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.

Rising Fun: Dawn for Japanese Games

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

 

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And thus Japan conquered console gaming overnight.

 

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

 

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Market Combat Evolving.

 

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

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

 

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Looks like JRPGs don’t have cooties anymore.

 

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

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

 

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Mario is back, and he’s not alone.

 

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

 

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This game existing at all is a frigging miracle.

 

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

You Just Might Get It

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

Last Splatterhouse on the Left

Well, Halloween is upon us and this is a video game blog, so why not talk about horror video games? Of course, the concept of horror games is itself loose: some people associate it with any sort of game that utilizes themes or elements of other horror media, while others assert that only games that truly cause fear can be considered a part of the genre. Of course, those two are merely the extreme opinions and whether or not a game can be considered horror is usually up for debate. We see it when people have arguments regarding when Resident Evil left the survival horror genre and became a third-person shooter action game. We see it when people debate whether or not Five Nights at Freddy’s should be considered a horror game, due to its mechanics. Needless to say, the horror “genre” runs into the same pitfalls one encounters with the “action” and “adventure” genres.

I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t think I’ve ever really been a fan of “true” horror games. You know, the old-school Resident Evils, the Silent Hills, the Alone in the Dark games, that sort of thing. I can’t explain it but I’ve just never really felt myself drawn to them. On the other hand, I do have a preference to horror-themed video games. I loved the Splatterhouse series, even the 2010 reboot which got mixed reactions for the most part. Darkstalkers is probably my favorite Capcom fighting game series of all time (and I think it’s a crime that we still haven’t seen a sequel, but that’s a rant for another time). I love the House of the Dead series, especially the Typing of the Dead spinoffs.

But why? Why do I love games that use horror themes, but not their implementation into core gameplay mechanics? Hell, I love horror movies, horror stories, even some horror TV shows. The fact that I just can’t enjoy video games as a horror experience baffles me. It’s not like I haven’t tried though. Hell, I even had Code Veronica on the Dreamcast. I just could never get into games like that, especially those deemed “survival horror”. However, there have been some cases where I’ve liked games that were arguably considered horror to some extent.

The Dead Rising games are a good example of what I’m talking about. In terms of games I actually thoroughly enjoy, they’re among the closest to actually being considered “true horror”, mainly due to their storyline being based on a horror movie cliché: fighting off a zombie apocalypse in a once-densely populated area. Of course, the Dead Rising games’ silliness and action-oriented gameplay (relying more on an active survival approach by murdering zombies as opposed to the passive approach commonly seen in survival horror games) makes it a very poor example of a true horror game.

The Left 4 Dead series comes significantly closer and is perhaps the closest thing to a “true horror game” that I actually enjoy. Although the games share the same zombie apocalypse theme as Dead Rising, they take a different approach to combat, generally acting as a detriment to the player’s survival and generally considered a last resort from a gameplay design perspective. A poorly-run multiplayer campaign often provokes more panic than anger from me, which is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of the emotions horror games are intended to provoke. However, both Left 4 Dead games seem to play more like first-person shooters and the game’s versus mode (which allows one team to take control of Infected) tends to undermine the attempts at achieving a tone of true horror.

So what are my main problems with most “true horror” games? Well, I can think of 4 main issues that come to mind. They may not apply to all games from the genre, but enough of them to become pressing concerns for me. First, many games that are considered “true horror” (especially survival horror games) tend to have really stiff or otherwise poor controls. Looking at you, old-school Resident Evil. Now I understand that this is an attempt to immerse the player into their character’s perspective of utter helplessness. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people running for their lives are stuck with things like tank controls or the ability to only aim their gun at three very distinct heights, especially not elite members of a paramilitary organization. There are probably better ways to achieve the same feeling of vulnerability. Maybe give the character a stamina meter that can be drained both by physical exertion and direct confrontations with whatever fiends they encounter. Maybe apply kickback to firearms that either damages the player character or at the very least stuns them, leaving them open for attack if they waste a shot. Hell, some kind of an injury mechanic could be interesting.

