When Game Franchises Should Pull The Trigger

The following blog post was another old post of mine that, despite its age (first posted on August 27, 2009), holds true for the most part.  Some of the games I mention, such as Tomb Raider, have been able to come back from the edge of redundancy with the two newest entries in the series.  But ultimately, the idea behind this article that I wrote almost ten years ago can still hold true, regardless of the time since original publication.
Crash Bandicoot.  Sonic the Hedgehog.  TombRaider.  Tony Hawk.
What are the simple chain that connects each one of these games?  The Chain of Redundant Gameplay and Rehashed Play Mechanics.  Yes, games like the ones mentioned above have all been guilty of the very same thing over the course of the last several years.  These games have begun to wear out the fun, gameplay, and originality that, back in the day, made them fun, exciting, and yes, even great.
I guess we could start with the most simple of questions.  Where did these games go wrong?  It all depends on what game you are looking at.  Take the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series.  When the original Tony Hawk debuted to gamers in 1999 on the Playstation, it brought about, not just a new series, but made a new genre popular to video games – extreme sports.  In the beginning, the game was great, it was fun, it had fresh ideas and at it’s base, it was very entertaining.  Once the second and third iterations of the game came about, the same basic elements of the game stayed close to the series, despite some of the game’s newer mechanics, levels, and options.  Like football games nowadays, Tony Hawk seemed to release a new version of the Tony Hawk titles once every year.  After Tony Hawk 4 was released, the series began to stale as a series.  Any originality that the game once held, had dropped out of the sky like a rock.  Soon, the series was, bland, boring, and anything but good.
After so many sequels, the game developers of  Tony Hawk never thought outside the box.  They only came up with half-assed games in the series.  By the time the eighth game came out, the skating genre, along with the Tony Hawk series, seemed dead.  At least until another game was released.  Simply called Skate.  This game totally resurrected the skating game.  What is sad though, is the game wasn’t even created by Neversoft.  Shame on you Neversoft, shame on you.  Outdone by a company in the same genre that you brought about.  And on their first time out.  Tsk tsk.
Looking at games like Tony Hawk, where there’s nothing really new, and the same could be said about others, like Crash Bandicoot, where there’s really nothing new about it except for a few additions here and there, you would think people would stop buying these games.  Sonic the Hedgehog is a primo example of this paradox.  On one hand, ever since Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast, the first 3D iteration of the series came out, the series has gone down hill.  Really down hill.
I can remember going to my friends house back when I was in high school and it was the golden age of the Super NES and Sega Genesis, one of the games we’d play were his collection of Sonc games.  The side scrolling speed and fast paced action of the games were great fun.  It was actually FUN to play.  I’d ask to play it just because of the simple speed of the whole game.
But then, doomsday hit.  Sonic Adventure was born.  The world went to hell.  Gone were the elements that made Sonic fun.  This was the day the Adventure Field was born.  This was the day other retarded and unnecessary Sonic mascots entered a game that didn’t need them.  Amy?  Let’s smash things with a hammer.  That sound fun.  Big the Cat?  Really?  REALLY?
Ever since Sonic Adventure, every game since then has totally lost what it means to be a Sonic game.  Sonic Adventure 2 tried to fix it, but added more garbage then what it took out.  Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and PS3?  Oye.  Sonic Unleashed?  Oh come on!  Sega, you were so damned CLOSE to actually making a GOOD Sonic game in how many years?  Why for pity’s sake did you have to include the horrendous werehog element?  I have played this game, and it would have been pretty good if the werehog levels weren’t in the game.  I actually enjoyed the daytime speed levels of the normal Sonic.  It was what I imagined when the Sonic series made it’s move to 3D.
It seems like everytime Sega tries making a good Sonic game, a game that they say should be great, amazing and actually good, Sega craps up the core formula that they perfected back in the days of the Genesis!  Stop adding stupid things like unnecessary animal characters and werehogs, and get back to the basics.  Get back to the speed.  That’s all Sonic is good for.  Just take Sonic, build a few good levels that are made for speed, and let the blue blur fly.
I believe if you make a game, and then make sequels for them, it is true, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it…..to a point.  These mentioned games are proof of this.  Granted, some games series continue using the same mechanics, but you know that there those games will eventually, and hopefully, come to an ultimate conclusion.  Take God of War.  I love those games.  Really, I do.  Granted, having played, and even owned all three of the available titles out there, which includes the first and second games on the Playstation 2, and Chains of Olympus on PSP, I know full well that each of these games, as some would argue, are pretty much the same.  And yes, I would agree up to a certain point.  I know that once God of War 3 comes out, that should be the end of the series.  At least as we know it.  I do hope that the character Kratos can live on in more games afterwards, but I do hope the GoW saga can truely come full circle and just stop.  I don’t want them to just put out shovelware every few years in the attempts to make a few bucks.  It’s like Lord of the Rings.  The story came full circle, and everybody is happy.  Nobody is asking for a sequel to this wonderfully told story.  That’s how it should be.
But some companies just don’t get that philosophy.  The first two or three games are good.  And the fourth, fifth, and sixth game might be, well, enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the first set of games.  I guess what I’m hoping for is that these game companies will take their established franchises and really try something new.  Take the Metroid series.  Now that’s a series that has done something right.  Instead of just taking the same old same old and rehashing it with better graphics and sound,  they went from the side scrolling 2D point of view to full first person 3D.  That really added something new to the table.  Very awesome indeed.
My thought on this whole issue is this.  Don’t just mix a 10% of new material in with 90% of all the old stuff.  I understand that, really, what makes certain games the way they are is how they are played.  That, to an extent, is alright.  God of War wouldn’t be God of War with out the ass kicking, chain blade throwing ass whooping that it’s famous for.  But please, try to take that 90/10 ratio and try evening it out to a little closer to 50/50 please.  It’s great to see a great mix of the new and the old.  If not, just pull the trigger and end it right here and stop making us suffer for your lack of creativity and originality.
Please tell us your thoughts on the matter below in the comments!