Category Archives: Game Analysis

Ever Oasis producer Koichi Ishii on building on (and standing apart from) Secret of Mana

The 3DS keeps chugging along despite the looming shadow of Nintendo Switch: The little handheld that wouldn’t say die. Nintendo’s latest release for the platform arrives tomorrow: Ever Oasis, an action RPG developed by Grezzo.

Grezzo has been one of Nintendo’s most faithful partners for the 3DS era, though their name doesn’t get as much play as an independent publisher like Level-5, Atlus, or Square Enix. However, chances are quite good you’ve played at least one of the studio’s collaborations with Nintendo, as they’ve had a hand in multiple 3DS Zelda games. Not only the remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but also the original work Tri Force Heroes.

Grezzo and Zelda has always struck me as a perfect creative love connection, given that Grezzo’s president is none other than Koichi Ishii. Formerly of Squaresoft and Square Enix, Ishii oversaw a variety of projects at his former studio. While many of those games are quite highly regarded — for example, Final Fantasy — Ishii is almost certainly best-known for being the director of the first few Seiken Densetsu/Mana games. Of all the action RPGs to bite Zelda‘s style, the early Mana titles always felt the most fully realized (even if they had a tendency to stumble beneath the weight of the naked creative and technical ambition Ishii’s teams invested into them). Combining action-oriented combat with role-playing mechanics like turn-based attack limitations and proper skill and experience systems, the Mana series eschewed Zelda’s puzzle-dungeon design in favor of a more systems-driven approach. And it was very good.

Ever Oasis sees Ishii stepping away from Zelda and looking back to his own creative roots. When I demoed Ever Oasis a couple of months ago, my first impression was that it felt like Ishii’s attempt to recapture some of the Mana series’ glory with a new adventure that draws heavily on those games’ mechanics and vibe. You’re out to restore life to a desert world with the help of a water spirit — nature’s power and its elemental avatars being a trademark theme of Mana — which you accomplish by action-driven combat with a pair of A.I. companions. After spending more time with the adventure, however, I realize that’s not an entirely fair view of the game. While those elements certainly play a large part in Ever Oasis, the overall flow of the game feels more like a world-building simulator combined with an action game. It’s not exactly ActRaiser, but certainly you’ll find a touch of that spirit here as you recruit villagers to help build your oasis town and win the affection of your citizens by performing various tasks for them (both mundane and heroic). While the game has some frustrating flaws — it’s ponderously slow to get going, and the interface feels bizarrely clunky coming from someone who has the Mana series’ brilliant ring menu concept in his c.v. — it merits a look for anyone interested in a game that toes the line between multiple genres.

But what creative debt does Ever Oasis truly owe to Mana? Ishii was kind enough to field some questions and shed a little light on how his new adventure game came to be.

Retronauts: Ever Oasis feels in many ways like an evolution of the concepts you helped establish in the Mana series. Given our focus on the history of games, I hope you’ll allow me to explore that line of questions for a bit. So, first, what can you tell about how Ever Oasis builds on your previous work as a creator?

Koichi Ishii: This world goes in a different direction than the past ones, but the building process was the same.

When looking back on my career, Final Fantasy inherits from its predecessor, whereas in the Mana series, we changed the world every time. We were striving to create a real-time RPG like: Command RPG <- Mana Series -> Action>. I guess it’s more of a “transformation” than an “evolution”. This time rather than focusing on the party strategies, we aimed for a party action battle that’s beginner-friendly by making it easy to switch between characters. We also wanted the players to feel how much the characters have matured throughout the course of this game.

R: What initially inspired you to begin designing action RPGs?

KI: We thought real-time combat would make the battles feel more realistic as well as convey the tension of the battle better than menu-based combat. We felt that the former is superior to the latter, so that’s why we started designing RPGs with real-time combat. Real-time combat also offers more variety with each encounter, and introduces new types of strategies, like character positioning.

R: Unlike most action RPGs of the 8- and 16-bit eras, yours felt more like true RPGs, with multi-character parties and experience/leveling mechanics. What inspired you to explore that specific interpretation of the genre?

KI: As much I love a perfect hero with no flaws, I feel that weaknesses and flaws make the character seem more human and make it easier for players to relate to the character. When you try to think of ways to make up for such shortcomings, you realize how amazing it is to have friends on your side. Working together and sharing the same goals and beliefs with others is difficult to do in rea life. You can’t maintain a good relationship without having compassion for others.

In a RPG, each character has a role and together they overcome challenges by utilizing each character’s skill. We’ve always wanted to make the character’s feelings easily imaginable to the player even if it’s not being obviously portrayed. In the original Final Fantasy, we had the characters fall down to their knees when their HP got low. We hoped that action would convey that the character wants to save his friends. We think battles and relationships amongst the characters will vary depending on what characters are selected to form the party.

R: While Grezzo has worked on several action RPGs, those have been Zelda games created in partnership with Nintendo. In your opinion, what sets Ever Oasis apart from your previous projects with Nintendo?

KI: What’s unique about this game is that oasis management and the adventure cycle which run on opposing systems are firmly tied in with the world. It also creatively brings together Nintendo’s quality and Square’s flavor.

We hope the audience can find how we utilized our experience working on Zelda and also feel that this is definitely my work based on what I’ve done in past titles.

R: When the Mana series debuted, it was unusual to see A.I. companion characters in games like this. What kind of challenges have you had to overcome through the years as you created increasingly sophisticated computer-controlled ally characters?

KI: A.I. has evolved dramatically in recent games. In order to improve the precision of A.I., a fast hardware processing speed is required. For the Mana series, we had to be creative with the bare minimum, but it’s always hard to determine if each character is fulfilling their role. Ever Oasis centers on the characters you control. We try to keep it balanced, so players don’t feel stressed from switching characters around.

R: Did you consider incorporating a multiplayer element? 

KI: We did like the idea of a multiplayer element, but first and foremost, we wanted to focus on determining the basic game cycle and bringing the play experience to life. A multiplayer element was incorporated into Secret of Mana, but this was under the assumption that friends, siblings and family members would be playing together. The time you have to play with family and friends as a child isn’t a large chunk of time. That “time” turns into precious memories. So, that’s why we incorporated this feature. We would love to incorporate a multiplayer element if we ever got to make another game.

R: Ever Oasis strikes me as a heavily systems-based game: Day/night, questing, town-building and more. How do you make such complex design accessible to new players?

