Donít you love ďwhere are they now shows?Ē Nothing makes us feel better about ourselves than watching someone that had it all and pissed it all away. Child actors, teen popstars, mega athletes, you name it. Humans love to see our heroes fail and sink into obscurity as much as we root for them to succeed because weíre horrible.
The other day, I was perusing my local Gamestop, because I was feeling particular good about myself and needed to knock myself down to reality. As I looked through the walls upon walls of used games stacked up like cord wood, I began to reminisce of high profile games that had initially wowed us, but are now relegated to the junk pile. One can already get an idea of what next-gen launch titles will soon be tossed aside once developers get a grasp of what this new crop of hardware is capable of.
I began to look back at the launch games of yesteryear and came up with a personal list of games that Iíd like to share. These are titles that were propped up and pimped out when consoles were first launched, but quickly fell into obscurity as better, more impressive games were released.
Iím open to hear what titles you feel should be included. Go ahead and share in the comments section. Weíll start with the 8-bit era and work our way up to current-generation.
NES: Hoganís Alley
The eighties were an interesting time. Videogames were trying to rebound after the crash instigated by shoddy quality and over saturation of the market. Nintendo was in a unique position to corner the market, and as we all know, they did.
Everyone remembers Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, but there was another title that I clearly remember being part of the launch line-up and that was Hoganís Alley.
Lightgun shooters must have been in the Marketerís Handbook for console launches back then, because every system had them. I didnít recall caring for them that much. It was a novelty as far as Iím concerned, exciting at first, but limited in appeal. There was already Duck Hunt which was packed in with many NES units, why would anyone need another light gun shooter?
I would give a description of the game, but I never played it. I didnít know anyone that even owned it, yet the game was everywhere. I saw it advertised in commercials, it had screenshots on NES console packaging, and displayed in stores, etcÖ
As a child of the eighties, I initially thought that Hoganís Alley had something to do with Hulk Hogan, the wrestler, because I was a kid and kids are idiots. Actually, now that I think about, a light gun shooter with Hulk Hogan would be sweet.
Sega Master System: Alex Kidd in Miracle World
I was a huge Sega fan. My first console was an SMS even though all my friends had NESs. The SMS was a fine console with some great arcade ports, but what it didnít have was a mascot that could hold a candle to Nintendoís Mario. Alex Kidd was Segaís attempt to create that mascot, which in my humble opinion was not a success.
I really wanted to like Alex Kidd in Miracle World, but he was just so lame. I recall showing the game to friends who immediately called it a Mario knockoff and they were right. Like all knockoffs, they always lack the same quality and polish of whatever they are trying to emulate. Alex Kidd was no exception.
Sega Genesis: Last Battle
In 1989 when the Sega Genesis was released in the states, years of Sega devotion finally paid off for me. Sega released a new powerful console and I managed to talk my parents into getting me one for Christmas because I was a spoiled little shit. All my friends who had NESs were in awe of it, and that is what childhood is all about, making your friends jealous.
The Genesis launched with a fairly decent library of games. Altered Beast was the pack-in, Space Harrier, and Ghouls íN Ghost were among the launch titles that I owned. Last Battle was also among the launch titles that I recall seeing in Toys ĎR Us, magazines, and advertised on the Genesis box, but I had no desire to get it.
For years I wondered if the title was any good, given that it was one of the launch games that I never played. It looked impressive for the time, with large sprites and branching paths, but I donít recall any friends that owned it. Years later, I downloaded the ROM and realized that I hadnít missed a thing. It was an uninspired brawler, much like Altered Beast, but far less memorable.
Turbo Graphics 16: Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
The TG-16 holds a special place in my heart. My good friend owned one and heís the only person I knew who had one. The games were so unique compared to what came out for the Genesis and SNES. The TG-16 had a few gems, Keith Courage was not one of them.
Keith Courage was the pack-in for the TG-16 for a short while, before it was replaced with the far superior Bonkís Adventure. I remember seeing the game being played on a video loop at the local Babbages store and the game looked incredibly cool. The video showed you playing in this little mechanized suit fighting monsters with guns for heads. Whatís not to like?
