How The PC Port Wishlist Stole Christmas!

Another year has come and gone and once again, the itch returns: it’s time to go port-begging for the holidays! Admittedly, it’s become a lot more fun doing these write-ups on a yearly basis – well, as long as you don’t count my April Fools console port article and the GOG article in August, but those have different criteria. It’s way less stressful discovering games new and old that were skipped over when it comes to my platform of choice over the course of a year than it was every other month. Of course, that also means that I have to be substantially more careful with my choices, but that adds to the fun. I can’t tell you how much filler there was on my old lists – Tekken Revolution doesn’t even exist anymore!

All three of my lists from last year will be reappearing this time – my top 5 gains of the year, a list of 10 brand-new port requests and even the overall rankings – but I’ll also be adding a fourth. It’s probably going to be a one-time deal: I had a hard enough time coming up with this list in the first place and frankly, given the subject matter, I honestly hope I won’t ever be able to find another 10 games that fit the bill.

But before we move onto the actual meat of the article, I’ve got to brag about what’s been announced for PC since the last list came out. First up on the docket, we’ve got Grasshopper Manufacture’s free-to-play rogue-like Let It Die, which was announced a little more than a week after my last article on August 10th and came out the following month. Later that month, Capcom would announce an HD re-release of Onimusha: Warlords – one of my favorite games from the sixth-generation – on everything, including PC. Things would go quiet after that until the following month where two announcements would come from an unlikely source: a Nintendo Direct. Capcom Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle and Katamari Damacy Reroll were both announced for the Switch and the PC. The former essentially takes care of what I wanted most of all from Final Fight: Double Impact – specifically the original Final Fight arcade game with online play – while Reroll is an HD remaster of the original Katamari Damacy, something I wouldn’t have dreamed could ever come to PC, regardless of how much I wanted it. Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle is already available – despite an unexplained late launch on PC compared to consoles – while Katamari is due out later this month. Tokyo Game Show didn’t bring much on the PC ports front for obvious reasons, but Capcom did announce that an HD release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy will be gracing all three major consoles and PC sometime next year. Just shy of a week after that announcement came the big one: ARIKA officially announced that Fighting EX Layer would be coming to Steam, though they implied that this was only possible due to their arcade port and the title’s future may very well depend on the sales of these new releases. Finally, there’s Sunset Overdrive, which wasn’t technically announced officially until the day the game was released – November 16th – but we’ve had leaks going back to May, where it was rated in South Korea. Then it was rated by the ESRB… and then a store page appeared on Amazon. You have to give Microsoft credit for sticking to their guns and still pretending like it was a surprise release, though.

Of course, there were some cool things popping up on GOG as well. The entire Jill of the Jungle trilogy was released there on November 2nd for FREE! Meanwhile, three more King of Fighters games – The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Final Edition, The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match and The King of Fighters XIII (rechristened as the ”Galaxy Edition” after GOG’s client) – were also added to their library. That’s all I’d consider relevant so far, though considering the fact that Sony managed to nab Battle Arena Toshinden on both the Western and Japanese versions of their upcoming PlayStation Classic, that implies that we know who GOG would need to ask to relicense those games. Also back in August, THQ Nordic released some of Microsoft’s Windows Store-exclusive titles on Steam, as well as physical releases. I mainly cared about Super Lucky’s Tale and ReCore: Definitive Edition out of their first batch, but there were also Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure and Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection. It’s been speculated they might be handling a physical release of Sunset Overdrive on PC as well, but there’s been no concrete information on that front. Speaking of rumors, we’ve also seen evidence that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life may be coming to PC at some point, based on one of their quarterly reports which listed the game as a PS4 and PC title. Nothing new on the console front, I’m afraid. I’m sure that more games that were previously PC-exclusive before getting ported to PS4 and/or the Xbox One have since received additional Switch ports (and vice versa), but that’s not really my scene.

Top 5 Successes of 2018

Time for my usual round of yearly bragging. This time around, three of my picks weren’t even on any previous lists in the first place – so I can’t even really take credit for them. Granted, two games were too old to fall under my criteria in the first place and are only coming to PC due to the creation of new remasters across multiple platforms and one of them was only released this year anyway. I guess if I were to pick an honorable mention, I’d give it to killer7, coming to us courtesy of Grasshopper Manufacture and NIS America (with Capcom’s blessing). Despite NISA’s history with PC ports – still waiting for actual confirmation that their Ys VIII port was legitimately fixed (as opposed to “I played 50 hours and it only crashed 15 times!”) – apparently this game turned out amazing, adding new features and opting for a silky smooth 60 FPS framerate.

5. Ys: Memories of Celceta – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Vita)

Nothing against Celceta – it was a fun game and I’m glad it hit PC – but this probably would’ve ended up being higher if it didn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. Hyde Inc. definitely learned from their PC port of Ys Seven, as this game turned out looking amazing – easily becoming the definitive version of Falcom’s in-house take on the Ys IV legend.

4. Metal Wolf Chaos XD – From Software/Devolver Digital (Xbox)

The former Japanese Xbox-exclusive where players take on the role of the President of the United States as he pilots a mech suit is finally coming out in America – and on modern platforms, no less. Devolver Digital had been showing interest in publishing the game since 2016 and an official announcement was the centerpiece of their E3 conference this year. It’s not due out until sometime next year, but the fact that it’s coming to PC makes it worth the wait.

3. Onimusha: Warlords – Capcom (PlayStation 2, Xbox)

I legitimately freaked out when I heard about this. All things considered, Onimusha was one of those cult classic Capcom franchises that seemed out of reach for legitimate reasons: specifically, the likeness rights of the actor who portrayed the main character, Samanosuke Akechi – who was modeled after and even voiced by Japanese/Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro. In fact, the only game that doesn’t have this issue is Dawn of Dreams, the unpopular fourth game and I’m sure that’s why we only have this first game, as opposed to a full-on HD collection. Regardless, I’ve got some good memories playing through this game one night with two of my buddies back in 8th Grade and I can’t wait to go through it again.

2. Fighting EX Layer – ARIKA (PlayStation 4)

I was originally going to put this on this year’s wishlist, as a sort of “gimme” game, simply because ARIKA had expressed interest in releasing FEXL at some point if it did well. I wasn’t even expecting an announcement on this until next year at the earliest, but ARIKA surprised me with a simple trailer on YouTube back in late September. Better still, they only plan on selling the “Full Version” – which includes fifteen Gougi decks (to the Light Version’s five) and Hokuto as an additional character – at $40, the Light Version’s price on PS4 Clearly the best of both worlds. While I likely won’t be able to grab this on day one – despite the generous 25% discount – I do hope to grab it before the end of this year.

1. SEGA’s “Best in Japan” Line-Up at E3 2018

It couldn’t have been anything else. When I listed the Yakuza series on last year’s wishlist, I was honestly being flippant. I never would’ve guessed that Sega would’ve brought one of its big console exclusives to PC but here we are: Yakuza Zero’s already on Steam and Yakuza Kiwami has already been announced. On top of that, they also announced Valkyria Chronicles 4 would be coming to PC and reaffirmed recent releases, claiming that they were bringing “the best Japanese titles to PC”. Hopefully, we’ll see even more announcements next year.

10 Broken/Delisted Games I Want on GOG

This is that new list I mentioned near the start of the article. While I’ll often extoll the virtues of a digital-only future for the PC platform, it’s not a perfect concept. We’ve seen various games removed from storefronts like Steam and GOG due to expired licenses, company closures and various other issues. Worse yet, there are games that are still available that are ridden with defunct DRM programs or worse, incompatible with modern operating systems. Of course, GOG will attempt to circumvent the technical issues of these games, with their re-release of Fallout 3 last year being a chief example. So why not pick 10 digital releases that are either gone or stagnant and point out that, in the end, they’re just some Good Old Games?

Street Fighter IV – Capcom

I’ll be honest with you: SF4 was the game that inspired this list in the first place. Back when I was researching for that Street Fighter retrospective I spent the better part of this year on, I popped in the original home release of Street Fighter IV and had a pretty good time going back to it. These days, it’s more of a curiosity piece – especially due to its exclusive cinematics that didn’t appear in any other iteration of SF4 and its gallery mode – but certainly not worth the $20 Capcom is still asking for it on Steam. Just give it the Blazblue Calamity Trigger treatment: strip out the GfWL-powered online mode entirely and sell that sucker on Steam and GOG for $10, with 50% or higher sales on the regular.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions – Activision

I’ll level with you: I’ve yet to play the recent Spider-Man game on PS4 and I’ve got my doubts that I’ll play it before the decade’s through. With that in mind, I feel confident in my assertion that Shattered Dimensions was the best Spider-Man game ever sold on Steam. It’s a shame that the PC port was only compatible with Windows XP and Vista – especially considering that it was on sale on Steam only a few years back. It’s been taken down again – that’s the problem with licensing agreements – but I’d love to see it come back, stripped of Games for Windows Live and able to run properly on modern Windows builds.

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast – Sega

Well, this one’s strictly a licensing issue: Sega clearly didn’t want to pony up to renegotiate their license with Ferrari. I’m still bummed out that I missed picking up this port – the OutRun games are some of my favorite racing driving games of all time – so obviously a straight-up re-release is all I really want here. Granted, the game might have some compatibility issues since it was released back in the days of Windows XP, but as far as I can tell (based on the PC Gaming Wiki), there don’t appear to be any compatibility issues on modern systems, which means that anyone smart enough to pick it up before its removal can still play it to this day.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse – Aspyr

This is one of those games from the sixth generation that I missed out on, but it looked interesting. I mean, zombie games are a dime a dozen, but a game where you take control of a zombie would be an original concept today, let alone today. It’s also got a sense of humor, which is also a plus for me. It was also apparently on Steam at one point – but it looks like it was taken down because it can’t run on modern hardware. So yeah, this is absolutely perfect for this list: maybe a GOG release will mean a complete removal of its SecuROM DRM.

Wolfenstein (2009) — id Software (Bethesda)

Apparently, the only reason this game has been taken down is because Bethesda – the current rightsholder for Wolfenstein and id Software’s other IPs – is ashamed of it. All I’ve got to say to that is that both versions of Doom 3 are still up for sale on Steam and the BFG Edition is up on GOG – so using “quality concerns” as an excuse is invalid. Frankly, I’d just want it as a curiosity piece more than out of sheer enjoyment. I mean, every other Wolfenstein game since 3D is available on digital storefronts in one form or another and I’ll never believe that the 2009 game was so much worse than every other game in the series.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game – Atari

I mean, I already own this game on Steam, so I can vouch for its quality. Granted, I think it was taken down in the first place to help boost sales of the 2016 game, which was apparently a slapdash cash-in on a box office bomb. And now that’s even down as well. Might as well allow audiences to enjoy the best Ghostbusters-related video game ever released in North America once again. There’s not even any way to implement the multiplayer from the console versions and I even played through the game on an OS no older than Windows 8.1, so it should be as simple as literally flipping a switch.

Driver: San Francisco – Ubisoft

I’ll be honest, I never really got into the Driver series that much – but I did like Burnout Paradise. Driver: San Francisco looks like a game made in a similar vein and given all of the good reviews I’ve seen regarding it – for both the console and PC versions, no less – it’s made me curious about the game’s quality. Unfortunately, it looks like the game may be bound by Ubisoft’s own proprietary DRM, Uplay: so the chances of the game hitting GOG are pretty low, even though it’s only available on Amazon as a digital download at the moment – and the reviews on there seem to imply that there are compatibility issues with Windows 7 and its successors.

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection – WB Games

Hey look, another game I already own on Steam! I’m not sure why WB took down this collection off of Steam – maybe because the online multiplayer was handled on Games for Windows Live – but even if it weren’t, it does offer something different from the current line of classic PC ports available on GOG. While that collection contains the original Mortal Kombat 3, a childhood favorite of mine, the Arcade Kollection has Ultimate MK3 – the much more popular version – instead. Granted, I think the best thing WB could do would be to just re-release it on Steam and GOG with improved online multiplayer – but just making it available to the masses again would be nice.

Midnight Club II – Rockstar

Man, I’ve got a real thing for racing games this time. Did you know that Rockstar used to make games that weren’t sprawling open-worlds? It’s true! From what I’ve heard about it and seen in gameplay footage, it seems like a pretty good arcade racing game – the type I like. Midnight Club II was apparently the only game in the series to receive a PC port, which makes it a prime candidate for re-release.  Again, the issue stems from the age of the game – apparently this port’s so old, the non-Steam releases aren’t even stable on Windows Vista, let alone 10.

Narco Terror – Deep Silver

This game actually came as a recommendation from my editor: while I wasn’t opposed to having two games from the same developer on this list, making it to nine without any repeats made me reluctant to resort to that. From what I’ve seen, Narco Terror is a twin-stick shooter inspired by top-down, free-movement shoot-‘em-ups like Ikari Warriors, Commando and Renegade Ops. It doesn’t necessarily have the best reviews, but that kind of pedigree makes it sound like an interesting game. I’d give it a shot if it resurfaces at a reasonable price. Besides, Deep Silver seems to be pretty chummy-chummy with GOG. I’m not sure why the game was removed from Steam in the first place – but Steam keys can still be bought on Amazon for some reason, so I’m not sure what problem there was with the game.

The Main Event

With those lists out of the way, it’s time for a fresh batch of PC port-related wishes. Before we begin, let’s recap the rules I’ve tried to keep since I started doing these lists a few years back. I’ve been sticking to the seventh (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii) and eighth (PS4/Xbox One/Wii U/Switch) video game console generations, as well as their portable counterparts. Porting anything else would likely require a remaster – like Onimusha and Katamari Damacy – and these lists are more about run-of-the-mill ports. I also generally limit myself to a single game per company, though given the sheer amount of mergers we’ve seen, I will often allow entries from wholly-owned subsidiaries and their parent companies in the same list. In other words, you could see entries from Sega and Atlus on the same list, but not Square Enix and its various divisions, except maybe Taito – Squenix seems to have given them a lot of headway. I generally consider a “series” an entry, so every game would be considered together, as long as all of the games fall into the console generations I’m covering. Last and certainly not least, I’ll be keeping this limited to third-parties and Microsoft – who seem to have gotten even better about putting the games I care about on PC. Asking for Nintendo and Sony first-party content is a waste of time, so don’t expect to see stuff like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Marvel’s Spider-Man on this list. That being said, let’s get down to business.

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy – Activision/Toys for Bob (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

…what? I always stack the deck in my favor whenever possible. We’ve already seen evidence hinting to the existence of both a PC and Switch version in development and while the game is currently exclusive to the HD Twins of PS4 and XBO, I’d much rather grab it on PC all things considered – especially after the whole debacle surrounding just how much of the content is actually on-disc. On the other hand, I worry I may not be able to spare the 67.455GB needed to download the game (on PS4, anyway) at this point. Either way, I liked what little I played of Spyro on the PlayStation 1 and would love to experience the rest of the original trilogy in full HD.

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy – SNK/NIS America (PlayStation 4, Switch)

Sure, it’s another game where we’ve got at least minor evidence that a PC port could be in the works. I told you I don’t always play fair with these. In an E3 magazine special, it was mentioned that Abstraction Games handled the Switch version of SNK Heroines and the same write-up mentioned that they were working on a PC version as well. Considering they were the dev team behind The King of Fighters XIV, it only makes sense that they could be making a PC version of this game as well. Taking all that into consideration, I’ll assume that we’ll hear some kind of confirmation about SNK Gals’ Fighters’ spiritual successor hitting PC sometime next year.

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony – Game Arts/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

This is usually the point in the list where I beg for yet another PC port of a Falcom console-exclusive. Alas, I’ve already exhausted all of their games that have been translated into English in recent history – and I’m not enough of a fool to suggest that anything besides the Japan-only Kiseki games receive even a passing glance by any translation company at this point. What’s an Icepick to do? Easy: dig up another XSEED translation of a game I’m fond of. Granted, I would obviously prefer seeing a re-release of the old PS1 version – because that’s “me nostalgia” – packed in with the original Sega CD version, but honestly: the PSP release is not only the newest release of the game, but it’s the only one I haven’t played at all – “Lunar Legend” was a mistake. Game Arts has mentioned interest in bringing more of their games to Steam and XSEED’s been doing a bang-up job of bringing their stuff to PC, so let’s just kill two birds with one stone.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Capcom (DS, iOS)

When it comes right down to it, I’ve got enough requests for Capcom games to keep them in the running for years to come – it’s just difficult to narrow down which one gets the nod each year. I almost considered putting Ace Attorney on this year’s list, but even before Capcom announced a re-release on every modern platform that matters, my gut went in a completely different direction. Ghost Trick is easily one of the most underappreciated games in the DS’s library and the fact that it’s only seen a re-release on iOS feels like a mystery not even Sissel and Lynne would be able to solve. Use the iPhone version as a base, add mouse support and improve the resolution and BAM! You’ll introduce another of Shu Takumi’s masterpieces to a much wider audience. Think of it as a well-deserved tribute to the late, great Missile.

