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
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) Glideunderground.com!
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