Don’t take my precious
I often wonder if the glint in the eye of game developers grows dim when their publisher announces it wants the next entry of their franchise to go mobile. For many developers, far more than I have enough time to gush over, the mobile marketplace is an opportunity for experimentation and creating small games that use the platform to its fullest. For financially successful developers, those with marketing budgets large enough to snare Super Bowl ads, the mobile marketplace is an opportunity to take franchises people love, slap some skinner boxes in them, and then send them out into the App Store sea to hunt whales like digital Captain Ahabs.
Although not all mobile entries of traditional console and PC games are bad, very rarely is the news a series is getting a smartphone spinoff greeted with thunderous applause. For many titles, trading tactile controls for a touchscreen eliminates what made those games so special in the first place. There is a reason the original six Mega Man games on mobile were met with near-universal condemnation. You can’t just take what worked on an NES, a brilliant twitch platformer that arguably has the most genius set-up in all of platforming, and expect that success to be replicated on mobile with some minor adjustments.
The beauty of Mega Man lies in its elegant yet brutal difficulty that rewards quick thinking, memorization, and perfect hand-eye coordination. It’s that gameplay that has people excited about Mega Man 11 even if one of the bosses is so unimaginatively named Block Man. I may not be the best Mega Man player out there — Mega Man Zero is more my cup of tea — but it’s certainly the type of game I need to play every now and then because finding a player vs. developer challenge is something that keeps me on my toes. I’m happy 11 is a thing, but for a long while it looked like the only way we’d get to experience anything new from the Blue Bomber would be to download Asian exclusive mobile games.
It’s quite odd Capcom hasn’t been willing to produce a steady stream of new Mega Man titles over the past decade. Nintendo easily did it with Mario, HAL Laboratory with Kirby, and Sega kept pumping out Sonic games even when we kind of asked them to stop. But Capcom cut and run.
2010 saw the release of Mega Man 10 and the Mega Man Zero Collection. That was eight years ago. Eight years without a new Mega Man game on consoles — and no, I’m not giving them credit for Street Fighter X Mega Man. Instead, Capcom tried to ride the mobile wave, dumping the series onto smartphones with poor translations of their most celebrated games and original titles like the no-longer-in-service Rockman Xover. It would be easy to ignore those titles if there were other Mega Man games on the horizon. But for the longest time, there wasn’t. Shit got cancelled, and while other developers picked up the reigns in its steed, Capcom produced squat. It seemed content just letting the franchise rot in the App store or keeping it barely relevant with compilations that barely compile anything.
A certain type of Mega Man game can absolutely work on mobile, but the core of this series, the platforming titles that birthed such a brilliant franchise, belongs on a platform or platforms where physical controls are a requirement.
I enjoy mobile games more than most here, but I’d be just as disappointed to see any of my favorite franchises relegated away from consoles. I’d be even more heartbroken if the series in question was something I’ve been waiting a long time to have in my hands again, such as Phantasy Star or…actually, yeah, just Phantasy Star. I quickly fell in love with the high fantasy/sci-fi hybrid, both in action MMO and turn-based JRPG form, but it’s been about a decade since we’ve seen any sign of it in the West.
Unlike most of the franchises I love, there’s a very real chance that Sega won’t ever consider Phantasy Star viable in the west again if recent history is any indication. You can tell me that Mario or Zelda or Final Fantasy becoming mobile-exclusive would be horrible, and I’d agree, but I also have faith that can’t possibly happen so I can easily chuckle off that mental image. Phantasy Star’s future, on the other hand, is something I fear for.
I could see Sega deciding to only localize its games on mobile, if not at some point restricting the entire series worldwide to mobile, and the company’s current mobile game policies don’t make me optimistic for that thought. I want to be able to dive into a fascinating, exotic world of lightsabers and dragons De Ragons in its HD beauty with a cozy controller and a wide variety of combat moves. Seeing Sega give up on realizing this series’s full potential after I’ve waited so long to play it again is what would truly devastate me.
Honestly, I don’t have much against mobile games. They can be fun experiences, but a lot of recent titles seem to be cramming in microtransactions and going for angles that don’t utilize the format all too well. That being said, I would probably die if Zelda switched over to mobile only. I know Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are controlled exclusively through touch, but I just can’t see Zelda on a phone.
My biggest fear would be how scaled down a mobile port would have to be. I don’t expect Breath of the Wild size adventures from here on out, but due to how restrictive mobile controls can be, we certainly wouldn’t be getting Link to the Past or even Link’s Awakening on a mobile device.
Zelda may not be as action intensive as other franchises, but having to deal with a touch interface while trying to solve puzzles would kill me. I like having that discreet control in my hands and my failures to be my own, not because of my device. I also don’t like how iOS updates render older games unplayable or how not every Android device is compliant with certain apps. Not being able to return to a Zelda game would be a nightmare.
So while it might potentially work if Nintendo were to stick to the formula that Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks laid out, I really wouldn’t want to play a Zelda game on a phone. Just look at how mediocre Super Mario Run is for more proof of why this would be a bad idea.
The Final Fantasy series is no stranger to mobile outings. As mobile gaming took off, developer Square Enix decided to enter the fray with several ports and new spin-off titles.