KI: The world within the game exists because of the relationships among various elements, and these elements also help bring the world to life. That’s how we’ve been seeing it since the original Final Fantasy. The planet is formed from the elements: Fire, earth, water and wind. Because of that, there are crystals, and the creatures and objects on the planet exhibit those characteristics. Thus, a correlation is established. By having all that go through the system, it turns into a game experience.

In Ever Oasis, the repeat of Interest -> Action -> Result will allow players to gradually experience the world and hopefully they’ll eventually feel that this is how it’s supposed to be.

R: It’s unusual to see this sort of open-world action game on a portable system like 3DS. What advantages and disadvantages have you encountered while working with this software/hardware combination?

KI: Rather than a general open-world concept, I think we felt more strongly about making it feel like you’re walking inside a diorama. By being able to see the world from your standpoint, you can even see the soil layers. We wanted the players to be able to have fun imagining how the terrain and structures were formed in the desert, so that’s why we made it like this.

R: What would you describe as your driving creative vision for Ever Oasis?

KI: Most likely because I have yet to find a convincing solution for creating a digital fantasy world. I was determined to make that kind of world back with Final Fantasy XI. First there is only the basic foundation of a world that the creator made. By having users enter this world, circulation begins and the economy starts running. Also, population density changes as various user purposes intertwine with one another.

I feel that my motivation is to “create an ever-changing world within the rules of the land.”

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Sega Forever launches today with F2P classics to your mobile! And the results are unfortunate.

A few weeks ago, I wildly (with tongue somewhat in cheek) speculated as to just what SEGA had in mind with the Sega Forever service, and what they meant when they said that they were going to bring some of their old IP’s back. Now though, we finally have concrete news about it: Sega Forever is, as was largely expected, a mobile games service that will feature classic games for download and play. However, it is not a subscription-based service, as was speculated — instead, the games on Sega Forever are available to download for the cost of absolutely nothing, albeit with ad support. Said ad support can be turned off for the cost of £2 ($2.50). The service launches on June 22nd (that’s today!) with 5 classic Sega Mega Drive games. Do check out the fantastic and so very ’90s trailer here, and see how many classic Sega sound effects you can spot in it:

What do we know then? Sega have stated that they intend to cover just about all of their main systems with the service, and it will feature games from the SG-1000, Master System, Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast. The inclusion of the Saturn is somewhat interesting considering how infamously difficult it has been for Saturn games to be accurately emulated anywhere, but Sega have stated that while the older systems will be handled through emulation, Saturn and Dreamcast games on the service will be direct ports. The games on the service will be augmented with modern features such as cloud saving, leaderboards and controller support, along with the ability to play games offline — whether you’re playing the ad-supported version or not.

Here’s how a game’s page is going to look. I only wish it were more like the old Sega Channel.

So, what about the games? Sega have said that they intend to release new games onto the service every two weeks, and that they’re kicking off with five of the best Mega Drive and/or Sega Genesis games around. These games will join up with Crazy Taxi, which was released onto mobile in May and follows the same free-to-play model as the Sega Forever games. As it is, I have been able to give the games a quick onceover on my phone — so I can give you some thoughts on the quality of the emulation and so forth. I have played the games using a Samsung Galaxy S7, with the regular touchscreen controls, using the ad-supported versions.

The original Sonic has been plucked from obscurity to take its place at Sega Forever’s masthead.

Sonic the Hedgehog — Well, there’s not an awful lot to say is there? It’s the original Sonic, the 1991 game that put the Mega Drive on the map unlike any other, and chances are fairly good that you’ve probably played it before. Indeed, you may well have played it on mobile before — it’s already available on both iOS and Android. While some may balk at seeing it released on mobile again…well, it’s Sonic. It sort of has to be here. Sega know the consequences of launching something without Sonic on it only too well.  Thoughts: This is Christian Whitehead’s 2013 port of the game — you may have played this exact version before…if you haven’t, then it’s excellent. The framerate is perfect, Sonic looks great in widescreen, the music’s exact, there’s options to play as Tails and Knuckles, and the touchscreen controls aren’t bad at all…it’s a legitimately superb port and worth playing. If all the other games follow this example, then we’re laughing! (Spoiler: They do not.)

Altered Beast — Naturally the first few games are all going to be quite famous, and Sega’s almighty ancient Greek beat-’em-up, a game that existed purely so it could be ported to the Mega Drive as a launch title in 1989, is one of the first up to the plate. It’s not exactly the most exciting game ever or anything, but those speech samples, rippling muscles and magnificent beasts provide a big hit of nostalgia, especially for anyone who bought a Mega Drive before Sonic came along. Thoughts: Sadly, this isn’t by Christian Whitehead — this is the emulation kicking in. The first major disappointment is that the framerate is cut in half…30 fps. It just doesn’t feel right at all. The sound of Altered Beast is mostly there, although the drum channel does drop out a lot. Being a rather simplistic game, the touchscreen controls aren’t a big issue with this one. Not bad, but hardly good.

Those who played Phantasy Star II probably have a blue battle grid forever burned into their eyes.

Phantasy Star II — This classic was arguably the most advanced console game around when it arrived in 1989. Predating the American release of Dragon Warrior on the NES by a few months, PS II (as well as the earlier original SMS game) was one of the first proper tastes of the JRPG that the West got, along with being a famous JRPG in which a main character snuffed it. It is also infamously challenging, lengthy, and labyrinthine — if you play this on your mobile, you’ll be at it for a while. Thoughts: Being a JRPG, the 30 fps framerate and controls aren’t a big issue here. What is an issue however, is the woeful sound — seriously, the high notes are so distorted that they’re kind of painful to listen to. Seeing as Phantasy Star II has an excellent soundtrack, that’s a real shame.

Kid Chameleon — a 1992 platformer from the Western Sega Technical Institute featuring a cool kid named Casey who gets sucked in to a virtual reality Arcade game and has to don a whole load of masks in order to beat the levels and rescue all the other poor suckers who are trapped in there. Kid Chameleon wasn’t a massive success or anything when it came out, but time has been kind to it — it’s been re-released often, and now has a pretty solid reputation as a good platformer. The biggest issue with it is that it’s very long, hard, and has no save features whatsoever…thank heaven for cloud saving, then! Thoughts: I didn’t notice any major sound problems, but that’s as good as I can say. A precise momentum-based platformer like this is murder with these awful touchscreen controls — they’re unresponsive, clunky, and the C button is so close to the programs button that half the time I end up pausing the game. And of course, it’s 30 fps. Not good at all.

