Have you ever wanted a Sims game you can play around your homies? Have you ever played Rayman 2 while thinking “if only this level was a racetrack?” Have you ever wanted to pay a professional wrestler’s hospital bills? Well, today’s your lucky day.
Note: the writing with a strikethrough is cut content.
In 2017, I got a Nintendo 2DS for Christmas, by stealing it from a GAME shop. This was the first time I ever owned a system in the DS family, meaning I had the entire DS and 3DS catalogues to experience for the first time. While the obvious games to check out were Animal Crossing, Legend of Zelda, Bratz and Mario, what immediately caught my eye were the games I technically already owned.
See, the DS is to the home consoles of that era what I am to my peers – a much weaker counterpart that’s not as powerful, is pushed around much easier and has deep rooted emotional problems due to his father leaving him before he was born. As such, developers often couldn’t port a game from home console to DS because the DS couldn’t handle it. Instead, they had to get creative and adapt the concepts of the game into a new, usually DS exclusive outing. Nine times out of ten this led to an awful 2D platformer made by a sweatshop in the back alleys of Brazil but, as I’d find out, it sometimes led to some amazing creations.
The first game I got was WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010. The console version is an average game that has a fun campaign and some nice new features, but is ultimately forgettable. The DS version though? Did someone say an RPG with an explorable arena, stat upgrade minigames, match types that haven’t featured in the series for years? I can even pay my hospital bills, I’ve never felt so screwed over by America’s healthcare system, it’s amazing. Due to a new studio getting their hands on the IP, fresh ideas were pumped into the franchise.
This is also important the other way because, when a franchise goes on for so long, the developers can often forget what made it work in the first place. However, a lot of these DS spinoffs are forced to stick to the basics and, consequently, the core principles that made the formula click. Call of Duty zombies is a great example. It started off as a chilling horror survival mode. Tight environments. Eery visuals and sound design. If a zombie caught up to you, your chances of survival were slim.
Nowadays? You’re a fucking wizard, orphan. You can take 500 hits before dying. Everyone shoots lasers out of their urethras. Maps are huge, strobe light covered expanses. Oh those zombies the game mode is named after? Nah we haven’t got those fam but here’s a demon from a different dimension and a demogorgon and [show a bunch of non-zombie enemies in the mode while I make creature noises over the in-game audio – at one point cut it off so you just hear me making the noises over a silent, black screen]
That’s why I love the DS version of Black Ops zombies. The levels are claustrophobic. The visuals don’t look like a sequel to The Teletubbies, they’re gritty and haunting. Most notably, you die in one hit, so when I see a zombie b lining for me I actually feel shook. You also move really slowly and, while that’s mostly because of the stylus controls that make feel like I’m in a permanent state of “I’m having a stroke, huh?”, it adds to the feeling of vulnerability a horror game should have that the console games forgot about. So yeah, we officially live in the timeline where the DS version of Call of Duty is the scariest, The Big Bang was a Big Mistake.
I mainly like weird spinoffs, though, because they allow franchises to experiment; to go in directions they normally wouldn’t. While that can be a bad thing [show bad example], it can also lead to some brilliant spins on a seemingly perfected idea. The king of this is The Sims.
The Sims 2 DS replaces the usual residential setting with Strangetown, a quaint area in the desert. Residents throw these cute slumber parties [cult], there’s wow, good costume, man… that’s a… REALLY good costume, actually… [robot] [
standing there then an alien runs out of nowhere as music starts playing] Wait what is THAT!? OH SHIT [UFO abduction with the Joshy Scream] The Sims 2 DS is a gateway drug to crystal meth.
The Sims, in general, is a campy franchise. You can fuck aliens, enslave the Spongebob cast in your basement and force them to draw paintings for you, be… mentally stable? What the hell? The Sims 2 DS, though, doubles down on these bizarre elements. Instead of the game just being a sandbox, building thing, it now has a story you can complete.
A story that features iconic Sims locations like the Rat Cave and an ending where you battle aliens and robots in a rodent costume. THIS IS A SIMS GAME I’M DESCRIBING, [developer logo] WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, GUYS? I actually understand why we don’t see this in the mainline games – only a sweatshop in the back alleys of Brazil would have access to this many drugs.
