Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Original genre: Platformer
Though Sonic is no stranger to freeing animals trapped inside the metallic bodies of evil robots, he was a stranger to turn-based battles and experience points. That is, until BioWares first-ever handheld project, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. As it turns out, several of the Canadian developers employees were fans of Sonic the Hedgehog--so much so that they developed an RPG set in The Blue Blurs universe.
This Nintendo DS exclusive featured a large cast of playable characters and a lengthy (albeit lightweight by BioWare standards) narrative, which was fortified with stylish cutscenes. Exploration and traditional RPG battles were done via the DS touch screen and stylus, and though many found the game to be far too easy, it was generally well received.
Shadow Assault: Tenchu
Original genre: Stealth
Spin-off: Trap action
Before Mark of the Ninja hit the scene, the Tenchu franchise delivered the go-to games for when you wanted to sneakily execute feudal Japan-era guards, using a combination of traditional trickery and sick-nasty ninjutsu. Flash-forward to 2008--one decade after the release of the PlayStation original--when From Software decided to mix things up with a downloadable XBLA title that bared almost no resemblance to its predecessors.
The basic gameplay involves sneaking around an overhead-view map, much like Bomberman, as you pepper the tiled playfield with spike traps and springboards to comically take out AI guards or player-controlled rival ninjas. Think Rube Goldberg meets Hanzo Hattori. To date, its the only Tenchu game thats rated E for Everyone.
Original genre: Platformer
Spin-off: On-rails shooter
Marios done a lot ofinterestingthings in his tenure as the most recognizable face in video games, but blasting enemies out of the sky while riding atop a Yoshi ranks up there pretty high on the weird-o meter. Yoshis Safari, an on-rails shooter, took advantage of the Super Nintendos Super Scope, forcing players to annihilate baddies from a first-person perspective by using a two-foot plastic cannon peripheral.
Each level offered plenty of platforming segments and branching paths, allowing you to choose your route, which would determine which items and enemies you would encounter. As you rode Yoshi around, all youd see was your gun cursor and the dinobeasts head bobbing as he ran. Fun fact: If you accidentally shot Yoshi in the back of the dome, youd lose health and receive his ultimate death stare, all while he continued to sprint forward at full speed.
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
Original genre: JRPG
Its no secret that Final Fantasy VII is, to put it lightly, rather popular. So when Square Enix announced the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII metaseries--a collection of spin-off games, films, and novels meant to expand on the games universe--we werent exactly shocked. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII was one entry in that collection, a third-person shooter that put side character Vincent Valentine in the spotlight.
It featured an over-the-shoulder perspective not unlike Resident Evil 4, and Vincent would gain experience points and Gil as he buried bullets in the chests of his foes. The RPG elements lent a bit of familiarity to an otherwise foreign outing for the FF franchise, and though Dirge of Cerberus wasnt the FF7 sequel or remake fans had been hoping for, it did provide a few answers to the many questions spawned by its progenitor.
Battles of Prince of Persia
Original genre: Action platformer
Spin-off: Turn-based strategy
This is a series thats seen plenty of re-envisioning, from misguided Godsmack incorporation to beautiful cel-shading--but we dont recall the dashing Prince regaling us with tales of an Advance Wars clone. For whatever reason, Ubisoft Montreal felt the need to bridge the story gap between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within with a fictitious war between India and Persia.
Said war revolved around defeating demon armies, summoning troops with collectible cards, and vying for control over Chess-esque tiling. Battles was largely ignored at retail, immensely overshadowed by its console big brother, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, which released that same week. But for DS owners who fancied turn-based strategy, it became something of an off-brand, off-kilter cult favorite.