Comix Zone is one of the only games where you can tear off a part of the screen’s background and chuck it at people.

Comix Zone — Another Western gem from STI, Comix Zone is pretty much the definition of a cult classic on the Mega Drive — in fact the game comes up so much that we can probably just call it a classic now. Sketch Turner gets pulled into his own comic book by Mortus, his own antagonist, and from there proceeds to defeat his own baddies with many a punch, a kick, and the help of his pet rat Roadkill. A brilliantly presented and very strong game that was hurt at the time due to its late release in 1995, and one that’s a welcome sight on the new service. Thoughts: …Oh dear. Leaving aside that you really need a 6-button controller for this game, the touchscreen controls make this virtually unplayable — half the time you accidentally hold the diagonal and put Sketch in his ready kick animation, making movement a chore. Fighting is somehow worse, and jumping? Ugh. The sound is also awful — everything seems to be severely downtuned. And it’s 30 fps. Awful in every way.

And so, there you go — the first batch of games for Sega Forever! And…well, I am dismayed by what I’ve seen here. Sonic 1 is great, but then we already knew that — the emulation on the other games is quite simply not good enough. In fact, it’s AT Games-quality, made even worse by the touchscreen controls…if you have a controller then maybe you’ll have a better time, but you still have to contend with the poor framerate and sound, not to mention the adverts — they aren’t present in the games themselves, but they still do irritate and frankly it’s not worth paying the extra money to get rid of them. According to some, Sega are using a Unity-based emulator for these games, and it’s simply not right — especially when there are better unofficial examples out there such as MD.emu. It’s a shame to see some of Sega’s classics treated this way, it really is…perhaps the direct ports from newer systems will be better, although I wonder if there’s anything that we won’t have seen before amongst them. On the whole? Not a good showing — if this is to go anywhere, then Sega really need to improve the quality of this emulation for the older titles.

If there are any old Sega classics that you would like to play again on your mobile, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is the block-breaking puzzle shoot-’em-up you never knew you wanted

Atari created Breakout in 1976 as a single-player counterpart to Pong, giving one player a formation of blocks to destroy with their ball and paddle in lieu of a human opponent. Like many primitive game concepts—including Pong itself—it went on to be widely imitated, cloned, and ported to every platform under the sun, including a number of dedicated plug-and-play consoles in the late ’70s. But the arcade scene eventually moved on to bigger thrills, and Breakout had the odd distinction of already being old hat by the golden age of the mid-’80s. So Taito had a flash of brilliance when they revisited it ten years later with 1986’s Arkanoid, updating the game in the visual language of vertical shoot-’em-ups, which was then the genre of the day. Each stage of Arkanoid presented a unique layout incorporating wrinkles such as indestructible gold blocks and enemies that would obstruct the ball’s path, providing new challenges in addition to the simple trick of aiming the ball and not letting it fall. To help out with this, the player could augment the paddle—technically a conveniently paddle-shaped spaceship called the Vaus—with a variety of power-ups, including increasing the Vaus’s length, adding lasers that let it shoot out blocks directly, and allowing it to “catch” the ball before firing it again from a desired position. Taito even included a perfunctory story and a final boss in the form of the malicious Moai head, Doh.

Arkanoid proved a great success in modernizing Breakout, garnering its own share of imitators and even a line of sequels. However, each new game ultimately amounted to an iteration on the same idea, offering only new stages and new power-ups in the best of cases. There’s nothing wrong with more Arkanoid, of course, but it’s amazing that it never saw any significant evolution…until now, that is. Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is Taito’s first real attempt at branching out from the original game’s framework and exploring the possibilities beyond it.

Put simply, Arkanoid vs Space Invaders goes back to the original idea of infusing Breakout with shoot-’em-up sensibilities and takes it several steps further with a little help from Space Invaders, Taito’s 1978 classic that kicked off the genre in the first place. Rather than advance down the screen as in their own game, the Invaders hang out at a fixed altitude and rain all manner of projectiles on the Vaus. The Vaus, for once, is without a ball of its own, so it “attacks” by reflecting the Invaders’ shots back up at them. Each stage is timed, and the only way to fail is to run out of time before eliminating all your targets: Letting enemy fire slip past the Vaus costs nothing but your combo and the opportunity to turn it to your advantage. Reflecting fire also fills up a gauge on the sides of the screen; when full, you enter Attack Mode, where you can aim one shot anywhere you like. While reflected shots disappear when they hit an enemy, a block, or the top of the screen, the Attack Mode volley behaves much like the ball from Arkanoid, carrying on clear through Invaders and persisting after bouncing off blocks and the backboard, only disappearing when you drop it or the gauge runs out.

At first, your goal in any stage is to take out the Invaders, with blocks merely getting between you and them. As you progress, though, some stages make the blocks your objective, with infinitely respawning Invaders providing a reliable supply of ammo. Further in still are stages that task you with destroying specific targets called Cores. The layouts are more puzzle-like than ever before and sprinkle in new mechanics along the way, such as bombs that destroy everything on a line when struck, switches that render golden blocks and Invaders vulnerable, and conveyor belt fields that alter the trajectory of any shots that pass through them. The blocks themselves also become more rambunctious, wandering around the screen in confounding formations that demand you carefully aim your shots. To this end, the Vaus is no longer limited to horizontal movement; you can position it anywhere within the bottom quarter of the screen, allowing for an unprecedented degree of variation on where you can send each shot. The touch controls work brilliantly here, with a nuanced analog feel hearkening to Arkanoid‘s dial control in the arcade.

As with any good puzzle game, all the above-mentioned factors gradually begin to intersect and overlap in increasingly complicated configurations. Fortunately, advancing through the game also unlocks a cavalcade of Taito characters whom you can call to the Vaus’s aid, from all-stars like Lufia and Bubble Bobble‘s dragons to more obscure faces like Zac from PuLiRuLa and Nico from Spica Adventure. (Someone on the game’s staff evidently has a thing for Psychic Force, as no fewer than four representatives from Taito’s fighting game series made the cut.) Replacing traditional power-ups, each character has a special skill that can be activated for a limited time after collecting an icon from a downed block or Invader. These include speeding up your shots, filling the Attack Mode gauge more quickly, refilling the timer when you reflect fire (a skill appropriately held by Reika from Time Gal), preventing the Attack Mode gauge from depleting, and the disorienting but potentially game-breaking ability to steer your shots manually. A skill that adds a homing feature to your shots can be indispensable in stages where Invaders are your target, whereas stages with blocks that need breaking may benefit from a skill that lets your Attack Mode shot punch through multiple blocks without bouncing off. Meanwhile, skills that focus on increasing your firepower tend to come in handy during boss fights. Over the course of the game, identifying the right skill for any given job becomes just as critical to success as aiming and deflecting. Then again, calling down Great Thing from Darius (a huge battleship shaped like a sperm whale, if you don’t know) to annihilate your foes is a pleasure unto itself.

