2017 has been a fantastic year for the PS4. The current king of consoles has seen the release of no less than 3 genuine game of the year candidates – Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, and Persona 5 – along with a raft of other excellent titles, such as Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0, and Nioh.
As good as these games are individually, however, perhaps the most important thing for the continued success of the PlayStation brand going forward is that each of these titles is either the latest in an established series or the starting point of a brand-new one.
And this got me thinking. With Sony in such a strong position at the moment and thus better placed than the competition to indulge in the odd passion project or two, wouldn’t now be the perfect time to revisit some of the platform’s former successes? And, if so, which now defunct series would PlayStation aficionadas most like to see return?
Based on my own past experiences and a bit of good old-fashioned research, I’ve narrowed it down to 5 enjoyable, interesting, or exciting franchises that we’d welcome back with open arms.
Just a quick heads up before we start, there a few ground rules.
Firstly, only PlayStation-exclusive series appear in this list, hence the omission of Spyro, Soulcalibur, Katamari, Time Splitters, and any other series that branched out to other platforms after debuting on a Sony console. Secondly, entries have to have been part of a bona fide series, so don’t expect to see one-off titles like Bloodborne, Heavenly Sword, or Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Thirdly, I’ve taken the executive decision to exclude any franchise that’s released a standard or remastered title on the PS4 (sorry LittleBigPlanet and Crash Bandicoot!).
Anyway, now that’s out of the way, let’s get started.
Gamers love an anthropomorphized animal protagonist. From Sonic the Hedgehog and Banjo the bear to Crash Bandicoot and, rather neatly, the star of our first entry: Sly Cooper. It seems we’re a sucker for anything that features a talking ball of fur in a prominent role.
I’m being facetious, of course. What actually makes these games special are the supremely imaginative worlds they invite us to explore and the finely-crafted platforming mechanics that are, more often than not, enjoyably challenging; testing your patience, reflexes, and timing. And, while the Sly Cooper series might not be quite as well-known as Banjo Kazooie or (early) Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s a superb one nonetheless.
Sly himself is the perfect protagonist. Somewhat different, yet eminently likeable, he stands out from the crowd thanks to his mischievous nature and charming demeanour, backed by a cast of equally appealing supporting characters, most notably Bentley, Murray, and Carmelita Fox. All of which are rendered in effortlessly stylish, cel shaded visuals that exude a cartoony, film noir vibe, and give the world of Sly Cooper a wonderfully fresh appearance.
The combination of robust, well-balanced platforming and stealth mechanics, meanwhile, offers a similarly unusual platforming experience that’s quite distinct from the titles mentioned above.
Emphasising agility over brute strength, players are encouraged to adopt a cautious approach to the various challenges they’re faced with over the course of the 4 games, utilizing the rakish raccoon’s arsenal of special abilities to either eliminate foes silently or avoid them altogether. This singular gameplay style, combined with the series’ heist-based structure, makes playing Sly Cooper feel as much like Metal Gear Solid as Super Mario Bros.
Unsurprisingly, given its popularity, an animated series is in the works. Here’s hoping it reignites interest in the IP and we see a new game in the not-too-distant future.
Released on PS2 between 2000 and 2003, Dark Cloud and sequel Dark Chronicle/Dark Cloud 2 (depending on where you live) are everything a JRPG should be: immersive, fun to play, charming, imaginative, challenging, and stylish, with an excellent soundtrack and just a dash of quirkiness thrown in for good measure.
Yet, while I could waffle on about the refined combat system and rich world till kingdom come, one of the most interesting aspects of these two superlative games is the signature ‘Georama Mode’.
Similar to the building mechanics featured in surprisingly good RPG-Minecraft hybrid Dragon Quest Builders, Georama Mode is a fundamental part of both games that tasks players with restoring a variety of the respective game-world’s settlements in order to progress through the story; each set of increasingly challenging, procedurally-generated dungeons only becoming accessible once a specific town or village has been completely rebuilt.
It’s not quite as extensive as Dragon Quest Builders’, of course, but it’s still a highly satisfying mechanic that differentiates the series from the majority of JRPG’s in existence today.
So good and highly regarded are these games, it’s actually quite surprising we haven’t seen a sequel in the decade and a half since Dark Chronicle released. Especially considering one producer at developer Level 5 has previously suggested the team would seriously consider making a third instalment if there was enough public demand.
Well, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of that.