The Legend of Dark Witch Episode 3: Wisdom and Lunacy – INSIDE SYSTEM/M2 (3DS)

This was honestly my first pick for this year’s list – a choice that was solidified when the game was first released on the 3DS last year. I’m fond of the first two Dark Witch games and would love to play the latest entry on my PC, even if its gameplay supposedly deviated significantly from previous titles. Considering the fact that the second RPG spinoff in the series, Brave Dungeon: Seigi no Imi, has already been confirmed to be releasing on PC via Steam next year, I like the odds that this game will hit the platform as well at some point. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The Prinny Duology – Nippon Ichi Software (PlayStation Portable)

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? And Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! were two of Nippon Ichi’s more interesting releases. Spun off from their popular Disgaea series, these games were actually platformers starring the series mascot in a similar vein to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games of old, both in terms of platforming mechanics and apparently difficulty. It would be a shame to keep these games constrained to a handheld long gone like the PSP, especially when the PC is so enduring. I’ve honestly been wondering if NIS America bailed on releasing the rest of the older Disgaea games and just skipping straight due to issues with porting games from the Vita or because they just wanted to focus on their latest release. Well, the Prinny games don’t have either issue – NISA’s ported games from PSP before and there aren’t any more recent titles in the series to worry about – so they’d be a perfect choice for a new project.

3D Dot Game Heroes – From Software/Silicon Studio/Atlus USA (PlayStation 3)

Man, I’ve been holding onto this one for a while. 3D Dot Game Heroes is essentially a voxel-based version of classic action-RPGs, borrowing elements from Final Fantasy Adventure, The Legend of Zelda and even Dragon Warrior to create something both familiar and new. Best of all, the player character can be completely customized using the game’s 3D sprite editor. This is such a cool little game, it deserves a re-release on modern platforms and a PC port would probably be the easiest way to make that happen. Better yet, it would give Atlus USA a little needed cred among the PC gaming community, given their consistent failure to do anything with the platform besides publishing ACE Team’s games on Steam.

Sonic Colors – SEGA (Wii)

Truth be told, before I decided to go all-out and ask Sega for the Yakuza series last year, I originally planned on asking for Sonic Colors. Colors is probably my favorite Boost-formula Sonic game – no small feat, given my general distaste with the mechanics in general – and I definitely think it deserves a release on modern platforms. Of course, many publications assumed that this port might already be in the cards, simply because promotional art from a Sonic-themed Steam sale included artwork from the DS version of Colors. Not necessarily the smoking gun I was hoping for, so I figure there’s no harm in asking Sega directly.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Gal*Gunvolt Burst) – Inti Creates (3DS, Switch, PlayStation 4)

I feel like this might’ve been telegraphed with one of my choices last year. Either way, from what I’ve heard, Mighty Gunvolt Burst – rebranded as Gal*Gunvolt Burst when it was released on the PS4 – is the closest thing we’ll ever see to redemption for Mighty No. 9. As one of the thousands of people suckered into contributing to that second-rate MegaMan knockoff – even though I think the widespread response to it was overblown, to put it mildly – I’d love something resembling vindication on this front, particularly on my platform of choice. It doesn’t hurt that much like Gunvolt 2, we’ve already got the game’s direct predecessor on Steam as it is. So, come on Inti Creates, hook us up – you don’t even have the excuse of this game being a “Nintendo-only” thing, given its presence on the PS4.

Persona series – Atlus (PlayStation 3/Portable/Vita/4)

I’ll be honest: I struggled with this one. I almost opted out of doing listing this game this year for a couple of reasons. First, despite the fact that I do count Atlus and Sega as separate companies – despite the latter owning the former at this point – I just feel a little sketchy doing both in a single list, even if all but one of the games I’m even considering asking for here were made prior to that buyout. There’s also the fact that despite my (limited) success with Yakuza last year, I always worry about getting greedy with these.

Regardless, I’ve seen my opportunity and I’m taking it, because that’s what heroes do. Atlus USA has recently undergone a bit of a reshuffling in terms of its corporate structure – with key figures at Sega America and Sega West taking over as President and CEO, respectively. Considering Sega’s own implied emphasis on PC as of late, not to mention the fact that both Yakuza and Persona were on “that list of games Sega wants to bring to PC” and Atlus USA’s downright impotent acknowledgement that PC gamers wanted to play Persona 5 after trying to shut down a PS3 emulator, I think this could go either way. Still, if it happens sometime next year (or later, I’m not picky), I wouldn’t mind being able to claim at least a modicum of credit for it coming to pass.

Since I’ve only played the original English release of Revelations: Persona, I’d love to see Atlus start with an upscaled port of its PSP remake, if only so I can play through the Snow Queen quest at some point. I’d be willing to guess that Atlus would probably just end up starting with Persona 5 though. As for other games I’d want, I’d like to see PC ports of both Persona 2 remakes on PSP – with Eternal Punishment receiving a new English translation, obviously – Persona 3 Portable (with the additional content from FES, if possible) and Persona 4 Golden. I guess I’d also like to see their fighting game spinoff Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, but I’m sure Arc System Works would be willing to handle that with Atlus’s blessing.

Top 10 Most Wanted

I’ll be honest with you, I almost considered dropping this list, at least for this year. After all, only one of last year’s entries – Ys: Memories of Celceta, the former number one – managed to come to pass. However, upon further reflection, I decided a reshuffle was worth the effort anyway. A few other entries from previous years have been dropped from consideration for various reasons – something I probably should’ve considered doing last year anyway – and I decided to look into other older lists to replace them. As with last year, I’ve decided to rank them not only based on how much I want them, but also on how realistic I think it is that they might receive some form of a PC port in the near future. Here’s hoping next year’s list changes even more – for the happiest of reasons, of course!

10. Splatterhouse (2010) – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Considering this went from number 3 last year all the way down to the bottom spot, you’re probably assuming that I’ve fallen out of love with the 2010 reboot of Splatterhouse. Valid guess, but it’s more like I just think it’s become less likely of a port as of late. Maybe in 2020 – the game’s tenth anniversary – things will change, but for now, I just don’t see Bandai Namco revisiting this game. I mean, Katamari Damacy was a popular game but considering the last we’ve heard of Splatterhouse was as an understated part of the Namco Museum on Switch and that was last year, I don’t like the odds.

9. Dragon’s Crown Pro – Atlus/Vanillaware (PlayStation 4/3/Vita)

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I think the critical moment to get a Dragon’s Crown PC port has passed, especially given Vanillaware’s lack of a partner willing to port games to the platform, not to mention the fact that development on 13 Sentinels, their next title, seems to be swinging into full gear. I’ll keep the faith alive but I’m not expecting this any time soon.

8. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U)

You could easily argue that Tekken 7’s continued success will probably kill any chance of a TTT2 re-release anywhere, but honestly, who can really say? Tekken’s one of Namco’s big series, so I guess I could see some kind of a revival – after all, they did a re-release of the original Tekken Tag on PS3 years back to help promote a Tekken animated film. I doubt it’ll happen until Tekken 7’s done receiving new content and considering its second season just started and it reached another sales milestone, that might be a ways away.

7. Catherine: Full Body – Atlus (PlayStation 4/Vita)

This is probably the largest jump forward of any of the games from last year and it’s due to a number of factors. Aside from the shift in Atlus USA’s leadership I mentioned previously, there’s the fact that a new version of the game was announced altogether, one that Atlus USA confirmed would be making its way to the West but offering no other details, particularly which platforms it would appear on. Since then, Sony’s begun censoring some of their racier titles after moving their headquarters to California – even ones that aren’t intended for the Western market, which has led to some pushback from both Japanese developers and fans. Worries began to surface over Catherine: Full Body receiving a similar treatment, something which wasn’t assuaged by Atlus’s recent response to these new policies. I’m not sure if all of these factors will finally put Atlus over the edge, but here’s hoping.

6. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – Capcom (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Huh, this one is in the same exact spot as it was last year. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. While the death of the Puzzle Fighter mobile game could have positive or negative repercussions regarding a re-release of the seventh-gen HD version, Capcom does seem to be on a roll when it comes to re-releasing their older titles in general. Of course, that could mean a straight release of the latest release of the original game, but I think it’s equally possible that we could see some other releases. I’d personally champion an “Ultra Puzzle Fighter” which would combine elements from all previous releases: the Street Puzzle Mode from the PS1/Saturn version and its various unlockable bonuses, the “X/Y/Z” game modes present in the Dreamcast and HD Remix versions and the ability to choose between the classic 2D sprites (with various filters) and the redrawn graphics from the latest release. On the other hand, they might also do a compilation package similar to their Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle, packaging the original arcade release with various other arcade games that could be considered “puzzle games”. I guess as long as I’m able to play Puzzle Fighter online with friends on PC, I’ll be happy.

5. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum – SNK (Xbox 360)

I guess something similar could be said for NGBC, which jumps ahead two spots from last year. SNK has been focusing on a single new game at a time but reinforcing their finances with various re-releases. We’ve got the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on Switch handling the pre-NeoGeo era and the various NeoGeo Mini consoles representing their Golden Age, but we’ve still got a significant lack of their games from the Playmore era at hand. Given the rumblings of a NGBC2 being a potential project after Samurai Shodown and the all but inevitable King of Fighters XV, it would only make sense to re-release the original game, just to remind people how awesome it was.

4. Cyber Troopers Virtual-On/Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram/Virtual-On Force – Sega (Xbox 360, PlayStation 4/3)

Oh wow, our first legitimately new title! Ironically, Sega recently announced that these three games – the exact three games I requested from the Xbox 360 way back when – would be making their way to the PlayStation 4 in Japan very recently. That makes them even more primed and ready for port-begging. We don’t have any details about a Western release at this point, which is why they end up so low on the list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a one-year wonder on the cumulative list. I wonder if those crowdfunded controllers that recreate the classic Virtual-On control scheme will work on PC…

3. Rare Replay – Microsoft Studios/Rare (Xbox One)

The hits just keep on coming. With Sunset Overdrive having just made its way to PC, this is the only Xbox One exclusive I still want – well, aside from Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + α, but I don’t think Capcom even remembers that spinoff. A collection of some of the best games from Rare’s halcyon days, lovingly recreated on modern platforms? Yes please. This would even manage to kill three birds with one stone, considering how I requested the Xbox 360 versions of the Banjo-Kazooie games way back when, and that’s just a fraction of what Rare Replay has to offer.

2. Brandish: The Dark Revenant – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

I mean, you kind of had to be expecting this. With all of the modern Ys games available on Steam, I was clearly going to branch out into XSEED’s other Falcom offerings. Fortunately, most of those have either already been ported to PC or are just essentially exclusively available on the platform at the moment. The only game they’re holding back from me would be the 2009 remake of the original Brandish on the PSP, which XSEED localized back in… 2015? Strictly a digital-only release, it’s a shame that this game didn’t get more love, especially considering how the translation was literally a labor of love by Tom “Wyrdwad” Lipschultz. This would probably have ranked at #1 – given Falcom’s emphasis on releasing their games on PC – but with Tom leaving XSEED, I’m not so sure it’s a slam dunk anymore.

1. MegaMan Powered Up/MegaMan: Maverick Hunter X – Capcom (PlayStation Portable)

These two are literally the perfect storm. We’ll be celebrating another MegaMan milestone this December – MegaMan X’s 25th anniversary, which has its own logo and everything – Capcom’s been knocking it out of the park with re-releases (even games like Onimusha that I’d long given up on seeing again in a legitimate form) and MegaMan managed to rack up another 2 million franchise-wide sales as of late. Honestly, I’d say more, but since I’ll be discussing this concept in-depth later in the month, I’ll just hold my tongue for now. I’ve had a pretty good track record with my number one picks on these cumulative lists, so here’s hoping for a three-peat.

And with that, my itch to talk about PC ports has been sufficiently scratched. Here’s hoping that I get enough announcements in the next four months to overshadow my next list – my traditional April Fools’ tradition of mentioning PC games that should be ported to consoles. I’ve nearly got that list completely planned out as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turn Based #9 – To Sleep, Perchance to Dreamcast

Professor Icepick: For many, Sega’s Dreamcast was a perfect swansong to their legacy as one of the major console manufacturers in the video game industry. Heralded by many as one of the best consoles of all-time, it boasts a small library with an impressive concentration of beloved games. When Sega gave up the ghost and decided to go third-party, it impacted a lot of gaming fans: I personally took a long sabbatical from modern gaming shortly after the Dreamcast bowed out, simply because I didn’t see anything worthwhile on the horizon in the mainstream. But does the Dreamcast truly live up to its reputation or is it just an overrated hunk of junk and nothing more than an overpriced doorstop? Today, in this installment of Turn Based, SNES Master KI and I will be discussing the final Sega platform and its worth from a strictly modern viewpoint.

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Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story was not finished…

If you haven’t guessed yet, I will be arguing in favor of my beloved Dreamcast. KI and I have had many discussions on this topic in the past, so I think I know what his primary avenue of attack will be: bringing up the fact that many of the Dreamcast’s killer apps — particularly ones that were exclusive during the Dreamcast’s short lifespan — have been ported to various other platforms since. Simply to nip this line of reasoning in the bud, I’ll just remind him that if he decides to go down this avenue, then several platforms (especially those among his favorites) are similarly exempt from greatness and worse yet, that would make the personal computer the greatest gaming platform of all-time by a wide margin: truly a bitter pill for him to swallow.

With that out of the way, I’ll start by pointing out that the Dreamcast’s library was impressive for its time. There are few other platforms that truly embody the concept of “quality over quantity” when it comes to Dreamcast games. Best of all, the Dreamcast acted as a bridge between the fifth and sixth generations — offering the definitive versions of several PS1 and N64 games by taking advantage of the Dreamcast’s substantially improved hardware.

SNES Master KI: There’s a difference between ports from Dreamcast and ports from most other systems: they were done in the same generation. In our last Turn Based, you made it clear that GameCube games which later wound up on PlayStation 2 were not exclusives. I’m perfectly willing to count games like Jet Grind Radio and Soul Calibur (that eventually made it to 7th or 8th gen systems, right?) as Dreamcast exclusives. But Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Grandia 2, Skies of Arcadia, Resident Evil Code Veronica, Crazy Taxi, Phantasy Star Online, Chu Chu Rocket? Those all came to other sixth generation systems, and those are just the prominent ones I knew off the top of my head. Dreamcast really did get hit harder by losing exclusives in its own generation than other systems, and it doesn’t help that many of the games it managed to retain got sequels on other sixth generation systems (the aforementioned Jet Grind Radio and Soul Calibur).

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I love this game, but hard to count it as a Dreamcast asset when every single sixth generation system got it, even GBA.

Regardless, I never really intended to make that the crux of my argument. My argument isn’t that the Dreamcast is a bad system, or even an average system. It’s that it isn’t a holy grail of perfection as many ordained it after its death. It had a great run, but the only truly exceptional part was launch day in North America, which was almost a year after the Japanese launch, giving it a big advantage in getting games ready. I’ll leave PlayStation 2 out of this since that’s showing up in this series later, but I think there are other systems which sold less than they deserve which at least match Dreamcast, including GameCube and Saturn.

Icepick: I suppose the most important thing to determine is what we’re considering here: are we keeping our sights locked on the reception to the Dreamcast in North America exclusively or worldwide?

KI: Well, this is more about retrospective, so I don’t think it makes a huge difference. Aside from the launch lineup quality, I’m not aware of any gaping discrepancies between the North American reception of Dreamcast and other regions. I would probably say worldwide if I had to choose, but like I said, I’m not sure where that makes a big difference.

Icepick: I only bring it up because you brought up the Sega Saturn as a potential contender for the Dreamcast’s reputation. If we’re talking about its Japanese library, then I’d be willing to agree. But its library in North America was horrifically truncated by various terrible decisions. And while the Gamecube wasn’t specifically neutered in America, there are some noticeable gaps in its Western libraries as well.

KI: Well, with Saturn it gets kind of complicated. Shining Force 3 Parts 2 and 3? Unplayable for the average westerner. X-Men vs Street Fighter or Radiant Silvergun? Aside from price, not much of an issue. If we’re making a precise standard, I’d say any game you can reasonably play only reading/speaking English counts.

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Japanese language proficiency optional.

Icepick: Fair enough.

Regardless, the Dreamcast had many exclusives that remain to this day that are clear to anyone who does more than the standard surface-level overview of the platform. There’s Project Justice, the sequel to Capcom’s cult 3D fighting classic Rival Schools; Dynamite Cop, the direct sequel to Sega’s own Die Hard Arcade; Zombie Revenge, a 3D beat-em-up taking place in the House of the Dead universe and the only existing home release of Virtua Fighter 3, labelled “Virtua Fighter 3tb” due to the addition of a team battle mode.

There are also several games that, while no longer “pure exclusives”, are still synonymous with the Dreamcast. Capcom’s Power Stone duology, the second Crazy Taxi, the original home release of Ikaruga (a Japanese exclusive, but no less accessible to Westerners) and the original Shenmue are all synonymous with the Dreamcast to this day and beloved by many.

