Gaming Flashback: 30th Anniversaries

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 03, 2017
Gaming Flashback: 30th Anniversaries

It’s interesting to look back at the history of our hobby and spot certain years that can be seen as landmarks for the industry. Recently, I found myself re-watching Retroware TV‘s series The Video Game Years, thanks to it being added to Amazon Prime streaming, and it got me thinking about just how important a decade the 1980s were to the video game industry.

These thoughts quickly turned to inspiration, as I found myself brainstorming how I could turn these ideas into a revival of my Gaming Flashback series here on Kulture Shocked, which brings me 1987, and just how relevant that year is to modern gaming.

The modern era is rather interesting when it comes to pop culture, as our society tends to consume media at an alarming rate and forget it almost as quickly as it arrived.  For anything in the popular conscience to last for three decades is something of an anomaly.

There are certainly some franchises that have withstood the test of time, many of Nintendo’s spring to mind, but it feels like the most relevant franchises in the modern gaming space, things like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, have only really risen to popularity since the turn of the millennium. Today, I’d like to focus on a few franchises that have withstood the test of time and endured despite any hardships that have befallen their series.

With that in mind, I ‘d like to point out a few ground rules for this list. I’ll be going be the first release date available for a franchise, so in many cases, this will go by a game’s Japanese release not it’s North American or European dates. Secondly, the game must have had a new release in the last decade, and not just compilations or re-releases, but a brand new game release. With those ground rules set, let’s look back at some gaming franchises celebrating their 30th anniversaries in 2017.

Street Fighter

It’s strange to think that the Street Fighter franchise is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and I think that’s mainly due to the series not hitting the heights of its popularity until its second entry in 1991. This franchise has its place in history thanks to almost single-handedly popularizing the one on one fighting genre. The early nineties were a fascinating time to be a fighting game fan, as after the release of Street Fighter II we would see dozens of games attempt to come in and capitalize on the genre’s newfound popularity.

While not every pretender was a success, we do have the fighting game boom to thank for the likes of The King of Fighters and Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter would continue its time on top in the nineties and receive a host of spin-offs, a Hollywood movie, a cartoon series, a toy line, and so much more. The series is still going strong today, and despite the lukewarm reception Street Fighter V received upon its release in early 2016, it’s still one of the premier fighting games and has managed to outperform many of its contemporaries.

Final Fantasy

Arguably the biggest franchise we will focus on.  Final Fantasy actually has quite the interesting history. The brainchild of developer Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy was developed by Square as a last resort. Prior to Final Fantasy, the company had seen a series of poor releases on the MSX and Famicom and despite release titles like Rad Racer, 3D WorldRunner, and King’s Knight, the company was on the brink of financial ruin, but Final Fantasy changed all that.

Since it’s inception, the series has spawned fifteen main series entries and dozens of spin-offs across various consoles. Unlike many of the other games I’ve talked about today, the Final Fantasy franchise has endeared itself to fans despite each of the mainline games features completely different settings and casts and largely unique mechanics. The unique nature of each of the games is something the series has prided itself on and it continues to evolve despite fans not being quite as enthusiastic as the last few entries.

Final Fantasy was the second RPG I ever played and the series has maintained a very important place in my heart. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of the the entries after Final Fantasy XI, I still anticipate each new title in the franchise and make sure to give each of them a fair shake. It’s still an important series not only to myself but to many fans around the world and I’ll always love it for what it’s meant to my gaming journey.

Phantasy Star

An oddity on this list, the Phantasy Star franchise has been mostly dead in the West since the start of the decade, as the final game released outside of Japan was 2010’s Phantasy Star Portable 2 on the PSP. Despite this, the franchise has continued in Japan thanks to the popularity of Phantasy Star Online 2, which has seen releases on Windows, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, and the PSVita.

Phantasy Star was a series that dared to be different in a time where most RPGs were based solely in a high fantasy setting. The series would buck this trend and chose a sci-fi setting, even the first game in the franchise on the Master System featured space travel and multiple planets, something that would be a staple in the mainline series of games.

Phantasy Star is a series that has always fascinated me since I was first introduced to the games on the Sega Genesis starting with Phantasy Star III. The idea of a game that, instead of elves and dwarves, your party was made up of cyborgs, aliens, humans, and even artificial humans, was something that felt so unique at the time. The series was a stable on Sega’s hardware at the time and even though it’s been twenty-four years since the final mainline game was released, Sega has kept the franchise’s fanbase satiated thanks to spin-offs like Phantasy Star Online.

Phantasy Star is always a franchise that I bring up in conversations about game series that I would like to see revived in the West because it was a big part of my childhood as a “Sega kid”. It’s a series that feels like it would be right at home on modern hardware, but despite this, Sega has kept the series in Japan aside from the occasional re-release of one of the classic titles. I know I’m not the only Phantasy Star fan out there, and here’s hoping that someday we’ll see the series return in a big way. After all, Sega can’t solely rely on Sonic forever…right?

Mega Man

In 1987, Capcom was able to strike gold twice, once in the arcade and again on the Famicom, of course, while the two series still live on to this day, they are in two very different places. While Street Fighter has continued to thrive over the last decade, Mega Man has spent nearly a decade without a new game. With its last official release in the West being 2010’s Mega Man 10, the franchise has been left to collect dust while occasionally being carted out for a digital or compilation release. Even in Japan, the only new entry in the series was a mobile title, Mega Man Xover, for the 25th anniversary, but that lasted only two years before being discontinued and never saw a worldwide release.

It’s not like there haven’t been plans for Mega Man, as in 2010 two new entries in the franchise were announced in the form of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3. Both of these games would go on to be canceled in 2011, after the departure of series creator Keiji Inafune. The series is still technically alive, with a new television series coming in 2018 and successful releases of the Mega Man Legacy Collections on modern consoles.

In the absence of Mega Man, we’ve seen others step up to attempt to fill the void. Even Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune attempted a new version of the character in Mighty No. 9, but what we got was well, it was less than stellar. More recently we’ve seen the explosion in popularity of the fan-made Mega Man Maker and another Mega Man-inspired game in Super Mighty Power Man, but despite this Capcom seems content to let the series fester and just pop out the occasional reissue.

Metal Gear

I’ve never been all that interested in the Metal Gear series from a gameplay standpoint, but the series is quite interesting. Starting way back on the Japanese MSX and has seen quite the evolution from it’s early days to the much more cinematic experience it has become. Unlike the other titles I’ve talked about today, Metal Gear stands out as one that hasn’t changed its core gameplay since it’s inception. Despite the series become much more cinematic over the years, it’s always been about stealth.

While it’s stayed close to its roots, but series has been its share of controversy of the last few years. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes saw it’s share of backlash prior to release after the announcement that Keifer Sutherland would be playing Snake in place of series mainstay David Hayter. Controversy continued to plague Metal Gear Solid V when the series creator, and longtime Konami employee, Hideo Kojima left the company prior to the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in 2015. This led to Kojima’s name being removed from The Phantom Pain‘s cover and all future releases of reissues of the franchise.

This post was written by
He is a senior editor at Kulture Shocked. A seasoned gamer, Zach has been playing video games since the early 90s and have owned everything from the NES to the Xbox One. Aside from video games, Zach is a nerd of all trades and dabbles in everything from collectible card games to Gunpla.
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