Appleton: Four video game franchises that need to take a break

The Fresno BeeMarch 14, 2014 

Fresno Bee video gaming columnist Rory Appleton reviews Titanfall, a first-person shooter multiplayer video game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.


We are in a golden age (or doomed age, depending on your preferences) of do-overs. Reboots, remakes and strange sequels are everywhere. Time-honored franchises like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid are set to release new games this week, the Thief franchise was rebooted a few weeks ago, and there is even a new Dynasty Warriors game for some reason.

Which brings me to this point: sometimes a game franchise needs a break. And some franchises might need to go away forever.

Certain franchises do transcend gaming in a way that makes them pretty much untouchable. People will always buy a Mario or Call of Duty game, even if information leaked out that every character had been replaced with dancing giraffes. I could see myself, or many of my friends, saying something like "well, it is probably just a trick. Mario needs to get to the top of Safari Castle to change himself back to his human form."

However, many franchises that were once strong have put out mediocre offerings for a few years now. I am not saying they need to be destroyed forever, but I think a break might be in order to reevaluate their situations.

Here are four franchises (that have recently released or are about to release a new game) that desperately need to change strategies:

Ninja Gaiden: This franchise is as old as I am and has gone through just as many changes in its 25-year lifetime. The newest entry, "Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z" is set for release Tuesday.

I learned of its existence from the "coming soon" section of GameFly's website. The video game rental site's description of the game begins with "The Ninja Gaiden franchise returns! So sharpen your sword because this time you'll be fighting zombies."

Zombies? How lazy is that?! Ryu Hayabusa, the game's protagonist, has battled dark cults, secret agents, other ninjas, demons, genetically engineered soldiers, and a giant warship. So why make poor Yaiba, the new protagonist, join the 800 other video game characters battling the undead? Surely there were some better options.

The game isn't out yet, and it could very well be amazing. However, the last two struggled to crack 70 on Metacritic, and this storyline has me worried. I think it might be time for our favorite video game ninja to return to the shadows for a bit.

Dynasty Warriors: This is a really tough one for me. I used to really love this franchise, but as I brace for "Dynasty Warriors 8: Extreme Legends," I can't help but think that the world is finished with this franchise.

The problem is that it puts out two or three games a year. Each game, with a few exceptions, deviates very little from its predecessors and the genre. You control a general, and his or her prowess on the battlefield allows the player to conquer impossible odds.

I have enjoyed Dynasty Warriors, but I need a little bit more. I am not 12 anymore, and today's 12-year-olds probably don't know about the games. It is time to end it.

Call of Duty: This franchise might be too big to fail, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be careful.

The Call of Duty franchise has been on the cutting edge of its genre for quite some time. It is typically the top-selling game each year, and it tends to break its own sales records in doing so.

However, the last installment didn't really do that. "Call of Duty: Ghosts" wasn't a bad game, but it was just so Call of Duty. It didn't break the usual sales records, and its review scores were quite low for such a revered franchise.

Recently, Call of Duty took a huge hit with the release of "Titanfall." The new shooter is everything that Call of Duty used to be: fresh, exciting, fast-paced and unique. I think "Titanfall" will really change the genre in these next few months. When November rolls around and a new Call of Duty is set to be released, it better up the ante or be ready to relinquish its crown.

Castlevania: These games still feature one of the coolest storylines around: you are Dracula, and you are embroiled in various conflicts with other vampires, demons and dark forces.

The most recent installment was "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2." This game pits Dracula against Satan himself, who has returned to Earth to bring about the apocalypse. The player must forge an uneasy alliance with Death in order to destroy the fallen angel and send him back to Hell.

It had a decent premise and played off the first "Lords of Shadow" pretty well, but it just didn't quite do it for me. I think there were some avenues that the storyline could have gone down but didn't, and the game would have been totally awesome if they had designed it with beefed-up graphics and released it on the Xbox One or PS4.

I don't think Castlevania is doomed yet. People will always want to be Dracula, and vampires are still en vogue. However, I do think the franchise could be canceled if its next game doesn't deliver the goods.

Be sure to check out next week's column, where I will discuss the four franchises I think desperately need to come back into our lives.


Rory E.H. Appleton is the associate editor for and a journalism student at Fresno State. You can reach him at rory@corruptedcartridge. com or @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter

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