Number two: jump scares. I’m going to be honest, I just think they’re a really cheap tactic. Pretty much every horror game I’ve seen has relied on them to at least some extent. I’m not saying that they should be removed, not at all. Regardless, games shouldn’t rely on them entirely for their scare factor. It just ends up coming off as hokey. There are other types of horror that one can exploit: paranoia, revulsion, the fear of the unknown, helplessness and even the loss of sanity itself. All of these topics have been explored in games in the past, the problem is there just hasn’t been enough of it. Jump scares are far too common and we could all probably benefit from a more cerebral style of horror showing up in the genre at large.

That brings me to my next point: sometimes, when horror games attempt a more involved storyline, it usually comes at the cost of the player’s immersion in both the game itself and as a horror experience. The main culprit would probably be cutscenes. In the past, cutscenes had a tendency to look very different from the game’s usual artstyle. I can understand that they were generally used to animate something that would either be impossible to achieve or at least done significantly inferior with the in-game engine. Even today, however, there is still at least a slight difference between cutscenes and in-game events that just throws me off, not unlike comparing watching a live-action film to a live-action TV show. Maybe it has something to do with the framerate? I can’t really say.

Unfortunately, no matter how insignificant the difference between the two artstyles, it definitely has a detrimental effect on the player’s absorption with the game’s setting. It’s to the point where, unless you’re trying to recreate the FMV horror games of old on a modern platform, you’d be better off leaving out cutscenes entirely. It would likely be better to focus on in-game event, where players maintain the same sense of atmosphere. Of course, there are some cases where you may want the players to lose their autonomy. This would still be better achieved through some kind of an in-engine event, as opposed to a cutscene, just due to a more seamless transition.

My last problem is one where I have seen actual solutions, but at the same time, I also understand cannot really be fixed without a major paradigm shift in terms of how modern games are designed in general. It’s the lack of a sense of pressing danger. You die in a game and…well, then you go back to a previous save. In the early days, Resident Evil tried to work its way around this setback, by tying the player’s ability to save with a specific item, the ink ribbon, which could be used at typewriters in order to save. This did add a sense of choosing one’s saves in the game, but I feel that the saves themselves are the problem. Of course, then you’ve got ZombiU (recently re-released as “Zombi” on Xbox One, PS4 and PC), which I felt handled it better. If your character died in Zombi, that was it. That character became one of the undead. End of story. If you decided to continue on, you’d use an entirely new, randomly generated character and the only way you’d be able to get any items you had earlier back would be to take out your former character’s reanimated corpse. It was sort of like Dark Souls or a rogue-like game in that sense. However, I feel like the fact that the loss of a life came with some sort of permanence made survival more urgent. Now I get that this wouldn’t work out properly in a more narrative-based horror game, but maybe the implementation of a “bad ending” upon failure state, plus a way of making saves unusable upon a failure state would be a good compromise.

Are the solutions I pitched for my problems with “true horror” games actually viable, especially with regards to existing fans of the genre? Probably not, there are just some genres I don’t like. Survival horror may just be one, though I still feel sympathy for the fans who tend to think of the genre as dead, at least outside of indie games. I think I’ll stick to hybrid experiences like Dead Space and Left 4 Dead, those that only use the themes of horror like Splatterhouse and Darkstalkers (seriously Capcom, at least put Resurrection out on Steam!) and those games that aren’t considered horror, but still draw from some of the same tricks (you can’t tell me the Splicers in Bioshock weren’t scary as hell – Vita-Chamber or no).

10 Games I Want Ported To PC: Dream Match Never Ends

So this is a little one-off, based on the usual PC ports series I’ve been doing. Before we get started, let’s recap what happened this month. For the first time since I’ve started writing these articles, my streak has broken. No new games on any prior or future lists got PC port announcements. On the plus side, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was announced for PC. Capcom also released the Gold Edition content from Resident Evil 5 on Steam recently. Finally, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim was recently announced for release outside of Japan on PC, it’s not technically anything on one of my lists (it was also on both PS2 and PSP in North America, but originated on Japanese PCs), but hey, Ys is Ys. It seems like this time around, more PC games were announced to be getting console ports than anything: Freedom Planet was announced for Wii U and the long-awaited Wii U port of Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures was finally given a release date (in North America, along with a confirmation for a release in Europe and a reconfirmation that the 3DS version is still being developed). Meanwhile, Shovel Knight was announced for Playstation consoles and Xbox One, with special bonus features on both platforms. Hopefully, by the time I write the next actual entry in this series, there will be something worth celebrating.