Majority of the franchise’s numbered titles have been released as ports on mobile devices. Some are pretty good – I and II both had decent marks, III had some great reviews, and Final Fantasy IV, V, and VII were beloved. As for Final Fantasy IX? Now that’s a masterpiece. Conversely, some issues cropped up with IV’s spinoff, The After Years. Meanwhile, FF VI’s Android port looked a bit like a flash game. As for Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, well, it was clunky at best.
The spin-offs are also a mixed bag. You have excellent mobile games such as Mobius Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Record Keeper, and Final Fantasy Dimensions. You’ve got some fairly middle-of-the-pack games such as Dissidia Final Fantasy – Opera Omnia, Brave Exvius, and a half-dozen or so Chocobo-related games. And, of course, you might remember Final Fantasy: All the Bravest and Triple Triad. Games which weren’t actually forms of entertainment. They were more like travesties wrapped up in a digital download.
It would be pretty devastating for me if the franchise ended up going mobile-only. I believe the Final Fantasy series — at least its main titles — are meant for consoles. We all grew up on the games and our first experiences with the franchise had been via console offerings. The main titles were meant to be played on a TV screen, with a controller in your hand, and sitting on a couch — not with a tiny phone while on the bus, gosh darn it!
Another point of contention is that we know Square Enix are not beneath front-loading spin-off games with a ton of microtransactions. Can you imagine a point in time when FF XX would be a mobile-only title that prompts you to buy phoenix downs and megalixirs with real cash? The thought makes me shudder. Oh, and that “XX” is going to be the reaction long-time fans would have if such systems are in place — “FF? More like X_X”
If Shovel Knight ever goes exclusive to mobile, it will not only hurt the series, but it will hurt my faith in humanity.
[Pictured: EA giving Titanfall the Old Yeller treatment.]
I never played the original Titanfall, so I had absolutely no expectations for the sequel. When the beta for Titanfall 2 went live, I decided to give it a chance, and I got hooked fucking hard. There was something to the hardcore parkour movement, and the gunplay gave me flashbacks to my love affair with Halo 3’s fantastic multiplayer modes. I preordered it instantly.
There was a good deal of backlash when the first game released without a campaign, and Respawn, the developers, promised to have one for the next entry. Surprisingly, they went all out and delivered one of the most satisfying first-person shooters I’ve ever experienced. That shit rocked my goddamn world.
The whole game was a blast, but the section where you’re shifting between the past and present, facing different enemies and obstacles on each timeline, was positively overflowing with possibility. Split seconds would pass by, and you’d go from battling Komodo dragon-like dinosaur things to hyper-advanced, super soldier robot jerks like it was nothing, because you’re a motherfucking boss. You get shit done, and you insist on being a badass while doing it. It’s what you do.
There were so many little moments like that which have gotten me crazy hype for a third entry. If EA, who gobbled up Respawn like the corpses of so many other promising studios, were to switch the series over to focus on mobile games, I’d be furious. Titanfall 2 is one of the most promising AAA products to come out in years, and all of that potential would amount to jack shit if the precise controls were compromised and forced into the limitations of touchscreen gaming.
For the love of whatever God you worship EA, please… Just this once, don’t fuck this up for me.
Pokémon for me has always been a series that sold me on Nintendo handhelds. So, when the rise and popularity in mobile gaming started to really take off (all while the 3DS was having a fairly rocky launch), there was a brief moment I was concerned Pokémon might actually become an exclusively mobile franchise at some point.
If you think about it, Pokémon could very easily transition over to smartphones in a heartbeat. Everything about that formula would work fine on mobile devices. Hell, Pokémon GO alone proves that even the basic concept of catching and collecting them is just as addictive as ever. That said, if it ever does happen, it’ll be a very, very sad day for me.
Nowadays, I can’t stand playing games on my phone. Probably because I’ve played my fair share of mobile games and grown sick of them. I also just sort of hate touch controls in general. Even thinking about playing a mainline Pokémon game on my phone and suddenly getting an email or Twitter notification popping up on screen is a dark thought I want to be purged from my mind. Even worse, thinking about the monetization and gimmicky app possibilities for a mobile mainline Pokémon game sounds like a god damn nightmare, one I never want realized.
Lately, I just want my phone to be a Twitter machine and that’s about it.
If a big franchise switching to mobile is a bad thing, then one with an ongoing story making the change tops this scenario. That being said, it would be a shame if The Legend of Heroes: Trails/Kiseki series suffered this fate.
With the fourth and final Trails of Cold Steel game hitting Japan on September 27, I could see people being devastated if the next arc landed on mobile, instead of consoles. Even though my experience is limited to the first two Cold Steel titles, Trails in the Sky, and Trails in the Sky SC’s Prologue Chapter, this won’t stop me from feeling the pain from this news.
One of Trails’ strengths is how the events of one setting can have an effect on another one. The narrative expands to political and economical storylines, which coincide with the big picture. Combined with a rich lore and NPCs who react to the changes in the world, it feels like you’re actually visiting its areas.
If the post-Cold Steel installments became mobile-exclusive titles, then this will limit Falcom’s ability to create a location with personality. Considering that they may switch to a gacha system for the party members, it would separate the cast from the story. This would destroy its world-building aspects, and hinder people from exploring the next region.