10 forgotten franchises we’d like to see reborn on the next-gen consoles

Fear Effect

With the next-gen waiting for us as the end of the year like a mugger at the end of a tunnel that plans to rob us and then make all our other gaming systems seem like weaklings by comparison, now is the time for retrospection before we are hurled into the brave new world of the eighth generation of video game consoles.

In the next few months you will see an endless supply of news reflecting back on the current generation of consoles. Like in late December as the New Year looms, people tend to get nostalgic when something is ending. The same will be true of the end of the seventh generation of consoles. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll reminisce about things like that time we beat a Big Daddy to death armed only with a wrench and an indefatigable amount of patience, or the first time we elbowed an opponent online in the back of the head sixteen times to kill them in Halo 3. Good times.

But mixed in with the looks-back will be plenty of looks-forward. The next generation of consoles will offer a fresh gust of creativity. There will be new IPs, new takes on long-lived franchises, and even a look back through the years with an eye on rebooting properties that have died off, but still retain a decent following.

With that in mind, we looked back and discussed some of the games that we’d like to see make a comeback; games that have almost disappeared but could make a splash on the next-gen. These are all games that are as dead as disco, so franchises like Ultima and Wing Commander didn’t make the cut because both series’ creators are bringing them back – or at least bringing back very similar games that are “spiritual successors.” Better than nothing. The games on this list, however, show no signs of life (barring the odd port). If someone seriously thought bringing back Postal for a third time was a solid investment, then these titles deserve to get a second look from publishers. 

So check out our list below. Agree with us? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

Act Raiser

actraiser-1-04Act Raiser was a launch window title in the US for the Super Nintendo, and it remains a classic to this day. It was so good that even a terrible sequel couldn’t take away from it, try as it might. You basically play God – or at least a god. Half of the game is a SimCity-like exercise in clearing and creating land for your followers, while the other half has you animate a statue and go down to clear out nests of evil the old fashioned way.

Sure, it was a bit of a stretch to think a god capable of controlling the fates of thousands had to resort to bludgeoning evil in the face to defeat it, but that’s beside the point. It was a great game that has been mostly forgotten over the years.

Although the developer, Quintet, is long gone, the publisher, Square Enix, has sadly shown no interest in the series.

Altered Beast

Altered BeastSome of our younger readers may be unaware that, back in the day, new game consoles actually shipped with a game. Crazy, right? These halcyon days of gaming meant that everyone who bought a particular system ended up with the same game, instantly creating a fanbase for that title. In the case of the Sega Genesis, that launch game was Altered Beast.

Millions of people owned a Genesis, so millions of people owned Altered Beast. Eventually Sega switched out the game that came with the system, but not before Altered Beast was everywhere. Retro things and the 80s are both hot right now – just look at hipsters – so why not bring back one of Sega’s most well-known, hedgehog-free brands? Sega did actually attempt to revive the franchise once in 2005 on the PS2, but did so… oddly.

There is an old, and not entirely unfair caricature of Hollywood execs. Someone will come in and pitch a movie about a bunny and its friends exploring or something, and the exec will agree to the idea but insist the bunny be armed with lasers, be fighting robotic lions, and actually be a sexy woman instead, ideally a pop star. The Altered Beast remake was along the same lines. It abandoned Ancient Greece for modern day, replaced the protagonist with a “Genome-Cyborg,” and starts with you in a helicopter crash that causes amnesia. Mercifully, the North American release was cancelled. Maybe it’s time to try again.

Battletoads

BattletoadsIf Dark Souls can make a generation of gamers enjoy dying again and again and again (and again), then there is a place for Battletoads. The not-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clone was hard. So hard that if five of your friends said they beat it, you may have at least four liars for friends.

The game was developed by Rare, a company that once created some of the best games ever, including the legendary GoldenEye 007, but has since resorted to making games exclusively for the Kinect. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is a bit like Christian Bale going in a downward spiral and ending up acting in a dinner theater.

Although the legal situation of a game that was a TV show that was in turn a rip-off of another property may be murky, Rare’s vault is filled with games ripe for a revival and Battletoads has to be high on that list.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono TriggerIt has been years since a Chrono game was released, but there is hope! If you are a huge fan of the series, it’s probably best that you stop reading right there and just accept that. There’s hope! Woo hoo!

Realistically though, despite releases on PSN’s “old timey” network that continues to release older games (along with mobile releases), the series hasn’t seen much action in a while. There is always talk, though. Obsidian has said it would love a shot at a Chrono game, but Square Enix continues to taunt fans by saying “maybe” before it goes off and sinks millions into proposed Final Fantasy games that may never see the light of day (FF Versus XIII, anybody?).

So maybe we will see another Chrono game one day, maybe not. Now that Square Enix’s CEO was recently ousted, perhaps that will light a fire under his replacement to look at new games that could make the company money. Pro tip, Square Enix: LOOK RIGHT HERE.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal DarknessIf you look back through the lists of the best survival horror games, you will almost always stumble upon this one. And then oddly, if you look at the other games, it is one of the few that hasn’t been re-released, rebooted, or sequalized. There have been rumblings of a sequel for years now, of course, but with Silicon Knights recently laying off the majority of its staff and losing a costly legal battle with Epic Games, plus the 11 year gap since its release ever widening, it doesn’t look good.

