BeiN True to Yourself: How Nintendo Wins

I’ve been meaning to write an article like this for a while now, and with E3 having just happened, I think I can finally get started now.  As my past articles may give some ultra-subtle foreshadowing of, I am quite happy with how the Switch has been received so far.  After at least four years of almost unrelenting negativity towards Nintendo’s console division, someone finally flipped a switch and turned the light back on.  The Switch has recreated the phenomenon of the original Wii’s launch, an even more impressive feat considering it launched in March instead of November.  With Nintendo seeming to have finally fulfilled their longstanding goal of a launch year without droughts and an incredible E3 that featured a healthy mix of 2017, early 2018, and far away but ultra-exciting games, Switch’s future looks very bright.  So with Nintendo’s four most recent consoles alternating between explosive success and market failure (no, you having nostalgia for GameCube doesn’t mean it sold well, it was closer to Wii U in sales than it was to Nintendo 64, and that didn’t even win its generation), is there any way to make sense of this pattern?

Well, let’s look at the goal behind the four consoles in the most general terms.  The GameCube and Wii U had a focus on attaining something that Nintendo’s competition had in the previous generation that they lacked (disc based software and HD graphics, respectively) and bringing Nintendo back to getting the biggest third-party games and controlling the traditional gaming demographic again.  Both systems also suffered from something of an identity crisis, having drawbacks that stopped them from achieving true parity with their competitors (GCN’s smaller disc space and Wii U’s limited power compared to competing systems) and having stylistic features that conflicted with the goal of winning over the competitor’s fanbase (GameCube’s general “kiddy” image, Wii U’s tablet inspired controller).  After showing a lot of promise at launch, both systems quickly fell behind in market share and third-party support, becoming solid but niche systems you bought for Nintendo’s games.

 

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And look how well pandering to EA worked out.

 

Now let’s look at Wii and Switch.  They actually don’t seem to have fixed the problems I mentioned above, you could even argue they got worse.  Was Wii any less “kiddy” than GameCube?  Is Switch a powerhouse that obliterates or at least matches PlayStation 4 and would be giving PS5 a run for its money if the generations hadn’t gotten completely de-synced?  Did/will either one get all the AAA third party multi-plats that PlayStation/Xbox/PC share?  The answer to all those questions is no.  So why did things work out for these systems, but not their predecessors?

Because Nintendo didn’t half-try to be something they weren’t, they embraced what made them different and turned those weaknesses into strengths.  They flipped things around and succeeded at things their competitors weren’t even trying.  The Wii may have been at least as “kiddy” as GameCube, but it appealed to middle aged parents and senior citizens just as easily, it genuinely was for all ages.  The Switch may be only marginally more powerful than Wii U, but take it out of its dock and it’s a technological marvel as a portable system.  Nintendo solved their problems in ways that their competitors never would have attempted, and unlike trying to copy the other systems, this approach has been rewarded.

 

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Mocking its name just made it stronger.

 

Of course, that doesn’t mean GameCube and Wii U didn’t contribute anything to Nintendo’s future.  Remember GameCube’s bizarre controller layout and various gimmick controllers (bongos, the Game Boy Advance)?  I’m sure you remember Wii U’s attempt to get people excited to play games on the controller’s screen.  Neither of these features caught on, but Wii and Switch managed to evolve these ideas into a functional, wildly popular form.  The Wii had a new way of controlling games that got a huge amount of mainstream attention, and it being included with every system allowed it to thrive.  Wii U’s ability to stream games to its controller at a limited range turned into Switch being a true hybrid that allows you to take complete console games anywhere you want.  Instead of giving up on these ideas, Nintendo believed in them and turned them into something hugely successful.

 

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Its heart was in the right place, it just needed a few tweaks.

 

Now this section is a bit of a leftover from one of the earlier incarnations of this article, but since I’ve compared Wii and Switch so much, I think it’s worth addressing.  Some may ask if we really want Switch to turn into another Wii.  Was its success actually good for gamers?