Guilty Gear 2: Overture
Original genre: 2D fighter
Spin-off: 3D beat 'em up
Heres a great way to alienate your entire fanbase. Step one: Title your so-called sequel as 2, for a fighter thats had a stereotypical number of nonsensically named iterations of the same base game. Step two: Make the gameplay completely different in every way. Step three: Profit? Guilty Gear 2 stars some familiar faces from the legendary anime fighter, like Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske. But past that, Arc System Works went totally off the rails, plopping the formerly pixelated pugilists into a Dynasty Warriors-style melee.
In theory, Overture actually sounds pretty cool: You have a modicum of control over waves of spawning troops, all the while turning the tides as a stereotypical anime super-soldier. In practice, it ended up being a mediocre disappointment that left longtime fans of the series scratching their heads in befuddlement.
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
Original genre: JRPG
Spin-off: Action adventure
Yes, the iconic smiling Slimes of Dragon Quest have practically become the face of the wildly popular franchise. That doesnt mean we need a game revolving around the adventuresome exploits of the lowly enemy. Somebody mustve pined for it, though, because Rocket Slime is the second in a three-part series all about that lovable, blobby mascot.
This bizarre game tells the story of Rocket, a Slime who must save the abducted citizens of Boingburg. His war machine of choice: the flute-powered Schleiman Tank, with firepower capable of blasting enemy panzers, like the Cactiballistix and Carrot Top, to smithereens. If that plot summary made any sense to you, youre in for a treat--this spin-off hit a perfect, whimsical balance between enjoyable exploration and lighthearted-yet-intense tank showdowns.
Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Original genre: Survival horror
Spin-off: Co-op hack 'n' slash
If you're a diehard fan of the Silent Hill series' trademark tension and pants-wettingly disturbing monsters, then the concept of this spin-off is bound to befuddle you. Instead of a terrifying, solitary adventure into ones deepest fears, Book of Memories is a top-down action game that features up to four-player multiplayer.
Unsurprisingly, its somewhat harder to establish cerebral horror when the core gameplay has you and your friends wailing on mutated creatures with lead pipes and electric guitars. The game suffered as a result of this identity crisis between the brand name and the arcadey experience. It just goes to show that sometimes, its wiser to take a gamble on a new IP than risk offending the hardcore fans of an existing franchise who might be repulsed by the out-of-left-field experiment.
Metroid Prime Pinball
Original genre: Sidescroller
Oh sure, plenty of game-themed pinball tables exist, whether virtual (Ninja Gaiden, Street Fighter II) or physical (Super Mario World, Street Fighter II again). The next step up from those are the out-and-out pinball games that completely revolve around a popular property; think Pokemon Pinball, Mario Pinball Land, Sonic Spinball, or The Pinball of the Dead. But Metroid Prime Pinball is a very special spin-off case, where the premise has a smidgen of canonical believability. Its possible--however unlikely--that Samus could get stuck in Morph Ball form as shes bounced around an oddly ramped-filled space station.
The tables themselves are taken from established Metroid lore, including familiar locales like the Phazon Mines and Phendrana Drifts. Youll also have the chance in ball form to batter infamous bosses like Meta Ridley to death. Listen: Were suckers for a finely crafted pinball game, and when you ground the high score proceedings in some semblance of a Metroid plot, our delight reaches astronomical levels.
Any Mario spin-off
Original genre: The definitive sidescroller
Spin-off: Pretty much anything you could imagine
Okay, here's the thing. Mario is a plumber. He's good at jumping (and jumping on things), and he even managed to saved a princess a time or two--that alone is pretty admirable considering his other talents include removing junk and fecal matter from clogged up pipes. So... why does he also prescribe medicine? He's a blue collar worker, not an MD. And he certainly doesn't make for a very good pinball.
Now that we think about it, he does a lot of things that don't really make sense. Why is he teaching typing? We've never seen a single computer in the Mushroom Kingdom. How the hell does he even know what a keyboard is? And why is he so good at every sport that isn't the long jump or "mustache growing"? He's not exactly athletic. While we'll continue to tip our hats to Mario's adventurous ways, the fact remains--pretty much everything about that dude is pretty damn weird.