Remaking History Repeats Itself

When it came to revisiting older articles that I intended to make into series, Remaking History was my white whale. Trying to figure out a way to write a follow-up to the concept was difficult, simply because it revolved around finding five games in franchises that would be worth covering in minor detail, as opposed to doing full write-ups for each of them. Fortunately, I’m more of a sequel man in that regard, but coming up with a list of five games worthy of remaking in the first place managed to be my major hurdle. Still, I ended up persevering and I can finally share the fruits of my labor.

The fact that I considered Remaking History viable as a series in the first place is a testament to my hubris roughly four years ago. Effectively, the concept behind the original article – and by extension, this humble successor – is to pick out five existing games from popular series that don’t live up to the reputation of other titles, both past and present. Personally, I think it’s a crime when games that are already great are given remakes. We’ve managed to get so much joy out of overhauls of weaker and more forgettable titles. MegaMan Powered Up recreated the 1987 classic while learning from later games in the series; Metroid: Samus Returns brought the forgotten Metroid II – a game from the original Remaking History article! – back to prominence; and Ys: The Oath in Felghana easily redeemed its source material, turning the black sheep that was Wanderers from Ys to one of the most popular games in the entire franchise, while still retaining many distinct elements from the source material. Remaking games that were popular in the first place and hold up under modern scrutiny just feels like an utter waste of resources.

I’ve decided to modify the format from the original article. Originally, I broke each entry up into three headings: the problems, the potential and my proposal. Looking back, I wasn’t really a fan of the formatting or the way that each section was broken up. While I’ve still got three subheaders in this new format, they focus more on simpler questions. What game should be remade? Why bother remaking it in the first place? How should a remake be handled? Not an exact match but talking about each game’s problems and potential separately felt redundant. I also wasn’t a fan of rearranging the headers depending on importance, keeping everything standardized should allow for an easier read. With all that being said, let’s move onto the first entry:

MegaMan 7

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What?

The seventh game in the MegaMan franchise’s original “Classic” line and the first game in that particular continuity to appear outside of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. By the time it was released, two games in the follow-up “MegaMan X” series had been released on the Super Nintendo and a third came out within a year of MM7. It’s generally considered one of the weaker games in the Classic series (if not the entire franchise).

Why?

The game was clearly rushed, with a development cycle lasting roughly three months. Obviously, this led to MegaMan 7 having a fair amount of issues. Stiff controls and wonky jumps made the game feel like a parody of the Classic NES games when compared to the X trilogy available on the same platform. The interesting thing about that is these minor issues appear to be the only real problem: a fan remake called Rockman 7 Famicom actually recreates the majority of the game – aside from the introduction and intermission mini-stages – and when transposed into the classic 8-bit style associated with the NES games, it’s honestly an excellent game.

How?

You’re probably expecting me to suggest going a similar route to the fan-game and have Capcom do a similar 8-bit demake. Honestly, I liked MM7’s graphics too much to ditch them, so I’d instead suggest going the “Sonic CD 2011” route. Take the existing game assets and rebuild the game using an improved engine. Simply put, make MegaMan 7 feel like one of the NES games while retaining the SNES aesthetic in both art and sound design. On top of that, expand the resolution to modern proportions, so that the irrelevant complaint about the screen being too cramped can finally be put to rest.

Considering the recent re-release of the original MM7 in the second MegaMan Legacy Collection, I think this is an unlikely project. A shame, considering just how amazing of a budget title this could be.

Shantae

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What?

The first Shantae was originally released on the Game Boy Color back in June 2002, over a year after the Game Boy Advance was released. A cult hit that pushed the aged hardware to its limits, Shantae was cut from the same cloth as games like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, pushing the concepts found in early “Metroidvanias” exploratory platformers to their limits, combining labyrinthine dungeons with an overworld brimming with character. Future titles only served to expand on the storyline and gameplay, but the original game serves as a clear bedrock for the franchise. On top of that, it’s easily one of the best games in the Game Boy Color’s library.

Why?

Two reasons. For starters, compared to every other game in the series, the original Shantae is only available on a few platforms. Aside from the initial Game Boy Color release, the game was only re-released on the 3DS’s Virtual Console. Compare that to other games in the series, which are available on pretty much all modern platforms. Since the original game was built from the ground-up on the GBC, a remake just seems more viable than a direct port – I have a feeling that Nintendo wouldn’t allow emulation.

On top of that, as good as the first Shantae was, there were a few weird design decisions which a remake could easily iron out. I can think of a whole host of Quality of Life improvements that I’d recommend, making this diamond in the rough truly shine, but I’ll stick to my two main issues to keep things short. The lives mechanic – present in Zelda II and Simon’s Quest – just doesn’t make sense in that type of game. My other major issue is that there wasn’t a map in-game, which is distressing considering that the first Shantae easily boasts the most treacherous overworld of the entire franchise.

How?

Think a Super Mario All-Stars style revamp of the original Shantae, using newer graphics and quality of life improvements, but otherwise leaving the level designs completely untouched. Best way to handle this would be as a budget project: recycling assets from other games in the series seems like it could work. My only question is which art style should they use: the pixel art from Risky’s Revenge/Pirate’s Curse or the new hand-drawn style from Half-Genie Hero?

I’d personally prefer the former, simply because the sprite work from those two games was clearly inspired by the GBC game’s look in the first place, but I worry that they’d need to create more original content compared to recycling HGH’s assets. On the other hand, it might be possible to rehab the original game’s existing graphics to the enhanced style as opposed to outright drawing brand-new assets, which would be a necessity for using the hand-drawn artwork of the most recent game.

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes II

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What?

Clearly the most obscure of my choices by a wide margin, The Legend of Heroes II was one of Falcom’s early turn-based RPGs. I’ll be honest, I’ve never played the game myself, but I am familiar with its legacy. These days, the Legend of Heroes series is probably Falcom’s most popular franchise, at least in their home region. Before all of that, it was just another spinoff from Falcom’s Dragon Slayer “series” – which was really less a series and more of an umbrella term for a variety of projects headed by producer Yoshio Kiya.

Why?

Once again, it all comes down to availability. Oddly enough, every other game in the series was re-released on Windows PC, with the fifth game and the “Trails of the Sky” trilogy debuting on the platform as well. After that, the “Gagharv Trilogy” (the third, fourth and fifth games) and the “Trails in the Sky” trilogy would see enhanced ports on the PlayStation Portable, likely to accompany future titles in the series that would debut on that platform. I just think it’s absolutely weird that the original Legend of Heroes would see a PC port, while its sequel was completely ignored.

Admittedly, the 1997 Windows PC version of the first game isn’t its most recent release: a two-pack of both Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes games were released on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1998. When it comes right down to it, it’s still easily the most easily accessible version, still being sold on Japanese software sites like DMM to this day.

How?

For inspiration, I’d look to another similar Falcom remake: Ys I & II Chronicles. Simply put, remake both games with a low-budget rerelease in mind. Keep the base gameplay the same as the original games, improve the graphics to the same level as Chronicles and rearrange the soundtrack. That or Falcom could also just re-release the Mega Drive or PC Engine versions ad infinitum. Either way, it’s more about making sure that future generations could enjoy these classic RPGs.

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero

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What?

Back in the 1990s, Mortal Kombat was a worldwide phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, the franchise is still popular today, but the sheer amount of promotional material that accompanied the first three games in the franchise is absolutely staggering. Two theatrical films (and at least one direct-to-video), two television series, toy lines, it was truly something else. Midway didn’t rest on their laurels however, deciding to further cash in on their cash cow with Mortal Kombat Mythologies. Speculated to be a pilot for an entire series of spin-offs, the first game chronicled the life of Sub-Zero, the ice ninja, prior to the first Mortal Kombat tournament. The concept seemed like a slam dunk – Sub-Zero is probably the second most popular character in the entire franchise, acting as the Ken to Scorpion’s Ryu. Alas, it was not to be.

Why?

The original game sucked. That’s really all there is to it. The game was essentially a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up with fighting game controls. Add in awkward platforming sequences and the game become annoying to play. In fact, Mythologies reminds me of Acclaim’s Batman Forever game on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, with its cryptic and awkward controls. To make matters bleaker, Mythologies was eventually followed up by Special Forces, a 3D action game that somehow managed to be even worse.

The thing is, the entire concept was still interesting. I owned this game when I was a kid, simply because of just how much the idea of a Sub-Zero-centric adventure grabbed me. Years later, Midway would revisit the concept of a Mortal Kombat action game spinoff with Shaolin Monks, a 3D co-op action game that took place during the second Mortal Kombat, which was substantially more successful.

How?

Mortal Kombat’s already gone through a reboot, so I’d say do the same with Mythologies. Just remake the game as a 3D action game, taking more inspiration from beat-‘em-ups than usual. In other words, use Shaolin Monks as a template. Ditch the poorly implemented fighting game controls in favor of more traditional action game controls. Most importantly, keep those cheesy full-motion video sequences from the PlayStation version – preferably as bonus content, but I wouldn’t reject them being made a part of the new game itself.

Bloody Roar

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What?

Bloody Roar (known in North American arcades as “Beastorizer”) was another also-ran in the era of the 3D fighting game, a period ushered in by heavy hitters like Virtua Fighter and Tekken. Created by the fine people at Hudson Soft, Bloody Roar wasn’t particularly obscure among fans of the genre, but its popularity didn’t reach the dizzying heights the concept deserved. Effectively, the game took cues from other 3D fighters with looser engines – Fighting Vipers comes to mind – but incorporated a unique gimmick: filling an energy gauge allowed the fighters to transform into anthropomorphic animals, giving them access to new attacks as well as boosting their strength and speed. The original Bloody Roar managed to spawn 3 sequels – I personally can’t tell if the second or third game in the series was the most popular – but eventually, even its cult audience wasn’t enough to sustain it.

Why?

Since “Because Icey want!” was rejected by my editor, I’ll give some “valid” reasons. We’ve recently seen a 2D fighting game renaissance, but their 3D counterparts have languished: at this point, Dead or Alive and Tekken seem to be the only active franchises, with Soul Calibur preparing a seventh entry for release sometime this year. We’ve recently seen a boom in 3D platformers on the heels of a similar revival of the 2D variety, so it only stands to reason that there’s an underlying demand for 3D fighters: Virtua Fighter fans have been clamoring for a new game for the better part of a decade now.

