Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nate's Top Ten Games In Need of a Reboot

Nate's Top Ten List of Franchises Needing a Reboot

I was challenged (well, it was more a suggestion than a challenge) by a certain rabbit to produce a list of ten games that I feel need a reboot. To be fair, I slagged his list pretty hardcore, so I think he deserves the opportunity to return the favour, eh? What do you guys think? I think he does.

So, here's the list:

10: Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy got it's debut on the NES 1989 and is basically tanking on modern consoles today. Of course, how can you compete with The Elders Scrolls, Mass Effect and the Fallout franchise reboot? Especially when you're an old dog that's trying to do old tricks, and all you seem to be able to do is take a dump on the lawn. That isn't to say that FF XIII was a bad game. While I haven't played it, I have heard that, unanimously, it's pretty good – but most people wouldn't play it again if they didn't have to. Ouch. This is because the series is clearly steering away from its best elements, and for no good reason.

And what's Square doing? Rereleasing an MMORPG (FFXI) to the PSP and Final Fantasy III (SNES) to the Virtual Console. Bravo. I solute you with fully-rolled eyes. Not that either of these games suck; I refuse to play a game which I have to pay to play after I've purchased it, and Final Fantasy III SNES is better than the most of the dreck that Square has ever released after the SNES. But it's also been rereleased twice already; once for the PSX and again for the Gameboy Advance (Final Fantasy VI Advance). Talk about beating a dead horse. But you know, if any of the newer FF games had the balls that 6 had in 1993 with its storytelling (you'll have to play it), that would be a start.

And the ability to equip characters with whatever you want, that would be great, too. Any character can learn any spell? Count me in. No rediculous minigames that don't actually advance the story? Awesome. No rediculous minigames that do advance the story? Even better. No J-Pop in the soundtrack? Rockin'. No J-Pop in the story? I'm drooling.

Actually, the only thing Square still seems to do right is boss battles that require some strategy. But that's. About. It.

So, what to do? Simple: Look at your best elements, and find a way to put them into a game, and keep working on these. And omit your worst elements.

And for christ's sake, stop changing the development studios every single sequel. Stick with the one that produces the best title, because those guys clearly have an idea as to how an RPG works. The rest seem to care more about Final Fantasy movies.


Oh, and no more goddamned J-Pop.

9: CyberMage: Darklight Awakening

CyberMage is a game that a lot of people missed during the mid-90's because, frankly, it's requirements were too high for most people to play. However, anyone who had would remember how amazing the game is.

The story was conceived by D.W. Bradley, the same gentleman behind a little series called Wizardry. Never heard of it? Heathens.

Anyway, CyberMage could perhaps be seen as a precursor to games like Jedi Knight, which incorporate melee combat and special abilities as viable means of attack, and not just as a combat supplement.

CyberMage was more than that, too. It alluded to open-world first person shooting with an economy. You could use vehicles, too. The story was told in comic book cells with digitised (albeit mediocre) voice acting, and it didn't suck.

Unfortunately, the game did have clunky controls, but considering all that it offered, it could have been much worse. Not sure if it could have been better, though. The game was notoriously buggy, and yet it still came out as good as it did.

Its demo sucked (but only in comparison to the actual game; consider that), though, and it wasn't even part of the actual game, but it did come bundled with the game nonetheless.

8: System Shock

System Shock has already been rebooted, at least theoretically. That reboot is Bioshock. Unfortunately, Bioshock lacks the level of intelligence and interactivity that went into System Shock, so anyone who never played the game that “started it all” didn't really know what was missing, and just read what the reviews fed them. And besides, as scary as Ayn Rand was (or “Andrew Ryan”), her philosophy has nothing on SHODAN.

System Shock was one of Warren Specter's little projects (he was also involved with CyberMage, if I remember right) released by EA Origin studios in 1994, around the same time as Doom 2 and I believe the first Marathon game. However, it was far more innovative than either. System Shock was more or less a first-person action adventure game that featured a malicious AI with a god complex, and you had to figure out how to stop it. You did this using both brains and brute force. Not only did you have to fight your way through the space station that you were stuck on, but you had to fix a good deal of it along the way. Plus you had to enter cyberspace to hack your way through some of the defences that SHODAN set up.

Furthermore, the game's story was told in e-mails and voice-logs. Depending on the release version you had (floppy or enhanced CD-ROM) would depend on whether you were reading the e-mails or listening to them. Aside from digitised voice, the enhanced CD-ROM version also supported 640 x 480 resolution.

