Rising Fun: Dawn for Japanese Games

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

 

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And thus Japan conquered console gaming overnight.

 

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

 

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Market Combat Evolving.

 

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

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

 

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Looks like JRPGs don’t have cooties anymore.

 

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

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

 

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Mario is back, and he’s not alone.

 

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

 

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This game existing at all is a frigging miracle.

 

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

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Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2017

SNES Master KI

Well, 2016 is almost over, and while there were some great games released, I mainly just want this year to end and to focus on the future (or gaming’s future, anyway).  Thankfully, 2017 in gaming fills me with a sense of true optimism (as opposed to forced hope) that I haven’t had in a long time, lots of series that haven’t had an entry (or a satisfying entry) in years are returning and while Nintendo has a lot less representation on this list than my ones from previous years, things should Switch on that front very early in the year.  So, let’s hurry up and get our focus to the new year.  I’ve decided to handle games from previous lists that got hit by delays with a rule that games can only appear on my lists twice, so Zelda won’t be showing up this time.  Let’s get this started!

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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.

Last Splatterhouse on the Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Top Ten Video Game Series Comebacks (Part One)

I like sequels. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that. But I’ve done enough articles in a row trying to convince people of something, so let’s do something more upbeat. There are few things in gaming I love more than when an abandoned or tainted series brings out a new game that is as good or better than the glory days. To qualify for this list, prior to the game in question its series has to have either had at least two bad installments in a row, or been missing for at least one console generation. Let’s get right to it, I’ve even ranked the entries this time!

Number 10: Twisted Metal Black
Playstation 2; 2001

How Things were Before: One of the earliest games for the original Playstation, Twisted Metal popularized the car combat genre and enticed gamers with its interesting characters and quite dark setting and sense of humor. Everyone loved the weapon infused, city destroying destruction derby of the titular tournament. Twisted Metal 2 improved on the original in every way, and is a classic still enjoyable today. Then the original developer, SingleTrac, left the series and it was handed over to the infamous 989 studios. Twisted Metal 3 was a poor clone of Twisted Metal 2, using an identical formula but with much worse controls and writing. Twisted Metal 4 tried to be more original, but the gameplay was not improved and the story was a terrible fanfic (Calypso apparently had a never before mentioned magical ring of souls as his power source, meaning Sweet Tooth could steal it and take over the tournament). Twisted Metal had become a joke and no one wanted another one.

The Revival: Launching on the new Playstation 2, Twisted Metal Black was developed by a reincarnation of SingleTrac, Incognito Entertainment. Rebooting (well, kind of, it’s impossible to explain without spoilers) the series into the opposite of Twisted Metal 4’s corny insanity, Twisted Metal Black made it clear from the start that it was not a simple follow-up. One of the most disturbing games ever made, TMB’s characters all had horrific pasts that shocked gamers. The psychological horror angle was done excellently and made the series feel completely fresh again. The gameplay was polished to be even better than Twisted Metal 2, with balanced and strategic combat that the developers themselves called “Street Fighter II on wheels.” Twisted Metal Black was everything you could ask for in a series revival, so why is it only number 10? Unfortunately, upon being saved the series immediately went away, not getting a new entry until five years after TMB that was decent but underwhelming. Then it went away AGAIN until Sony decided to just have another reboot. The reboot was terrible, and the future of the series looks bleak. Twisted Metal Black did everything right, but its series threw away the new life it was given.

Number 9: Punch-Out!!
Nintendo Wii; 2009

How Things were Before: Punch-Out had two successful but not famous arcade games in the mid-80s, but what everyone remembers about the series is the NES installment. More a series of boss fights with puzzle elements than a boxing game, the NES Punch-Out became iconic and beloved. The series got another installment on the Super Nintendo, which didn’t get quite as much attention but was an excellent game that was even better than the first. Then… the series just vanished. Lost among the overwhelming number of franchises Nintendo had to support, the series did not get a new game on Nintendo 64 or GameCube. A lot of people thought the Wii’s controller would be perfect for the series, but did Nintendo still care about the franchise? With a different boxing game included in Wii Sports, it didn’t seem that way.

The Revival: In 2008, at the height of panic over Nintendo abandoning their fans and classic franchises (I’ll spare you the multi-paragraph rant on how people are now complaining about the exact opposite), a new Punch-Out game was announced for the Wii. Called simply Punch-Out!! (there are five games in the series, and only two names between all of them), the announcement was very welcome to Punch-Out fans and Nintendo fans in general. But now that the series was alive, there was the question of how it would transfer into the modern gaming client. The previous Punch-Out games were not very long, could the series justify a $50 release in 2009? As it turned out, absolutely. Punch-Out Wii may have had only 14 opponent boxers, but with their complete transformations in Title Defense mode, several special missions for each, and a high difficulty level, 100%ing the game was a massive undertaking. Add in the huge amount of personality given to the boxers and your trainer, and you have the best game in the Punch-Out series by a wide margin and a successful revival. Let’s hope another one is coming, even if it will probably be called Super Punch-Out yet again.

Number 8: Rayman Origins
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii; 2011

How Things were Before: In 1995, 2D platformers were in the later part of their golden age. With the next generation of gaming starting, most developers focused on polygons and 3D gameplay. Rayman, however, was a traditional sprite based 2D platformer that used more powerful hardware to look absolutely beautiful. There were some very severe problems with the gameplay, mainly the difficulty balance, but the wow factor made the game popular. As the generations proceeded, Rayman would get 3D sequels that were less visually distinctive but better designed in gameplay, and the series gained a loyal following. In 2006, a fourth entry in the series was announced for the upcoming Wii, which would see Rayman battling a new enemy species called Rabbids. The game was taken over by novel uses of the Wii Remote, and became a collection of mini-games. The game was very popular, with the Rabbids overshadowing Rayman. The Rabbids became the stars, with Rayman eventually being pushed out of his own series. The Rabbids even got a few platformer spin-offs, without Rayman in them at all. Rayman seemed dead and forgotten.

The Revival: As you might expect, despite Ubisoft seeming to have forgotten about Rayman, he still had a quite dedicated fanbase that was not happy about the Rabbids taking over. In 2010, it was announced that Rayman would return to his platforming ways in an episodic series of digital download games. In 2011 this changed into a full retail release, and the final game was better than anyone could have expected. In some ways it was similar to the original Rayman (which is good, since the plot had been all but removed, making the Origins in the title a relic), a beautiful 2D platformer using 2D animation to look absolutely stunning. However, unlike the original, the gameplay was just as good as the visuals. Rayman Origins managed to be a creative, very challenging platformer without relying on trial and error level design or bad collision detection like the original game. Rayman Origins not only got Rayman back in the spotlight, it far exceeded all previous games in the series and is sure to be remembered as a classic platformer.

