There’s one great thing about rebooting a game released in 1985 that hasn’t had a sequel since. It means you can treat the reboot like a brand new IP since most people don’t remember the original game. A good example of this is Kid Icarus: Uprising. I think it is a safe bet that many of the people who bought Kid Icarus Uprising didn’t play Kid Icarus for NES. This leads to the following question: If nobody remembers that IP, why not just create a brand new IP without relying on an existing IP’s name?
In the case of Kid Icarus, the consumer demand for a reboot had very little to do with the quality of the NES/Game boy games. Those games never scored higher than a 6 or 7 in most gaming publications. Gamers wanted a new Kid Icarus because they saw potential in a Nintendo IP based around Greek mythology (even before Pit appeared in Smash Bros Brawl). Before Uprising was revealed, Nintendo fans had this vision for Kid Icarus as an epic adventure with the size, scope, and budget of a Zelda game. I personally enjoyed Uprising, but I’m certain it didn’t live up to the expectations of every single person out there.
I use the word “potential” multiple times in this article because “potential” sums up the reasoning behind why any gaming company resurrects a 25+ year old forgotten IP from the dead.
I’d like to transition to what this article is really about:
Here is how NintendoLife.com summarized Mach Rider for NES: “Mach Rider is by no means a bad game and it does have some nice ideas. It just doesn’t have that spark to make it stand out from the rest.”
GameSpot felt that Mach Rider’s problem was that the game may have been too ambitious for NES’s 8-bit processor. Gamespot explains, “It was also one of the most ambitious vehicular combat games conceived up to that point–pushing “behind the back” views, twisty courses, and an intense sense of speed out of an 8-bit processor that wasn’t known for any of those things. Sadly, the talent of Nintendo’s programmers didn’t come close to matching their ambition at the time.“
But regardless of Mach Rider’s problems, even GameSpot will admit: “As a collection of ideas, Mach Rider has a lot going for it.”
The general consensus seems to be that Mach Rider for NES is not a great game. At best, it is mediocre but very forgettable.
But Mach Rider, as an IP, has the potential to become something greater than the NES game ever dreamed to be. Mach Rider has the right ideas and story elements to become the perfect Nintendo franchise for adults. Bad ass protagonist? Check. Gritty Sci-Fi action story? Check. Guns? Check. With sophisticated HD graphics, there is an opportunity to finally do something ambitious with Mach Rider’s gritty Sci Fi world that wasn’t possible with limited NES 8-bit technology. Gamers always ask why Nintendo doesn’t create adult western franchises similar to Gears of War, Watch_Dogs, or Uncharted.
Mach Rider could be that franchise. Forget about the mediocre NES game. Nintendo can reinvent this IP into something with mainstream marketable appeal.
Nintendo expects third parties to provide their platforms with M-rated games targeted at older demographics. Yet many of these third parties (outside of Ubisoft) have given the cold shoulder to the Wii U and Nintendo on a regular basis. The harsh reality is if Nintendo wants to broaden their audience beyond the Mario/Zelda crowd, one of the markets they need to reach is the young adult market (ages 18 through mid 30′s). This would require funding more collaborations with outside studios like Platinum Studios to create quality, exclusive M-rated experiences. It is a dead end street to continue relying on EA and Take-Two for M rated content when both seem hesitant about going beyond bare minimum support for Nintendo platforms. I’d like to believe things can change for the better, and these publishers will change their minds, but that is looking very unlikely.
The biggest misconception is that Nintendo isn’t willing to get out of their comfort zone and experiment with games targeted at older gamers. I do think Nintendo is willing to take creative and financial risks (within reason) on new IP’s (Wonderful 101) or be involved on projects that you wouldn’t expect from them (Fatal Frame/Spirit Camera series). For example, Bayonetta 2 would never have launched off the ground if Nintendo hadn’t provided the necessary funding. I don’t think Nintendo sat down with a marketing committee and said “Look at those Bayonetta 1 sales. We have to capitalize on that.” Nintendo even reached out to publish Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U.
The picture above is a digital painting called “Chase” created by an artist called TheChaoticKnight at DeviantArt.com.