Yes, it absolutely was!

It’s time to get over the delusion that Wii was nothing but Nintendo lazily making mini-game compilations and third parties badly copying the aforementioned mini-game compilations.  Yes, the Wii ___ series and shovelware that all market leaders attract existed, but you could and can ignore them, and there is a diamond mine hidden under them.  Nintendo made some of their best games on the Wii, and I don’t just mean the Super Mario Galaxies and Xenoblade.  Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Wario Land Shake-It, Metroid Prime 3, Sin and Punishment 2, Pandora’s Tower, games you should give a genuine chance like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo absolutely did not just focus on gimmicky mini-game compilations during the Wii’s lifespan.

But the lack of attention those games get is nothing compared to the third-party hidden gems on Wii.  Zack and Wiki, Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands, Muramasa, Madworld, No More Heroes 2, Dead Space Extraction, A Boy and His Blob, Rabbids Go Home, Sonic Colors, Epic Mickey, Lost in Shadow, Red Steel 2, Trauma Team, House of the Dead Overkill, Goldeneye 007, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Boom Blox Bash Party, Rodea: The Sky Soldier, there are so many third party Wii games that may not have been super hyped AAA budget games but were the type of quality mid-ware that people thought died in the seventh generation.  Switch turning out like Wii would indeed be a good thing, and fortunately, there are already signs of its portable ability bringing back some of those mid-ware style games.

 

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Have you played this game? Do you know what it is? This is Trauma Team, just one of the many underappreciated Wii games.

 

So in conclusion, I think the moral here is pretty obvious.  Nintendo systems with one syllable names do better, end of story.  In seriousness, I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo does a lot better when they focus on their strengths instead of trying to attain the strengths of others.  Directly competing on their competitor’s turf doesn’t work, and with the console generations being out of sync between companies now it is barely measurable (I defy you to find a way to compare Switch and PS4’s success that doesn’t require waiting 5+ years to judge).  While it would be nice for Nintendo to achieve the third-party dominance they had with the NES and SNES, I don’t think it’s practical right now and both Nintendo and their fans will have a better time if they focus on what worked for Wii and Switch instead of trying to bring SNES back with one fell swoop.  Wait a second, if you pronounce them “Ness” and “Sness”, those systems are also one syllable… that IS the key!

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Sum of Its Parts: 2D Sonic Sequel

Ever since I was a child, I’ve dabbled in the idea of imagining perfect sequels to some of my favorite games. Back before the real one even existed (and damaged the series’ reputation), a childhood friend and I came up with our own version of Mortal Kombat 4 (with the addition of several new palette-swap ninjas!). We scribbled on wooden blocks, pretending they were a game system, two controllers, the cartridge and even the screen as we had many imaginary battles with one another. A fun little childhood memory, but even to this day, I still look at old games I loved growing up and try to figure out just how to give them new life in the modern video game industry. Hell, you could probably tell that if you’ve read “Turn It Up To Eleven”, one of my Megaman Anniversary Rants from last year.

I know it’s pretty arrogant to believe that an outsider like myself could ever hope to run circles around the employees when it comes to handling games that I have nostalgic feelings for, even to this day. After all, that’s part of the reason I’m not employed in game development in any capacity. Then something like the ill-fated 2010 reboot of Rocket Knight happens and my arrogance just starts swelling up: what an insult to the memory of an obscure game that still holds up even to this day! Fortunately, the point of this article isn’t telling the world how much better games would be if I were left in charge. Instead of just dictating what proper sequels would entail, this series is meant to simply build hypothetical sequels in existing series by using elements and aspects of earlier games in the series. Only on rare occasions will I make an entirely original suggestion for new directions. Of course, leaving my own personal biases for new ideas out of the equation will be part of the fun of writing these.

