Top Ten - Dormant Game Series

November 13, 2017

 

This may make some feel as old as they are...

                                                  

It feels like the majority of videogames released these days are sequels. In simple terms the way it works is that if a game is good (that is that is sells well), it will get a sequel and develop into a franchise. Many game franchises have been going a long time, some since the dawn of gaming itself. But for every game that succeeds, 10 will fail and sit lonely in the void of solo releases…Some however earn their sequels and even several more but yet are ultimately left to lie dormant due to a variety of reasons... These are the series we’re looking at today, selection criteria is simple;

 

It must have been a series – ie at least 2 games

There can have been no entries to the series since 2010 (got to draw the line somewhere)

Re-releases onto Steam, XBLA, Playstation Store etc. do not count against them

Remasters of an original – ie Wonder Boy III, Castle of Illusion, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty! Will not allow them to qualify…

 

Rules set, off we go…

 

10 Power Stone 

One of the crown jewels of the Dreamcast launch line up, arguably the best one. Arcade action to be had for a one on one fighter where you can run about the arena picking up weapons and items of furniture etc. to throw at your foes. Littered about are also the titular Power Stones which when 3 are collected will transform your fighter into super form with the capacity to cause major (often round ending) damage. A sequel followed later which upped the ante by making the game 4 players and increasing the size of the arena and just about everything else. Whilst still an arcade experience at heart (as can be said for many Dreamcast titles) it would have been great to see if the single player experience could have been further expanded in another sequel but this wasn’t to be and a PSP version in the form of a collection is all we were left with… Interesting Point – Despite Capcom’s flavour for crossovers the cast has yet to be used in any such titles save for SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash which was a Collectible Card Game released on NeoGeo Pocket Color in Japan only… 

 

Final Fantasy Tactics

The last of the FFT games was released in 2007 (2008 to the rest of the world so technically this is a cheat). FFT introduces us to the land of Ivalice and though many may have other thoughts, this is the world I think of when I think FF. This is partly reinforced by the return to it for FFXII. This was also the first game I played that was an isometric turn based team fighter, which is still a genre I love today. It’s short quests lends itself perfectly to gaming on the go and it very rarely left my DS whilst I had one. Whilst variations have been released and repacked for mobile gaming I believe this is a strong contender needing a sequel and considering there were ten years between the original and Grimoire of the Rift, then it’s due any time now! It would be a great addition to the tablet and mobile market and one I wouldn't mind paying Square Enix prices for!

 

Vandal Hearts

Before Final Fantasy Tactics (and hence earning a spot higher) back in a time when Konami was happily experimenting with new IP’s in the early days of the 32 bit era we were given Vandal Hearts. The game was a tactical turn based RPG in a similar vein to Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea or Mysteria (or even X-Com) which featured  a cast of characters rallying together to prevent the flames of judgement being released. Even back in the day the original looked a little rough around the edges but did hold a certain comic charm and will well remembered for the sheer amount of blood shed when killing off even the smallest of enemies! A sequel followed which experimented but ultimately failed to enhance the dynamics of the fighting (leading you to second guess your opponents movements before you issue your own!?) and whilst the graphics improved technically, they became drab and featureless in appearance. Jumping ahead the third game in the series was released onto XBLA in very early 2010 which restored the original games mechanics but made some questionable and downright unpleasant changes to the art direction ending up with some sort of pseudo-realistic come super-deformed style which was just plain ugly. Given Konami’s shift to all things profitable we could see a revival on mobile or tablet…but I wouldn’t hold your breath…

 

Megaman Legends

This was a 3D adventure version of Megaman which included RPG elements (upgradable equipment) but did away with the themed bosses the 2D series is famous for. This is not one of those games which looks great in pictures, or even whilst in play come to think of it! It was quite rare in the day as it relied on using the in-game engine for all cutscenes rather than relying on CGI which was popular at the time. As a result it doesn’t take long before the hidden charm starts to shine through graphically and were you to persevere enough you’ll soon be treated to some great set pieces including airship battles and humongous bosses with attack patterns which hark back to the 2D origins. When the environment allowed (there was a lot of corridors admittedly), the strafe and circle manoeuvre will become your best ally. I recall being impressed with the story scenes being so dynamic and the structure taking me back to Saturday morning cartoons in there way that the antagonists kept coming back with new and better ideas to take you out. The game spawned a sequel which did what good sequels do and improved the original in pretty much every way whilst still retaining the elements which made you enjoy the first. A spin off based on the games antagonist “The Misadventures of Tron Bonne” was also released on PS1 and a third sequel was planned to be released on 3DS near launch but was ultimately cancelled. The series has been referenced in other Capcom Games, Servebot and Tron Bonne appearing in Marvel vs Capcom 2 & 3 specifically.

 

6 Streets of Rage

Jump back 20 years and everyone had heard of Streets of Rage, same which can’t be said for today unfortunately. A scrolling fighter which was deemed Sega’s answer to Final Fight. The series spanned 3 games on the Megadrive (plus some ports) with the second game generally agreed to be the best experience despite the fact branching storylines and graphical enhancements made to the third (it just felt better to hit people in the second). A further sequel was planned but would ultimately be released as Fighting Force on the PS1 and N64 (with a Saturn version being cancelled). Played even now the solid fighting action and fantastic soundtrack still feel just as satisfying to play. There was a Dreamcast version of Streets of Rage 4 pitched to Sega of America however they were not aware of the series’ legacy and decided to not pursue it… Fun Fact – If you would still like to get your SoR fix you can try SoR Project which was a fan made homage to the series.

