Japan is home to many games development teams in the industry, and there is no shortage of iconic franchises from there that includes but not limited to Resident Evil and Street Fighter among others. In addition to these well-known classics, the Japanese development studios have also actively dabbled in the middle market space with experimental IPs built on a relatively conservative budget. Some of these IPs would go on to become really big with subsequent entries, while others would fizzle out after lukewarm critical or commercial failure.
Falling into the latter category is a little franchise by the name of Lost Planet, which sought to combine third-person shooter action and Mecha brawls against the backdrop of a sci-fi dystopia. Over the course of less than a handful of entries and a handheld spin-off, the franchise faded into obscurity. This begs the question – what the hell actually happened to Lost Planet?
Lost Planet was a bit different from other action games by Capcom, one of those being that the game was exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox 360, as opposed to most of its other titles which found a home on Sony’s PlayStation 3. The game is set against a futuristic dystopia, wherein the planet Earth has become uninhabitable due to factors such as pollution, wars, and global warming – and humanity is on the lookout for alien planets to colonize and potentially, inhabit. Upon stumbling on the alien planet, the expedition team comes face to face with an alien race by the name of Akrid – and you embark on a long and arduous journey to help in colonizing this hostile planet.
While the story setup isn’t anything to write home about, it formed a solid basis for an enjoyable and action-packed gameplay loop nevertheless. As protagonist Wayne, you have the ability to wield different kinds of weapons – from rifles to grenade launchers to miniguns – to defeat a multitude of enemy types. On top of that, you could also use a grappling hook to reach higher vantage points or hack a VS which is essentially a Mecha to wreak havoc upon your adversaries. You also have to keep tabs on your Thermal Energy at all times, as it will deplete constantly in the face of adverse weather conditions and you have to keep recharging it through the use of heat generators or killing enemies.
Apart from the fun single-player offerings, Lost Planet also offered a decent suite of multiplayer options as well – which mixed the game’s thermal energy management systems with standard game modes like CTF and free-for-all – resulting in an experience that was as addicting as it was fun.
Lost Planet released in December 2006 in Japan followed by January of 2007 worldwide, and critics and fans unanimously praised the game on account of its fun gameplay and engaging multiplayer mode, and it stands at a respectable rating of 79 on Metacritic. As mentioned before, Lost Planet was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive – but the game would soon be ported over to PC and PlayStation a few months later in the form of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Colonies Edition which added a few new bells and whistles to the game’s multiplayer offerings. Lost Planet also enjoyed a great commercial reception, selling over 2.8 million units in lifetime sales for both versions of the game.
Following the breakout success of the first game, the developer already began laying plans for a sequel. New ideas would be added into the mix, such as a fleshed-out co-op mechanic for the single-player campaign that would allow players to work together and share important resources like Thermal Energy as a team to overcome new threats. Apart from that, the game would also have a change of scenery from the first game, among a slew of other things. Lost Planet 2 finally released in 2010, although unlike its predecessor – the game was released on both Xbox 360 and PS3, which was followed by a PC release a couple months later.
While Lost Planet 2 had a few neat ideas that were an improvement over the original, the game was criticized on account of some of its bizarre game design choices, particularly with regards to the interface and encounters. All in all, Lost Planet 2 was met with a lukewarm critical reception – and the game stands at a rating of 68 on Metacritic, which was still respectable albeit lower than the first game. Over on the commercial front, the game sold 1.5 million copies in around a year – which was obviously lower than what the developer had projected.
The developer also produced a handheld spin-off for the franchise in the form of E.X. Troopers that released for the PS3 in 2013, which added new elements such as a melee fighting system and a jetpack among others. The game didn’t have a strong critical or commercial reception, and at least the latter of these problems can partly be attributed to the game being released in Japan only.
For the third mainline game in the franchise, development duties shifted to Spark Unlimited. This prequel would veer away from its predecessors as it incorporated some role-playing elements into the mix, such as side-quests and crafting equipment among others. In addition to this, the game would also add an element of survival horror into its gameplay – as the camera jutted really close to the protagonist’s shoulder and the mission environments felt claustrophobic.
Lost Planet 3 finally released in 2013 for all major platforms, but failed to really impress critics once again. The new direction for the series was criticized by players as it made for a repetitive gameplay experience that goes on for way longer than it needs to, and the gameplay mechanics didn’t boast much depth either. Between having the series’ lowest Metacritic score of 61 and the game being developed by an external studio not previously involved with the franchise, Lost Planet 3 flopped on a commercial level as well. Unsurprisingly, there’s little to no information available with regards to its sales figures.
With three commercial failures to weigh against one breakout success, the developer naturally put the series on indefinite hold after Lost Planet 3. Rumors of a franchise revival started doing the rounds as the developer had allegedly pitched a potential Lost Planet 4, but the management refused since the investment needed for the project would be too risky for a niche franchise. Jump to the current day, and it seems highly unlikely that Lost Planet would be resurrected once again – and that’s a shame because these games could end up being a lot of fun when they were firing on all cylinders.
As for what happened to the series, it’s rather obvious. Ever since the release of the first game, the sequels didn’t quite hit the mark in their gameplay and story departments – resulting in an underwhelming critical and commercial reception over and over again. As a result, the developer had to put an end to the series since the investment didn’t bear any fruit. All that said, we do really hope to see the franchise return to the mainstream once again – but we can only wish for now.
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