By Nelson Schneider - 10/13/12 at 03:50 PM CT
While the 7th Generation isn’t quite over, I feel pretty confident that there will be no huge surprise announcements of sequels to games from older generations. As the new ‘XCOM’ game has shown us, there is still interest in old intellectual properties, both from publishers (who know they can sell product based on name recognition alone) and from fans (who expect at least something resembling consistency from new games in their favorite franchises. Yet, surprisingly in an era of sequel-milking, there are numerous franchises from past generations that have been effectively orphaned. Here’s a list of the most egregious oversights, in no particular order:
Final Fantasy 15
If Square Enix wasn’t so busy rehashing the horrible world and characters of “Final Fantasy 13,” we would have this game by now. Of course, “Final Fantasy 14” would have been sufficient, had it not been another MMO, wasting a slot in the main-numbered series. Of course, Square Enix has been glacially slow this entire generation. They promised the destined-to-be-awful “Final Fantasy Versus 13,” which STILL isn’t done. Square Enix is a company that needs to return to an older release model: 3 distinct ‘Final Fantasy’ games, 2 ‘Dragon Quest’ games, and a handful of random new IPs per generation; not the garbage they’ve dumped into the market since 2007.
Half-Life 2 Episode 3
The non-existence of “Half-Life 2 Episode 3” has become sort of a running joke. Apparently, every time someone mentions this game to Gabe Newell, he pushes the release date back further. Instead of being an ass and stringing people along while making crappy multi-player zombie shooters, Valve just needs to bite the bullet and release the next entry (perhaps finale?) in the Saga of Gordan Freeman. “Portal 2” was awesome. We know Valve is capable of meeting fan expectations with “Episode 3.”
Sony stabbed Nintendo in the jugular during the 5th Generation by stealing Squaresoft’s games from the N64’s library. While Nintendo still hasn’t recovered from the blow dealt to their third-party support, Sony has largely squandered the valuable resource that allowed them to utterly dominate console gaming for two generations: RPGs. While “Final Fantasy 7” put RPGs on the map for the plebeians, it was “Suikoden” that found its way into thousands of PS1 units while RPG fans waited for “FF7’s” release and hoped against all hope that abandoning the company that gave us the SNES for a console unknown was a good idea. The first three ‘Suikoden’ games were great, with “Suikoden 2” standing out as one of the best RPGs of all time. And while the franchise suffered a bit on the PS2, “Suikoden Tactics” and “Suikoden 5” were still better than the garbage Compile Heart, NIS, and Gust are currently dumping on the PS3. Yet instead of a PS3 sequel in this Sony-exclusive franchise, the only ‘Suikoden’ game of the 7th Generation is a DS spinoff that has almost nothing in common with the franchise besides one word in the title. Of course, ‘Suikoden’ is a third-party Konami franchise, so it’s not ALL Sony’s fault… they just didn’t try hard enough (or throw enough money at Konami) to keep things going.
Wild ARMs 6
Like the ‘Suikoden’ franchise, Sony was able to build up its user base thanks to the relatively large number of high-quality RPGs on their older hardware. “Wild ARMs” was a first-party Sony-published game that did amazing things with the standard turn-based RPG formula by introducing ‘Zelda’-like puzzles to the dungeons. And instead of the traditional swords & sorcery setting of classic RPGs, the ‘Wild ARMs’ universe was a sixshooters & sorcery take on the genre that was awesome in every way. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing in this series took a major drop on the PS2, driving the series into mediocrity, despite the fact that the gameplay was just as good as ever. Instead of shuttering the franchise after a last-gasp handheld effort on the PSP, Sony should have funded one more sequel on the PS3 to stimulate some more interest from their old fans.
Zelda: Four Swords 2
The ‘Legend of Zelda’ franchise has been all over the place this-gen. Is it a crappy handheld series with poor touch controls? Is it a Gamecube port? Is it a compartmentalized prequel dominated by unresponsive motion-controlled swordfighting? While it has been a lot of things, the one thing the ‘Zelda’ series hasn’t been this-gen is a top-down, sprite-based, back-to-its-roots game allowing 1-4 players to control 4 Links as they horde rupees and navigate old-school dungeon puzzles. There’s no reason for Nintendo to balk at creating a sequel to “Four Swords Adventures” on the Wii, as they could use the DS to wirelessly act as private screens, much like the original used Gameboy Advances. Thanks to the wireless revolution, gamers wouldn’t even have to buy an adapter cable!... wait… hmmm… maybe that’s why Nintendo didn’t do a “Four Swords Adventures” sequel this-gen… they’d only get to sell extra DSes, but not adapter cables. I guess that means that the WiiU, with its private screen built right into the default controller, will give them even less motivation to create a new ‘Four Swords’ game.