How?

Maybe I’ve still got Mortal Kombat on the brain after the last entry, but I’d love to see the series get a full-on reboot, starting from the first game. Ideally, we’d be seeing something exactly like Mortal Kombat 9: a retelling of the first 3 games in the franchise, with many (if not all) of the characters from all three games. After all, Bloody Roar was one of those rare fighting games where most of the characters in its first entry never returned. So, starting from the beginning and working up to the game’s peak in popularity would allow for an interesting roster. It’s not like there were that many characters in the series to begin with, so recreating all of the old characters shouldn’t be that difficult of a feat.

…of course, Konami owns all of Hudson’s IPs these days, so this seems like just another pipe dream. Though I guess if Bomberman can come back, it’s not quite as impossible as some of my other entries on this list.

While the original Remaking History had a 20% success rate – at best, I’d argue “25%” if the Street Fighter I-themed Arcade ladder in the recent Street Fighter V expansion counts as a remake (and it doesn’t) – I’m not quite as confident that anything from this article will come to pass. I’d argue that only Shantae is within the realm of possibility, and even then, it just seems much more likely that WayForward would rather work on a sequel instead. Having said that, I’d love to be proven wrong and that we’ll see these remakes or others like them.

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Sum of Its Parts: Shantae 5

Last year, I made a big point to revive older series when writing new articles for Retronaissance and I’d like to think that, for the most part, I was pretty successful. Yet there was always one that eluded me. What better way to renew my vow to revitalize old ideas than to finally bring back one of my oldest concepts?  If the title hasn’t already given it away, after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, Sum of Its Parts lives once more. I’ll be honest, I wish I could’ve thought up a new topic in this series much sooner than I had, but I’m proud that I’m finally revisiting the concept: if you couldn’t tell, it’s always been one of my favorite concepts.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these, explaining the concept behind it feels necessary. There’s one word that I would often use to describe just what Sum of Its Parts is all about: “Frankensequel”. Existence of the word in question notwithstanding, I reminisce on a series that has more than a few titles under its belt – especially ones where gameplay tends to evolve or vary between games – and try to hack off the best parts of many (if not all) those previous games and cobble them together into what I’d consider the ideal sequel. Hopefully, this will end up with something that serves to develop a game that exceeds the series’ reputation while feeling like a legitimate successor.

With almost all its post-launch content released – we’re still waiting on the Costume Packs as I’m writing this – Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is pretty much complete at this point. While the game was a bit on the short side (though the bonus modes helped to offset that) I still enjoyed it, despite making various departures from the series’ tried-and-true formula. As such, I’ve seen many reactions online compare it unfavorably to its predecessor, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Pirate’s Curse seemed to deliver on the previous games’ potential, perhaps delivering what WayForward had envisioned since the first game was released on the Game Boy Color back in 2002.

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Shouldn’t be too much longer.

So why have I decided to take the Sum of Its Parts approach with a potential Shantae 5? While I did enjoy Half-Genie Hero, the game itself seemed to be an attempt at a soft reboot: early impressions of the Kickstarter seemed to imply that it was going to be a remake of the first game. HGH was clearly intended to introduce Shantae to a much wider audience compared to previous games. After all, the game launched on almost every platform available at the time (and was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch), while the first three games in the series made their debuts on whatever Nintendo handheld was out at the time – the second and third games would eventually get ported to other platforms as well. Shantae still seems to be popular, but to please fans both new and old, the next game in the series should definitely reintroduce elements from previous titles, while maintaining HGH’s modern sensibilities.

Of course, the logical first step when designing a new video game would be to determine the base engine. I think Half-Genie Hero’s engine worked out well, as most of the complaints about the game stemmed from design issues rather than the game’s mechanics. Shantae is at least as responsive in HGH as she was in Pirate’s Curse, and both of those games far exceed their predecessors on the Game Boy Color and DSi. It seems like when they were creating the fourth Shantae game, WayForward put most of their resources into building a quality engine – likely using the one from the similarly 2.5D Ducktales Remastered as a base – which would hopefully be used in future games in the series. They did a good job with that, so they’re no reason to drop it in the next game.

Level design, on the other hand, was a major point of contention. It seems like most fans of Shantae want a return to Pirate’s Curse’s Metroidvania stage layouts. It makes sense, considering that the fourth game in the series is the only one that goes for more linear stage designs. Personally, I say why not do both? While HGH’s stages deviated from what the Shantae series is known for, they weren’t bad. I’m sure that if they were offset with more traditional non-linear “dungeon” areas, they wouldn’t have been nearly as controversial. Originally, I considered having one of each in each “chapter” of Shantae 5, but frankly, I think it would be cooler if they just alternated between the two between chapters – it would break up the monotony of exclusively using either one, which is a plus in my book.

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Even the map looks like it came out of Symphony of the Night.

The overworld, on the other hand, is an element of the game that I felt both Half-Genie Hero and Pirate’s Curse failed to deliver on. For the most part, both games relied on a singular hub area for the trappings commonly associated with Shantae – the shop, the bath house and various NPCs – but honestly, both games relied on a menu-based approach when it came to choosing stages. Quite the departure from the first two games which both utilized an overworld between areas, like Simon’s Quest, Faxanadu and The Battle of Olympus. I’m not quite sure why, but I think I preferred the older method overall: it wasn’t perfect by any means, but it made the world feel interconnected and served to accentuate the exploration themes present in the dungeons themselves.

The only problem with it is that neither the original Shantae nor Risky’s Revenge quite perfected the concept. Both games had a lot of brilliant ideas behind them, but neither game really explored some of their more intriguing gimmicks. For example, the original Shantae took Simon’s Quest’s day/night cycle mechanic and essentially perfected it, replacing the stilted text-based transitions with a silky-smooth palette swap. Shantae 1 also had a much less linear overworld, with branching paths that would lead to completely different areas and even a few dead ends to keep players on their toes.

day-night-transition

Seriously, this was gorgeous back in 2002.

The second game eschewed these features but brought in some interesting concepts of its own. The original Shantae’s Warp Dances were replaced with various warp statues strewn throughout the overworld, rewarding exploration without focusing on unnecessary collectables. The game also included a map, which made navigation easier in the long run: one of the major issues with the first game’s overworld design was just how similar many of the screens in each area looked, making it difficult to navigate the various paths to specific areas. My favorite feature from Risky’s Revenge was Shantae’s ability to jump into the foreground and background. This was only used in the first two areas in the game – Scuttle Town and Tangle Forest – but I think the mechanic had a lot of potential. Honestly, I think it would even be an interesting gimmick for a level, whether it’s linear or a Metroidvania-style dungeon.

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Kind of difficult to get a still shot showcasing the plane jumping.

There’s also the question of Shantae’s abilities. Obviously, she should retain her trademark hair whip and crawl. There’s also no question that her transformation dances should return, but which input method should they use? The first game’s button and direction combinations were impractical and cycling through every dance one-by-one like in Risky’s Revenge just doesn’t seem viable anymore. HGH’s method of cycling through four directional seems like the best existing method, but I’d also consider taking inspiration from the MegaMan series. I liked how MegaMan ZX Advent allowed players to sift through its transformations in a menu brought up in-game, but honestly, the upcoming MegaMan 11 seems to have an even better concept: switching between weapons on the fly using all 8 directions on the right analog stick. Obviously, keeping Shantae’s dancing animation is crucial, but the ability to choose between eight dances at once is tempting. As for the transformations themselves, Half-Genie Hero already contained all the dances from the first two games – Monkey, Elephant, Spider, Harpy and Mermaid – and Pirate’s Curse didn’t use that mechanic at all, so the onus should be on coming up with entirely new transformations in a fifth Shantae game.

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Slightly off-topic: I love how they turned the spider into a drider for this game.

Ever since Risky’s Revenge, the Shantae games have included some form of post-game content, usually in the form of a “new game+” that either modifies Shantae’s stats to change up the game itself or a mode specifically built for speedrunning that give Shantae all of her abilities from the beginning of the game. Half-Genie Hero managed to go above and beyond with this, ushering in new modes on top of existing content. “Hero Mode” gives Shantae access to every mandatory transformation (specifically the ones received after clearing a chapter) from the beginning of the game. The game also includes a second difficulty setting, “Hard Core Mode”, a first for the series.

Then there’s the DLC – free to backers and people who decided to buy one of the later physical versions of the game – which offers three new scenarios. “Pirate Queen’s Quest” puts players in the role of antagonist Risky Boots, who informs us of what really happened while Shantae was under the spell of dark magic. Risky plays similarly to how Shantae did in Pirate’s Curse (which makes sense, because Shantae relied on Risky’s gear after losing her magic in that game) but adds in unique abilities of her own. There’s also “Friends to the End”, a Trine-like puzzle platformer with Bolo, Sky and Rottytops working together to navigate Shantae’s memories and save their friend from her dark side. Finally, the “Costume Pack” DLC is set to include 3 separate “arcade-style” adventures with Shantae donning one of three costumes: a stealthy ninja outfit, a summery beach bikini and even a reference to Patricia Wagon from Mighty Switch Force. That last one isn’t out as I’m writing this, but it sounds like a vast improvement over the original concept – allowing for replaying the main campaign with different stat boosts, much like the “Magic Mode” in Risky’s Revenge.

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No seriously: I love Pirate Queen’s Quest more than you can possibly understand.

In Shantae 5, WayForward should recycle at least the PQQ and FttE concepts at bare minimum. While both modes recycled a lot of the main story’s art assets, they created entirely original stage layouts which felt like brand-new adventures. Pirate Queen’s Quest even managed to add new enemies – mostly from previous games, but there were also a few entirely original ones – to the game. Friends to the End, on the other hand, used all of the existing assets to create something that felt entirely different, despite reusing a lot of the design elements from the other two campaigns. While Costume Mode still hasn’t been released, it does seem like an interesting choice for inclusion in future titles as well, though WayForward would probably have to draw up some new costumes just to keep things interesting. The sheer amount of remixed content has definitely endeared HGH to me in a way that the original stretch goal pitches – replaying the main campaign with 4 new characters and 3 extra costumes – never could have, so hopefully that will become more prominent in future Shantae titles, if not WayForward’s entire library moving forward. Hero Mode and Hard Core Mode also seem like they’d be cost-effective ways to extend a new Shantae game’s replay value.

