In theory, the spin-off is an excellent testing ground for developers to experiment. With their help, you can try to dilute a familiar series of games with unusual gameplay or even a genre, without scaring away the main part of the audience.
I immediately remember Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which fits perfectly into the aesthetics of the Hideo Kojima universe, replacing the usual stealth elements with hack and slash battles.
However, developers’ experiments did not always end up so well, and despite the fact that «bad» cases did not always interfere with the main line of games, players do not forget anything.
Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (1990)
First of all, it must be said that The Final Fight has much less to do with the Street Fighter franchise than it might seem at first glance. Japanese developers were creating a completely different platform game, and used the words «Street Fighter 2010» in the title only to draw attention to the title.
But the English localizers decided to play on this moment and change some details of the plot. Cyborg cop Kevin Stryker, fighting alien invaders, turned into the same Ken Masters, who, tired of participating in tournaments, became a scientist and for the last 25 years has been creating a kind of “cyboplasm” capable of endowing any creature with superpowers.
As for the gameplay, other than for being too difficult, it was not particularly scolded for anything. But they didn’t praise it either, concluding that without the Street Fighter label, the game would definitely go unnoticed outside of Japan.
Hotel Mario (1994)
Multiple winner for Worst Mario Game of All Time. After the failure of the Sega Mega-CD, Nintendo decided not to sign a contract to release games on the Philips CD-i, and limited itself to allowing Philips to develop several games with characters such as Mario, Luigi, Link, Zelda, etc. Hotel Mario became one of them.
According to the plot, Bowser got out of the dungeon and decided to build a resort town, and at the same time hide Princess Peach in one of his seven hotels. To rescue the princess, Mario and Luigi will have to check all the rooms of all the hotels until they get to Bowser’s hotel. Literally.
The game, one might say, consists entirely of closing any open door in a given amount of time, avoiding standard enemies from the Mario universe along the way. Sometimes the gameplay was diluted with cut-scenes, the quality of which cannot be compared with the original games of the line, as well as the voice acting of the game.
Mega Man Soccer (1994)
In general, after the release of so many different kinds of spin-offs from Nintendo, it is not so surprising to see how the heroes of classic Japanese games try themselves in any sports role. Apparently, the hardcore Mega Man series is an exception.
The developers explained the presence of Megaman on the football field by the fact that when, during one of the matches, Dr. Wiley made an explosion and replaced the players with his trained robots, Dr. Light could not sit idly by. He sent his team of football players, led by Mega Man, to deal with this.
Next, we are offered to play a frankly weak football simulator with slow and predictable AI opponents. Fans of the series were disappointed.
Although some critics praised the game for its easy gameplay, the lack of sane controls still led to reviews such as «the worst football sim ever».
Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (1994)
Obviously, there are games, the presence of a direct sequel to which is contraindicated. The gameplay of such titles is so difficult to offer something that does not destroy the idea and atmosphere, and sometimes the simplicity of the original, that the changes can only be imagined cosmetic.
Pac-Man is considered by many to be just such a game, but few people know that this classic game has a sequel with the number «2» in the title, namely Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.
This title, which borrows elements of point-and-click games, on the one hand presents a non-standard approach to gameplay, but on the other hand it is surprising how far the developers decided to go from the original.
To begin with, in The New Adventures, the player does not directly control Pac-Man. Instead, we get a slingshot, with which we launch various scenes and make Pac-Man look in one direction or another to solve puzzles.
As for the plot, here it even is. Now Pac-Man is a family man who performs the tasks of his wife and children, not forgetting to stop the ghosts from plotting him.
Street Fighter: The Movie (1995)
With the release of Street Fighter: The Movie, Capcom has made an interesting spin on the series in the industry. In 1994, in the wake of the popularity of Street Fighter 2, an action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was filmed. The movie was a flop, but the following year players got a reincarnation of it, this time in the form of two versions of Street Fighter: The Movie: one as an arcade machine, and the other as versions for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. In both, instead of favorite characters, sprite images of actors from the film of the same name flaunted.
Perhaps, in this way, Capcom tried to resist its strongest competitor Midway Games and their Mortal Kombat, but it immediately became clear that one image of the box office Van Damme could not achieve this.
If the arcade version was somehow successful, then the console version was smashed to smithereens. Critics criticized the animation, dirty sprites, poor voice acting and controls, and wondered why the developers made a separate version, instead of just porting the arcade one.
Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (2000)
Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias decided that, despite the misfire with Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, it was necessary to develop the series with spin-offs centered around specific heroes. Similar titles were planned even for characters like Baraka, but after the story with Special Forces, Midway Games decided to hold their horses.
Special Forces was a prequel to the entire series and put players in the role of the big-armed Jax Briggs to take on Kano and his army of forgettable henchmen. The game is a 3D beat ’em up with firearms, a switch to first-person view and… no jumping ability.
Special Forces did not stand out with something special. It’s just a bad game. So bad that the father of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, has repeatedly noticed that he did not participate in its development. After Mortal Kombat 4, there was a decline in the popularity of the series, and experiments such as Special Forces became salt for the wounds of fans of the line.
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2003)
Xtreme Beach Volleyball Tecmo has left no trace of their famous Dead or Alive fighting games. The game also featured girls in provocative costumes, but judging by the gameplay, they, like any fan of Xtreme Beach Volleyball, were the least worried about hand-to-hand combat.
In addition to the game of volleyball itself, which, by the way, was highly praised by critics, the girls enjoy all the benefits of Zack Island. Having chosen one of the heroines for two weeks, the player must come up with activities for her for the whole day.
With victories in volleyball, the player earns money, which can be used to diversify the girls’ wardrobe, which consists of 90% swimwear. It is also possible to lower the winnings at a local casino, or make an investment in relationships with other girls by buying them a gift.
A positive relationship with a partner at the volleyball net directly affects the quality of your game, while a negative atmosphere will make you miss more often.
It’s funny, but the game has collected much less bad reviews than you might expect. Tecmo managed to separate the game from the main line in such a way that the expectations of fans of the main series were not deceived.
Death By Degrees (2005)
The spin-off, in which the player assumes the role of one of the characters in the Tekken series, hitman Nina Williams, was originally called simply «Nina», but was later renamed «Death By Degrees» in honor of the unusual combat system.
Unfortunately, the originality of this mechanic was met with a chill. With the help of special attacks, Nina could break certain limbs of her opponents, but this did not affect their behavior at all, and they continued to attack the heroine even with a broken skull or a broken arm. This combat made Death By Degrees the first game in the Tekken series to receive a 17+ rating from the ESRB.
Despite lukewarm reviews for the story, which is nonetheless considered non-canon, critics couldn’t ignore camera issues and levels that were taking too long to load.
By the way, the developers have not forgotten about Nina’s younger sister. After completing Death By Degrees for the first time, the player is given the option to play as another Tekken character, Anna Williams.
Bomberman: Act Zero (2006)
Bomberman: Act Zero was clear evidence that 3D graphics and futuristic robots are not always the answer to the question: «What to do with the series next?».
Despite the fact that Hudson Soft moved key mechanics to the new part, everything was spoiled by the context with which it was surrounded.
Act Zero immersed players in a completely different world, gloomy and cold, in which the main character needs to destroy opponents in order to get to the surface of the Earth. Fans of the classics did not like such moods.
It didn’t help the game that it seemed to garner complaints about every element of it, from the soundtrack and overly repetitive levels to tediously long downloads between levels.
After that, small bonuses in the form of character customization with a gender change and an additional first-person view mode could no longer save the situation.
Castlevania: Judgement (2008)
It all started with designer Koji Igarashi’s desire to bring the Castlevania series to the Nintendo Wii with its innovative controllers. The standard format of the lineup would require serious physical endurance from the players, and therefore it was decided that Castlevania: Judgment would be a fighting game in order to still realize an exciting gameplay.
But the latter, according to the gaming community, the developers failed to present. As in most cases, when a fighting game is more of an experiment or a tribute to fashion, the mechanics of the game turned out to be completely unbalanced. At the same time, all fans of the genre know that the heart of any good fighting game is control, and there were only problems with it in Castlevania: Judgment, not to mention the fact that only the names of the characters remained from the series itself in the spin-off.
A month later, another spin-off in the Metal Gear universe, Metal Gear Survive, will be released. More or less hardcore Snake fans are already destroying the game, and it’s not just the absence of Kojima himself among the developers. Simply, judging by the material demonstrated by the developers, Metal Gear Survive can be a great example of an unsuccessful spin-off that has gone too far from the aesthetics of the original.