots, ranging from 1 to 3 depending on the strength of the weapon. As such, magic would be limited to a single button with the charge times dropped, much like the earlier games in the franchise.

As for the magic attacks themselves, they’d be pretty simple with three levels of attacks based on how many elements are equipped to Adol’s weapon at a time. Level 1 [a single element] would provide an “elemental slash” attack that would use a minimal amount of MP. Fire, Water, Wind and Earth would each act according to a “rock, paper, scissors” style of buffed damage on elemental enemies of specific types, while using an element on an enemy of the same type would heal it (like in the original Ys V). Likewise, dark and light would have their own system, where opposing types do double damage and same types only do half damage.

Level 2 [2 elements of the same type] would cast an elemental projectile, like the fireball from the old Ys games, and cost a moderate amount of MP. For example:

  • Fire casts the aforementioned fireball from earlier games, possibly with an added “burn” mechanic to slowly drain health from the enemies it hits
  • Water casts the ice ball (from Dawn of Ys), freezing enemies on impact
  • Earth could generate a seismic wave, which would deal massive damage on grounded enemies, but have no effect on flying enemies
  • Wind could cause a short-range projectile attack
  • Light could cause a weak homing attack that tracks the closest enemy
  • Dark could cause a chain lightning attack that could hit multiple enemies in proximity, but have the lowest range

Finally, Level 3 [all 3 elements of the same type] would cast a “magic attack”, either causing a powerful long-range attack or grant Adol some kind of special effect at a high MP cost. Here are the examples I came up with:

  • Fire – lava geyser
  • Water – tidal wave
  • Earth – earthquake
  • Wind – tornadoes
  • Light – a temporary boost for Adol’s attack and defense stats until his MP depletes
  • Dark – Adol would be invulnerable until his MP depletes (Shield Magic from Ys II and The Dawn of Ys)

Adol would also be able to combine different elements to create hybrid versions of the Level 1 and 2 attacks. Having all different elements would create a hybrid slash, which could cover the weaknesses of individual elements. Having 2 of one type of element and a third would create a hybrid projectile – one with the main traits of the dominant elemental projectile, but some added bonuses from the additional element: for example, water + water + light would create a homing ice ball and dark + dark + fire would add burn damage to the chain lightning attack.

Story

Conversely, Ys V’s story wasn’t particularly bad. At worst, I’d probably describe it as sparse. To the extent where by the end of the game, the storyline finally kicked into high gear and I started enjoying it, but by that point it was too late. There’s no simple answer that will automatically fix the story’s issues from the original, but I do have a few suggestions. For those of you who haven’t guessed it, this section is going to be filled with spoilers – so if you haven’t play Kefin and still intend to, stop reading now.

First off, I’d expand on the following characters:  Dorman, Rizze, her lieutenants (Karion, Baruk and especially Abyss [who didn’t even get a boss fight]) and the Ibur Gang (especially Terra, considering she ends up showing up in the sequel). Jabir should also be established earlier on in the game, he felt tacked on in the final product, pretty much literally appearing out of nowhere. Even if you just keep his identity secret and allow him to do monologues off-screen, that would be better than what he got in the Super Famicom version. Speaking of the Super Famicom version, keep Stoker and Foresta in the game. They were interesting and I still don’t understand why they were omitted from the PS2 version.

Next up, and this is crucial: bring in Dogi. Dogi is pretty much a key element in any Ys game that stars my favorite red-haired swordsman and Kefin was definitely poorer for having lost Dogi. In fact, Dogi was originally intended to be in Ys V, but was omitted due to time constraints. He actually ended up appearing in the PS2 remake. This would also have the added benefit of expanding on Effie’s character, as she was originally intended to be Dogi’s love interest in the game. When Dogi was dropped, Effie’s role was significantly downplayed – scaled back to simply saving Adol from his latest shipwreck and nursing him back to health.

