Of Axioms and Idioms: The New Sub-Standard

While I’ve been having fun revitalizing older series that I abandoned awhile back, it would be hypocritical of me to orphan my latest series. This time, it’s not so much a lack of topics that has caused me to forgo writing Of Axioms and Idioms, it’s more a lack of time. I’ve got so many ideas for new articles that I’ve managed to leave a good number of worthwhile topics on the back-burner for quite some time. It doesn’t help that I seem to be coming up with more new ideas quicker than I can write the existing ones. Worst of all is the fact that I tend to find my newest ideas the most intriguing, which pushes things back even further in many cases. Still, it’s been roughly half a year since the last time I wrote an article in this series, so it seems like it’s the right time to bring it back.

This one’s been rolling around in the back of my mind for quite some time, yet ironically, it’s also the latest topic I’ve managed to come up with for this series. Basically, there’s something of a stigma when it comes to long-running series. Specifically, when it comes to their latest iterations. The issue isn’t specifically liking the current games in an old series, that seems to be alright by most accounts. Rather, considering the most recent entry in well-established franchises to be the best that said franchise has to offer seems to be frowned upon among die-hard fans. Likewise, when a more or less “objective” best game is chosen, it’s generally a relatively early title in the series’ history.

To show you just how long this idea has been sitting around, the original example that inspired this topic is no longer relevant. Tekken Tag Tournament 2, while still currently my favorite game in the Tekken franchise – ironically, I’ve yet to pick up Tekken 7 – is no longer the latest game in the franchise. Still, I felt a little ashamed to acknowledge that the latest entry in the series had become my favorite, simply because I was a long-time fan and therefore, was familiar with the earlier games in the series. Meanwhile, ask the average Tekken fan and chances are they’ll name a much earlier game as their favorite: specifically, Tekken 3. If you’ve read my Tekken retrospective from earlier this year, you’d know that I was never really quite as enamored with the game as the majority of the Tekken fanbase, even if I did recognize its quality.

Another slightly more relevant example would relate to MegaMan, specifically the Classic series. Personally, I think the tenth game in the franchise – which has been the most recent game for a whopping 7 years at this point – is the best that the series has to offer. Most of the Classic faithful, on the other hand, are still hung up on MegaMan 2. Honestly, I don’t even think MM2 is the best of the NES games, let alone the best in its entire series. MegaMan 2 made the most significant improvements over its predecessor, but the franchise still had room to grow. What I find especially ironic is that MegaMan 9 – a game that was essentially built to perfectly emulate an MM2 ROM hack – received much greater acclaim, despite having weaker level designs. Worst of all, it seems like if you don’t accept 2 as the “one true Classic MegaMan game”, you’re bound to be accused of being a contrarian, or worse still, a hipster. Don’t get me wrong: MM2 is a great game, I just think that some of the later games in the series made vast improvements to the formula, but they’re generally cast aside as inferior copies. As a side note, I think it’s a crying shame that the Game Boy games (namely IV and especially V) don’t receive as much attention as they deserve: I think both of those games blew MM2 out of the water, in spite of their hardware limitations.

A slightly less relevant example would be the near-deification of Super Mario 64 among the 3D Mario platformers. Sure, people recognize the quality of both Galaxy games – to at least some extent – but for whatever reason, 64 is still somehow the golden standard to which all future Mario games of that type are held against. I’ll never understand it: honestly, I never thought SM64 was that good in the first place and I think every other game of that type in the Mario series surpassed it in some way, even the abomination/cult classic Super Mario Sunshine. To make matters worse, I actually consider 3D World to be my favorite in that particular batch of games, though I’ve seen more than a few people dismiss it as an inferior knockoff of 3D Land which was, ironically, my previous favorite. I’d argue that the 3D Marios keep improving with each game and that makes 64 the worst by default. Yet it is still the clear favorite for some reason.

