Thursday, July 5, 2018

Fatality: Games That Killed Their Franchises (Or At Least Put Them On A Long Hiatus)

Sometimes all it takes is one game to make a long-running or promising franchise become dead in the water, maligned to irrelevancy and just a memory in the annals of gaming history. It's a dog-eat-dog industry where it doesn't matter if the franchise has been around for ages or for milliseconds--just one or two failures and you're done. That's the case with these franchises, all of which I'm sad to see are currently nowhere to be found. Whether any of these will return for a kick-ass comeback or not is up in the air, but what is known is that for many, these franchises met truly unfortunate ends.

Tony Hawk Ride/Shred (PS3, 360, Wii), 
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PS4, XB1)

We start with a series that was crazy popular in the late nineties and early aughts--the same series that brought extreme sports fever into our hobby. That series was none other than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The series did a lot of experimentation: changing the rules of Classic mode, adding a story to the game, and even adding an interconnected world. However, the biggest and most radical experimenting to the Tony Hawk series was ultimately the one that killed it: Tony Hawk Ride. This game and its sequel, Tony Hawk Shred, both utilized a skateboard peripheral for its controller, as back in the day, pieces of plastic and convoluted controller peripherals were all the rage (e.g. Guitar Hero and the Wii). While an interesting idea in theory, the execution left a lot--I mean, A LOT--to be desired. Crashing in both critical and commercial feedback, Activision's skateboarding series was put on a hiatus until a couple of years ago when Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 came out. If Ride and Shred put the Tony Hawk series in its coffin, Pro Skater 5 drove the nails into it.

Dead Space 3 (PS3, 360, PC)

The survival horror genre doesn't get too much representation for the most part. That's why it very much stinks that Dead Space as a franchise is no more. What killed such an impressive series? Well, Dead Space 3... but mostly because of its publisher EA's ambitions. Wanting to make the Dead Space series more mainstream (i.e. a way to make even more money than the first two games), EA had the idea to put in two-player co-op into the game, making for a much less scary experience. To add insult to injury, Dead Space 3 introduced unnecessary microtransactions as an extra "we don't value our consumer that much" proposition. Despite selling well, Dead Space 3 didn't meet EA's lofty sales expectations, making the series get eviscerated like a Necromorph. The future of the series is a horror story all on its own. At least we got two (three if you count the on-rail shooter Dead Space: Extraction) excellent entries in the Dead Space franchise before things turned dark.

Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3, 360),
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (PS3, 360, Wii U)

The exit of Team Ninja's Tomonobu Itagaki was definitely felt with Ninja Gaiden 3. The third game took a more streamlined approach to the series, making it friendlier for audiences. In doing so, it isolated many of the franchise's biggest fans. When you have to make a course correction to your own game with an updated version as a way to apologize and make it up to the fans (and still ends up being a weaker entry compared to Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2), you know you've done something majorly wrong. The original Ninja Gaiden 3 had many faults to it, both on a gameplay and a technical level. The action was just shallow, and those who yearned for the challenge exemplified in early entries were left out in the cold. Razor's Edge, originally released on the Wii U before being ported over to the PS3 and 360, attempted to right the wrongs of the vanilla version of Ninja Gaiden 3, but Team Ninja could only do so much when the foundation was on shaky ground to begin with.

Dino Crisis 3 (XBX)

An entry so bad that developers opted not to continue with the series, Dino Crisis 3 put the Dino Crisis franchise into what essentially amounts to extinction. The game was originally set to be on both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, but only the latter (un)fortunately survived. Packed with one of the worst cameras in a survival horror game, especially considering how fast the player sometimes had to move, Dino Crisis 3 was put the wringer review-wise for this main reason. There was nothing like crossing an invisible boundary in a room, only for the camera to suddenly change angles, having the player totally become disoriented in the process. This also made aiming and targeting the dinosaur-like mutated beasts in the game all the more challenging. Sure, Capcom has given us some scraps pertaining to the Dino Crisis franchise since the failure of the third game in the series, like Regina's inclusion in the now-defunct mobile game Puzzle Fighter, but that isn't enough for most Dino Crisis fans out there--the dozen or so of those out there.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360)

Sometimes it's a smart idea to stick with the basics. Rare did not do that in 2008 when it developed and released Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts for the Xbox 360. The game was actually really good, allowing players to take on challenges their own way by creating their own custom LEGO-like vehicles. The problem was that Nuts & Bolts was such a dramatic departure from what Banjo-Kazooie fans loved about the franchise--the excellent, open 3D platforming--that this game unfortunately drew a lot of ire. This was especially so after Microsoft and Rare teased a more traditional experience with this trailer, which many now consider a bait and switch. Regardless of the high quality of the game, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts stopped the promising platforming series right in its bear tracks, as well as Rare doing anything other than working on Kinect-related projects for a sizable duration of time. Sure, Rare's back with Sea of Thieves, but Banjo isn't and that just sucks.

Klonoa (Wii)

As much as I hate to face it, sometimes quality means nothing if your game just isn't appealing to the market. Unfortunately, even with Namco Bandai's Klonoa releasing on a Nintendo platform with the Wii, where platformers were generally quite welcomed, this remake of the PS1's Door to Phantomile cratered hard sales-wise. Again, the quality was definitely there. You had one of Klonoa's best adventures remade for a new generation, but strange marketing, including the decision to possibly alter Klonoa's look to this ghastly creature, made for a less than stellar sales showing for the floppy-eared feline. There is good news, however. Since Klonoa's ten-year hiatus, rumors of a new game, possibly tying into the upcoming film adaptation, have sprung up. At least Klonoa will get a second chance in the spotlight after a decade off.

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