The reboot. It’s a time-honored e-tradition, a term that originated in geekdom and has flourished in geekdom. We’ve all seen the reboot be a success time and again in the past few years, and at Gaming Nexus, we couldn’t help but wonder; if we could hit the reset button on a few classic titles, what would happen? What needs to be revisited, and whose games need to be completely re-envisioned?
Parappa the Rappa
When Parappa the Rappa first came on the scene in 1996, it was way ahead of it’s time; a rhythm game about a rapping dog who it sold more than a million copies world-wide. Now, the plot may not have made any sense, but the rhythm-focused gameplay was a pretty novel idea at the time. Why, then, in this age of Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands has the game that opened up the doors in the US for this type of play been completely shut out? The time has come, Sony, to give an HD upgrade, with a plot that matters. Players could control PaRappa as he earns his way through the underground world of animated-animal-MC’s, rhythm-gaming their way to a record deal.
Two words: giant robots. Ok, more like ten words: giant frickin’ robots blowing the unholy crap out of each other. Seems like a no-brainer for a videogame, right? For three console generations, a whole mess of iterations on PC and Mac, and for decades now on the original tabletop game, FASA’s Mechwarrior series has fallen by the wayside. The series last foray on console was on the Xbox back in 2004, and helped make Xbox LIVE a gaming institution. Sadly, the Mechwarrior series had already been eclipsed, to a degree, by 2002’s Steel Battalion, a monster of a Mech-simulator that featured a massive 40-button controller. Now, I never had the pleasure of getting my hands on one of those and I heard that SB had its faults, but it strikes me that someone needs to revive the rich mythology of the Battletech series, which featured multiple factions, including mercenary units, and literally thousands of years of “history.” The Mechwarrior series gives us two fantastic reboot options; either as a console RPG/Mech-sim, wherein a player could join any of a number of optional factions, play through missions and campaigns to earn money and experience to upgrade your BattleMech, which the player, given a controller of SB-proportions without the reportedly-plodding SB gameplay, could use to control a painstakingly detailed selection of dozens of Mechs. Another option, although I would be sad to see such a title leave the console arena, would be an MMORPG in the grand style of EVE Online, where players could have entire user-created or traditional factions, mercenary units and corporations, battling it out amongst the stars for galactic supremacy. (Although it looks like we might just get at least a portion of our wish on this one…)
Wing Commander was a classic early 90’s PC/console series that had you playing the role of young Lieutenant Chris Blair, an interstellar fighter pilot continually dog-fighting (cat-fighting?) the tiger-like Kilrathi race. The series was very popular throughout the 90’s, and was one of the many that took advantage of full-motion-video technology and B-list actors (oh, Mark Hamill) to flesh out the fairly typical humans vs. aliens plot; but inside the typical sci-fi trappings, the writers managed to tell interesting human stories, and create characters that I actually wanted to chat with. The best part, as a young man, was that the gameplay was sweetly simple. Fly space-plane, shoot other space-planes, fly home. But as a seven-year-old coming off of the two-button NES, I was blown away by all the options I had at my fingertips: “I can change my heads-up-displays, set an auto-pilot, and cycle weapons? Sweet!” This game needs a straight console-reboot; keep the first-person-cockpit view, but render the heck out of it, and create even more little ways to completely immerse the player in that world. That’s right; I don’t just want a Mech-sim, I want a space-plane-sim too.
A reboot might be somewhat extreme in this case as the first one was, debatably, perfection. What it does need, in point of fact, is a next-gen update…what’s that? Perfect Dark Zero? I…don’t know what you’re talking about. Ok, fine, PD0 was alright, but the problem is just that; it was only alright. PD was not the genre-defining experience that Goldeneye was, but it was the next logical evolution: more multiplayer modes, more weapons, more cinematic gameplay…PD improved on Rare’s earlier product in every way. It’s being re-skinned and re-released on XBLA, and that’s awesome, great, fantastic; but how does one connect the original’s sci-fi/noir-ish storyline with the straight-up cartoonish nonsense of PD0? Simple answer; you don’t. Ignore the prequel (which, as a strategy is kind of a reboot), and give us Perfect Dark 2.