Of course, perhaps the most famous example of this phenomenon is the fan reaction to the Legend of Zelda games. While both A Link Between Worlds and especially Breath of the Wild have seemingly put it to rest, the so-called “Zelda cycle” is, by and large, the most prevalent and observable example of this mentality I’ve seen on the internet. The Zelda cycle, as I understand it, can be broken down thusly: after enough time has passed since the release of the latest Zelda game, the fanbase begins its backlash against the game itself, deeming it terrible. This, in turn, allows the previous game in the franchise – the one that was previously dubbed the worst the franchise had to offer – to be viewed as an acceptable game for the series. The game that came before that will then usually take its place at the series favorite, the stated “gold standard” for what the next Zelda game should attempt to be. The former “gold standard” is then considered to be overrated (but still good) and everything before that seems to just fade into the ether, effectively just becoming acceptable in general but not a major focal point for the franchise. A safe choice, considered “good for their time” and generally otherwise ignored.

As for a counterpoint to this particular attitude, the best I’ve really been able to observe would have to be within the Ys fanbase. Put simply, “every Ys is best Ys”. Given the fact that the series has gone through at least two major gameplay shifts in its 30-year existence, it only makes sense that most of the fanbase would generally be pretty chill about liking the newest games in the franchise, as Falcom always seems to strive to improve upon mistakes made in the previous games and avoids change strictly for its own sake, rather only fundamentally shifting the gameplay style once they’ve reached the limits of their current format. Of course, this isn’t a perfect example by any means: there’s a distinct faction that considers The Oath in Felghana (and to a far lesser extent, Origin) as the one true Ys game(s), disavowing anything that came after and, bafflingly enough, before. I guess there are problem children in every fanbase.

Then there’s the Sonic fanbase, which I supposed also acts both as an example and a counter-balance to this perspective. There are essentially three major camps contained within the Sonic fanbase: those who enjoy the original Genesis-era games and feel that this is the best direction for the franchise moving forward, those who cut their teeth on the series during the Adventure games and want the games to go back to that style (in spite of the fact that Sega already tried to recreate said formula twice and ended up with the games generally considered the worst in the entire franchise in the process) and finally, fans of the modern games who consider any references to older titles to be meaningless pandering to a bygone era. If it’s not obvious, the former two camps clearly act in support of my theory, while the third and final camp appears to be its Bizarro doppelganger rather than a nuanced reaction. Of course, these three factions don’t encompass the entire Sonic fandom – there is room for nuance elsewhere – but they definitely make things difficult for Sega moving forward.

Of course, there is a certain level of forgiveness allowed when it comes to committing the grave sin of liking the latest game in a long-running series in general. This is generally reserved for those new to the series. After all, you always remember your first and as they’re new to the series, they have time to learn the “right way” to consider the series. Older fans, on the other hand, generally aren’t afforded the same level of leeway. They’re already familiar with the franchise and its history, so the entire concept of long-time fans disagreeing with the status quo is inconceivable to the hiveminds generally associated with these fanbases. It’s almost like to prefer a game that was intended as an improvement to earlier games in the series is to completely discount the series’ entire history in one fell swoop.

So what exactly is the cause for this animosity towards the most recent games in a franchise? An obvious culprit would be the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t necessarily follow: if nostalgia were to blame, then every fan would generally consider the first game they played to be the best in the franchise, which would be a particularly difficult move for those who had been playing games in the series since its inception. Not to mention the fact that if the first game in a franchise is its best, then there’s really no point in continuing to produce them, diminishing returns and all that. Likewise, given the fact that many video game franchises tend to have one or two games that are considered the best at large, that would also imply that most of the fanbase started playing the series upon the release of that specific game, which seems a bit farfetched if you ask me. So clearly there’s more at work here than simple nostalgia.

A much more likely explanation is equally simple: credibility as a fan. With well-established series – regardless of medium – knowledge of the series’ origins has a tendency to give the impression of legitimacy with regards to any particular fan’s adoration for the works in the general. The same could be said for general consensus: as with most group dynamics, a lack of dissention among the ranks has a tendency of creating a much stronger sense of community, an element that fandoms require to thrive at any stage in their life cycles, from their humble beginnings on. Whether or not this means that most fans legitimately believe that the designated best game in the franchise is their actual favorite, they’re simply giving the game lip service to fit in or that they’ve been essentially railroaded into considering said game to be the best in order to align themselves properly within the group tends to vary – all are clear and distinct possibilities, though I’d consider the former two to be the most likely.

This leads to a much more pertinent question: why is there such resistance to the idea that modern entries of an existing series could potentially surpass their forebearers? I mean, it just seems logical to me that games should constantly strive to improve over what came before them, so maybe I’m missing something. Does acknowledging the strength of newer games make the older ones retroactively worse? Is one’s credibility at stake if they acknowledge improvements made to an existing formula if they just happen to be implemented to close to current year? I’m at a bit of a loss here.

Maybe newer games are just being held to a higher standard in general. After all, they do have years of experience to fall back on, so I can’t argue that they should be held to a higher standard than the games of old. However, there is also the potential to take things way too far in this regard: while nostalgia isn’t completely to blame, they can generally build classic games up to be better in fans’ memories than the reality – take a look at how well various re-releases for more obscure games have been received. Put both the overinflated quality of older games with an expectation for every game to exceed the previous entries in their series to an obscene degree, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I mostly wrote this article to essentially dispel any shame, perceived or otherwise, I’ve felt when liking the latest games in series I’ve been following for quite some time. The sheer sense of elitism when it comes to long-time fans vis-à-vis newer entries has always just struck me as weird. I suppose that this was more of an exercise in trying to justify my own preferences to myself. Of course, this is a fitting use of the “Of Axioms and Idioms” banner, as they’re generally meant to explore my various opinions, unorthodox or otherwise. But what do you think? Do you think I’m completely off-base or am I on to something? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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Retrospective: Tekken

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Logo remastered by RingoStarr39

If Double Dragon II, Mega Man 2, Contra and Sonic the Hedgehog got me interested in video games in general, then the fighting game explosion of the 1990s cemented that interest into love. Street Fighter – specifically Street Fighter II – seems like the perfect game to do a retrospective on with regards to this genre: it’s currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, Street Fighter II led to the genre’s explosion decades ago and Street Fighter IV led to the mainstream resurgence we’re enjoying to this day. The problem with discussing Street Fighter is not only has it been done to death, but there are far too many iterations of the various games, to the extent where it becomes difficult to discern what’s a revision, what’s an expansion and what’s a sequel in many cases. It doesn’t help that, bare minimum, you’re dealing with at least 3 different flavors of gameplay, possibly even more depending on who you ask.

So where does that leave us? I kind of fell out of Mortal Kombat between its original foray into 3D and the spectacular reboot. There are way too many games in the King of Fighters franchise to write a coherent article on. I’m barely versed in Guilty Gear and Blazblue’s story can be a little incoherent at times. Why not Tekken? What Street Fighter II did for me with 2D fighters, Tekken 2 did for me with their 3D counterparts. Since then, I’ve been a fan of the series: I even owned a VHS tape of “Tekken: The Motion Picture”, a movie that butchered the story of the first 2 games not unlike Mortal Kombat’s first live-action film. As such, I’m fairly well versed with the franchise in general, though admitted I’ve had my peaks and valleys when it comes to the series. Best of all, the latest game in the series – Tekken 7 – is set to hit Western shores via console today. As a bonus, Tekken will be releasing on PC (via Steam) for the first time ever with its latest entry. So, let’s look back on how we got here and delve into the grand history of the King of Iron Fist Tournament. I’ll be sticking with the mainline entries in the series: don’t expect anything on ports, spinoffs or the movies, live-action or otherwise – not even the free-to-play Tekken Revolution, which has been taken down in preparation for T7’s release. Those fall outside of my field of expertise and for the most part, the Tekken fanbase would rather disavow their existence anyway.

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Rising Fun: Dawn for Japanese Games

The second half of the 80s and entirety of the 90s were a golden age for Japanese games.  From the moment Super Mario Bros. revived the American console industry, Japanese games absolutely dominated consoles.  While there were some exceptions, the vast, vast majority of good console games came from Japan during the third, fourth, and fifth generations.  Even the most prominent exceptions were made by western developers that were working with Japanese companies: Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and of course Rare.  Things started to change in the sixth generation, games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto 3, and the rising Tony Hawk series were critical and commercial successes, something very few western console games had achieved before that point.  Japanese games were probably still bigger or at least equal at that point, but it definitely wasn’t the absurd level of domination they previously held.  This was, of course, a good thing: there’s no reason for one country to dominate the way Japan did at one point.

 

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And thus Japan conquered console gaming overnight.

