I’m a strong believer in second chances. In fact, I’d wager that this is a very human thing, and everyone can relate to wanting to take a second trip somewhere good. It’s why we like sequels so much. We love returning to that place where we did that thing that one time, or we buy a new book in a series to see how the main character thinks their way out of a situation, or we line up to get tickets for a summertime blockbuster that whisks us away into a world of wonder we’d already fallen in love with.
That’s why it’s always painful and bittersweet to remember the times and places where you loved something that never got a second chance. Especially when things you don’t really care about are getting their seventh chances, you know? Personally, I don’t care if another Saw movie gets made, but I’m still waiting quite patiently for my District 9 sequel. The same can be said about games. I don’t care if another military shooter gets a split-franchise sequel and a main franchise sequel in the span of ten months, there’s some franchises out there that deserve sequels and haven’t even been touched in years, maybe even decades.
Naturally, people are subject to opinion about what’s worth your time to play and why, but there are some games that I feel were so good that they deserved a chance to be either reborn or continued. With the advent of digital distribution, HD remasters and online multiplayer, there’s no reason a few of these old champions can’t make a comeback. I think everyone has a list like this, and I’m going to share some of mine with you in the hopes that you either recognize something great and go play it again, or pick it up for the first time because you missed out on something special. And while this is the first one, it probably won’t be the last one.
The Guardian Legend
It’s hard to find a place to begin talking about this game. It’s so many things at once, made during a time where genre-blending was not really a thing, because the genres themselves were barely established. I first picked up and played this game in 1990 on the NES. It’s a port of the Japanese game Guardic Gaiden, which itself was a sequel to the original Guardic on the MSX computer system. Guardic was not that good of a game, but some of its concepts were seeds of amazing potential that were used in the sequel, where they blossomed into an incredible experience like no other.
In The Guardian Legend, you start the game flying a spaceship in a vertical scrolling shooter reminiscent of Galaga and its kin. Once you clear this initial stage, you go on foot in a labyrinthine adventure that feels like playing a classic Zelda game, mixed with backtracking and combat elements that you’d swear were taken from Metroid. You would find keys for certain door panels, which granted access to special boss stages called Corridors. These corridors took you back to the vert shooter style of the intro stage, and beating those bosses would get you higher level keys and weapons to use as the adventure continued.
Plus, all the advanced weaponry you picked up was not only useable in both ship and soldier modes, but was powered by the very money you used to buy items in the shops. This made every use of a stronger or more suitable weapon a split-second economic crisis that had to be resolved, because your life was at stake. Are you willing to spend money to live? And are you willing to not be able to afford that thing you still need? In order to master this game, you had to be proficient in multiple forms of gameplay ripped from other genres and shift between them on the fly, all to tackle a challenge that was melded into one uniquely cohesive piece.
The graphics were great for their time, the action was nonstop, and the music is – in my opinion – the most catchy and intricate work in all of 8-bit gaming. Coming from a guy who can hum just about any Megaman stage tune on demand, that’s high praise indeed. This game needs a comeback like humans need air. If I had any aptitude for actually making video games, the remake of this would be my highest personal honor. Not enough people know how good this game was, and still remains to this very day.
I love fighting games. And if I had to choose a favorite, it’s this one. It’s not my favorite because it rates highest in technical terms, that honor belongs to Street Fighter 3 or perhaps Garou: Mark Of The Wolves. It’s not even my favorite 3D fighter of all time, that would be SoulCalibur II. I love Project Justice because it’s everything a fighting game should strive to be. It’s over-the-top with its wackiness factor, it’s got awesome team mechanics, it’s super easy to play, and the music just rocks. Seriously, the soundtrack is superb.
Project Justice is the Dreamcast sequel to the PlayStation classic Rival Schools, and it continues the trend of featuring multiple students (and teachers) from multiple high schools duking it out in ridiculous ways. Every high school has its clubs that provide their claim to fame, and the students who populate those clubs are just, well…it’s bonkers. Take Gorin High: they’re a school that prides themselves on athletic excellence. So it should come as no surprise that Nagare the swimmer attacks with strokes and kicks, Natsu the volleyball player rains down flaming spikes and serves, Roberto the soccer goalie can catch ANYTHING you throw at him, and Shoma the baseball player carries an aluminium bat that’s bigger than he is.
This sort of wild, exaggerated design bleeds over into all the other schools, all with their own themes. The combat system requires you to pick a team of three fighters that can be switched out between rounds, but can also be called in for powerful attack assists or ones that boost stats. You can also throw super attacks, or save up stock for a big-hit three-man ultimate super move, and those are nothing short of insane. It’s not like you have to wait forever to charge supers, either. If any attack hits another similar attack, i.e. fireballs collide, jabs trade, etc., both players get one stock of meter immediately. This mechanic alone kept matches alive and amplified.
Rumor has it that something with the soundtrack is what kept Capcom from releasing Project Justice digitally, but whatever it is that’s holding it back is no excuse. This game would practically print money if it were released digitally with online play. But there’s one other Capcom Dreamcast classic comeback that could be an even larger success, and that’s…
Power Stone 2
Power Stone 2, simply put, is a video game for people who love video games. It’s a four-player Dreamcast jaunt that feels like Mario Party and Smash Bros. blended together, and it somehow manages to be more fun than both other franchises. I am also aware that I have just set fire to approximately one-eighth of the internet by saying that, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in order to let you know about the magic that is Power Stone.
You start by picking a character. From there, you choose a stage where you and three other characters will fight. You have a punch and a kick button to physically attack another character, you have a button with which to jump, and you have a button with which you pick up and discard items. From there, you roam the stage and pick up items that drop – a sword, a shield, a bubble gun, a toy hammer, a laser, cake, umbrellas, skateboards, you name it – and proceed to beat the tar out of each other. Occasionally, a gleaming gem will drop. That is a Power Stone, and collecting them is literally the name of the game. Grabbing three of them turns you into death incarnate.
You become a super-powered version of your character, and you dish out pain like there’s no tomorrow because every attack you make drains from the amount of time you can stay in that form. You also have access to two separate super attacks, but they will drain 50% of your super time to use them. Of course, collecting these stones when they appear becomes a giant mad dash to get them, and taking damage will cause you to drop them, so they that have them are targets for those who do not.
You’d think this was the complete recipe for a fun time, but it gets even better: the stages change, and they change in radical ways. A fight starts aboard an airship, the airship begins to break apart, all the characters plummet and fight in midair while trying to catch umbrellas to slow their descent until they hit the ground, and those players without the umbrellas take heavy damage due to landing face-first. Or maybe you’d prefer a Japanese castle that becomes a frantic climb away from a raging fire up rickety, falling platforms? Perhaps an Egyptian tomb where the floor gives way to a boulder-chase obstacle course where a skateboard is your best friend?
The same scripted stuff happens every time you get in the stage, but it is never, ever the same game twice. Why Power Stone 2 never made it to current consoles with online play is a question that keeps me up at night. It should keep Capcom up at night, because that’s something I would have evangelized in public, at loud volume and while wearing a sandwich board.