Monday, November 28, 2011

The Top Ten Game Franchises That Need to Make a Comeback

The last few years have been pretty good years for older gaming properties. With the resurgence of sidescrolling games thanks to NEW Super Mario Bros. and the whole download market allowing developers to make smaller games, tons of game franchises both new and old are seeing revisits. Games like Rayman Origins, A Boy and His Blob, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Mega Man 9 & 10, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Yars’ Revenge and plenty of others have all brought attention back to long dead franchises. As well as other games returning still existing franchises back to their roots such as Sonic Generations, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land. The point is, we live in a world where nostalgia rules, especially the gaming industry.

No, the other Bionic Commando reboot.
So it got me thinking about what other franchises I’d like to see get a facelift. There’s plenty of great gaming franchises from the past that are well deserving of making a comeback and for some, there’s no excuse. Not all of them need to be retail releases and most of them don’t even need to make the leap to three dimensions; all we need is for them to come back. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the ten game franchises I want to make a comeback.
10. Mischief Makers

Shake, shake!
If you’ve never heard of Mischief Makers, I don’t blame you. It’s an obscure little platforming game developed by Treasure for the Nintendo 64. You play as Marina Lightyear, a robot girl who has a tendency to grab onto things and shake them. You run through 2D levels from beginning to end solving puzzles and beating up bad guys. It’s classic stuff. Marina can jump, hover, grab, throw and of course, shake and that’s how many of the puzzles are solved. Some enemies have to be shaken to be defeated, some obstacles have to be shaken to reveal keys or other items you need to complete a stage, it’s your normal sidescrolling fare but done pretty well. It’s not a perfect game but it’s still a fun little adventure for what it’s worth. Though I’m not one to push motion controls too much, Marina’s shaking ability seems tailor made for something like the Wii Remote or Playstation Move and the fact that the game is a sidescroller could make a perfect fit alongside games like Rayman Origins. Treasure, get to work!

9. Ristar

Much like Mischief Makers, Ristar is another classic sidescrolling game based around a gimmick; a character with super stretchy arms. Ristar was a platforming game developed by Sonic Team for the Sega Genesis and has been ported to many different Classic Sega Collections over the years but has yet to see a follow up release. You play as the title character, a weird star alien thing, as he goes from planet to planet jumping on stuff and swinging all over the place with his stretchy arms. You use them to swing around, grab items from a distance, launch yourself to high places, for everything really and it was a nice chance of pace from the run and jump mentality of Sonic the Hedgehog. I imagine a new version of the game would play similarly to Bionic Commando Rearmed for the PSN and X-Box Live Arcade, since the concept is similar; using a tether to swing around and what not. Or if they went the 3D route, it could be similar to Warehog sections of Sonic Unleashed but personally, I’d prefer it stay 2D and just be a downloadable game. Ristar’s developed a pretty heavy cult following over the years, so much so that he was one of the most requested characters fans wanted in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing but he only made it into the backdrop of a DLC stage. Come on Sega, give us what we want. We know you can make it work. Sonic Generations proved it!

8. F-Zero

This game could really use red shells.
By now, you all know what F-Zero is. It’s that futuristic racing game by Nintendo that’s known for being crazy fast, crazy hard and of course, Captain Falcon. Believe it or not, it’s been seven years since we last received an F-Zero game in the states. That’s a long time to go without a franchise that was so prominent for Nintendo. The last console entry, F-Zero GX for the Gamecube, was co-developed by Sega and it was awesome! It’s high time Nintendo stepped back into the ring with this game. While Nintendo certainly has a good thing going with Mario Kart when it comes to racing games, it’s not quite as deep or challenging as F-Zero is and some of the more hardcore gamers out there might appreciate it if Nintendo focused on their other racing series for a change. I’d even accept a remake of F-Zero X for the 3DS if that’s what it takes. I’d prefer a new game but I’ll take what I can get. Fans have been hoping for and predicting that a new F-Zero will be announced every E3 since the Wii was released and it’s yet to happen. What gives, Nintendo? Oh and also, give Captain Falcon his own game. That’d be rad.

7. Banjo-Kazooie

Seriously, cars? Whose responsible this?
Okay, yes, Banjo-Kazooie had a third game on the X-Box 360 just a few years ago but that game sucks and ask any fan of Banjo-Kazooie and they will tell you that is not a Banjo-Kazooie game. The two Banjo-Kazooie games released for the Nintendo 64 by then second-party developer Rare were so successful and so massively charming it’s hard to imagine Rare not wanting to keep this franchise alive. Nuts ‘n’ Bolts proves that they haven’t completely forgot about the franchise, but it felt more like a new idea Rare had that they didn’t think would be successful, so they just slapped the Banjo-Kazooie name and characters in and called it a day. That’s not what the franchise needs. The franchise needs a new, proper 3D Platformer ala Super Mario Galaxy. Banjo-Tooie was such a huge game, it really pushed the N64 to it’s limits and I feel Rare is a company that could do that again, they have been for years. But Microsoft, their new owners, doesn’t seem to want to let them, they’re much rather they make lame Kinect games. While I could write an article in and of itself about why Rare should belong to Nintendo, instead I’ll just say this; bring Banjo-Kazooie back, Rare. Make a proper platformer. The 360 has had platformers before and the X-Box Live Arcade versions of the original games did pretty well. The world hasn’t forgotten Banjo-Kazooie and there’s still a place for massive platformers. 

6. Viewtiful Joe

Also the graphics were neato.
Here’s another franchise that, like Banjo-Kazooie, isn’t exactly old and hasn’t been forgotten but has been swept under the rug by the developers. Viewtiful Joe was an action/platformer/sidescrolling series unlike any you’ve likely ever played before. It had a strong emphasis on combat where every single thing you did in battle felt important and needed to be planned out. It was fun, it was challenging, it was one of the best reviewed games of 2003. Then they made a sequel, which was also good, then they made a fighting game which was not, then they made a handheld game which I never played so feel free to tell me how that was and somewhere along the line they made a TV show. This all happened within a span of three years and while four games over three years might not seem like much, it can be tiring on casual fans of a series. Especially when some of the games aren’t very stellar to begin with. While the oversaturation may have had a little bit to do with the death of the Viewtiful Joe franchise, the real problem was the closure of Capcom’s Clover Studios division in 2007. There hasn’t been a new Viewtiful Joe game since. Capcom hasn’t forgotten the character, though, he’s appeared in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom as well as Marvel vs. Capcom 3, so they still care they just haven’t given us a proper third entry in the series. Which is a shame because it’s been rumored for a long time. The world needs more of Movie Land and that lovable fanboy, Joe.

5. Billy Hatcher 

Why am I the only one who sees the appeal here?
Hey, here’s a game nobody cares about but me. Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg was a very bizarre platforming game developed by Sonic Team and released on the Gamecube in 2003. It starred a young boy named Billy Hatcher who had to save the world of Morning Land by rolling and hatching giant eggs to save the Chicken Elders from the evil crows and the impending darkness. I know it sounds ridiculous but bear with me. Unlike Sonic the Hedgehog which is more about speed and platforming, Billy Hatcher was more about puzzle solving and using the different animals that hatched from the eggs to solve said puzzles. There were water animals that could put out fires, fire animals that could melt ice and animals that were just better at taking out enemies. Each level was filled with multiple types of eggs that hatched multiple types of animals so there was a bit of strategy involved in picking the right animals to help in the level. It was a pretty nifty and unique idea. Sure it had some faults, some of the level designs were pretty poor and the difficulty, believe it or not, spikes quite a bit towards the end, but it was a fun and unique little platforming game. Of course, it ended up not selling very well so Sega’s never taken a chance with the franchise again. The character of Billy Hatcher has showed up in some of Sega’s All-Star get togethers but the game itself has never seen a sequel. I really think there’s a lot of promise with this franchise and would love to see where they could take it next. But I won’t hold my breath.

4. Ducktales

I'm going to stroke it...
Ducktales for the NES was awesome. So was the sequel, Ducktales 2. If anybody ever says that good licensed games never existed, just let them play Ducktales for 2 minutes and they’ll be instantly proven wrong. Anyway, Ducktales was a platforming game developed by Capcom for the NES and was based on the Disney cartoon series of the same name. You played as Uncle Scrooge and went through a number of different levels looking for treasure and fighting bosses and the only weapon you had your disposal was a cane. Don’t worry though, it also doubled as a golf club and a pogo stick. It was pure, NES sidescrolling action only Capcom could deliver. Too bad Disney hasn’t done anything with Ducktales in the last 15 years. If they hadn’t dropped the show and the entire Disney Afternoon line-up, we’d probably still be seeing Ducktales game to this day. This is perhaps the most farfetched entry on the list, mostly because Disney is responsible for whether this series lives or dies, not a game developed and they likely don’t care that retro revivals are all the rage these days. Thankfully, Warren Spector, developer of last year’s Epic Mickey, has been interested in making a new Ducktales game and is very vocal about it. I’d love to see him take charge of a new Ducktales game. Epic Mickey wasn’t a masterpiece, sure, but just seeing Uncle Scrooge, the triplets and of course, Launchpad McQuack in a new game would be enough to get my money. 

