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System Restart: The Greatest Video Game Reboots

/ Apr 25th, 2013 No Comments

Metroid Prime
Tomb Raider 2

Tomb Raider

Reboots are a tricky business, often video game companies reboot a franchise that once held high regard and sales that reflected gamers’ good will. However, for any number of reasons the brand popularity wanes. Whether it is one bad game that nukes the franchise’s credibility or too many similar sequels water down the inherent “ness” of the series. When this happens video game companies either let the once majestic beast die a painful death, or wait and eventually reboot the franchise with a new creative team and sometimes even a “fresh” take on the series. Most reboots are soulless cash grabs that are cynically made in the hopes that fanboy anger will lead to intrigue and hopefully dollars. Yet a few reboots do the impossible by managing to make an exemplary game, renew fan interest and launch a healthy new strain of the franchise (most end up pouting and trying to act like Dad by simply wearing poppa’s shoes and saying stuff like “I am nothing without my coffee in the morning” or “I don’t love you anymore and I am leaving this loveless marriage because you are suffocating me!”).

5. Tomb Raider – PS3, Xbox 360 and PC

2013 saw the release of several high profile franchise reboots in DmC: Devil May Cry, SimCity (with 2k’s XCOM expected later this year), and Tomb Raider. These games come at a turning point in video gaming with the next-gen consoles, thus doing well means extending into a shiny new console cycle. Out of all these reboots, Tomb Raider was the most successful of them. Not plagued by disastrous launch issues or a clear identity crisis, Tomb Raider adeptly re-introduced a mature, three-dimensional and sympathetic Lara Croft to gamers. For a franchise that launched an icon and introduced revolutionary gameplay, it slowly diminished into a brand with no cache in gaming. Tomb Raider’s legacy inspired plenty of successful modern games. With this reboot it took what those games were doing, refined the systems and resulted in a polished experience. Tomb Raider had solid gameplay with a good amount of depth, an engaging plot and a huge amount of exciting set pieces. Crystal Dynamics’ reboot did the impossible and converted those indifferent and cynical at a Tomb Raider reboot into fans and left players wanting more of this new Lara.

4. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – PS2, GC, Xbox and PC

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Moving a game from 2D to 3D is a difficult task, sometimes the translation loses the element that made the game special. What Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has in common with other titles in this list is that is a hugely successful reboot/transfer from a two-dimensional plane to full 3D. The game featured an excellent story with great character development of the Prince and excellent interplay between Princess Farah and the Prince. Sands of Time featured fluid gameplay with excellent platforming mechanics and acrobatics (a good sign of the things to come in the Assassin’s Creed series) and the use of time through the Dagger of Time was innovative and clever. Unlike other entries in this list, while Sands of Time lead to a number of sequels that had some critical and financial success, due to a tonal shift, the sequels never quite regained what made Sands of Time so charming and engrossing. Also, points off for having a DmC-ish reboot in 2008′s Prince of Persia.

3. Batman: Arkham Asylum – PS3 and Xbox 360

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Not a traditional reboot, but after years of various licensed games that varied wildly in quality and suffered in the same way that all comic book games did without a unifying developer/vision overseeing them. In 2009, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment with a renewed focus on producing video games in house released Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios took the helm on the game and produced not only a damn fine Batman game that captured the world of the Dark Knight exceptionally, but possibly one of the best comic book-based games. Arkham Asylum featured a great original story by Paul Dini, the creative mind behind the amazing Batman: the Animated Series. It also featured deep combat that gave players the visceral feeling of being the World’s Greatest Detective. Batman’s gadgets are used incredibly well in the gameplay and they lend themselves well to a gaming structure. The Scarecrow boss battle is a hugely memorable experience and a highlight for the game. Taking some cues from Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman (surprisingly less than most modern reboots), but mainly the game felt like some great episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. Arkham Asylum’s biggest achievement is that it proves that a successful Batman games is possible. Not only that, but Batman: Arkham City managed to improve upon some of the weaknesses of this fine game and showed that a Batman video game franchise is possible. With Batman: Arkham Origins coming out in October, it will answer whether the basic properties of the series is maintainable after a studio shuffle and Paul Dini not writing the game.

2. Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) – Xbox, PS3 and PS Vita

Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

After nearly a decade in slumber, in 2004, Tecmo revived the Ninja Gaiden series under Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja. This Ninja Gaiden reboot takes place before the NES Gaidens and was designed with a Western audience in mind. As a result, the game was a financial success and critically well received. Ninja Gaiden featured plenty of the signature Team Ninja flairs with busty ladies and ninjas. The game featured tough enemies and even more difficult bosses, the steep difficulty of the game was a huge draw. Featuring addictive and deep gameplay, Ninja Gaiden was an achievement in bringing Ryu Hayabusa into the modern era of gaming. One of the big draws of Microsoft’s first foray into console gaming, Ninja Gaiden was a huge boost to the original Xbox. Ninja Gaiden lead to two sequels that did not quite recapture the magic, but the legacy of this Gaiden reboot can be seen in the Sigma remakes, which recently appeared on the PlayStation Vita.

1. Metroid Prime – GameCube and Wii

Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime

Sure some might say that Metroid Prime was not a reboot, but it has all the characteristics of it. It marks a return of a popular series after a hiatus and transitions a traditional 2D series into 3D. Again much like Ninja Gaiden, this kicks of a trilogy of games that takes place in a weird chronology of the original NES games. Metroid Prime had a much tougher job than most in that it had to turn a 2D side-scroller with an open-ended world into a 3D space. The game took a huge risk from changing the third-person perspective of the original games into a first-person perspective. A huge gamble, but it paid off extremely well. Metroid Prime’s presentation was amazing with beautiful environments and great sense of scale to Tallon IV. It brought the signature moves from the series back in a smart manner combined with the various visors added a great amount of depth to gameplay. Not only did Metroid Prime successful make a shift to the first-person perspective, but it captured the Metroid-vania style that it helped name with poise. All of this lead to one of the finest experiences on the GameCube and helped bolster’s Nintendo’s blocky purple system while leading to two great sequels. We can all pretend that Hunters and the pinball game never existed (Other M too while we are forgetting things).

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Associate Editor/Editorial Lead at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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