Top 5 Games That Mastered Remaking

With the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns and the recently released Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, remakes have been on my mind recently.  Now there’s quite a bit of a scale in terms of how much effort goes into video game remakes.  Sometimes you get simple remasters that basically just polish the textures so the game looks good in HD.  Sometimes the graphics are completely redone, maybe a few gameplay polishes.  And sometimes you get the holy grail, a game that takes the story, settings, and basic gameplay of an old game and makes what can basically be considered a new game.  These are my strong preference for video game remakes, but as you might expect from the amount of effort involved, they are the rarest type.  But these do exist, and so I’m going to listing my top five remakes that truly mastered the art of… re-ing.  But before we get to that, let’s look at some great game that I feel went just a little too far in their new features and have “condemned” themselves to be new games:

Punch-Out!! (2009)

Punch-Out!! on NES is a great game.  Super Punch-Out!! on SNES is better.  But Punch-Out!! on Wii annihilates the rest of the series.  With the same name as the NES game (and one of the arcade games) and almost every fighter from it, Punch-Out!! is almost a remake, but every fighter is changed so much (and almost a third of them weren’t in the NES game) that it feels more like a Mario game that uses the same level themes than a remake.

Mortal Kombat (2011)

I loved Mortal Kombat when I was a kid in the 90s, but it was more the violence taboo, dark fantasy tone, and seemingly endless secrets that intrigued me than the gameplay.  So the 2011 Mortal Kombat installment that brought back almost every character from the first three MK games (the nostalgia and image peak) and retold their stories, but this time with great gameplay, was pretty freaking fantasic.  However, it’s not really a remake, instead being a weird, nonsensical, but very entertaining in-universe reboot that continues the series’ story by changing the first three games.

Star Fox 64

Star Fox 64 has an essentially identical story to the first game, but aside from that (and the fact that doing a remake as the second installment in a franchise, only four years after the original was released would be really weird) it changes as much as any other direct sequel.  Star Fox 64 is an amazing game that aged very well for a fifth-gen game, but I don’t think it can really be called a remake.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana

I haven’t played this game (make a PS4 version, damn it!), but I’ve been assured it is a vast improvement over its basis, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, and that it has the same essential story and is now considered canon in the series.  Having played both Ys III and Ys Origin (which has the same gameplay style as Oath in Felghana), however, I can’t really consider this a true remake when the basic gameplay genre has been changed so dramatically.  But I’m sure it’s a great game, and again, want a convenient version for myself released.

Okay, with those out of the way, let’s get to the actual list!  Five games that push the remake envelope to its max without breaking it.  Not much else to say, here we go:

#5.  Ducktales Remastered

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Everyone loves the NES Ducktales game, but I’m just going to come out and say that several parts of it aged badly.  The control for the signature pogo cane is stiff, the hit detection is noticeably off, and the game is really, really short.  Well in 2013 we got a fantastic remake that may not be perfect, but fixed all of the aforementioned issues and of course was promptly condemned for not matching the deified memories people had of the NES game.  Well screw that, Ducktales Remastered is vastly superior to the original.  In addition to things technology’s march made possible (gorgeous art and animation that looks just like the show, full voice acting), the game greatly expands every level from the NES game and adds two completely new ones, making for an experience that could almost pass for Ducktales 3.  With the Ducktales cartoon’s reboot about to launch (which I’m expecting to also greatly outshine the original, the previews have done a very good job of showing the Gravity Falls influence), now is a great time to play through this game.  It’s a fitting last hurrah for the 80s Ducktales as a whole, in addition to being a great remake.

#4. Ratchet and Clank (2016)

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Straddling the line between remake and reboot, I decided to place this game on the remake side because I’m always going to place gameplay first, and no matter how much the story of the original Ratchet and Clank was changed in Ratchet and Clank 2016, it’s obvious that the original game was still the near exclusive focus.  The advancements in control and quality of life that the later games made are intact, but the levels are almost all from the original.  But like all the remakes on this list, they aren’t just graphically upgraded copies, they’re new levels using the settings and elements of the original.  Ratchet and Clank 2016 does a great job expanding the classic levels it covers and makes them feel every bit as good as new levels would.  While having less levels is a somewhat painful tradeoff and prevents this game from placing higher on the list, R&C2016 is still a polished and satisfying action platformer that can serve as a great introduction to the series for 13 year olds who weren’t alive when the original game was released and are now making you feel old.  Let’s hope we get the Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal remakes that everyone wants, and that they’re as good as this one

#3. Mega Man Powered Up

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This game is criminally underappreciated.  Unlike Maverick Hunter X, which made minimal gameplay additions and was based on a game that aged too well to really need a remake, Mega Man Powered Up takes the very first Mega Man game and adds an absurd amount of content.  You get a ton of new playable characters, a level editor, and brand new chibi-style 2.5D graphics that can be placed over an exact gameplay replica of the original game.  But the crown jewel of this game is the “New Style” mode with brand new levels based on the themes and gameplay elements of the original, in addition to two brand new bosses with their own original levels.  This game just offers everything.  Want the original game with new graphics?  You’ve got it.  Want a better game based on it?  It’s there.  Want to play as Roll or a robot master?  Go ahead.  Impossible to please?  Then make your own damn level, you can even do that.  Mega Man Powered Up needs to be rescued from its relative obscurity, it’s a must have for every Mega Man fan.

#2. Resident Evil (2002)

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One of the most positively regarded video game remakes of all time, the GameCube Resident Evil (or REmake, as it’s commonly known) took the 1996 original, which had already aged pretty badly by 2002, and turned it into one of the best games to use the classic Resident Evil formula.  The flow of the game was shaken up, the puzzles were redesigned, new enemies and areas were added, the controls were updated, a colossal amount of secrets were added, the dialogue and voice acting were made competent, and the graphics were completely redone and looked truly amazing, they still hold up today, even without the long-postponed HD remaster.  This set the standard for video game remakes, and every re-release of a Resident Evil game since has been met with wishes that another Resident Evil game would get the kind of monumental remake that the original did.  While the lack of information has made it hard to remember, we do have the mythical REmake 2 announced, hopefully we can once again get something on the level of this, the runner-up master of remaking.

#1.  Metroid: Zero Mission

Metroid Zero Mission

I debated on the order to place the previous games in, trying to decide how much weight to give how much of an improvement over the original game each remake was versus how much I enjoyed the game personally.  Thankfully, Metroid: Zero Mission excels in both areas.  The original Metroid is enormously influential, but it did not age well at all, and the lack of features and quality of life improvements that Super Metroid standardized is glaring.  Metroid: Zero Mission merges the original game with Super Metroid, adding new abilities, areas, bosses, and story elements to make something that functions as both a new entry in the Metroid series, and a replacement for the poorly-aged original.  While the game is a bit short (despite all the expansions, the aimless wandering and cheap deaths really made the NES Metroid feel longer than it was), the gameplay is just as fun and satisfying as the legendary Super Metroid.  Zero Mission is everything a remake should strive to be, the best possible outcome.  After 13 years of wishing for Metroid II to get the same treatment, we’re just months away from that finally happening, and now seems like the time to recognize both Metroid: Zero Mission and the potential of remakes in general.  If more remakes had the effort and care given to Zero Mission, the world would be a better place and the galaxy would be at peace.

So there you have it, my picks for the top five games that show the full potential of video game remakes.  I’m not saying there’s no place for remasters that simply add some modern quality of life features to a classic game, but I consider games like these five to be the holy grail of video game remakes.  There are plenty of classic but questionably aged games that could benefit from full blown remakes, hopefully we’ll get many more remakes like these five games that mastered remaking.

