First Impressions

These past few months, I’ve been working on a couple more retrospective articles not unlike the one I wrote for The Legend of Zelda back when Breath of the Wild launched last month. In addition to writing a far larger than average article, I’m also left researching various things, simply to jog my memory for games I haven’t played in quite some time, so I’ve had little time to write much else aside from a post on my side blog and another list in what’s quickly become my April Fools tradition. The one upshot to all of this is that I was running low on topics to write about outside of said retrospectives and in the process of writing them, I’ve had time to think of new topics to write on. In fact, the topic for this very article was inspired by a trend I noticed while writing one of the retrospectives.

Effectively, I was researching the fan reception of one of the games I was writing for – a game that I specifically remembered being considered the worst of its series – and found that, unsurprisingly, the game had its own set of fervent defenders. Some of the people defending the game in question made the argument that it was, in fact, the first game in the series that was truly the low point of the series and that most people gave it a pass simply because it was the first game in the entire franchise – and therefore, was owed a great measure of respect, as the series itself wouldn’t exist without it. Obviously, the argument raged on after that, but I must admit the statement gave me pause. I’d felt this way about the originators of various other classic series: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, MegaMan …the list goes on. Yet somehow, an obscure flame war on some internet forum actually made me reflect upon it. Many fans of video game series do generally afford the first games of the franchise in question a greater extent of leniency than all other games in the series.

I mean, the reasoning is understandable. Being the first release in a series means that not only have the basic gameplay mechanics not been completely established, as the games that start series generally end up being far more experimental in nature, simply because they were often developed as stand-alone titles in the first place. As such, it’s dishonest to compare them to their sequels: after all, most sequels tend to build on whatever framework the original had. You know the old metaphor, “dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants”? Same basic principle here – the clear majority of video game sequels wouldn’t be able to reach their level of quality without learning from both the mistakes and successes of earlier titles.

Of course, that leads to the major question at hand: do we overcompensate when it comes to discussing these first games? It does seem entirely possible that when looking back at the games themselves, especially in the case of longer-running series, we’ll often forgive bizarre design choices, stiffer controls, blander level design and other short-comings, simply because they were the originators of their respective franchises. Of course, this is particularly evident in series where there is a designated black sheep – a later game in the franchise that is despised by the fanbase in general, no matter how many lone wolves claim that they actually liked it, either due to contrarianism or genuine love for the game in question.

The weird thing about this is that this level of protectionism only seems to apply to the first game in the franchise, as opposed to earlier games in general. It’s as if, by the time the second game rolls around, every aspect had better be perfected or else the game itself is considered garbage. Take the second Ace Attorney, for example – despite the fact that we only received the enhanced port of the first game, people judged the second game far more harshly. As such, people would ignore the improvements Justice for All made compared to its predecessor’s gameplay, such as increased complexity, a higher difficulty level and the addition of the “Psyche Lock” mechanic.  Instead, most player reactions concentrated on the game’s flaws, particularly some story elements that were not considered on-par with those of the first Ace Attorney. You’ve also got to consider many cases where the second game was a complete departure from the first game’s base concept, though this will often yield softer criticism than incomplete refinements of existing formulas. Yet, in other forms of media that gravitate towards a more serialized approach, missteps in the process of development are generally more easily forgiven. Why then are video games so different?

Is the reason for this standard practice merely consideration for the game’s age and relative simplicity compared to its follow-ups or is there more to it? Could nostalgia play a role? The fact is that while there is a case for nostalgia being attributed to some cases of blatant protection – Legend of Zelda, Virtua Fighter and Metroid all come quickly to mind – this isn’t particularly a rule of the case. I mean, I honestly doubt that many people attribute any lasting nostalgia to games like the original Tekken or Bomberman, but even new fans of a series avoid scrutinizing these early iterations harshly. On the other hand, there are cases where there are objectively worse games later on in the series, which kind of muddies discussion about the first game’s flaws – it’s kind of difficult to pick apart a game if one of its successors is obviously flawed in ways even the original managed to avoid.

This phenomenon is particularly strange when you consider video game genres and sub-genres in general. While the first game in a beloved series will often be given a pass for their various shortcomings, the same is not always true for games that originated entire genres. For example, Pac-Land could be said to be one of, if not the, earliest attempts at creating a side-scrolling platformer, but doesn’t receive nearly as much love as the original Super Mario Bros., which popularized the genre in general. The same can be said for Karate Champ with regards to the fighting game genre: it’s generally viewed as a curiosity as opposed to hailed as a legitimate game, despite creating many of the conventions the genre enjoys to this day. Likewise, I’ve heard few discussions of the history of RPGs mention the Atari 2600’s Dragonstomper, perhaps the earliest example of the genre appearing on home consoles. Most discussions favor discussing Dragon Quest, or worst case scenario, the original Final Fantasy. This would seem to imply that age is not the only factor that causes people to be protective of the first games in these series, likely because these games are so obscure, they aren’t really under attack either. Still, it feels a bit hypocritical that if earlier games are considered important, these trailblazers aren’t afforded the same privilege.

While writing this article, I also considered if there were any major examples of series originators that missed out on these protections. I racked my brain, trying to think of multiple examples, but in the end, I could only think of one: the original Street Fighter. For the longest time, most people’s knowledge of the series started at “Street Fighter II” and for some reason, no one ever seemed to question what had happened to Street Fighter “One”. I’m not sure what people thought – maybe they figured that the “two” was referencing that there were two fighters in a match? I’m not entirely sure. Basically, back in the 90s, if someone mentioned “Street Fighter”, you knew they were talking about SF2, period. Of course, I had limited knowledge of the original Street Fighter game – but that came in the form of a port that managed to be worse than the original in every respect. These days, however, knowledge of the original 1987 arcade game is a lot more common, albeit tinged with copious amounts of vitriol. I’d probably argue that it’s almost a comedy of errors that Capcom still celebrates the franchise’s anniversaries on the original Street Fighter’s release date. Nonetheless, perhaps it’s the fact that it isn’t afforded any respect that made Street Fighter stick out in my mind: at best, I’ve seen people request characters that are forever tied to the game reappear in later titles as fully playable characters, as they are considered concepts too good to be left as unplayable characters in a game no one likes.

Maybe the true reason for handling the first game in a series so gently is less due to hostility towards follow-ups, but simply done with the purpose – subconsciously or otherwise – of making sure that these games don’t end up like the original Street Fighter. In the end, these games definitely hold an important place in the history of not only the franchises they started, but in the case of some particularly old series, video game history itself. I guess when you take that concrete level of importance into account, it’s easy to see how an attempt at treating these gaming giants with well-earned respect can quickly go overboard – nostalgia filter or no. Likewise, bashing a game simply because the ones that followed it improved on the formula isn’t particularly fair. However, by that very same token, holding a sequel accountable for “not doing enough” to improve on its precursor by criticizing it excessively doesn’t strike me as the proper response either. In the end, I guess it’s just better to keep a firmer grasp on context in general when documenting a series’ evolution, regardless of medium.

Lots of Red, No White but Blue

Hello. This is Dari.  I am starting a new series called “Dari-Isms.”  This is going to try to explain the inner machinations of my mind, which apparently a lot of people don’t understand.  Most of these are going to be about gaming, but I may throw some other opinion pieces in, if people want to hear them. Today I’m gonna talk about some of my favorite and least favorite Capcom “mascots” of yesteryear. I am mainly going to talk about Ryu and Ken (of Street Fighter) and Zero and Megaman X (of Megaman X).

Let’s start with Ryu. Ryu is the mascot and the face of Street Fighter. He is most likely the first person anyone thinks of when they think of fighting games in general, not just Street Fighter. This is one of the reasons I hate him. He’s a very boring character. And his moveset, while copied and done better by most of the other characters that share his moveset, is also quite plain. Ryu himself usually moves like an old man with bad arthritis. He’s so stiff; I wonder how he even fights with any sort of speed! (i.e. crossover games like Marvel vs Capcom.) His Hadoken attack is usually very slow, but powerful. His Shoryuken is again, slow but powerful, and invincible on startup depending on the game, but again, it’s very stiff and can easily be stuffed or even just plain dodged, because it’s easily telegraphed. Ryu’s story is just plain sad. He’s a nomad from Japan who doesn’t have a family who just wanders around trying to get stronger, fight strong opponents and fight the ‘Satsui no Hado’ which can (and has depending on the game/timeline) overtake him and turn him evil, like another one of his counterparts, Akuma. But that’s another story for another time. Ryu is a terrible character. I understand he’s the “entry character” and he’s the base for everyone to learn off, but I feel like they’ve added so many more interesting characters that can take his place, that Ryu really would have, and should have faded into the background. He can still be the face of the series, but he can just be that. He doesn’t need half the popularity he has. He needs to sit down somewhere and stay there for a while. Now, again, he doesn’t need to sit out of a game where Street Fighter characters are prominent, but I mean he needs something to make him interesting.

In contrast, let’s talk about Ken Masters. Ken Masters originally started as the Player 2 alternative for Ryu. But he’s grown so much more since then. Ever since Street Fighter 2, he’s grown so much since being Ryu’s copy. He has fire in his shoryukens, which differentiates him from boring old, stiff Ryu. Also it seems like Ken has more mobility than Ryu ever will. It’s possibly because he’s younger than him.  Ken, I feel focuses more on his kicks than his counterpart. He also seems to have evolved more than his sparring partner. He has a shinryuken attack (in some games and media) that has him doing a strong shoryuken attack covered in a pillar of fire. Ryu cannot do this as far as what’s been shown. Ken also has a shin shoryuken which can hit for 2 or 3 times with his fire shoryuken. Ryu only does it once, but while there’s a lot of power behind it, it’s not as flexible or unique as Ken’s. Ken’s story is also fairly interesting. He has a family, a wife and a son. Some people would say that someone with a family shouldn’t be fighting, but he makes money this way and he also keeps up with his buddy Ryu, and keeps him relevant. So it’s fine. Ken is also an American. He met Ryu while at a tournament. They became friends and sparring partners under Gouken. Ken fights for his family and to be stronger in general. See how much better Ken is than Ryu? This is why I like Ken more than Ryu. They may have started as clones of each other but Ken Masters evolved more as a character than Ryu probably ever will.