This brings us to the game’s story. Generally, I don’t offer any advice when it comes to a game’s storyline in any of these sequel proposals – I would rather not write anything that borders on fanfiction – but in the case of a fifth Shantae game, I have some advice that would prove essential with regards to the game’s writing. Half-Genie Hero felt disconnected from the rest of the series in a lot of ways: honestly, the best way I can describe it is that it felt like “Shantae: The Motion Picture”. Now, considering that back when the game was first pitched, all previous games were limited to Nintendo handhelds and so a self-contained story was probably the smartest way to approach what could very well be someone’s first Shantae game. However, by now, far more people are familiar with the series: the second and third games are available on practically everything Half-Genie Hero is, so a lot of people have become familiar with the various plotlines that were explored and teased in those games. So, the fifth game should reintroduce some of the unresolved plot threads from the previous games. Pirate’s Curse especially seemed to be hinting at some important aspects of the series’ lore – Shantae’s parentage, Rottytops’ former life and even that Risky Boots personally knew Shantae’s mother – and a lot of long-time fans (myself included) were disappointed that most of these weren’t even touched upon in HGH, let alone resolved. Even worse, what HGH managed to achieve, our first look at the Genie Realm, ended up being more of a tease than anything. WayForward should definitely look to the past when writing the next Shantae installment.

On the other hand, Half-Genie Hero’s art style is perfect for the series moving forward. I’m under the impression that a big part of the reason why WayForward had to crowdfund the game and why it was so short is because shifting from their traditional pixelated sprites to high-definition hand-drawn artwork took up a majority of the game’s budget. In the end, I’d say it was worth it: HGH is a gorgeous game. Considering the fact that Pirate’s Curse recycled several art assets from Risky’s Revenge, it seems likely that Shantae 5 would do the same with its predecessor. The 2.5D aesthetic – 2D hand-drawn characters against colorful 3D backgrounds – has become an almost iconic look for WayForward on high-definition platforms by this point. Best of all, if they don’t have to redraw everything from scratch again, Shantae 5 would most likely be much larger than Half-Genie Hero: after all, Pirate’s Curse was at least twice the size of Risky’s Revenge. Likewise, I’d love to hear the voice cast from HGH return, even the additional cast from the Friends to the End DLC. More importantly, Jake “virt” Kaufman should return for the fifth entry. Though he’s since founded his own music production studio and no longer works as a WayForward employee, he’s been the series’ composer since the very first game back in 2002. virt and Shantae are intertwined at this point.

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This image speaks for itself.

Part of the reason I decided to write this article is that the most recent project we’ve seen from WayForward – aside from Half-Genie Hero’s post-launch content – was The Mummy Demastered, which came out late last year. Granted, even Half-Genie Hero’s development was delayed, and by Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (its predecessor) no less. Regardless, the radio silence about future WayForward projects – Shantae or otherwise – is unnerving. Still, I’m sure that WayForward is planning on another entry in the series: I doubt they would’ve ported a failed game to the Switch. I’m almost certain that it won’t be their next project (even omitting licensed games) but I’m also certain that we’ll see Shantae 5 in the next few years. Whether WayForward decides to build it based on any of the advice that I’ve written in this article remains to be seen, but I’m sure that if they somehow manage to come to the same conclusions I have, the fifth Shantae will be the best game in the entire series.

Under Reconstruction – Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

As I’m posting this around midnight on All Hallows’ Eve, the witching hour as it were, it feels only fitting that I’m reviving a series I’ve not seen for a couple years. What better treat for Halloween than one last revival for the year? While Sum of Its Parts may have been more fitting given the day, Under Reconstruction always felt like an interesting concept. Taking a look at the odd one-offs, the quirky experiments and the black sheep games in popular series and reimagining them in a way that would improve their standing, while maintaining their unique identities in the process. I guess it would be scarier if I just decided they should be reworked to completely represent the rest of their franchises, but where’s the fun in that?

As I’ve only written one of these articles before, I’ll be making some changes from the previous article. Quite simply, I went far, far too in-depth in the last article, which may have contributed to my abandonment of the concept. Looking back at the previous article, I was clearly going for of a mini-design document style, which decisively hurt the flow of the entire thing at times, forcing it to be confined to sections and sub-headers. This time around, Under Reconstruction will be going for more of a “broad strokes” format, effectively going for the gist of what I’d want to see in a remake of the game in question. Hopefully, that’ll make this more viable as a recurring series, which honestly, was the original point of the first article. So, if you’re expecting another set of in-depth treatises on how to remake an old video game few people remember and fewer people liked, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed with this one. As for anyone else still reading this, let’s continue.

If you haven’t already guessed from the title, this article is going to be focusing on the second Castlevania game, Simon’s Quest. While Simon’s Quest is generally considered among the weaker entries in the series, due in no small part to a parody review video from one James “Angry Video Game Nerd” Rolfe, its place of importance within the Castlevania franchise is still unquestionable. While the original Castlevania was essentially an arcade-era platformer in the same vein as Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Simon’s Quest took a far more exploratory approach to its games – best resembling Nintendo’s Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Due to this shift in priorities, some consider it to be something of an “ur-Metroidvania”, the style of gameplay associated with Symphony of the Night – which in turn, is considered by many to be the best game in the series. Of course, SotN and SQ handle exploration in almost entirely different ways, but by now, the connection has been made. Simon’s Quest isn’t the worst game in the series by any means, but it suffers from its mechanics – to the extent where the following game simply refined the mechanics of the original game and the series would follow on this path until the 32-bit era. Considering we’ve seen several remakes and reimaginings of the first game, why not give the second a chance to shine, especially given the fact that platform-adventure games in general have become substantially more refined?

Gameplay

The best games I can think of that took inspiration from Simon’s Quest would have to be the first two Shantae games from WayForward. As such, they seem like a good place to look for inspiration when refining mechanics for the remake. For starters, throw out the lives system. It was an odd mechanic in general, especially considering the fact that the only way to replenish them was through getting a Game Over. Most of the platformers that focused on exploration that came out after SQ had done away with the lives system, so it only makes sense that a remake would do the same. Having said that, I would keep the pitfalls in the game, as they emphasize the platforming elements in the game – just have them do about as much damage as an enemy instead of costing a life (you know, because they won’t exist anymore). Having said that, any Simon’s Quest remake should bring back the day/night mechanics, but do a straight fluid transition between the times of day, rather than doing it with a textbox and a slow-paced transition every single time. The original Shantae also made use of the day/night mechanics and handled them perfectly: just a quick palette and music swap. I’d suggest incorporating the classic texts for the first night and day transitions respectively, but make them background elements: don’t interrupt the flow of gameplay.

Simon’s Quest had a simple leveling system in it, and frankly, I’d just bring this back unchanged. Keeping the level cap at six and allowing for significant stat boosts based on experience points would be an interesting concept – effectively bridging the gap between the sometimes-ridiculous RPG-style leveling associated with the Metroidvanias, while still rewarding players for facing down enemies unlike the Classicvanias. Keeping the amount of experience points that can be earned in specific areas is another element I’d keep from the original NES version, simply because it would force progression. Likewise, the way the game handled equipment – including upgrades for existing weapons – is also well done. Granted, in this case, I’d suggest allowing players to shift back to weaker versions of the powered-up weapons, for the sake of adding some measure of optional difficulty. I’d also suggest adding both the Axe and the Cross Boomerang to Simon’s arsenal of sub-weapons, not only because their absence struck me as odd, but because they could allow for new obstacles and gameplay mechanics. Simon’s Quest also had multiple endings, based on how quickly the game was beaten. I’d definitely keep those mechanics: considering the fact that the game is said to be a prototype of the future Metroidvanias of the series, it would only make sense to include something that rewards quick completions, consider that’s a hallmark of the sub-genre‘s namesake.

The game world itself, on the other hand, needs to be significantly overhauled. The only thing I’d consider worth keeping from the original release would be the literal setting, which sufficiently depicted the kind of countryside and towns one might expect to exist alongside a literal demon castle. While researching for this article, I looked up a full map of the game’s overworld, and it’s literally a straight line. Some verticality and branching paths would be appreciated, especially considering how much of a role these elements would play in future games in the series. In a game like this, non-linearity seems like it should be the focus and as such, keeping the linear design of the original overworld seems like a mistake, especially considering the fact that the game managed to take a non-linear approach in the first place. The various areas were lined up in a random order, forcing playing to backtrack between both ends of the map to progress. Adding additional paths and shortcuts could make things much more interesting from a gameplay perspective.

Then there’s the case of the Mansions, which effectively acted as “action stages” or dungeons within the game. Each housed a specific relic of Dracula’s and they ended up being the parts of the game that best resembled the first game in terms of gameplay. However, they would generally focus more on cryptic puzzles rather than platforming gameplay, something I’d probably change if the game were remade for modern audiences. The best examples of how I’d like to see an SQ remake handle the Mansions would be the mini-dungeons in a later Castlevania game, Portrait of Ruin. The segmented areas in Aliens: Infestation are another good example of what I’d like to see. To put it simply, each mansion would essentially be a miniature Metroidvania map, roughly the size of a single area in the major Metroidvania-style Castlevanias. Another point about the original Simon’s Quest that was disappointing would have to be the lack of bosses. There were only 3 bosses in the game: Death, Carmilla and Dracula himself – and they were all fairly underwhelming. Given the fact that there are so many iconic bosses in the Castlevania series, it would be easy enough to pick some additional bosses for the game. Likewise, I’d suggest expanding on the existing bosses as well – it’s not like there aren’t several other incarnations of those three to draw inspiration from. Speaking of expansion, increasing the number of mansions overall would probably be a good idea: it’s not like the Prince of Darkness only had 4 body parts and a ring. Expanding the mansions to 8 would probably be a good number thus allowing for a much more ornate game world in general. Better yet, these new mansions could easily justify my proposed redesign of the overworld – these new Mansions could be hidden along alternate paths from the standard straight-line design of the original game, thus allowing this new version of Simon’s Quest to feel more like an expansion than a total reimagining. I’d also suggest giving each mansion a theme to focus on, which would allow for more cohesive level designs. I’m not talking about silly things like “make one Egyptian-themed”, but giving each mansion a unique obstacle to center its design around would probably make things was more interesting.