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How Wii Will Remember U

As I write this, Wii U owners and critics are preparing for a dramatic switch.  I don’t mean the console, I mean a switch in how the system is viewed.  Wii U did not sell very well, it was the underdog for almost all of its life.  This led to excessive and vicious trolling at every opportunity: people bashing it for lacking games while the “real” eighth gen systems subsisted on very slightly polished PS3 games, redefinition of what 3D meant to bash Nintendo, and of course predictions of its imminent death.  And what happens when it actually dies?  Worship.  When’s the last time you saw Dreamcast or GameCube or Neo Geo Pocket Color bashed for their poor sales?  Wii U is destined to be a revered cult favorite, and will surely be Nintendo’s last “real” console according to trolls at some point.  So, as we look back at its life, let’s do it both ways.  Every system has good and bad parts, so let’s look at Wii U from both perspectives.  I always get the bad out of the way first, and it came first chronologically anyway, so let’s begin with:

The “Wii U is Still Alive” Perspective

Wii U was a spectacular failure.  The very first we ever saw of it was a horrible trailer that made it look like it was just a controller accessory for the original Wii.  The tablet like controller never caught on with the mass market, and even Nintendo was quick to pretend it didn’t exist.  Retail games dried up almost instantly.  Nintendo went right from their best-selling console to their worst, everything about the Wii U was a disaster.

After launch day, the system suffered a terrible drought that lasted nine entire months.  Nintendo delayed their “launch window” games and the most we got from third parties were multi-plat games that were often missing features.  Despite bragging about all the third parties supporting them at the system’s reveal and re-reveal (where it was just possible to tell it was a new console), third parties were quick to abandon the Wii U.  Late or inferior PS360 ports were the extent of the support from major western publishers, and even those dried up to almost nothing within a year.  Major publishers and developers openly mocked the system and no efforts were made by anyone to give it games that were only on eighth generation systems.  Third party support became worse than it had ever been.

Nintendo’s games should have been the saving grace, but they refused to give gamers what they wanted.  We got a 2D Mario at launch, a linear 3D Mario, a freaking Donkey Kong game instead of Metroid, and some squid game.  Paper Mario Color Splash was a slap in the face to every former fan of the Paper Mario series, and Nintendo constantly let 3DS steal Wii U’s exclusives.  Nintendo had clearly given up on the system by 2015 and forced it to do a death march until they finally released a new console.  Everything about the system was a mistake and it would be in the best interest of Nintendo and gamers everywhere to just forget that this failure ever happened.

The “Wii U is Dead” Perspective

The Wii U was a fantastic system subjected to some of the greatest injustices in gaming history.  The system had some of Nintendo’s best games and incredible potential that could have easily made it a bigger success than the original Wii if anyone had given it a chance.  The Wii U Pad can do everything you could possibly want out of a controller and simple quality of life improvements provided by the touchscreen could have given it the edge over other systems in nearly any multi-plat.  Wii U didn’t fail, we failed the Wii U.

The supposedly terrible drought was the result of the system having a launch that was too good, over 30 games were available at launch and if you were depending on Wii U for your console needs there was enough to last you until Pikmin 3 in August 2013.  That’s right, the “great drought” lasted nine months, as opposed to around two years for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, which had terrible launches to boot.  And remember PS4 getting praised for playing used games, and Xbox One for adding limited backwards compatibility long after release?  Guess what system fully supported used games and had full backwards compatibility from the start?  Wii U was the victim of a hypocritical and vicious media, plain and simple.

The lazy, entitled, and viciously unprofessional actions by third parties were in no way the system’s fault.  Did Nintendo tell Ubisoft to traumatize everyone with the original Red Steel, leading to Zombi U’s disappointing sales?  No, and they didn’t tell them to sabotage poor Rayman Legends in response to that just to make sure Wii U didn’t even have it as a timed exclusive.  Did they tell companies to leave DLC out of the Wii U versions of multi-plats, setting up a vicious cycle where they couldn’t sell?  Did they personally summon whatever demon was running EA and provoke it into every act of blatant sabotage or immature public shot at the Wii U?  Third parties never gave the system a chance, Nintendo’s big mistake was giving THEM a chance.

Now as for Nintendo’s own games, they made some of their best games ever.  We got two fantastic Mario games lacking nothing but nostalgia rebranded as “soul.”  Mario Kart and Smash Bros. were leagues better than their Wii counterparts.  Star Fox, Pikmin, and an absolutely phenomenal Yoshi platformer made their returns.  Splatoon showed Nintendo can still make a great and popular new IP whenever the mood strikes them.  Nintendo made alliances with third parties to get great exclusives like Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101, Pokken Tournament, and Hyrule Warriors.  Super Mario Maker made the longstanding dream of gamers come true, and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is one of the best platformers of all time.  Even the mini-game compilation at launch was bursting with content and far deeper gameplay than you would expect.  Nintendo not catering to the exact whims of jaded gamers (who would doubtlessly have changed their demands as soon as they got them) doesn’t mean they didn’t bring their A game.

My Actual Thoughts

So, to conclude, what do I think of the Wii U and its life when I’m not purposefully being blindly positive or negative?  Well, I’m not going to deny that some mistakes were made, there’s no way to deny that the console sales were indeed pretty much a disaster.  I’m not going to absolve Nintendo of all responsibility for what went wrong, but double standards on the part of third parties and the gaming community definitely share some blame for what went wrong.  Nintendo misjudging how long it would take to get the hang of HD development was a big factor in the initial drought, and they should have made Wii U being a new system clearer.  Third parties abandoning it after their late, often inferior ports didn’t sell a huge amount, though, is something that really happened and it is not at all fair to blame Nintendo for that.  The things PS4/X1 got praised for that Wii U had ignored probably weren’t the result of malicious intent, but it was unfortunate timing that Nintendo wasn’t responsible for.

Nintendo really did make some of their best games on the system, even if they had clearly changed their focus to the Switch late in the Wii U’s life, the things I said about games in the positivity section are pretty much how I really feel.  New Super Mario Bros. U, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and Yoshi’s Wooly World are exceptional games that people unfairly dismissed because they were 2D.  The collaborations with third parties for exclusives were a great idea and were usually successful (assuming anyone remembers Devil’s Third, that was the obvious exception).  Wii U’s amazing attach rate for first party games shows that Nintendo was still making great games and that people still like them.  However, third party was clearly lacking (and not just in big budget games like the hidden gem filled Wii) and Nintendo’s learning period for HD game design limited the quantity a bit.  While there were some great indie games, Wii U really could have used the mid-ware style retail releases that gave Wii so many overlooked but great games.  Thankfully, the portable/console dual nature of the Switch shows signs of bringing those back.

Appropriately enough, I’d rank the Wii U solidly in the middle as far as Nintendo systems go.  It didn’t match its predecessor or the legendary SNES, but it could easily compete with Nintendo’s other systems.  Definitely a quality over quantity system, a couple of dozen great exclusives that definitely justify its purchase, but aren’t going to push it to the top of the Nintendo heap.  I’m not sad to see the negativity that dominated the Wii U’s lifespan go, I’m more than ready for a Switch.  The system itself, though, has a solid lineup of great games that I would strongly recommend collecting before their inevitable price inflation.  In the future, when the negativity of the era has been washed away by time and the nostalgia filter, I think Wii’ll have many fond memories of U.

 

Remaking History

Originally, this article was going to be my own personal take on an earlier piece from KI, where he detailed various sequels he’d like to see for games that have long been ignored or forgotten. Truth be told, I’ve got a similar hunger to see some old games resurface myself. Of course, while I was brainstorming that topic (and don’t worry, my take on that idea will resurface at some point down the line) I eventually decided that it would be more interesting to think up games I’d like to see remade. After all, remakes and sequels are pretty similar when it comes to video games.

I’ve said this in the past, video games are unique in the sense that sequels typically improve on their predecessors. The same can honestly be said with remakes: video game remakes typically improve on the source material, where most other forms of media have a much lower success rate. Unfortunately, video games fall into a similar trap as other forms of media. Commonly if a game is remade, it’s generally already a popular (and by extension, good) game. It’s somewhat pointless to try to reinvent the wheel. Games like Maverick Hunter X and Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles weren’t improvements over the originals. On the other hand, you’ve got remakes like Metroid: Zero Mission and MegaMan Powered Up, which were definite improvements over the games they were based on.

