Remembering the Classics: Konami

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Konami is a very ubiquitous name within the gaming industry. When the company first started producing video games back in early 70s, it sought a prominent place in the budding field. Konami arcade cabinets, eventually containing the likes of Frogger and Scramble, easily set this future success into motion. With the NES/Famicom era, Konami set its longevity in stone. Massive hits like Castlevania, Contra, Gradius, and Metal Gear came into fruition here and would define the company for decades to come. The infamous Konami code, which first appeared in Gradius but became popular with Contra, is a pop-culture staple that has since appeared in multiple different forms. Over time new hits came like Suikoden in 1995, Dance Dance Revolution in 1998, and Silent Hill in 1999. Despite never producing their own home console, Konami was one of the most influential third-party developers in the business. For companies such as this, continued profitability was almost guaranteed.

At least, that’s what one would think. 2015 has proven to be a very bad and costly year for Konami. The laundry list of PR nightmares is so vast, it’s best to just break down the very key points. Silent Hills, despite featuring the talents of Guillermo del Toro, Hideo Kojima, and Norman Reedus, was cancelled, upsetting an insane amount of fans. Kojima was eventually kicked out and had his development team dissolved in the sketchiest way imaginable. Reports also came out that Konami was treating its own employees like total garbage. Now, there’s even more bad news with the reports of Konami ending all AAA-game development. Currently this is just rumor, but it’s receiving a lot of attention because of what it means. If true, with the exception of Pro Evolution Soccer, Konami is essentially abandoning the franchises that made it successful. Goodbye to the hundreds of games that people have loved over the years. Konami would rather focus on their mobile division.Silent_Hill_video_game_cover

The people who lose out from this are the gamers. We’re the ones who bought what Konami produced, became invested in the lengthy (and sometimes complicated) stories told, and eagerly wanted to experience more. The brands themselves likely aren’t going away for good and can pop up in other Konami produced items (like this Silent Hill pachinko game), but they won’t be the mega-adventures we thoroughly enjoyed. There truly are four series that this most directly impacts, and here’s why:

  • Silent Hill: Silent Hill is a horror genre staple and is easily the big loser if Konami continues down this path. When Silent Hills was announced, people lost their collective minds. The series that became famous for terrifying imagery, leaving you weakened against the supernatural, and deep mystery was getting huge backing. The trio of Del Toro, Kojima, and Reedus would have made Silent Hills one of the biggest and most cinematic adventures ever. This is why people practically mourned when it was cancelled. With Konami supposedly moving on from major console games, we’ll probably never get anything close to the promise shown with Silent Hills. To go from the very top of excitement to pure disappointment is the worst type of situation.
  • Metal Gear: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is one of the biggest releases of the year. It is an epic scale adventure that is another amazing installment in a series that is defined by excellence. With the game as good as it is, the pain of it being the last by Kojima is a bit lessened. At least it went out on a high note. Konami will likely maintain Metal Gear Online for some time, but what next? Can we really get the excellence of Metal Gear again without a AAA console game? Extremely unlikely.
  • Castlevania: Castlevania has been divisive for a while now. The latest games have moved on from the series roots and are now essentially giant action adventures. Still, plenty of gamers enjoyed them. Now? Who knows what we’ll get. The one thing that makes this better is Koji Igarashi still making games like Bloodstained. If Konami won’t give this series the treatment it deserves, at least it can get a better spiritual successor elsewhere.
  • Suikoden: To be honest, Konami hasn’t done much for Suikoden in a long time. The last game to come overseas was the still excellent DS spinoff Suikoden Tierkreis in 2008. Lately it’s been making a comeback with Suikoden II and Suikoden III coming to the PlayStation Network, which hopefully is followed by the fourth and fifth entries despite these rumors. Maybe digital re-releases which don’t require as much effort as a new game are exempt? Who knows. What is known is that continued series development was halted, possibly because of this recent news. Without a doubt, Suikoden would have fared better in a different company’s hands.metal-gear-solid-2-sons-of-liberty-ps2-cover-front-eu-49555

I have played a lot of Konami games in my lifetime so these reports are exceptionally disappointing. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. That game was incredible. The same can be said about Suikoden for me. I’m a massive fan of JRPGs and Suikoden now ranks up there as one of the finest in my eyes, rivaled only by Final Fantasy. Of course, I can’t forget the awesome other games that I really enjoyed. Contra was awesome, Frogger is timeless, and you can never go wrong with DDR. Zone of the Enders was a delightful little addition too. Hudson Soft is owned by Konami as well and that gave us the absurdly enjoyable Bloody Roar and Bomberman. Konami is turning its back on a lot of history, and I’ve experienced much of it first hand.

Bear in mind that Konami has yet to actually confirm anything, but reports are receiving plenty of validation. It’s honestly just another addition in a long line of crap that’s come out of this formerly loved developer. In a way, this was expected when it was announced the company would focus on more mobile opportunities, but it still stings to see it actually happen. Hopefully this will go the way of LucasArts where the brands were sold off. It was this sale that actually gave us more Battlefront after all. If Konami is disinterested is giving their major names big budget console adventures, they owe it to the decades-long fans to put their properties in better hands.

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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his classic video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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