Which brings us to today’s topic: a brand-new 2D Sonic sequel. Listen, I understand why Sega’s been focusing more on 3D Sonic games lately: they finally achieved something great with Sonic Colors and have continued to refine their efforts with Generations and even Lost World (yes, I liked Lost World. Deal with it.). However, I recently replayed Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II and I had forgotten just how fun the game was, especially compared to its mediocre predecessor. Sure, the more recent 3D Sonics have incorporated several 2D platforming segments into their gameplay, but at the same time, Sonic 4 Episode 2 (or Sonic 4-2, for short) reminded me that we haven’t really had a good 2D Sonic in a very long time. Even taking Episode Metal into account, Sonic 4-2 (Episode 1 was really flawed, don’t let the reviews fool you) just wasn’t long enough to satisfy my then-unknown urge for a new, entirely 2D Sonic adventure. Sure, there are plenty of fan games that attempt to recapture that magic, but there’s just something unique to Sega’s releases that even the most polished fan project just can’t match. To make things interesting, I’m not going to even bother mentioning the revered Genesis trilogy (I count Sonic 3 & Knuckles as a single game, deal with it) or their counterpart, Sonic CD. Because, let’s be honest, as good as they were, there were other games in the series that had their good qualities and relying strictly on nostalgia is so passé.

Starting off, let’s discuss the backbone of the entire game: the engine itself. Frankly, while there has been a shaky start, Sega has finally gotten Sonic’s physics working on modern platforms for the most part. So if they take the engine from either the 2D “Classic Sonic” segments from Generations or Sonic 4 Episode 2 (and I specify Episode 2 for good reason), Sega will be off to a good start on that front.

A more important aspect would be Sonic’s set of abilities. First of all, keep Boost out of these games, it’s pointless. Sega’s dropped the boost in more recent Sonic games like Sonic 4-2 and Sonic Lost World, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve honestly always felt that boost was a tacked-on ability, even in 3D Sonic games where it actually works to some degree. It places more emphasis on mindless speed segments than level design, which was one of the cornerstones of the deified Genesis-era Sonic games. Use the spin dash instead, it’s far more versatile. Homing attacks, on the other hand, I think should stay, mainly because there was really nothing inherently wrong with them being in 2D Sonic in the first place. Hell, it’s literally a necessity in the 3D games, just due to the fact that in Sonic games, you literally attack enemies by somersaulting into them. Recent 2D Sonic segments have done a far better job of balancing the homing attack by adding hit invulnerability to boss fights and actually turning it into a platforming tool through clever enemy placement. Hell, Lost World even revamped the homing attack itself, giving it a new charge property that allows Sonic to do more damage based on how long you lock onto your target while in the air. Plus there’s that new homing kick attack, which allows you to kill multiple enemies in one strike. Speaking of Lost World, bring back the double-jump and bounce jump from that as well. Just toss out the run/parkour button.

Next, let’s look at the relatively risky question of playable characters. After a few years of solo adventures, I think we’re about ready for Sonic to team up once again. Of course, we should probably start things slow: why not just start with someone who never went away entirely? That’s right, I think that Miles “Tails” Prower should make his playable solo return in a new 2D Sonic game. Ideally, there would be three potential options: Sonic alone, Tails alone and Sonic w/ Tails (with the potential for co-op), just like in the good ol’ days…of Sonic 4-2. Give Tails’ his traditional set of abilities: flight, the corresponding ability to swim through water and maybe that kick-ass tail slash he had in the Advance games. Maybe give him some new attacks as well, to keep up with Sonic’s homing attack. This would also of course mean improving the level design to the point of providing unique paths for both characters, but I think Sega’s at the point where they can handle an undertaking of that caliber. Also, with Sonic/Tails mode, retain the team-up moves from Sonic 4-2, but reduce the start-up time on them, that was the only thing that made them awkward in my opinion. Of course, bringing in any of Sonic’s other friends without first testing the waters would be suicidal, but seeing Knuckles and possibly Amy come back in future games would be most appreciated. Just start by easing players back into the idea of playing as someone besides Sonic or some clone of him.

