There’s something about crossovers that’s just inherently exciting. The idea of taking two or more different franchises or characters and having them interact is something that’s been capable of generating headlines and making fans wet themselves in delight for years, whether it be in comic books, films or videogames. Which is why it’s so irritating when a crossover ends up not delivering.
Whether it be due to a poor story, lack of imagination, the franchises in question not gelling together very well or those involved having no proper understanding of how to make it work, some crossovers fail to be the spectacular clash of titans they were meant to be and are instead bland, unassuming and, overall, disappointing. And here are five examples I’ve personally seen within the world of videogames; ones that contain a plethora of mistakes that, hopefully, future videogame crossovers won’t make.
1. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (PS3, Xbox 360)
Easily one of the strangest crossovers to grace the eyes of gamers, MK vs DC was a title that I don’t think anyone even asked for. I don’t recall anybody wishing that they could see Superman fight Scorpion or see Wonder Woman get her ass handed to her by Sub-Zero but, regardless, it happened and I for one welcomed it. It’s bizarre, sure, but isn’t that part of what makes crossovers great? Even the most disparate of franchises can make for some entertainment, even if it is a bit goofy.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to even that. It wasn’t very fun to play, with new mechanics like Klose Kombat actually slowing the pace of the action down, and the inclusion of DC characters led to a severe lack of any proper gore (the very thing that gave Mortal Kombat its identity). Sure, there was some but it was pretty tame in comparison to previous games – heroic characters like Batman didn’t even have Fatalities but Brutalities instead. Let’s just say that having a flurry of bats harass your opponent isn’t as satisfying as ripping their spine out.
Combine that with an otherwise average Story mode with only the occasional funny line of dialogue, forced conflicts and a pretty boring final boss, MK vs DC was very quickly forgotten, especially after the revived Mortal Kombat games and Injustice proved to be much more popular and successful.
2. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii, DS, Wii U, 3DS)
I feel bad sticking this series on the list because the games are fun to play; there’s no doubt about that. Hell, I absolutely loved playing through the first Vancouver Winter Games and London 2012 ones. It’s just that when people begged Nintendo and Sega to have their mascots meet up, it wasn’t so they could see who was better at javelin throwing.
I mean, you have two of the biggest videogame icons to ever exist, with a collective 30+ years of history between them, all manner of characters and locations to explore, and you decide that rather than seeing these infamous heroes join forces on some epic road-trip to thwart their life-long enemies, you’d much rather have them take part in footraces and table-tennis. It’s the equivalent of being given £1 million and spending it all on biro pens.
Okay, that might be an over-exaggeration since, like I said, the games are fun to play at least. Well, the first three were. Actually, in retrospect, the first one was pretty bland but its sequels more than made up for it by including more interesting events and modes. The DS version of the Vancouver Winter Games is worth playing just for its surprisingly meaty Adventure mode alone.
But whereas the first game was considered an event and the second game featured improvements on the gameplay for both single player and mutli-player sessions, every game since then didn’t seem to offer anything new or of substance. The Sochi Winter Games for the Wii U looked incredibly bare-bones and featured forced GamePad implementation, and the recent Rio one doesn’t seem to offer much extra aside from new characters that are limited to certain events. Want to play as Rosalina in a Boxing match or as Rouge the Bat in Rugby? Tough shit, you can’t for some arbitrary reason.
The saddest thing is that Nintendo and Sega seem adamant on their stance of not making a proper adventure starring the two, despite the fact that it’d make them so much money regardless of the quality. And it doesn’t look like these Olympic Games titles will be leaving our lives anytime soon, despite the ever-growing lack of interest in the series.
3. PlayStation Move Heroes (PS3)
It says a lot about a game if its mere existence nearly convinced me to buy the PlayStation Move. Despite it being an obvious carbon copy of the Wii Remote in a desperate attempt to cash in on it success, the fact that it would be mandatory to play a crossover title featuring the biggest stars of the PS2 era was enough to get me on board. But as more and more of the game was revealed, my interest quickly waned and I (along with many others) was left thoroughly underwhelmed.
It’s the same mistake as the Mario & Sonic titles. You have three of Sony’s most recognisable characters cross over and what do they do? Play dumb mini-games. But at least the Mario & Sonic games were fun to play. PlayStation Move Heroes didn’t even have that.
Boring gameplay, boring aesthetics and, worst of all, awkward at best controls meant that there was zero entertainment value. Even its story was so halfhearted and weak, like there was barely any effort put into it. Granted, there was some neat character interaction but even that was rarely seen, and it starred possibly the worst and most pathetic villains I’ve ever seen in a videogame.
Whereas Mario & Sonic could help you waste an afternoon with friends and family with its simple mini-games, PlayStation Move Heroes was just a cynical attempt to sell a crappy peripheral.
4. Street Fighter X Tekken (PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, PC, iOS)
Despite not being a big fan of either franchise, when I saw the first trailer for Street Fighter X Tekken, I couldn’t help but be drawn to it, mostly thanks to the cinematic trailers they kept pumping out.
