Franchises Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Embrace New Genres
I’ve been playing a lot of Fire Emblem Warriors lately. On paper, it doesn’t sound like the best idea. Taking characters from an intricate strategy game and thrusting them into a hack-and-slash game?
In truth, it works wonderfully well. Although only a fraction of Fire Emblem’s tactics-driven gameplay remains, it’s impressively refreshing to control the cast in a more hands-on fashion, using a variety of weapons and combos to cleave through hundreds of enemy soldiers.
Blending two disparate series together isn’t entirely new territory for Koei Tecmo. They’ve been fusing their long-running Warriors formula with other franchises for years now. Even The Legend of Zelda received the hack-and-slash treatment with Hyrule Warriors for the 3DS and Wii U (and coming soon to the Switch). In recent years, the Warriors publisher has covered everything from anime series One Piece to the Transformers franchise.
While I’m not necessarily advocating for a Warriors instalment of every popular IP, I would love to see publishers be a little more willing to cross the genre and franchise boundaries. We’ve seen different fighting franchises cross paths in the past with games like Street Fighter x Tekken, but pitting together two universes in the same genre is, whilst interesting, a little too safe for my liking.
Monster Hunter Stories showcases the sort of ingenuity I want to see. I love the gruelling combat and grind of the Monster Hunter games, but I sometimes found myself wondering: Why can’t we befriend some of these creatures? That’s where Stories comes in. To reduce it to its most basic parts, it’s basically a Monster Hunter game with the cutesy charm and mechanics of Pokémon. You can be aided in your adventure by the mightiest monsters of the series, and that’s an experience that took entirely too long to be made into a game of its own. Maybe they should’ve called it Pocket Monster Hunter.
It could, in theory, be taken one step further. Monster Hunter creatures have already appeared in Metal Gear Solid, of all things, so why not Pokémon? Whether through Pokémon’s turn-based combat or a more action-focused approach, there could be a lot of fun to be had in using Nintendo’s cute critters to take down some of Monster Hunter’s fiercest bosses. The Pokémon franchise has already branched out into the strategy genre with Pokémon Conquest, so this wouldn’t even be the strangest thing they’ve done.
There’s so much crossover potential out there that it’s genuinely disappointing more developers aren’t making use of it. Fire Emblem’s strategic gameplay, for example, would be a perfect fit for many unlikely companion series. Imagine a Legend of Zelda game where the heroes of the series are joined by Gorons, Zora and other Hyrule denizens to battle it out against Ganon’s evil minions. That’s a game I know I’d play.
There’s no doubt that the Kingdom Hearts games helped popularise the idea of strange and unexpected crossovers. Disney characters in a JRPG setting? That’s precisely the sort of weirdness I’m looking for. While I’m not a Kingdom Hearts fan myself, I think the actual concept is fabulous. Donald Duck as a spellcaster? We need more of that sort of thing.
I’d also support a meeting of Silent Hill and Resident Evil – Resident Hill? Silent Evil? – two series that have been vying for the survival horror top spot for decades now. Silent Hill has always been more preoccupied with using a steady, oppressive tension to unsettle players. Old-school Resident Evil excelled at making you feel trapped, alone and overwhelmed. Both are full of cheesy dialogue and ridiculous plot devices. Together, they could make something beautiful.
I know a lot of these ideas sound absurd, but then again I’d argue that so does Mickey Mouse being a king in a JRPG fantasy world. Gaming has come a long way technologically, but I feel more and more lately that innovation has taken a hit as a result. Developing games is a costly, years-long endeavour. In an industry where a single bad game could spell the end of a studio, no one’s to blame for sticking with what they know.
From those in a position to be more daring, however, I’d love to see more variety. They won’t always make sense or be overwhelmingly successful, but innovation can be its own reward. Who knows where we’d be if, all those years ago, someone at Squaresoft hadn’t toyed with the idea of giving Donald Duck the ability to conjure fireballs. A darker and bleaker place, I’m sure.
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