If you can find it, System Shock is an absolute treat. While it may be 17 years old, it has aged very well. Its sequel, System Shock 2 (which was developed by the same guys who made Bioshock), while also an excellent game, is actually quite inferior in comparison.

7: Rygar

Rygar has also been rebooted, but frankly, I find the reboot has little in common with the original game other than the yo-yo weapon. Not saying that it might as well be a current-gen Yo-Noid!, but I am saying that what I have played seems to have very little to do with the original NES game. Of course, other than a few backgrounds and creatures, the NES game had little to do with its mediocre arcade parent, too.

But really, the creatures are barely recognisable (actually, I think I've only fought the giant crustacean worms), the story really isn't in-line with the NES game and it just feels...lacking. Mind you, I did also only play the Wii version, but I honestly doubt the PS2 version was much better as the Wii version is a port of that.  Luckily, it's available on teh Wii virtual console, so at least you can get "the real thing".

I'm just horribly unimpressed that such an amazing game wrought from a crappy arcade title could be turned into a mediocre current-gen remake by the same publisher that released Ninja Gaiden 2. Actually, come to think of it...I'm not surprised.

6: Jedi Knight

Jedi Knight was a rare gem. It brought together a lot of elements from other shooters (a few obscure) to create a truly awesome Star Wars gaming package,and it's sequel, was pretty damned good, too. Unfortunately, I have yet to play Jedi Academy, and it's pretty rare finding it for the old XBox.

In Jedi Knight, you play the role of Kyle Katarn (Jedi Knight is a sequel/spinoff from Dark Forces), the alleged mercenary who uncovered the Death Star plans.

In the first game, Kyle becomes a Jedi (obviously), so aside from all the neat whiz-bang Star Wars guns, you get to use a lightsaber and force powers. The powers available to you include healing, jumping, speed and, of course, choking. Oh, lightning, too.

At any rate, while the acting usually sucked, the stories of both games were quite good and the gameplay was fantastic. What really stood out, though, was the level design. Jedi Knight had some pretty massive levels that were rare to find after games went 3D. Jedi Knight also has an expansion called Mysteries of the Sith in which you play as another Jedi, Mara Jade. It includes some new weapons and force powers such as the ability to throw your lightsaber.

Jedi Knight 2 was released to the PC and Xbox, and was developed by Raven Software (Soldier of Fortune) using the Quake 3 engine and, if I remember right, it incorporated some of their internal middleware, Ghoul 2. Lightsaber combat was much improved, and use of Force Powers was less clunky, but some of the puzzle elements from the first game were more or less gone.

The final game in the series is called Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, and unfortunately, I never got a chance to play it. My computer's too slow (actually, I just need a soundcard with audio acceleration)

5: The Terminator: 2029

The Terminator: 2029 is one of the best Terminator games ever made. Screw Future Shock and Skynet (the former an excellent game, the latter a good attempt), this game was completely different.

The game was presented in a first person perspective, but you could only make single moves through the mazes that would make up each mission, However, combat was in real time. Objectives ranged from defending something, destroying something, assist a retreat...and I think that's about it The game featured all of the Terminators from the films, and some new ones, too. The tanks were especially daunting, but not unkillable. Furthermore, the game follows the story of the first Terminator movie from the future. It doesn't follow Terminator 2, though, at least not so far as I remember. I don't recall John Connor having a CSM101 T-800 reprogrammed and sent back in time during the game's story. Nope.

The truth of it is, I'm rooting for Bethesda to get this license back. All of their Terminator games rule in comparison to the Hollywood-related dreck. Even if it was the farthest thing from innovation like Rampage (an actual Wolfenstein 3D clone) or Skynet, it was still a lot better than what we're getting. And it would kick some serious ass with co-operative online play.

4: Shadow Warrior

Released in 1997, Shadow Warrior is probably one of the most offensive shooters ever made. It takes the piss out of...well, everything, and it's actually self-deprecating, too. It's also the last game that 3D Realms would make using the Build engine.

You play Lo Wang, a ninja assassin who gets screwed over by his employer, Zilla. As a result of this, he goes on a revenge spree. A somewhat short revenge spree, but a pretty wild one. The game featured weapons with multiple fire modes, turrets and vehicles. However, it's also one of the few shooters that put huge focus on melee combat (I think the only other in the 1997/1998 release period was Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight). Because of all of the wacky stuff this game has, it deserves a sequel. And because it ended on a cliffhanger, it kinda needs one.  C'Mon, admit it, you want some Wang.