Number 7: Mortal Kombat (2011)
Playstation 3, Xbox 360; 2011

How Things were Before: Anyone alive in the 90s, gamer or not, knows about Mortal Kombat. Most famous for the uproar its violent finishing moves caused, Mortal Kombat was always a series that got by on image. But what an amazing image it was, for a time period in the mid-90s Mortal Kombat was just the coolest thing imaginable. It wasn’t just the blood, the dark fantasy setting and seemingly endless secrets captured the imagination of gamers everywhere. It was enough to make you not realize how shallow and unbalanced the actual fighting was. Needless to say, when the cool factor wore off, the series fell hard. Mortal Kombat 4 had an awkward transition to 3D that hurt the presentation as much as the gameplay (the digitized graphics in the 2D MKs were a big part of the appeal), and gamers had clearly gotten sick of the series. The series went on hiatus, with a five year gap between Mortal Kombat 4 and the next game in the main series. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and its follow-ups made more of an effort to be quality fighting games, but they still fell short and never came close to recapturing the aesthetic feel the 2D games had. That fighting games as a whole were far less popular than in the series’ heyday did not help. After Mortal Kombat vs DC was released over a decade since it would have been relevant, there seemed to be no hope for the series.

The Revival: With Street Fighter IV making fighting games popular again (more on that later) it made sense that another revival of the Mortal Kombat series would be attempted. Called simply Mortal Kombat, the game would be a reboot (albeit one caused by in-story reasons) retelling the first three games of the series, its prime. It would have almost every character and stage from the first three games included. But would that be enough to make people care about the series again? Turns out it didn’t have to be, after more than 15 years Mortal Kombat finally became a legitimate fighter. NetherRealm studios completely redid the fighting engine, and finally made a balanced, competitive fighting game for the series. There was also an exceptional amount of one player content added, including a story mode that had a ridiculous plot but showed off the setting people had loved in the past very well. The best game in the series by a huge margin, Mortal Kombat is the best thing that could happen to longtime fans.

Number 6: Donkey Kong Country Returns:
Nintendo Wii; 2010

How Things were Before: Donkey Kong is one of the oldest still active video game characters, debuting with Mario over 30 years ago. But the series this revival is about started in 1994 with Donkey Kong Country, a Super Nintendo platformer that blew everyone away with its pre-rendered graphics. It was followed by two sequels on the same system and the trilogy became some of the best loved games of SNES’ many, many classics. There was also a solid trilogy of GameBoy spin-offs. A Nintendo 64 sequel was a given, and it was released in 1999. There’s some controversy over its quality, but many, including me, feel its obsession with collecting and switching characters made for a far inferior game compared to the SNES installments. After that, the series faded away. The only thing you could even argue was a Donkey Kong platformer on GameCube was Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which was a good and creative game, but very different from the Donkey Kong Country games. As a new decade began, the series’ glory days were far behind it.

The Revival: As E3 2010 approached, there were rumors of a new Donkey Kong game by the extremely talented Retro Studios. At Nintendo’s showing, these rumors proved true, but to our surprise the game was a 2D sidescroller. The platformer revival having just started, people were not accustomed to such an anticipated console game being two dimensional. There was some disappointment caused by the game being 2D, but most were just excited that Donkey Kong Country had finally, as the title itself announced, returned. The game turned out to be better than anyone could have hoped. With level design significantly better than the already excellent SNES games, and also a much longer game, Donkey Kong Country Returns was the best game in the series. Like another series that it isn’t time to talk about yet, Retro had given Donkey Kong Country a truly glorious rebirth. And with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze announced less than a week ago as I write this, that rebirth seems to have been sustained.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for the second part of this article. We still have the top five video game series revivals of all time countdown!

The Next Level: Selling Sega Bit by Bit (Part 2)

Last week, I discussed the still very real possibility that Sega could end up on the auction block like THQ and Midway before it and tried to determine the best homes for a dozen of its franchises, both popular and obscure. This week, it’s gonna be more of the same: 12 Sega franchises and what companies would be the best fits for them.

Starting off this week’s assortment, Sega’s famous horror lightgun arcade smash, House of the Dead. The answer for this one’s obvious: Namco Bandai is still making Time Crisis games for both consoles and arcades to this day, and aside from Sega, they’re the only major Japanese publisher with a stake in the genre to this day. My secondary choice was gonna be Activision, which would cause the series to suffer like G did? So I did a little research for companies that had made some recent lightgun rail shooters, sure Capcom had those Resident Evil spinoffs, but then I saw a name that perked up my ears: Castlevania: The Arcade. That’s right, Konami actually made a lightgun (light-whip) game a few years back.

Next up, another oldie-but-goodie, Sega’s Genesis beat-’em-up classic, Streets of Rage. Now, you’re probably thinking the choice for this one is obvious: “Give it to Capcom, because blah blah blah Final Fight.” Well, I’m going off the beaten path with this one and giving it to an unlikely contender: SNK Playmore. SNK has quite the predigree of arcade beat-’em-ups in their past, games like Mutation Nation, the Sengoku series and even a few weird experiments in the genre like the first-person brawler The Super Spy (featuring the first appearance of SNK villain supreme, Geese Howard!) and the beat-’em-up/one-on-one fighting game hybrid Street Smart. Seeing SNK tackle a genre that isn’t a fighting game or Metal Slug again would be a fantastic treat and getting a fourth, actual factual Streets of Rage is pretty high on my Sega wishlist. Otherwise, yeah, give it to Konami or Capcom, I guess. Either one would probably just end up sitting on the franchise anyway.

Samba de Amigo, like Space Channel 5, was another of Sega’s rhythm game experiments, however this one focused heavily on motion-control through the maraca peripherals that were available both in the original arcade version and the Dreamcast home port. Considering the Wii got a port of Samba de Amigo itself that utilized the Wii Remote and Nunchuk add-on to accurately recreate the arcade experience, Nintendo is the clear choice. The fact that they themselves have a rhythm series that’s equally as wacky as Samba (Rhythm Heaven) is just icing on the cake. Likewise, Namco Bandai still makes Taiko Drum Master games, so they’d be an equally valid choice, especially if it did better in arcades than on consoles.

Then there’s OutRun, an unconventional arcade-style racer that focuses on completing an extended course with multiple branching paths within a time limit rather than beating out CPU-controlled drivers. It’s also one of my all-time favorite Sega franchises and I was especially happy to see it get a shout-out in the recent Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed. Not too many companies really focus on arcade-style racers these days, as most have moved onto racing sims, so the only obvious answer here would be Namco Bandai, who still put out a damn good Ridge Racer every once in a while. Second place goes to Ubisoft, as they currently publish the Trackmania games.