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On an unrelated note, I also miss Capcom’s Fighters Edge brand.

KI: Shenmue 2 at least was also on the original Xbox, and unless there was a significant difference between the original home version of Ikaruga and the GameCube version, that wasn’t exclusive either. I don’t think public perception of what system a game is associated with can be used to count the games as exclusives.

I never said Dreamcast had no exclusives, I said that its stockpile was decimated during its generation, to a much greater degree than any other system I can think of. But even if you give it every timed exclusive, I don’t see why it should be put into the holy pantheon of consoles ahead of other underappreciated systems like Saturn, GameCube, and Wii U. I’m not saying Dreamcast was by any means a bad system, just that I think people have given it a sacred status based on its timing (being Sega’s last console) more than its library.

Icepick: Perhaps, but adoration is never determined by logic. The Dreamcast was clearly Sega’s last shot at remaining a first-party developer and they clearly gave it their all. It’s almost like a folk tale: the end of Sega’s glory days were predicated by one valiant last stand against the young upstart, Sony, only to be literally obliterated when their shiny new gamebox launched in North America, forcing them to throw in the towel. That’s where a lot of the love for the Dreamcast comes from: its death was poetic. Even if Sega had made the perfect move throughout the Dreamcast’s lifespan, there was no guarantee that they would be able to survive as a console manufacturer.

You’re right when you say that the Dreamcast’s high status stems from its untimely demise (and that its company went down alongside it), but that is an important thing to keep in mind. The tragedy of Sega and its Dreamcast’s shared ending only serves to amplify the latter’s beloved library, granted it a legendary status among the pantheon of dead consoles.

KI: Well, I think we’ve come to an impasse. My main argument is that I don’t think it’s fair to rank the console above others with libraries of similar quality just because it was historically significant. After the 10th time I hear “don’t say Wii U is another Dreamcast, Dreamcast is SO MUCH BETTER!!!” it’s hard not to get some kind of resentment towards Dreamcast’s sacred status. There’s also a bit of “well where the hell were you when the system was alive?” going on, Dreamcast didn’t sell badly, but if everyone who praises it now had bought one when it was alive I feel like it probably could have hung in there.

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No, it isn’t sacrilege to compare this to Dreamcast in both sales and game quality.

I guess in general, I think deifying consoles for untimely deaths is a bad practice because it doesn’t help the console itself and causes the next system to join the too good for this Sonyful Earth club to get even more negativity while it’s alive. Similarly to how I think giving Super Mario Bros. a good but not great score today is a better testament to its quality than giving it an automatic 10/10 Best Game Ever label because of its significance, I think we should let Dreamcast’s game library in the face of a sadly short life speak for itself instead of deifying it for being Sega’s last hurrah.

Icepick: The thing is, the Dreamcast’s legacy persists to this day. Compared to other discontinued systems, the Dreamcast has a thriving indie scene, producing both ports of existing titles and original games at an impressive rate, even to this day. Games like Neo XYX, Gunlord and 4X4 Jam prove that the Dreamcast still has life in it to this day. Few platforms manage to have any thriving homebrew scene and the Dreamcast is clearly the most advanced platform with any significant support. Some have even speculated that the Dreamcast may technically live on in perpetuity through its dedicated fanbase. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

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Also available on the Neo Geo!

But what do you think? Is the Dreamcast overrated or is its legendary status wholly earned? Does the loss of an exclusive neuter a platform’s library? Is the fan support of the Dreamcast to this day a labor of love or a misguided waste of time and resources? Feel free to sound off in the comments below and weigh in on Sega’s final platform. And stay tuned, because we have something extra special planned for our tenth article in this series next month: a topic I’ve anticipated so long, it feels like I’ve been waiting to write since 1999.

A Wishlist Named GOG 2: Electric GOGaloo

I’m going to be completely honest with you: I didn’t want to write this article so soon. That makes it sound like I’m not enthusiastic about this topic – which is most certainly not the case – but honestly, I didn’t want to do a sequel this quickly. I just wanted to branch out and tackle entirely different subjects with regards to PC ports. As I like to do these kinds of articles thrice-yearly, I considered keeping April Fools for PC-to-console ports, December for the console-to-PC wishlist, and cycle out different ideas each August, just to keep things interesting. Last year, I did the original GOG wishlist and while I did want to revisit it down the line, I also worried that I would get stuck in a rut.

Before we get this underway, I might as well come clean about the other ideas I considered around for this month’s PC port list. At first, I considered doing an article on ten PC ports that were so horrible, they deserve to be remade entirely: obviously inspired by my distaste with the abysmal state NIS America’s Ys VIII port finally launched. The problem with that concept is that a majority of the most infamous ports were eventually fixed to at least some degree, and there’s not much information on ports that weren’t absolute disasters, so researching that became next to impossible. After that, I considered doing an article on Japan-exclusive PC ports that I’d like to see hit the platform in the West, either with translations of the original ports or entirely new ones. Unfortunately, at this point, I’ve only managed to come up with 5 games. So, as a bit of a lark, I decided to do a second list of re-releases on GOG. Lo and behold, I managed to come up with over 10 games with little difficulty. Honestly, by this point, I’ve got half of a third list waiting in the wings for me as we speak.

Before we move onto the meat of the article, I’ve got a lot to go over when it comes to PC ports that were announced since my last article on the subject. The only downside is that, so far, technically, only one entry on my existing lists have come to fruition since then. Fortunately, it’s a pretty major one. But I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s tackle these reveals in order. First off, literally days after this year’s April Fools article, Nippon Ichi Software America confirmed my greatest fears: they decided to skip ahead and port Disgaea 5 Complete to PC. Originally, the game was supposed to launch in May, but there were problems (as expected), pushing the release back to a “Summer 2018” window that looks increasingly less and less likely as we’re well into the season with absolutely no updates since the original delay. A week later, Sega dropped a bombshell: the first two Shenmue games were getting a high-definition re-release on Xbox One, PS4 and (you guessed it) PC. It’s due out at the end of the month and while our version has Denuvo, I’m beginning to wonder if a shoddy kill-switch is the price we have to pay to get certain companies’ support. Hopefully, Sega (and others) will consider removing Denuvo after a set period of time – we saw it happen with Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite – but right now, it’s unclear. In May, Arc System Works announced that the original Guilty Gear – my personal favorite of the series – was getting a full re-release on the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and, again, PC. We haven’t really heard any other details since the original announcement, but hopefully we’ll be hearing more information soon. Then, at the end of May, NIS America made another big announcement at Momocon: killer7 is getting a re-release and, as of right now, it’s strictly a PC exclusive. Around that time, XSEED also announced that they were bringing Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity back to PC in English, exclusively on Steam. Not necessarily a PC port, but it is good to see an official English release on its original platform.

Then, there was E3. Devolver Digital was probably going to be my favorite conference of the entire bunch regardless of what they announced. But they brought out the big guns. After a not-so-subtle teaser, they announced an HD re-release of From Software’s cult classic Metal Wolf Chaos on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. This alone would’ve been a major coup, but the best was yet to come. The PC Gaming Show is generally considered a joke among people who pay attention to the various E3 conferences, but this year, there was one name involved that caught my attention: Sega. They debuted a trailer, titled “Best of Japan on PC”, showcasing some of their more recent titles, the previously-announced Shining Resonance Refrain and Shenmue I & II and three new titles: Valkyria Chronicles 4, Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami all had PC ports announced. The word “gigaton” doesn’t describe the magnitude of this announcement: I was literally screaming my head off when it was announced. Yakuza 0 released today and Kiwami is due out in the near future, but Sega has implied that this is only the beginning. Perhaps the resolve of the final hold-out, Atlus, is slowly reaching their limit.

After that, things quieted down again, until just recently. Arc System Works announced that UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] – the most up-to-date version of French Bread’s new fighter – would be coming to Steam later this month. The previous release was one of the games on an earlier wishlist, but it’s nice to see an even-newer version come out. Steven Universe: Save the Light also had a port announced for this month just before the end of the month. Frankly, I’m just bringing that up because I thought it was weird that it didn’t come to PC in the first place. Aside from that, Fighting EX Layer had two of its DLC characters announced, which makes me wonder if the game sold well enough for ARIKA to consider making good on their PC version promise. There was also a weird piece of news someone dug up in a special E3 magazine that implies that not only is Abstraction Games the group handling the Switch version of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, but there may also be a PC version in development. Nothing’s been said on the matter ever since.

As per usual, the same rules apply to this article as the previous one. To make things more reasonable, I’ve increased my usual “one series per company per list” rule to two. All of the games below are existing PC ports, so there’s no need to separate games by platform and as with the previous list, I’ll be doing a supplementary write-up on just how likely I think it is that GOG could get their hands on these games. I had my doubts the first time around but considering that the entire Jazz Jackrabbit series managed to make it on GOG, I’m feeling a little luckier than I did last year.

Sonic Heroes – Sega

While there certainly isn’t a drought when it comes to Sonic games on PC – Sonic Mania’s “Plus” update launched last month – there are so many older titles that are no longer available. Sonic CD and the games found in the Sonic & Knuckles Collection are technically already present on Steam (with the modern releases being substantially superior to these old ones) and Sonic’s Schoolhouse is… honestly, only tangentially related to the blue blur. But what’s this, the direct sequel to the Sonic Adventure games had a PC port way back when and the game itself has yet to resurface anywhere. Why not make a quick buck and do a straight re-release?

Odds: Even though Sega has still yet to release any of their old games on GOG, I’ve got something resembling a good feeling about this one for two simple reasons. One, it’s a Sonic game and Sega’s Western branches love anything that has to do with Sonic the Hedgehog. And two, aside from their insistence on including Denuvo in all of their games, Sega does seem to be doing their best to court the PC gaming audience. So, I think we have a chance. (4/10)

Last Bronx – Sega

Okay, I went a little obscure on this one, but for me, this was an obvious choice. For whatever reason, throughout the 1990s, Sega seemed to be almost obsessed with creating brand-new 3D fighting game franchises. While many of them would end up with sequels – Virtua Fighter and Virtual On come to mind – other attempts weren’t nearly as successful. Case in point: Last Bronx. It was essentially a weapons-based fighting game that played like a cross between Sega’s own Fighting Vipers and Soul Calibur, taking place in an alternate near-future setting where Tokyo was overrun with gang warfare. The game didn’t exactly take the world by storm, but it did manage to receive home conversions on Sega’s own Saturn home console, as well as PC via the “Sega PC” line.

Odds: Even less likely than Sonic Heroes, because at least that has fan recognition going for it. Honestly, I’d be happy if Sega just released the entire Sega PC line from the ‘90s on GOG. (3/10)

Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster – Interplay/Amazing Studios

I’ve noticed a bit of a renaissance in the full-motion video genre as of late: for some reason, the genre’s made a bit of a comeback on PC gaming. On top of that, a fair amount of older games, back from the FMV game’s heyday, have been reemerging with various re-releases. I’ll be honest, there aren’t that many games of that style that I actually want to play. Among them is Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster – a game that quite literally puts you in control of one of Dr. Frankenstein’s creations, as he struggles to discover his past and figure out the mysteries surrounding the mad doctor’s experiments. My interest in the Frankenstein mythos makes the game intriguing enough on its own, but the fact that Tim Curry portrays the infamous doctor himself intrigues me even more.

Odds: Interplay’s sold off all of their assets and I can’t find any information about the developer itself. However, considering the fact that Nightdive Studios has been working on acquiring and re-releasing various old PC games of similar styles – like Titanic: Adventure Out of Time and D – I think there’s a chance they could stumble upon the rights to this game (and maybe even its sequel). I wouldn’t count on it though. (4/10)

The King of Fighters ’99: Evolution – SNK

My early days with the KoF series were… confusing, to put it mildly, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. When SNK released ’98 on the Dreamcast, they rebranded it as “The King of Fighters ’99: Dream Match Never Ends” – so obviously, I was led to believe that the game was in fact KoF ’99. Unfortunately, when I bought a game labeled “King of Fighters ‘99” for the PlayStation, I was surprised to see that it was the game’s sequel. So, when the game in question was released on the Dreamcast itself, it was saddled with the subtitle “Evolution” to differentiate it from its mislabeled predecessor.

The Dreamcast release added various new features, including newly-rendered backgrounds in 3D and exclusive Striker characters: Seth and Vanessa, who made their official debut in King of Fighters 2000. Though what’s surprising is that the game was also ported to PC – with English, Spanish and Portuguese language options! – by a company called CyberFront. From what I’ve heard, even the worst reviews I could find of the PC version online claim that it’s a perfect conversion of the Dreamcast version, which sounds amazing.

Odds: SNK has released a fair share of games on GOG, but usually have relied on stocking their storefront with emulations handled by DotEmu. However, considering that they’ve been releasing PS2 Classics on PS4 recently, I think it’s become a little more feasible in the grand scheme of things. I think the major hurdle at this point would be reminding SNK of this port’s existence. (5/10)

Breath of Fire IV – Capcom

Just like MegaMan X8, this was one of those odd Capcom PC ports that came out in Japan and Europe, but not North America. Either way, the game’s in English, so there shouldn’t be any issues with selling the game to Americans. Fans have been clamoring for a new Breath of Fire game – well, one that isn’t on smartphones anyway – and considering it was only re-released on the PlayStation 3, the Vita and the PSP via PS1 Classics (all defunct systems at this point), a re-release on a more enduring platform seems like a good way to test the viability of the classic JRPG franchise.

Odds: Capcom’s an odd case when it comes to GOG. They released one really old port on the service (Street Fighter Alpha 2) and a much more recent port two years ago (Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen). Since then, we haven’t seen anything else for them and Capcom has begun to implement Denuvo into their games – but only brand-new titles, not HD re-releases. Maybe there’s still a chance they’ll release more games on GOG, especially considering their recent attempts to win back their audience. I guess time will tell. (4/10)

Mega Man & Mega Man 3 – Capcom/Hi-Tech Expressions

Okay, I’ve already talked about this game at length enough in several other articles – particularly in my MegaMan retrospective – so I’ll keep this brief. These games are bad, but they’re old. And GOG is a place for PC games that are good and/or old. It technically belongs on the service, that’s all there is to it.

Odds: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA There’s absolutely no chance. This game is likely considered an old shame by the people at Capcom’s Western branches that know of its existence and I doubt the Japanese branch even knows about these games. (0/10)

G-Darius – Square Enix (Taito)

I’ll be honest: back when I had my PS1, the majority of my library consisted of titles developed or published by the fine folks at Capcom. However, G-Darius is one of those exceptions that I’ll never forget. The fourth arcade installment in the classic shoot-‘em-up franchise – and the very first to utilize 3D polygonal graphics – G-Darius was also the first horizontal shmup that I actually liked. Up to that point, I was only a fan of vertical shooters like Aero Fighters, 1944 and Raiden. Considering this game was also ported by CyberFront, I anticipate that this was also a good port of a good game.

Odds: Sure, at this point, most of Square Enix’s offerings on GOG are strictly from Eidos’ catalog but branching out seems possible, especially with old ports like this of games with such a niche following. (3/10)

Taito Legends 1 & 2 – Square Enix (Taito)

I guess it’s become a requisite for me to include some kind of a retro compilation on these GOG lists, and this time, the honor goes to the Taito Legends games. Both compilations were also released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, but based on the information I have, the PC versions were based on the latter. With a total of 68 games across both collections, including such arcade classics as RayForce, Qix, The New Zealand Story, Darius Gaiden, Elevator Action, Operation Wolf, The Legend of Kage, Gun Frontier and many, many more. These PC releases don’t have every game that was present in every release for both collections. There were a few titles that were exclusive to the PS2 version of Legends 2, but others that were only present on the Xbox and PC versions. Also, one game wasn’t present in the Western releases of either collection, but several were left out of the various Japanese releases. Still, these do seem like our best bet for seeing these old Taito games officially playable on PC, unless Square Enix decides to revisit the concept entirely on modern platforms.

Odds: Square Enix seems like they’re a bit more literal when it comes to understanding the PC market. Because of that, I think these games have a better chance of making it to GOG than that old G-Darius port, but barely. (4/10)

Battle Arena Toshinden 1 & 2 – Tamsoft/Playmates Interactive

You didn’t honestly think that I’d be happy with just two fighting games on this list, did you? The original Battle Arena Toshinden holds a special place in my heart: despite the game’s primitive clunkiness, it may very well have been the first game I played on the original PlayStation, through one of those demo kiosks you’d find at stores back in that era. The original game’s PC port was essentially the product of a compromise: Playmates Interactive would release the game on PC, while Takara would publish the Earthworm Jim games in Japan. To signify this agreement, Earthworm Jim appeared as a guest character in the PC release, though he was honestly just a model swap for an existing character. This version appeared to be directly based on the arcade version as opposed to the better-known PS1 release. It used the original Japanese voiceovers, as opposed to the English ones found in the PS1 release, as well as a slightly rearranged soundtrack.

