Achievement Unlocked. We made it all the way to the end of the week with a post every day revealing three games fit for modern or future revival. Our goal was to get to the ripe (and rather random) number of 15, and today is that day.
The final three games are as eclectic as our entire list has been so far, but perhaps most interesting of all was the discussion surrounding one game that *almost*
made it, and one we tagged in our potentials list only as "Quake (proper)". It's an interesting one, because the original plan for Quake was pretty different to what we ended up seeing with most iterations of the title (namely Quake 2 and Quake 4) and, honestly, still sounds better than anything we've been given with the namesake yet.
But alas, there's an overall fear of id Software development these days, and an idea that they just wouldn't be able to deliver on old promises in a new world of game-development, but it's something we might revisit down the track, because on paper, Quake (proper) sounded awesome.
Finally, before we get into the final three, below are a few honourable mentions that could have fit here if the list were larger, but ultimately, what we discovered with keeping these guys out of the final 15 and all the discussion that went on around everything we had from Day One of this feature's conception, is that there really is a treasure trove of classic games and franchises that would be great to see revived. The sequel plague that lurks the industry right now is good in some respects, and lazy in others. And while new IPs trickle in slowly, often without the required success for longevity, many of the games listed below have proven track records in sales, along with street cred.
Whether we see any of the games we've mentioned this week beyond their original form, will remain to be seen, but this week's trip down memory lane has been an awesome one. Now onto the honourable mentions:
Beetle Adventure Racing
This N64 classic (rebranded to HSV Racing in Australia) was one of the most enjoyable adventure driving experiences ever. It's original layout and design is nothing that needs to be tinkered with, and we can actively see it being given a nice sheen of HD gloss and maybe a faster frame-rate for re-issue on the likes of XBLA, PSN, Steam and the Nintendo eStore.
A lot of you will likely be screaming that this one didn't make the official 15, but it's almost too elevated in its fandom. There's no denying the charm of Gilbert and Winnick's horror-film throwback adventure, and in its original form it was already spot-on, thus we think, like Beetle Adventure Racing above, a re-issue in HD would be the best release option for this classic game.
Platforms: Nintendo (various)
Other M left a massively sour taste in the mouths of many a Metroid fan, especially after the brilliance of the Prime trilogy from Retro Studios. So where to now for the revered Nintendo franchise? Obviously we'd love to see more first-person Samus, and at the hands of Retro, you could do no wrong, but maybe it's time for an even bigger shake-up. In this instance, we have no real idea, but something awesome must be done.
Another of the no-brainer adventure game lot, Grim Fandango should be brought back to the fray, but how? If the original team were rustled back together, we could actually see a new entry being offered here, but honestly, like most of the above, a re-release like that of Monkey Island is a more safe bet.
And now, without further delay, below you'll find the final three pieces of the 15-game and franchise puzzle we've been building all week, and after those, we've decided to tack on the rest of the feature whole, so today's post is your one-stop visit for the whole thing. Enjoy!
Original Platforms: SNES, Arcade, N64
In the heyday of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, another force in the fighting game genre launched strong in coin-op arcades, then on the Super Nintendo, only to rapidly fade away as its creators at Rare moved on to define other genres at the turn of the millennium.
Killer Instinct landed in the SNES twilight years, and found popularity in the crowded genre due to its CG-rendered graphic tech (impressive for the time), and its tactical mix of Street Fighter-esque move-sets, and Mortal Kombat-inspired ultra violence, and finishers, all punctuated by the genre’s most over-the-top multi-hit combos.
Reason for Revival:
: Granted, there’s probably more than enough active fighting game series around today, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter both having seen successful refreshes in recent years, and the likes of Tekken, Soul Calibur, and even Dead or Alive are still iterating away, but none of them really replicate the essence of KI, nor really any of the deluge of Japanese animes that get the fighting game treatment.
It’s not as if Killer Instinct really has characters, or a narrative worthy of faithful restoration -- its premise was as cheesy as they come -- but the game just had a certain aesthetic to it that in the right hands could really be made to pop with modern tech and contemporary gameplay mechanics.