Alone In The Dark
Infrogames’ AITD was a ground-breaker in more than one way; not only was it one of the first two games to use polygonal characters in lieu of pre-rendered backgrounds and, according to Guinness World Records, the first 3D survival horror game. So what happened, AITD? The gaming business, unfortunately; a number of mediocre sequels, culminating in 2007’s “Alone in the Dark” which was so, so close to being a good game. It had innovative everything; controls, inventory management systems, a great setting (Central Park), an interesting story to tell (that got absolutely ruined by a totally, inescapably downer ending, and only gets topped in the downer-factor by Far Cry 2’s suicide-a-palooza), that was almost irretrievably hamstringed by inexcusable bugs. Did that thing even get reviewed by quality control? It was definitely a rushed title, probably a victim of Atari’s bankruptcy filing, pushed out the door too quickly and undoubtedly to the detriment of what could’ve been an all-time-great title. So what now; the last game ends in an apocalypse no matter what, so what’s their plan for a sequel? The only good answer here is to reboot. Keep the latest games’ gameplay style, but revisit the original’s
Cthulu-plagued mansion, with updated graphics and a jacked-up horror factor, AITD could be set to be a modern classic.
Mega Man is a game based on a formula; 2D sidescroller gameplay with specialized bosses (Fire-Man, Blade-Man, Roto-Tiller-Man, etc.), and the plot? Good robot versus hundreds of bad robots. Ok, sure, fine; but let me throw this one at you, Capcom. The Mega Man series has been working this same formula for (are you ready for this, old-school gamers?) 23 years, with very little change in tone or style. There’ve maybe been a CCG-style game here and there, and the Mega Man X storyline was pretty cool, but I think we need a pretty radical reboot to keep The Blue Bomber relevant. What I propose, and throw whatever knives at me you like, is thus: a GTA-style open-world game, inspired by both Mega Man’s original plot and “Blade Runner.” Far in the future, Mega Man (or even go with the original Japanese name, Rock) could be an android created to hunt down rogue androids who’ve embarked on a robo-reign of terror; the player would roam about town, performing missions to dig up information on Dr. Wily, a rogue robot-scientist who one could think of as the Bin Laden of his day, using robots to commit terrorist acts across the city. That sounds like an interesting game to me, with a dark noir-ish plot and American sensibilities replacing Capcom’s endlessly non-sensical plotlines (I’m looking at you, reboot-ready-Resident-Evil) might make Mega Man amenable to the masses.
Sid Meier’s Pirates!
I solicited thoughts from the staff on this article, and Randy Kalista made the best argument for his nominee: I'd like to see a Mature-rated reboot of Sid Meier's Pirates! Admittedly, it would be foolhardy to cut the umbilical cord between 'whimsy' and Sid Meier, but even as a kid playing the 1987 version of Pirates!, I felt the epic sweep and scope of my actions on the Spanish Main far more than I did in the cartoonized 2004 version. That doesn't mean cut out the romantic idealism behind seagoing shanties like "the pirate's life for me!" The pirate's life just needs to be driven to even higher dramatic crests by showing how dirty, salty, scurvy-y, brothel-y, rat-y, deck swabee-y, cannon-y, drown-y, amputee-y, and stir crazy-y shipboard can be. When it's just a few board feet of lumber between you and a lung full of water, naval combat is no joke. Or when one of the first and only solutions to having your leg crushed from a cannon is to have that bad boy sawed off, then things get a bit more real. That's the kind of pirate's life for me.
That’s all folks! What are your thoughts? Did we miss something? Add a polite, thoughtful comment below; this is the internet, after all, the place for polite, thoughtful comments.