So what’s different this time around? Well, we’ll be ignoring many of the rules that are traditionally seen in this series. First off, I’ll be focusing entirely on licensed games. Generally, I’ve ignored them up to this point, due to the difficulties of renegotiating lapsed licenses (not to mention the fact that it’d be considered a waste by most companies for nothing more than a PC port). Hey, I called this article a “dream match” for a reason. Aside from that, I’ll be sticking to the seventh and eighth generations as per usual, just because porting anything earlier than that would just be ridiculous. Once again, I’ll be grouping together games, but given the list’s subject matter, I’ll be grouping games that share both licenses and publishers. Finally, just for laughs, I’ll predict how likely any of these ports are at the moment, on a scale of 1-10. So, without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins/Marvel vs. Capcom 2/ Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3  – Capcom (360/PS3)

This is pretty much the main reason I wanted to write this spinoff list in the first place. It’s a shame that PC missed out on both UMvC3 and Origins, especially considering the fact that Capcom was getting pretty good about PC versions of their major releases around the time both of these games were released. I’ve always been pretty big on the original Marvel vs. Capcom and it’s a crying shame that UMvC3 is dead in the water these days, due to Capcom losing the license.

Rating: 3/10 – Disney’s got control of the Marvel license and the last I heard, they were trying to build a unified video game universe, not unlike their films. If that doesn’t pan out, I could see Capcom getting a chance to re-release some of these old games. I just hope that this time they don’t use that lame “Marvel doesn’t allow PC games” excuse. At this point, we all know it’s a load of crap.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars – Capcom (Wii)

Speaking of Capcom, this is probably tied with Street Fighter x Tekken for my favorite Capcom fighter last generation. Yes, I have incredibly weird tastes, deal with it. The point is, I definitely liked Tatsunoko vs. Capcom more than either version of MvC3. It was a stroke of luck that we got this game outside of Japan in the first place, and even though we lost one character, we got five new ones, including Frank West and Tekkaman Blade.

Rating: 1/10 – Capcom USA barely got the rights the first time around. When Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was first announced, it killed any and all interest in the game almost immediately. Even if Capcom had the chance to buy back the rights, it’s unlikely they would. The game exceeded expectations, but it wasn’t exactly the megahit Capcom always strives for.

The Simpsons – Konami (360/PS3)

Easily one of my favorite arcade beat-‘em-ups of all time, even if it’s just due to nostalgia. I was surprised to see this game show up on consoles a few years back, and frankly, I think it was the best possible port. Good online, 4-player co-op, achievements, there wasn’t really that much that could’ve been added but Backbone Entertainment did a stellar job regardless.

Rating: 3/10 – EA currently holds the rights to make video games based on The Simpsons and they seem to be doing pretty well with their latest mobile tie-in, Tapped Out. EA also attempted to make a mobile remake of The Simpsons Arcade game prior to the re-release on consoles, which was far less well received. Considering Konami was able to get the rights back for a port while EA still held the license, I think there’s a chance that this could come back. All it should require is some effort on Konami’s part. Having said that, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

X-Men – Konami (360/PS3/iOS/Android)

Another classic Konami beat-‘em-up, X-Men was another one of those arcade classics I loved as a kid. X-Men and The Simpsons were fairly interchangeable with regards to their base gameplay, but X-Men had an ace up their sleeve: instead of 4 players, you could have as many as 6 players in a single game at a time. At the time, such a thing was unheard of. The XBLA and PSN re-release recreated this gimmick through online play, which was pretty awesome if you ask me.

Rating: 1/10 – Take Disney’s reluctance to veer from a unified game universe and couple it with Konami’s sheer apathy for anything not related to Metal Gear and you’ve got a perfect storm. I really doubt we’ll ever see this re-released again, which is depressing considering the fact that, like every other game I’ve discussed so far, X-Men’s been discontinued.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [1989] – Konami (360)

One final Konami licensed beat-‘em-up, and it’s the granddaddy of ‘em all. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a fairly early release on the Xbox Live Arcade back in 2007. In spite of that, it also managed to have online co-op for up to 4 players, just like the later releases of Simpsons and X-Men. It’s just a shame that we never got the original version of Turtles in Time as a re-release and had to settle for a half-baked remake by Ubisoft instead.