Whether those right hands, and the brand’s current license holder currently align is another question, however. Rare has had rumblings of a Killer Instinct 3 for years, but nothing has ever surfaced. The trademark for the name Killer Instinct itself lapsed when Nintendo had no interests in renewing it following competitor Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare, and all of their intellectual property, back in 2002.
Somewhat amusingly, latest reports
indicate that the Killer Instinct name is currently trademarked by FOX, owed to a generic TV crime drama aired and canned in 2005, but assuming that Microsoft isn’t able to resolve that perculiar conflict, they could still easily come up with another recognisably deriviative name for a reboot.
The bigger question would be who should develop it. The departure of the founding Stamper brothers, and Rare’s apparent position as Xbox’s flagship Kinect developer makes the studio not seem like a great fit for a fast-paced violent fighting game. But in the hands of a third-party team like, say, Ninja Theory, or Platinum Games as a couple of quick examples, Microsoft could prime an exclusive fighting game for the next-generation Xbox console, that if done right, could have some serious style, and icon-potential.
Original Platforms: PSOne
Dino Crisis holds a special place in our hearts, purely due to the risk that was taken in developing such an absurd premise and turning it into a spectacular game. For the unfortunate few who missed out on the experience, DC was essentially Resident Evil with dinosaurs, which is fitting since it was also developed by Capcom using much of the same team as its influence. The major difference between the two properties, however, after substituting Zombies for more reptilian creatures, was that you could actually fire and move at the same time, increasing the tempo and creating a significantly more “Jurassic Park” style undertaking.
Fear is a raptor smashing through a window behind you, shrieking wildly before charging; your heart racing as you frantically attempt to reload your dart gun. Attempting to hide from patrolling beasts as you bleed out, the scent of your sticky lifesource drawing your enemy closer. Then there are the multiple endings, choices relating to advice offered by your comrades, and hell, just more goddamn dinosaurs attempting to kill you. The game looked great for its time, being one of the first to go full polygon, meaning all of your dino-buddies were fully rendered in all of their scaly glory.
Reason for Revival:
Nothing should change in a modern remake, other than some HD graphics and a few modern control tweaks. The core game is sound, and we’re of the opinion that the more ‘explosion’ based gameplay of recent RE games has intrinsically spoiled what made them unique. Wandering around a series of tight corridors, solving irritating puzzles and being scared shitless by scripted dino jumps is what made the gameplay so addictive and terrifying, coupled with limited ammo and a distinct lack of places to save. You probably didn’t care about the underlying story or why you were there in the first place, just that you needed to get the hell out without surrendering an arm.
Day of the Tentacle
Original Platforms: DOS, Mac OS
We couldn’t have a list like this without at least one Grossman/Schafer outing, and what better adventure to look towards than Day of the Tentacle.
For its time, the game featured great animation and character design, and its focus on time-travel left a lot on the gameplay and puzzle floor for picking. As a sequel to Maniac Mansion, it was also a progressive follow-up, maintaining some of the original formula but more carving out its own place among the LucasArts adventure game alumni -- most likely one of the main reasons it’s more often referred to as Day of the Tentacle and not Maniac Mansion II.
The ability to switch between different characters caught in different time periods, on-the-fly, was a massive boon in gameplay variation and helped keep the game’s plot and pacing interesting for most of your journey. Moreover, puzzles were challenging, funny and above all interesting, which further added to the compelling nature of the journey.
Reason for Revival:
It might be sacrilege to some, but a full 3D makeover of this game, or update, would be amazing. Especially where time-travel is concerned. Imagine being able to toy with history so that you had a knock-on effect into the future (or present, as it were)? Now, imagine if it were a social game with a blend of competitive play and co-op? Messing with time periods, and therefore the players caught in them, could make for some incredible situations, provided everything had a cap on it and it was all done within reason (ie you could still get out of any problem caused by changes to the past, in your timeline).
It wouldn’t even have to be 3D, but given the dynamic nature of this pitch, art-direction would play a major role and, hey, they’d just need to look to the Simpsons for altered time scenarios (the comedy would pretty much match that anyway).
Original Platforms: NES
Here’s a game where you begin with no weapon, some raggedy clothes, no money, and no idea why your hometown has been abandoned and left to ruin. Control is given over to you, the player, pretty much right away, who then has to figure out not only where to go and what to do, but also figure out exactly what sort of game this is. The fact is, Faxanadu is a very rare type of game -- especially for the famously underpowered NES.
