We gamers are a tough bunch. We work hard for our money, slaving away from nine to five, and what spare time and cash we have we choose to invest in this great pastime that is videogames. But sometimes it’s not too great. Especially when it comes to franchises and sequels. There is nothing as frustrating as waiting years for a follow up to a game or series, rushing out to get it on release day and then experiencing that crushing realisation that it’s not lived up to the hype. It is at times like these that a magic wand would be handy. With one swoosh you would have your forty quid back in your wallet and the developer would be sitting on the naughty step thinking about what they’ve done. There are numerous franchises that have benefited from a wee “holiday”. Tomb Raider and SSX spring to mind; both franchises have had lengthy breaks only to come back with cracking games that once again have captured gamers hearts – and wallets – everywhere. So think of this article as the CalmDownTom magic wand. It’s a wish list to address things that have affected game franchises I play and care about. It’s not a snipe list having a go at Call of Duty and FIFA. Just because you may not like or not play a franchise does not mean it should not exist.
Here’s five games that need some time to be alone and think about what they’ve done.
5. Tiger Woods PGA Golf
Certain sports evolve at a horrific pace. What with all the rule changes, venue and equipment revisions, a sport can be drastically different within a year’s time. I can therefore understand why certain sports games come out with a new version each year. I would imagine there is normally enough content changes to warrant an entire new game when it comes to football, cricket, grid iron and even Formula one. But golf? I don’t think so. The courses don’t change; neither do the golfers, the club manufacturers or even the sponsors. So if not much about the sport changes, what do we get for our money? The answer is simple: we get a rushed game that adds strange mini games a golfer would never play and a constantly changing control system. These are unnecessary changes added as “new enhanced controls” more often than not end up confusing the player and, by the time he has mastered this control scheme guess what? The new game comes out. Well, enough is enough; this series needs a wee break. What’s wrong with bringing out Tiger Woods PGA Golf every two or three years and if there are changes to courses, tournaments or players during this time, sell us some DLC for half the price of a full game? Tis a fair question I think.
Sometimes a game gets released and becomes a phenomenon. Everyone talks about it and cannot wait for the sequel. So the sequel comes out and it sells even better. This happens several times for many many years – every time a sequel comes out we all buy it. The problem is though that we have been playing the exact same game for years. This is the story of Pokemon – for years we have been buying the same game for Nintendo’s handheld platform with the same story. Boy (or girl) gets flung out the house by their mum to go on an adventure to help the Pokemon professor learn as much as he can about Pokemon by filling up the Pokedex. Not only is the story re-used but the graphics and world design are still very similar to the first game. Your house looks almost the same as it did way back when. Now, I understand that the essence of the game is not the story, it is the catching, training and evolving of as many Pokemon as you possibly can, but the danger is that you sicken the player by making him do the same thing in the same place he has done so many times before. The suggestion is not to change the whole “gotta catch ‘em all” gameplay, but why not take this addictive mechanic and place it in say a Skyrim like world? There are Pokemon fans that are building games like this themselves which does hint that the Pokemon hard-core do share this sentiment. Also, a console version of this would be nice.
3. Mario Kart
Once upon a time Nintendo released Super Mario Kart for the SNES and it was good. Since then we tend to get a new version for every console Nintendo brings out. There are a few issues with the series that should be addressed as, currently, the Mario Kart series is lacking when comparing it to Sega’s offering (Sonic All Stars Racing is an under-appreciated cart racer). The formula has stayed very similar to the one used for Mario Kart 64. These days though there are Sixteen tracks in total – Eight old and Eight new; the roster of characters are all from the Mario universe and the meat of the single player is 8 Grand Prix’s consisting of 4 races each. As always, the fun (on the console versions anyway) is in the local multiplayer mayhem, but it still feels like Nintendo are missing a trick and that the game feels kind of light. Take the characters for example; Nintendo had a terrific backlog of characters that could make an appearance in Mario Kart. Samus or Star Fox or Link or one of the millions of Pokemon making an appearance would be an amazing addition to the roster. In fact, making tracks and mini games based on these character’s universes would also catapult the series to a level equal to Sega’s kart racer. It just seems strange – and dare I say, a little lazy – that Nintendo have used this to make the Smash Bros series worth its weight in gold but does not do the same for Mario Kart despite seeing the success of Sega and Sonic all-star racing.
2. Final Fantasy
There was a time when you knew exactly what to expect from a Final Fantasy game. It was a sweeping, epic tale in a fantasy world and although each one was different. There were a few wee nods to the series that left you with that warm fuzzy feeling that is home. There was always some guy called Cid, a few familiar monsters to fight, turn based combat, chocobos and Nobuo Uematsu’s amazing music. Then things changed. From Final Fantasy XII, the turn based combat disappeared and the series became more action RPG like. Gone was the open world system and endless days of grinding as the gameplay became linear. So linear in fact that certain levels in Final Fantasy XIV were just a long corridor. We even lost Uematsu’s genius on the soundtrack and, even worse, we started getting sequels (X – 2 still upsets me). Now, I’m not saying that FFXII and onwards are terrible games, I’m saying that they are not Final Fantasy games. The problem though is that these are not the best RPGs have to offer and would not have sold as much as they did had they not had the Final Fantasy label. Square Enix need to go back to the drawing board, maybe rehire some old friends and go back to making a Final Fantasy that encapsulates that last chance game that saved the company from going under all those years ago.
1. Resident Evil
It may be no surprise that Resident Evil is top of this list. Hell, any listeners of Glitch Free Gaming probably had bets on this! The series has become caught in a large too and fro between the developers and fans. The fans want nothing more than another installment in the classic survival horror franchise that made us soil our shorts when the PlayStation was new and shiny. Instead, we get “Gears of Lost Planet” with the occasional zombie stuck in to try and appease us. Capcom has slowly but surely stripped out every one of the survival horror elements and has replaced them with more “popular” game elements. One of the biggest of these is the co-op. Two player co-op on a survival horror game does not work. It takes away from the danger of being low on supplies and the knowledge that at any point you could be surrounded by a horde of the undead with nothing but your wits and eight bullets to save you. By all means, have a multiplayer mode, but keep the story as claustrophobic as possible. Having you play as three different characters complete with partners, mobile communications and a seemingly endless supply of ammunition does nothing but take away from any creepy atmosphere the story has built. And on a personal level why did they have to mess with zombies? The minute the series went from zombies and viruses to brain parasites and beasties that look like they’ve escaped from Halo felt like a kick in the goolies to the fans. And for that Capcom need a clout round the ear and to be told “Bad boy! Now go to your room and don’t you dare come out until Raccoon City is filled with zombies again!”