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5 classic games with awful sequels (and the modern devs who could fix them)

Duke Nukem Forever  - 1033122

Sometimes, all it takes to revitalize a game series is to put some new eyes on it. Deus Ex may be one of the best cases for this. After Deus Ex: Invisible War failed to excite people the way the original game did, Ion Storm’s series languished for years. When Deus Ex finally returned under the reigns of Eidos Montreal, there were some doubts, but the final product ended up being one of the best games of 2011.

Even more striking was the decision by Capcom to pass Devil May Cry to Ninja Theory, who were given full blessings to reinvent Dante. The resulting game was both refreshing and respectful of the source material, but more importantly it showed that a franchise can take an exciting turn if you put it in the right hands.

Some series have it a lot worse. The following five franchises have fallen into obscurity after follow-ups that were either awful or missed the point entirely. Some have been forgotten, while others have been nearly overshadowed by their horrible sequels. Where does one go from here? With each entry, we'll discuss what made the original so great, where the sequel went wrong, and what modern-day development studio could potentially make it all better.

1) Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

Why the original was great

It was the psuedo-sequel to GoldenEye, with a new hero(ine) and the spy gadgetry dial turned up to eleven. The missions were usually more than just shooting all the dudes, which was refreshing at the time. It was also the best you were going to get in terms of console multiplayer, with customizable bots, a massive pile of weapons, and tons of creative game types.

Why the sequel wasn’t

Perfect Dark Zero was one of many early Xbox 360 games that came out half-baked, probably by the necessity of its launch title status. It was an ugly game, whether from a story, art, or graphics standpoint. It also featured some poor design choices like third-person actions, sluggish controls, and dumb AI. All in all, it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it was a huge disappointment considering the hype and expectations at the time.

Perfect Dark Zero

Who could fix it

Monolith, the developers behind No One Lives Forever, F.E.A.R., and Condemned, have established themselves as FPS experts. They’re also willing to be a little weird, throwing spy humor, mech-driving, and visceral bum fights into their games. They nail the gunplay, but they also throw in enough variety that their games feel like more than mere shooting galleries. Combine that with the love for NOLF and you have a dev that can bring everything that made Perfect Dark so good into the current generation, while garnishing it with their own spy fiction twists.

2) NiGHTS into Dreams

NiGHTS Into Dreams

Why the original was great

NiGHTS may be one of the most misunderstood games of all time. Pitted against Mario 64 in a grudge match it couldn’t possibly win, it seems to have been overhyped as a result. In truth, if Mario 64 was ambitious, NiGHTS was unique and quaint. It’s really only trying to accomplish two things -- putting a smile on your face and providing addicting, fast-paced score attack gameplay.

Why the sequel wasn’t

Journey of Dreams, the Wii sequel, sought to add all the typical mascot game wrinkles that the original game “lacked.” In the process, it turned a fast, psuedo-sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog into a bloated mascot game with unnecessary exploration and additional gameplay mechanics no one asked for.

NiGHTS Journey of Dreams

Who could fix it

What developer could craft a simple, 2.5D, fast-paced, score-based sequel to NiGHTS? I say the only choice is RedLynx, the developer of Trials Evolution. Stylistically, the games couldn’t be further apart, and I wouldn’t want a gritty reboot of NiGHTS, but RedLynx have mastered the feeling of momentum in a game that only uses a handful of buttons. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could just make a NiGHTS sequel with their robust level creation tools.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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