A critical year for gaming...
As a longtime and incredibly passionate gamer, watching E3 in recent years makes me feel like an old-timey wild west prospector; sifting through layer upon layer of dull gristle and sand hoping to discover little nuggets of gold. Granted, each year we do get that gold in some form or another; but the amount of crap we have to wade through increases by the year.
Now, with the expo just around the corner, we find ourselves praying that our dream games find their way to the announcement table. And while some of our hopes will likely forever remain unrealistic (still waiting on Jet Set Radio 3, guys), there’s always the slight chance that our favourite heroes will return for a long-awaited adventure. Who knows, with several successful Kickstarters reviving the spirit of older franchises, perhaps some publishers will take note.
Anyhow, without further ado, here are five games that would be fantastic to see at this year’s event; and with my patent-pending Likeliness Meter weighing up each game, perhaps we’ll see a few miracles here and there.
It’s sad that Soulcalibur, one of the most revered fighting franchises of all time, has waned in recent years. The fourth and fifth entries in the series, while not terrible, simply lacked the content and replayability of the first three. No Weapon Master, no Chronicles of the Sword, no Tales of Souls; instead, we’ve been given the lackluster Tower of Souls in Soulcalibur IV, and the truly woeful “Story” mode of Soulcalibur V. What’s worse is that Namco Bandai deemed it perfectly okay to axe a good chunk of their memorable roster in the fifth game, swapping them in with younger, more obnoxious versions of those characters. Xianghua became Leixia, Taki became Natsu, and Yun-Seong and Seong-Mina were nowhere to be seen. Hell, even fledgling characters like Setsuka were completely removed. Throw in the terrible Lost Swords free-to-play game and we have a case of a truly great series that risks being completely annihilated by publisher ineptitude.
Soulcalibur needs to make a huge comeback. Namco, reinstate the beloved roster of fighters, add in a couple of adventure style bonus modes (seriously, Weapon Master and CotS were incredible), and further improve the character creation (the one thing Soulcalibur V really nailed) and you’ll be back on form. Soulcalibur has always been the companion series to Tekken, and we always want it to be that way. Please, stop messing around and give us another solid Soulcalibur entry; there’s still no other fighting game quite like it.
Likeliness Rating: 2 owl-headed trainers out of 5
Nintendo must know their fans are, at this point, practically begging on hands and knees for a new Metroid game. So much so that I find it hard to believe there isn’t a game in development. Personally, I feel as if Nintendo have been a little nervous to add to the franchise after Other M tarnished Samus Aran’s good name. But as is often the case, I think Nintendo are over-thinking the matter.
Other M was an experiment. A failed experiment, but Team Ninja’s attempt at a more story-driven Metroid game was admirable. However, their execution was a shameful representation of Samus’s stoic personality, and is one of the few games where I think the “sexist” criticism actually holds water, with TN essentially transferring Kasumi from Dead or Alive’s personality directly on to a character that rarely ever speaks, yet is fully in charge of her own actions.
In any case, a Wii U Metroid in the style of the Prime trilogy would of course be yet another reason to own the console. However, I’d be just as open to a 2D return to form on the 3DS, with an entry in the same vein as Super Metroid. I’m actually fairly confident we’ll see at least a tease of a new Metroid game at this year’s E3, similar to how Nintendo handled Starfox last year.
Likeliness Rating: 4 War Wasps out of 5
I, like a good chunk of Nintendo fans, simply wish the Big N would release a new F-Zero game on the Wii U. We’ve had a bit of a taster in the form of two DLC tracks in Mario Kart 8, based on the futuristic racer’s most iconic locales: Mute City and Big Blue. Arguably two of the best tracks in the game, the further addition of the Blue Falcon as a vehicle makes me think Nintendo have something more than fan service in mind.
It could purely be wishful thinking, but I don’t think a company like Nintendo would go so far out of their way to develop two F-Zero inspired tracks in an otherwise Mario-centric title as a simple love letter. Further evidence lies in the recent 200cc free update to Mario Kart 8. I personally think Nintendo are gearing us up for one of the company’s most highly requested games. It’s not a certainty, but it’s quite possible Nintendo focused so much on F-Zero for Mario Kart 8’s DLC to prepare us for a spectacular return for one of their most beloved, yet long dormant franchises.
Likeliness Rating: 3 Lost Machines out of 5
Parappa the Rapper
Oh, Sony. You guys have really dropped the ball since the PS4’s release. While having decent third-party support, most of your exclusives have been middling at best. Knack was a glorified tech demo, Infamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadowfall were underwhelming and Driveclub has had quite the drubbing from those who were once looking forward to it.
Yes, you have Bloodborne, another amazing Souls game from… From Software. But right now, what else are you banking on? God of War III Remastered? The unproven Project Morpheus? Let’s face it, Sony’s current prospects lack the spark of Nintendo and Microsoft right now, and it’s quite possible Sony will bank everything on the Morpheus, as I’ve discussed elsewhere. However, if Sony had something… more niche up their sleeve, they could add some real life to their press conference this year.
So how about a return for everyone’s favourite rapping dog? Parappa the Rapper was an early gem in the PS1’s lifespan. Followed up by the equally brilliant UmJammer Lammy and the vastly overlooked Vib-Ribbon, developer NanaOn-Sha have several deeply loved rhythm games under their belt. And they’re still around today. So what exactly is stopping Sony from bringing back the charming universe of Parappa the Rapper? Easy, given their recent track record, Sony aren’t one to take risks like they used to. Relying on checkbox AAA titles to sell their consoles (The Order: 1886, anyone?) as opposed to truly unique cult sensations.
While it’s supremely unlikely Parappa and friends will return this year, I’m holding out some hope that Sony can spruce up their conference with a blast from the past.
Likeliness Rating: 1 Funky Flow out of 5
Anything from Rare
Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini. Three IPs from a small British developer that helped the Nintendo 64 transcend into the annals of legend. Back then, if it had Rare’s name on the box, it was a guaranteed seal of quality; the product you were about to buy was one you would cherish for the rest of your gaming life. But now, since Rare’s buyout at the hands of Microsoft, the company has famously become a shadow of its former self. Relegated to making Kinect games for the last few years, most of the talent that composed Rare’s ranks have since left the building, further highlighting the fact that Microsoft took one of the most talented developers the industry had ever seen, and swiftly put a bullet in their head.
Just like Manchester City’s approach to signing football players, it seemed Microsoft only bought Rare so other companies couldn’t be blessed by their skill. Even their attempts to revitalise their franchises, such as Perfect Dark Zero and Banko-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts on the Xbox 360, fell so flat that calling them mediocre would be acutely generous.
Enter Phil Spencer, the current head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, and a man who seems hell bent on washing away the sins Microsoft have committed in the past. Not only has Spencer shockingly given Nintendo his blessing to include Banjo and Kazooie in Super Smash Bros., he seems to recognise Rare’s legacy far better than any executive Xbox has ever had. We’re looking at you, Don Mattrick, you money-grubbing charlatan.
Microsoft’s press conference at this year, as toted by Spencer, will be “all about the games,” and after the success of 2013’s Killer Instinct, a revival of another classic Rare series, I don’t see why they’d take their foot off the gas now. My money would be on any of the three I mentioned at the start of this entry. Conker seems like a no-go given his involvement with Project Spark, and it’s not like we’re going to see a Diddy Kong Racing sequel. So please Microsoft, give me Carrington barking inaudible Scottish at Joanna. Let me hear Banjo shout “GUH-HAH!” one more time. Or hand me a gun so I can go back to shooting walking ants until they explode in a gory mess. I’ll take any of these.