This one also falls under gameplay, but it really applies to both: I’d keep the elements that Adol can equip to his sword separate from the elemental crystals used to revive Kefin. On that note, I’d also give each individual element its own purpose: the first element would be hidden in a specific chest in its corresponding dungeon and act as a boss key (boss doors would only be able to be opened by an elemental slash corresponding to the dungeon’s element) and the second would be a reward for beating the dungeon boss (along with the crystal). The third, however, would be a good excuse to expand on Kefin itself though. At one point in the game, Adol literally just has to hit various switches to move onto the next area. Instead, I’d purpose an additional 6 dungeons in Kefin with the expressed purpose of giving Adol complete mastery (the third element) of each element in order to continue on with his quest. It would have the added benefit of adding to Kefin’s importance in the overall storyline. On that note, I’d also expand on the final dungeon of the game, maybe hide all of the Isios items in there as opposed to just having them by the switches.

Regarding the villains, I’d like to see some specific changes made. First off, I’d like to see some expansion on Dorman, specifically regarding his motivations. Originally, Dorman was conceived as a descendant of royalty from one of Kefin’s rival kingdoms, destroyed during Kefin’s prime. I’m not exactly fond of that origin, so I don’t mind that it was discarded. Still, explaining his reasons would be a nice expansion on them. By that note, I’d like some changes to be made to the final boss. I’d like to see Jabir demoted to penultimate boss and the final boss position taken up by Rizze herself. Considering she was the main villain during the second half of the game and got hijacked by Jabir at the last second, she deserves it. Even if we end up with the clichéd “I was of the Kefin Royal Family. But now I’m even more, I’m a goddess!” shtick, it’s better than Jabir appearing literally out of nowhere and Rizze basically just being useless at the end.

The last thing I’d like to add is somewhat selfish, but I feel like it’s necessary given its omission from the original version. I’d like to hear some more mentions of the older Ys games, especially IV. The lack of references to earlier games just felt a bit odd. Maybe it could be explained by the new locale, but hell, even The Dawn of Ys threw in a reference to Wanderers from Ys and that technically took place AFTER Ys IV. Hell, what would be really cool would be if there were references to all four versions of Ys IV as rumors surrounding the mysterious red-haired swordsman.

Setting

At first, I was going to say something about how lazy the name “Afroca” for the Ys universe’s counterpart to Africa was. Then I found out that the continent where the earlier games in the Ys series took place was called “Eresia”. Three guesses what continent that was supposed to represent. Needless to say, I dropped my objection. On the other hand, it is the setting of Ys V itself I’d like to see somewhat modified, to see it draw more inspiration from its real-world counterpart, as opposed to just being “generic Squaresoft RPG land”. Keep Xandria as-is, perhaps change it into a Eresian colony and port town. Likewise, I’d keep the town of Felte as-is, I liked its Middle Eastern motif. Kokiriko Village and the Zeibe Ruins took on something of a Mesoamerican design with its pyramids, I’d prefer it to take on more of an Egyptian or Nubian look.

Graphics

Unlike most of my articles, I actually have a particular graphical style in mind for a remake of Ys V. 3D graphics seem more likely than 2D, especially since that’s the direction Falcom has been heading these days, but in this case, I’d prefer a more old-school “super deformed” for the characters, much like the Ys games of old. The Super Famicom version of the game went for a slightly more realistic character design, which I feel was a disservice to the game itself. Ideally they’d go for a 2.5D look like some of their earlier games: mixing 3D worlds with 2D character sprites, but in this case, I’d be more than open to a full 3D recreation of the games of old. I’ve seen it work with such games as A Link Between Worlds and Bravely Default, so imagining it for a Kefin remake seems perfectly valid in my eyes.

Music

I’ve heard some people say that Ys V had one of the weakest soundtracks in the franchise. I’m inclined to agree. That’s not to say it’s a horrible soundtrack by any means, just that compared to the other games in the franchise, it’s not particularly memorable. Having said that, I’d keep the majority of the soundtrack for a remake. Some of my personal favorites include Field of Gale, Thieves of Brotherhood, Break Into Territory, Crimson Ruins, Bad Species, Wilderness and Turning Death Spiral. In fact, if I really had any major issue with the music itself, it would be that the instrumentation leaves the music sounding like a generic SNES RPG, with a soundfont torn straight out of a Squaresoft game. The solution to this is pretty simple: let Falcom’s in-house JDK Sound Team take a crack at rearranging some of the original soundtrack and add in some new tunes as well.

