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15 Classic Games and Franchises Fit for Modern or Next-Gen Revival: Part 1
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:33pm 10/12/12 | Comments
We take a look at classic games and franchises that, if need be, could be looked towards for a bankable revival in either HD makeover form, or rebooted. Read on for our list...

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.

Or, Alternatively...

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.

Shadow Man
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.

Humble Beginnings

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.

Of Toads and Dragons

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...

Latest Comments
Posted 05:00pm 10/12/12
I reckon LucasArts will be watching the response to Star Citizen and the proposed Elite remake from David Braben closely. If the bazillion dollars that just got thrown at RSI is any indication of the demand, they'd have to be crazy not to mull over an X-Wing series reboot.
Posted 05:22pm 10/12/12
Shadowman sequel would be amazing, would even love a HD remake for Xbox live :)
Posted 05:25pm 10/12/12
Aw man, Shadowman. That takes me back.
Posted 06:29pm 10/12/12
One of my favorite old games Descent is being revamped by an indie developer.

I for one will get it. I used to play this on a dial up connection using Kali. One of the oldschool guys that now lives in Toowoomba was an old fo. Cant remember his name right now (which s**** me)

Link to an article about it:

Ignore the origional bot models. They are all in the process of being updated.

Dan edit: lowered video embed size.

last edited by Dan at 18:46:57 10/Dec/12
Posted 06:30pm 10/12/12
Any serious X-Wing/Tie Fighter game from Lucasarts would sell very well I think, there is a big enough market out there for those gamers who remember the series well and there would be enough interest from the new generation of gamers especially with the new Star Wars movies announcement (please be based on the Thrawn series lol)

Also I'm hoping NOLF makes this list, those games were sensational.
Posted 06:36pm 10/12/12
Killer instinct ffs
Posted 06:44pm 10/12/12
Posted 06:46pm 10/12/12
Resident Evil.

Yeah I know it never died but I am talking about the puzzle/survival horror games. They were great fun and I wish theyd come back.
Posted 06:59pm 10/12/12
I never actually played any of the X-wing/Tie Fighter games, Closest I got would be Shadows of the empire and Rogue Squadron on N64. Publishers seem to not want to make money and not listen to their customers. Who here would buy a KOTOR 3 game day 1? I sure would, Collectors edition if they would have it for PC. I also want Pod Racer re-make, I don't care much for racing games but I loved that thing a lot.

I just remembered that the PS2 has a sequel to pod racer, no downloads for it so I will get it off ebay.
Posted 07:01pm 10/12/12
Someone needs to remake Raptor: Call of the shadows, exactly how it was but with modern graphics. Also Shadow Warrior.
Posted 07:01pm 10/12/12
Seconded on the Road Rash.
Posted 07:05pm 10/12/12
People genuinely want another sequel to Battletoads?
Posted 07:10pm 10/12/12
4chan probably would go wild for a battle toads game. I remember playing it and never getting past the 3-4th level. Holy crap, Jungle strike, I played that and desert strike a lot back on Mega Drive in the day. That would be potential indie title.
Posted 11:47pm 10/12/12
General Chaos
Posted 11:48pm 10/12/12
I would LOVE to see an X-Wing/Tie-fighter sequel. I was thinking about it after playing Tie-fighter late last year again... it's a HUGE deal bringing that franchise forward. With all the scope for 'high fidelity' (not just visuals, but gameplay feel and balance as well as its capacity to being immersive) there's balancing the controls for the game, let alone actually balancing the spacecraft and this is before you get to the point where Tie Fighter's plot was top notch (being borrowed from the Thrawn Trilogy).

I think we're ready for a sequel, but I think plot would be a significant component in re-releasing that game (how GOOD could a co-op mode in the game be if you could play 2-4 player games of 'story missions'!!).

Raptor and Jungle Strike would both make fine remake's too (and could make very competent mobile games as I think about it too) getting the overall 'feel' of those game right and true to the originals, would make a HUGE task, and would play a huge part in whether or not the games would be successful (c'mon, how many 'half-baked' reboots have people played, amirite?)

I'm going to nominate a franchise RIPE for the picking. Duke Nukem. There, I said it. It's been a dirty word in this business for a loong while now, but now that Gearbox finally got the last installment of that [now franken-]franchise out the door, can we finally get back to being able to 'kick ass and chew bubble gum'?
I know Duke3D really 'pushed the envelope' for it's time in gaming, but it was ALWAYS the humor in Duke 3D (and Shadow Warrior as pointed out above too) that made that game REALLY shine! Make it less about the visuals, and MORE about REALLY non-'PC' humor.
Posted 11:55pm 10/12/12
Yeah, I'd play the s*** out of a new X-Wing game, I mean, Star Wars is even bigger now than it was back then so surely the game would sell like hotcakes. It did such a good job of adding complexity, where you could shuffle power around and shuffle your shields around and weapon groupings, etc, but still stay accessible and full of action and dog-fighting and stuff and not get bogged down feeling like a sim. Too many space games since then have either gone too far one way or the other, becoming extremely dense sims like the X series, or being all about arcade action and explosions without any complexity. Need another game that blends the two deftly together.
Posted 11:31pm 11/12/12
when playing games like BF3 online I saw disappointment for how the concept of teamwork just doesn't work in pubs

I don't see how you could take a game as classic as X-Wing and subject it to this audience.

shame on you. The franchise is already under enough pressure - why add to it
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