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

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

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

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

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

Crystalis (NES)

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

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

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

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

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

SNK Gals’ Fighters (NGPC)

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

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

Rage of the Dragons (Arcade)

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

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

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

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

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

Aggressors of Dark Kombat (Arcade)

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

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

Dark Arms: Beast Buster 1999 (NGPC)

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

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

Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition (Arcade/PS1)­

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

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

Breakers Revenge (Arcade)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Battle for The 10 Games I Want Ported to PC

Yep, it’s time for another one of my bi-monthly PC port wishlists. However, before I begin, I’d like to thank SNK Playmore for not only single-handedly keeping my streak alive, but exceeding it. When I was first outlining this specific entry, I was extremely worried that the dream was dead, as the only major PC port of note was for Ryse: Son of Rome, a game which I honestly would not have minded remaining an Xbox One exclusive. Then, near the beginning of the month, SNK Playmore announced that Metal Slug X was coming to Steam in early October, alongside MS3 which came out earlier this year. While that was enough of a boon to keep me motivated, SNK wasn’t done yet. Later on in the month, SNK also revealed in a press release that they would be releasing two entries in their King of Fighters series that have been long rumored to be receiving official PC ports: The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match (bumped up to the “Final Edition” which appeared on NESiCAxLive, a Japanese arcade system that allows for online play) and The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match (which also appears to be using the NESiCAxLive port). ’98 will be hitting Steam in November, while 2002 is set to launch in December, which brings the grand total of games on my wishlist that ended up hitting PC to a solid 7. Not bad, considering this is the fifth list and I’ve only got seven planned at the moment.

One last piece of good news before we move on: both Dead Rising 2 and its non-canon spinoff Off the Record are following suit with Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and transferring from the currently-zombified (but still technically alive) Games for Windows Live to Steamworks early next year, along with Resident Evil 5 (which, to the best of my knowledge, still lacks the content from the Gold Edition). It’s not exactly new PC ports from Capcom, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll see some new ports of older console games hit Steam from them in the future, along with new stuff. Though, honestly, I’d also be happy if they ported over Street Fighter x Tekken, especially if they include the rest of the DLC on there.

Before we get to the fun stuff, I’m going to be recapping the rules once again, for anyone who hasn’t read any of the previous articles in this series. Anyone who hasn’t, I’d highly recommend doing so. A lot of my most-wanted games are in earlier articles from this series, but don’t get me wrong: I want everything on here (and then some). My lists stick mostly to third-party companies (aside from Microsoft) with a general focus on companies that have recently released games on PC. Games will be taken from the seventh (360/Wii/PS3) and eighth (WiiU/PS4/XBO) generations of video games, as well as handhelds from those eras and mobile games. Games that weren’t system exclusives are preferred. Finally, games from the same series released on the same console can be packaged together on a single list entry. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s see what I’ve picked out this time.

Capcom Arcade Cabinet – Capcom (360/PS3)

Sure, I won the complete pack for this game in a contest, but I’d feel a lot more secure if it were on PCs as well. I’ve got at least one friend that agrees with me. It would also be a little nostalgic for me, considering as I mentioned before, I owned the PC version of Williams Arcade Classics. Despite the fact that most of Capcom’s biggest arcade hits are absent from this collection, it is an interesting look into the developer’s early history, before they made it big with hits like MegaMan, Street Fighter and Resident Evil. Just port that sucker over to Steam, keep the leaderboards and maybe throw in a feature to upload replays to Youtube and it would be a perfect addition to Steam, which is sorely lacking in arcade game compilations.

Soul Calibur – Namco Bandai (360/iOS/Android)

I brought up how I wanted the recent re-release of Soul Calibur II to hit PC last time, but I’m incredibly fond of the first 3 games in the Soul series. I’m one of those apparently rare people who actually played Soul Blade on the original PlayStation (still own a copy to this day), but I remember that the series had its first mainstream success with the original Soul Calibur. It was a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast and the game I picked up with the console itself. To this day, I still love this game and I felt it was worth the $10 I paid for the re-release on XBLA, even though it was missing some features. Ideally, if Soul Calibur gets ported to PC, it would combine the extra modes and features from the Dreamcast version with the enhanced HD visuals of the XBLA version.

Cyber Troopers Virtual-On/Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram/Virtual-On Force – Sega (360/PS3)

Virtual-On is another one of those interesting Sega games that people forget about, especially for people outside of Japan. It’s one of those arena-style fighting games, where you pilot two real-type mechas around a fully 3D arena, allowing for a more tactical methodology when trying to defeat your opponent. The first game actually had a couple of PC ports way back when, but it was recently re-released as a part of Sega’s Model 2 Collection for XBLA and PSN exclusively in Japan. The third game, unique because it featured 2-on-2 fighting for 4 players, saw a disc-based re-release on Xbox 360, but again only in Japan. In fact, the only game in the series we actually saw re-released last-gen in the West was Oratorio Tangram (or VOOT, for short). Frankly, I’d love to see all 3 of these games hit PC, but VOOT seems like the most likely to get the Steam treatment.