This artwork made me imagine Mach Rider riding around the city fighting a giant alien creature in an epic boss fight. Mach Rider’s story (from the NES game) was about a city under attack by alien forces, and I think there is an opportunity for Nintendo to push the alien invasion story further than the NES game ever did. The NES game never had alien boss fights, but that’s part of why a reboot could be exciting. It would be a chance to try some new ideas with a forgotten IP. Kid Icarus for NES never had flying sections (okay, the very last level was a flying level), but that didn’t stop Nintendo from expanding on the Kid Icarus universe with new ideas in “Kid Icarus Uprising”.
It would be redundant to say “lets make a dark, edgy, gritty reboot of Mach Rider” because the story for the NES Mach Rider was not exactly sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops. For a reboot, I don’t know if you could tone it down to anything less than a TEEN rating when the character is widely known for wielding a machine gun, and the story is about aliens mass murdering or enslaving humans.
The plot of Mach Rider (NES) according to IGN.com:
“Humanity’s been driven to near extinction in the year 2112. An alien force has invaded the Earth, killing or enslaving most of mankind. The few that remain free have gone into hiding, or have become fighters for the resistance — like Mach Rider. This early first-party NES effort puts players in his role, as a lone biker racing through an arid, post-apocalyptic vision of future, endlessly searching for any clue that might point to the location of the aliens’ home base. He never finds it. The ending is just the beginning again with Mach Rider, as, like many other early 8-bit titles, the plot simply cycles back onto itself after you’ve cleared the final level. It’s been almost 22 years now, and the Rider’s fate remains unknown; there’s never been a sequel, never any resolution.” (link)
The plot of Mach Rider (NES) according to nindb.net:
“In the year 2112, the Earth has been invaded by Evil Forces. A lone motorcycle-riding vigilante stands against the invaders as he travels from city to city, searching for survivors.” (link)
The plot of Mach Rider (NES) according to Super Smash Bros Melee after earning the Mach Rider trophy:
“After the destruction of his home town, Mach Rider jumped onto his machine-gun-equipped combat motorcycle and set off in search of a new home, destroying all the Quadrunners who got in his way. His motorcycle had four gears and endless ammunition. When hit, Mach Rider would break into fragments and then rejoin together.” (link)
What would a Mach Rider game look like if it were made today? I can imagine Mach Rider riding through dirty, dark, crime infested slums like the piece of artwork above. Since the NES game’s plot centered around an alien attack, its not difficult to imagine that the appearance of these cities would be rapidly deteriorating.
Imagine a Nintendo published game featuring a freedom fighting vigilante, who travels from city to city on a motorcycle, blasting away enemies to rescue survivors. As you rescue survivors, survivors can offer tools, weapons, or services to help assist you on your missions. On-foot gun battles or missions away from your motorcycle would allow you to explore cities beyond just the streets. Instead of adhering to the bland gameplay of the NES game, you could expand on it for today’s modern audiences who enjoy open world games like Grand Theft Auto, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, Sleeping Dogs, etc.
As Lucas Thomas pointed out in his IGN article, the story behind Mach Rider is that he’s not fighting this evil alien race alone. There are other humans involved with the resistance against the aliens. For a reboot, some of the survivors that Mach Rider meets along the way could have their own individual stories or sub-plots. There’s also an opportunity to make the city’s underworld an unforgettable place. Crime never sleeps. Even during an alien invasion.
I’m not the first person to come up with the idea of an open world, edgy Mach Rider. This idea has been floating around the internet for a few years now. But I’ve haven’t seen any major Nintendo sites or major gaming sites really discuss the idea in depth.
Back in 2011, there was a popular rumor of a 3DS reboot called “Mach Rider Unchained” that was reported on sites like Eurogamer, NeoGaf, and other sites.
According to Eurogamer, who reported the rumor from other sites:
“Meanwhile, Mach Rider Unchained looks to be a reboot of Nintendo’s ancient NES racing title. Due out on 3DS next year, it’s set in 2112 and is said to feature gritty vehicle racing mixed with over the top on-foot gun battles.“
Unfortunately, Mach Rider Unchained never materialized beyond being a rumor. But the fact that the rumor made headlines in the mainstream gaming press might be a good enough reason for Nintendo to consider the possibility of a reboot.
I remember reading an IGN thread where a member named Solitanze suggested the idea of rebooting Mach Rider.
