Ask the Kliq #8
Every once in a while, you will think about video games and then ask yourself a question that has no rhyme or reason, but that just happened to pop in your head at that exact moment. In some rare instances, not even Google or Wikipedia can provide the answer you need. Sometimes you wouldn’t even need an answer to that question.
This is where we come in.
Our panel of experts is here to take on all of your video games-related questions, no matter how serious or silly they may be. With each new edition, we will submit a question to this elite committee, which will in turn try to provide you, our beloved readers, with the most accurate answer they can come up with.
Do you have a question for us? Shoot us an e-mail at kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”, or leave a comment below. The best questions will be featured in an upcoming column.
This Week’s Question
This week, we have a question straight from our very own Mark B., who some of you might know for the simple fact that he is a machine who happens to write three or four pieces a week, and that’s when he’s in a rut. This week, Mark decided to ask us a question that got us to dig deep in our memories. More or less, he asks us to play video games god as we get to choose which franchise we want to see live and which one we want to see die. Here is this week’s question in his own words:
“Looking back at video gaming history in retrospect, what obscure character/game franchise do you wish had become way more popular than it did, and what famous character/game franchise do you wish had faded away years ago?”
Christopher Bowen: It’s a bit hard to determine both questions because the game industry moves so fast that it’s hard for me to concentrate on any one thing I like or dislike so much that I want it to go away; if I like something, chances are good I’m in a strong enough niche where they’ll make more of it, and if I don’t, I just ignore it; yes, even Sonic.
If there’s one thing I wish was more popular in America, it’s Football Manager. I say this because I’d like to actually be able to play the fully functional Football Manager game without having to import it – Worldwide Soccer Manager doesn’t support hacks or editors – and furthermore, because the engine is so beautiful, I’d like to see it be used by other, more popular sports; Out of the Park Baseball is OK, but doesn’t have an MLB license, and Eastside Hockey Manager is discontinued. It sure would work better than crap like Front Office Manager‘s abhorrent engine.
As for anything I’d like to get rid of, I think the first stop is all that shovelware shit like Dogz and Petz and Catz and Puppiez and Cockz and all the other bullshit put out there to cater to the lowest common denominator. They basically make the same game over and over and over, put a new vernier on it, and simple minded consumers buy it unknowingly. “But look! This one has a horsey!” At least Sonic’s TRYING.
Charlie Marsh: I’m tempted to go straight to EarthBound/Mother as a series I wish were more popular, but that’s really only because I want a re-release of the three games. If the franchise continued, they’d make it 3D, add in all sorts of crazy, silly, gameplay lengthening additions and it would suck, so I’m not going with EarthBound on this one. I’ll pause a moment to let that sink in.
Now then, a game I really like from way back when was Ristar on the Genesis. Despite not having it myself, I’d play it a lot with my friends, and it was a great little platformer. I would’ve liked to see a sequel or two for that.
For a franchise that should have gone away long ago, I’m going with Mega Man X. That is a series that has simply lost its way. I can pop in the first 3 games of the series and have a great time playing through them, but the latter 5 feel like a chore. There’s just too much going on. It should just be running through a stage, blowing up robots. Not collecting things, rescuing things, etc. I’d be willing to give a new Mega Man X a chance if it went retro like Mega Man 9, but maybe it’s best if they left that particular franchise alone.
And while I’m still giving it time, I haven’t been able to get in to GTA IV at all, or any GTA game since III. They should have stuck with the mission system established in III, not have you go play an incredibly boring game of pool or bowling in between murders. I don’t know, maybe I’m not “hardcore” enough to appreciate it.
Ashe Collins: Almost all the franchises I’ve wanted to see succeed over the years have succeeded. The only one that has really fallen by the wayside that I want to really see return is Mechwarrior. The license for this one has been passed around since FASA’s demise more than a Czech whore at the border and no one’s done much with it since, not even Microsoft. The last we saw of it on the PC was the excellent Mechwarrior 4 collection over eight years ago and the somewhat lacking Xbox version, Mech Assault. I’d love to see another Mechwarrior or even Mech Commander game. MegaMek just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Dead and Buried? A few years ago that would have been Tomb Raider, but Crystal Dynamics managed to salvage that one for me. Now I’d have to go with either Sonic, Spyro or Crash. All three of these poor icons of gaming have been picked over and left out in the desert for the vultures, and yet their owners keep using the Necronomicon to push them just a little bit further for gamers. They need to just be left to rot, at least for a little while so they can be properly resurrected and not just trotted out for public spectacle and ridicule.
Alex Lucard: It’s hard for me to think of a franchise I wish had been more popular, because sometimes the more popular a series gets, the more it loses sight of what made it popular in the first place. However I’m going to go with an obscure little game from the 8 bit era made by Interplay that could have revolutionized action RPG’s and multiplayer gaming as a whole, if only it hadn’t been obscure, under marketed and required a crazy expensive NES add on that was really only useful for this game.