Wow, this ended up a lot longer than I would have ever expected. This whole concept just sort of emerged from my utter frustration with playing Ys V and originally manifested as a small checklist of things to look out for if Falcom were ever to do a remake. I probably won’t end up with anything quite this long in any future entries of Under Reconstruction. What did you think of the article? Do you agree that Ys V should be remade or do you think that the Super Famicom and PS2 versions are good enough? Do you disagree with any of the changes I made? Feel free to sound off in the comments section, I’d love to hear some feedback.

 

Retro or Reboot?: StarTropics

I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed doing the first Retro or Reboot article and really wanted to do another one as soon as possible. So what if I decided to cheat my own rule about leaving an entire month between articles in a particular series, technically I’ve written 2 more articles since the last one. That has to count for something, right? The only real issue was trying to think up a new topic that could get me just as excited as the last one.

Before we get started, let’s recap the purpose of these articles. I’ll be taking a look at various series (with at least two games) that have fallen on hard times, ones that haven’t received a new game since the PS2 era (I think IPs that originated after that still have a pretty decent chance for revival). Usually, I’ll favor franchises that saw all of their major iterations in the span of a single generation and older generations tend to be favored, just to make for a more radical difference between the two proposals for a new entry in the series: a retro-themed revival that effectively takes the original gameplay and updates it to fit modern game design sensibilities and a full-on reboot, which merely takes the setting of the old franchise and implements it onto an entirely new playstyle. Sort of like a clash between budgets, small versus big. Of course, to make this more of a positive experience, I’ll be optimistic with my proposals.

This article’s topic is StarTropics: a lesser-known Nintendo franchise, but one I’ve been begging to get resurrected for almost two generations now. Effectively the Ristar to Zelda’s Sonic, StarTropics was an adventure game that took the base mechanics of the original Legend of Zelda and took them in a slightly different direction, focusing more on rudimentary puzzle solving and taking a more linear route over Zelda’s open-world exploration. Players took control of Mike Jones, a teenager searching for his lost archeologist uncle, last seen studying the mysteries of C-Island. Armed with only a yo-yo at first, Mike sets off to find his uncle and to solve the mystery of the island. The game’s cult status can likely be attributed to two main factors: the original was only released in North America and Europe and the second game, Zoda’s Revenge, was released exclusively in North America on the NES in 1994, well-after the release of the Super Nintendo. There were rumors back in 2008 of Camelot working on a new iteration of the series on the Nintendo Wii, but nothing really came of it. Likewise, there was a similar rumor stating that Retro Studios was working on a new StarTropics game for Wii U, with similar results. As of right now, the original NES games can be bought on the Wii Virtual Console in North America and the Wii U’s Virtual Console in Europe.

Retro

What we’re looking at here is basically “Super StarTropics”: a game that does for StarTropics what A Link to the Past did for the original Legend of Zelda. Though at this point, it’s also the kind of thing Link’s Awakening, the Oracles games and A Link Between Worlds did for the original Zelda as well. Like with Streets of Rage 4 before it, Super StarTropics probably wouldn’t be the final name for a new game in the franchise, it just perfectly represents how this game should be developed.

Considering the fact that Nintendo R&D3, the developers of the first two games, has been disbanded and the fact that it was mostly popular in the West, I’ve got a specific developer in mind that I think would be perfect for it. You’re probably thinking Retro Studios, but you would be wrong. After all, I can still remember the backlash from when Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was announced and how it kept Retro from developing Metroid Prime 4 their own original IPs. Besides, this is intended to be a smaller project in terms of scale. Frankly, I’d feel more comfortable with “Super StarTropics” being handled by Next Level Games. They did an amazing job on Punch-Out!! for the Wii and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and they have a close enough relationship with Nintendo that I’d consider them a “second-party” developer for the Big N.

I see this game being sort of a hybrid of A Link Between Worlds (due to the added emphasis on puzzle solving compared to ALttP) and the original StarTropics. The puzzles in the dungeons themselves would be more intricate than just the hidden switches in the original Startropics games (though it wouldn’t be StarTropics without them) and the puzzles on the overworld needed to progress through the game would also likely be made more complicated than those from the NES era. Aside from that, I’d also keep a more linear progression compared to the Zelda games, to better differentiate the two series. Keep the limited ammo on the sub-weapons, the awesome bosses and the control style from the original StarTropics. Mike Jones better be able to jump in any new StarTropics. Ditch the lives system from the old games though, maybe incorporate an item similar to Zelda’s fairy to replace it instead.

