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Ten franchises that should sandbox

Unlike most people, I don’t perceive open worlds to be massive playgrounds where the inhabitants are at the mercy of my moral judgment. What I’ve learned from Grand Theft Auto, inFamous, and Fallout is that the genre holds immense potential for storytelling and character exploration with a magnitude that may be immeasurable. Exhibit A: Scarface, Exhibit B: Spider-Man. In light of these developments I’ve come to believe that a number of game, film, and TV franchises can benefit from jumping the bandwagon. Sandboxing is definitely the new black in entertainment.

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10 – Tenacious D

I’ve taken quite a liking to the band’s mythos first ventured in their short-lived HBO series and further expanded in their movie. What’s there not to explore with a cannabis smoking, Satan worshipping band suffering from delusions of grandeur? The game’s missions could be a set of misadventures in which JB and Cage can take up performing at low key establishments to build rep, generate merchandise, battle against bands, help out Sasquatch and cults, and having room to KO a couple of haters. Eventually, the band will land themselves in dream gigs at more popular venues. Unbeknownst to all however, Satan plans another return to Earth and despite being a benefactor, the D may have to muster up another Greatest Song in the World to save the day.

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9 – Reaper

Sam Oliver’s life in juggling a demeaning retail job, maintaining a relationship, catching demons with random household appliances all the while trying to find a way to break his contract with Lucifer is a perfect premise for a sandbox game. Prior to its unfortunate cancellation, the show’s writers had a lot of material that had yet to be revealed but even if they were to revive syndication the actors of Sam and Sock wouldn’t be returning. Though things may not have worked out in TV land, perhaps the creators should consider finishing its monumental tale via video game medium.

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8 – Police Quest

One of Sierra’s most notable flagships, the series has evolved through many leaps before becoming unrecognizable with the current SWAT series. If there’s to be a resurrection, it may be prudent to have it follow in the steps of Leisure Suit Larry and return to the roots of the original games. The early installments involved strict adherence to procedure, not just to avoid getting penalized, but to keep yourself alive. For instance, if your gun isn’t stored away in a locker prior to processing a prisoner you’re dead the moment the cuffs come off. There were also times where you needed to use your best judgment in calling for backup, interrogating suspects, and negotiating. If there is to be a reboot, it would serve as an interesting counterpart to GTA. Plus, it’d be amusing to stop people’s cars, flash your badge, and drive off with their rides…doing it again a minute later when you accidentally crash. The penalization system would serve as a device for generating multiple endings based on whether you’re a popo that goes by the book, a vigilante, or a corrupt cop.

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7 – Firefly

Despite Joss Whedon’s attempts in wrapping up the canned series with his film Serenity, many questions still went unanswered. Who or what was Book before he became a Shepherd? Was the bounty hunter, Jubal Early, ever encountered again? Did we see the last of Saffron or Niska? Whatever happened to the Hands of Blue? If the series went on a bit longer, would Mal have immediately taken advantage of River’s psychic powers to assist him with jobs?

The answers and maintaining the series’ charm would be best fleshed out in an open world. I can imagine the setting taking place amongst a small set of planets and moons. Missions would involve doing jobs but would be devoid of redundancy as the crew has had experience performing train heists, transporting odd shipments, exploring abandoned ships, and dealing with the Alliance and Reavers in the meantime. Money earned would go towards patching up Serenity and purchasing those awesome sci-fi western firearms like Vera. With Mal as the main character, one could create a team of three with the crew members, each providing backup in combat and auto-perks. Perhaps in staying in canon, the game would take place during the events that lead up to Book leaving the crew.

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6 – Angel

Okay, so I guess it’s apparent now that I’m a Whedon fan, but who can deny that the show has so much to work with in creating an open world game? The exploits of Angel Investigations is filled with fighting, researching, protecting and reflecting. As to why I am choosing Angel over Buffy it’s simply a matter of location. I wouldn’t care much to traverse the far corners of Sunnydale versus causing a ruckus all over LA (Hollywood, The Hills, South Central, Korea Town, Venice Beach, etc). As for the story, Whedon continues his vision of the series through the comic books where Wolfram & Hart had dragged Los Angeles into Hell leaving it up to Angel to reunite the team. Not a bad setting. Also, I’m not against having Spike as a companion.

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5 – Final Fantasy VII spin-offs

I view FF7 as I view the first Matrix movie, it should’ve been left alone. The spin-offs just didn’t do it for me, not just because of my personal views but because of the fact that Advent Children revealed a lot of interesting aspects that were not properly explored. Instead we were given Dirge of Cerberus, yuck.

Despite the sandbox genre serving as the monster hiding under the beds of Square’s developers it‘s a concept that should be embraced. Advent Children revealed that Cloud has been working as a package courier and the world is still recovering from the events of Meteo; lacking in assured guidance. This brings to question, would Cloud and his friends become figureheads that stand for the people or would they risk falling for the possible empty promises of the new Shinra? Also, why were we shown Cloud’s awesome Fenrir motorcycle and six part Fusion Swords, but we don’t get a game where we can play with such toys??

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4 – X-Men

The X-Men have appeared in fighting games, a classic arcade beat ‘em up, and action role-playing titles but none of them have done justice in giving insight into our favorite mutants. Maybe it’s time do it open world. To make it work, developers would want to refer to Wolverine and the X-Men, using a setting where the X-Mansion would be destroyed. The remaining members are then stuck with having to rebuild their home and seeking out scattered teammates. There would also be a lot of dealings with various factions in uncovering the cause of their predicament such as conversing with the Morlocks, Hellfire Club, The Brotherhood, SHIELD, and rescuing mutants from anti-mutant organizations. Chosen actions may dictate the public’s view of mutants all the while getting one step closer in finding a missing Professor Xavier.

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3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The idea of an open world TMNT game may be one that garners skepticism but the possibility was already conceived in a lesser known PC title Manhattan Missions. This involved the Turtles watching April’s reports of criminal activity and the team would traverse to points on a map screen of NYC to complete missions. With each mission accomplished, new ones are unlocked corresponding to news reports on Channel 6, until eventually all signs point to Shredder. This simple element is the bare bones of creating an open world game and it would be ideal to stick with Eastman and Laird’s original dark and gritty vision. Such a setting would be perfect in emphasizing stealth gameplay. Furthermore, it’d be quite amusing to prance around in broad daylight without a disguise and freak out civilians.

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2 – Batman

Arkham Asylum did an astounding job in conveying the Dark Knight’s prowess. However, the game only lightly touched on Batman’s reputation as the world’s greatest detective. To do so would involve laying a much larger setting where plenty of detective work would be called for. When I think of a sandboxed Caped Crusader adventure I’m reminded of the comic book series ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’ and ‘No Man’s Land’. Plus, Gotham City is one of those places where I’ve always wanted to explore and I’d like to do so behind the wheel of a Batmobile or riding upon a Batpod.

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1 – Ghostbusters

The first movie pretty much laid the groundwork for a sandbox game. The team would be up and about all over NYC in exterminating ghosts for various clients and in doing so they’ve unwittingly stumbled upon Zuul’s plot to invade Earth. A sandbox GB game was already explored on the Sega Master System but even for its time, the bustin’ didn’t feel good. So it’s high time the team took a mulligan on the matter. Though their trademark occupation can be somewhat repetitive, the use of PK readings and Slimer would be ideal in finding secret items, avoiding traps, and identifying possessed objects or people.

What would you guys like to see as an open world game? Feel free to share in the comments.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @S_Chyou.

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