 

In the seventh and eighth generations, however, things started to become unbalanced in the other direction.  Several Japanese companies went into slumps at the same time, while western mega-publishers increased their dominance.  This led to an attitude in the 2010s that Japan was becoming irrelevant to the gaming industry.  I was not happy about this, but it would be fair to ask why when I was fine with how things were in the 90s.  Well, I have a few reasons.  For one, there was a fair amount of nationalistic gloating, treating this as “revenge” and calling the Japanese gaming industry a failure for not being able to match the combined output of two continents.  There’s also the fact that the fading Japanese companies had made so many great games in the past, and losing something is a lot more painful than never having it to begin with.  And while this may be too subjective and in the moment to use as a reason, I would much rather have 90s Capcom, Konami, and Squaresoft as the dominant publishers instead of companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision.  I’m not saying we need to go back to Japanese dominance, but all game producing regions making great games is the optimal situation and always will be.  I just want Japanese games to make a comeback for their own sake.

 

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Market Combat Evolving.

 

That seems to be what’s happening.  After many years of turmoil, Japanese-developed games are making a substantial comeback in 2017, in both the released and upcoming categories.  This year we’ve already seen Resident Evil 7, Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata, Nioh, and Persona 5; quality releases that have mostly seen a good deal of commercial success and attention from the gaming community.  Looking ahead, we have Sonic Forces, Tekken 7, Tokyo Xanadu, Ys VIII, and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite as some promising 2017 releases.   Compared to the past few years, this is a huge upturn in quality Japanese games.

Going beyond a simple games list, many of these games represent once mighty Japanese publishers and developers showing signs of recovering from their slumps.  Capcom finally made a Resident Evil that was well received, Team Ninja made their first well liked game in who knows how long with Nioh, Sega has two promising Sonic games coming out this year (although one is technically by western developers) – there are decades that would kill for that amount – and Square Enix has brought an underrated series into mainstream success while giving Platinum a chance to shine simultaneously with Nier: Automata.  Series that never had a huge western presence, such as Persona, Ys, Yakuza, and the aforementioned Nier/Drakengard also seem to be getting more attention than they previously did, which is great for the Japanese gaming industry.  The light of dawn may be starting to break through the cynicism that has clouded the concept of Japanese games in recent years.

 

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Looks like JRPGs don’t have cooties anymore.

 

There are two major Japanese publishers I consciously avoided mentioning up until this point.  One of them is a hugely conspicuous absence considering who is writing this article.  Why have I waited until now to say anything about Nintendo?  Because I like building things up before playing my strongest card.  Nintendo is in their own league among developers, and I’m don’t mean because they’re my favorite, their situation as the primary developer for their systems puts them in a very different position than the third parties I’ve covered.  Nintendo has always been prominent as a software publisher, even during the Wii U days their games sold millions with absurdly high attach rates that annihilated the best selling games of other systems with a low userbase.  However, Nintendo’s health is often measured by their console’s sales, and that has certainly not been going well in recent years.

Then it was like someone simply flipped a Switch.  Seeing what happened when they tried to copy their competitors with the Wii U, the Nintendo Switch is showing all indications that it recaptured the lightning bottled by the original Wii.  With the system selling out every shipment it makes almost instantly (and this is in March and April) and a non-pack in game managing to attain an unprecedented over 100% attach rate in at least one region, we have plenty of reason to believe that Nintendo’s console division is back on track.  And they’re definitely contributing to Japanese games making a resurgence in 2017.  This year we have or are scheduled to get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade 2, Fire Emblem Warriors and the game that means so much to me it was my most anticipated game of 2017 based on a six second “tech demo”, Super Mario Odyssey.  Breath of the Wild, the only one released so far, is one of the highest rated games of all time and would single handedly make this a better year for Japanese game reception than some of the last few.  Nintendo is back, and they’re ready to lead the charge in the Japanese game resurgence.

 

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Mario is back, and he’s not alone.

 

And what was that other company I avoided mentioning?  Well, it’s one that’s pretty easy to ignore, if the bitterness doesn’t get you, at least.  Konami, tormentor of employees, bane of Kojima, the Japanese EA.  No other Japanese publisher fell as far as Konami, but even with them, there is a glimmer of light this year.  Super Bomberman R is one of the more prominent Switch launch games that isn’t Zelda, and has been selling amazingly well for such a niche game.  Konami has publicly announced plans to revive more dormant franchises, as opposed to fleeing video games to make pachinko machines.  The slightest bit of hope for Konami is a miraculous step forward at this point.

