New Games Plus for 11/4/08: terrible trilogies

The holiday gaming extravaganza is still in full swing this week, and we’re seeing a lot of familiar faces. Marcus Fenix is back in Gears of War 2; Sgt. Nathan Hale returns to fight more chimera in Resistance 2; and yet another Naruto game is coming out this week: Ultimate Ninja 4. While these games are surefire hits with guaranteed sales, why does the industry keep putting them out? The ending of the original Gears of War made it obvious that Epic was making a trilogy and not a standalone title, but there are certainly other offenders. Trilogies are taking over our medium, and it’s pissing me off.

I blame Peter Jackson. He had the brilliant idea of making a Lord of the Rings movie, but he didn’t want to cut anything out, so instead, he created three movies. This was a great idea from a creative standpoint; he could tell the entire story, but from a financial standpoint, it was even more brilliant. You’ve got the first movie, which nets some hype, and lots of people see it. When it comes out on DVD, they buy it, and show the friends who didn’t see it in theaters, and the friends now like it. When the second movie comes out, not only do you have the first fan’s ticket sale, but you also have the new fan’s ticket sale. It’s like a pyramid scheme, except the only people who get any money are the people who built the pyramid. This logic would dictate that each successive movie would make more revenue than the previous one. A quick check on Wikipedia confirms this: The Fellowship of the Ring made $871 million, The Two Towers made $926 million, and The Return of the King grossed a whopping $1.2 billion. Show those numbers to any exec, and what they see is that you can manufacture success.

Of course, the Lord of the Rings movies were good, so I’m not really complaining. What I’m complaining about is that games are becoming trilogies before they’re a success — a series before the first game is even released. It seems like every other big budget title now is part of a trilogy: Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Mirror’s Edge, Too Human, just to name a few. While some titles sell enough to actually warrant a sequel, that’s not the point. The point is claiming that your game isn’t finished, that your story isn’t complete in just this one game. The reason Lord of the Rings worked as a trilogy is because the story was already done, all Mr. Jackson had to do was film it. I’m fairly sure that the creators of the previously mentioned games have a general idea what they want to do in terms of story, but I doubt they have anything even close to final.

So here’s the rhetorical question: Why do companies insist on making trilogies and sequels to games? Why don’t they make something new? That’s the equivalent of saying, “Hey you, company. Why not spend money on something that you don’t know how it’s going to sell? Who really needs brand recognition?” Money rules the world, and it rules the industry. Something’s only good if it makes money. To compare to the movie industry again: Compare the amount of video game sequels and forced trilogies to the amount of sequels and trilogies in film. Why can’t we have the equivalent of a Judd Apatow who uses the same actors in different movies, but never sequels? Why can’t we have one development studio that just hops from good idea to good idea, not sitting on anything long enough for it to start to fester?

I guess at this point I’m just bitching about something completely retarded. The fact of the matter is that even though I’d rather have something new, I’ll still play Gears of War 2. And I know tons of PS3 owners will stick with something familiar with Resistance 2, and they’ll completely pass up something incredible in Valkyria Chronicles, and that will only solidify to the companies that new IPs rarely succeed without a forced marketing blitz. The time for ranting is over; now onto the games for this week.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja: Storm: If you’ve been keeping up with NG+ for the past year, you’ll probably remember that I give a lot of shit to the Naruto games. I think there was a two-month period where at least one Naruto game came out every other week. But hey, they sell, and it’s not like I’m forced to play them. I was a fan of Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit not only because it was fun, but it looked like it came straight out of the anime in terms of animation, and everything I’ve heard about Ninja: Storm says that it puts DBZ to shame in terms of “anime come to life.”

Valkyria Chronicles: A turn based strategy RPG mixed with a third person shooter (kinda) drawn in a similar watercolor style found in Okami. [Actually, more like the cinemas from Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions — Parish] I played the demo at PAX, and I instantly knew two things. One, I was in love with this game. It plays so well, and it looks simply gorgeous; and two, it’s going to slip through the cracks this season. Sure, it’s going to sell well enough to people who already know the name, but I highly doubt that anybody’s going to pick it up on a whim. It’s also made by the same team that developed Skies of Arcadia, the secret best RPG on the Dreamcast.

Legendary: Pandora’s box gets opened and all the evils of the world come out, but from the looks of the trailers, this horror is simply generic FPS where you shoot werewolves instead of nazis or aliens. I was pretty interested in this until they actually started showing it, then my interest quickly waned. If you’re gonna be all about the evil, make it interesting evil.

Gears of War 2: The game that prompted my rant. The original Gears is still one of the best Xbox 360 games on the console; it also showed how excellent a game focused on co-op could be. Many games have tried to copy the success of Gears’ multiplayer campaign, but nothing’s managed to come close. CliffyB also said that this game would be “girlfriend friendly,” but we’ll see about that.

Quantum of Solace: I want so badly for this game to be the next GoldenEye, but I’ve wanted that of every Bond game for the past decade. Solace obviously follows the new Bond flick coming out in a few weeks, but it actually starts at the beginning of Casino Royale. It’s built on a slightly modified Call of Duty 4 engine, but it’s developed by Treyarch, who were responsible for the not-as-well-liked Call of Duty 3. I’m ready for disappointment, but I’m still going to try it.