For a game with many RPG elements, you would expect that a save system would have been implemented, but this was not the case. Faxanadu strangely featured a password system with way too many characters, numerals, and symbols, that more often than not led to many players not being able to correctly load their game - as some letters and numbers were even confusing to read correctly, like lower case l’s and capital I’s. It got so bad that players had to keep a novel's worth of passwords that worked, just to be safe. But the method of obtaining these behemoth sized passwords was infinitely cool, you simply went to a Church, knelt before a Priest, and prayed - with God’s answer being "12k43$% sFgj34lp ..."
Initially it looked and played like a platformer, but it wasn’t linear and exploration was handled in much the same way it was handled in the latter 2D Metroid titles. The opening area was a town filled with various NPCs (non-playable characters) that wouldn’t be uncommon in early RPGs like blacksmiths, general store owners, village citizens, and even Priests and Kings. The action was in real-time but enemies dropped loot, food, and even gave experience points. In a lot of ways, Faxanadu was one of the very first action-RPGs for a home console, and because of that it holds a special place amongst gamers who played it back in the days of 8-Bit gaming.
Faxanadu was a fantasy game through and through with a story that was as equally mysterious as it was expansive in scope, with players taking the role of the unnamed hero head-on, to not only save his hometown but of course restore balance to the world and its centrepiece -- a massive World Tree. The seamless blend of vertical and horizontal platforming, developing your character, buying new weapons and spells, and action made Faxanadu a classic game that will never be forgotten.
Reason for Revival:
Side-scrolling adventure games that were perfected with entries like Super Metroid, Castevania: Symphony of the Night, and seen in more recent titles like Shadow Complex, can be said to have level structure comparable to Faxanadu. The key difference, however, comes in these titles’ implementation of character progression, where the key for these titles was gradual skill progression as opposed to the overall character progression seen in Faxnadu that is more comparable to an action-RPG than a Metroid or Castlevania-style adventure.
In Faxanadu you could actually spend hours in early parts of the game to save up enough money to buy the best weapons and spells possible, you could choose what weapons or spells to use based on how you preferred to play the game, and often these skills weren’t always a requirement. By translating this into the modern era the results could be fantastic, a side-scrolling action RPG with exploration and depth, and one that could even give isometric games of similar ilk, a run for their money.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Original Platforms: N64, Xbox
Conker was actually originally announced as "Conker's Quest" and then "Twelve Tales: Conker 64" before it became his bad fur day. Moreover, he was originally going to be a family-friendly squirrel for the kids. What sparked his change was fear of it being branded just another kids title. Thankfully they had the foresight needed and we ended up with one of the N64's best releases.
This is the third Rare game to make this list and, honestly, we actually had more than the two in the final list as potential revival candidates, but we feel there’s just more room for Conker in today’s market than any other Rare properties (though we’d still have loved to see the original, non-Star Foxified
We know he made his way over to Xbox after Microsoft snapped up Rare from Nintendo, but that was basically just a port of the brilliant N64 outing (arguably that console’s swansong) and ever since, he’s been pretty quiet. This is actually pretty alarming, because Conker was sort of an unofficial mascot of mature transition for the console side of gaming on the whole. Conker’s Bad Fur Day was an adventure-platformer with over-the-top toilet humour that never failed to please, and packed in a stack of that dry Rare wit we’d come to expect over their years as game developers, except now that wit was off its chain and free to express in puerile, fart-jokey ways. But dick jokes aside, it was also a bloody good game that took no prisoners in who or what it satirised. The fourth wall was also constantly broken, and I don’t think there’s been a game with as enjoyable idle animations as here.
Where Mario platformers tended to take gamers on trips through themed worlds (snow, lava, grassland, forest etc), Conker took players through classic movie moments such as Saving Private Ryan’s opening or The Matrix’s famous lobby shootout, and the game’s gameplay systems reflected these sections in ways few games were capable of at the time. In fact it’s fair to say, that Rare has not been so important a developer since, and their relegation to XBLA Avatar creation and Kinect outings is a serious affront to the legacy they left behind all those years ago.