The second game received much more love in its PC port, containing everything from the PS1 version, as well as many other new features, like the ability to save progress on unlocking extra content and full controller customizability, two features the home console version lacked. On top of that, Toshinden 2 was released directly on Windows, while the previous game was compatible with DOS.

Odds: Just like Frankenstein, the main hurdle here is figuring out who owns the rights at this point. Honestly, in the process of researching the second game’s PC release, I found at least three companies that were potential publishers, though Playmates Interactive is the one present on the game’s title screen itself. All the same, GOG still has the rights to sell all of the Earthworm Jim PC ports, so there’s a chance they’d know exactly where to go to figure this one out. Unfortunately, Toshinden doesn’t appear to be a game that’s high in demand. (2/10)

Brain Dead 13 – ReadySoft (Digital Leisure)

This game always felt like a missed opportoonity (no, I’m better than that) opportunity for me. Brain Dead 13 always intrigued me with its various ads in magazines throughout my childhood, yet I never got the chance to play it. Essentially a game in the same vein as Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace – and with an artstyle that clearly tried to ape the work of Don Bluth to boot – Brain Dead 13 may seem like more of a case of style over substance, but that’s not necessarily always a bad thing. It’s funny: generally, I hate quick-time events when they show up in action games, but if they’re the game’s only avenue of interactivity, I’m generally way more forgiving.

Odds: Well, on the one hand, the game did see a re-release on iOS back in 2010, so we do know that someone has the rights to the game in question. Of course, my guess is that if they were going to do re-releases, it would probably be a brand-new remaster – rebuilt from the ground-up – as opposed to just putting the existing DOS, Windows and Macintosh versions up on GOG. Still, you never know: I never would’ve guessed that Toonstruck would ever see the light of day again, and yet, it’s up on GOG. (5/10)

And so ends another wishlist. I went with some pretty esoteric choices this time around, but that just goes to show just how varied PC gaming was back in the halcyon days of the 1990s and early 2000s. PC gaming before Valve’s domination over the landscape was an interesting one, though not always necessarily better – Games for Windows Live was a mistake. Honestly, I had a lot of fun writing this list. I just wish I’d been able to come up with an alternate topic. I think I’ll continue these lists, but ideally I’d like to fold my next GOG list into the December 2019 article. I’m going to keep working on finding a new topic for next year, but I’ve already got another GOG list halfway done as it is.

Any Port in a Storm: A PC Gaming Field Guide

I’ll be honest, I originally meant to write this as a small piece for my own personal sideblog. I kept putting off writing it – mainly because a lot of my attention was focused on Retronaissance and usually I only end up writing stuff on my sideblog when I’m feeling particularly passionate, a feeling that fades quickly. It didn’t help that the concept seemed to fit equally well with both forums: the topic did revolve around topics I’d long since discussed on Retronaissance, but I felt more comfortable discussing it with much less tact than I typically employ on here. It doesn’t help that I feel like I spend enough time talking about PC ports on here in the first place, with my various wishlists – finally figured out the subject of August’s, by the way – providing the bulk of my discussion on the subject. After all, superstition or not, a lot of the games I’ve listed have managed to make their way on PC, in one way or another.  I ended up discussing the topic with other contributors to this blog, who were in favor of me putting it here, but my indecision gave me cold feet, which led me to avoid writing the article altogether. Eventually, the concept began to grow – I thought up various other ideas that I decided to add to the original concept – and by that point, it became clear: Any Port in a Storm had become a perfect candidate for an article on Retronaissance. Just keep in mind that my more refined writing style might fall by the wayside at times.

While I’ll admit that I have pretty much had an on-again, off-again relationship with PC gaming from the time I first got into video games, my love of console-focused games has meant that I’ve had a nearly equally long interest in the concept of PC ports. Even from the beginning, the concept of “bad ports” (Street Fighter II) and “good ports” (the first 3 Mortal Kombat games and X-Men: Children of the Atom) were something I could at least acknowledge, albeit starting with a mere gut feeling as opposed to something I could quantify objectively. PC ports have, by and large, come a long way from the 1990s, but even today, there’s no way to guarantee a port’s quality. Some ports manage to exceed the quality of the original source material, creating a truly definitive version of the game, while others are NIS America’s PC port of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana: disasters at launch that may or may not ever be fixed to the point of working properly.

Of course, these days, it’s much easier to find quality ports in an ever-declining sea of garbage. Resources like the PC Gaming Wiki not only point out which games are quality ports, they also make recommendations for fixes on both older and poorly-made games which makes it a truly indispensable resource for PC gamers, especially those new to the medium. The real problem is still quantifying the quality of the ports themselves. As I said, some great games are maligned with terrible ports to this day, while games ranging from mediocre to outright bad will end up with amazing ports that even manage to fix problems with the original releases themselves, effectively enshrining a piece of kusoge in a fashion befitting a masterpiece.

In the end, I’ve decided to use a much-maligned concept long associated with the ills of gaming journalism for my own purposes: the “four-point scale”, a means of rating games from good to excellent. I’ll keep my criticisms on this scale brief: it’s effectively turned any score below a 9 into a dire insult and had the unfortunate consequence of causing certain people (myself, for example) to seek out games that manage to break the scale, earning scores of 6 and below, whether out of curiosity, bile fascination or some inconsequential way of “sticking it to the man”. You know, by paying some other “the man” to play crappy games. Could that have been their plan all along?

The thing is, when it comes to PC ports, the four-point scale works out perfectly. There is a definite base level of quality that people should expect in their ports, a bar that has risen continuously throughout the years. Better still, the types of ports that would receive 7s and 8s would easily have the most discerning PC gamers turning up their noses in disgust, so the unintended consequence of diluting the perceived quality of these grades would be a feature, not a bug. After all, if you don’t like these ports, well… that’s what good’s for.

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Duke Phillips: the first modern games journalist.

7.0 – Console Parity (or Is It Parody?)

Let’s start with the bottom of the barrel and work our way up, shall we? If there’s one good thing about ports that fall into the 7 score, it’s that these days, they’re rare. Clearly many developers, porting companies and especially publishers have learned that ports of that caliber are no longer acceptable to most consumers. The only real question is, why was they ever considered worthy of release in the first place.

At this point in time, the majority of the ports I’d classify as 7s came out at least a decade ago but considering the fact that so many of them are still available for purchase on Steam and various other digital storefronts, I think it’s still fair to make reference to them. At one point, ports in this style would’ve been considered the cream of the crop, but when you look at the history of PC ports overall, it’s understandable. If we were to consider the history of console games ported to PC like an evolutionary line, then the 7’s closest equivalent would clearly be either the Cro Magnon or the Neanderthal compared to the other scores’ Modern Man. When they first appeared on the scene, they were clearly impressive and best suited for survival, but at this point, they’re clearly too primitive to be considered a quality product.

But enough stalling, what defines a 7 on my little four-point scale? Quite simply, a perfect 1:1 port of the console version. Now you’re probably thinking, “But Icepick! Isn’t that what a port is supposed to be?” To which I say, feh! The problem stems from the hardware itself. Despite my posturing about how most modern consoles are just crippled PCs in the first place, their underlying operating systems are still different from one another. Consoles generally focus most (if not all) of their resources into games, while PCs run various other processes in the background at all times. As such, most console games are designed to take advantage of this focus, effectively pushing the entire platform’s resources into the game itself. Try that on a PC and you end up with a port with ridiculously high minimum specifications. Not to mention the recommended specs needed to play the game properly.

That’s to say nothing of the lack of features that PC gamers have come to take for granted these days. Fully-programmable controls, not to mention mouse and keyboard support – I’m not going to judge, but there are more than a small number of PC gamers who swear by them for literally any type of game – future-proofed support for higher resolutions, graphical filters, adjustable frame rates and the ability to switch between full-screen and windowed mode easily. Quite simply, 7-ranked ports completely lack the scalability associated with PC games, forcing a concrete cut-off on the kind of hardware capable of running the games themselves, drawing a very distinct line in the sand.

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Believe it or not, this was an actual PC port, not an emulator. No, really.

Aside from that, 7 ports are generally good ports. Not simply “good” in the scale from good to excellent, but rather they are proper approximations of the original experience. In the end, they have potential. Fixes, whether official or fan-made, can easily rectify many of the issues involved in these “low-grade” ports. One such example would be Inti Creates’ Azure Striker Gunvolt. When the game was first ported to Steam, it was in an incredibly rough state, but now? It’s on par with the recent Switch release as of an update that came out of the blue last month. This is why they fall at the far end of my four-point scale for PC ports that are acceptable. Clearly, they have their issues, but they are still generally competent to perhaps the most important degree of an PC port: recreating the console game accurately. Having said that, most if not all PC gamers at this point would turn their noses up at a modern port of this caliber. Unless I’m absolutely desperate to play the game in question, I’d be equally dissuaded from picking it up. Buyer beware and all that.

Supplement: 7.5 – Pick Your Poison

Of course, that’s not to say that the spirit of 7-grade ports doesn’t live on to this day. Their modern-day equivalents are clearly superior to true 7s, but they still find themselves slacking against the competition. I’ll just refer to them as “7.5s” to make things simpler: after all, they’re better than a 7, but still not quite on par with an 8.

There are two major differences between 7s and 7.5s. First, while 7s aren’t optimized at all, 7.5s are generally just poorly optimized. Not exactly significant, but it’s a step forward. On top of that, 7.5s also usually include at least a few of those expected features I mentioned earlier. Not all of them make it – generally most companies tend to aim for at least partial keyboard support and windowed mode – but a few core features are still better than none.

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For all its problems, at least MK9’s PC version had keyboard support.

With that being said, 7.5s are generally held to the same standard as their ancestors. Examples of 7.5s that I’m personally familiar with include Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition and Injustice: Gods Among Us – both handled by High Voltage Studios, a company which should set off alarm bells in any knowledgeable PC gamer’s head until proven otherwise. These ports are poorly optimized, effectively requiring specs twice as strong as recommended to run them properly and have their fair share of issues, but all-in-all, they’re effectively reasonable facsimiles of the original console versions. Their Mortal Kombat X port managed to be even worse than those two, to the extent where Warner Bros. had to hire the good people at QLOC to fix it for the XL update.

8.0 – The Bare Minimum

Now I can probably guess what’s going through your mind when you’re looking at this header. “But Icepick! You were saying that 8 were so much better than 7s and 7s were the lowest score you’d consider! How can 8s be ‘the bare minimum’?” Well, I’m glad you asked, hypothetical reader. Put simply, to the majority of PC gamers, a port that would score an 8 on this scale is quite literally, the bare minimum of what would be expected in a PC port. 7s are detritus that should, in all honesty, never occur again. 7.5s are outright abominations. But an 8? Well, all but the most discerning PC gamers – which, to be fair, is still probably half of them altogether – would at least consider these ports. The 8 is quite simply a bronze medal, the third-place award – compared to the participant ribbons that I’d associate with 7s and 7.5s. In a perfect world, every company working on a PC port should be aiming for a solid 8.

If there’s any point where the four-point scale metaphor begins to falter, it would have to be on 8. Considering the whole Twilight Princess debacle – for the handful of people reading this who don’t know what I’m talking about, the game scored an 8.8 out of 10 on Gamespot and it started a major backlash – 8s are generally considered bad scores, by the virtue of being lower than a 9. Personally, I tend to gravitate more towards 8s and 9s when it comes to review scores: 10s just often feel too good to be true. Then again, maybe that’s just me. I’m the kind of person who enjoys eating at Taco Bell, because I consider it “Tex-Mex-themed fast food” as opposed to “authentic Mexican cuisine”, which honestly has to be near the top of my personal list of the 10 stupidest opinions in all of human history. A game that scores an 8 has the chance to impress me by surprise, but a perfect score rarely lives up to its own lofty expectations in my eyes. Blame it on my susceptibility to hype backlash and the fact that my tastes don’t often align with critics in general.

Basically, the main thing elevating an 8-grade port over its inferiors is the fact that it feels much more like a PC game. The game is properly optimized to some extent, effectively meaning that current-gen games will run on systems with equivalent specs, as opposed to requiring top-of-the-line components. Keyboard and mouse support is a given and graphical options allow weaker PCs to run the game, while more powerful computers can enhance their experiences with filters and other improvements. Put simply, all of those features that I said were missing from ports I’d score at 7? All present and accounted for in the prototypical 8 port, and with no impact on the quality of the port itself.

Of course, you’re probably thinking “But Icepick! Why is this so low on the scale? This sounds like exactly what you’d want in the first place!” And honestly, that’s a fair assertion. The weakness regarding a port that scores an 8 is admittedly petty, but still relatively practical. 8s generally take all of their assets directly from the console version with no improvements. Now that sounds excellent on the surface, but the problem is that 8 ports aren’t entirely future proof. As time goes on, computers will come out with higher graphical resolutions, improved audio quality and more powerful processors: it’s an inevitability. Remember how great SNES and Genesis games looked at the time? Think about how they look when played at modern resolutions. They either take up a minute fraction of the screen or get blown up to the extent where you can easily count every individual pixel on the screen. A similar fate awaits ports that score an 8 at some undetermined point in the future. It’s nothing personal, they’re just the consequences of the continued march of time. Fortunately, in many cases, enterprising fans have found workarounds that will keep ports of this quality looking good for years to come.

The main example I can think of when it comes to an 8 port would have to be XSEED’s recent PC port of Ys SEVEN. The game was severely hampered by the fact that it was only released on the PlayStation Portable previously. XSEED wanted to keep the various art assets as close to the originals as possible, but due to the small resolution on the game’s textures, the game is locked at a relatively low maximum resolution compared to most games that were released around the same time.

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It’s a little blurry, but this version runs at 60 FPS. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

Supplement: Late Ports, Buggy Ports and Both

This section right here? It’s what convinced me to turn this article into more than a simple blogpost. Now it only seems fair to cite my inspirations for this particular aside: NIS America’s disasterpiece of a PC port for Falcom’s exquisite Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. After being delayed multiple times over the course of seven months, when Ys VIII finally launched on PC, the port was an absolute mess. It was so bad, that it was the first Falcom game to not receive a Positive review score on Steam – and it’s not even the first release to come from a company other than fan favorite XSEED. Originally the backlash was so severe, its overall review score was at an unprecedented “Mostly Negative”, but since then it’s settled on “Mixed”.

Why did this happen? Honestly, seeing anything lower than a Mixed score is rare on Steam in general, but why exactly did things drop so low in the first place? To properly understand how this backlash worked, you have to understand the common viewpoint of how PC gamers view two specific types of release issues when it comes to ports. Specifically, ports that launch significantly later than their console counterparts and ports that launch in such a buggy state, that they’re literally unplayable.

When it comes to late ports, PC gamers are generally understanding. I’d liken it to waking up with a dry, scratchy throat or clogged sinuses – unpleasant, but nothing out of the ordinary. Hell, I’ve written a whole series of posts outright begging for ports that couldn’t be anything but late. To misuse some baseball terminology, a late port is effectively like a foul ball: it’s a strike against the game’s reception but not one that will outright dismiss it. It all depends on various factors. For starters, how long the gap between the initial release and the PC port is. I’d say that if it launches within three months of the original – and the time between releases was spent properly optimizing the game and fixing bugs instead of, oh I don’t know, adding in intrusive DRM that actively sabotages the game’s performance at the last minute – it’s generally fine. Don’t think I forgot about what you did to Sonic Mania, Sega. I’ll never forget.

If it takes longer than that to release the game on PC, there are other ways to sweeten the pot. Release the game at a mild discount: most console games are generally sold at a discount after a few months anyway. Failing that, include any DLC that has come out in the base package. Honestly, I welcome late ports when they do this: it’s like getting a “Game of the Year” edition from the start! As long as you’re not selling the base game at the launch price six months after the fact, you should be golden.

Ports that are buggy at launch are a different story. Generally, if they come out at the same time as their console counterparts, bugs are expected but not welcome. Going back to the baseball metaphor, a bug-ridden port is a strike, swing and a miss, pure and simple. Launching in an unplayable state is a far worse blow to a game’s reputation than running late – feel free to add in that overused Miyamoto quote if you need to – but the thing about a buggy release is that, the bugs can be fixed. If the developers behind the port remain vigilant and try to iron out all of the game’s issues, its reputation can rebound. Lowering the price (even temporarily) in conjunction with the overhaul doesn’t hurt either.

Which brings us to the ultimate question: what happens when a late port is unplayable on a significant number of systems? Well, widespread backlash. The only acceptable reason for late ports to begin with is to allow for proper bugfixes. Take that promise away and replace it with a port that doesn’t even work and you’d have to wonder what compelled them to release it in that state to begin with. It’s a complete erosion of any and all good will and it will take time to repair the damage done to a company’s reputation when they decide to release something in such a rough state without a quick release to justify it.

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I forget: is quality job one or job none?