Arkanoid vs Space Invaders was originally released in September 2015 as a Japan-exclusive free-to-play game for Naver Corporation’s Line app, where it was discontinued after a year before being relaunched worldwide as a standalone app last month. While it looks and plays the same now as it did then, its structure has been thoroughly redesigned, jettisoning the gacha pulls, arduous grinding, and gross incentivization of microtransactions that typify mobile games at their absolute worst. The game now offers a wealth of content, including 150 stages, two difficulty modes, and an endless score attack mode, all for a flat four dollars. While many of the nickel-and-dime perks from the F2P version remain in the game, they’re now either unlocked naturally or can be bought with an in-game currency accrued simply by playing well.

In its original incarnation, this game might have been mourned as a missed opportunity, so it’s a great thing indeed that Taito acknowledged its potential and made the effort to rethink its execution. As 2008’s Space Invaders Extreme was to Space Invaders, Arkanoid vs Space Invaders represents a truly transformative reinvention of a concept with timeless appeal. At long last, Arkanoid has received the worthy successor it always deserved—and also like Space Invaders Extreme, it only took thirty years.

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With ARMS, Nintendo is smart to recognize that nostalgia isn’t always best

When Nintendo revealed its first big, original, Switch-exclusive creation ARMS back at their NYC console reveal event in January, the reaction seemed to be more or less universal: Why didn’t they just call this game Punch-Out!!? ARMS belonged to a frustrating trend during the Switch debut wherein Nintendo took concepts clearly based on their classic properties, scrubbed away all overt connections to history, and repackaged them with a new, modern look. Where 1-2-Switch was totally WarioWare, ARMS was definitely Punch-Out!! Bob even brilliantly referred to it as “horny Punch-Out!!“:

It was strange, watching Nintendo cleanse Switch of its own heritage, especially as the NES Classic mini-console was selling like gangbusters. Millions of people have just revisited Punch-Out!! via that device (and millions more long to do so, an experience now forever denied by Nintendo’s decision to kill the NES Classic before it ever truly lived). Why not capitalize on the brand’s reappearance in the pop culture mainstream with a modern-day sequel?

But no; ARMS instead introduces an entirely new cast of 10 fighters, not including bosses and future downloadable add-on brawlers. Despite revolving around a premise that could potentially elevate the Punch-Out!! concept to the next level — motion-based fisticuffs, a brilliant advance over the Wii Punch-Out!!‘s great Balance Board support — there’s not even a hint of that storied arcade/NES favorite to be seen here. No Little Mac cameos, no cheeky text callouts that I’ve seen, not even a fuzzy-looking Bald Bull hiding in the crowd scenes. ARMS completely divorces itself from its obvious spiritual antecedent, and as someone deeply invested in the history of video games and the observation of landmark works, I have to say… it was probably the smartest move Nintendo could have made for the game. What I initially pegged as a senseless and irresponsible decision has proved to be anything but.

ARMS isn’t Punch-Out!!, and I don’t mean simply in the sense that it has a different name and cast. It is functionally and fundamentally a distinct work unto itself, and the creativity that radiates from ARMS in every respect would have been completely suffocated by the need to adhere to a 30-year-old brand. I can’t imagine that ARMS made it all the way through its conception and planning stages without someone at Nintendo saying, “You know, this game would make a lot of sense as a Punch-Out!! sequel.” Heck, it even could have kept its sci-fi look — it’s not like the idea of a spaced-out Punch-Out!! sequel hasn’t been explored already. But Punch-Out!! brings with it certain expectations, like somewhat sensible boxing mechanics… and while I do think Little Mac’s dodge-and-counter style would be an extraordinary fit for Switch’s advanced motion controls, his tiny little arms wouldn’t be able to, say, fire independently across an arena to punch an opponent 30 meters away.

There is a tendency among Nintendo fans, and I admit I’m guilty of this myself, to expect the company’s games to conform to our expectations as we grow older. I think Nintendo fell into that trap themselves in recent generations, attempting to mine nostalgia and familiarity with sequels and reboots, especially on Wii U. For the most part, those efforts didn’t pay off. Meanwhile, Splatoon was their one creation that came from nowhere, and it managed to become a huge hit; it’s popular in the West, but it’s currently a top-five gaming franchise over in Japan, a country where multiplayer-only arena shooters have never had any real traction to speak of. While Splatoon could easily have come into the world as a multiplayer Super Mario Sunshine spinoff, Nintendo let its designers do their own thing. Those designers then came up with the sarcastic, pun-spewing sisters Callie and Marie and, more importantly, the endearing squid/kid dichotomy. More than simply being characters, Splatoon‘s Inklings tie into and shape the game’s play mechanics, allowing players to explore a unique tactical concept by vanishing into puddles of paint and swimming around below the surface as a squid. Splatoon without transformation and submerging would simply be another arena shooter. Since it was allowed to become its own unique thing, it fired up imaginations and caught on in a big way, clearly exceeding Nintendo’s own expectations for the game.

ARMS has the potential to do likewise. Like Splatoon, it features a cast of interesting new characters (with a pretty even mix of male, female, and indeterminately alien pugilists to control). Its vibrant visual style, which relies on bold yellows and other primaries, neatly fleshes out the color wheel when set up alongside Splatoon’s purples and greens. And most of all, it will remind you of classic Nintendo concepts, but it quickly sets itself apart with design ideas and play opportunities that would have been impossible if the company had simply continued mining its back catalog. ARMS is a comic take on boxing, like Punch-Out!!, but there’s no way that gatekeeping Punch-Out!! fans would have accepted a sequel that involves things like controlling a young girl in a robot suit as she punches missiles toward a robot policeman and his mechano-K9.

You also wouldn’t be see Punch-Out!! title journeys broken up by matches that take the form of minigames. Nope. No way would the fans stand for that.