With most survival horror games turning into action games with the enemies just being monsters instead of poor, doomed Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans, or maybe North Koreans for a twist, Eternal Darkness belongs to a rare and dying breed of horror game. It actually wanted to mess with your mind. It would do things like say your saved game was corrupted, or flash the dreaded blue screen of death saying the game data was corrputed. Nothing like having a game make you get really angry and then literally start laughing at you.

So maybe it will come back riding on a bloody white horse and save survival horror games from a fate worse than death – i.e. boring gameplay. But things aren’t looking good at the moment.

Fear Effect

fear-effect1Analytically speaking,  and from a purely subjective point of view, the two Fear Effect games constitute the best franchise ever to have died. We’re sure you agree.

Developed by the now defunct Kronos Digital Entertainment and published by Eidos, the two Fear Effect titles on the PS One were enough of a success to spawn a sequel on the PS2 that was tentatively going to be titled Fear Effect 3: Inferno, and continue the gritty cyberpunk story steeped in Chinese mythology. At the time, these games were very, very mature. The main character was a lesbian (gasp!), and one of the main characters had his arm ripped off while another died screaming. That ultimately led to a choice of which characters lived or died (unless you played a second time on hard and got the “happy ending,” which was sort of a cop out). There was even talk of a film adaptation. Uwe Boll purchased the rights, so mercifully nothing came of it.

The series still has a loyal fan base, but it is dwindling. Sony hasn’t even been able to bring the games back, even as “Classics” via the PSN, which is alarming. Sony proudly brought back Tomba!, but not Fear Effect and Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix? Nothing in the world makes sense…

Killer Instinct

killer instinctThis game almost didn’t make the list for the simple fact that it may actually be reborn at some point soon now that a really, really stupid copyright issue has been settled. Last year, a judge ruled that Microsoft (which now owns the Killer Instinct developer Rare) could not refile a trademark application because Fox had those rights due to a totally unrelated show titled Killer Instinct, which went off the air in 2005. 

After more than six months of fierce negotiations, Microsoft and Fox came to an agreement which basically said the two companies wouldn’t try to mess with each other’s marketing. A good thing too, because a fighting game featuring a cyborg, a werewolf, and a ninja could be easily confused with a procedural show that, again, has been off the air for eight years. It was a triumph of the legal system.

An entirely new game is a possibility, but more likely we’ll first see an HD re-release. Rare once made the best games around, now it makes bad sports games for the Kinect. With the license to one of its most famous properties just sitting there doing absolutely nothing, perhaps someone at Rare will think “you know, maybe we should do something with this incredible property, like, I don’t know, make a new game.” Fingers crossed.

Rygar

rygarStop us if you’ve heard this one before: there is a character in Ancient Greek times that is tasked with fighting gods. He is given a very unique weapon that the protagonist flings out from his body, almost as if it were on a chain of some sort. He then proceeds to fight a world full of mythological-inspired enemies.

There are more than a few fleeting similarities between Rygar and the God of War series, so maybe you can unofficially check this game off the list, as its spiritual successor has gone on to become one of the biggest franchises of the last decade.

But still. The Rygar franchise was beloved on the NES. It was a true NES game in the old school sense, in that you died a lot. An awful lot. But you could still progress if you were patient enough and became skilled enough. The fortunate few that beat it also got a fairly cool story about a kidnapped princess. Kratos has shown that there is a desire for the setting and history, so why not another Rygar?

You can probably blame Ninja Gaiden. After a port of the PS2 reboot to the Wii that landed with a resounding meh, Tecmo backed off the Rygar series but continued on with another in-house developer and churned out several Ninja Gaiden games. Although the two settings are wildly different, the games are otherwise cut from the same cloth. The Ninja Gaiden games aren’t exactly blockbusters (they do fine, but not huge sales), so the odds of a similar game coming out aren’t all that great.

Shenmue

ShenmueOf all the franchises on this list, Shenmue may have the least chance of coming back. Maybe a courtesy release as part of a collection, but even that is pushing it. When part two of the planned trilogy ended on a cliffhanger, it broke a lot of hearts – well, some hearts. It didn’t have nearly enough hearts to break to make up the budget.

The two games cost $70 million to make. That is a big budget by today’s development standards, but was insane by 2000 and 2001 standards. And not just “insane” in the sense that it was incredible, but “insane” in the sense that the people responsible for that budget may quite literally have been certifiably insane.

But credit to the game’s lead designer, Yu Suzuki, who refuses to let it go. There was an iOS game that shared the same setting (but nothing else), and multiple failed attempts to bring the series back, including an ambitious MMO version. Perhaps Suzuki will go to Kickstarter to bring back his baby, but a goal of $60 million dollars seems a tad high for crowd funding.

Skies of Arcadia

skies-of-arcadiaThe Dreamcast was an awesome system that produced some incredible games that nobody played. Among those classics was an original RPG known as Skies of Arcadia. It offered solid RPG gameplay, even though you were randomly attacked so often that if you tried to explore the massive world you would end up fighting so much that your characters would be maxed out hours before the final boss. The result was that you would walk up and punch the end foes so hard they would explode, then you would dance a little dance and collect more gold you didn’t need.

The real draw was Arcadia itself. The setting was a fantastic world consisting of floating islands high above the clouds. As you progressed you eventually went under the clouds, and then at one point went below a second layer of clouds into the raging storm that covered the entire planet. It was very, very cool.

But like so many other games developed by Sega, the rights are probably sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere next to those of Altered Beast. Seeing a floating world (with nary a Lando Calrissian about) on the next gen as you play a pirate fighting a corrupt empire? Shut up and take our money!

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