Dystopian Gaming

Nintendo’s got a treasure trove of games already, but there’s still a few lost gems out there that’ll need revamping by the year 2032.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 10/08/2010 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Although he’s not a Nintendo icon, being born on the MSX and developed by Hudson Soft, Bomberman’s still pretty near and dear to Nintendo fans’ hearts. Nintendo consoles have been home to whole series within the Bomberman series, after all (the Super Bomberman and Bomberman 64 games have been pretty well-received, too), and just like other companies’ mascots, Bomberman’s never been afraid to try something new. Whether it’s the Pokémon-esque Bomberman Max for Game Boy Advance or the eight-player fragfest Bomberman Blast for WiiWare, Bomberman’s been around the block more times than most people probably care to count, and his smiling visage has delighted many a gamer.

Which, of course, just begs the question: is it possible to go too far? Bomberman Act Zero for the Xbox 360 ignored the original Bomberman character designs (unless we’re talking the original NES boxart) and went in a direction wholly its own– and critics panned it, with GameSpy deeming it “the worst videogame retooling since King of Fighters went 3D.” Clearly, Bomberman Act Zero needed some work, not the least because people didn’t enjoy the realistic departure one bit– mirroring what Nintendo fans have seen with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s cel-shaded debacle. But in retrospect, Hudson Soft might have had the right idea after all, if not the right franchise to go with it– people just like cutesy Bomberman too much. Fortunately, there are plenty of other series that could use a crazy dystopia fix for 2032. It’s time for these three in particular to make a comeback– and do it, hopefully, better than Bomberman.


Michael Berlyn may not be a household name, but the co-creator of the groundbreaking Zork certainly tried his best to be one by creating Bubsy, a Super Nintendo platformer featuring Bubsy the Bobcat. Bubsy could jump around like Sonic and Mario, but could also glide around (a common bobcat move) in an effort to traverse large gaps. Unfortunately, Bubsy didn’t see much success after his Super Nintendo outing, despite an enormous amount of hype for the character and critical acclaim for his game– the storyline, which involved the theft of the world’s yarn supply, just didn’t seem able to carry Bubsy for an entire series.

But a redoing of Bubsy might just make sense in 2032. Bubsy, unlike Mario and Sonic (and, really, most other video game characters), is nothing if not a family man. Bubsy brings his niece and nephew to amusement parks, for goodness’ sake, which is just heartwarming. (Of course, in that particular game, the amusement park turned out to be a dastardly plot for historical domination, but I digress.) A new installment of Bubsy, with the focus on his so-very-loved family, and the dangers therein of being related to such a dangerously magnetic (in terms of, well, danger) hero, would be absolutely great to see, especially considering most video games put the focus on their heroes as opposed to any supporting characters. Perhaps they would be kidnapped, or brainwashed, or some other horrifying deed (hopefully not tortured– nobody likes to see tortured bobcats), and Bubsy would have to dish out some Frank Castle-style revenge. Realizing the possibilities of Bubsy’s admittedly small world would make that world just that much bigger, and show that there’s a whole lot left in platform games than just running and jumping (and gliding). Bubsy’s already got a family– let’s do something with that.

Milon’s Secret Castle

Like Bomberman, Milon’s from Hudson Soft– in fact, even the land he lives in is called Hudson– but he hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much success as his friend, probably because his games packed more difficulty than you could shake Ghosts ‘n Goblins at. Meanwhile, though, Milon deals with some pretty intense themes, the most major of which is the failure of communication. See, in the land of Hudson, people use music to communicate with one another– something that Milon can’t understand. Essentially, this subverts the trope of heroes not being able to talk long before that was even a trope– already signs of a game before its time. In any case, Milon even goes out and tries to find other people like himself, showing some rare initiative in a hero, unlike others who have to be initially pushed into doing something great (i.e. Midna telling Link to go find some Fused Shadows). Though his original NES and Game Boy games were indeed difficult, Hudson Soft tried their best to put forth something that was already revolutionary at the time, in terms of how video games could essentially make people think really, really hard– both in gameplay and otherwise.

Revisiting Milon’s Secret Castle in its original form might not be such a great idea, but a newer (probably easier) game revisiting the themes introduced in that game would be very much welcomed. The video games as art argument has been tread and retread, but by 2032, if that argument’s still not over, the new Milon’s Secret Castle, with its discussion of how communication is or isn’t necessary, of how difficult it is to just make that first step toward solving a problem, and, well, whether being able to talk or play an instrument helps heroes save princesses, could mean the world for video games as an art form. Like Bubsy’s family, Milon’s got a gimmick that hasn’t been explored nearly enough. Hudson Soft might want to try its hand at revamping Milon’s Secret Castle instead of Bomberman.

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon is unlike Bubsy and Milon’s Secret Castle in the sense that it’s still being made (and remade) over and over again, but it’s definitely been at a loss in terms of content as of late, leaving innovation to its cousin Rune Factory. What’s interesting about Harvest Moon lies simply in its farming and romance gimmicks, which by themselves really don’t do much after twenty-seven iterations, even with new crops or new romantic interests (although both, I suppose, are interchangeable, depending on your play style). Even Marvelous Interactive (née Victor Interactive Software) has admitted that the core gameplay of Harvest Moon has remained the same, with only minor additions every now and then.

If we don’t want to see Harvest Moon standing still until 2032, we’ll need Marvelous to change a few things– or at least add a few things. Climate change, for instance, might be nice– yes, global warming’s a major issue in the real world, and yes, escapism is a generally good part of video games, but I think it’d be interesting to see how that might play out in a game so based on farming. A greater revamping of the romance system, too, might be interesting, so that, for instance, simply giving Karen wine every night like players do in Harvest Moon 64 wouldn’t work as well in Harvest Moon 2032. And furthermore, why not add some kind of industrial force into the mix? It works well in Final Fantasy as a perpetual antagonist, and considering Harvest Moon’s agricultural roots, adding another side of the scale might turn out to be interesting. (We won’t include migrant workers, though, that’s just asking for trouble.) I understand completely why fans wouldn’t want Harvest Moon changed– but really, after all these years, it’s time for a change.

Oh, and merging The Legend of the River King (anybody remember that?) with Harvest Moon might be nice, too. Now that’s a franchise that needs some love.

Honorable Mention: Ace Attorney

Okay, so it doesn’t really need a retooling or a revisiting, and it’s certainly not without its share of popularity, but I’m sure there are plenty of cases out there in 2032 that would need the abilities of Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth, and/or Apollo Justice. After all, most of the cases this triumvirate deals with involve murders or thefts (but mostly murders), and there are plenty of issues out there that could be just as riveting. In 2032, those issues will only multiply. Why not educate Ace Attorney players with cases on global warming, or nuclear fallout? Perhaps an introduction of a Supreme Court-like entity is in order for our law-defending heroes– Apollo Justice’s final case, after all, showed that there was far more in store for the Ace Attorney series’ law system than previously anticipated. An edutainment installment of Ace Attorney might be too school-y for some people, but it’d still have wacky gameplay enough to entertain– and that’s what’s important.

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