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late – Ecole Software/French Bread (AC/PS3)

It’s another animu fighter, but it looks pretty fun and frankly, I could go for more fighters on PC, 2D or otherwise. Truth be told, I’ve actually been campaigning for this one, just like I did with Bayonetta and Vanquish. Nyu Media, a Western publisher that deals mostly in Japanese indie games, has shown some interest in porting this game over to PC. French Bread used to develop mainly on PC, so there’s still a chance it might happen, but considering the fact that Arc System Works handled the console port and that’s already being localized by Aksys Games in North America and NIS America in Europe (I know, it doesn’t make any sense), it seems like the dream might be dead on this one. Still, if you head over to Nyu Media’s forums, there’s a thread supporting a PC release, so hopefully, this might happen after all if enough people voice their support for it.

Metal Slug/Metal Slug 2/Metal Slug X* – SNK Playmore (iOS/Android)

I mentioned earlier that Metal Slug X has already been announced for PC via Steam, but that still leaves the first two games in the series. While I’d honestly like to see the entire franchise hit Steam at some point, Metal Slugs 1 and 2 are the only games available on modern platforms that are unaccounted for. Granted, X is an enhanced remake of 2 that is generally considered superior, but I’d still like to see all of the Metal Slugs on PC regardless. I tend to be a completionist when it comes to re-releases. Want proof? I was actually pissed off when Warner Bros’ Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection included Ultimate MK3 and not the basic version. Of course, the best way to deal with that would be to just package 1 & 2 in a single release on PC. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Alien Hominid HD – The Behemoth (360/PS3)

Speaking of Metal Slug, Alien Hominid is probably one of the best Metal Slug clones around. Some might argue that there’s no point in having it on Steam if we’ve already got the original, but I say the more the merrier. I loved the original incarnation of Alien Hominid (the flash game on Newgrounds) so much, I rented the original console release on Gamecube way back when. It was fun, but I wasn’t really buying too many games back at that point. Considering Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theatre did fairly well on Steam, it only makes sense that The Behemoth should embrace its roots and release more games on PC. Why not start with their first major release?

Hard Corps: Uprising – Konami/Arc System Works (360/PS3)

I’ve said before that the original Contra for the NES was one of three games that got me into video games in the first place. What you may not know is that it’s not actually my favorite game in the series. That honor belongs to Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis. So imagine my surprise and delight when I heard it was getting a sequel, developed by Arc System Works no less. Too bad it’s exclusive to PSN and XBLA. Even though ASW is notoriously bad at PC support, I’m sure Konami could find a team to port it over to PC. Hopefully, they also manage to find one that does a good job. Abstraction Games is pretty good at what they do, I liked their work on Double Dragon Neon.

Raystorm HD – Taito [Square Enix] (360/PS3)

I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually played this game or any other game in the series, but I do love me some shmups, especially those of the vertical variety.  Likewise, I’m a fan of Taito’s games in general. So this definitely seems like it’s worth it. Considering the fact that Square Enix has been a bit less stingy about PC ports of non-Eidos titles these days, hopefully we can see some stuff from the folks at Taito as well.

Dodonpachi Resurrection Deluxe – Cave/Rising Star Games (AC/360/iOS/Android)

I love me some Cave shmups. Considering the fact that this game never actually hit North American shores, we were lucky enough to see a region-free European release via publisher Rising Star Games, which is slowly gaining a presence in our region. As I said before, Rising Star Games has started getting into the PC scene, as they both developed and published the PC port of Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut. Supposedly, Dodonpachi Resurrection is going to be hitting North America via Android phones, though whether or not this is still happening, I can’t confirm. Hopefully, Rising Star or some other publisher can expose a whole new audience to Cave’s unique brand of shoot-‘em-ups.

Eschatos – Qute (360)

An obscure choice I admit, but it’s a game that I’ve been obsessing over since I discovered it. Only available for Xbox 360 in Japan (although, it IS region-free), Eschatos is actually bundled with two other shmups from the same developer: Judgement Silversword and Cardinal Sins, so it’s really 3 games for the price of one. Still, a Japanese Xbox 360 release is pretty much nothing and from what I’m able to glean, it didn’t even get an arcade release. Port that sucker to PC and put it on Steam Greenlight. Hell, I’m sure Nyu Media or PLAYISM would be willing to help with some of the details.

