The 8 Ball 09.03.13: Top 8 Abandoned Game Series
Posted by Marc Morrison on 09.03.2013
From Legend of Dragoon and Jet Grind Radio to Jade Cocoon, Battle Arena Toshinden and more, 411's Marc Morrison counts down the top 8 abandoned video game series!
Welcome again to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week the list is about abandoned/forgotten games. Some of these might be a one-off game, others might be part of a series, but all have largely been relegated to historical curiosities never to see a sequel in the current landscape. That's kind of a shame really, video games used to be a lot more experimental when it came to full-on retail releases. Now the stakes are so high that most companies only want to bet on a sure thing that can be (hopefully) annualized into a yearly franchise for more profits. At least there are indie games now to pick up the slack. Still, here are my own list of games that have been lost to time, but deserve another chance:
8. Battle Arena Toshinden
During the Microsoft E3 press conference when they announced their Killer Instinct revival, I was watching on my computer, hoping against hope that Sony would say "And coming to the PS4….Battle Arena Toshinden!" God, how perfect would that have been? While incredibly primitive by today's standards, the original Battle Arena Toshinden was an impressive technical launch game, on par with the original Ridge Racer when the PlayStation launched. Since the first game though, interest dwindled as sequels came out that didn't enjoy the critical or financial success of the original. The fourth (and last) game in the series never even made it to American shores, only coming out in Europe and Japan. While the developer is still around, they are a shell of what they once were. Still, had Sony actually announced a Toshinden remake/revival during their E3 conference, everyone's heads (who played the original) might have exploded.
Vanquish is probably the newest game on my list, having only come out in 2010, but the game didn't make a huge splash. When Square says the most recent Tomb Raider was a "disappointment" at 3 million sales, and with Vanquish having about one-third of those, yeah, a sequel to Vanquish isn't very likely. I found Vanquish to be a really enjoyable game though, with some clever mechanics and a great use of speed overall. A few sections were annoying (the train/sniper part), but on the whole it was a lot more fun than most other third-person cover based shooters. There is always a chance Platinum could do a sequel, but I doubt it.
6. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Considering that Midway (as a company) doesn't exist anymore, the odds of another Psi-Ops game coming out is pretty slim. But when you look at the advancements in technology, physics and graphics though, a sequel on modern consoles/PC's would be a lot of fun to play. It would be interest if someone ever did make a sequel but removed the gunplay aspects entirely, forcing you to kill enemies only using your powers. While Psi-Ops wasn't the greatest game around, it had a heart, and had a lot of clever mechanics to make it more than the sum of its parts.
5. Legend of Dragoon/Jade Cocoon
I'm putting both these games/series on here because outside of a small group, no one has really ever heard of either. Legend of Dragoon was Sony's attempt at a Final Fantasy VII style RPG, only it had an actual story, better (for the time) graphics, and a very fun battle system. Jade Cocoon was basically an anime version of Pokemon, only you could breed the monsters together improving their skills/affinities. While Jade Cocoon did get a sequel, it wasn't as highly regarded as the first game. Both of these RPG's weren't the most revolutionary games on the PS1, but I did enjoy them. It's baffling (in hindsight) to think that SCEI actually made Legend of Dragoon. I wish they had made more of them.
4. Jet Grind/Set Radio
Skating around Tokyo-to in magnetically powered skates, tagging buildings, spraying other gang members backs, and avoiding the cops as you jumped around, what could be more fun? To Sega's credit, they actually did make a fairly improved sequel, going from the Dreamcast to the original Xbox, but it didn't quite go far enough. They did away with the timer (thank god) but the city still felt too constrained in its level design. Considering Sega's recent history and choices they've made, I wouldn't hold out hope for any Jet Grind/Set Radio sequel. Looks like the cops win in this case.
3. Vagrant Story
To me, Vagrant Story represents *the* era for when Square was making their best/weird games. I didn't play everyone, but Square hit the original PlayStation with a plethora of titles that remain beloved by most (except by Square) in the gaming world. Vagrant Story was an (overly) complex, beautiful, involved RPG that was built upon a battle system that was akin to a rhythm game. Vagrant Story still has its fans, but the median age of the group is around 25 or higher. While I welcome Kingdom Hearts 3, I would love a Vagrant Story sequel. And while Square is at it, make a proper sequel to Parasite Eve as well. None of this 3rd Birthday crap, please.
2. Rival Schools
Whenever I see people or websites talk about wanting a Darkstalkers sequel, I want to yell at them. Rival School was a much better fighting series than Darkstalkers could hope to be. The game is predicated on a 2D looking fighting system, but you can side step in and out (3D environment) to dodge attacks. Plus, just having a fighting game set in a high school is a cool idea, just look at Persona 4: Arena. Rival Schools came before it though by at least a decade. The game had the familiar archetypes that Street Fighter 2 largely started, but had clever twists on them, like having the Ryu-clone teacher Hideo having a slower wind-up when using his Hurricane Kick variant. I loved Rival Schools (and Project Justice) and a sequel has been on no one else's mind but mine.