As I mentioned before, Ys VIII’s troubled PC version was what inspired me to think about this in the first place. Since then, NISA’s been slowly but surely improving the quality of the port, but it’s still far from acceptable: only those who decided to sacrifice their hard-earned money and kept their barely functional copies of Ys VIII act as the canary in the coalmine, while most of Falcom’s more discerning PC fanbase are waiting for the all-clear. Me personally? I never played the previous game – Memories of Celceta – and since that’s had a PC port announced for release sometime this summer, I’m content to wait for the all-clear. I have to wonder: is NIS America fixing up this port in an effort to repair their disastrous first effort or did the Japanese games media’s reports on this whole debacle send Falcom back into action, like they did with the game’s initial translation? I suppose we’ll never know for sure.

9.0 – The Gold Standard

Ideally, every PC port should end up with roughly a 9 score. Unfortunately, making a 9-caliber PC port isn’t quite as practical as aiming for an 8, especially with older games. In fact, despite their perceived gulf in quality, the difference from 8s to 9s aren’t nearly as different as 7s (and 7.5s) to 8s.

I’m not going to lie though, this is where things might get a little tricky. While I said that 8s were more akin to bronze medals in the grand scheme of things, I’ve also designated 9s as “the gold standard”. This begs the question: what would count as a silver-class port? I’d argue that in terms of my own personal scale, 8s would act as a silver ranking, compared to 7/7.5’s bronze. However, when talking about the general reception of ports by the PC gaming community at large, 8s would certainly be considered a bronze, while 7s are nothing more than cautionary relics of bygone eras and 7.5s are abominations that have no reason to exist at all. I suppose silver is redundant when considering PC ports, which are generally either categorized as “good” or “bad” in the first place.  7.5s and anything lower would be considered bad, 8s are merely “acceptable” – effectively serving as a border – and 9s would easily make up the bulk of the “good” category.

But what differentiates an 8 from a 9 in the first place? Remember how I mentioned earlier that a 8-scored port is susceptible to becoming outdated in lieu of advances in gaming technology? 9s are essentially future-proofed in that regard. Using higher-quality graphical and audio assets compared to the original console releases, 9s would no longer be tethered to the limitations of the original work. In that sense, ports of this quality wouldn’t even feel like ports, they’d feel like games that were originally designed for the PC in the first place. On top of that, ports of this quality generally allow for specifications not yet possible on a majority of systems, effectively allowing for screen resolutions that are either rare or non-existent when the port is first released. Likewise, these ports would also be capable of running on weaker systems, effectively allowing for the entire experience to be perfectly scaled for a majority of current PCs.

To put it in terms that console gamers may more easily understand, imagine a game that you could play on both models of the PS4, the PS3 and the Vita – each with their own unique framerates, resolutions and other flourishes to allow each version to produce a definitive experience, while allowing the more powerful consoles to showcase their additional power compared to older models. Sure, crossplay makes this sound outright mundane, but imagine if it were possible with a single download, as opposed to multiple unique versions, each designed from the ground up with their distinct platform in mind. Hell, in some cases, you’re able to play recent games using PCs with specs on par with the PlayStation 2. Imagine playing a brand-new PS4 game on a system from 2000!

Put simply, ports I’d categorize as 9s are essentially perfect. You’re probably wonder what separates them from 10s. To be honest, it’s far too difficult for me to discuss what ports that would be categorized as 9s lack compared to one that would score a perfect 10 in my eyes. It’ll be much easier to describe in the context of talking about 10s in general. As for examples, XSEED’s recent Trails of Cold Steel ports were considered an extreme improvement over the original PS3 versions. Likewise, Sega and Platinum’s recent ports of Bayonetta and Vanquish are considered the definitive versions.

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This is the best looking Metal Slug game I’ve ever seen.

Thesis: The GOG Equation

One last quick aside before I discuss my take on what defines a perfect score. Frankly, I’ve been falling more and more in love with Good Old Games since I wrote that wishlist last August. Turns out I’m not alone: after a debacle which has left the future of several games on Steam in question, MangaGamer has partnered with GOG to finally bring various high-profile visual novels to their service.

It’s baffled me just how little support GOG seems to receive from a lot of major publishers. While my main prong of attack has been on focusing on making wishlists for old ports to resurface on their service, I’ve also found it kind of weird that a lot of companies seem to drag their feet on releasing more contemporary titles on the service. The weirdest part is when some companies release a few modern games on GOG, but not their entire library. The most notable example of this I can think of is Capcom who, as of right now, have only released their old PC port of Street Fighter Alpha 2 from 1997 and 2016’s PC port of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on GOG so far. To make matters weirder, Dragon’s Dogma was released at about the same time as the Steam release.

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GOG even makes a big deal about every single new release on their service. When’s the last time Valve did anything remotely like this on Steam?

It just strikes me as weird that so many companies refuse to support GOG, which is essentially the second biggest digital marketplace for PC games, simply based on the fact that they’re the only major one that doesn’t sell Steam keys. There’s a significant demographic of PC gamers that refuse to buy games with any form of DRM – and as beneficial as it has been, Steam is still DRM software – that generally buy games from GOG and other DRM-free stores for that reason. Meanwhile, you’ll see games sold at extreme discounts – I’ve seen games sell at 80% off the standard price – regularly on Steam. It doesn’t hurt that GOG boasts about having “crossplay” with various Steamworks games.

It honestly occurred to me at random one day, that there ought to be some sort of equation for determining when a company should just swallow their pride and release their game on GOG – and Humble Store, I guess, but mostly GOG. I think I’ve come up with a fairly reasonable way to look at it. If a publisher decides to sell one of their games with at least a 50% discount on a regular basis (let’s say, every time there’s a major sale), then I think it’s time to consider dropping Steam exclusivity and making the game available on other marketplaces. The same could be said for games that are sold at a 75% or higher discount – that is, a quarter of the standard price – even once. At that point, it just seems like publishers are desperate to make sales in the first place, so selling to the niche-within-a-niche market that buys exclusively on GOG – or even weirder, the people who are willing to buy games a second time on there – seems like a sure bet to make some extra money.

I understand the argument that a lot of people tend to make: that DRM-free sites encourage piracy. But honestly? Steam’s DRM is easy enough to crack and any additional forms of DRM – even the supposed piracy-killer Denuvo – just seem to act more as a challenge for pirates instead of a deterrent, effectively punishing paying customers more than the people cracking the game for free. Couple that with the fact that the EU withheld a study that proved that piracy doesn’t actually hurt media sales (aside from movie tickets) and there’s really no justification to avoid selling stuff on GOG, unless Valve paid for some kind of exclusivity, which would honestly impress me, considering the hands-off approach they’ve seemed to take running Steam for the past five or so years.

The Perfect 10 – An Abstract Concept

I mentioned earlier that I have an innate distrust of perfect scores. Frankly, the idea of perfection just seems like it should be reserved for purely objective observations, quite the opposite from any and all reviews. When it comes to media, my apprehension becomes a little more pronounced. By definition, a perfect game – even a game simply considered the perfect representation of its genre – should be one that can never be surpassed. The ideal game, a game which should sate any gamer for the rest of their days. No game that has scored perfect 10s across the board has come even remotely close to engrossing me to that extent. As such, I don’t really trust the concept in general: no game – not even one that scores a perfect 10 in every publication, past, present and future – can be perfect.

Which begs the question: what differentiates a 9-grade PC port from a perfect 10? Objectively, absolutely nothing. I already pointed out that a PC port that would score a 9.0 is the gold standard, a port that improves upon its source material, effectively creating a definitive release. As the entire concept of a perfect score is even more subjective than the scale it inhabits, it only seems fair that my take on what consists a perfect score should be equally as subjective.

Enough stalling, my criteria for what separates the crème de la crème is actually fairly subjective. Essentially, a perfect 10 PC port would be of a quality so recognizable, that console gamers effectively want that version ported back to consoles down the line. Or, better still, a case where a PC port works out so well, that publishers themselves decide that it’s worth using said PC version as the basis for any and all re-releases down the line. At the very least, the next batch would be based on the PC port.

I understand just how petty and small that comes across, that for a PC port to be considered ideal, its quality must be recognized outside our niche. However, all things considered, I can’t think of a better criterion of quality than acknowledgement from outside our own field. When you think about it, internal rankings all fall victim to some measure of subjectivity. We all play favorites. But the green-eyed pining of console gamers, hissing jealously at our long-awaited prize, a shinier toy than the one they’ve had for so long? That’s an objective measure: only the most short-sighted console gamers – so, again, roughly half – would even bother caring about a PC port unless it was clearly superior to their version. As for the publishers themselves, PC versions may be easier to port back to consoles again down the line (especially these days), but usually they’ll add some attempt at new flourishes from generation to generation. If it’s a straight port of the existing PC version though, that implies that they’ve perfected their craft.

Thus far, I’ve tried giving you an example of what I would consider a perfect example of each of these ports and I don’t intend to fail you on the perfect 10. Ultra Street Fighter IV started with a rocky release – mainly owed to switching their online matchmaking from using the defunct Games for Windows Live service to Steamworks – but eventually managed to become the definitive version, serving as the basis for a subsequent re-release on the PS4 (which itself had unrelated issues with optimization for months). QLOC outdid themselves on USF4 and have essentially earned their place as my pick for the best PC porting studio of all-time. If someone from any company stumbles upon this article and takes one thing away from it, hire QLOC to port your games to PC. You won’t regret it.

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It even has a benchmark, for cryin’ out loud!

So that brings us to the end of this little experiment. I’ll be honest, as much as I claim to have amassed a great deal of knowledge about PC gaming since migrating back to it around the end of the last console generation, I still consider myself a journeyman. It seems like every day, I learn something new about this platform. Ports and original games I missed out on in my early days of PC gaming and during my time on consoles, releases that were once considered abominations being polished to perfection, even new mods for games that I wouldn’t have expected mods on in the first place. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve taken to PC gaming again as much as I have: it’s such a vast environment, it’s pretty much got something for everyone. And for those of you that love my little wishlists: don’t worry, August’s not that far away.

Turn Based #6: X’ed Out

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Turn Based. While our last article tackled the epic struggle between gaming on PCs and consoles, this time we’ll be discussing a much simpler topic. Since late 2001, Microsoft decided to expand its scope from mere PCs to taking over the living rooms of homes all over the world with their first Xbox home console.

Since then, they’ve met with mixed success, ranging from the dizzying heights of the Xbox 360 to the current nadir that is the confusingly-named “Xbox One”. The question we are posing today is should the Xbox line continue? Does it offer anything to console games as a whole and if so, is it enough to justify its continued existence? I’ll let KI start with his argument.

SNES Master KI: To be honest, I never thought we really needed Xbox that badly. I’ve been happy with my Nintendo and Sony systems for the past few generations, the only Xbox incarnation I own is a 360 that I purchased in 2014, and even that triggered our running joke curse where the games I wanted the system for quickly went to Nintendo and/or Sony once I actually got a 360. In the past, however, there was at least an argument to be made that there was no reason for Sony’s primarily third party supported systems to be in control. This was especially true in the early seventh generation, when Sony made their biggest console blunder and got PlayStation 3 off to a very rough start, giving the Xbox 360 a huge amount of popularity and momentum.

However, things have changed since then. Microsoft went off the rails in 2013, introducing their third system, the Xbox One, as an online mandatory, anti-used games entertainment hub. The backlash was massive, and Microsoft backpedaled (but not before letting Sony win E3 2013 by announcing that PlayStation 4 could automatically play used games), removing the worst features of the XB1. But not only had the bad publicity left its mark, this left us with a system that seemed to have no purpose. I think the original incarnation of the Xbox One was Microsoft’s master plan all along, an entertainment hub that relied on online services. When the backlash destroyed that vision, Xbox One was left as a weaker, more expensive PlayStation 4 that Microsoft barely supported with either first-party games or paid for third-party exclusives.

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This should not be an E3 winning announcement.

Icepick: Before I was the PC die-hard you see before you, I was an adherent to what was called “Wii60”. I believed that you only really needed a Nintendo console and one of the two “HD Twins”, and I chose Microsoft. During the fifth and sixth console generations — especially the sixth, stay tuned — Sony forced more than its fair share of paradigm shifts that poisoned the well of console gaming for me and sent me into a self-imposed exile, relying on a steady diet of retro games and whatever handhelds existed at the time.

However, even when the PS2’s dominance was all but assured, Microsoft’s little behemoth that could managed to make strides in the industry. It brought online gaming to the mainstream. The Xbox 360 found a home for the smaller and 2D experiences that made me fall in love with video games in the first place with its Xbox Live Arcade. Even today, the Xbox One is trying to keep the concept of backwards compatibility alive in a world where even Nintendo has all but abandoned it. Microsoft is the least powerful entity in the console space, but some of their decisions have ultimately sent shockwaves through the industry. Some for the worse, but some for the better.

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A perfect metaphor for my feelings toward console gaming, circa 2002. Guess who PS2 is.

KI: The issue is, almost all of those things are in the past. You can also make just as many arguments for Xbox hurting gaming with microtransactions, the first paid online, a non-functioning D-pad, and trying to make games a subscription service with Game Pass. And that’s just what they actually got to do, the original version of Xbox One could have done irreparable damage to console gaming if it was successful. Microsoft was also the worst at backwards compatibility in the seventh generation and is only ahead now because it is physically impossible to do on Switch. PlayStation 5 and Super Switch could very well bring it back in full.

I also have to say that it sounds more like you’re angry at Sony than have any real reason to support Xbox, which segues nicely into another point. You hate Sony, I hate Steam… but we both are always aware of their existence. We care about them, even if it’s in a negative way. Xbox… we pretty much forget it exists a lot of the time. At this point no one in our group of friends cares enough about it to even consider it a threat and therefore an object of hostility. That is not a good position for a system to be in.

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Dislike at least requires acknowledgement.

Icepick: While I clearly have a bias against Sony, Microsoft is important to their continued development. While the PS2 was king, Sony got complacent and lazy. The one-two punch of the Xbox 360’s head start and the PS3’s underwhelming package managed to sucker punch them into working hard to create a much better follow-up in the PS4.

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If you looked up the definition of the word “hubris” in the dictionary, you’d find a bunch of words. But this works too.

Like it or not, Sony needs direct competition to bring out their A-game. Nintendo’s given up on fighting them directly, trotting out more and more unorthodox experiences for each new console. Sony relies a lot on more conservative experiences and without a Microsoft (or some other rival) propping them up, we could witness a significant brain drain in terms of traditional console experiences.

KI: Well, as ironic as this is, I feel like Sony does at this point have a direct rival besides Microsoft. As you may remember from the last Turn Based, I feel that PC has given up its own identity and has barely any exclusive left, especially among AAA budget games. However, as I also said in that discussion, it has made significant strides in getting the majority of multi-platform console games. Even some that wouldn’t be multi-platform if it weren’t for PC.

So yes, despite how I feel about PC, I think it has become an effective rival for the traditional consoles. I don’t think we need two nearly identical systems to keep things in balance. While Sony would have to go to extreme measures to make me go for Steam over PlayStation, I don’t think the mass market feels quite as strongly about that as I do. If PS4 and PC share 90% of their library, and Nintendo regains some third party support even if it’s unlikely to completely match Sony, I think Sony has enough motivation to try and not cause massive damage to consoles.

Icepick: Maybe PC could act as a proper rival to the PlayStation brand, but I don’t think Sony views them that way. The sheer amount of collaboration Sony has done with PC the past two generations has been absolutely staggering. Even Street Fighter V — a game Sony personally funded — appeared on PC. And with crossplay. Considering the fact that Sony had to blatantly lie about being worried about the welfare of children to avoid crossplay with Microsoft and even Nintendo, it’s clear that Sony isn’t remotely worried about PC, Steam or otherwise.

KI: They don’t view them as a rival right now, but situations can change. They may not ever get as petty as they did with Microsoft, but Sony is very reactive to other game platforms. Remember the Six Axis? The touch pad? Move? I’ve also heard some convincing arguments that some of PS3’s early problems may have been caused by competing with Microsoft. If Microsoft hadn’t released a nearly identical system, it’s possible Sony would have been willing to wait a bit longer and avoid the $599 fiasco.

I’ll concede that Sony doesn’t seem to view PC as a rival, but that raises another question: how much longer will they view Xbox One as a rival? Playstation 4 is pounding Xbox One pretty badly, Switch’s success is the main reason we aren’t seeing a repeat of the sixth generation’s Sony dominance. Even if Sony needs a rival, is there any reason that has to be Xbox, and is Xbox even going to act as a functional rival much longer? Microsoft really doesn’t seem to care much about it, would Xbox 2001 (or whatever confusing name the fourth one gets) get the effort necessary to challenge PlayStation 5? I’d say a functional Steambox or Nintendo system that could run AAA third party games without issue would be more effective rivals going forward.

Icepick: Steam Machines is pretty much a dead end: even Valve seems to have given up on the concept, having recently taken listings for them off the Steam store. Nintendo seems to have doubled-down on their old “lateral thinking with withered technology”, so the idea that they’ll ever be able to run contemporary AAA games at full power feels like a pipe dream.