Jet Set Radio was one of those games that didn’t really get a fair shake when it first came out, but became a beloved cult classic down the line. Released when the Dreamcast was on the very precipice of disaster at the hands of Sony’s Playstation 2, Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, as it was once titled in North America) is one of those rare 3D games that manages to avoid showing its age even today, due in part to its cel-shaded graphical style. The gameplay emulated the popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but managed to expand on it to the point where JSR felt like a complete different game. After all, what other game can you think of where you can destroy tanks and helicopters by tagging them with graffiti? Personally, I’d give it to Ubisoft, considering both their work on Shaun White’s Skateboarding (proving they could get the skating mechanics right) and the Rayman series (proving that they’d likely keep the unique graphical style of the series. The only other company I think could do Jet Set Radio justice would be Nintendo.

Speaking of cult classics from the Dreamcast era, Shenmue is perhaps the prototypical example of the problems regarding the AAA industry today. Despite being the 4th best selling title overall on the Dreamcast, Shenmue fell short of earning back its immense budget. Still, there are many who wait for another entry in the series, even after the second game also failed to perform well outside of niche audiences. Having said that, I’d say that Atlus would be the best choice for the franchise. Both due to the fact that they’ve made a few games with similar mechanics to the series (Catherine comes to mind for me personally and I’ve heard the same regarding their Persona series) and because they tend to also do well with regards to niche audiences. My other choice is an extremely unorthodox one: Telltale Games. Considering the fact that Shenmue’s gameplay is not so far removed from point-and-click adventure games and its storyline is considered one of the main draws of the series, Telltale just seems like an interesting choice for a sequel, especially if they reunite the original creative team for a Shenmue III.

Valkyria Chronicles is another one of Sega’s more niche titles, at least as far as non-Japanese audiences go. An interesting take on the strategy RPG genre, where you shift into a third-person shooter-style segment during each party member’s turn. Consider the game’s unique take on the genre, I think that Atlus would probably be the best company to take on this one, due to its unique take on the genre and its popularity in Japan. After all, Atlus has even handled third-person shooters in the past (God Mode). If not them, then Nippon Ichi Software would probably be a good choice, considering their experience with the strategy-RPG genre.

There’s also Sega’s unique puzzle game: Chu Chu Rocket. Considering the fact that this was actually ported to the Game Boy Advance as a launch title, I’d be quite alright giving this to Nintendo. They would likely keep it on eShop, which would actually probably be a smart business tactic, considering the simplicity of the game’s overall design. I’d also consider Atlus to be a valid choice, considering their history with unorthodox puzzle games like the aforementioned Catherine and Rock of Ages.

Virtual On, while generally called an action game, is probably the best example of what I’ve come to call “arena fighters”. Think of it as the precursor to Anarchy Reigns, only with a custom arcade cabinet to boot. As such, my first choice would be Platinum Games. The problem is, I don’t really have a follow-up. Capcom used to make good arena fighters, like the Power Stone games and Spawn: In the Demon’s Hand. Konami made Castlevania Judgment, which in spite of its hideous character designs, was actually a pretty decent one. But considering the similarities between the recent Dragon Ball Z and Naruto fighting games with arena fighters, not to mention how close the Soul Calibur games are to them, maybe Namco Bandai would be the best secondary choice. At the very least, Namdai (Banco?) getting the rights would mean that Temjin and Fei-Yen would likely show up in the Super Robot Wars games a lot more often.
After Burner was Sega’s take on the combat flight simulator genre, only with good old fashioned 1980’s arcade flair thrown to give the game some fun factor. Recently it’s seen a resurgance, having been referenced in games like Bayonetta and the aforementioned All-Stars Racing Transformed (as a stage and one-third of a vehicle!). I can’t really think of many companies that still do games in that genre, aside from Namco Bandai, with their Ace Combat series. Otherwise, I’d just give it to Nintendo, because I can’t really think of anyone else who’d take it.

Then you’ve got the Super Monkey Ball series, another cult-classic Sega series, involving tiny monkeys in hamster balls running to the end of an obstacle course in order to get some bananas. The easy answer here is Nintendo: this game totally sounds like something the Big N would make. Hell, we might even see a Donkey Kong Country x Super Monkey Ball game. Atlus seems like a fair choice too, considering that they published the extremely similar Rock of Ages.

Rounding out this article’s list is Skies of Arcadia, one of Sega’s RPGs from the Dreamcast era. Considering it also showed up on the Gamecube, I’d just give it to Nintendo. They could use a couple more traditional JRPGs, right? I’d just as well avoid seeing Skies of Arcadia becoming another victim of Square-Enix’s IP hoarding, so Atlus seems like the only other logical choice.

Before we wrap things up, I’d like to discuss the fates of a few honorable mentions. First off, Sega’s original mascot, Alex Kidd should probably just go to Nintendo. Then there’s Columns, Sega’s first major attempt at a Tetris-style puzzle game, give that to Q Entertainment. Seaman was Sega’s attempt at a virtual pet style game, Microsoft seems like the best choice, considering I can’t think of a franchise that would be more Kinect-friendly. Shining Force was Sega’s first major success in the strategy-RPG genre, so give that to Nippon Ichi Software, as they make a great deal of SRPGs and would probably jump at having such a (comparitively) big name. Give Vectorman to Platinum Games, because they turned some heads in the third-person shooter genre with Vanquish. Finally, I’d give both Total War and Football Manager to Valve, considering they sell like gangbusters on Steam.

I guess if this two-part article has taught me anything, it’s that perhaps, Sega is greater than the sum of its parts, or rather its franchises. That’s probably the reason why, the last time they were in dire financial straits, Sammy Corporation just bought out the entire company, rather than simply taking on franchises that were considered the most important. Hopefully, should Sega fall once again, history will repeat itself in that case and all of Sega’s IPs will be kept together.

The Next Level: Selling Sega Bit by Bit (Part 1)

If you’ll recall, one of the earliest articles I wrote for this site was about Sega’s falling finances. Since that article was written, Sega’s been hit with the whole Aliens: Colonial Marines PR fiasco and they may be looking at a potential class-action lawsuit. Sega’s ship appears to be sinking once again, after losing one of the four or five key franchises they planned on using to remain afloat in these trying economic times, so now seems like as good a time as any to revisit the subject, wouldn’t you say? Last time, I explored the idea of other companies buying out Sega wholesale, but considering what happened with the bankruptcies of both Midway and THQ, it seems fitting to think of just what might happen if Sega gets cut up and each asset gets sold off to the highest bidder individually. So I’ve picked out 10 Sega IPs, some with recent releases, some that haven’t been seen for over a decade, some popular, and some so obscure you’ll probably think I just made them up. And just like last time, I’m not really dealing with what’s likely or possible, just what I personally think would be for the best when it comes to each individual intellectual property.

First up, the most obvious Sega franchise to get sold off: the blue blur himself, Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s an obvious answer to this one, folks. Some of you aren’t going to like it, but who cares. Nintendo has shown themselves in the past to be the best modern company when it comes to dealing with mascot platformers and even treated Sonic with respect when he made an appearance as a guest character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Needless to say, I’m sure that Nintendo is more than capable of continuing Sonic’s rehabilitation into a solid series, especially considering their heavy involvement in the recently announced Sonic: Lost World. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ubisoft getting their hands on Sonic. Just imagine what a new 2D Sonic might look like on the Ubi Art engine. Just the thought of that gives me goosebumps.

