If We Ran

In If We Ran, we look at what we’d do if given control over game companies to get them going in a positive direction. In this anniversary edition, we take on Capcom, arguably the most controversial publisher in the industry right now. It has some big issues it needs to fix, and these are six steps we think it should take to do so. It’s already taken one on their own this month, when it announced a free (fan-made) PC game to celebrate Mega Man‘s 25th anniversary: Street Fighter X Mega Man. READ MORE

In If We Ran, we look at what we’d do if given control over game companies to get them going in a positive direction. This month we’re taking on Ubisoft, a company with phenomenal successes but a serious consistency problem.

Ubi has decided that the Raving Rabbids are their new mascots, and that’s fine, but you know it’s going too far when they’re the unlockable characters in a Ninja Turtles game. Rayman 2 was arguably one of the best 3D platformers of its time, and as its peers (Sonic, Banjo-Kazooie, Crash, Spyro) have failed as of late, the market’s much less crowded and more hospitable for the genre. It can coexist with the Rabbids.


Gamers want this game. I’m pretty sure Ubi wants to release it too, since the original was a critical darling and the new title will boost the company’s reputation. (Not to mention that finishing a game means you can stop spending money to make it.)  But with Splinter Cell: Conviction out of the way, it’s the game that’s in development hell. Get it released! Hopefully there’ll be an announcement at E3.


For a company that releases Assassin’s Creed, they have a bad reputation. Why? Junk movie games. They’re lucrative, but if they at least limited the release platforms, the quality would increase. That’s something. It’s not about budget, either: Ubi threw a lot of money at the Avatar game (and even made it in 3D), but there’s a fundamental problem with top-down licensed games: the gameplay comes second. That’s the only thing that makes it different from the movie itself, so if it isn’t good, I might as well just be watching.


Capybara Games, creators of iPhone sensation Critter Crunch, worked with Ubisoft to release a puzzle RPG late last year for the DS. The game became a cult hit, and like their first game, they’re creating an HD downloadable version for consoles. This shouldn’t stop here. The game has legs, and new versions with innovation, variety and even further levels of strategy could bring the Might & Magic moniker back to the levels of prestige it once carried.


There are three big series for Ubi that keep making lots and lots of money and are critical successes as well: Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed. We don’t want series run into the ground, but these series’ developers have managed to keep things fresh and interesting without suffering from sequel-itis. We say keep ’em coming, because there’s no reason not to.


Okay, we had to make sure we weren’t already in charge of Ubisoft subconsciously when we heard this one.  The tie-in game is actually an interesting concept on its own, playing off 8-bit nostalgia and featuring a soundtrack by chiptune master Anamanaguchi. There are many places where this could go wrong, but on paper, this seems like exactly the kind of game we’d make.


We couldn’t get through this list without mentioning the infamous Imagine series of games for the Wii and DS. They’re horrible, have ill-advised concepts, and they’re spreading like a plague. Except here’s the problem: they make money. We wouldn’t want to get laughed out of the room for cutting off a crucial revenue stream, so we’re forced to just reform the series to make it less embarrassing. First, spell things correctly. We don’t need any more “Babyz” here. Then take it back to the original concept: female-focused casual titles. Take a few gameplay tips from FarmVille, Style Savvy and Diner Dash, and these games might be bearable. (Of course, we still wouldn’t play them.) 

What do you think? Are these moves good ones? Is there something we forgot? Let us know in the comments!

The Tecmo-Koei merger last year put together two companies in dire need of some straightening out. Tecmo was a company that, with the departure of industry icon Tomonobu Itagaki, was without its soul. Koei was a company that suffered from over-iteration of its key franchises. So, in fixing their quandary, we have our work cut out for us. 

We know Koei’s not going to stop releasing Dynasty Warriors games, but it’s unacceptable that such an iterative game has such problems with slowdown, framerate and glitching, and the co-op is such a selling point that it should be able to handle four players locally. They keep trying gimmicks, but what they need to do is make the core experience solid. There’s a reason Dynasty Warriors games sell: there’s a quality there that’s really fun. It’s just a headache sometimes too.


Here at Snackbar Games, we love retro revivals, so it’s probably surprising to hear us say that. Here’s the problem: The company’s attempts at remakes of Tecmo Bowl, NBA Basketball and Rygar have been, shall we say, less than stellar. Looking at their back catalog, there’s not much in the way of lost gems that need reviving, either, so sit this one out, Tecmo. (We have an exception here for one game, but that’ll be obvious later.)


The move to partner Team Ninja with Nintendo for Metroid: Other M is going to result in one of the biggest games they’ve released, if only because it has the Big N’s logo on the box. Add that to the fact that Tecmo does best with full, large-budget releases, and it’s the recipe for success.


