Konami has been responsible for some of the most popular and successful franchises in video gaming history. And then in 2015 they threw that all away for the sake of making pachinko and slot machines. They destroyed their relationship with “Metal Gear” creator Hideo Kojima, canceled the most promising horror title in years in the form of “P.T.”/”Silent Hills,” and then tried to turn “Castlevania” into a pachislot machine featuring “erotic violence.” But now it’s 2021, and whether it be because of a boom in the home video game market due to COVID-19 or a desire to improve their image, Konami is looking to revive some of their smaller franchises with some help from independent developers.
Starting on September 30th, 2021 and going until January 6th, 2022 Konami is accepting applications for teams to compete in the Konami Action & Shooting Game contest. According to the official website, the famed game developer is looking for people to take some of the more bigger names of its gaming past and either remake them or make sequels of them, with the goal of potentially commercializing them. Cash prizes are up for grabs, but details about what will happen with the commercialized product, if it is indeed turned into one, are a bit vague and are said to be discussed at the time of commercialization.
The theme of action and shooting games narrows the field of potential games down to some simpler genres that Konami may not be so eager to develop or be as hands on with themselves. For example, titles like, “Metal Gear,” “Silent Hill,” “Bomberman,” “Contra,” “Yu-Gi-Oh,” “Castlevania,” and “Pro Evolution Soccer,” are not listed even though some of them would fall into the category of action and shooting. Instead, titles like “Gradius,” “Ganbare Goemon,” “Twin Bee,” and “Yume Penguin Monogatari” are up for use.
“Gradius” is one of the biggest names in side-scrolling shooters and along with its competitor, “R-Type,” helped define the genre for decades to come. However, the last proper game in the series, “Gradius ReBirth” was released as a downloadable title back in 2008 and it hasn’t been heard of since. Even that game in itself is no longer available since Nintendo shut down the online services for the Wii in 2014.
The other largely notable title in the selection of eligible games is “Ganbare Goemon” which is known in English as, “Legend of the Mystical Ninja.” Four titles were officially released for the North American market, one for the SNES, one for the Game Boy, and two for the Nintendo 64. While mostly a side-scrolling action series, the first title for the Nintendo 64 was more akin to “The Legend of Zelda” with its large environments and adventure elements.
There is a tremendous amount of potential that is untapped in these franchises, but given Konami’s history over the last several years, it’s hard to see this as a positive thing. That is to say, it almost feels kind of disingenuous or as if they’re too uninterested in these franchises themselves to bother, so they’re just letting the fans do it instead. That being said, sometimes fans are far more capable of propping up a franchise as opposed to the company that actually owns said franchise. Take “Sonic Mania,” for example; easily one of the best made Sonic The Hedgehog games in years, and it wasn’t even made by Sonic Team.
According to IGN’s take, the grand prize is 2 million yen, or about $18,000 alongside Konami investing up to another $270,000 to push a potential game through development. However, and this is the really concerning part, the website says that royalties won’t be discussed until the game is agreed upon to be commercialized. That should be a bit of a red flag for anyone going into this contest for a reason other than just the sheer fun of it.
Will this yield anything positive for fans of neglected series? One can hope. Konami has been holding onto the intellectual property rights of these series for quite some time and doing very little with them. Here’s a chance for positive things to happen for gaming in general if this contest is handled the right way. If it worked for Sonic, maybe it will work for Goemon!