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Weekly Musings #19 - Pursuit of Perfection
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: October 25th 2004

Some game series die on the vine, never improving. Sequels, despite improved graphics, stagnate with the same gameplay (or worse, even easier or more repetetive themes and controls). Some games even go downhill, losing audience at each stride. Others keep selling on the basis that a game three or four titles ago was gold, but never reach that point again.

Such has been my experience at least. I would say that the Megaman series comes foremost to mind when one considers sequels going downhill. Almost every time Megaman's hit a new system - NES, Gameboy, SNES, Playstation - the games got better or more fun. The original Megaman was ridiculously tough. Its sequels became less so, but were still challenging enough. Then came the SNES and the Megaman X series, of which the first is the best. On Playstation, the best Megaman title for the Playstation is undoubtedly Megaman X4; X5 and X6 wound up with worse controls, transferred-over graphics, and even a couple duplicated levels. On the Playstation2, Megaman X7 sucked donkey balls, so much so that Capcom has scrapped the 3D level format (again) and is making Megaman X8 a pure 2-D title with 3D for graphics only. We can hope that they're learning a lesson here.

On the flipside, there's Activision's O2 Sports line with the Tony Hawk titles. Ever since the first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Neversoft's been improving the gameplay they gave us. By the third, we had all sorts of fun special maneuvers and abilities. When the fourth came out, the time limit on roaming areas was gone, replaced by a system wherein players got missions from specific characters; the world instantly came more alive as we roamed not dead, cleared-out stages but "real" areas with people playing basketball, hanging out, or even skating as well. Tony Hawk's Underground took this theme to another level, incorporating an ongoing storyline to our explorations.

This weekend I got my hands on Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (aka THUG2). They've done it again. The graphics are improved beyond belief, personalization of the skater is just incredible. It's more than that, though. Stat points aren't awarded for clearing areas anymore; now, they're added by doing specific things. Want to improve your stats in taking air? Prove you can handle it by taking some wicked air. Improving your grinding abilities? Grind a long sequence. It's beautiful.

And then there's the "focus" maneuver; getting Special now not only unlocks high-risk, high-reward maneuvers but can let players go into the "zone", slowing down time for increased maneuverability and timing on a hard to pull off maneuver. After playing around with this for a while, I have to say it's the best improvement since THPS4 let us roam freely on our own.

Capcom could learn a few things from Neversoft that way. Making your games better, rather than just pushing the same title over and over will keep your game fresh. It'll keep your audience happy.

Most importantly, it'll bring in new fans who finally see something they like in a franchise they may have been unimpressed with before.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!

Weekly Musings #19: Pursuit of Perfection

Added:  Monday, October 25, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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