For the purposes of this article, I’ve chosen 5 games which I believe deserve to be remade. Maybe people will disagree that they need remakes, maybe some of you will even think these games are just lost causes altogether. The other thing these games all have in common is that they come from either established franchises or development teams that eventually redeemed themselves after each respective misstep. I’ll be discussing each game’s faults, strengths and how I personally would handle a remake for each game, though the order in which the first two aspects are discussed may vary between entries. The importance of each element will determine which takes precedence in the discussion.

Mother (1) [a.k.a. “Earthbound Zero”] – Nintendo Famicom/Game Boy Advance

The Problems

Just as a bit of a disclaimer, I’ve never actually played the original Mother. I requested that a friend of mine play through it, mainly because after playing through Earthbound on my own, I was curious about the game’s roots. In spite of having no hands-on experience with the title, I can tell that it is definitely a very flawed game. The problems I have with the original Mother can be summarized in a single sentence: it’s an NES-era Japanese RPG. The NES was a part of the last video game generation where the abomination that is random battling could be blamed on hardware limitations. Likewise, while its sequels played around with unique gameplay mechanics that matched the franchise’s off-beat tone, the original Mother feels incredibly generic by comparison.

The Potential

On the other hand, Mother 1 actually gives us a unique opportunity. Shigesato Itoi, the mastermind behind the Mother trilogy, has stated that he has no intention to make a fourth game in the franchise. Considering how Mother 3 ended, it’s safe to say that there may be nothing left to explore in the future of the games’ storyline. However, the Earthbound fanbase is extremely passionate about seeing a new entry in the series. Meanwhile, Earthbound and Mother 3 don’t actually really need remakes: they’re perfectly fine in their current state. That leaves us with the original Mother, a flawed, but still very interesting game. Remaking the original Mother could allow Nintendo a chance to give the fanboys what they want, while avoiding any potential backlash in making a new game without Mr. Itoi’s involvement. It’s also important to keep in mind that Mother has only been released in Japan. I may have ragged on The Dracula X Chronicles earlier (despite the fact that I actually like that game), but there’s one thing that it objectively improved upon its predecessor: the number of regions it was released in. Sure, Nintendo’s supposedly sitting on that complete, unreleased English translation of the original Famicom game, but why just release that when you could do something with much more style?

My Proposal

I think a remake of Mother 1 would work best as a downloadable game for the Wii U. I’d actually prefer it if they kept the story about the same as the original, making as few alterations to the Famicom game’s scenario as possible. I’d say the gameplay should probably emulate Earthbound more than Mother 3, just due to its place in the timeline. Represent enemy encounters on the world map, use the odometer-style HP system, all that good stuff. Graphically, I’d like the game to resemble those clay models used for the Mother series’ concept art. It’s such an interesting aesthetic and Nintendo’s already attempting something similar with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.

Street Fighter (1) [a.k.a. “Fighting Street”] – Arcade/NEC TurboGrafx CD

The Problems

People say I go way too easy on the original Street Fighter, due to the fact that my first experience with the game was with the even worse PC port. While I don’t think that SF1 is as bad as everyone else says, I must admit it’s an incredibly flawed game. It suffers both from being a late-80’s era arcade game and one of the earliest examples of a modern fighting game. The game suffers from both stiff controls and gameplay, which coupled with the traditional “unfair” difficulty typical of “quarter muncher” arcade games, made the experience even less enjoyable.  While introducing special moves was a pretty cool idea, the lack of playable characters (just Ryu and “Player 2”, later renamed Ken) also hurt the game’s appeal, especially when compared to later fighting games.

The Potential

Of course, Street Fighter’s potential is obvious to anyone who’s ever played its sequels or Final Fight. Once the initial kinks had been worked out, Street Fighter’s core ideas led its successors to become some of the most important fighting games of all time, even to this day. Besides that, SF1 also had some fan favorite characters that haven’t reappeared in more recent titles. I’m sure few people care about such mainstays as Lee, Joe and Mike (who is generally considered the basis for later SF2 character Mike Bison/Balrog, known colloquially as “Boxer”), but we haven’t seen characters like Birdie and Eagle since Capcom’s transition to 3D models in their 2D fighting games. There are even characters that never reemerged in later games that have been requested to some degree. Remember when the internet thought Retsu was the fifth new character in Ultra Street Fighter IV? Geki, the Japanese ninja, is another common request when it comes to returning characters, though he’s not at the top of most people’s lists.

My Proposal

Honestly, I’d kind of want Street Fighter V (which has been alluded to, by series producer Yoshinori Ono) to take a page from the Mortal Kombat reboot and retell the stories of all the previous games, which would lead to having a gigantic roster (and effectively remake Street Fighter 1 unintentionally). However, that would probably take an insane amount of resources, despite the fact that the game could potentially reuse some of the assets from the last game.

So let’s just talk about a straight remake of the original game instead. On one hand, seeing something along the lines of the MUGEN-based remake “Street Fighter One” would be pretty cool. Reuse the graphics from the arcade version, the TGCD version’s soundtrack and create an entirely new gameplay engine that would fix the flaws of the original. There’s also the possibility that there could be a full-on 2.5D remake, made by the team behind the Ultra update, in a case of what some people I know refer to colloquially as “watching the bee”. Think about it, the Ultra team is small and many people have complained about their work being buggy in many cases. Giving them another chance on a less important project to redeem themselves would be far more productive than just disbanding the team. Regardless of which form this remake take, there’s one thing this game should definitely have: the entire SF1 roster playable. Yes, even Joe.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – Nintendo Entertainment System

The Potential

Regardless of my personal feelings towards Simon’s Quest, I must acknowledge that it was an important step in the evolution of the Castlevania series and had a profound impact on the entry in the franchise that most people consider its magnum opus: Symphony of the Night. Granted, it wasn’t the first Castlevania game to focus more on exploratory gameplay as opposed to standard linear platforming, that distinct honor belongs to the MSX2 version of the original Akumajou Dracula, commonly referred to as “Vampire Killer” outside of Japan. Considering that little factoid can easily be filed as “obscure trivia”, it should be pretty clear why SQ is generally considered the proto-“Metroidvania”. Of course, a remake of Simon’s Quest could lead to the most interesting Metroidvania ever, if done properly. Considering the game takes place across multiple mansions, towns and forests, there’s way more potential for this compared to just another romp in Dracula’s Castle.

The Problems

Simon’s Quest falls into the “good concept, awful execution” category. Konami retained the standard lives systems from the first game in the series, despite the fact that it really didn’t add much to the game. The level design also left a lot to be desired, what with all those fake blocks and instant-death pits. The latter appear even in the towns, for some reason. The game allowed you to accidentally skip important (yet cryptic or possibly poorly translated) hints, but not the excruciatingly slow day/night transitions (call me a ripoff of AVGN for complaining about this, if you must). Finally, though the convoluted password system only appeared on the cartridge-based renditions of SQ, the original Famicom Disk System version had load times that would make the PS1 blush.

My Proposal

If Konami ever decides to remake Simon’s Quest, I’d like them to emulate another remake of one of the weaker entries in the series: Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. Make it a downloadable game, use the same style of faux 16-bit graphics and music. Instead of just aping the old “Classicvania” style of gameplay, I’d like to see a cross between that and the more Metroid-like style of gameplay from later 2D entries in the series. Keep the sprawling overworld and the various puzzles, but maybe include some kind of a “journal” where any clues the game gives you can be re-read at your own leisure. Expand on the mansions, maybe make them into actual stages, either linear Classicvania layouts or labyrinthine exploratory areas. Better yet, use both styles to keep things interesting. Develop on the towns by throwing in more shop mechanics like the ones , keep the day/night mechanic (but make the transitions more immediate) and we could be potentially looking at the best Metroidvania in the series.

Metroid II: Return of Samus – Nintendo Game Boy

The Potential

Let me be perfectly clear on this one, if Zero Mission didn’t exist, the original Metroid would be here instead of its Game Boy sequel. Return of Samus is a significant improvement on the original Metroid in pretty much every way. The controls are significantly improved. There are brand new power-ups including the Spider Ball, which allows Samus to climb walls and the Space Jump, which allows her to repeatedly spin-jump in the air. They join old favorites from the original like the Varia Suit, Ice Beam and Varia Suit, giving the intrepid bounty hunter a much more versatile arsenal. It’s also significantly longer than the original Metroid, with at least twice as many boss fights (that’s assuming you count each variant of a Metroid as a single fight, regardless of how many times they appear in the game) and several other areas to explore.