I’ve always felt that one of the most important aspects of any Sonic game would be the quality of the boss fights. That was one of the areas that Sonic 4-2 really shined in, especially when compared to the hit (Metal Sonic, Silver, Egg Dragoon) or miss (Shadow, Time Eater) bosses found in Generations. Lost World also had some pretty good 2D boss fights, like the second bosses in Silent Forest and Sky Road or the game’s penultimate boss fight. Seems like some of the best boss fights I’ve encountered have a few common attributes: there are usually patterns at certain points that somewhat resemble a puzzle, they tend to deviate from the traditional “8 hits and you’re dead” formula commonly seen in Sonic bosses and they tend to put measure in place to prevent spamming attacks to kill the boss in seconds. Keep these design elements in mind when designing 2D Sonic bosses in general, Sega.

Of course, the most important part of any platformer would be the levels themselves. Don’t worry, I’m not really going to go into great detail here, as long as there’s a plethora of stage themes (as opposed to mostly just city themes, looking at you again Generations) and Sega keeps up their emphasis on real platforming over mindless boost “hold right to win” segments, I’m sure they’ll be fine. I’m more worried about the breakdown of each Zone (or Level/World/etc., I call ‘em Zones). One of the things I didn’t really like about Colors was the breakdown of levels: sure, they had 7 Acts per zone, but some of them were pathetically short. Stick to the distribution of either the Sonic 4 games (3 Level Acts, followed by 1 Boss “Act”) or preferably, the Wii U version of Sonic Lost World (4 Level Acts, two of which have boss fights at the end).  Of course, extra levels wouldn’t hurt: just bring back either Colors’ Game Land stages, Generations’ mission mode or Lost World’s unlockable bonus acts.

Finally, here’s a few miscellaneous suggestions for the gameplay itself. First of all, I’d like to divulge a theory that my fellow writer SNES Master KI has regarding the Red Star Rings in the recent Sonic games. They first appeared in Sonic Colors, which we both consider a great game, and we’ve both loved every game they’ve appeared in since: Generations, Sonic 4 Episode 2 and Lost World; I loved them all. So I would suggest bringing them back, even if just due to superstition. Sonic 4-2’s method of hiding one in each level would probably work the best. Speaking of the red star rings, I think that as with Colors and Lost World, collecting them all should unlock Super Sonic, as opposed to the traditional “collect 7 Chaos Emeralds in special stages” method. Also, I don’t care how many people whined about it: bring back the rail-grinding stages from Lost World. They were like superior versions of the mine cart levels from Donkey Kong Country and I loved those. Also, bring back the competitive multiplayer race mode from Colors and Lost World and do some free DLC stages like Lost World is currently doing.

So with gameplay out of the way, let’s move onto some less important but still necessary aspects this new 2D Sonic should also include. First up, the game’s storyline: I’d like something a little more substantial than the pantomime “Genesisesque” story we got in the Sonic 4 games. I’ll be honest, there was a time where I would’ve been okay with this. From the time the original Sonic Adventure came out, I had nothing but disdain for the voice acting in Sonic games (“I’d better get going!” comes quickly to mind) until Sonic Colors came along and fixed most of my major problems with it. I’d like a more substantial story that stays somewhat comedic and episodic, not unlike the stories from Colors, Generations and Lost World. Trying to turn Sonic the Hedgehog’s story into a serious, grimdark epic rarely works out well, even when done in jest. Aim for a Saturday Morning cartoon atmosphere, put cutscenes between stages and make them skippable.

