Game Changers: Sequels That Scared The True Fans

Yesterday, 2K Games panicked some gamers with news that the turn-based tactics series X-Com will return as a first-person shooter. What other classic video game franchise have had their genres changed, and how did they weather the transformation?

We're calling the phenomenon genre bending. You take a game known as being one of the best in its original genre, and give it a gameplay facelift, oftentimes modifying the core elements that made it a classic in the first place. To some, this is a refreshing change. To others, it borders on blasphemy.

Let's take a look at how other classic franchise have fared when faced with genre bending.

Bionic Commando Original Genre: Platforming Shooter New Genre: 3rd Person Action Adventure The Transformation: Capcom tapped developer Grin to recreate the 1987 arcade classic Bionic Commando as a full-on 3D action adventure game with 3rd-person shooting elements. Released in 2009, the updated game was praised for its visuals and ambitious gameplay choices, garnering average to high review scores. The Verdict: It sold like complete crap. Actually, given the right salesperson, crap might have sold better.

Metroid Original Genre: 2D Exploration-Based Platforming Shooter New Genre: First-Person Shooter The Transformation: News that Nintendo was taking the classic 2D platforming series that started in 1986 on the Nintendo Entertainment System and turning it into a first-person shooter did not sit well with fans at first. There were cries of blasphemy, along with much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. Then Nintendo released the first Metroid Prime title in 2002, and it went on to become one of the best-selling titles on the Gamecube. The Verdict: I'd say the transformation was a success.

Shadowrun Original Genre: Action Role-Playing New Genre: First-Person Shooter The Transformation: Fans of the pen-and-paper, magic meets cyberpunk role-playing game Shadowrun loved the first game based on the series, an action RPG that stayed as faithful to the source material as a 1993 Super Nintendo release could. When FASA Interactive and Microsoft announced a new Shadowrun title, fans were ecstatic, until they discovered it was an online-only first-person shooter, completely bereft of story. Despite the negative fan reaction, the developers pushed on through, producing a final product that both fans and newcomers to the series generally disliked. The Verdict: I like to pretend the second game never happened.

Super Mario Bros Original Genre: 2D Platformer New Genre: 3D Platformer The Transformation: More a product of evolution than an actual genre change, Nintendo was still taking a chance when it took its extremely successful Mario Bros franchise from 2D to 3D. Super Mario Bros 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System was a gaming masterpiece, and the 32-bit follow-up, Super Mario World, sold countless Super Nintendo systems as a pack in-game. Bringing one of the most recognisable 2D characters on the planet into the realm of 3D is no easy task, but in 1996 Nintendo managed to make it look easy. The Verdict: Mario 64 added a new dimension to the series without taking away any of the fun, and that's what the series has always been all about.

Fallout Original Genre: Isometric Role-Playing Game New Genre: First-Person Action Role-Playing The Transformation: If any video game franchise could be said to have a rabid fan following, Fallout is that series. The first two instalments of the post-apocalyptic role-playing game from Interplay are considered PC classics of the highest order, and it would take a pretty ballsy company to mess with such a successful formula. When The Elder Scrolls developer Bethesda Softworks snagged the licence for Fallout and announced the development of Fallout 3, fan reaction was mixed, to put it lightly. There were those that were ecstatic that the series was continuing, while early screenshots had fans calling the new title a clone of Bethesda's award winning RPG Oblivion.

Fallout 3 was released in 2008 to rave reviews, huge sales, and fans who somehow managed to overcome their doubts long enough to play through the game multiple times, before going back to being angry about how different it was. The Verdict: A mixed reaction, but a very clear success.

The Legend of Zelda Original Genre: Top-Down Action Role-Playing New Genre: 2D Side-Scrolling Action Role-Playing The Transformation: After releasing the bestselling classic The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, Nintendo oddly decided to mix up the formula for the sequel, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. While Zelda II still used the top-down perspective of the first game for travel, the act of visiting towns and battling enemies shifted the game to a 2D, side-scrolling perspective, reminiscent of Super Mario Bros, complete with platforming elements. Many features of Zelda II would be passed on to future games in the series, including NPC conversations, the use of magic, and the Triforce of Courage. The 2D platforming view was not, with the series returning to a more-or-less top-down view for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. The Verdict: It's hard to call a game that sold 4.38 million copies a misstep, but I'm glad they put the top down again.

Castlevania Original Genre: 2D Action Platformer New Genre: 2D Metroid-Style Exploration Platformer The Transformation: No, we're not talking about the failed attempts to create a 3D Castlevania here. We're talking about a more subtle genre switch that occurred between the 1994 release of Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis and Catslevania: Symphony of the Night on the PlayStation in 1997. Previous games in the series had all been relatively simple affairs. You'd travel from level to level, taking on bosses with your whip until the inevitable showdown with Dracula. Symphony of the Night switched things up considerably, adding in a wide variety of weapons and equipment, attribute-based statistics, and animal familiars. While experience points and levelling made their debut in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the NES, Symphony of the Night refined those elements, making them a mainstay in the series. The most notable change to the Castlevania formula were special powers that changed how you tranvelled about Dracula's castle. Certain doors would remain unpassable until certain powers were unlocked, much like the system used in Nintendo's Metroid series, hence Symphony of the Night's nickname, Metroidvania. The Verdict: It's hard to go back to the original games after playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

These are just a few examples of classic video games that have undergone Genre Bending over the course of the past three decades. Sometimes the resulting games breath new life into stale franchise, while other times they've acted as coffin nails, sealing a series fate.

