I don’t think I am alone on this one, but are we starting to get Mario fatigue from all the New Sups games? It just seems weird to have two games in the same franchise release in the same year; especially from Nintendo. I’m looking forward to New Sups U but not so much to New Sups 2. I enjoy the four-player chaos more than collecting coins. With so many Mario games, and with Mario plastered all over the world, I wonder if people ever get tired of the eldest, Nintendo plumber.
This is a question I have been asking since E3 earlier this year. It popped into my head when I saw the footage for the new Splinter Cell. I remember thinking, “That’s Sam Fisher?” He didn’t look anything like I expected after Conviction. So it must be a prequel, right? Nope, Blacklist takes place after Conviction. While Sam’s appearance doesn’t match up in my mind, this is when I started to think Ubisoft could give Sam Fisher some time off.
And for that matter, maybe all companies could give their characters a break. Think about some of the big, long running franchises; Mario, Tomb Raider, God Of War, Zelda. These IPs all focus on their main character, respectively. These characters have been through numerous trials. So much so that developers have made sequels, prequels and side-quels as well as destroying any sort of logic that may dictate a consecutive numbering scheme. Goodness knows a lot of these franchises are in need of some new ideas. Maybe one of those new ideas could be a new character, a new story, a new perspective. Seriously, is Sam Fisher the only secret agent in the world? How much more can the dude go through? After his daughter was killed and he went rouge, I figured he would have been fired. I guess his boss liked the hustle.
What about Tomb Raider? The franchise is being reset with the next release; subsequently titled Tomb Raider. Why are they resetting things? Maybe because they are out of ideas. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I simply mean, what is left for Lara to do? In Underworld she gained the powers of Thor and killed her evil clone! Yeah, read that sentence again, I’ll wait. How do you follow that? You can’t. That’s what they call a show stopper, folks. All they can do now is reset things and demote Lara from God Of Thunder to college-student-with-a-bow. I am excited about Lara’s next game, by the way. I don’t mean to come across as a cynical jerk, society made me that way.
I can think of a few franchises which spread their stories over multiple characters; Resident Evil, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid. RE has a set of four main characters, as well as several side characters, that seem to take turns in the driver’s seat. This works pretty well. Each character has their own stories but they all intertwine together. I love it when stories do that. Over different games you will walk down the same hallways as a game made years before. It’s an awesome thing makes me feel connected to the story.
Final Fantasy has a new set of characters with each number iteration. As beloved as FFIV is, I commend Square for not making game after game starring Cloud and his crew. Instead, every game has a new set of characters with new problems. Yet each universe contains similarities to the last; just enough to make it seem familiar. Metal Gear takes a different approach than anyone. Sometimes you play as Solid Snake, sometimes you play as Raiden and sometimes you play as Big Boss, who is Snake (or technically Snake is Big Boss). It’s complicated but such is Hideo Kojima. Maybe it’s not the most varied cast of characters but at least it’s a change every so often.
Fighting games are a weird case as well. I have watched the Tekken roster grow from eight characters to 59. I know it’s been 18 years but, wow. I love Tekken and I think that many characters is what a game like Tekken Tag 2 needs, but that’s probably because I like the characters so much. For every fighting game like TT2, there is something like BlazBlue with a small roster of uniquely balanced characters. There are even games in between, like the Street Fighters, which carry a roster of familiar characters but are still tightly balanced. Good job, fighting games. Way to change it up.
Why do most franchises set up a universe around a single character? Why do we get so attached to these character that we freak out whenever a slight change is made? I suppose we feel as if, in some small way, we are the character we control on screen. It’s a logical thing to decide, even if only subconsciously. With each button we press and with every split-second decision we make, we put ourselves in so many virtual shoes. So when somebody relaces those shoes, we are going to say something. But at what point do those shoes fail to be anything but familiar?