While Microsoft does come across as a lame rival these days, there’s absolutely no other company that comes to mind that could afford to risk entering the console market in this day and age. We’ve seen the utter failure that was the Ouya and a variety of other attempts at creating new consoles using the Android OS as a base.

Meanwhile, there’s also been rumblings about Microsoft selling off the Xbox brand to another company or spinning it off into its own separate entity. I think that’s a much more viable solution to everyone’s problems: if the Xbox brand were put under the same pressure as Sony (who basically relies on PlayStation for survival), we might see them step up their game.

KI: Well, it’s not like I hate the name Xbox itself with a burning passion. If someone else can do it better, that’s fine, but I’m not sure how much benefit buying the name would have at this point. After losing so much momentum and fan support, I feel like changing companies could just be a nail in the coffin for the Xbox brand. Especially since even if we agreed that the Xbox brand was necessary to keep Sony on guard, that’s going to be a very tough sell from the company perspective. Would you want to release a system that was probably going to lose just to make your rival give their consumers a better experience?

But aside from that, I think our main point of contention is whether Sony needs to have a rival that is nearly identical to them to keep the industry healthy. If we had Nintendo, Sony, and Steam then each platform would offer something unique. As it is now, Xbox really isn’t providing a reason that we need it. If they can’t make good exclusives or compete with Sony as a third party console, what’s the point? If Microsoft really wants to turn this around, and doesn’t do anything that threatens console gaming as a whole like the 2013 incident, then more power to them (Ironically, I think I still have more intention of eventually buying an Xbox One than you do. I want to play Cuphead someday…). However, as it is now, I feel like Microsoft is just going through the motions and they might as well just wrap it up and let me play Cuphead and Killer Instinct on my consoles of choice. I really think the fact that the main argument for keeping it around is “Sony needs a rival, it doesn’t matter who” says it all.

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Someday…

Icepick: I guess part of the reason I’m so protective of Microsoft is that, technically, they are the last remaining vestige of Sega’s console legacy. The Dreamcast ran a modified version of Windows CE and the original Xbox aped a lot of design traits from the last Sega console. Not to mention all of the exclusive Sega games early in the Xbox’s lifespan. As such, from my point of view, Sega’s consoles will die with the Xbox line’s end — even if both companies aren’t on the best of terms these days. It’s not the most logical reason, but that’s just how I feel.

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Can’t you see the family resemblance?

In the end, even if they’re outnumbered by PlayStation fanboys, there are still people out there who remain faithful to Microsoft’s big black box. While the Xbox brand has seen better days, I think there’s still some untapped potential just waiting to be explored. But what about you? Do you think Microsoft should just trash the Xbox or can it be redeemed into a Sony killer? Sound off in the comments below.

Top 10 Games I Want Ported FROM PC III: Beyond Thunderdome

It’s that time of year again. It’s funny: I originally intended these lists as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the recurring PC port lists I did years back, yet they’ve become one of my favorite traditions on this site, right up there with the collaborative wishlists we do here at the end of the year. I think part of what I like about these lists stems from the fact that it’s my way of sharing the wonders of games currently exclusive to PC with SNES Master KI, a man who would sooner gnaw an arm off than consider gaming on PC regularly. I don’t know what’s going on here, but these lists of mine seem to have some kind of mojo – for crying out loud, Double Dragon Neon was announced on Steam literally days before my first list came out – so it feels good to share the love, even a little bit.

Before we get to this year’s list, I might as well go through what’s been announced since December. The PC-to-console front has been pretty quiet as of late. The only major gain that’s been made is Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe, which appears to be an expanded port of the rogue-like beat-‘em-up Devil’s Dare. It was released on both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch just a couple of days ago. There was also the recent announcement that GameMaker Studio 2 was going to be compatible with the Nintendo Switch, which was preceded by the announcement of Undertale on Switch. Granted, Undertale was already released on PS4 and Vita before that, but it’s good to see it reach a wider audience. Since then, Hyper Light Drifter has also been announced for Switch, but again – it was already available on consoles.

The PC ports fared way better these past four months. First, there was the announcement of Devil May Cry HD Collection back in late December – less than a week after my last article went up – though it’s also coming to Xbox One and PS4. Then a few days later, they announced that the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection would be coming to all four major platforms this May. I bring this up simply because it includes Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (with online play!) – thus essentially giving us Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition on PC. Of course, between this and the upcoming MegaMan X re-releases, I think that kills off any chance of those older conversions from my GOG wishlist – particularly Eurocom’s classic release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo and those old MegaMan X PC ports – being re-released, unless Capcom decides it’s worth the effort to try to exploit the few of us willing to double-dip, either out of nostalgia or curiosity.

After that, February brought us Puyo Puyo Tetris on PC. March brought us Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash and the announcement that Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy would be coming to PC (as well as Switch and Xbox One). Speaking of exclusives, Super Bomberman R – arguably the Switch’s break-out third-party launch game – will be coming to Steam (as well as PS4 and Xbox One) this June, with a nifty little P-Body (from Portal 2) Bomber as exclusive content. XSEED also announced that Ys: Memories of Celceta – my #1 most anticipated PC port from last year’s overall list – will be coming to PC (via Steam, GOG and the Humble Store) sometime this summer. In fact, the same day they announced Celceta on PC, DualShockers released an interview with XSEED’s Executive Vice President Ken Berry, focusing on their recent round of PC ports. Berry said that XSEED wanted to bring as many titles as possible to PC due to the ease of releasing a game worldwide and the lifecycle of PC games lasting much longer than consoles. He also hinted that the gap between console releases and PC ports will continue to shrink as time goes on.

Now that I’ve sufficiently patted myself on the back, it’s time to go over the rules I hold myself to when writing these lists. I’ll be sticking to games that were released on PC during the seventh and eighth generations – so pretty much from 2006 onward – that have not appeared on home consoles or portables by the time this article has been released. I’ll also list the platforms I think would be the best fit for each one, in the case that a game becomes exclusive to a single platform.

Spark the Electric Jester

I’ve always been a fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, but for years, Sega has struggled to recreate the magic of the Genesis-era 2D platformers in the modern day. While Sonic Mania – a game that was a collaboration between the creators of some of the most beloved Sonic fan games – managed to finally score Sega some acclaim last year, there have also been some attempts at recreating the style of the 16-bit Sonic games’ magic with various new IPs. Freedom Planet made it to the Wii U and PS4 in recent years, but one game that hasn’t been so lucky is Spark the Electric Jester.

In what I can only summarize as the love child of Sonic the Hedgehog and Kirby raised by MegaMan X, Spark the Electric Jester was developed by Felipe “LakeFeperd” Riberio Daneluz, the man behind such acclaimed Sonic fan games as Sonic Before the Sequel, Sonic After the Sequel and Sonic Chrono Adventure. The game itself skates the line of clearly taking inspiration from Sonic without feeling like a knockoff. Spark came out a few months before Sonic Mania did and felt like a good buffer game while waiting for Freedom Planet 2 – which was pushed back to 2019 at the beginning of the year.

Best Platform: Unfortunately, support for Spark has been discontinued by LakeFeperd, as he’s moved onto new projects, including a 3D sequel Fark the Electric Jester, which is clearly inspired by the Sonic Adventure games. The game was built in Clickteam Fusion 2.5 – the same engine used for the original Freedom Planet. Since it looks like there’s an (admittedly convoluted) way to port games from that engine onto all three modern platforms, it seems possible that it could make it to anything.

My money’s on Switch though, as Freedom Planet’s first console port was on the Wii U. Nintendo seems like the kind of company that would throw money at getting a game like this on consoles.

OmniBus

Weird and wacky games spawn on PC all the time, but it seems like there’s a decent market for them on consoles as well. Goat Simulator, I am Bread and Surgeon Simulator all seemed to do pretty well on PS4 and even the licensed Rick and Morty game Virtual Rick-ality is making its way to PlayStation VR later this month. So why not Omnibus? It’s a game that looks like a PS1 throwback – honestly, some of the models remind me of MegaMan Legends – where players take control of a bus and perform various tasks, mostly involving flipping the bus into the air and crashing through anything in sight. It’s stupid, but it’s fun stupid.

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised this one isn’t already on consoles. The game’s built in Unity; it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux and it was published by Devolver Digital of all companies.

Best Platform: PlayStation 4, hands down. The visuals look distinctly like something out of an early-to-mid PS1 game and Sony’s the main company taking risks with more bizarre PC games. I could see it coming to other platforms later on, but Sony would definitely insist on at least a timed-exclusive.

Super Star Path

For some reason, I’ve always felt like shoot-‘em-ups and puzzle games are a match made in heaven. Ikaruga and Zoop were two games that seemed to blend some elements from one genre into the other, though neither went far enough. Enter Super Star Path: a perfect combination of the two. Players are tasked with blasting through waves of alien enemies and when one enemy is hit, all adjacent enemies of the same color are also destroyed, while enemies of different colors essentially get turned into “garbage blocks” that block the path through the level. Super Star Path is a game that relies on quick thinking and quick reflexes.

Best Platform: Unfortunately, the game’s developer has yet to release any of their games on consoles. The game was built in GameMaker Studio, so it’s easy enough to port to any of the current three consoles. In fact, because of that, I’ll probably go with the Switch, simply because they seem to be making a big deal about how it’s compatible with the GameMaker engine now.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection

With a heavy heart, this will probably be the last Falcom game I can actually include on these lists, unless XSEED manages to pull off some kind of miracle and gets their hands on a Falcom game that’s extremely old and PC exclusive. Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection – née Zwei II – was the second and final entry in Falcom’s obscure action-RPG series and the last game they developed on the PC, both as an exclusive and overall. The franchise’s primary gimmick involves constantly swapping between two characters: one that focuses on physical attacks, while the other focuses on magic, hence the name (“Zwei” is German for “two”). I’m actually surprised that Zwei II didn’t receive any sort of console ports, especially considering the fact that many of Falcom’s Windows games were ported to the PSP when they pivoted to console development.

You’re probably wondering why I’m only doing the second Zwei game and not the first (subtitled “The Arges Adventure” in the West). For starters, the game was technically ported to consoles in Japan, with Taito handling the 2004 PS2 port and Falcom porting the game to the PSP themselves in 2008. Of course, those were Japan-exclusive releases, but considering the sheer number of hoops XSEED had to go through the get the game working on modern OSes, not to mention several PC-only features that aren’t viable on consoles, it would be easier to base a port of the first game on the existing console versions as opposed to the current Western release.

Best Platform: PlayStation 4 and the Vita are the obvious choices here. Even if you discount the fact that the game likely wouldn’t be ported by Falcom themselves and handed off to a partner, Falcom still tends to primarily focus on the Sony brand, as that’s where they think most of the domestic audience is. Having said that, I wouldn’t count out a Switch port down the line, if Falcom decides to revisit the series on consoles.

Verdict Guilty – 유죄 평결

When Street Fighter II ruled arcades back in the early 90s, it spawned numerous imitators – ranging from great to terrible. In fact, there was practically an entire subgenre of mediocre fighting games available on the Super Famicom, both licensed games and original properties. Verdict Guilty feels like a love letter to these games. In the near future, Neo Seoul has been hit with countless terrorist attacks and a massive crime wave, with few police officers willing to protect the people. Players can choose between 4 cops and 4 criminals in their search to unmask the crime lord responsible for the mayhem.

Verdict Guilty may be based on bad games, but it elevates the wonky mechanics of its inspirations into an artform. The game prides itself on being “easy to pick-up and play” with various interesting mechanics that make for a poorly balanced but still extremely fun game.

Best Platform: This is a difficult one. Verdict Guilty was coded from scratch in C++, the developer hasn’t released anything on consoles before and while the game has a clear SNES aesthetic, I’m not sure who would want exclusivity if any. I guess the Switch wins based on that last point alone.

Rosenkreuzstilette/Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel

Admittedly, I wouldn’t have considered either of these games for console release – just due to the fact that I’d be concerned about whether they would be considered original releases or fan games, given its material – but if the games are allowed for sale on both Playism and Steam, then I think the game’s safe for consoles.

While the rebirth of MegaMan is nigh, the original Rosenkreuzstilette was actually released back in 2007, before the Blue Bomber went into hibernation. Both games are essentially love letters to not only the MegaMan series, but include references to various other Japanese retro games like Castlevania, Bomberman and even Super Mario Bros. Both games are among the best MegaMan tributes of all time and the fact that they both managed to get official English releases last year was amazing.

Best Platform: Playism is the games’ English publisher, so my pick would probably be PlayStation 4. While Playism has also published games on the Xbox One and the Switch, most of their console output has been on the PS4, so that just seems like the most obvious release platform, at least at this point.

Odallus: The Dark Call

Speaking of spiritual successors, Odallus: The Dark Call is a game built from the ground up to pay homage to the Castlevania series, mixing elements from Metroidvania and Classicvania to form an experience that’s both new and familiar. Developed by one of my favorite indie developers, JoyMasher – the same people who brought us Oniken – Odallus has been called “the best Castlevania game in years”, acting almost as a Shovel Knight to the franchise. While I hope Bloodstained doesn’t meet the same fate as Mighty No. 9, Odallus has certainly kept us busy while waiting for a “true” successor.

Best Platform: JoyMasher hasn’t released any of their games on console at this point and the game was made in Clickteam Fusion, so if I had to hazard a guess, my money would have been on the Switch. Danilo Dias seems to take a lot of his inspiration from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming, so I was sure he’d favor Nintendo over Sony or Microsoft.

However, seeing that JoyMasher’s upcoming game, Blazing Chrome – a love letter to the best Contra game, Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis – is being published by DotEmu’s new publishing arm, known as The Arcade Crew, I have to say that PlayStation 4 has become a lot more likely. While no platforms have been confirmed for this new game, DotEmu tends to favor the PlayStation brand when it comes to consoles. If Blazing Chrome does well, I could see them doing something similar with JoyMasher’s previous games.

Them’s Fighting Herds

In most lists, I’d consider this game to be a dark horse, but considering the sheer amount of off-the-wall choices I’ve made so far, I think it’s got a decent shot. Originally conceived as a fighting game starring the mane cast of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Them’s Fighting Herds received a complete overhaul after a cease and desist came from Hasbro. Entirely new designs were conceived by Lauren Faust and Lab Zero licensed them their proprietary “Z-Engine” to improve on the game’s design. The game’s recently entered Steam Early Access – due to issues with implementing the story mode, something Skullgirls fans should remember quite well – but the game should launch in full sometime this year.

Best Platform: Another difficult choice. Humble Bundle is the game’s publisher and as far as I know, they don’t have any preferences regarding platforms. The Z-Engine doesn’t help matters: Indivisible is set to debut on all three modern consoles this year. My gut tells me that Switch would be more likely, simply because of the sheer number of fighting games already available on PS4. TFH’s quadruped gimmick might help it stand out there, but not in a positive way.

River City Ransom: Underground

Developed by Conatus Creative Inc., a Canadian team, River City Ransom: Underground is a game that managed to be released despite having the entire world against it. After managing to receive a license from Million (the successor of RCR originator Technos Japan), all of Technos’ IPs would end up in the hands of Arc System Works. Fortunately, ASW signed off on the game anyway. While other modern River City games have merely felt like extensions of the NES classic, Underground feels like a true sequel. Taking place years after the original game, there’s an entire new generation of fighters waiting for players – each with their own unique fighting style. With four-player co-op, an arena mode for head-to-head fights and a total of 44 fighters to unlock, RCR:U takes the Kunio-kun franchise to new heights.

Best Platform: I’m torn between two extremes here. While the River City games seem to be released more reliably on Nintendo platforms, the PlayStation line is clearly the platform of choice for Arc System Works. What really complicates matters is the fact that the game itself was programmed using Microsoft’s XNA game engine, using the open source FNA for the Mac and Linux ports. Fortunately, all three platforms can use MonoGame, an engine that’s compatible with XNA games, so there are no hardware limitations.

In the end, I’d give the edge to the Switch. The game’s emphasis on co-op and the series’ history with Nintendo makes it seem like the much more logical choice.

Aliens Go Home Run!

I think the best way to describe the game is written on the store page itself: it’s a cross between Breakout, a shoot-‘em-up and baseball. Aliens Go Home Run! is an arcade-style game with less emphasis on branching storylines and more emphasis on clearing stages. It’s a game that’s clearly evocative of a simpler time and looks like a lost NeoGeo game. That’s really all I have to say about it.

Best Platform: This one easily goes to the Switch.  ANIM・ACE hasn’t released any games on console as of now, but considering their mission statement involves releasing games in the style of “Sega, Taito, Namco, Treasure and Nintendo”, it seems like the Big N is the safest bet.

Thus concludes another list of 10 PC games I’d like to see ported to consoles. As with last time, I own every game on this list – which makes sense because I’m recommending that they be made available to a larger audience. Doing lists like this is actually pretty fun: since I’ve already got the games in question, there’s less stress about choosing specific games. Clearly if I own them, I already enjoy them on some level, right? The only real limitations I have are choosing from the increasingly shrinking number of PC exclusives. However, as long as there are hobbyists and small independent developers, with budgets far too small to cough up the licensing fees to work on consoles from the beginning, there will always be games exclusive to PC. Whether they stay that way for good is anyone’s guess.