It wasnít until I played the game for the first time at my friendís house and realized that was only one half of the game. The other half, you played as a little kid in a Japanese village who killed cats that fell from the sky for some reason. It wasnít a bad game by any means, just incredibly average. I also couldnít help feeling a bit slighted that NEC was showcasing the far cooler looking mecha suit sections of the game in its advertising.
Super Nintendo: Pilotwings
This entry may very well cause a shit storm in the comments. Iím not saying that Pilotwings was a bad title. It could have very well been one of the better launch titles, had it not released alongside Super Mario World.
Everyone of my friends who had a SNES owned Pilotwings. It would be played for 15-minutes, a few skydives before we would say, ďEnough of this shit, why arenít we playing Mario! There is a fucking dinosaur we can ride!Ē and that would be the end of Pilotwings.
Sega Saturn: Clockwork Knight
The Sega Saturn did not have what many would call a smooth launch. Sega managed to release the console early, to the surprise of gamers everywhere, and also to their retail partners, who were pissed.
The Saturn did have Daytona, Virtua Fighter, and Panzer Dragoon, but they still needed to have an action platformer, so we got Clockwork Knight.
Clockwork Knight, like all previous titles mentioned was advertised on TV with snippets of other titles as well as having a call-out on the Saturnís packaging. I owned this title and hated it. I plowed through it and traded it in to Funcoland (Remember them?!?).
Sony Playstation 1: Battle Arena Toshinden
The Playstation launched with a pretty decent library. It put the Saturn to shame. Not only did the games look better, but the console was cheaper. One of the games that I clearly remembered looking better than anything out there at the time was Battle Arena Toshinden.
I played this title to death. It blew away Virtua Fighter and Tekken graphically and was weapons based, which was a nice little twist. The gameplay was shallow however, and nowhere near as technical as Virtua Fighter or Tekken. It was good for showing off what the new PS1 was capable of and not much else.
Nintendo 64: Pilotwings 64
Pilotwings canít catch a break. When the N64 launched in the U.S. you had your choice between two titles, Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. Nothing wrong with Pilotwings 64, but who has time to play that game when you can play Mario in 3D for the first time.
Atari Jaguar: HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Stock photo of Atari Jaguar with CD-ROM attachment.
Sorry, but the only thing I recall being any good on the Atari Jaguar at launch was Tempest and I donít even think it was a launch title. Everything else was crap.
Sega Dreamcast: Blue Stinger
The Sega Dreamcast had a pretty solid launch launch lineup. Memorable games included Sonic Adventure, NFL2K, Soulcalibur, Ready 2 Rumble, and Power Stone among others.
Blue Stinger was one of those titles that looked pretty cool and the reviews for it were decent. It was an action shooter with a good dash of survival horror. Having played it a handful of times, it was a decent title, but falls into the same trap of many other launch titles on this list. Itís a passable game, but there are games that launched along with it that are simply more impressive.
Sony Playstation 2: FantaVision
The Playstation 2 had one of the most amazing launches Iíve ever seen. It had the right mix of powerful hardware and big time software, as well as a DVD player. The media got onboard and the PS2 became a phenomenon.
The PS2 was an impressive piece of hardware which begged to be shown off to friends and family. That must have been the inspiration of FantaVision. For all intents and purposes, it was a tech demo disguised as a puzzle game.
It also had nothing to do with Fanta, the delicious orange soda. SO ZESTY AND REFRESHING!
I remember going to my local Gamestop to pick up my PS2 where they pushed me and everyone else there picking up a PS2 to buy it as an add-on. I did not see one person bite, nor did I meet anyone who owned the game.
Nintendo Gamecube: †Wave Race: Blue Storm
Wave Race 64, when launched for the N64, was met with much welcome. Saying that the N64 had a small library of launch titles would be an understatement. Wave Race 64, which came out after the N64 hardware was released, also showed off what the N64 was capable of technically. The wave physics were remarkable. I used to crank them up to the max in the options and tear it up on the courses. It was a lot of fun.
