Rise From Your Grave! Franchises the PS4 Should Resurrect
We dig through the vast library of long dormant PS and PS2 titles, and pick out a few worthy of a PS4 revival.
With the PlayStation 4 confirmed for a holiday 2013 release, players can expect a bunch of new games that take advantage of the system's revved-up features, like its social and video sharing functions. A new console can also present a great opportunity for the PlayStation brand to look through its catalogue of classic games from the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 days to see which ones are worthy of a modern-day revival.
To say that the PlayStation's backlog is huge is an understatement: there are more than 6000 titles for the company to dig through, either from Western or Eastern developers. Below are a few gaming hits from the PlayStation and PS2 eras that could do with a PS4 reboot.
PaRappa The Rapper
What was it?
A pioneer of the music rhythm genre, the PS and PS2 series had players match button prompts following the rhythm of a song. These songs were usually rap battles against other singers, set in locations like a dojo, a cooking show, and a line for the restroom. The series also introduced the concept of having the level's background and music being affected by your performance.
The rhythm gaming genre is ripe for a comeback. And since PaRappa made a recent appearance in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, it's clear that Sony still has some love for the rapping anthropomorphic paper-thin dog.
A new PaRappa game could make good use of online features. New music could be streamed instead of being downloaded, with the sole catch being that the tune would only be available for a set period of time. For three days, the devs could release an exclusive "I Gotta Believe" remix by Paul Oakenfold that players could stream and play with, for example. Players with the best score on the leaderboards for that period could get in-game rewards exclusive from these "live" events.
With the addition of the touch pad, players would have another input command to play with during a song. The devs could even introduce "jam sessions", where any player from across the world could join in a game at any time during a song and contribute to pressing inputs to a song. If they don't feel like contributing to the song, they could instead join in as a controllable background prop; players could either jump around or just clap, yelp, or cheer using the face buttons on the PS4 pad.
What was it?
While the third-person game Syphon Filter was heavily compared with Metal Gear Solid around 1999, Syphon Filter was more focused on action rather than heavy MGS-style narrative. Starring the square-jawed Gabe Logan, players loved the game for being a great hybrid of action and stealth. The game's cover-based shooting may have inspired the mechanics of the Gears of War franchise to a degree.
There were rumblings of a Syphon Filter 4 for the PS3 that never came to be. Still, the market could use another stealth-based IP to join the ranks of the new Splinter Cell and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V.
The series could borrow a few ideas from current titles that emphasize stealth and clean kills. Gabe could move like Ezio and Connor from the Assassin's Creed series, leaping from building to building, pursuing targets, or running away from reinforcements. The instinct mode from Hitman: Absolution could be of some use to Gabe Logan. Rather than heading into an area with trial and error, the main character could trigger it to scan the area, then use whatever information highlighted from instinct mode to move into different hiding places while avoiding patrol guards.
At the same time, Syphon Filter should differentiate itself from these games by using its modern spy thriller aesthetics and crank its narrative to over-the-top levels like an '80s action flick. The stories of the previous games on past Sony consoles had a certain old-school, campy charm to them that would set it apart from more serious titles like the Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear games.
What Is It?
A Square Enix action RPG, the game was developed by the team behind the Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre series. RPG fans deemed it a classic because of its simple-yet-complex real-time and turn-based hybrid battle system, its narrative, and memorable boss battles.
Square Enix has been using the Final Fantasy brand for a long while; perhaps the company can take a break and focus on another franchise that has a cult following. With the new Tomb Raider and upcoming Thief reboot, a plan for a Vagrant Story retelling could fit in with the company's current plan of resurrecting old IP.
Square Enix could reduce the complexity of the combat system, but somehow preserve nuances of it. Elements like the game's targeting system (where players can target an enemy's individual body part) and chain abilities (where players chain attacks via timed button presses) could be broken down and explained in a chapter or two so that new players could get into the swing of things.
Square Enix could also take the Demon Soul's approach of providing hints and showing the paths of the fallen from across the world, all without interfering with the core gameplay. The company could take it a step further and create a live tips system, where players could share their weapon customization and combat tips all around the world in-game, provided they stay online while playing. The block puzzles of Vagrant Story should be abolished in favor of more interesting and less tedious fares from the Uncharted series and the Tomb Raider reboot.
What was it?