Turn Based #5: Losing Steam with Console Woes

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Turn Based. Considering that this is our fifth article in this series, it seems only fitting that we tackle a topic of the utmost importance. For years, a war has been brewing within the medium of video games as a whole. One that goes well above and beyond the petty console wars of our childhood. One which both KI and I actually have personal stakes in. I speak, of course, about the schism between PC and console gaming.

Can one of our classic arguments finally settle which platform is superior once and for all? …I wouldn’t count on it, we’ll probably just end with another stalemate. Regardless, it’s a topic that is still worth exploring. With that being said, KI will start arguing his preference for console gaming.

SNES Master KI: Consoles simply work better for gaming, their dedication to gaming (yes, I know they can do other things now, but those are afterthoughts and things that take less effort than running games) results in many direct and indirect benefits. These range from the simplicity and guaranteed function of standardized hardware to the motivation for companies like Nintendo to make so many great games to support their consoles. The game library and quality of life advantages of consoles are completely overwhelming from my perspective.

Icepick: The problem with that is that the advantages that consoles once held over PCs have begun to fade with time. During the seventh generation of video game consoles — the days of the Wii, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 — consoles have become less and less “plug-and-play” devices, relying on internet connections to patch firmware and software regularly. Unfortunately, the process is hampered by the traditional “walled garden” approach that consoles have adopted since their inception.

With the current generation of consoles doubling-down on constant updates and upgrades that no longer work right out of the box, you’re probably expecting me to argue that the PC is a much more stable platform. You would be wrong. In fact, this has been how the PC gaming landscape has looked for nearly 2 decades now. The major difference lies in the more open source nature of PC gaming. Updates to games that would take weeks or even months for companies like Sony and Nintendo to approve and implement can literally be in gamers’ hands within minutes. Steam upgrades games automatically — both games that are already installed and those that have yet to be downloaded — and most other services (even GOG via their Galaxy client) offer similar user-friendly services. The PlayStation 3 and 4, at least in my experience, relied on gamers to open games before it would even consider updating them.

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Plus we don’t have to pay for cloud saves.

KI: The pick up and play potential may have been diminished, but that doesn’t change that the standardization of consoles means that playing the games once everything is set comes with far fewer issues. It’s also not all bad, although games shipping in a perfect state would be ideal, patches can often be very useful for removing glitches or fixing stupid, simple design issues in otherwise great games. If I start a new console game, there may be a wait for something to download, but once it does I know it will run and my controller will work for it as intended. And for the record, PlayStation 4 and Switch will download patches for games you have installed/in your play history even if you don’t start the game or have the physical disc/cart inserted. Xbox One may do the same, but I can’t confirm that from experience.

Icepick: The point is that consoles have moved onto providing non-gaming experiences as well as traditional gaming, and in that regard, consoles are definitely outgunned, due to their reliance on the walled garden.

Having said that, I guess it’s time to discuss some of the more objective advantages that PC gaming has over home consoles: library size. For the sake of discussion, I’ll stick to “legitimate” games — so no talk of emulators and whatnot — but even in that case, the sheer amount of content available on PC is staggering. Best of all is the sheer amount of old content available. While many consoles have essentially given up on the concept of backwards compatibility, services like Good Old Games and DOSbox allow gamers to play their favorite games of yesteryear with very little hassle. This makes the PC the ideal platform for retro gaming in general.

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Eat your heart out, Virtual Console.

We’ve also seen the rising popularity of indie games on consoles, but PC is where that revolution started and there are still many hidden gems exclusive to the platform. The sheer amount of content available on PC absolutely dwarfs all current consoles (even handhelds) combined. Gamers of all stripes can find something to enjoy on PC, which isn’t always the case on each console.

KI: Well, lots to address. Consoles are certainly outgunned in non-gaming purposes, but that’s completely expected, the non-gaming functions of consoles are a bonus. Although I’ll point out that if I actually did intend to use PC as a gaming platform, that multi-functionality would create complications since I need a PC for work/communication/general internet functions. I can’t just leave it hooked up to a TV in an area where I would want to game.

For backwards compatibility, it comes down to what you prioritize in convenience. Consoles don’t disappear when their generation is over, as my name attests you can keep and continue playing old consoles for decades, and there’s no need to mess with DOSbox to make the game run correctly. Backwards compatibility may also very well be about to make steps forward/recover for consoles, Sony and Microsoft’s more standardized system architecture could make PlayStation 5 and Xbox 2001 or whatever confusing name they give it easily backwards compatible. Nintendo was great with backwards compatibility until Switch’s hardware made it physically impossible (no dual screen set up or disc drive), I think it will come back when Switch gets a successor.

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25+ years and still working.

For sheer amount of games, PC of course wins, but when both sides number in the thousands total quantity isn’t that important, no one could possibly play everything and the vast majority of games on both sides aren’t worth playing. Consoles have made great strides in picking up the prominent indie games that were once PC’s exclusive domain, and while PC has certainly made a lot of progress in getting the big budget third-party games that used to stick to consoles, it seems to have come at the expense of PC exclusive big budget releases. And of course, there’s the old quantity versus quality argument. I think Nintendo alone more than makes up for the quality indie games that fall through the cracks and don’t make it to consoles.

Icepick: Fair point. Nintendo consoles are worth buying for their first-party games alone.

Another advantage I’d claim that PC has is a much more balanced relationship between consumers and content providers. On consoles, players have to essentially accept whatever terms first-party publishers set without question. On PC, everything’s a lot more open to discussion. While Steam controls a majority of the modern PC market, there are alternatives that offer exclusive titles (Origin, Windows Store) or other features (GOG, Humble).

This also applies to online gaming. While even Nintendo is preparing to succumb to charging for online play this year, the entire prospect of charging PC gamers for online play is genuinely considered a fool’s errand. When Microsoft launched Games for Windows Live — a sister service to Xbox Live — they intended to charge players the same price for online play. PC gamers protested that and Microsoft dropped the paid component, while keeping every other feature, including crossplay with Xbox 360.

Then you’ve got the modding community. While many of them are associated with various cosmetic mods, they also have a tendency of fixing games that are either broken at launch or incompatible with newer systems. It’s gotten to the point where fan-programmed patches have even been implemented into official releases of games. Content is much more community driven on PC and that works to the advantage of everyone. While Xbox One and PS4 has begun to experiment with the ability to download mods, it just pales in comparison: they’re strictly limited to cosmetic stuff, meaning that console gamers are generally reliant on official patches, which as I said earlier, tend to be released slower than molasses in January.

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One of my favorite mods of all time.

KI: I interpret the relationship between the platform and gamers differently. You can view consoles manufacturers as having more control over gamers, but they also have more obligation to us. One of the core reasons I don’t game on PC is because I can’t stand paying for something and then basically being told I’m on my own to make it work. If I buy a console game and it for some reason doesn’t work, that’s on the company and they have to fix it, and it very rarely comes to that. Aside from making sure I’m not putting an Xbox One disc into my PS4, I don’t have to think about whether I will be able to play the game that I buy, there’s no fear that I’ll come up short in a spec related area and not be able to play the game with no solution besides spending more money and putting in the effort to upgrade my computer. I view the “control” console manufactuers have over me as more of a contract, and it’s one I’d much rather sign than be on my own and have more control.

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The most complicated system requirements I have to deal with.

As for paying for online, I acknowledge that probably isn’t necessary and it would be better if it wasn’t required, but I will say that the perks that come with PSN+ do a good job of mitigating it for me. The amount of (conditionally) free games I get for $60 a year usually satisfies me, and with Nintendo’s much cheaper price I don’t think they’ll have any issues making me feel okay paying $20 a year.

Icepick: Yeah, but the PS+ games on offer generally lean more on the lame side most of the time. This month had some good stuff, but I think they only did that to cushion the blow of retiring PS3 and Vita games next year.

KI: Well, if they were all great, it would be way too fantastic a value for any company to agree to, I’d be saving around $1,000 a year if I actually intended to buy every game they offered. But I think it’s time for me to go on the offensive. One of my first points was that consoles cultivated an ecosystem where exclusives from the first parties are highly valued. For some reason, PC did the exact opposite. When Valve rose to become basically the first party leader of PC gaming, they all but gave up on making their own games. Jokes about Gabe being afraid of the number 3 aside, it’s more that they just make barely any new games. Steam seems to have drained Valve as a developer, while companies like Nintendo and formerly Sega put way more effort into making games when they have their own console, and Sony and Microsoft at least fund a large amount of games (well, you can argue about Microsoft, but that’s literally a topic for another time).

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Even the less supported ones made it to three games.

So my main point in this is that the state of PC exclusives is not good. In the fourth and fifth generations, PCs weren’t making the types of games I personally wanted, but there were genres PC dominated and PC exclusives that were beloved classics. This seems to have all but died off, the best PC exclusive games seem almost accidental at this point, an indie developer makes a hidden gem that never quite gets the attention and funding needed to bring it to console. In the 90s Doom 1 and 2 were out on PC first and the console versions were vastly inferior, while Doom 2016 came out on consoles the same day as PC. For all the strides PC has made in getting console games, I feel like it traded its exclusives to do so, and ultimately it’s all about the games.

Icepick: I’ll admit, Valve has definitely fallen down as an actual game developer. While they’ve recently claimed that they’re still making new games, no one believes them. At this point, they’ve transitioned into more of a PC gaming advocate, cultivating an environment that will allow for more games to reach the platform. While there are still those clamoring for new Valve games — I personally want a third Left 4 Dead or Portal much more than Half-Life 3 — most PC gamers have accepted that Valve’s days as a developer are… numbered?

I understand your concern about PC exclusives and while content in that field is clearly limited compared to the 90s and even the early 2000s, there are still PC exclusive games in the pipeline. For example, I remember you being quite distraught that Quake Champions, a class-based FPS, was going to be a PC exclusive. The Total War series offers solid real-time strategy combat. Divinity: Original Sin II is a turn-based RPG that is both critically acclaimed and massively popular, which is currently only available on PC.

Original Sin II relied on crowdfunding, which is a pretty big source of modern PC games, both exclusive and otherwise. I remember your general apprehension towards the concept, but many crowdfunded games list PC as their sole initial platform and many more list it among multiple launch platforms. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the platform still holds weight with developers of all sizes. A Hat in Time was originally intended to be a PC-exclusive — launching on the platform first — before PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were added due to the game’s popularity. It wasn’t the first crowdfunder that got released on other platforms after being pitched as a PC exclusive and it certainly won’t be the last. You’ve made the claim that PC relies on consoles for new games, but I’d argue that it goes both ways.

KI: For Quake Champions, I was mainly upset by their hypocritical reasoning for it not being on consoles (claiming it needed to be 120 FPS to be playable, but then assuring PC gamers with less powerful rigs that it would play fine on their systems). Honestly, id making a multiplayer focused game after Doom 2016 made such strides for single-player focused FPSes probably would have annoyed me even if it was on consoles. I know there are still some quality PC exclusives (although still in genres I don’t personally play), but I think consoles are still demonstrating a pretty massive advantage in that area.

 

As for which system relies on which for games, I don’t really care that much. Indie games need PC’s lower entry fee, big budget games need sales from console gamers to survive, what ultimately matters is what games your platform of choice gets. The issue is that consoles have games made specifically to be exclusives, and I think those give it a very clear edge in library.

Icepick: I guess that’s all there is to it. We’ve got different priorities. You tend to prefer the simplicity of a console — an advantage which I’d argue is slowly but surely eroding with each generation — while I prefer the freedom offered by PC. Still, with many more companies beginning to embrace PC, the future seems bright.

KI: Well, I’d generally say that my arguments for consoles have two main points, the functionality guarantee and the much larger number of exclusive games on them that appeal to me. After several years of pessimism applied to console gaming, I think Nintendo’s resurgence, the other consoles exiting the growing pains of the early eighth generation, and the ever-growing indie presence on consoles (“Perfect for Switch” may be a meme, but indie games really do sell amazingly on it) that the sun has risen for console gaming.

And as expected, the discussion has once again ended in a stalemate. But the arguments were elaborated on, and no one was called an elitist, peasant, Nazi, or iOS supporter. What about you, are you changing chairs to play something after this, or just switching windows? Tell us in the comments, and remember that no matter how much you disagree on a topic, you can always fake civility in text form.

The Top Ten Most Overrated Games of All Time and What You Should Play Instead (Part 1)

I’ve been wanting to do this article for a long time. Over a year and a half ago, I made a ranked list of what I consider the ten most overrated video games of all time. Due to having limited freedom in what my articles could be about at the time and then constantly feeling like I was doing too many lists after returning to Retronaissance, it has taken until now to finally give this list the articles I always wanted to. But the waiting hasn’t been for nothing, I recently (well, it was recently when I started this article, then I got sidetracked yet again) came up with a gimmick for this list: in addition to listing overrated games, I will also be including an antidote, a game that is similar to the game on the list but fixes my issues with it. So, with 20 games to cover, let’s get right to it!

Number 10: Super Mario 64

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As controversial as this choice is, I can’t help but feel that it also acts as a personal safeguard. Starting with an entry from my favorite publisher in my favorite series (on my least favorite console they made, but let’s save that for another time) seems like a pretty good shield against accusations of bias when we get to non-Nintendo choices on my list (although I promise this isn’t a token Nintendo entry, more are coming…). But while this is easily my favorite game on the list, hence it being number 10, it’s still a genuine pick. Super Mario 64 may have been a gigantic leap forward for 3D games, but damn it, it is not retroactively the sole arbiter of a “true” Mario game. It does not get to make linear Mario games a bad thing or deviation. It also isn’t an avant-garde work of horror that later Mario games ruined with their “kiddiness.” The eel isn’t trying to scare you, it just doesn’t have a lot of polygons to work with. And this isn’t even getting into the control and camera improvements that later 3D Marios made. It may sound like I hate this game, but I really don’t, it has just been given a sacred status that went way too far, even if a lot of it is earned. It’s overrated mainly in comparison to other Mario games, which is why it’s only number 10.

Instead You Should Play: Super Mario Odyssey

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While I may prefer linear style Mario games, I’m not going to use this category as a bludgeon against non-linear ones. After a decade of complaining, Nintendo made another sandbox style Mario game (sandbox Mario games coming from the timeline initiated in the Autumn World ending from Super Mario World, while the linear ones came from its normal overworld palette) and while it wasn’t my first choice, they did such a good job with Super Mario Odyssey that it was the first game I felt my old level of hype and excitement for in years. Super Mario Odyssey improves on Super Mario 64 in every conceivable way, with more jumping tricks to exploit, more actual platforming, and way, way more to do and find in its levels. 120 stars? Odyssey has 880 moons. No, not every moon matches the main stars, but SMO is still going to take much, much longer to fully complete. Super Mario Odyssey also makes exploring more pleasant by not forcing you back to the start of the level after almost every star/moon, and it is filled with the brilliant platforming that Super Mario 64 often came up short in. Odyssey may not quite be my favorite Mario, but it gives me hope that an even better direct sequel could make a style of Mario game that fully satisfies fans of both linear and sandbox style, which is not a hope that Super Mario 64 ever gave me.

Number 9: Final Fight

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I don’t really have as much to say about this as the previous entry, although I’m just now realizing it could be considered something of an inverse. While Super Mario 64’s status as the supposed unquestioned best 3D platformer of all time leads to an absurd level of worship for it, Final Fight’s status as the most iconic beat-‘em-up of all time leads to the genre as a whole being thrown under the bus. Brave journalists who want a controversial opinion that no one will get mad at them for often announce that they consider the entire beat-‘em-up genre an outdated relic that was never that good in the first place. The claims that go with this, that they are repetitive button mashers, do apply fairly well to Final Fight in my opinion. Overly large, not very mobile characters fighting a few main enemy types over and over again in levels that are mostly window dressing without much technique in combat. Final Fight isn’t a terrible game, but it just doesn’t hold my interest very well and doesn’t deserve to be considered the main representative of its genre. Sure, some people would say the Genesis’s Streets of Rage series deserves that title, but I have a different choice for the SNES’s champion in that contest…

Instead You Should Play: TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

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Now take every complaint I had about Final Fight and reverse it. Reasonably sized, fast characters with jumps that could handle most Mario levels and lots of moves which almost all have their own purpose. Tons of enemy types and level obstacles. And instead of having a watered down SNES version, the home version obliterates the arcade game with more levels, bosses, and greatly improved controls. Turtles in Time is what a classic style beat-‘em-up has the potential to be, and the greatest argument for their value. I’ve loved this game for almost all of my life, but it was relatively recently that I realized just how much it excelled compared to other beat-‘em-ups even if you completely ignore TMNT nostalgia. Turtles in Time will be just as fun as it ever was in 2020: Neon Night-Riders and beyond.