Next up, Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game ever. Not gonna say I’ve followed the series as much recently, but I loved the first 3 games. The obvious answer here is Tecmo Koei. Let’s face it, Dead or Alive’s gameplay is practically identical to that of VF (with a few minor tweaks) and while DoA is considering a wobbling, jiggling joke amongst serious fighting game fans, Virtua Fighter’s pedigree is assured. Besides, VF characters made appearances in DoA5. And while Namco-Bandai is an obvious runner-up, as they’ve made two of the most popular 3D fighter series of all time (Tekken and the Soul series), I feel like Virtua Fighter would be a much better fit for Capcom. Let’s face it, Capcom’s been trying to get back into the fighting game market, but their past 3D offerings have been…well, mediocre at best. Besides, Tekken and Virtua Fighter are two totally different animals.

Then there’s the NiGHTS franchise. Effectively Sonic Team’s first attempt at a 3D platformer, NiGHTS filled the gap left when the Saturn didn’t have a Sonic platformer to call its own. An interesting game in its own right, known for its beautiful (albeit extremely polygonal) artstyle and amazing soundtrack, which truly brought the dream world Nightopia to life. Just due to the family-friendly atmosphere of the series, I’m leaving it in the hands of Nintendo. Sure, Journey to Dreams was kind of lame for a sequel, but I’m sure that with enough time, the Big N could nail down the formula. Otherwise, the game itself seems like a perfect companion to the Klonoa series, so give it to Namco Bandai.

Speaking of games with weak sequels, how about Golden Axe? Man, was Beast Rider a stinker or what? I’d probably end up handing off this one to Capcom, simply for the purpose of killing two birds with one stone. Some people want a Golden Axe sequel that lives up to the original. Some people want a sequel to Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons beat-’em-ups (which are finally being re-released on every major digital platform). So like that little girl in that taco commercial, I ask: why don’t we have both? Combining the Golden Axe mythos and setting with the gameplay from Capcom’s D&D games would be muy bueno, don’t you agree? If that doesnt work out, I guess Konami, the once-king of beat-’em-ups, is my saving throw. Just because I’d like to think that there’s a chance they could pick themselves up and stop making a mockery of their former glory. Fat chance.

Crazy Taxi was another one of Sega’s arcade hits turned console classics. It was also the subject of another lawsuit, this time in Sega’s favor against both EA and FOX Interactive in regards to another forgettable Simpsons licensed game. Regardless, Crazy Taxi was beloved in its own right, with its unique objective-based racing gameplay. I can only really think of one company these days that tackles arcade-style racing games (and isn’t EA) and that’s Namco Bandai. Nintendo would also be a good choice, as there’s a possibility they might just make it an arcade game again. Just not EA. Screw EA.

One of the cornerstone franchises of modern-day Sega is the Ryu ga Gotoku series, better known outside of Japan as Yakuza. The games themselves are effectively a cross between open-world sandbox games (GTA, Saints Row, etc.) and modern 3D action games, particularly ones that ape the classic beat-’em-ups of old (God Hand) with some action-RPG elements thrown in for flavor, set against a backdrop inspired by popular Japanese yakuza films. I’ll be frank: I think Atlus is the best possible company to handle the continuation of the Yakuza brand, due to the fluidity of the brand. If they don’t pick up the rights, I’d just give it to Take-Two Interactive or maybe Deep Silver. Maybe it would help them experiment a little more with regards to their respective sandbox games.

Phantasy Star is one of those rare Sega games that debuted in the days of the Master System and still manages to see new entries to this day: the second Phantasy Star Online game is due to hit the West sometime this year, along with iOS, Android and even PlayStation Vita ports. Once again, I think Atlus would be the best ones to handle this franchise. They have plenty of experience with regards to many forms of RPGs, from traditional JRPGs (the Persona series)to RPG hybrids (the upcoming Dragon’s Crown). And considering the way their North American branch handled Demon’s Souls’s online, it seems like they’d be able to handle both the classic Phantasy Star or the much more popular PSO series quite well. Level-5 might also be a good choice, considering their work on games like Rogue Galaxy and Ni no Kuni.

Another series originating from Sega’s pre-Genesis days was Shinobi. Appearing on many systems ranging from the arcades all the way to the 3DS, Shinobi, while not one of Sega’s most lucrative franchises, is still among its most beloved over old-school fans. Considering their interest in the Darksiders franchise and their own (albeit recently-ended) relationship with Sega, Platinum Games seems like a fair choice to take on Joe Higashi et al.’s adventure, considering their success with action games like the Bayonetta series and Anarchy Reigns. FromSoftware would be another valid choice (they have self-published a few of their games in Japan) considering they’ve worked on a few Tenchu games and have made some games that are really difficult, like a good Shinobi game should be. Perhaps you’ve heard of one: Demon’s Souls? Regardless, as with Yakuza, keeping Shinobi Japanese seems like it should be a top priority for the series.

Now onto some obscure games. First off: Panzer Dragoon. Oddly enough, my top pick for the classic rail shooter is Q Entertainment, the developer behind such games as Child of Eden and…well, a whole bunch of puzzle games. Considering how well Q did with Child of Eden, their spiritual successor to Sega’s Rez, I think seeing their take on the Panzer Dragoon series would be interesting. Otherwise, give it to Treasure. Those Sin and Punishment games were amazing.

Then there’s what is arguably Sega’s most popular rhythm game, Space Channel 5. The rhythm market has kind of dried up lately, but I can think of a few companies that still make them. The one I’m going with is Nintendo: Rhythm Heaven is at least as quirky as the SC5 series was and frankly, I’d love to see what kind of stuff The Big N might do with either the Wii U’s gamepad or the 3DS itself. Namco Bandai, who are still making Taiko no Tatsujin in Japan to this day would probably be my second choice.

Next, there is what may very well be the most obscure Sega franchise I’ll discuss: Comix Zone. An awesome action beat-’em-up featuring amazing (at the time) comic book-inspired graphics and interesting fourth-wall breaking gameplay mechanics. Considering both the game’s strictly Western influences and the fact it was developed by Sega Technical Institute, a dev team located in the United States, I don’t think a Japanese publisher could do Comix Zone justice. I just ended up picking WB Interactive, considering they’ve done quite well with the Midway franchises they’ve obtained and the fact that they’ve published totally awesome games like Lollipop Chainsaw, I’m more than willing to say the franchise would be in good hands. Ubisoft‘s really the only other major Western publisher I can think of that’s dabbled in the beat-’em-up genre, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Finally, there’s Space Harrier, one of Sega’s earliest franchises. Effectively one of the earliest on-rail shooters, SH had a few arcade sequels and a few home ports, but mainly lives on due to various references in other Sega games, such as Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed including the main theme on one of its tracks. Considering how similar the game is to the Sin & Punishment games, Treasure seems like a perfect fit for the franchise, especially given their history with Sega. Handing it off to Q Entertainment might also be interesting, they’d definitely have an original take for the series.