1. Half Life
I always talk about this game because I find it utterly fantastic. Recently, I had to replace the power supply in my original Xbox due to a power surge. Once I did it, I powered it on, booted up Deathrow and played a few rounds in celebration of my job well done. SouthEnd Interactive actually did have plans to make a PC sequel, but those fell through. Now they are making games like Sacred Citadel or Tecmo Bowl Throwback. At least compared to some of the other companies on this list, it's not a complete fall from grace, but it is depressing from a studio that showed so much initial promise with Deathrow. Even some moderately improved HD upgrade with online multiplayer doesn't interest them and that's a loss for everyone.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Abandoned Series
This week's topic was deceptively hard, because it's difficult to find a truly dead franchise in gaming. In the age of "spiritual sequels", almost everything has a chance, albeit slim, that a series will come back from the dead, these eight properties will most likely stay in the graveyard... but in the words of Ninja Theory, the developers of the possibly-dead-but-not-quite Heavenly Sword, "you never say never."
8: Gangster Town
While a lot of cops and robbers games exist now, Gangster Town had a cartoonish slickness to it that just made it a super cool rail shooter back in 1987. Whether it was roadster shootouts or bar fights where you got a medal for shooting every bottle, the game was just a ton of fun. The best part? You could shoot the angelic spirits of the gangsters trying to make their way up to heaven for extra points. In all the ultraviolence of modern games, that bit still has a special place in my sadistic little heart.
7: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
This game is considered part of the Civilization series, but it was a spin off that I've missed ever since Civ went back earthbound. The whole terraforming concept was cool, and colonizing the planet Chiron was, in some ways, a lot more fun than starting back in the human stone age. While certain elements of the game were borrowed by future Civ games, every time I start building the space station, I miss SMAC.
If you remember this game, please comment, because I'm the only person I know who knows it. It was supposed to be re-released on iOS and android last summer, but I can't find any indication it actually came out. This game about aliens competing for land plots on a far-off planet featured a resource-based economy and multiplayer all the way back in 1983. It seems so simplistic now, but it blew my mind in the eighties. And one of the alien icons looked kind of like E.T. That was, and is, instantly awesome in my mind.
A dude and a teenaged girl meet whimsical Irish fairy creatures, rip out their souls, then use them to beat up their friends. This game suffered from being a very early PS3 game, and Sony apparently denied the developers a chance to do a downloadable sequel because of "poor sales". Did anything really sell well in the first year of the PS3's life cycle? Seems the only thing that got a sequel was Resistance. I say again, I refuse to accept that Heavenly Sword is totally dead, although that franchise suffered for the same reasons. Sony seems to have learned from those mistakes... I hope.
4: Too Human
Okay, comment flame away on this one, but the character designs on this doomed Silicon Knights game were cool, and the Thor movies have shown that the "Norse Gods as advanced tech aliens" concept isn't that far-fetched after all. In all fairness, Silicon Knights obliterated themselves on this one, illegally using the Unreal engine. But it's still a shame, and I'd hoped that a second game would clean up the gameplay and bloated inventory management. The fate of Silicon Knights has taken on an almost Citizen Kane feel, and Too Human may be Denis Dyack's Rosebud.
(WARNING: the vid below is NSFW)
It's a shame that this game, that contains one of the greatest lines in gaming ever, didn't get a sequel. No, I can't repeat the line, because it's probably too vulgar for this column. That's what makes it amazing! The most likely culprit for the game's poor sales was an always-on rumor started by Destructoid which soured people on the title, which was released by, no surprise, EA. Despite the backlash, Bulletstorm was a ton of fun, with crazy characters and a kill with skill system that was actually fun instead of just in the way. And all it got developer People Can Fly is the chance to make a plodding, unbalanced, bug-riddled Gears of War prequel that contained obvious gameplay elements borrowed from Bulletstorm without any of the fun. Injury, meet insult.
2: King's Quest
I have made no secret of my love for this franchise, that had a pretty solid run from 1984 to 1998. An attempt to jump to 3D gameplay, and a weird shift to dark fantasy action adventure gaming, demolished any sense of whimsy the franchise had, and developer Sierra folded. I think a revival with the original sense of fun would be well-received now with the boom in fairy tale stuff, but creator Roberta Williams is retired from video games, and it wouldn't be right to revive things without her involvement.
1: Quest For Glory
As much as I loved the King's Quest games, I realized that I'd want a new Quest For Glory game more. Creators Corey and Lori Cole are still in the business, but last they were heard from, they were working on something that wasn't Quest For Glory, possibly because they got burned in the same year as King's Quest – 1998, the year Sierra died. But starting in 1989, The four good Quest For Glory games were some of the greatest games of that era, and started the career of voice actress Jennifer Hale as well. This alone is a massive contribution to video games, and I'd love to see her come back to the Quest of Glory franchise, and maybe even the character of Katrina. And the Antwerps. I miss the Antwerps. Somebody make an Antwerps mobile game!
I could think of a thousand different series or one-off games that could make this backup list. I'm not going to, but feel free to come up with your own. Here's some of what I did consider though: Parasite Eve, Police Quest, Suikoden, The Darkness, Darksiders, Tomba, MDK, Sacrifice, Shadow Hearts, Aggressive Inline, The Darkness, Darksiders, Lollipop Chainsaw, Gunstar Heroes, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon, Syndicate and Mega Man X.
The General Roundup
There wasn't a lot of comments from last week, but I'll sift through a few of them. Blanka and Zangief need to have a chest-hair fight. Whoever loses has to shave it off. I think FF13's problems were compounded by poor game design, an over-emphasis on linearity, and just the same standard tropes in FF games coming together again.