Rating: 2/10 – Activision currently holds the rights to the TMNT franchise. However, they’ve also been willing to put the franchise in the hands of competent developers, like WayForward for example. If there’s enough of a demand for this specific game (as well as Turtles in Time), I could see Activision trying to pull some strings to take care of a new re-release. Of course, there’s also a pretty good chance that they’d consider just hiring a new team to make a new game based on these arcade classics and a more contemporary incarnation of the Turtles. It’s hard to say, honestly.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze – Activision (360/PS3/3DS)

Speaking of Activision and TMNT, there’s a recent game that I’d actually like to see hit PC at some point. Danger of the Ooze was developed by WayForward (one of my favorite devs of all time), and it’s a Metroid-like where you’re allowed to switch between all 4 Turtles at will. Needless to say, this is probably the one TMNT licensed game that’s drawn my interest since Konami’s old beat-‘em-ups.

Rating: 7/10 – You know, I’m actually surprised that this didn’t come out on PC in the first place. Activision’s released TMNT games on PC since getting the license, so this just felt like a weird omission. Hopefully, we see this hit more platforms in the future.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD Ver. – Capcom (360/PS3)

So we go from licensed beat-‘em-ups back to Capcom licensed fighters. I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I’ll be honest, I skipped this one on consoles after playing the demo: it just seems like the Western-produced re-releases of old Capcom games put more effort into everything. Regardless, the base game was still pretty fun, it was just a bit pricey given the package ($20 for one game, compared to $15 for MvC Origins and Darkstalkers Resurrection, which both come with 2 games). Still, a solid Capcom fighter is a solid fighter in general, plus it’s one of the few titles made for the CPS-3, Capcom’s most advanced arcade hardware.

Rating: 2/10 – Bandai Namco’s got the rights to this franchise locked up at this point. Then again, they let Capcom use it the last time for a re-release, at least until the rights lapsed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bandai Namco would let them do it again if Capcom’s really interested. As with all those Konami beat-‘em-ups, I kinda doubt it though.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle – Namco Bandai (PS3)

Speaking of Jojo, there was another more recent fighter based on that particular iP. It’s a 2.5D fighter, but still manages to maintain the manga’s style. It’s a truly beautiful game, and while it may not be the most advanced fighting game ever, it’s still an interesting take on that particular sub-genre.

Rating: 5/10 – Unlike every other game I’ve talked about so far, Namco Bandai still holds the JJBA license and are even working on another licensed fighting game (JJBA: Eyes of Heaven – this time, for PS3 and PS4), so there’s a way better chance that we could see a re-release compared to everything else I’ve discussed so far. Plus there’s the fact that more anime-themed Bandai Namco games have been heading to Steam lately (particularly the most recent Naruto and Dragon Ball Z games). Unfortunately, considering that they’re focusing on Eyes of Heaven at the moment, chances for a re-release are still fairly low.

WWE All-Stars – THQ/2K Games(?) (PS3/360)

When it comes to sports games in general, I’ve always preferred arcade-style games over sims. While no wrestling game has ever topped THQ’s first attempts at WWE games (No Mercy and Wrestlemania 2000 for the Nintendo 64) in my heart of hearts, one of THQ’s last attempts came pretty close, while delivering its own unique arcade-flavored take on the medium. Compiling a roster of long-retired greats and then-current WWE Superstars, All Stars was truly an underrated gem. Hopefully, if we ever see a re-release, they’ll manage to include all of the DLC in the base package.

Rating: 3/10 – On one hand, THQ’s dead and it seems like the rights to all of their WWE games reverted to the new license holder 2K Games, so that in and of itself would make the game an easy slam dunk. On the other hand, some of the wrestlers included in the game’s roster aren’t on the best of terms with WWE, so that in and of itself would cause some problems. I think our best bet would be a sequel/successor, but considering even modern WWE games don’t hit PC, I’m sure even that wouldn’t hit PCs. Oh well, I’ve still got WWE Immortals…even if that’s just a mobile game.