Time to switch gears and move on to the two robots. I’ll start with Zero.  Zero is the bane of the Megaman X series in my eyes. He is supposedly the only creation of Megaman X that Keiji Inafune made. He wanted him in the beginning of the Megaman X series to be the star, but Capcom told him no. He decided to make him the star anyway. He had to save Megaman X in every game. If he wasn’t trying to save him, X himself was trying to rebuild him because he felt like he needed his friend back to save the world. I find this demoralizing to X and it made him seem like he was trying to steal the main character’s thunder. I find this extremely rude. Zero was so prominent in the grand scheme of things, that Megaman X was an unlockable character in his own game over him! Megaman X8 was the last game in the series. The Character who has been most prominent of the few times that Megaman X was represented was Zero. X appeared in the Project X Zone games, but those games weren’t as popular. Zero was in Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and a few other games. Megaman Zero even got his own very successful series of its own right, even using X as a boss. I find that demeaning but Capcom did what they wanted so I cannot fault them for what gave them a bunch of money in the end, even if they wouldn’t give X a chance.  I feel like Zero was made to steal the thunder of X and make him obsolete in comparison. They succeeded a bit too well. There are some fans who still care about X and remember who he is. These people are the only people who keep X’s spirit alive. And thanks to that X finally appears in a popular game again, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. The rumors say that X will be very prominent in the story and he was the first character shown, aside Ryu. My personal opinion is that Zero shouldn’t appear in this and let X have his own shine, as he’s never allowed him to do so in his own series besides then. All Zero did was take over someone else’s series, kill it and then get his own series to succeed, to leave the character he stepped on in the dust.

Finally, we’ll talk about X. Megaman X is the Megaman who took over for Megaman Classic in his own series. X is a really good character that’s underestimated. He’s very powerful, yet he also wants peace. Gamers don’t like this aspect of him, even if Megaman Classic had the same attitude, and he was praised for it. Megaman was sadly overshadowed for Zero. And Zero went out of his way to kill his character and his series. Megaman X was a good character, but most people didn’t like him over his counterpart. He had powerful armors and he was great when he did battle. I feel like X needs more recognition and respect. He was unlockable in one of his own games where his name was still prominent in the title! He is a Megaman and he seems to be either bad luck or a curse upon anything he’s been in recently. I still enjoy Megaman X over Zero because he’s the underdog and even though he’s the main character, some people don’t acknowledge him, or will give him its due respect.

In summation, I like Ken Masters because he’s a great evolution of what was literally a palette swap of Ryu, who is a boring nomad who’s trying to control his evil. I enjoy X because he’s disrespected even though he’s the main character. I hate Zero because he stole the show from Megaman X and killed the entire series to spite X. He also apparently took over the entire representation of the series for some odd reason.  Not to say I hate all second fiddles to Capcom games, Protoman was good because he knew his place. He was a second fiddle to Megaman Classic,  but he didn’t outshine his Megaman, and he was still popular in the long run. I wish Zero could have taken this precedent, but sadly he didn’t.

But Is It Art? – Street Fighter: The Movie (Arcade)

I’ve wanted to do another one of these articles for quite some time now. In fact, I really wanted to do another one right after finishing up the first one about Bubsy. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t think of any topics that I both considered interesting and had enough knowledge about. However, not too long ago, a friend of mine suggested I do a new one, as he was a fan of the first and challenged me to rack my brain for inspiration for a suitable topic. Somehow, challenging me to continue this series gave me the inspiration for a new topic in record time.

If you haven’t read the title of the article, the topic of this entry in the “But Is It Art?” series is Street Fighter: The Movie: …The Game. Specifically, the version released in arcades circa June 1995. Now this game (which from here on out, I’ll abbreviate as “SFTM”) is the pinnacle of willfully forgotten Street Fighter games: it lacks the historical significance of the original Street Fighter from 1987; there is no real (albeit misguided) demand for character original to this iteration to make reappearances in future titles, quite unlike the Street Fighter EX series (developed by ARIKA) and there’s definitely no call for the game to be re-released, due to the game having the infamous reputation of being the worst Street Fighter game of all-time – even when taking into account the hyperbole slung at the most recent Street Fighter V.

Yet, I still beg the question: is it art? Where most stream monsters see an abomination cobbled together by the hands of a worthless “baka gaijin” company from the 1990s, I see what may very well be the most brilliant movie-to-video game adaptation of all time! Consider this, SFTM’s arcade version was generally considered a poor conversion of the classic Street Fighter 2, but who among you would not claim the exact same of its source material: the ill-received, ironic cult classic that was 1994’s Street Fighter movie. Can one consider a game that truly embodies the essence of the film it was commissioned to represent really be considered a failure? As I argued that Bubsy was a parody of the original Sonic the Hedgehog before, I now argue that Incredible Technologies made the greatest video game adaption of a major motion picture in the history of both mediums.

First off, let’s look at Exhibit A: the mindset behind the movie’s creation itself. Steven E. de Souza, the movie’s director actually wanted to actively downplay the “supernatural” elements of the games in his film adaptation, citing that adherence to the source material was what made the Super Mario Bros. movie a critical flop. Considering the fact that the movie that provided the basis from this game decided to actively avoid elements from the source material, wouldn’t it be more accurate to equally avoid those elements when converting the inaccurate movie into its own video game? Indeed, the game would only be considered defective if you were looking at it as a straight replication of the Street Fighter II games –this was strictly not the case: the game was a tie-in for the movie, which took its own creative liberties.

Exhibit B is a little more esoteric, but hopefully all will be revealed by the end of this paragraph. During the production of the Street Fighter movie, Capcom put an extreme emphasis on nabbing famous action star Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the leading role of William F. Guile, to the extent where they used a majority of the film’s budget signing both him and Raúl Juliá. The majority of the film’s cast reprised their roles in the game, with the exception of Juliá, who was replaced by a stuntman due to his ailing health. Why do I bring this up? Simple, it is almost common knowledge at this point that the original plan for Mortal Kombat was to create a licensed video game based on van Damme’s 1992 film Universal Soldier. Midway counter-pitched a game focused on Van Damme himself instead, taking inspiration from his 1988 film Bloodsport. As we all know, those plans fell through, but Van Damme provided the inspiration for the character Johnny Cage. Considering the fact that at least in the West, Mortal Kombat was Street Fighter’s chief rival at the time, bragging about the fact that Capcom had succeeded where Midway had failed seems like an entirely plausible theory – though ironically, van Damme only managed to record four hours of motion capture for the game, the rest of the digital captures were provided by one of Van Damme’s stuntmen: Mark Stefanich.

Finally, there’s Exhibit C: the fact that the movie itself was a Western production, it would only make sense for the video game adaptation itself to take on some Western design philosophies, in order to better match the tone and style of the film itself. Unfortunately for the game itself, at this point, the majority of 2D fighting games were simply terrible clones of the Mortal Kombat series, many so bad I have a sinking suspicion they were intended more as parodies than copycats. Even Mortal Kombat’s chief Western rival, Killer Instinct, aped elements of the game including blood and dynamic finishing moves. In fact, Incredible Technologies, the game’s developer, was no strange to Mortal Kombat clones, having made two of their own: 1992’s Time Killers and 1994’s Blood Storm – which is likely the reason why Capcom recruited them to make their own digitized live-action fighting game (even though both games actually used sprites).

As an aside, I just find it kind of interesting that many people consider the home console game – which was an entirely different game from the arcade version, which never received a home port – to be the superior game, though both are generally disliked. The home version was just a dolled-up recycling of the engine for the classic Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Granted, the home version of SFTM did add some new elements, actually being the first time in a Street Fighter game where you could use “EX” special moves (referred to as “Super Special Moves” in-game), predating even Street Fighter III 2nd Impact. Likewise, the roster was changed to better resemble Super Turbo as well: Sawada was kept, as he was a replacement for Fei Long, but the four palette-swapped Bison Troopers were removed from the game and replaced with Blanka and Dee Jay. Interestingly enough, there was an unused ending for Blanka in the arcade version, implying that he may have at one point been considered as a playable character. Even more bizarre was the absence of both Dhalsim and T. Hawk from both versions, despite appearing in the movie itself. Regardless, though the home version is considered the superior version of the game, my preferences lie with the arcade version, because all-in-all, no matter how bad the game itself may have been, the conversion made for home consoles was just an inferior version of a game that was eventually made available for both of the consoles SFTM appeared on – via the first Street Fighter Collection, a two-disc set that included Super Street Fighter II, Super Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold.

Of course, the argument that could be made against this theory is pretty obvious: Incredible Technologies doesn’t exactly have the best track record, though they would eventually enjoy reasonable success with the Golden Tee series. Likewise, while you’re unlikely to find Time Killers and Blood Storm on anyone’s top 10 worst fighting games of all-time list, the memorable aspects of these two games were their gimmicks, not great gameplay. Considering the fact that Capcom worked with such abominable companies as Acclaim, U.S. Gold and my mortal enemy, Hi-Tech Expressions, it’s entirely possible that this was just a cynical cash grab at the hands of Capcom to try to win over fans of their chief fighting game rival for the least amount of money possible. Fun fact: Incredible Technologies also co-developed Ducktales: The Quest for Gold on various computer systems (not to be confused with Capcom’s NES and Game Boy titles). That was actually the only Ducktales game I ever played growing up. Maybe I’ll revive Repressious Memories and do an episode on it someday.

In the end, whether or not it was art, despite all the horrible things people have said about this game, it did some interesting things. Alongside the original Street Fighter Alpha (which came out the same month), it was one of the first Street Fighter games to expand on the Super Combo concept, allowing characters the chance to perform more than one. It gave some classic Street Fighter characters some brand new moves, most notably Guile’s Handcuffs, a reference to the infamous glitch from the original version of Street Fighter II. It was even unique to see a Capcom-published fighting game ape the concept of SNK’s desperation moves – special attacks only available to fighters when they lost a certain amount of health – though in this case, they were more like standard special moves than the super combo-esque moves more common in SNK’s version. There were also counter throws, the ability to interrupt blocks to perform special moves (not unlike an Alpha Counter) and SFTM Arcade even had the distinctive honor of being the first Capcom game to incorporate a “Tag Team” mode, predating X-Men vs. Street Fighter by over a year. Granted, this game’s Tag Mode was more like the 2-on-2 mode in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3: not allowing to switch characters on the fly, rather the second character would take the first’s place when they were defeated and the round would continue until both of one player’s characters were defeated.