The Problems

Metroid II’s biggest issue is the fact that its sequel is an even greater improvement on it than it was to the original Metroid. Super Metroid added an in-game map, which allowed for a return to the original’s more non-linear game progression while avoiding its tendency to leave players stranded, added even more iconic weapons to Samus’s arsenal and improved the controls to perfection. There’s a reason why Super Metroid is generally considered the best game in the series. Unfortunately, due to being a Game Boy game and not being the series’ progenitor, Metroid II is generally considered to be the weakest game in the franchise. Its reputation isn’t helped by the fact that Zero Mission is generally considered to be close to the quality as Super Metroid.

My Proposal

At one point, Nintendo had plans to remake Metroid II for the Game Boy Color, as they did with Link’s Awakening. Unfortunately, it was scrapped along with other similar remakes (including MegaMan V, supposedly). I always thought it would’ve been pretty cool to see this idea come to fruition, but honestly, this project wouldn’t make much sense at this point in time.

Instead, I feel like Return of Samus should get the “Zero Mission” treatment. Give it an expanded remake, utilizing a similar engine to Super Metroid. I’d personally keep the more linear layout the game, but maybe throw in some exploits that would allow speedrunners or anyone else who’s looking for a challenge an opportunity to break sequence. Better yet, just make an extra mode that removes the roadblocks. Add some new bosses, but keep the 40 Metroid boss fights intact. Considering most of those were just the same 4 bosses repeated, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. The fact that Metroid’s fanbase has been clamoring for a new game in the franchise, especially a 2D one, pretty much means that if this remake is done well, it’ll relieve some of the pressure on Nintendo when it comes to working on the next real entry in the series.

Knuckles’ Chaotix – Sega 32X

The Problems

To say that Knuckles’ Chaotix was the best the 32X had to offer is pretty much an objective fact. Unfortunately, that’s really not saying much. Though its fellow expansion peripheral the Sega CD had a respectable amount of cult classics, the only other 32X game I find remotely endearing is Kolbiri, a free-roaming game with shump-style controls where you play as a hummingbird. Despite its status as the “one good 32X game”, Knuckles’ Chaotix still has its fair share of issues. Though I don’t really mind the random selection when you decide to switch out your partner, the way the stage order is randomized bugs me: you often switch between zones before you finish whichever one you’ve started with, which messes with the game’s flow. There’s also the fact that, at times, the game just doesn’t feel as smooth as its predecessors on the Genesis and Sega CD, the controls feel a little off at times and there’s also the occasional slowdown.

The Potential

The funny thing is, my first experience with Knuckles’ Chaotix didn’t happen until way after it was released. Even then, it wasn’t actually with Chaotix itself: I played a leaked beta made for the Genesis by the name of Sonic Crackers. While it wasn’t nearly as polished as the final product, I was enamored with its unique idea: controlling two different characters (in that case, Sonic and Tails) tethered together by a pair of rings. Likewise, Knuckles’ Chaotix delivered on that concept in my opinion. It may not have been a perfect game, but it was a way more interesting spin (no pun intended) on the Sonic formula than 3D Blast ever was.

My Proposal

Simply put, give it the Sonic CD treatment. Use the art and sound assets from the 32X version and let Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead work his magic on it, removing any technical limitations and tightening up the controls from the original version. I think the main reason I’d want this one remade is because it’s just not worth the time or effort for Sega to try to emulate 32X games, even though many fan-made Genesis emulators can handle them (to varying levels of success).

There you have it, 5 games I think are worth remaking. Some of them are more flawed than others, but all of them could use a second chance in my opinion. Of course, like I said before, most games that get remade even today are still as good as they ever were. Instead, they should be reserved for games that didn’t age gracefully, fixing their problems while sharing their potential with a new generation of gamers.

 

Sum of Its Parts: New “Classicvania”

This article’s been a long time coming. When I started this series earlier this year, I initially meant to post them on a bi-monthly basis. However, I also always wanted to have at least one idea in waiting before writing the next article in this particular series. I’ve had this idea since I first envisioned this series, but was only recently able to think of my next article. Hopefully, the next article won’t take quite as long to come out as this one did. For those of you that remember the previous article, the Sum of Its Parts series is basically about looking at long-running video game franchises that have either lost their way or have fallen into disuse by their companies, taking various elements from a number of games in the series and mashing them together to create an ultimate sequel worthy of its franchise.

This time, we’ll be looking at Castlevania, specifically a “Classicvania”. What is a Classicvania? A miserable little pile of gameplay! But enough jokes, Classicvania is a term I’ve heard used regarding CV games resembling those from the pre-Symphony of the Night era. Linear, stage-based Castlevanias with an emphasis on platforming over the exploration of later “Metroidvania”-style games. Sure, the series hit its peak after this period, but this style has always been my favorite type in this series and it definitely has its fans. Some of the most beloved games in the series were Classicvanias: Super Castlevania IV, Rondo of Blood and even the two good NES Castlevanias had this style of gameplay.

Some of you are probably asking: why make a new Classicvania game? After all, that particular type of Castlevania game got abandoned for the most part after the overwhelming success of SotN, and the best-selling Castlevania game of all time was the original Lords of Shadow. Of course, I’ve always preferred classic-style CV games like Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis and Rondo of Blood for Turbo-Grafx CD over the other variants. Metroidvanias were okay and “GodofVanias” (a derogatory term for the mainline LoS games) never really clicked with me. More important, however, is the respective shake-ups regarding those other two sub-genres of Castlevania. Koji Igarashi, the creative force behind Symphony of the Night and former producer for the Castlevania brand in general recently left Konami, throwing the future of Metroidvanias into question. David Cox and MercurySteam, the creative force behind the recent big-budget AAA Castlevanias have stated that LoS2 would be their final Castlevania and judging by its poor sales, it seems likely that that will remain the case. More importantly from my viewpoint however, is that the most recent Classicvania game, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth for WiiWare, was an excellent take on the series and reminded me just how much I’d like to see a new one.

Let’s start with the most important part of the gameplay: the base engine. As much as I loathe to admit it, the best possible engine for a new Castlevania game would probably be that of Super Castlevania IV, even if it does lack the feel of an old-school CV, it does boast the most responsive and reactive controls. In this day and age, that’s far more important than any nostalgic feelings I may have for the clunkier engines of old. The smoother jumping mechanics, whipping with 8-way aim and the ability to swing off of grapples, it’s great.

Of course, that’s not to say they couldn’t improve upon the engine. I actually played a little bit of IV recently while researching this article and noticed a few glaring omissions. Allow the playable character to jump off of the stairs (something I honestly thought was in 4, considering you could jump onto the stairs), which was actually in Bloodlines. Throw in the backflip (or some other move like it) from Rondo of Blood, and you’ll have a significant improvement. On that note, bring back the full assortment of power-ups: dagger, axe, holy water, cross, stopwatch and the Bible (from RoB). Hell, bring back the Item Crash from Rondo as well, that was pretty cool. Bringing back the flame whip power up from Bloodlines and the Game Boy games (as well as ReBirth) would be nice, but not a necessity.

As for stage design, it’s fairly simple: make them like the old-school games in general. Keep it linear, with several bottomless pits, waves of blood-thirsty enemies and challenging bosses. Specific elements I’d like to see from the other games though would be stage lengths similar to those of SCV4 and Bloodlines and mid-bosses like in Bloodlines or Rebirth. Most importantly, I’d like to see multiple stage paths again, whether it’s in the style of the third Castlevania or RoB. I guess I’d prefer that of Rondo, due to the fact that it allowed for multiple stage bosses and had a much larger effect on the stage layouts, as opposed to simply choosing which stages to go to manually.

