Saturday, I posted a list of games that really need sequels. I tried really hard to keep it exclusively to games that never received sequels, but in the course of research for the article (I.E. sitting in my pajamas playing video games), most of the games I came across that really needed sequels were parts of established franchises that had already had at least one sequel. This goes back to what I was saying about good games deserving sequels; obviously, these were games that worked the first couple of times, and, given the chance, would probably work again. Games like…
Battletoads (NES, 1991, Rare)
Battletoads was a really popular game, which is why it’s so weird it hasn’t been revisited since 1994. Nowadays Rare is more popular for their fucking unprecedented run of incredible games for the SNES and N64 from the mid-90s to the late 2000s, but, as my European fans (if any) will know, they’ve been kicking ass since 1982, when they were founded as Ultimate Play the Game, possibly the most obtuse name ever for any kind of company.
Battletoads was partly an attempt at aping the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was so popular at the time that it was actually elected governor of Connecticut for 2 terms. It actually even had a spin-off cartoon, which had 1 pilot episode produced. It was aired on Fox, but it never got picked up. Being that I was lucky enough to have picked up a VHS with the episode in the bargain bin at Walmart when I was little, I can’t really figure out why. I mean, it wasn’t spectacular, it wasn’t going to be the new G.I. Joe or anything, but it probably could have been reasonably successful. When that failed, they seemed to give up on making it a media franchise, but it wasn’t lost on anyone that this was one of the best beat-em-ups ever made.
Rare has joked about a sequel to Battletoads for years, even going as far as to fuck with people who thought, upon seeing Banjo-Kazooie resurrected for the 360, that other Rare franchise updates were inevitable. And yet they fail to deliver, despite a huge demand from fans. Teh 4ch0ns actually called Gamestop, over and over, for several days demanding to preorder it. Of course that was more of a joke than anything else, but Gamestop isn’t smart enough to figure that out. A current-gen 2D version of Battletoads would be awesome if done correctly. Something along the lines of Castle Crashers, but hopefully a little less repetitive and with more replay value. Actually, now that I think about it, it would be fucking awesome if The Behemoth handled it. It would fit well with their style.
Battletoads is fun as fuck. But it’s hard. It’s unreasonably hard. Most people who hear how hard it is tend to play the first level and think “I don’t know what everybody is talking about, this isn’t that bad.” Then they play a little bit into the second level, where you rappel down a tunnel, and they run into those fucking crows that snip your cable and kill you before you can do anything about it, and they think “Wow, that’s obnoxious, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” Then they reach the third level. The vehicle level.
You shoot around at absurdly high speeds dodging obstacles that appear in front of you less than a second before you have to jump over them. And if you don’t? You lose a life, and you have a maximum of 9. The worst part is that, to lull you into a sense of safety, there’s a secret warp you can hit that takes you to another level. “Thank god,” our first-time players say. “I only had 1 life left.” At this point, Battletoads can barely contain its laughter as you walk forward and jump on a goddammed surfboard. That’s right. Another vehicle level. And this one’s even harder than the first. And when you beat it? You fight a ridiculously powerful boss that can kill you in 2 hits. And if you beat him? Well…
You go to the snake level.
God was mocking you with the vehicle levels. Perhaps He had another bet with Satan that His followers would have trust in Him no matter what He did. But with the snakes, God isn’t mocking you. This isn’t his sense of humor. This is the vengeance of an angry god. I actually saw a man die while playing this level once. And it wasn’t a fast death, either. I won’t go into a details, but suffice to say his testicles fell off before it was over.
So I guess my point is that, as great as Battletoads is, it’s a murderer. And that’s worth at least a point or two off.
