Taking one for the team
There's something magical about a good team banding together. Heist movies thrive on it, tabletop games exist for it, and is there any other point to fantasy football? We love seeing dynamic and fascinating teams unite to do together what no single member could do alone, and it's no different in video games. In fact, great teams in games may be even bigger standouts, because they're such an integral part of the experience; how many WoW raid bosses can you really solo, anyway?
Even single-player games have their share of team love, particularly when players fall harder for supporting cast members than the protagonist(s) who are supposed to be holding our attention. Developers are starting to catch on, giving us downloadable content starring the likes of Elizabeth and the Luteces, Tiny Tina and the vault hunters, and Adewale and the Maroons, which we wholeheartedly support. In fact, we've got some suggestions of our own. Here are nine video game teams who deserve to star in their own spin-offs, all of which would be excellent. Please take these ideas and run with them, game developers--they're on the house.
Palom and Porom (Final Fantasy 4)
If there's one type of character that many games struggle to do well, it's The Kid. When they're at their worst (which happens with unfortunate frequency), younger characters are hyperactive and annoying brats who add little to the gaming experience besides a splitting headache; the less you see and hear of them, the better. There are, however, exceptions where the children bring as much to the table as the adults do. The twins Palom and Porom not only fit that description nicely, but go above and beyond to become a dynamic team that you really wish you could utilize more.
While your mileage may vary on how endearing you find the banter-inclined pair, there's no denying their in-game chemistry: their offensive and defensive strategies complement each other brilliantly. But what really makes them stand out is their ability to Twincast, creating new, powerful spells that are unique to them. Imagine a game focused on just these two, individually utilizing their magical specialties while also combining them to create unique powerhouse moves. Uh, yes please.
Doug Rattmann and the Companion Cube (Portal)
Did somebody say survival horror? I did, because seriously: an adrenaline-fueled horror-rush through the pits of Aperture Science, starring a semi-sentient box and a man prone to schizophrenic hallucinations? The game practically writes itself. We know that scientist Doug Rattmann was the lone survivor of GlaDOS' wrath during the neurotoxin incident that occurred prior to Portal, and that Rattmann has continued to elude her while battling untreated schizophrenia. We also know that he hasnt survived just by virtue of his wits: the Companion Cube is shockingly aware of its surroundings (considering that its voice and personality are probably hallucinations), and that its advice has kept Rattmann alive on more than one occasion.
Now imagine an escape from Aperture through Rattmann's crazed eyes--no science manipulating powers, real and imagined enemies around every corner, and only the good word of the Companion Cube to get you through it. Can you figure out what's real? Can you trust the Cube? Can you escape an enemy that's out for blood and controls the entire world around you? Silent Hill, eat your heart out.
Team Rocket (Pokemon)
Over the course of its nearly twenty-year run, the Pokemon series has largely taken an ain't-broke-don't-fix-it approach, which has worked out well so far. But what if you weren't always the humble Pokemon trainer on a quest to be the best (like no one ever was)? What if, just once, you could be the bad guy?
Team Rocket has limitless potential to create a whole new experience for players, while still sticking to the core mechanics of the Pokemon series. Of course, you're still going to catch 'em all--there's just going to be a lot less catching and a lot more stealing. That can create a new, dynamic set of options in addition to your standard catch-and-train set-up. Is stealing a Pokemon as simple as winning a battle, or more complex? Could you hold onto all the Pokemon you get, or would you have to make the hard call about which ones to hand over to the boss for good? What awe-inspiring resources do you have at your disposal? And come on, it's Team Rocket. Who wouldn't want to blast off at the speed of light?
Riku and Kairi (Kingdom Hearts)
In the Kingdom Hearts series, the player steps into the oversized shoes of a wide range of characters (though who knows, maybe they're all just Sora). However, one person remains pitifully underutilized: Kairi. While she has grown substantially since her introduction as a shiny for Sora and Riku to fight over, she's yet to see action as a playable character. That's a crying shame--but maybe Riku can help set things right.
While some may cry foul, this pair isn't unprecedented: Kairi and Riku have had a complicated, untapped relationship since day one, and a whole story could be built around them sorting out their romantic hang-ups. Plus, Riku is the one who give Kairi her keyblade, and when they go back-to-back in Kingdom Hearts 2, they work so well together. Throw in the player-switch mechanics that made the final boss of KH2 so great, and you've got a game-changer that finally ties up one of the series' longest hanging threads. That'd pave the way for an inevitable sequel with a fully-realized trio of Keyblade-wielding do-gooders--and what KH fan wouldn't love that?
Mary Read and Anne Bonny (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag)
In the first stages of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flags development, Edward was supposed to participate in an epic sea-battle with Mary Read and Anne Bonny; alas, the scene was cut later on. Bitter tears were shed over what might've been. The least Ubisoft can do is give us what we were robbed of: a game starring those swashbuckling ladies of yore.
