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The Year of the Defunct Game
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on April 13, 2007   |   Episode 67 (Show Archive)  

   

Talk about a great year for games, this year alone we're looking at the return of Grand Theft Auto and Halo, new classics like Bioshock and Mass Effect, and even some obscure little gems like Puzzle Quest. But for the next few minutes let's forget about Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Mass Effect. While it's true that this is one of the best years in video game history, it's also true that classic games are finally making some inroads.

This year alone we have nearly a dozen long forgotten games that are being resurrected on a number of consoles and handhelds. We're talking about some of the very best video games of all time that have sat dormant for too many years, games that even the most hardcore fans have completely forgotten about. Games like Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, After Burner, NiGHTS into Dreams, Final Fantasy Tactics and Crazy Taxi. Because of this (and the insane amount of classic games being released as downloads on the Wii and Xbox 360) we feel that it's safe to say that this is The Year of the Defunct Game!

Over the next three pages we are going to dig into these classic franchises and explain why you should be excited for each and every one of these resurrected games. But it's not all good news; some of the games have some real negatives, too. Hopefully by the end of this feature you will agree that good or bad, the video games of your youth are coming back in full force ... and we feel that it's a good thing, a very good thing.

Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (PC Engine)
What Is It? It's the Holy Grail of the Castlevania series, the long lost chapter that never made its way to the United States or Europe. While the Super NES did receive a game called Dracula X, it was a completely neutered version of Rondo of Blood, probably the greatest PC Engine game ever developed. Because of its rare status it is not uncommon to find Dracula X going for hundreds of dollars on eBay. While most modern Castlevania games have been influenced by the Metroid-style of level design, Rondo of Blood is the last of the traditional Castlevania games (where you go from level to level with bosses at the end of each area). This upcoming PSP game is the first time many English speaking gamers will have a chance to play this incredible game. And not only that, but this collection will offer several different ways of enjoying this series, including a reworked version of fan favorite Symphony of the Night.

Why Should You Be Excited? Not only does this PSP game feature the original Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, but it also features an all new 3D remake featuring polygonal graphics and altered levels. And that's not all; you will also get the magnificent Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, complete with added extras and redone voice acting. But even if it didn't come with the remake and Symphony of the Night, this PSP collection would still be worth owning. This is the first time many American gamers will have a chance to play this fantastic game, and for many of us it will finally fill in some of the missing pieces from the Castlevania universe.

What Could Go Wrong? Some may not like the brand new 3D look and you will have to play through the remake in order to play the original game (or Symphony of the Night). Another problem is that you might not own a PSP, but this is just one of the many games that should influence you to put down the money and finally pick up Sony's handheld.

Bottom Line: If you're not already excited about this game then either you don't like Castlevania or you don't like incredibly fun 2D action games. Either way, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood is something that every gamer should be excited to play, especially if you're one of the many people who has been waiting for more than a decade for this game to make it to these shores. It's always exciting when a game that was never released in the U.S. finally makes its way here, but it's even better when that game is part of the Castlevania canon.

NiGHTS into Dreams (Sega Saturn)
What Is It? It's a cult classic for the Sega Saturn that gets more attention in snobby forums than it probably should. At the time Sega proclaimed that it was the first game that let you fly (ignoring everything from Space Invaders to Thunder Force 3 to Pilot Wings), but in truth NiGHTS into Dreams' flying felt more like a 2D shooter than a fully immersive airborne experience. After years of rumors Sega has finally listened to those fans on the message boards and have announced NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams for the Nintendo Wii, a game that promises to use the console's unique abilities (motion sensing remote, WiiConnect 24, etc.) in innovative ways. Considering the length of time it's been since there was a sequel to this 32-bit game Journey of Dreams has a lot to live up to, something that troubles just about anybody who played the Wii Sonic the Hedgehog game or just about anything else developed by a third party. Will NiGHTS finally be able to turn into the grand franchise we all figured it would a decade ago, or are we destined to live out a terrible nightmare? Only time will tell when it comes to Journey of Dreams.

Why Should You Be Excited? It's easy to be excited about the first NiGHTS game in more than a decade ... especially if you're a fan of the original 32-bit game. So far the graphics look amazing and the prospect of using your Wii remote to control the action sounds natural. We love to hear that Sega's team is working around the clock to figure out how to use all of the Wii's unique abilities, even their crazy faux-online component. This could be one of the first (and only) amazing third party games this year, something that should concern each and every Wii owner.