Number 8: Bioshock

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This is the game on the list that I made the least progress in. While I beat most of the overrated category games on this list and made a lot of progress in the couple others I didn’t, I just couldn’t make myself keep playing Bioshock. Yes, the story and atmosphere are good, but it had been generations since I played an FPS with such clunky control and poor hit detection. I felt like I was playing one of those action-RPGs I can’t stand where you essentially have to trade hits (yeah, stay tuned, we’ll get to one of those later). Regardless, I’m sure I could have beaten it if I really wanted to, thanks to its checkpoint system. Really, if it wasn’t for that checkpoint system, I’d almost file this game under “just not my thing” and leave it off the list. But that checkpoint system, not only do I hate it with a burning passion, it spread into and poisoned other FPSes. In its default mode (turning off this feature will result in unfairly huge gaps between checkpoints) dying in Bioshock will make you spawn at a checkpoint equivalent. However, everything except your health meter will be exactly as it was when you died. Enemies stay dead/injured, ammo and consumables you used are still gone, you just have to walk back to where you were. So, the penalty for dying is now tedium, solely tedium. Sorry, no amount of men, oceans, and lighthouses can make up for that.

Instead You Should Play: Metroid Prime

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This is probably the antidote game that’s the most different from its counterpart, but I think there are still enough similarities to justify my choice. Metroid Prime is an atmospheric, lore heavy, varied mix of weapons and abilities sort of-FPS, like Bioshock. While it trades an emphasis on direct story for puzzles and platforming, Metroid Prime shows that gameplay doesn’t have to be sacrificed for atmosphere, and that’s why I picked it as the antidote. Metroid Prime is a faithful recreation of Super Metroid’s formula in 3D, and it pulls off everything it tries expertly. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it since, again, this is more different than its counterpart than would be ideal, but if I get an itch for the type of experience everyone describes Bioshock as, Metroid Prime is my first choice for scratching it.

Number 7: Strider

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Now what could I dislike about this legendary action game with great, buttery smooth control and a high but always fair difficulty level? I guess the biggest issue would be the fact that I have no idea what game everyone praising it is playing. I’ve played both the arcade and very faithful Genesis versions of Strider, and neither one matches the game everyone else apparently played. Strider’s controls are as stiff as the original Castlevania, and the level design is definitely not built around them to the extent that it is in that game. Strider is also among the most prominent examples of one of my biggest gaming pet peeves, your character is way too big and it makes dodging even more difficult. I can’t make any progress in the game without tedious memorization to compensate for how big, slow, and clunky the title character is. That is not my idea of a well-designed action platformer, and unlike with Bioshock, this is a genre I definitely have enough familiarity with to judge. I genuinely don’t understand the disconnect I have with everyone else when it comes to this game, but it’s huge and I have to put Strider on this list.

Instead You Should Play: Hagane: The Final Conflict

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This is the most obscure antidote game on the list, but it’s also one of the most perfectly fitting. Hagane was released late in the Super Nintendo’s life, and sadly it is currently only available in that form and at an absurdly high price. Regardless, it is the game everyone seems to be describing when they talk about Strider. A very hard but always fair melee-focused action platformer, Hagane is everything you could want from this type of game. I feel like the agile ninja that everyone says Strider is when I’m slashing through enemies and dodging projectiles in Hagane. This is one of the best hidden gems of the 4th generation, and it deserves the praise and great 2014 revival game that Strider got.

Number 6: Sonic Adventure 2

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There’s a third of a good game in here. The Sonic and Shadow levels are some of the best examples of 3D Sonic platforming even to this day, but they are only a third of the game. For the other two-thirds, you get two play styles from the original Sonic Adventure, but for some mind-baffling reason they’ve been made worse. The shooter levels have become mindless and tedious thanks to your reasonably agile robot from Sonic Adventure being replaced by clunky, slow walkers. And the treasure hunting levels… someday I’m going to play Sonic 2006 just so I can justify saying they are the worst thing ever in a 3D Sonic game. Wandering around levels with a horrific camera that was not designed for any kind of backtracking, possibly walking right by a buried master emerald shard because the radar will only track one shard at a time for absolutely no reason. I don’t care how much you love the music or how you think this is the only game ever made where Shadow is cool instead of an edgelord, two-thirds of this game ranging from boring to atrocious means it doesn’t deserve to have praise heaped on it. Also, I hate the Chao Garden with a burning passion.

Instead You Should Play: Sonic Adventure

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As I mentioned, the worst crime Sonic Adventure 2 committed was making two of the gameplay styles from the original Sonic Adventure worse in every way. So it’s pretty easy to see why I’d recommend just playing the original. Sonic Adventure has the same amount of Sonic style levels, much more enjoyable versions of the other level types from Sonic Adventure 2, two other styles that are pretty fun, and one level type that is poorly executed but represents a much smaller portion of the game and can be breezed through instead of the drawn-out torture of the SA2 hunting levels. The open adventure fields aren’t great, but they’re mostly simple and painless, much better than what Sonic Adventure 2 makes you go through for the majority of its duration. The music is at least as good as SA2 and the story is similar in quality, just make sure to pick up the DX version so that you don’t have to deal with unskippable cinemas showing the same scenes in different characters’ stories. I still hate the Chao Garden, however.

Well, I finally did it, halfway there and ready to post the first part of this article. Writing about games higher up on my lists is usually easier for me, so hopefully it won’t be that long until we get to Part 2, stay tuned!

Of Axioms and Idioms: Best but Not Least

Well, it certainly has been awhile since I’ve written in this series. The funny thing about this article is that the concept behind it was originally completely different from what I’ll be writing about today: in fact, the original concept was going to be the third article in this series, but eventually, I just ended up discussing the bulk of the content in other articles. There was still some facet of the earlier iteration that I hadn’t explored, so I decided to change my approach to this whole concept and workshopped it into an entirely new direction. Unfortunately, my brain waits for no idea – I was originally going to write this up back in November but came up with an entirely new topic instead – so it just ended up sitting in my drafts folder, as I was working on other projects up until now. I just hope it was worth the wait.

It’s still difficult to articulate my thought process here, but I’ll try to summarize.  Put simply, this article’s topic is about how my favorite games in a particular series generally aren’t the ones I would consider the best. I think the most prominent example I have of this is the comparison between the second and third MegaMan games. For years, I’ve had difficulty explaining my exact feelings on the subject: the most accurate take I’d been able to articulate is that “while MM2 was a better NES game, MM3 was a better ‘MegaMan’ game”. A bold, ham-fisted statement, yes, but still the best I could do until recently. These days, I’ve got a much better handle on my thought process – my favorite game in a series and the “best” game are two distinct concepts that have been intertwined for far too long, so it’s just better to handle both of these indicators separately.

I’m not sure exactly when it started, but as far back as I can remember, I’ve always held preferences that aren’t particularly mainstream. When asked if I wanted Coke or Pepsi, I asked for Sprite – or more accurately, Lemon-Lime Slice. When it came to pizza toppings, I generally shied away from the standards of cheese, pepperoni and sausage. I’m not sure if it stemmed from a need to be different, rebel against the status quo or what have you, but I’d always pick things I enjoyed – even if it wasn’t on the menu. The thing is, this wasn’t just limited to food choices: I felt the same way about media. If there was ever anything resembling a consensus about the best entry in any fictional series I enjoy, chances are I’ll end up disagreeing. I never liked the seventh Friday the 13th film; my take on The Simpsons’ “dark age” is totally out-of-whack with the general consensus and I think Sonic Lost World may have been the best 3D Sonic since the first Sonic Adventure. At the same time, I’ve always acknowledged any widespread agreement on any such topic, albeit with varying levels of contempt. If I’m going to be honest, agreeing with it has always been something of an uncomfortable realization – even when default opinions shift with time – to this day, I feel strange whenever my personal favorite ends up being “the best”.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this distinction is by defining both terms I’ve been using so far. Let’s start with the simpler of the two: “favorite”. It’s the pinnacle of subjectivity: my personal choice for what I like the most. Given the fact that what I personally consider best can vary based on anything from my mood to seemingly random criteria at any moment – if you could see how many drafts any top ten list I’ve written has gone through, your head would spin – in my case, the concept’s far more nebulous than subjective most of the time. As such, “favorite” lives and dies by personal preference. It’s strictly a personal opinion, one that varies from person to person, one that shouldn’t need to be defended or even explained (but this world is far from perfect). In the end, it’s useless with regards to objectivity – but that’s not the point.

Conversely, the concept of being the “best game” is much harder to define. It’s safe to say that it’s a much more objective concept than being a mere favorite, but that’s a gross oversimplification. In my eyes, the title of best game doesn’t depend on things like personal preference or any sort of quality that can be concretely proven. Instead, it relies on a general consensus – and one that is outright agreed upon by those familiar with the series at large. Going beyond that, this opinion must be stated out loud, repeatedly to the extent that it essentially becomes a “meme” – of course, I’m referring to the original definition (a cultural item transmitted repeated, similar to the biological transmission of one’s genetic code) as opposed to the more commonly-known one (running jokes on the internet). For all I know, there could be a widespread silent minority that considered the second Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy VIII or even (God forbid) MegaMan X6 to be the most beloved games in their respective series, but the deafening silence surrounding such opinions disqualifies them from being considered the “best game” of their franchises.

Of course, I personally disagree with this concept, but this is my gut reaction when describing a “best game”. However, this isn’t the only way to characterize this idea. In fact, there is a much more simplistic way to look at things that doesn’t revolve around the mob mentality of my original definition, but in most cases would lead to the same results, if not choices that are much more representative of each intellectual property in question. At this point in time, the most accurate definition I have for describing the “best game” in a series would the one that you would recommend to a complete newcomer that would give them the best representation of the series as a whole. But more specifically, they serve as the best example of what you – or I or anyone, for that matter – like about the games in question regarding their core concepts. Once again, this isn’t a perfect answer to the question at hand, but it’s the best that I’ve been able to come up with when properly defining the concept at large. At this point, that’s good enough for me.

Of course, the best way to define this entire concept is by, as usual, going through various examples from my own questions. When it comes to the Ys series, the fanbase generally recognizes three distinct “flavors” – Classic (the games that use the bump mechanic, along with black sheep Wanderers from Ys); the “3D” games (utilizing the hack-and-slash Napishtim engine with pre-rendered sprites on fully 3D backgrounds) and “modern” (which utilize a party system – switching between up to 3 characters on the fly – and incorporate 3D models into the game’s themselves). While there’s a recurring joke about “every Ys game being the best game of the series”, the most vocal segments of the fanbase swear by those Napishtim engine games, specifically the second game: The Oath in Felghana, a remake of the third game. Personally? I prefer Ys Origin, a far-flung prequel to the first two games and the last game to make use of the engine. That being said, due to the sheer amount of references to the first two games in Origin, I’d generally recommend Felghana to people interested in finding out about the series. There are other cases that just boil down to preference. For example, while it’s safe to argue that both Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are among the best representations for 2D Mario games as a whole, I always find myself gravitating more towards SMB2 (or Super Mario USA, as the Japanese know it). The unique game mechanics just make it that much more enjoyable for me, but it’s probably the worst representation of the Mario series as a whole. This also manages to skew my views on even the most niche titles. Of the Darkstalkers games, I will always prefer playing Night Warriors over its more-lauded sequel, Vampire Savior – even while acknowledging that the latter has some much more interesting game mechanics.

The weird thing about this entire concept is just how much it ends up helping me understand some of my own opinions and biases. Separating my personal favorites from a much more objective ranking of things has been pretty helpful in the long run, keeping me from twisting myself into intellectual knots in order to just why I’d acknowledge other things as being better than my personal favorites. Having struggled with articulating the concept for well over a decade, it’s honestly relaxing to be done with the mental gymnastics I’d often associated with trying to justify why I liked certain games more than ones that were often considered “the best”, but the added benefits of being able to apply this to other opinions I’ve had that are out of the ordinary is a significant bonus. Thanks to this new perspective – that personal preference and widespread consensus can exist separately and simultaneously – I’ve honestly become a bit less defensive about my own opinions. Who knows, maybe the same could be true of anyone who shares this perspective. If this article causes anyone to reconsider these two concepts as being separate rather than identical, then I think it was worth the wait.

Bad Portsmanship?

Recently there has been quite a bit of derision directed towards the practice of “portbegging.” The idea that people asking for a game to be made available on their system of choice are at best pathetic and at worst a species of parasite that video game websites must actively suppress has become a strongly-held belief by some influential members of the gaming community, and as you can probably guess from my word choice thus far, I disagree. There’s a fair amount of nuance involved in this issue, but as a whole I think the title of this article more often applies to those against so-called “portbegging”.

Portbegging can be simply defined as asking for or demanding that a game which is coming to at least one other platform be released on your system or one of your systems of choice. Now that right there sums up the crux of why I think many condemnations of portbegging are unfair: they lump together asking for a game and demanding a game. There are very few circumstances where I would consider asking for a game to come to your system worthy of derision, as long as you are willing to take no for an answer given a reasonable explanation. Someone genuinely doesn’t know Nintendo owns Mario? Then I’m not going to throw a tantrum if they ask for Super Mario Odyssey on PS4, as long as they accept it not happening upon having the situation explained to them.

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No, this isn’t precedent.

This segues nicely into something I want to discuss. As you may be aware, Bayonetta 2 and 3 being Nintendo exclusive is the greatest injustice of the modern era, and Nintendo funding (or very likely funding in Bayonetta 3’s case) them is no excuse for the games not being released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Vita, and 3DO. This is a rallying point for people who take the acceptance of portbegging to its illogical extreme, and needs to be addressed so that my argument does not appear contradictory. It really isn’t that complicated: there’s a difference between wanting a completely third-party game (especially if it’s already on systems from multiple companies) to be released on your platform of choice, and demanding a game owned or funded by a first-party publisher be released on competing systems.

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Coming to PS4 any day now for the last five years.

This is so obvious that I’m skeptical that many people truly don’t understand it, I think this false equivalency is more likely to be a bad faith argument used by people who are bitter that a game isn’t coming to a system they own. The idea that Nintendo is holding a game that only exists because of them “hostage” by making it exclusive to their systems, or that Nintendo fans have no right to complain if a third-party game is on every platform except Nintendo’s because they won’t “share” Bayonetta, is blatantly ridiculous. For the record, I completely understand that games like Cuphead will not come to Switch or PS4 unless Microsoft decides to allow it, and am not angry at Microsoft or those games for the situation. And again, if someone doesn’t understand the Bayonetta situation and asks for it on their system of choice, they’ve done nothing wrong as long as they accept the explanation for why that won’t happen.

So, moving on from the clear-cut exception of games that are made or owned by first-party publishers, what else determines when it becomes reasonable to be upset at an answer of no when you ask for a game on your system? One thing I consider a major factor is exclusive versus excluded. Of the four major gaming platform brands (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Steam), I find it much harder to justify a game being on only three of those than just one of them. If a company can only afford (at least for now) to release a game on one of those, or even if one of the companies made a deal for exclusivity, I think that is often understandable. Now there are exceptions to that, mainly when it comes to sequels. If an indie game was successful on consoles but only the PC version gets a sequel, I’m much less likely to accept “well we could only afford to make a PC version” as a justification. (I’m still furious at ScrewAttack for what happened with the AVGN Adventures sequel) Likewise, paying to make a sequel to a multi-platform game exclusive to your system (not funding that game existing in the first place like Bayonetta 2) is a dick move. But for the most part, if a game is only available on one platform (or two in the case of Microsoft’s decision to release all of their Xbox One games on PC as well, which I think is a strategically bad move but one they have every ethical right to make) I consider demanding that it come to other systems to be bad portsmanship.

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I’m not angrily demanding this on Switch or PS4. That means I’m better than PC gamers and they should put it on my systems, right?

With all those exceptions, when do I actually think portbegging is unfairly maligned? When the game isn’t exclusive, but excluded. If a company refuses to release games on PC for no apparent reason or excludes Switch from a collection of classic games that it could unquestionably run perfectly (Capcom was guilty of this, but got better), while the other three platforms get it, I think asking for the game to come to the one platform that is missing out is a completely reasonable request. Does seeing “Can we have this game on Switch?” or “Is there any reason you can’t put this on Steam?” on a forum really ruin a game for you? Why is wanting your system to get every multi-platform game a sign of greed, isn’t that the entire point of games being multi-platform? The fact that at least one major message board would ban people on sight for asking for a game on a system it wasn’t announced for shows just how bad this anti-portbegging hysteria has gotten. It seems like it’s just a repackaged version of spending recess bragging that your system got a game and that loser’s system didn’t, only even more obnoxious since you’re acting like you’re the victim of having to see… *clutches pearls* portbegging!

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Never forget. Never.

So not too much more to say about this topic. There are times when demanding a game on your system is clearly unreasonable, but this does not apply to simply asking and, in some circumstances, even demanding it isn’t that unreasonable. If seeing someone ask for a game that isn’t even exclusive to your favorite system get one more version is really that upsetting to you, maybe you’re the one with the problem.