Reason for Revival:
Conker was a lovable badass. Plain and simple. He’s as relevant today as he was yesterday and easily transcends thanks to his comedy-leanings. With a new Microsoft console on its way and hardcore gamers everywhere detesting where Rare has gone as a developer, it’d be the perfect time for Microsoft to give the British developer the Conker nod. Gameplay would simply need to be dynamic and relevant to the comedic world tones of its satire, as long as it was timeless and universal.
Please, oh please bring back the orange furball Rare.
Secret of Mana
Original Platforms: SNES
While Nintendophiles have fond memories of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (and rightly so), there’s another camp of gamers who prefer the then Squaresoft-developed Secret of Mana as their action-RPG game of 16-bit choice.
Secret of Mana was originally planned as a launch title for the CD add-on for SNES that was being developed by Sony before the relationship went sour and Nintendo pulled the pin (which incidentally opened the door for Sony to develop the PlayStation). This mean the game had to be shrunk back down in size to be able to fit on the limited cartridge size of the SNES.
The game was actually a massive departure for Square who primarily worked in the JRPG turn-based combat space, rather than real-time, but it was their experience in that that saw them equally employ a “Ring Command” system where the action would pause to allow the player to perform other actions without having to wander through convoluted, number-heavy menus. Moreover, it featured a rather mature and complex plot that actually made more sense than a lot of later Final Fantasy games, and its character and party-system was easily one of the best in the space for its time.
It also featured decent visuals and a massively diverse colour pallette. It’s not an easy thing to express in this day and age, but for its time, the game was tantalising in its art and exploration-potential thanks to the massive game-world at hand which, coupled with its deep story, was more than engrossing.
Reason for Revival:
JRPGs have an archaic place in the videogame world these days, and Japanese game development in general needs a new benchmark, locally-developed, to follow. Secret of Mana could very easily be that beacon for their flailing industry.
There’s also a clear shift in game design there, but it reflects too heavily on Western development. What used to stand-out was how the Japanese industry would innovate on age-old Western ideas, the option to have an open-world fantasy-driven adventure built from a classic and successful Eastern IP would make more sense than not. Moreover, the lite success in Japan of the likes of Dragon’s Dogma, coupled with the massive success of Monster Hunter, means a fantasy-based third-person adventure would work. As long as it never rested on the original’s laurels but expanded upon them for a modern age in innovative and unique ways, this could be a global winner.
Original Platforms: Amiga, Apple IIGS, DOS (then infinitely ported)
Aside from the original platforms mentioned in the header, Another World has been ported to a huge number of platforms including, but not limited to: SNES, MegaDrive, 3DO, Mega-CD, GameBoy Advance, Atari ST and even modern moible devices.
I have fond memories of walking into a Tandy back in the day where the opening cinematic to Another World was being demonstrated on the latest hardware as not only a graphical and cinematic marvel, but also an audio beast. Now you can play the game on iOS and Android.
Still, what Another World did for games was introduce a player-extension component, in that the game’s protagonist was your every-man (scientist) and no real hero by definition, long before Gordon Freeman, and his transportation to another world
essentially transported the player there. The alien he befriends early on spoke a language we, collectively, didn’t understand, yet our plights converged. This other world
was a dangerous place, and we both had to escape -- no matter the cost.
Despite the core gameplay component being that of a 2D side-scrolling adventure title, limited weapons, alternating fire-modes required to beat equally-equipped enemies and a number of environmental puzzles (the rolling ditch being especially awesome) left the game a stand-out in the crowd, regardless of its of cinematic flair (probably its most lauded feature at the time). Graphically it was an incredible game to look at, but best of all was the 2D, drab-coloured realisation of the alien planet we were sent to -- the game’s art-direction still gives me chills to this day, and overall, its importance in adventure games moving forward cannot go understated.
Reason for Revival:
Like yesterday’s Loom posting, a modern imagining of Another World would need to be limited in its “shooter” elements. Too many games today empower players in ultimate ways. Defining a proper survival experience like the one felt in Another World would be paramount in its revival, and the game would need to utilise more lateral puzzle design and solution mechanics to remain true to Chahil’s original opus.