Finally, we come to the game’s towns. Perhaps the most unique element Simon’s Quest introduced to the Castlevania series – as the concept wouldn’t be revisited until 2008’s Order of Ecclesia. In the original version, players would be able to buy items and talk to the townsfolk for information, which wouldn’t always be true …or coherent, for that matter. When accounting for modern game design, using the towns as save points and areas to heal seems obvious. I’d consider also using them as warp points, allowing players to travel to areas they’ve previously visited with no issues, but that’s strictly my preference: backtracking can be a nightmare, especially when the game map is literally a straight line. As for the townsfolk, I’d keep things cryptic and allow some of them to lie, like in the original game. Just please make sure that their speech isn’t translated into gibberish this time around. Hell, maybe add in some sidequests between towns, that could help to expand the game’s world even further. Again, I’d look to the second and third Shantae games for inspiration when reimagining the towns. Giving different layouts and themes to each town would be helpful, but at the same time, keep the vertical layouts in the new version. Likewise, I’d also say to maintain the various obstacles – both the pitfalls and the zombie attacks at nightfall – in the new version, it definitely mixes things up.

Presentation

Of course, when it comes to remaking a game, gameplay is only half the equation. Presentation is also important. A subtle balance must be achieved: the game must simultaneously appear new to draw in those who played the original game, while at the same time maintaining enough key elements from the source material to be recognizable as an actual remake, rather than an outright reimagining with nothing in common with the original. At the same time, the game also has to be able to draw in those not familiar with the previous release, effectively making sure that it can appeal to those familiar with later iterations of the series or even those completely unfamiliar with the franchise in question. It’s a precarious balance that is too difficult to really look into clinically, but I’ll do my best to keep it in mind when discussing the aesthetical content of the game.

For starters, we have the game’s story. After defeating Dracula in the events of Castlevania – which have been told a million ways a million different times – Simon Belmont retires to a simple and peaceful life for the next seven years. However, upon his death, the Prince of Darkness placed a curse on the young vampire hunter, cursing him to an early grave unless the lord of vampires was resurrected at Belmont’s own hand. To make matters worse, Dracula’s minions are once again terrorizing Transylvania, leaving mayhem in their wake. As such, Simon gathers his legendary whip – the Vampire Killer – once more. He begins a quest to revive the dark lord, only to kill him again, ending his reign of terror once and for all. …Or for the next hundred years, whichever comes first. There’s really little that needs to be added to make SQ’s backstory work, all the framework is already there. At best, I’d probably suggest making references to all the different incarnations of Simon’s original adventure throughout the game. After all, the original Castlevania’s story had been touched upon in a multitude of different ways – hell, one version even had Dracula abduct Simon’s bride on their wedding day – so it would be somewhat interesting to hear of the various legends of the storied vampire hunter as told by various townsfolk, relying solely on hearsay, rumors and tall tales.

I’m usually pretty flexible when it comes to graphics in games. It has been awhile since we’ve seen a game done in the 32-bit SotN Castlevania pixel art style and given how well that allow the graphics of the original Simon’s Quest to translate into a more modern environment, that would probably be ideal. If they use Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth as a design guide, the game could end up looking gorgeous. Hand-drawn 2D, similar to the Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, could be an interesting take as well, though that would probably be prohibitively expensive. In all seriousness, 3D graphics in a 2.5D game would probably be the most cost-effective choice, but it would probably harm some of the game’s readability, unless Konami (or whatever developer they’d put in charge of such a project) takes extra care to make the game look gorgeous and decipherable at the same time. While everything was properly visible in Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, the character designs looked a bit weird at times. Hopefully, if a SQ remake went the same route, we’d get something much more visually appealing, while making sure not to sacrifice clarity in the process.

I’d have to say that my personal favorite aspect of Simon’s Quest would be the game’s soundtrack. With that in mind, I’d keep all of the compositions from the original game in a remake – which Konami outright avoided with Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth. I would, however, love to see Konami take songs from other Castlevania games and incorporate them into a remade soundtrack – especially if they go with more obscure tracks like in ReBirth. Original compositions would be nice too, but considering it’s a remake, I’d definitely prefer going with other classic songs. Choosing a musical style is a bit more difficult: my ideal pick would be symphonic metal, similar to the Dracula X Chronicles soundtrack, allowing for both an orchestral sound that would fit with the game’s setting, as well as a strong melodic component. Of course, I’d love to hear a new chiptune arrangement of the soundtrack as well, but I’d be happy if they just included the original NES and Famicom Disk System versions, as well as older iterations of any new tracks, as bonuses. They should definitely implement the ability to swap out different versions of each song, sort of like how DXC let you customize which songs played in which stages during gameplay.

Finally, we come to the project’s scale. Ideally, we’d be looking at this as a downloadable game – with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price between $10 and 20 at launch. Nothing too extravagant, after all, this is meant to be a faithful adaptation of a game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The best game I can use as an example of what I’d expect out of a Simon’s Quest remake would probably be 2013’s Ducktales Remastered: Capcom and WayForward took the basic format and layout of the original game, expanded on it – both lengthening existing stages and adding entirely new ones – tightened up the controls and provided updated visual and audio. If Konami did something similar with a Castlevania II remake, it would probably end up being a winner. Traditional Castlevanias fell to the wayside in the wake of the Lords of Shadow series and we’re still waiting on Bloodstained, Koji “IGA” Igarashi’s spiritual successor. Metroid-likes and Castlevania tribute games are a pretty profitable niche among indie games, so it would only make sense for Konami themselves to capitalize on a void they created.

This brings the second entry in the Under Reconstruction series to an end. The new format leaves a few gaps in the overall design document aspect of the article, but I think that ends up working to its advantage. After all, it leaves a lot more to the imagination. Personally, I had fun writing this, so hopefully I’ll be able to think of more topics for more of these in the future. More importantly, what do you think? Would you like to see a remake of Simon’s Quest? Do you think the changes I suggested are too extreme or not extreme enough? Sound off in the comments below.

Top 5 Games That Mastered Remaking

With the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns and the recently released Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, remakes have been on my mind recently.  Now there’s quite a bit of a scale in terms of how much effort goes into video game remakes.  Sometimes you get simple remasters that basically just polish the textures so the game looks good in HD.  Sometimes the graphics are completely redone, maybe a few gameplay polishes.  And sometimes you get the holy grail, a game that takes the story, settings, and basic gameplay of an old game and makes what can basically be considered a new game.  These are my strong preference for video game remakes, but as you might expect from the amount of effort involved, they are the rarest type.  But these do exist, and so I’m going to listing my top five remakes that truly mastered the art of… re-ing.  But before we get to that, let’s look at some great game that I feel went just a little too far in their new features and have “condemned” themselves to be new games:

Punch-Out!! (2009)

Punch-Out!! on NES is a great game.  Super Punch-Out!! on SNES is better.  But Punch-Out!! on Wii annihilates the rest of the series.  With the same name as the NES game (and one of the arcade games) and almost every fighter from it, Punch-Out!! is almost a remake, but every fighter is changed so much (and almost a third of them weren’t in the NES game) that it feels more like a Mario game that uses the same level themes than a remake.

Mortal Kombat (2011)

I loved Mortal Kombat when I was a kid in the 90s, but it was more the violence taboo, dark fantasy tone, and seemingly endless secrets that intrigued me than the gameplay.  So the 2011 Mortal Kombat installment that brought back almost every character from the first three MK games (the nostalgia and image peak) and retold their stories, but this time with great gameplay, was pretty freaking fantasic.  However, it’s not really a remake, instead being a weird, nonsensical, but very entertaining in-universe reboot that continues the series’ story by changing the first three games.

Star Fox 64

Star Fox 64 has an essentially identical story to the first game, but aside from that (and the fact that doing a remake as the second installment in a franchise, only four years after the original was released would be really weird) it changes as much as any other direct sequel.  Star Fox 64 is an amazing game that aged very well for a fifth-gen game, but I don’t think it can really be called a remake.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana

I haven’t played this game (make a PS4 version, damn it!), but I’ve been assured it is a vast improvement over its basis, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, and that it has the same essential story and is now considered canon in the series.  Having played both Ys III and Ys Origin (which has the same gameplay style as Oath in Felghana), however, I can’t really consider this a true remake when the basic gameplay genre has been changed so dramatically.  But I’m sure it’s a great game, and again, want a convenient version for myself released.

Okay, with those out of the way, let’s get to the actual list!  Five games that push the remake envelope to its max without breaking it.  Not much else to say, here we go:

#5.  Ducktales Remastered

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Everyone loves the NES Ducktales game, but I’m just going to come out and say that several parts of it aged badly.  The control for the signature pogo cane is stiff, the hit detection is noticeably off, and the game is really, really short.  Well in 2013 we got a fantastic remake that may not be perfect, but fixed all of the aforementioned issues and of course was promptly condemned for not matching the deified memories people had of the NES game.  Well screw that, Ducktales Remastered is vastly superior to the original.  In addition to things technology’s march made possible (gorgeous art and animation that looks just like the show, full voice acting), the game greatly expands every level from the NES game and adds two completely new ones, making for an experience that could almost pass for Ducktales 3.  With the Ducktales cartoon’s reboot about to launch (which I’m expecting to also greatly outshine the original, the previews have done a very good job of showing the Gravity Falls influence), now is a great time to play through this game.  It’s a fitting last hurrah for the 80s Ducktales as a whole, in addition to being a great remake.

