Game On: Forgotten franchises that need to make a comeback
Thu., March 2, 2023
With all of the remakes, remasters and re-releases prominent in today’s nostalgia-focused entertainment market – video games included – it’s sometimes baffling to see which franchises get another shot at life while others are left to rot.
I was utterly shocked when Sega announced Samba de Amigo: Party Central during last month’s Nintendo Direct. Rhythm games haven’t been a hot item for many years now, and the maraca-shaker was always fairly niche – only seeing releases in arcades, the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Wii, Samba de Amigo has been entirely dormant since 2008.
But with the Nintendo Switch having motion controls, emphasizing local multiplayer gaming, and being the “kiddie console” with lots of vibrant, silly games, Samba de Amigo is a natural fit for the platform – Sega saw the stars align and they’re going for it.
But for every time a publisher like Sega seizes such an opportunity, you can watch as they let a dozen other opportunities pass them by – with the success of Sonic Mania, Streets of Rage 4 and Puyo Puyo Tetris, I have a hard time believing gamers wouldn’t welcome another shot at Golden Axe, Shinobi, NiGHTS or Shining Force.
There’ve been obvious comebacks like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot, but plenty of weirder ones throwing their hats in the ring too. Not too many people were looking for that MediEvil remake, and practically no one asked for a new Kao the Kangaroo.
Then there’s the mysterious absences – given the successful resurgence of Spyro and Crash, Ubisoft continuing to leave Rayman in the dust is mind-bogglingly stupid.
Instead, Ubisoft keeps churning out increasingly formulaic, uninspired open-world games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs. Review scores for the latest entries from each franchise suggest critics and everyday gamers alike are noticing the stagnation.
Given they’re running the creative well dry for those games, it might be prudent for the publisher to take another look at titles that put them on the map: Prince of Persia, Rayman and Might & Magic.
There’s a Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time remake in the works, but it’s been delayed indefinitely. The best Rayman gets is some cameo appearance in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, and there’s no word at all on another Might & Magic.
The list goes on: Sony won’t touch the Legend of Dragoon or Sly Cooper, Nintendo won’t revisit F-Zero or EarthBound/Mother, Konami won’t revive Dance Dance Revolution and Square Enix was so clueless with the likes of Tomb Raider, Thief, Deus Ex and the Legacy of Kain that in 2022, they sold them all off on the cheap to another publisher.
But by far the most frustrating example of this behavior is Valve, the corporation behind the now-ubiquitous Steam storefront for PC games. Valve was able to push Steam to consumers by piggybacking off the success of Half-Life, Team Fortress, Portal and Left 4 Dead – series that have received notoriously few installments in recent years.
After 13 years of silence following a cliffhanger ending, in 2020 Half-Life received an excellent VR-exclusive title, Half-Life: Alyx. Portal hasn’t received a new installment since 2011, and Left 4 Dead 2 stopped getting consistent support around the same time. Team Fortress 2, released in 2007, receives rare and sporadic updates.
Valve sits atop a veritable mountain of cash and a near-flawless video game track record. Any other publisher in the world would be all too happy to capitalize upon such fame and fortune, but the Bellevue-based corporation seems largely disinterested in developing new games.
As a gamer, there’s a sobering realization that sets in when you fall in love with an unpopular game – it’s unlikely to ever receive another title ever again. The only thing more frustrating is falling in love with a renowned game that, for whatever reason, never sees a follow-up.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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