Spinoff Games – Sins or Saviours?

Spinoff games such as Mario Kart and Shadow The Hedgehog seem to get mixed reception from fans and critics alike. Some people see games like these as imposters in their favourite game franchise, others simply enjoy an extended involvement with the characters they’ve grown to love.

Classic spinoff games feature aspects of a game franchise, like Final Fantasy for example, but don’t follow the same storylines directly. Crisis Core is an exception to this rule as it explores the past occurrances of certain key characters, but this is defined from the main story of FFVII. Final Fantasy games have seen many a spinoff in their time, like Chocobo Tales which has no link to any particular game, yet some games such as VII have seen much refreshment, with a film and a remake of the original game, plus of course, Crisis Core.

Fans and critics alike claim that many spinoff games are nothing like the original they aim to recreate. They’re seen as a way for the development company to make as much money as possible out of their franchise. Nintendo have released lots of games other than their classic Pokemon RPGs, Red/Blue, Diamond/Pearl, etc., releasing flops such as Pokemon Dash, and the Mystery Dungeon series, which has become a franchise in itself. I personally despise the idea of changing the classic gameplay which I grew up with and loved from the beginning, but I guess Nintendo has to aim for a high gross, right?

I think games like Shadow The Hedgehog take ideas which didn’t make it into the original games, like equipping guns, for example, and form a relatively cheap but enjoyable similarity. Shadow uses the antagonist from the Sonic games, Shadow, and turns his small background into a full-fledged story. This way of thinking suggests a lack of imagination and a collaboration of the leftovers of what once was great. Whatever happened to Dr. Eggman, we will never know…

Spinoffs beg the question – why didn’t you just make a sequel? Well, could you imagine Freshly Picked: Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland coming into the equation after Ocarine Of Time first came out? No, didn’t think so. These close-but-no-cigar games seem to be popular nowadays in the smaller markets. You can often find games titled something like Angry Sheep on the various app markets, whereby some angry sheep take revenge on a herd of lamb-snatching highland cows with helmets on…

On to Angry Birds, I’m interested in Angry Birds: Space, and what it has to offer. Having never played it or seen any trailers, I would expect to see a level of the original, with a dark spirally background, and an array of gravity-defying platforms which rely on the player’s temperament with their trigger finger. What do you get from the demo video? Angry Birds crossed with Mario Galaxy, and a bird-brained (see what I did there?) stupidity that says “Yeah, I’m totally gonna jump into that massive pink vortex, I mean, why not? We just got our eggs back, afterall”. Incidentally, Mario Galaxy is yet another Super Mario spinoff that has done well for itself.

Disney have done well mixing Final Fantasy with their beloved cartoon characters. The Kingdom Hearts series is comical, charming and above all, revisits some of the best films you haven’t seen since childhood. Although these are relatively successful in comparison, other mixtures are quite a daunting prospect, and luckily, not many have been made.

Another spinoff concept similar to the Mario games is where a key character goes off on their own and has a separate adventure which is apparently worth noting. For example, I give you Nina Williams Death By Degrees. This game basically just took the hot British character from the infamous Tekken games and gave her a new outfit, and a new mission. This game is, needless to say, just crap excuse for the Japanese to get over-sized Caucasian tits on their shelves, so to speak. Nina uses an entirely analogue stick-based gameplay, which was frustrating for players who love to button-bash, the touch-sensitivity of these crafted manoeuvres meant you had to be precise with your assassinations.

Fan involvement is another factor in the inspiration of spinoff games. What the developers will do is take on all the comments and reviews and critiques that pop up after a game, and then take what they’ve learnt from their mistakes, and experiment with these findings, not with a direct sequel, but with a crappier version of what they nearly got right. Take Pokemon: Rumble Blast, for example, an apology for the demolition of brilliance by the fourth generation. After the release of Black & White, GameFreak clearly had some patching up to do, even though the graphics are flawless and the gameplay is fun, because of the destruction of the original Pokemon charm. This is just my opinion, but I think some aspects of the newer games should just stop evolving and settle for three stages (yet again, I am the pun master).

After watching Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie, I got rather excited about the prospect of some of my favourite games coming back to life in film format. The film itself is enjoyable yet slightly dim in comparison to the thundering franchise it’s based upon, but I like not having the frustration of dying fifteen times before I’ve cracked the boss’s level strategy. Similarly, I hope that the long delayed Gears of War movie is produced, because I think after three games, it has a lot of potential for clearing up plot gaps and showing off imagery some players missed out on because of a lack of HD compatibility. I’d love to see Dom slicing through a locust berserker on a cinema screen in a few years, just as much as the Bioshock film concept excited me, even though I’ve never played the games. This is the effect a spinoff format twist can have on the regular gamer, and it’s infectious.

So does that mean there is a place in the gaming industry for spinoffs? Or are they completely outdated and dangerous for the developers who want to keep fans? I think that some are more suitable than others, you have to consider the success of the previous games and whether there are any new, fresh corners of the story to explore. For game developers that are indecisive about sequels, but have some good ideas up their sleeves, then this is the sort of thing you should consider, but if a game is beautifully complete and playable on its own, and shouldn’t be tampered with, leave it well alone. For the sake of us all.

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