One of the
areas of gaming culture that has progressed in leaps and bounds during this
current console generation is the digital download. This development is
occurring irrespective of platform, with all three major consoles, and even the
handhelds, featuring varied libraries of downloadable games and content.
potentially stifling expectations and overheads that come with full-fledged
retail releases, developers working on these platforms are able to do so with
elements of daring and idiosyncrasy -- with some of the more talked-about and
successful games, such as Braid,
PixelJunk Eden and World of Goo
being as much mini-supernovae of creativity and inspiration as they are out-of-sync
with mainstream gaming conventions.
Parallel to this, the download platforms also provide a new avenue for
publishers to re-release selections from their back-catalogues for the pleasure
of nostalgics, canon-hungry gaming historians and new audiences alike.
Virtual Console service, as well as early games to appear on Microsoft's Xbox
Live Arcade platform, would often be direct ports or emulations of titles from
a variety of older consoles, from Super
Mario Bros. to Castlevania: Symphony
of the Night.
the success of these downloadable platforms, and the progression towards more
original content, it has become increasingly common for classic franchises to
receive radical updates, or even full sequels (such as Capcom's multi-platform Mega Man 9) that offer more than mere
Indeed, in a case of cross-pollination, established publishers have tasked
small, up-and-coming studios with the development of these games -- creating
the phenomenon of European or North American developers being trusted with
respected Japanese franchises.
as California's Backbone Entertainment (Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix),
Washington's Tozai Games, and Sweden-based Southend
Interactive (R-Type Dimensions) and
GRIN (Bionic Commando Rearmed) have
recently collaborated with companies like Capcom and Irem to bring some of
their properties to the current gaming audience. These releases act as
confluences of the issues surrounding the downloadable gaming platforms, and concerning
re-introducing older games to newer gamers.
Regarding the beginnings of these projects, there is no blueprint. Backbone
Entertainment used its relationship with Capcom, gained from porting a large
amount of the company's classic franchises to the Xbox Live Arcade platform, to
discuss the opportunities offered by XBLA and PSN for more interesting remakes
and relaunches; this initiative resulted in original, fully-realised installments
in the 1942, Commando and Street Fighter II series.
Southend/Tozai's R-Type: Dimensions
Tozai and Southend's R-Type Dimensions
game, a remake of the first two entries in the arcade-based space shooter
series, was more of a labour of love, born out of equal parts connections and
Key members of the Tozai staff, such as President Sheila Boughten and
Chief Advisor Scott Tsumura, had backgrounds in various localization-savvy
developers, such as BulletProof Software and Microprose, which came in handy
once they set up Tozai as a developer. Boughten explains:
"Scott worked with Irem many years ago and was involved with the
development and marketing of R-Type when
it was first released in 1987. Plus, Brett Ballow, who is responsible for
product management and design at Tozai, is a huge fan of R-Type and R-Type II --
in fact, he owns the stand-up arcades! So we started development on [similar
Xbox Live Arcade remake] Lode Runner
and parallel to that we were looking at some other options, and R-Type came up rather naturally."
In contrast, Simon Viklund, creative director behind GRIN's Bionic Commando Rearmed, admits that his
new version of Capcom's 1988 NES title is "primarily a marketing
release" for the studio's full retail 3D reboot of the series.
initially interested in merely porting the original in anticipation of GRIN's
new game, but Viklund asserts that "the more we discussed it between the
companies... Capcom saw the potential in the game and eventually decided to put
more effort into it."
Each case presents the interesting situation where projects are given over to
small, enthusiastic teams with much investment in the game -- not only in a
career sense, but as consumers of the original properties. Those involved
profess to being fans of the franchises, and admit to an ambition to
communicate this to the current gaming community.