So there you have it, a dozen Sega games paired up with companies that might end up doing them justice. But let’s face it: I definitely missed some important franchises this time around. So see you later this month with Part 2 and another 12 Sega games I didn’t get to cover this time around.

Don’t Resuscitate, Reincarnate!

Some of the best video games of all-time have been sequels. It’s generally accepted that sequels are expected to be superior to their predecessors, due to the inherent interactivity of the medium, which allows for more improvements to be made with each new iteration. In fact, we’re generally disappointed when this turns out not to be the case. However, this runs counter to the majority of more story-focused forms of media, like literature, film and television. Outside of gaming, sequels are considered inferior to the originals as a rule, usually due to a ham-fisted attempt at shoehorning in an extension to a story that’s already met a satisfying conclusion. As time marches on, video games become more and more story oriented, which means that soon video game sequels will fall victim to the same exact issues sequels in other media suffer from. At the same time, the idea that each new installment will improve upon the original will likely always be relevant with regards to video games. So how can developers compromise between these two conflicting viewpoints?

As I said before, video game sequels, in general, improve upon the predecessors: refining existing mechanics and adding entirely new ones to create an improved experience. Despite the fact that many gamers bemoan the lack of original IPs, sales figures imply that sequels are much more popular. This is especially important for publishers, where even a single flop could spell disaster for all but the largest companies. The video game industry just isn’t as conducive to new intellectual properties as it once was… back when there weren’t any existing franchises.

Ironically, the games of old were always more suitable for sequels from a story perspective in the first place. Most games from the 8-bit, 16-bit and even many from the 32-bit eras of gaming had fairly simple storylines, akin to those of Saturday morning cartoons. I mean, just how many times did we rescue Princess Toadstool from Bowser or stop Dr. Wily’s plots for world domination? But as with so many other aspects of gaming, most modern games’ stories are much more complex, akin to more refined forms of media, specifically movies. Self-contained adventures with a concrete beginning, middle and end. For example, before a sequel was taken into consideration, the original Portal had a very decisive ending, where Chell (the main protagonist) simply escaped at the end. This was later modified with an additional scene via a patch just before the sequel had been announced. Less lucky in this regard was the original Bioshock, which had two fairly decisive endings, neither leaving much room for Bioshock 2, which itself had to play around with the first game’s canon by adding entirely new characters to the existing setting of Rapture. This attempt at retconing was met with much less enthusiasm compared to that of Portal 2.

Of course, other games tend to leave their endings open-ended. Sometimes, it’s because the creator wants to make an entire series as opposed to a single game. Other times, it’s just because the publisher wants to leave the option for a sequel open if the game ends up doing well. Unfortunately, when plans change or games bomb in terms of sales, the main victims are fans of these games. After all, MegaMan Volnutt is still rotting on the moon and loads of people are still waiting for the third installments of both Shenmue and Half-Life, even though most of us have given up hope. Reboots don’t generally fare much better, take a look at how well recieved DmC and Bomberman: Act Zero were.

So how do you reconcile the unique advantage that video games have always had with regards to sequels with the increasing disadvantages a greater emphasis on storylines modern games suffer from? Why, by making spiritual sequels of course! Spiritual sequels, while commonly associated with creators who have lost the rights to their IPs, could very easily allow for iterative sequels of old, without the worries of retcons and unresolved cliffhangers. As an added bonus, now all those whiners can get brand new shiny IPs with the added benefit of using a tried and true formula, allowing for a safer sell on the part of publishers and their investors, compared to an entirely original IP.

I can even think of a few good examples of some existing spiritual sequels that did fairly well. There’s the aforementioned Bioshock, which was actually a spiritual sequel to the System Shock games. The original Paper Mario was originally intended to be a direct sequel to Squaresoft’s Super Mario RPG. Same goes for both Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, respectively codenamed Princess Crown 2 and 3 while in development. Compare Platinum Games’ MadWorld to Clover Studio’s God Hand or hell, Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. Blazblue and Guilty Gear. Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. The point is, it’s been done and in many cases, it’s worked out quite well. There’s your proof of concept.

Of course, in many of these cases, the original games in question haven’t been all that popular to begin with. I mean, Princess Crown never even made it outside of Japan in the first place and God Hand was a colossal bomb in terms of sales. What if you tried a spiritual successor with something like Call of Duty, Madden or Grand Theft Auto? A lot of what makes megaton hits like those three sell as well as they do is brand-name recognition. As depressing as this may sound, there is an enormous customer base that only buys games in specific series (CoD and Madden being the most popular) and nothing else. While most gamers are aware that series like this are exceptionally rare, publishers and especially investors are not. And in these rare cases, spiritual sequels would be incredibly detrimental to the future of any devteams working on said games. Unfortunately, in these conservative times, many publishers hold that intellectual properties are much more important than refined gameplay and given the realities of the marketplace, they’re not exactly wrong.

Maybe there’s a possiblity for a compromise. You could do something along the lines of a spinoff or even a sequel in name only, sort of like what they did with Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (which was referred to simply as “2010” in Japan and had nothing to do with either Street Fighter or Final Fight) or Red Steel 2, which had nothing to do with the original. You could also make distinct references to the previous game through advertising. And of course, in cases where the game’s canon has come to a decisive end, nothing’s stopping you from doing a prequel elsewhere in the universe: Bioshock Infinite comes to mind almost instantly.

Regardless of what happens, this problem needs to be solved if the industry is going to “grow up” like so many producers are trying to do with the medium. Personally, I don’t believe that dropping one of the key strengths video games have over most other forms of media is a good way to evolve. At the same time, perhaps gaming should strive to deliver on more experiences than just fun, like some creators want the format to do. Regardless of what direction gaming takes in the future, it is important to discover a compromise between the advantages of improvement of game engines via iterative development and the potential for self-contained narratives in video games.

Who Should Buy Sega?

I may be one of the most fanatical Sega loyalists to ever grace the face of God’s green Earth, but even I have to admit that old Service Games is ailing these days. A report made last year said that Sega would be making some serious job cutbacks and focus on existing IPs like Sonic and Football Manager. They also closed down some of their branches in both Europe and Australia. Admittedly, that piece of news led me to make a joke in poor taste: that at least now the credits in Sega games would be half their immense length.

