Friday, March 23, 2012

Ruminating on Destruction (The Demise of Classic Video Game Franchises)

Back in January I wrote a blog post entitled “My Favourite Franchises Are Being Destroyed

In light of recent events, I have taken it upon myself to produce a follow up to said post. I am not sure what form the following will take (measured, rational assessment of things as I see them, an angry, emotional, irrational rant, or some combination of the two) but I do know that I am compelled to revisit this perhaps tired, but in my mind terribly poignant point: Classic video game franchises are being utterly raped in this seventh video game generation.

So, as of the end of the previous post on the subject, I had spoken at some length about Resident Evil, as an article had just been released that outlined Capcom’s desire to capture the “Call of Duty market.” (I also touched on Ninja Gaiden (obviously), Fable, and Silent Hill, among others). Well, what fanned the flames of this fire once again is an article about Capcom going after the action gamer market (once again specifically referencing COD) and basically outright stating that the survival horror subgenre is no longer a viable pursuit, if not creatively, at least certainly financially.

Now, I understand the basic underlying issue here. It’s rather simplistic and while it may not sit well with the nostalgic, emotional aspect of my mind, I am perfectly capable of grasping it on a purely intellectual level: Capcom is a business and the number one priority of any business is to maximize revenue. This is doubly true for large corporations who are publically traded, since they are beholden to a large number of stockholders, without whom they would not be able to exist in their current form.


Yes, the infamous but.

The other side of me, the majority of my being, really, since I am not one to put much stock into economic pursuits, especially if they come at the expense of creative ones in their purest, most honest form, wants to protest, and perhaps, it may be said, doth protest too much, but I digress.

…Goddamn I’m overly verbose at times, Jesus!

Anyways, self imposed literary critiques aside, allow me to expand upon this dichotomy between the intellectual and the emotional. It seems to me that while a business must pursue the most revenue possible, does it not at some point become beneficial to perhaps forego a percentage of said revenue in favour of maintaining a higher pedigree and an artistic integrity rather than producing art that solely exists to sell as much as possible? Why can’t a company be happy with making a profit, staying in business, and maintaining a solid fanbase (the fanbase who made them, by the way)? Is it really more favourable to toss your fans under the proverbial bus, alter the form of your art to the point of being unrecognizable, purely to chase that ethereal, binary set of larger numbers?

Clearly, the answer is no, at least for most companies. CD Projekt Red and a few others seem to say yes, but let’s see how that answer stands when/if they get to medium-large corporation size. (There’s that infamous cynicism again).

Okay, so basically, I am asking questions to which the answer is something I already know, but just do not want to acknowledge: The money is king. Gaming has changed. It will only get worse, things will get more and more homogenized, creatively, as the pursuit of AAA status sales ratchets up, and the number of companies for whom this is viable shrinks, along with the options for a ‘hardcore’ (as others would describe me) gamer such as myself.

Now that I have spun my wheels and made no progress whatsoever, allow me to get to the part where I just bitch about shit.

We know Resident Evil is bastardized. The latest title is a reskinned Socom mixed with a Left 4 Dead wannabe action title that’s being reviewed in the 5’s or so. Let’s not even talk about Ninja Gaiden (seriously, I don’t have the heart anymore, it’s that fucking sad). What else have old school gamers had to face this generation? Let’s have a look, and then I want to pose to you all a question.

Silent Hill: Survival horror series morphed into an unrecognizable, amorphous pile of slapped together shit.

Splinter Cell: Stealth series now an action series.

Hitman: Stealth series now becoming an action series.

Metroid: Exploration heavy, difficult 2D side scrolling series made into an FPS (albeit an exploration heavy-ish one that people seemed to like) and then made into whatever the hell happened with Metroid:
Other M that seemed to completely alienate half of the fanbase to the point of pure rage/utter dismay.

Ghost Recon: Strategic, tactical, difficult FPS series turned into a cover based TPS.

Rainbow Six: Strategic, tactical, difficult FPS series turned into a cover based FPS.

Fable: Whimsical, beautiful, engaging RPG (RPG lite?) with an endearing world, fantastic combat and an absolutely excellent magic system with great control, memorable enemies/bosses, a decent amount of exploration and a simple yet effective narrative that spans dozens of hours becomes an adventure series that holds your hand throughout its shortened, bastardized adventures with no clear focus and increasingly worsened magic systems and simplified combat, now to the point where the next game is a downloadable title in the vein of Castle Crashers which is leading up to the release of a Kinect only on rails chariot simulator (?). What. The. Fuck.

Syndicate: lol.

X-Com: lol (although this might be rectified with the secondary title; I hope for the fans of the original that this is true).

Devil May Cry: Fans are crying. I still have some marginal bit of hope that DMC might turn out okay, but Devil May Cry 4, while a step back from 3, was also a step forward in ways, and really, Capcom needed to realize that it wasn’t a reboot from a Western studio that makes average games that was called for: It was simply another numbered sequel that took the good of DMC4 and expanded upon that while making absolutely certain to NOT repeat the same mistakes (level design and the RIDICULOUS backtracking). DMC4 could have been mined for absolute gold when it came time for DMC5, but nope, now we have whatever Ninja Theory turns out. It may still be good, though, so I am not totally writing this one off yet.

Twisted Metal: Just read Mazer’s recent blog on this. He’s a fan of the series and explains it well.

Castlevania: ‘Hardcore’ 2D sidescrolling series known for incredible exploration elements, challenge, fantastic soundtracks, deep, lengthy, engaging campaigns, intimidating bosses and tons of replayability. Now? A barely recognizable (and unrelated) 3D God of War clone? Everyone is either cloning COD or GOW (or the other GOW)? JesusChrist! Oh, plus s shitty downloadable game and a shitty fighting game on the Wii? At least the handheld titles are good!

Final Fantasy: What in the FUCK is going on over there at SquareEnix? They keep implifying and simplifying and simplifying….

Zelda: Hand holding, simplification, make tutorials that never end and puzzles that have solutions handed to you if you can’t figure them out on your own.

As I said in the previous blog post on this subject:

This is a pretty fucking sad time to be an 'old school' gamer. Everything classic is being bastardized in favour of being "cinematic," and "accessible," and anything that was stealthy, strategic or required any fucking thought, effort, patience, time or conquering of difficulty has become a fucking joke, with hour long turorials, incredibly obvious exposition, HUD's made for toddlers (breadcrumb trails, really Molyneux?), and someone in your ear ata ll fucking times, telling you what to do and where to go (even goddamn motherfucking RYU HAYABUSA has someone chirping in his ear in Ninja Gaiden 3....WHAT THE FUCK?).


/get off my lawn

So, before I go, I want to pose to you all the question to which I alluded earlier: Are there any long standing franchises that have actually been improved in new entries this gen? Is there even one? I really don’t know, but none immediately come to mind. I am curious to hear what you all have to say on the matter.

Edit: Oh, you know what? Bionic Commando: Rearmed was great. The sequel apparently not so, nor the 3D entry, but eh, there’s one possibility. Oh, and Bloodrayne’s new entry is pretty good.

Edit 2: Shinobi 3DS is pretty sweet. Oh, and the new Contra titles are apparently pretty good (especially 4 on the DS). So it appears there are some franchises that fared well this gen. Not my faves, though. They were all fucking destroyed :(

*le sigh*

The End.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell magx01 and the rest of The Thoughtful Gamers what's on your mind!