In the last few years (and I use the term “few” loosely), many big game companies – especially Japanese ones – have begun scaling back and leaving a lot of their beloved franchises either locked away completely, shamelessly pimped out in pachinko machines and bad mobile ports, or simply limping along in one heartbreakingly uninspired sequel after the next. Thankfully, the creative forces behind some of these mistreated and/or forgotten series are breaking away from those companies and striking out on their own to create the spiritual successors to their old games, giving us true follow-ups that have more of the heart and soul of those franchises than the games that actually bear their titles (if they even still exist).
As we anxiously await Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Yooka-Laylee from the people who formerly brought us Mega Man, Castlevania, and Banjo-Kazooie respectively, we got to thinking about the endless possibilities of other such spiritual successors. So, we asked you what other franchises you’d like to see be properly “revived” by the people who were in creative control of them during their glory days and have since fallen by the wayside in one way or another.
#1 – Rieko Kodama – Phantasy Star
The overwhelming winner with 37% of the vote, it seems that people are quite eager to see Kodama make another classic Phantasy Star-style game after the series lost its way post-PSO (some would say it lost its way with PSO, but we were huge fans of the first one at least so we don’t count that as the beginning of the franchise’s decline). Sega has definitely missed a major opportunity to properly revive that series with a more traditional installment given the JRPG renaissance of the last 5 years or so, especially given the success of the genre on less technologically taxing platforms like the Wii, the DS, and even mobile. You don’t need a massive billion-dollar budget and something on the scale of Final Fantasy XV in order to make JRPG fans happy – and that’s where Kodama comes in. She could make a new PS-style game much in the same style of the 8- and 16-bit originals, even going so far as making it 2D or at least in very simple 3D with an overhead view, and I’m sure fans of the series will be more than happy so long as the spirit of the original games remains intact. And in a world where FFXV has a defiantly all-male playable cast and women in RPGs are largely of the giggly and/or oversexualized varitety, we need Kodama and her strong, positive female warriors leading games more than ever.
#2 – Hironobu Sakaguchi – Final Fantasy
We clearly miss our JRPG creative figures of the 80’s and 90’s, don’t we? It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots between Sakaguchi’s decreased role and eventual complete departure from the Final Fantasy series and its era of hit-or-miss quality, notorious development hell, and overall identity crisis. Sure, Square as a whole struggled to remain the company that it was at its creative and commercial peak in the 90’s and into the early 00’s and that likely would’ve happened even with Sakaguchi still on the payroll as many Japanese gaming giants didn’t make the transition into the HD era very smoothly. But there’s little doubt that any game series does better when a single creative head is at the helm steering the ship, as history is full of any number of examples of franchises going off the rails right around the time that their former directors/executive producers/etc step away from them. He didn’t always write or even direct the FF games, but Sakaguchi was definitely always the heart and soul of the series, and fans of the franchise’s better days want to see that love and care put into another game. Mistwalker, Sakaguchi’s post-Square company, put out some decent RPGs, but none felt like the spiritual successor to FF that we hoped the company would bring us. Here’s hoping Sakaguchi still has that spark left in him to give us at least one more truly great FF-style game, big or small.
#3 – Hideo Yoshizawa – Ninja Gaiden
Wait, so Team Ninja’s take on Ninja Gaiden, with its buckets of blood and miles of cleavage, wasn’t the spiritual successor to the old games that you were hoping for? Yeah, me either. We want side-scrolling action, melodramatic cutscenes, and birds that swoop down at you just as you’re making a difficult jump. Okay, maybe that last thing doesn’t need to come back, but the point is, people are obviously hungry for old school-difficult 2D action platformers, and who better to do that than the man who is clearly one of the pioneers of the genre? In my opinion, it also doesn’t necessarily have to be 2D. The PS2 Shinobi game, while flawed, was a great attempt to re-imagine a classic side-scrolling ninja action game in 3D, and I wouldn’t be opposed to someone using that foundation to take another crack at a proper 3D version of a 2D ninja game. Interestingly enough, Yoshizawa is also one of the key figures behind Klonoa, the core games of which are presented in a 2.5D style, so maybe his new Ninja Gaiden-esque game could take inspiration from one of his other series and fall somewhere between the second and third dimensions. Then he could use that foundation and do a Klonoa-style next…
#4 – Hideo Kojima – Metal Gear
Even though there is still one more Kojima-produced Metal Gear game left to be released, people are already looking ahead to his post-Konami, post-Metal Gear career, and clearly they want him to just keep right on making Metal Gear-style games and for the spirit of the series to live on in him. Can’t say I fault anyone for that – stealth action games are one of my favorite types of games, and nobody does that better than Kojima. And who knows, maybe once he is freed from the Metal Gear series and his obsession with wrapping up every last detail of decades of craziness, the story in his next game won’t be as convoluted and insane as the MGS games had gotten and we can see a return to the more subdued storytelling of older Kojima games. However, it seems that people still prefer that his next game have a tactical espionage bent in the Metal Gear style given their choice here – not as much of a clamoring for Kojima to revisit the style of Zone of the Enders or Policenauts, I guess. I don’t know why anybody would assume that Kojima would even need to carry on the spirit of Metal Gear and that Konami isn’t going to do right by the series after he leaves. I’m sure whatever they have cooked up for Metal Gear‘s future on mobile is going to be absolutely breathtaking.
#5 – Masaya Matsuura – Parappa the Rapper
While much of what made the Parappa / UmJammer Lammy games great was Parappa and Lammy themselves, if Sony was at all interested in another Parappa game we would’ve gotten one by now. So we can only assume that the only way Matsuura is going to make another game in that style is if it is with a whole new cast of characters. Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of the songs, and it they get that right, I don’t think we’ll care that we aren’t rapping as Parappa as much as we might assume. While Activision and Harmonix gear up to try and relaunch the plastic instrument side of the rhythm genre, what better time than to also bring back the quirkier half of the genre, the one that was inhabited by Parappa, Gitaroo Man, Ulala and the rest. Matsuura should be the one leading that charge as he more or less invented that style of game (or at least popularized it). Although, putting Matsuura’s name in the same sentence as the phrase “leading that charge” conjures up painful memories of his greatest misstep, Major Minor’s Majestic March…
#6-#10 (in no particular order as they all got about the same number of votes)…
Toby Gard – Tomb Raider
Yuji Naka – Sonic the Hedgehog
Andy Gavin & Jason Rubin – Crash Bandicoot
Doug TenNapel – Earthworm Jim
Yoshitaka Murayama – Suikoden
And finally, the write-in votes of just franchise names with no creator given…
BattleTanx (though they suggested Retro Studios handle it)
Jak & Daxter
Battle Arena Toshinden
Banjo-Kazooie (someone missed the Yooka-Laylee announcement…)