Moreover, on a visual plane we’d need to be looking at an utterly alien world where everything, the ground included, could be perceived as dangerous territory. The alien lifeforms would need to be more alien than human, and that language barrier that was experienced in the original game would need to be expanded on as a proper gameplay system (think ICO, but even more in-depth). You could take alien environments to new levels as well with various gravity, space-time and matter exploitations that would challenge what players know about our world -- truly crafting a new Another World
Original Platforms: N64
Blast Corps was built on the idea of destruction, where the goal was to essentially clear the path for an out-of-control truck bearing a nuclear missile that would literally wipe out an entire civilisation the instant it touched a single cubic centimetre of concrete. Seriously, this was a fragile piece of machinery, where even a small wooden crate could spell the end of mankind -- which was very fitting for a videogame.
Blast Corps would actually be Rare's first release on the N64 (along with Killer Instinct Gold) after the major success they'd had with Donkey Kong Country on SNES. They would go on to make some of the most memorable games on the system as an official second-party developer for Nintendo including: GoldenEye 007, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie (1 & 2), Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Mickey's Speedway USA, Star Fox Adventures and Conker's Bad Fur Day. As well as a number of GameBoy and GameBoy Advance releases.
So in order to clear the path for this runaway apocalypse, players took control of various vehicles ranging from dump trucks (with exceptionally difficult controls that became a pain to master), to motorcycles with attached rocket launchers, to even giant robots that could perform somersaults with enough power to destroy entire office buildings. On concept alone Blast Corps was an intriguing premise and one that came long before the name Rare was synonymous with N64 greatness, but its execution was absolutely stellar.
The genius of Blast Corps was in the amount of variety it seamlessly offered players through the blend of time trials, racing, puzzle, action, and some truly great secrets and easter eggs. As players tried to beat their times to obtain gold medals through increasingly difficult levels that more often than not required split second reflexes, the reward for doing so was essentially the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with new interstellar levels opening up on different planets that featured completely different gravity that altered each vehicle’s core mechanics and physics -- which was a massive boon for the game at the time.
In essence this meant that the game truly rewarded the player’s perseverance, each step of the way, and even when you thought it was over, the entire game was mirrored in addition to platinum medals being revealed that served to both lengthen the game indefinitely while additionally causing premature hair loss, and more than a few broken controllers.
Reason for Revival:
There’s clearly a market for a game like Blast Corps, which was released on a console without any networking capabilities and was built around obtaining medals and rewards for doing the impossible, and beating times that over and over again initially seemed impossible. Clearly the social aspect of modern games will add a competitive dimension to the core game on offer, with players vying for Leaderboard spots, and potentially playing against other player ghosts to try and shave those milliseconds off each run.
But the true reason why Blast Corps should see a resurgence comes directly from the advancements in modern gaming engines and their handling of physics and explosions. By implementing modern destruction models and vehicle physics, even the very same Blast Corps will feel fresh which will instantly add a layer of unpredictability and an extra level of excitement. So, pretty please Rare, stop playing around with Kinect and bring us a new Blast Corps.
Smuggler’s Run (Series)
Original Platforms: PS2, GameCube
Before being acquired by Rockstar as Rockstar San Diego, the studio was known as Angel Studios. They've also been pinpointed as one of the main pioneers of open-world racing thanks to the classic Midtown Madness. And while the Midnight Club games are awesome, it's the truly open (in a racing sense) Smuggler's games that brought them to this list today. What they're working on now, is anyone's guess...
Smuggler’s Run was developed by the studio now known as Rockstar San Diego. You know, the dudes who made that little Red Dead Redemption game.
At any rate, Smuggler’s Run was your typical Rockstar mature-minded, criminal-leaning type of game where you played, oddly enough, a smuggler, doing border runs in a range of vehicles across massive, expansive levels. Your goal was to deliver your illegal goods to their destination while avoiding border patrol, other smugglers and even the CIA.
What made the game so endearing was its fast-paced driving action, excellent car physics and seat-of-your-pants pursuits. Missions did tend to get a bit repetitive, which was a shame, despite their being three iterations of the game which originally launched for PlayStation 2 in 2000, yet despite this, the sheer fun of driving, pursuit, exploration and basically breaking the law was too good a job to pass up. This, married with the large environments made the game a must-play for driving and arcade game fans alike, and cemented the niche idea in the annals of great driving games forever.