Changing tack somewhat, we have Resistance; a trilogy of sci-fi shooters developed by Insomniac Games (the same studio behind Ratchet and Clank and Spyro) set in an alternate version of the 1950’s in which planet Earth has been invaded by a malevolent alien race known as the Chimera.
Though not the most innovative of shooters – the mechanics, environments, and story have been labelled as slightly run-of-the-mill by a number of critics – the series received largely positive reviews nevertheless. The fact that Resistance 3, the lowest rated of the three, currently sits at an impressive 83/100 on Metacritic, speaks volumes.
Indeed, despite suggestions the series lacked originality, the franchise was largely praised for its compelling, coherent narrative and entertaining combat mechanics that, minus a couple of missteps in Resistance 2 (specifically, the removal of the health bar and weapon wheel) rarely disappointed.
Each title even came equipped with a comprehensive multiplayer offering to keep players interested once the single player campaign was done and dusted, complete with a variety of game modes and challenges. Though unfortunately, the servers were closed in 2014.
With Insomniac ruling out a return to the series, we probably won’t see a fourth instalment any time soon. That being said, Insomniac is open to the possibility of farming out the IP to a third-party, so, never say never.
Jak and Daxter
Okay, so, by the rules set out above, this could be construed as cheating. However, since the PS4 version of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a port rather than a remaster, I’ve decided to go ahead and include it anyway.
With 4 critically-acclaimed, main-line platformers under its belt (along with a car combat game that’s broadly similar to Mario Kart or CTR, and a PSP-exclusive spin-off starring side-kick Daxter), the Jak And Daxter franchise is certainly one of PlayStation’s most recognizable and a classic of the platformer genre.
At a time when 3D platformers were all the rage, Jak and Daxter (the first 3, in particular) received lavish praise for their light-hearted and amusing protagonists, solid gameplay mechanics, imaginative setting, and innovative blend of different genres, the latter of which would come to characterize the series as a whole. Highlighting Naughty Dog’s innovative approach to the genre, in their review of the Jak and Daxter Collection, Game Informer said: “falling squarely in the action/platforming genre, the series was driven by a restless sense of innovation, evolving from the standard ‘90s collection-driven design to Jak 3’s apocalyptic open-world that suggested what Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome might have looked like if conceived by Pixar”.
Despite its popular and critical appeal, rather disappointingly, Naughty Dog has no plans to make another game anytime soon. However, in the same PSU article in which Community Strategist Arne Meyer quashed any hope of an imminent release, he did state that the current lack of activity “doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be able to do it [create a new game] in the future”.
But, with The Last of Us Part II currently in development, it’s safe to assume it’ll be a fair while before we see the charismatic duo on our screens again.
Released, rather unsurprisingly, around the same time Pokémon fever began to infect playgrounds across the globe, Jade Cocoon’s 1 and 2 weren’t the most original in terms of plot: young adult aspires to a life of adventure, is subsequently tasked with saving the world from an insidious magical force, travels said world in an effort to hone his skills ahead of the final showdown against the big bad, triumphs against all the odds. Nor were the central gameplay mechanics particularly revolutionary: the rock-paper-scissors-style combat and monster capturing/raising systems are hardly unique.
However, to focus on the similarities between Jade Cocoon and other JRPG’s, including Pokémon, would be doing the series a huge disservice.
Breeding, for instance, was an integral part of the Jade Cocoon experience from the very beginning (unlike Pokémon which only introduced a comparable mechanic in generation 2), and allowed players to freely combine the games’ numerous monsters in order to create colourful, distinctive new creatures.
More generally, the world in which the games were set is rich and charming, chock-a-block with interesting characters and a genuinely impressive visual style that features a cavalcade of delightful FMV cut-scenes and pre-rendered backgrounds.
Of all the series mentioned in this list, it’s probably the least likely to make a comeback, what with the current superfluity of RPG’s and the dangers of entering an over-crowded market (just look at Battleborn’s attempt at carving its own niche in the hero shooter genre). Still, there are a couple of Reddit and Facebook groups dedicated to entreating developer Genki to make a third, so, it’d be foolish to rule out the possibility altogether.
It goes without saying there are plenty of other series that are more than worthy of a recognition – Ape Escape and Alundra spring to mind.
But, what these series demonstrate is that, for all the exciting new IP’s, Sony has plenty of absolutely cracking franchises in its archives that still have plenty to offer.
Besides, what’s a list without a bit of controversy?