I’m talking about Swords and Serpents – the first ever first person four player real time action RPG. Not only was this game by the same dev team that gave use classics like Battle Chess, The Bard’s Tale, and more but it still shocks me to this day how rare this genre of games are, I can count the number of multiplayer RPG’s on my finger, and I’m not talking MMO’s or hack n’ slash beat ’em ups like Hunter: The Reckoning or Gauntlet Legends. I’m talking true dungeon exploration goodness like we would see in SSI AD&D RPG’s (That’s a lotta acronyms!). Swords and Serpents was a wonderful blend of multi-player action and the type of RPG that was so popular on the PC back in the 1980’s. With a little creativity and updating the style for today’s modern gamers, this could be a lot of fun akin to Left 4 Dead but with an over-arcing story and character customizations and new abilities gained at certain points.
As for what franchise I’d like to see dead and buried, it’s sadly poor old Sonic the Hedgehog. Remember how awesome the first two genesis games were? And Sonic CD? Well, if you do you’re showing your age, because these days the average gamer remembers things like the hideous Sonic Unleashed, Shadow the Hedgehog and game after game of dreck featuring this once beloved and now beleaguered character. Let Sonic rest for a while Sega. At least until you can devote the time and respect he deserves into a solid game.
Guy Desmarais: One of my favourite game is a game which never gets mentioned in any “best of” list. It’s not even that obscure, but somehow, I think everybody has forgotten about it. I am talking about Pilotwings 64. I have never played the Super NES original, but I have played the N64 version over and over again. I have taken more pictures within that game than I have with my real-life digital camera. I have explored every corner of every island on my jet-pack. I have flown through every hoop and shot every target with the gyrocopters. There was just so much to do with this game, and most of the fun did not even come from the objectives. I had as much fun attempting stunts by flying under bridges, into caverns or between buildings as I did actually doing what was asked. In fact, one of my favourite things was shooting at everything with the gyrocopter’s rockets, which brings me to my next point. If this game ever gets a sequel, it needs to have real-time damage. When I shoot at Mount Rushmore, I want to see it cave in.
As for the game I wish wasn’t as popular, my vote will have to go to The Sims. The basic idea was fun, but the many expansions quickly became overkill. I had to install them all for a friend a couple of years ago, and there were just so many of them that it took hours to get done. Also, whenever I go into a video games store nowadays, the PC section is nothing but World of Warcraft and The Sims boxes.
Ian Gorrie: So besides Duke Nukem Forever? *rimshot*
The first thing I can think of was Shadowrun. It had such potential as an NES game and was awesome for about 3/4ths of it. Woah! Mister Drake is a dragon? NO WAY. Then it was a 360 shooter, which guaranteed that I wouldn’t be playing it.
Ok. I’ve got a couple that are prime for remaking. Since no one has any good ideas of their own anymore, with occasional exception, I’ll expect someone to buy the rights to these (if they’re not abandonware at this point) and make them, shovelware style, for the Wii.
Things I want to see retired:
Resident Evil. Yes. I said it. Everything is a RE game now and I’m bored.
I’m with Alex on retirement for Sonic.
Halo (though I do appreciate it’s contribution to keeping a bunch of eternal 14 year olds from playing anything else besides it and COD4)
A.J. Hess: Videogames I can’t stand, chapter one: In which I piss off everyone by naming Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider.
The more I think of this, the more I realize I don’t hate franchises. I hate the people that run franchise games into the ground. Look at the GTA series. When it made its paradigm-shifting transition with 3, the people who played it were the idiots in college who majored in Improvisational Chemistry. Instead of playing the game for the story and mechanics it offered, they’d study, finish their labs, test their hypothesis on each other, and start killing cops and hookers until they ordered pizza and crashed a frat party, calling the game the best thing ever. Meanwhile I’m over in my dorm playing Total Annhiliation, Half Life, or Fallout and wondering how such giant idiots could possibly run off with my hobby AND GET COEDS INTO BED. So now I can’t stand GTA.
Same with Tomb Raider, another franchise that needs to be shot, beheaded, staked in the heart, and buried in a river. The same idiots who hailed GTA as the second coming would pop in to Lara’s adventures and just ram her into the nearest wall over and over again just to hear her little grunts. Maybe I’m too high and mighty and think that games shouldn’t be used for anything other than their intended purpose. Well, screw that. Get off my lawn as well, you damn kids.
As far as things that should still be around though that just didn’t get enough love, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is pretty high up there. Decent gunplay, decent story. But what pushed it over the top were the mental powers. I think it was the first game to really get off on the Havok engine. I spent hours on the demo alone, just tossing people into things and things into people.
Matt Yaeger: Yakuza for sure. Kazuma Kiryu is a great character, and those games sell horribly. Stubbs the Zombie I wish had been more popular so that there would’ve been a sequel, and I’ll agree with Earthbound. Lightgun games in general. Culdcept. Psychonauts. Silent Bomber on the PS1. Crimson Skies. Armed and Dangerous. MDK.
Popular franchises that I wish had faded away? Maybe Sonic if only because the older games are still a fond memory, while the newer ones don’t have the same appeal. I wish people would get past FFVII.