Itagaki is out of the building, and we’re just tired of the whole DOA “look at virtual girls” thing. Right now they’re even promoting their creepiness. Stop, guys. There’s a road back to reputability, and we’re paving it. The new PSP DOA Paradise might sell, but it brings down the image of the entire company with every copy.


This is the one franchise where we suggest staying the course. The highly-rated series has kept it fresh (at least by this company’s standards), and who are we to meddle with it?


The partnership with Nintendo for Other M is great. But throw in cult hit machine Grasshopper Manufacture? That game should be made as available as possible. Nintendo isn’t planning on releasing it in the U.S., but Tecmo should do what it can to get it out there. As mentioned before, the Nintendo logo helps, so that route’s better than publishing it on their own, but that’s still better than nothing.


We don’t actually have anything to say about Opoona, but we figured it should be on the list anyway. Gitaroo Man is kind of cool too, but Opoona is significantly more fun to say. You try it: Opooooooonaaa! See what we’re saying?


The game’s turn-based, a time suck and best with more players, so where it needs to be is on Facebook. Make the monster randomization based on making friends or something, and add in some micropayments for the business model. We’d pick that over FarmVille.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

If We Ran is a look at what we’d do if we were in charge of gaming companies and series.  We offer an 8-step plan to get them back on track.  In this inaugural edition, we look at a company that needs a lot of work: Sega.

After years of running the Sonic series into the ground, we’re ecstatic that Sega is (supposedly) taking things back to their roots with the horribly-named Project Needlemouse.  If we ran the company, we’d ban all characters introduced after Sonic 3 (we’re okay with Tails and Knuckles) and make sure Needlemouse is a true Sonic 4.  In fact, we’d name it that.  The game should also be in 2-D, and heck, we wouldn’t mind a retro art style either.  Also: Ryan Drummond would be reinstated as the voice of Sonic.


Rez has already made the leap, and rumors suggest Sonic Adventure will make its XBLA debut soon.  Of course, we’d rather see some titles that haven’t been re-released already, and some are perfect for the service.  At the top of our list would be ChuChu Rocket, Ooga Booga and Jet Grind Radio.


Now, though the series gets panned more than it probably should, this isn’t about the quality of the Mario & Sonic games and our desire for more.  No, we just realize that some of the things we’re suggesting, while better for the long-term image of the company, might be a bit costly in the short run.  Mario & Sonic games sell like, well, Mario games, so any excuse Sega has to get in on that gravy train is one they should exploit.  On the other hand, the Sega “star” compilations are not such a good idea.  Though they’re relatively fun, there’s just not a rabid following for those characters, and the final products just feel second-rate as a result.  


A big company like Sega doesn’t often have an overlooked masterpiece like Valkyria Chronicles.  Of course, it was a pre-2009 PS3 game, and the sequel is coming to the PSP, so it won’t fare any better.  Bring VC3 back to consoles and run a few ads.  It can appeal to the Final Fantasy crowd and the Fallout 3 crowd too…if they knew it existed. In the meantime, VC2 would be a tough PS3 port, but throw it on the Wii anyway, since that port is common.


While Sega was a colossal failure in the hardware market for the most part, the most impressive part of their games was how the early ones on each system really pushed the limits of the chips.  Blast processing looked amazing on the Genesis, and the speed of Sonic Adventure made the Dreamcast a must-have at launch.  Valkyria Chronicles looked great on the PS3, and it would have made a big splash if it was available in 2006.  Sonic and the Secret Rings would have been great at the Wii’s launch as well.  We’d work closely with Sony, Nintendo and/or Microsoft to get a cool game out early next time, and they’d be happy to have something impressive too.


Sega’s had a moderate amount of success in Japan with card-based arcade games like Mushiking and Sangokushi Taisen.  Of course, the American arcade is dead, but there’s a solid DS version of Sangokushi Taisen, and it’s an interesting title on its own merits.  It’s a big risk to get cards translated and printed, but we feel like America’s ripe for another card-based craze.


A lot of the problems Sega games have had recently are related to glitches and bugs.  It’s a shame, because those problems can be worked out with just another layer or two of QA.  The downfall of the Sonic series since Sonic Team USA folded has really been that the problems make them unplayable.  Then again, Sonic Team Japan hasn’t made anything good in a long time…


Sega’s latest, Bayonetta, is a result of the publisher providing support to a small but accomplished outside developer.  The company’s internal teams aren’t the most promising as of late, but Sega could make a big splash publishing more cult favorites like they are with Platinum Games’ titles.  Even if they just get into competition with Atlus and Ignition in exporting Japanese hits, it’d help.


What do you think?  Are we crazy?  Should Sega take action on some of these? Let us know in the comments!