Earlier this month The Well-Red Mage asked the blogosphere “what IP would you bring back from the dead?”
So let’s put on our musty robe, grab the nearest athame and spellbook, and step into a hand-drawn occult symbol to work some good ol’ fashioned video game necromancy, shall we?
I initially wanted to say Fatal Frame because we here in the States haven’t gotten a physical release since the series’ third entry on PS2 back in 2005, unless you count the 2012 3DS spin-off Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. The Wii’s Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse evaded a localized release completely (barring a fan translation patch and a modded Wii console), however, I often forget that we received a digital-only version of the Wii U’s Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water in 2015 — even with its stellar Nintendo-themed costumes.
Silent Hill is another questionable response, but the IP feels as good as dead in Konami’s hands right now. The last traditional release was Silent Hill: Downpour for the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2012, which received a lukewarm reception (currently sitting between a 64-68% review average). Later in 2012, Vita owners received a criminally awful Diablo-like set in the Silent Hill universe called Book of Memories (58% on Metacritic).
Back in 2014, acclaimed director Hideo Kojima announced that he’d be partnering with equally-acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro to reboot the series as Silent Hills. This venture began as a free first-person horror demo released on the PS4 called P.T., which wowed fans with its unsettling atmosphere and bizarre storytelling that only Kojima is capable of. As a terrifying slice of a work-in-progress, P.T. was phenomenal (despite a glaring late-game issue), but its true purpose was to hide a teaser trailer for Silent Hills at the end.
As you can imagine, this short clip featuring The Walking Dead and Boondock Saints star Norman Reedus had Silent Hill fans going bananas. After Kojima’s well-known falling out with Konami, though, the Silent Hills project was scrapped altogether. As you may know, Kojima then went on to form his own studio with Sony and continues to work with Norman Reedus and del Toro on the upcoming PS4 exclusive Death Stranding.
With Konami’s interest in video games waning, the next dose of heartbreak came in 2015 when the company confirmed that the newest Silent Hill would instead be a pachinko machine. Silent Hill 2’s iconic Pyramid Head character did appear as a free DLC character in Super Bomberman R on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s safe to say that it’s been far too long since the name Silent Hill has meant something.
So I guess the first *true* answer to Well-Red’s question would be the goth-as-fuck RPG series Shadow Hearts, which actually sprouted its wings from the tactical PS1 RPG Koudelka in December of 1999. Developed by a small team headed by Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta, Koudelka’s critical reception was largely negative but its signature look carried over to Shadow Hearts on PlayStation 2 in 2001.
The combat system of Koudelka was similar to that found in something like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, but it was poorly implemented and heavily criticized. This was done away with in Shadow Hearts in favor of a more traditional turn-based combat system, but with its own secret sauce thrown in. The “ring” attack method required more engagement from the player, instead of solely sifting through menus. Yuri, the game’s protagonist, also had the ability to collect monster souls and transform during battles.
Shadow Hearts had a pretty great story and took place in a gothic, demon-filled setting that was largely overlooked in the role-playing genre. Its sequel, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, is widely accepted as the best entry in the trilogy and, like its predecessor, took an unconventional storytelling path by being a direct continuation of Shadow Hearts’ “bad” ending. However, the trilogy ended on a bit of a sour note with Shadow Hearts: From the New World, which shifted its focus to a more uninteresting cast of characters set in 1929 New York. This spelled the end for Shadow Hearts, which is largely considered one of the most overlooked series of role-playing games in the PS2 era.
Another series I’d love to see make a return is Clock Tower, which began with a trio of point-and-click survival horror games. The first in the series was inspired by the horror films of Dario Argento and made its home on the Super Famicom (but never made it out of Japan). Two additional point-and-clicks were developed for the PS1, with Clock Tower (dubbed Clock Tower II in Japan) and Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within, but neither sold incredibly well. As a fan of all things horror, though, I fell in love with the series and its unique take on the point-and-click subgenre of adventure games. Rather than solving puzzles and romancing an exotic princess, you were being chased around by a maniac wielding a gigantic pair of scissors. It was rad.
The series took a dark turn in 2002 with a more traditional survival horror game on PS2, aptly titled Clock Tower 3. This entry abandoned the series’ point-and-click roots and instead placed direct control of its protagonist in the hands of the player. The spirit of the game largely remained the same, with 14-year-old Alyssa collecting items and solving environmental puzzles while being hunted by a comedic selection of murderers. However, it took a more comedic approach by turning her into some sort of “magical girl” anime heroine that ended each stage with a ridiculous bow-and-arrow boss fight — the last of which was agonizingly cheap and rage-inducing.
It’s definitely a “so bad, it’s good” kind of game and if the concept of a magical girl shooting arrows at dudes who normally dissolve people in barrels of acid sounds even remotely interesting then I implore you to watch Cryaotic’s Let’s Play in its entirety. Just listening to him struggle with the game’s absurdity is well worth the time investment.
Series creator Hifumi Kono left the team after the first (or second, depending on your geographic location) PS1 release, but released a spiritual successor to Clock Tower on PC last year with NightCry. Similar to Clock Tower, the player is stalked aboard a cruise ship by a maniac wielding scissors. Critical reception was mostly negative (currently “mixed” on Steam, according to a meager 117 user reviews) and it seems like its planned PlayStation Vita release will never see the light of day.
Shadow Hearts and Clock Tower are definitely my top picks for video game IP resurrections, mainly because I see them as being viable to continue on and please fans without their original creators (unlike, say, Chrono Trigger). Honorable mentions go out to SNK’s NEOGEO fighting series World Heroes (RIP’ed in 1995 with World Heroes Perfect) and Samurai Shodown, Nintendo’s glaringly absent Earthbound/Mother series of RPGs, SEGA’s stylish Jet Set Radio series, Panzer Dragoon, and the mostly terrific horror detective series Condemned.
I’d also (figuratively) kill for a new Darkstalkers, Power Stone, and Rival Schools because I have an apparent weakness for 90s Capcom fighters.
What about you, folks? What dead IP would you resurrect if given the chance?