This new game could also borrow various elements from other styles of Castlevania. The most obvious choice would be throwing in some labyrinth-style non-linear stages, like those in the first half of Order of Ecclesia. That would have an added benefit of breaking up the monotony most detractors associated with the linearity of old-school CV games. Avoid throwing in the leveling and hub-world mechanics though, as well as item equips, they just wouldn’t work in a Classicvania game. As for the Lords of Shadow games, implementing one of their giant bosses could be pretty cool, if done in conjunction with IV’s grappling system. Similarly, throwing in the climbing and scaling engines from the platforming segments of LoS, would be a pretty cool addition as well. Leave out the combat engine though: Mirror of Fate proved it just doesn’t work as well in a traditional Castlevania setting.

Other elements I’d like to see return from older Castlevania games would be the ability to use multiple characters. I’ve always liked using alternate characters in CVs: Eric LeCarde, Maria Renard and Grant DaNasty all come quickly to mind. I can’t really say which existing method of implementing them I prefer: being able to switch between characters on the fly (like in Dracula’s Curse or better yet, Portrait of Ruin) is pretty cool, but being able to choose between two different characters for the entirety of the game allows for more diverse stage designs to accommodate entirely different sets of abilities (Bloodlines). The latter method would also add to the game’s replay value, which is a definite plus. It would also be pretty cool if there was some sort of a co-op mode, which allowed two players to work together. Sure, it didn’t work so well in Harmony of Despair, but if it could be tweaked, it would definitely be an interesting experiment. Also, though this may seem obvious to most companies at this point in time, please, PLEASE use save files in addition to stage selects. Rebirth only had a wonky stage select, where you could only start from a stage if had already beaten it, which made beating the game in more than one setting way more difficult than it had to be.

Of course, what would a Castlevania game be without a storyline? Personally, with IGA finally departing, I’d love to see my favorite Belmont recanonized with a brand-new adventure. I’m talking about Trevor’s momma, Sonia Belmont. She originated from the no longer canon Castlevania Legends, an average game that was the first attempt at giving the Belmont clan an origin story. She was also set to be in the cancelled Castlevania Resurrection for the Dreamcast alongside her descendant, the Tim Curry-esque Victor Belmont who would eventually be reworked into Lords of Shadow 2. Of course, the most popular choice for a new Castlevania game would be “Castlevania 1999”. An event alluded to in the Metroidvanias Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, 1999 was the year Julius Belmont killed Dracula once and for all. I’ve always been of the opinion that finally showing events that have been alluded to in fiction is always disappointing (blame Star Wars), but most people appear to disagree with me. Go figure. Oh well, as long as the gameplay’s good, I’m in.

I feel a similar apathy towards deciding the game’s graphical style. I’ve always been fond of the old-school simplistic 2D sprites from 16-bit Classicvanias and Metroid-like Castlevanias. You know, where none of the characters have any facial features, but have fairly detailed hairstyle and clothing so each character is distinct from one another. As I said in the Sonic article, I’m not really too offended by 2.5D graphics, though I do hope that if Konami goes down this path again, they make them look better than they did in The Dracula X Chronicles. Granted, part of that was the artstyle itself, but it just didn’t turn out well. Regardless, as long as I can tell what’s happening and it isn’t offensive to my senses, I’m good.

Music, by contrast, is extremely simple: just bring back Michiru Yamane. She composed some of the best Castlevania soundtracks out there, David Cox be damned. (Her music’s too feminine? I wasn’t aware that coherent melodies were considered girly.) Yuzo Koshiro and Manabu Namiki would be good alternates, though. I’d like to see a mixture of older and original songs, like many of the more recent games have had, but when delving into Castlevania’s backlog, it’d be great to hear some less common songs. I mean, there’s only so many times you can hear “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears” before they get old. There are so many obscure songs from this series that don’t get nearly as much love as they deserve and frankly, now’s as good a time as any to rectify that. Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth chose mainly less popular choices and it had a killer soundtrack. Speaking of which, use that old-school arcade instrumentation from Rebirth as well. I love me some Konamiesque orchestra hits.

Compared to my previous request for a brand new 2D Sonic, this request is definitely a pipe dream. Most die-hard Castlevania fans are clamoring for a brand-new Metroidvania. Well, a brand-new Metroidvania that’s actually good. (Looking at you again, Mirror of Fate). Still, I recently replayed some of Dracula X Chronicles and frankly, Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth got my hopes up: that we could live in a world where Metroidvanias and Classicvanias can coexist. Well, anyway, keep an eye out for the next article in this series, where I pitch a new game that’s bound to have way more demand behind it than this one.

A Tough Act to Follow

Over the years, there were tons of video games that are universally liked by critics and gamers alike, and there were sequels that had much more praise than their predecessors. However, even among the most critically acclaimed game series there are games that other entries can’t come close to. What I’ve decided to do was to make a list and narrow down specific games that meet this criteria. There were ten different choices I have made for this list, and with that, I present to you the ten games that are a Tough Act to Follow.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior – Arcade (1991)

The original Street Fighter hit the arcades in 1987 with lukewarm responses, but when Street Fighter II was released in 1991, the game became an instant hit. It was so popular that Capcom made an updated version of it a year later, followed by three more subsequent updates ending with Super Street Fighter II Turbo. People were getting tired of the updates, as they were waiting for Street Fighter III. A new game was announced in 1995, but it wasn’t Street Fighter III; it was Street Fighter Alpha. While the game was popular, as were Street Fighter Alpha 2 and 3, they never reached the same success as Street Fighter II. When Street Fighter III was released, it did not catch on due to the lack of classic characters save for Ryu, Ken, Akuma, and Chun-Li (granted, Chun-Li only appeared in Third Strike, while Akuma did not appear in New Generation). While Street Fighter IV (and its subsequent updates) was successful, the original game was criticized for balance issues (mainly with Sagat being overpowered, which was proven to be unfair). Still, its popularity couldn’t match the same type of popularity that Street Fighter II had.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles – Genesis (1994)

After two successful games in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog became a pop culture phenomenon in the early 1990’s. To capitalize on the success, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on what was dubbed as “Hedgehog Day”, which happened on Groundhog Day of 1994. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 introduced a save feature, a new character, new ways to get into special stages, bonus stages through checkpoint lamp posts, and new power ups. There are greater distinction of levels per zone (including the music), as well as differentiation of characters in regards to their skill (such as Tails being able to fly or swim). While Sonic 1 and 2 had in game cutscenes, it was fleshed out more in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles to show what’s going to happen next. The game’s reception was a lot more critically acclaimed in comparison to its predecessors in spite of the fact that Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were released separately within a span of eight months.

Super Metroid – SNES (1994)

The original Metroid introduced exploration in a side-scrolling adventure game in a non-linear world. Metroid II introduced save points, which eliminated the need for passwords. Both of those games were popular in their own rights, and were both well received; granted, Metroid II wasn’t as well received as the first one, but was still popular enough. When Super Metroid was released, it introduced many new elements to the series, such as a map, more expansive areas, eight-way directional shooting, and new weapon and item upgrades. It is exponentially better than the original Metroid, and has done a lot more than what the original Metroid has offered. There have been many other Metroid games that came afterwards, but none of them have reached the same critical acclaim that Super Metroid had, although Metroid Prime came close to it. Since Super Metroid is held to a high standard, every Metroid game that came after it would always be judged in comparison.

Super Mario 64 – N64 (1996)/Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Wii (2010)

After many years of 2D Mario platformers, with the last ones being Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island on Super Nintendo, and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins for Game Boy, the next step was to bring Mario into a new world: The Third Dimension. The goal was to bring Mario into a 3D World where he can explore new areas like never before, and Super Mario 64 accomplished that. While the Nintendo 64 was not as successful as the Sony Playstation, Super Mario 64 was very popular, and to this day, is still highly regarded as one of, if not, the best platformers of all time. Super Mario Sunshine tried to capitalize on it with more expansive worlds, and a new mechanic, the F.L.U.D.D., specifically made for this game. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach the same critical and commercial success that Super Mario 64 had.