Dark Cloud 3
Is it any wonder RPG fans are so irate this-gen? Sony used to be a powerhouse in the field. Nobody even had to think about other consoles if they only wanted to play RPGs, because Sony had ALL of them. While the original “Dark Cloud” was horrible, it was also a launch game (and Sony has always had a problem with its launch games sucking). With “Dark Cloud 2,” on the other hand, Level-5 and Sony gave gamers the spiritual successor to Quintet’s “Soul Blazer” that we never dared to think was possible. This-gen, what did we get from Level-5 instead? Well, aside from the massive ‘Professor Layton’ series of quasi-adventure games on the DS, PS3 owners got “White Knight Chronicles” and its sequel. While both ‘White Knight’ games include the same GeoRama feature that was at the core of the ‘Dark Cloud’ games, it has been relegated to a side-item instead of a central plot device and completely stripped of its soul and meaning. Instead of turning “White Knight Chronicles” into a half-assed MMO-lite, Level-5 and Sony should have made it a spiritual successor to “Dark Cloud 2.” We don’t need direct sequels as long as awesome gameplay mechanics survive via spiritual successors.
Valkyrie Profile 3
The first two ‘Valkyrie Profile’ games, on the PS1 and PS2 respectively, were great twists on Norse mythology with strong female leads, fantastic turn-based battle systems, and strong narratives. While we did get a new ‘Valkyrie Profile’ game this-gen, it’s a DS game and a Tactical RPG… so I never bothered with it. TRPGs aren’t my favorite sub-genre, and turning a great series with a unique turn-based battle system into a generic TRPG with a generic tactical battle system is just wrong in every way. Unfortunately, as a formerly Enix-owned intellectual property, the ‘Valkyrie Profile’ franchise is now owned by the den of idiots at Square Enix… so we shouldn’t expect this series to be meaningful ever again.
Panzer Dragoon Saga 2
Sega has been on a roll this-gen. “Valkyria Chronicles” on the PS3 (as well as a couple of PSP sequels that nobody cares about… because they’re on the PSP), Sonic Colors on the Wii, “Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing” on… everything: It’s like Sega can do no wrong (let’s deliberately ignore the travesty that was “NiGHTs: Journey of Dreams” and the fact that 90% of Sega’s “new” releases are emulations of their old games on modern platforms). Waaaay back on the Saturn, Sega also went through a similar period of making stellar games: “Sonic R,” “Shining Force 3,” and, most importantly, “Panzer Dragoon Saga.” What was great about “PDS” was that it removed the boring Rail Shooter gameplay of the older games in the series and replaced it with a replica of Squaresoft’s “Active Time Battle” system along with standard RPG elements like towns, shops, and leveling-up. The last time the ‘Panzer Dragoon’ series saw the light of day was on the original Xbox with “Panzer Dragoon Orta,” a game that NOBODY played because the franchise and its Rail Shooter gameplay was a poor match for the Xbox and its FPS-deathmatch-loving target audience. If Sega is so insistent upon rehashing and emulating its old games, it should hurry up and release a virtual version of “Panzer Dragoon Saga” in order to generate enough demand among the current gaming populace to make development of a sequel worthwhile.
Whoopee Camp, the developer behind this quirky, silly, and downright amazing 2D Platformer with RPG Elements, is dead. In fact, Whoopee Camp died shortly after making “Tomba! 2,” with a number of the staff migrating to Aksys. Does Aksys now own the rights to the ‘Tomba!’ intellectual property? Does Sony, as the publisher of these games, own the rights? Whoever owns the rights needs to pull them out, blow the dust off of them, and give them to a company that will do something with them. The success of “Angry Birds” shows that gamers take great delight in tormenting evil pigs. The resurgence of 2D Platformers this-gen, both as professionally-developed and Indie-developed releases, and the success these fun, simple games have found via digital distribution platforms is proof that the genre is not only still viable, but vibrant. That fact that the first two ‘Tomba!’ games aren’t available on any emulation service is sorely disappointing, as the lack of exposure and low print runs that originally drove Whoopee Camp out of business would almost guarantee that a release of “Tomba! 3” now would be greeted with blank stares and utterances of, “What’s a Tomba?”
Baldur’s Gate 3
“Baldur’s Gate” and “Baldur’s Gate 2” are the two best PC RPGs ever made. Period. While Black Isle, the Interplay development studio behind these games, was shuttered a long time ago, they are apparently back (minus all of the original staff who made these awesome games awesome). And while EA and BioWare attempted to make a spiritual successor to the ‘Baldur’s Gate’ franchise, they largely failed and made something that was more equivalent to Black Isle’s weaker releases. Of course, had EA and BioWare just taken the bull by the horns and used their massive piles of money to wrest control of the D&D license from Atari ( delenda est), we might have actually gotten “Baldur’s Gate 3”… and it might have been based on D&D 4th Edition, and it might have sucked terribly, but at least we would have had it and been able to close that chapter of D&D videogame history. As it stands now, I think we just might get this sequel next-generation… created by the same minds that gave us “Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors” with a straight face. I can’t believe I actually wish that EA had gotten its soul-sucking claws on some intellectual property over someone else.