A game focusing on these two (Mary, the dedicated assassin that Edward never was, and Bonny, who combines beauty and brains to get what she wants) could bring the best parts of the series to the table--Black Flag's swashbuckling, AC2 and Liberation's disguise missions, a more integral version of AC3's multiple-protagonist shenanigans, and all the trappings we've enjoyed since the first AC. Read's assassin skills combined with Bonny's charm would create a great complementary dynamic that'd appeal to both offensive and stealth players, while giving screen time to two characters who richly deserve it. At the very least, it's worth some large-scale DLC. It's all right, Ubisoft. Well wait.
Balthier and Fran (Final Fantasy XII)
In Square-Enix's family of games, Final Fantasy 12 is the weird middle-sibling with an identity crisis. While it's certainly no trouble-maker and has its upsides, FF12 has issues figuring out what it's about. The game meanders along without much of a focus (which wouldn't necessarily be an issue if not for the linearity). But sometimes you want nothing more than to blow the whole thing off and do some real adventuring. Thankfully, there's a couple of characters who could help with that.
Balthier and Fran--the Han Solo and Chewbacca of Ivalice--make it clear up front that their interests lie primarily in piracy. They do very little of that in FF12, but once they blow that popsicle stand they've got all the makings of a great adventure before them: a thirst for thievery, an almost completely untapped world, and an airship. Ivalice would be amazing to explore, and with two of the game's most interesting characters--who would, presumably, be just as customizable as ever--taking the lead? Congratulations, you've just made an open-world to put FF14 to shame.
Eleanor and the Little Sisters (BioShock 2)
There's a moment during BioShock 2 when, inches from saving his Little Sister Eleanor, Subject Delta collapses and wakes up strapped to a gurney, helpless to escape. When things are looking their bleakest, who comes to rescue him but a Little Sister, remotely directed by Eleanor? Turns out, Eleanor can control the Little Sisters, and has been using them as spies and errand-runners the entire time. Whoa. Whoa. If you don't see the potential here, you aren't paying attention.
Playing as Eleanor and the Little Sisters could bring something fresh and fascinating to the series. Imagine using the tykes to access parts of the city Eleanor can't, or taking their perspective to find items and scout out enemy positions. The Save/Harvest question could become not only a moral quandary but a unique game mechanic, making the player choose between their own strength and the strength of their helper force. And hey, if you need an excuse to get them back to Rapture, just say it's a parallel universe where Delta never makes it off the gurney. Voil, continuity.
Zelda and Sheik (The Legend of Zelda)
Okay, hear me out. We know that different versions of Link exist on different parts of the Hyrule timeline, and we also know that through Nintendo-magic, some have met and even trained together. Zelda has plenty of parallel selves too, and is long overdue for a game of her own. Why not put that story-melding to good use and have Princess Zelda and Sheik appear together?
Sure, you could have Zelda magically transform into Sheik on command a la Super Smash (which is cool too)--but why limit the experience? Why not have Ocarina of Time's Sheik appear alongside Zelda from Twilight Princess, or Tetra, or a completely new version? Why not let the wildly different fighting styles of Zeldas personas work in tandem so they can battle enemies with magic and fisticuffs? Legend of Zelda also loves exploration into the psyche (if Majoras Mask is anything to go by), and what a great thought experiment it'd be to have two diametrically opposed versions of the same person working together. Besides, this is Nintendo were talking about; theyve done weirder.
Bowser and his henchmen (Mario franchise)
Oh Bowser, you persistent jerk. Children have grown up and had children of their own since he first went toe-to-toe with Mario. Though Bowser's had stints in the drivers seat--insert Mario Kart joke here--most of the time hes the big bad at the end of the obstacle course. A bunch of elaborate obstacle courses, actually, filled with devilish minions loyal only to him, and presumably designed in some fashion by Bowser and company themselves. Hmm...
What if that ingenuity and wealth of resources were put into the hands of the player? What if, instead of navigating those crazy puzzles, you played as the Koopa Clan and built them from the ground up? Suddenly youve got Dungeon Keeper with turtles as minions or SimCity: Mushroom Kingdom Edition, with a splash of real-time strategy as you expand and direct Bowsers Koopa force from his throne of evil. Granted, history tells us that the chances of success are going to Pandemic 2 levels of dismal, but maybe Nintendo would be willing to give Bowser his golden moment. Guys, its been thirty years. Three decades. Give him one.
Oh the things we'll do together
We're not alone in this fantasy game draft of ours: a quick search for "a game starring" shows that folks are doing the same the world over. Even if we can't always have our dream teams, a gamer can always... well, dream. What team do you want to see get their own game? How would they shake things up? Did anyone get that thickly veiled A-Team reference in the intro slide? Put 'em up for discussion in the comments below--and remember, there's no I in team.
And if you're looking for more, check out The 10 most controversial video game sex scandals and Gaming's unrequited loves that were never meant to be.