3. Double Dragon

At least Abobo's coming back.
What happened to Double Dragon? When it came to beat-em-ups on the NES, there was none better than Double Dragon 1 & 2, so why has it yet to see a revival? I mean, it’s not like arcade style beat-em-ups don’t have a place in today’s market. Look at Castle Crashers or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, those games are both super popular, you can’t tell me Double Dragon wouldn’t be.  Okay, yes, Technos Japan, the company responsible for these games, defunct in 1996 but they also developed the River City Ransom games and those seem to get a re-release or a port or remake every handheld so there’s no excuse another developed couldn’t pick up the licensing rights to Double Dragon. Imagine playing an HD remake of the original Double Dragon on the PSN, rippin’ your way through the town as Bimmy Billy and Jimmy Lee, beating up Abobo in sweet high definition online with a friend. It would be great! It would have to be in 2D, though or at least a 2D perspective. Beat-em-ups just aren’t the same when they’re in three dimensions. Regardless, the world needs more Double Dragon. Or better yet, Battletoads and Double Dragon. Get on that, game developers.

2. StarTropics

Again, this game is awesome.
Yes, here I am, pushing StarTropics again. Look, okay, I get it. This game has a lot of flaws and it’s certainly no Zelda but it has so much potential to be a Zelda. It wants to be Zelda. Why can’t Nintendo just bring it back? The way I see it, StarTropics could play the way it used to on the NES, from a top down perspective, instead of making the leap to 3D like Zelda did. You’d still play as Mike Jones, fighting enemies with Yo-Yos and bats or whatever but it’d be a much larger game with better graphics and much better controls. The original StarTropics suffered from feeling like you were locked on a grid, like most NES games were. It didn’t feel as smooth as the original Zelda, it was choppy and stiff. Released now on a console like the 3DS with improved controls, StarTropics could be a masterpiece of top down action/rpg gaming. Take everything that’s good about Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, get rid of the touchscreen garbage, change the characters and setting and watch the magic happen. Personally, I’m rooting for a 3D Classic version of either of the original StarTropics games but even that’s not too likely. Nintendo has a lot of classic IPs that they could bring back and unfortunately, StarTropics is probably the last on their list. Too bad it should be at the very top. 

1. Castlevania
Bet you weren’t expecting this, huh? Okay, I guess I better explain. Castlevania isn’t a dead franchise. Far from it. Konami still produces Castlevania games all the time like last year’s Lords of Shadow. What they don’t produce, however, are classic style Castlevania games. Lords of Shadow is not a Castlevania game. It’s God of War. Same thing goes for all the DS games, those are Metroid games. What I’m talking about is the classic, linear style Castlevania games from the days of the NES and Super Nintendo. I want a Castlevania 6. I want to walk to the right, whip zombies and keep walking right. I want to walk up stair ways, farm for hearts and then throw holy water at Dracula. I don’t want to constantly run back and forth between places I’ve already been to get some item I couldn’t obtain yet. I don’t want to initiate quick time events to kill the most basic of enemies. I don’t want a fighting game where I can play as some warewolf guy or Death. I want to play as Simon Belmont in spooky locations whipping enemies until I get a magical orb and go to the next spooky location. It’s not even that any of the current Castlevania games are bad, the DS games are great even, but to me, they aren’t Castlevania. Konami took a step in the right direction in 2009 with the WiiWare game Castlevania Adventure Rebirth, which was a remake of the Gameboy game Castlevania Adventure, which isn’t even that great of a game. But I don’t want remakes and ports, I want a brand new, sidescrolling Castlevania game. It can be a download game, I don’t care. Just give me the Castlevania I know and love. I’m fine with you continuing to make Metroidvania games and God of Vania games, but just make classic Castlevania games alongside it. It’ll make me happy, Konamia. I have so little.

So there you have it, the ten franchises I want to see brought back and revived. Now, there’s still plenty of others I could have picked, off the top of my head Battletoads, Goemon, Bonk, good Ninja Turtles games. You could even make a case for Star Fox and Mega Man, which were going to be on the left but ultimately cut because both franchises have had games in the last two years.  So I’m sure there’s some you’d like to see that I didn’t mention, so feel free to sound off in the comments. For now, go play Kirby’s Return to Dream Land and Rayman Origins, I hear they’re both really good.

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