#4. Ratchet and Clank (2016)

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Straddling the line between remake and reboot, I decided to place this game on the remake side because I’m always going to place gameplay first, and no matter how much the story of the original Ratchet and Clank was changed in Ratchet and Clank 2016, it’s obvious that the original game was still the near exclusive focus.  The advancements in control and quality of life that the later games made are intact, but the levels are almost all from the original.  But like all the remakes on this list, they aren’t just graphically upgraded copies, they’re new levels using the settings and elements of the original.  Ratchet and Clank 2016 does a great job expanding the classic levels it covers and makes them feel every bit as good as new levels would.  While having less levels is a somewhat painful tradeoff and prevents this game from placing higher on the list, R&C2016 is still a polished and satisfying action platformer that can serve as a great introduction to the series for 13 year olds who weren’t alive when the original game was released and are now making you feel old.  Let’s hope we get the Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal remakes that everyone wants, and that they’re as good as this one

#3. Mega Man Powered Up

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This game is criminally underappreciated.  Unlike Maverick Hunter X, which made minimal gameplay additions and was based on a game that aged too well to really need a remake, Mega Man Powered Up takes the very first Mega Man game and adds an absurd amount of content.  You get a ton of new playable characters, a level editor, and brand new chibi-style 2.5D graphics that can be placed over an exact gameplay replica of the original game.  But the crown jewel of this game is the “New Style” mode with brand new levels based on the themes and gameplay elements of the original, in addition to two brand new bosses with their own original levels.  This game just offers everything.  Want the original game with new graphics?  You’ve got it.  Want a better game based on it?  It’s there.  Want to play as Roll or a robot master?  Go ahead.  Impossible to please?  Then make your own damn level, you can even do that.  Mega Man Powered Up needs to be rescued from its relative obscurity, it’s a must have for every Mega Man fan.

#2. Resident Evil (2002)

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One of the most positively regarded video game remakes of all time, the GameCube Resident Evil (or REmake, as it’s commonly known) took the 1996 original, which had already aged pretty badly by 2002, and turned it into one of the best games to use the classic Resident Evil formula.  The flow of the game was shaken up, the puzzles were redesigned, new enemies and areas were added, the controls were updated, a colossal amount of secrets were added, the dialogue and voice acting were made competent, and the graphics were completely redone and looked truly amazing, they still hold up today, even without the long-postponed HD remaster.  This set the standard for video game remakes, and every re-release of a Resident Evil game since has been met with wishes that another Resident Evil game would get the kind of monumental remake that the original did.  While the lack of information has made it hard to remember, we do have the mythical REmake 2 announced, hopefully we can once again get something on the level of this, the runner-up master of remaking.

#1.  Metroid: Zero Mission

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I debated on the order to place the previous games in, trying to decide how much weight to give how much of an improvement over the original game each remake was versus how much I enjoyed the game personally.  Thankfully, Metroid: Zero Mission excels in both areas.  The original Metroid is enormously influential, but it did not age well at all, and the lack of features and quality of life improvements that Super Metroid standardized is glaring.  Metroid: Zero Mission merges the original game with Super Metroid, adding new abilities, areas, bosses, and story elements to make something that functions as both a new entry in the Metroid series, and a replacement for the poorly-aged original.  While the game is a bit short (despite all the expansions, the aimless wandering and cheap deaths really made the NES Metroid feel longer than it was), the gameplay is just as fun and satisfying as the legendary Super Metroid.  Zero Mission is everything a remake should strive to be, the best possible outcome.  After 13 years of wishing for Metroid II to get the same treatment, we’re just months away from that finally happening, and now seems like the time to recognize both Metroid: Zero Mission and the potential of remakes in general.  If more remakes had the effort and care given to Zero Mission, the world would be a better place and the galaxy would be at peace.

So there you have it, my picks for the top five games that show the full potential of video game remakes.  I’m not saying there’s no place for remasters that simply add some modern quality of life features to a classic game, but I consider games like these five to be the holy grail of video game remakes.  There are plenty of classic but questionably aged games that could benefit from full blown remakes, hopefully we’ll get many more remakes like these five games that mastered remaking.

The Year Without a PC Port Wishlist

Christmas has pretty much always been my favorite holiday, especially when I was a child. I was a greedy little boy while I was growing up: one of my favorite holiday traditions was always writing up my list to Santa on my computer. Sure, some years I’d get overzealous and start thinking about it as early as August, but I’d always have a lot of fun just writing the list itself. I’d always try to sort things in the order I wanted them, but that was actually part of the fun for me: one week I’d really want some action figures, the next some new video game caught my eye. The downside to starting a list that early is that as time goes on, new items catch your eye. Even the greed of a child has its limits, so I would often have to pare down my list, trimming the items I could “do without”. (Gotta love child logic, am I right?) In a sense, I think those PC ports lists I wrote for a long time were the evolution of that favored Yule tradition, but eventually I got tired of doing them. Too much wishing, not enough getting. I’ve taken a hiatus on them and now, it’s been over a year. Instead of making an entirely new one, why not look over my previous works and analyze them a little? This year, I’ll be recounting my 5 favorite success stories, my top 10 most wanted and the game on each list I’d consider the most important (excluding those on the aforementioned lists) plus a brand-new one for good measure!

Before we get started (fittingly enough, with my favorite success stories), I’d like to start with some recent successes as well. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released on PS4 earlier this month and it will also be hitting both the Xbox One and Steam in March. Meanwhile, Garou: Mark of the Wolves was also recently released on PlayStation consoles via CodeMystics, but surprise, surprise: an entirely different port hit Steam soon after, from the good folks at DotEmu. In fact, it was such a surprise, I actually had to change a list entry because of it. The DotEmu port is less fancy than the CodeMystics port, but apparently, not only does the Steam version have a more solid netcode, but it’s also getting immediate bugfixes to iron out some of its bizarre glitches. Funny how that works. I expected that to be the last bit of news I got on the PC end of things, but I was wrong: The Legend of Dark Witch 2, another game I’d been salivating over the prospect of seeing a PC port is announced to be hitting Steam sometime during “Q4 2016”. One last big surprise for me.

You’ll also remember that this past April, I did an “April Fools’ Day” article, revolving around 10 PC games I’d like to see receive console ports. Well, like many of my jokes, this one ended up biting me in the ass. During the PlayStation Experience, Ys Origin (the only PC-exclusive Ys game) was announced to be hitting both PlayStation 4 and, amazingly enough, the Vita on February 21, 2017 with the port being handled by the good people over at DotEmu who are utilizing XSEED’s English translation and coming up with original French, Italian, German and Spanish translations as well. (As an aside, DotEmu’s also bringing a favorite of mine – the NeoGeo classic Windjammers – to the same platforms. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a PC port down the line!) You’d think that would be enough, but the world wasn’t done having fun at my expense: soon after, it was revealed that the indie platformer Kero Blaster would also be coming to the PS4, thanks to its publisher Playism. They’ll also be bringing Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight to PS4, though release windows for both titles have not been announced. Continue reading

Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2016

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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.

Retro or Reboot?: Streets of Rage 4

(I’d like to preface this article with an apology for the lack of activity lately. I just wasn’t feeling motivated to write any more articles for the past couple of months, mainly due to writer’s block. Fortunately, I’ve got some ideas now and I’ve decided to make up for the hiatus by posting two articles each for the next two months.)

One of my favorite series to write on this blog was Sum of Its Parts. Unfortunately, lately I’ve been lacking proper topics to continue it. I’ve received some outside suggestions, but they were all inappropriate: they were either series that I’m not familiar with or, worse still, series where there’s already an ideal game in the series (which kind of defeats the entire point of a series dedicated to fashioning together elements from numerous games to form an ideal sequel, don’t you think?). Still, I enjoyed writing those articles too much to just completely give up on the idea, so I decided to try retooling it a bit, to create a sort of “successor” to the original concept. Having said that, I hope you enjoy the first of what I hope to be many articles in this new series, Retro or Reboot?

But what is the point of this new series? Basically, I’ll be taking a series that has been inactive for at least two generations (so, at this point, we’d be seeing stuff from the PS2 era or earlier), preferably one that saw all of its releases in the span of a single generation and speculate two potential avenues for a modern revival: a retro-themed revival that would simply try to recreate the original concept (albeit with more modern technology and likely end up as a budget release) and a higher-scale reboot that would take the original concept and try to transpose it onto a genre that would be more palatable for modern audiences. Of course, both of these could go wrong very easily, but I’m going to back away from my standard cynicism and just go with what I’d consider the ideal for both iterations could be.

Today’s topic is, obviously, Streets of Rage: one of my all-time favorite beat-‘em-up series. The entire trilogy was released on the Genesis back in its heyday, though the first two games also received scaled-down ports on Sega’s Game Gear. Since then, the original games have seen multiple re-releases on modern platforms. Aside from that, the series has laid dormant since the third (and currently, final) game was released. Of course, that’s not to say that there haven’t been attempts to revive the series. The short-lived PS1/Nintendo 64 3D beat-‘em-up Fighting Force was originally an attempt at making a fourth Streets of Rage game on the Saturn. There was also an attempt at a series revival on Dreamcast, Bionic Commando Rearmed developer GRIN was working on a 3D remake before their closure, Backbone Entertainment pitched a new game, and even Ruffian Games (developers of Crackdown) made a pitch for an updated revival on what is assumed to be 7th-generation platforms. Unfortunately, none of these projects ever came to fruition and alas, the series has remained inactive since 1994.

Retro

Simply put, we’re talking about going back to basics here. A straight-up, good old fashioned multi-plane beat-‘em-up, in either a fully 2D or a 2.5D style. Of course, Streets of Rage 4 may not be the best possible title for a game like this, considering Sega’s previous attempt at an old-school revival with that number, but for the time being, let’s just use that title as a placeholder.

Potential developers for a retro-themed revival would be a good start, but before we get to that, I’ve got a couple of honorable mentions that were disqualified for various reasons. It’s a shame Sega scared off the team behind that awesome fan-made Streets of Rage remake, they were literally perfect for this kind of a project. Likewise, Double Helix did an amazing job on the Strider and Killer Instinct revivals, so seeing their work on a SoR game would’ve been great. Alas, they got bought out by Amazon and are likely relegated to making shoddy smartphone games for the rest of their tenure there. Just as well though, I wasn’t really fond of their designs for Jago or Hiryu anyway, so I shudder to think how they would’ve done up Axel.

