Thursday, December 9, 2010

When an IP becomes obese...

Games like Halo, Kingdom Hearts, and Metal Gear, never had aspiration to become the juggernauts they are today did they? They started out with simple stories and humble beginnings but now its 10+ years later for these franchises and we have characters that have made more cameos than Final Fantasy has had Chocobos(classic, classic...) More story re-tellings, retcons, merchandising, and media crossovers than we've had movies based on games (Coincidentally, Mark Whalberg as Nathan Drake 2012, Be Prepared....) Final Fantasy became so fat it actually wanted to redo some of its old stories and expand on some of its others(just for lolz).

A good deal of gamers will call foul and say that the series is milking itself and exploiting its popularity without trying to put out decent products in terms of games. But some other games can do this till they're blue in the face. I mentioned this before but, when Mario had guest characters like Luigi, Wario, Yoshi, Toad, etc, everyone seemed on board. Mario Kart to Smash Bros left everyone feeling satisfied. But when Sonic showed up with Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, Amy, and Rogue, everyone screamed that they took the "purity" of Sonic away. Mario is practically the video game equivalent of Oprah and he's done everything from play soccer to breakdance. Essentially, no one seems to mind Nintendo straining its "utters".

Sonic and Final Fantasy try to deviate from formula and go into unfamiliar territory only to get attacked by the very same fan base they know and love. The changes aren't even as extreme as Mario going from platformer to party game. Cries of heresy, and a loss of purity on the franchise's part often sounds out. "The old system was better! I hate these new characters!" Some franchises have managed to strive off of innovation and ingenuity while others seem to be cursed by it. Halo tried to be an RTS once upon a time ago and it hasn't since...

Story is another thing all together. Star Wars when it was just Episodes 4, 5, and 6 was one of the greatest fictional universes in pop culture history. When Episode 1, 2, and 3 tried to fill in the gaps, half the universe quoted Samuel L. Jackson (I am tired of these Mother F***in' Prequels in my Mother F***in' franchise!). Let's not even get started at what happened post Episode 6 (I still cry to this day.). Kingdom Hearts had one of the most simple and lovable casts, stories and gameplay elements for its time. But as the series grew so did the story(Final Mixes,. only in Japan, ONLY!! And the interquels are all on systems you don't have... ), the gameplay tweaks (Cards, hated by most, Reaction Commands, liked by some, Shoot Lock, loved by all.), and the diverse cast of characters(Hey, it's Sora! And Roxas is his Nobody, Ven is the original Roxas, Vanitas is his evil clone and Xion is Sora's clone that looks like Kairi, his girlfriend. Got it memorized?) At first, the story is simple enough to follow, but at this point you need a flow chart and a group of researcher just to figure out when everything happened in relation to what. And the fact its never on one system means you've gotta buy every popular system thats out and wait for Square's next move. I can't even try our a Fallout, Red Dead, or Call of Duty because I'm still saving money for a 3DS and Kingdom Hearts 3DS and Re:coded!!!! The crazy thing is I still love the series despite the Final Mixes being only in Japan, the confusing storyline and Nomura's determination to take all of my money (Why, Dude?! I thought we were friends...).

But then comes the occurrence of the franchise that dies, that disappears, that vanishes without a trace. It was popular, it was fun but it just disappears. Street Fighter(post SF3) and Duke Nukem were on this list. Games like Shenmue and Darkstalkers remain stuck in perpetual limbo. Suprisingly, the screams and cries of fans do reach the ears of publishers to a certain extent. We managed to rally enough to bring back Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom and Mega Man Legends,(Even Shenmue is coming back in the form of a Chinese only online cellphone game. Yay?) but, sometimes the game suffers too many significant losses in terms of capital. Other times the game is simply overlooked years on end in favor of more compelling IPs. (For some reason, Virtua Fighter 6 and Bayonetta have yet to even be conceived but Yakuza 4 is right around the corner, with zombies :))!

I think we can all agree if any movie is going to be made based on a gaming franchise, the creator MUST be involved on some level, along with a few well informed fans. Especially if you want to go live action! I mean, its an IP based on a game! Why not go CGI 3D!? Because we NEED to see its Jason Statham playing as Kratos(Calm down, calm down, its just a joke...)!? Its hard to contain something so popular to one formula. And as that world expands and the characters grow, keeping track of their progress is very challenging. Even the GTA's and FF's have had their share of challenges in trying to wow people on each new outing because they choose to start from scratch each time (People can only kill so many hookers and behemoths before they say they want something new). All and all, between the IPs that still manage to be on everyone's Christmas shopping list and the IPs that people make petitions for, no IP can ever be milked (unless it has to do with the cow from Earthworm Jim being used in an Angry Bird-esque catapult game). END NERD RANT...

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