Granted, I probably don’t have the best opinions with regards to the Street Fighter series in general. I don’t consider the first game to be an unplayable abomination, simply because my first experience with it was with a PC port so terrible, it made the original arcade version look like a gaming masterpiece. While most people fight over whether Super Turbo and Third Strike is the best game in the series, I personally tended to prefer the Alpha sub-series. So maybe considering Street Fighter: The Movie: The Arcade Game to be something of a work of art is just another one of those offbeat opinions I have.

What do you think? Was SFTM a brilliant commentary on its own flawed source material or a truly cynical fighting game built by committee to appeal to Capcom’s own pessimistic viewpoint of Mortal Kombat fans? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section.

Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2016

SNES Master KI

It’s time for another top ten most anticipated games list. 2015 didn’t turn out to be as good for games as I was hoping, and the primary reason for that was delays, so I’m doing things a little differently for this list. The jumped guns from my 2015 list are too numerous and prominent to just exclude, so I’m just going to ignore that list, even if it means some repetition. There’s still new stuff to say about the games, after all. 2016 looks even better than the pre-delays 2015, so let’s get to the list!

10: Pokken Tournament

A Pokemon fighter is long overdue, and one will arrive on Wii U in 2016. I’ve honestly lost track of what year it was when we first saw that teaser clip of an unidentified Pokemon game, but the long journey to a home system is almost over. Despite how obvious it was, I still breathed a sigh of relief when it was confirmed that Pokken Tournament would indeed get a home release. Wii U can definitely use a new fighter, and I’m looking forward to see what kind of bonuses we’ll get in the home version.

9: Ratchet and Clank (PS4)

I love platformers, I’ve made that very clear in my writing. While it feels like most retail platformers we could get in 2016 are in that vapor realm where they aren’t confirmed enough to make it to this list (Sonic’s anniversary game, Mario’s new concept 2D platformer and next 3D platformer), we do have Ratchet and Clank. A reboot of the series, the footage shown so far gives me hope that it will feel like a platformer, and it’s about time PS4 got one of its own (no I don’t remember Knack, and neither do you). Let’s hope it does well enough to give Jak and Sly another chance as well.

8: Ace Attorney 6

Being so story driven, I do no research about Ace Attorney games before playing them, so it’s hard to talk about this one. Regardless, I am very glad that it was confirmed for western release as soon as the game was announced, and I’m hoping the new setting will combat some of the predictability factor that hurt AA5 for me. Not much else to say, at least from me, but very much looking forward to this game.

7: Doom (2016)

I had a revelation during 2015: I love old style first person shooters. I played several Doom games for the first time, and was very happy to see that a new one with a simultaneous console release was already announced. Doom 2016 looks to have more of the fast paced action of the 90s games with some console style conveniences, which sounds great to me. A few years ago this series making my list never would have crossed my mind, but my horizons have been expanded and I can only hope Doom 2016 sparks a revival of FPSes with more enemy variety than “guys with different types of guns!”

6: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

This made Honorable Mention last year, with me saying that if Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was as big of an improvement as I had heard, it would have placed higher. Well, Pirate’s Curse was better than I had ever imagined, becoming my favorite WayForward game of all time by a clear margin. So naturally, Half-Genie Hero is much more anticipated by me this year. A sequel that fixes Pirate’s Curse’s only flaw (graphics that were incredibly pixelated in HD) is just what I want, so let’s hope that Half-Genie Hero finally makes it out in 2016.

5: Street Fighter V

It will have been seven years since Street Fighter IV came to consoles when SFV comes out, and somehow this is FASTER than we’re used to for the series. Regardless, Street Fighter V seems to be doing everything right, from the free DLC characters to cross-play that will make things a lot easier for S-Rank. I haven’t been following this game as closely as some people I know, but Ryu will be waiting for me and I’m sure I’ll be able to jump right in and start fighting for the honor of D-Pads and consoles. I just hope I have some idea what the hell is happening in the endings this time.

4: Nier: Automata

This was probably the biggest pleasant shock for me in 2015’s gaming scene. I never expected Nier to get a sequel, and if I somehow did I sure as hell wouldn’t have expected Platinum to help make it. I loved Nier, I love Platinum, this is a match made in Heaven, or possibly a frozen hell. If you didn’t play Nier, it had some of the best RPG real-time combat I had ever seen and an amazing amount of gameplay variety. The combat had a similar feel to pure action games, so Platinum actually making it should make it truly amazing. Square-Enix had a great 2015, but this game is my favorite thing they announced all year.

3: Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam

If there’s a bright side to this game coming out late in NA, it’s that I’ll have Xenoblade X finished before I get this. Oh, and it also means it gets to make one of these lists. I loved Dream Team, and it sounds like Paper Jam is going to fix all the problems with it. More of the great level design and my favorite turn based combat system of all time, with better writing and skippable tutorials? Paper Jam sounds perfect, and you know which Mario and Luigi game it is? The fifth. It looks like my lucky number will come through again (even after 2005 and 2015 kind of shook my faith in it). And I couldn’t do this write-up with referencing paper jam Dipper. Akefhgkjfdgbnk!

2: Star Fox Zero

Yep, the top two (oh come on, you knew what number 1 was as soon as I said I wasn’t disqualifying games that were on last year’s list) are the same as last year. But after the tantrum thrown by people who don’t understand that Nintendo games always look much worse at their reveal than they actually will be, this game still needs love. Platinum is probably my favorite non-Nintendo developer right now, so Platinum and Nintendo working together on this game is pretty freaking awesome. After nearly 20 years of struggling, we are long, long overdue for an action-packed direct sequel to Star Fox 64, and it looks like that’s exactly what we’ll get in April. Never give up, trust your instincts, Nintendo franchises always strike back.

1: The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

We don’t know much more about this game than we did a year ago, but dammit, what we know is still enough to get me hyped. A Zelda with a huge but more importantly FILLED open world sounds great, but that honestly isn’t why I’m excited for this game. I’m excited for this game because I trust the series and developer, and I don’t see why so many people regard that as a bad thing. Aside from a few games that ironically seem to have been rushed to make sure Zelda Wii U didn’t have to be, Nintendo’s quality level has been extremely high in the past few years, and I see no reason not to expect fantastic things from this game. We’ll probably have to wait two and a half years between this game’s announcement and release, but none of that will matter once we finally have it in our hands.

Honorable Mentions

Uncharted 4

I still have some resentment towards this series for replacing Jak, but my true spite is reserved for The Last of Us. I enjoyed the PS3 Uncharted games, and if Uncharted 4 takes some cues from the current Tomb Raiders, it should be the best one yet.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

I love Twilight Princess, the only flaw is that combat is too easy. Just add a hard mode (which most Zeldas have now) and make sure to keep the Wii remote option, and things are perfect.

Final Fantasy XV

Haven’t been following this that closely, but if it has a good combat system and Square-Enix is as redeemed as they appear, this should be a great game. Not much else to say, really.

Shellshock

2015 was a very strange year for video games, and it didn’t leave me with a lot to offer. The games that did come out in 2015 that I’ve played were great, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Now that 2015 is about to end, let’s talk about 2016 and what it has to offer. There’s a lot of games coming out that I’m anticipating; some of them are games that were delayed, and others were announced within the year. Here are my top 10 most anticipated games of 2016.

10. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Developer: WayForward Studios
Publisher: WayForward Studios
Platform(s): PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, XBOX 360, XBOX One
Release Date: Early 2016

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was originally targeted for 2014, but the game had constant delays due to the extra Stretch Goals that were added. Once again, it makes my list, as I have been playing the Shantae series (sans Pirate’s Curse, which I intend to play at some point). Even though it’s coming to multiple platforms, I will be picking up the Wii U version.

9. Yooka-Laylee

Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team 17
Platform(s): Wii U, Playstation 4, XBOX One, PC
Release Date: October 2016

I grew up playing Rare’s 3D Platformers on the Nintendo 64, and I enjoyed most of them (mostly the Banjo-Kazooie series). However, I’ve lost interest in Rare soon after Microsoft bought them out, thus ending their partnership with Nintendo. After playing Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts on the XBOX 360, I was disgusted with what they did with the series, and thought to myself that Banjo-Kazooie is dead. Needless to say, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

Playtonic games is a company made up of former Rare staff members, especially most of the key members who worked on the original Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie games in many ways, but it also has elements from other games, such as Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64. I’m really looking forward to this game, as I would love to help keep the spirit of the old Rare alive!

8. Mighty No. 9

Developer: Comcept, Inti Creates, Abstraction Games (3DS/Vita)
Publisher: Comcept (Digital), Deep Silver (Retail)
Platform(s): Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Vita, XBOX One, XBOX 360, PC
Release Date: February 9, 2016 (Retail), February 12, 2016 (Digital)

Another repeat offender on my list, as this game keeps getting delayed over time. Thankfully, there is a guaranteed release date, as it’s going to be released on February 9th in Retail, and February 12th digitally across all platforms. Now as far as this game goes, I’m still excited for it, and anything that plays like Mega Man and the Mega Man X series makes me happy.

7. Street Fighter V

Developer: Capcom, Dimps
Publisher: Capcom
Platform(s): Playstation 4, PC
Release Date: February 16, 2016

Street Fighter V is the latest installment in the Street Fighter series. While Street Fighter IV (and its subsequent updates) provided a mix of nostalgia for Street Fighter II with a brand new look and feel to the series, Street Fighter V has a bit of Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III added to the mix, with tons of new things to make it stand out from the rest. There will be a starting cast of seventeen characters (twelve of them are returning, and five of them are brand new), with other characters coming at a later date.

What gets me excited about this game is that Charlie and R. Mika, who are among my favorite Street Fighter Alpha characters, make their return to the series in Street Fighter V. Other characters, such as Birdie, Urien and Karin, are excellent additions and it’s nice to see them back after being absent for years. We also have new takes on other returning characters, and the newer characters seem very interesting. I tried the demo at New York Comic Con this year, and I thought it was a major improvement from Street Fighter IV. I’m definitely looking forward to playing this game!

6. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: January 22, 2016

Announced at E3, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the fifth installment in the Mario & Luigi series. This game is a crossover between Mario & Luigi and the Paper Mario series, where both worlds collide. You take control of Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario to take on both Bowser and Paper Bowser, and their respective armies running rampant across the Mushroom Kingdom. Gameplay is identical to that of the Mario & Luigi series, but you now press the Y Button in Battle to control Paper Mario’s Actions.

Since this game has the quirkiness and the humor from both the Mario & Luigi and the Paper Mario series, this is definitely something I am looking forward to. I still need to beat Partners in Time (which I’m not really a fan of) before tackling the others, then finally making my way to this game.

5. Project X Zone 2

Developer: Monolith Soft, Banpresto
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 16, 2016

I was surprised to see that Bandai Namco Games sign on for a sequel to Project X Zone. There are a lot more characters you control in this game, from Bandai Namco, Sega, Capcom, and now Nintendo! Fire Emblem Awakening’s Chrom and Lucina and Xenoblade Chronicles’ Fiora join the cast. Other series new to Project X Zone 2 are Shinobi, Strider, Ace Attorney, Shenmue, Soul Calibur, Yakuza, and even Segata Sanshiro himself, among others, are represented here.

This game retains the character turn based gameplay from its predecessor, but what interests me about this game is that you now have a full player turn, where you control all of your characters, and an enemy turn, where all the enemies are controlled, as opposed to a random character turn. This is another Strategy RPG that I will happily add to my Nintendo 3DS library, and I look forward to playing every second of it!

4. Pokken Tournament

Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: Q2 2016

I’m a huge fan of the Pokémon series, and I do enjoy playing Tekken, so this definitely works for me! Pokken Tournament has a fighting style where you roam around in an arena, performing multiple combos on your opponents, and unleashing an inner power (some of the Pokemon will become a Mega-Evolution) with a Resonance Gauge, allowing you to use Special Attacks. You can also summon assist Pokémon to help you out.

I got to try the arcade version of this game at Dave & Busters in NYC, and I’m impressed with the gameplay. It feels different from Tekken, but then again, with Pokémon, it works! This is one of my must-have games for 2016, and I cannot wait to play this!

3. Star Fox Zero

Developer: Nintendo EPD, Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: April 22, 2016

Originally set for a 2015 release, Star Fox Zero goes back to its roots from the Star Fox (SNES) and Star Fox 64 days, with tons of new features, as well as scrapped ideas from Star Fox 2. This isn’t a remake, nor is it a prequel to the original Star Fox, but it is a new installment, nonetheless. There isn’t much dialogue revealed, but the gameplay is exactly as a Star Fox game should be. I got to try this out at Nintendo World Store during the E3 week, and I was impressed! The Gamepad controls takes time to get used to, but once I do, I will enjoy myself!

2. Fire Emblem Fates

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 19, 2016

I’ve enjoyed Fire Emblem Awakening when it was released in 2013, as I was craving for a Fire Emblem on 3DS at the time. I was heavily excited when Nintendo announced Fire Emblem Fates on the January 2015 Nintendo Direct. As soon as more details popped up, I was curious about having two different versions, and the first thing that popped up my mind was “So is this going to be Fire Emblem meets Pokémon now?”, but as it turns out, it’s part of the game’s story.

It starts off similarly on both versions, but after a certain point, you take a completely different path. Once you do take that path, you stick to it throughout the entire game. There is also a downloadable expansion, which serves as the game’s conclusion. This is probably the biggest story in any Fire Emblem game yet, and I look forward to February 19th!


 

Honorable Mentions

Before I talk about what’s number one, I’d like to talk about my honorable mentions. These games are what I’m looking forward to, but not as much as the games on this list, and as a result, they make this short list.

Bravely Second (Nintendo, Square Enix), Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine), Cuphead (Studio MDHR), Genei Ibun Roku #FE (Atlus, Nintendo)


 

1. The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Wii U
Release Date: Holiday 2016

Another repeat offender, but there’s a reason for that. Eiji Aonuma needed more time for development of this game, so it’s slated for Holiday 2016 for now. We haven’t seen much of this, but what little I’ve seen is enough for me to put this on the number one spot. I am going to love moving around in an open world setting, and exploring new dungeons. We’ll see at E3 as to what’s going on with this game, and what else it has to offer.

And there we have it, my Most Anticipated games of 2016. It seems like 2016 will be a bigger year for video games, seeing as how we’re going to see the NX for the very first time, and how will it stack up against the competition. There’s a lot to look forward to, and I’m ready to take that ride!


 

Professor Icepick

Well, 2015 was a decent year for the most part. Sure, we got some good releases, but what I got out of it was more hope for the future. A lot of key titles were announced, and while most of them won’t hit until after 2016, it’s still important to look forward. On the plus side, all but 2 of my picks from last year actually hit this time around. Not bad, if you ask me.

10. The King of Fighters XIV

Publisher/Developer: SNK Playmore
Platform: PS4 (maybe more?)
Release Date: 2016

I’m going to be honest, I’ve been hard on the latest KoF game since it was first announced. After all, it would be hard to top the Playmore era’s magnum opus after SNK went back into hibernation for a few years. Then there was the Chinese buyout, which worried me somewhat at first, as I feared a shift from pachinko machines to mobile games. Worst of all was the first trailer: everything about it reminded me of the Maximum Impact games. But as time went on, especially after the latest trailer from the PlayStation Experience, the game’s look began to improve. It’s not quite at hype levels yet, but considering that it boasts a 50-character roster at launch (Mortal Kombat X only managed around half that, and it’s the closest competition that comes to mind), I think it’s worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully, the fact that PSX downgraded it to “Playstation 4 Console Exclusive”, as well as the fact that a key executive from SNK Playmore said that their success on Steam was a key reason they got back into game development, means I’ll be able to partake on my platform of choice down the line, hopefully with crossplay.

9. Star Fox Zero

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Platinum Games
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: April 22, 2016

If there’s one series that Nintendo fans have been clamoring for, it’s probably Metroid. Then F-Zero. Star Fox is definitely a close third, though. Sure, its legacy has been somewhat marred by various mediocre releases: Star Fox 64 was a tough act to follow. The upcoming Zero, however, looks like it might just do the trick. Co-developed by developer darling Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Madworld, Metal Gear Rising), Zero looks to be bringing Star Fox back to its action roots and is even managing to incorporate the Arwing’s Walker transformation from the cancelled Star Fox 2, among other things. With Platinum on-board and an emphasis on the classic gameplay of the first two games in the series, I’ve got a good feeling that this one might be the game to put Star Fox back on top.

8. Timespinner

Publisher/Developer: Lunar Ray Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, 3DS
Release Date: July 2016

Timespinner was merely an honorable mention last year, but it ended up getting pushed back to 2016, much to my chagrin. One of my Kickstarter darlings from quite some time ago, Timespinner is looking to evoke various classic games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and MegaMan X, with a SNES-inspired artstyle. Players take on the role of Lunais, a young woman with the power to control time. After the technologically advanced empire of Lachiem kills her family, she vows revenge, travelling through history to destroy them all. With interesting time manipulation mechanics and solid-looking gameplay, Timespinner looks like it will be worth the wait.

7. Cuphead

Publisher/Developer: Studio MDHR
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

Cuphead was also only on my honorable mentions last year, but since then, this game has started looking better and better. A run-and-gun game with nothing but bosses starring two cup-headed inkblots who lost a bet with the devil and are forced to do his bidding. The real star of the game, however, is its beautiful 2D animation that looks like it was ripped straight out of a Max Fleischer cartoon. I thought it was due out last year, but there really wasn’t any solid confirmation on that.

6. Yooka-Laylee

Publisher/Developer: Team17/Playtonic Games
Platform: PC, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: October 2016

Another one of my Kickstarter darlings, though I’ll be surprised if you haven’t heard about it. Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to Rare’s N64-era platformers. You know, games like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and to a lesser extent, Donkey Kong 64. With vibrant character designs and a glorious soundtrack handled by David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, Yooka-Laylee is set to launch at the end of 2016.

5. Doom

Publisher/Developer: Bethesda Softworks/id Software
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: Spring 2016

Growing up with only a PC and a Game Gear during my earliest of gaming days wasn’t easy, missing out on some really big titles. Sure, there was the occasional port; some good, some bad, but then there was Doom. Doom was probably the first big mainstream PC gaming phenomenon I actually remember and it was glorious. After Doom II came out, the series went on a long hiatus, only to be revived with the mediocre Doom 3, which tried to retool the game into a pseudo-survival horror game for some reason. Bethesda got its hooks into the series recently, and that’s a good thing: they’re taking Doom back to its crazy, gory but ridiculously cartoony roots. I’m not completely sold on the game just yet: the cinematic kills look like they’ll get tedious after a while and Bethesda doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for releasing games without a hell of a lot of glitches at launch. Still, it looks like it’s going to be good regardless.

4. South Park: The Fractured but Whole

Publisher/Developer: Ubisoft
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

I’ve loved South Park since the show debuted in 1996. I love Paper Mario, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I’d like The Stick of Truth. When Matt and Trey announced they were working on a sequel at Ubisoft’s E3 conference this year, I was incredibly hyped…and the hype still hasn’t exactly worn off. This time, they’re ditching the fantasy motif and going for something more superhero-related. Considering how awesome the superhero-themed episodes of South Park are and the fact that Matt and Trey are returning to write this one (with more experience under their belts this time), I’ve got some high hopes for this game.

3. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Publisher/Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Release Date: Summer 2016 (Japan)

Yeah, I know: Ys VIII will only be hitting Japan in 2016. Regardless, it’s exciting. We haven’t heard a thing about the game since TGS 2014, when it was first announced with that awesome teaser trailer. Then Toyko Xanadu took all of Falcom’s attention and for a while there, I thought Ys 8 might’ve just become vaporware. Fortunately, it’s back and with a release window no less: Summer 2016. Sure, we probably won’t see it hit the States for at least a year or two, but knowing it actually exists is good enough for me.

2. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Publisher/Developer: WayForward
Platform: PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 2016

I love me some Shantae, that much you should know by now. For the third consecutive year, Half-Genie Hero makes the list. I’m not sure if it’ll actually hit in 2016, just like I wasn’t sure it would hit in 2014 or 2015. I just feel like keeping the hope alive, especially since development has really gone underway, especially with the release of the limited beta on PC. Nintendo appears to think it’s coming this year though. So there’s that.