Now onto the boring part: graphical style. As usually, I’m pretty neutral on the whole thing. High-definition hand-drawn 2D graphics, 3D models incorporated into a 2.5D style (ala ALBW) or even retro-styled pixel sprites, it doesn’t matter to me. As long as it’s pleasing to the eye, I’m good.

Usually I wouldn’t really have anything else to say here, but I do have some other thoughts on the retro revamp this time around. Specifically, which platform I’d prefer it to be on. Oddly enough, I think this type of game would work better on 3DS (or whatever future handhelds Nintendo comes out with) than on a home console like the Wii U. Maybe it just has to do with the fact that it would be a smaller game and I couldn’t really see something like this being a big hit on a console, especially if it’s a download-only game. A Link Between Worlds, on the other hand, performed fairly well and it was a handheld Zelda that managed to get major acclaim.

Reboot

I guess the best way to describe this one is “StarTropics: Ocarina of Time”. Again, as with “Super StarTropics”, this isn’t by any means a final title, just a summary of how this would play out. In fact, considering how poorly the story of Zoda’s Revenge was received, maybe we should just stay away from time travel entirely. Basically, what I’m proposing here is a game that brings StarTropics out of the early ‘90s and into the modern day, doing for the franchise exactly what Ocarina of Time did…back in 1998.

Earlier I said that I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Retro Studios developed a retro-themed throwback to the StarTropics games of yore, but if we’re talking a modernized big-budget release, I feel like they would be a perfect fit. People have been clamoring for a Retro-developed Zelda game, but Shigeru Miyamoto himself has gone on record stating that even if they are qualified to make a new game, the code base for Zelda resides in Japan while Retro is an American company. Nintendo has a tendency to be very watchful with their more important ideas, so the differences in both time zone and distance would make this project troublesome. On the other hand, StarTropics holds strikingly little importance among Nintendo’s intellectual properties, so Retro would likely require far less oversight on a project like that. Better still, since StarTropics has lied dormant since the NES era, Retro would likely be more able to put their own spin on things without Nintendo fearing fan backlash if they deviate too far from the original formula.

The gameplay style for this game is somewhat obvious: start with the basic action-adventure mold made popular by such games as Okami, Darksiders and every mainline console Zelda since Ocarina of Time. Then throw in some characteristics from StarTropics: mild platforming, puzzle solving and a greater emphasis on the overworld. Keep the basic characters, settings, items and storyline from the first game. Try to ignore the second game’s storyline, or if you have to, make fun of its silly time-travel plot (Bad dream? Fanfic?) Considering the biggest audience for this one is likely to be Westerners, so the gameplay should favor that audience overall. On that note, I’d keep things fairly light and comical in tone, we don’t need any more poorly thought-out gritty reboots.

Unlike the retro revamp, 3D is really the only viable choice for graphics in a big-budget title like this. So, instead, I’ll be talking about the game’s aesthetic. What I say here would also apply to the lower-budget revamp as well. I would like the artstyle of this new game to somewhat resemble the cutscene graphics from the old NES games, especially the old one. I wouldn’t mind seeing character designs take on a similar look to Punch-Out!! on the Wii: something cartoony, but strictly Western. Try to avoid anime aesthetic as much as possible.

There is one last thing I’d like to touch on, something that applies to both proposals. It would be really cool if any new StarTropics game utilized Nintendo’s vast array of sensors for various puzzles. See, back in the day, the original StarTropics came with a letter that revealed a secret message when submerged in water. Imagine decoding messages like that using the Wii U or 3DS’s touch screen. Imagine blowing the dust off of an ancient artifact using the built-in microphones. Imagine using the gyroscope or even the NFC to complete various puzzles in-game. I don’t know about those of you reading, but I think something like that, some interactivity more physical than just hitting buttons would be really cool.

Thus ends another entry in the Retro or Reboot series. What did you think of my ideas this time around? Would you like to see “Super StarTropics” or would you rather see Retro bring the series into the 21st century? Do you disagree with both of my ideas or even feel like StarTropics is not worth resurrecting? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section.