So love it or hate it, videogame revival is now par for the new release course, and with Kickstarters happening left and right -- often from an original creator’s effort -- they’re likely here to stay. But while we wait for the first round of Kickstarter games to finally emerge and either scare us given how much money we’ve put into an unproven, potentially broken system, or leave us screaming in triumph at handling the reins of game development, publisher-free, with stunning results, there’s still a massive void that can, and should, be filled by established studios and publishers beyond myriad sequels.
It’s true there’s an apparent uphill battle in such a divisive market when introducing new IPs, which is why we see so many sequels, but you could argue there’d be merit in splitting major Triple-A sequel development into fostering new IPs while reviving classic titles or franchises from yesteryear in either reverent or bold ways as a way
of assuring some bankable success while looking to the future with new titles.
Obviously this isn’t a tried and tested direction, and we’ve seen just how taking a classic into new territory can split communities in half (as was seen with XCOM and Syndicate, for example), but there are definitely classic titles or classic franchises that could do with a new coat of next-gen sheen, a list of which we’ve built below with explanations on both why we think they’d work, and what the best approach would be.
None of these are in any particular order, and we'll be serving up three new games for you, each day for the rest of week, ending with 15 in total on Friday. Check out today's three below:
Star Wars: X-Wing (Series)
Original Platforms: PC
As one of the first flight simulators to use a fully 3D game engine, Star Wars: X-Wing was not only a groundbreaking foray into the future of PC gaming, but it was also a Star Wars game, which meant said 3D was taken full advantage of given your playground was space. Moreover, it was among the first Star Wars games to actually take you outside the original trilogy with a more focused, single directive -- in this case, space dogfighting.
Factor 5’s Rogue Squadron series for N64 first, and GameCube later, was one of the most revered of Star Wars franchises because it was, in essence, the next evolution of the spaceflight component of the X-Wing series. However, it was far more arcade-based and lacked some of the realism X-Wing worked so hard to realise. Still, it would be amazing if LucasArts could also revive this series, despite Factor 5’s departure from the industry (after the horrible Lair for PS3), and the series’ close ties to Nintendo, across all platforms. With this series, we can envision a HD makeover and the likes of Steam, XBLA, PSN and Nintendo’s eStore as distribution platforms.
Its success cannot go understated, nor can the hidden idea that, while not ever specifically told it’s possible, you could
actually take out one of the background Star Destroyers if you were diligent and tenacious enough, and destroy it. The game also just made you feel
like a Rebel battling against the Imperial Forces and, conversely, in its sequel, TIE-Fighter, a staunch Imperial pilot bent on the destruction of the Rebel forces in service to the Empire.
There was something alluring beyond the hero/villain journey with each iteration of the series, which put you in the flight boots of a more average (well, above average) soldier, regardless which side of the aisle you were fighting for, and this approach helped make -- in videogame form -- the Star Wars universe not only more accessible, but tangible. You were no longer reliant on The Force to get the job done. There was no closing of your eyes and tapping into midichlorians
, you were just a guy doing his job, and doing it well.
And you weren’t locked into the linear plights of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, rather it was about doing your best to keep the machine turning while forging your own tale in the expansive Star Wars universe, and you were doing it from the cockpit(s) of some of the most famous spaceships ever created and in cutting-edge technology for its time, too.
Reason for Revival:
People have been clamouring for this one for ages. It could be done with an update to visuals and performance -- so in essence a HD makeover of the classic games for the likes of Steam, XBLA or PSN or, as we’d actually prefer, an entirely new entry in the series that combines the best of each. You could have a dual story intertwining an Imperial pilot’s drive for the Empire with that of a Rebel pilot, fighting to lift the vice grip of the Emperor. You could even set it in different eras, or just after Jedi in the lead up to where Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm is going to take the tale. The opportunities here are, frankly, endless.
Original Platforms: N64, Dreamcast, PSone, PC
Billed as the “mature Zelda”, Shadow Man was a dark and twisted adventure-horror game that broke many molds in its time. Every bit as mature and adult as the best horror games today, Shadow Man not only maintained that the N64 was not just a kid’s console (N64 was lead platform), but elevated mature gaming to levels in the mainstream gaming space (at the time) no others had.
