We’ve all seen our favorite series go through their growing pains. 8-bit games moved into the 16-bit era, 2D became 3D, and so on. Often, games will also radically change format, which serves to both bring fresh fans in, and alienate diehards. Allow me to offer a few examples.
We’ll begin with the Metroid franchise. The original Metroid game arrived in 1988 on the original NES, and platformer fans were treated to a long quest, with a creepy scifi theme (not to mention some ridiculous passwords). The sequel showed on the Game Boy (Metroid II: The Return of Samus), and the third installment appeared on the SNES (Super Metroid). The fourth part is on the GBA (Metroid Fusion), but Nintendo decided to cash in on the lucrative FPS market and produce Metroid Prime for the Gamecube. I’ve ranted about this game plenty in my first column, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Rather than the classic platforming/adventuring we knew, we got shafted with another FPS clone. Shoot, shoot, shoot. How thrilling, and how original.
Another one is Duke Nukem. This is yet another platformer that mutated into an FPS, for the same reasons: cashing in on a growing market. This one also added loads of “mature” content (I use quotation marks because “mature” games are really designed to appeal to the IMmature teenage male crowd), like strippers and foul language.
The list continues; Sonic the Hedgehog turned into an “adventure” game, with bland results. Conker became an immature bad boy, with plenty of stupid humor to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The Jak & Daxter sequel promises “mature” content. And sometimes, developers go off the deep end; hey, how about a BMX game…with nudity?
Sometimes it’s not all bad, though. Mario has had two RPG outings (Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario), and those went quite well. A third is on the way (Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga). Mega Man’s been in many genres as well; he started in platformers, but he’s been in fighting games (Marvel vs Capcom and Power Battle series), racing games (Rockman Battle & Chase), 3D action games (Mega Man Legends series), RPGs (Mega Man Battle Network series), interactive movies (Super Adventure Rockman), and even a card battle game (Rockman EXE Battle Chip Grand Prix). Capcom actually did something smart by making separate Mega Man characters for most of those genres. Donkey Kong’s done quite well for himself, with loads of platformers and cameos in other games (like the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. series).
So the future is both bright and dark. It’s a crapshoot…your favorite video game heroes may survive the transition to a new genre, or become rotting piles of filth. There’s often no middle ground.