They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which in my case means that I admire Sandy very very much. So much in fact, that I will one day succeed in skinning him alive and wear his flesh as my special leather as I pretend to be him. Just as soon as he puts the lotion on his skin. In video game development, original ideas are often seen by other games, scooped up and implemented in a variety of ways.
Think of it this way: Without PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, we wouldn’t have Fortnite Battle Royale being a cheeky thief and nicking its entire premise to wild success. Without Grand Theft Auto, there wouldn’t be the insanity of Saints Row. If we didn’t have Final Fight, it’s safe to say that Streets of Rage wouldn’t have ever made it past the concept stage.
On and on the list goes, with examples in just about every genre that you can think of. There’s something to be said however, for a game which takes inspiration from its contemporary and actually improves on the formula. Here’s five such examples, of video games that ripped other games off beautifully.
After 2008, every video game with a taste for action wanted to implement the idea of pushing triangle to counter. Basically, every action game wanted to be Batman. Arkham Asylum was a massive success, paving the way for imitators to try their hand at injecting some of the signature rhythm of that series into its core design.
For the most part, those games paled in comparison. Assassin’s Creed 3 felt lacklustre in comparison, at least one Spider-Man game should have labelled itself Peter Parkham and even Lord of the Rings got in on that action with Shadow of Mordor. Sleeping Dogs however, took Batman’s combat and made it even better.
Gone were the impossible acrobatics, replaced instead with a gritty and deep combat system that felt painful to watch and use on any Hong Kong Triad thugs who got in your way. Sleeping Dogs took an otherwise simple concept, and made it brutal. It was vicious stuff, full of all manner of bone-breaking techniques that could put the dark knight to shame in an actual street fight.
A pity then, that that’s the only taste we’ll ever get of it as Sleeping Dogs is all but dead for now.
For years, the very DNA of The Legend of Zelda went untouched. rozen in time like some sort of prehistoric mosquito in a green cap, no other game could touch the dungeon-crawling formula set by Link and Princess Zelda. Well, until Darksiders came along. On the surface, it may have looked like a white-knuckle action game with the most gorgeous art style around, but it owed so much of its success to Nintendo’s favourite son.
Once you got past the small free-roaming sections, Darksiders was a game of exploration that contained a stack of dungeons to tackle. This was a video game that injected the Legend of Zelda DNA straight into its veins, reimagining them with a funky comic book aesthetic that paid homage to the staples of the Hyrule franchise.
Chests could be opened for power-ups, numerous weapons allowed exploration of new dungeon areas and the boss fights were legendary successors to some of the monsters faced by Link. Darksiders may have come off as derivative in the grand scheme of things, but there’s no mistaking the fact that the entire game is a love letter to a franchise which at that point was still regarded as being merely for kids.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. When Castlevania decided to shift its focus to the PlayStation console, it wanted to do so with one hell of an impact. Symphony of the Night was intended to create a Castlevania experience that moved the franchise forward in a new direction, but to do so it would have to revisit the past.
Specifically, the past of Nintendo and their Metroid franchise. While assistant director Koji Igarashi also looked to the open-world of the Legend of Zelda for inspiration, it was the tight corridors and lengthy action of Super Metroid that made it a perfect fit for the grand vision that Igarashi had in mind. Exploration wasn’t just encouraged, it was rewarded and traversing the various castle grounds would net players all kinds of new abilities in the process.
All ideas that could be traced back to Super Metroid, a game that laid the foundation for Castlevania to evolve through its hereditary DNA. In fact, Symphony of the Night was so successful that it spawned a new sub-genre within games: Metroidvania. A genre that still holds a special place in the hearts of many fans today as developers in turn craft their own games based on the back and forth formula.
Which is a perfect way for me to say that y’all should really be playing Dead Cells.
You think of the action game genre food chain today, and there’s one company that sits at the top as the apex predator: Platinum Games. They’re the company responsible for a string of hits, but it was Bayonetta which put them on the map. A game of style, substance and main characters who were equal parts goofy and awesome, no other single game before Bayonetta came close to replicating that formula.
Unless you were Capcom, and you had given fans an entire four games that made that formula of skill and flair a massive hit. There’s a lot that Bayonetta owes to Devil May Cry, as it shares not only over the top protagonists but also the kind of gameplay that makes you feel like an unadulterated badass when you master it.
Bayonetta is Devil May Cry’s power fantasy dialled up to 11, a leggy successor to a series that has been dormant for far too long.
In life, there are some horses that people just can’t stop beating. Ginger stealing souls (which may be true). Me whenever I look in a mirror. When it comes to video game journalism, describing a difficult game as the dark souls of its genre, is that horse. A horse that has been drawn, quartered and set on fire at this point.
There’s nothing wrong with a video game being difficult of course, but the idea of a video game taking the particular brand of challenge that lies within the From Software series of nihilistic afterlife adventures and translating them into something new and improved does deserve notice. Nioh is an absolute treasure for absolutely deserving to be referred to as a Dak Souls clone with the highest reverence possible, but it’s also its own masterpiece.
It’s actively engaging, its difficulty spikes never feel unfair and it reinforces the framework that was erected by Dark Souls. A tip of the hat to a spectacular trilogy, Nioh cannot be described without comparing it to is primary source of inspiration, but it’s still a unique game that resonates with the craftsmanship of developer Team Ninja that no other game can replicate.
Last Updated: February 22, 2018