Killer Instinct (SNES/Arcade, 1994, Rare)
Here we have another Rare franchise, which is equally renowned by those who remember it. Killer Instinct was one of the best 2D fighters of its day, and like most fighting games of its time, it was CHOCK FULL OF OVER THE TOP ACTION! ~ Gamefan Magazine. KI, however, was over the top in a different way than its competitors. Instead of going crazy with the violence and brutality, Killer Instinct just got really, really excited about the combos you were doing. Really excited. For example, in Super Street Fighter II, when you do a combo, all you see is a little pop-up that says how many hits you got in. With Mortal Kombat, you get a pat on the back from Shao Khan, a small “outstanding!” or something. But in Killer Instinct, everything is a cause for celebration. Did you get an 8-hit combo? Fuck no you didn’t, you got a SUPER HYPER MEGA ULTRA COMBOOOOOO! And when you stop someone in the middle of a combo, the announcer is so shocked that he can’t even speak. He stutters out “C-C-C-C-COMBOOOOO BREAKERRRRRRR!!!!!!!” Presumably he can’t talk because he was so shocked that it gave him a brain hemorrhage.
Rare has been even more of a cocktease about a sequel to KI than it has been about Battletoads. Not only are there references in actual games, employees even directly talk about how awesome it would be to make a sequel. Ken Lobb of Rare (who I know from Nintendo of America through countless hours of reading Nintendo Power as a kid, and who you may know as the namesake of the Klobb gun from Goldeneye and Perfect Dark) has expressed interest in doing it several times, as has Rare head Mark Betteridge. Lobb even went as far as to say it “will happen someday.” The only thing that worries me is that one rumor that Betteridge instigated was that KI3 would be coming out… for fucking Natal. I would love more than anything to see a KI3, but I really couldn’t possibly give a shit less about Microsoft’s goddammed EyeToy. I’m not going to buy one, and I really would like to see a version of KI3 that doesn’t involve me flailing my arms to swat away Fulgore. I’m not on fucking Nick Arcade, and my Xbox isn’t named Phil Moore. Not anymore anyway.
Other gamers be dammed; I fucking love Killer Instinct. Most people have a bias against non-Capcom 2D fighters, and it’s easy to see why; SF games are not only great games, they created the genre and were responsible for nearly every innovation in fighting game history. But, just like with SNK’s amazing fighting games, like Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters, the Mortal Kombat series, and even Capcom’s own Darkstalkers games, Killer Instinct is a smooth, well-designed, downright fun fighter that got the short end of the stick just for not being Street Fighter. KI is every bit as good as MK, and is even better in some ways. Plus, it had a lot of character, and it-
River City Ransom (NES, 1990, Technos Japan)
Everybody knows River City Ransom by now. It’s the Beyond Good and Evil of its day, the game that everyone who actually bothered to buy it worships, and that everybody else discovered long after it mattered. Emulation has made it famous, and now everybody realizes that they should have been mailing envelopes full of money to Technos in the 90s.
In Japan, RCR is part of a huge franchise known as Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, or Downtown Hot-Blooded Story. For some reason the internet doesn’t seem to know how many games are in the series, but rest assured there are dozens of them. While this was the one of only two parts of the main series (the other being the mediocre Renegade) that was released in America, a few tertiary games, like Super Dodge Ball, Crash n’ The Boys: Street Challenge, and Nintendo World Cup, did see a release here. The franchise was revisited briefly in 2004, but all that really came out of it was a remake of the original for the Game Boy Advance. I think that it could benefit from the same kind of treatment Final Fight received last month, playing upon the strengths of the original game while improving the graphics. However, if they choose to do it this way, they should add a lot more areas and shops. The RPG elements of the original are a lot of what made it so fun, and the quirky charm of the shops could be greatly expanded upon.
This is pretty much the perfect beat-em-up. Limitless replay value, solid mechanics, and a remarkable amount of depth (compared to other games in the genre). Plus you can eat 100 hamburgers and become more powerful, which is pretty much the opposite of what happens in real life.
Actraiser (SNES, 1991, Enix)
I know I already talked about Actraiser a few days ago, but hey, now I’m doing it again. That other article sucked anyway.