Super Mario Galaxy changed things up, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes it into another level. The gameplay is similar to the original Super Mario Galaxy, where it has a new physics engine, which allows each and every celestial object to have its own gravitational force, which lets players circumnavigate rounded or irregular planetoids, walking upside down, or sideways, for a matter of giving the game a feel of going through galaxies. There are new unique stages with excellent level design, as well as a new Hub World, the Starship Mario. You collect 120 Power Stars, 120 Green Stars, and 2 special Power Stars, bringing it up to a total of 242 Stars. The game received critical praise that matches Super Mario Galaxy, with many of the critics citing that this game is better than the original. There have been debates on the Galaxy games (specifically Galaxy 2) and 64 as to which is the best in the 3D Mario series, and with Super Mario 3D World out now, only time will tell if it will match or surpass the praise of these games.

Final Fantasy VII – PS1 (1997)

While past Final Fantasy games were popular amongst dedicated gamers, Final Fantasy VII was the first Japanese RPG to have a mainstream presence in the western market. The gameplay hasn’t changed much from the previous Final Fantasy games, but it was the first game in the series in 3D. The pre-rendered backgrounds and the breathtaking FMV cutscenes wowed people to the point that an entire market opened up to JRPG’s. Final Fantasy VII for many gamers was an introduction to Japanese RPG’s, and the story was a lot more complex than what gamers had seen, and was a one of the first console based games to have more openly adult themes in western markets.

Final Fantasy VII was well received, and sold really well, and it cemented Sony’s dominance in the fifth generation console wars. While some later Final Fantasy games, such as IX, and in between X and XII, had dedicated fanbases, none of them matched the mainstream impact that VII had. To this day, people still demand a remake of Final Fantasy VII, but all Final Fantasy VII fans received were spinoff games and a movie.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – PS1 (1997)

Castlevania has always been a popular series ever since it made its debut on the NES back in 1987. While it had a lot of hits with games such as Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV, and even the Japanese TurboGrafx-CD game Rondo of Blood, it wasn’t until the series made the jump on the Playstation with Symphony of the Night. This game was a complete departure from other Castlevania games, and adopted a Metroid-esque style with RPG elements, allowing you to explore Dracula’s Castle in its entirety. The popularity of this game led to more games in the series, as well as other games to adopt this style, dubbed as “Metroidvania” due to their similarities with Super Metroid with the map and structure with the game. There have been other Castlevania sequels to come out after this game, and while some of them couldn’t match the popuarity, others just fell flat. No matter what Castlevania game comes out, people will always make the claim that Symphony of the Night is the best game in the series.

Resident Evil 2 – PS1 (1998)/Resident Evil 4 – GCN (2005)

While Resident Evil 1 and 3 have their respective fanbases, Resident Evil 2 was the most popular game of the original trilogy. The controls were refined, the ammo wasn’t as limited, and when you draw your gun, you face towards the nearest enemy. It made better use of having two playable characters, giving the game continuity between the character’s stories, and having rewards for beating the game with the second character. This game was well received, with fans wanting a remake of this game.

By the time Resident Evil 4 had been released, the initial Resident Evil Formula was considered stale due to the awkward fixed camera and controls, as well as it being a newer generation at the time, so it felt much like an early 3D game. Therefore, Capcom capped Shinji Mikami to reimagine the Survival Horror genre. While many prototypes became other Capcom games, the final product was significantly different from the Resident Evil of old. The game now resembles a Third-Person Shooter, but still stayed true to the series’ Survival Horror roots. You don’t have to find a specific item to save anymore, which removes the limitation of saving. It got really good critical reception, it received good reviews on release and has won Game of the Year on multiple publications. This game is also a fan favorite, with fans claiming that it was arguably the best game in the series. After Resident Evil 4, fans argued that the games in the mainline series focused more on action gameplay, as a detriment to the series. Other games in the series that had the Survival Horror gameplay either didn’t succeed financially, or did not give the Survival Horror experience that longtime fans had hoped for.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – N64 (1998)

Like Super Mario 64, Nintendo wanted to bring The Legend of Zelda to a new world. They did so by changing the top-down overworld seen in past Zelda games into a more dynamic 3D environment. It is the first Zelda game in the series to introduce free-roaming, context-sensitive actions, and Z-targeting. There is a method where you can change the setting to seven years in the future, where Link becomes an adult, and must rescue the rest of the seven sages. While the Ocarina has appeared in past Zelda games, Ocarina of Time lets you learn twelve different melodies for solving puzzles and teleporting to locations you already visited within the game.

When Ocarina of Time was released, the critical acclaim was exceptional, and even to this day, it’s always at least in a close struggle for the highest game in Gamerankings and Metacritic. It is not only claimed by fans and critics to be the best Zelda game of all time, it is also claimed to be the best game of all time. There have been other games in the series that rivaled the popularity, but Ocarina of Time is the last Legend of Zelda you can praise without the fanbase attacking you. It was even remade in 2011 for the Nintendo 3DS, which many people enjoyed just as much as the original, if not, more.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – GCN (2004)

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is much like its predecessor, only better in every way. Timed moves and the Partner system were improved: with the partners now having their own Heart Points, as well as having more abilities. The battles are staged and audience participation can have an impact on the battle, and as you level up, it increases the audience size. Save for Game Informer’s infamous 6.75 score, the game was well received, and it sold well for a Gamecube game. The reason that many Paper Mario fans don’t like Super Paper Mario or Sticker Star is because it deviates too much from the formula that The Thousand Year Door perfected. Beta footage of Sticker Star implied that it was going to be a direct sequel, but as development time went on, it changed to a completely different game.

Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening – PS2 (2005)

While Devil May Cry was a genre trendsetter, Devil May Cry 3 felt more like a modern action game. It fixed the problem Devil May Cry 2 had, which was that the game was a lot easier. It added different styles for Dante to use that dramatically changed the gameplay. After gamers grew attached to Dante’s cocky and aggressive attitude in Devil May Cry, his emotionless performance in Devil May Cry 2 disappointed many. Devil May Cry 3 completely reverses this with Dante being even cockier, and the game had more over the top cheese than ever. After the negative reception of Devil May Cry 2, Devil May Cry 3 redeemed the series for many gamers and reviewers. Devil May Cry 4’s reception was lukewarm from fans and reviewers, and DmC had a massive fan backlash.

Honorable Mentions:

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest – SNES (1995)
It gave the series its own identity after the original borrowed elements heavily from Super Mario World. The level design really hit its stride with its cleverly hidden secrets. The game is held at a high regard where arguably not even the other games in the series would match its popularity.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 – Arcade (1995)
While Mortal Kombat 2 may arguably be better, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was ultimately considered to be the last great Mortal Kombat game in the series until Mortal Kombat 9.

Mega Man 2 – NES (1989)
Mega Man 2 was initially well received and even considered to be the best in the series. Even Keiji Inafune considers this game to be his favorite Mega Man game that he has worked on.

And there you have it, ten different games that set the standards of the video game industry, with sequels unable to match the sales success or popularity. These games will always be looked upon as some of the best games of all time, and it shows when you look at retrospectives and top 10 lists. Many fans argue about what happened with these respective series after the specific game gets high praise, and many argue about which game is really better in their series. Regardless, there will always be games that are a Tough Act to Follow.

Top Ten Video Game Series Comebacks (Part Two)

Here it is again, the intro paragraph that serves no purpose but I feel compelled to write. I’m counting down the top ten best series revivals in gaming, sequels that brought a series back to its full glory after a long absence or string of bad games. Without further filler, here are the top five:

Number 5: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Nintendo 3DS; 2012

How Things were Before: It was the NES era, and Nintendo was introducing the games that would grow into their legendary franchises. Super Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus. All came out in just over a year’s time span, and all were innovative if (to varying degrees) unpolished games with the seeds of greatness in them. All were popular NES games, all got an 8-bit sequel. Then there was the third game, a masterpiece that realized the potential of the series. Once that milestone was reached, all of these games became consistently fantastic series that were synonymous with Nintendo’s brilliance as a game developer. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and… wait, Kid Icarus never got a third game? Well, there was a pretty big gap between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Metroid, I guess Kid Icarus just missed SNES. Surely it will get a new game soon, maybe on Ultra 64!