1. Street Fighter V

Publisher/Developer: Capcom
Platform:  PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: February 16, 2016

Pretty obvious, when you think about it. I’ve loved the Street Fighter series since I played the second game on the SNES when I was a child. I’ve gotten my hands on the beta twice and I’ve had fun with it. I’ll probably have way more fun when I get a chance to play against friends though. The new characters look better than most of the ones from the original version of Street Fighter 4: F.A.N.G’s my personal favorite at this point in time, but I’ve honestly like all of them but Necalli. There’s also the fact that Capcom’s already confirmed 6 new characters for next year, all of whom will be free to those who put in the time and the effort to unlock them. All-in-all, Street Fighter V has been fun and hopefully it lives up to my expectations when the game launches in February.


 

Honorable Mentions

Project X Zone 2

Publisher/Developer: Bandai Namco/Monolith Soft
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: February 16, 2016

I was a fan of the original – never finished it though, because chapters got too long for me. Besides, it’s got Segata Sanshiro in it. ‘Nuff said.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Publisher/Developer: Atlus/Vanillaware
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3
Release Date: Spring 2016

Ever since I played Muramasa, I’ve wanted to try out more of Vanillaware’s games. I always sort of hoped that Odin Sphere would hit PS2 Classics, but this is even better. Only this that could make this better would be a PC release. (Then again, George Kamitani himself said they were exploring options for that sort of thing…)

Hyper Light Drifter

Publisher/Developer: Heart Machine
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Ouya
Release Date: 2016

Making my honorable mentions list two years in a row is no small feat. Hyper Light Drifter is an action RPG with a beautiful pseudo-retro style. Despite not being released yet, it has managed to achieve quiet the number of cameos and references: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Indivisible, Runbow, the list goes on.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/AlphaDream
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: January 22, 2016

Aside from the original on SNES, I have enjoyed pretty much every Mario RPG games. Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi are two of my favorite turn-based RPG series of all-time, so a crossover between the two is more than welcome from my standpoint.

Clayfighter

Publisher/Developer: Interplay/Drip Drop Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: 2016

When I was a kid, I used to love playing the original Clayfighter on Sega Genesis. The sequels weren’t so good, but I’m still sort of looking forward to the upcoming reboot. Hopefully it ends up exceeding even the original, while maintaining its wacky sense of humor.


 

Dishonorable Mention

Mighty No. 9

Publisher/Developer: Comcept/Inti Creates
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS
Release Date: February 9, 2016

The reason I consider this a “dishonorable” mention is because, while I am still looking forward its release, the development cycle was infested with problems and constant delays. Don’t even get me started on the Red Ash debacle, which was followed with the final delay that pushed it into 2016. Part of me thinks that was Inafune’s way of punishing us, but I just can’t be sure.

So those are my most anticipated games of 2016. That’s not to say that there aren’t even more games that I’m looking forward to, but these are my top picks. What do you think? Did we miss any games you’re looking forward to? Feel free to sound off in the comments section with your picks for 2016.

10 Games I Want Ported to PC: Mission to Moscow

Hello again and welcome to another list of games I want ported to PC, the first of 2015 no less. Let’s start with another recap of PC gaming news from the past couple of months. First off, the streak continues: Dead or Alive 5: Last Round was actually rumored to be coming to PC when I put out my last article and it was later confirmed. Street Fighter V was recently announced as a PS4 “exclusive”, despite the fact that it’s also going to appear on PC (with cross-play), but that’s probably not going to be released until sometime next year. Still, despite being showcased with an early build that’s only 20% complete, it’s already looking pretty good. Bandai Namco finally responded to rumors that Tekken 7 would be hitting PC (after a short-lived listing on Amazon UK). In a recent interview with Korean site Inven, series producer Katsuhiro Harada stated that a PC release is currently under consideration “for certain countries that prefer or need to play on PC”. He made it clear that this wasn’t a confirmation, but the fact that the game’s running Unreal Engine 4 would probably make a PC port fairly easy. Finally, there’s one last bit of PC fighting game news: Microsoft may be considering porting Killer Instinct for the Xbox One to PC. On the official Killer Instinct forums, a thread was started to gauge interest in a PC port of the title, and instead of closing the thread, it was pinned by the site’s adminstrators. The poll ran until January 9th and the results showed that more than 50% of the participants didn’t have an Xbox One, but would buy KI if it were available on PC. Nearly 25% said that they did own KI for XBO but thought it was a bad idea to port, but almost 20% were XBO owners that wanted the option to play on PC. If this thread is being scrutinized by Microsoft and KI Season 2 developer Iron Galaxy Studios, then a PC port is probably almost assured by now.

Oh, but wait, there’s more. After the rumors and the ESRB leaks, Idea Factory finally confirmed that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 & 2, remakes of the first two Neptunia games, will be hitting Steam at some point in the future. In addition to that, Fairy Fencer F, another Idea Factory RPG, is also hitting Steam. Speaking of JRPGs, Kemco has partnered with Marvelous to bring their Wii U RPG Alphadia Genesis to Steam this month, marking another long-time Japanese developer making the jump to PC. Finally, I’d like to leave you with a rumor: according to NeoGAF user Verendus, the man who leaked Final Fantasy XV’s name and platform change right before it was announced has revealed, among other things, that Konami is planning to bring the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection to PC in the near future. That should be exciting news for anyone who saw me stumble through the original MGS on Youtube. Of course, Verendus’s track record isn’t perfect, so this may not come to pass. If it does though, hopefully it does well enough to get Konami to consider porting over some of their other HD collections. Like, Zone of the Enders, perhaps?

But first, it’s rule time. You probably know the drill by now, I’ve been using these rules from the get-go (and if you’re not familiar with these lists, take a look at some of my old ones. There’s some good stuff on there.) My lists stick mostly to third-party companies (aside from Microsoft) with a general focus on companies that have recently released games on PC. Games will be taken from the seventh (360/Wii/PS3) and eighth (WiiU/PS4/XBO) generations of video games, as well as handhelds from those eras and mobile games. Games that weren’t system exclusives are preferred. Finally, games from the same series released on the same console can be packaged together on a single list entry. Well, that was relatively painless, now to hit you with some games.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 – Capcom (360/PS3)

This one’s been a long time coming. Sure, Bionic Commando was never really my favorite Capcom franchise, but this game’s omission from PC just seems weird. Mainly because the original Rearmed (as well as the 2009 reboot it was made to promote) actually did receive PC ports around their initial releases. Granted, lately Capcom has been on a bit of a re-release spree with some of their older titles (specifically Resident Evil 4, the GameCube remake and there are rumors that even RE0 will be hitting PC, current and last-gen consoles). So maybe there’s still a chance for this wrong to be righted.

‘Splosion Man – Microsoft Studios/Twisted Pixel Games (360)

Then there’s ‘Splosion Man, which has the opposite issue: its sequel got a late port to PC (as well as iOS and Windows Phone) back in 2013, but the original has yet to appear on the platform. I guess I can kind of understand why, but it just seems like a missed opportunity here. Though the gameplay mechanics in both games are pretty much identical, that basically means that Ms. ‘Splosion Man was, more or less, a level pack for the original. So, by that logic, releasing the original game would just mean more levels, right? Maybe throw in Comic Jumper and make it a two-pack or something.

Guardian Heroes – Sega/Treasure (360)

I’ve always been a pretty big fan of beat-‘em-ups: those side-scrolling fighting games where you whale countless goons that saw their heyday in the Arcade and during the 16-bit era of gaming. I’m also a pretty big fan of action-RPGs, to the point where there are times that I argue they’re the only kind of RPG worth making. So it’s kind of a shame that I never got to play 1996’s Guardian Heroes during its original release on the Sega Saturn. Fortunately, 15 years later, it got a high-definition re-release on Xbox Live Arcade, with the addition of online multiplayer, an expanded competitive mode (12 players instead of 6), Arcade Mode (a new mode, where you fight a never-ending barrage of enemies) and the option to use the original Sega Saturn gameplay or an updated “remix” version that adds many new gameplay mechanics. Too bad it’s going to be lost to the ages, once the Xbox 360 is discontinued. Of course, it doesn’t have to end like that: just port that sucker to the PC, maybe beef up the netcode and let gamers enjoy the game for the foreseeable future.

…what? It’s worth a shot. Considering how well Valkyria Chronicles sold, anything’s possible.

Double Dragon Trilogy – Million/DotEmu (iOS/Android)

Speaking of beat-‘em-ups, it would be remiss of me not to talk about the Double Dragon Trilogy. I was recently able to pick it up on my Android phone, due to some bonus Amazon coins I had lying around. I’ve got to be honest with you, the ports of these arcade classics were definitely worth the $3 they were charging for it on Amazon. They functioned about as well as the original arcade versions (granted, touch controls kinda suck) and managed to include an additional “story mode”, which I believe simply added a stage select which allows you to go to stages that you were able to previously reach. They also added in remixed music for the first two games. Considering their work on the PC versions of Metal Slug X and 3, I’m sure DotEmu could even easily throw in online multi-player: the one major thing the mobile version lacked in my opinion.

(Ha! Looks like history does repeat itself sometimes. Just like how Double Dragon Neon was officially announced for PC, this was actually announced for release before the article even posted. At first it was announced for GOG.com, but it was confirmed for Steam yesterday.)

KoF Sky Stage/Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting – SNK Playmore (AC/360)/(PSP)

These are two odd games, but they still sound worth playing all over again. They’re both shmups where you play as various SNK characters, most of which come from the King of Fighters series. So basically, you play as Kyo Kusanagi, Kula Diamond, Terry Bogard or some other KoF character, flying around and shooting bullets at various enemies. On the surface, it sounds ridiculous (and it is), but it also looks incredibly damn fun.

Tekken Revolution – Bandai Namco (PS3/PS4)

So, as I said earlier, Katsuhiro Harada has been teasing the potential of Tekken 7 hitting PC when it’s released on home consoles. Of course, there’s also speculation that the port’s existence will be determined by how well other fighting games on the platform sell. Perhaps the best way to gauge interest in Tekken 7 on PC would be to release some other Tekken game on there. I mentioned Tekken Tag Tournament 2 back in my first list and that would still be my first choice for another Tekken game on PC. However, that’s not our only choice: the free-to-play title Tekken Revolution is not only more recent than Tag 2, but its gameplay is also speculated to be incredibly close to Tekken 7’s. Of course, the game’s got a strike against it, as it is free-to-play, but that could also work to its advantage. After all, the price is right, especially if Bandai Namco outright admits that the statistics will impact future releases.

