So Konami’s going through some changes. Hideo Kojima’s probably leaving the company, the anxiously anticipated Silent Hills has been cancelled, and the company delisted itself from the New York Stock Exchange earlier this week. Many industry observers speculate that the company will be shifting its focus to its casino gaming division, which has been considerably more profitable than its videogame operation. We don’t know what this means for Konami’s popular videogame franchises; other than this year’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, no future entries have been announced for Castlevania, Silent Hill or the long-dormant Contra, the Konami classics that resonate the most worldwide.
Fans worry this could be the end of those games, at least for the time being. There’s another group of classic titles owned by Konami that has already been ignored, though. Hudson Soft is a forgotten victim within the turmoil surrounding Konami. The long-time game developer and publisher was absorbed within Konami in 2012, and its once-popular games have continued to fade out of memory. Even if Konami isn’t planning on leaving videogames behind, it would still make sense for everybody involved for them to sell the rights to the Hudson games that might still have value.
Nintendo would be a perfect buyer. They already had a good relationship with Hudson, who designed most of the Mario Party games. Despite challenging Nintendo in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with the console known as the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16, Hudson published many games for the NES and SNES, so some of their properties might have that hint of Nintendo nostalgia for older players. And Hudson was known for its cute, playful adventure games and the mascots Bonk and Bomberman, all of which fit perfectly within Nintendo’s family-friendly aesthetic.
Bonk and Military Madness wouldn’t become best sellers just because Nintendo released them, but they could help fill out and diversify the software line-up for the Wii U or 3DS. Characters like Bonk, Bomberman and Master Higgins would give Nintendo more options for future Amiibos or Smash Bros. characters. Nintendo would have to reintroduce or rehabilitate these properties to benefit from them, but with the right strategy and the right development teams these Hudson games would be great additions to Nintendo’s library.
Bomberman is Hudson’s best-known family of games, both because they’re usually really good and because there’s been at least one for almost every system ever made. Classic Bomberman is about as addictive as gaming gets. If you haven’t played one, they’re basically puzzle games where you look down on a grid as you run around laying bombs to kill enemies and pick up power-ups. Some enemies are faster than others, some take more than one hit to kill, and in a crucial twist your bombs also kill you, so strategy is involved. It’s one of those games that’s almost perfect for both single-player and multiplayer. You can argue there’s not much room for innovation here, and that the series peaked with Bomberman ‘93, and you might be right. I’m sure an enterprising developer could find a novel way to use the Wii U’s GamePad, though, and multiplayer Bomberman on the 3DS is something we deserved years ago.
Bonk should’ve been huge. The original Bonk’s Adventure, released for the PC Engine and TurboGrafx 16 as the ‘80s oozed into the ‘90s, already feels like a Nintendo game. It has an adorable lead character, elegantly designed levels, and that type of perfectly calibrated platforming Nintendo is known for, where the player, controller and character feel united in a single seamless being. (Compare that to the TurboGrafx’s first attempt at a mascot, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, where you constantly feel like you’re wrestling with your sluggish on-screen avatar.) The first two Bonk games are the best non-NIntendo platformers of that era, and a revival would give Nintendo a potential fourth platforming hit alongside the New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country and Kirby games. There’s even an almost-finished Bonk game languishing somewhere in Konami’s archives—2011’s Bonk: Brink of Extinction was supposed to come out via Xbox Live, WiiWare and the Playstation Network, but was delayed after the T?hoku earthquake and tsunami and eventually cancelled after Konami took over Hudson. That’s a shame—I have a preview copy on a debug console and it was a fine return for the cute little caveman.
Adventure Island has a weird history. The first game was just Sega’s Wonder Boy with the artwork changed and a new lead character named Master Higgins. It became a minor hit on the NES, and thus might have the most name recognition of any of these games for long-term nostalgic Nintendo fans. Like Bonk’s Adventure it’s another game where you run from one side of the screen to the other while killing enemies and jumping on things. It’s clumsier than Bonk, more repetitive and capricious, but still charming, and two sequels refined the basic template. Like Bonk, it would give Nintendo more options to vary their platforming catalogue past Mario, Donkey Kong and Kirby.
Okay, Nintendo may not have that much use for Nectaris (originally known as Military Madness in America)—the company has let the very similar Advance Wars languish for seven years now. They’re both turn-based strategy games using military units, like a modern-day computerized Risk, but with tanks and soldiers instead of roman numerals. A fine remake of Nectaris was released as a download for consoles in 2009, the year after the last Advance Wars game. Perhaps it’s time for an Advance Wars: Military Madness, where you can play the same missions using units and rules from either game?
Massively popular in Japan during the 16-bit era, Far East of Eden is the type of classic Japanese role-playing game that Nintendo hasn’t really pursued outside of the Earthbound / Mother series and the Golden Sun games. It has parties, towns, overworlds, battles where you get whisked away to a static first-person perspective where your warriors take turns hacking away at monsters—this is a role-playing game. They’ve never really been localized for America, so there’s no nostalgia for the series over here, but various remakes and spin-offs remained popular in Japan through the mid-’00s. This would be the riskiest proposition of any of these games today, but there’s always been a sizable cult following in America for Japanese RPGs, especially on the DS and 3DS, and if Nintendo wanted to market directly to that audience, this could be a good way to test those waters.
Nintendo might already own the rights to Faxanadu, at least in America. Hudson developed and released the side-scrolling action-RPG for the Famicom in Japan in 1987, but the spin-off of Nihon Falcom’s Japanese-only Dragon Slayer/Xanadu series was released as a first-party NES game in America by Nintendo in 1989. It wasn’t a huge hit over here, and other than a quiet Virtual Console release near the end of the Wii’s lifespan, Nintendo’s made no attempt to continue the series in any way. A Faxanadu remake probably wouldn’t make Nintendo a ton of money, but it’s another way to diversify their game library while still exploiting the nostalgia that Nintendo relies upon. The rights situation might be tangled up between Nihon Falcom (who are still releasing new Ys and Xanadu games in Japan), Konami and Nintendo, but if that can be straightened out a modestly budgeted Wii U reinvention could be a welcome (and potentially profitable) release.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. Follow him on Twitter @grmartin.