The Return of Shenmue and Games in Need of Revival - Weekly Recommendations 13/12 – 19/12
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
Shenmue, the critically acclaimed open-world adventure has risen from the ashes this month with Shenmue Gai, a (currently) Japan only mobile phone game with tentative plans for a PC and international release. Shenmue 2 ended on a cliff–hanger which, 10 years later, has yet to be resolved. Due to the premature demise of the Dreamcast, SEGA’s ensuing withdrawal from console manufacture and the huge costs of developing the first two entries, the final part of what was intended to be a trilogy was put on indefinite hiatus. While Shenmue Gai is not a direct sequel, Yu Suzuki’s return to the world of Shenmue will encourage fans to keep dreaming of a sequel and some much deserved closure for poor old Ryo.
With Shenmue making a return of sorts, now is a perfect time to highlight three of the finest slumbering franchises that I would love to see return. What follows are the finest entries in these series.
1. Seaman 2 - PlayStation 2 (JPN only) (2007)
How to explain the Seaman games? They are kind of like Eye Pet, only if it were made by Takashi Miike or David Cronenberg. Utilizing voice recognition technology, Seaman 2 casts you as God and overseer of Gabbo, a loveable Peking Man (early human). The adventures of Gabbo are both disturbing and heart-warming, as you provide direction, discipline and encouragement via the special microphone controller. Much like the first game in the series, there are a number of perturbing moments, including a talking bird with a human face who badgers you at the beginning of each session.
The Seaman series was never liable to achieve mass appeal, and the Japan only release of the second game bears witness to this. But Move and Kinnect provide so many new and exciting opportunities for the series that there are now more reasons than ever for Seaman to return and frighten a brand new generation of gamers.
2. Timepslitters Future Perfect – PS2, Xbox, Gamecube (2005)
Anyone who has known the joys of monkey curling will be hoping for news of a fourth Timesplitters in 2011. An addictive, deep and funny FPS, Timesplitters, in particular Future Perfect, boasted excellent single player and co-op campaigns, a plethora of challenges that were a game unto themselves and a competitive multiplayer that was the icing on the cake.
A fourth instalment was under development up until the closure of Free Radical Design, but it was presumed dead along with its developer. Recently however, rumours were doing the rounds that Crytec UK, what was once Free Radical, were discussing the possibility of revisiting their hit series with a number of publishers. Fingers crossed that 2011/12 will provide new reasons to shoot a monkey in the face with a Tommy Gun.
In the meantime, I highly recommend delving back into the existing Timsplitters titles. The first game looks rather dated and bare, but TS2 and Future Perfect are still great fun with a multi-tap and offer hours and hours of entertainment.
3. Road Rash 3 – Mega Drive/Genesis (1995)
Your objective in Road Rash was brutally simple: cross the finish line in first by any means necessary. This often involved punching, pounding, electrocuting and stabbing your competitors and it remained a simple, guilty pleasure throughout the 16 bit era. The series peaked with the internationally flavoured Road Rash 3, where you took your vehicular death wish to a number of destinations, including the UK, Kenya and Japan.
Since its heyday in the mid Nineties, Road Rash has repeatedly fumbled the ball and has been MIA since the disappointing Jailbreak in 2000. It’s a shame, as in an age of saturation the Road Rash premise remains relatively unique. Imagine the old winning Road Rash formula given the Burnout Paradise treatment, with races and challenges in a sandbox setting. I’m confident that we will see a Road Rash revival of some sort in the next few years, but whether it will live up to its potential is anyone’s guess.