Wave Race: Blue Storm tried to build off on that success and nostalgia. It wasnít a bad game by any means. Graphically, it was also impressive, but gameplay wise, I felt that not a lot has changed between it and its predecessor. Unfortunate really, as this could have been something that had legs for Nintendo. I imagined this title being very much like SSX, where it would evolve and become more outrageous over time. Unfortunately, that wasnít the case.
Xbox: Blood Wake
Even though not technically a launch title, Blood Wake was released within 30 days of the Xbox hardware release. Microsoft even had put out a TV and print ad campaign to the support the title. It was up there with Halo, Dead or Alive 3, and Project Gotham Racing as a must have launch title.
I have fond memories of this game and have no idea why a sequel was never made. Some initial research shows that the game sold fairly well. It was also one of the first titles to be re-released as an Xbox Platinum Hit.
Much like wave Wave Race, there must be something about water based games, because it was technically impressive. It really showed off what the Xbox was capable of.
Xbox 360: Peter Jacksonís King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
Movie tie-ins are never a good idea, but King Kong had a few things going for it. Peter Jackson was closely aligned with the project along with Ubisoftís Michel Ancel. Graphically, the game was amazing and really showed off what the Xbox 360 was capable of. Incidentally, it was also one of the first games plagued by the growing pains associated with the game industryís switch from SD to HD. The game was pretty much unplayable on SD TVs without being patched, which was later released by Ubisoft.
King Kong falls neatly into a recurring theme for a lot of launch titles. It was graphically impressive, but gameplay wise, it was shallow.
Playstation 3: Genji: Days of the Blade
Giant Enemy Crab meme aside, this game really was a graphical showcase and not much else. Perusing the reviews for this title, they pretty much all praised it for being an eye candy powerhouse while having an uncontrollable camera which had a tendency to disorient the player.
Nintendo Wii: Red Steel
There was plenty of fanfare with this title leading up to the Wiiís launch. The writing was already on the wall that the Wii was going to be more family friendly. Red Steel was meant to appeal to a very niche group of core fans excited for the Wii.
Red Steel was one of the few Wii launch titles that took advantage of the remote and nunchuck combo and it showed. Reviews of the title are pretty aligned on the fact that the controls are glitchy at times and on occasion unintuitive. The title did have an amazing soundtrack which I was quite fond of.
Despite mixed reviews, the game sold well, enough for a sequel released four years later.
Nintendo Wii U: ZombiU
Time to look into the crystal ball and predict what games will become future obscure launch titles.
Riding on the wave of zombi mania, ZombiU got a good amount of exposure leading up to the Wii U launch. Much like Red Steel for the Wii, ZombiU was a showcase for Nintendoís new control device, the Wii U gamepad.
The game got mixed, to generally positive reviews. Rumors circulated that a sequel was in the works, but Ubisoft squashed that idea when it announced that the game was not profitable and there are no plans for a sequel.
Xbox One: Ryse: Son of Rome
This was a toss up between Ryse: Son of Rome and Killer Instinct. †I settled on Ryse because it fits so many past examples of launch titles that eventually disappeared into obscurity. Itís a graphical powerhouse that shows off what the Xbox One is capable of, but has shallow, even rudimentary gameplay that has been done better on older titles like God of War.
Playstation 4: Knack
Knack has a lot going for it. It has pedigree given that Mark Cerny was the titleís director and like Ryse: Son of Rome, itís a technical showcase for the Playstation 4.
Cerny described the game as ďa little bit like Crash Bandicoot and Katamari Damacy, with a touch of God of War.Ē Translation, weíre not reinventing the wheel.
Hardware launches are great. Gamers get excited because itís a new beginning. Hardware launches are also predictable in that the †launch games are many times just glimpses of what the new hardware will be capable of doing. The constant theme here is that many of them are graphically impressive for their time, but are showing nothing revolutionary gameplay wise.
I hope you enjoyed this list. Let me know what games you think deserve to be mentioned in the comments section.