Disgaea series – Nippon Ichi (PSP/PS3/PSV)

I was recently able to complete the first Disgaea on PS2 in a web stream a couple of months ago. Frankly, I enjoyed it, except for one thing: streaming a PS2 game from my PS3 was a colossal pain in the ass. Recently, Nippon Ichi announced that they were releasing Disgaea 5 exclusively for PlayStation 4 and if it doesn’t meet their sales targets, Nippon Ichi Software may close down. Needless to say, this isn’t a sound strategy, especially given PS4’s sales penetration in Nippon Ichi’s major market.

Of course, Nippon Ichi’s North American branch has published a few games on Steam, but these aren’t internally developed. However, given the fact that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 & 2 and Fairy Fencer F (all of which were published by NIS America in North America) are all headed to Steam in the near future, this may be an indication that NIS America may be taking a larger role in expanding Nippon Ichi’s audience, not unlike how XSEED handled development for the various Ys ports that have appeared on Steam.

Of course, if any of this happens, I’d personally prefer it if they based any PC ports of Disgaea games on the portable incarnations, the PSP/Vita versions. I’d prefer these versions because they include a great deal of additional content and all of the DLC from the earlier, console versions in the base game. I’m sure I’m not alone on that one.

Black Knight Sword – Grasshopper Manufacture (360/PS3)

My quest to get every single Suda51 game on PC continues. It’s a crying shame that Shadows of the Damned was an EA game, so showing up on Steam is an impossibility at this point. Diabolical Pitch is a Kinect game, so that would be a somewhat pointless port. Let It Die isn’t even out yet, and it’s a free-to-play title. So our best contender for another Grasshopper Manufacture game to be ported to Steam is Black Knight Sword: a 2D platformer with a graphical style reminiscent of medieval European tapestries. Apparently, it’s a bit clunky, but supposedly that just sort of fits with the gameplay. If it’s as “clunky” as other Suda51 games like No More Heroes, Killer is Dead and Lollipop Chainsaw, then I’d totally be alright with that.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair – Konami (360/PS3)

Harmony of Despair isn’t your typical Castlevania game. It was an interesting little experiment: a multiplayer Metroidvania where a group of up to six players (or 4, in the PS3-exclusive local multiplayer mode) join forces to topple a short stage, followed by a massive boss. The really unique thing about it is that you get to choose from a variety of characters from older Metroidvanias: Jonathan and Charlotte from Portrait of Ruin, Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia, Soma Cruz from the Sorrow games and even Alucard from Symphony of the Night. Better still, each character had palette swaps in case multiple people in your group wanted to use the same character. Porting this sucker to PC (with all the additional DLC content included in the base package) would be pretty awesome.

Deathsmiles – Cave (AC/360/iOS/Android)

How about we finish this list with another Cave shmup, for old times’ sake? Deathsmiles was actually the first Cave shoot-‘em-up released on North American consoles back in 2010 and unlike many of their famous games, this is a horizontal-oriented game. Story’s not important, but if you’re put off by little anime girls in skimpy outfits, you may want to skip this one. The gameplay, however, is solid and that’s what really matters with this genre of games. Steam’s got a pretty good shmup line-up at this point, but there’s always room for improvement.

Another two months, another list of 10 games. Seems a little old hat at this point, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry, this March I’m going to be doing something a little more unconventional when it comes to this list, breaking some rules and all that noise. Aside from that, I’ve only got one traditional list left in the pipeline. After that, who knows?  I mean, SNES Master KI has joked that these lists are cursed: that only 10% of the games I list on here will ever make it on. He’s not exactly wrong, but hell, that just makes me want to go on forever.

Play It Forward

Earlier this year, I bought up my distaste with just how ubiquitous the $60 price point has become among physical video game releases in recent years. Seems like the worm is beginning to turn on that front: this past month, Nintendo released Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker at a $40 price point and plans to release the upcoming Kirby and the Rainbow Curse at a similar price point in Japan (which seems to imply that other regions will see similar pricing). Not exactly an overwhelming victory by any means, but it definitely makes me feel confident that this may lead to a sort of revival of the A and AA markets in the form of cheap games that still manage to be worthy of physical releases.

Of course, the more I think about it, simply reviving mid-range development wouldn’t solve all of my problems with modern game development. Bringing back tried and true methods for smaller companies to survive is one thing, but we must also look into new techniques for allowing developers of all sizes to better adapt to today’s gaming marketplace. Like it or not, video games are a business and in order to stay alive, games have to be profitable. However, it’s incredibly cynical to simply consider new forms of monetization as a soulless cash grab. As surprisingly out of character as this may sound coming from someone as pessimistic as me, I like to think of the potential to fix some of the problems I’ve always had with gaming in general.

For one thing, I feel that a lot of games, especially today, have a serious lack of long-term support. Yeah, DLC helps, but that’s got a horrible reputation as it is, especially with regards to $60 games. Making the base games cheaper doesn’t necessarily mitigate this bad reputation. On the other hand, you’ve got cases like Valve’s Team Fortress 2, a strictly multiplayer game, which actually makes more money as a free-to-play game than it ever did when they charged for the base game. By extension, TF2 sees so much support from Valve, it’s practically a whole new game compared to when it was originally released.

There have also been cases where games have small, niche audiences. Games that, under current methods, typically don’t do so well due to their limited fanbases. Of course, considering how passionate fans of cult classic games tend to be, there’s a total waste of potential there. Just look at most indie games financed by crowdfunding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo: most of them offer tiers that simply amount to a preorder (or lower), but they also try to milk any interested parties for all they’re worth, throwing in countless bonuses like T-shirts, artbooks, soundtrack CDs, even physical copies. Hell, I’m a perfect example of that, there have been many times where I myself have paid in extra on a crowdfunding service, not just to get my hands on any bonuses offer, but to show my support for the product itself. Another thing about crowdfunded games that interest me would have to be the concept of stretch goals: the ability to expand the game’s scope, based not on just how many people fund it, but based on just how much those people are willing to invest into it. Imagine the impact that sort of thing could have on series like Darkstalkers or Zone of the Enders with small, but dedicated fanbases.

As such, despite what many gamers have constantly said ever since the beginning of last gen, traditional “lump sum for ‘complete’ product” pricing doesn’t always appear to be what’s best for every single game out there. Of course, at the risk of sounding like a complete jackass, I can understand why they feel that way. Gamers have been burned before. Hell, I’ve been burned before. We’ve seen companies literally nickle-and-dime a $60 release into a game that could easily balloon to twice or even three times its original price tag with content seemingly cut out of what would’ve been included in the base game just one generation prior. However, just like I don’t think DLC is inherently evil, I also feel that straying from the traditional single-pay model could lead to a better ecosystem for certain games.

Let’s take a look at some examples of alternative forms of monetization. First, I’ll start with one of the most controversial words in video games today: microtransactions. Feel free to send in your hatemail on this one. I mean, sure, when you hear the word “microtransactions”, you think of mobile games slowly bleeding their customers dry or failed experiments in the console space (Dead Space 3, anyone?). Attempts at exploitation like that have definitely left a bad taste in the mouths of hardcore gamers, but I’m not sure that it should put us off the idea entirely.

Case in point: Microsoft’s recent take on Killer Instinct. The base game was a free download, which offered only one playable character (which changes on a regular basis). You could buy individual characters for $5 each (which is about average for DLC characters in fighting games) or pay $20 for a “season” set of 8 characters. There were extras as well, a $40 package gave you the $20 package, all of the costume customization gear and one of the earlier KI games, emulated perfectly from the original arcade version. There was also a $60 “physical” package, which gives you the entire $40 package and some collector’s pins, but the less said about that, the better. Better still, around the time the second season was up for preorder, Microsoft offered a $20 physical copy, which matched the digital package in terms of content, but also added the first of the season 2 characters. Paying for characters, either individually or in packages, is pretty much the definition of microtransactions, and yet the most controversial thing about Killer Instinct 2013 is the fact that it’s an Xbox One exclusive.

So, with this particular example in mind, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of relying on microtransactions for particular titles, specifically competitive multiplayer games. For one thing, long-term support is pretty much guaranteed as long as the game remains sufficiently popular to warrant more content. There’s also the fact that costs for future content can’t really be folded into the game’s base budget, another recurring trend in the industry that pisses off a lot of gamers.  Finally, there’s what might end up being the most attractive advantage: allowing customers to, more or less, set their own prices when it comes to how much they want to pay for content. So basically, depending on what you want out of a game, you can pay as much or as little as you want. For example, recently I was talking with KI about the potential of the recently-announced Street Fighter V utilizing Killer Instinct 3’s price model and he said that paying just $5 to play as Ryu permanently appealed to him, as that’s the only character he actually uses in Street Fighter games. I, on the other hand, tend to like playing as multiple characters and buying all the alternate costumes in the Street Fighter 4 games, and affording that kind of a package to me for $40 sounds appealing to me. In other words, if it’s properly utilized, microtransactions can attract a wider audience by allowing them to set their own price for whatever content they feel is worth the money.

That’s not to say that there aren’t disadvantages with this system. After all, as I said, the entire concept of microtransactions in general has been tainted due to misuse of the concept. So saying that any game makes use of that system immediately sends up red flags when it comes to a majority of core and hardcore gamers (myself included). The damage has been done and that’s probably why more successful games that utilize similar systems don’t refer to their pricing models by that name. There’s also incredible potential for abuse: if you limit certain options behind paywalls, there is a chance that certain more expensive items can be more powerful than others which leads to what is commonly referred to as “pay-to-win”. I’ve also heard the argument that if a game is constantly getting new content, it can never be considered truly “complete”, another point of contention with core gamers. One last disadvantage stems from late adopters: they may have to spend large amounts of money in one lump sum in order to catch-up with those who purchased the game early in its lifespan. On the other hand, if the game’s developer and publisher were to release discounted package deals for earlier content, this could easily be mitigated, though at the chagrin of said early adopters.