The graphics, I honestly don’t care that much about. Keeping it 2.5D should be fine, but what would really be amazing would be if you tried for some 2D high-definition graphics, not unlike those in Rayman Origins or Legends. Sure, this is pretty much just shooting the moon, but seeing more classic series attempt this type of graphical style would be nice. At the very least, it would help to set it apart from most modern 2D games, which tend to prefer 3D models used on a two-dimensional plane. It would also allow for the designers to have a little more fun with various characters’ designs, which have, with a few notable changes, remained fairly stagnant since the Dreamcast days.

And what’s a Sonic game without a good soundtrack? Even the worst of Sonic’s outings have shined in the music department. While Jun Senoue handled the soundtracks for both episodes of Sonic 4, I have some other people in mind for this one, both of whom I think deserve a shot acting as main composer for one of the Blue Blur’s adventures: Richard Jacques and Fumie Kumatani. Richard Jacques composed the amazing Sega Saturn soundtrack for the otherwise mediocre Sonic 3D Blast and recently worked on Sonic Generations and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, while Kumatani has been providing some of my favorite Sonic songs since the original Sonic Adventure, going for more of a jazzy style compared to her contemporaries. As far as I can tell, both still work for Sega. Whether either of them work on it or they both do, I’d love to hear their takes on a full Sonic soundtrack. Also, please don’t use the synths from the Sonic 4 games in any capacity ever again. They were so awful that they managed to completely obscure the quality of the compositions from those games and I’ve heard some rearrangements that can prove it.  Either use something close to the Genesis’s actual sound chip (if not the original thing itself) or the instrumentation you’ve used in the 3D games. A combination of the two would work pretty well too.

In the end, I can kind of see why Sega has sort of forsaken development of 2D Sonic games in favor of focusing solely on 3D. The Sonic 4 series, despite undergoing significant improvement in its second episode, proved to be a dead end due to its unpopularity, leading to future episodes missing out on being greenlit. Meanwhile, Sega has finally found success with 3D iterations of the franchise, ironically enough by incorporating well-designed 2D segments that resemble the best parts of the games of old with sections in 3D that attempt to recreate the same feeling. In spite of the 3D games’ newfound popularity and success, I feel that 2D Sonic games still have a place in the industry. If Mario can occupy both styles, there’s no reason Mr. Needlemouse can’t do the same.

The Reboots are Revolting

This one’s been a long time coming. I’ve been alluding to this article since before this blog was even started. Back when Retronaissance was just starting up, I mentioned having ideas for a reboot treatment for the MegaMan series. I’ve made references to being receptive to a reboot in one of my earlier other MegaRants. Well, wait no longer, because it’s finally here: the reboot article. As if the title didn’t already give that away.

You’re probably asking, “Hey Icepick, why reboot MegaMan at all?” After all, we’ve already got several MegaMan series as it is, adding another one to the mix would be a redundant disaster. The answer’s simple: the fact that we have too many MegaMan franchises is why we NEED a reboot. The fanbase is inconceivably splintered, so starting from scratch may just be the best thing to do with the franchise. Furthermore, the big guns in the franchise are already far too overspent at this point: the Classic series is at a whopping 10 numbered games, while the beloved X series has a whopping 8. If you want a real disc-based title in the franchise, 11 and 9 are not the best numbers to start from. Besides, one could probably make the argument that Mario, Sonic and even Pac-Man have gone through reboots recently, the only underlying issue holding our beloved Blue Bomber back is the fact that he’s got an inkling of a storyline in all of his games.

The funny thing about that is that I’ve got a pretty good way around that: this new MegaMan incarnation would utilize mythology from the existing series in order to create something both familiar and new. Think of the Doctor Who reboot that started back in 2005. Better yet, think of some of the more recent Transformers cartoons: Animated and Prime. For my treatment, we’d be using the Classic universe as a base, picking and choosing various elements from other franchises in order to further expand on that world and then adding original elements to give it an entirely unique spin. Of course, for the purposes of this article, I won’t be adding any specific characters – after all, this article is more of a call to arms for Capcom to put some effort into reinvigorating the brand, not a ham-fisted excuse to post a whole bunch of “ORIGINAL CHARACTERS, DO NOT STEAL”. Still, I guess I could throw in some examples from other media to give examples of characters that would be welcome additions to this new universe.