Goldeneye 007 Reloaded – Activision (360/PS3)

Speaking of N64, Goldeneye was probably the first console FPS I ever enjoyed. I was never really that big on its spiritual successor Perfect Dark, but the original was a classic in my book. As such, I was fairly excited when Activision announced that it was remaking the game for the Wii, and somewhat moreso once it was announced that it was getting refined further and released on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Just a shame it never hit PC.

Rating: 4/10 – Activision lost the rights to the James Bond license back in 2013. Oddly enough, the license has yet to resurface elsewhere, at least with regards to console releases. MGM is apparently working on a game for smartphones and tablets, but aside from that, there’s really no information. Hopefully, Activision can broker a new deal and get Goldeneye 007 Reloaded out on modern platforms.

Well, that was a pretty fun take on the usual list. While no new ports from my official lists have been announced, I’m still ahead. Hopefully the next two months will give me some other games. On the other hand, I’ve been inspired to do an entire spin-off series for these PC port lists at some point down the line. Don’t worry, it’s not related to the subject matter of this list. You’ll just have to wait and see.

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.

Broad Strokes

For anyone that’s spent any significant amount of time interacting with the gamer community at large, you’ll know that there are certain specific phrases and subjects that provoke controversy, usually causing a conflict between two diametrically opposed but equally zealous sides of the argument. We’ve seen the big offenders: who has the worst DRM, used games, sexism/racism/social justice/etc. However, there are also those phrases that invoke an overwhelmingly negative reaction, to the point where there is little to no debate. One such phrase fills the entire online gaming community with overwhelming vitriol: “we’ve decided to try to broaden the audience”. I’ll be honest, I’m kind of on their side: retooling games to capture a larger market share tends to leave long-time fans of specific series and genres out in the cold and it’s been done so many times with the significant majority of attempts ending up as diluted failures, as opposed to visionary titles that bridge the gap between newbies, casual players and the long-time hardcore fans.

One has to keep in mind the reason why games tend to get retooled in order to appeal to a wider audience. The answer’s pretty simple: money. Like it or not, the majority of video game publishers are businesses, many are traded publicly on various stock exchanges. Above all, these companies have a responsibility to put the interests of their stockholders above all else, and making big bank is job 1. Of course, the art of making video games in the first place is getting more and more expensive by the generation, and this is especially evident now since we’ve just entered a new generation, with a whole new set of standards to meet, at least with regards to AAA titles. It only takes one big-budget bomb to wipe out a developer now, so there is absolutely no room for error anymore. Sometimes, a successful game isn’t even big enough to keep their dev team running: Irrational Games was recently closed despite their latest title, Bioshock Infinite, selling over 4 million copies.

Despite the understandable reality of the situation, gamers still remain cynical and hostile towards the broadening the appeal of video games, especially “hardcore” gamers. It’s not difficult to understand why this is the case, though. Many attempts at taking older games and crafting sequels for a larger audience have ended up as shallow reflections of their predecessors. Simply put, most of the time, the new games end up being dumbed down. I don’t mean simplified for the sake of streamlining (which I’d actually argue is a good thing), but literally dumbed down. As in a shell of its former glory, a game that resembles the originals in appearance and name only, but retains none of the compelling gameplay that made its old fanbase fall in love with it in the first place.

Of course, there’s another narrative here that’s become more common. Instead of the hardcore gamers fighting to keep the spirit of the original game alive in future incarnations, I’ve seen several game journalists pose an alternate explanation: hardcore games are nothing more than a bunch of big babies who refuse to “share their toys” with casual players. Of course, this is just another phase of yet another on-going narrative within the industry: the culture wars between “casual gamers” and the “hardcore”, but I’ll go into greater detail with that another time. The main thing to keep in mind is that many hardcore gamers feel that games that typically cater to them are being retooled in order to bring in a wider audience, but at the cost of what made that experience special to them in the first place. It was all perfectly encapsulated in the Dark Souls II “easy mode” controversy: a simple mistranslation in an interview led fans of the series to rage over the loss of one of the few modern games considered hardcore and gaming journalists tore into them, like a pack of wolves into a crippled doe. The whole situation was ridiculous, but it illustrates the issue at hand: many long-time fans tend to be left high and dry when publishers appeal to a larger audience.