What Could Go Wrong? When you look at the small short amount of development time you can't help but worry, the last thing fans want is a rushed NiGHTS sequel. It's also troubling that the people that are working on this project are the same people that developed the disastrous Shadow the Hedgehog title. While we love the idea of using the Wii's motion sensing control to play the game, we're not completely sold on the way the game plays. It should worry everybody that so far all of the third party games have been tragically awful, why should we expect anything different from NiGHTS?

Bottom Line: We can't wait to see how NiGHTS plays, but considering how many years has come between this and the original we can't help but feel worried that this could be a major blunder. If Sega had their A team working on this I might feel a little better, but the fact that this is being developed by the same people that gave us Shadow the Hedgehog makes me sick to my stomach. But who knows, maybe this will be a rock solid game and do a good job of resurrecting this long forgotten franchise. I may be optimistic, but there's no doubt that this project is going to have a hard time living up to expectations.

Final Fantasy I & II (Famicom)
What Is It? Once upon a time Square released a game called Final Fantasy, a role-playing game that single handedly changed the way people looked at adventure titles. Here we are twenty years later and we're already up to our twelfth numbered Final Fantasy game and countless spin-offs. But Square hasn't forgotten the games that turned their fate around, both Final Fantasy I and II are scheduled to be remade on the PSP later this year. Expect brand new graphics, redone CD-quality music and bonus features the likes you have never seen before.

Why Should You Be Excited? Although it's a bit dated by today's standards, the original Final Fantasy still holds up as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. It offers an interesting story, a great narrative and some inventive game play. While it's true that the original Final Fantasy has been remade before (most recently on the WonderSwan/Game Boy Advance), this PSP version goes even further making the game really stand out. And even if you went through Final Fantasy on one of the other systems, chances are good it's been a few years. Best of all, currently the PSP is in the middle of an role-playing drought, giving these two Final Fantasy games the opportunity to break into the market with little to no competition.

What Could Go Wrong? Let's face it, even though Final Fantasy I may be a great game, that doesn't mean Final Fantasy II is worth your time. Hell, let's not beat around the bush, Final Fantasy II is downright painful to play. It's full of interesting, but ultimately archaic ideas that just aren't fun to deal with. It's also disappointing that Square has decided to package these games separately; it would have made more sense for Square to give the customer a deal and package these two RPGs together.

Bottom Line: It's hard not to be excited about the original Final Fantasy coming to the PSP, but we suggest you simply forget about the sequel. Let's hope Square is planning on releasing the entire original (and possibly PlayStation-era) Final Fantasy games on the PSP; it's one handheld that really deserves some RPG lovin'.

Warhawk (PlayStation)
What Is It? Unlike Nintendo, Sony doesn't seem to enjoy looking back at their history and resurrecting classic games. When the Sony PlayStation launched back in 1995 there were a lot of big Sony published titles, yet these days we barely see any of them anymore. Sure Twisted Metal has found its way to the recent hardware, but what about Motor Toon Grand Prix or Jumping Flash? Thankfully there's one series that Sony is comfortable bringing back, and that's Warhawk. The original Warhawk was a short experience that had you piloting a cool looking aircraft and shooting down all sorts of soldiers and airships. Later this year Sony will be dropping Warhawk for the PlayStation 3, a game that will hopefully resuscitate this once cool franchise. Using the SIXAXIS motion controls, Warhawk will have a whole new look and feel, something that could help or hinder the overall enjoyment of the game.

Why Should You Be Excited? Outside of Lair there aren't many high quality air combat games to look forward, to, especially on the PlayStation 3. This could also be the best excuse for the PlayStation 3's motion control. Any time Sony is forced to look back at what made them popular it's a good thing, perhaps if this game does well it will force Sony to think about a Jumping Flash sequel.

What Could Go Wrong? The fact that they excised the single player portion of Warhawk seems troubling, and we're not convinced at the whole digital distribution thing. The on-foot stuff just doesn't seem to fit in when you think about Warhawk, it would make more sense if the game was all about flying and your airplane. If Warhawk doesn't do big numbers we may never see a sequel to Motor Toon Grand Prix!

Bottom Line: We want to love Warhawk but there's a lot working against it. When we played the game last the motion controls didn't feel quite right, something that has hopefully been ironed out. We worry that everything outside of the airplane will suck, which could ultimately make this a very painful experience. Worse yet, we are very concerned about the missing single player component, what this says for the overall quality of the product has yet to be seen. Perhaps we have nothing to worry about, there are plenty of games that probably should have been multiplayer only (SOCOM springs to mind). There's still plenty of time before this game is released, but the more we hear about this update the more we worry that it won't be the killer app that everybody has been hoping for.

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