A JRPG using wild west settings and steampunk motifs, the first game on the PS was the very first JRPG on the system. Subsequent releases followed, with the last official entry being Wild Arms XF on the PSP.
Developer MediaVision had been busy with the iOS game Chaos Rings, an RPG published by Square Enix, focused on a two-member party turn-based battle system set in a multitude of dungeons. As fun as those portable games were, it's high time that MediaVision headed back to its fantasy wild west-style RPG roots. While the first three games had conventional turn-based battle systems, the fourth and fifth games spiced things up with the HEX system.
Basically, seven hexagons are on the battlefield, and players could move their party members like chess pieces to attack and flank enemies. Other nuances, like the ability to stack characters onto the same hexagon for team attacks and adding status-altering "minefields", made for engrossing fights without them stretching out for longer than they should.
For the sequel or reboot, the HEX system should stay, albeit with minor improvements like changing up the positions of the hexagons after a set amount of turns. The game could benefit from online features and take a page from Dragon Quest X by being semi-multiplayer: when raiding certain high-level or post-game dungeons, players can invite friends and strangers to their game session, even in mid-battle. The combat remains, but now with the added benefit of more people teaming up against the AI and sharing the rewards of high-level gear and loot.
What was it?
A lesser-known title for the PS from Atlus, Hellnight was a first-person survival horror game, where you had to navigate a maze using non-combat tools and navigation, while also avoiding a human flesh-craving monster called, well, the Monster. The game also allowed you to have an extra partner who comes equipped with a weapon, though they could only put down the monster for 5 seconds, before it wreck havoc.
In a landscape where most big-budget survival horror games focused more on co-op and explosive set pieces than actually trying to provide scares (which usually end badly), it's time the PS4 returned to the days when horror games had loads of tension and actual dread. The partner system should remain the same, as long as it kept the protagonist weapons free. The game should be designed to emphasize that players cannot plough through Hellnight with sheer brute force, and that they will always be vulnerable unless they think on their feet.
Social functions could make for a creepy experience if done right. The developer can use a system that sends real-time text messages and in-game emails to a player while venturing in a tunnel, further aggravating players who are knee deep in the maze. Conversely, players could receive positive messages from NPCs they saved in the maze.
Taking a page from PC MMO The Secret World, the developer could also send out links to mock websites for players to solve puzzles on and bring the answers in-game. For example, a blog site from an in-game NPC could contain clues on what paths not to take while in the maze. The game could incorporate a help function; if you're left for dead during a maze run, another player online can spend some form of online currency to resurrect players in other Hellnight sessions.
What was it?
Considered by many as Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's under-appreciated masterpiece, this adventure title placed gamers in the role of detective Jonathan Ingram. After a space police mission goes wrong, Ingram spends 30 years in hypersleep before waking up in 2040 and returning to a futuristic Earth.The catch was that he had not aged at all during his hibernation; his friends all but left him behind, and his wife had moved on.
Policenauts played more like a visual novel with some action portions, while also featuring a sci-fi plot that's analogous to the old Japanese tale of Urashima Taro. Typical to the creator's form, there are many Hollywood homages, ranging from Blade Runner to Lethal Weapon.
Visual novels, or at least adventure games styled like them (for example, the Ace Attorney series), have a small but dedicated fanbase; a Kojima Productions-sanctioned game could be a start of a mainstream push.
Having said that, some semblance of interactivity other than flipping through walls of text and slideshows could be beneficial. Bolstering Policenauts' rail-shooter segments would be a start; they could use either a PS Move or the new controller's touch pad in inventive ways. Thanks to the PS4's community tools,, players could invite others into their Policenauts session to help out in puzzles in case they get stuck.
For players who like to stick together online, the game could also add in a voting system for decision making. An example would be that players could do a timed ballot to determine whether Jonathan Ingram should negotiate calmly, aggressively, or just go in guns blazing during a hostage negotiation.
Multiple branching paths in a visual novel format could also make for great experiences to share online. Players could compare notes with other players on how their story progressed, and see how much they deviated from one another. Think of this scenario as more of an online book club exclusive for Sony's console.