While modifying games for wider appeal take on a multitude of different forms, I have noticed that there are some common methods that typically crop up, especially in the case where the new games offend the pre-existing audience. Perhaps the top offender is simplifying the gameplay. While this isn’t always detrimental to the gameplay (in many cases, I think it’s actually beneficial), there’s a difference between streamlining the game and removing the game’s complexities. Related is reducing the game’s overall difficulty, usually achieved by removing obstacles and dumbing down enemy AI. Of course, this isn’t always intentional: poor AI and level design are the hallmark of poor designers. One last common culprit of expanding a game’s audience is tacking on a multiplayer mode to a game that is either awkwardly implemented or simply isn’t needed. While this is commonly done to prevent trade-ins and attempts to appeal to hardcore gamers instead of casuals, it still has the negative effect of taking away resources from single-player campaigns.

There’s no better way to characterize the harmful effects attempting to broaden a game’s demographic improperly can have on the game’s overall quality than listing some examples. The first one that came to mind was Resident Evil 6: it attempted to recapture their old survival-horror fanbase from RE4 while holding onto the more action-oriented third-person shooter audience from RE5, but only delivered a bland, mediocre game decried by gamers and journalists alike. Mass Effect 2 and especially 3 were criticized for ditching some of the RPG elements from the original in favor of cover-based shooter gameplay, while Dragon Age 2 had been accused of reducing the gameplay to mindless hack-and-slash action gameplay. Dead Space 3, while otherwise a fine game, was tainted by microtransactions, which EA added under the pretense of “appealing to mobile gamers” and you can probably guess how well that turned out.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts has been argued to be an example of this as well, ditching the game’s classic collect-a-thon gameplay (and openly mocking it at times), though the only real evidence we have that this was done to appeal to a broader audience is an interview with the game’s composer, Grant Kirkhope. This practice isn’t even limited to the previous generation: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was developed because Squaresoft was under the impression that JRPGs were too difficult for Western audiences. However, the most drastic example is probably Bomberman: Act Zero, which reimagined the classic character in a gritty, grimdark reboot with mediocre gameplay.

That’s not to say that there aren’t examples where attempting to broaden the audience for a particular title ended up making it a better game overall. Take for example, Street Fighter IV and its various expansions. As Street Fighter III ended up being a commercial failure for Capcom, SF4 ended up taking on gameplay more similar to that of the SF2 games, with slower, more deliberate action and reduced the complexity of various game mechanics. The parry system was dropped, while “focus attacks” were added in, which ended up being used by tournament players in a number of ways. Perhaps most controversial among hardcore fans was the transition from 2D sprites to 3D models, as this evoked the failed “Street Fighter EX” spinoff. However, the gameplay stayed entirely true to the game’s roots, resulting in a 2.5D game. Old fans of Street Fighter from the 90s ate the game up, and after a brief period of hostility, so did the majority of fighting game enthusiasts. That’s not to say it won over everyone in the community, but with the FGC, you have to realize there’s just no pleasing some people.

My next example is probably going to be the most controversial: the “Super Guide” function that’s appeared in recent Nintendo platformers. Yes, yes, I know it’s generally a win button that’s considered lame by most “real” gamers, but hear me out on this one. First, it’s optional, so even if it gets triggered in-game (after dying 5 or so times), you’re never actually forced to use it. Second, Nintendo’s made a pretty big point of trying to cater to casual gamers as of late, especially compared to Sony and Microsoft. So, with that in mind, Super Guide is probably the best solution to this problem: novice players have a way to continue on without getting stuck at some particularly difficult level and Nintendo has free reign to beef up the difficulty. And trust me, they have: Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country Returns are incredibly difficult games if you beat them without any help, even if you don’t take their post-game campaigns into account.

One last major case where simplifying gameplay to broaden an audience had a net positive effect was Saints Row 2. While the original Saints Row was your typical Grand Theft Auto knockoff, SR2 removed some of the more obvious design flaws that hurt GTA’s base gameplay: a lack of checkpoints during missions, long drives back to the starts of a missions and being penalized for causing chaos outside of missions. While game reviewers still thought of Saints Row as a low-rent GTA clone, many gamers prefer it, even to the then-recent GTA4. Furthermore, by differentiating itself from GTA in later games, the Saints Row series gained an audience of its own, being one of THQ’s most successful original franchises and was one of their first titles to be obtained after their bankruptcy.

