Whilst we contrast and compare the first party titles, the key exclusives, on each gaming platform, it is evident that, despite edging out the competition (not including Nintendo, of course) with the likes of Forza Motosport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse, Titanfall and Killer Instinct, Microsoft could actually have a lot more besides. Enough to perhaps not only prove once and for all that they have the superior first party offering over Sony, but potentially, even over the mighty Nintendo themselves.
The key to this, naturally, lies in the vast array of IPs that came bundled with developer, Rare, when the company was bought by Microsoft back in 2002. Now, we have already seen Conker: Live and Reloaded on the original Xbox, with Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts following on the 360, but there’s so much untapped potential in both these, and the numerous licences that yet lay dormant. Given the fantastic job that Double Helix did with the re-imagining of Killer Instinct, perhaps the time is right for other developers to take over the responsibility of bringing these other gaming classics back to life?
Listed here are just some of Rare’s wonderful back catalogue of games that could potentially make the transition onto the Xbox One, and more than likely, rather successfully too.
We’ve already seen two Banjo games make it to the N64, which were then re-released onto the 360’s Xbox Live Arcade via Dundee’s 4J Studios, and a new iteration, in the form of Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, developed by Rare themselves, so why bother with another? Well, the original Banjo title is considered to be a landmark moment in the history of video games, and whilst Nuts and Bolts can be credited with at least attempting to do something new with the franchise, it also lost a lot in the process. A return to the more traditional 3D action-adventure is in order, especially when you consider that Nintendo are effectively the only company that still offers such gaming experiences, which, quite frankly, isn’t good enough. Microsoft have the power to change that by bringing back a beloved gaming IP with tried and tested gameplay, and a new lick of paint. We’ve already seen what 4J can do technically, so perhaps it’s time to let them flex their creative muscles too, and give them the responsibility of breathing life into this beloved series.
Battletoads was a rather popular series of games and cartoons that was initially created to compete with the rising commercial might of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but regardless, what Rare created was a rock solid, scrolling beat ‘em up to rival the very best that the genre had to offer. With big, colourful graphics and three different characters with unique skills, the game makes for ideal co-operative fare, both locally and online, which would make it an ideal addition to the Xbox software line-up, particularly as these types of games have all but disappeared. Of course, this could have something to do with the genre’s apparent lack of commercial appeal, but there’s certainly no reason why Battletoads couldn’t make its way back via Xbox Live, rather than as a full retail release. With Ruffian Games having shown a desire to bring back Sega’s Streets of Rage, perhaps they could be swayed into breathing life into Battletoads too?
Blastcorps is one of the most beloved titles released for Nintendo’s N64 console, rather surprising given that the game was simply produced to give its players the ability to destroy objects, and was created by a development team that, as far as I am aware, never strayed above ten members (if it was even that high). Starting players off in a world map hub, a variety of levels can then be unlocked including time trials (typically, these are races) and carrier levels, where players must use a variety of vehicles to clear a path through an array of obstacles to allow a missile carrier to complete its journey across the map. This basic design has become somewhat more common of late, but back in 1997 when it was released, it was anything but that. Successfully combining puzzle and action elements, Blastcorps is an ideal concept for release onto the Xbox One, with its competitive, point scoring mechanics making it ripe for the inclusion of global leader boards, and potentially even multiplayer components to boot. With the original release being considered as one of the finest games from a platform that was littered with them, there’s really no reason why it couldn’t be a huge success for Microsoft. Personally, I feel that Alien Breed creators, Team 17, may very well be ideally suited as the ones to dust off the once mighty Blastcorps and return it to its former glory, it’s certainly worth a try anyway.
Conker has already received a remake through the under-appreciated Live and Reloaded on the original Xbox, and this itself could possibly warrant a re-release on the Xbox One, especially given the current trend of bringing back last gen software again, smooth talking gamers into purchasing the same game twice within the space of a year or so. Personally, I don’t think that returning a nine year old game back into the spotlight would be asking too much in such a market. Combining Mario 64 style gameplay with crude, South Park inspired humour and stunning visuals, the original Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a huge critical success, a magnificent swansong for the N64 console and one of the finest moments in its developer’s history. It may not have sold especially well (it wasn’t met with a strong advertising campaign upon its original release), but where else can gamer’s expect to control an alcoholic squirrel? It’s time for Conker to make his return for the second time, and with Twisted Pixel displaying a particular knack for creating humorous platform games, perhaps this would be the ideal combination to make it happen?
The original Kameo was a launch title for the Xbox 360, but was initially scheduled for release on Nintendo’s Gamecube console prior to the company being purchased by Microsoft, with development shifting onto the original Xbox, before it was then given another revamp as it was pushed back onto yet another platform. Despite the on-off development cycle of the title, what emerged was a fairly solid adventure game which was reasonably well received by critics, and did more than enough to warrant the sequel that was later, and rather unfairly cancelled. With the potential of Banjo and Conker to sew up the 3D action adventure angle for Microsoft rather well, could we not perhaps see the shape shifting character of Kameo lend herself to a more “Metroidvania” style platform game? The primary goal of the original release was to absorb ten elemental sprites and then utilise their unique powers to traverse the world and overcome its many dangers, this would be perfectly suited to a style of game that encourages players to backtrack and employ their new skills to pass through previously inaccessible areas. Given that the genre is still flourishing today, this only cements the potential that this might yield for Microsoft, and given that Epic’s studio, Chair, proved themselves capable of handling such a genre with the utterly brilliant, Shadow Complex, could they perhaps be swayed to bring about a return, and a reworking, for Kameo? Well, Microsoft?
