Five Video Game Franchises That Lost Their Way
When do you let go of a series and stop having faith? Nearly every franchise has its duds, but at some point bad entries aren't an anomaly anymore, they're a trend. When fans are frequently getting burned, it's reasonable they'd start questioning their loyalty, even if they long for the glory days of yore. Here are five long-running series that are no longer providing fans much reason to stick around except for blind faith that next time things will be different.
Where it went wrong: Tony Hawk Ride (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii)
PlayStation gamers were introduced to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater way back in 1999, and the whole experience was magical. Not only were the movements and tricks silky-smooth for the time, but the punk-oriented soundtrack featuring bands like Primus and Dead Kennedys was top-of-the-line. Activision took the success of THPS and ran with it; developer Neversoft created one of the best games of the era in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. As time went on, the series' quality gradually declined, though Tony Hawk's Project 8 did introduce some interesting new mechanics. Soon afterward, developer Robomodo was handed the reins to the series. That's when it face-planted.
In a time where Guitar Hero and Rock Band had become immensely popular, Activision chose to create a plastic skateboard peripheral with four infrared sensors - one on each side of the board - and several motion sensors. Gamers would use the skateboard just like a real one. Tony Hawk Ride was an abysmal failure, full of awkward gameplay and frustrating issues. While its successor, Tony Hawk's Shred, was higher quality, it sold terribly and the franchise was shelved. If the recent debut of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is any indication, though, maybe it should have stayed there. On Metacritic, the PS4 version has a 32, while the Xbox One fared a bit better with a 39. Ouch. Not even by going back to its roots could the series deliver a polished and noteworthy experience.
Where it went wrong: Silent Hill Homecoming (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
Silent Hill wasn't just creepy; it had some truly messed-up storylines. The games were about confronting the unknown, so much so that the tension was palpable every time you walked around a corner. Whether it was an unexpected jump scare or insane plot twist, Silent Hill loved to toy with your mind. Silent Hill 2 remains one of the best offerings for playing with your expectations, providing memorable endings based on your choices.
Throughout the franchise's early days, the focus was creeping out players. The Room and Origins started the quality shift downward. It wasn't until Konami decided to ditch horror for action and put you in the shoes of a war hero in Homecoming that things really fell apart. This didn't make it feel like you were a normal person just trying to survive and took away much of the tension. Shattered Memories had some great ideas (especially being psychologically evaluated according to your actions), but didn't end up making a huge splash due to some boring gameplay and poor controls. Downpour also tried to get the franchise back on track, but had similar results. And that Book of Memories spin-off that was a multiplayer dungeon-crawler? Yikes.
Then P.T. got our hopes up when we saw Kojima's vision for a new Silent Hill, getting people more excited than they had been for the franchise in a long time. Sadly, Konami canceled the project in its messy divorce from Kojima, causing a great deal of disappointment and anger from those who had renewed interest in Silent Hill. Konami still may do something with the franchise, but it doesn't hold the same promise. Now that company has shifted its focus, the next Silent Hill is more likely to be pachinko or mobile related. Yeah, we don't blame you if you've lost all hope.
Where it went wrong: Sonic: The Hedgehog 2006 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Sonic has always been all about speed – the Mario competitor showed exactly that starting with Blast Processing on the Genesis. For the most part, the blue blur has done himself well as long as he's been in 2D – and even his initial transition to 3D in Sonic Adventure was decent. All of that goodwill was lost with the release of Sonic The Hedgehog in 2006. The 15th anniversary celebration was not well received – currently holding a 43 on Metacritic.
Despite dipping into other genres, including RPGs and racing games, Sonic hasn't regained his same level of speed and fun. These days, it feels like the best you can hope for is something passable, such as Colors or Generations, but you're usually getting something as dreadful as Sonic Boom. Every time a new entry is launched, Sega promises this time will be different, but we have yet to see a recent entry compare to Sonic's glory days. That's why it's hard to not be skeptical about the latest announcements – Sonic Mania and an untitled new Sonic game helmed by the Sonic Team.
Where it went wrong: Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
The Star Ocean series enamored fans with its deep combat, sci-fi settings, and amazing levels of customization. While the earlier entries remain cherished, things started to go downhill with Star Ocean: The Last Hope, which starred generic action hero Edge Maverick and a slew of other annoying party members. This is when the series started to get boring and lose its appeal, but it only got worse with the latest entry. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness feels like the final nail in the coffin with its lack of captivating characters, humdrum gameplay, and horrendous A.I. It's a shame because fans of tri-Ace's earlier games, like Star Ocean: The Second Story and Valkyrie Profile, recognize that, while flawed, these titles provided a unique experience rarely seen elsewhere. Unfortunately, Integrity and Faithlessness only proved that the innovation tri-Ace is famous for is waning. Fans have every right to be skeptical as to whether or not the series can be special again.
Where it went wrong: Metroid: Other M (Wii)
The Metroid series has rightfully earned a legacy for being one of the best shooter/platformer hybrids around. Between the excellent exploration and non-linear progression, Metroid made you look forward to every new finding. Metroid has remained cherished, even inspiring many developers to use it as inspiration for games like Axiom Verge and Ori and the Blind Forest.
For the most part, Metroid fans haven't had it all the bad. Despite initial concerns, Retro's three Metroid Prime games were all top-quality, interesting, and, most importantly, fun. Since that trilogy, though, we've only seen two new games, and one of them is the much-derided Metroid: Other M. Team Ninja created some competent game systems and a great atmosphere, but failed miserably when it came to characterization. Samus Aran is one of the most well-known female characters in gaming, but she was characterized as submissive and passive – two things she had never been before. Ultimately, the game sold to less than Nintendo's expectations. Fans have been patiently waiting for a new game to return and take the crown, but the only one on the horizon is Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a co-op FPS for the 3DS – not exactly what the audience wants. For now, fans are looking elsewhere to get the 2D Metroid experiences they crave, but that's not to say that if Nintendo announced a new actual Metroid game instead of a silly offshoot, we wouldn't be over the moon with excitement.
Ultimately, I don't blame fans for wanting to see something they once loved to be great again, but that's a hard feat when a franchise has gone so off course. It's impossible to point one specific thing or length of time you should give a series to get back on track before you put your foot down. However, it's also important to set your expectations. Be realistic. Be skeptical. Hope for the best, but don't forget that you've been burned before.
What franchises have given up on and why? Let us know in the comments below.