The rise of "hybrid" style games
by Joe Santulli

All I have to say is, it’s about time. Well, that’s not ALL I have to say. If it were, this would be a really short column. No can do. So all I have to say is, it’s about time and here’s why I think that.

I’ve been wondering for a long time just how long game designers were going to keep up the facade. You know, just about everything you play these days is exactly the same thing you’ve played before only with different graphics or a slightly new gimmick. But what I’ve been thinking is that they’re gonna run out of ideas, once they hit the ceiling on "blow your mind" graphics. At that point, they’ll either have to create brand new original games (Ha! Not likely!) or start "merging" concepts to create hybrid genres.

I’m a fan of the hybrid. I AM a hybrid, aren’t I? Why should’nt I like the results of a merger between two preferably successful "parents"? Hybrid games have been around for as long as I can remember, only they weren’t as necessary back then. Remember Mail Order Monsters? It was a Commodore-64 game that challenged you to build a monster, and then use the monster. So we saw a strategy title merged with an action title. Few may recall World Court Tennis or Final Lap Twin on the Turbografx-16, but both featured an RPG mode to go along with the action. Play tennis or race against town toughs, buy items to increase your abilities, head out and find a boss. Hybrid. Or how about Actraiser for Super Nintendo? Create city in simulation mode, defend city in action mode. Hybrid. Tobal 2? Hybrid. Search town for clues, buy items. Use items from town in battles. That’s just a sample! Just wait until you see what’s coming down the pike!

Final Fantasy Tactics is to me, the first high visibility "flag" in the ground for hybrid gaming. Almost without notice, Square has developed a game that combines role-playing elements with wargaming strategy. Sure, it’s been done. Look at Ogre Battle or Vandal-Hearts. But with Final Fantasy Tactics it’s deeper on BOTH sides. Square has really dug in, and rather than sit on the fence between two genres, they’ve established a new one.

I’m glad to see this happening. Gamers are really getting sophisticated. We’re bored with fighting games, role-playing games, sports games, driving games... let’s start to mix them up. I really want to see something new. Show me a sports game with role-playing elements! Give me a driving game where I have to fight in between rides (more hybrids: Technocop and Outlander)! How about a platform game with strategy contests replacing end-level bosses?

I know it can be done... it’s already started.

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Last updated Tuesday, February 13, 2007 06:01 PM