ARMS embraces a ridiculous, over-the-top style (within its long, rubbery embrace)… but perhaps most importantly, it allows players to control more characters than a single scrawny dude in green boxing shorts. Again, the cast of ARMS consists of a wide variety of pugilists, including four different women, several men of varied body types (from slim to shredded), and a couple of weirdos like the gelatinous Helix. Anyone should be able to find a character they relate to within the game’s cast, which will absolutely be a key to its success. I’m fairly certain that Overwatch has done more to convince developers that it’s essential to give players the opportunity to imprint on their own favorite character from among a varied cast than thousands of games-press thinkpieces on the importance of character diversity could ever hope to accomplish. Of course, immense playable lineups have been a standard fixture in fighting games since Street Fighter II exploded onto the scene, but Overwatch revolutionized the nature of those characters and their relationships… and, perhaps more essentially, it played up the importance of highlighting those characters and hyping them up to ignite players’ imaginations. ARMS is the first new Nintendo invention of the post-Overwatch era, and they clearly took notes from Blizzard.

The overwhelming positive response that arose after Nintendo revealed Twintelle a few weeks back underscores this fact. She immediately became a fan-favorite to the point that the company hastily made her playable during the pre-release “test punch” demo weekend. Was it her confident attitude? The fact that she attacks with ropes of prehensile hair rather than the freakish extensible arms of the rest of the cast? The camera’s tendency to focus on her curvaceous, leather-clad backside? Well, yes, all of those things factored in (especially her backside)… but in asking around about her meteoric rise to public acclaim, I was told by several people that it boiled down to the simple fact that it’s so rare to see a person of color — and a woman, at that! — presented in a game without any tired or offensive stereotypes. Sure, she’s thicc (as the kids these days say), but in a sensible (not exaggerated or pandering) way. More importantly: She’s a tough, capable, elegant woman with dusky skin. You sure wouldn’t find someone like her in Punch-Out!!, a franchise that trades entirely in racial and cultural stereotypes.

Of course, ARMS still has Min Min, the Chinese fighter whose arms are made out of coiled ramen noodles by default. Baby steps, I suppose.

I’d like to see Next Level Games take another crack at Punch-Out!! someday, but I’m glad this wasn’t that game. I don’t doubt that, should it be a hit on Switch, 20 years from now we’ll find ARMS just as locked into its ways and trapped by its own legacy as Punch-Out!! is today. And maybe that’s OK. Nintendo seems to have crafted a specific creative process in recent years: Come up with an idea and iterate on it in tiny increments, while saving the new ideas for new games. I do miss the days of the NES, when sequels like Super Mario Bros. 2Zelda II and Metroid II demonstrated no fear in casting aside the structure and rules of their predecessors… but given those games’ black-sheep status among fans, and even the negative backlash franchise spinoffs like Luigi’s Mansion and Federation Force have taken on the chin in more recent years, I suppose I can understand why Nintendo prefers to play it safe with sequels. Games like ARMS and Splatoon allow the company’s designers to invent in ways that tradition and expectation make impossible under the umbrella of established brands. It doesn’t always work out — for example, 1-2-Switch lacks a personality and would have been a lot more interesting as a WarioWare title — but when it does work, as with ARMS, I’m happy to see Nintendo intuiting when it’s best to let go of the past.

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Hey, Pikmin! feels like a flashback to the old days of handheld adaptations

I demoed the next entry in Nintendo’s Pikmin series — Hey, Pikmin!, not the long-promised Pikmin 4 — back at the same event where I took the 2DS XL handheld system for a test drive. Of all the games Nintendo showed off at that press event, Hey, Pikmin! left me the most bemused. There was something naggingly familiar about it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what, precisely, that was.

As denoted by the lack of a numeral in its title, Hey, Pikmin! doesn’t go out of its way to be a proper follow-up to Wii U’s Pikmin 3. On the contrary, while it carries forward certain key franchise concepts — you control tiny Captain Olimar and coax a tiny army of colorful plant people to do your bidding — it plays nothing at all like the innovative series whose name and visuals it adopts. In place of Pikmin‘s usual sprawling mix of real-time strategy and top-down action, Hey, Pikmin! swings the camera down and locks it perpendicular to the ground, effectively transforming its viewpoint into that of a 2D platformer.

Except Captain Olimar isn’t really the platformer action type; he wears a jetpack that can allow him to hover momentarily and reach higher ground. However, the jetpack responds sluggishly and has considerable recovery time, so it’s hard to imagine Hey, Pikmin! will contain much white-knuckle platform action. Besides, the game does carry over one critical element from the console originals: Making your way through the world involves the recruitment, use, and occasional sacrifice of countless little colorful plant-men.

In practice, this means Hey, Pikmin! amounts to a sort of puzzle platformer set in the Pikmin universe. Olimar remains about as helpless as ever, so you’ll need to toss and summon pikmin in order to accomplish everything from clearing paths to fighting huge monsters. The game makes interesting use of the dual-screen nature of the 3DS (or 2DS, as the case may be): Controls are based around a touch interface, so Olimar himself appears to be effectively restricted to the lower screen. However, many elements critical to completing a given stage — be they bombs needed for blasting strategic points or debris needed to create bridges — appear on the upper screen. To manipulate them, you need to lob pikmin up there… maybe one at a time, maybe a dozen.

Everything works more or less as you’d expect it to in a Pikmin game. Differently colored pikmin possess different strengths and weaknesses, and they’ll all stand around lost and helpless if you stray too far from them. Your pikmin pals will lift and carry objects, perform simple tasks of engineering, and basically pathfind their way around. They’ll also go to the mats with any creatures they find roaming around, launching into an attack that will either result in their own deaths or the transmutation of waddling monsters into valuable resources. The biggest difference is that the side-scrolling 2D perspective changes the fundamental nature of the game from a free-roaming quest to forage for goods across a massive world into a linear stage-by-stage journey.

Will it work? It’s hard to say. The demo stages I’ve played seem to unwind well enough, but I can’t honestly predict whether or not this limited approach to Pikmin will maintain interest for a couple dozen stages. A big part of what makes the console originals interesting comes down to the persistence of and planning required to navigate large spaces. Which route do you take, and which pikmin do you bring with you? Can you venture forth, accomplish a critical task, and make it safely back to your base before dark? By breaking your actions into small, self-contained stages, the need for long-term management largely evaporates. It’ll take some legitimate effort to ensure Hey, Pikmin! sustains its appeal throughout its latter stages, and developer Arzest doesn’t have the most inspiring track record in that regard.

