You've seen it all before. A new game title is announced, and it almost immediately begins to generate buzz as "the next hot thing". The excitement for the new project builds and builds and builds for months. And when it finally launches, it is an utter disappointment. Or, there is the other scenario where a really great game is created by a relatively small, or unknown studio. And in fact, the game isn't just good, it's actually phenomenal. The small fan base that has played the game silently wonder to themselves how the rest of the gaming world missed such a gem.

It's one of the most bitter and unfortunate realities of electronic entertainment. The proverbial "cream" does not always rise to the top. In the same way that pop fluff music can dominate the music billboards for weeks and even months on end, often times great games are overshadowed by other software releases that would be best used as coffee coasters.

To me, there is nothing more depressing than when I see a really great idea thoroughly wasted. I can't even begin to imagine how disheartening it must be for the designers, programmers, coders and others who work so hard on something, only to see it go up in smoke. Vaporware is what they call it. And though in many cases, ignorance might be bliss, you can't help but always wonder what might have been if the game had performed to the desires of it's creators.

I've certainly had my share of games that I loved, only to see them become one-hit wonders or bargain bin fillers. So, in a fit of nostalgia, I decided to revisit some of the games that left me wondering what could have been. And for the ones that did well, I can't help but wonder why we didn't get more. Here goes.

Geist - Gamecube

Geist was one of the little gems that appeared at the end of the Gamecube's lifespan and it was an excellent example of what the Gamecube was capable of. Geist was the original Dishonored. Visually beautiful, if not haunting and creepy, Geist was a truly memorable experience. The sound effects, the attention to detail, it's hard to pinpoint why Geist worked so well, but it did. It wasn't overly difficult. And the story, though not terribly original, was just meaty enough to keep you invested in the gameplay. I found myself really caring about what happened to John Raimi, the game's protagonist. You feel a certain amount of his sympathy for his condition, and part of what keeps you moving forward is a need to make things right. I don't know what happened with the people who made this game, but it thought it deserved more attention than it got.

Lifeline - PS2

Lifeline was one of those games that was quite possibly just too far ahead of it's time. You used no controller, no motion controller's, nothing so cumbersome as a light gun. No, the main control for Lifeline was the PS2's USB headset that was most commonly used to play SOCOM. You use voice commands to control the game. The premise of the story?

Christmas Eve, 2029, Grand Opening of the Japan Space Station Hotel. Bizarre creatures invade and begin slaughtering guests. You're trapped inside a security monitoring room. Your only contact- a hotel employee named Rio. She's armed, beautiful (of course), and she'll do anything you tell her (what a surprise). With your voice, you are her navigator. With her courage, she is your enforcer. Your alliance is the lone hope for survival. And possibly your only lifeline.

Tell me that doesn't good. Now given where technology is at nowadays, just imagine what could be done with that very same concept.

Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild - PS2

Splashdown was one of those over the top games that tried, and in my opinion succeeded in trying to recreate the experience of being on an amusement park ride, but taking it to a whole other level. Splashdown, at least in it's most basic form, is very much like Nintendo's seemingly forgotten Waverace franchise. But that's where the similarities end.

Splashdown is a beautiful game. The levels feel large and are full of interesting details, and there's endless short cuts and paths to find. Some of the stunts you pull off are hilarious, some are just really cool. The main selling point of Splashdown is that if nothing else, it's just a visual treat to play. That alone will keep you playing for quite a while.

State Of Emergency - PS2

When you mention SOE to those who are familiar with it, usually the reaction is not good. In fact, it's probably safe to say that State Of Emergency is one of those games that players, and maybe even Rockstar themselves would like to forget. But back when it was still in the development stages, State Of Emergency was supposed to be one those titles that truly showcased the power of the then new consoles. Playing a game with so many onscreen characters running around at once, all of them appearing to have their own agenda, was a precedent for consoles.

Unfortunately, the finished product was far from what anyone had hoped it to be. The idea of trying to suvive in an urban environment during a riot has always been a fascinating background story. How much more so for an interactive game presenting you with the endless choices and moral dilemmas that would arise under such circumstances? Alas, Rockstar's vision was never realized, and they've never gone back to it since.

Whiplash - PS2

Whiplash seemed like such a deliciously goofy game when I first heard about it back in 2003.

The Premise: Whiplash is a platformer where a long-tailed weasel chained to a rabbit must work together to escape from a product testing corporation known as Genron and putting the fat boss out of commission . The game is a basic platformer, with Spanx (the weasel) as the main character, and Redmond (the rabbit) as more of a tool. Although Redmond (the rabbit) and Spanx (the weasel) are two animals chained together, the gameplay is much like any other platformer.

The player controls only Spanx, using Redmond as a weapon or tool as the situation requires. Spanx has most standard plat forming abilities, while Redmond is completely indestructible as a result of tests conducted upon him and so can be hurled into security guards(and fatso the boss of Geron) , jammed into machinery, and used as a grappling hook, among other uses. Redmond can be inserted into special outlets to be set on fire, frozen, or become radioactive. - Source: Wikipedia

I personally loved Whiplash. There were several moments that had me caught up in raucous laughter and chuckling at the constant insanity of the game. However, Whiplash was met with quite poor reviews. I never really understood or agreed with the criticisms of the game, and I thought it was a shame that the two characters of the game never had the chance to be further developed. The idea was fairly original, but a poor first start insured it would never go beyond that.

Rebel Star: Tactical Command

During the glory days of the Gameboy Advance, there were two turn-based strategy titles that would dominate the genre. Those titles were  Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. But there was actually one more game that slipped through the cracks and received very little attention despite critical acclaim in several reviews.

Rebel Star: Tactical Command is a game that somehow straddles that tricky space between being cute, and yet being a serious tactical challenge. I easily spent hours with the game, trying to outwit the enemy. Even when you think you've gotten quite good at slaughtering the alien scum, the game will throw you surprises with clever ambushes, or unusually bold surges. The variety of weapons, armor and power-ups make for a thoroughly entertaining experience. I always felt that this one deserved a sequel.

Viewtiful Joe - Gamecube & PS2

What happened to Viewtiful Joe? This was one of the breakout surprise hits of it's time. Originally announced as part of four exclusives for the Gamecube (P.N. 03, Resident Evil 4, Killer 7 & Viewtiful Joe), it was eventually ported to the PS2 as was it's sequel, and with good reason.

Viewtiful Joe was one of those simple to pick up, and immensely fun to play games that did almost everything right. It was effortless fun. The humor was light and didn't feel forced or too obvious. In my opinion, Viewtiful Joe was a classic almost immediately. So why haven't we seen anymore of the little red-suited super-hero? That's anyone's guess. For a brief time, there was talk of a third VJ, but it never meterialized.  It's a shame too, considering the shortage of unique and compelling out there. But, because of it's graphical style and overall presentation, I can't help but think that Nintendo's  Wonderful 101 was their way of bringing cute little superheroes back to consoles.