Reason for Revival:
Red Dead Redemption and Midnight Club should be reason enough to sell anyone on this concept. Imagine dusty, desert planes with the RAGE engine and its amazing physics and myriad vehicles to deal with those environments and the emergent pursuits we should all be envisioning.
Obviously it would be Rockstar handling the game again, and as long as they left cut-scenes and any attempt at a deep story out of the experience, this would be an absolute winner. We can also envision horseback missions (ala Red Dead and Euphoria), dynamic weather that changed each environment, and the previously mentioned emergent gameplay with a marriage between world ecology, NPCs, rival gangs and, obviously, multiplayer similar to that of Red Dead Redemption and its Lobby-based system that is still one of the most important additions to multiplayer of recent times.
In fact, after saying all that, it’s amazing this hasn’t happened yet. C’mon Rockstar, pull your socks up.
Original Platforms: N64, GameBoy Color, Xbox, PS2, GameCube
Although Turok and Shadow Man are from the same now-defunct Acclaim camp, and both were based on Valiant comics characters (Shadow Man much less than Turok though), the importance of both the first and second Turok N64 outings cannot be understated. Outside of GoldenEye, both Turok games were the
first-person console shooters to own. They were also part of the first wave of truly 3D FPS games which, amazingly, outside of Quake 2 were not PC-based.
In response to the multiplayer offering of the second game simply not being enough, Acclaim commissioned a stand-alone multiplayer entry in the series simply called Turok: Rage Wars that released on N64 and, oddly enough, GameBoy Color. It was marked as a bit of a Quake III Arena rip-off, however, and did little to maintain the momentum of the series' single-player component.
The first Turok, however, suffered from incredible "fogging” though this was easily palmed off as ambient jungle atmosphere. Despite this huge set-back, the game still managed to scare the pants off unsuspecting players because you could only see five-feet in front of you and dinosaurs and badguys would seemingly emerge out of nowhere hellbent on your demise.
Like Shadow Man, the Turok series also starred a minority protagonist with the titular Native American. The first game’s story was a bit miss, but the sequel, Turok 2, not only amped up the narrative foundation of Turok’s new videogame universe, it also offered some of the most devilish weaponry ever seen in videogames (Cerebral Bore, anyone?), unparalleled gore (at the time) excellent AI, massive, tiered level design and multiplayer, to boot. It was also one of the most impressive-looking videogames on the N64 at its release and remains one of the most memorable first-person experiences on that console outside of the legendary GoldenEye.
Reason for Revival:
Perhaps this review
can give you reason enough. Despite the negative spin there, the point is that the series needs to go back to the drawing board and not necessarily reinvent itself -- which is a common knee-jerk reaction these day. Rather whoever takes on the IP needs to foster what made the first and second games so good, but in a modern development and gameplay environment.
Our good friend Joab at GameArena mentioned a mod he’d love to see stem from a moddable Far Cry 3 that essentially allowed for Jurassic Park
in Ubisoft’s impressive PC engine. But why not just go to the source -- Turok already was a jungle-set first-person shooter with Dinosaurs and it had no Sam Neill or Laura Dern (a plus in my book). And do I really need to reiterate this point: first-person shooter... with Dinosaurs
. It started at a good place and has serious heritage in the modern world of gaming, and bringing it back there would be an absolute triumph for many.
Street Rod 2
Original Platforms: DOS, Amiga, C64
Set in the summer of 1969, Street Rod 2 put players in the guise of an upstart street racer, allowed them to buy their own cars through browsing the local newspaper, work on them in their garage, and then finally, take them out for a spin to the local burger joint to challenge other racers for cash, or even pink slips.
It might sound ludicrous now, but for its time, the 20+ car list for Street Rod 2 was a huge bonus, and added infinitely to the game's customisation strengths. Each car was also a classic, ranging from the early 50s to the late 60s. Makes included Ford, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Corvette, Dodge and more.
