Developer Rare is best known for its work with Nintendo, offering up such classics as the Donkey Kong games and Pefect Dark, a great FPS to follow GoldenEye 007. After a bit of a falling out, Nintendo and Rare parted ways, and Rare fell into the pocket of Microsoft. One of the first Microsoft-era Rare games was Perfect Dark Zero, a follow up to the iconic N64 shooter. Shallow game mechanics and a wealth of other FPS' (that exceeded PDZ) stifled it. A disappoinment for a launch game that was highly billed as a top-class shooter, Rare have gone some way to make amends with Viva Pinata.
To generalise, sports games tend to be the worst culprits for lack of innovation. Franchises like Madden, NBA, and FIFA are released year on year with little difference to the previous installment. However, UEFA CL 06-07, a sequel-of-sorts to FIFA 2007, is taking a bold new approach to football/soccer. Trading cards will be at the center of change, allowing you to collect your favorite player cards, play contract extensions and even give your players a half-time stamina boost. Something you'd expect from an RPG side quest rather than a licensed football game. At the time of writing, the game has only just been released. It remains to be seen whether this is a master-stroke that will change the genre, or a mere gimmick that does little for the game play.
Tomb Raider's success was based on its exploration-based game play, and probably more so, its pin-up heroine, Lara Croft. By the time The Last Revelation had been released, Tomb Raider had strayed from its exploratory roots to a nigh-on gun-fest. In an attempt to return Croft to her former glory, Tomb Raider's inaugural PS2 game, The Angel of Darkness, had to be big. Unfortunately, it wasn't the adventure we were all hoping for, and failed in kick-starting the Tomb Raider franchise. Since then, Tomb Raider: Legend has shown that the developers are trying to return to roots, but for now, Lara is still missing her former crown of the Queen of Gaming.
The original Zelda made Nintendo a lot of money and went down well with game critics. When you are presented with success on this scale, there is often the dilemma of "what next?" The answer to this question was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. A far cry from the isometric view point of its predecessor, Zelda II was a side-scrolling adventure with a great deal of RPG elements mixed in. Many have called Zelda II the "black sheep" of the series, but it was successful for Nintendo, and many of the factors present here were evolved and included in later, more widely accepted, installments of Zelda.
The Metroid series had been successful on Nintendo's early consoles and handhelds, but during the mid-to-late 90s, it was nowhere to be seen. As we entered the turn of the millenium, news of a new Metroid game spread. Coined as a first-person adventure game, this was not the 2D adventure that fans of the early games remembered. Many had their doubts, but Metroid Prime answered any critics it had upon its 2002 release. An outstanding game that combined shooting and adventuring, it was nominated for numerous Game of the Year awards. It single handedly revived a forgotten franchise, and it continue to live on with Echoes (the second Prime game on GameCube) and Corruption (an upcoming Wii Prime game).
The rise and fall of Sonic the Hedgehog over the years has been tragic to witness. Once Mario's equal, the blue blur has fallen from grace. SEGA have made numerous failed attempts to revive the series, for example Sonic Heroes, but the latest failure may well have been the most significant. A range of problems plague the game, which is especially fatal seeing as this is Sonic's next-generation debut. After consistent disappointment in recent years, it looks like the Sonic brand has all but lost its credibility. Will it die off? Will SEGA revive it with a series of excellent 2D showings? Only time will tell.
#4: Halo 2 (XBOX)
Xbox flagship title and pride of Microsoft, Halo came out of nowhere to become one of the most successful titles of all time. The tale of the human's war against the Covenant, a race of aliens, captivated gamers and was by far the biggest game of the Xbox's life. The pressure was on Bungie, Halo's developers, to top it with a sequel. Time passed, anticipation heightened, and Halo 2 pleased the gamers, although it was generally more of the same. It may have pleased the gamers, but apparently it wasn't up to Bungie's own standards. Chris Butcher, a Bungie engineer, says "I ****ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." Wow. With the Halo trilogy approaching its dramatic conclusion, no doubt Halo 3 will be under even more intense scrutiny than its predecessor was.
Like Metroid, Metal Gear Solid brought Snake's espionage adventures back to the masses in spectacular fashion. An unquestionable success, the second game with the "Solid" prefix is the game in question. Snake is synonymous with Metal Gear Solid, and has been an iconic figure in gaming ever since the original Metal Gear Solid. How, then, would gamers respond to Snake being usurped by the effeminate Raiden? Players controlled Snake for the Tanker section of the game, which was a fraction of the size of the Big Shell, the Raiden portion of the game. To be honest, Sons of Liberty was so good (and a real killer ap for the PS2) that no one cared too much.
The 64-bit era was arguably Zelda's best period. After Ocarina of Time, hailed as the best game of all time, and Majora's Mask, a different but equally impressive sequel, the first Legend of Zelda on the (then) next-gen consoles had the world of expectation on its shoulders. Gamers were captivated by a SpaceWorld demo in 2001, that showed Link and Ganon dueling in a dark, gritty and realistic world. They were in for a surprise. The Wind Waker was full of colour and sported a simplistic (though technically impressive with cel-shading) graphical style. Widely frowned upon in Japan, Nintendo manager of software development Eiji Aonuma recently admitted it almost ended the franchise. Had this risk totally back-fired, we might of witnessed the death of one of gaming's greatest ever franchises. Since then, the series has recovered with a strong showing from Twilight Princess, available on the GameCube and Wii.
Final Fantasy is arguably the most historic name in the industry. A major feature of each game was the fact that there was no major links between games. Each new Final Fantasy featured a fresh cast of faces and a new world to explore. That tradition lasted all the way until the ninth game in the series, and was broken by the tie-in between Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. FFX had been a big success in its own right, but following the merger that created Square-Enix, the unthinkable happened. A true Final Fantasy sequel. If that wasn't bad enough, it featured a highly unorthodox style. The girly cast of Yuna, Rikku and Paine wasn't exactly a smash-hit with a male-dominated audience (well, maybe some of you guys liked the girls), but beneath its skin is a refined and perfected version of the active timer battle (ATB) system. Although it wasn't a smash hit, Final Fantasy lives on regardless, and this is a testament to the strength of the Final Fantasy brand.
As you can see, the list contains some big success stories and depressing failures. In today's video games market, a bad move can cost a developer millions, potentially ending in bankrupcy. I commend the game developers, regardless of success or failure, who attempt to rejuvenate video games at the risk of their own reputation and business.
List by SpellSword89 (03/23/2007)
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