Games like Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, and Gran Turismo are all fine games, and home to some of my favorite gaming memories. Those games are all rather safe, though, aren’t they? You know how much people enjoy being blasting through action set-pieces and whipping Ferraris around hairpins, and so do publishers.
Some of my absolute favorite games are on the quirkier end of the spectrum. Games that might be profitable, though the gamble makes shareholders nervous. Sometimes their fears are justified — look no further than last year’s Shadows of the Damned and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
All of that got me to thinking about some of those weird classics that I love, and quite frankly I don’t think that they’d make it past the initial pitch phase in today’s market. Read on to find out which games I’m glad came out when they did and not today.
Shadow of the Colossus
Talking to PSUni reviewers Tyler Lee and Malcolm Spinedi about Shadow of the Colossus is what planted the seed for this list. We were discussing all of the reasons that SotC is a bonafide classic, and we quickly realized that they’re the exact same reasons that the game wouldn’t be approved for development today.
The ambiguous relationship between Wander and the girl — is she your lover? Sister? Someone you found on the way to the temple? Er, whatever.But surely Wander’s interaction and dialogue with other characters will help flesh that out. Oh, the only person who speaks (and otherwise exists) is a disembodied voice, whose intentions are also ambiguous? Well, I’m sure there’s plenty of action to keep everyone’s attention between boss fights. Wait, ONLY boss fights?
Shadow of the Colossus is like the Seinfeld interactive entertainment, a game essentially about nothing that somehow managed to be brilliant. No way it would be approved today.
Metal Gear Solid
There are few things in this world that I love more than the Metal Gear Solid series. It has some of the best villains and boss fights in all of gaming, the storytelling is simultaneously memorable and convoluted (or maybe it’s memorable for being convoluted), the music is always top-notch, and each game pushes its respective console to the limit.
Of course, those aspects are worthy of success in any era. The death knell for the franchise were it to be pitched today is right in its famous strapline: Tactical Espionage Action. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the gameplay is bad — it’s every bit as fun now as it was when it first hit PS1 in 1998. Simply put, military stealth games just don’t resonate the way they did 14 years ago.
The evolution of another popular stealth franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, offers some insight. The first few games were about hardcore stealthin’, but once the series made the jump to Xbox 360 there was an immediate shift in gameplay. By the time Splinter Cell: Conviction came out there was hardly any stealth in the game at all … and it sold 2 million copies within a couple of months. Sure, series stalwarts were clamoring for a return to the old style, but will Ubisoft follow suit after that kind of success? I wouldn’t count on it.
Future Metal Gear Solid titles (not Rising; there’s a difference) will surely be stealth-based, and they’ll continue to sell like gangbusters. If it were being introduced today, though, it wouldn’t stand a chance.