A Trio of Games Begging for a Genre Switch

A world of possibilities beyond the door of innovation

Imagine, if you would, another world--an adjacent dimension where a butterfly's flapping wings have yielded bizarre results. This parallel earth may look familiar until further inspection reveals...wait, is that a Grand Theft Auto JRPG (GTA 13 Gaiden: Anarchy of Jinsei)? Why is Marcus Phoenix wielding that frost-limned greatsword? And what's with the custom rocket launcher Link has strapped to his back?

Welcome to Earth 2, a wonderful plane of existence where games that exhibit signs of stagnation are rejuvenated through fresh thinking and innovation (rather than, for instance, grinding them into dust over the course of 5-10 practically identical sequels). Join us on a tour of three of Earth 2's most novel products, though beware: over-exposure to Earth 2's radical imaginative thinking may result in a severe case of acute cynicism upon return to our world.

Borderlands: A game of tactics!

RPG FPS to Strategy RPG

Don't get us wrong, we love Borderlands as a shooter, and we love the way the guys at Gearbox managed to layer some fairly deep RPG mechanics into what at first blush seems like an incompatible genre. On Earth 2, that progressive thinking continued to evolve, and when gamers had had their fill of blasting skags in first-person the Gearboxers of this world shifted, ahem, gears. Behold, Borderlands: Tactics!

This tactical roleplaying experience presents Pandora as a top down, overworld map that players explore with miniatures representing their parties. When they encounter the psychos and monsters made famous by the first two games, the view shifts to a strategic grid map and turn-based combat let's players plot elaborate strategies while preserving Borderland's flash, glamour, and unique sense of style. Characters level and evolve much the way they do in the shooter, but the player can now build parties of some of their favorite characters, ranging from the playable heroes from the first two games to former NPCs like Claptrap and Dr. Zed. Even Pandora's deadly fauna can now be bent to your will, as tameable Rakks, Skaggs, and other monsters can be captured and used in battle, and each sports its own unique skill tree.

Mass Effect: Come chart the stars!

RPG Shooter to Space Sim

A game practically begging for adaptation in our world, Mass Effect's transition to space simulation is a no brainer. Reading through the codices in the Mass Effect trilogy, one gets the sense that the developers have already considered how the game might work as a space sim, or at least as some kind of space combat mini-game within one of the main games. While space simulation as a genre isn't quite as vibrant as it once was, Mass Effect is the kind of heavy hitting franchise that has the clout to revive it.

And on Earth 2, that's precisely what happened. Mass Effect: Normandy Unleashed lets players fill the shoes of Joker, piloting the titular ship across a sprawling open universe in the time period between the first and second games. Harnessing the almost infinite potential of element zero, players can equip their ships with shields, ballistic weapons, missiles, and engines, transforming the Normandy's untapped potential into raw power. Battle space pirates, negotiate with hostile alien species, and combat rogue AI squadrons in one of the sleekest, most powerful cruisers the galaxy has ever seen, all the while earning credits from missions and trade. Finally, the promise of Mass Effect as a true science fiction sandbox has been realized.

Final Fantasy: Build the ultimate "party" like never before!

JRPG to Party Game

Talk about sequelitis: Final Fantasy has one of the worst cases in history. Declining sales numbers and genre fatigue have settled like a dark cloud over one the greatest RPG franchises ever to grace consoles, and while the occasional diversion into closely related genres has helped avert a total collapse, what's really needed is a brand new direction.

Enter Final Fantasy Confetti, the board game you never knew you wanted but are going to deeply enjoy. Confetti combines the best elements of Mario Party, Fortune Street, and the highly entertaining mini-games that have appeared in almost every numbered Final Fantasy game into one exciting multiplayer package. Players compete on a board-game style map, vying for control of famous franchise landmarks like the Balamb SeeD Garden, Whisperwind Cove, and Mount Duergar. Many of the tiles lead to mini-game showdowns between two or more of the competitors, allowing players to face off in classics like Chocobo Racing, the Triple Triad collectible card game, and a revamped version of Blitzball.

Confetti also incorporates RPG elements, allowing players to level up their avatars by winning mini games and manipulate tiles, or even the entire game-board, in some interesting and novel ways. It's a Final Fantasy experience that everyone from franchise diehards to first timers will enjoy, and a tragic shame that it's only available on the far-flung and potentially fictional shores of Earth 2. 

Published Aug. 7th 2013

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