Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
There are three states that classic video games from the 80s and 90s find themselves in at this point: they’re still stars, they’re stuck in obscurity, or they’ve been driven into the ground.
Unfortunately, it’s that latter fate that seems to have befallen my beloved Sonic the Hedgehog in recent years. All of the 3D entries in the series have been bashed by critics and marked with disappointment by many fans. The 2006 “Sonic the Hedgehog” – titled thus as it was supposed to be a sort of rebirth for the franchise, apparently – on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was particularly awful, combining shoddy programming with frustrating gameplay, a horrible camera, a boring story, terrible voice acting, and a host of other problems. With the possible exception of “Sonic and the Secret Rings” for the Nintendo Wii, 3D “Sonic” has simply never been very good.
But there may be the slightest glimmer of hope for the series. Screenshots and a video have supposedly leaked out from Sega’s own website involving the newest entry in the “Sonic” series, “Sonic Unleashed”. Judging from the video, it looks as if Sega has finally decided to listen to what fans have been trying to tell them for a decade now – “Sonic” is better in 2D, and the speed is all that matters. The video appears to show slick, 3D, “next-gen” visuals, but with mostly 2D, oh-so-classic 2D gameplay. Sega will neither confirm or deny that the video is real, but all indications are that it is, indeed, legit. And while Sega may find a way to screw this glorious idea up, I can’t help but feel hope that my blue buddy from years past my finally be ready to take on the world again.
And this got me to thinking – as I often do – about other classic video game franchises that I’d like to see brought back or remastered.
Some series’ have survived throughout the years – often switching from 2D to 3D – without any problems. Nintendo in particular seems to have nailed this on the head. The first 3D outings for both the “Mario” and “Zelda’ games were not only two of the best games in their respective series’, but also two of the best games of all time. Likewise, names like “Metal Gear” and “Final Fantasy” are doing perfectly fine for themselves.
But some games just can’t seem to make that transition. “Bubsy” was at least a somewhat well known 2D game in the SNES days, but when he tried to go 3D on the PlayStation, it essentially killed his video game “career”, and we haven’t seen him since. Similarly, the “Contra” games that have involved 3D gameplay haven’t been nearly as well-received as their 2D counterparts, causing Konami to wisely focus on a more “classic” style for most of the series, such as the recent “Contra 4” on the Nintendo DS. The “Castlevania” series is almost exactly the same: while the 3D entries of the series on the PS2 and Xbox were met with some degree of success – the N64 games were disregarded by most – the series mostly lives on in 2D incarnations on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
It’s possible that there will always be an effort to revive classic games for modern systems, mostly due to demand from fans. Years ago, Sega announced that it was attempting to remake “Altered Beast” and “Vectorman”, both beloved Sega Genesis classics. However, “Vectorman” was – perhaps very wisely – canceled, and the new “Altered Beast” was only released in Japan. Now, Sega is working on a new “Golden Axe” title, again trying to cash in on nostalgia.
So the trend continues – “Bionic Commando”, for instance, is finally coming back, both as a 2D remake and as a full-fledged 3D successor – and likely will for some time. Are there any games that you personally are dying to see come back? “Kid Icarus”? “Chrono Trigger”? “Blaster Master”? “Actraiser”? Heck, “Diablo”? Drop me an e-mail or post a comment on the DT website. I’m curious as to which old franchises are most dear to my readers’ hearts.