The original Perfect Dark was a truly phenomenal release, a technical marvel for the Nintendo 64, and the first console FPS to outdo Rare’s earlier effort, Goldeneye. Like both Banjo and Conker, we have already seen this title return, both in the form of an HD remake, developed by 4J studios, and as a Rare developed sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, though in all honesty, the less that is said about that effort, the better. However, in Perfect Dark, Microsoft still have an IP full of history, one that stands as one of the finest examples of its genre, so whilst the company struggle to find a flagship title for the Xbox One, Perfect Dark is still sat waiting for its chance to shine again. As if that wasn’t enough, video games, and their creators, are still very much male dominated, with the Master Chief and Marcus Fenix being the digital heroes force fed to us on a regular basis, Perfect Dark offers gamer’s something altogether rare in the industry, a strong and likeable female lead, someone who is as quick to shoot off her guns as she is her mouth, with James Bond style quips being the order of the day. Rare were right to make a prequel to the original game, so perhaps it’s about time that Zero was followed up with a brand new adventure for Joanna Dark, one that can see her return to the upper echelons of gaming, and see a classic series make a dramatic comeback. Perhaps Digital Extremes, who most recently created the free to play FPS, Warframe, for the PS4 launch, would be ideally positioned to make a new Perfect Dark game a reality? I think so.
The original R.C.Pro Am was release on the NES way back in 1988, and is a much loved and influential isometric racer that inspired the likes of Codemasters’ Micro Machines among others. It was an innovative departure for the racing genre, and implemented weapon based combat into its gameplay, as players competed with three other racers across more than twenty courses. Such gaming archetypes lend themselves particularly well to the realm of multiplayer, which makes R.C. Pro Am an ideal concept for Microsoft to reinvigorate. In the right hands, there is no reason why this series could not establish itself as strong online multiplayer experience on Xbox Live, and given the current trend of implementing micro transactions, there’s also plenty of scope for that here too in the form of new tracks, vehicles or liveries, meaning that the game could use a similar free to play model as Killer Instinct. And with Big Park among the ranks at Microsoft Game Studios, the developer of Joy Ride, they may also just have a team capable of pulling this off as well.
Well, Viva Piñata isn’t exactly old now, the last iteration, Trouble in Paradise, was released in 2008, but there can be no denying the quality of the two games that made it onto the Xbox 360, both of which garnered a fairly substantial amount of critical and commercial acclaim. With bright colourful graphics, the game was clearly targeted at a wide audience, but its gameplay was not quite so easy to get to grips with, there was certainly depth to Rare’s creation, and given the lack of similar titles on console, it also allowed Microsoft to offer a gaming experience that only Nintendo consistently afford its fans with Harvest Moon. Viva Piñata is ideally positioned to make a comeback, not only because it still stands unique among the experiences that Microsoft offer, but because it also originally came with its own animated TV series, and given Microsoft’s move into this field, it would have a lot offer the Xbox One. With more adult orientated shows coming for Remedy’s Quantum Break and Microsoft’s own Halo, Viva Piñata would allow the company to tap into an entertainment market that they have thus far left untapped, and that alone would be worth its weight in gold. Given the fantastic job that Rare did with the first two games, it would be perhaps best left in their hands to bring it back, though I imagine that Signal Studios may also do a pretty solid job if given the chance.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the NES classic, Wizards & Warriors, which was originally released back in 1987 to huge critical acclaim, finding itself nominated for several awards and receiving as many as three sequels. The game is essentially an action orientated platformer, with an emphasis on exploration and treasure hunting, and a typical fantasy backdrop in which players must guide a knight through a variety of areas populated with demons and other creatures that have fallen under the spell of a mighty wizard, in the hopes of rescuing a kidnapped princess. Imagine its rebirth as a co-operative dungeon crawler, like Diablo, or perhaps as a modern hack ‘n’ slash, though either way, the game could certainly appeal to a modern gaming market if handled correctly, and Xbox Live implementation would of course, be a must. With clever enough writing, Microsoft may even be able to pry a fantasy television series out of it, something to tap into the massive following that Game of Thrones has garnered and prove its worth financially. Wizarbox, creators of XBLA’s Realms of Ancient War would be ideally suited in bringing the game back as a dungeon crawler, or perhaps Platinum Games could be tempted to revive the series as only they know how, of course, there’s always room for both…
Personally, I would also love to see Jetpac released onto the Xbox One as well, it has been seven years since the HD remake landed in the realm of Xbox Live Arcade, so perhaps it’s about time that it too made another appearance? That’s the real beauty of Rare’s back catalogue though, it is certainly substantial, and full of variety, with more than enough content there alone to lift Microsoft ahead of the competition as the best provider of first party exclusives, so why haven’t they done this already? Phil Spencer, the new head of Microsoft Studios, has signalled his intent to see the company provide an even stronger focus on games, for gamers to get the content that they want, so the time may have finally come for these legendary IPs to make their return. Why don’t you let us know what game that you would most like to see on the Xbox One, and who you would pick to develop it, who knows, perhaps Microsoft may yet take notice.
-James Paton @theblackpage81