What does this mean for X-Com? Don't give up hope. The trip from turn-based tactics to first-person shooter is a rocky road, but as many of the game above have proved, swapping genres doesn't always end in tears.

Now it's your turn! Discuss your favourite video game genre benders in the comments section below! For extra points, be sure to start your comment with the words, "You missed..."


    Haha ummmm, Monkey Island from 2D to 3D? No, doesn't really count. Doesn't make the change any less disappointing though.

    I was cut when little Commander Keen became a bigger Commander Keen!

    You missed Bubsy!!!! When it went to 3d what it brought to the table! Oh BOY what it BROUGHT to the table! Oh MAN! retrospect Mr Fahey thanks for not mentioning Bubsy 3d lol.

    Micro machines kinda lost it's charm going into 3d :(

    Pretty much any sporting game...

    GTA - Win all round :)

    Metal Gear Solid went from 2D to 3D. Result: have to say, huge success. Didn't care much for the originals.

    GTA went from top-down to 3D. Again, massive commercial success. I have to say, I miss the 2D sometimes - I had ludicrous amounts of fun in a top-down indestructible tank in GTA2 with point values shooting in all directions.

    Haven't they already attempted a FPS version of X-Com? X-Com Alliance, or whatever it was, like 10 years ago? I thought it was looking good, even if it fail to get released.

      You're right, X-Com had already made a genre shifts with X-Com Interceptor, which was a space flight combat sim.

    You missed... well, to be honest, it's not one that's actually occured yet, it's just on the way. The new Front Mission game, Front Mission Evolved, is a 3rd person action game rather than a tactical stratergy RPG. I don't think I'd say it's my favourite video game genre bender. In fact it's quite the opposite.

    After all, third person action games are everywhere, but it's not often that I get a chance to sink my teeth into a good stratergy RPG, they just don't seem to come out here in the merry ol' land of Aus. At the moment I've only got Disgaea 3 and a few offerings on the DS. My only hope is that if there is enough interest in Front Mission Evolved, it could result in Front Mission 3 getting a PSone Classic release on PSN.

    I hate how great games fail because of 30+ year old fanboys clinging to how great the original was. I'm sorry fanboys but it's time for you to realise that those side scrolling games of pixelated spew you used to play were not good. It's time to let go. Just as I'll have to let go in 10+ years when we are all using virtual reality suits and remakes of Halo, Mass Effect and other games from this decade start to come out.

      I'm sorry, but are you implying that Halo was a "great original"? Halo couldn't fucking hold water, even against the old Mario Brothers.

      You fail.

    None of these games had as much of a dramatic shift as the new X-Com game. Has the author of this article even played the original X-Com?

    Bubsy from 2D to that 3D abomination.
    Epic fail.

    I agree with Chingle. These examples are completely different from the xcom example. A better example would be taking chess and reimagining it as a casual action adventurer called Chess Warriors in which the pawn has to face off against the evil boss the King. It'll be a linear platformer with 3d cutscenes.

    These examples are just taking the same game and putting it in 3d (with the one exception potentially being Fallout, but it is still one could argue the same core gameplay experience).

    @Dire Wolf: New Super Mario Bros Wii would like to have a word with you.

    Hmm X-Com had already gone through a few iterations through it's life in an attempt to keep the franchise fresh.
    Enemy unknown and terror from the deep were the same, but then apocolypse, despite retaining the isometric style, allowed for real time movement rather than turn based. After trying both methods, the majority of people migrated to the faster more free playing real time mode. Not a big change but fundamental to the direction that XCOM was going in.
    Interceptor was the first real attempt at changing it's direction capitalising on the Space sim genre happening around that time. It wasn't successful but it was known another isometric turn based strategy wasn't going to succeed even back then.
    SO bring on a new iteration of the game, I am all for seeing this franchise bought back to help those that think that games back in the 90's were not fun pixelated spew games. I am more than happy to forego graphics if the game has depth, this generation however aren't and I would love them to see the aspects of great yesteryear games like Xcom, pulled into today's time to cater for the more simple styles demanded.

    umm GTA????!?!?!?!?!?!
    When GTA Went 3D I was like WTF MAN!???!
    It just seemed wrong... even after playing GTA3 I still used that top down camera angle when driving cars alot

    Command and Conquer Renegade? RTS to FPS is a pretty big jump. Fun at the time though, my first online FPS and the origin of my gamertag.

    It's not so much that there was a change but rather that people complained and it was controversial. Gta going from 2d to 3d was widely welcomed while fallout 3 was met with disdain, at least initially anyway.

      I disagree... prior to playing GTA3 most gta fans were skeptical at best about the 3D change... after playing it we were definitely put in our place but the same goes for Fallout 3.

    Dunno if this is so much of a MASSIVE change, but was enough to worry people - the changes made to FFXII's battle mechanic.

    Umm.. Super Mario World is 16 bit not 32.

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