3: Blood

Blood is the last great Build Engine game, developed by Monolith (the guys behind Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, Aliens Vs. Predator 2 and FEAR). Like Shadow Warrior, it featured a morally flexible main character. However, instead of a misogynistic ninja who cares more about his “sword” than decorum, you get an undead psychopath who is turning on the very deity that he worshipped. 
Aside from Blood's extremely twisted sense of humour, the game ramped the action and gore up to 11 with akimbo weapons and a high level of difficulty. The game took place in the late 1920's, and the environments supported that time period, and despite the game using the Build Engine, it looked pretty good. While many of the creatures were facsimiles of something else you might have encountered in many other shooters, many of the weapons were quite ingenuitive, such as the spray-can flamethrower which also doubled as a firebomb.

Its sequel, Blood 2, used the same engine (LithTech) as Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (although much enhanced), but it was significantly shorter. While the violence wasn't quite as intense, it had a pretty interesting multiplayer setup that was kind of like a Team Fortress knockoff. Unlike Blood, Blood 2 took place in the future, and featured modern weapons. Much to its chagrin, the game was released after Half-Life and got the same ritual rim-jobbing that almost every other shooter released between Half-Life and Halo received.

2: Dynasty Warriors

Dynasty Warriors (well, Dynasty Warriors 2) revitalised the brawler genre by making each level a 3D open plain on which to wreak havoc with one of many characters based on real (or assumed) generals, strategists and nobles from the era of Three Kingdoms China (late 2nd to late 3rd century). Pretty neat.

There are a lot of games in this series – seven core games and multiple spin-offs, which has essentially killed the series. Gamespot clearly won't even review the 7th game because of the bias the series has generated.

This has a lot to do with the fact that the combat system is viewed as tired, although Dynasty Warriors 7 has provided an answer to this. Unfortunately, it's a mediocre one.

Dynasty Warriors needs to be shut down for a few years, analysed and then rebooted in a definitive form – something that's a cross between the core game and its spin-offs, and the combat system can't have any corners cut (like how ¼ of the officers are sword users and almost everyone else has their own weapon).

1: Syndicate

Syndicate is an action-strategy series developed by Bullfrog (Peter Molyneux's former EA studio) and released by EA Origin. The premise is that you are an executive working your way up the corporate ladder by means of world domination. From a dirigible, you control a squad of heavily armed and upgradeable cyborgs that you will use to accomplish this goal by fulfilling objectives such as assassination, abduction and annihilation of other corporations.

There are many weapons to use, but few are actually available; you'll have to research the rest. And research costs money, so it's imperative that you ensure that your tax revenues will cover the costs. If not, well, there's no harm in raising them.

For its time, Syndicate was revolutionary. Not only for its blood-soaked concept, but because of the amount of carnage that you could cause in real time. Unlike Bullfrog's god simulators, Syndicate doesn't have a moral compass of any sort, only discretion or lack thereof. Aside from walking around, you could also steal cars and every vehicle and decal was destructible. In the sequel, Syndicate Wars, you could destroy buildings, as well. Syndicate also has an expansion titled American Revolt, in which you have to restabilise the Americas.

Syndicate is one of the best games that I have ever played. It seamlessly draws together strategy, roleplaying, action and even economic simulation, and until Dungeon Keeper, being bad had never
been so good.

Syndicate was originally made for the Commodore Amiga, but was later ported to DOS PC. However, it didn't stop there. It was also ported to the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Super Nintendo, Atari Jaguar and Panasonic 3DO. Syndicate Wars was originally made for DOS PC and interestingly enough was also ported to the Sony Playstation.

There is a rumour that the long-worked-on EA project called Redlime that is being undertaken by Starbreeze Studios (The Darkness, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) might in fact be a remake of this, but so far, only rumours have circulated.

Here's hoping.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dynasty Warriors is a pretty huge guilty pleasure for me. I've played the hell out of every game in the series and I plan on completing the achievements for all of the ones on the 360 (including Orochi, Gundam, and Samurai). It's kind of funny because my friends and I are all very aware of what's wrong with the game, but it's almost as if the grand total of all of the things that are bad about it add up to make it even more addictive.

We actually went on about it for a while when we were recording for, but the video hasn't gone up yet. I know I'll be shamelessly snatching up every title that comes out, even if they don't do anything to upgrade the series further. Yes, something is wrong with me. That said, I thought that DW7 did a great job at revamping their approach when it comes to the single player campaign.