Solitanze says: “While Mach Rider might be too limited and linear in its current form to warrant a re-boot, I think that if it were to be re-designed as an open world game with similar changes to the ones proposed in this thread, an open-world Mach Rider reboot could be a real killer app for Wii U and Nintendo’s equivalent of Grand Theft Auto.” He continues, ”Mach Rider Wii U would stay true to the primary antagonist riding a motorcycle with a machine gun but instead of just travelling down roads in one direction, you travel in all directions through various cities, metro highways, rural highways, casinos, deserts, western towns, nature reserves and all sorts of other contemporary backdrops.”
Over on the TVTropes.com message boards, a poster named Cysma posts a similar idea about Mach Rider in 2011.
The message board poster describes his idea, “Evil forces are threatening what remains of mankind, and you alone have answered to their cry for help. No one knows your name. To the world, you are only known as Mach Rider! I’m thinking this game would have a Wide Open Sandbox format where you can freely ride around the game world on your customizable, upgradeable motorcycle, armed with machine guns, missile launchers, laser cannons, you name it. You take on missions at your own pace that would involve putting your driving and shooting skills to good use.
An artist from DeviantArt named Gameguran drew up a redesign of Mach Rider using inspiration from the animated movie “Akira”.
In the past, you may remember that NST (Nintendo Software Technology) had registered a patent where players could use a Wii remote/nunchuck + Wii Balance Board as a method of controlling a motorcycle. These controls would probably work better in a pure racing game than an action-adventure game. Nonetheless, NST’s patent should be enough proof that there are many possibilities of creating innovative controls or innovative gameplay mechanics for a motorcycle game.
Since the Wii U GamePad has a gyroscope inside, another possible control method is using the GamePad to steer your motorcycle. The GamePad screen could be used as a rear view mirror to see enemies that are on your tail.
Patent image filed by NST:
Now let’s talk about level design and game mechanics.
Here’s one idea: Different parts of the city can only be accessed while riding your motorcycle, and other parts of the city can only be accessed by going on foot. For example, let’s say there is a pit of fire in the ground. You want to get over to the other side, but it’s too large of a jump (with two legs). You could attempt to jump over it with your motorcycle (maybe off a ramp).
When you get off your motorcycle, you’re able to climb up ladders or inspect interior areas that your motorcycle can’t reach. Using the GamePad as a scanner, you can find human survivors throughout the city so you can rescue them. You could also use the GamePad scan for clues to help you find the alien home base (which is plot of the NES game).
Let’s say that you wander off, and you’re too lazy to go back and get your motorcycle. Using the GamePad, you could draw a line on a map from point A (where you’re standing) connecting to point B (where your motorcycle is parked). Your futuristic motorcycle would then automatically drive to you. A game taking place in a Sci-Fi futuristic setting means vehicles (like your motorcycle) can come to you instead of you always coming to them.
Another idea is auto pilot. Just like the original NES Mach Rider, many action scenes would require driving and shooting at the same time. If you don’t want to manually do both at the same time, you could draw a line of where you want to go on the GamePad’s map. Your motorcycle would automatically drive you (on auto pilot) in the direction or route that you drew on the map. This way you can focus on shooting nearby enemies on the road while the motorcycle deals with the driving. The motorcycle would also be programmed to avoid most obstacles within that auto-piloted direction/route (obstacles like parked cars).
The GamePad could also be used to repair different parts of your motorcycle after massive damage or equip your motorcycle with new weapons (example: missile launchers).
Numerous gas stations throughout the city would become save spots. Whenever you fill your bike with gas, the game would automatically save.
Being that you’re playing a good guy, you won’t be able to hijack cars. Your only vehicle is your trusty bike. This way, the bike almost becomes its own character, and you have to protect your bike from harm.
How to Create the World of Mach Rider?
The question is how should Mach Rider’s futuristic setting look? Should it be influenced by movies like “Blade Runner” or “Akira”? For example, in the first picture below, the artwork inspired by the film, Blade Runner. In the second picture below, it is a screen capture from the film “Akria”
Would you be interested in seeing Mach Rider’s post-apocalyptic world look something similar to Blade Runner or Akira?
Another idea being suggested on the internet was perhaps giving a Mach Rider reboot a more 80′s vibe.
In a thread asking about which Nintendo franchises should be revived, NeoGaf member bobbychalkers says:
“Mach Rider, except gritty but campy, retro 80′s inspired like Drive, Blood Dragon, or Hotline Miami. Soundtrack by Kavinsky, Power Glove, M.O.O.N., Sun Araw, and other similar arts. Your move Nintendo.”
