How We’d Reboot: Time Crisis

How We’d Reboot: Time Crisis

We all love reboots as a gaming community. But there’s a huge difference between remastering something to make it fresh and playable on modern systems/consoles, and then there’s taking an old idea and totally refreshing it for a new age.

Reboot is a new local series for Kotaku Australia, and here’s how it works. Three people — one writer, one Kotaku Australia reader and one developer (current or former) all pitch in their ideas for what they’d do to bring a classic game or franchise back into the modern age.

This isn’t as simple as “I’d love to see Mario Kart 64 in 4K” or something like that. It’s an exercise in what can be done with these classic ideas that we all grew up with. That might be arcade classics like Point Blank, ’90s strategy games that have gone the way of the dinosaur, obscure titles that were too ahead of its time, or whatever it may be.

If you’d like to pitch in, feel free to ping me over email with the subject line Reboot, followed by the franchise/game of your choice. I’ll do the legwork to collect some fun ideas from all the other parties, and hopefully we can get this going on the regular.

As you can see above, we’re starting with an on-rails legend: Time Crisis. And we’ll begin proceedings with another legend of the community, someone who’s been a brilliant contributor to Kotaku Australia over many, many years.

The Reader

A shot of the original Time Crisis lightguns. Image: WorthPoint

You know what I miss? Lightgun games. I loved them as a kid when I first saw Michael J. Fox showing off his mastery in Back to the Future 2. I loved them as a young adult backpacking as a fruit-picker, as rare oases of civilisation in random rural truck stops. From their simple, goofy stories, thumping techno beats, camp voice-acting, and sharp, striking sound-effects (which had to cut through the cries of thirty nearby Tekken machines), the real draw of an arcade for me was always the lightgun game. Point Blank was a great skill tester, and Virtua Cop uncomplicated baddie-blasting fun, but the best-maintained machine was always Time Crisis and its signature cover pedal. I wanna see it come back to living rooms.

The last Time Crisis was 2015 in arcades, and the last home version was 2008 some 13 years ago (no, mobile games don’t count). It’s well overdue for a new home version. The franchise has proven comfortable with gradual innovation, adding new features and mechanics with every release, too; nothing so dramatic as to alienate fans or bite off more than developers can chew, but also no mere remaster/reskins. They’ve taken on the challenge of adding a little more every time and come away better for it.

Time Crisis 5‘s latest addition – two cover pedals, to switch between cover spots to flank enemies – breathed a surprising new life into the franchise.

New VR tech is an obvious opportunity. Many successful VR games already utilize the signature cover pedal and motion-sickness-reducing rail-shooting that define the franchise. Something often missed, though, is that the game’s levels were varied and FAST. Fast, scored, scripted, and checkpointed, no time to get comfy. This structure of gameplay progression seems like a perfect fit for VR session time by how heavy the headset is starting to get, or cycling the equipment around to the next player in a party situation.

And sure, VR is obvious … but mostly, I miss the lightguns. Something you can do two-player with someone next to you, rather than a VR co-op partner on a different machine in a different room. Firing guns by waving a couple wands around doesn’t have the same heft to it as ramming a piece of plastic into your shoulder, or feeling your endurance being tested by how hard it progressively gets to hold the gun aloft and straight, in an unwitting front-raise workout exercise.

Some lightguns even came with mechanical recoil, providing real ‘haptic feedback’ decades before anyone had ever thought to call it that. What I’d really want from Time Crisis is to bring actual lightguns back.

Stretch goal: One other thing that’s always niggled at me … unlike whacky spin-off Dino Crisis, the ‘time’ in Time Crisis never related to time-travel, but the timer. That always seemed like a lost opportunity to me, especially for a series as ridiculous as Time Crisis. Any comeback should totally do something with that. — Transientmind

The Developer

time crisis
I asked for a couple of paragraphs, and received this glorious mockup instead. Image: Supplied

Why the fuck is it always the president’s daughter?

The first thing that strikes me is the political context of the 1996 original – the first family of the fictitious European nation of Sercia (it’s Europe because there’s a castle) falls prey to the violent kidnapping of their daughter Rachel.

Why? Well, apparently Sercia recently transitioned from monarchy to a full-blown federal republic. Sherudo, the last blood-relative of the exiled royal family returns to take violent praxis and in so doing pave the way toward reinstating imperial rule.

So it appears the Crisis referenced in the title is primarily a constitutional one.

Given all this backstory, for a 2021 reboot, is this even a gun game anymore? Or has this just become Crusader Kings: Sercia? The answer of course, is both.

The ideal Time Crisis reboot would be a diplomacy/conquest/4X game, played in real-time, with a gun.

With each shot fired, you can initiate conquest, take diplomatic action, arrange or annul Sercian marriages or approve espionage simply by aiming at the appropriate target. All decisions must be made in split seconds as the timer counts down.

Your magazine only affords you 6 actions per turn, after which point it’s best to use the pedal to return to cover, reload and ponder your next strategic play.

Each successful gambit earns you an extra 10 seconds of time to reach your overall geopolitical goal. Will Sercia concede to monarchy? Will Northwest Island (yes, that’s its actual name) secede from the union and become its own rogue state? Will Rachel ever return to lead her people to their manifest destiny?

time crisis
Image: Supplied

No two playthroughs of Constitutional Time Crisis would ever be the same.

That’s until Tencent make the mobile port where democracy isn’t a purchasable option. — Rick, Sydney-based developer on Inflatality

The Journalist

into the breach
Image: Into The Breach

It sucks to go after something as awesome as Time Crisis: Constitutional Democracy Simulator, especially since the idea of messing around with time properly is such a neat idea for the series. It was mostly to put people on the clock as a pre-microtransactions form of monetisation — rush people, they’ll have to take more shots earlier, they’ll eventually screw up and spend more coins.

But what if time was the thing you planned around or controlled? Into The Breach gave me a lot of inspiration here, but instead of saving the world from procedurally generated alien nightmares, you’re working through a lot of these classic levels with more tactical nous. Instead of hitting the pedal to weave in and out of cover — or to move between covers, like in Time Crisis 5 — what if you planned around that cover tactically? It’s a fraction unoriginal in the sense that, if you think about it, Metal Slug Tactics is taking a very similar approach. But it’d still work for the franchise: imagine a vibrancy and look that echoes the originals and games like SWAT, but with much more modern sensibilities.

Another option in the same vein could be to double down on the difficulty and lean more into a Jupiter Hell vibe, reusing the idea that you can only take two or three hits. The camera could still be an isometric or top-down situation. It’d almost be like you were reviewing the footage from a drone or CCTV cameras, advising the agents on what directions to move, where threats are coming from and so on. — Alex Walker, Kotaku Australia editor

That’s our first edition of Reboot, providing three separate angles on how we’d update the on-rails classic Time Crisis for a modern age. How would you do it? And what weird and wild ideas do you have for rebooting other games? Get in touch!

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