Splitting a game into multiple “episodes” is another alternate form of game monetization that has seen moderate success, specifically with single-player titles. The idea behind this one is that the main campaign is split into multiple parts and released and developed on a standardized schedule (though this may not always come to pass). The idea is that this allows developers to release a full-scale game without a strict deadline for delivering the full game’s content. Publishers get paid smaller amounts multiple times, while consumers can elect to buy each individual part of the game or try the first and purchase the rest based on whether they liked the first episode or not.

A good example of how to handle episodic titles is the majority of Telltale Games’ body of work. They typically work in the point-and-click adventure genre and have embraced episodic games to an amazing degree. Usually, a typical TTG title is split into five episode “seasons”, though this isn’t always the case. Of course, it isn’t exactly a perfect system: you can only buy games episodically on consoles. On PC, all you can do is pre-order the entire season, which seems like a load of crap, especially if you don’t end up liking the first episode. On the other hand, buying the entire package on consoles is a bit of a hassle, because they only list the individual episodes.

Most of the advantages with episodic titles fall on the side of the developers. Most importantly, with proper scheduling, this allows them more time on development, leading to an overall superior product. Even more important is the fact that it allows for scalability of the game’s scope. So if the game ends up being more popular (and profitable) than originally expected, they can increase its length without any major hiccups. Conversely, if the game ends up being a bomb, the game can be significantly scaled back, saving money and resources for another, potentially more successful title. In cases where individual episodes can be bought, it allows customers to try out the game without committing to paying full price, thus allowing sort of a “paid demo” scenario.

Coincidentally, the disadvantages of this pay model seem to fall more on the consumer side of things. For one thing, a successful title isn’t guaranteed a satisfying conclusion. Remember Half-Life 2?  Dropping a game before it’s even complete is far worse than any canceled sequel in terms of cliffhangers. There’s also the fact that despite the potential of getting some content early, some gamers may be impatient about receiving the final product and possibly even lose interest. One last problem is the potential for a lack of continuity between episodes as development marches on. It’s not exactly impossible that gameplay could possibly be refined during a game’s development cycle, leading its first and final episodes to feel like two entirely different games. This would probably be less jarring for people who played the game as it developed, but for those who pick it up as a complete package sometime after its completion, earlier installments lacking specific features that came into play later in development could make the entire package look sloppy.

A final option is one that, to be honest, I’m not really familiar with: games as a service. I generally tend to think of these as subscription models. Basically, pay to play. Not exactly a perfect system, mind you, but it does seem to allow for long-term support as long as the game’s subscriber base remains profitable (how long has World of Warcraft been at it?). On the other hand, once support ends, the game itself becomes essentially worthless. Not just in the sense that it won’t receive any new updates, but rather, most times the game itself ceases to exist. With regards to subscription model games, an off-line only version would almost certainly be useless and technically, since customers only pay for previous months of gameplay, there wouldn’t be any sort of refund. While it’s probably the best idea when it comes to extending support for games, the end result is typically nothing more than an empty shell.

Now, please realize that this was all more a thought experiment than an active cry for reducing the amount of “complete” single releases. Frankly, I love getting the entire game the first time around myself. That’s why I usually wait for “Game of the Year” editions when it comes to things like that. There are some cases, however, where I’d be completely fine with alternative pay methods if they would further develop games that would benefit from it. After all, who doesn’t want a game they already love to be bigger (and hopefully better)? Last month, Mario Kart 8 recently saw the release of the first of its 2 announced DLC packages, which on its own effectively increases the game’s size by 25%. By the time the second batch comes out in May, the game will be one and a half times its original size and it just cost me an extra $12. I don’t know about everyone reading this, but personally? I think that’s something to keep in mind with future games, especially those relying on multiplayer elements.

Remaking History

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

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

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

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

The Problems

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

The Potential

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

My Proposal

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

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

The Problems

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

The Potential

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

My Proposal

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

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

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – Nintendo Entertainment System

The Potential

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

The Problems

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

My Proposal

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

Metroid II: Return of Samus – Nintendo Game Boy

The Potential

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

The Problems

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

My Proposal

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

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

Knuckles’ Chaotix – Sega 32X

The Problems

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

The Potential

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

My Proposal

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

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

 

Land of the 10 Games I Want Ported To PC

Yep, it’s time for another PC port request article. Before we go through another one of my wacky lists, I’m proud to announce that yet another game on my long wishlist has managed to make it onto PC. This time, the lucky winner is Dead Rising 3, which honestly kind of surprised me. Considering Capcom and Microsoft both made a big deal about how DR3 was meant to be an Xbox One exclusive, it seems a little funny that roughly one year later, it’s getting ported to PC. Despite the fact that most of the DLC has been confirmed to be released on the new version, XBO owners may have the last laugh. Capcom has not yet announced any plans to port over the most recent DLC, aptly named Super Ultra Dead Rising 3’ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX plus Alpha. I wouldn’t be too worried about that, fellow PC gamers. After all, just last year, there were no plans to port Dead Rising 3 to other platforms. So who knows.

So, before we go onto the next list, I’m just going to do the now-traditional recap of the rules for these articles. Only one game per company per list, to keep things interesting. These lists will mostly stick to third-party companies, with the exception of Microsoft, as they are known to release games on PC. Granted, considering the recent release of Q*Bert Rebooted on PC via Steam, I’d almost consider throwing in Sony as well. Just kidding. The games on these lists will mainly be taken from the seventh (Wii/PS3/360) and eighth (WiiU/PS4/XBO) generations of video games, and games that aren’t system exclusives are generally preferred. Finally, games from the same series released on the same console will be packaged together, at least as entries on this list. So, having said that, let’s get started.

Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike Online Edition – Capcom (360/PS3)

If you’ve seen my earlier lists (or most of my other articles on Retronaissance), you probably know that I love fighting games. The Street Fighter 3 series was one of Capcom’s last good fighting games prior to the release of, well, Street Fighter IV.  Online Edition, well, added some great online play using the GGPO netcode. Considering the fact that GGPO originated on PC and 3rd Strike was mostly jury-rigged into the system (and removed upon OE’s release), it only seems fair that PCs should get a port of this game, regardless of how late it is. Unfortunately, considering how busy Iron Galaxy is working on other projects (including the second season of Killer Instinct on Xbox One), it seems like this would either have to be put on hold or handled by another developer.

Garou: Mark of the Wolves – SNK Playmore (360)

Yep, like I said, I love me some fighting games. Garou: Mark of the Wolves came out about the same time as Street Fighter 3, and at least in my opinion, Garou is the better game. Both games were thematically similar as well: dealing with “next generation” fighters and few returning characters. The port to Xbox 360 was handled well for the most part, but the online was lackluster. Considering SNK Playmore’s good efforts on the netcode for their ports of The King of Fighters XIII and Metal Slug 3, it seems entirely possible that a PC port could fix the game’s fatal flaw. This is probably the game on this particular list I want the most.

Guilty Gear XX Λ Core Plus R – Arc System Works (AC/PS3/360/Vita)

I promise, this is the last fighting game this time. Like I’ve said in earlier entries, when it comes right down to it, I’m more into Blazblue than Guilty Gear when it comes to Arc System Works’s fighting games, but recently I’ve come to appreciate Guilty Gear, despite my shaky start with the franchise. Sure, the first game (exclusive to the original Playstation) is probably my favorite game in the series, but that’s probably because it’s so similar to SNK’s games from that era. Still, I’ve come to appreciate the XX games to some extent. Too bad we’ve only got one of the earliest versions of that on the PC at the moment, and it was a pretty mediocre port anyway. A good port of that latest GGXX release would be a great turnaround on ASW’s current PC support, which is pretty lame. Unfortunately and typical for most Japanese developers, they appear to have something against PC gaming in general. So that’s probably just another pipe dream.

Vanquish – Sega/Platinum (360/PS3)

This was another one of those games supported by that petition to Sega I posted awhile back. So why not? Vanquish was a third-person shooter made by Platinum Games, and it performed to their usual standards. A well-designed game, but it didn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. As usual, I feel like a PC port might help this out, especially considering they’ve managed to get their engine working on PC for the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance port. Seems a little more likely than the Bayonetta port I asked for in the original list, considering Nintendo’s recently secured a remastered port as bonus content for Bayonetta 2. At this point, who knows?

Dragon’s Crown – Atlus/Vanillaware (PS3/PSVita)

I love beat-‘em-ups, I asked for Muramasa in a previous list, and I even sided with the creators during the controversy regarding the character designs. Asking for Dragon’s Crown to be ported to PC is pretty obvious. Sure, PC has recently seen the release of another cool medieval fantasy-themed beat-‘em-up published by the folks at Atlus (Abyss Odyssey, from the talented dev team that brought us Rock of Ages and God Mode), but one good turn deserves another, right?

No More Heroes series – Grasshopper Manufacture/Konami (Wii/PS3/360)

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a huge fan of Suda51. Granted, his newest game, Let It Die, looks a bit disappointing, but he’s made so many good games, I guess I can let one boring, free-to-play, PS4-exclusive with mobile features slip by. Instead, let’s remember the good times. Specifically, the games that made me a huge fan of Grasshopper Manufacture: the No More Heroes games. While the first game in the series got a remastered release on HD consoles, the second remains a Wii exclusive (though some elements made it into the HD ports of the original). I’d love to see both games make their way to PC, maybe even maintaining the potential for motion controls. After all, PC has their own motion controllers to contend with. At least that’s what some of the Portal 2 DLC leads me to believe.

Galaga Legions DX – Bandai Namco (X360/PS3)

When I was in Junior High, one of my friend’s father got a retro arcade machine as an anniversary present. It had both Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga included on it, and he and I had a lot of fun playing with it whenever we were hanging out at his place. I can’t honestly decide whether I preferred playing Ms. Pac-Man or Galaga, but as Ms. Pac-Man’s already on Steam (via the Pac-Man Museum), seeing Galaga make its way on the platform would be a nice addition. Of course, why stop at plain old Galaga? After all, I’d say my favorite Pac-Man game at this point in time is probably Championship Edition DX (also on Steam) and it just so happens that Galaga got a similar revamp a while ago.  Galaga Legions DX looks like a cross between the classic Galaga arcade game and a more modern shoot-‘em-up, along the lines of Ikaruga. In short, Legions DX is my kind of revamp.

