games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Game Franchise Revivals – Sonic Mania, God of War, More

March 5, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Sonic Mania

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! Last week I talked about odd franchise games so this week I wanted to swing the pendulum a different way and talk about games that helped revive a dying or dead franchise. For this topic I picked games where ther had to be at least a 3 or 4 yearlong gap between game releases, or if a franchise was in dire straits, the game helped people to remember the good times they once had. Let’s begin:

#8: Donkey Kong Country

While Donkey Kong has always been around there was about a 10 year gap between the arcade-style Donkey Kong games and the “current” iteration of the franchise. The arcade games involved either you playing as Jump Man (Mario) against the dastardly Donkey Kong to rescue Pauline, or you playing as Donkey Kong Jr. to rescue your dad from Mario’s imprisonment. The Country series revitalized the character by making him not evil, and turning the franchise into a fun platformer and not a game to just suck quarters from kids. They’re pretty much used the Country framework for the entire series since then.

#7: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

This one is kind of odd because a more conventional choice would be Street Fighter 4. Street Fighter had been on its last legs for a while and there was a game of about 9 years between Street Fighter games. Also, if Street Fighter 4 hadn’t come out and revitalized the genre, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 wouldn’t have been made. Still, I just like MvsC 3 more than Street Fighter 4. The newer characters were fun, Dante in particular was really enjoyable. The comic-book look was solid and the fighting mechanics were generally solid.

#6: Ninja Gaiden

Having just played the NES version of Ninja Gaiden recently, which was a game I truly despised. I tried the other two that came out for the NES and “Nope” also springs to mind. The Xbox relaunch of the franchise was aces though and was probably one of the best character action games on the platform. It looked impressive, combat was fast and fluid, and while it was challenging it was never “unfair” like some games are. Sadly, the franchise peaked with the first game, as the second was “fine” but not as good, and the rest of the games being largely forgettable.

#5: Wolfenstein: The New Order

The New Order plays a lot like forgotten Starbreeze game, which makes a lot of sense since the studio team is made up of ex-Starbreeze guys. What I dug about this game was actually the story and characters. You really cared about BJ’s story and the motley crew he falls in with. The after-intro sequence is great, after you storm the base and end up in a hospital for 14 years as the world just goes on without you. The gameplay also holds its end up in the bargain being either an aggressive and fast shooter or a slow and stealthy game.

#4: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was the first game to do strategy correctly on a controller. There are other great tactical games on consoles, Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics to name two, but they don’t feel at home the way XCOM does. Having your squad slowly go through an area, just waiting for the aliens to activate and for the battle to be on is always tense. So is having to make a shot at only a 35% hit chance or else you’ll lose a guy to a Sectoid or some other alien enemy. Even the out of level stuff is good, like how to best maximize base efficiency or researching new technology. XCOM 2 had a lot of the same stuff but was just lesser, especially with no gamepad support on PC at launch, so it wasn’t as fun as this game was.

#3: Sonic Mania

Remember how Sonic the Hedgehog used to be good? That ended around 1994 after Sonic & Knuckles came out and then there was 14 years of darkness across the land. Even the occasional glimmer of a good Sonic game (Sonic Generation was “eh, alright”) weren’t cast aside in some desperate struggle to remain relevant. Sonic Mania works because it is exactly what people want – a GOOD Sonic game. No 3D gimmicky crap, or episodic games (Sonic 4), or filled with nonsensical character, it is a game that aside from a few technical hurdles, looks like it could run on a Sega Genesis. And then Sega followed it up not by announcing Sonic Mania 2 but by releasing Sonic Forces. Good call, guys!

#2: God of War

God, the PS2 and PS3 era God of War games sucked. They do have their fans, but I don’t trust those people. The combat was dull, the camera could be a nightmare and you could boil the characterization of Kratos down with “Kratos MAD!” and that’s about all it goes. The PS4 God of War actually gives you a story and characters to care about. Also included is a level up system, a gear system, a lot of different abilities you can pick to use and a moderately big open world for you to explore. It was easily one of my favorite games of last year.

#1: Fallout 3

The old Fallout games were strategy RPGs from an isometric perspective. Fallout 3 is a FPS with some RPG elements in it. So….that’s a switch. Fallout 3 does keep some of the same humor as the first game but does make it a little less corny than either Fallout 1 or 2. It also keeps the 1950’s “future tech” world, full of robots, vacuum tubes and fusion cars, even if they are all blown up. I tried to play the earlier Fallout games but couldn’t get into. With Fallout 3, I dived deep into it and played it for around 70 hours, trying to visit every location I could and wring as much content as possible out of the game. New Vegas was also great but Fallout 4 didn’t quite have the same spark as Fallout 3 did. And the less said about Fallout 76, the better.

For comments, list your favorite revitalized franchise and why.

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Top 8 Japanese Game Composers

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison