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 411mania » Games » Columns

The 8 Ball 3.19.13: Top 8 Spiritual Sequels
Posted by Marc Morrison on 03.19.2013

Welcome to another installment of The 8 Ball. The topic today is about the top spiritual sequels when it comes to video games. My and Liana's lists are fairly different from each other. She focused more on games that ostensibly deserve spiritual sequels, be it a new studio taking over the franchise, or a total revamp in the next iteration of the game. I took a different tact in listing my own personal favorite "sequels", save for the name, or evolutionary steps in a specific gaming archetype, with the game it's a sequel of in parenthesis. Let's begin the list:

8. Rogue Trip (Twisted Metal)

Rogue Trip, even though it was a departure from the Twisted Metal formula (by having an actual point) was the Twisted Metal game that should have existed, instead of Twisted Metal 3. While Twisted Metal 1 and 2 were great games, they did wear out their welcome after a long time. Rogue Trip tried to freshen up the car-combat formula by having you battle the other cars (and UFO) in picking up various tourists in the levels and driving them to photo destinations so they can snap a few shots. All the while you're trying to keep them in your car, keep your car alive, and hopefully killing the other drivers in the level. It's a shame only one game was made, because of the three combat games in the later PS1 life (RT, Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8), it was by far the most inventive and forward-thinking of the bunch.

7. Bayonetta (Devil May Cry)

Before the Ninja Theory-made DmC game came out, I honestly thought Devil May Cry was "done" as a franchise. DmC breathed new life into it completely, but the genesis for that game came from Bayonetta. Directed by the same man who made the first Devil May Cry, Hideki Kamiya, Bayonetta is a Devil May Cry game that is on a speedball mixed with every insane thing you can think of. From the heroine herself, Bayonetta, even having a better, more developed character than Dante, and more cheeky is possible, to the vastly improved combat system, to a much more developed sense of humor. Bayonetta is truly the fourth Devil May Cry game, especially given the lukewarm reaction that game did receive.

6. Torchlight (Diablo)

Torchlight might be stretching the term "spiritual sequel" and moving more toward "wholesale copy", but that's immaterial, really. Considering how infrequently Diablo games come out, it's nice to see another company pick up the slack. Torchlight was an iterative step in the action-RPG genre, giving you a helpful pet in your journey, which can attack foes, cast spells, or even travel back to town to sell your unwanted gear. Torchlight 2 upped the ante by having more varied character classes, an online mode that worked out the gate, and an actual offline mode for you to enjoy. Something a few games could learn from. It's not the most revelatory game, but Torchlight 1 and 2 are solid titles that keep me entertained between the 11 years it takes to make a Diablo game.

5. God of War (Rygar: The Legendary Journey)

I expect this pick to be the most troll-inducing pick, and that's fine. You're all wrong, but I won't hold it against you. God of War wasn't a new, fresh idea when it came out in 2005. It was actually just a refinement of an earlier PS2 game called Rygar: The Legendary Journey. Both games involved a quasi-mythical hero trying to stop some god's plot. While Rygar had the disk-armor (shield on a yo-yo), Kratos has the chain-blades. Both have a fixed camera perspective, and involve juggling your foes, to a certain extent. God of War added QTE's, multiple weapons, and the one-hit kill button which sped up combat drastically. God of War is just an improved formula that Rygar already had most of knocked out, and that's fine. At least the Hydra fight in God of War caused Liana to laugh at it, and that's all that really matters.

4. Persona 4 Arena (Guilty Gear/BlazBlue)

While it's true that BlazBlue did come after Guilty Gear, only truly insane people ever actually figured out how to play it. Persona 4 Arena married the usual intricate, and slightly confusing battle system of an Arc System Works fighting game with a property/characters that people actually give a damn about. That was another of BlazBlue's failing, actually. Persona 4 Arena built upon everything the Guilty Gear games did, in terms of fighting systems, but streamlined parts of it. It also had a story…a long LONG story mode, which got you actually invested in what is going on. Persona 4 Arena did have a few problems, but it was a good culmination of all that Arc has been trying to do over the years.

