2016’s lasting legacy certainly won’t be the number of high profile games it released now that a large bulk of them have fled into 2017. Despite how disappointing the console scene and its line-up of games are this year, there is one positive ray of light from 2016 that I’m sure will resonate for many years with gamers: the release and announcement of many miracle vaporware titles.
Counting down, we currently see three games in headlines that have close to a decade of development and rumors swirling around them. Two of these games are nearing completion with Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian due for release before the year is out.
Final Fantasy XV was first announced in 2006 under the name Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Square Enix originally envisioned the title as an action spin-off to Final Fantasy XIII with similar gameplay to the Kingdom Hearts franchise. However, Final Fantasy XIII was met with middling reception, and the whole extended universe that Square Enix had planned quickly fell by the wayside to two sequels that were met with equally mediocre and polarizing reception. Final Fantasy Versus XIII remained behind the scenes while Square Enix adjusted its plans, and it was unveiled in 2013 that the game would officially be rebranded as Final Fantasy XV.
It is expected for release on Nov. 29.
The other major vaporware title in 2016 is Sony’s The Last Guardian, a game that is almost certainly going to defy all conventions and critical reception. The hype for this game goes beyond waiting for a typical sequel from the AAA scene. In development since 2007 and first announced in 2009, the game is a long-awaited spiritual sequel to two beloved PlayStation 2 classics often considered among the greatest games ever made. The torturous years of wondering if it’s been canceled or being let down at a convention with it not showing up are finally coming to an end, bringing closure to everybody on Dec. 6.
The third major vaporware title recently turned up in headlines with Ubisoft confirming that it is again working on a sequel to the cult classic Beyond Good & Evil. Michel Ancel is set to close out Jade’s story now 13 years removed from its cliffhanger ending. Back in 2008, an infamous teaser trailer showed off the game for the first time, but the game we saw never came to be. Instead, Ancel turned his attention to Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, giving time for Ubisoft to rethink the game. Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are now taking a break, Beyond Good & Evil 2 has returned to the scene with a new look that more closely resembles the original game.
The game is now confirmed to be entering pre-production and has no release date.
That means 2016 is playing host to three games with well over a quarter of a century of development between them. It was no doubt a huge undertaking to bring them back from the dead, but that’s going to be the lasting legacy of 2016.
Just to point out, we’re not including Prey in this either. The E3 2016 reveal was exciting, seeing that Bethesda is returning to the long lost franchise. However, this is not Prey 2 as it was originally envisioned, and it only shares a name with the franchise. Nothing more. However, if you want to include it in 2016’s long list of vaporware resolutions, then, by all means, go ahead and do so.
So, what’s next then? What other games announced a decade ago have the remote chance of being brought back from the dead? We’re not talking sequels that gamers have been calling for or want to see happen like Shenmue 3 or the Final Fantasy VII Remake, but games that are on the record for being in development for a longer-than-normal period of time?
The most obvious of them all is Half-Life 2: Episode 3. I’m not even close to thinking that Valve is ever going to get back to this game, especially after how it left us with one of the most gut-wrenching endings of all time. Valve has moved beyond Half-Life, and it won’t return to the franchise until it can put it back on the forefront of gaming. Like Nintendo, there is no way Valve is going to develop the game unless it is leading the pack rather than falling in line with those who have copied and surpassed it. Valve last released Half-Life 2: Episode 2 through The Orange Box in 2007, and it was working on Half-Life 2 Episode 3 at the time.
Speaking of Nintendo, and the franchise I was actually referencing with that comment, we have Metroid Dread. The game was reportedly in development back in 2005 as a sequel to Metroid Fusion, but Nintendo never followed through on its planned reveal. Rumors and speculation have circled ever since, and we’re well beyond the release of this game, mainly for the same reasons. Nintendo wants to lead, not fall in line. Countless indie developers have capitalized on Metroid’s formula over the years, and the company simply will not release a Metroid game unless it can revolutionize its approach to 2D exploration.
We’ll see Metroid Prime 4 before returning to a 2D Metroid title, and when we see it, it certainly won’t be called Dread and won’t be the same game Nintendo had planned a decade ago.
Maybe a slightly lesser known title is a game called Agent . Tucked between Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar was working on a Cold War-era spy thriller. Sony originally announced that this would be a PlayStation 3 title back in 2007, and it would revolve around “the world of counter-intelligence, espionage and political assassinations.” Rumors have persisted for years that Rockstar is still working on this title, even as recently as 2016 when it reapplied for the trademark.
We’re living in the post-Duke Nukem Forever world, and legendarily evasive titles like these are becoming scarce with each passing release. Three more will no longer be the target of jeers and sneers once they are finally released, and the second three mentioned games are the last of a dying breed. Vaporware announced back in the overly ambitious 2000s is finally starting to dry up, and gaming has become a lot smarter with its promises over the last ten years.
Where does the future of vaporware reside, then? I think it’s a bit obvious that the crowd-funding scene will carry the torch that these games have held for over a decade. We already have a whopper with Star Citizen brewing, and countless canceled and failed Kickstarter projects are sure to never see their memory truly fade.
But of these three leftovers from the 2000s, no question about it. Agent is the game we’ll be seeing next… if Rockstar ever has the time to get around to it again. Not saying it will happen, but it has the biggest chances. Metroid Dread is long since dead, and Half-Life, well, we all know that story.
Just a side note: I’ll say that Mother 3 has a better chance of being translated than any of these games coming into being.
Let’s see it, Rockstar! We’ve erupted in joy over Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, and Beyond Good & Evil 2. Between a sequel to Red Dead Redemption and the ironic redemption of Agent’s development hell, you could be the next company to bring our waiting to an end.