The point I’m trying to make with this article is simple: video game budgets have swollen to the point where what would’ve been considered phenomenal sales a decade ago are simply not enough to keep AAA development going. Appealing to a wider demographic is one way to circumvent that and that’s not an inherently bad thing. What is bad, is using that as an excuse to deliver a shoddier product: one that doesn’t streamline existing gameplay, but rather scraps the elements that made the original game so engaging for its fans. That’s why core gamers revolt every time any publisher mentions “broadening the audience” – because it’s become a code phrase for “here comes an inferior product we’re literally pushing out to exploit casual gamers, but using a cult-classic IP to draw in the hardcore too”. If you ever want to buck that trend, you’re going to have to work hard to make games that are easy to learn but difficult to master, as opposed to just appealing to the lowest common denominator like you normally do. You need to make games that literally appeal to everyone, from the novice casual player to the veteran hardcore gamer. In short, deliver more games like Street Fighter IV and less like Resident Evil 6.

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.

First is the Worst: The Flawed Beginnings of Legendary Franchises (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my series examining the rough starts of classic series. As I’ve hopefully pounded into your head by now I love sequels and hate when people present them as a bad thing, so I’m going to show you three more series we should all be very grateful are not represented by their first attempt. I even have one that isn’t by Nintendo this time, so let’s dive in!

Resident Evil

Platform: Playstation
Year of Release: 1996

The Good Parts

I think we all know about the influence Resident Evil had on gaming. While like every game that spawned clones it wasn’t the very first example of its genre, Resident Evil was the template for the survival horror games that came after it. 3D itself was pretty new to most gamers in 1996, and few had ever seen it used the way Resident Evil did. Resident Evil used its detailed pre-rendered backgrounds and static yet varied camera angles to frighten players, an emotion games really didn’t capitalize on at the time. The story was pretty unique for gaming at the time, and there was an atmosphere of mystery that the series hasn’t replicated since. As cheesy as the voice acting is, both the setting and the gameplay had an atmosphere of tension that was amazing for gamers at the time. Resident Evil was one of the first games to use 3D for an experience that absolutely could not have been done in 2D.

The Bad Parts

Notice how I made barely any mention of gameplay under The Good Parts? Yes, Resident Evil was trying to be scary, and yes, that would have been undermined if your character was too powerful. However, you still need to balance things like that, and Resident Evil simply didn’t. Your character controlled poorly, was at the mercy of camera angles often ill-suited for gameplay, and was completely incapable of even the most basic spatial reasoning. The problem with zombies is that the stereotypical version RE uses is actually less of a threat than a normal person. Since Resident Evil wanted even the basic zombie to be a large threat to the player, they had to make your character truly terrible at dodging and fighting. Everyone knows about the infamous tank controls, and not assisting aiming in a game with pre-rendered camera angles is just sadistic. In a common theme, Resident Evil had a good formula, but it just hadn’t been polished to the point where the gameplay could stand on its own.

How the Sequels Fixed It

Okay, I’m going to avoid the minefield of Resident Evil 4’s impact on the series, and instead focus on the sequels that used the same formula as the original Resident Evil. Resident Evil 2 took the “here’s the original formula, but we got it working this time” route to sequel improvement. It’s really pretty simple what it did, ammo and healing items were more reasonably given out (and more variety in difficulty settings helped people from feeling overwhelmed or under challenged) and you felt like you were making more progress throughout the game instead of often circling an area draining your resources. Later games would add more helpful features like a quick turn move. Future games just felt less like the game was going out of its way to make your character weak just so that one zombie you could probably kill in real life would be a threat.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Platform: Super Nintendo
Year of Release: 1996

The Good Parts

Back when Mario had only conquered half of gaming’s genres instead of all of them, the idea of Mario being in an RPG seemed bizarre. The last game Square made for a Nintendo system before gaming’s most bitter and painful breakup, Super Mario RPG made this odd combination work. Taking the traditional formula of Square 16-bit RPGs and adding light platforming, humor, and Mario references to it produced a good result. Things like talking to Mario enemy species instead of killing them and a story beyond Princess Toadstool being kidnapped were novel at the time, and really expanded on the Mario universe. The timing aspect to battles and ability to jump broke the tedium that turn based RPGs can fall into. RPGs weren’t big in western markets when Super Mario RPG was released, and SMRPG used a familiar franchise to great effect to get new gamers into RPGs while still making the game enjoyable to RPG fans.