Raiden IV: OverKill – Taito/Moss Ltd./UFO Interactive (AC/360/PS3)

Speaking of shmups, why not throw in the latest release from the classic Raiden series? Apparently, the collection of the Raiden Fighters spinoff series made it to PC at one point (though, I haven’t really seen it available on any of my usual digital storefronts), so it’s not entirely unheard of to see games from this series on PC. A straight port of the 360 version with all the DLC included would be nice, but considering there was an improved re-release on the PS3 via PlayStation Network just this year, that would be my preference.

Radiant Silvergun – Treasure (AC/360)

Just one more shmup, I swear. Another classic game from Treasure’s library, people were surprised and amazed when this got re-released on XBLA back in 2011. The 360 release was more than a mere port: the entire game was recreated from the source code, taking advantage of the comparative power of the hardware. There was even a secret “Ikaruga Mode” that allowed Radiant Silvergun to use the scoring mechanics of the game in question, which could be unlocked when you unlock an achievement in the XBLA port of Ikaruga. There were also local and online coop modes. Considering we’ve already got Ikaruga itself on Steam and Treasure has acknowledged there is a demand for Radiant Silvergun to be ported to PCs alongside its spiritual successor, this one seems like it’s inevitable. However, considering Treasure’s said to be working on an original project for PCs at the moment, we may see this one later rather than sooner.

Ys: Memories of Celceta – Nihon Falcom/XSeed (PSVita)

The tenth and final game on this list, like last time, is a game from the Ys series. The latest release in the series, this is actually a remake of the fourth game in the series. Considering the remake of the third game was the first Ys game to be released on Steam, it would be nice to Memories of Celceta continue the trend. Granted, one of the PC-original Ys games getting a revamp/re-release may be more feasible and likely, I’d still like to see this remake make its way to a platform with a larger audience than that of the Vita.

Just as an aside, I’d like to say that I’m impressed that my streak for predicting PC ports so far has stayed intact through 4 lists. It almost seems like the more skeptical I am that my master list will continue to deliver, the better releases I seem to snag. Nevertheless, I can’t really say if this trend will continue or not. We’ll just have to see in a couple more months.

Plays Great, More Filler

Watching video games evolve as a medium has been one truly fascinating thing to watch throughout the years. We’ve seen games grow from the simple games of the Atari era, gradually increasing in size and complexity, until the current generation, where we’ve seen games that legitimately last more than 20 hours, without any cheap tricks to extend play. Unfortunately, as games have evolved, their budgets have skyrocketed as well. Massive games are the exception, not the rules. In fact, many modern games have single-player campaigns shorter than the average from the sixth generation. It’s disgusting. While not every game needs to be long, there have been many times where I’ve felt that games should have been longer, but the reality is that those games just can’t justify a large enough budget to extend the game to my desired length. If only there were some cheap way to add content to video games without greatly expanding development costs…

Of course, the easiest way to fix this problem would be to recycle and remix existing content in new forms, which can add both replay value and extend the length of the game. I’ve never really understood the bad rap recycling existing assets in video games has gotten from gamers. Of course, I can understand their reasoning: recycling in any form of media is generally considered cheap and “soulless”, but above all lazy. It’s also probable that many gamers have been burned in the past when games decide to take a cheaper or easier route to extend gameplay. Hell, I complain about stuff like that on a regular basis. I guess recycling just feels like a better route to me because it’s at least giving you more of the content you’re already enjoying in the game itself. Isn’t that why we want longer games in the first place?

Recycling and remixing content is beneficial for several reasons. As I mentioned before, game development has gotten significantly more expensive in the past two generations, especially after the proliferation of high-definition TVs. Recycling content, through things like level packs or repurposing non-playable characters into playable ones, allows developers to extend the length of the game itself and add replay value at minimal additional cost. These aren’t the only potential benefits remixing existing content could have. Increasing the use of any assets that would have otherwise have been used sporadically could also lead to their further refinement, leading to a more polished game overall. If we take that potential benefit even further, we could even see additional single-player campaigns with new play-styles that could increase the game’s replay value significantly, among other benefits. I’m sure UbiSoft knows what I’m talking about there.

Speaking of Ubisoft, they’ve actually already experimented with one form of remixing content that appears to be fairly well received among games: spinoff games. Ubisoft recycled the engines from the third installments of FarCry and Assassin’s Creed respectively to give us two self-contained spinoffs: the downloadable FarCry 3: Blood Dragon and the initially Vita-exclusive (before getting ported to HD consoles and PC) Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. The reception to both of these games were fairly good, but what else could you call them but recycling? Were they really different than the countless onslaught of MegaMan games during the 8-bit era, in anything besides sheer number? Regardless, my point has been made: recycling, under the right circumstances can be considered a net positive to game development, if done correctly.

Of course, that’s not the only form remixing existing content can take in video games. Here are some other examples of recycling in video games, both good and bad, to illustrate a few do’s and don’ts when remixing existing content. First off, the extra mission levels in Sonic Generations. Sure, to some degree, they were more or less the game’s spin on grinding (you had to complete at least one from each zone to continue on), but frankly, it was filler done right. Taking the existing art assets of the game and revamping them to create entirely new scenarios not seen in-game. You could interact with characters otherwise relegated to overworld props, perform time trials against ghost Sonics and even navigate stages with giant enemies. Sure, it might have been cooler to see some of this stuff in the main campaign’s stages, but that would’ve cluttered the stage design quite a bit.

Similarly, there’s the concept of “Endless Mode”. The one that springs to mind immediately for me would be the version found in the retro revivals MegaMan 9 and 10. Basically, taking stage fragments from existing stages from the main game and stringing them together in an endless tapestry of gameplay, challenging players to see how far they can make it before finally dying, throwing in a boss fight every 30 rooms. All-in-all, a pretty fun mode. My only real criticism of it would be the fact that it was paid DLC in both games. Kind of a scummy move on Capcom’s part, but that’s not exactly out of character these days. If it were free, it would’ve been a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about.

Speaking of Capcom, this brings me to a negative example of remixing assets, specifically in their fighting games. Especially during the 2D era, recycling character graphics was always considered a lazy way to pad out a fighting game’s roster. Hell, even Ken Master was just a palette-swapped version of his sparring buddy Ryu in his first few appearances. Evil Ryu, the hundreds of Mortal Kombat ninjas, Yun and Yang in the third Street Fighter, it all made sense back then, with memory limitations. The biggest controversy of all involving clone characters in fighting games, however, is also one of the most recent examples of it, Ultra Street Fighter IV’s sole original character, Decapre.

What made Decapre so controversial? Well, it’s actually pretty simple when you look at it. When Ultra Street Fighter IV was first announced, Capcom mentioned that there would be 5 new characters added to the game. 4 were reused assets from the failed spinoff Street Fighter x Tekken, but the fifth was a mystery, to be announced. As the months went on, Capcom started leaking hints: the character was going to be a character that had never before made a playable appearance in a fighting game. Basically, Capcom slathered on the hype and waiting more than half a year to reveal the identity of the new character. So it’s kind of surprising that the negative response to Decapre, a budget character that used Cammy as her obvious base, took Capcom entirely by surprise. Well, actually, that’s not fair: Yoshihiro Ono predicted that fans would be disappointed by the initial reveal, but hoped that she would eventually grow on fans. Honestly, I thought Decapre was an interesting character once I was able to use her in-game, but I was definitely wary when she was first announced.

By contrast, a similar character was met with a much more decidedly positive reaction. I am, of course, referring to Fukua, a surprise bonus DLC character in the moderately-popular indie fighting game Skullgirls. Fukua, like Decapre, used an existing character as a base and retained of that character’s moves and assets. So why was Fukua better received than her fellow clone? Honestly, there are several reasons. First and foremost, there were entirely different circumstances involving their announcements: while fans waited the better part of a year for Decapre, Fukua was announced and released on the same day, April Fools’ Day 2014. Her announcement trailer even poked fun at Decapre’s own reveal. Another important difference between the two is their respective dev time: Fukua’s initial build was plotted out in a mere 3 days and was further refined into her final form over the next month. One last major difference: Fukua was added to the base game, entirely free of charge for both new and existing owners of Skullgirls. Decapre is offered as either part of a paid upgrade to the earlier versions of SF4 or by buying the latest revision of the disc.

There are two other reasons that I find even more important to Fukua’s comparatively positive reaction. First, Lab Zero is a much smaller company than Capcom and by extension, Skullgirls itself has a far smaller roster. Therefore, LZ’s situation better resembles those of companies like Capcom and Midway (or Netherrealm Studios) when they had to resort to palette swaps. There’s also the fact that Fukua was said to be a test for another upcoming “palette-swap” character, Robo-Fortune, who was a fifth “bonus” character financed by their crowdfunding campaign. However, it appears that Robo-Fortune’s redesign has evolved from mere palette swap to a redesign on par with Decapre’s, which is far more impressive given Skullgirls’ hand-drawn 2D graphics, which will result in all of the reused frames being redrawn to some degree, in addition to new ones. Fukua was originally meant to be a temporary experiment, but fan response to her was so overwhelmingly positive, Lab Zero kept her in the game as a full character.

So, I guess the last major question is what genres would be best suited to recycling and remixing existing content to extend gameplay? Platformers are an obvious choice, as I mentioned before. In the same vein, one could argue that action games would benefit from recycling content. The best way to approach remixing content, however, would likely be in a way that has no effect on the game’s storyline. So arcade-style games, regardless of their genre, would likely be the best choices for remixed content due to their both their commonly short length and lack of emphasis on canon. Taking that into account, genres like first-person shooters would also benefit recycling content, in the form of creating entirely new maps from existing art assets. Fighting games commonly use this tactic as well, even modern games, but it should only be used sparingly, due to old controversies. Games that rely more heavily on story, like RPGs, should definitely avoid recycling content to extend gameplay, unless you rely on the old “alternate universe” trope. Regardless, the last thing to remember is that if you’re going to recycle content, unless it’s been significantly changed or expanded upon with new material, it should probably be implemented as free DLC rather than paid. Forcing people to pay for content they already bought is one of the lowest things I’ve seen companies do in the past, and frankly, I want it to stop.