Street Rod 2, which ran on DOS, with incredibly detailed EGA graphics (for the time) was beloved for many reasons, but probably most importantly for its depth in customisation, beyond simply changing the colour of your ride within the very limited colour range of the EGA graphics of the day. From changing the differential, mufflers, exhaust manifolds, and even the engines through buying new parts, each vehicle could be turned into its very own street monster as each new race was won.
Although common at the time as the game allowed players to crash their cars, the consequences in Street Rod 2 were felt monetarily in addition to the humiliation of losing a race, and if players were left without any money to repair or buy a new car, they’d better hope they kept a well versed library of saved games as to avoid having to end their street racing career early.
When you take into account the realistic range of vintage American cars on offer, the end result felt like a realistic representation of an era when racing through aqueducts did occur after the sun went down.
Reason for Revival:
: Capturing an era for vehicle racing as opposed to simply giving players literally hundreds of cars to choose from, still makes Street Rod 2, to this day, a brilliant entry into the racing genre -- even though the actual racing mechanics were very basic. With today’s modern racing engines and realistic car models becoming the norm, by simply recreating the game using modern technology the end result will feel fresh and a lot of fun, even in today's saturated racing market.
It’s a simple concept, that can of course be expanded via allowing the customisation and racing options to be diverse, with added multiplayer support that could even work towards creating a persistent online community of street racers. In keeping the 60s setting (or even a different era like the 50s or 70s), this could be something quite special -- buying and modifying your own vehicles, taking them out to find challengers at the local petrol station or late night burger joint, and literally putting your car on the line in a winner-takes-all drag race through an aqueduct.
Original Platforms: DOS, Amiga, Mac OS
LucasArts was the king of original adventure IPs back in the day, and were so synonymous with the genre, it was always bankable to just try something new and untested. Thus Loom was born.
The game's story writer, Orson Scott Card, is responsible for some of the most important sci-fi and fantasy books of the last 40 years. But his original background was actually in game coding. Beyond Loom, he also worked on The Secret of Monkey Island, The Dig and Advent Rising.
Penned by legendary science-fiction/fantasy scribe Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Tales of Alvin Maker), Loom focused on the character Bobbin Threadbare, a member of a shrouded guild who use music to create magic. Looms then, “spin” this magic (which was the game’s way of saying “spells) and the game actually had many of these the player could learn, however, as magic was music-based, and the main character begins not nearly as powerful as he’ll become, not all notes were available from the outset, adding to the adventure and exploration element of the game.
It also featured one heck of a fully realised fantasy setting, and did not hold back on complexity. Players were forced to think outside the norm, and unlike other Lucas-based adventure/fantasy games of the time, Loom was more serious in its characterisation and writing. It also had a fully voiced cast of characters, intoxicating music and stunningly bright visuals.
Beyond the bells and whistles though, Loom was also a challenge for players and featured a difficulty setting that took away your on-screen notes to play, leaving you to figure out the music, and “spin” by ear. Puzzles were also challenging for a 2D game and never once left the player feeling like progressing was a breeze.
Reason for Revival:
Loom was a different kind of game for its time and would be a breath of fresh air today (or tomorrow). Utilising magic, music, exploration, puzzles and character growth, you could actually build a 3D adventure with a massively realised fantasy setting and almost no combat. Imagine how cool that would be? It was also originally meant to be released as a trilogy but only made it as a single game. LucasArts’ new parent company would be wise to bring the game-world back to life, especially if they could get Orson Scott Card on board (what with the Ender’s Game movie getting closer and closer to reality).
There’s also just a lot of love being thrown around for these original adventure games at the moment, and while it might sound like blasphemy to imagine them being converted to a third-person style of game, Loom’s setting and world is just too rich to leave in the 2D past.
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.
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.
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.
The game was known best for its high degree of challenge, with many players never seeing past the notorious
-- 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.
: 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.
And so ends the great week-long trip down memory lane. Any one of these titles mentioned throughout is, without a doubt, worthy of more gaming attention, but hopefully we've open up new avenues of classic, game-changing vidyagames for you to have a look at, and fall in love with, like so many other gamers out there.
Again, we invite discussion on this list as a whole, and next week we'll present to you a collated list of the games
suggested in response to this feature, and if you have other ideas for features or articles in the same vein as what we've presented here, please drop us a line.