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So ... How Was Your Anniversary?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 08, 2007   |   Episode 62 (Show Archive)  

   


Sure we love these games ... but maybe not that much!
Did you know that 2006 marked the anniversary of some of the biggest franchises on the planet? Games like The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider and Castlevania all celebrated milestone birthdays this year. Some of these games gave us reason to get drunk, while other games felt like they were left out of the party. We wanted to see how our favorite major birthdays faired in 2006, which games were the bomb and which were a major bust? Which of these franchises really gave us something to celebrate, and which wanted us to forget about their birthdays?

We have assembled a list of five major birthdays for this article; we will take a look at all five and assign a letter grade to the best and worst anniversary parties. This isn't an article about the last 10, 15 or 20 years, this is all about whether the parent companies pulled out all the stops and did something special for this special year. Forget Resistance, Gears of War and all of the other important IPs created in the last twelve months, this article is all about the franchises that have been with us for at least two system cycles. This is an article where we have to ask: So, how as your anniversary? Find out now as we dig into our first major franchise!
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
In The Beginning: Back in 1991 Sega knew they had to do something. Their Genesis had been plodding along with one arcade port after another and their rival, Nintendo, had a new 16-bit system ready for the end of the year. To combat the sluggish sales and Nintendo's upcoming onslaught, Sega devised a mascot character that was impossible to hate. Sonic the Hedgehog took the world by storm and ended up impressing the critics enough to name it the game of the year (over the much hyped Super Mario World). The series would go on to spawn a number of sequels and remakes, but none were as important to Sega as that first Sonic the Hedgehog back in 1991.

15 Years Later: At the start of 2006 Sega seemed confident that Sonic was going to have an amazing 15th anniversary. With a retooled 3D Sonic game, a PSP Sonic racing game, a Game Boy Advance version of the original, an Xbox Live Arcade port, and a brand new adventure for the Wii, it seemed like Sonic was on a roll. Unfortunately all of that hope was dashed little by little as we actually started to play these games. The reimagining of the 3D Sonic games proved to be disastrous, allowing some journalists to conclude that it was even worse than Shadow the Hedgehog, Sega's prior low point. And to make things even more distressing, the PlayStation 3 version of the game didn't even ship in 2006, leading some to question whether or not Sega will slap the "15th Anniversary" sticker on that game as well. And that wasn't the only game that didn't make it out this year, neither the Xbox Live Arcade game nor the brand new Wii game hit stores in 2006. Unfortunately a port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog did make it to the Game Boy Advance; however it was flawed and practically unplayable. If Sega's plan was to effectively kill Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006 they did a pretty good job, nobody in their right mind can be upbeat about this hedgehog's birthday.

Future Prognosis: I won't kid you; the last few years have been extremely difficult for Sonic fans. Not only have they had to endure one terrible 3D adventure after another, but just when it looks like Sega is going to turn the series around they find a lump of coal. The good news is that two of the three upcoming Sonic games have the potential to be fun. There's a lot of hope for the Xbox Live Arcade port of the original Sonic, and from what I played of the Wii Sonic game I liked. But is that enough? Given this game's track record I would have to say that the future does not look bright for our blue hedgehog. Perhaps it's time for Sega to give this little guy a rest and start focusing on better franchises.

Tomb Raider (1996)
In The Beginning: Seeing the success of other games with 3D worlds, Core Design Ltd. developed an Indiana Jones-style adventure that raised the bar for 32-bit games. Even more monumental than the game itself, though, was the introduction of Lara Croft, a wealthy adventurer with enormous breasts. Not only was Tomb Raider a extremely successful game that saw several sequels, but it launched Lara Croft into the popular culture. Lara is one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time, and she was even played by Angelina Jolie in two mildly successful movies. Whether you love the game or hate it, Tomb Raider was an inspirational hit that should be remembered ten years later.

15 Years Later: Of all the franchises celebrating landmark anniversaries in 2006, Tomb Raider had the most going against it. Lara Croft hasn't been in a good game in years, and let's not even talk about those movies with Angelina Jolie. So perhaps we can forgive the general media for being down on the newest sequel, Tomb Raider: Legend. But lo and behold, Tomb Raider: Legend proved to be an amazing experience, the type of game that singlehandedly rejuvenates an entire franchise. All of a sudden everybody is excited about Lara Croft again, something that hasn't happened in close to a decade. Soon realizing that Legend was a critical and retail hit, Eidos decided to announce another Tomb Raider game set for 2006. This time it would be Tomb Raider Anniversary, a remake of the game that started it all. Unfortunately this Anniversary remake didn't make it out in 2006, which means that either Eidos is going to have to lie about the anniversary or they will need to rename it. Either way, it was certainly disappointing not seeing this second Tomb Raider game make it to retail on time. Either way, Tomb Raider: Legend surprised everybody by resurrecting this dying series. And at the end of the day isn't that the best you can hope for on a ten year anniversary?

Future Prognosis: After the success of Tomb Raider: Legend I want to say the future looks bright, but given Lara's track record it also seems just as likely that Eidos will run the series into the ground ... again. Hopefully everybody involved with the most recent Tomb Raider will remember what made the series great to begin with and keep the adventure alive. We still have Tomb Raider: Anniversary coming out next year and a currently unnamed eighth installment, so for the near future it seems like the series is back on track. Will the 20th anniversary be as bright as the tenth? At this point I would have to say it's a 50/50 coin toss.

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