It’s an admittedly shallow reason to get invested with a fighting game but those story trailers were so well done. Even now I enjoy watching them. Not only that, but the fact that fights would be 2 VS 2 meant there were possibilities for cool, new character interactions and the like. Throw in the mysterious Pandora’s Box as a McGuffin that attracts all the characters and you’ve got the ingredients for, at the very least, an entertaining story, especially with how diverse both series’ casts were.
But, alas, the final game followed the traditional Street Fighter formula of having a story but not doing anything with it. You just had a bunch of boring arcade endings that all contradict one another. So, essentially, nothing about the game mattered. Kazuya kills Dan Hibiki? Who cares; it doesn’t matter. Jin wants to capture Ryu for some reason? Who cares; it doesn’t matter. Even the rival fights were uninteresting; usually the justifications for them simply boiled down to:
“Who are you?”
Some interactions were kind of cool, like Rufus mistaking Bob for Ken or Ibuki being roped into Rolento’s personal quest to destroy Pandora but, again, it was a gargantuan missed opportunity that didn’t deserve all the hype Capcom gave it.
And if you think I’m being unfair considering it’s a fighting game and story shouldn’t be its number one priority, I can tell you right now that even the die-hard fighting game crowd didn’t like the game either due to its Gem System that introduced stat buffs that added an unwanted unpredictability to fights and the Pandora Mode where you can sacrifice one of your characters to give the other a timed power boost that, upon running out, makes you automatically lose the fight.
Throw in the Bad Box Art Mega Man character that pissed the Mega Man fans off even more than they already were, the 360 version having less DLC, both the 360 and PC versions not getting the online co-op mode AND the fact that the DLC was already on the disc (meaning Capcom were making you pay for something you technically already owned), and that leaves Street Fighter X Tekken with a pretty dour legacy.
5. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may have a mouthful of a title, but it had one of the best premises a game could have. Super Smash Bros. but with PlayStation characters instead. It was a winning formula. A genius idea that could give Sony a perfect alternative to Nintendo’s mascot fighter. One that could give rise to its own series. Yet Santa Monica Studio and SuperBot Entertainment completely dropped the ball.
I can understand not wanting it to just be a Smash Bros. clone and having an identity of its own, but given what kind of game it was, no matter what direction they took with the core gameplay, it would still be referred to as “the PlayStation Smash Bros.” So they may as well have gone the whole nine yards and just copy and paste the Smash Bros. formula. Or at the very least go with slightly more traditional fighting game mechanics like health bars or something.
The fact that you could only knock opponents out by using the Super Moves is what (I think at least) killed the game. It was a race to see who could get their level 1 super out first. Why bother waiting to build up enough meter for your level 3 when your level 1 super does the job fine? Attacks didn’t have any real weight because they were, ultimately, pointless – existing solely to build up meter for the supers.
What makes pulling off super moves in other fighting games so satisfying is that they felt earned; you had to work to pull them off. Since PSASBR‘s core gameplay is built around those super moves, they are constantly occurring and that removes the spectacle.
And while I don’t have as much as a personal umbrage with the roster as some people do, it didn’t feel like we were really seeing the All-Stars of the PlayStation. Sure, it’s awesome to see Kratos fighting Parappa the Rapper or Sly Cooper trading blows with Nathan Drake but there were some clearly missed opportunities there. No Crash Bandicoot or Spyro or Lara Croft or even Cloud Strife – characters that helped make the original PlayStation as successful as it was, but instead we saw Big Daddy from Bioshock and two versions of Cole from Infamous.
Speaking off missed opportunities, I again must complain about the severe lack of actual story. I wouldn’t go on about it so much if these games weren’t being given really cool story premises and proceeding to do nothing with them. All the stages involved two different PlayStation games crossing over – Metropolis from Ratchet & Clank being attacked by the Hydra from God of War, Songbird from Bioshock Infinite appearing in the background of the Uncharted stage – it had all these amazing ideas but didn’t flesh them out beyond just being cool to look at.
The cutscenes before rival fights are fun to watch; seeing all these personalities bouncing off of each other but, again, aside from some snarky dialogue, that’s all they’ve got going for them. As funny as it is watching the Big Daddy getting pissed off with Sackboy, we never see any other kinds of interactions between these characters. You even have a final boss in Polygon Man, an old PlayStation mascot that never saw the light of day. That’s such an amazing concept for a boss but they do nothing with him aside from give him a generic “I’m super powerful and you’re not” personality. All we are given are the usual bog-standard arcade-style plots that have as much meat on them as Sir Daniel Fortesque.
These are problems that I take issue with Smash Bros. as well, but at least those games (with the exception of Brawl, which did have a proper story mode) don’t pretend to have plots; the focus is all on the gameplay. PSASBR could have at least made up for it with that but, like I said earlier, it wasn’t even that fun to play.
A proper story could have maybe helped differentiate from Smash Bros.; helped give it an identity of its own, but, instead, it’s just another wasted opportunity. It’s star power wasn’t enough to help it break away from being deemed mediocre at best and it’s unlikely this concept will be returned to at some point.