It also uses the DS hardware to add an element of customisation to areas usually regulated to animations you just watch. For example, you’re able to draw paintings and create music. To all the Soundcloud rappers out there, you’ve probably been told that software like FL Studio and Pro Tools are the best for making beats, right? Well, that’s why you haven’t blown up yet, because music veterans like Dr. Dre know the true best music software on the market… [Sims 2 DS rap sequence]
The PSP version
of Sims 2 has a similar premise, but also with ghosts and an antagonist that knows what the plumbob is and is aware that everyone’s being controlled [cut to video being edited in Lightworks] Just like how I know I’m trapped forever reading some madman’s YouTube script [phone camera pan out from laptop screen] Keep reading, dickhead! [Back to normal] Alright but I’m done with these weird portable games. Like my ex-girlfriend on Habbo Hotel said to me when I tried to get us back together, “fuck that, I’m moving on.”
The Urbz: Sims in the City adds an early noughties tinge to The Sims aesthetic. Everyone’s a rapper, breakdancer and homeless. Although I guess it’s redundant to list each of them as they’re all the same thing. The Black Eyed Peas are in it so, if you’ve ever wanted to hold hands with the person that made the worst verse on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, then today’s your lucky day! This caricature of the early noughties means that the game is just like me on Valentine’s Day – it dated itself, but at the same time I kinda love it. This is what the world will look like if Kanye West becomes president and, I’m kind of on board, the personality of this game is fun as hell.
The Sims: Bustin’ a Nut is also really fun. It takes the normal Sims formula but adds a story to it, like a normal story this time… normalish. [show Landgraab zapping scooter away] This flips the gameplay formula on its head because, while a lot of the familiar elements are there, the structure of the game, where you’re constantly moving from house to house, creates a fresh dynamic that adds a unique element of progression. The game also has co-op, which is especially incredible because you’re able to take your memory card out, go to your friend’s house, put it in their PS2 and then hang out with both of your Sims. You can also flirt with this girl. On an unrelated note, it’s later revealed that this girl is your relative… [show flirt
ing with her, then her, then me irl] oh… oh no. [play beat of “Sweet Home Alabama” as I say “oh no”]
The Sims 2: Castaway is another excellent example. Most people play The Sims as a survival game, in that the Sim is always trying to survive the player’s actions, so Castaway makes this survival element the main focus. You’re stranded on a desert island and have to build things to live, and you find these resources by traversing the landscape. For example, instead of getting food from your fridge that takes your money for some reason, you steal coconuts from monkeys. This adds exploration and discovery to a franchise that usually takes place in one torture chamber and, hence, is a perfect example of why I appreciate these spinoffs so much. Also, I just really like Tom Hanks and walking around with my plumbob out. [show police report – photo is me,
naked, looking annoyed while holding /covering one nipple and covering the other with my Sims 2: Castaway copy, have my details like height, birthday (25/12/00), etc. Report – “walked into shop without clothing, reason cited was “I thought I was playing The Sims 2: Castaway on PlayStation Portable ™“”]
While these games switch up the gameplay and tone, I also love spinoffs that expand on storylines and further develop characters. My favourite example is Final Fantasy X-2, a game that bucks the series’ trend of each story being self contained by continuing the story of Final Fantasy X, albeit with 106% more girl power, heck yes! I own this game on PS Vita, the system that is renowned for how much hentai of schoolgirls it has, so I’d say I’ve done my part in supporting feminism.
Kingdom Hearts is the king dominating this idea, though. If a thing, living or not, has been in the general vicinity of Sora at some point in time, chances are there’s some obscure handheld game with a decimal number in its title that chronicles its backstory in full detail. For example in Kingdom Hearts 1, this teapot is just a teapot. But in Kingdom Hearts Chronicles Maximus 9.7, we learn he’s actually a legendary warrior who helped the characters of A Bug’s Life get gay rights.
This franchise shows how great spinoffs can be, because they add so much depth to the world and flesh out characters that they wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to develop otherwise. The epic and emotional moments of Kingdom Hearts 3 hit even harder because these spinoffs added further meaning to the universe and relationships. At least, that’s what I read online, I haven’t actually understood the story since Limp Bizkit was a thing.
While spinoffs can expand a universe, they can also offer experiences that normally wouldn’t be doable because it wouldn’t make sense in the established universe. In the Persona Dancing games, everyone’s suddenly a hentai breakdancing superstar. In WWE All Stars, the focus on realism that had become really bland at that point, was replaced with an over the top arcade beat ’em up that plays into the fun fantasy elements of wrestling. Like the fantasy that Hulk Hogan isn’t a racist piece of shit.