Still, it’s not impossible to think Hey, Pikmin! could work out. I eventually managed to pin down the nagging sense of familiarity this game gave me, and I realized this entire endeavor is a flashback to the Game Boy Color era. Think back to handheld games from 1998 to 2001: Console games had made the transition to polygons and 3D, but the Game Boy hardware remained mired in its decade-old 8-bit design. Game Boy had always played host to scaled-down conversions of console titles, but the technological delta between Nintendo 64 and Game Boy was much, much larger than the one we’d seen between the NES and Game Boy back when the handheld system made its debut. Rather than giving us the visually cramped ports of console hits we saw in the early Game Boy era, GBC developers generally created entirely new games with their “ports” of N64 and PlayStation hits.

First-person shooters became slow-paced top-down action games. 3D adventures became sidescrollers. And so forth. Most of these reinventions left Game Boy owners scratching their heads — Perfect Dark as a clumsy isometric shooter? Turok as an NES-style side-scroller? — but every once in a while, the overhaul worked. I was always impressed by how well Tomb Raider scaled down to handheld; Core Design very sensibly took stock of the franchise and unraveled the fundamental concept back to its origin point. The result was a game that played very much like Prince of Persia, which had largely inspired the design of the original Tomb Raider in the first place. It wasn’t as good as Prince of Persia (in large part due to the decision to make Lara Croft’s sprite take up as much of the screen as was physically possible, leaving the action cramped and uncomfortable), but it was a far sight better than most 3D-to-2D console-to-handheld conversions of the era.

I suppose the question now is: Will Hey, Pikmin! follow in the steps of Tomb Raider for Game Boy Color and stand on its own merits? Or will it be as unsatisfying and off-the-mark as that Perfect Dark conversion? Given the methodical, puzzle-like design I experienced in the Hey, Pikmin! demo, it definitely falls closer in spirit to the former. Still, Nintendo has attempted to squeeze an open-world console adventure into a 2D portable format once already in recent memory, with the lackluster Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash. Hopefully Hey, Pikmin! will fare better. And hopefully the dual console/handheld nature of Nintendo’s Switch means that once the 3Ds family fades away, the Game Boy-era rule of compromised portable conversions will at last be dead and buried. We’re all for respecting the medium’s heritage here at Retronauts (obviously), but some traditions are better off abandoned.

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What can a 30-year old Spectrum game tell us about the election?

Well, today’s general election day here in the UK — obviously there’ll be plenty of news articles about that everywhere, but here on Retronauts I wanted to use today to highlight…well, one of the weirdest ZX Spectrum games ever released — it’s 30 years old this year, and oddly enough it’s about elections! You’d hope so anyway, seeing as it’s called Election. Why is it so weird? Well, the best way to demonstrate that is through video:

The thing with ZX Spectrum games is that there’s plenty of them where you just take one look at it, or try to play it, and you have absolutely no idea what on earth’s going on or what you have to do. You might just put that down to the game being old, but don’t — because no-one had much of a clue what Election was about back then either. According to Virgin Games, it’s an electioneering game where you take control of one of various candidates and try to influence other people to vote for you in various ways — either traditional or through more underhanded techniques. I guess it’s some sort of satire? That would make sense as an aim of the game, even if little else about the game does.

It is curious in that the game is very much an open world that apparently boasts 40 intelligent people (or rather heads that move around) that you can influence or can be influenced by the other candidates, and it’s not like Virgin didn’t push the game hard — this was a full price game back in the day costing £9.95, and Virgin certainly advertised it a lot. As far as Virgin Games in the 1980’s goes, it’s not actually that weird — they also published games like indie band simulator The Biz (written by Frank Sidebottom, and a game that will certainly be talked about here soon), an adaptation of Adrian Edmondson’s book How to Be A Complete Bastard, and a licensed game based around Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

This screen seems to suggest that monetary incentives can be offered in order to gain votes. Tut-tut.

Some of those games were actually alright, and Virgin carved some sort of niche as an “alternative” games publisher, albeit one with a hell of a lot of money behind it — but then that fit the image of Sir Richard Branson at the time. Election is most certainly not alright, but it’s a strange artifact…and can it tell us anything about the General Election today? Well, not really — but in the end despite all the hustings and opinion polls and speculation, there’s not an awful lot out there that can, so a lousy 30 year old ZX Spectrum game is probably as good a choice as any.

 

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A great licensed game is 25 years old this month! But so is a terrible one.

This June marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the LucasArts classic, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis…pretty good game, innit? I’m sure there’ll be plenty of pieces to mark this — it’s one of LucasArts’ best, after all. Before Atlantis, no-one had ever managed to nail such a popular and well-loved movie character in a video game quite so well, and in an entirely original story too. It’s a game that even I can appreciate, although the in-depth writing about it is probably best left to those more versed in the world of point-and-click adventures. However, the other game that came out under the name of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? That I can write about.

The other Fate of Atlantis game, released at the same time as the Adventure game, is very obscure. It seems that LucasArts’ plan was to cover all their bases and try to appease everyone with both an adventure game and an action title, both covering the same plot — it didn’t work out that well because the Adventure Game and the Action Game were simply not on the same level, and the adventure immediately received all the attention. Those who dared to look at the action title may have just been confused — it’s a loose, barebones adaptation of the plot of the adventure, essentially a licensed video game adaptaton of a licensed game. That and it’s simply not very good.

A common theme of the Fate of Atlantis action game is that you end up whipping the crap out of someone you can’t actually see.

What we have here is less of a full-on action game, and more an isometric version of the adventure with flick-screen graphics, and the ability to whip most anything you can see on the screen. In the majority of levels you can switch between good ol’ Indy and Sophia Hapgood — unlike Indy she can only kick enemies in the shins for the most part, but it still turns out to be quite effective…at first the game appears promising with levels like the casino that make something of a decent fist of incorporating the adventure game’s puzzles into a more action-based title, but it soon descends into generic maze-based guff with the added nuisance of whipping endless enemies…or kick them. One of the main criticisms of this game? That the supposed “Action” version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis had significantly worse action than the adventure game it was spinning off from — and let’s face it, great action is not the first thing you’d think of when the subject of Fate of Atlantis comes up. In any case a criticism doesn’t come more damning than that, and the Action Game was immediately doomed to obscurity. The developers, Attention to Detail, would later go on to make the classic Rollcage for the PS1! Oh, and the wheredidyoulearntofly-tastic Jaguar launch title Cybermorph.

The Amstrad CPC version. If the difference between this and what the PC got didn’t convince you to upgrade, then nothing would.