3. Prototype/Infamous (Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction)

Super-hero games weren't great for most of video gaming. In fact, it wasn't until the Spider-Man games that the games were good, at least when it came to 3D gaming. Spider-Man 2 (the movie one) was good, but was missing "fun". The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction added this key element in, and it was glorious. Prototype and Infamous continued this super-hero legacy on in interesting, but different ways. Prototype (since made by the same guys) "felt" like a Hulk game, just with a bunch of crazy powers thrown in, and a lot more gore. Infamous was probably the overall better package though with a morality system, easier travel around the city, and a slightly more coherent story. Both games harken back to Hulk though, and that is a fond memory for anyone who has played that game.

2. Crysis (Far Cry)

I imagine the pitch meeting for Crysis was "What if we made Far Cry….but it was fun?" Then the boss goes "Johnson? You're a goddamn genius!" Far Cry was originally well-received, but it was a challenging game, because of the overwhelming odds against you, and the relative fragility of your own character. Crysis fixed this issue by basically giving you super powers and telling you to do whatever you wanted with them. If you wanted to stealth through the outpost, feel free. If the situation went bad, you could armor up and take the punishment for a little while, as you dealt with your enemies. If exploration was your goal, you could run and jump as much as you wanted (until you ran out of energy). Far Cry was a good open-world first person shooter, but Crysis is where the developers actually gave you the tools to do what you wanted in the open world and make it fun.

This does NOT apply to Far Cry 3.

1. Bioshock (System Shock 2)

Really, Liana and I mentioned this last week, and I even wrote an entire column on this topic 3 weeks ago, but Bioshock is the best example of a spiritual sequel, ever. It streamlined elements from System Shock 2, had a more involved story, had better switching from gunplay to magic use, and had a slightly better twist in the middle, at least in my view. A direct sequel to SS2 would just be in another space ship, but having Bioshock set up in a different area, both in location and time opened a whole new world of possibilities. Considering the legal nightmare it would take for a System Shock 3 to ever get made, BioShock is a good successor to the series, and one that will likely continue on for years.

The Better Half


Spiritual sequels are a new trend in games. Much like Star Wars was the result of George Lucas not being able to get the rights for a Flash Gordon movie, spiritual sequels thumb their noses at copyright by changing JUST enough to not get sued. Often, the results are fantastic, with modern hits like Dragon Age and Bioshock coming out of a desire to continue concepts that were too good to just die. The problem is that it seems that there's a new spiritual sequel popping up every week, and this trend could rapidly suffer from burnout at the hands of too many bad attempts. Here's my list of games I'd like to see come back under this rapidly-wearying pretense.

Honorable Mention: Planescape Torment was an epiphany for me. It showed me that an original gameplay mechanic and incredible story could take a well-known format and make it seem new all over again. The combination of the incredible world of the City of Doors, coupled with the unique (at the time) concept of a character intended to die multiple times, made this game something special for everyone who played it. Fortunately, a Kickstarter campaign by inXile entertainment is bringing us Torment: Tides of Numenera, and I couldn't be more excited.

8 - Too Human This infamous Silicon Knights title is a cautionary tale for many, but despite its flaws, it did a lot of things right. The gameplay concept might have been a miscalculation, and the inventory management was painful, but the world of teched-out Norse gods was amazing. However, since Silicon Knights is... I'll be nice and say "troubled"... the only hope of another glimpse into a world like this is a lifting of the concept for all the best reasons.

7 - Altered Beast Can you tell I like games based on warlike pagan cultures? This side scrolling Sega brawler game was something I thought only I remembered, until I saw it referenced in Wreck-It-Ralph. Unfortunately, Aliens: Colonial Marines indicates that Sega is why we can't have Nice Things so someone else really needs to take a crack at, because the Twilight films proved that shirtless were-dudes are still a draw. Imagine how much better it would be without all the mopey vampires? Or... the enemies could be mopey vampires! And we could punch them in the face and rip their limbs from their bodies! Ahhhhh... good times!

