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Hard Project: Sonic the Hedgehog

Yes, I remember this.  Thank you.  I also can go play the original.

When a series resorts to mining out its past, it’s usually because the present is much less interesting.

This may come as a shock to some of our younger readers, and for that I apologize.  But you know all of that terrible art on DeviantArt that involves cartoon hedgehogs submitting to Jesus and usually leads directly into some mind-scarring pornography?  That’s all based on a series of video games!  A series of video games that were originally based around a little blue hedgehog that ran really quickly.  You have to understand that the 90s were a different time.  (We don’t understand how the porn and the Jesus thing happened, though.)

As funny as that might seem at a glance, the fact of the matter remains that the weird fan culture has become the most relevant part of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise in recent years.  Kind of understandably so, even.  The franchise has been showing cracks ever since the Dreamcast days, and the current state of affairs is lamentable but hardly unexpected.  At this point, making a new game is quite possibly not a good idea, and it’s definitely a hard project.

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Hard Project: Dungeons & Dragons

Like if Kleenex was actually the generic product name, for some reason.

Taking on Tieflings as a basic race was probably a wise move, but it also speaks to that back-and-forth process of taking something, making it non-generic, and then trying to make it generic again.

When Gygax and Arneson first came up with Dungeons & Dragons, it seemed to be half for a lark.  Cue years of discussion, back and forth, debates about the nature of roleplaying, the inclusion of computers, debates about the nature of what makes a computer game a proper RPG or not, and so forth.  Amidst all of that, the franchise has steamrolled on, and let’s be fair, we’ve gotten some pretty great games set in one of the many Dungeons & Dragons settings over the years.

We’ve also had some horrible ones.  And quite frankly, they’re hard to get right no matter what you do.

Part of the problem is that Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t quite have a mythos so much as it has disconnected setting elements rammed together in order to make tabletop games work.  But I don’t think there’s ever a way to make that title into an easy project, despite the good games that have come out of it.  For a lot of good reasons.

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Hard Project: Robotech

You knew what I was all about when you signed up.  Right?

So maybe it’s mostly because I haven’t done a column on enormous robots in a while, what’s the difference?

Harmony Gold, at this point, is a spite house that happens to be incorporated.  And pretty much all of its spite is directed toward the license that it’s sitting on for the original Macross, which ties into its pet property of Robotech, which is used for nothing.  Because wow, that thing is a mess.

The short (and glossing/inaccurate) version is that back in the 80s, Harmony Gold had gotten its hands on some anime that it wanted to syndicate.  Unfortunately, syndication rules required 65 episodes to exist before a series could be distributed, and the three series in question (Macross, Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross) didn’t individually hit that mark.  So Carl Macek’s job was to sit down and stitch these three separate shows with different characters, premises, and setting into a single continuity.  The result was Robotech, which subsequently had more material produced, making it a distinct entity from any of its predecessors.

As fascinating as that whole nonsense is to talk about – and it really is, right down to lots of polarized reactions that never approach the subject of whether or not the new series is any good – that’s not what I’m here to discuss.  Because while Harmony Gold is busy not actually making more Robotech material, a video game seems like an easy way to extend the license.  Yet at the same time, making one is really hard to do.

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Hard Project: Hellboy

I mean, he seems like a pretty cool guy.  Plus, he was in Pacific Rim.  That counts for a lot, here.

Actually Ron Perlman.

I have given up on explaining certain franchises to people without them sounding really weird.  This doesn’t bother me, exactly, but it’s in the back of my mind, so these days I think I wind up actively looking for stuff that sounds either impossible to parse, bizarre, or just plain stupid when described in the abstract.  Like Hellboy, which is about a friendly demon who punches secret Nazis and folklore horror figures in the face with the key to ending the world.

Okay, all right, the 90s were a different time for all of us, especially when it comes to comics.  And despite his decade of origin and those scant details, the eponymous Hellboy is not a snarling antihero, having a demeanor closer to Detective Lenny Briscoe of Law & Order – wearied, a bit gruff, but mostly concerned with doing the right thing and helping people.  Yet for all the fun of the very concept, for some reason the dude’s only got two games, both of which were horrible.  Why’d that happen?

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Hard Project: Zombies

I mean, if Infestation: Survivor Stories didn't do it...

Ironically, this genre seems almost impossible to actually kill.

I love zombie fiction.  I absolutely hate most video games that feature zombies.  And there’s a good reason for that, largely stemming from the fact that the two bear only the slightest connection to one another.

Let it not be said that you do not have your options for zombie games if you want them.  The Walking Dead has been doing quite well for itself.  DayZ is out in early testing that only asks you to, you know, purchase it before you can test it.  (That seems backwards to me, but that’s a different article.)  Dead Rising is a thing, State of Decay is a thing, Left 4 Dead is a thing, and hell, Plants vs. Zombies is out there.  That’s not even counting the numerous games which feature zombies as a sideline – arguably the Husks of Mass Effect are close cousins.

But I don’t really like zombie games all that much, and even the games that I’m listing don’t seem to really like zombies all that much.  Which is why I’m listing this as a hard project, because it turns out that making a zombie game is a very different prospect from writing zombie horror, and the two don’t go together nicely.

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