The Bad Parts

Like Kirby’s Dreamland, there’s nothing cripplingly wrong with Super Mario RPG, but compared to its sequels it feels like something’s missing. While there were significant things added to the Square turn based RPG formula, there were still several areas where Super Mario RPG felt like a watered down traditional RPG. The combat was quite easy and while timing hits was fun, there was little strategy involved. While jumping was used to pretty good effect, that was the only thing you could do outside of battle beyond the usual “talk to people/check something” RPG standard. Super Mario RPG was certainly a fun game, but it has a bit of an identity crisis that prevents it from reaching its full potential on either end.

How the Sequels Fixed It

While Super Mario RPG never got a direct sequel, Nintendo has continued to make two Mario RPG series. Paper Mario was released five years after Super Mario RPG with no involvement by Square, and it no longer feels like it’s torn between two identities. Paper Mario is clearly a Nintendo game, and uses its design philosophy to the fullest. While the combat initially seems absurdly simple with only two party members at a time and tiny hit point meters, the battles factoring in things like elements and which weapons can reach an enemy make the fights more strategic. Badges make Mario customizable in a much bigger way than just trying to get the best equipment, which also ensures the combat never feels repetitive. Outside of combat you now have partners that can be used as Zelda-style items, greatly improving the level design. While the series would keep changing after Paper Mario, PM demonstrates the improvement over Super Mario RPG that mattered most: a game that is sure of its own identity and never feels like it is being held back.

The Legend of Zelda

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year of Release: 1986

The Good Parts

As you can see, I saved the most controversial entry for last. The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, and it has been that way ever since the first game. The original Legend of Zelda did indeed have a lot of great ideas. The open world and epic feel to the game was something very few console gamers had seen before, and the use of items gave the game a feeling of incredible depth. As you may have guess from my rant against passwords in the first part of this series, the North American Zelda introducing battery saving is one of my favorite technological innovations in gaming history. From the perspective of the late 80s, The Legend of Zelda deserved most of the attention and praise it got.

The Bad Parts

I’m just going to say it, the original Zelda aged horribly. The “puzzles” almost all rely on luck/extreme trial and error, the control is stiff and not suited for how challenging the combat can be, and the second quest is horribly designed in every way. Like Metroid, LoZ is an innovative game with the blueprints of a great formula that simply has not been refined to a playable state. Some praise the game for not “holding your hand.” Yeah, that’s bullshit, pure and simple. Getting through LoZ requires luck and endurance of tedium, not skill. Making it so you can break some identical looking walls with (your very limited supply of) bombs is not a puzzle. And I could fill an entire article swearing at that second quest dungeon hidden under a completely random bush that you have to burn, and which contains the item that lets you burn more than one bush per screen. Like Metroid, the original Legend of Zelda is only worth playing today for historical purposes.

How the Sequels Fixed It

We all know that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link played nothing like the original game or anything else in the series, so there’s not much point in comparing them. Like Metroid, the turning point for Zelda was on the SNES. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past played like the original Zelda, but fixed everything. The controls were improved so that combat was actually fun, dungeon locations and destroyable objects actually had some indication, and the items and puzzles were exponentially improved. A Link to the Past is everything the original Zelda should have been. The series would reach its full evolution in the fourth game, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Yes, the Game Boy one, although seldom acknowledged it set the formula that Ocarina of Time and future Zelda followed. Link’s Awakening put more of an emphasis on level design and puzzles, finally letting the series achieve the promise that its item system had shown glimpses of from the very first game.

So there you are, six legendary series that would have given so much less to gaming and gamers if they had been abandoned at their initial outings. Go ahead and curse me if you love one of the original games I listed, but I don’t think many people will deny that at least most of these examples show how important sequels can be to game series and even innovation. I may do another entry in this series someday, but for now I’m going to take a break from something so controversial. See you next time in Always Online Pay to Win Collectathons Are Our Superiors.