Much like it’s counterpart in television and film, a video
game franchise will be rehashed until it no longer becomes economically viable.
Each new sequel, series or installment offers a calculated package of retaining
a majority of the familiar, with just enough new content to avoid a complete
retread. Take the recent release of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, which offers only
three changes to the franchise: a sprint button, an experience system, and new
maps that will feel eerily familiar to many players.
While Vegas 2 may still feel fresh enough to warrant a purchase,
many other franchises are in desperate need of innovation. For every game that
reinvigorates a franchise like Call of Duty 4, there are dozens of Ace Combats,
Tony Hawks, and Moto GPs- once great games whose name becomes tarnished by the
lackluster sequel. Let’s examine some of these titles, who once showed much promise only
to be milked dry of innovation:
Mario Party 8 – With the release on the eighth Mario Party game,
Nintendo showed its developmental lethargy. Although the game made use of some
Wii-specific controls, a great majority of the title was played with the
faithful control pad. While each incarnation of the franchise adds an ever-increasing
amount of minigames, there is an dulling sense of sameness throughout them. To
add insult to injury, Mario Party 8 simulates a widescreen display by adding
curtains to the sides of the screen, resisting change at all costs.
The original Mario Party for the Nintendo 64 was a brilliant
idea; blending the simplicity and playability of a board game with the
interactivity of a video game. Although the game did rely on too much analog
twirling (so much so that then-New York District
Attorney Elliot Spitzer looked into the blistering of players hands), it
brought together a synergistic amalgam of two great pastimes.
Last Relevant Game in Series – Mario Party 5; With MP6, the
game shipped with a microphone. As anyone whose ever played Nintendogs or Brain
Age can attest you, yelling at the screen is not fun. A useless peripheral is a sure sign of trouble in paradise.
Spiderman 3 – While only in its third incarnation (we won’t
count the schizophrenic Friend or Foe), the webslinger’s last outing was a
letdown on many levels. Sure, Treyarch improved the mission diversity, but in a
rush to release the game alongside the film, neglected many other important
aspects of the game. Combat was still simplistic; the camera was often unable to choose
a playable angle. Worst of all, the sensation of webbing your way through New
York City just wasn’t as exhilarating as it should have been. Where Bruce Campbell’s
voice-over was at one time, fresh and silly, just felt like a contractual
Last Relevant Game in Series – Spiderman 1. Remember the
feeling of stealthily webcrawling onto the ceiling and dropping down on a
unsuspecting crowd of ne’er-do-goods? Or the freedom of traveling anywhere via
web though New York in the sequel? Let’s hope Activision’s next requisite Spidy
title will feature some of that excitement.
Project Gotham Racing 4 – To the untrained eye, and most
message board posters, PGR4 was just PGR3 with motorcycles and rain. Who could
find fault in that argument? The Kudos scoring system showed no significant changes,
load times were still slow, while car models and the environments had about the
same level of detail. What could have sparked interest in the title, a new
version of Geometry Wars was only a slight variation on the original formula.
Last Relevant Game in Series – PGR 3. As a launch title,
Project Gotham Racing 3 showed what the 360 was capable of- lots of polygons,
moving at a smooth framerate in locales that looked nearly photorealistic. Top
that off with a play system that rewarded patience and practice, and it’s easy
to see why the game sold in the millions, while PGR4 struggled to make half