Actraiser was a pretty big hit at the time it was released, as far as I can tell. It’s very fondly remembered, and it’s most people’s go-to example of how you can blend two diametrically opposed genres to make something great. But for some reason, after the somewhat disappointing sequel, which was fun but dropped the sim elements that made the original unique, the series dropped off the face of the planet.
This is unfortunate, because a new Actraiser would be phenomenal. I would happy with a 3D third-person action section (as long as it’s nothing like the “mash the X button until the game ends” mechanics of God of War) melded with a more intricate sim section. One thought, although I can’t fully decide how much I would like this, would be for a more RTS-influenced sim section. When I envision this, I see something like Genesis cult classic Herzog Zwei. You have your main angel unit, which can build stuff, carry units where they need to go, and also directly intervene as an offensive unit. You construct squads to go in and fight demons back to their lair, which you can have a special unit seal, thus killing off all the remaining monsters. You earn resources by killing demons off. Maybe that wouldn’t be the best direction to go in from a commercial point of view, but I think it would be fun. And isn’t that what’s truly important? Me?
I love Actraiser so much. It’s one of the first SNES games I had, and I used to play it all the time, even though I didn’t fully understand exactly what I was supposed to be doing in the sim sections. I figured it out pretty fast though, which I’m kinda proud of, since I was like 4 at the time.
I also need to note how amazing the music is. It’s one of the best soundtracks Yuzo Koshiro ever did. Koshiro is a grossly underrated composer. He’s in the same league as composers like Yasunori Shiono and Yoko Shimomura, in that he should really be regarded on the same level as composers like Nobuo Uematsu. The games he wrote for unfortunately weren’t as popular as a Final Fantasy or a Zelda, but the soundtrack is just as good. He also did the soundtracks for the Ys and Streets of Rage series, among other things. His work on Streets of Rage 2 is some of the most solid and atmospheric game music this side of Metroid.
The platforming sections are fun, although the controls are a little bit clunky. It’s forgivable for the most part, but it’s kind of irritating when you jump, bump into something, and fall into a pit of lava. They get really difficult in the later levels, and the new magic you earn in the sim sections add a bit of customization to the game.
The sim sections are where the game really shines, though. There’s never really been a sim game like it. It blends a shoot-em-up-style method of attack with an extremely simplified version of the city building you see in RTSs. It doesn’t sound like much, but it actually gets rather intense in later levels. It’s difficult to balance directing the building of an area with killing monsters before they can kill your villagers. It never gets frustrating though, which makes it pretty much the only sim game I’ve never had to rage quit out of. This is because I am kind of a bitch at RTS games. I mean, hell, I can’t even get a Zerg rush to work properly (kekeke).
Super Off-Road (Arcade/Several Consoles, 1989, Leland Corporation)
This is going to be quick, because there really isn’t much to say. Remember this game? Even if you don’t remember the name, if you went to a pizza place or a gas station between 1989 and 1994 you played this at least once. It’s a classic arcade cabinet. 3 steering wheels, placed awkwardly sticking out in the middle (I guess because they thought only 4-feet tall kids would be playing it).
Ordinarily I would pitch an idea for a new Super Off-Road game, but there’s really not anything terribly new that they could do. It pretty much has to be a top-down racing game. I suppose they could add in some stunts and expand the awesome truck customization, but other than that, there’s really not any way they could do it any differently than the original and make it the same game. I know this, because there were 3 sequels to the game that didn’t have anything in common with it except for the presence of trucks.
Super Off-Road was great at the time. There’s not a whole lot else to say. There weren’t a whole lot of games like it, and it was especially fun if you managed to round up a couple of friends to play with, although unfortunately no one gets to play as the silver truck. That’s Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. The game carried his endorsement, and, as is always the case with racing games, the endorser was granted superhuman abilities. It’s just like with Gran Turismo and its continued insistence (even when they promise to stop) that their licensed cars cannot be harmed in any way. Ironman drives 6 times faster than everyone else, has complete metaphysical control over his truck, and is probably sleeping with your girlfriend.