So, of course, since we’re using Classic as a base, this new franchise would take place in the recognizable year of 20XX. After all, that’s still technically futuristic. Blend the optimistic Astro Boy-esque future aesthetic from the Classic games with the futuristic take on modern society from Battle Network’s 20XX to make something a bit more unique. Avoid the darker tones of MMX’s 21XX, the bleak setting of MMZ and the post-apocalyptic Waterworld shown in Legends. However, do feel free to utilize elements from MMZX’s futuristic utopia and Star Force’s 22XX, if you want to make things look even more futuristic. Ditching “Monsteropolis” would be a good idea regardless of the potential for nostalgia, but fake city names wouldn’t be a bad idea.

This brings us to the characters. Let’s start with the three major characters in the series. Regarding MegaMan (Rock) and Roll, I’d keep them fairly similar to their typical incarnations, except I would probably age them up a bit, from 8-10 years of age to about 13-15. I never really got the point of making them so young in later incarnations, but the Ruby-Spears series may have had something to do with that. Personality-wise, Rock should stay similar to both his Powered Up and Archie Comics incarnations, he should be fairly innocent and maintain his strong sense of justice. All-in-all, just a normal kid who just happens to be a super-fighting robot. As for Roll, I’ve always been a fan of the persona Western media has given her: snarky and upset over not being upgraded, but still loves her family. She’d be a little more “street smart” than her older brother and working as Dr. Light’s assistant. Dr. Light, of course, would also be present in his standard form: kindly old scientist with dreams of peace through technology. All in all, no major deviations from the norm for these characters.

But what’s a good story without villains? First up is an obvious choice, Dr. Albert W. Wily. As with Rock, Roll and Light, Wily wouldn’t be far off from his typical Classic appearance: a hammy cartoonish villain. Of course, one of the Classic series’ shortcomings was the lack of diversity when it comes to villains: even when Wily’s not behind it, well…Wily’s behind it. Meanwhile, the other games have some pretty good villains, so let’s just transplant a few, shall we? Take, Sigma, for example. He’s supposed to be the personification of a computer virus, so why not just make him a sort of sentient virus with aspirations for human genocide? Way better than just being some bald schmo dressed in rags saying “ZELOOOOOO”, right? The Bonne Siblings could be another good transplant, maybe not as major villains, but as comedic relief minor villains. Maybe make them thieves, despite being pirates, burglary was their main crime in the Legends series anyway. Vile might be another good contender, but considering his nature he’d require some modifications. Instead of a Reploid, make him a cyborg mercenary (explaining his absolute free will, while other robots would be bound by the laws of robotics), with a vendetta against robots. Perhaps he originally had an aversion to robots made worse when an accident involving one led him to become the cyborg he is presently. Just a thought.

One must also consider the secondary characters. An obvious choice would be Rock’s big bro, the enigmatic ProtoMan. Use the classic origin story, Dr. Light’s first creation gone missing, repaired by Wily with a brand-new energy supply, etc. The only real question would be what to do for his weaponry. His arm cannon is fairly unique and its fluctuating strength gives evidence of his unstable power core, but on the other hand, other incarnations of the character (MMBN, the cover art for MM10) have given him a sword to go with his shield, which could justify using Zero’s gameplay style without actually putting Zero in. Personally, I think either choice is acceptable. I’d bring back the Cossack family as well, and give them a much more expanded role. I always thought it was kind of lame that they just sort of disappeared after MM5, I thought they had some potential as characters, even if Classic MegaMan’s storyline has always been sparse. Something I’d like to see transplanted from other media would be the revival of the Robot Masters after being defeated. A few games and both the Archie comic and Hitoshi Ariga’s mangas have made use of that plot element. Either way, it’d definitely be cool to see Rock and Roll hang out with their younger siblings or see Wily’s earlier creations putter around Skull Castle. Also, definitely bring back the support units: Rush, Eddie, Beat and Tango.

