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10 Forgotten 8-bit Games that Need a Remake/Reboot

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By Nelson Schneider - 03/03/12 at 03:58 PM CT

The 3rd Generation of consoles was home to a lot of innovation and creativity in game design. Games were an entirely new canvas upon which to paint entertainment, with only the barest of design paradigms laid-down by Generations 1 and 2. Yet for all its freedom and newness, the 3rd Generation was not without its problems: Crushing difficulty due to the ‘arcade mentality,’ sloppy controls that made even interesting games unplayable, and terrible Engrish (or lack of text altogether) that made everything a guessing game with completely inscrutable rules and goals.

Modern games have evolved beyond the flaws of yesteryear (and, in the course, developed a host of flaws of their own), with many long-running franchises experiencing every evolutionary bump in the road. Yet the 3rd Generation also was home to a number of intriguing games that never developed into franchises, thus becoming frozen in the past. Here’s a list of 8-bit games that I’d like to see re-created with a fresh coat of modernity (hold the 3D).

10. Little Samson (NES)
There is not much room for improvement in “Little Samson,” other than a save system. The original game opted for pantomiming for all of its story exposition instead of poorly-edited text, and the gameplay was rock solid. So why does a game that was almost perfect need a remake? It was too rare! This game currently goes for ~$1,000 in online marketplaces. Yes, that’s a GRAND for an NES cartridge! While it does play perfectly well in an emulator (and gains the bonus of save states), it would be nice to have an officially re-touched re-release.

9. Whomp ‘Em (NES)
This is another NES game that actually had very little wrong with it. Aside from a graphical update, this Native-America-themed take on “Mega Man”-style gameplay could benefit from slightly better range for the default weapon and enemies that don’t continually respawn if the screen moves a nanometer past their spawn point. Of course, a real save system and a more fleshed-out story would just be icing on the cake.

8. Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap (Master System)
The fact that this game has a “3” in the title must mean it was part of a franchise and doesn’t belong on this list. Right? Wrong! The ‘Wonder Boy’ series was only a ‘series’ in the most tenuous sense of the term. Sometimes it was a title slapped-onto a re-skinned version of Hudson’s “Adventure Island,” sometimes it was a wholly original game. In the case of “Wonder Boy 3,” this title was applied to a vibrantly colorful 2D platformer with heavy action/adventure elements and some light RPG elements. The main gimmick, however, was the fact that the main character metamorphosed into a different form after each boss battle, continually mixing-up the gameplay and keeping things fresh. Simply adding non-volatile, non-password-based saves and better text would bring this game up to today’s standards.

7. StarTropics (NES)
While this game did get a sequel, it stopped at one. “StarTropics” didn’t even get the privilege of being a trilogy. Considering that nearly every other first-party Nintendo game has been driven into the ground with sequel after sequel, it might be time to reboot “StarTropics” from the beginning and turn it into a proper action/adventure franchise with a strong, ongoing narrative.

6. Crystalis (NES)
This post-apocalyptic top-down action/adventure (with light RPG elements) is made incomprehensible by the vague narration screens that appear, silent-movie-style, throughout. Modern gaming needs more top-down action/adventure games, “Crystalis” needs better writing: This is a no-brainer. SNK needs to stop rehashing their fighting games and “Metal Slug” long enough to rehash some of their older, neglected intellectual properties.

5. The Magic of Scheherazade (NES)
This early RPG stirred-in a variety of action/adventure elements and a metric ton of confusion. None of the battle screens make sense. None of the menus make sense. None of the abbreviations make sense. The barrier of obfuscation around this game is nigh-impenetrable! Yet the underlying core of an RPG set in an Arabian-Nights-themed world is really intriguing. Our modern world dominated by the RPG dichotomy of ‘Dark Fantasy’ or ‘Anime Knock-Off’ would greatly benefit from a new setting, even if the game employing this setting is old.

4. Golden Axe Warrior (Master System)
This game was one of the first ‘Zelda’ Killers meant to dethrone Nintendo’s insanely successful “The Legend of Zelda.” While the horror of “Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link” provided ample opportunity for any company to step in and fill the void in the nascent action/adventure genre, “Golden Axe Warrior” failed to rise to the occasion, mainly because it was only available on the Sega Master System (which nobody actually owned). “Golden Axe Warrior” had good graphics, solid controls, a save system, and overall good gameplay. Its only shortcomings were being on the wrong platform and the fact that monsters were so stingy with money drops. It took FOREVER to save up enough horns (the game’s color-coded equivalent to rupees) to buy the game’s many upgrades, and the game featured a “Dragon Quest”-inspired mechanic of taking away half the players horns upon death. More horns, more platforms, updated graphics: This is a recipe for a great remake. Instead, Sega has turned the ‘Golden Axe’ intellectual property into a beat ‘em up… such wasted potential.

3. Ufouria: The Saga (NES)
This game was only recently released in North America via the Wii’s Virtual Console. Yet it was available in Japan and Europe as far back as 1991/92. It’s bizarre, it’s quirky… and it has pretty sloppy controls and a lack of explanations/guidance. The game already has a built-in map; it just needs to be improved… and actually made useful. “Ufouria” would also benefit greatly from the addition of respawn checkpoints to spare players the frustration of being dumped back at the center of the game’s huge map upon each death.

2. Faxanadu (NES)
A man in his underpants wanders around a drab fantasy world for unknown reasons. Not only does “Faxanadu” have an eye-bleed-inducing color pallet, but the copy editing for the text must have been non-existent. While it has all the trappings of a story-based game, complete with towns and people to talk to, there is no cohesive narrative presented. Instead, Underpants-Man must run around, sloppily jumping and sloppily swinging his puny weapon, hoping to build up enough GOLDS to buy a pair of real pants. What in the world does “Faxanadu” even mean? It sounds like ‘Xanadu,’ which could be interesting, but ultimately doesn’t pan-out. “Faxanadu” needs a complete reboot, keeping only the title, the side-scrolling gameplay, and the underpants.

1. Legacy of the Wizard (NES)
So there’s this family of adventurers. And they go out of their house… and get lost in an insanely complex dungeon, filled with monsters, where they die horribly. That was my experience of “Legacy of the Wizard” when I played it on the NES. The game doesn’t explain ANY of its goals, nor does it explain what each character’s abilities are, nor does it explain what any of the numerous items on the inventory screen do (or where to obtain them). Yet after reading explanations of the game (most likely written by technopathic idiot-savants who could communicate directly with the binary code to understand what the game wanted its players to do), there’s an intriguing concept buried in the cloud of obfuscation: Each family member has the skill-set to reach a specific key, and all the keys are required to unlock the door to the final boss dragon. This game needs a map, a story, a save system, and an overall dose of mercy to make it playable.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on03/08/12 at 06:02 PM CT

Just emulate it. Nobody will judge you, Jonzor.

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Jonzor

Wrote on03/05/12 at 02:31 PM CT

Good idea for a post. I think Little Samson might be numbers 1 AND 2 on my list. I'm dangerously close to spending "too much" for a copy on eBay.

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Chris

Wrote on03/04/12 at 05:42 PM CT

Yes - Legacy of the Wizard - incoherence at its best! I did truly like Crystalis, even if the story was... less than stellar. And I remember playing Faxanadu as well (and have been show the glory of Little Sampson). All would make some worthy updates should anyone bother.

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View Nick's Profile

Nick

Wrote on03/04/12 at 01:18 AM CT

Faxanadu was awesome. I had forgotten about that one.

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