On Twitter, a person named Nick told me something similar.
I tried to find artwork that captured an 80′s atmosphere of Hotline Miami/Drive/Vice City while still maintaining a somewhat futuristic Sci Fi appearance. I felt that the artwork below would do a decent job of showing what Mach Rider’s city could look like if it was influenced by the film “Drive” or the game “Hotline Miami”. The artwork below is called “Rainy City” by artist, “Rhinoting” at DeviantArt.com.
Another alternative is making Mach Rider’s world look more like a desert wasteland. Think of something along the lines of “Borderlands”. If you went the desert wasteland route, the reboot’s visual style would be closer to the visual art style of the NES game. One suggestion I’ve heard with the desert idea is having the game take place on Mars. Mars could prove to be a very unique setting for open-world sandbox style gameplay. A setting on Mars would distinguish the game from every other open world game out there.
Who would make an excellent “Mach Rider” reboot?
Just like any filmmaker has his/her own style, game developers tend to have their own way of expressing themselves. Which begs the question: If a Mach Rider reboot was created, which developer would be perfect for the job?
One idea that popped in my head was Suda 51/Grasshopper Manufacture directing a Mach Rider reboot with Nintendo supervising it. Instead of creating a Mach Rider reboot with a very safe, conventional formula, Suda 51 would go the complete opposite direction. He’s not afraid of creating something that is divisive, risky, or downright insane. If you wanted an adult Mach Rider without the game taking itself way too serious, Suda 51 knows how to incorporate violence in a very humorous, tongue-in-cheek manner.
Instead of Mach Rider just being a boring biker character, Suda 51 could transform Mach Rider into a memorable character like Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes. Suda 51 also has experience making open world games after developing two installments of the No More Heroes series.
Suda 51′s games have never reached massive mainstream success in terms of sales. But maybe a collaboration with Nintendo as the publisher could change that.
Even with Suda 51′s biggest budget games, he has always approached everything from the philosophy of a small indie developer/indie filmmaker. Adopting a flashy, surreal, comic bookish art style from a game like Suda 51′s “Killer is Dead” could help a “Mach Rider” reboot stand out from other Nintendo franchises.
The second choice (which might actually be the #1 choice) would involve Retro Studios getting behind a Mach Rider reboot.
After all, Retro Studios was involved in rebooting a previous Sci-Fi Nintendo franchise called Metroid. Would it hurt to have Retro Studios explore another (but lesser known) Sci-Fi franchise from Nintendo? Because a “Mach Rider” reboot would most likely have greater appeal to western audiences, perhaps it would be best if a western developer handled development?
Since Mach Rider is a lesser known IP, it allows Retro much more creative freedom to experiment and try different ideas. Retro Studios was able to rethink Metroid by giving it a first person perspective. Retro’s ability to think outside of the box and be experimental with Metroid is the kind of thinking a Mach Rider reboot could benefit from. Mach Rider can benefit from a developer that can rethink the conventions of the old NES game, and take it into brand new territory as an action title.
When Retro Studios was established, the original intention of the studio was to create the type of games aimed at western audiences that Nintendo’s Japanese studios (like EAD) didn’t make. For example, Retro Studios worked on GameCube games such as an NFL football title, a car combat title called Thunder Rally, and an RPG called Raven Blade. All of these were eventually cancelled.
Fans of Retro Studios have been asking for the studio to create a brand new IP for a very long time. Being that Mach Rider hasn’t had a game since the mid 80′s, a reboot would technically be a brand new IP.
The third option would be Platinum Studios, another Japanese studio like Suda 51′s Grasshopper Manufacture. As of recent, Platinum Studios has had a very close relationship with Nintendo. From Bayonetta to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Platinum Studios has a tremendous amount of experience creating quality action titles for adults. Hideki Kamiya, the director of Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry, might be the right person to make Mach Rider a memorable action character like Dante, Leon, or Bayonetta.
Since Kamiya has multiple horror games under his belt, perhaps he could bring a little horror flavor to Mach Rider’s sci-fi story? It would be exciting to see whether Kamiya’s storytelling magic about zombie invasions could translate into Mach Rider’s story of alien invasions.