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Three Gaming Trilogies That May Never Be Finished

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The “rule of three” suggests that everything, from comedy to public speaking, is more gratifying and effective when done thrice. Whether it is the classic fairy tale of Snow White where the protagonist’s wicked stepmother visits her three times before she falls into a deep stupor because of a poisoned apple or a three-panel daily comic strip, the “rule of three” has deep roots in video games in the form of trilogies.

With the impending March 6 release of Mass Effect 3, the gaming industry is about to witness the end to the trilogy that has has turned itself into one of the bigger gaming events of 2012. Much of the hype came generated from within BioWare as they stuck to their initial plans for three games for the Commander Shepard storyline and kept their strong passion for their project.

“I would argue that this is the only trilogy in games,” said Casey Hudson, executive producer on the Mass Effect series, to PCGamer. “There have been games where there were three, but in terms of planning it out from the beginning, with a story that was meant to span three games, and actually finishing all three games – I don’t know if that’s ever been done before.”

Having said that, there have been several games that have attempted to see their way to three games but faltered along their road trip to join gaming’s “Graceland” of trilogies that includes Gears of War, Metroid Prime, God of War, Prince of Persia and Resistance. Many attempted trilogies often fall prey to poor critical or consumer receptions -- or both -- along with scenarios where the publisher refuses to put money behind the project, even with the installed fanbase.

Too Human

What’s more exciting than falling through a level?

At the start, founder and president of Silicon Knights, Denis Dyack, didn’t envision Too Human as a trilogy until the project got too big for its own britches.

“Breaking it up into a trilogy, you know, it was just so big with the original plans, we just couldn’t squeeze that up all into one game,” said Dyack to StrategyInformer.com.

Unfortunately for Dyack, Too Human wasn’t received well by critics including the staff here at GameZone that rewarded it a 6.3 score in August 2008 stating, “there are just too many design flaws that keep it from becoming a “must have” game.” The game’s average review score leveled out to a 65 on MetaCritic and the demand for sequels were nil to none as the title sold less than the coveted 1 million copy mark.

Glitches, cut content such as four-player co-op, mixed reactions to the control scheme (right analog stick to attack), unskippable death scenes, and much more prevented Too Human living up to its proposed top billing and finishing its perceived “epic” trilogy.

Dyack and the Silicon Knights team moved onto another critical and consumer failure in X-Men: Destiny, but they do have an untitled game in development that is rumored to be the sequel to the in-demand Eternal Darkness series. Although, Dyack won’t relent on Too Human and told Kotaku in May 2011 “we do plan on finishing the trilogy."

Star Wars Battlefront

Leaked footage suggest a third title was imminent.

Yes, there have been mobile releases that are separate entries in the Battlefront series, but no, they aren’t part of the potential trilogy of games that have fans on edge for the reemergence of the once-beloved Star Wars series.

Once upon a time, Star Wars: Battlefront III was in development at Free Radical Design (makers of the cult TimeSplitters series). It was their in-house and “secret” project with LucasArts from Fall 2006 till December 2008, until Free Radical Design closed down due to financial difficulties, although it would eventually be bought out by Crytek.

The license was then transferred over to Rebellion Developments and wasn’t there long before it was taken away from them for undisclosed reasons. It was rumored Pandemic Studios was taking over the project, but they, too, went the way of the dodo as Electronic Arts soon shuttered their doors in November 2009.

So where is ill-fated Star Wars: Battlefront III? That question remains unanswered and will remain unanswered by LucasArts as they continue to go back to the drawing board with the franchise. Last we heard, Battlefront was on its way as an online-only multiplayer shooter by Slant Six Games, but that, too, was canned due to not meeting its deadline.

For now, fans will have to watch the leaked footage that was outed as pre-rendered footage to remind themselves of what could have been.

Mega Man Legends 3

So close, yet so far away.

This may be one of the most heartbreaking stories of 2011 for Mega Man fans. What started out as a project that allowed the fans help influence the development quickly disintegrated into a cancellation a few short months later and an angered community that created petition after petition and Facebook group after Facebook group to try and change Capcom’s mind.

As resident GameZone Senior Editor Vito Gesualdi describes it, “I feel like the child of divorce, wondering how this seemingly perfect thing could've fallen apart. Wondering if its somehow my fault, our fault? Me and the rest of the children of Mega Man Legends. But what were we expected to do, really? Could we have saved the game if we'd all found time to contribute to the Mega Man Legends 3 community project, by building a thriving fanbase?”

Even Mega Man Creator Keiji Inafune offered to help the project after he left Capcom to pursue other ventures; as expected, Capcom declined. There was no saving the game or the prototype that Capcom had once promised to deliver to devote Mega Man fans.

So where does that leave Mega Man? He was excluded from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and even the updated Ultimate edition -- Capcom, instead chose to use Zero and Tron Bonne to represent the Mega Man universe.

In September 2011, Gesualdi had the opportunity to attend a Los Angeles Capcom Fight Club to interview Community Manager Seth Killian about Mega Man, to which he replied “Hang in there, we may have some Mega Man news....Maybe.” The potential news eventually was revealed to be Mega Man guest starring as a playable character in Street Fighter X Tekken, exclusively for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. The community reaction was mixed since the playable Mega Man character takes on the appearance of the North American box art, rather than the traditional art style.

Outside of the bit-sized versions of Mega Man 9 (2008) and Mega Man 10 (2010), Mega Man has received very little love from Capcom for a grand solo affair with a large budget behind it. The Battle Network series ended in 2006. The X franchise is dead in the water since 2005. Legends saw its end before it could release in 2011. Zero, as a series, hasn’t seen daylight since 2005 and even the Star Force trilogy ended in 2009 due to poor sales.

It’s been a long and enduring road for Mega Man fans, but one day, perhaps Capcom will win them over again with a grand re-entry of their old mascot that they continue to ignore.

Stay tuned for part two as we explore three more trilogies that ceased development before they concluded their story arc. Until then, I leave you with Cliff Bleszinski’s opinion on trilogies that he gave to Huffington Post in October 2011:

“For some reason, three is the magic number...I can't explain it. Narratively, they make sense because you've got that `Lord of the Rings' vibe where there's a definitive beginning, middle and ending. There's something about that contained pack-of-three that's just incredibly gratifying.”

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Carter Washington
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