With the huge success of New Super Mario Bros. (having sold about 10 million copies by now), and upcoming games like Contra 4 DS
and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix being announced (and looking great), it appears that gamers are really getting back into playing their favourite game series the way they were meant to be played – in 2D (there’s even a Prince of Persia Classic remake available now on XBLA). This also allows developers to make games using popular franchises without having to tweak a 3D engine that may perform poorly on portable systems. A perfect example of this – try playing New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, then try Super Mario 64 DS. It also gives game publishers some incentive to make more hardcore low-priced downloadable games, and make some profit at the same time. Casual games can be good, but hardcore gamers would love to be able to pick up titles like these as well.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is another game that takes a series that had its high points as a 2D top-down adventure game (although Ocarina and other 3D games were great, something about the top-down view just feels right for those who started out playing Zelda that way) and is already selling very well in Japan – moving nearly all 400,000 shipped units in its first weekend.
And hey, Square-Enix has pretty much taken to re-releasing their entire catalogue of Final Fantasy games exclusively lately.
Many franchises made the switch to ‘next-gen gameplay’ quite well; Mario 64 is the first game on anyone’s mind when thinking of the first GREAT 3D platformer. As I mentioned, Zelda also worked out very well, as did pretty much every RPG game of course. Others didn’t quite work out so well (take a look at ScrewAttack’s list of Worst 2D to 3D games for some glaring examples). Other series stayed relatively close to their roots, but seemed to get worse with age (Megaman is the biggest example of this, and Casltevania just isn’t what it used to be, and recent Sonic games just plain suck).
There are some games that, like Mario and Contra, would greatly benefit from having a new version that plays much like the original games; in other words, not simple re-releases with updated graphics, like you see in compilations, but whole new games developed to play like the original. Here’s my list:
Bionic Commando – NES – 1988
Based on a mediocre arcade platformer, the NES version of Bionic Commando still brings back fond memory of taking out hordes of BADD villains, and finally conquering the evil nemesis MASTER-D. Okay, so you were fighting Nazis and a reincarnated Adolf Hitler, and while the game was changed to remove all mention of Nazi symbolism, the manual was overlooked (oops).
Regardless of the lame censored backstory, Bionic Commando was a truly revolutionary platformer where instead of jumping (something that until then, was pretty much the definition of platform gaming), you used a mechanical extending arm with a claw at the end. You could hook onto parts of the level, pull up, swing and leap, or grab weapons and items with it. It also had some recon elements, where you could hack into BADD’s network, and contact your allies for information, etc.
The only other Bionic Commando games were two crappy Gameboy versions, so it is long overdue for a refreshed version on DS or PSP.
Ultima VI-VIII – PC – 1990-1994
Not to say that the earlier games are bad, but for me Ultima (and many other PC games at the time) was at its best in its wide-open isometric-view days.
I don’t think I need to tell you what makes Ultima so great, but I can tell you that Ultima 9: Ascension completely sucked balls, and it would be great to just go back to the good ol’ days, forgetting that atrocity ever occurred.
There are actually some efforts to bring back classic Ultima games using today’s technology, including this one, bringing back Ultima 6 using the Dungeon Siege engine. But I want to see a whole new game. After Tabula Rosa likely flops, hopefully Richard Garriott feels the need to go back to his roots and work on a brand new Ultima game. I won’t even be mad if it’s not in isometric view – but he’ll have to try to make the game as huge, open, and expansive in 3D as Oblivion managed to (or even more so).
Seiken Densetsu / “Classic Mana Series” – Gameboy, SNES, PS1 – 1990-2000
Now here is a great example of a series that didn’t simply get raped by the transition to 3D… Instead, Square-Enix decided that pure Adventure RPG games were no longer interesting, so they took the series to a whacky array of different directions. Instead of a proper Adventure RPG, we got a dungeon crawler (Children of Mana), an action game (Dawn of Mana), a tactical RPG (Heroes of Mana), and a couple of godforsaken cell-phone games. Ugh.
Square just needs to go back to what made Seiken Densetsu so great – epic story, deep character development with weapon enhancement, and the music. Oh, the music. An amazing score. This HAS to be done in 2D, with 4 player support! For now, you should check out the translated Seiken Densetsu 3 SNES ROM that is floating around… That game was never released in North America, and it should be checked out if you never got the chance, and miss this great series.
Metroid Series – NES, Gameboy, SNES – 1987, 1991, 1994
I might catch some flack for this, because the 3D Metroid Prime games are actually quite popular. However, to me, there is something inherently wrong with the 3D Metroid games: I can not and will never be able to play FPS games with a gamepad. Ever. I have tried many times in the past 10 years or so, and I have decided that it is impossible for me.
So I would love nothing more than to see Metroid go back to its 2D roots, something along the lines of Super Metroid. If the… experience can be recaptured (and by ‘experience’ you will only know what I am talking about if you had played the game – sorry) and the atmosphere can be replicated, along with the incredibly organic puzzles, I will be in a very good mood the day something like this is announced. Unfortunately, the 3D games are so highly regarded, I doubt this will ever happen.
Super Mario Bros. 2 – NES – 1988
What? Didn’t I already say that New Super Mario Bros. was the best example of a new take on an old game series? That is correct, but I can think of one that may be even better – a Mario game based on Super Mario Bros. 2.
Just released on Virtual Console, this game holds a special place in my heart as the one Mario game that I truly mastered. I am not normally the type to attempt that – usually I play through a game, either beat it or get bored with it, and move on. But Mario 2 was different. The mechanics of the game are as crisp as they come, and it is far superior to the Japanese Mario 2, which is just stupidly difficult (in a way where the game just cheats to beat you). A lot of people don’t accept Super Mario 2 USA as a ‘true Mario game’, since it is basically another game (Doki Doki Panic) with new sprites. But guess what – that game was awesome to begin with (and designed by Miyamoto). This version also pushed the series further than the Japanese Mario 2 – imagine the Mario universe without Birdo, ShyGuy, and Bob-omb.
Nintendo has the perfect chance to make a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. 2, and base it on a game that, while is somewhat of a ‘black sheep’ of the series, is still one of the greatest highlights when compared to every other Mario game ever made. Oh yeah, the coolest thing about Super Mario Bros. 2? Rocket-plants. w00sh!