When I say classic, I mean you've probably never heard of any of them.
Upon seeing the news that Choplifter will be receiving an HD remake this week, I was immediately taken back to one of my earliest gaming memories: Playing video games on the Sega Master System. No, not the Sega Genesis. My gaming history starts with Sega's little-known NES competitor, wedged between the more popular 16-bit Genesis and the ultra-obscure SG-1000. Choplifter was a personal favorite on the Master System, but several other hits from that console's library make up this list of franchises ripe for a reboot.
How can we be in the age of 3D graphics yet not be revisiting one of Sega's earliest attempts at stereoscopic 3D? Space Harrier was a third-person on-rails shooter that used pseudo-3D sprite scaling to send the world whizzing past you in its arcade port, and a later sequel took advantage of the Master System's 3D glasses accessory to further the effect.
If I could lose a weekend to Geometry Wars, I could definitely get on board with a modern Space Harrier remake. Add in a remixed version of that killer 8-bit soundtrack and you've got an XBLA/PSN hit on your hands. Just don't let me see this on iOS or Android. No amount of nostalgia is worth the pain of precision-killing virtual buttons, and I'm looking for a true reboot, not a cash grab port.
For bonus points, port over the arcade game Planet Harriers, originally published in 2000. The game looks to be exactly what I would ask for in an updated Space Harrier, but I can't pass judgement as the double-seater arcade game is quite hard to come by. Early plans for a Dreamcast port died along with that system, and the game hasn't been mentioned since.
No, Sonic the Hedgehog is not the only classic Sega franchise that's been mishandled over the years. Altered Beast can tout a few horrible sequels as well, namely Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms on the GameBoy Advance and Altered Beast for PS2. Negligence is not solely to blame for the unsuccessful follow-ups, though.
Nostalgia will come over you like a wave when you hear that classic "rise from your grave" 8-bit voice sample at game start, but following that, you'll realize the Altered Beast concept is a bit tired. To make a successful reboot, developers would have to think outside the box with this franchise. Personally, I could see Altered Beast worked as a 2-4 player online co-op adventure in the vein of Diablo, Left 4 Dead, or even Dark Souls. If done right, the animal morphing abilities would expand combat in this arena past the typical hack/slack, shoot/reload routines and result in a refreshing experience.
Any game where puzzles are involved has a much better chance at standing the test of time, and Penguin Land is no exception. In this game, stages are set up as individual puzzles, where the environment must be manipulated to provide a safe path for transporting an egg from start to finish. It's much more about the mental challenge than graphics or skillful control, so Penguin Land is actually a perfect candidate to move over to mobile phone gaming.
In the meantime, if you actually remember this game and want to check out a modern competitor, look into Toki Tori. The game is not formally tied to Penguin Land, but I would have a hard time believing Toki Tori did not draw inspiration from the classic. Somewhere, somebody owns the rights to publish Penguin Land, and Toki Tori should be giving them all the evidence they need to show that this type of gameplay is timeless.
OK so that screenshot above doesn't exactly yell out "play me!" but you've got to trust me: Time Soldiers is an awesome Sega Master System arcade port originally published by SNK. As a top-down co-op action shooter, Time Soldiers separated itself from the pack by using randomly generated level paths. Players button-mashed their way through The Primitive Age, The Age of Rome, The World Wars, The Age of War and Future World, but at each turn where never quite sure what level would be served up next.
This is an opportunity for a developer to come along and glue together the best parts of today's most popular franchises. Gamers could get their Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, and Gears of War fixes all on one disc. Sure, it would probably suck, but you've got to admit that it's an idea so crazy that it just might work.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Back in the late '80s, Sega was actually using Shinobi's star ninja, Joe Musashi, as a company mascot. Unfortunately, the series has since been run into the ground and become the second-fiddle ninja franchise to Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden.
Aside from a mediocre attempt to turn Shinobi into a 3D action-adventure game on the PS2 in 2002, the series had, until recently, been dormant since the early '90s. Fans of the Shinobi franchise are in luck, though. As a perfect example of what others games on this list could be doing, Shinobi has just returned to the classic side-scrolling format with an original 3DS game.
While it hasn't set the critical world on fire, Shinobi 3D is not a bad game. The reason Shinobi still makes this list is that Sega can clearly do better. Hopefully, sales of Shinobi 3D will warrant a follow-up, and developer Griptonite Games will be able to create a superior sequel in the second wave of 3DS software. If Sega can finally rescue Sonic the Hedgehog with the recently successful Sonic Generations, the company surely owes old Joe Musashi that same honor.