6 - American McGee's Alice Franchise Apparently EA isn't feeling another Alice game, but American McGee wants to do one. It's not like EA owns Alice in Wonderland, so start fresh and forget this "mainstreaming of everything" crap. Besides, anything McGee does, Tim Burton just copies, resulting in his better movies. Otherwise, he makes Planet of the Apes. And musicals. Oh god no more Tim Burton musicals.

5 - Leisure Suit Larry With Seth McFarlane having a cartoon empire made in Larry's image, and Steve Carrell and Will Farrell essentially stealing Larry Laffer's schtick at every possible opportunity, it's time to bring this sort of soft-core sex farce back. The Kickstarter-funded relaunch is already late, and there's no word on when the official game is actually coming out, so this concept would be a great spiritual sequel opportunity for a comedy version of the Expendables. Get Rob Schneider, Mike Meyers, Farrell, and Carrell together, and show that they're all better than their worst films by making fun of their worst films. Because when you throw Old School, Deuce Bigalow, The Love Guru, and the 40 Year-Old Virgin into a blender, the resulting froth would be Leisure Suit Larry by another name.

4 - The Oregon Trail This game is a standard bearer for "the association of educational software does not have to be lame". But for some reason, the video game industry has been content to leave American history to Assassin's Creed. Interactive games are the best way I can think of to teach history, and there's no reason that projects of this sort can't be financially viable.

3 - Heavenly Sword Nariko's adventure was hamstrung by being a launch title, and a year-later, many in the video game media felt bad for crapping on what was actually an excellent game, sixaxis gimmicks aside. Ninja Theory, for whatever reason, won't go back to this series, but we desperately need more awesome, vaguely lesbian video game heroines, so will someone please get on this? Think of the twing twang!

2- Quest For Glory Why yes, we DO need a pop-culture influenced sword and sorcery RPG adventure game! The Quest For Glory games, like so much of Sierra's output, were just fun. Let's just pretend Quest For Glory V NEVER EVER HAPPENED. Yes, Bethesda has a lot of similar elements in their Elder Scrolls games, but those lack a lightness and absurdity that Quest For Glory embraced. RPGs need to stop being so EMO.

1 - Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem This list unintentionally began and ended with Silicon Knights titles. Eternal Darkness was a shining example of an amazing game developed for the most inappropriate console imaginable -- there was nothing else anywhere near like its survival horror wonderfulness on the Gamecube. This game was way ahead of its time, and it was the reason I suggested this topic to Marc. I hesitated listing it as number one at the risk of seeming to fangirly, but really, if any game deserves an indirect resurrection, it's this one, which was held back from the start by Nintendo having the rights. Lovecraft-inspired horror on the Xbox or Playstation? Win. On Nintendo systems there's no country for Old Gods.

Here's Liana's new video as well:

Complainer's Corner

The big comments from last week were about the omission of Aerith/Aeris in FF7. I never saw that as a huge surprise when I played it, just because I got the sense that she was never going to survive in the first place. I guess it was surprising to have Sephiroth do it, but that's the only thing that got me. Someone mentioned Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit and that did have a few good moments in it. I think my favorite is when your main character is being interviewed in his office and is supposed to fail the QTE's during the interview, so he doesn't freak out. That was pretty nuts to me. One last thing: "The princess is in another castle" isn't shocking. Nintendo isn't going make a game that only had 4 levels.

The General Roundup

Here are some of the games that didn't quite make my own personal list. This isn't all inclusive or anything, so feel free to put down your own games below. I'll list the game, then in parenthesis; I'll list the game that it's a sequel of. Enjoy: Strider (Ninja Gaiden), Timesplitters/Perfect Dark (Goldenye 007), Vanquish (P.N. o3), X-Men Legends/Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Diablo), Children of Eden (Rez), Rock Band: Unplugged (Amplitude), Shadow of the Colossus (Ico), Dragon Age (Baldur's Gate), Hellgate: London (Diablo), Dark Souls (Demon's Souls), Freelancer (Wing Commander), and Trials HD (Excite Bike).

What do you want the 8 Ball to be about next week?

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