Still, this brings up the topic at hand: let’s just say Sega can’t turn things around and end up like…say, THQ? (Too soon?) Obviously if that were to happen, clearly Sega’s a pretty good candidate for being bought, due to their immense importance in video game history. After all, they were one of the few companies to successfully transition from first-party developer to third-party. So, I’ve decided to write this little article/blogpost/rant/whatever to determine which companies would be the best for Sega. In writing this article, I’m assuming a best case scenario: one where all of Sega’s assets would be obtained by the company who buys them out, rather than the messier scenarios that ended up happening with companies like Midway or THQ. Of course, I might consider writing a second article down the road, with regards to a less “cut and dry” method of selling off Sega’s assets, but for now, it’s just going to be an all-or-nothing kind of thing.

First-Party Developers

Nintendo

And what better company to start with than Sega’s old rival, Nintendo? There have been some rumors circling the internet of the Big N’s intentions to buy out Sega recently, so it’s only fitting that we start discussing Nintendo’s stakes in buying out Sega.

Pros: Obviously, a Nintendo-owned Sega would be doing pretty well on cash, not to mention the fact that Nintendo’s modern line of consoles tend to invoke the creative spirit of Sega’s first-party past, and as such, Sega has a much better track record when it comes to adapting to Nintendo’s unorthodox systems as of late, both console and handheld. A fully integrated Sega could only improve on this state of affairs.

Furthermore, Nintendo has had a good history with incorporating existing firms under their brand name, the most memorable of which was, of course, Rare. Similarly, Nintendo has many “second-party” style companies under their banner at this point in time anyway (HAL Laboratory, Intelligent Systems, and a little firm the once-mighty Sega worked with: Game Freak).

Similarly, Sega’s wide range of titles both complement and contrast with Nintendo’s own library of hits, which would allow for more diversity on Nintendo’s offers. But ignoring other less interesting advantages, I’m just going to blurt out the megaton: this could potential lead to a Mario/Sonic crossover game without the word “Olympics” in it. Mull that one over.

Cons: The most staggering disadvantage to a Nintendo-owned Sega is the same as it would be with many of the hardware companies: it’s a closed platform. With Nintendo at the reins, there’s no way we would end up seeing nearly as much saturation as any third-party developer could give us, which makes sense, when you think about it. Another problem is that due to Nintendo’s systems’ weaker specs, certain attempts at emulation could be subdued in the future. Finally, it seems like Sega’s been making more of a transition towards digital sales: to this day, out of the 3 major console manufacturers, Nintendo still has the weakest online presence in all forms (though this is steadily changing, more due to the increasing incompetence of their rivals than anything else, unfortunately.)

Score: 9/10 Dolphins

 

Sony

Next on the docket: the company that I, to this day, irrationally blame for Sega’s shift to third-party company and for the early deaths of both the Saturn and Dreamcast in North America: Sony! Gonna be honest, I’m not really fond of this scenario, but I’ll try to be as balanced as I possibly can.

Pros: The only major pro I can think of is that, all things considered, Sony has treated most of their second-party acquisitions quite well, though that may only be the North American and European branches, so we don’t exactly know quite how well that would apply to the Japanese branch. Still, Naughty Dog isn’t exactly suffering under Sony’s leadership.

Cons: Sony itself isn’t exactly doing so well when it comes to finances themselves lately, and ironically, they’re playing it even dumber than Sega by sinking a great deal of capital into the Vita, which just isn’t paying off in any tangible way.

Sony’s PlayStation Network, in most cases, would be considered neutral or even slightly positive for Sega at best, but given the sheer amount of downtime the service suffers, it’s probably more of a negative than anything by this point. Sony also shares Nintendo’s prime weakness: PlayStation is a closed platform, so all of Sega’s titles would strictly be PlayStation-exclusive, which limits the scope of what Sega could release and on which platforms.

Score: 3/10 Vice Presidents of Halo Killing

 

Microsoft

And then there’s Microsoft. Microsoft and Sega actually have a pretty long storied history together. The Dreamcast ran on Windows CE, Xbox got quite a few sequels to some Dreamcast games (Jet Set Radio Future and Shenmue II come to mind) and they both had their marketing handled by Peter Moore at some point. But whether or not MS would be the best place for Sega to go isn’t quite as easy to determine.

Pros: When it comes right down to it, even after the bad couple of years Microsoft’s had, they’re still swimming in the big bucks. Sega’s main issue these days is money and a Microsoft-owned Sega would definitely be much more secure than any of the other big 3. There’s also the fact that of the big 3, Microsoft is the only one that has interests in the PC market, so there’s potential for all Sega games to end up on both PC and whatever console Microsoft is supporting. Slim potential, but a much greater one than Sony or Nintendo. Microsoft would directly benefit as well: obtaining Sega could potentially allow Microsoft to make some significant headway into building a Japanese install base, which has been one of the major flaws of the Xbox platform since its inception.

Cons: Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Microsoft has had a pretty crummy track record with one of their biggest acquistions in the gaming industry: Rare. Turning a once-renown developer into a Kinect minigame manufacturer while outright refusing to use any of the intellectual properties they gained in the acquisition of said company is a black mark that no company can ever hope to erase. Also, with regards to the earlier PC comment, Games for Windows Live (Microsoft’s PC service) is despised by the majority of PC gamers out there, plus Microsoft themselves don’t appear to release much for it themselves.

Score: 5/10 Red Rings of Death

 

Valve

Well, they may not be entirely first-party at this point, but Steambox is a coming and it appears to be Valve’s attempt to enter console territory. Besides, like it or not, Valve basically is the champion of PC and PC is still technically a gaming platform. So let’s do this.

Pros: Being what appears to be the only Japanese developer that understands that the PC gaming markets both exists and has the potential to be profitable, Sega has already released quite a few of their games on Valve’s Steam service as it is, including several emulations of old Genesis games that were also found on other, similar online marketplaces. Similarly quite a few of Sega’s most recent successes have been with series that seems to only thrive on PCs: Shogun: Total War and Football Manager, for example.

Even more important is that out of all the potential first-party developers, Valve has made the most effort to be a multiplatform company, with such releases as The Orange Box, the Left 4 Dead series and Portal 2. While the console incarnations of the these games may not be able to match the sheer amount of customization and the sheer number of updates of their PC counterparts, they are still perfectly functional and a lack of patching is more the fault of the person running the platform than Valve themselves. Considering Nintendo’s recent announcement that they would not be charging for the ability to patch games on the Wii U, it seems only natural that even a Valve-run Sega could thrive perfectly on multiple platforms.

Finally, a partnership with Sega could be advantageous to Valve: allowing them to make a real attempt in trying to gain a foothold in Japan.

Cons: Aside from Valve’s irrational fear of the number 3, I really can’t think of anything major. Perhaps they wouldn’t be able to offer as many financial resources as some of the other companies on the list, but Sega would still be in a good position to make a comeback.

Score: 9.5/10 False Half-Life 3 Rumors

 

Apple

Gonna be honest, I’m only doing this section to round this out to five companies. I’m not a big fan of Apple’s business practices or their products, but they are their own platform(s), so I guess they deserve a shot at this too.