To top off this futuristic serving, Kojima Productions could have a separate team with the sole purpose of trolling gamers with random messages and fourth-wall-breaking shenanigans. Imagine if players were hanging around the world of Policenauts when they suddenly received a text message to a player's account that gave cryptic hints to oncoming decisions that players have to make. To borrow from The Secret World again, the developers could add interactive objects like a book or poster that could open up a browser to a mock site containing more lore about Policenaut's alternative Earth, or even a combination to a safe containing a collectible Easter egg.
Legend of Mana
What was it?
Part Secret of Mana, part Actraiser on a smaller scale, Legend of Mana for the PS let players develop their plots of land to restore balance to the in-game world. To get the materials needed (artefacts, pets, wisps), players needed to venture into the unknown and kill hordes of fantasy beasts in action-RPG combat.
Remember when Square Enix was experimenting with different genres back in the late '90s? Legend of Mana combined the company's familiarity with the JRPG formula, while also adding a bit of simulation into the mix. By reinvigorating the Mana series, this could be a small step for Square Enix to be the company it was back then, when it wasn't relying too much on its money maker of a franchise and year-old tech demos.
The social and sharing function of the PS4 could be incredibly beneficial in a reboot. A player's mana-filled plot of land may be incredibly different to their friend's. If a user wants to lend a helping hand, why not deliver an artefact or two to help a fellow gamer's mana economy grow?
To add incentive for sharing, players would receive growth and stat bonuses to their land, and even their player characters for each Legend of Mana neighbor they have on their friends list. Players in your friends' list can visit your crop of land, but only as a spectator. Square Enix should preserve the single-player design of the game, but at the same time add a logical social function that allows them to peek at a friend's progress.
What was it?
Before relegating itself to Naruto fighting games, CyberConnect2 got its start in the industry by creating this PS top-down shooter, where the main character threw and planted bombs, like Hudson's cute little demolitions expert, Bomberman. Players could latch bombs onto oncoming enemies, and even stack them onto the same target for a bigger explosion.
The devs didn't stop there, adding various bomb types with elemental and statistics-altering properties, as well as a scoring system whereby players were rewarded for killing multiple enemies with the least amount of detonations.
With shooters not dying out any time soon (hi, Killzone: Shadow Fall), Sony could at least inject a different spin on the formula. A new Silent Bomber can be the very first kind of shooter that gives players an unlimited amount of satchel packs as a starting weapon, instead of a handgun.
Players with an arcade score mentality can upload their quick playthroughs and detonation techniques via integrated stream. Be it a replay or a live stream, players on the same friend's list could jump in and comment on what's going on. As long as developers can keep throwing in new levels that mirror a Crysis-like design frame in mind (semi-open playground that's ripe for explosions), the creative players can upload videos on how to obliterate levels as much as possible in the shortest time possible. If the developer's cards were played right, the speedrun community could flock onto the PS4 and show off what they could do with future titles with an arcade-style mentality.
For the sake of keeping up with current trends, the new Silent Bomber has to change camera perspectives from a top-down view to a third-person view. The user interface should be clear on which enemies have been tagged with bombs, and how many are on the playing field before you're prompted to detonate them.
This being a game focused on blowing things up for fun and profit, some form of the Frostbite 3 or Geomod engine would allow players to go nuts blowing up the environment and making it look good. Add in the elemental and outer-worldly types of bombs, and the ensuing explosions would look pretty for live-streaming entertainment.
What was it?
A WarioWare-style game before WarioWare was even incepted, this PS title put you in the shoes of a Japanese family living through a series of unfortunate events. Said catastrophes involved the paternal figure of the group trying to sleep with a woman clearly trying to murder him while on a Ferris wheel, a UFO and emergency transport chase sequence, and a giant bear invasion.
Sony could use something off-kilter in its PS4 library in between the Uncharteds and the Killzones that it will likely lay onto players in the near future. With many PS3 titles that used the Move controller not being as fun as they should be, developers should go big or go home when it comes to colorful party games.
The original game had two or more players passing the controller around to complete timing-based minigames focused on bizarre scenarios. Why not push it further and make it a simultaneous experience with everyone who's playing online, now with their own controllers? New input methods are now possible in completing the game's weird minigames thanks to the addition of the touch pad on the new controller. Add in the camera functions of the PS4, and gamers can have their sessions recorded for all to see and share online.
This is but a really small slice of what developers can tap from these legacy titles. If you have suggestions on what PlayStation-exclusive titles need to be brought back to life on the PS4 using next-gen tech, share your brainstorms below!
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