Tom Clancy’s EndWar: A voice-controlled RTS. When I first heard what they were doing with EndWar, I was very skeptical. After actually playing it, I have to say that they did a helluva job making the game controlled almost entirely by voice (you have to press a button to actually make the game start “listening”). The way EndWar is set up makes the player feel more like a commander on the field than a godlike figure watching the entire battle as in most of the RTS ilk. It’s worth checking out, that’s for sure.

Resistance 2 is also coming out this week, but I’ve got a thing against the commercials, and I’m petty, so I didn’t include the boxart. It’s got a co-op campaign and some massive number of players for multiplayer battles.

That’s all we have for this week, folks. Be sure to talk about this post in the forums, and tell me how stupid I am for questioning the mighty logic of corporations seeking money.

22 thoughts on “New Games Plus for 11/4/08: terrible trilogies

  1. Can you start to include the platform(s), e.g. Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)?

    It took me a while to figure out you were talking about Valkyria Chronicles and not Valkyrie Profile (NDS).

  2. I blame George Lucas for over-sequelization. I feel this blame is better placed, if a bit cliche.

  3. Sorry [vudu], but I figured people would read the following passage:
    “And I know tons of PS3 owners will stick with something familiar with Resistance 2, and they’ll completely pass up something incredible in Valkyria Chronicles”

  4. Skies of Arcadia is the secret best game at being completely generic and uninteresting.

    Still, the Valkyria Chronicles demo has me interested, despite not liking SRPGs, like, at all.

  5. “Generic?” Very few games have conjured up as creative and vivid a sense of place as Skies did. Which is probably not surprising, given that it was (I think?) made by the people behind Panzer Dragoon Saga, another game that did very well in that regard.

    I suppose I’ll agree with that “best RPG on Dreamcast” thing, but was there really all that much competition?

  6. “secret best rpg on dreamcast?” Skies of Arcadia was the obvious-best-anything on Dreamcast, and I’m expecting a similar level of quality from Valkyria Chronicles.

  7. I remember a quote from (I think) CliffyB stating that they had no intention to stick to a trilogy and would make as many sequels as they saw fit. Pretty sure it was on 1UP. This was back like right after Gears 1 came out, though.

  8. Yes, GeoX, generic. Was it the stereotypical personality tropes or the fantastically original quest to collect the crystals and discover the secrets behind a princess with no memory and an ancient civilization that helped it be less generic?

    The setting was cool, yes, but it was merely a nice coat of paint over the same old thing.

  9. Kind of, yeah. The setting itself was nice enough, but I honestly can’t remember a single actual location other than “home base” or, uh…uh…”air pirate ship”.

    And like I said – the setting was what got me to play for as long as I did, but the tired old tropes killed any enthusiasm I initially had.

  10. Let me just elaborate on that: it strikes me as bizarre to call the setting nothing more than window dressing. It seems to indicate a very limited view of what goes into a good game. Very few fantasy RPGs are massively original, and most of them, in addition to featuring generic characters, take place in a world that feels as though the designers just took a bunch of stock, prefab fantasy elements and awkwardly stuck them together. The creation of a world that feels both unified and truly memorable is, in this milieu, incredibly rare, and a game that does it well impresses me a hell of a lot more than one that manages super-original characters or plotting. PDS does this even better than Skies, but Skies still ranks in the top tier in this regard.

  11. I’m pretty sure that the Lord of the Rings was a trilogy of books that was turned into a trilogy of movies, which made a lot more sense than compressing three books into one movie.

  12. Actually, Lord of the Rings was a single book whose publisher split it into three because they refused to publish such a large edition. Kind of like the movie! So your points stands. I’m just an idiot nitpicker, because this is the Internet, after all.

  13. Goldeneye, like a lot of N64/PS1/Saturn games, has aged horribly. Can we all just remember it fondly and, at the same time, admit that it cannot compare favorably against almost every FPS released in the last five years?

  14. “Sorry [vudu], but I figured people would read the following passage:”

    But my point still stands. Can anyone (who doesn’t already know) tell me what platform “Legendary” appears on without outside help?

  15. “Judd Apatow” is a poor example considering his movies all SUCK! :P Unless you’re a retarded stoner I guess.

    “Why can’t we have one development studio that just hops from good idea to good idea” Because they shut Clover Studios down… BUT now we can just play games from Platinum Games! :)

    Also the whole Viewtiful Joe thing… If they didn’t make Red Hot Rumble & Double Trouble they could have made part 3… unfortunately they chose wrong!

  16. Oops… also I’m picking up my Valkyria Chronicles today after work! Woot… with Art Book!

  17. More like a director than a development studio, but what about Kamiya? Resident Evil 2, to Devil May Cry, to Viewtiful Joe, to Okami, and now to Bayonetta? Maybe not book-ended with the best examples, but still I think he more than qualifies as someone who just keeps making original, great games.

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