15 YEARS LATER

…well, shit.

The Revival: After a long, long wait of nearly two decades (which seemed even longer to some since many were unaware of the GameBoy game), the impossible happened and a new Kid Icarus was announced at E3 2010. One of the games announced at the reveal of the 3DS, it is needless to say that fans were thrilled. As the game suffered numerous delays and more details were released, however, quite a bit of skepticism arose. The ground combat was more of a third person shooter than the platforming of the original games, and many doubted that the 3DS stylus controls would work for that genre. While I won’t argue that the controls have a considerable learning curve, once you get them down it’s clear that the game is amazing in every other way. The game is packed with weapons, bosses, dialogue, challenge, characters, and length to a ridiculous degree. It may not be a completely faithful translation of the 8-bit games, but it is definitely a successful one and should keep fans busy even if it takes another 20 years for a fourth game.

Number 4: Street Fighter IV
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC; 2009

How Things were Before: Street Fighter had a humble start as an obscure, really pretty bad arcade game. Street Fighter II, however, is one of the most influential games of all time and can be credited with popularizing a genre and possibly keeping arcades alive for an extra decade. With four enhanced versions and the Alpha series released, many joked that Street Fighter III would never see the light of day. It eventually did, six years after Street Fighter II. With only two returning characters from Street Fighter II, it wasn’t quite what people expected. The game disappointed many people, as was perhaps inevitable at that point, but a bigger problem for the series was the decline of fighting games as a whole. As arcades died fighting games became a niche genre, with no completely new 2D Street Fighter released in the sixth generation.

The Revival: After a gap nearly twice as long as the seemingly endless one between Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III, Street Fighter IV was finally released in Japanese arcades in 2008. Coming to home consoles in 2009, Street Fighter IV captured the feeling of SF2, which SF3 had been lacking. We also finally had a big name, high quality retail fighting game in the online console era. Online play revived the spirit of the arcades, an infinite supply of opponents to compete with. Street Fighter IV was just the game to take advantage of this, and the fighting genre was revived. SFIV also sent the message that 2D fighting games could be successful, which was certainly a good thing for the genre.

Number 3: Metal Gear Solid
Sony Playstation; 1998

How Things were Before: Well, it depends on region. If you were Japanese, Metal Gear was an innovative pair of games with an emphasis on stealth and a (for the time) deep story. There wasn’t much else like it, and nothing showed up during the 16-bit era. But it could have been much worse, and for most people reading this, it was. For western gamers, Metal Gear was an NES game with such an innovative premise that people managed to enjoy it despite the crippling flaws that were much worse than in the Japanese version. And then there was the American sequel, which I will follow Konami’s lead on and pretend never existed. At the start of the fifth generation, the series came back into focus with a new 3D entry planned for the Playstation. The game had a huge amount of hype, but more cynical gamers remembered that the last attempt at cinematic games resulted in the infamous FMV games of the early CD systems. And this was the era where a series transitioning to 3D was a huge risk. What would happen when Metal Gear Solid was finally released?

The Revival: The hype for the game was justified. Metal Gear Solid was one of the defining games of its generation, with genre defining gameplay and story/voice acting light years beyond what people expected from games in 1998. In an era when a classic series going 2D was a huge risk, Metal Gear Solid was not as good as the 2D games, it was exponentially better. The emotional connection to characters and tense stealth gameplay were defining moments of the 3D era. With a story that blew everyone away and gameplay that was both innovative and consistently fun (if kind of short), Metal Gear went from an obscure series to one of the most popular ones overnight. Possibly the biggest leap forward for a series on this list, the only thing stopping Metal Gear Solid from placing even higher is that there was little skepticism leading up to release or angst over the absence of the series during the generation it skipped.

Number 2: Sonic Colors
Nintendo Wii; 2010

How Things were Before: Now this is a series with a troubled history. Sonic the Hedgehog started out strong in the 16-bit era, his Genesis games being incredibly popular and spawning countless imitators while battling Mario in the fiercest mascot war in gaming history. But once the Genesis glory days ended… dear God. First, Sonic missed Saturn’s launch. As the proper 3D entry, Sonic X-Treme, was endlessly delayed Saturn was forced to consist on Genesis ports and a racing game. Saturn died without a real Sonic game, but its successor Dreamcast had a brand new, 3D Sonic with amazing graphics and high production values at launch. The series was going to make a comeback, right? No, things were going to get worse. Sonic Adventure was a decent game, but there were some significant flaws in the 3D transition. Okay, there’s a sequel to it, things will get better now, right? Hell no. For nearly a decade, we got Sonic game after Sonic game after Sonic game, and they all ranged from okay to terrible. 3D games with poorly implemented concepts, 2D games that mostly consisted of holding right, the series had a truly spectacular fall from grace. What made it worse was that Sega hyped at least half of these games (including Sonic 2006, one of the most hated games of all time) as the revival that would bring the series back to its former glory. Sonic had become a joke, almost everyone wanted the series to just die so they could remember the Genesis days in peace.

The Revival: After so many false promises of a revival, no one was very excited for Sonic Colors when it was announced in 2010. Sega wasn’t even pretending this time, saying it was “for kids” while Sonic 4 Episode 1 would be the game that really truly for real got the series back on track (it didn’t). As the game drew closer to release, the impressions of it were more positive than usual, and there was no nasty surprise in the game mechanics revealed. Still, people had been burned too many times before, and just suggesting Sonic Colors could be a good game was likely to enrage gaming forums. Then the game was released, and a miracle happened. After so many years of Sonic either taking a backseat to a poorly implemented new character or using speed as a substitute for good control and level design, Sonic Colors was an actual platformer! Sonic didn’t appear in only a third of game, turn into a werehog, or control like Bubsy. The levels were based on platforming and multiple paths, just like the Genesis games. The wisps acted as power-ups instead of derailing the gameplay. The story didn’t try to take itself seriously. After false promise after false promise after false promise every step of the dreaded Sonic Cycle had been systematically broken. Sonic Colors was not only a great game, Sega actually got the message! Sonic Generations and Sonic 4 Episode 2 continued the positive direction Colors had taken the series in, and the upcoming Sonic: Lost World looks to continue that. After so much suffering, Sonic finally found his way again.

Number 1: Metroid Prime
Nintendo GameCube; 2002

How Things were Before: As mentioned in the Kid Icarus entry, Metroid was introduced on NES and became one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Super Metroid was a gigantic leap for the series, and cemented it as a legend. With Mario and Zelda getting 3D entries for Nintendo 64, Metroid 64 was guaranteed, right? As with every other optimistic question I’ve asked in this article, the answer is no. Metroid never made an appearance on N64 or any other system during the fifth generation. A really popular series just skipping a generation like that wasn’t something people were used to at the time, so naturally this upset Metroid fans quite a bit. After constant requests for Metroid 64 fell on deaf ears, the series was finally shown to be alive in a tech demo at the GameCube’s unveiling. There was much rejoicing, until we got some further details… The new Metroid was going to be in first person. Made by an American developer Nintendo had just bought. Based in Texas. The outrage was truly spectacular, for Nintendo to neglect Metroid for so long and then do… this… to it was unforgivable. Nintendo had decided to kill the series for no reason, it was impossible that they could be this stupid. Fans declared the new FPS Metroid an abomination and preemptively banished it from the series canon. This was going to be one of the worst disasters in gaming history.

The Revival: As Metroid Prime drew closer to release, the mood around it became more optimistic. Most previews of the game were positive and said it captured the feel of the series. Despite this, there was still quite a bit of uncertainty up until the game was released. Once gamers got to play it, however, all fear turned out to be unfounded. Somehow, every insane decision Nintendo made about Metroid Prime worked out perfectly. The game was by no means a generic FPS, it was a truly faithful 3D transition for the series and one of the best games of its entire generation. The exploration, powers, combat, everything felt just as solid as it did in Super Metroid. After eight long years and what seemed to be deliberate sabotage on Nintendo’s part, Metroid was revived every bit as good as it had ever been. Metroid Prime is the shining example of why you should never give up hope for a series, and why you should give every game a chance no matter how crazy it sounds. The game’s exceptional quality, revival of a dormant series, and complete reversal of all expectations are what earned it the number one spot.