There you have it, another batch of 10 games I’d like to see ported to PC. Truth be told, I was honestly really nervous about writing this article due to the lack of any games on any of my wishlists (past, present and yes, future) getting announced for PC ports until right before my own self-imposed deadline. I got really lucky this time, considering I’ve tripled my usual yield of 1 game per wishlist. Hopefully, a stronger flow of anticipated ports is in my future and my winning streak continues to grow, but who can say at this point in time? I’ll be keeping an eye out for anything else though. At the very least, those recently-announced Steamworks conversions of older games from Capcom are giving me an iota of hope that we might see something from them at some point.

The Son of 10 Games I Want Ported To PC

Well, it’s been another two months, so it’s time for another one of my wishlists for PC ports. When I was first laying this article out, I thought that the fates had been cruel to me, and another game from my master list hadn’t had a PC port announced. Then I actually looked at the list and realized that another game had had a PC port announced: Battleblock Theater, which came out yesterday. So, that’s three for three. Not bad. It’s only sort of a minor technicality, but when I came up with the list, I had no idea there was going to be a PC port. Either way, I’m kind of worried about my chances up keeping up this streak. Who knows when my luck will run out? Considering the fact that many older games are still being ported to the PC now, I guess it doesn’t really matter if games on these lists get confirmed before the next time I write one of these. After all, it’s just a matter of time by now.

Most of you probably remember the rules by now, but for anyone reading this series for the first time, I’ll repeat them. First, there’s only one game per company per list. These lists will be sticking mostly to third-party companies (except Microsoft, because they also release games on PC). Most of the focus on these lists will be on companies that have released games on PC recently in some form or another. Games on these lists will specifically be taken from the seventh (Wii/360/PS3) and eighth (WiiU/XBO/PS4) generations, especially those that were on multiple consoles at the time of their release. Finally, games that are both from the same series that were released on the same platform CAN and often will be packaged together. So with this increasingly pointless recap out of the way, let’s get on with the list.

Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix – Capcom (360/PS3)

Oh man, I have a long history with this game. It was the first game I ever owned with Darkstalkers characters in it, it taught me what Cyberbots was, and it was the game that made Dan Hibiki the #1 Shotoclone in my heart (CRIMSON DEATH FIST!). I was really happy to see this get an HD remake way back when, and it ended up way better than a certain other HD Remix Capcom put out on consoles last-gen. It was based on the Dreamcast re-release, which included two other gameplay modes which mimicked other puzzle games, specifically Columns and Nintendo’s Puzzle League series. The only major flaw with the game in my opinion is that it didn’t receive any sort of re-release on PC. After all, even the original home versions included a PC release. Weird, right? I actually had to look that up, and frankly, I’m just as surprised as you are. So get to it, Capcom. Commission QLOC to make a PC port so this game isn’t lost to the impending digital apocalypse once more.

Anarchy Reigns/Madworld – Sega/Platinum Games (360/PS3)/(Wii)

When I put this on the list, it was before Namco Bandai announced their upcoming PC exclusive 2-on-2 brawler, Rise of Incarnates. Many people have compared this game to Anarchy Reigns, as they both seem to exist within the same fighting game sub-genre genre: it’s an arena game akin to Virtual On, Castlevania Judgment or Namco’s own Gundam Extreme Vs. series. While RoI may have an edge in the PC market due to being exclusively designed with Western audiences in mind, I’d still love to have Anarchy Reigns on PC, just due to how unappreciated it was in the West, due to mitigating factors. Better yet, pack it with a remastered port of its predecessor. Madworld didn’t get much mainstream success due to its odd status as a hyper-violent game on Nintendo’s Wii platform, so giving the game a second chance on a new platform would be amazing.

Soul Calibur II HD Online – Namco Bandai (360/PS3)

Speaking of Namco Bandai, I was honestly a really big fan of the Soul series from the first game. I first played Soul Blade on the PlayStation 1 when I was a kid. The first game I picked up for the Dreamcast when it launched was Soul Calibur. Soul Calibur II is generally considered the best game in the series and for good reason. It just hit everything right. The series began its decline shortly afterward: Soul Calibur III was pretty good, but IV and V were terrible. Namco Bandai recently re-released Soul Calibur II on PSN and XBLA, while snubbing Nintendo and PC owners. While a Nintendo re-release would obviously necessitate adding Link back into the game (thereby finally creating a literally perfect version of Soul Calibur II with all three guest characters), a PC re-release wouldn’t require that kind of work. Just fix the netcode this time around, okay?

