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Video Game Characters on Life Support: A Retrospect


This is follow up to a series of articles written six to seven years ago in which I detailed several video game characters who appeared to be on "life support", where they were no longer appearing in games (or at least "good" games), and I offered suggestions on how to keep their brands alive. How have they fared in the years since? Lets find out:

Mega Man

Original Article

At the time: Mega Man, once an easy source of quick revenue for Capcom, churning out games and spinoffs and spinoffs of those spinoffs, had seen its brand dry up in the early 2010s. Although 8-bit love letters Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were met with praise, the man in charge of the brand, Keiji Inafune, left Capcom, and the last Mega Man related release at the time was a free crossover with Street Fighter developed out of house. As it had been a couple of years at the time since that Mega Man came out, I worried Capcom had quietly retired its Blue Bomber.

Since: As I suggested in my original article, Capcom went and actually made Mega Man 11! Released in October 2018 on multiple platforms, Mega Man 11 is a 2D platformer with 3D graphics and a few new gameplay gimmicks to try and add some variety. The game was well received, but partly due to limited marketing the game's sales started off slowly, but has since sold over a million copies these last three plus years.

The only other Mega Man thing they've done since has been, unfortunately, a mobile game, Mega Man X DiVE. A typical gacha (free to play but premium currency is quickly obtained by paying real money, then said currency is used to get a < 5% chance to draw and win powerful characters), Mega Man X DiVE features characters and gameplay primarily from the Mega Man X series but includes characters from the main series and other spinoffs as well. It doesn't seem like Capcom intends to do anything else with the Mega Man IP outside of this gacha.

Suggestions now: I believe the classic Mega Man games would sell more than any of their spinoffs, despite this Mega Man 11 only sold modestly over years. Compared to the sales Capcom has been getting in recent years from their Resident Evil and Monster Hunter titles, I'm not surprised Capcom has left Mega Man on the backburner. It is unfortunate, of course, but there is always a little hope. After all, Mega Man 11 did come as a sudden yet pleasant surprise that nobody really saw coming at the time. Give a small development team a drop of funding and I'm sure they can make a Mega Man 12, Mega Man X9, or any other Mega Man that will sate its fans for another few years.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Original Article

At the time: Sonic was going through the experiment known as "Sonic Boom", an attempt at creating a TV series featuring redesigns of him and his friends. This was accompanied by a couple of video games, none of which really impressed.

Since: As is typical for Sonic it seems, his brand has been through its ups and downs. Sonic Mania was released in 2017 (I wrote a review for it). People liked it quite a bit. A few months after Mania's release, Sonic Forces cames out. Forces was less than impressive due to poor level design, unimpressive music, and terrible writing. Due to Forces' poor reception, any goodwill earned from Mania went out the window.

Since then, Sega has methodically been at work coming up with a new Sonic game with a new gameplay style. That game, recently revealed as the open world game Sonic Frontiers, will be released within the next year. However, in the years since Forces, Sonic's been maintaining, maybe even gaining, popularity through a different medium: film.

The movie, simply named Sonic the Hedgehog, released to positive fanfare back in early 2020. Earlier this year, a sequel to that movie, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, featuring more of Sonic's pals, was met with similar praise. As it has now been five years since any new Sonic game has come out, Sonic may have become a bigger name via his films than his games.

Suggestions now: It really depends on how Sonic Frontiers does. Initial gameplay videos prove somewhat promising, but typical Sonic assets on generic Unity fields broken up with snippets of levels pulled straight from Sonic Generations doesn't fill me with confidence in the game so far.

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Regardless, Sega got two popular movies with the character in recent years and all signs point towards a third movie as well. A game in this universe would definitely be a good way to cash in, though that can easily lend itself to low-quality shovelware. Since Mania scratched that itch for many classic-style Sonic fans, there has been an increasing clamor for Sega to develop another game in the Sonic Adventure-style of gameplay. However, the last such game in that style, the glitch-ridden, oddly written Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) may have shut that door permanently.

Spyro the Dragon

Original Article

At the time: Spyro was stuck in Skylanders hell, though the run of the latter was actually nearing its end. Still, with the property under the iron boots of Activision, it didn't seem like there'd be another Spyro anytime soon.

Since: Shortly after that article, Activision released a remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games. The refreshed collection proved popular enough that Activision decided to do the same with the first three Spyro the Dragon games. This collection, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, released to mild fanfare. Then... that was it. Nothing else. Crash at least had his old racing game remade and got a new game made before he bowed out again; Spyro ended up with nothing following Reignited.

Activision has recently been bought by Microsoft, and are themselves going through inner turmoil while trying to keep several of their games as a service titles going. I highly doubt they, nor Microsoft, are interested in reviving the Spyro IP anytime soon.

Suggestions now: To be frank, Activision should just sell the IP while they still have the chance (or have Microsoft sell the IP if they aren't going to do anything with it). Between the unlikelihood of Microsoft making a new Spyro game and the possibility of having certain Spyro games digitally removed from Nintendo and Sony platforms, having the IP in different hands is, in my mind, the only real chance Spyro has at a real comeback at this point.


Original Article

At the time: There hadn't been a Wario platforming game since 2008 and the only WarioWare game since 2010 was the underwhelming Game & Wario for the Nintendo Wii U. Between the lack of games and Wario's personality being stuck on "gross farting man" via Smash Bros., it seemed his decline to (further) obscurity was assured.

Since: Indeed, that decline is occuring. No new Wario platformers, TWO more WarioWare games (WarioWare Gold for the 3DS in 2018, WarioWare: Get It Together! for the Switch in 2021), and Smash Bros. still depicts him as the "gross farting man".

Although sales of Gold and Get It Together have been good enough to where more WarioWare games are likely, I am basically confident in saying there won't be another Wario platforming game for a long time, if ever again. He's a minigames character now, and that's all he'll ever be.

Suggestions now: Just re-release Wario Land 1 through 4 either on an online service or as part of a collection. Let today's consumers be aware that Wario was once in platforming games as well.

The Common Theme

My original inspiration for the life support series was Rayman, who I felt had been able to escape Rabbids purgatory that plagued the brand during the Wii days. Rayman, after all, had two new games, Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends and I had felt Rayman was back on the map. Since then, though, Rayman has only been in one small game, exclusive to Apple Arcade of all things. Worse, the Rabbids are back and have now been utilized to star alongside Mario characters in a series of (surprisingly good) tactical games from Ubisoft. It seems Rayman is once again on life support.

Of course, the common theme between all five of these characters is that they all made it big in platforming games, a genre that is also on a sort of life support, though somehow Super Mario games and Super Mario games alone escape this fate. It doesn't seem likely that these characters will have their heyday again (though Sonic will surely have a few more tries at it), but I don't think we've seen the last of any of these characters in platforming games. It's just a matter of when we'll see them again.

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