And there you have it, my ranking of the top ten series revivals in gaming history. Whether you agree with it or not, I hope you’ll remember that just because a series has been gone for a long time or you hated the last few games doesn’t mean hope is lost. As long as there are fans of a series, as long as the memories of its glory days remain, there will always be attempts to recreate that magic we thought was lost, and there is always a chance it will succeed.

First is the Worst: The Flawed Beginnings of Legendary Franchises (Part 1)

I’m a big proponent of sequels. Sequels have become a scapegoat for everything people dislike about gaming (and other forms of media), but video game sequels actually have a remarkably good track record for improving on the original. To demonstrate how beneficial sequels have been to video games, I’m going to profile the first game in six series that would go on to be legendary classics. The common thread between these games is that they are the worst (or at least one of the worst) in their series due to design flaws that were greatly improved in their sequels. Some of these flaws were nearly unavoidable at the time, but this is less about bashing the actual games than showing how much sequels can improve a formula and fighting back against nostalgia coded memories. Due to that second objective, games that are universally considered the worst in their series do not qualify for this article (so no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES or Street Fighter 1). So if you’re afraid for your childhood, this is your last chance to back out. Let the list begin!

Metroid

Platform: NES
Year of release: 1986

The Good Parts

Let’s dive right in with a controversial entry. I won’t argue that the original Metroid was a revolutionary game. The open world mixed with action-platformer gameplay and the way items were used to open new areas has created its own sub-genre and is a great concept. I’m not mentioning introducing passwords because I hate them with a burning passion and the only reason I’m not counting them against the game is that the original Famicom Disc System version had saving. Metroid was certainly an ambitious game with a lot of great ideas that laid the foundation for one of Nintendo’s best series.

The Bad Parts

However, that foundation was nowhere near finished and a danger to anyone who tried to explore it. For all the great ideas Metroid had, they had not been built to a playable state. The lack of a map in an open world game is always a gigantic flaw, and the repetition of the 8-bit graphics made figuring out where you had been before an even bigger problem. The power up system was innovative but having to switch weapons by finding their original location again, in a game that was already painful to navigate, was inexcusable. The difficulty was unbalanced with an unreasonably high penalty for dying in terms of how far back you were sent, and starting with 30 hit points (when you could get your maximum amount up to 800) made tedious grinding a necessity whenever you died or entered a password. Controls for this type of game also hadn’t been perfected in 1986, while they certainly weren’t horrible, they weren’t as perfect as is needed for a game this difficult. Unless you have the game memorized already, the current Metroid is only valuable today for historical purposes.

How the Sequels Fixed It

Metroid II: Return of Samus on the GameBoy made a few improvements to the formula, making navigation less nightmarish and adding saving for gamers outside of Japan. This also came with some drawbacks and a frankly disturbing story (Samus is sent to an animal’s home planet specifically to make it extinct), so while I think the game is better than the original Metroid it’s not where I would say the series became great. That turning point was Super Metroid. Released on Super Nintendo in 1994, Super Metroid is quite similar to the original in setting and structure, but fixes everything wrong with it. Perfect control, a much needed map, tons of items that add to the gameplay and never require you to recollect them, and masterful level design make Super Metroid a true classic and one of the best games on the SNES. The series never looked back, the problems that plagued the original Metroid would never return and even the weaker post-Super games were still significantly better than the original.

Kirby’s Dreamland

Platform: GameBoy
Year of Release: 1992

The Good Parts

Kirby’s Dreamland is a fun to play platformer with good level design and some interesting ideas with the sucking/spitting of enemies and ability to fly for an infinite amount of time. There’s really not a huge amount to say about Kirby’s Dreamland, but unlike most of the other games in this article there’s no crippling flaw in it either. Just a fun but not fantastic platformer.

The Bad Parts

You know what I’m going to say. Kirby’s Dreamland is absurdly short, with five not very long levels its length is closer to a single world than a whole game. The game is also extremely easy on the standard difficulty setting, but that can be forgiven due to a very challenging hard mode being available. Even with that, however, you can 100% the game in a day. It’s a fun game, but even in 1992 it’s hard to justify paying full price for it. The game just doesn’t feel complete, Nintendo hadn’t even decided on Kirby’s color when they released it.

How the Sequels Fixed It

Kirby didn’t have to wait long to reach its potential. Just a year after the first game, 1993’s Kirby’s Adventure was released and introduced the format for Kirby platformers that is still used today. Kirby’s Adventure added the signature ability to obtain powers by eating enemies, adding much more variety and giving you more incentive not to rely on the generous amount of hit points to get you through levels. It also added secret exits and mini-games, and most importantly it was much, much longer. Kirby’s Adventure is one of the best first party NES games ever, and even the GameBoy Kirby’s Dreamland 2 would greatly benefit from the template it set. Nintendo may be determined to only let Kirby have platformers on consoles that are about to expire, but no one can deny that Kirby has far exceeded his humble beginnings.

Pokémon Red/Blue

Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1998 (1996 in Japan)

The Good Parts

Everyone knows the good parts of this game (except really bitter people who still think this over 15 year old franchise is a fad), Pokémon Generation 1 had a great concept that was enjoyable even without the whole playground consuming social aspect. Capturing and raising your own unique team of monsters was something few gamers (especially outside of Japan) had done before, and it was addictive as hell. With 150 (Er, 151. Wait, 152, don’t ignore Missingno! And don’t forget the 30 or so kids at school made up.) fully playable characters to capture and train, Pokemon could keep you busy for a long time, especially if you had other players to pit your team against. There was also the emotional connection you felt to Pokémon you had chosen out of so many options and customized so much, and the sheer excitement you felt when you finished a battle and got that wonderful “What? (Name you wouldn’t admit you chose now) is evolving!” message. The battle system was also deceptively complex, with 15 types and a huge amount of moves. Unfortunately, that aspect was lacking in some areas…

The Bad Parts

Of all the games in these articles, Pokemon Blue (Blastoise>Charizard dammit!) is the one I have the most personal nostalgic connection to. Despite this, I have to be objective and acknowledge a simple fact: Pokémon Gen 1’s battle system was completely broken. Several types had no good moves or a severe drought of Pokemon, and even people who didn’t play the game know how completely overpowered Psychic types were. If you somehow don’t, Psychic type moves were only resisted by Psychic Pokémon, and Psychic Pokémon were only weak to one type of move that’s only attacks were so weak being doubled in power still wasn’t enough. That’s not to mention Psychic being a special type attack, which due to how stats were determined had a giant advantage over physical ones. There were other problems as well, such as the tedious to use HM moves, several great moves only being available through a one use per save file item, and the lack of breeding making it a nightmare to get the earlier evolutions of the starters you didn’t pick. When not looking at Generation 1 through the eyes of a child amazed at the concept, there really are a lot of flaws that come close to complete breaking the game.

How the Sequels Fixed It

Pokémon has been making steady progress throughout its life, each generation making a good amount of positive changes (albeit it with a few steps backwards now and then).Pokémon Generation 2 fixed the most obvious flaw of Generation 1, the ridiculous type imbalance. While there were still some types that were better than others (which still hasn’t been totally fixed), there at least wasn’t one type so powerful it made the rock paper scissors system meaningless. As the series progressed we’d continue to get improvements like Generation 3’s ability and revamped EV system making the training of Pokémon more strategic, Generation 4 not permanently tying types to special/physical attacks and adding online trading to ease the amount of games needed for 100% completion, and Generation 5 speeding up the gameplay and making TM’s more user friendly. If you can look past nostalgia, you’ll see the current Pokemon games are greatly improved in both the single player quest and the meta-game of multiplayer battles.

That’s it for Part 1, but in Part 2 we’ll look at three more series and just how far they’ve come since their first games. Until then, try to appreciate the sequels in your life, do something nice for them.