Shadow Man was actually loosely based on a comic book from Valiant Comics -- the same publisher Acclaim also nabbed the Turok license from (also mentioned in this feature). However, beyond a handful of components, very little of the comic actually made it into the game which is largely its own IP barring the Shadow Man name.
It had blatant sexual references, swearing and nudity. It also featured a black protagonist, Michael LeRoi, whose powers emerged from a voodoo artefact known as the “Mask of Shadows” that was grafted to his chest and allowed him to travel between our world and a plane known as Deadside.
The game was a lengthy romp for players and featured game design similar in essence to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time -- a facet it was lauded for given that the narrative nature of Shadow Man was more than enough to keep it from being branded a Zelda “knock off”. In 2002 a sequel called Shadow Man: 2nd Coming was released exclusively for PS2, but did not rate or sell as well as the original.
The original also featured a critically acclaimed score that arguably propelled the epic possibilities with horror beyond anything cheesy or B-Grade, it even featured Jack the Ripper as its launching point for the evil to follow in LeRoi's adventure.
Reason for Revival:
Apart from the ironic point of reviving
a game about the afterlife, zombies and demons, Shadow Man’s art-direction, open-world design and mature narrative would make it a solid fit in today’s market. While so many other games offer “maturity” as a selling point, it comes first-hand in the design of Shadow Man, and with more sophisticated consoles and PC hardware driving the visual and geographical side of game-design today (and tomorrow), there’s very little reason to think this wouldn’t work. Moreover, like games such as Dead Space or even Resident Evil, the Shadow Man universe would also be ripe for transmedia exploitation, potentially offering up a game series or franchise with serious longevity.
Original Platforms: NES, GameBoy, SNES, MegaDrive
Despite its unrelenting difficulty, Battletoads is remembered fondly by a majority of gamers from the 8-bit era. Developed by Rare at the beginning of the company’s glory days in the early 90s (a precursor to their breakout success in Donkey Kong Country), Battletoads was a side-scrolling brawler starring a pair of anthropomorphic toads facing off against a buxom, scantily-clad evil woman and her army of rat and robot minions to rescue the obligatory princess and the not-so-typical captured toad brother.
Battletoads was successful enough that the characters found themselves in a number of other games, though none were as cool-in-concept as their teaming up with the Double Dragon cats for Battletoads & Double Dragon. The loose plot meant very little in the grand scheme of things, only that Rare were now handling one of the most revered beat-em-up teams in games history, and bringing them together with their own spin on the genre.
The game was known best for its high degree of challenge, with many players never seeing past the notorious speeder bikes stage
-- the third level of the game, that featured a high-speed endless runner scenario requiring fast reflexes and long memory-sequences -- but it was its innovations to the rather vanilla brawler genre at the time that kept the persistent players coming back for more punishment, with cooperative play to boot.
While arcade brawlers like Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage evolved on their combos and special moves, Battletoads featured more diverse gameplay variety, with several different implementations of vertical and horizontal progression over thematically distinct environments. The comical nature of the toads also drove humour and creativity in the narrative and combat, as the affectionately-named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple could perform an assortment of super attacks whereby their appendages would turn into novelty-sized weapons to pummel opponents.
Reason for Revival:
: Brawler contemporaries like Rockstar’s The Warriors, Castle Crashers, and recent open-world games such as Sleeping Dogs, and the Batman Arkham series show that plenty of elements from the classic genre are still relevant to modern audiences.
The SNES follow-up, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, failed to really capture the magic of the original, and the various other skews merely mirrored it, but if a developer today was given a reasonable budget, and focused on retaining the core pillars -- gameplay variety, challenging difficulty, cooperative play, and colourful humour -- the result could be amazing.
Following Rare’s acquisition by Microsoft in 2002, the Xbox manufacturer is the current rights holder of the franchise, and the thought of a new Battletoads game on their upcoming next-generation console is pant-tentingly tantalising. Our dream Battletoads revival would feature a little more crude-humour and gratuity than the NES original, core gameplay something in the vein of the massively-underrated brawler Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (itself a top revival contender), with a bunch of offbeat levels to mix things up, and three-player cooperative throughout.
We'll be back tomorrow with another three games or franchises we think deserve the modern or future gaming treatment, but obviously before then, features like this are an obvious talking-point, so we invite you to come on in and agree or disagree with what we have already, and obviously offer your own classic games or franchises you'd like to see make it back into the gaming fray.
To be continued...