There are some undeniable truths in life, death and taxes being two examples, and the video game industry has its own rules and obligations that can never be avoided. One of these revolves around reboots of treasured franchises — if you're going to "re-imagine" a popular character or series, you'd better get it right, and even if you do you may still get hammered by those who imagined the new game in their head and, ultimately, can't bear the thought that you've not made it to their exact requirements.
Some reboots are genuinely a blight on mankind that have sullied their characters forever, while others are critically acclaimed and loved by 90%+ of the gaming community. Some, however, fall into a middle ground of uncertainty, with review scores to match; games where the word consensus — among critics publishing reviews, gamers or both — is impossible. These are games where a mere mention can prompt debates, possibly with bemused developers looking on wondering why no-one can agree on anything about their pride and joy.
Below are some examples, starting with the one that's prompted this article. To get early disclaimers out of the way — some of these entries are there for a little bit of fun, and we're focusing on relatively recent, mainstream examples. We'll more than likely do this again in the future to look further back and at more niche titles, but please debate without getting too carried away; it's OK to like or dislike something against the grain, right?
Metacritic isn't always the most reliable barometer, but it is a useful source of links to reviews; as the score range for this newly released Castlevania entry shows, some critics clearly haven't enjoyed this one, and as the title has only been available in North America for a day it's clear that gamers need a bit of time before forming their own full opinions. This one may be victim to the classic "it's not like this older series entry, so boo" mentality, though complaints have been made in some quarters about the controls, environments and combat. How will the great gaming public respond to this fresh handheld take on the series?
Oh boy, where to start with this one. For the most part well received in press reviews, it was Metroid fans that would react the most to this entry. Three big debating points seemed to emerge — the storyline, a space-opera yarn that some objected to, Samus having a voice-actress for the first time, and the single Remote control scheme. In terms of the story and voice acting, it's clear that some franchise fans seriously disliked the tale that was told, how it was told and that scene with Samus and Ridley, while much debate was had about the monochromatic delivery of Samus' narrative. Some also disliked maneuvering around a 3D space with the diminutive D-Pad of the Wii Remote, while the brand of auto-aim and melee action didn't sit well with all fans.
Ultimately, this one was a fair departure — perhaps the closest to the narrative-heavy Metroid Fusion — where series creator Yoshio Sakamoto told a story that he wanted to share. It divided fans, while Team Ninja's over-zealous approach to the physique of Samus was, most will agree, a bit silly. It has legions of fans and defenders, however, so it's a battle that may never end.
OK, so this one had some stonking reviews when it was released, especially as it heralded the first genuinely new 2D Mario title in a number of years when it hit DS in 2006; it also sold enough copies to make creators of "DS, it prints money LOL" memes very happy.
So what's it doing on this list? It's here because, frankly, it doesn't get a huge amount of love among a number of current-day Nintendo gamers when stacked up against its predecessors. From a list of 14 eligible main-series Super Mario games back in August 2012, it placed last in a staff poll of our favourite Super Mario games, with most opting for the old classics over the "New" series. Maybe it was the relatively low difficulty or just the fact it wasn't the same as the 2D Mario games that many remember and treasure, but this isn't often mentioned when discussing the best Mario games.
OK, so this one appears on somewhat different criteria. Generally people seem to like this game, while Luigi fans possibly treasure it above anything with that other brother in it, and it gave the green one a starring role during the GameCube launch. So what on earth is wrong with that?
Just one thing, it's not a generation-defining Mario game. This thoroughly enjoyable launch title is swallowed by its predecessors and what they brought to the table. NES had Super Mario Bros., SNES had Super Mario World and Nintendo 64 had Super Mario 64. Tenuous it may be — alright, it's very tenuous — but if this was a reboot of what Nintendo was bringing as a console-defining launch title, poor old Luigi was well and truly up against it, and his spooky adventure hasn't hit the same iconic heights as those that came before.
So, this one has done brilliantly with the vast majority of critics, earning full marks from a significant number of reviewers. And yet much attention on its release was on a handful of reviews that weren't as happy, with middling scores relatively unknown to the Zelda franchise; this caused some fans to get rather hot and bothered.
For those that didn't like it, the issue seemed to be with the obligatory motion-controls, with sword-play eschewing the tradition button inputs for MotionPlus swings and swipes. Others didn't necessarily like the structure, with some arguments that the world wasn't as expansive as it pretended to be. Admittedly, these complaints were in the minority.
The major division is really with sales, with a lot of Zelda fans evidently not buying into this latest entry — perhaps due to the mandatory MotionPlus, or maybe because it arrived when Wii was practically flat-lining as a console. As we explained last year, Skyward Sword sales failed to soar, and don't appear to have increased a great deal since that article was written. In our fairly recent staff poll of our top 20 Wii games it finished 5th, with some admitting they were yet to play it all the way through, or even at all. The modest (by Zelda standards) sales showed that this may be the case for a number of other Nintendo gamers, too.
When it comes to this one, light the Uprising touch paper and watch the flaming begin. Widely praised, there are nevertheless plenty of gamers that aren't fans of the storytelling, transitions from land to air battles or, in most cases, the controls — stylus aiming was the only way to go, though it is an option to aim with the face buttons. It seems to be a game that's loved by many, disliked by some and with a handful in the middle; it's also clear that it's a title with fans that will defend it to the heavens.
We have two cases right here on Nintendo Life that reinforce this. Exhibit A is the 2012 Game of the Year staff awards, in which we placed this title 3rd in the 3DS category; we knew there'd be a negative reaction but, hey, it was a democratic vote. Of course, you could then speak in the 2012 Game of the Year community awards, where it seized the 3DS crown even though, whisper it, not everyone included it in their votes. It was a handsome victory nevertheless, with many reminding us regularly that a form of justice had been delivered.
Whoa, what's this all about? How could you take that classic Amstrad/Spectrum/Amiga/Commodore 64 game and turn it into a HD FPS with motion controls and all sorts of shenanigans?
Well, OK, no-one's actually said that. It's useful pub quiz trivia, however, that this is technically a follow-up to Ubisoft's first ever game, Zombi. It's certainly one of the most divisive games on Wii U, too, not surprising as a launch title that didn't try to hide the fact that it was being as hardcore as possible. It places a great emphasis on melee combat, along with playable characters that are rather shaky when wielding a cricket bat or shooting a gun, while the permanent death system is punishing and, arguably, cruel; it also had some rough graphical edges, as launch games often do. Strangely, some elements on that list of features are either the source of complaint or grounds for praise, depending on your preferences — that's reflected in the broad range of review scores and varying gamer perspectives on this survival horror release.
Its fans will no doubt defend its honour until a real zombie apocalypse, we suspect.
So there you have it, some games that are arguably — in their own way — reboots of franchises or perhaps gamer expectations. We've only touched the surface, so don't be surprised if we revisit this theme a lot in the future. What do you think of these particular examples? Let us know in the comments below.
Due to a technical mishap, some of the text towards the end of this article was lost and had to be re-written; the overall content and tone remain the same.