However, that’s not all there is to the story — while the PC-DOS version of this game was the primary one, it’s also how The Fate of Atlantis was represented on 8-bit microcomputers too. It is strange how LucasArts decided to promote this game in such a way, almost as if Fate of Atlantis was actually a film. Such thinking is surely the only justification for Fate of Atlantis appearing on the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC — coming out as late as 1992, they’re amongst the final crop of commercial releases for the Speccy and the Amstrad in particular. Spare a thought as well for the poor Atari ST owners — while the Amiga did get a port of the point-and-click adventure (albeit on eleven whole floppy disks, meaning more time was spent switching than playing), Atari owners were stuck with this strange and poorly done obscurity that, as a game of the game, may just have less of a reason to exist than any other licensed title ever made.

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Kim recommends…Skool Daze (ZX Spectrum, 1985)

If you live in Britain and you’re a kid (you can tell if you’re a kid or not through various checks such as: Do you own a slingshot, how much “tuck” do you consume in a day, do you have friends named Tucker and Gonch, etc.) then chances are good that right now you’re enjoying your half-term holidays — a full week away from the daily rigours of the classroom and bundles of the playground. However, back in the ’80s, some people actually chose to experience school again in their home! Quite shocking, really. They did so with another legendary ’80s ZX Spectrum game – Skool Daze, released by Microsphere in 1985.

The plot of Skool Daze (yes, this Spectrum game has a plot) is as follows — you play as a boy named Eric, and you need to get to your end of year report because it’s all F’s and, in the words of Soulja Boy, you’ve got to throw some D’s on it. Getting to the report involves a strange process of activating the school’s shields, then finding out each letter of the code to the headmaster’s safe, grabbing the report and then putting everything back to normal…however – as you do this you also have to go through a school day, meaning that there’s often somewhere you’re going to have to be whenever the bell rings and progressing the game is going to have to be restricted to playtimes…unless you’re brave enough to bunk off lesson, that is. There’s plenty of other boys milling around — Boy Wander the tearaway who likes to fire his slingshot and write on the blackboards, Angelface the bully who randomly punches people and contracts lethal doses of mumps, and the dreaded Einstein – the swot who is all too eager to tell on you for every single thing that the other two nasty little brats do. All this and a lot of smaller, unnamed oiks who can actually be a bit more helpful — at least they don’t hit you.

A look at the middle of the school. Note that Boy Wander has been at the blackboard, and that he cannot spell.

Winning in Skool Daze is all about trying not to get “lines” — if you get 10,000 of them, then the game’s over.  Sometimes its impossible not to get them, such as when you’re in a class where there’s not enough seats, but you’ve got to try and be as stealthy as possible about your task — especially when certain shields require you to bounce shots off of a downed teacher’s head. Speaking of the teachers, they’re as well-drawn as the boys are and perfect for the era — there’s Mr Rockitt the Lab Guy, the absolutely ancient Mr Creak, and my favourite Mr Withit — the teacher who thinks he’s liked and down with the kids because he doesn’t tuck his shirt in. And of course, the dreaded Mr Wacker — the headmaster, who walks around while rhythmically rapping a cane against the palm of his hand, eager for any opportunity to beat children and comfortable in the knowledge that back in the ’80s, giving a young boy six of the best was yet to be frowned upon by law.

Here, Eric gets some lines from the cool teacher. Jumping around for no reason is not tolerated. Mario would be expelled here.

Skool Daze’s combination of school-related busywork, a lengthy task that you have to achieve, and the atmosphere of a British comprehensive or secondary modern is an assuredly winning one — there’s very few games like it. The game did become a raw template for Rockstar’s excellent Bully, which certainly made a lot out of the basic formula. More immediately, there’s a sequel to the game called Back to Skool that’s just as good as the original — there’s a whole new task and a whole new school (a girls’ school!) to rush about in and cause trouble. Both of them are up there with the Speccy’s greatest, and they’re still some of the most modern-feeling games you can find on the computer — what a joy they were. If you remember not to run in the corridors, chew gum and tuck your chair in when you leave the classroom, Skool Daze will be the perfect game for you.

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Judge Dredd and the absence of generic licensed fluff on consoles

As it often is, Friday is another video day on the Kim Justice channel — and today’s is about Judge Dredd, published by Acclaim and Probe in 1995 for the Mega Drive and SNES. The game is, of course, based primarily on the terrible 1995 movie adaptation of Dredd — y’know, the one with all the “I AM THE LAW” memes — and it isn’t what anyone would call good. It’s a generic piece of licensed rubbish, a side-scrolling affair with generic backgrounds from the movie, average controls, and nothing much interesting for the most part…you don’t see too many games like this anymore, which oddly enough is something that I rather miss about gaming these days.

Licensed games that tie-in with some popular star or movie or TV show etc. are one of my favourite subjects in gaming — even if the quality is often average, some games have their moments (plenty more are legitimately very good) and I love seeing how a studio translates something like a big action flick into a traditional video game. Unfortunately, these sort of games aren’t as common as they used to be — tie-in games do exist still, but they often fit into a couple of categories: There’s the well established tie-in series such as the LEGO games, which are very good and working off a strict formula. For less famous IP’s, licensed games do exist still but they seem to be making their home more and more on smartphones these days, as opposed to consoles — which is a bit of a shame. Who wouldn’t want to see a proper game of the upcoming Baywatch movie on their PS4? Don’t kid yourself — you’d be curious at the very least. The amount of licensed games potentially starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that we’ve missed out on is an outrage.

Digression aside, Judge Dredd is one of the more unfortunate IP’s out there when it comes to licensed games — it’s had some pretty miserable efforts in the past. This 1995 game is far from the worst – there’s a 1991 game by Virgin for home computers that makes this generic maze level-based platformer look like Super Metroid by comparison. Really, Dredd never got anything close to a decent game until the release of Dredd vs Death in 2003 by Rebellion Developments (who actually own the 2000 AD comic outright these days, including the Judge) – an FPS that certainly did the best job so far of capturing the Dredd universe. It’s funny, really — one of the odd things about licensed games seems to be that the simpler an IP should be to adapt to a game, the easier it is to screw up. Judge Dredd is a powerful lawman who goes around shooting and arresting creeps in a post-apocalyptic universe — is that really difficult to adapt? It turns out that yes, it is.

The crime is being a generic walking around goon in a lousy licensed game. The sentence, unreasonably, is death.

