How We’d Reboot: Time Crisis

How We’d Reboot: Time Crisis
Image: Games Revisited

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.

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!


  • Re: Alex’s ideas, the time-flow tactics/isometric CCTV stuff reminds me of Mode 7’s very cool and innovative asymmetrical time-management tactics games. Frozen Synapse 1-2, playing it straight with squad-based shooty tactics, and Frozen Cortex going for the same time mechanic, but in what is basically futuristic Blood Bowl. Similar: There Came an Echo (by Iridium Studios who did the criminally underrated Before the Echo), and while the main gimmick was voice-control it also featured conditional actions, almost like programming. Eg: “Alpha and beta, take up position at X, fire on my mark. Mark!”

    • If I could somehow force people to play one game, it would be Frozen Cortex. If only for it to revive the multiplayer.

  • This reads like the tree swing comic about how IT operations work where you get increasingly varied representations of a concept and the punchline is “What they really needed” which is so starkly obvious and simplistic as to be humorous. That being said, The Reader representation is pretty spot on for what I’d expect fans of the series (myself included) would be happy with given that:
    a) It keeps in vein with what made the originals popular
    b) Preserves the core game loop but modernises it using today’s technology

    The others would be interesting spin offs, but not a good franchise reboot.

    • It’s funny, because I did note that I was a little conservative in my reboot suggestion, and Alex indicated that’s great because it’d contrast against the zaniness of the developer’s ideas, so I wouldn’t be surprised if future articles go with that kind of escalating madness for the lols/to cover more interesting bases. 🙂 I mean, Constitutional Time Crisis is a brilliant idea and my life is marginally better for having read of it!

  • Literally no one was invested in the stories of the Time Crisis series at the time. All installments were homages to 80’s Hollywood cop shooters with ridiculous plots. Which worked for the freneticism and sense of fighting overwhelming odds the game presented – The “one many army” (single player) or “buddy cop” (two player) approach popularised by cinema. You bought in on that because of how OTT it all was. That timer however always seemed trivialised. For a reboot, the timer should still be there not just as an adjunct to the proceedings, but with better context and relevance.

    You could really take a gritty mature tone (Similar to Criterion’s “Black”) where what’s counting down is the time left on your life, or someone you need to rescue – Anything from being infected with a terminal virus requiring an antidote (Yes, it’s OTT but still possible) to rescuing hostages from a possible fatal terrorist outcome.

    Add that you only briefly recover from your injuries throughout, by being handed (not shooting) life-extending medication/weapons from meeting and protecting helpful contacts at scripted (check) points along the way and there’s even now something of an air of believability for the ‘power-ups’. In any scenario, that timer should be THE reason you’re fighting through the game and someone’s life is literally what’s ticking down. That would certainly be a recipe for a ‘time crisis’.

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