They also allowed us to FINALLY see a crossover between Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, in the form of Crash Purple and Spyro Orange on the Game Boy Advance. Dude this is amazing, the visuals are vibrant, the soundtrack is on point, the… is that a… jeep? [nothing happening in isometric tank section] … DO SOMETHING! Alright Crash and Spyro are finally interacting, this battle is gonna be legendary! [show gameplay of their battle
, cut to me looking in bewilderment, show a bit more gameplay]
Game spinoffs are terrible. Hey, overlord me! [me in video editor, annoyed/bored voice] Ugh, what?” Delete the video. Actually no, just delete the whole channel, and… initiate plan B. Pl- plan B, ohh, alright [cut to video on Pornhub by Joshy Joystick called “Top 5 Sexual Positions to Play Over the Hedge on Nintendo DS In”] WHAT’S UP GUYS? IT’S YA BOY. Today we’ll be looking at the top 5 positions to play Over the Hedge on Nintendo DS In.
Well, that spinoff channel isn’t taking off as fast as I planned so, I guess I’ll close out this video by discussing spinoffs that were used to test unorthodox ideas. The sad reality of creative products is that a lot of people’s lives depend on the product’s success. My family is starving [subscriber count]. This means developers can be afraid to take risks, because if this weird new idea doesn’t land then the game’s a flop and the studio could go bust. This is why spinoffs are great, because they often have less money and fan expectations put into them and, consequently, they can afford to test the waters with more off the wall concepts.
The main focus of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is the Comrade System, a mechanic where you hire grizzled war veterans to be part of your base. They can help you in levels, be relegated to support roles or be relegated to figuring out the Kingdom Hearts storyline. These ideas would be expanded on in Peace Walker and, after that, Phantom Pain, two of the main entries of the saga. This idea came about because they were able to experiment, in this case with the PSP’s WiFi functionality. This probably isn’t the best example though because Kojima is batshit insane anyway. If you gave him the entire world’s money, he’d still have characters stripping in the rain and, having you playing as this tool, who has also stripped…
A really interesting example of this is Star Wars Battlefront III. Battlefront III was planned to be the next gen sequel to Battlefront 2, shocking, I know, complete with incredible ideas like being able to seamlessly go between ground and space combat, and an interesting story about two clones hunting the Jedi in Order 66. However, the game was cancelled due to budget issues. Despite this, a PSP game being worked on at the same time called Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron remained in production and, when you compare the leaked footage of Battlefront III to Elite Squadron, you can see that a lot of the ideas were featured in Elite Squadron. The seamless ground to space combat is here. The story has the same characters and similar story beats. This IS the PSP version of Battlefront III in everything but name – in fact, if you use elite hacking skills, you can see that the game is referred to as Battlefront 3 in the code. This means that, because of this spinoff, many brilliant ideas saw the light of day that wouldn’t have otherwise. Unlike Anakin’s mother [her tied up in Attack of the Clones].
Overall, video game spinoffs are a lost art form. They provided so many… interesting, experiences that pushed franchises in fresh directions, and made me appreciate the main entries in a new manner. We all have those games that we wish we could experience again for the first time, so spinoffs are great because they allow us to re-experience these worlds and gameplay formulas in fresh and creative ways. They’re like YouTube video essays in a way – they add a new meaning to a piece of art you thought you experienced everything of or, like Crash Purple and Spyro Orange, spend three hours shitting on everything that once brought you happiness.
In what is undoubtedly the first time this has ever been said, this is why I wish companies were more like Ubisoft. I respect Ubisoft because they’re one of the only big companies still releasing experimental spinoffs [show Far Cry Primal, New Dawn and Assassin’s Creed: Chronicles]. Of course, that’s because most developers do this kind of thing via DLC now, however DLC just isn’t the same because it’s much shorter and less fleshed out. There’s rare exceptions – for example, The Witcher 3’s DLC is bigger than my future – but most DLCs are fun distractions rather than expansive adventures.
Regardless, the spinoff boom of the noughties is an underrated phenomenon that I look back on really fondly. Whether they provided a fresh spin on a classic, like Rayman M turning the Rayman formula into a racing and combat game, or even just the little things they provided, like Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land letting you replace the Special sound effect with the sound of your voice
[“oh shit” clip], spinoffs are an understated part of gaming history that I adore. Hopefully this video made you see them in a new light just like they helped me appreciate my favourite games in a new light. If not, it at least holds the record for the first video of the decade to feature a rap song made in The Sims 2 for Nintendo DS so, I’ll take it.
So yeah, I’m gonna go work on my spinoff channel now, oh I also have a spinoff podcast now too, in episode one we talk about Eminem’s new album which isn’t a spinoff
OR made in The Sims 2 DS, I was very disappointed. And… yeah. Hail Satan.