 

Warcraft

Warcraft as an RTS. 

The last iteration of Warcraft as an RTS was in 2002 with Warcraft III, after that Blizzard took the lore of the RTS and made the hugely popular and financially successful World of Warcraft MMORPG. But Unfortunately this came at the expense of Warcraft as a base building RTS, which is unfortunately considering that at the time Warcraft was THE fantasy RPG to be playing. With the new races that have been introduced over the years to WoW I can only imagine how awesome a modern day RTS would be, especially with today's graphics and level design. Bring Warcraft back to the single player world and I’m sure the E-gaming market would appreciate the multiplayer too if the return of the Starcraft series has anything to show. 

 

Panzer Dragoon

There was a time where the libraries on rival game consoles were a lot more varied than what we’re used to today. Upon the launch of the Saturn, with the Playstation on the horizon there was a lot of focus on what one machine could do that another could not. Such a title was Panzer Dragoon – an on rails shooter where you rode dragon firing both a standard shot and homing missiles which could target multiple points or enemies at once. Action ensued at all angles, often switching to the side or back depending on the situation. The graphics included all manner of transparencies and water reflections which were all new to those still with fond memories of the 16 bit era, the next gen had finally arrived! Shortly after followed Panzer Dragoon Zwei (also on the Saturn) and then the final entry was released years later on the original Xbox, Panzer Dragoon Orta. Whilst relatively simple in its gameplay each game added more abilities and Dragons. Were they to provide some additional freedom in a similar vein to Star Fox 2 whilst retaining the simplicity and weight of the original game we think that a revival could be worthwhile. Realistically we’ll wind up with an HD Update, which could be gorgeous if done correctly. The thrill of the arcade is something which you only find in indie games these days so something with a bit more flash would be a welcome treat.

 

Timesplitters

Timesplitters, for me, was one of the first games where the level design really stuck out. Until then my expectations of the FPS genre was just mooching around killing stuff to usually find a key to get through a door to kill more stuff. The realisation that in levels of timesplitters 2 you were helping yourself in the past blew me away. Such as the train level where you are in a bit of a bad way and suddenly the bad guys are blown away from the flank unexpectedly and later in that same level you are the one shooting them from the flank through a time split was mindblowing for a young Mark. Released in 2000, 2002 and 2005 respectively, the trilogy has been dormant since. There was noise about 4 being in development but in 2012 that was all put to bed. This is a much loved series and with today's tech would be simple amazing. It was also one of the first games I knew to have a decent level maker which I spent almost as much time on as the game itself!

 

House of the Dead

It’s fair to say that the House of the Dead franchise was always most at home in the Arcade. Every version of the game received a home port somewhere down the line but no matter how much they would look to add to increase its longevity the core experience couldn’t really be played for long periods. For those unaware the series is an on rails shooter focusing on overwhelming numbers of zombie and undead creatures. Branching paths have always been present and within the series several different types of guns were introduced, shotguns and submachine guns in all their plastic glory, along with some basic motion control. The series received a Wii spinoff under the guise of House of the Dead Overkill and true to its name the game was 18 rated due to disturbing imagery and colourful language! It had grindhouse movie feel and stood on its own as a great entry to the series. I would guess that the decline of the arcade is what has led to the lack of any new titles however light gun shooters have always been more at home there. I’d hazard a guess that we’ll be seeing more from the series in the future, either in the arcade or on Switch. The other possibility would be some sort of VR entry which could be great if done correctly (as can be shown by PC release Drop Dead).

 

1 F-Zero 

Still very much a household name and many will (might) be shocked to hear that the last entry into the series was the GBA exclusive F-Zero Climax in 2004. There are many fond memories of each of the SNES, N64 and even the Game Cube version and despite the overall lack of racing titles on the Wii (and Wii U) nothing has appeared even on the handheld devices. For the uninitiated the game is a futuristic racer renowned for its fast speed, large number of competitors and a high probability of crashing and destroying your car. The Game was also famously difficult in the later stages whilst being fair with a solid learning curve.

 

A racer from the game, Captain Falcon remains a consistent contender in Smash Bros, along with the presence of an F-Zero racetrack stage. Nintendo have been cited on various occasions saying that the impact of each release was a big surprise and made sense however the Wii and DS consoles don’t seem to be screaming out for their own version. Rumours were abound for a WiiU launch title which apparently never entered active development and Nintendo have also advised in 2015 that the series is not dead and would be considered if Nintendo were to develop a unique controller interface for one of their upcoming consoles…That’ll be the Switch then.

 

So reaching number 1 on our list is F-Zero on the basis it fits the criteria and looks as though a new installment will be announced imminently (you heard it here first)!

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Half Life – Not making the list because it’s doubtful it’ll ever happen in official capacity. Valve make money from Steam these days so why bother…shame.

 

Bloody Roar – There are several Vs fighting games from the PSX era that might be worth a mention but the Bloody Roar series stood out due to your ability to transform mid round into a beast version of yourself unlocking new moves and increased stats. The series stopped at the 4th entry (excl spinoffs) in 2004 and having been developed by the now defunct Hudsonsoft it’ll fall to someone else to pick up the mantle..

 

Burnout  – Burnout should be on this list. Alas Burnout Crash came out in 2011 and hence it does not qualify. We’ll have to put up with faceless Need for Speed sequels instead.

 

There they are. As always it's a subjective list so we'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below!
 

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