Gaming's grittiest reboots

Sneering makes everything better

The series: Nintendo's Wars series are best known in the West for the GBA and DS iterations, which document the adventures of chirpy teens perplexingly granted control of million-dollar artillery and the lives of thousands.

Above: From the people that brought you Paper Mario, it's... obviously a bad time, nevermind

The reboot: In ditching the series' unfailingly upbeat presentation, it's as if Intelligent Systems abruptly realized that this was a game about war and had to make with the grim determination and senseless waste of human life. You can see their point, but the farcical gulf between subject matter and presentation had long been part of the fun.

Above: The makers of Mario Kart: Super Circuit are proud to announce... the death of a loved one, or possibly a messy breakup

Dark 'n' edgy additions: By the time you get a look at the soldiers under your command, it's too late to save them from being torn apart by gunfire and blown off the screen by heavy explosives. Which is nothing new, but now it's presented in drab gray-and-brown, so, pathos.

Above: The creative geniuses behind the Super Scope 6 and Tetris Attack... just want to numb the pain

How'd it work? Stripped of its incongruous flamboyance, Days of Ruin pays more attention to a lengthy, varied campaign with plenty of multiplayer options. The subversive fun of having such a jolly old time at war remains – the humor's just a little darker than before.

Bomberman Act: Zero

The series: Direct a shell-suited robot around a series of mazes, gardens and factories, dropping bombs to trap your fellow combatants in an inescapable inferno. Play with friends to induce Cruise-grade levels of couch-jumping hysteria.

Above: Also known as “the game you skipped forward to make sure we'd included”

The reboot: After 23 years, apparently someone sat down and thought about just what a horrific idea Bomberman was based around. The result was the solitary nightmare Bomberman Act: Zero, which removes local multiplayer and plays the concept of “locked in a room until you've blown everyone else to pieces” disturbingly straight.

Dark 'n' edgy additions: The titular combustion-enthusiasts were resized from cheeky robots to recognizably human beings (actually a return to their original form).

Above: Sometimes “authentic” just means “before it got better”

The environments got a steel-'n'-neon makeover, turning what was hardly the most visually audacious series into a generic cyberpunk mess best enjoyed in “First-Person Bomber” mode – which was just third-person mode with a health bar.

Above: Actually, if you can see the characters it's... oh, forget it

How'd it work? Look at that title. It's not “Bomberman: Act Zero,” which wouldn't mean anything but would at least make sense. “Bomberman Act: Zero?” So no Bombermen are acting in this game? Bomberman is acting like a zero? That title is a meaningless attempt at edginess that nobody's even trying very hard at – write your own punchline to that one.

Nov 18, 2010

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