There are some more intriguing things about this 1995 effort, mind you. With very little in the way of action to work with in the 1995 movie (seriously, it’s really bad) the game decides to divert totally from the movie halfway through in terms of plot. The first half takes in all the events from the movie, ending with the corrupt Judge Rico’s demise atop the Statue of Liberty, but then the second half has Dredd fight the Dark Judges (Fire, Fear, Mortis and Judge Death), who are more traditional antagonists. This half is not based on the film, nor is it based on anything that happened in the “Lawman of the Future” comic series that spun off from it — and so naturally is a little more interesting in terms of levels and design as Probe work directly off the comic book…the play’s still not very interesting, mind you. Judge Dredd isn’t exactly a game that’s worth the time to check out on the whole, but it is a good example of a game that, sadly, you simply don’t get anymore. It’s almost a shame that console games are, on average, too good these days for something like Dredd to exist.

 

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What old SEGA games should be brought back from the dead?

There certainly seems to be a lot of intrigue about what SEGA are up to lately — there’s talk of them bringing back some of their old IP’s, for a start, which has certainly got some tongues wagging. Not to mention all the talk about something called SEGA Forever that could be (although we obviously don’t know) a subscription-based sort of Games on Demand service for mobiles, which if true could perhaps cover the “bringing old games back” deal, depending on just how old SEGA are talking — you can find some of the workings of the rumour mill on videos such as this one by Youtuber RGT 85 right here.  As far as anything concrete goes though, nothing is confirmed whatsoever, and chances are nothing will be until E3 at the earliest — and as a highly distinguished retrogaming website it is quite frankly not cricket, or even baseball, for us to write an article all about this speculation that may well end up being untrue. I, for one, would never allow such things to appear on your computer screen.

With that said, the thought of SEGA digging up some of their old games from the dead is certainly worth having fun with, if only for the purposes of humour and light entertainment. So the question of today is; what old IP’s could SEGA bring back? And what, exactly, could they do with them? It’s all very well bringing a series back and doing the exact same thing that it originally became famous for — that would be the sensible thing to do, perhaps — but some IP’s might need a bit of a twist. Let’s review a selection from the archives and see how we can, for lack of a better expression, sex them up a bit.

Alex Kidd

SEGA’s pre-Sonic mascot has always had a bit of a raw deal — we’ve actually got a fair bit of time for him in Europe due to the Master System’s popularity here compared to the rest of the world, but even we just about managed to forget his existence once a certain spiky blue hedgehog came rolling in. It perhaps doesn’t help his cause that Alex was pinged around genres a lot in his time — there’s a couple of Mario-esque platform games, a trial biking game, a crossover with Shinobi, a terrible adventure-action hybrid…he struggled to find a consistent identity, which was a bit of a bummer for him really — however, that’s something we can use to our advantage nowadays. SEGA have explored the depressive side of Alex Kidd before, using him as a lowly clerk in their self-referential Dreamcast game Segagaga, and perhaps this can be delved into further with a depressive, noir-esque action sandbox title where an older Alex with a drinking problem finds himself having to combat villains on the crime-infested streets of the Miracle World. Think Max Payne, only with more Janken — it’s a guaranteed hit. There could even be a role for Sonic too as Alex’s unwilling, straighter-laced partner.

The Ooze

There’s a fair few games that folks remember from the days of the SEGA Technical Institute — those were the people who brought us the likes of Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon and Die Hard Arcade, games that people certainly remember well, and might even want to see make a return…however, everybody forgets about The Ooze.  There are a few reasons for that — the first being that the game was, put bluntly, not very good. Secondly, it did come out pretty close to the end of the Mega Drive’s life and so there weren’t a whole lot of eyes on it. The premise was certainly weird enough — you played as a scientist who had been turned into a giant blob of green goo, and was then tasked with getting revenge on the scum who’d put him in this situation…perhaps more could be done with this title? The roles could be reversed — you play as one of the human scientists in a survival horror game. It’s Alien: Isolation, only instead of a xenomorph you’re hiding from a giant cartoony puddle of luminous snot…it might sound somewhat incongruous for a horror title, but people said that about IT back in the day too, and look what happened to them! It’s worth looking at.

Streets of Rage

This should be the biggest lay-up of them all really — as soon as speculation started about Sega reviving old IP’s, Streets of Rage was undoubtedly one of the first names on people’s lips. SOR used to be one of Sega’s biggest franchises, but then it rather inexplicably disappeared, never coming out of the 16-bit era despite numerous failed attempts at a sequel and a bunch of dismissed plans. So just go ahead and make another beat-’em-up, right? Well…let’s think outside the box a little. Streets of Rage is a very open title that can be interpreted in a variety of ways — sure, it can describe a group of friends punching the teeth out of thugs in a battle against a crime syndicate, but what if a string of reality was brought in? Perhaps those streets could represent a city in crisis, possibly because it was invaded by a military force that needs to be repelled by another stronger military force that people like more. With that in mind, the best direction for Streets of Rage is surely an Army-based first-person shooter based in a foreign city, with questionable political content. Besides, everybody knows that beat-’em-ups don’t sell anymore.

ESWAT

As far as old IP’s go, any decision to revive ESWAT would come from right out of leftfield. The series only had 2 games, both of which had the same title, and it was never the most popular of SEGA’s ’80s arcade side-scrollers — it was quite a lot like a game version of Robocop, but that itself already had a successful arcade game thanks to Data East…however, there could be something in that Robocop influence. It’s something of a shame that there’s no such thing as a proper Robocop simulator — a big open-world city where you preserve the public trust, uphold the law and all that, solving crimes, chasing bad guys…it seems unlikely that we’ll get anything like that out of Robocop itself, or a similar franchise like Judge Dredd, but you know what? Maybe ESWAT could be the way to do it. “Robocop simulator” is basically my dream game, so this is a suggestion that I’m actually half-serious about.

Phantasy Star

There’s no need to be half-serious about this one, or even to make an attempt at being funny. For heaven’s sake, folks — give us another Phantasy Star. As in, a single-player RPG Phantasy Star. Even if it has to be crowdfunded. Please.

This could obviously continue on by looking at all of SEGA’s old and discontinued IP’s and thinking about ways in which they can be twisted and distorted to meet the demands of the modern gaming world, but it’s probably wise to draw the line at five. While nothing here should be taken seriously as such, it is certainly an exciting time to be a SEGA fan — there’s definitely something brewing, and the possibility of games being revived has certainly excited people to a degree that may well end up being too much, but in the meantime is still a positive for a brand that, not too long ago, was often thought to be a bit of a zombie. Whatever happens, whether it’s something beyond our wildest expectations or just another way to play those old games that lots of people love, it’s good to see people being interested again.

 

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