I would have to be shot and hanged if I’d left TimeSplitters off the list. TimeSplitters, for those who don’t know, was an absolutely sublime first-person shooter made by the same developers who had made Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. As such, the controls were similar, and the story campaign likewise takes a backseat to the multiplayer, which was incredible fun, especially as the game allowed you to play four-player split-screen against each other, or you could include up to ten bots.
The game was more humorous than either of its predecessors. The levels and weapons come from different and varying times in human history, including the future, so the levels and gameplay never had a chance to become boring or repetitive. But quite possibly the best innovation was the inclusion of a level editor, which as far as I know was the first of its kind for a console FPS. It basically meant there would always be new levels to play – you just had to dream them up.
TimeSplitters was a hit, so naturally, they made a TimeSplitters 2. And it was even better than the first. The single-player campaign now had an actual story to it, and could be played co-operatively with a second player in split-screen. The multiplayer was still as tight as ever, only now you could choose from a wide range of playable characters. The mapmaker function returned, now allowing players to create single-player story missions for their friends to complete, and including more functionality in creating multiplayer maps. And the series kept up its trademark humor.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect was the final game released, and although from a technical standpoint it’s as good or better than TimeSplitters 2, it’s generally perceived as inferior, and I’m forced to agree. The multiplayer now features an enormous cast of characters to play as, and the mapmaker function had again been improved, but the story campaign wasn’t as good, despite some fairly awesome time manipulation gags, and the series’ still great sense of humor.
Of the entries on the list, TimeSplitters is currently the most likely to happen, thanks almost entirely to a push being made by a dedicated group of fans on Facebook. Called 100,000 Strong for TimeSplitters 4, the group currently sits at about a third of that, but they’re still gaining. And they’ve been working on other ways to gain interest, most notably a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 including TimeSplitters’ legendarily insane amount of playable characters, weapons, and maps.
The Comeback: Push the humor, but don’t go overboard. Think “Avengers” funny, not “Naked Gun” funny. Tighten up the multiplayer to meet or exceed modern standards, but DON’T, for the love of god, embrace realism. Allow for four-player split-screen versus bots and an even more versatile mapmaker, and allow players to play and exchange maps online. Keep design colorful and expressive while remaining HD. And make sure we can still have matches where all we do is chuck bricks at each other.
1. CHRONO SERIES
This should be a no-brainer, but apparently Square-Enix is run by howler monkeys, because it has been thirteen years since we’ve seen the release of a new Chrono game.
The first game Chrono Trigger, was an absolute masterpiece. Released for the SNES in 1995, it was a 2D role-playing game where the central story and game mechanic was time travel. The game featured several overworlds – or rather, one overworld in several different time periods. Things you did in one time period would cause changes in future time periods that would either advance the plot or allow access to new areas or treasures – or in some cases, completely change an area of the overworld.
The plot was light-hearted and fun in tone, though it could and did get deadly serious, and occasionally heart-breaking. The battles, while turn-based, allowed for complex strategy through techs having varying areas-of-effect, and the use of double and triple techs, which allowed characters to team up to do extra damage, though it usually required one of the characters to wait and do nothing until the other’s turn began. The game and characters were a delight from start to finish, and once you were done, you could play the game all over again, keeping your levels and equipment, and challenge the final boss at ANY point during the story, allowing for 13 different possible endings.
The fans clamored for a sequel, and Square delivered. Chrono Cross, like Trigger, smartly entwined the central plot mechanic and the primary game mechanic, though this time it was not time travel, but alternate reality. There are two versions of the game world, and as before, actions in one will have an effect on the other. The gameplay featured deeper strategy thanks to the Element system of techs, and double and triple techs had returned. The character roster exploded from Trigger’s seven to a whopping forty-five, all with their own unique backstory and techs.
That was in 1999. For reasons that can only be ascribed to profound mental illness, Square Enix has chosen not to create another Chrono game since – and then had the unmitigated nerve to get upset when the fans make their own. Google “Chrono Resurrection” or “Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes”, if you want to see the awesomeness that Square Enix has stupidly denied to its own fans.
Square Enix, J-RPG’s are dying a slow, painful death, and you’re at least partially responsible. You keep making garbage like Final Fantasy XIII, and then you sit on a fantastic IP like the Chrono series. If you want to save the J-RPG as a genre, now is the time to bring Chrono Trigger back. Unless you’re actually afraid of money and success.
The Comeback: Either reboot the original, a la Resurrection, or create an entirely new entry. Bring back time travel, or possibly combine time travel with dual dimensions. You can keep battles turn-based if you really must, but go real-time, if you can. Maybe even allow for co-op in battles? That would be a sweet way to launch double and triple techs, if you and a buddy had to coordinate to use specific techs at the same time. Honestly, almost anything would be better than the nothing we’re getting from Square Enix.