With the honorable mentions out of the way, I do have a few developers in mind that I’d love to see work on this. First and foremost, WayForward Interactive. They did an amazing job on Double Dragon Neon (my favorite beat-‘em-up of last generation) and they have a previous relationship with Sega (they developed the Metroidesque Aliens: Infestation for Sega on the Nintendo DS). Another developer I wouldn’t mind seeing work on this would be Vanillaware. Sega did buy out Atlus, with whom Vanillaware has a previously established relationship, and they’ve done some amazing work in the beat-‘em-up genre with Dragon’s Crown. Finally, in spite of my mixed feelings on their work in the Sonic series, I feel like Dimps Software would be another good choice for a Streets of Rage retro revival. Ignoring their hit-or-miss record on the Sonic franchise, Dimps has actually made a great number of good games, including work on the recent Street Fighter games and the Game Boy Advance title Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure (a great example of a full-2D beat-‘em-up), Spikeout: Battle Street (a sequel to a Sega Dreamcast game that was considered a successor to the Streets of Rage series) and even Demolish Fist, an arcade-exclusive 2.5D beat-‘em-up in the same vein as Final Fight or Streets of Rage.

Now let’s go even further into detail on the most important part of the game: the gameplay itself. The most important thing any developer put in charge of this project must consider is the “feel” of Streets of Rage and how it compares to other beat-‘em-ups. Yes, I’m aware that this is as vague as “soul”, “emotion” or whatever buzzword people who don’t like modern games says in order to justify their inability to articulate what it is they think the game lacks, but trust me, it’s not quite that bad. I’ll elaborate. Beats of Rage is a fan-made engine that has been floating around the internet for a number of years that is based on the Genesis-era SoR games. Many games have been made in it, including fan-made sequels and/or remakes of other classic beat-‘em-ups such as Battletoads, Double Dragon and Final Fight. Of course, these games don’t feel quite right as entries in the series they’re supposed to take place in, they feel like reskinned versions of the later two Streets of Rage games. This is an important distinction to make and as such, the original trilogy’s gameplay engines (especially those of SoR2 and 3) should be the basis to shoot for when it comes to making a brand new game in the series.

A new game in the series doesn’t necessarily have to be a 1:1 recreation of the classic games in order to be a good Streets of Rage game. There are some modern conventions that SoR4 could take on that would improve the quality of the game. As an example, I’d like to bring up the evasion maneuvers in modern beat-‘em-ups like Double Dragon Neon and Dragon’s Crown. Old-school beat-‘em-ups were arcade games through and through, with cheap mechanics that guaranteed that the average arcade gamer would feed their machines with a thousand allowances’ worth of quarters. As we know, the arcade scene is pretty much dead outside of Japan, but beat-‘em-ups never really made the jump properly and still relied on their old tactics like unstoppable cheap beatdowns for the sake of difficulty. DD Neon gave players an evasion roll (ala The King of Fighters) which, if timed correctly, also gave players a boost in damage. Dragon’s Crown gave players the ability to backflip to avoid attacks, which could be leveled up to allow up to 4 evasions in a row. Branching paths, like those found in the cease-and-desisted SoR Remake would be another element I’d love to see brought into the series proper. I’ve always been a sucker for that gimmick. Maybe timed boss fights like those in SoR3 could be interesting, but only if they’re properly balanced. One last thing that I think would be a good addition to the series would be to make good on some lost content. I am, of course, referring to the motorcycle segment that was excised from the third SoR game. Let’s face it, it looked fun and it would definitely add some diversity to the gameplay.

Finally, let’s discuss the aesthetic. Earlier, I mentioned that I didn’t really care whether the game was done in true 2D or “2.5D”. I’d like to expand on that and say that regardless if SoR4 uses pixel art, high-definition 2D graphics or 3D models in its artstyle really doesn’t matter to me. What I find more important is whether or not the game resembles those from the Genesis era. As I mentioned earlier, there were numerous attempts to make another game in the Streets of Rage series and what I’ve noticed about most of them is that many of them barely resembled the games of old. Sure, Fighting Force and the Dreamcast SoR4 had their excuses, they were trying to apply a new spin on a then recent, if slightly outdated series. Less forgivable is what Backbone entertainment’s pitch entailed. The concept art that was released for their pitch was…unsettling, to be polite. In fact, the only pitch with an artstyle I really liked was GRIN’s, because it actually resembled the old games to some extent. Keep the old games in mind when handling the game’s art design and you can’t go wrong.

Reboot

An old-school beat-‘em-up from the arcade days might work well for a low-budget release, but for something demanding a decent budget, it would just be a waste of money. Fortunately, we’ve got a perfect successor to the genre: the modern action game. Games like Dynasty Warriors, Devil May Cry and God of War all stem from the beat-‘em-ups of old, so revitalizing Streets of Rage in this genre would be perfect.

Having said that, there’s really only one real choice for this one: Platinum Games. They have the action game pedigree (Madworld, the Bayonetta games and Transformers Devastation to name a few), the pre-existing relationship with Sega and the popularity with core gamers necessary to even attempt a revamp of this magnitude with minimal pessimism. Having said that, if they couldn’t get Platinum to do it, I’d have at least a little faith in Dimps if they got called in to handle this one.

With that out of the way, let’s go a bit more in-depth with the gameplay. Like I said earlier, the best way to modernize Streets of Rage would be to turn it into an action game. The question is, what level of craziness should we expect from a modern translation of SoR? Considering the fact that the first game allowed you to call bazooka support, the second game included locales like a baseball stadium and an amusement park and the third game’s plot involved resurrecting main villain Mr. X as a cyborg and replacing key figures around the city with robot duplicates, it’s safe to say that the series was never really grounded in reality. Fighting hordes of gangbangers across a location as interesting as “The City” is bound to be amazing to say the least. If Platinum ends up working on it, I’d want them to crank up the insanity levels significantly though. I’m talking “fighting the Statue of Liberty with your bare knuckles” (ha ha) insane.

Aesthetic is a much different beast in the reboot compared to the retro revival. As I said earlier, most of the later attempts at a new entry in the Streets of Rage series had aesthetic problems in my opinion. In this case, I feel like the Ruffian Games version best described my fears of what a big-budget SoR revamp could look like: a bland realistic-looking world. Personally, if they decide to go all-out for the graphics in a brand new game, I’d love for them to take artistic cues from the Japanese box art of the Bare Knuckle games. Keep everything really colorful with high contrast. Neon signs and other interesting effects in the city areas and maintain the series’ tendency towards crazy locales. Even the first game, which was more down to earth than any of the others, had a level on a cruise ship. Basically, make the game look like 1990s concept art fully realized. Finally and perhaps most importantly, if you decide to redesign any returning characters, make sure they actually resemble their original designs in some tangible way.

With the two options for a series revival fully realized, I’d like to wrap up my thoughts with some miscellaneous thoughts: elements I’d like to see in a new game in the Streets of Rage series, regardless of the direction it takes. First of all, it is imperative that they get Yuzo Koshiro back for the soundtrack. Next, as for a roster of returning characters, it would be great to see all of the characters from the first two games return. Yes, seeing Adam fight alongside Max would be great, and you’ve got to bring back Axel, Blaze and Skate as well. I was never really fond of Dr. Zan, but I wouldn’t really mind it if he and the other SoR3 characters returned as well.

And so the first article in the Retro or Reboot series comes to its conclusion. What do you think? Would you rather see a Genesis-style revival or one that’s more up-to-date? Do you disagree with any of my opinions about how either take on Streets of Rage should turn out? Let me know in the comments section.

10 Games I Want Ported to PC Takes Manhattan

I’ll be honest: I lamed out on writing another article last month. I wish I could say that it was due to an increased workload at my day job. It wasn’t: I just came down with a bad case of writer’s block. On the plus side, I’ve finally come up with an idea for another non-list article, which you should be seeing sometime next month, but until then, you’ll just have to deal with another one of my crazy PC port begging lists. Perhaps, to be more accurate, you’ll be dealing with what may well be the last of my crazy PC port begging lists.

Before we get on with the bulk of the article, there have been a lot of recent developments in the PC port scene that have made me incredibly happy, especially considering how dead it was back in March when I wrote my last article. Axiom Verge finally hit Steam this month, but that had always had a PC version announced, so it doesn’t really count. In terms of actual news, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, one of my early requests, had a PC port announced and hit Steam last month. XSEED released Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim on Steam last month as well. Granted, that’s not really a PC port: the game actually originated on PC in Japan, that version had just never been released in the West before. Related to that bit of news (and objectively more important), Nihon Falcom company president Toshihiro Kondo recently stated in an interview with Windows Central that they were “especially happy with the situation on Steam” and that many of their titles “enjoyed better sales volume on Steam than Playstation”. Considering he also brought up Falcom’s origins as a PC developer, we could be seeing a shift in the company’s resources from console exclusive releases and some more substantial PC releases in the future.

Speaking of substantial releases, the third Shantae wasn’t the only game on a prior list to get confirmed since last time. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R was recently listed on Steam. The turn of events was amazing: within a week, the title was leaked through a listing on the Korean Game Rating Board and officially listed on Steam. More impressive is the fact that the game is being developed AND published by Arc System Works themselves, as opposed to H2 Interactive, who handled the PC ports of the Blazblue games. Even more exciting is the fact that a developer from Arc System Works recently stated that they “have lots of games queued up for Steam! Some of them might even be out of your imagination, I can assure you that!“ Needless to say, I was absolutely excited to see that news and I’m already speculating what could be next (keeping my fingers crossed for Chronophantasma EXTEND and Xrd).

Before we start, let’s go over the rules for the umpteen-billionth time. My lists stick mostly to third-party companies (aside from Microsoft) with a general focus on companies that have recently released games on PC. Games will be taken from the seventh (360/Wii/PS3) and eighth (WiiU/PS4/XBO) generations of video games, as well as handhelds from those eras and mobile games. Games that weren’t system exclusives are preferred. Finally, games from the same series released on the same console can be packaged together on a single list entry. With that out of the way, let’s get down to the real meat of this article.

Devil May Cry HD Collection – Capcom (PS3/360)

This one only seems fitting. The fourth DMC received a decent port when it was initially released on PC, and that’s only been improved further with the upcoming Special Edition release. The third game, on the other hand, was one of Capcom’s early attempts at porting and ended up almost as bad as the infamous Resident Evil 4 PC port. Capcom later rectified that screw-up with a release of the HD version on PC, but DMC3 was never redeemed. In fact, Capcom still currently sells this mediocre release on the Steam storefront. And that’s not even covering the fact that the first 2 games were never actually released on PC in the first place. Capcom has the resources to rectify both of these mistakes, and considering the fact they are apparently focusing more on re-releases these days anyway, this just seems like a perfect solution.

Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo-Tooie – Microsoft/Rare (360)

Okay, let’s be honest. The recent Kickstarter success of Yooka-Laylee has already assured that we’re going to be seeing some Banjo-Kazooie-esque 3D collect-a-thon platforming action hit PC (and Wii U, and Xbox One, and PS4…) in the foreseeable future. That still doesn’t make the games that inspired it any less essential in my opinion. Considering the fact that Microsoft put some resources into upscaling the games for the 360, it would only make sense to re-release these enhanced ports to other platforms instead of just allowing them to die with the 360. We’ve already seen Microsoft utilize Rare’s old IPs well with their recent reinvention of Killer Instinct, I say they should keep exploiting that nostalgia.

Zone of the Enders HD Collection – Konami (PS3/360)

Speaking of exploiting nostalgia, I’ve always been a sucker for the original Zone of the Enders. I rented the game from Blockbuster when I was young and had a blast playing through it. I never actually got a chance to play the second game or the GBA spinoff (though I’ve been told I dodged a bullet on the latter). So I was excited to hear that the games were getting an HD remaster on the PS3 and 360 a few years back. Unfortunately, it was handled pretty poorly, with both games initially running horribly and a fix coming out farther down the line…but for only one of the games and on one platform. What a bummer. Considering what I’ve seen with buggy releases on PC games, I can only wonder if such a crisis could have been averted if the game had received a PC port. Considering the game’s poor reputation and the fact that Konami has recently stated that they’re focusing more on mobile releases these days, this is probably a long shot, but it’s one worth mentioning.

Puyo Puyo Tetris – Sega (3DS/Wii U/PSVita/PS3/PS4/XBO)

I love Puyo Puyo. I love Tetris. What else do I have to say? This is pretty much a match made in heaven we’ve not seen the likes of since Dr. Mario and…well, Tetris. Sure, the game’s available on pretty much every system under the sun, with the exceptions of the Xbox 360 and PC. Even more unfortunate, the games have yet to be released outside of Japan. Needless to say, a PC release would probably make an international release of every other version far more likely. So that’s a bonus for my fellow puzzle aficionados.

SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1/0 – SNK Playmore (PSP/Wii)

SNK Playmore’s been doing a pretty good job when it comes to releasing older titles on Steam. Sure, their latest game is a buggy port of one of their recent mobile-original free-to-play titles (Metal Slug Defense, which, ironically enough, I actually liked on Android), but aside from that, they have been doing stellar work on their PC ports: early access betas to start ironing out any issues with the online and quick responses to most legitimate bug concerns. The only real problem I have is that most of their releases have focused on their more high-profile franchises: the King of Fighters and Metal Slug games. One easy way to rectify that would be to do a simple, barebones collection of some of their old less-notable titles. Fortunately, two such collections already exist. Volume 1 has games for the NeoGeo, such as the original Fatal Fury, Sengoku and Last Resort, among others. Volume 0, on the other hand, is a collection of their pre-NeoGeo games, like Psycho Soldier, Ikari Warriors and Athena. An original, more substantial collection would probably be better, but if we can get these, it would be something.

Mamorukun Curse! – g.rev/UFO Interactive (AC/360/PS3)

As I pretty much always say during these lists, I love me some shmups. So here’s another one for the list. Mamorukun Curse, better known in Japan as Mamoru Has Been Cursed! (don’t ask me why they decided to change the name). It’s a pretty typical vertical shmup, with a few unique aspects. First of all, movement is freer than in most shmups, though most of the game does move as you’d expect. There’s also the unique “Curse” bomb mechanic, which destroys enemy bullets but also strengthens enemies, allowing players to rack up a high score.

Guwange – Cave (360)

One good shmup deserves another. Guwange is a vertical-oriented bullet-hell from Cave. It does differ from many of their shmups in a few specific ways. First of all, you are given the choice between three characters, each with their own unique weapon: Hiiragi with her concentrated arrows, Kamono and his spread-shot swords and Shishin who is able to aim kunai in 6 different directions. The characters walk along the ground, forcing them to dodge buildings and other obstacles in addition to the billions of bullets headed their way. The traditional one-hit kill system present in most shmups has been replaced with a life meter that allows for two or three hits. Unfortunately, players are limited to only three of these in the entire game and health power-ups are scarce, especially compared to the scoring bonuses afforded to players by more traditional lives systems in the genre. Fortunately, by holding down the attack button, each character can summon a shikigami, an invincible protector that can phase through enemy fire and obstacles. Of course, the character still remains on-screen and vulnerable (and a little less mobile), but this sheer power of the shikigami is crucial to both survival and racking up high scores.

Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match – Examu/Atlus USA (AC/PS3)

Aquapazza is…an odd choice, I must admit. It’s almost like Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, in the sense that it’s a fighting game crossover involving a lot of obscure Japanese video game and anime characters who don’t originate in the fighting genre itself. However, instead of being a crossover between various companies, Aquapazza’s roster entirely consists of characters from Aquaplus franchises, including To Heart, Comic Party and Tears to Tiara. So, basically, it’s a bunch of visual novel characters duking it out in a fighting game. Yeah, it’s basically just an animu fighter, and while I’m not familiar with most of the roster, I’m more concerned about the gameplay. Players choose from 13 characters and 13 partners, sort of like a faster-paced Vanguard Princess. Sure, this game’s a total longshot for PC, but I still think it’s worth asking for.

Chaos Code – FK Digital/Arc System Works (AC/PS3)

Remember how I mentioned earlier that Arc System Works was teasing some big upcoming releases for Steam in the future? Releases that go beyond the common demands for the latest incarnations of the Guilty Gear and Blazblue series? Well, I’ve already mentioned a few of my big picks from them in the past: Persona 4 Ultimax, Under Night: In-Birth Late[st] and Hard Corps: Uprising. This time, I’m going to add another one to that list: Chaos Code. Developed by Taiwanese developer FK Digital, Chaos Code is another anime fighter, but it’s got some unique features all its own. Characters’ movesets can be customized with an additional two out of four possible “edit special moves” chosen prior to the fight. There are also two different modes for characters: “run” which focuses on speed and “step” which focuses more on technical play, sort of like the “Power”/”Speed” system from The Last Blade games. All-in-all, if Arc System Works considered this game worth publishing, then that’s a testament to the game’s quality.

Nier – Square Enix (360/PS3)

Lately, the offerings from Square Enix’s Japanese branch have been pretty one-track: nothing but Final Fantasy games. Some from last-gen’s consoles, some that are ports of smartphone ports of DS games. Of course, they’ve got more than just Final Fantasy games, and I’m not talking about Kingdom Hearts or Dragon Quest, though I won’t be surprised if we get some mobile ports of the latter. Let’s take Nier, for example. Generally classified as an action RPG, Nier also borrows from several other genres, like shmups, survival horror and even text-based adventure games. I’m not too sure about the game’s quality, but I’ve heard good things about both Nier and its predecessors, the Drakengard games. So I’m willing to give it a shot.

Usually, by the time I wrap up these articles, I’ve got another list entirely set up, from start to finish. This time, unfortunately, I just don’t have enough to do another list in July. So, I’ll be going on a hiatus with this series for quite some time. Hopefully, I won’t ever have to revive it. This isn’t exactly goodbye though. While PC port lists may have gone by the wayside, I’ve got a whole bunch of other ideas for future lists. You’ll just have to wait until July to see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Simpsons – Konami (360/PS3)

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

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

X-Men – Konami (360/PS3/iOS/Android)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goldeneye 007 Reloaded – Activision (360/PS3)

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

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

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

Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2015

SNES Master KI

Before I get to the honorable mentions, I have to acknowledge two games I jumped the gun on last year.  Xenoblade Chronicles X and Yoshi’s Wooly World were on my 2014 list (under their codenames), and would have definitely made this list if it weren’t for that.

Honorable Mentions

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Publisher/Developer: WayForward
Platform: PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 2015

I haven’t gotten around to playing the third Shantae yet, but if it’s as big of an improvement over the first two as I’m told, I’m sure I’ll love this one.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Grezzo
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: Spring 2015

While I don’t love Majora’s Mask as much as a lot of people, it’s still a great game and a remake that could fix some of my problems with it has great potential.

Scalebound

Publisher/Developer: Microsoft Studios/Platinum Games
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: 2015

I’m almost certainly not going to be able to get this in 2015, but it’s still a Platinum game, and I love Platinum.


10. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: March 13, 2015

While strategy games aren’t exactly my forte, I’ve managed to get into the ones Nintendo has made, so I’m cautiously optimistic about Codename STEAM.  I’ve managed to not resent it for not being Paper Mario, at least, and am hoping that Nintendo can pull off a real-time/turn based balance that very few games can make work for me.

9. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Publisher/Developer: Activision
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: 2015

The only sports series I’ve ever truly loved (really, it’s more of a combo based platformer), I have wanted the THPS series to return to its THPS4 glory for over a decade now.  While we don’t know anything about this game besides its 2015 release date, I’ve seen series return to form after long dark ages before, and I have faith that it is at least possible for it to happen again.

8. Bloodborne

Publisher/Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment/From Software
Platform: Playstation 4
Release Date: March 24, 2015

I really wanted to like Demon’s Souls, I loved the idea of a massive and ultra-challenging dark fantasy action game.  However, I couldn’t get past the WRPG elements.  Bloodborne’s faster, action game style battle system gives me renewed hope.  I don’t have a PS4 yet, but if this game delivers, it may be what gets me to take the plunge.

7. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Publisher/Developer: Microsoft Studios/Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360
Release Date: Holiday 2015

Tomb Raider 2013 was a fantastic revival for the series, I loved it as soon as I played it despite not being into the Tomb Raider series to begin with.  Being able to control your jumps just makes everything feel so much better.  This game would be higher on the list if not for the Xbox timed exclusive issue.  I hate timed exclusives, regardless of whether the system I own is the one which gets them (remember the Resident Evil 4 trolling?).  But I still have faith that this will be a great game, whether I settle for the 360 version or wait until 2016 for the inevitable PS4 release.