Metal Slug XX – SNK Playmore (360/PSP)

I was happy to see that Metal Slug 3 made it to PCs not too long ago, and I have to say, DotEmu did a good job handling that port. The online was around the same caliber as that of KoF XIII’s, and the emulation itself was handled well. Having said that, I’d like to see even more Metal Slug games make it to PC. Let’s start with the latest one: Metal Slug XX. A remake of the DS-exclusive Metal Slug 7, which added co-op multiplayer and a new character: Leona Heidern from the KoF games, joining her teammates Ralf Jones and Clark Still. Of course, she was DLC in the earlier versions, but considering how SNK Playmore handled the console DLC in KoFXIII Steam Edition, I’m sure they’d include her in the base package. Metal Slug XX didn’t really receive much attention in the US, only appearing on the PSP and Xbox Live Arcade, so a PC port seems like a quick and easy way to garner more attention.

Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold – Atlus/Arc System Works (AC/PS3)

Let me reiterate: I’m not really a fan of most JRPGs. So, when I first saw Persona 4 Arena, I was skeptical and frankly a little angry, as this killed off any chance of a Power Instinct revival. After playing the game, I fell in love with some of the game mechanics (like certain attacks causing status effects, a throwback to the game’s JRPG roots) and was only slightly annoyed by others (auto-combos). Either way, it was an awesome game and I’d personally like to see its update/sequel hit PC at some point, though I’m sure most people would put more of a priority on the JRPGs in the series.

Mighty Switch Force! 2 – WayForward Interactive (WiiU/3DS)

Last time, I mentioned wanting the original MSF on PC, so it’s only fitting that I’d also want the sequel, right? I can’t really tell if I preferred the original or this one, but this game has its own unique set of mechanics which makes it less of a puzzle game and more of a straight platformer than the previous game, opting for a more even balance between its puzzle, platforming and run-and-gun elements. As with last time, I’m pretty much just looking for a straight port of the Wii U version to PC, though I was a little disappointed with the fact that it used the original pixelated graphics instead of the sleek redrawn designs from Hyper Drive Edition. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers and it’s better to have any version of this amazing game than none at all.

Midway Arcade Origins – WB (360/PS3)

It really shouldn’t be a secret at this point that I love me some old-school arcade games. When I was a kid, I actually owned Williams Arcade Classics on PC. Sinistar, Bubbles, the first two Defender games, Joust and Robotron 2084 were some of my fondest PC gaming memories from my childhood. So when I heard WB Games was making a collection of some of the arcade games they acquired from Midway (and by extension, Williams), I was ecstatic. Alas, it was only announced for consoles. Even more disappointing was the fact that some of the games weren’t emulated so well, especially those that used trackballs. WB Games doesn’t exactly have the best track record for PC ports, but seeing this classic collection ported to PC (with some fixes for those games that didn’t turn out so well) would make me incredibly happy.

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles – Konami (PSP)

I’m a fairly big fan of the Castlevania series, specifically the old-school, linear stage-based games. Rondo of Blood is probably one of my favorite games in the series, but the first time I was able to play this game was through this enhanced remake. One of the games that made the PSP worth buying (at least to me), The Dracula X Chronicles was really three games in one: the base game was a 2.5D remake of Rondo of Blood, and it also included brand-new English translations of both the original TurboGrafx CD version and its sequel, Symphony of the Night, generally considered the best game in the series. Since Konami wasted resources porting MercurySteam’s pathetic attempt at a 2D Castlevania to PCs and other platforms, an HD version of DXC would’ve been a way better use of that time and manpower.

Akai Katana – Cave/Rising Star Games (360)

As you may or may not know, I’m a really big fan of the “shoot-‘em-up” genre. Steam has recently become a haven for indie variants of the genre and they even recently scored a port of Treasure’s classic Ikaruga. But as with most genres I love, it’s just never enough for me. I want more. Cave seems like a good place to start. Though Cave isn’t really known for doing PC ports, the game’s North American and European publisher, Rising Star Games, has handled some of their own PC ports of Japanese titles, so hopefully they can work their magic on this game and add another game of real pedigree to Steam’s every growing shmup library.

Ys Seven – Nihon Falcom/XSeed (PSP)

Recently, I’ve become a big fan of the Ys series. A Japanese action RPG from a company mainly known for dabbling in various forms of PC gaming? Hell yes. So far, I own all 3 (4?) of the games that XSeed has made available from the series on Steam and frankly, I want more. Let’s start with something simple: Ys Seven, like Oath of Felghana before it was originally a PSP exclusive. So why not port that to PC as well? XSeed’s small team for PC ports has done wonderful work with the previous Ys games, so seeing more from them would just be awesome.

So, there we go, another ten games. With three of my six planned lists done, it looks like I’m about halfway through this little series. However, recently, I’ve managed to come up with two more lists, one of which is a special bonus list, so good news for anyone who enjoys these articles, this little series will be continuing on into 2015. As for my hot streak, I’m a little less confident that it will continue by the time my next article gets posted, but you never really know. All the same, here’s hoping for more announcements soon.

Losing (Middle) Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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