Robert Capra: I was always surprised that Gumshoe for the NES didn’t fare better. I mean, he was a detective who jumped or flew by having you shoot him! Genius! This is a game screaming out for a remake on the Wii. It’s a natural.
Who should have passed on? Mario. For god’s sake, please kill off Mario. He’s the very poster child for over-exposed corporate whoredom. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a Mario: Around the World for the Wii. It’d make good use of the motion controls….
Misha: Right at the beginning of the Playstation’s life, a friend of mine has two fighting games for his. Tekken and Battle Arena Toshinden. Tekken never grabbed me, just as Virtua Fighter left me cold, but Toshinden was something else. I remember the controls being more intuitive, the characters looking and sounding better… and the weapons. Oh yes, the weapons. Without Toshinden, Soul Edge might never have happened.
So, Toshinden was the better game…. But ultimately, Tekken became *the* beat-em-up franchise for the Playstation, and Toshinden became lost in the graveyard of gaming. If it had only been able to stay the course, weapon-based fighting games would have become more mainstream, and while the Soul Edge series would probably have still come into being, it would have had a competitor in its field… And as everyone knows, competition encourages innovation.
As for a franchise that should have died a long time ago? Two words for you: Tomb Raider.
Mark B.: Well, since I asked the question, it only seems fair that I answer it.
I think that, of all of the things I’ve played up to this point, the one thing I wish had been far more popular than it actually was is Snatcher. My rationale for this is three-fold. First, the actual game itself was exceptionally well-written and full of an astounding amount of character and charm that it’s incredibly hard NOT to like if you’ve actually had the opportunity to play it, and for all of the praise/flak Hideo Kojima draws for Metal Gear Solid at this point, writing-wise, I think Snatcher was generally better written in all possible respects. Second, I have this secret belief that had Snatcher taken off, I think that maybe adventure games would have more of a place in gaming, console-wise, than they do at this point, and that maybe plot and dialogue would be equally as important to developers as gameplay and shiny images. Third, if Snatcher had done well, maybe I’d have been given the option to play Policenauts in English sometime before I die.
Also, maybe then someone would have decided to translate SD Snatcher and release it stateside, too. Snatcher as an RPG with super-deformed characters? HELL. YES.
(Special nods also to Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance, even if no one on Earth but me and J. Rose liked it, and God Hand, because Clover Studios loved me. Not you, maybe, but me, absolutely.)
Anyway, I don’t really have anything against most franchises at this point, at least not to the extent that I think they need to go away; I understand that games like Grand Theft Auto 4 and Final Fantasy X fill a niche in the market that someone out there thinks needs to be filled, and while I don’t personally derive any joy from these games, I can understand why some people might. Further, I can completely understand why some companies feel the need to haul out their franchise players year after year: they’re making money. We can condemn Sega for hauling Sonic out year in and year out, but he’s obviously making the company a profit, and we can no more condemn Sega for bringing out their prize show horse than we can Nintendo for releasing ten Pokemon games a year. “Quality” is not a concern when bottom lines are at stake, and whether or not I think either of the two mentioned companies need to retire these franchises (hint: I do) is irrelevant; so long as they bring in cash, they’re going to keep seeing sequels and spin-offs until the economy crashes or we all die.
That said, I think we can safely put Silent Hill out of its own misery, and as someone who is a fan of about half of the games, I think I’m justified in saying that I wish the games hadn’t become anywhere near as popular as they did. Konami obviously has no interest in developing the games anymore (they handed the last two off to people who AREN’T “Team Silent”, a dev team whose entire purpose SEEMS to be making SIlent Hill games, so that Team Silent could make what is, essentially, Silent House of the Dead, which made me throw up in my mouth a little), and after the last three, I find it somewhat hard to believe that anyone beyond the core fanbase has any interest in PLAYING the games anymore. I mean, I liked the games fine for what they were, but the franchise has taken on something of a life of its own at this point, and while that CAN be a good thing, in most cases (especially when Konami is involved), it rarely ever IS a good thing.
Really, if the franchise had lost its steam somewhere around the third game and faded into obscurity, I think I’d have been fine with that, and I think there are a lot of people who agree with me. Matt and Alex probably do, anyway, and I guess that’s good enough for me.
If I understand what my colleagues are saying, it looks like Sonic has officially jumped the shark. His name was mentioned more than any other with an overwhelming majority when it comes to franchises that should be left alone, and even though he wasn’t my #1 pick, I can’t say that I disagree. Still to come this year, we have a game featuring the blue blur fighting in medieval time, which at least, I don’t think we have seen him do up until now. Let’s all keep the once beloved hedgehog in our thoughts and prayers as we hope for a brighter future, one where the poor guy can take a rest and get hopefully pull himself together for one more quality outing down the road.
Do you have a question of your own which you want our experts to answer? Take Tony’s example and send an e-mail to kapoutman AT hotmail.com with the subject line “Ask the Kliq”, or leave a comment below. We’ll put our team right on it.