I’d also want to see Auto brought back. While I never really cared for him that much in the games, his characterization in the aforementioned mangas and comic has changed my opinion of him. I’d definitely want to introduce him earlier in the series though, maybe as a precursor assistant to Dr. Light before Rock and Roll were finished. Bass would be another character to bring back, but I’d probably approach him differently. When he was first introduced in MM7, he fooled MegaMan by pretending to also be after Wily. Unfortunately, that plot point lasted for half a game, at the most. In this reboot, I’d introduce Bass earlier on and exploit that plot point to a much greater extent. Changing his origin could work as well, perhaps make him the creation of Dr. Cossack or another scientist who starts off on the side of good but eventually becomes obsessed with defeating MegaMan. Speaking of which, the Archie comic has led me to the conclusion that we need more scientists in the franchise. Transplanting scientists from other series might work, but this would probably be a good place to start implementing original characters. Robotics shouldn’t be a field limited to just Light, Wily and to a far lesser extent, Cossack. Some kind of a police force or a para-military group might be a good addition as well. Again, populate whichever you decide to use with OCs and transplants from other games.

The game’s tone would be light and episodic, not unlike a Saturday morning cartoon of old. Of course, there could also be some overarching plotlines between “episodes”, but keeping continuity minimal would be in the series’ best interest. As for content per game, at the very least, a full-on disc-based title would probably require the equivalent of at least 3 Classic games, not unlike the Wily Wars. So the first game would more or less retell the first three games in the series, while adding their own twists to the story. That way, iconic characters could be reintroduced more quickly than before and the games themselves could be larger without having to worry about balancing more than 8 weapons per scenario. Better yet, even if Capcom doesn’t decide to go for a full budget release, each scenario could just be released in an episodic format, perhaps including some bonus content if you buy all of the episodes in a given season.

Gameplay itself, on the other hand, is a more difficult issue. Ideally, Capcom would go the route of other 2D platformer revivals, like the New Super Mario Bros. games or the last two Rayman games, but let’s face it, that may not be enough to attract  a large enough audience to make this new MegaMan a success. MegaMan games traditionally underperform. But would reimagining the series in 3D work? After all, we remember the trainwreck that was X7. Still, many 3D reimaginings of 2D franchises from the fifth and sixth generations of video games were far different animals than they are today. Maybe Capcom could recreate the twitchy yet precise MegaMan gameplay of yore in 3D. Then again, I really doubt it. I’d err for sticking to the basics personally, but a new franchise would be the best opportunity to experiment. That’s how we got Legends and Battle Network/Star Force, after all.

A well-made reboot for the MegaMan series would clearly take the best aspects from the games of old, while incorporating entirely new elements and avoiding any missteps from earlier games. Considering Capcom’s track record with reboots, it may seem in their best interest to avoid one. However, catering to the old school crowds alone do our beloved Blue Bomber a disservice. If Capcom can put in as much effort as Nintendo did with the Super Mario Galaxy games or Sega with Sonic Colors and Generations, I’m sure the results would please old fans and spark an interest in a new generation of gamers, leading MegaMan to at least another 25 years of memories. Of course, this is just my take on what an ideal reboot for the series would look like. Stay tuned for SNESMasterKI’s opinion.

Top Ten Video Game Series Comebacks (Part Two)

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

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

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

15 YEARS LATER

…well, shit.

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

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

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

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

Number 3: Metal Gear Solid
Sony Playstation; 1998

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

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

Number 2: Sonic Colors
Nintendo Wii; 2010

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

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

Number 1: Metroid Prime
Nintendo GameCube; 2002

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

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

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