Six Games We Won't See at E3
…But we wish we would.
It’s a sad fact that some franchises go before their time. Some squeeze out one sad, disappointing game and get scrapped, throwing their potential out the window. Others get milked, find a healthy, happy place and then fade away into obscurity. Some just plain die of old age.
These following five are game franchises that have seen better days. Put bluntly, they’re dead as doornails. The odds of a new title are astronomically slim. It’s sad, but it’s fact.
But let’s indulge in idle fantasy. We know some things that’ll probably happen at E3. But what if we saw these franchises continued, instead of getting an eighth Call of Duty or a sixth Halo or an umpteenth Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy? Would the world be a better, happier place?
It’d be more unpredictable, at least.
1. Breath of Fire
When the Dragon’s Dogma teaser website appeared, the internet exploded with speculation: could it be a new Breath of Fire game? Of course not. We were fools to think otherwise. When it turned out to be a Japanese take on the Western RPG, it kind of drove home that Breath of Fire was dead.
Such a shame, really. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter was the freshest breath of air the Japanese RPG scene had seen in a decade, a beautiful, intricate, different game that revived the franchise. Not that it was dead: there’s not a game in the series I would qualify as being anywhere south of good (though nothing higher than a great game that doesn’t transcend its genre, either, with the possible exception of 3). But you had this game with so many brilliant ideas packed into it, ideas that would go on to form the foundation of other series like Dead Rising. So when Capcom put a big Dragon up on their website and attributed it to a Breath of Fire founder, yeah, we got excited.
Shows what we know, huh? Breath of Fire is dead as a doornail. That’s pretty obvious, no matter how many what ifs we endure. What would we hope for out of a sixth title? Well, a lot. It’s a series with both a foundation in the traditional and then a reputation for new, incredible ideas. We’d expect the game to knock it out of the park, and I don’t know if Japanese RPGs can do that anymore.
When I was in middle school, I loved few games more than strategy-puzzle World War 2 game Commandos. Instead of focusing on action, Commandos focused on setting up a plan and then commanding your isometric specialists to a complicated, nerve wracking victory. It was a brilliant, demanding game that focused less on action and more on figuring out how to solve the particular base in front of you.
The series looks pretty dead, between the lukewarm Commandos 3 in 2003 and the absolutely putrid Commandos: Strike Force in 2006, which took it to first person shooter land. Ironically, I think Commandos could work in an FPS format, but it’d need a heaping dose of strategy, difficulty, and most of all style to make it work out. I think a modern day Commandos could work by aping a lot of stylistic trappings from something like Inglorious Basterds, with a focused narrative and then gameplay which focused on strategy and quick, decisive bursts of action.
As cold as the corpse is, Square Enix (who I imagine own the rights, since it belonged to Eidos) have recently brought back a number of dead IPS like Deus Ex and Thief, and while Commandos is hardly high profile I get the feeling that World War 2 is going to make a comeback in the next couple of years. Commandos could lead the charge with a different type of game than the Call of Duties and Medal of Honors of the world.
3. Baldur’s Gate
Let’s raise this bar to D&D The Way It Was Meant to Be.
I was out at my local comics shop the other day when I heard some guys talking about Baldur’s Gate, and how they wanted a proper D&D game. And you know what, random long haired guy who was buying comics? You were fucking right.
Look at the sad state of D&D games now. D&D Online, a World of Warcraft competing grindfest. The new Neverwinter game, a hack and slash. Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale, a game I’ve heard nothing but bad things about, a mediocre dungeon crawler living six years in the past. This is where the once mightiest franchise in the fantasy field has been exiled to: mediocre hack and slashers that have no need of the Dungeons and Dragons name.
And think back to how good we had it! Baldur’s Gate. Baldur’s Gate 2. Planescape: Torment! The first Neverwinter had modularity and an emphasis on player told stories, and the second had a good old fashioned plot! We don’t get those in Dungeons and Dragons anymore. We get generic enemies to kill, a vague fantasy setting, and straight ahead character classes, all the worst things about D&D.
I blame Atari for running the digital rights of the series into the ground, trying to cash in instead of making the quality games that made the face of western RPGs. There’s absolutely no hope of there being more, better D&D products on the horizon, but a man can dream of a time when our adventures are epic and filled with important, well-written quests instead of hundreds of goblins to cut in half. Not that there’s anything wrong with goblin mutilation, but there is something wrong with the D&D license going so mishandled.
4. Giants: Citizen Kabuto
No one really talks about Giants anymore, which is a bit of a shame. Yeah, like Commandos, a lot of its ideas are still in circulation: the blending of RTS and first person shooter, specifically. But a game as weird as Giants is deserved to be talked about a lot more, and frankly it deserved a sequel.
Of course, there won’t be one, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve one. As a game in modern times it shows its age pretty hard with sub-optimal controls, blocky graphics, and general issues. A remake could not only address these flaws but bring its brand of subtly unsubtle weirdness to a new generation of players who are solely lacking in the Giants’ blessings.
Of all of these ideas, this is the least likely. I have no idea who owns Giants, as it was published by now dead Interplay, and its developer is now owned by Bigpoint Games, who do browser based stuff. This is a pure pipe dream, I admit. But wouldn’t it work now? The original was creaky and awkward on top of its brilliance. Now, we have the budgets and the technology to make this game work, and that is a massive disappointment.
5. Chrono Trigger
Perhaps the most baffling game on this list. Chrono Trigger was pretty much the most absurdly perfect game in existence. We’ve talked about it. It was followed by side story Radical Dreamers, a Japan only title, and then Chrono Cross, a game quality enough that it got numerous 10 out of 10s from gaming outlets. Admittedly, it’s taken a beating in the public eye after its original release and it totally fucked up any continuity the series had, but the good thing about Chrono Cross was that its ending allowed for the developers to go in any direction they wanted, pretty much. Good times, right?
Well, wrong. Chrono Break was rumored as a sequel for a while, but since then we’ve had nothing on that front. The obvious difficulty is bringing together even half of the immense amount of talent that made Chrono Trigger sing. Many of these people don’t work for Square Enix anymore, and those that do have other major projects to work on.
But, really, doesn’t this seem like the kind of project they should be investing in? Instead of the gneric Mindjack and another MMO, Square Enix could be putting its money into a strong continuation of an old series that would easily sell a large number of copies. It would almost assuredly be a critical darling, which would return credence to Square Enix as a publisher of good games and not just bland, faceless cash-ins.
6. Lost Vikings
Before World of Warcraft, before Diablo, before Starcraft, there was Lost Vikings, a lovely puzzle platform starring three lovable wacky vikings. The game wasn’t nearly as successful as Blizzard’s subsequent offerings, but it presented a really interesting type of gameplay that hasn’t really been used all that much since Lost Vikings.
A sequel could be a 2-D platformer with puzzle elements and multiplayer shenanigans. Imagine it like Portal 2, with multiplayer where you could utterly screw over your friends and cause them to fall to their deaths, but with vikings instead of robots and platforming instead of portals. Effectively, a more chaotic, teamwork oriented version of New Super Mario Bros, but with a Blizzard layer of polish.
Sounds fun? Well, tough. It’s not happening. None of these games are happening, and we’ll just have to live with it.