Pros: Money. That’s it. Just money. Apple’s doing well when it comes to finances, much like Microsoft. That’s the only advantage I think an Apple-owned Sega would enjoy. Unless Sega and/or Apple gets off on murdering my childhood. So there’s another possibility.

Cons: For starters, Apple hasn’t really had any success in the gaming field (anybody remember the Pippin?) and it also doesn’t appear to be a part of their modern strategy, at least in terms of first-party offerings: they’d much rather just make the most widespread platform in whatever fields they are attempting to conquer at any particular point in time. At this point in time, that would be smartphones and tablets, so we’d probably only be able to expect sequels to Sonic Jump and maybe the occasional port of an old game with horribly-implemented touchscreen controls. And somehow, despite being effective a PC company, Apple’s iOS is as closed a platform as Sony and Nintendo, if not moreso.

Score: 1/10 New Versions of the iPad Released This Year Alone

 

Japanese Third-Party Developers

Capcom

Moving on from the first-party developers, let’s tackle Japanese third-parties.First up, another favorite company of mine: Capcom. Capcom’s had some pretty good years, but they’ve also been suffering from a recent PR meltdown, concering a few of their more rash decisions over the last couple of years.

Pros: Capcom’s definitely got funds, considering their recent foray into outsourcing various titles (Dead Rising 2, DmC, Lost Planet 3) to Western companies. Not to mention they recently obtained DR2’s developer: Blue Castle Games, or as they’re known today, Capcom Vancouver. Of course, Capcom would also benefit from having Sega on their side, as this might cause them to further embrace the PC platform on the whole, as opposed to their current, admittedly weak efforts at this point. And as a bit of wishful thinking, this might end up making a Sonic/MegaMan crossover something more than just an Archie comic, to the delight of my inner eight-year-old.

Cons: Capcom’s actually got a great deal of IPs just rolling around on their end, factoring in Sega’s wide library would just make an even bigger mess, rather than resolve anything. As such, Capcom buying Sega might end up being one of those scenarios where Sega just makes Sonic the Hedgehog forever. Also, Capcom’s prefence towards acting in the interests of the Japanese market to the detriment of international markets might bite a Sega revival in the backside, as Sega’s largest foothold appears to be Europe.

Score: 6/10 Cancelled MegaMan Games

 

Namco Bandai

Is it Namco Bandai, or is it Bandai Namco? Whatever the case, they’re one of the more popular Japanese third-party game developers, at least on a global scale. So let’s see what they could offer Sega.

Pros: Like Capcom, Namco Bandai is doing pretty well for themselves from a financial standpoint, especially with all of the licensed games they’ve done based on various popular anime series. Namco could also reap the benefits of Sega’s competence in the PC marketplace: Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition was their one major release on PC and it was extremely buggy at launch, to the point where fans ended up releasing a patch in order to fix the game. Finally, Namco Bandai Games have proven that they can successfully juggle the assets of two major gaming companies, so they may be the best choice for adding a third.

Cons: On that last note, let it be known that Namco Bandai took a few years to regain their footing after the merger, which led to some really poor quality games for the time being, so adding a third company might also mess up the equilibrium they’ve found. Similarly, as they’re already working off the assets of two gaming developers, as with Capcom, Sega may just be reduced to a Sonic-only company.

Score: 6/10 Soul Calibur Sequels I Wish They’d Never Made

 

Square Enix

Gonna be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Square Enix, not since the merger anyway. Even before the merger, Squaresoft was on thin ice with me. But leaving them out of the running would be an injustice even I’m incapable of committing. As far as Japanese third-parties go, Square-Enix-Taito-Eidos-Terwilliger is definitely a major player.

Pros: Well, the former Eidos is doing pretty well for itself, making such heavy-hitters as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. And Taito still gets to make awesome arcade games, despite being a wholly-owned Squenix subsidiary. Maybe an SE-owned Sega would enjoy the same fate as Eidos and Taito.

Cons: Square Enix hasn’t exactly been doing so well when it comes to money lately. More importantly, if Sega gets absorbed in Square Enix, thus forming “Square Enix Sega”, expect a similar Sonic-centric release schedule from Sega. But on the plus side, Square Enix’s bag of tricks will increase by a whopping 33.3%! If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

Score: 4/10 More Kingdom Hearts Spin-offs

 

Konami

Konami was definitely one of my favorite companies growing up, being responsible for such beloved games as Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill and Turtles in Time. Lately though, a lot of their more recent offerings have left me unimpressed for the most part. Still, they’re definitely a major player when it comes to video games.

Pros: Wikipedia says Konami is the fifth largest video game company in the world in terms of revenue. I’m not sure if I believe them, but if this is true, then Sega’s debts would probably be easy enough for Konami to leverage for the time being. Another point, Konami’s recent releases have kind of…well, sucked. Considering Sega’s just recently gotten back on track themselves, maybe Sega could fix Konami or something.

Cons: …well, that or just revert Sega into its previous state of releasing really terrible games. Also, Konami doesn’t really have the best reputation when it comes to dealing with companies they’ve acquired: does the name “Hudson Soft” ring any bells?

Score: 4/10 Poorly Thoughtout Franchise Revivals

 

Index Corporation (Atlus)

I needed help picking out a fifth Japanese third-party company for the purposes of this article, the two suggestions I got were Atlus and Tecmo Koei. Considering a write-up on Tecmo Koei from me would’ve been really similar to that of Square Enix, except without the compliments regarding Eidos and Taito and had replaced the words “Final Fantasy”, “Kingdom Hearts” and “Dragon Quest” with “Dynasty Warriors”, “Ninja Gaiden” and “Dead or Alive” respectively. So I decided to go with Atlus instead, seemed like a more interesting choice, even if Tecmo Koei is a slightly more likely contender.

Pros: Well, Atlus is, in fact, owned by a major Japanese conglomerate by the name of Index Corporation. Index Corporation also owns such entertainment comapins as the anime studio Madhouse and major Japanese movie studio Nikkatsu. So clearly, Index definitely has enough money to wave around.

Furthermore, Atlus appears to focus more on RPGs than anything else these days, despite having delved into other genres like fighting games (Power Instinct series) and even medical simulation games (Trauma Center). Perhaps with a more financially stable Sega by their side, Atlus could once again experiment in genres besides RPGs.

One more thing, Sega’s got a pretty decent foothold on the European territories, which is a pretty weak region for Atlus. So that might be helpful.

Cons: Index Corporation already owns two game companies at this moment in time: Atlus and something called Interchannel, which I’ve never heard of, due to the fact that their games tend to be Japanese-only. Three might just be too many for them to handle at this point in time, especially considering the fact that Sega would dwarf both of their current acquistions. However, this seems like less of a problem for Sega and more like a problem for Atlus and Interchannel.