 

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This game existing at all is a frigging miracle.

 

So, with the games released and announced in 2017, I think it’s safe to say that the sun is rising again for Japanese games.  Again, I’m not asking for western console games to go back to their dark age.  While I generally prefer Japanese design philosophy, western developers (many of whom grew up with games from Japan’s golden age) are perfectly capable of using it, and both sides can learn things from the other’s games.  Gamers benefit from as many developers as possible making great games, no matter what region they’re from.  With E3 fast approaching, we will hopefully soon have even more games to look forward to from Japanese developers and proof that the revival trend will continue in 2018 and beyond.

Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2017

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Well, 2016 is almost over, and while there were some great games released, I mainly just want this year to end and to focus on the future (or gaming’s future, anyway).  Thankfully, 2017 in gaming fills me with a sense of true optimism (as opposed to forced hope) that I haven’t had in a long time, lots of series that haven’t had an entry (or a satisfying entry) in years are returning and while Nintendo has a lot less representation on this list than my ones from previous years, things should Switch on that front very early in the year.  So, let’s hurry up and get our focus to the new year.  I’ve decided to handle games from previous lists that got hit by delays with a rule that games can only appear on my lists twice, so Zelda won’t be showing up this time.  Let’s get this started!

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The Year Without a PC Port Wishlist

Christmas has pretty much always been my favorite holiday, especially when I was a child. I was a greedy little boy while I was growing up: one of my favorite holiday traditions was always writing up my list to Santa on my computer. Sure, some years I’d get overzealous and start thinking about it as early as August, but I’d always have a lot of fun just writing the list itself. I’d always try to sort things in the order I wanted them, but that was actually part of the fun for me: one week I’d really want some action figures, the next some new video game caught my eye. The downside to starting a list that early is that as time goes on, new items catch your eye. Even the greed of a child has its limits, so I would often have to pare down my list, trimming the items I could “do without”. (Gotta love child logic, am I right?) In a sense, I think those PC ports lists I wrote for a long time were the evolution of that favored Yule tradition, but eventually I got tired of doing them. Too much wishing, not enough getting. I’ve taken a hiatus on them and now, it’s been over a year. Instead of making an entirely new one, why not look over my previous works and analyze them a little? This year, I’ll be recounting my 5 favorite success stories, my top 10 most wanted and the game on each list I’d consider the most important (excluding those on the aforementioned lists) plus a brand-new one for good measure!

Before we get started (fittingly enough, with my favorite success stories), I’d like to start with some recent successes as well. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released on PS4 earlier this month and it will also be hitting both the Xbox One and Steam in March. Meanwhile, Garou: Mark of the Wolves was also recently released on PlayStation consoles via CodeMystics, but surprise, surprise: an entirely different port hit Steam soon after, from the good folks at DotEmu. In fact, it was such a surprise, I actually had to change a list entry because of it. The DotEmu port is less fancy than the CodeMystics port, but apparently, not only does the Steam version have a more solid netcode, but it’s also getting immediate bugfixes to iron out some of its bizarre glitches. Funny how that works. I expected that to be the last bit of news I got on the PC end of things, but I was wrong: The Legend of Dark Witch 2, another game I’d been salivating over the prospect of seeing a PC port is announced to be hitting Steam sometime during “Q4 2016”. One last big surprise for me.

You’ll also remember that this past April, I did an “April Fools’ Day” article, revolving around 10 PC games I’d like to see receive console ports. Well, like many of my jokes, this one ended up biting me in the ass. During the PlayStation Experience, Ys Origin (the only PC-exclusive Ys game) was announced to be hitting both PlayStation 4 and, amazingly enough, the Vita on February 21, 2017 with the port being handled by the good people over at DotEmu who are utilizing XSEED’s English translation and coming up with original French, Italian, German and Spanish translations as well. (As an aside, DotEmu’s also bringing a favorite of mine – the NeoGeo classic Windjammers – to the same platforms. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a PC port down the line!) You’d think that would be enough, but the world wasn’t done having fun at my expense: soon after, it was revealed that the indie platformer Kero Blaster would also be coming to the PS4, thanks to its publisher Playism. They’ll also be bringing Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight to PS4, though release windows for both titles have not been announced. Continue reading

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.