6. Splatoon

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: Q2 2015

My initial impression of Splatoon was that it looked interesting, but that I wasn’t going to get hyped until a solid single player mode was confirmed, which I was sure would happen.  Well, it happened, and in time to shoot the game up on this list.  The puzzle/platformer/shooter hybrid gameplay in single player looks great, and easily unique enough to justify this being a new IP.  Maybe people will actually remember this before going into the “Nintendo never makes new IPs” nonsense.

5. 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: April 2015

Mega Man will come back.  It is impossible for a series that old and popular to be killed for good, no matter how incompetent Capcom has become.  But in the meantime, Mighty No. 9 should do a great job of filling that void in our hearts.  Inafune is not making any effort to pretend this isn’t a replacement goldfish for Mega Man, and I’m fine with that.  The classic/X hybrid gameplay looks great, the only thing that could make this better is if my joke to troll Icepick came true and Beck was replaced by Mighty Number 10 (but you can call him X) after the first level.

4. Mortal Kombat X

Publisher/Developer: Warner Bros. Games/Netherrealm Studios
Platform: PC. PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: April 14, 2015

Like the aforementioned Tomb Raider 2013, Mortal Kombat 2011 was a fantastic return to form for a long-suffering series.  And unlike Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat was a series I had plenty of nostalgia for.  All Mortal Kombat X has to do is keep the same solid fighting engine that the series finally achieved, and have the same boatload of single player content, and I’ll be happy.  And thanks to story mode, we can look forward to seeing what happens next in this game, instead of finding out what happened in the previous one.

3. Mario Maker

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: 2015

Now this game is long overdue.  After more than half a decade of the premiere make your own platformer franchise being little on intuition and big on floaty physics, we’re getting a game with intuitive touch screen level design and the perfection of 2D Mario physics.  I can’t wait to make my own levels and play yours, even if we don’t get an expansion pack’s worth of pre-made levels included like I’m hoping.  I’ve already got several level ideas planned for this, and you’ll get to play them.

2. Star Fox Wii U

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: 2015

“Come on Reggie, give us Star Fox!”  Well, he did.  We don’t know much about this game, but Nintendo has been on a roll with game quality lately, so I see no reason not to expect this to be the long overdue return to form for Star Fox.  Not much more to say, but I know I’m not the only one greatly anticipating learning more about this game.

1. The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: 2015

After a long pseudo-drought where we only got touch-screen controlled Zeldas, the series has come back in a big way with the last couple games (yes, I liked Skyward Sword, and so will you in a couple years).  While the idea of an open-world emphasizing Zelda would have frightened me a few years ago, A Link Between Worlds showed that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.  Like Star Fox, we don’t know a terribly large amount about this game, but I’ve never had more confidence in Nintendo’s game quality.  On November 20th, 2015 (Yes, that’s a guess, but my guesses about release dates for Nintendo’s big Holiday game have a pretty good track record), it’s time to return to Hyrule.

Professor Icepick

While last year was pretty good for video games, I notice that a few of the games I had on this list last year missed their release windows. Oh well, it appears none of them died, due to copious updates. Last year was pretty good (at least for me, AAA market kinda took a hit), here’s hoping 2015 manages to be even better.

Honorable Mentions

Cuphead

Publisher/Developer: Studio MDHR
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 2015 

A quirky 2D platformer that takes design cues from classic black & white cartoons.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Grezzo
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: Spring 2015

A long-awaited enhanced port of a classic Zelda title for the Nintendo 64.

Hyper Light Drifter

Publisher/Developer: Heart Machine
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, Ouya
Release Date: Early 2015

A top-down 2D action-RPG that draws inspiration from both A Link to the Past and Diablo II.

Timespinner

Publisher/Developer: Lunar Ray Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, 3DS
Release Date: November 2015

A SNES-inspired Metroid-like that takes cues from games like MegaMan X and Symphony of the Night.


10. Axiom Verge

Publisher/Developer: Tom Happ/Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Release Date: 2015

So let’s start things off with an indie game you may not have heard of. Axiom Verge is unique as it is being developed by a single man: Tom Happ, who previously worked on such high profile titles as Tiger Woods and NFL Street. The game’s development started as a part-time hobby back in March 2010 and the game is finally approaching completion. It’s an exploration platformer that takes cues from games like Metroid, Contra and Blaster Master. It’s also got a really nice looking 8-bit aesthetic that is somehow simultaneously simple and detailed.

9. Tekken 7

Publisher/Developer: Namco Bandai
Platform: Arcade
Release Date: February 2015

I’ve actually been playing the Tekken games since the original one hit arcades back in the mid-90s, and despite a few missteps (Tekkens 4 & 6, respectively), the latest major release in the series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, was incredible. T7 appears to be going in another new direction, removing TTT2’s bound system and adding “Rage Arts”, which are basically super combos. These trends worry me a little, but I’m still anticipating the game, especially as this may finally be the first Tekken to hit PCs when it is released for the home market.

8. Citizens of Earth

Publisher/Developer: Atlus USA/Eden Industries
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, 3DS
Release Date: January 20, 2015

I’ve mentioned in the past that Nintendo’s Earthbound is one of the few traditional turn-based RPGs I like, due to its unique setting, clever writing and quirky variations on JRPG gameplay. When Eden Industries (made up of ex-members of Next Level Games) announced Citizens of Earth, I’ll admit, I was a little excited. Mostly because this probably the closest thing to another Earthbound we’ll ever see in the West. Alas, their initial crowdfunding campaign failed, but Atlus USA stepped in and funded the game themselves. Citizens of Earth places you in the role of the Vice President of the World, who recruits friends, family and other citizens to help him campaign for re-election, allowing for a unique party system where various members have different unique abilities.

7. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems
Platform: 3DS
Release Date: March 13, 2015

Code Name S.T.E.A.M. was one of those games I just loved at first sight. With an awesome steampunk setting, an aesthetic inspired by American comic books and a unique battle system that harkens back to Valkyria Chronicles’ turn-based strategy/third-person shooter hybrid gameplay, this game just looks amazing to me. Considering the fact that you’re fighting off an alien invasion with famous characters from literature under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln with anachronistic steam-powered technology makes it even cooler. It’s got such a ridiculous premise, I can’t help but love it. Here’s hoping the game lives up to its potential though, but with Intelligent Systems handling development, I’m sure it’ll be a blast.

6. Splatoon

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: Q2 2015

Speaking of new Nintendo IPs, Splatoon’s a definite departure from what we’ve come to expect from the Big N. Debuting at E3 2014 as a 4-on-4 third-person shooter, the game’s colorful and vibrant artstyle was interesting. Competing with your opponents to cover more of the stage with your ink, it’s an interesting twist on traditional multiplayer shooters. What made the game even more palatable for me was the announcement of an extended single-player campaign. Definitely can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

5. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/HAL Laboratory
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: February 13, 2015

This was one of the biggest surprises I had all year. Kirby: Canvas Curse was one of the most interesting games on the Nintendo DS and I always figured it was going to be a one-hit wonder. Lo and behold, Nintendo decided to make a sequel on the Wii U of all things. Better still, they decided to use a really cool claymation aesthetic, which I fell in love with at first sight. Better still, it’s heavily rumored that this is going to be a $40 title like Captain Toad. At that price, how could I resist?

4. Yoshi’s Woolly World

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Good-Feel
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: Spring 2015

I’ll be honest: when this game was first announced as “Yarn Yoshi”, I was incredibly skeptical about it, as every single follow-up to the SNES classic Yoshi’s Island has been mediocre at best. However, as I saw more footage of the game and learned of Good-Feel’s involvement, I became excited, mainly because of how much Woolly World began to resemble Kirby’s Epic Yarn as development progressed. Of course, then there was that long period of radio silence where I feared the game had been cancelled, but fortunately more news eventually came and the game was confirmed for release in 2015. After so many years of waiting, it looks like Yoshi’s Island is finally getting a worthy sequel and I can’t wait.

3. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Publisher/Developer: WayForward
Platform: PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 2015

Another of my Kickstarter darlings, Half-Genie Hero is the fourth game in the Shantae series. For the longest time, I was merely a fan of Shantae from afar: I had only played a small portion of the original. This past year, however, I beat all three games in the series: the first on 3DS’s Virtual Console, the second in its recent Director’s Cut re-release on Steam, and the third on 3DS. Of course, HGH is going to be an entirely different animal, with hand-drawn HD graphics instead of traditional sprite work. This is also going to be the first time the series isn’t released on a Nintendo handheld and the first time it will appear on Playstation and Xbox systems. While the 2015 date isn’t solid, Wayforward has recently confirmed the scope of the project and is hard at work, delivering another amazing product.

(Oh, by the way, I know this was on my list last year, despite missing 2014 entirely. Let’s just retroactively give that spot to Pirate’s Curse, which for some reason, I thought was going to make its 2013 release window. …in January 2014.)

2. Mortal Kombat X

Publisher/Developer: Warner Bros. Games/Netherrealm Studios
Platform: PC. PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: April 14, 2015

As you may very well know by now, I’m a huge fan of 2D fighting games. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many games in that genre in 2015 that have been announced that aren’t either expansions of existing games, Japan-exclusive “doujin” titles or recent Kickstarters that may not hit their release targets. Fortunately, Netherrealm Studios has got my back. We’ve seen them blossom into a truly skilled developer in 2011’s Mortal Kombat, watched as they experimented with new system mechanics in 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, and are looking to deliver a truly glorious experience in their upcoming Mortal Kombat X. With each character being split into 3 variations, each with different strengths and unique abilities, plus stage interactions returning from Injustice, MKX is shaping up to be a truly amazing game. I just hope the PC port is more stable than the previous NRS releases, whether it’s done by High Voltage Software or a new team altogether. Their previous ports crash my current laptop, despite being powerful enough to run the games (albeit on low settings).

1. 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: April 2015

Does this really surprise anyone? I’ve been mooning over this game ever since it was first announced. By the time it comes out next year, we’ll have gone half a decade without a new MegaMan release from Capcom (the last game they actually managed to release was 2010’s MegaMan 10). I think we’re long overdue for some classic run-and-gun platforming. Though the game’s development has been marred by some controversy (especially with regards to “slacker backing” additional content like voice acting and an additional stage as future DLC), I’m still incredibly excited to see the final project in action.