Score: 7/10 JRPGs I’ve Never Heard Of

 

Western Third-Party Developers

EA

So we move onto the Western developers. Obviously, EA is the top contender for Western third-party developers, just due to their size and reputation in the video game industry. But would they make a good choice for buying Sega? No. No. God no. But I’ll write more on the subject anyway.

Pros: Like I said with Apple before, the only advantage here is money. EA’s swimming in it.

Cons: Well, EA IS considered one of the two most evil industries in gaming at this point in time. And unfortunately, that reputation is well-deserved. For starters, they generally destroy any smaller developers they’ve bought out: just ask fans of Westwood Studios and Bullfrog Productions. Some would even argue that BioWare is on the same path in that regard.

You’ve also got to factor in EA’s push for their own PC DRM/digital store platform Origin to the detriment of their own products. That would definitely hurt Sega, who appear to currently ally with Valve’s Steam platform at this point in time. Factor in such scummy business tactics as online passes, Project $10 and Day 1 DLC, and the only reason EA scored higher than Apple is because at least EA is still technically a gaming company.

Score: 1.5/10 Retake Mass Effect 3 Bitchfits

 

Activision

Next up, the other major evil Western third-party developer: Activision. Roughly as powerful as EA and equally scummy in the eyes of gamers, Activision would probably be another major choice for a Western takeover of Sega. Not one most people would be excited for, but there’s still a very distinct possibility.

Pros: According to Wikipedia, Activision Blizzard is the world’s second-largest video game company by revenue. So, like in many scenarios, Sega would be well-taken care of financially. I guess there’s also the potential for a Sonic the Hedgehog/Crash Bandicoot crossover, which would be kinda cool in a misplaced nostalgia, “original vs. most popular ripoff” sort of way.

Cons: While not as bad as EA when it comes to murdering studios, Activision has left many studios dismantled in their wake, though this generally only happens due to lagging sales. Furthermore, Activision’s main strategy appears to be turning anything even remotely successful into yearly franchises, until sales start falling, at which point they pretty much just kill the series for the foreseeable future. The only franchise Sega has that would probably be considered that marketable in the US would be Sonic the Hedgehog, and despite the last couple of games being good, Sonic’s still in a transition period, where going yearly too quickly might just defuse any attempt at repairing the series’ tarnished reputation.

Score: 2/10 Photoshops of Bobby Kotick with Devil Horns

 

Ubisoft

When most Americans think of Western developers, they tend to make the mistake that they’re all located in North America. This is definitely not the case for Ubisoft, a French company that manages to stride the line between the vibrant fantasy we associate with Japanese video games and the more photorealistic fodder expected of Western dev teams. But would they be a good home for Sega?

Pros: Well, for one thing, Ubisoft actually has quite a bit of experience with Japanese developers as it is, they released Lunar Legend and Evolution Worlds (iterations of two of the few JRPGs I can actually tolerate), they handled Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 3’s PC ports (granted, they weren’t good ports, but still) and they even released Grandia II in North America and Europe. The fact that they’re based in Europe, which is Sega’s strongest market outside of Japan, is just a bonus.

Furthermore, Ubisoft appears to be quite good at balancing their releases between both mature (Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, the Tom Clancy series) and family (Rayman, Raving Rabbids, Just Dance) fare, similarly to how Sega manages to cross-promote their various franchises of varying demographics (like putting Shenmue and Football Manager characters in Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing).

Cons: Ubisoft’s actually has some controversial business practices that they’ve only recently begun to abandon, including some of the most terrible DRM strategies imagninable. Couple that with their recent uPlay digital distribution/DRM service, which has been accused of including rootkits, and Ubisoft isn’t exactly a premiere choice.

Score: 6/10 Raving Rabbids Sequels

 

Warner Bros.

Of course, no article with regards to video game company buyouts would be complete without one mention of Warner Bros. Interactive: the people who bought out the majority of Midway’s old IPs and managed to resurrect Mortal Kombat. Warner Bros’s no slouch when it comes to releasing other top-notch games like Batman: Arkham City and my beloved Lollipop Chainsaw.

Pros: Simply put, Warner Bros. has deep, deep pockets. Couple this with their willingness to save a great deal of old Midway IPs (even granting one of them into a critically-acclaimed reboot) and the fact that we’ve got proof that they’re willing to try even the most insane ideas: let’s face it, no other major publisher, Western or Japanese, would’ve given Lollipop Chainsaw a chance like WB did. Suffice it to say, Warner Bros. buying out Sega might be one of the best chances we have at seeing something like say, a reboot of an old Sega franchise (Streets of Rage, maybe?) or hell, let’s shoot the moon: Shenmue III, and either of those games made with as much care as Mortal Kombat 2011 would be nothing short of amazing.

Cons: I may be singing the praises of WB’s video game side, but let’s face it: they’ve been in the movie business for awhile now, so there’s a chance that we could see them going full-blown evil at some point. To the point where they’d make EA and Activision look like saints. A movie studio doesn’t stay in business for nearly 100 years without being ruthless.

Score: 8/10 More Lego Games

 

Take-Two Interactive

Last up, Take-Two Interactive. They’ve already got two of the biggest Western developers under their belts: Rockstar and 2K Games, and as such, they’ve got quite a library of hits to choose from as it is: Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, NBA2K (itself originally a Sega franchise), the list goes on and on. But would Take-Two make a good home for Sega?

Pros: Well, like I said, Take-Two already has a good number of hits under their belt, and as such, they’ve got a significant amount of capital. It’s a recurring theme, I know, but still very important for Sega’s continued survival. Furthermore, in most cases, Take-Two has been pretty good when it comes to releasing their titles on all major platforms (PS3/360/PC). All-in-all, Take-Two doesn’t really have any advantages that make them stand out, but the fact that they haven’t really done many scummy things this generation when it seems like every other major publisher has been guilty of. Even the blame for L.A. Noire’s controversial omission of several key members in the games credits was the fault of Team Bondi rather than Rockstar or Take-Two.

Cons: Well, for starters, Take-Two appears to be very skeptical of the potential regarding the Wii U, and Sega’s games have generally sold best on Nintendo platforms, at least as far as the the three major consoles go. This difference of opinion may prove disasterous for Sega’s bottom line.

Score: 7/10 Grand Theft Auto Expansions (That End Up Being Better Than The Game It’s Expanding)

 

So there you go, 15 companies, all hastily and haphazardly assessed in a way that only I, Professor Icepick could do. My top three picks are Valve, with a whopping 9.5/10, Nintendo with a 9/10 and Warner Bros. Interactive with a respectable 8/10. Bottom choices are Apple, with 1/10, EA with a 1.5/10 and Activision with a 2/10. But who knows if Sega even needs to be bought out at any point? Apparently, despite all the doom and gloom I’ve heard, they still manage to churn in excellent sales for such franchises as Football Manager and Shogun: Total War. Perhaps there was no point to this article at all in the first place. Still, not a bad exercise in determining which companies I’d like to see gain a stronger foothold in the video game industry.