Déjà-vu all over again: Originality shines in a bargain-bin saturated market
By Chris O'Neal 08/09/2012
Few revamps go as planned. With the exception of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy (which I believe we can all agree was unnnggg), how many revamps live up to their predecessors? At the risk of sounding like a movie trailer, in a world in which entertainment has become a snake eating its own tail, where originality begets unoriginality in the form of a sequel, prequel, re-telling or re-casting, isn’t it nice when a gentle breeze washes away the ash of burned-out franchises, sprouting a truly original story?
Believe it or not, while a vast majority of the video game industry is focused on being the Ouroboros of your ever-living nightmare, there are those (namely, Japanese) individuals who can revamp a dead series with style, grace and a bit of flash. Take Devil May Cry (DMC), for instance, which at this year’s E3 blew attendees away by being both brilliant and unapologetic in making fans of the original series feel as though they’d been slighted.
In the original Capcom series, gun-toting, red trench coat-wearing Dante stormed demon castles with bullets flying and swords slashing, being the typical badass one would expect from the premier demon slayer. In fact, the hack-and-slash style in the original DMC spawned several hundred clones to feed the Ouroboros that now litter discount bins at your local Gamestop.
DMC saw three sequels, several spin offs and a multitude of tie-ins, each worse than the previous. The franchise was left to die a quiet death, never to be heard from again — until late last year when developer Ninja Theory announced that it would be bringing back Dante in a very fabulous way. Gone were the silver hair, the red trench coat and the badassery, replaced by what many were calling the emo kid who changed his name from Jonathan to Dante in a bid to impress his peers.
So when the demonstration began, and this new Dante — the kid who got picked on in high school — hacked his way through demons as if they were the butter to his hot knife in a gaudy, grandiose discotheque setting filled to the brim with bright lights, colors and musical notes, the press were left to ponder, scratch their chins and nod with approval.
Ninja Theory had done the impossible: it had resurrected a series without being redundant, sans the heavy-handed throwbacks and pointless pandering. At the risk of alienating and offending the core audience, the team behind the new DmC (with a lower-case m) had thrown caution to the wind and created a truly original re-telling.
On the opposite end of the spectrum comes another zombie game. Zombies! Does that frighten you anymore? Just two weeks ago, the Gamer’s Notebook was about zombies. Zombies are as commonplace as the neighborhood barking dog (who is also a zombie).
The War Z, developed by Hammerpoint Interactive, doesn’t even bother to come up with an original name. Using Z anywhere in a zombie title is akin to handing a person a pamphlet in proximity to a trashcan. Set in a world run amok with zombies, you and a team of your survivor friends are . . . blah blah, blah . . . does it really need to be explained? It’s a massively multiplayer online game, or MMO — so maybe you can collect berries or craft tunics while hiding from zombies this time around.
Check back two weeks ago; remember DayZ, the totally relevant and unique survival game? Is The War Z’s announcement a coincidence, or just another title to feed the snake? As the detectives in the totally unnng The Dark Knight Rises concluded, there are no coincidences. Not as a detective. Not as a video game.
Remember the titles that line the bargain bin when a new announcement comes along that sounds familiar. Even if there’s an inkling of want, wait a few months. The snake’s going to need to feed on something.
Devil May Cry is set for release in 2013 across multiple platforms.
Chris O’Neal is still feeling very unnng from having watched The Dark Knight Rises. Follow him on Twitter @AgentONeal or at www.allthepretty.com.